Al-Rai's decisive stance on Army Chief's term amid south situation

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2023-11-06 | 01:04
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Al-Rai's decisive stance on Army Chief's term amid south situation
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Al-Rai's decisive stance on Army Chief's term amid south situation

After a relatively long absence from Lebanon, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Al-Rai has returned to the local scene, particularly concerning extending the term of Army Chief General Joseph Aoun.

This article was originally published in and translated from Lebanese newspaper Nidaa al-Watan. 
His decisive stance, as declared in his Sunday sermon, aimed to end the attempt led by Gebran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, and Sleiman Frangieh, Leader of the Marada Movement, to obstruct the extension.

To distance the Patriarch's position from personalization, the Maronite Church's leader was keen to communicate his stance on the presidential vacancy to General Aoun during their meeting.

The Patriarch praised the performance of the military institution after expressing his respect for the General.

During their meeting, Al-Rai discussed the security situation in the South, the issue of displaced people, and the Army's role in maintaining security within the country.

The Patriarch expressed his absolute support for the Army Chief and his rejection of the leadership vacuum extending into his position.

He emphasized his desire for the extension of General Aoun's term and the use of all legal means to achieve it.

He also stressed that this issue should not be subject to any trade-offs with other matters, regardless of their significance, as it is unacceptable for the leadership vacuum to affect the military institution, especially during the region's ongoing conflicts.

Furthermore, he underscored that the leadership vacuum in the Army, particularly for the Maronite community, is a red line. An agreement was reached between the Patriarch and General Aoun to continue their communication in the upcoming phase.

Al-Rai then said, "It is truly disgraceful to hear talk of dismissing the Army Chief at the most critical stage in Lebanon's life, its security, stability, and international relations."

However, sources said the Patriarch's stance reflects his meeting with Bassil.

The latter did not hesitate to openly express his rejection of extending the term of the Army Chief, stating, "Our ministers and the ministers of Frangieh refuse the extension. If they are overridden, it would be an unethical act."

Bassil's position seemed like an attempt to deprive the Maronite community of the second most important position in the country, which is the leadership of the Army, especially after it lost the presidency last year.

Moreover, sources indicated that the Patriarch emphasized in his sermon that the position of Army Chief is associated explicitly with the Maronites and that, in the absence of a president, Bkerki should be the reference for deciding on this matter.

However, observers pointed out that all eyes will turn to the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, to convince Frangieh to have his ministers participate in the government session for the extension, as it has become clear that the extension is within the authority of the Council of Ministers.

They further noted that what gives the extension added significance is that Qatar links the aid it currently provides to the Army to the presence of Joseph Aoun at the helm of the military institution. This aid includes $30 million in fuel and $100 per month for each individual in the military institution.

On the other hand, the southern issue was present during the tour of the Caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, over the past weekend.

The tour included meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Jordan's King Abdullah II, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the Jordanian capital.

However, sources explained that there are efforts to establish a ceasefire before the Arab League summit. Still, it's not yet known whether these efforts will result in a humanitarian ceasefire or a comprehensive cessation of hostilities.

They pointed out that Lebanon is still within the category of "fragile neutrality," marred by the hostilities witnessed in the South.

However, this neutrality faced a critical test on Sunday after an Israeli shelling led to the death of four members of the same family, including the sister of journalist Samir Ayoub and her three grandchildren (14, 12, and 10 years old). The journalist who was driving his car on the Ainata-Aitaroun road near Bint Jbeil was also injured. Members of his sister's family were traveling behind him in another car.

The crime of killing members of journalist Ayoub's family sparked an intense internal outcry, including positions from Speaker Berri and PM Mikati.

Consequently, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib has initiated "the preparation of an urgent new complaint to the Security Council," which will be presented Monday "in response to Israel's crime in Ainata against the innocent children and family," as Bou Habib stated.

Furthermore, four paramedics were injured in an Israeli shelling on two ambulances Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah stated the "heinous and atrocious crime," announcing "the launching of several Grad (Katyusha) rockets at the Kiryat Shmona settlement." The statement added: "The Islamic Resistance affirms that it will never tolerate harming civilians, and its response will be firm and strong."

On the Israeli side, the media announced "the killing of an Israeli civilian in an anti-tank missile attack launched from Lebanon on a location near the northern kibbutz of Yiftah" Sunday.
 
Amidst this troubled southern scene on the ground, Hezbollah's Secretary-General, Hassan Nasrallah, will appear at 3 p.m. next Saturday on the occasion of the "Party's Martyrs' Day," which he commemorates annually on this day.

While waiting to understand Nasrallah's positions regarding the developments on the southern front, his new appearance comes a week after the Friday speech honoring the "Party's" martyrs in the southern confrontation linked to the Gaza war.
 

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