February 25/14


Bible Quotation for today/Do not judge others,
Luke 06/36-41: " Judging Others “Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you. Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you.” And Jesus told them this parable: “One blind man cannot lead another one; if he does, both will fall into a ditch. 40 No pupils are greater than their teacher; but all pupils, when they have completed their training, will be like their teacher.1 “Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but pay no attention to the log in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Please, brother, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ yet cannot even see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
‏Our Lady, Virgin Mary, is always close to us, especially when we feel the weight of life with all its problems.
Pape François
La Vierge Marie nous est toujours proche, surtout quand se fait sentir le poids de la vie avec tous ses problèmes

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For February 25/14

Iran’s negotiators, don’t bother getting closer to the U.S/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabyia/February 24/14

Holding back al-Qaeda/By: Jonathan Spyer/The Jerusalem Post/ February 24/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For February 24/14
Lebanese Related News

Sources: Israeli raids target Hezbollah site
Angelina Jolie visits Lebanon, meets Salam

Lebanon charges 21 with belonging to Al-Qaeda groups

Salam Says Successful Presidential Polls Consolidate Lebanon's Democracy

3 Inmates Break out of Roumieh, 2 Arrested

Lebanon police launch manhunt for escaped inmate

Jumblatt for reconsidering Hezbollah’s defense formula

Jolie Meets Syria Refugee Children on Visit to Lebanon

Suleiman Calls for Solidarity among Lebanese to Confront Terrorist Schemes

Ambassadors Meet Bassil, Stress Keenness to Maintain Stability in Lebanon

Qahwaji from Rome: Determined to Prevent Spillover from Syria Conflict to Lebanon

3.5 Magnitude Quake Shakes Tyre

Naameh Car Bombing Ring Involved in Ruweis Attack, Linked to Abdallah Azzam Brigades

Bkirki Committee to Address Upcoming Presidential Elections

Young Men from 'March 8 Parties' Attack ex-Minister Rahhal's House in W. Bekaa

Hermel Bomber Had Fake ID with Brital Man Name, Wanted to Stage Attack 'on Monday'

Hariri: Hezbollah in Syria causes suicide attacks

Army picks up the pieces after deadly bomb

Bodies of man, woman found in Bekaa Valley hotel
Naameh Car Bombing Ring Involved in Ruweis Attack, Linked to Abdallah Azzam Brigades

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Pope makes first overhaul of Vatican in 25 years

Israeli Military Intelligence expanding to cope with jihadi threat from Syria
Peres: Not necessarily in the army, but everyone must serve
Assad’s army hits border areas as US, Israel, Jordan enlarge South Syrian foothold

Merkel to Discuss Iran, Peace with Netanyahu

Syrian Troops, Rebels Battle for Key Aleppo District  

Jailed Syrian Dissident Writer Released

Norway in Danger from Syria Jihadists  

Seven Egyptian Christians found dead on Libyan beach: security sources, residents

Egypt's Beblawi Announces Government Resignation

Ukraine Issues Arrest Warrant for Yanukovych over 'Mass Murder'

EU Says Ukraine Deal Can Only Be Signed after Elections

Bomb Kills Two outside Iranian Consulate in NW Pakistan

Iraq signs deal to buy arms, ammunition from Iran


Sources: Israeli raids target Hezbollah site
By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News/Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Security sources told Al Arabiya News Channel late Monday that Israeli airstrikes have targeted a site belonging to the Shiite Lebanese movement Hezbollah near the Lebanon-Syrian borders. The airstrikes killed a number of Hezbollah members, the sources said. Meanwhile, Al Arabiya’s correspondent said the Israeli army rejected to give a comment explaining these raids against its arch-enemy, Hezbollah. Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported that the Israeli warplanes launched two raids targeting al-Nabi Shayth, a village located in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley near the Syria-Lebanon borders.
NNA added that there were also “intensive Israeli flights at very low altitude over the eastern and western mountains chains of Lebanon.”The independent Lebanese news channel MTV described the airstrikes as “mock raids” over Brital, Hor Ti’la, al-Nabi Shayth, al-Khidhar, and Ali al-Nahri; villages located in the bordering Bekaa valley.
Hezbollah bringing Syria missiles? The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Agence France-Presse the target was a Hezbollah “missile base.” Al Arabiya’s correspondent citing unconfirmed reports said Hezbollah’s moving convoy was targeted because it tried to bring ballistic missiles from Syria to Lebanon. Hezbollah has long support the Syrian government in its fight against rebels. In recent months, several blasts were directed against Hezbollah-controlled areas and convoys in Beirut and the Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon.


Pope makes first overhaul of Vatican in 25 years
February 24, 2014/By Nicole Winfield/Daily Star/VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Monday announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican's outdated and inefficient bureaucracy in a quarter-century, creating an economics secretariat to control all economic, administrative, personnel and procurement functions of the Holy See. Australian Cardinal George Pell was named prefect of the new economics secretariat. He reports to a new 15-member economy council made up of eight cardinals reflecting various parts of the world and seven lay experts. The aim of the new structure, the Vatican said, is to simplify and consolidate the existing management structures, improve oversight, internal controls and transparency - and provide more support for the Vatican's works for the poor. The change, announced in a press release, represents the biggest reshuffling of the Vatican's organization since Pope John Paul II in 1988 issued the apostolic constitution, Pastor Bonus, the blueprint for the Holy See's various congregations, pontifical councils and offices. The change appears to significantly weaken the Vatican's powerful Secretariat of State, which previously had administrative control over the Holy See while also handling diplomatic relations. That the new entity is called the Secretariat of the Economy would suggest some sort of hierarchical parity with the Secretariat of State. The new body covers the finances of the Holy See - the central governing structure of the Catholic Church - and the Vatican City State, the 44-hectare city state in central Rome which includes the profit-making Vatican Museums and Vatican's post office. An auditor will be empowered to conduct audits of any Vatican agency, at any time, the statement said. Francis appointed a commission of inquiry last summer to recommend ways to improve efficiency and transparency and reduce waste. Last week, with Francis' Group of Eight cardinal advisers present, the commission reported its findings. The pope has yet to announce any decision on the findings of the other commission of inquiry, concerning the scandal-marred Vatican bank. That commission also presented its recommendations to the G8 and pope last week.


Egypt wants killers of its 7 Christians in Libya
Seven Egyptian Christians were killed execution-style in Benghazi, Libya.

By Staff writer | Al Arabiya News
Monday, 24 February 2014
Egypt expects a speedy investigation from Libyan authorities after seven Egyptian Christians were found shot dead on a beach in eastern in eastern Libya, a foreign ministry spokesmen said Monday.
Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdul al-Ati denounced the “heinous” crime in a statement, and said Cairo “expects [Tripoli] to hand in the latest results of its investigation as soon as possible and bring those accused to justice.”
This is the second such execution-style killing since the start of the year.
Initial information reported by an individual who escaped the scene of the killings indicates that “the incident took place Sunday between 10:30 and 11 pm when gunmen stormed one of the buildings where Egyptians lived. They entered the first floor and took eight citizens,” he added.
The spokesman said that the foreign minister is “following up with Libyan authorities over the killing of the seven Egyptians in Jroutha village in Benghazi.”
Common killings
Meanwhile, a police officer told Reuters the bodies were found with gunshot injuries to the head outside Benghazi in the east, where assassinations, kidnappings and car bombs are common and Islamist militants are active.
“They were killed by headshots in execution style,” a police officer said. “We don’t know who killed them.”
A local resident and an Egyptian worker, who asked not to be identified because of fears for their security, said unknown gunmen had arrived at the Egyptians’ Benghazi home and dragged them away the night before.
Security sources confirmed the Egyptians were Christians. No further details were immediately available about how they were killed or whether they were shot on the beach.
No group claimed responsibility. Three years after the revolution that ousted Muammar Qaddafi, Libya's weak government and army struggles to control brigades of former rebels and Islamist militias in a country awash with weapons.
Last month, a British man and a New Zealand woman were shot execution-style on another beach 100 km to the west of the capital Tripoli.
(With Reuters)

3.5 Magnitude Quake Shakes Tyre
Naharnet/A mild earthquake shook the southern city of Tyre on Monday a day after a similar quake struck the northern city of Tripoli, the Bhannes Center for Seismic and Scientific Research said. The center told the state-run National News Agency that the residents of Tyre felt at 2:52 am the quake that measured 3.5 on the Richter scale. The center stressed to NNA that the mild quake was similar to the one that northern Lebanon witnessed around noon Sunday. The quake happened on the Srifa faultline, it said. “There is nothing to worry about,” NNA quoted a spokesman as saying.

Army Martyrs Bodies Handed Over to Families, Bomber Fingerprint Analyzed

Naharnet /State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr on Monday authorized the handing over of the bodies of the two army troops who were killed in the Hermel blast to their families. The bodies were handed over after forensic doctor Fouad Ayyoub conducted DNA tests, state-run National News Agency reported. The agency said investigations are still ongoing in a bid to identify the suicide bomber who staged the attack. “A part of his face is still intact and one of his fingerprints is being analyzed,” NNA said. An officer, a soldier and a civilian were killed on Saturday when a suicide bomber blew up a car rigged with 125 kilos of explosives at an army checkpoint at an entrance to the Bekaa town of Hermel. The attack was claimed by a group calling itself al-Nusra Front in Lebanon.

Jolie Meets Syria Refugee Children on Visit to Lebanon

Naharnet /Hollywood star and U.N. refugee agency envoy Angelina Jolie met orphaned Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and called for an end to the war across the border, the UNHCR said Monday Syria's nearly three-year war reportedly killed more than 140,00 Syrians and forced millions to flee, most of them to neighboring countries like Lebanon. Jolie said meeting with orphaned Syrian children in the eastern Bekaa Valley was a "heart-rending experience" and thanked Lebanon for assisting Syrian refugees, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in statement. "They have lost their families and their childhood has been hijacked by war. They are so young, yet they are bearing the burdens of their reality as if they are adults," it quoted Jolie as saying. Lebanon hosts nearly one million Syrians, most of them women and children. Jolie also welcomed a U.N. Security Council aid resolution adopted on Saturday as "a long overdue step in the right direction for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women and children trapped in hard to reach areas across Syria." She voiced hope that the resolution would be "the start of a new phase in ending the conflict." The UNHCR goodwill ambassador also urged the international community to provide funds to help Lebanon cope with the refugee crisis which has exacerbated its own limited resources. "The generosity and solidarity shown by Lebanon and Lebanese to its neighbor serves as an example to the world for which we should all be grateful. We all need to help them bear this burden", said Jolie. She also held talks during her trip with Prime Minister Tammam Salam at the Grand Serail.This was Jolie's third visit to Lebanon on behalf of UNHCR. Source/Agence France Presse

Salam Says Successful Presidential Polls Consolidate Lebanon's Democracy

Naharnet /Prime Minister Tammam Salam was optimistic on Monday that consensus on his government's policy statement would improve the conditions of the Lebanese and that successful presidential elections would consolidate the country's democracy. In remarks to As Safir newspaper, Salam said: “The formation of the cabinet turned the situation from very bad to less bad.” “If we succeed to agree on the policy statement and receive (parliament's) vote of confidence, then we will surely move the country to a better place and make it qualified for improvement in several fields.”
“The success of the presidential elections would pave way for bigger opportunities for Lebanon … to consolidate its democratic system and constitutional practices,” he said.
Holding the polls on time would reflect positively on the parliamentary elections too, Salam added. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May. The parliament should start holding sessions on March 25 to elect a new head of state. But Salam's cabinet has not yet finalized its policy statement to prepare for the polls. The committee tasked with drafting it will hold one final meeting on Monday to agree on the blueprint. The government will then send it to parliament for a vote of confidence. Salam told As Safir that discussions inside the committee are being held in an atmosphere of understanding. “People want salvation and an end to tension,” he said. According to An Nahar daily published on Monday, the members of the committee have agreed to distance themselves from the controversial “army-people-resistance” equation and the Baabda Declaration and rather stick to stressing “the right of Lebanon and the Lebanese in resisting Israel.”

Phalange: Policy Statement Must Be Able to Combat Terrorism, Restore Stability in Lebanon
Naharnet/The Phalange Party urged on Monday the political factions to speed up their efforts to come up with a government policy statement. It said after its weekly politburo meeting: “The statement should be able to confront political, security, and economic problems, combat terrorism, and help restore stability in Lebanon.”“Tackling the policy statement should not take place at the expense of the state,” it remarked after its meeting that was headed by party leader Amin Gemayel. Commenting on the latest bombing in Lebanon, the party called on all political powers to entrust the army in its mission to protect the country. It condemned the blast, while expressing its pride in the popular and political support the army has garnered. On Saturday, three people were killed, including two soldiers, and 16 wounded, including five soldiers, in a car bombing at an army checkpoint in the Bekaa region of al-Hermel. Hermel, a Hizbullah stronghold, has seen multiple attacks in recent months related to the war raging in neighboring Syria. Until Saturday, the attacks had all killed civilians.

Suleiman Calls for Solidarity among Lebanese to Confront Terrorist Schemes
Naharnet /President Michel Suleiman urged on Monday the Lebanese to be aware amid the critical stage the country is passing through. The president also called for solidarity among the Lebanese in order to confront the terrorist plots targeting innocent people and that aim at destabilizing the country. Suleiman stressed during a separate meeting with Army Intelligence chief Brig. Gen. Edmond Fadel the importance of cooperation between the security forces to unveil the culprits behind the security chaos in the country and to maintain stability. On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew up a car rigged with explosives at an army checkpoint at the entrance to Hermel, in an attack that was claimed by a group calling itself al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, an apparent offshoot of the Syria-based extremist organization. Suleiman also discussed with Prime Minister Tammam Salam the latest developments locally and the meetings of the panel tasked with drafting the cabinet's policy statement. On Friday, the panel held its third meeting at the Grand Serail as the controversial “army-people-resistance equation” remained a point of contention among the committee members. PM Salam chaired the committee's first meeting on Wednesday after it was formed Tuesday during the cabinet's first session. Salam has announced that the policy statement will be “consensual and concise and will focus on (the country's) priorities prior to the election of a new president.

Qahwaji from Rome: Determined to Prevent Spillover from Syria Conflict to Lebanon
Naharnet /Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji stressed on Monday that the military is determined to prevent the war ongoing in the neighboring country Syria from engulfing Lebanon. Qahwaji expressed optimism over the future, pointing out that his visit to the Italian capital Rome is to tackle the bilateral ties between the army of the two countries, in particular ahead of a conference set to be held in Italy to support the capabilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces. Italy had confirmed recently that the Rome conference aims at fortifying the capabilities of LAF and easing the Syrian refugees crisis. The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon had surged to around 900,000 according to the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) as Lebanon has been facing difficulties in coping with their burden. Concerning the Saudi grant to the Lebanese army, Qahwaji stressed that discussions with the French are going on the right track. President Michel Suleiman revealed in late December that Saudi Arabia has decided to donate three billion dollars with the aim of purchasing French weapons for the Lebanese army as soon as possible. Qahwaji said his remarks during a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi held on Sunday in Rome. For his party, al-Rahi voiced solidarity with the army, stressing that the military is the sole protector of the Lebanese and their dignity. The Patriarch hailed the efforts carried out by the army to safeguard the country, offering his condolences to Qahwaji over the death of an officer and a soldier at an army post in the eastern town of Hermel in the Bekaa. On Saturday, a suicide bomber blew up a car rigged with explosives at an army checkpoint at the entrance to Hermel, in an attack that was claimed by a group calling itself al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, an apparent offshoot of the Syria-based extremist organization.

Ambassadors Meet Bassil, Stress Keenness to Maintain Stability in Lebanon

Naharnet/Ambassadors congratulated on Monday Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on his appointment in Prime Minister Tammam Salam's cabinet, who expressed hope that the country would witness stability after the formation of the government. “The formation of the cabinet is a praised step amid the delicate situation locally and in the region,” Papal Ambassador to Lebanon Gabriel Caccia said after talks with Bassil at the Bustros Palace. Caccia stressed that consensus among the political arch-foes would contribute in ending chaos in Lebanon and to safeguard stability in it. Bassil later held talks with the ambassadors of the Gulf Cooperation Council to Lebanon, who stressed the importance of stability in Lebanon. “The Gulf countries are keen to safeguard Lebanon's sovereignty and stability,” Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon Abdul Aal al-Qinai said. He voiced hope that the “national spirit that led to the formation of a unity cabinet would lead to more local agreements.”Asked if the GCC states would lift a travel ban imposed on Lebanon, the ambassador said that the decision was taken due to the delicate security conditions the country is passing through. “The tourists will return once the situation is stable,” he said. Kuwait and several other GCC states had previously advised their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon and its nationals currently present in the country to leave due to the unstable security situation. Syria's civil war has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon and its security situation has deteriorated due to various groups intervention in battles in the neighboring country. Although Lebanon has officially adopted a position of neutrality in Syria's war, its people are sharply divided with Hizbullah and its allies backing President Bashar Assad's regime and the March 14 coalition supports the rebellion.

Naameh Car Bombing Ring Involved in Ruweis Attack, Linked to Abdallah Azzam Brigades
Naharnet/as allegedly confessed that the Naameh car bombing ring busted in August 2013 has links to the the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. According to al-Akhbar newspaper published on Monday, Palestinian national Abbas, who is also known as Abou Ismail, informed the army intelligence that the members of al-Naameh ring have close ties with the brigades. The Naameh cell members are allegedly involved in the Ruweis bombing that shook Beirut's southern suburbs on August 15 2013, killing more than 20 people and wounding at least 300 others. The report pointed out Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau detained during the recent months people involved in the bombing. The Naameh ring members Issa Aa., Wissam Aa.and Khaled M. were arrested, however the whereabouts of S. B. and M. A. are still unknown. According to al-Akhabr one of the detained members, Issa, was tasked with transferring “stuff” from the Beirut mainly Sunni neighborhood of Tariq al-Jadeideh to al-Naameh, which is a neighborhood in South of Lebanon, and vice-versa. Eight people, of Lebanese and Palestinian nationalities, were found involved in the scheme to detonate a booby-trapped car found in Naameh neighborhood in South of Lebanon in another location. The Naameh plot was believed to be the springboard for the attacks. The car carried a fake license plate and contained five boxes of TNT, an unidentified explosive substance, fuses and a device for remote detonation. Earlier in February, the army announced the arrest of top militant Naim Abbas, one of the leaders of the Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Following his interrogation, he told the army about two car rigged with explosives which were dismantled in Beirut's Corniche al-Mazraa district and the Bekaa area of al-Labweh. A string of car and suicide bomb attacks have targeted Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon in recent months, killing dozens of civilians

Young Men from 'March 8 Parties' Attack ex-Minister Rahhal's House in W. Bekaa
Naharnet/Young men belonging to “March 8 political parties” on Sunday attacked the house of former environment minister Mohammed Rahhal, a member of al-Mustaqbal Movement, in the western Bekaa town of Jib Janine, An Nahar newspaper reported. It said the mob threatened to kill the ex-minister and only dispersed when an army force arrived at the house. “A group of young men belonging to March 8 parties attacked the house of former minister Mohammed Rahhal in Jib Janine, hurled a hand grenade outside the house and smashed a number of cars that were parked outside the building,” An Nahar said. Rahhal told the newspaper that what happened on Sunday was not a new development. “Since around a month ago, young men have been attacking my house and threatening to kill me,” he said. “But today's incident crossed all limits after around 30 to 40 young men, including Syrians, opened fire in the vicinity of the house and tossed a hand grenade whose blast sound sparked panic among the members of my family,” Rahhal added. He said even after contacting the Internal Security Forces, “these young men were not deterred.” “They pledged to murder me and launched insults against me and my family whole the ISF and army were trying to rein them in,” Rahhal went on to say. In remarks to Future TV, the former minister announced that he will file a lawsuit against “the well-known attackers.”

Charges Issued against Naim Abbas, 20 Other Terror Suspects
Naharnet/The military prosecutor charged on Monday 21 suspects, including an al-Qaida-linked Abdullah Azzam Brigades official, for belonging to an armed terrorist network. Four of the suspects, including terrorist Naim Abbas, a Palestinian described as Abdullah Azzam Brigades' number two man in Lebanon, are in custody. The charges issued against them by Judge Saqr Saqr include transporting booby-trapped vehicles from Syria to Lebanon. Abbas was also charged with involvement in two bombings that have recently rocked the Haret Hreik district of Beirut's southern suburbs. He was arrested by the Lebanese army in the Beirut neighborhood of Corniche al-Mazraa on Feb. 12. Several of the latest bombings in Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut's southern suburbs and the Bekaa valley have been claimed by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades whose leader, Majed al-Majed, was captured by Lebanese authorities in December and died in custody later.

Bkirki Committee to Address Upcoming Presidential Elections

Naharnet/A committee of representatives of four major Christian parties held a meeting in recent days to tackle the Bkirki charter and are expected to discuss the upcoming presidential elections during another meeting, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Monday. The attendees addressed during the meeting the “positive reactions” concerning the Bkirki charter. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi had unveiled early in February a treaty that calls for holding the presidential elections on time. It also demanded that political powers adhere to the country's national pact and place national interests above personal ones. The meeting was held in presence of representatives of the Phalange party, the Lebanese Forces, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Marada movement and Maronite Patriach Beshara al-Rahi's representative Bishop Samir Mazloum. According to the daily, the committee, which was formed by the Maronite patriarchate based in Bkirki, will focus in its discussions during the upcoming meetings on the forthcoming presidential elections. President Michel Suleiman’s tenure ends in May 2014, but the constitutional period to elect a new head of state begins on March 25, two months prior to the expiration of Suleiman’s mandate.

Lebanon charges 21 with belonging to Al-Qaeda groups

February 24, 2014/By Youssef Diab The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Military Prosecutor Judge Saqr Saqr Monday charged 21 members of a terrorist network with belonging to Al-Qaeda-linked groups, and formally accused suspected mastermind Naim Abbas of involvement in the January bombings in Beirut's southern suburbs. The network comprises of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians but only four have been detained so far: Lebanese Bakri Mohammad al-Mahmoud, Omar Momtaz, Jomanah Hmayyed and Abbas, a Palestinian.  Shortly after his arrest earlier this month, information from Abbas’ confessions allowed the Army to dismantle a car laden with around 240 kilograms of explosives in a Beirut neighborhood. Interrogation of Abbas also led to the detention of Hmayyed, who was apprehended while driving a rigged vehicle on the Arsal-Labweh road in east Lebanon along with two other women who were later released without charge. Saqr accused the network of belonging to the Al-Qaeda-linked Abudallah Azzam Brigades and the Nusra Front in Lebanon, in addition to “carrying out terrorist acts by smuggling explosive-rigged vehicles from Syria into Lebanon with the aim of killing citizens, destroying public and private properties and serving a blow to the state's authority and prestige.” The Brigades and the Lebanese branch of Nusra Front have claimed responsibility for several car bombings in the country, citing Hezbollah’s military role in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's forces. If convicted, the suspects could face the death penalty. Saqr referred the case to Military Investigative Judge Riyad Aby Ghayda. In a separate charge, Saqr accused Abbas of involvement in the two Haret Hreik car bombings on Jan. 2 and Jan. 21 as well as the murder and attempted murder of citizens. Abbas' case is connected to that of detained preacherSheikh Omar Atrash, who was also charged with having a role in the Beirut attacks. Military Investigative judge Maroun Zkhour Monday issued an arrest warrant for Atrash over his alleged involvement in the twin suicide attacks against the Army in the coastal city of Sidon on Dec. 15, 2013.

Lebanon police launch manhunt for escaped inmate
February 24, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Security forces Monday launched a manhunt for an escaped Roumieh Prison inmate after two others he broke out with were captured, security sources told The Daily Star.
Security forces are in pursuit of a 23-year-old Syrian identified as Muhannad Abdel-Rahman. Authorities caught two Lebanese inmates, Mohammad al-Jouni, a 32-year-old charged with murdering a person from Al-Jurdi family, and Said Sabra, also 32, shortly after they managed to get out of the prison. Sources told The Daily Star the inmates escaped at 4 a.m. from the bloc that houses prisoners who have been sentenced. The Internal Security Forces and Lebanese Army patrols searched for them in the woods surrounding the prison as soon as their escape was discovered, according to the sources. The ISF said Jouni and Sabra were arrested separately at 7:15 a.m. and 9:50 a.m. respectively. The ISF has released a photo of Abdel-Rahman, asking citizens to come forward with information about him by contacting the police hotline on 1123 or 01-426-688.
Roumieh Prison, Lebanon’s largest prison facility, is located near residential and commercial areas in the Metn region. Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk expressed hope that the security forces would arrest the third fugitive as soon as possible. Speaking to the Voice of Lebanon Radio Station, Mashnouk said the officers suspected of dereliction of duty would be punished.


Bodies of man, woman found in Bekaa Valley hotel
February 24, 2014/The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The bodies of a man and a woman were found in a hotel in the Bekaa Valley town of Anjar, security sources told The Daily Star Monday. Bilal Ajram and Monica Sabbagh died after being shot, the sources said.The sources suggested the man might have killed Sabbagh, allegedly his lover, and then committed suicide. A medical examiner and the criminal evidence have arrived at the crime scene and an investigation has been launched into the incident.


Jumblatt for reconsidering Hezbollah’s defense formula

February 24, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt called Monday for a compromise on the controversial “Army, resistance, people” ministerial statement formula, stressing the need for going back to the country’s disassociation policy from the Syrian crisis. “There are many changes and transformations required in order to find alternative formulas to get out of the debate over the ‘Army, people, resistance’ tripartite,” said Jumblatt in his weekly stance to PSP-affiliated website Al-Anbaa. “Including this tripartite in the ministerial statement is no longer possible as in previous years and it is necessary to reach a compromise over this issue." “However, the political debate should not eliminate Lebanon’s right to resist Israel or any Israeli attack against Lebanese territory through the people and institutions.”
Jumblatt also said that there was a need to resume National Dialogue over the country’s defense strategy. The “Army, people, resistance” defense formula is one of the thorniest issues facing the committee drafting a new government policy statement, but hopes have emerged of an imminent breakthrough. The PSP leader also said Lebanon should adhere to the policy of disassociation from regional conflicts and called for an end to all involvement in the Syrian civil war. However, he warned against the adhering to the neutrality policy too strictly, saying such approach would "eliminate all of the accomplishments and major sacrifices against Western agendas.”
“The theory of neutrality also contradicts the Taif Accord, which spoke of Lebanon's Arab and political identities,” he said. “Neutrality would eliminate the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance against Israel over the decades."


Seven Egyptian Christians found dead on Libyan beach: security sources, residents
February 24, 2014/Daily Star/TRIPOLI: Libyan police have found seven Egyptian Christians killed execution-style on a beach in eastern Libya, security officials and local residents said on Monday.
A police officer told Reuters the bodies were found with gunshots to the head outside Benghazi in the east, where assassinations, kidnappings and car bombs are common and Islamist militants are active.

Assad’s army hits border areas as US, Israel, Jordan enlarge South Syrian foothold
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report February 23, 2014/
New Syrian rebel command post at Quneitra
The Jordanian government Sunday, Feb. 23 vehemently denied reports that Syrian rebels were undergoing training by American and its own military instructors and being sent back to fight government forces. According to US intelligence sources, those training camps have been turning out 250 rebel fighters per course and some 1,000 trainees all told are already in action on Syria’s battlefields. The Syrian government journal Tishrin has repeatedly warned Jordan that it is “playing with fire.” On Feb. 18, Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, quite openly visited injured Syrians at an IDF military field hospital on the Golan. They chatted with wounded rebel soldiers. But on the quiet, our sources report that they took a good look at Quneitra (pop: 10,000), which is located close to Israeli lines on the Syrian side of the enclave. debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report that a new Syrian rebel command center has been set up there, with the help of the US, Jordan and Israel. The CIA is investing great effort into restoring the combat capabilities of the disbanded Free Syrian Army and incorporating splinter militias likewise opposed to radical Islamist groups in a revived rebel fighting force under the command of Brig.Gen. Abdul-Illah al-Bashir Based in the tiny Golan town of Quneitra, he has been given the grand title of “Chief of Staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.” Gen. al-Bashir defected from the Syrian army in 2012. His main qualification for the new job is his membership of the Syrian Bedouin Al Nuaim tribe, which ranges through the Golan and southern Syria. When he defected, he was followed by army officers who are fellow tribesmen.
The rebel force shaping up in Quneitra therefore consists of many indigenous fighters and a large component of local Al Nuaim tribesmen. It is more likely than not that the new pro-American Syrian rebel force mustered under Israel’s nose is also guaranteed Israeli military insurance against a surprise attack or any hostile attempts to wipe it out. It stands to reason that this function was closely examined during the visit Israeli leaders paid to the Golan last week and is also the subject of intensive talks between Jerusalem and Washington. But meanwhile Syrian President Bashar Assad is not standing idle. Exactly a week ago, Saturday night, Feb. 15, the Syrian army ambushed a group of trained Syrian rebels as they crossed in from Jordan. Middle East sources reported that many were killed and others took to their heels and fled. In the last two days, the Syrian army has moved in for an offensive on the environs of Quneitra to corner the new rebel command center. Two outlying villages, Rasm al-Hour and Rasm al-Sad, fell into the hands of government forces. Clearly, the US-Israeli-Jordanian effort to establish a rebel-controlled border strip across the Syrian border will not be a cake walk. Furthermore, a bomb car which exploded Sunday at the town of Atmeh on the Syrian-Iraqi border targeted a rebel-run military field hospital. At least nine people were killed. This was another message from Damascus – this one picked up in Jerusalem that the field hospital set up on the Golan for injured Syrians is also in the sights of the Syrian army.

Holding back al-Qaeda
by Jonathan Spyer/The Jerusalem Post
Will Israel be dragged into the Syrian conflict?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit this week to an IDF field hospital where wounded Syrians are receiving treatment served to showcase the Israeli humanitarian effort to respond to the crisis facing Syrian civilians caught up in the ongoing conflict. Recent reports suggest that the Israeli focus on events in southern Syria goes beyond purely humanitarian concerns.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits wounded Syrians at an IDF field hospital near the Syrian border. (Image source: Israel Government Press Office)
Increasing attention is being paid by Israeli planners to the buildup of extreme Sunni Islamist forces close to the border with the Golan Heights. There are indications that Israel has already begun to implement a strategy intended to keep the jihadis from the border.
According to a report by prominent Israeli Middle East analyst Ehud Ya'ari published recently at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Israel is currently moving toward 'assuming a modest role in the Syrian civil war.'
Ya'ari notes that the extent of Israel's humanitarian operation inside Syria suggests that 'a system of communications and frequent contacts have been established with the local rebel militias.'
The Israeli analyst reports that the background to such increased engagement is the loss by the Assad regime of control of most of the border area between southern Syria and the Golan Heights. Israeli contacts with the rebel militias in this area would serve to facilitate the latter acting as a de facto buffer against the jihadis.
This largely off-the-radar activity in the south forms part of a broader Israeli concern at the increasingly prominent role played by jihadi and Sunni Islamist elements in the Syrian rebellion.
An un-named senior IDF officer quoted in a recent article in Defense News noted that 'Today, rebels control most of the area of the south Golan Heights…Among rebel forces, the moderates are increasingly exhausted while the radicals have become strengthened.'
He added that 'For the moment, they are not fighting us, but we know their ideology. … It could be that, in the coming months, we could find ourselves dragged into confrontation with them."
IDF Military Intelligence head Aviv Kochavi, meanwhile, in an address at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on January 29 estimated that around 30,000 jihadi fighters were active in Syria. Ya'ari, meanwhile, estimated the strength of Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) as around 40,000 fighters.
These numbers are of particular interest in that they are considerably in excess of the estimates made by most analysts of Syria concerning the numbers of extreme jihadis present on the Syrian battlefield. While accurate estimates of combatant forces on the Syrian rebel side are notoriously hard to come by, the more usual estimate of the combined strength of al-Qaeda linked forces in Syria would be between 15-20,000.
This suggests that Israeli estimates may take a somewhat broader definition of what constitutes extreme salafi and al-Qaeda linked groups than those made by western analysts.
A third openly salafi force plays a prominent role mainly in northern Syria. This is the Ahrar al-Sham group, thought to number around 20,000 fighters. This group has no known links with the central leadership of al-Qaeda. Yet it adheres to an extreme salafi ideology. One of its leading members, Abu Khaled al-Suri, recently described himself as a member of al-Qaeda.
If it is indeed the case that Israeli analysts would include Ahrar al Sham and groups of this type under the rubric of potentially dangerous Sunni jihadi forces (and there are good reasons to do so), then this has interesting implications.
Ahrar al-Sham is a component part of the Islamic Front, which is the largest single rebel formation, numbering over 60,000 fighters, and which is the beneficiary of extensive aid from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. So if Jerusalem regards this force as on a par with more obviously al-Qaeda aligned groups, this is a significant point of contention between the two main anti-Iran countries in the region – Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Israel's concerns regarding the Sunni jihadis are certainly not limited to the border area. The al-Qaeda linked cell whose capture was announced on January 22nd was apprehended while preparing to enter northern Syria via Turkey for training purposes.
It has also not escaped Israel's attention that a de facto sovereign jihadi -controlled zone now exists in eastern Syria's Raqqa province, stretching into western Anbar province in Iraq.
Such an enclave has never existed in the Levant before. The jihadis are busy fighting Assad and his Iranian backers now. But they are open in their desire to engage also against Israel.
While close attention should be paid to Israel's concerns re the Sunni jihadis and the consequent relationship with the rebels in the south, there are also factors likely to militate against any broader Israeli intervention into the Syrian war.
Firstly, the Iran-led regional bloc remains by far the most potent and dangerous alliance challenging Israel at the present time. As Kohavi said in his address: 'The new phenomenon of Global Jihad at our borders is disturbing, but we shouldn't be confused. Our mortal enemy remains the ever-strengthening axis of evil formed by Hezbollah, Syria and the Iranian regime.'
This point, and the Iranian responsibility for events in Syria was underlined by Netanyahu in his remarks made at the field hospital. The Iran-led bloc includes paramilitary clients but is led by a powerful state with nuclear ambitions. There is no parallel structure to this on the Sunni jihadi side.
Secondly, unseen but unmistakable, the trauma of Israel's long involvement in Lebanon remains written into the DNA of Israeli commanders and planners and of the Israeli system as a whole. There is a very deep aversion to anything that might look like interference in the internal processes of neighboring states – particularly where this could involve Israeli boots on the ground and hence loss of Israeli life.
This salient institutional memory will probably ensure that despite its very real concerns, Israel's engagement against the Sunni jihadi threat in southern Syria will remain as far as possible invisible, and on a limited, deniable scale.
Yet this engagement is taking place. On a daily basis, a few kilometers north-east of Tiberias, Israeli forces are involved in the complex task of keeping al Qaeda at a safe distance from the Golan Heights and the northern Galilee.
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Iran’s negotiators, don’t bother getting closer to the U.S.
Monday, 24 February 2014
By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard/Al Arabyia

On the eve of the resumption of Iran’s nuclear talks, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he was not optimistic about the outcome of the talks. He did, however, add that he did not object to the talks. These statements were made on Monday evening, hours before negotiators from the P5+1 group met in Vienna on Tuesday to hold talks on reaching a comprehensive agreement with Iran regarding its controversial nuclear program.
Reaching a final agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program is very important for all parties participating in the negotiations. It seems clear to all parties that if these talks fail, then the only option to confront Iran’s nuclear program - which is making progress - is war.
If Iran’s nuclear program really aims to serve peaceful and civilian purposes as they claim, then there should be no problem if the enrichment of uranium is restricted for the sake of building trust between Tehran and the P5+1 group. But the question is: if the Iranians are all optimistic about the nuclear negotiations with Western powers, then why does Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appear pessimistic? Meanwhile, if international powers appear ready to settle the nuclear issue via diplomatic means in which all parties engage in bilateral and unilateral talks, then why did the supreme leader voice his unhappiness about these negotiations on the eve of the important meeting?
But media outlets and observers have a different interpretation regarding Khamenei’s statements; they consider that his statements originated from his dissatisfaction about the entire negotiation process and the lack of trust regarding limiting Iran’s nuclear activity at a time when sanctions and American threats to launch war against Tehran remain an option.
In my view, Khamenei’s statement indicated his dissatisfaction with the Iranian negotiating party which he thinks is getting closer to its American counterpart. Khamenei has fears that the nuclear talks could eventually lead to negotiations intent normalizing relations between Tehran and Washington.
In fact, the Iranian supreme leader seems more accepting of a scenario in which his country falls prey to severe sanctions and is subject to a possible confrontation with the United States. Meanwhile, he won’t be happy if negotiators trespass the red line - which is engaging in serious negotiations with the U.S. as this negates the legitimacy of the Iranian Revolution which was based on enmity with the U.S. and the West.
“The illusion of the presence of a national enemy that threatens the Islamic Republic of Iran - that is the U.S. - remains a gift from God for Israel”
For some of those in power to be able to rule the people and justify the cruel circumstances they put the people through, they always need an enemy. The stronger the enemy gets, the more this serves the aims of those in power. Therefore, the U.S. became the perfect enemy since the eruption of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Khamenei clearly said that some in the previous and current governments want warm relations with the U.S. and seek to legitimize Washington as a humane government, adding: “But these efforts won’t yield results.”
To justify this suggestion, Iranian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Abbas Araghchi said a week ago, during an interview with the state television, that decreasing tension cannot lead to resuming relations between the two countries. He added: “officials on both sides say that talks [regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons] don’t mean improving relations.”
The team of Iranian negotiators need to repeat this a lot of times in order to assure hardliners that they know their limits and that they won’t deviate from the path of nuclear talks in order to engage in normalization talks with the U.S.
But the illusion of the presence of a national enemy that threatens the Islamic Republic of Iran - that is the U.S. - remains a gift from God for Israel as any rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran represents Israel’s biggest fear on this planet.
Of course, Russia and China exert a lot of pressure to foil any plans aiming to normalize relations between Iran and the U.S. due to the several aspects of competition between them and the U.S. But Israel remains a different story by all standards. Iran can influence peace talks with the Palestinians and it can achieve complete change in the balance of powers in the region should rapprochement occur between it and the U.S. If the Israelis are not willing to live in peace and to grant the Palestinians their absolute rights and put an end to settlement plans, then why should we think that Iran is willing to be tolerant with the opposition, the journalists and human rights activists or be willing to adopt a policy of openness towards the world?
Many countries, primarily Iran and Israel, need to maintain the idea of the enemy so they can justify their inhumane policies. Iran and the U.S. are perfect example of this concept! This is why we can safely tell Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “Relax and forget about America!”
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 22, 2014.