Tripoli on brink of disaster as power outage fuels unrest in Lebanon

Special Tripoli on brink of disaster as power outage fuels unrest in Lebanon
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri heads a legislative session in Beirut, Lebanon June 30, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 June 2021

Tripoli on brink of disaster as power outage fuels unrest in Lebanon

Tripoli on brink of disaster as power outage fuels unrest in Lebanon
  • Child on oxygen support dies after his machine stops working and generators shut down due to acute shortage of diesel
  • Tripoli mayor Riyad Yamaq says ‘Situation in the city is out of control’ as the Lebanese Army patrols the streets

BEIRUT: The security and social situation deteriorated on Wednesday in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, where more than half of the population lives in poverty and the city has been left without electricity.

To make things worse, a child on oxygen support died after his machine stopped working and generators were turned off due to the acute shortage of diesel.

“People are angry. They took to the streets, some carrying weapons, and started closing down the shops by force,” an eyewitness told Arab News.

Tripoli’s mayor Riyad Yamaq said on television that “the situation in the city is out of control.”

The Lebanese Army patrolled the streets but stones and chairs were thrown at the soldiers, leading them to respond by firing their weapons into the air.

After calm was partially returned, the protesters moved to the Kadisha Electricity Company located in Tripoli’s Al-Bahsas area.

They stormed the building and forced its employees to supply some regions with electricity.

Mustafa Alloush, vice-president of the Future Movement, who is from Tripoli and practices medicine there, said: “What was expected has started from Tripoli and the social explosion has begun from this city. More will come if nobody intervenes immediately to halt the collapse.”

As the army regained control in Tripoli, the Lebanese Parliament held a session at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut. The area was heavily guarded. This infuriated people who took to social media to insult the Lebanese lawmakers and authorities they blamed for causing the collapse.

The MPs, who were sweating because the air conditioners were not functioning due to the power cut, approved the controversial ration card in the absence of a government capable of making such decisions. In response, the MPs of the Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc left the hall to express their objection.

The card targets the neediest individuals without determining their final number. However, the number could reach up to 700,000 people, keeping in mind that the World Bank had estimated that more than 50 percent of the Lebanese people are now living in poverty.

During the session, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Gebran Bassil accused “security apparatus, MPs and politicians of being involved in the cross-border smuggling network and operations.”

MP Michel Moussa of the Development and Liberation bloc said the ration card “will be financed from some aid and existing loans that have not been used yet. We are keen not to finance it from the depositors’ funds that are frozen in the banks.”

The Syndicate of Hospitals in Lebanon said in a statement that “a number of hospitals have used the stock of diesel they had, while the rest have quantities that are not enough to cover the next 24 hours.”

In Beirut, a violent knife fight broke out in front of a gas station near Dar Al-Fatwa. The army intervened to stop it.

An explosion of a diesel tank in the town of Al-Khyara in West Bekaa killed a man in his thirties.

In other developments, the Federation of Syndicates of Banks Employees in Lebanon expressed its concern after people launched a call on social media to storm bank branches starting Thursday to protest their inability to access frozen deposits.

It consequently threatened to close the banks if any bank was attacked.

Taxi drivers refused to abide by the decisions of their syndicates as some raised the fare to LBP8,000 ($0.45) instead of LBP4,000 due to the increase in the fuel price that followed the partial lifting of subsidies.

Meanwhile, Bassil took to Twitter to relaunch the provocation campaign against the Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, calling on him to “decide whether he wants to form a government or step down.”


Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 

Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 
Updated 58 min 29 sec ago

Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 

Qatar ‘likely’ venue for Iran, US nuclear deal talks: Report 
  • Iran’s indirect talks with the US on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact will resume soon, the Iranian foreign minister said

Talks between the US and Iran on the 2015 nuclear deal are “likely” to be held in Qatar, Iran International reported on Sunday, citing a website close to Iran’s security council.

Efforts by Qatar to help restart talks for lifting US sanctions on Iran made “Doha’s chances for hosting the upcoming negotiations higher” than other countries, Iran International website said, quoting Nour News.

Nour News, according to Iran International, reflects the views of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary, Ali Shamkhani.

Iran’s indirect talks with the US on reviving the 2015 nuclear pact will resume soon, the Iranian foreign minister said on Saturday amid a push by the EU’s top diplomat to break a months-long impasse.

“We are prepared to resume talks in the coming days. What is important for Iran is to fully receive the economic benefits of the 2015 accord,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said, adding that he had held a “long but positive meeting” with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Borrell met Iran’s top diplomat on Saturday, Iranian state TV reported, as the bloc seeks to break an impasse between Tehran and Washington over reinstating a nuclear pact.

The pact appeared close to being revived in March when the EU — which is coordinating negotiations — invited foreign ministers representing the accord’s parties to Vienna to finalize an agreement after 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and President Joe Biden’s administration.

(With Reuters)


Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved
Updated 26 June 2022

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved

Israeli PM convenes Cabinet before parliament is dissolved
  • Benjamin Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, who now has an opening to return to lead the country

TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett convened what is likely his last Cabinet meeting as premier on Sunday, with parliament expected to dissolve itself this week, triggering new elections in the fall.
Bennett’s decision to head to elections puts an end to an ambitious political project that united eight ideologically disparate parties that chose to put aside their differences to oust former leader Benjamin Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, who now has an opening to return to lead the country. The elections, the fifth the country has held in three years, deepen an unprecedented political crisis in Israel.
At the meeting, Bennett listed a series of accomplishments under his year-old government and thanked his coalition partners, which included dovish parties that support Palestinian statehood, nationalist ones who don’t, and for the first time in Israeli history, an Arab political faction.
“It was an excellent government that relied, yes, on a complicated coalition. And here in this room there is a group of people that knew how to put aside ideological disagreements, to rise above, and to work for the state of Israel,” he said.
As part of the power-sharing agreement that brought Bennett to power, he is set to hand over the premiership to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, a centrist former broadcaster, once parliament is dissolved. Elections are expected around the end of October and polls show Netanyahu’s Likud party is expected to garner the most seats.
But as in most rounds of voting during the current political turmoil, Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, has been unable to muster a majority to form a coalition government, with some of his traditional allies refusing to join him. That could further extend the crisis after the upcoming vote.
While Bennett’s government helped steady the economy and navigated the last year of the coronavirus pandemic, it was beset by disagreements over the very issues it sought to avoid, particularly Israel’s 55-year occupation of the West Bank. Bennett said he decided to put an end to his political experiment because the government was unable to renew regulations that enshrine separate legal systems for Jewish settlers in the territory and Palestinians.
Bennett’s own nationalist faction, Yamina, was dogged by defectors, legislators who said the prime minister, a former settler leader, had veered too much toward the center in his bid to keep the coalition intact.
Bennett, who entered politics a decade ago, hasn’t said whether he’ll run in the upcoming elections.


Detained Tunisia ex-PM Jebali hospitalized: lawyer

 Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
Updated 26 June 2022

Detained Tunisia ex-PM Jebali hospitalized: lawyer

 Hamadi Jebali. (AFP)
  • Jebali, a former senior official in the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that is a key rival of President Kais Saied, was detained in relation to transfers of large sums of money from overseas to a charity in Tunisia

TUNIS: Tunisia’s former prime minister Hamadi Jebali, on hunger strike after being arrested earlier this week on money-laundering allegations, was rushed to intensive care on Saturday, his lawyer said.
“His condition rapidly deteriorated because he is on an intense hunger strike and he didn’t take his medicine” for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, lawyer Zied Taher told AFP.
Police had not delivered the drugs in question to Jebali’s cell despite prosecutors allowing the family to take them to the police station, he added.
Jebali, a former senior official in the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party that is a key rival of President Kais Saied, was detained in relation to transfers of large sums of money from overseas to a charity in Tunisia.
Ennahdha has dismissed the allegations and said the arrest was part of a campaign of settling political scores.
Saied in July last year sacked the government and suspended the Ennahdha-dominated parliament in moves opponents have called a coup in the only democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring uprisings.
He later dissolved the assembly, extended his powers over the judiciary and moved to change the constitution.
Many Tunisians have backed Saied’s moves against a system seen as corrupt and self-serving.
Jebali is not the first senior Ennahdha figure to be detained since Saied’s power grab — former justice minister Noureddine Bhiri was also held under house arrest for two months before being released without charge.


Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden’s NATO bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara
Updated 26 June 2022

Erdogan signals no progress on Sweden’s NATO bid

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during his party’s parliamentary group meeting in Ankara
  • Erdogan told Stoltenberg that ‘Sweden and Finland should take concrete and sincere steps’ against outlawed Kurdish militants

ISTANBUL; Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled on Saturday that no progress had been made in Sweden’s bid to join NATO, urging Stockholm to take “concrete actions” to meet Ankara’s concerns, his office said.
In a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Erdogan reiterated that “Sweden should take steps regarding such fundamental matters as combating terrorism,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Turkey “wanted to see binding commitments on these issues together with concrete and clear action,” he added.
Finland and Sweden discussed their stalled NATO bids with Turkey in Brussels on Monday, but Ankara dampened hopes that their dispute will be resolved before an alliance summit next week. Turkish officials said Ankara does not view the summit as a final deadline for resolving Ankara’s objections.
Ankara has accused Finland and in particular Sweden of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Erdogan told Andersson that Sweden “should make concrete changes in its attitude” toward the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and its Syrian affiliates, the presidency said.
“In this regard no tangible action aimed at addressing Turkey’s concerns was seen to have been taken by Sweden,” it added.
The Turkish leader also voiced expectations that Sweden would lift an arms embargo against Turkey that Stockholm imposed in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.
He also said he hopes that restrictions on Turkey’s defense industry would be lifted, and that Sweden will extradite several people Ankara has accused of involvement in terrorism.
The phone call comes after Erdogan discussed the two countries’ bid with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.


Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
Updated 26 June 2022

Israel human rights group targets West Bank settlements expansion

Israeli security forces deploy as settlers try to take control of a water spring in the Palestinian village of Qaryut
  • Peace Now movement: Building of new units has risen by 62% compared with Netanyahu leadership

RAMALLAH: Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank has increased dramatically under the recently dissolved coalition government, a report by an Israeli human rights organization reveals.

In a survey published on June 25, the Israeli Peace Now movement said that since the current government took office in June 2021, the building of new settlement units in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, has risen by 62 percent compared with the previous Benjamin Netanyahu leadership.

Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on June 20 announced a deal to dissolve the parliament, appointing Lapid as prime minister of an interim government, and triggering early elections.

The decision follows “exhausting attempts to stabilize the coalition,” a joint statement said.

FASTFACT

Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law.

The Peace Now report shows that despite its commitment to a status quo regarding the occupation, a year after the government took office, it not only continued the policies of previous governments, but also stepped up the settlement project and the oppression of Palestinians.

The report indicated a 26 percent increase in planning housing units in settlements — 7,292 compared with an annual average of 5,784 housing units under the Netanyahu government.

Six new outposts and a new settlement in Hebron, the first in 40 years, were among the government’s approvals.

The Bennett-Lapid government deepened the expulsion policy of Palestinians and their restriction to the constrained enclaves in Areas A and B.

As of June 6, the Israeli civil administration had demolished 639 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, causing 604 people to lose their homes.

In East Jerusalem, 189 structures were demolished and 450 Palestinians left homeless.

According to the Peace Now report, only 10 building permits were granted for Palestinians, compared with 1,448 housing units whose construction began in the settlements in the second half of 2021 and 2,526 in the entire year.

Under the Bennett-Lapid government, 86 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in the West Bank alone compared with 41 under the Netanyahu governments.

Khalil Al-Tafkaji, a Palestinian expert specializing in settlement affairs and director of the map department at the Arab Studies Association in Jerusalem, told Arab News: “The Israeli right is in agreement on two things: Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and it was a fierce competition between the two governments as to who accelerates the increase in settlements.”

The Israeli settlements program in the Palestinian territories has been “green lighted” by all Israeli governments as they seek to raise the number of settlers to 1 million in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by 2025, Al-Tafkaji said.

“All Israeli parties, without exception, do not think of giving the Palestinians a state, but rather see them living in cantons surrounded by settlements and their streets on all sides,” he said.

“The settlers are now leading an intifada of physical attacks against the Palestinians and their property in the West Bank because of their high number and sense of absolute power.”

The Bennett-Lapid government declared 22,000 dunams of land as a nature reserve in the Nachal Og area, south of Jericho. It continued the trend of the Netanyahu government in changing the reality in the Temple Mount (the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound) and the erosion of the status quo.

The supporters of a two-state solution in the Israeli government have failed to stop these actions and left the policies regarding the occupation to those who support the settlement project.

Settlement activity across the West Bank flourished during former US President Donald Trump’s time in power, even though it was considered illegal under international law and threatened the two-state solution.

Palestinians see it as one of the main obstacles to establishing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.