A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 20-21/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 20-21/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
March 21/2020

Picture Enclosed: USA-Lebanese Citizen Mr. Amer Fakhoury lying on a medical stretcher while being air lifted by USA Army from the USA embassy in Beirut to The USA. Mr. Amer was held as a hostage in Iranian Occupied Lebanon for the last six months by the Lebanese regime that is fully under the control of the armed Iranian Terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. President Trump and other USA Officials played a pressuring vital role in the Amer’s release.

LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 20-21/2020
Coronavirus Cases Rise to 163, Home Quarantine is ‘Compulsory’, Says Ministry
Hasan: Lebanon Preparing for Stage Four, Community Cooperation Much Needed
Entrapping US citizens in Lebanon is not acceptable/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/March 21/2020
Text of Sayyed Nasrallah’s Speech: Our Resistance The Most Honorable One in Modern History/Al-Manar English Website/March 20/2202
Nasrallah says Al-Fakhoury’s release dangerous, affirms Hezbollah not aware of it/NNA /March 20/2020
Nasrallah Says No Deal over Fakhoury, Slams ‘Sectarian’ Virus Rhetoric/Naharnet/March 20/2020
U.S. Official Says No Deal Made to Free Fakhoury
Lebanon: US Helicopter on ‘Special Mission’ Whisks Fakhoury Away
Lebanon FM summons US ambassador over American’s release
Lebanon: Calls for National Dialogue to Announce State of Political Emergency
Aoun Reiterates Call for Citizens to Stay Home
Diab on Fakhoury Release: Collaboration Crime Can’t be Forgotten
Lebanon’s Army Command denies news attributed to military source
Diab meets Banking Association: $6 million will be allocated to purchase 120 ventilators for Coronavirus patients
Diab leads first coordination meeting to fight Coronavirus
Minister of Industry, National Campaign for Social Solidarity discuss means to bolster industries amid outbreak
Business as Usual as Some Tripoli Areas Defy Lockdown
Wazni Meets Kubis Who Reiterates the UN Support for Lebanon
Lebanon hospitals facing Coronavirus amid medical shortages/Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 20/2020
Two Americans Imprisoned in Iran, Lebanon Released/Associated Press/March 120/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 20-21/2020
Coronavirus Cases Rise to 163, Home Quarantine is ‘Compulsory’, Says Ministry
Naharnet/March 20/2020
The Health Ministry released on Friday its daily report on the tally of people infected with coronavirus saying the total number has reached 163 stressing the need for self quarantine. “From February 21 till March 20, 2020, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases has reached 163, including those diagnosed at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital and those reported by other university hospitals accredited by the Ministry (14 new cases were recorded yesterday),” said the report. Adding that the Ministry “continues to run tests on samples taken from people suspected to have contracted the virus, while identifying and monitoring their contacts, and carefully watching all arrivals from countries experiencing a spread of the virus.” The Ministry is also “conducting epidemiological tracking to pinpoint the source of infection for some of the newly diagnosed cases.” “Citizens are urged to adhere to the strict measures issued by the official authorities, especially the mandatory home quarantine and the restrictions on movement, except when absolutely necessary,” it added.

Hasan: Lebanon Preparing for Stage Four, Community Cooperation Much Needed
Naharnet/March 20/2020
Health Minister Hamad Hasan on Friday said after a joint meeting with the parliamentary health committee that Lebanon is preparing for stage four in its fight against coronavirus after registering six cases of unknown origin, stressing the need for community cooperation to stop its spread. “We truly wish not to reach stage four, but we have to take precautions and the epidemic requires community cooperation and strict implementation of the plan put by the health ministry,” said Hasan. He noted that after registering (on Thursday) six cases of unknown origin, the ministry must prepare for stage four to stop the spread of the virus. “There is common coordination between all state agencies to deal with the epidemic,” he said. He said the Defense Ministry secured 20 million dollars to fight the virus spread. For his part, head of the health committee Assem Araji said the government might be compelled to “use private hospitals if coronavirus disease spreads dangerously.”“Twelve government hospitals have been equipped to receive people infected with coronavirus,” he added.

Entrapping US citizens in Lebanon is not acceptable
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/March 21/2020
The United States extracted its own citizen from Lebanon, as it would do it for any other of its citizens and as it did for thousands of US citizens from all communities, including from south Lebanon and the Bekaa, during the 2006 war.
Hassan Nasrallah need to understand that Amer Fakhoury, in the eyes of the US Congress and the White House is an American citizen, regardless of Hezbollah’s endless wars and unending hatred for its fellow Lebanese.
Amer Fakhoury entered the Lebanese Republic as a US citizens and that’s how he was repatriated six months later.
If the Lebanese Government didn’t want him to enter Lebanon with his US passport at the International Airport, they could have refused entry, period. Once admitted, all protections are applicable.
The United States will not accept that terror organizations or institutions collaborating with terror organizations, would entrap its citizens and “prosecute them” for wars that have ended twenty years ago, (and against the stipulations of Lebanese and international law,) when they were Lebanese citizens.
The Beirut airport should not be used to settle old ideological and political scores.

Text of Sayyed Nasrallah’s Speech: Our Resistance The Most Honorable One in Modern History
Al-Manar English Website/March 20/2202
Marwa Haidar
Stressing that accusations of treason against Hezbollah in the case of Israeli collaborator Amer Fakhoury can’t be accepted anymore, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah described the Resistance as the most honorable one in the modern history. In a televised speech on Friday night via Al-Manar TV, Sayyed Nasrallah hit back at all those who accused Hezbollah in the case of Fakhoury, who was acquitted by Lebanon’s military tribunal and then released and airlifted outside Lebanon to the United States. His eminence said that the Resistance party didn’t know of the acquittal in advance, stressing that Hezbollah’s stance in this regard is known and out of moral principles that refuses acquittal of those who took part in murdering and torturing Lebanese people and Resistance fighters. On the coronavirus crisis, Sayyed Nasrallah called on people to stay home in a bid to prevent the outbreak of the deadly virus, as he slammed the sectarian dealing with the matter.
Facts about Fakhoury Case
Sayyed Nasrallah started his speech by saying that he would clarify several issues related to the military tribunal’s decision to acquit Fakhoury, noting that there has been an anti-Hezbollah propaganda aimed at undermining the confidence between the Resistance and its supporters.
“We rely on Resistance supporters’ awareness, faith and patience. Our responsibility is to be transparent with our people whom we care for their smile and their tears.”His eminence then stressed that Hezbollah did not know of the court’s decision in advance, denying that there has been a deal in this regard.
The Resistance Leader then went on to talk about US pressures and threats to Lebanon in order to release the notorious Israeli collaborator. “The US has been for six months exerting all forms of pressures and threats against Lebanon in order to release Fakhoury.”
“US threatened several Lebanese judges, some of whom refused to release Fakhoury and some of whom yielded to the pressures,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, noting that Washington threatened to blacklist some Lebanese officials and to halt the military aid to the Lebanese Army.
The Hezbollah S.G. said that when contacted, Hezbollah stressed that he refuses Lebanon’s surrender to US pressures. He pointed to the great propaganda campaign after Fakhoury was airlifted by US helicopter outside the country.
“The enemy has been propagating that Hezbollah controls Lebanon and its judiciary. Many know that such accusations are baseless.”
Accusations of Treason Unacceptable
His eminence then slammed some Hezbollah allies, whom he did not mention, stressing that “whoever insists on accusing Hezbollah of being responsible for releasing Fakhoury then he insists on keeping himself in the category of opponent and enemy.”Sayyed Nasrallah also hit back at some comments slamming Hezbollah over the issue of Fakhoury. “To those who wonder how Hezbollah which launched May 7 (2007) battle over sacking an official in Beirut International Airport, how couldn’t he have a say in Fakhoury’s case: May 7 took place because back then decided on an issue related to disarming Hezbollah and the Resistance weapon was at danger,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, wondering if a similar battle now serves the national interest. “What would Hezbollah do? Would we make an ambush against the Lebanese Army convoy which was transferrin Fakhoury? Would we kill Lebanese Army officers and soldiers in a bid to prevent the release of Fakhoury? Does this serve the national interest?” “To those who say that our minister should have resign in protest to Fakhoury’s release, and that we should have topple the government: In circumstances like this- economic crisis and coronavirus outbreak- is it right to topple the government?”In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that the blame should be on the United States which violated the Lebanese sovereignty. His eminence stressed meanwhile that the case of Fakhoury must be followed up by the Lebanese judiciary and the collaborator must be considered fugitive since he was transferred outside the country despite a travel ban. Sayyed Nasrallah also called for forming a committee to investigate in the acquittal decision by the military court. Hezbollah S.G. then made it clear that the Resistance Party can’t no more accept accusations of treasons and insults, noting that Hezbollah allies should have ask for an explanation before making such accusations. “There are two things that can’t be accepted: accusations of betrayal and insults. We offer our blood for our dignity, so it’s unacceptable to accuse us of treason. Whoever wants to be our ally then he must not do these two things, or else let him out of our friendship circle.” “This Resistance is the most honorable, honest and pure one in the modern history. We are keen to preserve our alliance but it is not acceptable to accuse us of treason and insult us.”Sayyed Nasrallah in this context regretted that he was put in such position to defend the Resistance in the case of a criminal Israeli collaborator.
Coronavirus Crisis
Tackling the coronavirus crisis in Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah underlined the importance of staying home by Lebanese citizens in order to prevent the spread of the contagious disease. “We are in a state of general Mobilization and people must bear their responsibility in this regard.” His eminence slammed the sectarian dealing with the outbreak. “We are people who live in the same country. It’s shameful to deal with the matter on sectarian basis.”Sayyed Nasrallah also voiced support to the government’s measures, calling on it to take what it sees appropriate. “If there is an interest to isolate a region then let the government go ahead with such measure, regardless of this area’s sect.” His eminence reiterated his call for social solidarity, as he also reiterated Hezbollah’s readiness to put all its health capabilities under the service of the government and the Health Ministry.“So far nearly 20,000 of Hezbollah’s members and supporters who are involved in the battle against coronavirus.”Sayyed Nasrallah on the other hand, warned against the spread of coronavirus in Gaza, Yemen and among Palestinian prisoners at Israeli jails.He lashed out at US President Donald Trump over his comments on coronavirus vaccine and his administration’s sanctions against Iran amid the spread of the coronavirus in the Islamic Republic. “Trump is racist. He wants the coronavirus vaccine exclusively for the US. Trump is not a human being. He is an alien.”
*Al-Manar English Website

Nasrallah says Al-Fakhoury’s release dangerous, affirms Hezbollah not aware of it
NNA /March 20/2020
Hezbollah Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on Friday delivered a televised speech via Al-Manar TV station, in which he touched on the most recent local developments and announced that he would be delivering more speeches within the coming period — up to once or more per week. Nasrallah seized the occasion to congratulate moms marking Mothers’ Day. Touching on the heatedly debated release of Amer Al-Fakhoury, Sayyed Nasrallah asserted that the most precious thing between the Resistance and its people was their mutual trust.
“There’s a battle for the public opinion’s awareness and the most important thing is the trust upon which it’s based,” he added.
“The need to tackle the release of Israeli agent Al-Fakhoury is due to our concern with regard to the public opinion in light of rumors and fabrications,” Nasrallah explained. In this vein, he affirmed that Hezbollah had no information regarding a deal to release Al-Fakhoury. “The US exerted all sorts of pressures and threats on various Lebanese sides to release Al-Fakhoury. All these pressures were exerted by the US to unconditionally release the Israeli agent,” he maintained, noting that since the apprehension of Al-Fakhoury, all those hindering his release were subject to direct threats to be blacklisted by the US.
Hezbollah chief went on to say that the US had even threatened to stop supporting the Lebanese Army. “Direct threats were made to place some individuals on the sanctions list, halting aid to the Lebanese Army, slapping economic sanctions, and preventing world nations from offering assistance to the Lebanese state,” he added.
Sayyed Nasrallah went on to affirm that US delegations had been visiting Lebanon for this purpose. “The pressure was mainly exerted on judges, but there are judges who should be appreciated for their steadfastness.”
However, he regretted the fact that there were some judges who had caved in to the US pressure.
“We are the people primarily concerned with this issue, and we are not a neutral party. Therefore, we refused the release of Al-Fakhoury,” he affirmed, warning that this is a dangerous move that will open the door for the US to impose what it wishes in the future. However, he wished the judiciary had been provided with protection over Al-Fakhoury’s release.
“From the first moment after Fakhoury’s release, a broad campaign was launched against the Shiite duo [Hezbollah and Amal Movement]. All accusations about Hezbollah’s role in Fakhoury’s release were based on mere suspicion that the military tribunal wouldn’t have taken such a decision without Hezbollah’s knowledge,” Nasrallah said.
“I personally heard of Al-Fakhoury’s release from the media,” he maintained, dismissing claims that the Lebanese government and judiciary were affiliated to Hezbollah as wrong and unjust.
“After the travel ban, the US tried to smuggle Al-Fakhoury from Beirut airport, but the relevant security authorities refused,” he said. “Despite this, the US brought Al-Fakhoury out in a blatant attack on the Lebanese sovereignty.”Furthermore, Nasrallah stressed that Hezbollah was political force represented in Lebanon’s parliament and cabinet. Yet, he asserted that the government had never been Hezbollah’s government, neither had the Lebanese state ever been Hezbollah’s.
He wondered whether Hezbollah was supposed to ambush the Lebanese Army and the forces tasked with protecting Fakhoury. “We’re we supposed to shoot down the aircraft that carried Fakhoury? Is this in the interest of the country and the government?” he pondered.
In addition, Sayyed Nasrallah stated that the decision to release Al-Fakhoury was not discussed in the government, and no decision had been in this regard. To those who said Hezbollah would’ve downed the US helicopter that lifted Al-Fakhoury out of Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah said, “Do it yourselves!”“How can we ask people in the Coronavirus era to protest and storm the US embassy? How can we subject them to dangers?” he wondered.
“We do not act according to our mood or emotions. We are a resistance and political party. We have a cause, a vision, a system of priorities, and we have discussions and studies. Hezbollah is not run by a single person; we hold discussions and when we find that there is an interest for the people and the resistance in doing something, so we do it without hesitation,” Nasrallah explained.
However, he went on to insist that Al-Fakhoury’s case must be pursued judicially, and that the Lebanese judiciary should not consider that Al-Fakhoury’s dossier had ended. “The Military Court panel should have resigned instead of dropping the charges,” he added.
Sayyed Nasrallah went on to say that it was not acceptable to question the resistance’s credibility, deeming slurs and insults utterly rejected.
Touching on the novel Coronavirus outbreak in Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that strict measures must be adopted against the Coronavirus, suggesting the formation of social frameworks to pressure those who violate them. “If the government decides to isolate any region where the epidemic has spread, even if it is a Shiite region, then let us do it,” he added, noting that all Hezbollah members who arrived in Beirut from Syria or Iran have been subjected to coronavirus tests and home isolation.
Moreover, Nasrallah disclosed that approximately 20000 of Hezbollah Health members were engaged in this battle.
“We are ready to help in this battle with all we can,” he reiterated, noting that “It’s shameful and insulting to treat the spread of Coronavirus among the Lebanese as per the sectarian equation: 6 Vs 6. In this war, there are parties that act racially,” he said in regret.
On the international level, Sayyed Nasrallah cautioned that there were three regions that were subjected to racist behavior in this war: Gaza Strip, Yemen and Iran. “These areas, which are under siege, war, and sanctions, are prevented from receiving aid, medical devices, and medicines. They are pressuring them with sanctions despite the Coronavirus outbreak,” he added.
“Isn’t it high time for the international community to raise its voice in face of this racist, Trump, to lift sanctions for medical supplies,” Nasrallah concluded. “I think that Trump is not a human being, as he only wants a vaccine for the US.”

Nasrallah Says No Deal over Fakhoury, Slams ‘Sectarian’ Virus Rhetoric
Naharnet/March 20/2020
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday stressed that his party had no knowledge of any Lebanese-American deal to release former Khiyam Prison warden Amer Fakhoury from prison.
“We have no knowledge of a deal to release Amer Fakhoury and what we know is that there was no deal,” Nasrallah said in a televised address.
“From the first moment after Fakhoury’s release, a broad campaign was launched against the Shiite duo (Hizbullah and AMAL),” he lamented.
Nasrallah added: “Ever since Fakhoury was arrested six months ago, the U.S. started exerting strong pressures on the Lebanese state to resolve this issue and release this collaborator without any conditions.”
Noting that Hizbullah had rejected Fakhoury’s release when asked about the case by certain political parties, Hizbullah’s leader slammed the move as “a dangerous development that will allow Americans to impose what they want in the future.”
“We thought that no such ruling would be issued and that the court would not convene amid the current circumstances, but we learned of the collaborator’s release from media outlets,” he said.
Nasrallah also revealed that “direct threats were made as to placing some individuals on the sanctions list, halting aid to the Lebanese Army, slapping economic sanctions and preventing world nations from offering assistance to the Lebanese state.”
“A lot of pressures were exerted on the judges and there are judges who issued a travel ban and others who submitted and issued a release order,” he said.
“The Lebanese judiciary persevered for six months in the face of U.S. pressures,” Nasrallah pointed out.
He stressed that Hizbullah “did not face any pressure at all from any political party in Lebanon regarding Fakhoury’s case.”
“The government has never been Hizbullah’s government, the state has never been Hizbullah’s state and there are parties who have more influence on the domestic political equation,” Nasrallah added.
Addressing critics, he wondered whether Hizbullah was supposed to “set up an ambush against the Lebanese Army and the forces tasked with protecting Fakhoury.”
“Was Hizbullah supposed to shoot down the aircraft that carried Fakhoury? Is this in the interest of the country and the government?” he asked.
“Is it right to topple the government amid these circumstances for the sake of Fakhoury?” Hizbullah’s secretary-general added.
“How can we ask people in the era of coronavirus to demonstrate and storm the U.S. embassy? How can we subject them to dangers?” he went on to say.
Noting that Fakhoury’s arrival in the U.S. should not necessarily stand for the end of the case, Nasrallah said the file should be followed up by the Lebanese judiciary, describing Fakhoury as a “fugitive.”
Addressing some “friends and allies,” Nasrallah added: “We have swallowed the harm and insults but from now on, we in Hizbullah will not allow a friend or ally to accuse, insult or launch treason accusations against it. They better stop being our friends.”
Turning to the coronavirus crisis and Lebanon’s measures to confront it, Nasrallah said it is “shameful” to deal with the issue in a “sectarian” manner.
“The government should isolate any region it wants even if it’s a Shiite region,” he suggested.
An uproar had erupted after Health Minister Hamad Hasan revealed that he had asked the government to “isolate two regions” over a rise in coronavirus cases in them.
Nasrallah also noted that all of Hizbullah’s members who go to Syria or Iran are being subjected to “coronavirus tests and home isolation.”
TIMELINE
Nasrallah: All of our members who come from Syria or Iran have been subjected to coronavirus tests and home isolation.
Nasrallah  it’s shameful to deal with the virus crisis sectarianly, adding the government should isolate any region it wants “even if it’s a Shiite region.”
Nasrallah: We have swallowed the harm and insults but from now on, we in Hizbullah will not allow a friend or ally to accuse, insult or launch treason accusations against it. They better stop being our friends.
Nasrallah: It is not acceptable to question the resistance’s credibility and slurs and insults are rejected, especially when they come from friends.
Nasrallah: The Military Court panel should have resigned instead of dropping the charges.
Nasrallah: The Americans have influence inside Lebanese state institutions and they have individuals in Lebanon and they sometimes activate this influence, even during the era of Syrian administration.
Nasrallah: America is not imposing its hegemony on Lebanon and the proof is that there are judges who did not bow to pressures. They issued rulings and those rulings were brave and it is not correct to say that this incident proves the U.S. hegemony over Lebanon.
Nasrallah: Fakhoury’s case should be followed up by the judiciary, because he is a fugitive.
Nasrallah: How can we ask people in the era of coronavirus to demonstrate and storm the U.S. embassy? How can we subject them to dangers?
Nasrallah: We do not act according to mood or emotions. We are a party for resistance and a political party. We have a cause, a vision, a system of priorities and we have discussions and studies. The party is not run by a single person; we hold discussions and when we find that there is an interest for the people and the resistance in doing something we do it without hesitation.
Nasrallah: Is it right to topple the government amid these circumstances for the sake of Fakhoury?
Nasrallah: Was Hizbullah supposed to set up an ambush against the Lebanese Army and the forces tasked with protecting Fakhoury and was Hizbullah supposed to shoot down the aircraft that carried Fakhoury? Is this in the interest of the country and the government?
Nasrallah: The government has never been Hizbullah’s government, the state has never been Hizbullah’s state and there are parties who have more influence on the domestic political equation.
Nasrallah: Some asked whether the Military Court could take such a decision without the knowledge of the Shiite duo. I stress that the AMAL Movement and Hizbullah had no knowledge of this decision. We have no knowledge of a lot of rulings that the Military Court issues and we don’t interfere in them.
Nasrallah: We did not face any pressure at all from any political party in Lebanon regarding Fakhoury’s case.
Nasrallah: The Lebanese judiciary persevered for six months in the face of U.S. pressures.
Nasrallah: A lot of pressures were exerted on the judges and there are judges who issued a travel ban and others who submitted and issued a release order.
Nasrallah: Direct threats were made as to placing some individuals on the sanctions list, halting aid to the Lebanese Army, slapping economic sanctions and preventing world nations from offering assistance to the Lebanese state.
Nasrallah: We thought that no such ruling would be issued and that the court would not convene amid the current circumstances, but we learned of the collaborator’s release from media outlets.
Nasrallah: We rejected Fakhoury’s release, which is a dangerous development that will allow Americans to impose what they want in the future.
Nasrallah: Ever since Fakhoury was arrested six months ago, the U.S. started exerting strong pressures on the Lebanese state to resolve this issue and release this collaborator without any conditions.
Nasrallah: From the first moment after Fakhoury’s release, a broad campaign was launched against the Shiite duo (Hizbullah and AMAL).
Nasrallah: We have no knowledge of a deal to release Amer Fakhoury and what we know is that there was no deal

U.S. Official Says No Deal Made to Free Fakhoury
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 20/2020
A senior U.S. official said Friday that there was no deal made to secure Amer Fakhoury’s release from Lebanese prisons. Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, the official ruled out the possibility that a promise was made to send aid or to release Lebanese prisoners held in the U.S. The official also denied Washington is in talks with Hizbullah. A Lebanese businessman accused of financing Hizbullah has been serving a five-year sentence in the U.S. since 2018. The U.S. official said Fakhoury’s release was ensured by “competent judicial authorities,” adding Fakhoury was “wrongfully” detained. Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti summoned the U.S. ambassador on Friday and asked her to explain “the circumstances of Amer Fakhoury being transferred abroad from the U.S. embassy,” the National News Agency said. Fakhoury, a former member of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia (SLA), went into exile more than two decades ago before returning to Lebanon in September, when he was arrested. The 57-year-old was released on Monday over a statute of limitations on his alleged crimes, a judicial source said, though put under a travel ban, according to state media. On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Fakhoury’s return to the United States, saying he was suffering from late-stage cancer. He also thanked the Lebanese government for cooperating with Washington in the case. A security source said on Thursday that Fakhoury left the country in a helicopter from the U.S. embassy heading to an unknown destination, but the embassy did not comment on the report. When Fakhoury was arrested, a Lebanese security source said he had served as a senior warden in the notorious Khiyam Prison, opened in 1984 by the SLA after Israel occupied southern Lebanon. Witnesses accuse Fakhoury of ordering or taking part in beatings of thousands of inmates. The veteran militiaman’s release by a military court on Monday prompted huge criticism on social media. Hizbullah, largely credited with Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, said it would be more honorable for the judges involved to resign rather that “succumb to the pressures that led to this decision.” On Friday, the head of the military tribunal resigned over the criticism.

Lebanon: US Helicopter on ‘Special Mission’ Whisks Fakhoury Away
Beirut – Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 March, 2020
A US Marine Osprey took off from the US Embassy compound in Awkar near Beirut on Thursday transporting Amer Fakhoury despite a Lebanese military judge appealing the decision of his release. US President Donald Trump announced the release of Fakhoury, a Lebanese-American, thanking Lebanon’s government on its efforts. Fakhoury was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma and had been hospitalized in Lebanon. Trump said Fakhoury “will now be able to receive the much needed care and treatment in the United States.” “We’ve been working very hard to get him freed, and he’s finally able to have his entire family at his side,” Trump said. Lebanese sources confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the US helicopter, which made a five-minute landing at the embassy in Awkar, was on a “special mission” to transport Fakhoury. The State Department said in a short statement that “Fakhoury, who has been in detention in Lebanon since September, is returning to the United States where he will be reunited with his family and receive urgent medical treatment.”“His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with grave concern. We are relieved to be able to welcome him back home,” it said. Fakhoury had been accused of torturing prisoners at the Khiam prison run by an Israeli-backed militia in southern Lebanon two-decades ago. He had been imprisoned since September after returning to Lebanon to visit family. Fakhoury was ordered to be released Monday because more than 10 years had passed since the torture of prisoners. But he was not immediately allowed to leave the country after a Lebanese military judge on Tuesday appealed the decision, asking a military tribunal to strike down the decision to free Fakhoury. The release of Fakhoury has drawn huge condemnation from Hezbollah, with several parties claiming that it was part of a deal between Lebanon and the US government that would see a freeze in possible sanctions that Washington would impose on non-Shiite pro-Hezbollah personalities.

Lebanon FM summons US ambassador over American’s release
AP/March 20/ 2020
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s foreign minister on Friday summoned the US ambassador, seeking an explanation for how an American on trial in Beirut was transferred out of the country from the US Embassy compound. The Lebanese-American man, Amer Fakhoury, was ordered released Thursday by a judge in Lebanon because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by an Israel-backed Lebanese militia. Fakhoury has denied the charges. Another military tribunal had contested the release, effectively banning Fakhoury from leaving the country until the appeal was heard. But Fakhoury was nonetheless released amid unclear circumstances, and on Thursday a US Marine Osprey was seen taking off from the US Embassy compound northeast of Beirut. Later, US officials confirmed Fakhoury traveled out of Lebanon on the Osprey, and was being returned to the US. The decision to move him out of Lebanon has been widely criticized there. Lebanon’s official National News Agency said Foreign Minister Nasif Hitti sought an explanation from Ambassador Dorothy Shea for the circumstances of Fakhoury’s exit.
A New Hampshire restaurant owner, Fakhoury received US citizenship last year. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma and had been hospitalized in Lebanon. His family and lawyer say that while he did work at the prison, he did not have any contact with inmates.
Local media reported the US Embassy gets an annual permission to fly helicopters out of the embassy compound and not for every single use.
Fakhoury was a member of the Israel-backed militia known as the South Lebanon Army, and had been accused of torturing prisoners at a SLA-run jail during Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon. He had been imprisoned since September after returning to Lebanon to visit family.
Former inmates at Khiam prison — where Fakhoury was allegedly a warden until Israel withdrew in 2000 — protested the decision to free him. On Friday, representatives of the former prisoners filed a case before prosecutors to investigate who was responsible for violating the travel ban on Fakhoury.
His case had put a significant strain on already troubled ties between the US and Lebanon. Lawmakers in Washington had threatened to withhold critical aid to the country and impose sanctions on the Lebanese military, which is seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement. President Donald Trump thanked the Lebanese government, saying they “worked with us” to secure the release of Fakhoury, further muddying the waters. The parliamentary bloc of Hezbollah said it wants accountability for the military tribunal responsible for the release order, accusing it of “succumbing” to US demands and describing Fakhoury as “an agent who betrayed his country.” A senior US official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said there was no deal made to secure Fakhoury’s release. The official ruled out the possibility that a promise was made to send aid or to release Lebanese prisoners held in the US The official also denied Washington is in talks with Hezbollah. A Lebanese businessman accused of financing Hezbollah has been serving a five-year sentence in the US since 2018.
The US official said Fakhoury’s release was ensured by “competent judicial authorities,” adding Fakhoury was “wrongfully” detained. Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948. Lebanon bans its citizens from traveling to Israel or having contact with Israelis.
Fakhoury’s lawyer and family say he fled Lebanon in 2001 through Israel and eventually to the United States because of death threats he and many other SLA members received after Israel ended its occupation.

Lebanon: Calls for National Dialogue to Announce State of Political Emergency
Beirut – Mohamed Choucair//Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 20 March, 2020
A state of political emergency should be announced in Lebanon over the coronavirus outbreak that threatens the health of the entire population, a high-ranking official said. “After the government announced a state of health emergency on Sunday, Lebanon should declare a political mobilization because this pandemic affects all parties,” the unidentified official told Asharq Al-Awsat. “All parties from different sects … should work on keeping Lebanon on the path of safety to contain this disease,” the source said, adding that Lebanese officials must now depend on themselves while the world is busy fighting the pandemic. According to the source, the government should first start by acquiring all the necessary medical equipment that Lebanon needs to fight the virus. “A political mobilization means the development of a health rescue plan to protect the country based on the instructions of the Health Ministry,” he noted. The source explained that the new plan means the delay of the economic rescue efforts that the government had planned to unveil in May. “The economic rescue plan would not be the same one drafted before the outbreak of the virus in Lebanon,” he added.
The official said the country has entered an extremely dangerous phase. “President Michel Aoun is the best person capable of bringing all parties together to … confront this virus, particularly that opposition leaders such as former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, and Phalange Party leader Sami Gemayel, have expressed supportive stances to contain the virus,” the official added.

Aoun Reiterates Call for Citizens to Stay Home
Naharnet/March 20/2020
President Michel Aoun on Friday reiterated his call for citizens to stay home and abide by the two-week lockdown declared by the government in the face of the coronavirus crisis. “As we witness how the coronavirus pandemic is killing people around the world, I reiterate my call for the Lebanese on the need to stay home and not go out unless necessary,” Aoun tweeted. “I call on the relevant ministries, municipalities and security forces to be strict in enforcing the general mobilization decision in order to limit the spread of the pandemic,” the president added. “Our commitment will protect our families and loved ones, so don’t take it lightly,” Aoun went on to say. Lebanon has so far confirmed 163 COVID-19 coronavirus cases among them four deaths. On Sunday, the government declared a two-week state of “general mobilization,” closing the country’s air, land and sea ports of entry and ordering the closure of all non-essential public and private institutions. Major breaches of the lockdown order were recorded Friday in the northern city of Tripoli.MTV meanwhile reported heavy traffic on the Naccache Bridge, noting that “large numbers of cars are entering and exiting Beirut.”

Diab on Fakhoury Release: Collaboration Crime Can’t be Forgotten

Naharnet/March 20/2020
Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Friday stressed that “the crime of collaboration with the Israeli enemy cannot be forgotten,” a day after former Khiyam Prison warden Amer Fakhoury arrived in the U.S. after spending around five months in Lebanese prisons.
“Heaven’s justice won’t drop the rights of martyrs and liberated captives due to ‘passage of time,’” Diab tweeted, criticizing Fakhoury’s controversial release. Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti had earlier in the day summoned the U.S. ambassador and asked her to explain “the circumstances of Amer Fakhoury being transferred abroad from the U.S. embassy,” the National News Agency said.
Fakhoury, a former member of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia (SLA), went into exile more than two decades ago before returning to Lebanon in September, when he was arrested.
The 57-year-old was released on Monday over a statute of limitations on his alleged crimes, a judicial source said, though put under a travel ban, according to state media. On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump hailed Fakhoury’s return to the United States, saying he was suffering from late-stage cancer. He also thanked the Lebanese government for cooperating with Washington in the case. A security source said on Thursday that Fakhoury left the country in a helicopter from the U.S. embassy heading to an unknown destination, but the embassy did not comment on the report. When Fakhoury was arrested, a Lebanese security source said he had served as a senior warden in the notorious Khiyam Prison, opened in 1984 by the SLA after Israel occupied southern Lebanon. Witnesses accuse Fakhoury of ordering or taking part in beatings of thousands of inmates.
The veteran militiaman’s release by a military court on Monday prompted huge criticism on social media. Hizbullah, largely credited with Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, said it would be more honorable for the judges involved to resign rather that “succumb to the pressures that led to this decision.”On Friday, the head of the military tribunal resigned over the criticism.

Lebanon’s Army Command denies news attributed to military source
NNA/March 20/2020
Lebanon’s Army Command issued on Friday the following statement: “The Army Command confirms that it is not connected whatsoever to the news attributed to it via military or security sources, and that the only source of news related to the military institution is the statements issued exclusively by the Army Command-Orientation Directorate, which are published on the official website of the Lebanese Army and its official accounts on social media.”

Diab meets Banking Association: $6 million will be allocated to purchase 120 ventilators for Coronavirus patients
NNA/March 20/2020
Prime Minister Hassan Diab met today at the Grand Serail with a delegation from the Banking Association, headed by Salim Sfeir. It was agreed during the meeting that the banks will allocate USD 6 million to purchase 120 specialized ventilators dedicated to the treatment of the coronavirus patients. The ventilators will be distributed to a number of public hospitals in different Lebanese regions.—Serail Press Office

Diab leads first coordination meeting to fight Coronavirus
NNA/March 20/2020
Prime Minister Hassan Diab lead on Friday the first coordination meeting dedicated to finding optimal solutions in order to fight coronavirus.
Attending the meeting were Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Zeina Akar, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs Nassif Hitti, of Interior Mohammad Fahmi, of Public Health Hamad Hassan, of Social Affairs Ramzi Musharrafieh, of Economy Raoul Nehme, of Energy Raymond Ghajar, of Public Works Michel Najjar, and of Labor Lamia Yammine, as well as the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, Major-General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, the Secretary General of the Lebanese Red Cross George Kettaneh, PM’s Advisor on Health Affairs Petra Khoury, European Union Ambassador Ralph Tarraf, Dutch Ambassador Jan Waltmans, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini, Representatives from WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNRWA, UNDP, WFP, Head of ICRC Mission Christophe Martin, and Head of Doctors Without Borders Mission Amaury Gregoire.
Also taking part of the meeting through Skype were Ambassador of the United Stated of America Dorothy Shea, of France Bruno Foucher, of Italy Nicoletta Bombardier, of Germany George Berglin, of Canada Emmanuelle Lamoureux, of China Wang Kejian, of the United Kingdom Chris Rampling, of Switzerland Monica Schmutz, and of Sweden Jörgen Lindström, as well as Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank, Nadwa Rafeh. At the beginning of the meeting, PM Diab expressed his gratitude to all the participants for their cooperation and continuous coordination during this crisis, stating the importance of working in a concerted manner to find the best solutions to fight the coronavirus.
“There is no doubt that acting quickly is essential at this stage to prevent the number of casualties from increasing,” he said. Diab added: “As you know, we have in the Serail a disaster risk management unit, which began its work last week, and is coordinating all relevant data with the concerned ministries.”“Two emergency funds have been initiated at the Central Bank, the first being the coronavirus support fund, and the other, the social support fund, and handling both funds will be done in complete transparency through a platform and an audit company to provide daily figures.”
He finally recalled that Lebanon is also facing the Eurobonds’ and banking sector’s restructuring, as well as developing a fiscal program. “Very few countries, if any, have faced all of that at the same time, and any support we can get from various organizations is more than welcome.”
US Ambassador indicated that she has submitted Lebanon’s request for help to the Departments of State and of Defense.
French Ambassador noted that Paris has already sent 32 packages of gloves and personal protective equipment for the medical personnel treating coronavirus-infected patients. He added that coordination is regular with China, Iran, and Lebanon, noting that they are currently facing problems in shipping the material and equipment that Lebanon needs.
Chinese Ambassador said that the Embassy is ensuring permanent coordination between both the Lebanese and Chinese Governments in order to find means to help Lebanon face this crisis.
Italian Ambassador reminded that Italy is currently facing an emergency and is in desperate need of receiving all needed medical material, underlining the tight coordination with the Lebanese authorities, notably the Ministry of Social Affairs, in order to help the most vulnerable. She finally added that the Italian UNIFIL Contingent recently made a contribution to help Lebanon by donating an isolation room to a public hospital in the South, to receive people who are undergoing the coronavirus test.
Within this framework, the Prime Minister clarified that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is following up closely on the situation of Lebanese students in Italy. UK Ambassador also highlighted the importance of ensuring all required equipment by coordinating with the local authorities.
EU Ambassador praised the Lebanese Government for the steps taken in order to fight coronavirus and the implemented measures to halt its fast spread. He conveyed EU’s will to help Lebanon in solving its electricity issue. The World Bank Representative thanked all donors and stated that the WB has established a facility to help provide financial support to tackle the coronavirus crisis, adding that the Bank looks forward to supporting the Lebanese Government and all partners in order to address the social and economic repercussions of this crisis.
Public Health Minister said that Lebanon essentially has “problems in the healthcare status now, in both public and private sectors.” “Our data shows that we have only 1000 ventilators, but 50% of them are already taken for patients with chronic diseases,” he added. Hassan also noted that there is no fund for local suppliers, and that even if the required equipment is available on the international market, it will take 6 to 8 weeks to deliver it to Lebanon.
Minister of Social Affairs thanked the international community for all its efforts, especially after the recent coronavirus crisis, and reiterated the importance of coordination between all parties. “We operate from a nondiscriminatory point of view; all humans are equal no matter their nationality. And every human being on the Lebanese territory will be receiving the same quality of care that we intend to give.” He also mentioned the social safety and the provision of adequate help for the most vulnerable, and the need to provide them with help during this crisis.
Minister of Economy said that many coordination meetings have been held by the Ministry with importers, industrials, and major supermarkets, in order to make sure that the chain of supply for the essential items is still working normally. “We have also worked on measures to be taken by stores that remain open, from the health point of view; and are working on completing recommendations for consumers upon their visits to the stores,” he said. He added that the Ministry is coordinating with insurance companies to cover both Lebanese and foreigners infected by the coronavirus. Minister of Defense noted the importance of joint work. “It was agreed during the Cabinet session that the Lebanese army will be responsible for all the warehouses, stocks, and for delivering the items to the public hospitals. Private hospitals will themselves ensure transport of required items,” she said.
The Minister of Public Works spoke of the role of the Ministry in limiting and then suspending all flights. He also noted that many people working within this sector are daily workers and that the social and economic repercussions of them staying at home would be very difficult for them to overcome. Finally, the Minister of Energy underlined the need to address the electricity dossier in coordination with other Governments or companies that are willing to help Lebanon in building, financing, and operating power plants. After the meeting, PM Diab visited the National Operation Room for Disaster Management and stressed on the importance of issuing daily reports about coronavirus updates to the Lebanese.—Serail Press Office

Minister of Industry, National Campaign for Social Solidarity discuss means to bolster industries amid outbreak

NNA/March 20/2020
A delegation from the National Campaign for Social Solidarity (My hand in yours) on Friday visited Minister of Industry, Dr. Imad Hoballah, and discussed with him the means to face the current social crises amid the novel Coronavirus outbreak in Lebanon.
The delegation presented to the minister a document with a road map to meet the needs of people who lost their jobs and businesses as a result of the crisis. The meeting stressed the substantial need to join efforts and keep meetings open to launch a national donation campaign, in which the Ministry of Industry seeks to provide support by encouraging factories and concerned ministries to be an essential part in securing people’s needs in all the Lebanese regions. For his part, the minister praised the initiative put forward by the National Campaign for Social Solidarity and placed his ministry’s capabilities at the campaign’s disposal. He also promised to communicate with the Association of Industrialists in order to involve them in this mutual campaign.

Business as Usual as Some Tripoli Areas Defy Lockdown
Naharnet/March 20/2020
Heavy traffic and pedestrian movement was witnessed Friday in some impoverished areas of the northern city of Tripoli despite the government’s lockdown order over the coronavirus crisis, state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the popular souks in Mahram, Bab al-Tabbaneh, al-Qobbeh and Abi Samra were bustling with people as street vendors spread their chariots and some citizens gathered around coffee kiosks. Others meanwhile flocked heavily to the vegetable market as car repair and parts shops opened normally. Crowding was also recording in the Mahram area, especially inside and outside major supermarkets, where no precaution measures were observed, NNA said. Scores of worshippers meanwhile performed the Muslim Friday prayer inside and outside some mosques, despite calls by religious authorities for believers to pray in their homes. The agency said the majority of people on the streets were not wearing masks or gloves. Relatives of Islamist prisoners meanwhile staged a march across the city in which they condemned the release of former Khiyam Prison warden Amer Fakhoury and demanded a general amnesty. Lebanon has so far confirmed 163 COVID-19 coronavirus cases among them four deaths. On Sunday, the government declared a two-week state of “general mobilization,” closing the country’s air, land and sea ports of entry and ordering the closure of all non-essential public and private institutions. Citizens and residents were meanwhile asked to stay home unless it is extremely necessary to go out. President Michel Aoun and the army on Friday called on citizens and residents to respect the lockdown and stay home.

Wazni Meets Kubis Who Reiterates the UN Support for Lebanon
Naharnet/March 20/2020
Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni met with the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis who reiterated the international agency’s support for Lebanon, the National News Agency reported on Friday. Kubis said the UN is willing to “support Lebanon, its people and government during these difficult times.” The two men also discussed the comprehensive economic plan that the government will issue and the measures it has taken to limit the spread of coronavirus and its implications on the health of Lebanese, said NNA.

Lebanon hospitals facing Coronavirus amid medical shortages
Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 20/2020
Virus Outbreak Lebanon. A Lebanese Red Cross ambulance leaves the
BEIRUT–Lebanon’s crippling financial crisis and banks’ stiff capital control left hospitals short of medical equipment and consumables undermining their ability to manage the coronavirus outbreak, medical supply importers said.
A severe dollar shortage that has hit imports in Lebanon since October, when anti-government protests erupted, exposed hospitals to shortages of basic materials from dialysis equipment to syringes. Demands for medical supplies have significantly increased with the appearance of COVID-19, which claimed at least four lives and infected more than 130 people in the country.
Salma Assi, president of the Syndicate of Importers of Medical Devices and Equipment, said even basic supplies have all but dried up as a backlog of foreign exchange requests at dollar-scarce commercial banks has gone unmet.
“Hospitals were already low in stock but things got worse with the outbreak of the virus,” Assi said. “Definitely there is a severe shortage of consumables in high demand such as masks and gloves because we have not been able to import properly for the past 7 months.”
“Importers have been able to bring in just $10 million of the $140 million in goods they have sought since October, less than 10% of what we need, and nearly all transactions have been frozen since February,” Assi said.
She said private and public hospitals across Lebanon are equipped with 850 respirators, 10% of which were out of order and needed spare parts. “Of the remaining 780 ventilators, 400 are already being used and 250-300 that are available are definitely not sufficient if the number of coronavirus cases surges as feared,” she said. Assi, whose syndicate represents 80% of medical suppliers, complained about the government’s laxity in facilitating the suppliers’ work.
“Although the government has said it will facilitate medical imports linked to the virus, we are still not able to transfer money to providers abroad because until today there is no mechanism to facilitate transfers for imports,” she said, adding “no government official got in contact with us to facilitate our work. We are not even represented in the crisis committee dealing with the virus outbreak.”
People testing positive for COVID-19 have been quarantined and treated at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, the only public health-care facility in the country capable of treating coronavirus patients.
The hospital has seven intensive care and four isolation units, with capacity to accommodate approximately 128 mild and 11 severe cases. With rapid rates of infection and 14-day periods of self-isolation necessary to determine if they are carriers of the virus or whether symptoms develop, the capacity to treat only 139 people nationwide is not enough.
The Lebanese Ministry of Health called on all hospitals across the country to prepare for the outbreak, which could grow.
“I don’t think any country is 100% prepared to this big-scale pandemic but what is reassuring is that Lebanon’s case monitoring and quarantine steps meet international norms,” Lebanon World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Iman Shankiti said. “It is applying strict measures and still able to trace all positive cases and the people they were in contact with in order to check them.”
“Also, we have several cases that are cured and the fact that none of the hospital’s staff was infected shows that they are applying the requested precautionary measures.”
Noting that the health-care sector in Lebanon has been deeply affected by the financial crisis, Shankiti said the WHO has provided technical support and in-kind assistance to medical teams stationed at the airport and to hospital laboratories.
“We are trying to flatten the curve and keep it at a level whereby the number of patients does not exceed the hospital’s capacities. That would give us additional time to prepare other hospitals for a potential increase in the number of cases in the next phase,” she said.
In Lebanon, where protests have taken aim at a political elite seen as mired in corruption, distrust of the government runs deep and many Lebanese have been sceptical of its ability to rein in a serious outbreak.
“Whether it’s coronavirus or any disease or any problem, the government isn’t prepared to deal with anything,” 41-year-old real-estate broker Samir al-Mohtar told Reuters. The Lebanese government owes private and public hospitals millions of dollars including funds owed by the National Social Security Fund and military health funds. Human Rights Watch warned that the government’s failure to reimburse hospitals “seriously endangers the health of the population.”
Sleiman Haroun, the head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, told Human Rights Watch that the Lebanese Finance Ministry has not paid private hospitals an estimated $1.3 billion in dues since 2011, compromising their ability to buy vital medicine and supplies and to pay staff salaries.
*Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

Two Americans Imprisoned in Iran, Lebanon Released
Associated Press/March 120/2020
WASHINGTON (AP) — An American jailed for months in Lebanon was released from custody Thursday, while a Navy veteran was granted medical furlough from an Iran prison as the country struggles to curb the spread of coronavirus, U.S. officials said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Michael White, imprisoned more than a year ago for insulting Iran’s supreme leader, was released to the Swiss Embassy as part of a furlough that will require him to remain in Iran. The U.S. will work for his full release, Pompeo said.
The other American was Amer Fakhoury, a New Hampshire restaurant owner who had faced decades-old murder and torture charges in Lebanon that he denies. He was ordered released by a judge because more than 10 years had passed since the crimes he was accused of committing.
The Trump administration trumpeted the twin releases, though done in different countries and for different reasons, as part of its efforts to secure the release of Americans held hostage or imprisoned abroad. Officials including President Donald Trump used the occasion to name additional Americans they want released, including journalist Austin Tice, who went missing in Syria in 2012.
“I want to let everyone know that recovering Americans held captive and imprisoned abroad continues to be a top priority for my administration,” Trump said at a news conference.
White’s release, though temporary for the moment, came as Iran has furloughed tens of thousands of prisoners while struggling with a coronavirus that Iranian officials fear could kill millions.
White, of Imperial Beach, California, was detained in Iran while visiting a girlfriend there in July 2018. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Iran’s supreme leader and posting private information; the State Department said he was serving a 13-year sentence. His mother had called for White’s immediate release in an interview with The Associated Press this month, saying she was concerned about the well-being of her son and that he had been battling cancer.
“He is in very good spirits, but has some pretty sustained health conditions that are going to require some attention,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said on a conference call. Hook said White would be evaluated by doctors.
Fakhoury was on his way back to the U.S. after a judge in Lebanon ordered him released. Fakhoury had been accused of torturing prisoners at a jail run by an Israeli-backed militia two-decades ago. He had been imprisoned since September after returning to Lebanon to visit family.
His case had put a significant strain on already troubled ties between the U.S. and Lebanon. Lawmakers in Washington had threatened to withhold critical aid to the country and impose sanctions on the Lebanese military, which is seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement.“Anytime a U.S citizen is wrongfully detained by a foreign government, we must use every tool at our disposal to free them,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H, who had worked for his release. “I’m very glad that Amer is finally coming home and will be reunited with his family. No family should have to go through what the Fakhoury family has gone through.”
His oldest daughter, Guila Fakhoury, told the AP by phone, “We are so happy. It’s a dream.”
Fakhoury was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma and had been hospitalized in Lebanon. Trump said Fakhoury “will now be able to receive the much needed care and treatment in the United States.”
“We’ve been working very hard to get him freed, and he’s finally able to have his entire family at his side,” Trump said.
Fakhoury was ordered to be released Monday because more than 10 years had passed since he allegedly tortured prisoners at a jail run by the South Lebanon Army militia. But he was not immediately allowed to leave the country after a Lebanese military judge on Tuesday appealed the decision, asking a military tribunal to strike down the decision to free Fakhoury.
The parliamentary bloc of Hezbollah criticized the military tribunal for what it called “succumbing” to U.S. demands to release Fakhoury, describing him as “an agent who betrayed his country.” Hezbollah lawmakers called on concerned authorities to hold the tribunal accountable.
Hours before Shaheen announced Fakhoury’s release, a U.S. Marine Osprey was seen taking off from the U.S. Embassy compound northeast of Beirut. He was being returned to the U.S. in a State Department medical plane, said Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker.
Separately, hours after the release, the U.S. embassy announced that all of its non-essential personnel had been ordered to leave Lebanon. An official in Washington said the decision to move to ordered departure was not connected to the release and was instead made due to the spread of the coronavirus and the uncertainty of transportation. The embassy will be operating with only emergency consular services available for American citizens for the foreseeable future.
Fakhoury is a former SLA member who became a U.S. citizen last year. His case has been closely followed in New Hampshire, where Shaheen and other officials have called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.
Fakhoury was jailed last year after returning to Lebanon on vacation to visit family. Lebanon’s intelligence service said he confessed during questioning to being a warden at Khiam Prison, which was run by the SLA during Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon.
Human rights groups have described the prison as a center for torture.
Fakhoury’s family and lawyer, however, said he had no direct contact with inmates and was never involved in any interrogation or torture.
Fakhoury’s family said in a statement said they have been through a nightmare “that we would never wish on anyone.” They thanked Trump and members of his administration and said Fakhoury “considers Shaheen his hero.”
Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948. Lebanon bans its citizens from traveling to Israel or having contact with Israelis.
Fakhoury’s lawyer and family say he fled Lebanon in 2001 through Israel and eventually to the United States because of death threats he and many other SLA members received after Israel ended its occupation of Lebanon in 2000.
Fakhoury was formally charged in February by a military judge with the murder and torture of inmates at Khiam Prison.
*McCormack reported from Concord, New Hampshire. Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Bassem Mroue and Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Picture Enclosed: USA-Lebanese Mr. Amer Fakhoury lying on stretcher while being air lifted by USA Army from the USA embassy in Beirut to The USA. Mr. Amer was held as a hostage in Iranian Occupied Lebanon for the last six months