US reroutes $72M in aid for wages for Lebanese army, police

US reroutes $72M in aid for wages for Lebanese army, police
The United States is rerouting $72 million of America's assistance to Lebanon to help the cash-strapped government pay wages of its soldiers and police officers. (Lebanese Army Website via AP)
Short Url
Updated 25 January 2023

US reroutes $72M in aid for wages for Lebanese army, police

US reroutes $72M in aid for wages for Lebanese army, police
  • It is the first time the US is allocating funds for wages of security personnel in Lebanon
  • Lebanese leaders, deep in political deadlock, have failed at implementing economic reforms to make the country viable again

BEIRUT: The United States is rerouting $72 million of America’s assistance to Lebanon to help the country’s cash-strapped government boost wages of its soldiers and police officers, the US ambassador said Wednesday.
Washington is a key donor of the Lebanese Army and its 80,000 members, providing over $3 billion in military aid since 2006. The announcement Wednesday is the first time the US is allocating funds for wages of security personnel in Lebanon.
Lebanon is struggling with an unprecedented economic crisis, one that the World Bank says is among the worst worldwide since the 1850s. Three-quarters of the population live in poverty, while the Lebanese pound has lost over 90 percent of its value against the dollar.
Lebanese leaders, deep in political deadlock, have failed at implementing economic reforms to make the country viable again. The economic meltdown has also impoverished Lebanese soldiers and members of the police — two forces that have been rare unifiers in a country deeply divided by sectarian politics. Their inability to pay viable wages and feed their personnel has threatened Lebanon’s overall security and stability.
Before the crisis, an enlisted soldier earned the equivalent of about $800 a month, but that has now dropped to just over $100 due to the devaluation of the pound. A higher-ranking officer’s monthly salary is now worth around $250.
Many security personnel and troops have subsequently left the service or taken up second jobs while the Lebanese Army has resorted to unorthodox fundraising tactics to cover expenses such as offering paid helicopter rides and charging high fees for journalist permits.
The US State Department notified Congress last January of its intention to redirect the funds for military and police wages. Some Republicans in Congress have called for eliminating military aid to Lebanon altogether, citing the growing political power of Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah.
Unlike some other US programs that have covered full wages of allied troops, the assistance announced Wednesday by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea is a one-time action.
It will provide every Lebanese soldier and police officer with an extra $100 a month on top of their wages for the next six months, to soften the blow of the economic crisis. The United Nations Development Program will disburse the funds.
Shea, Lebanon army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun, police chief Maj. Gen. Imad Osman, and the UNDP’s representative to Lebanon, Melanie Hauenstein, announced the aid at a press conference.
“Given these circumstances, we were forced to raise our voice, loudly, and have appealed to the international community for their support and assistance, and this is due to the lack of local solutions,” Aoun said. “The current crisis and its impact might be the most dangerous the Lebanese Army has faced to date.”
Osman admitted that the financial crisis has “impacted the performance” of security personnel.
Shea, meanwhile, renewed calls for the Lebanese government to end the ongoing political paralysis and implement economic reforms that Lebanon has agreed to with the International Monetary Fund.
“Due to the temporary nature of this assistance ... it is incumbent on Lebanon’s leaders to use this time to bring to fruition an IMF program,” Shea said.
Lebanese authorities in April 2022 reached a tentative agreement with the IMF for a recovery plan conditional on a host of economic reforms and anti-corruption measures, but has been sluggish in meeting those demands.
The Lebanese army and security agencies have especially been strained since the economic crisis erupted in late 2019, from having to respond to countrywide mass protests, distribute aid following the massive Beirut Port blast in August 2020 and donate their fuel to hospitals.
“State security forces have essentially been doing more with less, above all because the currency collapse has eviscerated the value of the remuneration they all receive,” said Anthony Elghossain, an adviser at the Newlines Institute think tank in Washington.


Powerful earthquake strikes Turkiye, heavy destruction reported in some cities

Powerful earthquake strikes Turkiye, heavy destruction reported in some cities
Updated 4 min 57 sec ago

Powerful earthquake strikes Turkiye, heavy destruction reported in some cities

Powerful earthquake strikes Turkiye, heavy destruction reported in some cities
  • Temblor felt in neighboring countries, particularly in Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria and Jordan

Videos posted on social networks showed destroyed buildings in several cities in the southeast of the country.

 

 

RIYADH/ANKARA: A powerful earthquake struck Turkiye on early Monday, international earthquake monitors said.

A preliminary report of the German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) measured the quake at Magnitude 7.7, with a shallow depth of 10 kilometers.

The US Geological Survey measured the temblor at 7.9, centered at 7 kilometers from Nurdadi/Gaziantep, in southern Turkey.

USGS said the quake struck at 04:17 am local time (0117 GMT) at a depth of about 17.9 kilometers (11 miles).

The quake was felt as far as Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, and Lebanon, the USGS said.

Turkiye's disaster management agency, AFAD, measured the quake at magnitude 7.4.

USGS reported another shallow 6.7-magnitude quake occurring near the site of the first about 15 minutes after.

The southern region of Gaziantep — one of Turkiye’s key industrial and manufacturing hubs — borders Syria. 

Turkish authorities have not yet reported any deaths or injuries, but videos posted on social networks showed destroyed buildings in several cities in the southeast of the country.

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.


Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
Updated 05 February 2023

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
  • Rachid Karami International Fair has decayed due to conflict, poor maintenance and country’s financial crisis

TRIPOLI: Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crumbling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.
But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recently Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently – and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national program officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architecture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond – but rare – memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions and economic benefits to Tripoli – already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”


Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
Updated 05 February 2023

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
  • Budget for event will instead be used to fund development initiatives
  • Event was set to start later this month

CAIRO: In response to a host of global economic challenges, this year’s World Youth Forum, which was set to start later this month, has been canceled, its organizers said on Saturday.

Instead, the budget for the event, which was to be held in the Egyptian town of Sharm El-Sheikh, will be used to fund the implementation of five development initiatives aimed at young people in Egypt and beyond.

This year would have marked the fifth edition of the forum, with the fourth being held in January last year. The event is organized by the Presidential Program for Qualifying Youth for Leadership.

It said the decision to cancel this year's conference was an acknowledgment of the multiple crises facing the world that have put huge humanitarian and economic pressures on nations and governments.

Among the beneficiaries of the redirected funding is a series of international exchange programs for young people. These will be arranged in cooperation with the Decent Life Foundation, National Alliance for Civil Development Action, Arab Union for Volunteering and UN Volunteers Program.

Parliamentary Counselor Issam Hilal Afifi told Arab News that the proceeds from the sponsorship rights to this year’s forum would be redirected toward a large package of initiatives.

Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud Mahran, secretary-general of the International Committee for the Defense of Water Resources, said the move would also enable recommendations made at the previous forum to be implemented.

The planned initiatives would have a positive impact at the local, African and global level, he said.