Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

Protestors have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties. (File/AFP)
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Updated 20 January 2020

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

  • The meeting will touch on “security developments” in the country
  • Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s under-fire president is set to meet Monday with top security officials to discuss rare violence over the weekend that left hundreds wounded in the protest-hit country.

Michel Aoun will be joined by the care-taker ministers of the interior and defense as well as the chiefs of the military and security agencies in the early afternoon, his office said in a statement.

The meeting will touch on “security developments” in a country rocked since October 17 by unprecedented protests against a political class deemed incompetent, corrupt and responsible for an ever-deepening economic crisis.

It will also address “measures that need to be taken to preserve peace and stability,” the state-run National News agency (NNA) reported.

Demonstrators at the weekend lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a flashpoint road near parliament.

Over the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, some 530 were wounded on both sides, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defense.

Lawyers and rights groups have condemned the “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces.

Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”

Internal Security Forces, for their part, have urged demonstrators to abstain from assaulting riot police and damaging public or private property.
Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis.

Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios.

Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties.

The United Nations’ envoy to Lebanon pinned the blame for the violence on politicians.

“Anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped,” Jan Kubis wrote on Twitter on Saturday.


Palestinians allowed to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque

Updated 23 October 2020

Palestinians allowed to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque

  • Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had been barred for four months in June, was able to attend the Friday prayers
  • Palestinians from inside Israel were among those reaching Jerusalem for the weekly Friday prayers

AMMAN: An estimated 15,000 Palestinian worshippers flocked to Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers, one month after the Israeli authorities banned entry due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Al-Aqsa’s preacher and the head of the Higher Islamic Committee, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, who had been barred for four months in June, was able to attend the Friday prayers. He told Arab News that the situation was back to normal. “All gates were open today and the Israelis allowed worshipers access to the mosque,” he said. Sheikh Sabri had issued calls to Muslims who could attend Friday prayers.
Hijazi Risheq, the head of the Jerusalem merchants committee, told Arab News that for the first time in weeks Israeli soldiers allowed entry to Islam’s third holiest mosque.
He said: “No Israeli soldiers were seen at the entrance of Jerusalem’s old city, allowing free access to the walled city, but some Palestinian youth with West Bank ID were prevented access to the mosque.”
Palestinians from inside Israel were among those reaching Jerusalem for the weekly Friday prayers.
Risheq told Arab News that the past week had been difficult for the city’s business community.
“During last week we witnessed an unprecedented and nasty campaign by the Israeli occupation forces against the merchants and residents of the city of Jerusalem. Shopkeepers were fined exorbitant violations of 5,000 shekels ($1,500) and any clients at the shops were also fined 500 shekels.”
Rizeq said that there appeared to be miscommunication and contradictions in the orders and guidance by the Israeli forces — “all at the expense of the merchants and residents of the city.”
The prevention of entry to the old city was a combination of the Jewish holidays and the lockdown due to the coronavirus, Palestinians told Arab News.
The Jerusalem Waqf Council had issued a six-point guide to worshippers giving medical advice about social distancing and about bringing their own prayer rugs, and recommended that older Muslims stay away from Al-Aqsa for their own protection.
Miki Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli police, confirmed the prayers for Muslims. “The Temple Mout (Al-Aqsa) was open on Friday and the prayers took place in a regular and quiet manner,” he told Arab News.