July 13/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 10,7-15. As you go, make this proclamation: 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words--go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.
Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Divide still evident in dual-citizenship debate- Interview with Elias July 13/07
In a region of turmoil, Lebanon at a crossroads-By Eli Khoury-Boston Globe- July 13/07

Year later, Lebanon paralyzed by crises-Chicago Tribune-July 13/07
Mostly, a divine victory for disinformation-By Michael Young. July 13/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for July 13/07
Brammertz Warns that Deteriorating Lebanon Situation Might Impede Investigation
Carpet Bombing of Fatah al-Islam Strongholds in Nahr al-Bared
Militants kill four Lebanese soldiers-AP
UN: Syria expresses flexibility on key Israeli demands-Ha'aretz
Southern Lebanon's slow recovery-BBC News
Crossfire War - Hezbollah Now Supplied with Anti-Aircraft Systems-
Two Soldiers Killed as Army Launches Massive Bombardment of Nahr al-Bared
200 suicide belts found in lorry at Syria-Iraq border-
Saniora Stretches a Hand for Entente-Naharnet
Jordan's King Urges Lebanese to Work for Lebanon's Interest-Naharnet
Israeli army: Don't expect war with Syria-United Press International
LEBANON: People flee Nahr al-Bared camp ahead of expected final ...Reuters
France hosts talks to try to pull Lebanon from the brink-European Jewish Press
Hizbullah to Attend Paris-Hosted Dialogue After 'Positive' French Attitude-Naharnet
Amnesty Faults Israel, Lebanon on War-
Washington Post - United States
Sarkozy petitioned on Hezbollah-Jewish Telegraphic Agency
A year after a costly war, Israelis mix pessimism and resilience-International Herald Tribune
Allegations of Hezbollah's Terrorist Activity in Iraq Are Met With ...Forward
ADL Calls For The Unconditional Release of Israeli Soldiers Held ...Anti-Defamation League (press release)
Lebanese expect more war -- perhaps against Israel, perhaps
Civilians flee Nahr al-Bared fearing assault
-Daily Star
Siniora appeals for unity on eve of war anniversary-Daily Star
New political party offers Shiites a third alternative
-Daily Star
Syria urges France to be neutral host of reconciliation talks
-Daily Star
Berri rejects reports of 'undisclosed' Damascus visit
-Daily Star
Fadlallah urges UN role in resolving impasse
-Daily Star
Aoun vows not to break alliance with Hizbullah
-Daily Star
A full year after the summer conflict with Israel, Southerners are still waiting for a return to normalcy
-Daily Star
National campaign aims to end domestic violence
-Daily Star
Rights group condemns failure to probe 2006 war crimes
-Daily Star
UNIFIL says its success depends on local political progress
-Daily Star
Children are suffering 'invisible scars' of trauma-Daily Star
Singer Julia Boutros raises $3 million for families of those killed in 2006 war
-Daily Star

Divide still evident in dual-citizenship debate
Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 Article tools
OTTAWA — One year after the war in Lebanon sparked the mass evacuation of 15,000 Canadians, no one knows for sure how many Lebanese-Canadians actually went back to their established lives there, after their taxpayer-funded rescue.
But one thing is certain: the debate over Canadian dual national citizenship sparked by the crisis continues to simmer one year later, with hard feelings on both sides of the issue. Much of that may have been fuelled by an unsubstantiated report that suggested half those rescued simply went back to Lebanon.
Critics say the Conservative government’s ongoing examination of dual citizenship is unfair or insensitive, and tarnishes many hardworking and loyal immigrants.
Others, including some of Lebanese descent, do not like the fact that some — again, no one knows for sure how many — Lebanese-Canadians simply went back to their established lives in Lebanon, and tucked away their Canadian passports for the next emergency.
“If you are on vacation and you are a taxpayer, you are entitled to get all the help that your government could afford,” said Elias Bejjani, chairman of the Lebanese-Canadian Co-ordinating Council.
As for those who simply took the free ride — a sealift from Beirut to Cyprus or Turkey and then a flight back to Canada — and who don’t pay taxes in Canada, Bejjani said they probably should have been billed. Last fall, then-immigration minister Monte Solberg served notice that the government was going to review dual citizenship because Canadians want to know “that we’re not just a port in a storm” for people who don’t pay taxes from abroad but are “going to be using our social programs down the road.” The review is continuing under current Immigration Minister Diane Finley.
The issue was stoked by a television report, citing unnamed sources, that 7,000 of the 15,000 rescued Lebanese-Canadians went back to Lebanon within a month of their rescue. In all, the rescue effort cost the federal government nearly $100 million. That figure of 7,000, cited by CTV News, has been bandied about publicly, but the people in government you would expect would be aware of such a number simply do not know where it came from.
Ever notice how when you leave Canada, no government official asks you where you are going, said Dan Dugas, the spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.“Canada does not have exit controls so it doesn’t track the movement of its citizens.”
The one federal public servant who knows most about this subject agrees, and explains further. Tina Chiu is the chief of the immigration and ethno-cultural statistics program for Statistics Canada.
“There are a number of methodological challenges to that,” Chiu explained.
For one, it is voluntary for Canadians to report where they are going to their government, she said. That means signing your name at the Canadian Embassy of a country in which you have just landed, or registering your presence on-line. There are other considerations for Canadians, added Chiu. Should you register when taking a holiday, or for a “longer term migration?”“It’s hard to demand of the population to do that, so it’s up to the individual to decide whether to register,” said Chiu.“At the same time, people need to deregister when they leave, so there’s a challenge with that too.” Liberal immigration critic Omar Alghbra said the government should study how citizenship is acquired, and whether some people are exploiting it to gain access to Canada’s social safety net or other benefits. But he thinks the government’s study of dual citizenship is unduly divisive and unfair to immigrants and Canadians who have chosen to live abroad for valid family or professional reasons.
“What I was concerned about was how it was stereotyped and generalized to thousands and thousands of Canadians who have earned their citizenship and have been loyal to their country, yet they are made to feel guilty."
Liberal foreign affairs critic Ujjal Dosanjh wondered whether the same objections would have been raised if 100,000 Canadians living in the U.S. fled north after some catastrophe only to go back later when the situation improved. As the former premier of British Columbia, Dosanjh has watched this debate unfold as the flood of Asians from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan raised similar concerns in his province.
Dosanjh does not favour a review of dual citizenship. “When you’re a Canadian citizen, you’re a Canadian citizen. You can’t have gradations of citizenship. We have decided as a country, along with 59 other countries that we are going to have dual citizenship.”
Neither Dosanjh nor Bejjani, who lives in Toronto after arriving from Lebanon via Kuwait 22 years ago, believes that 7,000 Lebanese-Canadians actually went back to Lebanon last summer. Bejjani said the number is likely closer to 4,000 but he admits he has no way of knowing despite strong contacts in the Lebanese community. He said he is aware of only two families in the Toronto area that went back after they were rescued.
Even so, Bejjani said Canada benefited from the return of these people even if the government spent money rescuing them in the first place.
“If they had stayed here they would have been jobless, they would have been on welfare. While in Lebanon, they had their businesses. I believe if you calculate the expenses — what we would have paid as Canadian taxpayers — it is much better that these people left,” said Bejjani.
He said the evacuation was well worth the cost.
“It proved to the whole world that the Canadian government, the Canadian people, the Canadian taxpayers, are caring people and they come to the rescue of their own people when there is a need or an emergency.”
Ottawa Citizen © CanWest News Service 2007

Brammertz Warns that Deteriorating Lebanon Situation Might Impede Investigation
Lebanon's worsening political and security situation is likely to have a negative impact on the U.N. probe in the 2005 murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri, according to a U.N. report released Thursday. The 20-page document, which reviews progress made by the enquiry commission led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz since its March report, expressed concern about the deteriorating environment in Lebanon over the past few months. "Although the commission -- in close cooperation with the Lebanese authorities -- has put in place mitigating measures to protect its staff and premises, the deterioration in the political and security environment is likely to have a negative effect on the Commission's activities in the coming months," it warned.
The report, which was made available to the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, pointed to the ongoing fighting between the Lebanese army and Islamist militants as well as to the assassination of Lebanese anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido and the attack on a convoy of U.N. peacekeepers that left six of them dead in south Lebanon last month. The report also took note of the coming into force of the international tribunal to try suspects in the Hariri murder in line with a Security Council resolution adopted May 30. "In light of the establishment of the special tribunal for Lebanon...The Commission has taken several steps to facilitate the handover from the Commission to the Special Tribunal at a time when the latter shall begin functioning," the report said. Hariri, who was a leading opponent of Syrian domination of Lebanon, was killed along with 22 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005. Syria was widely blamed for the Hariri killing but has denied involvement. You can download the full Brammertz report here (AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 12 Jul 07, 18:51

Serge Brammertz new report
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Friday, July 13, 2007
UNITED NATIONS: Lebanon's worsening political and security situation is likely to have a negative impact on the UN probe of the 2005 murder of Lebanese former Premier Rafik Hariri, according to a UN report released Thursday. The 20-page document, which reviews progress made by the enquiry commission led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz since its March report, expressed concern about the deteriorating environment in Lebanon over the past few months.
"Although the commission - in close cooperation with the Lebanese authorities - has put in place mitigating measures to protect its staff and premises, the deterioration in the political and security environment is likely to have a negative effect on the Commission's activities in the coming months," the report warned.
The report, which was made available to the 15 members of the UN Security Council, pointed to the ongoing fighting between the Lebanese Army and Islamic militants as well as to the assassination of March 14 MP Walid Eido and the attack on a convoy of UN peacekeepers that left six of them dead in South Lebanon last month.
The report also takes note of the coming into force of the international court to try suspects in the Hariri murder in line with a Security Council resolution adopted May 30."In light of the establishment of the special tribunal for Lebanon ... The Commission has taken several steps to facilitate the handover from the Commission to the special tribunal at a time when the latter shall begin functioning," the report said.The report also mentions the presence of new suspects.
It will be the first one presented to Security Council after the council approved the formation of the international court to try those behind Hariri's killing.
In his last report in March, Brammertz had requested his mandate be extended beyond its June expiration and he gave a thorough explanation of the possible political motives behind Hariri's assassination.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon extended the appointment of Brammertz as the head of the International Independent Investigation Commission through December 31 of this year. Hariri, who was a leading opponent of the Syrian domination of Lebanon, was killed along with 22 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005.Syria was widely blamed for the Hariri killing but has denied all involvement. - AFP

U.N. Hariri investigators say they identify suspects
Thu Jul 12, 2007
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. investigators probing the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri have identified a number of people who may have been involved or known about it, their chief reported on Thursday. New information about a van used to blow up Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005, about mobile phones used to track him and about Hariri's political activities had helped to pinpoint suspects, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said.
The role of Hariri, who became a prominent critic of Syria, in support of a 2004 U.N. resolution demanding that Syrian and other foreign troops withdraw from Lebanon had emerged as a likely motive, he said in a report to the Security Council.
In the eighth report so far by the U.N. team, Brammertz said that since the last one in March, investigators had clarified their findings by condensing some 120,000 document pages into reports totaling 2,400 pages.
That effort "has helped identify a number of persons of particular interest who may have been involved in some aspect of the preparation and execution of the attack" on Hariri or had prior knowledge of it, he said.
Brammertz did not name any suspects in his report, which also expressed concern that deteriorating security in Lebanon could hamper the continuing U.N. inquiry, which will eventually hand over to a court approved by the Security Council in May.
The report said the Mitsubishi Canter van in which a suicide bomber is believed to have set off some 1,800 kg (4,000 lbs) of explosives was stolen in the Japanese city of Kanagawa in October 2004, then shipped to the United Arab Emirates.
From there it was sent in December to a showroom near the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli and sold. The U.N. team "has recently acquired information regarding the sale of the van to individuals who could be involved in the final preparation of the van for the attack," Brammertz said.
The investigation had also established that individuals who had used six cellular phone SIM cards to spy on Hariri before his killing had also "played a critical role in the planning and execution of the attack itself," the report said.
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Power. Price. Service. No Compromises."The (inquiry) Commission has established the origin of the SIM cards and is finalizing its understanding of the circumstances around the sale of the cards and a number of handsets to the individuals who made use of them."
The U.N. team, which has already said Hariri's killing was political, said it was now focusing on his role as an advocate of Security Council resolution 1559, which urged foreign troop withdrawals from Lebanon and the disbanding of militias there.
"While some events surrounding the adoption of resolution 1559 need to be further investigated, the Commission's working hypothesis is that these events played an important role in shaping the environment in which the motives to assassinate Rafik Hariri emerged," it said.
The report had little new on the bomber, whose identity is not known. But it confirmed that Lebanon-based Palestinian Ahmed Abu Adass, who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the killing, had not carried it out.
Brammertz said that what he called the bleak security outlook in Lebanon had had "several negative effects" on his team and could restrict its investigating ability, muzzle witnesses and hinder the recruitment of staff.
Brammertz, who is also investigating with less intensity 17 other political murders or attempted murders in Lebanon, said Syria's cooperation remained "generally satisfactory."
The Belgian has not repeated allegations by his German predecessor, Detlev Mehlis, that Hariri could not have been killed without the complicity of senior Syrian officials, and his relations with Damascus have been better.
Brammertz, whose current mandate expires at the end of this year, is considered a leading candidate to succeed Carla del Ponte of Switzerland as chief prosecutor for the Hague-based tribunal to try war crimes in former Yugoslavia.

Carpet Bombing of Fatah al-Islam Strongholds in Nahr al-Bared
Lebanese Army gunners pounded terrorist strongholds with howitzers Thursday in an apparent attempt to set the stage for a final assault to uproot Fatah al-Islam militants from the northern Nahr al-Bared camp. Six soldiers were killed in battle Thursday, the 54th day of the fight.
The army command, in a communiqué, said the ongoing operation was aimed at "tightening the grip on the gunmen to force them surrender."
Tongues of flame and mushrooming poles of black smoke billowed into the sky over the Nahr al-Bared camp as shells slammed relentlessly into the ruins of the shantytown where Fatah al-Islam terrorists have been locked in a deadly standoff with the army since May 20.
"Today's bombardment is a first step in the final battle against the terrorist group whose fighters have refused to surrender to the army," an army officer at the scene said. The casualties reported Thursday brought to 180 the number of people killed, including 89 soldiers and at least 68 Islamists, since the fighting first erupted at Nahr al-Bared and the nearby Mediterranean port city of Tripoli on May 20.
Lebanese Army Artillery batteries were active day long striking Fatah al-Islam positions in the south of the camp deserted by the majority of its population.
Shells crashed into some of the few bombed-out buildings still standing in the seafront camp, which has been left in ruins, with houses shattered and collapsed like packs of cards, vehicles burnt out and empty streets sprayed with chunks of rubble. An AFP correspondent said elite Lebanese soldiers were also locked in gun battles with the Islamists in the southern and eastern sectors of the camp.
The army brought in reinforcements overnight after more than 150 people, mostly Palestinian militants, fled the camp on Wednesday amid signs the army was readying for a final assault against the die-hard Islamists. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora called for the army to "put a final end" to the Fatah al-Islam "terrorists", in an apparent green light to storm the camp. "The army is continuing tighten the noose around Nahr al-Bared and clear Islamist positions with the aim of forcing them to surrender," an army spokesman said, although he refused to speak of a final assault.
About 140 Palestinian militants, not connected to the Fatah al-Islam militiamen, were evacuated by military trucks to a Lebanese army barracks on Wednesday, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) source said. Around 20 women, believed to be Palestinian refugees, were evacuated separately by bus from Nahr al-Bared to the nearby camp of Beddawi, which has served as shelter for the bulk of displaced refugees.
But relief workers said an effort to evacuate families of the Fatah al-Islam terrorists -- in all 45 children and 20 women -- on board Red Crescent and Red Cross ambulances have not succeeded. The evacuation was the first large-scale operation in three weeks from the camp where clashes have raged for more than seven weeks, often with the army gunners firing off heavy artillery. The fighting erupted when the Islamists, who are of several Arab nationalities, launched a string of attacks on soldiers, killing 27 of them around the camp and in nearby Tripoli.(Naharnet-AFP) Beirut, 12 Jul 07,

200 suicide belts found in lorry at Syria-Iraq border
IRAQI security forces seized 200 explosive belts yesterday during a search of a lorry that had crossed into Iraq from Syria at the Waleed border station.
Major-General Abdul-Karim Khalaf an interior ministry spokesman said the driver was detained but he would not give his name or nationality.
Iraqi and US authorities have long complained that Syria is not doing enough to stem the flow of weapons, ammunition and foreign fighters into Iraq. Syria insists it is trying to stop the flow but that it is impossible to seal off the long desert border.
Brigadier-General Kevin Bergner, a spokesman for the US military,, said that 60 to 80 foreign fighters enter Iraq "in any given month" - 70 per cent of them through Syria. He said up to 90 per cent of the suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by "foreign-born al-Qaeda terrorists".
Brig-Gen Bergner cited a 1 July suicide attack that collapsed part of a bridge across the Euphrates River. A second bomber was captured, and told interrogators he had been recruited by al-Qaada in his home country, flown to Syria and smuggled across the border to Ramadi, where he stayed for about ten days before the attack.

Mostly, a divine victory for disinformation
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, July 12, 2007
It says something that one year after the summer 2006 war, we're not sure whether to celebrate Hizbullah's "divine victory" or bemoan Israel's destruction of our country and its economy. That disconnect reflects the larger disconnect between Hizbullah and the rest of Lebanese society. But then the war was such a fount of falsehoods that its conflicting interpretations are not surprising. Two of the more enduring myths from last year merit revisiting, as well as a more recent addition.
The first myth was that of Lebanese unanimity in the face of Israel. Soon after the war began, a spectacular bit of disinformation surfaced when the Beirut Center for Research published a poll that allegedly showed overwhelming support for "the Resistance" - shorthand for Hizbullah. The head of the center is Abdo Saad, and his daughter, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, summarized the poll's results in an interview with the American radio and television program Democracy Now:
"Basically, 87 percent of all Lebanese support Hezbollah's resistance against Israel today. And that includes 80 percent of all Christian respondents, 80 percent of all Druze respondents, and 89 percent of all Sunnis. And this, of course, is non-Shiite groups, so those which have supported the March 14 pro-American - the March 14, sorry, alliance, which is seen as being pro-American, pro-French, anti-Syrian."
These numbers were truly remarkable; so remarkable indeed that rare were the foreign media outlets that did not, early in the war, diligently cite them. Unfortunately, rare, too, were the correspondents who could read Arabic and the question the Beirut Center for Research had put to its respondents. It was a simple one, to the point: "Do you support the Resistance's opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon?"
More loaded a question would have required a firearms license, its answer obvious in advance, particularly when Lebanon was being bombed. Naturally, most of those asked said they approved opposing Israel, but what those preparing the poll got across, intentionally or unintentionally, was that this could be read as support for Hizbullah per se. The jump was unjustified, but it was one many journalists, who missed the artfulness of the question, happened to make. Under the circumstances, it was astonishing that 13 percent of people said they did not support resisting Israel.
Ironically, the person most responsible for discrediting the poll's results was Hizbullah's secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. In an interview with Al-Jazeera a week after the war began, he declared, rather chillingly: "If we succeed in achieving the victory ... we will never forget all those who supported us at this stage ... As for those who sinned against us ... those who made mistakes, those who let us down and those who conspired against us ... this will be left for a day to settle accounts. We might be tolerant with them, and we might not.''
If Nasrallah had retribution on his mind only days after the start of the conflict, this hardly squared with an 87 percent approval rating for Hizbullah among the Lebanese public.
By the same token, the language of unity against Israel was equally insincere in the mouths of members of the parliamentary majority - the "pro-American" March 14 alliance, to borrow from Saad-Ghorayeb's verbal slip. While no one could deny there was humanitarian solidarity at the local level between Lebanese, one that transcended politics, the majority's fear was that Hizbullah would either win the war or lose it so badly that it would turn its anger against the interior once the fighting had ended.
There never was any unanimity behind Hizbullah. This seems so obvious today in the shadow of the current political crisis, that we forget how risky and controversial it was to say such a thing in the midst of the fighting, when no voice was entitled to rise above the voice of battle.
A second myth, peddled most forcefully by American journalist Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, but whose implications were picked up by many critics of the Siniora government, was that the Lebanese war was a practice run for a US military campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities. This appraisal served several purposes, most importantly that it situated the Lebanese conflict in the context of a larger American and Israeli plot to change power relations in the region. There was some truth there: once the war kicked off, Washington saw a golden opportunity to weaken Hizbullah, and by extension Iran and Syria. However, there was little evidence then, or today, to indicate that Israel had launched a pre-planned attack.
If anything, Israeli press reports soon after the war, but also the first release of the Winograd commission's findings, emphasized that Israel's government was guilty of a confused response that seemed to belie a pre-planned attack. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused his military of not having provided him with adequate contingency plans, and the military accused the prime minister of failing to provide political guidance. In light of this, it is increasingly difficult to interpret Israeli actions as part of a systematic military project directed against Iran, prepared in close collaboration with Washington.
Even during the fighting it seemed apparent to those inside Lebanon that the Israelis didn't know very well what they were doing. Their air force seemed to be engaged in a mindless, brutal, persistent process of devastation, but with no specific or clear political aims underlining it.
Nasrallah, again, helped discredit this particular myth, if only by affirming its general tropes and then stepping back and contradicting himself. The secretary general first injected determinism into the Israeli attack by affirming that Hizbullah, by kidnapping Israeli soldiers, had pre-empted an Israeli assault planned for October 2006. Yet this jarred with his statement made on New TV in late August, when he admitted: "We did not think, even with one percent likelihood, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, had I known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I have done it? I would say 'no, absolutely not.'"
If the war was coming anyway and Hizbullah did well to pre-empt the Israelis, then why did Nasrallah need to apologize for capturing the Israeli soldiers? And if the war was part of a US-Israeli conspiracy to eliminate Hizbullah and prepare for the bombing of Iran, then surely Nasrallah should have guessed that the violence would reach the magnitude it did.
One might add a third myth, this one recent and more a topic of divination than a case of mendacity. It is the statement that because Israel cannot accept defeat in Lebanon, it is bound to attack the country again in the future. The Lebanese war was not one that Israel's generals will soon forget. However, such a statement is disturbing not only because it suggests that war is inevitable, though one can be avoided if border issues are managed through negotiations; but also because it gives Hizbullah an excuse to retain its weaponry. Will Israel attack Lebanon again or won't it? Who knows; but the chances of that happening are likely to increase if South Lebanon is again turned into an armed redoubt by Hizbullah.
However, we won't need to worry if Israel does decide to resume the killing. The polls will be there to show that almost 90 percent of Lebanese are on Hizbullah's side. It will be just divine.
**Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Two Soldiers Killed as Army Launches Massive Bombardment of Nahr al-Bared
The Lebanese army on Thursday launched a massive bombardment of the northern Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, but the military denied reports that the shelling was part of a final showdown on Fatah al-Islam terrorists.
The heavy artillery barrage, which started at dawn Thursday, came hours after some 200 residents were evacuated from Nahr al-Bared.
About 140 Palestinian militants, not connected to Fatah al-Islam, were evacuated by military trucks to a Lebanese army barracks, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) source said. The army said two soldiers were killed Thursday. That brought the overall death toll to 176, including 88 soldiers and at least 68 Islamists since the fighting erupted May 20 when the Islamists, who are of different Arab nationalities, launched a string of attacks on Lebanese soldiers, killing 27 of them around the camp and in nearby Tripoli, according to the military. In a statement denying reports that it had announced a final assault, the army said that "the ongoing military operations are still in the context of tightening the noose on the gunmen to force them to surrender."
Clouds of thick black smoke billowed over Nahr al-Bared on Thursday as artillery shells slammed Fatah al-Islam positions in the old sector of the camp at a rate of 15 rounds per minute, Future television reported.
"Today's bombardment is a first step in the final battle against the terrorist group whose fighters have refused to surrender to the army," an army officer at the scene said. The Voice of Lebanon radio station said Thursday that some 3,000 Lebanese army troops are believed to have taken part in the upcoming crackdown on Fatah al-Islam terrorists holed up in the "old camp" on the southern tip of Nahr al-Bared.
The daily An Nahar on Thursday, however, said the zero hour for the military showdown was not expected to be announced before the weekend.
Before the evacuation started, some 400 people were estimated to be living in the camp's old sector compared to the shantytown's original population of about 30,000 before the confrontation broke out May 20.
An Nahar said 11 evacuees were arrested after being debriefed by the army at a nearby garrison. The paper said that the last batch that was intended to flee the camp Wednesday evening comprised of a number of the wives of Fatah al-Islam fighters and well as other family members. According to information obtained by An Nahar, it said the militants at the last minute refused to allow the batch to leave the camp. On Wednesday, the eve of the anniversary of the start of last year's Israel-Hizbullah war, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora called for the army to "put a final end" to the Fatah al-Islam "terrorists," in an apparent green light to storm the camp.
A Palestinian official said the evacuation from the seafront camp near northern Lebanon's port city of Tripoli would "allow the Lebanese army to operate more freely, and without putting civilians at risk."Beirut, 12 Jul 07, 07:18

'UN to deem Sheba Farms Lebanese' Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jul. 11, 2007
The Sheba Farms, a small tract of land in the north of Israel, is Lebanese territory, according to an expert UN cartographer, Israel Radio reported Wednesday, quoting an unnamed official in Jerusalem. An official UN statement on the issue was yet to be published.
The long-disputed farms were not returned to Lebanon during the 2000 pullout after Israel insisted the farms were claimed by Syria. Israel then said that only as part of a peace deal with Syria, which would potentially include returning part or all of the Golan Heights, would it consider returning the Sheba Farms to Syria.
The source said Israel rejected a request by the UN to be in control of the Sheba Farms until the dispute was resolved.
The cartographer, meanwhile, has moved to Jerusalem to continue his work, and a UN official denied that a demand from Israel to rescind control of the territory has been made. Reportedly, Syria and Lebanon agreed that the Sheba Farms was Lebanese territory.
The confusion regarding the ownership of the farms dates back to the partition of the French mandate territory during the period between the two world wars that shaped the borders of Syria and Lebanon. Israel was against any decisive UN statements regarding the area, fearing that a public admission that the territory was Lebanese would effectively render Israel's 2000 pullout from Lebanon incomplete and give Hizbullah justification to re-ignite a military confrontation with Israel.

Jordan's King Urges Lebanese to Work for Lebanon's Interest

Jordan's King Abdullah II has urged Lebanon's political factions to end the deadlock that is threatening Premier Fouad Saniora's government during talks with legislator Saad Hariri, the official Petra news agency said. Abdullah met Hariri at his hilltop palace in Amman on Wednesday and "affirmed Jordan's support for all efforts to safeguard the unity and stability of Lebanon," Petra reported. The king "asserted the necessity to unify the efforts of all Lebanese to protect Lebanon's unity and rid it of its political crisis caused by sectarian interests and foreign intervention," the agency said.
Abdullah also urged bickering political parties "to put Lebanon's interest above all differences and work together to…reach national understanding," Petra said.
Lebanon is facing a political crisis triggered by the resignation of six opposition cabinet ministers late last year.
Hariri, the son of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri who was assassinated in February 2005, said unity among Lebanese frees the country from foreign interference. "We believe in the unity of Lebanon ... and that such unity will free Lebanon from any interference whether Syrian or non-Syrian, Arab or foreign, or Iranian, or other," Hariri told reporters in the Jordanian capital after 90 minutes of talks with Abdullah.
Hariri also discussed with the King the latest efforts to reach an understanding between different political parties and "to overcome obstacles" that are hindering national dialogue, Petra said. "There is no alternative but dialogue," Hariri said at the airport.(AP-Naharnet) Beirut, 12 Jul 07, 09:13

Hizbullah to Attend Paris-Hosted Dialogue After 'Positive' French Attitude
Hizbullah said it will attend an upcoming all-party Lebanon dialogue in Paris after it assessed as "positive" France's new approach towards the group following original terrorism charges directed at the Shiite party.
Nawaf Moussawi, head of Hizbullah's international relations department, on Wednesday informed French ambassador Bernard Emie of the party's decision to participate in the July 14-16 conference "in the wake of the positive and satisfactory assessment by the party regarding the latest statement released by Elysee."
The daily As Safir on Thursday said Emie thanked Moussawi for Hizbullah's position.
On Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's spokesman, David Martinon, said France would press Hizbullah at the Paris conference to renounce the use of terrorism and limit itself to being a political party.
But after France's attitude angered Hizbullah and threatened to undermine the dialogue -- had the Shiite group decided not to attend -- the Elysee swiftly issued a clarification, saying France was not considering designating Hizbullah itself as a terrorist group.
"Hizbullah is an important political actor in Lebanon. It is one of the components of the national dialogue," said Martinon in a statement released on Tuesday.
Hizbullah, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, is not on the European Union list of terrorist groups.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has invited representatives of Lebanese political parties and civil society for talks to try to ease the worst crisis in Beirut since the 1990 end of a 15-year civil war. Lebanon has been deadlocked since November when six pro-Syrian ministers, including five Shiites, quit the cabinet, charging it was riding roughshod over the power-sharing arrangements in force since the war. Both the anti- and pro-Syrian camps in Lebanon have publicly welcomed the French initiative. France has taken a leading role in trying to restore stability to Lebanon, with Kouchner traveling to Beirut in May for his first foreign trip abroad since taking office. Jewish groups in France have criticized the participation of the Iranian-backed Hizbullah, accusing it of having carried out deadly attacks dating back to the early 1980s when dozens of French soldiers were killed. Beirut, 12 Jul 07, 09:38

Human Rights Watch: Israel-Hizbullah War Violations Still Unpunished

A year after the Israel-Hizbullah war in Lebanon, violations of the laws of war have gone uninvestigated and unpunished, Human Rights Watch has said.
"Both sides in this conflict violated the laws of war, but a full year later, no one has been held accountable," said a statement Wednesday by Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based Human Rights Watch. HRW regretted that neither Israel nor the Lebanese government have investigated war crimes during the 34-day war that started on July 12, 2006 when Hizbullah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid.
More than 1,200 people in Lebanon were killed as a result of the Israeli offensive and more than 160 died in Israel.
It said Israel's Winograd Commission investigated shortcomings in the preparation and handling of the war but was not mandated to probe violations by Israeli soldiers, while Lebanon's internal strife has sapped "both its will and, seemingly, the capacity to investigate" Hizbullah's actions.
HRW also criticized the U.N. Human Rights Council, whose special commission "was compromised by a mandate limited to one party's conduct (Israel) and an inability to enforce its own recommendations." Whitson said "the Israeli and Lebanese investigations have failed, so the international community needs to step in."
The rights group called on countries arming Israel and Hizbullah to stop sending weapons, military equipment and other assistance to areas where it is suspected they were used during the war in violation of international humanitarian law. Israel used cluster munitions in Lebanon and Hizbullah a variety of unguided surface-to-surface rockets against towns and villages in northern Israel, HRW said. The weapons kill indiscriminately."Those who knowingly authorized such attacks may also have committed war crimes and should be investigated," HRW said.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 12 Jul 07, 07:27

Nahr al-Bared Evacuation Proceeds Prior to Final Showdown
At least 200 Palestinian civilians were evacuated from the ruins of north Lebanon's Nahr al-Bared Camp Wednesday as the army set the stage for a predicted final showdown with Fatah al-Islam terrorists, rescuers told Naharnet. Lebanese and foreign rescuers said the civilians were evacuated in four batches as of the early morning hours and were driven by busses of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to safety in other locations.
Meanwhile, army gunners hammered Fatah al-Islam terrorists in their six remaining outposts within the camp, 12 kilometers north of Tripoli.
The state-run National News Agency said Fatah al-Islam terrorists were shooting at enemy lines with 12.7-mm machine guns and 60-mm mortars.
Before the evacuation started, some 400 people were estimated to be living in the old sector of the camp compared to the shanty town's original population of about 30,000 before the confrontation broke out May 20. The evacuees, according to NNA, included senior members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and the mainstream Popular For the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).NNA said at least 25 Palestinian men were driven by an army truck to a nearby Garrison for debriefing. It did not disclose further details. The army allows Palestinians carrying Identification documents provided by the Lebanese authorities to go through its lines.
The debriefing usually aims at establishing whether Fatah al-Islam terrorists are trying to infiltrate out of Nahr al-Bared disguised as Palestinian refugees. Beirut, 11 Jul 07, 19:28

Crossfire War - Hezbollah Now Supplied with Anti-Aircraft Systems
By Willard Payne
Crossfire War - Tehran - Damascus - Gaza Watch - West Asia Theatre: Tehran - Damascus - Riyadh - Gaza/Beirut - Jerusalem - Paris - Rome - Cairo; Iran-Syria Have Supplied Hezbollah with New Advanced Anti-Aircraft Weapons and More Trained Missile Teams - Long Range Missile "Planning Unit" in North Lebanon
Night Watch: HERMEL - Debka reports Tehran-Damascus have equipped Hezbollah with, not only more missiles than before last year's war, which Hezbollah entered exactly one year ago today, but also advanced anti-aircraft mobile missile systems like the Rapier 2.
Before last year's war Hezbollah possessed 12,000 rockets of various types, now they have 18,000. Their longer range ones are the Zilzal-2, Zizal-3 and Fatah-110, with each of them having a range of 150 miles (250 km) capable of reaching nearly all of Israel.
Tehran has established Hezbollah's long range rocket force, its "Planning Unit" stationed in northern Lebanon at Hermel near the Syrian border. Just across the border are depots containing more stores of rockets and I suspect when these are launched at Israel this will be the priority target of Israel's airforce quite possibly equipped with nuclear bombs. Israel has every intention of surviving the war intact and they will not be universally condemned when they respond in this manner. [DEBKA]
The Hezbollah short range rocket (Katyusha) Nasr Unit is in the Tyre region in the south and its command center is in the village of Maarub. In the meantime Tehran has positioned other Shi'ite terrorists groups in Shi'ite villages in the south not far from Israel's border.
It has been recently mentioned since Israel's response with not that effective and somewhat hesitant last year they are retraining their army more seriously and aggressively. Jerusalem will probably have to occupy most of south Lebanon as they did in the 1980s and remained for nearly 20 years. This is why I suspect Lebanon may cease to exist as a country, which is exactly what Tehran-Damascus want. Jerusalem will control the south of the country and Damascus the rest, incorporated into Syria. Since UNIFIL is using British bases on Cyprus I would not be surprised if Tehran sends to Syria Shahab missiles that can hit the bases. The Shahab missile may be in Syria already. Paris-Rome would have withdrawn the European forces of UNIFIL that were under heavy attack assuming they can be withdrawn, because Hezbollah now has more anti-ship C-802 missiles than last year and their main target will not be the few Israeli patrol boats but the naval warships of Europe and the U. S. just off Lebanon's coast. Hezbollah has triple the number it had last year.
Copyright © 2007, NewsBlaze, Daily News

Year later, Lebanon paralyzed by crises
Caught in struggle to influence Mideast

By Liz Sly
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published July 12, 2007
BINT JBEIL, Lebanon—The collapsed ruins of this once-quaint town are a testament to all that has gone wrong in Lebanon since Israel and the militant Shiite Hezbollah movement fought their devastating 34-day war a year ago.
The scene of some of the war's fiercest battles, the historic stone town 3 miles from the Israeli border remains today a devastated wasteland of imploded roofs, twisted wires and uncollected rubble. Amid recriminations between the U.S.-backed government and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the reconstruction effort has stalled, a victim of the political paralysis that has taken hold across the country and widespread fears that another war could be imminent.
The conflict, which claimed the lives of 1,200 Lebanese and 158 Israelis, inflicted billions of dollars worth of damage to Lebanon's infrastructure and displaced nearly a million Lebanese, was over relatively swiftly. But it appeared only to signal the onset of a renewed period of prolonged instability for this historically unstable country.
In the year since the war erupted on July 13, Lebanon has lurched from one unresolved crisis to another, to the point where the entire country now is in the grip of a series of overlapping crises, some of them seemingly unrelated yet all tied to the broader struggle for influence that is unfolding across the Middle East.
It is as though the war collapsed Lebanon itself, transforming its political landscape into a tangled mess of sectarian bickering, murky local rivalries and regional power struggles. "All of the region is all entangled together here in Lebanon," said Ahmed Moussali, a political scientist at the American University of Beirut. "It's a crossroads for all of the conflicts, between Syria, Iran, Israel, the U.S." Indeed, from the north to the south, the litany of Lebanon's woes reads like a primer on the problems of the Middle East. Just north of the northern port of Tripoli, the Lebanese Army is battling Sunni fundamentalist militants who proclaim sympathies to Al Qaeda and are holed up in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared.
Though the Lebanese government says the mostly Palestinian Islamists fighting in the previously unknown Fatah al-Islam movement are tools of Syrian intelligence—a "fabricated Al Qaeda," in the words of one top security official—the battle has become a reminder of the potential for upheaval in the densely populated, desperately poor and heavily armed Palestinian refugee camps dotted around the country.
At Lebanon's center, the Sunni-led Lebanese government is paralyzed by a 7 1/2 -month occupation of downtown Beirut by Hezbollah militants and their supporters. Hezbollah's aim was to leverage its self-proclaimed victory in the war against Israel into a greater share of political power for Shiites, but the power play has so far served only to incapacitate the state, empty the downtown commercial district of tourists and polarize Sunnis and Shiites.
The assassination of two prominent pro-government politicians—one a Christian, the other a Sunni—has kept nerves on edge, further deepening the divide between the rival pro-and anti-government camps, the one backed by the U.S. and France, the other by Iran and Syria.
Most recently, in the south, a bombing that killed six Spanish peacekeepers serving with an expanded United Nations force deployed after the war raised the specter of an Al Qaeda-style terror campaign. Though no one has claimed responsibility, Hezbollah condemned the attack and UN officials say they suspect an indigenous Sunni extremist organization carried it out, marking a direct challenge to Hezbollah's hegemony in the Shiite heartland.
Where all these crises lead is a question preoccupying Lebanese these days.
Predictions of another war are rife, though what form it would take is a matter for debate. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed dismay earlier this week at "the persistent reports pointing to breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanese-Syrian border."
According to the government, Syria and its frustrated ambitions in Lebanon lie at the root of most of the instability plaguing the country. In the two years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri fomented an anti-Syrian uprising that forced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, Syria has persistently sought to derail a UN probe into the killing expected to implicate Syrian officials, said Michael Young, opinion page editor of Beirut's English language Daily Star.
"The buck stops in Damascus. It's clear what are Syria's objectives: to create such strife that the Arab League and the international community say: 'Please come back,' " said Young, who believes a prolonged stalemate is more likely than another war.
Lebanese themselves bear responsibility for their own rivalries, said a senior Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"All of these interferences probably do link back to Syria but it doesn't mean that if it all disappeared you'd have a united Lebanon," the diplomat said. "The Lebanese are famous for looking to foreigners to help them against other Lebanese."
And foreigners also compete to influence Lebanese. Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold, are dotted with signs proclaiming the generosity of the Iranian municipality of Tehran in donating trees, grass and a large number of pedestrian bridges.
Along the highway leading south toward the Israeli border, giant billboards proclaiming "Thank You Qatar," the gulf Arab state that is a major contributor to the reconstruction effort, are juxtaposed with huge portraits of the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
There are also signs that the promised billions in reconstruction effort are making a difference.
Stretches of smooth new asphalt mark the spots most heavily bombed by Israeli warplanes. Over half the 96 bridges destroyed or damaged have been rebuilt. Electricity supplies are almost back to prewar levels, the Beirut airport is operating smoothly, and millions of dollars have been disbursed to help Lebanese rebuild their homes.
It is no wonder therefore that Bint Jbeil, the epicenter of last summer's fighting, is feeling abandoned. Reconstruction of the old downtown has stalled in part because of local disputes over whether to raze the entire area and build anew or to use the funding to restore the town's historic architecture. Many households away from the downtown have received funding.
But the widespread perception here is that the Sunni-led government is deliberately delaying the reconstruction effort in order to turn local Shiites against Hezbollah, while the government accuses Hezbollah of delaying the funding effort in order to turn people against the government.
With only a few thousand of its original 70,000 inhabitants having returned, the town has a desolate air.
"It's because of the politics at the center," said Abdul Hamid Taleb, 46, one of the few people whose house in the old downtown is still habitable, despite being laced with shrapnel and rocket holes. He stayed throughout the fighting, even after Israeli tanks appeared on the horizon and encircled the town. He wishes more neighbors would come back to help regenerate the town's social and economic life. "Everyone expects another war, so that's why nothing is happening," he said. "People are afraid to come back."

In a region of turmoil, Lebanon at a crossroads
By Eli Khoury | July 12, 2007
AN AMERICAN could be forgiven for equating Lebanon with the Middle East messes that have come to characterize the region. How would any news consumer distinguish among the images emerging from the West Bank, Gaza, Iraq, and Lebanon -- as well as neighboring Syria and Iran? There is daily video bombardment of masked men wielding weapons, the downtrodden streaming in and out of refugee camps, bombs, bullets, and assassinations. And there's last week's news that President Bush has signed a presidential proclamation barring entry into the United States of Syrians and Lebanese deemed to be destabilizing Lebanon. It seems hopeless and horrifying.
Sign up for: Globe Headlines e-mail | Breaking News Alerts But the truth is that amidst a region in turmoil, Lebanon stands out as a potential bright spot, if one can see beyond the destruction and beneath the rubble of the most recent conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.
Lebanon is not "unsolv able." Its vision for a social, economic, and political future can become a model for the region. Lebanon bridges the Middle East and the West. Its people and leaders know that the only viable path forward is to become a liberal, democratic, and modern society, fully integrated within the global economy, where people have a say in their future.
Lebanon deserves a chance to reconstruct hope from agony.
The Cedar Revolution of March 2005 demonstrated, decisively, that the majority of Lebanese citizens long for a stable, pluralistic democracy, at peace with their neighbors, and free from radical political factions and foreign interference. Over one million Lebanese -- a third of the population -- took to the streets to protest Syrian control of their political lives. It was a homegrown, indigenous movement in which every sector of the multifaceted country demanded democracy and independence. It was a high point in a low season of violence and conflict that had taken the life of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri only the month before. It challenged the prevailing myth that Lebanon is a "divided" country destined to live along sectarian fault lines.

The Cedar Revolution was not just a snapshot in time, but the symptom of a growing movement for change. Recent polling data from Lebanon indicates that the majority of people from all across Christian, Shia, and Sunni regions support a Lebanon free from the influence of Iran and Syria. They want all militias disarmed. They support an international tribunal to investigate the Hairiri assassination and all six -- so far - assassinations that followed. And Lebanese citizens understand and articulate the importance of respect and protection for individual rights, the rule of law, religious freedom, and self-expression. They have done it before the age of Syrian hegemony.
Today, Lebanon stands at a historic crossroads between being integrated into the international community or remaining under the heavy influences of external forces. Success requires that the government be willing -- and empowered -- to allow the people of Lebanon to freely put aside sectarianism and unite behind a common vision. It will mean securing borders from the trafficking of arms and terrorists from Syria and Iran. It will mean stopping the proliferation of Syrian-sponsored terrorist groups, particularly amongst Palestinian refugees. And it will mean confronting the rearmament of Hezbollah.
At any moment, Lebanon could be dragged back into chaos and war.
The United States and the international community must help sustain Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic progress. The United States must press the UN Security Council to follow through on its prior resolutions intended to prevent arms flows from Syria and Iran, push for disarmament of all militias, starting with those pertaining to Palestinians, and create the tribunal to investigate the Hariri and other assassinations in Lebanon. And it needs to support Lebanese democracy with resources to strengthen democractic institutions.
Most importantly, the United States and its European allies need to support the government in protecting the upcoming presidential elections from foreign intimidators, so that a free president can supervise the democratic progress, consolidate sovereignty, and neutralize Lebanon of regional conflicts.
Going forth, the Lebanese diaspora communities in America and around the world can play a vital role. Charities and advocacy organizations must address problems of national security, burdened economy, and refugees. Democratic and security development assistance is critical as is investment by American and European companies to rebuild this weakened but resourceful country.
History has proven that the people of Lebanon, despite all myths, have managed to create a nation. Now it needs help as it becomes a state.
**Eli Khoury is a founder of the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.