Lebanese PM: ‘We insist on neutrality in Arab conflicts’

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Arab ministers with the award winners. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 February 2022
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Lebanese PM: ‘We insist on neutrality in Arab conflicts’

  • Mikati tells Arab Justice Ministers: ‘Do not burden Lebanon with what it cannot handle’
  • Arab League secretary-general praises Lebanon as ‘a beacon of knowledge’

BEIRUT: Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has praised Lebanon as “a beacon of knowledge that spares no effort in backing every activity that enriches joint Arab action.”

Aboul Gheit was speaking on Saturday at a ceremony held by the Council of Arab Justice Ministers in Beirut for Arab doctoral thesis award winners in the field of law and justice.

His remarks came after comments by Lebanon Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who said at the ceremony: “We expect our Arab brothers to understand our reality and stand by us to spare Lebanon more risks and help us bear the burdens that have exceeded our capabilities.

“Lebanon, which was and will remain part of the Arab world, is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, and our government is trying to solve it with all available capabilities, relying on the support of its Arab brothers and international friends,” Mikati added.

“It is unfair to burden Lebanon with more than it can handle,” the prime minister said.

Mikati added: “We are unable to stand in a trench here or on a front line there. We have thus adopted a neutrality policy when it comes to Arab conflicts, and we insist on implementing it.”

He said that the only loser in any regional dispute “is our Arab world, which has always been seeking unity.”

The prime minister added that Lebanon’s “bitter experience has taught it that fighting leads nowhere and everyone comes out a loser.”

He said: “The homeland loses and the people lose. Whoever thinks they can win against their Arab partner is wrong.

“Victory can only be achieved through understanding, looking after future generations, and charting a future that fulfills their ambitions.”

Aboul Gheit added during his speech that Arab universities are still experiencing “low rankings worldwide due to their lack of innovation and seriousness in scientific research, and the dwindling volume of scientific publications.”

He highlighted the need to “recover from this shortfall by increasing the budget for scientific research, providing opportunities for the youth, preparing them to face modern challenges and allowing them access to equal opportunities to compete with other societies.”

The awards were first proposed during the 35th session of the Council of Arab Ministers of Justice in 2019, and were promoted by the council’s Arab Center for Legal and Judicial Research to support scientific research, targeting a category of Ph.D. holders in law and justice.

Jury representative and former Lebanese justice minister Ibrahim Najjar said: “It was not easy to choose the best thesis out of hundreds that tackled various topics from all over the Arab world. This diversity shows that we can be open to different cultures and adapt to how the world is constantly developing.”

Lebanese Justice Minister Henry Khoury said that the awards, which will take place every two years, aim to “encourage applied comparative studies that deal with real issues in Arab law and justice, direct studies toward serving national needs in these fields, as well as strengthen legal and judicial studies, and raise institutional awareness in this regard.”

Algerian Justice Minister Abdul Rashid Tabbi, who was present at the ceremony, said: “The interest researchers from various universities in the Arab world expressed in the award is the beginning of an Arab scientific rapprochement between the peoples of the Arab world, and it will pave the way for other such opportunities.”

The ceremony awarded first prize to Amina Kab, second to Mohammed Mohammed Hussein and third to Safiyan Abdali.

Khoury and Tabbi signed two agreements on the sidelines of the event. The first covers judicial cooperation between Lebanon and Algeria on penal policies, while the second aims to prosecute convicts and extradite detainees between the two countries.

Tabbi said that the agreements “are the best mechanism for confronting the evasion of criminal accountability, and by signing them, we will establish for both our countries a comprehensive framework that will protect them from criminal threats.”

Meanwhile, an Iranian delegation, led by Culture and Guidance Minister Mahdi Ismaili, arrived in Beirut to inaugurate “Days of Cultural Dawn” activities in Lebanon.

The activities are scheduled to be held at the Hezbollah-affiliated Resalat Theater in south Beirut, at the UNESCO Palace in the capital and at the International Center for Dialogue of Civilizations in Rabweh.

They include a musical evening by the Rudaki National Iranian Orchestra, a craft exhibition, a symposium on cultural pluralism, a film screening, and poetry and folklore evenings.


Lebanon’s Hezbollah: What weapons does it have?

Updated 5 sec ago
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Lebanon’s Hezbollah: What weapons does it have?

  • Many of the Shiite Muslim group’s weapons are Iranian, Russian or Chinese models

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Hezbollah has drawn on an expanded arsenal in ongoing hostilities with Israel, with leader Sayyed Hassan Nasdallah saying in a speech on Wednesday the Iran-backed group had obtained new weapons.
He did not identify the new weapons, but said they would “emerge in the field.”
Hezbollah’s latest conflict with Israel, which has raged in parallel with the Gaza war, has raised concerns of further escalation between the regional enemies, which last fought a major war in 2006.
Here is a snapshot of Hezbollah’s arsenal:

AN OVERVIEW
Hezbollah’s military strength is underpinned by upwards of 150,000 missiles and rockets of various types and ranges, according to the World Factbook of the US Central Intelligence Agency.
Hezbollah says it has rockets that can hit all areas of Israel. Many of them are unguided, but it also has precision missiles, drones and anti-tank, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles.
Hezbollah’s main supporter and weapons supplier is Iran. Analysts say Tehran sends arms to the group by land via Iraq and Syria, both Middle Eastern countries where Iran has close ties and influence. Many of the Shiite Muslim group’s weapons are Iranian, Russian or Chinese models.
Nasrallah said in 2021 the group has 100,000 fighters. The CIA World Factbook says it was estimated in 2022 to have up to 45,000 fighters, split between roughly 20,000 full-time and 25,000 reserve personnel.

ANTI-TANK MISSILES
Hezbollah used guided anti-tank missiles extensively in the 2006 war. It has deployed guided rockets again in the latest hostilities. These include the Russian-made Kornet.
Hezbollah has also used an Iranian-made guided missile known as “al-Mas,” according to a report by the pro-Iran Arabic broadcaster Al-Mayadeen.
A report by Israel’s Alma Research and Education Center published in April described the Al-Mas as an anti-tank weapon that can hit targets beyond the line of sight following an arched trajectory, enabling it to strike from above.
The missile is part of a family of weapons made by Iran through reverse engineering based on the Israeli Spike missile family, the report said. It said the missile was a “flagship product” of Iran’s defense industry in Hezbollah’s possession.
ANTI-AIRCRAFT MISSILES
Hezbollah said on June 6 it had fired at an Israeli warplane. A source familiar with its arsenal said it was the first time the group had done so, calling it a milestone, while declining to identify the weapon used.
Hezbollah has also shot down Israeli drones during this conflict using surface-to-air missiles.
The first such incident was on Oct. 29 when Hezbollah for the first time said it had used anti-aircraft weaponry it had long been thought to have.
Hezbollah has used such missiles several times since, downing Israeli Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 drones.

DRONES
Hezbollah has repeatedly launched explosive one-way drones, including in some of its more complicated attacks. It launched some to distract Israeli air defenses, while explosives-laden drones were flown at targets.
More recently, the group has announced attacks that use drones that drop bombs and return to Lebanon, rather than just flying at their targets.
Hezbollah’s drones include what it says are the locally-assembled Ayoub and Mersad models, which analysts say are cheap and relatively easy to produce.

LAND-ATTACK ROCKETS AND MISSILES
Unguided rockets comprised the bulk of Hezbollah’s missile arsenal in the last war with Israel in 2006, when the group fired about 4,000 of them into Israel — mostly Russian-made Katyusha-style missiles with a range of up to 30 km (19 miles).
Nasrallah has said the biggest change in Hezbollah’s arsenal since 2006 is the expansion of its precision guidance systems.
In 2022, he said Hezbollah had the ability within Lebanon to retrofit thousands of rockets with guidance systems to make them precision missiles.
Hezbollah has Iranian models, such as Raad (Arabic for Thunder), Fajr (Dawn) and Zilzal (Earthquake) rockets, which have a more powerful payload and longer range than Katyushas.
Rockets fired by Hezbollah at Israel during the Gaza conflict since October have included Katyushas and Burkan (volcano) missiles with an explosive payload of 300-500 kg.
Its Iranian-made Falaq 2 rockets it used for the first time on June 8, could carry a bigger warhead than the Falaq 1 used in the past.
Hinting at the damage it could do, Nasrallah in 2016 made a veiled threat that Hezbollah could hit ammonia storage tanks in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, saying the result would be “like a nuclear bomb.”

ANTI-SHIP MISSILES
Hezbollah first proved it had anti-ship missiles in 2006, when it hit an Israeli warship 16 km (10 miles) off the coast, killing four Israeli personnel and damaging the vessel.
Since the 2006 war, Hezbollah has acquired the Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missile with a range of 300 km (186 miles), sources familiar with its arsenal say. Hezbollah has not confirmed it has the weapon.
Hezbollah has also broadcast videos that it says show more of the same type of anti-ship missile used in 2006.

 


Activists file torture complaint against Iranian held in France

Bashir Biazar. (Photo/social media)
Updated 40 min 24 sec ago
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Activists file torture complaint against Iranian held in France

  • It accuses Biazar of complicity in torture due to his past work with Iranian state broadcasting conglomerate IRIB, describing him as a former director of production there

PARIS: Activists said on Thursday they were filing a torture complaint against an Iranian citizen held in France who was reportedly a former senior figure in state television in the country.
During strained relations between Paris and Tehran, Bashir Biazar has been held in administrative detention in France since June 3, pending expulsion from the country for separate reasons.
His lawyer has denounced his detention and planned expulsion as “political,” while officials in Iran have condemned France over his arrest and urged his release.
Activist group Iran Justice and victims of human rights violations filed the complaint against Biazar in Paris. If the court decides to follow up, he could be kept in France to stand trial.
It accuses Biazar of complicity in torture due to his past work with Iranian state broadcasting conglomerate IRIB, describing him as a former director of production there.
Iranian state media have described him as a “cultural figure.”
The complaint refers to the regular broadcasts by Iranian state television of statements by — and even interviews with — Iranian or foreign prisoners, which activists regard as forced confessions.
There are “serious indications” that Biazar could have been “personally involved” in recording such broadcasts, said lawyer Chirinne Ardakani.

 


Netanyahu says Israel needs US ammunition in ‘war for its existence’

Updated 20 June 2024
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Netanyahu says Israel needs US ammunition in ‘war for its existence’

  • The Israeli leader’s comments came after he angered Washington with a video statement this week accusing it of “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel“
  • US officials have said they were not aware of what Netanyahu was referring to

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday the country needs ammunition from the United States in “the war for its existence,” directly addressing the White House after it criticized him for complaining about arms deliveries related to the Gaza war.
“I am prepared to suffer personal attacks provided that Israel receives the ammunition from the US that it needs in the war for its existence,” he said in a statement.
The Israeli leader’s comments came after he angered Washington with a video statement this week accusing it of “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
US officials have said they were not aware of what Netanyahu was referring to.
“Those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists earlier on Thursday.
Washington said that there is only one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs that is under review because of concerns about their use in densely populated areas in Gaza.
Kirby separately said that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is due to meet his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer on Thursday.
Washington is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.


Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank

Updated 20 June 2024
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Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank

  • Naeem Abdullah Samha, 15, was killed “by occupation (Israeli army) bullets” in the city of Qalqilya
  • He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead of his wounds there

JERUSALEM: The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, amid escalating violence in the territory since the war in Gaza began on October 7.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
Naeem Abdullah Samha, 15, was killed “by occupation (Israeli army) bullets” in the city of Qalqilya, the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said in a statement.
The Palestinian official news agency Wafa, citing local sources, reported that Samha was shot in the chest.
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead of his wounds there, the agency said, which gave no reason for the shooting.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has for more than a year experienced a rise in deadly incidents, but particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in what it says is a bid to thwart militant groups.
At least 547 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops or settlers since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, according to Palestinian officials.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 14 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
The West Bank is home to about 490,000 Israeli settlers who live in communities considered illegal under international law.


Netanyahu criticism on US weapons deliveries ‘vexing’: White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2024
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Netanyahu criticism on US weapons deliveries ‘vexing’: White House

  • Netanyahu said that “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel”

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism this week over US weapons deliveries to his country is “vexing,” the White House said on Thursday.
“Those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza war, “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States however has said that there is only one shipment of 2,000 pound bombs that is under review because of concerns about their use in densely populated areas.
Kirby separately said that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is due to meet his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer on Thursday.
Washington is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The war was triggered by an unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.