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Uncertain Summer

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati (C-L) receives the Holy See's Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin (C-R) at the government palace in beirut on June 26, 2024. (Photo by JOSEPH EID / AFP)

Tensions for a full-scale war between Lebanon and the Israeli Occupation Forces is still looming over while Hezbollah is no longer being referred to as a terrorist organization by the Arab League

In a significant policy shift, the Arab League’s Assistant Secretary-General announced on Saturday that the organization will no longer refer to Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. During a broadcast on Egypt’s Al-Qahera News Channel, Hossam Zaki revealed this decision following his recent visit to Beirut.

“Historically, Hezbollah was designated as a terrorist group in Arab League resolutions, which led to a breakdown in communication based on these terms,” Zaki stated. “However, the League’s member states have now agreed to cease using this label for Hezbollah.”

Zaki clarified that the previous classification of Hezbollah as a terrorist entity is no longer applicable. He emphasized that the Arab League does not maintain lists of terrorist organizations nor actively seeks to categorize entities in such a manner.

This marks a reversal from the League’s stance on March 11, 2016, when it had officially labeled Hezbollah as a terrorist group. At that time, Lebanon and Iraq expressed reservations, while the League urged Hezbollah to halt its promotion of extremism and sectarianism, and to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of other nations or supporting terrorism in the region.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora commented on the Arab League’s decision to remove Hezbollah from its list of terrorist organizations. “We must stop giving free gifts to Hezbollah,” he  stated.

In a related development, the  Embassy of the Kingdom Saudi Arabia in Lebanon reiterated on Saturday its advisory for Saudi citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon. Following recent tensions in southern Lebanon, the Embassy urged all Saudi nationals currently in the country to depart immediately and to contact the Embassy in case of emergencies. This advisory was reported by the Saudi Press Agency on Sunday, June 30, 2024.


In Lebanon 

June 29,2024: On Saturday, tensions intensified as Iran and Israel exchanged severe threats. Iran warned of a devastating war should Hezbollah become embroiled in the conflict, while Israel stood firm in its stance against Iran’s proxy groups.

Efforts for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza remain stalled, further complicating the already tense situation. A ceasefire could potentially de-escalate attacks from Hezbollah and other militias allied with Iran. In light of such stalled negotiations, American and European diplomats, along with other officials, are issuing stern warnings to Hezbollah. The militant group is significantly stronger than Hamas but may be overestimating its ability to confront Israel’s formidable military power, according to current and former diplomats.


June 29, 2024: Bahaa Rafik Hariri held successive meetings in Beirut for the second day, gathering with various groups including activists, trade union officials, youth, and social delegations from different parts of the capital. Discussions focused on their concerns, ranging from political and social issues to development priorities. They emphasized the importance of implementing crucial projects in Beirut, creating job opportunities for the youth, and restoring the prominent role of the Sunni community under strong leadership. Hariri reiterated his dedication to continuing his late father’s legacy by advancing Lebanon’s interests, particularly through his Al-Masar movement.


June 29, 2024: Increased clashes between Hezbollah and the Israeli occupation forces along the Israel-Lebanon border have raised concerns about the potential for an Israeli invasion. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant recently reiterated his warning to “take Lebanon back to the Stone Age,” a threat he previously made in August last year amid similar tensions with Hezbollah.

As the situation deteriorates, several countries are advising their citizens to evacuate Lebanon due to the risk of further escalation. The Canadian embassy in Beirut has advised its nationals to “leave Lebanon while commercial flights are still available” and to avoid traveling to the country altogether.

Other nations have echoed this caution. Germany, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, and Sweden have all urged their citizens to exit Lebanon. Kuwait also joined these calls, asking its nationals who cannot leave to immediately contact their embassy in Lebanon for assistance.


June 27, 2024: Vatican State Secretary Cardinal Pietro Parolin met with MP Sami Gemayel, leader of the Kataeb Party, to address various pressing issues, including Lebanon’s presidential vacancy and the ongoing conflict in southern Lebanon.

During their two-hour discussion, Parolin listened as Gemayel outlined his party’s perspective on the current political landscape. Gemayel emphasized the importance of electing a President capable of engaging with all factions in Lebanon.

Gemayel also accused Hezbollah and its allies of obstructing Lebanon’s constitutional processes and dominating significant national decisions. He highlighted the urgent need for a President who can restore functionality to the country’s institutions and navigate its complex political terrain effectively.

Key leaders from Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim communities met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin at the Maronite Patriarchate to discuss Lebanon’s presidential vacancy. Absent were Shiite representatives, reportedly due to moral concerns following remarks by Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai criticizing Hezbollah’s military actions. This absence highlights internal tensions rather than issues with Vatican relations, as indicated by ongoing diplomatic engagements involving Lebanese leaders and Vatican officials.


In The Region 

In Tunisia: The World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) 2024 Economic Impact Research (EIR) forecasts that Tunisia’s Travel & Tourism sector will inject a record TND 23 billion into the national economy this year.

The report shows the sector will surpass previous records in economic contribution, job creation, and domestic visitor spending. Although international visitor spending won’t fully recover, it is expected to nearly match its 2019 peak.

Travel & Tourism is set to make up 14% of Tunisia’s GDP in 2024, with jobs in the sector projected to grow by 3.9% to almost 418,000, accounting for one in nine jobs in the country.


In Palestine: Gaza City’s Shujaiya district endured heavy fighting and bombardment for the fourth consecutive day on Sunday, despite Israel’s previous declaration that Hamas’s command infrastructure in the northern area had been dismantled.

Thousands of Palestinians have fled the ravaged neighborhood, where the Israeli army reported engaging with militants both “above and below ground” in a network of tunnels. The military stated that in the past 24 hours, ground and air forces targeted militant compounds and “eliminated several terrorists.”

Efforts to broker a Gaza truce and secure a hostage release have stalled. Months of intermittent negotiations have yielded little progress, with Hamas indicating on Saturday that there were no significant updates in the revised plan proposed by US mediators.


In Turkey: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed openness to renewing relations with Syria and President Bashar al-Assad. Erdogan emphasized Turkey’s commitment to developing relations with Syria based on mutual respect and non-interference in Syria’s internal affairs, echoing Assad’s stance on sovereignty and counterterrorism efforts.


In Iran: Iran’s snap presidential election is advancing to a run-off next week as neither reformist-backed Masoud Pezeshkian nor hardliner Saeed Jalili secured a majority in the initial vote, which saw a record-low turnout. The Ministry of Interior reported that only 40 percent of over 61 million eligible Iranians participated, marking the lowest voter turnout in presidential elections since the country’s 1979 Revolution.


What We’re Reading 

The “Screw Cap” controversy and the making of public opinion: Journalist Maan Barazy highlights the deep divisions within Lebanese society regarding its involvement in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. While there is widespread support for the ‘liberation of Palestine’ and a general hope for victory over Israel, Lebanese opinions are sharply split along lines of region, religion, and political affiliation.

Rashaya Secondary, Leading by example in Global Environmental Education: Journalist Dana Hourany highlights Rashaya Secondary School’s remarkable achievement as one of the top ten finalists in the World’s Best School Prizes 2024 for its exceptional environmental action projects. This esteemed award, established by T4 Education in collaboration with Accenture, American Express, and the Lemann Foundation, honors extraordinary educational accomplishments worldwide.

Dear Mr. President: Political Psychologist Ramzi Abu Ismail discusses Hezbollah’s influence and actions in Lebanon since the 2006 war. The article highlights how Hezbollah, originally formed as a resistance group to protect the Shia community in southern Lebanon, has evolved into a dominant political force. It also suggests that Hezbollah’s actions, including its ability to paralyze the government and assert control over Lebanon’s political landscape, have led to significant transformations in the country. It also reflects on the implications of Hezbollah’s continued influence on Lebanon’s governance and stability.


Lebanon + 

ESMA podcast: The podcast features an interview with Bertilicious discussing content creation and the experiences of being a plus-size model.