Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause
Demonstrators climb a border wall during a protest to express solidarity with the Palestinian people, in Adaisseh village near the Lebanese-Israeli border. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 May 2021

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause
  • Public figures say Beirut must not let itself be used as Iran’s pawn in fight against Israel

BEIRUT: Demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians were held for the third day at the southern Lebanon border on Sunday as political and civil figures continued to call for Lebanon not to be involved in the developments in the region.

The Israeli soldiers across the border in the town of Abbasiya have been on high alert during the demonstrations and removed Palestinian flags that were raised on the barbed wire in the village of Adaisseh village on Saturday. The Lebanese army also remained on alert on the Lebanese side, conducting patrols along the border.

A number of Lebanese Future Movement supporters went to the border town of Marwahin to declare their solidarity with the Palestinians. MP Walid Al-Baarini said they had the support of the prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri.

A Lebanese youth was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as a group of young men stormed the barbed wire fence on Friday, carrying the flags of Palestine and Hezbollah. Rockets were fired from Lebanese territory toward Israeli settlements on Thursday night, but no party claimed responsibility for the incident.

Former MP Marwan Hamadeh said on Sunday: “It shows that Hezbollah is not in a hurry to abandon its cards, and Lebanon has become hostage to a decision that comes from Tehran.”

In his Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi called on “the authorities in Lebanon to control the southern Lebanese border and prevent the use of Lebanese lands as a missile launch pad.”

Al-Rahi said: “Be careful not to have some people involved directly or through auxiliary parties in what is happening, as this would expose Lebanon to new wars. These uncontrolled conflicts have cost all the Lebanese people enough. The Lebanese people are not ready to destroy their country again more than it has already been destroyed. There are peaceful ways to show solidarity with the Palestinian people without getting involved on a military level. Lebanon is committed to supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.”

He said that “what is happening between Israel and the steadfast Palestinian people is a dangerous qualitative shift in the course of the struggle over land and identity.

“We call on Israel to seriously and explicitly acknowledge that there are rights for the Palestinian people and that it is impossible for it to live in peace without accepting a viable Palestinian state. There is no peace without justice, and no justice without rights.”

Hamas official Ali Baraka said in a statement on Sunday that Hamas “does not need to launch rockets from southern Lebanon.”

“We call on everyone to stand with us, but we do not ask anyone to open fronts and expose their country to danger,” he added.


Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions

Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions
Updated 10 min 28 sec ago

Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions

Incoming Iran president says he will take steps to lift ‘tyrannical’ US sanctions
  • New Iran president Ebrahim Raisi: Government would try to improve living conditions which have suffered under the sanctions

DUBAI: Iran will take steps to lift “tyrannical” sanctions imposed by the United States, hard-line Shiite cleric Ebrahim Raisi said on Tuesday after winning the endorsement of the country’s supreme leader to become president.
Former US President Donald Trump ditched Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers three years ago and reimposed sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy.
“We will seek to lift the tyrannical sanctions imposed by America,” Raisi, who takes office on Thursday, said in a televised speech, adding that his government would try to improve living conditions which have suffered under the sanctions.
Iran and six powers have been in talks since April to revive the nuclear pact. But Iranian and Western officials have said that significant gaps remain.
The sixth round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington adjourned on June 20, two days after Raisi was elected president. Parties involved in the negotiations have yet to announce when the next round of talks in Vienna will resume.
The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all matters of state, but the change of president will remove the moderating influence on policy-making exercised by Raisi’s pragmatist predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, since 2013.


Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO
Updated 18 min 17 sec ago

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO

Tunisia over worst of COVID-19 wave but must speed up jabs: WHO
TUNIS: Tunisia — which has seen the world’s worst Covid-19 death toll — may be over the peak of the latest wave but the government must still speed up inoculations, the WHO said on Monday.
“The epidemiological data are going in the right direction,” World Health Organization representative in Tunisia Yves Souteyrand told a press conference.
“We have the feeling that the peak of the epidemic may have passed.”
But with vaccines in short supply, overwhelmed hospitals, shortages of oxygen and the highly contagious Delta variant rampaging through the country’s 12 million population mean the risk of a health disaster remains, the WHO warned.
The Delta variant was responsible for “more than 90 percent” of cases, and the impact of family gatherings during a recent religious holiday was hard to evaluate but could set back progress made, Souteyrand said.
“The challenge is to speed up the vaccination campaign,” he said.
The country had “in 10 days received around seven million vaccine doses and will receive perhaps two or three million more” soon, he said.
The WHO has also provided 400 oxygen concentrators and four oxygen generators to Tunisia, where the government has been in crisis after President Kais Saied suspended parliament and took direct power — a move his critics said was a coup.
Since the shock move late last month, Saied has established a coronavirus crisis unit, supervised by a high-level military official, to help manage the country’s outbreak.
Souteyrand said that “relations between the WHO and the health ministry have not been affected by the political crisis.”
The health ministry on Monday announced the start of a mobile vaccination campaign in several regions.
Authorities have also announced a vaccination drive across the country on Sunday for Tunisians aged over 40.
Over the past seven days, the North African country has registered the worst official Covid-19 mortality rate in the world, with 10.64 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, an AFP tally based on officially reported data shows.
On the other hand, Tunisia shares its coronavirus data more transparently than many other countries, the WHO said.

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
Updated 29 min 10 sec ago

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
  • By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said

DUBAI: Iraq called on Syria to increase water releases to compensate for the lack of rainfall and high temperatures that have caused a shortfall in revenues, Iraq’s state media reported on Monday.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani said he “held a closed-circuit televised meeting with the Syrian Minister of Water Resources, Tammam Raad, to review the measures taken regarding the signed accord during Al-Hamdani's visit to Syria”

Last month, both countries signed a joint agreement to exchange data related to the imports of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers “periodically and in emergency situations."
The pact also includes the creation of technical committees and the unification of positions regarding the quantities of water received at the Turkish-Syrian border. 

Syria expressed willingness to attend joint meetings with Iraq and Turkey, Hamdani said, adding that the Syrian side's agreement is a development in the field of joint cooperation in the water file.”

By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said, adding that the meeting emphasized the need to continue coordination and joint cooperation with regard to training, studies and exchange of data.

Syria will participate in the research center to be established in Iraq, according to Hamdani.


UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school
Updated 03 August 2021

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school
  • The Gulf state has one of the world’s highest immunization rates
  • Abut 79 percent of its population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

DUBAI: The UAE’s education ministry has advised all students 16 years old and above to receive their COVID-19 jabs before the school year reopens, as only vaccinated pupils would be allowed entry into campuses.

“The Ministry of Education encourages all individuals (aged 16 and above) to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is a mandatory requirement for entering educational facilities,” the ministry said in a social media post.

Dubai students are not affected by the requirement as the emirate has a separate COVID-19 policy body and private schools are regulated by its own education authority.

The ministry also asked other stakeholders in the education sector – teachers, administrative staff, support services and parents – to get themselves vaccinated against coronavirus.

Health officials on Monday allowed the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine for the 3 to 17 age group as part of efforts to combat the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The Gulf state has one of the world’s highest immunization rates, with 79.04 percent of its population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 70.69 percent are already fully vaccinated.

The total number of doses that has been administered is now at 16,810,996, for a vaccine distribution rate of 169.97 doses per 100 people.


Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires
Updated 03 August 2021

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires
  • Ankara activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask the European Commission for firefighting support

Turkey has requested assistance from the EU as it struggles to battle the unprecedented deadly wildfires that have swept the nation, revealing the government’s poor preparation for the natural disaster.

Ankara activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask the European Commission for firefighting support.

Brussels has sent some firefighting aeroplanes, including one Canadair plane from 
Croatia and two Canadairs from Spain as part of rescEU, the European reserve of civil protection assets.

EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Turkey at this very difficult time.”

He added: “I thank all the countries which have offered help. Our thoughts are with the Turkish people who have lost their loved ones and with the brave first responders who are doing their best to battle the deadly fires. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia are considered the most fire-prone countries in Europe. Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden have provided 11 firefighting planes and six helicopters for the use of other EU Member States in case of an emergency.

The response to the wildfires has revealed that Turkey — which boasts 13 airplanes in the presidential fleet — does not possess a single firefighting plane. The EU’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Center is holding regular contact with the Turkish authorities to observe the situation and effectively guide its assistance.

Cigdem Nas, secretary-general of the Economic Development Foundation of Turkey, told Arab News that it is an important show of solidarity in these difficult times. 

“As countries in the Mediterranean region, Turkey shares similar effects of climate change with EU member states such as Greece and Italy. Therefore it is important to increase the capacity to deal with such natural disasters in a joint manner,” she said.

Nas added that the EU and Turkey can reinforce and strengthen their cooperation in response to natural disasters, especially in the Mediterranean region. 

“This may constitute a pool of resources including planes, human power and other necessary equipment that may be jointly used by the countries in the region which will be sponsored by Turkey and the EU,” she said.

Despite being offered help by the EU, Turkey has continued its skepticism about some EU members.

Meanwhile, confusion has sparked conspiracy theories behind the causes of the sudden fires.

Pro-government figures have blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for starting the fires on orders from Athens.

On July 29, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias telephoned his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to express his condolences over the lives lost due to the wildfires.

“I also expressed Greece’s readiness to provide assistance if requested,” he tweeted. 

Turkey, however, rejected the offer of firefighting help from Greece.

Turkey and Greece are expected to feel the effects of the hottest temperatures of the ongoing intense heatwave this week, reaching European record levels.

Separately, Turkey’s exiled mafia boss Sedat Peker warned against any provocation after the fires as they could be used for stoking ultranationalist people to attack Kurdish citizens. 

Seven members of a Kurdish family in the Central Anatolian province of Konya were recently killed following months of threats and a knife attack by the same offenders in May.

Elsewhere, a new law giving the Ministry of Culture and Tourism the authority to open forest areas for construction has attracted significant criticism. 

The law — that came into force with presidential signature — is being challenged over the possibility of it opening the recently burned areas to new developments.