June 13/2013

Bible Quotation for today/I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Matthew 5:17-19.Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

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

The Syrian regime killed my husband/By: Michael Weiss/Now Lebanon/June 13/13
Syrian Rebels condemn "blasphemy" killing/By: Doha Hassan/Now Lebanon/June 13/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 13/13
Video shows "Hezbollah" casualties in Damascus’ Barza
Syrian helicopter bombs Arsal in Bekaa, Lebanon

Nasrallah Picture Burned in Demo outside Lebanese Embassy in Kuwait
Gulf begins mass expulsion of Lebanese Shiites over Hizballah’s role in Syria

Kuwaitis boycott Iran goods, protest against Hezbollah
Leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea condemns “pressure” on Constitutional Council

Geagea Rejects Hizbullah Participation in Cabinet: March 8 Practices Resemble Takfiri Acts
GCC States Inform Lebanon of Names of 9 Lebanese whose Residencies Won't Be Renewed
US calls on Lebanon’s Constitutional Council to tackle parliament extension
60 Shiites killed in Syria as West seeks solution

Siniora urges filing complaint against Arsal attack
Sleiman urges Hezbollah to quit Syria
Shiite expats uneasy over Gulf threat against Hezbollah loyalists
Gunmen kill brother of Arsal Salafi sheikh in Hermel ambush
Lebanon at risk due to Hezbollah fighting in Syria: Geagea
March 14 prep document against Hezbollah role in Syria
Hamra’s De Prague bar to close Thursday

Lebanese Army warns of response to Syrian attack
Mansour Says Lebanon Has Never Contradicted Dissociation Policy
Lack of quorum delays decision on Parliament extension
Boycott freezes council, blocks extension law challenge
Personal dispute turns violent in Beirut’s Tariq al-Jdideh
New Syria killings, diplomatic efforts in Washington
Fire breaks out near south Lebanon oil refinery
Domestic worker commits suicide in Mount Lebanon

Lebanon ranks near bottom of global peace index
Budget deficit in Lebanon falls to 16 pct in first two months

France says Syrian army must be stopped before Aleppo
Pope confirms 'gay lobby' at work at Vatican
Turkish president urges dialogue after police clear square

Israel PM red-faced at recall of peace talks statement


Video shows "Hezbollah" casualties in Damascus’ Barza
Now Lebanon/ A video posted on YouTube by Syrian rebels claimed to show the bodies of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters in the Damascus neighborhood of Barza. The rebel, speaking in video broadcast on Tuesday, said that the fighters had been killed as they attempted to invade the neighborhoods “from the direction of Daher al-Moustalah.” The video also shows the yellow ribbons worn by the Shiite group’s fighters, as well as light weapons and ammunition, in addition to a breathing mask that the rebels claimed was intended to be used in a chemical attack. Hezbollah fighters have been fighting alongside the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and were able to win the battle for the Syrian border town of Al-Qusayr, a strategic rebel stronghold linking Damascus to the Mediterranean coast.


60 Shiites killed in Syria as West seeks solution
AFP/Suicide bombs in Damascus kill at least 14 people as Hague and Kerry plan to meet on Wednesday to discuss Syria At least 60 Shiite villagers died in clashes with rebels in eastern Syria while twin suicide bombings hit Damascus as the West moved to support the opposition following battlefield losses against pro-regime forces.
Despite Tuesday's attacks, Bashar al-Assad's regime, dominated by his Alawite sect of Shiite Islam, appears to have gained the upper hand against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, buoyed by military support from its Shiite allies, Hezbollah and Iran. With regime forces gaining ground, France said the nearly 27-month conflict, which is estimated to have killed at least 94,000 people, is at a "turning point" and that it is time to review whether to arm the opposition. The issue of military support is likely to top the agenda when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets in Washington with British counterpart William Hague on Wednesday.
"Armed Shiite villagers attacked a nearby rebel post yesterday and killed two. Today [Tuesday] rebels attacked the village and took control of it, killing 60 Shiite residents, most of them fighters," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.
The clashes came in the majority Sunni village of Hatlah, in eastern Deir Ezzor province. At least 10 rebels were also killed in the fighting on Tuesday, and Shiite residents of Hatlah were fleeing following the violence, Abdul Rahman said. Earlier in Damascus, two suicide bombings left at least 14 people dead and 31 wounded, and caused widespread damage in the Marjeh neighborhood, state media and the rights Observatory said.
The Observatory said one of the blasts "was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up inside the police station". Syria's cabinet denounced the attack, saying "armed terrorist groups and those behind them have failed completely because of the victories achieved by our brave army." Forces loyal to President Assad, including thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have overrun rebel fighters in central Syria in the past week, including in the strategic town of Al-Qusayr. "There are lessons to be drawn from what happened in Al-Qusayr and what is happening in Aleppo," said French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot. "We are at a turning point in the Syrian war. What should we do under these conditions to reinforce the opposition armed forces? We have had these discussions with our partners, with the Americans, the Saudis, the Turks, many others.”"We cannot leave the opposition in the current state."
Plans to bring together members of Assad's regime and the opposition at talks in Geneva have so far failed to come to fruition, and Hague at the weekend warned that regime gains on the ground raised new hurdles. US President Barack Obama has asked his national security team to "look at all options" to end the fighting, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki reiterated Tuesday, adding however there would be no American "boots on the ground". Damascus has also benefited from political support on the international stage from Russia, which supplies it with weapons and has blocked UN Security Council resolutions condemning it.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that he always believed that Assad should have implemented political reforms that could have averted the bloodbath.
In Aleppo province, the army launched multiple attacks on rebel positions, including areas of the Minnigh airbase held by insurgents, the Observatory said. "Parts of Minnigh military airbase were shelled by regime forces.... Rebels are in control of large swathes of the airbase."
A military source told AFP heavy clashes were raging at the base for a third day, but denied any part of the airport was under rebel control. Regime forces shelled the opposition-controlled villages of Deir Hafer and Al-Bab, and hit the insurgent stronghold of Marea with rockets, the Observatory said.
The regime has pledged to focus its attention on Aleppo since its triumph in Al-Qusayr, a town on routes to Lebanon and the Alawite coastal heartland that the rebels had held for a year. Hezbollah's role in that devastating 17-day assault has raised fears about the growing regionalization of the conflict in Syria, which began in March 2011. The deteriorating situation on the Golan Heights has prompted Austria to say it will withdraw its troops from the UN monitoring force on the strategic Syrian plateau, most of which is occupied by Israel. Austria's defense ministry said the withdrawal of its 378 troops would begin on Wednesday. Violence across Syria killed at least 141 people on Tuesday, 44 of them civilians, according to the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, medics and lawyers on the ground for its information.


Gulf begins mass expulsion of Lebanese Shiites over Hizballah’s role in Syria’s-role-in-Syria

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 12, 2013/Kuwait is the first Gulf emirate ready to act on the resolution of the recent Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Jeddah to punish Hizballah for its “flagrant intervention in Syria” against “freedom fighters.” The Interior Ministry in Kuwait is about to “end the residency of some 2,000 Lebanese Shiite citizens” and shut down their financial and commercial businesses.
The six-member bloc denounced Iran’s Lebanese proxy as a terrorist group for its “flagrant military intervention in Syria and its participation in shedding the blood of Syrian people.” The Saudi Cabinet earlier condemned Hezbollah’s “blatant intervention” in the Syrian crisis.
These Kuwait and Saudi moves are expected to soon touch off mass expulsions from the six Gulf nations of tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiites employed or operating businesses there. This forced repatriation of masses of unemployed Shiites will not only be a destabilizing factor in Lebanon but is bound to raise military temperatures between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Gulf.
Tehran and Hizballah may resort to retaliatory steps, including the activation of sleeper terrorist cells against the Sunni governments.
Tehran will certainly not be happy about the GCC taking the opportunity of getting rid of Iranian and Hizballah spy networks operating in those countries, and even less about the liquidations of businesses which helped bankroll the activities of Hizballah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards covert operations.
Kuwait will also “deny visas” to members of Lebanese groups associated with Hizballah, which run their own militias, such as Nabih Berri (Shiite Amal) and Walid Jumblatt (Druzes).
The GCC is therefore striking hard at supporters of Iran, Hizballah and the Assad regime across a wide spectrum.
Tuesday, June 11, debkafile reported exclusively that Hizballah and Iran had suspended their military and financial ties with the Palestinian Sunni Hamas after discovering its members fighting with Syrian rebels in the al Quseyr battle.A day later, the Sunni Gulf is seen to be meting out punishment to the Shiite powers. The estrangement between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the Arab world is deepening sharply in consequence of the Syrian conflict.
Read the earlier debkafile report below. Hizballah forces helping Syrian troops capture the key Syrian town of al Qusayr from rebel hands last week caught five armed members of the radical Palestinian Hamas fighting with the rebels, debkafile’s intelligence sources disclose. Within hours of this discovery being reported to Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah, the order to shut down Hamas offices in the Shiite Dahya neighborhood in Beirut went down the Hizballah chain of command. Wafiq Safa, head of the organizations intelligence and terror wing, who commands the organization’s war effort in Syria, summoned Ali Baraka, the Hamas envoy in Beirut. He was told to shut down shop forthwith and remove himself and staff from the Lebanese capital. Hamas cells in southern Lebanon were likewise expelled. Ali Baraka hurriedly moved his people over to the southern port of Sidon, which is outside Hizballah’s turf. Nasrallah also suspended all military and technical assistance to the Hamas military arm, Ezz a-din al-Qassam - both in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip - after years of close cooperation between the two radical terrorist organizations. Before breaking off ties with the Palestinian group, the Hizballah high command conferred with the Iranian al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Tehran has not commented on the break-up with its Palestinian protégé, except to hold up the latest installment of Iran’s financial aid to the Gaza Strip regime. Queries from Gaza elicited evasive answers from Tehran.
The rupture with Hizballah and Iran has left the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip in serious financial straits. Its allocation from Qatar was sharply reduced this year; the Saudis stopped all assistance last year and Hamas’s parent organization, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has since assuming power in Cairo been struggling with its own government’s empty coffers.
In panicky conferences in Istanbul, Gaza and Cairo, Hamas leaders decided their only recourse was to send peace delegations to Tehran and Beirut in the hope that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Nasrallah would relent and resume the flow of financial aid.
Hamas politburo member Emad al-Alami heads the delegation to Tehran and Salah al-Arouri, who runs Hamas operations on the West Bank from Istanbul, leads the delegation to Beirut.
Both are still cooling their heels and waiting for appointments. The new situation has sharpened the discord within the Hamas leadership between the faction in favor of Iran and Syria, headed by strongman Mahmoud A-Zahar and the deputy commander of the Ezz a-din al-Qassam, Marwan Issa, on the one hand, and, on the other, the reinstated head of the politburo Khaled Meshaal, who sent the Hamas contingent to fight with the Syrian rebels against Bashar Assad and his Hizballah allies.

Syrian helicopter bombs Arsal in Bekaa, Lebanon
Now Lebanon/A Syrian helicopter fired a series of missiles Wednesday on Lebanon's Arsal, a Beqaa town whose majority Sunni residents back the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "A Syrian helicopter launched three missiles on Arsal, one of which landed near the town square. Several people were hurt," the Lebanese official told AFP on condition of anonymity. LBC television identified one of the injured as Mohammad Ahmad Breidi, with NOW's correspondent saying that Breidi is a retired soldier in the Lebanese army. NOW’s correspondent in the Beqaa also reported that the attack targeted the town’s municipality building, but added that a rocket fired from the helicopter hit about 100 meters from the complex. The Lebanese Armed Forces announced afterward in a rare warning against the Syrian regime that "army units deployed in the [Arsal] area took the necessary defensive measures to respond immediately to any similar violations." An LAF source told NOW that the Syrian authorities were informed of the Lebanese army’s decision. Meanwhile, NOW contacted Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour for more information on the bombing, but the minister said he had "no details on the incident." However, local Lebanese stations reported President Michel Suleiman condemned the incident. Wednesday's helicopter attack was the first on Arsal's town center since the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011. Arsal's outskirts have been hit numerous times in recent months by Syrian air raids. While Lebanon has adopted an official position of neutrality over the conflict, the Mediterranean country is sharply divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps. The Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back Assad, and the Sunni-led March 14 movement supports the insurgency.


US calls on Lebanon’s Constitutional Council to tackle parliament extension
Now Lebanon/The US on Wednesday condemned the failure of Lebanon’s Constitutional Council to convene to discuss the challenges brought against the parliament’s decision to extend its mandate 17 months. “[The] boycott of [the] Constitutional Council further erodes Lebanon’s democracy & reflects lack of respect for Lebanon’s institutions, rule of law,” the US Embassy in Lebanon wrote on its Twitter social networking page. “Lebanon’s Constitutional Council should consider and rule on the challenges before it without political interference,” the US embassy added. The tweets come after the Constitutional Council failed to reach a quorum on Wednesday and Tuesday amid reports of a political deal to prevent the body from taking a decision on the parliament’s term extension. The attendance of 8 judges is required for a quorum to be reached and for the body to vote on whether to accept the challenges to the parliament’s decision to extend its term by 17 months and delay the elections originally scheduled for June 2013. If the boycott of the council continues until the end of the parliament's previous mandate of June 20, the legislature's term extension will go into effect automatically. Discussions over the legality of the term extension began after both President Michel Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc submitted an appeal before the Constitutional Council against the parliament’s bill last week. An-Nahar and Al-Akhbar both reported Wednesday morning that the council’s two Shiite and one Druze member have been boycotting the session as per a political agreement between Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt to prevent the challenge to the parliament extension from being approved. The Lebanese parliament on May 31 voted overwhelmingly to extend its mandate until November 2014 after months of negotiations between Lebanon’s political parties failed to yield a new electoral law acceptable to the country’s parties.

Kuwaitis boycott Iran goods, protest against Hezbollah
Now Lebanon/AFP/ Several Kuwaiti supermarket chains have begun boycotting products from Iran for its support of the Syrian regime, while activists staged a demonstration against the involvement of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in the conflict. At least nine cooperative consumer societies out of 50 in the oil-rich Gulf state published announcements in the local media on Wednesday saying they have taken Iranian products off their shelves in protest at Tehran's backing of President Bashar al-Assad. Cooperative societies control a majority of the retail consumer market in Kuwait. One of the announcements said that the next step in the campaign would be to dismiss Iranian laborers working at the societies and cancel their residency permits. Around 50,000 Iranians work in Kuwait, mostly in low-paid jobs. Iranian exports to Kuwait are not huge and mainly comprise fish and food products.
Meanwhile, dozens of Islamist activists demonstrated outside the Lebanese embassy late Tuesday in protest at the military intervention of Shiite Hezbollah fighters on the side of Syrian regime forces against rebels.
Protesters burned posters of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah. Sunni Muslims, who form more than 70 percent of the 1.2 million Kuwaitis, have been angered by the Syrian government onslaught on fellow Sunni rebels and the support Assad has received from Iran and Hezbollah. Sunni clerics have launched fund-raising campaigns on the Internet and through mosques to aid the Syrian people as well as the rebellion. Around a dozen well-known Kuwaiti Sunni clerics have launched an online campaign to raise funds enough to arm 12,000 fighters and send them to Syria. Each fighter is estimated to cost $2,500.
The Gulf Cooperation Council states said on Monday they will take measures against members of Hezbollah. The measures will affect their "residency permits, and financial and commercial transactions," said a GCC statement, citing a ministerial council decision. The GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Suleiman, Army Say Will Take Measures against Syrian Attacks after One Person Injured in Arsal
Naharnet /The army announced that it will immediately respond to any further cross-border attacks by the Syrian military after a helicopter gunship attacked on Wednesday. "Army units deployed in the (Arsal) area took the necessary defensive measures to respond immediately to any similar violations," an army statement said, in a rare warning against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. President Michel Suleiman stated that Lebanon "has the right to take the necessary measures to defend its sovereignty," urging an end to the "Syrian violations" against Arsal. "These raids put the security and safety of Lebanese people in danger and it contradicts with revolutions regulating the relations between both countries," he expressed in phone calls with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati, caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour, Army chief Gen. Jean Qahwaji and Head of the Lebanese-Syrian Higher Council Nasri Khoury. The Army Command's communique came hours after a Syrian airstrike targeting Arsal injured at least one person earlier on Wednesday. Several media outlets reported that the Syrian raids targeted the center of the town, whose residents back the rebellion against Assad, injuring Mohammed Ahmed al-Braidi. LBCI said that the helicopter fired three rockets near Arsal municipality building. The raid comes four days after such Syrian strike targeted Lebanon's border areas. The latest raid comes soon after the Syrian town of Qusayr was captured by the regime army and Hizbullah fighters from the rebels after nearly three-weeks of fierce fighting. Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has become a key conduit for refugees and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria.
Security officials say the town has also served as a passageway for fighters and arms flowing into Syria.


Siniora urges filing complaint against Arsal attack
Now Lebanon/Future bloc leader MP Fouad Siniora called on the Lebanese state to file a complaint before the UN Security Council and the Arab League against the Syrian bombing of Beqaa’s Arsal. “The offensive on Arsal… requires the immediate [adoption of] steps and measures on the behalf of the Lebanese state, the least of which is [filing] a complaint before the Security Council and the Arab League,” Siniora said in a statement released by his press office on Wednesday. The Future lawmaker condemned this attack in the strongest of terms and warned that it is a “dangerous development that cannot be accepted.” Earlier in the day, a Syrian helicopter fired a series of missiles on Lebanon's Arsal, a Beqaa town in which the largely Sunni residents back the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Lebanese Armed Forces announced afterward in a rare warning against the Syrian regime that "army units deployed in the [Arsal] area took the necessary defensive measures to respond immediately to any similar violations." Arsal's outskirts have been hit numerous times in recent months by Syrian air raids. While Lebanon has adopted an official position of neutrality over the conflict, the Mediterranean country is sharply divided into pro- and anti-Assad camps. The Shiite movement Hezbollah and its allies back Assad, and the Sunni-led March 14 movement supports the insurgency.

Leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea condemns “pressure” on Constitutional Council
Now Lebanon/Leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea denounced the political “pressures” that were exerted in order to disrupt the convening of the Constitutional Council tasked with looking into the challenges to the parliament’s term extension. “We [urge] keeping pressures away from the Constitutional Council… [because] the interventions that took place led to paralyzing the council,” Geagea said in a press conference he held on Wednesday. He also called on the said council to convene, and underscored that “no matter what it decides, we will approve of it and implement it.” Earlier in the day, the Lebanese Constitutional Council failed to reach a quorum to discuss challenges to the parliament’s term extension amid reports of a political deal to prevent the body from taking a decision on the issue. Discussions over the legality of the term extension began after both President Michel Suleiman and the Change and Reform bloc submitted an appeal before the Constitutional Council against the parliament’s bill. The parliament had extended at the end of May its mandate until November 2014 with a bill that was signed by 97 lawmakers in an attempt to postpone the country’s parliamentary elections.  An-Nahar and Al-Akhbar both reported Wednesday morning that the council’s two Shiite and one Druze member have been boycotting the session as per a political agreement between Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt to prevent the challenge to the parliament extension from being approved. Meanwhile, Geagea reiterated his denunciation of the killing of an anti-Hezbollah demonstrator near the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The LF leader labeled this incident as “a Takfiri operation par excellence” and deemed it “an assassination attempt to rule out the opposing opinion.” “They try to scare us with [the Qaeda-linked] Al-Nusra Front when in fact they are acting as Takfiris,” Geagea added in a reference to Hezbollah. On Sunday, a dispute erupted between supporters and opponents of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria in front of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut’s Bir Hassan which left Hisham Salman dead and at least 11 people injured, purportedly all affiliated with the Lebanese Entimaa Movement.

Syrian Rebels condemn "blasphemy" killing

Doha Hassan/Now Lebanon
“Even if [the Prophet] Mohammed comes down, I will not give [you the coffee] on credit.”
This is the sentence that led to the execution of Syrian boy Mohammad Qattaa, a 15 year-old from Sadd al-Loz in Aleppo’s ash-Shaar neighborhood. He was executed by one of the Islamist factions fighting in Syria.
Mohammad’s is a fate by no means unheard of in the liberated regions of northern Syria, as extremist Islamist factions entered them. This behavior is not commonplace among all rebels and Free Syrian Army brigades, but rather in specific brigades that came to Syria in an attempt to build their own state and spread sharia by the sword. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights published a statement detailing the incident, saying that “members of the Islamist battalion of fighters speaking standard Arabic arrested young Mohammad and flogged him before executing him in front of his family.”
Free Syrian Army spokesperson Louay al-Moqdad commented on the killing, telling NOW: “Any punishment without a trial... is a ‘crime’. No one – regardless of his identity – can divert from the objectives of the Syrian people’s revolution, namely freedom and justice, for which blood has been shed. What happened is a violation of all international laws and customs, and even of divine laws.”
Moqdad went on saying: “In any case, we hold Bashar al-Assad’s regime responsible for the chaos in the country, a chaos it has been keen on spreading and reinforcing ever since the start of the revolution while the Syrian people, revolution forces, and the Free Syrian Army are sparing no efforts in order to control this chaos and preserve the security, stability, and entity of their state.”
Shaam Network spokesperson in Aleppo, Naqaa Sadeq, told NOW: “If the story is indeed true and real, I condemn, in my own name and in the name of the rebels, the crime committed in the ash-Shaar neighborhood. We denounce this act which goes against revolutionary, humanitarian, and Islamic ethics. The sole beneficiary of this act is the regime, and we expect it is involved in this under the guise of Islamists in order to smear the reputation of the revolution and the rebels, and to prove the existence of extremists. We disavow extremism and extremists. Syria is for everyone. We will not forget that we have come out to call for rights and freedoms, and those who have committed this crime should be held accountable regardless of their identity.”
In the same context, Abu Zaki, the spokesperson for the Soqour ash-Sham Brigades, told NOW: “If this news turns out to be true, we certainly do not accept such practices, which distort the image of the revolution and of Muslims. Whoever did this is trying to tarnish the revolution, and they are regime supporters.”
In contrast, Mohammad al-Aandani, the spokesperson for the Ahrar Syria Brigade, told NOW: “We are in favor of holding this person [i.e. young Mohammad] and whoever insults religious symbols accountable, but accountability should not occur on the streets nor should reaction be swift. Rather, it has to be supervised by the religious committee or the competent court so that this person is tried and duly sentenced. It is necessary to take into consideration the fact that the child was not aware of [what he was saying], as he should benefit from advice, guidance, and awareness-raising.”
For his part, spokesperson for the al-Reqaa News Agency, Sarmad al-Gilani, told NOW: “Under the Islamic Sharia, the boy has to repent within three days and if he insists on his blasphemy, he would be killed. This would be the case if the Islamic Sharia was implemented. Accordingly, this case is haram and rejected by Islam since Syria is not under sharia rule. Therefore, the boy is excused.”
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Director, Rami Abdel Rahman, asserted to NOW that the Observatory “took pictures of the incident from Mohammad Qattaa’s family in the ash-Shaar neighborhood, and [that] Observatory activists were present at his funeral. We will keep on shedding a light on human rights violations.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later issued a statement, saying “it has abstained from publishing the identity of the perpetrators of the crime in which young Mohammad Qattaa was martyred to allow for investigating the matter and arresting the killers.” Later, however, the Observatory indeed revealed that those who committed the crime “are members of the so-called Religious Committee for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This committee is wholly unrelated to the Religious Committee or the unified Judicial Council, both of which are active in Aleppo.” The Observatory called on “all climbers on the revolution and revolutionary thugs to turn their eyes to those who committed this crime and seek to hold them accountable instead of turning their attention to those who… spread [news] of these crimes. Indeed, when the Observatory unmasks such violations and crimes, its primary aim is to limit these violations [in order to] make sure that they do not spread, and [to] hold those who commit them accountable. Rather than wondering why this violation was published at this particular time, it would have been more useful to ask why such a crime was committed... when the Aleppo province is under the fiercest of attacks led by the regime and Lebanese Hezbollah mercenaries.”
**This article has been translated from the original Arabic

The Syrian regime killed my husband"
Michael Weiss/Now Lebanon
France 2 foreign correspondent Gilles Jacquier was one of the first Western journalists to be killed in Syria, in January 2012, as he and a regime-sanctioned delegation of reporters were allowed into the battleground city of Homs. Damascus blames his death on a mortar fired by rebels at his location in Zahira, an Alawite neighborhood of Homs. But now his widow, Caroline Poiron, who was with Jacquier the day he died, has just published a book, Attentat Express: Qui a Tue Gilles Jacquier?, in which she concludes that her husband was in fact murdered by the Syrian mukhabarat. NOW interviewed Poiron about her findings.
Why do you believe that the murder of your husband was premeditated and “commissioned”? What purpose did it serve, in your judgment?
There’s always multiple reasons. What was said and what is evident is that Gilles was there at the right time and the right moment for the regime. Killing him was a message sent to France, to the Arab League, and to the rebels. It was three birds with one stone. In November [2011], when Gilles asked for a visa from Damascus, nothing had yet been planned. But then it crescendoed. His murder was planned because the regime needed a distraction at that time. There were 175 journalists “officially” in Syria. There was the Arab League, about 80 or so men to manage. And there was an operation trying to be organized to take out the rebels from Baba Amr. The regime had already been trying to kill Anwar Malek, the Algerian delegate from the Arab League who defected when he saw how the League’s mission was being manipulated in Syria.
The Arab League report on Gilles’ death states: “Mission reports from Homs indicate that the French journalist was killed by opposition mortar shells.”
The original Arab League report was first sent to Damascus and it said that Assef Shawkat [Bashar’s brother-in-law and the regime’s powerful security chief, technically Minister of Defense, who was assassinated in July 2012] told the Mission that rebels killed Gilles. Damascus made the League remove that from the report. We spoke to three Arab League delegates from the Mission who confirmed this to us. It’s in the book. The French investigation is still going on. If you talk to Eric Chevallier, the French ambassador to Syria, or to the French Defense Ministry, they will all tell you that France has made no determination on who killed Gilles. They need to send experts in Homs. So the [French] judge asked the Syrians to organize a group there. But justice moves very slowly in France.
You’ve said that Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Ali Mamluk, and Michel Samaha, who has been arrested in Lebanon for planning “terrorist” operations on the orders of Syrian intelligence, are all responsible for Gilles’ murder. Can you explain why? How did you identify them all?
Samaha was paranoid. For years, he’d recorded all his conversations with everyone he ever spoke to. When the lebanese secret service came into Samaha’s house, they found millions of hours of recordings, even many with his wife. The Lebanese secret service told me this. There were talks between Samaha and Gilles. It was how Gilles got his visa. Samaha was also in Damascus and met Gilles. I was there. He smiled at me. When you meet Samaha, you know this man has blood on his hand. He organized all the propaganda in the Christian quarter [of Damascus] for us to film. There was a Christian fixer, Mother Mary Agnes [a Carmelite nun notorious for spreading pro-Assad propaganda] working for the regime who eventually put us on the bus to Homs. She forced Gilles to go on the bus to film a report.
Gilles had tried everyone he could think of to get into Syria. He sent letters to the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Defense, the Republican Guard. He wanted to be embedded in the Fourth Armored Division led by Maher al-Assad. But Maher doesn’t like journalists, he’s a person who uses violence in any case. Because Gilles’ name popped up on a list, because they needed to send a message, they chose him.
We later questioned the Arab League observers, three of them. They spent 30 days in Homs and told us that in the hotel, where were staying, was also Assef Shawkat, preparing the demolition of Baba Amr. Shawkat always travels with 30 men around him, so there were all mukhabarat in the hotel, no one else. What was strange to us is that Gilles’ room was on the same floor as Shawkat’s, the fifth floor, yet all other journalists were staying on third or fourth floors. No one ever went to the fifth floor. We didn’t even know when we traveled to Homs that Shawkat was in our hotel. If Gilles had known this, he wouldn’t have gone out; he’d have stayed and interviewed Shawkat. But otherwise, we only brought a little bag with us to Homs. Gilles didn’t want to stay in the hotel, he wanted to go to the frontline with the Syrian Army. And that’s what we did.
Shawkat wanted to meet to Gilles, either to spy on him or to interrogate him. Gilles was considered a spy. There’s a video the rebels obtained from the man they say is the the killer of Gilles. We don’t know if it’s real, but the [supposed killer] says on the video that when he has a mission, he gets a name and the reason why he kills the person – on paper, it says ‘Gilles Jacquier, agent.’
But if we’d have met Shawkat, then there might been another story. Maybe Gilles wouldn’t have been killed, maybe he’d have talked to Shawkat and gotten out of Syria alive.
OK, so tell me exactly how Gilles was killed that day.
When we left the hotel, the Fourth Armored Division was everywhere, there with Maher. Air Force intelligence was there. They identified Gilles, asked everyone around, “Who is he, where is he?” They brought us to where they wanted to kill him.
I was there, I was behind Gilles, five meters behind him. I know how he ran, I know why he ran. He ran because his cameraman was taken by 20 men to a location and Gilles, who can’t work without his cameraman, was trying to catch up. I said to Gilles, “Wait, wait, what are you doing? There’s bombing.” I got to the same building as Gilles. The cameraman is isolated in another building. What the Syrian secret service does is, they isolate someone. What they did was easy. We went upstairs to the roof. Gilles was in front of me. Then they said, “Go, go, go – now!” So we went down. We heard bombs and didn’t know what was going on. Gilles went to the second floor, sees Christophe his cameraman standing in the street. He yells at him. Then Gilles went down to the first floor, met me, and we talked. He told me he was going to get Christophe. So he left me and went down to the ground floor where all the mukhabarat were. Then: boom! A loud sound went off. I went downstairs and Gilles was dead.
Gilles was killed inside the building by a either 22-millimeter gun that is carried by Syrian secret service or by a long knife. They killed him with their own hands. I kept his anorak after his death, I took photos, the [French] police took photos.
It’s impossible that a mortar or RPG killed Gilles because even though one was fired at the building, it caused no destruction inside. The door of the building was not damaged.
There was also something strange we noticed outside: a red car in front of the building, which arrived just before us. It stopped exactly in front of the building. At the same time as the grenade or mortar was fired and at the same time the mukhabarat killed Gilles inside, something went off inside the car. However, the glass of the car window broke outward, not inward, indicating that whatever went off – we think it was a rifle shot – happened from inside the car.
This is what many have told us about the mukhabarat division. Each makes its own plan, they never take chances. There are contingencies in place in case one plan fails. Three different Syrian security services – Air force intelligence under the supervision of Shawkat; the Fourth Armored Division, under the supervision of Maher; and the General Directorate under the supervision of Ali Mamluk. All coordinated his killing with the RPG, the rifle and the actual assassination. They wanted to ensure that, however it happened, Gilles would not leave that building alive.
How did you decide on the co-authors of your book, Swiss journalists Patrick Vallélian and Sid Ahmed Hammouche?
They were with us in Homs. When I got Gilles’ body, we got out and I got into the taxi with him. Sid Ahmed Hammouche and Patrick Vallelian were 100 meters from us. Sid speaks Arabic. They stayed a little bit aside. They didn’t run to the site at first. We got the hospital with Gilles, the only journalists with us was Christophe, the cameraman, and Sid Ahmed Hammouche, who helped me protect the body. For nine hours we stayed in this room. Not even one moment did they bring us water. [The regime agents] were aggressive, they said, “If you don’t hand over the body, you’ll go to prison.” I told them, “You can do anything with me, but I stay with the body.” The French ambassador – once he got to the hospital in Homs, it was much safer.


France says Syrian army must be stopped before Aleppo
AFP/France on Wednesday urged the international community to stop the progression of Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah fighters and Iran, towards the strategic northern town of Aleppo. After winning a strategic victory by retaking Al-Qusayr, an important town near the border with Lebanon, Syrian troops are now focusing their attention on Aleppo as they continue to gain ground against the rebels. "We must stop this progression before Aleppo. It is the next target of Hezbollah and of the Iranians," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on France 2 television. "We need to re-balance things because over the past few weeks the troops of Bashar al-Assad [Syrian leader] and especially Hezbollah and the Iranians, along with Russian arms, have gained considerable ground."
But he did not expand on how Syrian troops, buoyed by military support from its Shiite allies Hezbollah and Iran, should be stopped.
On Tuesday, France's foreign ministry warned that the nearly 27-month Syrian conflict, which is estimated to have killed at least 94,000 people, was at a "turning point."
"What should we do under these conditions to reinforce the opposition armed forces? We have had these discussions with our partners, with the Americans, the Saudis, the Turks, many others," said ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot. "We cannot leave the opposition in the current state." The European Union, under pressure from London and Paris, last month failed to renew an arms embargo on Syria, leaving individual member states free from August 1 to supply weapons to the opposition, if they decide to do so. Fabius said France had not yet decided what to do after the deadline. "Bashar... used chemical weapons in an outrageous manner. We must stop him because, if there is no re-balancing on the ground, there will be no peace conference in Geneva as the opposition will refuse to come," he said. The United States said it is evaluating information received from France which Paris has billed as proof that chemical weapons have been used in Syria.
The United States and Russia are meanwhile trying to organize a peace conference bringing together Assad's regime and the rebels in a bid to end the fighting.
Amid wrangling between opposition leaders and a fierce debate over who should attend, the date for the talks initially slated for May has now slipped back to July at the earliest.