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Court charges Lebanon’s Geagea over Beirut violence | Protests News



Christian politician Samir Geagea has been charged with involvement in October’s violence in Beirut, the worst in a decade.

A Lebanese military court has charged Christian politician Samir Geagea over deadly clashes in Beirut last October, local media, as well as a judicial source, said, in a move that could stoke political tension two months before parliamentary elections.

An official in Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF) party said the charge against him, as well as the investigation into the violence, had political motives.

Judge Fadi Akiki told Al-Jadeed TV on Thursday that he had charged Geagea two days ago, based on “new information” relating to the Tayouneh events, a reference to Beirut’s deadliest street violence in a decade.

Seven people, all of them followers of the Iran-backed Shia Muslim group Hezbollah and its Shia ally the Amal Movement, were killed in the October 14 clashes near an old front line of the 1975-90 civil war.

Any attempt to arrest Geagea would likely be resisted by his party, creating the potential for trouble just two months before the parliamentary election, said Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center.

Geagea was summoned to a hearing at military intelligence last October over the violence, but did not attend.

The October 14 violence began as people were gathering for a protest called by Hezbollah against the judge investigating the 2020 Beirut port blast.

Hezbollah, which is heavily armed and backed by Iran, accused the LF of mounting an ambush and perpetrating the killing to try to drag the country into a civil war.

Geagea, a strong critic of Hezbollah who has good ties with Saudi Arabia, has emphatically denied this, along with Hezbollah accusations that the LF – which had a powerful militia in the civil war – had established one again.

Geagea has said the trouble began when supporters of the Shia parties entered the Christian neighbourhood of Ain al-Remmaneh where they vandalised cars, and that four residents were wounded before a shot was fired.

Together with its allies, Hezbollah won a majority in the 2018 election.

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Some truths about Shireen Abu Akleh’s murder | Freedom of the Press



Shireen Abu Akleh was murdered.

She was not “killed”. She was murdered.

She was shot in the face. Not in the arm or a leg. In the face. That is not a “kill” shot. That is a murder shot.

Abu Akleh was shot in the face, on purpose, while doing what she has been doing since 1997 for Al Jazeera: telling the truth.

She was murdered for telling, yet again, the truth about how Israel has corralled, bludgeoned, “raided”, evicted, jailed, traumatised, tortured, murdered, and terrorised Palestinian after Palestinian, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

Abu Akleh did her job well. She did it with grace, patience and resilience despite the indignities, horrors and dangers. It was her duty, obligation, and responsibility to bear witness.

Every day, Palestinians risk being murdered because they are Palestinian.

It does not matter where they live – in Gaza, Jerusalem or the West Bank – every day, Palestinians risk being murdered because they are Palestinian.

It does not matter what they do for a living – if they can find work at all – every day, Palestinians risk being murdered because they are Palestinian.

It does not matter whether they are young or old, a man or a woman, Muslim or Christian – every day, Palestinians risk being murdered because they are Palestinian.

As it happens, Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old Palestinian, was in Jenin yesterday morning when she was murdered.

She was there to do her job: reporting on how more Israeli soldiers were “raiding” – a euphemism for terrorising – more Palestinians.

She was wearing a helmet and body armour marked “Press”.

She was standing at a roundabout with other Palestinian journalists when she was shot in the face. An Al Jazeera producer, who survived, was shot in the back.

Abu Akleh’s body lay on the side of a road, next to a wall. Her colleagues screamed for help as they pulled her away from a sniper’s crosshairs. Later, an ambulance arrived. She died in hospital. Alone.

Another day, another murdered Palestinian.

But, unlike so many other murdered Palestinians, including four boys who were dismembered by an Israeli missile while playing football on a beach, Abu Akleh was well-known. She was on TV. She was popular. She was admired and respected because she told the truth about the cruelty Palestinians suffer and endure every day.

So, her murder, unlike the murders of so many other Palestinians made news in Europe and North America.

I doubt her murder would have made much news in Europe and North America save for one inconvenient fact: Abu Akleh was also an American.

I doubt her murderer knew she was an American when they shot her, on purpose, in the face. Now they know. Damn. That meant powerful people and institutions who normally do not give a damn when Palestinians are murdered had to say something since Abu Akleh was an American.

I do not remember the US ambassadors to Israel or the United Nations, the State Department or the White House acknowledging, let alone condemning, any one of the slayings, since 2000, of 46 Palestinian journalists or saying anything about the 144 Palestinian journalists who have, since 2018, been shot with rubber or steel bullets, tear-gassed or had stun grenades fired at them.

Do you?

Of course not. They were not American. That meant they were nobodies. Inconsequential. Forgettable. Worse, they were Palestinians. They were nothing. Probably tools of Hamas. Anyway, like every other Palestinian living, working and going to school every day in imprisoned Palestine, those make-believe Palestinian journalists asked for it and they got it – good.

Nothing to see here. Move on.

This time, some US politicians and diplomats said they were “very sad” that Abu Akleh had been shot in the face. They said that there needed to be a “thorough investigation” into who, precisely, shot Abu Akleh in the face.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

They had to say it. They did not mean it. But they had to say it. Otherwise, it might look like they did not give a damn that a celebrated American journalist had been shot in the face by – several witnesses say – an Israeli sniper.

Come on, you and I know that they do not really give a damn. Abu Akleh may have carried an American passport, but she was not a real American or even a real journalist like the late Daniel Pearl. He worked for the Wall Street Journal. He mattered. The manner of his murder mattered.

Abu Akleh was a Palestinian. She worked for Al Jazeera. You and I know that most American politicians and media agree with Donald Rumsfeld who once said that Al Jazeera’s reporting is “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable”.

The US politicians and diplomats pretending to care about Abu Akleh’s murder could have told America’s dearest friend and client state in the Middle East a long time ago to stop shooting and murdering journalists and blowing up buildings where they work.

They have not and they will not.

Instead, they do what they always do when Israel murders Palestinians – American or not. Nothing.

Israel is obliged to play along to relieve the phantom pressure.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett played his part in the pantomime. On cue, he muddied the bloody waters by trotting out the tired and absurd line that the “most moral army in the world” does not murder Palestinians on purpose.

Abu Akleh’s “unfortunate death,” he suggested on Twitter, was a case of Palestinian on Palestinian violence.

“According to the data, we currently have, there is a considerable chance that armed Palestinians, who fired wildly, are what led to the unfortunate death of the journalist,” Israel’s foreign ministry tweeted on his behalf.

Most American politicians – Republicans and Democrats – and much of the establishment media will believe Bennett. He is Israel’s prime minister. Israeli prime ministers never lie. They, unlike Hamas, tell the truth. Always. They are America’s pal. Trusted. America never doubts the word of its Israeli pals.

America does not need to see, let alone question, Bennett’s so-called “data”. If the Israeli prime minister says he has it, then, there is a “considerable chance” that is what happened. That is good enough for America and the chattering class.

Doubt sown. Mission accomplished. Quick, back to Ukraine.

Sure, US speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote: “The killing of American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is an (sic) horrific tragedy.”

Newsflash, Speaker Pelosi, shooting a Palestinian-American journalist in the face on purpose is not a “tragedy”. It is a crime. We know, we know, Israeli soldiers never commit crimes.

Quick, back to the baby formula shortage.

Oh, wait. Bennett’s once iron-clad “data” has gone poof – if it ever existed. Late Wednesday, an Israeli general said, well, maybe Abu Akleh was not the victim of Palestinian on Palestinian violence. Maybe an armed Israeli soldier, not an “armed” Palestinian – are there any other kind? – shot her in the face. Maybe.

It does not matter. The “narrative”, like cement, has already been cast.

It goes like this: We will never know who shot Abu Akleh in the face. Israel wants an “inquiry” to find out who shot Abu Akleh. It does. Honest. The Palestinians will not cooperate. Fanatics.

Still, if an Israeli sniper shot a journalist in the face, that is the terrible cost of war. That sniper was doing their duty, too, protecting Israel from terrorists. She knew the risks. She got in the way. Tough luck.

The truth is that it will work because it has worked every other time Israel has murdered a Palestinian.

Shireen Abu Akleh knew that, I suspect, better than anyone.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

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China passenger jet catches fire, dozens ‘lightly injured’ | Aviation News



Tibet Airlines says all 113 passengers and 9 crew on board the plane that caught fire were safely evacuated.

A Chinese passenger jet has caught fire after veering off the runway in China’s Chongqing, leaving dozens of people with what were said to be minor injuries.

The incident happened on Thursday as the Tibet Airlines plane was preparing to take off at 8:09am local time (00:09 GMT).

The Airbus A319-115 jet, carrying 113 passengers and nine crew, was headed from the southwestern city of Chongqing to Tibet’s Nyingchi.

Everyone on board was safely evacuated, the airline said in a statement.

“In the process of taking off, the flight crew discovered an abnormality with the aircraft and stopped the takeoff, after which the aircraft left the runway,” the statement said.

“The injured passengers were all only lightly injured, and have been sent to hospital for treatment,” it added.

In a separate statement, the Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport said about 40 passengers with minor injuries were sent to hospital.

It said Flight TV9833 deviated from the runway during takeoff and that “the left side of the aircraft’s nose caught fire”.

Operations at the airport have since returned to normal and “the cause of the accident is being investigated,” it added.

The incident follows the crash of a Chinese Eastern Boeing 737-800 in southeastern China on March 21, in which all 132 people on board were killed.

That accident, in which the plane went into a sudden nosedive and slammed into the ground in a mountainous area, remains under investigation.

Two flight recorders, or “black boxes”, were recovered from that crash and are being analysed in the United States.

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North Korea reports first COVID outbreak since pandemic began | Coronavirus pandemic News



State media reports ‘biggest emergency incident’ after BA.2 sub-variant is detected in Pyongyang.

North Korea has confirmed its first outbreak of COVID-19, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster in one of the world’s only unvaccinated countries.

Authorities detected a sub-variant of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, BA.2, in people in Pyongyang, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday, without elaborating on the number of confirmed cases.

“There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, that has been kept safely over the past two years and three months since February 2020,” the state broadcaster said.

It added that “maximum” control efforts were being imposed in Pyongyang.

The North, which sealed its borders in January 2020, had been one of the few countries on Earth not to report an outbreak of COVID-19, although analysts have long expressed doubt about the official figures given the country’s long, porous land border with China.

Analysts said Pyongyang’s public admission of the outbreak was probably a sign of the severity of the situation, but not necessarily a sign that leader Kim Jong Un would be amenable to outside assistance.

“Pyongyang will likely double down on lockdowns, even though the failure of China’s zero-Covid strategy suggests that approach won’t work against the omicron variant,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said in emailed comments. “North Korea is entering a period of uncertainty in managing its domestic challenges and international isolation. The Kim regime would be well advised to swallow its pride and quickly seek donations of vaccines and therapeutics.”

A train crosses the viaduct from North Korea into China at Dandong
China and North Korea share a long border with trade taking place through the train service connecting Dandong and Pyongyang [File: Greg Baker/AFP]

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported the Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party admitting there had been a “breach” in the country’s virus defences, and criticised the department handling the epidemic for its “carelessness, laxity, irresponsibility, and incompetence” in “failing” to respond to the acceleration in transmission around the world, according to the NK News media outlet.

NK News said a lockdown was imposed on May 10.

China is currently battling dozens of outbreaks of the virus including in Dandong, which is the North’s main trading link with the country. Pyongyang suspended inbound rail cargo from China in late April as a result of the outbreaks, only four months after resuming the service, according to NK News

The North has repeatedly rejected offers of vaccines from the United Nations-backed global vaccination initiative, and aid workers have warned that it would struggle to handle a major coronavirus outbreak, given its dilapidated health system.

“The North Korean medical system is antiquated, fragile and drastically ill-equipped to deal with a major outbreak,” said Tim Peters, a Christian aid worker who runs the Helping Hands Korea organisation in Seoul. “The fact that 40 percent of the population is in need of food assistance speaks volumes about the weak immune systems of at least 11 million North Korean citizens. In short, the outdated healthcare infrastructure and highly vulnerable population is a catastrophe waiting to happen. I sincerely hope it doesn’t.”

Before the pandemic, the UN estimated that more than one-quarter of North Koreans suffered from malnourishment. In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said the country was struggling to feed itself.

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