May 22/2007

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 16,29-33.  His disciples said, "Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

Free Opinions
Fight on, Lebanon.FrontPage, By Elias Bejjani. May 22/07
Don't let a fringe group reignite tension among Lebanese and Palestinians. Daily Star May 22/07

Analysis: Why might Syria wish to sow chaos in Lebanon now?Jerusalem Post. May 22/07
Qat is one habit most Yemenis can't - or won't - kick .By Nichole Sobecki. May 22/07
An army against the clock in Iraq.By David Ignatius. May 22/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for May 22/05/07
Fatah al-Islam Militants Entrenched Behind Human Shield in Nahr el-Bared's fighting-Naharnet
Renewed Fighting Around Nahr al-Bared Day After Gunbattles Left Nearly 50 Killed-Naharnet
Fatah al-Islam Vows Fight to Death vs. Lebanon-Naharnet
International Community Condemns Lebanon Fighting-Naharnet
U.S. backs Lebanese troops in refugee camp battle.AP
The Mystery Militia In Lebanon.TIME
Lebanon tightens siege of refugee camp-AP
Report: Iran to buy Russian air defense system via Syria.Ha'aretz
Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon: Facts and figures
.CNN International - USA
Syria or al-Qaeda at work?
The Age - Melbourne

Fighting Continues for Second Day in Northern Lebanon.Voice of America
Fighting in northern Lebanon enters second day.People's Daily Online 
Lebanon: Army lays siege around camp Jerusalem Post
Dozens killed in Lebanese fighting- AP
Fateh Official Denies Link with "So Called Fateh al-Islam"
Free Shiite movement points at Syria of north Lebanon violence
.Ya Libnan, Lebanon
Beirut explosion kills one in Lebanon.Ya Libnan
Tribunal for lebanon: to be passed by force?International Justice Tribune
Lebanon Army battles ‘al-Qaeda’ militia.Times Online
Israel's Next -
US about-face gives Israel green light for Syria dialogue.Ha'aretz
Australians urged to leave North Lebanon.The Age, Australia

Latest News Reports From The Daily Star for May 22/05/07
Aridi applauds 'courageous' effort by soldiers
22 troops, 19 Fatah al-Islam fighters dead
Fatah commander vents fury at 'gang of criminals' with 'external agenda'
Hajj Hassan condemns plans to use Hariri court for 'political ends'

ISF arrests gang of highway robbers
NGO points to corruption in war-relief effort
Fuel oil spilled from Jiyyeh during war still fouls parts of coast, stirs controversy over clean-up
How a bomblet took a teen's leg - and is slowly killing her father


Militant Killed in Lebanon Wanted in Germany
By VOA News
21 May 2007
Lebanese Security officials say one of the Islamic militants killed in heavy fighting in the northern city of Tripoli Sunday was a suspect in a failed plot to blow up trains in Germany last year.
Authorities said Monday that the body of Saddam el-Hajdib was found among the bodies of 10 Fatah al-Islam fighters in a building raided by Lebanese troops Sunday.
Smoke billows from the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr Al-Bared near Tripoli in northern Lebanon, 21 May 2007
Officials say el-Hajdib was the fourth-ranking member of the Islamic group. Lebanese troops clashed for a second day Monday with Islamic extremists around the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. Officials said today at least 46 people were killed in heavy fighting Sunday, including 27 soldiers and at least 17 militants, along with some civilians. There is no immediate word on casualties from today's clashes. The fighting broke out Sunday after police raided suspected Fatah al-Islam hideouts in a Tripoli neighborhood, looking for suspects in a bank robbery. The group is suspected of having ties to al-Qaida. Elsewhere, one woman was killed and several other people wounded late Sunday in an explosion in Beirut's Christian sector. It is not clear who was responsible. The battles are said to be the worst internal fighting since Lebanon's 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Fighting in northern Lebanon enters second day
UPDATED: 17:13, May 21, 2007
The fighting between the Lebanese troops and militants around a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon entered the second day on Monday, after the violence on the previous day left at least 48 people dead, Arabia TV reported. The report also quoted military official as saying that the soldiers have tightened their grip around the Nahr el-Bared camp in the northern city of Tripoli and were shelling positions of the Fatah al-Islam faction at the entrances of the camp.
There is no immediate report on the latest casualties. Some 30,000 displaced Palestinians live at the camp, and under a 38-year-old deal, Lebanese police and soldiers do not enter Palestinian refugee camps. But according to unconfirmed report from well-informed sources, Prime Minister Fouad Senior is currently negotiating a break of the rule and seek to get into the camp to wipe out the Islamic militants. Arabia TV reported on Sunday night that a total of 48 people, including 23 soldiers, 15 militants from the radical Palestinian faction of Fatah al-Islam and 10 civilians, had been killed during the Sunday's fighting. The army officer also confirmed the army's death toll to Xinhua. The fighting started at dawn on Sunday after security forces raided homes in the refugee camp to arrest suspects in a bank robbery happened one day ago during which four masked gunmen robbed a bank in the northern town of Amioun and made off with 125, 000 U.S. dollars in cash.
Militants from the faction Fatah al-Islam then attacked army posts at the refugee camp, where they are based. The Nahr el-Bared camp has been under scrutiny since two bus bombings in a Christian area in northern of Beirut in February. Police had arrested a number of members of the Islamic faction based in the camp in connection with the twin bus bombings, which killed and wounded at least 20 people. Source: Xinhua

Don't let a fringe group reignite tension among Lebanese and Palestinians
Monday, May 21, 2007
Editorial- Daily Star
On Sunday a small, seemingly marginal group of Islamist militants in North Lebanon demonstrated just how precarious the security situation is in this country. A rag-tag band of gunmen belonging to Fatah al-Islam resisted the authority of security forces who had come to arrest them, sparking off a series of deadly clashes that resulted in the deaths of dozens of people and largely shut down the city of Tripoli.
One of the most worrying developments of the day came in the form of a statement faxed to various news agencies that claimed to represent Fatah al-Islam. It warned that if the Lebanese Army's assault on the group did not end, "our mujahideen ... will open the gates of hell ... against [the army] and against the whole of Lebanon." A spokesman for Fatah al-Islam later denied that the statement had been issued by the group, but it nonetheless prompted fears among the Lebanese public, who were reminded of the potential for their country to get caught in the crossfires of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Fatah al-Islam has said that one of its primary objectives is to train the Palestinians "to fight the Jews in Palestine" - an activity that they have been carrying out more than 200 kilometers away from the Israeli border. But regardless of what the group has said of its stated objectives, the truth is that to date, the only people to have died at the hands of these militants have been Lebanese citizens and possibly Palestinians. Thus their sole accomplishment is that they have added to the suffering of the Lebanese and Palestinian people.
Lebanon has paid a higher price than any other Arab country in terms of lives and livelihoods lost to the Arab-Israeli conflict. During the Civil War, Palestinian leaders in Beirut famously argued that "the road to Jerusalem passes through Jounieh," suggesting that it was necessary for the Palestinians to defeat Lebanese Christian militias before they could achieve a Palestinian state. Most of those same leaders later abandoned their struggle and that logic, but not before instilling great suspicion in the Lebanese people. Sunday's events ought to serve as a reminder to Lebanese leaders of all political stripes that there is an urgent need to implement measures that were agreed upon with the heads of the country's Palestinian factions, all of whom have denounced Fatah al-Islam. A framework must be created so that a small band of criminals can never succeed in destabilizing this country and jeopardizing relations between Palestinian refugees and Lebanese civilians.

Beirut explosion kills one in Lebanon
Monday, 21 May, 2007 @ 2:30 AM
Beirut, Lebanon - An explosion late Sunday across the street from a busy shopping mall killed a 63-year-old woman and injured 12 other people, sending black smoke billowing in the Christian sector of the Lebanese capital, police and witnesses said. Rescuers reported six of the injuries were from flying debris and broken glass. Several cars were set ablaze or wrecked in the blast, which was heard across the city and surrounding hills. Beirut and surrounding suburbs has been a series of explosions in the last two years, particularly targeting Christian areas in which the U.S.-backed majority coalition has blamed on Syria. The blast came after daylong battles between the Lebanese army and a suspected al-Qaeda-linked militant group in the northern port town of Tripoli that killed 22 soldiers and 17 militants.
The Lebanese Broadcasting Corp., a major Christian TV station, said the woman was killed in the Beirut blast when the wall in her apartment collapsed on her from the impact of the explosion. Most of the casualties were in nearby buildings.
The explosion occurred across the street from the major ABC shopping center shortly before midnight (2100GMT) in Ashrafieh, an upscale neighborhood of the Christian sector of the Lebanese capital. The mall also has restaurants and movie theaters that operated late, particularly on Sunday, a weekend here.
The bomb caused a crater 1.5 meters (about 4 feet) deep and 3 meters (9 feet) wide in the road, and police officials said the explosives were estimated to weigh 10 kilograms (22 pounds). It was not clear whether it was placed under or inside a parked vehicle.
The blast started fires in parked vehicles and shattered car, shop and apartment windows. Other vehicles were collapsed from the impact of the explosion.
TV footage showed Red Cross workers helping an elderly man, whose head was wrapped in blood-soaked bandages. A woman in her night gown was being carried by a companion, in his pajamas.
The mall's owner, Robert Abu Fadil, said on television early Monday that crews will work all night to clean up the damage, the broken glass and gutted vehicles to open for business in the morning. "We were expecting this kind of thing," he said on LBC TV from the scene, pointing to extra security measures the mall and other businesses have taken in recent months. "For sure this will affect us in part, but we've been through more difficult times," he said. "But God is the Almighty. We will rebuild."The most prominent recent deadly attack in Beirut was the near simultaneously bombings of commuter buses in the Christian heartland that killed three people on Feb. 13. The same militant group in Sunday's Tripoli clashes, Fatah Islam, was blamed by authorities for the bus bombings, an accusation they have denied.
Sunday's explosion, the fourth in Ashrafieh in the last two years, also came as the U.N. Security Council is considering a draft resolution to impose the international tribunal in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri after Lebanon's government and the pro-Syrian opposition led by Hezbollah failed to agree on approving it in Beirut.
A U.N. investigation into the 2005 assassination also has been expanded to include the series of bombings anti-Syrian groups blame on Syria. A U.N. investigation has linked senior Syrian security officials and allies in the Lebanese security services to Hariri's 2005 truck bombing murder while Syria controlled Lebanon.
Damascus has denied involvement in Hariri's death and the other explosions, but Damascus was forced to withdraw its army from Lebanon after a 29-year presence two months after the assassination. Cabinet minister Pierre Pharaon, whose constituency includes Ashrafieh, said the explosion aimed at showing that the approval of the international court would coincide with attempts to undermine Lebanon's security.Source: AP

Tribunal for lebanon: to be passed by force?
21 Mai 2007
After more than a year of procrastination and political blockage by pro-Syrian Lebanese political groups, three permanent members of the UN Security Council are preparing a resolution to impose an international tribunal to prosecute the February 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and possibly 14 other assassinations at that time, according to the French newspaper Le Monde. The intervention of France, the United States, and the United Kingdom follows the request made on May 14 by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora for a "binding decision," quotes Le Monde. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that "the time has come to take necessary action." A new report from the international team investigating the assassination is expected in June. According to AFP, Hezbollah, which is close to Syria, has already warned that this initiative would sow "division and discord" in Lebanon. Meanwhile the Syrian president, whose closest officials are allegedly implicated in Hariri's assassination, again refused "any collaboration" with this potential tribunal.

Free Shiite movement accuses Syria of north Lebanon violence
Sunday, 20 May, 2007 @ 6:59 PM
Beirut – The Free Shiite movement Sheikh Mohammad el Hajj Hassan said a foreign regional power is behind the violence today against the Lebanese army in Lebanon , in reference to Syria which borders the country in the North and East. Hassan declared that the purpose of this violence was to derail the International Tribunal for trying the suspects in the murder of Lebanon’s former PM Rafik Hariri
Syria has been accused of being behind the assassination of Hariri and the other Lebanese leaders , but Syria denied any wrongdoing.
Syria told the UN it will not cooperate with the International Tribunal . Hassan urged the UN to protect Lebanon from the Syrians by setting up border patrols along the Lebanese-Syrian borders. Hassan offered his full support to the Lebanese army and urged its leader to pursue the terrorists till the end.
Hassan also urged the Palestinian leadership to respect the Lebanese sovereignty and independence and urged them to hand over the criminals to the government along with their weapons.

8 dead as Lebanese army shells Palestinian camp in N. Lebanon
By News agencies
At least eight civilians were killed and 20 wounded on Monday in a Lebanese army shelling of a Palestinian refugee camp during fighting with Islamist militants, Palestinian sources inside the camp said. They said the toll was certain to rise as some areas of the camp, home to some 40,000 refugees, could not be reached by rescue workers. The shelling occured a day after 57 people were killed in battles there and in the nearby northern city of Tripoli, security sources said.
Tank shells crashed into the coastal camp, raising plumes of smoke, as fighters of the little-known Fatah al-Islam group fired grenades and machineguns at army posts on the camp perimeter, witnesses said. At least 27 soldiers, 15 militants and 15 civilians died in Sunday's violence, the worst internal fighting since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement on Monday condemned the Palestinian militants battling Lebanese troops, saying the al-Qaida linked Fatah Islam has nothing to do with them.
They urged Palestinian refugees in the camp to isolate the militant group, which first set up in the northern Lebanese camp last fall after its leader was released from a Syrian jail. Palestinian officials, who met with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora in Beirut Monday, said the leader was focused on saving innocent lives and left it up to him to decide whether to send the army into the camp.
Lebanese Red Cross ambulances evacuated 20 wounded from the camp overnight, following an appeal for humanitarian access from
the International Committee of the Red Cross.Witnesses said imams called by loudspeakers for the army to stop shelling the camp, one of several across Lebanon which host about 400,000 Palestinian refugees, part of an exodus prompted by the 1948 war that followed Israel's creation.
In Beirut, an explosion near a popular shopping mall in the mainly Christian east of the capital killed a woman and wounded at least 10 people on Sunday night, a security source said. No group has claimed the attack and it was not clear if it was linked to the fighting in the north. Four Fatah al-Islam members were charged with bombings near Beirut earlier this year.
Lebanese government ministers say Fatah al-Islam is a tool used by Syria to stir instability in an effort to derail UN moves to set up an international court that would try suspects in the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
Militant was wanted in German terror bid
One of the Islamic militants killed in fighting with Lebanese troops in northern Lebanon was a suspect in a failed German train bombing attempt, a Lebanese security official said Monday.
Lebanese authorities have arrested four other suspects on charges they allegedly planted crude bombs on two trains at the Cologne, Germany, station on July 31. The bombs, found later in the day on trains at the Koblenz and Dortmund stations, failed to explode because of faulty detonators. German surveillance cameras are said to have filmed suspects as they wheeled suitcases into the station.
The body of Saddam el-Hajdib was among the burned bodies of 10 Fatah Islam fighters found in a building in the northern city of Tripoli after it was raided by Lebanese troops and policemen during Sunday's fierce fighting with the militants, the official told The Associated Press. El-Hajdib was the fourth-highest ranking official in the Fatah Islam group, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
El-Hajdib had been on trial in absentia in Lebanon in connection with the
failed German plot. It was not clear if Lebanese officials had known his
whereabouts before the fighting broke out Sunday in northern Lebanon, in the city of Tripoli and in a nearby Palestinian refugee camp where Fatah Islam has set up its headquarters.
Suppressing Fatah al-Islam
Fatah al-Islam, a Sunni Muslim group inspired by Al Qaida, is thought to have only a few hundred fighters, but suppressing it is no easy task for Lebanon's over-stretched army of 40,000.
The army may not enter the country's 12 Palestinian refugee camps under a 1969 Arab accord. Palestinian factions still carry weapons inside the camps, despite a 2004 UN Security Council resolution calling for all militias in Lebanon to be disarmed.
The resolution is rejected by Lebanon's biggest armed group, Hezbollah, whose Shi'ite Muslim guerrillas fought a 34-day war with Israel last year. Some 15,000 army troops moved to south Lebanon under a UN resolution that halted hostilities, while another 8,000 were sent to control the border with Syria.
Media on both sides of Lebanon's political divide criticised the authorities for not tackling Fatah al-Islam before. "Who is responsible for the army's massacre in the Fatah al-Islam ambush?" asked as-Safir, a pro-opposition daily, referring to a militant attack on an army patrol on Sunday.
Using the army to tackle armed groups in Lebanon has long been a sensitive issue, given the country's sectarian divisions, but Nahr al-Bared's Lebanese neighbours have had enough. "We're not sleeping at night. Our children are terrified. We're not leaving our homes. We don't want anything but God's mercy," said Ahmed Frousheh, 55, a farmer who lives nearby.
"The camp has to respect the state. They are destroying Lebanon, inciting strife all because of the tribunal and Syria."
Fatah al-Islam's leader, Shaker al-Abssi, was sentenced to death in Jordan in absentia for the 2002 killing of a U.S. diplomat. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the slain chief of al Qaeda in Iraq, received a death sentence for the same crime.
Abssi, a Palestinian guerrilla in his 50s, was jailed in Syria and fled to Lebanon after he was released last year. Palestinian guerrillas established bases in Lebanon in the late 1960s and took part in the civil war that erupted in 1975.
Palestine Liberation Organisation guerrillas were forced to leave Lebanon after Israel's 1982 invasion. Refugee camps in Beirut later came under fierce attack from Syrian-backed Shi'ite Amal militias. Pro-Syrian Palestinian factions took over the camps, but the larger Fatah group remained influential.

Analysis: Why might Syria wish to sow chaos in Lebanon now?
Print Subscribe
E-mail Toolbar

Talkbacks for this article: 7

Thirty eight people lost their lives on Sunday in fierce fighting between the Lebanese military and Sunni jihadist operatives near the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, close to the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. This outbreak of violence represents the heaviest toll in intra-Lebanese violence since the conclusion of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-90. The events in Nahr al-Bared cast light on a side of the Lebanese crisis which has until now been largely ignored by the international media. This is the emergence in recent months of an organization of armed Sunni Islamist operatives in the largely-Sunni north of the country. So far, much of the coverage has suggested that the group in question, known as Fatah al-Islam, may be linked to the al-Qaida network. Nevertheless, informed opinion suggests caution before drawing the simple conclusion that Fatah al-Islam is merely Osama bin-Laden's latest local franchise.

Fatah al-Islam is a breakaway of a Syrian-backed Palestinian organization called Fatah-intifada, which itself split from the mainstream Palestinian Fatah group in 1983. Fatah-intifada has little presence outside of the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and Syria, and is widely regarded as a tool of the Syrian regime with little popular support. The group, led by a Palestinian called Shakir al-Abssi, surfaced in the Nahr al-Bared camp last November and is thought to contain around 100 fighters from the camp. The group includes Sunni Islamists of a variety of nationalities, about half of whom are drawn from the Sunni Lebanese community. Apart from Palestinians, there are also said to be Syrian and Saudi citizens among its ranks.

While Syrian officials have been keen from the outset to describe al-Abssi and his group as operating "in favor of al-Qaida," Lebanese authorities suspect that the group may in fact be a client of the Syrian authorities themselves, established to act as an instrument of policy in Lebanon, fomenting disorder. The Assad regime has a long history of utilizing terrorist and paramilitary groups for such a purpose. Fatah-intifada itself was used by Hafez Assad in a power struggle with Yassir Arafat in the Lebanon refugee camps between 1985-88. The regime is known also to have engaged operatives of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party to carry out assassinations in Lebanon during the civil war period.

Suspicions regarding Fatah al-Islam center on the fact that Shakir al-Abssi was sentenced in 2003 to three years in prison in Syria after being convicted of plotting attacks inside the country. This was an unusually lenient sentence. By comparison, for example, Syrians suspected of involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood are routinely given 12-year terms. Al-Abssi, after his release, turned up among pro-Syrian Fatah-intifada circles in Nahr al-Bared and shortly afterward emerged as the leader of the new group, Fatah al-Islam. These facts have led General Ashraf Rifi, head of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (FSI), to conclude that "this is a Syrian creation to sow chaos." Which raises the question, why might the Syrians wish to sow chaos in Lebanon, and why now?

A draft resolution for the unilateral establishment of an international tribunal on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was circulated in the UN Security Council by the US, France and Britain last week. It is known that the Syrian regime is determined to prevent this tribunal at all costs, since it is believed that senior Syrian officials may be found to have been involved in the Hariri killing. Could it be that the regime in Damascus might see an escalation of tension in Lebanon as currently helpful - as a tacit reminder to the international community of what Damascus is capable of when put in a corner? This is the view of senior officials in Lebanese government, and is in keeping with earlier practices of the Damascus regime.
***The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs center, IDC Herzliya.