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Geagea on Tayyouneh violence, cabinet still suspended, veterans’ protests: All you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Oct. 22, and this weekend

Geagea on Tayyouneh violence, cabinet still suspended, veterans’ protests: All you need to know today

Flags of the Lebanese Forces are hung in the Furn al-Shubbak neighborhood of Beirut. (Credit: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

Samir Geagea rebutted reports that he has been summoned before a military court in relation to the Tayyouneh clashes. Speaking during a televised interview, the Lebanese Forces leader proffered that he would be willing to give a statement if Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah were called to testify first. Reports had surfaced earlier in the day claiming that Geagea had been summoned to testify about the Tayyouneh violence; Reuters cited anonymous sources who said a military court was preparing to issue a summons for Geagea but did not give a timeline. In the interview, Geagea said he would not object to the Tayyouneh file being referred to the judiciary, but added that “the important thing is that they investigate in an objective and impartial manner.” Last week’s Tayyouneh violence erupted as Hezbollah and Amal Movement supporters were gathering for a protest against the Beirut blast probe and its lead investigator, Tarek Bitar. It left seven people dead and more than 30 wounded, and sparked fears that the situation could devolve into outright sectarian warfare. Hezbollah accused LF sympathizers of firing the first shot, though the LF has denied any involvement.

Cabinet meetings remain indefinitely suspended amid a standoff between political blocs over the future of the 2020 port blast investigation and its head, Judge Tarek Bitar. A source close to Najib Mikati told L’Orient Today that the prime minister is hesitant to call the ministers back to a session because those aligned with Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, who oppose the probe, would likely boycott it until a decision is reached on the probe and investigator. According to the source, Mikati believes the matter should be left for the Higher Judicial Council and not cabinet. A Presidential Palace source told L’Orient Today that Michel Aoun supports Mikati’s stance. Cabinet has not met for more than a week, since its last session was abruptly adjourned and a subsequent meeting suspended due to the dispute over the blast probe’s future.

Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi vowed yesterday to ramp up the government’s efforts to combat the trafficking of drugs and other illegal goods. During a visit to the Beirut airport, Mawlawi said that “every deficit in the elements of airport protection, or any act of smuggling, harms Lebanon’s reputation.” Lebanese officials have paid lip service to the issue of smuggling since Saudi Arabia earlier this year banned Lebanese fruit and vegetable exports supposedly because it seized more than 5 million captagon pills smuggled in a pomegranate shipment from the land of the cedars. The ongoing ban has hit the agriculture sector hard, and a similar move from another importer of Lebanese goods could spell disaster for a country already on the precipice of total financial collapse.

Retired soldiers announced an open-ended protest starting Monday against deteriorating living conditions amid the ongoing economic crisis. A committee of retired soldiers issued a statement yesterday saying that as of Monday at 11 a.m, they will be staging sit-ins at several locations, including the local central bank branches in Saida, Tripoli and Nabatieh. The committee also said it is planning a main protest in Beirut that will include tents. Retired army personnel have for years demonstrated against what they have said are dismal pensions and insufficient benefits, and conditions have only worsened during the financial crisis. Soldiers on active duty are also struggling to get by as the value of their lira-denominated salaries has plunged, leading many people to take on second jobs or desert the army altogether. 


Samir Geagea rebutted reports that he has been summoned before a military court in relation to the Tayyouneh clashes. Speaking during a televised interview, the Lebanese Forces leader proffered that he would be willing to give a statement if Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah were called to testify first. Reports had surfaced earlier in the day claiming that Geagea had been summoned to testify...