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A civil defense member died and four others were injured while attempting to extinguish a factory fire in Beirut southern’s suburbs on Tuesday. Firefighting efforts were still ongoing as of last night. The deceased was buried Wednesday in his hometown Harouf, in Nabatieh, South Lebanon. Authorities said they expected to "completely" extinguish the fire "in a few hours,” a Civil Defense spokesperson told L’Orient Today on Wednesday evening. The cause of the fire remained unknown. Last week, Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud placed the Beirut Fire Department on “high alert” along with other measures to reduce the risk of fires amid rising temperatures. In February, a fire reportedly caused by a short circuit at a factory in Naameh, Chouf killed one employee and injured four others.
“Calm has not been restored” in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, newly appointed security chief Abu Ayad al-Chaalan told L’Orient Today yesterday, amid reported violations to a ceasefire reached Monday, after three days of deadly clashes. The Death toll rose to 13 Wednesday night. The Fatah-affiliated security chief announced an upcoming meeting to address the return of hundreds of families displaced by the clashes, without specifying when it would take place. Chaalan claimed “Bilal Badr and seven of his men,” were Islamic State affiliates who killed his predecessor, Abu Ashraf al-Armushi and four of his bodyguards in an act of “revenge” for their presence in “the battles against the terrorists.” Clashes broke out on Saturday between Fatah and Islamist factions, killing at least eleven people and injuring dozens according to a Monday tally by the UNRWA. Fighting reignited on Wednesday night after a relative day of calm, raising the death toll to at least 13.
An infant girl was hospitalized after being found in a pine forest near the village of Siblin in the Chouf region, south of Beirut, the state-run National News Agency reported. This new case of child abandonment adds to four others reported in Lebanon in a span of just two weeks. Two infants were recently found successively in Tripoli, North Lebanon, and two others were abandoned together near Nahr Ibrahim, in the Jbeil district.
Banque du Liban’s (BDL) foreign currency reserves fell by $608 million in the last two weeks, according to the central bank’s bi-monthly balance sheet. Reserves fell from $9.65 billion on July 15 to $9.04 billion by the end of the month. Bank Audi head of research Marwan Barakat linked the drop to the appreciation of the lira and the central bank’s financing of exchanges using its Sayrafa rate through its foreign reserves instead of acquiring dollars from the parallel market. BDL has mediated commercial bank restrictions on depositors’ access to their foreign currency funds by allowing them to exchange limited amounts at the Sayrafa rate. Acting Banque du Liban governor Wassim Mansouri said he intends to reduce the central bank’s intervention in the exchange rate and phase out the Sayrafa platform.
A senior judicial source told L’Orient Today that Beirut Judge Charbel Abou Samra’s investigation of former Banque du Liban governor Riad Salameh “should be over” after yesterday’s hearing. The ex-central bank chief was nonetheless asked to remain at the judiciary’s disposal. The public prosecutor is expected to issue a non-binding decision to either arrest Salameh or ask for his release. Salameh’s brother, Raja, and former assistant, Marianne Hoayek, were also present at the hearing but were not questioned, reportedly at State Legal Department head Helene Iskandar’s request to “avoid any rush” in the investigation. Last month, a hearing with Raja Salameh and Hoayek was postponed due to a power outage. The trio are accused of colluding to embezzle public funds. Salameh and his alleged co-conspirators are also being investigated across at least five European jurisdictions where they allegedly acquired assets using reportedly embezzled funds.
Israel filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council calling for Lebanon to “take action against the illegal military build-up on its territories” after alleged border violations by Hezbollah. Israeli representative to the UN Gilad Erdan’s letter claimed that Hezbollah “established two military posts south of the Blue Line,” which delineates the border with Lebanon. Early July, a Hezbollah spokesperson denied that the party removed tents set up near the southern Lebanese border or that it had any “intention to remove them.” Over the past months, the Lebanese Army has repeatedly stood on high alert in response to alleged border violations by Israeli construction troops. During the same period, Israeli military have repeatedly used crowd dispersal tactics and non lethal weapons, separately injuring Hezbollah members, a Lebanese MP and a Lebanese journalist. Border tensions peaked with rocket crossfire between Israel and unidentified parties in South Lebanon which followed the Israeli annexation of the northern part of Ghajar, which the Blue Line considers Lebanese territory. In a complaint to the UN filed last month, Lebanon considered the annexation a “deliberate violation of Lebanese sovereignty.”
MP Ibrahim Kanaan announced the Finance and Budget parliamentary committee had approved on Monday a draft law establishing a sovereign wealth fund ahead of exploratory drilling off the coast of Lebanon. The fund aims to “ensure the good management of public money,” Kanaan said yesterday. Kanaan explained that the "fund would be a public establishment of a special nature, and would not be subject to the traditional interventions exercised by (...) the executive power.” A week earlier, Kanaan said 80 percent of revenues into the fund would be dedicated for savings and investment and the remainder would be allotted for economic development projects. Later this month, exploratory drilling will determine the presence — or lack thereof — of hydrocarbons in Lebanese offshore Block 9. The viability of harvesting these hydrocarbons will be determined within two months from the start of drilling.
The Lebanese Army announced the arrest of a man allegedly involved in the May kidnapping of Saudi national Mashari al-Maitari. The suspect was hospitalized from a gunshot wound incurred during his arrest, after he allegedly attempted to open fire against the army. He is charged with participation in the kidnapping, killing of a local resident, armed robbery, and use of a firearm against the army. At the beginning of June, the army announced it had freed Maitari, two days after his kidnapping. Ten people suspected of involvement in the kidnapping were also arrested during the same period.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Saudi Arabia and Israel: Normalization before the end of the year?”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz