April 14/2019

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Jesus' Triumphal Entry To Jerusalem/Palm Sunday
John 12/12-19/The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’The King of Israel!”Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him. Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 13-14/19
Palm Sunday: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh
Lebanon Marks Civil War Anniversary, Families of Missing See Hope
Kataeb Party Commemorates 'Martyrs Day' on 44th Lebanese Resistance Anniversary
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel: Kataeb's Role Is to Break Collective Surrender to Non-State Arms
Kataeb's Deputy-President Joseph Abu Khalil : History Has Been Falsified to Tarnish Kataeb's Image
Kataeb's Secretary-General Nazar Najarian Says Kataeb Party Has Never Striven for Power
Hankache: State Building Requires Courage, Not Settlements
Aoun to Congressional Delegation: Lebanon Has Right to Recover Shebaa Farms
Tripoli Braces for Sunday By-Elections
Hassan: Military, Security Services Guard Lebanon from War
Lebanese Delegation Pursues U.S. Meetings with World Bank, IMF
US congress delegation visits Marjayoun
Bassil visits 'Our Lady of Mantara' Basilica in Sidon
Truck containing around $12 Million narcotic pills detained by security forces

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 13-14/19
Israeli Mock Air Raids in Sidon, Missiles at Syria 'from Lebanon' Airspace
Israel Raid Wounds Three in Central Syria
Sudan Intelligence Chief Resigns
US, Russia Renew Understanding to Avoid Clashes in Air over Syria
Price of Russian Mediation Questioned Following Eased Tel Aviv-Damascus Tension
Kurdish Official Says Russia Behind Stalled Negotiations With Damascus
'Autonomous Administration' Helps 31,000 Displaced Iraqis to Return Home
Tunisia Freezes Bank Accounts of 102 Terror Suspects
Tunisia: Chahed to Run for Upcoming Presidential Elections
Allawi Calls for Urgent National Dialogue to ‘Salvage Iraq’
Heavy Airstrikes on Edge of Libyan Capital
Israel’s Never-Ending Search for Oil in Occupied Golan Heights
Egypt: 2 Terrorists Killed as Security Forces Foil Attack on Sinai Checkpoint

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/19
Palm Sunday: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh/Elias Bejjani/April 14/2019
Lebanon Marks Civil War Anniversary, Families of Missing See Hope/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/19
Kataeb Party Commemorates 'Martyrs Day' on 44th Lebanese Resistance Anniversary/ April 13/19
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel: Kataeb's Role Is to Break Collective Surrender to Non-State Arms/ April 13/19
Kataeb's Deputy-President Joseph Abu Khalil : History Has Been Falsified to Tarnish Kataeb's Image/ April 13/19
Kataeb's Secretary-General Nazar Najarian Says Kataeb Party Has Never Striven for Power/ April 13/19
Trump warns Putin of US umbrella over Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria/DEBKAfile/April 13/19
What Arab World is Desired by the International Players/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19
Iran: The Ventriloquist Dummy’s New Lexicon/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19
EU's Collusion with Iran/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/April 13/19

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 13-14/19
Palm Sunday: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh
Elias Bejjani/April 14/2019
(Psalm118/26): “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh! We have blessed You out of the house of Yahweh”.
On the seventh Lantern Sunday, known as the “Palm Sunday”, our Maronite Catholic Church celebrates the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.
The joyful and faithful people of this Holy City and their children welcomed Jesus with innocent spontaneity and declared Him a King.
Through His glorious and modest entry the essence of His Godly royalty that we share with Him in baptism and anointing of Chrism was revealed.
Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, the “Palm Sunday”, marks the Seventh Lantern Sunday, the last one before Easter Day, (The Resurrection).
During the past six Lantern weeks, we the believers are ought to have renewed and rekindled our faith and reverence through genuine fasting, contemplation, penance, prayers, repentance and acts of charity.
By now we are expected to have fully understood the core of love, freedom, and justice that enables us to enter into a renewed world of worship that encompasses the family, the congregation, the community and the nation.
Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time to participate in the Jewish Passover Holiday. He was fully aware that the day of His suffering and death was approaching and unlike all times, He did not stop the people from declaring Him a king and accepted to enter the city while they were happily chanting : “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”.(John 12/13).
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19/39-40).
Jesus entered Jerusalem to willingly sacrifice Himself, die on the cross, redeem us and absolve our original sin.
On the Palm Sunday we take our children and grandchildren to celebrate the mass and the special procession while happily they are carrying candles decorated with lilies and roses. Men and women hold palm fronds with olive branches, and actively participate in the Palm Procession with modesty, love and joy crying out loudly: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21/09).
On the Palm Sunday through the procession, prayers, and mass we renew our confidence and trust in Jesus. We beg Him for peace and commit ourselves to always tame all kinds of evil hostilities, forgive others and act as peace and love advocates and defend man’s dignity and his basic human rights.
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus’ story into Jerusalem appears in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19).
The four accounts shows clearly that the Triumphal Entry was a significant event, not only to the people of Jesus’ day, but to Christians throughout history.
His entry was so humble, meek simple and spontaneous. He did not ride in a chariot pulled by horses as earthly kings and conquerors do.
He did not have armed guards, nor officials escorting him.
He did not come to Jerusalem to fight, rule, judge or settle scores with any one, but to offer Himself a sacrifice for our salvation.
He is the One who accepted poverty for our own benefit and came to live in poverty with the poor and escort them to heaven, the Kingdom of His Father.
The crowd welcomed Jesus for different reasons and numerous expectations. There were those who came to listen to His message and believed in Him, while others sought a miraculous cure for their ailments and they got what they came for, but many others envisaged in Him a mortal King that could liberate their country, Israel, and free them from the yoke of the Roman occupation. Those were disappointed when Jesus told them: “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom” (John 18/36)
Christ came to Jerusalem to die on its soil and fulfill the scriptures. It was His choice where to die in Jerusalem as He has said previously: “should not be a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13/33): “Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem”.
O, Lord Jesus, strengthen our faith to feel closer to You and to Your mercy when in trouble.
O, Lord Jesus, empower us with the grace of patience and meekness to endure persecution, humiliation and rejection and always be Your followers.
O, Lord Let Your eternal peace and gracious love prevail all over the world.
A joyous Palm Sunday to all

Lebanon Marks Civil War Anniversary, Families of Missing See Hope

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 13/19
As Lebanon marks 44 years since the start of its civil war on Saturday, families whose loved ones disappeared during the conflict hope they might finally get some answers. The small multi-confessional country passed a landmark law in November to determine the fate of thousands of Lebanese who went missing in the 1975-1990 war. But political parties once involved in the fighting must now encourage followers with key data such as the location of mass graves to come forward to help. Wadad Halwani, who heads the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing, says the new legislation has given grieving relatives a glimmer of hope. "It's the first time we commemorate the war with a law to enshrine the right to know... the fate of all the missing, dead or alive," she said. More than 150,000 people were killed during Lebanon's civil war and some 17,000 people went missing, according to official figures. Halwani's husband was among them, abducted, never to return. For more than a decade, she and a dozen other women have regularly protested in the garden outside the UN headquarters in Beirut, clutching faded photographs of their long-gone loved ones. The new law is "crucial to allow relatives of the missing to move on with their lives like everyone else, instead of wasting them waiting", she said.
'Humanitarian' mission
Law 105 gives families the right to know the place of abduction or detention of their loved one, as well as the whereabouts of their remains and the right to retrieve them. To do this, the cabinet must set up an official commission of inquiry to gather testimonies and investigate mass graves. But five months on, nothing has been done. Former lawmaker Ghassan Moukheiber, who co-drafted the law, said political will was key to moving forward. The "decision to pass this law now needs to be translated into appointing a commission and facilitating its work", he said. The probing body is to include, among others, family representatives, lawyers, an academic and a forensic doctor. Once formed, its first task should be to draw up a unified list of all those missing, Moukheiber said. They will have to "track down... those still alive and work towards their return, as well as retrieving the remains of those killed or dead", he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it is willing to hand over all information and DNA samples it has collected into a database on the missing since 2012. But what Moukheiber describes as the commission's "purely humanitarian" mission is also a highly sensitive one. After Lebanon's war ended, parliament in 1991 passed a general amnesty law that saw former warlords breathe a sigh of relief and move on to politics. Almost three decades later, their parties are still going strong, and persisting differences have repeatedly sparked government deadlocks.
"A number of parties that were once militias and have... a past of war crimes have started to at least tentatively fear this commission's future work," Moukheiber said.
Just 'ink on paper'?
With numerous groups implicated, choosing where to start will also be delicate.
"In what mass grave should the inquiry begin?" asked the former lawmaker.
"There are burial grounds all over Lebanon, in every area once under control of" an armed group, he said. "Choosing where and how to exhume these graves will require wisdom and courage."All previous calls to investigate the fate of Lebanon's missing have come up against uncooperative political parties and inactive governments. Researcher Lokman Slim, who has spent years gathering data on the missing, says there was little chance the commission would produce tangible results. "That a political authority with blood-drenched hands actually voted on this law just means that it doesn't fear its consequences," said the head of the Umam Documentation and Research centre. "It knows very well that, as with so many issues in Lebanon, the law will simply remain ink on paper." "In parliament, in government, in the circles of Lebanese leaders, there are dozens... who have the detailed information we need about the fate of the missing or locations of mass graves," Slim said. But he says he doubts the law's ability to spark collective introspection into "what led them into a bloody war" in the first place. Relatives of the missing, however, are determined. "Successive governments have accused us of pouring salt into old wounds," said Halwani. But "the whole of society needs to know the truth because it's the only way forward towards real reconciliation", she added.

Kataeb Party Commemorates 'Martyrs Day' on 44th Lebanese Resistance Anniversary April 13/19
The Lebanese Kataeb party on Saturday commemorated the "Martyrs Day" and inaugurated the Independence Museum to mark the 44th anniversary of the beginning of the Lebanese resistance which was formed to defend the country against the malicious scheme to alter Lebanon's identity during the 15-year Civil War which broke out in 1975. Kataeb officials, partisans and supporters, as well as scores of political, social and religious figureheads gathered at Platea to pay tribute to the 6000 martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country's sake.
Speaking at the event, Independence Museum manager, Joy Homsy, hoped that the exhibition venue would lay the foundations for a real inter-Lebanese reconciliation and dialogue, adding that it serves as a call for local factions to launch discussions on a unified history book that would recognize everyone's sacrifices and include the different viewpoints in the country.
“Amid the absence of a unified history book in Lebanon, the Independence Museum is aimed at filling the gap marring the process of establishing a united people,” he stated. Homsy explained that the inaugurated museum has been expanded because it wasn't easy to restrict the history of the Kataeb party to a 1,000-square-meter surface. “It took us six years to work on an exhibition venue that displays the history of a 6000-year-old entity which 6000 Kataeb martyrs had died for,” Homsy noted. “More than 10,000 photographs, 20,000 documents and hundreds of hours of video footage are at display. What is displayed at the museum is only a small part of what we managed to obtain." “We salute the 6000 martyrs, the injured and those who are still detained in Syrian prisons for boosting our faith, determination and resilience. Hadn't it been for them, we wouldn't have been still here today,” he affirmed.
The son of missing Kataeb official, Boutros Khawand, expressed distress over the unknown fate of thousands of people who went missing during the civil war, calling on state officials to end this ordeal.“It's impossible for us to forget those who died so that we could live. Many are still abducted so that we could stay in our homeland,” Khawand said in a speech at the event. “We are still waiting for thousands of people who are detained in Syrian prisons to be returned,” he stated. “A hero who was abducted in front of his house is still waiting to be freed. He refused to yield to threats and chose to stay in his country; he chose to lose his personal freedom so that the nation's freedom would prevail."
“26 years after his abduction, struggle is still the only choice that we want."“Despite the hard times we have been going through, we refuse to surrender, yield or remain silent about our right,” he assured. “The Syrian regime is still refusing to claim responsibility for this file, but we believe that the truth will eventually be uncovered." Khawand blasted Lebanese officials and people who are still convinced of the Syrian regime's lie that there are no Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons. “How could they keep mum about their compatriots' ordeal?”“How can we believe in a free and sovereign country while thousands of Lebanese are still detained in Syrian jails?”
“How can we carry on with our lives while the people who brought us to life are suffering in the world's most horrific prisons where all human rights are violated?” “Free our kin before helping them freeing their lands; bring us back our fathers, brothers and sons,” Khawand demanded. “It is true that the war has ended, but those detainees are still part of an ongoing battle,” he noted. “For us to believe in a free and sovereign Lebanon, the State ought to defend this case. Do not let us down! We haven't given up, so you don't drop our case into oblivion,” he concluded.
For his part, Kataeb veteran member, Salim Reaidy, hailed the party's steadfastness and unwavering resilience 83 years after its foundation, defending the great role that the Kataeb has played throughout Lebanon's history. “Throughout its struggle, the Kataeb party has always had Lebanon's existence at the heart of its national concerns. It has always been the party of all social classes away from casteism. It has always served as a platform for the encounter of generations,” he said during the event.
“Righteousness is wherever the Kataeb party is,” Reaidy affirmed.
“Hadn't it been for the Kataeb, the 1958 Revolution would have turned into a win-loss situation,” he emphasized. “Hadn't it been for the Kataeb, the 1975 war would have yielded an alternative nation for the Palestinians,” he added. “The Kataeb party is the one that changed the local, regional and international equations,” Reaidy stressed. For his part, Kataeb leader's top adviser, Fouad Abu Nader, outlined that Lebanon's birth in 1920 resulted from the continuous resistance of the ancestors, saying that the gates of hell opened after some had feared their resolute aspiration to freedom.
“The 1975 scheme consisted in eliminating the Kataeb Party in order to control all of Lebanon, but everyone forgot that we admire freedom to the point of martyrdom,” he said. “Hadn't the Kataeb party stood firm in 1975, Lebanon's history would have taken a completely different course,” he added, calling on the youth to carry on the struggle initiated by their ancestors.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel: Kataeb's Role Is to Break Collective Surrender to Non-State Arms April 13/19
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Saturday hailed the party's martyrs who gave their lives in defense of the country, saying that their martyrdom is what gives the motive to keep on struggling for the nation. “The Kataeb Party is unique for its history spans over 83 years of Lebanon's history,” Gemayel said in his speech at the "Martyrs Day" event. “The goal behind marking the 'Martyrs Day' is to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives and prevent the falsification of historic facts,” Gemayel highlighted. “We will no longer allow anyone to falsify historic facts,” he affirmed. “History witnesses to the major role that the Kataeb party has played in the history of this country throughout several phases."The Kataeb leader emphasized that history will bear witness that the first drop of blood to demand Lebanon's independence was shed by a Kataeb member on October 22, 1937, and that the person who sewed the first Lebanese flag, as we know it today, and the first person to sign it were Kataeb members. Gemayel went on to say that the first martyrs who died during Lebanon's 1958 Revolution were 54 Kataeb members, and that the first martyr who died in the Lebanese civil war, on April 13, 1975, was the Kataeb-affiliated Joseph Abu Assi.
He added that history will recognize that it was the Kataeb politburo that decided toopt for resistance, and that President Bachir Gemayel died as a Kataeb member at the Kataeb's office in Achrafieh. Gemayel also outlined the role that the Kataeb party played in confronting the Syrian occupation, adding that the Kataeb students were the first ones who set up a tent in the Martyrs' Square as part of the Cedars Revolution in 2005. The Kataeb leader said that some keep bringing up the past struggle in order to justify present day settlements, affirming that Lebanon’s modern history will always bear witness of the Kataeb's refusal to engage in any settlements or to change its stances.
"Our history shows that this is not the first time that the Kataeb party gets isolated in Lebanon's political life. But, history also indicates that, every single time, everyone admitted eventually the correctness of the Kataeb’s struggle." “I tell those carrying empty slogans in order to justify submission and complicity that their behavior is similar to the one that led Lebanon to civil war back in 1975," Gemayel warned, adding that postponing problem solving and burying one's head in the sand resulted in the destruction of Lebanon. Gemayel cautioned against repeating the same mistakes of the past by undermining the state’s sovereignty and usurping power through intimidation, warning of attempts to alter Lebanon's identity by implicating the country into foreign axes, normalizing non-state arms, dragging Lebanon into international sanction lists, and enforcing a police state by suppressing the freedom of speech.
“Tempting adversaries with shares and presidential promises proved to be effective."Gemayel stressed that the Kataeb's role today is to break the collective surrender to illegal arms, to be the backbone of a free opposition force that confronts all schemes to control Lebanon and to present an alternative to the flawed political performance that has been prevailing in the country over the past decades.“Our project is simple. It is our right to live in a democratic, neutral, civilized, peaceful and sovereign country where people live in dignity and to be ruled by good competent and honorable people."
“Our founder taught us that the Kataeb does not compromise, does not bluff and does not surrender or fear. The Kataeb is a party that always speaks the truth, faces and rejects the status quo," he affirmed.

Kataeb's Deputy-President Joseph Abu Khalil : History Has Been Falsified to Tarnish Kataeb's Image April 13/19
Kataeb's Deputy-President Joseph Abu Khalil on Saturday said that history facts have been falsified to tarnish the party’s image, refuting allegations blaming the Kataeb for the 15-year civil war that broke out in 1975.
In an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station, Abu Khalil stressed that the war was inevitable given that the Lebanese State had totally collapsed back then, saying that it is wrong to blame what happened 44 years ago on April 13 for the whole war.
“Hadn’t the Ain Al-Remmaneh bus incident taken place, the war would have erupted anyway at a different time and a different place. The state had already fallen in the face of the Palestinian factions in 1969," he explained. “It is unfortunate to hold the Kataeb party responsible for the civil war. The falsification of facts is unacceptable; we must learn from them instead." “We are not a party that seeks power. [...]. However, all of the Kataeb party’s accomplishments since 1936 are worth a hundred governments," the veteran official affirmed. "We have never relied on the number of lawmakers or ministers that we get, but rather on the great deeds we make,” Abu Khalil concluded.

Kataeb's Secretary-General Nazar Najarian Says Kataeb Party Has Never Striven for Power April 13/19
Kataeb's Secretary-General Nazar Najarian on Saturday stressed that the party has held onto its constants and values whereas the other political forces have altered their positions, saying that they opted for political pragmatism in order to be part of the ruling authority. "The Kataeb party has never played the game of power and it paid the price for that in the recent elections," Najarian said in an interview on LBCI channel. "We believe that the road of righteousness is a long one."
Najarian affirmed that the Kataeb party will continue to speak up out loud against wrongdoings, adding that it has decided to stick to its roots by standing against anything that harms the country as it has always done.
Asked about Hezbollah, Najarian noted that national partnership cannot be based on supremacy and the hegemony of one faction over the others, stressing the need for a deep-rooted national balance that would see all the Lebanese equal.
"Lebanon will keep stumbling if neutrality towards regional conflicts is not forged," he warned. On the 44th anniversary of the start of Lebanon's civil war, Najarian saluted the martyrs who gave their lives for the nation, adding that those resistant heroes stood up against the malicious scheme to turn Lebanon into a country of settlement and to alter its identity. "Although we succeeded in foiling that plot, we have failed to lead the Lebanese to the safety shore and to build a State of law that is able to protect its citizens," Najarian deplored. the US Congress delegation currently visiting Lebanon, headed by MP Adam Kinsinger, in the presence of former Minister Ghattas El-Khoury. The encounter was a chance to discuss the general prevailing situation in Lebanon and the region, and bilateral relations.

Hankache: State Building Requires Courage, Not Settlements April 13/19MP Elias Hankache on Saturday stressed that the Kataeb party has opted for a political direction that requires a lot of courage, adding that it is entrusted with safeguarding and carrying on the struggle that the martyrs and those who dedicated their lives for the Kataeb's cause. "The Kataeb party was established to always walk in the right direction. Sometimes, it is followed by others; at other times, it is left to walk alone for the sake of personal interests," Hankache told the Voice of Lebanon radio station. "As for us, we will remain committed to walking down the road of righteousness. We do not engage in settlements or take part in governments that don't reflect our convictions. We will keep on striving and making sacrifices until a strong Lebanese State is built.""Establishing a real State does not require settlements and compromises, but rather bold steps," he stated.

Aoun to Congressional Delegation: Lebanon Has Right to Recover Shebaa Farms
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 13 April, 2019/Lebanese President Michel Aoun told a delegation from the US Congress on Friday that his country would object any attempts to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba hills, which are considered part of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. During his meeting with Peter Yeo, senior vice president at the United Nations Foundation, and members of the US Congress visiting Beirut, Aoun said: "Lebanon has the right to restore its occupied territories using all possible means.” The recent move of US President Donald Trump to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights has caused concern among Lebanese officials that Washington’s decision would mean recognizing the occupied Shebaa Farms as Israeli territory. Lebanon says the zone is Lebanese territory while Israel considers it part of the Golan. The United Nations has long held the area was inside Syrian territory occupied by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East war. But Beirut says Israel should have withdrawn from the zone when it pulled its forces out of south Lebanon in 2000. The Lebanese President renewed Beirut’s commitment to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701, and said cooperation between the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL, the peacekeeping missing in southern Lebanon, has achieved stability along the southern border for the past 13 years. Aoun and the delegation also tackled the Syrian refugee crisis. The President said it was important for the return of displaced Syrians to safe zones in their country, and briefed his visitors on the effects of the crisis on Lebanon. He rejected attempts to link their return with a political solution in Syria. Aoun also called on US companies to participate in Lebanon's second bidding round for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Tripoli Braces for Sunday By-Elections
Naharnet/April 13/19/The northern city of Tripoli prepares for its by-elections on Sunday with Prime Minister Saad Hariri touring the city encouraging people for a massive turnout. On Saturday, North Lebanon Governor Ramzi Nohra oversaw the distribution of ballot boxes to heads of the polling stations at the Rashid Karami International Fair under the supervision of the Internal Security Forces, said the National News Agency. “The election process will take place in 55 polling stations distributed in Tripoli, Qalamoun, Beddawi, al-Mina and Wadi al-Nahle,” said Nohra, noting that the distribution of ballot boxes “went smoothly without any mistakes” “The security situation is under control by Lebanon’s armed forces, the ISF and other security agencies to ensure a swift election process,” he added. Tripoli by-elections will be held to fill a Sunni MP seat that went vacant after the Constitutional Council annulled the parliamentary membership of al-Mustaqbal Movement MP Dima Jamali after an appeal submitted by rival Taha Naji. Head of Mustaqbal, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, toured Tripoli on Friday encouraging people for a massive turnout and in a show of support for Jamali.
Jamali is backed by Tripoli’s prominent Sunni figures including ex-PM Najib Miqati and ex-Ministers Mohammed Sadafi and Ashraf Rifi.

Hassan: Military, Security Services Guard Lebanon from War

Naharnet/April 13/19/As Lebanon marks the 44th anniversary of its civil war, Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan said “to push away the specter of war Lebanon has to keep on empowering the capabilities of its military and security services.”“We mark the war anniversary today but we must all remember how not to go back to it, Lebanon’s salvation can only be if we continue to strengthen our military and security services, it is the only guarantee to push away the specter of war,” she said on Twitter. The Lebanese Civil War was a multifaceted civil war in Lebanon, lasting from 1975 to 1990 and resulted in an estimated 120,000 fatalities. Thousands of people were displaced within Lebanon. There was also an exodus of almost one million people from Lebanon as a result of the war.

Lebanese Delegation Pursues U.S. Meetings with World Bank, IMF

Naharnet/April 13/19/Economy and Trade Minister Mansour Bteish pursues his visit to Washington leading a Lebanese delegation for meetings with World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials, media reports said on Saturday.
The Minister held a meeting with Adviser at the International Monetary Fund's Middle East and Central Asia Department, Christopher Jarvis and his collaborators. Discussions focused on the financial and monetary reforms the Lebanese government intends to take. The delegation also met with International Finance Corporation’s vice president for the Middle East and Africa, Sergio Pimenta, in the presence of the Regional Director for Industry and Services in the Middle East and Africa at the World Bank, Marie-Jean Moyo. They discussed the possibility of funding a number of projects for some sectors in Lebanon, and paid particular attention to energy and private production sectors, said the reports. Later, the Lebanese delegation met with Dean of the Board of Executive Directors and Executive Director of the World Bank Group, Merza Hasan, who stressed "the will for serious cooperation with Lebanon." He wished the formation of a cohesive government team to set priorities and follow projects with the World Bank based on an economic vision.

US congress delegation visits Marjayoun
Sat 13 Apr 2019 /NNA - A US Congress delegation comprised of 14 members visited Saturday the Lebanese-Palestinian border in the Southern district of Marjayoun. The delegation arrived at the UNIFIL site in Tel Nahhas via helicopter and then moved along the southern border facing Kfarkila-Odaisseh highway in a number of vehicles, accompanied by the UNIFIL and the Lebanese army. Finally, the delegation members stopped at the Mahafer Camp in the outskirts of the town of Odaisseh, where they were briefed on the construction works underway of the cement wall within the area held by Lebanon as an "occupied territory". The delegation then returned to UNFIL's Tel Nahhas base, following which they are expected to have an aerial inspection by helicopter of Shebaa Farms in the Casa of Hasbaya.

Bassil visits 'Our Lady of Mantara' Basilica in Sidon

Sat 13 Apr 2019/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Free Patriotic Movement Chief Gebran Bassil, toured Saturday a number of towns and villages in the region of Sidon, where he visited the Basilica of "Our Lady of Mantara" in the town of Maghdoushe, in the presence of MPs Michel Moussa and Selim Khoury, and a large crowd of citizens and the town's dignitaries. Bassil toured the various sections of the Basilica and then attended a Mass service at in the cave of the "Lady of Mantara", in the presence of political and partisan figures and townsmen. Bassil also listened to an explanation from the Basilica's Public Relations Official on the history of the cave and its importance in terms of religion, where "it was a destination for the prophets and messengers and a starting point for Christ's missionary path."After his stop in Maghdoushe, Bassil moved to the town of al-Bramieh, east of Sidon, where he will be concluding his tour with a public encounter.

Truck containing around $12 Million narcotic pills detained by security forces
Sat 13 Apr 2019/NNA - In an issued communiqué by the Internal Security Forces on Saturday, it indicated that a truck carrying at least $12 million worth of "Captagon" pills was intercepted today while attempting to smuggle the narcotics into an Arab state by land. The communiqué indicated that the Central Drug Control Office at the Judicial Police Unit received information from the Saudi Anti-Drug Liaison Office of the attempted drug smuggling operation, within the framework of the joint security cooperation between the two anti-narcotics agencies in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Following coordination between said Office and the Regional Drug Control Office in the Bekaa, investigations led to the location of the truck, which was placed under constant surveillance in preparation for arresting the truck driver. Investigations are currently underway into the incident, while efforts continue to arrest the entire gang members.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on April 13-14/19
Israeli Mock Air Raids in Sidon, Missiles at Syria 'from Lebanon' Airspace
Agence France Presse.Naharnet/April 13/19/Israeli warplanes conducted mock air raids over the southern city of Sidon after firing missiles overnight towards Syria from Lebanon’s airspace, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. NNA said Israel conducted the mock raids at dawn and its airplanes flew at a low altitude over the city scaring the residents. Moreover, residents of Wadi Khaled area near the border with Syria woke up to the sounds of missiles fired at the Syrian territory from Lebanon’s airspace, said NNA. Israel struck military positions in central Syria early Saturday wounding soldiers and destroying several buildings, Syria's state news agency SANA reported. SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying the airstrike near the town of Masyaf, in Hama province, hit a military academy widely known as the Accounting School. It said Israeli warplanes fired missiles toward Syria from Lebanon's airspace and that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the missiles.

Israel Raid Wounds Three in Central Syria
Agence France Presse.Naharnet/April 13/19/An Israeli air strike in central Syria wounded three combatants early Saturday, the official SANA news agency reported. A Britain-based war monitor said the strike killed several Iranian fighters and wounded 17 Syrian troops and their allies.An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the foreign media report. "Around 2:30 am (2330 GMT Friday)... the Israeli air force carried out a strike targeting one of our military positions in the town of Misyaf," in Hama province north of Damascus, SANA quoted a military source as saying. "Our air defence batteries intercepted some of the Israeli missiles," the source said, adding that the strike "wounded three combatants and destroyed buildings". The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike targeted a Syrian military college in the town and two buildings used by Iranian forces in nearby villages -- a development centre for medium-range missiles in Zawi and a training camp in Sheikh Ghadban. Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets. With the support of the US administration of President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly to take whatever military action he deems necessary to prevent archfoe Iran and its Lebanese ally Hizbullah establishing a continuing military presence. Late last month, Trump broke with decades of international consensus to recognise Israel's unilateral annexation of the strategic Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967. The move was a diplomatic prize for Israel, but met with a chorus of opposition from US foes and allies alike. Iran and Hezbollah have both intervened in Syria's civil war, which erupted in 2011 to support forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. They were joined in 2015 by Russia, which supplied its S300 air defence system to Assad's forces after a Russian aircraft was downed by mistake by Syrian defence systems during an Israeli raid on September 17, killing all 15 people on board. After several months of frosty relations, Russia and Israeli resumed coordination of their military operations in Syria and Israel's bombing campaign picked up again.

Sudan Intelligence Chief Resigns
Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19 /Sudan's security and intelligence chief, Salah Gosh, resigned on Saturday, state media reported. "The chief of the transitional military council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has accepted the resignation of... the chief of NISS," the council said. Protesters in Sudan said on Saturday they would keep up pressure for civilian rule after the defense minister stepped down abruptly as transitional leader following the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir.Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf stepped down as head of the transitional military council late on Friday after only a day in the post, as protesters demanded faster political change. Celebrations erupted on the streets of Khartoum, where thousands of jubilant protesters waved flags and illuminated mobile phones in the darkness and drivers hooted car horns. People chanted: "The second has fallen!" a reference to Ibn Auf and Bashir, witnesses said. The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which has been leading the protests, called for more demonstrations on Saturday. "Today, we continue the march to finish the victory for our victorious revolution," the SPA said in a statement. "We assert that our revolution is continuing and will not retreat or deviate from its path until we achieve ... our people's legitimate demands of handing over power to a civilian government," it said. The new head of the military council, Lieutenant General al-Burhan, is a commander believed to be more ready to talk to demonstrators. Burhan was the third most senior general in the Sudanese armed forces. "What happened is a step in the right direction and is a bow to the will of the masses, and we have come closer to victory," said Rashid Saeed, an SPA spokesman, adding the group planned more protests on Saturday. Bashir, 75, who seized power in 1989, had faced 16 weeks of demonstrations. Burhan was one of the generals who reached out to protesters at the week-long encampment near the military headquarters, meeting with them face to face, and listening to their views. A Sudanese police spokesman said in a statement on Saturday that at least 16 people were killed, and 20 injured by stray bullets at protests and sit-ins on Thursday and Friday. Government buildings and private property were also attacked, spokesman Hashem Ali added.

US, Russia Renew Understanding to Avoid Clashes in Air over Syria

London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19/London and Paris have still not received answers from Washington on a number of issues before determining their role in the international coalition in east Syria, mainly after the Russian and US armies renewed a deal on collision avoidance in the war-torn country. Since President Donald Trump modified his original decision to withdraw all US forces from Syria early this year, a series of unofficial bilateral meetings were held between US and European officials, and other meetings attended by American, Turkish, Russian and EU officials and Syrian representatives form the East Euphrates region to discuss the presence of coalition forces in Syria. “The Pentagon is keeping more than 400 soldiers east of the Euphrates and in the Tanf base,” Asharq Al-Awsat learned on Friday. Washington has been exerting pressure on its European and regional allies to stay engaged in east Syria. However, the US allies have still unanswered questions on the size of their military contribution to such force and the extent of Washington’s commitment to keep its troops in Syria. The allies want to prevent a surprise decision by the US president similar to his tweet late last year when he announced the full withdrawal of his troops from Syria. Sources said Washington has already answered some questions on the memorandum of understanding with Russia to avoid an inadvertent clash over Syria, and the US commitment to keep its forces east of the country in the “short term.” In 2015, Washington and Moscow signed a document, which called for US and Russian aircraft to maintain a safe distance and keep pilots safe. However, Turkey’s role east of the Euphrates River is seen as an obstacle. Turkey has repeatedly announced it has completed preparations for a military operation targeting US-supported Kurdish units in Manbij and east of the Euphrates. It also deployed large numbers of troops and reinforced military mechanisms along the border with Syria. However, it suspended the operation after Trump announced the US withdrawal from Syria and his proposal in December to establish a safe zone east of the Euphrates. This week, European countries and the US sent letters to Ankara warning Syria’s neighbor from the dangers of individually deploying in the area.

Price of Russian Mediation Questioned Following Eased Tel Aviv-Damascus Tension

Beirut - Mohammed Shukeir/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19 /The axis of “resistance” in Lebanon - led by Hezbollah – is avoiding a dispute with Russia over the mediation by President Vladimir Putin that led to the extradition of the remains of an Israeli soldier killed in battles between the Israeli and Syrian armies in the Bekaa town of Sultan Yaqoub, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. The extradition took place in Moscow three days before the date of the parliamentary elections in Israel. This is not the first time that Hezbollah refrains from engaging in a debate with Moscow. The party kept silence when Putin offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an Israeli tank given to him by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah, in one way or another, was not satisfied with this Syrian gift to Israel through Russian mediation. Instead of asking its Syrian ally about the secret behind the timing of this step, right before the parliamentary elections in Israel, the party turned to the inside. Hezbollah could have coordinated with its Syrian ally to include the handover of the remains of the Israeli soldier as part of a Moscow-sponsored deal that would guarantee the return of the remains of those killed in its open wars with Israel, including Arabs of several nationalities. Therefore, the Syrian regime did not offer the remains of the Israeli soldier “for free” to Moscow without a political price, especially as Russia was working with Washington to provide support for Netanyahu’s renewed chairmanship of the Israeli government. In this context, Lebanese political sources ask whether the consensus between Moscow and Washington in their support of Netanyahu was born by chance, and question the position of the “axis of the resistance” in this regard, amid claims that the renewal of Netanyahu’s term would allow Moscow to mediate between Tel Aviv and Damascus. This mediation, according to the sources say, could be seen as a first step to encourage the Syrian and Israeli sides to avoid tension at the military level, in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territories. Moreover, Moscow, which has managed to distance Iran’s military groups from southwestern Syria, is now trying to mediate between Damascus and Tel Aviv with the knowledge of the US administration.

Kurdish Official Says Russia Behind Stalled Negotiations With Damascus
Qamishli, London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 13 April, 2019/A Kurdish official said efforts made so far have failed to reach a political deal between Kurdish-led authorities and the Syrian government. The official, who spoke late Thursday, blamed President Bashar Assad's ally Russia for the stalled negotiations. The Kurdish-led authorities revived efforts to negotiate a deal with Damascus earlier this year in the wake of a US decision to withdraw its forces from their areas, hoping Moscow would mediate an agreement that would preserve their autonomy, Reuters reported. However, the situation has changed significantly since then, with Washington deciding to keep some troops in Syria and the Syrian government threatening Kurdish-led forces with military action if they do not submit to its rule. Badran Jia Kurd, a Syrian Kurdish official involved in the political track, said: "The Russians froze the initiative which Russia was supposed to carry out and it did not begin negotiations with Damascus." "Russia is still claiming that it is working on that initiative but to no avail," he told Reuters. The main Syrian Kurdish groups are not hostile to Assad and say their goal is to preserve autonomy within the state, however, Damascus opposes the level of autonomy which they seek. The Syrian defense minister last month said the state would take back the Kurdish led-region by force if its leaders did not submit to the return of state authority, according to Reuters. The presence of US forces has provided the Kurdish-led region with a de facto security umbrella that has shielded it from Assad and neighboring Turkey, which views the main Syrian Kurdish groups as a security threat.

'Autonomous Administration' Helps 31,000 Displaced Iraqis to Return Home
Qamishli, London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 13 April, 2019/Syrian Kurds have confirmed forging a deal with Baghdad to pave the way for the return of 31,000 displaced Iraqis, most of whom are women and children settled in camps in northeastern Syria. "A delegation from the Iraqi cabinet visited the autonomous administration to discuss the return to Iraq of displaced Iraqis and an agreement was reached," Kurdish official Mahmud Kero told AFP. "So far 4,000 people have signed up and we are waiting for the Iraqi government to open up the Iraqi border" to begin the returns, he noted.
Kero said many of the displaced, including children born on Syrian soil, did not have Iraqi identity papers. "We have asked the Iraqi government to find a solution," he said. Suspected ISIS militants who either surrendered or were caught while fleeing are not included in the deal. The returnees would be housed in a camp near northwestern Iraq's Sinjar region, to be completed within two months, the official said. Since there are signs that some of the returnees could be ISIS families the Iraqi authorities are preparing security checks to sift through the new arrivals, said Ali Abbas, an official at the ministry of displacement and migration. "We can't just let them melt back into society." He said they would follow "cultural and religious courses" to rehabilitate them after they were "brain-washed" by ISIS, AFP reported. Last month,the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces announced victory over ISIS.

Tunisia Freezes Bank Accounts of 102 Terror Suspects
Tunis - Mongi Saidani/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19 /Tunisia’s National Counter-Terrorism Commission issued Saturday the third batch of decisions on freezing funds and economic resources against 39 terror suspects. The orders include freezing funds, bank accounts and assets of Tunisian individuals, organizations and entities suspected of involvement in terror-related activities. In this context, the Commission’s President, Mokhtar Ben Nasr, confirmed that these measures were imposed against 102 individuals and one terrorist organization since November 2018. The decisions fall within the framework of the Commission’s ongoing work to address terrorism finance and to prosecute suspects, who are involved in terror-related activities or in contact with terrorist organizations. Its work comes in line with what had been stipulated in Tunisia’s Anti-Money Laundering (AML) / Counter-Terrorist Financing (CFT) law, ratified in 2015, as well as the government’s order to control the implementation of resolutions issued by relevant UN bodies on the prevention of terrorism financing and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, security forces in Kasserine Governorate announced arresting a 15-year-old man on charges of contacting terrorist elements and providing assistance to terrorist organizations hiding in mountains near Kasserine. Security sources affirmed seizing remnants of mobile phones and wires held by the accused, indicating contacts with terrorist organizations, adding that further security investigations are to be carried out. On the other hand, a trial court in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, gave jail terms that varied between six and 10 years to 15 suspects accused of providing medical and food aid and sheltering members of a terror cell accused of attacking and killing security and army servicemen. Security investigations showed that the 15 who assisted the terrorist cell did not embrace extremist ideology but sought to obtain money by providing logistical assistance to terrorists holed up in mountainous areas. Apparently, the 15 were paid between 200 and 400 Tunisian dinars ($ 66- $ 133) for aid per operation.

Tunisia: Chahed to Run for Upcoming Presidential Elections
Tunis - Mongi Saidanii/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19/Prime Minister Youssef Chahed might be Long Live Tounes Party’s candidate for the next presidential election, said its founding member Salim al-Azabi. He stressed that Chahed represents, in all cases, the political leader of this party, which was founded on January 27, 2018. In a media statement, Azabi said that President Beji Caid Essebsi was invited to be a guest of honor at the Party’s founding conference. He said Essebsi was also invited on April 6 to attend the opening session of Nidaa Tounes’s conference, the party that is headed by Hafez Caid Essebsi.
As for calling on Essebsi to lift the freeze on the Premier’s membership in Nida Tounes, Azabi explained that Chahed is now “the political leader of Long Live Tounes Party.”On the other hand, Secretary General of Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) Noureddine Taboubi exchanged accusations and verbal attacks with French Ambassador to Tunisia Olivier Poivre d'Arvor, who was accused of preparing for the re-colonization of Tunisia. D'Arvor, for his part, denied the charges and said in a media statement that these statements were not issued by him, describing them as “terrifying, absurd and totally irrational.”“These statements are unreasonable and illusory,” he said, expressing great respect for the UGTT and stressing that the relationship between Tunisia and France is “very close and built on the great respect”.

Allawi Calls for Urgent National Dialogue to ‘Salvage Iraq’
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19/Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi urged on Friday political parties to hold a national dialogue to "salvage Iraq" and face regional and international challenges. “The current challenges and circumstances surrounding Iraq and the region require urgent action” to bridge the gap among rival sides and “solve problems and assume the historic responsibility of building a unified Iraq,” Allawi said. The former PM chaired on Friday a meeting of the Iraqi Forum, which he has created with a group of independent Iraqi politicians. He called on naming a general secretariat for the political parties attending Friday’s meeting to follow-up on their decisions and later present them to the Prime Minister. Allawi heads the al-Wataniya (National) coalition with 21 deputies represented in the Iraqi Parliament. Commenting on Allawi’s call for swift action to save Iraq, National Coalition MP Kazem al-Shammari told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday that the country lacks a unified vision on a number of regional and international challenges. “This means more diversion in our positions, mainly on issues related to sanctions on Iran and the Revolutionary Guards, and the possible blacklisting of Iraqi factions and figures,” he said. Shammari called on dealing with the challenges as a nation and not through a partisan vision. Iraq also faces domestic problems. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has not been able to complete his cabinet, despite taking his oath six months ago. Also, Iraqi leaders have failed to deal with corruption and the threat of terrorism as new ISIS cells continue to emerge across the country. Iraqi intellectual Hassan Al-Alawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Allawi’s invitation for action is important. However, he doubted that parties would heed his call.

Heavy Airstrikes on Edge of Libyan Capital

Cairo - Khalid Mahmoud - Jamal Jawhar/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19/The Libyan National Army intensified on Friday its airstrikes on positions held by forces loyal to Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Government of National Accord, on the edge of the capital Tripoli, forcing thousands of civilians to flee.
The LNA which is led by Halifa Haftar was fighting GNA troops in the southern suburbs of the capital Friday about 11 kilometers from the city center. An LNA warplane bombed the camp of a force allied to Sarraj in Zuwara, west of Tripoli towards the Tunisian border, an LNA military source and residents said. A fighter jet also attacked the only partly functioning airport in Tripoli, Mitiga, witnesses said. The United Nations said the fighting had driven 8,000 people from their homes and that "displacements from areas affected by the clashes in and around Tripoli continue to surge". The World Health Organization (WHO) also warned that the fighting may result in a deadly outbreak of several infectious diseases if the displaced consume dirty water. WHO said it has delivered trauma kits and medicines to hospitals, adding: “These supplies will last for two weeks, the acute phase.” After a week of fighting, 75 people have been killed and 323 wounded, including seven civilians killed and 10 wounded, Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, WHO representative in Libya, told a Geneva news briefing by telephone from Tripoli. Meanwhile, the general prosecutor in eastern Libya issued arrest warrants against Sarraj and 23 other military and GNA officials. He accused Sarraj and his associates of seeking to incite civil strife in the country, forming illegal organizations and carrying out terrorist acts. Also Friday, the chairman of state oil company NOC, Mustafa Sanalla, renewed his warning that the fighting could wipe out crude production. “I am afraid the situation could be much worse than 2011 because of the size of forces now involved,” Sanalla said.

Israel’s Never-Ending Search for Oil in Occupied Golan Heights

Damascus - Mamoun Kiwan/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19/Backed by Washington, Israel is spending an arm and a leg on oil drilling in the contested Golan Heights, Syria. Israeli daily, Haaretz, has reported on the recent Washington proclamation of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights as a key green light for Tel Aviv to move forward with its initiative to secure the large amounts of underground oil and gas wells there. Golan Heights oil reserves are predicted to be somewhere around one billion oil barrels, which is enough to transform Israel from a self-sufficient start up country to a source of energy by 2020. Until now, Israel has remained largely dependent on global markets for over 99 percent of its energy consumption needs, importing fuel from Angola, Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Norway, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Isolated from most of the region’s gas and oil pipelines, Israel only has access to the East Mediterranean Gas pipeline extending from Egypt’s Arish to Ashkelon, a southern Israeli city. The pipeline is responsible for 40 percent of the country’s gas needs.
The history of oil drilling in Israel
Oil drilling in Palestinian lands dates back to 1914, with the first exploration venture taking place in 1947 by an affiliate of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC). Years later, Israel established the Petroleum Unit-- a national resources committee focused on oil management and which operates under its laws and regulations. Since 1953, this body has been monitored by Israel’s Energy and Water Resources Ministry.The council, more or less, bases its field operations on findings of researches conducted by the country’s Geological Institute, Geophysical Institute, Institute of Technology and prestigious universities. It is also responsible for the management and maintenance of all expert reports and data on oil and natural gas exploration conducted in Israel to date--information that is crucial for companies submitting their bids for approval. It is worth noting that the Israeli Petroleum Law was enacted in 1952 and works to govern the exploration and production of petroleum onshore and offshore Israel, including the country’s continental shelf. A year later, oil companies rolled in their Vibro-trucks, making their first discovery in 1955. The first field was located in Negev, a large desert region in southern Israel. In 1957, another oil well sitting under frackable land was discovered in the same area. In total, some 480 onshore and offshore rigs have been set up so far-- however, most of their output is not commercial.
Golan Heights oil reserves
Even though several Jewish rabbis deny the Syrian Golan Heights having any significant biblical importance, some of Israel’s supporters insist otherwise and push the occupation agenda in the contested territory. Scripture-inspired businessmen believe in the Golan Heights as the right place for their venture, basing their convictions on 17 Torah references interpreted as a sign for the presence of oil there. For decades, many American investors set out to find oil in the Golan Heights, most without avail. Despite oil explorations dating back as early as 1970 and rapidly growing in the 80s, it wasn’t until January 1990 that the Israeli government went public that it has been authorizing digging for oil in the occupied territory. It was during that year that the Israeli state granted the Israel National Oil Company a license to look for oil in the Golan Heights. At the time, the Firil Center for Studies had revealed that a shocking $25 million has been spent on looking for oil in the occupied Syrian territory.

Egypt: 2 Terrorists Killed as Security Forces Foil Attack on Sinai Checkpoint

Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/April 13/19/Egyptian security forces have foiled an attack on a checkpoint in the south Sinai resort region, shooting dead two attackers, the interior ministry said. "Security forces prevented the attack exchanging gunfire ... which led to the deaths of two perpetrators" at the checkpoint in Oyoun Moussa, said a ministry statement on Friday. "One of them wore an explosive belt with the intention to target the checkpoint ... bomb experts defused the device," it added. Friday's attack came days after a teen suicide bomber killed seven people, including Egyptian security forces and civilians, and injured more then 20 others, in North Sinai. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. "The suicide bomber aged 15 blew himself up" in a busy market area near a police station in the town of Sheikh Zuweid leaving seven dead and 26 wounded, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
A six-year-old child was among the victims, the statement added.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 13-14/19
Trump warns Putin of US umbrella over Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria
موقع دبيكا: ترامب يحذر بوتين وينبهه إلى أن المظلة الأميركية تحمي الغارات الجوية الإسرائيلية على الأهداف الإيرانية في سوريا
DEBKAfile/April 13/19
Tehran had no reason to expect Russian Pantsir, S-300 or S-400 air defense missiles to begin knocking out the Israeli aircraft targeting Iranian military sites in Syria. Some analysts reported that Iran was disappointed by the silence of the Russian systems when, according to Syrian sources, Israeli aircraft from Lebanese air space struck locations, in the Hama region early Saturday, April 13. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that the Russians were quietly strengthened in their three-year policy of non-interference by a message from President Donald Trump to President Vladimir Putin through back-channels. Putin was warned to continue to turn a blind eye to Israeli raids on Iranian targets in Syria. The message implied that the Israeli Air Force was for the first time operating under an American aerial umbrella. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu knew about the Trump message before he sat down with Putin in the Kremlin on April 4. He was there to adapt the military coordination arrangements between Israel and Russia to the relocation of Iranian command enters and stores from Damascus to Aleppo. The Israeli Air Force targeted the new locations for the first time on Feb. 27.
The US guarantee of aerial support was first arranged at the end of 2018 between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Netanyahu in his dual role as defense minister. But only now was it brought to the attention of the Russian president.
Had the prime minister gone public on this deal before the April 9 general election, he would have been accused of inappropriately boosting his Likud party’s prospects. For that reason, Netanyahu and Putin abstained from going into specifics of the new arrangements when they met, having earlier covered them discreetly in their phone conversation a few days before their meeting.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his staff were conspicuously absent from the Israeli leader’s Moscow talks on April 4. They were demonstrating the reservations they have about American intervention in the bilateral Russian-Israeli understandings over the IAF’s targeting of military assets and arms shipments in Syria. As of now, the Russian military in Syria is barred from interfering in Israel’s anti-Iran offensive by the threat of American reprisals. At the same time, neither Washington nor Moscow is keen on a military flare-up occurring in Syria, certainly not one involving the Iranian military or its allied Shiite militias, especially Hizballah. The Iranians were furious when the Russian military made no move to defend their sites against Israel’s latest attack on the military facilities they share with the Syrians in and around Masyaf in the western Hama province. Syrian State media reported that several buildings were destroyed, including a military academy, and that Syrian air defenses shot down some of the Israeli missiles. Syrian opposition sources cited three Israeli targets and 17 casualties, including deaths, but it was not immediately clear whether they were Syrian or pro-Iranian militia fighters. DEBKAfile adds that one of the targets was a factory for upgrading the precision of surface missiles supplied by Iran to Hizballah.

What Arab World is Desired by the International Players?
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19
Geographical distances may be long, and political rhetoric may differ; but we, as Arabs, have to understand the two central realities in political actions:
1- The nature of the interest networks, related intentions and strategies, as well as maneuvers used to cover them when and where needed.
2- The mechanism of decision making, and the institutions, channels, traditions, and political, cultural, religious and financial loyalties that underpin it.
Without understanding these realities politics becomes a ‘dangerous hobby’, if not a fatal absurdity. It is never about wishful thinking and being optimistic thanks to sweet talk, goes beyond claiming ‘brotherhood’ and ‘friendship’. As examples, we find before us three cases that deserve objective analysis far away from wishful thinking and optimism, and they are those of Libya, Syria and Yemen.
In the last few days, a lot was said after the offensive launched by the Libyan National Army, headed by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, intended to take control of the capital Tripoli and eliminate the armed groups there. But the offensive was met by a reserved international reaction. Such a reserved reaction, as expressed by the UN Security Council, points to the fact that there is no clear vision in the world’s major capitals as to how a future settlement should look like; and that despite Europe’s well known concern about the issues of terrorism and refugees.
European and other governments in the international community, due to interest-based and ideological considerations, seem both unconvinced of a decisive military solution in Libya, and are in disagreement regarding the future regional ‘scenario’ for the Libyan situation. At least, they are unwilling to see a decisive military victory that favors one regional party in the Middle East and North Africa over another, in spite of the ongoing criticism of ‘unruly’ extremist armed groups and their alleged links with what is called ‘terrorist’ organizations.
In Syria, despite a multitude of active regional and international actors on the ground and in decision making, what remains unseen is far larger and more dangerous and worrying from what is in the open. Here, the overall situation is both confusing and perplexing, especially, the sinister Russian activities, including Moscow’s initiatives, ‘accords’ and animosities. Under Vladimir Putin, Moscow’s relationship remains enigmatic with Iran, dubious with Israel, contradictory with America, as well as conflicting Turkish and Kurdish ambitions.
Supposedly, Iran’s expansionist and ‘colonial’ project isn’t a secret anymore. Eight years of an accelerated systematic displacement has resulted in a clear change in Syria’s demographic fabric, the victims of which have been around 13 million uprooted Sunni Muslims. Then, earlier this week an article published in Foreign Policy suggested that Iran’s project has entered a new phase in southern Syria.
In conjunction with Washington’s recognition of the Golan Heights as part of Israel, FP’s article talks about the deployment by the Damascus regime – backed by Iran and Russia – of around 1,500 former ISIS fighters on the eastern borders of the Druze-inhabited Suwayda, after their evacuation from Baghouz in southeast Syria.
Last year, during the confrontation between the Damascus regime and ‘The Men of Dignity’ Druze movement – founded in 2012 in opposition to Druze fighting against their Syrian brethren outside their province – the regime transported ISIS from Daraa province’s border areas to the same area east Suwayda; and colluded in their massacres against Druze civilians. The regime’s intention then, as it is now, was to blackmail the Druze and force them to seek its protection and submit to its conditions, otherwise they would suffer further massacres and uprooting.
Iran’s expansionist project intersects with the intentions of Damascus, as proven by reports of naturalization, settlement, ‘Shiitification’, and land grabbing operations. Thus, as the map of a ‘future Syria’ is being prepared, with Turkey in the north, Iran in central Syria, and the Kurds in the northeast, the fate of southern Syria may be about to be decided.
Two questions remain, however, the first is where would Iran’s ambitions stop? …and the second is what is the cost of satisfying Israel? Regardless of the answer the conspiratorial deal would one way or another, affect the Druze in Suwayda to the east and the Mount Hermon eastern slopes bordering the occupied Golan to the west.
Finally, let’s talk about Yemen. Some days ago the US Congress voted to end all military assistance to the ‘Coalition Forces’ fighting there. This step is strange but not surprising.
It is strange because US lawmakers – whether Republican or Democrat – must know well enough by now the background of Yemen’s present crisis, and are aware of its political, military, sectarian and ethnic dimensions. They regularly receive reports, data and updated figures, not to mention hearing the loud boasts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) top brass; through all these they know that allowing the Houthis to prevail means handing over the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb Strait to Iran.
On the other hand, such a step from Congress is not surprising, because it represents a continuation of the ‘grey’ stance taken by the UN and the great western powers towards Yemen. Logically, had there been a serious western strategy it would have been reflected through initiatives and actions on the ground. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in what UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is doing.
To conclude, one must say that the Arab world, as a whole, is going through exceptionally complicated circumstances, and is expected to pose serious global challenges in the next two decades. It is facing difficult problems such as population explosion, desertification, environmental pollution, and economic and educational regression, all of which may well feed further mass frustration, despair and extremism. Then, beside those internal problems, the Arab world has been an easy prey to regional and international hegemony projects that intersect one day and clash another. But, still the way the international community is dealing with this situation is neither serious nor responsible enough.
This is why many Arab youth distrust the international community as well as international legality. This is unfortunate, but seems understandable. And if things continue this way, we may well witness, collapsing state borders, ushering the collapse of states themselves. At this stage it would become impossible to put the genie back in the bottle!

Iran: The Ventriloquist Dummy’s New Lexicon

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 13/19
Though it is too early to assess the impact of President Donald Trump’s decision to harden US policy towards the Islamic Republic in Iran one thing is already clear. Trump’s rhetoric and the reactivation of sanctions suspended by President Barack Obama, plus new measures against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC) are making it harder for the leadership in Tehran to pursue its forked-tongue diplomacy designed to hoodwink bleeding heart liberals in the West while fanning the fires of hatred in the global anti-West constituency.
The ventriloquist running that diplomacy used loudmouths like Dr. Hassan Abbasi (aka Kissinger of Islam) to peddle a pseudo-Islamicized version of the anti-American narrative created by people like Noam Chomsky and Louis Farrakhan in the United States and Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen in France.
At the other end of the spectrum, the ventriloquist used people like Muhammad Javad Zarif to deceive East Coast liberals and Europe’s “soft” anti-Americans. Zarif was the ideal dummy to play the role.
Having spent nearly half of his life in the United States, part of it as a student in a provincial college in the Wild West, he has mastered the vocabulary to reassure audiences in the Council on Foreign Relations branches from New York to Peoria, if such a place exists. He knows how to use American clichés such as “give-and-take”, “win-win” “the roadmap” and “dialogue of civilizations”, whatever that means.
In his long stint at the Islamic delegation at the United Nations in New York, he also learned how to use ghostwriters to pen op-eds designed to hoodwink the Americans.
For many years, he shortened his first name to Javad, thinking that Muhammad would be too provocative. He also signed himself “Ambassador of Iran”, no mention of the Islamic Republic, and tried to sound as sweet and reasonable as a Swedish foreign minister discussing the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama and his side-kicks John Kerry and Joe Biden helped the son of the carpet merchant from Isfahan to sell his bill of goods.
Trump’s entry into that idyllic scene was as comforting as a bull piercing his way into a china shop. The hapless dummy’s script began to sound like the soured text of a fading stand-up comic.
The ventriloquist tried to concoct a new text centered on the illusion that the European Union will rein in the Trumpian bull and allow the Islamic Republic to pursue its shenanigans at no cost to itself. In every speech, he used the word “Europe” as a talisman while heavily courting Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs tsarina who has been nursed on the bitter milk of anti-Americanism.
Last week, however, the penny dropped as Zarif realized that even if the EU could forge a coherent foreign policy it could not defy the United States solely to help the mullahs “export” their revolution through murder and mayhem.
A slanted indication came in the communique of the G7 ministerial meeting in Dinard, France, in preparation for the summit to be hosted by President Emmanuel Macron in August.
Put briefly, the communique endorsed the 12-point desiderata fixed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo without naming him.
Worse still from Tehran’s point of view, the communique breathed some life back into United Nations’ resolutions concerning Tehran’s missile project and violent involvements in other countries. The dummy quickly tried to readjust his text. In a series of tweets and settlements, Zarif more than implied that he had shed his European illusions.
“We no longer can count on Europeans,” he lamented. He also warned the EU of unspecified “retaliation”. Abandoning the New York lexicon of black-tie liberalism, he started using the vocabulary of fire and brimstone in the tradition of the Akhund of Swat, Zarraq Khan, and the “Mad” Mullah Hassan, not to mention our own “Imam” Khomeini.
But don’t’ rush to congratulates Zarif for abandoning his European illusion. Minutes after he had done so he adopted a fresh illusion: creating a new anti-West coalition with China, Russia, Turkey, and Iraq. Noting that Iran’s exports to Iraq were 10 times more than to European Union, he also boasted that China and Russia would “always help us” while Turkey is supposedly abandoning Washington to get closer to Tehran. Zarif’s hare-brained analysis would be hilarious had it not been dangerous for Iran’s national interests and security.
Iraq, annually, imports around $10 billion from Iran, including $2 billion in electricity and gas which it hasn’t paid for yet. It also profits from the collapse of the Iranian currency by importing goods that Iran itself buys from Europe and China at an artificially low parity fixed by the government for the US dollar.
That crazy system has also led to massive shortages in Iran itself, driving prices of such things as onions and potatoes through the roof. (Last week government banned all exports of those items.) In what resembles a fire-sale, Iran has also increased its exports to Turkey and Afghanistan.
China and Russia are likely to back the mullahs in Tehran with their UN vetoes if necessary. But they are careful not to let the mullahs get too big for their slippers. China still refuses to release $22 billion in Iran’s frozen assets, insisting that Iran buys Chinese goods instead. Beijing is also sore that Tehran has teamed up within India to develop an Indian Ocean trade “hub” to rival the one that China is building in Gwadar, Pakistan.
As for Russia, it has imposed the Caspian Convention it dictated but vetoes Iran’s membership in the Euro-Asian “economic family” and the Shanghai Group. Russia’s interest is keeping Iran out of the international gas market, thus holding Moscow’ Damocles Sword above the EU’s head.
As for Turkey, its chief interest in the Islamic Republic is to secure support for killing Kurds, something that runs counter to Iran’s own national interests.
Zarif’s first illusion was the “fresh start” with Obama. He then switched to the Mogherini illusion. Now he is getting high on a new “coalition” illusion.
Poor guy isn’t all to blame. He is desperately trying to play the diplomat on behalf of a regime that loathes diplomacy. As long as the Islamic Republic believes that it can do whatever it likes without risking any punishment it would make little difference through which dummy the ventriloquist utters his text.

EU's Collusion with Iran
جوديث بيرجمان/معهد جيتستون: تواطؤ الاتحاد الأوروبي مع إيران
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/April 13/19

The main purpose of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) is to ensure that Europe -- and potentially third countries -- can continue doing business with the mullahs in Iran without risking US penalties for contravening US sanctions.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini seems strongly committed to ensuring that Iran -- and Europe -- continue receiving economic benefits from the illegal, unsigned, and unratified Iran nuclear deal. Mogherini insisted that Iran is complying with the JCPOA. It is not. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to documents seized by Israel, stated that the nuclear deal was "built on lies" .
No amount of human rights abuses, however atrocious -- or terrorism, even against its own citizens; or cheating to acquire deliverable nuclear capability to unleash on Israel, the US and eventually threaten the entire West -- will, it seems, deter the EU from its criminal collusion with Iran. Europe seems determined to wade into its own destruction with its eyes wide open.
The European Union insists that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal (JCPOA). It is not. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to documents seized by Israel, stated that the nuclear deal was "built on lies.
On January 31, Britain, France and Germany announced a new payment mechanism known as the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). It was designed to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, after the US left the deal in May 2018 and reinstated -- as well as broadened -- US sanctions on the country in November 2018. The main purpose of INSTEX is to ensure that Europe -- and potentially third countries – can continue doing business with the mullahs in Iran without risking US penalties for contravening US sanctions.
"INSTEX will support legitimate European trade with Iran, focusing initially on the sectors most essential to the Iranian population -- such as pharmaceutical, medical devices and agri-food goods," the foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement. In the longer term, INSTEX aims to be open to other countries wanting to trade with Iran, the statement said. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, said INSTEX was "essential for the continued full implementation of the nuclear deal".
Mogherini seems strongly committed to ensuring that Iran -- and Europe -- continue receiving economic benefits from the illegal, unsigned, and unratified Iran deal. "Alongside Iran's implementation, the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions is an essential part of the deal so we will continue to work to preserve the economic dividends of sanctions lifting," Mogherini said recently. "Our collective security requires a solid multilateral architecture for non-proliferation and disarmament. This is why the European Union will continue to work to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran," added Mogherini who insisted that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.
It is not. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, referring to documents seized by Israel, stated that the nuclear deal was "built on lies." In addition, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, in a recent interview with Iran's state-owned Channel 2, made it clear that the flimsy "nuclear deal", initiated by then-US President Barack Obama, has done nothing to stop Iran from making advances in its nuclear program, according to Iran expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh. "[T]he latest reports on Iran's nuclear progress," Rafizadeh wrote, "also indicate that Iran is on the threshold of modernizing its mechanism for producing highly enriched uranium, which can be utilized to build a nuclear weapon".
EU member states such as France, Germany and the UK continue to claim that Iran is complying with its agreements: these countries evidently want to continue doing business with the mullahs. Official figures by Germany's Federal Statistics Office revealed that German exports to Iran grew by 4% to 2.4 billion euros in the first 10 months of 2018, and monthly export volumes are expected to average 200 million to 250 million euros a month in 2019. In October 2018, German goods exported to Iran totaled almost 400 million euros ($455 million), representing a surge of 85% from the previous October and the highest monthly volume since 2009, according to Reuters.
A German intelligence report also noted that, "Iran has continued unchanged the pursuit of its ambitious program to acquire technology for its rocket and missile delivery program." Much of that activity has evidently taken place in Germany: Iran's efforts to develop its nuclear and missile programs resulted in "32 procurement attempts... that definitely or with high likelihood were undertaken for the benefit of proliferation programs," in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Fox News reported in 2017.
Germany is now refusing even to disclose Iranian attempts to obtain nuclear weapons and missile technology, and claiming that it no longer keeps such statistics, Fox News recently reported.
If Iranian attempts to attain nuclear weapons leave major EU powers undeterred from doing business with Iran, what then about Iran's atrocious human rights record? Europe, after all, likes to boast that it is committed to human rights. "The European Union," the EU professes, "is based on a strong commitment to promoting and protecting human rights... Human rights are at the heart of EU relations with other countries... EU policy includes:
promoting the rights of women, children, minorities and displaced persons
opposing the death penalty, torture, human trafficking and discrimination
defending civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights
defending human rights through active partnership with partner countries, international and regional organisations, and groups and associations at all levels of society
inclusion of human rights clauses in all agreements on trade or cooperation with non-EU countries".
When it comes to Europe's relationship with Iran, none of those lofty principles appears to matter at all. According to Amnesty International's 2017-2018 country report on Iran:
"The [Iranian] authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and imprisoned scores of individuals who voiced dissent. Trials were systematically unfair. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread and committed with impunity. Floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments were carried out. The authorities endorsed pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Hundreds of people were executed, some in public, and thousands remained on death row. They included people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime".
Women, it seems, were especially subjected to abuse. According to the report:
"Women remained subject to entrenched discrimination in law and practice, including in access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office, and in family and criminal law...The authorities failed to criminalize gender-based violence... The legal age of marriage for girls remained at 13, and fathers and grandfathers could obtain permission from courts for their daughters to be married at an even younger age. All 137 women who registered as presidential candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council. President Rouhani included no woman ministers in his cabinet, despite civil society demands. Compulsory veiling (hijab) allowed police and paramilitary forces to harass and detain women for showing strands of hair under their headscarves or for wearing heavy make-up or tight clothing..."
Evidently none of these facts bothered Mogherini and company.
Then how about the fact of Iran being the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism? After all, Iran plotted four terrorist attacks on European soil since 2015 alone, according to the Dutch government. It alleged that Iran committed two assassinations in the Netherlands, and plotted one attack in Denmark and another in France -- the latter at a rally of dissidents.
In fairness, the EU has produced the tiniest of pathetic gestures to pretend that it cares about Iranian terrorism: It imposed sanctions on Iran's intelligence ministry and two Iranian nationals. But has a little state-sponsored terrorism come between Iran and the EU in doing business -- professedly to preserve an illegal and unsigned Iran deal? Dream on.
No amount of human rights abuses, however atrocious -- or terrorism, even against its own citizens; or cheating to acquire deliverable nuclear capability to unleash on Israel, the US and eventually threaten the entire West -- will, it seems, deter the EU from its criminal collusion with Iran. Europe seems determined to wade into its own destruction with its eyes wide open.
*Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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