June 03/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 05/43-48/:"‘You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil
Letter to the Ephesians 06/10-20.23-24/:"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 02-03/17
White smoke after Baabda Palace iftarNazih OsseiranHassan Lakkis/The Daily Star/June 02/17
Putin between the Tsar and The CommissarظAmir TaheriAsharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/
Palestinians: Israel's Goodwill Gestures Send Wrong Messages/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 02/17
Selling Out Pentecost to IslamظGeert Wilders/Gatestone Institute/June 02/17
Following discrimination claims, Egypt's Al-Azhar enrolls Christian medical residentAhmed Fouad/Translated by: TranslatorPaul Raymond/Al Monitor/June 02/17
Egypt steps up strikes in Libya following Coptic bus attack/Muhammed Magd/Translated Cynthia Milan/Al Monitor/June 02/17
US, Russia hold secret talks over south Syria safe zone/Laura Rozen/Al Monitor/June 02/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 02-03/17
Aoun pledges new fair vote law
Berri meets Mashnouq, Riachy
Hasbani says investigations underway into death of woman at cosmetic surgery hospital
Shorter in his blog 'Reflections on Lebanon, 18 Months In': I admit that I am advocate for Lebanon, as is the UK
Hariri receives Hasbani, Arslan and Adwan
Sarraf: Army to remain nation's fortress
Hamade follows up on official exams' preparations
Army Commander inspects logistic brigade in Kfer Shima: Our combat capabilities increasingly mounting
Syrian arrested in south for digging tunnels for Daesh
Fayard to NNA: To vote massively in the French legislative elections this Sunday
Mashnouq: Employees Need Training on New Electoral Law
Bassil Assures Proportionality en Route to Completion
Asphalt Roller Filled with Cannabis Seized
Two 'IS Young Women' Arrested in Nabatieh
White smoke after Baabda Palace iftar
Lebanon Minister Predicts 7 Months at Most to Prepare Parliamentary Polls
Saudi Relief Project to Aid Hunger-Stricken Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 02-03/17
Dozens Dead after Gunman Torches Philippine Casino
Anger as Trump Announces US Withdrawal from Global Climate Deal
Algeria to Take in Syrian Refugees Stranded at Border
US Assures Turkey on Kurdish Arms Deal
Libya Demands Probe into Qatari Meddling as Haftar Vows to Retaliate
Blast in Qatif Kills Two Wanted Men
More Civilians Flee Syria’s Raqqa as Battle Looms
Iraq’s PMF Tests Coalition, Putin Fears Division
Trapped ISIS Militants Target Mosul’s Displaced
Sisi: Egypt will Remain an Example of Peaceful Coexistence
Trump Angers Tel Aviv by Postponing Decision to Move US Embassy
Dutch Prisons Closing due to Lack of Criminals
US led fight on Islamic State has killed 484 civilians: Pentagon
Saudi energy minister upbeat about rebalancing oil market
New images of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi released by police

Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 02-03/17
Aoun pledges new fair vote law
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - President Michel Aoun on Friday assured the Lebanese that he shall fulfill his oath to endorse a new fair election law in spite of the difficulties that hindered the realization of such law. "The prelude to reform lies through the House of Parliament, which represents the entire Lebanese people," President Aoun told a delegation of dignitaries of Koura district's towns and villages, who called on the President at the Baabda palace. Aoun pledged the Lebanese that "once a new election law is enacted, we will kickstart addressing other issues... We are aware of the flaws that need to be rectified, notably fighting corruption and commencing building workshop process."Aoun underlined the State's determination to implement balanced development and daily living projects up and down the country, including the region of Koura. On the other hand, the President met with a visiting delegation from the Antioch Christian Orthodox Church of North America, led by the New York Bishops' head, Metropolitan of North America, Archbishop Joseph Zahlawi, who congratulated the President on his election. Archbishop Zahlawi applauded the President's efforts for the sake of Lebanon and the Orient, saying the delegation pins great importance on Lebanon's becoming the salvation platform in the East and the nation of safety and dialogue under Aoun's leadership. The overall situation in the country, notably the long simmering election law, topped discussions today between Aoun and his visitors, former Ministers Nicholas Sehanoui and Abdullah Farhat. Among the President's itinerant visitors for today had also been a delegation of the North Lebanon Merchants' Association, led by its head Assaad Hariri. The delegation took up with the President the current situation in the northern city of Tripoli, with emphasis on the need to implement developmental and economic projects there.

Berri meets Mashnouq, Riachy
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, met, at Ain-el-Tineh on Friday, with Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Nohad Mashnouq, over the election law. Mashnouq submitted to Berri a document elaborated by his ministry, in collaboration with the United Nations, on the required time to hold the legislative polls under the proportional vote mode. "Civil servants must complete a formation for at least three months, under the supervision of the United Nations, in order to get familiar with the new election law baed on proportionality," Mashnouq told reporters following the meeting. "This is why we envisage a technical extension of the Parliament's madate for six to seven months," he added. Berri later met with Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, with whom he discussed the current general situation, especially the election law.
Separately, Berri cabled his Iranian counterpart Ali Larijani, to congratulate hi on his re-election as head of the Shoura Council.

Hasbani says investigations underway into death of woman at cosmetic surgery hospital
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Public Health Minister, Ghassan Hasbani, said on Friday that he had signed a decision that aims at organizing cosmetic surgeries in Lebanon. The Minister also regretted in a press conference the ill-fated death of a woman at a cosmetic surgery hospital, and confirmed that investigations were underway to unveil the circumstances that have led to this tragic death."Today, a decision has been signed prohibiting the performance of cosmetic surgeries, such as liposuction, except in hospitals with intensive care units. Our main work is to organize these professions and the judiciary is the one that should rule in case of violations," the Minister added.

Shorter in his blog 'Reflections on Lebanon, 18 Months In': I admit that I am advocate for Lebanon, as is the UK
Fri 02 Jun 2017 /NNA - British Embassy in Beirut distributed the blog by British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, titled "Refelctions on Lebanon, 18 Months In", in which he said: "It was on a recent Saturday morning. We had had an interesting - and by my standards, rather technical - discussion on the Lebanese economy over a delicious breakfast of labneh, with zaatar, and poached eggs. Then my green tea was replaced by a piping hot espresso. So when the cigar box came round, I didn't hesitate. Time for one of my host's cigars. It was not yet 10 o'clock in the morning.
Perhaps this is a moment which, a couple of generations ago, would have been regarded as the first symptom of that dangerous diplomatic disease known as "going native". This ailment would strike a diplomat abroad, perhaps through an excess of empathy built up through long study of his host country's language, history and culture, but more likely through being seduced by the venal pleasures of an exotic but temporary posting. The key symptom of a diplomat who had "gone native" was to represent the hosts' (in this case Lebanon's) interests in London rather than vice versa. Needless to say, this condition was frowned upon - and perhaps secretly envied - by less fortunate colleagues caught up in the London rat-race and yearning for sunnier climes. But nowadays diplomats tend to worry about the reverse - whether they are getting out and about enough, not too much. They are torn between bulging inboxes and video conferences with their capitals, and the considerable investment of time and effort needed to get to know their host country and people.Lebanon, from this perspective, is a dream. Even if, as an Ambassador, you were to spend your working day in front of a computer in the office, every evening you could enjoy the incredibly warm and generous hospitality of the Lebanese, meeting industrialists, bankers, journalists, ministers and media personalities. Not only do you meet Lebanese of all persuasions like this - and quickly appreciate their intellectual curiosity, energy, and sense of humour - but also you get to know, and love, the immense variety of Lebanese food you are fortunate enough to be offered.
One of my favourite dinner conversations is the rags-to-riches stories of Lebanese entrepreneurs who started as door-to-door salesmen of paper bags/pins/clothespegs etc, and how the companies they founded in Mexico/Nigeria/Iraq etc. now employ tens of thousands of people worldwide. These stories illustrate many Lebanese qualities: resilience and adaptability, a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and a readiness to take risks, often combined with strong technical skills. But that spirit is alive in Lebanon too, not only further afield. I well remember meeting an entrepreneur in the Bekaa. Owner of a family business, the oldest 'Arabic Ice Cream' manufacturers in Lebanon, whose company suffering from modest brand identity, limited production line and packaging process. Through one of our programmes to support Small and Medium Enterprises, he was able to expand his business by increasing production, reducing waste, expanding their points of sales to 1500 and employing 7 new staff members. Another striking example of innovation and technical prowess is the way the LAF has adapted helicopters to give itself a ground-attack capability - in its own workshops, using its own staff, and recycling its own materiel (including - I am proud to say - the canon from the LAF's old British fighter-bombers). In fact Lebanon is full of unsung heroes: in the LAF and security forces protecting its borders and fighting terrorists, and others growing their businesses in a difficult economic environment, stretching their family budgets to give their children the best possible start in life, or working flat out - in schools, hospitals and NGOs - to educate, treat and support vulnerable Lebanese and Syrians alike. One of the huge privileges of being British ambassador here is the opportunity to help - and meet - so many people who are fighting to make their country a better place: be they farmers, fishermen, teachers, soldiers or tech whizzes. Having travelled across and flown above Lebanon from North to South, I am struck by Lebanon's always renewed ability to create talent, its uniqueness and its diversity . As for going native? Well, I have to admit that I am an advocate for Lebanon - as is the UK, often at the forefront at international conferences, and talking to our friends and allies, lobbying for others to do more to support this country. And I couldn't talk of my first 18 months without mentioning the culture too - the experience which makes you fall in love with this country. The generosity of its people, who have gone out of their way to make me, my wife and children feel welcome. I know I still have more to learn, and more to do to get under the skin of this country. And that's why I've started Arabic classes, which have not turned me into a fluent speaker overnight but I hope will help me the next time I am visiting villages, farms and municipalities benefitting from UK support. After all, you know you're really settling in when you find yourself speaking at least two languages in one sentence - or lighting up a cigar after breakfast!"

Hariri receives Hasbani, Arslan and Adwan
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - The president of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received today at the "Center House" Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health Ghassan Hasbani, who said after the meeting that he informed him about the progress made so far by the Technical Committee in charge of preparing Cabinet meetings in the regions. He added that more detailed meetings with ministries representatives will follow. Asked about the electoral law, Hasbani said that optimism about reaching a solution is increasing and discussions are calm and positive. On the other hand, Hariri received Lebanese Forces deputy-head MP George Adwan in the presence of Hariri's chief of staff Nader Hariri. After the meeting, Adwan said that the aim of the meeting is to discuss the remaining points of the draft electoral law in order to reach a clear understanding. He added that things are going in the right direction, the meeting was useful and positive and contacts continue with the other parties. Hariri also received the Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan in the presence of his Advisor for Development Affairs Fadi Fawaz. After the meeting, Arslan said: "We always visit Prime Minister Saad Hariri and discuss with him the situation. I appreciate the role he is playing to reach solutions for the crises, especially the electoral law. Without Prime Minister Hariri's serious approach, and without his personal concessions, we could not reach an electoral law." He added: "The efforts carried out today indicate that we will reach a law that satisfies the Lebanese. I hope that it will be at the level of our aspirations as citizens before being politicians because the country needs a qualitative leap towards the development of its constitutional institutions".

Sarraf: Army to remain nation's fortress
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Minister of National Defense, Yaccoub Sarraf, on Friday visited Mount Lebanon's military command, and met with General Adnan Said and a brass. He later visited the Military School and met with junior students. "You are the future of this army," Sarraf said addressing the officers-to-be. "The Lebanese army has been able to score major achievements throughout the years, whether on the level of fighting corruption or protecting the country and overthrowing the plots concocted against it," he indicated. "With the wisdom of your command, and the support of the Lebanese and the political authority, the army will remain the fortress of the nation, and nobody can divide it," he stressed."The Ministry of Defense and the army command will exert tremendous efforts to provide the required means to develop and equip the military school," he concluded.

Hamade follows up on official exams' preparations
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Minister of Education and Higher Learning, Marwan Hamade, on Friday met with a delegation of public schools' secondary teachers. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Hamade indicated that the pending bills of the state budget and the salary scale would be scheduled on the Parliament's agenda following the endorsement of the election law. Separately, Hamade spoke over the phone with head of the Lebanese University, Fouad Ayoub. He later effectuated an inspection tour in the Ministry's exams' department and followed up on the preparations for the official tests.

Army Commander inspects logistic brigade in Kfer Shima: Our combat capabilities increasingly mounting
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun pointed out that the army's combat and logistic capabilities are increasingly mounting, thanks to the qualitative military support it respectively receives from friendly countries, and the current training workshop in the institution at the various levels. General Aoun inspected Friday the army's logistic brigade in the town of Kfer Shima, touring its various departments and facilities in the aim of having firsthand look at the ongoing of work there. The army General underlined the paramount importance of complimentarity in the work of the field, logistic, administrative and weapons' units to ensure the success of the military's defense and security missions. Aoun met with the Brigade's senior officers and military men, giving the necessary instructions.

Syrian arrested in south for digging tunnels for Daesh

Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - State Security officers arrested one Syrian illegally residing in Marjeioun, for digging tunnels for Daesh, a communiqué by the security agency indicated on Friday.Pictures of him performing his work for the terrorist group were also found in his cell phone.

Fayard to NNA: To vote massively in the French legislative elections this Sunday
Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Franco-Lebanese candidate, Gustave Fayard, interviewed by the National News Agency on Friday, called on French citizens living abroad "to vote massively in the legislative elections on Sunday, June 4."He said that he was one of the 11 candidates running for legislative elections in the 10th constituency of Frenchmen established outside France, recalling that he is the only Lebanese candidate in this constituency running for the post of deputy. Fayard assured that he lived in France with his family and emigrants, adding that, given his good knowledge of the terrain, he could convey a clear vision of the problems they faced. He revealed that for this reason he had chosen the following slogan "Close, Effective and Available", stressing that his action will focus, in particular, on Arab and African countries."I will give special attention to educational affairs in order to enrich the French culture abroad and the right to free education," he said. The French candidate then explained that with regard to taxes, he fully opposed the draft prepared by the Government. "French people abroad are already paying a lot of taxes in the countries they live in, and we do not want them to be taxed more as French nationals," he concluded.

Mashnouq: Employees Need Training on New Electoral Law
Naharnet/June 02/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said on Friday that a six months time period is needed to train the employees on the new electoral system before staging the parliamentary elections. “We need at least six or seven months to train the employees on the new voting system,” said Mashnouq from Ain el-Tineh after meeting Speaker Nabih Berri. Asked about the mechanism that will be adopted during the elections, he pointed out that the count of votes in a proportional representation system will be “electronic.” Furthermore, “an intensive media campaign and the latest modern technologies will be launched in order to inform the citizens about the new law,” he added. Political parties agreed on Thursday on an electoral law based on full representation and 15 electoral districts to replace the 1960 majoritarian law in force. A meeting between President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri on the sidelines of a presidential Iftar banquet at Baabda Palace, was culminated with Hariri announcing that an agreement has been reached and the “details will be finalized before the end of the parliament's term.”

Bassil Assures Proportionality en Route to Completion
Naharnet/June 02/17/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said on Friday from Bkirki that an electoral law based on proportional representation was en route to completion. “The entire electoral law discussions have been appropriate to reinstate our coexistence and diversity, where one enjoys a sense of privacy and simultaneously preserves multiplicity,” said Bassil after meeting Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi in Bkirki. “Since the Orthodox (electoral law) and other law formats have failed and we adopted the proportional representation instead, we are here to meet the Patriarch and tell him that the mission is en route to completion,” added Bassil. The Minister said that the battle remains ongoing to attain rights and ensure proper representation, pointing out that “proportionality is not similar to the 1960 law, it is much better,” he said. “Our main concern is to avoid extension (of the parliament's term), vacuum and the (current) 1960 (majoritarian) law. Proportionality serves the Lebanese better than the 1960,” he said.

Asphalt Roller Filled with Cannabis Seized
Naharnet/June 02/17/A patrol from the anti-narcotics bureau of the Internal Security Forces in the North stopped a bid to smuggle one ton of cannabis hidden in an asphalt roller, the ISF said in a statement on Friday. “Anti-narcotics bureau obtained information about a senior drug trafficker's bid to smuggle a heavy machine, which could contain narcotic substances, outside the Lebanese borders through the Wadi Khaled area,” said the statement.
They managed to track the route of the roller which was loaded on a truck. It was confiscated and the driver was arrested. It has been found that the vehicle was loaded with more than a ton of cannabis, valued at about two million dollars. Investigations were kicked into the incident and efforts continue to arrest the culprits.

Two 'IS Young Women' Arrested in Nabatieh
Naharnet/June 02/17/Army intelligence agents on Thursday managed to arrest two Syrian young women who belong to the terrorist Islamic State group in the southern city of Nabatieh, state-run National News Agency reported. Identifying the two young women as F.A. and W.A., NNA said they had entered the area recently and that army intelligence agents in Nabatieh had managed to detect their “suspicious movements.”“They were put under surveillance after they were tasked by IS to carry out a security mission in the region,” the agency added. “Following investigations, they were arrested by army intelligence agents in Nabatieh before being handed over to the army intelligence department of the South,” NNA said.

White smoke after Baabda Palace iftar/دخان أبيض بعد افطار قصر بعبدا
Nazih OsseiranHassan Lakkis/The Daily Star/June 02/17

BEIRUT: Leaders agreed Thursday on the essential elements of a new electoral law, including the adoption of a proportional voting system, prompting President Michel Aoun to sign a decree allowing Parliament to convene for an extraordinary session to vote on the law later this month. Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri all indicated that talks have been positive, as they expect a new electoral law to be announced within days. “Reaching an electoral law in the coming days will be the start for restoring confidence,” Aoun said during a speech at an iftar at the presidential palace in Baabda. “It will show that there is a will to improve popular representation ... and balance it horizontally among the [different] constituents of all Lebanese people and vertically within each constituency [itself]. Hariri confirmed that an electoral law adopting a proportional system across 15 districts would be applied, adding that the final touches will be in place before the conclusion of Parliament’s mandate on June 20. “We have agreed on the framework for the electoral law and there is a committee that will handle the details and the final issues,” Hariri said. “The atmosphere between ... Berri and Aoun was positive.”The speaker also appeared optimistic as he left Baabda Palace.
“Everything is fine,” he told reporters. “The main points have been agreed and I had suggested that a small Cabinet committee be formed to assess the technical details.”Aoun, in a rare tweet, announced the news that he had signed the decree calling for Parliament to convene for an extraordinary session that would last from June 7 until June 20. “The schedule of this meeting will be exclusively limited to the endorsement of a new law to elect members of Parliament,” the decree shared by Aoun read. It came shortly before the iftar dinner hosted at the Baabda Palace by the president, which effectively included all of Lebanon’s politicians and senior officials. By signing the decree, Aoun averted a potential constitutional crisis with Berri. Earlier this week the speaker said Parliament would press on with regular sessions beyond the end of the legislative period. Citing jurisprudence by French constitutional experts, Berri claimed that since Aoun had used his prerogative under Article 59 of the constitution in April and delayed Parliament’s session for a month, the current legislative period would still be in effect. Aoun has in effect allowed Parliament to legislate until June 20, meaning lawmakers have until June 19 to pass an electoral law to govern upcoming parliamentary elections. Following the dinner, Aoun met with senior members of the Free Patriotic Movement who act as his advisers. Aoun listened to consultations by FPM President Gebran Bassil, MP Alain Aoun, MP Ibrahim Kanaan and former Ambassador Abdullah Bou Habib who briefed him on their position on the electoral law, especially in relation to vote tallying procedures and the preferential vote.
A political source told The Daily Star that they will also be discussing the threshold for candidates to win electoral seats in any district, adding that candidates would need to win at least 10 percent of a district’s vote in order to have the right to claim one of its parliamentary seats.
The results of the meeting will be relayed to the other political parties for their feedback. Progressive Socialist Party head MP Walid Jumblatt held a closed-door meeting with Aoun after the iftar. “The atmosphere is positive and we are on the verge of a new electoral law. There will be no extension [of Parliament’s term] and we will not go back to the 1960 [electoral law],” he said after the consultation. “The atmosphere is positive and this evening was blessed, thanks be to God.”
Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea also described the developments as “positive.” “We are working on the remaining details,” he said. “I expect that we will reach, in the coming days, a new electoral law.”Prior to entering the dinner, Geagea described the law, which was proposed by Lebanese Forces deputy chief MP George Adwan, as “one of the best laws we can reach.”Despite the positive developments, a delay in elections is inevitable. A so-called “technical” extension has previously been pre-empted by Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, a position he reaffirmed Thursday during a meeting with Aoun.
The consultation was intended for Machnouk to hand over a detailed report indicating the time that would be needed to set the groundwork for elections to be held under a proportional voting system.“It is obvious that the atmosphere is positive and there is a possibility to reach an electoral law within a few days,” Machnouk said following his meeting with Aoun, adding that elections would not likely take place before November. “This is a detail that would be agreed upon after the law is endorsed,” he said. “What is important now is endorsing the electoral law. The rest would be a technical extension based on the period we need to train those involved on what is referred to as electronic sorting,” Machnouk added, noting that a copy of the report would be sent to Berri and Hariri.

Lebanon Minister Predicts 7 Months at Most to Prepare Parliamentary Polls
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq presented on Friday Speaker Nabih Berri with a study prepared by his ministry and the United Nations over the timeframe needed to prepare for the parliamentary elections now that the dispute over the electoral law is nearing its conclusion. Mashnouq told reporters that “at least six months, seven at most, were needed to prepare for the polls.” The elections are expected to be staged for the first time based on the proportional representation law “with technical complications” that need time to be overcome, he explained. He added that concerned judges, heads of ballot boxes and administrative employees needed to be trained given the country’s first-time experience with the new law. The study between the Interior Ministry and UN found that the vote count can only be performed electronically, which requires magnetic ballots and a number of other technical details, revealed Mashnouq. All this demands training for the voters, judges and employees that can be achieved through an intense and long-term media campaign, he reiterated. “We reached an understanding with Berri that these issues have nothing to do with politics…. He proposed that a ministerial committee chaired by the prime minister should be formed to discuss this issue,” he stressed. Asked about the available funds to finance this operation, Mashnouq replied: “We have not yet reached this point. We have the ability to garner aid from UN institutions and donor countries that encourage the democratic process.” “This will definitely be a costly operation, but time is more important than the cost,” he stated. Parliament’s term is due to expire on June 20, after lawmakers extended their own mandate twice without election since 2013. Current lawmakers were elected in 2009 for what was meant to be a four-year term.

Saudi Relief Project to Aid Hunger-Stricken Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/The Saudi National Campaign announced launching a new humanitarian relief project Lebanon’s overly populated and deprived area, Akkar, said the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Friday. Through its office in Lebanon, the campaign drew up plans to construct a much needed bakery in the northern region. The facility is expected to meet the needs of dozens of Syrian refugees who are surviving dire conditions. Production capacity of the bakery reaches at least 40,000 loaves of bread daily, said SPA—all of which will be distributed to widows and impoverished families.
Director of the Office of the Saudi National Campaign in Lebanon, Waleed Al-Jalal, said that the project comes in response to the current difficult situation being experienced by the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, where the Saudi Campaign ensured full operating expenses and the provision of raw materials of flour, fuel and others. The director mentioned the development of a comprehensive distribution plan that would cover those who are in desperate need of food aid. For his part, the Regional Director of the Saudi National Campaign Dr. Bader bin Abdul Rahman Al-Samhan said that the Campaign seeks to meet all the basic and necessary requirements of the Syrian displaced and refugees. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been leading humanitarian efforts to aid Syrians displaced across the region, providing medical relief, sustenance and other services.Such initiatives have been registered in each of Lebanon and Jordan, Syria’s two neighboring countries that are now home to thousands of asylum seekers.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 02-03/17
Dozens Dead after Gunman Torches Philippine Casino
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 02/17/A masked gunman set fire to a gaming room at a casino in the Philippine capital on Friday, igniting a toxic blaze that killed 36 people, authorities said, but they insisted it was not a terrorist attack. The victims suffocated inside one of the main gambling venues of the upscale Resorts World Manila, while dozens of other people were injured in a panicked crush to escape, police said. The gunman committed suicide inside a hotel room by burning himself about five hours after storming the casino with an M4 assault rifle and a bottle of petrol that he used to start the fire, police chief Ronald Dela Rosa said. Dela Rosa and other police chiefs insisted the assailant was not carrying out a terrorist attack, pointing out he did not shoot anyone, and said it appeared to be a bizarre robbery attempt by a "deranged" man.
"This is not an act of terror. There is no element of violence, threat or intimidation that leads to terrorism," Dela Rosa told reporters. However 36 people died from inhaling smoke from a fire that spread quickly because of flammable carpet on the gaming room floors, according to Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde.The gunman initially disappeared into the chaos of smoke and running people, leading to a five-hour manhunt through the complex, which also includes a hotel and shops, according to Dela Rosa. He said the assailant, who appeared to be a foreigner because he spoke English and looked caucasian, was found just before dawn in a hotel room having committed suicide. "He lay down on the bed, covered himself with a thick blanket, apparently poured petrol on the blanket and burned himself," Dela Rosa said.
Terrorism fears -Before the gunman had been killed and police had confirmed any motive, there was an unconfirmed claim of responsibility from the Islamic State group. US President Donald Trump also branded it a "terrorist attack".But Filipino officials were adamant it was not related to terrorism. This particular situation in Manila is not related in any way to a terrorist attack," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters.
Dela Rosa said the man, acting alone, walked into one of the gaming rooms and fired the rifle at a large television screen, then poured gasoline onto a gambling table and set it alight. He said the man then fired again at a stock room containing gambling chips and filled a backpack with chips worth 113 million pesos ($2.3 million). The man left the room and went upstairs to the hotel section, but left the backpack, according to Dela Rosa. The police chief said 18 of 54 injured people were in hospital. He said the others sustained only minor injuries.
Screaming guests -People inside the casino recounted a terrifying ordeal when the shooting broke out."I was about to return to the second floor from my break when I saw people running. Some hotel guests said someone yelled 'ISIS'," Maricel Navaro, an employee of Resorts World, told DZMM radio. ISIS is another acronym for the Islamic State group. "When we smelled smoke, we decided to go for the exit in the carpark. That's where we got out. Before we exited, we heard two gunshots and there was thick smoke on the ground floor," Navaro said. Outside the complex, relatives of people caught inside waited on Friday to hear news of their loved ones. "Our daughter called us past midnight saying she was in the VIP section of the casino and there was smoke and they were suffocating," Gil Yongco, 42, told AFP. "We are very worried about her. We haven't heard from her."Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed martial law last week across the southern region of Mindanao to crush what he said was a rising threat of IS there. He made the move shortly after militants went on a rampage through the southern city of Marawi, which is about 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of Manila. Security forces are still battling the militants in Marawi, and the clashes there have left at least 171 people dead. Duterte said last week he may need to declare martial law across the rest of the country if the terrorism threat spread.

Anger as Trump Announces US Withdrawal from Global Climate Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 02/17/President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, prompting a furious global backlash and throwing efforts to slow global warming into doubt. In a sharply nationalistic address from the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced his administration would immediately stop implementing the "bad" 195-nation accord. "I cannot, in good conscience, support a deal that punishes the United States," he said, decrying the "draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country."Trump repeatedly painted the pact -- struck by his predecessor Barack Obama -- as a deal that failed to "put America first" and was too lenient on economic rivals China, India and Europe. "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," he said. "We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won't be."Trump offered no details about how, or when, a formal withdrawal would happen, and at one point suggested a renegotiation could take place. "We're getting out but we'll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine," he said.That idea was unceremoniously slapped down by furious allies in Europe, who joined figures from around the United States and the world in condemning the move.
"The agreement cannot be renegotiated," France, Germany and Italy said in a joint statement.
- 'Reject the future' -The United States is the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, so Trump's decision could seriously hamper efforts to cut emissions and limit global temperature increases.Trump's domestic critics included Obama, who said the United States was "joining a handful of nations that reject the future."Nicaragua and Syria are the only countries not party to the Paris accord, the former seeing it as not ambitious enough and the latter being racked by a brutal civil war. Hillary Clinton, Trump's opponent in last year's White House race, called the decision to pull out a "historic mistake.""The world is moving forward together on climate change. Paris withdrawal leaves American workers & families behind," she wrote on Twitter.The Democratic governors of New York, California and Washington states formed a quick alliance, vowing to respect the standards agreed on under the Paris deal. In New York, some major buildings, like the World Trade Center and City Hall, were lit green in solidarity with the climate agreement, echoing a move in Paris.
With much of the implementation of the accord taking place at the local level, the Paris accord's supporters hope the deal will be in hibernation rather than killed off entirely. Trump's decision is likely to play well with the Republican base, with the more immediate damage on the diplomatic front.
Vice President Mike Pence, interviewed late Thursday on Fox, said that Trump "has demonstrated his commitment not just to keep his word, but to put American workers, American consumers, American energy, and the American people first."Trump is "a president who is fighting for the American people, fighting for American jobs," Pence said. The US president called his counterparts in Britain, Canada, France and Germany to explain his decision.
But traditional US allies were uncharacteristically blunt in their condemnation, which comes amid already strained relationships with the hard-charging president. Germany said the US was "harming" the entire planet, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the decision "seriously wrong."
- Reality TV-style -Ever the showman, the 70-year-old Trump gave his decision a reality TV-style tease, refusing to indicate his preference either way until his announcement. Withdrawal opponents -- said to include Trump's daughter Ivanka -- had warned that the US global leadership role was at stake, along with the environment. A dozen large companies including oil major BP, agrochemical giant DuPont, Google, Intel and Microsoft had urged Trump to remain in the deal.
Ultimately, the lobbying by Trump's environmental protection chief Scott Pruitt and chief strategist Steve Bannon urging the president to leave won out. Following the announcement Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk, and Disney chief Robert Iger, announced they would no longer participate in presidential business councils."Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," Musk said. GE head Jeff Immelt said he was "disappointed" with the decision: "Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government."
China pledge -White House officials acknowledged that under the deal, formal withdrawal may not take place until after the 2020 election.
Hours ahead of Trump's announcement, China's Premier Li Keqiang pledged to stay the course on implementing the climate accord in a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and urged other countries to do likewise. China has been investing billions in clean energy infrastructure, as it battles to clear up the choking pollution enveloping its cities. On Friday the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary that Trump's announcement came "to the regret of almost all", although it was "anything but a surprise."It added that "other major players" including the European Union, China and India have said they will "step up efforts in the face of the US change of heart over the landmark deal."China and the US are responsible for some 40 percent of the world's emissions and experts had warned it was vital for both to remain in the Paris agreement if it is to succeed.
The leader of Asia's other behemoth, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- who is due to visit the White House shortly -- has said failing to act on climate change would be "morally criminal." - Mixed signals -Trump's announcement comes less than 18 months after the climate pact was adopted in the French capital, the fruit of a hard-fought agreement between Beijing and Washington under Obama's leadership. The Paris Agreement commits signatories to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, which is blamed for melting ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels and more violent weather events. They vowed steps to keep the worldwide rise in temperatures "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times and to "pursue efforts" to hold the increase under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Algeria to Take in Syrian Refugees Stranded at Border
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 02/17/Algeria has agreed to take in 41 Syrian refugees trapped since mid-April in a desert area that borders neighbouring Morocco, the foreign ministry said on Thursday. The decision comes two days after the UN refugee agency said the plight of the refugees -- who include a pregnant woman -- was "untenable", urging Algeria and Morocco to work for a solution. In a statement carried by APS news agency, the foreign ministry said Algeria would take in the refugees as an "exceptional humanitarian gesture". It said the decision was also meant to mark the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, during which the pious are urged to be charitable and devote themselves to prayer. The refugees would be housed and fed and if they wish be reunited with family members in a third country, a ministry spokesman said in the statement carried by APS. On Tuesday the UNHCR said "prompt" action by Morocco and Algeria was needed to facilitate "the immediate and safe passage of the 41 vulnerable Syrian refugees". The group trapped since April 17 included children and women, including at least one who was in need of an urgent Caesarean section, it said. At the time, Morocco accused its neighbour of expelling the refugees to "sow trouble" and "generate an uncontrollable flow of migrants". Algeria "categorically" rejected the allegations as false. It sparked a diplomatic spat, with each country summoning the other's ambassador. More than 40,000 refugees from Syria have settled in Algeria since the start of their country's civil war in 2011. Millions of Syrians have been forced to flee their homes while more than 320,000 people have been killed.

US Assures Turkey on Kurdish Arms Deal
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/The US military assured Turkey on Thursday of its “transparency” dealing with Kurds after it supplied fighters with US weapons in their battle against the ISIS terrorist group. Ankara had expressed its concern over the move, which it had described as “extremely dangerous.” “We are being transparent with Turkey on the details on what we are providing,” said Baghdad-based Pentagon spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon. “We are maintaining full accountability of the weapons we are providing the SDF,” he said, referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance now moving in on ISIS’s Syria stronghold of Raqqa. The SDF includes fighters from the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey links to Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatists it calls a terror group. In May, US President Donald Trump approved arming the YPG to support the assault on Raqqa. Turkey on Tuesday said arming the YPG was an “extremely dangerous” move and urged Washington to reverse its “mistake.”The arms going to the SDF could include anti-armor weapons like rocket-propelled grenades or TOW missiles, in addition to vehicles, AK-47s and small-caliber machine guns. Dillon said any arms provided will be recorded by serial number. “We will maintain that in our database, and we will share that information with allies to the north that are concerned about the weapons we are providing,” he said. The Trump administration’s decision to arm Syria’s Kurds has raised concerns among the various players in Syria’s complicated battlefield. Coalition spokesman Col. John Dorrian said the weapons will not be reclaimed after the specific missions are completed but the US will “carefully monitor” where and how they are used. “Every single one” of the weapons will be accounted for and the US will “assure they are pointed at” ISIS, he said. But opposition fighters battling Syrian forces in the country’s six-year civil war — some of them backed by Turkey — say there is simply no guarantee the weapons won’t be directed against them or others. As the US-led coalition ratchets up operations in Syria, there are concerns that it will result in a rerun of what happened in Iraq, where $1 billion in weapons supplied to local fighters is unaccounted for. Weapons, training and airstrikes by the coalition have aided ground forces in both Iraq and Syria, allowing Iraq’s military, Iraqi Kurdish fighters and Syrian Kurdish fighters to retake some 55,000 square kilometers (21,235 square miles) of territory from the ISIS extremists in the nearly three-year fight. However, many in both countries are concerned about how the forces bolstered by the coalition will leverage their influence and arms once the militants are vanquished. Numerous Iraqi groups that benefited from the training and arms have been accused of human rights violations. US-backed Kurdish groups have often clashed with Turkey-backed groups in northern Syria, where many factions are jostling to hold various zones of influence. The coalition already has demonstrated an inability to track weapons in Iraq, a much less complex and unstable battlefield than Syria.

Libya Demands Probe into Qatari Meddling as Haftar Vows to Retaliate
Khalid Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Cairo – The National Human Rights Committee in Libya demanded on Thursday that an international investigation be launched in “Qatar’s interference and financial and military support for extremists groups and organizations” in the country. Commander of the Libyan National Army Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar for his part condemned “Qatar’s terrorist activity on Libyan land,” vowing that it will not go unpunished. The Committee accused Qatar of backing several local militias, including the al-Qaeda-linked Shura Council of Mujahideen in Derna and Ansar al-Sharia-allied Benghazi Rebels Shura Council. It said that these militias participated in assassinations against hundreds of officers, policemen and soldiers, as well as a number of civilian, media and rights figures in the eastern region. Qatar is stoking the conflict in Libya through its support of extremist armed groups and political powers that are practicing political violence, added the human rights committee. This backing has increased the danger and threat of terrorist groups and organizations in Libya, it said. Qatar’s meddling in Libya’s internal affairs since 2011 has fueled the armed conflict and dragged the country towards civil war and exacerbated the security and humanitarian suffering, it added.“Qatar’s interference is a blatant violation of the Arab League and United Nations charters in regards to ties between countries and their respect of sovereignty and independence,” it stressed. Hafter’s media office meanwhile distributed a poster with his photograph that was taken during a military parade held in the eastern region in April. “The terrorist activity that Qatar has carried out on Libyan territories will not go unpunished,” said a statement on the poster. His office did not say whether the statement was taken from a speech Haftar had delivered during the parade or whether it was a new threat against Qatar.
Haftar had recently delivered a message to the commanders of the army, accusing Qatar and other countries of presenting financial support to terrorist groups in his country.
He stated that the army is monitoring foreign Chadian, Sudanese, African and Arab delegations in the country. These groups had initially arrived there due to poor border control by regional and international powers that support terrorism. Some of these delegations received sums of money from Qatar and other countries, as well as terrorists active in Libya, he added. Haftar had since the fall of the regime of Moammar al-Gadhafi in 2011 accused Qatar of backing extremist and terrorist groups. He also said that it has played a negative role in Libya and should be held accountable for its actions.
Meanwhile, the presidential council of the national consensus government announced the establishment of seven military zones in each of Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk, al-Kafra, Sabha and two central and western regions. This controversial step may deepen the disputes with Haftar over the eastern part of the country. The council, chaired by Fayez al- Sarraj and backed by the United Nations mission, did not explain the reasons that led it to establish the military zones. It was the first time Sarraj signed a decree in his role of high commander of the Libyan army. In a related development, Haftar’s press office issued a statement that stresses the need to eliminate terrorist groups from al-Jafra region. Sarraj had said that the developments in the area are “unacceptable”.The military escalation there could lead to the entire failure of the political process, he warned.
In his first comments on Egypt’s airstrikes against terrorist camps in al-Jafra in central Libya, he remarked that he is continuing necessary contacts to restore calm and end the shelling. He made his statement after holding talks in the capital Tripoli with a delegation from the city of Hun. He called on “all sides to exercise restraint, halt the military escalation and sit at a dialogue table.”“The military escalation hinders serious attempts to achieve agreement between the sons of the nation and results in reactions that may lead the country to a new whirlwind of violence and deepen division,” Sarraj declared. The delegation was informed of the real developments in Hun and Jafra and the damage done by the airstrikes against the infrastructure and public and private properties, said his media office. For its part, the delegation said that the strikes had struck fear among the people like no other development ever has. “The Jafra region has never been and will never be a side in the conflict. It has always been a meeting point for all parties due to its location in central Libya,” it stressed. The residents of al-Jafra had taken to the streets in Hun, demanding that the “Benghazi Defense Brigades” evacuate the area because these militias have destabilized the region. The protesters carried banners condemning the Muslim Brotherhood and sacked Mufti Sadeq al-Gharyani. Sarraj later revealed that French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will soon make an urgent trip to Tripoli at the head of diplomatic delegation. French President Emmanuel Macron had pledged during a telephone conversation with Sarraj to return his country’s diplomatic mission to Libya. Macron renewed his country’s support for Libya and Sarraj’s government, stressing France’s keenness on establishing security and stability based on political agreement. He added that Paris will work with its European partners in order to help Tripoli overcome its political and security challenges.

Blast in Qatif Kills Two Wanted Men
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Qatif- Two wanted men were killed in a vehicle explosion on Thursday in Qatif, near Mayas Market. The blast occurred one hour before the iftar and killed the two men who are wanted for their involvement in various terrorist cases and for targeting two security patrols. A witness told Asharq Al-Awsat that the vehicle blasted near Mayas Market in Qatif, causing huge panic before the iftar on the sixth day of Ramadan especially that the place has witnessed in 2016 a similar terrorist act. The blast caused no human or material damage other than the vehicle and the two individuals who were about to get inside it – the explosion occurred in the same region that was targeted by ISIS on May 5 2016 in a failed attack. Saudi authorities defied a terrorist group in Awwamiya that has attempted to disrupt the development movement in Mosawara, east Saudi Arabia, by firing on the laborers during their work and on the security men simultaneously. Shi’ite clerks in Qatif called on those involved to drop their weapons – a statement was signed by eight clerks who urged the region’s sheikhs to make it clear in their sermons and statements that they denounce violence and the use of arms against the state or citizens.
The statement called on Awwamiya men and elite to play an active role in putting an end to this suffering. UAE denounced the terrorist attack that targeted security and stability in Qatif, east Saudi Arabia. UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a statement to condemn “this terrorist attack that aimed at shaking security and stability of the kingdom.” The ministry further hailed the kingdom’s efforts in defying terrorism in all its forms, stressing UAE’s full support to the kingdom and backing its procedures taken against extremism and terrorism. It also underscored that Saudi Arabia’s security and stability are the backbone of the Arabian Gulf.

More Civilians Flee Syria’s Raqqa as Battle Looms
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/London, Paris- Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned that the number of people fleeing Raqqa, ISIS’ Syrian stronghold, is growing rapidly. About 10,000 civilians have fled to a camp just north of Raqqa with hundreds more arriving each day as the battle for the city nears, MSF said Thursday. Residents are escaping Raqqa under cover of night as US-backed forces close in, taking their chances against minefields and hostile fighters rather than risking death in a major battle expected to begin soon. “It is not a massive exodus, but about 800 people … are arriving in Ain Issa every day,” Natalie Roberts, an emergency doctor from MSF France who had just returned from the region, told reporters. The camp in Ain Issa village is run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which is made up predominantly of Kurdish fighters, who have now arrived to within 3 km of Raqqa and plan to press on with the assault on ISIS. The SDF had planned to make the camp a transit point for civilians. But the need to register each person and with many not having an alternative destination to travel to, the camp has expanded to beyond its 6,000-person capacity, Roberts said. Conditions have deteriorated especially due to the summer heat. The United Nations and other aid groups have yet to establish themselves in the zone, she said. MSF is providing basic care including vaccinations, maternity care and treatment of chronic conditions. People with war wounds, mostly caused by mines, are being sent to three MSF hospitals further north. Roberts said that coalition bombing in Raqqa had appeared to be well targeted so far, but that the city’s hospitals would not be equipped to handle the sort of injuries resulting from an intensification.

Iraq’s PMF Tests Coalition, Putin Fears Division
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Beirut, Moscow – Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMF) known as al-Hashed al-Shaabi, infiltrated for hours on Thursday night in regions east Syria, a move considered as testing the International Coalition, which provides a cover for Arab and Kurdish fighters in the area. PMF’s Spokesperson Ahmed al-Asadi denied that his forces had crossed into Syria after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed on Thursday that the PMF forces had entered one village in the Hasaka province for a short time, then withdrew. Syria’s Al-Khabour news channel reported that the PMF had controlled on Thursday morning the two villages of Qusayba and Bawaridi, southeast of Hasaka after a surprising withdrawal of ISIS militants from the area. The news channel estimated that the PMF have crossed the Syrian border at a depth of 10 km. Several reports said on Thursday that leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards had visited the Syrian-Iraqi borders, where he headed a meeting between the PMF, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the Syrian army, representatives from “Hezbollah’s” militia and officials from the Revolutionary Guards that lead the Iranian-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. Separately, Doctors Without Borders MSF in France said on Thursday that about 800 people are arriving every day in Ain Issa, located within 3 km of Raqqa. MSF also said about 10,000 civilians have fled to a camp just north of the city. For its part, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that three motorcades left Raqqa under the cover of darkness and took several routes southward on the night of May 29 to 30. The ministry said the Russian Aerospace Forces hit the detected targets and was capable to kill more than 80 ISIS militants. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that he feared a division in Syria. “Does the possible division of Syria arouse concern? It certainly does,” he said at a meeting at the Constantine Palace on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Trapped ISIS Militants Target Mosul’s Displaced
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Mosul – While Iraqi forces advanced on Thursday on the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in central Mosul where ISIS militants are fortified in one third of the western city’s remaining pockets, the terrorist organization shelled mortars at hundreds of displaced people escaping the Zanjili district, killing seven civilians and injuring at least 23 others. ISIS is currently trapped in Zanjili, the central Old City and in the Medical City district after Iraqi forces launched a military operation last Saturday to recapture the area over which coalition warplanes dropped leaflets calling on civilians to evacuate.
The wounded from Zanjili were taken to a field clinic, a police officer told Reuters on Thursday, adding that more people could have been killed while trying to flee. They were part of the first group of civilians who have managed to escape. Several dozen others were able to reach government-held lines unhurt, using the same exit route, the officer said. Meanwhile, two residents from the area revealed that ISIS militants began moving their prisoners out of the Medical City district. The militants ordered dozens of families living in the Zanjili district to move into the Old City to prevent them from escaping toward the Iraqi forces, a resident told Reuters on Wednesday. The Iraqi Federal Police said on Thursday that its forces’ lines of defense were now 150 meters away from ISIS positions in the Old City. They were now advancing from all directions towards the area in a move to tighten the noose on ISIS militants, who are locked up in the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, ahead of launching the decisive battle. On Wednesday, Reuters said dozens of militants were seen by residents taking up positions around the medieval mosque, the site where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called “caliphate” in July 2014.

Sisi: Egypt will Remain an Example of Peaceful Coexistence
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Cairo – Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said Thursday that his country would remain a model of coexistence between the different confessions. He also stressed Egypt’s keenness to promote the values of pluralism and tolerance, underlining the “long history of forgiveness and love” among the Egyptian people. Sisi met with a delegation of bishops and representatives of the Middle Eastern Apostolic Churches in Australia and New Zealand on Thursday, according to a statement by the presidential spokesperson Alaa Youssef. “Egypt will remain an example of peaceful coexistence,” Youssef quoted Sisi as saying. During the meeting, the Egyptian president reaffirmed Egypt’s efforts to build “bridges of friendship with religious leaders all over the world”, according to the spokesperson. He also pointed out to the need to unify Egyptians and overcome differences, stating that his country was seeking to achieve full equality amongst all citizens away from any form of discrimination. According to the statement, the delegation presented its condolences to the Egyptian people for the terrorist attack in Minya last Friday in which 29 Coptic Christians were killed. The statement added that the delegation expressed solidarity with Egypt and its people in facing terrorism, and their trust in Egypt’s ability to overcome security obstacles. Meanwhile, a committee assigned with preparing a draft-law on fighting hatred and violence in the name of religion announced the completion of the first draft, to be presented before parliament during its next ordinary session. According to observers, the law would “contribute to curbing religious hatred and radicalism which are promoted by some extremist groups in the country”.

Trump Angers Tel Aviv by Postponing Decision to Move US Embassy
Kifah Ziboun and Nazir Majli/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/Tel Aviv, Ramallah- US President Donald Trump decided temporarily on Thursday not to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, appeasing the Palestinian Authority but angering Israel.US officials asserted that the president decided to postpone relocating the embassy. However, he did not retreat from his decision to support moving it to Jerusalem. During his presidential campaign, Trump had promised Israel that he would move the US embassy, and had even appointed a US ambassador who shared the same position. But, after assuming power last January, Trump met with high-ranking Israeli and Palestinian officials in Washington and visited the region last week, saying he was committed to trying to reach a solution to the conflict. And at the first deadline on Thursday, Trump decided to follow the policy of his predecessors Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama by signing a six-month waiver to his Secretary of State not to implement a 1995 law requiring that the embassy be transferred to Jerusalem. In a statement issued Thursday, the White House said: “No one should consider this step to be in any way a retreat from the President’s strong support for Israel and for the US-Israel alliance.”The statement added that Trump made this decision to maximize the chances of successfully negotiating a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Following Trump’s move, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “disappointed”, adding that the “Israeli consistent position is that the American embassy, like the embassies of all countries with whom we have diplomatic relations, should be in Jerusalem.”For his part, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency, welcomed the move, saying: “Trump’s decision not to move the embassy is a positive step that would enhance the chances to achieve peace.”

Dutch Prisons Closing due to Lack of Criminals
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/London – In 2013, 19 prisons in the Netherlands closed because the country didn’t have enough criminals to fill them. Now, five more are slated to close their doors by the end of the summer, according to internal documents obtained by media. While these closures will result in the loss of nearly 2,000 jobs, only 700 of which will transition into other unknown roles within Dutch law enforcement, the trend of closing prisons follows a steady drop in crime since 2004. The problem of empty jail cells has even gotten to the point where, last September, the country imported 240 prisoners from Norway just to keep the facilities full. Still, according to media report, Justice Minister Ard van der Steur announced to parliament that the cost of maintaining sparsely-filled prisons was cost-prohibitive for the small country. A number of factors underlie the Netherlands’ ability to keep its crime rate so low, namely, relaxed drug laws, a focus on rehabilitation over punishment, and an electronic ankle monitoring system that allows people to re-enter the workforce. A study published in 2008 found the ankle monitoring system reduced the recidivism rate by up to half compared to traditional incarceration. Instead of wasting away in a jail cell, eating up federal dollars, convicted criminals are given the opportunity to contribute to society. These measures all add up to an unbelievably low incarceration rate: Although the Netherlands has a population of 17 million, only 11,600 people are locked up. That’s a rate of 69 incarcerations per 100,000 people. The US, meanwhile, has a rate of 716 per 100,000 — the highest in the world. It’s marked largely by its lack of attention to social services and rehabilitation programs once prisoners finish their sentences. Without a safety net to give them any other options, many fall back into their old habits.

US led fight on Islamic State has killed 484 civilians: Pentagon

Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - At least 484 civilians have likely been killed in U.S.-led coalition strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria since the operation began in 2014, the U.S. military said in a statement on Friday, in its monthly update of the total.
The U.S.-led coalition figure, which is lower than estimates by non-governmental groups, such as Air Wars, represents an increase of 132 civilian deaths over its previous report released on April 30. The coalition has denied loosening standards meant to protect civilians and blamed the growing total partly on an increase pace of operations in dense, urban terrain. ---Reuters

Saudi energy minister upbeat about rebalancing oil market

Fri 02 Jun 2017 /NNA - The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC countries are committed to bringing global oil inventories down to the industry’s five-year average, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said on Wednesday, adding he saw the target being reached in the very near future. Speaking in Moscow after a meeting between OPEC and Russia, Al-Falih and his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak also said they saw their cooperation in oil markets lasting after the current joint oil output agreement expires in March next year. "Our joint declaration with Russia concluded that while the rebalancing goal is on its way to being achieved, more (is) needed to be done to draw inventories toward the five-year average," Al-Falih said. The Saudi energy minister reiterated his country’s position to do "whatever it takes" along with Russia to help stabilize the oil market, signaling an open-ended policy to reduce the inventory overhang and balance the market. "It is necessary to work out new framework principles for continued steady cooperation between OPEC and non-OPEC even after the expiration of the Vienna agreements," Novak said on Wednesday. Last December, Russia and 10 other non-OPEC nations agreed to join OPEC’s output cuts for the first time in 15 years. Last week, OPEC and non-members led by Moscow agreed to extend cuts in output by a further nine months to March 2018. Oil prices dropped more than 4 percent after the decision as the market had been hoping oil producers could reach a last-minute deal to deepen the cuts or extend them further, until mid-2018. Both Moscow and Riyadh said cooperation would continue beyond the current agreement as both countries were still trying to find ways to coexist with US shale oil producers, which are not part of the global output reduction deal. "I attended a meeting of the Saudi and Russian leadership at the Kremlin during which both our nations renewed their determination to rebalance the global crude oil market in the interest of greater market stability and restated our commitment to doing whatever it takes to attain those goals," Al-Falih said. OPEC Secretary-General Mohammad Barkindo also said that the current cooperation between oil producers -- OPEC and non-OPEC -- would outlive the present oil output cut deal. "We believe this cooperation is in the best interests of both consumers and producers," Barkindo said. "We do not expect a divorce in this marriage," he added.--REUTERS

New images of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi released by police

Fri 02 Jun 2017/NNA - Detectives have released a series of images of Manchester bomber Salman Abedi as they strive to make sense of the terrorist’s final movements and motives. Greater Manchester police said Abedi left the UK on 15 April and arrived back on 18 May, four days before he detonated a backpack bomb at the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people. Detectives have confirmed that Abedi, a British Libyan, bought parts for the devastating bomb after arriving back in the UK but they have been unable to determine whether he acquired parts before he left the UK for Libya. They have scrutinised CCTV to try to determine when and how the bomb was made, which has led them to the Banff Road area in Rusholme, where houses have been repeatedly searched.--the guardian

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 02-03/17
Putin between the Tsar and The Commissar

Amir TaheriAsharq Al-Awsat/June 02/17/
After decades at the top of Russian politics, Vladimir Putin should not be an unknown quantity, at least as far as Western specialists are concerned. One question they ought to consider is how hard and how far Putin should be pushed to remain within the limits of acceptable behavior.
Putin’s brief visit to France, in fact to the Palace of Versailles this week, provided an opportunity to pose that question in a calmer and more pondered manner.
The fact that Putin accepted a short-notice invitation from the new French President Emmanuel Macron showed that the Russian leader is desperate to regain entry into the circle of the so-called “great powers”.
Excluded from the G-8 and regarded as a pariah in capitals that count, Putin was only too keen to secure a photo-op indicting a breach in his isolation.
Next, one of the themes Putin hammered in at Versailles was that he hoped the Western “specialists” would regard Russia today as it is today and not as the defunct Soviet Union it once was.
The excuse for the Versailles visit was the 300th anniversary of a visit to France by Peter the Great, the founder of modern Russia. Tsar Peter was the founder of the so-called Westernizers school in Russian national debate, those who believe that Russia is part of Europe and should free itself from its “barbarian” Asiatic heritage.
Peter wanted Russia to adopt modern sciences and systems of education and went as far as forcing the boyars to shave their long beards and the Muzhiks to wear “European” style clothes.
During his 12-week stay in France, the tsar hired a host of French, and other European, teachers, historians, artists, architects and administrators to accompany him to Russia and help transform it into a modern European nation. Those recruits were to build Petrograd, today’s Saint Petersburg as an Italian city and redesigned Moscow as a French metropolis.
Peter’s westernization platform was opposed by Slavophils who believed that Russia has its own soul and should fulfill its own manifest destiny by expanding its empire and spreading its version of Christianity.
During his career Putin has played both themes, he has been a westernizer at some times and a Slavophile at others. In Versailles, paying glowing tribute to Peter, the current master of the Kremlin was in his westernizer mode.
The sub text of his message was that Russia’s recent “conquests” in Georgia and Ukraine should not be seen as part of a broader attempt to revive the Soviet Empire. At his joint press conference with Macron in Versailles, Putin ditched his nationalistic routine and described the task of politics as one of improving the lives of the people.
His aim was to reassure Russian middle classes badly affected by economic sanctions, the falling oil prices and the Russian economy’s general decline since 2012.
Putin also tried to change the conversation by casting such issues as Syria and Ukraine as only some of the items on a heavily loaded global agenda. He made some song and dance about fighting terrorism, always a topic that catches the attention in the West, and offered Russian cooperation.
Obviously keen to show that he has re-attached Russia to “big power” circles at least in a minimal way, Putin instantly accepted Macron’s suggestion to create a joint group to suggest strategies in fighting terrorism.
All in all, he Putin, we saw in Versailles this week seemed to be less defiant, less arrogant and more amenable to playing the game according to some rules. To be sure, that could be nothing but a pose, adopted at a tough moment by an adventurer that has been mugged by reality. Therefore, it may be prudent not to fall for Putin’s new “I can be a moderate” number.
Maybe those who think like the US Senator John McCain, that Putin is more dangerous than ISIS, are not that wide of the mark, although I doubt it because McCain has hardly been right about anything.
Nevertheless, it would be unwise to dismiss even the slightest positive modification in Putin’s demeanor. The aim should not be rubbing Putin’s nose in dust by making sure he meets his comeuppance. Nor should it be to humiliate Russia. Putin has put Russia on a frisky trajectory that also threatens the peace of Europe and the stability of the Middle East.
The aim should be to walk Russia aback from that trajectory. If Putin is prepared to open a window of opportunity it would be unwise to shut it in his face. This does not mean offering him a smorgasbord of concessions as the hapless Barack Obama did with his childish “re-set” gimmick.
Putin is right in suggesting that Russia isn’t the Soviet Union. For the USSR was an enemy of Western democracies while Russia today is at worst an adversary.
According to French sources, at Versailles Putin dropped a number of tantalizing hints. On Syria, he made mention of Bashar al-Assad, the puppet that is manipulated by Tehran and Moscow for their own ends. Instead, Putin insisted that any solution for Syria should not pass by destroying “the state institutions.”
That is something that the Western powers, and the mass of the Syrians; should have little difficulty accepting.
Leaving aside a few hundred individuals directly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity there is no reason why the remnants of the Syrian states personnel should not have a place in a future free Syria. Putin’s new posture comes against a background of a sharp drop in Russian military activity in Syria. Last month Assad and his Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem announced an Aleppo-style operation against Idlib with the Russian air force launching a massive carpet bombing operation. That hasn’t happened.
Russia has also swallowed two attacks by US forces against Assad’s positions and units without trying to reciprocate in any way. Putin now uses the term “de-escalation” for both the Syrian and Ukrainian crises. He may well be trying to buy time or to divide his adversaries.But he may also be reflecting the fact that he is learning from his experience that old Imperialist policies are self-defeating in the end. His new posture shouldn’t be dismissed out of and; it should be tested. If it is verified that he wants to walk his cat back, he should be helped to do so.

Palestinians: Israel's Goodwill Gestures Send Wrong Messages
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 02/17
Here is what is being said on the Palestinian street: Today Israel runs away from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip; tomorrow Israel will run away from Ashkelon, then from Tel Aviv and from there to the sea, and we have achieved our goal of destroying Israel. Therefore, we need to continue attacking Israel.
As with the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal from Lebanon taught the Palestinians that terrorism could drive Israelis out of their country.
Never have the Palestinians given Israel credit for its goodwill steps. On the contrary, they scoff at these moves and describe them as "cosmetic changes". The Palestinian line is that Israel's steps are "insufficient" and "unhelpful." Its concessions are regarded as gestures of a terrified people and as the rightful reward for terrorism. Far from satiating the appetite of the terrorists, such steps prompt them to step up their attacks against Israelis.
The West suffers under a major misconception concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: that "goodwill gestures" and territorial concessions on the part of Israel boost the prospects of peace in the Middle East. The facts, however, suggest that precisely the opposite is true.
Last week, Israel's Channel 10 television station reported that the U.S. administration was pushing Israel to transfer parts of Area C -- areas under full Israeli security and civilian control in the West Bank -- to the control of Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA). According to the report, the U.S. believes that the transfer of the territory to the PA would be a "goodwill step" towards the Palestinians, paving the way for the revival of the stalled peace process with Israel.
This assumption, of course, has already proven wrong. The experiences of the past few decades have shown clearly that Israeli concessions have always sent the wrong message to the Palestinians.
In fact, Palestinians read Israeli goodwill steps as signs of weakness and retreat. This misinterpretation on the part of the Palestinians then leads to more violence against Israel. It would be hard for anyone not to conclude that if pressure works, keep on pressuring.
The past 24 years are littered with examples of how the Palestinians react to Israeli concessions.
The Oslo Accords that were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993 were seen by Palestinians as a first step by Israel towards total capitulation.
The accords, which brought the PLO from several Arab countries to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, came after five years of the first Palestinian Intifada. By allowing the PLO to assume control over large parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israel sent a message that it was caving in to the violence and terrorism of the First Intifada.
Barely a breath after Oslo, Israel was again asked to conciliate the Palestinians: this time, hundreds of prisoners, many with Jewish (and Arab) blood on their hands, were released from Israeli prison in order to create an atmosphere "conducive" to the peace process.
Instead of viewing the prisoner release for what it was, namely a generous gesture, many Palestinians considered it a "victory" for terrorism and violence. Worse, it was not long before many of the released prisoners were rearrested for their role in further terrorism against Israel. The release of prisoners also sent a message of recidivism to Palestinians: terror does indeed pay! A short stint in an Israeli prison is sure to lead to release in some Israeli "confidence-building measure" or other.
According to statistics, at least half of released Palestinian prisoners have returned to terrorism.
Despite the grim statistics, the international community regularly demands that Israel release more convicted terrorists as a "gesture" towards Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinians.
Palestinian terrorists who were released from prison by Israel as a "goodwill gesture" are honored at Mahmoud Abbas' presidential compound in Ramallah, on October 30, 2013. According to statistics, at least half of released Palestinian prisoners have returned to terrorism. Since 1993, Israel has complied again and again with such international pressure, only to reinforce the message to Palestinians: terrorism is indeed worth the trouble. Let us consider, for a moment, Gaza. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, after destroying 21 Jewish settlements and expelling more than 8,000 Jews from their homes there. In Palestinian eyes, however, the Israeli "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip was anything but an olive branch of peace. The withdrawal came after five years of the bloody Second Intifada, when Palestinians waged a massive campaign of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israelis. Thus, for Palestinians, Israel was once again retreating in the face of unremitting bloodshed.
Here is what is being said on the Palestinian street: Today Israel runs away from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, tomorrow Israel will run away from Ashkelon, then from Ashdod and Tel Aviv and from there to the sea, and we have achieved our goal of destroying Israel. Therefore, we need to continue attacking Israel.
Moreover, it was also precisely the Israeli pullout from Gaza that launched Hamas to its current pinnacle of popularity among Palestinians. Hamas took credit for expelling the Jews from the Gaza Strip through terrorism. A few months later, Hamas even won the Palestinian parliamentary election because Palestinians gave Hamas total credit for driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli pullout told Palestinians in no uncertain terms: Why bother negotiating when terror will do the trick?
Five years earlier, the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon also had the same effect: it emboldened the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group. As with the Gaza Strip, the withdrawal from Lebanon taught the Palestinians that terrorism could drive Israelis out of their country.
In the past few years, additional Israeli goodwill gestures, such as removing security checkpoints and the easing travel restrictions in the West Bank, led to yet more violence, claiming the lives of yet more Israelis.
Abbas and his top officials have always responded to Israeli gestures with cynicism. Never have they given Israel credit for its goodwill steps. On the contrary, they scoff at these moves, and describe them as "cosmetic changes aimed at beautifying Israel's ugly face" or as public-relations stunts.
For the sake of clarity, let us say it clearly: handing over areas in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, and the release of convicted murderers, does not contribute to any sort of "peace process;" it only contributes to the death of more Israelis.
The Palestinian line is that Israel's steps are "insufficient" and "unhelpful." Its concessions are regarded as gestures of a terrified people and as the rightful reward for terrorism. Far from satiating the appetite of the terrorists, such steps prompt them to step up their attacks against Israelis. The next time Americans and Europeans think of asking Israel to cede yet more to the Palestinians, let them consider what Israel might be receiving in return, other than the spilling of more Jewish blood.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2017 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.

Selling Out Pentecost to Islam
Geert Wilders/Gatestone Institute/June 02/17
The Dutch have officially been enjoying the feast of Pentecost since 1815, but the church wants it replaced by an official holiday on Eid-al-Fitr, the day marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
We are too tolerant to intolerance. We think that by allowing freedom to the enemies of freedom we prove to the world that we stand for freedom. But in reality, by refusing to draw boundaries to our tolerance, we are handing away our freedom.
If we want to remain the free and tolerant society which we used to be, we must realize that the West has a concrete identity. Our identity is not Islamic, but based on Judaism, Christianity and humanism. Our freedoms result from this identity.
Next Sunday, Christians are celebrating the feast of Pentecost. A Protestant church in the Netherlands is using the occasion to propose the abolishment of the public holiday for the second day of Pentecost. The Dutch have officially been enjoying this holiday since 1815, but the church wants it replaced by an official holiday on Eid-al-Fitr, the day marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
With its proposal, the Christian group says, it wants "to do justice to diversity in religion." That is politically-correct claptrap. Browsing through today's papers, I can, however, understand why many Dutch are in a festive mood once Ramadan is over! These days, the headlines are full of incidents, which De Telegraaf, the leading newspaper in the Netherlands, describes as Ramadan rellen (Ramadan riots).
Suppose Christians would, on an annual basis, start to riot after leaving church on Pentecost and demolish property, arson cars, attack police, throw stones through the neighbor's windows. Suppose the police would feel obliged to mark the Christian Lent in the calendar as days of heightened tensions. Would we not begin to wonder whether there was something wrong with Christianity?
Or suppose Jewish gangs would terrorize entire town districts on Yom Kippur day. Would we not beginning to wonder what they were being taught in their synagogues? Or would we just accept it, celebrate it even, as indications of the cultural "diversity" of our society?
I am writing these lines in my office in the Dutch Parliament in The Hague, barely a few minutes away from the house where the great 17th century Dutch and Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza lived and died. Spinoza gave the world a philosophy of tolerance and freedom.
However, what we must never do is be tolerant to intolerance. Because if tolerance becomes a snake devouring its own tail, soon there will be no freedom left and the intolerant will rule the world. Indeed, we are almost there. Three and a half centuries after Spinoza, in the city where he lived, I am writing these lines in a heavily protected sector of the parliament building. The windows are blinded, the doors are armored, and police officers are standing watch outside. They are there to protect me against the intolerance which has in recent decades entered our country – an intolerance that is neither Christian nor Jewish or secular, but Islamic. I am not an extremist if I say that. I am telling the truth. And that is my duty.
For here is the crux of the matter: If we want to remain the free and tolerant society which we used to be, we must realize that the West has a concrete identity. Our identity is not Islamic, but based on Judaism, Christianity and humanism. Our freedoms result from this identity. By depriving Islam of the means to destroy our identity, we are not violating freedom; we are preserving our identity and guaranteeing freedom.
The terrible situation we are in today is caused by our tolerance of evil. We are too tolerant to intolerance, we are too tolerant to Islam. We think that by allowing freedom to the enemies of freedom we prove to the world that we stand for freedom. But in reality, by refusing to draw boundaries to our tolerance, we are handing away our freedom.
We live in an age where people like the idea of rights, so long as they do not have to pay a price for it. The political and media elites are all in favor of speaking the truth, so long as the "truth" is a cliché. But when duty and honor command them to stand athwart history and yell "Stop!" they flee. And those who do their duty are called extremists, dragged to court, silenced.
Earlier today, I learned that the Dutch Public Prosecutor in The Hague is investigating a speech which, two years ago, I gave in Vienna, Austria. He is doing this at the request of his colleague, the Public Prosecutor in Vienna, who accuses me of Verhetzung (incitement). The latter is a criminal offense in Austria and is comparable to incitement.
I find this truly unbelievable. Let them catch bandits and terrorists instead of prosecuting a politician for speaking about Islam. It is a disgrace that this is happening in the city of Spinoza, who was not only a great defender of tolerance but also of freedom of thought and speech. Spinoza's face used to adorn one of our bank notes in the time when we still had our own currency. Too bad that this is no longer the case today.
Unbelievable also because it would be the third time in a few years that I would be prosecuted for saying things the elites do not want to hear. It is a legal jihad. While the elites are to blame for the existential crisis we are currently in. With their open border-policies and unprecedented love for Islam and their cultural relativism, they sell us out completely and put our freedom and security at stake. They have abandoned the legacy of Spinoza and introduced the totalitarianism of Mohammedanism in our nations. I say: no more. It is time to do our duty and defend our freedom and the freedom of our children.
*Geert Wilders MP is leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) in The Netherlands.
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© 2017 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.

Following discrimination claims, Egypt's Al-Azhar enrolls Christian medical resident
Ahmed Fouad/Translated by: TranslatorPaul Raymond//Al Monitor/June 02/17
Al-Azhar University is considered a beacon of centrist, moderate Islam in Egypt. But the university is still vulnerable to criticism and responds to any critiques with an eye on its public image. That may have been the case on May 17, when the dean of Al-Azhar’s Faculty of Dentistry in Assiut, Khalid Siddiq, accepted Abanoub Guirguis Naeem, a Christian student, for a residency training program. Naeem is the first known case of a Christian student enrolling at the university.
Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the renowned seat of Islamic education, has gained attention for accepting a Christian medical student for a residency program.
Ahmed Fouad/Translated by: TranslatorPaul Raymond/
Medical school graduates must complete a residency before they are allowed to practice professionally in public or private hospitals and clinics.
Many private universities do not offer students the residencies they need to complete their certification, so students apply at hospitals run by government institutions such as Cairo University, Ain Shams University and Al-Azhar University. Naeem found himself in this situation when he graduated from Nahda University in Beni Suef.
A doctor who graduated from Al-Azhar, asking to be identified only as T. Y., told Al-Monitor, “Not all students who graduate from private universities and want residencies at Al-Azhar are accepted. As the number of applicants outweighs the university hospital’s need and capacity, some students are rejected.”
He went on, “The [decision] is based on the student’s grades, where they live and whether there is an agreement between the private university in question and Al-Azhar to take on medical residents. Al-Azhar may have deliberately accepted Naeem to show that its doors are open to all Egyptians in a way that doesn’t violate the university’s regulations for its Islamic modules.”
Naeem’s admission came after parliament member Mohammad Abu Hamid called for Al-Azhar’s scientific colleges to be brought under the jurisdiction of Egypt’s Higher Council for Universities. In comments aired on Al Assema TV's call-in show “Kalam Garayed” on March 5, Abu Hamid said that doing so would allow all citizens, Muslim and Christian, to study secular subjects there. He said Christians should have the same rights as Muslims.
Al-Azhar spokesman Abbas Shoman responded to Abu Hamid’s demand in a March 11 press statement: “There is no text that prevents any Egyptian from studying at Al-Azhar, but the conditions for enrollment can only be met by Muslims. Will Christians memorize the Quran so they can study at Al-Azhar? That won’t happen, so the education system at Al-Azhar is not suitable for Christians, as the conditions for enrolling are hard for them and we cannot remove the Islamic education modules or exempt Christians from having to take them.”
Speaking to Al-Monitor, Shoman said there was a difference between attending the university as a student and a resident. “Organized study includes lectures and theoretical modules. It is hard for Christians to take part in, because besides scientific modules, students take religious modules such as Quranic studies, jurisprudence, Islamic law and doctrines,” he said. “But the residency is practical training in a subject the student has already mastered, and students joining the university for residencies don’t study Islamic modules,” he explained.
Siddiq, the dean of Al-Azhar’s Faculty of Dentistry in Assiut, told Al-Monitor that under the colleges' regulations, residents enter school in early May.
“Naeem applied to the college for a residency, and he was accepted along with other students,” he said. Siddiq said Naeem is not the first Christian student to take a residency at Al-Azhar, but he did not name others. “Many Christians have taken part in training courses organized over the past few years,” he told Al-Monitor.
Nevertheless, Shoman championed his admission. In May 17 comments to MBC Egypt’s “Yahduth fi Misr” call-in show, Shoman said, “Naeem was accepted for training at Al-Azhar thanks to the university’s transparency and its openness to all.”
For his part, T. Y. said Naeem was the first case of a Christian student being publicly accepted to the university. “There may have been previous cases, but they were not made public,” he said.
“The university administration did well to promote his case because it is a real message that Al-Azhar embraces all sects in Egyptian society without discrimination, which is the best response to Abu Hamid’s suggestion after he accused the university of rejecting Christians, whether intentionally or not.”
He went on, “Naeem did well to get into Al-Azhar instead of being persuaded by negative propaganda saying he wouldn’t be allowed in or would be rejected by his colleagues. Christian students may not have applied for internships at Al-Azhar because they believed they would not be accepted or maybe they felt awkward about the situation, especially given that the number of Christian trainers would be very limited.”
Asked about Abu Hamid’s proposal to bring Al-Azhar's scienctific colleges under central jurisdiction, T. Y. said, “I’m not against the suggestion as such, but it should have been made after discussion between the parliament and Al-Azhar, and it should have come from Al-Azhar itself. Coming from Abu Hamid and with the controversy surrounding the issue, it seemed like Al-Azhar rejects Christians and creates discrimination and that the parliament is trying to prevent that discrimination, and that is not true at all. Al-Azhar is facing attacks from many media and political figures.”
Al-Azhar may be using Naeem to respond to repeated criticism and improve its image. The last two years have seen media figures launch fierce attacks on Al-Azhar’s curricula. TV host Ibrahim Issa and religious scholar Islam Buhairi accused the university of encouraging terrorism, as its curricula include some traditional fatwas deemed extremist and condemn other religions.

Egypt steps up strikes in Libya following Coptic bus attack
Muhammed Magd/Translated by:Cynthia Milan/Al Monitor/June 02/17
CAIRO — The Egyptian policy toward the Libyan crisis took a new turn following the attack on a bus carrying Copts in Minya province, in southern Egypt, on May 26 that killed 28 people, most of whom were children, and wounded 25 others.
The recent terrorist attack that killed 26 Copts in southern Egypt pushed the army to launch airstrikes against militant camps inside Libyan territory.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi responded on the same day by ordering airstrikes against camps within the Libyan territories where militants responsible for attacks inside Egypt are believed to have been trained.
Sisi promised in a televised speech on the evening of the attack that he would not hesitate to launch strikes against terrorist camps training militants to carry out operations against Egypt. Indeed, Egyptian army spokesman Tamer al-Rifai vowed to renew airstrikes, which took place on May 26-29.
In October 2014, militants in the Libyan city of Derna pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted their allegiance in an audio recording posted online. However, in April 2016, the IS militants withdrew from Derna following bloody clashes with fighters from Derna’s Shura Council of Mujahideen, which includes Islamic militias, most notably al-Qaeda.
Although Egyptian officials stated that Egypt is standing at the same distance from all political parties in Libya, Cairo publicly supports the Libyan National Army (LNA) commander, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who visited Cairo on several occasions. Most recently, on May 13, Hifter headed to Egypt to discuss the political and security situation with Sisi. In addition, Egypt sent its Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mahmoud Hijazi to participate May 16 in a military parade organized by Hifter.
Speaking at a joint conference with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, after the strikes on May 29, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry defended his country’s right to strike back, asserting that militant training camps in Libya pose a direct threat to Egypt's national security. “The attack on the Christians proved that Libyan militants were capable of targeting Egypt,” he said.
Egypt has also informed the United States that the perpetrators of the Minya attack were trained in Libya. The Egyptian delegation to the United Nations delivered May 27 a speech at the Security Council saying that the strikes were in self-defense, to avoid any international blame. The UN-backed Libyan reconciliation government objected to Egypt bombing Libyan territory.
In this context, Maj. Gen. Zakaria Hussein, the former chairman of the Nasser Military Academy, told Al-Monitor that the Minya incident is an attack on Egyptian national security. Borders were infiltrated and defenseless citizens were targeted, he said, adding that Egypt had to launch these strikes in retaliation for what had happened.
Hussein said that the strikes only aim to protect Egyptian national security from camps harboring terrorists and planning operations in Egypt. He noted that the strikes were based on accurate information and were strategically planned.
In a press statement May 27, the Libyan air force, led by Hifter, a close ally of Egypt, announced that it took part in the Egyptian strikes that targeted the previously determined positions of militants in Derna, in eastern Libya. The air force said the operation was successful and that the targeted al-Qaeda terrorists lost many of their militants and munitions.
The statement further said that the operation paved the way for the LNA’s entry into the town of Derna, to liberate it from terrorists.
Speaking on On Live channel May 29, the director of the National Center for Security and Strategic Studies in Egypt, Brig. Gen. Khaled Okasha, said that the strikes carried out by the Egyptian forces inside Libyan territory were legal according to international standards. These constitute a form of self-defense under Article 51 of the international law and were carried out in coordination with the LNA.
Okasha also expected Egyptians to show more coordination with the Libyan side in order to tighten border control and eliminate terrorist organizations in Libya. He noted that Egypt will try to convince the international community that Libya poses a threat to the entire world by proving that the perpetrators of the Manchester bombing and the Minya attack were all trained there.
He added that when Sisi announced launching the strikes, he made it clear to US President Donald Trump that terrorist groups are no longer a threat to Libya alone, but also affect the countries of the region as a whole, and therefore must be annihilated to keep Libya from turning into a haven for terrorism. With this, Sisi is calling on its US ally to provide international cover and political support to Egypt, giving it the freedom to carry out operations in Libya, according to Okasha.
Abdel Sattar al-Hatita, a researcher specializing in Libyan affairs, told Al-Monitor that Egypt is playing a dual role in the Libyan crisis. “It seeks to find a political solution and bring together the conflicting Libyan parties, while at the same time it supports the LNA, represented by Hifter,” he said.
Hatita pointed out that Sisi has called for lifting the arms embargo as “the cornerstone for eliminating the terrorist threat in Libya,” as expressed by Sisi on several occasions.
The UN has imposed a ban on the export of arms to Libya since the Libyan revolution in 2011. However, US special envoy to Libya Jonathan Winer accused Egypt on Jan. 10 of sending weapons to Libya, which Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid denied.
Hatita added that the Egyptian strikes were in favor of Hifter’s army, since they were not only limited to eastern Libya but also included areas in the south and the west such as Jufra, Hun and the Libyan Jabel Akhdar. He also expected the operations to expand to other areas where the armed groups are present.
He said that Egyptian jihadis who have recently returned from Syria and fled from the Sinai Peninsula to Libya, are now trying to return to Egypt through the border to carry out operations inside.
On May 29, Al-Hayat newspaper cited an Egyptian source as saying that the Egyptian army is determined to secure the western border through intelligence cooperation and coordination with the LNA.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, political science professor at Cairo University Hassan Nafaa said the political leadership in Egypt only launched the strikes after it felt trapped. From the east, Wilayat Sinai, IS’ branch in Egypt, is highly active, and from the west, Libya continues to fail as a state in light of the increasing activity of extremist groups, namely IS, looking for a safe haven after suffering several defeats in Iraq and Syria.
He said that Libya is of great importance to Egypt, since terrorist groups in Libya pose a direct threat to Egyptian national security. He noted, “Cairo does not trust any political Islam movement and thus could not find a party to rely on in eliminating extremist groups except for Hifter. Egypt is keen on bringing together Libyan parties under one government and a single political leadership.”
Nafaa said that after the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh May 21, Egypt might have felt that the United States gave the green light to act freely in the Middle East in light of Trump’s stringent policy toward terrorist organizations. “The [Egyptian] political leadership might have sensed that the UN Security Council will not discourage Egypt from targeting Libya,” he said.
He concluded, “I think the current international and regional communities hit by terrorist attacks have become more convinced of Egypt’s strikes.”

US, Russia hold secret talks over south Syria safe zone

Laura Rozen/Al Monitor/June 02/17
WASHINGTON — US and Russian officials have quietly stepped up contacts in recent weeks to try to advance a deal on the creation of a safe zone in southern Syria, Al-Monitor has learned.
Summary⎙ Print US and Russian officials are quietly negotiating a deal over a proposed "de-escalation" zone near the border with Jordan.
The talks included a meeting in Jordan in late May, a former diplomat from the region said on condition of anonymity. Russia, Iran and Turkey negotiated the creation of four zones aimed at de-escalating tensions between Bashar al-Assad's forces and the armed Syrian opposition in early May, and the Donald Trump administration is now trying to see what role the United States can play.
“Last week, the Americans and Russia met in Jordan with the Jordanians to discuss these zones in the south,” the former diplomat said. “The meeting in Jordan was one part where the US and Russia, Israel and Jordan can work together to have [a] de-escalation zone in the south of Syria.”
The United States is particularly concerned that any deal over the future of Syria preserves the stability of its close allies Israel and Jordan. Israel for its part has said it would not tolerate an Iranian presence on its border with Syria.
The source said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is "in charge of dealing with Russia" amid allegations that the Trump presidential campaign conspired with Moscow. The former diplomat said Brett McGurk, the US special presidential envoy to the global coalition against the Islamic State, and US Syria envoy Michael Ratney participated in the Jordan talks. Neither official responded to queries.
The Trump administration priority on Syria “is to stop the killing," the source said. "That's why they are willing to watch what Russia is doing[.] They are willing to give Russia a major role to play … to find a solution … in a way that Assad, in the endgame, should be out, and Iran should be out.”
The Americans and Russians have been meeting quietly on Syria without announcing it, a senior international diplomat who works on Syria confirmed to Al-Monitor.
“They met more than once,” the senior diplomat, speaking not for attribution, said, referring to the Americans and Russians. “[It is] difficult to say where they are at ... but they seem to have rather serious discussions. And at the same time [they are] trying to increase their bargaining power through moves on the ground [to see] who has the upper hand in the Euphrates valley.”
“The border with Jordan [part of which is a de-escalation area] and up to the Euphrates must, in my view, be subject to Russian-US understandings, and therefore implicit understandings between [the government of Syria], Jordan and Israel,” he added.
The State Department would not confirm the Jordan meeting but said it is working exhaustively to try to reduce the violence in Syria.
“The United States remains committed to supporting a diplomatic resolution to the Syrian conflict, one which can bring about a more representative and peaceful Syria, free of terrorism,” a State Department official, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor. “We have long said there is no military solution to the crisis in Syria and have worked tirelessly to achieve a de-escalation of violence and a defeat of [the Islamic State], al-Qaeda and other terrorists.”
Congress, however, has been blunter. Speaking at a May 25 meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., revealed that Tillerson had asked Congress to delay action on new Russia sanctions while he worked to secure an agreement on Syria.
Tillerson has asked “for a short window of opportunity … to change the trajectory of our relationship with Russia,” Corker said last week before Congress recessed until June 5. Corker warned that his patience was wearing thin and promised reporters that Tillerson would be grilled on the issue during his mid-June appearance before the Senate Budget Committee to defend Trump's FY 2018 budget blueprint.
“Unless Secretary Tillerson can come in early in this next work session” and report “these things are occurring that are changing the trajectory” of US-Russia relations, Corker said, then he planned to move forward quickly with a Russia sanctions bill.
“I can just tell you: I see no difference whatsoever,” Corker added. “[The Russians] continue to work against our interests.”
A Jordanian official confirmed there are several ongoing meetings taking place pertaining to Syria, in Jordan, Geneva, Astana and elsewhere.
“As Jordanians, we have meetings and communications with all concerned parties who have influence on the ground, be it the Russians, the Americans and others,” the Jordanian official, speaking not for attribution, told Al-Monitor. “Our objective is to communicate our view and vision on the situation in service of our national strategic interest of securing our borders.”
Recent US-Russian discussions “focus on the south” of Syria, Czech Ambassador to the United States Hynek Kmonicek told Al-Monitor. "It's at least something that we can read from evolution on the ground. If this approach works, it could be strategically interesting. It could be a test if Russia is willing and can deliver.”
"It will not be easy,” Kmonicek, whose government represents the United States in Syria, said. “The American side wants to create islands of stability. De-escalation zones. The Russians are thinking, very funny, islands of stability — for jihadis. …. So, they must persuade each other.”
“My feeling: The Russians need a political settlement, to get out,” the Czech diplomat continued. “They are eager to have something.”
The Trump administration has been evasive about its contacts with Russia, possibly out of sensitivity to the scrutiny the White House is under after the US intelligence community determined that Moscow interfered in the 2016 US presidential elections to boost Trump. The alleged interference is now the subject of several investigations by Congress, the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“They have to keep it behind the scenes,” said Michael Kofman, a Russia expert with the Kennan Institute. Now is not the "right time" to "let on that they are actually making progress with Russia on arrangements for Syria," he said. "[There is] the perception that the current administration is highly constrained in what it can do with Russia right now.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview with a French newspaper this week, alluded to US-Russian consultations focused in particular on Syria’s southern borders with Israel and Jordan.
“Incidentally, we have been seeing some shifts lately; and there are actual results,” Putin told France’s Le Figaro newspaper May 30. “I spoke to President Trump on the telephone, and he supported the idea, in general, of creating de-escalation zones.”
“We are now considering how the interests of all the countries to the south of Syria can be best served, with consideration for the concerns of all the countries that face issues in this region,” Putin said. “I am referring to Jordan, Israel and Syria itself. Of course, Russia is ready to heed what the United States and our European partners have to say. However, what we need is for the dialogue to be specific and concise, instead of empty talk about mutual claims and threats. There is a need for a real effort.”
While the State Department has been mum about recent US-Russian discussions on Syria de-escalation zones, the Pentagon has readily acknowledged stepped-up military-to-military contacts in order to avoid inadvertent confrontation with the Russians in Syria, particularly as the US-led coalition prepares to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State.
In addition to regular colonel-to-colonel US-Russian de-confliction talks, “there have been three-star conversations at the … joint staff level,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, the commander of US air forces at Central Command, told journalists at the Pentagon on May 24. “My … two-star deputy exchanged some conversations with the Russians as we were working through the myriad of issues that have occurred."
“So we have had the ability to increase the dialogue at the appropriate level,” Harrigan said. “My expectation is that will be helpful as we move forward … as the airspace continues to become more congested and with the … regime continuing to move farther to the east. I think it'll be important that we decrease ambiguity. And that decrease in ambiguity allows us to understand where [the Russians are] going, where possible areas of conflict could occur.”
But the US-Russia military-to-military de-confliction talks do not involve discussion of Syria de-escalation zones, Harrigan added.
“At our level, when we've talked to the Russians, we do not talk about those de-escalation zones,” Harrigan said. “We just talk de-confliction in our operations.”