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Morning brief

LF official killed, Nasrallah commemorates IRGC commander, Eid al-Fitr announced: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, April 9.

LF official killed, Nasrallah commemorates IRGC commander, Eid al-Fitr announced: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Partisans of the Christian Lebanese Forces burn rubble on the side of a road to protest the killing of a local politician in the Jbeil (Byblos) area, on April 8, 2024. (Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 185 of the Gaza war here.

Disappeared Lebanese Forces (LF) official Pascal Sleiman was killed and taken to Syria after a failed carjacking attempt, the Lebanese Army said yesterday evening after protesters blocked roads in Jbeil earlier in the day to condemn his kidnapping. The army said it was coordinating with Syrian authorities to repatriate Sleiman’s remains. Sleiman was reported missing and thought to have been kidnapped on Sunday afternoon while driving from Kharbeh to Hakel (Jbeil) where assailants obstructed his path and forced him into another vehicle. Protesters decrying Sleiman’s disappearance blocked roads in Jbeil and shuttered their stores, telling L’Orient Today they would keep them shut until his fate was revealed. The head of the LF Jbeil headquarters estimated to L’Orient Today that 90 percent of businesses in the area closed in solidarity with Sleiman. The Lebanese Army earlier yesterday had announced the arrest of several Syrian nationals allegedly connected with the kidnapping. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in a speech yesterday distanced the party from the incident, blaming “gangs” for the abduction. Last August, the LF accused Hezbollah of involvement in the kidnapping of party official Elias Hasrouni from Ain Ebel, whose death had been linked to a car crash before surveillance footage surfaced showing his car being intercepted.

An overnight strike on a house in Sultanieh (Bint Jbeil) killed three Hezbollah members. The Israeli army claimed the strike targeted an “important member of Hezbollah.” Israeli strikes continued to topple and damage houses across southern Lebanon while Hezbollah continued announcing cross-border attacks. A joint statement by the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, and Interim Force in Lebanon chief, Aroldo Lazaro, called for an end to the Hezbollah-Israeli border clashes, warning of a steadily increasing “risk of miscalculation and further deterioration of an already alarming situation.”

In a speech mourning slain Iranian commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi, killed last week in an Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic mission in Damascus, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said that while Israel does not stop at “red lines,” the party would not either. In a speech reaffirming Iran’s ties to the “resistance,” Nasrallah’s comment on “red lines” referenced Hezbollah downing a Hermes 900 drone on Saturday. Israel previously retaliated against drone downings, which a military analyst previously told L’Orient Today reveals an escalation in military capabilities, with attacks on the Bekaa, where it claims Hezbollah air force infrastructure is located. Nasrallah also retorted towards critics, naming the Kataeb and Lebanese Forces, over accusations that Hezbollah had usurped the decision to wage war from the Lebanese state – which he reframed as a resistance fighting the enemy – by claiming the parties had done the same at the outset of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri repeated to pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that attacks on Israel from Lebanon were measured to avoid providing “excuses” for an Israeli military expansion. Hezbollah MP Hassan Ezzedien echoed the notion during the funeral of a party member killed by Israeli attacks, saying the party had deployed only a meager fraction of its military capabilities and was attempting to “force” a return to “discipline” by Israel.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed informal sea migration from Lebanese shores with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, who voiced concern over an influx of arrivals. Christodoulides previously urged Lebanon not to “export its migration problem,” while Cypriot Interior Minister Konstantinos Iannou, expressing fears that Lebanese border control is weakened by the ongoing clashes with Israel, proposed that EU aid to Lebanon be conditioned on the country’s efforts in curbing illegal departures. Mikati last week urged Cyprus to understand Lebanon’s position and instead call for ramped-up European aid enabling Lebanon to better secure its borders. Mikati also doubled down on Lebanon’s refusal to accept the return of non-Lebanese people who informally departed from the country towards Europe. More than 80 migrants were reported missing in January, with some sources saying they were under Cypriot arrest while others suspected they died at sea — noting that the east Mediterranean informal migration route is among the deadliest to cross and that departures from Lebanon accounted for more than half of informal migration deaths in 2022, by the International Organization for Migration’s estimate. The announcements came amid new restrictions targeting Syrians in Lebanon, including the potential deportation of those not meeting the Foreign Ministry’s criteria for being among the “actual displaced” by the more-than-decade-long civil war. Cyprus has previously provided donations to boost Lebanese coast guard capabilities and urged the EU to deliver more aid to Lebanon.

Eid al-Fitr will take place on Wednesday declared Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, the state-run National News Agency reported. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, extending benediction for the holiday earlier in the day, said he will not receive well-wishers for the occasion and saluted “the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance fighters, the martyrs and their sacrifices, ... our steadfast people in the villages on the border with occupied Palestine and the displaced people.”

At least 33,207 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s health ministry. Israel’s plans to invade Rafah further concretized with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of an unspecified date for the attack and a mass purchase of tents, declared to AP News by an Israeli army source, to relocate the more than 1.5 million displaced Palestinians sheltering there – whose safety underpinned repeated warnings by international actors against the invasion. Cairo talks to mediate a ceasefire are set to continue for two days, as conflicting reports pit Hamas’ observation of “no progress” towards a truce with Egyptian security officials’ comments to the local press of narrowing the gaps that have prevented an agreement over the past weeks. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke of an “opportune” moment for a prisoner swap with Hamas, as protests swept across Israel denouncing Netanyahu and calling for the return of the more than 100 abductees still in Gaza since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “​​Deaths in a war that has no name: Civilians killed by Israel in Lebanon

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 185 of the Gaza war here.Disappeared Lebanese Forces (LF) official Pascal Sleiman was killed and taken to Syria after a failed carjacking attempt, the Lebanese Army said yesterday evening after protesters blocked roads in Jbeil earlier in the day to condemn his kidnapping. The army said it...