In this photo released Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, by the Lebanese Army official website, Lebanese soldiers sit a top armored personnel carriers during a battle against Islamic State militants, on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek, northeast Lebanon. Lebanon's prime minister has visited troops near his country's border with Syria, and said that victory against the Islamic State group is near. Arabic reads, "Army command, the Directorate of Orientation." (Lebanese Army Website via AP)
In this photo released on August 23, 2017, Lebanese soldiers sit atop armoured personnel carriers during a battle against ISIL on the outskirts of Ras Baalbek in northeast Lebanon. Lebanese Army WebsiShow more

Lebanon army declares pause in offensive against ISIL



The Lebanese military announced on Sunday a ceasefire in its battle against ISIL along the north-east border with Syria to allow for negotiations on nine soldiers held hostage by the extremists. It came as the Syrian government said it had reached a surrender deal with ISIL fighters on its side of the border.

“A ceasefire came into effect today at 7am [local time], and that is to make way for the last phase of negotiations on the fate of the kidnapped soldiers,” a statement from the Lebanese military said.

An army spokesman told The National that eight bodies had been recovered from territory retaken from ISIL and were being examined to see if they were any of the missing soldiers.

News of a pause in fighting on the Lebanese side of the border came as Hizbollah announced a ceasefire with ISIL on the Syrian side, in the western Qalamoun region. The Lebanese militant group launched an offensive against the extremists alongside Syrian government forces on August 19, the same day the Lebanese military launched its own operation against ISIL.

The Lebanese army maintains it is not co-ordinating with Hizbollah or the Syrian army, despite the timing of the two offensives.

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Read more: 

Lebanon, Hizbollah, Syria launch parallel offensives to clear ISIL from border

Lebanese residents and Syrian refugees relieved after militants driven from Arsal

Only unity will defeat ISIL in all its forms

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But on Sunday, the Lebanese government was likely to be under increased pressure to co-ordinate with Damascus as Syrian state media announced that Hizbollah and the Syrian government had reached a deal with ISIL fighters inside Syria. The deal allows the extremists to surrender and be transferred to ISIL-held parts of eastern Syria.

Hizbollah media outlets broadcast footage from the Syrian side of the border showing ISIL fighters surrendering to the Lebanese group.

The Lebanese army had previously said there would be no negotiations with ISIL, though Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah suggested in a speech last week that his group might engage in talks with the extremists.

Hizbollah, which has been fighting in Syria’s civil war on behalf of president Bashar Al Assad’s government since 2012, has used its offensive against ISIL as a tool to pressure Lebanese leaders to recognise the legitimacy of the Syrian government. The Lebanese government adopted an official policy of neutrality when the Syrian civil war began six years ago, but a visit by three Lebanese ministers to Damascus earlier this month pointed to a thawing of relations — though it drew condemnation from other Lebanese politicians.

During that visit, Mr Nasrallah said in his speech last week, Damascus stressed that if the Lebanese government wanted to coordinate with it on reaching a deal with ISIL then it "must submit a formal and open request to the Syrian authorities" - something that would force Beirut to recognise Mr Al Assad's legitimacy.

At least six soldiers and reportedly dozens of ISIL militants have been killed in the Lebanese offensive against the extremist group, dubbed by the army "Dawn of the Barrens".

The army had reported slow progress in recent days as it dismantled bombs left behind by ISIL fighters as they retreated.

The fate of nine Lebanese soldiers kidnapped by ISIL in August 2014 during an attack on Lebanese security forces in the northeastern border town of Arsal remains unknown.

ISIL kidnapped 30 soldiers and policemen, of whom four were killed and one died of his wounds. In December 2015, 16 hostages were released as part of a prisoner swap, while nine were still held by ISIL.

Families of the missing soldiers and dozens of media outlets waited near the parliament in Beirut on Sunday after Lebanese General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim announced that the issue would be resolved by the end of the day. By late afternoon, however, there was still no word.

Sixty-two Lebanese soldiers have been killed by ISIL or Syria's former Al Qaeda affiliate in and around Arsal since 2013, the Lebanese army spokesman said.

The Lebanese army offensive against ISIL has been working to drive the group out of its last border footholds in the areas of Jurud Ras Baalbek and Jurud Al Qaa. The army said on Sunday that ground under ISIL control had shrunk from more than 100 square kilometres to about 20 kilometres since fighting began.

Aram Nerguizian, an expert on the Middle East at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said the extremists appeared to be trying to escape by pretending to be civilians.

“Some ISIL fighters appear to be shaving their beards and trying to melt away, either by trying to make it to Arsal (where there is a refugee population they could hide among) on foot or in a bid to make it to Syria via dozens of unmarked pathways,” he said.

In Qaa, one of the towns closest to the offensive, a member of the local council said residents were happy the military campaign appeared to be moving closer to an end, but that people remained wary of attacks by ISIL fighters.

“We heard about some Syrians that escape from Lebanon to Syria and then they will enter Lebanon again after shaving their beards,” said Basheer Matar.

ISIL also threatened to overrun Ras Baalbek and Qaa in 2014, and claimed responsibility for striking Qaa with a series of bombings last year that killed five people.

Last month, a Hizbollah offensive inside Lebanon against former Al Qaeda-affiliated militants resulted in negotiations that saw around 10,000 fighters and refugees return to Syria from the Arsal area. That deal required the Lebanese government to work with the Syrian government, with Mr Ibrahim, the head of Lebanese general security, helping to oversee it.

The deal was also a departure from previous Lebanese government policy toward Syrian refugees, which had held that returns to Syria would only be facilitated by Beirut if they were approved by the United Nations.

There are around 10,000 Syrian refugees living in Qaa, and Mr Matar said he hoped they would also return soon.

“That is the job of the Lebanese government,” Mr Matar said. “We hope they all return to Syria.”

Our legal advisor

Ahmad El Sayed is Senior Associate at Charles Russell Speechlys, a law firm headquartered in London with offices in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Experience: Commercial litigator who has assisted clients with overseas judgments before UAE courts. His specialties are cases related to banking, real estate, shareholder disputes, company liquidations and criminal matters as well as employment related litigation. 

Education: Sagesse University, Beirut, Lebanon, in 2005.

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Company profile

Name: Yabi by Souqalmal 

Started: May 2022, launched June 2023

Founder: Ambareen Musa

Based: Dubai 

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: undisclosed but soon to be announced 

Number of staff: 12 

Investment stage: seed  

Investors: Shuaa Capital

LA LIGA FIXTURES

Thursday (All UAE kick-off times)

Sevilla v Real Betis (midnight)

Friday

Granada v Real Betis (9.30pm)

Valencia v Levante (midnight)

Saturday

Espanyol v Alaves (4pm)

Celta Vigo v Villarreal (7pm)

Leganes v Real Valladolid (9.30pm)

Mallorca v Barcelona (midnight)

Sunday

Atletic Bilbao v Atletico Madrid (4pm)

Real Madrid v Eibar (9.30pm)

Real Sociedad v Osasuna (midnight)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Sarfira

Director: Sudha Kongara Prasad

Starring: Akshay Kumar, Radhika Madan, Paresh Rawal

Rating: 2/5

How does ToTok work?

The calling app is available to download on Google Play and Apple App Store

To successfully install ToTok, users are asked to enter their phone number and then create a nickname.

The app then gives users the option add their existing phone contacts, allowing them to immediately contact people also using the application by video or voice call or via message.

Users can also invite other contacts to download ToTok to allow them to make contact through the app.

 

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE

Director: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah

Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano

Rating: 3.5/5

The biog

From: Upper Egypt

Age: 78

Family: a daughter in Egypt; a son in Dubai and his wife, Nabila

Favourite Abu Dhabi activity: walking near to Emirates Palace

Favourite building in Abu Dhabi: Emirates Palace

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

GOODBYE JULIA

Director: Mohamed Kordofani

Starring: Siran Riak, Eiman Yousif, Nazar Goma

Rating: 5/5

Various Artists 
Habibi Funk: An Eclectic Selection Of Music From The Arab World (Habibi Funk)
​​​​​​​

The stats: 2017 Jaguar XJ

Price, base / as tested Dh326,700 / Dh342,700

Engine 3.0L V6

Transmission Eight-speed automatic

Power 340hp @ 6,000pm

Torque 450Nm @ 3,500rpm

Fuel economy, combined 9.1L / 100km

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Alaan
Started: 2021
Based: Dubai
Founders: Parthi Duraisamy and Karun Kurien
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: $7 million raised in total — $2.5 million in a seed round and $4.5 million in a pre-series A round

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Yango Deli Tech
Based: UAE
Launch year: 2022
Sector: Retail SaaS
Funding: Self funded

Where can I submit a sample?

Volunteers can now submit DNA samples at a number of centres across Abu Dhabi. The programme is open to all ages.

Collection centres in Abu Dhabi include:

  • Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC)
  • Biogenix Labs in Masdar City
  • Al Towayya in Al Ain
  • NMC Royal Hospital in Khalifa City
  • Bareen International Hospital
  • NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain
  • NMC Royal Medical Centre - Abu Dhabi
  • NMC Royal Women’s Hospital.
The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

Company Profile

Company name: Big Farm Brothers

Started: September 2020

Founders: Vishal Mahajan and Navneet Kaur

Based: Dubai Investment Park 1

Industry: food and agriculture

Initial investment: $205,000

Current staff: eight to 10

Future plan: to expand to other GCC markets

Haemoglobin disorders explained

Thalassaemia is part of a family of genetic conditions affecting the blood known as haemoglobin disorders.

Haemoglobin is a substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen and a lack of it triggers anemia, leaving patients very weak, short of breath and pale.

The most severe type of the condition is typically inherited when both parents are carriers. Those patients often require regular blood transfusions - about 450 of the UAE's 2,000 thalassaemia patients - though frequent transfusions can lead to too much iron in the body and heart and liver problems.

The condition mainly affects people of Mediterranean, South Asian, South-East Asian and Middle Eastern origin. Saudi Arabia recorded 45,892 cases of carriers between 2004 and 2014.

A World Health Organisation study estimated that globally there are at least 950,000 'new carrier couples' every year and annually there are 1.33 million at-risk pregnancies.

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.