Beirut, Weekly Report # 14, April 24th, 2020

Cronache dal Libano

by Yves

Beirut, 24 April

With the return of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri from Paris to Lebanon by private jet on Friday 17, it seems that the opposition to the government is gathering some momentum. According to various sources, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt et Samir Geagea are working on strengthening their ties to constitute a unified front against the current government.  On Thursday 23 April, a law presented by the government aiming at stimulating the economy and helping the poorest citizens at a level of 1200 billion Lebanese Pounds was not voted because of lack of quorum reflecting Lebanon’s current political tensions.

On Thursday 23 April, the number of people contaminated by the Coronavirus has now reached 696. The death toll has been reported at 23 deaths one of which into a Palestinian camp of Jalilin the Bekaa valley and 130 cured during the last 2 months.  The second phase of the repatriation plan of Lebanese expatriates will resume on 27 April while only 1,3 % of the 2 656 repatriated have been tested positively. The Prime Minister fearing a second wave has now extended the quarantine till 10 May.

Despite some currency injection by the government, the Lebanese Lira is going down with on Thursday 23 April a rate of 3 850 LL to the USD to buy instead of the official 1511 LL/USD rate.

A crowd demonstration took place last Sunday on Al Nour plaza in Tripoli to denounce the quarantine measures and the current poverty in spite of the recent distribution of government aid by the armed forces for the last 3 days. More than half the Tripoli inhabitants are living under the poverty level.

On Friday 17 April evening, the IDF fired several lighting flares above Houla and Mays el-Jabal on the border while explosions could be heard in the area. Following this incident, UNIFIL has organized meetings with both parties. The IDF declared it had found some breaches in the technical fence built South of the Blue Line (unofficial border between Lebanon and Israel). On Saturday, an IDF patrol with two jeeps went through the fence at the level of Barket Naqqar, not far from Chebaa and fired smoke grenades against the fence and the Blue Line.  On Wednesday 22 April, several flights violations by the Israeli Air Force over Lebanon have been condemned by the United Nations authorities.

A five star hotel of Beirut, the Bristol, a symbol of Lebanese history and its golden age owned by the family Doumet since its creation in 1951, has definitely closed its doors last Saturday announced its general manager Joseph Coubat because of the financial recession and the fallout of the coronavirus quarantine. It had functioned even during the civil war, had courageously hosted the anti-Syrian Christian opposition Kornet Chehwane in 2005 and had been renovated for 32 million dollars in 2015.

Among tensions in the country about unemployment and lack of food, discussions about the price of bread have been erupting. The union of bakers has announced they are considering on selling each “portion” (“rabta”) of bread at 1500 LL to everybody and not to have one price for the bakery and one for supermarkets forcing the latter to sell at a higher price and losing customers.On Tuesday, a man went on a rampage in Baakline in the Chouf mountains and wrongly suspecting his wife killed her and eight other persons (five Syrians and 3 Lebanese), an event which has shocked the country. He was finally arrested on Wednesday


Since January 2020, in addition to a serious financial crisis and heavy political tensions, Lebanon had to face the Coronavirus pandemic. Although, they have managed so far, to deal with it in quite an efficient way, political tensions are now rising again while some Lebanese families have been stricken hard by the quarantine and the wave of unemployment it has generated.

Lebanon is again at a crossroads, while new tensions have also been reported between the country and Israel on the border. In order to avoid a deeper crisis, the government will have to deal with the opposition and it is now unclear how it will manage to succeed. Despite some opposition from the Hezbollah, a successful working relation with the International Monetary Fund and the countries associated with the group of friends of Lebanon seem to be the key to any potential success.