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Restaurant fire, war’s impact on southern Lebanese children, universities protest for Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, May 2.

Restaurant fire, war’s impact on southern Lebanese children, universities protest for Gaza: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

AUB students march outside the university campus carrying a large Palestinian flag, April 30, 2024. (Credit: João Sousa/L'Orient Today)

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Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 207 and Day 208 of the Gaza war.

A gas leak fueled fire at Beirut restaurant Pizza Secrets on Tuesday killed nine employees and injuring four other people. The nine killed employees were trapped in the backroom and died of suffocation, a firefighter told Al-Jadeed news. A Pizza Secrets waiter told L’Orient Today he was spared by having been at the front-of-house, where he escorted two customers to safety. “This is a crime scene. Public safety is never taken seriously in this country,” Beirut MP Paula Yaacoubian told local media. Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire, the Beirut Fire Brigade said yesterday.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned of the southern Lebanon border clashes’ repercussions on access to healthcare, noting a surge in vaccine-preventable diseases and malnutrition, and significant effects on 20,000 students’ education. UNICEF’s report also warned of a “massive collapse” in funding which forced it to cut back its services in Lebanon. More than 92,000 people, more than a third of whom are children, have been displaced since Oct. 8, by the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) estimate. A ministerial meeting chaired by caretaker Premier Najib Mikati on Tuesday discussed aid to southern Lebanon’s displaced population and planned for damage surveys and other plans if a truce prevails – along with maintaining the region provisioned with essential supplies in case of an escalation. Near-daily Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon continued Tuesday and yesterday with attacks hitting across the region and new airstrikes further demolishing houses. Hezbollah announced the death of one of its members yesterday, raising the number of party members killed since Oct. 8 to 290, by L’Orient Today’s count.

Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is scheduled to meet today with the presidents of Cyprus and the European Union while facing pressure to curb illegal departures from Lebanese shores and seeking support to manage Syrians’ presence in Lebanon. Mikati has called for the EU to recognize zones in Syria safe for return to expedite Lebanon’s plans to repatriate Syrians. Deportation plans concretized with the government's planned survey of the Syrian population after a year of arrests, restrictive measures and attempts to reduce the Syrian population’s presence in Lebanon. Cyprus has repeatedly championed refugee-centered, and maritime border control, EU aid for Lebanon. Cypriot Prime Minister Constantinos Ioannou, last month, proposed cutting European financing until stricter border controls are put in place. Around the same period, Cypriot president Nikos Christodoulides called on Lebanon not to “export its migration problem” after an influx of irregular migrants landed in Cyprus after reportedly departing from Lebanese shores.

Expressing solidarity with ongoing US campus protests, nearly 300 American University of Beirut (AUB) students rallied in support of Gaza, calling on their administration to cut ties with companies listed by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Similar protests took place at the Lebanese American University (LAU) and the Lebanese University while students from other universities gathered at the AUB rally. An AUB official reportedly told Al-Jadeed television the demonstration “did not require approval” owing to the institution’s long-standing “solidarity with Palestine.” US college administrations, meanwhile, have cracked down on student protesters, threatening them with expulsion and authorizing police intervention on campuses, after more than a week of encampments and protests opposing the war in Gaza and calling for divestment from Israel. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested on campuses across the US over the past week.

The Lebanese Army arrested eight people accused of firing into the air during the funeral of two al-Jamaa al-Islamiya fighters in Bibnine last Friday during which stray bullets injured four people, including a 10-year-old child. On Sunday, during the funeral for the two fighters killed last Friday, stray gunfire hit three people who were in their homes, a fourth person who was a considerable distance from the procession and damaged property and cars in the area, L’Orient Today’s correspondent reported. Lebanese authorities, especially during holiday periods, have attempted to curb celebratory gunfire. Nonetheless, the practice continues despite pleas to the contrary, regularly resulting in injuries and deaths across the country.

At least 34,568 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Health Ministry. Hamas said it would soon answer the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal, providing a 40-day respite and demanding the release of up to 33 hostages, while gaps persisted between the two’s demands – notably Hamas’s ask for a permanent cease-fire and Israel’s refusal of a deal that would end the war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upheld the threat of a Rafah ground invasion, saying it would happen whether or not a deal is reached.

In case you missed it, here is our must-read story from yesterday: “Taxes and contributions: What has changed for employees and employers in Lebanon?

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 207 and Day 208 of the Gaza war.A gas leak fueled fire at Beirut restaurant Pizza Secrets on Tuesday killed nine employees and injuring four other people. The nine killed employees were trapped in the backroom and died of suffocation, a firefighter told Al-Jadeed news. A Pizza Secrets waiter told...