Kuwait death toll raised to 4 in oil refinery fire

Kuwait death toll raised to 4 in oil refinery fire
The state-owned company said that two of the critically injured workers have since died in the hospital while receiving treatment, raising the death toll to four. (Twitter: @KNPCofficial)
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Updated 26 January 2022

Kuwait death toll raised to 4 in oil refinery fire

Kuwait death toll raised to 4 in oil refinery fire
  • The fire erupted Jan. 14 during maintenance work at the Mina Al-Ahmadi oil refinery

DUBAI: The death toll from a fire at a major oil refinery in Kuwait has been raised to four after two critically injured workers died of their wounds, the Kuwait National Petroleum Company said in a statement Wednesday.
The fire, which erupted Jan. 14 during maintenance work at the Mina Al-Ahmadi oil refinery, initially killed two Asian workers, whose bodies were found on site, and had left five others in critical condition.
The state-owned company said that two of the critically injured workers have since died in the hospital while receiving treatment, raising the death toll to four.
The company’s top executive issued a statement in the days after the blaze saying such incidents, while “very painful for us,” are “very likely in a complex industry.”
Kuwait’s Oil Minister Mohammed Al-Fares and other top executives of the state-owned oil company visited the refinery immediately after the fire. They were seen fist-bumping members of the fire brigade and standing in front of the site of the blast for photos that were shared by the Kuwait National Petroleum Company’s Twitter account.
It was the second fire in a month at the site. A smaller fire erupted last week at separate petrochemical line run by the company, though no injuries were reported in that blaze.
The Mina Al-Ahmadi refinery was built to handle 25,000 barrels of oil a day to supply Kuwait’s domestic market primarily with gasoline and diesel. The facility recently underwent an expansion to reduce its emissions and boost capacity to 346,000 barrels a day.
Kuwait, a nation home to 4.1 million people, has the world’s sixth-largest known oil reserves.


Lebanon vote brings blow for Hezbollah allies in preliminary results

Lebanese electoral staff start counting votes for parliamentary elections in Beirut, on May 15, 2022. (AFP)
Lebanese electoral staff start counting votes for parliamentary elections in Beirut, on May 15, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2022

Lebanon vote brings blow for Hezbollah allies in preliminary results

Lebanese electoral staff start counting votes for parliamentary elections in Beirut, on May 15, 2022. (AFP)
  • Initial results indicated wins for at least five other independents who have campaigned on a platform of reform and bringing to account politicians blamed for steering Lebanon into the worst crisis since its 1975-90 civil war

BEIRUT: Iran-backed Hezbollah has been dealt a blow in Lebanon’s parliamentary election with preliminary results showing losses for some of its oldest allies and the Lebanese Forces party saying it had gained seats.
With votes still being counted, the final make-up of the 128-member parliament has yet to emerge. The heavily armed Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah and its allies won a majority of 71 seats when Lebanon last voted in 2018.
The current election is the first since Lebanon’s devastating economic meltdown blamed by the World Bank on ruling politicians after a huge port explosion in 2020 that shattered Beirut.
One of the most startling upsets saw Hezbollah-allied Druze politician Talal Arslan, scion of one of Lebanon’s oldest political dynasties who was first elected in 1992, lose his seat to Mark Daou, a newcomer running on a reform agenda, according to the latter’s campaign manager and a Hezbollah official.
Initial results also indicated wins for at least five other independents who have campaigned on a platform of reform and bringing to account politicians blamed for steering Lebanon into the worst crisis since its 1975-90 civil war.
Whether Hezbollah and its allies can cling on to a majority hinges on results not yet finalized, including those in Sunni Muslim seats contested by allies and opponents of the Shiite movement.
Gains reported by the Lebanese Forces (LF), which is vehemently opposed to Hezbollah, mean it would overtake the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) as the biggest Christian party in parliament.
The LF won at least 20 seats, up from 15 in 2018, said the head of its press office, Antoinette Geagea.
The FPM had won up to 16 seats, down from 18 in 2018, Sayed Younes, the head of its electoral machine, told Reuters.
The FPM has been the biggest Christian party in parliament since its founder, President Michel Aoun, returned from exile in 2005 in France. Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea were civil war adversaries.
The LF, established as a militia during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, has repeatedly called for Hezbollah to give up its arsenal.

“A NEW BEGINNING“
An opposition candidate also made a breakthrough in an area of southern Lebanon dominated by Hezbollah.
Elias Jradi, an eye doctor, won an Orthodox Christian seat previously held by Assaad Hardan of the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, a close Hezbollah ally and MP since 1992, two Hezbollah officials said.
“It’s a new beginning for the south and for Lebanon as a whole,” Jradi told Reuters.
Nadim Houry, executive director of Arab Reform Initiative, said the results of 14 or 15 seats would determine the majority.
“You are going to have two blocs opposed to each other — on the one hand Hezbollah and its allies, and on the other the Lebanese Forces and its allies, and in the middle these new voices that will enter,” he said.
“This is a clear loss for the FPM. They maintain a bloc but they lost a lot of seats and the biggest beneficiary is the Lebanese Forces. Samir Geagea has emerged as the new Christian strongman.”
The next parliament must nominate a prime minister to form a cabinet, in a process that can take months. Any delay would hold up reforms to tackle the crisis and unlock support from the International Monetary Fund and donor nations.


Nakba memories and resistance: The right of return remains in refugee diaries

Nakba memories and resistance: The right of return remains in refugee diaries
Updated 16 May 2022

Nakba memories and resistance: The right of return remains in refugee diaries

Nakba memories and resistance: The right of return remains in refugee diaries
  • Palestinian cause ‘alive and growing’ in Gaza camps, researcher says

RAFAH, GAZA STRIP: Abu Ahmed Adwan was five when his family was forcibly displaced during the Nakba in 1948. They sought refuge in a camp in the city of Rafah, adjacent to the Palestinian-Egyptian border in the far south of the Gaza Strip.

Adwan grew up in the alleys of the Barbara camp, which got its name from the original village that was abandoned by the Adwan family and other families that settled together.

“We were neighbors in Barbara before the Nakba, and here we are in the camp until the return,” Adwan, now in his late 70s, told Arab News.

Today he is the mayor of his village (the chief of the refugee families from the village of Barbara), and despite spending his life as a refugee, he still believes in the right of return.

“We will return one day, and if we pass away, our children and grandchildren will return and rebuild the country.”

Estimates by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees show that the number of refugees in the Rafah camp grew from 41,000 in 1948 to more than 125,000 today. Residents in one of the largest camps in the Gaza Strip live in overcrowded houses in narrow streets. In Gaza, refugees represent more than 70 percent of the population of almost two million people.

Adwan uses a large map of the village of Barbara, which tops one of the walls of his meeting hall in his home, to describe the village he visited for the last time about 35 years ago.

He classifies his constant talk of Barbara, and the refugee stories linked to the memory of the Nakba, as a “kind of resistance” in order to keep the memories of past generations alive and encourage the restoration of stolen rights.

He said: “Today’s generation is more aware than their parents and grandfathers than the generation of the Nakba, and the experience of the Nakba in 1948 cannot be repeated again.”

Mohammed Adwan, born in 1970, is a freed prisoner of an Israeli jail. He said: “The camp is the storehouse of the revolution since the Nakba, and the fathers and grandfathers are its fuel by constantly talking about Palestine with all this nostalgia.”

He added: “We will return sooner or later.”

Adwan said that refugee camps play a role in “resisting the occupation, forming the awareness of successive generations and preserving the national memory.”

He added: “It was important to preserve the names of our original towns and villages, by calling them to the refugee camps, as this is a resistance to the factors of time, and the occupation’s efforts to falsify reality and distort Palestinian geography.”

The growing population in the camp led to mixing with city neighborhoods. Simple houses built from brick and roofed with asbestos have largely disappeared, replaced by concrete houses.

A researcher in refugee affairs, Nader Abu Sharekh, said that stories told in the homes of the camps, generation after generation, have made the Palestinian cause “alive and growing.”

The families of each village and city destroyed in the Nakba gathered in neighborhoods inside the new camps to draft names. They used original names from their homeland, out of love for the land and adherence to the right of return, and to keep the names and meanings present in memory. In each camp there are streets bearing the names of original homes.

“In the camp, the events of the Nakba are present, and the right of return is an absolute belief,” Abu Sharekh said.

“In wedding parties, they sing historic songs from before the Nakba like Ataba, Mijna, Dabke and Dahia.

“These traditions remained in circulation, so that the homeland remains a title to joy, and the right of return remains in the refugees’ diaries.”

In the camp, old women still wear traditional dress rich in color.

People have allotted part of their yards to plant something that reminds them of their lost orchards and farms. Sometimes the space is used to construct a hut or tent.

Some of the refugees still bake using traditional clay ovens modeled on the kind lost in their destroyed towns and villages.


Palestinians commemorate 74th anniversary of Nakba amid outcry over funeral attack

Palestinians take part in a rally in Gaza City on Sunday, marking the 74h anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba.
Palestinians take part in a rally in Gaza City on Sunday, marking the 74h anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba.
Updated 16 May 2022

Palestinians commemorate 74th anniversary of Nakba amid outcry over funeral attack

Palestinians take part in a rally in Gaza City on Sunday, marking the 74h anniversary of what the Palestinians call the Nakba.
  • Israel reopens its only crossing with Gaza Strip nearly two weeks after closing it over unrest
  • President Abbas: ‘The great Palestinian people cannot be defeated, nor can their will be broken’

GAZA CITY: Palestinians rallied on Sunday to mark the Nakba 74 years after Israel's creation, with condemnation widespread over a police raid at the funeral of slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Social media sites were flooded with stories from the time of the displacement in 1948 and posts commemorating the Nakba and calling for the right to return.

The annual demonstrations across all Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip came amid high tensions over the killing of Akleh, 51, and a series of military confrontations last month during Ramadan, which saw subsequent Israeli military incursions into Palestinian cities.

The great Palestinian people cannot be defeated, nor can their will be broken, simply because they have a right and a just cause that cannot be obliterated by false narratives.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine

Despite the exchange of threats with Hamas, Israel reopened on Sunday its only crossing with the Gaza Strip to Palestinian workers nearly two weeks after closing it over the unrest.

Mahmoud Abbas,
President of Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a speech on the commemoration of the Nakba Saturday evening from the city of Ramallah.

“Staying on [the land], regardless of the difficulties, complications and brutal crimes of the occupation, is the best response to the Nakba, and to the mentality of ethnic cleansing, settlement and Judaization,” he said.

Abbas added: “The great Palestinian people cannot be defeated, nor can their will be broken, simply because they have a right and a just cause that cannot be obliterated by false narratives.”

The anniversary of the Nakba comes amid Palestinian condemnation of the Israeli announcement to build new units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian factions and the Popular Committee for Refugees in the cities of Gaza and Ramallah organized two central marches to commemorate the Nakba.

Palestinian flags were raised at the events under the slogan “Enough of 74 years of injustice and double standards.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The march in Ramallah, in which thousands of people participated, started from the tomb of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and proceeded toward the city center.

The march in Gaza started from Al-Katiba Square and proceeded toward the UN headquarters in Gaza City.

Hamas issued a statement to mark the anniversary.

“There is no legitimacy for the occupation over an inch of our land, our sanctuaries, and we are on the path of comprehensive resistance until liberation and return.”

The statement added: “Seventy-four years after the occupation of our land and the displacement of our people, and despite all the massacres and crimes committed by the enemy throughout its dark history, in the longest continuous occupation in the world, the Palestinian people are still steadfast on their land, adhering to their rights and… [serving as] the finest examples of heroism, sacrifice, patience and jihad.”

The Palestinian News Agency WAFA issued statistics showing that the number of Palestinians has reached more than 5 million in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem following the displacement of about 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, while the Israeli army has killed about 100,000 Palestinians since then.


Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout

Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout
Updated 16 May 2022

Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout

Lebanon parliamentary elections: Voting marred by disputes, low turnout
  • Poll observers subjected to pressure, threats and exclusion

BEIRUT: The Lebanese public headed to polling booths on Sunday to elect a new parliament against the backdrop of an economic meltdown that is transforming the country.

The armed forces were deployed on roads leading to polling stations.

Arab and foreign observers moved between polling stations to oversee the electoral process but refused to make any declarations, noting that their observations will be included in a report.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections registered dozens of violations, such as delegates being placed under “pressure and harassment,” and threats of expulsion.

The association criticized “the deputy registrars’ failure to carry out their tasks, which results in the cancellation of votes.”

The Supervisory Commission for Elections noted “hundreds of irregularities resulting from breaches of electoral silence.”

Irregularities were also noted by the Association for Democratic Elections. It accused “candidates and politicians, including President Michel Aoun,” of breaches.

Aoun and his wife cast their votes in his hometown in the southern suburbs of Beirut.

He urged voters to avoid being “impartial in a matter as important as choosing the ruling system.”

Politicians and clergymen, some accompanied by their children, cast their votes in front of the cameras in casual clothing.

Tensions reached a peak on Lebanon’s long electoral day in the final hours before polls closed, especially in areas with a strong Hezbollah presence.

The town of Fneidiq in Akkar witnessed several violent clashes and confrontations, prompting calls for the rapid intervention of the Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces.

Despite the severe polarization that preceded the elections, the turnout was about 25.6 percent by 3 p.m. across Lebanon, according to figures from the Ministry of Interior.

The highest turnout was recorded in Jbeil–Kesserwan, where it reached 42 percent.

However, it did not exceed 22 percent in the Beirut II district, 17 percent in the Beirut I district and 12 percent in Tripoli.

Voters are electing 128 new parliamentary deputies. In some competitive regions, voters were divided due to many competing lists, particularly in Beirut and the north.

The turnout was high in places where party electoral machines were active and effective.

Parties and some electoral institutions invited a large portion of the public to cast early votes, but asked others to vote in the afternoon before the sealing of ballot boxes at 7 p.m., after studying voters’ orientations during the day.

These tactical practices also included offering money to voters.

An officer in one of the electoral machines of one of the lists of change in Beirut told Arab News that “Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (Al-Ahbash) are more organized than others.”

Based on Arab News’ observations in Beirut, delegates of some lists were completely absent in some of the polling stations, while delegates of party lists were present.

Sunni voters in Beirut stepped back from their boycott in light of the decision by Saad Hariri — former prime minister and head of the Future Movement — to suspend his political activity.

One voter, Neamat Naoum, told Arab News: “I had to vote and not boycott. I voted for the interest of others. In previous elections, I used to vote for Saad Hariri and before him, for his father. But Saad bargained a lot and conceded, and the mafias are now controlling us.”

She added: “Why did he do that? We are not against him but we are looking forward to the future. I hope those I voted for are better. I don’t know.”

Bilal Haykal, who was accompanied by his son Yehia to the Khalid bin Al-Walid polling station in the Beirut II district, said that at first, he decided to boycott the election entirely.

“However, when Dar Al-Fatwa called on people to cast their votes, I decided to exercise my constitutional right. I voted for the candidates calling for change after studying their resumes,” he added.

“I don’t want to vote for Hezbollah and its allies, so they won’t control the country’s decisions, knowing that in politics, there is no black and white. That’s how the country is.”

The number of voters in the Beirut II district reached about 370,000. They casted votes to elect 11 deputies out of 118 candidates distributed between 10 complete and incomplete competing lists.

The Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections said that “pro-Hezbollah chants in front of and inside Lycee Abdel Kader polling station in Beirut affected the turnout.”

In the Beirut I district, about 135,000 people voted to elect eight deputies.

Voting in the district was viewed as an avenue to retaliate against the ruling class, since the area was hardest hit by the Beirut port explosion two years ago.

Many voters publicly said that “they will not reelect their killers.”

Thirty-nine candidates competed in the district, where the competition was mainly between the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Phalanges Party.

In Tripoli, 11 lists competed for eight parliamentary seats. The number of voters reached 438,254.

In Jbeil, people showed up to polling booths to elect two Maronite deputies and a Shiite deputy among 21 candidates.

The competition mainly focused on the potential for a Hezbollah-affiliated deputy or a Shiite deputy in opposition to the party.

Dr. Mahmoud Awad, a candidate on the Lebanese Forces list, was physical assaulted, according to a statement by his party.

“Members of Hezbollah harassed the Lebanese Forces’ delegates in one of the stations, resulting in the intervention of the Army Forces and the removal of the aggressors and the delegates from the center,” the statement said.

Lebanese Forces delegates were subjected to harassment in Jezzine by members of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, including inside a polling station.


Army commander survives car bomb in Aden

Army commander survives car bomb in Aden
Updated 15 May 2022

Army commander survives car bomb in Aden

Army commander survives car bomb in Aden
  • Maj. Gen. Saleh Ali Hasan, commander of joint operations at the Aden-based 4th Military Regime, was inside his armed SUV in Mualla, Aden, when a nearby car exploded
  • Local authorities have blamed the Iran-backed Houthis or Al-Qaeda and Daesh for a string of similar attacks targeting security and military officials in the city

AL-MUKALLA: A car bomb targeted a Yemeni army commander in the southern port city of Aden, the country’s interim capital, triggering a large explosion that rocked the city, according to a local security official.

Maj. Gen. Saleh Ali Hasan, commander of the joint operations at the Aden-based 4th Military Regime, was inside his armed SUV in Mualla, a district of Aden, when a nearby car exploded.

The army commander survived the blast, which damaged his car, the official said.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. The local authorities have blamed the Iran-backed Houthis or Al-Qaeda and Daesh for a string of similar attacks targeting security and military officials in the city.

Gen. Shalal Ali Shaea, commander of a counterterrorism unit in Aden, accused terrorist organizations of carrying out the attack to undermine peace and security in the city.

“Terrorist bombings will not deter us from establishing security and stability,” Shaea told local reporters while visiting the scene of the blast.

The blast came as the country’s new Presidential Leadership Council is seeking to unify fragmented forces under its control and restore peace to the liberated provinces in Aden.

In a separate announcement, Yemeni national carrier Yemenia said early on Sunday that it would operate the first commercial flight from the Houthi-held Sanaa to Amman on Monday after the Yemeni government allowed passengers to travel with passports issued by the Houthis.

The flight had been scheduled to take place on April 24 but was cancelled after the Houthis insisted on adding dozens of passengers with passports issued in their territories.

On Saturday, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak said that the resumption of flights from Sanaa airport came after big efforts by his government, the Arab coalition, the UN Yemen envoy and the Jordanian authorities.

“Alleviating the suffering of our people in all Yemen would remain our top concern,” the Yemeni minister said on Twitter.

Resuming flights from Sanaa is one of the terms of the two-month UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2. 

The other terms included stopping fighting across the country, allowing fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaport and opening roads in Taiz and the other provinces.

The Yemeni government accused the Houthis of refusing to lift their siege on Taiz and continuing to attack government troops and civilian targets, mainly in Taiz and Marib.

On Sunday, local media said that three civilians, including a child, were wounded when an explosive-laden drone fired by the Houthis hit a tribal leader’s house in Raghwan, in Marib.

Also in Marib, a soldier was killed and another one wounded when the Houthis opened fire at them in a contested area in northwest Marib province, Yemen’s army said on Saturday.

Last week, the Houthis killed two soldiers from the government’s Joint Forces in Hays district in the western province of Hodeidah.