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A Human Rights Watch report published yesterday claimed that Lebanese authorities conducted 100 raids, 2,200 arrests and 1,800 deportations of Syrian refugees in the past three months. HRW researcher Ramzi Kaiss said “Syrians in Lebanon are living in constant fear” due to the ramped-up policing which threatens to violently deport them and subject returnees to beatings, arbitrary detainment and forced military conscription. The increasingly aggressive policing of Syrian refugees in Lebanon coincided with new, tightened government restrictions targeting them and a rise in anti-refugee rhetoric from political and religious leaders.
Israeli troops breached the southern Lebanese border at least three times yesterday, the state-run National News Agency reported. The NNA reported confrontations between Lebanese civilians and the Lebanese Army against Israeli construction workers past the technical fence at several locations near Mais al-Jabal, Houla, Markaba and Honein. United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL)’s Kandice Ardiel said the peacekeepers were working to de-escalate the situation and urged both parties to coordinate with the agency when conducting work near the border. Israeli construction troops have repeatedly breached Lebanon's southern border, leading to stand-offs with civilians and the Lebanese Army.
Tripoli MP Ashraf Rifi called for an "immediate solution" for Lebanon's overcrowded prisons. Rifi previously advocated for amnesty for certain crimes and reduced prison sentences. He described prisons as "time bombs." Humanitarian groups have repeatedly condemned the inhospitable conditions for inmates, amid disease outbreaks, increased deaths in incarceration and alleged laxity towards preventing torture.
A cabinet source anonymously told L'Orient Today that the delayed 2023 preliminary draft budget could be submitted for government review within a week. Caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil announced that the preliminary budget would be done "shortly" and would include measures approved this year by the government, such as public employee salary hikes and tax adjustments. Khalil added that the implementation of reforms could help Lebanon outperform IMF growth projections and that a survey to reform public administration employment is in the works. Once finalized by the Finance Ministry, the budget must then be approved by the cabinet, parliamentary committees and Parliament — ordinarily by the end of January at the latest. Lebanon's Parliament approved 2022’s budget in September.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati suspended the work of a committee appointed a day earlier to resolve disputes in an area where two brothers were recently shot to death. The committee to resolve land and water disputes in the Qornet al-Sawda region was instructed to not convene until further notice. “A decision must be made to abolish this committee and not [just] suspend its work," the Lebanese Forces said in a statement after earlier considering its formation an affront to the independence of the judiciary. Mikati also said he asked caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury to follow up on cases linked to disputes in the region. Two brothers were shot to death on Saturday in Qornet al-Sawda under unclear circumstances. The same area has been the site of conflicts between the inhabitants of Bsharri and Bqaasafrin, in the Dinnieh district, over land and water supply.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Where do the dollars circulating in Lebanon come from?”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz