Iranian fuel tankers bound for Lebanon yet to reach cash-strapped country, Tankertrackers says

Iranian fuel tankers bound for Lebanon yet to reach cash-strapped country, Tankertrackers says
In this photo from August 18, 2019, an Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)
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Updated 02 September 2021

Iranian fuel tankers bound for Lebanon yet to reach cash-strapped country, Tankertrackers says

Iranian fuel tankers bound for Lebanon yet to reach cash-strapped country, Tankertrackers says
  • The Iranian-backed Hezbollah has vowed that it would turn to Tehran for fuel oil to help ease shortages

DUBAI: The ocean vessel tracking service, Tankertrackers.com, denied Thursday claims that a tanker carrying Iranian fuel for Lebanon had entered Syrian territorial waters despite claims to the contrary. 

Iranian state agency Fars News had reported that the tanker would offload in Syria before transporting the fuel to Lebanon by land. 

“The tanker that arrived a few days ago in Syria is carrying 730,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil. It is not gasoline. Deliveries of crude oil happen a few times a month for Syria’s needs and not that of Lebanon,” Tankertrackers.com tweeted. 

The tracking agency is currently following three tankers that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said were bound for the small Mediterranean country. 

“First tanker has not reached the Suez yet. Second tanker hasn't left Iran yet but has left port. Third tanker is leaving Iran,” it tweeted Thursday, adding that it “normally takes 10-12 days to reach the Suez.”  

The group said it would publicly announce the names of the three tankers “once or if they traverse the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean sea.” 

With Lebanon struggling to secure enough fuel nationwide, amid a crippling foreign currency liquidity crunch, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah vowed that it would turn to Tehran for fuel oil to help ease shortages. 

“We have agreed to start loading a third vessel,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday, adding that the “the coming days will prove those doubtful about the shipments arriving with fuel wrong … and our words will be clear when the first vessel reaches Lebanon.”

Two days later, the leader of the heavily armed group founded by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in 1982 said the first vessel carrying Iranian fuel for Lebanon had already departed.

Opponents and critics of Hezbollah have lambasted the move, arguing that any Iranian fuel delivery would pave the way for sanctions from the US, which has vowed to punish anyone dealing with Tehran. 

Moreover, critics have pointed to Hezbollah’s role in smuggling Lebanese subsidized fuel into Syria to prop up Bachar Assad’s regime, which has likely played a role in exacerbating Lebanon’s economic crisis. They have called on the group to seize its smuggling operations before attempting to alleviate the country’s fuel deficiency.  

“Fuel imports before the Syrian civil war were around 5 or 6 million tons per year. This figure reached almost 12 million tons in 2019,” Jean Tawile, an economist and former government advisor, told Arab News.  

In an interview with France24 in April, Shia cleric Sheikh Sadiq Al-Nabulsi and close associate of Hezbollah acknowledged that cross-border smuggling was an integral part of the militia’s apparatus. 

“Smuggling is an integral part of the resistance’s operations to defend Lebanese interests,” he said boastfully.  

Given the logistical and diplomatic difficulty of offloading the cargo in Lebanon, analysts have suggested that the group might instead to turn to neighboring Syria. 

Speaking Wednesday, caretaker energy minister Raymond Ghajar said he was not aware of any official request to import fuel. 

“Our role is restricted to import permits and we did not receive a request for permission,” he told reporters gathered in parliament. 

Responding to a question on whether this means that tanker would arrive without an official permit, Ghajar said: "No. We do not have information at this point. Permission was not requested from us and this is all I am saying."


Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4
Updated 17 min 50 sec ago

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

BASRA: At least four people were killed and 20 wounded in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra, police and hospital sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police are still investigating the cause of the blast, which took place in the city centre, near a main hospital. The explosion set fire to at least one vehicle and damaged a minibus.
One police source said that an initial investigation showed that a motorcycle rigged with explosives could have been the cause of the blast. 


UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
  • The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported

DUBAI: The UAE government will transition to a four-and-a-half-day working week, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend starting Jan. 1, 2022 for all federal departments, state news agency WAM reported. 
The new system will be applied in all federal government entities with working hours from 7:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m., it added.
Working hours on Fridays will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12 noon, with the possibility of flexible working hours or work from home options during those days. Friday sermons and prayers will be after 1:15 p.m. all year long in the UAE. 
The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported.


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.


Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 07 December 2021

Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria

CAIRO: Fires caused by an Israeli “aggression” at Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday had been extinguished, leaving material damage, but the status of any casualties was unclear, Syria’s state media reported.

Five explosions rocked the port city after an Israeli “aggression” hit the port’s container yard, sending fire trucks racing to the site, Syrian state TV said.

Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed over the last decade to support President Bashar Assad.

The Mediterranean port of Latakia is the country’s main port, through which food and other crucial supplies flow into war-torn Syria, and is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.


Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard
Updated 07 December 2021

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager who drove his car into an Israeli security checkpoint in the occupied West Bank was shot dead on Monday by a security guard at the scene, officials said.

The car-ramming occurred after 1 a.m. at the Te’enim checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, an Israeli Defense Ministry statement said, adding that the assailant had been “neutralized.”

It was not immediately clear if the alleged attacker was killed, but the official Palestinian news agency Wafa later reported that 15-year-old Mohammed Nidal Yunes died from injuries after being fired on at a checkpoint.

An Israeli security official confirmed to AFP that the driver of the vehicle was killed.

The Defense Ministry said that a security guard was “seriously injured” in the attack.

Israel’s Sheba Hospital said the guard’s injuries were not life threatening.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

Attacks on checkpoints are common, often carried out by individual Palestinians armed with knives, as well as attempted car-rammings and occasional shootings.

Monday’s incident came after a Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack police on Saturday near the Damascus Gate entry to the Old City in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

The assailant was shot dead by officers who appeared to fire on the suspect after he was on the ground, stirring debate about excessive force.

Israeli authorities have insisted the officers acted appropriately.

BACKGROUND

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities freed a prominent Palestinian prisoner, two weeks after striking a release deal that ended his marathon 131-day hunger strike.

Kayed Fasfous, 32, had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his strike on Nov. 23.

He was the symbolic figurehead of six hunger strikers protesting Israel’s controversial policy of “administrative detention,” which allows suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.

Israel claims the policy is necessary to keep dangerous suspects locked away without disclosing sensitive information that could expose valuable sources.

Palestinians and rights groups say the practice denies the right of due process, allowing Israel to hold prisoners for months or even years without seeing the evidence against them.  The law is rarely applied to Israelis.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, confirmed Fasfous had returned home to the occupied West Bank through a military checkpoint near the southern city of Hebron on Sunday afternoon.

Online footage showed the former prisoner in a wheelchair celebrating his return to his southern hometown of Dura before being taken to a hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The plight of the six hunger strikers ignited solidarity demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November mounting pressure on Israel to release the detainees.

At least four of the five other hunger strikers have since ended their protests after reaching similar deals with Israeli authorities. They are expected to be released in the coming months.

Hunger strikes are common among Palestinian prisoners and have helped secure numerous concessions from Israeli authorities.

The nature of these strikes vary from individuals protesting detention without charge to groups calling for improved cell conditions.

Around 500 of the 4,600 Palestinians detained by Israel are held in administrative detention according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group.