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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, October 29, 2020

Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

A nurse treats a patient with coronavirus at the Hôtel-Dieu de France hospital. (Credit: Hôtel-Dieu de France/AFP)

Lebanon registered 1,850 new COVID-19 cases, setting a new record for the second day in a row. Twelve more people died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 602. With the Interior Ministry scaling down its localized shutdowns over the past two weeks, governors have taken matters into their own hands. The Mount Lebanon governor yesterday ordered the lockdown of 25 municipalities in the Chouf, while the governor of Baalbeck-Hermel said that he decided to shutdown Deir al-Ahmar and warned that Baalbeck could be closed if cases there continue to mount. As of last night, the World Health Organization said that 245 of the country's 288 ICU beds were full.

Saad Hariri met again with Michel Aoun yesterday evening, the fourth meeting between the pair in the past five days. The president issued a terse statement that cautious progress was made regarding the formation of a new cabinet. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said earlier in the evening that he was optimistic a government would be formed in the coming days, as politicians are wont to do during the haggling process of splitting up the shares of a new cabinet.

A Russian diplomatic delegation visited top Lebanese leaders yesterday to discuss an upcoming conference organized by Moscow on the return of Syrian refugees. Following a meeting with Michel Aoun, Moscow’s point man for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev said he hopes Lebanon will attend the conference, which is scheduled to take place Nov. 11-12 in Damascus. The Lebanese president, meanwhile, reiterated his oft-repeated calls for the speedy repatriation of Syrian refugees, claiming they were causing an economic burden on the country. Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, are among the most vocal of the political elite who attempt to blame problems in Lebanon on refugees.

The Beirut Bar Association filed hundreds of criminal complaints yesterday on behalf of the relatives of the victims of the Aug. 4 port explosion. The association announced in a statement that it submitted over 679 criminal complaints to the Judicial Council’s public prosecutor. Hundreds more cases will be filed in the coming days, the bar association added. In a press conference yesterday, a spokesperson for the families of the victims of the blast called for a fair and transparent investigation into those culpable for the devastating explosion, including “previous and current ministers who should be held accountable.” Officials have yet to hold anyone responsible for the blast that killed at least 204 people.

The Federation of Bakeries Syndicates announced yesterday that while it was committed to supplying bread, it was ready to go on strike on Nov. 4. Federation Vice President Ali Ibrahim called on relevant officials, as well the country’s president, parliamentary speaker and caretaker premier, to intervene to resolve the issue of the contentious fines against bakeries. He had claimed that the Economy Ministry under Minister Mansour Bteich in 2019 levied fines for political reasons.

Maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel will continue today at UNIFIL’s headquarters in Naqoura. Both sides presented maps at the talks yesterday that proposed borders that increased the size of the territory in dispute, Reuters reported. Outside the negotiations, a TV crew from the state-operated Télé Liban was assaulted by a group of men in civilian garb in an incident denounced by the caretaker information minister. Nabih Berri, who helped prepare the framework agreement for the negotiations, insisted yesterday that the negotiations aimed to secure Lebanon’s rights to potential hydrocarbon reserves and not to normalize relations with Israel.

Today Lebanon marks the Prophet’s birthday, a holiday observed this year under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, deteriorating living conditions and political paralysis. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian talked politics in his address for the occasion, labeling Saad Hariri’s efforts to form a new government “an opportunity everyone should seize.” Higher Islamic Shiite Council head Sheikh Abdel-Amir Qabalan called for speeding up the formation of a government to prevent social and economic collapse.


Lebanon registered 1,850 new COVID-19 cases, setting a new record for the second day in a row. Twelve more people died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 602. With the Interior Ministry scaling down its localized shutdowns over the past two weeks, governors have taken matters into their own hands. The Mount Lebanon governor yesterday ordered the lockdown of 25 municipalities in...