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Morning Brief

MPs’ interrogations scheduled, threat against Bitar, gasoline deliveries: What to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, Sept. 22

MPs’ interrogations scheduled, threat against Bitar, gasoline deliveries: What to know today

Three sitting MPs, who are also former ministers, have been summoned to appear before Tarek Bitar in the 2020 Beirut port explosion probe at the end of next week. (Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

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Judge Tarek Bitar scheduled interrogations for three sitting MPs yesterday in relation to the Beirut port explosion probe. MP and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk is scheduled to appear for questioning before the port probe’s head on Sept. 30, while MP and former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and MP and former Public Works Minister Ghazi Zeaiter are scheduled to appear on Oct. 1. The MPs’ legal immunity is currently lifted until Parliament’s next session convenes on Oct. 19, unless President Michel Aoun and Premier Najib Mikati convene the legislature in an extraordinary session. Bitar’s previous efforts to interrogate the trio of former ministers were disrupted by Parliament’s stalling tactics around voting on whether to lift their immunity. Although the interrogation dates are now set, it remains to be seen whether — unlike others who have been summoned, including former Premier Hassan Diab — any of the MPs will present for questioning.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s security chief, Wafic Safa, reportedly targeted Bitar with threats. A judicial source confirmed to our sister publication, L’Orient-Le Jour, that Safa had told Bitar, “We have had enough of you. We will go to the end of the legal path, and if that does not work, we will remove you by force.” Hezbollah’s spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment, but the party’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has been increasingly vocal in recent weeks about his dissatisfaction with Bitar, accusing the judge of political bias and suggesting that he should be removed from the case if he does not alter his approach.

A widespread increase in the state-power supply is still weeks away despite the recent arrival of a ship carrying 31,000 tons of fuel procured through a deal with Iraq. According to a source from Electricité du Liban, Lebanon will have to wait for the arrival of a second shipment of fuel secured under the deal, expected at the end of this month, or even a third shipment before the country experiences an increase in the number of hours of state-provided electricity. While residents are currently receiving only a few hours of state electricity, the fuel procured under the deal is expected to increase supply to six to seven hours a day, according to Marc Ayoub, an energy researcher, who also told L’Orient Today that the deal with Iraq can help meet only 25–30 percent of Lebanon’s power plants’ needs.

Two weeks’ supply of gasoline, or more than 100 million liters, was offloaded from tankers anchored offshore yesterday, according to gas station owners’ syndicate spokesperson Georges Brax. The fuel will be distributed to gas stations today and is expected to reduce motorists’ queuing time as many stations are resupplied and reopened. Paralyzing fuel shortages have persisted despite a partial end to fuel subsidies earlier this month and a dramatic hike in fuel prices last week, which many contended would reduce the shortages.

Army Intelligence in Tripoli yesterday dismantled a terrorist cell that the army said was affiliated with the Islamic State. According to a Lebanese Army statement, the cell began activity in June and was responsible for the assassination of retired first adjutant Ahmad Mrad in August. Army Intelligence also confiscated weapons and ammunition that it said were owned by the cell. ISIS has not released a statement commenting on the dismantlement.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Judge Tarek Bitar scheduled interrogations for three sitting MPs yesterday in relation to the Beirut port explosion probe. MP and former Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk is scheduled to appear for questioning before the port probe’s head on Sept. 30, while MP and former Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and MP and former Public...