August 04/14

Bible Quotation for today/When you need others
John 21/18: " Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don’t want to go.”

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on August 04/14

On both sides, terror and confusion/By: Micheal Coren/August 04/14

Is the Levant of pluralism heading into darkness/By: Nayla Tueni/Al Arabiya/August 04/14

Arabs, let us start fending for ourselves/By: Khaled Almaeena/Al Arabiya/August 04/14

Behind the scene efforts for a Gaza ceasefire/By: Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya/August 04/14

Israel's Gaza operation is a diplomatic turning point/By: Sever Plocker/Ynetnews/August 04/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 04/14

Lebanese Army Retakes Posts in Arsal, Says 10 Troops Killed as 'Humanitarian Truce' Reportedly Reached

Clashes between Lebanese army, Al-Nusra Front leave 10 soldiers, 11 insurgents dead

20 ISF Members Forced to Defect 'over Army, Hizbullah Practices in Arsal, Syria'
Lebanese Politicians: Dump your differences

Who is Imad Ahmad Jomaa?

Arsal attack premeditated: Kahwagi

Army vows to finish Arsal battle in ‘48 hours’
Army faces tough job to rid town of rebels

Outrage, accusations, sorrow after Arsal clashes

Some Arsalis flee, others remain

Arsal: Smuggler path, rebel hideout, Sunni island

Local chef offers Monaco taste of Lebanon

Regional turmoil necessitates closer cooperation

Hizbullah Says Arsal Attack Highlights 'Foreign-backed Threat Looming over Lebanon'

Amin Gemayel Urges U.N. Security Council Help in Stopping 'Foreign Assault' on Arsal

Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Says Solution in Arsal Political as Kabbara Blames 'Syrian-Iranian Conspiracy'

Jumblat: Hizbullah's Fighting in Syria Did Not Bring Terrorism to Lebanon

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 04/14

Israel declares 7-hour humanitarian cease-fire to take effect Monday in Gaza

IDF withdraws majority of troops from Gaza

Israeli troop exit from Gaza without achieving all goals bodes war of attrition

U.S. ‘appalled’ by Israeli strike on U.N. school

Ten dead in strike on Gaza school as Israel renews shelling

IDF withdraws majority of troops from Gaza

ISIS inflicts easy defeats on Kurdish forces

Qatar invests in the West, and funds Hamas

The ISIS–Iraq Military Dance

King Abdullah and the International Community’s Silence

Harsh Words and the Path to Peace

Iraq: Maliki accused of threatening Shi’a alliance break-up

Libyan factions battle over airport, more than 20 killed

Saudi King Abdullah’s counter-terrorism comments praised

U.S. Condemns Terrorist Attack on Army, ISF in Arsal

 Freedom will ultimately prevail in the Holy Land of the Cedars
 By: Elias Bejjani/ 03 August/14/
  You thugs, thieves, and terrorists no matter how mighty you are currently, or how destructive or big your weapons’ caches are, or how many armed men are on your pay role.
 No matter what, because you will ultimately be defeated, humiliated and made to pay for all the atrocities you have been committing against each and every Lebanese since 1982.
 The Lebanese proverb: “If it had remained for others it would not have came to you”, envisages your definite end.
 Yes no one in Lebanon is bigger or mightier than the Lebanese holy cause.
 Your fate is not going in any way to be different from the fate of all those who are evil as prophet Isaiah states:
 (Isaiah 33/01 and 02): “Our enemies are doomed! They have robbed and betrayed, although no one has robbed them or betrayed them. But their time to rob and betray will end, and they themselves will become victims of robbery and treachery”.
 Be on alert and repent before it is too late.
 Be fully aware that our only and only weapon that no one can face is faith.
 Watch out because this weapon is going to defeat you no matter what.
 For our beloved martyrs we say: “rest in peace, your sacrifices will rekindle the freedom, sovereignty and independence in the Land of the Cedars.’
 God Bless Lebanon and safeguard its peace loving people 

Quid Libano
Walid Phares DC
We are still hoping to see either a large demonstration or small events in support to the victims of ethnic cleansing in Mosul and Northern Iraq, in Lebanon. Perhaps a large rally at Junieh's stadium. Obviously the security situation is delicate, but Lebanese have performed great events even under shelling, in the past..


Lebanese Politicians: Dump your differences
The Daily Star/04/08/14/The dramatic events in the Lebanese town of Arsal over the weekend require an all-out effort by national leaders to contain the repercussions and move forward.
The action plan, however, must be comprehensive in order to be viable. All of the country’s political factions, religious leaders and civic organizations must stand firmly behind the Army as it works to stem the flow of militancy from Syria. While the Army has received a large show of support, the military and other measures taken on the ground must be in line with the law. Also, the responses should be even-handed, so that a given community doesn’t feel it is being singled out for retribution because of a situation that is largely beyond its control.
But at a broader political level, the presidential vacancy continues to block Lebanon’s ability to react. Leading political factions must engage in talks, whether directly or indirectly, to rectify this abnormal state of affairs. They must elect someone who can bridge the domestic divide by reaching out to all sides, and who enjoys a good reputation with regional and international powers.
This should be followed quickly by the formation of an all-inclusive Cabinet led by Tammam Salam or another candidate of his standing. Other, related priorities are enacting a parliamentary vote law that grants Christians more say in selecting their MPs, and holding the polls by early next year. Finally, national dialogue must tackle Hezbollah’s arms, as well as long-delayed political and economic reforms.
With Lebanon’s Army in the line of fire, some might say moving ahead on the political front is a luxury, but the only path to true stability lies in ending the paralysis that has blocked action for far too long.

Lebanese Army Retakes Posts in Arsal, Says 10 Troops Killed as 'Humanitarian Truce' Reportedly Reached
Naharnet/Fierce clashes between the army and armed groups in the eastern border region of Arsal continued into a second day on Sunday as the army announced that 10 of its troops have been killed and 25 others wounded. In the evening, a humanitarian truce was reportedly reached between the army and the gunmen following efforts by the Muslim Scholars Committee.
“A truce has been reached in Arsal and it went into effect at 9:00 p.m.,” LBCI TV quoted the Committee as saying. “The Army Command has made several demands to agree on the truce, including the handing over of all missing troops,” LBCI reported. According to al-Jadeed TV, the “humanitarian” truce is aimed at securing the evacuation of the wounded from the town. “Ministers Ashraf Rifi (justice) and Nouhad al-Mashnouq (interior) are mediating between the army and the gunmen and the army is insisting that Arsal's residents must be allowed to leave the town instead of being used as human shields,” al-Jadeed added. For his part, al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Jamal al-Jarrah said “a ceasefire was reached at 9:05 p.m. and it is being respected by both parties.”
“Efforts continue to resolve some obstacles and disputes and we hope we will end the crisis in the coming 24 hours,” Jarrah added, in remarks to Future TV. He explained that the army was asked to agree to the truce and Army chief “General Jean Qahwaji, whom we thank, took this decision.” “The residents pressed the gunmen to cease fire and they complied and halted the firing,” Jarrah added.
“We are now seeking to bolster this ceasefire and to resolve some issues.”
Earlier on Sunday, state-run National News Agency said “violent gunbattles broke out between the army and armed men near the municipal building after the gunmen tried to storm an army post near Arsal's technical school.”  “The town is also witnessing a massive exodus by residents while some fleeing cars are being targeted by gunshots,” NNA added.
Plumes of black smoke could be seen bellowing from several areas in the town's barren mountains as a result of the fighting. Ten soldiers have been killed and 25 others wounded since the eruption of clashes on Saturday, Army chief General Jean Qahwaji announced on Sunday, as he revealed that 13 troops have gone missing and are “possibly being held prisoner.”  Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5) reported a higher toll in the evening, saying "the army has lost 15 martyrs in its battle with the gunmen in Arsal, including the commander of a battalion and his assistant, both of the rank of lieutenant colonel."A security source, meanwhile, said that a civilian had been killed by sniper fire inside Arsal, raising the civilian death toll in the fighting to three. “Lebanese citizen M. al-Fleiti, 19, was killed by sniper fire as he was standing on his house's balcony in Arsal,” al-Jadeed TV reported.
Meanwhile, MTV said the barracks of the army's 83rd Battalion “has fallen into the hands of the gunmen,” noting that it is adjacent to some homes which had been seized by al-Nusra Front's gunmen.
But later on Sunday, the army launched counterattacks to retake the post near the technical school and the barracks of the 83rd Battalion.
“The army seized full control of the technical school post and the barracks in Arsal as several troops sustained light injuries,” al-Jadeed reported.
The army's Airborne Regiment led the operation to recapture the barracks of the 83rd Battalion at Arsal's entrance. “The gunmen entered the houses near the barracks of the 83rd Battalion, taking citizens as human shields,” said al-Jadeed. The National News Agency later said that troops were chasing gunmen in the vicinity of the barracks after recapturing it in the afternoon. It said dozens of armed men were killed or wounded in the counterattack as several others managed to escape. According to NNA, the Airborne Regiment also retook the army post near Arsal's technical school after it was seized by gunmen earlier in the day. Meanwhile, MTV said the army has started to recapture al-Hosn barracks in Arsal. “We are facing difficulties in entering Arsal to evacuate the wounded civilians,” the Lebanese Red Cross announced. LBCI TV said units from the army's Commando Regiment headed to the Ain al-Shaab post where the 8th Brigade is deployed and which did not fall in the hands of gunmen. Army commandos also deployed at the post near the technical school to “reinforce military presence there,” added LBCI.
Speaking after an urgent security meeting at the Grand Serail, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel said the conferees discussed “the latest developments in the interrogation of the detainee Jomaa and demonstrated the circumstances in which the security personnel were taken hostage in Arsal.”He noted that the gunmen did not manage to “secure popular support for them inside Arsal.”
“There is very high coordination among the security and military agencies and the conferees discussed the needs of the battle. Prime Minister Tammam Salam stressed the government's keenness on maintaining the military's vigilance and readiness,” Moqbel added.
Responding to a reporter's question on unconfirmed reports that Hizbullah was taking part in the battle, Moqbel said: “Only the Lebanese Army is present in Arsal and it is the only party fighting terrorism.”
“The military operation will continue and there won't be any settlement at the expense of the army,” the minister added. An extraordinary cabinet session will be held on Monday to follow up on the unrest.
Earlier on Sunday, an army soldier was killed in clashes with the gunmen near the technical school in Arsal as several army positions came under gunfire.
The army continued to send reinforcements to the area throughout the day. Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3) had reported earlier that Syrian fighter jets also targeted al-Nusra Front gunmen, killing and wounding a number of them during raids in the region near Arsal.
The army had announced late on Saturday that it had regained “complete control” of the Wadi Hamyyed area in Arsal. It was also in the process of “liberating some nearby hills,” said the National News Agency. It reported “fierce clashes between the army and gunmen as the former sought to rid the area of the group.”A military source had informed LBCI television that the majority of the gunmen in Arsal came from Syrian refugee camps.Tension soared Saturday afternoon in the eastern border town of Arsal when masked Syrian gunmen infiltrated Lebanon after news circulated about the arrest of al-Nusra Front official Imad Ahmed Jomaa.
The infiltrators surrounded army checkpoints and targeted military posts with gunfire, while others stormed an Internal Security Forces post. Clashes soon erupted between troops and the militants, resulting in the death of several soldiers and civilians. Jomaa was arrested on Saturday while he was being transferred to a hospital after he sustained injuries during battles on the outskirts of Arsal. Arsal, a predominantly Sunni area, backs the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.The town lies 12 kilometers from the border with Syria and has been used as a conduit for weapons and rebels to enter Syria, while also serving as a refuge for people fleeing the conflict. The town has seen a massive influx of refugees as a result of the heavy fighting in Qalamoun.
The area has also been the scene of frequent tensions with Lebanese security forces, as well as air raids and shelling by Syrian troops across the border who say they are targeting rebel forces holed up in the mountainous region. Al-Nusra Front has been fighting against Syrian government forces along with other rebel groups.Y.R./M.T.


The war spreads: A timeline of Syria-linked violence in Lebanon
The Daily Star'BEIRUT: Since the outset of the Syrian civil war, Lebanon has been daily pulled further and further into a downward spiral of instability and sporadic violence. From Tripoli to Sidon to the Bekaa Valley, the war next door has prompted bouts of fighting that, although locally contained, have contributed to a national picture of growing tensions. In addition, this past year has been punctuated by bursts of deadly suicide car bombings, most of which have been perpetrated by extremists against areas associated with Hezbollah, described as punishment for the Lebanese group’s game-changing military deployment to Syria alongside President Bashar Assad.Oct. 19, 2012: A car bomb went off near Ashrafieh’s Sassine Square, killing Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, head of the Internal Security Forces’ Information Branch, and wounding dozens more. Hasan was integral in uncovering terrorist plots allegedly planned by former Minister Michel Samaha, an ally of Syria, and Syria’s Head of National Intelligence Maj. Gen. Ali Mamlouk. Damascus denied involvement.
April 30, 2013: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah formally acknowledged his party’s involvement in the Syrian war, flying in the face of the previous year’s Baabda declaration, which prohibited Lebanese parties from participating in external conflicts.
May 21-28, 2013: As the battle for Syria’s strategic Qalamoun region intensified, fighting in Tripoli broke out between the largely Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen, where residents back Assad, and predominantly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh, where people support the Syrian opposition.
June 23-25, 2013: The Lebanese Army battled followers of extremist Sunni religious leader Ahmad al-Assir in Sidon. Members of the Jund al-Sham and Fatah al-Islam armed groups also joined the battle against the Army.
July 9, 2013: A bomb planted under a parked vehicle exploded in a parking lot in the residential neighborhood of Bir al-Abed, wounding 53. A little-known Syrian rebel brigade claimed responsibility for the attack, pointing to Hezbollah’s military intervention in Syria as their motive.
Aug. 15, 2013: A car bomb exploded in the predominantly Shiite southern Beirut suburb of Ruwaiss during the evening rush hour, killing 30 people and wounding more than 200.
Aug. 23, 2013: Two car bombs exploded within minutes of each other outside the Al-Taqwa Mosque and the Al-Salam Mosque in Tripoli in the early afternoon, killing 47 people and wounding more than 300.
Nov. 19, 2013: Two suicide bombers, one on a motorcycle, another in a car, blew themselves up near the Iranian Embassy. At least 25 people were killed, including the Iranian cultural attaché, and wounded 150 others. The Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a Lebanon-based Al-Qaeda affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dec. 4, 2013: A Hezbollah commander, Hassan Lakkis, was gunned down in the middle of the night outside his home by unknown assailants. Free Sunni Brigades in Baalbek claimed the murder, but Hezbollah blamed Israel, a charge the country denied.
Dec. 27, 2013: A remotely detonated car bomb exploded in the heart of Downtown Beirut, killing former Finance Minister Mohammad Chatah on his way to a meeting with the March 14 coalition. Five others died and around 70 people were severely wounded.
January-February, 2014: Seven deadly suicide car bombings occurred across the country, mostly in Beirut’s southern suburbs and the eastern Bekaa Valley town of Hermel – both areas associated with Hezbollah. All but one were claimed by either Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Nusra Front in Lebanon, or the Lebanese branch of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
April 1: Security forces implemented a security crackdown in Tripoli to put an end to roughly 20 outbreaks of fighting between two neighborhoods since the start of the Syrian war. Dozens of militia leaders and militants were arrested and dozens more escaped.
April 3: UNHCR announced that there were officially 1 million refugees from Syria in Lebanon.
April 10: Security forces began a security crackdown in the Bekaa Valley to put an end to car theft rings that were enabling suicide bomb plots, and arrested numerous wanted individuals in the area.
July 8: An elite Palestinian security force – formed in cooperation with Lebanese authorities – was finally deployed in the southern camp of Ain al-Hilweh in an attempt to stem an increasingly violent cycle of political assassinations and clashes. August 04/14


Kahwagi says militant attack in Arsal was premeditated
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi Sunday revealed that the clashes in northeast Lebanon were premeditated, refuting claims that the militant attack on security forces was driven by the detention of a prominent terror suspect.Speaking at a rare news conference following two days of clashes between Lebanese troops and militants in and around the Bekaa Valley village of Arsal near the border with Syria, Kahwagi vowed that the Army would continue its military operations to fight terrorism. “It is not true that the clashes began because of the Army’s detention of Imad Jomaa,” Kahwagi said, referring to the suspect who had confessed to planning a large terrorist operation against Army bases. Kahwagi also pointed out that Jomaa was surveying the area in order to put the “final touches” on the planned terrorist attack. “This terrorist attack which occurred yesterday was neither an attack by chance nor coincidental. It was planned a long time ago, [with the militants] waiting for the appropriate time, which came during the last 48 hours,” he told reporters at the Defense Ministry. Kahwagi emphasized that the attack was meticulously planned, as “evidenced by the swiftness of the terrorists in surrounding bases and taking captives.” He confirmed that 10 Lebanese Army soldiers had been killed and 25 wounded, with another 13 soldiers missing and likely taken hostage by the militants.
Another soldier was killed after the news conference, bringing the total death toll to 11, while the number of wounded rose to 30 and the number of missing troops rose to 15. Kahwagi reiterated the Army’s readiness to confront “the huge takfiri threat,” stressing the need to act quickly or “takfiri movements would benefit from what is happening in Arsal and would replicate the incident in another [Lebanese] region.” “We call on all political and spiritual leaders to be wary of what is being planned for Lebanon and what is coming to us, because any occurrence in any region ... will be regarded as a grave danger because of the risk of transmission,” he said. Kahwagi said the militants are predominantly foreigners who work in “collaboration with people planted inside refugee camps.”
He called for settling the issue inside refugee camps, as well as the regions hosting them, in order to prevent such locations from becoming a pool for terrorism.
Kahwagi affirmed that the Army would work to prevent any further spillover from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, fearing that the formation of the Islamic State across the Iraqi-Syrian borders would soon expand to the Lebanese-Syrian borders. “Lebanon’s geography will not be far from this threat,” he added. “Arsal is a Lebanese village that is dear to us ... what is happening on the outskirts of Arsal touches upon all regions of the country,” Kahwagi said.


Jumblat: Hizbullah's Fighting in Syria Did Not Bring Terrorism to Lebanon
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat stressed on Sunday that Lebanon is facing the danger of terrorism given the clashes between the army and the al-Nusra Front gunmen in the eastern region of Arsal near the border with Syria. He said during a tour of the Deir Qoubel and Choueifat regions: "Hizbullah's fighting in Syria did not bring about the threat of terrorism to Lebanon."
“We should rise above all internal disputes and pointless debates and support the army and security forces and agencies in their battle against the armed groups and takfiri movements," he added before the crowds. “I salute the martyrs of the Lebanese army and the residents of Arsal, who backed the soldiers in confronting those armed groups,” he added. “I salute all of the sacrifices of the security forces and army in previous battles that have taken place in the northern city of Tripoli and southern city of Sidon,” he continued. “We have no alternative but to support the state, starting with the army,” declared Jumblat. “We need dialogue among all political powers in order to put a halt to the terrorism that is threatening Lebanon,” he later added. “I hope that we may come to an end to the pointless political debates over the presidency in order to elect a president and assert the foundations of the state in order for it to perform its duties,” he stressed. Clashes erupted on Saturday between the army and al-Nusra Front in Arsal following the arrest of a prominent member of the armed group. Eight soldiers were killed in the unrest and a number of others were wounded. Some 20 security forces members were taken captive during the fighting. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended. The ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps over a consensual presidential candidate has thwarted the elections.

Army faces tough job to rid town of rebels
Kareem Shaheen| The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army will have to conduct grueling counter-insurgency operations to remove militants from the embattled town of Arsal, while imposing new security measures to identify militants hiding among refugees, analysts and experts have said.They also warned against recurring attacks targeting the Army, saying it must be offered the necessary political support to bring peace to the northeastern border with Syria. Eleven soldiers were killed and more than two dozen wounded in clashes in Arsal and its outskirts between the Army and radical militants, who are also fighting against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Militants stormed Lebanese Army checkpoints and a police station, kidnapping police officers and killing soldiers. The fighting has raged for two days now. Mario Abou Zeid, a Lebanon expert at the Carnegie Middle East Center, said the attacks against the Lebanese Army were part of an effort to turn Arsal into a safe haven for fighters fleeing from Syria who wished to regroup and return. The aim was to isolate the Army from Arsal. The attacks from within the city were a surprise escalation and a push in that direction. “They wanted it as a last safe base for them to operate and go back to fight in Syria,” Abou Zeid said. The Lebanese Army, in coordination with Hezbollah, was preparing a ground offensive against armed militants in the mountainous region surrounding Arsal. A series of Hezbollah and Syrian regime successes in a major campaign against rebels in the border province of Qalamoun had pushed rebels out and into the porous mountain terrain straddling the border between Lebanon and Syria, where some persisted in launching attacks on Lebanese targets from the mountains near Arsal.
Some former fighters had also sought refuge in Arsal and the refugee settlements at its outskirts.
Abou Zeid said the Army was likely conducting a strategy to divide and isolate the “amalgam” of fighters belonging to various opposition factions in the city, attacking pockets of fighters and preventing them from linking up to their bases outside the city, while allowing Hezbollah to cut off the roads leading from Arsal to the mountain refuge.
Abou Zeid said the Army’s greatest challenge was to convince Arsal’s residents that it was only aiming to dissociate Lebanese territories from the Syrian conflict, rather than fighting alongside Hezbollah or specifically targeting the Sunni community. Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum and expert on Syrian rebel groups, said the attack appeared to have been a coordinated effort involving multiple rebel factions based in the Qalamoun region and extending over the border – groups that included the Al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria the Nusra Front and Jaish al-Islam, factions that are battling each other elsewhere in Syria.
“It’s clear the factions in Qalamoun going over the border are actually united in working together to fight what they see as common enemies, notably the regime, Hezbollah, and the Lebanese Army,” Tamimi said. As for the Lebanese Army, Tamimi agreed that its role in sealing off the border, in apparent coordination with Hezbollah, had made it a target for rebel groups.
Tamimi said the attacks would likely continue. While the Syrian Army backed by Hezbollah has managed to oust rebels from towns and cities in the area, many fighters have dispersed into rural areas where they can elude a decisive defeat.
“Ultimately, I think this is indicative of the wider problem one sees with management of the overall insurgency in Syria and by extension going into Lebanese border areas,” he said. “The regime and aligned forces might be able to clear out urban areas, but the insurgency always lurks around and persists in the rural areas to some degree.” Unless a massive rift occurs among the rebels, these cross-border attacks will likely continue, Tamimi said. “It will be difficult for the Lebanese Army to impose definite order on the border areas,” he added.Nizar Abdel Qader, a retired Army general, said the military’s response to the situation had been effective but the Army faced a “complicated operation” in now having to remove militant fighters from Arsal.
He said the Lebanese military, as a symbol of national unity and civil peace, could not use massive firepower similar to the Syrian Army in its civil war or Israel in its war on Gaza. Nor could the Army launch a campaign as intense as the Nahr al-Bared operation in 2007. Instead, he said, the Army must seal off the entrances to Arsal, warn residents to avoid the gunmen and use Special Forces to cleanse specific neighborhoods of the militants. Given that some of the fighters facing the Army have experience in other theaters like Iraq and Syria, the operation will not be easy.
“The fighting will be fiercer,” he said, adding that he was confident the Army could gain the upper hand. He said the Army must be vigilant to prevent the recruitment of individuals in the refugee population either by fundamentalist groups or by Syrian regime intelligence. He said refugees must be vetted to ensure that they genuinely needed humanitarian assistance, and if necessary refugee camps would have to be set up to house the displaced. Such camps must also be subject to security measures, and Lebanon should learn from the examples of Turkey and Jordan, themselves home to hundreds of thousands of refugees. After resolving the crisis in Arsal, the settlements there must be surveyed to identify refugees and gunmen, added Abdel Qader. But he said the bigger question was whether the government would have the political will and unity to fully back the Army in its efforts in the current crisis. “Can this government with all the factions in it agree on the necessity of resolving this issue in a deep and studied way to prevent a crisis that can affect national unity?” he said.

Some Arsalis flee, others remain
Nidal al-Solh/Samya Kullab| The Daily Star
ARSAL/BEIRUT: Gripped with the fear that violence might soon consume their town, numerous Arsal residents have fled to neighboring areas, while others have opted to stay and protect their properties. Streams of cars were seen leaving the town Sunday afternoon, carrying families fearful that the clashes would escalate. Residents in and around areas where the violence was especially severe moved to safer areas inside Arsal, while others left the town entirely to take shelter in Baalbek and the nearby towns of Ras Baalbek and Fakiha.Civilian Mohammad Qassem Fliti died after he was shot in the head by militant gunfire on the rooftop of his home, a security source told The Daily Star.
Two Syrian infants also died and 23 Syrian refugees were wounded as a result of the ongoing clashes, the source added.
The wounded refugees were treated at Dr. Kassem al-Zein’s field hospital. When The Daily Star interviewed Zein early Sunday evening, he was tending to some 52 wounded patients.
Most, he said, were Syrian refugees who had suffered from severe lacerations as a result of bombing. About 30 required immediate surgery. “The bombardment is ongoing but our medical supplies are running short, which is the usual case but is exacerbated during a crisis,” he said. Those who could not flee cited the lack of a safe passage and overriding concern to maintain their only assets, namely property, as reasons. “Whoever is able to flee is not hesitating, but we cannot because the clashes are taking place just down the street,” Mohammad Hujeiri, a Lebanese resident of Arsal told The Daily Star over the phone, describing the sounds of artillery fire ricocheting across his neighborhood. “There are fierce battles ongoing and most people are staying home,” said Merhi Fliti, another Arsal resident, describing the atmosphere inside the town. The risk of spillover from the Syrian crisis has loomed over Arsal for the past few months, especially after the fall of Yabroud in March, when thousands of rebel fighters reportedly escaped and went into hiding in the town’s rugged outskirts. Tareq Hujieri’s family experienced firsthand the outcome of spillover on Jan. 14 when his wife Israa was injured after their house was struck by a Syrian regime missile. The family chose to stay put despite the possibility of militant advances. “The situation is very bad and the crisis has nothing to do with Arsal or its people,” he said. Despite hearing the news that residents were evacuating en masse, he said those he knew were adamant about staying. “We can’t leave our homes,” he said.
The situation on the ground appeared to be deteriorating rapidly, he said, estimating that over 60 bombs had hit residential areas. Gunmen were roaming the streets, he said, “but we haven’t spotted the Army inside the town since yesterday.” Claims made by Fliti that blocked roads in Labweh had impeded Arsalis from leaving the town were categorically denied by Labweh’s mayor Ramez Amhaz, who said: “The road from Arsal is fully open and numerous cars have been bringing families to Labweh.
“We don’t consider them immigrants; they should think of Labweh as their home and we will host them with open hearts,” he said. “We know if they weren’t obliged to, they wouldn’t have fled their own town.” A senior Army Intelligence officer based in the Bekaa Valley, who requested anonymity because he didn’t have authorization to speak to the press, also confirmed that roads were open to Arsal residents fleeing violence. Stressing that many residents fleeing Arsal had relatives in Labweh, Amhaz said he was not concerned about the possibility of clashes reaching his municipality.
Arsal is home to 40,000 Lebanese residents and over 40,000 Syrian refugees registered with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees. Municipal estimates, however, put the number of Syrians in the town to about 100,000. The Islamist militants were believed to have been hiding out inside camps, putting refugees at risk of assault. “We continue to be in close contact with the civilian authorities of Arsal as well as our counterparts in the Lebanese Social Affairs Ministry, along with our sister U.N. and other partner agencies,” said Brian Hansford, a spokesperson for the UNHCR. “Contingency plans are in place and supplies have been stockpiled while we continue to assess this very fast-moving situation,” he added. By Sunday evening, the fighting appeared to be restricted to five main border crossings, with the most intense clashes taking place in the Wadi Hmeid checkpoint. An Army checkpoint along a valley in Shoob, a neighborhood by the entrance to Arsal, has also been the target of sniper fire by militants, who are deployed on the hills surrounding the checkpoint. – Additional reporting by Hachem Osseiran and Nizar Hassan


Hizbullah Says Arsal Attack Highlights 'Foreign-backed Threat Looming over Lebanon'
Naharnet/Hizbullah on Sunday noted that the militant assault on the Bekaa border town of Arsal enjoys “a foreign cover and domestic rationalization,” warning that it highlights “the threat looming over Lebanon.” “The continued crimes that are being committed by organized terrorist groups, which enjoy a foreign cover and domestic rationalization, are indicative of the threat looming over Lebanon and all its people, without any differentiation between one region and another or one sect and another,” the party said in a statement addressing the situation in Arsal. It urged all Lebanese to close ranks to confront terrorism and to avoid “finding excuses or justifications for these terrorist groups.” “The firmness shown by the Army Command in confronting the assault on its checkpoints and posts in Arsal's outskirts is a stance that deserves utmost appreciation and support,” Hizbullah added, urging citizens to “embrace and stand by their military institution.”And as it expressed its support for “all the steps that the army is taking,” the party underlined that it "stands shoulder-to-shoulder with this institution in the face of the threats looming over our country.” ierce clashes between the army and armed groups in the eastern border region of Arsal continued into a second day on Sunday as troops sought to regain control of areas seized by the gunmen. Ten soldiers have been killed and 25 others wounded since the eruption of clashes on Saturday, Army chief General Jean Qahwaji announced on Sunday, as he revealed that 13 troops have gone missing and are “possibly being held prisoner.”The fighting has also left at least three civilians dead in Arsal.Clashes started when masked Syrian gunmen infiltrated Lebanon's Arsal after news broke out about the arrest of top militant Imad Ahmed Jomaa. The infiltrators surrounded army checkpoints and targeted military posts with gunfire, while others stormed an Internal Security Forces post and took policemen hostage. Hizbullah itself has been engaged since weeks in heavy fighting with gunmen positioned between Arsal and the Syrian region of Qalamun.Tensions skyrocketed in the area earlier this year with a major influx of refugees and fighters after Syrian forces backed by Hizbullah recaptured most of Qalamun.Despite the Syrian regime's advances, pockets of opposition forces, including jihadists from al-Nusra and the Islamic State group, remain in the area..

Who is Imad Ahmad Jomaa?
Venetia Rainey| The Daily Star
03 August/14/BEIRUT: Following the Army’s arrest of Imad Ahmad Jomaa, a prominent Syrian rebel commander, Islamists in the town of Arsal Saturday went on a rampage, attacking checkpoints, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers and kick-starting weekendlong deadly clashes that have residents fleeing for safety.But who was Jomaa – also known as Abu Ahmad Jomaa and Mahmoud Jomaa – and why has his arrest precipitated some of the worst unrest in Lebanon since the Syrian civil war began? Jomaa, who is in his late 20s and hails from Qusair, is considered the leader of the Fajr al-Islam Brigade, which was originally part of the Homs-based Farouk Brigades, an Islamist group fighting in Syria. “He likes the limelight and fame,” according to Capt. Bassel Idriss, a commander of the secular rebel 77 Katiba unit who knew Jomaa. “He started fighting in Qusair, then Qalamoun. He was a fierce, distinguished fighter.” His background, according to Idriss, was hardly that of a born-and-bred fundamentalist. “He hails from a simple, poor family, and his family was never very religious ... before the revolution he had a Suzuki van that he used to sell milk. He has two brothers and three sisters, and is divorced but remarried two years ago.”Jomaa was heavily involved in the battle for Syria’s strategic and mountainous Qalamoun region, most of which was seized by Syrian regime and Hezbollah troops in spring last year. Fajr al-Islam was active in Qusair, and after it fell, Jomaa relocated to the outskirts of the town of Qara, and after Yabroud fell, to Wadi Zamrani, and area in the vicinity of Flita-Arsal.
He and his brigade have been living in Arsal, a predominantly Sunni town close to the border that is hosting around 100,000 Syrian refugees.
In the wake of enormous victories in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) last month, Fajr al-Islam released a YouTube video pledging their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader. The NNA reported Saturday that, according to an LAF Orientation Directorate statement, Jomaa “confessed to belonging to the Nusra Front.” However, sources denied this, and Nusra Front Sunday confirmed via Twitter that Jomaa was not part of their group. Jomaa was caught at a checkpoint in the outskirts of Arsal at midday Saturday, according to the Army statement, with NNA reporting that he had been “injured during recent battles and was being transported to a hospital in the vicinity.” But the source refuted this, saying he had merely been accompanying someone else who was injured. Either way, within hours of his arrest, Islamist militants dressed head to toe in black had spread throughout the town and had begun their campaign of attacks against the Lebanese Army. The source said Fajr al-Islam members were among them. Speaking Sunday at a news conference, Army chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi denied that the attacks began due to Jomaa’s detention, but rather were “planned a long time ago, [with the militants] waiting for the appropriate time, which came during the last 48 hours.”The Army said Jomaa had been handed over to the relevant authorities for further investigation.

Lebanese Army vows to finish Arsal battle in ‘48 hours’
Rakan al-Fakih/Nidal al-Solh| The Daily Star
ARSAL, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army is gearing up to finish the battle against militants in the northeastern town of Arsal in the next 48 hours after two days of fierce clashes killed 11 soldiers and 40 gunmen, security sources said Sunday. “The Army has decided to finish the battle [in Arsal] within the next 48 hours,” a security source told The Daily Star.
The source said Hezbollah, which is trying along with the Syrian army to root out Syrian rebels from the Qalamoun region near the border, has decided not to intervene in the Arsal fighting in order “to prevent matters taking a [sectarian] turn.” At least 11 Lebanese soldiers were killed and 15 taken hostage in the weekend battles between the Army and Islamist militants in and around Arsal, in the most serious spillover of violence from the war in Syria. The fighting in Arsal, located near the border with Syria, in which at least 40 militants, mostly from Syria’s Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, were also killed, heightened fears Lebanon could be dragged further into the Syrian war with all the dire consequences this entailed on the country’s fragile security and stability.
The government confirmed that the Army’s campaign against militants in Arsal would continue.
As the fighting raged on at midnight Sunday, the Army recovered some of its posts on Arsal’s outskirts captured by militants.
“Army units continue their military operations in Arsal and its surroundings, where they were able to expel the gunmen from the Arsal vocational building who tried to take it over,” the Army said in a statement. In response to calls by the Tripoli-based Muslim Ulema Committee for an immediate halt to the fighting in Arsal, the Army Command demanded that all missing soldiers be handed over first before agreeing to any truce. The fighting led thousands of Arsal’s residents to flee to safer areas.Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said the Army would continue fighting terrorism and takfiri groups.
“What happened today is far more dangerous than what some people believe,” he said. “The terrorist attack was not an attack by chance or coincidence. It was planned long ago, waiting for the appropriate time.” Speaking at a rare news conference at the Defense Ministry in Yarze, Kahwagi confirmed that 10 soldiers were killed, 25 others, including four officers, were wounded and 13 were missing, saying that they were most likely taken prisoner by the militants. Shortly after he spoke, a Lebanese sergeant, Yehia Dirani, died in clashes near Arsal’s technical institute, bringing the death toll to 11.
Later, security sources said 30 soldiers were wounded and 15 missing.
In addition to the 15 missing soldiers, there are 16 members of the Internal Security Forces who were captured by Syrian rebels and are currently held at the house of Sheikh Mustafa Hujeiri in Arsal.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam chaired an extraordinary security meeting at the Grand Serail Sunday to cope with the dramatic security developments in Arsal.
“Chiefs of security institutions and apparatuses reviewed the latest information relating to the attack on Lebanese sovereignty in the town of Arsal and its environs and the efforts made by the Army and security forces to confront the design which terrorist gunmen have begun implementing in the region,” Defense Minister Samir Moqbel said after the meeting.In response to a question, he said: “The military operation in Arsal will continue.” He denied reports that Hezbollah was helping the Army in its battle against militants. “The Army is the only [force] in Arsal fighting terrorists. No compromise at the Army’s expense.” Moqbel said security chiefs pointed out that Arsal’s residents supported the Army and security forces. The Cabinet will hold a special session Monday to follow up on the situation in Arsal. In an apparent sequel to the Arsal fighting, tensions ran high in the northern city of Tripoli after militants attacked several Army posts there overnight Saturday, wounding two soldiers, security sources told The Daily Star. Gunmen affiliated with militia leaders Chadi al-Mawlawi, his brother Nizar Mawlawi and Osama Mansour, known as Abu Mansour, attacked Army posts in the impoverished neighborhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades in retaliation for the Army’s operation against militants in Arsal, the sources said. They added that the Army took measures to beef up its positions and checkpoints in Tripoli to forestall any attack. The fighting in Arsal began Saturday after troops detained Imad Ahmad Jomaa, a prominent Syrian rebel commander. Shortly afterward, bearded gunmen attacked several military posts and checkpoints in Arsal and seized the local police station, taking 16 ISF members captive. They demanded that Jomaa be released. Two residents in Arsal were killed, reportedly as they tried to hold back the militants. Moqbel said Jomaa belonged to Nusra Front. However, Nusra Front denied via Twitter that Jomaa was part of the group. It also denied that its gunmen were involved in the Arsal clashes. Kahwagi vowed the Army would continue its military operations to fight terrorism, denying reports that the fighting was triggered by Jomaa’s arrest.
“What happened was very dangerous. The arrested man had confessed that he was planning a massive operation against the Army,” he said.
Kahwagi vowed to foil attempts to transport Syria’s war to Lebanon. “The Army will not allow what happened on the Iraqi-Syrian border to spread to Lebanon,” he said, referring to the control by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of wide swaths of territory across Iraqi-Syrian border. But he warned that “Lebanon’s geography will not be far from this threat.”The Arsal fighting evoked nationwide support from the country’s rival political leaders for the Army as well as from the United States, which urged respect for Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from the conflict in Syria. Hezbollah praised the military’s determination to confront “criminal attacks by terrorist groups” on Lebanon’s people and Army, and voiced solidarity with the military institution.
“ Hezbollah stands united with this institution [Army] in confronting the dangers facing our country which threaten its unity, sovereignty and stability,” the party said in a statement.
U.S. Ambassador David Hale met with Kahwagi, expressing his country’s support for the Army’s fight against terrorism.
The U.S. Embassy in Beirut issued a statement saying Hale expressed American solidarity with the Lebanese Army and encouraged all parties to work to insulate Lebanon from regional conflicts.
The U.S. State Department also issued a statement condemning the attack on the Lebanese Army. “We urge all parties in Lebanon to respect the Lebanese government’s policy of dissociation from regional conflicts, as stated in the Baabda Declaration,” spokesperson Jen Psaki said in the statement. “The United States is committed to Lebanon’s security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. We will continue our strong support for Lebanon’s state institutions, including the LAF and the ISF.”

20 ISF Members Forced to Defect 'over Army, Hizbullah Practices in Arsal, Syria'

Naharnet/A number of Internal Security Forces were forced to defect by al-Nusra Front members on Sunday after being taken captive by the group, said LBCI television. Twenty security forces members were shown announcing their defection “from the army and Hizbullah” in a video uploaded to Youtube. The members announced that they were defecting in protest against the army's “targeting of civilians in the eastern Bekaa region of Arsal.” They also declared their condemnation of Hizbullah's “terrorist actions” in Syria. The ISF members were made to present themselves to the camera and later condemn the army and Hizbullah's practices. At the end of the video, a captor was seen presenting the defected members with candy. Clashes erupted on Saturday between the army and al-Nusra Front in Arsal following the arrest of a prominent member of the armed group. Eight soldiers were killed in the unrest and a number of others were wounded. The security forces members shown in the video were taken captive during the fighting.


U.S. Condemns Terrorist Attack on Army, ISF in Arsal
Naharnet /The United States strongly condemned on Sunday the al-Nusra Front’s attack on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in the eastern region of Arsal, where at least seven soldiers were killed and some Internal Security Forces (ISF) members were briefly held hostage, said the U.S. Department of State in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to the victims’ families and wish a full recovery to those who were wounded,” it added. “As the violence spills over to Syria’s neighbors, including from violent extremists, we urge all parties in Lebanon to respect the Lebanese government’s policy of dissociation from regional conflicts, as stated in the Baabda Declaration,” it continued. “The United States is committed to Lebanon’s security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” it stressed. “We will continue our strong support for Lebanon’s state institutions, including the LAF and the ISF, as they work to preserve and protect a stable, sovereign, and secure Lebanon,” declared the U.S. Department of State. U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale later held talks on Sunday with Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji. Clashes erupted on Saturday between the army and al-Nusra Front in Arsal following the arrest of a prominent member of the armed group. Eight soldiers were killed in the unrest and a number of others were wounded. Some 20 security forces members were taken captive during the fighting.

Tensions in Tripoli Following Overnight Clashes between Army, Masked Gunmen
Naharnet/Clashes erupted overnight on Saturday between the army and masked gunmen in the northern city of Tripoli, reported the National News Agency on Sunday. It said that fierce fighting broke out when gunmen opened fire at army positions on Syria Street, the Starco, Brad al-Bisar, al-Ghoraba, Talaat al-Omari, and al-Qobbeh areas. The army responded to the sources of the fire and clashes soon ensued. Soldiers pursued the gunmen throughout the city. In addition, NNA said that an explosives belt was detonated against an army patrol as it was leaving its station at the Hariri project area at Talaat al-Omari. One soldier was wounded in the attack. Soon after the development, the army blocked a number of roads leading to the areas that witnessed unrest to preserve the residents' safety. A man identified as Jawad Muzhir Sabbagh was critically wounded in the clashes, reported NNA. The fighting has since subsided, but tensions remain high in Tripoli, continued the new agency. Tripoli had witnessed numerous rounds of clashes, between local gunmen, linked to the conflict in Syria. The army implemented in April a security plan aimed at cracking down on the gunmen. It has arrested a number of suspects, but many remain at large. A similar plan was adopted in the eastern Bekaa region.


Amin Gemayel Urges U.N. Security Council Help in Stopping 'Foreign Assault' on Arsal
Naharnet/Kataeb Party chief Amin Gemayel on Sunday said that Lebanon should seek the protection of the U.N. Security Council in the face of the “foreign assault” on the Bekaa border town of Arsal, where a number of troops and civilians have been killed by gunmen who infiltrated from Syria. “We offer our condolences to the families of the army's martyrs and we hope what happened will be a lesson for the Lebanese. This assault on Lebanon must be stopped and all measures must be taken to that end,” Gemayel said in remarks to MTV. He called on the Lebanese state and government to “raise this issue before the U.N. and the Security Council because there is a foreign assault against Lebanon.” “The normal authority is the Security Council and we will call for that during tomorrow's cabinet session,” Gemayel added.He noted that temporary settlements “will not do us justice.” “That's why Lebanon must go the Security Council to protect its borders,” Gemayel said. He hoped all people and leaders “will unite in the face of this aggression and will forget all the domestic sensitivities.”Fierce clashes between the army and armed groups in the eastern border region of Arsal continued into a second day on Sunday as troops sought to regain control of areas seized by the gunmen. Ten soldiers have been killed and 25 others wounded since the eruption of clashes on Saturday, Army chief General Jean Qahwaji announced on Sunday, as he revealed that 13 troops have gone missing and are “possibly being held prisoner.”The fighting has also left at least three civilians dead in Arsal. An extraordinary cabinet session will be held on Monday to follow up on the unrest. The fighting started when masked Syrian gunmen infiltrated Lebanon's Arsal after news broke out about the arrest of top militant Imad Ahmed Jomaa. The infiltrators surrounded army checkpoints and targeted military posts with gunfire, while others stormed an Internal Security Forces post and took policemen hostage.


Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi Says Solution in Arsal Political as Kabbara Blames 'Syrian-Iranian Conspiracy'
Naharnet /Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi stressed Sunday that the way out from the current confrontation in Arsal should be through a “political solution,” as Tripoli MP Mohammed Kabbara of the Mustaqbal bloc described the incidents in the Bekaa border town as a “Syrian-Iranian conspiracy.”“The solution in Arsal is political and we must protect our northern Bekaa from the volcano's lava and we must preserve coexistence,” Rifi said in remarks to MTV.“The mission of protecting northern Bekaa is the mission of all of its residents and our salvation lies legitimate state institutions,” Rifi added, pointing out that “the statelet” of Hizbullah is to blame for the current situation in the country.The minister warned that “we are before a major challenge and a critical moment,” urging an end to the crisis in Arsal “as it might lead to incidents in other regions.”Earlier on Friday, Kabbara demanded “the withdrawal of all gunmen” from Arsal. “We demand that the cabinet convene to restore political authority over the army,” the MP said after a meeting at his Tripoli residence for the Islamic National Gathering, a grouping of northern MPs, Muslim scholars and dignitaries. He called for the immediate interrogation of the detained militant leader Imad Jomaa, whose arrest on Saturday had sparked the military confrontation with the army and security forces. Kabbara said a quick probe would “determine whether there is a legitimate cause for his arrest.” Reciting a statement issued by the conferees, the lawmaker described the developments in Arsal as “a Syrian-Iranian conspiracy against the Sunnis.” He also warned against "transforming the army into one similar to the one in Iraq under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki." At least 10 Lebanese Army troops have been killed and 25 others wounded while 13 troops have gone missing since the clashes with armed groups erupted in and around Arsal on Saturday. Dozens of gunmen have been killed or arrested in the fighting. The battle started after the army arrested al-Nusra Front top official Imad Ahmed Jomaa. Army chief General Jean Qahwaji has however announced that the clashes had been “premeditated” by the armed groups.


Israeli troop exit from Gaza without achieving all goals bodes war of attrition
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 2, 2014/As the first Israel troops began pulling out of the Gaza Strip Saturday night, Aug. 2, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged that Operation Defense Edge would continue until security and calm are restored to all Israel’s citizens – however long it takes. But in his televised news conference, he also said: “The IDF will deploy according to the needs of Israel’s security – and only Israel’s security.”After expressing deep gratitude to the American people and its leaders for their support, Netanyahuu underlined the importance of the links Israel had established with regional countries as a great asset for the future.
In the view of debkafile’s military experts, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have been guided in their management of the Gaza operation by four major misapprehensions:
1. That Hamas wanted a ceasefire;
2. That the Hamas tunnel network has been largely discovered and disabled;
3. That Hamas will take years to recover from the thrashing the IDF administered in the 25 days of its counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip. (Netanyahu: “We struck many thousands of terror targets and many hundreds of terrorists.”)
4. That rocket fire will die down after Hamas fully appreciates the terrible devastation its war has inflicted on the Gaza Strip population.
The slogans of the last four weeks reflected these assumptions: “Quiet will be met with quiet” was one, or “We shall degrade Hamas’ military strength,” and “We’ll wipe out Hamas’ entire tunnel empire.”
But a change in tenor was apparent Saturday night: Variations on the theme of “No accommodation, only deterrence” were to be heard, as well as “No more ceasefires,” and “We’ll end the operation unilaterally as and when it suits our security needs.”
Those ideas reflected the rationale for Israel’s decision not to send envoys to the truce talks opening in Cairo Sunday.
Shortly before the Netanyahu-Ya’alon news conference, the parents and siblings of the captured Israeli officer, 2nd Lt, Hadar Goldin appeared before reporters for a moving appeal to the prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff not to evacuate Israeli troops from Gaza before ecovering the missing officer. His father and four siblings, all IDF officers on reserve or active service, maintained that it was unthinkable according to the most hallowed traditions of the Israeli army to abandon a serviceman in the field..
One of the prime minister’s answers to reporters’ questions can be traced to the deep impression the Goldin family made on the public. He said the IDF will act solely according to security and no other considerations.
The new set of war slogans are designed to soften the impact of a decision reached by the two war leaders last week, which was to pull the bulk of the troops out of the Gaza Strip and redeploy them behind the border fence in offensive formation. The Rafah sector in the south will remain beleaguered.
As for the claim that all the tunnels will be dealt with first, debkafile reports that despite the weeks of fighting, the IDF has driven no deeper than 1-3 kilometers into the territory, leaving the western areas untouched. Therefore, the soldiers can only deal with the tunnels that come out in the eastern sector or cross under the border into Israel.
To truly finish off the warren of passageways, the IDF needs to burrow much farther west- up to their starting points. But Hamas, with the help of Iranian and Hizballah engineers, constructed the labyrinthine system so that each tunnel forks off into another passage every few dozen or hundred meters. Some of these interconnected passageways lead under the border to places in Israel; others go further underground in Gaza.
The system is totally baffling. IDF spokesmen have said repeatedly that the troops have more or less dealt with the tunnels, while the politicians promise this will be done. They are anxious to allay people’s visceral dread of ferocious enemies jumping out of the bowels of the earth on kibbutz lawns, a terror that has driven more people north than even the rockets.
The truth is that only the tunnel sections reaching the Israeli border have been neutralized, whereas the honeycomb buried deep inside territory which the IDF has not reached has defied Israeli intelligence’s best efforts.And the surprises keep on coming. A capacious, cement-lined passageway leading into Israel was revealed Saturday night with two motorcycles parked inside, ready for terrorists to make a dash to their prey.
As for the rocket fire, Hamas still holds more than a third of the 9,000 rockets with which it launched its blitz – more than enough to keep Israeli civilians within a wide radius running for cover. The IDF has seriously trashed rocket production plants, but at least one-fifth of the facilities remain functional and can continue to replenish depleted stocks.
The assumption that Hamas will need years to recover may turn out to be a losing gamble if Iran and Hizballah decide to step in and rehabilitate their Palestinian ally from scratch.
At all events, if the IDF pulls back the bulk of its ground forces now, with its goals only partly attained, Israel and the communities and towns bordering Gaza will soon be caught up in a lengthy war of attrition and forced to repeat the ground operation.


On both sides, terror and confusion

By: Micheal Coren
AUGUST 02, 2014/Sun
It's very easy to write a column about Israel and Palestine and take one side without question. But it doesn't do much good; it polarizes and it enflames and slides partisans back into their exclusive bunkers.
I am far from naïve, I am not being saccharine and I am well aware of the bitter dangers of Islamism, but there is a bigger picture here. So let's imagine Moshe and Hussein, both 15 years old, in 1948.
Moshe was born in Poland, his family having moved to their village from Russia in the 1890s when thousands of Jews were slaughtered in pogroms. He had known anti-Semitism all of his young life but, as his parents always said, where else would they go? The Jews of Europe had been expelled from one country after another, always persecuted and often slaughtered. Even when they thought they were accepted, such as in modern France, they suddenly discovered that they were hated.
But life was not so bad in Poland for Jews if they kept to themselves and were careful. Until angry, dark-uniformed men arrived shouting a harsh language and shooting and smashing and killing. Moshe's friends and some of his cousins disappeared, but Catholic friends of his father smuggled them east and they managed to survive the war.
When they returned to their village in 1946, however, they were beaten and spat at and had to leave again. "There is a place," explained Moshe's father. "There is a reborn country of our people where we can be men, be human, stand tall and not live in fear."
They eventually sailed for Palestine, and settled in a town where 1,700 years earlier their ancestors had flourished.
Hussein had never ventured beyond his small village in Palestine and would listen to his father speaking of his adventures when he fought against the Turks, those brutal colonizers of the Arab world. Hussein didn't think of countries as such but of his family and clan. He was a Muslim but his parents were not very religious.
He knew some Christians, who would tease him that they were the real locals, who had lived there for 1,700 years. But why, he would ask himself, are they called Greek Orthodox, and where is Greece anyway? There were Jews too. When he was a little boy they had been few but now there were more. His father said they were welcome as long as their numbers didn't increase. This, after all, was Palestine.
And the British were there as well. They were OK, but Hussein knew they didn't belong. Suddenly they were gone. Then there was silence, then a noise greater than anything he had heard before. War.
His family fled, he saw dead Arabs and Jews in the fields, he heard screams. He may even have seen Moshe, also terrified and confused. Moshe and his family wanting not empire or power but simply acceptance and safety.
More than 60 years later and the grandchildren of Hussein and Moshe are still terrified and confused. Neither group is evil, both have a moral case and cause, and neither is being treated fairly. P
pray to God for the eyes and ears of children.

Is the Levant of pluralism heading into darkness?
Saturday, 2 August 2014
Nayla TueniAl Arabiya
The Lebanese parliament convened on Saturday to voice solidarity with Gaza, which is under a barbaric aggression, and to voice its rejection of other barbaric attacks taking place in Mosul, other Iraqi areas and perhaps Syria.
The difference is huge between those who are unquestionably our enemy and those who were a partner in Arabism and citizenship.
Ghassan Tueni and other Orthodox intellectuals used to consider Israel to be the biggest threat to eastern Christianity because it seeks to empty the Levant of its Christians in order to cancel diversity and fight Islam or rather revive Sunni-Shiite struggle and get Muslims occupied with their domestic struggles for 100 years. Israel would thus rest assured particularly of the burden of Western solidarity and global Christian sympathy with the Christians of the Levant.
Israel’s threat still exists today but add to it a new threat that targets the Christians first and revives Sunni-Shiite strife second. It's the threat of Islamic takfiris who don’t respect at all any humane or cultural values. They attack this humane and cultural heritage and destroy its history as well as all consecutive civilizations.
Israel’s threat still exists today but add to it a new threat that targets the Christians first and revives Sunni-Shiite strife second
The imminent danger currently posed to the Levant serves Israel’s aims. Firstly, because it achieves its goal of emptying the region of its Christians and, secondly, of reviving a historical struggle, the beginning of which we are witnessing but without knowing when it will conclude.
However, we will not consider the crimes committed against Mosul’s Christians and other Christians in Iraq and Syria – like the abduction of two bishops – as acts of Islam as this does not only serve Israel’s aim of fueling religious struggles among Muslims and Christians but it also leads toward considering this takfiri state as Islam.
Failure of Moderate Muslims
However, Christians are in great pain over the failure of moderate Muslims’ failure in deterring this phenomenon. There’s also great disappointment due to the absence of Arab initiatives and movements aimed at pressing toward ending this genocide in Iraq. It’s as if the residents of Gaza are first-class, Arab citizens while Arab Christians in Iraq do not deserve stances of solidarity from all Arab countries.
Canceling diversity in this East certainly harms the Christians because it displaces them from their homeland but it may take them toward countries that are safer and more civilized and stable. However, its negative effects on Muslims are worse because it takes them back to the logic of unilateralism. They’d close in on themselves and go backward in terms of civilization. This would therefore paint a dark image of Islam itself and this is something we do not wish because we accepted to live together and we hold on to this as a life choice and as per our deep faith in Christianity which loves others, as Bishop George Khodor wrote in An-Nahar while discussing the meaning of fasting in Ramadan.
So will Arab initiatives that meet this approach and that express a silent majority be launched? Or will Arabs give up to this wave of crimes?
**This article was first published in An-Nahar newspaper on July 28, 2014.


Arabs, let us start fending for ourselves

Khaled Almaeena/Al Arabiya
Sunday, 3 August 2014
The carnage in Gaza goes on uninterrupted. A mad man rules Tel Aviv ordering wave after wave of freely supplied American warplanes and rockets to hit at a defenseless population. His ammunition depleted, a willing Congress supplies him with more.
While the Arab masses seethe with anger and frustration there is a deafening silence within the halls of Arab governments. The helplessness of the Arab states has surprised even the enemy.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in his address to the nation on Friday pointed to the fact that the world’s silence over Israeli "war crimes" in the Gaza Strip was "inexcusable".
Tweets asking why there is no diplomatic offensive, questioning the closure of the Gaza crossing and the prevention of basic life-sustaining materials to the besieged women and children, are flooding the Twittersphere.
This is about humanity
Even Pope Francis wept as he appealed for peace. Marches by Jews, Christians and Hindus were held across the world to highlight the tragedy of Gaza and its children who are being blown apart every minute. This is not about Palestinians. This is about humanity.
For the Arabs there is no one. We cannot live on the kindness of strangers forever.
Kindergarten schools, hospitals, orphanages and shelters are being deliberately targeted as I write this and the attacks will intensify as you read on.
The Arab world, caught in its own web of infighting and treachery, has yet to act.
Some states (not Arab of course) have withdrawn their ambassadors from Israel. Argentina has issued a directive that anyone of its citizens joining the Israeli army will be stripped of his citizenship. Bolivia declared Israel a "terrorist state".
This is not a question about Hamas, which some writers in their narrow-minded view of its ideology blame it for initiating the conflict. Some Arab quislings too parrot the Zionist lie that Hamas rockets provoked this action.
It is about a whole nation trapped in an open prison, blockaded, humiliated, deprived of their human and God-given right to live as free people.
It is about colonialism, oppression and subjugation by an evil ideology; racist and inhumane in nature.
It is about a powerful and cold-hearted "super power" that is oblivious to the aspiration of a people yearning to live — a power that cringes, grovels and whimpers at the feet of the Israelis, whose prime minister openly browbeats its Secretary of State John Kerry.
It is about a war between a country equipped freely with the best weapons of human destruction and a hapless people. It is about Cluster bombs, gas bombs and an array of other death seeking missiles against a defenseless people. It is not even a war but a slaughter.
Then, of course, there are the Camerons, Hollandes and Merkels for whom a rebuke of Israel is tantamount to worse than blasphemy.
As the crimes against humanity continue, I would like to recall a brief conversation I had with a Palestinian, whose take on the ongoing carnage is illuminating.
"As a Palestinian all I want to do is live in peace and dignity, but I am being denied both. I am also deeply disappointed with the world's stand, for mouthing platitudes when a river of blood is in spate.
"But far worse than that is I am sick and tired of hearing the oft-repeated phrase that children and women are being used as human shields, by the same people who are condoning the merciless bombing of the Palestinian people."
For the Arabs there is no one. We cannot live on the kindness of strangers forever. Begging and pleading as we have been doing for years. There has to be a struggle for survival. To do that we have to put our own house in order.
You can get help from the United States to attack and invade another Arab country but you cannot get an ounce of political or diplomatic empathy at the United Nations.
Right now, as many honest and patriotic Arabs see it, we are all alone. Let us start fending for ourselves!

Behind the scene efforts for a Gaza ceasefire
Sunday, 3 August 2014
By: Raghida Dergham/Al Arabiya
The positions of U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry concerning Gaza are puzzling, because of their incoherence, and lack of a corresponding strategy of thinking and taking action. The efforts of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are marred by dithering and over-cautiousness, as he fears inviting Israeli resentment, Arab censure, and the American wrath.
Turkey has imposed itself on the Gaza issue to rival and outbid Egypt, after the latter toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-led regime, which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had backed, turning against the secular traditions of Atatürk and the Turkish republic. Meanwhile, Iran kept mum in the beginning, before it finally spoke through the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and called for arming Hamas -- which Tehran has been allegedly supplying with rockets via the tunnels in Gaza.
In my opinion, Qatar has almost installed itself as the exclusive representative of Hamas, negotiating on its behalf and communicating its demands to Washington, New York, and Cairo. Saudi Arabia has supported the Egyptian ceasefire initiative, and reportedly expressed reservations about the Qatari-Turkish alternative initiative. Saudi Arabia is also keen on not abandoning or disregarding the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, and seeks to save the Arab peace initiative from total demise.
Then there is Hamas, which sees events in Gaza as a strategic achievement for having brought it back to the political fore. The events in Gaza also gave Hamas the chance to challenge Israel's might and military machine, made it a de facto negotiating party opposite Israel, and rallied sympathy and support from the international and Islamic public opinion.
As for Israel, it has now added to its list of demands: disarming the Palestinian factions, demilitarizing Gaza, and demolishing the tunnels either through international guarantees or through the destruction of homes and buildings situated on top of them, at any cost. In the meantime, the number of Palestinian civilian casualties has surpassed 1,700.
Also in the meantime, and while Hamas' rockets negotiate with Israel's firepower, a Palestinian child is being killed every hour. And in the meantime still, the chances for peace are on a path to extinction amid increasing clamoring for a "humanitarian truce," while the specter of more massacres looms on the horizon.
With its viciousness, Israel has reaped a strategic setback in its war with an organization it designates as "terrorist," and yet with which it was forced to negotiate -- through a third party -- for a ceasefire. Israel has reaped for itself a reputation for moral bankruptcy as it has justified the targeting of civilians, the killing of children, and the shelling of U.N.-protected schools.
The Israeli government -- and the Israeli public's support of its actions -- has drawn the ire of the international public opinion, which can no longer bear seeing child victims, destroyed homes, and the bombardment of the only power plant in Gaza and its hospitals.
Ethnic cleansing
A significant number of commentators, historians, and academics now dare to describe Israel's actions as "ethnic cleansing." Some of them have stated that what had happened in 1948 was truly "ethnic cleansing" meant to pave the way for the Jewish state of Israel after driving out the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims. More and more voices are criticizing Israeli practices in Gaza, where people are humiliated and deprived of the chance to lead normal lives because of Israel's crippling blockade.
The chances for peace are on a path to extinction amid increasing clamoring for a "humanitarian truce"
Some in the American -- and not just the European -- media began challenging the narrative that Israel is exercising its right to self-defense, and that Israel warns families to evacuate their homes before shelling them -- but evacuate to where, as everyone is now asking? Questions have started making their way to the public opinion regarding what Israel really means by insisting on getting international recognition for it as a Jewish state -- in the sense of a state free of Palestinians -- and what this may entail in terms of forced deportations and "ethnic cleansing" in the 21st century.
Certainly, all this anger directed at Israel has not exempted Hamas from the responsibility of hiding rockets among Palestinian civilians, launching rockets on Israelis, and building tunnels to receive sophisticated weapons from Iran. All this occurred while Hamas was joining a government led by the Palestinian Authority, which is committed to peaceful negotiations rather than armed struggle. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, and other armed organizations, wanted to impose themselves as direct players against Israel -- or others wanted them to do so.
These "others" have different identities, nationalities, and goals. Who was behind the abduction and murder of three young Israelis? Who is pushing Hamas to launch rockets and reject the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire? Perhaps Qatar and Turkey encouraged Hamas to reject the Egyptian initiative, but I believe it is Iran whose name is linked in more than one forum to the incitement to ignite a confrontation with Israel. The reason, as many are suggesting, is that Iran wants to tell the Obama administration that it possesses the keys to the Middle East - not just to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Yemen, but also to Israel’s backyard.
Tehran is aware that President Barack Obama wants, more than anything, the finalization of a nuclear deal and the normalization of relations with Iran to become his historical legacy. Tehran believes that it can drag the United States to where it wants it to be, namely, to give Iran what it wants -- the nuclear deal and pledging not to attempt to overthrow its regime. Iran believes that the time is right for bargains and to communicate a message highlighting its importance in terms of developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, since it can either stop the flow of rockets or double the number of rockets sent to Hamas and other organizations.
A ceasefire is the first stop that the U.N. and the United States are seeking, and to achieve it, Ban Ki-moon is closely coordinating with John Kerry to assist him in his efforts. Ban Ki-moon has been expressing sorrow, regret, and resentment on a daily basis, calling for a "humanitarian truce," "ceasefire," "dialogue," and addressing the root causes of the problem. The key to a ceasefire seem to be in the hands of Qatar, Turkey, and Iran in light of their ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Hurdles obstructing a ceasefire
In parallel, the hurdles impeding a ceasefire are growing not only because of Hamas' rejection of a permanent ceasefire if not accompanied by an end to the blockade, but also because Israel is determined to continue the war on Gaza to destroy the tunnels, having realized that this is an achievable goal while eliminating Hamas's rocket arsenal would be much more difficult to accomplish.
Efforts are focused on achieving a ceasefire or a humanitarian truce accompanied by behind-the-scenes efforts for an agreement that would address both Israel and Hamas' demands. In other words, according to a Western diplomatic source, the aim is to "reach a ceasefire agreement accompanied by an agreement that would address other issues, including disarmament in Gaza, opening the crossings, and the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Strip." The source said, "Disarmament is intended to be a guarantee to Israel that Gaza would not be used again to launch rockets, which, if agreed upon, would require a monitoring mechanism in place." The diplomat, who is familiar with these efforts, stressed the "importance of giving the Palestinians guarantees regarding the opening of the crossings and the movement of persons and goods, as well as fishing, and the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza."
How realistic these aspirations are is something that is yet to be determined. For one thing, they remain exploratory ideas being developed by Washington with Riyadh, Doha, Cairo, and Ankara, but not with Tehran, unless this is being done secretly. The Israeli campaign against John Kerry, whom the Israelis have described as an "alien," has backfired somewhat, but it did not shut down communications between the Obama administration and the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. John Kerry is still looking for that elusive solution, and believes that the tragedy in Gaza could move things toward radical solutions to the Gaza Strip, namely transforming the Strip into a demilitarized zone and disarming Palestinian factions in exchange for lifting the siege on Gaza and the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Strip.
Israel might be interested in such a solution, which would render Gaza a model for what the Palestinian state as desired by Israel would look like -- that is, a demilitarized state that does not have sovereignty. What Israel does not want and will not allow is the "two-state" solution as John Kerry envisions and as the international community has adopted it.
Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that radical solutions to the Palestinian question are within reach. Instead, it is possible to imagine that hundreds of Palestinian civilian victims, if not thousands, may perish before a ceasefire agreement is reached between Hamas and Israel, one that would tackle the relationship between them on the ruins of Gaza and its people.
What will not happen is forcing Egypt to open its border with Gaza so that Israel can bombard it and drive its people out. What is likely to happen, however, is Israel taking all military measures to ensure the destruction of the tunnels and to prevent their reconstruction in order to bring in more rockets, even if that took committing massacres that ruin Israel's reputation further.
What will the Obama administration do? It will issue condemnations, as it has done against Israel's shelling of an UNRWA-run school. It may allow a U.N. Security Council resolution to be passed, along the lines of the presidential statement it allowed to be issued last week. This had set a precedent in U.S. attitudes regarding statements and resolutions issued by the U.N. Security Council on Israel, as the statement in question spoke about accountability and criticized the continuing violations of international humanitarian law.
What the Obama administration needs to do, first, is to go back to the drawing board to draft a strategy to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the facts on the ground, including, most notably, the fact that Netanyahu has declared that Israel would never accept Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank or Gaza, in the process signaling the death of the two-state solution, which represents a pillar of U.S. policy.
A partial treatment of the Gaza issue on the basis of disarming the Strip in return for lifting the siege is nothing more than an example of the radical decline in Washington's positions, since this would undermine the two-state solution and accelerate its demise.
The Middle Eastern countries should stop taking advantage of the Palestinians, especially Turkey and Iran. But the Arab countries have also long exploited the Palestinian cause, and flooded Palestine with empty promises. It is time for these countries to either support a military solution explicitly and take part in the war with Israel, or find other ways to support the civil resistance of the Palestinians before Israel begins implementing the demographic solution, which requires Israel to engage in "ethnic cleansing" to become a purely Jewish state. There are many options. At the Palestinian level, it has become urgent for all rival leaderships to decide whether a Palestinian child killed every hour is a cheap price to pay or whether it is too high a cost.
**This article was first published in al-Hayat on August 1, 2014 and was translated by Karim Traboulsi.

Israel's Gaza operation is a diplomatic turning point
By: Sever Plocker/Ynetnews
Published: 08.04.14/ Israel Opinion
Analysis: Obama plans to resume his efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as the fighting in Gaza ceases, this time with the help of the majority of the moderate Arab world.
US President Barack Obama faced White House reporters on Friday night, exhausted and dispirited. His face was lined with wrinkles, his voice cracked, his words were cut off. His entire appearance conveyed disappointment. This isn't the Barack Obama we know from speeches filled with pathos and fire – starting with the profound comments he made in favor of democracy at Cairo University to the emotionally moving address he delivered in favor of peace at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. The sparkle is gone, reality remains. To his listeners and viewers, Obama explained in detail the limitations of force and influence experienced even by the only super power in the world. America, he said, is expected to get involved in every conflict on earth and be able to solve it, but "America does not control everything around the world," he clarified.
We can, he said, "try to bring the parties together. We can lead them to resolve some of the technical issues and to show them a path, but they’ve got to be able to make their own decisions."
The talks about the world powers' limitations of influence are not new. The innovation in Obama's confession is an analysis of the reasons. According to the American president, leaders of states, movements, organizations and nations act irrationally too often, causing intentional damage. They are ignoring their own vital interests and are not even trying to solve the problems. The sad and tired Obama lamented the irrationality of decision makers after a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin and after receiving the full information about Hamas' violation of the ceasefire.
The two incidents were not isolated: As far as Obama is concerned and in his rational view, the Putin regime has been walking down the road of foolishness since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, while Hamas has been sliding down the slope of destructive idiocy since the murder of the three Jewish teens. They are both acting against long-term interests, of Russia and of the Palestinian people.
Astonished and disappointed, Obama has been facing repeated outbursts of the blurring of wisdom in international relations and has been talking about it in public. But even if in his sixth year as president, Obama seems as though he has despaired of understanding the loonies around him – he is not giving up. America under my leadership, he promised in that press conference, will continue to get involved and play an active role in settling disputes and conflicts which don't exactly concern the Americans ("the rockets aren't being fired into the United States," he noted) because of its "special responsibilities." We will not stop trying, he said. Many people have been wrong about Obama. Some have seen him as an innocent idealist, some have seen him as a person with permanent doubts, and some have seen him as a quarrel-monger and hypocrite.
Obama as president is neither of those. He is a very realistic, down to earth leader of a world power. He acknowledges the existence of evil and the need to fight it mercilessly. In one average month he orders more targeted assassinations than George W. Bush ordered in an entire year of presidency.
Obama uses sanctions more aggressively than they have ever been used. His threats convinced Syrian President Bashar Assad to destroy the chemical weapons arsenal, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to destroy the uranium enriched above %, and Putin to give up on a planned invasion of Ukraine. For now.
Obama will not stand in Israel's way to bring down the Hamas government in Gaza. He will even welcome it, if it doesn’t entail a high death toll among Palestinian civilians. The way the US president sees it, uniting the two parts of the future state of Palestine under one rational leadership is an interest shared by the US, Israel and the Palestinians. This is the blessing that may develop from the misfortune of the fighting. Listen to Obama: He promises to resume his efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as the fighting ceases, and this time he even plans to recruit the majority of the moderate Arab world.
Operation Protective Edge is being increasingly perceived as a turning point, not just militarily but also diplomatically. Not everyone is happy about it.