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Morning brief

Civilians hit in south, another arrest in child abuse ring, Bassil champions Syrian expulsion model: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Here is what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, May 13.

Civilians hit in south, another arrest in child abuse ring, Bassil champions Syrian expulsion model: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

A picture shows a fire as a result of rockets launched from Lebanon, next to the northern Israel city of Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanon border on May 10, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border clashes between Israeli troops and Hezbollah fighters. (Credit: Jalaa Marey/AFP)

Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 217, Day 218 and Day 219 the Gaza war.

An Israeli drone strike on Tayr Harfa (Sour) on Friday killed a Risala scout first responder and a technician from mobile telecoms provider MTC Touch. The strike also injured another telecoms worker and fell near Lebanese Army personnel accompanying the repairmen. Israel’s strikes continued over the weekend with air raids and shelling destroying more houses across southern Lebanon. Hezbollah continuing its cross-border rocket strikes, overnight from Saturday to Sunday launched a fleet of suicide drones towards Israel. The party announced the deaths of two fighters Friday, raising the number of members killed since Oct. 8 to 297 people. Israel’s attacks have repeatedly killed civilians and health workers, prompting international condemnation from organizations qualifying some strikes as apparent war crimes. Water, electricity and telecoms installations have repeatedly been damaged in Israeli strikes, totaling half a billion dollars in damages to infrastructure by the Southern Council’s estimate.

Security forces arrested an 11th suspected member of the nearly 30-person international child abuse ring uncovered earlier this month, a woman accused of luring minors online, a judicial source confirmed to L’Orient Today. Since eight children and their parents filed complaints to the Internal Security Forces (ISF) – which suspects there have been no fewer than 30 victims – nearly a dozen people in Lebanon have been implicated for various forms of involvement in the gang, whether for luring children online, transporting them to the places they were abused or ferrying funds between members. Among the suspects in custody are three minors whose Friday hearing was postponed due to judicial disagreements over the jurisdiction held in the case by the Mount Lebanon Children’s Judge — whose role is to protect child victims. While the criminal network’s full scale remains unknown, overseas suspects have been identified in Switzerland, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Preliminary police investigations accuse the gang of preying on children through social media platforms, predominantly TikTok, sexually abusing them and selling footage of the crimes online.

A model proposed by the Free Patriotic Movement has expelled Syrian refugees from “a large number of municipalities,” party chief Gebran Bassil claimed Saturday. Bassil drew his figure from a conference months earlier, joining “more than 200 municipalities” to whom recommendations, a booklet and a platform were issued. Referring to Batroun, Bassil’s electoral district, as a “practical and pragmatic model,” the FPM chief concluded that municipalities should have further authority over Syrian refugees, whom he hoped the area would become “completely free of” – two days after the party hosted a rally calling for the deportations of Syrians unlawfully present in Lebanon. Last month, the Lebanese Forces claimed municipalities where they are active were “doing the right thing” while calling for further action by security forces to supplement the wave of recently tightened restrictions targeting Syrians. Since last April, the government has instructed municipalities to enforce greater restrictions on Syrians, beginning with making registration with local officials mandatory to access housing, work and official documents. At the local level, municipalities have also imposed their own restrictions on Syrians ranging from bans on gatherings and curfews to evictions and crackdowns on Syrian-run businesses or their own preconditions to access housing and work.

Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority Dar al-Fatwa filed a complaint against stand-up comedian Shaden Fakih for alleged blasphemy and “inciting religious and sectarian conflict and undermining national unity” over a recording from a performance in Beirut. Fakih could not be immediately reached and is currently on tour in Canada. The Internal Security Forces previously summoned Fakih for a comedy video in which she asks policemen to deliver menstrual pads to her during the pandemic. Last year, Dar al-Fatwa filed a complaint against stand-up comedian Nour Hajjar over a joke he made five years prior, leading to an 11-hour investigation with the military police, after which he was released to a crowd of dozens of supporters – among whom was Shaden Fakih who at the time expressed concerns to L’Orient Today that “freedom of expression [in Lebanon] is in sharp decline.”

At least 35,034 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the latest figures from the enclave’s Health Ministry. Ordering further evacuations from Rafah with no “credible plan” to safeguard the more than 1 million civilians, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Israel intensified bombardments on the territory’s southernmost city and across the enclave. As of Saturday, 300,000 people have evacuated eastern Rafah, with international organizations and Palestinians asserting there is nowhere left to go. Israel claimed to curtail attempts by Hamas to rearm in northern and central Gaza through aerial strikes and ground assaults, which killed at least two doctors in Deir al-Balah and 19 people in the Jabalia refugee camp. Hamas and Israeli delegations left Cairo this weekend with truce negotiations “back to square one,” Hamas said — after Israel rejected a counter-proposal from the group, as the two diverged over establishing a permanent cease-fire. Israel has said its attack on Rafah aims to pressure Hamas to accept its terms for a cease-fire, while the international community warns of the disastrous human toll such an offense would have. Israeli representative to the United Nations Gilad Erdan on Saturday took out a shredder and fed it the UN charter to protest the General Assembly’s favorable vote to grant Palestine full membership – which though granting it additional rights, cannot change from observer status without a Security Council greenlight.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “Lebanese comedians under legal scrutiny: Other notable cases”

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Catch up on our LIVE coverage of Day 217, Day 218 and Day 219 the Gaza war.An Israeli drone strike on Tayr Harfa (Sour) on Friday killed a Risala scout first responder and a technician from mobile telecoms provider MTC Touch. The strike also injured another telecoms worker and fell near Lebanese Army personnel accompanying the repairmen. Israel’s strikes continued over the weekend with air...