A Cypriot rescue team transported over 120 people to shore yesterday after receiving a mayday message from an irregular migrant boat that departed from Lebanon on Saturday, a passenger's relative told L'Orient Today. According to the relative, the boat lost contact about 25 miles off the Lebanese coast. Last September, Cypriot authorities rescued hundreds of people stranded during an irregular sea crossing launched from Lebanon. Such crossings are fraught with perils, including interception by authorities, becoming stranded, kidnapping and deadly sinkings. Despite the dangers, irregular sea migration attempts from Lebanon more than doubled in 2022 amid increasingly dire living conditions.
The Palestinian Joint Security Force began a multistage deployment in Ain al-Hilweh to ensure calm after recent armed clashes killed at least 30 people and displaced hundreds from the camp. Forty-five soldiers were deployed at the frontier of the Ras al-Ahmar and Tiri neighborhoods, as well as the border between the Safsaf and Baraksat neighborhoods. Force commander Mahmoud Ajoury told L’Orient Today that both points are critical, while an anonymous Palestinian source told L’Orient Today that there was “no need” for deployment at those points. Several Palestinian faction leaders told L’Orient Today they expected an imminent evacuation of fighters from United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools. Ansar Allah official Ibrahim Jechi said a “fundamental” remaining step was the handover of Fatah official Abu Ahmed al-Armoushi’s alleged killers.
Electricité du Liban (EDL) announced a list of Beirut neighborhoods with a low rate of network violations that will receive two additional hours of electricity per day starting next month. The neighborhoods said to have a network violation rate below 10 percent include Achrafieh, al-Hikmeh, Rmeil, Medawar, Gemmayzeh, al-Bashura, Karantina, al-Nahr, al-Manara, Ras Beirut and Commodore. The boosted provision extends a similar EDL measure undertaken in June that saw tens of areas receive upwards of six hours of state electricity per day. In March, EDL began surveying its network to identify and remove encroachments as part of a plan to boost electricity production. EDL’s plan is complemented by the start of billing at the first rate hike in 30 years, which saw many subscribers leave in droves. Private generator subscriptions are ubiquitous, incurring steep costs for residents as they seek to remedy the state utility’s deficit.
The Internal Security Forces (ISF) announced the arrest of 15 people, including four minors, in Minnieh, North Lebanon, last week for allegedly illegally entering the country from Syria. Over the past several weeks, the army has repeatedly announced the interception of thousands of people irregularly entering Lebanon. Officials have repeatedly called for improved security along the notoriously porous border separating Lebanon and Syria to prevent the smuggling of people, goods and contraband. Lebanese Army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun warned of an “existential threat” posed by the “immigration of Syrians,” days after caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati made similar claims before the UN General Assembly. Over the past months, Lebanese authorities employed increasingly aggressive policing of Syrian refugee communities and ramped up anti-displaced rhetoric.
The International Confederation of Lebanese Businesspeople (MIDEL) said it “denounces and rejects any increase in taxes before comprehensive reform.” MIDEL warned that levies on “fresh” funds (that is, funds not subject to banking restrictions) would drive away existing and potential foreign investors. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati relayed a suggestion by the International Monetary Fund to not charge certain taxes in dollars, as included in an earlier version of the 2023 draft budget law. Propositions to increase the exchange rate adopted for certain taxes, including VAT and customs duties, were met with severe backlash.
A Middle East Airlines spokesperson confirmed to L'Orient Today yesterday that their cabin crew helped deliver a baby on the Beirut international airport tarmac last week. “After landing, both [the woman] and her newborn were hospitalized and are now safe and well, thanks to the cabin crew’s professionalism and expertise,” the spokesperson said. The woman gave birth shortly after the flight landed for its layover from Lagos to Dubai. The same source said another woman gave birth on-board an MEA flight from Doha to Beirut in 2019.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “In Tripoli, residents' safety remains at risk after building collapse”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz