Gulf states pledge millions of dollars to help Lebanon

DUBAI (AP) — Governments of three Gulf states have pledged a total of $90 million (72 million euros) in immediate aid to Lebanon to help it deal with the humanitarian consequences of Israel’s air strikes.

Newspapers in the Gulf region have accused the United States of giving Israel the go-ahead for its offensive in Lebanon, which began after Hizbollah fighters grabbed two Israeli soldiers at a border outpost last Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait pledged aid to Lebanon on Sunday and Monday after Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said that Israel’s relentless bombardment had turned his country into a disaster zone.

In Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, the headquarters of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference said the secretary general, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, had sent messages to the heads of state of the 57 member nations urging them to both help Lebanon financially and to lobby the permanent members of the UN Security Council in favour of a ceasefire resolution.

Lebanese Finance Minister Jihad Azour was quoted in the Beirut press Monday as saying the government would open a special account for donations from Arab countries to rebuild the country’s destroyed housing and infrastructure.

The president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed Al Nahayan, pledged $20 million (16 million euros) for medicine and relief “to help alleviate the sufferings of the Lebanese people who have been under Israeli attack for days,” the official emirates news agency WAM quoted Sheikh Khalifa as saying. The Abu Dhabi Red Crescent has begun transferring aid to the Lebanese Red Cross for the purchase of medicine, blankets and temporary shelter materials, said Red Crescent spokesman Abdul Rahman Tenaiji in Abu Dhabi.

“Wherever urgent help is needed, we are providing support,” Tenaiji told the Associated Press. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah pledged $50 million (40 million euros) and Kuwait added another $20 million (16 million euros) for Lebanon. Kuwait’s Red Crescent Society said Monday it was starting a collection campaign for Lebanon.

In the emirates, the Gulf Today newspaper said Washington’s support for Israel was boosting the brutality of its offensive in Lebanon. “Israel is taking America’s benign silence as an approval of its savage action. It is unfortunate that the US is not realising the seriousness of the situation,” the paper wrote.

In Gulf News, an opinion piece by Jihad Khazen accused Washington of giving Israel the “green light” to use “Nazi-like collective punishment” to kill women and children in Lebanon in the name of self-defence.

Gulf newspapers also excoriated Israel for its campaign in Lebanon, which has killed nearly 200 people, mostly civilians,  in the past six days. Another 24 people have been killed in Israel, which Lebanese fighters have been bombarding with rockets. The Khaleej Times, based in Dubai, said the United Nations looked ridiculous when it focused on missile talks with North Korea while Lebanon was under bombardment.

“For God’s sake, when will the world body get its priorities right?” the paper asked.

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