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Parliament’s first legislative session since the May 15 elections came to an early end after tensions mounted following voting on two laws that would protect the Beirut port silos from demolition. Before coming to a close, Parliament elected MPs to the Supreme Council and approved laws pertaining to international cooperation with Japan, fee collections from airline operators, amendments to the banking secrecy law and a World Bank loan funding wheat imports. The amended banking secrecy law aims to meet the demands made by the International Monetary Fund in its preliminary agreement with Lebanon by allowing the lifting of secrecy in specific judicial investigation contexts. Also at the Parliament session was US Ambassador Dorothy Shea, although a US embassy spokesperson could not say why she was there. In another move to promote legal liability, seven MPs were elected to the Supreme Council, a body authorized to prosecute MPs and ministers; however, one of the legislators appointed withdrew later the same day. The Supreme Council appointments were contested by family members of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast victims who held a sit-in outside of Parliament to protest the potential displacement of the probe – which has been suspended following complaints against prosecutor Judge Tarek Bitar filed by MPs and former ministers named in the investigation – from the judiciary to the Supreme Council. Amid judicial stalling, a Gallup poll published yesterday revealed that the Lebanese’s confidence in their judicial system is at an “all-time low.”
Tensions were palpable in areas across Lebanon on Tuesday as protests erupted in Baalbeck, a bakery was vandalized in the Bekaa and clashes killed a man and injured several others in Wadi Khaled, North Lebanon. Baalbeck residents burned tires to decry deteriorating living conditions, citing bread shortages and interruptions in water and electricity supply. Months of looming uncertainty over bread supply and an ongoing bread crisis in Lebanon were exemplified Tuesday in a bakery in Taalabaya, Bekaa, where a group of men assaulted workers and vandalized the premises. Meanwhile, a dispute between two public transport drivers in Wadi Khaled escalated to an armed clash between rival clans in which heavy gunfire left one man dead and injured 10 others.
“My job is to implement any decision of justice,” General Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim said Monday night, denying any “political calculation” in the arrest of archbishop Moussa al-Hage after his return from Israeli-controlled territory. Hage’s arrest has sparked controversy leading to calls by the Maronite Patriarchate Bechara al-Rai for the dismissal of Government Commissioner of the Interim Military Court, Fadi Akiki, who ordered the arrest, accusing him of practicing “political police behavior.” In a televised interview, Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah denied his party’s involvement in the arrest after its parliamentary bloc leader Mohammad Raad appeared to level accusations of treason against Hage when he remarked that “collaboration with the enemy is a national treason and a crime.”
Aoun spoke of “Lebanon's commitment to Resolution 1701 and the return of the US mediator Amos Hochstein to Lebanon at the end of this week,” during a meeting yesterday with the United Nations’ Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka, according to the presidency’s Twitter account. The meeting follows an inflammatory statement from Nasrallah claiming readiness to “[go] to a fight” with Israel if Lebanon’s offshore oil and gas claims are infringed on. Tensions stirred over maritime borders after Israel deployed a vessel on June 5 to the disputed Karish gas field, which is intersected by a border line claimed by Lebanon. Aoun foresaw a timely resolution of the border dispute in a statement in early July after Hochstein visited Lebanon in June to receive the government’s official proposal. However, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week that his department has “not yet announced a trip” for Hochstein to Lebanon.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Berri ends Parliament session as tensions mount around law proposals pertaining to the Beirut port silos.”