Hezbollah and its allies lose their majority in Lebanon’s parliament
The BBC, Financial Times, Reuters and The Times report that Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies have lost their majority in Lebanon’s parliament following Sunday’s election. The bloc’s candidates won 62 of the 128 seats, three fewer than it needed. Hezbollah retained its own seats, but President Michel Aoun’s Christian Free Patriotic Movement lost support. A rival Christian party with close ties to Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese Forces, made gains and independent candidates promising reforms won 13 seats. However, the report notes that the lack of an outright winner and Lebanon’s rigid power-sharing political structure means that the chance of significant change is still low.
The demonstrations in Iran come at a particularly sensitive moment for the country and as fears grow over a looming global food crisis, writes Borzou Daragahi in the Independent.
The Guardian and Financial Times follow new clashes in Tripoli after one of the two rival Libyan prime ministers entered the capital to claim the role only to flee hours later when he realised he had misjudged the scale of military opposition. Fathi Bashagha entered the city in secret overnight with the support of one powerful armed group, the eighth brigade, but it found itself isolated and no other support arrived from outside the city.
The Guardian publishes an opinion piece by Arwa Mahdawi on the killing of Shireen Abu Aqla, who argues that you have to know what it is like to be Palestinian in order to understand why the journalist’s death was tragic.
The Independent writes that British national Jim Fitton, a retired British geologist who is facing the death penalty in Iraq after being accused of smuggling historic items out of the country, has told an Iraqi court that he did not know he had broken the law. Fitton took 12 stones and shards of broken pottery he had found at an archaeological site in Eridu.
About 300,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat booked by Egypt’s state grains buyer for delivery in February and March is yet to be shipped, with one cargo stuck in port and four others still to be loaded, four traders tell Reuters.
In the Israeli media, IDF troops operated last night across the West Bank and arrested 14 wanted persons suspected of terrorist activity. In addition, there was a joint intelligence and operational activity of the Maglan and Shin Bet units at a spring in the village of Dura al-Qara, during which four wanted Hamas suspects were arrested. Citing Palestinian reports, Kan Radio said that Israeli troops entered the Jenin refugee camp once again this morning, after operating in nearby Burkin.
Maariv notes that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met yesterday with Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and other top security officials at Ephraim Regional Brigade headquarters to discuss the Israeli military’s counter-terrorism operations in the West Bank. Bennett said: “The instructions are clear—to strike at terrorists wherever they are, with every type of weapon. We give our full support to the IDF and the Israel Police to strike at any terrorist: in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and anywhere else in Israel. Anyone who raises a hand against an Israeli civilian or IDF soldier does so at his own peril.” The prime minister then was taken by helicopter to the settlement of Elkana. Several dozen demonstrators had gathered in advance at the entrance to the settlement to protest against the government’s policies and called on Bennett to resign. Bennett met with Elkana Mayor Assaf Mintzer and with veteran residents of the settlement. He told them: “Just last night the troops arrested 18 wanted men, and two reservists foiled a terror attacks.”
Yediot Ahronot reports that in just a month and a half since the Israel Police launched its campaign asking the public to volunteer to serve with a new civil guard, 4,000 Israelis have already signed up. The new volunteers account for a 16 per cent increase to the 24,000 Israelis who already volunteer with the Israel Police, most of whom do so either with the Border Police or the Traffic Police. The new civil guard is intended to reinforce the police presence in Israeli cities and to be able to provide an initial response on the scene of terror attacks. The highest number of volunteers was recorded in Jerusalem, followed by Haifa, Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva; 15 per cent are women and 12 per cent are Muslims.
Israel Hayom reports that French President Emanuel Macron and Prime Minister Bennett spoke yesterday, whereby Macron urged Israel to complete swiftly investigations into the death of Shireen Abu Aqla. Macron also expressed concern about Israel’s recent decision to press ahead with more than 4,000 new homes in the West Bank. Both leaders also spoke about coordinating their efforts to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both leaders have been involved in so far fruitless diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing peace to Ukraine.
Maariv reports that the coalition intends next week to introduce a bill that would grant scholarships to veterans of IDF combat units and has criticised the Opposition for threatening to vote against the bill. Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Ram Ben Barak issued a public call yesterday to Netanyahu and the Likud to vote in favour of the bill. Sources in the coalition said that the United Arab List is expected to vote in favour of the bill. MK Idit Silman, who quit the coalition, told Defense Minister Benny Gantz that she would not vote against it, meaning it is likely to pass.
Kan Radio reports that the Israeli authorities are preparing for the return of the Lag B’Omer festivities on Mt. Meron tonight. Zvi Tessler, who is responsible for overseeing the event, said that safety permits would be issued in the course of the day today, Lag B’Omer eve, and would be subject to review tomorrow. The police announced that the number of people who will be permitted at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai on Mt. Meron will be restricted to 16,000 at any given moment, and that only one bonfire will be lit in the course of the festivities. Buses transporting people without entry tickets to the site will be stopped and their passengers denied access to Mt. Meron. Deputy Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana told Army Radio this morning: “The state has invested nearly 60 million shekels in these festivities, which is four times as much as what was invested in previous years, with the understanding that after the disaster [last year], the state needs to do everything it can to make sure that that doesn’t happen this year.”
Walla follows comments made yesterday by Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas who said his vision is to transform Arab participation in politics from a useful means to prop up governments into a worthy end in and of itself. “We want to make this relationship a goal in itself, not an instrument,” Abbas said during a symposium at Reichman University. “It’s beyond the day-to-day,” he said, adding: “If we succeed in this model … then we can deal with the more complex and hard issue, the Palestinian-Israeli relationship.”