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Nine killed in southern Lebanon, UNRWA employees protest, ISF stops smugglers: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, March 28.

Nine killed in southern Lebanon, UNRWA employees protest, ISF stops smugglers: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

People inspect destruction at the site of an overnight Israeli airstrike in Habariyeh near the Israeli border on March 27, 2024. (Credit: Rabih Daher)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 173 of the Gaza war here.

Residents of Hebbarieh buried seven rescue workers, the oldest of whom was 25, killed by an overnight Israeli airstrike on an Islamic Medical Association center. Hezbollah’s retaliatory rocket barrages on Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel killed one person, according to Israeli news outlet Haaretz. One area resident told L’Orient Today about his last time speaking to one of the victims who was singing and joking with friends hours before the strike – which was preceded by fears of a strike on the center by days of Israeli drone overflights. Other area residents expressed concern over the armed presence of Jamaa Islamiya, a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated armed party that has claimed several cross-border strikes since Oct. 8 and announced the deaths of one of its members following the Hebbarieh attack – one of several since the start of the clashes, which the party chief told AP has strengthened ties with Hezbollah. An Israeli statement after the strike said it attacked a “military building” and killed a “prominent terrorist.” Hebbarieh’s municipal head told L’Orient Today the first attack to strike the heart of the village also caused extensive material damage to surrounding cars and houses. The Lebanese Health Ministry decried the attack and Israel’s violation of international law as it “persists in attacking medical centers.” Israeli strikes have repeatedly targeted the Islamic Health Association and al-Rissala Mission Scout centers, killing rescue workers, damaging facilities and destroying equipment.

Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon killed nine people yesterday, including three rescue workers responding to an earlier strike, L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the area reported. An Israeli attack killed four people and injured several others after striking a cafe in Naqoura (Sour), a security source said, adding that some of the victims were members of the Amal Movement. In addition to the Amal members killed in the Naqoura strike, another was a civilian. After an earlier airstrike leveled a house in Tayr Harfa killing two Hezbollah members, according to the area’s municipal council chief, another bombardment killed three members of the Islamic Health Association heading to the site. Along with the strike on Hebbarieh, in terms of the number of people killed, it was the deadliest 24-hour period in southern Lebanon since fighting began on Oct. 8.

Employees of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) continued to protest the suspension of one of their colleagues with a sit-in outside the agency’s Beirut headquarters. An activist at the sit-in said the employee facing a three-month unpaid leave while his alleged rule-breaking is investigated was a school director. The protesters accuse UNRWA of suspending their colleague over his political stance on the Gaza war. A source in the agency told L’Orient Today last Saturday that his unpaid suspension was standard procedure while the investigation was ongoing. On Tuesday, with the exception of health service providers, agency institutions in southern Lebanon shuttered while employees began a strike. Last month, several donor countries cut funding to UNRWA over the alleged participation of some of its members in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The Internal Security Forces announced the interception of an attempt to smuggle 148 kilograms of hashish into Europe. The ISF’s statement said its officers found the cannabis resin cushioned in a za’atar, sumac and keshek shipment while it lay concealed in a warehouse ahead of an attempt to fly out from Beirut’s International Airport. Security forces have repeatedly announced the interception of concealed illegal substances – in carpentry, cooking, confectionary and manufacturing supplies – intended to be smuggled overseas.

Hezbollah denied allegations that it attempted to fire rockets from Rmeish after media reports claimed that a dispute occurred between area residents and party members over an attempt to use the village as a launch site. Hezbollah, which has repeatedly said it does not operate in residential areas, described the reports as “malicious” and blamed parties that have been insisting on launching these false rumors.” On Tuesday, local press cited the chief of Rmeich’s municipality’s description of a dispute after the village’s residents attempted to dissuade alleged Hezbollah members from installing a missile launcher in the village. The conflict reportedly escalated until the suspected Hezbollah members fired warning shots and eventually struck from woodland in the area, which the municipal chief said was still near residences.

At least 32,490 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. An Israeli delegation is expected in Washington to discuss Israel’s plan to invade Rafah, after an earlier trip was canceled in protest of the US’s abstention from a Security Council vote calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. While Israeli officials have repeatedly said they intend on proceeding with the attack, international actors, including the US, strongly oppose a ground expansion to Gaza’s southernmost city, the last refuge of more than 1.5 million displaced Palestinians.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Lebanon under Israel’s multifaceted warfare

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 173 of the Gaza war here.Residents of Hebbarieh buried seven rescue workers, the oldest of whom was 25, killed by an overnight Israeli airstrike on an Islamic Medical Association center. Hezbollah’s retaliatory rocket barrages on Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel killed one person,...