- September 25, 2020

Explosion at Hezbollah Arms Depot in South Lebanon town of Ain Qana

A strong explosion shook a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon in the village of Ain Qana on Tuesday, but the cause was not immediately clear. Lebanese TV networks said the blast ripped through a “house belonging to Hezbollah,” and pro-Hezbollah journalist Salem Zahran said it occurred at a depot for storing “shells from the war era,” adding that it caused no casualties. Another local Hezbollah official in Ain Qana, Ali Nazar, said the explosion destroyed a house where old mines and shells leftover from “past Israeli aggression” were being collected by a de-mining agency for disposal. The Lebanese Army said an army force arrived at the explosion site immediately after the incident and has since launched an investigation.

Members of Hezbollah imposed a security cordon, barring journalists from reaching the area.

The National News Agency said the blast had coincided with intensive fly-overs by Israeli fighter jets and drones.

Bulgarian Court Convicts Two Men for 2012 Bombing of Bus Carrying Israeli Tourists

A Bulgarian court on Monday sentenced two Lebanese men to life in prison over a deadly 2012 bus bomb attack on Israeli tourists at the country’s Burgas airport blamed on Hezbollah. The attack in July 2012 killed five Israelis including a pregnant woman and their Bulgarian bus driver and left over 35 people injured. It was the deadliest against Israelis abroad since 2004.

France Says No Evidence Hezbollah Storing Explosive Chemicals

France’s Foreign Ministry said there was no evidence that Hezbollah stores chemicals in France that can be used to make explosives. This came after U.S. Counterterrorism Coordinator Ambassador Nathan Sales alleged Hezbollah had stored caches of ammonium nitrate across Europe in case it was needed to carry out attacks directed by Iran.

Saudi King Calls for Disarming Hezbollah

Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on Wednesday blasted what he called Hezbollah’s “hegemony” over Lebanon, and said the Iran-backed party should be “disarmed.” Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly, the monarch stressed the kingdom’s support for the Lebanese people following the humanitarian tragedy resulting from the catastrophic August 4 blast at Beirut port. Alleging that the explosion was “the result of terrorist Hezbollah’s hegemony over decision-making in Lebanon through the force of arms,” King Salman said Hezbollah’s influence has “paralyzed the state’s constitutional institutions.” He added that “achieving the brotherly Lebanese people’s aspirations in security, stability and prosperity requires disarming this terrorist party.”

Lebanese Authorities Unveil Compensation Program for Beirut Port Blast Victims

Lebanese authorities on Thursday unveiled a compensation program for the thousands of homes and businesses devastated by the August 4 blast at Beirut's port. President Michel Aoun signed a decree allocating 100 billion Lebanese pounds (more than $66 million at the official exchange rate, or $13 million on the black market) to the program, his office said. It added that the army and Beirut municipality would be tasked with setting up a mechanism to distribute the funds. The compensation will go to owners of homes and businesses damaged in the explosion that left more than 190 dead and devastated swathes of the capital, a source at the presidency said.

According to an assessment by the army, the blast caused by a consignment of ammonium nitrate, damaged almost 61,000 homes and over 19,000 businesses. Relatedly, the day prior, Aoun issued a call for international aid to help Lebanon rebound from the impact of the August 4 Beirut Port Blast. Aoun made the plea in a prerecorded speech to the U.N. General Assembly's virtual summit, telling world leaders that Lebanon’s many challenges are posing an unprecedented threat to its very existence.

Most urgently, he said, the country needs the international community’s support to rebuild its economy and its destroyed port. Aoun suggested breaking up the damaged parts of the city into separate areas and so that countries that wish to help can each commit to rebuilding one.

Aoun Warns Lebanon is “Going to Hell” if a Government is not Formed

President Michel Aoun said Monday Lebanon is “going to hell” if a new government is not formed, as he called for the abolishment of the sectarian distribution for sovereign ministries. “I propose to...abolish the distribution for ministries that are named as sovereign and not to allocate them for specific sects,” Aoun said, adding that the Lebanese constitution does not allocate any ministerial portfolios to any specific sects or groups.

Aoun said that the sovereign ministries—Finance, Interior, Foreign, and Defense—should be available to all sects, not just the major groups, and that the ability to achieve results, not sectarian affiliation, should be the criterion to choose ministers. His statement comes as the country’s leading Shiite parties—the Amal Movement and Hezbollah—refuse to let go of the Finance Ministry and their power to name all Shiite ministers in the upcoming Cabinet.

Le Drian: No Aid to Lebanon Without Reform

France's foreign minister Wednesday called on international partners to increase the pressure on Lebanese political forces to form a government, and again warned that only once reforms were underway would vital financial aid arrive.

Fire Breaks out at Tripoli Port

A fire broke out on Tuesday at the northern Port of Tripoli that stepped in after the large explosion at the country’s major port in Beirut in August. Media reports said the fire broke out in a ship maintenance workshop outside the campus of the Port of Tripoli. The port director Ahmed Tamer told LBCI that a gallon of paint caused the fire. It was immediately brought under control, he said.

Lebanon Records Highest Daily Number of New COVID-19 Cases

Lebanon on Thursday reported 1,027 new coronavirus cases, its highest daily tally since the first case was detected on February 21. It had reported 1,006 cases and 11 deaths on Sunday amid a sharp rise in infections and fatalities in recent weeks.

ISF: Sexual Extortion on the Rise in Lebanon

Lebanon saw a “dangerous rise” in sextortion, or sexual blackmail, cases between July and August, the Internal Security Forces (ISF) said in a statement Tuesday. The security agency registered a 104 percent increase in complaints during that period, rising from 47 in July to 96 in August, with a high number of people reporting the crime to the police via its website and Facebook page. The ISF said earlier this year that complaints of extortion and sexual harassment increased during the first coronavirus lockdown. It received 122 complaints for these crimes between February 21 and April 21, 2020. The ISF had registered 43 complaints about those crimes between December 20, 2019 and February 20, 2020.