Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday

Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday
Lebanon’s Premier Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri visited the drilling platform Transocean Barents, accompanied by the ministers of Public Works and Transport and Energy, and officials to attend a ceremony to announce the exploration. (Supplied)
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Updated 22 August 2023
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Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday

Exploratory drilling for oil and gas in Lebanese waters begins on Thursday
  • Reformist MP: ‘Do not deceive people with illusions, Lebanon’s current priority is implementing reforms, accountability’
  • Platform 9 is located about 120 km from Beirut

BEIRUT: TotalEnergies, along with its partners Eni and QatarEnergy, on Tuesday launched exploration activities in Block 9 within Lebanon’s territorial waters.
The companies are searching for commercial quantities of gas and oil that Lebanon is pinning its hopes on to revive its collapsing economy.
The drilling is set to start on Aug. 24, as announced by Energy Minister Walid Fayad.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri visited the drilling platform Transocean Barents, accompanied by Fayad and Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamieh, as well as Lebanese petroleum officials to attend a ceremony to announce the exploration.
Platform 9 is located about 120 km from Beirut.
During the visit, Lebanese officials were briefed on preparations for the drilling.
Berri and Mikati toured the drilling platform to oversee the logistics for the oil and gas exploration in Block 9 within Lebanon’s territorial waters.
Berri said he hoped that “in a few months, God would bless Lebanon with a flow of his grace, marking the beginning of solving the economic crisis that Lebanon and its people are experiencing,” and that the Lebanese would reach a consensus on electing a president who would initiate a political solution.
Mikati said he wished that “the upcoming days bring signs of good fortune to help Lebanon address the numerous crises it is facing, and that everyone cooperates in the upcoming phase to halt the deterioration we are witnessing on all fronts.”
The delegation flew from Beirut’s airport to the drilling platform in a TotalEnergies helicopter.
Romain de La Martiniere, general manager of TotalEnergies in Lebanon, said the exploratory well “will enable us to assess hydrocarbon resources and production potential in this area.”
The company holds a 35 percent working interest in Block 9, alongside its partners Eni (35 percent) and QatarEnergy (30 percent).
Lebanese officials continue to delay the implementation of reforms required by the international community for assistance.
Reformists dismissed the notion of using potential oil wealth to offset the deficit faced by the treasury without holding those responsible for this deficit accountable.
Ibrahim Mneimneh, a reformist MP, said: “Do not deceive people with illusions.”
He told Arab News: “The crux of the political dispute with this political class lies in their perception of the country’s resources as a hen laying golden eggs meant to conceal their corruption, ventures and financial strategies that have driven the nation to its present state.”
He said the issue “is not oil or gas; it involves the embezzlement of the nation’s resources. Those responsible must face consequences, not pardons for past actions.
“Furthermore, the exploration process has yet to commence, and even when it does, it remains uncertain whether it will yield commercial quantities or merely fulfill the country’s immediate needs.”
He added: “Even if quantities are discovered, determining whether we possess oil wealth requires the next seven years. Thus, hastiness in thought is nothing but delusions.”
Mneimneh questioned “the rationale behind connecting the sovereign wealth fund to public funds,” and said: “We must address the financial gap and tackle the task of restructuring banks and enacting various necessary reforms. Prioritizing the sovereign wealth fund at this time is unacceptable; it can wait, given that there exist other pressing priorities.”
The repercussions of the economic crisis continue to affect state institutions. The latest manifestation of this is a warning issued by Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, who reiterated that the military institution grapples with crises to the extent that it possesses only a one-month supply of gasoline.
If this stock is not replenished, the army will be incapable of conducting patrols beyond a month.
This warning considers that fuel reserves for the institution used to suffice for an entire year.


UN chief says no alternative to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA

UN chief says no alternative to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA
Updated 5 sec ago
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UN chief says no alternative to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA

UN chief says no alternative to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA
NEW YORK: United Nations chief Antonio Guterres declared on Friday that there is no alternative to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and 118 countries backed the relief organization as indispensable, amid stepped up efforts by Israel to dismantle it.
The UN Relief and Works Agency provides education, health and aid to millions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Since war erupted nine months ago between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, UN officials have stressed UNRWA is the backbone of aid operations.
“My appeal to everyone is this: Protect UNRWA, protect UNRWA staff, and protect UNRWA’s mandate — including through funding,” Guterres told an UNRWA pledging conference in New York on Friday. “Let me be clear: there is no alternative to UNRWA.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long-called for UNRWA to be dismantled, accusing it of anti-Israeli incitement, and Israel’s parliament is currently considering designating UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding, while the UN is conducting an internal investigation.
UNRWA has been hit hard during the conflict in Gaza — 195 staff have been killed.
“UNRWA is also being targeted in other ways,” Guterres said. “Staff have been the subject of increasingly violent protests and virulent misinformation and disinformation campaigns.”
“Some have been detained by Israeli security forces, and subsequently reported mistreatment and even torture,” he said, adding that in the West Bank the presence and movements of UNRWA staff have also been severely restricted by Israel.
The Israeli military has said it acts according to Israeli and international law and those it arrests get access to food, water, medication and proper clothing.
Israel accuses UNRWA of complicity with Hamas, saying the militant Islamist group was embedded within the UN agency’s infrastructure.
UNRWA was created by the UN General Assembly in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war. Jordan’s UN Ambassador Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud said on Friday ahead of the pledging event that 118 countries had signed on to a joint statement supporting UNRWA and its work.
The statement underlined “that UNRWA is the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza, and recognizing that no organization can replace or substitute UNRWA’s capacity.”

Palestinian released from Israeli jail ‘came back from the dead’

Palestinian released from Israeli jail ‘came back from the dead’
Updated 15 min 36 sec ago
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Palestinian released from Israeli jail ‘came back from the dead’

Palestinian released from Israeli jail ‘came back from the dead’
  • Abayat, a butcher by trade, was arrested without explanation on October 26
  • He was held at a prison in the Negev desert

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories: Muazzaz Abayat’s parents barely recognized their son lying in a hospital bed after being freed from nine months in Israeli detention, with his weight halved from his usual heavyset build, hollowed cheeks and shaggy hair.
“I came back from the dead,” the 37-year-old Palestinian, told AFP at a hospital in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
Abayat, a butcher by trade, was arrested without explanation on October 26, just over two weeks after the unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that sparked the Gaza war.
He was held at a prison in the Negev desert, officially under so-called administrative detention, which meant he could be held without charge or trial for an extended period.
“They arrested me at home, not surrounded by fighters but by my children and pregnant wife,” said Abayat, whose sixth child was born while he was in jail.
Detentions of West Bank Palestinians have soared since the war began on October 7, with regular use of administrative detentions.
According to the Prisoners Club, a Palestinian watchdog, about 9,700 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, including hundreds under administrative detention.
The NGO estimates that arrests have doubled since October 7 compared to the same period last year.
Violence has surged in the territory since the start of the Gaza war, with at least 572 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or settlers, according to the Palestinian authorities.
At least 16 Israelis have also died in Palestinian attacks, according to official Israeli figures.
In a video that went viral on social media when Abayat was freed Tuesday, he is seen limping and leaning on a man to walk, while his right hand seems paralyzed.
“No human being on the face of the earth can imagine how life has been” he said, calling the prison where he was held, “the ‘Guantanamo of the Negev’,” after the US prison in Cuba used to hold detainees after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“We were unjustly detained, killed and severely beaten with iron clubs and subjected to all kinds of torture,” Abayat added.
Israel’s prison administration told AFP it was “not aware” of Abayat’s claims.
“All prisoners are detained according to the law. All basic rights required are fully applied by professionally trained prison guards,” an Israeli Prison Service (IPS) spokesperson told AFP.
“The prisoner was examined and treated medically by the IPS’ finest doctors throughout his incarceration.” The spokesperson said, Abayat could file a complaint if he wished.
Showing his bruised, bony legs, Abayat recounted beatings with clubs and chains, and said his body still hurt all over.
“They gave us 10 to 12 beans with pieces of cabbage, and we had to survive on that from 7.00 am until dinner time,” he said while explaining his dramatic weight loss.
A “before and after” photo montage of Abayat shared online shows a muscular man with a shaved head and trimmed beard — wildly different from the long dishevelled hair and messy beard of the man in the Bethlehem hospital.
“This is enough to tell what happened to me,” he said of the photos.
His father Khalil Abayat told AFP that his son “was a man who weighed about 100, 110 kilos (220 to 242 pounds) and was muscular.”
When Muazzaz stood on the hospital scale Wednesday, he weighed just 54 kilograms.
“When I saw Muazzaz, he was not the same Muazzaz my son was before his arrest,” said the father, shocked by the confusion his son seemed to suffer from.
“He doesn’t recognize me, he’s disorientated and his health is very low.”
Khalil added, however, that doctors had expressed confidence that Muazzaz’s condition would improve. The former detainee has started eating more.
From his hospital bed, Muazzaz admitted that he had “forgotten things.”
But he said he was not completely done with Israeli detention.
“I’ve left a small prison for the big prison” of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, he said.


Israeli strike kills 4 aid workers in Gaza ‘safe zone,’ UK-based group says

Israeli strike kills 4 aid workers in Gaza ‘safe zone,’ UK-based group says
Updated 47 min 53 sec ago
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Israeli strike kills 4 aid workers in Gaza ‘safe zone,’ UK-based group says

Israeli strike kills 4 aid workers in Gaza ‘safe zone,’ UK-based group says
  • The strike also killed three staffers from other aid groups using the warehouse, the Al-Khair foundation said
  • The warehouse was located in Muwasi, an area on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that is part of a “humanitarian safe zone” where Israeli has told Palestinians to take refuge

GAZA: A UK-based aid group said one of its employees in Gaza was killed Friday in an Israeli strike that hit its warehouse located inside an Israeli-declared humanitarian safe zone. The strike also killed three staffers from other aid groups using the warehouse, the Al-Khair foundation said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
The Israeli army did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment on Friday’s strike.
The warehouse was located in Muwasi, an area on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that is part of a “humanitarian safe zone” where Israeli has told Palestinians to take refuge.
After a two-week Israeli offensive in northern Gaza, dozens of bodies were collected throughout Gaza City’s Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood and brought to Al-Ahli Hospital on Friday morning. Civil defense workers said they were still recovering dead and wounded from destroyed streets and buildings.
Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 38,300 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are crammed into squalid tent camps in central and southern Gaza. Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of law and order have limited humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine. The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to take steps to protect Palestinians as it examines genocide allegations against Israeli leaders. Israel denies the charge.


More than half a million children in Gaza missing out on vital education amid Israeli-Hamas war: UNRWA

More than half a million children in Gaza missing out on vital education amid Israeli-Hamas war: UNRWA
Updated 12 July 2024
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More than half a million children in Gaza missing out on vital education amid Israeli-Hamas war: UNRWA

More than half a million children in Gaza missing out on vital education amid Israeli-Hamas war: UNRWA
  • 600,000 children had been unable to attend school this year because of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war

LONDON: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees warned on Friday that the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “losing an entire generation of children” due to the ongoing Israeli aggression, now in its 10th month.

The organization said that more than 600,000 children had been unable to attend school this year because of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war raging in the enclave. 

UNRWA added it would be extremely difficult for children to recover the education they have missed out on since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel and the subsequent Israeli retaliation.

It also noted that two-thirds of its schools in Gaza had been destroyed, while the rest had been converted into shelters for hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians.

Statistics from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health assert that approximately 16,000 children have died in Israeli bombings or from illness, famine and malnutrition since the start of the Israeli aggression. 

A letter penned by three experts published in the Lancet medical journal earlier this week said the number of children who might have died in the conflict could be much higher, with thousands of children believed to be trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings.


UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation
Updated 12 July 2024
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UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation
  • Any opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice would be non-binding, but it will come amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel
  • "A public sitting will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague ... during which Judge Nawaf Salam... will read out the Advisory Opinion," the ICJ said

THE HAGUE: The UN's top court will next week hand down its view on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967, a case in which some 52 countries made submissions.
Any opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice would be non-binding, but it will come amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza sparked by the brutal October 7 Hamas attacks.
"A public sitting will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague (on July 19) ... during which Judge Nawaf Salam... will read out the Advisory Opinion," the ICJ said on Friday.
The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following a request from the United Nations late last year.
The UN has asked the ICJ to hand down an "advisory opinion" on the "legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".
Most speakers during the hearings have demanded that Israel end its occupation, which came after a six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967.
But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its "very real security needs" into account.
Speakers also warned a prolonged occupation posed an "extreme danger" to stability in the Middle East and beyond.
Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.
It submitted a written contribution, in which it described the questions the court had been asked as "prejudicial" and "tendentious".
The case before the court is separate from one brought by South Africa against Israel for alleged genocide during its current offensive in Gaza.
South Africa has gone to the ICJ several times arguing that the dire humanitarian situation means the court should issue further fresh emergency measures.
In an initial ruling on January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent acts of genocide during its military operation in Gaza.
It also called for the unconditional release of hostages taken by Palestinian militant group Hamas during its October 7 assault that sparked the war.