Lebanon Crisis


Overview

Lebanon is in the midst of a perfect storm of crises, which culminated most memorably in a massive explosion at Beirut Port on 4 August, which has left at least 200 people dead. The ignition of 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate levelled buildings across Beirut, leaving around 300,000 people homeless. Images of this blast brought the situation in the country to the top of news bulletins across the globe, yet those who had been following developments in the area had been aware for several months that something as devastating as this may well be on the cards.

An untidy starting point to the present situation would be late last year, when the government attempted to impose a tax on Whatsapp calls amid a package of austerity measures ostensibly aimed at balancing the books. Protests erupted in response to the plan and continued for nearly two months; by mid-November, demonstrators had shut down the road approaching parliament, preventing any session being convened; by December 4, Prime Minister Saad Hariri had handed in his resignation. His replacement Hassan Diab vowed to root out government corruption and meet the protestors’ demands.

These promises would never be straightforward to keep. The mass uprising was not solely in response to the so-called Whatsapp tax – demonstrations continued for such an extended period because the economy was in freefall. With a quarter of the country unemployed and a third living below the poverty line, unrest was bound to result when the country’s currency – the Lebanese pound – began to plummet in value. One of the first announcements that Diab made after replacing his predecessor was that Lebanon would default on foreign debt repayments for the first time in its history. This, in turn, led to the country’s credit ratings being repeatedly downgraded, plunging the economy deeper into turmoil.

This chaos was compounded by the global coronavirus pandemic. Lebanon confirmed its first case of Covid-19 in February 2020 – a 45-year-old woman who had returned from a holiday in Iran. By the end of the month, schools and universities had been closed in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus and by mid-March – a week after the country confirmed it would default on a $1.2bn Eurobond debt – a state of medical emergency was declared. All public and private institutions were closed – except for pharmacies, hospitals and bakeries – and borders were closed, damaging the country’s economy even further. The concomitant lull in protests was brief; by the end of April, rioters were hurling Molotov cocktails at banks in response to limits imposed on deposit withdrawals. By mid-May, a total lockdown was put in place and the protests temporarily ceased.

The pandemic exposed the weakness of the country’s social welfare system, as the government floundered amid rising food prices which left many Lebanese people struggling to buy enough food. The government’s repeated failures to implement a recovery plan culminated in the resignation of director of finance Alain Bifani in late June. A little over a month later, another resignation was the prelude to the event which rocketed Beirut to the top of the news reel – on 3 August, foreign minister Nassif Hitti handed in his notice warning that the country risked becoming a “failed state”. His words were to appear particularly pertinent the following day, as Beirut’s port – another key component of its flailing economy – went up in smoke.

Current Situation

Beirut is still reeling from an enormous explosion at its port in August, which left over 300,000 homeless in the capital. This has compounded the dire economic situation and left the country without a government,

 

Classification: Economic and Social Unrest

 

Trend:

Thought to be peaking

Facts

Key Actors

Population: 6.8 million

GDP: US$53.4 Billion (World Bank, 2019)

Factions: Hezbollah, The Future Movement, Maronite Christians (Lebanese Forces), Progressive Socialist Party, The Shiite Amal Movement.

People in need of Assistance: The government estimates that 75% of the Lebanese population are in need of aid (As of April 2020).

Nature of the crisis: Socio-economic. Economic mismanagement and government corruption have caused unemployment to rise and services to be cut. In response, Lebanese citizens begun protesting, leading to intermittent conflicts with security services since October 2019.

A Shi’a Islamist political party and armed militant group in Lebanon. They have the backing of Iran, but are considered a terrorist organisation by the U.S.

An international development bank with the aim of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity across the world.

An international organisation which works with member countries to aid with financial stability, high employment, and low poverty rates.

A country that has vested interest in the Lebanese government, it has particular vested interest in the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria has put stress on Lebanon. The conflict has been detrimental to Lebanon’s economy and resulted in millions of refugees fleeing the conflict.

Has intervened in numerous crises in the Middle East as part of the ‘War on Terror’. The United States’ interest in Lebanon aims to limit the influence of Islamist, or pro-Iranian groups such as Hezbollah.

Timeline

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, France begins administering Lebanon as part of the League of Nations Mandate, establishing the state of Greater Lebanon.

After 23 years of the French mandate, the pressures of the second world war  allow Lebanese leaders to amend the consititution to abolish references to the mandate and declare independence.

Lebanese Civil war begins between the government and several non-state sectarian actors and political factions. Later, Syria and Israel intervene to serve geopolitical interests.

The Lebanese Civil war ends, the Lebanese Second Republic begins, though Syrian and Israeli governments continue their military presence.

Former Prime Minister, Rafiq al-Hariri and 20 others are killed in a car bomb. In response, the Cedar Revolution civic movement pushed for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, amongst other objectives.

Syrian Leader Bashar Al-Assad announces that Syrian forces will withdraw from Lebanon.

The Syrian Crisis begins with protests demanding the freedom of political prisoners and government reforms. Assad’s Syrian Government cracks down, leading to a civil war involving numerous international actors.

The Syrian Crisis has cost the Lebanese economy approximately US$18.15 billion to date. https://www.un.org.lb/library/assets/67780-035714.pdf (Lebanon Crisis Response Plan).

$11 billion investment package is offered by the international community. The funds will be released when Lebanon commits to economic reform.

A joint UN, Government of Lebanon report estimates that 1.5 million Syrian refugees, as well as 180,000 Palestinian refugees are living in Lebanon. The report also notes that the Syrian conflict has negatively impacts Lebanon’s ‘social and economic growth, caused deepening poverty and humanitarian needs’. The unemployment rate hits 25%, or 37% for young people.

A shortage of foreign currency causes the Lebanese pound to lose value against the US dollar. Importers and employees demand payment in dollars – strikes commence.

Anti-corruption protests begin outside government facilities in Beirut, but quickly spread throughout the country. Thousands protest, in response to a proposed tax raise on Voice over Internet Protocol, used by applications such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

A Lebanese Christian party has announced it is quitting the government after a third day of protests across the country against tax increases and alleged official corruption. After tens of thousands took to the streets on Saturday, four ministers from the Lebanese Forces party, a traditional ally of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, resigned from his cabinet.

Protesters have continued to block roads across Lebanon on the seventh day of mass protests, refusing to leave the streets until the government steps down. Clashes broke out on Wednesday after the Lebanese army tried to forcibly open a key road at the Jal el-Dib bridge on the northern outskirts of the capital, Beirut. Two people were reportedly injured.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Future Movement Party resign from government in response to political tensions. He remains Prime Minister in a caretaker capacity until a new government can be appointed.

Lebanon’s banks have reopened after two weeks of unprecedented protests that prompted the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and saw waves of people take to the streets to express discontent with a political establishment that has failed to take the economy out of crisis mode.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has frozen all military aid to the Lebanese army, including a package worth $105 million that both the State Department and Congress approved in September, congressional officials said Friday.

The United Arab Emirates said it’s “studying” possible aid to Lebanon, raising the prospect of a lifeline to the beleaguered country as it tries to get public finances in order after two weeks of anti-government protests.

The United Arab Emirates said it’s “studying” possible aid to Lebanon, raising the prospect of a lifeline to the beleaguered country as it tries to get public finances in order after two weeks of anti-government protests.

Lebanon’s parliament has been postponed after demonstrators blocked roads and prevented politicians from arriving for a first session since protests erupted across the country last month. Tuesday’s parliamentary session was delayed indefinitely “in light of the current extraordinary circumstances,” according to a statement by Adnan Daher, the Secretary-General of the House of Representatives.

The parliamentary meeting was scheduled to discuss a general amnesty law that several protest groups suspect could be exploited by the country’s political elite to absolve themselves of financial crimes.

Lebanon’s top politicians made their first joint appearance since massive anti-government protests erupted last month, attending a military parade as the country marked 76 years of self-rule on Friday. Protesters staged their own celebrations to mark a first year of “real independence”.

Hezbollah accused the United States of meddling in the formation of a new Lebanese government on Friday, its strongest accusation yet of U.S. interference in Lebanon’s political and economic crisis.

Lebanon’s central bank took emergency measures Wednesday in an attempt to ease the worst financial crisis the country has faced in decades.

The bank imposed a temporary interest-rate cap of 5% on dollar-denominated bank deposits and 8.5% on local-currency deposits received or renewed after Dec. 4. It said the decision must be reflected in the pricing of benchmark lending rates by local banks.

The central bank also said it would temporarily pay 50% of the interest it owed banks for dollar deposits and dollar-denominated certificates of deposits in Lebanese pounds. Banks will also be paying 50% of interest on foreign currency deposits in Lebanese pounds. The measures will be in place for six months.

Meanwhile, consultations to form a new government in Lebanon will formally begin on Monday, the presidency has announced, more than a month after a wave of protests led the prime minister, Saad Hariri, to resign.

Protestors are shot with rubber bullets, water cannons and teargas by Security forces in Beirut as the use of force by the Internal Security Forces’ Riot Police escalates.

Former minister Hassan Diab was named Lebanon’s new prime minister on Thursday with support from the Iran-backed group Hezbollah and its allies, a move that could complicate efforts to secure badly needed Western financial aid.

The nomination sets the stage for the formation of a cabinet that excludes allies of the United States and Sunni Gulf Arab countries while underlining the influence of Iran’s friends in Lebanon.

Diab, a little-known academic with a doctorate in computer engineering, vowed on Thursday to form a government quickly that works to pull the country out of economic crisis and reassures people who have protested against the political class for two months.

Hassan Diab is nominated for Prime Minister by the President Michel Aoun. A number of political blocs led by Hezbollah confirm the nomination.

Some protesters have taken out their ire on the banks, destroying ATMs, smashing bank windows and clashing with tellers behind the counter.

Dozens of protesters have held sit-ins at banks against the fiscal policies, forcing tellers on more than one occasion to give them more than the weekly limit.

Protesters in Beirut carried banners expressing their objections to the granting on Jan. 21 of a confidence vote on the government of Hassan Diab.

The country’s Central Bank said there would be no “haircut” on deposits at banks due to the country’s financial crisis, responding to concerns voiced by a prominent Arab billionaire about risks to foreign investments there.

Emirati businessman Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor, founder of the Al Habtoor Group that has two hotels in Beirut, posted a video of himself on his official Twitter account asking Lebanon’s central bank governor if there was any risk to dollar deposits of foreign investors and whether there could be any such haircut.

“The declared policy of the Central Bank of Lebanon is not to bankrupt any bank thus preserving the depositors. Also the law in Lebanon doesn’t allow haircut,” the Banque Du Liban (BDL) said in a Twitter post addressed to Habtoor, from Governor Riad Salameh.

Lebanon will need an $8.5 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund to break its economic impasse, meet future financing needs and restore growth, the Institute of International Finance said.

Lebanese security forces fired water cannons and tear gas at anti-government protesters trying to breach a security barricade outside government headquarters in central Beirut.

Some protesters among the hundreds who had gathered for a planned march managed to open a metal gate blocking their way but were pushed back.

Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said he is charting a new political path from within his party after a 2016 deal with President Michel Aoun that brought him to power became “history”. “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere; I’m staying in my country, in my house among my family and in political work,” Hariri said on Friday, in his first public speech since resigning on October 29 amid widespread protests against a ruling elite blamed for corruption and steering the country into an acute financial crisis.

Lebanon may not survive if its new government fails, the powerful Hezbollah warned, urging the country’s divided politicians not to obstruct the cabinet as it seeks to address an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said there was no point in politicians trading blame over the causes of the crisis, after former prime minister

Saad al-Hariri accused his rivals of pushing the country to near-collapse.

Lebanon is at risk of “implosion” unless it develops a new governance model that’s less corrupt and more transparent than today’s system, according to the

World Bank. “Politicians need to stop and listen,” Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank’s most senior official for the Middle East and North Africa, said in an interview. “You cannot continue doing what you’ve been doing for years when you see what the reaction on the street is and when you see what the state of the economy is.”

A team from the International Monetary Fund visits Lebanon to help decide whether or not the country should default on its loan payments. 

Johns Hopkins University records Lebanon’s first case of the Novel Coronavirus Covid-19.

Hezbollah says it will oppose any management of the country’s finances by the IMF. 

Lebanon closes its schools and universities in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Lebanon defaults on a $1.2 billion Eurobond, the first sovereign default in the county’s history.

The Lebanese government enforces a lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19. Reports by Human Rights Watch and local media claim that no government social security aid is reaching those adversely affected by the lockdowns. Food and medical shortages are widely reported.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Libya and Lebanon close their airports and borders. 

Lebanon formally requests IMF assistance to rescue the Lebanese economy, promising to restructure its banking sector. Negotiations commence between the Lebanese government and the IMF on the reforms required to unlock IMF support.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah welcomes Chinese interest in investing in ports, railways and power plants. Nasrallah makes this announcement in response to the imminent Caesar sanctions which would prevent Western support of the Lebanese economy.

The Trump administration’s ‘Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act’ comes into force. The Caesar Act targets third-party actors who economically support Syria’s Assad regime’s capacity to continue the conflict in Syria. Hezbollah, one of Lebanon’s most influential political blocs, is one such actor targeted by the Act.

Negotiations between the IMF and Lebanon stall. The Prime Minister Diab, and the IMF agree on debt to be approximately $90 billion. However, commercial banks, the central bank claim that debt is only half of this amount.

Lebanon’s only airport opens. Fears of coronavirus entering the country exist, however, net migration into the country is negative – Lebanese citizens are fleeing the economic crisis en masse

Local Media reports two suicides in Beirut and Saida citing economic hardship. In Beirut, protests against the ruling class take place at the location where Ali al-Haq publicly shot himself.

Credit rating agency Moody’s downgrades Lebanon’s issuer rating to a ‘C’ the lowest rating possible. This rating makes Lebanon a less attractive country to loan to.

 Lebanese Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti says that the Lebanese Government will file a complaint to UNSC over recent Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon. According to local media, Israel claims the attack thwarted a Hezbollah infiltration attempt (denied by Hezbollah). Non-government Organisation, Save the Children release a study, estimating that 910, 000 people, including 564, 000 children cannot afford ‘the basic food, electricity, cooking fuel, hygiene and water needed to survive’.

Lebanese Foreign Minister resigns from his post. In a statement, he said that he resigned due to “the absence of a vision for Lebanon … and the absence of an effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform”.

A huge explosion goes off at Beirut Port, killing at least 158 people, wounding 6000 more. The blast set off by 2, 750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate left a 43-metre-deep crater in the port and blew in windows as far as nine kilometres from the explosion. Up to 300, 000 people were made homeless.

 In response to the Beirut Port Explosion, thousands of protesters hit the streets in Beirut. Government buildings are stormed by protesters. More than 728 people protesters were wounded by policy and security personnel during the demonstrations.

A group of nations, led by the French President Emmanuel Macron pledge up to $300 million in humanitarian aid to support the rebuilding effort following the Beirut Port explosion. The countries said the assistance will be given directly to the Lebanese people.

 Prime Minister Hassan Diab announces the resignation of his government following widespread protests and outrage following the Beirut Port explosion, which protesters and journalists have linked to the endemic corruption hampering the nation.

The UN Refugee Agency is attempting to verify reports claiming that at least 34 refugees, mostly Syrian, were killed in the Beirut port blast. The agency has so far confirmed that seven refugees have been reported missing in the wake of the blast, as the overall death toll is believed to stand at around 200.

The state of emergency in Lebanon – originally declared on the day of the deadly Beirut explosion, but subsequently extended by parliament – grants to the country’s army powers to curb freedom of speech, assembly, and of the press. Some Human Rights groups have expressed concerns that the powers will allow security forces to crack down on dissent in the wake of the explosion last week, which left at least 200 people dead and over 6,000 injured. The announcement arrives the same day that the US reveals the FBI will join in the Beirut explosion investigation.

A UN-backed tribunal finds that former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed during a suicide bombing attack in 2005, was murdered by a member of Hezbollah. The verdict arrives over 15 years after the attack, which left a further 21 people dead, and sees three other members of the group cleared of all charges.

The French President Emmanuel Macron sends an outline of financial and political reforms he deems it necessary for Lebanon to implement in order to unlock much needed international economic assistance. The so-called “concept paper” calls on the Levantine state to appoint an interim government, deliver early legislative elections and perform an audit of its central bank. More tellingly, the paper outlines plans for increased French involvement in the country through the rebuilding of Beirut’s port, the provision of financial advisors and healthcare, and the organisation of elections.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) unanimously approves the renewal of the mandate of the UN peacekeeping forces stationed near Lebanon’s southern border. The mission is 42 years old and has been in place to curb tensions caused by cross-border skirmishes. The number of troops on the ground will reduce from a maximum of 15,000 to 13,000.

Receiving 90 out of a possible 120 votes from parliamentarians, diplomat Mustapha Adib has been given the responsibility of forming a new Lebanese government. The vote follows the resignation of former Prime Minister Hassan Diab in the wake of the devastating explosion which rocked the capital Beirut last month.

Protestors gather around Lebanon’s parliament complex in Beirut on the 100-year anniversary of the creation of Greater Lebanon in 1920. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the crowds, who threw rocks at the walls surrounding parliament. Resentment remains following last month’s port blast which killed around 200 people.

Despite facing over a year’s worth of protests in his own country, French President Emmanuel Macron deems it necessary to hand Lebanese officials a four-part proposal on how to govern theirs. The document includes provisions for dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, rebuilding in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, a series of expected reforms, and a timetable for elections to the legislative assembly.

Just two days after a smaller fire is put out at Beirut’s port, a towering inferno rocks the site of an enormous explosion that killed around 200 people last month. The fire began at a warehouse storing oil and tires and fears remain that further explosive materials may be stored nearby.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office releases a statement expressing the country’s “regret” that Lebanon has been unable to form a government since the mass resignation of officials in the wake of the August Beirut port blast. The French President called upon officials to support the Prime Minister in waiting, Mustapha Adib, to forge a reform-minded government.

The US has announced the imposition of sanctions on two companies based in Lebanon which it accuses of having links with Hezbollah. A Hezbollah official also faces sanctions as the US looks to ramp up pressure on the group in the wake of the Beirut port explosion.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun warns that the country is headed “to hell” if it proves undable to form a new government soon. The comments come a week after the deadline agreed with France for the formation of a new cabinet.

Citing the impasse over attempts to form a new government’s, Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Mutapha Adib announces his resignation. Talks over a new cabinet had primarily stalled due to two Shia parties – Amal and Hezbollah – inisisting on the naming of Shia ministers in certain positions.

French President Emmanuel Macron steps up his interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, accusing the country’s leaders of a “collective betrayal” of the nation over their failure to form a new government by the deadline the European country imposed.

Lebanese and Israeli officials have agreed to an outline for US-mediated talks aimed at ending contested borders. The talks will centre on the settling of the two countries’ maritime borders.

The former Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri – who was forced to step-down by nationwide protests against his government a year ago – announces his intention to become the head of a new government, following the port explosion in Beirut in August.

The Lebanese Red Cross announces the deaths of four people and injuries sustained by several others, following the explosion of a diesel tank inside a building in the country’s capital. The explosion was apparently caused by a fire in a nearby bakery and comes just 2 months after an enormous blast rocked Beirut’s port, killing over 200 people.

Israeli and Lebanese officials hold talks over a disputed maritime border. Both countries remain in a state of war and the talks are not believed to represent any sort of normalisation of ties.

Demonstrations mark the one year anniversary of the non-sectarian Lebanese protest movement which led to the resignation of Saad Hariri as Prime Minister. Hundreds gathered in Beirut to mark the occasion, as the country remains deep in the midst of a long running crisis.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns of the largest economic contraction in 20 years across the Middle East pursuant to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Lebanon is singled out as a country particularly at risk of social unrest, after its economy contracted by 25% in the last year.

A little under a year after resigning in the face of widespread anti-government demonstrations last year, Saad Hariri becomes Lebanese Prime Minster once again. The move comes following consultations with President Michel Aoun and votes across a number of parliamentary blocs.

UN- and US-mediated talks between Lebanon and Israel over the demarcation of their maritime border continue into their second round. The talks are aimed at enabling off-shore exploration for energy and come between two sides still technically at war with one another.

Al Jazeera reports that sources close to the investigator conducting a probe into the Beirut port blast suggest that the investigation will conclude without indicting top security officials and politicans.

French experts have yet to determine the cause of the August blast at Beirut’s port, according to a Lebanese judicial source. France is conducting its own judicial enquiriy into the causes of the explosion.

The leader of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) party , Gebran Bassil, is set to face sanctions imposed by the US for allegedly assisting Hezbollah. The party was founded by the country’s current President Michel Aoun and is allied with the Shia group. The US says that Bassil “exemplified corruption” in the country.

A 350-page report released by the Lebanese Information Branch finds that several security agencies and

state officials were responsible for the enormous explosion at Beirut’s port in August, which left around 200 people dead. The report also found the Beirut port authority and Lebanese Customs were responsible for leaving around 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely at the site for nearly 7 years.

Around 70 inmates escape a facility detaining pre-trial captives in Baabda, a Beirut suburb. Five of the escapees died after stealing a car and crashing it into a tree while fleeing. A manhunt for the remainder of the former captives is ongoing, with 15 so far captured.

The outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, whose government resigned after just six months in office following the deadly Beirut Port blast in August, claims that he fears for his life and that various unnamed “interest groups” prevented him from implementing anti-corruption reforms during his tenure in office.

Meanwhile, Judicial Investigator Fadi Sawan calls upon parliament to investigate 10 former ministers he suspects are responsible for facilitating the conditions that led up to the explosion in the capital in August.

The Lebanese Parliament unanimously approves an audit of all of the state’s institutions. Completion of the audit is a key condition imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before billions of dollars of much-needed aid is provided.

Corruption charges have been filed by a Lebanese judge against eight former high-ranking security officers who are accused of exploiting their positions for financial gain. One of those charged is a former army chief, Commander General Jean Kahwaji.

The outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab is among a group of ministers charged with negligence over the Beirut port explosion in August which left around 200 people dead.  Hariri and three other former ministers were charged with criminal negligence, however, Diab’s office has indicated that he will not comply with the investigation against him. 

Hezbollah operative Salim Ayache is sentenced to five concurrent life sentences for his role in the 2005 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri along with 21 other people. As Ayache has never been captured, the sentences have been delivered in absentia. 

Despite the determined efforts of outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to avoid being questioned on charges of criminal negligence, Judge Fadi Sawan has insisted that new dates for the proposed questioning must be complied with. Families of blast victims and the Beirut Bar Association have welcomed the judge’s persistence.  

Famous Lebanese pop star Fadel Shaker is given a 22-year sentence in absentia for providing logistical and financial backing to an alleged terrorist group led by Ahmed al-Assir. Shaker renounced his music career as “sinful” in 2012 before joining al-Assir’s hard-line group. 

Lebanese students clash with riot police during protests over a decision by top universities to increase tuition fees. The institutions have adopted a new dollar exchange rate to price tuition, which has led to a significant price rise. Riot police dispersed demonstrators who had gathered outside the American University of Beirut using tear gas. No injuries are reported. 

The Lebanese parliament endorses a landmark law which criminalises sexual harassment and threatens fines of up to 50 times the minimum wage, as well as prospective four-year jail terms. Victims and witnesses are also offered protections under the new law. 

The Lebanese army arrests eight people following an argument between Lebanese nationals and a group of Syrian refugees, which culminated in the informal refugee settlement being set on fire. Seventy-five families’ tents were destroyed in the blaze. The causes of the altercation remain unknown. 

The UN issues warnings that the looming end to subsidies in Lebanon’s cash-strapped economy could lead to a “social catastrophe”. Prime Minister Hassan Diab estimates that there exists around $2bn in foreign reserves which could be rationed for around 6 months. However, it seems likely that reduced subsidies on fuel, medicine and wheat could lead to widespread hunger across the country.  

The Lebanese Red Cross announces injuries to at least 10 people following an explosion in a warehouse storing gas canisters near the Syrian border. It is unclear what caused the explosion in the Hermel region. 

The relaxing of coronavirus restrictions during the holiday season has led to a spike in Covid cases across Lebanon which is putting severe pressure on Intensive Care Units (ICUs) across the country. More than 90% of the country’s ICU capacity is currently full, with doctors warning they are concerned they could become overwhelmed.