Army Commander Tops List of Lebanese Presidential Candidates

The PSP delegation meets with Patriarch al-Rahi in Bkirki on Tuesday. (NNA)
The PSP delegation meets with Patriarch al-Rahi in Bkirki on Tuesday. (NNA)
TT

Army Commander Tops List of Lebanese Presidential Candidates

The PSP delegation meets with Patriarch al-Rahi in Bkirki on Tuesday. (NNA)
The PSP delegation meets with Patriarch al-Rahi in Bkirki on Tuesday. (NNA)

Lebanese Army commander Joseph Aoun’s chances of becoming the next president grew on Tuesday after receiving the backing of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), headed by former MP Walid Jumblatt.

A PSP delegation, headed by MP Taymour Jumblatt, Walid’s son, visited Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki to discuss the latest political developments in the country.

After the talks, MP Raji al-Saad said an agreement was reached with al-Rahi on the need to elect a new president to revive constitutional work.

“Partnership begins with the election of a new president,” he added, stressing the need to resolve the issue given the severe crises Lebanon is enduring.

“We are in agreement with the patriarch that there can be no solution without the constitution and Taef Accord, the election of a president, restoring work at state institutions and launching the financial and economic recovery process through kicking off immediate reforms,” he said.

On the presidency, he remarked: “No agreement has been reached on a specific candidate, but there is a list and army commander Joseph Aoun is topping it at the moment.”

“This does not necessarily reflect the PSP’s stance, but it is a culmination of meetings held between all political blocs,” he explained.

Moreover, he noted that even on the international level, Aoun’s name has been brought up the most in discussing the presidency.

PSP MP Hadi Abul Hassan told Asharq Al-Awsat that Aoun appears to be the favored candidate of some friendly nations and of some local parties.

He noted that the Lebanese Forces “had not concealed its support for Aoun should consensus be reached over his candidacy.”

A number of opposition powers also back the army commander, he remarked.

The PSP has been holding meetings with rivals and allies in an attempt to reach a breakthrough in the presidential impasse. PSP representatives have met with Hezbollah and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) officials. The PSP is also in constant contact with parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, the Lebanese Forces and opposition blocs.

Walid Jumblatt had met with Berri on Tuesday.

Abul Hassan said former minister Jihad Azour and former MP Salah Hnein appear to be the other favored candidates besides Aoun.

Hezbollah continues to stick to its nomination of Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh for its own considerations, he added. The party may agree to Aoun’s nomination if it receives certain “guarantees” from him.

On whether the crisis over the presidency was close to being resolve, he told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I don’t think so. We may reach a breakthrough, but we are not close to resolving the crisis because of complicated considerations that need to be address.”

Among the obstacles is the ongoing crisis between Hezbollah and its ally, head of the FPM, MP Gebran Bassil, who is opposed to Franjieh’s candidacy.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis 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. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis 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. (AFP)
TT

Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis 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. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis 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. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.