May 21/2013

Bible Quotation for today/God tests no one beyond his power
1 Corinthians 10 /12-13/: "If you think you are standing firm you had better be careful that you do not fall. Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.

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

The Heart of the Syrian Revolution/By: Diana Moukalled /Asharq Alawsat/May 21/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 21/13
Hezbollah role in Syria grows more prominent
Syria’s Idriss warns Lebanon to restrain Hezbollah
After the al Qusayr victory, Syria and Hizballah plan war on Israel
FSA: Mustafa Badreddine Leading Hizbullah Operations in Qusayr
Suleiman Denies Receiving Direct Warning from Israel
Obama calls Sleiman, stresses need for Cabinet, polls

Electoral Subcommittee Fails to Reach Agreement on Vote Law
Charbel Extends Deadline for Parliament Nominations to May 27
Charbel Says Interior Ministry Ready for All Vote Law Possibilities

MPs meet for ‘decisive’ talks at Ain al-Tineh
Centrists deserve ‘acceptable’ Cabinet share: Jumblatt
Families of hostages protest at Turkish center

Clashes renew in n. Lebanon, two soldiers killed
FSA: Mustafa Badreddine Leading Hizbullah Operations in Qusayr
Thirty Hezbollah fighters killed in Syrian town: activists

28 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Qusayr, 70 Injured
Siniora: Break wall of fear on Hezbollah

Hariri Slams Official Silence over Hizbullah Fighting in Syria, Urges Agreement on Vote Law to Avoid Vacuum
Aoun: FPM Will Not Boycott Elections

Jumblat Calls for Granting Centrists Greater Power in Cabinet: No Party Should Overpower Other
Harb Rejects Paralysis of State, Urges Agreement over Electoral Law
Miqati Meets Ghosn, Charbel, Urges Tripoli Residents to Avoid Being Dragged towards Strife

Salam Stalling Formation of Cabinet until Electoral Dispute Resolved
Assad, Hezbollah forces advance into Qusair
Syrian opposition meets in Madrid over conflict

Syrian opposition chief kidnapped: NGO
Situation in Syria against U.S., Israel: Hezbollah
Russia Foils Terror Attack on Moscow

After the al Qusayr victory, Syria and Hizballah plan war on Israel

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 20, 2013/
Syria and Hizballah, flushed with the success of breaking the rebel hold on the strategic town of al Qusayr, Sunday, May 19, are making no secret of their plans for the “great confrontation,” i.e. military confrontaiton with Israel after they win the Syrian civil war. Israel’s military leaders are taking with the utmost seriousness the words of Ibrahim al-Amin, editor of the Hizballah organ Al Akhbar, and a close buddy of Syrian president Bashar Assad, who wrote Monday: “The rope is taut. It is taut to the limit. Anyone at either end [Israel at one end, Syrian and Hizballah, at the other] need only flex a finger and it will break, and the great confrontation will take place. This is neither a threat, nor an exaggeration or interpretation. This is the situation on the enemy’s northern front. Now means today; it means this hour,” al-Amin wrote. Israeli intelligence experts have no doubt that the writer penned those words at the behest of his master, Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah, and Bashar Assad. Israeli spokesmen and media tried hard Monday to play down the scale of the joint force’s success in capturing al-Qusayr, which sits on Syria’s main road to Lebanon and the Damascus high road to the Mediterranean, by harping on the heavy battle losses sustained by Hizballah – 50 dead and many more gravely injured.
But these losses do not detract from the Iranian Lebanese proxy’s pivotal role in the Syrian rebels’ resounding defeat and the Syrian army’s decisive victory.
It cannot be denied that the fateful setback suffered by the Syrian rebels resulted from their being abandoned to their fate at the most critical moment of their uprising by their backers, the US, Turkey, Jordan and the Arab Gulf emirates. Syrian and Hizballah forces are getting ready to turn east for their next major offensive, the destruction of rebel strongholds in Homs and its outlying villages. Our military sources report the Syrian army has deployed its 14th Division and an expanded unit of self-propelled artillery for this joint effort. Rebel spokesmen warn that a massacre is in store.

Syria’s Idriss warns Lebanon to restrain Hezbollah

May 21, 2013/By Lauren Williams The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The defected Syrian General and head of the opposition Supreme Military Council has issued a stern warning to the Lebanese government to stop Hezbollah forces from entering Syria or risk bringing the Syrian war to its doorstep. In a broad-ranging interview via telephone from Jordan, where he is holding talks ahead of Thursday’s “Friends of Syria” meeting, Gen. Salim Idriss lashed out at Hezbollah as religious extremists, while also claiming President Bashar Assad’s government had lied about gains in the strategic city of Qusair over the weekend. “The devil’s party is attacking Syrian territory, slaughtering the Syrian people to help the criminal Bashar’s forces,” he said, referring to Hezbollah. “They lied, they were not able to enter Qusair and the number of theirs killed was in the dozens,” he said of fierce battles Sunday in the city, 40 km from the Lebanese border. “Their dead are lying on the streets.”Idriss said the Free Syrian Army was well armed and being reinforced, determined to defend the city.
“We respect Lebanon’s sovereignty and we don’t want to bring the battle to Lebanon, but our patience is running out,” he said. “We want the Lebanese president to guarantee that Hezbollah will not enter our territory.”
It is unclear if Idriss’ warning implies a further escalation or simply a continuation of the repeated shelling of Hermel and other Bekaa Valley areas by rebel groups over the past month.
“These are religious extremists with no respect for the integrity of Lebanon, who have built a state under the state,” he said of the party.The general, touted by the U.S. as the best chance for unifying disparate opposition groups on the ground, also said the role of the extremist Nusra Front, labeled a terrorist organization for their links with Al-Qaeda, was exaggerated.
“There are no more than 5,000 fighters with Nusra,’ Idriss said, “But there is an obsession in the Western media and a sophisticated propaganda campaign that overstates their role.”
He said the military council did not work with Nusra, adding that efforts to unite rebel brigades under the council’s umbrella had made headway, with “around 90 percent” of rebel forces now under its command.”
The military council is appealing to the U.S. and other Arab backers of the opposition for more and heavier weapons to topple Assad. Concerns about the growing influence of extremists and a string of videos showing rebel human rights abuses have prompted concern among U.S. lawmakers that weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
“We condemn their practices which are against our law and our traditions. We are exerting efforts to educate the FSA on lawful practices and telling them not to put anyone on trial until the regime has fallen,” he said.
He said there was evidence Nusra was infiltrated by the regime to legitimize fears of a Sunni extremist takeover, but admitted their methods, which have included extrajudicial killings, torture and suicide attacks, had tarnished the reputation of the opposition. “There are suspicions that they are not working with the revolution, but are serving the regime interests.”
Idriss appealed for all foreign fighters in Syria to leave, and pointed to the role of Hezbollah as “religious extremists’ and a “foreign militia” to counter the regime’s claims that the uprising was backed by foreign extremists.
“What is more dangerous: Hezbollah or Nusra?” he asked. Idriss was doubtful the peace conference proposed by the U.S. and Russia: “The only discussion point is when and how Assad will leave and when the commanders of the criminal armed forces will be brought to trial.”Referring to an interview Assad gave with an Argentinian newspaper this week in which he said he would “not stand down,” Idriss said a political solution appeared unlikely.
“The majority of Syrians don’t want violence, but they don’t want Assad. Unfortunately it seems the only way to unseat him is militarily. “The fighters on the ground, the martyrs, who have spilled their blood, are ready to fight for another 100 years.”

Hezbollah role in Syria grows more prominent

Agencies / BEIRUT: Hezbollah was drawn deeper into Syria’s civil war as 28 fighters from the group were killed and dozens more wounded while fighting rebels, opposition activists said Monday.
The intense battle in Qusair, part of a government offensive aimed at securing a strategic corridor from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, drove rebels from large parts of the town.
Hezbollah-affiliated hospitals in Lebanon urged blood donations through mosque loudspeakers and ambulances raced along the Damascus road in a stark indication of the group’s increasingly prominent role in Syria.
The Hezbollah involvement – several funerals for group members were held Monday in Lebanon – edges the war further toward a regional sectarian conflict pitting the Middle East’s Iranian-backed Shiite axis against Sunnis.
A staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah is heavily invested in the regime’s survival. The group’s rising role in the war also points to the increasing sectarian nature of the Syria conflict, in which rebels from the Sunni majority seek to overthrow a regime dominated by Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 70 Hezbollah fighters had also been wounded in the fighting around Qusair.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists inside Syria, cited unidentified “sources close to the militant group” for its Hezbollah death toll Monday. It said at least 50 Syrian rebels were also killed Sunday in the battle for Qusair. A Lebanese official close to Hezbollah told AP the death toll figures were “exaggerated.” He added, however, that 14 Hezbollah members from southern Lebanon had been killed in the fighting Sunday, adding that the bodies of some of the fighters were still in Syria. Regime troops and Hezbollah fighters, who laid siege to Qusair weeks ago, launched an offensive Sunday to regain control of the city, with fighters advancing from the east and south, a Syrian opposition figure said. He added that it took Hezbollah troops a few hours to take control of the city’s main square and municipal building. By the end of the day, they had pushed out rebel units, including the AlQaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, from most of Qusair, he said Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by both sides.
He said fighting was focused in the northern part of the city Monday. The account matched that of Syria’s state news media, which reported that Assad’s troops took control of most of Qusair Monday. An official in the Homs governor’s office told AP that more than 60 percent of the city was in government hands after scores of gunmen were killed or surrendered Sunday.
But Qusair-based opposition activist Hadi Abdullah denied reports that the army was advancing in the city, saying they were still trying to storm it.
“They go in and out. Until now I can say with confidence that they have not been able to enter the town and stay there,” Abdullah said. Evidence of the Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria was on full display in Lebanon’s border villages Monday. In the town of Nabi Sheet in the Bekaa Valley, about 2,000 people attended the funeral of Hasan Shukur, an 18-year-old Hezbollah fighter. Hezbollah comrades fired in the air in mourning and played the group’s funeral march as they carried Shukur’s coffin draped in a yellow Hezbollah flag through the streets at his funeral attended by senior members of the group.
“We will fight in all of Syria because we are fighting the Israeli enemy,” said Sheikh Mohammad Yazbeck, a member of Hezbollah’s highest decision-making body, the Shura Council. Shukur is the son of a Hezbollah official and a nephew of the head of the Lebanese branch of Syria’s ruling Baath Party. He was among several group members who were buried Monday.
In a sign of solidarity, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, Syria’s top state-appointed Sunni religious leader and an Assad loyalist, toured the families of slain Hezbollah members in south Lebanon Monday.

Obama calls Sleiman, stresses need for Cabinet, polls

May 20, 2013 /The Daily Star /BEIRUT: U.S. President Barack Obama called President Michel Sleiman Monday and stressed the need for the formation of a new government in Lebanon and that elections in the small Mediterranean country be held on time.“[Obama said] the formation of a new government in Lebanon and holding elections according to their deadline would send a strong message about practicing democracy,” Obama told the Lebanese president in a telephone call, Sleiman’s office said. Obama said he had been briefed on Lebanon’s situation by Philip Gordon, the U.S. Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Gordon, a senior White House official, held a round of talks last week with senior officials in Lebanon. Obama, according to Sleiman’s office, also renewed his appreciation for the role Sleiman was playing in “preserving stability and the policy Lebanon was adopting in not interfering in the affairs of other countries, particularly Syria, on the basis of the ‘Baabda Declaration.’”The U.S. leader also backed Sleiman’s call for convening an international conference to tackle the situation of Syrians fleeing their homes into neighboring countries. “[Obama] supported the idea of convening an international conference to resolve the issue of the refugees through the United Nations,” the statement said. The United Nations is assisting over 470,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Obama also renewed his country’s “support for Lebanon in terms of boosting its security and stability.”
Sleiman, for his part, thanked Obama on the call and America’s support. He also stressed the need to “push for a comprehensive and just peace process in the region” and said he was counting on U.S. assistance on the issue of Syrian refugees. The Lebanese president also highlighted the “importance of maintaining planned military aid to the Lebanese Army in order to enable it to protect the borders as well civil peace and stability inside [Lebanon].”

MPs meet for ‘decisive’ talks at Ain al-Tineh
May 20, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Subcommittee members tackling a new electoral law for the upcoming elections met Monday at the residence of Speaker Nabih Berri for what parliamentary sources described as “decisive” talks, and the deadline for submitting candidacies under the 1960 law was extended till next week. “We all have responsibilities and if we fail to reach an agreement then I will be the first to announce this,” Berri speaking at the opening of the meeting at Ain el-Tineh, told members of the committee. The meeting Monday was supposed to be the subcommittee’s last, Berri said in comments to Al-Joumhouria daily, “because it is not appropriate to continue discussions while political forces are submitting their nominations.”The MPs, part of a parliamentary subcommittee charged with exploring a new vote law, were expected either to endorse a formula for the extension of Parliament’s term, which expires on June 20, or agree on holding the June elections on the basis of the controversial 1960 law, parliamentary sources said. LF MP George Adwan, who spoke ahead of the meeting, said party members would abstain from submitting candidacies under the 1960 law until Berri convenes a legislative session of Parliament. Future Movement MP Ahmad Fatfat, for his part, said his party was against extending Parliament’s term, opposed the divisive 1960 law and would keep searching for a deal with its rivals on the hybrid proposal which it submitted last week alongside the LF and Progressive Socialist Party. He also predicted Monday’s would be the last meeting of the committee. MP Akram Shehayeb, from MP Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc, said a political vacuum need to be avoided.
“The problem is not with the extension or the with the 1960 law but with there being a [political] vacuum,” he said. The meeting at Ain al-Tineh took place as caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel discussed with President Michel Sleiman measures the Interior Ministry needed to take in the event MPs failed to agree on a new voting system.
A source close Charbel told The Daily Star that only a few people filed requests to run in the elections under the 1960 law at the Interior Ministry which resumed Monday receiving applications after a short suspension passed by Parliament last month. Charbel, according to a circular issued from his office, extended the period for candidates to submit their applications to May 27. “The deadline for accepting candidatures has been extended to 12 a.m. Monday, May 27, 2013,” the circular said. Last week, the speaker insisted he would not convene a general assembly session before MPs either reached an agreement on an electoral law or on extending Parliament’s mandate.
Speaking to visitors over the weekend on the subject of extending Parliament’s mandate, Sleiman said he opposed such a move. Sleiman’s visitors quoted the president as saying he would not sign a decree to extend Parliament’s mandate even if lawmakers agreed on doing so. However, according to his visitors, Sleiman said he would only accept a short technical extension of Parliament’s term, which should not exceed six months, in order to allow preparations for the elections. Parliamentary sources told The Daily Star over the weekend that the March 8 and March 14 camps were gearing up for an extension of Parliament’s four-year mandate.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, in a statement, urged all sides to reach a new elections law that “can secure holding the elections on time.”“All efforts should be exerted to reach a voting system that can secure holding the parliamentary elections on time and prevent the country from sliding into a [political] vacuum,” he said. “Efforts should continue until such an aim is achieved,” he added


FSA: Mustafa Badreddine Leading Hizbullah Operations in Qusayr
Naharnet/The rebel Free Syrian Army on Monday claimed that Hizbullah elusive commander Mustafa Badreddine -- who is accused of involvement in former premier Rafik Hariri's murder – is leading the group's operations in the Syrian town of Qusayr. “It has been confirmed that Mustafa Badreddine is present on Qusayr's front where he is leading Hizbullah's operations,” said a statement issued by the FSA.
“With the beginning of the first day of the Death Walls series of operations on Sunday, the Hizbullah gang suffered more than 50 casualties among its ranks, while more than 100 members were wounded, most of them critically,” the FSA added. It noted that dozens of ambulances were seen transporting the dead and the wounded to the Baalbek-Hermel area and that al-Batoul Hospital in Hermel was “evacuated of civilian patients with the aim of taking in dozens of wounded and dead fighters.”The FSA accused Hizbullah members of “executing 23 children and women in a massacre near the Christian town of Rableh, which is occupied by Hizbullah, while chanting sectarian slogans.”The rebels stressed that "Qusayr will shock them, despite all the forms of siege, death and destruction,” noting that “all the Hizbullah members who tried to infiltrate the city through the groves were killed.”
Badreddine is a cousin and brother-in-law of slain Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh. He was accused along with three other Hizbullah members of involvement in Hariri's 2005 assassination. Badreddine is a member of Hizbullah’s Shoura Council and the head of its external operations. He was arrested and imprisoned in Kuwait in 1983. In 1990, he managed to escape prison and flee to Iran where the Revolutionary Guard returned him to Beirut. According to the arrest warrant in the Hariri murder case, he is accused of planning and overseeing the execution of the assassination. The battle for Qusayr began on Sunday, when government troops backed by Hizbullah stormed the western town. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting had left at least 56 rebels dead, six of them on Monday, and four civilians including one woman. It also said that "28 members of Hizbullah's elite forces were killed and more than 70 others wounded in clashes in the town of Qusayr yesterday," Sunday. A source close to Hizbullah told Agence France Presse at least 20 members had been killed in Syria. The official SANA news agency reported on Monday that Syrian troops "are restoring order and security to the eastern part of Qusayr, eliminating terrorists (the regime term for rebels), destroying their dens and defusing bombs near the center of the town."

Thirty Hezbollah fighters killed in Syrian town: activists
May 20, 2013/Daily Star /AMMAN: About 30 fighters from the Lebanese group Hezbollah and 20 Syrian soldiers and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were killed in heavy fighting with rebels in the town of Qusair, Syrian activists said on Monday. Opposition sources and state media gave sharply differing accounts of the outcome of Sunday's ferocious battles in the town, long used by rebels as a supply route from the nearby Lebanese border to the provincial capital Homs. The assault on Qusair appeared to be part of a campaign by Assad's forces to consolidate their grip on Damascus and secure links between the capital and the government strongholds on the coast via the contested central city of Homs. State news agency SANA said the army had "restored security and stability to most Qusair neighbourhoods" and was "chasing the remnants of the terrorists in the northern district". However, opposition activists said rebels in Qusair, about 10 km (six miles) from the Lebanese border, had pushed back most of the attacking forces to their original positions in the east of the town and to the south on Sunday, destroying at least four Syrian army tanks and five light Hezbollah vehicles. The activists did not give a figure for the number of rebel fighters and civilians killed in the clashes. The pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 48 rebels had been killed, as well as four civilians, three of them women. The Observatory's director, Rahim Abdurahman, put Hezbollah casualties at 23 dead and 70 wounded. Lebanese security sources said at least 12 Hezbollah fighters had been killed. Tareq Murei, a local activist, said troops backed by Hezbollah had "made incursions into Qusair but they are now basically back to where they started at the security compounds in east Qusair and at a ... roadblock to the south.""Hezbollah's multiple rocket-launchers are now hitting Qusair from Syrian territory west of the Orontes river, along with Syrian army artillery. Six people have been killed since the morning," he told Reuters on Monday. Video footage purportedly showed a Syrian tank at a street corner in the town on fire. In another video a warplane was shown flying over the town amid the sound of explosions. Syrian government restrictions on access for independent media make it hard to verify such videos and accounts.

Syrian opposition chief kidnapped: NGO
May 20, 2013/Daily Star/BEIRUT: An opposition leader, rights activist and long-time dissident in Syria's rebel-held city of Raqa has been abducted, a watchdog said on Monday.
"The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has learnt of the abduction by an armed group of lawyer, human rights activist and head of Raqa city's (opposition) local council Abdullah al-Khalil," the Britain-based group said.
It condemned the kidnapping and demanded "his immediate release".Khalil was abducted as he left the local council's headquarters in Raqa on Sunday morning, added the watchdog, which relies on a broad network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its reports.Syrian regime troops have not been inside the city since March this year, when Raqa became the first and only provincial capital to fall to rebels since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad broke out more than two years ago. The local council led by Khalil has worked with rebel groups and campaigned for the return of civilian life, despite frequent aerial bombing by Assad loyalists.
Khalil has been abducted before, telling Human Rights Watch researchers last month that he was held by security forces less than two months into the anti-Assad uprising.
He was transferred to 17 different security branches while in detention, HRW said. Rights groups say tens of thousands of people are missing or in detention in Syria.
An activist in Raqa blamed radical Islamists who refused to withdraw from the city's residential areas for Khalil's kidnapping. Khalil, also known as Abu Sara, "has been kidnapped just days before new local council elections. I think the only way he will get released is if some kind of deal is struck", said the activist who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. "People used to like Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Nusra Front (powerful rebel groups). Now they're just stealing the country from us," said the activist, adding that several other local personalities and non-jihadist rebel leaders had been kidnapped or killed in the area in recent weeks. The activist said that in Raqa, even within jihadists' ranks there is division. "The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria is becoming more powerful than Al-Nusra Front in some areas," he said. He said the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria had tried to bring the jihadist Al-Nusra Front under its full control, but could not. "Now they are two groups, competing against each other for influence," said the activist, who is well-informed on political developments in rebel-held areas.

Situation in Syria against U.S., Israel: Hezbollah

May 20, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi said Monday the battle situation in war-torn Syria is not turning in America and Israel’s favor amid reports of almost 30 Hezbollah's fighters being killed in clashes with rebels in the Syrian town of Qusair. Musawi also warned both the U.S. and Israel against toppling Syrian President Bashar Assad. "If some were betting on weakening our ally in Syria [Assad] and toppling him [Assad], he should keep in mind that two years into the [conflict] have passed while betting on delusions,” Musawi said. “Those who were banking on U.S. power and Israeli threats of war and victory of the U.S.-Israeli attack on Syria are mistaken,” he said. Musawi’s remarks come as media reported that scores of Hezbollah’s fighters were killed while fighting alongside troops loyal to Assad in the Syrian town of Qusair. Some 30 Hezbollah fighters and 20 Syrian soldiers and militiamen loyal to Assad were killed in heavy fighting with rebels in the town of Qusair, Syrian activists said Monday, reported Reuters news agency. Hezbollah has admitted some of its fighters are in a number of Syrian border towns. However, the resistance group denies fighting alongside Assad, insisting that it is training Lebanese living in the border villages to defend themselves against rebel assaults. Musawi also warned that Hezbollah would not hesitate to plunge “Israel into the abyss,” in the latest tit-for-tat threats between the arch enemies. “If the enemy – through its aggression – is practicing brinkmanship with the resistance and its allies in this region, the resistance is not afraid to push the enemy itself into the abyss,” Musawi said. Hezbollah, he warned, has “enough potential to make any Israeli official aware that the threat of war applies to him and that he will be the first to lose as a result of his behavior.” Musawi said Hezbollah was also able to deter any Israeli attempts at stealing Lebanon’s natural gas and oil resources. “As Lebanon is once again in the heart of the storm since it enters today the production phase of oil and gas resources, this will likely lead to growing ambitions and threats. But we are equally aware that our capabilities and potentials have also increased in order to face the challenges and threats,” he warned.

Electoral Subcommittee Fails to Reach Agreement on Vote Law

Naharnet/The parliamentary electoral subcommittee failed on Monday to reach an agreement over a new electoral law as Speaker Nabih Berri did not set a date for a new session, reported LBCI television.
It said that the speaker will hold contacts with various officials over the next two days before setting the date for a new meeting. He also has not set the date for a parliament session to tackle the electoral draft laws. LBCI said that the gatherers failed after a four-hour meeting to resolve any of the differences over the electoral law, quoting them as saying that they are “nearing a dead-end.” This failure has raised fears that of a political vacuum in Lebanon or that the parliamentary elections will be held according to the 1960 law or that the term of the current parliament will be extended. OTV meanwhile reported that the subcommittee meetings will remain open until Berri sets the date for new sessions. “I personally reject the extension even for a single day but I am ready to go ahead with it if it was based on a specific plan,” Berri told several local dailies published Monday.
“Logically, today's session will be the last although I can call for more sessions” to agree on a new electoral draft law, he said.
But the Interior Ministry would resume on Monday receiving applications for candidacies. The date had been suspended until May 19 to allow the rival MPs more time to agree on an alternative to the 1960 law that was used in the 2009 elections. “It would be inappropriate for us (the subcommittee) to continue discussions at a time when people will begin submitting their nominations based on the 1960 law,” Berri said.
He hoped however that the political parties represented in the subcommittee would postpone the submission of their applications to the Interior Ministry until after the end of Monday's meeting.
Al-Mustaqbal MP Ahmed Fatfat, who is a subcommittee member, confirmed the postponement. National Struggle Front MP Akram Shehayeb also told reporters ahead of the session in Ain el-Tineh that his bloc agrees to both the extension of the parliament's term or the adoption of the 1960 law on condition there is no vacuum. But Tashnag party's representative, MP Hagop Pakradounian, rejected the 1960 law and favored an extension.
Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan said however that his party rejects both the 1960 law and the extension. He called for the adoption of a new electoral law during a parliamentary session. “If today's subcommittee session ends in failure, then I will tell the Lebanese that I tried my best to reach consensus” on a vote law, Berri told the newspapers. “I will admit failure and leave each side to assume its own responsibility,” he said. “But no matter what happens we will not end up in vacuum,” the speaker added. Last week, al-Mustaqbal bloc, the Lebanese Forces, MP Walid Jumblat’s National Struggle Front and March 14 alliance's independent lawmakers proposed a hybrid draft-law, which calls for 46 percent of MPs to be elected based on proportional representation and 54 percent under the winner-takes-all system. Under the same proposal, Lebanon would be divided into 26 districts and six governorates. But the members of the subcommittee that are part of the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance expressed reservations on it along with March 14's Phalange Party.

Suleiman Denies Receiving Direct Warning from Israel
Naharnet/President Michel Suleiman denied on Monday receiving a warning from Israel that it would destroy Lebanon in case of a Hizbullah attack on the Jewish state. Suleiman's press office said that the president hasn't received such a warning “although Israeli threats and violations of Lebanese airspace never stop.” “No party informed the president about such a threat,” it said in a statement. The denial came after an Israeli website reported that Tel Aviv has sent a warning to Lebanon through the U.S. administration that it would “take Lebanon 50 years backwards” if Hizbullah attacked Israel. The message was delivered to Suleiman to confirm that Israel would not stand idle to any attack by the party or Syria on the Jewish state, the site said. Earlier this month, Suleiman urged the international community to pressure Israel to stop violating Lebanese airspace, saying its activities were in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. Hizbullah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in July 2006 led to the 34-day war that killed more than 1,200 civilians in Lebanon as well as 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Hariri Slams Official Silence over Hizbullah Fighting in Syria, Urges Agreement on Vote Law to Avoid Vacuum
Naharnet /Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized on Monday President Michel Suleiman, Speaker Nabih Berri, caretaker Premier Najib Miqati, and the Lebanese army command's silence over Hizbullah fighting in Syria alongside the country's regime forces, while urging officials to reach an agreement over a parliamentary electoral law. He wondered in a statement: “Where is the national, constitutional, and moral responsibility towards the crime being committed by a major Lebanese faction through meddling in the internal Syrian war?” He compared Hizbullah's fighting to Israeli assaults on Lebanese towns in the South and Syria's invasion of Lebanon in the 1970s, adding: “Hizbullah has chosen to replicate the Israeli crimes in Lebanon and its people in the Syrian town of al-Qusayr and the villages of Reef Homs.”
“The greatest tragedy in Hizbullah's involvement in Syria is the fact that no one in the Lebanese state considers himself responsible for the Lebanese-Syrian border or of the daily violations by hundreds of fighters who have chosen to usurp the role of the state and ignore the wishes of the Lebanese people,” he remarked. On this note, Hariri slammed the official silence on Hizbullah's meddling, asking: “Was there a decision taken that the Lebanese people were not informed about and which entails the state's handing of its security, military, and constitutional institutions to Hizbullah?”Have they “acknowledged that Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is above the state and its institutions?” wondered the former prime minister. “The party's war in al-Qusayr is part of a decision to eliminate the Lebanese state,” he declared. “We are seeking responsible individuals who can stage the parliamentary elections, while Hizbullah is seeking all means to take Lebanon to the abyss,” he noted. “The president, government, and all concerned officials must end the current charade that sees the state act as an employee working for Hizbullah and its regional sponsors,” Hariri continue. At least 23 Hizbullah fighters were killed and 70 wounded in battles in the Syrian border town of al-Qusayr, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday.
A handful of Hizbullah fighters killed in Syria have been brought back for burial in Lebanon, with senior officials from the group occasionally paying condolences in person to the families of those killed. The Observatory said that at least 55 people were killed in Qusayr on Sunday, most of them rebels, excluding those Hizbullah fighters and regime soldiers.
Nasrallah has acknowledged that members of his movement are fighting alongside Syrian troops against the rebels seeking Syrian President Bashar Assad's ouster.

Harb Rejects Paralysis of State, Urges Agreement over Electoral Law
Naharnet/March 14 independent MP Butros Harb slammed on Monday attempts to paralyze constitutional institutions, urging parliamentary blocs to swiftly agree on a new electoral law. “If circumstances obliged us to extend the tenure of the parliament then it must be for few months,” Harb said after talks with President Michel Suleiman at the Baabda Palace. The parliament's electoral subcommittee has been holding consecutive meetings since last week under the auspices of Speaker Nabih Berri in an attempt to reach consensus over an electoral law. But the rival lawmakers failed on Saturday to reach consensus on a new law, suggesting the extension of the legislature’s mandate. Concerning the procrastination in the formation of the new cabinet, the Batroun MP called for a swift process to end any violations by caretaker ministers.“The political vacuum must end,” Harb said. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam revealed on Monday in comments to local newspapers that he is stalling the formation of the cabinet until the dispute over the electoral law ends. Salam is seeking the formation of a 24-member cabinet in which the Hizbullah-led March 8 alliance, the March 14 coalition and the centrists would each get 8 ministers.

Jumblat Calls for Granting Centrists Greater Power in Cabinet: No Party Should Overpower Other

Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed on Monday the need to form a new government in Lebanon that “can help restore the role of constitutional institutions in Lebanon.”He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “No party should overpower the other in a new cabinet.”He also demanded that centrists be granted greater power in the new government. Moreover, he remarked that the dispute over the parliamentary electoral law has helped return the rival Lebanese factions to dialogue, noting: “The debate succeeded in bringing them together after they failed to do so for the sake of civil peace.”“There can be no substitute for dialogue among the Lebanese to tackle contentious issues, such as the resistance's possession of arms,” continued the MP. Jumblat remarked that the use of these arms or those of any other faction “will only serve as an impossible adventure that had failed in the past.”“We therefore believe that political disputes, no matter how complicated they are, should be strictly tackled through dialogue and understanding away from the mentality of eliminating or isolating the other,” he said. “We should all restore the role of state institutions through forming a government of national unity or national interests,” he stated. The new cabinet should take “bold and radical” steps in tackling the economic and social suffering in Lebanon, stressed Jumblat. On the parliamentary electoral law, he said: “We have seen how some draft laws almost caused Lebanon and the Taef Accord's fragmentation. It is as if some sides did not derive lessons from the wars of the past.”“The political class should realize the importance of stability and end the charade over the electoral law and reach an agreement over a draft law within an acceptable time period, which will help tackle the people's concerns and avert leading Lebanon towards the Syrian crisis,” he urged.

Clashes renew in n. Lebanon, soldier killed
By Misbah al-Ali, Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star
TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A Lebanese soldier was killed and four others were wounded in renewed clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the northern city of Tripoli, security sources said, raising the death toll from the violence that sparked during the weekend to four. “As the Army was entering a hot spot between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh, intensive fire led to the killing of one Lebanese soldier and the wounding of four others,” one security sources said on condition of anonymity, adding that the incident took place at 4.45 p.m. The sources identified the fatality as Omar Hajj Omar, a conscript in the Army. Of the four wounded, one was in critical condition, the source added. Three people died as a result of Sunday’s clashes that pitted the pro-Assad neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen against Bab al-Tabbaneh, which supports the Syrian uprising. They were identified as Ahmad Mohammad Youssef, 18, a resident of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh inhabitants Abdel-Qader Ahmad, a coffee vendor, and Abed Fares.
Almost 30 people have also been wounded due to the fighting over the two day period. A Lebanese Army officer, a soldier and a member of the Internal Security Forces were wounded in Sunday’s clashes.
Much of the port city remained in a state of paralysis Monday morning. Schools were shut and the city’s streets were nearly deserted. There was almost no traffic either along the international highway linking with Akkar, further north, as motorists feared the risk of being gunned down by snipers. Troops were heavily deployed in Tripoli in an effort to stop fighting from re-erupting.
The violence came hours after the Syrian army supported by Hezbollah fighters launched an offensive to retake the rebel-held town of Qusair, killing at least 32 people, opposition activists said. Hezbollah has acknowledged its involvement in the Syrian fighting, saying it is helping Lebanese Shiites living in a cluster of Syrian villages in Qusair to defend themselves against rebel attacks. Qusair is some 10 kilometers from the border with Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati urged Tripoli’s residents “not to be drawn once again into [sectarian] strife” and stressed the need for an increased security crackdown on “those involved [in the fighting], regardless of which side they belong to.”Mikati, who hails from Tripoli, also urged the Army to “respond firmly to the source of fire targeting peaceful citizens in their homes and on the roads.”
His remarks came following a meeting at his Tripoli residence that was attended by caretaker ministers Mohammad Safadi, Faisal Karami and Ahmad Karami as well as a number of local MPs. Discussions focused on resolving the conflict in Tripoli. Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, according to a statement from his office, expressed concern over the “painful events taking place in the capital of the north.” Salam’s comments came during a telephone call with Mikati. While the fighting in Tripoli is believed to be linked to the offensive on Qusair, Future Movement MP Samir Jisr said he thought it was associated with the worsening political situation in Lebanon. “What Tripoli is going through is linked to the political situation, particularly obstacles facing the government formation,” Jisr told the local daily An-Nahar in remarks published Monday.
“The fighting is not linked to the battle in Qusair,” he stressed. Karami, according to the National News Agency, called for accountability for “anybody [involved] in jeopardizing [Tripoli] and [fueling] risk of strife.” Since the outbreak of the 26-month-old uprising in Syria in March 2011, rounds of violence have rocked Tripoli, killing dozens and inflicting extensive material damage. The last round of fighting took place in March.

Families of hostages protest at Turkish center

May 20, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Relatives of the Lebanese hostages held in Syria attempted to break into Turkey’s cultural center in Downtown Beirut Monday, before police negotiated an end to the protest.
Around a dozen relatives attempted to break into the office of the cultural center, but were stopped outside the office’s doors in the afternoon. Police and the relatives negotiated a peaceful conclusion to the incident and the relatives vacated the offices at around 7 p.m. The relatives have held almost daily protests to try and pressure Ankara to assist in the release of their loved ones.
There are nine hostages being held by a rebel group in Syria.

Centrists deserve ‘acceptable’ Cabinet share: Jumblatt

May 20, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt stressed Monday the need to form a new Cabinet in Lebanon with centrists being allotted an “acceptable share” of ministerial portfolios. “As Lebanese, we are all required to restore the role of constitutional institutions and seek to form a national unity or national interest Cabinet,” said Jumblatt in his weekly stance to the PSP-affiliated Al-Anbaa website. “No party should overpower the other in the new Cabinet and centrists should have an acceptable share in it,” he added. According to Jumblatt, “such a Cabinet should take bold and decisive measures to ease the social and economic burdens [of citizens].”He also warned against any use of weapons at the domestic level to resolve disputes, saying they could only be resolved through dialogue and understanding. “Using arms inside [Lebanon] would be an impossible adventure. We have already witnessed attempts by various parties to use weapons at the internal level and such attempts have only led to [material] damage and the killing of innocent victims who have nothing to do with political disputes,” he said. “Therefore we believe that political disputes, no matter how complicated they may be, should be strictly tackled through dialogue and understanding, away from the mentality of eliminating or isolating the other,” he added. Moreover, Jumblatt said the dispute over the electoral law had helped spur dialogue between rival Lebanese factions. “The debate succeeded in bringing them together after they failed to do so for the sake of civil peace,” he said. The PSP leader also stressed the importance of maintaining stability in the country in light of the developments in the region and the crisis in neighboring Syria.
“The political class should realize the importance of stability... and prevent Lebanon from slipping into the Syrian furnace at a time when the entire region is heading toward further crises,” he said.

Siniora: Break wall of fear on Hezbollah

May 09, 2013./By Jana al-Hassan/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora urged action Wednesday against Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, calling for “breaking the barrier of fear” and for an immediate end to the party’s military presence there.
“I call on all spiritual and political leaders, on President Michel Sleiman, the caretaker prime minister, the prime-minister designate and all lawmakers to be aware of the dangers of Hezbollah fighting in Syria and I call on them to break the barriers of fear and silence and to demand Hezbollah withdraw its fighters from Syria,” Siniora told a news conference held at former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s residence in Qoreitem.
Hezbollah has said it is assisting Lebanese Shiites fighting rebels in the Syrian town of Qusair and argued that the presence of its fighters in Damascus was aimed at protecting religious sites.
Siniora, who heads the Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc, described the fight alongside the Syrian regime as a “great disgrace” and urged civil society and Lebanese people to speak out against Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria. “The Lebanese do not want their sons and young people to be killed in defense of the Syrian regime. Fighting against the Israeli enemy under the state is a great honor but fighting for the Syrian regime is a great shame,” said Siniora. The former premier also criticized the government for remaining silent as Hezbollah engaged in Syrian battles. “What is happening is very, very dangerous, especially for a Lebanese political force to fight against the Syrian people while the Lebanese state, along with its security and political institutions, watches and listens without rejecting such interference,” he said. Hezbollah’s secretary-general has said President Bashar Assad’s allies would not allow the regime to fall in the hands of the West or extremist groups. He also spoke about the process of forming a new Cabinet under Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam, saying neutral ministers would pave the way for the resumption of dialogue to resolve outstanding issues: “I say [we should] offer the new prime minister the support and cooperation needed and not place obstacles and conditions in the face of this government, which we think should be made up of nonpartisan ministers.|“This calm vision for the future Cabinet will facilitate its formation and [the new government] will reduce levels of tensions in the country and pave the way for a new phase, to resolve contentious issues via dialogue, and wise governance.”

Assad, Hezbollah forces advance into Qusair

May 20, 2013/By Lauren Williams The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Syrian troops backed by Hezbollah fighters have reportedly advanced into the main square of besieged Qusair, with fierce battles continuing overnight Monday for control of the strategic city near the Lebanese border.
At least 40 people were killed, activist organizations said, in battles that saw forces loyal to President Bashar Assad enter the center of the city for the first time in a siege that has lasted some six weeks.
A media activist inside Qusair, who gave only his first name, Hussein, denied regime forces had entered the city, insisting “the news is only coming from regime media. It didn’t happen.” The activists and opposition groups said they feared a “massacre” after troops moved in, in an attempt to cement control of the city. Dozens were injured and hundreds of civilians were reportedly attempting to flee to neighboring Lebanon. “It is the biggest assault yet, they [the regime] are using all their firepower,” an activist, using the pseudonym Mohammad al-Qusair, told The Daily Star via Skype. He said the assault began at 10 p.m. Saturday, with government and Hezbollah forces in tanks and warplanes firing a barrage of shells into the city from their positions at the entrances to the city in the south and east. The Syrian government troops were reinforcing from the east along the Homs Highway, while Hezbollah forces were shelling from the south. The barrage continued through the night and into the morning, he said. Some reported shells hitting at a rate of up to 50 a minute and amateur video filmed by opposition activists in nearby villages showed a thick cloud of black smoke hovering over the city’s skyline. Activists said over 1,000 rebel fighters engaged in heavy battles to prevent forces from entering, but by midafternoon, Syrian state news sites and security sources close to Hezbollah told The Daily Star troops had entered the main square of the city.
“We struck from several fronts – south, east and northeast,” a soldier told state television from Qusair.
He spoke of violent fighting and said the army quickly seized the southern part of town, the town hall and nearby buildings, and advanced on the outskirts of the western sector of Qusair.
“The armed men fled toward the northern sector but we are also advancing on that area to eradicate all armed presence,” the soldier said.
He said that “100 armed men were killed” in the operation during which troops had to defuse mines and bombs placed by rebels at the gates of the city.
A Facebook page dedicated to the defense of the Shiite Sayda Zainab Shrine near Damascus, meanwhile, listed the names of 12 Hezbollah fighters they said were killed in fighting Sunday.
The activist, Mohammad al-Qusair, said earlier in the day clashes had erupted to the west of the city as rebel forces tried to prevent the removal of the bodies of dead Hezbollah fighters, adding that an ambush a day earlier near the Assi River had seen “many” of them killed and three tanks destroyed. A security source close to Hezbollah in Lebanon told The Daily Star the Syrian army now controls a number of north and northeastern positions and has cut the main road between Qusair and the villages of Arjoun and Dabaa, where rebel forces are positioned. The source said 60 percent of the city was now under army control, adding that rebels had suffered high casualties.
Meanwhile, six rockets hit the outskirts of Hermel in Lebanon, close to the border, Sunday afternoon causing damage but no injuries. Hermel residents say the area has become a key transit route for Hezbollah forces deploying to Qusair, with forces positioned along main roads in the northern Bekka to secure fighters’ passage to the front line. Residents told The Daily Star the thuds of artillery shelling and warplanes blanketed the city Sunday, while schools remained closed for the 10th consecutive day. The opposition Syrian National Coalition released a statement saying a massacre was underway.
“Assad forces, with support from Hezbollah militias, as well as Iranian elements, are currently shelling the town of Qusair with various heavy weapons. They are leveling civilian homes with artillery and rocket fire, while the air force provides cover for the Hezbollah militias,” the statement said.
“These militias seem to be preparing to storm Qusair and there are clear indications that a civilian massacre will soon take place.”Qusair, lying on a strategic gateway to Lebanon, has been in opposition hands since February 2012.The ferocious battles for Qusair are part of a recent government offensive beginning in April that analysts say is aimed at retaking a key corridor stretching from the capital Damascus, to Homs, north to Aleppo, and the coastal enclave of Latakia – home to the majority of Assad’s own Alawite sect.
The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the battle for Qusair was a central component of a coordinated offensive with broader implications.
“If the army manages to take control of Qusair, the whole province of Homs will fall,” Observatory director Rami Abdel-Rahman said. The offensive in Homs itself Sunday saw two suicide bombs strike the town of Deir Balbaa, just outside the city, killing at least three and wounding 13, while another pair of bombs hit a factory on a Homs highway, leaving four dead, state media reported.
Regime forces and government-aligned militias reportedly executed 17 people Saturday in Al-Waer neighborhood and burned their remains, according to the opposition coalition. Residents said government forces also shelled the neighborhood, home to tens of thousands of internally displaced, saying they feared thousands of people could be trapped.
The bold military offensive in Qusair comes as the regime makes significant military gains, throwing into doubt the plan, hatched via a rare U.S.-Russian agreement, to hold a peace conference in June aimed at bringing the opposition and regime together for a politically negotiated settlement.
Talks ahead of the proposed conference have stalled over deep disagreements between the two main sponsors and their allies over what role, if any, Assad could play in a transitional government. The opposition fiercely opposes Assad playing any part and it is not sure whether any such government could extend control over the array of armed groups and militia now operating in Syria. In an interview Saturday with an Argentinian news channel, Assad struck a defiant tone and appeared to scorn the conference. “They think a political conference will halt terrorists in the country. That is unrealistic,” he told the Argentine newspaper Clarin. Assad declared there would be “No dialogue with terrorists,” but it was not clear from his remarks whether he would agree to send delegates to the conference that may falter even before it starts.The Arab League, meanwhile, called an emergency meeting for Thursday while the coalition demanded that it meet and “stop the massacre.”“The Syrian Coalition also asks the international community to take responsibility for protecting the lives of the 40,000 civilians in Qusair and also calls on the Security Council to denounce Hezbollah’s attack on Qusair and fulfill its U.N. mandate to protect civilian lives, “ the statement from the group said. – additional reporting by Rakan Fakih

Syrian opposition meets in Madrid over conflict

May 20, 2013/Daily Star/MADRID: Branches of the divided Syrian opposition held talks in Madrid on Monday seeking to harmonize their approach to the country's bloody civil war, their Spanish government hosts said. The talks included Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, who resigned last week as leader of the Syrian National Coalition, plus other members of the coalition and "various movements" of the opposition to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, the Spanish foreign ministry said in a statement. Khatib resigned last week, officially in protest over the failure of the international community to stop the conflict in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 94,000 people have been killed since an uprising against Assad began in March 2011. Pressed back by army advances, Syria's opposition is under international pressure to enter into dialogue with Assad's regime. Among the Madrid meeting's aims is "to facilitate dialogue between the various movements in the Syrian opposition, thereby aiding its cohesion and its future capacity to ensure unity, stability and democracy in Syria," the ministry said. "The international effort currently under way to this end requires the forming a strong, unified and diverse opposition capable of representing a common front." Spain in November recognised the coalition as the Syrian people's legitimate representative. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said last month that Spain backed the formation of a national unity government in Syria as a way out of the two-year conflict. The participants made no declarations following Monday's talks but the ministry said Khatib was scheduled to meet with Garcia-Margallo on Tuesday. The two would review the situation in Syria and international efforts to settle the conflict, it said. The United States and Russia have called an international conference, expected in June, to push for a political solution.

Russia Foils Terror Attack on Moscow
Naharnet /Russian security services said Monday they had foiled a terror attack on Moscow, killing two of the plotters and arresting another. "Our forceful actions prevented an attempted act of terror in the capital," the National Anti-Terror Committee said in a statement. The statement said the men, all three of them ethnic Russians, were detected on the outskirts of Moscow. A gunfight erupted during their attempted arrest which left a Russian federal security official lightly injured. The committee added that all three men are suspected of having received their training in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been personally informed about the foiled plot.
Source/Agence France Presse.

The Heart of the Syrian Revolution

By: Diana Moukalled /Asharq Alawsat
After showing the dead body to his audience, a Syrian rebel known as Abu Saqqar held up an internal organ he had ripped out of a Syrian regime soldier, looked at the camera and brutally bit into it. Abu Saqqar did not settle for this lone act, but instead vowed to repeat such savagery. The barbaric act violated the sanctity of death and revived notions of cannibalism, which we normally consider to be acts from history and legend.
Along with the soldier’s organ, Abu Saqqar also bit into many of the Syrian revolution’s values, sweeping the torment endured by victims of the uprising to one side.
The man who committed this atrocity gave a fiery, sectarian speech while he carried out his disgusting act. A few days after that, he appeared in another video, in which he was shown praying. He addressed the man shooting the video, saying that if the bloodshed does not stop in Syria and Bashar Al-Assad is not held accountable, then the entire Syrian people will become like him. What turned this fighter, of whom little is known, into a cannibal? Why did the entire global media show concern over what Abu Saqqar did, to the extent that he has been placed at the heart of the Syrian conflict; his actions have raised suspicions about the Syrian opposition and the legitimacy of supporting it. Global reports did not show as much concern over the endless photos of victims of the regime’s brutality, the latest of which was the Baniyas massacre.
Is it because the regime’s brutality has become monotonous? Or does the number of the victims—80,000—no longer affects us?
Yes, we must carefully pause at this video, and we must shudder from its brutality, because it clearly shows what the situation in Syria has come to. It indicates the dark days that await Syria if the massacres do not stop. Abu Saqqar’s act, however, is not a reason to alter our stance on the legitimacy of the Syrian revolution, nor should it impact how we perceive the limitless cruelty imposed on the Syrian people by regime forces.
Abu Saqqar’s video was not a disinfected image of war and brutality. It was not a polished image of victims of torture and murder. It was an image depicting violence and cruelty in its clearest form.
The terrible crime committed by Abu Saqqar serves as an electric shock for the world. It forces us to realize how the situation is developing, and that it will continue if the larger crimes are not stopped. The Syrian regime is undoubtedly the party that holds direct responsiblity for these crimes, although, of course, this does not at all justify criminal acts committed by opposition fighters.
It would not be unreasonable to assume that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad was a happy man when he saw the video of Abu Saqqar. Indeed, appearing with his family in public two days after the video gained international attention, he walked through the streets of Damascus, smiling and talking to people in a manner implying that Damascus is calm, that there is no violence shaking Syria to the core, and that the “civilized” president peacefully mingles with his people while opposition fighters show their “true” colors.
After two years of unprecedented violence, Bashar Al-Assad has managed to drag the revolution into a cycle of murder and revenge.
Abu Saqqar bit into the heart of the Syrian regime—will Assad succeed in decimating the heart of revolution?