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Relatives of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion victims held two separate sit-ins yesterday, in commemoration of the tragedy that killed over 230 people, injured 6,500, and destroyed swathes of the capital. Blast victims’ relatives are divided on their support of Judge Tarek Bitar, the probe’s lead investigator, who is waiting for the verdict of a lawsuit issued against him by top prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat. Oueidat sued Bitar for attempting to relaunch the investigation into the Beirut port explosion, despite outstanding complaints that led to the suspended of his work for over a year. Last month, blast victims’ relatives announced that over 70 MPs signed a petition calling on the United Nations to initiate an independent fact finding mission into the case.
Acting BDL governor Wassim Mansouri confirmed plans to replace Sayrafa with a Bloomberg currency exchange platform, reiterated his refusal to fund the Lebanese state and claimed reinstating Lebanese depositors’ funds “is not impossible.” Mansouri’s comments to Al Arabiya on Monday came during his first official visit to Saudi Arabia, which he expected to “always play a positive role” in Lebanon’s recovery from the multi-year multi-faceted financial crisis. Mansouri predicated returning depositors’ funds on leaving the “cash economy” and building “a [stable] banking system” which in turn “can attract both Lebanese and non-Lebanese investors.” On Sunday, Mansouri linked depositors’ recompensation with the enactment of “the reform laws, including capital control, bank restructuring, and the financial balance law” — which he also set as preconditions to disburse central bank funds to the government.
Lack of funds prevents the Finance Ministry from repairing the generator malfunction that shut down its systems on Monday, a ministry source told L’Orient Today. The same source claimed that an advance from the caretaker cabinet to the ministry would resolve the issue. State electricity provider Electricité du Liban’s spotty coverage forces public and private actors alike to rely on costly private generators. Funding issues, typically related to fuel purchases, have repeatedly interfered with the functioning of public institutions and have notably, interrupted the availability of state-supplied water. Last week, caretaker Energy Minister announced the cancellation of a fuel shipment docked on Lebanese shores after difficulties obtaining public funds.
The Lebanese Army announced its prevention of mass illegal border crossings from Syria for a third consecutive week. The army claimed to have thwarted “around 1,100 Syrians” from entering Lebanon illegally. The army announced its interception of 850 and 700 illegal crossings over the past two weeks. Before this, the army stated that it intercepted 140 and 135 Syrian nationals from entering Lebanon illegally, and claimed that said refugees intended to attempt an irregular sea crossing from Lebanese shores towards Europe. Tightened border security numbered among the government’s increasingly aggressive policing of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which also includes stripping displaced Syrians of refugee status if they return to Syria.
A second dead sperm whale washed up on South Lebanon’s shores Sunday afternoon, an incident which “although not frequent, is not uncommon and has happened in the past,” Director of the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve Ali Badreddine told L’Orient Today. On Monday, the municipality of Qoleilah in Sour buried the whale on site after a specimen was extracted for tests to determine its cause of death. Badreddine said the death could be linked to numerous causes, including collision with a boat, parasitic infection, and entrapment in or ingestion of fishing nets. Last Tuesday, residents of Kharayeb, South Lebanon also discovered a dead sperm whale washed ashore. “The sperm whale is an endangered animal and must be protected,” Badreddine emphasized. Migrating sperm whales can transit across Lebanese waters, American University of Beirut marine biology professor Michel Bariche told L’Orient Today after a video purporting to show a whale in Lebanese waters circulated on social media. Over the past year, concern has grown over marine life conservation: calls have been made to protect the highly endangered Mediterranean monk seal, threatened by recently re-approved construction works, and sharks, amid increased poaching following social media-spurred panic.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for widespread participation in dialogue aimed at electing a president, after the Kataeb and Lebanese Forces expressed disapproval at electing a Hezbollah-backed candidate. Berri clarified to Al-Joumhouriya that his initiative to hold open electoral sessions after a week of dialogue necessitates maintaining quorum, which has consistently been lost after a single round of voting during previous sessions. Berri’s suggestion received a mixed response. A day earlier, Kataeb leader Nadim Gemayel said he would confront the alleged "coup" Hezbollah is instigating through its attempt “to impose a president." That same day, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said his party "will not cast [their] votes for [Hezbollah's] candidate."
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Hezbollah’s ‘Jihadi Museum’ opens in Baalbeck”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz