LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 17,1-11. When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.
Al Qaeda's New Front in Lebanon.By Walid Phares. May 23/07
Time for more imaginative solutions to Lebanon's political impasse. Daily Star. May 23/07
Beyond the Confrontations in Northern Lebanon.Hazem Saghieh. May 23/07
Latest News Reports
From Miscellaneous Sources for May 23/05/07
Hezbollah backs Lebanon in militant standoff. AP
Lull in Nahr el-Bared as Palestinians Try to Contain the Situation-Naharnet
Druze leader Jumblatt expects more bombs in Lebanon.Reuters
FACTBOX-Some details of refugee camps in Lebanon.Reuters
Lebanon seeks Interpol's help in probing car with Beirut blast.People's Daily Online
Lebanese army, militants resume fight-AP
Fierce Fighting Rages for 3rd Day Between Security Forces and Fatah al-Islam
Jumblat Points Finger at Terror-Exporting Damascus Regime-Naharnet
Lebanon, militants battle for a 3rd day.CNN
Bush says Lebanon extremists need to be reined. Reuters
Explosion Shakes Verdun, Wounding 10, Causing Extensive Damage-Naharnet
Abul Ainain: There Will be Uprisings if Random Shelling Persists-Naharnet
Lebanon Authorizes Army to 'Finish Off' Fatah al-Islam-Naharnet
Interpol Asked to Look for Origin of Car Used in Ashrafiyeh Blast-Naharnet
Fatah al-Islam Militants Entrenched Behind Human Shield in Nahr el-Bared's Fighting-Naharnet
Bush Administration Backs Lebanese Army in Assault on Militants-Naharnet
France expresses solidarity with Lebanon after clashes in Tripoli.People's Daily Online
Moussa stresses political solution to realize stability in Lebanon.People's Daily Online
Lebanon bomb injures seven in Beirut.The West Australian
Syria admits Lebanon turmoil is linked to UN vote on Tribunal.Ya Libnan
Lebanon: Foreign Office amends travel advice.Harold Doan and Associates (press release)
Seoul issues travel warning on Lebanon due to armed conflicts.Yonhap News
Lebanon Fights Al-Qaeda.FrontPage magazine.com
High death toll in Lebanon camp seige-ABC Online
Army steps up shelling of militants at Nahr al-Bared-Daily Star
International community condemns bloody clashes.Daily Star
Palestinian factions offer to help fight Fatah al-Islam-Daily Star
Ex-general doubts army will enter camp-Daily Star
Humanitarian groups call for temporary truce-Daily Star
Israelis threaten to assassinate Haniyya, Meshaal-Daily Star
Nahr el-Bared as Palestinians Try to Contain the Situation
Fighting between Lebanese troops and terrorists of the Fatah al-Islam faction in north Lebanon subsided Tuesday evening amidst efforts by representatives of Palestinian groups to contain the confrontation. Earlier in the day, as clashes raged in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, a Fatah al-Islam terrorist blew him self up as policemen tried to arrest him in the nearby town of Tripoli. Police said the unidentified terrorist detonated a belt rigged with explosives as police surrounded him in the fourth floor apartment in Tripoli's Mitein neighborhood.
The building was a hideout for Fatah al-Islam terrorists and 10 members of the group were killed in it in a confrontation with Lebanese troops on Monday.
A police source told Naharnet the lone terrorist "apparently has been hiding in the building since Sunday. When he was spotted and our officers tried to arrest him he blew himself up. No casualties were reported among the police force."Following almost day long clashes, fighting subsided in Nahr el-Bared after representatives of the various Palestinian factions met Premier Fouad Saniora and agreed with him on working out what was described as a "mechanism" to contain the situation in the besieged camp.Details of such a mechanism were not disclosed, but Palestinian sources told Naharnet they focus mainly on pacifying the camp's civilian population, estimated at nearly 30,000.
Field reporters around the camp said it appears that Fatah al-Islam fighters were abiding by a self-declared cease-fire and Lebanese troops were not opening fire simply because they were not under attack. At least 66 people have been killed in three days of clashes in north Lebanon in the deadliest internal violence since the end of the 1975-1990 civil strife. The fatalities included 30 Lebanese soldiers, 18 Fatah al-Islam gunmen, 17 Palestinian refugees and one Lebanese civilian.
As the clashes subsided, a U.N. relief convoy entered Nahr el-Bared and delivered aid to the population caught in the cross-fire.
"UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) has managed to get four trucks carrying food, medicine and electricity generators" into the camp, where there is mounting concern over the plight of civilians, a spokesman told Agence France Presse.
Dr. Yussef al-Assaad, head of the Palestinian Red Crescent in northern Lebanon, said UNRWA "would also evacuate a group of women and children" caught up in the fighting. Assaad, director of the hospital in the nearby Baddawi refugee camp, added that two Red Crescent ambulances carrying medical supplies and food had also entered Nahr el-Bared.Relief agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished camp, where refugees have been trapped by the fighting and are suffering a lack of electricity as well as shortages of food, water and medical supplies. On Monday, UNRWA director Richard Cook said the fighting in and around the camp was "distressing.""We are deeply concerned about the developing humanitarian crisis, particularly the danger to civilian lives," he said in a statement about the squalid camp, located near the northern city of Tripoli. Beirut, 22 May 07, 18:49
Lebanon Authorizes Army to
'Finish Off' Fatah al-Islam
Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government has ordered the Lebanese army to "finish off" extremist militants of Fatah al-Islam, locked in fierce battles with Lebanese troops for the third straight day Tuesday in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. The cabinet decision reflected the government's determination to pursue Fatah al-Islam who staged attacks on Lebanese troops on Sunday and Monday, killing 29 soldiers. Some 20 militants have also been killed, as well as an undetermined number of civilians. Speaking after a government meeting late Monday, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said the cabinet stressed the "need to end the terrorist phenomenon that is alien to the values and nature of the Palestinian people." "(The government) is determined to respond to any aggression and put a final end to this dangerous phenomenon ... which has threatened to widen the scope of the aggression," Aridi said. "This phenomenon which attacked the Lebanese army and other security forces is harmful to all of Lebanon, its people, security and stability, and is a permanent threat to the Palestinian people," he added. Aridi said identity checks of the militants killed have revealed that most of them are not Palestinians, but have different nationalities. The daily An Nahar, citing security sources, said on Tuesday among the Fatah al-Islam militants killed in the fighting were men from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bangladesh, Syria as well as Lebanon. Economy Minister Sami Haddad, in an interview with CNN, urged world help to the Lebanese forces "both logistically and with military equipment" in order to win the battle against Fatah al-Islam. Hours after the cabinet decision, fighting flared up again Tuesday morning around Nahr al-Bared, with black smoke billowing from the area after artillery and machine gun exchanges.(Naharnet-AP-AFP) Beirut, 22 May 07, 09:49
Fierce Fighting Rages for 3rd Day Between Security Forces and Fatah al-Islam
Heavy artillery and machine gun fire boomed around Nahr al-Bared on Tuesday as Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's government authorized the army to finish off Fatah al-Islam militants holed up inside the northern Palestinian refugee camp.
The fighting — which resumed for a third straight day after a brief nighttime lull — reflected the government's determination to pursue the Islamic militants who staged attacks on Lebanese troops on Sunday and Monday, killing 29 soldiers. Some 20 militants have also been killed, as well as an undetermined number of civilians.
The cabinet late Monday ordered the army to step up its campaign and "end the terrorist phenomenon that is alien to the values and nature of the Palestinian people," Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said. Hours after the decision, fighting flared up again Tuesday morning around Nahr al-Bared with black smoke billowing from the area after artillery and machine gun exchanges. A spokesman for Fatah Islam, Abu Salim Taha, said fighters of the group repulsed several attempts by Lebanese troops to advance on their positions inside the camp.
"The shelling is heavy, not only on our positions, but also on children and women. Destruction is all over," he said. Speaking to The Associated Press by telephone from the camp, he denied his group was behind bomb blasts in Beirut on Sunday and Monday night, as well as media reports the group's No. 2 was wounded.
Inside the city of Tripoli, Lebanese troops moved in Tuesday against a suspected Fatah al-Islam hideout, witnesses said. Shots rang out on Mitein Street at midmorning, as security forces, acting on a tip about armed men in an apartment, raided the building using tear gas.
At Nahr al-Bared, Lebanese artillery has pounded the suspected positions of Fatah al-Islam, seeking to destroy the group with al-Qaida ties or force them out of the camp on the outskirts of Tripoli, Lebanon's second-largest city. The fighting has also raised fears that Lebanon's worst internal violence since the 1975-1990 civil war could spread in a country with an uneasy balancing act among various sects and factions.
Fighting paused briefly Monday afternoon to allow the evacuation of 18 wounded civilians, according to Saleh Badran, an official with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Palestinian refugees have been hiding in their homes inside the camp and Palestinian officials there said nine civilians were killed Monday. Reports from the camp of food and medical supplies running out could not be confirmed because officials and reporters could not enter.
Mufti Salim Lababidi, a Sunni spiritual leader of Palestinians in Lebanon, denounced the shelling which he claimed has killed or wounded some 100 civilians.
"We have condemned the attacks on the army but what about the civilians being killed? Who is for those innocent people," he said on al-Jazeera television. "There are a thousand ways to uproot Fatah al-Islam ... there are ways other than this."As he spoke, major Palestinian faction leaders met with Saniora for the second time in as many days to try to resolve the crisis. PLO representative Abbas Zaki said after the meeting that Palestinian factions, in collaboration with Saniora's government, were in the process of "setting out mechanisms to contain" the fighting between the army and Fatah al-Islam.
The camp is home to more than 31,000 people living in two- or three-story white buildings on densely packed narrow streets. It is one of more than 12 impoverished camps housing more than 215,000 refugees, out of a total of 400,000 Palestinians here. Lebanese authorities do not enter the camps, according to a nearly 40-year-old agreement with the Palestinians. Major Palestinian factions have distanced themselves from Fatah al-Islam, which arose here last year and touts itself as a Palestinian liberation movement. But many view it as a nascent branch of al-Qaida-style terrorism with ambitions of carrying out attacks around the region.
The military assault adds yet another layer of instability to Lebanon's potentially explosive politics. Saniora's government already faces a domestic political crisis, with the Hizbullah-led opposition demanding its removal. Raising fears of spreading violence, an explosion went off in a shopping area in Beirut's stylish Verdun district Monday evening, wrecking parked cars and injuring 10 people — a day after a bomb blast near the ABC mall in Ashrafiyeh killed a woman and wounded 12 other people. The confluence of two bombings while the fighting was going on in Tripoli was highly unusual.
Saniora also risks a backlash among Palestinians in Lebanon's other refugee camps, where armed groups and Islamic extremists have been growing in influence.
The White House said it supports Saniora's efforts to deal with the fighting, and the State Department defended the Lebanese army, saying it was working in a "legitimate manner" against "provocations by violent extremists" operating in the camp. The leader of Fatah al-Islam, Palestinian Shaker al-Absi, has been linked to the former head of al-Qaida in Iraq and is accused in the 2002 assassination of a U.S. diplomat in Jordan. He moved into Nahr al-Bared last fall after being expelled from Syria, where he was in custody. Since then, he is believed to have recruited about 100 fighters, including militants from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and other Arab countries, and he has said he follows the ideology of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Among the militants killed in the fighting Sunday was a man suspected in a plot to bomb trains in Germany last year, according to Lebanese security officials. Beirut security officials accuse Syria of backing Fatah al-Islam to disrupt Lebanon, charges that are denied by Damascus, which controlled Lebanon until 2005 when its troops were forced to withdraw from the country following the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.(Naharnet-AP) (AP photo shows an injured Lebanese soldier on the ground receiving help from his colleagues after he was wounded in clashes with Fatah al-Islam militants.) Beirut, 22 May 07, 11:23
Explosion Shakes Verdun, Wounding 10, Causing Extensive Damage
A massive blast ripped through Beirut's stylish Verdun district overnight, wounding 10 people, including two boys, and gutting several apartments and cars.
The explosion, which went off at 11:50 p.m. on Monday, also started fire in cars and caused extensive damage to one of the Lebanese capital's posh districts.
Police said the injured boys aged 7 and 11. They said the others were all men. Verdun is home to senior public personalities, including Information Minister Ghazi Aridi and former cabinet minister Najib Mikati. It also houses the renowned Dunes shopping center and the Russian Cultural Center, in addition to restaurants, schools and banks. It was not clear whether the bomb was placed inside or under a parked four-wheel-drive vehicle, but police estimated the bomb was made up of 15 kilograms of explosives. Television footage showed a car burning near a building as a fire engine doused the flames with water.
Several nearby cars had their windows blown out from the blast, and a high-floor apartment in a nearby building was in flames. Pieces of wood and glass littered the streets and hung from balconies, as security forces and civilians crowded the scene. The daily Al Liwaa on Tuesday said a suspect in the Verdun bombing was now in police custody. It said security sources identified him as Hussein Ahmad.
Al Liwaa said Ahmad confessed that another person, only identified as M.M., was also involved in the bombing, which came less than a day after a bomb near the ABC shopping mall in Ashrafiyeh killed a woman and wounded 12 others. The violence came as Lebanese troops fought heavy battles with the Fatah al-Islam extremist group in northern Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared, in which more than 50 people were killed in the last two days.
Beirut and surrounding suburbs have been hit by a series of explosions in the last two years, particularly targeting Christian areas in which the pro-government majority coalition has blamed on Syria. The explosions also come as the U.N. Security Council is considering whether to impose an international tribunal in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri after the government and the Hizbullah-led opposition failed to agree on approving it.
A U.N. investigation into the Hariri assassination has been expanded to include the series of bombings some blame on Syria. A U.N. probe 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 Syria was forced to withdraw its army from Lebanon two months after the assassination, ending a 29-year presence.(Naharnet-AP) Beirut, 22 May 07, 07:06
Abul Ainain: There Will be Uprisings if Random Shelling Persists
The mainstream Fatah faction warned on Tuesday of an uprising by Palestinian refugees across Lebanon if the army continues to shell the northern Nahr al-Bared camp where Fatah al-Islam fighters are holed up."If the random shelling does not stop in the Nahr al-Bared camp there will be uprisings in all the camps in Lebanon," Sultan Abul Ainain told Agence France Presse from the nearby Beddawi refugee camp. "No Palestinian or Palestinian faction in Lebanon will accept seeing the Palestinian people slaughtered in a collective punishment as is happening in Nahr al-Bared," he said. He called for an immediate ceasefire to help resolve the "problem" of Fatah al-Islam which is locked in a gunbattle with the Lebanese army since Sunday. Abul Ainain said 17 Palestinian civilians have been killed and dozens of others wounded since the fighting erupted at dawn Sunday. Relief agencies are warning of a deteriorating humanitarian situation at the camp. Save the Children Alliance on Monday urged the army and militants "to distinguish between civilian and military targets." The alliance also urged the two parties to "avoid actions that harm innocent civilians, in accordance with international humanitarian law and conventions."(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 22 May 07, 11:24
Jumblat Points Finger at Terror-Exporting Damascus Regime
Druze leader Walid Jumblat on Tuesday accused the Assad regime of "exporting" terrorism to Lebanon through Fatah al-Islam group and urged Palestinian factions to cooperate with the Lebanese army to wipe out the militants. "There must be a way to lift the siege off Nahr al-Bared's residents. That depends on the cooperation of Palestinian organizations with the (Lebanese) army and the state not just in verbal condemnations but through practical condemnation," Jumblat told a news conference in Beirut. He said helping civilians at the northern Palestinian refugee camp stay away from harm requires a "common political and security effort to uproot terrorism."
Jumblat said "Nahr al-Bared camp is the captive of Fatah al-Islam which is a terrorist gang exported to us from Syria." But Syria flatly denied any links to the militants. "We renounce Fatah al-Islam. Members of the group are wanted by the Syrian security services," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said, according to the official news agency SANA. "This group serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the interests of the Palestinian people," he added. The group's Palestinian leader Shaker al-Abssi slipped into Lebanon last year after serving three years in a Syrian jail. Jumblat, in his press conference, also urged the Lebanese to back the army which is locked in a battle with the militants in Nahr al-Bared since Sunday. He said the Hizbullah-led opposition must end its protest in downtown Beirut to allow the Lebanese army, which is deployed en masse in the capital's central district, to intensify security across Lebanon against Fatah al-Islam. Beirut, 22 May 07, 12:53
Bush: Lebanon extremists need to be reined in
21 May 2007 21:53:35 GMT
WASHINGTON, May 21 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Monday that extremists trying to topple Lebanon's government "need to be reined in."
As battles raged for a second day between the Lebanese army and al-Qaeda inspired militants, Bush told Reuters in an interview aboard Air Force One that he had been briefed on the situation by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Extremists that are trying to topple that young democracy need to be reined in. Certainly we abhor the violence where innocents die. And it's a sad state of affairs when you've got this young democracy in Lebanon being pressured by outside forces," Bush said.
Bush, deeply distrustful of Syria's role in Lebanon, stopped short of accusing Damascus of being involved in the conflict. Syria has denied accusations that it had links to the Fatah al-Islam group battling the Lebanese army. "I don't know about this particular incident. I'll be guarded on making accusations until I get better information, but I will tell you there's no doubt that Syria was deeply involved in Lebanon. There's no question they're still involved in Lebanon," he said.
France expresses solidarity with Lebanon after clashes in Tripoli
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has expressed "France's solidarity" with Lebanon with the country's Prime minister Fouad Siniora, in the wake of violence engulfing the country, according to a statement issued Monday by the French Foreign Ministry. During a telephone conversation on Sunday with Siniora, Kouchner reaffirmed "the great importance" which France attaches to "the independence, sovereignty and stability of Lebanon" and hence the need to "enquire about the situation, especially in Tripoli," according to the statement. Bloody clashes between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam militants erupted Sunday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, during which forty six people, including 27 soldiers, 17 Islamists and two civilians, were killed, according to military, Palestinian and hospital sources.
The French minister further "firmly condemned" the bomb attack which occurred Sunday in the Achrafie area in Beirut causing one death and injuring 10 others.
Kouchner also discussed with Siniora about a possible "meeting in the near future," according to the statement. Source: Xinhua
Lebanon, militants battle for a 3rd day
POSTED: 6:07 a.m. EDT, May 22, 2007
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Black plumes of smoke poured from a Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli on Tuesday as members of an Islamic militant group battled the Lebanese army for a third day. The crack of small-arms fire echoed through the neighborhoods surrounding the overcrowded Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, home to about 30,000 Palestinians. The fighting was sparked early Sunday when Lebanese internal security forces raided a building in a neighborhood north of Tripoli, army sources said. Militants from Fatah al-Islam fired on the forces, who returned fire, triggering clashes in the vicinity of the camp. A spokesman for the militants said they would keep on fighting. "We were forced and compelled to be in this confrontation with the Lebanese army," Abu Salim, a spokesman for Fatah al-Islam, said Tuesday in an interview on Arabic language network Al-Jazeera. Conditions inside the camp were said to be difficult, according to a top Palestinian military official who lives inside Nahr el-Bared. "The Lebanese Army prevented supplies and aid from entering the camp," according to Brig. Gen. Bilal Aslam, who said on Tuesday that between 17 and 25 Fatah al-Islam militants had died since the fighting began, with many more wounded. According to Aslam, the civilian toll included at least 20 dead and more than 100 wounded. He claimed militant fighters were stationed on the outskirts of the camp, but not in it.
The Lebanese Cabinet on Monday declared its "full support" for military efforts to end the fighting, said Mohamed Chatah, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. "I'm not in a position to tell you the exact manner in which security forces are going to root up these elements, but it's going to happen," Chatah said. "It's going to happen after the security forces themselves advise the government on what they need." (Watch how the fighting is taking a toll )
Lebanese security forces are targeting militants and are not randomly shooting into the refugee camp, Chatah said. (Watch smoke rise over the refugee camp as a fire rages below ) The battles have killed at least 30 Lebanese soldiers and wounded 39 others.
"Everybody in Tripoli is just scared," said Maya Halabi, a resident of Tripoli. "We never knew that there are terrorists in our town."
The fighting has left aid agencies hamstrung in their attempts to help the wounded and count the casualties. A U.N. Relief and Works Agency official in London said U.N. staffers are among the wounded.
"They have been unable to move around," said Richard Cook, adding that the agency is attempting to negotiate a cease-fire so food and medical supplies can be delivered to the camp.
Camp conditions 'breeding ground' for militants
Nahr al-Bared is about nine miles (16 kilometers) north of Tripoli, Lebanon's second-largest city that is home to a large population of Sunni Muslims.
The overcrowded camp houses 31,023 registered refugees, according to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. It is one of 12 Palestinian camps in Lebanon in which the United Nations operates. The agency estimates there are 350,000 refugees in the camps. (Facts on refugee camps)
The living conditions at the camp are partly to blame for the rise of Fatah al-Islam, according to Khalil Makkawi, a former ambassador to the United Nations. (Full story)
It is unclear whether the militant group has ties to al Qaeda.
Though Syria has claimed Fatah al-Islam is connected to the terror group, Lebanese Interior Minister Hasan al-Sabaa has described Fatah al-Islam as "part of the Syrian intelligence-security apparatus," according to Jane's Information Group, which provides analysis on international security matters.
Lebanon's economy minister on Monday asked for money and resources to help Lebanese forces battling the militants.
"I take this opportunity to ask our friends all over the world -- Arab governments and friendly Western governments -- to help us both logistically and with military equipment," Minister Sami Haddad told CNN. (Full story)
Another explosion in Beirut
Meanwhile, an explosion late Monday again filled the Beirut sky with plumes of black smoke.
The explosion went off in the Verdun district near the Russian Cultural Center, Lebanese media reported. Several Lebanese politicians, including House Speaker Nabih Berri, live in the mainly upper-class district. (Watch why some think instilling fear is the bombers' motivation )
Ambulances and other security vehicles rushed to the scene, and soldiers could be seen leading wounded people away from the area. Five people were wounded in the blast, according to Lebanese security.
It was the second blast in as many nights in Beirut. A bomb went off late Sunday beneath a car in the Beirut neighborhood of Ashrafieh, killing one woman and wounding several other people, sources said.
The U.N. Security Council is considering passing a resolution that would enforce the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspects for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
That is an idea unpopular with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which has links to Syria. Many people believe Syria was behind the killing.
Conflicts in south Lebanon between Siniora's government and Hezbollah have prevented the creation of a tribunal. Siniora last week reiterated his call for the United Nations to create the international tribunal.
Political sources said the Beirut explosion was an attempt by Syria to sow seeds of instability ahead of Security Council deliberations about the tribunal.
The U.S. State Department dismissed any links between this week's violence and efforts to establish the tribunal. A senior State Department official, however, said that Fatah al-Islam may be trying to take advantage of the already-fragile political situation in Lebanon.
CNN's Saad Abedine, Caroline Faraj, Nada Husseini, Elise Labott, Octavia Nasr and Brent Sadler contributed to this report.
Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.
Time for more imaginative solutions to Lebanon's political impasse
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The violence in Lebanon over the past two days, including the clashes in the North and the bombing near a shopping mall in Beirut, ought to serve as a wakeup call to any Lebanese leader who harbors illusions about the state of affairs in this country. Any honest assessment would conclude that the domestic political context and the security situation have progressed well beyond what could appropriately be termed "difficult." Lebanon's institutions, which were already buckling under the weight of old crises, must now contend with the compounded pressures brought about by new ones. If something is not done soon to address the core political dispute that has weakened the institutions of the state, this country could soon find itself broken beyond repair.
Lebanese leaders simply can no longer afford the luxury of doing nothing to resolve the country's six-month old political crisis. The events in Tripoli and Beirut over the past two days have had repercussions on every aspect of the political sphere and will impact matters ranging from relations with Syria and the Palestinians to the regulation of weapons inside the country and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Even as leaders try to navigate their way through the minefield of these and other issues, the country is careening at full speed toward another crisis over the presidential elections. The situation therefore requires the creation of a united front with the active participation and support of all of the country's communities. In short, the time is long overdue for a unity government.
Until now, Lebanese leaders have failed to create a unity cabinet because they have been unable to agree on the number of seats for each faction. Perhaps it is time for all of the parties to look beyond their past mathematical disputes and invent a new equation for governing the country. For example, a government could be created along the lines of the proposal put forth by Premier Fouad Siniora, with the cabinet's composition similar to that of Parliament, and the parties could agree that all central issues would be decided on the basis of a unanimous vote. Using such a formula, the unity cabinet could then tend to the business of state until the presidential election in November, overseeing this crucial transition phase for the republic. This is not to suggest that there is only one way out of the crisis; with just a modicum of creativity and commitment, any number of solutions to the power struggle can be reached. For the sake of the country's citizens, who have endured enough hardship already, every effort should be expended to create a unity government that can mitigate the risks of further instability.
Lebanon bomb injures seven in Beirut
22nd May 2007, 4:57 WST
A bomb rocked a parking lot in the mainly Sunni Muslim district of Verdun in Lebanon's capital wounding at least seven people, security sources and witnesses said.
The explosion set cars ablaze and broke the windows of some buildings, they said. An army source said the bomb was placed either underneath or near a car.
A car which had been flipped onto its roof was ablaze as rescue workers raced to the scene near the Russian Cultural Centre.
Glass and debris from surrounding buildings lay scattered across the street, which has several restaurants and clothing boutiques.
A woman was killed on Sunday when an explosive device planted under a parked car detonated beside a popular shopping mall in the mainly Christian east of the capital. At least 10 people were wounded by flying glass. The blast came as Lebanese troops battled Islamist militants at a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon for the second day. So far, 79 people have been killed in Lebanon's bloodiest internal fighting since its 1975-90 civil war.REUTERS
Syria admits Lebanon turmoil is linked to UN vote on Tribunal
Tuesday, 22 May, 2007 @ 1:22 AM
Beirut & NY - Syria on Monday denied any ties between Damascus and the extremist Fatah al-Islam group which is fighting the Lebanese army in northern Lebanon.
Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafari ( picture right) also saw the current turmoil in Lebanon as a bid to urge the U.N. Security Council in not establishing the international tribunal to prosecute suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
More than 79 people were been killed over the past two days in ferocious gun-battles between the Lebanese army and militants from the shadowy Sunni group Fatah al-Islam, which has been accused of links to al-Qaida and Syrian intelligence services.
"Every time there is a meeting in the Security Council to deal with the Lebanese crisis, one or two days before the Council meets, there is some kind of trouble, either assassinations, or explosions or attempts to assassinate somebody," Jaafari told reporters in New York.
"This is not a coincidence...Some people are trying to influence the Security Council and to make pressure on the Council so they can go ahead with the adoption of the draft resolution on the tribunal," he added, without elaborating.
Last week, the United States, France and Britain put forward a draft resolution to set up the proposed tribunal after Lebanon's pro-Syrian opposition blocked parliamentary ratification of the court plan.
Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a massive bomb blast in February 2005, widely blamed on Syria, which was then forced to end nearly 30 years of military and political domination in Lebanon. Damascus has denied any role in the slaying.
On Fatah al-Islam, Jaafari denied any links with the group, recalling that most of the group's leaders had spent three to four years in Syrian jails for their links with al-Qaida.
He said the group's leaders were still sought by Syrian justice and would be arrested if they came back to Syria.
"They are fighting on behalf of al-Qaida. Their activities are related to terrorism," he added.
The Syrian envoy blamed the growing instability in the broader Middle East region to "the occupation of Iraq, the stalemate in the Israeli-Arab peace process since 2000 and the turmoil in Lebanon."
He also warned against a possible new conflict in the region, similar to the war between Israel and Hezbollah in south Lebanon last summer.
In this connection he said Israel was conducting its "biggest military maneuvers" in the Golan Heights since it seized the territory from Syria in the 1967 war.
Jaafari statement strongly points to Syria's involvement in turmoil and explosions
Jaafari's statement linking the violence to the UN vote on the Hariri tribunal is almost a confession of Syria's involvement in the violence and the explosions.
The anti - Syrian alliance in Lebanon has accused Syria of being behind the violence initiated by the Fatah el-Islam and the explosions in Beirut.
Syria has refused to cooperate with the UN over the International Tribunal and its allies in Lebanon have created humongous obstacles against the creation of this court...first by the resignation of the Hezbollah and Amal ministers from the government the night before debating the tribunal...followed by the sit-in protest to force the government out ...followed by the refusal of the pro-Syrian speaker Nabih Berri to convene the parliament to debate and approve the tribunal.
During a phone conversation about 10 days ago Assad has threatened UN secretary General that he will destroy the whole region from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean sea if the UN goes ahead with the Tribunal. Sources: Naharnet, Ya Libnan
Seoul issues travel warning on Lebanon due to armed conflicts
SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government on Tuesday issued a travel warning on Lebanon, also calling on expatriate South Koreans and travelers there to return home unless on an urgent task. "An armed conflict between Lebanese government forces and Islamic insurgents broke out in northern Lebanon Sunday and is continuing as of May 21 (Lebanese time), leaving 27 government forces killed and 16 others injured and some 20 insurgents dead," the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. A bomb also exploded next to a shopping mall in Beirut Sunday, killing one and wounding 11 others, the ministry said.
No Korean casualties have yet been reported, but the government has contacted South Korean residents in the Lebanese capital, telling them of the apparent terrorist attack in the city, according to the ministry. "As the Lebanese government is vowing to round up all the insurgents, saying Fatah al Islam (the insurgent group) is nothing but a terrorist group, the conflict is expected to continue for some time," the ministry said. "The government strongly advises our people to refrain from traveling to Lebanon, which has already been designated a restricted travel area, and those staying in Lebanon to return to the country unless they are on an urgent mission," it email@example.com (END)
Qaeda's New Front in Lebanon
By Walid Phares
Yesterday in northern Lebanon, a group named Fatah al Islam conducted several attacks against the Lebanese Army, killing (up to) 25 soldiers and losing (up to) 15 members in addition to civilian casualties. The fighting is still raging at this hour. This security development, which could be happening in many other spots in the troubled Middle East, from Iraq to Gaza, and from Somalia to Afghanistan, has however a special dimension. It signals in fact the opening of a new front in the War with al Qaeda’s Terror: Lebanon. Here are the reasons:
Fatah al Islam is based in the Palestinian camp of Nahr al Bared in Northern Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city with a Sunni majority. The group is an offshoot of another previously formed group, Fatah al Intifada, both dissidents from the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas and both –importantly- backed and financed by the Syrian intelligence. But Fatah al Islam, formed last November and headed by Palestinian-born Shaker Absi, is linked directly to al Qaeda. Absi was a colleague of Jordanian-born Abu Musab al Zarqaqi, killed by an US air raid last year. Fatah al Islam since its inception has told its supporters and the population in its areas of training and operations that it follows the Jihad of al Qaeda.
Fatah al Islam aims at creating an "Emirate" (Islamist principality as in the Taliban model) in the Sunni areas of Lebanon, and is planning on conducting operations similar to the ones in the Sunni Triangle of Iraq. But according to the Lebanese Government and terrorism experts, the group is being secretly supported by the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad. The question arises in the West about the logic of having a so-called “secular” Baathist regime supporting an “Islamic Fundamentalist” organization. First, the Baathist logic is to use groups not necessarily carrying its Pan-Arab ideology to attack the regime’s foes and achieve strategic goals: For decades, the Assad (father) regime supported and used the national-socialist SSNP (Syrian neo-Nazi organization), the Christian war lord Frangieh, the Maronite militiaman Elie Hobeika, Arab Socialist factions, the Shiia Jihadist Hezbollah and most importantly a roster of Jihadi Sunni networks. From Tripoli to Sidon, the Assads' regime manipulated Harakat al Tawheed al Islamee and the Gamaat Islamiya, both al Qaeda-like Jihadists. Inside the Palestinian camps of Lebanon, the Syrian Mukahabarat remote controlled many groupings – Jihadi in their ideology and outlook, but feeding from the Baathist machine.
The axis: Hezbollah & al Qaeda
The Fatah al Islam is the latest marriage of convenience between a group of committed Jihadists, rotating in the al Qaeda’s constellation but gravitating around Damascus influence. The group accepts Bashar’s support and the Syrian regime tolerates the organization’s “Sunni” outlook: Both have a common enemy, even though they may come at each other’s throats in the future. The men of Bin Laden anywhere in the world, including in Lebanon, have the same standing order: Bringing down the moderate Arab and Muslim Governments (even in multiethnic societies) and replace them with Emirates. The men of Bashar Assad and Mahmoud Ahmedinijad have converging goals, bring down the democratically elected Government in Lebanon and replace it with a Hizbollah-Syrian dominated regime, as was the case before 2005. Thus each “axis” has one objective in Lebanon: crush the Seniora Government. They will take all their time to fight each other after.
The 2005 Cedars Revolution
Today's clashes between the al Qaeda linked terror network and the Lebanese Army are a prelude to terror preparations aimed at crumbling the Cedars Revolution, both Government and civil society this summer. It is a move by the Assad regime to weaken the cabinet and the army in preparation for a greater offensive later on by Hizbollah on another front. In short the Damascus-Tehran strategic planners have unleashed this “local” al Qaeda group in Tripoli to drag the Lebanese cabinet in side battles, deflecting its attention from the two main events, highly threatening to Assad: One is the forthcoming UN formed Tribunal in the assassination case of Rafiq Hariri. The second is the pending deployment of UN units on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. Both developments can isolate the Syrian regime. Thus, the Fatah al Islam attacks can be perceived as part of a preemptive strategy by the Tehran-Damascus axis. But the results, if the Lebanese Army fails to contain the terrorists, could be very serious to the Seniora Government and the UN. Worse, if the first piece of a Sunni Triangle is put in place in Lebanon, this could affect the geopolitics of the War on Terror globally: The rise of Salafi Jihadism along the coasts of Lebanon, from Tripoli to Sidon, passing by Beirut. This Emirate-to-be, could become the closer strategic enclave of Bin Laden to the US Sixth Fleet, Europe’s cities and Israel.
The United States and the West are now faced with a new development which they cannot allow to grow unchecked: an al Qaeda base on the Eastern Mediterranean. The strategic responses are only two: Reshape the Lebanese Army to face off with the Jihadists and deploy multinational forces on the Syrian Lebanese borders as soon it is possible. The Seniora Government also has work to do: It must without hesitation call on the UN Security Council to deploy forces on the borders, in application of UNSCR 1559 and under Chapter 7. The three main leaders of the parliamentary majority supporting the cabinet have opened the path for such a move: Saad Hariri, the leader of the Sunni community has blasted Fatah al Islam as a threat to Muslims; Walid Jumblat, leader of the Druses and Socialists has already been calling for a UN military intervention; and last but not least, the various Christian parties opposed to Assad have accused the Syrian regime of igniting Terror. All planets are now aligned for a successful move against al Qaeda in Lebanon, before it is too late. But the question is: will the Lebanese politicians seize the moment?
**Dr. Walid Phares is the author of The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy. He is also the Director of the Future Terrorism Project.
May 21, 2007 06:49 PM Print
Beyond the Confrontations in Northern Lebanon
Hazem Saghieh - Al-Hayat - 22/05/07//
It is not an exaggeration to say that the 'Fatah al-Islam' phenomenon and the confrontations that it caused sum up the crisis of the situation in the Arab Mashreq as a whole, and reveals the abyss in which the general Arab consciousness has fallen.
What are the hidden elements which comfort us when we are faced with such a dangerous phenomenon?
First, jihad in Iraq . It may be explained by many causes, but one of the most important is still being ignored: religious reform and the reconciliation between Islam and the reality of nation states. Only such a long-term and complicated educational and cultural mission can undercut jihad in Iraq , Afghanistan and Chechnya which always have painful repercussions for the inhabitants of the countries from which jihad fighters have left.
Second, the intersection between the Syrian regime and Islamic terrorist groups. Tripoli and the refugee camps have provided some examples and precedents, and they are not confined to the 'Islamic Unification Movement' and its worthless offshoots. This intersection is fed by despotic lamentations that push a tyrant to use any possible 'card', so that he can continue with his despotism. Our modern history is immeasurably full of this sort of experiences, and, needless to say, all those who played this game have eventually got burnt with their own fire.
Third, the issue of the resistance to which it is licit, in the case of Lebanon , to carry weapons and make them proliferate. While resistance, according to Arab political jargon, is being glorified, its weapons turn into a source of fear for all those who do not belong to the resistance's confession or sect. This way, the claimed unity against the enemy (who retired behind international borders) has ended up in an extreme armed fragmentation in which everyone falls prey to the other and where every group is the enemy of the other.
Fourth, the incapability of the Lebanese State to take shape, certainly in terms of security, but also with regard to the economy and education. This expands the pockets of poverty, deprivation and illiteracy, which increases the ability of groups like al-Qaeda or Fatah al-Islam to invest and recruit. This is a tragedy deeply rooted in the common idea that the State does not occupy any priority in our collective political consciousness, while hearts beat for any 'resistant rifle' for which many states could be sacrificed.
Fifth, the incapability of the Lebanese State, the Arab States in general, and the Arab mainstream political culture, to find a reasonable solution to the problem of Palestinians living in other Arab countries. This inability can be traced back to several reasons, but one of them is that, while Palestine is loved, Palestinians are ignored, besieged and oppressed. What is required is to invert the equation. Help must be provided to solve the Palestinians' human and social crises while reducing the exaggeration when referring to the Palestinian Cause. What is being done now is increasing the tension by continuously heating-up the Palestinian Cause, and at the same time by ignoring the Palestinians as human beings and subsequently leaving them as tools to be used by terrorism.
Sixth, the adherence of all Lebanese political groups to a 'method' that consolidate sectarian reaction in response to sectarian behavior. Tugging the 'Sunni nerve' is not the effective response to the tug of the 'Shiite one', that is to say, to provoking Hezbollah and its militia. Indeed, what must be done is to develop a Lebanese national horizon overcoming and encompassing sectarian differences. Tugging the 'Sunni nerve' leads us to what we ended up in, as we saw for instance in Ashrafiyeh during the wave of protests against the Danish cartoons. Nevertheless, in this case, as well, we are haunted by that abyss still preventing us all, throughout the region, from thinking according to the logic of political, national and modern legitimacy.
Who stands behind what happened, and is happening, in northern Lebanon is a much bigger force than the one taking part in the fighting, and the time in which this crisis has been produced is much longer than a two-day battle