January 03/14

Bible Quotation for today/Jesus and Nicodemus
John 03/01-21: " There was a Jewish leader named Nicodemus, who belonged to the party of the Pharisees.  One night he went to Jesus and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher sent by God. No one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him.” Jesus answered, “I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.” “How can a grown man be born again?” Nicodemus asked. “He certainly cannot enter his mother's womb and be born a second time!” “I am telling you the truth,” replied Jesus, “that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.  A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit. Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again. The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” asked Nicodemus. Jesus answered, “You are a great teacher in Israel, and you don't know this?  I am telling you the truth: we speak of what we know and report what we have seen, yet none of you is willing to accept our message. You do not believe me when I tell you about the things of this world; how will you ever believe me, then, when I tell you about the things of heaven?  And no one has ever gone up to heaven except the Son of Man, who came down from heaven.”As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of Man must be lifted up,  so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior. Those who believe in the Son are not judged; but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in God's only Son.  This is how the judgment works: the light has come into the world, but people love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil.  Those who do evil things hate the light and will not come to the light, because they do not want their evil deeds to be shown up.  But those who do what is true come to the light in order that the light may show that what they did was in obedience to God.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For January 03/14

Egypt: A Tinderbox Waiting for a Spark/By: Eric Trager/Washington Institute/January 03/14

It is time to take a stand/By: Michel Kilo/Asharq Alawsat/January 03/14

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For January 03/14

Lebanese Related News

Blast shakes southern Beirut, stronghold of Hezbollah
5 Dead, 77 Hurt as Car Bombing Rocks Haret Hreik in Likely Suicide Attack

At least 5 dead in explosion in Hezbollah area in southern suburbs of Lebanese capital

Lebanese officials condemn Beirut car bomb

Qassem: Response to Blast Must be through Forming National Unity Cabinet

Top Officials Stress 'Same Terrorist' behind all Blasts in Lebanon

Local Leaders Condemn Thursday's Blast: Hariri Says Dahieh Victim of Terrorism, Jumblat Urges Cabinet Formation

U.N. 'Outraged' by Haret Hreik Blast, Calls for Restraint

U.S., UK Embassies Condemn Bombing in Haret Hreik

Syria Condemns Haret Hreik Bombing: War on Terrorism Is All Nations' Duty

Celebratory Gunfire over Dahieh Blast Sparks Deadly Clash in Tripoli

Lebanon Army deploys as rebels advance near Syria border

New Cabinet aims to exclude Hezbollah: Berri

Tehran asks Lebanon to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspect

Hezbollah: Political understanding needed to save Lebanon

Ibrahim upbeat about release of nuns

Maronite Bishop Boulus Sayyah: Bkirki opposes fait accompli Cabinet
Asiri Expresses Relief over al-Majed's Arrest, Push for DNA Testing

Iran Requests to Be Informed about Probe with Abdullah Azzam Brigades 'Emir'

Franjieh Demands Lebanese Trial for Majed Al-Majed: Handing Him Over Violation of Sovereignty

Salafist Jihadist Movement in Jordan Says Al-Nusra Front, ISIS Decided to Enter Lebanon

Shelling on Arsal's Countryside Wounds Nine Syrian Fighters

Airborne Regiment Sets up Bases in al-Qaa, Ras Baalbek after New Attack

11 Arrested near al-Beddawi Camp on Suspicion of Involvement in 'Recent' Blasts

Israel Carries Out Patrols near Border with Lebanon, Erects Earth Mounds

Miscellaneous Reports And News

Malaysia's Islamic authorities seize Bibles

Thoughts of Americans with Israel over Sharon, Says Kerry

Kerry to Netanyahu: Israeli-Palestinian peace not 'mission impossible'

Tentative funeral plans underway as Sharon's condition deteriorates

Egypt arrests 7 over Mansoura suicide bombing, foils Sinai terrorist activity
Qaida-Linked Fighters Control Parts of Two Iraq Cities

Czech police: Weapons found at Palestinian mission

Malnutrition kills 8 in Syria prison: NGO

Israel official: Jordan Valley must remain border

Nordic Vessels Ready for Delayed Syria Chemical Shipment

U.N. Struggling to Reach Trapped Syrian Communities



Maronite Bishop Boulus Sayyah: Bkirki opposes fait accompli Cabinet
January 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Maronite Bishop Boulus Sayyah said Thursday Bkirki opposed the formation of a fait accompli Cabinet, saying such a step could exacerbate the political impasse. " Bkirki is against the formation of a fait accompli government because such [disputed] moves have always resulted in a stalemate,” Sayyah told a local television channel. "Nobody can rule the country alone. Lebanon is unique because of its coexistence and we should accept each other and not impose things on one another,” he added. President Michel Sleiman and PM-designate Tammam Salam have agreed to seek the formation of a neutral Cabinet with 14 nonpartisan ministers before Jan. 25, political sources told The Daily Star earlier this week. The March 14 coalition has demanded neutral Cabinet since the appointment of Salam in April. Hezbollah along with its allies in the March 8 group have voiced opposition against the formation of such a Cabinet, demanding a government lineup of 9-9-6 which grants rival factions veto power. Sayyah also spoke about the upcoming presidential election, saying the Maronite Patriarch has not supported any candidate for the post. "There must be a new elected president and it would shameful if elections don't take place,” he said. “ Bkirki did not nominate any name for the president ... [Maronite Cardinal Beshara] Rai has asked MPs to carry out their duty and elect a president,” Sayyah added.

Car bomb in Beirut kills four, wounds 77

January 02, 2014/By Dana Khraiche The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Four people were killed and 77 others were wounded Thursday in a car bomb that struck Haret Hreik, a neighborhood of Beirut's southern suburbs where Hezbollah enjoys broad support, the Health Ministry said.
Lebanon’s caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said human remains inside the vehicle used in the explosion suggested a suicide bomber may have been involved. A judicial source told The Daily Star "DNA tests are being conducted on human remains that have yet to be identified." The 4.10 p.m. blast, which the Army said resulted from 20 kilograms of explosives material, caused plumes of black smoke to blanket the sky as ambulances rushed to the area. Hundreds of residents flocked to the area to help in the rescue effort, pulling dead and wounded out from the rubble. The blast site was strewn with debris. Several buildings were damaged and flames engulfed vehicles parked on Al-Arid Street, where the explosives-rigged vehicle had been parked. “I fell suddenly to the floor,” a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Daily Star, recounting the moment of the explosion. “Civil Defense teams then evacuated us but we were about to suffocate from the smoke,” the woman, trying to catch her breath, said. “I have heard nothing of my brother’s family,” she yelled, fearing for the lives of her relatives. Her brother was on the 10th floor of a building near the scene of the explosion. “I would have seen them if they were evacuated. They have a kid with them,” the woman said, as she looked for her missing sibling. The car bombing in Haret Hreik, a densely populated neighborhood of the southern suburb, is the latest security incident to hit increasingly volatile Lebanon. The attacks are linked to the ongoing crisis in Syria, particularly Hezbollah’s military support there to President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah said the blast occurred meters away from the party's political council, saying "the target of the attack was Lebanon, its security, stability and national unity."“[Lebanon is facing] a major battle in the face of terrorism that does not exclude anyone and aims to incite sectarian and confessional strife among Lebanese so that it [Lebanon] can be part of what is happening in the region,” caretaker Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters in Haret Hreik. The Army said the explosives-rigged vehicle was a 1993, dark green Grand Cherokee Jeep that had been parked on Al-Arid Street. It said 20 kilograms of explosives had been distributed throughout the vehicle. The original owner of the vehicle was identified as Hala Othman from Baalbek, east Lebanon, a security source told The Daily Star. Thursday’s blast comes only days after a car bomb in Downtown Beirut killed former Minister Mohammad Shatah and seven others.The bulk of attacks linked to the crisis next door have targeted areas loyal to Hezbollah, Syria and Iran’s primary ally in Lebanon. On Nov. 19, two suicide bombers targeted Iran’s Embassy in Beirut, killing over a dozen people including an Iranian diplomat. The attack was claimed by the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, an Al-Qaeda offshoot headed by Saudi national Majid al-Majid. The group warned of further attacks until Hezbollah withdrew its fighters from Syria. Army Intelligence arrested in late December a Saudi national who is suspected of being Majid, security sources have told The Daily Star. A security source told The Daily Star Thursday that the Army will take unprecedented, strict security measures, fearing reprisals by the Abdallah Azzam Brigades over the reported arrest of Majid. -With additional reporting by Wassim Mroueh

Army: 20 kg of explosives used in Beirut blast

January 02, 2014 /The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Army said Thursday preliminary investigations indicated that 20 kilograms of explosives material were used in the car bombing that struck the Beirut southern suburbs earlier in the day. “The results of preliminary investigations by military experts at the scene of the explosion that occurred in the afternoon in Haret Hreik – Al-Arid Street – show that the blast resulted from 20 kilograms of explosives that were distributed in a 1993, dark green Grand Cherokee Jeep carrying license plate number G341580,” the military said in a statement.

At least 5 dead in explosion in Hezbollah area in southern suburbs of Lebanese capital

By Bassem Mroue, The Associated Press | The Canadian Press –BEIRUT - An explosion rocked a stronghold of the Shiite Hezbollah group in the southern suburbs of the Lebanese capital, killing at least five people, setting cars ablaze and sending a column of black smoke above the Beirut skyline. The nature of the explosion that hit during rush hour in the Haret Hreik neighbourhood was not immediately clear, but a Lebanese security official said it appeared to be caused by a car bomb. If confirmed as a bombing, then it would be the latest in a wave of attacks to hit Lebanon in recent months as the civil war in Syria increasingly spills over into its smaller neighbour. The attacks have targeted both Sunni and Shiite neighbourhoods, further stoking sectarian tensions that are already running high because of the war next door. Lebanon's Health Ministry said at least five people were killed and 20 wounded in the explosion, which left the mangled wreckage of cars in the street and blew out the windows of store fronts. Images broadcast on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV showed firefighters putting out the smouldering hulks of several cars that had been set ablaze. The footage showed at least one building that had part of its facade blown off, and several neighbouring buildings were also damaged. Al-Manar said the explosion occurred "a few hundred meters (yards) from the politburo of Hezbollah." It said the political office was not the target of the blast. Hezbollah security agents as well as Lebanese troops were trying to cordon off the area to keep the angry crowds away from the blast site. "Suddenly, the whole area went bright and we started running away," Ali Oleik, an accountant who works in a nearby office building, told The Associated Press. "I saw two bodies on the street, one of a woman and another of a man on a motorcycle who was totally deformed." Authorities brought out bomb sniffing dogs, and at one point announced that there might be another bomb, setting the crowd scattering in panic from the area. The explosion comes a week after a car bombing in downtown Beirut killed a prominent Sunni politician who had been critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Hezbollah allies.
Hezbollah's once seemingly impenetrable bastion of support — Beirut's southern suburbs — also has been hit several times in recent months. The Haret Hreik neighbourhood where Thursday's explosion took place is close to the Beir al-Abed district where a powerful car bomb in August killed nearly 20 people. The attacks raise the spectre of a sharply divided Lebanon being pulled further into the Syrian conflict, which is being fought on increasingly sectarian lines pitting Sunnis against Shiites. Syria-based Sunni rebels and militant Islamist groups fighting to topple Assad have threatened to target Hezbollah strongholds in Lebanon in retaliation for intervening on behalf of his

 regime in the conflict.


U.N. 'Outraged' by Haret Hreik Blast, Calls for Restraint
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/ The United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly “strongly” deplored on Thursday the car bombing in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik, expressing his anger over the recurrent explosions in Lebanon."I express my outrage that this is the fourth bomb to have exploded in Beirut’s southern suburbs since July,” Plumbly said in a released statement, noting the “indiscriminate nature of these and other attacks in Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli.”He continued: “It is deeply distressing to have to condemn yet another appalling act of terrorism, the latest in the number which have killed and injured so many innocent people in this country.”Plumbly stressed "the importance of those responsible for this and all other such acts of terrorism to be brought to justice, the need for restraint and for all Lebanese to come together in support of institutions of the state and the security forces as they seek to safeguard the country."U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned on Thursday evening the bombing in Haret Hreik. The explosion killed at least 4 people, and wounded more than 70 others. It took place near al-Manar television's old building on al-Arid Street in Haret Hreik, hundreds of meters away from the headquarters of Hizbullah's political bureau. The blast came less than a week after a car bombing targeted Beirut's central district on Friday, killing former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah and seven others.A twin suicide bombing hit the Iranian embassy in south Beirut on November 19, killing 25 people. In the summer, the southern suburbs suffered two bomb attacks. One, on August 15, killed 27 people. A blast earlier in August had caused no fatalities but wounded some 50 people.

U.S., UK Embassies Condemn Bombing in Haret Hreik
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/The United States and the United Kingdom's embassies in Lebanon condemned on Thursday the “terrorist” bombing in Beirut's southern suburbs.“We condemn today's terrorist bombing in (the Beirut neighborhood of) Dahieh,” the U.S. embassy said via its account on the social networking website Twitter.“Our condolences to the victims and their families,” it added. Meanwhile, UK Ambassador to Lebanon Tom Fletcher also took to Twitter after the attack. “(We) condemn unequivocally today's callous attack in Beirut,” Fletcher said, noting that Lebanese civilians have become victims again. “(My) thoughts with their families and (with the) emergency teams.”Thursday's explosion in Dahieh's neighborhood of Haret Hreik killed at least 4 people, and wounded more than 70 others. It took place near al-Manar television's old building on al-Arid Street in Haret Hreik, hundreds of meters away from the headquarters of Hizbullah's political bureau.

Top Officials Stress 'Same Terrorist' behind all Blasts in Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/
President Michel Suleiman stressed on Thursday that the same terrorists that carried out the blast in the Beirut neighborhood of Haret Hreik earlier in the day, are the ones planting terrorism, killing and destructing all Lebanese regions. Suleiman's comments came shortly after a deadly explosion hit Beirut's Dahieh neighborhood, killing at least 4 people and wounding over 70 others. The explosion took place near al-Manar television's old building on al-Arid Street in Haret Hreik, hundreds of meters away from the headquarters of Hizbullah's political bureau. Suleiman stressed on the importance of solidarity and of being aware of the dangers threatening Lebanon. "Dialogue is also important between political leaders to protect the country against conspiracies aiming at shaking its stability,” he added. The president held talks with concerned security officials to receive the latest information of the ongoing probe in the incident, urging them to intensify their investigation and unveil those that planned and executed the bombing and refer them to courts for trial. Speaker Nabih Berri also considered that those behind Thursday's blast are the same group that executed the assassination of former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah on Friday, and that planted bombs in the northern city of Tripoli.  As well, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati stressed in a released statements that terrorism does not differentiate between different Lebanese groups.
"Terrorists do not want stability in the country, they instead plan and execute a despicable plot that aims at promoting sedition,” Miqati said. He called on Lebanese factions to “be wise, overcome political considerations and draw an end to approaches of unilateral decision-making and exclusion.” Miqati warned that tension that is spread in several Lebanese regions indicates that what is worst is coming.
"We should meet and communicate to find a way out of the current dangerous deadlock to protect Lebanon from evil and from dangers.” PM-designate Tammam Salam also deplored the blast, calling for strengthening common grounds between the Lebanese people. The blast came less than a week after a car bombing targeted Beirut's central district on Friday, killing former Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah and seven others.
A twin suicide bombing hit the Iranian embassy in south Beirut on November 19, killing 25 people. In the summer, the southern suburbs suffered two bomb attacks. One, on August 15, killed 27 people. A blast earlier in August had caused no fatalities but wounded some 50 people.

Qassem: Response to Blast Must be through Forming National Unity Cabinet
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem on Thursday noted that the “response” to the deadly blast that rocked the party's Haret Hreik stronghold earlier in the day must happen through “political understanding and the quick formation of a national unity cabinet.”“The criminal bombing that occurred in Dahieh today is part of a series and we cannot tackle it as a separate or extraordinary act,” Qassem told al-Manar television, noting that “the bombing targeted ordinary people and not Hizbullah.”“Hizbullah will not trade accusations and will not respond to the allegations,” added Qassem. He warned that “everyone will drink from the bitter cup of the criminal scheme and the response must take place through political understanding and the quick formation of a national unity cabinet.” “We are keen on the country's stability and safety and we won't heed the nervous statements of some parties. This country is not a farm for anyone and no one can eliminate the other,” Hizbullah's number two went on to say. He cautioned that “Lebanon will head to destruction if there is no political understanding,” pointing out that “we cannot save it if we don't close ranks.” “If some parties don't want to acknowledge this, it means that they will drag the country into destruction,” Qassem said. Earlier on Thursday, at least four people were killed and 77 others wounded in a car bomb attack that rocked the Beirut southern suburb of Haret Hreik, a Hizbullah bastion.

New Cabinet aims to exclude Hezbollah: Berri
The Daily Star /BEIRUT: A new neutral government that would be announced next week and that aims to exclude Hezbollah would face a no-confidence vote, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said. “If this government is formed, as they say, from neutral and non-partisan [figures], the aim and the outcome of this action will be to exclude Hezbollah from the government and nothing else,” Berri said in remarks published Thursday. But Berri warned that such a Cabinet would soon be toppled. “A decree on the formation of this government will be issued on Jan. 7 or 8 as they say,” pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat quoted Berri as telling visitors. “Then [the government] will take time to draft the ministerial statement, after which it will be passed to Parliament to discuss and approve it,” he added. “[Such a] government will fail and will not get a vote of confidence in Parliament,” Berri warned. He said lawmakers from his Liberation and Development parliamentary bloc as well as from MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc will not give a confidence vote to the new government. President Michel Sleiman has agreed with Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam to seek the formation of a 14-member neutral Cabinet before Jan. 25, political sources told The Daily Star Monday. The move is likely to throw the country into further turmoil given that the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition strongly opposes such a government, proposing instead a 9-9-6 Cabinet formula representing the political parties in the country.


Salafist Jihadist Movement in Jordan Says Al-Nusra Front, ISIS Decided to Enter Lebanon
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/A leader in the Salafist Jihadist movement in Jordan announced on Thursday that the al-Qaida-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have officially decided to militarily enter Lebanon. "Al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani and ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took the decision to officially and openly enter Lebanon,” the leader told the Washington-based United Press International. "They want to be militarily present in the country until Hizbullah withdraws from Syrian territories and frees all detainees it is holding as captives,” he explained.
The leader did not provide any additional information in his message to the UPI.The Salafist Jihadist Movement in Jordan is allied with both ISIS and Al-Nusra Front in Syria.

Asiri Expresses Relief over al-Majed's Arrest, Push for DNA Testing
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri expressed relief on Thursday over the arrest of Majed al-Majed, the "emir" of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, the al-Qaida linked group that claimed a double suicide bombing at the Iranian embassy in November. “If DNA tests prove that the person detained is al-Majed then we're extremely thrilled,” Asiri said in comments published in the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat newspaper. He pointed out that al-Majed “assaulted his country before attacking the Iranian Embassy,” pointing out that his country has been pursuing him before the twin suicide bombing that targeted Tehran's embassy in Beirut. The diplomat, who currently resides in Riyadh, said that Saudi Arabia had previously issued a global alert over al-Majed's status.
In November, Saudi Arabia's embassy in Beirut has called on citizens to leave Lebanon because of the dangerous situation.
The warning came two days after a twin suicide bombings killed 25 people near the Beirut embassy of Saudi's regional rival Iran, which is located in the stronghold of Tehran ally Hizbullah.
Sources close to Asiri said in comments to al-Hayat that the delay in announcing the arrest of al-Majed is “due to Saudi Arabia's desire to confirm his identity through DNA tests.” “Information obtained by the Lebanese authorities indicate that the detained person is al-Majed,” the sources noted. According to the report, al-Majed was submitted to a hospital where he is undergoing treatment over kidney failure and under maximum security. The newspaper said that contacts are ongoing between Asiri and Lebanese authorities to coordinate measures.
“It's normal to coordinate with the Lebanese authorities to continue the required legal measures in order to hand him over to Saudi Arabia if his identity was confirmed.”
He told AFP: “He was arrested by the intelligence services of the Lebanese army in Beirut.”
He did not specify when the arrest took place.
“He was wanted by the Lebanese authorities and is currently being interrogated in secret," the minister added. Ghosn later denied to various media outlets that he had made any statements regarding the arrest.
Saudi Arabia's interior ministry also confirmed that Majid Mohammed Abdullah al-Majid, a Saudi citizen, was on a list of 85 suspects wanted by the kingdom.
The Azzam Brigades was designated in the United States as a "terrorist organization" in 2012, and has in the past claimed responsibility for firing rockets into Israel from Lebanon.
The group was formed in 2009 and is believed to have branches in both the Arabian Peninsula and Lebanon, with the latter named after Ziad al-Jarrah, a Lebanese citizen who participated in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Lebanon branch has sporadically fired rockets into northern Israel since 2009 and the Brigades also claimed responsibility for the 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. It is named for the Palestinian mentor of the late al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. He was killed in a 1989 bomb blast. According to Islamist sites, Majid was revealed to be the leader of the Brigades in 2012.
On Wednesday, a Twitter account belonging to Sirajeddin Zreikat, a member of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, appeared to have been suspended.
Zreikat had claimed responsibility in the group's name for the November 19 double bombing at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The attack came amid rising tension in Lebanon over the role of the Iran-backed Hizbullah in the war in neighboring Syria.
In 2009, Lebanese authorities sentenced Majid in absentia to life in prison for belonging to a different extremist group, the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah al-Islam.
That organization was involved in heavy fighting with the Lebanese army in 2007 in the Palestinian Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon, in which more than 400 people were killed, including 168 soldiers.
After the fighting, many members of the group took refuge in the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian camp, which is believed to house numerous Islamist extremists.
Prominent Fatah leader Munir al-Maqdah said that al-Majed lef Ain el-Helweh in mid-2012 for Syria.
“He left the camp with a group and went to Syria,” Maqdah added.

Tehran asks Lebanon to interrogate Al-Qaeda suspect

January 02, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Tehran has asked Lebanon to take part in the ongoing investigation with a Saudi man suspected of being the head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades that claimed responsibility for the Iranian Embassy bombings, Iran’s envoy said Thursday. "Iran officially asked Lebanon to participate in the investigation with Majid al-Majid given that he is the one responsible for the Iranian Embassy bombings,” Iranian Ambassador Ghazanfar Ruknabadi told a local television. Caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour also confirmed Iran’s request.  A security source told The Daily Star Thursday DNA samples from the suspect have been sent to Saudi Arabia and that the results are expected to be announced later in the day. It was not clear when and where al-Majid was arrested. Al-Majid has lived in the Palestinian Refugee Camp of Ain el-Hilweh which he left a month ago to Syria and joined the ranks of Jabhat al-Nusra, fighting against regime forces. Wanted by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, al-Majed is the head of Abdallah Azzam Brigades, an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, which claimed a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last November that killed 30 people, including an Iranian diplomat, and wounded 150 others. The Abdallah Azzam Brigades has also been blamed for attacks in Egypt and Jordan and has claimed responsibility for rocket attacks from Lebanon into Israel in recent years. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has accused Saudi intelligence of being behind the Nov. 19 attack.
“We believe the Abdallah Azzam Brigades’ statement about the bombing ... this is a bona fide group that has a Saudi emir and its leadership is directly linked to Saudi intelligence,” Nasrallah said at the time.
Al-Majid had also sent jihadists from Ain el-Hilweh to fight in Iraq during the U.S. occupation and is suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Lebanon. An Iranian national security official, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, praised Lebanon's apprehension of al-Majid, blaming him for the embassy attack. Boroujerdi told Fares News Agency Wednesday the suicide bombings in Beirut deserve attention given that the mastermind of the operation is a Saudi national. In remarks to pan-Arab al-Hayat, Saudi Ambassador Ali Awad Asiri said Lebanon has informed Riyadh about the arrest of a Saudi citizen. “Lebanese authorities have informed the Saudi embassy in Beirut that they managed to arrest [head of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades] Majid al-Majid," Ali Awad Asiri said in remarks published Thursday. “According to Lebanese authorities’ preliminary information, the man arrested is most likely Majid al-Majid,” Asiri added. “They are waiting to conduct DNA tests to be 100% sure.”  Asiri said Lebanese authorities were still interrogating the suspect, adding that the Saudi embassy was following up on the issue, primarily in terms of the detainee’s identity. “Al-Majid is a Saudi citizen and no doubt [Riyadh] would like to have him back after verifying his identity,” he told Al-Riyadh newspaper.
Al-Majid is on Saudi Arabia’s list of 85 most-wanted individuals for links to Al-Qaeda. But Asiri said Al-Majid’s extradition would take some time since Lebanese authorities were still questioning him and because of his deteriorating health condition. Lebanon’s caretaker foreign affairs minister said Lebanon preserved the right to investigate Al-Majid and prosecute him in the country without handing him over to any party.
Speaking to Al-Manar television, Mansour said extraditing Al-Majed to any country required preexisting bilateral agreements between Lebanon and the concerned state. Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh rejected handing Majid to another state and said that the Lebanese authorities should investigate with Majid and take legal action against him. “Handing in [Majid] would not just be a dangerous precedence but a flagrant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and a blow to the achievement of arresting him,” Franjieh said in a statement.  “A state that respects its sovereignty and laws does not give up on them at the request of any other country, how about if the detainee is guilty, dangerous and an inciter of strife and sabotage?” he said. Franjieh urged the state not to hand in Majid to any state and hold his trial in Lebanon “to preserve what is left of our nation's prestige, the sovereignty of our country and the security of our citizens.


Shelling on Arsal's Countryside Wounds Nine Syrian Fighters
Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/Shelling from Syria Thursday wounded nine Syrian fighters on the Lebanese border who had fled fighting in their country, a security source said."Nine Syrians were wounded as a result of cross-border artillery shelling from Syria that struck the area of Khirbet Dawoud in the Arsal countryside," the source told Agence France Presse. "There are groups of Syrians, most of them fighters, in the countryside of Arsal" in the eastern Lebanese Bekaa Valley, the source added. The fighters had "fled from Qalamoun in Damascus province for Lebanon in recent weeks because of intensified fighting between Syrian troops and armed opposition groups."The source also said fierce fighting has raged in border areas near Damascus and Homs provinces, which was confirmed by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Israel Carries Out Patrols near Border with Lebanon, Erects Earth Mounds

by Naharnet Newsdesk 02 January 2014/Israeli army intensified on Thursday patrols along the border with Lebanon and began erecting earth mounds in the occupied Shebaa Farms. According to the state-run National News Agency, the Israeli army carried out patrols off al-Abbasiyeh and Ghajar, reaching all the way to Kfarshouba hills as soldiers monitored the area. The news agency reported that at 9:00 a.m. Israeli caterpillars began establishing earth mounds and fortifying the border post of Fashkool in the occupied Shebaa farms. On Sunday, the Israeli military fired a barrage of shells into southern Lebanon in retaliation after Katyusha-style rockets slammed into the Jewish state. The exchange of fire hit uninhabited areas of both Israel and Lebanon without causing casualties or damage, officials on both sides said. The Israeli government accused Hizbullah of being responsible for the rocket fire and threatened an even tougher response to any further attacks. The U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) said two rockets fired from the el-Khiam area had struck open ground near the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. The Israeli army responded with 32 rounds of artillery fire directed at the area from where the rockets originated, it said. Tension has spiked on the border between the two countries since Lebanese troops gunned down an Israeli soldier driving near the frontier on December 16. The Lebanese army said it had found four rocket launchers. Israel's border with Lebanon has been largely quiet since the 2006 war with Hizbullah.
The last time a soldier was killed on the frontier was in August 2010, when two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist also died. In August, four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an explosion some 400 meters (yards) inside Lebanese territory, in a blast claimed by Hizbullah. Earlier this month, Hizbullah said one of its top leaders was killed near Beirut and blamed Israel for his murder, a charge denied by Israel, which warned against any retaliation.
U.N. peacekeepers were deployed along the border following the 34-day war in 2006 which killed some 1,200 people in Lebanon, mostly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Egypt: A Tinderbox Waiting for a Spark
Eric Trager/Washington Institute
Behind the government's political transition and security measures lies a deeply unstable country.
Nearly six months after the mass uprising-cum-coup that toppled Mohammed Morsi, the key cleavages of Egypt's domestic political conflict are not only unresolved, but unresolvable. The generals who removed Morsi are engaged in an existential struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood: They believe they must destroy the Brotherhood -- by, for instance, designating it a terrorist organization -- or else the Brotherhood will return to power and destroy them. Meanwhile, Sinai-based jihadists have used Morsi's removal as a pretext for intensifying their violence, and have increasingly hit targets west of the Suez Canal. Even the Brotherhood's fiercest opponents are fighting among themselves: the coalition of entrenched state institutions and leftist political parties that rebelled against Morsi is fraying, and the youth activists who backed Morsi's ouster in July are now protesting against the military-backed government, which has responded by arresting their leaders.
So despite the fact that Egypt's post-Morsi transition is technically moving forward, with a new draft constitution expected to pass via referendum in mid-January and elections to follow shortly thereafter, the country is a tinderbox that could ignite with any spark, entirely derailing the political process and converting Egypt's episodic tumult into severe instability. What might that spark be? Here are three possibilities:
1. A high-profile political assassination. While he may be as well-guarded as any top official, Egyptian Defense Minister (and de facto ruler) Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is squarely in the Muslim Brotherhood's crosshairs. He is, after all, the face of the coup that toppled Morsi, and he later called Egyptians to the streets to seek their "authorization" for a subsequent crackdown that killed more than 1,000 Morsi supporters.
The Brotherhood hasn't been shy in calling for his death. Brotherhood protests frequently feature images of Sisi with a noose around his neck for "treason," and the Brotherhood-backed Anti-Coup Alliance recently tweeted, "the people want the murderer executed," in an apparent reference to Sisi. Moreover, in December, a pro-Brotherhood website even reported excitedly (double exclamation points and all) that an assassination attempt against Sisi had already taken place, adding that Sisi was hastily flown to Saudi Arabia for treatment, where he refused to have his leg amputated so that he wouldn't have to retire from the military. (This was, of course, false.) And while the Brotherhood has been implicated in political assassinations previously, such as the 1948 murder of Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi, it is hardly the only or best-equipped organization that wants Sisi dead: The Egyptian general is currently overseeing a military campaign against Sinai-based jihadists, who attempted to assassinate Egypt's interior minister in Cairo in early September and have repeatedly attacked security installations, most recently in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura and governorate of Sharkiya.
If Sisi were assassinated, it would have two effects. First, the military would likely respond with an even more severe crackdown on the Brotherhood than the one that is already underway. This is precisely what happened following a 1954 assassination attempt on Gamal Abdel Nasser that was blamed on the Brotherhood: thousands of Muslim Brothers were detained, tortured, and executed over the next two decades. Second, given the current expectation that Sisi will either run for president or act as the kingmaker, his assassination would catalyze intense competition among various security officials who would vie -- directly or via proxies -- for the presidency. This would further weaken Egypt's already disjointed state, raising the prospect of even greater violence.
2. Protests and/or violence at polling stations. Egyptians are widely expected to approve the referendum of the new constitution in January -- no referendum in Egyptian history has ever resulted in a "no." But the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies reject the post-Morsi political process and are reportedly planning to thwart the plebiscite by protesting at polling stations and preventing voters from entering the booths. While one must take reports about the Brotherhood in the Egyptian press with a heavy chunk of salt, the organization's statements in recent weeks comparing voting in the referendum to "participation in bloodshed" suggest that aggressive action is possible. And the fact that Egyptian security forces are planning for this possibility is hardly reassuring: Egypt's notoriously brutal police would likely engage the obstructionists violently, and those areas in which Islamists are particularly strong might be able to hold off government forces for a while, as occurred in the Giza town of Kerdasa in September.
This sort of incident wouldn't just delay the vote -- it would reveal the transitional government's weakness. This would encourage the Brotherhood to escalate its protest activities, and might also encourage the Sinai jihadists to escalate their attacks. Rather than moving quickly toward the next rounds of elections, Egypt would be headed toward persistent civil strife.
3. A major terrorist incident in the Suez Canal. In August, Sinai-based jihadists fired rockets at a Panamanian-flagged cargo ship passing through the Suez Canal. While the Egyptian military responded with a major ground offensive against the jihadists shortly thereafter and beefed up security along the canal, Egypt's generals admit that the campaign in Sinai has proven much more difficult than they expected. Moreover, subsequent terrorist attacks against both military and civilian targets suggest that the jihadists are extremely determined and, at times, very well-armed: terrorists filmed themselves firing an RPG in Cairo in October, and an explosion outside a camp for security forces in Ismailia in December wounded 30 people.
A major attack on the Suez Canal would be particularly devastating. In addition to embarrassing the military-backed government internationally, it would harm the one source of domestically generated state revenue that has remained relatively stable despite the political tumult of the past three years. The current government can't afford to lose it: Despite a $12 billion pledge from Persian Gulf states in the immediate aftermath of Morsi's ouster, Egypt's cash reserves have declined in recent months -- dropping from $18.6 billion in October to $17.8 billion in November. Meanwhile, the government has announced plans to increase the minimum wage for government employees and preserve the costly food-subsidy program. A sharp dip in Suez Canal revenue would affect the government's ability to meet its obligations, and ongoing cash-reserve declines could spell the return of the constant blackouts and long gas lines that plagued Morsi during his final months in office. Mass anger, and the beginnings of a possible uprising, would likely follow.
There's a slim chance, of course, that any of these particular scenarios will occur. But Egypt's unsettled political situation and swell of violence make the atmosphere ripe for further upheaval. Something will likely give.
**Eric Trager is the Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute.

It is time to take a stand

By: Michel Kilo/Asharq Alawsat
The Syrian situation is deteriorating quickly, for reasons that include the intervention of strangers in the conflict, an intervention which was not desired by the Syrian people, who were seeking to deliver their demands to the president, demands for freedom after 50 years of Assad’s Ba’athist oppression.
The irony is that the deterioration of the situation is not caused by the shortage in numbers of those who are fighting the regime, but by the foreign fighters who entered our country and fundamentally changed the identity of the revolution with their extremist beliefs and extreme cruelty, which has persuaded many people who were demanding freedom that the Assad regime was better than the revolution.
This is because the rise of the extremists will lead to a rule by parties which claim to be Islamists, which promises people nothing more than murder and mayhem if they rejected their rule, which they say will be an Islamic caliphate. This is despite the fact that those who will rule will be strangers to the Syrian people and deny them their rights, just like they were denied by the eras of decay which Arabs and Muslims have endured.
I will go ahead and name the party I am talking about: it is the fundamentalist group which calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Its Baghdad-born Iraqi leader announced the abolition of the Syrian national state, and its replacement with an entity with no identity, which is no more than a vague fundamentalist entity that is trying to take the title of a state. It is not a state by any measure, and not Islamist by any true standard. It is also not established yet, whether in Iraq or Syria, and one of its first achievements was to impose a punishment of 70 lashes against anyone who did not mention it by its correct title, or called it by the acronym “ISIS.”
This entity is tasked with destroying the revolution physically by killing freedom fighters, and morally by smearing the spirit and letter of Islam, and by taking actions which are totally inconsistent with Islam’s tolerance and acceptance of others, its moderation, and its constructive, civilized message.
The leaders of ISIS received their education and ideological upbringing in one of the Islamic world’s most deprived areas, speaking in spiritual and religious terms. Throughout the modern era, it has denied debate on Islam’s tradition of moderation, and adopted the worldview which refuses to recognize that current, existing Islamic societies are actually Muslim and refuses to accept Muslims who reject their ideology and theories of governance. Instead, it focuses on the “ignorance” of our societies and the inevitability of the Islamization of Muslims—according to their narrow understanding—and leading Muslims into an inevitable civil war after designating the majority of them as ignorant people who deserve to be killed.
Indeed, the followers of this movement did not leave undone a single deed harmful to Islam and well-suited to making the Assad regime look good in comparison. The coming days will show that they have killed more Syrian Muslims than those killed by the regime in the areas under their control, areas which were liberated by the Free Syrian Army only for ISIS to take them over and establish a regime which is more authoritarian and brutal than Assad’s.
This situation not only threatens Syria and its revolution, it also threatens the Islamic faith and the world. It threatens Muslims, both as individually and collectively, and threatens to end God’s gift of unity between all faithful, taking us back to the dark ages which were awash with the blood of innocents, whose needless killing was forbidden by God.
Today, ISIS kills individuals and groups using fatwas which God had nothing to do with, like the one issued by one of their scholars after he was asked about the ruling on the killer of an innocent person. The ISIS scholar replied: “He will receive his dues from God because he killed his victim believing he was guilty, but God rewarded him because He knows he is innocent, and therefore, the mujahid receives his reward because he helped the victim receive God’s justice.” This judgment is nothing but an open invitation to kill people indiscriminately, in the name of a religion which forbade killing and raised the status of a human being, making him God’s successor on earth.
Staying silent on these judgements is no longer possible. A stance by our religious scholars and clerics must be taken to uncover the aggression of these extremists against the righteous religion which God bestowed on us as Arabs and Muslims. Otherwise, we will fall victims to our ignorance and regret it when it is too late, when the oppression of Assad has been replaced with the darkness and oppression of his agents, who fight the Free Syrian Army and kill the best of its men, and assault those who originally organized the revolution, deluding themselves that they can cover their crimes by hiding behind a religion which has always condemned their kind.
The defenders of Islam’s moderation and its respect for humans and their dignity must speak loudly against the distortion practised by the murderers of ISIS, who kill Muslims and other believers under the guise of a religion which was brought forth by God to protect them.