Lebanon power company says protesters behind national blackout

Lebanon power company says protesters behind national blackout
Lebanon has been grappling with round-the-clock power cuts that last over 20 hours a day due to a financial crisis that has hampered key imports, including fuel for power stations. (AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2022

Lebanon power company says protesters behind national blackout

Lebanon power company says protesters behind national blackout
  • Lebanon is already grappling with round-the-clock power cuts that last at least 20 hours a day
  • Demonstrators angered by the blackouts stormed an Electricite du Liban substation in Aramoun region

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s state electricity company said Saturday that its power plants had stopped working after protesters stormed a key substation and tampered with the electrical equipment.
The small Mediterranean country is already grappling with round-the-clock power cuts that last at least 20 hours a day due to a financial crisis that has hampered key imports, including fuel for power stations.
Demonstrators angered by the blackouts stormed an Electricite du Liban substation in the Aramoun region north of Beirut on Saturday, EDL said in a statement.
“Protesters disconnected a 150-220 kilovolt power transformer and opened circuit breakers connecting the Zahrani power plant to the Aramoun station,” it said.
“This caused disturbances on the electrical grid... which led to a total blackout across Lebanese territory as of 17:27 (1527 GMT).”
The disruption will pile more pressure on private generators that are already struggling to keep up with the near-total absence of state power.
Private generator owners have hiked prices and rationed supply in recent months, with costs surging after the government gradually lifted fuel subsidies.
The average generator bill for a Lebanese family usually costs more than the monthly minimum wage of 675,000 Lebanese pounds — now worth just $22 as the local currency hits record lows against the dollar on the black market.
The international community has long demanded a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s ruinous electricity sector, which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
Lebanon has reached an agreement on bringing Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas into the country via war-torn Syria, while Shiite movement Hezbollah has separately started hydrocarbon deliveries from Iran.


Yemeni conjoined twins arrive in Riyadh amid separation surgery hopes

Yemeni conjoined twins arrive in Riyadh amid separation surgery hopes
Updated 10 sec ago

Yemeni conjoined twins arrive in Riyadh amid separation surgery hopes

Yemeni conjoined twins arrive in Riyadh amid separation surgery hopes
  • The Kingdom has provided thousands of cases of medical care to Yemenis during their struggle against the Houthi militia 

RIYADH: Yemeni conjoined twins Mawaddah and Rahma have arrived in Saudi Arabia amid hopes that a successful separation surgery could be carried out.

The pair landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh from Aden accompanied by their parents on Sunday.

The Yemeni family were taken to Riyadh by a Saudi medical evacuation plane with the support of the coalition forces to support legitimacy in Yemen.

The twins were transferred upon their arrival to King Abdullah Specialized Children’s Hospital (KASCH) to study their condition and consider the possibility of conducting an operation to separate them.

If separation is possible, the conjoined twins, who were born joined at the lower chest and abdomen, will be treated.

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabiah, the head of the medical team and general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), extended his thanks and gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for “this noble humanitarian initiative, which comes in appreciation of the difficult conditions facing brotherly Yemen.”

Al-Rabiah stressed that the initiative embodies Saudi Arabia’s superior medical capabilities and great humanitarian sense towards those struggling in dozens of countries, expressing his thanks to the Saudi Embassy in Yemen, and to “the coalition forces to support legitimacy in Yemen that contributed tangible efforts” in transporting the Yemeni twins.

Hudhayfah Numan, the father of the twins, thanked the Kingdom for the warm reception and hospitality that has been extended to him since his arrival in the Kingdom, expressing his great confidence in God and then in the “Saudi medical team due to their long experience in this field.” He prayed to God Almighty to protect King Salman and reward him well.

King Salman ordered the transfer of Mawaddah and Rahma to King Abdulaziz Medical City to Riyadh for medical examinations on May 10.

Dr. Aref Abu Hatem, an information counselor at the Yemeni Embassy in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that this great humanitarian initiative comes within a broader Saudi humanitarian context, sponsored by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and his Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He said that humanitarian aid was at the forefront of the Saudi leadership’s plans and activities.

Abu Hatem added that this case of conjoined twins is almost the fourth to arrive from Yemen over the past three years, all of which were followed by complicated separations carried out by a highly qualified specialized medical team led by Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabiah.

“The King Salman Center has provided thousands of grants in the medical field, and they were treated in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or in hospitals outside the Kingdom contracted by the King Salman Center for serving and caring for Yemenis in light of this war, especially those affiliated with the national army and the popular resistance,” Abu Hatem said. 


Iran will ‘avenge’ killing of Guards colonel: president

Iran will ‘avenge’ killing of Guards colonel: president
Iran will avenge the killing of a Revolutionary Guards colonel who was shot dead in Tehran, President Ebrahim Raisi warns. (AP)
Updated 23 May 2022

Iran will ‘avenge’ killing of Guards colonel: president

Iran will ‘avenge’ killing of Guards colonel: president
  • Iran will avenge the killing of a Revolutionary Guards colonel who was shot dead in Tehran, President Ebrahim Raisi warns

TEHRAN: Iran will avenge the killing of a Revolutionary Guards colonel who was shot dead in Tehran, President Ebrahim Raisi warned on Monday.
Col. Sayyad Khodai was shot dead Sunday outside his home by assailants on motorcycles, in a killing Iran blamed on “elements linked to the global arrogance,” its term for the United States and its allies including Israel.
It was the most high profile killing inside Iran since the November 2020 murder of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
Raisi said: “I insist on the serious pursuit (of the killers) by security officials, and I have no doubt that the blood of this great martyr will be avenged.”

“There is no doubt that the hand of global arrogance can be seen in this crime,” he added, echoing what the Guards said the previous day.
He was speaking just ahead of visiting Oman, where he will meet with Sultan Haitham.
Khodai’s funeral was due to take place in Tehran at 5:00 p.m. local time (1230 GMT).
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — the ideological arm of Iran’s military — described Khodai as a “defender of the sanctuary,” a term used for those who work on behalf of the Islamic republic in Syria or Iraq.
Iran maintains significant political influence in both countries, notably having backed President Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria’s grinding civil war.
State television noted that Khodai was “known” in Syria, where Iran has acknowledged deploying “military advisers.”


For Iraqis back from Syria, life on hold in ‘rehabilitation’ camp

Women sew at the Jadaa rehabilitation camp for the displaced near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on May 11, 2022. (AFP)
Women sew at the Jadaa rehabilitation camp for the displaced near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on May 11, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2022

For Iraqis back from Syria, life on hold in ‘rehabilitation’ camp

Women sew at the Jadaa rehabilitation camp for the displaced near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on May 11, 2022. (AFP)
  • Around 30,000 Iraqis, including 20,000 children, remain stranded at Al-Hol, according to Iraq’s ministry of immigration

JADAA CAMP, Iraq: Awatef Massud is longing to reunite with her Iraqi family after years spent in Syria, but first she must do time in a vetting camp to ensure she has no links to Daesh.
The 35-year-old mother of five fled to neighboring Syria in 2014 to escape violence at home after the Daesh group swept across swathes of Syria and Iraq.
For four months now, since her return to Iraq, she has been living in the Jadaa camp, a compound near the northern city of Mosul presented by the authorities as a “rehabilitation” center for those coming back from Syria.
All the returnees were transferred from Al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria, which houses displaced families but also relatives of Daesh group, including foreign nationals.

A woman poses for a picture at the Jadaa rehabilitation camp for the displaced near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on May 11, 2022. (AFP)

Massud is adamant that her husband was killed by Daesh. But she admits that her in-laws “were once part of the (Daesh) group.”
“We left (Iraq) because of the terrorism. They (Daesh) made us leave our houses, they forced those who refused to join them to leave,” she said.
Massud spent three years in Al-Hol with her five children.
Two of them are now with her in Jadaa, where they attend a public school, while the other three stayed behind with her in-laws at Al-Hol.
“I am waiting for their return so that I can reunite with my family” in the western Anbar region, she said.
More than 450 families live in Jadaa, a sprawling camp lined with blue tarp tents, where visitors must present an official permit to security guards before they are allowed in.
The camp is located south of Mosul, once an Daesh bastion before the group was defeated in 2017.

A woman looks on at the Jadaa rehabilitation camp for the displaced near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on May 11, 2022. (AFP)

Some of the women questioned by AFP acknowledged links to Daesh, through their husbands or a relative, but others denied having had anything to do with the terrorist group.
As they await processing, the families try to keep a semblance of a normal life with the help of activities sponsored by UN agencies and NGOs.
Some women learn to sew while teenage girls attend classes about puberty. Younger boys and girls mingle in a small playground.
Camp administrator Khaled Abdel Karim told AFP that only “a very limited” number of families at Jadaa had been influenced by Daesh ideology.
“This camp was not set up to detain or isolate the families, it is a transit stop,” said Abdel Karim.
Experts, he said, help families overcome the “shame linked to Daesh,” while others assist them with preparing the documents they need to get through the vetting process and resume life outside the compound.
“Through our daily contacts, we see that our activities are not being rejected,” the official told AFP.

Boys sit near tents at the Jadaa rehabilitation camp for the displaced near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, on May 11, 2022. (AFP)

“When it comes to the mixing between men and women, or the type of clothes they wear, there is nothing to signal extremist thinking,” he added.
Until they are allowed to go back home, Jadaa residents receive family visits four times a month. But before they can return to their hometowns, tribal elders must hold council and give their approval.
“Families with perceived affiliation to (Daesh)... often find their return blocked by security actors, experience community rejection and stigmatization, and are at high risk of revenge attacks and violence,” a World Bank report released in January said.
“At the same time, it is common for people living in the area of return to fear that the return of families they believe supported or continue to support (Daesh)... will destabilize their communities and create new risks for security and social relations,” it added.

Around 30,000 Iraqis, including 20,000 children, remain stranded at Al-Hol, according to Iraq’s ministry of immigration.
Earlier this month, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said his country was determined to repatriate all the families stuck in the Syrian camp after “security checks” are completed.
But he also urged the international community to help Iraq set up “re-integration programs” for Jadaa’s residents, most of who are women and children.
Over the past several months, more than 100 families have been able to leave Jadaa and reunite with their families in Iraq.
Shaima Ali, 41, is among those still waiting for that day.
But her greatest fear is that residents of her hometown in the Qaim border region with Syria will reject her.
“They say we’re a part of Daesh. It’s true my husband was a member of the group. But that was him, not me,” she said.
“If only I could get out” of the camp, said Ali, who lived for five years in Syria.
“I’ve got no future left, perhaps, but I’ve got two daughters and I want a future for them.”

 


UN envoy praises ‘potential’ of Syria prisoner amnesty

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen talks to reporters in the Syrian capital Damascus, on May 22, 2022. (AFP)
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen talks to reporters in the Syrian capital Damascus, on May 22, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2022

UN envoy praises ‘potential’ of Syria prisoner amnesty

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen talks to reporters in the Syrian capital Damascus, on May 22, 2022. (AFP)
  • The regime’s Justice Ministry has said hundreds of inmates had been released, and a military official, Ahmad Touzan, told local media this week that the amnesty would cover thousands, including those who are wanted but not detained

DAMASCUS: UN special envoy Geir Pedersen has welcomed a general amnesty aimed at freeing thousands of Syrians convicted on terrorism charges.
President Bashar Assad has decreed several amnesties during the country’s devastating 11-year war, but the latest in April was the most comprehensive related to terrorism charges since the conflict began, rights activists said.
Pedersen, speaking to reporters in Damascus after a meeting with the regime’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, said he had been briefed “in quite some detail” on the latest measure.
“I am very much looking forward to being kept informed on the progress on the implementation for that amnesty,” Pedersen said before talks on a new constitution for Syria are to resume in Geneva.
“That amnesty has potential, and we are looking forward to see how it develops,” Pedersen said.
The regime’s Justice Ministry has said hundreds of inmates had been released, and a military official, Ahmad Touzan, told local media this week that the amnesty would cover thousands, including those who are wanted but not detained.
Touzan refused to disclose the number of inmates freed, saying “numbers are changing by the hour.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, which relies on a large network of sources inside Syria, says around 1,142 inmates have so far been released across the country under the amnesty, with hundreds more expected.
In the next few days Syria’s warring parties are to hold the latest round of constitutional talks in Switzerland, under a process that began in 2019.
It is hoped the talks can pave the way toward a broader political process.
Pedersen said he is “hopeful that this will be a positive meeting that can help bring us forward so that we can start to see... some confidence building measures,” Pedersen said.
Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent repression of protests demanding regime change.
The war has left around half a million people dead and displaced millions.
Throughout the war, the UN has been striving to nurture a political resolution.


Four killed as Jordanian army thwarts drug smuggling attempt from Syria

Jordanian soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria to prevent trafficking, on February 17, 2022. (AFP)
Jordanian soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria to prevent trafficking, on February 17, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 23 May 2022

Four killed as Jordanian army thwarts drug smuggling attempt from Syria

Jordanian soldiers patrolling along the border with Syria to prevent trafficking, on February 17, 2022. (AFP)
  • Hezbollah resorting to narcotics trade to secure funding after US sanctions hit Iran

AMMAN: The Jordanian army announced it had killed four people who attempted to smuggle “large amounts” of drugs into the country from Syria.

A source from the Jordanian Armed Forces said that troops on Jordan’s eastern borders with Syria opened fire on people who attempted to infiltrate the kingdom, killing four of them and injuring others.

The source said that the infiltrators were forced to retreat into Syrian territory.

“After inspecting the area, 181 palm-sized sheets of hashish, 637,000 Captagon narcotic pills, and 39,600 tramadol pills were found and handed over to the concerned authorities,” the source told Arab News.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London said that six people were injured in the operation with some of them in a critical condition.

It said that one of those killed by the Jordanian army was the leader of a group that works in the narcotics industry in southern Syria and had “strong” ties with Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah.

The operation on Sunday was the latest since Jordan announced a crackdown on drug smuggling from Syria and a change in rules of engagement to curb what it described as a “dramatic increase” in drug trafficking from its neighbor.

Jordan has warned that Syria was becoming a narco-state, posing cross-border threats to Jordan, the region, and the rest of the world.

The JAF has recently said that a total of 361 smuggling attempts from Syria were foiled in 2021, leading to the seizure of about 15.5 million pills of narcotics of different types.

It foiled more than 130 smuggling attempts from Syria in 2020 and seized about 132 million Captagon pills and more than 15,000 sheets of hashish.

Describing the figures as “dramatically high,” a military source, who requested anonymity, told Arab News that “Illicit drug cultivation and manufacture has become a growing industry in Syria.”

According to the Syrian news website Enab Baladi, drug smuggling operations are most active in the southern regions of Daraa and Al-Suwayda.

Most of the smuggling routes are controlled by armed Bedouin tribes that have affiliations inside Jordan, the news website quoted sources as saying.

Experts say the strong presence of the militant organization Hezbollah in Syria and the expansion of its drug trafficking operations are the main reasons for the war-torn country becoming a narco-state and for the increase of drug smuggling into Jordan, Arab Gulf states, and Europe.

In recent remarks to Arab News, Fayez Dweiri, a retired major general and military analyst, said Hezbollah had resorted to the narcotics trade to secure funding after the US sanctions on Iran.

“There is an established illicit drugs industry for Hezbollah in Beirut’s Dahieh Al-Janubiya and in the Shiite stronghold of Baalbek,” he said.

Hezbollah “has relocated some of its drug factories to Aleppo and other Syrian regime-controlled regions,” Dweiri said.

“The US sanctions on Iran have hit Hezbollah hard, obliging Tehran’s most funded proxy to look for other sources of revenues,” he said.

According to a report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hezbollah has significantly expanded and institutionalized its drug trafficking enterprises, which now generate more money than its other funding streams.

The think tank said that Hezbollah’s global narcotics industry began in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley in the 1970s, using well-established smuggling routes across the Israel-Lebanon border.

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