April 17/14


Bible Quotation for today/Thursday of the Holy Mysteries
Luke 22,1-23/: "Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present. Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, "The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ " He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves;
for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For April 17/14

Fighting in Syria has changed Hezbollah's tactics/AFP/ April 17/14

Don’t celebrate Assad’s victory too soon/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiyia/ April 17/14

The Ultimate Source of Islamic Hate for Infidels/By: Raymond Ibrahim/April 17/14

The ‘Radicalization’ of Western Muslims/By Raymond Ibrahim/April 17/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For April 17/14

Lebanese Related News

Berri Calls on the Parliament to Elect New President Next Wednesday

Suleiman Appeals for Election of New President, Says Vacuum is Unacceptable

Geagea Announces Presidential Program, Stresses Need to Control Proliferation of Arms

Syrian Air Raids Target Village on Outskirts of Arsal
Hale Meets Mufti Shaar: U.S. Welcomes Govt. Success with Security Plan in Tripoli, Bekaa
Detained Berlusconi Ally Transferred to al-Hayat Hospital

Crime Uncovered in Saadiyat, Body of Dead Woman Found in Zgharta

Ain el-Hilweh 'Tense' Amid Warning of Vengeance after Sheikh's Murder

Dangerous Felon Charged with Belonging to Terrorist Group

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Sarkis: From humble background to Baabda

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Thursday of the Holy Mysteries
By: Elias Bejjani*
The Maronite Catholic Church celebrates today, "The Thursday of the Holy Mysteries", (Khamies Al Asrar), which is also known as the "Washing Thursday "(Khamies Al Kesiel), the "Covenant Thursday", and the "Great & Holy Thursday". It is the holy day feast that falls on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His 12 Apostles as described in the gospel. It is the fifth day of the last Lenten Holy Week, that is followed by the, "Good Friday", "Saturday Of The Light (Sabet Al Nour) and "Easter Sunday".
Luke 22/1-30: "Now the feast of unleavened bread, which is called the Passover, drew near. The chief priests and the scribes sought how they might put him to death, for they feared the people. Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered with the twelve. He went away, and talked with the chief priests and captains about how he might deliver him to them. They were glad, and agreed to give him money. He consented, and sought an opportunity to deliver him to them in the absence of the multitude. The day of unleavened bread came, on which the Passover must be sacrificed. He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” They said to him, “Where do you want us to prepare?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him into the house which he enters. Tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ He will show you a large, furnished upper room. Make preparations there.” They went, found things as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. When the hour had come, he sat down with the twelve apostles. He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” He took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me.” Likewise, he took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it has been determined, but woe to that man through whom he is betrayed!” They began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. There arose also a contention among them, which of them was considered to be greatest. He said to them, “The kings of the nations lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so with you. But one who is the greater among you, let him become as the younger, and one who is governing, as one who serves. For who is greater, one who sits at the table, or one who serves? Isn’t it he who sits at the table? But I am in the midst of you as one who serves. But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries (Secrets-Sacraments) is the heart of the last Lenten holy week, in which the Maronite Catholic Church lives with reverence and devotion the Lord's Last Supper spirit and contemplation through prayers and deeply rooted religious rituals and traditions:
*The Patriarch prays over and blesses the chrism (Al-Myroun), as well as the oil of baptism and anointing that are to are distributed on all parishes and churches.
*During the mass that is held on this Holy Day, the priest washes the feet of twelve worshipers, mainly children (symbolizing the apostles numbers)
Jesus washed His disciples feet and commanded them to love each other and follow his example in serving each other. “So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13/12-16).
*Worshipers visit and pray in seven Churches. This ritual denotes to the completion of the Church's Seven sacraments (Secrets) : Priesthood sacrament, Eucharist sacrament, Holy Oil sacrament, Baptism sacrament, Confirmations sacrament, anointing sacrament and Service sacrament.
This tradition also denotes to the seven locations that Virgin Mary's went to look for Her Son, Jesus, after she learned about His arrest. The detention place, The Council of the Priests, twice the Pilate's headquarters, twice the Herod Headquarters, till She got to the Calvary.
Some Christian scholars believe that this tradition was originated in Rome where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as an act of penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.
*The Mass of the Lord's Supper is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. Worshipers used to kneel and pray the rosary in front of the Eucharist (Blessed Sacrament) all Thursday night. The Blessed Sacrament remains exposed all night, while worshipers are encouraged to stay in the church as much as they can praying, meditating upon the Mystery of Salvation, and participating in the “agony of Gethsemane” (Garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem where Jesus spent his night in prayer before His crucifixion on Good Friday.
*After the homily washing of feet the service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Eucharist (Sacrament) to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose.
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you".
Jesus ordained His disciples as priests of the New Testament when he said to them during the Last Supper: "But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Before Celebrating the Resurrection Day (Easter) worshipers live the "Paschal Mystery" through the Thursday Of the Sacraments, Good Friday and Saturday Of The Light (Sabet Al Nour).
Because He loves us and wants us to dwell in His Fathers' Eternal Heaven,  Jesus Christ for our sake willingly suffered all kinds of torture, pain, humiliation and died on the Cross to pave our way for repentance and salvation.
Let us pray on this Holy Day that we always remember Jesus' love and sacrifices and live our life in this context of genuine, faith, love, meekness and forgiveness.

Fighting in Syria has changed Hezbollah's tactics
AFP /Published: 04.17.14/Ynetnews,7340,L-4510728,00.html
As target of choice shifts from 'Zionist enemy' in Israel to 'Sunni extremists' in Syria, Hezbollah learns how to fight on a large scale.
Lebanon's Hezbollah movement is gaining new combat experience in Syria, shedding its guerrilla tactics to fight alongside an army, and shifting its narrative to explain the battle against "Sunni extremists".
Its forces, who used their homeground advantage and methods such as underground tunnels against Israel's army in Lebanon, are now the targets of unconventional warfare on unfamiliar terrain in Syria.
And the mothers of many of its fighters, who once sent their sons to battle the "Zionist enemy," now pray for them to be martyred fighting extremist Sunnis who make up part of Syria's opposition.
The engagement in Syria has given the Shiite group a chance to initiate new recruits, experts say.
"A new generation of Hezbollah fighters is getting 'blooded' in Syria," Andrew Exum, a former Lebanon desk officer at the US Defense Department, told AFP.
"I imagine they're getting very good at small unit tactics and battle drills against a live opposition."
Hezbollah is believed to have about 5,000 fighters in Syria at any given time, with thousands more preparing to deploy.
Their officials say so many men signed up last year that they are no longer actively recruiting for the Syria front.
Initial training for those who pass scrutiny of their religious credentials and background checks, is carried out in Lebanon, where courses last from 40 days to three months.
Additional training is provided in Iran for about two months, with a focus on heavy weaponry and preparing members for command positions.
Fighters who have battled both Israel and the rebels in Syria seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad describe them as very different experiences.
"When I fought against Israel in 2006, it was clear who the enemy was," said Abu Ali, a fighter in his 40s. "In Syria there are many enemies, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Al-Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army. "We know our land well and command it easily, but in Syria the terrain is not as familiar to us, and there is a lot of variety: desert, mountains, valleys."
Syria's conflict, wrote former US defense intelligence official Jeffrey White this January, is giving Hezbollah "valuable knowledge of irregular warfare and actual combat experience".
"Hezbollah is conducting operations, including offensive ones, and not just fighting tactical battles," he wrote in a Combating Terrorism Centre report.
"This is warfare of a different kind... involving larger formations, longer periods of time, in more complex maneuvers."
Hezbollah's engagement in Syria has also seen it take on a significant role training Syrian forces, who its members say are woefully unprepared. Hezbollah fighter Abu Hussein describes the army opening fire on its Lebanese allies accidentally more than once.
"They have no experience in urban warfare or how to deal with a guerrilla force, so we lead the way in battle and have trained them on how to conduct themselves and use certain weapons," he said.
That experience, as well as the chance to introduce new fighters to combat, is "valuable" for the group, an April report by the Institute for the Study of War said.
"Hezbollah now has a cadre of fighters that has experience conducting offensive operations in urban environment.
"Hezbollah units have also gained experience coordinating with allied forces in combat, as well as logistical sustainment over longer periods."
Shift in narrative
But the conflict has not been without costs for Hezbollah, which has lost about 300 fighters in Syria.
Experts say not all the group's experience in Syria, where it is allied with the better-equipped party and on the offensive, will be relevant to any new defensive conflict with Israel.
And the group's intervention has made it the target of an unprecedented wave of attacks by extremist Sunni groups against its Lebanon strongholds.
Hezbollah has also been forced to shift its narrative away from a traditional singular focus on Israel. In multiple speeches, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has said the group is fighting extremists in Syria to prevent them entering Lebanon. He has also worked to tie the group's old enemy Israel to its new one, referring to the rebels as an "American-Israeli-takfiri project," using a term for Sunni extremists.
For many Hezbollah fighters, the battle is cast as a way to protect Shiite holy sites in Syria and their sect more broadly, according to Philip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland who focuses on the movement. "The conflict is being presented as a defensive jihad for Shiite shrines combined with an undercurrent regarding the existence of the sect in the region," he told AFP.
The narrative and the group's involvement has stirred sectarian tension between Lebanon's Shiites and Sunni residents who back Syria's uprising. But among the Hezbollah faithful, there is little sign supporters are losing patience with the intervention. In one Lebanese village, the yellow flags of Hezbollah flapped overhead as a mother received condolences on the death of her son in Syria.
Her three other sons are still across the border fighting.

Berri Calls on the Parliament to Elect New President Next Wednesday
Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri called on Wednesday for a parliamentary session to elect a new president on April 23.The session is scheduled to be held at 12:00 pm. Berri has said that a candidate should receive a two-thirds of votes to win in the first round of elections and half-plus-one or 65 votes of the 128-member parliament to win in the second round. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends on May 25. But the Constitutional deadline for parliament to start convening to elect a new head of state started on March 25. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who had repeatedly called on the speaker to invite for a session to avoid vacuum, received a phone call from Berri informing him about his decision. A statement said that Berri and al-Rahi discussed the presidential elections and the latest developments in Lebanon. Under the 1943 power-sharing agreement, the president should be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. Only Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, a Maronite Christian, has officially announced his candidacy.

Suleiman Appeals for Election of New President, Says Vacuum is Unacceptable

Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman on Wednesday called on all parties to guarantee the appropriate atmosphere to avoid vacuum as parliament is expected to convene next week to elect a new head of state. During a cabinet session held at Baabda Palace, Suleiman said: “Vacuum is unacceptable. Laws haven't been put in place so that we fall in vacuum.” As the cabinet convened, Speaker Nabih Berri invited lawmakers for a session next Wednesday to elect a new president to succeed Suleiman, whose six-year term ends on May 25. On the recent protests held by the Syndicate Coordination Committee over the pay hike, Suleiman said: “The wage scale is a right and all officials and syndicates should protect that right.” He lamented however that “amendments introduced to it wore it out and confused it.”
The SCC has been staging sit-ins and strikes to pressure lawmakers into approving the pay hike. But parliament failed to do so and instead formed a committee to study it for 15 days.
The president told Prime Minister Tammam Salam and the cabinet ministers that he was satisfied with the security plan implemented in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa Valley.
He also urged all agencies to coordinate to open a road for the remote border village of al-Tufail. He called for security measures to protect holy sites during Easter. The cabinet appointed Fatima Sayegh Owaidat the new head of the Civil Service Council and granted Rafik Hariri University Hospital a loan worth LL20 billion.

Syrian Air Raids Target Village on Outskirts of Arsal
Naharnet /Syrian warplanes staged two raids on al-Maslaha village on the outskirts of the eastern border town of Arsal, the state-run National News Agency reported on Wednesday. Al-Mayadeen Network reported that the area was bombarded with several rockets. Arsal, near the border with Syria, is a Sunni town where residents support the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad's forces. The town also hosts tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Ever since the Syrian revolt erupted in March 2011, Arsal has become a key conduit for refugees and wounded people fleeing strife-torn Syria.

Hale Meets Mufti Shaar: U.S. Welcomes Govt. Success with Security Plan in Tripoli, Bekaa
Naharnet/U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale praised on Wednesday the government for the implementation of the security plan in the northern city of Tripoli and the eastern Bekaa region.
He said: “The United States welcomes the government’s success with the plan and Washington stands with the government, the security forces, and the people as they work towards peace.”
He made his remarks during a meeting with Tripoli and the North Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar in the northern city. “Being here reminds me of the great respect I have for the people of Tripoli who, like the Mufti, work hard every day to strengthen rule of law, as well as counter violence and terrorism,” said the ambassador. “I have great respect for the moderate and peaceful citizens of Tripoli who, for too long, have suffered violence, terrorism, neglect, and economic challenges,” he added. “This is why my country has given more than $1 billion in support to the army and Internal Security Forces, and why we will continue to support those seeking to ensure peace, stability, and prosperity,” noted Hale. “When there is political will, the security services are demonstrating they have the means to bring stability,” he continued. “I would like to especially thank the soldiers and officers on the ground here, and note their courage and dedication to this cause,” he stressed.
“I have been away from Tripoli for too long. It is good to be back. I look forward to future visits to meet again,” Hale said. The U.S. ambassador later held talks on latest developments with Marada Movement leader MP Suleiman Franjieh at his Bnachii residence. The security plan was first implemented in Tripoli in an attempt to put an end to the clashes that frequently erupt between the city's rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. The army and security forces have so far arrested a number of suspects and their efforts are ongoing to detain more. The plan was then implemented in the Bekaa region, with the security forces cracking down on gunmen, car theft gangs, and other outlaws.

Geagea Announces Presidential Program, Stresses Need to Control Proliferation of Arms
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea announced on Wednesday his presidential program that focused on restoring the authority of the state against the proliferation of weapons during a time of regional unrest. He declared: “No country in the world would accept that its authority be subject to armed groups that exist outside of the state.”“There will be no compromise in dealing with the spread of arms,” he stressed. “The position of the presidency still retains important privileges despite the adoption of the Taef Accord” in 1989, he continued, while blaming the 29-year period of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon for weakening the presidency. “The president is capable of playing a central role in directing political life in Lebanon towards the true national path,” Geagea said.
“A strong president is capable of implementing the constitution and serving national goals that achieve higher Lebanese national interests,” he continued. Lebanon is passing through one of the most dangerous stages in its history and the state can no longer tolerate that it be burdened by those obstructing its functioning, he added. “The Lebanese entity can no longer support any side that creates imbalance in the state and violates its principles and coexistence,” he stated. There should be a radical solution to this flaw in Lebanon, stressed the LF leader. “The greatest challenge I face in running for the presidency lies in implementing the constitution and laws in a manner that will restore the authority of the state,” Geagea declared. The presidency is the starting point for achieving these goals, he said.
“The current phase in Lebanon does not tolerate semi-solutions, semi-positions, and semi-presidents,” he added, noting that centrism has turned into a “lethal grey area that resulted in lack of clarity in stances.”“There is no room for centrism, which has only yielded compromises to accommodate the status quo,” he lamented. The main challenge lies in committing to the Taef Accord as a means to implement the constitution and achieve national balance, he continued. Moreover, he stressed the need to tackle the flaws that have emerged in the presidency, while calling for staging the parliamentary elections as soon as the presidential polls are over. “We seek a state that protects its people and imposes complete and balanced security at its institutions and throughout its territory,” he declared.
Geagea's presidential program called for introducing reform in the judiciary, saying: “There can be no state, economy, or security without a proper justice system.”“I will not be lenient in combating corruption among judges and I seek to expose them and hold them accountable for their actions,” he said. In addition, he called for introducing reform at state security institutions, which he said are still subject to the influence of Syrian hegemony despite the Syrian troop withdrawal in 2005. “The military and security institutions are the only remaining means to preserve Lebanon's security and stability,” he remarked.
Commenting on Lebanon's economy, Geagea pledged to develop Lebanon's ports and airport, noting that it is no longer acceptable during the age of globalization for the country to only have one functioning airport. The economy can also be revitalized through the tourism sector, which the LF chief noted was only contributing to 18 percent of the country's income.
Furthermore, he vowed to take a transparent approach in exploiting Lebanon's oil and gas wealth, stressing that he will protect it from corruption. Revitalizing the economy also requires reform, cutting down on unemployment, reducing the public debt, and limiting youth immigration, he stated. His program also tackled the condition at border-crossings, calling for putting an end to the disorganization at air, land, and water crossings. He pledged to tackle corruption at these outlets “without any civil, military, and religious exceptions even if new laws have to be put in place to this end.”
Geagea also called for annulling the death penalty, improving the situation at Lebanese prisons, revising all laws that concern women's rights, and applying a healthcare program that includes all the Lebanese people.Commenting on regional developments, he reiterated the need for Lebanon to commit to the Baabda Declaration, prevent the Syrian crisis from spreading to Lebanon, and collaborate with Arab countries to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On this note, he expressed his rejection of the naturalization of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, while stressing that Syrian refugees should also be allowed to return to their homeland once the conflict is resolved. Geagea also voiced his support for the Arab Spring, “despite some of its shortcomings and the emergence of extremism.” “I strongly condemn fundamentalism and will work on combating it,” he said. Moreover, he said that should he be elected president, he will see that the Lebanese state commits to international resolutions and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. “The state alone is responsible for protecting Lebanon and the Lebanese people and confronting various Israeli assaults,” stressed the LF leader, while demanding that the border with Syria be demarcated. Following the announcement of Geagea's presidential program, LF MPs Antoine Zahra and Jospeh Maalouf visited President Michel Suleiman to hand him a copy of the program, reported LBCI television. Earlier, an LF parliamentary delegation headed to Bkirki for talks with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.MP Sethrida Geagea confirmed after handing the patriarch a copy of the program that the LF bloc will take part in the April 23 parliamentary session to elect a new president.

Detained Berlusconi Ally Transferred to al-Hayat Hospital
Naharnet/An Italian ex-senator and ally of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who was arrested in Lebanon at the weekend was hospitalized near Beirut on Wednesday, his lawyer said. Marcello Dell'Utri "was transferred to the al-Hayat Hospital on the prosecutor's orders because he suffers from heart problems," lawyer Nasser al-Khalil said. The 72-year-old, who is on the run over charges of mafia ties, was being guarded by police at the hospital in Shiyyah on Beirut's outskirts. A senior judicial official confirmed to Agence France Presse that Dell'Utri had been taken to hospital, and added that the Italian authorities had yet to seek his extradition. Rome's interior ministry said the former senator was arrested in Lebanon on Saturday, the day after the anti-mafia prosecutor's office said a warrant for him had been issued but that he was "unreachable." self had issued a statement in which he did not reveal where he was but said that he had "no intention" of escaping arrest and was undergoing medical checks.
Source/Agence France Presse

Ain el-Hilweh 'Tense' Amid Warning of Vengeance after Sheikh's Murder
Naharnet/Palestinian officials have warned that the refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh could witness assassinations to avenge the murder of the head of the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects. A political official was quoted by al-Akhbar daily as saying on Wednesday that “the situation in Ain el-Hilweh is tense.” The attack on Sheikh Orsan Suleiman last week “was a message to all of us,” the official, who was not identified, said. “The man did not have any dispute with anyone,” he added. Suleiman was shot in Ain el-Hilweh last Wednesday as he was leaving a memorial service for an aid worker who died during clashes at the Mieh Mieh refugee camp near the southern city of Sidon.  He succumbed to his injuries at Hammoud hospital on Tuesday and was laid to rest at Ain el-Hilweh. Palestinian security officials also warned that “the next stage could witness assassinations in response to the attack on Arsan.”“The killer is known,” the officials said.

Jordan Destroys 'Camouflaged' Vehicles Crossing from Syria
Naharnet /Jordanian warplanes destroyed "camouflaged" vehicles on Wednesday as they tried to cross into the kingdom from war-ravaged Syria, in the first such strikes since the conflict erupted three years ago. A Syrian military source, cited by state television in Damascus, said the vehicles struck did not belong to Syria's armed forces, while Amman said an initial probe showed they were being used by arms dealers. Damascus has accused Amman of backing the uprising against President Bashar Assad by training and arming rebels, a charge denied by Jordan, which says it has tightened border controls and jailed dozens trying to cross illegally. Wednesday's air strikes were the first time Jordan has used fighter jets against such infiltrations. "Royal air force jets fighters today at 10:30 am (0730 GMT) destroyed a number of vehicles that attempted to cross into Jordan from Syria," the Jordanian army said.
"The camouflaged vehicles tried to enter from an area with rugged terrain," it said in a statement. "The fighter jets fired warning shots, but they were ignored, prompting them to destroy the vehicles. The army will not tolerate such actions." A military official told AFP in Amman that "Three wheeled vehicles tried to enter the kingdom" near Ruwaished in northern Jordan.
In Damascus, a military source said the vehicles did not belong to the Syrian army. "No military or armored vehicles belonging to the Syrian army moved towards the Jordanian border, and so what was targeted by the Jordanian air force does not belong to the Syrian army," it said. Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani said the vehicles apparently belonged to arms traders. "Initial probe shows that those who were inside the vehicles were infiltrators who tried to smuggle weapons and other things," Momani, who is also government spokesman, told AFP. "They were all killed," he said without specifying their number. Amman says arms smuggling across the border with Syria has risen by 300 percent in the past year. "They were arms smugglers, who also seek to smuggle drugs sometimes," a military official said. Jordan says it has foiled hundreds of trafficking attempts, while the military state security court is examining several related cases.
Border guards have in past clashed with and arrested several people as they tried to cross from Syria into the kingdom. "By using the air force, Jordan wants to send a message to terrorists and groups that seek to exploit the Syrian situation that it will respond in a very tough way against any threat to national security,” said analyst Oraib Rantawi, head of Amman's Al-Quds Center for Political Studies.
"Jordan also wants to ... respond to accusations that Amman is involved in facilitating the entry of jihadists into Syria who are considered a threat to the kingdom itself."The country has struggled to cope with hosting more than 500,000 Syrian refugees uprooted by the conflict. It has repeatedly expressed fears that the bloodshed could spread and concern over the regional impact of anti-Assad jihadist fighters.
The United States also fears a possible spillover of violence to Syria's southern neighbor Jordan, a key U.S. ally and one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.
King Abdullah II has vowed to protect Jordan from the Syrian war, while the United States kept F-16 fighters and Patriot missile interceptors in the kingdom after joint military exercises last year.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor.
Source/Agence France Presse


Don’t celebrate Assad’s victory too soon
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiyia
It’s true that if Iran hadn’t taken a strategic decision to save Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the latter would not have even lasted until the New Year of 2013. If Iran hadn’t employed its regional militias, such as Hezbollah, Assad would not still be in his palace. This explains the joy and boasts of Iranian military leaders, including the attitude of the air force commander who bragged that Iran is the one that decided to save Assad’s regime. This is what made Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah also repeat similar statements during an interview with Lebanese daily al-Safir. Nasrallah said it was not a mistake to intervene in Syria, but it was a mistake to intervene late.
It seems this is what ignited tension between Syria and its allies. The Iranian and Hezbollah’s statements, however true they may be, are embarrassing Assad and his army. Bouthiana Shaaban, the Syrian presidential advisor, was quoted as saying that victory is thanks to Assad’s army - not to Iran or Hezbollah. It was later revealed that the Syrian regime imposed restrictions on Iranian television stations and other stations isupporting Iran so as to prevent them from attributing victories to the parties other than the Syrian government. Some went as far as saying that in order for the Syrian regime to intimidate them and deter them, it planned the murder of journalists from Hezbollah’s al-Manar channel who went to cover events in Maaloula without permission from the Syrian government.
But the question is not about who is behind the victory. The question is: has the Assad regime really won? The president claims his government has won, Nasrallah has repeated it and the Iranian military command said it was the Islamic Republic’s decision!
The U.S. State Department issued a confusing statement as usual. It said it doesn’t agree with what Assad said and that it doesn’t want to make a prediction regarding the outcome of the war. No one knows what this means.
No reason to celebrate
Despite distributing candy and celebrating victory in Damascus, as well as victory celebrations in Tehran, Moscow and Hezbollah’s suburb of Lebanon, I would say that Assad rejoices his victory in the civil war in Syria as much as the U.S. rejoices its victory in Afghanistan. These are temporary victories and their ends will be different because facts on the ground are more important than the results of day-to-day battles.
I would say that Assad rejoices his victory in the civil war in Syria as much as the U.S. rejoices its victory in Afghanistan
First of all, Assad’s forces and his allies’ militias only control one third of Syria today, and they don’t even fully control this one third. If they resume the war in the rest of the country, they would be exhausted. This might also consume a lot of time - time that foreign forces in support of Assad, like Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah, Iraqi factions and other militias which went to Syria upon Iranian orders, cannot tolerate. It’s a dangerous war of attrition for all participants, except for al-Qaeda groups which arrived in the country on a one-way ticket as they are willing to fight to death.
Second of all, the reality on the ground has changed and the relationship between the regime and the people has been broken. The Syrian army, which remained under Assad’s command, shrank as a result of defections and losses over the past three years. Also, Assad and his army, security forces and allies represent a small sectarian minority controlling a big majority – 70 percent of the country are Sunnis. The Syrian citizen, due to blind and collective murder, no longer views Baathist concepts as synonymous with national aims. This hostility will extend the war against the regime until the latter falls. I think the exhausted regime will fall before that as it’s become a burden and it will remain dependent on the Iranian regime and its militias.
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 16, 2014.

Ukraine Troops Disarm before Pro-Russians, Armored Vehicles with Russian Flag Seen in Restive East

Naharnet/Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces flexed their military muscles in the restive east of the country on Wednesday, a day ahead of high-level diplomatic talks on the escalating crisis.
Ukraine's defense ministry said that pro-Russian militants had seized six armored vehicles dispatched by Kiev to the eastern town of Kramatorsk to quell a separatist insurgency.
The ministry said the column had been initially blocked in Kramatorsk by local residents and then "seized by extremists". It added that the column had since been moved by the militants to the flashpoint eastern city of Slavyansk. An Agence France Presse reporter on the ground said a column of Ukrainian troops began disabling their guns on the demands of a crowd of pro-Russian activists that had surrounded their armored vehicles in the restive east. The soldiers in the town of Kramatorsk handed over the firing mechanisms of their rifles to a pro-Moscow protest leader in return for a promise that they would be allowed to leave in their vehicles. Earlier on Wednesday, armored vehicles from the rival sides appeared on the streets of two neighboring towns after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Kiev's decision to send in troops to put down a separatist uprising in its industrial heartland had dragged the country to the brink of civil war. NATO said it planned to deploy more forces in eastern Ukraine in the face of the crisis, while Germany warned of more bloodshed if the four-way talks in Geneva on Thursday fail.
An Agence France Presse reporter in the flashpoint town of Slavyansk saw at least six APCs and light tanks, some flying Russian flags, parked in the city center with dozens of unidentified armed men in camouflage stationed around them. Russian media said Ukrainian troops in the vehicles had switched sides to join the separatists but the Ukrainian army told AFP that it had no reports that any of its equipment had been seized. An AFP reporter in the nearby town of Kramatorsk also said Ukrainian forces had deployed a column of 14 armored vehicles, although these were being blocked by a crowd of pro-Russian protesters.
Military jets could be seen flying low over both towns in an additional show of strength. As the situation on the ground appeared to escalate, the authorities in Kiev ratcheted up the verbal attack on Russia, with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accusing Moscow of trying to build "a new Berlin wall".Yatsenyuk demanded Moscow halt its alleged support for the separatists but said Kiev remained committed to Thursday's crunch talks between the top diplomats of Russia, the European Union, the United States and Ukraine.
"There is only one directive for the Ukrainian foreign ministry -- the Russian government has to immediately withdraw its commando groups, condemn the terrorists and demand they leave the installations," he said. Ukraine's acting Defense Minister Mykhailo Koval on Wednesday headed out to the east to check on the progress of Kiev's seemingly stalled bid to oust the separatists. Ukraine's military also pledged a firm response after two serviceman were allegedly taken hostage by pro-Russian forces in the Lugansk region. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said in a statement that Russian commanders in the east had issued pro-Kremlin militants with "shoot-to-kill" orders. Elsewhere, pro-Moscow gunmen stormed the mayor's office in the regional capital of Donetsk, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
On Tuesday, authorities in Kiev launched what they called an "anti-terrorist operation", sending tanks towards Slavyansk -- which remains effectively under the control of pro-Russian gunmen -- in a high-risk strategy sharply condemned by the Kremlin but supported in Washington. The 20 tanks and armored personnel carriers sent to Slavyansk were the most forceful response yet by the Western-backed government in Kiev to the pro-Kremlin militants' occupation of state buildings in nearly 10 cities across Ukraine's rust belt.
But the move drew a sharp response from Putin in a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "The Russian president remarked that the sharp escalation of the conflict has placed the country, in effect, on the verge of civil war," the Kremlin said in a statement. But both Putin and Merkel "emphasized the importance" of Thursday's Geneva talks. The Kremlin described the actions of the Ukrainian army in the east as an "anti-constitutional course to use force against peaceful protest actions".
Kiev's response to the insurgency also prompted Putin to tell U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that Moscow "expects clear condemnation from the United Nations and the international community of the anti-constitutional actions" by Ukraine. Ban in turn "expressed his alarm about the highly volatile situation in eastern Ukraine" and told the Russian leader that everyone involved needed to "work to de-escalate the situation", his office said. But the White House described Ukraine's military operation as a "measured" response to a lawless insurgency that had put the government in an "untenable" situation. Washington also said it was coordinating with its European allies to slap more sanctions on Russia over the crisis.
"Our national security team is in active discussions about the next round of sanctions," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. She added however that new measures were unlikely before the Geneva talks. Kiev's untested interim leaders -- who took power in February after four months of pro-European protests ousted Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych -- have struggled to meet the high-stakes challenge presented by the coordinated series of raids that began in the industrial hubs of Donetsk and Lugansk and have since spread to nearby coal mining towns and villages. The breakaway move could potentially see the vast nation of 46 million people break up along its historic Russian-Ukrainian cultural divide. Moscow last month annexed the largely Russified region of Crimea after deploying military forces there and backing a hasty local referendum calling for the Black Sea peninsula to be absorbed into the Russian Federation. But a forceful military response by Kiev could prompt a devastating counterstrike by Russian troops who are waiting to act on Putin's vow to "protect" Russian-speakers in the neighboring state. Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov told an agitated session of parliament on Tuesday that the country was facing an eastern enemy rather than domestic discontent. "They want to set fire not only to the Donetsk region but to the entire south and east -- from Kharkiv to the Odessa region," he said. Source/Agence France Presse

Ukrainian armed operation in the East founders with troop defections to pro-Russian militias
DEBKAfile Special Report April 16, 2014/The US and Russia, while trading the blame for pushing Ukraine to the brink of civil war, are nonetheless tugging at the leashes of the two players in the field, each jockeying for advantage in the quadrilateral meeting of senior US, Russian, European, Ukrainian and UN officials scheduled to take place in Geneva Thursday, April 17, debkafile's military and intelligence sources report. The five or six armored personnel carriers which rolled in the embattled town of Slavyanks with Russian flags Wednesday, April 16, turned out to be part of the Ukrainian military operation whose crews instead of cracking down on the pro-Russian militias joined them. According to some Western intelligence sources, a large number of regular Russian soldiers have crossed the border into Ukraine and they too are boosting the pro-Russian militias’ ranks. The Kiev government’s “anti-terror” operation in East Ukraine is accordingly breaking up. debkafile reported earlier Wednesday:
Expectations of fruitful results from the meeting are low. But the fact that all the parties are talking offers Ukraine its last hope of escaping a bloody civil war. To this end, too, late-night phone calls are being exchanged among Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel.
So far no real shots, aside from a few warning rounds - have been fired between the Ukrainian “anti-terror” force dispatched to East Ukraine on Tuesday April 16 and pro-Russian separatist activists. But it is obvious to all sides that the situation is charged enough for an unforeseen spark to easily send the conflict spinning out of control.
The east Ukrainian separatists have been formed into pro-Russian militias with clandestine aid from Moscow in money and logistical support, such as material for checkpoints, though not weapons. They have seized police and government buildings in up to a dozen towns, centering on the Donetsk region near the Russian border.
This development brought US CIA chief John Brennan on a secret visit to Kiev over the April 12-13 weekend. He arranged for the Kiev government to mount a counter-operation. They put together an armed contingent made up of Ukrainian internal security SBU special forces and the Alpha Force, which is the special operations unit of the Ukrainian secret service-SZRU, as well as paratroops and police units. General Vasily Krutov was given command of the contingent.
By his operation, Kiev aimed to crack down on the pro-Russian militias and so demonstrate its authority over the country and not just the center of the capital Kiev. However the multiple components of this contingent betrayed the fact that neither the Ukrainian army nor all parts of the intelligence services respect and are willing to serve the provisional government.
Backed by promised funds and diplomatic cover from President Obama relayed by John Brennan, this motley contingent went into action Tuesday in two of the trouble spots - Slavyansk and Kramatorsk near Donetsk. But debkafile's military sources report that notwithstanding the claims of 4-11 dead and dramatic footage taken in both places of exchanges of fire, flying jets and advancing tanks, nothing really changed on the ground. The number of casualties was not confirmed, or which side they belonged to, and the tanks turned tail after heated debate with their pro-Russian brothers.
Neither was there any confirmed crackdown or seizure of arms in Slavyansk from the defiant pro-Russian militias and the recovery of the air base at Kramatorsk remains in doubt. The US attached importance to this air field as the key to a Russian troop landing in eastern Ukraine if this was decided in Moscow.
Indeed, Wednesday morning, April 16, the Ukrainian special units found themselves besieged in both Slavyansk and Kramatorsk by pro-Russian militias. When Gen. Krutov asked to speak with their leaders, the militiamen laughed and knocked off his cap before sending him running to his car.
It is now up to Washington and Moscow, which have been handling their allies in Ukraine by remote control, to decide on further steps, taking into consideration that they may push the situation over the edge into civil war. Their alternative is to leave the impasse on the ground in situ for the Geneva talks Thursday to try and resolve.
In the last resort, that decision is up to Obama and Putin – on the assumption that their proxies remain obedient.

The ‘Radicalization’ of Western Muslims
By Raymond Ibrahim
A new Danish statistical study finds that “Muslims [are] 218 percent more criminal in second generation than first.” While some of these crimes are clearly related to Islam—such as attacks on Muslim apostates to Christianity—others, such as rampant theft of non-Muslims, would appear banal, until one realizes that even robbery and plunder is justified by Islamic doctrine—as one UK Muslim cleric once clearly said. The interesting question here is why are second generation Muslims, who are presumably more Westernized than their Muslim parents, also more “radical”? Lest one dismiss this phenomenon as a product of economics or some other “grievance” against European host nations, the fact is, even in America, where Muslims are much better assimilated than in Europe, they too are turning to “radicalism.”
For example, some time back, Attorney General Eric Holder said that “the threat [of terrorism] has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens—raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born.”
Around the same time, Sue Myrick, then a member of Congress, wrote a particularly candid letter on “radicalization” to President Obama:
For many years we lulled ourselves with the idea that radicalization was not happening inside the United Sates. We believed American Muslims were immune to radicalization because, unlike the European counterparts, they are socially and economically well-integrated into society. There had been warnings that these assumptions were false but we paid them no mind. Today there is no doubt that radicalization is taking place inside America. The strikingly accelerated rate of American Muslims arrested for involvement in terrorist activities since May 2009 makes this fact self-evident.
Myrick named several American Muslims as examples of those who, while “embodying the American dream, at least socio-economically,” were still “radicalized,” astutely adding, “The truth is that if grievances were the sole cause of terrorism, we would see daily acts by Americans who have lost their jobs and homes in this economic downturn.”
Quite so. Yet, though Myrick’s observations were limited to the domestic scene, they beg the following, more cosmic, question: If American Muslims, who enjoy Western benefits—including democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression—are still being radicalized, why then do we insist that the importation of these same Western benefits to the Muslim world will eliminate its even more indigenous or authentic form of “radicalization”?
After all, the mainstream position evoked by most politicians maintains that all U.S. sacrifices in the Muslim world (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) will pay off once Muslims discover how wonderful Western ways are, and happily slough off their “Islamist” veneer, which, as the theory goes, is a product of—you guessed it—a lack of democracy, liberty, prosperity, and freedom of expression.
Yet here are American and European Muslims, immersed in the bounties of the West, and still do they turn to violent jihad. Why think their counterparts, who are born and raised in the Muslim world, where Islam permeates every aspect of life, will respond differently?
In fact, far from eliminating “radicalization,” Western values can actually exacerbate Islamic tendencies—hence why second generation, “Westernized” Muslims are also becoming more “radicalized” than their parents. Some already known that Western concessions to Islam—in the guise of multiculturalism, “cultural sensitivity,” political correctness, and self-censorship—only bring out the worst of Islam’s “schoolyard bully.” Yet even some of the most prized aspects of Western civilization—personal freedom, rule of law, human dignity—when articulated through an Islamic framework, have the capacity to “radicalize” Muslims. Consider: the West’s commitment to the law as supreme arbitrator, for the Westernized Muslim becomes a commitment to establish and enforce Islamic law, Sharia; the West’s commitment to democracy, for the Westernized Muslim becomes a commitment to theocracy, including an anxious impulse to resurrect the caliphate; Western notions of human dignity and pride, when articulated through an Islamic paradigm (which sees only fellow Muslims as equals) induces rage when Muslims—Palestinians, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc.—are seen under Western, infidel dominion; Western notions of autonomy and personal freedom have even helped “Westernize” the notion of jihad into an individual duty, though it has traditionally been held by Sharia as a communal duty.
In short, a set of noble principles articulated through a foreign paradigm can lead to abominations. In this case, the better principles of Western civilization are being devoured, absorbed, and regurgitated into something equally potent, though from the other end of the spectrum. Put differently, just as a stress on human freedom, human dignity, and universal justice produces good humans, rearticulating these same concepts through an Islamic framework that qualifies them with the word “Muslim”—Muslim freedom, Muslim dignity, and Muslim justice—leads to what is being called “radicalization.”

The Ultimate Source of Islamic Hate for Infidels
By: Raymond Ibrahim
Who is ultimately responsible for the ongoing attacks on Christians and their churches throughout the Islamic world?
Focusing on one of the most obvious nations where Christians are regularly targeted—Egypt’s Coptic Christians—one finds that the “mob” is the most visible and obvious culprit. One Copt accused of some transgression against Muslim sensibilities—from having relations with a Muslim woman, to ruining a Muslim man’s shirt—is often enough to prompt Muslim mobs to destroy entire Christian villages and their churches. Recently, for example, after her cross identified Mary Sameh George as a Christian, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood mob attacked, beat, and slaughtered her.
However, a recent Arabic op-ed titled “Find the True Killer of Mary” attempts to look beyond the mob to identify the true persecutor of Christians in Egypt. According to the op-ed:
"Those who killed the young and vulnerable Mary Sameh George, for hanging a cross in her car, are not criminals, but rather wretches who follow those who legalized for them murder, lynching, dismemberment, and the stripping bare of young Christian girls—without every saying “kill.” [Islamic cleric] Yassir Burhami and his colleagues who announce their hate for Christians throughout satellite channels and in mosques—claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for God—they are the true killers who need to be tried and prosecuted… The slayers of Mary Sameh are simply a wretched mob, with the body of a bull but the brain of a worm. It’s not the puppets on the string who need punishing, but rather the mastermind who moves the puppets with his bloody fingers behind closed curtains that needs punishing." One fact certainly validates this Arabic op-ed’s assertions: the overwhelming majority of attacks on Christians in Egypt and other Muslim nations—including the slaughter of Mary Sameh George—occur on Friday, the one day of the week that Muslims congregate in mosques for communal prayers and to hear sermons.
The significance of this fact can easily be understood by analogy: what if Christians were especially and consistently violent to non-Christian minorities on Sunday—right after they got out of church? What would that say about what goes on in Christian churches? What does it say about what goes on in Muslim mosques?
The Arabic op-ed also does well to name Sheikh Yassir al-Burhami as one of those who “announce their hate for Christians throughout the satellite channels and in mosques, claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for God.” For example, Dr. Burhami—the face of Egypt’s Salafi movement—once issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, forbidding Muslim taxi- and bus-drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”
As for hating non-Muslim “infidels,” many Islamic clerics, especially Salafis, believe that the doctrine of “Loyalty and Enmity” (or wala’ wa bara’) commands Muslims never to befriend or be loyal to non-Muslims. Burhami himself appears on video asserting that if a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman (known in Islamic parlance as “People of the Book”)—even he must still hate his wife, because she is an infidel. When asked at a conference how Islam can allow a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman and yet expect him to hate her, Burhami expounded as follows:
"Where’s the objection? Do all men love their wives? How many married couples live together despite disagreements and problems? Huh? That being the case, he [Muslim husband] may love the way she [non-Muslim wife] looks, or love the way she raises the children, or love that she has money. This is why he’s discouraged from marrying among the People of the Book—because she has no [real] religion. He is ordered to make her hate her religion while continuing marriage/sexual relations with her. This is a very standard matter…. Of course he should tell her that he hates her religion. He must show her that he hates her because of her religion, and because she is an infidel."... Keep reading