A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 23-24/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon

23

A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 23-24/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
March 24/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 23-24/2020
Tinenti announces first Coronavirus case among UNIFIL ranks
Al-Maounat Hospital: Five nursing staff members recover from coronavirus
RHUH coronavirus report: 59 confirmed cases, 5 recoveries
Lebanese Health Ministry: Eight New Coronavirus Cases Registered
Hasan: Crucial Week ahead, Coronavirus Patients Weren’t Brought from Iran
5 More Coronavirus Patients Recover at Rafik Hariri Hospital
Lebanon’s security forces deploy to enforce coronavirus lockdown
Crisis-Hit Lebanon to Stop Paying Outstanding Eurobonds
BDL Asks Banks to Offer Emergency Loans for Salaries, Businesses
Finance Ministry: Lebanon Suspends Payment of all Eurobonds in Foreign Currency
Coronavirus: Lebanese Judge Questions Detainees via WhatsApp
Diab meets Dean of Lebanon’s Order of Nurses
Parliament Shuts over Coronavirus Outbreak
Army, Security Forces Pursue Lockdown Compliance
FPM Backs ‘Health Emergency’, Warns against Rushed Amnesty
Chidiac Says She Tested Positive for Coronavirus
Hitti, Borrell discuss Lebanon’s anti-coronavirus measures
Abdel Samad: To make coronavirus awareness video in sign language
Foucher addressing French in Lebanon: To respect Lebanese government’s anti-coronavirus measures
Shbib chairs sub-security council meeting in Beirut
Lebanon to stop paying all dollar eurobonds, finance ministry says/Massoud A Derhally/The National/March 23/2020
Lebanese Journalist Khayrallah Khayrallah: Lebanon Needs An End To The Iranian Patronage Over It, Not Nasrallah’s Advice On Fighting The Coronavirus/MEMRI/March 23, 2020
AUBMC opens new pandemic evaluation clinic and center/TK Maloy/Annahar/March 24/2020
Sea and air shipping to Lebanon uninterrupted by virus chaos/Najia Houssari/Arab News/March 23/2020
The Iranian Regime and the Hostage Taking Politics/Charles Elias Chartouni/Face book/March 24/2020

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published  on March 23-24/2020
Tinenti announces first Coronavirus case among UNIFIL ranks
NNA/March 23/2020
UNIFIL spokesperson, Andrea Tinenti, on Monday announced in a press release the first Coronavirus case contracted by a UNFIL soldier in south Lebanon. Accordingly, the soldier has been placed in quarantine in UNIFIL’s hospital in Naquora after taking all the necessary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The infected member returned to Lebanon from leave back on March 15, 2020. Four other soldiers who had been in contact with the patient have been placed in quarantine; three tests came out negative, and the fourth has not yet been finalized.
Meanwhile, the four soldiers will remain in quarantine in accordance with the measures adopted by UNIFIL.

Al-Maounat Hospital: Five nursing staff members recover from coronavirus
NNA /March 23/2020
The management of “Notre Dame de Secours (Al-Maounat) Hospital” – Jbeil on Monday announced in a statement that five of its nursing staff have recovered from the coronovirus after their laboratory exams came out negative in both times. The recovered nurses left the ward for patients with corona virus in the hospital, after spending more than 15 days in it.

RHUH coronavirus report: 59 confirmed cases, 5 recoveries
NNA/March 23/2020
In its daily report on the latest updates concerning coronavirus, the Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) indicated Monday that the number of laboratory-confirmed cases quarantined in the facility had reached 59, and that 5 recoveries had been recorded.

Lebanese Health Ministry: Eight New Coronavirus Cases Registered
Naharnet/March 23/2020
The Health Ministry announced in its daily tally on the number of people infected with the novel coronavirus that the eight new cases have been detected with the virus raising the total to 256. The report added that 11 other tests would be repeated at the government’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital because they were run in laboratories not recognized by the Ministry of Health. The Ministry reiterated its call to abide by the precautions against coronavirus, and one of the most fundamental means of protection — social distancing. The report reminded that legal measures will be taken against those failing to comply.

Hasan: Crucial Week ahead, Coronavirus Patients Weren’t Brought from Iran
Naharnet/March 23/2020
Health Minister Hamad Hasan on Monday denied reports claiming that people infected with coronavirus were flown in to Lebanon from Iran, adding that the next ten days of lockdown are very critical to decide on the next measures against the virus spread.
“Precautionary measures against coronavirus are very important but there no need to panic,” Hasan said in remarks to al-Jadeed TV as the country witnesses a two week lockdown. On claims that fifty patients infected with coronavirus were flown into Lebanon from Iran for treatment over the weekend, he said: “There is no truth to these reports.”A video recording circulated on social media showing a convoy of ambulances on the airport road. It said the vehicles were allegedly transporting coronavirus patients from the airport coming from Iran to be treated in Lebanese hospitals. Hasan noted that 11% of the cases in Lebanon are from an unknown origin. “We are in stage three of coronavirus, we still have a week of lockdown after which we will decide on the next measures that must be taken.” The Minister assured that the ministry covers the hospitalization expenses for patients infected with coronavirus and who have no social security coverage. 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 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. Lebanon confirmed 18 more coronavirus infections Sunday, raising the overall tally to 248, according to the Health Ministry.

5 More Coronavirus Patients Recover at Rafik Hariri Hospital
Naharnet/March 23/2020
Five more coronavirus patients have recovered after being treated at the state-run Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, the hospital said on Monday. In a statement, RHUH said the five patients have tested negative twice and got rid of all of the disease symptoms.
Another two patients were discharged to home isolation after being clinically healed, the statement said. Fifty-nine patients remain quarantined at RHUH, including nine transferred from other hospitals, the statement added. “All of them are in a stable condition except for three who are critical,” the statement said. A Health Ministry statement issued around noon Monday had said that the country’s cases surged to 256 after eight more infections were confirmed over a period of 24 hours. The Ministry also announced that its tally does not include 11 cases reported by laboratories that are not accredited by it, noting that the tests require re-confirmation at the Rafik Hariri hospital. ِAccording to a report issued Monday by the Disaster Risk Management Unit of the premiership, there are eight confirmed coronavirus recoveries in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s security forces deploy to enforce coronavirus lockdown
Emily Lewis, Al Arabiya English/Monday 23 March 2020
Lebanon’s military and security forces deployed across the country Sunday after the government announced a clampdown on those not complying with orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Army helicopters toured the skies, calling on residents through loudspeakers not to venture out “in the interests of your own safety,” while soldiers set up roadblocks and carried out foot patrols on the streets.The Internal Security Forces said its members had begun taking “stricter measures” to ensure the public was following government orders to stay in their homes except in cases of “extreme necessity.”
Those who fail to do so could be met with a fine and imprisonment of up to 3 years.
Moving beyond containment
The ramping up of military and security presence to curb the COVID-19 coronavirus came in response to failure to heed official orders to stay inside, Interior Minister Mohamad Fahmi said. There were 248 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus as of Sunday afternoon, according to the Health Ministry. Four people have died from the virus. “The number of people infected with the virus has increased dramatically, and we have moved beyond the stage of containment,” Fahmi said in a televised speech, in which he detailed the measures first announced by Prime Minister Hassan Diab a day earlier.
“Any violation that poses a threat to public safety will be suppressed,” Fahmi added. All of the country’s security agencies will coordinate together with municipal authorities to ensure compliance with the rules.
Lockdown measures hit everyday life
People will be able to buy essential goods such as food and medicine, but will be prevented from gathering in groups or spending time outside without a good reason, the minister said. Since the government’s announcement of a state of health emergency on March 15, normally bustling high streets and traffic-clogged highways have been emptied as people stay at home. Numerous supermarkets have placed bottles of hand sanitizer at their entrances, and others have put up signs refusing entry to anyone not wearing gloves and a mask. However, compliance with social distancing advice has not been universal.
Videos circulated on social media over the last week showed police ushering runners off Beirut’s seafront walkway, clearing a group of young boys packed into an online gaming center in the capital’s southern suburbs and breaking up a wedding party in east Lebanon’s Baalbek.
On Sunday morning, despite calls from the prime minister to self-curfew, 138 people were stopped by the ISF for flouting orders to stay at home.
“At the moment, it is up to each individual policeman to decide who is in violation, and we have to ensure that the law is not used to arrest just any citizen walking alone in the street,” he said. Calls for the government to declare a nationwide state of emergency, which would grant more power to the country’s military, have increased in recent days, including from senior political figures. This is not yet on the cards, according to the health minister, but said the government would take such action “if there is a failure to comply.” A state of emergency can be declared only in response to major military or security crises or national disasters, Saghieh explained. “At the moment we haven’t had such problems, so I don’t think there’s any use in declaring it,” he said. “But if this epidemic develops into a security problem … a state of emergency could be possible.” Lebanon has been gradually tightening measures to combat the coronavirus since the first case was confirmed on February 21, including school closures, shutting down restaurants and cafes and closing the airport, sea ports and land borders. In addition to the additional security measures put in place Sunday, Lebanon’s General Security sterilized more than 72 Syrian refugee camps across the country and state-run TV channel TeleLiban Sunday broadcast the first in a series of “educational seminars” in an attempt to prevent children missing out on teaching.

Crisis-Hit Lebanon to Stop Paying Outstanding Eurobonds
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 23 March, 2020
Lebanon will discontinue payments on all its foreign currency Eurobonds, the finance ministry said on Monday, as it seeks to devise a way out of the country’s crippling crisis. “The government has decided to discontinue payments on all of its outstanding $US-denominated Eurobonds,” said an English-language statement posted on the ministry’s website. The government “intends to engage in good faith negotiations as soon as possible” and the ministry will hold an investor presentation on March 27, it said. The heavily indebted state suspended a $1.2 billion Eurobond repayment this month, declaring it could not repay debt with foreign currency reserves falling to “dangerous” levels. It called for debt restructuring talks with creditors. Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni told Reuters earlier this month that initial contacts with creditors had started via the government’s financial adviser, US investment bank Lazard, as Lebanon waited to see whether bondholders would cooperate or sue. He also said the crisis plan would be ready in weeks and meet IMF advice. Economy Minister Raoul Nehme told Reuters last week that the impact of the coronavirus may make harder to get help from foreign states and that Lebanon should consider IMF aid as one option.

BDL Asks Banks to Offer Emergency Loans for Salaries, Businesses
Naharnet/March 23/2020
Banque du Liban on Monday called on Lebanon’s banks and financial institutions to grant extraordinary Lebanese lira or US dollar loans to clients already benefitting from loans granted in the past, in light of the new economic strains inflicted by the coronavirus crisis. The central bank said the new loans can cover previous loan installments for the months of March, April and May; the salaries of the firms’ employees; or other productive and operational needs for the aforementioned period.
BDL said the loans should be granted for no commissions or interest.
“These loans would be paid back over a five-year period through monthly or quarterly installments,” the central bank added, noting that salaries would be paid directly to employees by banks or financial institutions according to payrolls provided by employers. BDL in return would grant banks and financial institutions no-interest loans in US dollar and for a period of five years in order to cover the loans granted to their clients in Lebanese lira or US dollar.

Finance Ministry: Lebanon Suspends Payment of all Eurobonds in Foreign Currency
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/2020
The Finance Ministry announced on Monday that Lebanon is going to “suspend” payments on all its Eurobond in foreign currency after defaulting on its $1.2 billion March 9 debt to safeguard dwindling foreign currency reserves. The Ministry said in an English-language statement released today:
“On March 7, 2020, Lebanon announced its decision to suspend the payment of $1.2 billion worth of bonds due on March 9, 2020 at a rate of 6.375% in order to protect its foreign currency reserves. In furtherance of this goal, and given the increasing difficulty to access foreign currencies, the government has decided to discontinue payments on all of its outstanding US$-denominated Eurobonds.
The government is going to take all measures it deems necessary to manage Lebanon’s limited foreign exchange reserves wisely and cautiously.
The government remains firmly committed to its three-pronged initiative on economic reform and is in the process of developing a sustainable macroeconomic plan to correct the status of the Lebanese economy.
The government intends to hold good faith talks with its creditors as soon as is practicable. To this end, the Ministry of Finance plans to make an Investor Presentation to investors on March 27, 2020.
Instructions have been given to Lebanon’s financial advisors, Lazard Frères, to initiate appropriate arrangements under the current circumstances to facilitate these talks. Information to creditors will be published regularly on the website of the Lebanese Ministry of Finance.” The government must now reach a decision on whether to ask for a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, which has so far only provided Lebanon with technical assistance to deal with its financial crisis.
Banking experts have argued in favor of an IMF rescue plan, saying it would provide the kind of assurances creditors are looking for in restructuring negotiations. But some officials are concerned that such assistance would involve an austerity package, which may provide new fuel to a street protest movement that has shaken Lebanon since October.
Lebanon’s powerful Hizbullah, which has been the main opponent of an IMF bailout, said this month it could accept help from the world body under “reasonable conditions.” One of the most indebted countries in the world, the small Mediterranean country had never defaulted before this month. But with foreign reserves plummeting amid a slowdown in foreign currency injections, officials have said they have no other choice but to restructure the country’s debt. Earlier this month, Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni said the country’s foreign reserves stood at a little more than $20 billion.

Coronavirus: Lebanese Judge Questions Detainees via WhatsApp
Naharnet/March 23/2020
A Lebanese judge on Monday interrogated a number of detainees via the WhatsApp messaging application due to the country’s lockdown over the coronavirus crisis. “At the instruction of State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat, Examining Magistrate of the North Jocelyn Matta ordered the release of four detainees after questioning them via WhatsApp, in an initiative coordinated with Tripoli Bar Association chief Mohammed al-Murad,” the National News Agency said. The agency added that the hearing session took place through WhatsApp’s video call service and that the detainees were being held at the Wadi Khaled police station. They were later released on a bail worth LBP 100,000 each following the approval of North Prosecutor Ghassan Bassil.

Diab meets Dean of Lebanon’s Order of Nurses
NNA /March 23/2020
Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Diab on Monday met with Dr Myrna Abi Abdallah Doumit, President of the Order of Nurses in Lebanon, over the working conditions and challenges nurses are facing, notably during this exceptional phase Lebanon and the world are going through.
Doumit put all capabilities of the Order at the service of the Prime Minister, and Diab, for his part, promised to take decisive measures to protect the rights of the nurses and encourage them to keep up their work, as they represent the cornerstone of the health sector in Lebanon. –Grand Serail Press Office

Parliament Shuts over Coronavirus Outbreak

Naharnet/March 23/2020
Various Parliamentary meetings will be postponed for “general health concerns” over coronavirus, the General Secretariat of the Lebanese Parliament announced on Monday. It said all meetings of the parliamentary committees held usually at the parliament premises will be postponed for the “safety of lawmakers.” The parliament offices of lawmakers will be closed and all the meetings of parliamentary committees will be postponed. The decision was taken based on the directions of Speaker Nabih Berri. The weekly Wednesday meetings held at Ain el-Tineh residence of the Speaker will also be postponed.

Army, Security Forces Pursue Lockdown Compliance
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/2020
The Lebanese army and security forces continue to ensure that people stay at home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed four people nationwide. Staging patrols and blocking roads around Lebanon’s various regions, police made sure that Lebanese comply with a two week lockdown to stop the spread of the virus that has infected 248 individuals so far.Those disobeying were pursued. Prime Minister Hassan Diab has warned of a further spike to epidemic levels if people continued to flout social distancing rules.
He called on all Lebanese to observe a curfew, “as the state cannot face this creeping epidemic on its own”. 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. Over the weekend, 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. 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.

FPM Backs ‘Health Emergency’, Warns against Rushed Amnesty
Naharnet/March 23/2020
The Free Patriotic Movement announced Monday that it supports the government in its decision to declare a “health emergency” rather than a “security or military state of emergency,” as it warned against issuing an “arbitrary general amnesty law” under the pressure of the coronavirus crisis. Urging citizens to “abide by the rules of the health emergency state,” the FPM called on the government to be “strict in implementing it.”“The government is the authority responsible for taking decisions and it has decided that the health situation requires imposing a state of health emergency and not a security or military one and we support this decision,” the FPM’s political commission said in a statement issued after an “electronic” meeting chaired by FPM chief MP Jebran Bassil. “The situation might develop and it might take another decision it sees appropriate to protect citizens,” the statement added, noting that “the declaration of a state of emergency has legal and procedural requirements that obligate the State to secure people’s livelihood, issue permissions to leave houses and find ways to penalize violators.”Commenting on calls for issuing a general amnesty for prisoners as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus in jails, the FPM’s political commission stressed that it is “totally unacceptable to commit legal sins under the excuse of protection against coronavirus by issuing an arbitrary general amnesty.” “The responsibility for protecting prisoners falls on the shoulders of the authorities in charge, who should prevent their mixing with outsiders and must secure prompt medical examinations for them on a continuous basis in order to protect them” the commission added. “Ending the suffering of the detainees lies in speeding up their trials in a fair manner and according to the applicable laws, not in pardoning them over the committed crimes. This is possible through interrogating them electronically via audiovisual technologies in order to avoid any personal contact with them. As for those who have finished their sentences or are about to finish them, quick legal solutions can be found to take them out of jails as soon as possible,” the FPM went on to say.

Chidiac Says She Tested Positive for Coronavirus
Naharnet/March 23/2020
Former minister and prominent journalist May Chidiac announced Monday that she has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. “After my return from the French capital Paris last week, I developed some symptoms similar to those of coronavirus, which required immediate home isolation,” she said in a statement. “On Saturday, I underwent medical examinations at the Hotel Dieu hospital to identify the reason behind the symptoms, and after the results of the tests came out a while ago, I was asked to head to hospital for treatment after my infection with the virus was confirmed,” Chidiac added. She also noted that her condition “is not critical,” adding that she will soon join the ranks of those who recovered from the disease. Chidiac survived an assassination attempt in September 2005 but she lost her left leg and left arm in the attack. She served as state minister for administrative development in Saad Hariri’s government between 2019 and 2020.Lebanon has so far confirmed 256 coronavirus cases among them eight recoveries and four deaths.

Hitti, Borrell discuss Lebanon’s anti-coronavirus measures

NNA/March 23/2020
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Nassif Hitti, received a phone call Monday from EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. The pair reportedly discussed the measures taken in Lebanon to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the assistance the EU could provide in that respect.

Abdel Samad: To make coronavirus awareness video in sign language

NNA /March 23/2020
Minister of Information, Manal Abdel Samad, requested in a tweet on Monday, the production of a video where sign language would be used to raise awareness about the novel coronavirus, in support for people with special needs. “Within the framework of our continuous endeavor to disseminate correct information, and in support for the people with special needs, we ask citizens capable of making a short awareness video in sign language about the dangers of coronavirus and the necessity to stay home, to post it on Twitter,” Abdel Samad tweeted.
She said the selected video will be posted on Information Ministry’s website.

Foucher addressing French in Lebanon: To respect Lebanese government’s anti-coronavirus measures

NNA/March 23/2020
Ambassador of France, Bruno Foucher, on Monday asked the French nationals in Lebanon to respect the firm measures adopted by the Lebanese government in prevention against the spread of coronavirus.
“We are now living an exceptional period where we are all asked to make efforts. The Lebanese government, on Sunday, March 5, took firm measures which we consider responsible and adequate to combat the spread of coronavirus,” said Foucher. “I know these measures are difficult, but I am asking you to respect them as they are today the sole deterrent to the quick spread of coronavirus,” he stressed. He lastly called upon everybody to stay home.

Shbib chairs sub-security council meeting in Beirut
NNA/March 23/2020
Beirut Governor Judge Ziad Shbib, chaired this Monday the meeting of the sub-security council in Beirut Governorate, to follow up on the applied procedures and adopted precautionary measures, based on the directives of the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Brigadier General Mohamed Fahmy, and based on the decision of the Council of Ministers regarding public mobilization to confront the Corona pandemic. The meeting was attended by Beirut Police Chief, Brigadier General Mohamed Ayoubi, Head of the Beirut Intelligence Branch, Brigadier Tony Fares, Head of the Beirut Public Security Department, Colonel imad Dimachkieh, Director of State Security Beirut Office, Colonel Bassam Abi Farah, and Assistant Commander of the Beirut Guard Corps, Lt. Col. Haitham Fayad. The meeting affirmed the restriction of the movement of citizens except when absolutely necessary.

Lebanon to stop paying all dollar eurobonds, finance ministry says
Massoud A Derhally/The National/March 23/2020
The government will hold an investor presentation on March 27
Lebanon will stop paying all dollar-denominated eurobonds as it seeks to come up with an exit plan from its worst economic crisis in three decades and tries to restore stability and preserve its foreign exchange reserves, the finance ministry said on Monday.
“In order to protect the reserve from foreign currencies … and in view of the increasing pressure to access foreign currencies, the government decided to stop paying all eurobonds in US dollars,” the finance ministry said in an emailed statement on Monday.
The decision comes after the government said on March 7 it would suspend the payment of $1.2 billion (Dh4.4bn) of eurobonds due on March 9. Today’s decision impacts 29 eurobonds, according to the finance ministry. Rating agencies downgraded Lebanon in the run up to its decision earlier this month to virtually default. The decision was “expected” given the government’s default on March 9, said Nassib Ghobril, chief economist at Lebanon’s Byblos Bank. “It just made it official and the markets were expecting this.”
The government “intends to hold talks in good faith with its creditors as soon as possible,” the ministry said.
Lebanon has another $700 million due in April and $600m in June. In total it has about $31bn in bond maturities. The bulk of the debt is held by Lebanese financial institutions (banks 33.4 per cent and the central bank 43 per cent).
“The government will take all measures it deems necessary to manage Lebanon’s limited foreign currency reserves wisely and with caution,” the ministry said. The government remains “firmly committed to a three-pronged initiative for economic reform and is in the process of developing a sustainable macroeconomic plan to correct the status of the Lebanese economy.” The government’s economic reform agenda aims to restore sustainability to public finances by restructuring public debt and adopting a series of financial measures. It aims to put in place an environment conducive to growth as long-delayed structural reforms take place and an improvement in governance and combating of corruption, key demands of protesters and international donors, are met.
The government’s plan also aims to restructure and restore stability to the country’s financial system and banks. Some analysts have called for banks in the country to consolidate. The finance ministry will hold an investor presentation on March 27 and Lazard Frères, Lebanon’s financial adviser, is overseeing the arrangements. Lebanon has one of the highest debt-to-gross domestic product ratios (166 per cent) in the world, according to the Institute of International Finance (IIF). Its public debt increased 7.6 per cent to $91.64bn year-on-year as of the end of December 2019.
Lebanon traditionally relied on its economy growing at a faster pace than the growth of its debt, while the country attracted foreign investment and deposits from a large Lebanese diaspora through high interest rates, which helped the government fund its fiscal and current account deficits.
Civil war breaking out in neighbouring Syria in 2011, internal political problems followed by the collapse of oil, led to investment and deposit flows plunging and the economy stalling.

Lebanese Journalist Khayrallah Khayrallah: Lebanon Needs An End To The Iranian Patronage Over It, Not Nasrallah’s Advice On Fighting The Coronavirus
MEMRI/March 23, 2020
Lebanon, like other world countries, is currently battling the coronavirus epidemic and taking measures to limit the spread of the disease. In the recent weeks, some Lebanese, especially in the anti-Hizbullah March 14 camp, have accused this organization of causing the outbreak of the virus in Lebanon by objecting for several weeks to the halt of flights from Iran and to the closing of the border with Syria.
In a speech he delivered on Friday 13, 2020, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah rejected the criticism, calling not to politicize the epidemic or use it as an opportunity for political score-settling. He also dispensed advice and instructions to the citizens on how to avoid contracting the virus, while calling on the banks in Lebanon to behave responsibly and on the government to give priority to battling the epidemic.[1]
In response to this speech, Lebanese journalist Khayrallah Khayrallah, known for opposing Hizbullah, published a scathing column in the London-based daily Al-Arab, in which he accused Nasrallah of considering himself the “Supreme Leader” of Lebanon (as Khamenei is the Supreme Leader on Iran). He added that Nasrallah’s empty slogans of resistance will not help Lebanon fight the coronavirus, and that Hizbullah is nothing more than a battalion in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. Lebanon, he wrote, needs to free itself from the Iranian patronage, which has impeded the efforts to stop the spread of the virus from Iran to Lebanon. He noted, however, that despite the dire circumstances, Lebanon is still resisting Hizbullah, and “some people in it say no to Nasrallah and to everything he represents.”
The following are translated excerpts from Khayrallah’s article:[2]
“If the goal is for life in Lebanon to go back [to normal], then [receiving] tips, advice and instructions from Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah on handling the coronavirus is certainly not the way to achieve this. These tips, advice and instructions show that Nasrallah regards himself as the Supreme Leader of the Lebanese republic and the sole source of authority in the country, and does not have the basic humility to admit that Hizbullah, and those behind it in Tehran, bear the greatest responsibility for the bankrupt state Lebanon has reached in many areas.
“What Lebanon needs these days is not someone to tell it how to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. There are experts in the world who know very well how to halt the epidemic until a vaccine can be found… What Lebanon needs before anything else is to be free of the Iranian patronage that the Hizbullah militia has imposed on it, [a militia] that facilitated the arrival of the coronavirus in Lebanon through the neglected border with Syria and, at the same time, through the Beirut airport.
“The speech of Hizbullah’s secretary-general, which was largely devoted to the coronavirus, was delivered on the eve of March 14 [the anniversary of the mass demonstrations of May 14, 2005, following the assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, which led to the lifting of the Syrian patronage from Lebanon]…
“Many events befell Lebanon between March 14, 2005 and March 14, 2020, the day on which Hassan Nasrallah delivered his speech on the coronavirus, in the guise of a benevolent father who cares for the health and wellbeing of the Lebanese. This would not have been possible were it not for the defeat of the March 14 [camp], which champions the ideas of [Lebanon’s] freedom, sovereignty and independence. Along the way, many prominent Lebanese figures [from this camp] paid the cost of this defeat… [Even] before the assassination of Rafiq Al-Hariri and his companions, chief of them [MP] Bassel Fleihan,[3] there was an attempt on the life of MP and former minister Marwan Hamada [in October 2004]… To cover up the bombing of Al-Hariri’s motorcade, many other crimes had to be committed: the assassinations of Samir Qasir,[4] George Hawi,[5] Gebran Tweini,[6] MPs Walid Eido[7] and Antoine Ghanem,[8] Capt. Wissam Eid[9] and Brig.-Gen. Wissam Al-Hassan.[10] Pierre Amine Gemayel[11] was also assassinated along with everything he represented as a Christian national figure, and so was Muhammad Chatah…[12]
“[As far as Hizbullah is concerned, every possible] blow was and still is a legitimate means to facilitate its takeover of Lebanon, from the war of summer 2006, which it instigated, thus bringing destruction upon Lebanon, to its intervention in Syria, which was motivated by purely sectarian considerations [i.e., in service of Iran and the Shi’ites]. Iran found nobody better than Hizbullah to dispatch to Syria in order to prevent the ouster of Bashar Al-Assad and his minority regime in Damascus. Since 2012 Hizbullah has been a direct partner in the war against the Syrian people, while the world watched from the sidelines.
“There is no choice but to admit that the March 14 [camp] has been defeated. [This defeat] was consolidated in May 2008, when [Hizbullah gunmen] raided Beirut and the Mount [Lebanon region]… The fact that Hizbullah, which has been accused of assassinating Rafiq Al-Hariri, can force the Lebanese to [appoint] the president it wants, proves that it has defeated Lebanon. That is what happened in October 2016 [when Michel ‘Aoun was appointed president]. Moreover, today it also selects the Sunni prime minister. It is no secret that the current government, headed by Hassan Diab, is a Hizbullah government and nothing more. [13]
“We are now witnessing the continuation of the 2006 war. [This war] ended with a resounding victory for Hizbullah headed by Hassan Nasrallah, which is nothing more than a battalion of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, over Lebanon and the Lebanese… The only certainty is that, in light of the economic crisis it is facing, Lebanon is like a patient in intensive care. Despite this, Lebanon still resists [Hizbullah], and some people in it say no to Nasrallah and to everything he represents. In practice, the culture of death has overcome the culture of life in Lebanon. Congratulations to the victor, who refuses to understand that the language of resistance and rejectionism, and its empty slogans, are no help in dealing with the coronavirus…”
[1] Alahednews.com.lb, March 13, 2020.
[2] Al-Arab (London), March 16, 2020.
[3] Fleihan, an MP and former economy minister, died in the bombing that killed Rafiq Al-Hariri.
[4] An anti-Syrian journalist and columnist for the Al-Nahar daily who was killed on June 2, 2005 by a bomb planted in his car.
[5] A former secretary-general of the Lebanese Communist Party, who was likewise killed in June 2005 by a bomb placed in his car.
[6] An MP and CEO of the Al-Nahar daily who frequently wrote against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. He was assassinated in December 2005.
[7] An MP from the Al-Mustaqbal faction, assassinated in June 2007.
[8] An MP from the Phalanges Party, assassinated in September 2007.
[9] An investigator in Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces who exposed the involvement of Hizbullah officials in the Al-Hariri assassination and was himself assassinated in 2008.
[10] Head of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch and a former chief bodyguard of Rafiq Al-Hariri. Assassinated in October 2012, apparently after exposing the smuggling of explosive charges from Syria into Lebanon, in which senior officials of the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon were involved.
[11] Lebanon’s industry minister and son of former president Amine Gemayel. He was a senior member of the March 14 camp and was assassinated on November 21, 2006.
[12] A former economy minister and Lebanese ambassador to the U.S., also from the March 14 camp, assassinated in December 2013.
[13] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8617 – In Lebanon, Criticism Of New Government: A Puppet Government Controlled By Hizbullah That Won’t Extricate Country From Its Crisis – March 10, 2020.

AUBMC opens new pandemic evaluation clinic and center
TK Maloy/Annahar/March 24/2020
BEIRUT: The American University of Beirut (AUB) announced Saturday the establishment of the Pandemic Evaluation Clinic and Center (PECC) “that has been completed in just under 10 days thanks to the committed efforts of the dedicated AUB Medical Center staff working in tight formation,” the school said in a statement. The opening of a new pandemic center comes amid a national mobilization that includes hospitals to confront the challenge of treating a potential increase in patients. Currently, Lebanon reports 248 cases, with the number of cases growing by 102 within 48 hours.
“The PECC is housed in Building 56 between Maamari and Clemenceau streets, and with its own entrance, the first floor is an outpatient facility for screening, assessment, and early identification of respiratory illness, including COVID-19, AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri said. “There are 11 newly designed individual negative pressure rooms for intensive care management and 10 intermediate care beds on the second floor. A regular unit of 21 individual rooms on the fourth floor has been assigned for stable patients, while additional support areas have been created throughout the building”.
The AUB President added: “To prepare Building 56 as the focal point for AUB’s clinical response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, existing functions and units had to be relocated and the AUBMC plant engineering department retrofitted the space to comply with international COVID-19 requirements. “
“None of this would have been possible without the immense, round-the-clock efforts of numerous units, departments, and disciplines at AUBMC, under the direction of a multidisciplinary coronavirus task force created at the Medical Center in February,” Khuri said.
The AUB head thanked thanking the remarkable and diverse team that came together to achieve this vital feat of planning and execution to serve our patients in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency, the school said in a statement.
“Through it, our university and medical center are poised to play an important role in serving the people of Lebanon and the region”.AUB is one of five private and eight public hospitals currently treating pandemic patients, with the government enforcing tighter lockdown restrictions as of the weekend.

Sea and air shipping to Lebanon uninterrupted by virus chaos
Najia Houssari/Arab News/March 23/2020
BEIRUT: Lebanon remains open to naval and air shipping despite interruptions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Meanwhile, health and security authorities are struggling to prevent the virus from spinning out of control.
On Monday, there was a slight increase in the number of new cases, with the Ministry of Health announcing that the total number of infections was 256 cases.
Lebanese Minister of Health Dr. Hamad Hassan said: “80 of 160 beds are vacant in Rafik Hariri University Hospital, designated to receive cases of infection by the coronavirus.” Lebanese lawmaker Michel Moawad announced on Monday that the number of infections has increased in the northern district of Zgharta and that “a total lockdown will be imposed on the region.” Lebanese people are still confining themselves to their homes under the monitoring of the army and security forces, which were put in charge of reporting any violation of the lockdown.
Monday saw the first recorded case among UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces, with one of its soldiers contracting the virus. He was confined at the UNIFIL hospital in Naqoura. Andrea Tenenti, UNIFIL spokesperson, said that all precautions were taken to prevent the spread of the virus, adding that the soldier was on leave and returned on March 15, and that he was immediately quarantined.
Four other soldiers who were in direct contact with the infected soldier were put in confinement. Tests were done on all four, with three testing negative. UNIFIL is still waiting for the result of the fourth soldier. A meeting was held on Monday in the Port of Beirut to decide measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The port management declared its commitment to providing masks and other protection materials for visitors. Hassan Koraytem, managing director of the Port of Beirut, said: “The port building, offices and entrances controlled by the army, general security, customs and state security will all be sterilized.”
He added that “a circular will be issued to all shipping and goods clearing companies not to deploy personnel who are more vulnerable to the disease than others, especially people above 60 with chronic diseases.” Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport is still receiving cargo airplanes from other countries, including Qatar. Measures were taken in order to ensure that no worker would contract the virus while on duty. The airport was closed to air traffic last Wednesday until March 29 as part of measures taken by the government. They included the closure of all land and sea crossings.
Those exempt from the restrictions include: Military airplanes, air ambulances, cargo planes, aircraft transporting accredited diplomatic missions in Lebanon, UNIFIL forces and employees of companies associated with oil exploration operations.
The landing of a Qatari cargo plane at Beirut airport on the night of March 20 — after the closure of the airport — has caused outrage on social media, as the Qatari flight was coming from Tehran, which has been heavily afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airport is still receiving cargo planes from Qatari, Ethiopian, DHL, Italian LUX and Global Atlas airlines, which operates two or three annual flights between New York and Beirut. “These air cargo planes ship various goods to Lebanon, including cars, medicine, medical supplies and mail,” Kris Kashouh, editor of a Lebanon plane spotters website, told Arab News. Regarding the Qatari plane from Tehran, Kashouh said: “This plane does not come directly from Doha, and it always has many stops before reaching Beirut, including Tehran and Abidjan. It carries livestock and other types of goods.”
Qatar Airways declared in a statement that “the flight, using an Airbus A330-200F type, is limited to air freight and does not transport passengers.”

The Iranian Regime and the Hostage Taking Politics
Charles Elias Chartouni/Face book/March 24/2020
How bewildering to observe an unswerving pattern of hostage taking over the forty one years lifetime of the Islamic regime in Teheran, and this unabated dynamic doesn’t seem to relent. What’s perplexing is the inability of this regime to normalize and deal with the rest of the world beyond the psychotic sequestrations of its convoluted worldview, and the interests of its competing power centers. It has not been able to relate to the rest of the world on the basis of a realistic assessment of the commonalities which tie it to the tangled web of financial, economic, social and environmental issues of a globalized world, and the need to address them from a working diplomatic perspective. In contradistinction with a dynamic and liberal Iranian diaspora, this regime was never able to overcome the growing intellectual chasms that puts him on an endemic collision course with it, and prevents it from catalyzing its synergies to recast the bridges with the outside world. Undoubtedly, the Islamist ideological panopticon is what accounts for this deliberate estrangement, elicited by the demonizing representation of the Western World ( غرب زادكي ) perceived as a source of mental pollution and nemesis. This manichean view of otherness is the direct emanation of Islamism, the vested interests of the Shiite clerisocracy, and its manufactured web of alliances weaved across the merchants of the bazaar and the praetorian guards of the regime.
The power elites have been cumulating over the years a heavy backlog of failed governance in every respect, widespread corruption, and highly destructive power projections throughout the larger Middle East, sustained hostilities with the Western World, and consolidated marginality at the rims of the international system. The release of the French Sociologist Roland Marchal and the perpetuated arbitrary detention of the French-Iranian Anthropologist, Fariba Adelkhah, both arrested under the trumped charges of espionage, testify to the intractability of this psychotic mindset walling behind a thicket of official lies, systemic repression, paranoid representation of the world, dysfunctional governance, and conflict prone external policy course. The more dysfunctional turns the internal governance, the heavier gets the internal repression ( the disastrous management of the Coronavirus pandemic, the tragic fallouts of the recurrent earthquakes and floods, the rampant environmental disarray, the glaring urban immiseration with its widening shantytowns / 11.000.000 in Teheran / ravaging social pathologies / 4000.000 drug addicts, growing prostitution, child delinquency, …../, unbridled corruption and deepening social inequalities…. ) and the more this regime engages its reckless conflictual dynamics in an indiscriminate manner.
The failed governance added to the strategic and geopolitical hazards of a psychotic foreign policy, have created the functional substitute to internal reforms, gradual internal liberalization, international normalization and ideological de-radicalization. Hopefully, the highly respected Fariba Adelkhah is going to be liberated before succumbing to her deteriorated health condition, and still the international commmunity is left with the nagging question, until when this religious panopticon is going to maintain its strangling hold over a nation of hostages hijacked by an evil ideology and its wardens? The tragedies of hostage taking have revealed beyond their imprints on the life of their victims, the helplessness of an Iranian society suffocating under the stifling brunt of a brutal regime, shorn of legitimacy and with no other means to survive but sheer violence and institutional lies.