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Five killed in southern Lebanon, Sayrafa rate aligned, another Cabinet meeting: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, Dec. 20

Five killed in southern Lebanon, Sayrafa rate aligned, another Cabinet meeting: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

A woman inspects the destroyed building of Palestinian journalist Adel Zorob, who was killed overnight in an Israeli bombardment, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 19, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (Credit: Mahmud Hams/AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 74 of the Israel-Hamas war here.

Israeli bombardments killed four Hezbollah fighters and a civilian yesterday. Conflict along the border has shocked southern Lebanon’s economy and potentially caused long-term impacts to air, water and soil quality, according to findings shared by the United Nations Development Program. A Hezbollah spokesperson told L'Orient Today that Hussein Barakat was a delivery driver killed by an airstrike while delivering an order to a house in Rab al-Thalathine, Marjayoun district. The number of Hezbollah members killed since Oct. 7 now sits at 115, by our count. The party continued announcing attacks on northern Israel. Aita al-Shaab’s mayor said that the town witnessed hours of “continuous artillery bombardment,” while residents of other border villages reported strikes on homes and residential areas. Presenting preliminary findings on the initial social, economic and environmental impact of the war, Abdallah al-Dardari, the Assistant Secretary-General for UNDP, described Lebanon's economy as “very fragile,” adding it “cannot handle more shocks.”

The caretaker Cabinet confirmed Parliament’s extension of security officials’ terms and postponed discussions on public sector welfare and salary increases, announced caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makari. Makari said there was no timeline for increasing public sector salaries, pensions or compensation, noting that army retirees requested to review the proposal and that ministers will receive a study on proposed raises. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the subject would be revisited to reach a fair solution that grants public sector employees and military personnel their rights while accounting for the limits of public funding. According to Makari, 30 items were approved during yesterday’s meeting, among which were 14 laws passed by Parliament including the extension of Gen. Joseph Aoun’s term as Lebanese Army commander.

The central bank’s Sayrafa lira-to-dollar exchange rate was aligned to the parallel market rate for the first time since its adoption, Banque du Liban (BDL) confirmed to L’Orient Today. The dollar is now trading at LL89,500 on both platforms after a LL4,000 increase by the central bank. The official exchange rate at LL15,000 to the dollar is now the only outlier to the unification of exchange rates, which the International Monetary Fund has repeatedly demanded. BDL interim chief Wassim Mansouri, in his inaugural address, said the central bank intends to replace the Sayrafa platform with a Bloomberg-developed alternative that has a free-floating exchange rate. The Sayrafa rate has typically lagged behind the parallel market rate, slightly lowering certain official levies or bills (e.g. EDL tariffs) or resulting in a small boost to the limited lira amounts depositors can convert at the rate through Circular 161.

At least 19,667 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. “Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog said yesterday. A diplomatic source told Reuters that Monday’s meeting between the Qatari prime minister and US and Israeli intelligence officials was positive. Later it was announced that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is due to visit Egypt tomorrow for renewed negotiations. Read a full summary from day 74 of the Hamas-Israel war here.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday:Despite tragedy, Gaza journalist Wael al-Dahdouh remains onscreen

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 Day 74 of the Israel-Hamas war here.Israeli bombardments killed four Hezbollah fighters and a civilian yesterday. Conflict along the border has shocked southern Lebanon’s economy and potentially caused long-term impacts to air, water and soil quality, according to findings shared by the...