June 17/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 2,41-51. Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.

Free Opinions
Syro-Iranian massacre of Lebanese Politicians. By: Walid Phares. June 16/07
By-elections can build trust, affirm constitutional and democratic. Daily Star. June 17/07
Lebanon's Troublesome Camps-TIME- By NICHOLAS BLANFORD/KFAR ZABAD. June 17/07
Syria's opponents in Lebanon remain targets-Newsweek - by Rana Fil. June 17/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for June 17/06/07
Arabs Urge Return to Dialogue, Western Leaders Adamant in Backing Saniora-Naharnet
Hizbullah Gunmen Briefly Kidnap Three Lebanese Policemen-Naharnet
Lahoud Rejects by-Elections, Government Determined-Naharnet
Bush renews support for Lebanon PM
More Army Losses as Troops Battle Militants-Naharnet
Lebanon booby-trap leaves six dead-ABC Online
Political Battle Looms in Lebanon
-Washington Post

Fatah storms Hamas-controlled buildings-AP

Hamas official escapes grenade attack in Lebanon unharmed-Ha'aretz
Killing of MP widens divide in Lebanon-Gulf Times
Siniora Pushes for By-Elections-Alalam News Network
Interview With John Bolton on Gaza, Iran-
Arab League foreign ministers discuss crisis in Lebanon
-Daily Star
Booby-trap kills four soldiers at Nahr al-Bared
-Daily Star
Riyadh pledges $12 million for Nahr al-Bared, Beddawi camps
-Daily Star
Ukraine rules out sending peacekeepers to Lebanon
-Daily Star
Sarkozy firm on recognition of Armenian genocide
-Daily Star
NBN fires anchor for predicting that 'Fatfat should be next'
-Daily Star
Zahra says second government would be 'unconstitutional'
-Daily Star
Geagea says Syria killed Eido as part of plot to alter balance in Parliament
-Daily Star
Brammertz inspects site of latest assassination
-Daily Star
Berlin conference stresses role media could play in East-West understanding
-Daily Star
Stream of condolences for Eido
-Daily Star
Sidon art exhibit shows off work of disabled children
-Daily Star

Bush renews support for Lebanon PM
WASHINGTON, June 15 (Xinhua)-- U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday pledged to continue his support for Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said. In his telephone talk with Siniora, Bush offered condolences over the killing of lawmaker Walid Eido and offered continued American aid in fighting terrorism in the country, Stanzel said. Siniora thanked Bush for U.S. support for the creation of an international court to try the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, a move the United Nations has approved, the spokesman said. Hariri was killed along with 22 others in a massive bombing explosion in downtown Beirut on Feb. 14. 2005. Many Lebanese suspect Syria was behind the attack, but Damascus has vehemently denied any involvement. The UN Security Council adopted the tribunal resolution on May 30 for trying the suspects in Hariri's assassination under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, after the Lebanese failed to adopt it through the country's constitutional institutions due to a serious political crisis. The U.S. Congress approved in late May a budget of 770 million U.S. dollars in aid for Lebanon. Of the sum, 280 million dollars were earmarked for military assistance to Lebanon.

Political Battle Looms in Lebanon
The Associated Press
Saturday, June 16, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- After yet another assassination, Lebanon's anti-Syrian politicians accuse Damascus of trying to end their rule by killing members of the parliamentary majority one by one. This week's slaying of anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido in a massive Beirut car bombing has sparked a new political battle here, fueling rifts that are putting Lebanon's democracy at the risk of a total breakdown.
Lebanese people carry the coffin of slain anti-syrian lawmaker Walid Eido who was killed by an explosion on Wednesday, as they head to a Mosque during his funeral procession in Beirut, Lebanon Thursday, June 14, 2007. A bomb-rigged car, rocked Beirut's seafront Wednesday, killing an anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido and his 35-year-old son, two of his bodyguards and six others in a narrow street off the main waterfront in Manara. The blast, a new blow to the stability of this conflict-torn nation, comes days after the government began putting together an international tribunal ordered by the United Nations to try suspects in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut two years ago a move strongly opposed by Syria and its allies in Lebanon. The slain lawmaker, Walid Eido, was a prominent supporter of the tribunal and a close friend of Hariri.
With Eido's death, U.S.-backed Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's majority in parliament has been whittled down to only four seats. If he loses those _ either by deaths or defections _ his government could fall, a top goal of the pro-Syrian opposition led by the Hezbollah militant group.
Samir Geagea, a leading Christian member of the anti-Syrian coalition, accused Syria on Friday of killing Eido _ a claim echoed by many of the government's supporters and denied by Damascus. "Eido was assassinated to reduce the parliamentary majority in order to bring the government down," Geagea said at a news conference. Geagea led the main Christian militia during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and was imprisoned for 11 years on charges of killing a prime minister, an accusation he said was cooked up by the Syrians.
The fight now is over calling a by-election to replace Eido. Saniora's allies are pushing for one to maintain their margin _ but President Emile Lahoud, a top ally of Syria, is expected to block any vote, just as he has the attempts to replace another lawmaker from the majority gunned down in November.
At Eido's funeral Thursday, legislator Mohammed Kabbani, speaking for the Future Movement, the main bloc of the parliament majority, called for an election to avert the "plan to reduce the parliamentary majority through murder."If Lahoud refuses to sign an election decree, it "would make him a participant in that plot and consequently a participant in the murders," Kabbani warned. "Elections must take place even if Emile Lahoud rejects it."
Saniora's Cabinet is expected to call for a by-election for Eido's seat at a session on Saturday.
Lahoud's signature will be needed to ask parliament to approve a special election. Lahoud refused to do that after the slaying of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, a lawmaker, in November.
Even if Lahoud approved such an election, the 128-seat parliament would then need to pass it, and pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri has refused to allow the legislature to convene for months. Lahoud, Berri and the opposition do not recognize Saniora's government, saying it is unconstitutional since all five Shiite members and a Christian ally quit in November. The constitution requires that all major sects be represented in the Cabinet.
There are already calls from the majority to go ahead with the by-election anyway irrespective of what the president and parliament speaker do.
Lebanese people carry the coffin of slain anti-syrian lawmaker Walid Eido who was killed by an explosion on Wednesday, as they head to a Mosque during his funeral procession in Beirut, Lebanon Thursday, June 14, 2007. A bomb-rigged car, rocked Beirut's seafront Wednesday, killing an anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido and his 35-year-old son, two of his bodyguards and six others in a narrow street off the main waterfront in Manara. The blast, a new blow to the stability of this conflict-torn nation, comes days after the government began putting together an international tribunal ordered by the United Nations to try suspects in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut two years ago a move strongly opposed by Syria and its allies in Lebanon. The slain lawmaker, Walid Eido, was a prominent supporter of the tribunal and a close friend of Hariri.
Another political crisis is also looming over the presidency.
The legislature must vote on a replacement when Lahoud's term ends in November, but it is unlikely that Lebanon's divided leaders can agree on a candidate or even meet _ threatening a power vacuum, or even worse the creation of two rival governments.
Some majority lawmakers are already calling for Lahoud's impeachment if he impedes the by-elections, but that, too, requires a legislative session.
All sides _ including Syria's ally, the Shiite Hezbollah _ have condemned Eido's killing in a blast Wednesday that also killed his son and eight other people.
He was the seventh anti-Syrian figure slain in the past two years, including two other lawmakers. The assassinations began with the massive suicide truck bombing in Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others. Eido's slaying came just three days after an international tribunal ordered by the U.N. Security Council went into effect.
Government supporters blame Syria in all the assassinations. Damascus, which opposes the international tribunal, denies any role. Hezbollah and its allies say the killings have been carried out by unknown parties aiming to enflame Lebanon's political crisis.
So far, Lebanon's leaders have kept a cap on reprisal violence.
But the political feuds that lie ahead could push either side to the breaking point. Government and opposition supporters battled in the streets for several days earlier this year in violence that killed 11 people and took on a dangerous sectarian tone in a country sharply divided between Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims.

Arabs Urge Return to Dialogue, Western Leaders Adamant in Backing Saniora
Arab foreign ministers on Saturday urged Lebanon's feuding political camps to return to the dialogue table, as Western leaders offered continued backing to Premier Fouad Saniora's government. The ministers also decided to form a delegation to consult with Lebanese authorities as well as regional and international parties to "work towards creating an atmosphere conducive to resuming the Lebanese national dialogue."
The delegation, headed by Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa, includes Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Qatar and Egypt.
The contacts will shed "light on terrorism, crimes, assassinations, arms trafficking and infiltration of armed men that Lebanon has been subjected to," the ministers said in a statement released after their talks in the Egyptian capital. Saniora asked on Wednesday for the special meeting, just hours after anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido, his son and eight others were killed in a bomb blast on the Beirut seaside district of Manara.
The prime minister on Friday held telephone conversations with U.S. President George Bush, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana. Bush and Sarkozy condemned Eido's murder and "stressed their backing to Lebanon and the Lebanese government in its battle against terrorism and terrorists," Saniora's office said. The U.S. president congratulated the prime minister and his government for resisting terrorism and offered continued U.S. aid, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said.
Saniora thanked the president for his support of Lebanon's armed forces, Stanzel added. An Nahar daily said that Sarkozy told the prime minister "there won't be any dialogue with Syria until the security situation stabilizes in Lebanon." Solana also informed Saniora that the EU was backing Lebanon, the prime minister's office said.
Eido's killing, reminiscent of the Feb. 2005 assassination of ex-premier Rafik Hariri, drew a fresh chorus of accusations against Damascus, which itself condemned the murder and denied involvement. Condemning Eido's murder, the Arab ministers called on "all Lebanese political forces to return the negotiating table."
Lebanon has been deadlocked since November when six pro-Syrian cabinet ministers quit Saniora's government. Speaker Nabih Berri has since refused to convene MPs to ratify government legislation, including proposals for an international court to try suspects in Hariri's murder. The rump anti-Syrian cabinet has accused the Assad regime of seeking to eliminate members of its parliamentary majority to block trials in the Hariri case.
The Arab ministers also urged "help for Lebanon to control its border with Syria."Anti-Damascus politicians have accused Syrian intelligence services of helping Fatah al-Islam militants, which are locked in gunbattles with the Lebanese army at the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
Acting Lebanese Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri was present at the talks in Cairo.(Naharnet-AFP)

Saudi Arabia Pledges $12M for Nahr al-Bared, Beddawi
Premier Fouad Saniora has said that Saudi Arabia pledged $12 million in aid for Palestinians in north Lebanon's Nahr al-Bared and Beddawi refugee camps.
"Saudi King Abdullah will donate $10 million and the amount could increase to $12 million" depending on the number of families at the camps, Saniora said during a news conference at the Grand Serail Friday. "This is yet another generous donation from Saudi Arabia in the extremely hard times that both Lebanese and Palestinians are going through," Saniora said. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said earlier this month that it was launching an urgent appeal for $12.7 million to address the needs of the thousands of Palestine refugees displaced by the fighting between Fatah al-Islam militants and the Lebanese army in and around Nahr al-Bared. Saniora said that each family will be granted 2 million Lebanese Pounds (around $1,300).

Geagea Calls Aoun's Bloc to Join Saniora Government
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea Friday urged Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun to join the majority government and elect a new head of state next fall without Syria's influence."This is the perfect time for resigned ministers to rejoin the government, irrespective of political deals … Gen. Michel Aoun's bloc is the only parliamentary bloc not represented in the government and it should join it," Geagea told a news conference. He blamed Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime for the assassination Wednesday of MP Walid Eido, saying the crime aimed at "decreasing the number" of March 14 majority legislators so that the coalition wouldn't be able to elect a new president next fall. He declared support for a call by Premier Fouad Saniora's government to organize by-elections to choose successors to lawmakers Eido and Pierre Gemayel, who was gunned down on Nov 21. Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud's extended term expires on Nov. 22. Geagea vowed that the March 14 alliance, which is backed by most Arab and western states, would achieve its targets of setting up a sovereign and independent state. "That would require lots of efforts and, unfortunately, lots of blood. We are ready for whatever sacrifices are needed. This is our country and we wouldn't let the dragon swallow it," Geagea said.

Lahoud Rejects by-Elections, Government Determined
The Lebanese government, its parliamentary majority weakened by the murder of two anti-Syrian MPs, plans to hold by-elections to replace them, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said Friday. The government will issue a decree on Saturday ordering "in conformity with the constitution elections within two months for the two vacant seats in Beirut and Metin," he said. "Once adopted, the decree will be carried out even if the president of the republic, Emile Lahoud, refuses to sign it," he added.
Following the assassination last November of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, the government ordered by-elections. Lahoud refused to sign the decree and the government did not press its case. The second seat became vacant on Wednesday with the murder of Beirut MP Walid Eido.
A third MP belonging to the anti-Syrian majority, Gebran Tueni, was assassinated in December 2005. In that case, by-elections were held, and he was succeeded by his father, Ghassan, who ran unopposed. Lahoud, who was controversially re-elected to office in 2004 after then power broker Syria forced a constitutional amendment through parliament, issued a sharp rebuke to Aridi's announcement.
"As guarantor of the constitution, I warn this illegitimate government. It does not have the right to exploit the assassination of deputy Eido to violate the constitution. The only solution lies in forming a unity government," the president said in a statement. Lebanon has been politically paralyzed since November, when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet charging that it was riding roughshod over the power-sharing arrangements in force since the 1975-90 civil war. Pro-Syrian parliament speaker Nabih Berri has since refused to convene MPs to ratify government legislation, including proposals for an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of ex-premier Rafik Hariri. The U.N. Security Council has since adopted a resolution imposing the court.
The parliamentary majority accuses Syria of Hariri's murder, as well as those of the three MPs, something Damascus denies.
It argues that Syria is seeking to "liquidate" its absolute majority, which would prevent anti-Damascus forces from having the votes necessary to elect a successor to Lahoud.With Eido's killing, the ruling majority has seen its majority dropped to only five seats in Parliament, which is made up of 128 seats.(AFP-Naharnet)

Hizbullah Gunmen Briefly Kidnap Three Lebanese Policemen
Hizbullah gunmen kidnapped three policemen in south Beirut Friday, stripped them of their weapons, interrogated them and then set them free.
A ranking police officer told Naharnet the police patrol was trying to settle a quarrel between a number of people in the Hadi Nasrallah avenue of south Beirut, which is a Hizbullah stronghold. "All of a sudden armed Hizbullah elements besieged the patrol, stripped the officers of their weapons and took them to a Hizbullah office in the area," said the officer. "The police officers were interrogated by Hizbullah members who set them free later after contacts between Lebanese officials and the party's leadership," he added. The officer said Hizbullah gunmen accused the three of "entering Hizbullah's secured square" in south Beirut which is off limits for Lebanese troops and security forces. The so-called secured square in south Beirut houses Hizbullah's main facilities.

More Army Losses as Troops Battle Militants
Four Lebanese army soldiers were killed on Friday as troops sought to finish off Fatah al-Islam terrorists holed up in the northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared for nearly a month. Six other people were wounded in Friday's fighting. The latest fatalities brought the overall death toll from the gunbattles which broke out May 20 to 134 people killed. The soldiers were caught by the booby-traps and blown up on the edge of the besieged Nahr al-Bared camp after shooting stuttered intermittently through the night, according to an army commander. Troops opened up with artillery fire on Friday, pounding remaining Fatah al-Islam hideouts in Nahr el-Bared. Militants responded with small-arms and mortar fire. Plumes of smoke billowed over the northern part of the camp, which lies near the port city of Tripoli on the shores of the Mediterranean. The violence is mirrored elsewhere in the deeply-divided country and on Thursday saw thousands of angry mourners throng the capital for the funeral of a prominent MP whose murder stoked fears of further instability. Walid Eido, a vocal critic of the Syrian regime, was killed by a seafront bomb on Wednesday that was blamed, like others, on Damascus, the former power brokers in Lebanon.(Naharnet-AFP)

Lebanon's Troublesome Camps
The Palestinian gunman ran toward the entrance of the small military base and cocked his rifle. "Get your hands up in the air," he yelled angrily at a visiting TIME correspondent. His aimed rifle and furious scowl made it clear that visitors were not welcome.
The base, hidden in a small quarry just south of Kfar Zabad village in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, is local headquarters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), a small pro-Syrian faction. With Lebanon mired in steadily worsening violence, this base and other Palestinian refugee military camps are coming under renewed scrutiny: many are controlled by pro-Syrian groups scattered mainly in remote rocky valleys close to the Syrian border and, as the United Nations Security Council said last week, there is "deep concern" that weapons and militants are being smuggled across Syria's porous border with Lebanon, contributing to the growing instability in this tiny Mediterranean country.
On Wednesday, Walid Eido, an outspoken anti-Syrian politician, was killed along with his son, two bodyguards and six civilians in a large car bomb explosion in Beirut. He was the seventh anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated since the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. In the north, Lebanese troops remain locked in a bloody three-week confrontation with militants from the Fatah al-Islam faction in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. Lebanese officials say that the recently-formed Fatah al-Islam was sent into Lebanon by Syrian military intelligence to cause instability, a charge Damascus strongly denies. Lebanese security officials also maintain that pro-Syrian Palestinians of the PFLP-GC have taken sides with Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared.
"The men of the PFLP-GC are fighting [alongside] Fatah al-Islam," Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanon's paramilitary Internal Security Forces, told TIME. This week, Terje Roed-Larsen, a U.N. Mideast envoy, reported to the U.N. Security Council that the PFLP-GC and Fatah Intifada, a smaller pro-Syrian faction, appeared to be growing stronger in Lebanon due to a "steady flow of weapons and armed elements across the border from Syria." Syria has described the allegations as "lies" with the Syrian state news agency asserting that Roed-Larsen's claims were "misleading" and nothing more than "rumors released for political purposes."
Most of these small Palestinian military bases have existed since the early 1970s and are separate from the 12 established Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon where the estimated population of some 350,000 refugees live. In early 2006, Lebanon's top leaders agreed that the Palestinian military bases would be closed down within a six-month time-frame. But the decision went unfulfilled as more pressing political crises emerged, overshadowing the fate of the bases. In an interview with TIME, Mohammed Chatah, senior advisor to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora described the bases as "a nuisance at the very least."
A U.N. delegation is about to wrap up a three-week mission to examine security procedures along the Lebanon-Syria border and will conclude that much needs to be done to tighten border security. That could spur U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to recommend dispatching a U.N. observer mission to monitor the porous frontier. Such a decision will anger Damascus which has repeatedly stated its opposition to an international presence along its border with Lebanon. It will further add pressure on the Palestinian bases which are linked to Syria via numerous remote trails that criss-cross the mountainous border. The Lebanese army tightened control over the bases 18 months ago, manning checkpoints on the approach roads and monitoring movements of the Palestinian militants. A corner of south east Lebanon near the villages of Yanta and Helwa along the Syrian border where several Fatah Intifada bases are located has become a sealed-off military zone. "Everybody is focusing on us and the PFLP-GC because we are pro-Syrian, but we are proud to be pro-Syrian," says Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, a Fatah Intifada security official in the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut.
The angry PFLP-GC guard at the base near Kfar Zabad held a TIME correspondent at gunpoint until the post's commander arrived. The bearded commander, dressed in a purple shell suit and sandals, was friendlier, but taciturn. "We are guests in this country and we are here in these bases only to help liberate Palestine," he said with a smile, while refusing to give his name and answer any further questions. The fighting in north Lebanon presents the Lebanese army with its toughest challenge in decades. Analysts believe that if the Fatah al-Islam militants are soundly defeated it will greatly boost the stature of the under-equipped army and strengthen its ability to impose security.
The possibility of a confrontation with the Lebanese army appears to be playing on the minds of the PFLP-GC. The entrance to a PFLP-GC base at Naameh in the coastal hills nine miles south of Beirut has been reinforced recently with sandbags and fiberglass tubs filled with earth. A uniformed gunman pulled a wool mask over his face at the approach of a TIME correspondent. As he called his commander by field telephone, a dozen other heavily-armed fighters emerged from a small trail running into the brush-covered hillside beside a long-abandoned factory partially destroyed by years of Israeli air strikes against the base. Some of the fighters wore checkered headscarves over the faces, others clutched rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Deeply suspicious, they took up firing positions in the rocks either side of the road and scanned the approaches intently.
Abu Amine, the gray-haired commander in Naameh, said that they would abandon the military posts and return to the refugee camps if Palestinians in Lebanon were given basic civil rights. The Palestinians are tightly controlled in Lebanon, barred from all but menial labor. "They talk about Naameh as an illegitimate security zone, but we will never take sides against the patriotic Lebanese army," says this grizzled veteran of the Palestinian revolution dressed in an old U.S. army desert camouflage uniform and sandals. Still, the reinforcements at Naameh and the alert fighters suggests that despite talk of peace, the militants of the PFLP-GC are readying for a confrontation.

Syria's opponents in Lebanon remain targets
Saturday, 16 June, 2007
by Rana Fil
Beirut - Murder can have unforeseen consequences. Syria's leaders ought to know that by now. A prime example is the car-bomb assassination of the billionaire Lebanese-independence champion Rafik Hariri.
Almost faster than Damascus could deny responsibility for it, his killing launched the Cedar Revolution, a massive Lebanese nationalist uprising that accomplished what Hariri had only dreamed of doing while he lived. Within weeks his death had brought down the pro-Syria puppet government in Beirut. Damascus was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, after 29 years of military occupation.
And yet the killings—and Syria's denials of involvement in any of them—continue. Since Hariri's death, seven anti-Syrian political figures have been killed in Lebanon, including three members of Parliament. The most recent was Walid Eido, 65. Late on the afternoon of June 13, a bomb ripped through his black Mercedes on a side street in Beirut, killing the legislator along with his 35-year-old son, two bodyguards and six passers-by. The death of Eido reduced the Lebanese Parliament's anti-Damascus majority to 68 seats in a total 128—actually a total of 126, since there was one vacancy even before this killing created another. President Emile Lahoud, a holdover from before the Cedar Revolution, has blocked efforts to fill the seat that was held by cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel until he was gunned down in a road ambush last November. The pro-Syrian president's successor is to be chosen in September, and in Lebanon it's the Parliament that does the choosing. Now there's one fewer vote for the anti-Damascus side.
But violence against the Lebanese government has moved beyond assassinations to armed conflict. A small but heavily armed jihadist group calling itself Fatah al-Islam has been battling the Lebanese Army in and around Tripoli since the third weekend in May. The fighting, centered on Nahr el-Bared—the Palestinian refugee camp closest to Syria's border—erupted three days after the United States, France and Great Britain began circulating a draft U.N. resolution for creation of a tribunal for suspects in the Hariri assassination. As always, the Syrians deny any part in the violence, but many Lebanese say the connection is obvious. "Nahr el-Bared is the implementation of Syrian official talk of turning Lebanon into hell if the international tribunal moves ahead," says parliamentarian Elias Atallah, in a comment echoed by others in his bloc.
Fatah al-Islam has an estimated 350 jihadists from all over the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia and Morocco. Lebanese police say many of the group's fighters spent time in Iraq before infiltrating into Lebanon via Syria. Hariri's son, Saad Hariri, the Parliament's majority leader, is unwavering in his conviction that Syria is behind Fatah al-Islam. "I would understand if two or three of them arrive at the Damascus Airport and slip through immigration," says Hariri. "But when we're talking of so many, including Syrians, there is a huge question mark on how and why the Syrian intelligence did not intercept them."
Many Fatah al-Islam leaders are said to have spent time in Syrian jails before arriving in Lebanon, according to Gen. Ashraf Rifi, the head of Lebanon's internal security forces. "They were released from Syrian jails by special amnesty,'' Rifi says. Lebanese officials believe the former prisoners got their freedom on condition that they begin working for Syria's intelligence services. The group's leader, a Palestinian named Shaker Absi, served three years behind bars in Syria on weapons charges. In 2004 a Jordanian military court sentenced him in absentia to death for the October 2002 murder of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, but Syria refused to send its prisoner to Jordan. (One of Absi’s codefendants was Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, the bloodthirsty Jordanian-born jihadist who founded and led Al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in an American air strike in 2006.)
Senior Lebanese officials say Fatah al-Islam began as Fatah al-Intifada, a Syrian-aligned group established in the 1980s as an offshoot of Yasir Arafat's Fatah organization. In the summer of 2006, amid the chaos of Israel's war on Hezbollah, Absi showed up in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps and Fatah al-Intifada began to grow, according to Ahmad Fatfat, then-acting Interior minister. The new militants worried other camp residents, who wanted no bloodshed around their homes. Nevertheless, fighting finally broke out in September 2006 between Fatah al-Intifada and people in Beddawi, a camp outside Tripoli. After one Palestinian died, Beddawi residents apprehended two Fatah al-Intifada militants and handed them over to Lebanese authorities.
Absi and his followers soon changed their group's name to Fatah al-Islam. Lebanon's Communications minister, Marwan Hamadeh —himself the target of an assassination attempt just months before Hariri was killed—says the renaming came after Lebanese authorities received intelligence that Damascus had begun sending "the same suicide bombers it sends to Iraq" to Lebanon. "They wanted to make it look as if it was a pure Al Qaeda operation," he said. "Some of the elements probably believe they work for Al Qaeda but the command is under Syrian control." Captured Fatah al-Islam fighters have allegedly confessed to receiving military training at bases run by the pro-Syrian radical Palestinian group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. "We have no ties with Fatah al-Islam," says Ramez Mostafa, the PFLP-GC's top man in Lebanon. "The [Lebanese] government is using those events to aim at our weapons."
Syria's parliamentary friends accuse Hariri of having his own militant connections, particularly in the south Lebanon town of Taamir, where the group Jund al-Sham ("Soldiers of Damascus") is based. Hariri says he has given money in Taamir—to help the poor, not the militants. He says he built roads and clinics there to give the inhabitants an alternative to joining the militants. "We worked hard to give people dignity and responsibility in this neighborhood where people live in desperate poverty," he says. "If you give them hope, they see that there is a way out."
Meanwhile, the fighting in the north may actually be helping to bring the people of Lebanon together. Many Palestinians have distanced themselves from the militants, according to Sultan Abu al-Aynayn, the commander of Fatah in Lebanon. And Jihad Zein, opinion editor at an-Nahar newspaper, believes the violence has actually increased support for the army across the Lebanese political spectrum. "Even the nuanced position of Hezbollah does not represent the Shiite public mood, which has traditionally been with the army," he said in an interview. Many observers regard that development as a sign of major progress. "An army is the first building block of a state," says Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. "The reappearance of the national army means the reappearance of the cornerstone of a potential sovereign Lebanese state." Somewhere, Rafik Hariri may be smiling.
Sources: Newsweek - by Rana Fil

The World Council of the Cedars Revolution
Representing the hopes and aspirations of many millions of Lebanese throughout the Diaspora
2300 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
15th June 2007
Honorable Fouad Siniora
Prime Minister of
The Republic of Lebanon
Dear Prime Minister
The Time has come to request expansion of UNIFIL in Lebanon under Chapter 7 to protect the civil society, monitor the borders and start the process of disarmament of all militias in Lebanon,
i.e. full implementation of UNSC Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
The World Council of the Cedars Revolution (WCCR) extends to you and to your democratically elected Government and to the people of Lebanon, our condolences, for the loss of a soldier of the Cedars Revolution Walid Eido MP, his son Khaled and eight innocent bystanders. The total disregard for human life in Lebanon has reached the depths of despair.
The (WCCR) sees Lebanese unity as fully supporting of your duly elected Government, the constitution of Lebanon, the democratic institutions and the army.
In addition to this support, The (WCCR) makes its utmost and urgent request to you and your government, that you immediately request from the United Nations Security Council, its assistance in dealing with the root cause problems in Lebanon today, under a Chapter 7 provision for UNIFIL with the Lebanese army coming under UNIFIL command, to implement the following strategy;
1. Expand the UNIFIL forces to deploy along the Lebanese borders to prevent any violations of UNSCR Resolution 1701.
2. The UNIFIL forces to deploy across the Lebanese State to secure the civil society from the abyss that is being inflicted upon it.
3. The UNIFIL forces to start a program of disarming all militias and Palestinian camps in Lebanon, In accordance with UNSCR 1559, and UNSCR 1701.
4. Restart the dialogue between the Lebanese by opening up the parliament of Lebanon immediately under the security of UNIFIL. The parliament is a representative of the people of Lebanon and where is there a better place to restart the dialogue?
5. The priority of the government agenda should be the bi-elections and replacement of the members of parliament who have been assassinated.
The goal of achieving the protection of democracy, civil society and its institutions in Lebanon, at this time, can only be achieved with the assistance of implementing UNSC Chapter 7 capabilities through UNIFIL.
Mr Prime Minister, this is not only a war that we have to win, but it is a war that we absolutely cannot afford to lose. We strongly advise that you make the request, now, while you still can and the UNSC is waiting for you to do so.
The World Council of the Cedars Revolution
Joseph P. Baini World Council Chairman

Syro-Iranian massacre of Lebanese Politicians
By Walid Phares
With the assassination of Lebanese MP Jebran Tueni in December 2006, months after the murder of political leaders George Hawi and Samir Qassir during the summer, the Syro-Iranian terror war room had opened a bloody hunt against the democratically elected Lebanese Parliament. After the withdrawal of regular Syrian forces from Lebanon in April 2005, Bashar Assad and his allies in Tehran designed a counter offensive (which we described then and later) aiming at crumbling the Cedars Revolution. One of the main components of this strategy was (and remain) to use all intelligence and security assets of Syria and Iran in Lebanon in order to “reduce” the number of deputies who form the anti-Syrian majority in the Parliament. As simple as that: assassinate as many members as needed to flip the quantitative majority in the Legislative Assembly. And when that is done, the Seniora Government collapses and a Hezbollah-led cabinet forms. In addition, if the Terror war kills about 8 legislators, the remnant of the Parliament can elect a new President of the Republic who will move the country under the tutelage of the Assad regime.
As incredibly barbaric as it seems in the West, the genocide of the legislators in Lebanon at the hands of the Syrian regime and its allies is very “normal” by Baathist (and certainly by Jihadist) political culture. During the 1980s, Saddam Hussein executed a large segment of his own Party’s national assembly to maintain his regime intact. In the same decade, Hafez Assad eliminated systematically his political adversaries both inside Syria and across Syrian occupied Lebanon to secure his control over the two “sister” countries. So for Bashar to order the assassination of his opponents in Lebanon as of the fall of 2004 to perpetuate his domination of the little Baathist “empire” is not a stunning development: it is the standing procedure in Damascus since 1970.
And to “achieve” these goals, the junta in Syria has a plethora of tools and assets left in Lebanon. First, the vast Syrian intelligence networks still deeply rooted in the small country; second, the powerful Iranian-financed Hezbollah with its lethal security apparatus; third, the Syrian-controlled groups within the Palestinian camps from various ideological backgrounds including Baathists, Marxists, or even Islamist such as Fatah al Islam; fourth the pro-Syrian and Hezbollah sympathizers “inside” the Lebanese Army as well as the units and security services still under the control of General Emile Lahoud; fifth, the client militias and organizations remote-controlled by Syrian intelligence such as the Syrian National-Social Party; and sixth, operatives inserted within political groups gravitating around Damascus such as those of Sleiman Frangieh, Michel Aoun and Talal Arslan. In short, the Syro-Iranian axis has a wide array of security and intelligence assets from which it can select the most appropriate perpetrators for each “take down.” The Assad regime has its “own” Sunni operatives to kill Sunnis, Christians to murder Christians and Druze to eliminate Druze and has the full resources of Hezbollah terror to obstruct the Government of Lebanon and ultimately crumble it.
The “reduction” –both physical and political- of the Lebanese Parliamentary majority began as soon as the assembly was elected in the spring of 2005. The Lebanese opposition to Assad and Hezbollah got originally 72 seats out of the 128 members, a comfortable majority to resume the “liberation” of the country from occupation and Terrorism. In December of 2006 a car bomb kills MP Jebran Tueni bringing the majority to 71. Though he is quickly replaced by his father Ghassan, the latter’s old age and unwillingness to pursue the same anti-Terrorist activism is a negative in the big battle. In January 2006 a majority-MP Edmond Naim, dies of old age. The anti-Cedars revolution pressure brings in Pierre Daccache, “neutral” in principle, but essentially close to now Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun. Since, the majority has 71 seats. In December of 2006, majority-MP Pierre Gemayel is assassinated by Syrian operatives. The number of dedicated MPs falls to 70. Few weeks ago, Syrian threats compel the Alawi MP from the north to quit the majority, bringing the number to 69. Today’s assassination of Sunni Walid Eido, a fierce opponent to the Syrian regime brings the number of MPs to 68. Four more assassinations and the Parliamentary majority in Lebanon would collapse, bringing back Ahmedinijad and Assad’s Terror power to the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean.
What can be done to stop the legislators’ massacre in Lebanon and its dramatic consequences?
The UN Security Council, under resolutions 1559 and 1701 should intervene massively by ordering and overseeing the following steps:
a) Put all remaining 68 MPs under direct international protection. A special international security force should be dispatched to Lebanon, gather the endangered legislators in one or several protected locations and escort them later to perform their constitutional duties.
b) Ask the Lebanese Government of Mr Seniora to organize the appropriate legislative elections in the districts of Matn and Beirut to replace the assassinated MPs Gemayel and Eido. Dispatch UN observers to oversee these elections. c) Ask the Lebanese Parliament to elect a new President during the constitutional period beginning in August and escort the 68 endangered MPs (plus the two newly elected ones) to the location of the Presidential elections and provide security during the voting process.  By doing so, the UNSC would be implementing its own resolutions, fulfilling the democratic process in Lebanon and fighting back against Terrorism with the power of the people of Lebanon. For when a new democratically elected President is elected in Lebanon, the road –still very difficult and dangerous- to democracy will be paved.
**Dr Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy and the author of the War of Ideas. Dr Phares was one of the architects of UNSCR 1559.
June 15, 2007 05:38 PM Print

Fatah storms Hamas-controlled buildings
RAMALLAH, West Bank - Hundreds of Fatah gunmen on Saturday stormed Hamas-controlled institutions in the West Bank, including parliament and government ministries, and told staffers that those with ties to Hamas will not be allowed to return. At the parliament, the Fatah supporters chanted, "Hamas Out," climbed on the roof of the building and fired in the air. They planted Fatah and Palestinian flags on the building, and also tried to seize the deputy speaker but were stopped by employees. Many government employees tied to Hamas had not showed up for work on Saturday, the start of the work week in the West Bank, after Hamas took control of Gaza in a military campaign. Apparently, the staffers feared reprisals.A member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Fatah, said his group planned to take control of all Hamas institutions, in response to Hamas' takeover of Gaza. At the parliament building, Fatah gunmen entered the office of Deputy Speaker Hassan Kreisheh and tried to grab him, but Fatah employees stopped them. Other Fatah activists took over the Education Ministry and the prime minister's office.In the West Bank city of Nablus, Fatah gunmen took over the Hamas-controlled city council and planted the Fatah flag on the top of the building. Fatah supporters also kidnapped seven Hamas supporters, and deposed a senior member of the Religious Affairs Ministry.