Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis

Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati meets Pope Francis at the Vatican, November 25, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis

Crucial for Lebanese to interact with Arab neighbors, says Pope Francis
  • Vatican keen on maintaining Lebanon’s stability and stopping emigration
  • Families of Beirut port blast victims: Army was aware of stored ammonium nitrate risk

BEIRUT: Pope Francis has called on “all the Lebanese to cooperate to save their country so that it can restore its role as a model for dialogue and convergence between East and West.”

The pope on Thursday received Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who visited to seek guidance from the Vatican in light of the difficulties Lebanon is facing.

Mikati quoted the pope as stressing “how crucial the Lebanese’s role and interaction with their Arab environment are to keeping Lebanon a pioneering, unique country.”

He said that Pope Francis told him that he “will make the necessary efforts in all international forums to help Lebanon pass this difficult stage and restore peace and stability.”

Mikati said: “We both agreed on the importance of activating Islamic-Christian relations.”

The prime minister is counting on the pope’s ability to promote the Lebanese cause with other countries.

“In these difficult times, we are in dire need of the support of our friends,” Mikati said following the meeting.

He added: “The more Christians in Lebanon feel safe, the more this will be reflected on all Christians in the East. I am confident that the Holy See can play a great role in this respect.”

Mikati said Christians in the East “have been among the pillars of freedoms, human rights and freedom of belief, and have always found a haven in Lebanon.”

Mikati also met with the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Lebanon is essential to the Christian presence in the East, and it has always been an example to the world about how societies can coexist,” Mikati’s media office quoted Parolin as saying.

He continued: “Lebanon receives special attention from the Holy See.

“Any credible government ought to secure the country’s obligations, especially with the international community.”

Parolin expressed concerns about the economic and social situation in Lebanon.

“The Vatican will make efforts to support Lebanon in international forums,” he said, stressing “the need for Lebanon to maintain the best relations with its Arab surroundings and the international community.”

Following the meetings, Mikati said he detailed “the government’s plans to address the challenges facing Lebanon,” to Vatican officials.

Mikati said he felt that the pope was pleased with the efforts “we are making in maintaining security and stability in Lebanon, addressing the enormous difficulties facing the country, and continuing to adhere to the national choices upon which the Lebanese unanimously agree, as well as strengthening relations between Lebanon and the world.”

The prime minister added that that Pope Francis “is fully aware of the Lebanese situation and the prevailing conditions, and stressed the need for everyone to cooperate to preserve the Lebanese message and stop the massive emigration from all sects.”

Lebanon is currently attracting broad international attention, with influential countries monitoring the behavior of the Lebanese forces on constitutional requirements, the first of which are the parliamentary elections.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is scheduled to visit Lebanon in December. The Vatican’s Foreign Minister Paul Gallagher is also expected to visit in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, there have been developments in one of the crises that has attracted global attention. The families of the victims of the Beirut port explosion made significant accusations as they held a sit-in at the Palace of Justice in Beirut in solidarity with Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the blast probe.

William Noun, brother of explosion victim Joe Noun, said: “Documents revealed that on July 20, 2020, i.e. two weeks before the explosion, the Lebanese army was informed of the dangerous quantities of ammonium nitrate that were stored at the port.”

Noun claimed that the army “knew, just like the president, the prime minister and the public prosecutor, all of whom have fallen short in their duties.”

Noun named an army general, saying that he “continues to provide false information for the investigation and the judiciary.”

On Thursday, the General Authority of the Court of Cassation rejected lawsuits to dismiss Bitar filed by a group of politicians accused of being involved in the port explosion.

While there are no internal political solutions for the Cabinet impasse and the crisis with the Gulf, Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Al-Shami announced on Thursday that the technical negotiations with the International Monetary Fund were almost over.

Al-Shami said: “We have entered the negotiation stage on monetary and economic policies to start negotiations in earnest with the IMF team, which we hope will visit Lebanon soon.”

He said: “Every minister is working on the files within their jurisdiction, provided that the government's plan is announced as soon as it is completed,” stressing that the Cabinet needs to convene to approve the plan.

“Our goal is still to reach a preliminary agreement before the end of the year, after which we can reach a final agreement in January 2022,” Al-Shami said, adding: “We also need to address the exchange rate, monetary policy, and the banking and financial sector, and we are preparing a vision for how to solve this issue, which we will announce upon completion.”

Speaking about the impact of the parliamentary elections on the negotiations with the IMF, he noted: “The IMF will not associate any issue to the elections, but they can sometimes affect the negotiations.”


Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
Updated 6 sec ago

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks
TEL AVIV: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged world powers to take a hard line against Iran in negotiations to curb the country’s nuclear program, as his top defense and intelligence officials headed to Washington amid the flailing talks.
Israel has been watching with concern as world powers sit down with Iran to jump-start talks on the tattered nuclear deal. Iran last week struck its own hard line as talks resumed in Vienna, suggesting everything discussed in previous rounds of diplomacy could be renegotiated. Iran also isn’t slowing down the advances in its atomic program, further raising the stakes in the talks, which are crucial to cooling years of tensions boiling in the wider Mideast.
Talks in Vienna aimed at re-imposing curbs on Iran’s nuclear program restarted last week after a more than five-month hiatus.
Israel has long opposed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, saying it didn’t go far enough to halt the country’s nuclear program and doesn’t address Iran’s military involvement in countries bordering Israel.
“I call on every country negotiating with Iran in Vienna to take a strong line and make it clear to Iran that they cannot enrich uranium and negotiate at the same time,” Bennett told a meeting of his Cabinet. “Iran must begin to pay a price for its violations.”
Israel is not a party to the negotiations but it has made a point of keeping up lines of communication with its European and American allies during the talks, which are set to resume this week.
Israeli spy chief David Barnea headed to Washington late Saturday on a previously unannounced trip and Defense Minister Benny Gantz leaves Wednesday for meetings with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was in London and Paris last week to discuss the talks with Israel’s European allies.

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths
Updated 29 sec ago

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths

Jordan jails hospital chief over Covid deaths

AMMAN: A Jordanian court on Sunday sentenced to three years in jail the director of a state hospital over the deaths of 10 patients at the facility which treated coronavirus patients.

Abdel Razak al-Khashman and four aides were convicted of "causing the deaths" at the Salt state hospital where the patients died after it ran out of oxygen.

The verdict can be appealed within 10 days. 

The deaths in March sparked public anger in Jordan and led to the resignation of health minister Nazir Obeidat.

Hundreds of angry people gathered outside Al-Hussein Salt New Hospital, northwest of Amman, when news of the deaths spread.

King Abdullah visited the hospital and protesters surrounded his car as it neared the building.  


Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting

Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting
Updated 05 December 2021

Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting

Israeli police questioned on Palestinian attacker’s shooting
  • A widely circulated video shot by a bystander appeared to show an officer from Israel’s paramilitary Border Police shooting the attacker
  • Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israel’s Justice Ministry said Sunday that two police officers were brought in for questioning following the shooting death of a Palestinian who had stabbed an Israeli man in east Jerusalem.
Israeli police released surveillance video in which the attacker can be seen Saturday stabbing the ultra-Orthodox Jewish man and then trying to stab a Border Police officer before being shot and falling to the ground. Police identified the attacker as a 25-year-old from Salfit, in the occupied West Bank. Police could later be seen carrying the body away on a stretcher.
A widely circulated video shot by a bystander appeared to show an officer from Israel’s paramilitary Border Police shooting the attacker when he was already lying on the ground, and another appeared to show police with guns drawn preventing medics from reaching him, prompting calls for an investigation into possible excessive use of force.
The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground.
The Justice Ministry’s police investigations unit said the police officers were questioned shortly after the incident and released without conditions.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett released a statement in support of the officers. Other leaders also defended their actions.
“It’s not clear if the terrorist maybe has an explosive belt. All sorts of things could happen,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who oversees the police, told Israeli Army Radio Sunday. “They acted correctly.”
The incident happened near Damascus Gate just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, a tense and crowded area that is often the scene of demonstrations and clashes.
The Old City is in east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war along with the West Bank and Gaza. Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and considers the entire city its capital. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of their future state, to include the West Bank and Gaza.
There have been dozens of attacks in recent years in and around the Old City, nearly all carried out by individual Palestinians with no known links to armed groups.
Palestinians and Israeli rights groups say security forces sometimes use excessive force in response to attacks, killing suspected assailants who could have been arrested or who posed no immediate threat to security forces.
Rights groups also say Israel rarely holds members of its security forces accountable for the deadly shootings of Palestinians. Investigations often end with no charges or lenient sentences, and in many cases witnesses are not summoned for questioning.
Israel says its security forces make every effort to avoid harming civilians and that it investigates alleged abuses.
In the widely publicized 2016 case, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. Azaria later served two-thirds of a 14-month sentence after being convicted of reckless manslaughter.
His case sharply divided Israelis. The military pushed for his prosecution, saying he violated its code of ethics, while many Israelis, particularly on the nationalist right, defended his actions.
In a more recent case, a Border Police officer was charged with reckless manslaughter in the deadly shooting of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem’s Old City last year.
The indictment came just over a year after the shooting of Eyad Hallaq, whose family has criticized Israel’s investigation into the killing and called for much tougher charges. The shooting has drawn comparisons to the police killing of George Floyd in the United States.


Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib

Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib
Updated 05 December 2021

Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib

Houthi militia launch 3 missiles towards Yemen’s Marib
  • The attack comes after Yemen’s military and resistance forces made progress in Marib

RIYADH: The Houthi militia in Yemen reportedly fired three missiles in one hour in the country’s Marib governorate, Al Arabiya TV reported on Sunday. 

One missile landed in the airport, a correspondent for the channel said. 

The attack comes after Yemen’s military and resistance forces made progress in Marib, resulting in heavy losses for the Houthi militia. 

Major General Mansour Thawaba, the official in charge of operations carried out in Marib, confirmed the Yemeni army’s ‘remarkable progress’ in the area on Saturday.


Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure

Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure
Updated 55 min 47 sec ago

Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure

Egyptian woman crowned world’s tallest dies from kidney failure
  • Abdel-Gawad was the holder of three titles in the Guinness World Records
  • Huda, as well as her brother Mohammed Abdel-Gawad, have been bullied for their physical appearance due to a defect in their pituitary glands

DUBAI: The world’s tallest woman Huda Abdel-Gawad died in Egypt’s Sharqiyah province at the age of 27 after suffering from kidney failure, according to local reports.

Abdel-Gawad was the holder of three titles in the Guinness World Records: the largest hand of a living woman with a length of 24.3 cm, the largest foot at 33.1 cm and the widest arms of a surviving woman at 236.3 cm.

Huda, as well as her brother Mohammed Abdel-Gawad, have been bullied for their physical appearance due to a defect in their pituitary glands, which affected their weight and height.

Mohammed Abdel-Gawad, 33, got two Guinness World Records: the widest arms of a living man at 250.3 cm, and the widest hand of a surviving man at a length of 31.3 cm.