Morning brief

Three killed in south Lebanon strikes, arrests in murder of transwoman, TikToker drug smuggler: Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here is what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, May 22.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024.

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz.

Some key things to watch today:

• An International Monetary Fund delegation is scheduled to meet with the heads of the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee, the Justice and Administration Committee, and the Economy and Trade Committee.

• Reaction to report by CNN that Egypt "secretly altered the terms of the cease-fire and hostage-release agreement" being discussed between Israel and Hamas, which led to the collapse of negotiations. 

• The Irish government may announce the recognition of a Palestinian state today, Reuters is reporting. 

A man inspects the rubble of a house in the southern Lebanese village of Kfar Hammam near the border with Israel, on May 8, 2024, a day after it was destroyed. (Photo by Rabih Daher/AFP)

SOUTH LEBANON: Three people killed in Israeli strikes

Two al-Jamaa al-Islamiya members killed in the Bekaa: An Israeli airstrike on a car between the Western Bekaa and Jezzine killed the two fighters from the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party. It has lost seven members since re-establishing its al-Fajr Brigades (Dawn Forces) to fight alongside Hezbollah and other groups against Israel. In late April, an Israeli drone strike in the same region killed two members of the group.

Hezbollah member killed overnight: The party announced the fighter’s death yesterday evening, increasing Hezbollah’s death toll since Oct. 7 to 310 according to L’Orient Today’s count. The party announced several cross-border strikes throughout the day.

Israeli attacks continue in southern Lebanon: Israeli airstrikes, drone attacks, and explosive and incendiary shelling were reported to L’Orient Today’s correspondent by residents across the region. The attacks leveled or damaged several buildings and houses — most of which have been empty for months, vacated by their displaced residents who may find they have no home to return to.

Destroyed and damaged buildings since Oct. 8: The Council for the South, an administrative body founded to address issues in southern Lebanon and tasked with surveying the damages since Oct. 8, estimates that Israel’s attacks have destroyed 1,700 buildings and damaged 14,000 others, and that Israeli strikes on water, electricity, telecoms and other infrastructure amount to no less than half a billion dollars.

Policemen outside the Adlieh detention center. Beirut, Aug. 7, 2022. (Anwar Amro/AFP)

CRIME IN LEBANON: Gun and drug smuggling, and murder charges

Pistol-laden truck intercepted by the Lebanese Army: A truck concealing 304 pistols, stashed near the vehicle’s engine, caught fire in Batroun Monday evening, leading to the arrest of several arms smugglers, the army said yesterday. The Turkish-made pistols entered through the Tripoli port, destined for resale on the local market, L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the region reported.

Key context -Lebanon's booming arms market: Arms smugglers in Lebanon told L’Orient Today their profits have risen since 2019's economic crisis. Fearing a perceived rise in crime after several instances of widely reported armed robberies and fatal shootings, business owners told L’Orient Today they’ve sought private security services while regular citizens spoke of pressure to carry weapons themselves.


Alleged killers of transgender woman arrested by the Internal Security Forces (ISF): The young woman who was found stabbed in Dora last Monday was “known and loved in her community,” regional LGBTQIA+ rights NGO Helem said. The ISF claimed the crime was sexual, while Helem’s statement classed it among a series of extortionary attacks on trans women by “organized gangs.”

Assault and official anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in Lebanon: Last year several assaults targeting LGBTQ+ people were recorded, including repeated attacks from Christian extremist group Jnoud al-Rab (Soldiers of God). The attacks coincided with a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric among Lebanese officials, including fierce criticism of legal amendments to protect LGBTQ+ community members from prosecution and new law proposals that could triple prison time for individuals convicted of “the promotion of sexual perversion,” an allusion to LGBTQ+ relationships.


Arrest warrant for eponymous wafer producer and alleged drug smuggler “Dr. Food”: Mount Lebanon Investigating Judge Ziad Dghaidy issued an arrest warrant for social media personality and sweets producer Georges Dib, alias Dr. Food, over the purported “manufacturing, trafficking and smuggling” of drugs. Dib denies the charges, leveled after the discovery of drugs in a shipment of his products at the Beirut airport.

Key context: The ISF regularly announces the interception of drugs intended for smuggling abroad, either before or during their transportation, concealed in a host of products. Food products, from Lebanese pantry staples to confections, are regularly used by smugglers as decoys, which have also included industrial products, carpentry and home appliances. The concealment of illicit stimulant Captagon in a pomegranate shipment to Saudi Arabia has led the Kingdom to enforce a moratorium on Lebanese agricultural products since 2021. Caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi last year claimed that in 2022, the ISF made “1,041 drug seizures, arrested 1,512 people involved in trafficking, and confiscated more than 15 million pills of Captagon and six tons of cannabis.”

People inspect the damage in the rubble of a building that was damaged during Israeli bombardment at the Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on May 21, 2024 (Photo by AFP)

PALESTINE: At least 35,647 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7

Israel continues to prevent aid deliveries while food and fuel dwindle in Gaza: The World Health Organization joined international organizations in calling, yet again, on Israel to lift restrictions on aid deliveries to Gaza. Earlier the same day, the United Nations’ Palestine Refugee agency (UNRWA) said insecurity and shortages forced a halt to food deliveries in Rafah. Since May 7, Israel has prevented aid shipments from entering through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. While maritime deliveries dock at a temporary jetty constructed in Gaza, international organizations assert that land deliveries are the only means to address catastrophic humanitarian conditions in the enclave.

How supply shortages manifest themselves in Gaza: Suspended aid deliveries heighten the risk of a famine, which is taking hold in Gaza after looming for months, with several children already confirmed to have been killed by malnutrition and dehydration. Aid shipments are also crucial in maintaining functions at what remains of the medical sector, brought to its knees by chokeholds on fuel and other supplies as well as repeated fighting near medical facilities and raids by the Israeli army on hospitals.

Occupied West Bank: The Palestinian Authority reported the deaths of seven people, including a school teacher, a student and a surgeon after an Israeli raid on Jenin. At least 512 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since the Gaza war broke out, according to Palestinian officials. Several countries have imposed sanctions on Israeli settlers as waves of attacks continue to terrorize Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, averaging eight raids a day as of last November — up from the daily three prior to Oct. 7. Israeli army raids and settler attacks exacerbated a spike in violence targeting Palestinians in the occupied West Bank — who by March 2023 already faced their deadliest year in more than a decade, according to the UN.

 In other news:

• A young man died in an apparent work accident at a factory in North Lebanon

• Former Dutch Defence Minister and UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Antoinette Plasschaert succeeds UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka

• Security forces briefly detained lawyer and Depositors’ Rights collective Mouttahidoun founder Rami Ollaik after an altercation at the Beirut airport

 Here is our must-read story from yesterday: Lebanon’s cabinet wins a round against UNHCR

Where does the international community stand on the Lebanese government’s new restrictions against Syrians?

Jeanine Jalkh breaks down the recent controversy over a letter sent to caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Lebanon, Ivo Freijsen.

Freisjen opposed tightened restrictions on Syrians in Lebanon and challenged the government delegating their enforcement on municipalities. Following severe backlash from officials, the letter was retracted.

 Your daily 'light read'

The Geday Palace painted by Louis Lottier, one of the great orientalists. (Credit: Philippe Jabre Collection)

Lebanon’s tri-lingual evolution in Arabic, French, English

“Navigating life with three common languages is a rare privilege,” L’Orient-Le Jour reporter Fifi Abou Dib tells us, coursing through the evolution of French, English and Arabic in Lebanon.

In this article, Abou Dib finds traces of Turkish, Russian and Italian enduring in Lebanese dialect, documents a reported brawl between American University of Beirut and Université Saint-Joseph speakers, and dwells on the idiosyncrasies of spoken English, Arabic and French in Lebanon.

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Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Wednesday, May 22, 2024.Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz. Some key things to watch today:• An International Monetary Fund delegation is scheduled to meet with the heads of the Parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee, the Justice and Administration Committee, and the Economy and Trade Committee.• Reaction to report by CNN that Egypt...