LCCC ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20,19-23. On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Lebanon: Between Autonomous State Authority and Foreign-Inspired. By: Raghida Dergham. May 28/07
Latest News Reports
From Miscellaneous Sources for May 28/05/07
Jumblat Criticizes Nasrallah Over Fatah al-Islam. Naharnet
Lebanon official downplays army action at refugee camp. AP
Achile Lauro Hijacker at Nahr al-Bared. Naharnet
Syria seems keen on talks: Israelis.Gulf Times
Lebanon PM repeats surrender call.ABC Online
Hezbollah warns Govt not to storm camp.ABC Regional Online
Who's Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon?International Middle East Media Center
Israeli officials: Syria seems serious about talks.Reuters
US, Arabs rush military aid to Lebanon.Houston Chronicle
Violence in Lebanon serves Syria.Edmonton Sun
What is happening in Lebanon.Khaleej Times
Lebanon PM repeats surrender call.ABC Online - Australia
70% of Iraqi insurgents arrive via Syria.Ya Libnan
Nasrallah Over Fatah al-Islam
Druse leader Walid Jumblat accused Syria of sponsoring the militant Fatah al-Islam to destabilize Lebanon as Premier Fouad Saniora's government gave Palestinian mediators until the middle of the week to find a peaceful solution to the bloody conflict. "The authorities have given Palestinian organizations until the middle of the week" to try to negotiate a settlement to end the deadly showdown at a squalid Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, a government source told Agence France Presse. For a week, soldiers have been besieging the Nahr al-Bared camp where entrenched militants from the Fatah al-Islam militia have been fighting the army since last Sunday. A total of 78 people have been killed in the fighting, which has also forced thousands to flee and trapped thousands more in deteriorating conditions in the camp, where residents are suffering a lack of water and electricity. The negotiations involve handing over wanted fighters from the Fatah al-Islam extremist group for trial over attacks against the Lebanese armed forces since last Sunday, the source said.
Only foreign militants not wanted by the Lebanese authorities could be repatriated to their home countries, the source added. "The government remains very determined to see those who are guilty handed over," the source said, adding that Lebanon was also keen on ending the ordeal of thousands of Palestinians who remain trapped in Nahr al-Bared. Saniora said on Saturday that the government was giving Palestinian factions a chance to find a solution.
"This problem is being resolved through the Palestinian factions, and we are giving them time, as they have requested, but this does not mean that we are backing off," he said. Saniora on Saturday discussed the situation with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas during a telephone contact, according to the prime minister's office.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who heads Lebanon's Syrian-backed opposition, has warned the Saniora government against an army assault on the camp to avoid turning Lebanon into a new front in the U.S.-led "war on terror." The 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon remain off-limits to the army and under the control of armed Palestinian factions despite a U.N. resolution calling for the disarmament of all militias in the country.
"Nobody has talked about a military solution, but we want the criminals to give themselves up," Jumblat, a prominent leader of the ruling majority, said at a press conference on Sunday. Jumblat again accused former powerbroker and neighboring Syria of being behind the fighting in Nahr al-Bared and three bombings on shopping areas in and around Beirut since Sunday.
"They want to distract the army from watching the arms smuggled (from Syria) and to obstruct the tribunal," he said referring to U.N. plans to create a court to try suspects in the killing of ex-premier Rafik Hariri which has been widely blamed on Syria. He criticized Nasrallah for not condemning Fatah al-Islam, saying the Hizbullah leader has become a "mere tool" of the Syrian regime. The parties negotiating a possible solution to the Fatah al-Islam issue are the main Palestinian factions in Lebanon including Fatah, the Islamic group Hamas and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).
Led by a Palestinian from Jordan, Fatah Al-Islam is made up of a few hundred Islamist extremists of various Arab nationalities and is said to be inspired by the Al-Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.(AFP-Naharnet) Beirut, 27 May 07, 14:58
Lauro Hijacker at Nahr al-Bared
A Palestinian who escaped from Italy while on parole for the 1985 hijacking of cruise ship Achille Lauro is holed up in the Lebanon refugee camp where the army is besieging Islamist militants. Bassam al-Ashker, now 39, told Agence France Presse by telephone that he is now a militiaman for the mainstream Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and saw it as his duty to brave the fighting to help the thousands of trapped civilians.
Ashker was just 17 when he took part in the assault on the Achille Lauro by commandos of the Palestine Liberation Front of Abu Abbas in which some 450 passengers were held hostage for several days and a wheelchair-bound U.S. tourist was killed.He told AFP he had retained his radical anti-Western politics and, after fleeing Italy in 1991 following his release on parole from nearly six years in jail, spent 14 years in Iraq before moving to Lebanon's Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
"I organize the training of young Palestinian recruits who we send to fight the Americans alongside the Iraqi resistance," Ashker told AFP. "I have even fought them myself in Fallujah and Ramadi," two rebel bastions west of Baghdad. Despite his anti-Western views, Ashker insisted he had no link with the Islamist fighters of fringe militant group Fatah al-Islam who are under siege by the Lebanese army and stand accused of using camp residents as human shields.
"They have certainly proved their military prowess," he said referring to the fighting of the past week in which 33 Lebanese soldiers but only 25 of the group's fighters were among the 78 dead.
"If they had used it to fight Israel, I would have been the first to join them, but they are fanatics who believe only in religion and have no regard of the consequences of their actions on civilians," he said. "Not along time ago, Muslim clerics reminded them that it was wrong to attack Palestinians or Lebanese but they retorted that their religion took primacy over everything else."Despite his disdain for the Fatah al-Islam fighters, Ashker insisted he had no intention of leaving the Nahr al-Bared camp, where living conditions have been deteriorating amid chronic shortages of water, food and power. "It is shameful for a young man to leave the camp -- we need all the help we can get," he said. "My men are organizing food and drink for trapped civilians, notably by going up on the rooftops to get water from the cisterns there, which is dangerous because of sniper fire. We're also organizing patrols to prevent burglaries from the homes of residents who have fled."(AFP) Beirut, 27 May 07, 19:45
Achile Lauro Hijacker at Nahr al-Bared
A Palestinian who escaped from Italy while on parole for the 1985 hijacking of cruise ship Achille Lauro is holed up in the Lebanon refugee camp where the army is besieging Islamist militants. Bassam al-Ashker, now 39, told Agence France Presse by telephone that he is now a militiaman for the mainstream Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and saw it as his duty to brave the fighting to help the thousands of trapped civilians. Ashker was just 17 when he took part in the assault on the Achille Lauro by commandos of the Palestine Liberation Front of Abu Abbas in which some 450 passengers were held hostage for several days and a wheelchair-bound U.S. tourist was killed. He told AFP he had retained his radical anti-Western politics and, after fleeing Italy in 1991 following his release on parole from nearly six years in jail, spent 14 years in Iraq before moving to Lebanon's Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.
"I organize the training of young Palestinian recruits who we send to fight the Americans alongside the Iraqi resistance," Ashker told AFP. "I have even fought them myself in Fallujah and Ramadi," two rebel bastions west of Baghdad. Despite his anti-Western views, Ashker insisted he had no link with the Islamist fighters of fringe militant group Fatah al-Islam who are under siege by the Lebanese army and stand accused of using camp residents as human shields.
"They have certainly proved their military prowess," he said referring to the fighting of the past week in which 33 Lebanese soldiers but only 25 of the group's fighters were among the 78 dead. "If they had used it to fight Israel, I would have been the first to join them, but they are fanatics who believe only in religion and have no regard of the consequences of their actions on civilians," he said.
"Not along time ago, Muslim clerics reminded them that it was wrong to attack Palestinians or Lebanese but they retorted that their religion took primacy over everything else."Despite his disdain for the Fatah al-Islam fighters, Ashker insisted he had no intention of leaving the Nahr al-Bared camp, where living conditions have been deteriorating amid chronic shortages of water, food and power. "It is shameful for a young man to leave the camp -- we need all the help we can get," he said.
"My men are organizing food and drink for trapped civilians, notably by going up on the rooftops to get water from the cisterns there, which is dangerous because of sniper fire. We're also organizing patrols to prevent burglaries from the homes of residents who have fled."(AFP) Beirut, 27 May 07, 19:45
Syria seems keen on talks: Israelis
Sunday, 27 May, 2007, 09:03 AM Doha Time
JERUSALEM: There is a growing consensus within the Israeli government that Syria is serious about resuming negotiations with the Jewish state, Israeli officials involved in the assessment said yesterday. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and a former Israeli diplomat who drafted an unofficial peace plan, said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent meeting with the Syrian foreign minister may have opened the door for reviving the long-dormant Israeli-Syrian track.
But it was unclear whether Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would respond positively to the public and private overtures from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Israeli officials and the former diplomat, Alon Liel, said. Western diplomats say Olmert appeared to be receptive to the idea of Syrian talks, although officials in his office said the prime minister remained sceptical of Assad’s intentions.
“There are too many signals that Assad wants to talk and many signals that he is interested in finalising an agreement,” Liel said. “It’s irresponsible for a prime minister not to check these signals. If he checks and finds that Syria is not ready, he can come to the public and explain it. But if he does not check and we have a war, he will be personally responsible for the war.” Liel and a Syrian-American businessman worked on a blueprint for peace in talks from 2004-2006. – Reuters
Hezbollah warns Govt not to storm camp
The leader of the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, has urged the Government not to storm a Palestinian refugee camp in the north of the country.
Armed Islamic militants within the camp have been clashing with the Lebanese Army for the past week. In a televised address, Sheikh Nasrallah said Lebanon risked getting dragged into a war against Al Qaeda, which could damage the Army and destabilise the country."We do not intend to fight America's war in Lebanon," he said.
"We should not start a battle with Al Qaeda in Lebanon. "If this happens it could lead to Al Qaeda fighters from all over the world coming to Lebanon to fight the Army and security forces here. "We know when things started, but we cannot predict when they will end."
Who's Behind the Fighting in North Lebanon?
Saturday May 26, 2007 18:40 by Franklin Lamb in Tripoli, Lebanon - counterpunch.org
Wearing a beat-up ratty UNCHR tee-shirt left over from Bint Jbeil and the Israeli-Hezbollah July probably helped. As did, I suspect, the Red Cross jersey, my black and white checkered kaffieyh and the Palestinian flag taped to my lapel as I joined a group of Palestinian aid workers and slipped into Nahr el-Bared trying not to look conspicuous. Condoleeza Rice shaking hands with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, while advisor David Welch looks on
Our mission was to facilitate the delivery of food, blankets and mattresses, but I was also curious about the political situation. Who was behind the events that erupted so quickly and violently following a claimed 'bank robbery'? A heist that depending on who you talked to, netted the masked bandits $ 150,000, $ 1,500 or $ 150.
It seems that every Beirut media outlet has a different source of 'inside information' based on which Confession owns it and 'knows' the real culprits pulling the strings. But then, even we who are particularly obtuse have realized, as the late Rafic Hariri often counseled: "In Lebanon, believe nothing of what you are told and only half of what you see!"My friends made we swear out loud that I would claim to be Canadian instead of American if Al Qaeda types stopped us inside the Camp. My impression was that they were not so worried about my safety but for their own if they got caught with me. It would not be the first time that I relied on my northern neighbors to get me out of a potential US nationality jam in the Middle East, so I ditched my American ID.
Notes from the field:
We were advised as we approached the Fatah al Islam stronghold that we would be in the cross-hairs of Lebanese army snipers from outside of Nahr el-Bared Camp as well as Fatah al-Islam snipers from the inside, and that any false move or bad luck could prove fatal.
After three days of shelling and more than 100 dead and with no electricity or water, Nahr el-Baled reeks of burned and rotting flesh, charred houses with smoldering contents, raw sewage and the acrid smell of exploded mortars and tank rounds.Press figures of 30,000-32,000 are not accurate. 45,000 live in Bared! Contrary to some reports food and water still not being allowed in. 15 to 70 percent of some areas destroyed. Some light shooting this morning and afternoon. Army shelling at rate of 10-18 shells per minute from 4:30 am to 10 am on Tuesday. Army will not allow Palestinian Red Crescent to move out civilians because they don't trust them. Only the Lebanese Red Cross is allowed. It is possible to enter Bared from the back (east side). The Army taking cameras of journalists they catch. The Lebanese government is controlling the information and don't want extent of damage known yet. Still unrecovered bodies. 40 per cent of the camp population have been evacuated. The rest don't want to leave out of fear of being shot or that they are losing their homes for the 5th time or more for some.
No electricity and cell phone batteries are dying. Relatives who fled are telling families to stay because there are not enough mattresses at Bedawi Camp. Bared evacuees are living up to 25 in one room in Badawi schools etc. 3,000 evacuees in one school in Bedawi. UN aid is starting to arrive at Badawi but workers not able so far to deliver it to Bared due to attack on relief convoy on Tuesday. I met Abdul Rahman Hallab famous for Lebanese candy factory in Tripoli. Helped him unload 5,000 meals to evacuees from Bared staying in Badawi. He is Lebanese not Palestinian.
The camp population all say that Fatah Al-Islam came in September-October 2006 and have no relatives in the camp. They are from Saudi, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, and Tunisia and elsewhere. No Palestinians among them except some hanger ons. Most say they are paid by the Hariri group.
Reports that Fateh al-Islam helps people in Bared are denied. " All they do is pray, one woman told me..and do military training.. They are much more religious than the Shia" she said.Population of Badawi camp was 15,000 and as of of this morning it is 28,000. Four bodies arrived this morning at Safad, the only Palestinian Red Crescent Hospitals in north Lebanon. I was told the army will have to destroy every house in Bared to remove Fateh al Islam.
I expect to stay in Bared tonight with aid workers. Some say FAI with die fighting others than a settlement could be negotiated. I may try the latter with NGO from Norway here. Not sure if anyone in government is interested. One minute ago a member of Fateh at_Islam walked into the medical office I am using at Safed Hospital and said they want a permanent ceasefire and do not want more people killed or injured.
They claim to have no problem with the army.
Some background information:
Now some background about Nahr el-Bared. Like the other Palestinian camps in Lebanon, it is inhabited by Palestinians who were forced from their homes, land, and personal property in 1947-48, in order to make room for Jews from Europe and elsewhere prior to the May 15, 1948 founding of Israel.
Of the original 16 Refugee camps, set up to settle the more than 100,000 refugees crossing the border into Lebanon from Palestine during the Nakba, 12 official ones remain. The camp at Tal El-Za`tar was ethnically cleansed by Christian Phalange forces at the beginning of the 1975-1990, Lebanese Civil War and the Nabatieh, Dikwaneh and Jisr el-Basha camps were destroyed by Israeli attacks and Lebanese militia and not rebuilt. Those remaining include the following which currently house more than half of Lebanon's 433,276 Palestinian refugees:
Al-Badawi, Burj El-Barajna, Jal El-Bahr, Sabra and Shatilla, Ain El-Helwa, Nahr El-Bared, Rashidieh, Burj El Shemali, El-Buss, Wavel, Mieh Mieh and Mar Elias.
Nahr el-Bared is 7 miles north of Tripoli near the stunning Mediterranean coast and is home to more than 45,000 refuges many of whom were expelled from the Lake Huleh area of Palestine, including Safed. Like all the official Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, plus several 'unofficial' ones, Nahr el-Bared suffers from serious problems including no proper infrastructure, overcrowding, poverty and unemployment.
Tabulated at more than 25%, Nahr el-Bared has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees anywhere who are living in abject poverty and who are officially registered with the UN as "special hardship" cases. Its residents, like all Palestinians in Lebanon are blatantly discriminated against and not even officially counted. They are denied citizenship and banned from working in the top 70 trades and professions (that includes McDonald's and KFC in downtown Beirut) and cannot own real estate. Palestinians in Lebanon have essentially no social or civil rights and only limited access to government educational facilities. They have no access to public social services. Consequently most rely entirely on the UNRWA as the sole provider for their families needs.
It is not surprising that al-Qaeda sympathies, if not formal affiliations, are found in the 12 official camps as well as 7 unofficial ones. Groups with names such as Fateh al-Islam, Jund al-Shams (Soldier of Damascus) , Ibns al-Shaheed" (sons of the martyrs) Issbat al-Anssar which morphed into Issbat al-Noor - "The Community of Illumination" and many others.
Given Bush administration debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan and its encouragement for Israel to continue its destruction of Lebanon this past summer, the situation in Lebanon mirrors, in some respects, the early 1980's when groups sprung up to resist the US green lighted Israeli invasion and occupation. But rather than being Shia and pro-Hezbollah, today's groups are largely Sunni and anti-Hezbollah. Hence they qualify for US aid, funneled by Sunni financial backers in league with the Bush administration which is committed to funding Islamist Sunni groups to weaken Hezbollah.
This project has become the White House obsession following Israel's July 2006 defeat.
To understand what is going on with Fatah al-Islam at Nahr el-Bared one would want a brief introduction to Lebanon's amazing, but shadowy 'Welch Club'.
The Club is named for its godfather, David Welch, assistant to Secretary of State Rice who is the point man for the Bush administration and is guided by Eliot Abrams.
Key Lebanese members of the Welch Club (aka: the 'Club') include:
The Lebanese civil war veteran, warlord, feudalist and mercurial Walid Jumblatt of the Druze party (the Progressive Socialist Party or PSP)
Another civil war veteran, warlord, terrorist (Served 11 years in prison for massacres committed against fellow Christians among others) Samir Geagea. Leader of the extremist Phalange party and its Lebanese Forces (LF) the group that conducted the Israel organized massacre at Sabra-Shatilla (although led by Elie Hobeika, once Geagea's mentor, Geagea did not take part in the Sept. 1982 slaughter of 1,700 Palestinian and Lebanese).
The billionaire, Saudi Sheikh and Club president Saad Hariri leader of the Sunni Future Movement (FM).
Over a year ago Hariri's Future Movement started setting up Sunni Islamist terrorist cells (the PSP and LF already had their own militia since the civil war and despite the Taif Accords requiring militia to disarm they are now rearmed and itching for action and trying hard to provoke Hezbollah).
The FM created Sunni Islamist 'terrorist' cells were to serve as a cover for (anti-Hezbollah) Welch Club projects. The plan was that actions of these cells, of which Fatah el-Islam is one, could be blamed on al Qaeda or Syria or anyone but the Club.
To staff the new militias, FM rounded up remnants of previous extremists in the Palestinian Refugee camps that had been subdued, marginalized and diminished during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Each fighter got $700 per month, not bad in today's Lebanon.
The first Welch Club funded militia, set up by FM, is known locally as Jund-al-Sham (Soldiers of Sham, where "Sham" in Arabic denotes Syria, Lebanon, Palestine & Jordan) created in Ain-el-Hilwa Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon. This group is also referred to in the Camps as Jund-el-Sitt (Soldiers of the Sitt, where "Sitt" in Sidon, Ain-el-Hilwa and the outskirts pertain to Bahia Hariri, the sister of Rafiq Hariri, aunt of Saad, and Member of Parliament).
The second was Fateh-al-Islam (The name cleverly put together, joining Fateh as in Palestinian and the word Islam as in Qaeda). FM set this Club cell up in Nahr-al-Bared refugee camp north of Tripoli for geographical balance.
Fatah el-Islam had about 400 well paid fighters until three days ago. Today they may have more or fewer plus volunteers. The leaders were provided with ocean view luxury apartments in Tripoli where they stored arms and chilled when not in Nahr-al-Bared. Guess who owns the apartments?
According to members of both Fatah el-Islam and Jund-al-Sham their groups acted on the directive of the Club president, Saad Hariri.
So what went wrong? "Why the bank robbery" and the slaughter at Nahr el-Baled?
According to operatives of Fatah el-Islam, the Bush administration got cold feet with people like Seymour Hirsh snooping around and with the White House post-Iraq discipline in free fall. Moreover, Hezbollah intelligence knew all about the Clubs activities and was in a position to flip the two groups who were supposed to ignite a Sunni Shia civil war which Hezbollah vows to prevent.
Things started to go very wrong quickly for the Club last week.
FM "stopped" the payroll of Fateh el-Islam's account at the Hariri family owned back.
Fateh-al-Islam, tried to negotiate at least 'severance pay' with no luck and they felt betrayed. (Remember many of their fighters are easily frustrated teenagers and their pay supports their families). Militia members knocked off the bank which issued their worthless checks. They were doubly angry when they learned FM is claiming in the media a loss much greater than they actually snatched and that the Club is going to stiff the insurance company and actually make a huge profit.
Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (newly recruited to serve the bidding of the Club and the Future Movement) assaulted the apartments of Fatah-al-Islam Tripoli. They didn't have much luck and were forced to call in the Lebanese army.
Within the hour, Fatah-al-Islam retaliated against Lebanese Army posts, checkpoints and unarmed, off-duty Lebanese soldiers in civilian clothing and committed outrageous killings including severing at four heads.
Up to this point Fatah-al-Islam did not retaliate against the Internal Security forces in Tripoli because the ISF is pro-Hariri and some are friends and Fatah al-Islam still hoped to get paid by Hariri. Instead Fatah al Islam went after the Army.
The Seniora cabinet convenes and asks the Lebanese Army to enter the refugee camp and silence (in more ways than one) Fatah-al-Islam. Since entrance into the Camps is forbidden by the 1969 Arab league agreement, the Army refuses after realizing the extent of the conspiracy against it by the Welch Club. The army knows that entering a refugee camp in force will open a front against the Army in all twelve Palestinian refugee camps and tear the army apart along sectarian cracks.
The army feels set up by the Club's Internal Security Forces which did not coordinate with the Lebanese Army, as required by Lebanese law and did not even make them aware of the "inter family operation" the ISF carried out against Fatah-al-Islam safe houses in Tripoli.
Today, tensions are high between the Lebanese army and the Welch Club. Some mention the phrase 'army coup'.
The Club is trying to run Parliament and is prepared to go all the way not to 'lose' Lebanon. It still holds 70 seats in the house of parliament while the Hezbollah led opposition holds 58 seats. It has a dutiful PM in Fouad Siniora.
The club tried to seize control of the presidency and when it failed it marginalized it. Last year it tried to control of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee, which audits the government's policies, laws and watch dogs their actions. When the Club failed to control it they simply abolished the Constitutional Committee. This key committee no longer exists in Lebanon's government.
The Welch Club's major error was when it attempted to influence the Lebanese Army into disarming the Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah. When the Army wisely refused, the Club coordinated with the Bush Administration to pressure Israel to dramatically intensify its retaliation to the capture of the two soldiers by Hezbollah and 'break the rules' regarding the historically more limited response and try to destroy Hezbollah during the July 2006 war.
The Welch Club now considers the Lebanese Army a serious problem. The Bush administration is trying to undermine and marginalize it to eliminate one of the last two obstacles to implementing Israel's agenda in Lebanon.
If the army is weakened, it can not protect _over 70% of the Christians in Lebanon who support General Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement. The F.P.M. is mainly constituted of well educated, middle class and unarmed Lebanese civilians. The only protection they have is the Lebanese Army which aids in maintaining their presence in the political scene. The other type of Christians in Lebanon is the minority, about 15% of Christians associated with Geagea's Lebanese Forces who are purely militia. If the Club can weaken the Army even more than it is, then this Phalange minority will be the only relatively strong force on the Christian scene and become the "army" of the Club.
Another reason the Club wants to weaken the Lebanese Army is that the Army is nationalistic and is a safety valve for Lebanon to ensure the Palestinian right of return to Palestine, Lebanese nationhood and the resistance culture led by Hezbollah, with which is has excellent relations.
For their part, the Welch Club wants to keep some Palestinians in Lebanon for cheap labor, ship others to countries willing to take them (and be paid handsomely to do so by American taxpayers) and allow at most a few thousand to return to Palestine to settle the 'right of return' issue while at the same time signing a May 17th 1983 type treaty with Israel with enriches the Club members and gives Israel Lebanon's water and much of Lebanon's sovereignty.
Long story short, Fatah el-Islam must be silenced at all costs. Their tale, if told, is poison for the Club and its sponsors. We will likely see their attempted destruction in the coming days.
Hezbollah is watching and supporting the Lebanese army.
- Lamb's recent book, The Price We Pay: A Quarter Century of Israel's use of American Weapon's against Lebanon (1978-2006) is available at Amazon.com.uk.
Brief Guide for Beginners is expected in early summer. (counterpunch.org)
YOU ARE HERE: Homepage > Newsdesk > Article Israeli officials: Syria seems serious about talks
26 May 2007 15:09:25 GMT
By Adam Entous
JERUSALEM, May 26 (Reuters) - There is a growing consensus within the Israeli government that Syria is serious about resuming negotiations with the Jewish state, Israeli officials involved in the assessment said on Saturday.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and a former Israeli diplomat who drafted an unofficial peace plan, said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent meeting with the Syrian foreign minister may have opened the door for reviving the long-dormant Israeli-Syrian track.
But it was unclear whether Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would respond positively to the public and private overtures from Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Israeli officials and the former diplomat, Alon Liel, told Reuters.
Western diplomats say Olmert appeared to be receptive to the idea of Syrian talks, although officials in his office said the prime minister remained sceptical of Assad's intentions."We lose sleep at night worrying that this may be a trap," a senior Israeli official involved in the review said.
With Israeli-Palestinian talks frozen and an offensive underway in Gaza, Olmert could benefit from any positive diplomatic movement on the northern border after a scathing report on his handling of last year's war in Lebanon.
"There are too many signals that Assad wants to talk and many signals that he is interested in finalising an agreement," Liel said.
"It's irresponsible for a prime minister not to check these signals. If he checks and finds that Syria is not ready, he can come to the public and explain it. But if he does not check and we have a war, he will be personally responsible for the war."
Liel and a Syrian-American businessman worked on a blueprint for peace in talks from 2004-2006. War erupted between Israel and the Syrian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah last July. Since then, Assad has voiced interest in resuming talks with Israel that stalled in 2000 over Damascus's demand for a return of the occupied Golan Heights. Syria has also hinted that it could resort to military force if it deems diplomacy a dead end.
Olmert's office declined to comment but an Israeli government official said earlier this week that the prime minister still sees the Syrian government "as not yet ready for the hard choices needed to make peace".
Olmert has demanded that Syria cease supporting Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups as a condition of resuming talks, and dismissed Syrian overtures as a bid to improve ties with the West. But in recent months, in coordination with Olmert's office, Israel's Foreign Ministry and intelligence agencies have conducted a review of Assad's public and private messages. "We have reached the conclusion that they (the overtures) are serious. We think that he (Assad) is serious", said a senior official involved in the inter-agency review. The official said there was still considerable concern on the Israeli side that Damascus would try to use negotiations to divert attention away from Syria's military build-up.
"We don't have any concrete evidence that this is not a trap to paralyse Israel's ability to counter Syria's military build-up. But we don't have any concrete evidence that it is a trap."Israeli officials said the conclusions of the inter-agency review have been discussed at the highest levels of government, but Olmert has yet to make clear where he stands."So if there is a change, it is in Olmert's mind himself and this is very important. He is the key person here," Liel said. (Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan, Labib Nasir and Avivit Delgoshen in Jerusalem)
military aid from U.S.
By ZEINA KARAM Associated Press Writer
© 2007 The Associated Press
TRIPOLI, Lebanon — Lebanon's pro-Western prime minister on Saturday rejected opposition criticism over planeloads of U.S. military aid pouring in to shore up the country's army in its battle with Islamic militants in a Palestinian refugee camp.
Three more U.S. transport planes with military supplies arrived from Kuwait as part of an international airlift. A total of eight military transport planes have landed at Beirut airport since late Thursday — four from the U.S. Air Force, two from the United Arab Emirates and two from Jordan.
A four-day-old truce between the Lebanese army and al-Qaida inspired Fatah Islam militants mostly held up on Saturday despite sporadic gunfire in the Nahr el-Bared camp on the outskirts of the northern port city of Tripoli. But the Lebanese army has been gearing up for a renewed fight, rolling more troops into place around the camp already ringed by hundreds of soldiers backed by artillery and tanks.
The military confirmed it has received supplies from Arab countries and the U.S. but gave no details. Media reports said they included ammunition, body armor, helmets and night-vision equipment.
U.S. military officials have said Washington will send eight planeloads of supplies, part of a package that had been agreed on but that the Lebanese government asked to be expedited. The U.S. aid is sensitive in a nation deeply divided between supporters of the pro-Western government and an opposition backed by America's Mideast foes, Iran and Syria. The opposition, led by the Shiite Hezbollah, accuses Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's government of being too closely allied to Washington.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned Friday that Lebanon was being dragged into a U.S. war against al-Qaida that would destabilize the country.
But Saniora told the Arabic service of the British Broadcasting Crop. on Saturday that the aid was not a "crime" and that the weapons had been offered by different countries a year ago. "Don't we want to protect Lebanon? Who defends Lebanon?" Saniora said, adding that Nasrallah's criticism reflected a desire to "keep the army weak in order to justify the presence of other armies" — a reference to Syria, Hezbollah's close ally which controlled Lebanon for nearly three decades.
The fighting broke out last Sunday when police raided suspected hideouts of Fatah Islam in Tripoli, searching for bank robbers. It spread to nearby Nahr el-Bared where Fatah Islam claims to have more than 500 fighters armed with automatic weapons, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The group's leader has been linked to Al-Qaida in Iraq and says he admires Osama bin Laden.
At least 20 civilians and 30 soldiers were killed in the fighting earlier this week. The Lebanese military says 60 Fatah Islam fighters were killed; the group put the toll at 10. About half of Nahr el-Bared's 31,000 residents have fled since the truce took hold, flooding nearby Beddawi camp. An all-out assault on the camp risks sparking unrest and violence elsewhere in the country, where some 400,000 Palestinian refugees live, mostly in camps that are rife with armed groups. The U.S. military aid also could attract other militants into what they see as a battle against the West and its allies. A group billing itself as al-Qaida's branch in Syria and Lebanon vowed "seas of blood" Friday if the Lebanese army resumes its attack.
Meanwhile, a few dozen more Palestinians left Nahr el-Bared on Saturday and four ambulances entered the camp bringing medicine. Trucks from the international Red Cross brought water, bread and candles. Souad Ali, 70, one of the people who left, said she had cancer and asthma and did not know where she would go.
"I don't care if I sleep on the street. Anywhere is better than this hell," she said, pointing to the camp. Palestinian factions have been scrambling to find a negotiated solution to end the siege. Defense Minister Elias Murr said Friday he was "leaving room for political negotiations," which he said must lead to the surrender of the Fatah Islam fighters inside the camp. "If the political negotiations fail, I leave it to the military command to do what is necessary," he said.
Between Autonomous State Authority and Foreign-Inspired "Iraqization"
Raghida Dergham Al-Hayat - 26/05/07//
NEW YORK: In a few days, the era of non-punishment for using political assassinations as a means to gain influence and power in the Arab region will come to an end. In only a number of hours, the United Nations Security Council will register a precedent that will cause everyone implicated in terrorist crimes related to Lebanon in the last two years to tremble. At the head of these crimes is the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and his comrades. No deals will be able to neutralize or protect the top criminals, whether they are at the head of security organizations, political authorities, or militias. There will be no escape from trials for crimes against humanity. The court has arrived, despite the efforts by all those who have fought against it and who are trying to destroy Lebanon to frighten those who seek to create this court. The Security Council is preparing to adopt a decision under Article Seven of the UN Charter after the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, refused to open the legislature's doors to conclude a treaty to create this court, which was endorsed by the Lebanese Government, along with the General Secretariat of the UN, and was approved by the Security Council.
The investigation into the string of terrorist crimes is gathering and storing up evidence in total secrecy and has not presented names or conclusions to the UN Security Council at any stage of the process, as Serge Brammertz, the head of the independent investigation into the assassinations, as repeatedly maintained. He has prepared the file and the case for the prosecution in the trial. Brammertz, like his predecessor, Detlev Mehlis, knows the truth and knows exactly what happened. Everyone who played a role in terrorist conspiracies, everyone who prepared the orders or remained silent when the assassination orders were issued, is afraid. Likewise, everyone involved in planning or organization, tampering with the crime scene to destroy evidence, obstructing the constitutional process to conclude the treaty to create the court, or threatening that there would be consequences for creating the court via the Security Council, should be afraid as well.
The court is on its way and there will be no political deals or bargaining; there will be no closed-door sessions for forgiveness or mercy when it comes to punishment. It is a court, and the day of reckoning for the assassination of individuals and the terrorizing of an entire country is at hand. If the creation of the court does not deter those implicated in the terrorist operations, and if it leads them instead to the hysteria of murder and destruction, further assassinations and bombings, sending a group of terrorists like Fath al-Islam to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and massacring members of the Lebanese Army, we can assume that they know that they will fail to avoid being held accountable. The court is coming, to lift the cover of protection and launch a new future for Lebanon and the rest of the region, no matter how bloody, dangerous and difficult the next few months are, and no matter how much Lebanon is dragged into war. Belts should be tightened and heads held high, with full confidence.
The era of terror will end with the fall of frightened terror regimes and the desperate agents of terror, no matter how much they hide behind arrogant boasting.
It is as necessary to see the court established as it is to learn the truth about the political assassinations. Abandoning the court and the truth at this juncture means submitting to terrorism of another kind, which will come with an assassination of another kind: assassinating the courage to hold people accountable. This in turn will lead to arrogance of another kind, based on revenge, submission, and preventing any repeat of challenging authoritarianism.
It is not at all true that abandoning the court and the truth will spare Lebanon terrorism and punishment, and protect it from revenge; the reverse is true. If those rejecting the court succeed in obstructing its creation, Lebanon will certainly see another series of assassinations to give new generations lessons about the consequences of being bold enough to demand accountability; the failure to punish will lead to continuing the suppression of protest, and consecrating the authoritarian nature of neighboring regimes, which are sharpening their teeth to take revenge against those who kicked out their armies and ended their hegemony over Lebanon.
If the UN is forced to relinquish the court, as Syria and its allies have planned and sought, Lebanon and the entire region will enter a period of darkness, oppression and authoritarianism, and Lebanon will be subjected to the rule of Hizbullah and its small-time partners, apologists for Syria. If the methods of obstructing the court succeed - these are civil and constitutional methods as well as terrorist bombings - Lebanon will enter a new era of political rule that will be very far from democracy and freedom, a mixture of the Islamic Republic and the Syrian regime.
The international court is not a politicized tool to bring down regimes or establish others in their place; it is a tool to prevent the reliance on terrorist assassinations, horrific bombings and war-making, whether in order to gain power or preserve the authority of existing regimes.
The court is a spoke in the wheels of the plans of Damascus and its allies in Lebanon and Iran, which is why they are scared. The fear strikes at the heart of leaders of the opposition to the court in Damascus and Lebanon, regardless of the attempts to polish the image of the regime in the media and in international forums, and among the new members of the General Secretariat of the United Nations; this is why they are shaking.
They are shaking with fright because they know that accountability is coming, no matter how many wars are sparked at the expense of Lebanon, and no matter how many political deals are concluded with Israel in the name of recovering the Golan. Even Israel and partnership with it will not halt the court, no matter how much they rely on its silence as a deterrent to protect the regime in Damascus, in the belief that it represents a safety valve.
In international forums, some Israeli apologists talk insolently about their reluctance to support the formation of a court, on the pretext of fear of the repercussions for the "stability" provided by the ruling regime in Syria. They raise their voices against the Palestinians and are proud to see the entire Palestinian cause labeled as "terrorism." They suddenly appear to reject seeing the end of the era of non-punishment for terrorist assassinations and bombings in Lebanon. They say that Israel doesn't want the "Iraqization" of its neighbor Syria, but prefer to see the Syrian regime guarantee Syria's continued existence as a "barrier" that protects Israel from Islamists, takfiris and the Muslim Brotherhood, while guaranteeing that the Syrian-Israeli front continue to remain completely neutralized. They do not object to offering Lebanon as a sacrifice as long as Syria and Israel agree on the broad outlines and the details, including the small and large wars that benefit them in Lebanon.
These apologists for Israel do not object to the organized "Iraqization" of Lebanon, by letting elements of al-Qaida slip into the country due to a Syrian decision, as long as Syria controls the borders and controls the numbers and required amounts of weapons. If the goal is to stop the international court, there is no objection to also benefiting from this in order to achieve wider objectives, which include sparking Lebanese-Palestinian strife inside Lebanon and activating another front in which the Palestinians appear to be completely unable to make peace due to their civil wars, taking place in more than one location. This in turn will help achieve another goal upon which Syria, Israel and Iran agree: bringing down the Arab Peace Initiative, which came about from a Saudi idea and was re-launched recently at the Arab Summit in Riyadh.
This week's actions by the so-called "Fatah-Islam" group demonstrates the ferocity of the Syrian strategy - the objectives here include hitting at the Lebanese army, destroying the state, and sparking a Lebanese civil war, while letting the Palestinians know that the creation of an international court will mean a comprehensive form of revenge, whatever the price, even if this means exposing the Palestinian refugee camps to attack.
Some Palestinians are angry that some Lebanese insist on the court, especially after Damascus let it be known that the punishment for such an act will be bitter for both Palestinians and Lebanese. We say to them, "Pardon us, but we also do not want the Lebanese to remain a permanent sacrificial lamb."
The Arab League completely understood the situation, as did the UN Security Council, The American Task Force for Palestine, and The American Task Force for Lebanon. These two groups have issued a statement condemning the attack by Fatah-Islam on Lebanese sovereignty, putting Palestinian refugees in danger; they expressed their support for Lebanon and affirmed that Fatah-Islam does not represent the Palestinians, but is rather exploiting their cause.
The Arab League issued a strong condemnation of the terrorist and criminal acts against the Lebanese Army and innocent civilians; it also expressed its complete support for the efforts by the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Army to maintain peace and security.
The UN Security Council has supported the position of the Arab League and expressed its unequivocal condemnation of Fatah-Islam's attack on the Lebanese Army, as well as the attacks and bombings that accompanied Fatah-Islam's operations in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon. The Security Council affirmed its condemnation of any attempt to strike at Lebanon's stability and emphasized its readiness to continue supporting the legitimate and democratically elected Lebanese government, headed by Fouad Siniora, to guarantee that only the state exerts its authority in the country. In a sign of this determination, it adopted a resolution forming the international court, which stated that these heinous acts must not go unpunished.
Punishment is coming for those who deserve it, no matter how much Arab media incite against the Lebanese state and Army and use Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps in political blackmail at the expense of these innocents, who have been exploited as hostages by Fatah-Islam and those behind it. Those who look on and do nothing as Palestinians suffer have been exposed. The day of justice is coming via the court, and history will record that Lebanon fought back when it came to infringements against people's rights and humanity itself in the entire Arab region.
Let the Arab "patriots" cease their support for violations of the authority of the Lebanese state at the hands of neighboring states and those in their pay, such as Fatah-Islam, as they implement a policy of re-scattering Palestinians and planting weapons among women and children in the camps. The Lebanese Army must settle this new incidence of terrorist escalation, which was exported to Lebanon, against the state and the army.
The situation is clear: either the state or the militias. Each person today must take a stance; there is no room for gray areas at this juncture. Everyone is asked to examine the details of what has happened and is happening in Lebanon and take a stance, either with the state or the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. This applies to the Arabs as well as the entire world.
We have no need for ignorant analysts who are imposed upon us, and fill us with theories of sabotage, such as Seymour Hersh, who built his entire article in The New Yorker on what was dictated to him by Alastair Crook, an apologist for Hizbullah. We cannot be silent about American legal or research organizations that send "experts" in "human rights monitoring" who require a press "article" that enables them to say that Hizbullah receives weapons from Iran via Syria, so that they can write this in their reports. It isn't right to see ignorance control the destiny of Lebanon and see services rendered to those who want to destroy the country and flee from justice with the protection of these organizations. Leading officials in the UN's Secretariat General must stop believing that pleading with Damascus and sending greetings to President Bashar Assad will lead to guaranteeing Syrian help so that Lebanon does not slide into chaos. This kind of thinking is extremely dangerous because it does not recognize the reality; rather, it allows (whether by accident or on purpose) a reconstitution of the Syrian role in Lebanon, letting the former control the latter with legitimacy from the new Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his team.
The choice is clear and simple: either the state or the militias. Either the army settles the issue so that it is the only body implementing state authority throughout the entire country, or we will see the fragmentation of Lebanon and its "Iraqization" thanks to a Syrian decision and Iranian approval; Hizbullah and its partners are wagering on this adventurism.
The army will win and the Lebanese state will remain, despite those who do not wish this, and despite the wars that are waged against Lebanon.
Those who fear the international court are isolating themselves and are slipping gradually toward seeing the international community lay siege to them, since the world and the members of the Security Councils will unite in the end when the issue is connected to terrorism. The parties who fear the international court are engaged in terror itself. Their day is close at hand and the countdown to the court has begun