Moroccans sleep in the streets for third night following an earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives

A woman reacts by the rubble of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, in the village of Imi N'Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco on September 10, 2023. (AFP)
A woman reacts by the rubble of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, in the village of Imi N'Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco on September 10, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 11 September 2023
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Moroccans sleep in the streets for third night following an earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives

Moroccans sleep in the streets for third night following an earthquake that took more than 2,100 lives
  • “The Moroccan authorities have carefully assessed the needs on the ground, bearing in mind that a lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement

AMIZMIZ, Morocco: People in Morocco slept in the streets of Marrakech for a third straight night as soldiers and international aid teams in trucks and helicopters began to fan into remote mountain towns hit hardest by a historic earthquake.
The disaster killed more than 2,100 people — a number that is expected to rise — and the United Nations estimated that 300,000 people were affected by Friday night’s magnitude 6.8 quake.
Amid offers from several countries, including the United States and France, Moroccan officials said Sunday that they are accepting international aid from just four countries: Spain, Qatar, Britain and the United Arab Emirates.




People react by the rubble of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, in the village of Imi N'Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco on September 10, 2023. (AFP)

“The Moroccan authorities have carefully assessed the needs on the ground, bearing in mind that a lack of coordination in such cases would be counterproductive,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
While some foreign search-and-rescue teams arrived on Sunday as an aftershock rattled Moroccans already in mourning and shock, other aid teams poised to deploy grew frustrated waiting for the government to officially request assistance.
“We know there is a great urgency to save people and dig under the remains of buildings,” said Arnaud Fraisse, founder of Rescuers Without Borders, who had a team stuck in Paris waiting for the green light. “There are people dying under the rubble, and we cannot do anything to save them.”




This handout satellite photograph taken on September 10, 2023 shows a view of shelters and tents for survivors erected in the aftermath of the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake, in the town of Amizmiz in al-Haouz province in the High Atlas mountains of central Morocco. (AFP)

Help was slow to arrive in Amizmiz, where a whole chunk of the town of orange and red sandstone brick homes carved into a mountainside appeared to be missing. A mosque’s minaret had collapsed.
“It’s a catastrophe,’’ said villager Salah Ancheu, 28. “We don’t know what the future is. The aid remains insufficient.”
Residents swept rubble off the main road into town and people cheered when trucks full of soldiers arrived. But they pleaded for more help.
“There aren’t ambulances, there aren’t police, at least for right now,” Ancheu said, speaking about many parts of the region on Sunday morning.




Emergency crews work, in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake, in Amizmiz, Morocco, September 10, 2023. (REUTERS)

Those left homeless — or fearing more aftershocks — slept outside Saturday, in the streets of the ancient city of Marrakech or under makeshift canopies in hard-hit Atlas Mountain towns like Moulay Brahim. Both there and in Amizmiz, residents worried most about the damage in hard-to-reach communities. The worst destruction was in rural communities that rely on unpaved roads that snake up the mountainous terrain covered by fallen rocks.

Those areas were shaken anew Sunday by a magnitude 3.9 aftershock, according to the US Geological Survey. It wasn’t immediately clear if it caused more damage or casualties, but it was likely strong enough to rattle nerves in areas where damage has left buildings unstable and residents feared aftershocks.
In a region where many build bricks out of mud, Friday’s earthquake toppled buildings not strong enough to withstand such a mighty temblor, trapping people in the rubble and sending others fleeing in terror. A total of 2,122 people were confirmed dead and at least 2,421 others were injured — 1,404 of them critically, the Interior Ministry reported.
Most of the dead — 1,351 — were in the Al Haouz district in the High Atlas Mountains, the ministry said.
Flags were lowered across Morocco, as King Mohammed VI ordered three days of national mourning starting Sunday. The army mobilized search and rescue teams, and the king ordered water, food rations and shelters to be sent to those who lost homes.
He also called for mosques to hold prayers Sunday for the victims, many of whom were buried Saturday amid the frenzy of rescue work nearby.
Though it said for the first time Sunday that it would accept aid from four countries, Morocco has not made an international appeal for help like Turkiye did in the hours following a massive quake earlier this year, according to aid groups.
Aid offers poured in from around the world, and the UN said it had a team in Morocco coordinating international support. About 100 teams made up of a total of 3,500 rescuers are registered with a UN platform and ready to deploy in Morocco when asked, Rescuers Without Borders said. Germany had a team of more than 50 rescuers waiting near Cologne-Bonn Airport but sent them home, news agency dpa reported.
A Spanish search-and-rescue team arrived in Marrakech and headed to the rural Talat N’Yaaqoub, according to Spain’s Emergency Military Unit. Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in a radio interview that Moroccan authorities asked for help. Another rescue team from Nice, France, also was on its way.
Officials in the Czech Republic earlier said the country was sending about 70 members of a rescue team trained in searching through rubble after receiving an official request from the Moroccan government. Czech Defense Minister Jana Cernochova said three military planes were prepared to transport the team.
In France, which has many ties to Morocco and said four of its citizens died in the quake, towns and cities have offered more than 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in aid. Popular performers are collecting donations.
The epicenter of Friday’s quake was near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, about 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Marrakech. The region is known for scenic villages and valleys tucked in the High Atlas Mountains.
Devastation gripped each town along the High Atlas’ steep and winding switchbacks, with homes folding in on themselves and people crying as boys and helmet-clad police carried the dead through the streets.
”I was asleep when the earthquake struck. I could not escape because the roof fell on me. I was trapped. I was saved by my neighbors who cleared the rubble with their bare hands,” said Fatna Bechar in Moulay Brahim. “Now, I am living with them in their house because mine was completely destroyed.”
There was little time for mourning as survivors tried to salvage anything from damaged homes.
Khadija Fairouje’s face was puffy from crying as she joined relatives and neighbors hauling possessions down rock-strewn streets. She had lost her daughter and three grandsons aged 4 to 11 when their home collapsed while they were sleeping less than 48 hours earlier.
“Nothing’s left. Everything fell,” said her sister, Hafida Fairouje.
The Mohammed V Foundation for Solidarity was coordinating help for about 15,000 families in Al Haouz province, including food, medical aid, emergency housing and blankets, the state news agency MAP quoted the organization’s head, Youssef Rabouli, as saying after he visited the region.
Rescuers backed by soldiers and police searched collapsed homes in the remote town of Adassil, near the epicenter. Military vehicles brought in bulldozers and other equipment to clear roads, MAP reported. Ambulances took dozens of wounded from the village of Tikht, population 800, to Mohammed VI University Hospital in Marrakech.
In Marrakech, large chunks were missing from a crenelated roof, and warped metal, crumbled concrete and dust were all that remained of a building cordoned off by police.
Tourists and residents lined up to give blood.
“I did not even think about it twice,” Jalila Guerina told The Associated Press, “especially in the conditions where people are dying, especially at this moment when they are needing help, any help.” She cited her duty as a Moroccan citizen.
The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 when it hit at 11:11 p.m., lasting several seconds, the USGS said. A magnitude 4.9 aftershock hit 19 minutes later, it said. The collision of the African and Eurasian tectonic plates occurred at a relatively shallow depth, which makes a quake more dangerous.
It was the strongest earthquake to hit the North African country in over 120 years, according to USGS records dating to 1900, but it was not the deadliest. In 1960, a magnitude 5.8 temblor struck near the city of Agadir, killing at least 12,000. That quake prompted Morocco to change construction rules, but many buildings, especially rural homes, are not built to withstand such tremors.
In 2004, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima left more than 600 dead.

 


UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ threat to region if Israel-Hezbollah fighting escalates

UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ threat to region if Israel-Hezbollah fighting escalates
Updated 9 sec ago
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UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ threat to region if Israel-Hezbollah fighting escalates

UN warns of ‘catastrophic’ threat to region if Israel-Hezbollah fighting escalates
  • Russian envoy says Security Council’s US-backed Gaza ceasefire resolution now ‘dead letter’ that included ‘blatant lie’ that Israel had accepted the deal
  • Head of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization warns of ‘extreme risk of famine’ in Gaza as more than 20 percent of people go entire days and nights without eating

NEW YORK CITY: The UN on Tuesday expressed serious concerns about the risk of an escalation in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, warning that not only would it cause even more suffering and devastation to the people of Lebanon and Israel but also “more potentially catastrophic consequences for the region.”

Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East urged both sides to take urgent, immediate steps to deescalate the situation.

Tensions along the border between Israel and Lebanon continue to escalate. Cross-border exchanges of fire have increased in recent weeks, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to warn that the risk of the conflict spreading to the wider region “is real and must be avoided.”

Wennesland was speaking during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the implementation of Resolution 2334, which was adopted in 2016 and demands an end to all Israeli settlement activity, immediate steps to prevent violence and acts of terror against civilians, and calls on both sides to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.

Wennesland said he was “deeply troubled” by continuing Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and reiterated that all settlements “have no legal validity and are in flagrant violation of international law.” He called on Israel to cease all such activity immediately.

Escalating violence and tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also deeply worrying, Wennesland said.

“Intensified armed exchanges between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, alongside lethal attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, have also exacerbated tensions and led to exceedingly high levels of casualties and detentions. All perpetrators of attacks must be held accountable,” he added.

Wennesland blamed regional instability on the ongoing hostilities in Gaza and stressed the need for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“There is a deal on the table and it should be agreed,” he told council members. “I welcome the efforts, including by Egypt, Qatar and the United States, to reach such deal.”

He lamented the fact that effective mechanisms from Israel to provide humanitarian notifications, safe conditions for humanitarian operations, and sufficient access for aid workers to address humanitarian needs remain “sorely lacking and must be put in place without delay.”

Wennesland added: “Hunger and food insecurity persist. While projections of imminent famine in the northern governates have been averted through an increase in food deliveries, food insecurity has worsened in the south.

“Nearly all of Gaza’s population continues to face high levels of food insecurity, with nearly half a million people facing ‘catastrophic’ insecurity.”

Senior UN officials told Israeli authorities on Tuesday they will suspend aid operations across the battered enclave unless urgent steps are taken to protect humanitarian workers.

The UN World Food Program has already suspended aid deliveries from a US-built pier in Gaza over security concerns. This comes at a time when the amounts of essential goods allowed into Gaza continue to fall far short of the needs of the population, Wennesland said.

The Palestinian Authority’s fiscal situation remains “very precarious,” he added. Israel’s finance minister has announced his intention to continue blocking the transfer of all clearance revenues to the PA, and to take action that would end relations between Israeli and Palestinian banks at the end of June.

Such moves, Wennesland said, “threaten to plunge the Palestinian fiscal situation into an even greater crisis, potentially upending the entire Palestinian financial system.”

Meanwhile, Maximo Torero, the chief economist of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, on Tuesday warned of the “extreme risk of famine” in Gaza. He said the latest studies reveal that more than half of the population does not have any stocks of food in their homes, and more than 20 percent go entire days and nights without eating.

In northern Gaza, Torero said, 75,000 people, a quarter of the population, face catastrophic levels of food insecurity, and 150,000 are dealing with emergency levels of food insecurity.

In southern Gaza, including the Rafah area, more 350,000 people, a fifth of the population, are affected by catastrophic levels of food insecurity, and about 525,000 by emergency levels.

In response to these findings, humanitarian organization CARE’s interim country director for the West Bank and Gaza, Daw Mohammed, said: “The process to determine the difference between ‘famine’ or ‘catastrophic food insecurity’ is irrelevant for Palestinian people in Gaza, too many of whom have starved to death or will never fully recover from the ravages of hunger.

“The scale and intensity of hostilities, as we enter the ninth month of hell for people in Gaza, make data collection a life-threatening exercise and survival an hourly battle. Rather than wait for a determination of famine, we must listen to the call of humanity and act now.

“We need an immediate and sustained ceasefire, a massive increase in the safe flow of aid and aid workers into and around Gaza, access to water, fuel and basic healthcare services for all people, and the release of all hostages. There is no more time to wait.”

During the Security Council meeting, the US representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, blamed Hamas for rejecting a US-backed ceasefire deal.

“Hamas has eschewed the calls from this council and ignored voices from across the international community,” she said. “In fact, rather than accept the deal, Hamas has added even more conditions.

“It’s time to end the intransigence from Hamas, start a ceasefire and release the hostages.”

Her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia said that the US-backed Resolution 2735, which calls for a ceasefire and was adopted on June 10, was sold to the Security Council “in the guise of a solution for saving Gaza. This kind of ‘cat in a sack,’ as we warned, turned out to be dead letter.”

He added: “What is even worse, in the resolution of the Security Council a blatant lie crept in; it is explicitly stated there that Israel consented to the peace proposal of the international mediators. However, in West Jerusalem this has not yet been confirmed and they repeat that at the same time as announcing the decisive intent to completely destroy Hamas.

“Ultimately, none of the phases stipulated in Resolution 2735 have been implemented. The council essentially was blindly dragged into a misadventure and moved towards blessing a scheme which, from the get go, had no chances of being implemented.

“We urge the membership of the Security Council, moving forward, to adopt a more conscientious approach to those decisions which they support, and to give thought to their actual content.”


UAE says succeeded in mediating exchange of 180 prisoners of war between Russia and Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday celebrated the return of 90 prisoners of war from Russian captivity.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday celebrated the return of 90 prisoners of war from Russian captivity.
Updated 5 min 2 sec ago
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UAE says succeeded in mediating exchange of 180 prisoners of war between Russia and Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday celebrated the return of 90 prisoners of war from Russian captivity.
  • UAE foreign affairs ministry expressed its appreciation to the governments of Russia and Ukraine for their cooperation in making the exchange process a success

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates said it has succeeded in mediating an exchange of 180 prisoners of war between Russia and Ukraine, Emirates News Agency reported on Tuesday.

The country’s foreign affairs ministry emphasized that the success of the latest mediation, the fifth since the beginning of this year, is the outcome of the UAE leveraging its distinct ties and partnership with both sides.

The ministry expressed its appreciation to the governments of Russia and Ukraine for their cooperation in making the exchange process a success.

It affirmed the UAE’s commitment to continuing efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The ministry stressed the importance of resorting to dialogue, de-escalation, and diplomacy to resolve the conflict and mitigate the humanitarian repercussions resulting from it.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday confirmed the return of 90 prisoners of war from Russian captivity.

Russia’s defense ministry also acknowledged the swap saying: “As a result of negotiations, 90 Russian prisoners of war who risked death in captivity are being returned from areas under Kyiv’s control.

“In exchange, 90 prisoners from the Ukrainian armed forces were handed over,” the ministry said.


UN tells Israel it will suspend aid operations across Gaza without improved safety

UN tells Israel it will suspend aid operations across Gaza without improved safety
Updated 59 min 33 sec ago
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UN tells Israel it will suspend aid operations across Gaza without improved safety

UN tells Israel it will suspend aid operations across Gaza without improved safety
  • UN and other aid officials have complained for months that they have no way to communicate quickly and directly with Israeli forces on the ground

WASHINGTON DC: Senior UN officials have warned Israel that they will suspend the world body’s aid operations across Gaza unless Israel acts urgently to better protect humanitarian workers, two UN officials said Tuesday. The ultimatum is the latest in a series of UN steps demanding Israel do more to safeguard aid operations from strikes by its forces and to curb growing lawlessness hindering humanitarian workers.
A UN letter sent to Israeli officials this month said Israel must provide UN workers with a way to communicate directly with Israeli forces on the ground in Gaza, among other steps, the officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations with Israeli officials. The UN officials said there has been no final decision on suspending operations across Gaza and that talks with Israelis were ongoing.
Israeli military officials did not respond to requests for comment. Israel has previously acknowledged some military strikes on humanitarian workers, including an April attack that killed seven workers with the World Central Kitchen, and has denied allegations of others.
Citing security concerns, the UN World Food Program has already suspended aid delivery from a US-built pier designed to bring food and other emergency supplies to Palestinians who are facing starvation amid the eight-month war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
UN and other aid officials have complained for months that they have no way to communicate quickly and directly with Israeli forces on the ground, in contrast with the usual procedures — known as “deconfliction” — employed in conflict zones globally to protect aid workers from attack by combatants.
In its letter to Israeli officials, the UN cited communication and protective equipment for aid workers as among the commitments that it wanted Israel to make good on for its aid operations to continue in Gaza overall, the two UN officials say.
The UN said in April that about 30 humanitarian workers have been killed in the line of duty in Gaza since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October.
The UN and other humanitarian organizations also complain of increasing crime in Gaza and have urged Israel to do more to improve overall security for their operations from attack and theft. The lawlessness has stymied what Israel said was a daily pause in fighting to allow a new safe corridor to deliver aid into southern Gaza, with humanitarian officials saying groups of gunmen are regularly blocking convoys, holding drivers at gunpoint and rifling through their cargo.
On top of that, “missiles hit our premises, despite being deconflicted,” said Steve Taravela, a spokesman for the World Food Program, one of the main organizations working on humanitarian delivery in Gaza. He was not one of those confirming the UN threat to suspend operations across the territory. “WFP warehouses have been caught in the crossfire twice in the past two weeks.”
Humanitarian officials said conditions for civilians and aid workers have worsened further since early May when Israel launched an offensive in the southern city of Rafah, where many aid groups had their base. The operation has crippled what had been a main border crossing for food and other aid.
Aid workers trying to get shipments through the main remaining crossing, Kerem Shalom, face risks from fighting, damaged roads, unexploded ordnance and Israeli restrictions, including spending five or more hours a day waiting at checkpoints, Taravela said.
“Restoring order is crucial for an effective humanitarian response to meet soaring needs. UN agencies and others need a safe environment to be able to access people and scale up,” he said.
Israeli officials say the problems at Kerem Shalom are a matter of poor UN logistics.
Separately, the United Nations has also suspended cooperation with the US-built pier since June 9, a day after the Israeli military used the area around the pier in a hostage rescue that killed more than 270 Palestinians.
While US and Israeli officials said no part of the pier itself was used in the raid that rescued four hostages taken by Hamas, UN officials said any perception in Gaza that the project was used in the Israeli military operation may endanger their aid work.
The UN has finished a security assessment of the pier operation following the raid but has not yet made a decision on resuming any delivery of supplies from the US-built structure, according to a humanitarian official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not yet been released publicly.
Speaking to reporters traveling with a US delegation to a gathering of defense chiefs in Botswana on Tuesday, an official with the US Agency for International Development expressed optimism that aid deliveries from the pier would eventually resume.
“I think it’s a question of when the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) can provide, and the government of Israel can provide, the assurances that the UN is seeking on deconfliction and security right now,” said Isobel Coleman, deputy administrator of USAID, which has been working with the World Food Program on aid distribution from the pier.


Egyptian foreign minister discusses Gaza aid situation with UN official

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (REUTERS)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 June 2024
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Egyptian foreign minister discusses Gaza aid situation with UN official

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (REUTERS)
  • The outcomes of Kaag’s talks with Israeli officials to ease the movement of aid trucks at the crossings were also discussed

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag discussed the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in a phone call on Tuesday.

Kaag’s call addressed the impediments imposed by Israel on aid access, and the exacerbating gravity of the humanitarian disaster in the strip.

Shoukry was keen to know the UN official’s plans to mitigate the severity of the crisis facing Palestinian civilians in the strip.

The outcomes of Kaag’s talks with Israeli officials to ease the movement of aid trucks at the crossings were also discussed.

Both exchanged views on the process of rushing aid via the Rafah crossing in view of Israel’s destruction of the Palestinian side of it.

Shoukry reiterated Egypt’s rejection of the loot of some aid in Rafah and the Israeli side’s non-commitment to protecting it and ensuring that it reaches those who deserve it.

Both agreed to continue coordination and consultation on the humanitarian situation in the strip.

 


Israeli air force commander confirms ‘increase in readiness for any attack on Lebanon’

Israeli air force commander confirms ‘increase in readiness for any attack on Lebanon’
Updated 25 June 2024
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Israeli air force commander confirms ‘increase in readiness for any attack on Lebanon’

Israeli air force commander confirms ‘increase in readiness for any attack on Lebanon’
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrives in Beirut for talks following meetings in Tel Aviv and the West Bank
  • Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, holds talks at HQ of the Maronite Patriarchate focused on ‘finding solutions for Lebanon and its suffering people’

BEIRUT: Fighting between Hezbollah and the Israeli army continued in regions along the border between Lebanon and Israel on Tuesday, with artillery exchanges and drone strikes in both directions.

During a meeting with Ori Gordin, the head of the Northern Command, Israeli Air Force Commander Tomer Bar confirmed “an increase in readiness for any attack on Lebanon,” Russia Today reported.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said it carried out “an attack with assault drones on a brigade headquarters in Nahal Gershom, targeting the positions and settlement of enemy officers and soldiers.” The group said it also attacked “the Bayad Blida and Birkat Risha sites.”

The Israeli army targeted the outskirts of the town of Khiam and the village of Blida with artillery and warplanes. In the Wazzani area, a Syrian driver was forced to jump from his truck for his life when the Israeli army opened fire on it with machine guns.

Israeli combat drones launched from Misgav Am dropped shells on the border town of Taybeh. No injuries were reported as the town, like many close to the border, has been abandoned by residents.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Beirut on Tuesday evening following meetings in Tel Aviv on Monday and the West Bank on Tuesday. She was expected to meet Lebanese officials to discuss the situation in southern Lebanon and Israel’s threats of an expanded war against Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is also visiting Lebanon, held talks at the headquarters of the Maronite Patriarchate that focused on “finding solutions for Lebanon and its suffering people.”

He said there is a deep political rift between Christians in Lebanon and Hezbollah over the latter’s decision to go to war without consulting the state, the group’s demands relating to the selection of a candidate to fill the post of president, which has been vacant since October 2022, and the disruptions it has caused during parliamentary sessions to discuss the election of a new president.

The vice president of the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, Sheikh Ali Al-Khatib, declined an invitation to attend a lunch hosted by the Maronite Patriarchate in honor of Parolin, to which all Islamic and Christian spiritual authorities and the heads of Christian political parties in Lebanon were invited.

A council source said: “The sheikh did not take part in the meeting in protest against positions expressed by the Maronite patriarch, Bechara Al-Rahi, concerning the resistance.”

In his most recent Sunday sermon, Al-Rahi objected to the failure to elect “a president who negotiates according to constitutional powers, and asks the UN Security Council to implement its resolutions. This means that Lebanon will not go back to being a launching pad for terrorist actions that destabilize the region’s security and stability.”

Al-Khatib is considered a supporter of Hezbollah. His representative, Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmed Qabalan, criticized Al-Rahi’s sermon without naming him, saying: “There is no neutrality when it comes to what is right and there should be no bias toward what is wrong.” He also spoke of “the resistance’s role in protecting the church in Syria and Lebanon in the face of Daesh and Al-Nusra attacks.”

When Lebanon’s religious leaders met Parolin, Al-Rahi called on all Christians in the country “to consider next Sunday as a day of prayer for peace in southern Lebanon and Gaza.”

During a ceremony hosted by the Embassy of Malta, Parolin stressed the “importance of the church in Lebanon being a testament to coexistence, which is one of the most significant characteristics of the ‘Land of the Cedars.’”

He added: “Lebanon is suffering from a great vacuum and a diminishing Christian life,” as he called on officials “to elect a president as soon as possible to calm the situation and overcome the current difficulties.”