Lebanon celebrates Independence Day with dull military parade

Lebanon celebrates Independence Day with dull military parade
Lebanese Army troops take part in a military parade marking the 78th anniversary of Lebanon's Independence Day held at the Defence Ministry in Yarzeh on the eastern outskirts of Beirut on November 22, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 22 November 2021

Lebanon celebrates Independence Day with dull military parade

Lebanon celebrates Independence Day with dull military parade
  • President hopes crisis with Gulf countries will be resolved soon
  • PM Mikati holds ‘serious dialogue’ with Aoun and Berri

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun has urged the Lebanese not to “drown in despair and to trust their state and take part in the next parliamentary elections.”

His remarks came as Lebanon celebrated its 78th Independence Day on Monday with a dull symbolic military parade at the Defense Ministry.

Meanwhile, civil society celebrated the day with a powerful and crowded gathering near the Beirut port where the massive blast that shook the city took place on Aug. 4, 2020.

In his televised speech on the eve of the Independence Day, Aoun indicated that the way out of the current government crisis was “not that difficult.”

Aoun said the solution would be to commit to the constitution, which required “the separation of powers.”

On Sunday night, the Culture Ministry lit up the national museum’s building with the Lebanese flag’s colors.

The traditional reception that usually takes place at the presidential palace was not held this year due to the current situation in Lebanon and the circumstances brought about by the coronavirus.

The impact of the political and economic crises were clear — whether through the dull presence of President Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and PM Najib Mikati at the military parade, or the sad statements delivered by some politicians and even diplomats.

The symbolic civil show that was held near the port reflected people’s suffering and unrest due to the disasters that have hit the Lebanese.

The US Embassy in Lebanon simply tweeted a picture featuring a natural scene from a Lebanese region and wrote: “May we celebrate Independence Day in better conditions.”

French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo extended wishes in a tweet “for a Lebanon that is sovereign and united to overcome the challenges it faces today. A nation and a country that stem from the Lebanese’ strong attachment to living together in an open, free and pluralistic country.”

Grillo, whose country has led an initiative to solve the Lebanese crisis, said that “France stands beside the Lebanese population that is committed with determination, talent and courage to building the nation they aspire to and deserve.”

“The tragic situation in Lebanon requires all authorities, as well as the political class, to assume their responsibilities without further delay,” she said.

Grillo took part in the symbolic parade held by the army command and with the participation of military units, the General Directorate of the Civil Defense and the Lebanese Red Cross.

Following the parade, Aoun, Berri and Mikati shared the same vehicle and headed to the Baabda presidential palace.

Following their meeting, Berri expressed hope for a better situation.

Mikati said: “We cannot have independence if we are not united, and understanding is key.”

“During our meeting today, we had a serious dialogue and I hope it will be fruitful,” he said.

Regarding the crisis with Gulf countries, notably Saudi Arabia, President Aoun said: “Lebanon seeks to establish the best relations with its Arab brothers, and especially the Gulf countries.”

The president hoped “the matter will be resolved soon.”

Aoun, however, did not take any clear position regarding the resignation of Information Minister Georges Kordahi, “based on the need to separate the positions of the Lebanese state and the positions of individuals or groups, specially that the democratic regime in Lebanon guarantees the freedom of opinion and expression.”

This year, Aoun delivered his last speech on that occasion, as his mandate ends in October 2022.

During his speech, Aoun seemed to defend his performance during the past five years of his mandate.

He said that 40 percent of his mandate “passed by without a government, as the formation process was hindered due to artificial obstacles and clashes, which delayed reforms and exacerbated crises.”

Aoun highlighted the “army’s role in assuming responsibility in preserving Lebanon’s stability and security, despite the impacts of the economic crises on the army.”

Former minister May Chidiac commented on the parade: “The symbolism of independence does not lay in a symbolic parade, while Lebanon is actually a nation in captivity, with Hezbollah and its branches controlling its sovereignty and confiscating its role. The people of Lebanon have been humiliated enough because of your false promises.”

Civil society marked the day with a vibrant and powerful show in the square across from the port and not the Martyrs’ Square, where they celebrated that day two years ago.

Participants raised the Lebanese flag and signs that read: “We will bring our country back,” “We will rise from the darkness,” “Lebanon is our home” and “We refuse to leave.”

The parade this year reflected the repercussions of the port explosion and the economic and political crises.

The slogans of the symbolic march focused on the “people, army, and judicial system to stress the importance of building a state of law, away from political interference.”

Among those who took part in the civil show were the families of those who were abducted or went missing during the devastating civil war, and whose fate remains unknown 31 years after the war ended.

The families of the victims of the Beirut blast also took part, fearing the truth would never come out and that those responsible for the crime would go unpunished due to political interference in the judiciary.

Mothers, children, college students, organizations, journalists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, fire fighters and volunteers also took part in the civil parade.

Participants placed a large iron sculpture of the Lebanese flag across the port, next to the “Torch of the Revolution” and the “Hammer of Justice” sculptures, as a reminder that “we shall never forget.”

Google celebrated the day by displaying the Lebanese flag on its homepage.


UAE switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting Jan.1, 2022

UAE switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting Jan.1, 2022
Updated 12 sec ago

UAE switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting Jan.1, 2022

UAE switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting Jan.1, 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 Friday will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12 noon. Friday sermons and prayers will be after 1:15 p.m. all year long in the UAE with the possibility of flexible working hours or work from home options on Fridays. 
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 34 sec ago

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.


Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga retake northern village from Daesh

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga  retake northern village from Daesh
Updated 07 December 2021

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga retake northern village from Daesh

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga  retake northern village from Daesh
  • More reinforcement forces dispatched to the area to prevent further attacks

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have recaptured a village in northern Iraq on Monday after Daesh terrorists took it over the previous day, security and police sources said.

Elite Iraq Interior Ministry forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters managed early on Monday to control Luhaiban village, though the terrorists have left some houses booby-trapped with explosive devices, the sources said.

In a separate attack on Sunday, Daesh killed four Peshmerga soldiers and a civilian, and wounded six other people when they attacked Qara Salem village in northern Iraq, security sources said.

The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs said in a statement that the attack caused casualties, but did not confirm the toll.

Peshmerga are the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

One Peshmerga colonel said Daesh was using hit-and-run tactics in night attacks on their positions.

FASTFACT

Daesh killed four Peshmerga soldiers and a civilian, and wounded six other people when they attacked Qara Salem village in northern Iraq, security sources said.

“They avoid holding the ground for longer time ... More reinforcement forces were dispatched to the area to prevent further attacks,” the colonel said.

Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reinforced their troops in the area on Monday where the attacks had been carried out by militant group with Iraqi military helicopters flying over to chase militants, two Iraqi security sources said.

The two villages are in remote territory claimed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the government of the autonomous northern Kurdish region in Irbil where there are regular attacks by Daesh.

But it is a rare incident of Daesh controlling a residential area near a main road, a highway that links Irbil to the city of Kirkuk.

Iraq declared victory over the hard-line group in December 2017.

Although the group has largely been defeated, it continues to carry out sporadic attacks and operate limited cells in the country, particularly in the north.