LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Quotation for today/Blessed
are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours
Luke 6,20-26. And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.
Patriarchs, I doubt that!!
Elias Bejjani/The Eastern Clergymen who were interviewed by Marcel Ghaniem are mere Dhimmitude creatures completely detached from Christianity
Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 14 and 15/14
Bachir: Is Lebanon’s Eternal glowing torch of pride/By: Elias Bejjani/ September 15/14
Has Hezbollah built tunnels under the border with Israel/By: Nicholas Blanford/The Daily Star/September 15/14
Better off than Syria or Iraq/By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq AlAwsat/September 15/14
At the Kurdistan Front/By: Jonathan Spyer/The Weekly Standard/September 15/14
Beheading Infidels: How Allah 'Heals the Hearts of Believers'/By: Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage/September 15/14
Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters/The Washington Free Beacon/By: Alana Goodman/September 15/14
Lebanese Related News published on September 14 and 15/14
Negotiations over hostages ‘still at the beginning’
Salam Hopes for 'Step Forward' on Arsal Captives, Calls for Unity
Hezbollah, FPM form Christian armed group in Jezzine
Christians of Akkar keep eye on ISIS threat
Future looks to Hezbollah to ease tensions
Hezbollah planning 'large raids' into Galilee, senior army source says
IDF concerned of possible Hezbollah invasion of northern Israel
Wahab: Coordinate with Syria to combat terror
Jumblat Urges Speedy Trial of Islamist Inmates, Questions Ongoing Delay
MEA Flight Returns to Beirut after 'Precautionary' Landing in Rome
Police Arrest Beirut Drug Dealer, 2 Clients
Bassil to Meet Kerry during Paris-Hosted Conference on Iraq on Monday
Parliamentary Polls Nominees Reach 162 as Mustaqbal to Submit Candidacies Monday
Syrian Jets Shell Tunnel Leading to Wadi Hmeid in Arsal
Report: 3 Wanted by Interpol Held, Including Dangerous Nusra Member
Plumbly Discusses Lebanon with Iranian Officials during Tehran Trip
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch meets Hezbollah Representatives
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 14 and 15/14
IS Video Shows Beheading of British Hostage, Cameron Vows Action
ISIS executes third hostage in warning to US allies
Assad's allies lose heart amid new threats
US officials: Arab countries offer airstrikes, ground troops vs ISIS
PA concerned ISIS will harm Palestinian cause
ISIS video claims beheading of UK hostage
Kerry drums up support for military aid in fight against Islamic State
Israeli-Arab feared fighting for Islamic State
Iran still Israel's biggest threat, PM says at cyber conference
New study: Islamic State overtaking al-Qaida in social media
Kuwaiti FM makes historic visit to Ramallah and Jerusalem
'Is it necessary to hear news from half-naked women?' asks Iranian commander
Egypt: Qatar ordered Islamists out within 2 months
Qatar expels leading Muslim Brotherhood figures: sources
Gulf Initiative backers blame Houthis for Yemen unrest
Gaza children return to school after war
Bachir: Is Lebanon’s Eternal glowing
torch of pride.
By: Elias Bejjani
Because ultimately we are all going to die, those of us who die for Lebanon’s holy cause, are in a better position then those who keep waiting for the death to come (Dr. Charles Malek)
Oh Bachir, the son of our beloved Lebanon, the land of holiness and saints.
Oh Bachir, you our life’s dream, the one that renews its strength with each and every beat of our hearts.
Oh Bachir, you are the eternal glowing torch of our pride. This torch will stay lit as long as one Lebanese on the surface of this earth remains clinging to your ideals and platform. As long as he keeps hanging to your awakening dream and following your footsteps in martyrdom, courage, caring and devotion.
Oh Bachir, You are the conscience of our eternal Lebanese nation.
Oh Bachir, how could you not be great great and you the descent of Ahiram, Hiram, Hannibal, Cadmous, Zaynoun, Patriarchs Hajola and Hadchiti, Fakereddine, Grand Bachir, Al Bustani, Gobran and Malek.
Oh Bachir, you are Lebanon’s 10,452 Km2 martyr, the one united Lebanon that is crowned with independence, sovereignty, freedoms and dignity.
Oh Bachir, you have carried with heroic pride Lebanon’s distinguishable, identifying emblem. You made it as tall as our holy Cedars and made it as high as the stars in the vast sky. You openly and proudly advocated for our 7,000 years’ deeply rooted history embodied in Lebanon’s holy soil. The soil that is watered throughout time with our grandfathers’ immaculate hard work, sweat, the blood of our martyrs and the prayers of our Saints.
Oh Bachir, you are the son of our steadfast mountain that has been an impervious forte in the face of the grudges of barbarians, the descendants of Timorlank and those intruding on our beloved Lebanon. Those whose only aim is to eradicate our culture, destroy our identity, abolish our civilization, attack our balanced demography and spread among our loving peaceful people their plaques of terrorism, radicalism, savageness, hatred and intolerance.
Oh Bachir, your dream is not dead as the venomous and malevolent people deluded themselves that is was. Nor as those who fear your faith, stubbornness, and perseverance that are personified in the mind, conscience and struggle of Lebanon’s youth. Those who are revolting against injustice, subservience and slavery. Lebanon’s youth who are calling loudly and courageously day and night for Lebanon’s liberation from the Syrian occupier’s abomination (squalor) and the infidelity (atheism) of its local puppets and servants.
Oh Bachir, twenty-one years have passed since you unwillingly left us. But your appealing voice is still ringing in our ears, the voice that triggered the nationally comprehensive, united call for the withdrawal of all foreign armies and the reclaiming of Lebanon’s independence and its free decision making process. Your voice will never leave us as long as we can breathe and the blood circulates in our veins and arteries. Meanwhile your heroic role model in facing hardships will remain our adopted means in dealing with difficulties and setbacks.
Oh Bachir, the criminals who assassinated you have succeeded in taking only your body away from us. Your dream in a free strong, sovereign and united Lebanon lives day and night with us. Yes, they killed your mortal earthy body but failed to defile your ideals, principles, spirit and dream that remain alive in our minds and hearts.
Oh Bachir, after twenty-one years you are still our companion in our joys as well as in our sadness, in our victories and in our retreats. We still share with you our laughs as well as our tears. No one can kill your presence in our hearts.
Oh Bachir, our headstrong people love dreams of rebellion because Almighty God has endowed them graciously with grants of generosity, love, ambition, hope, faith, self-confidence and creativity. Our people are not touched by dreams of the weak, only dreams of the strong appeal to them and for this fact they cling strongly to your dream. The Pharisees and the tax collectors as well as the temple merchants were deluded by their sick minds that by killing your deadly body they could kill your dream. They failed, and were defeated.
Your dream is still as vivid and as strong as it was on day one. Their conspiracy in killing you did not achieve any of its treacherous and criminal objectives.
Oh Bachir, all your enemies have became a forgotten shameful history while your dream is still alive in the hearts of your people who strive for a future that will witness its fulfillment.
Long Live Free Lebanon. May Almighty God bless the souls of Lebanon’s martyrs. We are Bachir, and the dream will not die.
*First published in 2003
Negotiations over hostages ‘still at
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam said Sunday he was encouraged by his talks with Qatar’s emir about the hostage crisis, but noted that the Qatari-sponsored negotiations with the militants holding Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive were still in an early stage.
Summing up the outcome of Salam’s talks with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamid al-Thani and other senior officials, a source close to the prime minister told The Daily Star Sunday night: “The Qatari emir and other officials have promised to exert serious and intensive efforts to resolve the crisis over the kidnapped soldiers and policemen.”
Speaking at a news conference in Doha before returning to Beirut Sunday night, Salam, who headed a ministerial delegation to Doha, said he felt support for Lebanon from the Qatari emir over the hostage ordeal.
“We have heard encouraging words and supportive words for Lebanon during our meetings with the emir, the prime minister and other officials, to the extent that the emir was so excited that he expressed his desire to personally visit Lebanon,” Salam said.
Asked whether the mediation efforts to secure the release of the captured soldiers included swapping some Islamist detainees held in Roumieh Prison, as the militants have demanded, he said: “I can confirm that the ongoing negotiations are still at the beginning. We have not yet reached a stage where we could reveal any specific information about them.”
Salam said his one-day visit to Doha was designed mainly to seek Qatar’s assistance in the hostage crisis and to strengthen brotherly ties between the two countries.
On whether the Qatari leadership had given him a time limit to end the hostage crisis, Salam said: “What was discussed between me and the Qatari leadership is clear ... a decision has been made to go ahead with ending this abnormal situation by all available means.”
He said details about ways to resolve the hostage crisis were left to people tasked with this mission, adding that General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, who was also part of the delegation, had extended his one-day visit to Doha for further talks with the Qataris.
Salam stressed the need for secrecy to facilitate the negotiations aimed at freeing the 22 Lebanese soldiers and policemen still held hostage by ISIS and Nusra Front militants following last month’s fierce fighting between the Lebanese Army and the militants in the northeastern town of Arsal.
He said Turkey’s newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would visit Qatar very soon, and he hoped this visit would help bring the hostage ordeal to “a happy ending.”
Salam said he supported Lebanon’s participation in the global coalition against terrorism that was announced in the Saudi port city of Jeddah last week.
“ Lebanon is today targeted by terrorism and terrorists. Therefore, any effort agreed on to confront this challenge, Lebanon must support it and be at the forefront,” he said.
Qatar became involved in the hostage crisis two weeks ago, announcing it would be carrying out negotiations between the Lebanese state and the militant groups that kidnapped at least 30 soldiers and police officers during the Arsal clashes. The Qatari delegation has met with Nusra Front and ISIS commanders and prepared a list of demands to submit to the Lebanese government. The militants are demanding the release of Islamist prisoners held in Roumieh Prison in exchange for the captives.But the government has announced it will reject any swap deal, saying this would harm the state’s prestige and open the door to similar acts in the future.
For his part, MP Walid Jumblatt said the speedy trials of detained Islamists could help resolve the hostage crisis within days.
“The country’s security is more important than some technical judicial details,” he said, addressing Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. “Quicken the trials, and let’s get rid of this nightmare.”
“Whatever the charges are, in such an exceptional situation, a special session could be prepared and the trials could be finished in three to four days,” he added, saying he had been told so by one of Lebanon’s top judges.
Speaking during a visit to the family of kidnapped soldier Sayf Debian in Mazraat al-Chouf, Jumblatt questioned why the trials had been stalled for so long. “The cases go back to the events of Dinnieh in 2000, and then to Nahr al-Bared’s incidents in 2007,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nusra Front released a video showing two of their captive soldiers speaking to their families by phone and demanding the release of Roumieh prisoners. George Khoury and Ahmad Abbas were shown alongside two unnamed captives from the Lebanese security and military forces in a video posted by a Nusra-affiliated Twitter account.
The video kicked off with Khoury’s phone call to what seems to be his father, asking him about his trip back from Arsal’s outskirts after he and Khoury’s mother were allowed a visit to see their son.
Shortly afterward, Abbas was shown sobbing as he spoke to relatives over the phone, assuring them of his safety. Abbas called on his family to take to the streets and press for the release of detained Islamists in Roumieh Prison.
Future looks to Hezbollah to ease
Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The Future Movement is seeking to work with Hezbollah to defuse sectarian tensions and revive the role of Parliament and Cabinet paralyzed by the four-month-old presidential deadlock, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Sunday.
He also said his ministry was not ready to hold parliamentary elections under unstable security conditions, sending the strongest signal yet about the possible extension of Parliament’s mandate.
“There is a political possibility for joint action between the Future Movement and Hezbollah through the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc to energize the Cabinet and parliamentary work and reduce tensions,” Machnouk said.
Referring to the paralysis that has hit Parliament since lawmakers have failed to elect a successor to former President Michel Sleiman, he said: “There is a serious possibility for legislation. Contacts are ongoing between [Speaker Nabih] Berri and [former premier Saad] Hariri.”Machnouk spoke to reporters upon his arrival in Doha as part of a Lebanese ministerial delegation headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam to discuss with Qatari officials the issue of at least 22 Lebanese soldiers and policemen still held by ISIS and Nusra Front militants. In the strongest signal yet that Parliament’s mandate, which expires on Nov. 20, might again be extended, Machnouk said: “The Interior Ministry is not ready to hold [parliamentary] elections in these circumstances. For the first time in more than one year, sectarian kidnappings have happened and this is not a spur-of-the-moment incident.”
He was referring to last week’s wave of tit-for-tat sectarian kidnapping in the Bekaa region following the beheading of Sgt. Abbas Medlej, the second Lebanese soldier to be slaughtered by ISIS militants in less than two weeks after the killing of 1st Sgt. Ali al-Sayyed.
Machnouk’s remarks come as Parliament failed earlier this month for the 11th time in more than four months to elect a new president over a lack of quorum, raising fears of a prolonged vacuum in the country’s top Christian post.
The presidential stalemate has paralyzed Parliament’s role and is threatening to cripple the government’s work.
March 14 lawmakers have refused to attend any parliamentary legislative sessions amid the presidential vacuum, arguing that priority should be given to the election of a president.
Similarly, lawmakers from MP Michel Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc, Hezbollah’s bloc and its March 8 allies have thwarted a quorum by consistently boycotting Parliament sessions, demanding an agreement beforehand with their March 14 rivals over a consensus candidate.In an attempt to break the presidential impasse, the March 14 coalition offered on Sept. 2 to strike a deal with its March 8 rivals on a consensus candidate. However, the March 14 initiative was swiftly scorned by Aoun’s bloc as an “old and meaningless initiative,” while Berri said it offered nothing new.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, head of the parliamentary Future bloc, said he might meet Berri this week to discuss the presidential election deadlock and the possible options about the extension of Parliament’s term or holding parliamentary elections.
Speaking to The Daily Star by phone, he said Future MPs would submit their candidacy papers for the elections on Monday. Candidates have until midnight Tuesday to file their candidacies.
Attempts to extend Parliament’s term moved into high gear last month, after Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush presented a draft proposal for the extension of the legislative body’s term by two years and seven months, arguing that the move was aimed at protecting civil peace in the face of security threats. Meanwhile, the U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly discussed with Iranian officials the growing security, political and humanitarian challenges facing Lebanon as a result of the war in Syria and the turmoil in the region.
During a rare visit to Tehran over the weekend, Plumbly held talks with Ali Velayati, adviser to Iran’s supreme leader on international affairs, and Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, according to a statement released by the U.N. official’s office Sunday. Responding to a question from reporters, Plumbly said the presidential issue was for the Lebanese to resolve.
Has Hezbollah built tunnels under the
border with Israel?
By: Nicholas Blanford| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The recent war in Gaza and the discovery of the extent of Hamas’ underground infrastructure has raised concerns in Israel that Hezbollah may have dug tunnels under Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
Even before the latest war on Gaza, the Israeli military reportedly undertook an operation this year to hunt for Hezbollah tunnels running beneath the United Nations-delineated Blue Line, spending $8.5 million so far on the search. According to Israeli media reports, the Israeli army has yet to find any tunnels, although it is unclear whether it would publicize any discoveries.
Speculation over the possibility of cross-border tunnels being dug by Hezbollah has surfaced periodically since the monthlong war in summer 2006 when Hezbollah’s extensive network of tunnels and bunkers in the southern border district was revealed. Some of those bunkers were built just meters from the border, such as the system at Labboune near Naqoura. That bunker network was 40 meters deep and included sleeping quarters, bathrooms with hot and cold running water, kitchen, medical facilities, operations rooms and ammunition storage facilities.
The bunker, which was discovered and dynamited by Israeli troops, lay just 100 meters from, and within full view of, a U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon observation post, as well as a nearby Israeli military position. Neither the Israelis nor UNIFIL had any idea the bunker existed until Israeli troops stumbled across it at the end of the war.
If Hezbollah was able to build such a facility at Labboune (and dozens more throughout south Lebanon) without being spotted, it is certainly possible that the party’s engineers could have burrowed under the border.
If any tunnels have been constructed it is more likely that they were built in the period between 2000 when Israel withdrew from south Lebanon and the outbreak of war in July 2006.
During those six years, Hezbollah established a number of security pockets across the south that were off-limits to the general public. Some of those security pockets were in remote wooded areas adjacent to the border, allowing Hezbollah to construct its underground facilities without being disturbed. It is possible that Hezbollah dug some tunnels into Israel during that period, which have since been lying dormant.
Following the 2006 war, Hezbollah was forced to vacate its security pockets as Lebanese troops and an enlarged UNIFIL deployed into the area. UNIFIL’s expanded presence in the south grants Hezbollah less latitude to engage in covert construction activities, especially cross-border tunnels. Any building activity in the past eight years along the border in the open would likely attract UNIFIL’s attention.
An alternative is to hide the digging by operating from a house close to the border. But there are few locations where houses lie conveniently close to the border. Even the nearest houses to the border in villages like Aitta Shaab, Mais al-Jabal and Yaroun are a good 200 to 300 meters from the boundary.
The only two villages with buildings directly adjacent to the border are Adaisseh and Kfar Kila. Digging tunnels of more than 300 meters is not an impossibility for Hezbollah, but it would be a laborious task. The Gazan tunnelers work in compacted sand, which allows them to dig tunnels relatively quickly. Hezbollah, however, has to contend with a bedrock of limestone, which requires pneumatic drills and sometimes dynamite.
If Hezbollah has dug tunnels under the border, to what purpose will they put them? The obvious answer is covert insertions into Israel at a time of war.
The three-meter high Israeli security fence that runs along the border carries motion sensors and cameras to thwart infiltration attempts.
The system has not always been successful. In January 2001, an enterprising Lebanese jumped over the fence with the aid of a trampoline in an attempt to find work in Israel.
In March 2003, Hezbollah dispatched two Palestinian Islamic Jihad volunteers across the border where they staged a roadside ambush near the Metsuva in western Galilee, killing six Israelis before they were gunned down. Hezbollah built a specially adapted ladder for the operation, which allowed the two Palestinians to cross the fence without tripping the motion sensors.
Since 2006, Hezbollah has hinted that in the event of another war with Israel, the party’s cadres could be dispatched across the border to conduct raids and sabotage missions. In such an event, tunnels could provide the best means of sending relatively large numbers of Hezbollah fighters into Israel undetected.
A second possible use for the tunnels is to dig them beneath Israeli army border positions, pack them with explosives and blow them up. Palestinian militants used this tactic in Gaza in December 2004 to destroy an Israeli military outpost.
In 2007, the Jerusalem Post reported that the previous year during the war, an Israeli television crew had overheard a wounded soldier telling an officer that a Hezbollah tunnel detected north of the border had run south to beneath an Israeli outpost.
It is unclear how thorough the Israelis have been in their search for potential Hezbollah cross-border tunnels, or what methods they have used.
The Israeli military currently uses buried fiber-optic cables to detect underground digging activity but not the existence of tunnels themselves. Other techniques include Ground-Penetrating Radars, which map the sub-surface terrain. The limestone bedrock in the border area is conducive to providing good GPR results, but image quality drops the deeper the radar waves penetrate. Other systems include seismic waves or electrical resistivity tomography.
If Hezbollah has dug tunnels, it might have taken advantage of topography along the border to avoid detection. For example, in areas where the border follows a hill top or ridge, Hezbollah’s engineers could have begun their tunnel on the valley floor on the Lebanese side and simply burrowed horizontally through the hill, passing 100 meters or more beneath the border fence before emerging the other side in Israel.
Christians of Akkar keep eye on ISIS
Misbah al-Ali| The Daily Star
DABABIYA, Lebanon: Elie’s mother sits on her terrace every morning in the predominantly Christian town of Dababiya in northern Akkar, a few kilometers from the Syrian border, and invites her neighbors for a coffee and a chat about the latest gossip. Her only son Elie sits with her for a while before leaving for work, and their candid conversation reveals her son’s deep foreboding. He doesn’t answer her question about how his trade business in Halba is going these days.
“There is something more important that work,” he repeats several times, “our unknown fate.”
Elie is one among many Maronite and Greek Orthodox residents dwelling in the Nahr al-Kabir al-Janoubi area, a mere 50 meters from the Syrian frontier. These residents in particular are vigilantly keeping an eye on the advances of ISIS, fearful that the militant group might one day infiltrate their border town. Some, doubtful that the Lebanese Army would be able to protect them, have taken measures to arm themselves.
Their fears run deep, despite the implausibility of an ISIS offensive in the north, given the dynamics on the ground in Syria.
Muslims in the area also feel the threat is knocking on their doors; the beheading of Ali al-Sayyed, a Muslim soldier from Fnaydeq captured by ISIS in Arsal, only reinforced their terror, signaling to them that even their faith could not ensure their security.
Dababiya, and other villages along the border – including Mounjez, Rammah, al-Awaynat, Shadra, al-Talil, Deir Jennin, al-Hedd, Sharbila, Andaqit and the Akkari Christian capital of Qobeiyat – also have a sizeable Christian presence, and once enjoyed close relations with Christian areas in Syria, before the borders were closed after the first year of the uprising.
Elie is in his 40s and not married, which is unusual for Akkar, where men often get married early. But these days he is more concerned about the threat of ISIS than he is about marriage.
“Two months ago, I did some repairs in my house that cost $40,000, and yet I don’t know if I am going to last here, if my fate will become like that of the Christians from Mosul or the Yazidis in Mount Sinjar in Iraq,” he said.
In June 2014 Mosul was captured by ISIS and its Christian residents were given the ultimatum to either convert or face death.
When ISIS militants overran Sinjar, about 200,000 Yazidis fled, fearing execution. Some captured Yazidi women were sold as concubines or brides to ISIS commanders.
Elie’s fears are new for the residents of the Akkar region, who are used to living in impoverished conditions, but never dreamt of leaving their homes.
“There is no choice for us apart from staying and maybe even dying in our land,” he added. “During the Civil War, we weren’t displaced, despite the wide-reaching conflict, perhaps because we were an essential part of the fabric of Akkar.”
The ISIS threat from the north is centered around the embattled areas of Tal Kalakh and Qalaat al-Hosn, but as Christians and Muslims – including Alawites – in Akkar’s foothills would all be directly affected in the event of a spillover, the concerns of the residents have not taken on a sectarian dimension.
Rumor has it that a large number of locals are now pushing to arm themselves and to implement self-security measures.
One resident who requested anonymity said: “I served in the Army for 30 years. And I acquired a weapon today to defend my family and myself, and to fight with honor for Lebanon’s diversity.
Self-security measures have increased not only for Alawites and Christians, but other parties apprehensive about the ISIS threat, and who believe the Lebanese government and the nation’s security forces are not prepared to protect them from extremist groups.
In the village of Jebrayel, local resident Tony Farah said for years the area had been kept in the dark about the threat of extremism brewing in Syria.
“Since the start of the Syrian revolution, we haven’t been completely aware of the severity of what’s happening in Syria, and we got used to the fact that a civil war was ongoing there. But the prospect of our villages’ being invaded by terrorist groups who want to behead us, which is happening in Syria and Iraq, it’s something we can’t allow to happen,” he said.
“We will carry our weapons and die with honor in our land. We will never leave.”
The remains of old churches in northern Akkar attest to the fact that Christians have lived in the area for centuries. They were not persecuted under Ottoman rule, and didn’t enjoy any special privileges during the French mandate, so their social and economic conditions remained, like most in Akkar, severely neglected in 1943, at the time of Lebanon’s independence.
For a long time, Christian Akkaris have lived among Shiites and Alawites, dispersed in villages all over Akkar, in peaceful coexistence. After the state of Greater Lebanon, the predecessor to modern Lebanon, was created Aug. 20, 1920, in deference to the wishes of Patriarch Elias Hoayek, who had a hand in the idea of create a separate Lebanon, Syria’s Wadi al-Nasara was partitioned from Akkar.
The area boasts a large Greek Orthodox population and is administered by the governorate of Homs, in Syria. The familial ties that still bind these Syrian villages to Lebanon, mean the Greek Orthodox residents of northern Akkar still consider them to be artificial demarcation lines.
Among both Christians and Muslims in Akkar, the phrase “What happened to them happens to us,” is common and refers to the areas overrun by ISIS, and the mass exodus of entire populations that came as a result.
“Who said Christians are the only ones who will be oppressed [if the ISIS threat materializes]? In their opinion, we’re all infidels if we don’t agree with them,” said a local resident.
Hezbollah, FPM form Christian armed
group in Jezzine
Mohammed Zaatari| The Daily Star
JEZZINE, Lebanon: Hezbollah has established a new largely Christian armed group in Jezzine that has been compared to the Resistance Brigades in Sidon, drawing members from the party’s ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, security sources told The Daily Star. The Christian Resistance Brigades, as they have been dubbed, was created on the pretext of preparing for the threat posed by ISIS to Christians in the Levant.
However, the sources insisted that Hezbollah deliberately recruited Christian youth from the FPM in order to create an acceptable façade for the group, which is in fact controlled by Hezbollah.
Jezzine MP Ziad Aswad, a member of the FPM, couldn’t be reached for comment.
According to the sources, more than 60 members have been trained and divided into subgroups tasked with discreetly guarding the towns of Jezzine, Ain Majdaline and others at night.
Each member reportedly receives a monthly allowance of $500 and is supplied with a rifle, military clothing and ammunition.
Until now, between 60 and 70 rifles have been provided for the members of the Jezzine Brigades, the source said. Hezbollah is reportedly aiming to recruit at least 200 members, who are expected to patrol the Christian towns and villages of the area.
The decision to establish the brigades was made during a series of bilateral meetings between Hezbollah and the FPM at the house of an FPM official, identified only by his initials as N.N.
The two parties, according to the sources, have agreed that the FPM-affiliated brigades would take the responsibility for guarding the district’s Christian towns.
Monitoring other religiously mixed areas would be divided between the FPM and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah pursued a similar strategy when it set up the Resistance Brigades in Sidon in 2009, recruiting Sunni allies into the group, which later sparked controversy when clashes erupted between the brigades and locals.
The brigades underwent short trainings in areas controlled by Hezbollah, which decided when to deploy them and to what purpose.
Some Jezzine officials have condemned the formation of the brigades as an act of “self security,” accusing Hezbollah of exploiting Christian fears to establish its own armed group.
They also accused March 8-affiliated media of sensationalizing the arrest of Syrian refugees in Jezzine and Bkassine, claiming they were extremists, in order to justify the creation of the paramilitary brigades.
Last Wednesday, 12 Syrian nationals were detained in Bkassine. Some media reported that they were found with weapons and ammunition, and belonged to the Nusra Front and ISIS.
However, it was later revealed that this information was false and that the Syrians were arrested for lacking proper residency documents. The local sources said they believed the misinformation was intended to spread fear and justify the establishment of the brigades.
Better off than Syria or Iraq”
By: Diana Moukalled/Asharq AlAwsat
Monday, 15 Sep, 2014
An Egyptian television anchorwoman recently expressed her disapproval of a new development in social media live on air. With some shock—and with an intensity bordering on the contrived—the anchorwoman denounced the use by young Egyptians of a certain hashtag as highly irresponsible. The phrase (in Arabic), “Better off than Syria or Iraq,” is being used increasingly often now among Egyptians attempting to make light of the current dire situation in their country—the constant power cuts, its economic troubles and political turbulence. They are saying “it could be worse,” in other words. The anchorwoman had barely apologized to viewers for helping publicize the phrase when her male colleague dutifully took up the gauntlet. He blamed the youth using the hashtag for the ills currently befalling Egypt—labeling them as “lazy”—and said that if they had been properly educated and had worked hard “we would not be in this garbage.” As he shouted this to his audience, his face contorted with rage and all the visible signs of his irritability were etched firmly on his face.
The truth is that what this famous media personality did, while certainly unprofessional, was not necessarily outside the bounds of the “normal.” The phenomenon of a television presenter lashing out at those they do not agree with—and sometimes even whole countries and peoples—live on air in the name of “national duty” has become something audiences have become entirely used to.
This disease is now spreading rapidly elsewhere, but it appears to be especially prevalent in Egypt. It seems the egos of some of the country’s media figures have become so inflated that these so-called professionals see it fit to abandon their profession’s main tenets when it suits them, and deluding both themselves and their audiences that their “journalistic duty” and the current tough stage the country is passing through allows them to air in public their immaturity and boorishness.
Generalizing, defamation, incitement; these are but the hallmarks of the journalism profession today—but they are also the “ABCs” of nationalism, which all must learn and gain from.
This unprofessional conduct benefits from the idiocies of political Islam and its insane program of using violence to gain people’s acquiescence and servility. Today, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) atrocities seems to have presented a priceless gift to these people, one entirely in keeping with the zeitgeist. After all, this is not the time for freedom, or for improving society; let’s forget all about justice and fairness; let the activists rot in their prison cells; let’s slap college professors and opposition figures with travel bans; let’s ban protests; squeeze the life out of political satire and humor. Do you not see ISIS for what it is, and what it is doing in Syria and Iraq? Whoever is spreading this phrase intends to scare people. When we are scared we don’t ask many questions, and we don’t grumble or complain. After all, according to this logic, whoever grumbles and complains is an ISIS sympathizer, a traitor responsible for all the ills that have befallen us. There is no one better suited than well-known faces such as those in the media to deliver this messages, to play the role of the one who raises the alarm. I have no qualms with a media figure castigating his audience for not knowing their own good. According to him, and others like him working in the media, satire is part of the conspiracy, and those who use it are ignorant and being embroiled in subversive plots. But who said ISIS had one face only?
Report: Assad's allies lose heart amid
Ynetnews/09.14.14/ Israel News
Diplomats tell the Telegraph that Syria's main regional partners, Iran and Hezbollah, are rethinking their support for the regime as nations come together to fight ISIS. The tables have turned against Syria's President Bashar Assad who was considered to be on the way to victory in his country's civil war some six months ago, but now faces a changing reality in the region as he loses his closest allies, political sources told the Telegraph in a report Saturday. Due partly to new threats to Middle East powers in the form of Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Iraq and Syria, those once considered closest to Assad's regime including Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah, are now reconsidering their respective positions. One diplomat told the Telegraph, "I think Iran now realizes they cannot win the Syrian conflict whilst Assad is in power." Another source, whom the Telegraph said took part in recent discussions with key Iranian figures, said that the successes of ISIS in Syria have changed the Ayatollah's goals and interests in the country. According to the report, the diplomat's exact wording was that Iran is now prepared to "burn" Assad, particularly if it came as part of a deal to ease Western sponsored sanctions against Tehran's nuclear program. Meanwhile, a Syrian official told the Telegraph that cracks had begun to expand between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime. While Hezbollah is Shia, the politician said that, "Much of the Syrian army is Sunni and they see Hezbollah as too sectarian. Some from the Syrian army won't work with Hezbollah." The official's comments on Iran and Hezbollah's relations with Assad point to a more general change in regional political dynamics being forged throughout the Middle East in the face of ISIS' lighting military advances and public beheadings of Western journalists and aid workers. Iran's position seems to have changed the most as Ayatollah Khamenei even said that he would be willing to work militarily with the US in order to blunt ISIS advances in Iraq. Also, diplomatic relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, long-time rivals, have shown signs of improvement as they both consider how to secure their borders and ensure the survival of regional allies.
Salam Hopes for 'Step Forward' on Arsal Captives, Calls for Unity
Naharnet/Prime Minister Tammam Salam hoped on Sunday that the case of the Lebanese soldiers and policemen abducted by jihadists would make a “step forward,” reiterating his call for patience and national unity to help Qatar mediate for their release.
“There is a decision to resolve this case in all possible ways,” said Salam following talks with Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. But he stressed that the negotiations on the case of the abductees are in their “initial stage” and haven't reached the phase of release.
Salam was in Doha at the head of a delegation to tackle the abduction of the soldiers and policemen from the northeastern border town of Arsal in August. He met upon his arrival with his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Khalifa al-Thani and later the Emir, who threw a luncheon banquet in the delegation's honor. He returned to Beirut the same day.During his stay in Qatar, the PM reiterated his call for “patience” and “national unity” to resolve the case of the captives.
“The lives of the soldiers would be preserved through our unity and through the assistance provided mainly by Qatar,” he told the press conference
Earlier, Salam was asked by reporters upon his arrival in Doha if Qatar can pressure the armed groups to release the Lebanese captives, to which he replied: “We are asking Qatar for its assistance in this file. It will choose the manner of assistance.”
“We cannot confront terrorism while we are weak and fragmented,” he added. “Internal unity, whether among the families of the captives, the cabinet, media, or army, is a main factor in confronting terrorism,” stressed the premier.
“We must stay united because any weakness or doubt will be exploited,” Salam noted. The prime minister was accompanied on his trip by Labor Minister Sejaan Qazzi, Transportation and Public Works Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, Culture Minister Rony Araiji, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq, and General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim. Salam said brahim will remain in Qatar to resolve the case of the captives. “We hope we would make a step forward because the intentions are there and there is continuous contact with Qatar,” he added. The premier had previously visited Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in order to address the file of the abductees, said the Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah on Sunday. The soldiers and policemen were taken captive by Islamist militants in light of clashes in Arsal between the army and the gunmen who infiltrated the town from Syria.A few of the captives have since been released, while two others were beheaded, prompting a backlash against Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
A ministerial panel has been tasked with following up the case.
Plumbly Discusses Lebanon with Iranian Officials during Tehran Trip
Naharnet /United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Derek Plumbly held talks on the situation in Lebanon with Iranian officials in Tehran during a two visit, announced his press office on Sunday. Plumbly met with Advisor on International Affairs to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati and Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during the visit that spanned the weekend. “The meetings focused on the situation in Lebanon and the growing security, political and humanitarian challenges facing the country as a result of the war in Syria and the crisis in the wider region,” said the statement. Plumbly thanked the Iranian officials for the opportunity to exchange views on issues of mutual concern with regard to Lebanon. In response to a question from the Iranian press regarding the political impasse in Lebanon following the meeting with Velayati, Plumbly said the issue of the presidency was for the Lebanese to resolve. He stressed however the urgency of the issue and international concern that they move forward without further delay. Lebanon has been without a president since the term of Michel Suleiman ended in May. Ongoing disputes between the March 8 and 14 camps over a compromise candidate have thwarted the election of a president despite several elections sessions being held at parliament. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc and the Change and Reform bloc of MP Michel Aoun have been boycotting the sessions due to the disagreement. Aoun has repeatedly said that he is willing to run in the elections if there is consensus over him.
Parliamentary Polls Nominees Reach 162 as Mustaqbal to Submit Candidacies Monday
Naharnet /A total of 162 candidates have so far submitted their nominations for the parliamentary elections as the deadline for the submissions looms on midnight on Tuesday, reported An Nahar daily on Sunday. The Development and Liberation bloc of Speaker Nabih Berri and the Free Patriotic Movement MPs of Michel Aoun have submitted their candidacies, while the Mustaqbal bloc is expected to do so on Monday. Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc is likely to submit its nominations on Monday or Tuesday without any changes to its MPs. The Democratic Gathering of MP Walid Jumblat is expected to submit its nominations without making any changes to its current lawmakers also, added the daily. Meanwhile, deputy Speaker Farid Makari announced to the daily that he will not run in the elections and neither will anyone from his family. “This position does not mean that I am no longer committed to my ties to the Mustaqbal Movement, its leader MP Saad Hariri, and the March 14 alliance,” he explained. “Should the elections be held, which I doubt, I will voice my backing to any March 14 list that runs in the Koura district,” he said. The Lebanese Forces will submit a greater number of nominations than the number of lawmakers it currently enjoys at parliament, reported An Nahar. It will also introduce changes to its nominees in the Bsharre district, whereby Joseph Ishaq will replace MP Elie Keyrouz.It will also introduce a candidate in the northern Akkar region with the nomination of retired general Wehbeh Qatisha.
Two nominees will run in the Keserouan-Ftouh region, one in the northern Metn, five in Beirut's three districts, two in the southern metn, two in Jezzine, and one in the northern Bekaa region. LF MP Joseph al-Maalouf announced that he will not run in the elections, freeing up a new LF nomination in the eastern city of Zahle. Several officials have however expressed their doubts that the parliamentary elections will be held given the ongoing disputes over an electoral law, the vacuum in the presidency, and the tense security situation. Berri has repeatedly voiced his rejection of the extension of parliament's term for a second time, but his visitors quoted him as saying on Saturday: “I don't mind vacuum at the parliament if the polls weren't staged.” He warned that if the political arch-foes agreed to extend the legislatures term, then he would agree to delay the parliamentary elections even if it leads to further vacuum at state institutions. Zahle MP Nicolas Fattoush proposed in August a draft-law for the extension by more than two years, citing security reasons.
On Thursday, the cabinet appointed the members of the committee that will oversee the parliamentary elections, naming ex-judge Nadim Abdul Malak as its head. Last year, the rival MPs extended their tenure until November 2014 after they failed to agree on a new electoral draft-law.
Jumblat Urges Speedy Trial of Islamist Inmates, Questions Ongoing Delay
Naharnet/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat questioned on Sunday the delay and stalling in the trials of Islamist inmates held in Roumieh Prison. He demanded that a speedy trial be held for them, revealing that a judge had informed him that should swift measures be taken, the proceedings would take a few days to complete. “Why have none of the Fatah al-Islam inmates been put on trial since their arrest in 2007?” he asked while visiting the family of Seif Zebian, one of the soldiers kidnapped by Islamists in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August. Jumblat asked Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi to explain why the trials have not been held yet, saying that the excuses over a lack of courtrooms are no longer valid since they have been complete for a while now. “Stalling in this issue is unacceptable during this critical stage,” he stressed. This issue is linked to the army seeing as the captors of the soldiers and policemen are demanding the release of Roumieh Islamists in return for the freedom of the hostages, explained the MP.
He noted however that holding their trial will not necessarily mean that the inmates will be released. Some may be acquitted, while others may be indicted, added the PSP leader. Furthermore, he urged calm among the families of the captives, warning against taking out their frustration against Syrians residing in Lebanon. The soldiers and policemen were abducted from Arsal by Islamist militants in light of clashes in the area between the army and the gunmen from Syria. A few of them have since been released, while two others were beheaded, prompting a backlash against Syrian refugees in Lebanon. A ministerial panel has been tasked with following up on the case. It is mulling all the available options in coordination with a Qatari delegation, which is negotiating the release of the hostages with the Islamist kidnappers. Several of the Islamist inmates held in Roumieh were arrested in the wake of 2007 clashes between the army and Fatah al-Islam militants in the northern Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.
MEA Flight Returns to Beirut after 'Precautionary' Landing in Rome
Naharnet/A Middle East Airlines flight from Geneva arrived in Beirut on Sunday after landing in Rome over the absence of a passenger, the airline announced. MEA said in a statement that the aircraft was heading from the Swiss city to Rafik Hariri International Airport in the Lebanese capital when it was revealed that a passenger with a boarding pass did not take the flight. The pilot then made a “precautionary landing” at Rome's airport, said the statement. The aircraft was thoroughly inspected. No traces of a bomb were found on it, it added.
MEA released the statement after reports said the Airbus 320 made an emergency landing over a false bomb warning. The company denied the bomb threat reports.
Beheading Infidels: How Allah 'Heals the Hearts of Believers'
By: Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage
September 11, 2014
Note: MEF has blurred or excluded some of the beheading photos displayed in the original FrontPage article.
To understand why the Islamic State not only decapitates its "infidel" captives, but also mutilates and mocks their corpses—and all to sadistic laughter—one need only turn to the Koran and deeds of Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The Koran exhorts believers to "Fight them [those who oppose Islam], Allah will torment them with your hands, humiliate them, empower you over them, and heal the hearts of the believers, removing the rage from their hearts" (Koran 9:14-15).
As usual, to understand the significance of any Koran verse, one must turn to the sira and hadith—the biography and anecdotes of Muhammad, respectively—for context.
Thus we come to the following account concerning the slaughter of 'Amr bin Hisham, a pagan Arab chieftain originally known as "Abu Hakim" (Father of Wisdom) until Muhammad dubbed him "Abu Jahl" (Father of Stupidity) for his staunch opposition to Islam.
After 'Amr was mortally wounded by a new convert to Islam during the Battle of Badr, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, a close companion of Muhammad, saw the "infidel" chieftain collapsed on the ground. So he went to him and started abusing him. Among other things, Abdullah grabbed and pulled 'Amr's beard and stood in triumph on the dying man's chest.
According to Al-Bidaya wa Al-Nihaya ("The Beginning and the End"), Ibn Kathir's authoritative history of Islam, "After that, he [Abdullah] slit his ['Amr's] head off and bore it till he placed it between the hands of the Prophet. Thus did Allah heal the hearts of the believers with it."
This, then, is the true significance of Koran 9:14-15: "Fight them, Allah will torment them with your hands [mortally wounding and eventually decapitating 'Amr], humiliate them [pulling his beard], empower you over them [standing atop him], and heal the hearts of the believers, removing the rage from their hearts [at the sight of his decapitated head]."
The logic here is that, pious Muslims are so full of zeal for Allah's cause that the only way their inflamed hearts can be at rest is to see those who oppose Allah and his prophet utterly crushed—humiliated, mutilated, decapitated. Then the hearts of the believers can be at ease and "healed."
This is surely one of the reasons behind the Islamic State's dissemination of gory videos and pictures of its victims: the new "caliphate" is trying to heal the hearts of every believer inflamed for the cause of Allah.
If this sounds too farfetched, consider the picture at left of a decapitated "infidel" from the Islamic State's websites. The Arabic caption to the left says "healing for hearts"—a clear reference to the aforementioned Koran verse.
Koran 96:15-16 also alludes to the fate of 'Amr and offers more context applicable to the Islamic State: "No! If he does not desist, we will surely drag him by the forelock—a lying, sinning forelock."
According to al-Alusi's tafsir, or exegesis, after Abdullah placed his foot on the dying foe of Islam, 'Amr opened his eyes and recognized him. The once proud chieftain lamented that he was being killed by a common "goat herder," to which Abdullah replied, "Islam elevates and nothing is elevated above it." He then sheared his head off. "But he could not carry it, so he made holes in the ears and put thread through them and dragged the head to the prophet. Then Gabriel, peace be upon him, came laughing and saying, "O prophet, you got an ear and an ear—and the head between for a bonus!"
Based, then, on the treatment of 'Amr bin Hisham (AKA "Abu Jahl") as recorded in Islam's core texts—Koran, hadith, sira, and tafsirs—all sadistic acts being carried out by the Islamic State were in fact committed by the earliest Muslims and all to the complete approval of Muhammad (and apparently the "angel" Gabriel, too). They include:
•Beheadings and mutilations (e.g., holes in ears of 'Amr)
•Humiliation and gestures of triumph (feet on chest of fallen victim, dragging his body, or head, on the ground)
•Laughter, mockery, and celebration (for the hearts of the believers are now "healed")
Other pictures taken from the Islamic State's websites conform to the above accounts describing the slaughter of 'Amr.***
In order to demonstrate that the enemies of Islam have been brought low, as Koran 9:14-15 promised, Islamic State members often make it a point to place their feet atop their fallen corpses, most of which were first decapitated. The ubiquitous black flag of Islam is always raised above the fallen "infidels"—a reminder that "Islam elevates and nothing is elevated above it," as Abdullah told 'Amr, with his foot on his chest, before beheading him. See photo at right.
Note the jocularity in the photo to the left—reminiscent of the "angel" Gabriel laughing and joking about the mutilated head of 'Amr. (If Allah's angel finds such human carnage amusing, shouldn't Allah's jihadi servants as well?)
Other photos are reminiscent of how 'Amr's head was treated: mutilated and dragged on the ground.
The picture at right is one of many that use the relatively arcane Arabic word haz (bottom left-hand corner), which means to "slice" off, to describe the beheading of Islam's enemies. The standard Arabic word for "cut" generally used to describe a beheading is qata'. That the word used (haz) is the same word found in the early jihad literature is no coincidence and indicative of the source of inspiration: Islam's scriptures. (Also watch this video with English subtitles of an Islamic cleric explaining to his followers how one must "slice" (haz) heads off — and do it slowly to enjoy it more — as opposed to merely chopping it off.)
In short, not only are the members of the Islamic State closely patterning themselves after Muhammad—whom Koran 33:21 exhorts believers to emulate in all ways—but even in the most sadistic of details are they finding support in their prophet.
Nor should it come as any surprise that Muslims are aware of these accounts from early Islamic history. After all, the near hagiographic Battle of Badr, including the story of 'Amr's slaughter, is routinely glorified worldwide in mosque sermons, on Islamic satellite stations, and in Islamic texts. It is a source of great pride.
Thus when young Muslims express their anger and frustration at the state of affairs of the Islamic world, their clerics council them to go to the jihad in Iraq and Syria and decapitate themselves an infidel—which, according to the Koran, should "heal their hearts."
Perhaps that's why a British female convert to Islam is so eager to "behead Christians with a blunt knife"? Perhaps that's why a jihadi savagely pulled out and bit into the heart of a fallen Syrian soldier—to heal his own heart by sating his rage against Allah's "enemies"?
Such Muslims join the jihad, and not only do they decapitate, but they mutilate, humiliate, and laugh at the disgraced enemies of Allah—in perfect emulation of the Islamic glory/gory stories they grew up on.
This is the true cult of jihad that few non-Muslims can begin to comprehend—and little wonder, considering that their political leaders, professors, and media continue to babble foolishly about how Islam is the "religion of peace."
*** Thanks to Rachid for compiling and presenting the above pictures and accounts.
**Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and a CBN News contributor. He is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007).
Hezbollah planning 'large raids' into Galilee, senior army source says
IDF concerned of possible Hezbollah invasion of northern Israel
Yoav Zitun /Ynetnews /Published: 09.14.14/ Israel News
Northern Command says Shiite terror group threatening to send forces across the border in first few days of a third Lebanon war. Hezbollah may implement its plan to invade northern Israel if a third Lebanon war breaks out, according to an estimate by the IDF Northern Command. Sources in Israel have identified a change in the Shiite terror group's policies, which Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has defined as "breaking the silence." There was no concrete warning of an immediate threat by Hezbollah to launch a war against Israel or a surprise ground invasion, but the concern that a single event – with casualties – may flare up and lead, in quick succession, to the outbreak of war on the northern front. The IDF believes that Nasrallah's declarations regarding an attempt to conquer the Galilee are far from credible; there is a growing concern that in the first few days of a war on the north, Hezbollah will deploy several companies to quickly raid Israeli communities located mere meters from the border – with each company staffed by 100 to 200 fighters from the group's special forces. According to the IDF estimates, Hezbollah has gathered the confidence necessary to attempt an invasion operation – as it managed with force on the border towns between Syrian and Lebanon, in al-Qusayr, Arsal, and the Qalamoun Mountains.
As opposed to its previous modus operandi, in which pointed attacks were carried out by small cells numbering less than a dozen people, the new estimates fear that operations would be wide-ranging and include a blitz by at least 100 fighters in order to hold an Israeli position for three to four hours. The possibilities include the seizure of part of a town, a mountain ridge, or an IDF outpost – all in order to achieve an unprecedented symbolic victory for Hezbollah. Such an attack, according to Hezbollah publications in recent months, could occur simultaneously in four positions along the border with Israel. The western-most incursion would invade through the sea with a special naval commando force. The possible attack would include anti-tank fire on IDF forces in the area and suppressive fire from machine guns – to be preempted by a heavy barrage of large short-range rockets held by Hezbollah. These rockets, which are not of the standard variety, carry warheads with 100 to 500 kilograms of explosives. The Syrian military has used these rockets during its ongoing civil war to demolish neighborhoods. The major benefits of their rockets are their massive destructive power and the difficulty for Israel in intercepting them. The "breaking the silence" policy which Hezbollah has adopted in the past year, after seven years of relative calm on the border, mostly addressed Hezbollah's operational response to Israeli Air Force strikes. These retaliatory operations included – in the past year – five attacks; in one incident two explosive devices, weighing 20 kilograms each, were activated against IDF forces.
US officials: Arab countries offer airstrikes, ground troops vs ISIS
Kerry: US ground troops off the table, some Middle East partners have offered soldiers if needed; Arab allies may contribute in airstrikes against ISIS.
Reuters /09.14.14/ Israel News /Ynetnews
Several Arab countries have offered to join the United States in air strikes against Islamic State targets, US officials said on Sunday, indicating a possible widening of the air campaign against militants who have seized parts of Iraq and Syria.
The officials declined to identify which countries had made the offers but said they were under consideration as the United States begins to identify roles for each country in its emerging coalition against jihadists who have declared a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.
The addition of Arab fighter jets could strengthen the credibility of the American-led campaign in a region skeptical of how far Washington will commit to a conflict in which nearly every country has a stake, set against the backdrop of Islam's 1,300-year-old rift between Sunnis and Shi'ites. "I don't want to leave you with the impression that these Arab members haven't offered to do air strikes because several of them have," a senior US State Department official told reporters in Paris.
The official said the offers were not limited to air strikes on Iraq. "Some have indicated for quite a while a willingness to do them elsewhere," the official said. "We have to sort through all of that because you can't just go and bomb something."
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "extremely encouraged"
by the pledges of military assistance against Islamic State militants by
countries inside and outside the Middle East and that some nations had also
offered ground troops.
Kerry has been touring the Middle East to try to secure backing for US efforts to build a coalition to fight the Islamic State militants who have grabbed territory in Syria and Iraq.
"We have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance, in actual strikes if that is what it requires. And we also have a growing number of people who are prepared to do all the other things," Kerry said in remarks aired on Sunday on the CBS program "Face the Nation".
On the CNN program "State of the Union," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was asked if this coalition would need ground troops beyond opposition forces in Syria and Kurdish and government forces in Iraq.
"Ultimately to destroy ISIL we do need to have a force, an anvil against which they will be pushed - ideally Sunni forces," he said.
Kerry reiterated President Barack Obama's statement that US ground troops would not be used against the Islamic State.
"We're not looking to put troops on the ground," Kerry said. "There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that at this moment anyway," Kerry said. He did not identify the countries.
On Thursday, Kerry won the backing for a "coordinated military campaign" from 10 Arab countries - Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and six Gulf states including rich rivals Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
"This is a strategy coming together as the coalition comes together and the countries declare what they are prepared to do," Kerry said in the interview, taped on Saturday in Egypt.
"I've been extremely encouraged to hear from all of the people that I've been meeting with about their readiness and willingness and to participate," Kerry added.
McDonough also said US President Barack Obama would meet on Tuesday with General John Allen, his newly appointed special presidential envoy for building the coalition against Islamic State. McDonough also said Kerry would testify before the US Congress on the matter this week.
IS Video Shows Beheading of British Hostage, Cameron Vows Action
Naharnet/The Islamic State claimed the beheading of a British aid worker on Saturday, an act slammed as "pure evil" by Prime Minister David Cameron who vowed Britain would do all it could to catch the killers.
President Barack Obama offered U.S. support for its "ally in grief", while Cameron faced growing calls to allow Britain's military to help in Washington's planned assault against the rampaging jihadist group.
The British premier will chair a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee early Sunday in response to the online video purportedly showing a masked IS militant killing hostage David Haines in retribution for the U.S. and British campaign against the group.
Cameron called the attack "a despicable and appalling murder of an innocent aid worker" and "an act of pure evil."
"We will do everything in our power to hunt down these murderers and ensure they face justice, however long it takes," he said in a statement.
Two U.S. journalists have been murdered in similar circumstances in recent weeks.
Obama slammed the latest attack as "barbaric" and said the U.S. "stands shoulder to shoulder tonight with our close friend and ally in grief and resolve".
Britain has yet to join U.S. air strikes against IS in Iraq, but has offered to arm Kurdish Peshmerga fighters battling against militants in the north of the country, a move cited in the latest video as a reason for revenge.
Britain's Foreign Office said it was "working as quickly as it could" to verify the two-minute-27-second clip, entitled "A Message to the Allies of America".
The video opens with a clip of Cameron describing the British strategy of working with the Iraqi government to help arm Kurdish fighters against "these brutal extremist militants," and to offer aid, diplomacy, and military help to pressure IS.
Haines then appears, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and identifies himself before calmly explaining that he is paying the price for Cameron's policy.
The attacker -- who appears to be the same man as in the previous two beheading videos -- tells Britain the alliance with the U.S. will "accelerate your destruction" and will drag the British people into "another bloody and un-winnable war."
At the end of the clip, he also threatens to execute another captive, identified in a caption by name as another British citizen. Haines's brother Mike paid tribute to a "good brother...who was recently murdered in cold blood.""He was, in the right mood, the life and soul of the party and on other times the most stubborn irritating pain in the ass," he said in a statement. “He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly.”Scottish-born Haines, 44, was taken hostage in Syria in March 2013 and was threatened in a video released this month depicting the beheading by an IS militant of the U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff. IS released a video claiming the execution of fellow U.S. journalist James Foley on August 19. Former head of the British Army Richard Dannatt on Sunday piled pressure on Cameron to let the country's military join a planned assault against IS, announced by Obama this week. "What we absolutely need to do is not be cowed in any way by yet another foul murder of a hostage," he told Sky News.
"We can support them (the U.S.) to confront, attack and defeat the Islamic State jihadi fighters ... and make sure this cancer is removed from the region before it spreads more widely."Under pressure himself to tackle the problem, Obama on Wednesday set out a strategy which would include air strikes in Syria and expanded operations in Iraq. But Cameron will be wary of playing into the hands of the captors by escalating tensions and is also recovering from last year's humiliation of failing to achieve parliamentary support for air strikes against Syria's President Bashar Assad. As part of efforts to build up local support for action, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday sought to bolster relations with Egypt during meetings with its leaders.
Egypt's formidable army is unlikely to take part in a military coalition against IS, but the country boasts the prestigious Sunni Muslim authority Al-Azhar, which Kerry said would fight back against the Islamic State's use of the religion.
Kerry takes his push to forge a broad coalition against Islamic State jihadists to France on Sunday , on the eve of an international conference in Paris on peace and security in Iraq. The CIA put the number of IS fighters at 20,000 to 31,500 in Iraq and Syria, up to three times the previous estimate. U.S. aircraft have carried out more than 160 strikes in Iraq since early August, the U.S. Central Command said Saturday.Agence France Presse
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch meets Hezbollah Representatives
His Holiness Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch has received a high-level delegation from Hezbollah.
Hezbollah helps train Christians to defend themselves against the threat of ISIS extremism
Extract of an article from Al-Monitor media website. Al-Monitor’s content is regularly referenced in many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Time, Reuters, Le Monde, The New York Times and many others.
Extract: The sources close to Hezbollah told Al-Monitor that nearly two years ago Hezbollah opened training camps in the area outside the city of Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border, to train youth from different denominations in preparation to face radicals, and although the highest percentage of the trainees in these camps are Shiites, the recent acts by IS against the Christians of Syria and Iraq have pushed dozens of young Christians hailing from the towns adjacent to the Syrian border to join them. Today, these Christian youth represent a form of "people’s protection committees" in their hometowns similar to those formed by Christian youth in Syrian towns.
The Hezbollah sources said, "There is a high level of coordination between these committees, which are expanding, and Hezbollah’s military apparatus, called the Lebanese Resistance Brigades, which is independent from the resistance body tasked with fighting Israel."
With the growing expectation that IS is coming to Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military preparations have evolved toward promoting a plan to establish the Lebanese Resistance Brigades, which gather all denominations, to face IS. Steadily, this plan has started to be accepted by youth from other denominations, particularly the Christians of the north and the Bekaa Valley.
A Christian youth explained why he joined the local protection committee: “What has happened in Mosul has been a message to all Christians of the East that the world will not protect them and that they need to rely on themselves to defend their existence.” Full article here.
See also: Hezbollah's Leader to Christians: 'Where are your Churches, Crosses, & Nuns?
Cruz Headlines Conference Featuring Hezbollah Supporters
The Washington Free Beacom
BY: Alana Goodman
published on September 10, 2014
Conference funded by controversial Clinton donor
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is headlining a conference on Wednesday funded by a controversial Clinton donor that will feature pro-Hezbollah and pro-Assad speakers in Washington, D.C.
The “In Defense of Christians” summit is a gathering of Middle Eastern Christian leaders that seeks to raise awareness about the threats to Arab minorities from ISIL.
However, critics fear several of the speakers will try to use the event to bolster Washington’s support for the Syrian regime in its ongoing civil war and help Bashar al-Assad restore his legitimacy and power.
The roster of speakers includes some of the Assad regime’s most vocal Christian supporters, as well as religious leaders allied with the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.
Other Washington policymakers scheduled to attend include Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.).
“Some Members were unable to participate as originally scheduled,” the conference’s spokesperson Joseph Cella told the Washington Free Beacon. “Considering the number of speakers we have, this sort of thing happens.”
Funding for the conference was provided by Clinton donor and Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire Gilbert Chagoury, according to organizers. The wealthy businessman pledged $1 billion to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2009.
Chagoury is also reportedly backer of Lebanese politician Michel Aoun, Hezbollah’s top Christian ally in the country, according to U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks.
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Raï, who was scheduled to speak during the same keynote slot as Cruz on Wednesday evening, has called Israel an “enemy state that is occupying Lebanese territory” and defended Hezbollah’s right to attack the Jewish state.
“Everyone says why is Hezbollah carrying arms?” said Rai in a 2011 interview with Al-Arabiya. “We responded that the international community did not exert pressure on Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory. As long as there is an occupied Lebanese territory, Hezbollah will maintain that it wants to carry arms in defense of its land. What will we say to it then? Isn’t [Hezbollah] right?”
The Maronite leader said earlier this month that he would welcome a meeting with Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah to discuss the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) threat against Christians.
“A dialogue committee already exists between [the Lebanon Maronite Church] and Hezbollah, and we are ready to hold any meeting in this respect,” said Rai.
Others at the summit have also aligned themselves with the Iranian-backed terrorist group. Syriac Orthodox Church Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II posted photos from his meeting with a “high level delegation from Hezbollah” on his official Facebook page last week.
Participants included Al-Sayyed Ibrahim Amin Al-Sayed, president of the Political Council in Hezbollah, and Ghaleb Abou Zeynad, the terror group’s Christian relations attaché. The group discussed the threats facing Christians the need for international intervention to combat ISIL, according to the Syriac Orthodox Church website.
Another conference speaker, Antioch Church patriarch Gregory III Laham has claimed a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam” is responsible for al Qaeda attacks on Iraqi Christians.
“It is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations, and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam,” Laham said in 2010, according to the Daily Star.
The Syrian patriarch has been the subject of controversy inside the Catholic Church. In a published message welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon in 2012, he called on the Holy See to recognize the State of Palestine, causing what the Vatican Insider described as “a great embarrassment to Rome.” In 2013, a prominent French bishop accused Laham of being “an ally politically and financially” of Bashar al-Assad.
Other summit speakers, including Antioch Church leader John X (Yazigi) and Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan, have been consistent defenders of the Assad regime.
Younan said last May that Western nations were responsible for the instability in Syria, adding that the notion that the United States was promoting democracy “is a lie, this is hypocrisy.”
“Since the beginning, [Western nations] just stood against the regime, calling it a dictatorship, saying the dictatorship must fall,” said Younan. “Now it’s over 25 months, the conflict is getting worse, and the ones who are paying the price are the innocent people.”
A spokesperson for Cruz said the senator will still speak at the conference despite the controversial participants because he is committed to raising awareness about the persecution of Middle East Christians.
“Sen. Cruz is appearing at the In Defense of Christians event tonight because he wants to take every opportunity to highlight this crisis, the unspeakable persecution of Christians,” said Catherine Frazier. “America has been silent for far too long, and we need to speak with a united voice against this horror. Sen. Cruz is speaking to make the unequivocal point that religious bigotry in all its forms–be it targeting Christians, Jews, or minority Muslim sects–is an evil that must be exposed and combatted.”
Lebanese Information Center president Joseph Gebeily, a Lebanese Christian who staunchly opposes Assad, said he was “shocked” by many of the invited speakers, but decided to attend the conference after he learned members of Congress would be present.
“I decided we should be present and not let the bad representatives of Middle East Christians hijack the true message of Christianity, which is basically democracy, tolerance, co-existence, inclusiveness,” said Gebeily. “It wasn’t a very quick and easy decision, but since we were given this opportunity, I said let’s go and see and face those advocates of tyranny and crimes against humanity.”
At the Kurdistan Front
By: Jonathan Spyer/The Weekly Standard
September 14, 2014
A war is being waged along a 900-mile front between two entities that today constitute de facto quasi-states stretching across the old border between Syria and Iraq. These are the Islamic State to the south and a contiguous area of Kurdish-controlled territory to the north. Recently, I traveled to the latter, in regions of northern Iraq and northeast Syria, like the town of Derik, where I spoke with a Kurdish soldier who had recently been in a firefight with IS forces in the neighboring village of Jeza'a.
"We were fighting for 17 hours," said the Kurd. He was with the People's Protection Units (YPG), affiliated with the PYD, the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Worker's party, or PKK. "There must have been about 500 of them," he said of the IS militants. "Only about 90 of us. They're strange, the way they keep on coming at you. We got on each side of them. In the end, you should have seen the trucks that came to take the bodies away. Stacked up."
He paused and took a drag on his cigarette. "I wasn't hurt bad," he continued. "I dislocated my shoulder when I had to jump over a wall after one of them threw a grenade. Then they got me out of there. I killed three of them. It's not nice, you know. One of them was just a kid of about 16. But you've got no choice."
So what does an IS attack look like, I asked. Do they just come running headlong at you?
"They don't run," he replied, looking directly at me as if to acknowledge the eeriness of the thing he was saying. "They walk," he said. "At a normal pace. Towards you. Like they're not afraid. And you have to shoot them before they shoot you."
The fighting at Jeza'a was one of the most intense clashes to have taken place between the Islamic State and the YPG. The battle formed part of a broader IS-Kurdish war taking place along a contiguous front line stretching from Jalawla on the Iraq-Iran border all the way to Jarabulus on the line separating Syria from Turkey.
At Jeza'a, the Islamic State was trying to close the corridor that the YPG had opened in order to bring Yazidi refugees from the Sinjar Mountains to safety at the Newroz refugee camp outside Derik. The more than 100,000 refugees who made their way to Newroz are exhausted and traumatized. The Islamic State considers the Yazidi to be "devil worshippers" who are thus denied the few privileges afforded the so-called people of the book, i.e., Christians and Jews. Yazidi women were sent to the prisons of IS-controlled Mosul, where they were later sold as slaves or forced to wed IS fighters.
Conditions at Newroz are primitive, but there is food and shelter. Further east, in the Kurdish Regional Government area of northern Iraq, the towns of Dohuk and Erbil are swollen with refugees who fled Mosul and Sinjar. The Islamic State's march toward the KRG capital of Erbil was stopped only by the intervention of the United States Air Force, and they know that any attempt to push forward would result in their obliteration from the air. The KRG's Peshmerga forces are facing them in hastily assembled positions cut into the dirt. These front lines are for the moment strangely silent.
In Erbil and in Dohuk, the half-built structures that until very recently were symbols of economic growth and expansion have been converted into makeshift homes for refugee families from further south. You see refugees everywhere. In the evenings the cities have a teeming, crowded feel to them. But the foreigners who came with the oil companies that moved in to do business when the KRG was the most stable part of Iraq are mostly gone. The bars and restaurants that opened up to cater to them are empty. On a Thursday evening in the Deutscher Hof restaurant in Erbil, one of the few places that serves cold beer, only a couple of British security contractors are at the bar. The Indian staff tell me that a month ago, the place would have been packed at this time.
A considerable portion of Erbil's Kurdish population also left when it looked likely that the Islamic State was on its way. Some sources spoke of a departure of up to 30 percent of Erbil's residents. The Peshmerga, with the help of Iraqi special forces as well as U.S. air support, have begun to push back against IS. The Mosul Dam, a highly symbolic conquest for the IS, was retaken on August 21. Since then, IS has lost ground in a number of other places. The Peshmerga are now in the process of reconquering oil fields close to Mosul.
West of the Syria-Iraq border, meanwhile, the YPG is continuing its own fight against the Islamic State. I visited the frontline area at the Yarubiya border crossing. The YPG seized the crossing in early August, and now controls both the Iraqi and Syrian sides of it. IS still holds a neighborhood immediately adjoining the crossing. Sniping from both sides and mortar fire are regular occurrences. But the morale of the YPG seemed high. "They can't shoot," a female fighter told me cheerfully after we sprinted across open ground to a concealed position a few hundred yards from a mosque where the IS sniper was operating.
Conversations with Kurdish officials indicate that they do not consider the fight with IS in Iraq and Syria to be a battle for the preservation of those two states. Rather, the Kurdish national agenda is visible just barely below the surface. General Maghdid Haraki of the Peshmerga, an effective-looking figure clearly influenced by American military style, put it most bluntly when he told me, "We have a different land, different language, different mentality. I don't know why the world won't see this. They just see 'Iraq.' "
A senior KRG official linked to the political leadership was more circumspect. "Iraqi Kurds are today still part of Iraq," he said. "But if a sectarian civil war starts in Iraq, we want no part of it. And if the mess continues in Iraq and Kurdish rights are not granted, then what is the point of it? Anyway, Kurds, like any other nation, have the right to determine their own future."
Nonetheless, the fact is that the Kurds are not unified and their divisions are not easily resolved. The central rift is between the two rival pan-Kurdish movements. One is Massoud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic party, which controls the KRG. The other is Abdullah Ocalan's PKK, listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization for its three-decade-long campaign of violence against Turkey.
Still, when it comes to Kurdish self-determination, PKK-associated officials sound similar to General Haraki and his colleagues. Nilufer Koc, of the PKK-associated Kurdistan National Congress, told me in Erbil that "what's needed is a referendum on independence here in Iraqi Kurdistan. And when we clear the issue of the referendum, if a new Iraqi government continues to reject Kurdish rights, then the Kurds need to take what belongs to them."
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.