Hamas leader says group has missiles that can hit Tel Aviv

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Palestinian group Hamas' top leader Ismail Haniyeh is carried during his visit at Ain el Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, Lebanon, on Sept. 6, 2020. (REUTERS/Aziz Taher)
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Palestinian group Hamas' top leader Ismail Haniyeh is carried during his visit at Ain el Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Sidon, Lebanon, on Sept. 6, 2020. (REUTERS/Aziz Taher)
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Updated 07 September 2020

Hamas leader says group has missiles that can hit Tel Aviv

  • Ismail Haniyeh made his comments at a Palestinian refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon
  • Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and several smaller battles over the last 13 years

BEIRUT: The leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Sunday warned Israel that his organization has missiles capable of striking the city of Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial and cultural center, and areas beyond it.
Ismail Haniyeh’s comments during a visit to Lebanon followed an escalation in recent weeks in which Hamas-affiliated groups fired rockets into Israel and Israeli warplanes struck areas in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas.
Hamas announced last week that international mediators had brokered a new set of “understandings” with Israel, halting the latest round of fighting for the time being in exchange for an easing of Israeli restrictions on the Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh gave a speech in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Hilweh near the southern port city of Sidon, where he received a hero’s welcome by armed men who carried him on their shoulders.
Haniyeh and a Hamas delegation met earlier with the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, during which they discussed the situation in the Middle East and the recent normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, a Hezbollah statement said.
“Our missiles had a range of several kilometers (miles) from the border with Gaza,” Haniyeh said. “Today the resistance in Gaza has missiles that can hit Tel Aviv and beyond Tel Aviv.”
Hamas rockets have reached Tel Aviv and beyond in previous rounds of fighting, but such launches are rare and considered a serious escalation by Israel. The seaside metropolis is located some 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Gaza.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars and several smaller battles over the last 13 years. Neither side is believed to be seeking war, but any casualties could ignite a wider conflict.
In recent weeks, groups affiliated with Hamas launched incendiary balloons into Israel, igniting farmland in a bid to pressure Israel to ease the blockade it imposed on Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007. The group had also fired rockets into Israel in recent weeks, which was seen as a significant escalation.
Haniyeh was criticized during his visit by some in Lebanon on social media. One post sarcastically asked whether it would be better for him to threaten Israel from the West Bank, which is ruled by the Palestinian Authority and with whom Hamas has a longstanding feud. Another post said Lebanon has enough problems at the moment, and doesn’t need Hamas on top of that.
Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, and the capital Beirut was devastated one month ago by a massive explosion, the result of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates igniting at the port. The blast killed more than 190 and injured thousands.


End the political deadlock, support group tells Beirut

Updated 26 November 2020

End the political deadlock, support group tells Beirut

  • UN leads calls for “urgent action” to halt downward spiral  
  • The ISG called on Hassan Diab’s caretaker government to “fully implement its immediate responsibilities”

BEIRUT: The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) has voiced its dismay over delays in the formation of a government in the crisis-racked country and called on Lebanese authorities to implement urgent reforms.
In a statement on Wednesday directed at Lebanon’s leaders, the group warned that as the political stalemate in the country drags on, “the social and economic crisis is getting worse.”
The ISG called on Hassan Diab’s caretaker government to “fully implement its immediate responsibilities,” adding that the “overriding need is for Lebanon’s political leaders to agree to form a government with the capacity and will to implement necessary reforms without further delay.”
Pragmatic legislative steps are needed to alleviate the “economic stress faced by Lebanese families and businesses,” it said.
The ISG was launched in 2013, and includes the UN, along with China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Britain and the US, the EU and the Arab League.
In its statement, the group welcomed France’s plan to hold an international conference in support of the Lebanese people by the early December. The forum will be co-chaired by the UN.
However, the summit “did not detract from the urgent need for government formation and reforms,” it said.
On Wednesday, Reuters quoted “an official source” who claimed that Lebanon’s central bank is considering reducing the level of mandatory foreign exchange reserves in order to continue supporting basic imports next year, with the already low reserves dwindling.
According to the source, Riad Salameh, the central bank governor, met with ministers in the caretaker government on Tuesday to discuss cutting the mandatory reserve ratio from 15 percent to 12 percent or even 10 percent. Foreign exchange reserves are currently about $17.9 billion, leaving only $800 million to support imports of fuel, wheat and medicine until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Lebanese political leaders are seeking to shift blame for the parliamentary deadlock in a dispute illustrated by the exchange of accusatory letters between Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc and President Michel Aoun.
Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, tweeted on Wednesday: “We are in a vicious circle under the slogan of conditions, counter-conditions, names and counter-names, electoral and presidential bids, and flimsy regional bets, amid a tremendous change in the region.”
At a meeting of the joint parliamentary committees on Wednesday to discuss a draft law for the parliamentary elections, representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces party voiced their objections, claiming the project presented by the Berri parliamentary bloc “fuels the political, sectarian and doctrinal divide because it is based on the idea that Lebanon is one electoral constituency.”
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said that “what is being discussed today is a change in the political system, not just an electoral law.”
The Lebanese Parliament is due to hold a plenary session on Friday to discuss a letter sent by Aoun “to enable the state to conduct a forensic accounting audit of the Bank of Lebanon’s accounts.”
Alvarez & Marsal, which was carrying out a forensic audit of the central bank’s accounts, said last week it was halting the investigation because it was not being given the information needed to carry out the task.
The company’s decision came after the central bank invoked a banking secrecy law to prevent disclosure of information.
Aoun had insisted on the forensic audit “so that Lebanon is not seen as a rogue or failed state in the eyes of the international community.”
Families of the victims of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion staging a sit-in near the parliament building demanded “a decree equating our martyrs with the martyrs of the army.”
Bereaved mothers, some carrying pictures of children killed in the blast, accused former and current heads of state of being responsible for the explosion.
Mohammed Choucair, head of the Lebanese Economic Organizations, said that Lebanese authorities “are dealing with this devastating event as if it were a normal accident.”
He said that “the only way to save Lebanon and rebuild Beirut is to form a capable and productive government that responds to the aspirations of the citizens.”