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Unidentified assailants, shouting homophobic insults, attacked several demonstrators participating in a “freedoms march” on Saturday, activists present at the rally told L’Orient Today. “It was clearly an organized attack. I saw some guys arrive on motorcycles, then [they] put their masks on all together before coming towards us,” activist Whard Mougharbel told L’Orient Today while awaiting an examination of an injury sustained during the attack. Videos circulating on social media showed the attackers denounce the march, throw rocks and other projectiles at demonstrators and assault them. Mougharbel specified that the march was not openly pro-LGBTQ+ but simply “in defense of freedoms.” In August, a group of men, reportedly part of the Christian extremist group Jnoud al-Rab (Soldiers of God), attacked a bar in Beirut’s Gemmayzeh neighborhood while it hosted a drag event. Human Rights Watch executive director Tirana Hassan linked officials’ anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric to a rise in “already-pervasive online harassment” with “far-reaching offline consequences.” Last November, the state Shura Council temporarily suspended the caretaker interior minister’s ban on LGBTQ+ events.
The Agriculture Ministry on Friday announced it had entrusted over 1,600 animals to animal rights organizations. The creatures had been illegally trafficked into Lebanon from Syria and were seized in Batroun, North Lebanon. The animals include 350 passerines, 1,350 exotic birds of various types (including the imperial eagle), and two lion cubs. After a medical examination, some of the birds were released. Others, the eagle and the two lion cubs, have been entrusted to specialized associations, and their fates will be decided later, according to our correspondent in northern Lebanon, quoting Animals Lebanon and the Lebanese Association for Migratory Birds (LAMB).
Bank of Beirut has begun charging a monthly $100 “account management fee” for pre-crisis dollar-denominated accounts blocked by informal banking restrictions, two of the bank’s customers told L’Orient Today Friday. This sum is on average 10 times higher than that charged by other Lebanese banks for the same category of fees. Foreign funds subject to the de facto restrictions (“lollars”) can be withdrawn in limited quantities ($300-$400) in cash through Banque du Liban Circular No. 158 or at LL15,000 to the dollar (while the parallel market rate is around LL89,500) through Circular No. 151. If confirmed, the reportedly inflated lollar account fees could be seen as an attempt on the part of Bank of Beirut to discourage customers from retaining these accounts and thereby wipe out as many dollars as it can from its liabilities. The informal banking restrictions have inspired several protests by depositors, including armed hold-ups to forcibly recover the trapped funds.
The Joint Palestinian Force deployed in UNRWA schools in Ain al-Hilweh Friday after rival Fatah and Islamist faction fighters vacated the premises. L’Orient Today confirmed considerable damage to the schools, as UNRWA had previously noted. The military positions of the rival factions remain unchanged and the front lines have not moved, making movement between the points held by the armed groups difficult. Friday marked the second deployment of the joint force after an earlier placement Monday. The force aims to secure calm after two waves of clashes between Fatah and Islamist gunmen since late-June killed at least 30 people and displaced thousands more. The same day, a child and a man were hospitalized after suffering stray bullet wounds from a personal dispute, according to several Palestinian sources.
The Court of Justice Friday questioned Richard and Gergi Ibrahim, who are accused of sparking a fuel tank explosion in Aug. 2021 that killed at least 30 people and injured more than a hundred others in Tleil, Akkar. Two other defendants at Friday’s hearing, Georges Ibrahim and Ali Faraj, are accused of having stored the tank of fuel while the country experienced extreme fuel shortages, with the aim of selling the fuel on the black market. The tank exploded on the night of Aug. 14-15, 2021 after it had been confiscated by the army, while hundreds of people were crowded around it. The Ibrahims deny any involvement in the blast. Richard claims to have been away from the site while Gergi said that “many people on site were smoking.” Witnesses previously heard by the court claim that Richard had asked Gergi to "burn the people present" by handing him a lighter. They say Gergi did so immediately.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Riyadh helps Le Drian initiate the ‘third option’ transition”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz