July 24/14


Bible Quotation for today/All proud and evil people will burn like straw
Malachi 04/01-06: "The Lord Almighty says, The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them. But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun's rays. You will be as free and happy as calves let out of a stall. On the day when I act, you will overcome the wicked, and they will be like dust under your feet. Remember the teachings of my servant Moses, the laws and commands which I gave him at Mount Sinai for all the people of Israel to obey. But before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes, I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; otherwise I would have to come and destroy your country."

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on July 23/14

A southern front with Israel, Not for the moment/By: Justin Salhani/ The Daily Star/July 24/14

Gaza and the Beirut invasion scenario/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/July 24/14

Netanyahu needs Hamas, and here's why/By: Chris Doyle/Al Arabiya/July 24/14

Why Sisi cannot let Egypt’s Gaza deal fail/By: Lina Khatib/Al Arabiya/July 24/14

U.S. Must Play Hardball in Nuclear Talks With Iran/By: Michael Singh/Wall Street Journail/July 24/14


Lebanese Related News published on July 23/14

Parliament Fails to Elect President for Ninth Time as Berri Hopes Polls Won't Affect Cabinet

Orthodox Church condemns Mosul attacks on Christians

A mark of solidarity with Mosul Christians

U.S. House move to block Hezbollah funding

March 14 Slams Attacks on Iraqis, Christians, Says 'Hariri's Roadmap Most Suitable for Lebanese Endurance'
Army combs border for Syria infiltrators

Public sector wages to be paid by Cabinet for July

Strida Geagea: Rivals obstructing Christian president vote

Education Minister Elias Bou Saab mulls decision for college-bound students

Nusra Front posts film of Army defector
Lebanon sees 90 percent rise in Arab tourism
West, Hezbollah and Army work to secure border
Nusra Front posts film of Lebanese Army Soldier defector
Four Rockets from Eastern Mountain Belt Hit Bekaa Towns

Abducted Palestinian Released for $100,000 Ransom

Jumblat: Only Palestine Can Bestow Legitimacy on Arab Rulers


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 23/14

Durzi Wounded Golani commander makes good on vow to return to Gaza

Gaza Toll Rises to 678 on Day 16 of Israeli Offensive, Fighting Suspended in Khuzaa, Shejaiya to Evacuate Wounded

Protective Edge enters day 16: IDF engages

IDF Commanders: Time for decisive war move after IDF victories in Shejaiya, E. Rafah and Khan Younes

Israel's stick and carrot approach in Gaza

Wounded Druze Golani commander returns to Gaza

Lufthansa, Delta extend flight bans to Israel

Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza

Israel uncovers Hamas tunnel filled with maps, weapons, and IDF uniforms

ISIS burns 1,800-year-old church in Mosul

Iraq Christians flee with little more than clothes

A Professor of Zayed University owes Sisi’s decline
ISIS crushes and coerces on march towards Baghdad
What would you do?’ Israeli tweet shocks London
UN: Israeli actions could amount to ‘war crimes’
Saudi Prince Salman, Nawaz Sharif discuss ways to enhance ties
Qatari emir in Jeddah for talks with Saudi king

Sisi defends Egypt peace efforts for Gaza
Why did Sisi decline Obama's invitation to Washington?
Some MH17 bodies missing, inquiry chief pledges ‘they will be found’
U.S.: No link to Russia government in downing of flight MH17


Parliament Fails to Elect President for Ninth Time as Berri Hopes Polls Won't Affect Cabinet
Naharnet/Parliament failed for the ninth time on Wednesday in electing a president due a lack of quorum. Speaker Nabih Berri, who did not attend the session, set August 12 as the date for the tenth session. Lebanese Forces MP Sethrida Geagea condemned the boycott, accusing lawmakers of obstructing the elections and violating their duties towards the people who elected them.
LF chief Samir Geagea is running in the elections.
He later slammed the March 8 camp for obstructing the election, saying during a press conference: “We have exerted all possible legitimate efforts to stage the polls. We will not surrender or despair.'“The elections will be held. This may take time, but it is better than doing nothing,” he asserted. “The other camp's mentality does not respect democracy, the country, people, presidency, and logic,” he added.
“We would not have been upset over the vacuum had there been legitimate reasons for it, however, obstructing the elections in this manner is unjustified,” he stressed.
Furthermore, he criticized the “insolence” of proposing a constitutional amendment at such a critical time. “The constitutional amendment proposal is aimed at improving one's negotiation options,” Geagea said in reference to Change and Reform bloc chief MP Michel Aoun's suggestion that the president be elected directly by the people. “We could have held the elections and later addressed the constitutional amendment,” continued the LF chief.
Previous elections sessions were boycotted by the March 8 alliance's Loyalty to the Resistance and Change and Reform blocs due to a disagreement over a consensual nominee.
Earlier, Berri had voiced his keenness on the functioning of constitutional institutions, hoping that the vacuum in the presidency will not affect cabinet, reported al-Joumhouria newspaper on Wednesday. He told his visitors on Tuesday: “I am trying my best to separate the presidential vacuum and the obstruction of parliament sessions from the cabinet meetings.” “Cabinet's role is not limited to serving the people's needs, but it has to tackle an urgent security situation,” he remarked.
“We therefore cannot accept any obstruction of government work,” stressed the speaker.
Asked about the presidential vacuum, Berri noted that no new development has been achieved in this issue. The term of President Michel Suleiman ended in May.

Orthodox Church condemns Mosul attacks on Christians
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate Wednesday condemned the attacks on Mosul’s Christians, calling on states funding extremist organizations to stop immediately. “We strongly ... condemn the attacks against the Christians of Mosul,” a statement by the Patriarchate said, “and the exerted coercion forcing them to change their belief, pay a tax or leave their homes, while having their properties confiscated.”“These fundamentalist movements,” the statement added, “are the most dangerous for ... coexistence.”
The statement called on states that provide fundamentalist groups with any direct or indirect foreign support to “immediately stop all forms of material, logistic, military and moral support,” saying that the terrorist groups threaten “the people and peace of those states first.” “Christians and Muslims are two lungs of one Eastern body,” the Patriarchate said, “and we condemn anything that harms the reputation of the forgiving Islamic religion, with which we have experienced the peace and fraternity.”Separately, the Orthodox Church condemned the Israeli offensive against Gaza, calling the international community to act urgently and end the attacks. “We call on the international community stop the fire machine in Gaza and break the vicious siege imposed on our brothers in Palestine,” the Patriarchate said, saying that the Palestinian cause remains the central cause. “The Palestinian people’s insistence on their land and their eagerness to go back to it remain a source of hope to every person suffering in this East,” the statement said, but a stigma on the forehead of those whose ‘human rights’ stop at the Palestinian borders.”

West, Army and Hezbollah work to secure border
Antoine Ghattas Saab/The Daily Star
Following intense fighting along Lebanon’s eastern border that pitted Syrian troops, backed by Hezbollah, against Nusra Front fighters, all eyes are now on the Bekaa Valley and the mountainous area extending from the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region to the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Over the weekend, the Lebanese Army deployed at 100 new points in the Baalbek-Hermel villages of Al-Qaa, Ras Baalbek, Fakiha, Meqraq, Labweh, Swanieh, Nahleh, Younin, Maqneh, Bizalieh, Nabi Othman and Arsal. The Syrian army, with the support of Hezbollah, has been able to contain a number of strategic points for rebels, more than 3,000 of whom were preparing a dangerous operation against Lebanese villages known as “Laylat al-Qadr” (Night of Power).
According to a source familiar with the issue, a Lebanese security agency was informed about the possibility of such an operation two weeks ago by Western intelligence services.
The Syrian rebels had plans to launch a massive ground operation on Lebanese villages bordering Syria and kidnap dozens of men, to be used as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Islamist prisoners held at Roumieh Prison. The source claimed the gunmen were planning to massacre the villages’ inhabitants, who are mostly Shiite, to tip the country into an open-ended sectarian war.
Western intelligence services also reportedly tipped off Hezbollah with similar information, providing the party with a 10-day window to take the necessary action to rid the areas near the northern Syrian-Lebanese borders of the rebels. In addition to providing Hezbollah with intelligence support, according to the source, the Western agencies have also helped bring in a media blackout by instructing outlets and intelligence apparatuses not to tackle what is happening on the northeastern mountain slopes. Media outlets were also told not to reveal any information about the number of casualties for both parties.
By aiding Hezbollah and Lebanese state authorities, the West is trying to maintain stability in the country, the source said. The West wants to avoid any incidents that might prompt anything akin to the Syrian civil war in Lebanon, and is helping to prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups into the country, the source added.
For the West, helping Hezbollah – at least partially designated a terrorist organization in Europe and the United States – remains the best solution. In fact, collaboration between Hezbollah and Western security services is far from new; cooperation has taken place between the two over the situation in south Lebanon as well as in Yemen, Palestine and Bahrain.
Separately, sources revealed that military Iranian officials from the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard had arrived in the Bekaa Valley town of Labweh a week ago.
According to the sources, the officials have met with Hezbollah field commanders to create a defense plan in the northern Bekaa Valley to stymie extremist groups from Syria.
The Iranian officials also visited a military operation room that both they and Hezbollah will be using in the Nabi Sheet area. According to the plan, Hezbollah members and the Syrian army will occupy the farms around the Syrian town of Rankous, specifically Sabna farm. This farm is significant because it is considered a crucial stop on the valley route to Lebanese villages, as well as to Syria’s besieged Zabadani. The plan also divides the area north of Tfeil into two sections on either side of the Syrian opposition fighters to make it easier to attack them. Hezbollah members have been increasing in numbers at strategic points in border areas, sources said, and there is a growing buzz of surveillance drones over Qalamoun, Zabadani and Serghaya.


A southern front with Israel, Not for the moment
Justin Salhani/ The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Despite Hezbollah’s recent reconciliation with Hamas, the party is currently unlikely to mobilize against Israel over its ongoing offensive aimed at crushing the Islamist group in Gaza, analysts said Tuesday, with most generally agreeing that any intervention rests on how things go on the ground.
“A full land invasion has yet to take place. Hezbollah’s decision is related to this and the situation in Lebanon,” Qassem Kassir, an expert on Islamic groups, told The Daily Star. For the moment, he said, “The resistance in Gaza is handling the situation well.”
A Lebanese political source agreed that Hezbollah was likely not to act unless a “red line” was crossed.
“If Israelis come close to breaching red lines, the Israel-Lebanon border will not remain calm,” the source said. “Any attempt to destroy Hamas is a serious sign.”
The source added that it would likely take a large scale Israeli operation that attempts to eradicate the resistance in Gaza. “Limited operations to stop the making or smuggling of rockets will not be considered the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” the source said.
The Syrian crisis led to a strain in relations between former allies Hamas and Hezbollah, with the predominantly Shiite Lebanese party siding with the Syrian regime and the Palestinian group – which is mostly Sunni – taking the side of the opposition.
At one point, Hezbollah even claimed that Hamas was teaching the Syrian rebels tactics it had picked up from the Lebanese group.
But a recently publicized phone conversation between the two groups’ leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, has indicated that the two resistance movements are increasing cooperation and strengthening ties once more.
According to several sources, Hamas and Hezbollah have been in contact since Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” began more than two weeks ago.
Hamas’ representative in Lebanon described the recent phone call between Nasrallah and Meshaal as “very positive.”
It was “aimed at reconciling a relationship between the resistance in Lebanon and the resistance in Palestine,” Ali Barakeh told The Daily Star.
“Iranian officials emphasized their support for the resistance in Gaza and said they would do their best to support them,” he added.
For Qassir, the news of publicized and direct contacts between Meshaal and Hezbollah for the first time in two years is an important development.
Hezbollah has also released a statement pledging its support for “the resistance in Gaza and [highlighting] the solidarity and the backing it will provide the Gaza resistance.”
“Additionally, the Lebanese resistance is fully ready to collaborate with the Palestinian resistance in any way that helps it achieve its goals and in foiling the aggression.”
More than 500 people have died as a result of Israel’s offensive on Gaza, more than 400 of whom are Palestinian civilians, an enormous toll that has prompted international condemnation.
Yet Hezbollah has not embroiled itself in a large scale military confrontation with Israel since the war in 2006, and analysts don’t foresee that changing given their heavy involvement in Syria.
“I don’t expect [Hezbollah] will intervene at this stage because it’s busy in Syria and on the borders with Syria, [namely in] Qalamoun and the Arsal mountains,” said Dr. Haytham Mouzahem, a Lebanese political analyst and expert in Islamist movements.
“Is it possible? Yes. Is it on their agenda? That is a different question,” said Dr. Imad Salamey, a professor of Political Science at the Lebanese American University in Beirut.
“It isn’t on their agenda to attack Israel at the moment. On the contrary they are currently collaborating with the Lebanese Army to secure the [southern] border of Lebanon.”
Salamey argued neither Hezbollah nor their major regional ally Iran were currently seeking confrontation with the West and Israel in light of their large commitment to the fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad’s regime.
More information may emerge later this week, however, as Nasrallah is due to speak Friday to mark Al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) in a speech that is expected to concentrate on the issue of Hamas and Hezbollah’s reconciliation and the situation in Gaza.
“Friday’s speech can indicate certain signs as to how the situation will evolve and how Hezbollah wants to deal [with the regional situation],” Qassir said. But for the time being, analysts say a military confrontation on Lebanon’s southern border seems farfetched at best – at least for the moment.
“Although, it has no strategic interest in a war with Israel, if things develop and the Israeli massacres become [too much] and the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip threatens the infrastructure of the Palestinian resistance, Hezbollah can’t be silent,” said Mouzahem. – Additional reporting by Ghinwa Obeid

Strida Geagea: Rivals obstructing Christian president vote
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces MP Strida Geagea held rival Christian parliamentarians responsible for obstructing election of the sole Arab Christian president, as Parliament failed for the ninth time in a row to fill the country’s top post. As in previous sessions, Speaker Nabih Berri adjourned the assembly to Aug.12 citing lack of quorum. He also called for convening Parliament on July 26 to “show solidarity with Gaza against Israeli terrorism and with Christians in Mosul and its surrounding against Takfiri terrorism.”As predicted prior to the session, the vote could not be held as lawmakers from the March 8 coalition boycotted the vote over a lack of a consensus candidate to succeed former President Michel Sleiman whose six-year-tenure ended on May 25. The majority of lawmakers from the March 14 coalition had arrived in Parliament. However, only 57 lawmakers were present Wednesday, compared with 65 and 75 in previous sessions. Geagea blasted the opposing camp, singling out former general Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement for impeding the vote and “jeopardizing” the post of the only Christian president in the Arab world at a time Christians are being persecuted in Iraq and Syria.
“I hold once again the opposite Christian party in Lebanon fully responsible for the dangers stemming from the obstruction of the presidential election, in such a sensitive phase through which the region is passing,” Geagea said after the session’s postponement. “Instead of electing a president to preserve the main and last bastion of real coexistence in the Middle East, the other camp, which pretends to be defending Christian rights, is actually sabotaging the election because it has no chance of the presidency,” Geagea added. Meanwhile, Future Bloc MP Ahmad Fatfat said his party will not attend any legislative session that would have reduction of public spending on its agenda, noting that the Minister of Finance has already issued a memorandum for paying the salaries of public employees and dismissing need to hold a meeting in that regard. Lawmakers have now botched nine attempts since April 23 to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, each failing due to a lack of two-thirds quorum in the legislature.


Jumblat: Only Palestine Can Bestow Legitimacy on Arab Rulers
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Wednesday lashed out at the rulers of Arab countries and their stance on the relentless Israeli assault against the Gaza Strip, noting that “the human remains of martyrs will fire back at them all.” Jumblat also blasted the stances of Russia, the United States, Germany, Iran and France. “As the daily holocaust continues in the Gaza Strip, one fails to find words in any dictionary to express indignation and anger over what is going on there, amid a state of complete ethical downfall of all the components of the so-called international community and Arab society,” Jumblat said in a released statement. At least 660 Gazans have been killed in 16 days of fierce Israeli bombardment, which did not spare children, women or even hospitals. “The West is still a captive of the Nazi Holocaust and it is hiding behind it to treat the victim and the executioner equally, turning a blind eye to the central and main crime behind all the events of the past and present, which is the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” Jumblat added. “Where is the stance of the French Socialist Party, which is disregarding the new holocaust against the Palestinians, leaving behind its heritage that had several historic landmarks, topped by the solidarity posture of the Socialist International (SI) during the 1982 (Israeli) siege of Beirut,” Jumblat wondered. Turning to Germany, the PSP leader called on Berlin to “overcome that historic psychological complex created by the Nazi Holocaust against Jews, which is totally condemned,” voicing regret that “the German stance is, unfortunately, descending towards further subjugation, cowardliness and regression.”
Jumblat did not forget to ask the U.S. administration about “the human rights slogans that it champions selectively, according to its policies and interests, and which it also disregards selectively, according to its policies and interests.”“The ultimate and blind U.S. support for Israel reflects the absence of a value system among Americans, which has been lacking since the American state was established on the land of others,” Jumblat added. Slamming Russia, the PSP leader said it seems Russian President Vladimir Putin “has decided to erase all the history and heritage of his predecessors and the heritage of the Soviet Union in supporting the Palestinian cause, focusing all his attention on winning a lost cause in Ukraine or regaining the glories of flimsy empires.”
Jumblat also hit out at Tehran, saying “the calculations of the nuclear haggling have suddenly overshadowed the cause which it had always voiced support for – the Palestinian cause – as it continued to ignore the continuous genocide in the Gaza Strip.”  Criticizing Arabs, Jumblat said “it's about time Arab rulers -- whether they belonged to the old or new generation -- realized that only Palestine can bestow legitimacy on them, and not vice versa.”“The human remains of martyrs will fire back at them all and will turn the entire Arab world into chopped up remains. At that moment, the developments will be open to all possibilities and will grow out of any control,” the PSP leader warned.


March 14 Slams Attacks on Iraqis, Christians, Says 'Hariri's Roadmap Most Suitable for Lebanese Endurance'
Naharnet/The March 14 forces on Wednesday noted that the roadmap proposed by al-Mustaqbal movement leader MP Saad Hariri is “the most suitable” for Lebanon's endurance in the face of the current developments, stressing that the election of a new president has become “more than necessary.”
“In the face of the rapid developments in the region, from the battered Gaza that is standing tall against the Israeli killing machine to Iraq that is reeling under the hammers of terrorism and dictatorship, not to mention Syria, the (March 14) General Secretariat underlines that the election of a new president according to the Constitution and the Lebanese political system's mechanisms has become more than necessary to foil the impending threats,” it said.
In a statement issued after its weekly meeting in Ashrafieh, the general secretariat added that this election would be “the strongest symbolic manifestation of the Lebanese people's adherence to their coexistence formula in the face of the disintegration of societies and countries in the region.”
“The roadmap devised by (former) Premier Saad Hariri is the most suitable for securing the requirements of Lebanese endurance” during this period, the general secretariat added.
On Friday, Hariri had proposed a “roadmap to protect Lebanon” that is based on rejecting any extension of the parliament's current term, electing a new president, holding parliamentary polls and laying out national plans to combat terrorism and address the Syrian refugee influx.
The General Secretariat condemned the ongoing practices of the jihadist Islamic State group in Iraq, “especially against Mosul's Christians,” saying “these acts are an insult to Islam, human dignity and personal and public freedoms.”
It urged all Muslim figures and organizations and all political forces in the Arab and Western worlds to “openly and clearly deplore these practices which do not honor all the monotheistic religions.”
Describing the persecution of Mosul's Christians as “a crime against humanity,” the General Secretariat called for immediate action aimed at “putting an end to the tragedy.”
Hundreds of Christians have fled Mosul following an ultimatum from the IS, which is spearheading a militant offensive in vast areas of northern and western Iraq.
Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako said there were still around 35,000 Christians in the city before the IS launched its sweeping offensive on June 9, proclaimed an Islamic “caliphate” straddling Iraqi and Syrian regions, and made Mosul their main Iraqi hub.

Education Minister Elias Bou Saab mulls decision for college-bound students
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Education Minister Elias Bou Saab Wednesday pledged to settle the issue over university-bound students, which is tied to the thorny salary raise crisis.  “Starting from today until Eid al-Fitr, a decision must be made to allow students to enter university,” Bou Saab told a rally outside the Education Ministry in Beirut. It was not clear how registration can be made amid a decision by the Union Coordination Committee to tie the correction of official exams to the approval of the wage hike. Lebanese students are required to pass the state-run Baccalaureate exam in Grade 12 before they can receive their diplomas and enroll in university. Bou Saab said he would “explain” how students can join college after a noontime meeting with the UCC, a coalition of private and public school teachers, and public sector employees. He stressed that the UCC is engaged in any decision-making. Students however, spoke out against the government. “We blame the state and we hold it fully responsible for the delay of our certificates and for any harm to our academic year,” said a student in a speech on behalf of fellow high school graduates. She called for a massive student turnout at the next protest in a show of support. “We have no choice but to take action. We don’t know if we will get our certificates, or if we will join universities!” she said angrily, while calling on parents to allow their children to take part in future rallies. “If nothing new happens, [students] will have to go down to the streets ... because they need their certificates in order to move on with their life and build for their future.”

Nusra Front posts film of Lebanese Army Soldier defector
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army defector posted a video Wednesday announcing that he has joined Al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, and his defection was due to Lebanese authorities’ alleged discrimination against Sunnis. “I have split from the Lebanese Army because, like any other soldier, I know well that the Army is a tool in the hand of the Hizb,” Atef Mohammed Saadeddine said, referring the Lebanese Shiite party Hezbollah. The solider initially went missing in the Bekaa Valley Monday evening, with local media reports saying he was kidnapped by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Authorities later discovered that the soldier had left with the militants voluntarily. A video was posted on Nusra Front's official YouTube channel Wednesday, allegedly showing an interview with Saadeddine, who spoke his reasons for splitting with Al-Nusra’s flag in the background. Al-Nusra front, a Syrian branch of the multinational fundamentalist organization Al-Qaeda, had been fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army and other rebel groups for many years, fighting both against the Assad regime and now the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.
Saadeddine, who presented his Lebanese Army ID, said his former institution takes orders from Hezbollah and discriminates against the Sunnis of Lebanon. “When they build a checkpoint in a Sunni area, they suffocate it completely,” he said. “While in the southern suburb, they do not dare put any checkpoint, unless Hezbollah had given the order.” He said that while Hezbollah didn’t fire “a single bullet toward Israel” after Gaza’s offensive, it had oriented its force against Lebanon’s Sunnis. “What resistance are they talking about? Resistance against the Sunni people?” he asked.
Saadeddine said the detention of many Sunni youths and the bad conditions in which they were kept had also motivated him to split from the Army. He alleged that the Army treats the Sunni sheikhs of Lebanon poorly, and “interrogates and physically abuse[s]” Sunnis stopped at their checkpoints, even among the wounded. This, he claimed, was another reason to leave the institution.
In the 6-minutes long video in which the former solider justified his defection, he also called on his former colleagues in the Army to take a similar step.
“Don’t think about the salary you are receiving at the end of the month, think about your religion. Because what happened to Syrians will happen to you; your parents, family and children will become homeless and you will live in tents,” Saadeddine said, addressing “soldiers and commanders” in the Army. “Wake up, soldier, and think about your religion and your sect,” he added.
The short film ended with a slow-motion scene apparently showing other militants of the Nusra Front entering the frame to hug Saadeddine and kiss his forehead, with Quranic music in the background.
In the same vein, several March 14 MPs told The Daily Star Wednesday that at least 10 other soldiers have defected from the Lebanese Army to join the Syrian opposition.
Anonymously speaking ahead of a botched parliamentary session to elect a new president, the MPs said a commanding Lebanese Army officer was among the troops who chose to join the ranks of rebel groups fighting in Syria.They accused authorities of imposing a news blackout on the “defection” until the Army had confirmed that the soldiers had fled.
Over the weekend, the Lebanese Army heavily deployed along the porous northeastern border with Syria and set up new posts in a number of villages in the Baalbek-Hermel region, including Arsal, to prevent rebels from infiltrating the country. The move comes as the Syrian Army and Hezbollah tightened the noose on armed rebels in Qalamoun, a mountainous region bordering Lebanon.

Army combs border for Syria infiltrators
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Airborne troops conducted thorough searches along the eastern mountain range bordering Syria Wednesday, as part of measures to curb infiltration of the porous border by gunmen and arms. The National News Agency (NNA) said the combing operations were carried out in the mountains east of Ras Baalbek and Fakiha, and to the north of Arsal, from dawn until midday.  “The troops, backed by the air force, searched hideouts which can be used by infiltrators and outlaws, including caves, hills, paths and side roads,” NNA said.
Intensive gunfire was heard as the troops combed the border area often used by fighters, refugees and smugglers. Melkite archbishop for Baalbek and north Bekaa Elias Rahal, welcomed Wednesday’s security move which he said helped reassure residents about their safety. “The Army’s operation echoed positively among inhabitants, bestowing a general feeling of reassurance and protection throughout the region,” Rahal told the NNA. Fears of spillover of violence from Syria mounted in the past 10 days as Hezbollah fighters battled Syrian rebels in a non-demarcated area of the frontier between Qalamoun and Arsal. In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from Hezbollah retook control of most of the Qalamoun region.
But Syrian activists say hundreds of opposition fighters have taken refuge in the caves and hills in the border area, using it as a rear base from which to launch attacks inside Syria.
Hezbollah has apparently launched an attack in a bid to finish off the pockets of rebel resistance.

ISIS burns 1,800-year-old church in Mosul
23 July/14
Staff writer, Al Arabiya News
Militants from the radical jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have set fire to a 1,800-year-old church in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, a photo released Saturday shows. The burning of the church is the latest in a series of destruction of Christian property in Mosul, which was taken by the Islamist rebels last month, along with other swathes of Iraqi territory. A video posted on YouTube July 9 shows a tomb being destroyed with a sledgehammer which government officials said was “almost certainly” the tomb of Biblical prophet Jonah.
Earlier, Mosul’s Christians fled the city en masse before a Saturday deadline issued by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) for them to either convert to Islam, pay tax, leave or be killed. Al Arabiya correspondent in Iraq Majid Hamid said the deadline set by the jihadist group was 12 p.m. Iraqi time (10 a.m. GMT). Hamid reported that many Christians fled the city on Friday. It is not clear if any remained after the deadline. Patriarch Louis Sako told AFP on Friday: “Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil,” in the neighboring autonomous region of Kurdistan. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” he said. Witnesses said messages telling Christians to leave the city by Saturday were blared through loudspeakers from the city’s mosques Friday. A statement dated from last week and purportedly issued by ISIS that took over the city and large swathes of Iraq during a sweeping offensive last month warned Mosul’s Christians they should convert, pay a special tax, leave or face death. Iraq was home to an estimated 1 million Christians before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted former President Saddam Hussein. Since then, militants have frequently targeted Christians across the country, bombing their churches and killing clergymen. Under such pressures, many Christians have left the country. Church officials now put the community at around 450,000. (With AFP and the Associated Press)

Durzi Wounded Golani commander makes good on vow to return to Gaza

Yoav Zitun/23 July/14,7340,L-4548235,00.html
Golani commander Colonel Ghassan Alian left his hospital bed and went straight back to Gaza to rejoin his troops. I’m going back to Gaza,” Golani Brigade commander Colonel Ghassan Alian, who was wounded this week during combat in the Gaza Strip, said Tuesday after being released from the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva. Alian sustained light-to-moderate injuries during combat earlier this week. After his evacuation to the hospital, he spoke to his family by phone and made it clear that he intended to return to his troops in Gaza as soon as possible. Alian was hit by pieces of shrapnel, some of which went into his eye, but his eyesight was not permanently damaged. After being released, the colonel went straight to visit his soldiers, also hospitalized in Soroka, in an attempt to give them strength.
“I’m leaving hospital to go to the unit,” he said. "I was in touch with the battalion commanders regarding the IDF’s accomplishments, and am returning to take command of the division, and move forward.
"The spirits in the division are strong and high. I visited the wounded fighters and I would have loaded them back inside the bus if I had had one available.We had a hard battle the morning I was wounded. A rocket-propelled grenade flew several meters over my head. I have a few scratches but I’m ok.” Alian vowed to return to the fighting with or without transportation. “Even if I have to walk there, I will go back to Gaza. The division is currently continuing in its main mission: to uncover the tunnels and destroy as many terrorists as possible. "We killed many terrorists, and that’s what needs to be done. There were skirmishes in which we killed 10 and 15 terrorists. I hope I will return to the operation in the Gaza Strip soon. I want to send a warm embrace to the bereaved families. I could not see them all but plan on doing so. They give us strength."Alian’s condition was initially defined as moderate, but later improved. His doctors told him Monday that he had to stay in hospital for further tests, but he insisted on being released. “I have a lot of soldiers there and I have to get back to them,” he said. Colonel Ghassan Alian is the first officer with the Druze community is to serve as the Golani Brigade’s chief.
Alian, a resident of the northern town of Shfaram, has served in many senior posts in Golani.

IDF Commanders: Time for decisive war move after IDF victories in Shejaiya, E. Rafah and Khan Younes
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis July 23, 2014/Senior IDF commanders said Wednesday July 23 that the time had come for a decisive war move. Breaking up the Hamas’ subterranean tunnels would take weeks, they said, but the critical encounter for completing their military mission and bringing the war to a close was still to be fought after three key IDF victories: The battle for Shejaiya grabbed the headlines, but the confrontations in eastern Rafah and eastern Khan Younes in the south were just as important.
The commanders are now urging a large-scale assault on the bunker complex housing Hamas’ top military command and infrastructure. They say it is up to national leaders, i.e., the security cabinet, to determine the military’s next move and the disposition of the forces present on the battlefields of the Gaza Strip.
The tank units could undertake the opening moves for the next, critical stage of the Israeli operation at no more than hours’ notice.
Political circles in Israel agree that after Hamas rejected all the ceasefire proposals floated, the next stage is the war’s expansion for its closing shots. There is no word yet on how they are to be conducted.
The Western diplomats and Palestinian Authority officials who met Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal in Qatar Sunday were amazed to hear him assert that Hamas was winning the war against the IDF and confident of being able to keep going for a long time, debkafile's military and intelligence sources report.
On Monday, July 21, Meshaal told one Western official: "In Gaza we see that the IDF is slow and clumsy. Our forces are mobile and flexible, including our rockets which we can move quickly from one place to another."
Asked about Hamas' defeat in Shajaiya, where a Gaza City suburb, home to 100,000 Palestinians, was razed to the ground, he declined to comment.
After Israel learned of Meshaal's comments, the IDF was instructed Monday night to demolish the empty home of Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas military wing. Israeli war planners believe Deif is the brain behind Hamas’ war, along with Izz-e- din al Qassam Brigades commander Marwan Issa.
While their forces were in retreat in the Gaza Strip, Hamas diplomacy won a strong point against Israel by a rocket that hit close enough to Ben-Gurion Airport to persuade US and certain European airlines to suspend their flights.
The rocket landed at Yehud, which is not far from the runways of Ben-Gurion airport and Airport City which houses a business and shopping center and Israel Aircraft Industries.
By Tuesday night, 85 international flights were cancelled by all American and a few European airlines. The Israeli El Al and Arkia moved fast to expand their service to and from Israel to fill the gap.
Early Wednesday morning, US Secretary of State John Kerry declined a request by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to intervene with the Federal Aviation Administration-FAA to rescind its ban on US carriers’ flights to Israel.
Kerry said he could not interfere in this and that anyway the FAA reviews its decisions every 24 hours. The European carriers are unlikely to resume their flights to Ben-Gurion so long as the Americans observe the ban.
debkafile's military sources note that Hamas' success in disrupting civilian air traffic to and from Israel exposed a hidden side of its war on Israel. Most of the nearly 2,000 rockets fired over the last 16 days did not miss Israel’s urban centers by chance, although many were deflected by Iron Dome interceptors. Hamas was focusing on strategic targets, such Israeli Air Force bases and facilities in the south and center. When IDF communiqués report that rockets land in open areas, this does not necessarily rule out their explosion in or near military bases.


Gaza and the Beirut invasion scenario
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya
A host of Israeli dailies have increasingly published calls for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the existence of Hamas, and not just suppress it. Those calling for a full scale invasion admit that the war will cost the Israelis a high price, but they say that the local public opinion is willing to accept those costs. Some see the battle as a rare opportunity, considering the Egyptians’ preoccupation with their own domestic affairs and their dispute with Hamas in general. Previously, Egypt played the role of the mediator and exerted pressure on the Israelis to prevent them from altering the status quo in Gaza. Late Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman used to open up tunnels, turn a blind eye to the smuggling of arms to Hamas and negotiate on behalf of Hamas leaders. The situation has changed a lot after Hamas sided with the Muslim Brotherhood against the government of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
The most serious aspect of these calls for a complete invasion is uprooting Hamas from Gaza, like Israel did to the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1982. Back then, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon surprised the world when he sent his forces towards the Lebanese capital, Beirut, announcing he had one mission: eliminating Fatah and its leaders, mainly Yasser Arafat. He succeeded in eliminating the armed Palestinian presence in Israel’s surroundings, and Fatah’s leaders were exiled to Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen. Israel exiled Arafat from Lebanon to Tunisia and believed it had gotten rid of him. However, within the context of the Oslo Agreement, Arafat returned to Palestine itself, to Gaza and Ariha, along with tens of thousands of his fighters.
Previously, Egypt played the role of the mediator and exerted pressure on the Israelis to prevent them from altering the status quo in Gaza
The Israelis are threatening a full invasion that aims to get rid of Hamas’ leaders and exile them, probably to Qatar and Iran in my view, within a context that leads towards totally lifting the siege. However, Israel knows that Hamas - despite its extremism and connection with hostile parties like Iran - may be the least dangerous to Israel when compared with salafist jihadist groups that may be linked to al-Qaeda. Over the past few years, Hamas has taken it upon itself to curb extremist powers in Gaza. It (Hamas) dared to destroy a mosque on top of their heads (the extremist groups) in Gaza, so who will play the role of the police that will control the front with Israel?
The miracle which this tragedy may achieve is reaching a political solution with Hamas itself - a solution that leads to lifting checkpoints and the boycott and to opening the port and allowing fishing, in addition to Hamas’ commitment to an agreement similar to that which the Palestinian Authority agreed on in the West Bank and to that which Hezbollah signed in southern Lebanon.


Netanyahu needs Hamas, and here's why
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Chris Doyle/Al Arabiya
“Hamas is like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or Boko Haram” boomed the chest-thumping Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems the Israeli prime minister wants outsiders to believe that this should permit all manner of aggressive actions against this enemy even if it includes pummeling civilian targets inside Gaza. Yet whilst Hamas has committed atrocities (as has Israel), it is far from being al-Qaeda and Netanyahu knows it.
Despite the thousands of tons of Israeli (and most likely U.S.) bombs being dropped on Gaza once again and the endless Palestinian civilians and children in body bags, Israel even under Netanyahu has had a rich tradition of doing deals with Hamas. It has turned a blind eye to its rearming and even had a hand in encouraging its growth in its early years. Netanyahu himself agreed ceasefire terms with this group in 2012. He released 1,027 prisoners in a deal with its leadership in 2011, all approved by the Israeli cabinet.
Nothing new
This is nothing new. Hamas grew out of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its growth was encouraged by Israel throughout the 1970s and 1980s as a counterweight to the Palestinian national movement in the form of the PLO. Their charitable activities were permitted and their work facilitated. There were rumors that Israel even helped fund it.
“Israeli and Palestinian peace camps have been squeezed by the more warlike parties and movements”
Many Israeli leaders, particularly from the Likud, have always been far more concerned about Palestinian nationalism than Hamas. Ariel Sharon was obsessed with Yasser Arafat for this reason, as the former PLO leader was possibly the only man who could deliver a Palestinian state and end Sharon’s dreams of settling in all of the West Bank. The then Israeli finance minister, Silvan Shalom, shared his view when he said in 2001, “Between Hamas and Arafat, I prefer Hamas.”
Hamas is Netanyahu’s get-out-clause. He knows he will never have to sign any peace deal nor accept a Palestinian state he openly opposes as long as Hamas is in power in Gaza. This is why I believe he had to destroy the April Fatah-Hamas unity deal, which, if he was interested in peace would have been welcomed. This is why he has never done a deal with President Abbas but instead undermines him by continually announcing settlement expansion and demolishing Palestinians homes.
Middle Eastern playbook
And this is the playbook adopted across the Middle East. Regimes are ensuring that they have unacceptable, violent and fanatical oppositions. Some say that the Syrian regime facilitated this by releasing hard-line Islamists onto the streets. The secular regime could be delighted to see the rise of Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS. The pitch to his doubting Syrian population was: do you want Assad or these guys who blow you up, crucify people or flog them? In Iraq, Maliki is scaring his own Shiite heartlands in just the same way about ISIS. It is not a tactic unique to the region. The West built up communism and communists as the enemy of the age, and then repeated the trick with success with Muslims. Of course the U.S. also found Muslim fighters to be strategically useful in confronting the Soviet Union. Israel likewise portrays Hamas in such terms, confident that it can be counted on to be provoked into committing atrocities.
For years, Israel calmly watched as Hamas and other groups built up their missile arsenals underneath Gaza, using the tunnels under the Egyptian border. These tunnels, I believe, were large enough to allow a Hummer to drive through and numbered at their maximum some 2000. For a state seemingly so concerned about rockets and other weapons arriving in Gaza, Israel, far from tackling this, tacitly encouraged this armament process especially after Operation Cast Lead in 2009. It tightened the blockade, making the tunnel economy extremely profitable. Unable to import through the legal, verified and monitored means at the official crossing points, Palestinians had to import nearly all products via these tunnels. Even the fish in Gaza largely came via the tunnels, as fishermen were unable to go beyond three nautical miles as enforced by Israeli gunboats. Construction materials could only enter via the tunnels. And of course, so did all the weapons, including the long-range missiles that have been indiscriminately fired at Israeli civilians even to the outskirts of Haifa.
The tunnels
If Israel had at any time decided to open the official crossing points to imports, it would have taken all the financial benefits out of the tunnels, ended a massive income stream for Hamas which taxed every single product imported via the tunnels. Yet again the question remains: Why were Israeli ministers content for so long for Hamas and other groups to rearm? It was not as if there was a lack of international support for any effort to prevent Hamas disarming.
Israeli leaders are fully aware of recent history. It seems that every time they launch a military operation against Hamas, the latter ends up more popular. Hezbollah was also a beneficiary of Israeli aggression, not least in 2006. Is this accidental?
As in Syria and Iraq, Israeli and Palestinian peace camps have been squeezed by the more warlike parties and movements. Israel has arrested even deported peaceful non-violent activists such as Mubarak Awad. The simple reason, I feel, is that any pluralistic, peaceful, democratic opposition is a serious threat to any regime and any occupying power. A single elected Palestinian legitimate leadership would be a nightmare to those in Israel who want no peace deal. As long as this continues, the warmongers of the Israeli Right and Hamas will engage in their regular confrontations and ceasefire agreements, always checking their domestic backyard to ensure the wannabee peacemakers remain beleaguered and side-lined. This is symbiotic relationship where the Israeli far Right and Hamas feed off each other to stay in power is to the ultimate detriment of all Israelis and all Palestinians.



Why Sisi cannot let Egypt’s Gaza deal fail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Lina Khatib/Al Arabiya
As the Israeli attack on Gaza continues, Egypt has presented an initiative to broker a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel to end the current violence. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi simply cannot let this initiative collapse and I believe he will do everything to see it through.
The Egypt deal comes at a critical time for Sisi, with the Gaza crisis taking place only two months after his ascension to the presidency, following a campaign that promised to resurrect Egypt’s leading role in the Middle East. The Egyptian president needs to demonstrate to his own people that he is indeed a leader with regional clout. He also wishes to assert himself in the international arena.
“Sisi’s initiative has already gotten the endorsement of the United States and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius”
This is not Sisi’s first such attempt. In June 2014, before the Israeli attack on Gaza, Sisi had discussed with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the regional threat presented by Islamist extremists in Syria, which I see as an indirect appeal for counterterrorism cooperation as well as a hint at a desired role for Egypt in the Syrian conflict. The current crisis presents an easier opportunity than the complex Syria crisis for Sisi to construct an active regional role for Egypt. After all, Egypt has traditionally often played a mediating role between Palestinians and Israelis, such as the mediation that took place after the outbreak of violence between Hamas and Israel in 2012. Sisi can capitalize on existing channels of communication to push for a deal.
Optimal time for Sisi
The deal also comes at a somewhat optimal time for Sisi: Qatar, which had previously taken advantage of the relative decline of the mediation roles of Saudi Arabia and Egypt to present itself as the new key mediator in the region, is now on the backburner as a regional actor after much pressure by other Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia. This leaves the space open for Sisi to present Egypt as a deal broker in the Gaza crisis. Qatar remains in the picture as an interlocutor with its ally Hamas, but its role in the initiative is secondary to Egypt’s, as Doha’s participation is geared towards pushing Hamas to eventually consent to the Egyptian deal.
International signs also seem positive. Sisi’s initiative has already gotten the endorsement of the United States and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and now the Arab League has also spoken out in support of the deal. The West’s stance in this case can be attributed partly to its search for a new broker in the region following the recent retreat of Qatar, and partly to the need to keep an open channel with the new Egyptian administration. For the Arab League, success of the initiative would resurrect Egypt’s traditional regional role.
For Sisi, in addition to strengthening his position within Egypt and confirming the narrative of a “strong Egypt” externally, the initiative could give him the upper hand vis-à-vis Hamas. Further down the line, this would give Egypt greater control over its border with Gaza as well as increase the legitimacy of its measures against Islamist groups within Egypt, particularly Hamas’ ally the Muslim Brotherhood.
The success of the Gaza initiative would also grant Sisi a platform to engage in brokering other deals in the future, such as in context of the Syria and Iraq crises, that would continue to affirm Egypt’s reclamation of its regional leadership. As such, Sisi is heavily invested in the Hamas-Israel deal and cannot afford t


U.S. Must Play Hardball in Nuclear Talks With Iran

Michael Singh/Wall Street Journail
As it prepares for four more months of nuclear talks with Iran, the U.S. faces a disadvantage: Even if there is ultimately no agreement, Tehran will pocket the considerable concessions Washington has already made. Iran will then argue to the world that it has proven its reasonableness and that sanctions should no longer be respected; failing that, it will begin the next round of talks having established a new nuclear baseline. The challenge for U.S. negotiators, then, is not just to reach an agreement but also to change Iranians’ minds about the consequences of not reaching an agreement.
In any negotiation, the zone of possible agreement, or range of outcomes acceptable to both sides, is determined by how each side answers two questions: How valuable is a deal (based on its particulars, the offering party’s trustworthiness and the legal framework upholding it)? And is the most likely alternative to an agreement better or worse for each side’s interests?The Obama administration has focused on the first question, making clear that it is more willing than its predecessors to accept a large Iranian nuclear program and engaging directly with Tehran to build trust.
Meanwhile, it has failed to persuade Iran that rejecting a deal would have alarming consequences. President Barack Obama’s hesitancy to use force in Syria and Iraq has undermined his military threats against Iran, and the specter of additional sanctions was undercut by the acrimony between the White House and Congress over the Kirk-Menendez bill on Iran sanctions. From Iran’s perspective–borne out by the recent extension of talks–the alternative to negotiations is just more negotiations. This diminishes its incentive to accept even a generous deal.
Negotiating tactics determine which among the possible range of outcomes is realized. So far, Iran’s tactical prowess has outmatched ours. The administration credits crippling economic pressure for bringing Iran to the negotiating table. But the interim agreement with Iran contained a vital concession Tehran had been seeking for years: U.S. acquiescence to uranium enrichment. So as considerable as the economic pressure was, it is impossible to know whether that alone would have been enough to induce an Iranian shift.
What’s more, the U.S. got little in return for this concession. Rather, it belittled its own previous position on zero enrichment as “maximalist” and even “ridiculous.” This enormous concession fundamentally changed American goals in the negotiations, yet our dismissal of the change prevented us from portraying it as such and extracting steps from Iran of similar magnitude.
This and other major concessions–for example, that the restrictions on Iran would be temporary, not permanent–were made in the interim agreement, before the current round of talks even began. As a result, the U.S. began the most recent talks having largely already reached our bottom line. Iran, on the other hand, started from a position that actually was “maximalist”: that it required not only the 19,000 centrifuges it then possessed but an additional 30,000 or more. Washington was thus on its back foot: Iran’s “compromise” of simply maintaining its current centrifuge stocks looked reasonable in comparison to its starting position, while Iranian negotiators could portray the U.S. as inflexible for making few additional concessions.
Going forward, the U.S. will need to correct strategic and tactical shortcomings by bolstering the credibility of the alternatives to making a deal–both sanctions and a military strike–and playing hardball at the negotiating table.
Michael Singh is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2005 to 2008, he worked on Middle East issues at the National Security Council