Opinion

Pandemic, economic collapse, explosions... who wants to be Lebanese in 2020?

A wounded man is helped by a firefighter near the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP / ANWAR AMRO)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Pandemic, economic collapse, explosions... who wants to be Lebanese in 2020?

  • Latest disaster caps a year of challenges for beleaguered country, and there are still five months to get through

LONDON: Until now, all Lebanon had to contend with this year had been a devastating pandemic, a crippling economic collapse and a government accused of corruption and incompetence.

Now this. And it’s only August.

“This has been the worst year for Lebanon by far,” Karim Nahouli, from Beirut’s Ras Al-Nabaa district, told Arab News. 

“We’ve had 15 years of civil war, then another war in 2006 with Israel, and assassinations throughout, but this is definitely Lebanon’s year from hell.”

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Lebanese have been living through an unprecedented financial and economic crisis in which the pound has lost more than 80 percent of its value in eight months, pushing up the price of imported goods by up to five times.

“The people are tired. We are all exhausted and drained from the never-ending bad news that continues to appear on our phones and social media,” said Samer Asmar, a Lebanese expatriate medical researcher in Arizona. 

“I haven’t been able to focus fully on anything since the protests began, and it’s been continuously downhill from there.”

Protesters denouncing the country’s political regime took to the streets on Oct. 17 last year, and they were there again on Tuesday demonstrating against constant power cuts. 

Electricity issues have plagued the country for years, with recent power cuts going on for up to 20 hours a day.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic this year accelerated the country’s economic collapse as scores of shops, restaurants and malls closed amid the lockdown.

“Lebanon is fighting a war on three levels: On the health level, on the political level, and now a war for their lives, wellbeing, and safety,” Nahouli said.


Airstrike in northwestern Syria kills over 50 rebel fighters

Updated 50 min 30 sec ago

Airstrike in northwestern Syria kills over 50 rebel fighters

  • The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a higher toll, at 78 fighters dead and nearly 90 wounded

BEIRUT: An airstrike on a rebel training camp in northwestern Syria on Monday killed more than 50 Turkish-backed fighters and wounded nearly as many, a Syrian opposition spokesman and a war monitor said.
The airstrike in the northwestern part of Idlib province, the last rebel enclave in Syria, targeted a military training camp for Failaq Al-Sham, one of the largest Turkish-backed opposition groups in Syria, said Youssef Hammoud, a spokesman for the groups.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, gave a higher toll, at 78 fighters dead and nearly 90 wounded. Rescue missions were still underway, the Observatory said. It said it also suspected the airstrike was carried out by Russia, which is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war.
Leaders of the camp were among those killed in airstrike in Jabal Al-Dweila, according to Hammoud. The camp is close to the borders with Turkey.
Syrian rebel groups vowed to retaliate.
“The factions of the National Front for Liberation we will respond to these violations,” said Naji Al-Mustafa, another spokesman for the Turkish-backed fighters, threatening to target government and Russian posts. He called it a “crime” by Russia.
Turkey and Russia had brokered a truce in Idlib earlier this year to halt a government offensive that displaced hundreds of thousands. But the truce remained shaky.
Turkey has long supported Syrian rebel forces in Syria. Russia has negotiated with Ankara to deploy observation teams in the rebel enclave to monitor the truce.
Last week, Turkish troops evacuated one of their largest military bases in the area, which was surrounded by Syrian government troops for months. Syrian opposition fighters said it was part of Turkey’s redeployment of its forces in the shrinking enclave.