Rear View – Lebanon in review (15 August 2021)
12 August: Aoun and Mikati talks resume, no major progress reported
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati have continued their negotiations for the formation of a new government, though no real progress has been made yet. Each day that passes without government assembly drives Lebanon further into crisis.
Mikati’s plan to assemble 24 nonpartisan specialists to enact reforms and shore up the economy has stalled in the face of Aoun’s call for a rotation of the four so-called sovereign ministries: Interior, Finance, Defense, and Foreign Affairs.
By proposing a reprioritisation of the four major ministries, Aoun seeks to control the portfolios of the interior and justice. Aoun reportedly also wishes to share the Social Affairs Ministry with the Druzes, as represented by Walid Jumblatt and his Progressive Socialist Party.
14 August: Hezbollah MP detained by angry crowd
Hezbollah member and Parliamentarian Hussein Hajj Hassan was detained by angry citizens while attending a Shiite event in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.
Eyewitnesses claim the crowd was enraged over the power outages and deteriorating living conditions facing the country. Local media report he eventually left the area amidst heavy army deployment.
According to Hassan, he merely gave a speech to commemorate Ashura, a Shiite feast, and denied any detention had taken place. Today Hassan Makkhal, a resident of the village who was present during the incident, was arrested in his home by an unidentified party. Makkhal, allegedly a critic of Hezbollah, filmed his arrest and posted it on Facebook.
14 August: Lebanese Army raids closed gas stations, redistributes fuel
The Lebanese Army has begun raiding closed gas stations and confiscating their fuel supplies to redistribute elsewhere. The announcement has caused closed gas stations nationwide to reopen and start servicing vehicles again.
The move has been met positively by the public, with #Lebanese_Army becoming the top-trending hashtag on Twitter in Lebanon. People have praised the Army for cracking down on monopolies and black-market sellers.
In a follow-up statement, the Lebanese Army urged the public to contact 117 if they know of any closed petrol stations. The same hotline should also be used to report anyone selling fuel on the black market.
14 August: Dwindling fuel escalates nationwide blackouts
As supplies of fuel in Lebanon approach critically low levels, Lebanese people are increasingly being left completely without light or air conditioning. Refrigerators are becoming effectively useless and drivers are being forced to spend hours refilling their cars.
Several say that living conditions are worse now than during the 1975-90 Civil War.
A new low has been reached in the financial crisis that erupted in late 2019. This crisis is the result of decades of greed and mismanagement by a ruling elite that now cannot provide solutions to the more than half of the Lebanese population that live in poverty.
After the country’s latest policy failure, the Central Bank terminated fuel subsidies, a step that caused a sharp spike in prices. Lebanon’s severe fuel shortage is rendering households, businesses and even hospitals unable to run their own generators.
15 August: Deadly explosions leave dozens injured and dead
A fuel storage facility has exploded in Akkar, North Lebanon. People were gathered around refueling when one of the tankers blew up. Initial estimates by the Lebanese Red Cross report over 60 casualties, and at least 20 deaths.
Red Cross units from 22 divisions have been sent to the scene of the explosion. Social media videos show bodies burning around an ablaze container in very graphic scenes.
This explosion could not come at a worse time for Lebanon, whose many crises at the moment include a struggling healthcare system. Hospitals around the country are suffering or closing due to a lack of electricity and medicine.
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