Israeli refusal of Lebanon’s revisions threatens maritime border demarcation agreement

Special Israeli refusal of Lebanon’s revisions threatens maritime border demarcation agreement
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Israeli naval vessels off Rosh Hanikra, close to the Lebanese border, northern Israel, May 4, 2021. (Reuters)
Special Israeli refusal of Lebanon’s revisions threatens maritime border demarcation agreement
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Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll said Israel’s security cabinet, a generally secret forum for approving key strategic affairs, would meet at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT) to discuss the draft. (Twitter/@idanroll)
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Updated 06 October 2022

Israeli refusal of Lebanon’s revisions threatens maritime border demarcation agreement

Israeli refusal of Lebanon’s revisions threatens maritime border demarcation agreement
  • Michel Aoun said the revisions guarantee Lebanon’s rights to explore for oil and gas in the fields specified in the exclusive economic zone
  • Israel announced on Thursday that it rejects the amendments requested by Lebanon to the US proposal

BEIRUT: Israel rejected revisions requested by Lebanon to a US-brokered border demarcation proposal on Thursday, throwing into doubt years of diplomatic efforts to enable the two countries to extract gas in a disputed part of the Mediterranean.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said the revisions made by Lebanon on the deal with Israel guarantee Lebanon’s rights to explore for oil and gas in the fields specified in the exclusive economic zone.

He added Lebanon’s revisions prevent any interpretations that do not apply to the framework that Lebanon specified for the demarcation process during the indirect, months-long negotiations handled by the US mediator, Amos Hochstein.

Israel announced on Thursday that it rejects the amendments requested by Lebanon to the US proposal.

A Lebanese official said: “Lebanon will consult Hochstein to know if they rejected the amendments fully or in part, or if they just have their own comments on the proposal.”

Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab, who is following up on the negotiations with Hochstein, said he is contacting him every hour to resolve the outstanding issues.

Reuters quoted an Israeli official as saying that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid “was updated on the details of the substantial changes Lebanon is seeking to make in the agreement and instructed the negotiating team to reject them.”

According to Israeli media, Israel will not give up its security and economic interests, even if that means that there will be no agreement soon.

“Israel will produce gas from the Karish rig as soon as it is possible to do so. If Hezbollah or anyone else tries to damage the Karish rig or threaten us, the negotiations on the maritime line will stop immediately,” the Israeli official said, noting: “Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will have to explain to the Lebanese why they do not have a gas field and an economic future.”

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz warned: “The state of Lebanon will bear a heavy military price if Hezbollah attacks and the maritime border demarcation agreement with Lebanon will harm Iran’s interests.”

Lapid and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are locked in a fierce political battle ahead of the Israeli parliamentary elections, scheduled for early November.

“The intense pressure exerted by my friends and me, made Lapid withdraw from the agreement that would have surrendered Israeli rights to Lebanon,” Netanyahu said.

The Israeli media quoted Netanyahu as saying: “Israel needs a different leadership, an experienced and strong prime minister who resists pressure,” adding: “We will not let Israel surrender to Nasrallah.”

The US proposal was initially welcomed by both Israel and Lebanon until the latter suggested some revisions during a meeting on Monday between Aoun, Parliament Speak Nabih Berri, and Caretaker Prike Minister Najib Mikati, and handed them over to the US Ambassador to Beirut Dorothy Shea.

According to Israeli media, the main sticking point was over recognition of a line of demarcation buoys that Israel has strung out to sea from its coast.

Lebanon reiterated that the so-called line of buoys is meaningless and does not exist.

Lebanese media reported that Lebanon requested “to cross out the phrase Blue Line when referring to the borders, and to stress that Lebanon adheres to its international borders.”

Lebanon also suggested renaming the “possible southern Sidon reservoir” as the “Sidon-Qana field,” and clarified that this field will be “developed by Lebanon and for the benefit of Lebanon.”

About the companies that will operate in offshore fields, the US proposal stipulates that they “shall not be subject to US sanctions,” but Lebanon demanded replacing this phrase with “to be subject to international sanctions.”

The US proposal also stipulated that “Israel does not object to any measures taken in the Qana field from the side beyond Line 23.” Lebanon requested that the phrase be amended to “Israel does not and will not object” as a future guarantee.

Lebanon objected to the phrase “financial compensation,” and said that if there is a financial settlement between the operating company and Israel, then “Lebanon is not interested.”

Other demands from Lebanon included amending the phrase “the US will contribute to facilitating the work of gas-extracting companies after the agreement,” calling on the US to facilitate the work of gas-extracting companies “directly and quickly” once an agreement with Israel is reached.

There was no immediate response from Hezbollah on the new Israeli position. Nasrallah had stated over the weekend that Hezbollah supports the official Lebanese stance on the issue of maritime borders and oil and gas rights.

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Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests
Updated 8 sec ago

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests

Iran’s World Cup team gets tepid welcome home, amid protests
BAGHDAD: Iran’s national soccer team received a subdued welcome home after their World Cup defeat against the United States, a match played against the backdrop of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.
One Iranian man was shot dead celebrating the American victory.
The players returned from Qatar late Wednesday, a day after their 1-0 loss. Anti-government protesters, considering the team a symbol of Iran’s clerical rulers, had celebrated the loss in some Iranian cities with fireworks and cheers.
One man was shot dead by Iranian security forces in northwest Iran for honking his car horn in support of the US victory, the Oslo-based rights monitor Iran Human Rights reported on Thursday.
Iran’s treatment of the players will likely be scrutinized because they refrained from singing the Islamic Republic’s national anthem during their opening World Cup match. Many considered the move a show of solidarity with the protests. The team did sang the anthem in subsequent matches.
A few dozen fans greeted the national team’s return at Tehran’s international airport late Wednesday, with people cheering and waving the Iranian flag.
Yet the players have faced biting criticism from anti-government protesters who have blamed the team for not being more vocal about the security force’s violent put down of the demonstrations. Human rights groups say over 400 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, with thousands more arrested.
An image of players bowing in the presence of President Ebrahim Raisi before setting off to the tournament was widely criticized by activists on social media. A hard-line cleric, Raisi has likened protesters to “flies” and dismissed the movement as a foreign plot, without offering any proof.
Mehran Samak, 27, was shot dead after honking his car in support of the US win after Tuesday’s match in the city of Bandar Anzali in northwest Iran. Oslo-based Iran Human Rights reported he was “shot in the head by state forces when he went out to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s loss.”
Samak is also a childhood friend of Iranian midfielder Saeed Ezatollahi, who mourned his death on his social media. But again he received criticism from activists for not explicitly stating Samak was killed by government forces.
Many Iranian celebrities have however been targeted by the government with arrest or other measures for speaking out on behalf of the protesters.
Iranian officials acknowledged but downplayed compatriots celebrating the US win. Gen. Hossein Salami, chief of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, said those who had celebrated were doing so on “behalf of the enemies,” adding “it is not important to us.” His comments appeared in the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
A former culture minister and editor-in-chief of the Ettelaat newspaper, Abbas Salehi, who has close ties with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tweeted: “Iran’s defeat in the game against America was bitter, but even more bitter was the happiness of some people.”
Iran was eliminated from the tournament in Qatar following the loss to the US on Tuesday that saw the players scrambling to score a goal in the last remaining minutes of the game. Striker Sardar Azmoun told reporters he was not satisfied with his performance in the last match.
It was the sixth time Iran has participated in the World Cup.
Anti-government protests first erupted in September, following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police in the capital, Tehran. The protests quickly grew into the most serious challenge to Iran’s theocracy since its establishment in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
Updated 01 December 2022

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency

Lebanon MPs again fail to fill vacant presidency
  • Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October

BEIRUT: Lawmakers in crisis-hit Lebanon failed to elect a new president on Thursday for an eighth time, despite the deepening impact of the political deadlock on the country’s economic woes.

Lebanon has been without a head of state for a month after president Michel Aoun left office at the end of October with no successor.

Parliament is split between supporters of the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement and its opponents, neither of whom have a clear majority.

Lawmaker Michel Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States, won the support of 37 lawmakers Thursday — well short of the required majority — while 52 spoilt ballots were cast, mainly by pro-Hezbollah lawmakers.

Only 111 of parliament’s 128 lawmakers showed up for the vote.

Some MPs wrote in mock choices on their ballots, with one vote cast for Brazil’s leftist president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Parliament is “not shouldering its responsibilities,” charged lawmaker Antoine Habchi of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party opposed to Hezbollah.

Electing a president, naming a prime minister and forming a government can take months or even years of political horse-trading.

Lebanon can ill-afford a prolonged power vacuum as it grapples with a financial crisis dubbed by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history, with a currency in free fall, severe electricity shortages and soaring poverty rates.

The country’s caretaker government is unable to enact the sweeping reforms demanded by international lenders as a condition for releasing billions of dollars in bailout loans.

Hezbollah opposes Moawad’s candidacy, and the Iran-backed group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah called last month for a president ready to stand up to the United States.

Moawad has good relations with Washington and has repeatedly called for the disarming of Hezbollah — the only faction to keep its weapons after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Former president Aoun’s own election in 2016 followed a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts before reaching a consensus on his candidacy.

By convention, Lebanon’s presidency goes to a Maronite Christian, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shiite Muslim.

Parliament is expected to convene for a new attempt to elect a president on December 8.


Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry
Updated 01 December 2022

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry

Two killed in Israeli West Bank raid – Palestinian health ministry
  • Israeli media: The two men killed were commanders in the Islamic Jihad militant group
  • The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank

JERUSALEM: Two Palestinians were killed Thursday during an Israeli military raid in a militant stronghold in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
Reports by Israeli media said the two men killed were commanders in the Islamic Jihad militant group. The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the men as Naeem Jamal Zubaidi, 27, and Mohammad Ayman Saadi, 26, but did not confirm whether they were militants.
According to the reports, the military was conducting an arrest raid in the city of Jenin and was met by gunfire. The military responded, killing the two men.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The military has been conducting months of arrest raids in the West Bank, prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the spring that killed 19 people. The military says the raids are meant to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks, but the Palestinians say they entrench Israel’s open-ended occupation and undermine their own security forces.
The raids have ratcheted up tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, triggering another wave of Palestinian attacks in recent weeks that have killed an additional eight people.
More than 130 Palestinians have been killed this year, making 2022 the deadliest since 2006. The Israeli military says many of those killed have been militants but local youths protesting the incursions as well as others not involved in the violence have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians want those territories for their hoped-for future state. Substantive peace talks were last held more than a decade ago, and with Israel headed toward what’s likely to be its most right-wing government ever, there appears to be no prospect for a negotiated solution in the near future.


UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time
Updated 01 December 2022

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time

UAE’s lunar mission postponed for second time
  • A new launch date will be shared in the coming days

DUBAI: The UAE’s lunar mission has been postponed for the second time on Thursday, SpaceX said.

The Japanese HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander, carrying the UAE’s 10-kilogram Rashid rover aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, was due to take off at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US.

“After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, we’re standing down from tomorrow’s launch of ispace inc.’s HAKUTO-R Mission 1,” said SpaceX in a statement.

A new launch date will be shared in the coming days, the company added.

 

 

If Rashid rover successfully lands on the moon, it will be the Arab world’s first lunar mission, placing the UAE as the fourth country to reach the moon.

The mission would also see the first spacecraft funded and built by a private Japanese firm to land on the moon.

Rashid rover is the latest of the UAE’s endeavors in space exploration after successfully launching an unmanned probe to Mars in the first Arab mission to the red planet.


Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria

Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria
Updated 01 December 2022

Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria

Pentagon chief warns Turkiye against new military operation in Syria

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday told his Turkish counterpart of his “strong opposition” to a new Turkish military operation in Syria and voiced concern over the escalating situation in the country, the Pentagon said.

Austin, in the call, expressed condolences over a Nov. 13 attack in Istanbul, the Pentagon said.

“He also expressed concern over escalating action in northern Syria and Turkey, including recent airstrikes, some of which directly threatened the safety of US personnel who are working with local partners in Syria to defeat ISIS,” it said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State militant group.

“Secretary Austin called for de-escalation, and shared the Department’s strong opposition to a new Turkish military operation in Syria.”