Vatican envoy accuses Lebanese politicians of profiting from country’s suffering 

Vatican envoy accuses Lebanese politicians of profiting from country’s suffering 
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun meets with the Vatican’s foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher at the presidential palace in Baabda on Tuesday. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 February 2022

Vatican envoy accuses Lebanese politicians of profiting from country’s suffering 

Vatican envoy accuses Lebanese politicians of profiting from country’s suffering 
  • Archbishop Paul Gallagher: Weakening Christian presence would destroy Lebanon’s identity
  • "Let there be an end to the few profiting off the suffering of many," the archbishop said

BEIRUT: A Vatican envoy criticized Lebanon’s politicians on a visit to Beirut on Tuesday, saying “those in power must make the decision to work for peace and not for their own interests, and must stop using Lebanon and the Middle East for foreign interests”.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, passed on Pope Francis’ message to Lebanese President Michel Aoun that “any weakening of (the) Christian presence would destroy the internal balance and Lebanese identity.”

He stressed the pope’s concern over the situation in Lebanon to Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, saying: “He believes that reforms, along with the support of the international community, will help Lebanon preserve its own identity.”

On the first day of his visit, the archbishop met commander-in-chief of the army, Joseph Aoun, and academics at Saint Joseph University. He also prayed for the victims of the Beirut port explosion.

Gallagher will meet Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi on Wednesday and inaugurate a conference titled “Pope John Paul II and Lebanon the Message,” before meeting Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other heads of Muslim communities on Thursday.

The archbishop told Aoun that the pope is closely following developments in Lebanon, the presidency’s press office said. Quoting the pontiff, Gallagher said: “Lebanon deserves exceptional attention, as the entire Middle East looks to it as a message for the future, and from here comes the necessity of preserving the Lebanese national identity, and if the situation does not develop positively, it will be reflected in the region.”

The archbishop emphasized that “a strong and united Lebanon can set an example for the entire Middle East, with its Christians and Muslims, in the service of the common good for all, and we hope that it plays this role again in the future. 

“It is easy to say that Lebanon is a message; however, we must work together to make this message a tangible reality.”

Aoun called on the Vatican to continue its support “in view of the gravity of the challenges facing us, which are unprecedented in the modern history of Lebanon, and we hope that, through this support, along with the support of other friends of Lebanon in the world, we will overcome the negative repercussions of the regional crises and conflicts.”

The archbishop conveyed to the Lebanese people “the pope’s concern for the country due to the deep economic, social and political crisis.”

He said the Vatican’s position was that “reforms, along with the support of the international community, are necessary to help Lebanon preserve its own identity, as an example of peaceful coexistence and brotherhood between different religions.”

Gallagher urged “the international community to continue providing support and assistance to Lebanon.

“Let there be an end to the few profiting off the suffering of many. No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations; the Lebanese must have an opportunity for their children to have a better future in the country, away from any external interference,” he added.

The archbishop expressed the Vatican’s fear over Lebanon’s uncertain future. “We call on everyone, all leaders — locally and internationally — to preserve Lebanon as a message of living together, brotherhood and hope among religions,” he added.

Asked if the Vatican could be a mediator, he said: “Diplomatic activity is a dialogue between representatives of internationally recognized entities. In any dialogue, it is not possible to predict the outcome, however, we will encourage political leaders and civil society. When we talk about the role of mediator between political players, we can fulfil this role if there is an invitation to the Holy See.”

He added that Pope Francis would like to visit Lebanon soon.

In a statement after meeting Aoun, the archbishop expressed the need “to bring justice to the victims of the horrible Beirut port explosion, and all the Lebanese people.”

Forty days have passed since the judge leading the probe into the explosion, Tarek Bitar, was dismissed from the case on Dec. 23.

A delegation of the victims’ families met on Tuesday with Nader Kasbar, president of the Bar Association, to inquire about the reasons for the bar not taking any position on obstacles in the investigation of the blast, which happened on Aug. 4, 2020.

Hezbollah has succeeded in dividing families of the victims putting pressure on authorities to find the truth.

Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement, criticized — along with Hezbollah — Bitar’s work, after having previously defended him, with the investigation now at a halt.


Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media
Updated 8 sec ago

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media
DUBAI: Iranian authorities have denied reports security forces killed a 16-year-old girl during protests ignited by the death of a woman in police custody, Iranian media reported on Friday, saying she committed suicide by falling off a roof.
Social media reports and rights group Amnesty International have said Sarina Esmaeilzadeh was killed by security forces when she was struck with batons on the head during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.
Authorities earlier this week gave a similar cause of death — falling off a roof — for 17-year-old Nika Shakarami, who activists say was killed in Tehran while demonstrating over Amini’s death.
Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed, hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested in a crackdown on nationwide protests marking the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical leadership in years.
Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves. High school girls have also taken part.
The chief justice of Alborz province where Esmaeilzadeh died said a preliminary investigation showed her death was caused by suicide from a fall from the roof of a five-story building, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.
Chief justice Hossein Fazeli Herikandi said claims in opposition media about her death were “lies.” “Based on her mother’s account, Esmaeilzadeh had a history of suicide attempts,” he said. Police received a report of her death on Sept. 24, he said.
Reuters could not reach her family for comment.
Amnesty International, in a Sept. 30 report, said she was one of at least 52 people killed by security forces between Sept. 19 and Sept. 25, saying Esmaeilzadeh “died after being severely beaten in the head with batons.”
A video showing Esmaeilzadeh smiling and listening to music has been viewed around 147,000 times on the widely-followed 1500tasvir Twitter account.
Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 in Tehran for “inappropriate attire.” The authorities have said she suffered a heart attack after being taken to a station to be “educated.”
Her family have denied she had any heart problems. Her father has said she had bruises on her legs, and holds police responsible for her death.
The government has ordered an investigation.
Earlier this week, state media said a judicial case had been opened into Shakarami’s death, citing officials claiming it had nothing to do with the unrest, and that she had fallen off a roof and her body contained no bullet wounds. Activists have said she was killed in Tehran while demonstrating.

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
Updated 34 min 45 sec ago

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera

Lebanon inspecting new suspected cases of cholera
  • News comes almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria
  • A cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s health minister said on Friday that authorities are inspecting suspected cases of cholera, less than a day after the cash-strapped country confirmed its first case of the illness since 1993.
The news came almost a month after an outbreak of the illness in neighboring war-torn Syria.
Firas Abiad, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister, said in a press conference that the first case was a middle-aged Syrian refugee man living in the impoverished northern province of Akkar, and confirmed a second case in the area.
“There are several other suspected cases,” Abiad said. “Cholera is an illness that is easily transmissible.”
The developments take place as Lebanon's economy continues to spiral, plunging three-quarters of its population into poverty. Rampant power cuts, water shortages, and skyrocketing inflation have deteriorated living conditions for millions.
The Lebanese health minister added that the authorities have been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization for weeks to ensure the cash-strapped country can respond to a possible outbreak, and expand testing capacities at hospitals and labs.
“We're making sure that there is safe water and a good sewage system,” Abiad said.
According to the WHO, a cholera infection is caused by consuming food or water infected with the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, and while most cases are mild to moderate, not treating the illness could lead to death.
About 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war reside in neighboring Lebanon. Most live in extreme poverty in tented settlements or in overcrowded apartments.
Poverty has also deepened for many Lebanese, with many families often rationing water, unable to afford private water tanks for drinking and domestic use.
The health minister said Lebanon has secured the necessary equipment and medicines to treat patients.
Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region told The Associated Press Thursday that the organization has also been coordinating with other countries neighboring Syria to help respond to a possible outbreak.
However, he said vaccines are in short supply due to global demand.
The UN and Syria’s Health Ministry have said the source of the outbreak is likely linked to people drinking unsafe water from the Euphrates River and using contaminated water to irrigate crops, resulting in food contamination.
Syria’s health services have suffered heavily from its years-long war, while much of the country is short on supplies to sanitize water.
Syrian health officials as of Wednesday documented at least 594 cases of cholera and 39 deaths. Meanwhile, in the rebel-held northwest of the country, health authorities documented 605 suspected cases, dozens of confirmed cases, and at least one death.

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
Updated 36 min 36 sec ago

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money

Lebanese banks close again after holdups by depositors seeking their own money
  • Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses

BEIRUT: Lebanese banks have unanimously decided to close their doors to clients indefinitely after a series of holdups by depositors seeking funds frozen in the banking system because of the country’s financial meltdown, two bankers told Reuters.
Banks will continue urgent operations for clients and back-office services for businesses, the bankers said, but front-office services will remain suspended after more than a dozen holdups in less than a month.
Banks closed for about a week last month in similar circumstances, but reopened at the beginning of October to allow employees to withdraw salaries.
Lebanon’s banks association has previously called on the government to enact formal capital controls to replace the informal controls banks adopted in 2019, but parliament has repeatedly failed to pass the law.
The government has made little progress toward reforms that would unlock an International Monetary Fund bailout to help ease a crisis caused by decades of wasteful spending and corruption.
Now in its third year, Lebanon’s financial meltdown has sunk the currency by more than 90 percent, spread poverty, paralyzed the financial system and frozen depositors out of their savings in Lebanon’s most destabilising crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.


Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand
Updated 07 October 2022

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand

Arab states condemn armed attack on kindergarten in Thailand
  • The foreign ministries of the UAE,  Jordan and Egypt released statements on Thursday strongly condemning the attack

Several Arab states condemned an attack on a preschool daycare center in Thailand that killed at least 36 people, most of them children. 

The foreign ministries of the UAE,  Jordan and Egypt released statements on Thursday strongly condemning the attack and expressing sincere condolences to the Thai government and families of the victims, wishing a speedy recovery for those injured.

Meanwhile, Kwauti’s Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf al-Sabah sent a cable of condolences to King Maha Vajiralongkorn. 

Police identified the killer as 34-year-old Panya Kamrab, a former police sergeant who was dismissed from service in January. According to a police report seen by Arab News, he was sacked after being found in possession of narcotics.

Panya is thought to have gone to the daycare center to find his son but when he failed to find the boy he began shooting. He then returned home, where he killed his wife and child.


Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one

Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one
Updated 07 October 2022

Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one

Houthi landmine blast kills two Yemeni children, injures one
  • The Iran-backed group has refused to renew the UN-brokered cease-fire

DUBAI: Two children were killed and one was critically injured after landmine, planted by Houthi militants in Magzer district of Yemen’s Marib governorate, detonated.

The fatalities have been identified as eight-year-old Saqer Mohamed Sinan and 12-year-old Qa’ed Abdullah Khaimah Ashareef, while 13-year-old Ghazi Faraj Ahmed Sinan suffered serious injuries, Yemeni News Agency reported.

Villagers in the district have reported that the Houthis have been adamant not to extract the landmines they have randomly and intensively planted in roads, farms and residential areas.

Saudi Arabia’s Project Masam has so far located and destroyed 360,573 explosive devices including 5,672 anti-personnel mines, 132,637 anti-tank mines, 7,486 IEDs and 214,778 unexploded ordnances in Yemeni liberated areas since it was launched mid-2018.

The Iran-backed group has refused to renew the UN-brokered cease-fire, which took effect in April and has twice been renewed, and has resumed aggressive military operations in Marib, Taiz and Dhale after the last truce expired on Sunday.