A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 22-23/2020 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 22-23/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
March 23/2020

Picture Enclosed: Mar-Challita-church-in-Akkar-north Lebanon…check the piece in the below bulletin under the title: “Akkar, the spectacular and yet forgotten part of Lebanon”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 22-23/2020
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed Miracle & The Significance Of Praying For Others/Elias Bejjani/March 22/2020
Health Ministry: 248 lab-confirmed Coronavirus cases in Lebanon
Lebanon’s Coronavirus Cases Jump by 18 to Hit 248
Hariri Hospital Contractual Staff: To agree on a pension fund that guarantees our rights
Abdel Samad warns of ‘Stage 4 Coronavirus outbreak’
Former member of Israel-backed militia killed in Lebanon
Man Found Killed, Reportedly over Fakhoury Ties
Geagea: Hayek Assassination a Stab in the Heart of Lebanese State
Lebanese Army Uses Helicopters to Ask Citizens to Stay Home
Fahmi Vows to Suppress Every Virus Lockdown Violation
Msharrafiyeh Promises Aid for Needy Citizens ‘within Days’
Hariri Appeals to the Lebanese to Respect the Lockdown
Flying Roses: Drone Fetes Lebanon Mothers despite Coronavirus
Kubis: Government’s procedures require the full commitment of Lebanese citizens and residents
Banking Association says it will continue to provide basic services to clients through public administrations, main centers
Labor Ministry denies news attributed to it on amending labor contracts, reducing wages
Yammine to Radio Lebanon: The issue of workers and employees is the government’s primary concern, and work is underway to secure their daily needs
Fadlallah contacts Berri, reviews plans of Bint Jbeil municipalities in facing Coronavirus
Interior Minister launches executive plan to confront Corona virus: Every violation will be repressed
Coronavirus: How to spend a fun time while being home-quarantined?/Manal Makkieh & Elissa Hassan/Annahar/March 22/2020
Megaphone: Amplifying voices from Lebanon’s uprising/A look at the media outlets that have chronicled Lebanon’s uprisings./Al Jazeera News/March 22/2020
Despite confinement Lebanon working on economic rescue plan/Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 22/2020
The Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and the coronavirus/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/March 22/2020
Akkar, the spectacular and yet forgotten part of Lebanon/Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 22/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 22-23/2020
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed Miracle & The Significance Of Praying For Others
Elias Bejjani/March 22/2020
الياس بجاني: عجيبة شفاء المخلع وأهمية الصلاة من أجل الآخرين
http://eliasbejjaninews.com/archives/73457/elias-bejjani-praying-for-others-and-the-healing-miracle-of-the-paralyzed-miracle/

On the fifth Lenten Sunday the Catholic Maronites cite and recall with great reverence the Gospel of Saint Mark ( 02/1-12): “The Healing Miracle of the Paralytic”
This great miracle in its theological essence and core demonstrates beyond doubt that intercessions, prayers and supplications for the benefit of others are acceptable faith rituals that Almighty God attentively hears and definitely answers.
It is interesting to learn that the paralytic man as stated in the Gospel of St. Mark, didn’t personally call on Jesus to cure him, nor he asked Him for forgiveness, mercy or help, although as many theologians believe Jesus used to visit Capernaum, where the man lives, and preach in its Synagogue frequently.
Apparently this crippled man was lacking faith, hope, distancing himself from God and total ignoring the Gospel’s teaching. He did not believe that the Lord can cure him.
What also makes this miracle remarkable and distinguishable lies in the fact that the paralytic’s relatives and friends, or perhaps some of Jesus’ disciples were adamant that the Lord is able to heal this sick man who has been totally crippled for 38 years if He just touches him.
This strong faith and hope made four of them carry the paralytic on his mat and rush to the house where Jesus was preaching.
When they could not break through the crowd to inter the house they climbed with the paralytic to the roof, made a hole in it and let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on in front of Jesus and begged for his cure.
Jesus was taken by their strong faith and fulfilled their request.
Jesus forgave the paralytic his sins first (“Son, your sins are forgiven), and after that cured his body: “Arise, and take up your bed, and walk”.
Like the scribes many nowadays still question the reason and rationale that made Jesus give priority to the man’s sins.
Jesus’ wisdom illustrates that sin is the actual death and the cause for eternal anguish in Hell.
He absolved his sins first because sin cripples those who fall in its traps, annihilates their hopes, faith, morals and values, kills their human feelings, inflicts numbness on their consciences and keeps them far away from Almighty God.
Jesus wanted to save the man’s soul before He cures his earthy body. “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?” (Mark 08:/36 & 37).
Our Gracious God does not disappoint any person when he seek His help with faith and confidence.
With great interest and parental love, He listens to worshipers’ prayers and requests and definitely respond to them in His own way, wisdom, time and manner.
“Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened”. (Matthew 07/07 &08)
Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up”. (James 05:15)
In this loving and forgiving context, prayers for others, alive or dead, loved ones or enemies, relatives or strangers, are religiously desirable.
God hears and responds because He never abandons His children no matter what they do or say, provided that they turn to Him with faith and repentance and ask for His mercy and forgiveness either for themselves or for others. “
There are numerous biblical parables and miracles in which Almighty God shows clearly that He accepts and responds to prayers for the sake of others.
Jesus cured the centurion’s servant on the request of the Centurion and not the servant himself. (Matthew 08/05-33 )
Jesus revived and brought back to life Lazarus on the request of his sisters Mary and Martha. (John 11/01-44)
Praying for others whether they are parents, relatives, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, or friends, and for countries, is an act that exhibits the faith, caring, love, and hope of those who offer the prayers.
Almighty God, Who is a loving, forgiving, passionate, and merciful Father listens to these prayers and always answers them in His own wisdom and mercy that mostly we are unable to grasp because of our limited human understanding.
“All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21/22)
Almighty God is always waiting for us, we, His Children to come to Him and ask for His help and mercy either for ourselves or for others.
He never leaves us alone. Meanwhile it is a Godly faith obligation to extend our hand and pull up those who are falling and unable to pray for themselves especially the mentally sick, the unconscious, and the paralyzed.
In this realm of faith, love and care for others comes our prayers to Virgin Mary and to all Saints whom we do not worship, but ask for their intercessions and blessings.
O, Lord, endow us with graces of faith, hope, wisdom, and patience.
Help us to be loving, caring, humble and meek. Show us the just paths.
Help us to be on your right with the righteous on the Judgment Day.
God sees and hears us all the time, let us all fear Him in all what we think, do and say.
N.B: The above piece was first published in 2012/It Is Republished with minor changes

Health Ministry: 248 lab-confirmed Coronavirus cases in Lebanon
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
The Ministry of Public Health announced, in a statement on Sunday, that “eighteen new laboratory-confirmed cases infected with the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) have been registered, including the cases diagnosed at the Rafic Hariri Governmental Hospital, and those reported from other university hospitals accredited by the Ministry.””The total number of confirmed Corona patients until today, March 22, has reached 248 cases,” the Ministry’s statement added. “These figures indicate the start of the outbreak phase of the disease, and accordingly, the Ministry emphasizes the crucial need to implement of all preventive measures,” the statement underlined. The Health Ministry, thus, reminded all citizens to strictly remain at home, stressing that “this has become a moral individual and social responsibility and the duty of each and every citizen, for any negligence in this regards will expose citizens to legal liability.”

Lebanon’s Coronavirus Cases Jump by 18 to Hit 248
Naharnet/March 22/2020
Lebanon confirmed 18 more coronavirus infections on Sunday, raising the overall tally to 248, the Health Ministry said. “There are also five cases reported by laboratories not accredited by the Ministry and they require re-confirmation at the Hariri hospital,” the Ministry said in its daily report. It added that citizens and residents need to abide by “all the precautionary measures, “especially full home quarantine,” noting that staying home has become “an individual and societal obligatory responsibility.” “Any negligence in implementing it will subject violators to legal and penal prosecution,” the Ministry warned. The Lebanese government on Saturday called in the army and security forces to ensure people stay at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed four people nationwide. Last Sunday, the government ordered all people to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close. The airport has been shut since Wednesday. Officials fear the local health system would struggle to cope if cases dramatically increase.

Hariri Hospital Contractual Staff: To agree on a pension fund that guarantees our rights
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
The Committee of Contractual and Daily Employees at the Rafic Hariri Governmental University Hospital announced, in a statement on Sunday, that it had contacted the Parliamentary Health Committee Chair, MP Assem Araji, to thank him for his stances in support of the hospital staff in various ways, most recently by signing a project law that aims at creating a pension fund that guarantees pension and optional early retirement for hospital personnel, as a token of gratitude and appreciation for their valuable sacrifices. The Committee highlighted the importance of creating a pension fund that guarantees the rights of contractual, part-time and daily employees at the hospital. In this connection, Parliamentary Health Committee Member, MP Bilal Abdallah, was contacted over the same subject, whereby he expressed his full personal support and the adoption of his parliamentary bloc of said project law. The Committee vowed to pursue all the necessary contracts and efforts to ensure that the Parliament Council passes this project law that would preserve the rights of its members to a decent living and secured retirement/

Abdel Samad warns of ‘Stage 4 Coronavirus outbreak’
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
Minister of Information, Dr. Manal Abdel Samad Najd, warned in an interview with “Radio Lebanon” on Sunday, against “the danger of accelerating our move towards the fourth stage of the spread of the Coronavirus if we do not take the necessary measures, whether on part of the state and all its security apparatuses in controlling the mobility of citizens, or on part of citizens in adhering to self-curfew and not leaving their homes except in cases of extreme necessity, and taking precautionary measures to prohibit gatherings and thus, prevent the transmission of infection.”The Minister called on citizens to “abide by the guidelines [issued by the government], which are based on the experiences of other countries such as China, whose experience with self-isolation has proven successful in this regard,” disclosing that the state will take harsher measures when necessary. Commenting on the role of the official media in this crisis, Abdel Samad indicated that “there is continuous coordination with the media outlets with regard to the awareness campaign launched under the headline, ‘It is not a joke’, and the videos that present useful messages to society “, thanking “all media institutions that cooperated in this respect, by devoting a large segment of their screening time or via news websites to keep up with this campaign and convey the useful image to society. “

Former member of Israel-backed militia killed in Lebanon
Associated Press/March 22/2020
Two Lebanese security officials said Antoine Hayek was killed with several bullets from a pistol equipped with a silencer inside his grocery store in the southern village of Mieh Mieh
BEIRUT: Unknown assailants shot dead a former member of an Israeli-backed Lebanese militia on Sunday, security officials said. The killing came three days after a jailed Lebanese-American man who belonged to the same militia was released in Beirut and flown to the U.S.
Two Lebanese security officials said Antoine Hayek was killed with several bullets from a pistol equipped with a silencer inside his grocery store in the southern village of Mieh Mieh, near the port city of Sidon. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
According to Lebanese media, Hayek had been a warden at a prison run by the South Lebanon Army militia during Israel’s 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000.
The Lebanese-American man, Amer Fakhoury, had been jailed in Lebanon since September and charged with murder and torture of prisoners at the same SLA-run prison — charges he denied. A Lebanese judge ordered him released last week, saying more than 10 years had passed since the alleged crimes.
U.S. officials confirmed Fakhoury was aboard a U.S. Marine V-22 Osprey seen taking off from the U.S. Embassy compound northeast of Beirut on Thursday. Fakhoury’s case had significantly strained the already troubled ties between the U.S. and Lebanon.
Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the powerful Hezbollah militant group, called Fakhoury’s release and exit from Lebanon a “blatant violation” of the country’s sovereignty and laws. Lawmakers from Fakhoury’s home state of New Hampshire had called for imposing sanctions on Lebanon to pressure Beirut to release him.
Local media outlets reported that Hayek had been close to Fakhoury. Hayek, a 58-year-old retired policeman, also reportedly worked as a warden at the SLA-run Khiam prison during Israel’s occupation.
Human rights groups have described the prison as a center for torture.
Lebanon’s intelligence service said Fakhoury confessed during questioning to being a warden there.
Fakhoury’s family in the U.S. and lawyer, however, said that although he was a SLA member, he had no direct contact with inmates and was never involved in any interrogation or torture. Fakhoury became a U.S. citizen last year.
Hundreds of SLA members fled to Israel, including Fakhoury, fearing reprisals if they remained in Lebanon. Others stayed and faced trial, receiving lenient sentences.
Hayek was one of those who stayed in Lebanon and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
No one claimed responsibility for Hayek’s shooting.
Hasan Hijazi, a former inmate at Khiam prison, tweeted Sunday about his experience there. He said Hayek would flog prisoners with a whip and “turn detainees into a punching bag, and beat and kick them.”
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.

Man Found Killed, Reportedly over Fakhoury Ties
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/March 22/2020
A retired policeman was found killed Sunday morning inside his grocery shop in the town of Miyeh w Miyeh near Sidon, the National News Agency said. MTV said he was shot by a silencer-equipped pistol from a close distance. Quoting high-level security sources, al-Jadeed TV identified the man as Antoine Youssef al-Hayek, saying he had served in the past as an official at the Khiyam Prison of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia. A judicial source told French news agency AFP that Hayek was accused of killing two prisoners during a riot at the jail in 1989. He was brought to trial in 2001 but then released because of a statute of limitations.
The prison’s alleged senior warden Amer Fakhoury was likewise accused of murder over this case, the source added. Privately-owned Akhbar al-Yawm news agency said al-Hayek had been “a notorious aide” of Fakhoury.
“He joined the Internal Security Forces following the liberation of the South in the year 2000 and some former (Khiyam) prisoners had spotted him riding a traffic police motorcycle in Sidon,” the agency said.
“Local press had published several articles about this case, tackling his role in torture as an official at the Khiyam Prison,” it added.
Hundreds of SLA members fled to Israel in the year 2000 and afterwards, including Fakhoury, fearing reprisals if they remained in Lebanon. Others stayed and faced trial, receiving lenient sentences.
Hayek was one of those who stayed in Lebanon and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
No one claimed responsibility for Hayek’s shooting.
Hasan Hijazi, a former inmate at Khiyam, tweeted Sunday about his experience there. He said Hayek would flog prisoners with a whip and “turn detainees into a punching bag, and beat and kick them.” The release of Lebanese-American citizen Amer Fakhoury has sparked controversy in Lebanon in recent days. Fakhoury 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.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday hailed Fakhoury’s return to the United States, saying he was suffering from late-stage cancer.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday slammed Fakhoury’s departure to the U.S. as an “escape” organized by the U.S. embassy and a “flagrant violation of (Lebanese) sovereignty and justice”.
Witnesses accuse Fakhoury of ordering or taking part in beatings of thousands of inmates at Khiyam, but David Schenker, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, disputed accounts of Fakhoury’s involvement, saying his name did not come up in previous prosecutions of SLA members and charging that some in Lebanon wanted to use the U.S. citizen’s detention as a bargaining chip.

Geagea: Hayek Assassination a Stab in the Heart of Lebanese State
Naharnet/March 22/2020
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Sunday described the killing of former Khiyam Prison warden Antoine al-Hayek as “a stab in the heart of the Lebanese state before anything else.”“The assassination of the citizen Antoine al-Hayek is a stab in the heart of the Lebanese state before anything else, as if someone is saying that they don’t believe in this state nor in its institutions, judiciary and security agencies,” Geagea said in a statement. “It is totally unacceptable for a party, which is organized as the crime’s details indicate, to assassinate the citizen Antoine al-Hayek in broad daylight given that he had surrendered to the Lebanese judiciary and the Lebanese laws in the best way possible,” the LF leader added.
He also urged security and judicial authorities to unveil the circumstances of the case in order to “fulfill justice” and “maintain the Lebanese citizen’s minimum level of confidence in the presence of a state in Lebanon.”
Unknown assailants shot dead retired policeman Hayek inside his grocery shop in the town of Miyeh w Miyeh near Sidon. MTV said he was shot by a silencer-equipped pistol from a close distance. A judicial source told French news agency AFP that Hayek was accused of killing two prisoners during a riot at Khiyam in 1989. He was brought to trial in 2001 but then released because of a statute of limitations. Privately-owned Akhbar al-Yawm news agency said Hayek had been “a notorious aide” of Amer Fakhoury, another former Khiyam Prison warden whose release this week has sparked major controversy in Lebanon. Hundreds of members of the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army militia fled to Israel in the year 2000 and afterwards, including Fakhoury, fearing reprisals if they remained in Lebanon. Others stayed and faced trial, receiving lenient sentences. Hayek was one of those who stayed in Lebanon and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
Hasan Hijazi, a former inmate at Khiyam, tweeted Sunday about his experience there. He said Hayek would flog prisoners with a whip and “turn detainees into a punching bag, and beat and kick them.”
As for Fakhoury, witnesses have accused him of ordering or taking part in beatings of thousands of inmates at Khiyam, but David Schenker, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, disputed accounts of the man’s involvement, saying his name did not come up in previous prosecutions of SLA members and charging that some in Lebanon wanted to use the U.S. citizen’s detention as a bargaining chip.

Lebanese Army Uses Helicopters to Ask Citizens to Stay Home
Naharnet/March 22/2020
The army was on Sunday staging patrols across Lebanon and using helicopters over many areas to ask citizens to stay home and respect a lockdown declared by the government over coronavirus.Army helicopters hovered over Beirut, the Bekaa, Keserwan, Upper Metn and Aley, according to the National News Agency and other reports. On the ground, army troops and security forces intensified their patrols to ensure non-essential shops and institutions are shuttered and people are not gathering in groups or moving around for non-urgent matters.
In a televised address on Saturday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the number of cases had risen to 230 in the country despite a call almost a week ago for all to remain at home. Warning of a further spike to epidemic levels if people continued to flout social distancing rules, he said the government was calling in the army and security forces. His government decided to “task the army, Internal Security Forces, General Security and State Security to… implement the order for citizens not to leave their homes, except out of extreme necessity, and prevent gatherings contravening” the order, Diab said. This would take the form of patrols and checkpoints, and those found disobeying would be pursued. Diab again called on all Lebanese to observe a self-imposed curfew, “as the state cannot face this creeping epidemic on its own.”Last Sunday, the government ordered all people to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close. The airport has been shut since Wednesday. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis to hit the country, already reeling from a financial meltdown and months of widespread public discontent. Officials fear the local health system would struggle to cope if cases dramatically increase. Earlier on Saturday, police patrolled several areas of the capital Beirut, using loudspeakers to call bystanders to go home.On the seafront, they pursued and flagged down joggers, pleading with them to head back indoors.

Fahmi Vows to Suppress Every Virus Lockdown Violation

Naharnet/March 22/2020
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi on Sunday launched an executive plan to enforce the government’s emergency measures over coronavirus.“The law will be implemented on everyone. Every violation threatening public safety will be suppressed and I won’t receive phone calls from anyone,” Fahmi said at a  press conference. “There is full coordination among the state’s agencies, especially security agencies, to apply the taken measures,” the minister added, calling on grocery shops, pharmacies and institutions still allowed to operate to “organize the entry of citizens to prevent crowding.” “Protect yourselves, your families and your society. Let us rescue ourselves, our families and our country,” Fahmi urged. Army troops and security forces intensified their patrols on Sunday to ensure non-essential shops and institutions are shuttered and people are not gathering in groups or moving around for non-urgent matters. In a televised address on Saturday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned of a spike to epidemic levels if people continued to flout social distancing rules, saying the government was calling in the army and security forces. His government decided to “task the army, Internal Security Forces, General Security and State Security to… implement the order for citizens not to leave their homes, except out of extreme necessity, and prevent gatherings contravening” the order, Diab said. This would take the form of patrols and checkpoints, and those found disobeying would be pursued.
Last Sunday, the government ordered all people to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close. The airport has been shut since Wednesday.

Msharrafiyeh Promises Aid for Needy Citizens ‘within Days’
Naharnet/March 22/2020
Social Affairs and Tourism Minister Ramzi Msharrafiyeh on Sunday announced that aid will be distributed “within a few days” to “needy citizens” affected by the coronavirus lockdown. In a tweet, Msharrafiyeh said the government will mete out the aid in collaboration with the relevant ministries, the army and the municipalities. “I reiterate my call for solidarity and cooperation among us all in order to overcome this difficult period,” he added. Lebanon has so far confirmed 248 coronavirus cases among them four deaths. The government on Saturday called in the army and security forces to ensure people stay at home to slow the spread of the virus. Last Sunday, the government ordered all people to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close. The airport has been shut since Wednesday.Educational institutions, sport clubs, nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes had been ordered closed prior to the government’s drastic emergency measures.

Hariri Appeals to the Lebanese to Respect the Lockdown
Naharnet/March 22/2020
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has appealed to all citizens, “to the fathers, mothers and young men and women all over Lebanon, to stay at home and deal with home confinement as the only safety line” against coronavirus. He said on Twitter: “The coronavirus epidemic is a treacherous enemy… I appeal to you to remain home and deal with home confinement as the only safety line.” He continued: “Responsibility is shared between the country’s official authorities concerned with determining the scientific steps to confront the epidemic and the citizens who are required to protect themselves and stop endangering the safety of others.” Hariri concluded: “The occasion calls on us to unite all efforts and support the medical teams responsible for the safety of people, primarily the medical and nursing teams at the Rafik Hariri Hospital and the Lebanese Red Cross teams deployed all over the Lebanese territory.”

Flying Roses: Drone Fetes Lebanon Mothers despite Coronavirus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 22/2020
In a quiet Lebanese town under lockdown over the novel coronavirus, a drone buzzed towards a balcony on Saturday to deliver a red rose to a mother grinning in surprise. The COVID-19 pandemic may have put a damper on Mother’s Day in Lebanon this year, but three students have come up with a new service to celebrate the occasion without flouting social distancing restrictions. Down in the street in the coastal town of Jounieh, 18-year-old Christopher Ibrahim texts a teenager who has ordered a flower drop-off for his mother, asking him to bring the family onto the balcony. He slips a single rose in a ring hanging under the aircraft and it lifts off into the air to carry the flower to its intended recipient. “It’s Mother’s Day and everything’s closed,” said the engineering student, wearing a light blue face mask. For almost a week, most Lebanese have been ordered to remain at home to stem the spread of COVID-19. The airport has closed and all non-essential businesses have been told to shutter. Lebanon has recorded 206 cases of the novel coronavirus so far, and counted four deaths. “I wanted to think of something that would enable people make their mothers happy in the safest way — without there being contact with anyone,” Ibrahim said. Ibrahim, who has filmed weddings using a drone and also volunteers for the Lebanese Red Cross, decided on the idea of an airborne rose. “I thought if it was delivered by drone, there would be zero contact,” he said. But beyond cheering up mothers in lockdown, Ibrahim says the unconventional flower delivery service also aims to support medical workers battling the pandemic. “Everything we make from this project will go to the Red Cross,” he said. Each rose delivery costs between 10,000 and 20,000 Lebanese pounds ($6.60-$13 according to the official exchange rate) depending on the location. Lebanese officials fear an increase in COVID-19 cases would overwhelm local hospitals, in a country already reeling from an economic crisis and mass anti-government protests. Lebanon has been largely quiet in recent days, although food stores have remained open and there have been some vehicles in the streets. Ministers and lawmakers have called for a full curfew, and Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the army and security forces would be stricter in enforcing the lockdown and so-called state of “general mobilization.” An estimated 900 million people are now confined to their homes in 35 countries around the world — two thirds by government lockdown orders, according to an AFP tally.

Kubis: Government’s procedures require the full commitment of Lebanese citizens and residents
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
“The emergency measures declared by the Government to contain the spread of the coronavirus are necessary and require full compliance by the Lebanese and guests of Lebanon. Our self-discipline is a weapon in the fight against the virus,” tweeted United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, on Sunday.

Banking Association says it will continue to provide basic services to clients through public administrations, main centers
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced, in a statement on Sunday, that in the context of its commitment to “facilitate work in the banking sector during the general mobilization period, banks will continue, through their public administrations and their main headquarters, to secure basic banking services for their customers, either in terms of cash withdrawals through ATMs, or in terms of implementing urgent commercial operations related to ensuring food and medical supplies, or in terms of transferring financial aids and donations provided by clients to public or private beneficiaries within the framework of the national solidarity to face the health emergency resulting from the spread of the Corona epidemic.””Working hours during the days specified by the banks are from 8:30 in the morning until 12:00 noon, with the exception of Saturdays, noting that information and call centers at the banks are continuously at the disposal of customers for any assistance or inquiry,” the statement concluded.

Labor Ministry denies news attributed to it on amending labor contracts, reducing wages
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
The Ministry of Labor denied, in an issued statement on Sunday, the recently circulated news by “some media and social sites, that the Labor Ministry intends to submit a proposal authorizing the amendment of labor contracts and reducing wages to protect workers and employees from the repercussions of successive crises.”The Ministry categorically denied such news, stressing that “what is attributed to it in this context is completely groundless.” “In all cases, the Minister of Labor and the government are collectively prioritizing the study of proposals and setting scientific solutions to spare workers the repercussions of the emerging economic, financial and epidemiological crisis, as a result of the spread of the Corona virus that is weighing heavily on all productive sectors, particularly on workers who are facing many difficulties to maintain their jobs and secure their livelihoods, especially those who are daily workers and those with lower incomes,” the statement indicated. The Labor Ministry concluded its statement by asserting that any opinion or position that is not officially issued by the Ministry does not represent it in any way, urging all sides “to verify all news before circulation in order to avoid any confusion.”

Yammine to Radio Lebanon: The issue of workers and employees is the government’s primary concern, and work is underway to secure their daily needs
NNA/Sunday 22/2020
Labor Minister Lamia Yammine indicated in interview with “Radio Lebanon” on Sunday, that “the problem of dismissing employees and workers from their jobs began with the outset of the revolution, and has exacerbated today due to the Corona virus,” stressing that “the issue of laborers constitutes a basic concern for the government.” “With the increase in the number of laid-off employees, especially the problem of daily-workers who are now without wages, the cabinet is adamant on exploring ways to provide them with aid and assistance,” Yammine asserted. The Minister pointed to the difficult financial and economic situation, which “is not limited to Lebanon because the problem has become global in terms of aids. “However, the government has developed a plan to keep pace with this stage, respectively,” she added reassuringly. “We, as a Ministry of Labor, are maintaining regular contact with the Trusteeship Authority over the National Social Security Fund, which is carrying out all its duties as much as possible, despite its unpaid dues by the state. Work is also underway on an initiative to assist companies through certain facilities in order for them to continue to pay the salaries of their employees,” stated Yammine. Regarding the government’s role, the Labor Minister revealed that it is exploring several possibilities as an initiative by the state or by donors, and putting a plan to keep pace. She stressed herein on “the importance of national solidarity and that institutions do not dismiss any of their employees due to the current crisis because Lebanon as a whole is threatened.” Yammine, thus, called on institutions and companies to “show solidarity, despite the difficult conditions, so that everyone can be equal in earning their daily living.” She also revealed that the government is currently working on extending assistance and facilities to private institutions, in addition to proposing the exemption from certain fees, noting that the Minister of Finance is preparing a plan and study in this regard, which may include exempting citizens from paying taxes and fees for a certain period.
Finally, Yammine reiterated that the issue of laborers and employees is the main concern of the government, and that work is underway to secure the daily needs of citizens, while appealing to the Lebanese “not to leave their homes and not to be reckless, so as to limit the spread of the virus and protect themselves and their families.”

Fadlallah contacts Berri, reviews plans of Bint Jbeil municipalities in facing Coronavirus
NNANNA/Sunday 22/2020
Member of the “Loyalty to the Resistance” Parliamentary Bloc, MP Hassan Fadlallah, contacted Sunday House Speaker Nabih Berri, briefing him on “the measures taken by municipalities in the South to address the Corona virus spread, and the obstacles facing their work, including the failure to transfer the financial dues to municipalities, in addition to interpreting Article 32 of the 2020 annual budget, which limits the powers of municipalities.”Fadlallah highlighted the need to “address these two obstacles in order for the municipalities to play their role especially that a great burden falls on their shoulders in limiting the spread of the corona virus.”The MP indicated that he received a promise from Speaker Berri to strive to address this matter at the nearest. On another note, Fadlallah was informed during his meeting with various municipality heads in the area of Bint Jbeil about their plans for sterilization and blocking gatherings, and following-up on the conditions of citizens and providing them with in-kind assistance, in addition to preparing government hospitals, especially Bint Jbeil Hospital.adlallah called herein on the Prime Minister and the Interior and Finance Ministers to “give priority to the municipalities, whether in terms of their entitlements or their powers under these exceptional circumstances.”.

Interior Minister launches executive plan to confront Corona virus: Every violation will be repressed
NNA/March 22/2020
Interior and Municipalities Minister, Mohamad Fahmy, launched, in a press conference on Sunday, the executive plan to compel citizens not to leave their homes, saying, “There are some citizens who have not shown commitment, and the law will apply to everyone. Each violation that poses a threat to public safety will be suppressed…and I do not receive calls from anyone!”The Minister indicated that “complete coordination is taking place between all state apparatuses, especially the security forces, to implement the adopted measures, and I ask the governors to call the Sub-Security Council to convene when necessary.” He added: “We call for the creation of groups to intervene within each municipality to help with awareness, and the institutions and stores that are allowed to open will be monitored. In the event of any violation, they will be closed and the applicable laws will be implemented.” The Interior Minister, thus, urged owners of shops, institutions and pharmacies to “organize the entry of citizens by limiting them into specific numbers, in a bid to prevent overcrowding.””Protect yourselves, your family, and your community, and let us save ourselves, our people, and our country!” Fahmy concluded.

Coronavirus: How to spend a fun time while being home-quarantined?
Manal Makkieh & Elissa Hassan/Annahar/March 22/2020
In addition, people who are interested in writing can start a challenge like the seven-day journaling challenge to reflect on their day, health, and well-being
BEIRUT: As millions of people remain home due to the novel coronavirus, there’s an urge to find effective home activities to boost everyone’s mental health. Samar Abu Assaly, Mental Health Pyscho-Social Support Consultant, argued that maintaining good mental health while being socially distanced requires indulging simple yet efficient activities like coloring and listening to music in our daily routine to mitigate high-stress levels caused by coronavirus. This will also prevent people from developing disorders such as Alzheimer in the long run. “People have survived the first months of self-quarantine and now it’s their time to sustain in a more relaxed environment and accomplish their work and life duties without negatively affecting their own mental well-being, ” she told Annahar. While being at home, multiple activities and options can be done to boost people’s mood. These options entail jigsawing puzzles with family members, learning a new language on YouTube, redecorating a room, cleaning up clutter from the day, learning a dance routine, looking through photo albums, and connecting with the ones they love through online applications. In addition, people who are interested in writing can start a challenge like the seven-day journaling challenge to reflect on their day, health, and well-being as well as to ask themselves what brought them joy today. And since technology occupies a major part of our daily lives, people can still recognize its benefits via downloading informative and enriching applications such as Udemy, Aljazeera, Reuters, etc. that offer free or cheap courses. For example, the Fabulous Application uses science to better people’s well-being and build healthy habits. For the elders and children who suffer from reading difficulties, they can also have the option of learning online by checking audio Arabic books through KitabSawti or any other application that offers similar free services. During our busy lives, we don’t get much time to reflect. Thus, being at home isolation allows each person to reflect on their lives. Reflection involves going into deep serious thoughts and answer questions such as: Am I happy with what I’m doing? Did I choose the major that suites me? Is this the right thing to do? “Self-care must be our top priority today to surpass this critical situation,” mentioned Abu Assaly. “Thus, it’s very important to meditate and visualize what we want to manifest. Unplug your phones or put it away sometimes and stay off social media.”

Megaphone: Amplifying voices from Lebanon’s uprising/A look at the media outlets that have chronicled Lebanon’s uprisings.

Al Jazeera News/March 22/2020
From a nondescript residential block in downtown Beirut, Jean Kassir and his journalistic collective – Megaphone – are producing some of the most dynamic journalism of Lebanon’s five-month uprising.
In a media landscape dominated by partisan journalism, Megaphone has become a trusted source for its critical take on the news and slick content that has outmatched its more established rivals.
“The majority of our team are volunteers. Many come to work with us after they have finished their day shift,” Kassir told The Listening Post’s Tariq Nafi. “The revolution was a major turning point. We used to produce two videos a month; during the first month of the revolution, we started producing two or three videos a day. Some on the team would work daily from noon until three or four in the morning. It is something I think we will never again experience in our lives.”
The uprising has brought together a cross-section of Lebanese society in a revolt against a political system defined by sectarian identity, which has failed to provide even the most basic services.
It has also revealed much about the shortcomings of Lebanon’s media outlets – too many of which are skewing their coverage – since they are split along the same lines as politicians.
“Given that the media is, by and large, run by politicians, political parties or businessmen with political ambitions, they have of course played a very important role in helping the elite reshape themselves,” journalist Kareem Chehayeb told us. “They’ve done so by trying to rebrand a lot of these politicians as reformists who have been obstructed by their political rivals.”
In Lebanon, just 12 families – most of them directly involved in politics – control close to 50 percent of the media. The remaining 50 percent of outlets are run by political parties or the state.
With so many media outlets so compromised by their ownership, journalism that confronts Lebanon’s ruling elite is more necessary than ever.
“It is very difficult for one to think about political change, without a fundamental change to people’s source of information,” says Kassir. “When journalism confronts and challenges the various official narratives put forward by the sects or the parties or the factions, then we can actually change the rules of the game in this country. So it is not a detail – the media is a fundamental pillar in this process, whose role is to deconstruct a regime that has lasted too long and cost the country too much.”
Contributors:
Jean Kassir – Managing Editor, Megaphone
Jamal Saleh – Creative Director, Megaphone
Kareem Chehayeb – Co-founder, The Public Source
Jad Abou Jaoudeh – Head of News, OTV

Despite confinement Lebanon working on economic rescue plan
Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 22/2020
BEIRUT – With an increasing number of people testing positive for COVID-19, Lebanon tightened confinement measures under state of “sanitary mobilisation” to rein in the outbreak of the virus, which has claimed four lives and infected more than 160.
“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,” a Lebanese Health Ministry statement said.
“There are six cases of an unknown origin and the reason is community infections. Security forces are asked to be stricter, to the extent of barring people from leaving their homes,” Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hasan stated. While diagnosed cases have all been isolated at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut (RHUH), the only public facility treating coronavirus patients, the ministry said it is preparing for Stage Four in its fight against the virus.
Preparations for Stage Four included equipping 12 government hospitals and at least five private facilities across the country with isolation units to receive infected people if the disease spreads and exceeds RHUH’s capacities. The effect of the coronavirus and falling oil prices may have damaged Lebanon’s chances of securing badly needed aid from foreign countries to deal with its worst financial crisis blamed on the political class corruption and mismanagement.
Lebanon has been unable to pay foreign currency sovereign debt for the first time and its currency lost some 40% of its value while dollar reserves are critically low. Work to draw up economic rescue plans continued despite the shutdown because of the virus, Economy Minister Raoul Nehme said. Major aspects of the plan, including how the state will cut the deficit and boost revenues, will probably be ready by mid-April, Nehme told Reuters.
While noting that it was too early to gauge the effect of the coronavirus outbreak, Nehme said aid from countries to which Lebanon has been looking for support “can be less significant” if they suffer their own financial problems.
“We will certainly seek the support of our friends in the Arab world but their revenues are going down drastically with the price of oil going down under $30 (per barrel) practically so that puts limitations on their capacity to assist us,” he added. Fears of spread of coronavirus triggered riots at two overcrowded Lebanese prisons. Inmates demanded to be released, even if temporarily, fearing the virus would spread rapidly in the closed environment. Police said precautions were being taken to protect the prisons from coronavirus. Only one person from each inmate’s family will be allowed to visit and prisons are regularly disinfected. The usually jammed streets of Beirut were mostly deserted as shops, restaurants, cafes, malls and businesses observed mandatory closure, which will last until at least March 29.
Police patrols on Beirut’s seaside promenade stopped the few recalcitrant strollers and joggers, forcing them to return to their homes.
The country’s air, land and seaports of entry and all non-essential public and private institutions were closed until the end of March.
*Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

The Lebanese Army, Hezbollah and the coronavirus
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/March 22/2020
The Lebanese government was on the verge of declaring a state of national emergency that would lock down the entire country and grant the Lebanese armed forces extra-jurisdictional powers to enable them to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
However, the projected state of emergency was replaced by “total mobilisation,” which adopted the same measures but was short of empowering the Lebanese Army, which was met with bewilderment and outrage by the public.
The Lebanese Constitution allows the executive branch to declare a state of emergency to respond to or pre-empt imminent dangers. Empowering the Lebanese Army would have been the logical, not to say the ethical action to take, given that the Lebanese state and its various decrepit institutions lack the resources and the moral standing the Lebanese Army possesses with the public.
To understand the Diab government’s decision to settle for total mobilisation rather than a state of emergency one needs to understand the tensions the latter would have created between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah.
Empowering the army to implement the state of emergency would seriously curtail Hezbollah’s ability to carry out its logistical operations, especially crossing in and out of Syria undetected, and would sooner rather than later place the Lebanese Army and this transnational militia at odds.
Despite having an implicit understanding with the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah always looks at this US-trained and -equipped institution with distrust and is always looking for ways to control it or render it ineffective.
On many occasions, the Lebanese Army found itself facing Hezbollah on matters related to jurisdictional and operational command and, despite having a coordination mechanism between the two, an Iran-sponsored militia and the legitimate army of the state cannot theoretically coexist.
During battles to root out Islamic State militants in eastern Lebanon, Hezbollah went out of its way to try to deny the Lebanese Army its much earned victory, one the entire country celebrated.
Despite the pandemic threat of the coronavirus, Hezbollah cannot afford to have its lifeline with Iran severed, especially the route that stretches from Beirut to Damascus that keeps it supplied with ammunition and, more important, fresh dollars.
That Hezbollah is accused of running many illegal border points with Syria, which it uses to keep a billion-dollar black economy going, is one more reason to refuse any oversight.
Coincidentally, keeping the Lebanese Army at bay even with the coronavirus is something that Hezbollah will continue to do even if this means exposing the Lebanese and their own constituency to further dangers. A full army-administered lockdown would allow access to Hezbollah areas and perhaps expose the suspected under-reporting of the coronavirus in the Shia community. Those suspicions are hugely based on the fact that Hezbollah has been leading many pilgrim expeditions to Iran, not to mention that many of its militants train there and are believed to have been exposed to coronavirus.
By disenfranchising the Lebanese Army, the Diab cabinet missed out on another chance to stand up not only to the biological pandemic but also to the political diseases eating at the heart of the state. Settling for total mobilisation proved that the Diab government, as well as the ruling establishment, will only carry out matters that are sanctioned by Hezbollah and its leadership in Iran.
In a televised speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah reminded everyone that he was the only decision-maker, lecturing and advising his audience how to take precautions against the coronavirus. Interestingly, Nasrallah’s speech underscored the party’s mindset and flawed approach to any challenge. He said: “In any battle, there’s a target and an enemy, the problem in this battle is that the enemy is coronavirus.”
In this respect, Nasrallah proved to be no different from the hundreds of Americans who rushed to gun stores and supermarkets to stock up on bullets and on toilet paper, believing that the epidemic can be killed by guns or by double-ply tissue paper.
Deploying the Lebanese Army to fight the coronavirus is not only due to its tactical and logistical ability but rather because it is representative of a cross national/sectarian power base that would enhance unity and discipline, which are the only weapons humanity has to fight this disease and many like it. In essence it has nothing to do with the issue of total mobilisation or declaring a state of emergency but how the Lebanese state continues to fail in the test of statehood and how Hezbollah has proven, time and again, that it is more dangerous to Lebanon’s future than any flu or doomsday disease for which, sooner or later, there will be a cure.
*Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, department of history. His forthcoming book, “Conflict on Mount Lebanon: The Druze, the Maronites and Collective Memory,” (Edinburgh University Press) covers collective identities and the Lebanese Civil War.

Akkar, the spectacular and yet forgotten part of Lebanon
Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 22/2020
An hour’s drive from Qobayat is Akkar el Atiqa Fortress, a remnant of the Crusaders’ period.
QOBAYAT–It has history, ancient ruins and natural wealth, including cedar and pine reserves, but few Lebanese have been there or are aware of the attractions of Akkar, Lebanon’s northernmost region and one of the most disadvantaged.
Surrounded by lush forests that reach 2,000 metres above sea level, Qobayat, one of Akkar’s largest villages, is ideal for hikers and nature lovers, said Antoine Daher, a medical doctor and member of Qobayat’s Environment Council that has set up a watch tower to monitor arson and tree cutting.
“Akkar has the largest green space in Lebanon that is void of any construction and although it is rich in heritage and history with vestiges from different periods from the megalithic phase to the Roman, Greek, the Crusades, all the way to the Ottomans, we do not really exist on Lebanon’s tourism map,” Daher said.
“They say Akkar is a disadvantaged and deprived area and it is very true in that sense. Many Lebanese from other regions have never been to Akkar or do not really know about it. We can say it is a new area that the Lebanese are discovering now. Lots of sites need to be excavated and protected but there is a total absence of government interest. It is a forgotten part of Lebanon.”
Private local initiatives are helping promote the region as a destination for ecotourism and religious tourism, in view of its many old churches and monasteries.
“You can stay 30 days in Qobayat and walk a different trail every day. They are of different levels of difficulty and length and go from 500 [metres] up to 900 metres [above sea level],” Daher said.
Tour packages can be checked and booked online and through smart phone applications. Specially trained guides can be hired to lead hikers and explain the area’s geography, ecology and history.
Daher said Qobayat’s Environment Council has been organising the Rif Festival to highlight the countryside and rural areas. “For four days, we seek to raise awareness about the importance of protecting and sustaining rural life, heritage and environment through film screenings, hikes and debates,” he said.
Qobayat, voted among the most charming three villages in Lebanon, boasts unique places of worship, such as the Church of Saydet el Ghessaleh, as well as shrines, including Mar Elias, the Convent of Mar Doumit and the Church of Mar Challita.
The Scientific Permanent Museum for Animals, Birds and Butterflies in Mar Doumit Convent displays a collection of 161 bird and 23 animal species from Lebanon and neighbouring countries. It is the only museum for butterflies in Lebanon with a 4,000-strong butterfly collection of species from all over the world, including one type that can only live in the vicinity of cedar forests, said Roman Catholic priest Ayyoub Yaacoub.
“The convent was built in the first half of the 19th century. The first school in the region was born here, just under this tree,” Yaacoub said pointing at a big 200-year-old oak tree.
The Church of Mar Challita, or Saint Artemius, in Qobayat was built in the fourth century on the ruins of a pagan Roman temple. It was destroyed in an earthquake and remained a pile of stones until Laurice Kodeih, 75, vowed to rebuild it.
“My son was between life and death after falling from the fifth floor so I made a vow to rebuild the church if he survived. People volunteered to help me in the digging and the removal of the huge stones, which I used in the reconstruction,” Kodeih said.
It took Kodeih 30 years to rebuild the church. Her son, who survived for 10 years, is buried in the churchyard. “I rebuilt it stone by stone for him,” she said. The place is now a pilgrimage place for both Christians and Muslims.
An hour’s drive from Qobayat is Akkar el Atiqa Fortress, a remnant of the Crusaders’ period. Sitting atop a hill between the two dramatically deep valleys of Akkar and the two Ostwan creeks, the fort is only accessible on foot. Following attacks by Prince Fakhreddine in the 17th century, the fortress was destroyed and only a few passages, arcades, rooms, canals and rock-engraved graveyards remain.
The valley and plain of Ouyoun el Samak, on the border of Akkar Mountain, is another attractive spot. This barely known place of beauty is abundant in water with numerous small lakes, a dam and the River Nahr Moussa. A cascade of water from the mountain gushes plentifully into the valley with the melting of the snows. Restaurants and cafes have been set up in the area, where Lebanese cuisine can be enjoyed looking out on one of the most enviable views in the country.
To take full advantage of all that Akkar has to offer — be it from its religious heritage or its rich and well-preserved natural environment — one can choose among facilities in Qobayat, including cottages for rent, as well as an ecolodge.
*Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.