February 04/15

Bible Quotation For Today/Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes
Isaiah 06/01-13: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. ’Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 03-04/15
Open letter from a concerned Lebanese To Israel/J.Post/February 03/15
Analysis: Hizbullah Faces Hard Choices Between Fighting Israel, Sunnis/Associated Press/
February 03/15
The FSA is still fighting for the Syrian people/
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al awsat/February 03/15

Lebanese Related News published on  February 03-04/15
Girault Kicks Off Beirut Visit by Meeting Berri, Bassil
Al-Rahi Hopes Success for French Presidential Envoy
Army, Militants Clash in Ras Baalbek and Arsal Outskirts
Hizbullah Faces Hard Choices Between Fighting Israel, Sunnis
Azzi declares win for casino workers
Cabinet to examine legality of civil marriages
Gemayel to Step Down from Kataeb Leadership in Favor of Son
Truckers at Beirut Port Suspend Strike over Fourth Basin after Salam's Pledge to Resolve Crisis
Mawlawi still in Ain al-Hilweh, not on Arsal outskirts: Interior Minister
Mashnouq Says Mawlawi in Ain el-Hilweh, Negates Previous Comments on his Whereabouts
Lebanon hostage families to resume protests over officials' silence
Lebanon truckers reject proposal to suspend port strike
Food warehouse owners resist closure raid
Emir of Nusra Front in Qalamoun Says Damascus Bombing Clear Message to Hizbullah
Judge Indicts Zureiqat, Abou Abbas with 2014 Bombings
Injuries as firefighters battle Beirut wood factory blaze
Seven Wounded in Fire at Dekwaneh Wood Factory
Health Ministry Inspectors Assaulted during Raid on Musharrafieh Food Warehouse

Miscellaneous Reports And News published on  February 03-04/15
Fatwa: Islamic State Justifies Burning Pilot Alive
John Baird tells Parliament he's leaving politics and his foreign affairs post
Pope approves martyrdom for slain Salvadoran Romero
Female Iraqi, Sajida al-Rishaw, militant held by Jordan is heroine to jihadists
Anbar tribes form joint coalition against ISIS
Kurdish forces seize villages near Syrian town of Kobani
UN 'alarmed' by photos of ISIS labels on Syria food aid
Iraqi MPs receive death threats over calls to investigate village massacre
Chadian troops enter Nigeria to battle Boko Haram
French soldiers attacked by man with knife in Nice
Erdogan leading Turkey to 'totalitarianism': arch-foe Gulen
Bus carrying Israeli Muslims from prayer crashes, 8 dead
Explosion, gunfire along Egypt-Gaza border, no casualties
Yemen: Rift opens between Houthis and Saleh, say sources
Tunisia: Splits emerge over Ennahda cabinet roles
Ukraine fighting raises death toll over 5,350
Saudi Beheads Jordanian Drug Trafficker
Jazeera Reporter Renounces Egypt Citizenship in Freedom Bid
Kerry Praises Qatar for Help on Yemen Crisis
EU Slams Egypt for Mass Death Sentences
Hamas Supporters in Gaza Protest Egyptian Court Ban

Jihad Watch Site Latest Reports
Islamic State video showing Jordanian pilot burned alive titled with Qur’an quote
Islamic State supporters post photos purportedly showing Jordanian pilot burnt alive
France: Muslim slashes soldiers on anti-terror patrol in front of Jewish community center
AFDI to Condemn Islamic State’s “Unspeakable” Brutality in Killing of Jordanian Pilot
GWU Panel Surprisingly Acknowledges Resurgent Jihadism
Paul Weston: The Multicultural Madness of Theresa May
France arrests eight more Muslims with alleged jihadist ties
State Dept now denies that Georgetown U set up Muslim Brotherhood meeting
Norway banishes jihadist cleric to remote village
Muslim couple plotted jihad bombing of British Columbia legislature
One in five Turks think Charlie Hebdo cartoonists got what they deserved

Fatwa: Islamic State Justifies Burning Pilot Alive
By Raymond Ibrahim/February 3, 2015
Once again, the Islamic State performs an atrocity that boggles the mind of the West, and once again the Islamic State points to its namesake—Islam—to justify its act. The Islamic State has just released a video showing captive Jordanian pilot Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh in a cage being burned alive (image above). It also posted a fatwa on various jihadi websites that permits the immolation of human beings. The main point of the fatwa is that “the Hanafis and Shafi‘is [two of Sunni Islam’s four orthodox schools of jurisprudence] permit burning” people. The fatwa also cites the tafsir, or exegesis, of Muhalab ibn Safra concerning a statement attributed to the prophet of Islam: “Fire does not punish them but Allah.” According to the tafsir, Muhammad’s assertion is not a ban on burning people but rather meant to demonstrate humility—pointing out that only Allah can truly torment. Next the fatwa quotes Hafiz ibn al-Hajar who comments that “the deeds of the companions [of Muhammad] evince the permissibility of burning, and the prophet put out the eyes of the men of Urayna with heated iron, and Khalid bin al-Walid burned some of the people who apostatized.” As for Khalid—the revered “Sword of Allah”—I wrote about him here, including how he once beheaded an “apostate,” raped his beautiful wife, and then set the man’s severed head on fire before cooking his dinner on it. None of this is surprising. As discussed here, for every atrocity the Islamic State performs—beheading, crucifying, raping, enslaving, and now immolating—they have precedents from Islam, whether in the behavior of Muhammad or his companions.

Open letter from a concerned Lebanese To Israel
J.Post/ 02.02.15
The time has come to free Lebanon from the grip of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. The time has come for a long-lasting peace, with prosperity and dividends for everybody in the region.
Lebanon War
Dear Israel, If you are thinking of attacking Hezbollah in Lebanon, please do not repeat the mistake you made in 2006 when you attacked all of Lebanon, and not just Hezbollah and its strongholds. That was a strategic error, and we are all still paying the price, as it made Hezbollah stronger, not weaker.
In 2006, the majority of Lebanese hated Hezbollah. They had no doubt Hezbollah was a cancer.
When that war started and was originally confined to South Lebanon, many other parts of Lebanon began to rejoice and dream of the possibility that if Israel were to weaken Hezbollah there, the rest of the country could squeeze it from the other side, and finish it.
But that fantasy didn’t last too long, as Israel started bombing other areas of Lebanon, deep into Christian regions, the northern regions, mountains, bridges, factories, oil refineries and power plants. By doing so, Israel made just about everybody in Lebanon its victim, and that turned popular opinion against it, while giving more sympathy to Hezbollah. In essence, Israel fell into the geopolitical trap Hezbollah set for it. By weakening Lebanon, Israel made Hezbollah stronger, and allowed it to continue consolidating and expanding its powers, which it has been doing ever since.
You might wonder why Lebanese politicians aren’t more strongly opposed to Hezbollah, and why there isn’t an effective desire to stop them.
The reason is that most Lebanese politicians fear for their lives. The reality is that Hezbollah is terrorizing not just Israel, but also Lebanon and its population. We are hostages in our own country, and have become subservient to Hezbollah’s foolish political, ideological and military ambitions, which the vast majority in Lebanon want nothing to do with.
Of course, Iran is the root of all of this, so if you must strike, maybe consider starting where the problem is.
But if you must strike within Lebanon, please spare it from total destruction and collateral damage, so you end up with an ally, and not an apocalypse. Make an effort to preserve Lebanon and its institutions, so we can end up as partners for a long-lasting peace, just as it was many years ago.
If you destroy Lebanon, it will become even more infested with rogue groups, terrorists and extremists; you might even have Islamic State at your doors. If you destroy Lebanon, you will certainly make all of Lebanon and its strong diaspora your enemies for life.
I belong to no political party, and my religion is irrelevant. I’m saying what millions of Lebanese do not dare say in public, but it is what’s in our minds.
The time has come to free Lebanon from the grip of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. The time has come for a long-lasting peace, with prosperity and dividends for everybody in the region. Just as the US and Canada came to finally help the Jewish people from the Holocaust atrocities of World War II; and just as you have earned their respect and alliances for life, I’m hopeful that Israel will do the right thing and destroy the Nazi-style movements that are currently at its doors, while sparing the good people (and innocent civilians) in the process.
Thank you, A concerned Lebanese

John Baird tells Parliament he's leaving politics and his foreign affairs post
The Canadian Press/03.02.15
OTTAWA - John Baird made it official this morning, telling a hushed House of Commons that he is stepping down as Stephen Harper's foreign affairs minister and leaving federal politics. Baird, grinning broadly to a standing ovation from around the Commons, said he is optimistic about the future of the country and boasted about Canada's standing on the world stage. But he said it was time to quit, that he would soon be leaving his MP's post in an Ottawa riding, and that he would not run in a federal election later this year.
Baird also appeared to confirm the suddeness of his departure, which broke like an earthquake in the frozen capital on Monday evening. "Mr. Speaker, last night I spoke to the prime minister and informed him I was standing down from cabinet," Baird told a packed House, with Harper seated just to his left. "I expressed my intention not to run in the next general election in the new riding of Nepean and I also expressed my intention to stand down as member of Parliament for the Ottawa West-Nepean in the weeks ahead."
A parade of cabinet ministers, Conservative backbenchers and opposition MPs came and shook Baird's hand or hugged the popular minister after his address, bringing Commons business to a stand-still for 15 minutes.
There is widespread speculation that the Ottawa politician is headed to a career in the private sector, however Baird, 45, did not clear up his future intentions in his address to Parliament. Friends and political foes alike took to Twitter to pay tribute to Baird. Former Liberal MP Bob Rae — whose association with Baird dates back to their days in the Ontario legislature in the 1990s — called him "bombastic, mean spirited, vicious, eloquent, generous, smart, cantankerous, hardworking, ingratiating, effective, human."
From NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar: "I thank John @Baird for his service. We've always worked together when we agreed & debated passionately when we didn't. I wish him the best." Last night, Conservative MP Larry Miller tweeted: "Hope what I'm hearing about MP John Baird not running is false He's been a gr8 FA Minister Hope he's gonna help Kevin Rudd fix the UN & WHO."
Baird was recently asked by the head of a new international commission to help him reform the United Nations World Health Organization because it responded too slowly to the Ebola crisis.

Al-Rahi Hopes Success for French Presidential Envoy
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi expressed hope on Tuesday that a French presidential envoy would be able to resolve the Baabda Palace impasse. Before traveling to Rome, al-Rahi hoped that Jean-François Girault, who is the director of the department of the Middle East and North Africa at the French Foreign Ministry, would “succeed in his mission.” Girault arrived in Beirut on Monday for talks with the country's rival leaders, in his second visit to Lebanon in more than two months. The official has been tasked by French President Francois Hollande to try to reach a breakthrough over the presidential elections in Lebanon. The country has been left without a head of state since President Michel Suleiman's term ended in May last year. Al-Rahi, who is a cardinal, was asked at Rafik Hariri International Airport about the deadly bus bombing that targeted Lebanese pilgrims in Damascus on Sunday. “The world cannot go on in this condition of violence, war, murder and destruction,” he said. The blast ripped through a bus carrying the pilgrims, killing at least nine people in an attack claimed by al-Nusra Front. In his remarks to reporters at the airport, the patriarch thanked all those who visited him and inquired about his health following his surgery to remove a blood clot in the head. Al-Rahi is traveling to Rome to participate in the meeting of the College of Cardinals.

Girault Kicks Off Beirut Visit by Meeting Berri, Bassil
Naharnet /Visiting Director of the Department of the Middle East and North Africa at the French Foreign Ministry Jean-François Girault kicked off on Tuesday a two-day official visit to Lebanon. The French diplomat met for an hour with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil at the Bustros Palace, in presence of Ambassador Patrice Paoli.  He later met with Speaker Nabih Berri. The official described the meeting as “fruitful,” without making any further statements. Ad Diyar newspaper reported earlier on Tuesday that Girault is preparing for a visit to Beirut by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and another by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Girault's visit comes in light of his country's insistence to resolve the presidential deadlock in Lebanon and ease the tension. Lebanon has been without a president since May when the term of Michel Suleiman ended without the election of his successor. Ongoing disputes between the rival March 8 and 14 camps have thwarted the elections. The French diplomat, according to Ad Diyar, is expected to hold talks with the political arch-foes, including Hizbullah.  Girault will also seek to reactivate talks on a new head of state, despite previous knowledge that foreign countries are impeding the elections, the newspaper reported. The visit comes in light of Girault's recent talks in Riyadh, Tehran, Washington and the Vatican over the presidential crisis in Lebanon. He also met with al-Mustaqbal movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri in Saudi Arabia. Media reports said last week that the French official decided to suspend his endeavors to reach a breakthrough regarding the presidential stalemate in Lebanon unless new developments occur.  Girault last visited Lebanon in December, where he met during his two-day visit prominent Lebanese officials. The French diplomat was tasked by French President Francois Hollande to try to reach a breakthrough over the presidential elections in Lebanon.

Army, Militants Clash in Ras Baalbek and Arsal Outskirts

Naharnet/The Lebanese army and militants clashed on the outskirts of the northeastern village of Ras Baalbek overnight as troops targeted fighters in the areas surrounding the town of Arsal, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday. NNA reported shooting incidents and skirmishes between armed groups and the military's bases in the area of Tallet al-Hamra that lies in Ras Baalbek's outskirts. Last month, eight soldiers were killed in the same area in a battle between troops and Syria-based fighters from the Islamic State group.
The cross-border attack was the most serious since IS and al-Nusra Front militants seized Lebanese soldiers and policemen in a raid in Arsal in August 2014. NNA also said Tuesday that the army targeted suspicious movements of gunmen in the areas of Wadi Hmeid and al-Mesyada on Arsal's outskirts. The clashes came as al-Joumhouria daily quoted a high-ranking military official as saying that the army is thwarting daily infiltration attempts in Arsal. The militants “are incapable of violating the strong measures” taken by the army, said the source.
The official added that “the military has consolidated the Ras Baalbek front, making it impossible for terrorists to find any road to reach it

Mawlawi still in Ain al-Hilweh, not on Arsal outskirts: Interior Minister
The Daily Star/Feb. 03, 2015/BEIRUT: Lebanon's most wanted fugitive is still hiding out in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, and not on the outskirts of the northeastern border with other jihadis, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Tuesday, reversing a statement he made last week. In remarks to Al-Akhbar newspaper, Machnouk said Shadi Mawlawi was not on the outskirts of Arsal mingling with Nusra Front militants as he had previously claimed. Machnouk said his previous assertion was based on an innacurate security report. The whereabouts of Mawlawi, who was sentenced to death in abstentia last year on terror charges, have puzzled investigators since fleeing his hometown of Tripoli after a June 2014 security sweep of the city. Mawlawi tweeted last week saying he had fled the south Lebanon Palestinian refugee camp.The Army last week briefly detained Mawlawi's son and mother-in-law for interrogation after it was believed that they had recently visited him in the camp.

Report: Gemayel to Step Down from Kataeb Leadership in Favor of Son
Naharnet/Kataeb Party leader Amin Gemayel is expected to hand over the party's leadership post to his son MP Sami Gemayel in the summer, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Tuesday. The daily said Gemayel the father will make the announcement during the party's conference, which Kataeb is compelled to hold every four years in accordance to its by-laws.The young lawmaker is widely influential inside the party, al-Akhbar said. But he is known to make fiery speeches and statements. The newspaper quoted him as saying on Saturday that all those fighting in support of the Syrian regime should be stripped of their Lebanese nationality. The MP has allegedly criticized Hizbullah's unilateral decision of war and peace and Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's latest stances. Hizbullah has sent its members to Syria to help President Bashar Assad against rebels seeking to topple him. Some Kataeb politburo members denied the remarks made by the MP while others said they only represent his viewpoint, al-Akhbar said. Gemayel the father disagrees with his son over fears that his criticism would have a negative impact on the rapprochement between the Kataeb and Hizbullah, it added.

Emir of Nusra Front in Qalamoun Says Damascus Bombing Clear Message to Hizbullah
Naharnet /Abou Malek al-Shami, the emir of the al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front in al-Qalamoun, considered on Tuesday that the blast which targeted a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in Damascus a “clear message for those who are assaulting Sunnis.”“Hizbullah played a substantial role in supporting the vicious Nusairi regime and shed the blood of Sunnis in Damascus... our response had to be brutal,” al-Shami said in a post via his Facebook page. He slammed “certain sides that are describing the assault as terrorist and turning a blind eye to the Iranian Hizbullah crimes against the Sunnis in the Sham.”“Those sides are aiding Hizbullah by oppressing (the Syrians) who were compelled to flee their country to Lebanon and other areas.”A blast ripped through a bus carrying Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in Damascus on Sunday, killing at least nine people in an attack claimed by al-Nusra Front. Al-Shami also called on Sunnis in Lebanon and Syria to “avenge” those who contributed to the genocide in the Sham. The bombing underscored the sectarian nature of Syria's four-year war, and how neighboring Lebanon has become ensnared in the complex conflict. Al-Nusra accused the bus passengers of being Hizbullah fighters, claiming it was a suicide bombing, while Syrian state media and al-Manar TV both said the blast was caused by a bomb placed on the bus. The Nusra Front claim spotlighted why the pilgrims were likely targeted: as revenge for Hizbullah fighters defending Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hizbullah's direct participation in the Syrian conflict has prompted hard-line Sunni radicals to lash out against Shiite communities in Lebanon.

Analysis: Hizbullah Faces Hard Choices Between Fighting Israel, Sunnis
Associated Press/Hizbullah's ambitions are spreading far beyond its Lebanon home as the Shiite movement appears increasingly bent on taking on Sunni foes across the Middle East. It has sent thousands of its fighters into Syria and senior military advisers to Iraq, helped Shiite rebels rise to power in Yemen and threatened Bahrain over its abuse of the Shiite majority. But the regional aspirations also are taking a heavy toll and threatening to undermine Hizbullah's support at home. The group has suffered significant casualties, there is talk of becoming overstretched, and judging by the events of recent days, even a vague sense that the appetite for fighting the Israelis is waning.
In the recent confrontation, Israel struck first, purportedly destroying a Hizbullah unit near the front line of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Among the seven dead on Jan. 18 were an Iranian general, a top Hizbullah commander and the son of another former commander in chief. A heavy Hizbullah retaliation appeared inevitable. Yet when it came last Wednesday, Hizbullah's revenge was relatively modest: two Israeli soldiers dead, seven wounded. The choice of location — a disputed piece of land excluded from a U.N. resolution that ended the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel — suggested to some that Hizbullah's mind remains focused on more distant fronts.
The Hizbullah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, seemed to allude to criticism that Hizbullah's taste for foreign adventurism is weakening its appetite for fighting Israel. In his speech Friday, Nasrallah said Israel had incorrectly thought that "Hizbullah is busy, confused, weak and drained. ... The resistance is in full health, readiness, awareness, professionalism and courage."  It is part of a complex equation for Hizbullah: On the one hand, many Lebanese resent the group for embroiling their vulnerable country in ruinous wars with Israel. But on the other, all shades of Muslim opinion see the Jewish state as a common enemy that Hizbullah forced, in 2000, to end an 18-year occupation in south Lebanon. In that sense even Sunnis, who along with Christians and Shiites make a third of the country's population each, could see Hizbullah as a protector.
But that was then. Today, many increasingly look to Sunni-majority powers as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as their true backers.
"Increasingly, Hizbullah's leadership perceives itself as a Shiite Arab regional actor, placing its commitment to the Palestinian cause on par with its mission as a defender of Shiite political and religious rights in the Arab region," said Randa Slim, a director at the Washington-based Middle East Institute. "The consequence for Lebanon is that at some point the Shiite underpinnings of Hizbullah's regional role will clash with the interests and demands of its non-Shiite, mainly Sunni compatriots."
Hizbullah has room to grow as a leading defender of Shiites. But when Nasrallah has tried to make aggressive political proclamations, the results sometimes have backfired.
On Jan. 9, Nasrallah harshly criticized Bahrain over its crackdown on a Shiite-led uprising and its arrest of a leading Shiite cleric, Ali Salman. He compared Bahrain to his archenemy Israel, saying it was naturalizing foreigners to make the Persian Gulf island increasingly less Shiite.Nasrallah then issued a veiled threat to Bahrain, although he said protests should remain peaceful. "Weapons can be sent to the most secure countries. Fighters and gunmen can enter and small groups can sabotage a country," he said.
Hostile reaction swept the Arab world and Lebanon, where even some Shiites complained that threatening Bahrain could spur oil-rich Gulf nations to expel Lebanese Shiites from their soil. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council called Nasrallah's comments "hostile and irresponsible." The 22-nation Arab League accused him of meddling in Bahrain.
Hizbullah's largest and most visible commitment is in Syria, where thousands of Hizbullah members are fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces against predominantly Sunni rebels.When Hizbullah first sent fighters to Syria in late 2012, Nasrallah said their role was to defend Shiite holy shrines near the capital, Damascus. Their role expanded to the defense of predominantly Shiite Lebanese residents of Syrian villages. The group now says its main reason to be in Syria is to prevent Sunni extremists from moving into Lebanon.
Hardly a week passes without Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV airing funerals for fighters slain in Syria. Last year, a Hizbullah commander, Ibrahim Mohammed al-Haj, was killed while on a "jihadi mission" in Iraq.
Hizbullah positions in Lebanon also face repeated attacks mostly by an al-Qaida-linked group, the Nusra Front, based on the Syrian side of the border. Their wave of bombings since late 2013 have killed and wounded scores of people, and obliged Hizbullah to employ stiff security countermeasures, including the deployment of plainclothes Hizbullah members around the clock in Shiite business districts south of Beirut. In Yemen, security officials say Hizbullah, which has long had a presence, has dispatched increasing number of cadres to the impoverished country since Shiite Houthis took over the capital, Sanaa, in September and later the airport. The officials said before the takeover of the capital, Hizbullah had military and security advisers based in the Houthi's stronghold of Saada province near the Saudi border, where the group's leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, is based. Analyst Rami Khouri recently wrote in Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper that all the adventurism has come at a political price.
"Hizbullah was widely acclaimed in much of Lebanon and the region for leading the battle to liberate south Lebanon from Israeli occupation," he wrote. "Today, the very polarized Lebanese see the party either as the nation's savior and protector — or as a dangerous Iranian Trojan horse." Associated Press

Lebanon labor minister declares win for casino workers

The Daily Star/Feb. 03, 2015 /BEIRUT: A settlement was reached between Casino du Liban's management and fired workers who ended a strike and reopened the facility, Labor Minister Sejaan Azzi said Tuesday. In a press conference delivered after a meeting with representative of the employees and the management at his office Tuesday, Azzi said that sacked employees “benefited” from “achievements in labor and administrative issues” after a settlement was reached with the casino’s management. Azzi did not divulge the details of a settlement that ended a week-long strike and paved the way for reopening the facility at midnight Monday, but said that the deal consisted of “several points the Labor Ministry had suggested after consulting with relevant parties.”Casino du Liban’s management sacked 191 employees a week ago under the pretext that most of them were not showing up to work, an allegation strongly rejected by the casino’s unions. In response to the sacking, staff staged a sit-in at the premises of the casino and closed all gaming rooms. According to Azzi, some points considered during the deal involved the issue of increasing compensations, not firing sick employees until they reach the age of retirement, freezing the decision to fire 191 employees and reconsidering the list of employees who had been sacked.
Not all the above points were included in the settlement. “We don’t consider it a final solution,” Azzi said.

Lebanon hostage families to resume protests over officials' silence
The Daily Star/Feb. 03, 2015/BEIRUT: Families of the 25 Lebanese servicemen being held hostage by jihadis on the northeastern border criticized the government for failing to update them on developments in their case Tuesday, threatening to resume blocking roads unless they receive answers. “We support discretion, and we have committed to it,” one of the relatives told television reporters after meeting with MP Walid Jumblatt at his residence in Clemenceau. “But discretion is [supposed to be] towards the media and press, not toward the father, mother and sister [of the hostage].”The families in December reopened a Downtown Beirut road after blocking it for more than two months after they received assurances that the government would update them on negotiations with ISIS and the Nusra Front to free them. In exchange, the families promised not to leak any details of the case to the media. The two jihadi groups abducted the servicemen during a five-day battle in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August. Another relative wondered why the government has yet to find any solution to the 6-month-long hostage crisis while other controversies like that of the sacked Casino du Liban employees were solved quickly. “We still have 24 hours or we will go block the casino,” he warned, demanding to be updated on the hostage case.
“If the state was serious since the beginning we would have never reached this phase,” he added. “The government was not serious at all during the first five months.”Casino du Liban fired 191 employees last week, sparking a sit-in that shut down the facility for more than six days before a deal was reached to end the affair.

Injuries as firefighters battle Beirut wood factory blaze
The Daily Star/Feb. 03, 2015 /BEIRUT: A large fire swept through a factory north of Beirut that specializes in fire-rated wood Tuesday, with reports saying five employees were injured and one was missing. The fire erupted on the second floor of a factory owned by Khalil Matar in the industrial zone of Dikwaneh, in the Metn district of Mount Lebanon. Matar told Al-Manar that five people were injured and one was missing. MTV said the injuries were mostly light and caused by asphyxiation, not burns. The Red Cross said its medics moved 3 people to hospitals for treatment. A civil defense spokesperson told reporters that the missing man is Palestinian. "We don't know if he is inside the building. It's too early to say what happened to him," the spokesperson said. The factory, Bois d'Afrique, specializes "in the production of fire-rated wooden doors," according to its website. Around 10 fire trucks were deployed to battle the blaze. Fire fighters tried to prevent it from spreading from the second floor to the first and ground floors, where a clothes warehouse is located.
Black smoke emerged from the building’s second floor windows as firefighters used ladders to rescue trapped workers. Matar told MTV that his factory was insured against fires. The state prosecutor’s office tasked a civil defense technician to investigate the cause of the fire and file a special report to the office, a security souce told The Daily Star. The prosecutor will then make a legally binding decision that determines whether or not the insurance company will be required to pay compensation to the owner. The preliminary information said the fire was sparked by an electric flame.

Truckers at Beirut Port Suspend Strike over Fourth Basin after Salam's Pledge to Resolve Crisis
Naharnet/The truckers syndicate at Beirut Port announced on Tuesday the suspension of their strike in protest against the fourth basin at the facility after receiving a pledge from Prime Minister Tammam Salam to “resolve the crisis.”The syndicate was informed of the pledge by Education Minister Elias Bou Saab. Head of the syndicate, Naim Sawaya said that the strike “was suspended at the wishes of Salam, Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, bishop Boulos Sayyah, General Seurity chief Abbas Ibrahim, and various parties.”
Earlier, Bou Saab and Sayyah had visited Salam at the Grand Serail on Monday to pressure him into finding a solution to the project to fill the basin. Their visit came after the truckers syndicate at Beirut Port temporarily closed the entrance to the facility pending a solution by the government to the controversial project. The syndicate claims that the filling of the basin would end the role of Beirut Port and would harm the economy. The project will give more space to store containers. But there are fears that transforming the Port of Beirut into a transshipment hub would direct large vessels to the Port of Tripoli because the fourth basin will no longer be able to accept big cargo ships. This will allegedly cause hundreds of Beirut Port employees, mostly truckers, to lose their jobs. The rival Christian parties back the truckers. Sayyah and Bou Saab briefed on Tuesday the syndicates at Beirut Port and the representatives of Christian parties during a meeting in Bkirki on the results of their talks with Salam. Bou Saab denied in remarks to reporters that there was unanimity on filling the fourth basin and said he and the bishop are seeking to end the strike as a first positive step towards resolving the crisis. In remarks published in several local dailies, Bou Saab said Salam pledged to resolve the problem without damaging the current strategy or harming public interest.
The minister ruled out putting the issue on the cabinet's agenda. But Economy Minister Alain Hakim stressed that the ministers representing Christian parties will propose to discuss the subject from outside the cabinet agenda during the upcoming session.
As Safir daily quoted an informed source as saying that the first solution to the crisis lies in stopping the work to fill the basin pending an agreement on it. Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon told the same newspaper that discussions are currently underway on whether the entire basin or only major part of it will be filled. “The issue could be reviewed technically and economically to guarantee a transparent operation,” he said.

Pope approves martyrdom for slain Salvadoran Romero
Nicole Winfield| Associated Press/Feb. 03, 2015
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis decreed Tuesday that slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero was killed out of hatred for the faith, approving a martyrdom declaration that sets the stage for his beatification. Francis, the first Latin American pope, approved the decree honoring one of the heroes of Latin American Catholics at a meeting with the head of the Vatican's saint-making office. Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down by right-wing death squads in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country's 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels. His sainthood cause had been held up by the Vatican for years out of concern at his perceived association with liberation theology, the Latin American-inspired Catholic theology advocating for the poor. But Francis "unblocked" the cause soon after being elected. No date for the beatification has been set. Francis has all but ruled out celebrating it himself, saying recently that it would be up to the head of the saint-making office, Cardinal Angelo Amato, and the prelate who for decades has spearheaded Romero's cause, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, to decide who would get the honor. Paglia was to meet with reporters Wednesday to discuss the historic case.
Unlike regular candidates for beatification, martyrs can reach the first step to possible sainthood without a miracle attributed to their intercession. A miracle is needed for canonization, however. Traditionally, the church has restricted the martyr designation to people who were killed out of hatred for the Catholic faith. One of the reasons Romero's case had lagged was over questions about whether he was killed for his politics in support of the poor or for his faith.
The decree signed Tuesday by Francis makes clear that Romero was a martyr in the classic sense, killed out of hatred for the faith

The FSA is still fighting for the Syrian people
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al awsat
Tuesday, 3 Feb, 2015
The current debate about the actual size of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) highlights just how murky the situation is in Syria, and how easily propaganda is marketed by both sides. The Syrian regime is pushing the idea that the opposition is divided and has been wiped out, while the opposition says it is reorganizing 60,000 fighters who are members of the FSA.What is certain is that the Western support the FSA is receiving has decreased. The Wall Street Journal has reported that American military support for the Syrian opposition has declined, and that the US only gave the equivalent of 16 bullets a month per fighter. On Wednesday, the US State Department said: “Since the first of the year, we have delivered approximately 2.7 million dollars of nonlethal supplies and equipment to the moderate opposition, including water trucks, backhoes, generators, winter gear, and more than 17,000 food baskets.” Despite this scarcity, the FSA and the moderate Syrian opposition in general deserve respect for their steadfastness despite a lull in support, and despite the restraints on them. For instance, they are no longer able to move freely in northern Syria due to constant attacks by the extremist Al-Nusra Front. On top of that, Turkey has also begun to restrain the activity of the FSA and its leaders, perhaps as a result of foreign pressure. Despite the restraints levied against it, the FSA is on the verge of consolidating its control of southern Syria—in Dera’a and its surroundings—even though many of the fighters have not received salaries in months. Salim Idris, minister of defense in the opposition government, said recently the opposition has begun to unite its various factions to establish a united army that will include 60,000 fighters. Idris added he believes the world will realize its only option to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is to topple the Syrian regime and support the moderate opposition, which represents all Syrian people of different religions, sects and tribes. Some American politicians and legislators agree with this opinion when it comes to the topic of confronting ISIS and the threats it poses to the world. A member of the US Senate’s defense committee recently said: “The American government must support the Free Syrian Army because it’s the only option. Despite the hesitation to support [the FSA], its leadership will be capable of altering the vision of regional countries in support of the Syrian people and [will also be capable] of altering the vision of suspicious Western countries if it really manages to reunite itself and if it really succeeds at uniting the ranks of, at least, its military leaderships [especially since] rival and competing political leaderships are not as significant during this difficult phase

Female Iraqi, Sajida al-Rishaw, militant held by Jordan is heroine to jihadists
By REUTERS/02/03/2015
Sajida al-Rishawi, death-row prisoner in Jordan, serves as hero to jihadists; Islamic State fights for her freedom.
Islamic State
AMMAN/BAGHDAD- When her husband blew himself up in a luxury hotel during a wedding in Amman a decade ago, Sajida al-Rishawi was meant to die too, but her suicide bomb belt did not go off. Today, as a death-row prisoner in Jordan, she is a heroine to jihadists in the region, who may be willing to swap a Jordanian pilot for her. Rishawi, now in her mid-40s, has an influential background in militant circles: she hails from a powerful Sunni clan in Western Iraq, and her brother was a top lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaida's Iraq branch. Today, that group has since transformed itself into Islamic State, breaking off from al-Qaida and controlling swathes of Iraq and Syria. One of her cousins, Abdul Sittar Abu Risha, was a major figure in establishing the Sunni Awakening, a tribal movement that joined forces with the US military and turned against al-Qaida. Although she is just one of thousands of suicide bombers and would-be bombers who have been sent to kill and die by al-Qaida and its offshoots, her background has helped turn her into a symbol to jihadists, who would make the most of her release. "She is an old woman, she does not have that much importance," said Sheikh Mehdi Abdel Sittar Abu Risha, another cousin and senior figure in her prominent Abu Risha tribe in Iraq's Anbar province. "But (Islamic State) has used this as a political matter to say, 'We take pride in our people more than you take pride in yours.'"Winning her freedom would be an important victory for Islamic State's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad, Zarqawi's successor, whose aim is to show that his organization is the foremost protector of Sunni militants across the Middle East, particularly among Iraq's tribes. He has evoked her personally, vowing in a rare public address in the newly captured Iraqi city of Mosul in July to win freedom for female jihadist prisoners.  "He made the name of Sajida synonymous with the name of Baghdadi," said an Iraqi security source.
It is still far from clear that any prisoner swap can be negotiated. In statements released last week a Japanese journalist said his captors wanted to swap him for Rishawi, but any negotiations failed and he was beheaded.Jordan has offered to free Rishawi in return for its pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh who was captured in December after his jet crashed in territory controlled by the militants in Syria. Islamic State has called for Rishawi's release in exchange for Kasaesbeh's life but has not said it will free him. Jordanian officials say they have not been sent proof he is alive. Rishawi was sentenced to death in 2006 after surviving the attack on the Radisson Hotel in Amman, part of an operation that targeted four hotels across the city and killed 60 people, the worst hardline Islamist suicide attack in Jordan's history.
She confessed on Jordanian television days after the bombings but then pleaded not guilty at her trial. "I have no one ... I am alone with Allah protecting me," Rishawi told the judge at the trial in 2006 where she appeared dressed in a long black coat and headscarf. Her lawyer Hussein Masri told Reuters she had begged him to defend her staunchly, saying she would hold him "accountable in front of God in the day of reckoning" if he failed her. Her importance to Islamic State stems from the links she had to late Iraqi al-Qaida leader Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. air strike in 2006 after leading the Sunni Muslim insurgency against US occupation forces. The hotel attack with her husband was the first ordered by Zarqawi outside Iraq.
"Zarqawi made a vow to free Sajida. Whoever fulfils this vow will win the sympathy of all the jihadists loyal to Zarqawi. This will be a point for (Islamic State) against al-Qaida," the Iraqi security official said. Since breaking away from al-Qaida, Islamic State fighters have sought to establish themselves as the main jihadist force in the Middle East, declaring a caliphate last year in land they control in Syria and Iraq. Attempts to free her are also aimed at embarrassing Jordanian intelligence, widely seen as one of the most sophisticated agencies of its kind in the Arab world, the official added. She is classed as a high security detainee and has been in solitary confinement in Jweideh prison since she was arrested, a Jordanian security official said. None of her relatives have ever asked to see her, another source added.
The Rishawis hail from the city of al-Khalidiya in Iraq's central Anbar province. Sajida comes from a pious family which brought her up under hardline Salafist doctrine. Her brother Haji Thamer, who was killed in Fallujah in 2004, was said to be a leading aide of Zarqawi. Two other brothers also died in Fallujah in 2004, site of seminal battles against the US Marines. Rishawi and members of her Abu Risha family were treated as "VIPs" in Islamic State circles, a US government source following the case said. The Jordanians are worried about releasing her because of her importance to the group and the fear the pilot would remain in captivity, the U.S. source added. Her release could win support from her tribe in Anbar, an important constituency for jihadists in Iraq.
"All her family are a jihadist family that gave many sacrifices and who are still in the Islamic State in Anbar. So she is a potent symbol from the first generation of al-Qaida in Iraq who formed the nucleus of present day Islamic State," Jordanian jihadist scholar Hassan Abu Hanieh said.