Private owners light Beirut streets after state switches off

Special Private owners light Beirut streets after state switches off
Beirut in darkness during power outage in 2021. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 19 July 2023

Private owners light Beirut streets after state switches off

Private owners light Beirut streets after state switches off
  • Business chief issues ‘ghost town’ warning amid economic collapse
  • Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi: ‘Beirut loves light and will remain in the light’

BEIRUT: Beirut Municipality is using electricity provided by private generator owners to restore lighting to city streets plunged into darkness by Lebanon’s crippling economic crisis.

Street lighting returned to the heart of the capital on Tuesday night, a move that came after one business leader warned the capital had become a “ghost town.”

“Beirut loves light and will remain in the light,” Bassam Mawlawi, the interior minister, said in response to the initiative.

“Lighting Beirut helps stabilize security and helps the security services do their job better.”

Electricity supply in Lebanon has become increasingly erratic over the past three years due to the economic and financial crisis in the country.

In recent months, power has been limited to three or four hours over a 24-hour period, leaving the streets of central Beirut, and its shops, restaurants and cafes, almost empty.

Passers-by have also been exposed to danger because of an increase in theft and pickpocketing amid the economic downturn.

Nicolas Chammas, head of the Beirut Traders Association, told Arab News: “Downtown Beirut has been afflicted by the economic collapse, the pandemic and the Beirut port explosion, which led to its transformation into a ghost town.”

He said the initiative to restore lighting to city streets is a “very good step” and shows that Beirut has not been abandoned even if the state fails in its duties.

“It also has a symbolic reflection that will have its repercussions in all regions, as the people who abandoned the heart of the city will return, and the owners of restaurants, cafes and shops will be encouraged to reinvest in the area,” Chammas said.

Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud issued a communique in March 2023 requesting all owners of private electric generators in the city to light streets surrounding locations where the generators are concentrated.

Abboud said the owners of private generators use state electricity poles for supply and, in return, must offer street lighting as a “national responsibility to preserve the rights of the residents of Beirut and the rights of the municipality, based on the necessities of the public interest and the requirements of public safety.”

According to Chammas, only about 20 percent of the institutions and businesses in downtown Beirut are currently operating, while many others have left the area, especially after the port explosion three years ago.

One owner of an abandoned shop in the city center estimated it would cost more than $1 million to redevelop the site as a luxury restaurant.

“Unless we are sure that the city has recovered and that we can trust it, neither I nor anyone else will make any costly investment,” he said.

Signs of decay in the heart of the capital are not limited to the dark streets.

A municipality official, who preferred anonymity, said: “The municipality’s condition is appalling. It was the richest municipality in Lebanon, but now it cannot attract any contractor to restore the potholes or clean the walls of the slogans and insults written by the protesters because the state deals in Lebanese pounds, which have lost value, and not in the dollar.”

Lighting, road and traffic signal maintenance contracts have not been renewed for years. Beirut Municipality previously announced a tender for a project to maintain the lighting of Beirut’s streets and tunnels, but there were no bids.

Consequently, according to the source, “contracts are no longer profitable amid the inability to import needed raw materials in dollars and the municipality’s inability to pay except in the local currency. If we want to pay (the costs) according to the market exchange rate, there will be no money left in the municipality’s treasury.”

Meanwhile, thieves are stealing manhole covers, and even electricity cables and copper wire, adding to the strain on city infrastructure.

The private sector role in relighting Beirut’s streets has already introduced to other neighborhoods.

As part of the “Light Your Street” initiative, Beirut Arab University illuminated areas around its campus in cooperation with the Rebirth Beirut Association and Medco Company, under the slogan “From Our Energy to Our Region.”

The nonprofit Makhzoumi Foundation has contributed to lighting many main streets in Beirut using solar energy.

According to Chammas, Lebanon’s tourism sector has flourished this summer thanks to expatriates as well as tourists from Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

However, visitor numbers from the Gulf remain low because tourists no longer frequent downtown Beirut as before and are focusing on other attractions in Lebanon.

The Arab Youth Forum for Economic and Social Empowerment will be inaugurated on Thursday in Beirut, the capital’s first Arab activity this year.

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah
Updated 59 min 30 sec ago

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah
  • One Israeli airstrike kills six people in Zawayda town in central Gaza
  • An Israeli airstrike killed three people in a car in Deir Al-Balah

CAIRO: Israeli forces bombarded the Gaza Strip’s historic refugee camps in the center of the enclave and struck Gaza City in the north on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, and tanks pushed deeper into Rafah in the south, health officials and residents said.
One Israeli airstrike killed six people in Zawayda town in central Gaza and two other people were killed in a strike on a house in Bureij camp. An Israeli air strike killed three people in a car in Deir Al-Balah, a city packed with people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza, health officials said.
In Gaza City in the north, medics said two Palestinians were killed in another airstrike.
The Israeli military said in a statement its forces killed two senior Islamic Jihad commanders in two airstrikes in Gaza City, including one whom it said had taken part in the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that triggered the Gaza war.
In Rafah, residents said Israeli tanks advanced deeper in the western side of the city and took position on a hilltop there. The Israeli military said forces located several tunnels and killed several gunmen.
The armed wing of militant group Hamas and its allies said they fired mortar bombs at Israeli forces in southwest Rafah on Thursday.
More than a million people had sought shelter in Rafah from fighting further north, but most have scattered again since Israel launched an offensive in and around the city in May.
The fighting has pushed the 60-bed Red Cross field hospital in Rafah to the brink of capacity, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Thursday.
“The repeated mass casualty events resulting from the unrelenting hostilities have stretched to breaking point the response capacity of our hospital – and all health facilities in southern Gaza – to care for those with life-threatening injuries,” said William Schomburg, head of the ICRC’s subdelegation in Gaza.
More than nine months into the war, Palestinian fighters led by Hamas are still able to attack Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, occasionally firing rocket barrages into Israel.
Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages in the Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli tallies. More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then, Gaza health authorities say.
On Tuesday, Israel said it had eliminated half of the leadership of Hamas’ military wing and killed or captured about 14,000 fighters since the start of the war. Israel says 326 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
Hamas doesn’t release figures of casualties among its ranks and said Israel was exaggerating to portray a “fake victory.”
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators to halt the hostilities, backed by the United States, appear on hold, though all sides say they are open to more talks, including Israel and Hamas.
A deal would aim to end the war and release Israeli hostages in Gaza in return for many Palestinians jailed by Israel.
Hamas was awaiting an Israeli response to a ceasefire offer drafted by the United States based on ideas announced by President Joe Biden, a Palestinian official close to the mediation effort said.
“The feeling in Hamas is that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is stalling and that he might not say anything before he goes to the United States next week,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say
Updated 39 min 47 sec ago

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say
  • The brothers were killed in a shoot-out with security officers

MUSCAT: Perpetrators in the shooting that targeted a Shi’ite mosque in Oman’s Wadi al-Kabir area near the capital Muscat were all Omani citizens, state news agency ONA said on Thursday.

The perpetrators were brothers and were killed in a shoot-out with security officers, according to a statement released by the Omani police.

Monday’s shooting killed at least six people -- four Pakistanis, an Indian and an Omani police officer -- and wounded 28, authorities have said.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a rare operation in one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, the group said in a statement on Telegram on Tuesday.

The police said in their statement on Thursday that the perpetrators “were influenced by misguided ideas.”


Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander

Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander
Updated 18 July 2024

Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander

Lebanese media, Hamas-allied group says Israel strike kills commander
  • Jamaa Islamiya, formed in the 1960s, has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against Israel

Beirut, Lebanon: Official media in Lebanon and a Hamas-allied group said one of its commanders had been killed in an Israeli strike on Thursday in the country’s eastern Bekaa valley.
Since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war in the Gaza Strip, Israel has repeatedly targeted the commanders and members of Jamaa Islamiya, whose armed wing in the past nine months has launched attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said that “Jamaa Islamiya commander Mohammed Hamed Jbara” was killed when an “enemy drone” targeted his vehicle in the village of Ghazze, in the Bekaa valley.
Jamaa Islamiya and its armed wing the Fajr Forces in a statement said Jbara, a commander also known as Abu Mahmud, was killed in a “treacherous Zionist raid” in the Bekaa.
Jamaa Islamiya, formed in the 1960s, has claimed responsibility for multiple attacks against Israel, including joint operations with Hamas in Lebanon.
The Fajr Forces, Jamaa Islamiya’s armed wing, was established in 1982 to fight against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
In June, an Israeli strike on a vehicle in east Lebanon killed a Jamaa Islamiya leader who Israel’s military said supplied weapons to the group and to Hamas.
The cross-border violence since October has killed 512 people in Lebanon, mostly fighters — nine of them from Jamaa Islamiya — according to an AFP tally, but also including at least 104 civilians.
On the Israeli side, 17 soldiers and 13 civilians have been killed, according to authorities.
The exchanges of fire — mostly between Hezbollah and Israeli forces — have largely been restricted to the Lebanon-Israel border area, although Israel has repeatedly struck deeper inside Lebanese territory.
The violence has raised fears of all-out conflict between the two foes, who last went to war in the summer of 2006.

Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks

Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks
Updated 18 July 2024

Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks

Far-right Israeli minister visits sensitive Jerusalem holy site, imperiling Gaza ceasefire talks
  • Ben-Gvir said he was pressuring Netanyahu not to give in to international pressure and to continue with the military campaign in Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israel’s far-right national security minister visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday morning, threatening to disrupt Gaza ceasefire talks.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the contested Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of the hostages ″but without a reckless deal.”
Ben-Gvir said he was pressuring Netanyahu not to give in to international pressure and to continue with the military campaign in Gaza.
The move threatens to disrupt sensitive talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire in the 9-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli negotiators landed in Cairo on Wednesday to continue talks.
Ben-Gvir’s visit also came just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for a trip to the United States, where he will address Congress. Ben-Gvir last visited the site in May, to protest countries unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood.
Jews and Muslims both claim the Jerusalem hilltop compound, which is considered the holiest site for Jews.
Palestinians consider the mosque a national symbol and view such visits as provocative, though Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, during tense periods. Tensions over the compound have fueled past rounds of violence.

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 
Updated 18 July 2024

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 

Israel’s Gaza violations in spotlight as Russian foreign minister chairs UN Security Council meeting 
  • Israeli envoy warns council that if full-scale war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran will be to blame 
  • Minister Sergey Lavrov talks of hopes for rapprochement among Gulf states, to overcome their differences and work together to help the Palestinian people 

NEW YORK CITY: Speaking on behalf of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday, his chef de cabinet, Courtenay Rattray, called for the violence in Gaza to end and all parties involved in the conflict to “reach a deal, now.” 

He said the humanitarian situation in the territory has become “a moral stain on us all,” and added: “Amid continued reports of serious abuses against Palestinians in Israeli custody, I reiterate that all detainees must be treated humanely and those held without lawful cause must be released. And this terrible war must end.” 

Speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss Palestine, he underscored the importance of “ensuring that governance is restored in Gaza under a single, legitimate Palestinian government,” support for which is “critical.” 

Riyad Mansour, Palestine’s permanent observer at the UN, accused Israel of killing those people most deserving of protection, “including children, humanitarians, doctors (and) journalists,” and of defying “every nation on earth” and “every organ ever set up to uphold the most fundamental rules.” 

Riyad H. Mansour, permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, addresses delegates during a meeting of the UN Council in New York City on July 17, 2024. (Reuters)

He said: “What is happening in Gaza will go down as the most-documented genocide in history. How cruel could you be? How criminal must you be to bomb the same population, over and over and over again? 

“Israel has manufactured a humanitarian catastrophe with famine as its core, starvation, dehydration and the spread of diseases as ultimate weapons. 

“(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu does not care about Palestinian lives or even the hostages’ lives. He does not care about international law or human decency. He only cares about his own political survival. So what will you do to ensure this lunatic is not the one calling the shots, continuing this genocidal war against the Palestinian people?” 

The Palestinian envoy vowed that his people would live “in freedom and dignity on their ancestral land. They will accept nothing less, they will accept nothing else but fulfilling this right. 

“Being killed, maimed, oppressed, detained, starved, displaced is not our fate. There is a path to peace and prosperity.” 

Mansour called on the Security Council to “strengthen those who seek peace rather than arm those who seek extermination; sanction those who colonize rather than allowing them to punish those who oppose the uprooting and displacement of communities; protect the victims rather than the perpetrators; recognize the state of Palestine rather than witness the destruction of the two-state solution.” 

In his speech to the council, Israel’s envoy to the UN, Gilad Erdan, focused solely on Iran, accusing the regime in Tehran of being “obsessed with killing Jews everywhere, not only in Israel.” 

He said: “Iran has a global reach and it’s exporting its bloodshed and destruction to the four corners of Earth. 

“If one looks at all of the major conflicts in the Middle East, one finds the nefarious fingers of Iran. The people of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and many others have all suffered because of Iran’s attempts to inflame the region.” 

Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan shows a poster during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York City on July 17, 2024. (Reuters)

Erdan said that since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas last year, Israel has also come under assault from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and that “all of the terrorist groups targeting us have one thing in common: they are directed from Tehran.” 

He warned: “If we reach a situation of full-scale war in Lebanon, it is only because Hezbollah has shot thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians with the support and funding of Iran. You cannot say you didn’t know.” 

Erdan also warned the regime in Tehran that if it continues to threaten the region “it will find that its days are numbered. The proud Iranian people have had enough. The good people of the Middle East have had enough and so have we.” 

Russia holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month and the meeting was chaired by Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister. He said a “frank and honest conversation” is needed about how best to immediately stop the bloodshed in Gaza and move toward the long-term settlement of “both long-standing and relatively new conflicts in the region.” 

He added: “From the outset, we have highly valued the constructive potential of the Arab Peace Initiative launched by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2002. At the same time, we respected the decision of a number of Arab states to normalize relations with Israel prior to the resolution of the Palestinian question.” 

Lavrov accused the US of becoming a direct accomplice in the conflict in Gaza “by providing diplomatic cover for Israel's actions and supplying (it with) arms and ammunition, just as it has done with the situation in Ukraine. 

“If the US were to end its support, the bloodshed would stop but the US is either unwilling or unable to do so. It seems its goal is not saving human lives but various maneuvers that would help to score more points during the election campaign.” 

He highlighted the important role the Gulf states can play and said the recent Iranian elections, and initial statements by the country’s new president, Masoud Pezeshkian, give “hope for rapprochement among all the countries of the Gulf in the interests of overcoming long-standing differences and mistrust, and joining efforts to determine the parameters of their own mutual security without external interference, and to speak with one voice to realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people and generally build an architecture of stability and good neighbors.” 

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US representative at the UN, said progress is being made on a ceasefire deal. Israel and Hamas have both agreed to the framework for an agreement, which was endorsed by the Security Council in its adoption of Resolution 2735 on June 10, although there are still gaps to be closed, she said as she called on council members to maintain pressure on Hamas to accept the deal and begin implementing it “without delay and without conditions.” 

She added: “We’re hopeful that a ceasefire in Gaza would assist diplomacy aimed at deescalating the situation along the blue line, which is necessary to enable displaced people in Israel and Lebanon to return home.” 

Thomas-Greenfield condemned in “the strongest terms” the significant increase in deadly violence against Palestinian civilians by extremist settlers in the West Bank, and reiterated Washington’s concern about a recent announcement by Israeli authorities of settlement expansion, which she said is “inconsistent with international law and detrimental to the two-state solution.” 

Slovenia’s envoy, Samuel Zbogar, said: “There is no moral equality between Israel and Hamas. However, the conduct of both actors against civilians is deplorable and constitutes a crime. 

“Neither Hamas nor Israel care about civilians. Hamas is hiding among IDPs (internally displaced persons) and thus endangering lives of their fellow Palestinians, while Israel is showing complete disregard for the suffering of civilians, in (its) pursuit of Hamas.”