English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 24/2020
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 03/05-08:”Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 23- 24/2021
Health Ministry: 300 new Corona cases, 7 deaths
Al-Rahi Urges Hariri to 'Take Initiative', Submit 'Updated Line-Up'
“Time has come for us to build Lebanon as a nation for the human being,” says Frem
Deadlock Continues as FPM Says Hariri Awaiting Regional Developments
Israeli Troops Go on Alert as Lebanese Farmers Plow Their Land
SSNP’s Hamra ceremony a public call for killing,” deems LF Party, vows to file lawsuit against those responsible
SSNP in response to Lebanese Forces: Slogans came out spontaneously, seems LF Chief found substance that would save him from his predicaments
Consensus List” wins in Doctors Syndicate Council elections in the North
Army Commander sponsors workshop on administrative judiciary

"Priority is to urge PM-designate to form cabinet, goal is to accelerate government formation to implement reforms," underlines Bassil

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 23- 24/2021
Iran Says Inspectors May No Longer Get Nuclear Sites Images
Prominent Iran rights activist Narges Mohammadi sentenced to flogging, jail: Spouse
U.N. Security Council Calls for 'Full Adherence' to Gaza Ceasefire
Gaza ceasefire holds as attention turns to humanitarian aid
9 injured in blast at explosives plant in central Iran
Iran threatens more limits on nuclear inspections at height of negotiations
Senate Republicans introduce bill to resupply Israel's Iron Dome
A shooting at a New Jersey house party leaves 2 people dead and at least 12 others injured

Titles For The Latest The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 23- 24/2021
“Tied Up and Tortured”: The Persecution of Christians, April 2021 /Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/May 23/2021
Is there a better way to counter Hamas? - opinion/Yitzhak Sokoloff/Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021
Biden: No peace until region recognizes Israel's right to exist/Idan Zohshine, Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 23- 24/2021
Health Ministry: 300 new Corona cases, 7 deaths
NNA/May 23/2021 
The Ministry of Public Health announced, on Sunday, the registration of 300 new Corona infections, thus raising the cumulative number of confirmed cases to-date to 538,518. It added that 7 deaths were also recorded during the past 24 hours.

Al-Rahi Urges Hariri to 'Take Initiative', Submit 'Updated Line-Up'
Naharnet/May 23/2021
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday called on Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to “take initiative” and submit an “updated” draft cabinet line-up to President Michel Aoun “as soon as possible.”Hariri must agree with Aoun on “the structure, portfolios and names based on the standards of a government of nonpartisan specialists in which no party enjoys hegemony,” al-Rahi added in his Pentecost Sunday sermon. “Should they fail to agree, let them draw lessons and take a brave stance that allows for a new formation process,” the patriarch added. His remarks come a day after a parliament duel between Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law, in which the two parties held onto their conflicting stances. Separately, al-Rahi voiced regret over “the clash on the Nahr el-Kalb highway between some Lebanese and displaced Syrians heading to the presidential vote ballot boxes.”“It was caused by the provocation of the sentiments of the Lebanese in an area full of martyrs who fell in battles with the Syrian army, and at a time the fate of the file of the detainees in Syrian prisons is still unknown,” the patriarch noted. He added that “it is unacceptable for the displaced Syrians to remain here pending a complete political solutions for the Syrian crisis.”

“Time has come for us to build Lebanon as a nation for the human being,” says Frem
NNA/May 23/2021
“The time has come for us to go back and build Lebanon as a homeland for the human being, so that we can restore a citizen’s dignity, secure his happiness, preserve his rights and protect his freedom," said Resigned MP Neemat Frem from Bkirki, after attending Sunday Mass service this morning.
"We are all called upon to build a human republic. The values of this republic impose human happiness as a basic goal, spiritual, material and philosophical contentment, within a modern civil state whose pillars are integrity and the consecration of citizenship with its rights and duties,” he asserted.
“Over the past years, we witnessed the slow death of the individual in Lebanon. Humiliated, insulted, homeless and starved, so what more can he endure? What the civil war failed to achieve, and what oppression, injustice and terrorism could not do, is being committed today against the people of Lebanon,” regretted Frem. “We look forward to coexistence that goes beyond the level of cohabitation between groups, to become a productive and coordinated way of life, based on creating an added value, achieving self-fulfillment, and respecting the richness in diversity…and qualifying the country, through unimpeded sovereignty, to be a civilized model in safeguarding the dignity of the individual and groups,” he emphasized. “Lebanon is the homeland of the human being in the human republic," Frem concluded.

Deadlock Continues as FPM Says Hariri Awaiting Regional Developments
Naharnet/May 23/2021
The cabinet formation obstacles are still unresolved as Baabda and the Center House continue to lock horns over the way the new government should be formed, political sources said, a day after parliament debated a letter sent by President Michel Aoun regarding the crisis.“Parliament performed its duty in terms of announcing that it is unacceptable to speak of withdrawing designation after the binding parliamentary consultations, and in this regard, we can say that yesterday’s session consolidated Hariri’s designation,” the sources told the al-Anbaa news portal of the Progressive Socialist Party.
Strong Lebanon bloc sources meanwhile told al-Anbaa that what Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil said in parliament reflects “what the bloc wants, which is the formation of a government according to unified standards.”The bloc “will not allow formation to happen according to the method that the PM-designate was following,” the sources added. “Hariri is still linking the government’s formation to regional developments and to the negotiations that are happening on several fronts,” the sources went on to say, calling on the PM-designate to “make an initiative towards President Aoun and hold a frankness meeting.”Such a meeting “could certainly lead to something positive, seeing as talking to each other from afar has proved futile,” the sources said.

Israeli Troops Go on Alert as Lebanese Farmers Plow Their Land

Naharnet/May 23/2021
Israeli forces went on alert Sunday in a region facing the Kroum al-Sharraqi area of the Lebanese southern border town of Mays al-Jabal, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported. The move came after Lebanese residents started plowing land on the border ahead of “cultivating it with the aim of consolidating its Lebanese identity,” the agency said. The Lebanese activity was part of a heritage day organized on the border by the Agricultural Co-Op of Mays al-Jabal, NNA added.

SSNP’s Hamra ceremony a public call for killing,” deems LF Party, vows to file lawsuit against those responsible
NNA/May 23/2021
The Lebanese Forces Party’s media department issued a statement this evening, in which it responded to certain calls for the murder of Party Chief Samir Geagea by some members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party during a celebration march organized today along Beirut’s Hamra Street.
“We will file a lawsuit before the concerned authorities against those responsible for the ceremony and everyone who is proven to be involved in the explicit public call for murder before all the media and people,” the statement said. It continued to question “how society would ever be able to rise while it encompasses individuals who act as agents, traitors, murderers, and criminals, with an ideology that has nothing to do with Lebanon, in addition to their boastful avowal of murder and terrorism?”“Despite the Judicial Council’s ruling against members of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in the assassination of the late President-elect of the Republic of Lebanon, Sheikh Bashir Gemayel, in 1982, who was a source of hope for most Lebanese, and whose assassination deprived Lebanon of the establishment of an actual state, this Party continues to boast of its terrorism, which confirms its criminal nature, and which prompts us to ask the concerned authorities to withdraw the license from said Party and to stop recognizing its existence, based on many factors, most prominently its failure to recognize Lebanon as an independent entity, and its declared, explicit and proven crime in sound and image,” the LF statement underlined.

SSNP in response to Lebanese Forces: Slogans came out spontaneously, seems LF Chief found substance that would save him from his predicaments
NNA/May 23/2021
The Syrian Social Nationalist Party issued a response statement this evening, in which it criticized the content of the Lebanese Forces Party’s statement earlier today which was directed against SSNP members’ slogans during their participation in today’s ceremony on Hamra Street in Beirut.
The statement clarified that these slogans were uttered spontaneously by a group of Nationalists against the head of the Lebanese Forces, as they were leaving the SSNP’s celebration this afternoon in commemoration of “Resistance and Liberation Day” and the victory of our people in Palestine, noting that these slogans did not appear in the Party’s official footage of the event. The SSNP affirmed in its statement that it has always been a supporter of unity in the country and the most keen on preserving civil peace and national cohesion and the choice of the state and law, while reminding citizens of the Lebanese Forces’ attacks a few days ago on peaceful voters as they were on their way to partake in the Syrian presidential elections. “This came after the Lebanese Forces Chief instigated these disgraceful acts publicly, as is his habit of spreading discord, after which the LF Party resorted to justifying this behaviour under the pretext that it was a natural reaction,” the statement added, noting that “as a result of these malicious attacks and incitement, one victim and more than 20 wounded fell on that day.”“It seems that the Lebanese Forces were terrified to see the real power of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and its ability to gather thousands of people from all regions and social strata and to cheer for Palestine, from Beirut, the capital of resistance and liberation, after these Forces expressed their position on Palestine by burning its flag,” the statement went on. “It also appears that the Chief of the Lebanese Forces found material to save him from his predicaments, after losing all his political and security bets on the victory of the terrorist forces and the breakage of the axis of resistance or any of its parties or allies in Lebanon and the region...portraying himself as a victim, as he tried in 2012, when he filmed and produced, ‘The Rose - Saved from Assassination,” the SSNP statement underscored.

Consensus List” wins in Doctors Syndicate Council elections in the North
NNA/May 23/2021
The vote count process in the Northern Doctors Syndicate Council elections ended this afternoon with the victory o the “Consensus List” supported by most leaders and parties in Tripoli and the North.The electoral process began at nine o'clock in the morning at Rashid Karami International Fair to elect six new members into the Council of the Doctors Syndicate in the North, after elections were postponed for a year due to the Corona pandemic.

Army Commander sponsors workshop on administrative judiciary
NNA/May 23/2021
Under the auspices of the LAF Commander, Joseph AOUN, and in cooperation with the Head of the State Shura Council, Judge Fadi ELIAS, Banque Du Liban and ENA, the Director of the Research and Strategic Studies Center (RSSC) at the Lebanese Armed Forces, P.S.C Brigadier General Pierre SAAB, organized a workshop entitled:"Administrative Justice and its integration with the institutions of the Ministry of National Defense”  Carried out over three days, this workshop involves participants who gave fruitful lectures regarding topics with which the Lebanese Armed Forces are concerned. Topics include: administrative justice, State Shura Council, State litigation, Administration under exceptional circumstances, administrative disputes with the Ministry of National Defense, confiscations in favor of the Lebanese Armed Forces, expropriation and its procedures, as well as legitimacy principle and its limits, the ENA role in developing the State’s administrative systems, the financial administration under the exceptional circumstances and finally the administrative decentralization. In the presence of a number of LAF and RSSC Officers, State Shura Council’s Judges Karl IRANI, Nadia EL HAJJAR and Samih MADDAH, further to the Governor of Mount Lebanon, Judge Mohammed MAKAWI, as well as university professors from the aforementioned departments and lawyers, took part in this workshop. The RSSC Director and the Representative of the LAF Commander, P.S.C B.G. Pierre SAAB delivered a speech about the importance of applying the provisions of the administrative justice. On the final day, participants came up with recommendations focusing on updating and developing laws and regulations in order to achieve transparency and Rule of Law as to safeguard the rights of the military institution.
At the end of the workshop, commemorative trophies and certificates were distributed to the participants.

"Priority is to urge PM-designate to form cabinet, goal is to accelerate government formation to implement reforms," underlines Bassil
NNA/May 23/2021
Free Patriotic Movement Chief, MP Gebran Bassil, stressed, in his speech during today's parliament session devoted to discussing President Michel Aoun's letter, that "his priority is to urge Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri to form the government, and not to withdraw his designation, since the goal is to accelerate the formation of a government to implement reforms.""We cannot set up a complete reform program if there is no government, and more correctly, there is no political, economic or social stability in the country if we do not form a government," he maintained.
"The goal is to urge Hariri to form the government and nothing else," Bassil stressed, explaining that "the issue is not sectarian and no one can take it in this direction, but it can be placed within the framework of the Constitutional Charter."He added: "The crisis can be a crisis of a system and a constitution, and this matter cannot be solved by Hariri alone or by the President of the Republic, or by any parliamentary bloc alone...The crisis needs the parliament to meet in a general assembly, pursuant to a letter from the President of the Republic, so that something can be done."
Bassil indicated that the government formation has a certain methodology and is subject to the charter, adding that no one can exclude a certain sect from this process, nor can any sect monopolize the formation of the government. "The mere fact that the President of the Republic signs the designation decree entails that any detail of the cabinet formation is subject to his approval," he stressed. Bassil continued to state that "we cannot be accused of aiming for a third veto power in a government of specialists, as we have indicated that we do not want it, and so has the President of the Republic underlined since the very beginning.""We will support the government with every reform step and do not obstruct its formation, as it is in our interest to form a productive cabinet," the MP asserted. "Our constitution does not set deadlines, and this is a problem. The constitution must be developed in this regard in order to be safeguarded, and we, as blocs, have proposed a balanced and logical constitutional amendment," concluded Bassil.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 23- 24/2021
Iran Says Inspectors May No Longer Get Nuclear Sites Images
Agence France Presse/May 23/2021
Iran's parliament speaker said Sunday that international inspectors may no longer access surveillance images of the Islamic Republic's nuclear sites, escalating tensions amid diplomatic efforts in Vienna to save Tehran's atomic accord with world powers. The comments by Iran's parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, aired by state TV, further underscored the narrowing window for the U.S. and others to reach terms with Iran. The Islamic Republic is already enriching and stockpiling uranium at levels far beyond those allowed by its 2015 nuclear deal. "Regarding this, and based on the expiration of the three-month deadline, definitely the International Atomic Energy Agency will not have the right to access images from May 22," Qalibaf said. May 22 was Saturday. The International Atomic Energy Agency had said its director-general would brief reporters later Sunday in Vienna. The United Nations agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Under what is called an "Additional Protocol" with Iran, the IAEA "collects and analyzes hundreds of thousands of images captured daily by its sophisticated surveillance cameras," the agency said in 2017. The agency also said then that it had placed "2,000 tamper-proof seals on nuclear material and equipment."Iran's hard-line parliament in December approved a bill that would suspend part of U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities if European signatories did not provide relief from oil and banking sanctions by February. The IAEA struck a three-month deal with Iran to have it hold the surveillance images, with Tehran threatening to delete them afterward if no deal had been reached. It wasn't immediately clear if the images from February had been deleted. Before Qalibaf's remarks, lawmaker Ali Reza Salimi urged an open session of parliament to ensure Iran's civilian nuclear arm "erased" the images. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran did not immediately comment on the decision. "Order the head of the Atomic Energy Organization to avoid delay," said Salimi, a cleric from Iran's central city of Delijan. The "recorded images in the cameras should be eliminated." It also wasn't clear what this meant for in-person inspections by the IAEA. There are 18 nuclear facilities and nine other locations in Iran under IAEA safeguards. Qalibaf said Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, supported the decision.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. unilaterally out of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. An escalating series of incidents since Trump's withdrawal has threatened the wider Mideast. Over a year ago, a U.S. drone strike killed a top Iranian general, causing Tehran to later launch ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American troops in Iraq. A mysterious explosion also struck Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, which Iran has described as sabotage. In November, Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who founded the country's military nuclear program some two decades earlier, was killed in an attack Tehran blames on Israel.

Prominent Iran rights activist Narges Mohammadi sentenced to flogging, jail: Spouse
Yaghoub Fazeli, Al Arabiya English/23 May ,2021
An Iranian court sentenced prominent human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi to 80 lashes, two and a half years in prison and a fine, her husband said on Sunday, less than a year after she was released from prison. Mohammadi’s latest charges include propaganda against the regime thorough campaigning against the death penalty and participating in a sit-in in prison in December 2019 to protest the killing of anti-government protesters a month earlier, Taghi Rahmani, himself an activist in exile, said on Instagram. Mohammadi, 48, is the spokeswoman and vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, a rights group banned in Iran. Shirin Ebadi, one of the group’s co-founders, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003. Mohammadi was previously sentenced to a total of 16 years in prison on several charges. Having spent five years in prison, she was released in October 2020 after her sentence was shortened. Despite her release from prison, Mohammadi has not been allowed to leave the country. She has been apart from her two children, who live in France with their father Rahmani, since 2015.

U.N. Security Council Calls for 'Full Adherence' to Gaza Ceasefire
Agence France Presse/May 23/2021
The U.N. Security Council on Saturday called for "full adherence to the ceasefire" in the conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in its first statement since violence erupted on May 10. Security Council members also stressed "the immediate need for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilian population, particularly in Gaza." The statement received backing from the US delegation -- which had blocked earlier drafts -- only after the removal of a paragraph condemning the violence, a sensitive issue since it raised the question of blame.  An earlier draft said that "Security Council members condemned all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as acts of provocation, incitement and destruction." That draft also "expressed concern about the tensions and violence in east Jerusalem, especially in and around the holy sites, and urged for the respect of the historic status quo at the holy sites."
In a statement Saturday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry thanked the United States "for its continued support for Israel and its right to defend its citizens," and it placed "full blame" for the recent violence on Hamas militants for firing thousands of rockets at Israel. "We expect that the international community condemn and disarm Hamas, and ensure Gaza’s rehabilitation while preventing the diversion of funds and weapons to terrorism," the statement said. There was no immediate reaction from the Palestinian side. The US delegation, always one of Israel's strongest supporters in the UN, had also rejected a French draft demanding an immediate end to hostilities and calling for the unimpeded distribution of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.  The final statement, proposed by China, Norway and Tunisia, simply noted that the Council members "mourned the loss of civilian lives resulting from the violence."It supported a call from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the international community to work with the UN to develop a "robust package of support for a swift, sustainable reconstruction and recovery." The Council reiterated the importance of achieving a comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where Israel and the Palestinians live side by side in peace with secure borders. The statement also recognized "the important role Egypt (and) other regional countries" played in it, as well as the so-called Middle East Quartet, comprising the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the UN.  The devastating 11-day conflict claimed the lives of at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, while 12 people died in Israel, including one child. The Security Council is scheduled to take up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict again Thursday during a regular monthly meeting scheduled before the conflict broke out. A day after the ceasefire took hold Friday, ending deadly Israeli air strikes on the coastal enclave and the rocket fire out of it toward Israel, authorities were distributing supplies in Gaza, an AFP reporter said. The U.N. said Saturday that at least 6,000 people had been made homeless in the territory controlled by the Islamic group Hamas.

Gaza ceasefire holds as attention turns to humanitarian aid
The Arab Weekly/May 23/2021
GAZA/ JERUSALEM--The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip held into Saturday as officials said Egyptian mediators conferred with the sides on securing longer-term calm. The ceasefire began before dawn on Friday, ending 11 days of cross-border shelling exchanges that caused fresh devastation in Gaza, shook up Israel and raised international concern about a slide into wider regional conflict. Egypt, which mediated the halt to the fighting with US support, sent a delegation to Israel at around noon on Friday to discuss ways of firming up the ceasefire, including with aid for Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas officials told Reuters. The delegates have since been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, with talks continuing on Saturday, the officials said. Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, about stabilizing the Cairo-brokered Gaza cease-fire deal. A statement by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the two diplomats on Friday discussed shoring up the deal, which has mostly brought a halt to fighting between Israel and the Palestinians. They hope that will facilitate the reconstruction of Gaza. The statement said the ministers also agreed on the importance of coordination between the two nations, the Palestinian Authority and international partners on securing communication channels to achieve peace. It did not provide further details. The Egyptian government, meanwhile, said it would send a 130-truck convoy carrying humanitarian aid and medical supplies to Gaza, according the presidency.
Despite confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a Jerusalem holy site on Friday, there were no reports of Hamas rocket launches from Gaza or Israeli military strikes on the enclave as of Saturday morning. US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington would work with the United Nations on bringing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Gaza, with safeguards against funds being used to arm Hamas, which the West deems a terrorist group. Gaza medical officials put the Palestinian death toll from Israeli air and artillery strikes at 248, including 66 children.
Israel said its forces killed more than 200 fighters from Hamas and allied faction Islamic Jihad, and that at least 17 civilian fatalities in Gaza were caused by militants’ rockets falling short. Palestinian attacks killed 13 people in Israel, including two children, a soldier and three foreign workers, medics said.
As thousands of displaced Palestinians returned to their homes, and Israelis began to resume normal life on Friday, international focus turned to the reconstruction of the bomb-shattered Gaza Strip. Convoys of lorries carrying aid began passing into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing after it was reopened by Israel, bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel. The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts. Tens of thousands of Gaza residents ventured out on Friday for the first time in days, checking on neighbours, examining devastated buildings, visiting the sea and burying their dead. Rescuers there said they were working with meagre resources to reach any survivors still trapped under the rubble. Large areas have been flattened and some 120,000 people have been displaced, according to Hamas. The Israeli army said Gaza militants fired more than 4,300 rockets towards Israel, of which 90 percent were intercepted by its air defences. “Our message to the enemy is clear — if you come back, we’ll come back too,” a spokesperson for the armed groups in Gaza said at a press conference, while Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz warned that “the enemy” had no immunity. Both sides claimed victory after the Egypt-brokered truce, which also included Gaza’s second most powerful armed group, Islamic Jihad. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s bombing campaign had killed “more than 200 terrorists” in Gaza, including 25 senior commanders — an “exceptional success”. For its part, Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh said they had “dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks” on Israel. He also thanked Iran for “providing funds and weapons”.Iran itself praised a “historic victory” and reaffirmed Tehran’s support for the Palestinian cause, while there were demonstrations in support of Palestinians in Jordan, Libya and elsewhere.

9 injured in blast at explosives plant in central Iran
Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021
The explosion took place at about 3:36 a.m. local time (2:06 a.m. Israel time), according to IRNA.
Some nine people were injured after an explosion was reported at the Sepahan Nargostar chemical and fireworks factory in the city of Shahin Shahr in the Isfahan province of Iran on Saturday night, according to Iranian media. The cause of the blast is under investigation.
According to the Iranian IRNA news agency, the factory is a producer of industrial and commercial explosive materials and is under the supervision of the National Security Council. The company produces various types of fireworks and gunpowder, as well as nitrate, sodium, potassium, strontium, calcium, copper and barium. The explosion took place at about 3:36 a.m. local time (2:06 a.m. Israel time), according to IRNA. Although Iranian media only reported the incident late on Sunday morning, social media users were already reporting overnight that they had seen and heard a large explosion in the area. Social media users stated that the explosion shook their windows and that they felt a shockwave. It is unclear why Iranian media waited hours until reporting the incident. The Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA), which produces a variety of aircraft for Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, is also located in Shahin Shahr, sparking speculation on social media that the explosion was related to HESA. The factory is located about 95 km (59 mi) from the Natanz nuclear complex, where an explosion reportedly damaged thousands of centrifuges last month. The news of the explosion comes just days after Iranian officials reported major progress in negotiations on renewing the JCPOA nuclear deal, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announcing on Thursday that all parties to the talks have agreed to lift "all major sanctions" on Iranian oil, petrochemicals, shipping, insurance and the central bank. "We have taken the main step and discussed the details; the main agreement has been reached. There are issues we are discussing to reach a final agreement," added Rouhani, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency. Last year, a series of explosions and fires hit industrial sites across Iran, including a number of petrochemical plants. Iranian officials referred to most of the cases as incidents or accidents, although some reports have claimed that at least some of the incidents involved foul play. A number of the explosions last year reportedly took place at or near nuclear facilities, including the Natanz nuclear complex and a factory not far from the warehouse where Iran's nuclear archive was found by Iran. In some of the incidents last year which were linked with military or nuclear sites, Iranian media also waited hours before reporting the incidents and even reported the wrong locations. In one incident near Tehran, Iranian officials claimed that an explosion took place due to a gas tank in Parchin, despite later reports indicating that the explosion actually took place at a ballistic missile facility in Khojir.

Iran threatens more limits on nuclear inspections at height of negotiations
Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021
Iran's parliamentary speaker threatened on Sunday to further limit international inspectors' access to nuclear sites and data, increasing tensions with the International Atomic Energy Agency and world powers as nuclear deal negotiations reached their climax. The threat came half a day after IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi announced that he would hold a press conference Sunday afternoon to update the world on the status of inspections, and as Iran, the US and world powers enter what could be a fateful week of negotiations to return to the 2015 nuclear deal. It was unclear if the threat was a last-second attempt at saber-rattling to try to get concessions from the US before a deal is cut or whether it was a sign that the Islamic Republic is ready to sabotage negotiations and engender a major crisis. Negotiations are expected to be renewed midweek; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said last week that the deal was all but finalized. Depending on the extent of the limits on IAEA inspectors, Israel, the US and moderate Sunni Arab states could potentially perceive Tehran as making a major new move toward a nuclear bomb. Alternatively, if most IAEA inspection activities remain in place and this is a temporary face-saving measure for Iran, it may be no more than a blip on the way to a deal. More specifically, Iran's parliament speaker had said on Sunday that a three-month monitoring deal between Tehran and the UN nuclear watchdog had expired as of May 22, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported. "From May 22 and with the end of the three-month agreement, the agency will have no access to data collected by cameras inside the nuclear facilities agreed under the agreement," Fars quoted Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as saying. Reuters contributed to this report.

Senate Republicans introduce bill to resupply Israel's Iron Dome
Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021
“US assistance headed to areas under Hamas control should be redirected to Israel to resupply the Iron Dome,” said Arizona Senator Tom Cotton.
Four Senate Republicans, Marco Rubio (FL), Bill Hagerty (TN), Tom Cotton (AR), and Ted Cruz (TX) introduced on Friday a new bill aimed to resupply Israel with missile defense interceptors. The “Emergency Resupply for Iron Dome Act of 2021” will authorize the Executive Branch “to redirect US foreign assistance to help Israel replenish its highly-effective missile defense interceptors.” “Iranian-backed terrorists have launched thousands of rockets targeting innocent civilians in Israel,” Rubio said in a statement. “Their hate for Israel has also resulted in misfires that have killed their own people in Gaza. Israel’s Iron Dome has saved countless lives, and we should ensure that it is fully funded and Israel has what it needs to continue to defend itself.”During his speech on Thursday night, US President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and “assured him of my full support to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system to ensure its defenses and security in the future.”“President Biden should swiftly replenish the Iron Dome missiles,” said Cruz. “I am proud to join Sen. Hagerty on this critical legislation urging President Biden to lead with clarity on this issue and not moral relativism or appeasement.”
“My legislation requires the Biden Administration to halt US foreign assistance from going to Gaza and other Hamas-dominated areas and instead to redirect these resources to help Israel resupply its live-saving Iron Dome interceptors,” said Hagerty. “The United States should unequivocally support the right of Israel to defend itself from terrorists.”Cotton said in a statement that “The United States must ensure Israel continues to have the resources it needs to protect Israeli citizens and to defeat its terrorist enemies.”“US assistance headed to areas under Hamas control should be redirected to Israel to resupply the Iron Dome,” he added.
MEANWHILE, top House Democrats welcomed Thursday’s announcement on a ceasefire. “The announced ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is welcome news, and we thank the Biden Administration for its extensive engagement and diplomacy,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“America remains committed to supporting the security of Israel, our friend and ally. We believe it is critical for the security of Israel for Israelis and Palestinians to both be able to live in peace,” she said. “Now, with this essential ceasefire, it is incumbent upon leaders in the region to respect Israeli and Palestinian lives and strive for a lasting peace,” Pelosi added. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement, saying that “the ceasefire announced is welcome news, especially for the civilians on both sides of the border who have suffered from violence, uncertainty, and fear resulting from the barrage of rockets fired into Israel by Hamas.”“I appreciate all the work that President Biden and his advisors have done in recent days, quietly and behind the scenes, to bring about this ceasefire,” he added. “I pray that Hamas and other groups will honor it.”“I support the president’s commitment to replenishing the Iron Dome system - and I again affirm Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist attacks,” said Hoyer. “I also support providing humanitarian assistance through the Palestinian Authority to innocent civilians who have been injured or lost their homes in the fighting.”
He went on to say that “humanitarian assistance must not allow Hamas to steal resources intended for civilian rebuilding and repurpose them toward reconstructing its arsenal of terror.”“Israel has been justified in defending itself now and in the past when attacked by terrorists who target its civilians,” he added. “America will continue to stand by our ally while encouraging constructive steps toward peace, security, and stability that benefits Israelis and Palestinians alike.”Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, said in a statement that he commends the Biden Administration “for standing by our ally Israel under attack from a terrorist organization, for its commitment to smart diplomacy, and for standing for peace and security for all Israelis and Palestinians.”“Even during these challenging times, we cannot give up on the prospect of peace, security and dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians,” he said. “The work is hard, but President Biden was clear that his administration will continue the sustained diplomacy that will hopefully bring us closer to lasting peace between two states for two people.”

A shooting at a New Jersey house party leaves 2 people dead and at least 12 others injured
CNN/May 23/2021
A man and a woman were shot and killed at a house party in Cumberland County, New Jersey, police said. Another 12 people were injured in the melee, New Jersey State Police said. Troopers responded to the scene on East Commerce Street in Fairfield Township at 11:50 p.m. Saturday, the NJSP said.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 23- 24/2021
“Tied Up and Tortured”: The Persecution of Christians, April 2021
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/May 23/2021
ريموند إبراهيم/معهد كايتستون: جدول بالممارسات الإرهابية وبأعمال الإجرام والتعديات والإضطهادات التي تعرضت لها الشعوب المسيحية خلال شهر نيسان الماضي في العديد من البلدان

In a video released on April 17, Muslims connected to the Islamic State in Sinai executed 62-year-old Nabil Habashi Salama, a Christian. Salama appears on his knees in the video, with three men holding rifles standing behind him….
“We should remember that Greece spent 400 years under Turkish Islamic rule and that the fight for freedom was bloody. With that in mind it is even more dramatic seeing these images of fighting age migrants desecrating Greek holy places and having no respect for the country they are allegedly seeking refuge in.” — Greek City Times, April 12, 2021.
“[H]e was kept in at least three different police stations and illegal torture cells, where he was mentally and physically tortured to confess to the baseless accusation [of blasphemy]… [P]olice repeatedly threatened to kill him…. The police investigators…also tortured him into naming other members of the Bible study circle…” — Aneeqa Maria, Salamat Masih’s attorney, Morning Star News, April 29, 2021, Pakistan.
On April 8, French prosecutors said they would file charges against an 18-year-old Muslim woman living in Béziers who is “accused of plotting a jihadist attack on a church over the Easter weekend.” Pictured: Béziers, France. Image source: Sanchezn/Wikimedia Commons)
The Slaughter of Christians
Egypt: In a video released on April 17, Muslims connected to the Islamic State in Sinai executed 62-year-old Nabil Habashi Salama, a Christian. Salama appears on his knees in the video, with three men holding rifles standing behind him. The one in the middle launches into a typical jihadi diatribe: “All praise to Allah, who ordered his slaves [Muslims] to fight and who assigned humiliation onto the infidels” —pointing contemptuously at the kneeling Christian before him — “until they pay the jizya while feeling utterly subdued.” The words are a paraphrasing of Koran 9:29, which commands Muslims to “fight the people of the book,” understood as meaning Christians and Jews, “until they pay the jizya (monetary tribute) with willing submissiveness and feel themselves utterly subdued.”
The middle speaker continued by threatening “all the crusaders of the world” — a reference to Christians in the West — while singling out the countrymen of the one about to be slain: “as for you Christians of Egypt, this is the price of your support for the Egyptian army.” The speaker then points his rifle at the back of the Christian’s head —as chants of “jihad! jihad! jihad!” blare out — and fires at point-blank range, killing him.
It is unclear when the video was made — Salama was abducted at gunpoint over five months earlier for helping to build the only church in the area. “He kept the faith till the moment he was killed,” the group Sinai Province said of the slain Copt in a statement. During the months of his captivity, several Egyptian activists accused the authorities of indifference in not being able to locate and secure the release of Salama, which they say could easily have been done. Ironically, the Egyptian government issued a statement the day after the video was released saying that they had located and killed the same three terrorists that had executed the Copt—without offering any specifics. The claim was met with skepticism.
In a separate incident, on April 3, in the streets of Minya, a Muslim man butchered a Christian woman and her toddler son with a machete—”as if he were slaughtering chickens,” said eyewitnesses. The murderer, a tuk-tuk driver, is Abu Muhammad al-Harami; his victims were Mary Sa’d and her six-year-old son, Karas. When their paths crossed in the streets, he had made threatening and derogatory comments to Mary. When she said she would report him to police, Abu Muhammad leapt on her with his machete, butchering her and her son. Although Egyptian media and authorities claimed, as they always do, that the man’s motives appear not to have been religious, the fact is every once in a while such “random” attacks on Egypt’s Christians occur.
In late December 2020, for instance, two Muslim brothers went on a stabbing spree against Christians, killing one and critically injuring two others. Authorities said the brothers were in mourning and upset because their mother had died earlier that day. But as a local Christian clergyman said, “what does the death [of the Muslims’ mother] and the Copts have to do with each other?” The same year, on January 12, 2020, a Muslim man crept up behind a Coptic woman walking home with groceries, pulled her head back with a hand full of hair, and slit her throat with a knife in his other hand. Catherine Ramzi was rushed to a nearby medical center, where her throat was sewn with 63 stitches; doctors told her she came within an inch of dying. It is believed that he may have identified her as a Christian for not wearing a hijab around her hair or for having a cross tattoo on her wrist.
Nigeria: On Sunday, April 25, Islamic herdsmen launched a lethal terror attack on a Baptist church: “The Fulani herdsmen came to our village as the church service was going on,” Jacob Bala, a church member explained. “They surrounded the church and started shooting. They came at about 9 a.m., and they rode on motorcycles. They shot at us randomly and at anyone they sighted.” Jacob’s uncle, Zakaria, a medical doctor, was shot dead, and five worshippers—including Jacob’s sister-in-law, stepmother, and niece—were kidnapped. Samuel Aruwan, state commissioner for internal security denounced the attack “as a shocking act of depraved persons far-removed from humanity…. [A]ttacking innocent worshipers who were exercising their natural and lawful right to assemble in worship represented the worst kind of evil.”
In a separate but similar incident, Muslim herdsmen attacked the congregation of an Anglican church; eight people were killed and four women abducted. “The abduction of the Anglican Church members,” the April 7 report adds, “came 12 days after their counterparts from the Redeemed Christian Church of God were abducted on the same road.
According to a separate April 28 report, over the course of several attacks in Benue State alone, in just one week, Fulani slaughtered 33 other Christians, many of whom had earlier been displaced by the same terrorists and were living in a refugee camp.
Germany: A Muslim mother is being tried for killing her toddler son, allegedly over fears that he would eventually grow up in Germany to be a Christian. According to the April 13 report, the 40-year-old mother “killed her four-year-old son: she deliberately threw him from a bridge in Rotenburg into the Wümme, said [the] public prosecutor… The child drowned in the river. The charge is manslaughter.” Earlier, in November 2020, the boy was sent to a medical facility “with severe burns. He had to be operated three times. The mother, who is Turkish, said that she accidentally scalded him with hot water while washing, the prosecutor said.” The report continues:
“The employees in the hospital found the injuries suspicious, [and] they wanted to call in the youth welfare office. The mother then took her child out of the clinic. ‘The defendant feared that her custody would be withdrawn,’ said Geisler [the prosecutor]. In the imagination of women, this also meant that the boy would grow up not as a Muslim but as a Christian. That’s why she threw her son over the railing of the bridge into the water to kill him. She then wanted to commit suicide, but did not succeed. Hours later, the police in Rotenburg picked up the distraught woman. The body of the drowned child was found in a nightly search. The mother was first placed in a psychiatric hospital and later in custody.”
Attacks on Churches
Germany: Three young Muslim migrants disrupted a church during Easter Sunday service, including by shouting Islamic slogans, in the town of Nidda. They initially entered the church and stood in a corner videotaping the worshippers, an act that made the latter uncomfortable. When the pastor confronted them, they loudly declared the shahada—the Muslim profession of faith, “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger” — followed by takbirs (chants of “Allahu Akbar”) and other Islamic slogans. Although the pastor and others managed to drive the invaders off, the remainder of the Easter service was ruined, the April 12 report notes, as the “horror” of the men’s “threatening behavior” persisted for some time among the church. This, the report adds, is the second year in a row that the Nidda church has been interrupted under similar circumstances during Easter worship service.
Separately, a church in a Gelsenkirchen, which holds a large Muslim migrant population, was torched on April 5, the day after Easter celebrations. Although police would not confirm if arson caused the fire, witnesses saw a group of migrant youths running away from the church just before it was ablaze. Police had been deployed to the church over similar disruptions twice before.
In another incident, unknown persons entered a church, defecated near its Bibles and urinated on its walls, before setting a fire in the premises. This was just the most recent of many attacks on the church in Oberschopfheim. According to the April 21 report,
“Almost exactly two years ago on April 8th, the toilet facility in the parish hall was destroyed. Above all, the extent of the brutality with which the strangers acted caused horror. At that time, damage of several thousand euros was incurred. Windows were smashed, toilets torn from their anchoring or sinks torn from the wall. Gutters were smashed and shutters on the parish hall were smashed. The toilet facility was out of order for several months.”
Greece: Muslim migrants entered into and completely ransacked a small church; they also videotaped portions of the incident and uploaded it on TikTok (available here). It shows a topless migrant dancing to rap music as he walks into the church. The next clip shows the aftermath: devastation inside the church, with smashed icons and altar overthrown. Discussing this incident, an April 12 Greek City Times report says,
“We should remember that Greece spent 400 years under Turkish Islamic rule and that the fight for freedom was bloody. With that in mind it is even more dramatic seeing these images of fighting age migrants desecrating Greek holy places and having no respect for the country they are allegedly seeking refuge in. It reminds us that the only solution to this sort of escalation is closing the border and imposing a strict deportation campaign.”
Cyprus: A group of young Turks held a techno party inside the historical Sourp Magar Monastery (named after the Coptic Saint Makarious), the only Armenian monastery left in Cyprus; unfortunately for it, it is also located in the illegally occupied Turkish zone, hence the disregard and desecration. Responding to this incident, the U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus, Judith Garber, said in an April 7 tweet:
“The U.S. Embassy strongly condemns the misuse of Saint Magar Armenian Monastery. Freedom of worship is a fundamental value, and we echo the call from religious leaders that all places of worship, in use or not, be protected against misuse, vandalism, and desecration.”
France: On April 8, prosecutors said they would file charges against a Muslim woman “accused of plotting a jihadist attack on a church over the Easter weekend.” The 18-year-old woman “was arrested over the weekend [of April 2-4] at her home in Béziers. She was arrested as part of an anti-terrorist investigation into a suspected attack plot targeting the city of Montpellier.” In a statement, the anti-terror prosecution team said that an investigation was “opened following intelligence concerning the threat of an attack on a church over the Easter weekend.” During the raid on her home, police found a map of the church and “even found an image of Samuel Paty, the schoolteacher who was killed in October 2020 after showing his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.”
Attacks on Apostates and Blasphemers
Uganda: A sword-waving Muslim man attacked and seriously injured his wife and mother of seven children on the premises of a church on Eastern Sunday. Three days earlier, Salimati Naibira, 37, had converted to Christianity, and this was her first time inside a church; but then, from a church window “I saw my husband,” she later explained, “and some family members enter the church gate shouting ‘Allah Akbar.’ The church members took off from church worship to save their lives.” The Muslims stormed into the church with sticks and other weapons; her husband came wielding what is known as a “Somali sword.” Although the pastor and others tried to protect her, her Muslim relatives overpowered them, seized the apostate woman, forced her into a van and drove to a wooded area. “They started beating me with sticks, then my husband cut me with the Somali sword at the thigh and the back.” At that point she fainted. “I regained consciousness only after several hours,” when a passerby found her lying in a pool of her own blood and took her to a clinic. As of this writing, a female Christian friend has taken Naibira into her custody in an undisclosed location, where she is recovering from wounds to her face, thigh, and back. She fears that she will be unable to gain custody of her seven children, who range in age from 4 to 17: “I hope my children are safe,” she said.
Pakistan: On April 9, medical professionals attacked two Christian nurses — one with a knife — after a Muslim nurse accused them of scratching a sticker of a Koran verse off a cupboard. Although the two young nurses, named Maryam Lal and Navish Arooj, were acting on the orders of their supervisors to remove all stickers, they were subsequently arrested and charged under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which outlaws and punishes any desecration of the Koran, or “extract therefrom,” with life in prison. Before police could arrive, a furious mob had gathered outside the hospital crying “death to blasphemers” (video here). Due to ongoing threats, both women’s families have gone into hiding. According to one report,
“A video circulated over social media shows an employee of the hospital [later identified as Muhammad Waqas] calling Mariam vulgar names and telling a room full of other employees that she tore down a sticker, which contained a Muslim prayer, from the medicine cabinet. He further said in the video that ‘our’ Muslim nurse called Rukhsana saw it and snatched the torn sticker from Mariam’s hand so that it’s not further defiled or thrown on the ground. Then he said that when he found out about it, he confronted the Christian nurse Mariam. He said, ‘I am a Muslim; how can a Muslim sit quietly over blasphemy of his Prophet.’ Then he proudly told the employees gathered in the room that he attacked Mariam with a knife, but failed when the blade broke, only injuring her arm.”
“This is not the first incident of this kind,” said Nasir Saeed, a Pakistani human rights activist in the UK:
“[I]n the past, we have seen how people use this law to settle their personal grudges or punish their rivals. I still remember 2009 when a Lahore Muslim factory owner was accused of committing blasphemy for removing an old calendar inscribed with holy Quranic verses from a wall. A factory worker killed him and two other men, and the enraged mob also assaulted management employees and set the factory on fire.”
Three months before this incident, another Christian nurse and gospel singer in Pakistan, Tabitha Gill, was slapped, spit on, locked in a hospital room and “tied up and tortured” by her Muslim colleagues, after one of them with a grudge against Gill falsely accused her of blaspheming against the Muslim prophet Muhammad, which is punishable by death. Although police initially cleared her of the charge, when an angry Muslim mob descended on their station, they reinstituted it.
In a separate incident, police illegally kept a Christian man in custody for more than two months, during which time they tortured him into confessing to a false blasphemy charge against Islam. Two months earlier, on Feb. 13, after Muslims heard Salamat Masih reading from the Bible in a park with his friend, they accused them of blaspheming against Muhammad. Although police arrested him that same day—the friend had hidden in time—Salamat was not presented before a judge until April. According to Aneeqa Maria, Salamat Masih’s attorney,
“During this period, he was kept in at least three different police stations and illegal torture cells, where he was mentally and physically tortured to confess to the baseless accusation…. [P]olice repeatedly threatened to kill him… Family members were not allowed to meet him, and his mother and siblings saw him for the first time in two months when the police brought him to jail after his appearance before a judge. Even then police did not let them talk to Masih… The police investigators forced him to admit to blasphemy. They also tortured him into naming other members of the Bible study circle… This is a serious human rights violation, yet no one seems to be bothered about it.”
General Abuse of Christians
India: An angry Muslim mob beat and forced a Christian farmer to eat the raw meat he was selling at a market in Kerala, because it was not halal — meaning not prepared according to Muslim ritual; they also torched the delivery trucks carrying the impure meat. (A separate report says several Christian farmers suffered the same treatment.)
“I can’t figure out what is their problem?” the abused Christian, Shaji M Varghese, later said. “Those who want to smoke, let them smoke. Those who want to eat buffalo meat, let them eat. Those who like pork, let them eat. Those who do not like it, why are they indulging in physical attacks on us.” The April 6 report offers some answers:
“[A] farmer’s collective called Kisan Mitra, which has about 6,000 members in Kerala, had initiated the sale of fresh non-Halal meat on the occasion of Easter Sunday. This initiative is what irked the Islamic fundamentalists, as the low quality of Halal meat in Kerala is an open secret…. The Non-Halal meat has received quite a positive response from the general public in Kerala… Fearing the end of Halal meat dominance as people prefer non-Halal is allegedly the primary reason behind the attack….The main coordinator behind Kisan Mitra, Manoj Cherian, has received death threats from Islamists. Islamists have threatened to hack him to pieces if Cherian sells pork, which according to the Islamists is ‘haram.'”
Pakistan: Members of an Islamic extremist political party forcibly converted a mentally challenged Christian man, and, last reported, were pressuring his entire family to renounce their faith and embrace Islam. On April 14, Adnan Bashir, who had been undergoing medical treatment since being diagnosed with a mental illness in 2018, wandered out of his home. Before long he saw his former boss, at what seemed to be a social gathering, beckoning for him to come and drink some sherbet. Adnan went, not realizing that the gathering was a protest by the radical Muslim group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP). Once there, according to Adnan’s brother, Fayyaz, “Ahmed [his former boss] and some others forced him to publicly recite the Kalima (proclamation of Muhammad’s prophethood, signaling conversion to Islam) and converted him to Islam.” Once surrounded by the radicals, the brother clarified, Ahmed “used the opportunity to force my brother to say the Kalima in the presence of the charged mobs.” They also renamed him “Khadim Hussain”—further suggestive of their malicious motives, as khadim means “servant.” To his way of thinking, Adnan still rejects the idea that he has renounced Christianity and embraced Islam. Last reported, he and his family were under threat: “Our lives have become miserable due to the threats and surveillance by TLP activists,” Fayyaz said. “Our children keep asking what will happen to them, as their Muslim friends keep raising this issue. We can neither seek help from the police or any other government or religious leader…”
Germany: Critics accused the Muslim mayor of Hanover of intentionally manipulating COVID-19 restrictions in a way that punishes Easter-observant Christians and rewards Ramadan-observant Muslims. An April 4 report explains:
“In the Hanover region, curfew restrictions are in place from 10 pm to 5 am due to high Corona infection rates. From April 1 to April 12, citizens are only allowed to leave their flats and houses for a valid reason. There is also an extension of the compulsory wearing of masks in public spaces. Thus, the Christian Easter falls under these restrictions, but not the Muslim Ramadan. Ramadan begins on April 12 [the same day the restrictions are lifted]. What makes the timing so suspicious is that the Lord Mayor of Hanover is a Muslim of Turkish origin named Belit Onay from the Green Party. He is responsible for the scheduling.”
*Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again and Sword and Scimitar, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location. It includes incidents that take place during, or are reported on, any given month.
© 2021 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Is there a better way to counter Hamas? - opinion
Yitzhak Sokoloff/Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021
No matter how many well-meaning observers argue that one-sided concessions by Israel will lead Hamas to moderate its positions, the reality is that Hamas is a fanatic, ruthless movement.
For the past 15 years, the Hamas leadership has repeatedly proven that it cares not a whit for the pain and carnage that their tactics inflict on the Palestinians of Gaza, or on their own fighters and families. It is as if Israel and the Hamas are playing by two sets of rules: Israel does everything it can to protect its own population and limits its attacks to minimize destruction to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, while Hamas targets Israeli cities with glee and does everything possible to provoke Israel into killing more and more Palestinians. The time has come for Israel to change its strategy.
Were it realistic to destroy Hamas without generating a bloodbath in Gaza, then a full-scale military invasion might well be a pragmatic policy for Israel. At present, an invasion is the only way to free the Palestinians who actually live under Hamas’s rule. Morally, such a move would be totally justified. Perhaps one day Israel will find itself with no other choice. Of course, it would be even better if the United Nations would take it upon itself to disarm Hamas and try its leadership for crimes against humanity.
Meanwhile, the targeting of Hamas missile launchers, commanders, anti-tank squads and tunnels is necessary, but not sufficient. All of these are assets that Hamas knows it will lose in any conflict and is clearly willing to sacrifice. Therefore, on a strategic level, Israel’s military response is largely irrelevant. At best, it stands to gain a few months or even years of quiet until the next round when Hamas will not only be more lethal. But the likelihood of a general conflagration involving Hezbollah and Iran will be that much greater.
Instead, Israeli strategy should be based upon a deeper understanding of the ultimate and intermediate goals of Hamas. No matter how many well-meaning observers argue that one-sided concessions by Israel will lead Hamas to moderate its positions, the reality is that Hamas is a fanatic, ruthless movement willing to inflict any cost on its followers and the 1.5 million Palestinian hostages under its control, in order to bring about the destruction of Israel. Other revolutionary movements and leaders have successfully transitioned from terrorism to responsible government (Nelson Mandela, Gerry Adams and Menachem Begin come to mind).
Neither Hamas nor its Iranian benefactors fall into that category. However, fanaticism and rationality are not mutually exclusive, and Hamas is a rational movement that carefully and logically plans its steps. One needs, therefore, to ask, What was its objective in provoking a full-scale military conflict with Israel that it could only lose?
To answer that question, one must ask, What is new in its latest aggression and why now? Hamas itself attributes its attack on Jerusalem to its desire to protect al-Aqsa Mosque against Israeli policy, and most international media has taken this at face value. However, the real objective of Hamas in this round has much less to do Jerusalem than with elections in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
UNTIL THIS WEEK, an Israeli offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the United Arab List (Ra’am), was on the verge of actually supporting an Israeli government; the first Arab party to do so in Israeli history! Like Hamas, the UAL has ideological roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. However, it argues that Israeli Arabs must use the political potential granted them by Israel’s political system to address their actual needs in the here and now rather than squandering it on fruitless rhetoric in support of Israel’s enemies.
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With this pragmatic approach the UAL became the largest Arab party in the Knesset almost overnight. On the eve of the Hamas attack, its leader, Mansour Abbas, was actually on the verge of determining the identity of Israel’s next prime minister, in exchange for a long list of benefits for the Arab community! The Hamas attack was intended to derail what its leadership saw as religious heresy and political treason on the part of Ra’am. In that it may yet succeed irrespective of what happens on the battlefield.
The second set of elections that served as a catalyst for Hamas’s aggression were originally scheduled to take place in the Palestinian Authority on May 22. These were then canceled by PA President Mahmoud Abbas when it became clear that Hamas was likely to defeat the old-line Fatah leadership. The rioting on the Temple Mount and in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem simply provided Hamas with an opportunity to discredit Fatah and cast itself as the “sword and shield” of the Palestinians.
The rocket attacks last week on Jerusalem were insignificant from a military perspective, but they were enormously important gestures in terms of Palestinian politics. As expected, Israel responded with air strikes; Hamas rained down thousands of rockets on Israeli cities and in turn is now being pulverized by the Israel Air Force. All as expected.
Thus far, the total damage to Israel has been less than that of a single well-executed suicide bombing. Hamas has lost dozens or perhaps hundreds of its fighters and commanders and as intended, Palestinian civilians in Gaza are once again caught in the crossfire. Israel takes whatever steps are possible to avoid causing casualties to Palestinian non-combatants, but Hamas doesn’t care, and in fact its strategy is based on causing as much damage as possible to the cities and people of Gaza. What then, might serve as an effective strategy for Israel?
The answer can be found in a eulogy given for a number of Jews murdered along the road to Tiberias during the Arab Revolt in 1936. David Ben-Gurion, later to become Israel’s first prime minister, spoke at their gravesides and spoke the words below.
“PEOPLE SAY to us that if the Arabs do such and such, so should we. But we say to them, the means should reflect the end. If our ends were like those of the Arabs, then their means might become ours as well. But in fact, the means of the Arabs serve their ends rather than ours. What is their purpose? To destroy any possibility of building up the land. And what is ours? We want to change the status quo, to bring multitudes of immigrants, to build and be built. We need to plant, to work the land, to produce. If we act as the Arabs do, we will not accomplish this. I believe that those who today murdered our people in an ambush were not only trying to kill a few Jews, but they intended to create a provocation, to force us into a trap, so that we would act as they do and turn this country into a blood bath.... Should we assist these destructive conspiracies?”
The best way to defeat Hamas and the nihilistic hatred it embodies is to build Israel. Menachem Begin once called this “an appropriate Zionist response.” What would that mean today? It would require a policy based on exacting the ultimate price of Hamas aggression not in blood, a price Hamas is willing to accept, but in land, which it is not. Israel should act to extend its sovereignty to the territories that it is committed to keeping in the West Bank under any scenario and to launch a building program that lends permanence to that decision.
At the same time Israel should reinforce its sovereignty in Jerusalem by issuing automatic citizenship to Arabs living there and by radically improving the infrastructure of the Arab neighborhoods. Israel should not annex the Palestinian cities in the West Bank, where the vast majority of Palestinians reside. They should be able to live under their own rule in peace and prosperity. Therefore, the possibility of a Palestinian state of some kind should remain on the table, but subject to conditions that guarantee that it could never turn into a version of Hamasland.
Ultimately, it is in the interest of both Israel and the Palestinians to reach a workable solution. However, those who time and again adopt a strategy of violence against the Jewish state must come to understand that rockets, riots and suicide bombs are counter-productive to Palestinian aspirations. With such clarity, the Palestinians will hopefully be wise enough to reject Hamas and their ilk and embrace a pragmatic leadership in both Israel and the West Bank.
There is a clear precedent for such a policy. Until 1988, the position of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) toward Israel was very similar to that of Hamas today. That changed in response to a notable expansion of settlement activity by Israel in the West Bank. Suddenly it became clear that an all-or-nothing policy would lead to nothing. Then came the Oslo Accords, wherein Israel and the PLO met for the first time to speak rather than to shoot. For the past two-and-a-half decades, the PA has based its negotiating strategy on all or nothing in the West Bank and Jerusalem, while Hamas has never had a negotiating stance at all. With its latest provocations, Hamas has reminded us that the status quo is bad for both sides. Let Israel build a better future for everyone.
*The writer is a political analyst and educator. He is a senior fellow of MEPIN, the Middle East Policy and Information Network.

Biden: No peace until region recognizes Israel's right to exist
Idan Zohshine, Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/May 23/2021
Regional recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and a two-state solution are the ways to peace, US President Joe Biden said on Friday.
“Until the region says, unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace,” the president said. In addition, Biden said: “We still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer.” Asked at a White House press conference if there has been a change in the Democratic Party’s position on Israel, Biden said: “There is no shift in my commitment... to the security of Israel, period. No shift. Not at all... I think that, you know, my party still supports Israel.”
Biden said that he urged Israel to stop the “inter-communal fighting that has extremes on both sides” in Jerusalem and to ensure that Arab and Jewish Israelis are “treated equally as Israeli citizens.”
The US is going to “provide for security in the West Bank,” along with its renewed economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority, he said, and it will work with other countries to rebuild homes in Gaza without allowing the funds to get to Hamas.
Biden said it is “essential” for PA President Mahmoud Abbas be recognized as the rightful leader of the Palestinians, as opposed to Hamas, which he pointed out is a terrorist organization.
Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke six times over the course of Operation Guardian of the Walls, but Biden would not divulge what was said.
“One of the reasons why we were able to get the ceasefire in 11 days, they didn’t do what other people have done: I don’t talk about what I tell people in private. I don’t talk about what we negotiate in private,” the president said.
However, Biden said he trusts Netanyahu to make the effort to maintain the truce.
“I take Bibi Netanyahu – when he gives me his word, I take him at his word. He’s never broken his word to me,” Biden stated. “The prime minister knows my views... From the very beginning, I told him what our objective was: that there needed to be a ceasefire. And he, in fact, kept his commitment in the time frame in which he said he would do it. Thank you.”
Biden also praised his “great team” that worked with him on urging a cessation of hostilities, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken – who is set to visit the region this week – and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who were in frequent contact with their counterparts in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and beyond during the 11 days of fighting.
In addition, Biden remarked on the “commendable job” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did in getting Hamas to commit to hold fire.
In a press conference on Friday, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked the US for its support for Israel.
“My good friend Biden and I spoke six times in recent days – all the conversations were friendly and warm,” Netanyahu said. “He repeated that the US supports Israel’s right to defend itself... I thank him for his cooperation in manufacturing Iron Dome missiles.”