Six Refugees Drown Off Coast Of Lebanon

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Lebanese workers and youth occupied the Finance Ministry in Beirut against the government’s austerity cuts as the banking system collapsed in 2019

SECRETARY-general of the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has warned of a slide towards violence after at least six people, including a child, died as a boat carrying dozens of migrants sank in the eastern Mediterranean on Saturday night.

Nasrallah said: ‘We must not allow anyone to take the country to strife, and this incident must be addressed at the national level.’
Speaking in the Lebanese capital city Beirut on Sunday evening, he continued: ‘All of the elements of the investigation are known and hurrying up the investigation is the least one can do.’
Nasrallah also called on the Lebanese government to ‘stand by the victims’ families’.
At least six people died and 48 people were rescued after a boat carrying about 60 migrants sank off the coast of Lebanon.
‘The army’s naval forces managed to rescue 48 people and retrieve the body of a dead girl … from a boat that sank while trying to illegally smuggle them out,’ the army said in a statement.
‘Most people on board were rescued,’ the army claimed, without specifying their nationalities.
The army retrieved five corpses off Tripoli’s coast, the state-run National News Agency reported, hours after the body of the little girl was returned to shore.
The latest incident stoked public anger in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second city and one of its poorest.
Since late 2019, Lebanon has been mired in a deep financial crisis that has caused the Lebanese pound to lose around 90 per cent of its value to the US dollar and led its banking system to collapse, plunging the bulk of Lebanese into poverty.
The economic and financial crisis is mostly linked to the sanctions that the United States and its allies have imposed on Lebanon as well as foreign intervention in the nation’s domestic affairs.
The United Nations refugee agency says at least 1,570 people, 186 of them Lebanese, left or tried to leave by sea from Lebanon between January and November 2021.
Most were hoping to reach the island and European Union member state of Cyprus, which lies 175 kilometres (109 miles) away.
Most of those trying to leave Lebanon by sea are Syrian refugees, but Lebanese nationals have increasingly joined them.
Hezbollah expressed its deepest condolences over the Tripoli boat tragedy and described the disaster as a ‘manifestation of Lebanon’s financial and economic crisis caused by decades of flawed policies, neglect of public demands, and deprivation of people’s rights.’
Hezbollah said the incident is a wake-up call, and called on senior Lebanese officials and all political parties to collaborate and maintain social solidarity in order to cope with the repercussions of the ordeal.
The resistance movement called for a quick, transparent, and impartial investigation in order to disclose the circumstances surrounding the accident and those responsible.
Hezbollah finally called on state authorities to provide the victims’ families with all the forms of support.
The Lebanese navy and some passengers estimated that the ship was carrying approximately 60 people, but the real number could be higher.
A Lebanese army spokesman estimated that the boat may have had up to 75 people on board.
‘There were three smugglers involved, and each brought their own cohort of people.
‘So we don’t know the exact numbers. We have apprehended one of them who had brought in some 20 people.’
The navy claimed in a statement that the boat carrying the migrants crashed into one of three navy vessels and sank within seconds.
The authorities are carrying out an investigation into the incident, but it is unclear when the findings will be announced.
However, many of the surviving passengers rejected the military’s statement, and blamed it for the casualties.
Maher Hamouda, age 23, said that the navy rammed into their boat twice.
‘The officer on the big vessel told us to stop, but we didn’t. He then received a call with an order, hung up his phone, and then they rammed into us.
‘We were drowning, but they turned off their lights and moved away from us.’
Maher said that he had lost his voice, and could barely speak as he recalled what happened. He and the other young men on the boat swam towards the navy vessels, urging them to help the families on board, among them children.
‘I was screaming, “There are children with us, they’re going to drown!”, but they wouldn’t answer and just threw us a rope,’ Maher said, trying to hold back his tears.
Maher is among several passengers who said that no smuggler was involved in the operation, and that people pooled whatever money they could get to pay for the boat, and equip it with a new engine, GPS system, and other supplies.
‘Hussein sold some of his furniture,’ Mohamad recalled. ‘Some other people borrowed money.’
Lebanon’s dire financial crisis over the past two years has plunged over three-quarters of the population into poverty.
Many Lebanese are struggling to cope with skyrocketing inflation, crippling power cuts, medicine shortages, and an absence of viable social services.
Many Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian families have resorted to selling everything they own, and trying to migrate by sea to Europe to find job opportunities.
According to the United Nations, in addition to Saturday’s shipwreck, at least three boats have departed Lebanon for Europe, and almost 40 boats have tried to leave the country since late 2020.
Last October, some 80 Lebanese and Syrians in Tripoli tried to journey to Italy, before the Greek coastguard allegedly pushed them back to Turkey.
The disaster has led to an outpouring of popular anger.
Some residents in Tripoli clashed with the Lebanese army following a funeral of one of the victims on Sunday, while others tore down the portraits of politicians in their neighbourhood ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections next month.
‘No leader is welcome to speak to us, because all they will do now is exploit our pain,’ Mohamad said as he comforted his brother Hussein. ‘Whatever they say won’t return the loved ones we’ve lost.’
Maher, an unemployed mechanic, said that he had no confidence in an investigation and that he did not believe he would get any closure to what he described as a ‘living nightmare’.
‘Our own government is killing us, and will never care if we die as long as they keep making deals for their own benefit,’ he said.

  • The Israeli regime has reportedly targeted an area in southern Lebanon with heavy artillery fire.

According to Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television network, the regime’s military struck an area between ‘Majdal Zone and the town of Zibqine’ early on Monday.
Israel fired as many as 23 artillery shells towards Lebanon during the assault.
The Israeli regime and Lebanon are technically at war due to the former’s 1967-present occupation of the country’s Shebaa Farms.
Israel launched two wars against Lebanon in the 2000s. In both cases, it was forced to retreat after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement.