Protesters storm bakeries, pastry shops as Lebanon’s food crisis deepens

Protesters storm bakeries, pastry shops as Lebanon’s food crisis deepens
Angry citizens on Wednesday stormed bakeries and pastry shops in Lebanon as the country’s food crisis deepened. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 27 July 2022

Protesters storm bakeries, pastry shops as Lebanon’s food crisis deepens

Protesters storm bakeries, pastry shops as Lebanon’s food crisis deepens
  • Long queues formed outside many stores with residents waiting impatiently in searing heat for subsidized bundles of bread
  • Some took to social media slamming mafia organizations for selling subsidized flour on the black market and smuggling it to Syria

BEIRUT: Angry citizens on Wednesday stormed bakeries and pastry shops in Lebanon as the country’s food crisis deepened.
Long queues formed outside many stores with residents waiting impatiently in searing heat for subsidized bundles of bread. As stocks and tempers ran short, many people opted to buy other bakery products, some priced at 40,000 Lebanese pounds ($1.5) for 10 thin loaves.
Others vented their frustrations by taking to social media platforms, blaming politicians and bakeries for the problem while slamming mafia organizations for selling subsidized flour on the black market and smuggling it to Syria.
In some places, soldiers were forced to intervene, removing protesters from shops, and defusing heated arguments between queueing customers.
Lebanese Economy Minister Amin Salam said: “Around 49,000 tons of wheat are expected to arrive in Lebanon by the end of this week. Hopefully the ships will arrive faster. The crisis is the result of flour being stolen from our country.
“A crisis cell headed by the economy ministry will be formed and a new mechanism will be set up for distributing wheat and flour fairly, and prosecuting those creating the crisis.”
Lebanon’s inability to secure US dollars to continue subsidizing medicines, wheat, and fuel, on Wednesday resulted in petrol prices rising by 14,000 Lebanese pounds to reach 617,000 pounds per 20 liters.
Georges Brax, a member of the gas station owners’ syndicate, said: “The central bank used to secure 100 percent of the US dollars needed to import fuel, according to its Sayrafa platform rate. Now it provides only 85 percent. The remaining 15 percent needs to be secured based on the black-market rate.”
Fadi Abu Shakra, a representative of the union for fuel distributors and gas stations in Lebanon, said: “We keep going backward. If the issue is not resolved, I don’t know where we could be heading.”
At its Wednesday meeting, a ministerial committee set up to address the repercussions of the financial crisis on public facilities and headed by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, reiterated its previous recommendations to meet the demands of public sector employees, who have been on strike for more than a month, pending the approval of the 2022 budget and avoiding any burden on the state treasury.
The committee approved granting additional financial assistance equivalent to the value of a full salary and a daily transportation allowance of 95,000 pounds, provided that employees attended work for a minimum number of days a week.
Members also agreed 4,000 billion pounds to cover hospitalization and medical expenses for the military forces, Ministry of Health employees, and the Cooperative of Civil Servants, as well as 200 billion pounds for the National Social Security Fund, and a contribution of 50 billion pounds to the Lebanese University.
Those failing to turn up for work, without justification, for a period of 15 days, were warned that they would be “considered resigned.”
Caretaker Minister of Finance Youssef Khalil said: “The proposal provides for a daily lump-sum productivity allowance for employees and workers in the public administration, ranging between 150,000 Lebanese pounds and 350,000 pounds per day, provided that the beneficiary is present at least three days a week, every week during official working hours.”
He added: “The ministry drew up a decree in this regard and signed it and transferred it to the PM for it to come into effect.”
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea urged the country’s leaders to hold presidential elections on time and press ahead in carrying out reforms that would satisfy the World Bank and meet the requirements of the International Monetary Fund.
And she highlighted the importance of securing cheaper and cleaner energy and electricity for schools, hospitals, and factories.


Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism
Updated 56 min 20 sec ago

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism

Turkiye slams West for security warnings ‘harming’ tourism
  • The German Embassy cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Quran-burning incidents in some European countries
  • The US and other countries issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance

ANKARA: Turkiye on Thursday slammed a group of Western countries that temporarily closed down their consulates in Istanbul over security concerns, accusing them of waging “psychological warfare” and attempting to wreck Turkiye’s tourism industry.
Germany, the Netherlands and Britain were among countries that shut down their consulates in the city of around 16 million people this week. The German Embassy cited the risk of possible retaliatory attacks following Qur’an-burning incidents in some European countries. The United States and other countries issued travel warnings urging citizens to exercise vigilance.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said the consulate closures and travel warnings were part of a Western plot to prevent a rebound in Turkiye’s tourism sector following the coronavirus pandemic.
“On a day when we declared our aim of (attracting) 60 million tourists, at a time when 51.5 million tourists arrived and we obtained $46 billion in tourism revenue, they were on the verge of starting a new psychological warfare (against) Turkiye,” said Soylu, who is known for his anti-Western rhetoric.
The minister said Turkiye had conducted as many as 60 operations against the Daesh group so far this year and detained 95 people. Last year, close to 2,000 Daesh suspects were detained in more than 1,000 operations against the group, he said.
Earlier this week, the Interior Ministry said Turkish authorities had detained a number of suspects following a warning from a “friendly country,” but hadn’t found any weapons, ammunition or sign of a planned act of violence.
In November, a bombing on Istanbul’s bustling Istiklal Avenue, located in the heart of the city and near a number of foreign consulates, killed six people and wounded several others. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on Kurdish militants.
Last weekend, Turkiye’s foreign ministry issued a travel warning for European countries due to anti-Turkish demonstrations and what it described as Islamophobia. The warning followed demonstrations the week before outside the Turkish Embassy in Sweden, where an anti-Islam activist burned the Qur’an and pro-Kurdish groups protested against Turkiye.
In a related development, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned Norway’s ambassador to ask for a protest planned for Friday in the Scandinavian country to be prevented because there would be an “attack” on the Qur’an during the event, Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported Thursday.
Norwegian newspaper VG said a group called Stop Islamization of Norway planned to burn the Qur’an outside the Turkish Embassy in Oslo on Friday.
The group’s leader, Lars Thorsen, told VG that he planned to carry out his protest “in the context of Turkiye’s intolerance of Western values of freedom.”
Recent demonstrations in Europe where activists desecrated Islam’s holy book have infuriated Muslims in Turkiye and elsewhere.
Anadolu said the Norwegian ambassador was told that the planned action would constitute a “hate crime” that should not be allowed.


Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group
Updated 57 min 21 sec ago

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group

Iranian film director Jafar Panahi starts hunger strike in prison — rights group
  • Panahi was detained in July and told he would serve a six-year prison sentence originally issued by a Tehran court in 2010
  • Panahi has won several international awards

DUBAI: Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has started a hunger strike in prison to protest against authorities’ refusal to release him temporarily on bail pending retrial, the activist HRANA news agency reported on Thursday.
Panahi was detained in July and told he would serve a six-year prison sentence originally issued by a Tehran court in 2010, amid a stepped-up crackdown on dissent in the Islamic Republic.
“According to the law, I should have been released on bail after my request for retrial was accepted but my case has been delayed for more than 100 days,” the 62-year-old film director wrote in a letter, according to HRANA.
“This is in stark contrast with the speedy trials of innocent youth which are brought to the gallows 30 days after their arrest,” added the director, who won the Cannes Film Festival’s Camera d’Or prize for his 1995 movie “White Balloon.”
There was no immediate reaction to the HRANA report from Iranian authorities on state media.
Iran’s judiciary said in July Panahi would serve a six-year sentence over charges of “propaganda against the system” and inciting opposition protests after the 2009 election that led to months of political turmoil.
Since then, nationwide protests sparked by the death in police custody of Kurdish Iranian young woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 2022 have represented one of the toughest challenges to the Islamic Republic.
At least four people have been hanged since the demonstrations started, according to the judiciary. Iran has accused foreign enemies of fomenting the unrest.
Panahi has won several international awards, including the 2015 Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear for his film “Taxi.”


Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
Updated 02 February 2023

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
  • The pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program”
  • Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine

PARIS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday, hoping to gain support against Iran’s nuclear program but shadowed by an upsurge of violence in the region.
Israel’s Paris embassy said the pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
Netanyahu hopes that Iran’s role supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, calling its nuclear program “dangerous” and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.
Tehran also holds several foreign nationals who Western governments see as political hostages.
But Macron’s office said the French leader would “reiterate (to Netanyahu) the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians — while offering “France’s solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism.”
Netanyahu visits as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged rockets and missiles over Gaza, the latest violent episode as the conflict intensifies.
A week ago, seven were killed in a mass shooting by a Palestinian at a synagogue in annexed east Jerusalem — one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
In France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.


Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan
Updated 02 February 2023

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan
  • Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there

DUBAI: Iran’s said on Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest position on Tehran’s nuclear work was not correct, according to Mizan news agency.
The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.
“The IAEA inspector’s interpretation was incorrect but he reported it to the agency ... We immediately provided the explanation to the IAEA on the same day,” Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami said.
In a confidential report to member states seen by Reuters, the IAEA did not say how the interconnection between the two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges had been changed except that “they were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).”
Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities.
Talks between Tehran and world powers to revive the pact have stalled since September.


France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
Updated 02 February 2023

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
  • Announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia

YEMEN: French naval forces seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles earlier this month in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran heading to Yemen’s Houthi militia, officials said Thursday, the latest such interdiction amid the Mideast nation’s long-running war.
While Iran did not immediately acknowledge the seizure, images of the weapons released by the US military’s Central Command showed them to be similar to others captured by American forces in other shipments tied back to Tehran.
The announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia during its war on Ukraine, as well as for its violent monthslong crackdown targeting protesters. Regional tensions also have heightened after a suspected Israeli drone attack on a military workshop in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Previous cycles of violence since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers have seen the Islamic Republic launch retaliatory attacks at sea.
The seizure occurred Jan. 15 in the Gulf of Oman, a body of water that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, through to the Arabian Sea and onto the Indian Ocean. US Central Command described the interdiction as happening “along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen.”
A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who took the country’s capital in late 2014 and have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the country's internationally recognized government since March 2015.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the seizure, identifying the forces involved as elite French special forces. A regional official with knowledge of the interdiction, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to not having permission to speak publicly on the operation’s details, similarly identified the French as carrying out the seizure.
The French military did not respond to requests for comment about capturing the weapons. US Central Command did not immediately respond to questions about the seizure, nor did Iran’s mission to the United Nations. While France maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, it typically takes a quieter approach in the region while maintaining a diplomatic presence in Iran.
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, though Western nations, UN experts and others have traced weaponry ranging from night-vision scopes, rifles and missiles back to Tehran. In November, the US Navy said it found 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among bags of fertilizer aboard a ship bound to Yemen from Iran. Houthi ballistic missile fire has targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the past.
Images taken Wednesday by US Central Command, analyzed by the AP, showed a variety of weapons on board an unidentified ship apparently docked at a port. The weapons appeared to include Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, Russian-made Molot AKS20Us and PKM-pattern machine guns. All have appeared in other seizures of weapons attributed to Iran.
Central Command said the seizure included more than 3,000 rifles and 578,000 rounds of ammunition. The released images also showed 23 container-launched anti-tank missiles, which also have turned up in other shipments tied to Iran.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, including over 14,500 civilians.