A lost Eid

US special envoy Amos Hochstein addresses the media after meeting with Lebanon's parliament speaker in Beirut on June 18, 2024 amid continuing tensions on the Lebanese-Israeli border. US envoy Amos Hochstein was in the region for talks with top Israeli and Lebanese official to press for de-escalation in border clashes involving Hamas ally Hezbollah. (Photo by AFP)

During his recent visit to Lebanon, U.S. Special Envoy Amos Hochstein highlighted the critical need for a diplomatic end to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hezbollah along the Blue Line.

Hochstein underscored the severe impact the conflict has had on civilian lives, infrastructure, and Lebanon’s economic stability.

“The prolonged conflict along the Blue Line between Israel and Hezbollah must come to an end,” Hochstein asserted.

He emphasized, “The suffering inflicted on Lebanon is unwarranted. Swift and diplomatic resolution is in everyone’s best interest.”

Later today, Hezbollah’s War Media unveiled drone footage revealing surveillance of northern Israeli regions, taken by the party’s aerial reconnaissance units.

In a 9-minute video, aerial shots of Haifa are presented, showcasing critical infrastructure such as the Rafael defense industries complex, Haifa Port, which includes Israel’s main naval base, the civilian port, the Haifa power station, Haifa airport, oil storage tanks, and various petrochemical installations.

The footage also features the submarine command headquarters, the Sa’ar 4.5 missile boat known for its logistical support roles, and the Sa’ar 5 corvette.


In Gaza
Amidst the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip and the attacks on the occupied West Bank, Palestinians marked a somber Eid al-Adha as Israeli military operations persisted, now extending beyond eight months of relentless hostilities. In Gaza, where more than 37,000 lives have been tragically lost due to Israeli bombing, shattered neighborhoods served as makeshift prayer grounds on Sunday, reflecting the stark realities of war.

On Sunday, the Israeli military issued a directive for a daily pause starting at 8 am in the Rafah area, extending until 7 pm along the main Salah al-Din road. This initiative aimed to facilitate the safe passage of aid trucks traveling between the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel. Officials emphasized that this daily pause would continue indefinitely until further notice.

Late on Sunday, an unnamed Israeli official expressed dissatisfaction with the announced 11-hour humanitarian pause. They revealed that upon learning of this pause, the prime minister immediately conveyed his discontent to his military secretary, asserting that such a timeframe was deemed unacceptable.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the annual Hajj pilgrimage unfolded with a mixture of spiritual devotion and tragedy. Jordanian officials reported a distressing toll: 14 of their citizens perished from sunstroke during a punishing heatwave, while 17 others remained missing. The Iranian Red Crescent confirmed the deaths of five Iranian pilgrims, though details of their demise were not disclosed.

Efforts are underway to locate the missing individuals, with Jordanian authorities collaborating closely with their Saudi counterparts on the sensitive tasks of arranging burials or repatriating the deceased as per their families’ wishes. The Hajj pilgrimage, a pillar of Islam that unites millions in worship and reflection, continues to be a poignant reminder of both the faith’s strength and the challenges faced by its adherents worldwide.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tehran announced last Thursday the prohibition of its citizens from performing the Hajj pilgrimage this year. The government’s decision to ban Iranians from performing Hajj next year comes after severed relations with Saudi Arabia. 


In Lebanon
June 11, 2024: Three days before the deadline set by the management of Al-Nidaa Al-Watan newspaper regarding negotiations about its future, the administration informed all employees, including editors and staff, with regret that Friday, June 14th, would mark their final day of work as the newspaper is closing down permanently. They assured the employees that a meeting would be held within two weeks to discuss and propose compensation packages.

June 15, 2024: This week, the Israeli extremist group South Lebanon Settlement Movement plans to convene a meeting aimed at advancing discussions on establishing settlements in Lebanon, as announced by the group. This movement, reportedly small in size, has gained attention amidst a resurgence of fervor within settler circles, particularly in relation to efforts to reoccupy the Gaza Strip. This resurgence is bolstered by support from staunch settlers like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

Itay Epshtain, a special advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council, preemptively criticized the group ahead of its scheduled meeting, denouncing its objectives and plans.

June 16, 2024: Around 20,000 people attended Amr Diab’s concert in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, celebrating Eid al-Adha despite a delayed start of about an hour and high temperatures. The crowd remained enthusiastic, chanting “Yalla Yalla” as they eagerly awaited Diab’s performance.

Dressed in white, as he was last year, Diab was warmly welcomed by the audience amidst cheers and excitement. Taking the stage, he expressed his joy, saying, “We want this every year, I am very, very happy.” 

Despite the festive atmosphere, Lebanon’s ongoing challenges, including the war, added a poignant backdrop to the event.

June, 17, 2024 : Lebanon’s Caretaker Energy and Water Minister, Walid Fayad, has clarified that the Zouk and Jiyeh power plants are currently non-operational. This decision, he explained, stems from ‘Électricité du Liban’s’ (EDL) pending need for an opinion from the Audit Bureau, despite having secured B fuel, which is more cost-effective than gas oil. Fayad emphasized that national interests dictate the necessity for consensus on this matter.

Speaking on LBCI’s “Nharkom Said” TV program, Fayad disclosed that EDL is reluctant to resume operations at the two plants without a clear directive from the Audit Bureau. This cautious approach, he added, is motivated by past disputes with the operating company and aims to safeguard the integrity of existing contractual agreements.June 18, 2024: Amos Hochstein, senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, is embarking on an urgent mission to Tel Aviv and Beirut in an effort to prevent a recent flare-up between Israel and Hezbollah from escalating into full-scale war. Hochstein’s first stop will be Tel Aviv on Monday, followed by a visit to Beirut. This unplanned journey underscores Washington’s proactive stance to curb Israel’s potential expansion of conflict beyond Gaza into southern Lebanon.

Despite calls from Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and military leaders appear determined to proceed with their own strategies, disregarding US appeals. Sources from the West, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, maintain that the US administration places blame on Hezbollah for the current escalation. However, they emphasize that expanding the conflict lacks justification, even as Hezbollah intensifies retaliatory attacks following the assassination of one of its prominent field commanders, Taleb Sami al-Abdullah.


What we’re reading

Lebanese Presidency Stalemate: journalist Dana Hourani reported on Lebanon’s enduring political impasse, which began in October 2022 following the expiration of President Michel Aoun’s term without a successor. The absence of a new president has deepened Lebanon’s political and economic crises amid widespread social unrest and severe economic collapse. With leadership crucially needed, international stakeholders and local politicians are intensifying calls for urgent resolution of the leadership vacuum.

The Rise of the Right: Implications for Lebanon and Syria: Political psychologist Ramzi Abu Ismail examines the recent European elections, noting a notable tilt towards right-wing politics across the continent. This shift, he argues, is poised to exert considerable influence on EU policies, particularly in areas such as military interventions and arms supply, such as in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, and other global conflicts. Furthermore, Abu Ismail anticipates significant adjustments in immigration policies, specifically concerning the influx of migrants—both legal and illegal—fleeing protracted conflicts, notably in the Middle East.

The power of cinema culture: Journalist Rodayna Raydan highlights the remarkable resurgence of Beirut’s Metropolis Cinema, a significant cultural institution that has triumphantly reopened after a hiatus of four years due to Lebanon’s severe economic crisis and the devastating 2020 port explosion. This revival stands as a testament to the resilience of the Lebanese people, demonstrating their steadfast commitment to preserving cultural spaces despite enduring numerous challenges.