Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Israel Resumes Attacks on Southern Lebanon after ‘Temporary Truce’

Relatives visit the graves of killed Hezbollah fighters during Eid al-Adha in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura. (AFP)
Relatives visit the graves of killed Hezbollah fighters during Eid al-Adha in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura. (AFP)
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Israel Resumes Attacks on Southern Lebanon after ‘Temporary Truce’

Relatives visit the graves of killed Hezbollah fighters during Eid al-Adha in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura. (AFP)
Relatives visit the graves of killed Hezbollah fighters during Eid al-Adha in the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura. (AFP)

Israel resumed on Monday strikes on southern Lebanon after two days of an undeclared truce that emerged after Hezbollah stopped its attacks against Israel on Saturday night.

The lull in fighting prompted displaced residents of the South to visit their villages on Sunday and Monday, which coincided with the Eid al-Adha holiday.

The calm was short-lived as Israel resumed its attacks around 11 am on Monday, with a drone strike killing a Hezbollah fighter.

The developments coincided with the return of US envoy to the region Amos Hochstein to Beirut on Monday, the second stop of his trip that he kicked off in Tel Aviv. He is expected to meet with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

Ahead of his arrival, Hezbollah announced its rejection of the proposal to set up a buffer zone in the South, stressing that it won’t stop its attacks against Israel before a ceasefire is reached in Gaza.

Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah described on Monday the idea of a buffer zone as an "illusion drawn up by the leaders of the enemy."

"The issue is not up for discussion because the resistance [Hezbollah] is deployed on its land and defending it, while the enemy is occupying the land of the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese people. It must pull out from them," he added.

"The only viable solution is an end to the hostilities that is approved by the resistance in Palestine. This will lead to an end to fighting on the Lebanese front," he went on to say.

"Lebanon will then decide what steps to take to protect its people and sovereignty. The enemy is in no position to impose its conditions," stressed Fadlallah.

The undeclared truce allowed some displaced residents of the South to their towns to pray and mourn loved ones killed in months of cross-border violence between Israel and Hezbollah.

"Today is Eid al-Adha, but it's completely different this year," said teacher Rabab Yazbek, 44, at a cemetery in the coastal town of Naqoura, from which many residents have fled.

Every family has lost someone, "whether a relative, friend or neighbor," Yazbek said, adding that two people she had taught had been killed.

Israel and Hezbollah, which is allied with Hamas, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian group's October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.

The violence has killed at least 473 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 92 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country's north.

The Naqoura municipality said it had coordinated with the Lebanese army so that residents could safely visit the cemetery and mosque for two hours for Eid al-Adha.

Residents reportedly returned to a number of south Lebanon border villages on Monday morning as part of similar initiatives.

UNIFIL armored vehicles patrol on the entrance of the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura. (AFP)

'Thousand thanks'

Yellow Hezbollah flags and green ones belonging to the group's ally the Amal movement flew at the recently established cemetery near the sea, located just a stone's throw from the United Nations peacekeepers' headquarters.

Lebanese soldiers accompanied the residents as they entered the town.

The army coordinates with the UN peacekeepers, who in turn communicate with the Israeli side as part of efforts to maintain calm.

In Naqoura, a damaged sign reading "thank you for your visit" lay along the highway.

Amid the concrete rubble and twisted metal of one building, the shattered glass of a family photo lay scattered on the ground.

Nearby, potted plants hung from the veranda rails of another devastated structure, with a pink child's toy car among the debris.

Rawand Yazbek, 50, was inspecting her clothing shop, whose glass store front had been destroyed, though the rest remained largely intact.

"A thousand thanks to God," she said, grateful that not all was lost.

"As you can see... our stores are full of goods," she said, pointing to shelves and racks of colorful clothes.

04 June 2024, Lebanon, Naqoura: A view of rubble of destroyed houses caused by Israeli air raids are seen in the Lebanese southern village of Naqoura, located at the Lebanese-Israeli border. (dpa)

'Cowardly'

Hezbollah stepped up attacks against northern Israel last week after an Israeli strike killed a senior commander from the movement.

The Iran-backed group has not claimed any attacks since Saturday afternoon.

Lebanese official media reported Israeli bombardment in the country's south over the weekend, as well as a deadly strike on Monday. Hezbollah said later that one of its fighters had been killed.

Like other residents who support the Hezbollah and Amal movements, Naqoura municipality head Abbas Awada called attacks on the town "cowardly".

Last week, a strike there blamed on Israel killed an employee of the area's public water company.

More than 95,000 people in Lebanon have been displaced by the hostilities, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration.

Tens of thousands have also been displaced on the Israeli side of the frontier.

Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Ezzedine, among a large crowd that attended prayers at the Naqoura mosque, said the turnout was a message that "this land is ours, we will not leave it."

"We support this resistance (Hezbollah) because it's what protects us, it's what defends us," he said.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : New PMF Draft Law in Iraq Raises Questions about Fayyadh’s Electoral Ambitions 

Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
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New PMF Draft Law in Iraq Raises Questions about Fayyadh’s Electoral Ambitions 

Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)

Head of Iraq’s Taqaddum party and former parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi expressed on Tuesday his fierce opposition to a draft law related to the enlistment and retirement of members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

In a post on the X platform, Halbousi accused PMF leader Faleh al-Fayyadh of abusing his position for “partisan goals.”

Parliament is expected to discuss the draft law on Wednesday.

The law raised questions over political influence within the PMF, a military group that was formed in 2014 and that became an official state institution in 2016.

The law in Iraq prohibits military officials from using their position for electoral purposes or to work in politics. They must resign from their position before pursuing political interests. Fayyadh has repeatedly been accused of flouting this law.

Fayyadh is already the head of a political bloc that enjoys influence in a number of provinces. It is currently vying for government posts in the Nineveh council.

Fayyadh has also been accused of using PMF funds to finance his al-Ataa movement.

Halbousi criticized the draft law for undermining the independence of the military and security agencies as stipulated in the constitution.

The law allows the leader of the PMF to also act as a head of a political party and therefore, he would be able to employ the PMF and its forces for his political agenda, added Halbousi.

He wondered whether the draft law would be used for “unacceptable electoral and political purposes”.

A source close to the Taqaddum party said Fayyadh designed the draft law to “serve his electoral ambitions.”

In remarks to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt, he added that the law “sets no boundaries between Fayyadh’s political role and his position as head of the PMF.”

Moreover, he noted that the law allows Fayyadh to send into retirement any member of the PMF, a power he could use against a vast number of members to secure their vote in elections.

A leading member of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework said Halbousi’s attack against Fayyadh may be supported by some Shiite forces that want to remove him from his post.

The official revealed that the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group was among Halbousi’s strongest backers in this regard.

The group has long been planning on ousting Fayyadh, 68, so the draft law is unlikely to be ratified without amendments, he went on to say.

Leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Qais al-Khazali had previously called for Fayyadh’s ouster because he has exceeded the legal age for the position and because he is the leader of a political party.

As of 2024, the PM boasts 238,075 members. It initially had no more than 60,000 when it was first formed in 2014 to fight the ISIS extremist group.

The number of its members kept growing even after ISIS’ defeat in Iraq, sparking accusations that leading members were adding fake names to the PMF for financial gain.

In 2019, former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi accused some PMF leaders of “mysteriously making fortunes from public funds.”

On Monday, independent MP Sajjad Salem called for “criminalizing the possession of weapons outside the state and merging the PMF with the security forces to prevent Iran from exerting its influence through its proxies in factions and militias.”

The Iraqi state budget revealed that around 3 billion dollars (some 4.5 trillion dinars) are allotted to the PMF with hundreds of billions of dinars dedicated to salaries and the purchase of weapons.