Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe

Special Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe
Activists and relatives of victims of the Beirut port blast lift placards as they demonstrate on Sep. 29, 2021 outside the Beirut's Justice Palace, to protest the suspension of the probe into the Aug. 4, 2020 port explosion. (AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2021

Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe

Families of Beirut blast victims protest against suspension of probe
  • Lawmaker wants judge’s dismissal from case

BEIRUT: Relatives of people killed in last year’s Beirut port explosion protested on Wednesday against the suspension of a probe into the tragedy.

The blast killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and devastated the capital.

Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation, had to suspend his work on Monday after what the families and human rights groups said was another blatant case of political obstruction.

Carrying portraits of their loved ones and placards calling for justice, the protesters voiced their support for Bitar, whose summons targeting senior officials have made him a target for threats and criticism.

MP Nohad Machnouk, who is a former interior minister, has demanded Bitar’s dismissal from the case.

He filed an appeal against the judge last week. Machnouk is one of the top officials suspected of negligence, a charge brought by Bitar.

Bitar suspended his investigation and all procedures related to the case, pending a decision by the Beirut Appeals Court to accept or reject the appeal filed by Machnouk.

The sobbing protesters demanded to know who killed their children. 

One mother told Arab News: “I hope that they will not turn us into criminals who will pursue the perpetrators. We are not outlaws. We want the truth from the judiciary, so let Judge Bitar do his work because we trust him. Do not drive us toward taking matters into our own hands.”

A group of lawyers entered the Palace of Justice and hung a giant banner from a balcony overlooking the lobby. 

It featured pictures of the blast victims and the words: “Don't kill them twice.” 

Lawyers chanted slogans asking for a just verdict and demanded the Beirut Court of Appeals reject Machnouk’s complaint.

Other banner slogans read: “Last chance for justice in the country,” “Lebanon is a hostage and besieged,” and “We will not forget.” 

Others were more political in nature, such as “Iran out” and “Yes to neutrality and yes to an international conference for Lebanon.”

Protesters were surrounded by security forces, but they were joined by activists from civil society, human rights, social and humanitarian organizations, including doctors, engineers and university students.

They condemned “abnormal practices, pressures and blatant threats by the parties in power.”

They demanded “international protection" for Lebanon because it was “besieged by the authority and corrupt politicians who destroyed and stole from Lebanon and are still in power and are now protecting each other.”

They said there was “no hope for saving Lebanon from corruption, crime and theft in light of this ruling system and the Lebanese people are slipping from bad to worse.”

There is a Thursday midday deadline for Bitar to express his opinion on Machnouk’s case and report it to the court.

President Michel Aoun tweeted that any conviction or acquittal was determined by the final court ruling, not by the investigation.

“Investigation is not the judiciary,” he said. “If the investigation erred, there are three phases for correction: Beginning, appeal and cassation. Hence, investigations must continue so that the guilty are convicted, and the innocent are acquitted.”

A statement from the families was read out in front of the Palace of Justice. It criticized Hezbollah’s threat to Bitar.

“This case brought us together and the main suspect is the one who threatens the judge inside the Palace of Justice,” it said.

On Wednesday, the French Foreign Ministry expressed its regret about the probe’s suspension. 

“The Lebanese people have the right to know the truth regarding the Beirut Port explosion and the Lebanese judiciary must work with complete transparency,” it said.

The UN Security Council has stressed the necessity for Lebanese authorities to conduct “a prompt, independent, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation into the explosion that shook the port in August 2020.”


UAE sends tons of food aid to Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria

UAE sends tons of food aid to Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria
Updated 39 sec ago

UAE sends tons of food aid to Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria

UAE sends tons of food aid to Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria
  • There are currently over 90,000 Ukraine refugees in Bulgaria

UAE sends tons of food aid to Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria

ARAB NEWS

DUBAI: The UAE has dispatched a plane carrying 52 metric tons of food supplies to support Ukrainian refugees in Bulgaria, Emirates news agency (WAM) reported on Thursday.

The aid comes as part of efforts “to alleviate the humanitarian impact faced by Ukrainian refugees” in nearby countries, the statement read.

There are currently over 90,000 Ukraine refugees in Bulgaria.

Earlier this month, the UAE sent a plane carrying 27 tons of food and medical supplies to Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

Since the outset of the war in Ukraine, the country has dispatched six planes to Poland and Moldova, carrying 156 tons of food and medical aid and ambulances, as part of a $5m donation.


Turkey records first case of monkeypox — health minister

Turkey records first case of monkeypox — health minister
Updated 12 min 22 sec ago

Turkey records first case of monkeypox — health minister

Turkey records first case of monkeypox — health minister
  • The patient has an immune system deficiency
  • Virus identified in over 50 new countries outside Africa

ISTANBUL: Turkey has detected its first case of monkeypox in a 37-year-old patient who is in isolation, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday.
The virus has been identified in more than 50 new countries outside the countries in Africa where it is endemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) says cases are also rising in those countries, calling for testing to be ramped up.
“Monkeypox has been detected in one of our patients. The patient is 37 years old and has an immune system deficiency,” Koca wrote on Twitter.
He said the patient was in isolation and contact follow-up had been conducted, with no other case found.
There have been more than 3,400 cases of monkeypox, and one death, since the outbreak began in May, according to a WHO tally. There have also been more than 1,500 cases and 66 deaths in countries this year where it more usually spreads.
Last week, the WHO ruled that the outbreak did not yet represent a public health emergency, its highest level of alert.


Israel parliament dissolves itself, sets Nov. 1 election

Israel parliament dissolves itself, sets Nov. 1 election
Updated 24 min 34 sec ago

Israel parliament dissolves itself, sets Nov. 1 election

Israel parliament dissolves itself, sets Nov. 1 election
  • The final dissolution bill ends year-long premiership of Naftali Bennett
  • Bennett said he will not stand in the Nov. 1 election, which will see Benjamin Netanyahu attempt to reclaim power

JERUSALEM:Israeli lawmakers dissolved parliament on Thursday, forcing the country’s fifth election in less than four years, with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid set to take over as caretaker prime minister at midnight.
The final dissolution bill, which passed with 92 votes in favor none against, ends the year-long premiership of Naftali Bennett, who led an eight-party coalition that was backed by an Arab party, a first in Israeli history.
Following the vote, Lapid and Bennett immediately swapped seats in the parliament — the Knesset — and Lapid was embraced by members of his centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party.
Bennett said late Wednesday that he will not stand in the upcoming election set for Nov. 1, which will see veteran right-wing opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu attempt to reclaim power.
Netanyahu has promised that his alliance of right-wingers, ultra-nationalists and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties will win the upcoming vote, but opinion polls show he may also struggle to rally a parliamentary majority.
Bennett will host Lapid for a handover ceremony later Thursday, the prime minister’s office said.
The outgoing premier will also hand the leadership of his religious nationalist Yamina party to his long-time political ally, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Netanyahu’s main challenger will likely be long-time foe Lapid, a former celebrity news anchor who has surprised many since being dismissed as a lightweight when he entered politics a decade ago.
Bennett’s motley alliance formed with Lapid in June 2021 offered a reprieve from an unprecedented era of political gridlock, ending Netanyahu’s record 12 consecutive years in power and passing Israel’s first state budget since 2018.
As pair announced plans to end their coalition last week, Lapid sought to cast Netanyahu’s potential return to office as a national threat.
“What we need to do today is go back to the concept of Israeli unity. Not to let dark forces tear us apart from within,” Lapid said.
Bennett led a coalition of right-wingers, centrists, doves and Islamists from the Raam faction, which made history by becoming the first Arab party to support an Israeli government since the Jewish state’s creation.
But the alliance, united by its desire to oust Netanyahu and break a damaging cycle of inconclusive elections, was imperilled from the outset by its ideological divides.
Bennett said the final straw was a failure to renew a measure that ensures the roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank live under Israeli law.
Some Arab lawmakers in the coalition refused to back a bill they said marked a de facto endorsement of a 55-year occupation that has forced West Bank Palestinians to live under Israeli rule.
For Bennett, a staunch supporter of settlements, allowing the so-called West Bank law to expire was intolerable. Dissolving parliament before its June 30 expiration temporarily renews the measure.
In the weeks before his coalition unraveled, Bennett sought to highlight its successes, including what he characterised as proof that ideological rivals can govern together.
“No one should give up their positions, but it is certainly possible and necessary to put aside, for a while, ideological debates and take care of the economy, security and future of the citizens of Israel,” he said in his farewell address Wednesday, which did not rule out a eventual return to politics.
Bennett will stay on as alternate prime minister responsible for Iran policy, as world powers take steps to revive stalled talks on Tehran’s nuclear program.
Israel opposes a restoration of the 2015 agreement that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
Lapid will retain his foreign minister title while serving as Israel’s 14th premier. He will find himself under an early microscope, with US President Joe Biden due in Jerusalem in two weeks.


Three Israelis, 64 Palestinians wounded in West Bank clashes

Three Israelis, 64 Palestinians wounded in West Bank clashes
Updated 30 June 2022

Three Israelis, 64 Palestinians wounded in West Bank clashes

Three Israelis, 64 Palestinians wounded in West Bank clashes
  • Clashes left 64 injured Palestinians, most of them suffering from effects of tear gas inhalation

JERUSALEM: Three Israelis and dozens of Palestinians were wounded in overnight clashes after militants fired on a Jewish pilgrimage to a shrine in the occupied West Bank, the army said Thursday.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated 64 injured Palestinians, most of them suffering from the effects of tear gas inhalation.
The Israeli army “escorted the entrance of hundreds of worshippers to Joseph’s Tomb in the city of Nablus. During the event, heavy fire was shot at the worshippers by Palestinian gunmen,” it said in a statement.
Two pilgrims and a commander of the army’s Shomron Brigade were injured, the statement said.
The tomb, which is believed by some to be the last resting place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, is a flashpoint for violence in the West Bank, and revered as a holy site by some Muslims.
The Israeli army provides security for monthly pilgrimages by Israelis. In May, a 16-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli soldiers in clashes at the tomb.
The army said it had arrested 12 people in separate operations across the West Bank on Wednesday night, the latest raids in a crackdown triggered by intensifying violence.
Nineteen people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed since late March, mainly in attacks by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.
Israeli security forces have responded with near-daily raids in the West Bank.
Forty-eight Palestinians have been killed, mostly in the West Bank — among them attackers and suspected militants but also non-combatants, including Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli army fire while covering a raid in Jenin, according to the United Nations.
Three Israeli Arab attackers have also been killed since late March.


Jordan’s PM confirms results of Aqaba gas leak investigation to be made public

Jordan’s PM confirms results of Aqaba gas leak investigation to be made public
According to the prime minister, authorities have reached the advanced stages of the investigation. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2022

Jordan’s PM confirms results of Aqaba gas leak investigation to be made public

Jordan’s PM confirms results of Aqaba gas leak investigation to be made public
  • At least 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke

Jordan’s Prime Minister Bishr Khasawneh confirmed on Wednesday that the results of the investigation into the deadly gas leak in Aqaba will be shared “transparently and objectively,” state news agency Petra reported. 
At least 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke. 

At least 13 people were killed, and 250 others were hospitalized when a chlorine tank exploded after a crane dropped it at the Red Sea port of Aqaba, releasing a large plume of toxic yellow smoke.  (AFP)

 According to the prime minister, authorities have reached the advanced stages of the investigation and are working “around the clock to reach full results about the incident,” the Petra report added. 
 During the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Khasawneh also expressed condolences to the families of the Aqaba port victims and wished a speedy recovery for those injured.
 He praised the efforts of state institutions in containing the gas leak, adding that all efforts were done under the supervision and guidance of King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II. 
 King Abdullah II had on Tuesday called for those responsible for the leak to be held accountable, stressing the need “to provide transparent explanations to the public after investigations conclude, as well as identifying shortcomings and holding those responsible to account by law,” according to a statement by his palace.