July 31/14



Bible Quotation for today/Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out."
Ezekiel 34/3-11: "You eat the fat, and you clothe yourself with the wool, you kill the fatlings; but you don’t feed the sheep.  You haven’t strengthened the diseased, neither have you healed that which was sick, neither have you bound up that which was broken, neither have you brought back that which was driven away, neither have you sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor you have ruled over them.  They were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food to all the animals of the field, and were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill: yes, my sheep were scattered on all the surface of the earth; and there was none who searched or sought. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, surely because my sheep became a prey, and my sheep became food to all the animals of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and didn’t feed my sheep;  therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them.  For thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out."


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on July 31/14

ISIS violations are an Islamic responsibility/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/July 31/14

A Mosul without Christians/By: Suleiman Gouda/Asharq Al Awsat/July 31/14

Lebanon: the meaningless distinction of a ‘defected’ soldier/By: Diana Moukalled /Al Arabiya/July 31/14

Palestinians need more negotiators, not arms/By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard /Asharq Al Awsat/July 31/14

Lebanese Related News published on July 31/14

Lebanese voice solidarity with Iraq Christians

Hizbullah Top Official, Three Fighters Die in Qalamoun Clashes
Hezbollah, Syrian regime battle rebels in northeast Lebanon

Hamas calls on Hezbollah to help fight Israel
MP Mohammad Hajjar: No president means Parliament extension

ISF: Former Lebanon MP Hbous not dead

Outbreak of skin diseases among refugee children

Lebanese expat killed in Abidjan
Israel kidnaps Lebanese shepherd in south

Jumblatt reaches out to break deadlock

Jumblatt not mending fences with Damascus

New and traditional Eid celebrations

Battles rage in northeast Lebanon

Eid fails to give big boost to businesses
Former Lebanon MP Hbous in critical condition
Heat wave causes forest fires across Lebanon
Difficult conditions at site of Air Algerie crash
Chamoun Slams Aoun as Conspirator against Christians, Says Extending Parliament's Term 'Necessary Evil'


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July31/14

A Call to Action: Sudan in the Wake of Meriam Ibrahim

In face of truce bids, Hamas’ Deif gives Gaza war fresh impetus, makes it a religious jihad

IDF to observe four-hour 'humanitarian pause' in bombardment of Gaza

UNRWA chief denounces Israel for strike on school
Hamas: 5 Israeli soldiers killed in Khan Younes

Report: Israel's Iron Dome makers were hit by hackers
Palestinian commandos kill five Israeli soldiers
Israel strikes Gaza from air, sea and land

Lapid says Hamas commander Mohammad Deif 'a dead man'
ISIS video wages psychological war on Iraqi soldiers

ISIS, Baghdad fight over strategic town southwest of capital
Iraq offers aid to those displaced by militants

Kurdish security service takes aim at ISIS oil smuggling
Iraqi Kurdistan sends letter to US court over oil

Russia counts cost of new US, EU sanctions

Google doodle honors Egyptian Farid Shawqi Cairo car bomb kills three: state media


Lebanese politicians express solidarity with Iraq Christians
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians and Christian leaders reiterated their concern Wednesday over the exodus of Christians from Iraq’s city of Mosul. A Future Movement delegation visited Chaldean Bishop Michel Kassarji at the Chaldean Archdiocese in Baabda to express their solidarity with the Christians of Iraq, the majority of whom belong to the Chaldean Church, the National News Agency reported.
After holding Mass last Sunday, Kassarji passionately described the plight of Mosul’s Christians, some of whom have fled to Lebanon. “We came here to express our solidarity with our Christian brethren in Iraq who were persecuted and displaced at the hands of terrorist groups that committed ugly crimes against them, amounting to crimes against humanity,” said MP Atef Majdalani, who headed the delegation, after the meeting. Iraqi Christians have been fleeing Mosul in hordes after ISIS threatened to convert them to Islam and pay a special levy, or leave and avoid certain death.
“We have been informed about the sufferings of Christians not only in Iraq, but also in the host countries, especially Lebanon,” Majdalani said.
The MP called for the provision of more aid needed by Iraqi refugees and said Parliament’s Health Committee would meet in a week’s time to discuss the issue of Christian refugees from Mosul with the ministers of health, interior and social affairs. Kassarji called on the Future delegation to bring the plight of Mosul’s Christians to the attention of senior officials. He also emphasized that “Christian refugees should be treated in the same way as Syrian refugees.”The Daily Star had interviewed a number of refugee families who said they had left Mosul for fear of persecution at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, which recently changed its name to the Islamic State. In Lebanon, Iraqi Christians complain of the lack of employment opportunities, citing competition with an already overwhelming number of Syrian refugees, and lack of international support. Mosul is said to be the heart of the Christian faith in the region. In an effort to assuage their desperate circumstances, France announced Monday its willingness to offer asylum to Iraqi Christians. “We are providing aid to displaced people fleeing from the threats of Islamic State and who have sought refuge in Kurdistan. We are ready, if they wish, to facilitate their asylum on our soil,” France’s foreign and interior ministers said. “Helping the people of the Levant, Christians and Muslims, can be done by uprooting terrorism from their lands and stopping all sources that nurture takfiri groups,” said the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and the Levant Wednesday.
The church has strongly criticized France’s offer to grant Iraqi Christians political asylum, describing the move as an attempt to empty the region of Christians. It said the only place Iraqi Christians would feel at home was in their homeland. Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius Lahham III expressed a similar stance. “We do need someone to receive us, but we need someone to help us stay in our land. Help us fight terrorism and takfiri groups, end this arms race which only serves to benefit these groups,” Lahham told Tele Lumiere earlier this week. “We want to be in our land and living alongside our Muslim brothers, despite all the problems,” he added. Yet, the recent developments have sparked tensions and reopened dormant historical disputes between Christians and Muslims.
“What’s happening in Iraq is a strange thing, but it is normal for Muslims, because they have never treated Christians well,” said Syriac Orthodox Bishop of Mount Lebanon and Tripoli George Saliba Wednesday, reported. Such claims, with their strong sectarian dimension, have alarmed moderates, prompting Lebanon’s General Coordinator of the Islamic Work Front Sheikh Zouheir Al-Joaid to respond directly to Saliba’s remarks. “These are defamations against Islam, its beliefs, and what the Quran said about our master Issa the Christ, peace be upon him,” Joaid said, stressing that all moderate Muslim authorities had condemned the jihadists’ actions.


Hizbullah Top Official, Three Fighters Die in Qalamoun Clashes
Naharnet/A high-ranking Hizbullah official was killed on Monday in the ongoing battles between the party's fighters and Syrian opposition militants in Syria's al-Qalamoun region, which is strategically located on the border with Lebanon. The clashes also took the lives of three other Hizbullah fighters. These deaths were confirmed by websites close to Syria's opposition and others to Hizbullah. They identified the slain party official as Ibrahim al-Hajj, a.k.a. Abou Mohammed Salman, and revealed that he hailed from the Bekaa town of Qalya but resided in Mashghara. "With pride the Islamic resistance in Hizbullah and the Bekaa town of Qalya announce the death of a new heroic martyr Hajj Ibrahim al-Hajj, al-Hajj Salman, who died while performing his holy jihadi duty through resisting against Takfiri and Wahhabi mercenaries,” a post published on South Lebanon website said on Monday. Meanwhile, websites close to the Syrian opposition claimed that al-Hajj was close to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. And on Tuesday, South Lebanon announced the death of three fighters “who died performing their jihadi duty.”They are Hussein Bassam Shouqair from the southern town of Baraachit, Mahmoud Riyad Monzer from the Bekaa's Shmestar and Ali Moussa Moussa from Sohmor, also in the Bekaa, said the website. The same source on Monday revealed also the death of Ahmed Ibrahim Abdul Sater, who hails from the Bekaa village of Iaat.  Many Hizbullah fighters have recently died in the renewed clashes against Syrian rebels on several fighting fronts in al-Qalamoun villages, as the Syrian regime claims that it is bombing the Arsal plains “to prevent terrorists' infiltration.”Earlier in July, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least seven Hizbullah members were killed and 31 others were injured in the ongoing border clashes. Giving a higher death toll of eight Hizbullah fighters killed, a wounded member of the party told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity: "The battle was very fierce, and at very close quarters." The long and porous border region is often used by smugglers, refugees and fighters. In April, Syrian forces backed by allied fighters from Hizbullah 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.
Last month, Lebanese army forces carried out raids in the area targeting militants with ties to "terrorist groups", an army statement said at the time.


Chamoun Slams Aoun as Conspirator against Christians, Says Extending Parliament's Term 'Necessary Evil'

Naharnet/National Liberal Party leader MP Dory Chamoun rejected on Wednesday the extension of the parliament's term, accusing Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun of conspiring against Christians in Lebanon. “Aoun is one of the conspirators against the Christians' existence in Lebanon and the orient as his actions harm the interests of Christians,” Chamoun said in comments published in the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper. He slammed the endeavors of the FPM leader as “more dangerous than the practices of the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant against Christians in Iraq.”
“Aoun is obstructing the presidential poll and hindering the Christians' top state post, compelling settlements that will not bring a strong head of state to power,” Chamoun told the newspaper.
He accused the FPM chief of having similar goals as Hizbullah, pointing out that Aoun aims at the formation of a constituent assembly to reshape the political life in the country. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had continuously called the establishment of a constituent assembly elected by the people. Chamoun voiced doubts that the presidential elections would be held anytime soon. Lebanon has been plunged into a leadership vacuum after Michel Suleiman's presidential term ended on May 25 with rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. The parliament convened nine times to try to elect a successor to Suleiman but failed during the last eight sessions due to a lack of quorum. Turning to the issue of parliamentary elections, Chamoun rejected attempts to extend the tenure of the current parliament, expressing fear over further vacuum at state authorities. However, he described the postponement of parliament's term as a “necessary evil,” warning that “staging the elections would compel the cabinet to resign, which means vacuum will hit the executive authority due to the vacancy at presidency.”Lebanon will enter on August 20 a deadline to agree on a new electoral law ahead of the November elections. In May 2013, the parliament voted to extend its own mandate for 17 months after the rival political parties failed to reach a new electoral law.
Around 100 MPs from all blocs, except the Change and Reform bloc, voted to extend parliament's term until November 20, 2014.

Hamas invites Hezbollah to join in fighting against Israel
By JPOST.COM STAFF /07/30/2014 10:38
Hamas wants Hezbollah to join the now three-week-old conflict with Israel, the deputy political bureau chief of the Palestinian Islamist organization reportedly said on Wednesday.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, who serves as Khaled Mashaal’s top deputy and who is currently based in Cairo, told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday that the organization hoped that the Lebanese Shi’ite group would engage Israel from the north. “We hope the Lebanese front will open and together we will fight against this formation [Israel],” Abu Marzouk told RIA Novosti.
“There’s no arguing that Lebanese resistance could mean a lot,” Abu Marzouk said. Last week, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to support "the resistance in Gaza in any way necessary" in its fight against the IDF. Nasrallah made the statements in a phone call with Mashaal and the leader of Islamic Jihad Ramadan Salah. The Hezbollah chief commended the militants waging war against Israel in Gaza and their conduct on the battlefield, and sources claimed that Nasrallah believes in the terror organizations' "resistance capabilities."Nasrallah and Salah discussed maintaining diplomatic ties in the "battle the Palestinian resistance is facing."


Hezbollah, Syrian regime battle rebels in northeast Lebanon
Rakan al-Fakih| The Daily Star
HERMEL, Lebanon: Hezbollah and the Syrian regime tightened the noose on armed rebels fighting in the mountainous regions straddling the border between Lebanon and Syria, in a major push to uproot fighters opposed to the embattled Assad regime. Hezbollah fighters gained control of hills surrounding rebel hideouts in the border province of Qalamoun and in the mountains bordering Shiite villages in northeastern Lebanon, helping seal off food and ammunition supply lines to the stranded fighters, a security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star. Most of the fighters belong to the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, the security source said. But some of the fighters are believed to have pledged allegiance to the Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), after its advances in Iraq. Battles raged in Qalamoun, which lies opposite to the mountainous region bordering the pro-Syrian opposition town of Arsal, and in the mountains surrounding Shiite villages like Labweh, Nahlet Younin and Al-Ain in Lebanon’s northeast, between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime armed with warplanes on one side and opposition rebels on the other. The security source said that Hezbollah is monitoring the supply lines to the rebels and is firing at any groups that attempt to provide them with aid, saying the combined siege by the party backed by the Syrian military has effectively shut off provisions from rebels concentrated in the mountainous terrain in Qalamoun and Arsal’s borders and closed off the road linking the two regions.
The security source said the current strategy is one of attrition, aimed at starving the rebels of ammunition and food ahead of a major operation by Hezbollah and the Syrian military to crush the rebels.
Labweh’s mayor Ramez Amhaz told The Daily Star that a coordinated push including Hezbollah, the Syrian and the Lebanese armies targeting armed groups in the mountainous terrain surrounding the town of Arsal is being planned, but declined to specify the time of the operation. He said efforts were underway to ensure that Arsal was not involved or affected by the operation. Word of the campaign provoked a response by the Future Movement’s coordinator in Arsal Bakr Hujeiri, who said the Lebanese Army must explain if it is fighting in an alliance with the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
Hujeiri said such an operation could increase tensions between the embattled, Sunni-majority Arsal and its Shiite neighbors as well as Hezbollah. Hujeiri said the outskirts of Arsal had been targeted by rockets emanating from areas controlled by Hezbollah.
Tensions between Arsal and its neighbors have flared up repeatedly since the crisis in Syria. The town is sympathetic to the Syrian opposition, and has been accused of harboring rebel fighters. Shiite villages in the area have been targeted by cross-border rocket attacks and rebel fighters are believed to be taking refuge in the mountainous area bordering Arsal, poised to strike at nearby Shiite villages in Lebanon.
Two rockets hit the outskirts of Hermel late Wednesday, but no casualties were reported. Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s TV station, aired footage of a large funeral for one of its fighters in the Western Bekaa Valley, led by Hezbollah officials and MPs. The deceased was identified as Ali Musa Musa.
Elsewhere in northern Lebanon, the family of three Lebanese smugglers distanced itself from the kidnapping and ransoming of Syrian refugees carried out by the men, and called on the Lebanese authorities to arrest and punish them. The Ghazi family, from the village of Rama in Wadi Khaled, issued a statement Wednesday rejecting the criminal acts of three members of the family – who have been kidnapping Syrian refugees and ransoming them to the Syrian army as a means to compensate “poor business” across the border with Syria, whose three-year conflict has dented their smuggling activities. The family’s statement identified the three by their initials only but was unequivocal in its rejection of their acts. “The family stresses that the kidnapping of Syrian refugees for handover to the Syrian authorities in exchange for a ransom does not reflect its values, but is an act of barbarism which it strongly denounces,” the statement said.
It also called on the Lebanese authorities to act immediately to arrest the perpetrators and carry out the “most severe punishment,” stressing that the family would not give them any cover.
Security sources said four Syrian refugees were kidnapped over the weekend by a three-man gang and turned over to the Syrian army across the border. They said one member of the gang was arrested by security forces, while the remaining two, including the gang’s leader, managed to escape. According to the sources, the latest kidnapping brought the number of refugees who were lured by the culprits and handed over to the Syrian authorities to 12. “They promise the refugees that they will smuggle them in and out of Syria, and once they are on the Syrian side of the border they hand them over,” the sources said. They said the smugglers received $1,000 for each person handed over, in addition to the $100 the refugees paid for the “service provided.”And in another security-related development, Israeli troops kidnapped a shepherd from the southern Lebanese village of Shebaa early Wednesday, the state-run National News Agency said. NNA said the shepherd, Ismail Khalil Nabaa, was taken to the nearby Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms. U.N. peacekeepers are exerting efforts with Israel to ensure his release, NNA added. Israeli troops often kidnap shepherds only to free them hours later.

Palestinians need more negotiators, not arms

By: Camelia Entekhabi-Fard /Asharq Al Awsat
Wednesday, 30 Jul, 2014 .

Not long ago, perhaps less than a decade ago, I was one of those Iranians who viewed the Palestinians as terrorists and opportunists. As somebody who was born and raised in Iran, I can confidently tell you that this view is prevalent; there are many Iranians who viewed, and continue to view, the Palestinians in this way. Tehran is one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian Hamas movement, and the same goes for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, and ultimately it is the Iranian government’s support for such organizations that creates this feeling among the Iranian public. Iran’s state media coverage regarding the Palestinian–Israeli conflict is characterized by propaganda. The Iranian people have not had the opportunity to hear the real story and to view what is happening to the Palestinian people from a moral standpoint. This gives rise to the prevalent view among the Iranian general public of Hamas as an opportunistic group that is coming to Iran for finances and seeking to embroil Tehran into the conflict.
The Iranian public are angered by the regime spending so much money on Hamas and Hezbollah when so many Iranian people themselves are living in poverty. Iranian society respects the principle of helping others, but there are other considerations that must be taken into account. Iran’s international prestige has been severely damaged by the Islamic Republic’s support of these militias, not to mention the sheer amount of money it has lost. I could tell you that when I was living in Iran, I was more sympathetic towards the Israelis than the Palestinians. The same goes for many other Iranians I was in contact with in Tehran during this period. The Iranian public’s knowledge about the Palestinian–Israeli conflict is miniscule; everything the Iranian people know about it comes directly from the regime. This represents Tehran’s interpretation of events, which they put forward to serve their own interests.
However, I ultimately changed my view about the Palestinian–Israeli conflict after I moved from Iran to the US. I studied International Affairs at New York’s Columbia University, and this brought about a change in my assessment of the situation. It’s interesting to see that the prevalent view among intellectual Americans is one of support for the Palestinians and condemnation of Israel. This support doesn’t have anything to do with Hamas or Fatah, but rather it’s a democratic call for Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories and abide by the UN Security Council resolution, which calls for Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders. It was in the US that I learnt, and continue to believe, that the Palestinians are not a bunch of terrorists who represent a threat to Israeli peace and stability.
This brings us to the current round of conflict between Israel and Palestine, which has seen more than 1,000 Palestinians killed in the Israeli aggression against Gaza. As I write this op-ed, this conflict is ongoing, with all attempts to reach a lasting ceasefire ending in failure.
I am sure that many people in Iran are heartbroken by the sight of defenseless Palestinian women and children with no place to hide from the Israeli air strikes on Gaza. The one party that seems to be doing everything to bring about a desired ceasefire is US Secretary of State John Kerry, and not the Iranian side, unfortunately.
Speaking in late July, Iranian Supreme Guide Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to call for the West Bank to follow the approach being taken by Hamas in Gaza—namely, to pick up arms and fight Israel. During a speech to university students on July 23, Khamenei said: “Our belief is that the West Bank should be armed like Gaza. Those who love the fate of the Palestinians, if they can do something, this is it. The people there [West Bank] should be armed. The only thing that can uproot the distress of the Palestinians . . .[is] to have the strongest hand. It is to show strength.”
Following Khamenei’s comments, the Iranian, Arab and international media ignited, asking whether it would be better to seek a ceasefire, or fight as Khamenei urged.
Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, truly sought to help the Palestinian people, and some argue that if he were not ousted by the 1979 Islamic revolution, he would have played a major role in ending this conflict. However the Islamic Republic of Iran has a different regional goal than that of the former Iranian monarchy. There has been no communication between Tehran and Tel Aviv; in fact, Iran and Israel are each other’s greatest enemy. If US President Barack Obama believes so strongly in the diplomatic approach, to the point that he has angered Tel Aviv—one of America’s closest allies—by making up with Iran over the nuclear dossier, then why can’t he enforce peace between Palestine and Israel? On the other hand, Iran has the financial and military resources to continue supporting Hamas and Hezbollah and play the role of spoiler in the Middle East if they so choose. However, how long will they continue to choose to do so?
Edward Said, one of the greatest Palestinian–American intellectuals of our time, focused on the lack of communication between Washington and the Arab world when dealing with the Palestinian Cause. Culture and Resistance: Conversations with Edward W. Said quotes Said as saying that “the absence of initiative” is “our greatest enemy.”
The Palestinians don’t need more arms, they need more negotiators. Communication is the key.

In face of truce bids, Hamas’ Deif gives Gaza war fresh impetus, makes it a religious jihad’-Deif-gives-Gaza-war-fresh-impetus-makes-it-a-religious-jihad-
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis July 30, 2014/Despite the rush of diplomats and analysts declaring that a ceasefire in the Gaza fighting is imminent, the war refuses to end. Wednesday, July 30, the commander of Hamas’ military wing, Mohammed Deif gave the conflict fresh impetus by injecting a religious dimension that cannot be ignored.
The conflict was sparked essentially by the June 12 abduction and murder of the Israeli teens Gilad She-ar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach. Forty-nine days later the crisis is evolving into the longest and toughest of Israel’s wars, with the exception of its War of Independence.
As fierce as the fighting is on the battlefield, and as arduous the diplomatic wrangling, the emerging and largely overlooked jihadist element is the most troubling.
The wars raging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq have demonstrated that armies bigger than the IDF – like the US military and a coalition of nearly all the NATO countries – were not able to end wars against Islamist fighters. This may be that, because of political machinations and self-interest, none of the statesmen and military commanders leading those wars ever sought a decisive end. They gave up on victory on the principle that “Modern wars have no winners.”
But Islamist religious and military leaders do not subscribe to this principle: The Afghan Taliban’s Omar Mullah, the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Hamas’ Deif all seek all-out victory over the enemy. Deif did not leave this in doubt in the pre-recorded statement he released on June 30 from his hidden Gaza bunker.
"What the planes, artillery, and warships haven't achieved, the defeated [Israeli] forces will not achieve in the field for, thanks be to Allah, they have become prey for the guns and ambushes of our jihad fighters,” promises Deif in the tape.
"IDF soldiers are facing soldiers who are eager for death and factions that are united," Deif goes on. "The firm resolve of the Palestinian people will bring victory on the battlefield. The enemy is sending its soldiers to a certain holocaust."
To Israel, this war has been primarily defensive as implied in its name, Operation Protective Edge. But for Hamas and perhaps a large portion of the Palestinian people, it is Mohammed Deif’s personal accounting with the Zionist enemy. Israel has tried to have this dangerous terrorist mastermind killed several times - and failed, earning Deif the moniker “the man with nine lives.” On August 22, 2001, Deif and his deputy Adnan al-Awal escaped a targeted assassination attempt. On September 26, 2002, an IDF Apache helicopter fired two Hellfire missiles at Deif’s car as he returned home from a visit of condolence in the Sheikh Rawan district of Gaza. After hours of conflicting reports about the terrorist leader’s fate, Deif turned out to have cheated death once again, although he lost an eye and the use of one hand. The IDF gave it another go in August 2003, bombing an apartment building where the Hamas military leadership, including al-Awal, Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, Deif and the movement’s spiritual leader Ahmad Yassin were meeting. Although intelligence had correctly pinpointed the conclave’s time and place, the men were on the building’s bottom floor and escaped with light injuries.
For some years, Deif has not shown his face in public. In a recorded communiqué some eleven years ago, he boasted: "God wanted to make the Jews mad, so He saved me. I believe that only what God wants is what will happen."The notorious Islamist sees the war as an opportunity to repolish his personality cult. It must therefore go on unabated wtihout the let-up of a ceasefire until all the truce brokers, including US President Obama and Egyptian President Fattah El Sisi, force Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to cave in and meet his demands.
When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Jerusalem on July 28, Netanyahu warned him about the troubling similarities between Deif’s Hamas and extremist Islamist groups like the Taliban, ISIS and Boko Haram.Israel’s counter-terror offensive, Netanyahu explained, is part and parcel of the war on fundamentalist Islam. As self-appointed commander-in-chief, ensconced in his subterranean lair, Mohammed Deif couldn’t agree more. And so the not-so-secret contacts between Washington, Cairo, Riyadh, Doha, Jerusalem and Ramallah are doomed to go nowhere, because they take place on one level, whereas a fanatical religious war is taking place on a completely separate one. So long as the IDF does not breach Hamas’ main lines of defense to the east of Gaza City, and has not destroyed its underground command system and terror offshoots, Deif will cling to his belief that victory is his. And so long as that belief is not shaken, the war will go on.

Lebanese expat killed in Ivory Coast
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: A Lebanese expatriate in the Ivory Coast passed away Wednesday, a few days after he was shot during an attempted burglary in the former capital Abidjan.
Forty-year-old Mohammad Malak was born in the village of Beit Leif, south Lebanon, where his body will be repatriated in the coming days for the funeral, the National News Agency reported.

ISF: Former Lebanon MP Hbous not dead
Antoine Amrieh| The Daily Star/TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Former Tripoli MP Ahmad Hbous, who accidentally shot himself in the head while cleaning his gun, remains in critical condition, police and medical sources said. Tripoli police chief Brig. Gen. Bassam Ayoubi and the director of the Albert Haykel Hospital, where Hbous was taken, both confirmed that the former lawmaker was still alive.
A source at the hospital earlier said that Hbous, 73, had died during surgery.  Security sources told The Daily Star that Hbous was taken to Haykel Hospital in the northern region of Koura around midday with a severe brain hemorrhage. "While he was cleaning his handgun in his room, he shot himself accidentally," Hbous' daughter told police. She said the bullet pierced his nose and went into his brain.
Hbous was first elected to Parliament in 1996, representing the Alawite seat in Tripoli. He had won 123,418 votes, which was the highest percentage in the history of parliamentary elections in the north. The former Tripoli MP was re-elected in 2000, serving in parliament until 2004. Hbous is married to Souad Mrash and has four young children; Mohammed, Salem and two daughters Serine and Gigi.
The former MP, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is one of the most prominent figures among the Alawite sect. Hbous, who ran on former Interior Minister Sleiman Frangieh’s electoral list in the 2000 elections, also supported some opposition demands; namely holding parliamentary elections on time and an international probe into former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. Hbous lobbied during the 1960s and 1970s for the Alawite sect’s right to participate in politics before the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War. The off-shoot sect of Islam was integrated into Lebanese political life with the formulation of The Taif Accord - the peace deal that ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. Taif stipulated that Alawites be granted two seats in Parliament (representing Akkar and Tripoli), two representatives to head governmental institutions and one diplomatic post.

Israel kidnaps Lebanese shepherd in south

The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Israeli troops kidnapped a shepherd from the southern Lebanese village of Shebaa early Wednesday, the state-run National News Agency said. NNA said the shepherd, Ismail Khalil Nabaa, was taken to the nearby Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms. U.N. peacekeepers are exerting efforts with Israel to ensure his release, NNA added. Israeli troops often kidnap shepherds only to release them hours later.

MP Mohammad Hajjar: No president means Parliament extension
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Future bloc MP Mohammad Hajjar warned his political rivals Wednesday that if they do not cooperate to elect a new president, they face a definite extension of the Parliament’s term. “The Future Movement is eager to conduct the parliamentary elections on time, on the condition that they are preceded by presidential elections,” Hajjar told Voice of Lebanon 100.5 radio station.
“But whoever really wants to go into parliamentary elections should [first] pave the way for the election of a new president,” he added. “If the [presidential] elections don’t take place, extension will definitely occur.” The statement is in line with Future Leader Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who launched an initiative earlier in July “drawing a road map to save Lebanon.”
Hariri’s initiative stated that electing a president should be the first step, while MP Michel Aoun’s earlier initiative had in turn called for amending the Constitution and passing a new electoral law to conduct parliamentary elections on time. Similarly, MP Yasin Jaber from Speaker Nabih Berri’s Development and Liberation bloc said the extension of the Parliament’s term was “the most odious of the permissible.”
“There is no final decision to confirm the extension so far, but in light of the difficult circumstances that Lebanon and the region are living ... extension would be the odious but permissible, “ Jaber also told Voice of Lebanon 100.5 Wednesday. Parliament extended its term for 17 months last May. The excuse for the extension was the dangerous security circumstances, particularly in Tripoli.
The extension had prompted a wide range of condemnation and pushed Lebanese civil society activists to hold demonstrations and sit-in near the Parliament building in Downtown Beirut.
Most major political parties had expressed their will to change the current electoral law but failed to reach a consensus on a new law. The inability to agree on a new electoral law had also been used as an excuse for extending the Parliament’s term by many parties, while others stress the necessity to conduct elections even through the controversial “1960 law,” which was used in the 2009 polls.

Lebanon: the meaningless distinction of a ‘defected’ soldier

Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Diana Moukalled /Al Arabiya
The Lebanese army has insisted on limiting its comments on reports about the decision by one of its soldiers to leave his post and join the al-Nusra Front. It said only that it was “an isolated incident and the soldier is a deserter, not a defector.”Lebanese military intelligence has worked hard to circulate its comments to the media in order to contain reports about the incident, and this has raised many cynical responses, as well as warnings against a policy of ignoring these disturbing events in Lebanon. Downplaying the issue of the solider, Atef Saadeddine, who reportedly defected from the Lebanese army and joined the al-Nusra Front in an act that was unprecedented in Lebanon, will not make the issue go away. A young man, who appeared to be a defecting soldier, appeared in a video explaining that he was motivated by what he said was Hezbollah’s control over the Lebanese army. The soldier talked at length about Hezbollah’s influence and the “injustices” he said it inflicted on Lebanon’s Sunnis.
The six-minute video is similar to those issued by the Syrian opposition at the start of the Syrian uprising, and in it the soldier shows his ID card as proof of his tale, recounting his story while sitting at a table with the flag of the al-Nusra Front draped behind him. The video ends with the entry of two men, both masked and armed, who then embrace Saadeddine and congratulate him on his defection.
What is noticeable in the video is the clarity of the soldier’s speech. It is true that the video stops and starts a few times, and has clearly been edited. But something in his performance and the terminology he uses gives the impression that his story did not arise from nothing, and was not simply a rehash of a political discussion that has taken place in Lebanon at different times—honestly in some cases, and with an unmistakable sectarian bias in others.
In fact, the defection incident is not only a slap in the face for the Lebanese army, it is also a blow to those who believed, even if only a little, that Lebanon could survive the fires of the Syrian conflict unscathed. “In truth, the terms “defector” or “deserter” are meaningless in a country where everybody has become either a deserter or a defector.”
The circulation of terms such as “desertion” and the insistence that the media should avoid using the term “defector” on the grounds that it is anti-army, will not work.
It is true that this defection is an individual incident, as the army says, but it has happened within a disturbing and provocative general political context. If this context worsens, it could offer an incentive to others to commit dangerous acts that could have damaging effects on all of the Lebanese people. The past few months and years have been full of incidents that inevitably have led to defections of this type, raising serious concerns about the growth of the more general and widespread dangers that Lebanon faces.
Looking back, it is clear that the Lebanese army has been marginalized in favor of Hezbollah and its allies since the early 1990s, as the army was barred from being the only armed group responsible for the borders and the defense of the homeland. The events whereby the Lebanese army was targeted because it was a force that represented state authority are countless, but they have become more visible in recent months. The openness of Lebanon’s borders, when it comes to Hezbollah and its presence in Syria, and the ease by which members of the al-Nusra Front infiltrate the country and launch attacks on the army and other targets, are aspects of the crisis. As for the sectarian division and the political impasse it has caused, they have many more sides, but all are equally important.
The video of the defector is a fresh warning of the collapse that threatens Lebanon, both as an idea and as a functioning state. In truth, the terms “defector” or “deserter” are meaningless in a country where everybody has become either a deserter or a defector.

A Call to Action: Sudan in the Wake of Meriam Ibrahim
As Sudan's Most Infamous Victim of Persecution Makes Her Way to Freedom, Thousands More Remain in Sudan
Cameron Thomas, Regional Manager for Africa
07/30/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) - With wide smiles, Meriam Ibrahim and her family shook hands with Pope Francis, posed for photographs, and-for the first time in months-laughed as free people. Thursday, relief swept over millions as international press cables wired reports of an Italian aircraft flying, through the dark of night, from Khartoum to Rome.
For the family on board: from oppression, to freedom.
A 27-year-old mother of two and wife to an American citizen, Meriam was imprisoned in February, sentenced to death for her Christian faith in May, rearrested a day after her court-ordered release and acquittal in June, and finally set free Wednesday of last week. For everyone involved, from Meriam and her family, to the religious freedom and human rights advocates striving for Meriam's freedom, to the international press covering their case, it was a summer of high and lows.
In the wake of one of the most widely-publicized Christian persecution cases ever, many questions remain: why has the United States (U.S.) still not recognized the citizenship of Meriam's two children, Martin and Maya? Why were the Ibrahims released into the custody of the Italian government, and not that of the U.S.? And why did neither Secretary of State Kerry nor President Obama speak Meriam's name publicly until after she was safely in Rome?
In November of 2013, Meriam's husband Daniel Wani, a South Sudanese Christian with U.S. citizenship, approached the U.S. embassy in Khartoum to request documentation of his son, Martin's, citizenship. Not only was that request denied, possibly in violation of U.S. immigration law (Sec. 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act), Daniel claims he was treated with utter disrespect. In a phone conversation with ICC, Daniel said that despite having "provided wedding documents and the baby's birth certificate," the embassy's "doors were closed in his face."
Three months later, Martin-just 18-months-old at the time-was imprisoned with his mother for 126 days.
In a conversation with CNN in May, the Ibrahims' legal defense lamented Martin's imprisonment, saying, "he is very affected from being trapped inside a prison from such a young age."
To be clear, Martin should never have been imprisoned for his mother's faith. Nowhere should conversion to or from any religion be considered criminal. And so while an investigation into whether or not the U.S. embassy in Khartoum violated immigration laws should be launched-with full recognition of the consequences of its decision to deny Martin his rightful citizenship-Sudan's refusal to recognize the human right to free religious practice must be condemned as solely responsible for the Ibrahims' plight.
While the scourge of international outcry and government sanctions should continue to be levied against Sudan for sentencing a pregnant mother to death for her Christian faith, the decision by the Khartoum Court of Appeals to release and acquit Meriam should be applauded. Similarly, many thanks must be given to the Ibrahims' legal defense, every member of which has received a threat against his life for defending religious freedom over the application of Sharia law.
Representative of many others in and beyond Khartoum, the Ibrahims' legal defense in many ways exemplifies the struggle for religious freedom in increasingly closed societies. Following South Sudan's succession in 2011, President Hassan Omar al-Bashir-indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005-pledged to transform Sudan into a "purely Islamic" society. In the years since, the Sudanese regime has forcibly closed Bible schools, demolished churches, and, as of this month, placed a moratorium on the construction of all new churches.
And yet, in spite of a global spotlight having been cast on his commission of gross human rights abuses against his own people, al-Bashir is pursuing his policies of Islamization and Arabization with a renewed vigor: state-sponsored bomb raids continue to decimate the peoples of the Nuba Mountains as state-backed proxy-militias massacre civilians in Blue Nile and South Korofan states; Christians and other religious minorities are subjected to the dictates of Sharia law and relegated to the bottom of Sudanese society as second-class citizens; and the United Nations and other international monitors continue to be denied access to document the many systemic human rights and religious freedom abuses the Sudanese people face at the hands of their government.
Regrettably, Meriam Ibrahim is but one of far too many suffering in Sudan for the expression of their faith, or the color of their skin.
In a recent hearing of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, Senior Policy Advisor for the Enough Project, Omer Ismail, testified that "many Sudanese Christians complain about discrimination in getting jobs or in the addition to a general atmosphere of intimidation and intolerance." Ismail went on to conclude that in the hands of "the genocidal regime in Khartoum...the fate of close to a million Muslims, Christians and practitioners of indigenous religions and other faiths is in jeopardy."
In the wake of Meriam's release, acquittal and long-overdue departure from Sudan, the world must continue to spotlight the oppression of the Sudanese people. Those who stood up and spoke out for Meriam must also speak out for the tens of thousands of Christians still suffering for their faith in and beyond Khartoum. Human rights and faith-based organizations have to continue to document abuses on the basis religious preference or ethnic identity, and to provide critical aid. And the coalition of governments and international bodies that publicly condemned the fate of Meriam Ibrahim must utilize every resource to bring Sudan in-line with international standards for human rights and religious freedom.

ISIS violations are an Islamic responsibility
Wednesday, 30 July 2014
By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya

This year's American International Religious Freedom Report was prepared prior to the tragedy in Mosul, where Christians were forced to flee their homes. However, the report stated that 2013 witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in modern history. “In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents.”
I think there are two factors worth highlighting. The first one is the weakness of global leadership which is capable of resolving what's become a real crisis threatening several countries' stability across the world. The second one is the Muslim world's vision-related crisis. The repercussions of this crisis have begun to emerge either via the rise of desperate extremist movements that kill, destroy and displace in the name of Islam or via the harsh suffering of Muslims from racism coming from other religions and sects. Racists tend to preemptively inflict injustice on Muslims after enemies of Muslims associate the entire religion with terrorism and extremism.
This reminds me of a response I wrote a few years ago to an American journalist who attacked what he called "Islamic terrorism" holding Muslims responsible for it and accusing them of keeping silent over extremism, fanaticism and terrorism.
“For example, the negative and shameful stance the United States took in Syria has been the best gift to extremists, who hijacked the Syrian revolution. ”
Eyad Abu Shakra
Back then, I said confronting any form of religious terrorism must be led by moderates in each religion and sect. It must not be led by religious extremists or fanatics from other religions and sects because extremism brings counter extremism while fanaticism brings counter fanaticism and creates excuses for it. I explained to the American journalist that the Western pragmatic mind must not expect the moderate Muslim to support campaigns by extremists of other religions on extremist Muslims. The same goes for any other religious group. For example, I don't think a liberal Christian will be happy if extremist Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus attack extremists of his faith, but he will not mind if the attack comes from his fellow moderate Christians who do not act upon a spirit of vengeance.
Extremism, fanaticism and religion are abrasions not monopolized by Muslims as they have existed for centuries. From the 1099 Crusaders' massacre in Jerusalem to the Spanish inspection courts to the displacement of Muslims and Jews during the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula. In more recent history, there was the Holocaust and the massacre that plagued the Indian subcontinent on the eve of Pakistan's independence.
Massacres are not exclusive to inter-faith conflict. Between 5,000 and 30,000 protestant Christian Huguenot were killed by armed Catholic groups on Saint Bartholomew Day in 1572 in France. The sectarian battles that marred the Irish Peninsula for decades between Catholics and Protestants are another example.
The language of extremism and fanaticism currently dominates around the world. India, the most populous democracy on the planet elected a prime minister accused of fanaticism and of colluding with extremist Hindus against the Muslim community of the state of Gujarat. The global command crisis, which I previously noted, can also be seen in another big democracy, the United States. It is clear that the retreat practiced by President Barack Obama’s administration has helped set instincts loose encouraging groups and people who do not respect coexistence to take control.
For example, the negative and shameful stance the United States took in Syria has been the best gift to extremists, who hijacked the Syrian revolution. These extremists have turned the revolution into a "Caliphate" project which they understand to be an authority to murder and eliminate others.
The negativity of Washington's policy is also shown in deceiving itself into thinking that it left Iraq safe and democratic. However we can all see the truth as Iraq is currently ripped by Sunni and Shiite extremist parties while Christians continue to be displaced. The Kurdish minorities are isolated from the blood swamp as they practically established their own independent entity.
The occupied territories in Palestine have always paid a high price for Washington's negativity towards Israel’s continued settlements and occupation. Washington has abstained from restraining Israeli settlers whom their leaders from the Likud party instigated the necessary conditions for the growth of an extremist Islamic movement that confronts Biblical slogans with Quranic ones, to the dismay of the logic of moderation on both sides.
The lack of leadership shown by Washington and the United Nations has led to an increase of intolerance and resentment all over the world.
Muslim responsibility
This brings us to the second issue. Muslims have no other alternative than to save Islam’s reputation and cultural heritage. Muslims must act to protect their interests from the harm of those who claim to speak in the name of their religion and those who seek to monopolize it. At this point, the Muslims are to blame and the responsibility falls on them.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) currently represents what al-Qaeda stood for in September 2001. Back then, the Muslim world was clear in its condemnation of the September 11 attacks. Al-Nusra Front, which markets itself as less extremist than the ISIS, has not abandoned its pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda’s central leadership.
All in all, both groups, the ISIS and Al-Nusra, have provided an excuse for the international community to stab the Syrian people's uprising in the back and to overlook Iran's aims in the region and the Likud's crimes in the Palestinian Territories. Let us recall that most of ISIS’s fighting is against the revolutionary movements while Al-Nusra, whether it states it or not, has contributed to the inability to establish liberated zones capable of providing security and basic services.
Yes, Muslims, before anyone else, must take the initiative of confronting extremists from among them and of confirming the reality of tolerant Islam to the world.
The scenes of destruction in Mosul, Aleppo and Gaza eloquently summarize this tragedy.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 29, 2014.

A Mosul without Christians
By: Suleiman Gouda/Asharq Al Awsat
Tuesday, 29 Jul, 2014 .
It is hard to find the words to describe the recent events in Mosul, in northern Iraq, and I can only turn to the words of Nabil Elaraby, the secretary-general of the Arab League, who said that what happened was a disgrace that must never be tolerated and a crime against Iraq and its history, against Arab and Islamic countries, and against all Muslims.
The statement of the Arab League chief came in response to reports last week that Mosul had been totally emptied of Christians for the first time in its entire history after they were expelled at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Mosul had previously, in fact throughout history, been a land that accommodated Muslims and Christians together, alongside people of other religions, as long as the ground they all shared was citizenship, in its true sense.
Citizenship means living in a country, holding its nationality and belonging to its land, living and dying for it regardless of your religion or what you believe, because that is between the believer and God alone. That is something in which no one should interfere.
Mosul is empty of its Christian citizens at the hands of an organization whose members have long beards and move among Iraqis saying God said this and the Prophet said that. But if any one of them bothered to explore what God said in His Qur’an, and what the Prophet said in his true, indisputable hadiths, none of them would find a single letter that allowed the expulsion of a citizen from their land under any circumstances, and for no other reason than believing in a holy book other than the Qur’an.
Mosul is empty of its 50,000 Christian citizens, according to Bashar Al-Kiki, head of the Nineveh Governorate Council. He said there were many Christians in the city in 2003, but 30,000 of them had since left—and now the appearance of ISIS has resulted in the remainder leaving too.
You may have noticed that 2003 was the year of the US invasion of Iraq, and that 30,000 people were forced out of their homes in Mosul during the American occupation, while the administration in Washington talked endlessly about human rights. And if you looked for any substance on the ground for this talk about human rights by the White House, you would be shocked by the reports from Mosul, which put the bare facts before you in their simplest form.
These departures beg the question whether there is actually any difference in the consequences of actions by the White House and those of an organization that has gone beyond even the limits of other fellow extremists. There seems to be no difference at all, otherwise why were half the Christian citizens of Mosul forced out while the Americans were occupying the country, and then for the other half to be forced out at the hands of ISIS?
What is the difference then, between ISIS and US President Barack Obama in his White House, with all the values we presumed he stood for— values set by the Founding Fathers of the American state, values which include man’s absolute right to freedom of belief, whatever their belief and whatever their conviction, and whatever the faith they keep within their heart?
Mosul is emptied of its Christian citizens for the first time in history, and we hear not a word, not a whisper, from the US administration, which says all that needs to be said: that this was a crime in every meaning of the word, against people who committed no sin other than taking up Christianity as their religion.
Mosul has been emptied of its Christian citizens twice, once at the hands of the Americans and another at the hands of ISIS, and we hear nothing from the US other than silence, just as it kept silent when many Copts left Egypt during the one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood—though the Americans used to raise hell when just one Copt was subjected to the most minor harm during the days of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
All this clearly demonstrates that the situation of the Christians in the region as a whole, and the Copts in Egypt specifically, does not concern the US administration at all, except in so far as how it can be used as a tool towards achieving specific US interests.
Mosul is emptied of its Christian citizens, and a day is coming when people will say a US president called Obama was in his Oval office while Copts were forced to leave Egypt during the Brotherhood’s rule, that Iraqi Christians were also forced to leave their homes during his term—when he pretended he was deaf, and when he was addressed about the issue, he heard nothing.
Mosul is emptied of its Christians, just as Egypt was almost emptied of its Copts before it, at the hands of people who talk to you every morning, alas, about what God said and what His revered Prophet said, despite the fact that the expulsion in both cases had nothing to do with the Qur’an or its teachings, nor with the hadiths of the Prophet. Whenever a Jew’s funeral went by, the Prophet stood up in a show of respect, because he was human, just a man and nothing more—and this alone was more than enough for the Prophet, peace be upon him.