Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon
Elections held by professional syndicates in Lebanon over the past few weeks have not ended in tangible change. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 02 December 2021

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon

Opposition factions disagree on alliances needed for change in Lebanon
  • Professional syndicates elections fail to inspire political shifts

BEIRUT: Elections held by professional syndicates in Lebanon over the past few weeks have not ended in tangible change.

The results of polls for the Lebanese bar associations, the Order of Pharmacists of Lebanon, and the Lebanese Press Editors’ Syndicate returned expected candidates, while the elections of the Lebanese Dental Association were suspended after a fight broke out between members.

Hezbollah members, meanwhile, entered the vote counting hall and proceeded to destroy ballot boxes.

However, the elections of the Order of Engineers and Architects saw the only official breach for the opposition candidates.

The last of these elections were those of the Press Editors’ Syndicate, which was held on Wednesday and saw an unprecedented voter turnout exceeding 73 percent. Twenty-seven candidates contested 12 seats on the syndicate’s council.

Joseph Kosseifi, the re-elected head of the syndicate, told Arab News that “journalists are part of this Lebanese society, but the syndicate is not politicized. It is the least politicized of the liberal professions syndicates. It is normal for journalists to have political tendencies, however, the work of the syndicate is related to the profession.”

Many of the candidates had called for change. May Abi Akl, who scored the second largest number of votes among the candidates who lost, was one of them. She noted that her decision to run for election “aimed at bringing about change within the Press Editors’ Syndicate and preventing the election of a closed list that only represents itself. Our objective was to introduce new blood into the syndicate and we were able to stir up the still water.”

As the results were announced on Wednesday night, the opposition candidates chanted “down with the rule of the ruling class.” However, Kosseifi said: “Whoever wants real change has to be a partner within the public assemblies and this is not happening. All the revolution on the streets was able to achieve is make people protest and scream. Apart from that, they failed to achieve a qualitative breach.”

Activist Dr. Ziad Abdel Samad said that “the elections of the liberal professions syndicates gave indications regarding the alignment of the ruling parties. Their performance was not good, even among themselves. We saw the Shiite duo, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah, working alone, while the Future Movement-Progressive Socialist Party alliance was somewhere else. On the other hand, the weakness of the ruling parties was not matched by a unified opposition.

“There are two opinions within the opposition. Some say that holding on to pure opposition will not achieve anything and that it sometimes needs an alliance with the opposing political forces to bring down the symbols of the ruling class. For example, an alliance between the opposition forces and the Kataeb Party could make a difference in regards to removing the representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement. However, others stress the importance of unifying all of the forces that are not part of the ruling class to be able to confront it,” Abdel Samad explained.

Electoral expert Zeina El-Helou told Arab News: “The political forces, no matter how opposed to the ruling class, want to build an alliance with me in order to take from me, not to give me. There are fundamental differences between the forces of the revolution and the opposing political forces. We do not agree on any political objective. How can we be their allies? They tell us to be their allies now and oppose them in Parliament. Does that mean that we are replacing one party of the ruling class with another party? We do not want to fight battles in Parliament. We want the Parliament to work. We want to make changes.”


Greece takes delivery of new Rafale jets from France

Greece takes delivery of new Rafale jets from France
Updated 7 sec ago

Greece takes delivery of new Rafale jets from France

Greece takes delivery of new Rafale jets from France
  • The six warplanes landed at Tanagra air base, some 70 kilometers north of Athens
TANAGRA, Greece: Greece on Wednesday received six new Rafale jets from France in a multi-billion-euro arms deal which Athens and Paris claim boosts the EU’s defense capabilities, but is mainly seen as countering Turkish ambitions in the Mediterranean.
The six warplanes landed at Tanagra air base, some 70 kilometers north of Athens, after overflying the Acropolis, escorted by Greek Mirage jets previously purchased from France.
Greece and France had originally signed a $3-billion (€2.5 billion) deal last January for 18 Rafale jets — 12 used and six new — as part of a burgeoning arms program to counter Turkish ambitions.
This was followed in September by a mutual assistance defense pact that includes the purchase by Athens of three Belharra frigates.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has also announced plans to buy an additional six Rafale jets, bringing the total order to 24.
The ships are set to be delivered in 2025 and 2026, for a value of some $3.4 billion.
Greece has the option to buy a fourth frigate.
Turkey, which has an uneasy history and relationship with its NATO neighbor Greece, has criticized the defense deal as threatening “regional peace and stability.”
Mitsotakis in 2020 unveiled Greece’s most ambitious arms purchase program in decades after a dangerous stand-off with Turkey over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts.
A month earlier, Turkey had sent an exploration ship and a small navy flotilla to conduct seismic research in waters which Greece considers its own under post-war treaties.
In contrast to other EU and NATO allies, France strongly backed Greece and Cyprus at the time, sending warships and fighter jets to the eastern Mediterranean.
The 2021 frigate accord came less than two weeks after Paris was left reeling by Australia’s cancelation of a contract to buy French submarines in favor of a new defense pact with Britain and the United States.
President Emmanuel Macron hailed the deal as a major boost for the EU’s defense ambitions.
The deal with Greece marks “an audacious first step toward European strategic autonomy,” Macron said at the time, adding that Europeans should “stop being naive” regarding geopolitical competition.
Macron has said the frigate sale was not meant to be seen as a threat against Ankara, but a means to jointly ensure security in the Mediterranean as well as in North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans.
The main opposition left-wing Syriza party, which voted against the deal, has questioned clauses that require Greece to support French military operations in the war-torn Sahel in Africa.

UAE records 2,902 new coronavirus cases, two deaths

UAE records 2,902 new coronavirus cases, two deaths
Updated 55 min 16 sec ago

UAE records 2,902 new coronavirus cases, two deaths

UAE records 2,902 new coronavirus cases, two deaths

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry reported 2,902 new coronavirus cases and two virus-related deaths during the past 24 hours.

The ministry’s daily brief on Covid-19 cases said it also recorded 1,285 recoveries from the virus, raising the total number of those who recovered from the virus to 763,664.   

The newly recorded cases increase the total number of people known to have contracted covid-19 in the UAE to 813,931. Th death toll has also risen to 2,200.


Houthi militia target fuel station in Marib, civilian casualties reported 

Houthi militia target fuel station in Marib, civilian casualties reported 
Updated 59 min 13 sec ago

Houthi militia target fuel station in Marib, civilian casualties reported 

Houthi militia target fuel station in Marib, civilian casualties reported 
  • The operations were the Houthi militia's attempt to recapture Al-Faliha hill and the Al-Ridha mountain range in Marib

DUBAI: The Houthi militia in Yemen targeted a fuel station in Marib on Wednesday using a ballistic missile. 

TV news channel Al Arabiya said there were civilian casualties reported in the incident, which followed earlier attacks by the Houthis in the southern Marib that was intercepted by Yemen’s army. 

The operations were the Houthi militias attempt to recapture Al-Faliha hill and the Al-Ridha mountain range in Marib. 

According to a military source, Houthis deployed in military vehicles on Wednesday morning to carry out the simultaneous attacks. 

The Yemeni army confirmed that more than 20 Houthis were killed with dozens wounded in operations against the Houthis in Al-Faliha area. Two military vehicles were also destroyed in the mission.

Meanwhile in Al-Riddah mountain range, several militia members were targeted, and a number of military vehicles were destroyed.

This comes just days after Houthi militia carried out attacks in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, which killed three people, and the launch of eight armed drones from Yemen to Saudi Arabia, which the Kingdom’s air defenses intercepted and destroyed.


Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint

Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint
Updated 19 January 2022

Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint

Taliban arrest fighter who shot dead Hazara woman at checkpoint
  • Abdullahi was “killed by mistake,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said on Twitter, adding the arrested fighter would be punished

KABUL: A Taliban fighter has been arrested for shooting dead a Hazara woman at a checkpoint in the Afghan capital as she returned from a wedding, a spokesman for the group said Wednesday.
The killing of Zainab Abdullahi, 25, has horrified women, who face increasing restrictions since the Taliban returned to power in August.
The shooting took place in a Kabul neighborhood inhabited mostly by members of the minority Shiite Hazara community, who have been persecuted by Sunni hard-liners for centuries, with jihadist groups such as Islamic State regularly targeting them in deadly attacks.
Abdullahi was “killed by mistake,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said on Twitter, adding the arrested fighter would be punished.
Her family has been offered 600,000 Afghani (around $5,700) for the January 13 shooting in the capital’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, the interior ministry said separately.
Some women’s rights activists have staged small protests in Kabul since Abdullahi’s killing, demanding justice.
The Taliban are increasingly imposing their hard-line interpretation of Islamic law on the country, and women are being squeezed out of public life.
Most secondary schools for girls are shut, while women are barred from all but essential government work.
They have also been ordered not to commute long distances unless accompanied by a close male relative.
Earlier this month, the Taliban’s religious police put up posters around the capital ordering women to cover up.
A spokesman for the feared Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice said it was “just encouragement for Muslim women to follow Sharia law.”
On Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged the Security Council to “hold to account” those guilty of abuses in Afghanistan.
She said denying women and girls their fundamental rights was “massively damaging” a country already facing a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented proportions.
The Taliban have promised a softer version of the rule that characterised their first stint in power from 1996 to 2001, but their interim government has no female members.


Israel probes alleged Pegasus use to spy on citizens

Israel probes alleged Pegasus use to spy on citizens
Updated 19 January 2022

Israel probes alleged Pegasus use to spy on citizens

Israel probes alleged Pegasus use to spy on citizens
  • Pegasus is a surveillance product made by the Israeli firm NSO that can turn a mobile phone into a pocket spying device

JERUSALEM: Israel’s justice minister on Wednesday pledged a full investigation into allegations that the controversial Pegasus spyware was used on Israeli citizens, including people who led protests against former premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Pegasus, a surveillance product made by the Israeli firm NSO that can turn a mobile phone into a pocket spying device, has remained a source of global controversy following revelations last year it was used to spy on journalists and dissidents worldwide.
The Hebrew-language business daily Calcalist has reported that Pegasus was also used by police on citizens at the forefront of protests against Netanyahu last year, when he was still prime minister, as well as other Israelis.
Israeli police have firmly denied the report.
Public Security Minister Omar Barlev, a Netanyahu critic who took office as part of a new government that ousted Netanyahu in June, offered a more nuanced defense.
There was “no practice of wire-tapping or hacking devices by police without a judge’s approval,” he said.
Israeli security forces have wide leeway to conduct surveillance within Israel with judicial approval.
Following the Calcalist report, the justice ministry and State Comptroller’s office both said they were looking into the reports.
The Privacy Protection Authority, a division of the ministry, said use of Pegasus to monitor Israeli citizens” would constitute a “serious violation of privacy,” announcing its investigation.
State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman said Tuesday he would expand his ongoing investigation into law enforcement’s use of surveillance technology to include the latest Pegasus allegations.
He would in particular probe “the balance” between the “usefulness” of surveillance tools in investigations and “violations of the right to privacy.”
Justice Minister Gideon Saar, another Netanyahu rival, told parliament Wednesday that he fully backed the probes.
“There is a huge difference between the claims in the Calcalist article and the police statements,” Saar told the law committee in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.
“It’s good that the state comptroller, who is an independent body, took upon himself to examine the issue,” Saar said.
“In the (justice) ministry we were not aware of any activity without a court order. It is good that these things will be examined, and the public will receive the conclusions.”
Israel’s defense ministry, which must approve all exports of Israeli-made defense industry products, has also opened an investigation into sales of Pegasus overseas.