19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead
A Lebanese soldier mans a checkpoint in Ain Al-Remmaneh, adjacent to the area of Tayouneh, in the southern suburb of Beirut on October 15, 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 15 October 2021

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead

19 arrested after Beirut clashes leave 7 dead
  • Specialized military units are still investigating the direct cause of the deadly shootout
  • Saudia Arabia condemned the gunfights, said Lebanon needs “real, serious change”

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army on Friday set up checkpoints in the Tayouneh area and on roads leading to Beirut’s northern and southern suburbs after gunfights left seven people dead on Thursday.
Investigations by specialized military units have not identified the direct cause of the clashes between armed members from Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on one side, and opposing gunmen that the two parties claimed were from the Lebanese Forces Party.
“The army command’s statement about Thursday’s events left things ambiguous until further investigations,” a military source told Arab News. “But what we are sure of is that the sniper shots fired at Hezbollah and Amal targeted the head, chest, and abdomen areas as most injuries were among those.”
The shootout lasted more than three hours and also left 32 people injured, including two soldiers. 
What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration on Thursday quickly turned into anarchy. Hezbollah and the Amal Movement had hit the streets demanding the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation of the Beirut port blast before bullets and rocket-propelled grenades started flying.
On Friday, the military source said “13 persons were arrested, including concierges of the buildings that snipers used to shoot at the demonstrators in the streets from their rooftops. Members affiliated with the Lebanese Forces party, who were spotted on the battlefield, were also arrested. The army resorted to CCTV footage for evidence.”

Later in the evening, state National News Agency said Lebanon had detained 19 people in relation to recent gunfire in Beirut.
A national day of mourning for the victims was declared on Friday as schools, banks, and government offices across Lebanon were shut down. Guns were fired in the air during funerals for the victims in Beirut’s southern suburbs and Bekaa.
The full extent of damage caused to buildings, properties, and parked cars during the shootout was revealed on Friday. People who returned to their homes expressed deep anger at the events and asked, “Who will compensate us for the human and material losses?”
Signs of destruction were left by the B7 grenades while bullet holes were very clear on the buildings in the Tayouneh area. An uneasy calm reigned on Friday as shops were closed and very few people walked in the streets. All cars and motorcycles that passed through the area were searched by authorities.
In order to prevent more escalation, a military source said the airborne division was assisting the army in Ain Remaneh and Chiyah, “in case something happens, given that this area has become very sensitive.”
Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said he is “certainly worried” about the political and economic situation in Lebanon as it requires action “now.” He said the events over the past two days showed that Lebanon needs real, serious change and that the responsibility lies with the country’s leaders.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Kingdom is following events in Lebanon closely. The Kingdom hopes the situation will stabilize as soon as possible and that Saudi Arabia stands with the people of Lebanon, the statement said.
According to their sources, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have requested to remove Bitar from the investigation into the Beirut port blast on Aug. 4, 2020, which killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands.
“The judiciary must find a formula that can restore the constitutional order and declare that the defendants, who are former ministers and deputies, should be prosecuted before the Court of Ministers and Presidents,” An official source from Amal Movement told Arab News.
Lawmaker Jalal Abdullah said the case is very sensitive and requires accurate follow-up. 
“Why did a demonstration, which was supposed to be peaceful, turn into an armed clash? The truth needs to come out,” he said. “The demarcation lines carry a bloody history in the memories of the Lebanese, and we do not want to reminisce these memories regardless of what happened.”
Abdullah told Arab News that “after what happened on Thursday, all kinds of immunity of the highest-ranking to the lowest-ranking security officials must be lifted to allow the truth to come out. Some are very concerned about this investigation and the role of Judge Bitar in his investigations. What is needed today is for everyone to abide by the process of the law.”
Mohanad Hage Ali, director of communications and a fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said the Tayouneh crime might be used politically to counter the port crime.
“I do not think that Hezbollah was not expecting blood by getting its supporters into this sensitive area,” he said. “Hezbollah is very concerned about the investigations and the possibility of being accused by Judge Bitar. This is only a possibility. But what we know so far at face value, is that Hezbollah is defending its allies, the Amal Movement and Marada Movement, whose ministers are defendants in the port explosion case.”
Ali expressed concern about Hezbollah’s behavior and feared assassination attempts in the near future. 
“Just like what happened after the assassination of (former premier) Rafic Hariri until the assassination of (author and activist) Luqman Slim,” he said.
The EU condemned the use of violence and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims, calling for “utmost restraint to avoid further senseless loss of life.”


Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot
Updated 09 December 2021

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot

Arab coalition destroys Houthi communications system, weapons depot
  • The coalition is taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and stop cross-border attacks, it said in a statement

DUBAI: The Arab coalition launched a series of attacks against Houthi targets overnight, destroying a communication system in the Al-Bani district and a weapons depot in Sanaa. 
The coalition said the communication system was being used to launch cross-border drone attacks. 
Coalition forces earlier intercepted and destroyed two drones in Yemeni airspace, one of which was monitored and launched from Sanaa airport.
Clashes between the Iran-backed Houthis and the coalition have intensified in recent months, specifically in Marib where it destroyed a Houthi missile defense system.
On Wednesday, the coalition carried out 16 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Marib in the past 24 hours. It said 95 militants were killed and 11 Houthi military vehicles were destroyed during the operation.
The coalition is taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and stop cross-border attacks, it said in a statement.


UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq
Updated 39 min 42 sec ago

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq

UN Security Council condemns deadly Daesh terror attacks in Iraq
  • Two incidents in the past week, one in Basra and the other in the north of the country, left dozens of people dead or injured
  • Council members pledged their continued support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and in opposing Daesh in particular

The UN Security Council on Wednesday strongly condemned recent terrorist attacks in Iraq that killed or injured dozens of people. Daesh has claimed responsibility.

At least four people were killed and 20 injured in an explosion in Basra on Dec. 7, and at least 13 died in an attack in the north of the country on Dec. 3.

The members of the Security Council offered their condolences to the families of the dead and wished the injured a speedy recovery. They also reiterated their support for the “independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity, democratic process and prosperity of Iraq.”

They urged all states to “actively” cooperate with Iraqi authorities to bring to justice the “perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism.” Such cooperation, they stressed, is in line with obligations under international law and Security Council resolutions.

Council members “reiterated that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed.”

Pledging its continued support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and particularly Daesh, the council “reaffirmed the need for all states to combat by all means — in accordance with the charter of the United Nations and other obligations under international law, including international human rights law, international refugee law and international humanitarian law — threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts.”


Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts
Updated 09 December 2021

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

Half of Iran’s civil jets grounded for lack of spare parts

TEHRAN: More than half of Iran’s fleet of civilian aircraft is grounded due to a lack of spare parts, the deputy head of the country’s airlines association has said.

“The number of inactive planes in Iran has risen to more than 170 ... as a result of missing spare parts, particularly motors,” Alireza Barkhor said in an interview with state news agency IRNA.

The shortage represented more than half of the civilian aircraft in the sanctions-hit country, he said in an interview this week.

“If this trend continues, we will see even more planes grounded in the near future,” Barkhor was quoted as saying.

“We hope that one of the priorities of the government will be helping to finance airlines so that they are able to provide the spare parts to refurbish the grounded planes,” he added.

According to the Iranian economic daily Financial Tribune, national carrier IranAir currently operates a fleet of 39 planes, the majority of them Airbus jets.

Iran’s economy has struggled under sanctions that were lifted after a landmark nuclear deal in 2015 but reimposed again after the US withdrew from the pact in 2018.

In 2016, following the lifting of sanctions, Iran concluded deals to purchase 100 Airbus jets, 80 Boeing planes and 40 ATR aircraft.

But the Islamic republic received only 11 planes as deliveries were interrupted following the reimposition of sanctions, according to the daily.

Meanwhile, Iran has voiced criticism over new US sanctions imposed on a dozen Iranian entities and officials accused of “serious” human rights abuses.

Washington announced the sanctions late on Tuesday, adding to already stringent measures against the Islamic republic.

They came just before talks on reviving a nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers are to resume on Thursday in Vienna, according to Iran’s main negotiator.

“Even amid #ViennaTalks, US cannot stop imposing sanctions against Iran,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted.

“Washington fails to understand that ‘maximum failure’ and a diplomatic breakthrough are mutually exclusive,” he added.

“Doubling down on sanctions won’t create leverage — and is anything but seriousness and goodwill.”

The new US measures target government officials and organizations involved in the repression of protesters and political activists, and prisons where activists have been held in brutal conditions.

After a pause of several months the nuclear talks resumed in Vienna last week but paused on Friday.


Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans
Updated 09 December 2021

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans

Music therapy helping lift spirits of war-weary Gazans
  • Music therapy gained official recognition after World War II in successfully dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • According to UNICEF figures, 1 million children live in Gaza which has witnessed four wars with Israel since 2008

GAZA CITY: Specialists in the besieged Gaza Strip are mixing psychiatry and music in therapy sessions designed to improve positivity among the Palestinian enclave’s war-weary population.

And 12-year-old Reem, whose family home was bombed in May during the latest clashes in the ongoing Israeli Palestinian conflict, has been one of those to benefit.

The youngster was left traumatized after an explosion at her house in Gaza’s Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood, an experience that has since regularly reduced her to tears and caused her to feel isolated and depressed.

But after getting involved in a music therapy scheme run by the Sununu Association for Culture and Arts and funded by the German GIZ organization, her stresses and fears have been significantly eased.

Reem listens to music without words during her weekly psychological support sessions organized as part of the Enjoy Your Life with Music initiative.

Program coordinator, Rania Al-Shurihi, said Reem’s mental health had improved dramatically as a result of her treatment, adding that the association also held group sessions for Gazans suffering from the psychological effects of years of war and economic hardship.

Music therapy gained official recognition after World War II in successfully dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and it is now used to treat a range of conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, depression, heart irregularities, and blood pressure issues.

Al-Shurihi pointed out that sometimes exposing people to sad music helped them shed negative energy through crying but added that happy and relaxing music incorporating the sound of rain and waves could have similar positive outcomes.

She noted that psychological pressure often generated the need to listen to music or readings from the Holy Qur’an for relaxation.

Mental health specialists also use therapeutic methods such as writing, cooking, sailing, and breathing exercises to relieve tensions.

“Despite society’s inherited and negative view of mental health center visitors, the success of the music therapy experience has greatly contributed to changing these concepts,” Al-Shurihi said.

Experts believe that many children living in Gaza suffer from psychological damage related to the conflict including depression, anxiety, behavioral disorders, urinary incontinence, and nervous mood swings.

According to UNICEF figures, 1 million children live in Gaza which has witnessed four wars with Israel since 2008. The aid organization said the deadly conflict in May had a devastating impact on many youngsters after schools, health facilities, homes, and offices were damaged or flattened in missile attacks.

Al-Shurihi said it was important that music therapy continued to be offered in Gaza not just to tackle the effects of war but also the daily pressures of life faced by Palestinians.

“We all need psychological intervention to varying degrees. And through music, we seek to help the neediest people to overcome difficult circumstances and not drown in a sea of psychological crises,” she added.


Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes
Updated 08 December 2021

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes

Lebanese caught between old and new $100 banknotes
  • Banks and money changers deny taking commissions on old bills

BEIRUT: Lebanese money changers refusing to accept older $100 banknotes, known as “white notes,” is causing confusion, particularly after some people were charged an extra $5 fee for exchanging $100 white bills.

Dozens of customers flocked to banks to learn more about the news, especially since some of the white $100 notes were issued by banks.

A customer told Arab News: “Every Lebanese is keeping a stack of $100 bills in their home for when they need them the most since the banks confiscated our deposits, and no one dares to deposit a single dollar in the bank nowadays.”

He added: “I went to my bank to inquire about this new rule adopted by money changers. My daughter told me that one refused to exchange the $100 that she gave him, claiming it was an old edition and he had the right to take $5 as commission if she wanted to exchange it. Who gave them the right to do this? I, my wife and my children all work and we save whatever we make in dollars. Does this mean that our savings have become worthless?”

He said: “The bank manager told me that the problem is with money changers, not banks, since they do not have instructions to stop dealing with the old $100 bills; on the contrary, banks are using both the old and new editions. He suggested that I occasionally bring him $200 to $400, in exchange for which he would give me $50 bills until the issue with money changers is resolved.”

Over the past few days, the topic of “old, white” $100 and the “new, blue” $100 banknotes has dominated conversation.

Money transfer companies were also said to have refused to deal with the older notes. Some money changers have taken advantage of the ambiguity to impose a $10 fee for exchanging white $100 bills.

The confusion was said to said to have been stirred by one of the largest money shipping companies, shut down after it was subject to a judicial investigation into smuggling funds abroad after Oct. 17, 2019 — when the financial crisis hit Lebanon, and in light of which Banque du Liban froze transfers inside and outside Lebanon.

Mahmoud Murad, former head of the Syndicate of Money Changers, told Arab News: “This fad has been circulating in the Lebanese financial market for about a week now. We do not know its source, nor who invented it. The problem is that people believe anything in Lebanon.”

He added: “People who come to my business to buy dollar bills only accept the blue-colored edition now. We, as money changers, are buying and selling both the old and new editions; nothing has changed.”

Murad said: “If the $100 notes are worn-out or torn, we buy them from people but never sell them again. Instead, we give them to shipping companies to return them to the US and replace them with brand-new ones.

“But everyone in Lebanon is now a money changer. The Lebanese, the Syrian, the Sri Lankan, the Bengali, the supermarket cashier, the butcher, all engage in exchanging money. Money changers should not be blamed for this.”

Murad said that the Syndicate of Money Changers met on Wednesday and stressed that all money changers follow legal and moral rules when dealing with customers.

However, Banque du Liban revealed in a statement on Wednesday that “some banks and money changers have charged fees for exchanging $100 banknotes, claiming that they are outdated.”

It added: “The specifications of valid $100 notes are determined by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an agency affiliated with the US Treasury,” noting: “BDL alone determines the specifications of valid Lebanese currency.”

The US Embassy in Lebanon also stated on Wednesday that “it is US government policy that all designs of Federal Reserve notes remain legal tender, or legally valid for payments, regardless of when they were issued. This policy includes all denominations of Federal Reserve notes, from 1914 to present.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Banks in Lebanon announced that “after the great controversy surrounding some money changers taking commissions on old $100 bills, ABL would like to clarify that Lebanese banks deal with banknotes without any amendment to existing procedures. No additional fee is charged for accepting white $100 banknotes.”

OMT Exchange also stated that it “has not stopped accepting white $100 bills, if they are in good condition, and no additional fee is charged at any of our centers. OMT does not accept any banknotes that are torn, burnt, yellowed, or even partially damaged.”