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Rage in the streets on port explosion anniversary, Israeli airstrikes, international donors pledge help: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, Aug. 5 

Rage in the streets on port explosion anniversary, Israeli airstrikes,  international donors pledge help:  Everything you need to know today

Protesters face off against security forces near the entrance to Lebanon's Parliament building in downtown Beirut on Aug. 4, 2021. (Credit: Joao Sousa)

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Beirut lit candles and threw Molotovs on the one-year anniversary of the Beirut port explosion. On Wednesday, thousands of Lebanese, including families of some of the 218 people killed by the blast, commemorated the grim anniversary with a minute of silence and prayers at the foot of the silos shattered by the explosion. Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marched on central Beirut, chanting against the country's political elite and calling for immunity to be lifted from top officials. The Lebanese Army posted photos of assault rifles, grenades, and walkie-talkies to Twitter, claiming that they had been confiscated from young men from different areas of the country allegedly headed to the protests in Beirut. In the evening, clashes between protesters and security forces escalated in downtown Beirut, with demonstrators throwing rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at the empty seat of Parliament, and security forces firing volleys of tear gas into the crowd. According to the Lebanese Red Cross, 13 people were transported to hospitals after being injured in downtown Beirut and Gemmayze, and 71 were treated at the scene.

Israeli jets launched airstrikes in south Lebanon overnight after skirmishes on the border Wednesday. A spokesperson for the Israeli military claimed in a tweet that its warplanes had targeted the sources of rockets fired from Lebanese territory as well as “infrastructure used for terror.” Three rockets were reportedly fired from Lebanon at occupied Palestine Wednesday, of which two landed across the border, and Israeli forces responded with artillery fire. The Lebanese Army said in a statement that the “artillery of the Israeli enemy” had fired 92 shells at different locations in south Lebanon. The head of UNIFIL's mission encouraged all parties to "cease fire and to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation." No group has claimed responsibility for the rockets launched from Lebanon, and no injuries or casualties were reported.

In a conference organized by the French along with the United Nations, international donors pledged an additional $370 million in help to Lebanon. The videoconference, in which some 33 states and 13 international organizations took place, was held on the anniversary of the Beirut port explosion to gather aid for the ongoing recovery operations in the devastated city. In addition to the $370 million in monetary aid, Macron's office stated that the donors will give "significant in-kind support," including 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations that France will donate this month. While offering support for Lebanon, the donors had harsh words for Lebanese leaders, who have stalled on forming a government or making reforms, and Macron once again raised the spectre of European sanctions against Lebanese officials.

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said that Lebanon will receive about $860 million in Special Drawing Rights, an asset created by the IMF to supplement member countries’ reserves. “Over the past year, we have been available for the Lebanese authorities, but let me be very honest: engagement is severely constrained by the absence of an effective government,” Georgieva said in a statement. “So, let me again urge Lebanon’s political leaders to coalesce around a new government that has the will and the mandate to implement reforms.” She also called​ on international and domestic partners to work with the IMF to help ensure transparency and accountability in how the allocation is spent. While the funding is much-needed, observers have expressed skepticism as to whether it will be properly used, and have called for it to go to essential infrastructure and social safety net programs.

Michel Aoun and Najib Mikati are expected to meet today in Baabda to discuss the government formation process. Earlier this week, the president and prime minister-designate met for less than half an hour to discuss the government formation process but did not reach a deal. Mikati commented on Monday that he had hoped a cabinet would be formed by Aug. 4, but the president “had other engagements.”


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Beirut lit candles and threw Molotovs on the one-year anniversary of the Beirut port explosion. On Wednesday, thousands of Lebanese, including families of some of the 218 people killed by the blast, commemorated the grim anniversary with a minute of silence and prayers at the foot of the silos shattered by the explosion. Meanwhile,...