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The Lebanese army announced the arrest of an alleged bomb-maker thought to have ties to a man suspected of being an Israeli spy arrested last month. The army said that an explosion in the suspect’s home led to his arrest on March 27, foiling his attempt to make an explosive device and commit “criminal acts in different places [in Lebanon], on the orders of foreign sponsors.” The identity of the foreign sponsors could not be disclosed before the end of an army investigation, a senior army official told L’Orient Today anonymously. The suspect was allegedly expecting the delivery of precursors for the manufacture of explosives purchased on his behalf by a suspect arrested by the army under suspicions that he was spying for Israel last month in Aramoun. In 2022, the security forces announced that they had arrested 185 people suspected of "collaboration" with Israel since 2019 — including the dismantling of 17 Israeli spy networks last May. Last December, AFP quoted a judicial source saying Israeli spy handlers exploited the suspected collaborators’ “difficult living and social conditions, which made it easier to recruit them.”
Dozens of public high school students called for the cancellation of this year’s official examinations during a protest yesterday outside the Education Ministry in Beirut, after months of teachers’ strikes have caused school closures. “We will only get our rights if the teachers get theirs,” one student present at the protest told local media. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned in February that the then-ongoing teachers’ strike would lead to dire consequences for children. In early March, some public school teachers’ unions called for a suspension of their strike, which had been ongoing since January, after a partial fulfillment of their demands, including a fuel subsidy and “promises from the government.” Sporadic protests followed the union’s call, viewing the government grants as insufficient to meet their original demands for higher wages and transportation fees, improved health insurance and the ability for teachers to receive part of their salaries in dollars. The start of the school year last October was marked by severe personnel and supply shortages. “A large number of [teachers] have left,” the director of a public middle school in Abra, South Lebanon, Antoine Samia, told L'Orient Today, as educators’ salaries severely depreciated following the lira’s loss in value.
The Environmental Prosecutor in Lebanon’s north has opened an investigation following a request from the caretaker Environment Minister Yassin filed in response to social media posts showing the illegal poaching of migratory birds in Bebnine, Akkar. Bebnine mukhtar Zaher Kassar said the shooting of migrating birds over the weekend was “especially intense,” as footage circulated on social media showing military-style weapons being fired at a large flock of white storks while other posts displayed dozens of dead birds. Millions of birds are illegally killed in Lebanon each year, according to BirdLife International, a partnership of international bird conservation NGOs. Sherine Bou Rafoul, director of the antipoaching unit (APU) at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon, told L'Orient Today that she found a “lack of awareness about the hunting law and the protected migratory birds” during recent visits to rural Akkar. Illegal poaching of migratory birds persists despite challenges hunters face, whether they be legal measures or the obstacle posed by increasingly expensive hunting supplies and fuel. The prohibitively expensive price of shotgun cartridges last year led to reduced poaching and hunting and a surge in bird watching — including for species that had not been seen in Lebanon “for years,” according to caretaker Environment Minister Nasser Yassin.
State electricity provider Electricité du Liban employees announced a strike from today until next Tuesday to protest caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil’s refusal to grant them reduced electricity tariffs. The EDL employees’ syndicate cited a constitutional council decision from 1999 which overturns the legal text cited in a statement by Khalil’s press office explaining the refusal. Caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad had asked that reduced tariffs apply to current and retired EDL employees after bill collection aligned with hiked tariffs began in February.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Who is drinking during Ramadan?”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz