July 19/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 11,25-27. At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

Syria and Iran Target again the UN forces in Southern Lebanon-. By: Elias Bejjani-World Forum -July 19/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for July 19/07
Bombs Hurled From Speeding Car in South Lebanon
Report: Fatah al-Islam linked to Bashar Assad's Brother in Law
Disarrayed Fatah al-Islam Terrorists Rocket North Lebanon's Residential Districts
NATO Finds Copy of Hizbullah's Explosives in Afghanistan
Lebanon troops 'close in at camp'-
BBC News
Militants say ready to talk to end Lebanon fighting-Reuters
War approaching end in Lebanon camp, mass grave found-Ya Libnan
France Reconciles Syria Over Lebanon
French envoy in Syria to discuss Lebanon crises-Ya Libnan
Mid-East diary: A time of unease-BBC News
Israel confirms third-party contacts with Syria-International Herald Tribune
Olmert Failed in Protecting Israeli Civilians During Lebanon War
Intelligence Report: Qaida, Hizbullah Persistent Threats to the U.S.- Naharnet
Nahr al-Bared War Approaching End, Bodies of 39 Militants Found-Naharnet
NBN Broadcaster Reinstated, Causing Rage-Naharnet
Assad: Israel, Syria in contact through intermediary country-Ha'aretz
Ahmadinejad to visit Syria-Ynetnews
Aoun sees own candidacy as only way out of crisis-Gulf Times
Hamas rejects Bush proposal for Mideast conference, Syria is skeptical-Boston Herald
Army pushes militants into shrinking pocket in Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star
Lebanese comedian teams up with UNIFIL on awareness campaign-Daily Star
Ten illegal immigrants arrested in raid in Tyre-Daily Star
Ice forms again between rival factions as Lebanese leaders await Cousseran-Daily Star
Hizbullah blitzes South with billboards praising resistance-Daily Star
Lebanese refugee camps as space of exception-Daily Star
Solidere activity abroad angers Lebanese shareholders-Daily Star
Tripoli laments effect of Nahr al-Bared on economy-Daily Star
NBN reinstates journalist fired for on-air remarks-Daily Star
Photo exhibition displays horrors of last year's war-Daily Star
A Lebanese film on fear and Christian migration to Mars-Daily Star
Old Kingdom city found in Egyptian desert-Daily Star
Assad sets Golan pullout as condition for future talks-Daily Star

Nahr al-Bared War Approaching End, Bodies of 39 Militants Found
The battle against Islamists in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared was on Wednesday reportedly approaching the end with the Lebanese army now surrounding Fatah al-Islam militants in a very narrow area. The daily An Nahar said the new advances made Tuesday evening into the old sector of the camp left the terrorists encircled in an area no larger than 100 meters. Meanwhile, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said the bodies of 39 Fatah al-Islam militants lay in a Tripoli morgue, pending identification. It said DNA tests were being conducted on the bodies. NNA said the militants were killed since the fighting in the Nahr al-Bared camp broke out May 20. Army troops on Tuesday wer making "significant" gains in their weeks-long battle against the al-Qaida-inspired militants holding out inside Nahr al-Bared, according to security officials. Witnesses said the army was using armored bulldozers to push its way through the rubble in the devastated camp. Three armored personnel carriers could also be seen parked atop the rubble of destroyed buildings. A security camera was also seen placed on the rooftop of one of the collapsed buildings. On Tuesday, another Lebanese soldier was killed in the fighting as the army closed in on Fatah al-Islam positions. The Nahr al-Bared battle has now cost the lives of 101 soldiers, out of a total death toll of about 200. Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 07:07

Report: Fatah al-Islam linked to Bashar Assad's Brother in Law
An alleged leader of the Fatah al-Islam terrorist network has testified to interrogators that the group is linked to the head of Syria's intelligence apparatus Maj. Gen. Asef Shawkat, the brother in law of President Bashar Assad. Ahmed Merie, a Lebanese citizen arrested late in May at a Beirut hotel, also testified to military examining magistrate Rashid Mezher that four members of Fatah al-Islam gunned down legislator Pierre Gemayel on Nov. 21 in east Beirut's suburb of Jdaideh, according to the daily al-Moustaqbal. Another pan Arab daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat, published a similar report.
The report said Merie testified to Mezher during interrogation that he was the "liaison officer" between Fatah al-Islam's leader Shaker Abssi and Shawkat.
Shawkat, according to Merie's alleged testimony, provided Fatah al-Islam with a "highly qualified explosives expert who trained members of the group on bob making."
Shawkat also provided the group with "significant support," the nature of which was not reported. Merie was also quoted as telling Mezher that he worked out the explosives expert's safe exit from the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon and back to Syria before the clashes broke out between fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese Army on May 20. The newspaper report quoted unidentified judicial sources as saying Merie identified four members of the Fatah al-Islam network who carried out the Gemayel murder.The sources, however, refused to disclose names of the suspects.
Nevertheless, the newspaper said the so-called Majd el-Dine Abboud, who also goes by the code name of Abu Yezen, was one of the suspects in the Gemayel murder. He was killed in confrontations with the Lebanese Army. It couldn't be determined whether Abboud was a Syrian or Palestinian citizen, the report noted.
Merie and his brother, Mohammed, also testified in separate sessions that Fatah al-Islam had planned to carry out bomb and booby-trapped car attacks against several targets in Lebanon, including two Beirut hotels frequented by personnel of the United Nations Interim, Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in addition to some embassies and U.N. offices, the report added. It said Merie testified to playing a role in smuggling Iraqi, Tunisian and Saudi "jihadists" to Lebanon via Syria.
Such Jihadists included Fatah al-Islam Financial backer, a Saudi named Abdul Rahman al-Yahya, who goes by the code name of Abu Talha.
Merie, according to the report, rented an apartment for Yahya in the northern town of Tripoli and "received from him lots of money used to finance members of the group and for the purchase of a highly sophisticated machine used to forge passports which was confiscated later at one of the squad's apartments in Tripoli."
Merie, the report added, moved to the Akkar province after outbreak of clashes at Nahr al-Bared and stayed for a couple of days with a relative. He then moved to the eastern Bekaa valley before settling at the hotel in Beirut's district of Ashrafiyeh where he was busted by police and arrested.
"He maintained contact throughout that period with Abssi and his gang," the report concluded. Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 17:07

Bombs Hurled From Speeding Car in South Lebanon
One of two explosive charges hurled by unidentified assailants from a speeding car in south Lebanon exploded Wednesday inflicting minor damage, but no casualties were reported. The state-run National News Agency said the assailants drove a black BMW on the Kfar Falous-Jezzine road, east of the southern port city of Sidon.
The explosive charges, concealed in black bags, were dropped near the residence of police officer Fadi Iskandar and his brother, Ghassan.
An investigation was launched to determine the assailants, the report added without further elaboration. eirut, 18 Jul 07, 20:16

NATO Finds Copy of Hizbullah's Explosives in Afghanistan
NATO forces in Afghanistan said Wednesday they had found several Iranian-made armor-piercing explosives similar to what Hizbullah uses in Lebanon.
Thomas Kelly, a U.S. colonel under NATO command, said forces had found several of the so-called "explosively-formed projectiles" that were more sophisticated than the crudely-made bombs usually used by Afghan insurgents. But the senior spokeswoman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Claudia Foss, stressed that the alliance had no evidence that the Iranian government was involved in the supply.
Kelly said four of the devices, which are also being used by Iraqi insurgents and Lebanon's Hizbullah, were found in Herat near the Iranian border and in Kabul, where a fifth device had harmlessly exploded early this year. The colonel told a Kabul media briefing that the bombs were "something called explosively-formed projectiles (EFPs)... They're designed to penetrate armored vehicles. "These are very sophisticated IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and they're really not manufactured in any other places other than, our knowledge is, Iran," he said, adding that the explosives were factory-made.
Taliban insurgents commonly attack U.S.-led, NATO and Afghan targets with roadside bombs and other explosives made from old ammunition such as mortars and rockets left over from the war-torn country's decades of conflicts. "The insurgents may have access to this device but may not yet know how to use them or know if they're effective or not," Kelly said. Foss, however, told the same briefing that ISAF's commander had previously said "that we have no evidence of any formal supply of weapons from Iran."
"For decades this country has been under attack and we find weapons all the time but, as far as any formal supply, there's been no evidence." U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in June that "substantial" quantities of Iranian weapons are flowing into Afghanistan and that it was difficult to believe the Iranian government was not aware of it. The United States has long accused Iran's Quds Force, an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, of arming and training Shiite extremist groups in Iraq. But in recent months U.S. military officials have said Iranian-made weapons including EFPs have also turned up in Afghanistan.(AFP) Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 19:33

France Reconciles Syria Over Lebanon

France's decision to send a top diplomat for talks in Damascus this week is a "sign on the road of conciliation" with Syria, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Wednesday. Jean-Claude Cousseran, a former French ambassador to Damascus, has been in the Syrian capital since Tuesday in the first high-level contact between the two countries in more than two years. His visit was authorized after weekend talks in a Paris suburb among representatives of 14 Lebanese political parties, including the Syrian-backed Hizbullah. Cousseran's mission "seemed to us to be a good sign on the road of conciliation," Kouchner said at a news conference with his British counterpart David Miliband. "A certain number of obstacles (in the way of the weekend talks) disappeared because Syria wanted it that way, and so long as there are positive signals like that we will continue to make contact with Syria," he said. Cousseran said he briefed Syria's Walid Muallem on discussions held last week in the Paris suburb of Celle Saint-Cloud, between pro- and anti-Syrian Lebanese factions. Muallem "approved of the main elements of the French initiative," Cousseran told journalists in Damascus. SANA, Syria's official news agency, quoted Muallem as saying Syria is "ready to use all the means at its disposal to help reach an agreement between the Lebanese parties." France's relations with Syria have been frozen since the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. (AFP) Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 11:50

Olmert Failed in Protecting Israeli Civilians During Lebanon War

Israel's latest inquiry into last year's Lebanon war on Wednesday blasted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for "intolerable" failures in protecting civilians during the conflict, dealing yet another blow to the beleaguered premier. In a scathing report, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said Olmert, along with government and army top brass "failed severely in the decision-making process, their assessment and their treatment of the home front during the Lebanon war." "The severe failures, unfortunately, reached intolerable levels," it said. Olmert's office slammed the remarks as unfounded personal views by the government watchdog.
Aside from Olmert, Lindenstrauss pointed the finger of blame at former defense minister Amir Peretz, former army chief Dan Halutz and home front commander Yitzhak Gershon. "The leaders of the country invested most of their time in the war efforts, and not in treating the home front which was exposed to extensive attack from the outset of the war," said the 582-page report, which Lindenstrauss presented to the speaker of parliament. In Israel, both the government and army are responsible for providing services to civilians in time of war, from maintenance of public shelters, to rescue, medical and basic administrative services.
During the 34-day war with Hizbullah, the Shiite militia fired over 4,000 rockets into northern Israel, forcing a million residents to flee, paralyzing the northern part of the country and catching the public shelters system unawares. During and after the war, an avalanche of fierce criticism crashed on Olmert and the government for the lack of state support to civilians during the war, from inadequate bomb shelters to non-existent support to those fleeing.
Wednesday's report comes two and a half months after interim findings by the Winograd government inquiry into the war, which blasted Olmert for "serious failure," and Peretz and Halutz for failing in their duties. The Winograd commission is due to publish its final findings later this year, which are expected to further pile up the pressure on Olmert to resign over the conflict that many in Israel consider a failure. Halutz resigned from his post in January, while Peretz lost his seat after he was ousted as leader of the Labor party in June. But Olmert has resisted the pressure, arguing he had to first address the mistakes exposed during the war.
Olmert's office was quick to counter the criticism in Lindenstrauss's report, which was distributed to the media before its official release on Wednesday.
In a briefing to reporters on Tuesday, the head of Olmert's office, Raanan Dinur, conceded that the war revealed shortcomings, but insisted that the cabinet, which took office less than three months before it began on July 12, should not bear the brunt of blame. "No one can argue that the prime minister could within two months fix all the shortcomings which the report reveals which require long years," he told reporters. In his report, Lindenstrauss admitted that successive Israeli governments did not "fulfill their duty on the home front throughout the years as required." But the handling by Olmert's cabinet of the civilian defenses "were in most cases responsive and not initiated, partial, inadequate and often extremely late." This "left a 'vacuum on the home front and left the residents of the north exposed, vulnerable and defenseless at the hardest time," Lindenstrauss said.
In a written response distributed a day before the report's release, Olmert's office slammed Lindenstrauss's remarks, saying they "reflected, it seems, the state comptroller's personal views on several figures, including the prime minister."
Lindenstrauss's remarks in the report are "characterized by populist and superficial statements... aimed at creating media headlines, and do not reflect the actual report," the statement said. In its reaction, the army said the recommendation in the state comptroller's reports are already "in an advanced stage of implementation."(AFP) Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 18:18

Intelligence Report: Qaida, Hizbullah Persistent Threats to the U.S.
U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Hizbullah along with al-Qaida and other groups pose a "persistent and evolving threat" to the United States over the next three years. In the National Intelligence Estimate prepared for President George Bush and other top policymakers, analysts laid out a range of dangers: al-Qaida, Hizbullah and non-Muslim radical. The report said Hizbullah may be more likely to consider attacking the U.S., especially if it believes the Bush administration is directly threatening the party or its main backer Iran. About al-Qaida, the report said the terror network is using its growing strength in Pakistan and Iraq to plot attacks on U.S. soil, heightening the terror threat facing the United States over the next few years, intelligence agencies say. The findings focused most heavily on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, which was judged to remain the most serious threat to the U.S. The group's affiliate in Iraq, which has not yet posed a direct threat to U.S. soil, could do just that, the report concluded. Al-Qaida in Iraq threatened to attack the U.S. in a Web statement last September.
National Intelligence Council Chairman Thomas Fingar warned that the group's operatives in Iraq are getting portable, firsthand experience in covert communications, smuggling, improvised explosive devices, understanding U.S. military tactics and more. The Iraqi affiliate also helps al-Qaida more broadly as it tries to energize Sunni Muslim extremists around the globe, raise resources and recruit and indoctrinate operatives -- "including for homeland attacks," according to a declassified summary of the report's main findings. In addition, analysts stressed the importance of al-Qaida's increasingly comfortable hideout in Pakistan.
The assessment shows how the threat has changed. Just two years ago, the intelligence agencies considered al-Qaida's various "franchises" decentralized offshoots, with bin Laden mostly providing ideological direction.
Fingar said his experts believe bin Laden and his top deputy are hiding in Pakistan. "There is no question that the ungoverned character of the space is a major factor in the Taliban's and al-Qaida's and other extremist groups' ability to hide -- hide in plain sight," he said.
National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative written judgments of the 16 spy agencies across the breadth of the U.S. government. These documents reflect the consensus long-term thinking of top intelligence analysts. Tuesday's publicly disclosed judgments are part of a more expansive, still-classified document, approved by the heads of all 16 intelligence agencies on June 21. The report also said that the number of homegrown extremists in the U.S. and its Western allies is growing, fueled by Web sites and anti-American rhetoric. As for so-called "single-issue" terror groups, the report said that they will probably attack the U.S. on a smaller scale. They include white supremacists, anarchists and animal rights groups, such as Animal Liberation Front.(AP-Naharnet) (AP photo shows a Lebanese girl holding an Israeli rocket launcher seized by Hizbullah fighters during last summer's war at a Hizbullah exhibit of captured Israeli gear in the southern village Aita al-Shaab) Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 09:50

NBN Broadcaster Reinstated, Causing Rage
NBN television broadcaster, Sawsan Safa Darwish, who was fired following on-air remarks she made shortly after the June 13 bombing that killed Beirut MP Walid Eido, has been reinstated. The move angered pro-government politicians from the majority March 14 coalition. Deputy House Speaker Farid Makari accused Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who owns NBN, of "making a mistake and deceiving his voters." "If Speaker Nabih Berri has reinstated a journalist who used religious and factional words and cussed a martyred colleague of his without going through the trouble of offering condolences, then, I am surprised that some people were and are still hopeful that Speaker Berri will reopen the doors of Parliament," Makari said. "This is a good opportunity for those who elected Berri as Speaker to realize that they were deluded," he added. Sports and Youth Minister Ahmed Fatfat also held Berri responsible for any harm he or his family might face.
Fatfat had sued Darwish and all others involved in "stirring sectarian hatred and interfering in crime" after she was heard saying immediately following the explosion that killed Eido and nine other people: "Why were they late in killing him?," referring to Eido. She then said "they're driving us crazy," apparently referring to other anti-Syrian politicians. "Ahmed Fatfat is left. I'm counting them," she added. NBN TV had said it "regretted the unintentional mistake" which it said did not reflect the station's policies or moral and professional standards. It said the station had taken immediate measures against those responsible. Fatfat is a cabinet minister who has been one of the most outspoken critics of the opposition. A statement released by NBN board of directors Qassem Sweid accused Makari and "illegal cabinet minister" Ahmed Fatfat of "launching a campaign against the television station." Beirut, 18 Jul 07, 09:48