Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations

Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations
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A Syrian refugee boy runs at an informal tented settlement in the Bekaa valley, Lebanon May 23, 2024. (REUTERS)
Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations
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Syrian refugee children walk behind a woman at a camp set up outside the northern Lebanese village of Miniara, in the area of Akkar near the border with Syria. Syrians make up about half of Minyara’s 8,000 residents, the municipality says, with most living in tent camps adjacent to vast agricultural fields. ( AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations

Syrians in Lebanon fear unprecedented restrictions, deportations
  • Lebanon remains home to the largest refugee population per capita in the world: roughly 1.5 million Syrians
  • Five million Syrian refugees who spilled out of Syria into neighboring countries, while millions more are displaced within Syria

BEKAA VALLEY: The soldiers came before daybreak, singling out the Syrian men without residence permits from the tattered camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. As toddlers wailed around them, Mona, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon for a decade, watched Lebanese troops shuffle her brother onto a truck headed for the Syrian border.
Thirteen years since Syria’s conflict broke out, Lebanon remains home to the largest refugee population per capita in the world: roughly 1.5 million Syrians — half of whom are refugees formally registered with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR — in a country of approximately 4 million Lebanese.
They are among some five million Syrian refugees who spilled out of Syria into neighboring countries, while millions more are displaced within Syria. Donor countries in Brussels this week pledged fewer funds in Syria aid than last year.
With Lebanon struggling to cope with an economic meltdown that has crushed livelihoods and most public services, its chronically underfunded security forces and typically divided politicians now agree on one thing: Syrians must be sent home.
Employers have been urged to stop hiring Syrians for menial jobs. Municipalities have issued new curfews and have even evicted Syrian tenants, two humanitarian sources told Reuters. At least one township in northern Lebanon has shuttered an informal camp, sending Syrians scattering, the sources said.
Lebanese security forces issued a new directive this month shrinking the number of categories through which Syrians can apply for residency — frightening many who would no longer qualify for legal status and now face possible deportation.
Lebanon has organized voluntary returns for Syrians, through which 300 traveled home in May. But more than 400 have also been summarily deported by the Lebanese army, two humanitarian sources told Reuters, caught in camp raids or at checkpoints set up to identify Syrians without legal residency.
They are automatically driven across the border, refugees and humanitarian workers say, fueling concerns about rights violations, forced military conscription or arbitrary detention.
Mona, who asked to change her name in fear of Lebanese authorities, said her brother was told to register with Syria’s army reserves upon his entry. Fearing a similar fate, the rest of the camp’s men no longer venture out.
“None of the men can pick up their kids from school, or go to the market to get things for the house. They can’t go to any government institutions, or hospital, or court,” Mona said.
She must now care for her brother’s children, who were not deported, through an informal job she has at a nearby factory. She works at night to evade checkpoints along her commute.
’Wrong $ not sustainable’
Lebanon has deported refugees in the past, and political parties have long insisted parts of Syria are safe enough for large-scale refugee returns.
But in April, the killing of a local Lebanese party official blamed on Syrians touched off a concentrated campaign of anti-refugee sentiment.
Hate speech flourished online, with more than 50 percent of the online conversation about refugees in Lebanon focused on deporting them and another 20 percent referring to Syrians as an “existential threat,” said Lebanese research firm InflueAnswers.
The tensions have extended to international institutions. Lebanon’s foreign minister has pressured UNHCR’s representative to rescind a request to halt the new restrictions and lawmakers slammed a one billion euro aid package from the European Union as a “bribe” to keep hosting refugees.
“This money that the EU is sending to the Syrians, let them send it to Syria,” said Roy Hadchiti, a media representative for the Free Patriotic Movement, speaking at an anti-refugee rally organized by the conservative Christian party.
He, like a growing number of Lebanese, complained that Syrian refugees received more aid than desperate Lebanese. “Go see them in the camps — they have solar panels, while Lebanese can’t even afford a private generator subscription,” he said.
The UN still considers Syria unsafe for large-scale returns and said rising anti-refugee rhetoric is alarming.
“I am very concerned because it can result in... forced returns, which are both wrong and not sustainable,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi told Reuters.
“I understand the frustrations in host countries — but please don’t fuel it further.”
Zeina, a Syrian refugee who also asked her name be changed, said her husband’s deportation last month left her with no work or legal status in an increasingly hostile Lebanese town.
Returning has its own dangers: her children were born in Lebanon and do not have Syrian ID cards, and her home in Homs province remains in ruins since a 2012 government strike that forced her to flee.
“Even now, when I think of those days, and I think of my parents or anyone else going back, they can’t. The house is flattened. What kind of return is that?” she said.


$230m US humanitarian pier in Gaza operational for only 12 days

$230m US humanitarian pier in Gaza operational for only 12 days
Updated 17 sec ago
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$230m US humanitarian pier in Gaza operational for only 12 days

$230m US humanitarian pier in Gaza operational for only 12 days
  • Pier has allowed for the delivery of approximately 250 truckloads of aid, which is less than half of the pre-war daily deliveries to Gaza

LONDON: The $230 million floating pier built by the US military for seaborne humanitarian deliveries to Gaza has been operational for only 12 days since its inauguration on May 17, The Guardian reported on Sunday.

On March 7, US President Joe Biden announced that the temporary pier “would enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day.”

The construction of the two necessary structures — a floating dock anchored offshore and a pier connected to the Gazan coast — took more than two months and involved about 1,000 soldiers, sailors and several ships, including the Royal Navy’s landing ship, Cardigan Bay, which served as accommodation.

Since its launch, the pier has allowed for the delivery of approximately 250 truckloads of aid, equating to 4,100 tonnes of supplies, which is less than half of the pre-war daily deliveries to Gaza. The aid arriving by sea has often remained on the beach due to a lack of trucks for distribution, a result of security concerns.

Rough seas in the eastern Mediterranean have posed unexpected challenges, rendering the joint logistics over-the-shore system less effective than anticipated. The structure was designed to operate in sea conditions up to “sea state 3,” with waves between 0.5 and 1.25 metres. However, it sustained damage during a storm on May 25 and has faced unseasonably choppy waters since then.

After repairs in Ashdod, Israel, the pier resumed operations on June 8 but faced further interruptions. It was dismantled again on June 14 as a precaution against impending storms. Despite being reinstalled, there are reports suggesting that the pier’s vulnerability to weather might lead to it being dismantled early, possibly as soon as next month.

“They just miscalculated,” Stephen Morrison, a senior vice-president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Guardian. “They didn’t fully understand what was going to happen with the weather … so the DoD [Department of Defence] walks away, humiliated in a fashion.”

While acknowledging the difficulties, the Pentagon has not confirmed plans for an early termination of the mission.

“We have not established an end date for this mission as of now, contrary to some press reporting on the matter,” chief spokesperson Maj Gen Patrick Ryder told The Guardian on Thursday.

The floating pier was intended to provide an alternative means of delivering aid to Gaza, bypassing Israeli land restrictions. However, aid workers expressed concerns that the significant resources invested in the effort detracted from political pressure on Israel to open land crossings, which remain the most effective way to deliver aid.

Ziad Issa, head of policy and research at Action Aid, noted a decline in aid deliveries to Gaza, with an average of fewer than 100 trucks arriving daily in early June.

The severe security conditions have hindered the distribution of aid in Gaza. The Rafah crossing from Egypt has been closed since May 7, following an Israeli military offensive, and the alternative Keren Shalom crossing in southern Israel has proved dangerous due to the volatile situation.

“It’s unsafe for aid workers and trucks to move because of the ongoing bombardments on Gaza,” Issa told The Guardian. The Israelis announced a “tactical pause” last week to allow an aid corridor through southern Gaza, but Issa said: “We haven’t seen any difference since these tactical pauses have come in place.”


 


Jordan, USAID to launch rehabilitation project in Salt

Jordan, USAID to launch rehabilitation project in Salt
Updated 10 min 43 sec ago
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Jordan, USAID to launch rehabilitation project in Salt

Jordan, USAID to launch rehabilitation project in Salt
  • Works will improve the bus stop complex and Friday market square

AMMAN: Muhammad Hiyari, mayor of the Greater Salt Municipality in Jordan, on Sunday announced that the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Municipal Support Program will implement a rehabilitation project in the Salt region.

The works will improve the bus stop complex and Friday market square. During a site tour, Hiyari said that the 10-dunum (one hectare) project will be completed in stages to minimize disruption to Friday market traders, Jordan News Agency reported.

The initiative includes the renovation of bus stops, upgrading infrastructure, sidewalks and sanitary facilities, as well as building aesthetic walls that reflect the region’s heritage.

Additionally, a modern hangar with contemporary designs will be built.

The project is expected to create approximately 100 job opportunities for local residents, with the municipality aiming to maximize the potential of Salt’s youth.


 


Jordan delivers 70 trucks of humanitarian aid to north Gaza

Jordan delivers 70 trucks of humanitarian aid to north Gaza
Updated 17 min 27 sec ago
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Jordan delivers 70 trucks of humanitarian aid to north Gaza

Jordan delivers 70 trucks of humanitarian aid to north Gaza
  • Trucks include food parcels, medical supplies and medicines, will be distributed to Palestinian civilians

AMMAN: Jordan announced on Sunday that a convoy of 70 trucks containing humanitarian aid had entered northern Gaza, Jordan News Agency reported.

The contents of the trucks, including food parcels, medical supplies and medicines, will be distributed to Palestinian civilians via partner associations and organizations in the northern areas of the enclave.

The convoy was sent by the Jordanian Armed Forces-Arab Army and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization. It was sent in collaboration with the World Food Programme and funded by several organizations and businesses, among them Islamic Relief Worldwide, the Kuwait Society for Relief, Al-Imdaad Association, Taalof Alkhair and Arabian Medical Relief.

JHCO Secretary-General Hussein Shibli warned that the suffering of Gaza’s population could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, with reports pointing to an impending famine in Gaza.

Shibli said that Jordanian efforts to deliver humanitarian aid are ongoing and that, to date, the number of trucks to have entered Gaza had reached 2,110, in addition to 53 planes via El-Arish in Egypt.


 


Israel’s defense chief to discuss Gaza war, Lebanon hostilities on US trip

Israel’s defense chief to discuss Gaza war, Lebanon hostilities on US trip
Updated 23 June 2024
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Israel’s defense chief to discuss Gaza war, Lebanon hostilities on US trip

Israel’s defense chief to discuss Gaza war, Lebanon hostilities on US trip
  • Visit comes amid concerns over conflict spreading
  • Gallant wants clearer post-war plan for Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is headed to Washington on Sunday to discuss the next phase of the Gaza war and escalating hostilities on the border with Lebanon, where exchanges of fire with Hezbollah have stoked fears of wider conflict.
Iran-backed Hezbollah began attacking Israel shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault sparked the war in Gaza, and the sides have been trading blows in the months since then. Hezbollah has said it will not stop until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.
“We are prepared for any action that may be required in Gaza, Lebanon, and in more areas,” Gallant said in a statement before setting off to Washington, where he said he would meet his counterpart Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.
US envoy Amos Hochstein visited Israel and Lebanon last week in an attempt to cool tensions, amid an uptick in cross-border fire and an escalation in rhetoric on both sides. An Israeli soldier was severely wounded on Sunday by a drone strike, the military said.
Some Israeli officials have linked the ongoing Israeli push into Rafah — the southern area of Gaza where it says it is targeting the last battalions of Hamas — to a potential focus on Lebanon.
Gallant appeared to make the same link in his statement.
“The transition to Phase C in Gaza is of great importance. I will discuss this transition with US officials, how it may enable additional things and I know that we will achieve close cooperation with the US on this issue as well,” Gallant said.
Scaling back Gaza operations would free up forces to take on Hezbollah, if Israel were to launch a ground offensive or step up its aerial bombardments.
POST-WAR PLAN
Officials have described the third and last phase of Israel’s Gaza offensive as winding down fighting while stepping up efforts to stabilize a post-Hamas rule and begin reconstruction in the enclave, much of which has been laid to waste.
Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, has sparred with the premier in the past few months, calling for a clearer post-war plan for Gaza that will not leave Israel in charge, a demand echoed by the White House.
Netanyahu has been walking a tightrope as he seeks to keep his government together by balancing the demands of the defense establishment, including ex-generals like Gallant, and far-right coalition partners who have resisted any post-Gaza strategy that could open the way to a future Palestinian state.
The head of Israel’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuli Edelstein, told Army Radio on Sunday that fighting Hezbollah would be complex either way, now or later.
“We are not in the right position to conduct fighting on both the southern front and the northern front. We will have to deploy differently in the south in order to fight in the north,” said Edelstein, also a Likud member.
Edelstein criticized a video by Netanyahu released last week in which the prime minister said the Biden administration was “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.” The video led to a spat with the White House.
President Joe Biden’s administration paused a shipment of 2,000 pound and 500-pound bombs in May over concerns about their impact if used in densely-populated areas of Gaza. Israel was still due to get billions of dollars worth of UA weaponry.
“I hope that in the discussions behind closed doors much more will be achieved than by attempts to create pressure with videos,” Edelstein said, referring to Gallant’s trip.
Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has killed more than 37,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left nearly the entire population of the enclave homeless and destitute.


Red Sea ship damaged after Houthi drone attack

Houthi fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the US strikes on Yemen.
Houthi fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the US strikes on Yemen.
Updated 23 June 2024
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Red Sea ship damaged after Houthi drone attack

Houthi fighters march during a rally of support for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and against the US strikes on Yemen.
  • The attack in the Red Sea came only hours after the Houthis claimed they had targeted ships in Israel, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea

AL-MUKALLA: A commercial ship cruising along Yemen’s Red Sea coast was damaged after being attacked by a drone suspected to have been operated by Yemen’s Houthi militia, two UK maritime security agencies said on Sunday.

The attack in the Red Sea came only hours after the Houthis claimed they had targeted ships in Israel, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations said it was notified by the master of a commercial ship about an uncrewed aircraft system hitting and damaging the ship in the Red Sea 65 nautical miles west of Hodeidah in Yemen, and that the ship’s crew members were safe.

“The vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” UKMTO said in a notice on X.

Ambrey, a UK maritime security service, said that the ship is a “fully cellular container ship” flying the Liberian flag.

This comes as the Houthis said on Sunday morning that they had conducted two combined military operations with the Islamic Resistance group in Iraq against five ships in Israel’s Haifa port and the Mediterranean.

In a televised statement, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said that their forces and the Iraqi militia used drones to strike four ships in Haifa, including two cement ships and two cargo ships.

The second operation included firing a drone at the Shorthorn Express ship in the Mediterranean as it approached Haifa. 

Sarea claimed the five ships were targeted because they violated the militia’s ban on vessels visiting Israeli ports.

Hours earlier, a Houthi military spokesman claimed to have launched ballistic missile attacks on the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea and the commercial ship Transworld Navigator in the Arabian Sea.

According to marinetraffic.com, which provides information regarding ship whereabouts and identities, the Transworld Navigator is a Liberian-flagged bulk carrier traveling from China to the Suez Canal and the Shorthorn Express, a cattle carrier sailing under the flag of Luxembourg, left Haifa for Malta on Sunday.

Since November, the Houthis have seized one commercial ship, sunk another, and launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and explosive-laden drone boats against commercial and navy vessels in international waters near Yemen, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean.

The Houthis say they solely targeted Israeli-linked ships and those ships heading to Israel to pressure Israel to cease its war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

At the same time, US Central Command said on Sunday morning that its forces had destroyed three Houthi drones in the Red Sea in the previous 24 hours and that the Houthis had also launched three anti-ship ballistic missiles into the Gulf of Aden from Yemeni territory under their control.

The missiles did not strike any US-led marine coalition ships or other commercial ships operating on critical commerce lanes off Yemen.

“This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” the US military said in a statement, denying the Houthi claims of attacking the Eisenhower.

“Recent claims about a successful attack by Houthi forces on the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) are categorically false.”

On Monday, Centcom said that the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier is traveling to the Red Sea to prevent Houthi attacks on shipping, replacing the Eisenhower, which will return to the US.

Meanwhile, the Houthis freed a Bahai sect member in Sanaa after detaining him for more than a year. In a post on X, the Bahai International Community said on Saturday that the Houthis had freed Abdullah Al-Olofi but are still keeping four others, who were among 17 Bahais abducted by the Houthis in May 2023 after raiding their meeting in Sanaa, captive.

The Houthis have conducted a crackdown on Yemen’s Bahai minority, accusing them of being unbelievers and conspiring with the US and Israel.