Lebanon Maronite Patriarch Says No Party Should Resort to Violence

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
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Lebanon Maronite Patriarch Says No Party Should Resort to Violence

Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai speaks after meeting with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon July 15, 2020. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS

Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, the top Christian cleric, said on Sunday the country's judiciary should be free of political interference and sectarian "activism" amid rising tensions over a probe into last year's blast at Beirut port.

Rai also said that it was unacceptable for any party to resort to threats or violence after last week's deadly unrest around the investigation - which was Lebanon's worst street bloodshed in more than a decade and stirred memories of the ruinous 1975-1990 civil war.

"We must free the judiciary from political interference, sectarian and partisan political activism and respect its independence according to the principle of separation of powers," he said in his sermon, Reuters reported.

"No one is above the law and judiciary."

The inquiry into the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut, has made little headway amid pushback from powerful political factions, with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah saying Judge Tarek Bitar -- the lead investigator -- is biased and politicized.

Seven were killed on Thursday as crowds were on their way to a protest against Bitar in a demonstration called by the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and it the Amal movement.

The violence added to concerns over the stability of a country that is awash with weapons and grappling with an economic meltdown.

"The democratic system has afforded us peaceful means for freedom of expression whether in support or opposition so it's not acceptable that any party should resort to threats or violence and setting up party checkpoints or tribal ones to get what they want through force," said Rai.

"We refuse to put vengeance in the place of justice?" he said.

He added that Lebanon's Council of Ministers must meet, take decisions and respect authority.

Hezbollah blamed the Christian Lebanese Forces party for the deaths on Thursday, an accusation the head of that party, Samir Geagea, denied.

On Thursday, the army initially said rounds were fired on at protesters as they passed through the Teyouneh traffic circle dividing Christian and Shi'ite Muslim neighbourhoods. It later said there had been an "altercation and exchange of fire" as protesters were on their way to the demonstration.



High Risk of Famine Persists Across Gaza, Global Hunger Monitor Says 

Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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High Risk of Famine Persists Across Gaza, Global Hunger Monitor Says 

Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Men and children search through debris in the yard of the Asma school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), in the Shati camp for Palestinian refugees west of Gaza City, in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment on June 25, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

A high risk of famine persists across the whole of the Gaza Strip as long as conflict between Israel and Hamas continues and humanitarian access remains restricted, a global hunger monitor said on Tuesday.

Over 495,000 people, or more than one fifth of Gaza's population, are facing the most severe, catastrophic level of food insecurity, said an update from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

The IPC said increased deliveries of food and nutrition services to northern Gaza in March and April appeared to have reduced the severity of hunger in the area, where the UN-backed body had previously projected that famine was likely.

But Israel's offensive around the southern city of Rafah from early May and other hostilities and displacement have led to a renewed deterioration in recent weeks, it added.

"The humanitarian space in the Gaza Strip continues to shrink and the ability to safely deliver assistance to populations is dwindling. The recent trajectory is negative and highly unstable," the report said.

The Rafah offensive led to the closure of the crossing on Gaza's border with Egypt, which had been a main route for the delivery of food and other supplies, as well as an evacuation point for civilians who were critically ill or injured.

This factor, along with disruptions at the nearby Israeli crossing of Kerem Shalom, reduced humanitarian access to two million people in southern Gaza, the IPC said.

Within Gaza, displacement to areas with less water and fewer health services "increases the risk of disease outbreaks, which would have catastrophic effects on the nutritional and health status of large segments of the population", it said.

Israel's military campaign in Gaza was launched after Hamas-led fighters raided southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The Israeli response has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, leaving Gaza in ruins and repeatedly displacing much of its population within the blockaded coastal territory.