The next day

The anniversary of the Beirut Blast, Gulf Arab countries issue warnings about Lebanon, fighting continues in Ain el-Hilweh, Riad Salameh’s departure from BDL, Israel files complaint against Lebanon, Israel bombs Syria, more deaths in Palestine, ISIS leader officially dead and a heatwave in Iran. Your weekly update from Lebanon.

Commemorators march from the fire station in Karantina to the Port of Beirut. Photo: Nicholas Frakes, NOW

Friday, August 4, marked the three-year anniversary of the Beirut Port explosion which claimed the lives of over 220 people and injured thousands more.

During the commemoration, the families of the victims gave speeches filled with emotion and determination that, even as the country’s politicians fight the independent investigation into the blast, they will not stop fighting for justice for their lost loved ones.

Three years after the explosion, the anger and pain that they felt in the initial aftermath of the blast had not faded.

Our demand is right, and all parties must lift the lid on all those involved so that justice can take its course,” William Noun, brother of firefighter Joseph Noun, a first responder who died in the explosion, stated. “You will be held accountable…It is the third year in which we promise you accountability, and the innocent do not fear justice.”

It was impossible, as they spoke, not to believe that they would eventually succeed in achieving their fight for justice.

But, then, the commemoration ended and the hundreds of people who had gathered at the port quickly cleared out.

Many in and out of Lebanon continue to voice their anger at the explosion every August 4, but it is primarily reserved for the lead-up to the anniversary and the anniversary itself.

The number of people attending the commemoration is decreasing each year as more people lose hope in justice being served.

For the politicians and those fighting the investigation, this is what they want. They want August 4 to become just another day that people remember on the anniversary and then move on the following day.

This has become a battle of wills between the politicians and the victims’ families, and the families have made one thing clear: even three years later, they will not be broken.

In Lebanon

Gulf states issue warnings: Several Gulf Arab states issued warnings to their citizens last week as the fighting in Ain el-Hilweh has sporadically continued.

The first to issue a warning was Saudi Arabia, which urged its citizens to leave the country and to avoid areas currently experiencing conflict. This was quickly followed by Kuwait, which only told its citizens in Lebanon to avoid areas of conflict and stopped short of calling on its citizens to return home.

This was then followed by Bahrain, which issued a statement similar to Saudi Arabia. Bahrain had only restarted diplomatic relations with Lebanon back in May after breaking off ties in October 2021. The UAE also reiterated a prior statement of not allowing its citizens to travel to Lebanon.

Finally, Qatar issued its own warning to its citizens to avoid areas of conflict, but, like Kuwait, did not urge its people to leave the country.

These decisions by the Gulf countries likely only partially relate to the situation in Ain el-Hilweh and probably have more to do with making a political statement. In recent years, the Gulf countries have expressed increasingly little interest in Lebanon and have, for the most part, forgone their traditional roles in the country and have allowed France to take more of a leading role.

The fighting continues: As July came to a close, fighting between Islamic militants and Fatah began in the Ain el-Hilweh camp nearby the southern city of Sidon.

While there have been several attempts at ceasefires, none have been able to hold for more than a few hours before the fighting sparks up once more.

Over a dozen people have been killed so far, and around 50 injured in the on-and-off fighting. While there was speculation that the Lebanese Army would intervene, these rumors were put to rest when the army put out a statement saying that they were not currently planning any operations. 

As of writing, calm has returned to the camp and its residents are cautiously returning to their lives, but remain wary that the fighting could start up once more.

An update on the case of Lynn Talib: After 6-year-old Leen Taleb died at the start of July following incidents of repeated rape while in the care of her maternal grandparents, an investigation was launched by Lebanese authorities into the heinous crime.

Upon investigating, authorities found that her uncle had been the one repeatedly sexually abusing her.

The uncle, however, is not the only one potentially facing criminal action as authorities have stated that many in the family are involved in the crime one way or another, including Talib’s own mother who had refused to admit her into a hospital.

Four members of the family have already been arrested, with more arrest warrants believed to be on the way.

A change at BDL: After 30 years as governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank, Riad Salameh finally stepped down on July 31, creating a vacancy in the head of BDL that is being filled by the first deputy governor, Wassim Mansouri, on an interim basis until a new governor can be appointed.

Upon becoming the interim governor, Mansouri has already started to make some changes.

For decades BDL has worked as a personal bank account for the Lebanese government and has essentially been handling the country’s fiscal policy following the start of the economic crisis in 2019. Mansouri is looking to change that, stating that BDL would not be financing the government anymore, and pushed for the politicians to start handling the fiscal policy so that BDL can be more independent.

Mansouri has only been in the position for a week, and only time will tell how successful he will be in making changes at BDL.

Israel files a complaint: On August 2, Israel filed a complaint with the UN Security Council against Lebanon over Hezbollah’s tents that were erected on disputed territory.

In the complaint, Israel’s ambassador stated that “the situation on the ground will continue to deteriorate and the consequences will be deep and disastrous” in the event that nothing is done.

Israel has been building up its military presence along the border in recent weeks in the event of a military escalation. Last month, Israel annexed the internationally recognized Lebanese section of Ghajar, escalating the situation even further.

Hezbollah has continued to insist that the tents are not going anywhere, while Israel seeks diplomatic solutions to the issue. Neither Hezbollah nor Israel are particularly looking for conflict right now, but neither side is willing to back down, which could prove disastrous if not handled carefully.

In the region

New strikes on Damascus: On August 6, Israel carried out strikes on the Syrian capital of Damascus, killing four soldiers and injuring four others.

The strikes came around a month after Israel struck seven targets, also in Damascus, which were supposedly being used by Hezbollah and its backer Iran.

Israel has routinely carried out strikes on supposed Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria, but rarely acknowledges that it was the one who carried out the strikes.

Continued violence in Palestine and Israel: An Israeli security guard in Tel Aviv was shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman from Jenin on August 5 in the latest spate of violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

The gunman was also killed.

The attack came around a day after Israeli settlers in the West Bank killed 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Matan in an altercation.

Over 150 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis have been killed this year so far.

ISIS announces death of leader: Around four months after its leader was reportedly killed, ISIS finally issued a statement acknowledging the death of its mysterious leader Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurayshi.

The ISIS leader issued no public statements during his short tenure as leader and his true identity remains unknown.

ISIS also announced his successor as Abu Hafs al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi.

Al-Qurayshi is the fourth leader of the group in nearly as many years after the group’s founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in October 2019.

Turning up the heat: As the sweltering summer days continue, Iran ordered two days of a nationwide shutdown as the heat presents a significant risk to public health and the already strained power grid.

While the two days likely gave some a brief reprieve from the heat, in the long term, it does little to assuage the country of the deeper problems facing Iran’s electricity sector.

Many in Iran took to social media following the announcement of the two-day holiday, disputing that the reason for the shutdown was not the heat, but rather that the government does not have the electricity to power the entire country.

The energy ministry hinted that there could be more shutdowns in the weeks to come.

What we’re reading

A good read: Since the Beirut Port explosion on August 4, 2020, much has been done to document what happened and to create a record of how people’s lives were affected. NOW’s Dana Hourany spoke with journalist Dalal Mawad about her new book that focuses on the experiences of women following the explosion.

Stuck in place: For over a year and a half, the investigation into the Beirut Blast has been frozen in place. I wrote about where the investigation stands and whether or not it is dead at this point.

A history of explosions: Throughout history, there have been several explosions that have been remembered for their scale and devastation. Maan Barazy wrote about these explosions and where August 4 fits into the mix.

An inside look: Palestinian militancy has been rising in the West Bank recently as many Palestinians have become increasingly disillusioned with the occupation they experience every day and have felt the need to join groups to fight back. The Washington Post’s Steve Hendrix and photojournalist Lorenzo Tugnoli met with members of these militant groups and spoke with them about the situation and their fight against the occupation.


Exploitation Cinema: Hollywood is not particularly known for its sensitivity towards hot-button issues and has been known to exploit them for the sake of publicity and profit.

They might have reached a new low, though, after the trailer for the upcoming film The Creator, which looks as mankind’s fight against artificial intelligence that has taken over the world, was released.

In the trailer, the YouTube channel Corridor Crew was able to determine that, in one scene, a video of the Beirut Blast was used and overlaid with CGI to show the AI use of nuclear weapons that destroyed humanity.

This quickly sparked anger, as not only was this exploitative of a tragedy that occurred just three years ago and killed over 220 and injured thousands, but the trailer was also released just days before the anniversary of the explosion. No statements have been released by the director, 20th Century Fox or Disney, which owns 20th Century Fox, apologizing for, or even acknowledging, their actions.

Podcast: In the season finally of GENXZ, Sarah al-Asmar spoke with comedian John Achkar about his journey from student-led politics to a stand-up comedian, free expression, and pursuing one’s dreams at all costs.

Until next week, follow NOW Lebanon on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And stay safe!