Lebanon’s water supply networks ‘remain on the brink,’ UNICEF warns 

Lebanon’s water supply networks ‘remain on the brink,’ UNICEF warns 
Anti-government protesters shout slogans during a protest against the government and decrying the deteriorating economic situation outside the Government House in Beirut on July 21, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 21 July 2022

Lebanon’s water supply networks ‘remain on the brink,’ UNICEF warns 

Lebanon’s water supply networks ‘remain on the brink,’ UNICEF warns 
  • Banque du Liban employees enter second day of strike following raid to arrest Gov. Riad Salameh
  • Justice minister tries to calm situation after arrest of Bishop Musa Al-Hajj on Monday

BEIRUT: Lebanese children are at risk as water supply systems across the country teeter on the brink of failure, UNICEF has warned.

“While a total collapse of public water supply networks has so far been averted, the (water supply) systems remain on the brink, which poses a threat for the health of millions of people, especially children,” UNICEF said in a statement.

The UN body said Lebanon’s limited power supplies make it impossible to pump enough water, and in some cases, “cause pumping operations to shut down entirely.”

It added that it had previously warned “a year ago that the water system has reached a breaking point.”

Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF’s representative in Lebanon, said that “millions of people in Lebanon are affected by the limited availability of clean and safe water, and addressing the issue is of (the) utmost importance for the health of children and families in Lebanon.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, per-capita water supplies from the water establishments have decreased dramatically amid frequent blackouts, falling short of the 35 liters a day considered to be the minimum acceptable quantity,” he said.

“The average cost of 1,000 liters of trucked water increased to 145,000 Lebanese pounds ($6 at the Sayrafa exchange rate) in April 2022, an increase of almost 50 percent compared with the same month in 2021.

“A family of five, drinking a total of 10 liters a day, would need to spend about 6.5 million pounds a year, in addition to the cost of water they use to meet their cooking and hygiene needs.”

Based on its report, UNICEF — which contributes financially to the operation of water pumps in Lebanon — “needs $75 million a year to keep critical systems operational and the water flowing to over four million people across the country and safeguard access and operation of the public water systems.”

The UNICEF warning came amid political chaos in Lebanon that is causing further crises, leading to caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati calling the country “Al-Asfouriyeh” (the lunatic asylum) in a speech on Wednesday.

Employees of the Banque du Liban continued with their three-day strike on Thursday, in protest against Mount Lebanon’s state prosecutor, Judge Ghada Aoun, raiding the bank’s headquarters on Tuesday, in search of its governor in order to arrest him.

The raid took place after Riad Salameh failed to show up for questioning on charges of illicit enrichment and money laundering Aoun charged him with in March.

For the second consecutive day, exchange operations at the bank’s Sayrafa rate platform were put on hold, prompting traders and citizens alike to turn to the black market for dollars.

Other operations affected include check clearing, transfers abroad, opening credits and other procedures. More importantly, payment orders and transfers issued by the Ministry of Finance will not be disbursed.

Repercussions triggered by the arrest of Bishop Musa Al-Hajj, archbishop of Haifa and the holy land, also continued after he was detained on Monday at the Lebanese border post in Ras Al-Naqoura after returning from Israel. He faced an 11-hour interrogation, with money and medicines he brought from Lebanese who fled to Israel 22 years ago being seized.

The Council of Maronite Bishops, which held an exceptional meeting on Wednesday, expressed its dismay at Al-Hajj’s arrest, the seizure of his passport and phone, and his being summoned to appear before the military judge Fadi Akiki.

In a meeting, the council demanded the removal of Akiki and called what happened  “premeditated and determined, at a remarkable and suspicious time, and for known malicious ends.”

The council also called on the minister of justice to take the necessary disciplinary measures against those responsible, and demanded the public prosecutor of cassation to refer Akiki to the judicial inspection and remove him.

The press office of Justice Minister Henry Khoury announced on Thursday that the minister was asking all judicial authorities for an immediate update on the development of the investigation with Al-Hajj and the raid on the central bank.

Walid Jumblatt, president of the Progressive Socialist Party, called for the situation to be addressed calmly and stressed the need to respect institutions “in these difficult circumstances above all consideration.”

Suleiman Franjieh, head of the Marada Movement and a candidate for the presidency, met on Thursday with Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, and claimed the judiciary in Lebanon was politicized and that judges were being subjected to “political and media intimidation.”

In a press conference on Thursday, the Sovereign Front for Lebanon called the arrest of Al-Hajj “a coup to take advantage of the last parliamentary elections.”

It said some prosecutors, security figures and judges were offering their services to people running the state, a veiled reference to the Iran-backed militia.


19 killed, including 3 elite Guard members, in Iran attack

19 killed, including 3 elite Guard members, in Iran attack
Updated 01 October 2022

19 killed, including 3 elite Guard members, in Iran attack

19 killed, including 3 elite Guard members, in Iran attack

DUBAI: An attack by armed separatists on a police station in a southeastern city killed 19 people, including three members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Saturday.
The assailants in Friday’s attack hid among worshippers near a mosque in the city of Zahedan and attacked the nearby police station, according to the report.
IRNA quoted Hossein Modaresi, the provincial governor, as saying 19 people were killed. The outlet said 32 Guard members, including volunteer Basiji forces, were also wounded in the clashes.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to nationwide antigovernment protests gripping Iran after the death in police custody of a young Iranian woman.
Sistan and Baluchestan province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has seen previous attacks on security forces by ethnic Baluchi separatists, although Saturday’s Tasnim report did not identify a separatist group allegedly involved in the attack.
IRNA on Saturday identified the dead as Hamidreza Hashemi, a Revolutionary Guard colonel; Mohammad Amin Azarshokr, a Guard member; and Mohamad Amin Arefi, a Basiji, or volunteer force with the IRG. Tasnim and other state-linked Iranian news outlets reported Friday that the head of the Guard’s intelligence department, Seyyed Ali Mousavi, was shot during the attack and later died.
It is not unusual for IRG members to be present at police bases around the country.
Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the last two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the morality police in the capital of Tehran for allegedly wearing her mandatory Islamic headscarf too loosely.
The protesters have vented their anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.
The protests have drawn supporters from various ethnic groups, including Kurdish opposition movements in the northwest that operate along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests first erupted in Kurdish areas.
Iranian state TV has reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the demonstrations began Sept. 17. An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 demonstrators arrested.
It has been difficult to gauge the extent of the protests, particularly outside of Tehran. Iranian media have only sporadically covered the demonstrations.
Witnesses said scattered protests involving dozens of demonstrators took place Saturday around a university in downtown Tehran. Anti-riot police dispersed the protesters who chanted “death to dictator.”


Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel
Updated 01 October 2022

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanon receives US mediator proposals for maritime border with Israel

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has received a letter from US mediator Amos Hochstein regarding proposals for the demarcation of a maritime border with Israel, the presidency said on Saturday on Twitter.
A deal could defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and the heavily armed, Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which has warned against any Israeli exploration and extraction in the disputed waters.


Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul
Updated 01 October 2022

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

Arab states condemn terrorist attack on educational center in Kabul

DUBAI: Arab states have condemned Friday’s terrorist attack that targeted an educational center in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, which killed teenage students, most of them girls.

The bombing happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood of western Kabul, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area home to the minority Hazara community, the target of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.

The bomber shot dead two security guards before entering the gender-segregated hall where students were sitting for a practice college examination, earlier reports said.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, in a statement, condemned the attack which killed and injured “scores of innocent people.”

The ministry voiced its rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism.

Bahrain also condemned the suicide blast, and in a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed the kingdom’s “deep condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims.”

It also wished a speedy recovery for those injured.

Kuwait similarly denounced the attack as the Gulf state renewed its “firm and principled stance against all forms of violence and terrorism.”


Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory
Updated 01 October 2022

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory

Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory
  • Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it rejects Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine, adding the decision is a “grave violation” of international law.
Turkey, a NATO member, has conducted a diplomatic balancing act since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ankara opposes Western sanctions on Russia and has close ties with both Moscow and Kyiv, its Black Sea neighbors. It has also criticized Russia’s invasion and sent armed drones to Ukraine.
The Turkish ministry said on Saturday it had not recognized Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, adding that it rejects Russia’s decision to annex the four regions, Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
“This decision, which constitutes a grave violation of the established principles of international law, cannot be accepted,” the ministry said.
“We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations,” it added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the regions on Friday, promising Moscow would triumph in its “special military operation” even as he faced a potentially serious new military reversal.
His proclamation came after Russia held what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.
The United States, Britain and Canada announced new sanctions in response.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky said on Friday his country had submitted a fast-track application to join the NATO military alliance and that he would not hold peace talks with Russia while Putin was still president.


UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania
Updated 01 October 2022

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania

UAE provides aid to those affected by floods in Mauritania
  • According to UN OCHA, at least 19 people have died, 38,000 people have been affected

The UAE sent a plane carrying food items on Friday to various cities and villages affected by the torrential rains that recently struck southern and eastern Mauritania, state news agency WAM reported. 

Since late July, heavy rainfall and widespread floods hit several parts of Mauritania. According to UN OCHA, at least 19 people have died, 38,000 people have been affected, and almost 4,000 houses destroyed.

“The provision of these supplies reflects the strong relations between the two countries and underscores the UAE’s humanitarian role in providing relief to those in need and those affected by disasters that threaten food security,” said Hamad Ghanem al-Mehairi, UAE Ambassador to Mauritania. 

The UAE previously sent aid to Mauritania in April 2021, as well as medical aid to support the country's efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.