Lebanon: Geagea Warns of Legal Measures against UNHCR over its Refugee Policy

Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, gestures as he speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, in Maarab east of Beirut, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP)
Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, gestures as he speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, in Maarab east of Beirut, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP)
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Lebanon: Geagea Warns of Legal Measures against UNHCR over its Refugee Policy

Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, gestures as he speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, in Maarab east of Beirut, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP)
Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, gestures as he speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, in Maarab east of Beirut, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP)

Lebanese Party leader Samir Geagea said on Friday that he sent a message to the UN Secretary-General warning of legal measures to close the UNHCR’s regional office in Lebanon because of the latter’s “non-cooperation” on the issue of Syrian refugees.
Geagea said he handed the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, a letter to UN chief Antonio Guterres.
“Lebanon is suffering from massive crises and problems, most of which is the random and chaotic presence of illegal Syrian refugees”, said Geagea in a statement on Facebook.
Criticizing the UNHCR’s handling of the years-long presence of refugees, he said: “what makes things worse is the UNHCR’s handling of the issue and how it embarks on incorporating the Syrians in the Lebanese fabric instead of finding a third country to naturalize them, or even return them back to their homeland”.
Geagea accused the UNHCR of withholding information about documented Syrians and abstaining from forwarding them to official authorities in Lebanon”, according to the Arab Press Agency.
He accused the agency of “infringing on Lebanon’s sovereignty” by providing Syrian refugees with residency permits and “refugee” IDs.
In his message, Geagea asked Guterres to make the UNHCR stop these practices and to share its data, related to illegal Syrians, with the authorities in Lebanon on a regular basis.
He said the UNHCR must respect the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Lebanese General Security and the UNHCR in 2003, stipulating that Lebanon is not a country of asylum, but merely a country of transit.
The LF chief concluded by saying that legal measures would be taken if the agency does not abide. UNHCR offices in Beirut could be closed down and its activities suspended, he noted.

Lebanon, which has been mired in a crushing economic crisis since late 2019, says it hosts around two million Syrians, the world's highest number of refugees per capita, with almost 785,000 registered with the United Nations.



Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
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Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Israeli forces advanced deeper into some towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US lawmakers he was actively engaged in bringing hostages home.
Fighting in recent days has centered around the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna, and Al-Karara, where the army said on Wednesday it had found the bodies of five Israelis who were killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel and held in Gaza since, Reuters said.
Hamas militants took more than 250 hostages in the early morning raid into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel retaliated by vowing to eradicate Hamas in Gaza in a nine-month war that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, Gaza health officials say.
Several were wounded in the eastern towns during Israeli tank and aerial shelling, while an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, as tanks operated north, west and in the town center, residents and medics said. Several Palestinians were also wounded in Israeli fire earlier on Thursday.
The Israeli military said forces operating in Khan Younis killed dozens of militants and dismantled around 50 military infrastructures, while it continued activities in Rafah, killing two militants.
In a speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu said his government was actively involved in seeking the release of remaining hostages and was confident they would succeed.
DISAPPOINTING SPEECH
Hamas described the comments by Netanyahu as "pure lies" accusing him of thwarting efforts to end the war.
Netanyahu's comments also disappointed many displaced Palestinians who had hoped for a clearer signal of an imminent end to the fighting, which has laid the overcrowded enclave to waste and created a humanitarian crisis.
"It was depressing, he didn't even mention ceasefire at all, not even once," said Tamer Al-Burai, a resident of Gaza City, now displaced in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
"People awaited some surprise, a ceasefire announcement by Netanyahu as a gift to (US President Joe) Biden, but they slept with much disappointment, as Netanyahu said he was determined to pursue war," Burai told Reuters via a chat app.
Deir Al-Balah, where tanks haven't yet invaded, is currently overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, displaced from other areas of the enclave, home to 2.3 million people.
"Netanyahu spoke in a play, he spoke to clowns," said Burai.
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators, backed by the United States, to conclude a ceasefire deal, seemed to be on hold, as Israel was expected to send a delegation for more talks next week.
In northern Gaza, an Israeli air strike on a house in the Sheikh Radwan suburb killed four people, medics said, while seven Palestinians arrived at a hospital in central Gaza who had been detained by Israeli forces and released in an area close to the border.