Fresh unrest in Lebanon as dollar exchange rate hits record high

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Demonstrators set tires aflame at the Martyrs’ Square in Beirut on Tuesday during a protest against deteriorating economic and social conditions. (AFP)
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A demonstrator holds the Lebanese flag during a protest against the fall in Lebanese pound currency and mounting economic hardship, in Jal El-Dib, Lebanon March 2, 2021. (Reuters)
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Demonstrators gather and ride on motorbikes during a protest against the fall in Lebanese pound currency and mounting economic hardship, in Beirut, Lebanon March 2, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 March 2021

Fresh unrest in Lebanon as dollar exchange rate hits record high

  • A number of politicians have warned of escalating chaos if the stalemate in efforts to form a new government is not broken, and if the reforms are not implemented
  • Thousand of protesters once again take to the streets across the country as the rate tops 10,000 Lebanese pounds

BEIRUT: Thousands of people once again took to the streets across Lebanon on Tuesday as the dollar exchange rate hit a record high of more than 10,000 Lebanese pounds. Currency exchanges closed as protesters gathered and blocked roads in Beirut and many other parts of the country.

Demonstrators returned to Martyrs’ Square in the heart of the capital where they expressed their anger at the devastating effect the soaring exchange rate is having on daily life, chanting for another revolution and banging on metal sheets.
Roads there and in other Beirut neighborhoods were blocked with rocks, as protesters complained that the situation is intolerable and the state is collapsing while politicians do nothing. Their chants soon turned into insults directed at the ruling authority.
Protests also broke out on the outskirts of the southern suburbs of Beirut, where the Old Airport Road near the Great Prophet Hospital was blocked in both directions.
They reached Dora and Jounieh, and all the way to Tripoli on the northern coast. They spread south to Choueifat, Khalde, Jiyeh, Sidon and the Zahrani highway. The Qaaqaait Al-Jisr road in Nabatieh was also blocked.
There were also demonstrations in the city of Tyre and in Marjayoun, and protesters in Souk El-Khan in Hasbaya district blocked the road linking the Bekaa Valley to the south.
The protests spread east to Bhamdoun in Mount Lebanon, Taalabaya, Chtoura in the Bekaa Valley, and Baalbek, where the Rayak to Baalbek road was blocked. Tires were burned in some places.
The protesters called for a revival of the Oct. 17, 2019 revolution, when people from all regions took to the streets in protests sparked by government plans to impose a tax on the use of messaging service WhatsApp.
Footage of Tuesday’s demonstrations was broadcast live. It showed protesters calling on people who had remained in their homes to join them on the streets, telling them: “We will starve, so what are you waiting for?”
As the Lebanese Armed Forces worked to reopen blocked roads, there were confronted by protesters who chanted: “We are protesting for you, too.”
One of the protesters said: “We can no longer put bread on the table.”
The latest rise in the dollar exchange rate has decreased the minimum monthly wage in Lebanon to about $67.
The scarcity of usable reserves at the Banque du Liban, the Lebanese central bank, has forced it to strictly ration the supply of dollars, for example by suspending the financing of some food subsidies and the payment of bills for some types of medical supplies.
The Banque du Liban also has a complex procedure for securing financing in dollars for imports, which has prompted importers to turn to the parallel market, increasing the already high demand for dollars.
A number of politicians have warned of escalating chaos if the stalemate in efforts to form a new government is not broken, and if the reforms required by the international community to unlock financial aid for Lebanon are not implemented.
The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) refuses to form a government without a blocking third in favor of the president under the slogan of “restoring the rights of Christians and the powers of the president of the Republic.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri insists on a government of 18 ministers and no blocking third.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, agree with this. Hezbollah has not objected to this form of government but has requested an understanding be reached with its ally, the FPM.


Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

Updated 57 min 49 sec ago

Sudan’s Burhan relieves civilian members of the sovereign council from duties

  • Army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition

CAIRO: Sudan’s military leader General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan issued a decree relieving the five civilian members of the sovereign council from their duties, a statement on the council’s telegram account said on Wednesday.
Burhan said on Monday the army would not participate in internationally led dialogue efforts to break its stalemate with the civilian opposition, and urged political and revolutionary groups to start talks to form a transitional government.


Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian killed during Israeli raid in West Bank

  • At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli military during a raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Rafiq Riyad Ghannem, 20, was “shot by the occupation (Israeli army)” near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, the ministry said in a statement, adding that he was killed in the town of Jaba.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday, a 17-year-old Palestinian died after being shot a day earlier in another Israeli army raid in the same town.
At least 50 Palestinians have been killed since late March, mostly in the West Bank, among them suspected militants and non-combatants.
Israeli security forces have launched near-daily raids in the West Bank following a spate of attacks in Israel in recent months.
Nineteen people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed mainly in attacks carried out by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Three Arab Israeli attackers have also been killed.


Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

Updated 06 July 2022

Palestinian president and Hamas chief hold rare meeting

ALGIERS: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met publicly for the first time in over five years, on the sidelines of Algerian independence anniversary celebrations.
Algeria’s state broadcaster reported late Tuesday that representatives of the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Hamas movement also attended this meeting, which it called “historic.”
The pair, who officially last met face-to-face in Doha in October 2016, were brought together in a meeting with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, whose country marked the 60th anniversary of independence from France.
Abbas’ secular Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority that rules the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has been at loggerheads with Hamas since elections in 2007, when the Islamists took control of Gaza.
Tebboune and Abbas also signed a document to name a street “Algeria” in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
As well as Abbas and Haniyeh, Tebboune on Tuesday hosted several foreign dignitaries, who watched a huge military parade to mark independence in 1962 when Algeria broke free from 132 years of French occupation.


Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

Updated 05 July 2022

Algeria to re-open land border with Tunisia: president

  • "We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15," said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune
  • He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied

ALGIERS: Algeria said Tuesday it would reopen its land border with Tunisia later this month, more than two years after it was shut at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have taken the joint decision to reopen the land border from July 15,” said President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
He was speaking at Algiers airport alongside his Tunisian counterpart President Kais Saied, who was leaving the country after attending a huge parade marking 60 years since Algeria’s independence from France.
Passengers had been blocked from crossing the border since March 2020 to stop the Covid-19 illness spreading, although cargo traffic had continued.
Being cut off from a neighbor of some 44 million people has dealt a serious blow to Tunisia’s tourism industry.
More than three million Algerians usually visit the country every year, according to local media.
Air and sea links between the two countries were restored in June 2021.


Egypt FM attending freedom of religion conference in London

Updated 05 July 2022

Egypt FM attending freedom of religion conference in London

  • Societies that allow their people to choose what they believe are better, stronger and ultimately more successful

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is attending the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in London.

The event, which is being held on July 5-6, is hosting 500 religious, government and civil society leaders from 60 countries to call for more action to protect freedom of religion or belief around the world.

In the opening speech of the conference, the UK’s Prince Charles said in a recorded message: “Freedom of conscience, of thought and of belief is central to any truly flourishing society. It allows people to contribute to their communities without fear of exclusion, to exchange ideas without fear of prejudice, and to build relationships without fear of rejection. A society where difference is respected, where it is accepted that all need not think alike, will benefit from the talents of all of its members.”

Speaking at the conference at the Queen Elizabeth II Center in London, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss said: “The freedom to believe, to pray and commit acts of worship, or indeed not to believe is a fundamental human freedom and has been one since the dawn of time. Societies that allow their people to choose what they believe are better, stronger and ultimately more successful. This fundamental right is covered in the very first clause of Magna Carta and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is one of the Four Freedoms Franklin D. Roosevelt said were ‘essential everywhere in the world.’”

Yesterday, the Egyptian minister, at the start of his London visit, met UK Minister of State for North Africa, South and Central Asia, the Commonwealth and the UN Lord Tariq Ahmed. The two discussed the conference, Egypt’s preparations for hosting and chairing COP27 in November, and the importance of continuing coordination between Egypt and the UK.