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The Lebanese Army rescued dozens of people from a sinking boat carrying irregular migrants off the coast of Chekka, North Lebanon, security and Civil Defense forces confirmed to L’Orient Today on Sunday. A security source told L'Orient Today that all the vessel's reported 35 passengers and crew had been brought to shore, except for four missing people. The same day, the Internal Security Forces announced the arrest last Sunday of an alleged people smuggler and 42 would-be migrants, all of whom paid $5,000-7,000 for the attempted sea crossing to Europe. Earlier this month, Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou addressed a letter to European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas describing Lebanon as a “barrier” against a wave of informal migrants arriving on Cyprus’ shores. The Lebanese Army regularly announces the interruption of covert migration attempts before or during their departure. The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported in June that irregular migration attempts departing from Lebanon accounted for nearly half of the 378 deaths on the Eastern Mediterranean route in 2022. Amid increasingly dire living conditions informal departures from Lebanon’s shores more than doubled for a second year in 2022.
The Lebanese Army announced it had responded with tear gas Saturday to an Israeli smoke-bomb attack upon a bulldozer leveling landscaping work that breached the Blue Line. The army said the incident occurred in the Bastra area, where one of its patrols accompanied the removal of "an earthen berm erected by the Israeli enemy north of the withdrawal line." Andrea Tenenti, spokesperson for the UNIFIL peacekeeping force, confirmed the situation had "stabilized." Border violations proliferated over the past year, culminating in an exchange of rocket fire between unidentified parties in South Lebanon and Israel and reciprocal complaints to the UN.
A Joint Palestinian Security Force was yesterday awaiting a “political decision” to deploy in Ain al-Hilweh to ensure calm after a Sept. 14 ceasefire ended a week-long renewal of heavily armed clashes that killed at least 18 people, the force's commander told L'Orient Today. "If this initial maneuver is successful, a second deployment will be considered in the UNRWA school complex once the fighters still present in that complex have withdrawn," commander Mohammad Ajoury told L'Orient Today.mAjoury added that the deployment would also facilitate handing over the alleged killers of Fatah and Islamist officials to Lebanese authorities. The latest fighting is said to have been fueled by Islamist groups' refusal to hand over those suspected of killing a Fatah security official in July, which sparked days of deadly clashes. Homes, businesses and camp infrastructure were damaged, displacing hundreds of people. The Higher Relief Committee is expected to inspect the camp early this week after a joint request from Saida MP Abdel Rahman Bizri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who also called for victims to be compensated.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea yesterday “ruled out the possibility of holding presidential elections in the near future,” according to online media platform Trend Beirut. Geagea told the publication that internal differences trump “Saudi and Qatari efforts.” The same day, Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari reaffirmed his country’s support for the Lebanese presidential election. The so-called “group of five” (Saudi Arabia, France, the US, Qatar and Egypt) met last week to take stock of French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian’s recent series of talks with Lebanese officials. Qatar’s Foreign Minister is set to visit Lebanon in early October, near the time frame Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri set for the 13th presidential election session. Berri called for rounds of “open” voting after a week of dialogue among different political actors. The dialogue initiative, backed by Le Drian, has been contested by the Lebanese Forces and other parties.
The 28th European Film Festival in Lebanon begins today with an invitation-only screening of Ramona at Sursock Museum, the first of 27 films to be projected in town through Oct. 4. Ten days of programming in Beirut will be followed by screenings across Lebanon. The lauded program includes Triangle of Sadness, E.O, The Quiet Girl, Crià Cuervos and a cine-concert during which Frequent Defect artists June As, Renata and HWCA will score The Little Match Girl live. The festival also includes a 12-strong short film competition featuring work by emerging Lebanese filmmakers. The festival is partnering with the Goethe-Institut Libanon, l’Institut français du Liban and the Embassy of Poland in Lebanon in awarding three prizes, with winning titles invited to attend a leading international film festival in Europe in 2024.
Read more about what to expect from this year’s European Film Festival: “A month of European cinema set to roll through Lebanon”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz