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Morning brief

Government compensation plan, presidential election update, more cease-fire talks: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, March 22.

Government compensation plan, presidential election update, more cease-fire talks: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Humanitarian aid parcels attached to parachutes are airdropped from a military aircraft over the Gaza Strip on March 21, 2024, amid the ongoing violence between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (Credit: AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 167 of the Gaza war here.

Amal Movement MP Qassem Hashem yesterday asserted that southern Lebanon residents affected by the ongoing cross-border clashes with Israel “have the right to be compensated” after reports of planned government restitutions stirred controversy online. Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Wednesday published reports detailing a $46 million plan to pay back people whose family members have been killed or whose homes have been damaged since the start of clashes primarily fought by Hezbollah, in a “support front” for Gaza, and Israel. The Lebanese Health Ministry estimates that at least 316 people have been killed in southern Lebanon as of Wednesday while reports of demolished and damaged homes have emerged daily across the region. Some X users said the costs of restitutions should be incurred by Hezbollah, which they blame for the clashes, a view also expressed last November by Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. “This is a national issue that concerns everyone without exception,” Hashem retorted, stressing that southern Lebanon’s residents “have been paying taxes from the conflict with Israel since 1948.” Since beginning its support front, joined by other groups including the Amal Movement, Hezbollah has recontextualized the cross-border strikes as also supporting Lebanese interests —- first by offering leverage in land border dispute negotiations then as a tool to deter an allegedly pre-existing threat of Israeli attack. Hezbollah previously announced its own plans to compensate the victims of the border clashes and surveyed damages during the weeklong truce between Hamas and Israel that extended to Lebanon last November.

Productivity bonuses for civil servants have been set, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced in a statement, allotting upwards of $190 to $280 depending on employees’ rankings. While the bonuses were accorded during a cabinet meeting last month during which public sector salaries were raised, their implementation was decided recently by a commission including the caretaker finance minister and other officials. The commission decided that public administrations will tabulate employee attendance and performance — preconditioned by determining what tasks they are expected to achieve. Notably, any unexplained absence will result in a forfeiture of the bonuses.

Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc said work on ending the presidential deadlock was “still slow,” while Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea again accused the party of attempting under the guise of dialogue to impose a candidate. With the National Moderation bloc’s latest attempt at joining parliamentary groups for discussions — after similar initiatives from other actors, including Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, failed — Geagea expressed his preference for holding elections without “prior arrangements.” The first twelve attempts to name a successor to former President Michel Aoun have failed, with sessions ending after a first round of ballot casting due to MP walkouts causing a loss of quorum. Candidates only need a simple majority, rather than two-thirds of Parliamentarians’ favorable votes, to win in subsequent rounds — to which Geagea and others have urged Parliament to progress during voting sessions. Ambassadors to the US, France, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have met monthly amongst themselves since January and held talks with Lebanese officials attempting to resolve the deadlock — a task they’ve been at for months.

At least 31,988 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. After months of pushback against an immediate cease-fire, the US submitted a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for just that, provided it is accompanied with the release of hostages held by Hamas since its October attack. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while emphasizing his country’s support for Israel, expressed concern over civilian suffering and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Traditional aid deliveries to Gaza have been near impossible due to Israeli restrictions and the ongoing fighting, leaving more than 2 million people between the brink and the midst of famine, according to international agencies’ reports. France said it is working on a similar solution. After the announcements, Israel said Mossad chief David Barnea was due in Qatar today for further cease-fire talks. The push for a Security Council vote comes amid Israeli Premier Benjamin Nentanyahu’s insistence on invading Rafah despite international warnings against it. During the same period, Israel also killed hundreds of people during another attack on al-Shifa Hospital, despite earlier claims of having rid northern Gaza of Hamas fighters, casting doubt on whether anywhere would be safe to move the more than one million people sheltering as a last resort in Rafah — which Israel claimed it could safely transport away ahead of its planned invasion, a dubious claim to many international actors.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “People displaced from southern Lebanon seize Ramadan spirit amid loss and longing

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 167 of the Gaza war here.Amal Movement MP Qassem Hashem yesterday asserted that southern Lebanon residents affected by the ongoing cross-border clashes with Israel “have the right to be compensated” after reports of planned government restitutions stirred controversy online. Lebanese...