People from Rushdie attacker’s hometown in Lebanon condemn attack

People from Rushdie attacker’s hometown in Lebanon condemn attack
Yaroun is about 125 km from Beirut. Previously, the people of the town were famous for farming and raising livestock. (Arab News)
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Updated 14 August 2022

People from Rushdie attacker’s hometown in Lebanon condemn attack

People from Rushdie attacker’s hometown in Lebanon condemn attack
  • Hadi Matar’s father, who is separated from his mother, refuses to receive anyone in wake of New York stabbing
  • “I have never seen him in this town,” says Yaroun town Mayor Ali Qassem Tuhfa

BEIRUT: The father of Hadi Matar, the man who stabbed novelist Salman Rushdie in the US on Friday, is refusing to talk to anyone. Since hearing about his 24-year-old son’s crime, he has not received any visitors at his home in the southern Lebanese town of Yaroun — not even the town’s mayor.

Mayor Ali Qassem Tuhfa told Arab News: “Matar’s parents have been separated for 10 years. The father returned to Yaroun while his family stayed in the US. He revived the family’s old business of raising livestock and has been taking care of a small herd. He has little to no social life and does not talk to anyone.”




Yaroun is close to the town of Maroun Al-Ras in the district of Beit Jbeil. (Arab News)

Yaroun is close to the town of Maroun Al-Ras in the district of Beit Jbeil. It is about 125 km from Beirut. Previously, the people of the town were famous for farming and raising livestock.

Yaroun is a border town that was abandoned by many residents during the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in the 1970s. Some also emigrated before then, leaving only about 500 residents. This number increases with the temporary return of expatriates during the summer and other holidays, with records showing that 9,000 people originate from the town.

Both Christians and Muslims live in Yaroun, the mayor explained, while noting that the majority of emigrants have gone to Australia and North and South America.

Samer Wehbe, a journalist from the area, said: “When the expatriates gradually returned, they built beautiful houses that resembled the homes in which they lived abroad, giving the town a wealthy appearance. The majority of townspeople do not live there permanently; only when they come back to Lebanon on holidays and special occasions. Political affiliations remain vague, although the town is located in a pro-Hezbollah area, as it is adjacent to Maroun Al-Ras, in which Hezbollah scored major victories against the Israeli occupation.”




Yaroun is about 125 km from Beirut. Previously, the people of the town were famous for farming and raising livestock. (Arab News)

Mayor Tuhfa said that Matar was born and raised in the US. “I have been the mayor for six years and have never seen him in town,” he said.

Tuhfa explained: “Matar’s mother is also from Yaroun, but she is not related to her husband. Her name is Silvana Firdaus. Matar has one sister who also lives with her mother in the US.”

He added: “The news of Matar’s crime raised questions in the town, which mainly focused on ‘why did he do that?’ His act was even condemned, bearing in mind that no one knows him (Matar) on a personal level.”

Activists’ reactions on social media platforms were mixed. One considered that Matar is “only an American of Lebanese descent, who apparently suffers a deep identity crisis.”




Hadi Matar, 24, center, listens to his public defense attorney Nathaniel Barone, left, addresses the judge while being arraigned in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville, NY., Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022. (AP)

Hezbollah refrained from commenting on the attack on Rushdie. According to Reuters, an official said the group “had no additional information on the stabbing attack against novelist Salman Rushdie.” The official added: “We don’t know anything about this subject so we will not comment.”

Nevertheless, in recent days, an old video of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah inciting his supporters to kill Rushdie has circulated on social media platforms.


Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound for second day

Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound for second day
Updated 19 sec ago

Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound for second day

Jewish settlers storm Al-Aqsa compound for second day

RAMALLAH: Hundreds of settlers protected by Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem for a second day as tensions soared during the Jewish new year.

Dozens of Palestinian men and women remained inside Al-Aqsa to defend it as police prevented others under 40 from entering, deployed officers on horseback and used drones to monitor the grounds.

Despite the restrictions, dozens of Muslims were able to perform pre-dawn prayers shortly before the settlers moved in.

At least two Palestinians inside the compound were arrested for using religious chants to disrupt the settlers as they performed new year rituals in the compound’s courtyards. 

A Palestinian security official told Arab News that Israeli police had deployed in large numbers throughout East Jerusalem and imposed restrictions on worshippers as part of a well-rehearsed tactic to prevent protests.

“The number of Israeli police escorting the intrusive settlers is equal to the number of settlers, and this reflects the extent of the precautions to secure the incursions,” he said, adding that Palestinians “reject the desecration of Al-Aqsa by settlers.”

The huge police operation was also geared towards dissuading Palestinian from allowing their children to go to Al-Aqsa, he added, but warned that the situation could boil over if anyone was assaulted or killed by the police.

Israeli police had not sought coordination with the Palestinian security services, the official added.

Meanwhile, top Israeli police officer Maj. Gen. Yacov Shabtai toured the mosque, accompanied by several officers.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said turning the area around Al-Aqsa into a virtual military barracks and imposing restrictions on Muslim worshippers was “like reoccupying the holy city of Jerusalem and its old city by force.”

It warned of the consequences of the “gradual Judaization” of the mosque and its courtyards, saying such moves were a “blatant attack” on the beliefs of millions of Muslims and the “legal and legitimate right” of the Islamic Awqaf Department “to supervise the movement of worshippers.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians reacted with anger to President Mahmoud Abbas’s greetings to Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on the Jewish new year.

Gantz asked Abbas during a call to ensure that the Palestinian security services made every effort to prevent an escalation in the West Bank during the new year holidays.

In reply, a Fatah member in Ramallah told Arab News: “Abbas didn’t surrender Jerusalem during his call with Gantz. It was a courtesy call, nothing more than that.”


Jordanian appeal court upholds convictions of 5 jailed, fined over Salt Hospital deaths

Jordanian appeal court upholds convictions of 5 jailed, fined over Salt Hospital deaths
Updated 33 min 55 sec ago

Jordanian appeal court upholds convictions of 5 jailed, fined over Salt Hospital deaths

Jordanian appeal court upholds convictions of 5 jailed, fined over Salt Hospital deaths
  • 10 COVID-19 patients died at hospital in 2021 after facility ran out of oxygen
  • Amman Appeal Court confirms acquittal of 8 other suspects

AMMAN: A Jordanian court on Tuesday rejected the appeals of five people convicted over a hospital oxygen outage that resulted in the deaths of 10 COVID-19 patients.
Amman Appeal Court upheld the three-year prison terms handed down to the five by a separate court last year, the Jordan News Agency (Petra) reported.
However, it upheld the acquittal of eight other suspects in connection with the incident at the Al-Hussein New Salt Hospital on March 13, 2021. Ten patients died after the facility ran out of oxygen, sparking public outrage leading to the resignation of Jordan’s health minister.
Petra said a panel of judges at the Amman Magistrates Court found four previous directors and an oxygen technician in the hospital accountable for causing the deaths.
Last year, the primary court convicted the former director of the hospital, his assistant for services, the head of the medical gases group, the director of medical devices, and an ex-oxygen technician, with causing the deaths and sentenced each of them to three years in jail with individual fines of 3,575 Jordanian dinars ($5,265).
Records said the court heard the testimonies of 87 witnesses.
At the time, hundreds of angry people gathered outside the hospital holding nightly protests that prompted the intervention of security forces. The victims’ relatives said the hospital had been suffering from a severe shortage of oxygen and medical staff.


Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
Updated 27 September 2022

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
  • ‘The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations,’ researcher tells Independent
  • More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Mahsa Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years

LONDON: Protester death figures in Iran are being distorted by the country’s regime to cover up the use of excessive force by security services, The Independent has reported.

The country has faced almost two weeks of protests nationwide — with Kurdish regions in the west witnessing the most violent clashes — in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amnesty International researcher Mansoureh Mills told The Independent that the real figure of protesters who have been killed is higher than numbers reported by state TV, “given the horrific level of violence being perpetrated by the security forces.”

Mills added: “The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations. Following the November 2019 protests, during which security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children, the authorities consistently denied any responsibility.

“They continued to cover up the real death toll of people killed during the November 2019 protests, and publicly praised security and intelligence forces for their role in the crackdown.”

Rothna Begum, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch’s women’s rights division, told The Independent: “The true numbers of people killed are likely to be higher than what state media are reporting but even official numbers are far too high for deaths during what are largely peaceful protests.

“The authorities must refrain from excessive use of force and investigate all deaths that have taken place during the protests.”

Mills said: “We have also received reports of women’s rights defenders being arrested while protesting for women’s rights over the past week. This is something that we are investigating.”

The Iranian regime resorts to “arbitrarily arresting journalists, political activists and human rights defenders to silence any form of public dissent or reporting and criticism of the human rights violations they are committing,” Mills added.

The regime must “urgently repeal laws and regulations that impose compulsory veiling on women and girls, perpetuate violence against them and strip them of their right to dignity and bodily autonomy.

“The policing of women’s bodies and lives in Iran is not restricted to their clothing choices. However, it is the most visible and one of the most egregious forms of the wider oppression of women and it stokes violence against them on a daily basis.”

More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years.


Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting
Updated 27 September 2022

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting
  • Third phase of Eastern Arrows offensive has ended with STC forces capturing the Omaran valley in Abyan province
  • STC forces preparing to target Al-Qaeda’s final hiding places around the town of Al-Mahfad

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni forces say they have driven Al-Qaeda out of a key stronghold in the south of the country, after fierce fighting in which 32 soldiers and at least 24 militants were killed.

Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesman for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, which commands the military operations, told Arab News that the third phase of an offensive named “Eastern Arrows” had ended after their forces captured Omaran valley in Abyan province.

He said 32 soldiers were killed and 42 wounded by Al-Qaeda counterattacks, booby traps and roadside bombs.

The militants suffered 24 dead in combat or in the bombardment of Abyan’s high, rocky highlands.

Al-Naqeeb said STC forces had recovered landmines and improvised explosive devices from captured Al-Qaeda strongholds, and were next preparing to target the group’s final hiding places around the town of Al-Mahfad.

“Al-Qaeda has taken significant hits and lost one of its key strongholds in Omaran,” Al-Naqeeb said. “Our manpower and readiness make us capable of clearing entire southern provinces. It has been eight years since we began fighting terrorism. Our forces have gained expertise in combating Al-Qaeda.”

The Yemeni military and security services launched their offensive earlier this month to drive Al-Qaeda out of Abyan and neighboring Shabwa, from where the militants have trained and planned attacks against Yemeni cities.

Al-Qaeda also kept weapons and hostages in caverns in Omaran and adjacent valleys that connect the provinces with a third, Al-Bayda, according to Yemeni military sources.

The group has already been driven out of Al-Mousinah in Shabwa and Al-Wadhae, the rocky Khaber Al-Marakesha region, Lawder and Moudia.

Al-Naqeeb said some Al-Qaeda fighters escaped to Wadi Hadramout while others found refuge in Al-Bayda, which is controlled by the Houthis, and Markha in Shabwa.

Infighting between various anti-Houthi military factions has allowed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most deadly branch of the group in the world, to spread throughout southern Yemen over the past seven years.

The STC joined forces with several rival groups to combat the threat after agreeing a ceasefire two years ago.


In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
Updated 27 September 2022

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
  • Cholera is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea
  • Public awareness campaigns are underway on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera

IDLIB/HASAKA, Syria: A cholera outbreak that has claimed 29 lives in Syria is posing a danger across the frontlines of the country’s 11-year-long war, stirring fears in crowded camps for the displaced who lack running water or sewage systems.
First linked to contaminated water near the Euphrates river, the outbreak has now spread across the fractured nation, with cases reported in government- and rebel-controlled regions. In all, at least 2,000 cases have been reported so far.
“How am I not supposed to catch cholera with the sewage running right next to our tent?” said Sobha Al-Jadoue, 60, who lives in a camp for displaced people in the rebel-held Idlib region. “We can no longer sleep or sit because of the smells. A few days ago the sewage spilled into my tent.”
Cholera is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea. While most of those affected will have mild or no symptoms, cholera can kill within hours if untreated, the World Health Organization website says.
The devastation wrought by the Syrian conflict has left the country particularly vulnerable, demolishing much of the infrastructure including water pumping and treatment plants.
Climate change has worsened water shortages.
“Because of the war there has been great destruction of the health infrastructure and infrastructure in general, so if it spreads in these areas — especially in the camps — it could have a grave health impact and kill a lot of people,” said Shahem Mekki, who runs a disease monitoring center in the area.
The war has killed some 350,000 people since it spiralled out of an uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011. The World Health Organization says 55 percent of health care facilities in the country are not functioning because of the war.
The first cholera cases were detected on Sept. 5 in Deir Ezzor province, before spreading to other areas including the cities of Raqqa and Hasaka, said Jawan Mustafa, health director in the Kurdish-run administration of northeastern Syria.
He said there were more than 4,350 suspected cases of cholera in northeastern Syria, and 100 confirmed cases. “The cases are increasing but, fortunately, slowly,” he said.
Amshah Shehade, 45, said she brought her daughter to hospital in Hasaka due to diarrhea and dizziness, and that her grandchild had suffered the same symptoms. “It was caused by contaminated tank water,” she said.
Public awareness campaigns are underway on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera.
Eva Hinds, chief of communication at the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, in Syria, said the agency and its partners had scaled up water trucking and chlorination in the cholera hot spots to ensure access to clean water.
“It’s time to act now. We are investing heavily in measures to prevent the further spread,” she said.