August 10/14


Bible/Faith/Quotation for today/From Death to Life
Ephesians 02 /01-10: " In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. At that time you followed the world's evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God.  Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God's anger. But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great,  that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved.  In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.  He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by God's grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God's gift, so that no one can boast about it. God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
I ask all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians.
Pape François
Je demande à toutes les paroisses et communautés catholiques de consacrer une prière spéciale, cette fin de semaine, aux chrétiens irakiens

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 09& 10/1

A New Terrorism/By: Yousef Al-Dayni/Asharq Al Awsat/August 10/14

The new regional mandate/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/August 10/14

Hamas had the final word in Gaza op/By: Shimon Shiffer/Ynetnews/August 10/14

Hamas' imaginary victory in Gaza war/By: Isaac Ben-Israel/Ynetnews/August 10/14

Mideast nightmares one has lived long enough to see/By: Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/August 10/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 09 & 10/14

Lebanese Army enters Arsal in full force
March 14 Member Nawfal Daw escapes ambush in Bekaa

Lebanese MPs, be aware: Tomatoes await

Worsening security will delay poll: Machnouk

Hariri holds talks with foreign envoys

Lebanon takes more measures to combat risk of Ebola
Stranded Syrian refugees begin to return home

Hariri's Return boosts moderation
Mashnouq Meets Berri: Security Situation Prevents Holding Parliamentary Polls on Time
Syrian Ambassador Says Solution Reached to Facilitate Refugee's Return Home
Seven Arrested during Raids of Refugee Houses in Koura
Arsal Soldier Deaths Hit 19 as Gunmen 'Demand Release of 20 Roumieh Islamists in Exchange for Detained Troops'
Hariri Discusses Saudi Grant with Qahwaji, Salam

Syrian Arrested in Nabatiyeh for Images of Security Official's House Captured on his Mobile

Huge Fire Erupts at Warehouses at Tripoli Port

Report: Jumblat to Visit Marada Movement Chief to Discuss Latest Developments



Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 09 & 10/14

 Israel Hamas battle on, in day 2 since Egyptian-led talks failed to extend truce

'If demands not met by Sunday, we will attack Tel Aviv,' says Hamas

Hamas vows no concessions to Israel

Islamist fundamentalists gain tactical advantage over the US and Israel in Gaza and Irbil, 1,372 km apart

US bombs militants in Iraq as crisis worsens

Question: "Christian martyrdom - what does the Bible say? Should Christians desire to become martyrs?"
Canada Deplores Hamas’s Choice of Violence Over Peace

US: aircraft hit Islamic State artillery in Iraq

Iraq MP: Yazidis will die en masse if no help soon
Turkey says no Turkish military strike against IS
Egypt dissolves Brotherhood’s political wing

March 14 Member Nawfal Daw escapes ambush in Bekaa
The Daily Star/09.08.14

BEIRUT: The March 14 coalition general secretariat said Saturday one of its members had escaped an ambush in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley town of Taybeh. 
"Nawfal Daw escaped from an armed ambush that was set up for him at 11 a.m. in Taybeh," the group said in a statement, minutes after a local television reported the incident.
The group said gunmen rained bullets onto Daw's vehicle, damaging its tires, before they forced him to get out of the car. "But he was able to flee and reached a nearby house where he contacted Internal Security Forces Information Branch, as well as the Army intelligence directorate in the Bekaa Security forces arrived to the scene of the incident and launched an investigation. "The general secretariat condemns this attack, whether it is a crime or a political attack," it said.

Hariri holds talks with foreign envoys
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks Saturday with envoys of countries comprising the International Support Group for Lebanon, explaining the $1 billion Saudi grant offered to the Lebanese Army and security agencies to combat terrorism. US Ambassador David Hale, Canadian Ambassador Hilary Childs-Adams, the acting Special Coordinator for Lebanon Ross Mountain, as well as representatives from embassies of France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia, Italy and the European Union attended the meeting at Hariri’s downtown residence.
During the meeting, Hariri informed them of the grant donated by Saudi King Abdullah to the Army, saying there was ongoing contact to benefit from the grant to “meet the needs of the Army and security forces, and enable them to carry out their tasks, combat terrorism and strengthen security and stability.”According to Hariri’s office, the meeting also focused on the assistance that can be provided by the countries in the support group to help Lebanon withstand the growing needs of the Syrian refugees and their host communities. Hariri said he returned to oversee the spending of the Saudi grant that Riyadh announced earlier this week with the aim of supporting the Army to combat terrorism. Hariri, who arrived in Beirut Friday, in a surprise return to the country after a little over three years of self-imposed exile due to security concerns, also met with Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz. “It was a big pleasure to see ... Hariri back in Beirut. I wanted to greet him and express our good wishes for his stay here. I think that his return will play a positive role in strengthening dialogue, stability and the armed forces,” the envoy said  The Future Movement leader also received phone calls from various political leaders, greeting him on his safe return. Among the officials were head of the Reform and Change parliamentary bloc Michel Aoun, MP Walid Jumblatt, Former Minister Elias Murr, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Minister Wael Abu Faour , MPs Ahmed Karami, Ghazi Aridi, Anwar Khalil, Talal Arslan, and Druze Sheikh Naim Hasan.

Lebanese MPs, be aware: Tomatoes await
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The self-styled "Tomato Revolution," organized by the Civil Movement for Accountability, mailed their Lebanese lawmakers boxes with tomatoes as a reminder of what will be coming their way should they extend Parliament's mandate for the second time in less than two years. On May 31, 2013, days before the scheduled parliamentary election, MPs from the country’s various blocs headed to Parliament and passed a draft law that extended their mandate for 17 months, citing security concerns. The real reason, however, was the lack of an agreement on a new election law that suited the ambitions of each party as Christian lawmakers, backed by Bkirki, were adamant on rejecting the law in effect - the 1960 election law. Civil society activists lined up the road leading to Nejmeh Square in Downtown Beirut on that Friday and hurled tomatoes at the tinted-window SUVs and luxury vehicles as they made their way to Parliament to vote. Since the extension, lawmakers have held few if any parliamentary committee sessions to discuss the proposed draft laws. This year, the Civil Movement for Accountability sent a short notice; a small white box with a tomato inside and a sticker that read: "No to extension." The group posted pictures of its members packaging the tomatoes with one of the volunteers telling a local television channel that they would make sure MPs receive the gesture.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk thought it was a "funny idea" when he saw the boxes at Speaker Nabih Berri's office Saturday, during talks about the possibility of extending the mandate.
"I saw the tomatoes at Berri's. It is a funny idea anyways. This is their right, to express themselves in politics. I cannot deny anyone’s right in this matter," he told reporters after his meeting with the speaker.
He then affirmed what many Lebanese knew would happen once again when he said: "From my position as an interior minister, I do not think that the security situation allows for the election to be held in the next months."“We are all seeing and living these security developments, as we observe the conflict reaching Lebanon. As a preliminary observation, the security situation will prevent the election from being held on time.”The Parliamentary election is scheduled to be held in November with many officials saying the poll would not take place, the only remaining question is how long it will be delayed. Last month, the Civil Campaign for Electoral Reform slammed Parliament Monday over the possible extension of its mandate, warning against a political environment that appears to be leaning toward extension.


Lebanese Army enters Arsal in full force
Nidal al-Solh| The Daily Star
ARSAL, Lebanon: The Lebanese Army entered the northeastern town of Arsal Saturday and redeployed in checkpoints that were overran by militants a week ago during clashes with Islamist gunmen, as relatives of kidnapped soldiers and security forces issued a personal call for their release.
Thirty-five military vehicles, including two tanks, drove through Arsal in the afternoon, making their way to Aqabat al-Mebyaah in Wadi al-Hosn, an Army post that militants took over on the first day of fighting, as well as Sayadeye among other posts.
Soldiers as well as members of the Internal Security Forces were seen patrolling some of the town’s streets, inspecting military buildings that were heavily damaged during the fighting.
Backed by armored vehicles, Army rangers and ISF elite units returned to a bullet-riddled police station in the town, where ISF members were kidnapped, as they assessed the damage.
Some residents greeted Army soldiers as they passed through the town, while children climbed on top of tanks in celebration of what officials said was the liberation of the town from militants.
The five-day ferocious clashes between the Army and militants erupted on Aug. 2 - killing 17 soldiers and over 50 gunmen - over the arrest of Syrian militant commander Ahmad Jomaa. Another soldier succumbed to injuries Saturday, bringing the toll to 18. Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi has said that fighting was a premeditated attack on the military. Despite the withdrawal of fighters from ISIS and the Nusra Front - some of whom resided in Syrian refugee camps in Arsal - and the cease-fire that allowed the entry of needed aid into the town, militants are still holding 25 hostages: 17 members of the Internal Security Forces and 8 soldiers, according to a security source.
Meanwhile, a number of relatives of the captured soldiers and members of the ISF held a protest along the international highway near Drous roundabout in Baalbek, calling for the release of their loved ones. "We want out children back, Sunnis, Christians and Shiites," the relatives chanted as they carried Lebanese flags.
Head of the Taraya municipality, Mayor Mahdeh Hamdeye, thanked the Committee of Muslim Scholars and Arsal residents for trying to negotiate a release of the captives. "We have brotherly ties with Arsal residents but a strange element surfaced and kidnapped our children. All we want is their release and we don't have any animosity with Arsal,” he said. The Committee of Muslim Scholars, which mediated the cease-fire and is overseeing talks to release the captured soldiers, has said that there were waiting for the kidnappers to deliver a final list of their demands.
ISIS and the Nusra Front were behind the abductions, with some media reports saying that the purpose behind the kidnappings were to use them as an exchange for Islamist inmates in Roumieh Prison.
Sheikh Adnan Amama told The Daily Star Friday that one of the militants’ main demands was a guarantee that once the soldiers are freed, the Syrian refugee camps in Arsal would remain safe.
Some of the camps in the town were heavily damaged after they were burnt to the ground during the clashes, which forced many Syrians to flee to neighboring villages while others sought refuge back to their home country.

Arsal Soldier Deaths Hit 19 as Gunmen 'Demand Release of 20 Roumieh Islamists in Exchange for Detained Troops'
Naharnet/A soldier died Saturday of wounds sustained in clashes with jihadists in the northeastern town of Arsal near the Syrian border and the body of another was found in al-Hosn area, raising the number of troops killed in the fighting to 19, as media reports said Islamists have demanded the release of Roumieh inmates in exchange for army hostages. "Soldier Abdul Hamid Nouh on Saturday morning succumbed to wounds he sustained during clashes with terrorist groups in Arsal,” the Army Command announced in a communique.
And on Saturday evening, the state-run National News Agency reported that the body of an army soldier was found in Arsal's al-Hosn area.
It noted that the martyred troop was killed on the first day of the Bekaa clashes. The fighting between troops and extremist fighters broke out on August 2 when jihadists from Syria attacked army and police posts in Arsal after the arrest of a militant accused of belonging to the al-Qaida affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
During the fighting, 19 soldiers and 17 policemen were seized by the militants and are still being held hostage. Meanwhile, An Nahar daily reported earlier on Saturday that the Islamists who took part in the Arsal clashes have demanded the release of a number of their colleagues in the Roumieh Prison in exchange for the release of the kidnapped troops.
The newspaper said that the Islamists called for the release of some 20 extremists imprisoned in Roumieh. “It's very simple, they will get their soldiers in exchange for the Islamist hostages,” one Islamist was quoted as saying.
This demand has been submitted to the Lebanese government and army, he revealed. The list included Imad Jomaa, whose arrest last weekend sparked the clashes in Arsal, reported As Safir newspaper.
A government source however said that the cabinet did not receive any demand from the Islamists, added the daily. A delegation of the Muslim Scholars Committee had been tasked with negotiating with the Islamists a ceasefire in Arsal, which was reached on Thursday.Sheikh Samih Ezzeddine told As Safir that the kidnapped troops are doing well, adding that they have not been tortured or harmed.
They were taken outside of Arsal on the second day of the clashes, he continued. Another member of the Committee, Husam al-Ghali told As Safir that logistic challenges and the shelling of the outskirts of Arsal prevented the delegation from communicating with the Islamists regarding the release of the hostages. He said that a delegation from the Committee will head to Arsal later on Saturday in order to receive a response over an army demand that the captives be released.
There is a high possibility that they may be released in phases over a few days, he added.
He also speculated that the captives may be held in the outskirts of Arsal or in Syria's al-Qalamoun region. The fate of at least 35 soldiers and policemen, who were held captive by Islamist gunmen in Arsal, remains unknown after contacts were lost with them. According to As Safir newspaper on Friday, armed men who retreated to Syria from Arsal after intensified clashes with the Lebanese army have taken hostage more than 35 soldiers and policemen in an attempt to exchange them for Islamist prisoners, held at Roumieh prison's Bloc B. On Thursday, a delegation from the Muslim Scholars Committee tasked with mediating with the gunmen announced that it has lost contact with militants who have taken army and Internal Security Forces personnel captive. But al-Nusra Front announced later that the soldiers and policemen who are still in captivity have a "special status that will be revealed later."
Security forces and the army have recently taken strong measures around the country's largest prison after reports emerged of an armed takfiri group planning to abduct civilians to swap them with Roumieh Prison inmates and another alleged plot by prisoners to escape from the facility by carrying out a truck bombing.SourceAgence France Presse

Hariri Discusses Saudi Grant with Qahwaji, Salam
Naharnet/Former Premier and head of al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri on Saturday continued discussion over the one billion dollar Saudi grant to the military institution with army chief General Jean Qahwaji and Prime Minister Tammam Salam. "Hariri met with PM Salam and Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq and the talks focused on managing the Saudi grant that is allocated to supporting the army and the security forces' needs to fight terrorism and strengthen security and stability in the country,” a statement released by the former Premier's office said.
"The talks also tackled the general situation” in the country, the statement added. Later on Saturday, Hariri held another meeting with Qahwaji at the Center House for the same purpose, a second statement revealed. The head of al-Mustaqbal Movement, who made a surprise return to Lebanon on Friday morning after three years abroad, also met with Egyptian ambassador Ashraf Hamdi and Tripoli and North Mufti Sheikh Malek al-Shaar. The ex-PM declared on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia has provided Lebanon's army with one billion dollars to strengthen security. Hariri explained during a security meeting on Friday afternoon that he was tasked by King Abdullah with supervising the spending of the Saudi grant.

Seven Arrested during Raids of Refugee Houses in Koura

Naharnet /Seven people were apprehended on Saturday during security raids in residential compounds hosting Syrian refugees in the northern Koura district, reported the state-run National News Agency. "An ISF Intelligence Bureau force raided al-Waha compound of the Hariri Project in Koura's Deddeh as well as other residential areas,” the NNA said, noting that these places host Syrian refugees.
"Seven people were arrested during the raids,” it announced. On Wednesday, army troops raided the houses of Syrian refugees in Beirut, the Bekaa and the South, and managed to detain a number of people during the operation. These raids and arrests come after army troops were involved in fierce battles against foreign armed jihadists in the northeastern border town of Arsal in the past week. The clashes, which erupted on August 2 following the apprehension of a member of the al-Qaida-linked Al-Nusra Front, led to the martyrdom of scores of troops while over 85 others were wounded. Army chief General Jean Qahwaji remarked on Sunday that the extremist fighters are foreigners of different nationalities who came from neighboring countries via the border in coordination with people residing in refugee camps.

Syrian Arrested in Nabatiyeh for Images of Security Official's House Captured on his Mobile

Naharnet/The Lebanese Army Intelligence raided the house of a Syrian national in the southern village of Nabatiyeh for taking images of the house of a prominent Lebanese security figure, the state-run National News agency reported on Saturday. Army forces raided the house of the said suspect in al-Numayrieh and confiscated two hunting rifles in his possession, NNA added. The Army also found two mobile phone that carried images of the house of a security figure, they said. They referred the suspect to the Army Intelligence and confiscated his belongings.

Huge Fire Erupts at Warehouses at Tripoli Port
Naharnet/Firefighters succeeded on Saturday in controlling a large fire that had erupted at warehouses in the port of the northern city of Tripoli, reported the National News Agency.It said that the fire broke out at warehouses of the Sanita company. The blaze destroyed three of the warehouses despite firefighter efforts to extinguish it. The causes of the fire have yet to be determined. No injuries were reported.

Report: Jumblat to Visit Marada Movement Chief to Discuss Latest Developments
Naharnet /Head of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat is scheduled to hold talks on Saturday with Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, reported al-Liwaa newspaper on Saturday.
It said that the talks will focus on the latest developments in Lebanon, especially in light of the return to Lebanon of head of the Mustaqbal Movement MP Saad Hariri following a three-year absence. The talks will also address Lebanon's efforts to combat terrorism following the army's clashes with Islamists earlier this week in the northeastern town of Arsal. Jumblat had recently held talks with other prominent March 8 alliance members, most notably Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in late July and Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Michel Aoun on Tuesday. The PSP leader's talks with both officials addressed the presidential deadlock and the importance of backing the Lebanese army.

Mashnouq Meets Berri: Security Situation Prevents Holding Parliamentary Polls on Time
Naharnet/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stated on Saturday that the decision “to extend the term of parliament or not” lies in the hands of the political powers and government, reported the National News Agency. He said after holding talks with Speaker Nabih Berri: “As interior minister, I do not believe that the security situation in Lebanon allows us to hold the elections on time in November.”
“I informed Berri of the decree I signed and presented to cabinet over calling electoral bodies to the elections, seeing as this is a measure that I must abide by as minister,” he explained.
He had submitted the decree during a cabinet session on Thursday. Berri had reiterated on Wednesday his rejection of the extension of parliament's term for a second time, urging Mashnouq to carry out the preparations to hold the polls. He had stated in June that the parliamentary elections should take place as scheduled even if a new president was not elected and MPs failed to agree on a new electoral law.
The 17-month extension, which took place in May 2013, came after the rival parliamentary blocs failed to reach an agreement on a new electoral law. Berri had said that he would support holding the polls based on the controversial 1960 law if a new law was not approved by November. The 1960 law adopts the qada as an electoral district and is based on the winner-takes-all system.

Syrian Ambassador Says Solution Reached to Facilitate Refugee's Return Home

Naharnet /Syria's ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim Ali announced on Saturday that the situation of Syrian refugees returning home has been solved after hundreds of them have been stranded in border areas in the past days following the clashes between army troops and jihadist militants in the northeastern border town of Arsal. On Friday, media reports said Syrian authorities prevented a convoy of refugees from returning to their homes on claims that they are the relatives of fighters battling the regime. And on Thursday, many others were prevented from entering the neighboring country because they had arrived illegally in Lebanon, and therefore, do not possess legal documents that allow them to cross the border. "We have solved the issue of returning Syrian refugees stuck in al-Masnaa (border crossing) area in Lebanon, and we found ways to allow them to enter Syrian territories,” Ali said in a released statement. "And we thank Lebanese authorities' cooperation in this respect,” he added. Several hundred Syrian refugees who had been sheltering in Arsal tried to cross back into Syria on Friday. A first group of 350 of some 1,700 refugees passed through the Masnaa border crossing back into the neighboring country. But the departure of may was not possible because they had either entered Lebanon illegally, or because Syrian authorities prevented them from returning home on claims that they are the relatives of fighters battling the regime, as media reports said. On Thursday, General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said that “refugees with legal status can leave to Syria via al-Masnaa."At least 47,000 Syrian refugees have taken shelter in Arsal, a town where many residents sympathize with the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad. But their presence and reports that some of the militants fighting the army since August 2 emerged from Syrian refugee camps in Arsal, have raised tensions, including in the neighboring town of al-Labweh. More than a million Syrian refugees have flooded into Lebanon since the conflict began in March 2011. And this week's departure appeared to be the first time a group of refugees has left Lebanon en masse to return to Syria.

Iraq MP pleads for help to rescue Yazidis
Salam Faraj| Agence France Presse
BAGHDAD: Displaced Iraqis, many from the Yazidi minority, have been stranded in a jihadist-hemmed mountain for a week and will die en masse if not rescued urgently, an MP said Saturday.
"We have one or two days left to help these people. After that they will start dying en masse," Yazidi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil told AFP.
"If we cannot give them hope now -- the (Kurdish) peshmerga, the United Nations, the government, anybody -- their morale will collapse completely and they will die," she warned.
Thousands of Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority following an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism, fled their homes a week ago when Islamic State (IS) militants attacked the town of Sinjar.
Many have since been stranded in the nearby mountain range, with no food and water in searing temperatures. The Yazidis, dubbed "devil worshippers" by IS militants because of their unorthodox blend of beliefs and practices, are a small and closed community, one of Iraq's most vulnerable minorities. US President Barack Obama sent warplanes back over Iraq for the first time in three years this week in part to avert what he said was a possible impending genocide. American cargo planes have been dropping supplies on the Sinjar mountain to help the displaced, who have survived by hiding in old cave dwellings, seeking out natural springs and hunting small animals. "The thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- of Iraqi men, women and children who fled to that mountain were starving and dying of thirst. The food and water we airdropped will help them survive," Obama said Saturday in his weekly address. However Dakhil said the aid could not reach all of the people scattered across Mount Sinjar, a barren range stretching for around 60 kilometres (35 miles) near the border with Syria.
"The US should strike Sinjar, even if there are civilian casualties. It's better than letting everyone die," she said. "Government helicopters have been evacuating some people but the process is too slow -- we need a faster solution."Dakhil broke down in tears during a parliament session earlier this week when she described the plight of Yazidis and other religious minorities displaced by the jihadist onslaught on Sinjar.Her appeal for international help to save a religion "being wiped off the face of the earth" triggered an outpouring of sympathy. Dakhil told AFP of one Yazidi woman she spoke to Saturday who had found herself trapped in the mountain with her five children. "One child has already died. Another was dying so she decided to leave them behind and walk across the mountain to look for a helicopter. She could try to save three of her children or watch all five die," she said. Temperatures in Iraq can often reach 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit) in the summer, and some displaced people have ventured out of the ragged Sinjar hills, realising they would not survive. According to some of those contacted by AFP over the past few days, they have experienced mixed fortunes.
Some have made their own way to neighbouring Syria and Turkey, others were caught and killed by IS fighters and others backtracked to the mountain.
Kurdish fighters from Syria and Turkey have opened safe passages to evacuate some of them, but tens of thousands are still thought to be stranded in the Sinjar mountain's lunar landscapes.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing emergency care to around 4,000 of them who crossed safely into northeastern Syria.
"They suffer from dehydration, sunstroke and some of them are seriously traumatised," the IRC's Suzanna Tkalec told AFP, adding that many of them had walked all day for several days.
She said previous air drops by the government "had not always been successful... some water bags just exploded" on impact.
There have also been several reports over the past week alleging that hundreds of Yazidi girls and women were abducted by IS fighters, to be used as servants, sex slaves or human shields.
"There are now 520 or 530 women held at Badush prison in Mosul," Dakhil claimed. "Daash (Islamic State) militants come every day to select a few and take them away. The militants say they are taking them to 'paradise'. We don't know what they do with them," she said. The group had very limited means of communicating with the outside world, she said. AFP could not immediately verify information concerning the fate of missing Yazidi women allegedly held in Mosul and other IS-held areas where independent reporting is impossible

A New Terrorism
By: Yousef Al-Dayni/Asharq Al Awsat
Saturday, 9 Aug, 2014

We now find ourselves in the bottleneck of extremism, terrorism and global threats from violent armed groups—groups that without exception employ chaotic, destructive terrorism that undermines the fabric of states, when in the past they only sought to oppose the ruling regimes in these same states.The issue is totally different now. Today’s terrorists aim to take territory and build states themselves, when previously their biggest ambition was to pressure Arab regimes by targeting US and Western interests. However, the way the War on Terror was conducted also influenced the course of terrorism, reducing its frequency even as it took root in the Islamic and Arab worlds. It became part of the social fabric in the case of Iraq, Syria and Yemen; reached the upper echelons of power in Somalia; dominated the scene by destabilizing the state in Egypt, Tunisia Morocco, and other Arab countries, including the Gulf and its environs, which are awash with extremism.
The warning issued by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, in which he admonished the international community and major states, and even silent Islamic scholars, reflected this transformation of terrorism. King Abdullah once described the war on terror as a very long one, because the countries where terrorism has become symptoms of a disease and a reaction to historical circumstances were numerous, stretching across Africa, and in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Caucasus. Even Western states have seen unprecedented recruitment activity, to a level which makes one realize that there are certain states that have not been directly targeted, yet today bravely take the lead and acknowledge that terrorism affects their national security. The experience of Norway is interesting example of this.
Therefore, terrorism is both a political tool and a social movement, not just the action of a misguided few who foolishly follow ideological slogans, as in the case of the violence in Egypt in the 1980s, which was linked to the relationship with the regime, or the internal violence which was sectarian in nature, not political.
The many forms and the different shapes terrorism is now assuming requires that we upgrade—to use a technical term—our perceptions, starting with the definition of terrorism and its various forms. More than 30 forms of armed violence and hundreds of organizations need different definitions, due to differences in context and objectives. Thus, Boko Haram cannot be defined in the same way as ISIS, and I would even suggest that the same organization can be defined differently depending on the area of its operations. So, Al-Qaeda in Yemen is different to Al-Qaeda in Libya, for instance.
But all these differences and variances add to the security problems and the strategic burden borne by the states they target, and on global stability. We must also taken into account the unprecedented recruitment and radicalization, thanks to the depressing circumstances in which many new recruits live.
The countries which benefit from terrorism, or those which are not harmed by it, or those who think it is a tool against oppressive regimes, do not realize that terrorism today is a fact of life, not just an anomaly. In my daily observation of social attitudes towards the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), I can say that it is widely-admired in the societies in which it operates, despite its harshness, extremism and cruelty, which borders on madness. As you enter the state of black banners you are faced with advertising boards calling for jihad and stamped with the ISIS logo, which is copied from the seal of the Prophet, with no condemnation for this audacity by “lazy” and “silent” Islamic scholars, as King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud dubbed them.
There is a mall being built by ISIS in Raqqa in eastern Syria, as well as workshops to teach people how to manufacture basic materials for construction projects and roads. ISIS has even managed to bring many damaged installations back to working order using revenue from the oil it sold cheaply to countries that turn a blind eye to its activities. Vehicles belonging to ISIS move around the city distributing CDs and booklets about the ideology of the organization. In ISIS schools, children’s entertainment programs are amazing and varied, and youth organizations teach children to enthusiastically chant slogans as if they were at a football game.We are facing a completely new kind of terrorism, and it will require new kinds of solutions.

Islamist fundamentalists gain tactical advantage over the US and Israel in Gaza and Irbil, 1,372 km apart

DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 9, 2014/
While different in many ways, the two most active Middle East conflicts, waged by the US in northern Iraq against the Islamic State, and by Israel against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, have strong common features:
1. Both stood idly by for years as Islamist fundamentalists, Al Qaeda’s IS in Iraq, and the Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip, systematically built up military force for bringing forward their aggressive designs.
The Obama administration shrugged when al Qaeda started forging ahead, first in Syria and then in Iraq.
But for occasional air strikes against “empty sands” in Gaza, Binyamin Netanyahu’s government neglected to step in when Hamas built up a vast stockpile of rockets and an underground terror empire, as former AMAN director Amos Yadlin admitted publicly last week.
When, in mid-2013, IS commander Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi executed a major tactical move by relocating his entire force from Syria to Iraq, Washington was unmoved - even when in Jan. 2014, the Islamists took over the unresisting western Iraqi province of Anbar and a row of important towns, including Falluja and Tikrit.
The Iraqi army’s armored divisions, rather than resist the ruthless Islamists sweeping across the county, turned tail, bequeathing the conquering force the rich spoils of heavy, up-to-date American weaponry in mountainous quantities.
And still President Barack Obama saw no pressing cause to step in - even though, by then, it was obvious that this booty was destined not only for subjugating Baghdad, but being injected into the Syrian war and the IS arsenal in preparation for leaping on its next prey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and at some point, Israel too.
The US president was finally jerked out of his unconcern when the soldiers of Allah started marching toward the gates of Irbil, capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish Republic of Iraq (KRG).
Friday, on Aug.8, a couple of US warplanes and drones went into belated action to curb their advance. According to the Pentagon statement, two FA-18 jets, launched from the USS George HW Bush aircraft carrier in the Gulf, dropped 500lb laser-guided bombs on a “mobile artillery piece” that was shelling Kurdish forces defending Irbil, “where US forces are based.”
A little more than one hour later, four F/A-18 aircraft hit a stationary convoy of seven vehicles and a mortar position near Irbil, wiping them out with eight bombs.
Gallons of water and tons of packaged meals were also air-dropped for the hundreds of refugees who had fled towns in northern Iraq that were mowed down by the Islamists, with nothing but the clothes they stood up in.
2. The US appears to be falling into the same error of judgment made by Israel’s war planners in the month-long Operation Defense Edge, i.e., that air strikes are capable of wiping out an Islamist terrorist peril. That lesson was there for Washington to learn in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and latterly Gaza.
3. President Obama refuses to put American boots back in Iraq, specifically, special operations forces, because this would reverse what he considers his crowning foreign achievement, the withdrawal of the US army from Iraq.
For very different reasons, Israeli leaders abstained from sending special forces deep inside the Gaza Strip to eliminate the Hamas high command and main rocket stocks.
Because of these common factors, the two campaigns are destined to share a common outcome: IS will forge ahead in Iraq, and Hamas will continue firing rockets at the Israeli population, to force Jerusalem into submission. Neither conflict looks like ending any time soon.
4. Another less obvious common thread is to be found in Irbil. Two powerful patrons, the US and Israel, were responsible for shaping, training and funding the Peshmerga as the national army of the semiautonomous Kurdish Republic.
Both maintain military and intelligence missions in the KRG capital and may be presumed to be advising Kurdish generals on strategy for rebuffing the advancing Islamists.
Yet this menacing advance continues relentlessly, and the Kurdish army is showing the first signs of fallilng apart in the same way as the Iraqi divisions in earlier rounds of the IS onslaught. The sense of doom in Irbil is such that the US and Israel are preparing to evacuate their personnel.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that US warplanes and drones are the wrong weapons for stopping Al Qaeda’s jihadis, just as Israeli air strikes were never much good against Hamas, and will not stop the war of attrition the Palestinian fundamentalists launched Friday, Aug. 8.
5. Islamist fundamentalists, fighting on separate battlefields 1,327 km apart, have gained the tactical advantage in both over the US and Israeli armies. President Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had better take a hard look at their tactics before it is too late.

Canada Deplores Hamas’s Choice of Violence Over Peace

August 8, 2014 - Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today issued the following statement:
“It is inexcusable and completely unacceptable that Hamas has yet again chosen death, destruction and terror over peace, negotiations and a cessation of violence.
“Terrorism is a serious threat to all democratic nations, and it must be confronted. Israel is continually on the front lines of this threat, and Canada upholds Israel’s right and duty to defend itself and its citizens from such abhorrent, indiscriminate attacks.
“Peace-loving nations around the world must denounce this latest provocation of violence by Hamas and stand by Israel, the only liberal democratic nation in the Middle East.
“The only solution in Gaza is one in which Hamas lays down its arms and is completely demilitarized.
“Canada believes the Palestinian people deserve better than Hamas’s reckless actions; both Israelis and Palestinians deserve a future of peace, security and prosperity. Hamas is solely to blame for any further loss of innocent life.”

Question: "Christian martyrdom - what does the Bible say? Should Christians desire to become martyrs?"

August 09/14
Answer: The dictionary defines a martyr as “a person who is killed because of his religious or other beliefs.” Interestingly enough, the English word martyr is really a word transliterated from the original Greek martur, which simply means “witness.” The reason why this word became synonymous with dying for one’s religious beliefs is that the early Christian witnesses were often persecuted and/or killed for their witness. As evidence of this, consider the story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, recorded in Acts 6:8–7:53. After being anointed as one of the first deacons in the church, Stephen immediately began doing mighty works among the people. As is usually the case when the Holy Spirit is mightily at work and the gospel is going forth, the forces of darkness arise to hinder the work of the kingdom. In this case, several men came to dispute what Stephen was saying, but Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, was able to refute their criticisms. Rather than accept what Stephen was teaching, these men brought false charges against him to the Jewish leaders (Acts 6:11-14). Most of Acts 7 consists of Stephen’s speech to the Jewish leaders in which he essentially summarized the history of Israel up to their rejection of their Messiah.
At the end of the speech, Stephen utters these words, which seal his fate: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53).
Now, there was nothing untrue in Stephen’s words. The Jewish leaders were indeed responsible for turning Jesus over to the Romans for execution. Despite Jesus’ miracles and authoritative teaching, the hardness of the Jewish leaders’ hearts kept them from seeing the truth about Jesus. The Jewish leaders, upon hearing Stephen’s words, were enraged and immediately arranged for Stephen’s execution by stoning (v. 58). Stephen was, therefore, the first Christian martyr recorded in Scripture.
The Bible places a premium on faithful believers who pay the ultimate price for their witness. Stephen was granted a glorious vision of heaven before he died, and in this vision, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father (Acts 7:56) as though waiting for Stephen in an attitude of honor for Stephen’s faithful service. As further evidence that martyrs are considered precious in God’s sight, the apostle John saw in his vision of the millennium those martyred for their faith reigning with Christ for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). The apostle Peter, who wrote the most about martyrdom and suffering for one’s faith, said, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you... However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:14, 16). There is also the word of our Lord who pronounced a blessing upon those who are persecuted for His name: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).
Clearly, the biblical evidence points to the fact that those who are persecuted and suffer for their witness to Christ (up to and including death) are pleasing in God’s sight. Given that, two additional questions arise. First, what if I’m not asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of Christ? God doesn’t call everyone to make the ultimate sacrifice, but the Bible calls all Christians to be prepared to give a defense of the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). The key to this passage lies in preparedness. Consider this analogy: those enlisting in the armed services should do so with the understanding that they may be called into battle and may be called upon to die in the service of their country. This is (or should be) the mindset of everyone who joins the military. Clearly, not all enlisted men and women die in the service of their country, and not all are even called into battle. Despite this, they are trained daily to be prepared for battle. The same goes for the Christian. We are in a state of “warfare” (Ephesians 6:12-20), and our Lord may call upon any of us to witness and even be martyred for our faith. Thus, we must be prepared! The second question that can be asked is, given martyrdom’s “special” status in God’s eyes, should we actually seek martyrdom? Biblically, we can’t make a case for seeking to be martyrs for the cause of Christ. Martyrdom is a great privilege if it is inevitable, but it is not to be sought. Jesus said, “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next” (Matthew 10:23). Furthermore, reading through the book of Acts, we see that the early church continually fled from intense persecution (Acts 8:1; 9:25, 30; 14:6; 17:10, 14). In each of these biblical examples, we see the early Christians fleeing persecution and taking all necessary precautions for survival. When Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39), He is not calling for people to make an attempt to lose their lives. Rather, He is calling us to be willing to lose our lives for His sake. Those who actively seek the path of martyrdom are not seeking it for the glory of God, but for their own glory. As the old saying goes, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. God’s purpose in martyrdom is the glorification of His name and the building up of His church.

Hamas had the final word in Gaza op
Shimon Shiffer/Ynetnews/08.06.14/Israel Opinion
Analysis: Forget about demilitarizing Gaza and disarming Hamas. Things will remain unchanged – until the next round. When politicians don't know how to summarize an incident with results that are not unequivocal, they usually say that "the final word has yet to be said." But in the case of Operation Protective Edge, one can definitely say that Hamas had the final word. The rocket barrages launched by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, a moment before the seventh ceasefire took effect were their "last word." Hamas determined the height of the flames throughout the entire operation, made an entire country lie down on the sides of roads, and mainly forced the Israeli government's representatives to travel to Cairo to negotiate with terror organizations, as equals, over an arrangement which will guarantee a ceasefire, nothing more, for an unknown period of time. In Cairo, the parties will likely reach an agreement to continue the ceasefire, but forget about all the talks about demilitarizing the Strip and disarming Hamas. Things will remain unchanged – until the next round. Here, the army will rush to announce that it has appointed teams to investigate the issues raised during the fighting. It's safe to assume that, like in the past, the conclusions will fail to teach us anything about what will be required in the next battle, as commissions of inquiry analyze the past but are incapable of predicting the future. I believe there will be no dismissals and the fighting methods will not be changed.
The same will happen in the Shin Bet, which is subject to the Prime Minister's Office. Despite the increasing number of failures being revealed in recent days in the security service's preparedness versus Gaza, I estimate that there will be no commission of inquiry into the government and prime minister's conduct.
In the Second Lebanon War, even before the fighters had returned home from the battlefield, then-Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu had already called for a commission of inquiry. But not now. Even without a commission of inquiry, we should expect the government not to abandon the important mission of soothing the relations with Israel's Arabs and calming down the situation in the West Bank. This is nothing less than an existential mission. We will remember two images from this war: The first is of children in a kindergarten in Hod Hasharon, lying down with their small hands on their heads, seeking shelter from the shrapnel of the rockets the villains launched at them. The second image is of the havoc and destruction left by the heavy bombardments of Gaza.
It's infuriating and ironic that these two images will have difficult consequences for us: The picture of the children will encourage our enemies to stick to the conclusion that Hamas won and that the Zionist enemy failed in protecting its population. The picture of the destruction in Gaza will serve the international community to verbally attack Israel and accuse it of committing war crimes.

Hamas' imaginary victory in Gaza war

By: Isaac Ben-Israel/Ynetnews
08.08.14/Israel Opinion,7340,L-4555967,00.html
Op-ed: The military balance in the recent round is so clearly in favor of Israel, that it cannot be concealed by any 'victory image.' Throughout almost the entire history of mankind, most people lived in an imaginary world filled with demons, spirits and gods. Only from the start of the modern era (around the 15th century in Western Europe), man began paying attention to "real" data. Even today, the modern perception is not shared by the majority of humanity. Is there any wonder that there are areas in the world where imagination plays an immensely greater part than the real facts of reality? One of these areas is the Middle East, where imagination (or, if you will, "fantasy") has a leading role in life: Millions of people live in an imaginary world, in which any connection to reality is purely coincidental. Gaza's residents who support Hamas are mostly offspring of War of Independence refugees. When they talk about the "occupation," they are referring to the occupation of 1948.
The terror striking Israel from Gaza is as old as the state. In the 1950s it was performed by cells of "infiltrators" who opened fire at vehicles in central Israel and planted explosive devices under houses on the outskirts of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, in the 1990s it was done through suicide bombers, and today it is done through rockets. Technology has changed, but the motivation and terror remain unchanged. Most of the people living in Gaza are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of refugees. After World War II, tens of millions of refugees were scattered around the world, and they eventually settled and built a new life in a different place. The offspring of the Palestinian refugees are, in this sense, a unique group: They have been waiting to return to their original homes for almost 70 years.
They live in an imaginary world, which has absolutely no connection to reality. But in the Middle East it's possible. In a place where a "victory image" can replace a "victory" – it's permissible.
Unrealistic dream
That's the reason why from the first day of Operation Protective Edge, there were people here who argued that "Hamas cannot be defeated." Not because it's a stronger organization than the IDF, or because it has unusual abilities. On the contrary, within several days it turned out that the thousands of rockets it had accumulated (of which some 3,000 were fired) are incapable of killing civilians (thanks to technology in general and the Iron Dome system in particular). The antitank missiles, which hit many tanks during the Second Lebanon War and inflicted loses on us at the time, turned out to be useless versus the Active Trophy armored shield protection. And even the jewel of the crown – the "offensive tunnels" – in which a huge amount of money and a decade-long effort were invested, were neutralized and detonated without succeeding in stopping or changing the course of the operation.
But, it was argued, Hamas can't be beaten because if it survives (and it will clearly survive, because we have no intention of killing thousands or tens of thousands of people), it will be able to claim victory.
The imaginary victory in the Hamas leaders' minds is enough. Victory, according to those who hold this opinion, is not measures in realistic terms but in "feelings." And if they "feel" and claim they won – that must be the case. It’s time to state the simple truth: The Palestinian dream (which is mistakenly called "the right of return") is unrealistic. The military (and diplomatic) balance in the recent round (Protective Edge) is so clearly in favor of Israel, that it cannot be concealed by any "victory image."
And one word about us: Part of the Israeli public, from the right and from the left, lives in an imaginary world too. Slogans like "the terror infrastructures must be destroyed once and for all" or "we must reach an understanding with Hamas about coexisting side by side" are nothing more than (alarming) signs of our integration in the Middle East. Here too, imagination has suddenly become more important than reality. Israel's security leadership – the prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff – has managed the crisis sensibly so far. Let's hope it continues that way.

Egypt dissolves Brotherhood’s political wing
Reuters, Cairo/Saturday, 9 August 2014
An Egyptian court on Saturday dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, dealing a crippling blow in the campaign to crush Egypt's oldest Islamist movement. A court banned the Muslim Brotherhood itself in September, but that ruling did not mention its political wing, leaving open the possibility it could be allowed to run in parliamentary elections, due later this year.Saturday's supreme administrative court ruling excludes the Brotherhood from formal participation in electoral politics, potentially forcing the movement underground, particularly as it has lost the sympathy of large swathes of the public. The court's ruling called for the FJP to be dissolved and its assets seized by the state. Its decision is final and cannot be appealed, a judicial source said.
The Muslim Brotherhood, once Egypt's oldest, best organized and most successful political movement, has seen hundreds of its members killed and thousands detained since then-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi overthrew elected president and Brotherhood member Mohammad Mursi 13 months ago, following weeks of protest. Mursi, who ruled for a year, and other Brotherhood officials were rounded up in the wake of his ousting and hundreds have been sentenced to death in mass court rulings that have drawn criticism from Western governments and human rights groups. Sisi, who went on to win a presidential election in May, vowed during his campaign that the Brotherhood would cease to exist under his rule.
The Brotherhood maintains it is a peaceful movement but attacks by militants have risen since the army overthrew Mursi. Most of the violence has taken place in the Sinai Peninsula near the border with Israel and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The army has responded with air and ground attacks. The FJP was established in June 2011, in the aftermath of the uprising that removed Hosni Mubarak from power after 30 years and inspired hopes for a more pluralistic political system in Egypt.
Last Update: Saturday, 9 August 2014 KSA 15:14 - GMT


Mideast nightmares one has lived long enough to see
Saturday, 9 August 2014
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya
These scenes belong to previous centuries. Long lines of people shuffling in the scorching heat along dusty and winding roads seeking shelter and safety behind the next hill or the next expanse of desert, looking back in fear and yearning to their ancestral homes from which they just had been uprooted. Their death marches and burned out homes are reminiscent of similar calamities that befell other communities in the Middle East in the last two centuries; Armenians, Christians in Lebanon and Syria, Palestinians and Kurds to name a few.
These are the modern day refugees of Iraq; Christians, Yazidis, Shiite Turkmen and members of other smaller religious sects. They are fleeing from the marauders of a religious cult that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which is bent on establishing a Caliphate of nihilism on earth. In this Caliphate which sits astride large swaths of two once important states, Syria and Iraq, the real and imagined enemies of the austere, puritanical, turbaned and masked brigands are beheaded, with the severed heads planted on sticks and posts, others are crucified for a slow death, and conquered women were sold into slavery or taken as “brides” or prizes for the warriors of the cult.
“The incredibly diverse archeological treasures of these ancient lands which gave birth to Western civilization are being laid to waste at the hands of a new breed of conquerors ”
Hisham Melhem
The rich, old cultural and religious heritage of these communities such as Churches, monasteries, Husseiniehs (Shiite Mosques), religious shrines (including those that are revered by Jews, Christians and Muslim alike, such as the site where it is believed that the biblical prophet Jonah was buried) and statues of Arab/Muslim poets and philosophers have been destroyed, blown up or raised to the ground. The incredibly diverse archeological treasures of these ancient lands which gave birth to Western civilization are being laid to waste at the hands of a new breed of conquerors that leave in their wake scarred lands, cultures and souls. And it was my misfortune to live long enough to see this nightmare.
‘Today, America is coming to help’
For days and weeks, the world watched with astonishment, then with apathy, then with denial. The fate of the victims is sad, but with a collective wringing of hands the chorus added: what is to be done? And as always people looked to the U.S. for a rescue effort, a remedy or for those who still believe that the U.S. is still capable of doing great things, a solution. A partial rescue was on its way at the time of this writing, in the form of humanitarian relief to thousands of Yazidis who sought refuge on Sinjar Mountain, and “targeted” areal bombings of assets belonging to the Caliphate. Citing a lone desperate Iraqi voice crying to the world earlier in the week that no one is coming to help, President Obama said “today, America is coming to help”.
When societies come undone
The U.S. limited military response reflected President Obama’s reluctance to be “dragged” back into Iraq for another war. President Obama, the fourth consecutive American president to do battle with or in Iraq, may have been too late and may have been doing too little to reestablish American deterrence in a region where both powerful non-state actors, and weak ruling regimes, are not swayed by rational balance of power calculus. The continuing threat of ISIS and the broader conflagrations in Syria and Iraq, the slow descent of Lebanon into civil strife and Egypt’s sluggish attempts to regain its bearings, and a region made more sullen following another war in Gaza, all cry out for a different American approach to the region beyond the occasional putting out of fires.
The U.S. bears some moral responsibility for the plight of the minorities of Iraq particularly the Christians. The 2003 invasion unleashed the dark forces that were the antecedent of ISIS, and the U.S. even when it had more than a hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq could not stop the campaign of terror against the Christians that forced half of them to flee Iraq. Today Syria and Iraq are paying the terrible price of three generations of “secular” repression and military rule that literally and figuratively gutted these two societies, and planted the seeds of virulent sectarianism and left them ripe for the plucking by the desert brigands of ISIS.
Even following the urgency that the Obama Administration felt acutely after the fall of Mosul in June and the advance of ISIS towards Baghdad, the Administration continued to think about Iraq as a functioning unitary state with a central address in Baghdad as if the events of the last year or so did not show the absurdity of that claim. Given that Syrian and Iraqi societies are coming unglued at the seams it no longer makes much sense to use “Syria” and “Iraq” as accurate categories of analysis. After all how many people in the two entities define their overwhelming identity as Syrians or Iraqis, and not as Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, Christian, Turkmen or others…And it was my misfortune to live long enough to see this nightmare.
Marked for death
The hordes of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria first came after the Christians in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and in Qaraqosh a historic Christian city in Northern Iraq. The ancestors of some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, who survived foreign conquerors and local despots, were given impossible choices; convert, flee or die. Their homes, even before they were abandoned were designated as “Property of the Islamic State” and marked with the Arabic letter “N” ( ن) the first in the old Arabic word for Christian “Nusrani.”
“President Obama, the fourth consecutive American president to do battle with or in Iraq, may have been too late ”
Hisham Melhem
These chilling marks were reminiscent of the Nazi campaign against the Jews of Germany marking their homes and clothing with the Star of David or the word Jude for their impending killing. Then ISIS came after the Yazidis, then after the Shiite Turkmen, then after the Shabak and always after those Sunnis who disagreed with their twisted visions. In this brutal new world the atavism of the message coexists with the slick website, and the flashy videos documenting their depravities.
A numbed Muslim World
After weeks of trails of tears, of forced marches, mass executions and religious cleansing, all done in the name of puritanical Islam, You would expect some Muslim scholars and clerics, or Muslim institutions like Al-Azhar in Egypt to be up in arms denouncing such barbaric acts. But that was not to be. There was barely a whimper in a numbed Muslim world. Before the American attacks, the plight of Iraq’s minorities was not a major story on many Arab websites, and did not dominate the headlines of leading Arab newspapers, and only a handful of commentators addressed it politically and morally or raised questions about the long term impact of the demise of these minorities in Iraq, particularly the Christians on the fate of other Christian communities in the region. The apathy, was another reminder that many Muslim societies have been deeply scarred by violence in their midst, including violence and discrimination against non-Muslim minorities as well. From Pakistan to Nigeria, from Mali to Sudan, to Syria and Yemen groups of radical Muslims are debasing their religion in the name of protecting it, while the majorities are intimidated or live in denial.
The moral bankruptcy of such silence in the face of horrific violence in Iraq (and Syria) looks so stark when compared with the unbridled passion and violence some Muslim communities exhibit around the world when someone in the West defame a copy of the Quran or write something deemed insulting to Prophet Muhammad and his lineage. But Muslim on Muslim violence, or the persecution and killings of non-Muslim minorities does not illicit similar outrage. One would suspect that among the reasons for such attitude has a lot to do with the autocratic natures of most Muslim governments… And it was my misfortune to live long enough to see this nightmare.
A plea of mercy
The scene was eerie and the deliberations were somewhat chaotic, when Vian Dakhil, the sole Yazidi representative in the Iraqi Parliament stood in the back of the hall surrounded by fellow women to begin a heart wrenching appeal to the world on behalf of her co-religionists who are threatened with extermination. Her voice was quivering and she was sobbing, but even in her agony she was articulate and passionate. Her’s was a plea for mercy from the depth of despair. She did not allow the speaker of the parliament to dismiss her, and kept saying “Mr. Speaker we are being slaughtered, The Yazidis are being subjected to a genocide in the 21st century!”
She was not only pleading for the Yazidis, members of an old local religion, and reminded her colleagues that Christian, Shiites, Sunnis, Turkmen and Shabaks have been killed. Many Parliamentarians stood with their backs to her with some of them just gazing stoically. Her voice became stronger when the Speaker kept interrupting her, saying “We are being exterminated! An entire religion is being exterminated from the face of the Earth. In the name of humanity, save us!” I cannot believe anyone who speaks Arabic could endure her plea with dry eyes. That night I lamented on twitter “O God, why did I live to hear this horrifying plea in the language of my forefathers? What have we done to ourselves?”
The killing fields next door
While the world was transfixed on the war raging between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and when the world began to get a sense of the enormity of the expulsion of Christians and Yazidis, Syrian despot Bashar Assad was intensifying his campaign of barrel bombing anything that resists him. It was estimated that the last week of July was one of the bloodiest weeks since the conflict began.
Last week the Congress of the United States got a sense of the horrific human toll of Assad’s war on the Syrian people. A defector named “Caesar” meticulously documented the torture and killings of 11,000 innocents in Assad’s dungeons, and showed the stunned members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee the compelling evidence. While working for the government “Caesar” took more than 55,000 photos showing how the prisoners were tortured, starved or hanged. There are countless photos of emaciated, contorted and naked bodies of dead men strewn on the floor. If they were not in color, you would think you are watching photos of dead men who had similar fate in Nazi concentration camps. The hope is that this damning evidence would be used one day to charge the Assad regime of committing war crimes. Fredric Hof, a former State Department official who dealt with Syrian affairs testified that the briefing “illustrates the moral inadmissibility of any American collaboration with {the Assad} regime.” And it was my misfortune to live long enough to see this nightmare.
A planet called Gaza
Much has been said about Israel’s callous disregards for Palestinian lives in its war with Hamas, just as much was said about Hamas’ recklessness in endangering civilian Israelis, but more to the point endangering the lives of Palestinian civilians since Hamas knows well that firing unguided projectiles indiscriminately will inevitably invite ruthless Israeli reaction. Before the war Gaza was destitute, isolated and walled off from the rest of the world as the huge internment camp that it has been in recent years because of an Israeli siege that has been strengthened by a helping hand from Egypt, which sees Hamas as an offshoot of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Israel controls Gaza’s borders, coastline and airspace, and determines everything Gazans import from medicine to food to fuel. To create the impression that symmetry exists between a modern and powerful state like Israel and Gaza under Hamas is to do injustice to the people of Gaza. More than 1800 Palestinians were killed most of them are believed to be civilians in an unnecessary war that is not going to solve any of the political causes of the conflict.
Yes, the Israelis will have a respite, and yes the Palestinian will have more reasons to be angry and alienated. Israel uses Hamas’ recklessness and shocking endangerment of Palestinian lives to absolve itself from any moral and legal responsibility for its disproportionate attacks and retaliations. After the war, the land is so pulverized physically that it is next to impossible to resume social, educational and medical services any time soon. Life was brutish before the war; life will be more hellish after the war.
What is especially distressing is the almost total absence in Israel of any moral or political sense of responsibility for the civilian deaths or even a hint of remorse at the gutting of the few Palestinian symbols and institutions that the population needs. What is more distressing, is the political and moral ambivalence of many Arabs regarding the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, as if the thorough demonization of Hamas by Israel and a growing number of Arabs has been transformed also to the Palestinian people… And it was my misfortune to live long enough to see this nightmare.