Saudi Arabia, US, France stress importance of timely elections in Lebanon

Saudi Arabia, US, France stress importance of timely elections in Lebanon
The polls would comply with the constitution that calls for Lebanon’s parliament to elect a new president, the officials said in a joint statement. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2022

Saudi Arabia, US, France stress importance of timely elections in Lebanon

Saudi Arabia, US, France stress importance of timely elections in Lebanon
  • Addressing political, economic crises vital, say foreign ministers
  • Meeting agreements with Arab League, IMF, UN critical for development

RIYADH: The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the US, and France have expressed their continuing support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, security and stability, and highlighted the importance of holding elections.

The polls would comply with the constitution that calls for Lebanon’s parliament to elect a new president, the officials said in a joint statement.

During their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly earlier this week, the diplomats said it is critical to elect a president who can unite the Lebanese people and work with regional and international actors to overcome the current crisis.

They called for the formation of a government capable of implementing the structural and economic reforms urgently needed to address Lebanon’s political and economic crises, specifically those needed to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

The three officials said their countries remained willing to work jointly with Lebanon to support the implementation of these fundamental reforms, which are critical to the nation’s future development.

“We acknowledge the critical role the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces — as the legitimate defenders of Lebanon’s sovereignty and internal stability — continue to play in protecting the Lebanese people in a time of unprecedented crisis,” they said.

The representatives affirmed the need for the Lebanese government to implement UN Security Council resolutions 1559, 1701, 1680, 2650 and other relevant international resolutions, including those issued by the Arab League, and commit to the Taif Agreement.


Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns

Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns
Updated 11 sec ago

Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns

Irish family in limbo as six-year Qatari court battle drags on over daughter’s burns
  • Elizabeth Soffe suffered terrible injuries aged two in fire blamed on rental company’s poor maintenance
  • Parents say they can’t afford her treatment after appeal ruling cuts original compensation from $4m to less than $2m

DUBAI: An Irish couple whose daughter suffered severe injuries in a Qatari villa fire face another grueling chapter in a six-year court battle after their compensation was cut in half after an appeal by the firm blamed for the blaze.
Elizabeth Soffe was two years old when her family’s villa in Al-Waab caught fire. She suffered third-degree burns to 60 percent of her body, lost fingers, her hair, part of her nose and an ear and needs lifelong expensive treatment.
However, her parents Liam and Sinead, who now live in the UK, have been told that an initial $4.11 million compensation ruling by a Qatari court has been cut to about $1.98 million in a second ruling, which they say leaves them without enough to pay for Elizabeth’s care.
“They rejected [costs for] all future treatment – operations and prosthetics,” her father told The Guardian. “She has had 70-80 operations on the NHS, and she will probably need at least another two every year until she’s an adult.
“We’ve spent about £25,000 on court fees so far. UK solicitors (say) that if the case was heard here, the compensation would be between £8 million and £10 million. (In Qatar) there’s almost no consideration of what we would consider … mental health and trauma.”
Elizabeth’s parents lodged a lawsuit in 2017 against Al-Asmakh Real Estate Development, which managed their villa, after two years of attempts to reach an informal settlement failed.
Al-Asmakh was last year ordered to pay QR15 million ($4.11 million) in compensation after a court-appointed fire expert said that the blaze was caused by either a faulty electrical supply or poor maintenance of an air conditioning unit.
However, the company appealed and had the case moved to the rental disputes settlement committee, a lower court, which overturned the original ruling and lowered compensation to around $1.98 million.
Both the Soffes and the Al-Asmakh have appealed against the latest ruling. The case is due to be heard in February.
“All we want is for Elizabeth to be taken care of, so that she has a life and opportunities,” said Soffe.


Five killed in east Jerusalem synagogue shooting: Israeli medics

Five killed in east Jerusalem synagogue shooting: Israeli medics
Updated 26 min 57 sec ago

Five killed in east Jerusalem synagogue shooting: Israeli medics

Five killed in east Jerusalem synagogue shooting: Israeli medics
  • At this stage of the attack, eight gunshot victims: five declared fatalities on scene, three victims conveyed to hospital

JERUSALEM: A shooting at an east Jerusalem synagogue during Shabbat prayers killed five people on Friday, with at least three others suffering gunshot wounds, Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency response service said.
“At this stage of the attack, eight gunshot victims: five declared fatalities on scene, three victims conveyed to hospital, including a 70-year-old in critical condition, a 20-year-old in serious condition, and a 14-year-old in moderate to serious condition,” the MDA said. Police said the gunman was “neutralized” at the scene.


Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin

Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin
Updated 27 January 2023

Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin

Palestinians denounce unprovoked killing of woman in Jenin
  • Majida Obaid, 61, was in her home when Israeli soldiers shot her

RAMALLAH: The killing of a Palestinian woman, along with eight men, by Israeli soldiers during Thursday’s attack on Jenin has been widely condemned.

Majida Obaid, 61, was inside her house and posed no danger to the attacking force, Palestinian sources in Jenin told Arab News.

The killing has left people in the city, as well as her family, in a deep state of shock.

Her daughter, Kifaya Obaid, 26, a government employee, told Arab News that around 9 a.m. after her mother had finished prayers, she heard heavy gunfire in the area directly opposite their house.

“She opened a window to find out what was going on. And I was surprised that after less than a minute that she was hit with a bullet in her neck. She fell off the chair on the ground bleeding.”

Kifaya started screaming and tried to close the bleeding wound with her hands. Volunteer paramedics came in to provide first aid, but the Israeli forces began shooting at them. They pulled Majida out of the room to avoid being hit again.

Majida, a mother of five daughters and a son, lived in Jenin with two of her daughters, Kifaya and Shireen.

Kifaya described her mother as a simple, religious person who always prayed to God to die a martyr. She was fasting when she was killed, Kifaya said.

“This is the first time the Israeli soldiers targeted my house and my family with such brutality; they were shooting at every moving target,” Kifaya said.

“A house without the mother’s presence would be difficult to live in, but I am proud that I became a martyr’s daughter,” Kifaya said.

As soon as her death was confirmed, her father, 58-year-old Omar Obaid, who works in a factory in Israel, returned home to attend his wife’s funeral.

One of their married daughters lives in Beersheba, southern Israel, and another in Jordan. The funeral was delayed until the family members arrived.

Kifaya said she could still not understand why Israeli soldiers would target her mother while she was inside her house, adding she was unsure whether there would be a fair investigation into the killing.

“I do not trust their investigations because no one is held accountable. The example of what happened to Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh confirms my belief,” she said.

Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American journalist who worked as a reporter for Al Jazeera for 25 years, was killed by an Israeli soldier on May 11, 2022, while reporting on an Israeli raid in Jenin.

Omar Obeid told Arab News that the “despicable Israeli occupation does not discriminate between a woman or a child.”

He added: “What do we expect from these haters? Majida was sitting in her house when bullets were fired at her directly, killing her. She did not resist and did not shoot at the army to be targeted in such a horrible manner.

“We do not trust their investigations. They were shooting randomly, and no army in the world shoots randomly like these killers.

“I never expected that this would happen. My life will be difficult and harsh after her death, and I will miss her a lot.”

Majida is the first woman to be killed in Jenin this year. Last year, the total death toll in the city as a result of clashes with Israel reached 59, including 34 civilians.

 


Lebanon ‘following in Venezuela’s footsteps’

A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 January 2023

Lebanon ‘following in Venezuela’s footsteps’

A customer wearing gloves holds Lebanese pounds at a currency exchange store in Beirut. (REUTERS)
  • Economist Jassem Ajaka told Arab News: “We are following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The central bank’s intervention to stop the local currency from depreciating this fast will not work as long as there is no government action”

BEIRUT: In less than 24 hours, Lebanon’s currency dropped in value by over 10,000 Lebanese pounds, with the exchange rate nearing 70,000 to the dollar — a plunge that comes at a time when Lebanese were dreading the exchange rate reaching 50,000 to the dollar.

Economist Jassem Ajaka told Arab News: “We are following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The central bank’s intervention to stop the local currency from depreciating this fast will not work as long as there is no government action.”

Ajaka said he believed that the problem lay in the Lebanese structure, lack of confidence in politics and judges, and the conflict with the international community over Lebanon’s failure to pay its debts.

To avoid losses, commercial and service institutions priced their products based on a much higher exchange rate, in anticipation of further devaluation. Such action significantly decreased citizens’ purchasing power.

The price of a 20-liter canister of fuel jumped by 147,000 Lebanese pounds within 24 hours, reaching 1,147,000 LBP ($19 based on the exchange rate of 60,000 LBP/USD), which is equivalent to the salary of a public sector employee.

The unstable exchange rate pushed the owners of grocery stores to either close for the day or stop selling certain products.

More protesters took to the streets in rural Lebanese areas on Friday, blocking roads with burning tires. The Baalbek International Road was completely cut off in protest against the economic situation. Protesters also blocked Al-Minya International Road in northern Lebanon in both directions, in protest against the deteriorating living conditions.

The Ministry of Economy issued a decision raising the price of a big bundle of Arab bread to 29,000 LBP (48 cents).

With prices soaring, some taxi drivers opted to stay in one region to avoid wasting fuel in traffic jams, constantly changing their fares depending on the exchange rate.

For the first time ever, the pharmacists’ syndicate in Lebanon called on its members to close their pharmacies in protest against the current situation.

“Pharmaceutical suppliers and warehouse owners completely stopped delivering medicines nearly a week ago. The syndicate of pharmaceutical importers will only deliver medicines now based on a daily issued price list, similar to gas stations,” the syndicate said in a statement.

Joe Salloum, head of the syndicate, said: “The price differences between the Ministry of Health index and the exchange rate on the black market are among the reasons that almost led to the sector completely collapsing.”

Robert, a pharmacist in Beirut, said that he sold a medicine based on the exchange rate of 50,000 LBP/USD, according to the Ministry of Health index, but the exchange rate on the black market later reached 61,000 LBP/USD, which means he can no longer buy the same medicine without incurring losses.

“Whatever I sell, I can no longer buy. Suppliers are barely delivering drugs and the exchange rate is always changing. Meanwhile, the list of missing medicines keeps getting longer,” he added.

Last week, the hospitals’ syndicate resorted to adopting a procedure that requires patients registered with the National Fund of Social Security to pay for the required medicines, because the state is unable to cover their costs for hospitals due to the unstable exchange rate.

Antoine Yammine, head of the syndicate of owners and investors of domestic gas cylinder filling plants, warned on Friday of the forced closure of plants due to the insane devaluation of the Lebanese pound, as the price of a domestic gas cylinder exceeded 730,000 LBP, about $12 (based on the exchange rate of 60,000 LBP/USD).

Yammine said: “Yesterday, the price list was priced according to the exchange rate of 60,600 LBP/USD, but it jumped to 64,000 LBP/USD on the back market today, which means that yesterday’s sales were all losses. Our capital is eroding by the day. The authorities must put an end to this farce.”

Meanwhile, parliamentary blocs are yet to agree on the election of a new Lebanese president.

Opposition MPs met on Friday after they had participated in Thursday’s protests of the families of the victims of the port explosion in front of the Ministry of Justice after Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oueidat released all those that Judge Tarek Bitar had had arrested.

The MPs issued a statement, saying: “We support the demand for holding Judge Oueidat accountable for the flagrant violations he has committed,” expressing their rejection of removing Judge Bitar and assigning another judge to handle the probe.

They also warned against the dangers created by the presidential vacuum. They reiterated their call and commitment to the provisions of the constitution, which stipulate that parliament is an electoral body that convenes regularly until a president is elected.

Judge Bitar is expected to proceed with his investigations, despite all the judicial objections to the legal study that he referred to in order to resume his work after a 13-month hiatus.

Next week’s interrogation sessions are scheduled to begin on Feb. 6 with MP Ghazi Zeaiter and former minister Mohad Al-Machnouk.

Members of the Supreme Judicial Council and its head Judge Suhail Abboud are still at odds over the fate of Bitar, who is in charge of the probe into the Beirut Port explosion.

 


Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation
Updated 27 January 2023

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation

Algeria, Jordan parliament speakers discuss cooperation
  • Jordanian official said MPs must overcome legislative obstacles to boost cooperation between the two countries

AMMAN: Jordan’s lower house speaker Ahmed Safadi and Algeria’s lower assembly speaker Ibrahim Boghali met in Algeria to discuss enhancing cooperation.
Safadi said: “We are proud of the level of strong relations between the two countries, which culminated in a summit that brought together King Abdullah II and his brother President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, last month in Algiers.”
He noted the importance of building on the summit recommendations and that MPs must overcome legislative obstacles to further cooperation, Jordan’s News Agency reported on Friday.
Boghali said Algeria supported the Hashemite Custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem. He said issues discussed in the summit between Tebboune and King Abdullah demonstrated the importance of the Palestinian cause for both countries.