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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Saad Hariri was designated to become prime minister for a fourth time. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

BEIRUT — Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Oct. 23, and this weekend.

Almost exactly one year after he resigned in the face of anti-government protests, Saad Hariri was designated to return as prime minister for a fourth time. Hariri secured the support of slightly over half the country’s parliamentarians, with 65 out of 120 votes. He received the votes of his own Future Movement bloc, as well as those of the Amal Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, Tashnag and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. The blocs of Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces withheld their votes from Hariri, but none of them named an alternate candidate. Despite not having publicly voted for him, Hezbollah was understood to have tacitly given its support to his nomination. Hariri promised to get to work immediately on forming a government of experts to address the country’s deepening economic crisis.

A second, larger “revolution fist” appeared in Martyrs’ Square. After the monument was burned Wednesday night by Future Movement supporters, not one but two replacement fists were installed the next morning. One was made by the creator of the original, Tarek Chehab, who had already replaced it once after the first fist was torched by Amal and Hezbollah supporters last November. The other, larger one was funded by Sawt Beirut, an online radio station that our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour reports is associated with Saad Hariri’s brother, Bahaa, who has his own political ambitions.

The US blacklisted two Hezbollah officials overnight, Washington’s latest sanctions against the party and the first since Sep. 17. The US Treasury Department announced that it had designated Nabil Qaouk and Hassan al-Baghdadi, members of the party’s Central Council, as terrorists. In its statement, the US took offense to speeches delivered by the pair. Washington has ramped up its use of targeted sanctions against Hezbollah since Barack Obama became president in 2009, with no tangible weakening of the group since then.

Government formation consultations are set to begin this afternoon with a series of meetings between Saad Hariri and the various political blocs in Parliament. While Hariri promised to move quickly, forming a government in Lebanon is frequently a monthslong process of horse-trading between political parties as they vie over coveted cabinet posts that offer access to state resources and de facto immunity from prosecution. The longest government formation process in recent history was under Tammam Salam beginning in 2013; it took 10 months. The last time Hariri tried, it took him eight.

The Lebanese Army will explain how the government plans to distribute aid to owners of houses damaged in the Beirut port explosion at a press conference this morning. The Higher Relief Committee announced earlier this week that it had transferred LL100 billion to the army to hand out as compensation to victims of the Aug. 4 blast. With the winter rainy season fast approaching, many houses are still in need of repairs, while international aid has thus far covered less than a third of the amount requested in a United Nations-led funding appeal. Also today, the Order of Engineers and Architects will present the final results of its assessment of buildings damaged in the explosion.

Lebanon recorded 1,450 new COVID-19 cases and 16 deaths yesterday, raising the number of active cases to 35,066 and the death toll to 552. UNHCR’s office in Lebanon announced yesterday that 12 ICU beds had been added at Tripoli Governmental Hospital. This raises the country’s total ICU capacity to 279 beds, according to the World Health Organization. 241 of those — 86.4 percent — are occupied; regular hospital beds are 64.9 percent full. Firass Abiad, the head of the lead hospital for coronavirus, has warned that the main limiting factor for capacity is not equipment, but personnel.

Daylight saving time ends Saturday night at 11:59 p.m., when clocks will fall back by one hour. Most European countries will also set their clocks back this weekend, while some other countries, including the United States, Canada, Syria and Jordan, will remain on daylight savings time for one more week. The Gulf countries, Turkey and Egypt do not observe daylight savings.


BEIRUT — Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Oct. 23, and this weekend.

Almost exactly one year after he resigned in the face of anti-government protests, Saad Hariri was designated to return as prime minister for a fourth time. Hariri secured the support of slightly over half the country’s parliamentarians, with 65 out of 120 votes. He received...