A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 17/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 92th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 16-17/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 92th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
January 17/2020


Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 16-17/2020
No solutions in Lebanon without Dismantling Hezbollah and eradicating its Iranian cancerous occupation/Elias Bejjani/16 January/2020
The Occupier Hezbollah Stands Behind All Acts Of Violence, chaos & Corruption/Elias Bejjani/January 15/2020
A Revolution That Does Not Call For The Liberation Of Lebanon Is A mere Tool for the Occupier that is Hezbollah/Elias Bejjani/January 15/2020
Lebanon on the brink of forming government, top Berri aid says/Georgi Azar/Annahar/ January 16/2020
Govt. Formation Efforts Suffer New Setback after Optimism
Aoun receives head and members Constitutional Council, MP Dergham
Rahi meets Press Syndicate: Constitution the weakest party in Lebanon
Choucair: They want to blame telecom sector’s 20-year problems on me
Othman Apologizes to Media, Says ISF Facing ‘Great Violence, Infiltrators’
Hassan Says Force against Journalists ‘Unjustified,’ Vows Accountability
Reports: Govt. May be Formed Friday after ‘Decisive’ Berri-Diab Meeting
Hariri Lashes Out at Sayyed in War of Tweets
‘Let Them Try’: Hariri Warns against Firing Othman
Lebanon detains 100 after protests turn violent
Beirut shaken by ‘barbaric’ protests crackdown
Lebanon anti-bank protests rock Beirut for second night
Protesters clash with Lebanese security in Beirut for second night in a row
Lebanese Protesters Decry Security Forces’ Use of Violence
Lebanese Protesters Stage Peaceful Demos
British Ambassador Visits Tripoli, Meets Beneficiaries and Mayor
UN official blames politicians for ‘dangerous chaos’ in Lebanon
Lebanese economist Ghazi Wazni to be named finance minister in new govt
Lebanon close to forming new govt: Caretaker finance minister
Jumblat Warns ‘Destruction of Banks’ Would Destroy Lebanon
Court charges Nancy Ajram’s husband with intruder’s murder
Lebanon police forced to apologise after brutalising activists in most violent night since protests began/Gaia Caramazza/The New Arab/January 16/2020
Lebanese unlikely to welcome Diab’s government/Randa Takieddine/Arab News/January 16/2020

Details Of The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorial published on January 16-17/2020
No solutions in Lebanon without Dismantling Hezbollah and eradicating its Iranian cancerous occupation
Elias Bejjani/16 January/2020
To the revolutionaries, high rank clergymen, and to all those who are patriotic, sovereign and honourable in occupied Lebanon, the Land Of the Cedars: for heavens sake address and name loudly the occupier which is the terrorist and criminal Iranian Hezbollah, and stop your cowardice and Dhimmitude approaches. Witness for the truth and lead, or resign and let those who are courageous and capable to take the lead.

The Occupier Hezbollah Stands Behind All Acts Of Violence, chaos & Corruption
Elias Bejjani/January 15/2020
المحتل حزب الله هو وراء كل اعمال العنف والفساد والفوضى
http://eliasbejjaninews.com/archives/82321/elias-bejjani-the-occupier-hezbollah-stands-behind-all-acts-of-violence-chaos-corruption-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%85%d8%ad%d8%aa%d9%84-%d8%ad%d8%b2%d8%a8-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%84%d9%87-%d9%87%d9%88-%d9%88%d8%b1/

There is no shed of doubt that all acts of violence from all sorts, no matter big or small, that are taking place in Lebanon and criminally inflicted on the oppressed and impoverished Lebanese people are planned and executed by Hezbollah’s armed mercenaries, proxies and thugs.
The terrorist Iranian armed proxy, The so called Hezbollah, is directly or covertly fully accountable for all the hardships and all the miseries that the Lebanese people are encountering, including the current economic and banking sector devastating ongoing crisis.
The saddening reality that every Lebanese MUST grasp and act accordingly is that Lebanon is an Iranian occupied country by all means and in accordance to all legal and UN criteria.
According there will be no solutions in any domain, or at any level, before the full and immediate implementation of the three UN resolutions that address Lebanon:
The Armistice agreement, the 1559 and 1701 Resolutions.
Meanwhile, sadly, the majority of the Lebanese politicians from all religious denominational backgrounds and affiliations are mere puppets and do not serve Lebanon’s or the Lebanese interests and welfare, but serve evilly and narcissistically those of Hezbollah’s Iranian schemes.
It remains very obvious that all Lebanon’s officials including the president, house Speaker, Prime Minister, as well as all narcissistic owners of the so called falsely political parties have sold themselves and their dignity to the Hezbollah occupier with much more less than thirty pieces of silver.

A Revolution That Does Not Call For The Liberation Of Lebanon Is A mere Tool for the Occupier that is Hezbollah
Elias Bejjani/January 15/2020
A revolution that flaunts, hails and turns a blind eye on the Mullahs’ Iranian Hezbollah occupation, terrorism, crimes, trafficking, regional wars, and at the same time advocates for its big lie of resistance is definitely a revolution of hypocrisy. Such a revolution carries it own failure and only serves the occupier’s Iranian devastating agenda.

Lebanon on the brink of forming government, top Berri aid says
Georgi Azar/Annahar/ January 16/2020
BEIRUT: Lebanon is on the brink of forming a new Cabinet after more than four months of political turmoil, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said Thursday. “We are on the brink of forming a government made up of experts,” Hassan Khalil said after he attended a meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab.  Khalil confirmed that the government will include 18 “experts”, yet stopped short of including the word independent, a core demand of protestors. Diab, nominated almost a month ago, vowed that he would form a government of independent experts but has faced pushback from the Amal Movement, Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement. Since Monday, Lebanon has been rocked by a fresh wave of protests that turned violent as security forces have used a heightened level of force. In response, protesters Thursday decried security forces’ use of violence during rallies over the past two days, including attacks on journalists and the detention of over 100 people. Dozens of people, including journalists, rallied outside the Interior Ministry denouncing what they said was the systematic use of force against members of the media. Many raised photos of journalists getting beaten by riot police. Others gathered outside the American University of Beirut and a police station where dozens have been detained since Tuesday.

Berri, Diab Agree on Govt. of Specialists in ‘Very Positive Meeting’
Naharnet/January 16/2020
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab held talks Thursday in Ain el-Tineh and agreed on the formation of a “government of specialists,” Berri’s political aide said. “The meeting was very positive and it was a continuation of constant communication,” caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told reporters after the meeting. “It created an atmosphere that led to an agreement on the formation of a government of specialists that would represent the broadest segments of society,” Khalil added. “We made major progress today and we are on the verge of the formation of the new government, which will be an 18-minister government of specialists as PM-designate Diab has suggested,” the minister went on to say. Noting that Diab has followed “unified standards” in the distribution of seats, Khalil said it is important to “move to the formation phase as soon as possible.”

Govt. Formation Efforts Suffer New Setback after Optimism
Naharnet/January 16/2020
Efforts to form a new government suffered a new setback Thursday evening, after optimism surged in the wake of a meeting between Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab. “It seems that the government formation process has been put on hold and Marada Movement sources have said that it turned out that there are eight ministers who are loyal to (Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran) Bassil,” MTV reported. “Marada sources said that joining the government is not a stroll, adding that they prefer to enter it with dignity,” the TV network added. The sources also said that Marada will not “obstruct the government’s work” but “will not take part if this government is Bassil’s government.” “It turned out that there are veiled faces who are loyal to Bassil,” they decried. MTV added that another obstacle is related to MP Talal Arslan’s demand to get the industry portfolio for his party. In this regard, President Michel Aoun “suggested raising the number of ministers to 20 to allow appointing a second Druze minister, but PM-designate Hassan Diab is insisting on keeping the number at 18,” MTV said. It said that the Marada is also demanding two seats instead of only one, adding that Hizbullah is expected to intervene to resolve these obstacles.’

Aoun receives head and members Constitutional Council, MP Dergham
NNA/January 16/2020
The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, met, this morning at the Presidential Palace, the Head of the Constitutional Council, Judge Tannus Mashlab, accompanied by members of the Council. The delegation extended congratulations to the President, on the occasion of the holidays. The conversation tackled the work of the Council and the general situation in the country. President Aoun also met MP, Asaad Dergham and deliberated with him current developments, in addition to the needs of the Akkar region, and the difficulties encountered by the people of Akkar, in the current situation. President Aoun met the Lebanese Ambassador to Jordan, Tracy Chamoun, and discussed with her the relations between Lebanon and Jordan.–Presidency Press Office

Rahi meets Press Syndicate: Constitution the weakest party in Lebanon

NNA/January 16/2020
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, on Thursday regretted that amid all the hubbub currently spiraling the nation, the weakest party was the Lebanese constitution. Rahi was speaking before a visiting delegation representing the press syndicate, along with its president, Aouni Kaaki. In the wake of the meeting, Kaaki relayed Rahi’s appeal to the political class to set aside personal interests “because the country is on the brink of collapse.” He also indicated that Rahi believed that it was totally up to the designated Prime Minister and the President of the Republic to form a government. “Fact is, political parties have been participating in the formation of the government, which is not constitutionally correct,” he added as quoting Rahi. According to Kaaki, Rahi also warned politicians from taking the demands of citizens lightly, requesting of the Prime Minister to carry out his task and not give up. As for the resignation of the President of the Republic, Kaaki reiterated Rahi’s firm stance against it and asserted that a Christian summit will be held soon if the formation of a government is not announced in the near future.

Choucair: They want to blame telecom sector’s 20-year problems on me
NNA/January 16/2020
Caretaker Minister of Telecommunications, Mohammad Choucair, addressed a press conference this Thursday at the Ministry’s headquarters in Beirut DT, saying “on February 15, I submitted the specifications book to the Cabinet which, in turn, instructed me to renew the contracts of the two cellular companies,” noting “the government gave ministers a month-long period to study [the specifications], and they differed in politics over one article touching on the dispute over accepting or rejecting the participation of a non-Lebanese company in the tender.”
“When the contract deadline expired, I had to renew it, but I will not shoulder this responsibility, in light of the public’s reaction. They want to blame the problems of the telecommunications sector for over 20 years on me. I, however, will only act as stipulated by the law,” the Minister stressed. Commenting on the recruitment accusations, Choucair said “employment requires a cabinet decision; so how can I recruit 2100 employees? I am the only minister who has been assigned this ministry and yet made no recruitments into the Alfa and Touch companies.”

Othman Apologizes to Media, Says ISF Facing ‘Great Violence, Infiltrators’
Naharnet/January 16/2020
Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman apologized to journalists and media outlets on Thursday following a new night of violent demos that involved assaults on journalists at the hands of ISF members. “I sincerely apologize to the media and to the journalists who were covering the events yesterday outside the Helou barracks,” Othman said at a rare press conference. “A probe has been launched into the attacks on journalists,” he added. “The ISF members are not robots and they err as every human,” Othman explained. He lamented that policemen are “facing great violence and infiltrators who have criminal records.”“Going to a military barracks and attacking it is something totally unacceptable and the law considers it a crime,” Othman added, referring to the fierce clashes outside the Helou barracks in the Beirut areas of Mar Elias and Corniche al-Mazraa. “When a policeman is hit by a rock, this is considered attempted murder, and this is not a simple thing at all,” Othman warned. He added: “Do you want security forces to withdraw from their role in preserving security? Is the revolution a place for violence, rioting, chaos and attempted murder?”Earlier on Thursday, protesters decried the ISF’s use of violence during rallies over the past two days, including the attacks on journalists and the detention of over 100 people. Dozens of people, including journalists, rallied outside the Interior Ministry denouncing what they said was the systematic use of force against members of the media. Many raised photos of journalists getting beaten by riot police. Protests turned violent Tuesday in Beirut’s Hamra area when demonstrators pelted security forces with stones and water bottles and smashed windows of commercial banks they accuse of corruption and denying them their deposits. Security forces responded by firing tear gas heavily, beating up several protesters and arresting dozens of people. A fresh round of similar violence erupted overnight Wednesday outside an ISF barracks in Beirut and a number of nearby banks were vandalized.

Hassan Says Force against Journalists ‘Unjustified,’ Vows Accountability
Caretaker Interior Minister Raya el-Hassan on Thursday said nothing justifies the use of violence against journalists, noting that military force inflicted on press members a day earlier was “unintentional.”Hassan, who emerged from the Interior Ministry to give a statement to a rally of journalists who attended a sit-in outside the ministry, said: “We strongly denounce violence against the press, but believe the security forces are very tired” after more than 90 days on the ground to maintain security. In scuffles between security forces and protesters Wednesday evening, several members of the press were injured. “It is totally unacceptable and I take responsibility for the use of force because I am the head of the pyramid. But, you should stand in their shoes and tell me what happens,” she said. “I assure you that no orders were given to behave violently, not from me nor from the army command. What happened was unintentional,” she said vowing accountability.Journalists attended a sit-in outside the ministry protesting against the security forces’ use of force while covering protests near one of their barracks a day earlier.

Reports: Govt. May be Formed Friday after ‘Decisive’ Berri-Diab Meeting
Naharnet/January 16/2020
The new government is expected to be formed on Friday should the positive atmosphere continue, media reports said. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab has asked for 24 hours to resolve “minor issues that are still pending,” Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) quoted unnamed sources as saying.
MTV meanwhile reported that “all obstacles have been resolved,” saying the government is expected to be formed “today, tomorrow or over the weekend at the latest.”“The meeting between (Speaker Nabih) Berri and Diab lasted two hours and it was decisive,” the TV network added. It also noted that Hizbullah and the AMAL Movement have yet to submit the names of their ministers. Berri’s political aide Ali Hassan Khalil meanwhile announced that the Speaker has agreed with Diab on the formation of an 18-minister “government of specialists.”

Hariri Lashes Out at Sayyed in War of Tweets
Naharnet/January 16/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday blasted MP Jamil al-Sayyed after the lawmaker accused him of protecting Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh for private financial interests. “To Jamil al-Sayyed, the genius in economy, assassination, lying, fraud and deceit, the best thing for you is to shut up after you stole, looted and imported explosives with your friend (Michel Samaha). Don’t utter a single word,” Hariri tweeted. Earlier, Sayyed charged that Salameh had given BankMed — a Lebanese bank in which Hariri had shares — “$400 million from the people’s money in order to rescue it from bankruptcy.”Sayyed also accused Salameh of “covering up for Bank Audi to give a loan worth $350 million to (the businessman) Alaa al-Khawaja” to allegedly allow him to buy Hariri’s shares in BankMed. “It is normal for you to protect him and protect other corrupts, but the people are not stupid and the day of accountability is coming,” Sayyed added.

‘Let Them Try’: Hariri Warns against Firing Othman

Naharnet/January 16/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday warned the upcoming government against sacking Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman. “Let them try, I’m not Hassan” Diab, a defiant Hariri said, when told that there is an “inclination” to fire Othman. Hariri was speaking after a financial meeting at the Center House with caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil and Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh. “The main problem is that the state has failed to carry out the necessary reforms… Some want to fight political Harirism and this is what has brought the country into this situation,” Hariri said. He added: “I’m not siding with a person against another and I want to be honest with the Lebanese. Yes, the central bank and banks are to blame for part of the problem but they are not the entire problem.” “There will be a new government and it must know what to do to rescue the financial situation,” the caretaker PM went on to say. He also noted that the new government will “deal with the issue of Eurobonds,” adding that his talks with Khalil and Salameh focused on “the financial situation and banks.”

Lebanon detains 100 after protests turn violent
AFP, Beirut/Thursday, 16 January 2020
Lebanon’s security forces were holding at least 100 anti-government protesters Thursday, lawyers told AFP, after two nights of demonstrations that turned violent in Beirut. An unprecedented nationwide movement of protests demanding an end to endemic corruption and the wholesale removal of Lebanon’s political elite broke out nearly three months ago. With little change in sight, protesters also angered by a financial crisis they blame on Lebanon’s oligarchs resumed their rallies with renewed determination Tuesday after a holiday lull.Protesters vandalized several banks on the central Hamra street on Tuesday evening and hurled rocks at anti-riot police, who responded with volleys of tear gas canisters. Gathered in front of the Central Bank again on Wednesday, the protesters then moved to a police station where some of their comrades had been detained the previous night, leading to clashes that left dozens lightly wounded. According to documents put together by a committee of lawyers defending the protesters and seen by AFP, a total of 101 protesters are currently being detained over the violence. “The total number of people arrested now tops 100, it’s madness,” said Nizar Saghieh, who heads the Legal Agenda non-government organisation. A fresh demonstration is planned on Thursday to demand the release of those held. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned under pressure from the street less than two weeks into the wave of protests but a new government has still not been formed. After a long search for a suitable candidate, former education minister and university professor Hassan Diab was nominated and tasked with picking a new cabinet. Protesters have demanded a government of technocrats excluding the household names that have symbolized Lebanon’s sectarian-based politics for generations. Government formation talks have proved tough however and despite pressure from Lebanon’s foreign partners and donors, Diab has yet to announce his government.

Beirut shaken by ‘barbaric’ protests crackdown
Arab News/January 16/2020
BEIRUT: An upsurge of violence in Lebanon’s protests against the ruling elite, with police meting out beatings and protesters hurling stones, has alarmed rights groups and whipped up public fury. After a brief lull in largely peaceful protests since October, people filled the streets again this week, angry at a political class that has steered Lebanon into its worst economic crisis since a 1975-1990 civil war. On Tuesday and Wednesday, police wielding batons and firing tear gas wounded and arrested dozens as protesters lit fires and smashed bank facades and ATMs, Reuters journalists saw.
“These past two nights, they (police) were really barbaric,” said Cynthia Sleiman, a charity worker and protester who ended up in hospital after Wednesday night’s violence in Beirut. “I had just arrived and was looking for my friends when the policeman grabbed me, hitting me on the head and neck. I fell to the ground and blood was streaming out,” she said. Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) said they were pursuing rioters and 100 policemen were injured this week. “The force member is suffering daily in the street,” ISF chief Imad Othman said on Thursday. “He is not a robot, he is a human.”
A security source said at least 80 protesters were injured in two days and 72 others arrested. Many of those in detention would be released on Thursday, the source said. Since the protests led Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to resign in October, politicians have failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan for the heavily-indebted economy. The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in banks has collapsed. Azza Al-Masri, a media researcher also injured on Wednesday, said she saw a woman faint after police beat her up. “The viciousness was unlike anything I’ve seen,” she said. Activists believe police violence may indicate Lebanon’s establishment has lost patience with protesters and is also stung by public wrath against banks, which have curbed access to savings and blocked most transfers abroad. Human Rights Watch’s Beirut director Lama Fakih told Reuters the group was concerned at excessive force by security forces amid rising frustrations on both sides. She said there was no “strong message” from government that police would be held responsible. A Lebanese media group said 15 journalists were attacked on Wednesday. One of them was a Reuters video journalist, who was treated in hospital for head injuries and released. On Thursday, lawyers, journalists and activists gathered at the interior ministry and the justice palace in Beirut to complain about police violence. Interior Minister Raya Al-Hassan told reporters she had not ordered a clampdown and denounced attacks on media, while also urging understanding for police.

Lebanon anti-bank protests rock Beirut for second night
AFP/Thursday, 16 January 2020
BEIRUT – Protesters in crisis-hit Lebanon clashed with security forces in Beirut Wednesday, a day after demonstrators outraged by restrictions on dollar withdrawals attacked bank branches with metal rods, fire extinguishers and rocks.
Hundreds gathered again outside the central bank on Wednesday evening, moving to a police station where more than 50 people were still detained following clashes between demonstrators and security forces the previous night. They chanted slogans and demanded the release of their comrades before security forces fired teargas to disperse them. Four months into a protest movement against Lebanon’s political class, demonstrators have turned their anger at the banks, most of which have imposed informal capital controls to stave off a liquidity crunch. That has trapped the savings of ordinary depositors in Lebanon’s worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.
Protester Yumna Mroue, 22, said the central bank’s financial policies had been harming small savers for years.
“We’re in free-fall now. What happened last night comes from people’s real pain and anger,” she said.
After a long day of protests and clashes, security forces released 10 people out of more than 50 who were detained Tuesday night, according to local media and activists. The Red Cross said a total of 47 people were injured Wednesday night, 37 of whom were taken to nearby hospitals. The ten others were treated on the spot. A lawyer in the place told local media that 17 protesters were also arrested during Wednesday clashes, the latest since Lebanon’s anti-government protests demanding sweeping reform began on October 17. On Wednesday morning in Hamra, most bank branches were left with smashed windows, destroyed ATMs and graffiti-daubed walls after violent protest the previous night. Banks opened despite the wreckage, as cleaners scrubbed paint off walls and workers replaced smashed windows. “There is a lot of anger,” Alia, a passerby, told AFP in front a damaged branch. “You have to go to the bank twice to withdraw just $200.”
On Wednesday evening, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in front of the central bank, whose governor Riad Salameh they partly blame for the country’s financial crisis. Security forces meanwhile imposed tight movement restrictions in Hamra, closing the main road to the central bank. The state-run National News Agency reported that some teargas canisters had fallen inside the Russian embassy, near the police station housing the detainees. Activists said several people including at least one video journalist had been injured in the clashes. Since September, banks have limited the number of dollars customers can withdraw or transfer abroad, in a country where the greenback and the Lebanese pound are used interchangeably. Although no formal policy is in place, most lenders have limited withdrawals to about $1,000 a month, while others have imposed tighter curbs. Prompted by a grinding liquidity crisis, the controls are increasingly forcing depositors to deal in the pound. But the local currency has plunged by over a third against the dollar on the parallel market, hitting almost 2,500 against the US dollar over the past week. The official rate was pegged at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the greenback in 1997. Demonstrators accuse banks of holding their deposits hostage while allowing politicians, senior civil servants and bank owners to transfer funds abroad.
The central bank has announced it is investigating capital flight, saying it wants to standardise and regulate the ad hoc banking restrictions. Compounding the situation, debt-burdened Lebanon has been without a government since Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister on October 29 under pressure from the anti-government protests. Its under-fire politicians have yet to agree on a new cabinet despite the designation last month of Hassan Diab, a professor and former education minister, to replace Hariri. Diab has pledged to form a government of independent experts — a key demand of protesters — but said last week that some parties were hindering his attempts. Authorities on Wednesday condemned the night-time attacks and called for perpetrators to be prosecuted. Hariri called the rampage “unacceptable,” while parliament speaker Nabih Berri questioned whether the aim was to “destroy the country.” But in a strongly worded statement, United Nations envoy to Lebanon, Jan Kubis, blamed politicians for the turmoil, accusing them of inaction while watching the economy “collapse”. “Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos,” he said.

Protesters clash with Lebanese security in Beirut for second night in a row
Al Arabiya English/Thursday, 16 January 2020
Protesters began to gather Wednesday night in front of the Lebanese central bank near Beirut’s Hamra street and clashed with anti-riot police for a second consecutive night. The clashes in Beirut’s Hamra area on Tuesday saw some of the worst violence since anti-government protests began in October. Security forces fired tear gas outside the central bank to disperse protesters who pelted them with stones and fireworks. The banking association condemned the attacks as the work of a “mercenary mob” and not the “real revolutionaries of Lebanon” seeking reform. At least 37 people on both sides were injured as security forces fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators the previous day, a Red Cross spokesperson told AFP. (With AFP)

Lebanese Protesters Decry Security Forces’ Use of Violence
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 16/2020
Lebanese protesters Thursday decried security forces’ use of violence during rallies over the past two days, including attacks on journalists and the detention of over 100 people. Dozens of people, including journalists, rallied outside the Interior Ministry denouncing what they said was the systematic use of force against members of the media. Many raised photos of journalists getting beaten by riot police. Others gathered outside the American University of Beirut and a police station where dozens have been detained since Tuesday. After a period of calm, protests have returned to Lebanon as politicians fail to form a new government and an unprecedented economic crisis deepens. “It has been over 90 days since the beginning of the protests and to this day the authorities have completely failed to address the demands of the protests,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East director. “In the past two days, we have seen an escalation on both sides.”Protests turned violent Tuesday when demonstrators pelted security forces with stones and water bottles and smashed windows of commercial banks they accuse of corruption and denying them their deposits. Meanwhile, security forces have used “excessive” tear gas in densely populated districts and detained over 100 people, including five minors according to lawyers, in an unprecedented wave of arrests, Maalouf said. They have beaten and verbally abused some protesters and attacked journalists, trying to prevent them from filming, she said. A Reuters video journalist was injured by security forces and treated in a hospital. Late Wednesday and Thursday, authorities began releasing detainees. Hussein Baydoun, a photographer, said he was briefly detained and asked to erase his pictures by security forces who came after him as he filmed clashes outside a police station Wednesday night.
“The officer and three soldiers came at me and (the officer) said bring him to me. They held me and they wrestled the camera from me,” Baydoun said. Bachir Abu Zeid was one of over 50 protesters detained late Wednesday outside the police station. He was pulled inside as he tried to help others who fell to the ground. He said he was kept in a small cell with 30 people overnight and was only allowed to call his family nearly six hours after he was taken in. “We are expecting this. it is becoming more violent from them and us. They are not listening to people,” Abu Zeid said after his release. “This repression will only make us stronger and give us momentum.” Caretaker Interior Minister Raya El Hassan said attacks on the press were “rejected” and promised an investigation. She said security forces are “tired” and “scared for themselves” after 90 days of protests. That doesn’t justify the attacks, she said, but she appealed to journalists to put themselves in the shoes of the security forces, adding that 100 security personnel have been injured.

Lebanese Protesters Stage Peaceful Demos
Associated Press/Naharnet/January 16/2020
Hundreds of anti-government protesters gathered outside the central bank in Hamra on Thursday evening and then marched in a procession through Beirut to the parliament building in the city’s center, where they called for an independent and immediate government. The protesters then joined others who had blocked the Ring flyover, one of the main highways in Beirut. Women protesters had earlier staged a sit-in outside the house of caretaker Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan in downtown Beirut, calling on her to “stop the policy of excessive and systematic violence by the security forces” against protesters.There were no reports of violence in Thursday’s demos, in contrast to the rallies that were held on Tuesday and Wednesday, which involved fierce confrontations between protesters and security forces.

British Ambassador Visits Tripoli, Meets Beneficiaries and Mayor
Naharnet/January 16/2020
During his latest visit to Lebanon’s second largest city Tripoli – his first regional visit in 2020 — British Ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling reiterated “the UK’s ongoing support to the people of Tripoli,” the British embassy said on Thursday.
Rampling announced a further $1.7 million supporting the city’s economy reaching the most vulnerable under the Lebanese Host Communities Support Program (LHSP) in partnership with the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP Lebanon. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the British Council Director David Knox and Tripoli’s Mayor Dr. Riad Yamak, renewing “the UK’s commitment to supporting the most vulnerable communities.” “Over the past year the UK’s investment in Tripoli has reached over $5 million, in support of delivering better public services, economic opportunities, security and promoting social stability to the most vulnerable refugees,” the embassy said in a statement. Rampling met with Mayor Yamak and discussed the latest developments in the country, sharing the UK’s “concern at the serious economic and social situation that is affecting people’s lives.” He also visited the Lebanese Armed Forces’ 12 Brigade training facility along with the youth group of Tripoli’s Bab el Dehab as part of MARCH NGO’s initiative to strengthen civil and military cooperation for peacebuilding in Tripoli. Listening to a group of Tripolitan business leaders at Tripoli’s Special Economic Zone, Ambassador Rampling heard about the challenges facing Lebanon’s economy in general and Tripoli in particular and called for the urgent formation of a government to take forward necessary reforms. Rampling also visited Fadi Sabbouh whose business has been supported by the Lebanon Enterprise and Employment Program (LEEP) funded by the UK. Sabbouh has been able to expand his business and create 4 new, sustainable jobs. The program is providing up to $20 million between 2017-2020 to support SMEs across Lebanon grow their businesses and create sustained jobs. At the end of his visit, Ambassador Rampling said: “I am pleased to be back in Tripoli, on my first official visit outside Beirut in 2020. As promised, the UK continues to deliver with actions and not just words. I am here today to renew the UK’s continued commitment to Tripoli and its people, and, over the past year, the UK’s investment has reached over $5 million to Tripoli alone.”“Lebanon is passing through an important time in its history. We see the Lebanese people across Lebanon voicing their demands for reform, transparency and better governance. Lebanon needs a government more than ever to carry out reforms and protect Lebanon’s stability,” Rampling added.

UN official blames politicians for ‘dangerous chaos’ in Lebanon
Reuters/Wednesday, 15 January 2020
Lebanese politicians are to blame for the country’s economic collapse, a senior UN official said on Wednesday, rebuking a ruling elite that has failed to draw up a rescue plan for a country hit by more violent protests. With banks tightly limiting access to cash, lenders were targeted overnight by demonstrators in Beirut’s Hamra district. Bank facades and ATMs were smashed and dozens of people wounded in confrontations with police. On Wednesday afternoon, angry protesters lit fires on a main thoroughfare in central Beirut, briefly closing it. Heavily indebted Lebanon has struggled since the government was toppled by the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in October as a result of protests against corruption and bad governance that are root causes of the economic problems. Political rivalries have obstructed a deal on a new cabinet as the crisis hits ordinary people: the Lebanese pound has lost around half of its value while anger at banking controls has led to rows and violence in branches. “Another day of confusion around the formation of a government, amidst the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy,” Jan Kubis, UN special coordinator for Lebanon, wrote on Twitter. “Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos.”Kubis appeared to credit central bank governor Riad Salameh, saying he had sought “extraordinary powers to at least somehow manage the economy while those responsible watch it collapsing.” Salameh asked for extra powers last week, saying he wanted to standardize banking controls. The finance ministry has asked him to specify what those extra powers were. Looking to assure anxious depositors, parliament speaker Nabih Berri said work was underway to safeguard people’s money, especially small depositors and those of expatriates, without specifying further.

Lebanese economist Ghazi Wazni to be named finance minister in new govt
Reuters, Beirut/Thursday, 16 January 2020
Lebanese economist Ghazi Wazni is set to be named finance minister in a new government that is expected to be formed soon, senior political sources said on Thursday. Wazni has served previously as a financial adviser to parliament’s finance and budget committee. He will take on the role as the country deals with a deep financial crisis that has shaken confidence in its banking system and ability to repay one of the highest debt burdens in the world. Earlier on Thursday, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said that Lebanon is on the brink of forming a new government. The new cabinet would comprise 18 specialist ministers, Khalil added.

Lebanon close to forming new govt: Caretaker finance minister
Reuters/Thursday, 16 January 2020
Lebanon is on the brink of forming a new government, the country’s caretaker finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Thursday. The new cabinet would comprise 18 specialist ministers, Khalil added. Lebanon has been without a government since Saad al-Hariri resigned as prime minister on Oct. 29 in the face of sweeping protests.

Jumblat Warns ‘Destruction of Banks’ Would Destroy Lebanon
Naharnet/January 16/2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Thursday warned that the “destruction of banks” would destroy Lebanon. “Today, Lebanon is between the hammer of U.S. sanctions and the Iranian anvil,” Jumblat tweeted. “Blows are coming from every side, but the destruction of banks would deal an existential blow to the Lebanese entity,” the PSP leader cautioned. Defending the central bank, Jumblat said Banque du Liban “implemented the instructions of the political authority and financed a state ravaged by corruption.”“No one objected until people started demanding reform, which has been and is still being rejected by the presidential tenure,” the PSP leader charged. Anti-corruption protests turned violent Tuesday and Wednesday when demonstrators clashed with security forces and smashed windows of commercial banks they accuse of corruption and denying them their deposits. The protest movement that has been rocking Lebanon since October 17 has increasingly targeted banks in recent weeks amid a severe liquidity crisis.

Court charges Nancy Ajram’s husband with intruder’s murder
Arab News/January 16/2020
Celebrity dentist, Fadi Al-Hashem, is accused of shooting dead the masked intruder, who broke into their home in the early hours of Jan.5 But the judge said that if it could be proven that Al-Hashem acted in self-defense, then the charge of murder could be dropped
DUBAI: Lebanese public prosecutor, Judge Ghada Aoun, has charged Fadi Al-Hashem, the husband of the singer Nancy Ajram, with the murder of the intruder who broke into their Beirut property on Jan. 5, according to National News Agency. Celebrity dentist, Al-Hashem, is accused of shooting dead the masked intruder, who broke into their home in the early hours of the morning. The dentist said the assailant was threatening his family – including his three daughters. But the judge said that if it could be proven that Al-Hashem acted in self-defense, then the charge of murder could be dropped. According to National News Agency. Al-Hashem’s lawyer said: “And Al-Hashem’s act of legitimate defense is described in accordance with what is stipulated in the Lebanese Penal Code.” A warrant was initially issued for the arrest of Al-Hashem on Jan. 5, but he was later released after investigations, as the case was treated as “self-defense.” Initial CCTV footage from the celebrity couple’s home appeared to show what was believed to be an intruder carrying a gun in the villa. Al-Hashem then appeared and chased the deceased, firing his gun as the intruder ran towards their daughter’s bedroom. MTV Lebanon has since reported that the Syrian intruder, Mohammed Hassan Al-Moussa, 30, was shot 16 times.  “Before anything, Fadi is a father and a husband. He has responsibilities. He is a human being… It was a normal reaction to the threat he experienced,” Ajram said in conversation with LBCI Lebanon News on Jan. 7. She revealed that the couple’s children, aged 10, eight and one, were asleep during the ordeal. “The children were in their rooms sleeping. They did not see what happened, but they woke up and heard everything,” she shared. During the interview, Ajram also opened up about how she hid in the bathroom when she realized there was an intruder in her home.  “I heard Fadi telling him ‘whatever you want.’ When I heard this sentence, I knew the intruder was a robber and I ran to the bathroom with my phone. “I called my father first because I was scared… I was shaking and I was in a state that I can’t describe to anyone. I called my father and told him ‘dad there is a thief in the house… do something now, Fadi and I and the children are home.” The singer also denied claims that the assailant was known to the family, stating “We do not know the intruder and he does not work with us.”

Lebanon police forced to apologise after brutalising activists in most violent night since protests began
Gaia Caramazza/The New Arab/January 16/2020
Lebanon’s head of the Internal Security Forces publicly apologised for the rampant violence carried out by security forces in one of the most heightened clashes with protesters since the public unrest overtook the country almost three months ago. Protesters clashed with security forces in Beirut Wednesday evening, chanting slogans and demanding the release of some 50 detained demonstrators, before police charged at them and fired teargas to disperse crowds, causing dozens of injuries. “I apologize to the media, journalists, reports and photographers who were covering what happened yesterday in front of the Helou barracks,” said Maj. Gen Imad Othman, head of the ISF, in a televised address on Thursday afternoon. “The ISF are doing their job in a serious and honest way. They do not want to attack anyone.”However, claims of police violence and harassment flooded social media channels, with many sharing photos and videos of protesters, journalists, and activists being recklessly dragged through the streets of Beirut. “Around 2,000 to 3,000 people were chanting outside the police station but it was peaceful and then 250 riot police decided to attack people out of nowhere and they started firing tear gas and rubber bullets,” Hasan Shaaban, a photojournalist for the Lebanese anglophone outlet The Daily Star, told The New Arab.He was covering the protest when the security forces began to arrest peaceful demonstrators. “They made something out of nothing. We weren’t doing anything wrong so I wonder what their responses would have been had we actually done something,” he added.
Security forces stormed the demonstrators in front of the police station, with protesters began by throwing rocks at security forces. “People started burning stuff and throwing stones and they started arresting people and started grabbing, dragging and beating them,” he said. “You couldn’t see anything. Riot police started throwing at least 200-300 tear gas grenades. Some grenades were even reaching balconies of residential homes. The whole area was suffocating.”
Hasan said that he saw bruises and wounds on the faces of those who were released from police custody after Wednesday’s clashes. “Just behind me a 17-year-old boy was dragged by the police by his feet. He was losing his shirt and they were stepping on his face, his head, and his body. I thought to myself ‘You are already arresting him, what else do you want?'” Photos of activist Rafif Souny were shared by social media users and media in Lebanon, describing how the young woman suffered a head injury as a result of the police on Wednesday evening. Local outlets reported that she was in hospital on Thursday afternoon waiting for doctors to rule whether her alleged memory and eyesight loss might be permanent. A Reuters photographer, as well as a dozen local and international journalists covering the demonstration, were also caught in the clashes and suffered similar injuries.
“It was so surprising that, as journalists, the police was cracking down on us as badly as protesters and rioters who were breaking windows and attacking banks,” said Luna Safwan, a freelance journalist based in Beirut. “Photojournalists have been doing an amazing job at documenting the protests because they are showing how government forces are treating their people – so police are scared of the cameras,” Safwan told The New Arab. “There are security forces who come to ask you not to film or to take your camera down,” added Safwan. Over a hundred journalists gathered in front of the ministry of the interior in Beirut on Thursday, creating a roadblock to protest their treatment by security forces the night before. The journalists called for minister of interior, Raya Haffar El-Hassan, to address them on what they saw as an illegal use of force.
Safwan said it was vital for journalists to stage this assembly.
“Today, we sent an important message, because we need the government to know that no one can mess with journalists.”The minister apologised on behalf of the officers blamed for the violence, and added that their behaviour had been due to accrued fatigue. Many of the journalists were left dissatisfied by what they described as a lacklustre apology. “A decision seemed to have been made by the security forces to just take down and hit everyone you face along the way,” Safwan added. “It was a part of a strategy to intimidate protesters so they won’t take to the streets anymore. So far, this has not happened. It seems the violence is pushing people to mobilise more for the total reformation of the government and system.”Lebanon’s three months of uprisings have been repeatedly called for an overhaul of the system. Many are saying that the new government will be announced imminently, and there are doubts this will quell the public.This unrest follows the assembly angry protests who attacked the facades of bank branches with metal rods, fire extinguishers and rocks.

Lebanese unlikely to welcome Diab’s government
Randa Takieddine/Arab News/January 16/2020
A few days after the killing of Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, Hezbollah exhibited, all along the road to Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport, posters bearing the portrait of the leading member of Iran’s Quds Force, who was responsible for killings, massacres and troubles in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. This was a shocking scene to a Lebanese patriot.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, said Iran’s missile attacks on Iraqi military bases that host US troops was just “a slap” and promised they were only the beginning of the actions that would be taken in response to the US‘ killing of Soleimani. Nasrallah, Iran’s man in Lebanon, made an aggressive speech, in which he presented the goals of his party and his Iranian sponsor: Attacks on American targets in the Middle East with the aim of removing US military forces from the region.
At the same time, Hezbollah MPs and ministers in the caretaker Lebanese government made it publicly known that the party wanted the quick formation of a new government at any cost. However, despite their support of the designated prime minister, Hassan Diab, they failed to obtain a quick understanding between their allies, namely the caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who wanted seven ministerial positions for his followers, and Nabih Berri, the Shiite Speaker of Parliament, who disagreed with Bassil.
Meanwhile, the demonstrations have resumed in Lebanon, with protesters objecting to Diab and all the political class, who they describe as “corrupt and responsible for the disastrous economic and financial situation that is wrecking the lives of the people, young and old, in the country.” Violence erupted near the Central Bank on Tuesday. Some accused Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement of having infiltrated the peaceful demonstrators, breaking windows and causing injuries. Hezbollah and Amal deny this.
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri was back after a 10-day absence and he urged the quick formation of the Diab government so the country can call for help from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Hariri was Hezbollah and Amal’s first choice to be redesignated prime minister because, according to many observers, they wanted him to be responsible for the collapse of the country, rather than bearing it themselves.
The Lebanese population is suffering from banking restrictions, with people restricted to withdrawing only a very small amount of dollars per week. They also have to cash their salaries in Lebanese pounds, the rate of which is not the same as at the exchange agents. However, after a meeting between Central Bank Governor Riad Salame and the exchange agents, the unofficial rate of the Lebanese pound dropped from 2,300 to the dollar to 1,900.
The country’s financial situation remains very dangerous in the absence of a new government. When a government is formed, it will have to show the international community within its first 60 days that it is carrying out the reforms needed to get help.
Diab will supposedly form a government on Friday. It is being presented as a government of technocrats linked to main supporting political parties like Hezbollah and its Christian allies Michel Aoun, Bassil and Suleiman Frangieh. Berri was not initially happy with the nomination of Diab who, according to many well-informed observers, is the choice of his Shiite rival Jamil Al-Sayyed, a pro-Syrian Hezbollah deputy who was security chief at the time of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. However, he finally received him for lunch on Thursday to discuss the final government formula.
The top UN official in Lebanon, Jan Kubis, on Wednesday criticized the political class’ management of the country’s deepening economic crisis, saying that the people handling it are irresponsible and are overseeing Lebanon’s collapse. His criticism was shared by the major Western and Arab diplomats in the country. Their opinion is crucial in terms of the international assistance to Lebanon. But the political class is busy with its own interests.
The long time it is taking Diab to form a government proves that Hezbollah, which is described as the most powerful force in Lebanon, is weakened. The strategy of the pro-Iranian party to prevail as the controlling force in the country is failing. The confrontation with peaceful demonstrators — people asking for basic rights such as electricity, water and health care — is proving to be problematic for a party that is used to solving problems with the threat of a strongly armed militia.
When a government is formed, it will have to show the international community that it is carrying out the reforms needed to get help.
Even though the designated prime minister may at last be about to form his government of 18 technocrats linked to the parties who chose them, this will probably not satisfy the demonstrators, since Diab is seen as a member of the political class they despise. They may give his new government a chance, but a majority of protesters wanted somebody like international judge and former ambassador to the UN Nawaf Salam to be prime minister. He is well respected for his independence and honesty, but Hezbollah does not want a PM with such a profile, accusing him of being an American agent. Such a self-made, highly educated judge who is well respected in the world is surely needed to convince the international community to help Lebanon avoid economic collapse.
Will the new government convince the people and the international community of its independence? Will it be able to maintain a distant attitude in case of a more acute crisis between Iran and the US? What if Hezbollah pushes the government of Lebanon to take a stand with Iran? All these questions are crucial to Lebanon gaining the international help it needs. And will the expected new foreign minister, Nassif Hitti, the well-respected former Arab League envoy who is a smooth and intellectual university professor, be able to resist Hezbollah’s pressure on Lebanese diplomacy? It will be his mission impossible.
*Randa Takieddine is a Paris-based Lebanese journalist who headed Al-Hayat’s bureau in France for 30 years. She has covered France’s relations with the Middle East through the terms of four presidents.