As the crises in Lebanon continue into 2022 so does the suffering of its people

Special As the crises in Lebanon continue into 2022 so does the suffering of its people
People walk inside a shopping mall during holiday season in Hazmieh, Lebanon December 29, 2021. Picture taken December 29, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 December 2021

As the crises in Lebanon continue into 2022 so does the suffering of its people

As the crises in Lebanon continue into 2022 so does the suffering of its people
  • Amid the ongoing economic, political fuel, power and social crises, there seems little hope the new year will be any better than the old

BEIRUT: As the people of Lebanon prepare to greet the arrival of a new year, they are exhausted from the escalation of the suffering they endured in 2021.

A year marked by additional crises affecting the health sector, the judiciary and the military is ending amid increasingly frosty relations between the country’s political leaders.

Images of parents in tears because they are unable to buy medicine or milk for their children, and scenes of long queues at gas stations were among the most graphic illustrations of the humiliations citizens have been subjected to.

The value of the minimum wage of 675,000 Lebanese pounds fell to just $23 as the dollar exchange rate reached an unprecedented high of 29,000 pounds.

In the past 12 months, Lebanon has gone through crises described by the World Bank in June as “the most severe in the world.”

Monetary policies were blamed as the Lebanese Central Bank experienced a further sharp decline in foreign-currency reserves. It resorted to repeatedly printing more currency to secure the necessary liquidity, which fueled inflation.

In August, it stopped subsidizing imports of fuel, and then medicines. Workers now have to spend more than half of their salaries just to travel to work. The lives of many people are at risk because medicine is not available to buy or, if it is, they can no longer afford it.

Lebanon literally fell into darkness this year, as Electricite du Liban — the country’s main power company — was unable to provide minimum levels of electricity, and many people had to stop renting private generators as monthly costs soared.

The removal of state subsidies was not accompanied by any clear mechanism for protecting citizens from poverty, as a cash-card aid program for the poor and the middle class has yet to be approved.

The growing social instability was reflected in the security situation and rising crime rate in the country, with cases of theft increasing by 137 percent compared with 2020.

On Feb. 4, publisher and political activist Lokman Slim, a prominent critic of Hezbollah, was assassinated. He previously said he had received death threats from the group.

Meanwhile Hezbollah spared no effort to consolidate its control over the country, going so far as to threaten Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the judicial investigation into the Beirut Port explosion, accusing him of politicizing the investigation.

Despite Hezbollah’s challenges to the Lebanese government, and US sanctions, by importing fuel from Iran via Syria in September, it did not last long amid the ongoing crises.

A young man from an Arab clan in Khaldeh, south of Beirut, assassinated a Hezbollah official in August, and members of the same clan ambushed supporters of the party during the funeral of their colleague in Khaldeh, which led to the deaths of five people.

The height of the armed confrontation between Hezbollah and its opponents took place in Ain Al-Remmaneh in October, when a four-hour shootout among fighters armed with machine guns and missiles took place. Seven people died in the clashes and dozens were injured. The Amal Movement and Hezbollah accused the Lebanese Forces party of attacking protesters, loyal to Amal and Hezbollah, that were heading to the Justice Palace to demand the dismissal of Judge Bitar.

Since he took over the investigation into the Beirut Port explosion, it has been suspended seven times by politicians accused of involvement in the circumstances that led to the blast, including former Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned after he was unable to form a government of independent specialists to support a French aid initiative, reportedly because the process was obstructed by the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah.

Najib Mikati took over and, after 13 months of political stalemate, formed a new government in September. The same old political forces were represented, however, and within a month its work was halted by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.

The crisis in the country peaked toward the end of the year when Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries cut diplomatic and economic ties with Lebanon in protest against offensive criticisms made by Information Minister George Kordahi about the war in Yemen.

The politician’s belated resignation failed to improve the strained relations, as Saudi authorities said that “Hezbollah continues to destabilize Lebanon and exports drugs to the Kingdom.”

As a result of the continuing economic crisis, and Lebanon’s inability to pay its dues for the work of the International Tribunal for Lebanon, the tribunal was permanently suspended in July.

The country faces two important political events in 2022: The parliamentary elections on May 15, in which thousands of expatriates will be eligible to vote, and a presidential election in October.

A great challenge remains the implementation of the reforms demanded by the international community as a condition for aid to help Lebanon overcome its economic and social crises.

Lebanon has at least been promised an improvement in the quality and reliability of its electricity supply, thanks to Egypt and Jordan, in coming year. And Lebanese security services have promised to continue their fight against the smuggling of drugs through the country.

Meanwhile, the global pandemic continues to rage and, as the new year begins, many people in Lebanon will be awaiting the results of tests, amid violations of the precautionary measures to slow the spread of the virus.

The Lebanese people will be hoping that these are the only negative results they see during what they desperately need to be a better year ahead.


Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement

Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement
Updated 7 sec ago

Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement

Lebanon's banks to reopen on Monday - statement

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s banks will reopen on Monday, with each taking their own measures, the country’s banking association said in a statement on Sunday.
The country’s banks have shut for about five days following a spree of bank hold-ups by depositors seeking access to their savings.


At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran
Updated 11 min 35 sec ago

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

At UNGA, UAE minister demands return of 3 islands seized by Iran

NEW YORK: The United Arab Emirates on Saturday urged Iran to return to the Gulf state the three islands it had been illegally occupying for the past five decades.

In an address before the General Debate of the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York City, Reem Al Hashimy, UAE's Minister of State for International Cooperation, said Iran's occupation of the three islands was a violation of the sovereignty.

"... we renew our demand for an end to Iran's occupation of the three UAE islands: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa – the UAE’s sovereignty over which is proven by history and international law," Hashimy said.

Iran seized the three islands in November 1971 shortly after British forces were pulled out. The islands are all located in the Strait of Hormuz between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

"Despite the UAE’s sincere calls to peacefully resolve this conflict over the past five decades, we stress here that Iran has not responded. We will never relent in voicing our claim to these islands either through direct negotiations or through the International Court of Justice, as is our legitimate right," Hashimy said.

Iran has been accused by its Arab neighbors and members and the West of seeking to destabilize the region by funding and arming its proxy militias, including the Hezbollah of Lebanon, the Houthis of Yemen, and other militants in the Palestinian territories and in Iraq.

On Sunday, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

During the meeting, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed called for strengthening international cooperation to achieve stability and peace in the region and achieve the aspirations of people, according to a statement on the Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Both officials discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance cooperation between the two countries to achieve their common interests. They also exchanged views on regional and international developments and reviewed several issues on the agenda of the General Assembly.

 

 


Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank
Updated 25 September 2022

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

NABLUS: Israeli troops killed a Palestinian militant in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian sources said, with Israel’s army saying soldiers fired on “armed suspects” during a routine patrol.
The army said that “hits were identified” after soldiers fired toward “armed suspects driving in a vehicle and a motorcycle” near Nablus in the northern West Bank, an area that has seen near daily violence in recent months.
The Palestinian health ministry named the man killed as Saed Al-Koni.
A loose coalition of fighters called “The Lions Den” that has recently emerged in Nablus claimed Koni as one of their members.
Among the members of this group was teenager Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, who has become a folk hero on social media since his killing by Israeli forces in August. Pendants of Al-Nabulsi are on sale in the markets of Nablus Old City.
Koni’s death was the second in the Nablus area in the past two days.
On Saturday, a Palestinian driver was killed by Israeli troops after what the army called an “attempted ramming attack,” but which Palestinians said was a traffic accident.
The army said soldiers and police opened fire on a vehicle after the driver “attempted to run them over” during a patrol outside Nablus.
The Palestinian foreign ministry described Muhammad Ali Hussein Awad, 36, as a “defenseless Palestinian” who was not “posing any danger.”
“The Israeli police deliberately shot Awad, with the aim of killing him, after his vehicle collided with a police vehicle in a traffic accident,” the ministry said.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six Day War of 1967.
Israeli forces have faced criticism over their frequent use of lethal force in response to perceived threats.
Israel is on high alert ahead of the Jewish high holiday season which begins on Sunday evening with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
Since March, Israel has launched hundreds of raids in the northern West Bank, including Nablus and nearby Jenin, in pursuit of individuals it accuses of involvement in deadly attacks targeting Israelis.
The raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians.


President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen

President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen
Updated 25 September 2022

President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen

President Alimi, UN Secretary General discuss peace efforts in Yemen

Dubai: Head of the Presidential Leadership Council in Yemen, Rashad al-Alimi, discussed on Saturday peace efforts with Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly's meetings.
Alimi welcomed the role of the UN and its secretary general’s efforts to stop the war in Yemen and to alleviate the severity of Yemen's crisis, state news agency SABA reported.
Alimi discussed the latest developments in Yemen, economic, service and right reforms adopted by the Presidential Council and the government..
The secretary general confirmed the commitment of the UN in supporting the presidential council and the government and mobilizing necessary resources to alleviate humanitarian suffering.
He also confirmed employing all efforts to tighten the truce and renewing it, resuming the political process and enabling Yemeni people to build their state.


German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit

German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 25 September 2022

German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit

German Chancellor arrives in UAE after Saudi Arabia visit
  • Scholz is scheduled to visit Qatar before going back to Berlin on Sunday night

DUBAI: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in the UAE Saturday night on the second leg of a two-day tour to the Gulf region.

Scholz was welcomed by the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, and several officials at the Presidential Terminal of the Abu Dhabi International Airport, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

Earlier, Scholz left Saudi Arabia after meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Both leaders reviewed aspects of Saudi-German relations and areas of partnership between the two countries, in addition to discussing prospects for bilateral cooperation and opportunities for its development in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

Scholz, accompanied by a large delegation that includes representatives of several economic sectors, is scheduled to visit Qatar before going back to Berlin on Sunday night.