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Israeli shelling on southern Lebanon since Friday killed five Hezbollah fighters and caused the worst damage in the region since Oct. 7. Israeli attacks also injured two civilians in Rashaya Fawqar as well as Marwahine and damaged the main road linking Qantara and Taybeh, a Lebanese Army medical center in Ain Ibl along with a UN Peacekeeper (UNIFIL) observation tower in Abl al-Qamh. By L’Orient Today’s count, 98 members of Hezbollah have been killed in cross-border clashes since the party began its “support front” for Gaza on Oct. 8 The party continued to launch cross-border attacks, firing dozens of shells, drones and anti-tank missiles at Israeli military targets. Israel's retaliatory fire fell across southern Lebanon, damaging houses in the area. Rmaish priest Toni Elias told Reuters that Israeli bombardment broke the windows of houses, shops and a school in the village. In a video shared by L'Orient Today's correspondent in the area, Aita al-Shaab residents appeared to be searching for casualties under the rubble left by Israeli strikes Saturday. Videos circulating on social media showed unprecedented destruction to homes, notably in Aitaroun, Bint Jbeil.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced the closure of public institutions today in solidarity with Gaza and Lebanese border villages as part of a global strike in support of the people of Gaza. The strike will also be observed by public and private schools, as well as the Lebanese University, caretaker Education Minister Abbas Halabi said. The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced it would also participate in the strike in a statement last night. Caretaker Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada said archeological sites would be closed today as well. Activist groups urged for global participation in a general strike on Monday, calling on people to desist from working, attending school or shopping.
The Parliament bureau is scheduled to meet today in preparation for an upcoming legislative session, tackling the future of the Lebanese Army’s leadership, as well as urgent draft laws and bills from the government. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri told Al-Joumhouria last week that he intends to hold a legislative parliamentary session by the coming Friday. Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar on Saturday criticized the push to extend army chief Joseph Aoun’s term — via a law extending by one year the retirement age for army personnel with the rank of General, according to Berri’s comments. The extension proposal, backed by Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai and the Lebanese Forces, encountered pushback from Caretaker Defense Minister Maurice Slim and the Free Patriotic Movement. The leadership of several institutions, including General Security and the central bank, were transferred to interim chiefs amid the more-than-one-year-long presidential vacuum.
MEA commercial director told L’Orient Today nearly all the airline’s flights are full from Dec. 14 to 24, after the addition of new flights to accommodate passengers whose trips were canceled or rescheduled since Oct. 7. Haber said demand for Beirut-bound flights remained “strong for the holiday season,” noting that the newly announced flights were also almost fully booked. Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, MEA reduced the volume of its flights, canceling or rescheduling previously booked trips, and stationed part of its fleet in Turkey. Other airlines temporarily halted trips to Beirut while foreign embassies warned their citizens against the possibility of interruption to commercial aviation. Last December, inbound flights were also saturated.
After a failed Security Council vote for a cease-fire on Friday, the death toll in Gaza mounted to at least 18,000 people according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry, while Israel’s bombardment continued and its ground incursion pierced the southern city of Khan Younis. The chances for a cease-fire are “narrowing,” Qatar's prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said, according to Reuters. Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s military wing, said yesterday that Israel would not be able to recover its hostages if it did not engage in talks on conditional exchange agreements, according to Reuters. Several hostages have reportedly been killed since Oct. 7, according to Hamas, by Israeli shelling. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the UN Security Council's authority and credibility has been undermined after the US veto prevented the implementation of a resolution for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Guterres that US support for Israel and the continuation of the war risks “causing an uncontrollable explosion in the situation of the region,” according to AFP. On Saturday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels threatened to target all ships in the Red Sea bound for Israel “If Gaza does not receive the necessary food and medicine.” Yemen’s Houthi rebels have already raided ships and launched attacks against Israel. UN World Food Program Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau told Reuters work was underway to open a second crossing transferring aid to Gaza from Jordan. Several international organizations last week said the delivery of aid to most areas in Gaza had become impossible due to the intensifying conflicts.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from this weekend: “The Kitchen Babe, Nadine Chamaa’s Spiced Rice with Dried Fruits”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz