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Lebanon On The Brink: Where External And Internal Threats Collide

A ghost state, an economy in ruins ... Lebanon has still not recovered from the explosion at the port of Beirut a little over three years ago. With war looming on its southern border, the country teeters near total collapse.

BEIRUT — “Go to Place de l’Etoile, you'll find me there.” At the appointed time that morning, the square where the Lebanese Parliament is located is deserted. The silence of an abandoned city reigns, like in a Hitchcock scene, broken only by the raspy meows of two furious cats. Since the explosion at the port of Beirut on August 8, 2020, the surroundings of the building have been the image of a ghostly power. Vacant.

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On the facades of elegant buildings reminiscent of a Lebanon glowing with activity, the windows without panes are like open vents revealing only darkness inside, with electricity long cut off. On the corner, the Häagen-Dazs window is a pile of glass. A mess of overturned chairs suggests the hasty departure of customers, who haven't returned for three years.

“Look, there’s no one here! Our political class is barricading itself, it is afraid of the people!," declares Melhem Khalaf. This member of Parliament from Beirut receives people seated at a small table that he set up himself on the sidewalk, a stone's throw from the steps of Parliament.

It looks like another movie scene. At the end of the lifeless artery, one of the Lebanese army's roadblocks filters the rare entries into this protected enclave in the heart of the capital.

Khalaf is one of the dozen deputies elected during the May 2022 legislative elections without being affiliated with one of the religious communities that have long hung over Lebanese political life. With a group of lawyers, this president of the national bar association is fighting so that the investigation into the port explosion, so disturbing for Hezbollah, the militia party in control of the area, will one day be properly carried out.

Who still believes in justice, in politics, in the rule of law in this Lebanon shattered by decades of civil war and crisis?

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Warnings And Praise — 6 Key Takeaways From Hezbollah Chief’s Fiery Speech

Here are six key points from Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah's long awaited speech, including a threat to Israel that it was a "realistic possibility" that the war along the Lebanese border is about to escalate.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah spoke in Lebanon on Friday, making his first public remarks since the Israel-Hamas war erupted. He called the October 7 attacks on Israel a “great, blessed operation” and warned that it was “realistic” to expect escalation in attacks across the Lebanon-Israel border.

Nasrallah, who has led the militant group since 1992, is rarely seen in public. He spoke via video link from an undisclosed location, with his speech broadcast to a crowd of supporters in the suburbs of Beirut.

The speech comes amid escalating tensions between the Iran-backed armed group and Israel, sparking concern of a potential broader regional war.

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Hezbollah is a Shiite Islamist movement with one of the most powerful paramilitary forces in the Middle East. The group, which has its main base near the Israel-Lebanon border, could spark a wider regional conflict. The Lebanese group has voiced support for Hamas' cause but not yet directly intervened on its behalf, linking its clashes with Israel to attacks on Lebanese soil.

Here are the key points from Nasrallah’s highly anticipated speech:

  1. Hamas acted alone on Oct. 7: Nasrallah addressed speculation about whether Iran-backed factions were part of the attacks, saying that the planning and execution of the attacks were "100 percent Palestinian”. He added that Hezbollah was not bothered that the operation was kept secret, saying he understood Hamas' need for the element of surprise.
  2. Escalation warning to Israel: Saying the attacks across the Israel border would “not be limited” to the scale seen until now, Nasrallah said Hezbollah’s intention was to tie down Israeli troops near Lebanon so they couldn’t be deployed in Gaza. He warned that further escalation in the north was a “realistic possibility,” even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah “they would pay dearly” with major attacks.
  3. Attacks exposed Israel’s military weakness: The Oct. 7 attacks exposed Israel’s military weaknesses and that the United States sending “fleets of warships” emphasizes Israel’s reliance on its allies.

  4. Gaza is Holy War: The Islamist leader made multiple references to the wider holy war against Israel, citing the “blessed” success of the Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,400 in southern Israel. He added that the lives lost in Gaza, the West Bank and other fronts were "worthy sacrifices" because they established a "historic new stage" in the regional conflict.

  5. Gaza ceasefire + Hamas victory: As Lebanese paper L’Orient le Jour reported, Nasrallah called for people to "work day and night" to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, saying it is Hezbollah's "primary goal." He warned people “not to lose sight” of two short-term goals: ending the war in Gaza, and enabling the “resistance” in Gaza, including Hamas “to triumph.”
  6. U.S. has the power to stop the war: Nasrallah addressed the United States saying it had the power to stop the war. He went on to add that the threats the U.S. has made against Lebanese not to enter the conflict does not scare them. And that the country has prepared a response against them.
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What Will Hezbollah Do? Lebanon's Fate Hangs In The Balance

Memories are still clear of the war in 2006, which exploded after a Hezbollah attack in northern Israel. Nobody wants war again, even as solidarity for the Palestinian cause is stronger than ever.

BEIRUT — From the balcony of his flat in Baabda, a hillside town near the Lebanese capital, a local engineer named Omar gestures towards the southern quarter of Beirut. That was the neighborhood that became a prime target of the Israeli air force in July 2006.

"The raids followed one another, every day for 32 days," he recalled. "The area wasn't just bombed, it was completely razed to the ground."

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The trauma of 2006 is still fresh in everyone's mind in Beirut.

At the time, Israel retaliated against a Hezbollah incursion into the north of the country. The Shiite group's forces succeeded in penetrating Israeli territory, ambushing a Tsahal patrol and capturing Israeli soldiers. It was a vastly smaller operation than the one carried out by Hamas Oct. 7, but it provoked a devastating response from Israel.

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Will War Spill Over Into Lebanon? It's Up To Hezbollah — And That Means Iran

The widely believed inability of Lebanon to control Hezbollah has sparked fears among Lebanese that the Iranian-backed group will join Hamas’ war against Israel and dragged their troubled nation back to a dark chapter in history.


PARIS — "We're starting to get very scared..." a friend from Beirut messaged me last night to share the growing fear of a new confrontation between Israel and its “other” enemy — Hezbollah, the armed Palestinian group based in Lebanon.

The fear is shared by many in Lebanon is that their powerless government has no control of its own destiny. It has no say whether there will be peace or war with Israel. Nor will Hezbollah itself, for that matter, as Iran ultimately will decide whether to drastically escalate the conflict or not.

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In the French-language daily L'Orient Le Jour, editor-in-chief Anthony Samrani writes that "no journalist, no analyst and no diplomat can seriously claim to be able to say with any certainty whether or not the Shiite group will cross the Rubicon in the next few hours, days or weeks. Everyone speculates, but no one knows."

It is this uncertainty that darkens the morale of the Lebanese, still haunted by the memory of the terrible 2006 war: 33 days of fighting, 1,200 Lebanese dead, 150 Israelis killed, a million people displaced in Lebanon, infrastructure destroyed. Seventeen years later, Lebanon is in far worse shape and scared: without a president, an economy in tatters, and an impoverished population.

Since the Hamas attack in southern Israel on Saturday, the Lebanese border has been under intense scrutiny. There have been several deaths on both sides. On Wednesday, an anti-tank missile attack on Israel was claimed by Hezbollah in retaliation for the death of three of its men in an Israeli attack.

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This Happened

This Happened — August 4: Beirut Blast

A massive blast in the port of Beirut took place on this day in 2020 — an explosion so powerful that it physically shook the whole country of Lebanon.

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food / travel
Marine Béguin

Austrian Croissant? Danish Feta? CouscousGate? Gastronationalism Is Flaring Everywhere

When its comes to food and national pride, there are few things that get people more riled up than debating the rightful origins of a dish or a delicacy. From hummus (for starters) to couscous (main dish) and the pavlova for desserts, we look at gastronomic feuds around the world.

PARIS — Have you ever enjoyed a croissant with coffee on a Paris sidewalk cafe? That's usually the image the French pastry evokes. But while many people think the croissant comes from France, it was actually created in Austria.

The croissant is one of many hotly contested foods claimed by more than one nation. These disputes can sometimes even lead to geopolitical tensions — the world of gastrodiplomacy.

Gastrodiplomacy, writes French daily Libération, often aims to use food to establish a country’s brand identity abroad. From the croissant to couscous, here's an international look at some of the most disputed dishes around the world.

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Beirut Blast And Us: A New Generation Of The Lebanese Diaspora Finds Its Voice

Lebanese citizens spread around the world have gradually gotten connected in new ways, thanks to the internet and social media. But the author recalls how the massive explosion in the port of Beirut triggered something altogether different.


PARIS — In a Paris emptied by the pandemic’s first summer, I was in the Jardin du Luxembourg when the images of the Beirut explosion started showing up in my Instagram feed.

There was a huge detonation, then an even bigger blast, followed by a massive mushroom cloud — red, white, and orange.

The posts showing images of the wounded and damage in the streets soon followed. It was quickly clear that people had been killed and the magnitude of the blast had destroyed buildings around the city.

We’d find out later that the explosions — which were first triggered on August, 4th, 2020, in 6:07 p.m. local time, — detonated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the Port of Beirut. That’s equal to 1.1 kilotons of TNT, and the explosions shook virtually every corner of the country of 6 million people and were heard more than 240 kilometers (150 miles) away on the island of Cyprus.

It is considered the most powerful non-nuclear explosion in history.

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Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra, Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou, McKenna Johnson, Joel Silvestri and Emma Albright

LGBTQ+ International: Iraq Homosexuality Ban, Bhutan’s Beauty Queen — And The Week’s Other Top News

Italian police, Brazilian soccer, Japanese politics, and plenty of other stories from around the world

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — a topic that you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

Featuring, this week:

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Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra, Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulo, Shaun Lavelle, Emma Albright and Bertrand Hauger

LGBTQ+ International: Lebanon Crackdown, 50 Years Of London Pride — And The Week’s Other Top News

Indigenous pride, Ukrainian drag queen carpenter and in-flight, same-sex marriage proposal, and plenty of other stories from around the world

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — a topic that you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

Featuring, this week:

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Ahmad Ra'fat

Has Lebanese Politics Finally Freed Itself Of Iran's Influence?

Lebanon's recent elections have shrunk the legislative block led by national power-brokers Hezbollah. But will a precarious new majority be able to rid the government of the long shadow of Tehran?


The results of parliamentary elections in Lebanon, have put an end to the majority block led by Hezbollah, the paramilitary group concocted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hezbollah and its Christian allies, the Free Patriotic Movement, led by President Michel Aoun, lost their 71 seats and will now have 62 (of a total 128 seats).

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Troops On Ukraine Alert, BoJo’s New Party Scandal, NFT Beatles

👋 Salve*

Welcome to Tuesday, where NATO and U.S. troops are on alert amid Ukraine tensions, there’s a new Boris Johnson party scandal and Beatles memorabilia will be sold as NFTs. Worldcrunch’s teleworking Carl-Johan Karlsson also takes a tour of countries mulling a bonafide legal right to work from home.


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Benjamin Barthe

Clubhouse: Why This Social Platform Scares Arab Regimes

Glittering virtual lounges are popping up, inviting people to participate, solely by audio, in debates on all subjects. And, in the Middle East, the powers that be disapprove of the elites' infatuation with a trendy new app.

RIYADH — A month ago, the up-and-coming app Clubhouse took the Middle East by storm. In just a few days, the latest gem from Silicon Valley had already earned its place in the crowded market of Arab social networks. Since this audio chat platform only runs on iOS for the moment, its use is restricted to iPhone owners, i.e. the relatively wealthy classes.

But in these circles, especially in Egypt and among the ultra-connected youth of the wealthy Gulf States, followers for this new app started to grow rapidly. By mid-February, Clubhouse was the most downloaded social media app in the Saudi Arabian App Store.

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