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Another cease-fire, public schools suffer, US military aid: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Sept. 15

Another cease-fire, public schools suffer, US military aid: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Soldiers operate a checkpoint at the entrance of the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Saida, following renewed clashes between the Fatah movement and Islamist groups, Sept. 9, 2023. (Credit: Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP)

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A new cease-fire was brokered by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to end clashes in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, the third since fighting between Fatah and Islamist factions reignited last Thursday. At least 18 people have died since the clashes reignited according to new Palestinian Red Crescent figures communicated to L’Orient Today on Wednesday. Palestinian Red Crescent head Riad Abou al-Inen estimated that over 100 people, including fighters and civilians, had been injured. An Ain al-Hilweh security source told L’Orient Today that many of the thousands displaced remain without shelter. Stray gunfire, linked to at least one death outside the camp, and the injury of five Lebanese Army soldiers, has continued to cause damage and injuries beyond the camp’s perimeters. Calls for a cease-fire have been accompanied by Fatah’s demand that Islamists hand over the alleged killers of the camp’s former security chief and four of his bodyguards. The assassination in late June precipitated days of deadly armed clashes.

Teachers’ estimates place public school students “one to two full years behind their grade level” according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday. “If the government and foreign donors don’t reach an agreement that will keep schools open, Lebanon is looking at a children’s rights catastrophe,” the organization’s children’s rights director warned. This year’s baccalaureate exams were set to a reduced curriculum after a prolonged strikes by teachers protesting low wages. The report estimated that teachers’ salaries have been reduced to 1/60th of their pre-crisis value. On Tuesday, Independent MP Ihab Matar presented an urgent draft law to publicly finance school students’ entrance fees after their sixfold increase — which one student dubbed a “necessary evil,” noting electricity and resource shortages during the previous year. Last Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati tasked caretaker Education Minister Abbas Halabi with ensuring private schools “take into account the current economic situation before raising registration fees.” A United Nations Children’s Fund report published in June claims that 15 percent of surveyed households had suspended their children’s educations and more than half reduced spending on education. On Wednesday, Halabi scheduled the start of the school year for Oct. 9.

The hurricane-like Storm Daniel in the Mediterranean, which caused devastating floods in Libya, is unlikely to hit Lebanon after losing momentum during its passage through Egypt, Beirut international airport’s chief of forecasting told L’Orient Today. Abdel Rahman Zawawi, the Beirut airport head of forecasting, denied local media speculation over the storm’s arrival in Lebanon. At least 4,000 deaths have been confirmed in Libya, where villages were decimated and thousands remain missing after Storm Daniel caused two river dams to overflow and swept away buildings.

An International Monetary Fund delegation concluding its assessment visit to Lebanon today is expected to issue a statement after meetings with officials, parliamentary committees and employers, sources within the concerned committees and employers have told L’Orient Today. The visit was to update the IMF assessment of the country’s situation in accordance with the procedure set out in Article IV of its Articles of Agreement, to which Lebanon is a signatory. The heads of the Administration and Justice as well as the Finance and Budget parliamentary committees expressed their disagreement with the IMF’s reported proposition for large depositors to relinquish part of their funds which have been tangled in commercial bank’s losses and informally frozen since October 2019. “Our approach is based on the idea of identifying responsibilities, repaying debts and repaying losses,” Administration and Justice Committee head George Adwan (Lebanese Forces) said. The Finance and Budget Committee head, Ibrahim Kanaan, meanwhile said he refuses a solution that involves “wiping out everything.” One of the employers present at the meeting said the delegation had “nothing new” to add since their March visit, while calling for any agreement with the IMF to not “nip in the bud the beginnings of the recovery that [Lebanon has] seen this year.” During a March visit, IMF delegation head Ernesto Ramirez Rigo again urged authorities to implement reforms, adding that “everyone will have to assume” some of the losses — which were qualified by the World Bank last November as “too big to bail.” Last April, Lebanon and the IMF concluded a staff level agreement predicating a multibillion dollar aid package on the implementation of reforms.

The US will redirect around $30 million in military aid towards Lebanon after Egypt, the original recipient, failed to meet the donor’s conditions, including freeing political prisoners, according to a congressional notification obtained by Reuters and a US senator. The $30 million are part of an $85 million allotment conditional on the release of political prisoners, due process for detainees and protection of American citizens from harassment and intimidation — on which there had not been “enough progress,” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy said. Murphy urged the Biden administration to further withhold another $235 million destined for Egypt attached to democracy and human rights requirements. The US is one of the Lebanese Army’s largest backers and regularly provides aid in cash and in-kind. In June, the US Embassy announced the rollout of a monthly $100 financial support payment for more than 70,000 Lebanese Army personnel, whose salaries were slashed by the lira’s depreciation — the second phase of a collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme also benefiting the Internal Security Forces.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “At Beirut airport, the tower maintains control — for now”

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.A new cease-fire was brokered by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to end clashes in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, the third since fighting between Fatah and Islamist factions reignited last Thursday. At least 18 people have died since the clashes reignited according to new Palestinian Red Crescent figures communicated to...