Hundreds of foreign domestic workers demonstrated in the Lebanese capital to demand the scrapping of a sponsorship system that they complain leaves them open to abuse from employers.
Lebanon hosts more than 250,000 registered domestic workers, the vast majority of them women, from countries including Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.
They are excluded from the labor law, and instead obtain legal residency through their employers’ sponsorship under the so-called “kafala” system.
The protesters marching in Beirut held up placards reading “No to slavery and yes to justice” and “Stop kafala.”
“We want the cancellation of this system. There are employees imprisoned in houses and they need to have days off,” Dozossissane, a 29-year-old Ethiopian, told AFP.
Lebanon’s labor ministry introduced a standard contract for domestic workers in 2009, but the forms are often written in Arabic, a language many cannot read.
Activists regularly accuse the authorities of failing to take claims of abuse seriously, with maids, and nannies left at the mercy of employers.
Amnesty International last month urged Lebanon to end what it called the “inherently abusive” migration sponsorship system and change the labor law to offer domestic workers more protection.
A report from the rights group that surveyed 32 domestic workers revealed “alarming patterns of abuse,” including physical punishments, humiliating treatment and food deprivation.
A deadly surge in violence in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel petered out overnight and Palestinian officials reported that Egypt had mediated a truce early on Monday.
The latest round of fighting erupted three days ago, peaking on Sunday when rockets and missiles from Gaza killed four civilians in Israel, and Israeli strikes killed 19 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians.
Two Palestinian officials and a TV station belonging to Hamas, Gaza’s rulers, said a ceasefire had been reached at 0430 a.m. (0130 GMT), apparently stopping the violence from broadening into a conflict which neither side seemed keen on fighting.
Israeli officials did not comment on whether a truce had been reached, but the military said that protective restrictions in place on residents of southern Israel since the fighting began were being lifted.
Israel’s military said that more than 600 rockets and other projectiles – over 150 of them intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system – had been fired at southern Israeli cities and villages since Friday. It said it attacked about 320 targets belonging to Gaza militant groups.
But the violence — the most serious border clashes since a spate of fighting in November — appeared to abate early on Monday.
Rocket sirens in southern Israel, which had gone off continuously over the weekend, sending residents running for cover, were quite for a few hours straight before dawn. Israel’s military reported no new air strikes in Gaza.
Egypt and the United Nations, who have served as brokers in the past, had been trying to mediate a truce.
The violence began two days ago when a sniper from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad fired at Israeli troops, wounding two soldiers, according to the Israeli military.
Islamic Jihad accused Israel of delaying implementation of previous understandings brokered by Egypt in an effort to end violence and ease blockaded Gaza’s economic hardship.
This time, Israeli strategic affairs analysts said, both Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants appeared to believe they had some leverage to press for concessions from Israel, where independence day celebrations begin on Wednesday.
Some two million Palestinians live in Gaza, the economy of which has suffered years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades as well as recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ West Bank-based rival.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to stop weapons reaching Hamas, with which it has fought three wars since the group seized control of Gaza in 2007, two years after Israel withdrew its settlers and troops from the area
Nineteen Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip and four people were killed in Israel on Sunday, Palestinian and Israeli authorities said, during the most serious escalation since a 2014 war.
Israel carried out a series of strikes in response to rocket barrages fired from the Hamas-run territory.
In total 19 Palestinians were killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza on Sunday, the enclave’s health ministry said.
The ministry said among those killed on Sunday were a pregnant woman and a four-month-old baby. The Israeli military declined to comment on the claim.
At least six of those killed were confirmed to be militants affiliated with the Palestinian territory’s leaders Hamas or the allied Islamic Jihad group.
On the Israeli side four civilians were killed as Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired barrages of rockets and at least one anti-tank missile from the enclave, Israeli authorities said.
Three of the dead were identified by authorities as Israeli citizens, with the nationality of the fourth not announced.
Israeli targets included internal security headquarters in the Palestinian enclave, an interior ministry statement said.
The building in Gaza City was destroyed, the statement said.
Rocket fire and Israeli strikes continued Sunday evening.