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Budget talks continue, injury in southern Lebanon, Gaza hospital shelled: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, Jan. 25.

Budget talks continue, injury in southern Lebanon, Gaza hospital shelled: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Palestinians stand amidst the rubble of a mosque and buildings that collapsed during Israeli bombardment around the town city of Rafah southern Gaza Strip on Jan. 24, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Credit: AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 110 of the Israel-Hamas war here.

An unexploded Israeli shell injured a woman after it fell on her home in Shebaa, southern Lebanon on Tuesday, as Israel and Hezbollah continued to exchange cross-border fire. Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told the UN Security Council that “Lebanon does not want war,” calling for a comprehensive solution and for “stakeholders not to fall into the Israeli trap of spreading war in the region.” Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati told Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani that Lebanon favors “the implementation of a peaceful solution in the region.” Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah claimed that Lebanon was in a position of “strength” evidenced by repeated visits from foreign delegations.

Parliament is scheduled to continue its examination of the 2024 budget today after a loquacious session yesterday. Legislators are set to vote on whether to adopt the text, which was modified over 26 review sessions by the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee between October and last week.

Presenting the Committee's report on the budget, MP Ibrahim Kanaan criticized the government's lack of socioeconomic “vision,” meager funds for investment, haphazardly set taxes and a deficit of more than LL 17 billion set to be covered via loans — which the committee chief found to be beyond the state's ability to request since defaulting on Eurobond repayment in 2020. Commenting on the tax adjustments in the text initially forwarded to the committee — in which some taxes were multiplied by ten and others by 15,000 — the report finds that they merely attempt to increase revenues without taking into consideration the ongoing crisis, the need to incentivize investment and citizens’ ability to pay. Kanaan said the committee made fundamental changes to the budget, which it trimmed down from 133 to 96 articles, including the removal of tax adjustments it found unconstitutional and the addition of reserves to finance cancer and chronic illness drugs, municipal elections and fuel for security services.

Following Kanaan's exposé, several MPs among the 40 who requested to address their colleagues made statements. Forces of Change MP Melhem Khalaf walked out in protest, calling for the election of a president on the 450th day of the presidential vacuum, as pointed out later by Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab. Lebanese Forces MP George's Adwan called for measures to return depositors’ informally frozen funds and criticized improper revenue and expense bookkeeping at the Finance Ministry resulting from an unpaid software license. Independent MP Jamil al-Sayed decried the imposition of additional costs on citizens to increase revenues, as did Renewal Bloc MP Michel Moawad in a later address emphasizing his refusal of the budget. MPs Neemat Frem and Michel Daher separately deplored flaws in VAT collection.

At least 25,700 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the enclave health ministry's latest figures while Israeli officials doubled down on their refusal of a ceasefire.

Reuters said the US, Qatar and Egypt are attempting to broker a month-long pause in hostilities though Israeli statements remain undeterred to eradicate Hamas’ military abilities despite repeated international warnings of the atrocities wreaked in the process. The International Court of Justice is set to rule on Friday whether it sanctions emergency measures in Gaza, where South Africa claims Israel has committed genocide.

Intense shelling preceded the Israeli army's enforcement of the al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis. Israeli forces shelled a shelter housing 10,000 displaced people in Khan Younis and prevented ambulances from entering, UNRWA spokesperson in Gaza Adnan Abu Hasna told L'Orient Today, noting that the organization regularly informs Israel's military of shelter locations. First responders have repeatedly warned that increased attacks in the area have immobilized them and prevented them from attending to emergencies and injuries. Italy said it would treat 100 Palestinian children in its hospitals within the next few days, after similar measures earlier in the war by Egypt amid the collapse of Gaza's health sector following Israeli raids on hospitals they claim to be used militarily by Hamas, fighting in health facilities’ vicinity and sever medical supply and fuel shortages.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “To whom do Shebaa Farms belong?

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 110 of the Israel-Hamas war here.An unexploded Israeli shell injured a woman after it fell on her home in Shebaa, southern Lebanon on Tuesday, as Israel and Hezbollah continued to exchange cross-border fire. Caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib told the UN Security Council that...