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Human trafficking arrest, exploratory drilling in blocks 8 and 10, attack on Sour bar: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, Oct. 3

Human trafficking arrest, exploratory drilling in blocks 8 and 10, attack on Sour bar: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

The ruins of Baalbeck seen with still snow-capped mountains in the background on April 8, 2023. (Credit: João Sousa/L’Orient Today)

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The Internal Security Forces (ISF) announced the arrest of two alleged members of a human trafficking network that organized irregular sea crossings from Libya to Europe. The two suspects were arrested near the Syrian border, the statement said, claiming they fled to Syria after one of their boats sank off the Libyan coast several months ago. It is unclear if the pair are accused of organizing illegal departures from Lebanon. In August, Syrian smugglers and migrants detailed to AFP the informal migration route from Syria to Europe through Libya. Passengers have to “sell their houses” or become indebted to pay the $6,000-8,000 fee. Last month, over 100 people who departed from Lebanon by sea were briefly held hostage by Libyan militants.

Baalbeck-Hermel Governor Bashir Khodr denied the existence of a “plan by terrorist fundamentalist groups to blow up the columns of Baalbeck's temple,” which was reported by Lebanese daily Annahar. Caretaker Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada did not rule out the possibility that the columns could be targeted because of their role as “a symbol of civilization,” but assured that “Baalbeck and its temple are protected.” The extremist Islamic State group has repeatedly published videos of its members destroying artifacts at historical sites in the region.

The Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) announced that the Total Energies, Eni and QatarEnergy consortium will participate in the tender for drilling rights to offshore hydrocarbon blocks 8 and 10, adjacent to the block they are presently exploring. The announcement came hours before the tender was scheduled to end yesterday at 4 p.m. The LPA said the results of the Block 9 exploratory drilling launched in August could be available by the end of this month. The results will determine whether sufficient quantities of hydrocarbons exist in Block 9 to continue exploration. Meanwhile, Lebanese legislators have begun to draft plans for a sovereign wealth fund. Last October, Lebanon and Israeli officials signed an indirect maritime border agreement, paving the way for the start of offshore oil and gas exploration.

On Sunday, caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh blamed “laxity” and “negligence” for flooding on the Jounieh highway in captions accompanying videos he shared on X. Hamieh’s post shows drains blocked by trash, which he described as a “flood of garbage.” Waste blocked sewage and drainage systems, especially after heavy rain, cause flooding across Lebanon’s coastal areas every year. Last November, in the aftermath of flooding in coastal areas, which endangered motorists and caused at least one death, Hamieh blamed garbage collection company Ramco for the obstructed sewer drains, while the sanitation specialist pointed to years of unresolved infrastructure issues.

Armed attackers disrupted the 20th-anniversary celebration of Sour bar Cloud 59 on Sunday night, allegedly triggered by digitally altered videos of the event overlaid with the rainbow flag that circulated on social media. “Masked cowards attacked us. Some came in with truncheons and knives, others were outside with machine guns,” DJ Hind H. recounted in social media posts. The venue’s manager and founder, Dalia Farran, yesterday told L'Orient Today her voice had yet to recover from shouting at the assailants. Farran said the attackers fired shots in the presence of “families, elderly people and children.” The attack came a day after a “freedom march” in Beirut was interrupted by men who shouted homophobic slurs and assaulted demonstrators. Attacks targeting LGBTQ+ people continue to occur amid discriminatory rhetoric from political figures.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Sinbad, an app that could democratize the use of cryptocurrency in Lebanon”

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The Internal Security Forces (ISF) announced the arrest of two alleged members of a human trafficking network that organized irregular sea crossings from Libya to Europe. The two suspects were arrested near the Syrian border, the statement said, claiming they fled to Syria after one of their boats sank off the Libyan coast several...