UK judges, intelligence experts call for halt to Israeli arms sales

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BEIRUT: The Lebanese government may be forced to declare a disaster in the south of the country due to the destruction of housing and farmland, the country’s caretaker prime minister has said.

During a cabinet meeting, Najib Mikati warned of the “continuation of the Israeli aggression, resulting in martyrs, wounded and massive destruction” in Lebanon’s south.

“There are about 100,000 displaced persons from southern villages, 313 martyrs and about 1,000 wounded,” he added.

“The major disaster lies in the damage to the agricultural sector, where 800 hectares have been completely damaged, 340,000 heads of cattle have been lost, and about 75 percent of farmers have lost their ultimate source of income.”

Long-term infrastructure damage means “declaring the southern region a disaster-stricken area agriculturally is imperative,” he said.

“The same applies to the educational sector, where about 75 schools are permanently closed. The issue of rebuilding what has been destroyed will later require seeking sources of funding,” Mikati added.

Ahead of the meeting, the prime minister briefed more than a dozen foreign ambassadors and NGO officials on the humanitarian situation in the south of the country.

Ambassadors of the US, Australia, China, Turkey, Austria, Jordan, Oman, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Canada, Switzerland and Cyprus attended the talks, along with UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon Imran Riza, and other UN officials operating in the country.

Lebanon’s environment minister, Nasser Yassin, who is overseeing the response plan set up in cooperation with the UN across the country, said: “The overwhelming majority of the displaced are still in the South and Nabatieh governorates. Most of them are in houses, whether at relatives or friends, and a minority are in shelters, and it is necessary to support them in the long run.”

About 316 people have been killed and 909 injured since October last year, he added.

Medical and hospital personnel have been killed, more than 700,000 hectares of land has been burned and a large number of cattle have died, the minister said.

About nine water treatment centers and several health centers have also been damaged or destroyed.

Kristen Knutson, acting head of office for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that the international body has spent six months “mobilizing support and assistance for emergency work in Lebanon.”

She added: “We have received $7.5 million and are trying to get $4 million. We have provided assistance to about 19,000 families, in the form of food and material assistance, access to primary services and protection for those affected by the events.”

Meanwhile, on the 180th day of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, Israeli jets raided the town of Yaroun in Lebanon’s Bint Jbeil District on Thursday, targeting a home.

Israeli artillery also shelled the outskirts of Wazzani, while Hezbollah targeted the newly established headquarters of Israel’s Liman Battalion with artillery.

In recent days, Israeli military reconnaissance aircraft have flown over Lebanese border villages adjacent to the Blue Line, all the way to the outskirts of the city of Tyre.