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Fire in refugee camp, three injured in Israeli strike, Mass grave in Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, April 23.

Fire in refugee camp, three injured in Israeli strike, Mass grave in Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

The aftermath of the fire at the Hamed al-Hassan refugee camp on April 22, 2024. (Credit: Mohammed Yassine/L'Orient Today)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 199 of the Gaza war here.

Almost 500 people were displaced from the Hamed al-Hassan refugee camp after it was completely incinerated within an hour from the moment it caught fire. Camp residents and coordinators told L’Orient Today nothing was spared from the fire – already large and exacerbated by the tents’ close proximity, fuel and rubber stores in them as well as “the temperature and the wind,” local Civil Defense official Fayez al-Sheiyeh told L’Orient Today. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protocol calls for establishing a shelter to house displaced people who have no temporary residence, according to an agency staff member speaking to L’Orient Today. A camp resident said they faced taunts and jeers from people who came to the camp when it began burning. The cause of the fire remains unknown, one resident speculated that it was sparked by a short circuit while a woman at a shop nearby ruled out arson. Fires have repeatedly erupted in Syrian refugee camps across Lebanon, at times killing and injuring residents. The blaze comes amid increased discriminatory violence and policies targeting displaced Syrians in Lebanon. During a meeting with European Union official Oliver Varhelyi, as Lebanon faces pressure from Cyprus to curb illegal departures from its shores, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for a change in the allocation of aid to Syrian refugees in a way that enables their repatriation. The Lebanese government attempted mass repatriation trips several times, despite international warnings of the dangers returnees face in Syria, prior to its latest plans to deport Syrians from Lebanon who do not meet its standards as being among the “actual displaced” by the more than a decade long civil war.

An Israeli drone strike on a home in Sour slightly injured three people amid continued bombardment and shelling in southern Lebanon while Hezbollah announced another drone downing and more cross-border attacks. The Amal Movement announced the night before the killing of one of its members by an Israeli strike on a home in Kfar Kila (Marjayoun). At least 18 Amal Movement members have been killed since Oct. 8, according to L’Orient Today’s count. Hezbollah Central Council chief Nabil Qaouq boasted of the party’s ability to down Israeli drones, repeatedly used in targeted assassinations, after it announced having done just that the evening prior – an upgraded military capability, first unveiled against the Hermes 450 in February, that was followed by Israel’s first attacks on the Bekaa since 2006.

Parliament is set to discuss on Thursday Civil Defense salary arrears and a third postponement of municipal elections while caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi yesterday said May 22 would be voting day in Beirut, the Bekaa and Baalbeck-Hermel. Parliament last April, citing ballot funding woes, extended the terms of municipal councils and mukhtars a month before their expiry from the previous year’s extension – to the ire of Lebanese Forces (LF) MPs who unsuccessfully attempted to appeal the law. Sourcing the $8 million needed to hold the municipal elections, estimated then by caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, led to a dispute pitting the LF and Kataeb, who proposed the use of the government’s IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR), against caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil, who refused to “legally sanction” the SDR’s use and instead proposed financing the ballot through a LL1.5 billion appropriation in the 2022 budget. As for Civil Defense salaries, Parliament seeks to classify the newly salaried volunteers as either security forces or civilian public employees – a confusion that left 2,100 first responders unpaid

The Jounieh Vehicle Registration Center is scheduled to reopen today after a more than year-long hiatus marked by a wave of corruption-related arrests, issues with Traffic Management Center (TMC) service provider Inkript and employee strikes. The Road Traffic and Vehicles Authority announced the Kesrouan center will operate from Tuesday to Thursday, allowing the completion of transactions already underway and a host of its regular services. Vehicle registration center operations have gradually resumed since they closed in early 2023 amid a corruption investigation implicating more than 100 employees, including Road Traffic Department general director Hoda Salloum. Several centers remain closed, with the investigation piling onto a payment dispute with specialized service supplier Inkript that saw the contractor briefly shut down center systems and cut electricity supply last August.

At least 34,151 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Health Ministry. More bodies were exhumed from a mass grave at the Khan Younis Nasser Hospital, totaling at least 283 people left in the wake of Israel’s April 7 raid on the facility — which along with other attacks on hospitals, purportedly targeting Hamas, and stringent aid entry conditions have left Gaza’s medical system in tatters. Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh blamed Israel’s refusal to completely withdraw from Gaza for stalled ceasefire talks, while Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to exert more “military and political pressure on Hamas.”

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “The mysterious abduction of the Aleppo archbishops, Episode 1: 'This story is a bit like Moussa Sadr'

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 199 of the Gaza war here.Almost 500 people were displaced from the Hamed al-Hassan refugee camp after it was completely incinerated within an hour from the moment it caught fire. Camp residents and coordinators told L’Orient Today nothing was spared from the fire – already large and...