Lebanon ‘abyss’ warning as fears of wider conflict grow

Special Lebanon ‘abyss’ warning as fears of wider conflict grow
Jamil Salameh, 56, who witnessed the Israeli shelling that killed more than 100 people in 1996 stands near the wreck of an Israeli tank, Qana, Lebanon, Oct. 24, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 October 2023
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Lebanon ‘abyss’ warning as fears of wider conflict grow

Lebanon ‘abyss’ warning as fears of wider conflict grow
  • Mohammed Choucair, head of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, said that stockpiling of food is threatening supplies
  • Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping force, said that exchanges of fire continued along the Blue Line on Wednesday

BEIRUT: Lebanon risks “plunging into the abyss” amid fears of a wider war over the Israel-Hamas conflict, a senior Lebanese business leader has warned.

Mohammed Choucair, head of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, said that stockpiling of food is threatening supplies, while industrial activity in the country has been cut by more than a third because of a fall in domestic and international orders.

He appealed to “all political forces and officials to take necessary measures to prevent the national economy and the country from plunging into the abyss, as a result of the possibility of the war in the Gaza Strip expanding to Lebanon.”

Choucair said hotel occupancy rates in Lebanon have fallen to below 10 percent, with most events and conferences canceled, while the nightlife sector is all but paralyzed.

The business chief’s warning came as Hezbollah militants and Israeli forces continued skirmishing on Lebanon’s southern border.

Hezbollah said on Wednesday that two of its members had been killed in clashes with the Israeli army, pushing the group’s death toll to 36 since Oct. 8.

Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UN peacekeeping force, said that exchanges of fire continued along the Blue Line on Wednesday, but added that no UNIFIL patrols were targeted or hit in the hostilities.

“Our peacekeepers remain on task and continue their activities, including patrols,” he said.

Israel said that five Hezbollah cells were eliminated in southern Lebanon after attempting to shell Israeli forces.

For the second day, Hezbollah targeted the Israeli military site of Jal Al-Alam with a guided missile and shelled another Israeli military target in the western sector of the border. The Israeli army responded by shelling southern border towns, hitting homes.

A military observer told Arab News that Hezbollah and Israeli forces have been in “a state of war for the past 18 days.”

He described Hezbollah’s losses as “modest” considering the terrain and advanced technology used in the military operations.

“The Israeli side does not transparently disclose its losses, while Hezbollah says it has carried out operations destroying the Israeli army’s monitoring devices and sensors along the Blue Line,” the observer said.

Israel is believed to have stationed up to 150,000 troops on its northern border with Lebanon.

But any widening of the Gaza Strip conflict by Israel would require “a regional and international political decision, and many considerations have not been met so far,” the  oberserver said.


Iran’s acting president addresses new parliament after helicopter crash killing president, others

Iran’s acting president addresses new parliament after helicopter crash killing president, others
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Iran’s acting president addresses new parliament after helicopter crash killing president, others

Iran’s acting president addresses new parliament after helicopter crash killing president, others
  • Mokhber’s speech on Monday comes as Iran prepares for a presidential election to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi
  • Mokhber asserted that the country’s economy remained stable under Raisi when Iran took military actions in Iraq, Israel and Pakistan
TEHRAN: Iran’s acting President Mohammad Mokhber addressed the country’s new parliament Monday in his first public speech since last week’s helicopter crash that killed his predecessor and seven others.
His speech comes as Iran prepares for a presidential election to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi in just a month, a vote that could see the previously behind-the-scenes bureaucrat potentially run alongside others. Meanwhile, Iran’s new hard-line parliament is expected to select its new speaker Tuesday.
In his remarks, Mokhber praised Raisi’s time in office, noting that Iran’s crude oil production— a key source of hard currency for the country — climbed to more than 3.6 million barrels a day. That comes after Oil Minister Javad Owji said Sunday that Iran was now exporting around 2 million barrels a day, despite Western sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.
Mokhber also asserted that the country’s economy remained stable under Raisi when Iran took military actions in Iraq, Israel and Pakistan in recent months.
“Three countries were hit. We hit Israel, people find that figures and indexes are the same in the morning when they wake up, price of hard currency is the same, inflation is the same, liquidity is the same and the market is full of people’s needs,” Mokhber claimed. “This strength, this settlement and this power is not a usual thing, they all were because of guidance by the supreme leader and the sincere efforts of Ayatollah Raisi.”
The Iranian rial has tumbled from a rate of 32,000 rials to $1 at the time of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Today, it stands around 580,000 to $1 in the wake of the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the accord and a series of attacks on shipping in the Mideast, first attributed to Iran and later involving Yemen’s Houthi rebels as Israel’s war against Hamas on the Gaza Strip began over seven months ago.
On May 20, rescuers recovered the bodies of Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others in a mountainous region in northwestern Iran following a fatal helicopter crash.
Iran will hold presidential elections on June 28 to replace Raisi. On Thursday, a five-day registration period for candidates will open. Analysts have suggested that Mokhber could be one of those to register.
Meanwhile, Monday marked the first day for Iran’s newly elected parliament, following a March election that saw the country’s lowest turnout since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Of those elected to the 290-seat body, hard-liners hold over 230 seats, according to an Associated Press survey.
Iran’s parliament plays a secondary role in governing the country, though it can intensify pressure on a presidential administration when deciding on the annual budget and other important bills. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, has the final say in all important state matters.

Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1

Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1
Updated 27 May 2024
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Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1

Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1
  • Israel statement: Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem is ‘authorized to provide consular services to residents of the consular district of Jerusalem only’

JERUSALEM: Israel’s foreign ministry said Monday it had told the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem to stop offering consular services to Palestinians from June 1 over Madrid’s recognition of a Palestinian state.
The ministry said in a statement that Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem is “authorized to provide consular services to residents of the consular district of Jerusalem only, and is not authorized to provide services or perform consular activity vis-a-vis residents of the Palestinian Authority.”


Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’

Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’
Updated 27 May 2024
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Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’

Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’
  • The deadly incident took place near Hebron in the southern West Bank, the army and the Palestinian ministry said

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said its troops killed a Palestinian assailant in the occupied West Bank, with the Palestinian health ministry identifying him as a teenager.
Israeli forces “identified a terrorist who came in their direction and attempted to carry out a stabbing attack,” a military statement said.
“The soldiers fired at him and killed him,” it said.
The Palestinian health ministry identified the fatality as Majd Shahir Aramin, 14, and said he had been killed by Israeli forces.
The deadly incident took place near Hebron in the southern West Bank, the army and the Palestinian ministry said.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen a surge in violence for more than a year, but especially since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
According to Palestinian officials, at least 519 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops or settlers since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 12 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.


Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site

Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site
Updated 27 May 2024
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Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site

Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site
  • The all-night sessions of prayer, mystical songs and dance had in previous years drawn crowds in the tens of thousands
  • Police limited the number of attendees since the 2021 tragedy in which 45 people died in a crowd rush

JERUSALEM: Clashes erupted on Sunday between police and Jewish pilgrims at a religious festival site in northern Israel where three years ago 45 people died in a crowd crush, and which authorities closed this year due to rocket fire from Lebanon.

Since the 2021 tragedy at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage during the annual Lag B’Omer celebration, police have limited the number of attendees.

The all-night sessions of prayer, mystical songs and dance had in previous years drawn crowds in the tens of thousands.

This year’s festival was canceled since the site at Meron in the Galilee region has been targeted by rocket fire from Lebanon.

Many northern Israeli towns have been evacuated since Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon began firing at them following Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, which sparked the war in Gaza.

Both sides have traded blows since. Despite the closure, police said they turned away thousands of pilgrims over the weekend, though hundreds managed to reach the site, where things got out of hand.

The visitors damaged property and hurled objects at officers, police said. Nineteen officers were injured.

Israeli media reported that several people among the unauthorized crowd were hurt. At least one officer was suspended for pushing an older man to the ground, and police said it was examining other incidents from the site.


Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision

Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision
Updated 27 May 2024
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Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision

Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision

ISTANBUL: Ten people died and 39 others were injured in southern Turkiye on Sunday when an intercity bus collided with three other vehicles on a main highway, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.
The bus, traveling to Istanbul from Diyarbakir, crashed into a transport truck and two other vehicles in the Tarsus district near the Mediterranean city of Mersin, he said on social media platform X.
The government said an investigation had been launched.