Tunisian court jails prominent critic of president

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s highest Sunni religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, has thanked “fraternal Arab countries and friendly countries that are rushing to support and support Lebanon”.

Derian’s remarks in Beirut came on Saturday as Lebanese politicians and the general public felt divided over Hezbollah’s decision to open the southern front without consulting the government.

Derian said: “What Israel is doing in the villages and towns of Lebanon’s staunch south and other regions are deliberate war crimes against all Lebanese, and awareness and wisdom are needed to confront this dangerous aggression.

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Cross-border firefights between Israel and the Hezbollah movement have occurred almost daily since the start of the Gaza war, but have escalated considerably in the past month.

“During the 2006 war that Israel launched against Lebanon, we managed to stay together, supported by the Arabs and the international community,” he continued. “The country has survived a major disaster.

“The problems are more significant now, but the solidarity is less. However, there is still compassion for Lebanon, evidenced by Arab and international visits.

“This reality calls for solidarity to elect a president and stop the repercussions of the division we are witnessing in public opinion.”

Derian’s call came as the Supreme Islamic Shariah Council stressed the importance of “local and international initiatives and efforts to help Lebanon get out of the dark tunnel it is in and get back on the right path.”

The council called for “national unity to oppose Israeli aggression in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa.”

The council also condemned “the silence of the international community regarding the most heinous crimes committed by Israel in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and the Lebanese territories.”
International efforts are focused both on limiting the clashes in southern Lebanon to their current limits and on halting the exchange of fire pending the outcome of the Hamas-Israel negotiations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated “the risk of the clashes between Hezbollah and Israel becoming a full-scale war” and stressed “the need to reach a political solution”.

The Secretary-General’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, expressed UN concern about the “increasing intensity of firefights across the Blue Line, which increases the risk of a full-scale war.”

Dujarric said: “Escalation can and must be avoided and we reiterate that the danger of miscalculation leading to a sudden and wider conflagration is real. A political and diplomatic solution is the only viable way forward.”

Diplomatic pressure to avoid escalation into full-scale war continues through US-France coordination.

A report suggests that German-led negotiations on a settlement related to southern Lebanon are also progressing, with the German side advocating withdrawal from the borders pending the conclusion of diplomatic negotiations on the Gaza Strip.

Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah on Saturday clarified his party’s position on efforts to impose a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

He said: “When the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops, the support fronts will stop. Our front in Lebanon is one of support to put pressure on the enemy’s army to stop this aggression.”

Hezbollah’s new position coincided with relative calm on the southern front. The exchange of fire between Hezbollah and the Israeli army decreased significantly on Saturday after a significant escalation over the past two days.

MP Fadlallah emphasized that “the day after the end of the aggression against Lebanon (will be) a Lebanese day par excellence”.

He stated that the decisions “taken this day (will be) exclusively Lebanese, created by the Lebanese people and those involved in the conflict in the official institutions and the resistance under the roof of protecting sovereignty.”

This, he continued, will prevent Israel from achieving in politics what it has failed to achieve through “war, fighting, bombing, destruction and assassination.”

Fadlallah also said that “the exhaustion of the Israeli army and its inability to achieve its objectives” will stop the war.

“We are facing a new phase,” he said, adding that it was difficult for Israel to sustain the fighting in Gaza because the resistance in Palestine had lasted nine months.

Major General Israel Ziv, a former chief of operations for the Israeli army, warned that “increased military action in the north is the wrong tactic if we don’t want to start a war.”

He added: “A war in Lebanon would lead to a confrontation with Iran. This is the worst time to open more fronts.”

Hezbollah said it carried out an airstrike with a squadron of assault drones on an artillery site belonging to the 403rd Battalion of the 91st Division in Beit Hillel on Saturday morning, causing fires at the site in response to “Israeli attacks on resistant villages from the south, safe. houses and civilians on Friday.”

The Israeli military claimed to have intercepted an aerial target from Lebanon in the Galilee and that two targets fell in an “open area” in Beit Hillel.

The Israeli army also launched barrages of fire from its positions facing the town of Aita Al-Shaab towards Birkat Risha and the outskirts of Ramyah.

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