Children’s NGO shut down in Lebanon amid trafficking, sexual harassment claims

Children’s NGO shut down in Lebanon amid trafficking, sexual harassment claims
The Village of Love and Peace, a nongovernmental organization in Lebanon, was closed down on Saturday for presenting an “imminent danger” to children. (Facebook)
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Updated 22 July 2023
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Children’s NGO shut down in Lebanon amid trafficking, sexual harassment claims

Children’s NGO shut down in Lebanon amid trafficking, sexual harassment claims
  • Lawyer Diana Assaf claimed on social media that the NGO has committed crimes against Lebanese and Syrian children
  • The NGO cares for several girls, from newborns to 17-year-olds

BEIRUT: A nongovernmental organization in Mount Lebanon was closed down on Saturday for presenting an “imminent danger” to children.
The Village of Love and Peace purported to offer protection and accommodation to abandoned children or those at risk from their parents.
Lawyer Diana Assaf claimed on social media that the NGO has committed crimes against Lebanese and Syrian children.
“Sexual harassment was recorded earlier in the NGO, but what has emerged is the crime of human trafficking,” Assaf said in a video clip on her Instagram page. “The director of the NGO deliberately sold a child to a family in return for money and forged hospital documents and other documents, an act that is considered human trafficking in the penal code.”
The NGO cares for several girls, from newborns to 17-year-olds.
A report by Judge Joelle Bou Haidar following initial investigations stated that Norma Saeed, the director of the NGO, “committed the crime of human trafficking by misleading some families into believing that the infants in her care, who were there by court order, could be adopted without resorting to the court by forging their documents with the help of a village headman and one of the hospitals in exchange for monetary payments.”
The report continued: “She used fraudulent maneuvers, pretending to have two infant girls in her care, while she actually handed them over to two unrelated families without the court’s knowledge or any legal justification.
“The NGO director was also aware that two minors in her care had been sexually harassed by a person named Jebran, who encouraged them and other minors to engage in sexual activity and drug use, which resulted in one of the girls falling in love with him.”
It added: “The girl told investigators that she wished to die since he was already married and could not be with her. The director took no action against Jebran and did not inform the relevant court about him, making her complicit in his crime.”
The report also stated that Saeed “took some minors to a nightclub to celebrate her birthday, allowing them to consume alcohol to the point of intoxication. One of them attempted suicide without any known reason.”
It went on to say that Saeed “threatened the minors with imprisonment if they told the court about what was happening in the NGO. She used abusive language and insults against them. She also took some of the girls to her house to spend the night without the court’s permission, in violation of the NGO’s regulations, and forced them to do cleaning work in the house.”
The investigation also raised suspicions regarding “the NGO’s collaboration with fake organizations to obtain donations and financial amounts in order to fulfill its mission.”
This matter is under investigation by judicial authorities “and falls within the framework of combating corruption for which children pay the price.”
The report noted that the NGO failed to provide “the most basic human rights, such as physical, mental, and health safety, as it lacks the minimum cleanliness standards.”
Judge Bou Haidar “has been investigating the NGO for some time. It turns out that the suffering has been going on for three years,” said Assaf.
Bou Haidar arrested the NGO director and her suspected accomplices for human trafficking, while the allegations of sexual harassment against Jebran are still under consideration by the public prosecution, according to Assaf.
Judges across Lebanon have been told to remove all children from care of the NGO as it is a “source of imminent danger” to them. They have been transferred to another organization.
In its application to the Ministry of Interior, the NGO, established in 2020, claimed that its purpose was to “provide shelter and rehabilitation for those at risk, especially those under the age of seven, and to provide everything that contributes to the development and improvement of their physical and mental abilities.”
The case is the latest in a series of scandals related to children in Lebanon in recent weeks, including revelations of abuse at a private nursery, with a manager and an employee being arrested, as well as cases of infants being abandoned on the street.


UN Security Council to meet Sunday on Iran attack: presidency

UN Security Council to meet Sunday on Iran attack: presidency
Updated 11 sec ago
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UN Security Council to meet Sunday on Iran attack: presidency

UN Security Council to meet Sunday on Iran attack: presidency

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Sunday over Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel, the body’s president said.
A spokesperson for Malta, which holds the rotating presidency this month, told the press Saturday evening that the Security Council was aiming for the meeting to be held at 4 p.m. (2000 GMT) the following the day, at Israel’s request.

In a letter to Security Council President Vanessa Frazier, Israel's Ambassador Gilad Erdan asked the Council to convene a meeting "immediately to unequivocally condemn Iran for these grave violations and immediately act to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization."

"Iran has launched a direct attack from within its territory of more than 200 UAVs, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles towards Israel in clear violation of the UN Charter and international law. Iran has also publicly taken pride in the attack. The attack is a severe and dangerous escalation.

"Iran continues to violate its international obligations, evidenced by today's attack on Israel in violation of Security Council resolution 2231 (2015), and by accelerating the pace of its weapons transfers to Hezbollah in violation of Security Council Resolution 1701. Iran has been the architect of instability for years, through Hamas, the Houthis, Hezbollah and other proxies. But it is now standing front and center in its actions to fulfill its ambition to attack Israel," Erdan wrote.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement condemning the Iranian attack and called for an "immediate cessation of these hostilities."

"I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation. I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East," Guterres said.
 
"I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war," he added.

 


Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media

Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media
Updated 55 min 7 sec ago
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Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media

Egypt air defenses on maximum alert: media
  • The Egyptian foregn ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the events, and called for “maximum restraint” by all sides

CAIRO: Egypt’s air defenses were on “maximum alert” Sunday after Iran launched a drone and missile attack on Israel, a TV channel close to the intelligence services reported, as Cairo warned against an escalation of the conflict.
“A crisis cell ... is closely monitoring the situation and submitting reports to President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi hour by hour,” Al-Qahera News said late Saturday, citing a senior security official.
The Egyptian foregn ministry said it was “deeply concerned” by the events, and called for “maximum restraint” by all sides.
Warning of the risk of a “regional expansion of the conflict,” the ministry said in a statement that it was “in direct contact with all the parties to the conflict to try to contain the situation.”
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, Cairo has sought to walk a delicate tightrope between showing solidarity with the Palestinians while also maintaining its ties with Israel.
It has also hosted several rounds of negotiations seeking to agree a truce in the six-month war.


Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies

Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies
Updated 38 min 46 sec ago
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Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies

Iran and Israel: From allies to deadly enemies
  • Israel has killed more than 33,600 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

PARIS: Israel and Iran have moved from once being firm allies to sworn enemies.
Here is a recap of their volatile relationship over the past half century.

Israel, following its creation in 1948, had close ties with Iran, which becomes the second Muslim country to recognize the Jewish state after Turkiye.
They become allies under the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. At the time, Iran was home to the biggest Jewish community in the Middle East.
The new Jewish state imported 40 percent of its oil from Iran in exchange for weapons, technology and agricultural produce.
Israel’s Mossad spy agency helped train the shah’s feared Savak secret police.

The 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran toppled the shah, dramatically ending the friendship between the two states.
Israel did not recognize the new Islamic Republic.
The ayatollahs considered Israel illegal occupiers of Jerusalem. Informal commercial links remained in place, however.
Islamic Jihad became the first Islamist Palestinian organization to take up arms against Israel in 1980, with Iran as its main backer.
Nonetheless, Israel sent Tehran around 1,500 missiles to help it fight Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war that raged from 1980 to 1988.

Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to counter Palestinian groups based there, going all the way to briefly hold the capital Beirut.
Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps subsequently backed the creation of militant group Hezbollah, which waged a campaign against Israeli forces from Shiite strongholds in southern Lebanon.
Israel blamed Hezbollah for attacks abroad, including in Argentina, where the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy killed 29 people and a 1994 attack on a Jewish community center left 85 dead.

Tensions rose after the election in 2005 of ultra conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who talked on several occasions of bringing an end to Israel and described the Holocaust as a “myth.”
Iran resumed uranium enrichment at Isfahan the same year.
When the Iran nuclear deal was brokered by world powers in 2015, Netanyahu slammed it as an “historic mistake.”
He was the first to congratulate then-US president Donald Trump when he withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018.
Iran has since resumed uranium enrichment.

Officially still at war with Syria, Israel claimed to want to stay out of the civil war that broke out in 2011 and still simmers.
But from 2013 on, Israel — wary of Hezbollah and Iran’s presence on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad — carried out hundreds of air strikes against them in Syria.

Israel began cultivating ties with long-time foe Saudi Arabia, Iran’s main religious and regional rival.
In September 2020 Saudi allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed normalization accords with Israel.
The Unites States sought Israel-Saudi rapprochement, but the efforts were derailed by the Gaza War.

Over the following months Israel accused Iran of attacks on vessels. Iran accused Israel of targeted assassinations and the sabotage of the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz.
Israel was blamed for targeted attacks on Iranians in Syria, including top members of the Revolutionary Guard in 2022 and 2023.
An Israeli airstrike on Iran’s consular annex building in Damascus on April 1, 2024 killed more than a dozen people — including two senior members of the Revolutionary Guards.
US President Joe Biden warned that Iran was “threatening to launch a significant attack on Israel,” promising Israel “ironclad” support.
On April 13 — two weeks after the unprecedented attack on its consular facilities — Iran responded by sending waves of drones from its territory toward Israel, which closed its airspace, as did Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s air defense systems were deployed and that it was prepared for a “direct attack from Iran.”

 


Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby

Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby
Updated 14 April 2024
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Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby

Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby
  • Israel has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Dimona

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military put the northern part of the occupied Golan Heights as well as Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat on standby for possible impact from Iranian drone launches early on Sunday, instructing residents to stay close to bomb shelters.
The Golan was captured from Syria in a 1967 war. Nevatim is the site of an Israeli air base. Israel has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Dimona. Eilat is Israel’s southern Red Sea port, which has come under repeated attack by Yemen’s Houthis.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army said it sounded sirens in a kibbutz near the Lebanon border early Sunday, after Iran launched a drone and missile attack on Israel.
"Sirens sounded in Kibbutz Snir, northern Israel," the army said in a statement.

 

 


Reaction to Iran’s drone, missile attack on Israel

Reaction to Iran’s drone, missile attack on Israel
Updated 55 min 27 sec ago
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Reaction to Iran’s drone, missile attack on Israel

Reaction to Iran’s drone, missile attack on Israel
  • Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby

DUBAI: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said it launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday, in an attack that could lead to a major escalation between the regional archenemies.
Here is some reaction to the attack from official statements and postings on social media:

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU
“In recent years, and especially in recent weeks, Israel has been preparing for a direct attack by Iran. Our defensive systems are deployed; we are ready for any scenario, both defensively and offensively. The State of Israel is strong. The IDF is strong. The public is strong.
“We appreciate the US standing alongside Israel, as well as the support of Britain, France and many other countries. We have determined a clear principle: Whoever harms us, we will harm them. We will defend ourselves against any threat and will do so level-headedly and with determination.”

IRAN’S MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
.”.. Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded.
“However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US MUST STAY AWAY!“

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
“I just met with my national security team for an update on Iran’s attacks against Israel. Our commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.”

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON
“As Israel faces this vicious attack from Iran, America must show our full resolve to stand with our critical ally. The world must be assured: Israel is not alone.”

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTONIO GUTERRES
“I strongly condemn the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by the Islamic Republic of Iran this evening. I call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities.
“I am deeply alarmed about the very real danger of a devastating region-wide escalation. I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East.
“I have repeatedly stressed that neither the region nor the world can afford another war.”

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER RISHI SUNAK
“I condemn in the strongest terms the Iranian regime’s reckless attack against Israel. These strikes risk inflaming tensions and destabilising the region. Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in its own backyard.
“The UK will continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq. Alongside our allies, we are urgently working to stabilize the situation and prevent further escalation. No one wants to see more bloodshed.”

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU
“Canada unequivocally condemns Iran’s airborne attacks against Israel. We stand with Israel. After supporting Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack, the Iranian regime’s latest actions will further destabilize the region and make lasting peace more difficult.
“These attacks demonstrate yet again the Iranian regime’s disregard for peace and stability in the region. We support Israel’s right to defend itself and its people from these attacks.”

GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER ANNALENA BAERBOCK
“Iran has fired drones and missiles at Israel. We strongly condemn the ongoing attack, which could plunge an entire region into chaos. Iran and its proxies must stop this immediately. Israel offers our full solidarity at this time.”

GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL STEFFEN SEIBERT
“Germany’s solidarity is with all Israelis tonight whom Iran is terrorizing with this unprecedented and ruthless attack: Jews as well as Arabs and Christians, the Bedouins in the Negev as well as the Druze in the Golan. May they all be safe.”

FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER STEPHANE SEJOURNE
“France condemns in the strongest terms the attack launched by Iran against Israel. By deciding on such an unprecedented action, Iran is taking a new step in its destabilizing actions and taking the risk of a military escalation.”

EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF JOSEP BORRELL
“The EU strongly condemns the unacceptable Iranian attack against Israel. This is an unprecedented escalation and a grave threat to regional security.”

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT CHARLES MICHEL
“Strongly condemn the attack launched by Iran on Israel. Everything must be done to prevent further regional escalation. More bloodshed must be avoided. We will continue to follow the situation closely with our partners.”

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER PEDRO SANCHEZ
“We are following events in the Middle East with the deepest concern. We are in permanent contact with our embassies in the region which will remain open to support Spaniards in the area.”

DUTCH PRIME MINISTER MARK RUTTE
“Very worrying situation in the Middle East. Earlier today, the Netherlands and other countries sent a loud and clear message to Iran to refrain from attacking Israel. The Netherlands strongly condemns Iran’s attacks on Israel. Further escalation must be prevented. ... We continue to monitor developments very closely.”

DANISH FOREIGN MINISTER LARS LOKKE RASMUSSEN
“Denmark strongly condemns Iran’s announced attack on Israel. I urge everyone to show restraint and deescalate the situation. Iran’s destabilising role in the Middle East is unacceptable — and so is this attack.”

NORWEGIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ESPEN BARTH EIDE
“I condemn the illegal and dangerous Iranian attack underway against Israel. This will further deteriorate an already extremely volatile situation. We must prevent further escalation of violence in the Middle East. I call upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint.”

CZECH REPUBLIC FOREIGN MINISTRY
“Czechia firmly condemns the destabilizing behavior of Iran and its proxies who decided to attack Israel. We reiterate the Israeli right for self-defense. Iran’s long term aggressive behavior is preventing the Middle East region to live in peace and security.”

COLOMBIA’S PRESIDENT GUSTAVO PETRO
“It was predictable; we’re now in the prelude to World War III precisely when humanity should rebuild its economy toward the rapid goal of decarbonization. The support of the US, in practice, for a genocide, has ignited the world. Everyone knows how wars start, no one knows how they end. If only the people of Israel were high enough, like their ancestors, to stop the madness of their ruler. The United Nations must meet urgently and must immediately commit to peace.”

ARGENTINA’S PRESIDENT JAVIER MILEI
“The office of President Javier Milei expresses its solidarity and unwavering commitment to the State of Israel following the attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Republic of Argentina recognizes the right of State-Nations to defend themselves and strongly supports the State of Israel in the defense of its sovereignty, in particular against regimes that promote terror and seek the destruction of western civilization.”

PARAGUAY’S PRESIDENT SANTIAGO PENA
“In such difficult times, we express our full support for the people of Israel, and are concerned about the increase of violence in the region. We remain in contact with our embassies in the region to serve our compatriots.”

CHILE’S FOREIGN MINISTER ALBERTO VAN KLAVEREN
“We express our concern about the serious escalation of tensions in the Middle East and the Iranian attacks against Israel. Chile condemns the use of force and defends international humanitarian law, which protects civilian lives in armed conflicts.”

MEXICO’S FOREIGN MINISTRY
“The government of Mexico expresses deep concern over Iran’s attack against Israeli territory, and the impact that this could have on thousands of human lives. Mexico condemns the use of force in international relations, and calls on the parties to self-restrain and seek solutions peacefully to avoid a more general conflict in the Middle East. Mexico also emphasizes the importance of respecting international law for the sake of international peace and security.”