Lebanon declares Bankruptcy. Could this be a fulfillment of Ezekiel 26:5?

Rev 6:6 NAS And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • LEBANON OFFICIALLY DECLARES BANKRUPTCY; A PROPHECY OF EZEKIEL
  • Lebanon’s Deputy Prime Minister, Saadeh al-Shami made an official announcement on Monday declaring that Lebanon is bankrupt.
  • “Unfortunately, the state is bankrupt, as is the Banque du Liban. Our Government wanted to come up with a solution, and the loss occurred due to policies for decades, but if we did nothing, the loss would be much greater.”
  • “This is a fact that cannot be ignored, and we cannot live in a state of denial, and we cannot open (bank) withdrawals to everyone. I wish that our situation was normal.”
  • In chapter 26 in the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet foresees that Lebanon will become a place of “drying nets” and a “spoil for the nations.” The chapter speaks of Tyre, which was the Phonecian capital of Lebanon at that time.
  • She shall be in the heart of the sea A place for drying nets; For I have spoken it —declares Hashem. She shall become spoil for the nations (Ezekiel 26:5)
  • The prophecy about Lebanon becoming a ‘spoil for the nations’ seems to have merit today. That’s because, following the infamous Beirut blast of 2020, China has targeted the northern port of Tripoli as a critical link for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Lebanon has also been reported to be a Chinese business target.
  • This might also be referenced in the 12th passage:
  • They shall plunder your wealth And loot your merchandise. (Ezekiel 26:12)

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Iran is supplying proxies in Syria, Iraq also stockpiling ballistic missiles

Revelations 6:3-4 “ when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • Iran has 3,000 ballistic missiles, many that can reach Israel – US general
  • In Gen. Kenneth McKenzie’s written statement, he called Iran’s missile force the greatest threat to the region’s security.
  • “At a military level my concern is first of all that they do not have a nuclear weapon but I am also very concerned about the remarkable growth and efficiency of their ballistic missile program,” McKenzie told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
  • “They have over 3,000 missiles of various types, some of which can reach Tel Aviv,” McKenzie said in response to a query by the senate committee. “None of them can reach Europe yet.”
  • US CENTCOM assessed…Syria and Iraq will continue to be used as supply routes and hubs to forward its “campaign against Israel.”
  • This is in part to arm its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah. It was estimated last year that Hezbollah has 130,000-150,000 rockets that can reach deep into Israeli territory. This arms stockpile also includes Iranian ballistic missiles.
  • He said that the US remains steadfast in its commitment to Israel’s security and to support Israel’s right to defend itself

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Lebanese carry ‘worthless’ stacks of cash after currency crash

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Restaurant owner Antoine Haddad has been in business for over 35 years but says he is running out of hope as Lebanon struggles with one of the deepest financial crises of modern times.

The Lebanese pound lost around 90% of its value in the past two years, propelling three quarters of the population into poverty.

For Haddad, the difference between this and other crises that Lebanon has experienced, including the 1975-1990 civil war, is that it feels like there is no end in sight.

“Previously, you had hope that: ‘tomorrow the war will end, we do this and that and go back to where we were’, but this time there is no hope,” he said.

“They (those in power) promised us we would have plenty of money in our hands, and we indeed have a lot of it to play with,” he said sarcastically referring to the growing stacks of banknotes needed for even basic purchases after the currency drop.

Haddad, whose small restaurant has been in business since 1984, said he can only buy 10% of the olive oil he used to buy with the same money.

The government, facing an election in March as it tries to secure an IMF recovery plan, has tripled transport allowance for employees to alleviate some of the pain but most salaries, including the minimum wage, have not been adjusted.

Pub-owner Moussa Yaakoub is also taken aback by the amount of cash he needs to run his business.

“I have never before held in my hands this amount of money,” he said as he counted some 10 million pounds, worth $6,600 at the pre-crisis rate but now less than $500 at the market rate.

That much money used to cover a pub’s operation for months, but now only pays a couple of bills, he said.

Grocery store owner Roni Bou Rached has changed the way he stores money in his cash drawer now that smaller notes are used less, and coins are almost non-existent.

“I am hesitant how much to carry in my pocket when I leave. I sometimes carry 1 million or 1.5 million … but I mean, they are worthless,” he said.

A single restaurant bill now could amount to sums higher than some workers’ earnings.

“God help those who do not have an income or are not able to work around things,” Ali Jaber, a private sector employee, said.

(Reporting by Issam Abdallah; Writing by Yara Abi Nader; Editing by Alison Williams)

Lebanese PM says he signs bill lifting immunity in Beirut blast case -Sky News Arabia

Cairo (Reuters) -Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said in a Sky News Arabia interview on Wednesday he had signed a bill that lifts immunity on “everyone” who might have borne responsibility for the Beirut port blast, saying they must be held accountable.

The disastrous Aug. 4, 2020 explosion left more than 200 people dead and devastated swathes of the Lebanese capital.

Mikati added in the interview that Lebanon’s constitution stipulated that senior government officials must be tried in front of a special tribunal.

The investigation into the explosion, one of the biggest non-nuclear blasts in history, has made little headway amid a smear campaign against investigation Judge Tarek Bitar and pushback from powerful Lebanese factions.

He said the government will extend help to the families of the blast’s victims, adding that a plan has been formulated to reconstruct the port, a vital lifeline to the country’s economy.

Many in Lebanon, particularly families of the victims of the blast, are furious that no senior official has been held accountable more than a year later.

Bitar’s efforts to question former and serving state officials – including the prime minister at the time of the blast, ex-ministers and senior security officials on suspicion of negligence – have been repeatedly denied.

(Reporting by Lilian Wagdy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Lebanon in free fall, must not become ‘horror story,’ U.S. senator warns

By Maha El Dahan

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon is in free fall and must not become a “horror story,” a U.S. senator said during a visit to Beirut on Wednesday, voicing hope that a government would be formed this week to start addressing its destabilizing financial meltdown.

The comment reflected growing concern about the situation in Lebanon, where a financial collapse that began in 2019 hit a crunch point last month with a crippling fuel shortage that sparked security incidents and warnings of worse to come.

Another senator in the U.S. congressional delegation said Iranian fuel being shipped to Lebanon by the heavily armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah would come with strings attached, dismissing it as an attempted “photo-op by the Iranians.”

The financial crisis marks the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

More than half of Lebanon’s 6 million people have fallen into poverty. The World Bank says it is one of the sharpest depressions of modern times, with the currency plunging more than 90% and the financial system paralyzed.

“Lebanon is in free fall…We’ve seen this movie before and it’s a horror story…, but the good news is it can, should, and hopefully will be avoided,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters at the end of a two-day visit.

Lebanese politicians, who have failed to do anything to arrest the collapse, have been squabbling for more than a year over the make-up of a new cabinet to replace the one that quit in the aftermath of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion.

A new cabinet capable of implementing reforms is a necessary precursor to foreign aid. The United States is the biggest foreign aid donor to Lebanon.

The congressional delegation met Lebanese leaders including President Michel Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state, who expressed hope the government would be formed this week, the presidency said in a statement.

Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, has on several occasions expressed optimism about the government being agreed soon.

“We did hear good news today,” Senator Chris Murphy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel dealing with the Middle East, told reporters, adding he expected a government would be formed by the time he returned home.

Aoun’s adversaries accuse him and his faction, the Free Patriotic Movement, of obstructing the government formation by demanding a third of the seats, or effective veto power.

Aoun denies this. Aoun told the senators “many obstacles had been overcome,” the presidency said.

‘STRINGS ATTACHED’

With the state floundering, Hezbollah, long part of the ruling system, last month announced it was importing fuel oil from Iran, saying it aims to ease the crisis. Its adversaries have said this further undermined the authority of the state and exposed Lebanon to the risk of U.S. sanctions.

Washington designates Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister said on Wednesday that an import permit had not been requested for the fuel shipment.

The United States has been in talks with Egypt and Jordan over a plan to ease Lebanon’s power crisis. The Lebanese presidency has said it involves using Egyptian gas to generate power in Jordan that would be transmitted via Syria, which is under U.S. sanctions including the so-called Caesar act.

“The complication as you know is the transport via Syria,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen. “We are (urgently) looking for ways to address that despite the Caesar act.”

(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Lebanese parliament to discuss fuel crisis on Friday

BEIRUT (Reuters) -The Lebanese parliament will convene on Friday to discuss what to do about a fuel crisis that has brought much of the country to a halt and sparked deadly violence.

Speaker Nabih Berri called the session to discuss “appropriate action” over crippling fuel shortages, a crunch point in a two-year financial meltdown that marks Lebanon’s worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war.

A rocket-propelled grenade was fired near a Beirut petrol station during a dispute over gasoline, a security source said. Gunmen opened fire on soldiers who had detained a man who tried to fill his car by force. The station caught fire.

The steadily worsening fuel crisis has hit a low in the last week, with power blackouts forcing some hospitals, bakeries, and businesses to scale down or close.

A senior U.N. official said water supplies and essential health services were threatened, warning of a humanitarian catastrophe. “A bad situation only stands to get worse unless an instant solution is found,” said Najat Rochdi, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon.

Last week, the central bank announced it could no longer finance imports of gasoline and diesel at heavily discounted exchange rates, effectively ending a subsidy scheme which promises to increase prices sharply.

Governor Riad Salameh has been at odds with the government over the move, as the government says it should have been done only after the provision of prepaid cash cards for the poor.

Salameh has said he can resume subsidizing imports only if a law is passed allowing him to dip into the mandatory reserves.

The crisis has sparked a renewed push by Lebanon’s squabbling politicians to agree on a cabinet that can start tackling the financial crisis, which has depressed the currency by more than 90%.

“We still have a few meters (yards) left in the race, but god willing we are sorting it out appropriately,” Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati said after meeting with President Michel Aoun on Tuesday.

Despite deepening poverty, Lebanon’s ruling elite have failed to form a new cabinet since Prime Minister Hassan Diab quit after last year’s devastating Beirut port explosion.

The past week has seen repeated violence at gas stations. At least 28 people were killed in northern Lebanon at the weekend when a fuel tanker exploded as people rushed to get a share.

Asked about local media reports of two new diesel shipments carrying 80 million liters imported at the previous subsidized rate of 3,900 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, Salameh said they had been pre-approved in July.

The parallel market rate on Tuesday was 18,500 pounds to the dollar.

Local broadcasters MTV and al-Jadeed had reported on Tuesday that a third shipment of gasoline had been rejected by the central bank. Salameh said it would have to abide by a new circular.

“The new circular will determine the price of sayrafa as a base for the dollar [letter of credit],” he said.

Sayrafa is the central bank’s currency exchange platform.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, said on Sunday it would begin bringing diesel and gasoline from Iran with delivery dates to be announced soon.

(Reporting by Nafisa Eltahir, Laila Bassam, and Tom Perry; Editing by Tom Perry and Mark Heinrich)

Life grinds to a halt in Lebanon’s blackouts

By Nafisa Eltahir and Issam Abdallah

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s worsening fuel crisis has reached a painful crunch point, with bakeries, businesses and hospitals either scaling back operations or shutting down completely, making life even harder for Lebanese already enduring a financial meltdown.

As the fuel oil that powers Lebanon has disappeared from the market, Lebanese have sweltered at home in the summer heat without light or AC, routinely tossing out the contents of fridges while having to set aside hours to fill up the car – if increasingly scarce gasoline can be found.

Many say living conditions are worse than during the 1975-90 civil war.

It marks a new low in the financial crisis that erupted in late 2019, the result of decades of corruption and mismanagement by a ruling elite that has failed to find solutions as more than half the population has sunk into poverty.

In the latest policy failure, the government is sparring with the central bank over its decision to end fuel subsidies, a step that would spell sharply higher prices.

While the stand-off continues, importers told Reuters the country faced a huge shortage of fuel.

“During the civil war, even with how horrible it was, there weren’t any power cuts,” said Hassan Khalife, 50, who owns a small barbecue joint near parliament in Beirut.

“The state, which is supposed to take care of its people, is doing the opposite, it’s trying to humiliate us as much as it can,” he said.

Khalife has downgraded from three refrigerators to one, which he powers via a line from a neighbor’s generator that whirrs loudly across the street. “We’ve become used to the sound, it’s like hearing birds or something,” he said.

On Wednesday, Lebanon’s electricity minister told reporters that the country needs 3,000 megawatts of power but only has enough fuel to produce 750. People say they get one or two hours of electricity from the grid per day, if any.

BLACK MARKET

The shortage of fuel, known as mazout, means people can’t run their own generators to fill the gap.

“In the last three days I can’t find mazout at all, neither black market nor white,” says Metri Flouti, who manages generators for buildings in the upscale Ashrafieh neighborhood, and is forced by the heat at home to sleep in his air conditioned office.

Key businesses are having the same problem.

Ali Ibrahim, head of the bakeries union, said some bakeries had been forced to pause this week. “This is people’s food, you can’t play around with it,” he said.

“Hospitals are going day by day, very few have enough for 2 or 3 days,” said Suleiman Haroun, head of the private hospitals union, adding that medical supplies were low and staff lacked petrol to get to work.

Souad Akl, general manager of Alfa Laboratories which produces saline solution and other medical essentials, told Reuters her factory shut down for the first time in almost 50 years this week.

In a city known for its nightlife, Beirut’s downtown and corniche are plunged into darkness, but still draw some escaping the heat at home. “I feel my home is dark, and it gives you depression,” said homemaker Manar Yassine.

She has emptied her fridge and waits to do laundry in the precious hour of electricity from the grid, trying to cut back on generator costs.

Her husband’s once comfortable salary now only covers their generator subscription, internet, and satellite TV. “I look at my kids, and their futures,” she said. “If someone gave us the means to emigrate, of course we would.”

(Additional reporting by Imad Creidi, Writing by Nafisa Eltahir, editing by Tom Perry and Giles Elgood)

Beirut marks year since port blast with demands for justice

By Imad Creidi

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Thousands of Lebanese gathered near the port of Beirut on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of a catastrophic explosion that devastated the city, demanding justice for the victims.

One year since the disaster, caused by a huge quantity of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the port for years, no senior official has been held to account, infuriating many Lebanese as their country also endures financial collapse.

One of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded, the explosion wounded thousands and was felt in Cyprus, more than 240 km (150 miles) away.

An investigation is stalling with requests denied for immunity to be lifted from senior politicians and former officials. All those sought for questioning by the Lebanese investigators have denied any wrongdoing.

“We will not forget and we will not forgive them ever. And if they can’t bring them to account, we will by our own hands,” said Hiyam al-Bikai, dressed in black and clutching a picture of her son, Ahmad, who was killed when masonry fell on his car.

A huge banner on a building overlooking the port said: “Hostages of a Murderous State.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, who has led Western pressure for reform in Lebanon, said its leaders owed the people the truth and heaped new criticism on the governing elite for failing to deal with the economic crisis.

The damage is still visible across much of Beirut. The port resembles a bomb site, its huge wrecked grain silo unrepaired.

Thousands of people, waving Lebanese flags and holding pictures of the dead, had marched towards the port, where prayers are expected to be held just after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), coinciding with the time of the blast.

“We want our rights – the rights of the martyrs and victims. Their immunities are not more dear than the blood of the martyrs and victims,” said Hanan Hoteit, whose relative, Tharwat, was killed at the port.

A Human Rights Watch report released this week concluded there was strong evidence to suggest some Lebanese officials knew about and tacitly accepted the lethal risks posed by ammonium nitrate.

Reuters reported last August that Prime Minister Hassan Diab and President Michel Aoun were both warned in July last year that the chemicals posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if they exploded.

Aoun has said he is ready to testify if needed, and that he supports an impartial investigation.

Diab, who quit after the blast, has said his conscience is clear.

The chemicals arrived on a Russian-leased cargo ship that made an unscheduled stop in Beirut in 2013. An FBI report seen by Reuters last week estimated around 552 tonnes of ammonium nitrate exploded, less than the 2,754 tonnes that arrived.

That discrepancy is one of the many questions that remain unanswered. No one ever came forward to claim the shipment.

PRAYERS

Leading prayers at a hospital that was badly damaged in the blast, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi said the investigation must continue until punishment is meted out to those who deserve it.

Nobody was above the law, he said, and “whoever obstructs justice is a criminal, even if they are highly placed.”

At the time of the explosion, Lebanese were already facing deepening hardship due to the financial crisis caused by decades of state corruption and waste.

The meltdown worsened throughout the last year with the governing elite failing to establish a new cabinet to start tackling the crisis even as poverty has soared and medicines and fuel have run out.

Hosting a donors’ conference for Lebanon, Macron pledged a further 100 million euros ($120 million) in emergency aid and 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. He is trying to raise more than $350 million.

“Lebanese leaders seem to bet on a stalling strategy, which I regret and I think is a historic and moral failure,” he said.

Pope Francis wished Macron success and said donors should help Lebanon “on a path of resurrection.” He said he had a great desire to visit Lebanon, where many had lost “even the illusion of living.”

The state has taken no steps towards reforms that might ease the economic crisis, with the sectarian elite locked in a power struggle over cabinet posts.

(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella at Vatican City and Michel Rose in Paris; Writing By Maha El Dahan/Tom Perry; Editing by Giles Elgood and Angus MacSwan)

Over 71% of Lebanon’s population risks losing access to safe water – UNICEF

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The United Nations warned on Friday that more than four million people in Lebanon, including one million refugees risked losing access to safe water as shortages of funding, fuel and supplies affect water pumping.

“UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks,” a statement by the U.N. body said.

Lebanon is battling an economic meltdown that has propelled more than half of its population into poverty and seen its currency lose over 90% of its value in less than two years.

The financial crisis has translated into severe shortages of basic goods such as fuel and medicine as dollars run dry.

UNICEF said that should the public water supply system collapse, water costs could jump by 200% a month as water would be secured from private water suppliers.

The U.N. agency said it needed $40 million a year to secure the minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance required to keep critical systems operational.

“Unless urgent action is taken, hospitals, schools and essential public facilities will be unable to function,” UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, Yukie Mokuo, was quoted as saying in the statement.

(Reporting By Maha El Dahan; editing by Grant McCool)

‘God help the country’: Hariri abandons bid to form Lebanese government

By Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam

BEIRUT (Reuters) -Lebanese politician Saad al-Hariri abandoned his effort to form a new government on Thursday, dimming hopes of a cabinet being agreed any time soon to start rescuing the country from financial meltdown.

Hariri was designated in October to put together a government following the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet in the wake of the catastrophic Beirut port explosion. Lebanon’s deeply divided politicians have failed to agree despite fears of social unrest over worsening living conditions.

“It is clear we will not be able to agree with his Excellency the President,” Hariri told reporters after meeting President Michel Aoun for barely 20 minutes.

“That is why I excuse myself from government formation and God help the country.”

Lebanon is suffering an economic depression the World Bank has described as one of the most severe in modern history. Its currency has lost more than 90% of its value in less than two years, leading to spiraling poverty and crippling shortages.

Hariri’s decision marks the culmination of months of conflict over cabinet posts between him and Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state who is allied to the Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah.

There is no obvious alternative for the post, which must be filled by a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s sectarian system.

Barring significant changes in the political landscape, politicians and analysts say it now seems very difficult for a government to be formed before parliamentary elections next year, leaving Diab in a caretaker capacity.

Western governments have been piling pressure on Lebanese politicians to form a government that can set about reforming the corrupt state, threatening sanctions and saying financial support will not flow before reforms begin.

Earlier this month, Diab warned that Lebanon was days away from a social explosion, underscoring concerns about social unrest in a country that was shattered by civil war from 1975 to 1990.

Hariri said Aoun had requested fundamental changes to a cabinet line-up he had presented to him on Wednesday. Aoun had told Hariri that they would not be able to agree, Hariri said.

There was no immediate comment from the presidency.

Hariri was designated to form the new government in October. Diab continues in a caretaker capacity.

Aoun will be required to consult MPs over who to designate as a new premier. But analysts doubt that any Sunni politician of standing would accept the role without Hariri’s blessing.

The most influential Sunni politician in Lebanon, Hariri is backed by Lebanon’s Sunni religious establishment and, while his support from Sunni led-Saudi Arabia waned in recent years, he is still backed by other Sunni Arab-led states, including Egypt.

Following the announcement, the Lebanese currency weakened further on the parallel market, where dollars changed hands at more than 20,000 pounds, compared to around 19,000 earlier this morning, a dealer said.

(Reporting By Beirut Bureau, writing by Maha El Dahan/Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra and Philippa Fletcher)