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Saudi Arabia, France partner to provide $76 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Action (KSrelief) signed an MoU with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Agency for Development (AFD) to support humanitarian work in Lebanon, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The combined $76 million aid came to be under the framework of the Saudi-French partnership.

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The agreement was signed by a KSrelief department director Mubarak bin Saeed al-Dossari, the French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Griot, and the AFD Director in Lebanon Gilles Gran-Pierre.

The first phase of aid will include aid in “food, nutrition and health,” SPA reported.

Earlier this month, Lebanon signed a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a 46-month extended fund facility, under which Lebanon has requested access to the equivalent of around $3 billion.

But access to those funds is contingent on enacting a slew of economic reforms and financial sector restructuring.

The currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value, and more than 80 percent of the population now lives below the poverty line.

With the government too poor to afford imports of basic commodities such as medicines, many are struggling to source lifesaving drugs, including those used to treat chronic illnesses.

According to a UNICEF report, more than 50 percent of families were unable to obtain the medicines they needed and at least 58 percent of hospitals reported drug shortages.

Making matters worse, the financial crash has sparked an exodus of healthcare professionals. According to UNICEF, 40 percent of doctors and 30 percent of midwives have left the country.

Saudi Arabia’s aid comes after ties between Lebanon and the Kingdom began to recover following corrective measures applied by Beirut.

Critical comments made by former Information Minister George Kordahi on the war in Yemen in October 2021 led the expulsion of Lebanon’s envoy to the Kingdom, recalling its ambassador and banning all imports from Lebanon, dealing a new blow to the country’s ailing economy.

Other Gulf states that are historical allies of Lebanon, including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, took similar punitive diplomatic measures.

However, the latest replacement of the ambassador comes after Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry responded to appeals from Lebanese politicians and after Mikati said his government was committed to taking the needed measures to enhance ties with Riyadh and the Gulf.

With AFP

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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