LCCC ENGLISH DAILY
Quotation for today/The
01 Corinthians 11 /: "17-34: " In the following instructions, however, I do not praise you, because your meetings for worship actually do more harm than good. In the first place, I have been told that there are opposing groups in your meetings; and this I believe is partly true. No doubt there must be divisions among you so that the ones who are in the right may be clearly seen. When you meet together as a group, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat. For as you eat, you each go ahead with your own meal, so that some are hungry while others get drunk. Don't you have your own homes in which to eat and drink? Or would you rather despise the church of God and put to shame the people who are in need? What do you expect me to say to you about this? Shall I praise you? Of course I don't!
For I received from the Lord the teaching that I passed on to you: that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took a piece of bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in memory of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup and said, “This cup is God's new covenant, sealed with my blood. Whenever you drink it, do so in memory of me.” This means that every time you eat this bread and drink from this cup you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. It follows that if one of you eats the Lord's bread or drinks from his cup in a way that dishonors him, you are guilty of sin against the Lord's body and blood. So then, you should each examine yourself first, and then eat the bread and drink from the cup. For if you do not recognize the meaning of the Lord's body when you eat the bread and drink from the cup, you bring judgment on yourself as you eat and drink. That is why many of you are sick and weak, and several have died. If we would examine ourselves first, we would not come under God's judgment. But we are judged and punished by the Lord, so that we shall not be condemned together with the world. So then, my friends, when you gather together to eat the Lord's Supper, wait for one another. And if any of you are hungry, you should eat at home, so that you will not come under God's judgment as you meet together. As for the other matters, I will settle them when I come.
Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources
Iran is striving to expand Middle East war zones/By:
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/May 28/13
What is Hezbollah/By: Fouad Ajami/Asharq Alawsat/May 28/13
Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 28/13
Ban 'Deeply Concerned' by Hizbullah Role in Syria, Says
Lebanon Should Adhere to Baabda Declaration
NGO: At least 79 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Qusayr
FSA officials accuse Nasrallah of planning Dahiyeh attack
Hizballah fires rocket toward Israeli Metula, calls up reserves, enters Damascus
Lebanese Cabinet OKs June elections
Fighting lull in north Lebanon's Tripoli
UN, Army conduct search after rocket fire
Lebanese sources deny rocket fire on Metula
Lebanese Army Official Denies Rocket Attack on Israel
UN condemns rocket attack on Beirut suburb
Maronite Bishops condemn joining Syria violence
Resistance Brigades member, Assir supporters clash in Sidon
Phalange Party Nominates 20 Candidates for Elections, Vows to 'Resist' 1960 Law
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani Warns Parliament Extension Would Lead to Further Security Chaos
Jumblat: Only Authority of the State Can Ease Insecurities of Political Powers
Girl Killed, Another Hurt as 4 Rockets from Syria Hit Hermel
Phalange Party Authorizes Gemayel to Take Decision on Nominations, Vows to 'Resist' 1960 Law
Bahrain Bans Contact with Hizbullah
Jreissati Condemns Employment of Children in Armed Conflicts
Plumbly Meets Miqati, Voices Support for Security Efforts to Tackle Situation in Tripoli
Qabbani Warns Parliament Extension Would Lead to Further Security Chaos
Qabbani, al-Rahi Call for Joint Efforts to Prevent More Fighting
Tripoli Residents Take Stock of Gunbattles Damage
Miqati, al-Rahi 'Agree' on 'Important Issues' amid Elections Tumult
Bassil: Accepting Extension of Parliament Mandate is Conditional
US Senator McCain meets with rebels in Syria
Palestinians rule out concessions for economic gain
Syria fighting rages, more chemical attacks reported
Kerry, Lavrov meet to discuss Syrian peace talks
Wave of bombings in Iraqi capital kill at least 66
Syria fighting rages amid reports of chemical attack
Jordan jails jihadists for trying to go to Syria
Wave of Baghdad bombings kills more than 50
Ban 'Deeply Concerned' by Hizbullah
Role in Syria, Says Lebanon Should Adhere to Baabda
Naharnet/U.N. leader Ban Ki-moon said Sunday he is "deeply concerned" by Hizbullah's growing role in Syria's civil war and called for greater efforts to halt the spread of the conflict toward other countries. In a statement released hours after two rockets hit the Hizbullah stronghold of southern Beirut, Ban called on all nations and groups to "cease supporting the violence inside Syria," said his spokesman Martin Nesirky. The U.N. secretary general is "extremely concerned" about the intensifying conflict, in particular around the town of Qusayr, said Nesirky. The military support of Hizbullah has helped President Bashar Assad's forces gain the upper hand in the battle for control of Qusayr, close to the Lebanese border. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has vowed to help Assad to victory in the 26-month-old conflict which has now left more than 94,000 dead. "The secretary general is deeply concerned by the acknowledged increased participation in the fighting in Syria by Hizbullah, as well as by the risk of spillover in Lebanon, which has witnessed growing tension over the past week," said Nesirky. "All in the region should act responsibly and work towards lowering rhetoric and calming tensions in the region," he added. Ban has spoken out against the arming of all sides in the Syria conflict by outside countries and groups, Nesirky reaffirmed. "As preparations are ongoing for the international conference on Syria, the secretary general urges all countries, organizations and groups immediately to cease supporting the violence inside Syria and instead to use their influence to promote a political solution to Syria's tragedy." Ban added that it was of "paramount importance" to avert "a dangerous spillover of the conflict across borders." Lebanese leaders must keep a "strict adherence" to an accord they made to stay neutral in the war "and keep Lebanon safe from conflict," Nesirky said about the Baabda Declaration. SourceAgence France Presse.
NGO: At least 79 Hizbullah Fighters Killed in Qusayr
Naharnet /At least 79 Hizbullah members have been killed fighting alongside the Syrian army in the town of Qusayr since last week, a watchdog said on Monday. "The number of Lebanese Hizbullah fighters killed in recent months in the outskirts of Damascus and Homs has risen to 141," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement. "That includes 79 fighters killed from the period starting at dawn on May 19 to dawn on Sunday yesterday, killed by mines, snipers and fighting in the town of Qusayr and its surroundings," the group added. On Sunday, a source close to Hizbullah said the group's toll in several months of fighting was 110, most of them killed in Qusayr. Hizbullah has been sending fighters to fight alongside the Syrian army against rebels for several months. But the battle to retake rebel stronghold Qusayr in the central province of Homs has been its biggest and bloodiest engagement so far. On Saturday alone, 22 fighters from the Shiite group were killed in Qusayr, the source close to the group told Agence France Presse. The same day, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed his group would win a "victory" in Syria. "I say to all the honorable people, to the mujahedeen, to the heroes: I have always promised you a victory and now I pledge to you a new one" in Syria, he said at a ceremony marking the 13th anniversary of Israel's military withdrawal from Lebanon. Nasrallah said Hizbullah would always stand by its ally, President Bashar Assad, and his regime, stressing that its own interests were at stake.
"We will continue along the road... bear the responsibilities and the sacrifices," he said in a video link of a speech delivered live on a huge screen. "This battle is ours... and I promise you victory." Nasrallah appealed for Lebanon to be protected from the violence raging across the border. But on Sunday several rockets slammed into Hizbullah's southern Beirut stronghold, wounding four people. And fighting between pro-Syrian regime Alawites and pro-uprising Sunnis in the northern port of Tripoli has killed 31 people in the past week.Source/Agence France Presse.
FSA officials accuse Nasrallah of planning Dahiyeh attack
Now Lebanon/Officials in the rebel Free Syrian Army denied carrying out the rocket attack on Beirut’s Dahiyeh early Sunday, and claimed that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was the mastermind behind it. “What happened in Dahiyeh is the work of Hassan Nasrallah who, after failing on the Arab, ethical and the so-called Resistance levels, wanted to [save] his reputation,” FSA’s Secretary Captain Ammar al-Wawi told NOW on Sunday.
“[Nasrallah] wants to create strife inside the Lebanese and the Syrian [communities],” he added. Wawi described this attack as a “terrorist act,” and urged the Lebanese government, “especially President Michel Suleiman to [put an end to the works of] this gang in Syria and Lebanon.”“[Hezbollah] is trying to occupy both Syria and Lebanon.”
Leader of Damascus’ Military Revolutionary Council Colonel Abou al-Wafa also accused Hezbollah’s leader of carrying out this attack. “Hezbollah is the party that executed this operation so it would gather the Shiite’s approbation after its image was tainted and [people’s] support [for it] decreased,” Wafa told NOW. “[This party] has completely imitated the Syrian regime’s method of executing bombings in Syrian cities and blaming it on the FSA,” the rebel official added. He also denied any presence of Syrian rebels on Lebanese territory, and refuted accusations that the FSA bombed Beirut’s southern suburb. “If the FSA carried out this operation, it would have claimed it.”FSA’s spokesperson Louay Moqdad echoed the denial of Syrian rebels’ responsibility for this attack. “The party that carried out this attack is the one that is looking to drag people into a sectarian strife in order to find a justification to its participation in the killing of the Syrian people alongside the criminal [President] Bashar al-Assad,” Moqdad told the site.
Earlier on Sunday, four people were wounded when two rockets exploded in the Hezbollah heartland of southern Beirut. The blasts followed a speech delivered by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Saturday evening during which the latter vowed that the regime of Bashar al-Assad and his party would emerge victorious in Syria.
The Lebanese political scene is split between pro-Syrian regime parties affiliated with the March 8 alliance – spearheaded by Hezbollah – and western-backed forces associated with the March 14 coalition.
Girl Killed, Another Hurt as 4
Rockets from Syria Hit Hermel
Naharnet /A girl was killed and another was wounded when four rockets fired from Syrian territory hit residential neighborhoods in the Bekaa city of Hermel on Monday, state-run National News Agency reported.
“Loulou Awwad, 17, was martyred and another woman from the same family was wounded by the rockets that targeted residential neighborhoods in Hermel,” NNA said. The rockets also caused major material damage, the agency added.
Bahrain Bans Contact with Hizbullah
Naharnet/Shiite-majority Bahrain banned on Monday opposition groups from having contact with Hizbullah, a day after the foreign minister of the Sunni-ruled kingdom branded the party's chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as a "terrorist". "Political associations are prohibited from having any form of contact with the Hizbullah organization," Justice Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ali al-Khalifa said in a ministerial decree.
A second clause in the same decree stated that the Iran- and Syria-backed group is a "terrorist organization." The decision appears aimed at opposition groups, which are mostly Shiites, who dominated anti-regime protests that erupted in February 2011 before coming under a brutal crackdown a month later. Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa on Sunday branded Nasrallah as a "terrorist", in remarks a day after Nasrallah vowed to keep up the fight alongside regime forces in Syria to defeat the rebels. "Terrorist Nasrallah has declared war on his nation," Sheikh Khaled wrote on his Twitter account. "Stopping him and rescuing Lebanon from his grip is a national and religious duty for all of us," he said, as Hizbullah's involvement in Syria's armed conflict deepened. Last month the kingdom decided to list Hizbullah as a "terrorist organization", following a recommendation by the parliament that is boycotted by the opposition. Nasrallah is a popular figure among the Shiites of Bahrain. But the opposition that is battling for democratization, insists that its political agenda is Bahraini, and not linked to Iran, or other Shiite sides. Despite the March 2011 crackdown on protests, Shiites continue to demonstrate in their villages, triggering frequent clashes with police. A total of 80 people have been killed since the protests erupted, according to the International Federation for Human Rights
Hizballah fires rocket toward Israeli
Metula, calls up reserves, enters Damascus
DEBKAfile Special Report May 27, 2013
Residents of Israel’s northernmost town of Metula were roused before dawn Monday, May 27 by an exploding rocket fired from the Lebanese town of Marjayoun about 10 kilometers north of the border. It landed on open ground, causing no casualties or damage. DEBKAfile’s military sources report: Just 48 hours after Hassan Nasrallah’s war speech, Hizballah, Iran’s proxy, had joined the war of attrition President Assad has directed against Israel from the Golan. The IDF has so far made no mention of the widely reported rocket attack although Lebanese media said an Israeli drone was hovering over the Marjayoun area. Metula was attacked the day after three Grad missiles were fired from a point east of Mt Lebanon to explode in the Hizballah-controlled Dahiya district of Beirut, injuring five people and causing some damage. It was fired by local Sunni elements sympathetic to the Syrian rebels. The Shiite Hizballah decided to retaliate against northern Israel – for a reason. It made clear that the position laid out by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon that “Israel is not involved in the Syrian war” is not reciprocated either by Syrian President Bashar Assad or Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah’s strategy in the face of domestic criticism of his heavy military commitment to Assad is to demonstrate that the troops he sent to fight in the Shiite-Sunni conflict raging in Syria are in fact waging war on the common enemy, the Jewish state. This rocket against Metula was also intended to direct attention away from the massive ongoing boost of the Lebanese terrorist group’s military contingents fighting in Syria. Sunday and early Monday, another 2,000 elite Hizballah combatants poured into Syria from Lebanon to augment the 5,000-6,000 already present there. The new arrivals were transferred straight to the battlefront in south Damascus. Rebel forces report they are under assault by a combined force of Lebanese Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite fighters. Neither the United States nor Israel or Turkey has raised a finger to block this dangerous influx of Hizballah fighting forces into Syria although it is strongly tipping the scales of war in Assad’s favor. Sunday overnight, Hizballah secretly ordered the call-up of reserves to reinforce its strength for fighting on three active fronts, Syria, Israel and opponents at home. Its agents went around Hizballah centers in towns and villages across Lebanon with orders for members to report for duty at once.
Lebanese Cabinet OKs June elections
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker government endorsed Monday holding general elections on June 16, approving the formation of an election supervisory committee and funding for the polls.
Reported last-minute requests to run in the polls by Kataeb Party members and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati also signaled that a deal over extending Parliament’s term had yet to be finalized.
During the session, the first Cabinet meeting since President Michel Sleiman accepted the resignation of the government in late March, ministers agreed to go forward with the parliamentary vote and fund the preparations for the general elections, allocating LL22 billion, or $14.6 million, to the Interior Ministry. Nadim Abdel-Malek and Andre Sader were appointed as head and deputy head of the committee respectively. Salim Qusta, Khaldoun Naja, Ghada Hallawi, Othman Majzoub, Khalil Hindi, Atallah Ghasham and Simon Haddad were also appointed members of the supervisory committee. Mikati, speaking after the short Cabinet session, said the decision to hold the elections was overdue. “Two months ago the president was adamant that all the necessary steps for holding the elections be taken. Today the opponents [of the steps] agreed because the president was in the right in his demands two months ago over the appointment of the supervisory committee,” he said. In March, the government tendered its resignation after a fall out among ministers over the formation of the supervisory committee and extending the mandate of then police chief Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi. Mikati said discussions during the meeting were elections-related in “order to hold the polls on the basis of the law in effect,” referring to the much-opposed 1960 law used in the 2009 parliamentary elections. “We’d wished the electoral was different but reality demands that we fulfill our duties to comply with the law in effect,” he said. “We will go ahead with the law in effect and the supervisory committee,” he added. Concerning a possible extension of Parliament’s term, Mikati said: “To be honest, there were efforts for an extension but this is a matter for Parliament and the Cabinet is adamant about holding the polls.” A failure by lawmakers to reach a deal over an alternative to the 1960 law has left parliamentarians with limited options: either to hold the elections under the 1960 law or extend Parliament’s term.
The current Parliament’s term expires on June 20. Kataeb Party sources told The Daily Star that 16 candidates would submit their applications later tonight to run in the elections under the 1960 law – a qada-based, winner-takes-all voting system. Political sources also said Mikati would also submit his candidacy before the deadline for filing requests – midnight Monday – expires.
The last-minute submissions indicate that a deal to extend Parliament’s mandate has yet to be finalized.
Miqati, al-Rahi 'Agree' on 'Important Issues' amid Elections Tumult
Naharnet /Caretaker Premier Najib Miqati on Monday followed the lead of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea and Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun in visiting Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki.
Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) quoted al-Rahi as saying after the meeting that he “agreed” with Miqati on “important issues.”While Miqati did not reveal the details of his talks, he told reporters that he visited Bkirki to congratulate al-Rahi on his safe return from a long trip abroad and wished him luck on his visit to Poland on Tuesday. The caretaker premier's visit to the seat of the Maronite church came after Geagea and Aoun held separate talks with al-Rahi over the weekend amid a row on the extension of parliament's mandate after the failure of the rival parties to agree on a new law that would govern the June parliamentary elections, and the rejection of the 1960 vote law. Bkirki sources told MTV and LBCI that al-Rahi and Miqati agreed to a short-term technical extension to pave way for the agreement on a new law.
Miqati's caretaker cabinet is scheduled to meet under President Michel Suleiman at Baabda Palace on Monday to discuss the formation of an authority that would supervise the elections and endorse the financial allocations necessary for the interior ministry to hold the polls. Al-Joumhouria daily quoted sources close to Miqati as saying that the caretaker prime minister has been clear in announcing that the government would take the necessary steps stipulated by the 1960 law. The formation of the authority and providing the necessary funds are aimed at warding off any future criticism that the cabinet hasn't done enough, the sources said.
Miqati has so far refrained from submitting his candidacy for a seat in parliament to represent his hometown of Tripoli in the North. The sources said he would make up his mind on Monday night, the deadline for the announcement of nominations.
Fighting lull in north Lebanon's Tripoli
By Antoine Amrieh/The Daily Star /TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Sniper fire in the northern city of Tripoli Monday punctured a lull in the fighting between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad that has claimed the lives of 29 people since hostilities erupted between the rivals earlier this month. Fadwa Saleh, Ismail Mohammad and Abbas Hasan were wounded in limited clashes between Assad supporters positioned in the pre-dominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and rivals in the mostly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh. The three hail from Jabal Mohsen. The Army also responded to sources of fire in the Qibbeh, Riva and Baqqar neighborhoods. The heavy gunbattles that predominated in the city last week subsided substantially overnight and Monday morning after a fragile cease-fire between fighters took hold. The cease-fire was brokered by a local sheikh and the Lebanese Army. Sheikh Khaled Sayyed, who heads a mosque in Bab al-Tabbaneh, held intensive talks with local field commanders Sunday that led to the cautious calm, sources told The Daily Star. The cease-fire was apparently aimed at securing a safe deployment of the Army throughout Bab al-Tabbaneh, something that failed to materialize. Sandbags continued to block the entry of Army vehicles to closed areas of Bab al-Tabbaneh Monday. Soldiers only conducted patrols along Syria Street which separates Bab al-Tabbaneh from Jabal Mohsen. Sporadic crackle of machine gun fire could be heard as reporters toured the mainly-Sunni neighborhood. The relative calm that settled on Tripoli Sunday night and Monday morning was conditioned on a series of demands by leaders of armed groups in Bab al-Tabbaneh. The demands included the withdrawal of the Army’s Fourth Regiment Intervention Brigade and the departure of the head of the Arab Democratic Party Rifaat Eid from Jabal Mohsen. Bab al-Tabbaneh fighters also insist that the government pay compensation for damages caused by the repeated clashes. The Army gradually bolstered its presence on the ground Sunday in the hours that followed a lull in sporadic clashes. Schools remained closed for a second week Monday and only a few people dared to venture outside their homes. Traffic on the usually clogged streets of Tripoli was sparse during the morning hours of Monday despite the relative calm in the fighting that broke out on May 20. Only one percussion bomb hurled outside a building on Mutran Street shortly before midnight shattered the cautious calm. At least 29 people have been killed, including two soldiers, and 200 wounded in the latest bout of gun battles in Tripoli.
UN, Army conduct search after rocket fire
The Daily Star/Kfar Kila, Lebanon: U.N. peacekeepers and security forces are searching a cluster of border villages for evidence of a rocket launch Monday, a day after a rocket was reportedly fired from south Lebanon toward Israel. There was no official confirmation from Lebanon over the launch. United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon officials told The Daily Star Monday afternoon they could not confirm if the rocket had been fired and an investigation is ongoing. A security source told The Daily Star that Lebanese troops were dispatched early Monday morning to the Deir Mimas-Qlaiaa-Burj al-Moulok triangle in an attempt to locate the rocket launch site or remains of the projectile. Local residents said they heard the sound of a rocket being fired from southern Lebanon late Sunday. The Israeli military was investigating Monday a possible overnight attack launched from Lebanon, after residents reported hearing explosions. "Residents in Metulla reported hearing booms. We are still checking the area and haven't found anything yet," a military spokeswoman told Agence France Presse. Meanwhile, Israel continued Monday to breach Lebanese airspace. Four planes flew over the village of Yaroun, Bint Jbeil in the morning followed by two more war planes flying over Rmaish, Bint Jbeil an hour later, the Lebanese Army said in statements. The sorties stayed in Lebanese airspace for about an hour, flying over different areas before returning to Israel, the Army said.
UN condemns rocket attack on Beirut suburb
May 27, 2013/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: The United Nations condemned Monday the rocket attack on the Beirut suburb of Shiyah that left four people wounded. “I would like to take this opportunity to condemn on behalf of the United Nations the rocket attack on the suburbs of Beirut yesterday [Sunday] morning,” U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly said following a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
“I hope that the security authorities will soon identify those responsible for this criminal act,” he added. Two rockets hit a car dealership and home early Sunday, wounding four Syrian workers. The attack came hours after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed the party's involvement in the Syrian conflict. Plumbly hailed the “wisdom” that he said the Lebanese government, the people and leaders showed when they adopted the disassociation policy toward the Syria crisis. “And our hope that all concerned will now reflect again on just how important these are for keeping Lebanon safe from conflict,” he stressed. Plumbly said he discussed with Mikati issues related to security and stability in Lebanon. “I expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Lebanese Army, the security authorities and the caretaker Prime Minister himself in trying to calm down and contain the security situation in Tripoli,” he said. The two men also discussed the needs of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Some 88 percent of the United Nations appeal for assistance for Lebanon for the present six month period has now been disbursed, which is a major achievement,” Plumbly said. “But the number of refugees is of course greatly in excess of the estimate when the appeal was made in January. We are working now with the Government of Lebanon on a joint appeal for Lebanon to cover the next six months from June in order to meet the needs of the Syrian refugees but also of the Lebanese communities hosting them,” he added.
Maronite Bishops condemn joining Syria violence
May 27, 2013/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Council of Maronite Bishops condemned Monday direct participation in Syrian violence and voiced concern over clashes in the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Sidon.
“The bishops condemn the direct participation in the Syrian clashes, from whatever side, and consider what is happening as a clear violation of the National Pact and Baabda Declaration,” said the bishops in a statement issued following their monthly meeting. “The bishops are following up with great concern the security incidents at the Syrian borders and inside Lebanon especially in Tripoli and Sidon, which are accompanied with unprecedented tension and calls for revenge,” the statement said. Earlier this month, Hezbollah fighters led a massive offensive with Syrian army soldiers against the rebel-held town of Qusair, near the border with Lebanon.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah confirmed recently his party was heavily involved in fighting against Syria's rebels. A day after Nasrallah’s speech, clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad renewed in Tripoli. The clashes have been ongoing for a week and are described as some of the worst the northern city has ever seen. The council, headed by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, also renewed their condemnation to the kidnapping of two bishops in Syria last month and called for their imminent release. “We renew our condemnation of the two bishops in Syria, which is a violation of coexistence and human rights,” the statement said. “We demand concerned officials and influential nations to exert pressure to ensure the release of the bishops and all other prisoners in Syria,” it added. The two bishops, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, were kidnapped at the end of April, reportedly near the rebel-held town of Kafr Dael, near Aleppo in northern Syria. No group has claimed responsibility for their kidnapping. The bishops also reiterated their call for reaching a new vote law in the country and voiced opposition to extending the terms of Parliament without an agreement over such law. “Given the recent developments, we stress the need for an agreement over a new parliamentary electoral law that offers fair representation,” the statement said. “We demand that the elections be held on time and are against the extension of parliament's term without an agreement over a new law,” it added.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani Warns Parliament Extension Would Lead to Further Security Chaos
Naharnet/Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani urged on Monday Speaker Berri to supervise the adoption of a new electoral law, rejecting attempts to extend parliament's mandate for sowing further divisions.
“There should be a new electoral law that becomes the bridge to change,” Qabbani said in a televised statement. “The parliament's term shouldn't be extended over only the failure of rival leaders to agree on the division of their seats,” he said. He warned that if MPs agreed during a parliamentary session set to take place end of the week on the extension, “then the Lebanese would live under the same divisions.”“It would lead to a further deterioration in the security situation,” he said in his message. Qabbani stressed the new electoral law should guarantee the best representation of all sects, including the Christians. “There should be an end to the monopoly that goes against democracy,” he said while rejection the 1960 vote law that is based on the winner-takes-all system. He also rejected the negotiations between the rival parties “to distribute powers ... before even holding the polls.”The parties failed following months of negotiations to agree on a new law over what critics said were attempts by each side to put the conditions that bring it to power. “The interest of the nation doesn't lie in a settlement between politicians on what guarantees their interests,” Qabbani said however. “The delay in the agreement on a new law deals a blow to the daily life of the Lebanese,” he said.The differences on the electoral law in addition to different demands on the length of the extension of parliament's four-year mandate have been exacerbated by the failure of Premier-designate Tammam Salam to form his government.“The PM-designate and the leaders of the different sects should speed up the formation of the cabinet,” Qabbani said. Turning to the deteriorating security situation in the country, he warned that the chaos in the coastal city of Tripoli is a threat to the citizens in northern Lebanon.
“The state has the essential responsibilities in deterring the gunmen ... security agencies should also work to impose a ceasefire,” he said. Qabbani also described rocket attacks on Beirut's southern suburbs on Sunday as an attempt to ignite war in Lebanon. “It is the duty of the Lebanese to remain united …. because it is the biggest deterrent against the Israeli enemy,” he said. The Mufti also lamented that “the Arab nation, which had embraced everyone, has been shattered.”He accused some parties of plotting for more divisions in the Arab world to create mini states.
Phalange Party Nominates 20 Candidates for Elections, Vows to 'Resist' 1960 Law
Naharnet /The Phalange Party on Monday urged its allies to refrain from taking part in parliamentary elections under the 1960 electoral law, vowing to “resist this scheme.” The party “is still resisting the scheme of holding the parliamentary elections under the 1960 law, because of the injustice and unfairness it contains against Christian representation and national partnership,” it said in a statement issued after its politburo's weekly meeting. And as it hoped for “a national, parliamentary awakening that leads to a new electoral law,” the party called on state officials not to “impose de facto elections on the Lebanese people” and to “prepare the appropriate constitutional measures and the proper timeframe for holding serious elections.” The Phalange Party announced that it will seek to “change this situation through the constitutional institutions, including the parliament, the Shoura Council and the Constitutional Council, and through resorting to the public opinion in Lebanon and abroad.” The party called on “all allies and all political parties that are keen on national partnership to refrain from taking part in the parliamentary polls under the 1960 law which they had rejected in the past, especially that participating in the elections under this law would be against the pact of coexistence.”“This rejection would create a new momentum to draft a fair electoral law, even if that led to delaying the elections for a short period,” it added. The political bureau also authorized party leader Amin Gemayel to “take the appropriate decision on submitting nominations” for the parliamentary elections. However, later on Monday, MP Sami Gemayel said the party submitted the nomination requests of 20 candidates to the interior ministry.
Earlier, the cabinet approved holding the parliamentary elections according to the 1960 electoral law on June 16. Caretaker Information Minister Walid al-Daouq confirmed that it approved the necessary measures and a treasury loan worth L.L. 22 billion in order to hold the elections.
Resistance Brigades member, Assir
supporters clash in Sidon
May 27, 2013 /By Mohammed Zaatari/The Daily Star
SIDON, Lebanon: A clash between an official in the Hezbollah-linked Resistance Brigades and supporters of Salafist Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir left one man wounded in the southern city of Sidon over the weekend.
The incident Saturday evening saw an altercation between Hilal Hammoud, a Resistance Brigades member, and Assir’s supporters develop into a gunfight outside the Bilal bin Rabah mosque in the coastal city.
Nour al-Naqouzi, a supporter of Assir, was wounded in the incident. A statement from Assir’s media office blamed Hammoud for provoking the clash, saying the Resistance Brigades member had insulted Assir and his supporters as he was passing by the mosque. The statement said that the sheikh’s supporters later held a “peaceful” sit-in near the mosque to denounce the incident. The Army later arrested Hammoud, who was staying at a flat belonging to Hezbollah, the statement said. Assir has emerged over the past two years as a harsh critic of Hezbollah’s arms and role in supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Hezbollah’s involvement in fighting in Qusair recently has compounded tensions in Sidon. Last week, strife was narrowly avoided in the city when supporters of Assir along with other Salafists in the city and partisans of Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya blocked the entrance to the city’s Sunni cemetery to prevent the burial of a Sunni-turned-Shiite Hezbollah fighter killed in Syria. Hezbollah eventually decided to bury the man in a Shiite cemetery amid strict Army measures. Security sources in Sidon voiced fears that as the conflict in Syria worsens, Assir’s supporters would clash with partisans of Hezbollah and their allies in the city Popular Nasserite Organization.
The sources added that the situation in Sidon threatens to spiral out of control as more Islamist factions rally together against Hezbollah. They explained that among those taking part in last week’s protests in Sidon were Islamists – such as Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya – who did not usually join Assir in his demonstrations against the party.
Jumblat: Only Authority of the State
Can Ease Insecurities of Political Powers
Naharnet /Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed on Monday the need for all sides to adhere to the state, saying that the dangerous regional developments require the Lebanese to unite to avert the repercussions of these conflicts. He said in his weekly editorial in the PSP-affiliated al-Anbaa website: “The Lebanese factions must shy away from recklessness and return to the state, which alone can ease their insecurities.”
“There can be no substitute to the state, which the people can resort to away from provocative rhetoric that will only bring about strife and suffering on all levels,” he added.
“The regional developments, especially those linked to the Syrian crisis, require the Lebanese to exercise patience and diligence to resist the repercussions of the conflict on the internal Lebanese scene,” continued the MP.
Jumblat therefore placed his trust in the state's judicial and security institutions that “should be the only means to tackle any security unrest, such the firing of rockets of Beirut's southern suburbs on Sunday.”
“Protecting the concept of the state, in action and not just in words, starting with the army, requires the cooperation of all political powers,” he stressed.
Indirectly addressing Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Saturday, Jumblat said: “The Lebanese people have the right to take a break from fiery speeches that only serve to pour fuel on the fires that are raging in the region and which will cost the country dearly.” “One must therefore take a conscientious stand in order to prevent Lebanon from once again falling victim to regional conflicts,” he demanded.
Four people were wounded on Sunday morning in a rocket attack on Beirut's southern suburbs. The Lebanese army said in a statement that a rocket was fired at a car dealership near the Mar Mikhael church and another landed in the Maroun Misk neighborhood. The incident came just hours after Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah vowed "victory" in Syria, where Hizbullah fighters are engaged in fierce battles against Syrian rebels in Qusayr. He said Hizbullah would always stand by its ally, President Bashar Assad, and his regime, stressing that its own interests were at stake.
On Sunday, a source close to Hizbullah said the group's toll in several months of fighting was 110, most of them killed in Qusayr.
US Senator McCain meets with rebels in
By REUTERS05/27/2013/J.Post/WASHINGTON - US Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate and one of the loudest voices calling for military aid to the Syrian opposition, met with some of the rebels during a surprise visit to the war-torn country on Monday, his spokesman said. Spokesman Brian Rogers confirmed McCain's meeting with the rebels in Syria but declined to give any details about the visit, which came a week after a US Senate panel voted overwhelmingly to send weapons to forces fighting the Syrian government.
Palestinians rule out concessions for economic gain
May 27, 2013/Daily Star /RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian presidency said on Monday that it would not make "political concessions in exchange for economic benefits" announced the day before by US Secretary of State John Kerry. "The Palestinian leadership will not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits," read a statement from Mohammad Mustafa, president of the Palestine Investment Fund and economic adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. "We will not accept that the economy is the primary and sole component," the statement said. "We wish it to be part of a political framework that will ensure the creation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem its capital and the rights of refugees and a reference to a political solution -- these are the priorities," the text read. "President Mahmud Abbas calls on investors to come to Palestine, especially taking into account the fact that Palestine is a positive investment experience in many different areas," said Mustafa. Kerry on Sunday at the closing session of the World Economic Forum in Jordan unveiled a plan to boost the Palestinian economy by attracting $4 billion in private investment. He charged Tony Blair, the Quartet's special envoy to the Middle East, with drawing up the details of the initiative. A statement from Blair's office said it was "analysing the potential of various sectors of the Palestinian economy and identifying measures that could be taken to spur transformative economic growth". It said the goal was to boost "GDP by 50 percent within three years and reduce unemployment from 22 percent to single-digit figures". However, Blair's office stressed that "the plan will complement, support and run in parallel with a renewed political process, and is not intended to replace that political process". The Palestinian leadership wants a total freeze on Israeli settlement construction before it resumes peace talks with Israel, which have been stalled for almost three years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects such a "precondition" and is calling for an immediate resumption of talks, while at the same time recently suspending tenders for construction in the West Bank.
Iran is striving to expand Middle East
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
Is the Arab world going to witness new developments in the regional confrontation with Iran? I’m afraid so. The region is witnessing political and military escalations which have most recently included the shooting down of a surveillance aircraft over Bahraini airspace. According to the Syrian opposition, a similar aircraft was shot down in Al-Qusayr in Syria.
If this is true—if Iran has developed the audacity to direct aircraft to remote airspaces, effectively violating the norms of political engagement—it is a sign of dangerous developments. These developments also include Iran sending soldiers to Syria; the establishment of espionage units in Bahrain along with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; and Yemen receiving ships carrying weapons.
These are indications of the increasing aggression of Iranian policy. It seems that such an escalation is taking place for one of two reasons. Either Iran is feeling conscious over its international blockade and regional decline—due to its nuclear activities and the developments of the Arab Spring—or because it senses there is a void to exploit as a result of the lack of American intervention. In keeping with this, President Obama’s policy is displaying US indifference towards the region; the United States has lost its appetite for wars and confrontations, especially in the Middle East.
The second explanation seems more probable. Iran is not afraid but, on the contrary, is realizing an opportunity to extend its influence—given the US’s lack of regional interest, which has not been the case since World War II.
Iran does not believe that Obama will resort to military intervention, no matter how severe regional conflicts might become. Under the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard, Iran plans to make progress and take ground in Syria and Iraq, while simultaneously threatening the region’s oil-producing countries, such as Bahrain.
Are such speculations the result of our own fears or are they based on sound facts? The fact that Iran is sending gunmen, active spy cells, and surveillance aircraft to Syria are all signs that it is attempting to wage new wars and reinforce its influence, without considering the diplomatic formulas of oil-producing countries. Iran’s hostile approach, fueled by its nuclear program, has become more prominent given the failure of Western threats and economic sanctions. Russia’s support is also worsening the situation.
We now face a growing monster that goes by the name of the Iranian regime. Its strength will increase, given that the Revolutionary Guard now influences vital sectors such as oil, public establishments, intelligence, and foreign affairs. This Iranian monster will push Arab countries into more tension and conflict, and may turn the entire region into a war-zone.
What is Hezbollah?
By: Fouad Ajami/Asharq Alawsat
The controversy begins with the name Hezb Allah, Arabic for the Party of God. And the controversy is further deepened by what is implied by the name: the others, the ones who don’t belong to the movement of fire and brimstone, are Hezb al-Shaytan, the Party of Satan.
In the theology and practice of Hezbollah, there can be no mercy shown for other Muslims, let alone infidels beyond the boundaries of Islam. In a country like Lebanon, with eighteen religious communities, the theology of Hezbollah must be terribly problematic. The theology must twist and bend. There is a large Shi’ite community, perhaps the country’s largest, but no one can be sure. The Shi’ites are Hezbollah’s people, but what is Hezbollah—its doctrine and its people—to make of a strong Sunni presence in Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli who vie for Islam itself, and return Hezbollah’s favor (and fervor) by considering Hezbollah’s warriors heretics carrying out Iran’s project in Lebanon?
What can Hezbollah make of the Christian churches—the Maronites, the Greek Orthodox, the Greek Catholics, etc?
The tribunes of Hezbollah equivocate—they are good at that. They are brigades of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist), the Iranian notion that in the “absence” of the Twelfth Imam, the leader of the Islamic Republic claims sovereignty over the believers, and Lebanese citizens at the same time. No room for ambiguity is left here; velayat-e faqih takes precedence. The pre-eminent leader of Hezbollah, the cleric Hassan Nasrallah, is bound by religious obligation (and old-fashioned ties of money and power) to render his loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Velayat-e faqih skipped borders and the Mediterranean to find its way into a worldly country that had not been known for its religious zeal. Lebanon laid down the foundations of a “sister republic.”
The Lebanese have always sought the patronage of foreign powers. The French had held sway among the pre-eminent Christian church, the Maronites. The Americans had had a run, their schools and religious missions, the weight of their power in the decades of the Cold War, held Lebanese of all denominations in awe. The Muslim Sunnis had the larger Arab states to fall back on: the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Iraqis during the years of Sunni ascendancy in Baghdad, and the Kuwaitis—they all gave the Sunnis a sense of belonging beyond the narrow confines of Lebanon.
The Shi’ites—the country’s hewers of wood and drawers of water—were latecomers to this game. Iran, the sole Shi’ite state in the House of Islam, was far away, separated by distance and language. To be sure, some Shi’ite mujtahids (religious scholars) knew of the seminaries of Qom in Iran, and of Najaf in Iraq, but on the whole the Shi’ites were a downtrodden community. Their lands in Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley, and the southern hinterland, were forlorn places, set apart from the glitter of Beirut and its polish.
The Israeli-Palestinian wars of the 1970s, and the upheaval in Iran that overthrew the dominion of the Pahlavis, altered the world of the Shi’ites of Lebanon. The winds of change were playing havoc with the Shi’ite. From their impoverished villages, they had been hurled into Greater Beirut. Some had fled the anarchy of south Lebanon, and the bravado of Palestinian gunmen. There was no love lost for Israel, but the Palestinians had worn out their welcome. Sustained with Arab oil money, and the prestige accorded a “revolutionary” movement in the international leftist circles of the day, the Palestinians had ridden roughshod over Shi’ite villagers in the south.
The Shi’ites, a community that had lacked guns and daring, had begun to stir. An Iranian-born cleric, Sayyid Musa Al-Sadr, who had made his way to Lebanon, had set out to organize the Shi’ites. “Arms are the adornment of men” proclaimed this charismatic figure who hailed from Shi’ite clerical nobility.. It was the fate of this singular man—I wrote a book about him, The Vanished Imam—to disappear in Libya in 1978, a victim of foul play by Muammar Gaddafi. But Imam Musa Al-Sadr, as his followers called him, had transformed Shi’ism in Lebanon from a tradition of lamentations and political withdrawal to one of activism.
Enter the more consequential figure in the Shi’ite world: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The cleric who returned to Iran from a long exile in Iraq was Persian, of course. But he was a pan-Islamic figure—to the oppressed, a redeemer. An eighth century Shi’ite prophecy known to Shi’ite believers everywhere was said to have foretold his appearance: “A man will come out of Qom and he will summon the believers to the right path. There will rally to him as pieces of iron, not to be shaken by violent winds, unsparing and relying on God.”
The ruling cabal of this new revolutionary theocracy were shrewd. They thought that they could overturn the Arab state next door—Iraq, a country with a Shi’ite majority but long in the grip of a Sunni tyranny. The bid for Iraq had failed. Lebanon offered an attractive alternative, a place where western hostages could be kidnapped and bargained over while still maintaining the fiction of Iran’s innocence.
Lebanon shared a border with Israel, and an American educational enclave, the American University of Beirut, the jewel of this crown, that dated back to the mid-1800s. This gave the revolutionary theocracy in Tehran the material for a campaign against the “oppressors.” There was economic distress aplenty among the Shi’ites of Lebanon. It was not hard for Iran, a large realm with substantial oil wealth, to find foot-soldiers in Lebanon. It had “salvation” to offer them, and economic sustenance.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard, in the mid-1980s, literally erected the Hezbollah movement. The newly urbanized among the Shi’ites took to this movement. It helped them conquer age-old inadequacies. It did not take long for “little Tehran” to rise in Beirut. The transformation was stunning. The chador was suddenly everywhere, as were the young bearded men and the clerics with black turbans who possessed immense power. The cult of “martyrdom” was sold to the gullible.
There was an Israeli presence in southern Lebanon. The warriors of Hezbollah struck at Israeli installations and checkpoints, which was where the suicide “martyrs” acquired their authority. The sort of young men (and some women as well) who would have gravitated to the trendy leftist parties of Beirut now made their home in the ranks of Hezbollah. Later estimates tell us that Hezbollah came to employ 40,000 people, and to school 100,000 children. This welfare network, in a country where the state hardly functioned, gave Hezbollah immense influence. Lebanon had its unwritten sectarian compact, the communities were left to care for—and dominate—their own.
Hezbollah turned topsy turvy the ways of Lebanon. Impoverished young men made their way to great power and influence. The current Secretary-General of the Party, the aforementioned Hassan Nasrallah, is without doubt Lebanon’s most powerful warlord. He makes and breaks governments, he has the control of a television station, and great wealth is available to him. But Nasrallah, born in 1960, had risen out of crushing poverty. He was born and raised in Karantina, Beirut’s most wretched slum. His father was a peddler of fruits and vegetables. He knows no foreign languages. He only spent a very brief period of time in the seminaries of Najaf. In the Lebanon of old, he would have been among the marginal and the despised. Holy warfare—and velayat-e faqih—has been good to him. His party has Iranian subsidies and it has the run of Beirut. It has come to “live off the land,” through racketeering, drug trafficking, and money laundering.
Of late, Hezbollah has thrown caution to the wind. It has entered the war in Syria between the Alawite dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad and the Sunni rebellion. Moreover, it now makes no secret of its role in that sectarian war. Hitherto, it had been silent and coy about its fighters killed in Syria. Their burials were discreet affairs, the announcements of their deaths said that they fell while performing “jihadist duty.”
But on April 30, after a journey that Nasrallah made to Iran, and a meeting with its Supreme Leader, the Hezbollah leader owned up to the role of his militia in that war. He warned the Syrian rebels that they cannot topple the Bashar regime, that Syria had friends in the world who would not let it fall into the hands of Western and Sunni Arab, powers. Gone was the need for concealment, Nasrallah was ready to risk an irreparable breach with the Sunnis in his own country.
A battle for the town of Qusayr, in the hinterland of the city of Homs, close to the Lebanese border, brought Hezbollah full-force into the Syrian war. In this war that keeps no secrets—our first YouTube war—the sectarian hatred could not be concealed. In video postings, Nasrallah and his soldiers are Hezb al-Shaytan, the Party of Satan, and Nasrallah an enemy of God and a servant of the dreaded Persians. And in the “social media,” on Facebook, there are postings of the Hezbollah fighters who fell in battle, their bereaved parents professing pride in the martyrdom of their loved ones.
The fallen are overwhelmingly young, from quaint villages that I knew in my boyhood. Back then they would have been simple boys trying to find their way in the world. Now they are being sanctified and exalted. Hezbollah has given them a mission, and the way to catastrophe.
* This article was originally published by Defining Ideas, an online journal of the Hoover Institute and can be found here.
Syria fighting rages, more chemical
By Erika Solomon/Daily Star
BEIRUT: Heavy fighting raged around the strategic Syrian border town of Qusair and the capital Damascus on Monday and further reports surfaced of chemical weapons attacks by President Bashar al-Assad's forces on rebel areas. The Syrian military pounded eastern suburbs of Damascus with air strikes and artillery and loud explosions echoed around al-Nabak, 80 km (50 miles) north of the capital, where fighting has cut the highway running north to the central city of Homs, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said. Government offensives in recent weeks are widely seen as a campaign to strengthen Assad's negotiating position before a proposed international peace conference sponsored by the United States and Russia and planned for next month.
Opposition activists said Syrian troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters were pressing a sustained assault on Qusair, a town long used by insurgents as a way station for arms and other supplies from Lebanon.
For Assad, Qusair is a crucial link between Damascus and loyalist strongholds on the Mediterranean coast. Recapturing the town, in central Homs province, could also sever connections between rebel-held areas in the north and south of Syria. Each side gave conflicting accounts of the fighting. The Homs branch of the National Defence Forces, formed of pro-Assad militiamen, said on its Facebook page that government forces had now divided Qusair into four sectors and had made major gains in all but the one that includes the town centre. "All of the mercenaries' supply routes were cut off completely," it said, referring to the rebels.
Islamist rebel groups, including the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham, said they had sent reinforcements to Qusair. But one opposition activist said these were stuck on the outskirts and had yet to link up with the town's defenders.
"So far they are just fighting and dying, their assault hasn't resulted in much yet, unfortunately," the activist said.
Rebels posted a video of fighters in what they said was central Qusair. "We will keep fighting to the last man here who can say 'there is no god but God'," one insurgent said.
Hezbollah's deepening involvement in Qusair has raised the prospect of renewed civil war in neighbouring Lebanon, where two rockets hit the Shi'ite Muslim movement's stronghold in south Beirut on Sunday and one was fired from south Lebanon towards Israel. The rockets struck hours after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised that his anti-Israel guerrillas, fighting alongside Assad's forces, would win whatever the cost. A Lebanese security source said another 107mm rocket, which did not go off, had been aimed at Beirut airport. The launch sites were near Aitat, in the hills just south of the capital. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced "deep concern" at Hezbollah's admitted combat role and the risk that the Syrian conflict will spill into Lebanon and other neighbouring states. The U.S.-Russian initiative so far appears only to have intensified the violence, especially around Qusair and Damascus. In Harasta, an eastern Damascus suburb largely under rebel control, dozens of people were afflicted by respiratory difficulties after an apparent overnight chemical attack, according to opposition sources. Video showed victims lying on the floor of a room, breathing from oxygen masks.
The sides in the conflict, now in its third year, have accused each other of using chemical weapons. France's Le Monde newspaper published first-hand accounts on Monday of apparent chemical attacks by Assad's forces in April. The newspaper said one of its photographers had suffered blurred vision and breathing problems for four days after an attack on April 13 on the Jobar front, in central Damascus. Another video from Harasta overnight showed at least two fighters being put into a van, their eyes watering and struggling to breathe while medics put tubes into their throats.
It was not possible to verify the videos independently.
Syria, which is not a member of the anti-chemical weapons convention, is believed to have one of the world's last remaining stockpiles of undeclared chemical arms.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Brussels there was "increasingly strong evidence of localised use of chemical weapons" in Syria and said Paris would consult its partners on what action ought to be taken.
He was in the Belgian capital for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers who discussed calls from Britain and France to ease an EU embargo on arming Syrian rebels.
All EU sanctions on Syria could collapse unless the 27-nation bloc agrees on the fate of the arms embargo before it expires on Saturday, but several EU members oppose any change. British Foreign Secretary William Hague signalled that his country was ready to see EU sanctions lapse rather than retreat from his demand to expand support for rebels.
Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, whose country provides U.N. observers posted between Syrian and Israeli forces on the Golan Heights, opposed any arming of rebels, saying the EU should remain a "peace community". The U.S.-Russian initiative provides the first slim hope in almost a year for a diplomatic end to a conflict that has cost more than 80,000 lives and caused a refugee exodus that the U.N. refugee agency expects to top 3.5 million by the end of 2013. China, which along with Russia, has three times blocked U.N. Security Council action on Syria, said on Monday it would join the proposed talks and would push all concerned towards peace.
Damascus has indicated it will take part in the talks, but the fractured opposition, which has previously required Assad's exit to be guaranteed before any negotiations, has yet to lay out its position and remains mired in internal quarrels. The opposition crisis deepened on Monday when liberals were offered only token representation, undermining international efforts to lend the Islamist-dominated alliance greater support.
To the dismay of envoys of Western and Arab nations monitoring four days of opposition talks in Istanbul, the 60-member Syrian National Coalition thwarted a deal to admit a liberal bloc headed by opposition campaigner Michel Kilo. The failure to broaden the coalition, in which a Qatari-backed bloc influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood is prominent, could sap Saudi support for the revolt.
The coalition's Western backers had wanted more seats for liberals, an idea backed by Saudi Arabia, which had been uneasy about Qatar's rising influence, coalition insiders said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were due to meet in Paris later on Monday to discuss the conference they want to hold in Geneva in June.
Wave of bombings in Iraqi capital kill
at least 66
May 27, 2013/Daily Star /BAGHDAD: A wave of car bombings tore through mostly Shiite Muslim neighborhoods of the Baghdad area starting Monday afternoon, leaving at least 66 dead in the latest outburst of an unusually intense wave of bloodshed roiling Iraq. The blasts are the latest indication that Iraq's security is rapidly deteriorating as sectarian tensions exacerbated by months of Sunni-led anti-government protests and the war in neighboring Syria are on the rise. Iraq has been hit by a wave of bloodshed that has killed more than 350 people in the past two weeks alone.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's bloodshed, but the attacks bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida's Iraqi arm. The group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq, frequently uses car bombs and coordinated blasts in an effort to undermine Iraqis' confidence in the Shiite-led government.
The day's deadliest attack happened when two bombs exploded in the eastern Habibiya neighborhood, which is near the sprawling Shiite district of Sadr City. That attack killed 12 killed and wounded 35, according to police.
Twin blasts also struck an open-air market in the predominantly Shiite al-Maalif area, killing six and wounding 12 others, two police officers said.
Another car bomb exploded in the busy commercial Sadoun Street in central Baghdad. It killed five civilians and wounded 14 others, two other police officers said. Among the wounded were four policemen who were in a nearby checkpoint. The street is one of the major hubs in the capital for clinics, pharmacies and shops. Firefighters were seen struggling to extinguish the flames from the debris of the car bomb as police sealed off the area.
Several shops were partially damaged or burned. Elsewhere, police said a car bomb went off in the capital's eastern New Baghdad area as they were waiting for explosives experts to dismantle it, killing a civilian and wounding nine others. In the northern Sabi al-Boor neighborhood, police said eight civilians were killed and 26 wounded when another car bomb exploded in a market.
Meanwhile in the southwestern neighborhood of Bayaa, another car bomb explosion in a market killed six civilians and wounded 16. In northern Baghdad's Kazimiyah district, a car bomb blew up near a bus and taxi stop, killing four and wounding 11 others. And in Baghdad's central Sadria area, a car bomb went off in a market and killed three civilians and wounded 11.
In the eastern Jisr Diyala area, a car bomb killed 5 and wounded 12. And in the northern Shaab area, a car bomb killed four and wounded nine.
Car bombs also struck the eastern Baladiyat neighborhood, killing four and wounding 11, and the northern neighborhood of Hurriyah, leaving five dead and 14 wounded.
In Madain, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of central Baghdad, a car bomb killed three and wounded nine.
Medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
Although violence has decreased sharply in Iraq since the height of insurgency, militants are still capable to carry out lethal attacks nationwide.
The recent wave of bloodshed has raised tensions between the country's Sunni minority and Shiite-led government. The surge in violence has been reminiscent of the sectarian carnage that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007. Alarmed by a nationwide deterioration in the security situation, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered a reshuffle in senior military ranks.
Since Saturday, the government has launched a military operation in the country's western Anbar province to chase down fighters from al-Qaida in Iraq. The group has grown stronger thanks to the rising lawlessness on the Syrian-Iraq frontier and to cross-border cooperation with the Syrian militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front.
Jordan jails jihadists for trying to
go to Syria
May 27, 2013 /Daily Star/AMMAN: A Jordanian military tribunal on Monday jailed nine Muslim extremists who were planning to go to neighbouring Syria to fight for jihad, a court official said.
"Today, the state security court initially sentenced nine Salafist jihadist for five years' hard labour each. But it immediatly reduced the sentences for six of them to two-and-a-half years' hard labour," the official told AFP.
"The other three did not get reduced sentences because they are still on the run." Salafists espouse an austere form of Sunni Islam. The official said the army arrested the group in February. "The court found them guily of attempting to infiltrate Syria and carry out jihadist actions that would expose Jordan to the risk of aggression and acts of vengeance," the official added. Jordanian Salafist leader Mohammad Shalabi, better known as Abu Sayyaf, said there were currently more than 500 jihadists from the country in Syria. "Around 50 of those jihadists have been martyred in Syria so far," he told AFP. Jordan, which says it is hosting more than 500,000 refugees from Syria's civil war, has arrested dozens of jihadists as they tried to cross into the war-torn country. The government in Amman denies accusations from the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the kingdom has opened up its borders to jihadist fighters.