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Four killed in southern Lebanon, new banking rules, fuel tank explodes: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, Feb. 5.

Four killed in southern Lebanon, new banking rules, fuel tank explodes: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

People use a truck as a means of transportation in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 4, 2024, as fighting continues between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP)

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Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 119, Day 120 and Day 121 of the Hamas-Israel war.

Israeli attacks killed two Hezbollah fighters and two members of the Amal Movement in Marjayoun while residents across southern Lebanon witnessed continued shelling and bombardment. An Israeli attack on Taybeh, Marjayoun killed two Hezbollah members yesterday and other strikes on Friday killed two Amal Movement members in Blida, Marjayoun, security sources told L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the region. The strike on Blida also wounded another member of the Amal Movement, which has lost three members since it joined the “support front” led by Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Hezbollah MP Ali Fayad reiterated the party line that the border clashes served a double purpose: Mollifying the attack on Gaza and leveraging Lebanon’s position when discussing Israel’s land and air violations along with its occupation of territory claimed by Lebanon — including the Shebaa Farms, Kfar Shouba Hills and northern part of Ghajar. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday said attacks on Hezbollah would not stop until displaced southern Israel residents can “return safely to their homes,” Israeli news source Haaretz reported. Hezbollah meanwhile has maintained that it would cease attacks on Israel when the war on Gaza stops, as had happened during the weeklong ceasefire in November.

Banque du Liban on Saturday superseded Circular No. 151 with Circular No. 166, setting a monthly cap of $150 on the withdrawal of dollars deposited before the crisis. To make use of the circular, eligible depositors have to open a feeless sub-account, waived of banking secrecy before the BDL and Banking Control Commission, allowing them up to cash out $1,800 yearly. The dollars, which the bank is charged with transferring from the main account(s) to the sub-account, will be funded equally through the BDL and the commercial bank’s reserves. Circular No. 151, introduced in April 2020, allowed depositors to access pre-crisis foreign funds at a rate well below the parallel market. BDL has issued several circulars mediating commercial banks’ informal restrictions on foreign funds, notably No. 158 with modalities similar to 166 and No. 161 which allows the exchange of foreign funds at the rate of BDL’s exchange platform Sayrafa.

In response to clients’ lawsuits, Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Ghada Aoun ordered an asset seizure targeting AM Bank and Credit Libanais for allegedly denying customers access to their post-Oct. 2019 dollar deposits, the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported. A senior source at AM Bank told L'Orient Today that the bank did not receive any legal case and denied that any clients had deposited money after 2019 that they could not withdraw. L'Orient Today could not immediately contact any of the depositors themselves who filed these lawsuits and neither Credit Libanais Bank nor Ghada Aoun responded to requests for comment. Previous attempts at legal action against banks have been met by pushback from the Association of Banks in Lebanon, which launched a strike in response to an asset seizure against Fransabank. Facing commercial banks’ restrictions on foreign funds, some depositors have launched proceedings overseas while others have held up their banks to demand restitution.

An exploded fuel truck killed a man and his mother in Makneh, Baalbeck yesterday, prompting calls for “stricter control” over tankers from the Energy Ministry. The explosion happened near al-Azrak gas station in Makneh, causing damage to a nearby house. Shrapnel from the explosion infiltrated the house, where the man died in the explosion and the woman was taken to hospital before dying from her injuries. The Energy Ministry’s statement blamed the explosion on a substandard truck.

A structural failure in Qab Elias, Bekaa home injured two people, the Civil Defense said in a statement announcing their hospitalization. A Civil Defense source inconclusively linked the collapse to recent bouts of intemperate weather. Heavy rains have damaged buildings across Lebanon, ranging from brief flooding at the Beirut International Airport to a deadly submerging of homes in northern Lebanon. Several deadly home collapses across the country have been linked to heavy rainfall.

At least 27,365 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry.

Hamas continued to mull over the terms of a cease-fire agreement brokered in Paris last week between Israeli, Qatari, Egyptian, US and French officials. Hamas representative in Beirut, Osama Hamdan emphasized the group’s demand for “a complete cessation of hostilities, a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza ... and a serious agreement for an exchange of hostages and prisoners.”

As the Israeli military continued its push south in Gaza to Rafah, the United Nations' humanitarian agency (OCHA) warned that the rise in displacement to the border city was rendering it a “pressure cooker of despair.”

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “Hezbollah-Israel war: Shiite opposition seeks to gain ground

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 119, Day 120 and Day 121 of the Hamas-Israel war.Israeli attacks killed two Hezbollah fighters and two members of the Amal Movement in Marjayoun while residents across southern Lebanon witnessed continued shelling and bombardment. An Israeli attack on Taybeh, Marjayoun killed two Hezbollah members...