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Israeli strikes cause fires, Syrians evicted, municipal elections postponed: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, April 26.

Israeli strikes cause fires, Syrians evicted, municipal elections postponed: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Women mourn over the coffin of one of two women from the same family, killed on April 23 in a reported Israeli strike that destroyed their house in the southern Lebanese village of Hanin, during their funeral on April 25, 2024. (Credit: Hassan Fneich/AFP)

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Catch up on yesterday’s LIVE coverage of Day 202 of the Gaza war here.

Firefighters continuously redeployed to extinguish blazes left in the wake of overnight bombardment and incendiary shells that kept re-igniting as further attacks continued into the day. The incendiary strikes fell amid Israel’s continued attacks on southern Lebanon that also hit houses and the outskirts of towns in the area. Israeli white phosphorus shells, along with the unrelenting bombardment on southern Lebanon, ignited 37 percent of fires in Lebanon in 2023 – causing what caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati described as an agricultural disaster with 800 hectares of land scorched, 4,000 head of livestock killed, and around 75 percent of local farmers having lost their last source of income.

State Security ordered displaced Syrians who did not meet its criteria for legal residence to evacuate their homes within two days after a door-to-door campaign in Kfeifan, Kouba, and Boustan al-Aassi, the state-run National News Agency reported. The raid follows eviction orders from North Lebanon Governor Ramzi Nohra who along with other local authorities had issued sweeping restrictive measures targeting Syrian nationals. After waves of crackdowns, mass deportations and arrests since last April, vigilante violence and new restrictions targeted Syrian refugees over the past two weeks. Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called for the enforcement of “housing, work, transactions, and contracts” related restrictions targeting Syrians in Lebanon. Earlier this month, the caretaker foreign minister earlier this month announced plans to implement similar evicted measures at the state level and dismantle residences housing displaced Syrians who the government does not consider among the “actual displaced.”

A vendetta-related shooting killed one man and injured another in Wadi Khaled, Halba (northern Lebanon). Last month, a family feud in northern Lebanon left one person shot dead, a little girl hospitalized by a stray bullet, and cars, houses and fields aflame. Disputes repeatedly turn deadly amid a rampant presence of unlicensed firearms across Lebanon, often sparking or rekindling family rivalries and leading to further escalation and retaliatory violence.

Parliament extended municipal and mayoral councils’ terms for another year. Coinciding with yesterday’s session, relatives of the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast victims protested outside the Parliament building to demand a law “that would bring justice” to the more than 220 people killed. Exceptionally interrupting its boycott of legislative sessions held amid the presidential vacuum, the Free Patriotic Movement reportedly guaranteed that “payments were not disbursed and the electoral lists were not distributed,” party chief Gebran Bassil said. The 2024 budget allotted $10 million for holding the vote after financing woes postponed the elections the year before. Both the parties boycotting the session and those in favor of postponement cited the ongoing border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in their appeals. The Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party, the Forces of Change MP coalition and independent MP Bilal Hosheimy in a joint statement said their boycott was in “solidarity with [their[ people in the south who are in urgent need of electing a president.” Meanwhile, Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, despite a proposal from caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi to postpone ballot casting in insecure areas, refused to hold elections against a background of fighting with Israel.

Security forces outnumbered by nearly four-to-one the dozen protesters at the opening of the Union of Arab Banks conference at the Phoenicia Hotel. One protester told L’Orient Today they find the conference “ignores citizens and depositors” while another criticized the event taking place amid the ongoing economic crisis. Depositors’ rights collective Mouttahidoun organized the protest, the latest in a series of demonstrations the group has taken to oppose informal capital control measures imposed by commercial banks on foreign currency funds since Oct. 2019.

To gain take-off authorization for one of its aircraft from the Beirut International Airport, Ethiopian Airlines had to remove the Tel Aviv tag designating the plane’s first port of arrival since purchase, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation said yesterday. The directorate said that it also asked Ethiopian Airlines “to take the necessary measures to ensure that there are no logos related to an Israeli entity on the company's planes before landing at Beirut International Airport.” Last May, Cypriot airline TUS AIR was banned from Lebanese airspace and the Beirut International Airport over an Israeli stake in the company.

At least 34,305 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Health Ministry. A day after the US approved $26 billion in military aid for Israel and after days of unprecedented heavy shelling on Rafah that has killed dozens of Palestinians, the long looming invasion is further concretizing. The Israeli army is awaiting confirmation from Israel’s war cabinet to issue evacuation orders for Rafah after Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi announced readiness for a ground invasion of the southernmost city – unheeding international pleas deeming it impossible to safeguard the more than 1 million civilians displaced there after months of fighting. An Israeli delegation is expected in Israel to continue attempts to make progress in deadlocked ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, Israeli media reported. A day earlier, protesters gathered outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home the night before to demand the release of hostages still held by Hamas since Oct. 7.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Lebanon’s economy is in shambles. And yet, the local pharma industry is booming

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 202 of the Gaza war here.Firefighters continuously redeployed to extinguish blazes left in the wake of overnight bombardment and incendiary shells that kept re-igniting as further attacks continued into the day. The incendiary strikes fell amid Israel’s continued attacks on southern...