Lebanon’s FM meets with UN, French and US envoys in bid to prevent full-scale war

People walk past the rubble of a building that was destroyed by previous Israeli bombardment in the village of Yaroun in south Lebanon near the border with Israel on June 21, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 22 June 2024

Lebanon’s FM meets with UN, French and US envoys in bid to prevent full-scale war

  • Lebanon counts on success of US diplomatic efforts to prevent full-scale war
  • Former ambassador to US tells Arab News: ‘No one has an interest in open war’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib met with French Ambassador Herva Magro, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and US Ambassador Lisa Johnson on Friday.

The minister reiterated Lebanon’s call for the full implementation of UN Resolution 1701.

Hennis-Plasschaert said there was “no inevitability (to wider conflict with Israel)” during her visit to UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

Also on Friday, it was announced that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will make shuttle visits to Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank.

Concerned at the risk of Israel’s war on Gaza spreading across the region, US President Joe Biden sent his special envoy Amos Hochstein to embark on a new round of diplomacy last week. Hochstein called for “urgent” de-escalation during talks with Lebanon and Israel on Tuesday, informing both sides that “the threat of a full-scale war persists and must be avoided.”

It is widely believed in Lebanon that Hochstein convinced Israel to refrain from escalating its military actions against Lebanon for the time being.

In a meeting with visiting Israeli officials including National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer in Washington on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored the importance of “avoiding further escalation in Lebanon and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” according to a statement.

According to his spokesperson, Matthew Miller, Blinken also stressed America’s “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

During his talks in Beirut, Hochstein reportedly reassured Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati that Biden’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza was being viewed positively, and that Qatar was working to make it happen.

Hochstein also reportedly told Mikati that “things are under control and positive when it comes to the war between Lebanon and Israel.”

Former Lebanese Ambassador to Washington, Riad Tabbarah, described threats of war as a “mere outburst.”

He told Arab News: “Since military operations began on the southern front about nine months ago, the Lebanese have been hearing that war is coming, but it never arrives.

“During diplomatic negotiations, it is common for both sides to face pressure and threats,” he continued. “It appears that there are numerous and diverse negotiations happening behind the scenes, including discussions between the Americans and Iranians, as well as between the Americans and Hezbollah.”

Tabbarah acknowledged the recklessness of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said the Israeli leader “has two options — either war or prison. And there is significant pressure on him, especially from the families of the hostages.”

Tabbarah noted that there are limits to what military action can achieve. “We still recall the time when former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon crossed those limits in 1982 when he set the Litani Line as his target. However, he went beyond that and reached Beirut. As a result, international powers united to bring him back to the Litani Line.

“No one has an interest in war,” he continued. “Americans, Europeans, and Iranians are working in the opposite direction. The general trend is to avoid escalating to open war.”

Military operations on the Lebanese front decreased significantly on Friday, although the outskirts of Naqoura in the western sector were targeted by Israeli artillery, causing a fire in a house. In the morning, an Israeli military raid targeted the town of Wazzani.

Hezbollah made a series of announcements about their operations, which were “focused on specific targets within the rules of engagement.”

Hezbollah attacked the sites of Ramtha and Samaka in the occupied Lebanese Kfar Shouba Hills, the Zabadin site in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms, and carried out an air attack using drones on the Ras Al-Naqoura naval site, aiming at locations containing Israeli military personnel.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health said that, up to June 19, it has recorded a total of 1,774 casualties, including 432 fatalities, caused by Israeli attacks.


US hits former Israeli military sergeant with visa restrictions

Updated 5 sec ago

US hits former Israeli military sergeant with visa restrictions

WASHINGTON: The US has imposed visa restrictions against a former Israeli military sergeant for his alleged involvement in gross violations of human rights in the occupied West Bank, including an extrajudicial killing, the State Department said on Wednesday.
As a result of the restrictions, Sergeant Elor Azaria “and any immediate family members are generally ineligible for entry into the United States,” the department said in a statement.
The department also said it was taking steps to impose visa restrictions “on an additional group of individuals for having been involved in or meaningfully contributed to undermining the peace, security, or stability in the West Bank.”

WHO warns of rising attacks on Sudan hospitals

Patients receive treatment at the Gedaref Oncology Hospital in eastern Sudan on May 1, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 46 sec ago

WHO warns of rising attacks on Sudan hospitals

  • Recent UN-backed report said nearly 26 million people, or slightly more than half of the population, were facing high levels of “acute food insecurity”
  • Both the army and the RSF have been accused of obstructing humanitarian aid and nearly destroying Sudan’s already fragile health care system

CAIRO: Hospitals and other health care facilities in war-torn Sudan are facing increased attacks, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Wednesday as fighting between the army and paramilitaries rages on.
Since the start of the war in April 2023, the WHO has recorded 82 attacks on health care facilities, “including 17 in the last six weeks alone,” said Hanan Balkhy, the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean regional director.
Meanwhile, the country is suffering from the “spread of diseases such as cholera, malaria and meningitis,” she warned during a video conference.
The conflict between the regular army under Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, led by his former deputy Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, has left tens of thousands dead and displaced more than ten million people, according to the United Nations.
With the war showing no signs of abating, the delivery of humanitarian aid faces “administrative, security and logistical obstacles,” said Shible Sahbani, the WHO’s representative in Sudan.
Despite the challenges, “the WHO distributed 510 tons of medicines and aid materials between January and July,” he added, saying that two trucks entered North Darfur last week from Chad and seven trucks are en route to Darfur from Port Sudan.
Sahbani said hunger is the main factor driving Sudanese to flee the country, referring to testimonies from asylum-seekers in neighboring Chad.
A recent UN-backed report said nearly 26 million people, or slightly more than half of the population, were facing high levels of “acute food insecurity.”
Humanitarian agencies say that the difficulty of obtaining data on the ground has prevented famine from being officially declared in Sudan.
Both the army and the RSF have been accused of obstructing humanitarian aid and nearly destroying Sudan’s already fragile health care system.

Israeli strike kills Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Relatives and friends mourn over the bodies of three children killed in Israeli strikes during their funeral in Al-Qasmiya area.
Updated 17 July 2024

Israeli strike kills Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

  • Nasrallah threatens to target settlements if civilians continue to be targeted

BEIRUT: Israeli warplanes on Wednesday renewed their raids on the town of Umm Al-Tut, near the town of Marwahin in southern Lebanon, hours after similar raids on the town resulted in the deaths of three children from a Syrian refugee family.

The children, who were killed while working on a farm when an Israeli drone struck, were buried in the town of Qasimia in the Tyre region.

According to media reports from the south, “Israeli attacks recently hit new villages that were relatively spared for several months, and their residents had not been displaced.”

Such attacks last week targeted the outskirts of the towns of Deir Mimas, Jdeidet Marjeyoun, Borj El-Mlouk, Qlayaat, Ebel El-Saqi, Rachaya Al-Foukhar, Rmeish and Kawkaba, which are predominantly Christian villages.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech on Wednesday to mark Ashura, said: “The enemy has gone too far in targeting civilians in recent days; two civilian martyrs in Kfarkela, three martyrs, a brother and his two sisters in Bint Jbeil, two Syrian civilian martyrs between Arnoun and Kfar Tebnit, three child martyrs in Umm Al-Tut near the border.

“The resistance responded to this at night with dozens of rockets, approximately 120 rockets, targeting Kiryat Shmona and many other settlements; six or seven settlements at night. Today, I want to tell the enemy that persistence in targeting civilians will prompt the resistance to launch rockets and target new settlements that have not been targeted before,” Nasrallah said.

Alfred Mady, the head of Al-Khayar Al-Akhar, or The Other Choice movement, made a plea to the Maronite authority in Bkerke to “take action to preserve the Christian presence in southern Lebanon.”

A security source suggested that “Israel may be adopting a policy of intimidating civilians in villages that have been spared so far, to push them to flee and thus continue pressuring Hezbollah.”

Nasrallah warned Israel of the consequences of any invasion of Lebanon, saying Israel would be left without any tanks if a full-blown conflict erupted.

“Our front will not stop as long as the aggression continues on Gaza, and the threat of war will not scare us.”

He stressed that “in case the aggression stops, the party negotiating on behalf of Lebanon is the Lebanese state, and we informed everyone who contacted us that the party responsible for negotiations and providing answers is the Lebanese state. All rumors about a ready agreement on the situation at the southern borders are incorrect. No agreement has been reached so far. There are drafts, ideas, and proposals. The future of the situation in the south will be decided in light of the results of this battle.”

Nasrallah said: “Whatever support the Lebanese state will provide to our people in the villages of the south, we assure our people whose homes were completely or partially demolished that we will work with you. We will reconstruct our homes, and we will rebuild our front villages as they were and more beautiful than they were.”

Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib warned of the catastrophic consequences that would arise in the event of any Israeli escalation against Lebanon. He praised the diplomatic efforts of the mediators, emphasizing “Lebanon’s commitment to initiatives and solutions aimed at reducing escalation and enhancing regional security and peace.”

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah addresses the Trans-Mediterranean Migration Forum in Tripoli on July 17, 2024.
Updated 17 July 2024

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

  • Libya is a key departure point for migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, risking Mediterranean Sea journeys to seek better lives in Europe

TRIPOLI: Libya held Wednesday a conference on irregular migration that saw the attendance of representatives from 28 European and African countries hoping to establish a “strategic” cooperation to resolve the issue.
“We have a moral responsibility” toward the mainly sub-Saharan migrants “who cross the desert and the sea” hoping to reach Europe, Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah said at the opening of the Trans-Mediterranean Migration Forum.
Libya, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Italy, is a key departure point for migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, risking perilous Mediterranean Sea journeys to seek better lives in Europe.
But with mounting efforts by the European Union to curb irregular migration, many have found themselves stranded in Libya and other North African countries.
“Libya found itself caught in pressure between (Europe’s) turning back of migrants and (their) desire to migrate,” said Dbeibah.
He called for development projects in departure countries.
“We can only resolve the migration crisis at the root, in the countries of departure,” he said.
Last week, authorities in Libya said that up to four in five foreigners in the North African country are undocumented, and hosting migrants hoping to reach Europe has become “unacceptable.”
“It’s time to resolve this problem,” Interior Minister Imad Trabelsi had said, because “Libya cannot continue to pay its price.”
Libya is still struggling to recover from years of war and chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Smugglers and human traffickers have taken advantage of the climate of instability that has dominated the vast country since.
The country has been criticized over the treatment of migrant and refugees, with accusations from rights groups ranging from extortion to slavery.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Wednesday’s forum called for an end to “human trafficking... (which) is nowadays one of world’s most powerful criminal networks.”
The far-right minister denounced “criminal organizations” who “decide who has the right or not to live in our countries,” adding that “illegal migration is the enemy of legal migration.”
Italy recorded 30,348 migrant arrivals from North Africa between January 1 and July 16 — a 61-percent decrease in a year — with 17,659 people leaving from Libya and 11,001 from Tunisia, according to official figures.

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

Updated 17 July 2024

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

  • Maritime Security Center in Oman said that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon
  • Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels

AL-MUKALLA: Search operations have escalated for 16 seamen who went missing in the Arabian Sea on Monday when their oil tanker, bound for Yemen, sunk off Oman.

The Maritime Security Center in Oman said on Tuesday that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker that collapsed 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah near the Omani port town of Duqm.

The Indian news agency Asian News International reported that the Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels and coast guards to find the missing sailors. The Indian Navy warship was able to locate the capsized tanker on Tuesday morning.

According to marinetraffic.com, which provides ship information, the Prestige Falcon is an oil tanker flying the Comoros flag, and which was going from the UAE to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. In Yemen, the state-run Public Electricity Corporation in Aden said that the capsized ship was carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel owned by a local merchant, contradicting media reports claiming that it controlled the ship’s cargo.

This comes as the Conflict and Environment Observatory, an environmental advocacy charity, stated that images provided by the Sentinel 2 satellite on Tuesday showed a 220 km oil slick beginning 106 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeidah, which was believed leaked from the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion that the Houthis attacked.

On Tuesday, the Houthis released footage of an explosive-laden and remotely operated boat colliding with the Chios Lion in the Red Sea, which was traveling 100 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah on Monday, resulting in an explosion and ball of fire. The CEOBS condemned the Houthis for damaging the Red Sea’s ecosystem by assaulting oil vessels. “Attacks have already impacted the Red Sea environment and attacks on oil and bulk chemical carriers pose ongoing risks,” it said in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s government said that it had found no evidence of contamination in the Red Sea or along the country’s coast from a fertilizer-laden ship that sank in the Red Sea, repeating appeals for the international community to provide it with technology to neutralize the ship’s danger. The MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer and gasoline, sank in the Red Sea earlier this year after being attacked by Houthi missiles.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission responsible for the sinking ship, told Arab News that the Yemeni government teams who visited the ship’s area and combed the Yemeni coasts had not observed any signs of pollution.

He also said that the Yemeni government had requested equipment from some nations, including a remotely operated underwater vehicle, to address the MV Rubymar sinking or any similar incident in the future as the Houthis intensify their attacks on ships. “So yet, there is no pollution or slicks surrounding the ship, and it remains bowed up, indicating that water has not infiltrated all of its compartments,” he said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk two others, fired hundreds of ballistic missiles and deployed drones and drone boats to attack commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The Yemeni militia sees this as an attempt to pressure Israel to end its war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.