Lebanese party on despite threat of war

Revelers drink at a pub on a busy nightlife street in Beirut's Mar Mikhail neighbourhood on June 22, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 23 June 2024

Lebanese party on despite threat of war

  • Tensions have risen on the Israel-Lebanon frontier for almost two weeks
  • “This is Lebanon and this is our story. Nothing changes. We survived the July war”

BEIRUT: In the buzz of a trendy Beirut neighborhood, the din of bars and laughter blend together, far from the border violence with Israel further south and fears of all-out war.
“I’m 40 years old, and each year they tell us that war will break out this summer,” Elie, a financial consultant who did not give his last name, said in a bar in the Lebanese capital with other locals chatting beside him.
“What we see in the street is different from what we hear in the media,” he said. “What the foreign press is reporting makes people think that Lebanon is at war.”
Since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7, the Palestinian Islamist movement’s ally, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has been exchanging nearly-daily fire with Israel over the border.
Tensions have risen on the Israel-Lebanon frontier for almost two weeks, after Israel’s killing of one of Hezbollah’s most important commanders.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a catastrophe “beyond imagination,” and France and the United States have been working for de-escalation.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Hezbollah would be destroyed in “total war” and the country’s army approved “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon.”
The following day, the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned that “no place” in Israel would be spared by the group’s weapons in the event of full-blown war.
While the risk of the border conflict overflowing into the rest of the country comes up in conversations, it does not seem to bother the partiers in the Christian neighborhood of Mar Mikhael.
In the Beirut neighborhood well-known for its bars, lit-up with multi-colored lights, glasses clink and customers dance to the rhythm of remixed Arab and Western pop songs played at full blast by a DJ.
“This is Lebanon and this is our story. Nothing changes. We survived the July war,” Elie said, referring to a war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006.
“In all the past crises, people continued to stay out late, whether during the Covid-19 pandemic or the explosion at Beirut port” in the summer of 2020.
The blast killed more than 200 people, destroyed swathes of the capital including Mar Mikhael, and accelerated the economy’s collapse.
Elsewhere in the city, locals brought their children to a street festival organized in the center of Beirut, carrying on late into the night.
“Despite all the threats, we are a people who love life,” Abir Atallah told AFP, amid the laughter of children in front of the stage.
While according to the United Nations more than 95,000 Lebanese have been displaced by the conflict around the Israel border, the spectre of war does not stop people in other parts of the country from living normally.
“We live day by day. Of course, people are afraid, but we rely on God,” said Mira Makhlouf, who sells toys for children.
“Lebanese love to party,” she said, adding that she has no intention of leaving the country if a full-scale war breaks out.
While the biggest events held every summer in Lebanon were canceled this year because of the conflict in the south, some organizations chose to continue with thir plans.
Arab singers are flocking to Lebanon to perform. More than 20,000 people in mid-June attended a concert in Beirut by Egyptian pop star Amr Diab.
Foreigners continue to travel to the country for the summer festival season, despite warnings from several countries that their citizens should not visit Lebanon.
“I do not think that a war will break out, and we are not afraid. Otherwise, we would not see this crowd,” Nayla Haddad said at the festival.
“Every two weeks, we organize a festival in a new place,” she said, smiling.

Houthis blame Israel for Yemen port strike

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Houthis blame Israel for Yemen port strike

HODEIDAH: The Houthis blamed Israel Saturday for a series of strikes on a fuel depot in the militia-held Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, adding that the strikes caused casualties.
“The Israeli enemy’s raids on oil storage facilities in the port of Hodeidah” have led to deaths and injuries, the militia’s health ministry said in a statement carried by Houthi-run media, without specifying a toll. Israel has yet to comment on the strikes.

UAE launches investigation into Bangladeshi expats arrested for alleged riots

Updated 15 sec ago

UAE launches investigation into Bangladeshi expats arrested for alleged riots

DUBAI: UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif Al-Shamsi has ordered an investigation into the arrest of several Bangladeshi nationals who were apprehended for inciting riots across multiple streets in the UAE on Friday.

A dedicated team from the public prosecution has promptly begun investigating the arrested individuals, Emirates News Agency, WAM, reported on Saturday.

Preliminary findings suggest that the suspects engaged in criminal activities, including assembling in public spaces and protesting against their home government, WAM added.

These actions were allegedly intended to incite unrest, obstruct the enforcement of law, disrupt individual interests, endanger others and violate their rights, impede traffic, and cause damage to both public and private property.

It is alleged that the suspects deliberately disrupted transport networks, organized and promoted these demonstrations, and recorded and disseminated audiovisual footage of their actions online.

Such activities are considered offenses against state security and public order in the UAE.

The public prosecution has ordered the pre-trial detention of the suspects pending further investigations. Al-Shamsi has also directed that the suspects be referred to an expedited trial.

Massive protests have broken out in Bangladesh over student anger against quotas that set aside 30% of government jobs for the families of those who fought for independence from Pakistan.
Police have fired tear gas to scatter protesters in some areas while the government has banned public gatherings, imposed communications restrictions, deployed the army in some parts and imposed a curfew. Dozens have been killed in the past week.

Jordan sends 83 aid trucks to Gaza

Updated 20 min ago

Jordan sends 83 aid trucks to Gaza

  • Contents of the trucks include food parcels, blankets, clothes and health care supplies

AMMAN: Jordan announced that a convoy of 83 trucks containing humanitarian aid was headed to Gaza on Saturday, Jordan News Agency reported.

The contents of the trucks, including food parcels, blankets, clothes and health care supplies, will be distributed to Palestinian civilians via partner associations and organization in the Strip.

The convoy was sent by the Jordanian Armed Forces-Arab Army and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization. It was sent in collaboration with the World Food Programme and funded by the Helping Hand Society and Human Appeal.

JHCO Secretary-General Hussein Shibli highlighted the scale of Jordan’s aid initiative to Gaza, noting that the substantial donations from local, regional and international bodies underscored the trust Jordan commands globally and its capability to deliver aid effectively to the region.

Shibli said that to date, the number of trucks to have entered Gaza had reached 2,694, in addition to 53 planes via El-Arish in Egypt.

Emirati market opens in Qingdao to celebrate 40 years of UAE-China relations

Updated 56 min 59 sec ago

Emirati market opens in Qingdao to celebrate 40 years of UAE-China relations

  • Market includes pavilions selling dates, traditional handicrafts, and popular Emirati cuisine

DUBAI: The UAE opened an Emirati market in Qingdao on Saturday as part of the UAE-China Friendship Festival, which ends Sunday.

The festival marks 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations, showcasing a diverse array of Emirati products and arts to the Chinese public, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

The market includes pavilions selling dates, traditional handicrafts, and popular Emirati cuisine. There is also an exhibition chronicling the development of relations between the UAE and China.

The festival also features a “comprehensive cultural program” that includes performances of traditional arts “celebrating the UAE's national identity,” as well as workshops.

This event is part of a broader series of activities in both countries aimed at “enhancing mutual understanding and fostering new opportunities for cooperation across various sectors,” according to WAM.

UAE, GCC welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestine

Updated 20 July 2024

UAE, GCC welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestine

  • ICJ had reinforced the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights under international law, Albudaiwi says

DUBAI: The UAE and the Gulf Cooperation Council have welcomed a ruling by the UN’s top court that Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory break international law.

The International Court of Justice issued the judgment, which is non-binding, on Friday.

The court ruled that “the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the country rejected all measures aimed at altering the historical and legal status of occupied Palestine.

The ministry condemned practices that contravene international resolutions, warning that such actions “threaten further escalation and instability in the region, and hinder efforts to achieve peace and stability.” It also emphasized the importance of supporting initiatives to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as bringing an end to “Israel’s illegal practices that undermine an independent Palestinian state.”

GCC Secretary-General Jassem Mohamed Albudaiwi said that the ICJ had reinforced the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights under international law and UN resolutions to reclaim territories occupied by Israel. He asserted that the settlement activities and geographic changes imposed by Israeli forces are “illegitimate and lack regional or international recognition.”

Albudaiwi reiterated that the Occupied Territories remain “the inherent right of the Palestinian people” and reaffirmed the GCC’s steadfast support for the Palestinian cause, advocating for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The ICJ’s ruling comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating bombardment on Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli settlements adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.

Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians consider those areas to be an integral part of any future independent state.

The ruling was also welcomed by Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League.