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MORNING BRIEF

French working to 'reduce tension,' Amnesty warns of unsafe homes, Judge Oueidat replaced: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, Feb. 21

French working to 'reduce tension,' Amnesty warns of unsafe homes, Judge Oueidat replaced: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

A Choueifat resident walks with bags of his belongings after being evacuated from the area following a building collapsing the night prior. (Credit: João Souza/L'Orient Today)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 137 of the Israel-Hamas war here.

French ambassador to Lebanon Herve Magro told Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib talks were under way to “reduce tension” in south Lebanon as area residents continued to report Israeli shelling. Hezbollah announced several cross-border attacks targeting Israeli military positions while denying to L’Orient Today that the drone found in northern Israel yesterday belongs to the party. Israel used the drone as a pretext for its attack on Ghazieh, 5 km south of Saida, on Monday which left at least 21 people injured, including four children. A French proposal last month suggested Hezbollah retreat 10km from the border in the first of several phases to end border clashes. Hezbollah has repeatedly said it would not stop attacking Israel until the war on Gaza ends. The Kataeb political bureau yesterday said Hezbollah was giving “pretexts” for Israel’s continued aggression on Lebanon, calling for the Lebanese Army’s deployment with the UNIFIL to the border as the sole viable option.

After four people, including a baby, died in a Choueifat building collapse Monday evening, an Amnesty International report published yesterday warned that thousands of people in north Lebanon live in unsafe buildings. Four other people were injured by the building’s collapse. Surrounding buildings’ inhabitants were evacuated. Residents said the owner allegedly ignored their complaints and warnings of an imminent structural failure. A five-story building in the area collapsed last week shortly after residents evacuated. Amnesty’s report chastised the Lebanese government’s failure to address building safety issues and to offer alternatives to residents living in structures afflicted by “decades of neglect and contractors’ lack of compliance with safety regulations.” The report particularly criticizes a lack of follow-up after the Feb. 6, 2023 earthquake that killed nearly 60,000 people in Turkey and Syria, and sent tremors across Lebanon — heightening the risk of collapse. After a classroom roof collapsed in Tripoli killing a sixteen-year-old student in November 2022, Parliament formed a sub-committee to investigate buildings at risk of collapse.

The Higher Judicial Council appointed Judge Jamal Hajjar interim public prosecutor at the Court of Cassation, replacing Judge Ghassan Oueidat ahead of his Thursday retirement. The interim appointment comes amid a presidential vacancy preventing a signature from the head of state signing off the cabinet’s nomination. The interim appointments to the Court of Cassation announced yesterday — along with Judge Dakroub to head the 8th Chamber of the Court of Cassation (Civil-Litigation-Social Law) — follow 60 or so interim appointments to courthouses across Lebanon. A source close to Oueidat speaking to L’Orient Today last year quoted Lebanon’s top prosecutor as saying he “can’t wait to retire” with his last years in office clouded by allegations of interfering with investigations into corruption, commercial banks and the Aug. 4, 2020 port blast. After being named a suspect in the port blast investigation, Oueidat last year countersued lead blast investigator Judge Tarek Bitar, instructing security forces to not enforce any of the probe lead’s decisions and releasing detainees held since the blast’s immediate aftermath.

State electricity provider Electricité du Liban (EDL) renewed its warning that 66 public institutions with unpaid bills could see their supply cut by the end of the month. EDL says its last warning went unanswered except from a number of public hospitals. The public utility said it continued to provide power after the last cut-off date, Oct. 31, following a cabinet decision to finance the affected institutions to settle their accounts.

At least 29,195 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. The US vetoed an Algerian draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire, advocating instead for its own alternate draft, which also calls for a cease-fire, but notably condemns Hamas. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh traveled to Cairo for further negotiations, while Israel remains steadfast on its looming invasion of Rafah despite international calls against the operation. The World Food Programme announced another suspension to its aid delivery in northern Gaza citing “chaos and violence” as international organizations and residents warn of a rising threat of famine.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Another apartment building has collapsed. What warning signs should you look for in your home?”

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 137 of the Israel-Hamas war here.French ambassador to Lebanon Herve Magro told Lebanese caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib talks were under way to “reduce tension” in south Lebanon as area residents continued to report Israeli shelling. Hezbollah announced several...