Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions

Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions
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Mahmud Fannas, who carries out the traditional role of a Musaharati (Ramadan drummer), who awakens Muslims for the pre-dawn traditional suhur meal during Ramadan, visits a young fan in an alley in the old city of Sidon, Lebanon. (AFP)
Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions
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A woman checks Ramadan decorations at a shop ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Sidon, Lebanon, April 10, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 14 April 2021

Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions

Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions
  • Iftar events banned as new curfew goes into effect and donations are fleeting during the holy month
  • People ask me about the prices, and when I answer, they seem very unhappy. Some even beg me to give them lower prices. But the truth is, I am one of these people. I am suffering just like them

BEIRUT: The social events, traditions and gatherings usually celebrated during Ramadan will be very different this year in Lebanon as the country continues to grapple with unprecedented economic collapse and a coronavirus (COVID-19) surge.

Leading up to the holy month, preparations for Ramadan were slight in Beirut as only a few signs reminding people to donate could be seen in the city’s main streets. Charity foundations usually rely on the month of Ramadan every year to collect donations but the country’s ability to give is fleeting.

“More than 50 percent of the Lebanese now live under the poverty line,” World Bank Group Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Farid Belhaj said on April 4.

In an attempt to combat the spread of the virus, the National Disaster Management Operations Room imposed a new curfew that applies during Ramadan from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. It has also banned all iftar events.

Charitable organizations can distribute food to houses, but only after obtaining a permit from the electronic platform. The capacity of worshippers at mosques will be limited to 30 percent while restaurants and cafes, which have already endured several months of lockdown, will be closed again during the holy month.

The price inflation has become a daily nightmare for the Lebanese, and with the arrival of Ramadan, the prices of essential goods, like vegetables and fruits, have increased even further due to the high demand.

“The price of one kilo of beef has increased to between 60 and 70,000 pounds and a kilo of taouk chicken was sold at 50,000 pounds on the first day of Ramadan,” Abbas Ali Salim, a butcher shop owner in Beirut’s southern suburbs, told Arab News.

“People ask me about the prices, and when I answer, they seem very unhappy. Some even beg me to give them lower prices. But the truth is, I am one of these people. I am suffering just like them. The black market is trading the state-subsidized meat, monopolized by traders who are controlling the prices.”

Due to inflation, the cost of a typical iftar meal — lentil soup, fattoush salad, a main dish of chicken and rice, a half a cup of yogurt and a single date — has reached more than 60,000 Lebanese pounds, according to the crisis observatory at the American University of Beirut.

By those estimates, a full month of iftar meals for a family of five would cost 1.8 million pounds, which is much higher than the Lebanese minimum wage of 675,000 pounds. This cost does not even cover the juices, desserts, gas, electricity or cleaning material used for cooking.

Researchers at the observatory said a fattoush salad for a small family that cost 6,000 pounds during Ramadan last year, now costs 18,500 pounds. This means that the cost of a daily salad during this year’s Ramadan would be about 82 percent of the minimum wage.

The observatory feared that families might cope with the inflation by “cutting quantities or opting for cheaper alternatives to replace vegetables and meat, which would result in malnutrition.”

Mohammad Chamseddine, a researcher from the independent studies and statistics company Information International, said: “The prices of basic goods in Ramadan have increased by between 25 and 100 percent, with a significant reduction in sales, as the purchasing power of the Lebanese, especially those getting paid in Lebanese pounds, has eroded.”

Ramadan has also been affected by the country’s slow COVID-19 vaccination plan, which started in February. Lebanon's Health Minister Hamad Hassan said on Tuesday that “over 20 percent of the Lebanese people have developed immunity, either through infection or vaccination.”

 


Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases
Updated 27 min 57 sec ago

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases

Iraq seeks Italian refund for military purchases
  • Iraqi FM said the money was paid to Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo and the Fincantieri shipyard
  • The two countries are underway “to resolve the situation for the best”

ROME: Iraq has asked Italy to return the €90 million ($108.53 million) Saddam Hussein’s regime paid to Italian companies to purchase military equipment that was never delivered because of the 1991 embargo on the sale of arms to Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio in Rome on Wednesday and explained the money was paid to Italian aerospace and defense company Leonardo and the Fincantieri shipyard.

“There are 60 million euros frozen in Italian banks, plus interest, and 30 million more in current accounts of the embassy and other employees. It is our right to recover that amount, and we have no intention of giving up on this,” Hussein told press after the meeting.

He added that the release of those sums will “facilitate, improve and increase the relaunch of bilateral relations” between Iraq and Italy.

“Foreign Minister Di Maio has promised to engage in the issue,” he explained, but said it is yet to be decided whether Italy will deliver the purchased equipment or unlock the frozen accounts.

Sources in the Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed to Arab News that negotiations between the two countries are underway “to resolve the situation for the best.”

During his meeting with Di Maio at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hussein also thanked Italy for its help as a member of the international coalition against Daesh.

“I take this opportunity to thank the Italian people, government and institutions for this,” he said.

Italy has provided weapons and training to Kurdish anti-Daesh militias in Erbil for over 10 years. A particularly intense training job has been carried out in Kurdistan by the Carabinieri, the Italian Military Police.

“Thanks to the fundamental Italian contribution to our security forces, Iraq continues to fight those Daesh cells which are still active in the country,” Hussein told Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica.


Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations
Updated 25 min 2 sec ago

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

Jordan’s Royal court appoints Jaafar Hassan as director of king’s office, accepts 3 resignations

DUBAI: The Jordanian Royal Court has appointed Jaafar Hassan as the director of King Abdullah II’s office, state news agency Petra reported on Thursday.
The royal decree also said the court accepted the resignations of political advisor Haifa Khreisha, King’s advisor Qassem Nasser and economic advisor Zaina Touqan.


Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount
Updated 06 May 2021

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount

Jerusalem clashes wound 22 Palestinians as land rights tensions mount
  • Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City

JERUSALEM: Twenty-two Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes with Israeli police in annexed east Jerusalem, the Red Crescent said Thursday, as tensions flare over a controversial land rights case.
Police confirmed 11 arrests in the latest unrest to rock the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood near Jerusalem’s walled Old City, where land disputes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers have fueled hostility for years.
Palestinian protests, which began late Wednesday, continued into the early hours.
The legal case centers on the homes of four Palestinian families on land claimed by Jews.
Earlier this year, a Jerusalem district court ruled the homes legally belonged to the Jewish families, citing purchases decades ago.
The Jewish plaintiffs claimed their families lost the land during the war that accompanied Israel’s creation in 1948, a conflict that also saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced from their homes.
The Palestinian families implicated in the case have provided evidence that their homes were acquired from Jordanian authorities who controlled east Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967.
Amman has intervened in the case, providing documents to support the Palestinian claims.
Israel seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
The district court ruling infuriated Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah who viewed it as a further step in what they see as a Jewish settler effort to drive Arabs out of east Jerusalem.
Weeks of clashes that have seen police use skunk water cannons and deploy anti-riot police on horseback have resulted in several arrests.
Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the sides to seek a compromise.
Sami Irshid, a lawyer for the Palestinians, said the Nahalat Shimon settler movement proposed that one member of each concerned Palestinian family be recognized as a “protected tenant.”
That would temporarily delay eviction until the protected tenant died, at which point the home would return to Nahalat Shimon, Irshid said.
“We reject this completely,” Mona Al-Kurd, one of the Palestinian residents said.
“The settlers want us to recognize their property rights, it is impossible.”
Yehonatan Yosef, an activist with Nahalat Shimon, accused the Palestinian families of rejecting “any compromise.”
“It’s their problem,” he said, noting that if the Supreme Court ruled in the settlers’ favor, the Jewish families would do what they wished with each plot.
The Supreme Court has indicated that if the sides cannot reach a compromise, it will rule on whether the Palestinians can appeal the district court decision.
An appeal process could take years.
Mohammed Deif, the reclusive leader of the military wing of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, issued a rare public warning on Tuesday, saying Israel would pay a “high price” over the Sheikh Jarrah dispute.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as their future capital, while Israel regards the entire city as its “undivided capital.”
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki sent a letter to the International Criminal Court urging it to “to take a clear and public stand against crimes perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”


Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster
Updated 06 May 2021

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

Yemen PM allocates $7.9 million to fix damage caused by floods disaster

DUBAI: Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdelmalik Saeed has directed $7.9 million be approved urgently for the damage caused by the flood disaster in the Tarim District in Hadramout, state news agency SABA reported.

The prime minister visited the district on Wednesday to inspect the damage caused by the flooding and listened to a number of affected citizens who spoke about the material damages it caused.

Local residents called on the government and local authority to do their part towards those affected and take actions to prevent the recurrence of the disaster.

The prime minister indicated funds will be allocated to those affected by the floods, and repair the damaged services and infrastructure.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the recurrence of the floods, especially in Tarim, require sustainable solutions.

 


Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan
Updated 06 May 2021

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan

Israel bombs military targets near Syria’s occupied Golan
  • Regime forces and operatives from Hezbollah were at the post
  • Three soldiers were injured in the attack

DUBAI: An Israeli helicopter targeted military posts near the occupied Golan heights late on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
Regime forces and operatives from Hezbollah were at the post, which is near the town of Jubata Al-Khashab, north of Quneitra, the report added.
Three soldiers were injured in the attack, but the report hasn’t specified whether they were aligned with the regime or Hezbollah.
Israel fired missiles toward northwest Syria early Wednesday, killing one person and wounding six, Syrian state media reported.
It was the first Israeli attack on Syria since a missile fired by Damascus struck deep inside Israel two weeks ago.
The missiles targeted the northwestern towns of Haffeh and Masyaf and struck a civilian plastic warehouse among other locations, state TV said. Syrian air defense units responded to the missile attacks, the report said, without giving further details.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes against Iran-linked military targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
Israel views Iranian entrenchment on its northern frontier as a red line, and it has repeatedly struck Iran-linked facilities and weapons convoys destined for Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group.
The missile attack at dawn Wednesday occurred nearly two weeks after Israel’s military said a Syrian missile that reached deep into Israeli territory and set off air raid sirens near the country’s top-secret nuclear reactor was the result of a misfire and not a deliberate attack.
The missile landed in southern Israel on April 22, prompting Israel to respond with airstrikes on the missile launcher and other targets in Syria.