Hamas leader in Lebanon to strengthen ties

Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh headed a delegation to Beirut to attend meetings with local Palestinian leaders, among other unspecified activities.

The visit is aimed at bolstering “bilateral relations between Palestine and Lebanon,” according to a statement issued by the Islamist faction. It is also focused on attempts to “enhance the humanitarian and social conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon until they return” to what Hamas referred to as “their hometowns and villages from which they were expelled in 1948” – in reference to the State of Israel.

Haniyeh’s expedition comes just days after Lebanon’s former Ambassador to Germany, Mustapha Adib, was appointed as the country’s latest Prime Minister by President Michel Aoun. The previous short-lived government led by Hassan Diab resigned on 10 August in the wake of a catastrophic explosion at the Beirut Port that killed some 190 people.

In his first remarks to the nation, the new Premier insisted that concrete reform is vital for the recovery of the devastated nation. “In these hard times that our nation are going through, especially after the devastating blast in the Port – which caused martyrs, injured and missing people – there’s no time for talking, promises and wishes. It’s time to work with the cooperation of everyone, in order to heal our country and bring back hope to our people for a better future because all Lebanese are extremely worried about the present and the future,” he said.

Premier Adib further noted that he accepted the leadership post on the premise that all political forces acknowledge the importance of forming a government that will immediately adopt critical legislation to root out deep corruption and establish a foundation for a viable bail-out agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Pledges from the new leader failed to stifle mass protest that has beset Lebanon. Demonstrations erupted throughout Beirut over allegations that Adib was appointed under French pressure, and a part of the elitist political system that has long and ineffectively governed the country.

This public sentiment was made clear to French President Emmanuel Macron during a two day visit to Beirut, as part of the country’s 100th anniversary of its formation as a nation state. Activists gathered outside one of Macron’s meetings, with many holding placards reading “No cabinet by, or with, the murderers” as others chanted “Adib No.”

“We are here to send a message that we reject this new government which is a product of a failed and criminal authority, always,” protester Mohamed Safadiyeh told Reuters.

During his second visit in less than a month, President Macron once again inspected efforts by French troops to rebuild the Beirut Port. When asked about allegations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over French “colonial aims in Lebanon,” Macron defended his country’s efforts to assist the Lebanese people.

“When France comes to support Lebanon at its request without ever taking the place of its rulers, as a friend, when it sends its soldiers to help clear up and support the Lebanese forces, it is called aid,” he insisted.

President Macron also warned that the new government must deliver on promised-reforms by the end of next month or face serious repercussions. “I am putting my trust (in Lebanese government officials) this evening. But I’ve said clearly, if by the set date, the end of October, your leaders have not met their commitments, we must draw consequences. What does this mean? This means that first, if nothing has been done, and at that point it’s clear — I would have to tell the international community that we cannot meet our aid commitments in Lebanon,” he said, underscoring, “But I would also have to explain to the Lebanese people – we were ready to help you, but your leaders have decided otherwise.”