Hezbollah drones expose Lebanon to unnecessary risks, say prime minister and foreign minister

A picture taken on July 3, 2022, shows the border between Israel and Lebanon near the Israeli Kibbutz of Shtula. (AFP)
A picture taken on July 3, 2022, shows the border between Israel and Lebanon near the Israeli Kibbutz of Shtula. (AFP)
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Updated 05 July 2022

Hezbollah drones expose Lebanon to unnecessary risks, say prime minister and foreign minister

A picture taken on July 3, 2022, shows the border between Israel and Lebanon near the Israeli Kibbutz of Shtula. (AFP)
  • Plans drafted to ensure repatriation of 15,000 Syrian refugees a month

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s prime minister and foreign minister have criticized Hezbollah for sending three drones over an Israeli gas installation last week, saying any interference in US-mediated talks to demarcate the country’s maritime border with Israel was “unacceptable.”

The comments followed the movement’s launch of unarmed reconnaissance drones on Saturday toward the offshore Karish gas field.

Lebanon announced its official “rejection of the incident, which took place outside the framework of the state's responsibility and the diplomatic context, especially since the indirect negotiations to demarcate the maritime borders are underway and the efforts from US mediator Amos Hochstein have reached advanced stages.”

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The official position included the demand to stop the ‘continuous Israeli violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty by sea, land, and air.’

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Foreign Minister Abdullah Bouhabib on Monday affirmed Lebanon’s support for Hochstein’s efforts to reach a solution that preserved “Lebanese rights in full and with complete clarity, and the demand to speed up the pace of negotiations.”

“Lebanon is counting on continued American efforts to support it, preserve its rights to its water wealth, and restore its economic and social strength,” they said. “Lebanon considers that any action outside the framework of the state's responsibility and the diplomatic context in which negotiations are taking place is unacceptable and exposes it to unnecessary dangers.

“Therefore, we call upon all parties to show a spirit of high national responsibility and abide by the previous declaration, which states that everyone without exception is behind the state in the negotiation process.”

The official position included the demand to stop the “continuous Israeli violations of Lebanon's sovereignty by sea, land, and air.”

Lebanon’s position on the drone incident is advanced, especially since Hezbollah and its allies still constitute a majority in authority.

The anti-Hezbollah grouping Our Lady of the Mountain Gathering, which includes political and intellectual figures, said the movement’s drone launch came hours after it leaked information about the Israeli response to Lebanon’s proposals on the maritime border demarcation that had been handed to Hochstein.

“This confirms that Hezbollah, which previously announced that it is behind the decision of the Lebanese state in the matter of demarcating the maritime borders in the south, is actually behind Iran's decision to demarcate the borders of its influence in the region, and the Lebanese demarcation file is nothing but a card in its (Hezbollah's) hands, on behalf of Iran and above the interests of the afflicted Lebanese people,” it added.

Reports said that Hochstein had made progress on the possibility of moving the indirect negotiations again after Lebanese authorities, represented by President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Mikati, abandoned the demand for Line 29 and the adoption of Line 23.

Lebanon has been unable to confirm that Line 29 — which includes the Karish gas field — is the maritime border of Lebanon due to the failure of Aoun to sign a draft amendment to Decree 6433.

It was issued in 2011 and specified that Line 23 was the point for negotiations with Israel to demarcate the maritime borders. However, Aoun considers Line 29 to be the point for negotiations.

Line 29 gives Lebanon an additional area estimated at 1,430 square km while, according to the decree deposited with the UN, Lebanon only gets 860 square km of the disputed area.

Lebanon is also dealing with the issue of Syrian refugees, with Aoun seeking to achieve a breakthrough before the end of his term in October.

The minister of the displaced in the caretaker government, Issam Sharaf El-Din, affirmed Lebanon's “total rejection of Syrian refugees not returning to their country after the war ended and it became safe.”

After meeting Aoun, Sharaf El-Din said that Lebanon planned to repatriate 15,000 displaced people per month.

He referred to proposals submitted by Lebanon to UNHCR regional director Ayaki Ito, who promised to refer the issue to his superiors and get a written answer.

The minister also referred to a plan to form a tripartite committee with the Syrian state and the UNHCR, and a four-party committee with Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan to achieve repatriation targets.

He claimed to be in touch with the Syrian side and said it was extending its hand to cooperate and facilitate the repatriation in a dignified and safe manner.

“There was an understanding with the regional director of the UNHCR regarding the request for the Syrian state to establish a tripartite committee that includes the Syrian state, the Lebanese state, and the UNHCR. If this committee is established, we will have made an important step. We proposed that the refugees receive material and in-kind assistance in Syria. Unfortunately, this was not accepted.

“We asked the UNHCR to stop aid for the 15,000 refugees whose turn comes to return to their country every month because paying aid to them in Lebanon is an incentive for them to stay in Lebanon.”

Sharaf El-Din said there was a meeting with the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon, who was understanding and cooperative.

“We agreed on the gradual repatriation based on village-by-village or district-by-district.”

He said the Turkish side had an idea to establish a safe zone where refugees would return, but it was a political issue that Lebanon had nothing to do with.

“However, we agreed to form a quadripartite committee that includes the Turkish state, which hosts 3,700,000 Syrian refugees, Lebanon, which hosts 1,500,000 refugees, Iraq, which hosts 170,000 refugees, and Jordan, which hosts 670,000 refugees, so that there will be a unified demand with UN agencies to facilitate the repatriation of refugees humanely.”

 


Egypt church fire not deliberate: Probe

Egypt church fire not deliberate: Probe
Updated 18 August 2022

Egypt church fire not deliberate: Probe

Egypt church fire not deliberate: Probe
  • The public prosecution questioned 33 witnesses, including the 16 people injured

CAIRO: The fire that broke out in the Abu Sefein Church in Egypt on Sunday was not deliberate, according to an investigation by the public prosecution.
The cause of the fire, which killed 41 people, was a defect with an electric generator in the church after it was turned on due to a power outage.
The public prosecution questioned 33 witnesses, including the 16 people injured, who said they heard the sound of electric charges emanating from inside the church, and the fire broke out after that. Prosecutor General Hamada El-Sawy said the victims had died of smoke inhalation.


Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire

Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire
Updated 18 August 2022

Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire

Coptic pope offers condolences over church fire
  • Blaze in Egyptian city of Giza killed 41 people, injured 16
  • ‘We thank God for all those who contributed to containing this crisis’

CAIRO: The Egyptian people showed their genuine nature with regard to Sunday’s fire in Abu Sefein Church that killed 41 people and injured 16 in the city of Giza, said the pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Pope Tawadros II thanked everyone who contributed to containing the blaze, and offered condolences to the family of a priest who died.

“He was a beloved priest until his last breath, and we console the people of the church, both adults and children, knowing that they are with Christ, and that is very much better,” the pope said.

“We thank God for all those who contributed to containing this crisis, including the concerned agencies, officials, the people and neighbors.”

He said he is scheduled to meet in the next few days with the victims’ families, adding that Christian and Muslim communities in various countries have offered their condolences. The Interior Ministry said an electrical fault had caused the fire.


Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy

Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy
Updated 18 August 2022

Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy

Russian ship carrying ‘plundered’ Ukraine grain reaches Syria: embassy
  • "According to our information, SV KONSTANTIN has docked in Syria," the embassy said
  • It said the ship was carrying "grains that were plundered and illegally transported by the Russian occupation authorities"

BEIRUT: A Russian cargo ship allegedly carrying stolen Ukrainian grain has reached Syria, Kyiv’s embassy in Beirut said Thursday, the latest in a series of contested shipments arriving in the war-torn country.
“According to our information, SV KONSTANTIN has docked in Syria,” the embassy said in a statement to AFP.
It said the ship was carrying “grains that were plundered and illegally transported by the Russian occupation authorities,” adding that the vessel was initially destined for the Lebanese port of Tripoli.
Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russian forces of ransacking its grain warehouses since they invaded the country in late February.
The embassy’s statement came as another cargo ship carrying the first shipment of grain allowed to leave Ukraine under a UN-backed deal reportedly unloaded its cargo at the Syrian port of Tartus, which is managed by a Russian firm.
The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel Razoni was expected to arrive in Lebanon, but the shipment’s five-month delay prompted the Lebanese buyer to cancel the deal once the ship was already at sea, Ukrainian officials had said.
According to Samir Madani, co-founder of oil shipping monitoring website TankerTrackers.com, the vessel docked in Tartus earlier this week.
Satellite imagery appeared to show that the ship — which was carrying 26,000 tons of corn — was unloading its cargo, Madani tweeted on Thursday.
Earlier this month, a Syrian-flagged ship was briefly seized by Lebanese authorities following similar claims by the Ukrainian embassy that it was laden with stolen cargo.
Lebanon later released the Laodicea vessel after investigations failed to prove it carried stolen goods, drawing criticism from Kyiv’s embassy.
The Laodicea started unloading its cargo at Tartus on August 8, according to Syrian state media.
Syria is a staunch ally of Russia, which intervened in the country’s civil war in 2015 to support President Bashar Assad’s government.
Moscow has lent Damascus very limited amounts of financial aid, but it has supplied Syria with wheat as a form of assistance.
The Syrian government relies on Moscow for the bulk of its wheat imports.


Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
Updated 18 August 2022

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation

Egyptian, Canadian ministers discuss cooperation
  • Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”

CAIRO: Nevin Al-Kabbaj, Egypt’s minister of social solidarity, met with Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of international development, to discuss cooperation in various fields.
Al-Kabbaj reviewed her ministry’s programs and activities, including those focusing on the rights of women and the disabled.
Sajjan said: “I was impressed by the Egyptian vision of empowering women.”
Al-Kabbaj expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the Canadian Embassy and the Canadian Development Agency to support development in Egypt and her ministry’s economic-empowerment projects.


Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
Updated 18 August 2022

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan

Egypt sends aid to flood-hit Sudan
  • Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense

CAIRO: Egypt has sent five military transport planes loaded with tons of relief aid to Sudan, where floods have killed 77 people and injured more than 30.

A spokesman for Egypt’s military said the aid comes “in the framework of Egypt’s support and solidarity with the brotherly Sudanese people.”

The aid includes tents, blankets, foodstuffs, medicines and medical supplies provided by the defense and health ministries.

Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed or damaged by torrential rains and floods, according to the Sudanese Civil Defense.

Heavy rains usually fall in Sudan between May and September, a period when the country experiences flash floods that damage housing, infrastructure and crops.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 38,000 people across Sudan have been affected by rains and floods since the start of this season.