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Morning Brief

Terrorism charges, oil spill damage, vaccine registration concerns: Everything you need to know this Tuesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Terrorism charges, oil spill damage, vaccine registration concerns: Everything you need to know this Tuesday

Hussein Hamza, a Lebanese environmental activist, shows off his hands covered with tar-soaked sand at the Sur Nature Reserve on Monday after a massive tar slick contaminated beaches from Gaza to Lebanon. (Credit: Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

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A prosecutor at the Military Tribunal charged 35 Tripoli protesters with terrorism-related offenses. Ayman Raad, an attorney representing protesters, told L’Orient Today that, to his knowledge, this is the first time such charges have been handed down at least since mass demonstrations broke out in October 2019 against Lebanon’s ruling elite. The charges carry a maximum penalty of death. The defendants stand accused of committing crimes during last month’s protests — at times violent — against COVID-19 lockdown measures that exacerbated the state’s failure to provide economic security to residents of the northern capital.

An oil spill that has ravaged the coast of occupied Palestine for several days reached the shores of south Lebanon. Outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab urged authorities "to act accordingly to repair the damage,” which has afflicted large swaths of coast around Sur and Naqoura. The National Council for Scientific Research collected samples from beaches to draw up a report on the extent of the damage to coastal and maritime resources. The catastrophe was the result of “dozens to hundreds of tons” of oil leaking from a ship, according to initial indications from Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry.

The families of Lebanese students at foreign universities renewed protests against commercial banks and Banque du Liban. Dozens of demonstrators blocked the road in front of the central bank’s headquarters in Hamra as part of a protest calling for the implementation of a law that allows them to transfer dollars abroad. Protesters then held demonstrations in front of Fransabank and Credit Libanais branches in Hamra, prompting security forces to intervene and escort employees out of the banks, local media reported.

Lebanon registered 1,541 more cases of COVID-19 as health experts lamented low vaccine registration outside Beirut and Mount Lebanon. More than 700,000 people have registered, about half of whom are from Mount Lebanon, a sixth from Beirut and a tenth from North Lebanon, with the rest scattered across Lebanon’s other provinces. Firass Abiad, the head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, bemoaned the low rate, tweeting that more needs to be done to make registration accessible to those without phones or lacking digital literacy. With over 17,000 Pfizer vaccines administered up to this point, no major reactions to the inoculation have been reported, according to Abdul Rahman Bizri, the head of the national vaccine committee.

MPs will meet today to discuss a proposed World Bank social safety net program. Parliamentarians from committees covering finance, health and social affairs will convene at 10 a.m. to scrutinize the $246 million loan project approved by the World Bank last month. The lion’s share of the money would go as direct cash assistance to support 147,000 vulnerable families for one year. However, the proposal has hit snags over legality and implementation. As with all loans to the state, Parliament must approve the proposed arrangement.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.A prosecutor at the Military Tribunal charged 35 Tripoli protesters with terrorism-related offenses. Ayman Raad, an attorney representing protesters, told L’Orient Today that, to his knowledge, this is the first time such charges have been handed down at least since mass demonstrations broke out in October 2019 against Lebanon’s...