June 04/2013

Bible Quotation for today/I came to throw fire on the earth. I wish it were already kindled.
Luke 12/49-59" “I came to throw fire on the earth. I wish it were already kindled." What does God's fire mean? It means simply the passion of love and when we know that God is love things become very clear and understandable. God's fire does not burn, but cleanses and purifies. God's fire does not destroy, but endows life that Satan can't touch or threaten. God's fire give immunity against all kinds of temptation. God's fire and love open heart, eyes, spirits and consciences on the truth and ignites in him courage and knowledge to witness for the truth. This is the fire Jesus spoke about in Luke 12/49-59" “I came to throw fire on the earth. I wish it were already" kindled.

Psalm 19:14
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer"

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources 

Now Lebanon?interview with MP. Nadim Gemayel/June 04/13
The sheikh retracts, what about the detractors/ Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Alawsat/June 04/1
Opinion: Franchising terrorism/Hussein Shobokshi/Alsharq Alawsat/June 04/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 04/13

Tripoli Fighting Death Toll Rises to 5 as Sniper Fire Targets ISF, Army Troops
Breaches of security across Lebanon alarm populace
Cabinet formation in Lebanon awaits outcome of extension challenge
FPM Submits Challenge against Parliament's Term Extension

Sheikh Maher Hammoud Escapes Assassination Attempt in Sidon
Saniora Hints 'Fighters' Should Not Be Part of New Cabinet
Report: Main Suspect in Attack against Army in Arsal Fled to Syria
Israeli Warplanes Release Heat Balloons Off Naqoura
Military Court Postpones Looking into Harb's Assassination Case
Phalange Party Urges Army to Forbid Hizbullah, Others from Sending Fighters to Syria
Jumblat Slams Nasallah's 'War against Takfiris': Syrian Regime Uses al-Nusra to Execute Attacks

Asiri Expresses Concern over Situation in Lebanon, Warns of Strife
Report: Main Suspect in Attack against Army in Arsal Fled to Syria
Gulf Cooperation Council Warns of Steps against Hizbullah

Gulf sources: "Accidents" to Ahmadinejad, Jalili were attempted assassinations
No Russian S-300s to Syria before 2014, Says Israel's Yaalon
Syria's Qusayr Pounded as Battle Enters Third Week

Protester Dies in Istanbul Clashes, Erdogan Says Situation 'Calming Down'
Kerry in Mideast for Talks June 13-15
U.S. to Send Patriot Missiles, F-16s to Jordan for Drill
German FM Says Syria Conference May Be Delayed
Key Bloc Quits Syria Opposition, Slams Leaders
Syrian Rebel resistance in Qusair defies expectations

Nadim Gemayel to NOW: Jumblatt

Now Lebanon/struck March 14
Kataeb bloc MP Nadim Gemayel accused Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt of weakening the March 14 coalition with his constantly changing stances.
“Jumblatt has stricken the very core of March 14… He is like a thermometer… when he changes the temperature, he creates confusion and frustration for [the coalition],” Gemayel told NOW in an interview over the weekend.
The Kataeb lawmaker acknowledged that there is a “lack of trust between March 14’s leaders,” and blamed this situation on the assassination operations and attempts that targeted a number of officials from the alliance.
“The [party] that carried out the assassinations was able to strike the spirit of the leadership of March 14,” Gemayel said. “[Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea changed 180 degrees after he was the subject of an assassination attempt,” he further explained.
However, the Kataeb official stressed that “as long as Lebanon’s fate, identity and existence are in danger, we do not have the right to create any dysfunction in the March 14 coalition.”Talks of divisions within the March 14 alliance have emerged months ago, after the various constituent parties failed to agree on an electoral law proposal, and have since had divergent points of view regarding a number of political issues in the country.
March14’s Kataeb and Lebanese Forces parties endorsed the Orthodox law along with March 8 leaders, which sparked angry responses from the Kataeb and LF’s ally the Future Movement and other parties.
However, Gemayel slammed the Orthodox proposal even though his party had approved it.
“From the beginning, I refused the Orthodox draft and considered it a mistake because it constitutes a threat to all Lebanese.”
He further lashed out at this electoral draft, saying that “the purpose of this proposal is to segment March 14 and stall in order to keep the 1960 law.”
He added that the said electoral law aimed to “strike the constituents and bases of March 14 and [eventually] extend the parliament’s term.”
Gemayel said, nevertheless, that he is in favor of the extension “because the [current] situation does not allow for the staging of parliamentary elections.”
However, he said that extending the legislature’s mandate for six months would have been “the best” and that “there is no justification for a 17-month extension.”
Lebanon’s parliament on Friday extended its mandate until November 2014 with a bill that was signed by 97 lawmakers in a move to postpone the country’s parliamentary elections.
The extension bill was challenged before the Constitutional Council by President Michel Suleiman and the Free Patriotic Movement, after the latter’s lawmakers boycotted the parliament session to vote on it.
The elections under the current legislature’s mandate were set to be held on June 16, but the extension of parliament’s term would delay the vote after the country’s rival politicians could not agree on an electoral law to replace the controversial 1960 one.
Meanwhile, Gemayel refused to blame the electoral deadlock on certain parties, and simply stated that “the path we have followed… was bad.”
He also tackled the issue of the new cabinet lineup, and claimed that it will be a “political government.”
However, he said that it will be a “failure merely because of Hezbollah’s presence in it,” and that “it will not last and will cause harm to Lebanon.”
Gemayel also expected that Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam would “apologize.”Lebanon’s political parties are jockeying over the composition of the new government as Salam is working to create a cabinet that would replace the resigned government. The parties across the country’s divide remain without an agreement on the issue.Elsewhere, the Kataeb MP strongly criticized Hezbollah’s involvement in the ongoing battles in Syria’s Al-Qusayr.“I expect that this participation will be the beginning of the end of Hezbollah.”
“The [Lebanese] people are not aware of the gravity of Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, but I assume that when military operations start to take place in Lebanon, the Lebanese will realize how dangerous it is and will start mobilizing [against it],” he added.Gemayel also blamed FPM leader MP Michel Aoun for “providing Hezbollah with a [political] cover it would never have dreamed of.”
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 Al-Qusayr, in the central province of Homs, a rebel stronghold that the regime is trying to wrest from opposition hands.
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 Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah defended its role in Syria and vowed the party and the Syrian regime would emerge victorious


Breaches of security across Lebanon alarm populace
By Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Armed clashes in Tripoli and a shooting incident in Sidon put Lebanon on edge Monday, augmenting anxieties that the Syrian crisis was gradually spilling into Lebanon. The death toll from the renewed fighting, which erupted over the weekend in Tripoli, between the supporters and the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, rose to five. Speaking to The Daily Star, a senior political source said he expected a gradual rise in security incidents as a result of the Syrian crisis.
“Today is better than tomorrow and tomorrow will be better than after tomorrow,” the source said, requesting to remain anonymous.Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged the Army to act decisively to bring an end to the recurring clashes. “The state and its Army and Internal Security Forces should act decisively to put an end to this ongoing saga of bloodshed and destruction, and end the pockets [of illegality] threatening national security,” Hariri said in a statement, adding that he refused to provide political cover for the state’s failure to act.
Hariri telephoned President Michel Sleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam and Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi to discuss the security situation in Tripoli.Gunmen from Tripoli’s predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, who support Assad, and their rivals from mostly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh exchanged intense sniper fire.
Ahmad Soboh, a homeless man from Bab al-Tabbaneh who is mentally disabled, died of wounds sustained during fighting the day before.
The four others killed were identified as Souad Melhem, Sayed Antoun, Ali Abboud and Jamal Qabbout, while 33 were wounded.
Among them were ISF member Elie Sleiman and Joe Madi, who were wounded at the Mallouleh roundabout and later transferred to Zghorta Hospital for treatment, security sources said. Three soldiers, Ali Shami, Khaled Shamit and Mahmoud Makari, were also wounded as a result of gunfire in the city, the sources added.
Intermittent gunshots dominated the early hours of Monday into the afternoon and the fighting appeared to be escalating, nearing the levels reached last week when over 30 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in fierce fighting.
Gunfire reached the Dabbagha neighborhood for the first time, where a woman inside a taxi cab was shot. Shops belonging to Alawite owners were also targeted with Molotov cocktails.Army vehicles transported residents living at the scene of fighting to safer areas. An inhabitant of Bab al-Tabbaneh who fled violence there expressed his irritation with the apathy demonstrated by politicians over their plight.
“Politicians and security officials used to hold emergency meetings to restore calm in the city whenever violence broke out. But now they are doing nothing,” he said, requesting anonymity. Gunmen used silencer-equipped sniper rifles to target any moving targets. Tripoli has witnessed several rounds of violence since the outbreak of unrest in neighboring Syria in March 2011, killing dozens of people and inflicting extensive material damage.
The fact that fighters from both sides built fortifications on the front lines has raised fears among residents that battles will continue in the coming days.
Schools near the clashes, along with the Lebanese University campus in Tripoli, canceled classes for Tuesday.
Army units, which have been deployed in Tripoli since the most recent round of violence erupted last month, were put on high alert as the violence resumed and responded to sources of fire. Militants targeted the Army soldiers along with Internal Security Forces personnel.
“At different times in the afternoon, militants opened fire at a number of Army and Internal Security Forces personnel who were moving around in two civilian cars in the Mallouleh area,” said a statement by the Army. “Five of them suffered injuries of different types while three suffered contusions when their car was involved in an accident.”
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said the time had come for political groups to stop backing fighting groups in the city.
“It has become necessary for all political factions to assume their responsibilities, with deeds and not words, and halt all types of support for the warring group, in order to prevent more bloodshed,” Jumblatt wrote in his weekly editorial at PSP’s Al-Anbaa electronic newspaper.
“This futile war targets only the innocent, and reinvigorates conflicts that only Tripoli’s people, of various affiliations, pay [the price] for. These people have the right to enjoy stability and calm.”
In Sidon, Sheikh Maher Hammoud, a supporter of Hezbollah, survived an assassination attempt when a car opened fire at him while he was heading to the mosque, while in the Bekaa Valley, assailants fired at the car of Sheikh Ibrahim Braidi.

Tripoli Fighting Death Toll Rises to 5 as Sniper Fire Targets ISF, Army Troops

Naharnet/The death toll in the renewed rounds of fighting in the northern city of Tripoli rose to five on Monday afternoon, after cautious calm in the morning."A man from the Zaizoun family was killed by sniper fire in Tripoli's al-Riva," MTV reported. Sniper fire wounded two members of the Internal Security Forces, one critically, in al-Mallouleh area, the National News Agency said. It later reported that three army troops were also wounded by sniper fire in the city.Meanwhile, "two people were killed when a car leaving Jabal Mohsen came under gunfire, as three other people managed to escape unharmed in an army armored vehicle," Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) reported.Earlier, NNA said snipers “fired on anything that moved” in Bab al-Tabbaneh, Jabal Mohsen, and mainly al-Zahrieh area and the international highway that links Tripoli to Akkar district. Despite the sniper fire, there was limited traffic and most markets, shops, schools and university campuses opened their doors in Tripoli.
The renewed fighting between the rival neighborhoods on Sunday night left one person dead and 14 wounded.
But on Monday four more people died from sniper fire and the number of injured individuals rose to 29.
Sunday's clashes erupted at around 7 p.m. as gunmen used light arms, machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades to fight it out. A recent round of violence pitting the Alawite backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime against Sunni supporters of the uprising, had left 31 people dead.The gunbattles came as the army brought in reinforcements and responded to the sources of fire, NNA said.Despite the military's efforts to stop the fighting, gunmen from both sides deployed in the narrow streets of the troubled neighborhoods and engaged in the deadly clashes.

Saniora Hints 'Fighters' Should Not Be Part of New Cabinet

Naharnet /Al-Mustaqbal bloc leader Fouad Saniora called on Monday for the formation of a government of “peaceful” individuals and not “fighters,” and rejected the involvement of Hizbullah in the Syrian war.“We are keen on exerting every effort to form the new cabinet of peaceful individuals and not fighters,” Saniora said during a ceremony at the Municipality of Sidon.“Neither Hizbullah nor any other party should participate in the ongoing fighting in Syria,” he said.The MP also rejected shoving Lebanon and the Lebanese into the region's conflicts and “fake battles.”Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian war increased in mid-May when regime troops launched an assault on the rebel-held town of Qusayr that lies near Lebanon's northeastern border. Hizbullah members have been fighting alongside the troops loyal to President Bashar Assad to take over control of the town. “We hold onto coexistence. That's why we reject attempts to turn Lebanon into a battleground,” Saniora said. He called for the adoption of a new modern electoral law, saying the security incidents rocking the country had compelled his bloc to approve the extension of parliament's mandate. Lawmakers extended on Friday the legislature's term for 17 months after the rival parties failed to agree on a new law and following fears that the deteriorating security situation would prevent holding the polls based on the 1960 law. “We hadn't planned for parliament's term extension … which goes against democracy but we are determined to produce a new electoral law,” Saniora said.
He also rejected the recent assassination attempt against Quds Mosque Imam in Sidon Sheikh Maher Hammoud.The security agencies should exert efforts to find the assailants who opened fire on him, he said.

Military Court Postpones Looking into Harb's Assassination Case

Naharnet/The Military Court announced postponing looking into the assassination attempt of Batroun MP Butros Harb until November 29, the state-run National News Agency reported on Monday. "The Court repeated its call for the accused Mahmoud al-Hayek to appear before the investigative bodies,” the NNA added.Security forces and legal experts said in July 2012 that al-Hayek rejects to appear in court because he is a member of Hizbullah’s security apparatus. State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr asked back in March for a sentence of life in prison with hard labor for al-Hayek in the attempted assassination of Harb.
Military Examining Magistrate Judge Fadi Sawan had issued in February an in absentia arrest warrant for the suspect.Harb, a March 14 opposition lawmaker, escaped the assassination bid in July 2012 after residents of a building in which his office is located in the Beirut district of Badaro discovered individuals trying to booby-trap the elevator.

Cabinet formation in Lebanon awaits outcome of extension challenge
June 04, 2013/By Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Attempts to form a new Cabinet have again been put on the back burner pending the outcome of petitions challenging the extension of Parliament’s mandate, a senior March 8 source said Monday.
“Serious talks on the Cabinet formation have not yet started because Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam is waiting for the results of the challenges against the extension of Parliament’s term,” the source told The Daily Star.Another delaying factor is that March 8 parties are currently busy trying to repair relations with Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, strained by the extension of Parliament’s mandate, the source said.
Although Salam was appointed on April 6 to form a new Cabinet, a source close to the premier-designate said he was obliged to halt his consultations for more than a month, as he waited for Parliament to endorse a new electoral law to govern the June 16 elections.
Salam suspended his attempts to form a Cabinet last month, while March 8 and March 14 lawmakers held several rounds of unsuccessful talks to decide on the fate of the elections.
After failing to agree on a new electoral law, 97 members of Lebanon’s 128-member Parliament endorsed a draft law last Friday to extend the legislature’s four-year mandate, which expires June 20, for 17 months and delay the polls until November 2014. The MPs cited security concerns in the country for their decision.
President Michel Sleiman, who strongly opposed the extension of Parliament’s term, filed a challenge Saturday with the Constitutional Council against the extension.
Aoun’s parliamentary Change and Reform bloc, which also rejected the extension and boycott, filed a similar challenge with the Constitutional Council Monday.
“Salam is waiting for the outcome of the challenges against the extension of Parliament’s mandate before resuming in earnest his consultations on the Cabinet formation,” a source close to the premier-designate told The Daily Star.
Media reports said it would take at least 10 days for the 10-member Constitutional Council to decide on the two challenges.
As a compromise to both the supporters and opponents of the extension, the Constitutional Council may reduce the 17-month period to eight months, a political source said.
A delegation from Aoun’s bloc visited the Constitutional Council in the southern Beirut suburb of Hadath to file the challenge against the extension of Parliament’s mandate.
Speaking to reporters after submitting the challenge, Metn MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the issue of democracy in Lebanon was now in the hands of the Constitutional Council.
“We are allowing the country’s highest court, the Constitutional Council, which is Lebanon’s conscience and its Constitution, to assume its responsibility. We did our duty and rejected the extension,” Kanaan said. “We as lawmakers filed the challenge based on constitutional and national rather than political grounds.”
“It is an historic moment and this [important issue] is in the hands of the Constitutional Council. We hope that [council members] will succeed in their mission and achieve victory for justice and the Constitution,” he added.
He said that the decision to extend Parliament’s term was unjustified and accused politicians of fabricating a tense security situation in the country to delay the elections.
“There is no force majeure preventing us from holding the elections; we can’t describe as a force majeure a situation that is intentionally fabricated in the country,” Kanaan said.“If the council does not accept the challenge then we will be facing a dangerous, unprecedented decision. If it does accept the challenge then this will be for the best of all of Lebanon,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Kataeb Party and Hezbollah called for the formation of a new government of politicians to face major challenges in the country. The Kataeb Party also urged Speaker Nabih Berri to revive the meetings of a parliamentary subcommittee to resume discussions on a new electoral law.
A statement issued after a meeting of the party’s political bureau chaired by its leader, ex-President Amin Gemayel, underlined the need for Salam “to form a political salvation government as soon as possible that can cope with developments, shoulder responsibilities and take difficult decisions in this critically important stage.”
Gemayel met Sleiman at Baabda Palace, where the two men discussed the extension of Parliament’s mandate and the challenges against it.
Bint Jbeil MP Hasan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah official, also called for the formation of a political government in which all parties are represented.
“We want to facilitate the prime minister-designate’s mission and we want him to form a national unity government that reflects the true representation of parliamentary blocs,” Fadlallah said in the southern village of Kounin, at a memorial service for a Hezbollah fighter killed in battle in Syria.
He said following the extension of Parliament’s term, a political government was needed to run the country for at least one and a half years.
As a means of breaking the two-month-long Cabinet deadlock, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc, said Sunday the March 14 coalition was proposing the formation of a nonpartisan government that would exclude all major political parties.

Phalange Party Urges Army to Forbid Hizbullah, Others from Sending Fighters to Syria
Naharnet/The Phalange Party on Monday called on the Lebanese army and all political forces to prevent the smuggling of fighters into Syria by Hizbullah or any other group, warning of the growing spillover of the Syrian war into Lebanon's border towns.In a statement issued after the weekly meeting of its political bureau, the party reiterated its “condemnation of the growing involvement by Hizbullah and other Lebanese groups in the ongoing civil strife in Syria,” holding them responsible for “dragging Lebanon into a war that is rejected by its people.”
The Phalange Party cited "the dangerous developments on Lebanon's border in the Bekaa and the North, especially after the Syrian will spilled over into these two regions and led to the martyrdom of soldiers and civilians and the destruction of civilian constructions."Clashes took place overnight Saturday between a group of the rebel Free Syrian Army a number of Hizbullah members coming from Baalbek in a border area between the outskirts of Baalbek and Damascus province in Syria, a security source told Agence France Presse, as other media reports said the gunfight took place inside Lebanese territory.
"The Lebanese army and all Lebanese political forces must put an end to the sending of arms and fighters to Syria, whether to back a certain party or to protect another," the Phalange Party added in its statement.
It warned that the spillover of the fighting into Lebanon "will have major repercussions on its national unity and the solidarity among its people."Turning to the issue of the parliamentary elections, the party called for "drafting a new, modern electoral law that guarantees proper representation for all the components of the Lebanese society in order to hold the parliamentary elections as soon as possible."The party urged Speaker Nabih Berri to "revive the parliamentary subcommittee and resume its meetings, especially that the disputes over the new electoral law can be resolved if everyone realizes how dangerous it is to suspend constitutional junctures."The parliament on Friday voted to extend its own term until November 20, 2014, amid the boycott of the Free Patriotic Movement. The Phalange Party also called for forming a new cabinet as soon as possible because "the country cannot bear total vacuum and rampant impotence, especially on the eve of the summer tourism season on which the Lebanese economy and large segments of citizens rely.”

Israeli Warplanes Release Heat Balloons Off Naqoura

Naharnet/Israeli fighter jets on Monday released missile-deflecting heat balloons off the southern town of Naqoura within Lebanon's territorial waters, state-run National News Agency reported.Earlier, al-Jadeed television said the warplanes released around 10 balloons.On March 18, Israeli warplanes dropped more than 30 heat balloons between Naqoura and Tyre within two hours.
On Sunday, Israeli warplanes overflew Beirut, the eastern town of Baalbek that borders Syria, and southern Lebanon at low altitude, 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.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 allegedly destined for Hizbullah. The attacks have sparked fears that the party could hit back.

Jumblat Slams Nasallah's 'War against Takfiris': Syrian Regime Uses al-Nusra to Execute Attacks
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat slammed on Monday Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah's description of Syria's war as a “fight against Takfiris,” accusing the Syrian regime of hiding behind the Islamist jihadist al-Nusra Front to conduct attacks in Iraq and Lebanon.
"President Bashar Assad's regime executed terrorist attacks in many locations, in Iraq for example, by claiming it was fighting occupation and it also released many al-Nusra members from jails upon the eruption of the Syrian revolution,” Jumblat stated in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website.
"This reminds us of what happened with Shaker al-Absi and Fatah al Islam.”Jumblat said that as a result of the “desperation created because of the international community's passiveness towards the crisis in Syria, many rebels might have joined the Front.”"To a part of the revolutionaries, the Front has become the main resistance against the regime,” he pointed out.
"There is no doubt that the confusion created by suggesting it is either the regime or al-Nusra Front delays the consolidation between the opposition's groups and prolongs the regime's reign.” Jumblat also criticized Nasrallah's description of the war on Syria as a “fight against Takfiris.”"We ask God to forgive those that said it is a war against Takfiris knowing that he (Nasrallah) is aware of the Syrian people's righteous demands,” he said.
Jumblat continued: “The international community is to blame for the current situation in Syria as it failed to have a unified view on the conflict and on how to deal with it.”
During a speech he gave in May at a ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of Israel's military withdrawal from Lebanon, Nasrallah said the Takfiris are the “most prevailing group in the Syrian opposition,” warning against a defeat against them in the ongoing war in Syria. He said: “If Syria falls in the hands of the Takfiris and the United States, the resistance will become under a siege and Israel will enter Lebanon. If Syria falls, the Palestinian cause will be lost.”The Druze leader reiterated his support to the “Syrian people's revolution against injustice, dictatorship and oppression,” but stressed his rejection to all calls that refuse to recognize other religious sects.
"(Influential Muslim cleric Yusuf) Qaradawi's call to expiate Allawites is completely unacceptable and contradicts with Islamic Sharia,” Jumblat declared. "Such fatwas (Islamic edicts) generate hatred and establish long-term sectarian conflicts.”

Sheikh Maher Hammoud Escapes Assassination Attempt in Sidon

Naharnet/The Imam of Quds mosque in the southern city of Sidon said Monday that assailants opened fire on him while he was heading for prayers but he escaped unscathed.Sheikh Maher Hammoud told Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) that the assailants fired around 20 rounds from a passing vehicle after he went out of his house in Quds square to head for prayers.Hammoud hinted that “sympathizers with the Syrian opposition or any party seeking to ignite strife could be behind” the assassination attempt. But he denied to VDL (93.3) that he had accused any party.Hammoud is close to Hizbullah which has sent fighters to Syria to support the regime of President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple him.The state-run National News Agency said the security forces found in Sidon a Toyota which initial investigation said was used in the attack on the Sheikh.
The army intelligence also managed to question its owner but it turned out that he had reported it stolen on Sunday, NNA said. In a similar incident, assailants opened fire on the vehicle of Islamic Unity Mosque's Imam, Sheikh Ibrahim al-Braidi, in the Bekaa town of Qob Elias at dawn Monday.The GMC Envoy, which was parked near his house, was partly burned. Al-Braidi has close ties with Hammoud.

FPM Submits Challenge against Parliament's Term Extension

Naharnet/A delegation from the Free Patriotic Movement submitted on Monday before the Constitutional Council a challenge against the parliament''s term extension. “We consider this moment crucial,” FPM lawmaker Ibrahim Kanaan told reporters, expressing hope that justice and the constitution would prevail. He pointed out that the challenge is justified and comprehensive, pointing out that the “delicate security situation must not be determined by anyone.”“The constitutional council is the guardian of democracy,” the MP said. He rejected accusations that the challenge is based on “political grounds.”The parliament's decision to postpone the upcoming elections and extend its term 17 months because of deteriorating security conditions related to Syria's turmoil was officially announced and published in the official gazette on Saturday.Friday's extension decision comes after rival blocs in the legislature failed to agree on a new elections law.Both pro- and anti-Syrian blocs in parliament agreed on the extension, with one exception being the Free Patriotic Movement of MP Michel Aoun, which has the second largest bloc in parliament.President Michel Suleiman also submitted on Saturday an appeal to challenge the parliament's decision to extend its mandate, calling on the Constitutional Council to “legally and neutrally” study this file.
Aoun and Suleiman have previously said they will challenge the extension, although that is unlikely to affect Friday's decision given the size of the majority.Ninety-seven legislators in the 128-seat body voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014, in a session that lasted only 10 minutes.The decision, which had been expected, marks the first time that parliament has had to extend its term since the country's own 15-year civil war ended in 1990, and underlines the growing turmoil in the country spilling over from the conflict in its neighbor.It is widely seen as a blow to Lebanon's tradition of free elections, but it may help lower tensions at a critical time for the fragile and deeply divided country.

Syria's Qusayr Pounded as Battle Enters Third Week

Naharnet ظSyrian warplanes pounded the embattled town of Qusayr on Monday as a regime offensive backed by fighters from Hizbullah to retake the town from rebels entered its third week. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a fierce overnight onslaught both on the strategic town near the border with Lebanon and slightly farther north in Dabaa.Dabaa, the site of a disused military airbase that had been seized by rebels battling President Bashar Assad's regime, is still partly under insurgent control.The Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a wide network of activists, medics and others on the ground for its information, said there were numerous dead on both sides, but gave no breakdown. An estimated 94,000 people have been killed in Syria since a peaceful protest movement that began in March 2011 quickly became an armed revolt when the regime cracked down hard on dissent. Warplanes bombarded Qusayr for the second consecutive day, the Observatory said on Monday. The watchdog also reported air strikes on the Al-Hajar al-Aswad district of southern Damascus itself, where pillars of thick dark smoke barreled into the sky. It said clashes between soldiers and rebels were ongoing in the Abasiyeen area outside the capital's Jubar neighborhood.
Again, the rights group was unable to give a casualty figure.Monday's fighting in Syria came a day after a car bombing in Damascus killed at least nine members of the security forces and the regime said it would allow the Red Cross into Qusayr only when the fighting there stopped.At the United Nations, diplomats said Russia blocked a draft Security Council declaration expressing "grave concern" about the situation in Qusayr.
They said Moscow was demanding "wider political discussion" on the issue.Russia is a key ally of the Syrian regime, which is also backed by Shiite Iran.On Saturday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and international aid groups expressed concern about civilians trapped in Qusayr, and for between 1,000-1,500 injured residents still in the town of 25,000 people. But on Sunday, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem expressed "surprise" at worries about the situation in Qusayr "given that no one expressed this concern when terrorists took control of the city and the surrounding area". France, meanwhile, said that the proposed "Geneva 2" peace conference on ending the bloodshed in Syria could be delayed until next month.The international community has pinned its hopes for resolving the conflict peacefully on the U.S.-Russian initiative that had been mooted for June in Geneva.
"'Geneva 2' is in my opinion a last-chance conference. I hope it will take place, I think it could take place in July," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
SourceظAgence France Presse.

Protester Dies in Istanbul Clashes, Erdogan Says Situation 'Calming Down'

NaharnetظA young demonstrator was killed in Istanbul by a car that rammed into a crowd during a wave of protests against Turkey's government as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Monday that the situation is "calming down.""The situation in my country is now calming down... On my return from this visit, the problems will be solved," Erdogan told a news conference in Rabat during an official visit to Morocco.
A medics'union said the car killed Mehmet Ayvalitas, a member of a left-wing association, when it ploughed into demonstrators occupying a highway on Sunday, the third day of clashes between protesters and police, the Union of Turkish Doctors said in a statement.
Erdogan, who rejected on Monday talk of a "Turkish Spring," is facing down the worst protests in his decade-long rule as fresh clashes erupted between police and demonstrators in Ankara.
The PM defied protesters who accuse him of seeking to impose conservative Islamic reforms on secular Turkey, stressing that he was democratically elected.
"Was there a multi-party system in the Arab Spring countries?" he said in televised comments.
Agence France Presse photographers in Ankara later saw police fire tear gas and use water cannon to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators on the fourth day of violent protests that have swept scores of Turkish cities.
Rights groups say hundreds have been wounded in clashes nationwide that have pitted stone-throwing protesters against riot police firing tear gas and water cannons since Friday.
Erdogan's ally President Abdullah Gul on Monday urged calm and promised protesters that their voice had been heard. "The messages delivered with good intentions have been received," he was quoted as saying quoted by the Anatolia news agency. Erdogan struck a harder tone, vowing: "We will stand firm" against the protests and promising his supporters: "We'll overcome this."With Turkey's allies calling for restraint and international human rights groups denouncing the police crackdown, Gul acknowledged the demonstrators' right to protest but called for an end to the clashes.
"Democracy does not only mean elections," he said, adding: "I am calling on all my citizens to abide by the rules and state their objections and views in a peaceful way, as they have already done."Erdogan had earlier denounced demonstrators as "vandals". He also lashed out at the social messaging service Twitter, used by many of the protesters. "There is a troublemaker called Twitter, the worst of lies are in there," he told the Haberturk television channel on Sunday, citing false tweets about attacks against protesters and fatalities. "What they call social media is the nuisance of societies. Society gets terrorized this way."
Istanbul's main Taksim Square, where the protests first erupted, was relatively quiet early Monday as people started the first workday since tensions boiled over on Friday.
But protesters' banners and barriers of scrap metal remained, suggesting they would return to resume days of demonstrations that have by some accounts left hundreds injured around Turkey.
Overnight, crowds marched on Erdogan's offices in Istanbul and in the capital Ankara, lighting fires and yelling: "Dictator, resign!... We will resist until we win."
The protest started as a small campaign against the redevelopment of Gezi Park near Taksim Square, a rare green spot in central Istanbul.
After the local protest was met with a tough police response, the unrest quickly spiraled into an outpouring of anger that threatens to tarnish Turkey's reputation as a model for the Muslim region.
"This is a movement which is a result of growing frustration and disappointment among secular segments of society who could not influence politics over the last decade," said Sinan Ulgen, a scholar at the think tank Carnegie Europe."This is an unprecedented, abrupt and unplanned public movement that has not been manipulated by any political party. It is a big surprise," he told AFP.
Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is traditionally popular with conservative Islamic politicians and voters in Turkey, a secular state peopled mostly by Muslims.
It has won three successive parliamentary elections, gaining almost 50 percent of the vote in 2011.
Analysts have cautioned against describing the protests as a "Turkish Spring", saying that Erdogan, unlike some Arab leaders toppled in recent years, was democratically elected.
But protesters feel his rule has polarized Turkish society, with opponents of the AKP government openly voicing concerns that Turkey is moving toward conservative Islam.
"We have had enough of the way Erdogan understands democracy and the way he wants to dictate his rules," said Ozgur Aksoy, a young engineer demonstrating in Gezi Park on Monday.
"It's not only about the park here, it is about everything else in the last 10 years. People are angry, very angry."
In 2004, the party tried to submit an amendment on banning adultery but had to back down amid criticism from opposition parties and women's groups.
Last year, Erdogan provoked outrage when he likened abortion to murder and again when he passed a contentious education reform allowing clerical schools for the raising of what he described as a "pious generation."
More recently, Turkey's parliament passed legislation curbing alcohol sales and advertising, which would be the toughest in the republic's history if president Gul, a former AKP member, signs it into law.
Shrugging off the rising protests, Erdogan pushed ahead with what he said was a pre-planned four-day official trip abroad on Monday. His office said he was set to fly to Morocco, followed by Algeria and Tunisia.
Speaking before his departure, he pointed to elections set for in 2014, when observers expect Erdogan to run for president. "My nation will give the necessary response in this election," he said. "If we are really resorting to anti-democratic practices, our nation will overthrow us."SourceAgence France Presse

Gulf sources: "Accidents" to Ahmadinejad, Jalili were attempted assassinations

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 3, 2013
Twelve days before Iran’s presidential election, stubborn rumors were making the rounds that two “accidents” which took place Sunday, June 2, were in fact attempts on the lives of outgoing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a leading presidential hopeful, Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. Both escaped unhurt. The rumors pointed the finger of suspicion at supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or his underlings possibly acting on their own.
The ayatollah’s insiders are said to fear Ahmadinejad is plotting an emergency for bringing the masses out on the streets in order to force the postponement of the June 14 election. He would then stay on as president until the dust settled. In the overheated, pre-election atmosphere in Tehran, government circles are extra jittery over the apparently irrepressible wave of Turkish popular dissent against the Islamist government of Tayyip Erdogan. They are concerned lest the tumult spill over into Iran and target the ayatollah’s authority.
Ahmadinejad and a large party of officials were on the way Sunday to inaugurating Iran’s longest tunnel under the Alborz Mountains the northeaster province of Mazandaran, when their helicopter went into a tail spin. The pilot made a safe emergency landing.
The accident could have been genuine: Iran’s air fleet is in a bad state of maintenance because Tehran is unable to get hold of spare parts due to sanctions and a shortage of foreign currency. Replacement parts are either roughly improvised at home or bought from questionable sources in China or the Ukraine.
But the wording of the communiqué released by Ahmadinejad’s office after the event was found suggestive in Gulf capitals and Washington: It was described as “an unspecified accident” rather than a technical breakdown.
The president’s advisers’ suspicions of an attempted assassination were further strengthened when they heard about another accident. This one was not published. Saeed Jalili, Head of the National Security Council, nuclear negotiator and leading presidential candidate, was on his way back from a campaign appearance in the town of Qazvin, when a truck suddenly swerved into the convoy carrying him and party, forcing one of the vehicles to crash into a safety barrier. Four of Jalilee’s aides were injured, two seriously.
Jalilee’s own car was 20 meters away from the crash.
The general view in Tehran is that this “accident” too was deliberate. It was tied to rumors going around the Iranian capital that Jalili and Ahmadinejad had struck a secret deal, which had reached the ears of the ayatollah. The two figures were said to have agreed in quiet meetings that the outgoing president would back Jalili’s run for president. If he won, he would award the post of vice president with special powers to Ahmadinejad or alternatively, to Ahmadinejad’s candidate, his in-law Esfandyar Rahim Mashee, whose candidacy the supreme leader arranged to have disqualified.
It is therefore believed that the order to stage the two accidents came from Khamenei’s office. This time, they were meant as a final warning.
On May 26, debkafile’s Iranian sources reported suspicions in Tehran that Ahmadinejad was plotting to sack Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar to torpedo the election. Those sources added that Khamenei warned the president that if he did not stop his intrigues, he might not survive a “road accident.”
On April 29, the president was detained for several hours and cautioned to stop his maneuvers for derailing the presidential election.
Two weeks ago, he confided to his friends that he has evidence of a conspiracy to assassinate him. Since then, he has stopped making public statements on controversial matters.

The sheikh retracts, what about the detractors?

 Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Alawsat
Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi has clearly declared it from Doha this week when he said: “For many years, I called for the bringing of sects together, and I travelled to Iran. But these bigots and fanatics want to eradicate Sunnis. They have deceived me, and deceived many like me.”
Sheikh Qaradawi’s comments came in response to [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah’s speech, in which he said he would stand by Bashar Al-Assad, and fight in his defense. Qaradawi did not stop there, however, admitting that he had defended Hassan Nasrallah and his party, specifically since the Hezbollah adventure which resulted in an Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. Qaradawi described that by saying: “I stood against the respected scholars in Saudi urging support for Hezbollah. Saudi scholars, however, were wiser than me, because they saw these people for what they were.”
Alright, the question now is: If Qaradawi has admitted his mistake, and has admitted that Saudi scholars were wiser than him; what are Qaradawi’s students and followers waiting for? Why do they not apologize for their insults and false campaigns? Why do they not apologize to those who were wiser and more sensible? It is true that Saudi scholars were alert, but there was a minority from those who were sensible, who warned of the dangers of Hezbollah and Iran. They warned against Assad’s regime, and the lie that is the resistance and the opposition. They even warned against Iran’s allies, such as the Hamas Movement, in fear for our issues, stability and security, and not for the sectarian motive which Qaradawi is talking about now.
The warning against Iran and its allies was not for sectarian reasons, but was against anyone who wanted to promote extremism, whether they were Shi’ite or Sunni, or for partisan reasons, such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s relationship with Tehran, or those who want to benefit from sectarianism to divide our ranks, or destroy our nation.
It is correct to say that Qaradawi’s comments are right, but they do not exonerate him. Who is going to pay for the years of Brotherhood harmony with Tehran? Who takes responsibility for the bloodshed in our region? Who is going to clean up and rectify this mind-corrupting legacy? Why do detractors not apologize for their appalling insults, and the fabrication and promotion of false, defamatory campaigns?
It is not enough for those who supported Nasrallah to turn against him today, those who took photographs with him proudly, without apologizing for years of false and slanderous actions. It is not an issue of a personal vendetta, but insuring that mistakes are not repeated. The important thing now is, for those who turned against Iran, not to serve its aims twice; first when they became its allies and gave it a foothold in our region, and second by fueling sectarianism, in defense of Syrians. Our duty today is to avoid being dragged behind Iran’s aims, and to be careful not to help its sectarian plan succeed. It is necessary to make people aware of the danger posed by Iran and its allies to our region, and to defuse the sectarian tension which can destroy the entire region. Therefore, what is expected now from Qaradawi’s supporters is an apology, and not to be drawn behind another new extremist idea, not less harmful than their first

Opinion: Franchising terrorism
Hussein Shobokshi/Alsharq Alawsat
Two days ago, the Nigerian authorities announced the arrest of a terrorist cell affiliated with the militias of the Lebanese Hezbollah party. According to the authorities, the cell was prepared to carry out a series of bombings there.
It is not odd anymore that we see such systematic spread of Hezbollah’s franchise after it has opened branches across the world in a flagrant manner. Everyone is aware that the party has strong presence in the Lebanese state, yet we must acknowledge that the party has active offshoots in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Sudan. The party had also attempted several times to plant a cell to gain a presence in Egypt prior to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, yet the Egyptian authorities uncovered the cell and arrested the Lebanese coordinator (however, the individual disappeared following the eruption of the January 2011 revolution and the subsequent spread of utter chaos, and no explanation was provided regarding his disappearance or his current whereabouts).
Following the Arab Spring, North African states, specifically Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, announced they discovered dubious cells affiliated to leaders in Lebanon who are adherents of Hezbollah. Hezbollah also has links with activities in Indonesia, Latin America, the Arab Peninsula, and has some limited presence in Europe, as was manifested by the recent operation conducted against Israeli tourists in Bulgaria. The spread of the party’s across the world reminds us of Al-Qaeda organization, which, as everyone knows, now has offshoots in the Arab Peninsula, Africa, Sinai, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, and has indeed become the biggest franchise for terrorism.
The franchise is a modern concept, the product of the “globalization” of ideas, and relies on the simplification of its essential points in order to spread itself among as large a group of people as possible. This is exactly what these different terrorist groups aspire to achieve, something that attracts people in a systematic manner and binds them to itself.
Today, the Arab world has become a strange arena for an abhorrent sectarian struggle, one that has shifted the aspiration idea of freedom of expression into the freedom to kill anyone who entertains a dissenting opinion. Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda are the ugly face of extremism and the abhorrent hardline trend that has befallen the region throughout history. Each time terrorism occurs, the safe slogan of “sedition” is put on it, and so sound medication is always neglected.
There must be no room for these groups or for their adherents in a region that seeks to live in peace and to plan for a safer and prosperous future. Hassan Nasrallah, chief of the Hezbollah militia, exposed his stance when claiming that he entered Syria in order to champion the regime against the “Takfiris.” In fact, this is the same kind thinking as the terrorist Al-Qaeda organization, that divides the world into two camps: good and evil, and right and wrong according to their own viewpoints.
The franchise for terrorism today is the latest form of the that is the terrorist mindset, which is usually confined to a handful of characters, and something that reflects their of political and intellectual naivety. The terrorist franchise mindset that we see today is not new. The Nazi and the communist movements have spread widely across the world, although they have faded away in their own motherlands. However, these movements continue to hold a powerful attraction to rebellious youths who are eager to see radical change.
Arab youth are no longer convinced by the speeches and stances of Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. The true nature of these terrorist groups have been exposed, and now there is no way to conceal their political or intellectual sins. These groups have exploited modern tools to spread their extremism and to reach the largest number of people possible. These same tools, however, have exposed them and are being used to undermine them at a growing rate and will ultimately destroy them, which would be a great accomplishment for the entire region and its future.

Syrian Rebel resistance in Qusair defies expectations

By Lauren Williams/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: It was over three weeks ago that Syrian government officials told state news agencies they would “cleanse” the town of Qusair, close to the Lebanon border of rebel forces “within days.”
As of Monday night, Syrian government forces, backed by hundreds, if not thousands, of Hezbollah fighters were still locked in battle with rebel forces opposing President Bashar Assad in and around the disputed town, having failed to make a decisive victory.
The staying power of the rebel forces, vastly outnumbered and outgunned in the face of elite Syrian forces with superior weaponry and airpower has defied predictions by military analysts who foresaw a swift defeat for opposition forces.
“The rebels certainly need to be given credit for determination. What they have done so far was against the odds,” said Jeff White, a senior defense fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Claims that Syrian forces had taken the center of Qusair and up to 80 percent of the 25,000-strong town after initially storming it on May 19 were swiftly denied by rebel groups and activists, in what some put down to a morale-boosting exercise.
By last week, as Hezbollah losses mounted, it was clear the battle was far from over.
There were continued heavy clashes at Dabaa Monday, the site of a disused military air base north of the city, partially under rebel control.
Activists said forces loyal to Assad were also engaged in heavy battles with rebels in the village of Jouadiyah, about 3 kilometers north of the city, and controlled the neighboring villages of Borak and Arjoun.
Activist and field hospital coordinator Rifaie Tammas said snipers had been deployed along main streets to the east, where rebels hold the villages of Abel and Buwayda to try to “paralyze” a rebel advance and isolate civilian movement.
Warplanes continued to shell Qusair Monday while the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that three surface-to-surface missiles were used by government forces in the town.
White said determination by the rebels was matched by “overconfidence” on the part of Hezbollah, also pointing to Syrian opposition fighters’ familiarity with the landscape for giving them an advantage early on in the battle.
“There was an expectation that this would be a walkover and obviously that hasn’t happened. The rebels were on their own ground and had prepared the ground with booby traps and the like ... while Hezbollah were conducting offensive operations in unfamiliar territory. In the early stages, until May 19, [the regime] hadn’t really committed a lot of armor,” White said.
“All of these things are an advantage for defensive capabilities.”
But he said ultimately the regime, with access to greater manpower and resources, would win out.
“The regime is relentless and they keep calling on extra resources. They sometimes pause and recuperate, but if they really want to take a place, they do it,” he said. Nonetheless, rebel morale remains high.
As news emerged late last night, as reported on Al-Manar television – which has journalists embedded with Hezbollah on the ground in Qusair – of plans for a blistering offensive from the southwest to try to take the town, rebel commanders said they were feeling confident.
Speaking from Qusair via Skype, a civilian-turned-commander of the Diya’ Jamoul Battalion, a branch of one of the Free Syrian Army Farouk Brigades, said while heavy shelling continued and “the whole area is surrounded,” the rebels were determined. “A lot of civilians who were not taking part in the fight have joined now. We are now on the attack, not just the defensive,” he said.
Buoying rebel confidence has been the arrival of hundreds of opposition reinforcements, particularly from Aleppo’s Tawhid Brigade, who have infiltrated the area after responding to a call to assist in the strategic battle.
Heavyweight commanders, including the commander of Tawhid, Abdel-Kader Saleh, and Colonel Abdel-Jabbar al-Akidi of the Aleppo Military Council, along with other senior commanders from Deir al-Zor have also joined the battle. Amid unconfirmed reports that Hezbollah and Syrian government forces are mobilizing north to Aleppo, it was unclear whether such redeployment could leave other areas vulnerable.White said the situation was “dynamic” but cautioned that the rebel approach appeared to be ad hoc.
“The rebels have managed to get reinforcements into the city, and they are also getting ammunition, which is important, but it is unclear whether they are using a particular route,” he said. “But I don’t see any real evidence that there is some grand plan here or that this is being coordinated or commanded at a higher level. It doesn’t appear that they have a system in place.”“The Tawhid brigade may have weakened their presence in Aleppo.”“Meanwhile, my feeling is that Hezbollah intends to do whatever it takes to defend the regime wherever they need to. And that means deep commitment.”