Lebanon’s bank strike extended

Lebanon’s bank strike extended
The Association of Banks has extended its strike throughout Lebanon until the beginning of next week. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 21 September 2022

Lebanon’s bank strike extended

Lebanon’s bank strike extended
  • The banks closed on Monday following a series of holdups by a number of angry depositors
  • Banks are seeking safety assurances from the authorities so they can reopen

BEIRUT: The Association of Banks has extended its strike throughout Lebanon until the beginning of next week.
Arab News has been informed that the decision was taken on the advice of caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi.
The banks closed on Monday following a series of holdups by a number of angry depositors who targeted branches and ended up receiving a sum of their deposits.
Banks are seeking safety assurances from the authorities so they can reopen. However, according to a security source, the plan of the Ministry of Interior to protect them “needs more time” to be implemented.
In the meantime, banks have decided to only receive customers who have prior appointments, and they may be inspected on arrival.
The association said the measures were to protect bank employees after a number of attacks. A trader who wanted to pay his debts, a woman who wanted to pay her sister’s medical bills, and a soldier have been among depositors who have broken into banks.
Banks in Lebanon have 20,000 employees which, taking their families into account, means that around 50,000 people are reliant on employment in the sector.
Head of the Bank Employees’ Union George Al-Hajj said members would abide by the association’s decision as it “is meant to financially, morally and physically protect employees and preserve their safety.”
Al-Hajj emphasized that “any attack on the dignity of any employee in the banking sector is an attack on the dignity of the union.”
He added that the recent detention and release of intruders would “encourage others to follow the same path, knowing that no one denies depositors their right to their frozen money.”
Al-Hajj said the holdups placed depositors against bank employees, adding: “This is not fair. If some depositors manage to retrieve their deposit by force, others do not want to choose this method, and this is also not fair.”
A Beirut court decided on Wednesday to release the two detainees in the case of the storming of BLOM Bank on Sept. 14.
A number of activists, and the families and friends of the detainees, had staged a sit-in in front of the Palace of Justice in Beirut.
Clashes also took place on Tuesday evening between the activists, the families of the detainees and security forces, which resulted in the injury of more than 10 activists and four soldiers, according to the Lebanese Army Command.
Economic expert Jassem Ajaqa said the closure of banks “constitutes a harmful blow and inevitably leads to a rise in the exchange rate.”
Ajaqa warned that “if the political authority does not initiate reform measures, things are heading for the worse, and we may reach a stage where the central bank, Banque du Liban, loses its ability to curb the dollar’s rise.”


Canada imposes fresh sanctions on Iran citing death of Mahsa Amini

Canada imposes fresh sanctions on Iran citing death of Mahsa Amini
Updated 7 sec ago

Canada imposes fresh sanctions on Iran citing death of Mahsa Amini

Canada imposes fresh sanctions on Iran citing death of Mahsa Amini

WASHINGTON: Canada imposed fresh sanctions on Iran on Monday for alleged human rights violations, including the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan who passed away after being taken into custody by Iran’s “morality police,” the Canadian government said.


Lebanon to send remarks on US draft on maritime border with Israel

Lebanon to send remarks on US draft on maritime border with Israel
Updated 43 min 31 sec ago

Lebanon to send remarks on US draft on maritime border with Israel

Lebanon to send remarks on US draft on maritime border with Israel
  • Draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Qana prospect
  • Israel would receive a share of revenues

BEIRUT: Lebanon will send its comments on a US proposal to delineate its maritime border with longtime foe Israel to the American official mediating talks by Tuesday, a top Lebanese official said on Monday.
US envoy Amos Hochstein has shuttled between Lebanon and Israel since 2020 to seal a deal that would pave the way for offshore energy exploration and defuse a potential source of conflict between Israel and Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Hochstein sent a written draft proposal to Beirut last week. It was discussed on Monday by President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
The three would pull together their concerns on the draft to send to Hochstein within 24 hours and would not respond officially to the proposals until their queries were addressed, said Elias Bou Saab, Berri’s deputy and the main pointperson for the file in Lebanon.
“The devils are in the details, but the devils are now small,” said Bou Saab, speaking to journalists after the top officials met.
The 10-page draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Qana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.
Few other details have been made public, but Bou Saab said on Monday that the arrangement secures all of Lebanon’s rights in relation to Qana and Mikati said that the draft included “all essential matters.”
Bou Saab said he expected a response by Hochstein by the end of the week, and said only then could Lebanon prepare an official response.
Israel has said its own legal experts are also reviewing the draft before it can be approved.
Israeli media reported that the cabinet will meet on Thursday to approve the deal, but no session is formally scheduled.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters that it was not yet clear when the government would take that step, as it awaited word of Lebanon’s response.
“If they come back with changes — other than small, technical things — it may not be done by Thursday,” the official said.
A top Lebanese source briefed on the negotiations said that if an agreement is reached, it would come into force via a ceremony in the southern Lebanese border town of Naqoura.
The mechanisms are not clear, but Aoun said there would be “no partnership” with the Israeli said.
While the company carrying out the exploration in Qana has been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE and a top Israeli official was meeting company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.
Israel’s energy ministry confirmed that its director-general Lior Schillat, who also heads Israel’s negotiating team, was in Paris for discussions on Monday.
TotalEnergies declined to comment. 


Rights group: Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial

Rights group: Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial
Updated 03 October 2022

Rights group: Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial

Rights group: Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial
  • The number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily this year
  • Israel says it uses administrative detention to impede attacks and restrain dangerous militants

JERUSALEM: Israel is holding nearly 800 Palestinians without trial or charge, the highest number since 2008, an Israeli rights group said Sunday.
The group, HaMoked, which regularly gathers figures from Israeli prison authorities, said that 798 Palestinians are currently being held in so-called administrative detention, a practice where the prisoners can be held for months, do not know the charges against them and are not granted access to the evidence against them.
The group said the number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily this year, as Israel conducts nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank in response to a spate of attacks against Israelis earlier this year.
Israel says it uses administrative detention to impede attacks and restrain dangerous militants without revealing sensitive intelligence. Rights groups and Palestinians say it is an abusive system that denies freedom without due process, leaving some Palestinians for months or even years behind bars with no evidence against them made accessible. Some resort to life-threatening hunger strikes to draw attention to their detention, which often drives up tensions between Israel and Palestinians.
“Administrative detention should be an exceptional measure but Israel makes wholesale use of this detention without trial,” said Jessica Montell, HaMoked’s executive director. “This has to stop. If Israel cannot bring them to trial, it must release all administrative detainees.”
HaMoked said the figure was a new peak in a growing wave of administrative detentions which began last spring following a series of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis that killed 19 people. Those attacks sparked the Israeli raids that have killed some 100 Palestinians, many of them said to be militants or local youths out to protest the incursion into their cities or towns, but civilians have also died in the violence.
The Israeli military says some 1,500 Palestinians have been arrested during that time including those held in administrative detention. It says the raids are necessary to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks against Israelis. Palestinians say the raids are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military rule over territories they want for a future state.
The raids have been met by an uptick in shooting attacks in the West Bank. On Sunday, the military said an Israeli soldier and a motorist were lightly wounded in two separate incidents.
The last time Israel held as many administrative detainees, in May 2008, also coincided with an increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service did not respond to a request for comment.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has since established some 130 settlements there, home to 500,000 settlers. The Palestinians want the territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for their hoped-for independent state.


Iran’s Khamenei says protests were ‘planned’, blames US

Iran’s Khamenei says protests were ‘planned’, blames US
Updated 03 October 2022

Iran’s Khamenei says protests were ‘planned’, blames US

Iran’s Khamenei says protests were ‘planned’, blames US
  • Concern grew over violence at Sharif University of Technology overnight where riot police confronted hundreds of students
  • Footage shows shooting and screaming being heard as large numbers of people run down a street at night

DUBAI/PARIS: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday protests over the death of a woman in police custody were planned and not staged by “ordinary Iranians,” in his first comments on unrest that has swept the country since Sept. 17.
In comments reported by state media, Khamenei said the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini “deeply broke my heart,” calling it a “bitter incident.”
But he said “some people had caused insecurity in the streets,” saying there had been planned “riots.” 

“This rioting was planned,” he told a cadre of police students in Tehran. “I say clearly that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”
He added of the protests: “Such actions are not normal, are unnatural.” 
He expressed strong backing for the security forces, saying they had faced injustice during the protests. 

Earlier, Iranian students have clashed with security forces at a top Tehran university amid the wave of unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, state media and rights groups said Monday.
Kurdish Iranian Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on Sept. 16, days after she was detained for allegedly breaching rules forcing women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes, sparking Iran’s biggest wave of protests in almost three years.
Concern grew over violence at Sharif University of Technology overnight where, local media reported, riot police confronted hundreds of students, using tear gas and paintball and carrying weapons that shoot non-lethal steel pellets.
“Woman, life, liberty,” students shouted, as well as “students prefer death to humiliation,” the Iranian Mehr news agency reported, adding that the country’s science minister later came to speak to the students in an effort to calm the situation.
The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights posted video apparently showing Iranian police on motorcycles pursuing running students in an underground car park and, in a separate clip, taking away detainees whose heads were covered in black cloth bags.
In other footage, shooting and screaming can be heard as large numbers of people run down a street at night, in footage AFP has not independently verified.
“Security forces have attacked Sharif University in Tehran tonight. Shooting can be heard,” IHR said in a Twitter message Sunday.
In another video clip, a crowd of people can be heard chanting: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!” IHR said the footage was taken at Shariati metro station in the capital Tehran on Sunday.
The New York-based group Center for Human Rights in Iran said it was “extremely concerned by videos coming out of Sharif University and Tehran today showing violent repression of protests + detainees being hauled away with their heads completely covered in fabric.”
Mehr news agency said that “Sharif University of Technology announced that due to recent events and the need to protect students ... all classes will be held virtually from Monday.”
Since the unrest started on September 16, dozens of protesters have been killed and more than a thousand arrested. Members of the security forces have been among those killed.


Student killed, 15 injured in Egypt’s school fence collapse as authorities vow action

Student killed, 15 injured in Egypt’s school fence collapse as authorities vow action
Updated 03 October 2022

Student killed, 15 injured in Egypt’s school fence collapse as authorities vow action

Student killed, 15 injured in Egypt’s school fence collapse as authorities vow action
  • Section of a concrete stair fence collapsed as students rushed upstairs to their classrooms.

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Education Reda Hegazy ordered an investigation into the collapse of a stair fence in a girls’ preparatory school in Giza, killing one student and injuring 15 more.

According to reports, the police was notified that a section of a concrete stair fence collapsed as students rushed upstairs to their classrooms.

In an official statement published on Sunday, Hegazy paid condolences to the family of the deceased student and ordered a probe into the incident.

The head of the educational directorate, school principal, and supervisors of the school building were referred to the relevant authorities for further investigation as the minister vowed “firm and urgent action against those responsible,” read the ministry’s statement.

Hegazy also ordered a review into all the school buildings nationwide to ensure safety of the students. A report will be submitted to the ministry with the results of the review.