Lebanese open their doors to those left homeless by deadly blast

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A Lebanese couple inspect the damage to their house in an area overlooking the destroyed Beirut port on August 5, 2020 in the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital. (AFP)
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The home of one of the people staying at the Azad residence - a family in Beirut who took in some of those who lost their homes because of the blast. (Supplied: Cyrus Azad).
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Azad shows their living room turned into a sleeping area in Beirut's Aicha Bakkar district. (Supplied: Cyrus Azad)
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Updated 06 August 2020

Lebanese open their doors to those left homeless by deadly blast

  • Baytna Baytak, a housing scheme helping medical workers on the front line of the coronavirus battle, has stepped in to offer aid in the wake of the Beirut explosion
  • The massive explosion that rocked the capital has killed at least 135 people, wounded over 4,000, and has left more than 300,000 people homeless due to severe damage

LONDON: Lebanese across the country have opened their houses to people left homeless by Tuesday’s explosion at Beirut port.

“I see this as a chance to help everyone who’s really going through the worst. I don’t wish a crisis like this on anybody, and I hope that everybody can come together and offer whatever they can to help,” Cyrus Azad, an American University of Beirut student, whose family sheltered those affected, told Arab News.

The massive explosion that rocked the capital has killed at least 135 people, wounded over 4,000, and has left more than 300,000 people homeless due to severe damage.

Many in the country have offered temporary shelter for those affected by the blast.

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Baytna Baytak, which translates to “My house is yours,” is among groups connecting the homeless with temporary places to stay.

The initiative was initially created to house Lebanese nurses and doctors who were at the forefront of the country’s battle with the coronavirus and could not return home in fear of infecting their families.

“Baytna Baytak’s mission is to secure a location in which medical and Red Cross teams can sleep so they can focus on their daily duties without having to worry about transportation (some of them live far from their place of work) or about commuting and exposing their families to the virus (some of them live with elderly people),” Jawad Abboud, a Baytna Baytak member, told Arab News.

“Today and after the apocalyptic Beirut blast, we have decided to expand our mission to find shelters to as many individuals as possible who have lost their homes and have nowhere to sleep,” he added.

Following the explosion’s disastrous impact on the capital’s infrastructure, Baytna Baytak expanded its services and network “to provide faster and more effective housing solutions for families who lost their homes,” an Instagram post said.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CALL FOR ACTION To Donate visit our website www.baytnabaytak.com

A post shared by بيتنا بيتك (@baytna_baytak) on

The post included numbers for call centers that are taking donations, volunteers and those in need, as well as hotlines for mental health and lifeline, food and clothing donations.

“A lot of my friends and their friends who lived in the Mar Mikhael area lost their homes to the damage, so naturally my family and I opened the doors to our home to them and told them they can stay as long as they need to get on their feet and figure things out,” Azad said.

“I would never want to be in such a position and I’m very grateful that my home and family weren’t as affected as they were,” he added.




Azad shows their living room turned into a sleeping area in Beirut's Aicha Bakkar district. (Supplied: Cyrus Azad)

Lebanese officials have opened investigations into the cause of the explosion, which is said to be caused by 2,700 tons of neglected ammonium nitrate confiscated from a Russian-leased cargo ship in 2014. While some government officials claim they have repeatedly requested the removal of these chemicals from the port, rampant corruption and negligence left them – like countless other requests – unanswered.

Citizens and residents of the country say they know that the government will not do much to help, with promised financial aid to the poorest families hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic failing to arrive. As a result, the Lebanese have relied on each other for support and aid during difficult times, such as the Beirut blast.

“It showed how the humanity of random people could help society and how much the Lebanese were thankful for the actions of the front-line heroes, and were happy to show their support throughout the whole pandemic,” Abboud said.

For those who want to donate and help:

People who have houses/studios/hotel rooms to offer or would like to contribute can visit baytnabaytak.com

For cash donations: +96181233092

For accommodation needs: +96179139537

For donations towards accommodations of those in need: +96179139586


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”