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IRGC commander killed, UNIFIL members injured, Israel ends al-Shifa raid: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Here is what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Tuesday, April 2.

IRGC commander killed, UNIFIL members injured, Israel ends al-Shifa raid: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Hezbollah mourners attend the funeral of commander Ahmed Shehimi, who was killed in an Israeli raid in Syria early on March 29, in southern Beirut, on April 1, 2024. (Credit: Ibrahim Amro/AFP)

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Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 174, Day 175, Day 176 and Day 178 of the Gaza war.

An Israeli strike on Damascus hit the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital, killing Mohammed Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, along with several others. Zahedi’s killing marks the highest-ranking IRGC leader to have been killed since fighting began on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel. In response to the strike, Iran said that it would respond at a “suitable time and place” while Hezbollah said that the killing would not go “unanswered.” This is a developing story.

An explosion near the Blue Line on Saturday injured three United Nations military observers and their Arabic-speaking assistant, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) spokesman Andrea Tenenti said. The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said it would file a complaint against Israel with the UN, one of several since Oct. 7, over an Israeli attack on the international force. Israel denies responsibility for the incident. A day before the strike, expressing “serious concern,” UNIFIL said “urgent action” was necessary and expressed willingness to mediate a process through which bother parties “lay down their arms and initiate efforts towards achieving a lasting political and diplomatic resolution.” Later Friday, an Israeli drone strike hit a Lebanese army base, without causing casualties. Lebanese army outposts and personnel have been hit by Israeli fire, killing one soldier in December. Peacekeepers’ outposts in southern Lebanon have also previously been struck by Israeli shelling several times since Oct. 7. UNIFIL marked the 46th anniversary of its founding last month, since which it has become the peacekeeping mission with the highest number of casualties.

Israel claimed on Sunday to have killed a Hezbollah chief responsible for the al-Radwan anti-tank missile unit, a prominent weapon in the party’s cross-border attack announcements. The drone strike attacked a car in Kounin, killing its driver, a military official told AFP the same day. On Saturday, Israel assassinated another Hezbollah official through a drone strike targeting his car along the road connecting the southern Lebanese villages of Bazourieh and Wadi Jilo. The same day, Israeli strikes on Aleppo in Syria killed 42 people, including six Hezbollah members, according to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). At least 265 Hezbollah members have been killed in Israeli strikes in Syria and Lebanon since Oct. 8 by L’Orient Today’s count. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a statement said Israel’s army would strike “any place where Hezbollah is. Beirut, Baalbeck, Sour, Saida and the border's whole length — and places even further, like Damascus.” Hezbollah officials threatened to match any escalation by Israel with an upped quantity, quality and depth of strikes towards more critical targets, party MP Ali Fayad said in the wake of a series of deadly Israeli strikes across Lebanon the past week. Since a series of Israeli attacks killed 15 people on Wednesday, Hezbollah fired several retaliatory barrages across the border. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated France’s efforts to “resolve the crisis between Israel and Lebanon,” warning of “heavy losses” that would result from an escalation of Hezbollah and Israel’s clashes. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby meanwhile said it was of the “utmost importance” to restore calm to the border. A northern Israeli local official, who previously called on the Israeli army to forcibly establish a buffer zone north of the Blue Line, called on his government to end the clashes with Hezbollah by May. Israeli officials have threatened military escalation to return displaced residents to the border area, claiming that an end to Hezbollah’s cross-border strike no longer sufficed for it to stop attacks on southern Lebanon.

Robbers killed a paralyzed man in his 70s and injured his wife during a robbery of their home, a security source confirmed to L’Orient Today. The robbers beat the man and his wife, killing him and leading to her hospitalization, during a burglary aided by a domestic worker recently hired by the couple, the same source said. Conspiracies between robbers and inside sources have figured in Internal Security Forces (ISF) reports over the past year. Last March, the ISF reported a conspiracy to kidnap and rob a teacher in Brummana involving her building’s janitor. A month later, the ISF arrested four men who allegedly stole tens of thousands of dollars from a corporate courier in collaboration with one of the company’s employees. Last August, an ISF source credited ramped-up policing with a 38 percent reported crime drop, which a lawyer speaking to L’Orient Today found dubious, adding that the drop could be also explained by a lack of willingness to report crimes.

Opposition MPs on Thursday presented a draft law co-written with KAFA, an NGO combating gender-based violence, to provide further legal recourse to victims of abuse, including eased access to restraining orders and special tribunals to circumvent court congestion. MP Najat Saliba, as cited by the state-run National News Agency, said the bill also proposes to create a victims’ support fund financed by fining abusers. The law proposal follows an outcry from women’s rights groups denouncing unprecedented levels of gender-based violence.

The Lebanese Energy Ministry on Wednesday called on French energy giant TotalEnergies to release the results of its exploratory drilling for offshore oil and gas in Bloc 9. The ministry asked for the results to be delivered by mid-April, a ministry source told L’Orient Today. Last October, a year after the delineation of Israeli-Lebanese maritime borders, hopes for a gas boon dwindled with TotalEnergies’ announcement that no commercially viable hydrocarbon reserves were found. In a statement clarifying the results at the time, the Lebanese Petroleum Association (LPA) said that it was awaiting a technical report from TotalEnergies and that a final assessment was expected by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the LPA pointed to two promising findings. The first is the geological similarity between Lebanon’s exploration site and that of the drilling area where Israel is currently extracting gas. The second is the detection of natural gas which, while not in commercial quantities, may justify further mapping to find larger reserves in and around the block.

A politically connected detainee was brought back into custody on Thursday after a nearly 24-hour manhunt following his escape from State Security’s Beirut headquarters. Formerly employed by Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)-affiliated ex-minister Salim Jreissati and State Security Director Major General Tony Saliba, Dany Rashid’s escape on Wednesday came two days ahead of his hearing with General Security for assaulting engineer Abdullah Hanna, affiliated with the Skaff family – led by Myriam Skaff, formerly tied to the FPM.

At least 32,705 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. Observing a famine “setting in” across Gaza, the International Court of Justice on Thursday ordered Israel to ensure food supplies arrive in Gaza after months of Israeli restrictions and fighting in the enclave have left more than two million people facing starvation and forced international donors to result to expensive and ineffective aid transport mechanisms – including airdrops and opening maritime routes. UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk told the BBC the same day that if Israel is provably using starvation as a weapon in Gaza, it would be a “war crime.” The Israelis withdrew from the al-Shifa Hospital after a prolonged raid left dozens dead and arrested, embrittling an already “barely surviving” health system in Gaza, as described by World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Israeli and US officials met yesterday to discuss alternatives to Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah. The US joins a host of international actors in opposing an Israeli invasion of Rafah, fearing for the safety of more than one million displaced Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also faces domestic pressure as the latest protest calling for his resignation brought together thousands of Israelis on Sunday – recalling scenes from before Oct. 7 when mass protests in Israel opposed the right-wing government’s attempts to curb the judiciary’s authority.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “The perfect image: Nasrallah family’s legacy in service of ‘resistance’

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 174, Day 175, Day 176 and Day 178 of the Gaza war.An Israeli strike on Damascus hit the Iranian consulate in the Syrian capital, killing Mohammed Reza Zahedi, a senior commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, along with several others. Zahedi’s killing marks the...