BEIRUT: Israeli fighter jets flying at low altitudes violated Lebanon’s airspace 40 minutes after the start of Midnight Mass on Friday morning while targeting Iranian facilities with missiles in Hama, Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Health in the caretaker government Hamad Hassan announced the registration of the first case of the new COVID-19 strain in Lebanon.
Hassan said that the infected person returned to Beirut from London on Dec. 21.
He called on the same flight’s passengers and their families to be cautious and quarantine at home for ten days, and stressed that the ministry is “following up on the case and the people who came in contact with it.”
The infected person is a Lebanese national who lives in Tripoli, he said, adding that he is currently in self-isolation at home with his mother and in “stable condition.”
This development has raised concerns, and MP Georges Adwan called on officials to immediately stop flights coming from Britain and to take strict measures before it is too late.
However, the minister said “it is not the Ministry of Health’s authority to close down the airport or cancel flights. Those are the prerogative of the government, and the scientific committee recommended the suspension of flights with Britain, and the following-up technical committee should have acted on the recommendation.”
President Michel Aoun did not attend the Christmas mass at the Maronite Patriarchate on Friday for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, Lebanon registered a new catastrophic number of infected cases, as laboratory tests recorded 2,708 new cases, bringing the total number to 165,933 with 20 new deaths.
At a socially distanced service in the Maronite Patriarchate, Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai reiterated his criticism of “loyalty to beyond Lebanon in impeding the formation of the government.”
He said: “We expected the political authority to seize the recommendations of international conferences and donor states’ assistance, and to start the reform projects to stop the collapse, but we were surprised with disrupting the reform plans and suspending international initiatives and conferences that were held to restore Lebanon.
“We expected officials to rush into forming a government that is capable of meeting the challenges in order to revive the state and institutions and make decisions, but we were surprised with setting conditions, counteractive conditions and updated parameters, and with linking the formation of the Lebanese government with the conflicts of the region and the world, and we are now left without an operational constitutional power, and the collapse is exacerbated.”
Al-Rai said that if “honoring powers and criteria and distributing portfolios are important, then the people’s honor is above everything, and above individuals.”
He added that they had asked the president and the caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri to “form one team that is above all parties, to be liberated, even if temporarily, from all pressures and to cooperate together in forming a government of non-political specialists. However, our wishes collided with some making up conditions that have no place at this stage and have no justification in a government of specialists.”