Lebanese killed as violence erupts at Hezbollah funeral

Lebanese army is deployed after clashes erupted in Khalde, Lebanon, on Sunday. The clashes broke between two groups during the funeral of a Hezbollah supporter killed a day earlier. (Reuters)
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Lebanese army is deployed after clashes erupted in Khalde, Lebanon, on Sunday. The clashes broke between two groups during the funeral of a Hezbollah supporter killed a day earlier. (Reuters)
Lebanese killed as violence erupts at Hezbollah funeral
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People stand in a street after an ambush on Shi'ite mourners in Khaldeh, Lebanon August 1, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 August 2021

Lebanese killed as violence erupts at Hezbollah funeral

Lebanese army is deployed after clashes erupted in Khalde, Lebanon, on Sunday. The clashes broke between two groups during the funeral of a Hezbollah supporter killed a day earlier. (Reuters)
  • Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati called for restraint after the clashes
  • Protesters gather outside home of Hezbollah officer after activist arrest controversy

BEIRUT: A gunmen has caused deaths and carnage after opening fire at the funeral of a Hezbollah commander who was killed in a revenge shooting a day earlier.

The brother of Hassan Ghosn killed Ali Shibli, whom the Ghosn family has accused of killing their son.
Shibli was loyal to Hezbollah and had an armed group that boasts the support of the militia in Lebanon.
During Shibli’s funeral by his house in Khalde on Sunday afternoon, it was reported that there was an exchange of fire between the participants in the procession and other gunmen, which led to many deaths and injuries.
Shibli’s murder was committed in cold blood during his brother’s wedding party on Saturday night in the coastal area of Jiyeh.
The killer from the Ghosn family entered the garden where the party was taking place, approached the table where the victim was sitting and shot him with a pistol at close range.
Guests captured the crime while filming the party. The videos were widely circulated on social media.

Another guest, who was sitting next to Shibli, was injured in the accident.
Shibli died on the way to hospital from gunshot wounds to his chest.
It was reported that Shibli was shot a year after the killing of Hassan Ghosn, which had occurred over a dispute of removal of a religious banner which Ali Shibli had put atop a commercial center he owned in Khalde, at the southern entrance to Beirut.

FASTFACTS

• In recent years, clashes have flared between tribes loyal to the Future Movement political party and groups aligned with Hezbollah.

• Ali Shibli’s brother, Hussein, was killed in 2013 while fighting for Hezbollah in Syria. Reports suggest that Ali Shibli also fought in Syria.

This resulted in a clash between men from the Khalde clans and the Shibli family, leading to the death of Ghosn and two other men, Omar Ghazi Musa and Mahmoud Youssef Hadoul.
The family of Hassan Ghosn said in a statement on Saturday: “We did everything we could to demand the family’s right to punish the criminal Shibli in accordance with the provisions of the Lebanese Penal Code. However, our demands were (not) met (after) a whole year.”
The family declared that they were “putting themselves at the disposal of the judiciary.”
However, during Shibli’s funeral, armed men appeared and heavy shooting was reported in the Khalde area.
Hezbollah said it regretted the killing of Shibli, describing him as a “martyr.” The party called on the security and judicial agencies to confront the perpetrators and those who assisted them.

In recent years, clashes have flared between tribes loyal to the Future Movement political party and groups aligned with Hezbollah.
Ali Shibli’s brother, Hussein, was killed in 2013 while fighting for Hezbollah in Syria. Reports suggest that Ali Shibli also fought in Syria.
Meanwhile, activists circulated a video on social media showing protesters gathering in front of a residential building in the southern suburbs of Beirut. It was reported that Hezbollah’s liaison and coordination unit officer, Wafiq Safa, lives there, attracting the family members of people who were recently arrested by Hezbollah for their demonstrations against electricity and fuel shortages.
Ali Al-Amin, an opposition activist, told Arab News: “The protest in front of Safa’s house reveals two things: Either there is a conflict within the Hezbollah’s centers of power ... or that there is a conflict between the Amal movement and Hezbollah, which is manifested by the resentment we hear daily from people accusing the Amal movement of corruption.”
Al-Amin said: “Hezbollah is trying to ... distance itself from the accusations of corruption and wants to throw it on the Amal Movement.”
The activist added: “In the face of the severe economic crisis in the country, this crisis will inevitably explode in the face of Hezbollah.”
Also on Sunday, 19 members of the Albanian families who were detained in camps belonging to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Syria traveled home from Beirut in the presence of Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Director General of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said: “This operation is a continuation of previous campaigns that were carried out at the request of the president of friendly Albania to recover a group of women and children who were detained for a long time in the SDF camps in northeastern Syria, after about two years of negotiatyions.”


Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
  • The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
“The violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty makes me sad,” Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.
He added: “But I’m not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”
The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.
Meanwhile, authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media said.
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area. He said: “We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe.”
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.


Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
  • Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined”

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday reasserted the Islamic republic’s longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis, and promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
Iran does not recognize Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Israeli opponents, whether by forfeiting the match or by simply not participating.
“Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal,” Khamenei told a reception for Iran’s medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“The illegitimate, bloodthirsty ... Zionist regime tries to win legitimacy by taking part in international sporting events attended by the world arrogance (Washington and the West), and our athletes cannot just stand idly by,” he added, in comments posted on his official website.

BACKGROUND

In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.

Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined.”
He was referring to Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Tokyo Games after the draw set him on course for a possible matchup against an Israeli opponent, prompting his suspension from international competition.


North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2021

North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
  • Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million

TUNIS: Weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelmed intensive care units across North Africa with severe oxygen shortages sparking public anger, case numbers are sharply declining.
Images of intensive care units overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in July sparked outrage in Tunisia, which has suffered the region’s highest number of deaths per head from the virus, with around 24,500 in a population of 11.7 million.
Authorities responded to the surge with a strict early evening curfew and travel restrictions. Neighboring Libya closed its border with Tunisia. Those measures have now been eased.
“There’s the effect of mass vaccination of the population,” said Hechmi Louzir, director of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, who is a member of the country’s scientific committee on the pandemic.
More than a quarter of Tunisians are now fully inoculated.
Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million. The kingdom is ahead of its Maghreb neighbors in inoculations, with 46.7 percent fully vaccinated.
Health Ministry official Abdelkrim Meziane Bellefquih said this week that infections were down for a fifth straight week. But in comments carried by the official MAP news agency, he warned that “high rates of critical cases and deaths continue to be recorded.”
With an official toll of 5,650 deaths, Algeria announced a target in September to vaccinate 70 percent of its 43.9 million population by the end of the year.
But AFP figures show that this week, barely 13 percent of the population had received a first vaccine jab, with fewer than 10 percent fully vaccinated.
The country’s caseload peaked in the last week of July with over 10,000 infections, but has since plummeted. While the first week of August saw 268 deaths, the last seven days saw 132.


Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east
Updated 18 September 2021

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east

Lebanon seizes dangerous fertilizer in country’s east
  • 20 tons of ammonium nitrate seized after raid on fertilizer warehouse in eastern Bekaa Valley
  • Shipment of the chemical carelessly stocked at Beirut Port caused a massive blast, killing 214 people, last year

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media reported on Saturday.
Ammonium nitrate is an odourless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
At least 214 people were killed and some 6,500 others wounded on August 4, 2020 when a shipment of the chemical carelessly stocked at the Beirut port for years ignited and caused a massive blast.
On Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, who visited the Bekaa Valley on Saturday, called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area.
“We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe,” the NNA quoted him as saying.
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.
“One of our employees informed the relevant authorities that we have ammonium nitrate, so they raided the warehouses on Friday,” one of the company heads told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The name of the firm that owns the fertilizer has not been made public pending investigations.
“We have been working in the feed and fertilizer industry for 40 years,” the company official added.
When combined with fuel oils, ammonium nitrate creates a potent explosive widely used in the construction industry, but also by insurgent groups for improvised explosives.
Lebanese authorities are still investigating the circumstances in which hundreds of tons of the chemical ended up in the Beirut port for years, before the monster explosion that levelled swathes of the city.


Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell
Updated 18 September 2021

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell

Church in former Daesh Iraqi stronghold gets new bell
  • The bell weighing 285kg was cast in Lebanon with donations from a French NGO

MOSUL: A bell was inaugurated at a church in Mosul on Saturday to the cheers of Iraqi Christians, seven years after the Daesh group overran the northern city.
Dozens of faithful stood by as Father Pios Affas rang the newly installed bell for the first time at the Syriac Christian church of Mar Tuma, an AFP correspondent reported.
It drew applause and ululations from the crowd, who took photos on mobile phones, before prayers were held.
“After seven years of silence, the bell of Mar Tuma rang for the first time on the right bank of Mosul,” Affas told them.
Daesh swept into Mosul and proclaimed it their “capital” in 2014, in an onslaught that forced hundreds of thousands of Christians in the northern Nineveh province to flee, some to Iraq’s nearby Kurdistan region.
The Iraqi army drove out the jihadists three years later after months of gruelling street fighting.
The return of the Mosul church bell “heralds days of hope, and opens the way, God willing, for the return of Christians to their city,” said Affas.
“This is a great day of joy, and I hope the joy will grow even more when not only all the churches and mosques in Mosul are rebuilt, but also the whole city, with its houses and historical sites,” he told AFP.
The bell weighing 285 kilogrammes (nearly 630 pounds) was cast in Lebanon with donations from Fraternity in Iraq, a French NGO that helps religious minorities, and transported from Beirut to Mosul by plane and truck.
The church of Mar Tuma, which dates back to the 19th century, was used by the jihadists as a prison or a court.
Restoration work is ongoing and its marble floor has been dismantled to be completely redone.
Nidaa Abdel Ahad, one of the faithful attending the inauguration, said she had returned to her home town from Irbil so that she could see the church being “brought back to life.”
“My joy is indescribable,” said the teacher in her forties. “It’s as if the heart of Christianity is beating again.”
Faraj-Benoit Camurat, founder and head of Fraternity in Iraq, said that “all the representations of the cross, all the Christian representations, were destroyed,” including marble altars.
“We hope this bell will be the symbol of a kind of rebirth in Mosul,” he told AFP by telephone.
Iraq’s Christian community, which numbered more than 1.5 million in 2003 before the US-led invasion, has shrunk to about 400,000, with many of them fleeing the recurrent violence that has ravaged the country.
Camurat said around 50 Christian families had resettled in Mosul, while others travel there to work for the day.
“The Christians could have left forever and abandoned Mosul,” but instead they being very active in the city, he said.