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Russia to help Lebanese army

BEIRUT | Russia will provide the Lebanese army with free helicopters, tanks and munitions in a deal that will boost the country’s poorly equipped military, officials said Tuesday.

The announcement comes at a time when military assistance to Lebanon is under scrutiny after U.S. lawmakers demanded assurances that U.S. aid will not fall into the hands of Hezbollah.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the Russian aid includes six helicopters, 31 tanks, 130 mm cannon shells and about a half-million different munitions for medium-sized weapons and artillery shells. The statement, which followed Mr. Hariri’s talks in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, did not say when the aid would be delivered.

Lebanon’s 60,000-strong military has long been poorly equipped and has virtually no air force … except for about 30 unarmed helicopters and several 1950s-era British-made Hawker Hunter jets … and no effective air-defense system. Archenemy Israel routinely flies reconnaissance missions over Lebanon unchallenged.

The news about the Russian aid came just days after two key members of the U.S. Congress released their holds on $100 million in U.S. military aid to the Lebanese army.

SAUDI ARABIA

Pilgrims stone the ‘devil’ as Muslims celebrate Eid

MINA | A human tide of pilgrims, put at nearly 2.8 million, descended Tuesday on the Mina valley carrying bags of pebbles to symbolically stone Satan on the third day of the hajj as Muslims worldwide marked the Eid al-Adha festival.

Small pebbles whizzed above heads as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims rushed to stone Jamarat al-Aqaba, at 100 feet the longest of three walls said to symbolize the devil, also referred to as Ibleess by Muslims.

Pilgrims taking part in this year’s hajj, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage, had arrived overnight at Mina, a tent town in western Saudi Arabia that comes to life five days a year, after returning from rituals marking the high point of the hajj at nearby Mount Arafat on Monday.