Aoun in Damascus for First Time in 14 Years

This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)
This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)
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Aoun in Damascus for First Time in 14 Years

This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)
This handout picture released by the Syrian Presidency shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (C-R) meeting with Lebanese former President Michel Aoun (C-L) in Damascus on June 6, 2023. (Syrian Presidency / AFP)

Lebanese former President Michel Aoun paid a visit to the Syrian capital Damascus on Tuesday, his first in 14 years.

He was received by President Bashar al-Assad, who stressed that “Lebanon’s strength lies in its political and economic stability.”

The Lebanese people are capable of achieving this stability through dialogue and consensus, he remarked.

Aoun’s visit is significant in wake of the months-long presidential vacuum in Lebanon.

Head of the Free Patriotic Movement, MP Gebran Bassil, who is also Aoun’s son-in-law, recently endorsed the opposition in naming former minister Jihad Azour as presidential candidate.

The bid pits the opposition and the FPM, which was founded by Aoun, against the Shiite duo of Hezbollah and Amal. The duo is backing the nomination of Marada movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, who enjoys close ties with Assad.

Assad expressed to Aoun his faith in the Lebanese people’s ability to overcome all problems and challenges and consolidate the role of their national and constitutional institutions.

Most importantly, they must adhere to principles and avoid banking on changes, he suggested.

Moreover, Assad said Lebanon and Syria must not approach their challenges separately, hailing the recent rapprochement between Arab countries and noting that the Jeddah Summit will leave a positive impact on both nations.

The Arab League summit last month witnessed the reinstatement of Syria’s membership in the organization.

For his part, Aoun said the Lebanese people are “clinging on to their national unity in spite of everything”.

“Syria managed to overcome a difficult and dangerous phase due to the awareness of its people and faith in their country, army and leadership,” he added.

“Syria’s prosperity will reflect positively on Lebanon and the Lebanese people,” he said.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.