Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine

Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine
Assembled tables and chairs are empty at closed coffee shops at Beirut's waterfront promenade, during the first day of Eid Al-Fitr holiday, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 13 May 2021

Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine

Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine
  • Authorities allow only 30 percent capacity at mosques for the Eid prayers as worshippers spread out in the open-air squares in central Beirut
  • Religious leader raps errors of government and warns of ‘revolt of the hungry’ during holiday sermon

BEIRUT: Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in Lebanon were very scarce on Thursday as the country was in the middle of a two-day total closure and curfew to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As people avoided gatherings in homes and public places during what is supposed to be a joyous time, one prominent religious leader expressed fear during his Eid sermon.

“People will starve as a result of the errors and sins of the government, and from an explosion or social violence, which will lead to the revolt of the hungry,” said Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, grand mufti of Lebanon.

“When this happens, remorse will not be helpful.”

He also accused “political officials of regressing to low levels of violating the constitution, striking the judiciary, resorting to sectarian delusions, and dividing citizens.”

The joy of Eid could not be seen on the faces of the Lebanese people as living conditions continue to deteriorate in a country gripped in financial and political turmoil. 

Authorities allowed only 30 percent capacity at mosques for the Eid prayers as worshippers spread out in the open-air squares surrounding the Al-Amin Mosque in central Beirut.

The prayers were led by Sheikh Derian as Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab were among the many who participated in the prayer.

The Israeli-Gaza violence and unrest dominated the Eid sermon, but the political reality and the poor living conditions within Lebanon were also addressed in the sermon from Sheikh Derian.

“The collapse and devastation that we are living through it can only be stopped by the birth of a government that addresses the corruption and decay that Lebanon has seen for the first time in decades,” Mufti Derian said. “We need a government that carries out the required reforms. Anything else counts as deception.”

He also criticized “those working in public political affairs for failing their citizens when they indulged in corruption and prevented the formation of a government capable of stopping the collapse, beginning reconstruction, and seeking help from the international community.”

It was noticeable that the Arab and Islamic diplomatic presence was absent from the central Eid prayer in downtown Beirut.

The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, performed Eid prayers in the garden of his residence in the Yarze district while a number of ambassadors of Arab and Islamic countries and embassy staff joined him. The embassy took the initial precautionary measures related to the coronavirus.

Measures to remove subsidies on more subsidized food commodities, fuel and medicines added even more concern to a continuing list of hardships experienced by the Lebanese people even before Ramadan.

Many pharmacies closed their doors because owners did not receive the minimum needs of medicine and baby milk from agents and warehouses.

Despite the complete closure, petrol stations remained busy as people fear more fuel shortages.

“The ships that produce power will stop on Saturday, and the factories will follow suit,” Abdo Saadeh, president of the Association of Private Generator Owners, said on Thursday.

“This means that the rationing of electric current in Lebanon may exceed 20 hours. In parallel, there is a shortage of diesel that feeds private generators, which means we are on the verge of a big problem.”

The fuel crisis affects vital sectors in Lebanon, as the secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross, Georges Kettaneh, announced that the Red Cross “has prepared a plan to fill its cars with fuel, and there is no crisis yet.”

The head of the Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners, Suleiman Haroun, said: “If Lebanon enters darkness as a result of not providing the funds allocated for the purchase of fuel, many patients in need of oxygen and dialysis machines will be affected.”

Haroun warned that private hospitals have generators, but it is impossible to ask hospitals to supply themselves with electricity 24 hours a day because “these generators are there to support the network and be a substitute for any malfunctions that occur.”


Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui

Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui
Updated 40 min 2 sec ago

Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui

Tunisian court releases media mogul Nabil Karoui
  • Karoui, the owner of Nessma television channel and head of the Heart of Tunisia political party, was detained in December for a second time for alleged money laundering and tax fraud
  • In 2019, Karoui beat most candidates to reach a run-off for the presidency despite spending most of the campaign behind bars — he ultimately lost in a landslide to President Kais Saied

TUNIS: A Tunisian court on Tuesday released media mogul and former presidential candidate Nabil Karoui after he spent more than six months in custody on money laundering and tax evasion charges, his lawyer and party said.
Karoui, the owner of Nessma television channel and head of the Heart of Tunisia political party, the second largest in parliament, was detained in December for a second time for alleged money laundering and tax fraud.
Video footage broadcast by local radio Mosaique FM showed Karoui leaving Mornaguia prison, where he found his family and party members waiting outside.
In 2019, Karoui beat most candidates to reach a run-off for the presidency despite spending most of the campaign behind bars. He ultimately lost in a landslide to President Kais Saied.
His Heart of Tunisia party, which came second only to the moderate Islamist Ennahda in a parliamentary election the same year, has joined with it in giving narrow majority support to Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s government, which has been locked in a power struggle with the president.


Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says
Updated 4 min 52 sec ago

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says

Algeria's FLN wins most seats in parliament, election authority says
  • Fewer than a third of registered voters took part in the election
  • The leaderless "Hirak" mass protest movement boycotted the vote

ALGIERS: Algeria's FLN, long the country's biggest political party, won the most seats in Saturday's parliamentary election, the head of the electoral authority said on Tuesday.
Fewer than a third of registered voters took part in the election, which the long dominant establishment had seen as part of its strategy to move beyond two years of mass protests and political turmoil.
The protests that erupted in 2019 demanded the ousting of the ruling elite, an end to corruption and the army's withdrawal from politics. While authorities praised the demonstrations as a moment of national renewal, they also cracked down with arrests.
"The dynamic of peaceful change that was launched (with the protests) is being strengthened," electoral authority head Mohamed Chorfi said, referring to the election.
The FLN's 105 seats were far short of the 204 needed to secure a majority in the 407-seat parliament, with the Islamist MSP winning 64 seats, another former ruling coalition party, the RND, winning 57, and independent candidates taking 78 seats.
However, most of the elected members of parliament are expected to support President Abdelmadjid Tebboune's programme, including economic reforms.
Islamist parties had hoped to benefit from the unrest of the past two years of protests that pushed the veteran president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, from office and led to the jailing of numerous senior officials.
But the biggest difference from previous elections was the much larger number of independents winning seats in parliament, with Islamists retaining about the same share as previously.
The leaderless "Hirak" mass protest movement boycotted the vote, as it had the 2019 election that installed Tebboune in place of Bouteflika.
Hirak has said any vote that takes place while the current establishment remains in place, and while the army interferes in politics, cannot be fair.
While elections before Hirak's rise had higher official turnout figures, they were still often marked by a large number of abstentions.
The make-up of the new parliament is expected to shape the next government, which will face a looming economic crisis with Algeria having spent more than four fifths of its foreign currency reserves since 2013.


Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues
Updated 15 June 2021

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues

Egypt, Qatar agree to settle outstanding issues
  • Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani receives written message from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
  • Egypt and Qatar FMs also meet in Doha to discuss the re-activation of bilateral cooperation between countries

CAIRO: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Tuesday held talks with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who visited Doha to deliver a message from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The Qatari news agency reported: “The emir received a written message from the president of Egypt on enhancing relations between the two countries and means of strengthening bilateral relations in a way that serves the interests of the two brotherly countries and peoples.”

Shoukry arrived in Doha on Sunday carrying El-Sisi’s message on the positive developments in Egyptian-Qatari relations following the AlUla Declaration.

The declaration “strengthens the bonds of friendship and brotherhood among our countries and peoples in order to serve their aspirations,” Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told the GCC Summit when the AlUla Declaration was signed on Jan. 5.

El-Sisi said in his letter that Egypt looks forward to taking more measures during the upcoming period to enhance bilateral cooperation in a way that serves the interests of both peoples and countries, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez said.

Shoukry also held talks with Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani as they discussed the re-activation of bilateral cooperation and means of settling all the outstanding issues between both countries.

Hafez said the meeting also covered the most prominent challenges facing the Arab countries and the region.

Both ministers also discussed the Arab League meeting held on Tuesday about the most prominent regional issues and ways to deal with external interventions harmful to Arab national security, Hafez said.

They highlighted the importance of stressing Arab solidarity with Egypt and Sudan during a session scheduled to be held on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, he said.

Shoukry will attend the meeting, following a request from Egypt and Sudan.


Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife
Updated 15 June 2021

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife

Dubai authorities say cracking down on owners of illegal wildlife
  • Joint task force of Dubai police and municipal authorities responded to many cases of violation during the past weeks
  • Authorities are working to curb violators and confiscate wild and dangerous animals to keep them away from residential areas

DUBAI: Dubai authorities said Tuesday a joint task force was cracking down on the illegal possession of dangerous animals in the Gulf emirate, where owning exotic wildlife remains popular in some circles.
The joint task force of Dubai police and municipal authorities “has responded to many cases of violation during the past weeks,” a police statement said.
Authorities are working “around the clock to curb violators and confiscate wild and dangerous animals to keep them away from residential areas,” it said, urging members of the public to report and hand over such animals.
In mid-May, Dubai police said a hunt was underway for a wild animal on the loose in a residential neighborhood, after reports of an escaped big cat.
A video of what appeared to be a big black cat circulated on social media groups, and residents of The Springs community were warned to “exercise all necessary caution.”
Local media later reported that animal turned out to be a domestic cat.
A 2016 federal law prohibits people “from owning, possessing, trading or breeding dangerous animals,” with a maximum penalty of six months in prison and/or a 500,000 dirham ($136,000) fine, according to the statement.
Despite the penalties, private zoos are not uncommon in the United Arab Emirates.


Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles
Updated 15 June 2021

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles

Treasures of ancient Iraq go on display at Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles
  • Exhibits showcase pieces from across Mesopotamia and relief sculptures from the palaces of Assyria

LOS ANGELES: The Getty Villa Museum in Los Angeles is reopening with two exhibits on ancient Iraq: a showcase of pieces from across Mesopotamia organized by the Louvre and, on loan from the British Museum, relief sculptures from the palaces of Assyria.

“The late Assyrian empire rose around 900 B.C. and dominated the entire Middle East for about 300 years,” explained Jeffrey Spier, the museum’s senior curator of antiquities.

“We have some of the reliefs of Ashurnasirpal II hunting lions which was a popular pastime of the kings to glorify the kings. We have scenes of battles, rather gruesome scenes, very graphic scenes of battles. And we end at the time of Ashurbanipal, the most famous of the kings in the 7th Century BC who defeated the Elamites in Iran, is shown and is shown at a banquet, one of his famous scenes is here.”

The importance of these sculptures has increased after several of those in Iraqi museums were destroyed or damaged by Daesh extremists during their occupation of large parts of the country. 

“The ones still in Iraq are being preserved now,” Spier said. “I know they’re doing very good work at restoring what was damaged.”

The Louvre’s Mesopotamian artifacts will be on display until August 2021, and the Assyrian relief sculptures until 2022. In that time, the Getty Villa is excited to show the culture of ancient Iraq to everyone traveling to Southern California.

“Los Angeles has become a place for tourism again,” Spier said. “We look forward to welcoming visitors especially from the Middle East.”