Lebanese parties reject the return to ‘militia behavior’ amid anger over pro-Assad rallies

Lebanese parties reject the return to ‘militia behavior’ amid anger over pro-Assad rallies
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Soldiers scuffle with angry Lebanese men who attacked buses carrying Syrians to their embassy near Beirut to vote in Syrian presidential election. (File/AP)
Lebanese parties reject the return to ‘militia behavior’ amid anger over pro-Assad rallies
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Rabih Banat, head of a pro-Syrian Lebanese group, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, speaks during a rally on Hamra Street, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, May 23, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 25 May 2021

Lebanese parties reject the return to ‘militia behavior’ amid anger over pro-Assad rallies

Lebanese parties reject the return to ‘militia behavior’ amid anger over pro-Assad rallies
  • Partisan groups in Lebanon return to language of war in light of deadly stalemate, say politicians
  • Speaker Nabih Berri, MP Gebran Bassil join denouncement in wake of Hezbollah-backed rallies

BEIRUT: Lebanese political parties have reacted strongly to a Beirut demonstration on Sunday by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), with the speaker of the Lebanese parliament reiterating the need for a national government on Monday.

Chants by SSNP members were “a return to the language of the civil war,” the parties said.

The demonstration, authorized by the Ministry of Interior, took place in light of a complex and deadly political stalemate.

It also came after four days of raising pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad, with Syrian workers and refugees, who were cheering Assad, being attacked by some Lebanese citizens.

The SSNP demonstration came within the framework of the commemoration of the liberation of southern Lebanon from the Israeli occupation.

At the forefront of the celebrating parties was Hezbollah, whose supporters spread in the border areas.

Those groups waved Lebanese and Hezbollah flags, and drove their cars and motorbikes to smash an iron gate bearing an Israeli symbol before travelling to the town of Naqoura.

The speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, warned on Monday that “creating crises on purpose, if it continues without a quick initiative to address them, will topple Lebanon.”

Berri called on “the loyalists and the opposition to feel the danger of the fateful stage.”

He urged political forces and NGOs “to liberate Lebanon from the complex of choosing personal interests over the interests of the homeland by some people, and recognize that our governmental problem is 100 percent internal.”

Berri said: “The only solution is to form a national government, without preconditions, with non-partisan competencies, no obstructing third for anyone, according to the French initiative, and its only program of action should be to restore the confidence of the Lebanese and the Arab brothers in Lebanon.”

Political activist Naufal Daou told Arab News that “what is happening in Lebanon is just smoke bombs to divert attention from the main problem, which is the Syrian and Iranian occupation of Lebanon.”

He clarified that “all that happened in recent days is an attempt to cover up the basis of the problem and to distract people.”

FASTFACT

The speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, has warned that ‘creating crises on purpose, if it continues without a quick initiative to address them, will topple Lebanon.’

He added: “As long as we do not acknowledge the main problem, which is related to the wrong regional and international positioning of Lebanon, and as long as we remain as part of the Syrian-Iranian system, there are no solutions and no one is ready to help us.

“The international community is telling us to reform and fight corruption. This is your business.

“But when we say to the international community that we are occupied by Iran, the issue of Lebanon becomes the focus of foreign treatments.”

The SSNP demonstration soon evolved into a military parade without weapons.

Party members covered their faces with masks and wore black and khaki colors.

Video footage circulated on social media of groups participating in the demonstration shouting chants against the leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF), Samir Geagea, threatening to kill him in the same way former President Bashir Gemayel was killed in 1982.

The Judicial Council issued a death sentence against Habib Al-Shartouni, a member of the SSNP, for the murder of Gemayel.

The LF said in a statement that “the chant that was used at the demonstration was a clear admission of killing and an explicit call to kill.”

The LF announced that it would file a case before the competent authorities “against those responsible for the celebration.”

The leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, joined the denouncers.

Bassil said that “every call to kill is reprehensible, and it is a return to the language of war that is rejected because fueling instincts undermines the principle of the state.”

Bassil added: “We reject the return to militia behavior, and there is no place to justify it. As for respecting the martyrs, especially the president of the republic, it is a duty, and we all have martyrs.”

The head of the LF’s foreign affairs department, Richard Kouyoumjian, warned that no one can bring back Syrian tutelage to Lebanon.

He called for “every displaced Syrian who has chanted in support of Assad to return to Syria because we cannot continue as a lawless country.”

The Future Movement MP Rola Al-Tabash denounced “the paramilitary parades in Beirut, the closure of roads and intimidation of citizens, insults and confessions of assassinations and threats to commit others.”

On Twitter, she asked: “What is the position of the judicial and security agencies regarding what happened? What is the position of the administration that raises the banner of sovereignty regarding replaying the scenes of war?”

MP Nadim Gemayel, the son of the former president, said: “Bashir, after 40 years, still terrifies them.”

The Progressive Socialist Party said that “civil peace and respect for its requirements is one of the most prominent pillars of the Taif Accord, which ended the civil war and laid the basis of national reconciliation that must be adhered to above all considerations, hoping that those concerned realize the urgent necessity to achieve a government settlement before it is too late.”

The Lebanese “are experiencing unbearable daily oppression,” the party added.

The media office of Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmy referred to a split within the SSNP.

It said: “Some members of the party obtained a license from the ministry to hold a ceremonial gathering and pledged to abide by the conditions of the ministry. Others within the party objected to the request on the grounds that the license applicants do not represent the party.”

Fahmy’s office added that “the ministry does not interfere in disputes within parties.”


Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
Updated 57 min 43 sec ago

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years

Israeli court sentences Palestinian jailbreakers to 5 years
  • The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men

TEL AVIV: An Israeli court on Sunday sentenced six Palestinian inmates to five years in prison for tunneling out of their cell last year and escaping from a high-security facility in the biggest prison break of its kind in decades.
The jailbreak sparked a massive manhunt in the country’s north and the occupied West Bank in search for the men, who were members of Palestinian militant groups. They were recaptured days later.
The bold escape dominated newscasts, sparked heavy criticism of Israel’s prison service and prompted the government to launch an inquiry. According to various reports, the men dug a tunnel through the floor of their shared cell undetected over several months and managed to slip past a sleeping prison guard after emerging through a hole outside the facility.
The judge ruled that the sentence took into account the fact that the prison break paralyzed the nation for days, the costs it took to recapture the inmates and the harm to public security caused by having prisoners under life sentence and convicted of serious crimes escape.
The five-year sentence will be added to the prison terms the prisoners were already serving. Five other inmates charged with assisting the men were sentenced to an additional four years.
Israel considers all six of the escapees to be terrorists. Five of them are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences. The sixth, Zakaria Zubeidi, is a member of the secular Fatah group of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Zubeidi was a militant leader during the second Palestinian uprising in the early 2000s and well known in Israel both for his militant activity and his love for giving media interviews.
Palestinians consider prisoners held by Israel to be heroes of their national cause and many on social media celebrated the escape and held demonstrations in support of the prisoners.


Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures
Updated 22 May 2022

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures

Oman ends all COVID-19 protective measures
  • All measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all venues and for all activities have been lifted

Oman announced on Sunday the lifting of all measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in all venues and for all activities, state TV reported, citing a statement from the government committee dealing with the pandemic.
There have been 389,943 infections and 4,260 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the sultanate since the pandemic began, according to Reuters data.


Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces

Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces
Updated 22 May 2022

Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces

Four killed in attempt to smuggle drugs from Syria -Jordan’s armed forces

Four people were killed in an attempt to smuggle large amounts of drugs from Syria to Jordan, the kingdom’s armed forces said on Sunday.
Some smugglers were also wounded while others escaped by going back to Syria, it said.
The Jordanian armed forces did not specify who killed or wounded the people involved.
War-torn Syria has become the region’s main production site for a multi-billion dollar trade also destined for Iraq and Europe. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government denies involvement in drug making and smuggling.
In January, Jordanian soldiers killed at least 27 armed smugglers and wounded others as they crossed the border.


Israel reports monkeypox case as virus spreads to Middle East

Passengers arrive at the COVID-19 testing site of Israel's Ben Gurion airport in Lod on May 19, 2022. (AFP)
Passengers arrive at the COVID-19 testing site of Israel's Ben Gurion airport in Lod on May 19, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2022

Israel reports monkeypox case as virus spreads to Middle East

Passengers arrive at the COVID-19 testing site of Israel's Ben Gurion airport in Lod on May 19, 2022. (AFP)
  • The virus, which causes distinctive pustules but is rarely fatal, is endemic to parts of central and west Africa

JERUSALEM: Israel confirmed its first case of monkeypox on Saturday, joining several European and North American countries in detecting the disease endemic to parts of Africa.
A spokesman for Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital said that a 30-year-old man, who recently returned from western Europe with monkeypox symptoms, had tested positive for the virus.
The virus, which causes distinctive pustules but is rarely fatal, is endemic to parts of central and west Africa.
In recent weeks, cases have been detected in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden as well as in the US, Canada and Australia, raising fears the virus may be spreading.
Symptoms of the rare disease include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets from a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding or towels.


Ex-Tehran hostage: ‘Blundering’ IRGC is ‘Iranian Johnny English’

Kylie Moore-Gilbert. (AFP)
Kylie Moore-Gilbert. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2022

Ex-Tehran hostage: ‘Blundering’ IRGC is ‘Iranian Johnny English’

Kylie Moore-Gilbert. (AFP)
  • Moore-Gilbert was arrested in 2018 after leaving a conference but realized that she was being used as a pawn to extract concessions and funding from Western countries

LONDON: A former dual national prisoner jailed by Iran has said that the country’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are “blundering and brainwashed idiots.”
British Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, 35, who was jailed for almost three years on trumped-up charges of spying, told The Telegraph that her captors were incompetent and were “not well versed in security, geopolitics or counter-espionage.”
While detained in Evin Prison in Tehran, Moore-Gilbert was accused of operating as a spy in the country before her arrival, thanks to a mistake on the part of the IRGC, who used the wrong calendar in reference to her account.
After her ordeal and release in late 2020, Moore-Gilbert began writing a book, “The Uncaged Sky,” which details her treatment in Iran. It was released in April this year.

BACKGROUND

British Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was arrested in 2018 after leaving a conference but realized that she was being used as a pawn to extract concessions and funding from Western countries.

She said: “They’re not necessarily talented or skilled. Some of them are smart but they're brainwashed.
“I watched the movie about Johnny English in Farsi in my cell, and I thought, that is the Revolutionary Guard — the Iranian Johnny English. Most of the time, they are blundering around arresting innocent people because of brainwashing and conspiracy theories.”
The IRGC is Iran’s elite fighting force and answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But critics argue that in the case of Moore-Gilbert and other dual nationals arrested and jailed by the force — including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — the IRGC uses hostage-taking as a means to generate funds.
Moore-Gilbert was arrested in 2018 after leaving a conference but realized that she was being used as a pawn to extract concessions and funding from Western countries.
She said: “I had been calling for my case to be made public from the first few months of my arrest. I was telling my family on the phone — go to the media, get it out there, don’t keep it a secret. But unfortunately that wasn’t listened to.
“I don’t blame my family for it at all, the advice they were getting from the government was it’s better to keep quiet.”
The academic urged families of hostages taken by Iran to go public through media campaigns. “I don’t see any evidence of hostages being treated worse in prison (after going public),” she said. “I noticed that great attention was placed on my medical situation after the arrest became public.”
And to make matters worse, the academic discovered that her husband, Ruslan Hodorov, a Russian Israeli dual national, had been having an affair in Australia during her time in jail.
But Moore-Gilbert described the discovery as a “blessing in disguise.” The two have since divorced.
She said: “Whilst it doesn’t reflect well on his character that he abandoned me in my darkest moment, I’m better off without him.”