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Heavy fighting in southern Lebanon, ICC to investigate Israel, cease-fire talks stumble on: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Here is what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, April 29.

Heavy fighting in southern Lebanon, ICC to investigate Israel, cease-fire talks stumble on: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Lebanon’s Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (R) speaks with France's Minister for Foreign and European Affairs Stephane Sejourne in Beirut on April 28, 2024. (Credit: AFP)

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Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 203, Day 204 and Day 205 of the Gaza war.

Overnight Israeli attacks over the past three days have left several people injured and houses leveled across southern Lebanon while daytime cross-border exchanges continue with Hezbollah, mounting the death toll from Israel’s drone and air strikes. An Israeli airstrike on Srebbine overnight from Saturday injured 11 people. Hezbollah announced the killing of two members Saturday, raising the number of party members killed since Oct. 8 to 289. An Israeli drone strike on a car driving between Western Bekaa and Jezzine on Friday killed two al-Jamaa al-Islamiya members. Responding to the killing of a civilian in the occupied Shebaa Farms by an anti-tank missile after a series of Hezbollah attacks, intense Israeli shelling on Shebaa overnight to Friday, terrorized residents and left houses and streets tattered.

The caretaker cabinet authorized the International Criminal Court (ICC) “to investigate and prosecute all Israeli crimes committed against journalists, paramedics and civil defense volunteers,” the state-run National News Agency reported. Lebanon’s government has repeatedly filed complaints to the United Nations Security Council over Israel’s attacks on civilians, journalists, medical personnel and its use of incendiary weapons. Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa director Lama Fakhi described it as “a landmark step toward securing justice for war crimes in the country.”

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne visited the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) headquarters and met with Lebanese officials in Beirut yesterday to “make proposals” aiming to “mitigate escalation,” AFP reported. Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri – who also heads the Amal Movement which has fought Israel alongside Hezbollah since Oct. 8 – told Sejourne that Lebanon awaits France’s new proposals, calling for the full application of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. The resolution, which ushered in the end of the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, called for the party’s withdrawal from the border area, mustering additional troops for the UNIFIL and reinforcing its mandate. The resolution also calls for a cease in hostilities and respect for the Blue Line – routinely violated by Israel in its breaches of airspace and other trespasses – and discussions over occupied Lebanese territories. Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai in a Palm Sunday homily urged officials to “spare South Lebanon” from a war fought for a cause that “has nothing to do” with the country. Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea called for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from the border area and for the Lebanese Army’s deployment there instead, as stipulated by Resolution 1701. Hezbollah has reframed its border clashes from a support front for Gaza to a leveraging tool for post-war negotiations over disputed land borders with Israel and a deterrent against Israeli war plans against Lebanon, which supposedly pre-date Oct. 7.

Stray bullets injured a 10-year-old child, a woman and two men in Bebnine (Akkar) yesterday during the funeral of two al-Jamaa al-Islamiya fighters killed in an Israeli strike on the Bekaa two days earlier. Three of the victims were in their homes while a fourth was a considerable distance from the convoy, L’Orient Today’s correspondent reported. The gunfire also damaged cars and properties in the area. The stray fire occurred despite calls from the deceased's relatives against gun salutes during the procession. Celebratory gunfire remains frequent across Lebanon despite authorities’ attempts to curb the practice which routinely causes injuries and deaths. You can read more about the issue of stray bullets in Lebanon here.

Vying again for the international recognition of safe zones in Syria to aid repatriation plans, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati claimed turning “Lebanon into a safe region for the displaced” was making it unsafe for the Lebanese. Mikati said his government aimed to “respect human rights” and “not expose anyone to danger,” while the past two weeks included the eviction of Syrians from their homes in North Lebanon, tightened legal restrictions at the state and municipal levels as well as incipient government deportation plans. Human Rights Watch researcher Ramzi Kaiss – quoted on Thursday as the agency reported cases of arbitrary detention, torture and deportation of Syrians in Lebanon between January and March – described discriminatory practices against Syrians as attempts to coerce their repatriation. Last April, as the Lebanese government began mass deportation of Syrians, Amnesty International warned that refugees face a “risk of torture or persecution at the hands of the Syrian government upon return.”

One man drowned and three other swimmers have gone missing since Friday, the Civil Defense said over the weekend, announcing several rescues from strong waves and fast currents on the Lebanese coast. On Friday, the Civil Defense brought ashore a drowned man and two other people struggling against unsafe waters off the coast of Sour (Sout Lebanon) – where two people drowned the week prior. The same day, five other people were rescued off the coast of Jbeil. On Saturday, two people were rescued from the Ramlet al-Bayda (Beirut) coast after a group of four attempted to retrieve a fifth swimmer struggling with high waves and strong wind, Civil Defense Maritime Rescue Unit chief Samir Yazbeck told L'Orient Today. Yazbeck last year told L’Orient Today there had been an uptick in drownings in 2023, which he linked to non-compliance with “warnings about strong currents and swimming bans.” Lebanese Association for Sports Injury Prevention (LASIP) director Ziad Halabi, meanwhile, warned of the high-risk areas constituted by “beaches without lifeguards, where access is often free of charge.”

At least 34,454 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Health Ministry. Israel continued to strike the densely crowded southernmost city of Rafah, wielding the threat of a ground invasion – looming for weeks despite international warnings – in its cease-fire negotiations with Hamas. A Hamas delegation is set to visit Cairo today after Friday talks between Egypt and Israel attempting to advance deadlocked negotiations. Meanwhile, more than 700 protesters, by the New York Times’ estimate, have been arrested for participating in the anti-war protests that have swept through US college campuses.

In case you missed it, here is our must-read story from over the weekend: “Dbayeh's Cézanne restaurant: It's blissful, it's flavorful

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 203, Day 204 and Day 205 of the Gaza war.Overnight Israeli attacks over the past three days have left several people injured and houses leveled across southern Lebanon while daytime cross-border exchanges continue with Hezbollah, mounting the death toll from Israel’s drone and air strikes. An...