June 03/2013

Bible Quotation for today/The Lost Sheep
Luke15/3-10: " He told them this parable. “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it?  When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn’t light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she found it?  When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma which I had lost.’ 0 Even so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner repenting.”


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 
Israeli Arrow II ready for Syrian missiles. US Patriots for Jordan. Moscow backs Hizballah/DEBKAfile/June 03/13
Radical Sunni current gaining ground/By: Mona Alami/Now Lebanon/June 03/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 03/13

Pope Appeals for Release of Syria Hostages
Tripoli clashes renew, injure at least six
Suleiman Seeks Extraordinary Parliamentary Session to Agree on New Vote Law
Hezbollah slays dozen Syrian rebels in Lebanon ambush

Hezbollah defending resistance in Syria: Qassem
Syrian rockets hit northeast Lebanon
Lebanese Fighters Killed in Syria as More Rockets Land in Hermel

President Michel Suleima Tasks Mansour with Filing Complaint with U.N. over Israeli Overflights
Israel conducts low-altitude flights over east Lebanon
4 Sentenced to Death in Kuwait over Murder of Lebanese Dentist
Report: Miqati-Nasrallah Meeting Encouraged Announcement of Dialogue Initiative
Report: Lebanese, Syrian Gunmen Held Trying to Nab Syrian from Aley
Raad: Qusayr Martyrs Defending Lebanon against Same Zionist Plot that Targeted South
Army in Lebanon Arrests 2 in North for Transporting Weapons
Al-Rahi Sees No Convincing Reasons, Says Parliament Should Fix Extension 'Mistake'
Salam to relaunch talks over new Cabinet

Salam: Parties that Backed Parliament Extension Can Facilitate Cabinet Formation
Syrian Observatory: 9 Security Forces Killed in Damascus Car Bomb
Egypt Court Invalidates Senate, Constitution Panel as Presidency Says Senate to Keep Powers
Protesters Occupy Istanbul Square as Police Tear Gas Demonstrators in Ankara

Australian 'Bites Off Part of Serbian Waiter's Finger'
Jordan City Declares 'Civil Disobedience' after Clashes with Police
Aid can only enter Syrian town once fighting over: Damascus
Muallem Tells Ban Red Cross Can Enter Qusayr Once Fighting Ends
Qaida Chief Warns Attacks on U.S. in 'Everyone's Reach'
Fabius: Syria Peace Talks in Geneva Could Take Place in July
Erdogan rejects 'dictator' claims

Syria rebukes Erdogan over Turkish protest violence  


Pope Appeals for Release of Syria Hostages
Naharnet/Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to "the humanity" of kidnappers in Syria and urged them to free their hostages, expressing deep concern for the kidnap victims of the two-year-old conflict.
"I appeal to the humanity of the kidnappers and for them to release their victims," the pope told a large crowd as he delivered the Angelus prayer on St. Peter's Square.
In late April two Orthodox bishops were kidnapped in northern Syria, though the pontiff did not make any specific reference to their case. No group has claimed responsibility for their abduction.
The pope said he was deeply concerned for "the defenseless population" caught up in the fighting in Syria, where over 90,000 people have been killed since an uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011.
"The plight of war brings with it tragic consequences: death, destruction, enormous damage to the economy and the environment, and the scourge of kidnappings", Francis added.
"Let us pray for our beloved Syria," the pope said from a window in the Apostolic Palace, to warm applause from the thousands of faithful in the square.
There has been no news on the whereabouts of the two bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, who were reportedly taken near the rebel-held town of Kafr Dael, near Aleppo.
Their disappearances were the latest in a string of kidnappings in Syria that have also included political figures and reporters.Source/Agence France Presse.


Israeli Arrow II ready for Syrian missiles. US Patriots for Jordan. Moscow backs Hizballah
DEBKAfile Special Report June 2, 2013/Syrian batteries are in a high state of operability, ready to fire at short notice,” said Israel Air Force Colonel Zvika Haimovich in special briefings to international media Friday. He disclosed that Israel tracks every missile fired in the Syrian civil war, since southward launches would give Israel mere seconds to determine it was not the true target. “All it would take is a few degrees’ change in the flight path to endanger us.”
Speaking at the Palmachim air and missile base south of Tel Aviv, Col. Haimovich explained that long-range radars feed real-time data on the barrages to the base command where officers are braced to activate Arrow II. The more threatening launches set off sirens in Palmachim. Warplanes there are also on standby to scramble.
“We are looking at all aspects, from the performance of weaponry to the way the Syrians use it," said the Israeli air force officer. “They have used everything that I am aware exists in their missile and rocket arsenal [against Syrian rebel forces]. They are improving all the time, and so are we… but we need to study and be prepared.”
Another Israeli expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, described a combination of split-second analysis of the strength of the launch with up-to-date intelligence on Bashar Assad's intentions. He said Israel had beefed up its deployment to more than four nationwide batteries, to allow for repeated interception of any incoming missile. The intention is “to ensure that we have at least two opportunities to intercept. We have not yet been called into action on the northern front, but I believe that we will be," said this officer.
In Washington, Pentagon sources reported that the United States was sending Patriot missile defense systems and F-16 fighter jets to Jordan for the annual joint Eager Lion exercise between the two armies. The sources did not say whether the Patriots and fighter jets would withdraw after the two-month exercise. The US officials pointed out that the Patriots would not shield Jordan from Syrian Scuds, but were a demonstration of US support for the Hashemite kingdom.
At the same time, debkafile’s military sources report a high degree of operational coordination between the US Patriot deployments in Jordan and Turkey and the Israeli Arrow 2 preparedness for a potential missile attack which could come from Iran, Syria, Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.
Another component of this missile shield is the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System aboard US warships in the Mediterranean.
Moscow, for its part, continues to sow confusion about the delivery of its S-300 anti-air missile batteries to Syria, but has shown its hand on another issue, by blocking a UN Security Council motion that would have condemned Hizballah. Tabled under the heading of “a declaration of alarm over Qusayr” the Council was asked to express “grave concern” over the dire events in that town since Hizballah forces fighting with the Syrian army captured most of its urban area.
Our military sources report heavy fighting is raging in the northern sector of al Qusayr since the rebels brought in reinforcements for their last stand late last week.
A Hizballah siege force has cut off food and water supplies for the 10,000 civilians and 2,500 opposition fighters trapped in that corner of the town. At least 1.200 wounded people are without access to medical attention.
Moscow claimed it blocked a Security Council motion on al Qusayr because there was no UN condemnation when the Syrian rebels captured the town in 2012.
For Israel, the Russian UN action is of great concern because it amounts to the extension of Moscow’s patronage not just to the Assad regime but also to Hizballah which spearheaded the al Qusayr offensive. This is consistent with the pledges of support Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov gave Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah during their secret conversation in Beirut on April 27.
When questioned on this score, Russian diplomats were evasive - in the same way as they are ambiguous about the S-300 missiles. However Moscow’s Security Council action leaves no room for doubt that Hizballah’s military intervention in the Syrian war has won a powerful champion in Moscow.

Lebanese Fighters Killed in Syria as More Rockets Land in Hermel
Naharnet /At least one Hizbullah member was killed overnight in clashes with Syrian rebels on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, a security source told Agence France Presse on Sunday."Clashes took place between a group of FSA (Free Syrian Army) and a group of Hizbullah members coming from Baalbek in a border area between the outskirts of Baalbek and Damascus province in Syria," the source said.
"One member of Hizbullah was killed along with several rebels," he said, without specifying how many rebels died.
The clashes took place in a mountainous region inside Syria between the Baalbek area, a Hizbullah stronghold, and Syria's Damascus province, where the border is often not clearly demarcated. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, which has a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground in Syria, confirmed the clashes, but was unable to say how many people were killed.
Some reports have said there have been dozens of casualties on both sides and that the clashes had taken place inside Lebanese territories.
The clashes took place as least two rockets fired from Syria landed in Lebanon’s border area of Hermel on Sunday, security sources said.
The rockets hit the northeastern area of Hermel, a day after 18 rockets and mortars rounds from Syria slammed into the Baalbek region, the largest cross-border salvo to hit a Hizbullah stronghold since Syrian rebels threatened to retaliate for the group's armed support of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hizbullah stepped up its involvement in the Syrian war in mid-May by joining a regime offensive against the rebel-held Syrian town of Qusayr, about 10 kilometers from Lebanon. The town has since become one of the war's major military and political flashpoints.
Lebanese sources also reported the death of a Hizbullah fighter near Zabadani, northwest of Damascus.
And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and family members said a Lebanese member of the al-Nusra Front was killed fighting Hizbullah members in the Qusayr area.
Source/Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet.

Hezbollah, rebels clash in Syria near Lebanon border
Now Lebanon/At least one member of Lebanon's Shiite group Hezbollah was killed overnight in clashes with Syrian rebels on the Syrian side of the border with Lebanon, a security source told AFP on Sunday.
"Clashes took place between a group of FSA [Free Syrian Army] and a group of Hezbollah members coming from Baalbek in a border area between the outskirts of Baalbek and Damascus province in Syria," the source said.
"One member of Hezbollah was killed along with several rebels," he said, without specifying how many rebels died.
The clashes took place in a mountainous region inside Syria between the Baalbek area of Lebanon, a Hezbollah stronghold, and Syria's Damascus province, where the border is often not clearly demarcated.
The clashes came after a barrage of rockets fired from Syrian territory at Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in recent days. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog, which has a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground in Syria, confirmed the clashes, but was unable to say how many people were killed.
However, NOW’s reporter in the Beqaa said that ten FSA rebels were killed in these clashes, and specified that the deceased Hezbollah supporter was a member of the Abbas family. The conflict in neighboring Syria has increasingly spilled over into Lebanon, with Damascus regime ally Hezbollah dispatching fighters to battle alongside the army against rebel forces. The group's members have been particularly active in the fight for Qusayr, in the central province of Homs, a rebel stronghold that the regime is trying to wrest from opposition hands. Sunni Lebanese citizens have also joined the fight on the side of the rebels, although reportedly in lower numbers than their Hezbollah counterparts. The Syrian opposition has repeatedly warned Hezbollah to withdraw its forces from the conflict, and on May 26 two rockets hit a Hezbollah bastion in Beirut a day after the group's leader defended its role in Syria.

Tripoli clashes renew, injure at least six
Now Lebanon/Clashes erupted on Sunday evening in the Lebanese northern city of Tripoli, injuring at least six people, the National News Agency reported.
Sounds of explosions and gunfire were heard in the two rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, especially on Syria Street, the main thoroughfare street that divides the aforementioned neighborhoods. Last month, fierce sectarian clashes erupted between the Alawite-populated neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and neighboring Sunni areas, leaving at least 30 people dead. The NNA cited the names of four people who were injured in the clashes: Haydar Saleem, Mohammad Merhebi, Hassan Ibrahim, and Taha al-Rezz. The main highway linking Tripoli to Akkar was closed, as well as the roads leading to Al-Zahriyeh, Bab al-Hadeed and Al-Mallouleh.
The fighting in Tripoli erupted as Syrian regime troops backed by Hezbollah attempted to storm Al-Qusayr, a strategic rebel stronghold linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast. Jabal Mohsen residents have frequently clashed with locals from neighboring areas in the troubled northern city of Tripoli. These recurrent disputes are triggered by sectarian differences, which also reflect a split in Lebanon's political scene in which the March 14 coalition backs the revolt in Syria while the March 8 alliance, led by Hezbollah, supports the Damascus regime.

President Michel Suleima Tasks Mansour with Filing Complaint with U.N. over Israeli Overflights

Naharnet /Israeli warplanes overflew Beirut, the eastern town of Baalbek that borders Syria, and southern Lebanon at low altitude Sunday, prompting a call for a complaint with the United Nations.
President Michel Suleiman tasked Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour with filing an urgent complaint with the U.N. over the overflights “which covered all Lebanese regions, including the capital Beirut,” said a terse statement. Mansour condemned the violation of Lebanese airspace, confirming in remarks to the National News Agency that he would file the complaint over “the dangerous attacks carried by the Israeli army.”
The surge in overflights since January comes amid repeated warnings by Israel that the Syrian regime might transfer chemical weapons to Hizbullah. Two air raids in Syria by Israeli warplanes last month destroyed missiles apparently destined for Hizbullah. The attacks have sparked fears that the party could hit back. The United Nations has called on Israel to halt the increased military air patrols, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said in May.
He added that the overflights are a violation of Lebanese sovereignty and of Security Council resolution 1701 which allowed for a ceasefire that ended Israel's war with Hizbullah in 2006. "We are aware of the concerns raised by the Lebanese government in this regard. The U.N. interim force has lodged firm protests with the Israeli Defense Force on this matter asking them to cease the overflights," Nesirky said.
Suleiman has previously condemned the Israeli violations, calling them a continuation of the Jewish state’s policy of intimidation.

Report: Lebanese, Syrian Gunmen Held Trying to Nab Syrian from Aley

Naharnet/An army patrol on Sunday managed to arrest three Lebanese men and two Syrians as they were trying to kidnap a Syrian man in the Mount Lebanon region of Aley, LBCI television reported.
Army troops stopped the group's car in Aley's western neighborhood after spotting a fake license plate on the vehicle and found weapons in their possession, the TV network said.
“During interrogation, it turned out that they were trying to abduct a Syrian man to swap him for another who is held in Qusayr” in Homs province, LBCI added.
It identified the three Lebanese as Samir Ghazi, Ali Awaita and Akram Omar and the two Syrians as Alaa and Abdul Rahman al-Shibani.
Earlier on Sunday, the army arrested two people in the northern town of Ehden for transporting weapons and ammunition.

MP Mohammed Raad: Qusayr Martyrs Defending Lebanon against Same Zionist Plot that Targeted South
Naharnet/MP Mohammed Raad, head of Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc, stressed Sunday that Hizbullah is fighting in Syria's Qusayr against the same “Zionist plot” it had confronted in southern Lebanon.
“It is important to realize the importance of martyrs during this period, so that some people don't confuse things and think that the rifle of the resistance has changed its aim … as the martyrs that are falling nowadays on the frontier of Qusayr and its countryside, and in defense of Sayyeda Zainab and its holy shrine, are defending Lebanon and the Arab and Islamic world against the same Zionist plot that targeted Lebanon through its southern frontier,” Raad said.“The current events are two faces of the same plot under the auspices of the United States, which is sponsoring terrorism whether it is Zionist terrorism or claiming to be religious,” Raad added in a speech at a memorial service marking one week since the death of Hizbullah fighter Abdullah Khalil, who was killed in Syria.
The Hizbullah official accused the jihadist groups fighting in Syria of “killing and displacing people, ruining countries and state institutions and besieging the Ummah's sources of strength and dignity, as part of an agenda that reeks of oil.”The military support of Hizbullah has helped Syrian regime forces gain the upper hand in the battle for control of Qusayr, a key town for both the regime and the insurgents, where an army assault began on May 19.
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had previously justified the group's involvement in Syria by saying they were defending Lebanese-inhabited border villages inside Syria and Shiite holy sites. But the offensive on the mostly-Sunni town of Qusayr forced the movement to change its argument."Syria is the rear guard of the resistance (Hizbullah's fight with Israel), its backbone, and the resistance cannot stay with its arms folded when its rear guard is exposed," Nasrallah said last month in a speech for the 13th anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
"We are idiots if we do not act," he added.Nasrallah stressed that Hizbullah will win the battle against the “United States, Israel and the Takfiris just like it emerged victorious in previous wars.”

Army Arrests 2 in North for Transporting Weapons
Naharnet / The army has arrested two people in northern Lebanon for transporting weapons and ammunition, the military command announced on Sunday.
The communique said that soldiers manning a checkpoint in the town of Ehden in Zghorta district arrested Mohammed Bashir Moussa and Saad Mohammed Moussa after they found the weapons in their Kia Picanto.
The seized arms included Rocket Propelled Grenades, light firearms, goggles in addition to other military equipment, it said.The suspects and the seized weapons were referred to the appropriate authorities, it added.
LBCI TV said the two men hail from the northern district of Akkar and that they had bought the weapons from an arms dealer in Bsharri, who has been detained twice.

Report: Miqati-Nasrallah Meeting Encouraged

Naharnet/A meeting held between Caretaker Premier Najib Miqati and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has encouraged Miqati to call for a national dialogue to resolve the country’s political and security problems, high-ranking sources said. The sources told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat published Sunday that the meeting, which was held three weeks ago, was aimed at restoring ties between Miqati and Hizbullah. Relations between the two sides had deteriorated after Miqati's announcement of his resignation in March following disputes between cabinet members.
But the sources said that the latest meeting between the caretaker PM and Nasrallah paved way for Miqati's announcement of an initiative under which President Michel Suleiman would call for a national dialogue without any preconditions. The initiative lies in asking “Suleiman to head a dialogue on condition that each party attends it, and expresses readiness to engage in the talks without any prior conditions and to make concessions,” Miqati announced on Wednesday. The caretaker PM said he would work along with a team on initiating contacts with each party to agree on the dialogue's framework.

Syrian Observatory: 9 Security Forces Killed in Damascus Car Bomb

Naharnet/A car bombing in Damascus on Sunday killed at least nine security forces, a watchdog said, as aid groups urged the evacuation of civilians trapped in the embattled Syrian town of Qusayr. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the explosion, in the east of the capital, appeared to have been carried out by the extremist al-Nusra Front, which is allied with al-Qaida, although there was no immediate confirmation.
"At least nine regime forces were killed in the explosion of a car bomb near a police station in the Jubar neighborhood," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse. Syrian state news agency SANA reported "preliminary information on a car bomb explosion in Jubar," but gave no further details.The Observatory said fierce clashes between rebels and regime forces were ongoing in Jubar, a contested neighborhood which has been targeted by regime air strikes and mortar attacks for several months.Elsewhere in the capital, the Observatory said, regime forces shelled the al-Hajar al-Aswad, Assali and Qaddam neighborhoods in the south and southwest of the city overnight. The attack came as international aid groups called for the evacuation of civilians trapped in the flashpoint central Syrian town of Qusayr. Regime forces launched an assault against the rebel stronghold two weeks ago, and concern has risen over the fate of thousands of civilians, including around 1,500 wounded residents.Abdel Rahman told AFP on Saturday that "the opposition fighters are fighting with everything they've got."Regime forces are reinforcing the sites that they have north of the city," he said. The group said at least 15 tanks were massed north of Qusayr, a prize for both the regime and the rebels as it links Damascus to the coast, and is near the Lebanese border, providing a key rebel conduit for weapons and fighters. Abdel Rahman said around 1,000 wounded people were trapped inside Qusayr but U.N. officials suggested the figure could be even higher.Source/Agence France Presse.

Egypt Court Invalidates Senate, Constitution Panel as Presidency Says Senate to Keep Powers

Naharnet/Egypt's highest court on Sunday invalidated the Islamist-dominated Senate and a panel that drafted the constitution, throwing the country into fresh political uncertainty, as the presidency said the Senate will maintain its legislative powers until a new parliament is elected. The Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) said the law governing the elections of the Shura Council was unconstitutional, as were the rules for the selection of the members of a committee that drafted the constitution. Presiding Judge Maher al-Beheiry said that the Shura Council should remain in place until the election of a new parliament.
Later on Sunday, the presidency said in a statement that the Shura Council, which took legislative powers after parliament was dissolved last year, "will continue in its full legislative role until power is transferred to the new assembly."  It also said that the constitution would remain the country's governing text, even after the same court deemed that the panel that drafted it was illegitimate.
The constitution, which was criticized by opponents of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi for failing to represent all Egyptians, was adopted by a popular referendum in December marked by low voter turnout.
"The constitution, which the people voted for and was approved by a majority, is the reference that must be applied, defended, protected and respected by all state institutions," the presidency statement said.
Some judicial sources said earlier that the Shura Council, a historically powerless body which was thrust into a legislative role when parliament was dissolved, now has no authority to make laws.
But others say the body's powers will be restricted to issuing legislation governing the next elections.
As for the constitution, it will remain in place because it was adopted by a popular referendum, judicial sources said.
Despite the uncertainty over its impact, Sunday's ruling will cast a dark shadow over the legitimacy of the Shura Council and the constitutional panel, which were touted by Morsi as shining examples of Egypt's new democracy.
The constitution was at the heart of a bitter conflict between Morsi's mainly Islamist supporters and his opponents who slammed the text for failing to represent all Egyptians and stifling freedoms.
The conflict had spilled out onto the streets causing the worst political polarization since the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
"The decision seems to be what you get when the legal and political realms have become so intertwined with each other -- a result of bad law and bad politics," said H.A. Hellyer, Fellow specializing in Egyptian politics at the Brookings Institution. The SCC "issued a decision that met the political realities half way," Hellyer told Agence France Presse.
The case against the Shura Council is based on several challenges by lawyers of the law that governed the election of its members. Both the upper and lower houses were elected under the same electoral law, which the SCC last year deemed invalid, prompting the dissolution of parliament. Ahmed Ramy, spokesman for the Freedom and Justice Party -- the political arm of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood -- said the party was still studying the impact of the ruling.But he said he believes the Shura Council should continue with its work "so as not to create a legislative vacuum."
But others disagree. "The ruling means that the Senate must abstain from passing any law, because these laws would be contested," said Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, professor of political science at Cairo University.
"The fact that it remains in place is a conciliatory gesture," he told AFP. The ruling creates a crisis for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyed said, "because they wanted to use the Senate to pass several laws that they feel they could not in a new parliament," said Sayyed.Source/Agence France Presse.

Protesters Occupy Istanbul Square as Police Tear Gas Demonstrators in Ankara

Naharnet/Thousands of people were on Sunday occupying Istanbul's Taksim Square, the epicenter of the worst demonstrations in a decade against Turkey's Islamist-rooted government which have seen almost 1,700 people detained and scores wounded.A sea of protesters from across Turkey's political spectrum were camping out in the iconic square, chanting "Government, Resign!" and "Istanbul is ours, Taksim is ours!" as they celebrated after the police pulled out of the site on Saturday. Taksim has been at the heart of a wave of more than 235 demonstrations in 67 cities nationwide, the biggest public outcry against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government since it assumed power in 2002. In Ankara, police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse some 1,000 protesters who were attempting to march on the high-security prime minister's office.
Private NTV news network broadcast live images of the protest in downtown Kizilay square.
The unrest began as a local outcry against plans to redevelop Gezi Park near Taksim Square, but after a heavy-handed police response quickly snowballed into broader protests against what critics say is the government's increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda.
"They call me a dictator," Erdogan said in a speech on Sunday, a day after he called for an immediate end to the protests. "If they liken a humble servant to a dictator, then I am at a loss for words."
After two days of violent protests and appeals by Turkey's Western allies for restraint, the situation appeared to have calmed in Istanbul on Sunday after police pulled out of Taksim and officials took on a more conciliatory tone.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said more than 1,700 protesters had been arrested nationwide since the start of the unrest, noting that most have since been released.
"A large majority of the detainees were released after being questioned and identified," he said in remarks carried by the state-run Anatolia news agency. He added that the country had seen 235 demonstrations since Tuesday.
The minister also warned against "misinformation being spread on social media," denying claims by rights groups and on social media websites that several people had been killed.
He said 58 civilians and 115 security officers had been wounded, while rights groups say hundreds of people have been hurt. Authorities say almost 100 police vehicles, 94 shops and dozens of cars have been damaged since Friday.The total damage to property is estimated at more than 20 million liras (over eight million euros), according to Guler.
Amnesty International has put the number of wounded in the hundreds and said there had been two deaths.
Erdogan on Saturday insisted his government would press ahead with the controversial redevelopment though he said the project may not include a shopping mall, as feared by protesters. He also admitted "some mistakes" in the police response to the protest. Eylem Yildirim, a 36-year-old housewife and protester in Taksim, said she expected the crowds to die down after the weekend but said the people had made their point and the government knew they were "bitter and at the limits of their patience."Amnesty said some protesters had been left blinded by the massive quantities of tear gas and pepper spray used by police over two days while at least two people were hit in the head with gas canisters. Turkey's Western allies Britain, France and the United States had earlier called for the Erdogan government to exercise restraint. "We have learned our lesson," Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbas told NTV on Saturday.He said he regretted "not informing the people enough" about the details of the construction project in Taksim.Mass circulation newspaper Milliyet meanwhile plastered a picture of the packed square on its front page with the headline "Freedom Park".Turkish officials said a dozen people hurt in the protests were being treated in hospitals, and that one of them was in intensive care after brain surgery.
Amnesty's Europe director John Dalhuisen said police excesses had become routine in Turkey "but the excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful."
Human Rights Watch said the number of injured was higher than official figures suggested and said one protester had lost an eye after police shot him with a plastic bullet.
The U.S. State Department had called on NATO-member Turkey to uphold "fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing".
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told local media that Paris was calling for "moving towards a peaceful solution". But he rejected comparisons with the Arab Spring uprisings, saying: "We are dealing (in Turkey) with a government that was democratically elected."Some 1,800 people also rallied in Vienna on Saturday to criticize the Erdogan government and show their support for the protesters in Istanbul.
The Turkey protests also follow a controversial new law introduced by Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that will restrict the sale and advertising of alcohol, a move that has sparked complaints that the government is trying to impose an Islamic agenda. Erdogan's populist government is often accused of trying to make the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular country more conservative and has also been criticized for its crackdown on opponents including Kurds, journalists and the military. Source/Agence France Presse.WorldPoliticsIstanbulTurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdogan.

Radical Sunni current gaining ground

Mona Alami/Now Lebanon
The post-2005 years have ushered in an unraveling of the moderate Sunni street, the start of the protracted Syrian war and Hezbollah’s involvement in what is increasingly defined as a sectarian regional conflict. This has caused a dangerous shift on the Lebanese Sunni street, one with possible disastrous long-term consequences. The assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, followed by the killing of March 14 figures and the decampment of former prime minister Saad Hariri, combined with political mismanagement have resulted, over time, in the crippling of Lebanon’s main Sunni political faction, the Future movement. Lebanese Sunnis disenchanted with the political elite feel misrepresented and sidelined from power. This worsened significantly after Hezbollah’s unilateral decision to fight alongside the Assad regime in Syria, especially the border Qusayr region.
Hezbollah, the main Shiite party already has a bad reputation among many members of the Sunni community. Four Hezbollah members have been accused of the killing of PM Hariri alongside 21 others. Fingers were also pointed at Hezbollah after the assassinations of two Sunni notables: police investigator Wissam Eid and ISF’s General Wissam al-Hassan.
A 2008 governmental decision to shut down Hezbollah's telecommunication network and to remove Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri airport's security chief Wafiq Shoucair over alleged ties to Hezbollah sparked in clashes between Sunni and Druze militants and fighters affiliated with the Party of God. Tripoli‘s burning front, pitting Sunnis supporting the Syrian rebellion against Alawites aligned with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, has not calmed Sunnis’ resentment toward Hezbollah which is perceived as adding fuel to the sectarian fire. Whether these accusations are justified is not what matters; rather, it’s the growing feeling of marginalization experienced by many Sunnis in Lebanon. This has led to a slow but certain radicalization of some members of these communities, particularly around demarcation lines where Shiites and Sunnis co-exist such as in Tripoli, the Beqaa, Sidon, and certain neighborhoods of Beirut.While most Sunnis still follow mainstream political factions, radical currents are gaining ground. Several concerning developments have marked recent months. Islamic groups, which used to be on the margin of the Lebanese political scene are consolidating and gaining strength, such as the Lebanese Salafi movement, which has formed the “Tayyar ahl Sunna,” the movement of the Sunni Community.
The exodus of Sunni youth to the Syrian battlefront has increased significantly in recent weeks. While Salafi sources in Tripoli previously estimated the number of Lebanese jihadis fighting alongside the Syrian rebels to be around 100, they now say the number has now dramatically risen. “About 80 Tripoli Sunnis have gone to fight with the rebels in Qusayr in recent weeks,” says one Salafi source from Tripoli who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons. The son of Dai Islam al Chahal, Lebanon’s highest authority in the mainstream Salafi current, is fighting with his cousin in Qusayr. He is said to have been injured in a battle last week in which five other Lebanese fighters were killed. Tripoli fighters battling in Qusayr had responded to the call for jihad launched by Sheikh Salem Rafei last month. The enrollment of traditional Sunnis and mainstream Salafis (who do not generally advocate jihad) in the Syrian “holy war” is an indicator to be handled with care. More preoccupying is the situation in Lebanese Palestinian camps. Fatah sources within the camps have reported the rise of six groups from the ashes of radical Islamic factions such as Jund al-Sham, Fateh al-Islam and Osbat al-Ansar, comprising many young followers. These groups have been accused of coordinating with the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra, which the US government has labeled a terror organization. “Saudi figure Majed al-Majed [the famous Lebanon-based Islamist with a history of fighting with Islamist factions] has gone to fight in Syria and was replaced by a Yemeni figure, which might point to an external collaboration,” adds the Fatah source. The same Fatah officer emphasizes that these groups are also coordinating with radical movements in Shatila (the Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut), Sidon, and Tripoli, information confirmed by Tripoli Salafist sources who preferred to remain anonymous for security reasons. Hezbollah should take a step back and think carefully the Syria war. Rushing into the nearby conflict might release the demon of extremism from Pandora’s box.