Lebanese parties abate public anger with ration cards, resilience calls

Lebanese parties abate public anger with ration cards, resilience calls
Demonstrators take part in a protest against mounting economic hardships in Beirut, Lebanon, March 28, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 April 2021

Lebanese parties abate public anger with ration cards, resilience calls

Lebanese parties abate public anger with ration cards, resilience calls
  • Hezbollah’s “Alsajjad cards” enable their holders to get more than 50 percent off on food items, consumables, cleaning materials, and other goods from certain stores
  • The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) told its supporters: “Difficult times are ahead, and chaos might prevail. We must remain patient and must not abandon our positions”

BEIRUT: While the official ministerial committee in Lebanon continues to ponder the allocation of ration cards to 800,000 families before lifting subsidies on basic goods, parties have rushed to absorb their supporters’ resentment.

Hezbollah has issued ration cards for its supporters and partisans. “Alsajjad cards” enable their holders to get more than 50 percent off on food items, consumables, cleaning materials, and other goods from certain stores. The cards were severely criticized on social media by the party’s opponents.

Other parties have relied on wealthy supporters to secure financial aid for the needy through their private foundations. Other politicians have bought vaccines to inoculate their families and supporters.

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) told its supporters: “Difficult times are ahead, and chaos might prevail. We must remain patient and must not abandon our positions.”

The pressure has increased on non-partisan funds and associations, municipalities, and village committees to meet the needs of non-partisan people.

Political parties are aware of the importance of keeping their communities under control as the decision to lift subsidies comes closer, which will almost certainly lead to anger and violent protests.

Dr. Nasser Yassin, professor of policy and planning at the American University of Beirut, told Arab News: “When the economic collapse worsens, people start focusing on securing their biological needs: Food. And when food security becomes threatened, people might resort to any entity that can provide it.

“This is when parties become a safety source, regardless of people’s convictions. Political leaders also become a safety net for these people and new funders might emerge to secure people’s needs in such circumstances.”

He added: “However, this kind of security will not be enough to cover the needs when subsidies on basic items are lifted. No one can replace the state.”

Yassin said that “helping the Lebanese through the state in a transparent manner is the only way that would preserve their dignity,” fearing that the aid provided to the people now will later be exchanged for political favors.

He said: “Urging people to remain patient and resilient in the coming period will not be enough after lifting subsidies, where people will lack access to medicine, heating, and even bread amid the dramatic increase of prices.”

Activist Tony Nasrallah, a former FPM partisan, told Arab News: “Political parties are living in denial. They do not understand that the problem is structural and is not only about securing some vaccines here and some oil bottles there.”

He said: “In the speech he delivered on Wednesday about the forensic financial audit, the Lebanese President Michael Aoun was seeking to reassure his supporters as no government has been formed to implement the needed reforms.

“The majority of the FPM’s supporters are from the middle class, which has been severely affected by the financial collapse. The FPM partisans believe in every promise made by Aoun and FPM leaders.”

Nasrallah added: “However, FPM supporters have begun doubting and questioning these promises, when in fact the only solution they see is immigration.”

MP Osama Saad, head of the Popular Nasserist Organization, said that “leaders have led the country to the humiliation of ration cards,” adding: “but the people know how to defend their dignity.”


Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days
Updated 18 October 2021

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days
  • Migrants picked up by humanitarian group Sea-Watch, which now has more than 400 rescued people on its vessel
  • More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior

ROME: Fifty migrants were rescued on Sunday and Monday by the Sea-Watch 3 vessel in the waters off the coast of Libya.

More than 400 people are now on the boat, according to German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch. It is patrolling the central Mediterranean rescuing people trying to reach the small Italian island of Lampedusa in small, crowded boats.

Meanwhile landings continue non-stop on the island. Three vessels with 52 Tunisians on board reportedly landed on Monday morning, and four boats containing 140 foreigners arrived the previous night. One boat, with 13 Tunisians aboard, managed to reach the shore without being intercepted by coast guard vessels.

“On Sunday we had 152 Tunisians arriving here in six different landings,” Lampedusa Mayor Salvatore Martello told Arab News, giving his latest official figures. “There are now 329 migrants in our facility, which can accommodate a maximum of 250 people.

“The prefecture of Agrigento ordered for them to be transferred to the quarantine ship GNV Atlas, which is moored one mile from the coast. We cannot carry on like this. The entire population here is under stress. We are left alone but we have no intention not to help how we can those who arrive here. But this has been going on for too long.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 migrants from Tunisia arrived over the weekend on the southern shores of the Italian island of Sardinia. They were detained by the Italian coast guard and by police.

“They were very dehydrated and tired as they have covered quite a long distance on a small vessel,” a spokesman for the coast guard in Cagliari told Arab News.

The journey to Sardinia from Tunisia is longer than to Lampedusa, and navigation in recent days has been difficult as a result of bad weather.

Sea-Watch said that its Seabird aircraft, which flies over the Mediterranean looking for vessels carrying migrants so that they can be rescued, also reported what it described as “illegal pushbacks operated by the so-called Libyan coast guard.”

Since 2014, nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to the UN’s migration agency.

More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior. This is almost double the number of people who arrived in the same period last year.


More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition
Updated 18 October 2021

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition
  • Yemeni FM meets with chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission for Yemen

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Monday that it carried out 38 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Abedia and the surrounding villages in the Yemeni governorate of Marib.
The coalition said more than 150 militia members were killed and 13 Houthi vehicles destroyed in the operations in the previous 24 hours.
The coalition said that “international organizations must assume their responsibilities toward the civilians (who have been) trapped in Abedia” for weeks.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia mounted a brutal offensive in February to take control of one of the last remaining government strongholds. The energy-rich region has served as a safe haven for internally displaced people fleeing the fighting since the conflict began in 2014.
The Arab coalition began hitting Houthi targets in Abedia last week following an escalation in the militia’s incursions.
This comes as Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned of the “dangerous repercussions” of the Houthis’ escalating offensive on civilians and displaced people in Marib governorate.
His comments came during a meeting with the chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission for Yemen, Christa Rottensteiner.
Bin Mubarak said that the. Houthis’ military escalation “exacerbates the difficult humanitarian conditions of the displaced, especially in the Marib governorate, which is home to more than two million displaced people.”
He also warned that “the international community’s disregard for such practices unleashes the Houthis to commit more violence and violations against civilians, which compounds the displacement crisis, forces displacement of civilians, and increases their human suffering.”


Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing
Updated 18 October 2021

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing
  • The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion
  • Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation

BAGHDAD: Iraq said Monday it has detained the mastermind behind a deadly 2016 bombing in a Baghdad shopping center, which killed around 300 people and wounded 250.
The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan Al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the cooperation of a neighboring country they did not name. He had been tracked by authorities for months.
They told The Associated Press that Al-Zobai was detained in an unidentified foreign country and transported to Iraq two days ago. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak of the operation on the record.
The 29-year-old Al-Zobai was an Al-Qaeda militant when he was imprisoned by the Americans in Iraq at Cropper prison until 2008, and then escaped from Abu Ghraib prison in 2013. He joined the Daesh group after that.
The officials said Al-Zobai plotted many attacks in Iraq, the most infamous of which was the 2016 bombing in Karrada in 2016. He operated under the Alias Abu Obaida.
At least 292 people died from the bombing, most of them from an ensuing fire that turned the Hadi shopping center into an inferno. The blaze was fed by a tinderbox of shops filled with clothing and oil-based perfumes for sale and lined with flammable panels.
Al-Zobai’s arrest came in the second such operation conducted by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service since Iraq’s federal elections Oct. 10.
Iraqi officials said they captured Sami Jasim, an IS leader last Monday in a similar operation abroad. Jasim had a $5 million bounty on his head from the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, which describes him as having been “instrumental in managing finances for IS terrorist operations.”


Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border
Updated 18 October 2021

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border
  • Midhat Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot Saturday at the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a government office
  • Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire

DAMASCUS, Syria: A former Syrian lawmaker allegedly felled by Israeli sniper fire was laid to rest Monday in an official funeral attended by hundreds of people near Damascus.
Midhat Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot Saturday in Ein el-Tineh, a village along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a Syrian government office. Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire. Israeli military and other officials declined to comment on the charge.
Israeli media, however, said Saleh had been assisting the Iranian military presence against Israel. If the Syrian claims are confirmed, it would mark the first time that Israeli snipers are known to have killed someone identified as an Iranian-linked target across the border.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the area. Most of the world does not recognize the annexation, though the Trump administration declared the territory to be part of Israel.
On Monday, Saleh’s coffin, wrapped in a Syrian flag, was brought in an ambulance from the Mamdouh Abaza hospital in Qunetira to Jaramana, on the outskirts of Damascus, for burial at a Druze cemetery. Hundreds of people attended, in addition to senior officials and Druze clerics.
Saleh was born in Majdal Shams, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan, and was jailed several times by Israel, most recently for 12 years until 1997. He later moved to Syria, was elected to parliament in 1998 and served as an adviser to the government on the Golan issue.
Saleh’s son, Golan, a 17-year-old student, said that his father has always told him that the territory would return to Syria.
“I am proud that my father was martyred,” he said.


Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic
Updated 18 October 2021

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic
  • Extreme poverty in Egypt (the percentage of people who cannot secure their food needs) decreased nationwide
  • CAPMAS said that 80.6 percent of individuals who live in families with 10 or more members are poor

CAIRO: Egypt’s poverty rate has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years, according to data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

CAPMAS defines poverty based on material wealth measurements, and classifies Egyptians as impoverished if they are unable to provide “minimum basic needs for themselves or a family.”

Needs include food, housing, clothing, education, and health and transportation services, according to the agency.

CAPMAS said that poverty rates in Egypt fell to 29.7 percent during the 2019-2020 fiscal year — a decline of 2.8 percent from the 32.5 percent recorded in 2017-2018. It added that this reflects the success of the country in striving for social justice in conjunction with economic reforms implemented by the state.

The agency said that extreme poverty in Egypt (the percentage of people who cannot secure their food needs) decreased nationwide to 4.5 percent in 2019-2020, down from 6.2 percent in 2017-2018.

The agency noted a correlation between growing family sizes and financial insecurity, saying: “The increase in the size of the family is a cause and a consequence of poverty. At the same time, it is a result of poor families not having sufficient social protection and therefore resorting to having more children for social protection when old or ill as a source of income.”

CAPMAS said that 80.6 percent of individuals who live in families with 10 or more members are poor, and that 48.1 percent of individuals who live in families with 6-7 members are also poor, compared to 7.5 percent of families with fewer than four members.

The agency indicated that education levels are the most relevant indicator of poverty, as poverty rates decrease as the level of education rises among parts of the population.

The percentage of poor among Egyptians with no formal education reached 35.6 percent in 2019-2020, compared to 9.4 percent for university graduates.

CAPMAS said that the Egyptian state is “making a lot of efforts” to protect the poor with the aim of improving the quality of life of citizens.

Social programs launched by the Egyptian government form the cornerstone Egypt’s Vision for Sustainable Development 2030.

The agency said that one of the most important programs is the national project for the development of Egyptian rural villages, which aims to improve living standards, build infrastructure, support people with disabilities and boost urban services.

The CAPMAS results came as the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for the growth of the Egyptian economy during 2021, despite lowering estimates for the global economy.