Created on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:23
Lebanese officials are said to fear that Hezbollah will take advantage of protests in Lebanese cities about how the garbage is collected to engineer a coup. The “trash crisis,” as the London-based Al-Araby newspaper calls the protests, is an opportunity for Hezbollah to overthrow the government of Tammam Salam – and the terror group is making plans to do just that, the report said.
Over the past several nights, riot police in Beirut have thrown stones and aimed water cannons at thousands of protesters who are protesting the condition of the city's streets. The country's main landfill was closed in July, and trash collectors have not been picking up most of the country's garbage since then. With an especially hot summer, the streets of Beirut and other cities in Lebanon have begun to smell like garbage dumps, and rats and vermin are appearing in shockingly large numbers.
Salam has suggested that he may resign from his position if the protests don't stop – and according to Al Araby, Hezbollah has been fanning the flames in order to engineer just that.
Sources in Lebanon confirmed the Hezbollah plan. Reports there said that the Amal Shi'ite party, closely associated with Hezbollah, was agitating the protesters in order to create unrest. The reports said that party members had fought police and soldiers in Beirut, and had organized numerous illegal protests and riots.
Created on Monday, 22 June 2015 10:35
Israel carried out an air strike in eastern Lebanon on Sunday targeting a drone belonging to the Jewish state that crashed in the area, a security source told AFP.
"An Israeli air strike was launched this morning to destroy one of their drones that crashed in the mountains outside Saghbine yesterday," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another security source told the Lebanese Daily Star that the drone allegedly had entered Lebanon from the Mt. Hermon area in the Golan Heights - but the Lebanese National News Agency reports that the source of a blast was a rocket explosion. Lebanese security forces are reportedly at the scene to investigate further.
Images published by Lebanese media purported to show the remains of the drone that was targeted, including what looked to be a wing and twisted pieces of metal.
However, as the Star notes, writing on the drone is in Cyrillic - indicating that it is actually of Eastern European origin.
An IDF spokesperson refused to confirm or deny to Arutz Sheva that such a drone strike took place.
Created on Sunday, 21 June 2015 18:13
The Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar TV station reported on Friday that forces of the Iran-backed terror proxy in Lebanon killed two Islamic State (ISIS) commanders and seven ISIS terrorists in two separate attacks near a northeastern border town.
Both incidents took place in the chaotic Qalamoun mountainous region near Syria, where ISIS as well as Syrian rebel groups such as the Al Qaeda affiliate in Syria Nusra Front are seeking to expand their influence and control smuggling routes.
On the outskirts of Arsal on Friday ISIS commander Abu Aisha al-Libi and six other terrorists were killed as they held a meeting at Khirbet Hamam to plan an attack against the eastern city of Baalbek, the Hezbollah paper said as cited by the Lebanese The Daily Star.
In the same Khirbet Hamam area, Hezbollah terrorists also reportedly destroyed two military convoys, presumably of ISIS. Another ISIS commander, named as Abu Akrama al-Zouhouri, along with ISIS terrorist Ahmad Abed al-Mohsen were said to have been killed in the attack.
The Shi'ite Hezbollah has been propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under Iran's orders, and in the course of those efforts has been fighting the Sunni ISIS as well as Nusra Front, both of which have been active in the Qalamoun area.
Reportedly Hezbollah has made recent gains in the region, after repelling an ISIS attack last week in which eight Hezbollah fighters and 50 ISIS fighters were killed according to The Daily Star, in what was said to be the most serious border firefight since Hezbollah got involved in Syria.
Then on Tuesday, Al-Manar claimed that the ISIS "emir" for the Qalamoun region Abu Balqis al-Baghdadi was killed in shelling on the eastern outskirts of Arsal, in the Wadi Hmayed area roughly seven kilometers (just over four miles) south of Ras Baalbek.
Hezbollah and the Lebanese army reportedly have captured two-thirds of the Qalamoun mountain region back from ISIS and Nusra Front since launching an offensive on May 4.
The paper noted that ISIS and the rebel forces are now mostly located in northern Qalamoun, to the east of Arsal and Ras Baalbek.
Created on Sunday, 21 June 2015 18:04
The head of the Middle East Africa Bank (MEAB) in Lebanon has stepped down and handed over the reigns to his son, after the US Treasury charged him with direct links to the Iran-proxy Shi'ite terrorist organization Hezbollah.
The Lebanese The Daily Star reports Thursday that Kassem Hejeij's resignation was announced in a memo by the bank, in which MEAB financial market head Amal Saleh said Hejeij had handed over power to Ali Hejeij.
"From now on, Kassem Hejeij has no more relations with the bank or ownership," the memo claimed.
The US Treasury has accused three Shi'ite businessmen and investors, including Hejeij, of being directly tied to Hezbollah. The group is on the US's official terrorist organization list.
MEAB's memo stated that the bank will comply with measures against money laundering and terrorism financing, including those of the US Federal Reserve, and claimed the institution has no relations with prohibited organizations in a clear reference to Hezbollah.
The US Treasury did not mark the bank for sanctions, although some bankers estimate Hejeij would have been forced to sell the bank eventually - some reason his son's appointment will not change that outcome.
However, chances of selling the bank seem slim, as one of Hejeij's lawyers told The Daily Star, "so far we did not receive any offer to buy the bank but the management will consider any offer if the price is right."
Speaking about the US posture in Lebanon, a local Shi'ite banker told the paper, "it seems that Washington wants to tighten the financial noose on Hezbollah and monitor every transaction the party may make through any bank or financial institution."
The banker revealed Iran is still providing most of the funds for the terrorist group, although it also gets large donations from other sources that he did not elaborate on.
Created on Saturday, 13 June 2015 17:22
As the June 30 deadline for a final agreement between Iran and western powers looms - pushed by the Obama Administration - much concern has been raised as to how it could further destabilize the Middle East by emboldening Tehran to continue its increasingly aggressive foreign policy.
In particular, since the agreement will not require Iran to discontinue its support for terrorist groups and other radical proxies - such as Hezbollah, Hamas and a growing array of Shia militias in Iraq and Syria - as a prerequisite to receiving sanctions relief, observers have warned that much of the billions of dollars Tehran gains would be funneled to such groups and stoke conflicts throughout the region, including against key US allies.
But it appears the US government may be going even further in its attempts to coax Iran into a deal at almost any cost.
A prominent Lebanese activist has claimed the US government is cutting funding to independent, moderate Shia groups opposed to Hezbollah, as a direct result of the White House's policy of appeasement.
Loqman Slim, who runs the Hayya Bina (Let’s Go!) NGO in Beirut, shared a letter he received from a US State Department agency with Lebanon's NOW news. In the letter, he is informed with astonishing openness that
"[D]ue to a recent shift in Department of State priorities in Lebanon […] all activities intended [to] foster an independent moderate Shia voice [must] be ceased immediately and indefinitely."
Slim and his colleagues accuse the Obama administration of throwing its former allies under a bus and consciously empowering Hezbollah to appease the group's Iranian patrons.
"So we don’t support Shia democratic activists anymore?" asked Hayya Bina’s Program Director Inga Schei herself a US citizen.
"This is an alarming shift, and it sends a message not just to us but to all the Shia who are receiving funds from the [US] embassy, who are cooperating with [Hezbollah’s political opponents] March 14, or outspoken in their own capacity, or expressing an alternative vision for the future of this country. It sends a horrible message to all of these people," she warned.
Slim himself says he sees it as part of a wider policy of appeasement.
"We see clearly that US policy in Lebanon is based on the idea of not upsetting Hezbollah. Clearly. Whatever they can do not to upset Hezbollah, they do it," he lamented.
However the US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale denied there had been any such shift in American policy in Lebanon.
"A shift in one sub-grant that represents a change of less than one tenth of a percent of America’s non-military assistance to Lebanon does not constitute a policy shift," he told NOW. "We have an array of programs designed to support moderate voices in a myriad of ways across all religious sects. We remain strongly committed to promoting peace and moderation in Lebanon, as a cornerstone of our policy."
A State Department official similarly claimed that Washington's policies and priorities had not changed, and that the withdrawal of funds was due to "performance issues."
"As a matter of policy, the Department continues to support independent Shia via a number of programs," the official said.
However Schei and others in Hayya Bina said they were never informed of any such performance issues, and that in fact their recent audit had been exceptional.
"In addition to the letter provided by IRI on April 10, IRI emphasized that the reasons for halting funding were related to policy, and not the integrity of our work," she stressed.
What's more, another prominent Lebanese activist dismissed the US Embassy's claims of supporting other moderate Shia groups, saying the grant to Hayya Bina was the sum total of the US government's investment in independent Shia voices.
"Short of Hayya Bina, they haven’t supported anyone,” Malek Mroue insisted. "I've worked on this for the past 10 years, and I deal with most of the independent Shia, and I’ve talked to the Americans, and I haven’t seen any support whatsoever, neither financial nor political, short of Hayya Bina."
"The [US] is claiming they’re helping, but this is all lip service to something that never existed, and actually harms the independent Shia who are working with their own resources without US support."
Created on Monday, 04 May 2015 08:17
(AFP) Lebanon's land exports to Gulf markets have been choked off, leaving millions of dollars in goods stranded after the closure of a vital crossing on the Syrian-Jordanian border last month.
The Nasib border point was the last remaining gateway for Lebanese truck drivers transporting agricultural and industrial products to Iraq and Gulf countries.
After Syrian rebels seized Nasib on April 1, these exports came to an abrupt halt.
"Exports by land have stopped entirely," said Ahmad Alam, whose company exports Lebanese fruit and vegetables to Arab countries.
Goods transported overland made up 35 per cent of all of Lebanon's exports, economic analyst Nassib Ghobril told AFP.
The customs authorities say Lebanese exports to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states in 2014 amounted to $920 million (821 million euros). Another $256 million was exported to Iraq.
But all those potential exports are now effectively stuck in Lebanon, he said.
"The Nasib crossing was the only way for Lebanese products to be exported by land. Since it closed, there are no more land crossings now," Ghobril said.
Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, Lebanese products traveled frequently through Lebanon's neighbor, then on to Iraq to the east or to Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf to the south.
The agriculture ministry says that agricultural products make up 6 per cent of GDP and 17 per cent of total exports.
Agriculture hit hardest
As Syria's war worsened, its border crossings with Iraq closed, leaving Lebanese truckers with only one option: Nasib.
Omar al-Ali, head of Lebanon's Refrigerated Truckers Syndicate, told AFP that about 250 trucks would cross from Lebanon into Syria every day before the conflict.
That number dropped to 120 daily because of growing instability along Syria's major highways, and with Nasib closed, just a few trucks destined for the shrinking Syrian market only leave Lebanon every day.
Although one crossing along the Syria-Iraq border remains open, Ali said it is too dangerous to use.
According to Ghobril, Lebanon's land exports have been affected the most by the Syrian crisis, apart from tourism.
Road closures have hit agricultural exports the hardest, since they rely predominantly on land routes and cannot be easily transported by air or sea.
"Our trucks transported our agricultural and industrial products. This is what carried Lebanon's economy," Ali said, adding that the losses could be in the millions of dollars.
"Now we have 900 refrigerated trucks that are just sitting inside Lebanon," with others stuck in the Gulf, he told AFP.
Alam said he lost at least one million dollars in the three weeks after Nasib's closure.
According to the agriculture ministry, the sector employs 20 to 30 per cent of the Lebanese workforce.
Livelihood on hold
Many truckers can now be found discussing their plight at their syndicate's offices in Bar Elias in east Lebanon.
Khaled Araji, 55, is just one of hundreds of Lebanese who used to drive goods through Syria to the Gulf, and whose livelihood has now on hold indefinitely.
"I just spend my time in the house. I've worked in this business for more than 30 years, and if I don't see the (truck's) refrigerator every day, I can't relax. This job is in my blood," Araji told AFP.
Ali said truck drivers made $1,500 a month "to provide for their families by generating activity in other sectors. All of this has stopped now."
To make up for routes through Syria being closed, the Beirut government is looking at exporting these goods by sea.
According to Ghobril, this alternative "requires more time than by land, and it's definitely more expensive, but it's still better than nothing".
But Alam downplayed the effectiveness of maritime transport, saying some green produce would not stay fresh long enough for the journey.
In his warehouse in Bar Elias, young men and girls pack oranges, apples and fresh lettuce - whose prices have dramatically dropped - into crates and boxes for export by air.
As the peak harvest seasons in August and September draw closer, exporters and truckers are hoping for a speedy solution to the problem.
But Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, speaking after a cabinet meeting on the crisis last week, was not hopeful.
"Unfortunately, we have become an island," he said.
Created on Friday, 24 April 2015 12:03
The first French weapons from a $3 billion Saudi-funded program
will arrive in Lebanon on Monday as allies seek to bolster the country's defenses against the Islamic State (ISIS) group and other jihadists pressing along its Syrian border, AFP reported Sunday.
Anti-tank guided missiles are set to arrive at an air force base in Beirut, overseen by French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Lebanese counterpart, Samir Mokbel.
France is expected to deliver 250 combat and transport vehicles, seven Cougar helicopters, three small corvette warships and a range of surveillance and communications equipment over four years as part of the $3 billion program.
The program is being entirely funded by Saudi Arabia, which is keen to see Lebanon's army defend its borders against jihadist groups, particularly ISIS group and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra, instead of leaving the job to Hezbollah terrorists who are backed by its regional rival, Iran.
The contract also promises seven years of training for the 70,000-strong Lebanese army and 10 years of equipment maintenance, noted AFP.
"This project is to help us re-establish a Lebanese army capable of responding to new security realities," a French defense official told the news agency.
Since the conflict in neighboring Syria broke out in 2011, Lebanon has faced mounting spill-over threats
, first from the millions of refugees pouring across the border and increasingly from jihadists.
AFP noted that the sharp divisions between religious and ethnic communities in Lebanon have been deepened by conflicting views on the Syrian war, making the country difficult to work with when it comes to supplying weapons.
Hezbollah, which is a powerful political force in Lebanon, sent its fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, but many Lebanese still deeply resent the Assad regime which effectively colonized the country up to 2005.
Meanwhile, Israel remains concerned about any military assistance that might bolster a regional rival or fall into the hands of Hezbollah, which fought a short and brutal war against Israel as recently as 2006.
"The Lebanese army is already well-infiltrated by Hezbollah," an Israeli official on condition of anonymity told AFP. "But we understand the necessity of reinforcing the capacity of the Lebanese army."
In addition to Syria, Hezbollah is also being deployed in increasing numbers in Iraq, as part of Iran's efforts to back Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government against a Sunni uprising led by ISIS.
In an interview with Syrian state TV, the Hezbollah leader explained that despite boasts by himself and other Hezbollah leaders about the group's capabilities, it is incapable of mounting a war against Israel independently.
"Are we supposed to lie to our people and ourselves, saying that we are capable of launching a war against Israel, wiping it off the map, and liberating Palestine? Hezbollah is incapable of doing this all by itself," Nasrallah told his interviewer, after being asked why Hezbollah is not using its "sophisticated weapons" to "open a new front" against the Jewish state.
"We have never made such claims. We are realistic," he continued.
"We are facing a real force," he added, in an unusual nod to the formidable adversary Hezbollah faces in the IDF.
Category: Press Releases
Created on Friday, 10 April 2015 12:08
The UN has launched an emergency vaccination campaign against lumpy skin disease and goat plague among animals brought to Lebanon by refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, a report said Thursday.
Some of the 1.5 million refugees have brought with them large numbers of unvaccinated sheep, goats, cattle and other animals, raising concerns over the spread of high impact animal diseases, the UN's food agency said according to AFP.
The Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it was carrying out the second phase of "a campaign to immunize as much of the country's livestock as possible, with a target of vaccinating all animals."
"As many as 70,000 cows and around 900,000 sheep and goats could be exposed to transboundary diseases if left untreated, according to Lebanon's ministry for agriculture," the report said.
The campaign aims to reduce the number of animals dying from preventable diseases in rural areas in particular, where natural resources are already strained by the spill-over effects from the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Some of the animal diseases are highly contagious and can spread extremely rapidly, causing high mortality and morbidity in animals, with serious socio-economic consequences and possible public health repercussions, FAO said.
"The three most prevalent animal diseases detected in Lebanon include lumpy skin disease, foot-and-mouth disease and peste des petits ruminants, also known as 'goat plague', which is highly contagious," it said.
FAO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) pledged earlier this month to eradicate sheep and goat plague - which causes fever, mouth sores, diarrhea and often leads to a swift death - by 2030.
The stress being placed on Lebanon's "natural resources and food production systems is particularly worrying...with more people than ever before now in need of animal protein and milk," FAO said.
According to the UN, Lebanon now has the highest per capita ratio of refugees in the world, accounting for a quarter of the population - and their arrival has seen unemployment figures double.
The vaccination project - funded by Britain's Department for International Development (DFID) - follows an initial program last year which was credited with stopping any widespread animal disease outbreaks.
Created on Sunday, 29 March 2015 09:37
Syria’s civil war is a tragedy, but might in the long term stabilize the region’s borders. That is the thinking of Pinhas Inbari, who sees the number of refugees fleeing combat zones for other areas as having an ethnic homogenizing effect on Syria and beyond.
There was a long-standing idea among Middle East observers that should Syria collapse into open rebellion against the Alawite-minority regime, the regime might take all its assets and forces and retreat into the coastal region and its buttressing Nusayri Mountains. That region was briefly independent when the French occupied Syria after World War I, attempting a divide-and-conquer strategy that gave independence to the Christians of Lebanon, the Druze near the Golan and the Alawites of the coast.
“As far as the Alawites are concerned, they’re less affected in Nusayri Mountains overlooking Latakia because the Syrian army is the strongest 'sectarian militia,'” says Inbari. “They are defending the Alawites, the most well-protected group in Syria.”
It was not always like this. Before Hafez al-Assad (Bashar’s father) took power in a 1970 coup d’état, Syrian Arab nationalism was dominated by Sunnis as it was in other countries. But unlike in Iraq, where non-Sunnis eventually became disillusioned with Sunnis’ backhand discrimination even in the secular Arab nationalist movement, Syrian minorities reached the top of the political food chain.
Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians embraced the nationalist Ba’ath Party. Since then, minorities have had a disproportionate share of power which they have been reluctant to give up for fear of Islamist movements bringing the hammer down on their communities.
But outside the Alawite stronghold, there are problems.
“They’re affected outside that Alawite region in Homs where Sunnis are by far greater. They’ve had to leave the Sunni heartland and go to Alawite heartland. Thanks to Hezbollah, parts of the Sunni regions have gone back to the regime, but that hasn’t affected the refugee Alawites.”
“But it did affect the Sunnis there, who are fleeing to Lebanon.”
While Jordan has received a lot of attention for its mass hosting of Iraqi and Syrian refugees over the last 10 years, Lebanon has also been rocked. Lebanon though is far more diverse and delicate ethnically than Jordan is. Lebanon’s mosaic broke down into a multilateral civil war in the 1970s and 80s, where every virtually every religious group had at least one of its own militias.
Lebanon has an odd constitutional structure to maintain the balance between communities. By law, the Prime Minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the President a Christian and the Parliament Speaker a Shiite Muslim. Lebanon has refused to take a census since 1932, worried the perceived balance of groups in the population might provoke one group to demand more power.
According to Inbari, the incremental growth of Shiites as the largest group in Lebanon has been abruptly stopped by the massive influx of Sunni refugees. According to the United Nations High Council for Refugees (UNHCR), there are over 1.1 million Syrian refugees held up in Lebanon
. As a result, Sunnis are likely to gain more influence in Lebanon and give Lebanese a chance to roll back Hezbollah's influence, ironically "thanks to Hezbollah's" intervention in Syria.
In the other direction, Syria’s Kurds have been largely confined to their own theater of the war. While there has been fighting with ISIS in places like Kobane, the Kurds in the northeast corner of the country have consolidated some degree of independence. According to Inbari, Syria’s Kurds have an alliance with the Damascus government.
“They are deeply coordinated with the Assad regime. They are working fighting ISIS to protect themselves.”
As ethnic divisions become sharper in certain parts of the country, Inbari advises Western powers to get more realistic about what has happened to the country.
“Syria doesn’t exist anymore, only just in the imagination of Obama and Putin. They want to find a solution that will see it united together as one single country, to establish strong government in Damascus in control of all of Syria.”
“They don’t support the ethnic groups. And of course the Christians, they haven’t. They’ve left them to the slaughter.”
While US Secretary of State John Kerry backtracked from recent comments about finding an accommodation with the Assad regime, Inbari suggests the background of negotiations with Iran is misleading the United States on the wisest course of action for Syria’s future. He also calls the policy ruinous in a time that the entire region is already in ruins.
“They want Turkey and Iran to be partners on (backing) a strong government in Damascus.”
When asked if he felt Israel was partially responsible for the apparent success of anti-Assad groups along the Israeli-Syrian border near the Golan Heights, Inbari said he did.
“I think the Israeli policy of establishing good relations with the nearby rebels is a very good policy. I don’t know if they’re with groups like the Al-Nusra Front. There might be 200 groups in Syria. Maybe one or two groups are like Al-Nusra, but not all exactly like the version you might find in Daraa (near the Israeli border).”
Going forward, Inbari hints that as Syria continues down the road to an inevitable partition, that Israel should maintain its balance and keep pursuing a ‘good neighbors’ policy.
“I hope Israel can find ways to establish good relations with other parts of the Syrian population.”
Created on Saturday, 21 March 2015 09:18
Waiting in an aid line outside Lebanon's capital Beirut, Assyrian Christian Francie Yaacoub remembers the well-stocked home she left behind in Syria as she fled advancing Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists.
"We left behind a house full of everything. Why do we now have to stand at the church door?" she asked quietly as she waited to receive aid at the Assyrian diocese of Sid al-Boushriyeh, reports AFP.
She is one of hundreds of Assyrian Christians who have arrived in Lebanon in recent weeks after ISIS jihadists stormed their villages in Syria's northeastern province of Hasakeh.
Members of Lebanon's Assyrian community, many of them related to those who fled Hasakeh, are doing their best to welcome the new refugees, but the displacement has left them traumatized.
Yaacoub, in her fifties, now lives in a small house with her son, husband and five other Assyrian refugees. Her family fled their village, Tal Nasri, during a terrifying ISIS bombardment last week.
"We left in our pajamas. My son walked barefoot, we left without our shoes on," she said. "The shells were falling all around us...We had to flee because the safety of your children is the most important thing."
Yaacoub's family was not alone - thousands of Assyrians have been forced to abandon their villages along Hasakeh's Khabur river since ISIS jihadists began an attack there in February.
The group has seized at least 11 of the 33 Assyrian villages in the region, and kidnapped more than 200 members of the ancient Christian sect, which numbered around 30,000 in Syria before the war.
Many residents fled to the city of Qamishli, or the provincial capital Hasakeh, which are both under Kurdish and Syrian government control.
"A great tragedy"
Yaacoub and her family went to Hasakeh city first, then traveled on to Damascus before finally arriving in Sid al-Boushriyeh, east of Beirut.
Around 300 Assyrian refugees have arrived in the district since the beginning of March, and many lined up on Tuesday afternoon at the local Assyrian diocese to receive aid distributed by the In Defense Of Christians (IDC) group.
"The villages of Khabur are empty now, there is no one left except some fighters," lamented Chorbishop Yatron Koliana, as he oversaw the distribution at his diocese.
"Our people have experienced a great tragedy in Syria," he added with a sigh, saying that many of the new arrivals were traumatized. "They are depressed. Some of them have chronic illnesses. Their lives are difficult."
"How can we be comfortable, living on aid?" asked 50-year-old Simaan, who fled his village Tal Hormuz.
He railed against what he called international indifference to the plight of Assyrians under attack by ISIS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
"The whole world, from the UN to the United States and Russia, is responsible," he said angrily. "They (ISIS) have destroyed our whole civilization...and the world is watching."
Waiting for asylum
Many of those receiving aid could not yet imagine a return to villages where they say ISIS fighters blew up churches and looted homes.
But staying in Lebanon is not easy. Authorities granted fleeing Assyrians a special exception to tight new restrictions on Syrian refugees imposed at the beginning of this year.
An influx of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees into Lebanon has tested the country's resources and the patience of its four million citizens.
Yaacoub's family, and the five other refugees living with them, are struggling to pay monthly rent of around $500 for their home, with little left over for food.
IDC representative Alexei Moukarzel, overseeing the distribution of thousands of food baskets and hundreds of mattresses, criticized a lack of international attention.
"The world is not paying enough attention to these groups who have been forcibly displaced," he said.
The Assyrians are an ancient Christian community, present in the region for thousands of years, and Koliana and the Assyrian church are determined to ensure the minority continues to be represented in the region.
"I urge the Assyrians now in Lebanon...to keep alive the hope of returning to Khabur, because Khabur is our land, and is where our ancestors and martyrs are buried," Koliana told AFP.
But many Assyrians fleeing Syria, like the Christians displaced from Iraq before them, are now seeking to leave the region altogether.
One man at the diocese, who refused to give his name and spoke in a barely audible whisper, acknowledged that he had no plans to stay. "I'm waiting to get asylum in Australia with my family."
Created on Wednesday, 11 March 2015 08:11
A Lebanese singer-turned-Islamist wanted in connection with deadly clashes with the army plans to surrender to the authorities after nearly two years on the run, his lawyer said on Monday.
Fadel Shaker is accused along with extremist Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir of involvement in violence near the southern Lebanese city of Sidon in June 2013 that left at least 18 soldiers and 11 gunmen dead.
"Fadel wants to surrender in the coming days," Shaker's lawyer May Khansa told AFP. "He broke off his relationship with Assir some time ago."
Both men are accused of "killing army officers and attacking state institutions".
A judicial source said last month that a military judge had recommended seeking the death penalty for the pair.
Born Fadel Shmandur, Shaker began his career as a popular wedding singer who performed from the rooftops of
the crowded "Palestinian refugee camp" of Ain al-Helweh in Sidon, named by some as the largest in Lebanon.
He became immensely popular across the Arab world for his love songs and advocacy of "Palestinian rights."
When Syria's uprising erupted in 2011, Shaker shocked his fans by joining the ranks of extremist preacher Assir.
Assir stirred up sectarian tensions in Lebanon with his denunciations of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which has sent fighters across the border to support regime forces.
Shaker featured prominently at the Sunni preacher's rallies.
"God gave me the gift and invited me to join the jihad... Mother, don't cry for me... Death does not frighten me, and my wish is to become a martyr," Shaker crooned in a television appearance in 2013.
But in an interview with Lebanese television station LBC at the weekend, Shaker appeared clean-shaven and in a crisp collared shirt.
He denied taking part in the clashes and said he wanted to "return to his regular life."
"He has abandoned the hardline religious path he was on," his lawyer said.
Shaker is hiding out in a home he recently bought in Ain al-Helweh, his birthplace, according to witnesses who recently met him.
He looked gaunt, having lost significant weight after recent illness - and the bushy beard he sported in 2013 was gone.
The people who met him said the reasons for his sudden about-face were unclear.
Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported that an apparent deal with state security forces may see a reduced sentence for the former singer.
Created on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 12:08
A decade after former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was assassinated, with Hezbollah terrorists charged
over the murder, hopes that the fallout from his death would free Lebanon from Syria's influence have been dashed by the war raging across the border.
"Ten years, 100 years, 1,000 years, we will stay faithful to you" declare the billboards going up around Beirut as the country prepares to mark the February 14, 2005 murder of Hariri, reports AFP.
In the months that followed, a popular movement that accused Damascus of his killing forced Syrian troops out of Lebanon after a 30-year presence.
Many in the country saw the Syrian withdrawal as a chance for Lebanon to shake off the influence of its larger neighbor and its perpetual status as a pawn in wider regional struggles.
Yet the Lebanese public and analysts now see little cause for hope, with Syria's civil war deepening divisions that emerged after Hariri's death.
Lebanon is fractured between Hezbollah-led supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regional ally Iran, of which Hezbollah is a proxy, and a camp that backs the Syrian uprising and is allied with Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Hariri had close links to Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which vies with Shi'ite Iran for influence in the Middle East.
After the assassination "Lebanon entered the orbit of Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah, and this axis continues to prevail," said Daoud al-Sayegh, a former adviser to Hariri.
The division is at the root of ongoing instability, including a string of bomb attacks that have targeted both sides. It has also contributed to a political stalemate that has left the country without a president for eight months, the longest such vacuum since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
On the country's borders, the under-equipped Lebanese army is struggling to keep jihadists from Syria at bay, and in the streets residents fear the next conflict is around the corner.
"The country has collapsed since Hariri's assassination," said a resident of Beirut's Ain al-Mreisse district, where Hariri and 22 others were killed by a suicide bomber in a car.
Far from bringing together the country and freeing it of Syrian influence, analysts say the decade since Hariri's death has served to cement the preeminence of the Shi'ite movement Hezbollah, a key ally of Damascus.
"This murder has had the effect of a coup d'etat," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University in Beirut.
Hariri "represented the Saudi project, and with him gone, it's the Iranian project that has taken over."
Khashan said Hariri had sought to "transform the country into a symbol of moderation and a safeguard against extremism."
"He was assassinated before he could do that," he said.
Nicknamed "Mr Lebanon," Hariri was known for his patience and "represented a moderate Sunni Muslim current," Khashan added. "After his murder, extremist Sunnis began to appear" in Lebanon.
Hariri served as prime minister under Syrian influence from 1992 to 1998, and again from 2000 to 2004.
He was vehemently opposed to Damascus's imposed extension of president Emile Lahoud's term in 2004, but was coerced into voting for it.
Angered by Hariri's opposition, Syria's Assad reportedly threatened to "destroy Lebanon on top of his head."
With the support of Riyadh and his close friend French former president Jacques Chirac, Hariri backed a UN Security Council resolution calling on foreign troops to leave Lebanon. "The Syrians never forgave him," Khashan said.
"Hariri put Lebanon on the international map, and that angered them," added former advisor Sayegh.
Hezbollah on trial for assassination
In a first for Lebanon, the frequent scene of political assassinations and intrigue, Hariri's murder is being prosecuted before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague.
The court has indicted five Hezbollah members for their involvement, but the movement has refused to turn them over, accusing the tribunal of being an "Israeli-American tool."
In the months after Hariri's assassination, the murder was seen as a sort of "founding event for the unity of the country," according to Fares Souaid, a member of the movement that emerged against the Syrian regime after the ex-premier's murder.
But "10 years later, we are seeing the weakening of the state and communities returning back behind their barricades," he said.
Several events will be held in Beirut to mark the anniversary including a gathering at the site of the attack, where a flame will be lit in his honor, and a prayer at his tomb.
Hariri was often criticized for marrying politics and business and running up huge debts in his reconstruction projects.
But he also attracted investors, many of whom now shy away from Lebanon because of the violence, instability and spillover from the Syrian war that followed his death.
"The Lebanese are unable to free themselves from a situation where they are hostages of the region's conflict," said Sayegh.
Created on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 09:48
A senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) boasted this week that Iran had provided Syria, Iraq, “Palestine” and Hezbollah with the needed know-how to produce missiles to hurt Israel.
"The IRGC's Aerospace Force has developed to a stage in the field of missile industries that it can mass-produce different types of short- and mid-range missiles," the commander, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, said in Tehran on Monday, according to the Fars news agency.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has helped Iraq, Syria, Palestine and the Lebanese Hezbollah by exporting the technology that it has for the production of missiles and other equipment, and they can now stand against the Zionist regime, the [ISIS] and other Takfiri groups and cripple them," he boasted.
Hajizadeh also stressed Iran's self-sufficiency in building radar systems and drones, and added that the country has also exported its drone technology and products to other countries.
Iran often boasts of its military capabilities and of its assistance to terrorist groups dedicated to Israel’s destruction. Last August, Hajizadeh declared
that Tehran will "accelerate" arming Palestinians in Judea and Samaria in retaliation for Israel allegedly deploying a spy drone over Iran, which was shot down.
A top Iranian military commander later declared that weapon shipments to Judea and Samaria have already begun
and that more will be sent to other “Palestinian resistance groups.”
Iran has been upping its anti-Israel rhetoric in recent days, since a January 18 airstrike allegedly carried out by Israel in the Syrian Golan Heights killed an Iranian commander along with several members of Hezbollah.
General Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, threatened a missile attack
on Israel, indicating it would come from Judea and Samaria and not from Lebanon.
Revolutionary Guards Minister Mohsen Rafighdoost said that the strike would pave the way for a war against Israel
. A senior official in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Ramezan Sharif, declared that the airstrike
“will accelerate the collapse of the Zionist regime.”
Created on Monday, 19 January 2015 20:59
Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist organization, threatened to attack Israel on Thursday, citing the pretext of reported Israeli airstrikes on missiles in Syria headed for Hezbollah.
Nasrallah, who spoke in an television interview with Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen to be broadcast Thursday night, said his Iran-proxy Shi'ite terrorist group is well armed and always ready to fight Israel, according to excerpts of the interview issued ahead of its broadcast.
The interview came after Nasrallah gave an interview on Tuesday in which he threatened to conquer Israel's Galilee
region in the north - he restated that threat in the Thursday interview as well.
A key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that reported Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis," which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.
"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he said. "The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time."
The IAF has carried out several raids against terror targets in Syria, including depots storing weapons meant for Hezbollah to use against Israel, since the conflict there started nearly four years ago; Hezbollah has sent thousands of fighters into Syria to defend Assad's regime.
The most recent strike was in December, when Israeli jets struck weapons warehouses near Damascus, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
Israel has never confirmed it carried out the strikes, but it says it has a policy of preventing arms transfers to terrorist groups including Hezbollah. It was widely reported that the December strikes had targeted arms convoys or depots of Iranian-made rockets.
The last major conflict with Hezbollah was in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, when Hezbollah missile strikes forced Israel to defend its northern border.
In Thursday's interview, Nasrallah said his group was ready to fight a new war against Israel in Lebanon and renewed a threat to invade the Galilee region of northern Israel.
Hezbollah fighters "must be prepared", he said. "When the resistance (Hezbollah) leadership...asks you (fighters)...to enter into Galilee, that means the resistance must be ready to enter into Galilee and to go even beyond the Galilee."
Asked about Hezbollah's arsenal, Nasrallah said the group had "all (the weapons) you can imagine...and in great quantities." He added: "We are now stronger than we ever were as a resistance movement."
Created on Monday, 12 January 2015 09:45
A suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded cafe in the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli Saturday evening, killing nine people and wounding more than 30, a security source told The Daily Star.
Another suicide bomber blew himself up outside the coffee shop, according to unconfirmed reports.
The Syrian-based Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for the "twin blasts" that targeted the Omran cafe in the majority Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.
"A suicide operation targeted a cafe [belonging to] the Alawite Arab Democratic Party," the Nusra Front said on its social media pages, according to The Daily Star.
A Lebanese Army statement said the suicide bomber attacked the cafe at around 7:30 p.m. local time and that military police would investigate the bombing. Security forces cordoned off the area and started investigations.
Eyewitnesses quoted by The Daily Start said one of the bombers succeeded in entering the cafe but the second one couldn't and blew himself up outside.
Saturday’s explosion is the first serious breach to a security plan implemented in 2014 that ended years of clashes in Tripoli between the mostly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen and the mostly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh.
Violence from Syria's three-year civil war has spilled over to Lebanon, with bombings in Beirut, fighting in Tripoli
, and rocket attacks on Bekaa Valley towns close to the frontier.
Many of the attacks have targeted Hezbollah’s strongholds
in Lebanon, particularly since the group acknowledged that it is sending fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Al-Assad's troops as they battle rebels.
Created on Wednesday, 20 August 2014 06:02
Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah is greatly concerned about the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS.
A day after he said
in a meeting with the Lebanese Druze leader that IS is planning “on expanding toward Jordan and Saudi Arabia”, Nasrallah said in a speech on Friday that the group is an “existential threat” menacing Lebanon and the whole region.
“The Lebanese need to be aware of this existential threat and the need to confront it,” Nasrallah said during the televised speech to mark the end of the 2006 war with Israel, according to the Daily Star.
“We must find true, realistic and serious means to counter this threat,” he added.
Nasrallah said IS is now selling oil and receiving funding from regional groups, adding that this “raises serious questions.”
“Therefore, let’s gather our forces and strong points to counter those threats,” he was quoted as having said.
Nasrallah said fighting the terrorist threat did not require “national consensus.”
“Logic, our religion, ethics and experience have taught us that if a society is facing an existential threat, the priority becomes to counter that existential threat and whoever fails to do so expose their people to danger and slaughtering,” he said, according to the Daily Star.
Nasrallah said supporting the Lebanese Army and supplying it with qualitative weapons was a primary and primordial requirement toward countering the looming dangers.
"The [IS] project does not have a future in our region," he said. "Yes, we have the ability to defend our country. Yes, we have the ability to defeat this project."
Nasrallah also claimed in the speech that there was a fresh conspiracy to redraw the map of the Middle East, headed by Israel and extremist groups, namely IS.
Nasrallah mocked the suggestion to expand the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to include the borders with Syria in the east and the north to safeguard the country from the threat of terrorist groups, saying the peacekeeping force in south Lebanon was “barely capable of defending itself.”
Created on Sunday, 17 August 2014 04:42
After reports last week that the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) has gained a foothold in Lebanon
's Arsal, Hezbollah terrorist leader Hassan Nasrallah expressed a definite note of fear as he warned of the IS "monster."
Nasrallah's Hezbollah is an Iran-proxy Shi'ite terror group in Lebanon, and as of yet has avoided conflict with the Sunni group IS in Lebanon, leaving the fighting to the Lebanese army. IS has already overrun vast portions of Iraq and Syria in a blitz campaign over the last two months, in the process committing atrocities and acts of ethnic cleansing
IS is planning "on expanding toward Jordan and Saudi Arabia by undermining the security and stability of these countries," Nasrallah said in a meeting with the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, according to the Lebanese The Daily Star on Thursday, which cited a Hezbollah official.
The terror leader went on to say of IS that the "takfiri (apostate) monster is on the loose," adding that "everyone is aware of the seriousness."
Confronting IS is "a battle of life and death no less important than fighting the Israeli enemy, as (IS) actions and objectives only serve Israel,” continued Nasrallah, calling for Lebanese unity in facing IS.
The bizarre connecting of IS and Israel comes despite the fact that IS terrorists have been documented attacking Israel
from Gaza. It also comes after Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's official daily claimed in five articles in the last six weeks that the US established IS
to sow division in the Muslim world.
Hezbollah is so far avoiding confrontation with IS, saying that it might intervene if they advance from Arsal to Labweh, a Hezbollah bastion 11 kilometers away.
However, Nasrallah bragged to Jumblatt that "we are the largest force capable and willing to make material, military and human sacrifices. We are willing to fight for the next 10 years."
Speaking in an interview Friday in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar, Nasrallah elaborated on the IS threat, saying "Turkey and Qatar are supporting ISIS, and I am convinced that Saudi Arabia fears it."
"There is a support for ISIS wherever there is a following of Takfiri (apostate) thinking, and this applies to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states," added the terrorist leader.
Even as he spoke about how the IS "monster" threatens countries in the area, Nasrallah called Israel "an illegal entity and...a longstanding threat to the region. We cannot live with this threat. This is why the ultimate goal for this (region) is to eliminate (Israel)."
Created on Sunday, 06 July 2014 08:14
An Amnesty International
report released on Tuesday reveals that Lebanon has been implementing a discriminatory practice, blocking entry for "Palestinians" - descendants of Arab residents who left Israel in 1948 - who are fleeing the bloody conflict in Syria.
The report notes that while "Palestinian refugees" from Syria need to meet conditions for temporary residence in or transit through Lebanon, the same conditions are not required from regular Syrians fleeing the war.
While the conditions were put in place this May, the human rights watchdog reports that even prior to that date there were different discriminatory conditions for entry.
“The Lebanese authorities have displayed a chilling disregard for the rights of refugees who are fleeing a bloody conflict. Absolutely no-one seeking refuge from a conflict should be denied entry; by doing so Lebanon is flouting its obligations under international law,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International.
In fact, Lebanon apparently is blocking "Palestinian" entry from Syria regardless of the conditions it purports to set as allowing entry.
The report revealed a leaked document, apparently issued by Lebanese security services, ordering airlines flying into the Beirut airport not to transport any "Palestinian refugees" from Syria to Lebanon, regardless of the documents they have.
Reports show that the discriminatory practice in Lebanon has been in place for a long time
. In May, it was reported that 41 "Palestinian refugees" were deported back from Lebanon
into the war zone of Syria, where "Palestinian refugee" camps, primarily the Yarmouk camp, have been hit by the violence and by army sieges blocking off food supplies, leading to mass starvation
Lebanon is not alone in its policies; the new Amnesty report notes that Jordan has also barred "Palestinian refugees" since last January, and cited testimony from last year indicating that entrance to Turkey was also harder for them than for regular Syrians.
“Unfortunately the new restrictions in Lebanon are only the most recent example of policies that discriminate against Palestinian refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria”, said Sherif Elsayed–Ali.
Created on Friday, 27 June 2014 20:09
France said Tuesday one of its nationals had been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of planning an attack under what a local newspaper claimed was the influence of the ISIS jihadist group sweeping through Iraq.
Lebanese security forces announced Friday they had detained 17 people in a hotel in Beirut following a tip-off that attacks by a "terrorist group" were being planned in the capital and other parts of the country.
A judicial source told AFP Monday that all had been released except a Frenchman originally from the Comoros islands in the Indian Ocean.
French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal confirmed Tuesday that "a French national was arrested in Beirut."
According to the Al-Akhbar daily newspaper, the suspect was part of a group of four would-be suicide bombers who had come to Lebanon.
It said that another of the four may have been behind a suicide attack that actually took place in east Lebanon on Friday, killing one person and wounding at least 30 others. Sunni Islamist groups have claimed responsibility for a string of bombing attacks targeting strongholds of Shia Islamist Hezbollah in Lebanon, in response to the Iranian-backed group's support for the Assad regime in Syria.
Most of the attacks have been carried out by groups linked to Al Qaeda, but ISIS - which split from Al Qaeda - has in recent months escalated its efforts to strike Hezbollah targets in Lebanon as well.
The French government is deeply concerned about the radicalization of its nationals after several citizens have gone to fight with jihadists in Syria, where ISIS is very powerful.
It unveiled an anti-terrorism plan in April to prevent radicalization, thwart online recruitment and make it more difficult for aspiring jihadists to leave the country.
Since then, authorities have arrested French Islamist Medhi Nemmouche
, who is suspected of carrying out the Brussels Jewish Museum killings last month after spending a year fighting in Syria for ISIS.
Created on Friday, 27 June 2014 14:49
A suspected car bomb blew up outside a café near a Lebanese army checkpoint in Beirut late Monday, security sources told The Daily Star.
The sources said a suicide bomber blew himself up near an army checkpoint in Tayyouneh, at one of the main entrances into the capital's southern suburbs.
According to the sources, the car was moving against traffic when it exploded, thus confirming that a suicide bomber has carried out the attack.
The sources said several people were wounded but no one was killed at the café, where many residents gathered to watch the Brazil vs. Cameroon game as part of World Cup 2014.
The Lebanese Red Cross confirmed that the explosion did not result in deaths but several customers of the Abou Assaf café sustained “light wounds,” according to The Daily Star.
The attack is the latest in a series of bombings that have hit Lebanon in recent months. A suicide bombing at a police checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway last Friday fueled fears killed a police officer was and wounded 33 people.
Hezbollah’s strongholds in Lebanon have been the targets of repeated attacks
ever since the group acknowledged sending fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Al-Assad's troops as they battle rebels.
Bombings have also
hit the mainly Sunni northern city of Tripoli, and ongoing fighting
in that city between rival militias supporting different sides in the Syrian civil war have killed scores more.
Created on Monday, 24 March 2014 17:42
At least one person has been killed and fourteen wounded in the Lebanese capital Beirut, in overnight gun battles between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The initial fighting reportedly broke out at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning between the pro-Assad Arab Movement and fighters aligned with the Future Movement, which supports the rebel movement in neighboring Syria.
The two Sunni factions battled it out on the streets in Beirut for hours with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades used during the fighting. Reports claim that fighters from the Shia Islamist Hezbollah group joined the battle as it raged on into the morning.
The Lebanese army moved in with armored vehicles to quell the violence, but after a brief lull fighting resumed at around 10 a.m., with local media reporting that at least one building had caught fire as a result, according to the Daily Star.
Such gun battles are relatively common in the flashpoint Lebanese city of Tripoli, between Allawite supporters of Assad and Sunni opponents. Violence there left at least 25 people dead last week.
But street fighting of this sort in Beirut is relatively rare, and this latest spillover from the conflict in Syria will do little do ease fears of the Syrian civil war sparking an all-out civil war between rival religious and political groups in Lebanon, particularly between the country's Shia and Sunni Muslim communities.
Created on Saturday, 22 March 2014 17:48
Eight days of Syria-linked clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli have killed 24 people, a security source told AFP Saturday, as sniper fire forced the closure of the highway to Syria.
Tripoli has been the scene of chronic sectarian fighting since the war in Syria erupted three years ago, with gunmen from the Sunni district of Bab al-Tebbaneh battling fighters in the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen.
Tensions between the two districts go back decades but have been exacerbated by the conflict in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, is battling a Sunni-led opposition.
Fierce fighting on Friday killed 10 people raising the death toll to 24 since March 13, the security source said, adding that 128 people have also been wounded in the eight days of violence.
Seventeen soldiers were among the wounded, the source said.
The army has been deployed in Tripoli for the past several weeks to try to bring peace to the warring districts but troops have repeatedly come under fire.
Relative calm prevailed on Saturday although snipers forced the closure of the highway leading from Tripoli to the Syrian border.
Most of the fighting in the city has taken place under the cover of darkness.
Created on Monday, 17 March 2014 18:09
A suicide car bomb attack killed four people late Sunday in an area dominated by the Hezbollah terrorist group near the Syrian border, a Lebanese security source told AFP.
The attack in the Bekaa Valley was claimed by the jihadist Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, as well as by a little known extremist Sunni Muslim group based in the region.
The bomb killed two Hezbollah members, including local official Abdel Rahman al-Qadi, and a woman and her husband who died from their wounds shortly after the blast, the source told AFP.
"A car bomb attack has struck the village of Al-Nabi Othman," the source said.
"The blast was carried out by a suicide attacker. Hezbollah members knew he was about to carry out the attack, and tried to stop the vehicle. That was when the attacker detonated the vehicle," he added.
Sunday’s attack is the latest in a series of attacks targeting Hezbollah-dominated areas in Lebanon.
The group’s strongholds in Lebanon have been the targets of repeated attacks
ever since it acknowledged sending fighters into Syria to support President Bashar Al-Assad's troops as they battle rebels.
The latest attack came hours after the Syrian army, backed by Hezbollah men, captured Yabroud
, a former rebel bastion in Syria near the Lebanese border.
After the attack, Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon claimed responsibility via Twitter, describing it as a "quick response to the bravado... of the party of Iran (Hezbollah) for their rape of Yabrud," according to AFP.
The group, with suspected links to Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front, also warned Hezbollah of "jihadist operations to silence their tongues from singing about this shameful rape" or takeover of Yabroud.
In addition to facing attacks within Lebanon, Hezbollah has been sustaining heavy losses in Syria
. According to a report last week, the fighting for Yabroud has left over 120 Hezbollah fighters dead.
Created on Monday, 17 February 2014 08:59
Israel and the United States are benefitting from the turmoil in Lebanon, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah claimed on Sunday, according to the Lebanese Daily Star.
Speaking during a televised speech, Nasrallah declared that Hezbollah would continue fighting in Syria despite the wave of car bombings targeting predominantly Shiite areas in Lebanon controlled by the group.
He accused Israel and the U.S. of benefitting from the plots of the takfiri (extremist Sunnis) in the region, reported the Daily Star.
“I will not repeat what I explained before about the reason we went to Syria and why we are staying where we should be,” Nasrallah said in the speech, warning that the takfiri pose a threat to the entire region and that all of Lebanon is a target.
“Lebanon is a target for the takfiri groups. And what adds to it is the American and Israeli penetration of these groups,” he claimed, according to a transcript provided by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.
Hezbollah is not threatened by Israel, said Nasrallah.
“If it weren't for the resistance, Israeli wouldn't have pulled out of Lebanon, and the threat of its domination and control would have continued,” he claimed, according to Al-Manar, adding, “Israel still considers the resistance a threat on its projects, and on this anniversary, I repeat that this enemy doesn't terrify us or affect our morale, and it must know that we are in full readiness.”
The Hezbollah chief warned that if extremists gain control of war-torn Syria, the repercussions would be felt throughout the Middle East.
“If these armed groups win, will there be a future for the Future Movement in Lebanon? Will there be a chance for anyone other than [takfiris] in the country?” he said, vowing his group would emerge victorious in the battle against these groups.
“We are convinced that we will win in this battle; it is just a matter of time,” he said, according to the Daily Star.
The Hezbollah head also claimed that Palestinian Arab factions are being “exploited” by groups fighting Hezbollah.
“I tell our Palestinian brothers, it is not enough to issue statements condemning bombings because there are some who are trying to exploit the Palestinians to achieve their goals,” he said.
Since Hezbollah joined the fighting in neighboring Syria alongside President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, its strongholds in Lebanon have been the targets of repeated attacks
The most recent attack occurred earlier this month in the Lebanese capital, killing five people
In November of last year Sunni Islamists claimed a high-profile attack on the embassy of Iran
, key backers of both Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad. That attack left 23 people dead, including the cultural attaché of the embassy Ebrahim al-Ansari.
Nasrallah has promised that
his group will be wherever is needed in Syria. His deputy, Naim Qassem, made similar remarks this week
, declaring, "We will continue our work and remain in the field committed to our political stances. We will remain fighting where we are fighting. We are a resistance wherever we are: a resistance against Israel and its agents and a resistance fighting in Syria in defense of the resistance."
Nasrallah’s speech on Sunday was made as part of the group’s annual memorial for three of its killed commanders, including Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in Damascus in 2008.
The group, which usually holds a rally every year in mid-February marking the death of the three, announced last week
that Nasrallah will give an annual speech but it did not announce the usual public rally that accompanies it.
Hezbollah did not give a reason for not announcing the annual rally, but the cancellation appears to be related to the wave of bombings in Hezbollah's strongholds.
Created on Sunday, 02 February 2014 16:22
Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon, a group named after Al-Qaeda's jihadist Syrian affiliate, has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s suicide car bombing
in a stronghold of the Hezbollah that has killed at least four people.
Al-Jazeera reported that the group said Saturday's attack, which targeted a petrol station in Hermel in eastern Lebanon, was a suicide bombing in response to Hezbollah's involvement in Syria. The claim of responsibility was made via the group’s Twitter account, the report said.
"At least four people were killed and more than 15 wounded, two or three of them in critical condition," Marwan Charbel, Lebanon's interior minister, was quoted as having told Hezbollah's Al-Manar television station.
The petrol station is part of a charitable network set up by Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a leading Shiite religious leader and Hezbollah spiritual guide who died in 2010.
It was the seventh attack to target Hezbollah in Lebanon since mid-2013, when the armed group sent men to Syria to fight alongside President Bashar Al-Assad's troops against mainly Sunni rebel groups.
Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon said on Twitter that the bombing was a "second martyrdom operation against the Party of Iran [Hezbollah] stronghold in Hermel ... because of the continuation of the Party of Iran's crimes against our oppressed people in our beloved Sham [Syria], and its insistence on sending more of its mercenaries to kill the Syrian people.
"Faced with the massacres it is carrying out, we can only repay the favor in its heartland, to push it to reconsider its calculations," the group said, according to Al-Jazeera.
Najib Mikati, Lebanon's caretaker prime minister, condemned the bombing as a "terrorist attack", and called for unity to "protect our homeland".
Saturday’s attack came just two weeks after a car bomb in the same town killed five people
and left scores more wounded.
The previous attack in Hermel was also claimed
by the Lebanese branch of the Nusra Front.
Created on Wednesday, 22 January 2014 08:23
The Lebanese branch of the Nusra Front - an Al Qaeda-linked rebel group fighting in Syrian - has claimed responsibility for today's deadly bombing
The attack killed four people and left 34 more wounded
In a statement posted in Arabic on Twitter, the Nusra Front in Lebanon said the attack on the Haret Hreik district - a Hezbollah stronghold - was a suicide bombing, and confirmed suspicions it was carried out in response to the Iranian-backed terrorist group's involvement in the Syrian civil war in support of the Assad regime.
"We were able to respond to the massacres committed by Iran's party [Hezbollah] against the children of Syria and of Arsal with a suicide operation that targeted the heart of its southern suburbs. We call on the Sunni community in all Lebanese areas to unite their ranks to confront the party of the devil," said the statement, as translated by Lebanon's Daily Star.
The group attached pictures of dead Syrian children to the statement, illustrating the role Hezbollah has been playing in the brutal civil war which has killed over 130,000 people since March 2011.
Meanwhile, a video has emerged showing the moment the explosion took place.
The Nusra Front has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda
chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and has been blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations as a terrorist group.
The Nusra Front in Lebanon has claimed several previous attacks in Lebanon, including rocket attacks and another recent car bomb
in the Hezbollah-dominated Bekaa Valley. It has also claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack in Beirut at the start of the month which killed four people.
Since publicly declaring its active role in fighting Sunni rebels in the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah has seen its interests targeted repeatedly by Sunni Islamist groups, marking a sharp fall from grace for a terrorist organization which once enjoyed broad support from Sunni and Shia Muslims alike for its attacks on Israel.
Created on Thursday, 16 January 2014 08:52
Hezbollah has dramatically improved its missile capabilities and can pinpoint targets anywhere in Israel, a senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards threatened on Saturday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard's aerospace division, said that Israelis would see the armed group's increased strength should there be war.
In comments posted on the Guard's website, he said, "Hezbollah's capability has improved so tremendously in recent years that it can hit and destroy any target in the occupied lands with very little inaccuracy and pinpoint ability."
The assertions could not be verified, however, and Iran makes claims technological advances about its own military that cannot not be confirmed either.
Hajizadeh also said that the deceased Hezbollah commander Hassan Al Lakiss had played a key role in boosting the group's military strength but added no further details.
"He was a great, resourceful and very active Hezbollah commander whose works could be revealed should a Hezbollah-Israel war break out. He created great defense supplies," Hajizadeh said, according to AP.
Hezbollah announced on December 4 that Lakiss had been assassinated at his house in the Hadath region, east of Beirut, and was quick to accuse Israel of carrying it out.
Israel denied the allegations
, calling it a “Pavlovian response from Hezbollah, which makes automatic accusations (against Israel) before even thinking about what's actually happened.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah later warned
that his terror group will "punish" Israel for the killing of a top leader earlier this month.
"We and the Israelis have accounts that need settling. There are old and new debts between us," he threatened.
Created on Tuesday, 31 December 2013 11:20
Mohammed Shatah, a former minister and an adviser to Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, was assassinated in a car bomb explosion in downtown Beirut on Friday morning. Five other people were killed and at least 15 were wounded in the attack.
Friday's attack on Shatah, a Sunni who was a vocal critic of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his Lebanese ally Hezbollah, has once again stoked sectarian enmities exacerbated by the spillover of Syria's conflict.
"There is no God but God and Hezbollah is the enemy of God," mourners chanted as Shatah’s coffin - draped in green and gold cloth - was carried to a central Beirut mosque, reported Reuters.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Hezbollah has been blamed. The group has denied
it was responsible for the assassination, saying it was “heinous” and urging the Lebanese people to be "rational."
Shatah’s movement and other Sunni groups support the largely Sunni Muslim rebel movement fighting to topple Assad. Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has sent its fighters to help Assad. The group has sustained heavy losses in the Syrian war and has reportedly been paying
the families of its fighters killed in Syria to keep quiet about the circumstances surrounding their relatives' deaths.
Hezbollah's decision to intervene in Syria has added fuel to the fire of the sectarian tensions in Lebanon, which is bitterly divided over the war.
Hezbollah’s stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut was hit by two car bombings this summer, one of which killed 27 people
. Bombings in the mainly Sunni northern city of Tripoli in late August also killed 45 people, and ongoing fighting in that city between rival militias supporting different sides in the Syrian civil war have killed scores more.
More recently, two suicide bombers killed 25 people in an attack on Iran's Beirut embassy.
Addressing the cheering crowd at Shatah’s funeral, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora made what mourners took to be a reference to a coming political showdown with Hezbollah, pledging peaceful action to "liberate the nation from occupation through weapons."
On Friday, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of Rafiq Hariri
who was himself assassinated in a 2005 car bombing blamed on Hezbollah, hinted that Hezbollah was behind the assassination of his senior aide.
"Those who assassinated Mohammed Shatah are the ones who assassinated Rafiq Hariri; they are the ones who want to assassinate Lebanon,” Hariri said.
"The suspects are those who are running away from international justice and refuse to appear in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; they are the ones opening the window of evil and chaos to Lebanon and the Lebanese and are drawing regional fires,” he added, referring to the UN-backed body that has named five members of Hezbollah as being behind his father’s death, and whom the terror group has refused to turn over
Created on Saturday, 21 December 2013 20:31
“Blowing oneself up for the sake of Allah is acceptable,” according to a radical Muslim cleric who recently spoke to a Lebanese television network.
The comments by Syrian-born Islamist cleric Omar Bakri were made in an interview which aired on the Lebanese Al-Jadid/New TV on November 26. They were translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
In the interview, Bakri was justifying the recent bombings of Hezbollah targets in Lebanon and the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
“When a [martyrdom-seeker] wishes to please Allah, the pinnacle of what he can do is to die for His sake, in a justified battle or confrontation with the enemies of Allah – in order to elevate the word of Allah – and attains either victory for the religion of Allah or martyrdom,” he explained.
“Who is a martyr is known to Allah alone. When somebody dies on the battlefield, we say that we consider him a martyr but that he will be judged by Allah, because the Prophet Muhammad forbade us from declaring anyone a martyr ourselves,” said Bakri.
He stressed, “Blowing oneself up as part of fighting for the sake of Allah is considered to be in keeping with Islamic law, within certain constraints. The proof is that if someone blew himself up in an Israeli embassy, he would be praised by all. This is evident in history. Many groups – even non-Muslim groups – praise those who die for their ideology.”
Bakri went on to say that “blowing oneself up for the sake of Allah is acceptable, so long as the target is legitimate,” meaning that even Muslims are legitimate targets of suicide bombings.
“With regard to the two young men [who committed the Beirut suicide attacks], I pray that Allah will accept them as martyrs and absolve their sins, and that He will also accept as martyrs those who were killed there by mistake,” he declared.
Bakri, along with infamous British Islamist Anjem Choudary, was the founder of a British Islamist group called ‘Al Muhajiroun’, which was eventually banned in the UK. He currently lives in Lebanon after leaving Britain following terror attacks at the London Underground several years ago.
Bakri claimed in 2012 that the suicide bomber who killed five Israeli citizens in the city of Burgas was his disciple. That attack was attributed to Hezbollah.
Lebanon has seen sectarian clashes related to the civil war in neighboring Syria. These clashes only intensified when the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group joined the fighting in Syria.
The clashes have escalated in recent months as a series of deadly bombings hit the country.
A car bomb hit the southern suburbs of Beirut on July 9, causing no fatalities, and again on August 15, killing 27 people. Eight days later, two car bombs hit the northern city of Tripoli, killing 45 people.
Earlier this week, a car bomb exploded near a Hezbollah position in eastern Lebanon, causing a number of casualties.
Two suicide bombers attacked the Iranian embassy in the southern Beirut neighborhood of Bir Hasan on November 19, killing 25 people and wounding more than 150.
An Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack, but Hezbollah nevertheless accused Israel of involvement in the bombing.
Created on Sunday, 24 November 2013 18:00
One of the two suicide bombers who targeted Iran’s embassy in Beirut was a “Palestinian with links to a militant Islamist preacher”, according to the Lebanese Daily Star.
Saturday’s report comes a day after Lebanese authorities said they identified the other bomber as a man from the southern port city of Sidon.
Both suicide bombers were identified by DNA testing, the army and a judge said, according to AFP.
The test on Adnan Abu Dahr showed that human remains at the scene belonged to his son, Mouin Abu Dahr, who was identified as the first of the two, the judge was quoted by the National News Agency as saying.
The army also confirmed that DNA testing showed the second bomber was Adnan Mussa al-Mohammad, a “Palestinian” who also lived in southern Lebanon and reportedly supported radical Sunni Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir.
Assir has in the past lashed out at Hezbollah for helping Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces fight the predominately Sunni opposition in the country, announcing the formation of “Free Resistance Brigades” to fight Hezbollah in Syria.
He said it was “a religious duty” for his Sunni followers to join the fight against Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
It was later reported that Lebanese youth were responding to Assir’s call and were signing up for “armed Jihad in Syria.”
In June, Lebanese troops seized control of the headquarters of Assir whose supporters battled the army for two days, killing 16 soldiers. The cleric has since disappeared.
The mother of the “Palestinian” suspect, Adnan, was in shock and refused to believe he was one of the bombers, while an uncle linked him to Assir, reported AFP.
"My son was devout and went regularly to the mosque (to pray)... I can't believe he committed this frightening crime," said his mother.
An uncle added that Adnan's father had learned from neighbors that he had been attending gatherings with Assir and had tried to talk him out of getting close to him.
"But he refused and left the house... months ago, and we knew nothing of him until his name was linked" to the Iran embassy attack.
There are thousands of people registered as Palestinian refugees in Israel’s neighboring countries, including Lebanon and Syria, where they have been caught in the Syrian civil war.
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have limited work options and are refused citizenship.
Tuesday’s mid-morning blasts ripped through a stronghold of Hezbollah, where the Iranian embassy is located, killing 23 people and wounding 146.
An Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Created on Friday, 01 November 2013 10:55
Hezbollah is enlisting 15,000 fighters for what it is calling the “battle for Damascus,” Reshet Bet reports. The report is based on information from sources in the Syrian opposition.
Hezbollah has been heavily involved in fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad as he battles opposition groups.
Hezbollah recently claimed to have taken the decision to withdraw 1,200 of its troops from Syria and to focus on security in Lebanon, where the group’s strongholds have been targeted in terror attacks.
However, this latest reports suggests the purported withdrawal may have been a diversion aimed at lulling the group’s opponents in Syria into a false sense of security, as well as an attempt to offset growing dissent against the group back in Lebanon.
Al-Arabiya reports that Hezbollah and other groups fighting with Assad have been tightening the siege on areas south of the Syrian capital. Fierce fighting has been reported in the region, and rebel groups have reported Hezbollah and Iraqi involvement.
Assad has turned to various groups of foreign fighters for help in his battle to maintain power, including Hezbollah, Iran, and North Korea. His opponents have had significant help from overseas as well; several thousand Islamist fighters from the Muslim world - and some from Europe, Israel and the United States as well - have reportedly joined the battle against Assad.
Foreign diplomats in Lebanon reportedly expressed concern at the news regarding Hezbollah’s latest plans. A United States representative said that if Hezbollah follows through on its plans, it would probably lead to the cancellation of the planned Geneva II conference on ending Syria’s civil war.
Russian officials reportedly told Lebanese leaders that Russia is working to prevent a Hezbollah assault in Syria.
Lebanon fears that a major campaign in Syria would lead a fresh wave of Syrian citizens to flee across the border. Lebanon is already struggling to provide for the nearly 800,000 Syrians who have sought refuge in within its borders, and who now make up nearly 25% of the population.
Created on Thursday, 17 October 2013 08:43
The latest “Israeli bird spy” is an eagle, according to Hezbollah.
On Wednesday, the Lebanon-based terror group reported on its television station Al-Manar that an eagle that was caught by recreational hunters in the town of Ashqout was planted with a spy transmitter, and a copper piece that was attached to its leg had captions associated with the Tel Aviv University and Israel.
The network broadcast an image of the alleged “Israeli spy", claiming that "Israel has used spy birds in the past: in Saudi Arabia in 2010, in Turkey in 2012 and in Egypt, in 2013 and all were found to be used as listening devices.”
Arab countries have claimed several times over the past year or so to have caught animals sent by Israel as spies.
Turkish authorities announced in May 2012 that they had found a bird used by Israel for espionage purposes. In December, officials in Darfur also announced that they had found an Israeli “spy eagle.”
Israeli officials confirmed that the eagle bore a tracking device, but explained that it was for the simple purpose of tracking the bird itself, as part of a study to ensure the safety of the rare species.
In the past, an Egyptian official complained that the Mossad released attack sharks into Egyptian waters. Most recently, Egypt claimed that a “Zionist spy duck” had been caught in the Nile River.
Palestinian Authority Arabs have made claims regarding attack boars and anti-Arab rats, also allegedly operated by Israel.
Created on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 12:14
The Lebanese army claims to have thwarted another car bomb attack on a Hezbollah-dominated neighborhood in Beirut on Monday.
Bomb disposal experts were summoned after a "suspicious" vehicle was seen in the Maamura area of the capital's southern suburbs.
Upon closer inspection the vehicle turned out to be "rigged with explosives," according to an army source, and it became clear that a bombing attack against the Iranian-backed group and its supporters had been narrowly averted.
Fighters from both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide in Lebanon have been streaming across the border to fight on opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, threatening the already tense status-quo between different sectarian groups inside Lebanon itself.
Sunni radicals have targeted the Shia terrorist group numerous times over the past year, after it was revealed that Hezbollah was sending fighters to back embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad against the primarily Sunni rebel movement.
Hezbollah has been accused of participating in the slaughter of Syrian civilians, as well as other war crimes. In a recently released video, Hezbollah fighters are seen executing unarmed prisoners after dragging them from a van.
At least 20 people were killed on August 15 by a large explosion in the Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut. A month earlier, over 50 people were wounded when a car bomb exploded in the same area.
On August 23, more than 45 people were killed after twin car bombs exploded outside Sunni mosques in the Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The increased pressure on Hezbollah is seen as a key reason in the group's recent decision to withdraw more than one thousand of its fighters from Syria.
The increasingly sectarian civil war in neighboring Syria has threatened the already tense status-quo between different sectarian groups in Lebanon.
Created on Sunday, 22 September 2013 14:29
Lebanon’s government has announced that it will send the national army to secure Hezbollah-dominated suburbs in the south of the country, including the terrorist movement’s stronghold in the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Beirut.
The decision to send soldiers into Lebanese cities comes in the wake of multiple recent bombing attacks. The attacks have left more than 70 people dead and over 1,000 wounded.
The attackers appear to have targeted Hezbollah-dominated areas, possibly in revenge for Hezbollah’s heavy involvement in fighting in Syria.
Lebanese soldiers will take over checkpoints that Hezbollah set up following the attacks. The checkpoints have been a source of tension in the area as some residents say they have been aggressively questioned and even physically assaulted by the Hezbollah guards.
Hezbollah has also increased tensions with recent attempts to expand its telecommunications network into Christian areas. The network is widely believed to be used for wiretapping.
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said in a press conference that he believes Hezbollah will welcome the intervention. “Hezbollah cannot wait to have the state deploy in these places, and their members will certainly retreat and allow us to take over,” he declared.
Hezbollah has previously accused the government of doing too little to protect residents of the country’s south.
While there has been no open opposition to the plan, the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar has reported criticism from retired security personnel. The media outlet quoted retired brigadier-general Rojeh Salem as warning that the army does not have sufficient troops to protect both major cities and the nation’s borders, and insisting, “The army must be deployed on borders only."
Lebanese politicians and commentators opposed to Iranian and Syrian influences in their country regularly criticize what they see as the undermining of Lebanese sovereignty through Hezbollah's effective control of entire regions, with some increasingly referring to the Iranian-backed terrorist group's presence as akin to a foreign occupation.
Created on Saturday, 17 August 2013 13:25
A Sunni Islamist group took credit on Thursday for the car bombing in a Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut which killed at least 20 people.
Shortly after news of the attack broke, an online video surfaced showing three masked men, two of them holding rifles, in front of a white flag inscribed with the Islamic profession of faith, reported AFP.
"You, the pig Hassan Nasrallah, we send you our second powerful message because you haven't understood yet," said one member of the group, which called itself the Company of Aisha Umm al-Muminin, the Prophet Mohammed's favorite wife.
Arab affairs expert Dalit Halevi said that the group also accused the Hezbollah chief of being “an agent of Iran and Israel."
The group members further stated that they will determine the location and timing of the battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and appealed to the public to stay away from places associated with Iran and Hezbollah in order to stay safe from future attacks
Thursday's blast comes six weeks after a car bomb attack in the same area wounded more than 50 people.
Another little-known Syrian rebel group, the Special Forces 313 Brigade, claimed that attack and said it was in revenge for Hezbollah fighting alongside the Assad regime.
The mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army condemned the attack, according to AFP.
Lebanese president Michel Sleiman was quick to blame Israel for Thursday’s attack, saying, “This is a criminal act that bears the fingerprints of terrorism and Israel and is aimed to destabilize Lebanon and deal a blow to the resilience of the Lebanese.”
Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also blamed Israel and urged the Lebanese to unite in the face of dangers. “This crime only serves the Israeli enemy that is working on dealing a blow to the components of national unity in Lebanon,” Berri said.
Created on Thursday, 15 August 2013 10:30
the last few minutes, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has claimed the bombing attack which injured four Israeli soldiers on the border with Lebanon last week, saying his party "will face" any further border violations by the Jewish state.
The Lebanese army had claimed that the four soldiers were located 400 meters inside Lebanese territory when the blast occurred.
"An explosion took place and the soldiers were wounded, with blood found at the scene. A military committee has opened an investigation in coordination with UNIFIL, " the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, it said.
In a defiant statement Wednesday, Nasrallah echoed that sentiment, pledging to "confront any crossing of Israelis into Lebanese territories."
"We took the decision to target Israelis in Labbouneh because the border is under the control of the Lebanese army and the state," he said, claiming that "The incidence was an intended operation and did not happen by coincidence."
The IDF Spokesman's Unit said that the explosion occurred “in the course of activity that took place tonight on the northern border.” The soldiers were taken to hospital for treatment.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon confirmed the blast, and said the army was "investigating the incident, to see if it was an old bomb, (or) a new bomb… But this operation was of course carried out in a responsible manner."
Nasrallah answered that particular question, stating that:
"What happened in Labbouneh took place under the sight of the resistances' fighters and we already knew Israelis would cross, which is why we planted explosive devices there. It is a newly planted explosive device and not a remnant of the July 2006 war."
Created on Friday, 28 June 2013 14:03
The graduation ceremony of the IAF's 166th flight course took place on Thursday, and leaders who spoke at the ceremony mentioned the tense situation along Israel’s northern borders, saying that the IDF is ready for any scenario and reminding Israel's enemies that the army has acted and will act in the face of security threats.
Particularly blunt was IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz who, in a rare statement about the situation in the north said, “Syria is still bleeding, and in Lebanon, the flames are creeping up on [Hizbullah chief] Nasrallah. In the face of this changing reality we need to be ready and more prepared than ever."
Gantz’s remarks come in the wake of an Israeli assessment that the Hizbullah terror group is at one of its lowest points in years. The organization is now fighting on three fronts: against Israel, in Syria, and in Lebanon, where the group has been slammed for its support of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Speaking at the same ceremony, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, "The Air Force is prepared for any mission, near or far, and those who need to know that we not only talk but also act - know that. Over the past year we worked on many fronts, some visible and some hidden. In all of them, the mission was accomplished by the IAF pilots and navigators.”
The prime minister added, "We have defensive capabilities and offensive capabilities and we know to how to combine them. The future of the Jews depends on the Jewish State, and the future of the Jewish State depends primarily on its army and security forces."
The commander of the IAF, Major General Amir Eshel, said at the ceremony, “The reality has forced many things on us over the past year, most of them distant and out of sight. The IAF must be ready for any mission. We do not have a second chance.”
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon spoke about the situation in Iran and told the young pilots, "You and your friends must be prepared for that moment when you will be required to apply your skills and hurt those who want to disrupt our lives here. Those who work tirelessly to arm themselves, transfer dangerous weapons through air, land and sea or build long-term unconventional capability which threatens our cities and our citizens and undermines the stability of the entire Middle East.”
Created on Monday, 24 June 2013 07:14
Six Lebanese soldiers were killed on Sunday in a clash with supporters of a radical Sunni Muslim sheikh opposed to the Hizbullah terror group, an army statement quoted by the AFP news agency said.
“An armed group loyal to Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir attacked, for no reason, a Lebanese army checkpoint in the village of Abra” on the outskirts of the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, the military said, according to AFP.
The clash broke out when Assir’s supporters surrounded an army checkpoint in Abra, where a vehicle transporting other supporters of the Sunni cleric had been stopped, a security source told AFP.
“After the armed men attacked (the army) with gunfire” the army fired back, the source added.
An AFP journalist reported that explosions were heard two kilometers (more than a mile) away.
The correspondent saw civilians fleeing the fighting, both by car and on foot.
The controversial Sunni sheikh called on his supporters last week to fire on apartments in Abra that he says house Hizbullah members.
Abra is home to a mosque where Assir leads the main weekly prayers on Fridays, reported AFP. The sheikh believes Hizbullah uses the Abra apartments to keep him under surveillance.
Two months ago, Sheikh Assir lashed out at Hizbullah for helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fight the predominately Sunni opposition in the country, announcing the formation of “Free Resistance Brigades” to fight Hizbullah in Syria.
He said it was “a religious duty” for his Sunni followers to join the fight against Hizbullah and the Syrian regime.
It was later reported that Lebanese youth were responding to Assir’s call and were signing up for “armed Jihad in Syria.”
Syria-related tensions have soared in Lebanon, deepening sectarian rifts between Sunnis and Shiites.
Shiite Hizbullah supports Assad's regime, while the Sunni-dominated opposition backs the rebels fighting it. The Syrian civil war has spilled into Lebanon on more than one occasion.
Lebanon's army recently warned it will hit back against any new attacks from Syria, after a helicopter gunship struck an eastern town.
During Sunday’s fighting, Assir distributed a video message via mobile phone addressed to his supporters.
“We are being attacked by the Lebanese army,” Assir said, according to AFP, describing the military as “sectarian” and accusing it of supporting Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah.
“I call on everyone... to cut off roads and to all honorable soldiers, Sunni and non-Sunni, to quit the army immediately,” Assir said in the message.
He urged supporters across Lebanon to flock to Abra “to help defend our religion, our honor and our women.”
Created on Monday, 24 June 2013 06:53
An Egyptian court said on Sunday that the Hamas rulers of Gaza and Lebanon’s Hizbullah terrorist group helped prisoners, including current President Mohammed Morsi, escape during the 2011 uprising.
AFP reported that the head of the court in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya asked the state prosecutor to investigate the circumstances of the January 2011 breakout from the Wadi Natrun prison, northwest of the capital.
He said that the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which Morsi hails, had organized the escape with members of Hamas and Hizbullah, according to AFP.
The court also called on the state prosecutor to ask Interpol to circulate an arrest warrant for Sami Shihab, a Hizbullah official who had been convicted of plotting attacks in Egypt and who was serving a prison sentence at Wadi Natrun before escaping, along with members of Hamas.
Morsi said at the time that there had been no need for he and 33 other members of the Brotherhood to escape as the people "opened the doors" for them, noted the report.
The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas’s parent movement. According to some reports, the Brotherhood-led Egyptian government mediated secret talks between Israel and Hamas after the end of the counterterrorism Operation Pillar of Defense.
There have been some recent tensions between Hamas the government in Cairo, as Egypt began a crackdown on Gaza's underground tunnel system, which is used to smuggle goods – but also weapons and terrorists – into Gaza.
Hamas demanded that if Egypt was going to shut down the tunnels, it should open a commercial border crossing to Gaza on a permanent basis instead.
As for Hizbullah, Morsi last week called on the group to leave Syria, where it has been fighting alongside troops loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad.
Morsi made the comments as he announced that Egypt has cut diplomatic ties with Damascus and has ordered the Syria's embassy in Cairo to be closed.
Created on Monday, 17 June 2013 11:05
A report on Channel Two Monday said that the brother of Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah was killed recently in a fierce battle in the Syrian city of Al-Qusayr. Khader Nasrallah was buried in the village of Kfar Kana in south Lebanon on Sunday, Channel Two said.
If true, it would make Nasrallah one of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Hizbullah terrorists killed in the city, which has been a bloody battleground between troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel groups. Hizbullah, a direct agent of Iran, has been assisting Assad.
Hizbullah has been supplying manpower and organization to Assad. Recent reports said that the Shi'ite-affiliated terror group had gone on a recruiting campaign in Iraq and other Arab countries, appealing to Shi'ites to join with Assad and beat back the “infidel” Sunnis, represented by rebel groups.
If the report is true, this would be the second close family member Hassan Nasrallah has lost in war. In 1997, his son, Hadi, was killed in a battle with the IDF in Lebanon. Israel traded the younger Nasrallah's body in 1998 for the body of an Israeli special forces operative who had also been killed in battle.
Created on Saturday, 15 June 2013 07:18
Hardline Lebanese Sunni Muslim cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir warned on Friday that “a war is coming to Lebanon” as Syrian rebels and their Lebanese supporters prepare to launch attacks against Hezbollah “everywhere.”
Sheikh Assir said in a Friday sermon that a response to Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria could happen in a “few days” and will take place “anywhere” including Lebanon.
In April Sheikh Assir urged his followers to join Syrian rebels fighting troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
“Lately, we have seen our people [Sunnis] in the region of Qusayr be subjected to violence, murder and slaughter by the hands of the Iranian party,” Assir told Al Arabiya in an interview. “We found that it is our legitimate duty to see to the [Sunnis’] victory.”
Senior Muslim Sunni voices have accused Hezbollah of starting a sectarian war by intervening in Syria against the Sunni opposition.
On Friday, Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood threw its weight behind the calls for Jihad in Syria, slamming Hezbollah for starting a sectarian war in Syria. “Throughout history, Sunnis have never been involved in starting a sectarian war,” spokesman Ahmed Aref said.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that his group is not involved in a war against Sunnis but that it is fighting against a U.S. Israeli conspiracy to control the Middle East.
He vowed to stay in Syria and continue fighting against what he said were extremist Islamists being used by major Western powers to re-draw the regional map.
Created on Thursday, 30 May 2013 07:59
The head of Hamas in Lebanon, Ali Barakha, was informed by Hizbullah that his people were no longer welcome in the country, and that Hamas members should evacuate the country immediately, Israel Radio reported Thursday. The message raised the possibility that the two Islamist groups could end up fighting each other in Lebanon, as each vies for influence with opposing parties in Syria, analysts said.
Syrian rebels have been receiving assistance from the Sunni-oriented Hamas terror group, while the Shi'ite-affiliated Hizbullah terror group has been helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces in the ongoing civil war in Syria.
Hizbullah is aiding Assad as a proxy of Iran, the main backer of the Syrian despot, while Syrian rebels, seeking to unseat Assad, have turned to Sunni Muslim groups in the Middle East for help. Saudi Arabia is Sunni and fears Iran's increased domination. Assad himself is a member of the Alawite cult, considered heretical by both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.
Recent reports said that hundreds of Hizbullah terrorists have died in fierce fighting on the Syria-Lebanon border, as units of the Syrian army and terrorists battled Syrian rebels for control of the area. Many of the deaths occurred in the Syria-Lebanon border town of Al-Qusayr, a city of over 40,000, which over the past two years has been turned into a war-torn danger zone. It is not known how many Hamas terrorists fought in those battles, but it is thought to be a substantial number by analysts, as both rebels and the Syria army placed a great deal of importance on the battle.
Reports of the Hamas “eviction” by Hizbullah appeared in the Arab press on Thursday, based on information supplied by Syrian rebels, Israel Radio reported, adding that there had been no independent confirmation of the story.
In a separate interview Thursday, Barakha denied the story, saying that Hamas and Hizbullah worked together for the benefit of Lebanon.
Created on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 09:06
Lebanese members of the Syrian leader’s Alawite sect fear their tiny community will be a casualty of the civil war raging in the neighboring country.
Already, Sunni Muslim extremists have stoned a school bus, vandalized stores and beaten or stabbed a number of men in a wave of attacks against Lebanese Alawites, stoking fears of even more violence should Syrian President Bashar Assad be removed from power.
In one particularly humiliating case, angry Sunnis tied a rope around an Alawite man’s neck and dragged him around the streets of Tripoli.
“The Alawites are being subjected to an organized campaign that aims to eliminate them on all levels,” said Ali Feddah, a prominent member of Lebanon’s Arab Democratic Party, which is mainly Alawite.
Feddah spoke to The Associated Press in his office in Tripoli’s predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. Sitting next to a picture of Assad, he said the Alawites face an “existential threat,” mainly because of extremist Sunni incitement against them.
His words echo the sentiments of many Alawites, who have long enjoyed privileges in Syria under Assad family rule and now fear for their future. The tiny community in Lebanon, which has long been a Syrian client state, has also benefited from Assad’s rule, particularly during Syria’s three-decade hold on its smaller neighbor that ended in 2005.
The Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, represents little more than 10 percent of the population in Syria and about 2 percent in Lebanon. Before their ascent in the mid-20th century, the Alawites were impoverished and marginalized, largely confined to the mountains of the province of Latakia on the Mediterranean coast.
Under the French mandate, the Alawites were granted an autonomous territory stretching in a band along the coast from the Lebanese border to the Turkish border. It lasted a few years until 1937, when their state was incorporated into modern-day Syria.
After the 1963 coup that brought the Baath Party to power in Damascus, Alawites began consolidating their presence in the Syrian government and armed forces.
The uprising against Assad’s rule that began in March 2011 quickly became an outlet for long-suppressed grievances, mostly by poor Sunnis from marginalized areas. It has since escalated into an outright civil war.
Many of the rebels trying to overthrow Assad today say they want to replace his government with an Islamic state.
The war, now in its third year, has turned increasingly sectarian with countless cases of tit-for-tat slayings between Sunnis and Alawites. Sunni rebels are often seen in videos posted online referring to Alawites as dogs and heretics.
Abu Bilal al-Homsi, an activist in the central Syrian city of Homs who has links with several rebel groups, said the Assad regime has carried out massacres against Sunnis. He points to waves of sectarian killings this month, allegedly carried out by pro-government Alawite gunmen in the coastal towns of Banias and Bayda. More than 100 civilians were killed in the attacks.
“We will completely wipe out the Alawite sect,” said al-Homsi, who does not use his real name because of fear of government reprisals. “There will be no Alawites in Syria. The young and the old will be punished.”
Bassam al-Dada, an official in the rebels’ Free Syrian Army, disagrees with al-Homsi. “The Alawites have nothing to do with Bashar’s crimes,” he said.
The U.N. estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed in the war. Human Rights activists say most of them are Sunnis, but Alawites have also paid a heavy price. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday the group has documented the names of more than 35,000 Alawites who have died, most of them soldiers and pro-Assad militiamen.
“Their losses statistically are very high. There is a lot of resentment in Alawite regions,” said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University in Beirut.
The tensions in Syria are playing out in Lebanon, which is sharply split along sectarian lines and has recently seen repeated bouts of street fighting related to the war across the border.
Northern Lebanon, in particular, is a potential powder keg. It has a strong Sunni population but also has pockets of Alawites.
The Alawites live mainly in Jabal Mohsen, a hilly district where posters of Assad and his father and predecessor, the late Hafez Assad, decorate the streets.
For years, residents of Jabal Mohsen have traded short bouts of automatic weapons fire and volleys of rocket-propelled grenades with residents of the mainly Sunni Bab Tabbaneh neighborhood.
The two districts in Tripoli are separated by a roadway named Syria Street.
The clashes have become more frequent since Syria’s uprising began - and so have the targeted attacks.
Ali, an unemployed 25-year-old Alawite from Jabal Mohsen, says he has not been to Sunni neighborhoods of Tripoli for more than a year after he was beaten up in the central Tal neighborhood.
Ali, who declined to give his full name for fear of reprisals, described how he was intercepted by a man who ran toward him, grabbed him by the neck and tried to choke him as he shouted: “Are you from the Jabal?”
He said he denied he was an Alawite and was eventually saved by a Sunni man who knew him.
Last month, a bus carrying school children was attacked on the edge of Jabal Mohsen by a group of extremists who pelted it with rocks for several minutes before troops intervened.
“Since then, all school buses from Jabal Mohsen are accompanied by troops,” Feddah said.
Residents say several men have been stabbed and beaten up in the past few weeks. Several shops in Jabal Mohsen were set on fire, their fronts seen shuttered on a recent visit.
Earlier this month, bearded extremists grabbed a Syrian man in Tripoli, beat him up and stripped him to the waist before tying a rope around his neck and parading him through the streets. “I am an Alawite shabih,” they wrote on his bare chest, in reference to widely feared pro-Assad militiamen who fight alongside soldiers in Syria.
In Syria, thousands of Alawites have left their homes in war-shattered cities such as Homs, for the relative safety of the overwhelmingly Alawite provinces of Tartous and Latakia.
Syrian opponents of Assad say Alawite fighters are trying to carve out a breakaway enclave in the country’s mountainous Alawite heartland by driving out local Sunnis. They say recent killings in overwhelmingly Sunni villages close to Alawite communities are meant to lay the groundwork.
Earlier this month, regime forces from nearby Alawite areas were blamed for killing dozens of civilians in Banias and Bayda, two Sunni communities in western Syria. The violence bore a closer resemblance to two reported mass killings last year in Houla and Qubeir, Sunni villages surrounded by Alawite towns in central Syria.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper that having failed to control the entire country, Assad was now executing his “plan B” - which involves opening up an Alawite corridor between central Syria and Lebanon and driving Sunnis away from the area.
“There is an effort to cleanse the region,” Davutoglu said in the interview, published last week. “This will cause turmoil in Lebanon too. It could cause a culture of revenge.”
Created on Sunday, 05 May 2013 08:41
Israel bombed a weapons shipment headed for Hizbullah on Friday, an Israeli source confirmed Saturday. The source spoke after American media outlets reported the strike.
Israel has not officially commented on the alleged strike.
A diplomatic source in Lebanon told the AFP news agency that the operation destroyed surface-to-air missiles recently delivered by Russia that were being stored at Damascus airport.
The Israeli source confirmed that the strike targeted “game-changing” weaponry, but not chemical weapons.
Lebanon's army said pairs of Israeli airplanes entered Lebanese airspace three times overnight. The first two entered over the southern city of Sidon at 7:10 PM (1610 GMT), followed three hours later by a second pair that entered over Jounieh north of Beirut, a statement said.
The last pair flew in over the capital, the statement said, adding that the warplanes stayed in Lebanese airspace for two to three hours at a time
There were unconfirmed reports during the past week that Israeli planes had staged mock strikes in Lebanese air space..
US media reported that Washington does not believe Israeli warplanes entered Syrian airspace to conduct the strikes. A senior US official told NBC News that the air strikes were probably tied to delivery systems for chemical weapons.
White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the air strike reports.
But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was quoted as telling an audience that Israel had indeed bombed Syria.
"Israel bombed Syria tonight," Graham was cited by the Politico news website as saying in passing, without offering any further details.
If confirmed, this would be the second Israeli air strike on Syria this year. Earlier this month, Israel implicitly admitted carrying out a January raid on a weapons convoy in Syria thought to be en route to Hizbullah.
Created on Thursday, 25 April 2013 08:00
Lebanese youth from the city of Saida, south of Beirut, began on Wednesday to sign up for “armed Jihad in Syria”, Al Arabiya reported.
The youth were responding to a call a day earlier by Sunni cleric Ahmad Assir, who called on Lebanese youth to fight the Hizbullah terrorist group.
Individuals in charge of enlisting the youth told Al Arabiya that “hundreds” have signed up so far and that the number is expected to reach thousands.
On Tuesday, Sheikh Assir lashed out at Hizbullah for helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fight the predominately Sunni opposition in the country.
Sheikh Assir had announced the formation of “Free Resistance Brigades” to go fight Hizbullah in Syria.
In an interview with Al Arabiya, Assir said his call came in response to “Hizbullah’s continued role in the persecution of Sunni Muslims in Syria.”
He said it was a “a religious duty” for his Sunni followers to join the fight against Hizbullah and the Syrian regime.
Assir slammed the Lebanese government for not being able to prevent Hizbullah from interfering in Syria.
Reports in a Saudi daily last week indicated that over 1,000 Hizbullah members had entered Syria over a period of a few days via waterways in the Mediterranean Sea.
The daily quoted sources as having said that the regime in Damascus "is resorting to the aid of fighters from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which implies that the Syrian recruits' desire to fight alongside the regime is decreasing."
Several months ago, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah publicly offered to place his terrorists at Assad’s disposal.
Syria's opposition warned this week that Hizbullah’s role in fighting in Homs province amounts to a "declaration of war," while the terrorist group said it is merely protecting Lebanese people.
Analysts told AFP on Wednesday that Hizbullah’s decision to fight openly alongside the Syrian regime will increase Lebanon's involvement in Syria's conflict, despite a policy of neutrality.
Despite the inflaming tensions, however, the country is unlikely to face serious instability as a result, because none of its political forces have an interest in such a scenario for now, the analysts added.
"Hizbullah’s public involvement is no longer the world's worst-kept secret, and now we are in a crisis where the Lebanese are not only politically divided... but also militarily divided," Ghassan al-Azzi, a professor of political science at the Lebanese University, told AFP.
"Hizbullah’s involvement in the Syrian crisis now involves all of Lebanon because we've heard from the other side calls to fight jihad alongside the opposition to the Syrian regime," he added, referring to Lebanon's Sunni community.
Created on Wednesday, 13 February 2013 09:03
Four Israeli war planes were seen flying in the skies of Lebanon on Tuesday, according to that country’s official news agency. Israel Air Force aircraft were reportedly seen flying in the afternoon sometime between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm local time, sources said late in the day.
By Wednesday, the reports became an official communique posted by Lebanon's Ministry of Information.
The country’s National News Agency (NNA) said in an official statement issued Wednesday, “On Tuesday 12/1/2013 at 4:50 p.m. two (2) Israeli war planes violated Lebanese air-space from above Kafrkila village, executed circular flight over various Lebanese regions; and then left at 8:05 p.m. from above Rmeish village.
“And at 8:25 p.m., two (2) other Israeli war planes violated Lebanese air-space from above Kafrkila village, executed circular flight over different Lebanese region; and then left at 9:05 p.m. from above Alma Shaab village.”
The statement was posted to the Lebanese Ministry of Information website in English.
Lebanese and Iranian media claimed earlier in the week that “at least 12 Israeli war planes” had violated Lebanese air space last Thursday morning, “roaming over different parts of the country.”
One of the reports, posted by Iranian Press TV, claimed “an Israeli reconnaissance plane flew over the southern area of Naqoura for more than seven hours.”
There has been no comment from the IDF or Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office.
Created on Monday, 04 February 2013 11:26
The armies of Syria, Lebanon and Jordan are all on high alert, a report in a Lebanese newspaper said Sunday. The report in Ad-Diar said that the alerts were due to Israel's attack on a Syrian missile transport and, according to Syrian claims, an attack on a sensitive Syrian military installation.
The report said that the Syrian army has instructed its units to break up into smaller groups, “similar to what Hizbullah has done in south Lebanon.” The strategy is designed to protect troops in the wake of another possible Israeli attack, the report said.
The report added that Syrian troops had joined Hizbullah terrorists in several areas of south Lebanon. According to the report, the Syrian and Hizbullah forces were stationed very close to the Israeli border, in the area of Har Dov (also known as “Sheba Farms”). The Lebanese and Jordanian armies are also on high alert over the possibility of a clash between Israel and Syria in the area.
Unconfirmed Lebanese reports said that Israeli warplanes had been seen over Lebanon earlier Sunday.
Syria has threatened to retaliate against Israel for the attack. Israel has not commented on the attack, and has not officially confirmed its involvement, although Defense Minister Ehud Barak earlier Sunday hinted at the possibility that Israel did carry out the attack.
Created on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 18:25
A bomb exploded under a car in the south Beirut suburb of Hay al-Selloum late Monday night, the Now Lebanon website reported.
There were no casualties and gunfire was heard in the area after the explosion, the report said.
LBC television reported that the explosion targeted a Honda belonging to a man identified as Abbas Mazloum, adding he was not affiliated with any Lebanese political party. Earlier reports said that Mazloum was a member of the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terror group.
LBC also reported said that Hizbullah security was deployed to the site of the explosion along with army units.
Hay al-Selloum is a predominantly Shiite neighborhood within the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh.
Hizbullah’s Al-Manar TV reported that a small explosion hit the area and did not cause any injuries.
Meanwhile, an anonymous security source told AFP that that “a bomb exploded under a car in Hay al-Selloum, causing only material damage.”
Al-Jadeed TV, another Lebanese television network, reported that the bomb was small in size and only resulted in material damage, but it detonated in a crowded area.
Such explosions occur from time to time in Lebanon, usually targeting Hizbullah bases or weapons depots.
Last month, a huge explosion hit a Hizbullah weapons depot near the border with Israel. Hizbullah immediately accused Israel of carrying out an aerial bombing.
In October, explosions at a Hizbullah weapons cache in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon killed nine people, among them members of the terror group.
Created on Wednesday, 30 January 2013 10:03
According to reports, Israeli warplanes carried out a surveillance mission over Lebanon Tuesday night which possibly included a strike on an alleged weapons convoy located near the Syrian-Lebanon border.
Lebanese news agencies claimed that the Lebanese Army spotted the Israeli warplanes immediately and closely monitored their flight path.
According to a statement by the Lebanese army, four Israeli Air Force planes entered Lebanese air space at 4:30 p.m. These planes were replaced four hours later by another group of planes. At 2 a.m. the second group was replaced by more Israeli airplanes, and the mission finally came to an end at 7:55 a.m.
As reports of the planes flying over Lebanese airspace began to surface, a western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, alleged that the mission was not limited to surveillance but also included an attack on a weapons convoy on the Syrian-Lebanese border.
"There was definitely a hit in the border area," the source told Reuters.
The IDF has declined to comment and the validity of the reports cannot be verified however they are of particular significance in light of Israeli concern over chemical weapons in Syria and Lebanon.
IAF Chief General Amir Eshel warned recently of chemical weapons getting into the hands of terrorists, saying, “With the impending collapse of the Syrian regime, Israel may find itself susceptible to multi-faceted terrorism, from knife to nuke. Weapons of mass destruction may fall into the hands of Hizbullah, and the region has become highly sensitive. The IAF will cooperate with MI, Shin Bet and Mossad to thwart any attempts.”
On Sunday, Israel deployed two Iron Dome batteries in the north of the country, but the IDF refused to clarify if the deployment was part of routine tests or a necessary precaution to possible threats of Lebanese and Syrian weapons aimed at Israel.
The news site Al-Monitor also reported that IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi was in Washington on Tuesday and took part in closed-door meeting with U.S. security officials, however, Israeli officials refused to comment on the nature of the meetings.
Created on Friday, 19 October 2012 18:52
A top security official linked to the anti-Damascus camp in Lebanon was among those killed in a powerful car bomb in Beirut on Friday, officials told AFP.
The rush-hour bombing in the predominantly Christian district of Ashrafieh killed at least two other people and wounded 96, Health Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told reporters at the scene.
A government official said the intelligence chief of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, General Wissam al-Hassan, was among the dead in one of the highest-profile killings since the 2005 murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri.
Hassan was close to Rafiq's son, Saad, who is leader of the opposition and hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, AFP noted. He had been tipped to take over as ISF head at the end of this year.
Opposition politician Samir Geagea said Hassan "moved around with exceptional security measures" and had sent his wife and children to Paris because he "knew he was a target."
The ISF played a central role in the arrest in August of former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha, who has close links to Damascus and was charged with planning attacks in Lebanon and transporting explosives.
The agency was also deeply involved in seeking the arrest of those responsible for a host of attacks and assassinations between 2005 and 2008, starting with the Hariri assassination.
Friday's blast occurred only 200 meters from the headquarters of the Christian party, the Phalange, which is also anti-Damascus.
No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Phalange MP Nadim Gemayel quickly accused Syria of orchestrating it.
"The Syrian regime is no stranger to such explosions. This is a political blast par excellence," Gemayel told LBC television. "This regime, which is crumbling, is trying to export its conflict to Lebanon."
Geagea, head of the right-wing Lebanese Forces, also pointed the finger at Damascus, saying Hassan was targeted "because he arrested Samaha."
Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi, meanwhile, condemned what he called a "terrorist, cowardly" attack, saying such incidents "are unjustifiable wherever they occur."
State prosecutor Hatem Madi said the car "was blown off dozens of meters” from where it was parked on a street off Sassine Square. Bomb experts told AFP the car was packed with 66 pounds of explosives.
Created on Friday, 19 October 2012 13:52
A powerful car bomb killed at least eight people and wounded another 78 on Friday in mainly Christian east Beirut, in the first such attack in Lebanon's capital since 2008, the National News Agency reported.
The agency, citing civil defence figures, said the blast was only 200 metres from the headquarters of the Christian party, the Phalange, which is hostile to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in neighbouring Syria.
The bombing comes at a time of high tensions and divisions in Lebanon as a result of the conflict in Syria.
An AFP photographer saw two apartment buildings devastated by the bombing in a narrow street off Sassine Square in Ashrafieh. One building was still ablaze as Red Cross workers evacuated bloodied casualties.
Georges Kettaneh, in charge of the Red Cross operation, said at least 37 people were wounded.
Balconies were torn off by the force of the blast, windows shattered and cars crushed by falling masonry.
"We heard a powerful explosion. The earth shook under our feet," said Roland, 19, among a large crowd of army, rescue workers and onlookers.
Interior Minister Marwan Sharbel was also at the scene of the first car bombing in Beirut since January 25, 2008, when Lebanon's top anti-terrorism investigator was slain along with three other people.
Relatives of employees at BEMO bank, whose windows were broken, dashed to the area to look for their children. "Where is Pierre?" one man cried, as a young woman searched for her mother in the rubble.
The most high-profile car bombing since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war took place on February 14, 2005 when a massive blast killed former premier Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people as his motorcade drove along the waterfront.
Created on Monday, 15 October 2012 08:23
The Hizbullah drone infiltration into Israel “amounts to a declaration of war,” worried former Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora has warned. Former Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri also said he fears the drone incident could drag Lebanon into a war with Israel, the Beirut Daily Star reported.
The unusually harsh criticism of the Iranian-backed terrorist party and network opened up wounds of years of dissent between nationalists and pro-Syrian and pro-Iran factions. Lebanon suffered from a devastating 15-year civil war until 1990 and has been wracked by political instability ever since.
Siniora, who now heads Hariri’s heads Future bloc, said that Hizbullah’s “action shows that it was an Iranian decision ... No doubt this action needs techniques that are available only in Iran. It was an Iranian action that implicated Lebanon in regional and international struggles and consequently, made us in Lebanon a platform for the exchange of messages.”
Siniora did not spare praise for Hizbullah’s “military and technical achievement against the Israeli enemy” but added, “This action in my belief constituted a provocation against Israel because as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah indicated, the drone flew over waters overlooking the coasts of the occupied territories and over land, south of the occupied territories in Israel.
“Therefore, there are some who point to an issue relating to the gas and oil installations on the occupied territories’ coasts and also the Israeli atomic reactors in Dimona. This in itself amounts to a declaration of war.”
He criticized Nasrallah for not consulting with the Lebanese government, which is dominated by the terrorist organization and pro-Syrian parties.
“We find that Hizbullah is not only implicating Lebanon in the conflict in Syria, but also in the midst of regional and international struggles concerning Iran and Iran’s nuclear program and in its [Hizbullah’s] role in the developments in Syria.”
Siniora's concerns reflect the fragile nature of the government, which has been in continual crisis during a creeping domination of Hizbullah over Lebanon’s affairs.
Israel leaders have defined Hizbullah as being a “state within a state,” and IDF officers have noted that there often is no distinction between the Lebanese army and Hizbullah forces.
Both Israel and anti-Syrian parties in Lebanon are concerned that Syrian President Bashar Assad will turn to Hizbullah to escalate attacks against Israel to divert attention from the Syria civil war.
Created on Friday, 28 September 2012 08:35
Hizbullah has increased the size and scope of its assistance to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as he fights to retain his position as leader of Syria in the face of a wide-ranging rebellion. According to a report in Thursday's Washington Post, Hizbullah has sent special advisors to Syria in order to assist Assad in beating back rebel forces.
Official sources in the Lebanese government said that the assistance Hizbullah is providing Assad was increased after a major attack on Assad's forces on July 18. Several high ranking Syrian military officials were killed in that attack, among them Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat.
The sources said that Hizbullah has been offering not only advice, but also taking active part in the fighting against rebels. The sources added that more and more of the casualties on the Syrian side consist of Hizbullah recruits. There has been a marked increase in the number of funerals of young men in Hizbullah-controlled areas in southern Lebanon, they added, with families refusing to reveal the reasons for their death. That is because, they said, Hizbullah has demanded that the families keep the reasons for their death secret.
There have also been reports of Iranian soldiers and advisors in Syria as well, but it is not clear if they are taking part in the actual fighting.
Created on Monday, 17 September 2012 18:52
Iran should provide an an official explanation as to why members of its Revolutionary Guards have been sent to Lebanon, President Michel Sleiman demanded on Monday.
On Sunday, the Guards commander said members of his elite special operations unit, the Quds Force, were in Syria and Lebanon but only to provide “counsel.”
“President Sleiman asked for an official explanation from the relevant Iranian authorities,” his office said.
Lebanon is divided into two political camps – one supported by Syria and Iran, the other backed by the West.
Iran provides political and military support to the powerful Shiite group Hezbollah, which plays a central role in the current Lebanese government, and to its militia.
Hezbollah was created in 1982 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards during the Israeli invasion.
General Mohammed Ali Jafari, commander of the Guards, said on Sunday that “a number of Quds Force members are present in Syria and Lebanon... We provide (these countries) with counsel and advice, and transfer experience to them.”
“But it does not mean that we have a military presence there,” he added.
The Quds Force is tasked with carrying out operations outside Iran – official and clandestine.
It has several thousand members, and it is especially active in the Middle East, according to Western analysts.
If Syria were attacked militarily however, Jafari said, his troops will provide support, although he did not provide any further details.
Jafari told reporters, "We are proud to defend Syria, which constitutes a resistance to the Zionist entity," adding that Iran provides advice based on its expertise, while other countries support terror organizations.
He noted again that members of the Quds Force will intervene militarily, and provide military assistance to Syria "according to the circumstances."
Created on Thursday, 23 August 2012 19:45
Terror-guerrilla organization and Iranian proxy Hizbullah held a three-day-long exercise this week, according to Lebanese newspaper Al Joumhouria.
The drill included over 10,000 men and was unprecedented in its scope, the newspaper reported. The organization's director Hassan Nasrallah reportedly supervised part of the drill, flanked by several officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Hizbullah's new elite units rehearsed fighting against tanks and helicopters in the exercise, according to the report. A senior Hizbullah terrorist said the forces rehearsed defense against an Israeli invasion as well as an offensive move to conquer parts of the Galilee.
The senior Iranian officers who viewed the exercise reportedly took 2,000 of the men to Iran with them for additional training.
Created on Saturday, 02 June 2012 10:38
Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that the abductors of the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria should address their grievances directly with him, and not through kidnapping innocent people.
“If your problem is with me, there are lots of ways to resolve it. We can resolve it any way you want, whether through war or through love and peace,” Nasrallah was quoted by NOW Lebanon as having said during speech televised in commemoration of late Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini.
“Using the innocent pilgrims as hostages to resolve the problem is a great injustice,” he added.
A previously unknown armed group calling itself the “Syrian Revolutionaries -- Aleppo Province” said on Thursday that it is holding the Shiite pilgrims, who went missing last week.
“The kidnapped Lebanese are being looked after by us and are in good health,” the group said in a statement received by the Al-Jazeera news network. “Negotiations for their release are possible as soon as Nasrallah apologizes.”
“Our problem is not with any particular community but with those who assist in the suppression of the uprising,” the group added.
The dozen or so returning pilgrims went missing on May 22 in the northern Syrian province of Aleppo. Last week it was reported that the pilgrims were freed and had arrived in Turkey, but those reports were later denied.
Beirut said last week that it had asked Turkey to help free the kidnapped pilgrims.
Created on Sunday, 27 May 2012 21:46
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel on Friday, saying the Jewish State is hiding behind walls and fences and that these cannot ensure its future existence.
Nasrallah made the comments during a video speech which was broadcast during a rally in the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, marking 12 years since Israel withdrew its troops from Lebanon.
“The Israelis withdrew from southern Lebanon, began to build a fence in the West Bank, and now they are talking about building a fence along the border with Egypt or building a fence along the border with Jordan,” Channel 2 News quoted Nasrallah as having said in the speech, which was recorded from his hiding place.
“If so, the vision of the full land of Israel has come to an end,” he added. The vision of a state stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates has come to an end.”
“They found refuge by enclosing themselves within fences. But the fences will never be able to protect them, and will never ensure their existence,” Nasrallah threatened.
Just two weeks ago, Nasrallah threatened to strike multiple targets in Israel, including Tel Aviv.
“We are capable of not only hitting specific targets in Tel Aviv but also any place in occupied Palestine,” he said. “The era has come when we survive while they will be doomed to extinction. For every building that is destroyed in the southern suburbs, several buildings will be destroyed in Tel Aviv in return.”
He said that “The era when our homes get destroyed and theirs remain [intact] is over.”
Recently uploaded satellite images to Google Earth reveal what appears to be a Hizbullah terror training ground constructed after the 2006 Lebanon War.
According to military analysts, the facility near Janta in the Bekaa Vaalley includes a suspected driver training course, a 100-meter firing range, and a possible urban terrain assault course.
The Google Earth images also reveal considerable overt construction activity in sealed-off Hizbullah security pockets in southern Lebanon, particularly in the hills south of Jezzine.
Reports in the Lebanese media a few weeks ago said Israeli war planes staged mocked raids over Lebanon, following concerns Hizbullah might attack Israel if asked by Iran. Israel has not commented.
Created on Sunday, 27 May 2012 19:29
The U.S. designated on Thursday the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), a Lebanese-based terror group, as a global terrorist organization, according to a report on Bloomberg.
AAB carried out a July 2010 attack on the Japanese-owned oil tanker M/V M.Star in the Strait of Hormuz, according to a statement by the State Department.
The group claimed that the attack was carried out by its Arabian Peninsula Branch, according to the State Department.
“AAB has repeatedly articulated its intent to carry out attacks against Western interests in the Middle East,” the statement said, according to Bloomberg. “In 2010, for instance, the group expressed an interest in kidnapping U.S. and British tourists in the Arabian Peninsula.”
The statement added that AAB is responsible for numerous indiscriminate rocket attacks from Lebanon against population centers in northern Israel.
The group, which is allied with Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for firing four Katyusha rockets at Israel in November.
Several weeks later, the group also claimed responsibility for firing a Katyusha rocket which failed to reach Israel and instead injured a Lebanese woman.
The State Department took similar action on December 15 against a leader of the group, Saleh al-Qarawi, a Saudi citizen, Bloomberg reported.
Designating the group a global terrorist organization imposes financial sanctions and prohibits knowingly providing it with material support.
Created on Thursday, 24 May 2012 18:01
An Israeli military expert says the likelihood is growing that Israel will need to launch more multi-front operations.
Israel Air Force Headquarters Chief Brigadier General Hagai Topolansky told a national security conference Tuesday the Jewish State is likely to extend its operations beyond its borders as well.
"In the 80s and 90s we operated to deal with situations in places as far away as Iraq,” Topolansky told the audience at the Fisher Institute in Herzliya.
"In the past decade, we went as far away as Iran,” he added. “I hope [our operations] won't have to be extended any farther [than that].”
Earlier this month, the IDF issued call up orders for six battalions to guard the Egyptian and Syrian borders, with authorization for more if needed.
The orders were approved by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee as part of a request to call up as many as 22 battalions. A military spokesperson said the call up came following intelligence assessments calling for increased deployment of more troops.
Israeli defense personnel are also closely watching Lebanon as loyalists to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clash with anti-government factions in Lebanese territory.
The growing Syrian civil war has begun to carry over into neighboring Lebanon.
Pro- and anti-Syrian factions within the Lebanese population have been clashing in the streets of Tripoli.
Violence also began this week to spill over into the capital of Beirut for the first time as well, giving rise to speculation the guns might eventually be pointed at Israel. Thousands of refugees and Syrian Army deserters have poured into Lebanon, which is dominated by the Hizbullah terrorist organization and other pro-Syrian factions.
If Assad falls, as Israeli officials believe he will, the IDF may face Al Qaeda-linked fighters at the border near the Golan Heights. If the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations launch an attack on southern Israel, a second front will open -- as happened during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Were the Palestinian Authority's ruling Fatah faction in Ramallah to launch a simultaneous attack in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, a third front would be added, and with that, a multi-front war against Israel could easily be sparked, possibly even with additional Arab nations joining in.
Created on Tuesday, 22 May 2012 19:39
Protesters blocked roads in Lebanon’s northern Akkar region for a third day on Tuesday, a security official said, amid mounting tension over the conflict in neighboring Syria.
“Some of the roads have been blocked in Halba and Sheikh Ayash,” the official, who requested anonymity, told AFP.
The road closures were linked to the weekend killing of two clerics at an army checkpoint in Akkar, a mainly Sunni region whose inhabitants are hostile to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Two rockets were fired in the Lebanese city of Tripoli late Monday, one landing in the predominantly Alawite neighborhood of Hai al-Amrikan and the other between Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tebbaneh, which is mainly Sunni, Al Arabiya reported citing a security official. There were no reports of casualties.
Tension in the north and the clashes in the capital Beirut were reflected on several others Lebanese regions, where the same scenario of blocking roads with burning tires was repeated. Meanwhile, political and security efforts were underway to halt the escalating tensions witnessed by the country within the past few days.
Street battles between pro- and anti-Syrian groups in Beirut killed two people on Monday, sparking concerns of a wider conflict in Lebanon.
The violence erupted hours after reports emerged that troops had shot dead Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid, a prominent anti-Syrian regime Sunni cleric, when his convoy failed to stop at a checkpoint in north Lebanon on Sunday. Another cleric in the car was also killed.
Protesters blocked roads and burned tires in the northern region of Akkar following the killing of the clerics, and by evening the unrest had spread to the capital.
“During the night, groups of young men cut off the road in the Tareek al-Jdideh district and street battles followed,” the security official said, requesting anonymity.
“Two people were killed and 18 were wounded,” he said, adding machineguns had been fired and that the fighting had raged until about 3:00 am (2400 GMT).
An office housing a small pro-Syrian party in Tareek al-Jdideh, a mainly Sunni Muslim neighborhood of west Beirut, was torched by partisans of ex-premier Saad Hariri’s Future Movement and the facade of the building was riddled with bullets.
Several motorcycles and cars parked on the street below were burned.
Calm had been restored by daylight following appeals from Prime Minister Najib Mikati and other politicians.
Washington earlier Monday expressed concern over the killings and urged restraint, AFP reported.
“We welcome the commitment of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Armed Forces to conduct a swift and transparent investigation of the shooting incident,” U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said.
“And we call on all parties to exercise restraint and respect for Lebanon’s security and stability,” he said.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon also called “on all parties to make every effort to restore calm.”
The U.N. head said Derek Plumbly, Special Coordinator for Lebanon, was “engaged on the ground, encouraging all concerned to work for sustained calm and stability in the country.”
He also stressed the “need for Lebanon’s continuing stability,” and encouraged “all Lebanese parties to strengthen their efforts to date to overcome any emerging challenges on the ground.”
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was “deeply concerned at the outbreaks of violence in Tripoli and Beirut.”
“These events must be duly investigated and followed by Lebanon’s law enforcement authorities,” she said.
Tension was palpable in Beirut, where residents fear a repeat of sectarian clashes like those that left some 100 people dead in 2008 and brought the country close to civil war.
“I’ve had enough... of war,” said Amal Khattab, a 40-year-old teacher and mother of two who lives in Tareek el-Jdideh.
“My children were terrified last night,” she added, crying. “I can’t spend another minute in this country.”
Wahid’s funeral was held on Monday in his hometown of al-Bireh, in the northern Akkar region, where many businesses and shops were closed after Sunni religious leaders called for three days of mourning.
“We want a fair trial, and we want the killers of Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Wahid to be executed,” Future Movement MP Khaled al-Daher said at the funeral.
A judicial official said military police were questioning 21 soldiers, including three officers, in relation to the death of the two clerics.
Their killing followed a week of intermittent clashes between Sunnis hostile to the Syrian regime and Alawites who support it which left 10 people dead in the northern port city of Tripoli.
The violence has highlighted a deep split between Lebanon’s political parties, where the opposition backs those leading the uprising against Assad while a ruling coalition led by Shiite militant group Hezbollah supports the Damascus regime.
The Sunni-led opposition has accused Assad of seeking to sow chaos in Lebanon in order to relieve the pressure on his embattled regime.
Reflecting mounting fears of an escalation, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates urged their citizens to avoid travel to Lebanon.
Since the outbreak of the revolt in Syria in March of last year, thousands of Syrians fleeing the unrest in their country as well as activists have sought refuge in northern Lebanon.
Syria flooded Lebanon with troops early in its 1975-1991 civil war and dominated its smaller neighbor for over a decade afterwards. It retains significant influence over Lebanon’s intelligence apparatus and military, according to Reuters.
Syria long held sway in Lebanese politics until it was forced to withdraw its troops in 2005 following the assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
It has denied accusations it was involved in his killing.
Created on Saturday, 19 May 2012 19:03
Damascus has sent a letter to the United Nations accusing some Lebanese areas of helping al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood to take root along the Syrian border, adding to its criticism of Turkey and Libya for allegedly providing arms to Syrian rebels.
“Some Lebanese areas next to the Syrian border are incubating terrorist elements from al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, who are messing with the security of Syrian citizens and work on undermining the United Nations Special Envoy’s plan,” Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari wrote.
The letter, which was sent to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council, was delivered on Thursday and obtained by Reuters on Friday.
“In some areas (of Lebanon) ... warehouses have been set up for weapons and ammunition that is arriving to Lebanon illegally, either by sea, or sometimes through using the planes of specific countries to transport weapons to Lebanon and then smuggle them to Syria, under the excuse that they (aircraft) are carrying humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees,” Ja’afari said.
He specifically said charities run by Lebanese Salafists and the Future Movement, led by the son of assassinated statesman Rafiq al-Hariri, were being used to provide safe haven to terrorists in Lebanon.
Lebanon has had a complicated relationship with Syria, which continues to exercise some influence over its neighbor despite the 2005 departure of thousands of Syrian troops and intelligence operatives from Lebanese soil.
Last week Ja’afari accused Turkey and Libya arming Syria’s opposition, which forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have tried unsuccessfully for 14 months to crush, killing over 10,000 people in the process, according to the United Nations.
“The case of the ship Lutfullah 2, which was intercepted by the Lebanese Army, proves that Libya and Turkey are cooperating with other States to send murderous weapons to terrorist groups, in order to wreak more carnage and destruction,” he said in a letter to Ban and the Security Council last week.
Lebanese authorities said that they seized a large consignment of Libyan weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy caliber ammunition, from the ship, which it intercepted in the Mediterranean.
Turkey reacted this week with a vehement denial. “Turkey strongly rejects the unfounded allegations,” Turkish Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said in a response to Ban and the council.
No ‘hard evidence’ of al-Qaeda link
In comments that appeared to bolster Syria’s complaints about foreign militants, Secretary-General Ban told a youth event at U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday he believed al-Qaeda was responsible for two suicide car bombs that killed at least 55 people in Syria last week.
“Very alarmingly and surprisingly, a few days ago, there was a huge serious massive terrorist attack. I believe that there must be al-Qaeda behind it,” Ban said.
But on Friday Ban’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said there was no hard evidence to suggest al-Qaeda carried out the attack.
“You’ll notice that he (Ban) used the words ‘I believe.’ Do we have hard conclusive evidence at this point? No we don’t,” Nesirky told reporters. “There’s a genuine concern shared by the secretary-general that terrorist groups are already taking advantage of the continued violence and insecurity in Syria.”
“The Damascus attacks were clearly carried out by a group with organization and intent. Some of the attacks we’ve seen clearly bear some terrorist hallmarks with which we’re familiar from elsewhere,” he said.
Assad, as well as the United States and Russia, has already pointed to an al-Qaeda presence in the country since the revolt against his regime began.
Syria earlier this month sent the United Nations the names of 26 foreign nationals it said had been apprehended after coming to fight in Syria. It described 20 of those as members of al-Qaeda who had entered the country from Turkey.
On the ground, the Syrian Human Rights Observatory said at least 11 people died in violence across the country on Friday.
Besides Aleppo, protests demanding the ouster of Assad also took place in Damascus, the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, northeastern Hasaka, Homs in central Syria, and northwestern Idlib, said the Britain-based Observatory.
The Observatory said tens of thousands of people rallied across the country, in the biggest demonstrations since an April 12 ceasefire which has been violated on a daily basis.
“We want freedom, whether you like it or not, Bashar, enemy of humanity,” protesters chanted in Deir Ezzor.
The rallies came after a call by activists for Syria-wide protests under the rallying cry, “heroes of Aleppo University”, in solidarity with students in the northern city who demonstrated there the day before despite brutal repression.
On Thursday, the students were met with brutal repression by security forces, despite the presence of U.N. military observers, who now number more than 250 across the country out of the total of 300.
One protester was killed in a separate demonstration Thursday night in the Aleppo neighborhood of Salaheddin, according to the Observatory, while an officer was killed in a bomb explosion in the city on Friday.
Created on Friday, 18 May 2012 20:41
Shelling between two pro and anti-Syrian neighborhoods in the north Lebanon port city of Tripoli on Friday left three people wounded, sources told AFP.
A security official told AFP that at least four shells and grenades fell on the two districts, one with a majority Sunni Muslim population supporting the revolt in neighboring Syria, and another populated by Alawites loyal to the Syrian regime.
Clashes in the area over the past week have left ten people dead and sparked fears that the revolt sweeping Syria since March of last year could engulf Lebanon.
Tension between the Sunni and Alawite communities in Tripoli has been fueled by the uprising in Syria and the arrival in the area of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their country.
Clashes broke out last weekend, after the arrest of a Sunni Islamist on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. His supporters say he was targeted for helping Syrian refugees fleeing the unrest in their country.
On Wednesday night, a civilian was caught in the crossfire in the city and died of his wounds.
Israeli defense personnel said this week they are watching closely as Syrian gunmen begin to carry their battle into Lebanese territory.
Earlier this month, the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee issued an authorization for a call up for as many as 22 IDF battalions to guard the northern and southern fronts after hearing testimony from security officials. Almost immediately, six battalions were activated.
Created on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 21:16
Israeli war planes staged mocked raids over Lebanon following concerns Hizbullah might attack Israel if asked by Iran, according to Lebanon’s Beirut Daily Star. Israel has not commented.
The planes reportedly crossed the border late Wednesday morning, diving low several times. The Beirut newspaper said the planes flew over four cities, including Sidon and Tyre.
An additional cause for concern over a confrontation with Lebanon has been the spillover into the country of the revolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Thousands of refugees and deserters from the Syrian army have fled into Lebanon, which is dominated by an alliance of pro-Syrian parties and Hizbullah.
If Assad falls, as Israeli leaders predict, Israel could be facing Al Qaeda-linked groups stirring up trouble near the border at the Golan Heights.