January’s essential headlines
> An Israeli airstrike on Syria’s Golan Heights on January 18 killed six Hezbollah members and a senior Iranian general. Among those killed was Jihad Mughniyeh, the 25 year old son of Imad Mughniyeh, a top Hezbollah operative assassinated in Damascus in 2008. Lebanese politicians have urged that, should Hezbollah choose to respond, they should do so in Syria.
>A double suicide bombing on January 10 in Jabal Mohsen, a majority Alawite neighborhood in Tripoli, killed nine people and wounded dozens. Later that month, Lebanon’s top military court charged 28 people over suspected involvement in organizing the attack.
> Islamist militants fighting in Syria launched an attack on a Lebanese Army outpost near Ras Baalbek in the eastern Bekaa, killing five soldiers. Ensuing clashes between the army and militants led to the deaths of an additional three soldiers, as well as over 40 militants.
> Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces carried out a raid in Roumieh Prison’s notorious Block B, which houses Islamist detainees. The crackdown followed reports that some prisoners were connected to the twin suicide bombings targeting a cafe in Tripoli earlier in January.
> Hezbollah and the Future Movement have continued talks aimed at mitigating sectarian tensions brought about by the Syrian conflict. Discussions have focused on restoring security, with the two sides agreeing to the continuation of the government’s security plan throughout Lebanon.
> Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun is set to meet with his longtime opponent, Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea, in an effort to break the current political impasse. According to a statement by FPM MP Ibrahim Kanaan, the two will meet as soon as the agenda for their dialogue is finalized.
> Lebanese MPs failed to elect a new president on January 7, in the 17th attempt since April 2014. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri postponed the election to late January as a result of a lack of quorum, as MPs from the March 8 coalition have been boycotting election sessions due to a lack of consensus on a candidate.
> During a speech delivered on January 9, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said that ‘takfiri terrorist groups’ had harmed Islam more than any cartoon or book, in reference to the Paris attacks against Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead.
> General Security placed new restrictions on Syrians entering Lebanon. While travel between the two countries has been relatively unrestricted since Lebanon gained independence in 1943, Syrians will now have to obtain a visa prior to entering. UNHCR’s representative in Lebanon Ninette Kelley announced that the number of new refugees in Lebanon dropped 44 percent in 2014 compared to 2013.
> Strong winter storms battered Lebanon with snow and rain during January, leaving 12 dead and hundreds of thousands in freezing temperatures. The storms hit the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon particularly hard, as many live in inadequate shelter without heating.
> Former Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami died on January 1, following a long battle with cancer. Thousands of mourners took part in a procession that departed from Beirut, making stops in various towns on the way to Tripoli.
> Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian met with high ranking Qatari officials, in a trip aimed at promoting religious and political ties between the two countries.
> According to a report issued this month by the Ministry of Finance, rising tax revenues and receivables from treasury operations led to a reduction in the budget deficit from 31.89 percent in September 2013 to 21.93 percent in September 2014.
> The German Development Bank announced a donation of $39.6 million to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The grant is meant to assist UNICEF in “providing access to quality formal and non-formal education,” as well as to offer technical support to Lebanon’s Ministry of Education to build institutional capacities, according to a statement released on Reliefweb’s website.
> Human Rights Watch stated in a report released this month entitled “Unequal and unprotected: Women’s rights under Lebanon’s religious personal status laws” that women are discriminated against by Lebanon’s religious based personal status laws. There are bigger obstacles for women than men who want to end a marriage, making them more vulnerable, the report said.
> Despite general economic troubles, car sales in Lebanon rose by 4.55 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year, according to recently released data from the Association of Car Importers in Lebanon.
> In its “Global Economic Prospects” report published in January 2015, the World Bank projects a GDP growth of of 3.6 percent in Lebanon in 2017.
> During an unofficial visit to Beirut to assess Lebanon’s labor market, a World Bank group delegation urged the country to adopt an integrated strategy to fight youth unemployment and stimulate job growth.
> Lebanon’s banking sector is expected to face a challenging year, after Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the long term deposit ratings of three Lebanese banks from B1 to B2.
> According to data from Byblos Bank, Rafic Hariri International Airport released figures showing that numbers of passengers had increased in 2014 by 4.8 percent, compared to 2013.
> Angry residents of Naameh, south of Beirut, blocked the entrance to the town’s landfill, calling on Minister of Environment Mohammad Machnouk to resign for not fulfilling his promise of closing the controversial site.
> With global oil prices at record lows, Lebanon has seen significant decreases in the price of petroleum products, with gasoline prices dropping by over LBP 11,000 ($7.33) per 20 liters since January 2014.
> During a meeting with the Lebanese-Chinese Businessmen Association, Minister of Industry Hussein Hajj Hassan said he planned to gradually impose duties on certain imports. According to the minister, the taxes would mainly target goods subsidized by their country of origin and serve to protect the Lebanese industrial sector.
> Miss Lebanon Saly Greige responded to criticism of a photo that emerged of her posing with Miss Israel Doron Matalon during the Miss Universe Pageant in Miami, claiming that Matalon had jumped into the photo at the last minute. The image sparked a heated debate in Lebanon, in light of the ongoing hostilities between the two countries.
Syrian refugees often lack appropriate clothing for Lebanon’s snowy winter
Lebanese security forces and emergency services respond to a suicide bombing in Jabal Mohsen, Tripoli
Saly Greige represented Lebanon at the Miss Universe Pageant in Miami