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MORNING BRIEF

Hezbollah and Amal protest blast probe, lira in freefall, training plane crash: What to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, Oct. 14

Hezbollah and Amal protest blast probe, lira in freefall, training plane crash: What to know today

Search-and-rescue operations are underway after a small training plane crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of northern Lebanon on Oct. 13. (Credit: Issam Abdallah/Reuters)

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Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have called on their supporters to protest near the Justice Palace today at 11 a.m. “to demand the end of the politicization of the Beirut port blast probe.” The probe was suspended yet again on Tuesday after officials lodged a complaint calling for the lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar, to be removed from the case, and his future as investigator has been the subject of heated debate since then. Officials aligned with politicians Bitar has attempted to bring in for questioning — who include Amal Movement MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaitar — have called for his removal and accused him of partiality and of politicizing the probe. The cabinet was set to meet to discuss the port investigation yesterday but indefinitely postponed its session until the ministers agree on how they should proceed on the question of whether Bitar should be replaced. A cabinet session the day before was suddenly adjourned midway through, reportedly for similar reasons. Meanwhile, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has called for a “peaceful general closure” should Bitar be removed “by force.” However, it was unclear whether he would call for a counterprotest against Hezbollah and Amal’s planned demonstration.

For the first time since August, the lira exchanged at a rate of about LL20,500 to the US dollar yesterday morning, exchangers told L’Orient Today. The lira’s value was last this weak in mid-August. It had risen sharply against the greenback in the immediate aftermath of the formation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government in September, trading at less than LL15,000 to the dollar on the parallel market. The currency’s value has been declining since then, trading at about LL17,000 at the beginning of October.

A search-and-rescue operation is ongoing for two men who were on board a training plane that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea yesterday morning off Lebanon’s northern coast. Speaking with L’Orient Today on Thursday morning, Lebanese Army Col. Ibrahim Akoury said a rescue team had made no findings. “We sent the team again early in the morning today, and we are proceeding with the search-and-rescue mission,” he said. Members of the Civil Defense and naval forces were also dispatched to help search for the men, who according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had been on a plane belonging to Aeroclub of Lebanon that took off from the Beirut airport around 10 a.m. heading toward Jbeil, and then disappeared from air navigation radar screens at 10:24 a.m.

A strike by Rafik Hariri University Hospital’s administrative staff over their salaries’ deterioration has been suspended after nine days, with all departments reopening, the hospital’s management said in a statement. The employees had demanded a three-month advance on their salaries and for 30 percent of them to be paid in so-called fresh dollars. However, not all their demands were met, particularly regarding salaries, one of the strikers told L’Orient Today. Most local health care employees’ salaries are set in lira and have not been adjusted for soaring inflation, despite the national currency losing more than 90 percent of its value since it started plummeting from the official peg of about LL1,500 to the dollar. 


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Hezbollah and the Amal Movement have called on their supporters to protest near the Justice Palace today at 11 a.m. “to demand the end of the politicization of the Beirut port blast probe.” The probe was suspended yet again on Tuesday after officials lodged a complaint calling for the lead investigator, Judge Tarek Bitar, to be...