Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah ‘is the voice of Iran, his words have no national scope,’ says leader of Lebanese Forces party

Hassan Nasrallah. (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2023
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Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah ‘is the voice of Iran, his words have no national scope,’ says leader of Lebanese Forces party

  • Samir Geagea: ‘Syria is divided into areas, with the center under Iranian control’
  • Militant group does not want real dialogue, he says

BEIRUT: Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hezbollah, inflicts pain on Lebanon and its society when he associates himself with Iran’s regional strategy, says a prominent Christian bloc leader.

Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces party, told Arab News that Nasrallah “is the voice of Iran. His words have no national scope."

He said Lebanon was not currently suffering from a Christian or a sectarian-related problem, but rather from an intense national issue affecting all Lebanese people.

“Nonetheless, multiparty (politics) reflects a positive aspect,” he added.

Geagea leads one of the two major Christian blocs in the Lebanese parliament, and his party is spearheading the opposition against Hezbollah.

Gebran Bassil leads the other bloc — the Free Patriotic Movement.

Geagea said unity at a political level “cannot be achieved in the presence of two parties, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, which are not on the same page regarding the simplest issues, whether strategic matters, propositions, or even the political project and its related practices.”

He added: “Nevertheless, we are on the same page with other parties, such as the Kataeb Party and the National Liberal Party.

“The situation is not easy today, but we always have to be optimistic. The harder it is, the more we have to continue our struggle."

The Lebanese Forces party is considered Saudi Arabia’s main ally in Lebanon, and Geagea believes the relationship has deep roots.

He said: “After 2005, the March 14 Movement emerged, which included the Lebanese Forces.

“This movement had privileged relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, enabling the Lebanese Forces to establish relations with Saudi leaders based on the convergence of interests and a shared vision for Lebanon, without forgetting the historical emotional ties between the two peoples.

“However, how can they help our country now, at a time when it is plagued by a corrupt political class, where some of its members are fiercely attacking the Gulf?”

Geagea said that Hezbollah’s speeches are only for the benefit of its supporters as it aims to justify its failures by blaming others.

He added that Iran, through Hezbollah and its allies, “unfortunately has a significant influence on politics in Lebanon.”

He said: “(The) political opposition (is) because we consider Hezbollah’s project to be disastrous for Lebanon, and the proof of this is the situation we are in today.

“(Hezbollah) is today a state within the Lebanese state that is eating away at it from within.

“We have no problem if it is an unarmed party. For Hezbollah, dialogue involves imposing their point of view.

“There have been a lot of negotiations in the past that I have personally engaged in, to no avail.

“These are mere lies and misinformation that they spread and publicize.

“Regarding the presidential elections, there is an ongoing dialogue between the parties, but Hezbollah wants a dialogue to impose its candidate, Suleiman Frangieh.

“Hezbollah does not want real dialogue; they are lying. As proof of this, the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt met with them twice without reaching any solution.

“After all, a candidate with Hezbollah’s blessing is a bad candidate for Lebanon.”

He said he believes Hezbollah’s plan “is to elect a president over the corpses of a dying people, as was the case between 2014 and 2016.”

Geagea added that Hezbollah’s strategy was to push the Lebanese people to accept its party’s candidate, whether Frangieh or someone else.

But he added: “This time we will not allow them to achieve their goal.

“According to Hassan Nasrallah’s recent press conference, Lebanon is in the eye of the regional storm. Who put it in the eye of the storm? Hezbollah and its weapons.

“The Americans helped Lebanon negotiate with Israel to demarcate the maritime borders to fully benefit from the oil and gas resources.

“US sanctions are targeting some Hezbollah leaders who are financing the party and allowing it to lead the Lebanese state."

Lebanon’s current vulnerability has led many to suggest a resurgence of Syrian influence within the country, but Geagea said the Syrian authorities “have no influence in Syria itself.”

He added: “We cannot say that Syria is regaining its former hegemony in Lebanon, while the regime is struggling to assert itself in its country and is almost isolated regionally and internationally.

“(The country) is divided into areas, with the center under Iranian control, the west under Russian control, the north under Turkish, and the east under American. Even Syrian airspace is controlled by Israel.”

Regarding the question of Christian unity in Lebanon, Geagea said: “I believe that this term is misunderstood and misused.

“While the opposition parties use it to say that Christians are divided under the framework of the presidential elections, the truth is that the obstruction is caused by the parties responsible for disrupting the open sessions held for duly electing a president, and voting in favor of a present candidate.

“I believe that the Christian community is unified under a single culture within the country. However, this statement becomes erroneous at the political level.”
 


UN chief says no alternative to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA

Updated 5 sec ago
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UN chief says no alternative to UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA

NEW YORK: United Nations chief Antonio Guterres declared on Friday that there is no alternative to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and 118 countries backed the relief organization as indispensable, amid stepped up efforts by Israel to dismantle it.
The UN Relief and Works Agency provides education, health and aid to millions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Since war erupted nine months ago between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, UN officials have stressed UNRWA is the backbone of aid operations.
“My appeal to everyone is this: Protect UNRWA, protect UNRWA staff, and protect UNRWA’s mandate — including through funding,” Guterres told an UNRWA pledging conference in New York on Friday. “Let me be clear: there is no alternative to UNRWA.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long-called for UNRWA to be dismantled, accusing it of anti-Israeli incitement, and Israel’s parliament is currently considering designating UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding, while the UN is conducting an internal investigation.
UNRWA has been hit hard during the conflict in Gaza — 195 staff have been killed.
“UNRWA is also being targeted in other ways,” Guterres said. “Staff have been the subject of increasingly violent protests and virulent misinformation and disinformation campaigns.”
“Some have been detained by Israeli security forces, and subsequently reported mistreatment and even torture,” he said, adding that in the West Bank the presence and movements of UNRWA staff have also been severely restricted by Israel.
The Israeli military has said it acts according to Israeli and international law and those it arrests get access to food, water, medication and proper clothing.
Israel accuses UNRWA of complicity with Hamas, saying the militant Islamist group was embedded within the UN agency’s infrastructure.
UNRWA was created by the UN General Assembly in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war. Jordan’s UN Ambassador Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud said on Friday ahead of the pledging event that 118 countries had signed on to a joint statement supporting UNRWA and its work.
The statement underlined “that UNRWA is the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza, and recognizing that no organization can replace or substitute UNRWA’s capacity.”

Palestinian released from Israeli jail ‘came back from the dead’

Updated 15 min 36 sec ago
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Palestinian released from Israeli jail ‘came back from the dead’

  • Abayat, a butcher by trade, was arrested without explanation on October 26
  • He was held at a prison in the Negev desert

BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories: Muazzaz Abayat’s parents barely recognized their son lying in a hospital bed after being freed from nine months in Israeli detention, with his weight halved from his usual heavyset build, hollowed cheeks and shaggy hair.
“I came back from the dead,” the 37-year-old Palestinian, told AFP at a hospital in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
Abayat, a butcher by trade, was arrested without explanation on October 26, just over two weeks after the unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that sparked the Gaza war.
He was held at a prison in the Negev desert, officially under so-called administrative detention, which meant he could be held without charge or trial for an extended period.
“They arrested me at home, not surrounded by fighters but by my children and pregnant wife,” said Abayat, whose sixth child was born while he was in jail.
Detentions of West Bank Palestinians have soared since the war began on October 7, with regular use of administrative detentions.
According to the Prisoners Club, a Palestinian watchdog, about 9,700 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, including hundreds under administrative detention.
The NGO estimates that arrests have doubled since October 7 compared to the same period last year.
Violence has surged in the territory since the start of the Gaza war, with at least 572 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or settlers, according to the Palestinian authorities.
At least 16 Israelis have also died in Palestinian attacks, according to official Israeli figures.
In a video that went viral on social media when Abayat was freed Tuesday, he is seen limping and leaning on a man to walk, while his right hand seems paralyzed.
“No human being on the face of the earth can imagine how life has been” he said, calling the prison where he was held, “the ‘Guantanamo of the Negev’,” after the US prison in Cuba used to hold detainees after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“We were unjustly detained, killed and severely beaten with iron clubs and subjected to all kinds of torture,” Abayat added.
Israel’s prison administration told AFP it was “not aware” of Abayat’s claims.
“All prisoners are detained according to the law. All basic rights required are fully applied by professionally trained prison guards,” an Israeli Prison Service (IPS) spokesperson told AFP.
“The prisoner was examined and treated medically by the IPS’ finest doctors throughout his incarceration.” The spokesperson said, Abayat could file a complaint if he wished.
Showing his bruised, bony legs, Abayat recounted beatings with clubs and chains, and said his body still hurt all over.
“They gave us 10 to 12 beans with pieces of cabbage, and we had to survive on that from 7.00 am until dinner time,” he said while explaining his dramatic weight loss.
A “before and after” photo montage of Abayat shared online shows a muscular man with a shaved head and trimmed beard — wildly different from the long dishevelled hair and messy beard of the man in the Bethlehem hospital.
“This is enough to tell what happened to me,” he said of the photos.
His father Khalil Abayat told AFP that his son “was a man who weighed about 100, 110 kilos (220 to 242 pounds) and was muscular.”
When Muazzaz stood on the hospital scale Wednesday, he weighed just 54 kilograms.
“When I saw Muazzaz, he was not the same Muazzaz my son was before his arrest,” said the father, shocked by the confusion his son seemed to suffer from.
“He doesn’t recognize me, he’s disorientated and his health is very low.”
Khalil added, however, that doctors had expressed confidence that Muazzaz’s condition would improve. The former detainee has started eating more.
From his hospital bed, Muazzaz admitted that he had “forgotten things.”
But he said he was not completely done with Israeli detention.
“I’ve left a small prison for the big prison” of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, he said.


Israeli strike kills 4 aid workers in Gaza ‘safe zone,’ UK-based group says

Updated 47 min 53 sec ago
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Israeli strike kills 4 aid workers in Gaza ‘safe zone,’ UK-based group says

  • The strike also killed three staffers from other aid groups using the warehouse, the Al-Khair foundation said
  • The warehouse was located in Muwasi, an area on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that is part of a “humanitarian safe zone” where Israeli has told Palestinians to take refuge

GAZA: A UK-based aid group said one of its employees in Gaza was killed Friday in an Israeli strike that hit its warehouse located inside an Israeli-declared humanitarian safe zone. The strike also killed three staffers from other aid groups using the warehouse, the Al-Khair foundation said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.
The Israeli army did not immediately respond to AP’s request for comment on Friday’s strike.
The warehouse was located in Muwasi, an area on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that is part of a “humanitarian safe zone” where Israeli has told Palestinians to take refuge.
After a two-week Israeli offensive in northern Gaza, dozens of bodies were collected throughout Gaza City’s Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood and brought to Al-Ahli Hospital on Friday morning. Civil defense workers said they were still recovering dead and wounded from destroyed streets and buildings.
Israel launched the war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 38,300 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are crammed into squalid tent camps in central and southern Gaza. Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of law and order have limited humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine. The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to take steps to protect Palestinians as it examines genocide allegations against Israeli leaders. Israel denies the charge.


More than half a million children in Gaza missing out on vital education amid Israeli-Hamas war: UNRWA

Updated 12 July 2024
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More than half a million children in Gaza missing out on vital education amid Israeli-Hamas war: UNRWA

  • 600,000 children had been unable to attend school this year because of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war

LONDON: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees warned on Friday that the Gaza Strip was on the verge of “losing an entire generation of children” due to the ongoing Israeli aggression, now in its 10th month.

The organization said that more than 600,000 children had been unable to attend school this year because of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war raging in the enclave. 

UNRWA added it would be extremely difficult for children to recover the education they have missed out on since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel and the subsequent Israeli retaliation.

It also noted that two-thirds of its schools in Gaza had been destroyed, while the rest had been converted into shelters for hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians.

Statistics from the Hamas-run Palestinian Ministry of Health assert that approximately 16,000 children have died in Israeli bombings or from illness, famine and malnutrition since the start of the Israeli aggression. 

A letter penned by three experts published in the Lancet medical journal earlier this week said the number of children who might have died in the conflict could be much higher, with thousands of children believed to be trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings.


UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

Updated 12 July 2024
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UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

  • Any opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice would be non-binding, but it will come amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel
  • "A public sitting will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague ... during which Judge Nawaf Salam... will read out the Advisory Opinion," the ICJ said

THE HAGUE: The UN's top court will next week hand down its view on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967, a case in which some 52 countries made submissions.
Any opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice would be non-binding, but it will come amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza sparked by the brutal October 7 Hamas attacks.
"A public sitting will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague (on July 19) ... during which Judge Nawaf Salam... will read out the Advisory Opinion," the ICJ said on Friday.
The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following a request from the United Nations late last year.
The UN has asked the ICJ to hand down an "advisory opinion" on the "legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".
Most speakers during the hearings have demanded that Israel end its occupation, which came after a six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967.
But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its "very real security needs" into account.
Speakers also warned a prolonged occupation posed an "extreme danger" to stability in the Middle East and beyond.
Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.
It submitted a written contribution, in which it described the questions the court had been asked as "prejudicial" and "tendentious".
The case before the court is separate from one brought by South Africa against Israel for alleged genocide during its current offensive in Gaza.
South Africa has gone to the ICJ several times arguing that the dire humanitarian situation means the court should issue further fresh emergency measures.
In an initial ruling on January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent acts of genocide during its military operation in Gaza.
It also called for the unconditional release of hostages taken by Palestinian militant group Hamas during its October 7 assault that sparked the war.