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White phosphorous fire damage, port officials sentenced for bribery, al-Ahli hospital under ‘violent attack’: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Nov. 17.

White phosphorous fire damage, port officials sentenced for bribery, al-Ahli hospital under ‘violent attack’: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Smoke rises following Israeli artillery shelling on the outskirts of the village of Kfarshuba, along Lebanon's southern border with northern Israel on Nov. 16, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (Credit: AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of the Israel-Hamas war here.

Two more Hezbollah members have been killed, the party said, as cross-border fighting with Israel continues in southern Lebanon. This brings the number of party members killed since Oct. 7 to 76, according to a tally by L’Orient Today. Hezbollah claimed to have inflicted casualties in direct hits on the northern Israeli areas of Bayad Blida, Hermon, Jabal al-Alam, Metula and Shtula as well as an Israeli position facing Yaroun in southern Lebanon and the Misgav Am kibbutz. The Israeli military denied that cross-border attacks caused casualties and said it was retaliating with strikes in Lebanon. Israeli airstrikes hit the surroundings of Aita al-Shaab, Mjaydiyeh and Naqoura in southern Lebanon. Aita al-Shaab, Beit Lif, Blida, Kfar Kila, Khiam, Odaisseh, Rab al-Thalathine, Taybeh and Ramieh were also targeted by artillery shells. The outskirts of al-Wazzani, Halta and Kfarshouba were targeted with white phosphorus, a security source told L’Orient Today.

Israel’s use of white phosphorus in attacks on southern Lebanon caused 37 percent of the country’s forest fires in 2023, caretaker Environment Minister Nasser Yassin said. So far, the incendiary strikes have burned 460 hectares of forests and orchards, Yassin said, piling on to the 774 hectares of land, including 296 hectares of forest, that caught fire before Oct. 7. Yassine said Lebanon intends to file a complaint to the United Nations over the ensuing environmental damage, and says the white phosphorus shells were fired according to a “scorched earth policy.” The shelling has destroyed 20,000 olive trees and caused an estimated $20 million in direct economic losses, according to figures shared by George Mitri, director of the University of Balamand’s Land and Natural Resources Program.

Hamas senior official Osama Hamdan denied Reuters’ claims that Iran was suppressing calls for Hezbollah to widen its involvement in the war. Hamdan called the report “lies and slander” claiming it sought to “harm the resistance in the region…through misleading news.” Hamdan also expressed his group’s appreciation for Hezbollah’s involvement.

Nine years after having allegedly accepted bribes, three customs officials were sentenced by the Beirut Criminal Court to six months imprisonment and a LL1 billion fine. A judicial source told L’Orient Today that the case followed a normal process. The ruling sentenced Beirut Port customs officials Said Barraj, Wahib Bou Chahine and Ali Abou Khachfeh. Two other civil servants accused were not sentenced due to a lack of condemning evidence. The offenses, which reportedly date back to 2014, were pointed out during a television program broadcast in April 2015 on the Al-Jadeed channel, the same source said.

Gaza is experiencing a telecoms blackout after the fuel powering its communications system was depleted. This can provide “cover for atrocities and breed impunity,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reported a “violent attack” by Israeli tanks on northern Gaza’s only operational hospital, al-Ahli Hospital, which was bombed on Oct. 17. The facility is now “effectively a first aid station” due to the attack, which also interfered with the hospital’s ability to provide surgery and for the PRCS to respond to distress calls a doctor there reported. Earlier in the day, HRW, as cited by Reuters, said Israel has failed to show any evidence justifying its operations in al-Shifa Hospital. The Gaza Health Ministry previously said it could not update its death toll, which reported the killing of over 11,000 people, as of Wednesday due to severed communications in the enclave. Israel dropped leaflets overnight urging people to evacuate eastern areas of Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip, after pressuring the displacement of Palestinians from the north of the enclave. People in Gaza are “facing the immediate possibility of starvation,” the World Food Programme (WFP) said, warning of insufficient supplies of food and water.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “From pride to ruin: Israel destroys self-financed solar panels in southern Lebanon village

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of the Israel-Hamas war here.Two more Hezbollah members have been killed, the party said, as cross-border fighting with Israel continues in southern Lebanon. This brings the number of party members killed since Oct. 7 to 76, according to a tally by L’Orient Today. Hezbollah claimed to have...