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Civilian killed, public employees receive salaries, social protections extended: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, March 8.

Civilian killed, public employees receive salaries, social protections extended: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Mourners watch as medical personnel transport the bodies of 47 Palestinians, that were taken and later released by Israel, during a mass funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 7, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Credit: Said Khatib/AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 152 of the Gaza war here.

The Civil Defense uncovered the remains of a civilian killed yesterday by an Israeli strike on his home in Dhairah (Sour), several sources confirmed to L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the South. Hezbollah announced the death of one of its members yesterday evening, raising the number of party members killed since Oct. 8 to 235. Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon persisted, striking houses across the region and forcing farmers to flee machine gun fire directed at their fields. Hezbollah announced several cross-border attacks, including a rocket barrage expressly retaliating against the Dhaira strike.

Public employees will be able to withdraw their February salaries as of today, the Finance Ministry announced, after a strike by the institution’s employees to demand improved pay and the restoration of suspended bonuses delayed disbursal. The ministry last Sunday urged its employees to enable public salary payments through their gradual return to work after the civil servants walked out a week prior to protest the government’s reneging on temporary bonus payments. The government, last week, increased public sector salaries after intensified protests spearheaded by Lebanese Army retirees citing unfairness in compensation and abysmal wages.

National Social Security Fund beneficiaries are now eligible for palliative care, director Mohammad Karaki said in a press release, citing boosted revenues from the 2024 budget as an enabling factor. The scope of services was not detailed, though the statement said treatments to improve the quality of life for sufferers of severe chronic diseases, as well as for their families, will be accessible both in hospital settings and outside medical facilities. Patients affected with chronic diseases have seen their suffering exacerbated by drug shortages — despite health ministry interventions including the maintenance of subsidies and digital tools to monitor supply — and, at times, exorbitant treatment prices.

The government vowed to extend the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) social protection program until 2026 caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar claimed in comments relayed by the state-run National News Agency (NNA). Beneficiaries among Lebanon’s most vulnerable households who received only 12 months of payments will be eligible for another year of a maximum of $145 in cash transfers, Hajjar explained. The minister asked beneficiaries whose payments were interrupted after 18 months of enrolment for patients until the end of the month as the ministry endeavors to restore their benefits for an additional half-year. The first phase of the program ended at the start of this month while, earlier in January, Parliament modifications to the draft law accepting the World Bank funding threatened cash flow to the safety net. A Social Affairs Ministry source told L’Orient Today in January that 93,500 Lebanese households were enrolled in the program, which Hajjar yesterday said he aims to increase to the original target of 150,000 families.

After their third monthly meeting this year, the French, US, Qatari, Saudi and Egyptian Ambassadors to Lebanon reiterated their support for holding presidential elections as soon as possible. The latest meeting comes amid an attempt by the National Moderation bloc (former-Future Movement) to rally parliamentarians’ support for consecutive, open-ended electoral sessions — after the first dozen ended with a first round during which candidates need two-thirds of MPs to vote in their favor rather than the simple majority required in subsequent ballots. Hezbollah Parliamentary bloc chief Mohammad Raad reaffirmed his party’s alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement yesterday with a visit to founder and former President Michel Aoun’s home. Representatives from the five states have regularly attempted to expedite the election process, which has failed after a dozen Parliamentary sessions and countless meetings to name Aoun’s successor after the end of his term in October 2022.

The Public Works Ministry will unveil next Wednesday a French-funded-and-assisted plan to rehabilitate the port of Beirut after it was ravaged by the Aug. 4, 2020 blast, the NNA reported. Caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh said the rehabilitation aligns with a “strategic vision to develop the Lebanese port sector so it can fulfill its role in the Eastern Mediterranean region.” The rehabilitation project was devised by French engineering firms Egis and Artelia along with France’s national electricity company Électricité de France (EDF). Two years after the blast, the last of the damaged northern block silos collapsed while relatives of the more than 220 people killed in the explosion protested plans to demolish the remaining structures at least until the investigation into the tragedy concludes — a probe that remains paralyzed due to judicial vacancies preventing rulings on requests to dismiss chief investigator Judge Tarek Bitar. Blast victims’ relatives held their monthly commemorative vigil on Monday, marking 1308 days since the disaster.

At least 30,800 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. Unheeding international warnings, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described intentions for Israel’s military expansion towards Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah, congested to six times its original population with over a million displaced people, describing it as “Hamas’s final stronghold.” Hamas’s negotiators in Cairo headed for Doha awaiting updates from Israel, whose initial offer failed to meet the group’s minimum requirements for a permanent ceasefire. Israel, meanwhile, insists on receiving a list of hostages still alive since their abduction to the enclave which Hamas says it “logistically” cannot provide before a ceasefire is in effect.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “In this remote Lebanese village, residents still speak Ottoman Turkish

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 152 of the Gaza war here.The Civil Defense uncovered the remains of a civilian killed yesterday by an Israeli strike on his home in Dhairah (Sour), several sources confirmed to L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the South. Hezbollah announced the death of one of its members yesterday...