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UN calls for Gaza cease-fire, spying for Israel, three Hezbollah members killed: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Here is what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Tuesday, March 26.

UN calls for Gaza cease-fire, spying for Israel, three Hezbollah members killed: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at the UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Credit: angela Weiss/AFP)

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Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 168, Day 169, Day 170 and Day 171 of the Gaza war.

Israel attacked Baalbeck Saturday and western Bekaa Sunday, killing a supermarket owner whose car was targeted and wounding three people whose building was hit, L’Orient Today’s correspondent and AFP reported. A Lebanese source told AFP on Monday that the strike was targeting a Hamas official who was able to escape the assassination attempt. Hezbollah fired a 60-rocket salvo targeting Israeli military bases Sunday morning after Israel’s third strike on eastern Lebanon the night before. Israel claimed to have struck “a production site containing weapons,” while AFP’s correspondent said the rockets hit a residential building near a deserted Hezbollah center. Israel’s previous strikes on eastern Lebanon claimed to target the party’s “air force,” killing two party members in the first strike and causing the death of one civilian and seriously injuring others in subsequent attacks. Another Hezbollah member was killed in Israeli strikes on Mais al-Jabal along with one other whose identity remains unknown. According to L'Orient Today's count, 248 Hezbollah members have been killed since Oct. 8.

An Israeli strike on Adaisseh (Marjayoun) killed two Hezbollah members on Sunday. The party announced the deaths after two weeks with no reported casualties. Several houses in southern Lebanon have been demolished or damaged by Israeli attacks since Friday. Hezbollah announced repeated attacks on Israeli military infrastructure over the weekend, targeting bases, equipment and Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. Hezbollah deputy chief Naim Qassem vowed the party would retaliate against “any attack on civilians or any situation that does not respect the current nature of the confrontation.” Qassem repeated the party’s claim that its response against Israel has been both measured to reduce the risk of escalation and necessary to deter Israel’s “expansionist” ambitions. On Friday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said efforts at a diplomatic solution to the border clashes “appear to be positive.”

Switzerland’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) ordered corrective measures from Lebanese banking group Bank Audi’s Swiss subsidiary which the financial watchdog said “failed in its obligations to prevent money laundering.” Bank Audi (Suisse) SA did not submit an internal report on shortcomings to prevent money laundering, maintained “high-risk customer relationships” and did not investigate “press reports of assets potentially obtained illicitly” by non-Lebanese politically exposed clients. The authority said it identified “a payment from a politically exposed person that arrived in the account of a senior Lebanese official.” Bank Audi’s Swiss subsidiary, in turn, severed ties with several clients, made personnel changes and increased compliance resources. It still faces the confiscation of $4.34 million in “unduly acquired gains,” a higher minimum capital limit to account for maintained high-risk relationships and a two-year ban from signing new customers who are politically exposed or present an increased risk.

The Public Procurement Authority greenlit bypassing the tendering process to contract the immediate removal of improperly preserved hazardous materials at the Zouk Power Plant, two years after their possible detonation was flagged, local news reported. The Public Prosecution, according to An-Nahar and Al Markazia, demanded Electricité du Liban to remove the potentially explosive “hydrogen tanks, fuel and some expired hazardous material,” which the PPA considered “a priority” – for which any competent company will be charged to do so at a “reasonable fee.” The cabinet, two years ago, assigned the Lebanese Army to watch over and work on removing the materials, according to Al Markazia. Local residents last month protested the presence of potentially explosive materials near the Tripoli Oil Installations, claiming officials were unresponsive to previous pleas for their removal.

Palestinian factions in the Rashidiyeh camp handed over to Lebanese authorities a man and two children suspected of spying for Israel on Hamas member Hadi Mustafa, who was killed in a drone strike targeting his car south of Sour earlier this month. The factions accused the man of assigning the two children, who sold tissues in the camp where Mustafa lived, while tracking him. Since Oct. 8, Israel has used drones to conduct targeted assassinations of Hezbollah and Hamas officials. In January, researcher and analyst Hassan Qotob told L’Orient Today that Hezbollah’s leaders were “alarmed by the sensitivity of the information acquired by Israel.” In May 2022 after the interior ministry announced the dismantlement of 17 Israeli spy networks, Hezbollah's Secretary General said “Israel is in a rush to recruit spies and is doing so unprofessionally” while a judicial official told AFP Israeli spy handlers exploited the suspected collaborators’ “difficult living and social conditions, which made it easier to recruit them.”

During a first hearing appealing her removal from office by the Disciplinary Board for Magistrates, Mount Lebanon Public Prosecutor Ghada Aoun motioned for the dismissal of the presiding judge, Higher Judicial Council president Souhail Abboud. Protesters gathered outside the Beirut Justice Palace in solidarity with Aoun ahead of the hearing. The next hearing is scheduled for April 15 though the jury’s composition remains uncertain in light of Abboud’s notification of the dismissal request barring him from remaining on the case until it is settled. The request, however, cannot be adjudicated before a quorum is restored to the plenary chamber of the Court of Cassation — a vacancy also stalling the resumption of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast probe. Aoun appealed her dismissal last May, for which no official reason was given and which she described at the time as “vindictive.” She has repeatedly been the subject of complaints to the judicial inspection, often for not abiding by dismissal requests. The last complaint followed Aoun’s attempt to prosecute banking officials who refused to comply with her document requests. In 2021, she was referred to the disciplinary council for raiding the headquarters of money exchanger Mecattaf, despite having been dismissed from the case.

At least 32,333 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, after Russia and China vetoed the US’s proposal on Friday – asking for a clearer call to an immediate truce. The US abstained from the vote, which National Security Council spokesman John Kirby clarified did not represent a policy shift while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered it “hurts both the war effort and the effort to release the abductees.” The resolution came after Israel continued its assault on the al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza and conducted raids on the Amal Hospital in Khan Younis. Negotiations have stalled for weeks with rifts persisting between Israel and Hamas’s demands. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant traveled to the US Sunday amid mounting pressure from its ally to ramp up aid deliveries to the enclave as it faces a looming famine and to avoid a military expansion to Rafah – which Israel was willing to do without US support, Netanyahu told US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken Friday, according to Haaretz. Yesterday, Major General Nimrod Shafer said Gallant’s trip aimed to ensure a continued supply of US weapons to Israel, adding that the Rafah invasion would not proceed without an American green light.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “Palestinians in Gaza celebrate Palm Sunday despite everything and pray 'for peace'

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 168, Day 169, Day 170 and Day 171 of the Gaza war.Israel attacked Baalbeck Saturday and western Bekaa Sunday, killing a supermarket owner whose car was targeted and wounding three people whose building was hit, L’Orient Today’s correspondent and AFP reported. A Lebanese source told AFP on Monday...