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BEIRUT: Several independent lawmakers, reformists and opposition parties urged Lebanon’s interim government on Monday to declare a state of emergency in southern Lebanon and hand over control to the army.

They asked parliament to adopt a “roadmap to untangle and spare Lebanon from a war that the Lebanese do not want and the official legitimate Lebanese institutions have not chosen to fight.”

Member of Parliament Ashraf Rifi called for immediate action to stop all “unauthorized military activity and its apparatus” in southern Lebanon.

Speaking on behalf of the group at a press conference held by the representatives, Rifi also said that the Lebanese Armed Forces must be deployed to counter any threat.

The representatives urged the government to step up diplomatic steps in order to return to the armistice agreement signed in 1949 and to fully implement UN Resolution No. 1701.

Their appeal comes amid fears of a military escalation by Israel against Hezbollah in the region.

According to Rifi, the ongoing war has cost “hundreds of Lebanese lives, thousands of destroyed housing units, in addition to the economic and environmental damage caused by daily Israeli attacks.”

He said he and his fellow MPs were “strongly opposed to Lebanon’s involvement in a war it has nothing to do with, and they (represent) the majority of Lebanese”.

Rifi emphasized the need to “separate the Lebanese and Palestinian tracks regarding the events in Gaza.”

He added: “We strongly condemn Israel’s actions at all levels, including systematic killing, displacement of people and colonization.

“We want to protect our country and prevent it from being dragged into a wider war that has no other purpose than to strengthen Iran’s position in the regional equation, does not serve the Palestinian cause, and destroys Lebanon.

“We do not accept the imposition of the logic of the unity of the arenas by armed groups operating in Lebanese territory, whether local or foreign, which the majority of Lebanese reject, as it brings Arab and international enmity to Lebanon. communities, the latest being Cyprus and the EU.”

He also emphasized the importance of the 1701 The UN resolution should be implemented by all parties, the Lebanese army and security institutions should be supported in controlling the international borders in the south, east and north, as well as in the implementation of the 1559, 1680 and other international borders. international treaties and the provisions of the related Taif Agreement.”

Rifi called on the opposition representatives to “convene a parliamentary debate on the ongoing war in the south and its possible escalation, and to support the points of the initiative they put forward.”

The call came as UNIFIL and several other organizations met in Shama to discuss security and support for communities affected by the fighting in southern Lebanon.

According to UNIFIL, the needs of displaced people are “great and require a comprehensive approach”.

They added that the meeting was strongly supported by UNIFIL Western Sector Commander, Brig. General Enrico Fontana, who emphasized “the importance of complementarity between humanitarian organizations and UNIFIL in efforts to support the displaced and remaining communities in southern Lebanon.”

Fontana talked about the development of basic services such as waste management, water, electricity and education.

He said there was a noticeable increase in demand for firefighting equipment, humanitarian aid, health services and medicine.

The meeting was attended by five UN agencies, a representative of the Humanitarian Forum of International Non-Governmental Organizations in Lebanon and 11 international NGOs, including Mouvement Social, Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Save the Children and American East Refugee Aid.

Three national non-governmental organizations – the Imam Sadr Foundation, NUSANED, Najee and the International Committee of the Red Cross – also participated.

In another development, a senior Arab League official confirmed that the bloc “no longer classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

This was announced by Hossam Zaki, the league’s deputy general secretary, in a televised statement broadcast by Al-Cahira news television on Saturday evening.

Zaki, who visited Lebanese officials last week, said that “past decisions by the Arab League classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which led to a breakdown in communication. However, the agreement of the member countries not to use this language made communication with the party possible.”

The Arab League “does not have official terrorist lists, and its efforts do not include the designation of entities as terrorist organizations,” Zaki said.

In March 2016, the Arab League classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and “urged them to stop promoting extremism and sectarianism, interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and supporting terrorism in the region”.

The decision was met with reservations by the Lebanese and Iraqi governments.

Zaki’s visit to Lebanon last week, aimed at containing the escalation in the south, also included talks with the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Raad.

Also on Monday, Israeli planes violated Lebanese airspace over Beirut and its suburbs, as well as Mount Lebanon.

Three members of Hezbollah were also killed in an Israeli strike targeting a house in the border town of Houla.

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