Anger in Lebanon with army after people-smuggling boat sinks

Lebanese army soldiers stand near a vehicle entering port of Tripoli after a boat capsized off the Lebanese coast of Tripoli overnight, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon April 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
Lebanese army soldiers stand near a vehicle entering port of Tripoli after a boat capsized off the Lebanese coast of Tripoli overnight, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon April 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
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Updated 24 April 2022

Anger in Lebanon with army after people-smuggling boat sinks

Lebanese army soldiers stand near a vehicle entering port of Tripoli after a boat capsized off the Lebanese coast of Tripoli overnight, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon April 24, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Former PM Hariri calls for quick investigation
  • Monday declared as day of national mourning

BEIRUT: Tensions rose in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Sunday after a boat capsized and sank off its coast as it was being pursued by the army, with agitated crowds gathering outside the hospitals treating the survivors.

Six people, including an 18-month-old girl called Taleen Al-Hamwi and two women, died.

There were 45 survivors as of Sunday morning, and more than 10 people remain missing.

About 60 people had boarded the boat from an area between Qalamoun and Harisha, a beach that is not subject to strict security control and is often used for human smuggling activities.

The boat was headed toward Cyprus and then onto mainland Europe.

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced a national day of mourning on Monday.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for a “quick investigation that reveals the circumstances and determines the responsibility. Otherwise, we have something else to say.”

He tweeted: “When conditions force Lebanese citizens to resort to death boats to escape from the state's hell, this means that we are in a fallen state. Tripoli is announcing today this fall through its victims. The testimonies of the victims of the death boat are dangerous, and we will not allow (these testimonies) to be buried in the sea of the city.”

Families of the victims headed to the shore to find out the fate of the missing. Their anger also focused on the Lebanese army.

Journalist Ghassan Rifi from Tripoli told Arab News that the boat had a lower cabin where the women and children were probably hiding. There was a possibility they may have sunk along with the boat, he said.

The commander of the naval forces, Col. Haitham Dannawi, accused the boat's captain of trying to escape and crashing the vessel into the naval forces' cruiser.

The ill-fated boat was made in 1974, he said.

It was small, 10 meters long, 3 meters wide, and the permitted load was only 10 people, he told a press conference. But it lacked safety measures.

He said: “The patrol that followed the boat a few miles from the shore and in the territorial waters tried to urge it to return because the situation was not safe and, if we did not stop the boat, it would have sunk outside the territorial waters.”

No weapons were used by naval forces, he said.

“The boat sank quickly because of the overload and were it not for the presence of our forces near it, the number of victims would have been greater.”

He said the boat carried 15 times more weight than it could handle and that the army did not commit any mistake on a technical and ground level.

“We bear our full responsibilities in the army leadership, and if there is any verbal offense, we will hold the person concerned responsible.”

A dispute broke out between soldiers and the families at the port of Tripoli after the families tried to prevent Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar, delegated by Mikati, from completing his press statement.

The families confronted him and the other officials present with insults, while the Al-Qubba area witnessed heavy gunfire during the victims’ funerals.

Angry protesters in Tripoli destroyed a military medical center amid calls to take to the city’s streets and “declare a major escalation.”

One of the survivors, a young man in his twenties who was wet and shivering, said shortly after midnight on Saturday: “The security cruiser chased us, and the officers on board said they would bury us. Then, they rammed the boat in the middle and on the sides until it sank.”

Security sources suggested that the number of victims could rise.

The tragic incident came a week after the army thwarted an illegal immigration operation at the Arida border point in the north with the capture of a boat that had 20 Syrians on board, including women and children.

“Smugglers get thousands of dollars from migrants. In the Saturday incident, each person paid at least $2,000,” said Rifi.

Last year, the army stopped 21 boats carrying 707 people, according to the Lebanese Army Guidance Directorate.

In 2020, the army stopped four boats carrying 126 people.


Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
Updated 7 sec ago

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation

Crew of Lebanese Army boat rescued after vessel catches fire during security operation
  • Navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel

BEIRUT: The crew of a Lebanese Army speed cruiser that was taking part in a security operation off Al-Saadiyat coast on Thursday had to be rescued after their vessel caught fire, according to a statement by the army.
Other navy boats and Lebanese Civil Defense teams responded to assist the stricken vessel and help put out the fire. No casualties were reported.


UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
Updated 11 August 2022

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports

UAE to issue new-generation Emirati passports
  • Part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery

DUBAI: The UAE will issue a new generation of Emirati passports from Sept. 1, authorities said on Thursday.

The Federal Authority for Identity, Citizenship, Customs and Port Security (ICP) said the new passports, equipped with the latest technologies, will have advanced security features.

 

 

The new-generation passports are part of efforts to use technology in reinforcing identification of personal identity and eliminating forgery or fraud, according to Ali Muhammad Al-Shamsi, Chairman of ICP, in a report from state news agency WAM.

The complex security specifications feature a polycarbonate introduction page, laser technologies and “three-dimensional tangible elements.”

Authorities said holders of the current passports can still use their travel document until expiry.


Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
Updated 11 August 2022

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam

Egypt warns of cracks in Ethiopian dam
  • Cairo, Khartoum fear it will reduce their share of Nile waters
  • Egypt says it will take all necessary measures to protect national security

CAIRO: In a letter to the UN Security Council, Egypt has warned of cracks in the concrete facade of the sub-dam linked to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

Cairo said this is particularly alarming due to Ethiopia’s failure to comply with its duty to conduct the required environmental and socioeconomic impact studies.

The letter, sent to the UNSC president, said Egypt’s Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Aty had received a message about Ethiopia’s intention to unilaterally resume filling the GERD during the current rainy season.

Abdel-Aty said Ethiopia’s decision comes in the absence of an agreement between it and Egypt and Sudan on the rules governing the filling and operation of the dam, constituting a violation of the 2015 Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries.

He stressed that Cairo holds Ethiopia fully responsible for any significant harm that may be caused to Egypt by these repeated violations.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the country reserves its right guaranteed in the UN Charter to take all necessary measures to ensure and protect its national security, including against any harm that Ethiopia’s unilateral measures may cause.

The GERD has raised tensions between Ethiopia on one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other.

The latter two countries are demanding a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam, which they fear will reduce their share of the Nile’s waters.

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UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 11 August 2022

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
Updated 11 August 2022

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs

UN, Italian agency sign deal to rebuild damaged Beirut suburbs
  • Italian Embassy: Project will improve housing for vulnerable people affected by port blast

LONDON: The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation and the UN Program for Human Settlements have signed an agreement in Beirut to finance the rehabilitation of the public park of the Mar Mikhael train station in the Lebanese capital.

The program will also restore some of the housing damaged by the Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020.

The Italian Embassy in Beirut reported the signing, hosting a ceremony at the Italian diplomatic headquarters in Baabda. It was attended by Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Nicoletta Bombardiere.

The project, titled “Ensuring safe public spaces and adequate housing for all within the city of Beirut,” is being funded by the agency and will be implemented by the UN program alongside Lebanese authorities.

The embassy said the project will improve “housing conditions for vulnerable populations affected by the explosion of the port of Beirut, in particular in the vicinity of the old Mar Mikhael railway station.”

It added that the project intends to increase “access to safe and inclusive public spaces within the railway station, also revitalizing the urban fabric of the city.”

Bombardiere said: “This project will allow the citizens of Beirut to rediscover the old Mar Mikhael railway station and its historical relevance.

“At the same time, we continue our commitment to respond to basic needs, such as social housing, restoring the cultural and social fabric of the districts most affected.”