More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis

More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis
Lebanese lawmaker Firas Hamdan is seen with lawmakers Najat Saliba, Halime El Kaakour and others during a sit-in at the Lebanese parliament to pile pressure on dominant factions to elect a new president, in Beirut on January 20, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 January 2023

More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis

More MPs join sit-in inside Lebanon’s parliament amid political crisis
  • ‘We are not protesting, we are applying the law,’ Reformist MP says
  • The MP added that article 75 stipulated that the deputies had turned into an electoral body and “we don’t have the right to perform any other role.”

BEIRUT: More MPs have joined independent lawmakers staging a sit-in inside Lebanon’s 128-seat parliament to protest at the ongoing vacuum of power.
Protesters held their own sit-in outside parliament in solidarity with MPs angry at the failure to elect a new president.
Reformist MPs Najat Saliba and Melhem Khalaf launched their protest in the plenary hall of parliament last Thursday to put pressure on factions to elect a president, nearly three months on from the post falling vacant.
Reformist MPs Halima Kaakour and Firas Hamdan joined the protesters on Friday night, in addition to George Okais and Razi Al-Hajj from Lebanese Forces.
Khalaf told Arab News: “We are not protesting; we are applying the law.
“We don’t have the right to complain, as the Lebanese people have been living for months without electricity and services.
“Our presence in the plenary hall shows the people that patience results in a functional country.
“We don’t want to convey helplessness to the people.
“Our legal duties compel us, pursuant to article 74 of the constitution, to be present in the parliament without invitation and elect a president without any conditions.”
The MP added that article 75 stipulated that the deputies had turned into an electoral body and “we don’t have the right to perform any other role.”
He added: “Some 26 deputies have arrived in the plenary hall to confirm the eligibility of the step we took.”
Independent deputy Abdel Rahman Al-Bizri said: “There should be a democratic political breakthrough inside parliament. It is the only solution for the crisis.
“The deputies inside the parliament are not staging a protest, but carrying out their duties.
“The parliament has a real chance to carry out its role and elect a president away from any foreign and regional considerations.”
Al-Bizri believes that the action initiated by Khalaf and Saliba may have helped bring matters to a head after 11 failed electoral sessions.
He emphasized that the main purpose of the move was to protect the Lebanese presidential and parliamentary system.
Okais said: “What’s needed is to unify the opposition against Hezbollah and its allies and turn the presidential elections into a purely Lebanese process, if the intentions are good.
“We don’t mind holding a dialogue to discuss a presidential candidate other than Michel Moawad, provided he’s a reformist and sovereign candidate.”
Okais added that he had told the protesting deputies in the hall that what they were doing was “a noble act,” but added he had questioned what was to follow.
He highlighted what he termed a strategic and ideological divergence between the protesting MPs.
He said: “If the opposition does not agree on one name, then the protest will be in vain and similar to climbing up a tree without knowing how to get down.”
Progressive Socialist Party MP Bilal Abdallah said it was necessary to “follow a new dynamic when tackling the presidential election.”
He added: “We don’t boycott nor disrupt the process, but we urge everyone to hold more dialogue that actually generates effective results, rather than futile ones.”
Regarding the results of dialogue between Hezbollah and the Progressive Socialist Party on the presidential elections, Abdallah said: “It revolved around the need to keep elections away from current political alignments and confrontations, and avoid repeating the scenario of the former mandate.
“Dialogue with other political parties continues in order to reach an internal settlement and turn the presidential election into a purely Lebanese process.
“It seems that foreign countries do not care about Lebanon today, and solutions and follow-ups are not their priority. That’s why we took this step and we won’t stop.”
Lebanon has had neither a president nor a fully empowered Cabinet since Michel Aoun’s term ended in October.


Turkiye embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake

Turkiye embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake
Updated 8 sec ago

Turkiye embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake

Turkiye embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake
  • Rescue operations are underway in both countries as emergency workers look for survivors under the rubble

DUBAI: Turkiye’s embassy in Saudi Arabia has urged the public to avoid spreading misleading information about today’s massive 7.4 magnitude earthquake which devastated parts of the country and neighboring northern Syria, claiming hundreds of lives. 

“It is very important for accurate information to be circulated and disinformation to be fought against,” The Turkish embassy said in a statement to Arab News. 

The embassy also wrote that all rescue work was being coordinated with the country’s national disaster and emergency management agency, AFAD. 

The earthquake, which struck various parts of south-east Turkiye and northern Syria, led to aftershocks felt as far away as Cairo, according to reports. 

The overall death toll from the powerful earthquake rose to at least 360 after health officials in Syria reported 237 deaths in the capital Damascus. 

Rescue operations are underway in both countries as emergency workers look for survivors under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

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Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement
Updated 06 February 2023

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement
  • The Palestinian health ministry said three people had been wounded
  • Israeli forces have carried out months of raids in the West Bank in the wake of a spate of deadly attacks in Israel last year

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed a number of armed fighters during a raid on a refugee camp near the city of Jericho on Monday aimed at capturing suspected Hamas militants, according to a statement from the Israeli military.
It said the targets of the raid were suspected of an attempted attack on a restaurant in the Israeli settlement of Vered Yeriho on Jan. 28.
The Palestinian health ministry said three people had been wounded, one critically but it gave no details on any dead.
The raid came during a period of heightened tensions that have drawn fears of a further escalation in violence and prompted calls for calm on both sides from the United States and international bodies including the United Nations.
Israeli forces have carried out months of raids in the West Bank in the wake of a spate of deadly attacks in Israel last year and forces have been put on high alert after a lone Palestinian gunman shot seven people near a synagogue on Jan. 27.
The military said Monday’s raid in the Aqabat Jabr camp was aimed at capturing a group of militants belonging to Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, who it said were barricaded in a house in the camp and were planning further operations following the attempted restaurant attack.
On Jan. 28, it said two armed individuals appeared in a restaurant in the Vered Yeriho settlement, where around 30 people were present, but fled before carrying out an attack after a weapon malfunctioned.
Over the past week, it said security forces had conducted a number of operations to try to find and arrest the suspects.


Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises
Updated 42 min 50 sec ago

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises

Powerful quake topples homes in Turkiye, Syria; death toll rises
  • The total death toll reached 360 on both sides
  • Buildings collapsed in a swath from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkey’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers to the northeast

RIYADH/ANKARA: The overall death toll from the powerful earthquake that struck southeast Turkiye and northern Syria on Monday rose to 360 as health officials in the Syrian capital of Damascus reported that 237 people died in government-held areas of the country. Hundreds more were reported injured in both countries.
Rescue workers and residents frantically searched for survivors under the rubble of crushed buildings in multiple cities on both sides of the border. In one quake-struck Turkish city, dozens pulled away chunks of concrete and twisted metal. People on the street shouted up to others inside a partially toppled apartment building, leaning dangerously.

In the Turkish city of Adana, one resident said three buildings near his home collapsed. “I don’t have the strength anymore,” one survivor could be heard calling out from beneath the rubble, as rescue workers tried to reach him, said Muhammet Fatih Yavus a resident. Further east in Diyarbakir, cranes and rescue teams rushed people on stretchers out of a mountain of pancaked concrete floors that was once an apartment building.

At least 20 aftershocks followed, some hours later during daylight, the strongest measuring 6.6, Turkish authorities said. The agency said 440 people were injured.

The death toll in government-held areas of Syria climbed to 237 with more than 630 injured, according to Syrian state media. At least 47 people were reported killed in rebel-held areas.

Buildings collapsed in a swath from Syria’s cities of Aleppo and Hama to Turkiye’s Diyarbakir, more than 330 kilometers to the northeast.

On the Syrian side of the border, the quake smashed opposition-held regions that are packed with some 4 million people displaced from other parts of Syria by the country’s long civil war. Many of them live in decrepit conditions with little health care, with Russian-backed Syrian forces surrounding the area and sometimes carrying out airstrikes. Rescue workers said hospitals in the area were packed.
“We fear that the deaths are in the hundreds,” Muheeb Qaddour, a doctor, said by phone from the town of Atmeh, referring to the entire rebel-held area. Raed Salah, the head of the White Helmets, the emergency organization in opposition areas, said whole neighborhoods were collapsed in some areas.
 

The quake, felt as far away as Cairo, was centered north of the city of Gaziantep in an area about 90 kilometers from the Syrian border.
On the Turkish side, the area has several large cities and is home to millions of Syrian refugees.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that “search and rescue teams were immediately dispatched” to the areas hit by the quake.
“We hope that we will get through this disaster together as soon as possible and with the least damage,” he wrote.


Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu urged people not to enter damaged buildings due to the risks. “Our priority is to bring out people trapped under ruined buildings and to transfer them to hospitals,” he said.
At least 130 buildings tumbled down in Turkiye’s Malatya province, neighboring the epicenter, Gov. Hulusi Sahin said. In the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, at least 15 buildings collapsed. Rescue teams called for silence as they listed for survivors in a toppled 11-story building.
In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas. Emergency rooms were full of injured, said Amjad Rass, president of the Syrian American Medical Society.

U.S. President Biden directed USAID and other federal government partners to assess response options to the most affected areas in the Turkiye and Syria earthquake, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday.
The United States is profoundly concerned by the reports of the destructive earthquake, he said.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered 18 kilometers deep, and a strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.
Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.
In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.

The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.
The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.
Turkiye sits on top of major fault lines and is frequently shaken by earthquakes.
Some 18,000 were killed in powerful earthquakes that hit northwest Turkiye in 1999.

The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.

Cetizens from as far as Jerusalem and Beirut talked of being awakened by the strong shaking. "I live in Gaziantep, Türkiye.  Was sleeping when it started. Absolutely terrifying," Nasip (@iam_nasib) commented on a video posted on Twitter.

"Felt it in Jerusalem," said Amy di Nardò (@amybellabella).

Sagittarius (@JRsagittarius) said he was in Beirut and the experienced "was terrifying."

Karolingston (@karolingston) of Cyprus said he was awakened because "My bed was shaking."

"Felt it in Lebanon. It was a hell of a feeling!" chimed in CharbelRahmé (@charbelrahm_e)

Turkiye is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

Duzce was one of the regions hit by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkiye in decades.

That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.

Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.

And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.

(With agencies)


Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
  • Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkiye last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Daesh suspects on Sunday.
Ankara summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday to criticize their decisions to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts. Turkish officials said the following day that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.
“The other day our foreign ministry summoned all of them and gave the necessary ultimatum, told them ‘You will pay for this heavily if you keep this up,’” Erdogan said during a meeting with youth that was pre-recorded and broadcast on Sunday.
Alongside the closures, several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkiye, following a series of far-right protests in Europe in recent weeks that included several incidents of burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an.
Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned.
Erdogan said that the Western states were “playing for (more) time” and that the “necessary decisions” would be taken during Monday’s cabinet meeting, without elaborating.
’NO CONCRETE THREATS’
Earlier on Sunday, police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners in the detentions of 15 Daesh suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported.
Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship.”
While the suspects’ ties to the jihadist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated on Saturday Turkiye’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities that Ankara accuses of terrorist activity. All 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.
Turkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.
 

 


Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
Updated 05 February 2023

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
  • Calls grow for deeper investigation into motivations and protection of youngsters amid shock and despair

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Security services of the southern Yemeni city of Taiz said that two children committed suicide in two separate events on Saturday, leaving the beleaguered population in shock and despair.

Police in Taiz said in a statement that they were notified of two suicide victims in the city on Saturday evening, citing the deaths as “dangerous precedents.”

Police named the first child as 12-year-old Kareem Abdul Kareem from the Al-Jamhuria neighborhood, who hanged himself inside his room on Saturday afternoon by tying a scarf around his neck.

Ammar Khaled, a 16-year-old who committed suicide on Saturday evening by wrapping a rope around his neck and tying it to a door outside his family’s home, is the second victim. 

After forensic investigators gathered photographs and evidence, his family requested his burial on the same day. 

Police in Taiz pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the victims and have asked the community and professionals for assistance in determining the reasons behind the suicides.

In a statement, police urged both authorities and members of the public “to collaborate…in order to provide the appropriate answers.”

Mohammed Alawi, an investigator with police in Taiz, told Arab News that a team, including social and psychiatric professionals, was looking into the cases and would release their findings this week.

Initially, Alawi ruled out the possibility of cyberbullying or even sexual harassment and attributed the deaths of the two children to the mobile game PUBG. 

“These are risky games, and we advise parents to monitor their children’s mobile devices to see what they are seeing or playing,” Alawi said.

He also touched on other instances of suicide, which he blamed on psychological suffering caused by the war.

“Women and children in Yemen, particularly in besieged Taiz, have suffered emotionally because of the war. We had never seen such crimes before the war,” he said.  

On social media, the police statement and photographs of the two deceased children have elicited condolences for the families and calls for an investigation into the motivations behind the suicides and for the protection of children.

“You should investigate with the family about the electronic games they played, such as PUBG, and whether they have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts,” said Adnan Taha on Facebook.

“All communications should be reviewed, since (the children) may be vulnerable to harassment and extortion,” Taha said.

Another social media user, Muneir Al-Qaisi, urged local security agencies not to bury the victims before autopsies are conducted to determine whether they consumed anything poisonous.

“We hope you will not hurry to bury them and (will) examine their bodies,” Al-Qaisi said. 

“It is conceivable that the parents are unaware of beverages or meals being shared among the children,” said Al-Qaisi.

Investigator Alawi responded to accusations of a hasty burial by stating that one of the boys was buried at the request of his family and only after investigators examined both the corpse and the scene.

“He was buried after forensic teams examined the scene, photographed it, and performed investigations. Additionally, his relatives requested burial from the prosecution,” Alawi said.