March 20/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 09/37-45/:"On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It throws him into convulsions until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.’Jesus answered, ‘You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.’While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God. While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.’But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying."

*The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
*Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Second Letter to the Corinthians 09/1a.05-15./:"Now it is not necessary for me to write to you about the ministry to the saints, So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you, and arrange in advance for this bountiful gift that you have promised, so that it may be ready as a voluntary gift and not as an extortion. The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.’He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!".

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 19-20/17
Elias Bejjani/The Lost Son Parable and Repentance/Elias Bejjani/March 19/17
Eisenkot (Israeli Army Chief Of Staff) predicts upcoming war with Lebanese-supported terrorist groups/Yoav Zitun & Ahiya Raved/Ynetnews/March 19/17
Is there a future for Egyptian-Iranian relations/Mustafa Salama/Middle East Eye/Sunday 19 March 2017
Will the Dutch Protect their 'Decadence' from Islamic 'Redeemers'/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/March 19/17
What They Do Not Tell You about Indonesia/Jacobus E. Lato/Gatestone Institute/March 19/17
On the attempt to assassinate Nabih al-Barahim/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
Famine in Africa confirms international aid system isn’t working/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
Seizing opportunity: Stark contrast in approach between Obama and Trump/
Pierre Ghanem/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
‘Retreat of resolve’ and the ray of hope/Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
Analysis On His First Visit to the Middle East, Trump’s Envoy Jason Greenblatt Surprises Everyone/Barak Ravid/Haaretz/March 19/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 19-20/17
Elias Bejjani/The Lost Son Parable and Repentance
Hundreds of Lebanese protest proposed tax hikes as PM pelted with water bottles
Hezbollah says UN “weak” after critical Israel report pulled
Thousands Rally in Beirut against Taxes as Hariri Arrives in Person to Address Them
Aoun Won't Sign Elections Decree, to Address 'Message to All Lebanese'
Lebanon Rescues 3 Siberian Tiger Cubs En Route to Syria
Israel Army Vows to Strike Hizbullah Arms Convoys, Warns Lebanese Govt.
Lebanon tax law: Protesters turn on PM Saad al-Hariri
Jumblat to Taimur: Carry Your Grandfather's Heritage and the Banners of Palestine and Lebanon
Hariri calls protestors to form commission
Army: Enemy gunboat breaches territorial waters, off Ras Naqoura
Riad elSolh protest ends, Sitin to take place upcoming Wednesday
Kenaan to hold press conference on Monday in Sin elFil
Mutalaqem arrives in Beirut to partake in NNA Conference
Army force arrives in Riad Solh

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 19-20/17
Eisenkot (Israeli Army Chief Of Staff) predicts upcoming war with Lebanese-supported terrorist groups
Yoav Zitun & Ahiya Raved/Ynetnews/March 19/17
Israel Threatens to 'Destroy' Syrian Air Defense Systems
People displacement continues as 1,500 evacuated Homs district
Fierce battles erupt between Syrian regime, rebels near Damascus
Clashes in Syria Capital after Surprise Rebel Assault
Avoiding Risky Sea Journey, Syrian Refugees Head to Italy 'Pronto'
Mosul Families Go against the Tide to Return Home
Somalia Wants Saudi Probe of Refugee Boat Attack
Netanyahu Threatens Snap Polls after Broadcasting Row
Libyan Warplane Downed Striking Jihadists in Benghazi
White House Security Boosted after Arrest
Egypt’s Sisi to visit Washington in first week of April

Links From Jihad Watch Site for 
March 19-20/17
Germany: Five Muslim migrants gang-rape seven-year-old girl at refugee center
Foreign Policy covers for Georgetown prof Jonathan Brown’s slavery and rape apologetics
France: 60% of the population doesn’t feel safe anywhere
UK: Muslim uses $1,200 in welfare benefits to take his family to join the Islamic State
Convert to Islam from Texas is now top Islamic State leader
Afghan soldier opens fire on US soldiers, wounding three
SPLC conflates groups that really preach hatred with ones that don’t share its political views
Hugh Fitzgerald: The Rohingyas, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Maligning of Myanmar
Texas high school opens Muslim prayer room
NYC to spend $110,000 taxpayer money to remove Muslim names from sidewalks: “hurt feelings”
Michigan: Iraqi Christians join suit to stop construction of mosque in their neighborhood

Links From Christian Today Site For March 19-20/17
Pope's Egypt visit to address Christian-Islamic violence
Gay cleric Jeffrey John speaks out: My homosexuality was the only reason I was blocked as Bishop of Llandaff
Chuck Berry 'greatest rock 'n' roll writer' dies aged 90
Man shot dead at Paris airport 'after trying to grab a gun'
Bangladesh police shoot suspected militant armed with explosives
Gordon Brown sets out 'third option' for Scotland of more powers in bid to preserve the Union
Bold for change: the faith movement for gender justice is on the rise
Jesus said the truth really matters. Do our politicians agree?
Why The EU's Hijab Ruling Is So Worrying For Christians

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 19-20/17
Elias Bejjani/The Lost Son Parable and Repentance
Elias Bejjani/March 19/17
Lent is a prime time for spiritual change through genuine praying, serious and in depth self-examination, return to the roots of faith, repentance and forgiveness.
Almighty God is ready and always willing to turn everything around and take the hands of those who seriously and honestly pursue His mercy with perseverance forgiveness and repentance. He, with love and extreme happiness leads their steps towards all virtues of righteousness. He who in the Cana Wedding changed the water into wine and cleaned the Leper is willing all the time also to transform our minds and consciences from wickedness to goodness and salvation if and when we call for His help.
In our Maronite Catholic Church’s rite, on the Fourth Lent Sunday we recall and cite the biblical Lost Son’s parable that is known also as The Prodigal Son. This impulsive, selfish and thoughtless son, as the parable tells us, fell prey to evil’s temptation and decided to take his share of his father’s inheritance and leave the parental dwelling.
He travelled to a far-away city where he indulged badly in all evil conducts of pleasure and corruption until he lost all his money and became penniless. He experienced severe poverty, starvation, humiliation and loneliness. In the midst of his dire hardships he felt nostalgic, came back to his senses and decided with great self confidence to return back to his father’s house, kneel on his feet and ask him for forgiveness. On his return his loving and kind father received him with rejoice, open arms, accepted his repentance, and happily forgave him all his misdeeds. Because of his sincere repentance his Father gave him back all his privileges as a son.
The Lost (prodigal) Son’s parable: Luke15/11-32: He said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of your property.’ He divided his livelihood between them. Not many days after, the younger son gathered all of this together and traveled into a far country. There he wasted his property with riotous living. When he had spent all of it, there arose a severe famine in that country, and he began to be in need. He went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He wanted to fill his belly with the husks that the pigs ate, but no one gave him any. 15:17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough to spare, and I’m dying with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will tell him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants .”’ “He arose, and came to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe, and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat, and celebrate; for this, my son, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.’ They began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field. As he came near to the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants to him, and asked what was going on. He said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and healthy.’ But he was angry, and would not go in. Therefore his father came out, and begged him. But he answered his father, ‘Behold, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed a commandment of yours, but you never gave me a goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 15:30 But when this, your son, came, who has devoured your living with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ “He said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But it was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for this, your brother, was dead, and is alive again. He was lost, and is found.
This parable is a road map for repentance and forgiveness. It shows us how much Almighty God our Father loves us, we His children and how He is always ready with open arms and willing to forgive our sins and trespasses when we come back to our senses, recognize right from wrong, admit our weaknesses and wrongdoings, eagerly and freely return to Him and with faith and repentance ask for His forgiveness.
Asking Almighty God for what ever we need is exactly what the Holy Bible instructs us to do when encountering all kinds of doubt, weaknesses, stumbling, hard times, sickness, loneliness, persecution, injustice etc. Matthew 7/7&8: “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened” All what we have to do is pray and to ask Him with faith, self confidence and humility and He will respond. Matthew 21/22: “All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
We are not left alone at any time, especially when in trouble, no matter how far we distance ourselves from God and disobey His Holy bible. He is a Father, a loving, caring and forgiving Father. What is definite is that in spite of our foolishness, stupidity, ignorance, defiance and ingratitude He never ever abandons us or gives up on our salvation. He loves us because we His are children. He happily sent His only begotten son to be tortured, humiliated and crucified in a bid to absolve our original sin.
God carries our burdens and helps us to fight all kinds of Evil temptations. Matthew11/28-30: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” God is waiting for our repentance, let us run to Him and ask for forgiveness before it is too late.

Hundreds of Lebanese protest proposed tax hikes as PM pelted with water bottles
Reuters, BeirutSunday, 19 March 2017/Demonstrators in central Beirut hurled empty water bottles at Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Sunday when he tried to calm hundreds of people protesting against proposed tax hikes. Carrying placards and banners, around 2,000 people flooded Riad al-Solh square to protest against tax hikes that parliament is considering in order to fund public sector pay rises. “The road will be long ... and we will be by your side and will fight corruption,” Hariri vowed. But protesters shouted “thief” and threw plastic bottles at the premier, who left soon after. On Twitter, Hariri later urged organizers to form a committee “to raise their demands and discuss them positively”. Scores of policemen barricaded the entrances to the government headquarters and parliament during the protest, which followed three days of smaller demonstrations in Beirut. Lebanese authorities are seeking to raise taxes to help agree a deal on increasing wages for public employees, part of a wider effort led by Hariri to approve the country’s first state budget in 12 years. Lawmakers approved several tax hikes last week, the most prominent being a one percentage point increase in the sales tax. In the coming weeks, parliament still has to approve other increases, and the president must then sign off on all of them, before the new taxes take effect. Protesters flocked to Beirut on Sunday, waving Lebanese flags and blasting the words “We will not pay” through their megaphones. Signs and slogans accused parliament of corruption. “Take your hands out of my pockets,” one placard read. Various civil society groups and some leading political parties have called for people to take to the streets and protest against the taxes in recent days. The Christian Kataeb party and the Progressive Socialist Party, led by Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, have staunchly opposed the new taxes. The Shi’ite Hezbollah movement has also voiced reservations about some of the increases. Sunni leader Hariri was appointed in October in a power-sharing deal that saw Michel Aoun, a staunch Hezbollah ally, become president after years of political gridlock. Hariri’s unity cabinet includes nearly all of Lebanon’s main parties.

Hezbollah says UN “weak” after critical Israel report pulled
Reuters, BeirutSunday, 19 March 2017/The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement denounced the United Nations on Saturday as weak after the withdrawal of a report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians. A senior UN official resigned on Friday after the secretary-general asked her to remove the report, published by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), from the internet. UN Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said she was leaving after “powerful member states” had pressured the world body and its chief with “vicious attacks and threats”. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Saturday that the incident served as a reminder of the “truth of this organization that it’s weak ... and it succumbs to the will of the United States and Israel”. The UN is “incapable of taking a stand” and the debacle over the report proved it cannot be counted on “to defend human rights in our region,” he said. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee, also criticized the decision and called on the report to be reinstated. ESCWA, which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report on Wednesday and said it was the first time a UN body had clearly charged that Israel “has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole”. Israel fiercely rejects the allegation, often directed at it by its critics, and likened the report to Der Sturmer - a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic. The United States, an ally of Israel, had said it was outraged and demanded the report be withdrawn. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said on Friday that Khalaf’s resignation was appropriate and Israel’s UN ambassador Danny Danon said it was “long overdue”. Last month, Nasrallah warned that Hezbollah would put up fierce resistance in any future confrontation with Israel should the United States give it the green light to attack it inside Lebanon, but played down the prospects of such a battle.

Thousands Rally in Beirut against Taxes as Hariri Arrives in Person to Address Them
Naharnet/Associated Press/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Thousands of protesters flocked to the Riad al-Solh Square in downtown Beirut on Sunday to voice rejection of the new taxes that the parliament has approved as part of measures aimed at funding the long-stalled new wage scale. Unaffiliated citizens, numerous civil society groups, a number of syndicates and supporters of the Kataeb Party, the Lebanese Communist Party, the Progressive Socialist Party, the National Liberal Party, ex-minister Ashraf Rifi and March 14 took part in the mass rally. Demonstrators later pelted Prime Minister Saad Hariri's car with water bottles after he got out of his armored convoy behind the police line at the Grand Serail to address them. Hariri could get no closer as protesters began throwing water bottles and shouting "Thieves!" With water bottles falling around him and his bodyguards shielding him with their arms, Hariri promised demonstrators via a megaphone to "put an end to corruption and the squandering of public funds."“We have promised you to be clear with you and God willing this government and the president will always stand by you and by the people and their agony,” Hariri added.
He then left the area on foot.
The premier later took to Twitter to call on protest organizers to “form a committee that presents their demands in order to discuss them in a positive spirit.”Protesters called on authorities to refrain from imposing “unfair taxes” on citizens and to put an end to corruption and the squandering of public money. They also stressed that they are with the approval of the new wage scale, “but not at the expense of the Lebanese citizen.” And threatening further escalation, protesters described the current situation as “unacceptable.”After some protesters removed the metallic barricades outside the Grand Serail, minor scuffles erupted between them and security forces. Some protesters also hurled firecrackers and empty bottles at security forces and scuffled with other demonstrators who tried to keep the rally peaceful. The numbers of protesters started decreasing after around four hours from the beginning of the rally, as some masked demonstrators vowed to spend the night at the square. “We Demand Bread and Dignity, the Correction of Wages, and the Lowering of Prices”, said one of the banners that were carried by the protesters. “Go Home and Stop Receiving Your Salaries and Allowances,” said another banner, addressing Lebanese officials. The demonstration was held amid heavy security measures around the Grand Serail -- the government's headquarters – and the parliament building. "You Steal, We Pay!" read another banner while one depicted a picture of Lebanon's cabinet with the caption: "The Bandits of Lebanon". Transparency International ranked Lebanon 136th out of 176 countries last year in its Corruption Perceptions Index, in which first place goes to the least corrupt. "On top of everything else, this government wants to pass unconstitutional laws and taxes instead of finding the source of waste and corruption in the Lebanese state," said Alaa al-Sayegh, 29. "They're paying for all this waste and corruption from the pockets of the Lebanese people," he added.
Camila Raad, the 32-year-old head of a teacher's union in the northern city of Tripoli, said she had traveled to the capital to show her "opposition to the government, which has starved the people.""We have no food. No work. We're hungry... They want to increase taxes and we can't even pay for food," she said. Protesters had taken to the streets across Lebanon in recent days in rejection of the new taxes. “We in Lebanon are on the verge of a social explosion,” Neamat Badreddine of the We Want Accountability campaign had warned during a Friday demo. She accused the political class of impoverishing citizens and destroying the middle class through its “flawed taxation policies and failure to endorse a progressive tax system.”In addition to a 1% VAT increase new taxes have been imposed on diesel, traffic fees, travel, bank interests, cement, cigarettes and alcohol in addition to a host of taxes related to financial and real estate transactions. The Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, has been pushing for the approval of the new wage scale for several years now and has organized numerous street protests and strikes to this end. The SCC has however rejected hiking taxes on citizens to fund the wage scale and has instead called for putting an end to rampant corruption and the squandering of public funds.

Aoun Won't Sign Elections Decree, to Address 'Message to All Lebanese'
Naharnet/March 19/17/President Michel Aoun will not sign a decree that calls on electoral bodies to hold parliamentary elections on June 18, a media report said. “A technical extension of the electoral deadlines is inevitable,” Baabda Palace sources told the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper in remarks published Sunday. “Should all attempts to find a new electoral law reach a dead end, President Aoun might address a message to all Lebanese in which he would announce that he is seeking to achieve their aspirations in a modern law that achieves fair representation,” the sources added. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq had signed the elections decree on Saturday. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the parliament has since extended its own mandate twice. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but al-Mustaqbal Movement and Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat have both rejected the proposal. Mustaqbal argues that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while Jumblat has warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas. The political parties are meanwhile discussing a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Lebanon Rescues 3 Siberian Tiger Cubs En Route to Syria
Naharnet/March 19/17/An animal rights group in Lebanon is caring for three dehydrated, maggot-infested Siberian tiger cubs that were rescued on their way to a zoo in neighboring war-ravaged Syria. Animals Lebanon has said that its members rescued the cubs earlier this week after they had spent more than a week cooped up inside a cramped crate in "unacceptable" conditions at the Beirut airport. The cubs flew into Lebanon from Ukraine on March 7 and were supposed to travel on to a zoo in neighboring Syria. Instead, due to apparent confusion about their travel arrangements, they spent a week inside the wooden crate at the Beirut airport, said Animals Lebanon's Vice President Maggie Shaarawi. "Everything was wrong. There was no tray in the crate for when they urinate. They were swimming in their faeces and urine. There was no bowl for water," Shaarawi told AFP. Images published by Animals Lebanon show the weak cubs, covered in maggots and faeces, squirming in the small crate as volunteers from the group work to crack open the box. The crate is screwed together, with just small holes for ventilation. Its volume is barely a third of a cubic meter (11 cubic feet), according to the NGO.
When the group heard about the shipment, they began petitioning the Ministry of Agriculture to investigate the conditions and apply relevant international and Lebanese conventions. In July, Lebanon's Agriculture Ministry issued a decree to stop the trafficking of big cats -- like lions, tigers, and pumas -- and force zoos to register formally. Lebanon has also been a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates the trade of exotic animals, since 2013. After a week at the airport, Judge Hasan Hamdan ordered the cubs to be released to Animals Lebanon "because of significant concerns for their health and welfare," the group said. "It took the combined efforts of the ministry of agriculture, customs, and a judge to stop this shipment," said Animals Lebanon president Lana el-Khalil. "It is completely unacceptable that these animals have been trapped for seven days in a cage which is soaked in faeces and urine, too small for them to stand, and infested with maggots." AFP obtained a copy of the CITES permit licensing a "private entrepreneur" in Ukraine with the export of the cubs to the "Samer Alehsenawi Zoo" outside Damascus. The permit says it "is only valid if the transport conditions conform to the CITES guidelines," which Animals Lebanon says was not the case. Shaarawi would not specify where the cubs were located, but said they would remain in the NGO's care until a court decides "on whether they are returned to the owner." The trade of big cats is big business in Lebanon, where the animals are often locked in cramped cages, forced to perform in local circuses, and paraded by wealthy individuals as status symbols.

Israel Army Vows to Strike Hizbullah Arms Convoys, Warns Lebanese Govt.
Naharnet/March 19/17/Israel will continue to “prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah” and "in the next war there will be a clear address: the Lebanese government,” Israeli army chief Gadi Eisenkot said on Sunday. "There’s been quiet on the Lebanese border for over a decade. The security situation and peace are common interests to both Israel and Lebanon, but the IDF (Israeli army) will not be deceived by the tranquility," Eisenkot said at a ceremony marking a change in the Northern Command, in remarks published on the English-language website of The Jerusalem Post newspaper. "Hizbullah continues to arm itself and grow inside Lebanon. We will continue to act decisively to thwart these efforts and will continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hizbullah,” he added. "In the next war there will be a clear address: the Lebanese government,” Eisenkot said, adding that "Hizbullah continues to violate U.N. resolutions and prepare themselves for war.”“In light of the changes in Lebanon and Syria, the IDF will act to prepare for any scenario," Eisenkot went on to say. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman meanwhile threatened Sunday to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes. Israeli warplanes hit several targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for Hizbullah. In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hizbullah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime. "Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise," Lieberman said Sunday. "The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hizbullah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do," he added.

Lebanon tax law: Protesters turn on PM Saad al-Hariri
Middle East Eye/Sunday 19 March 2017/Demonstrators in central Beirut hurled empty water bottles at Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri on Sunday when he tried to calm hundreds of people protesting against proposed tax hikes. Carrying placards and banners, around 2,000 people flooded Riad al-Solh square to protest against tax hikes that parliament is considering in order to fund public sector pay rises. "The road will be long ... and we will be by your side and will fight corruption," Hariri vowed. But protesters shouted "thief" and threw plastic bottles at the premier, who left soon after. On Twitter, Hariri later urged organizers to form a committee "to raise their demands and discuss them positively".

Jumblat to Taimur: Carry Your Grandfather's Heritage and the Banners of Palestine and Lebanon
Naharnet/March 19/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday called on his son Taimur to “carry the heritage” of his grandfather and PSP founder Kamal Jumblat, while stressing the importance of “reconciliation and dialogue.”“Raise your head high and carry the heritage of your great grandfather Kamal Jumblat. Raise high the banner of Arab occupied Palestine, the progressive banner of Lebanon, the banner of free men and revolutionaries, the banner of those resisting Israel wherever they may be, the banner of reconciliation and dialogue, the banner of modesty and generosity, the banner of the Mukhtara palace,” said Jumblat addressing Taimur during a mass rally in Mukhtara marking the 40th anniversary of Kamal Jumblat's assassination. He then decorated Taimur with the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh, which has become a symbol of the Palestinian cause. “Had it not been for Kamal Jumblat's Popular Liberation Army, we would not have been here in Mukhtara 40 years later,” Jumblat told the Mukhtara rally, which was attended by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and thousands of PSP supporters. “Throughout 40 years, we have unashamedly and unhesitatingly gone through proud junctures. Together with all of our national and Islamic comrades, and with the Syrians, we offered our blood to topple the May 17 agreement, to confront the Israeli aggression and to defend Lebanon's Arab identity,” Jumblat added. Referring to Kamal Jumblat's assassination, which he blamed on Damascus, Jumblat added: “Forty years ago, a great rift happened and a major crime was committed against partnership and national unity.”Turning to the 2001 Mount Lebanon reconciliation between Druze and Christians, Jumblat said: “We waited for the hour of reconciliation for decades and we later achieved Lebanon's reconciliation in Mount Lebanon. Forty years later, I tell you that no matter how big the sacrifices might be for the sake of peace and dialogue, they remain small compared to the adventures of violence, blood and war.”Jumblat has repeatedly rejected the proportional representation electoral system in recent months, warning that it would “marginalize” his minority Druze community, whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley districts. In a recent conference for his Progressive Socialist Party, Jumblat called for implementing the reforms stipulated by the 1989 Taef Accord or holding the elections under an “amended” version of the controversial 1960 electoral law. The Druze later announced that he might accept a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Hariri calls protestors to form commission
Sun 19 Mar 2017/NNA - Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, called on Sunday upon protestors via twitter to form a commission that submits their demands to the government, in order to discuss them openly.

Army: Enemy gunboat breaches territorial waters, off Ras Naqoura
Sun 19 Mar 2017/NNA - An Israeli enemy gunboat violated the Lebanese territorial waters, off Ras el-Naqoura, at 16:35 hours on Sunday, to a distance of 300 meters for a period of 3 minutes, after which it headed back in the direction of the occupied Palestinian waters, an Army communiqué indicated.The breach is under follow-up, in coordination with the UNIFIL peace-keeping forces in Lebanon

Riad elSolh protest ends, Sitin to take place upcoming Wednesday
Sun 19 Mar 2017/NNA - Civil activists ended their protest movement which took place at Riad el-Solh Square earlier today, NNA correspondent reported Sunday evening. The protest was directed against tax increases, and in demand for endorsing the salaries and ranks scale, in which several young men and women from various political parties participated. Some chaos was witnessed between protesters and security forces, whose members practiced self-restraint, refraining from any reaction to intimidations. Hussein Youssef, father of one of the soldiers kidnapped by "Daesh," also contributed to separating between security forces and protesters, in an effort to avoid any clashes. At the end of the protest, civil activists called for staging a sit-in at 12 noon upcoming Wednesday at Riad el-Solh Square.

Kenaan to hold press conference on Monday in Sin elFil
Sun 19 Mar 2017/NNA - Finance and Budget Committee Head, MP Ibrahim Kenaan, is expected to hold a press conference at 1:00 p.m. on Monday at the Free Patriotic Movement's Conferences and Meetings Center in Sin el-Fil.

Mutalaqem arrives in Beirut to partake in NNA Conference
Sun 19 Mar 2017/NNA - Foreign Information Deputy Assistant at the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, Faisal al-Mutalaqem, arrived on Sunday evening at Beirut International Airport, whereby he will be representing Kuwaiti Information Minister at the international conference organized by the National News Agency. Greeting the Kuwaiti Official at the Airport was Information Minister Melhem Riachy, National News Agency Director, Laure Sleiman, Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdel-Aal al-Qena'i and Kuwaiti Charge d'Affaires Mohamed al-Waqayan. Sleiman welcomed al-Mutalaqem, considering his visit to Lebanon and his participation in the Conference as "a great honor, especially in light of the brotherly relations between Lebanon and Kuwait."In turn, al-Mutalaqem thanked the NNA Director for her exerted efforts in ensuring the Conference's success and launching a new website for the Agency. He also praised the role played by the Information Minister in this regard. Al-Mutalaqem referred to the deeply-rooted Lebanese-Kuwaiti relations, stressing that "the Kuwaiti State is always keen on partaking in all political, social and economic functions and activities in Lebanon, based on its keenness on the sustainability of relations."
He added: "The whole world is suffering from terrorism and extremist ideology, so the State of Kuwait and the Arab world must work within a clear and transparent strategy to portray a true reflection of Islam and clarify the real image of the Arab world, which requires a lot of concepts and strategies."
Al-Mutalaqem pointed to "the importance of addressing the Western world in a transparent manner," considering that "herein lies the significance of such conferences in which media professionals, experts and intellectuals participate."Al-Qena'i, in turn, praised the importance of the Conference, thanking NNA Director for her efforts in this respect. "The role of the media is not limited to strengthening civilizations, but is rather evident in every aspect of our lives," al-Qena'i went on to indicate, adding that "the work of the Conference is very significant, especially in light of the circumstances surrounding our Arab world." He hoped that positive decisions will be adopted at the end of the Conference.

Army force arrives in Riad Solh
Sun 19 Mar 2017/NNA - A Lebanese Army Force arrived this afternoon in Riad Solh Square, NNA correspondent said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 19-20/17
Eisenkot (Israeli Army Chief Of Staff) predicts upcoming war with Lebanese-supported terrorist groups
Yoav Zitun & Ahiya Raved/Ynetnews/March 19/17
Speaking at the change of command ceremony for the GOC northern command, the chief of staff addresses the IDF’s attempts to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weaponry. IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot discussed on Sunday what he believed to be Israel’s upcoming war with Lebanon and terrorist organizations supported by that republic. The lieutenant general was speaking at the change of command ceremony in Safed for the GOC northern command. Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick took over from Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who is being promoted to the position of Eisenkot’s deputy.
Eisenkot said in his remarks, “Regarding a future war, the writing is on the wall: The state of Lebanon and terrorist organizations that operate with their support.” Eisenkot added, “We are working to keep advanced weaponry from Hezbollah, and we will continue to do so in the future.” “A continued quiet has reigned for more than decade on the country’s borders,” the chief of staff explained. “The quiet security situation is a joint interest of Israel and Lebanon…Hezbollah continues working to get more precise deadly weaponry to harm the Israeli home front, in violation of the UN resolution.“Kochavi said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us. We must intensify the planning and filling of gaps for the changing reality. Not far from here, across the border, the Middle East is boiling with brutality and violence. I am proud to lead a command that with one hand thwarts enemy units, and with the other, brings wounded for treatment in Israel.” His replacement spoke to his intentions in his new position, saying, “We will operate to strengthen deterrence and preventing war, but if required, we will act with determination and strength.
(Translated and edited by J. Herzog),7340,L-4937609,00.html

Israel Threatens to 'Destroy' Syrian Air Defense Systems
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes. "The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation," Lieberman said on Israeli public radio. Israeli warplanes hit several targets in Syria on Friday, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Hizbullah. Syria's military said it had downed one of the Israeli planes and hit another as they were carrying out the pre-dawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month. The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar claims in the past. An Israeli army statement said "several anti-aircraft missiles" were fired following the raid but that none hit their targets. One missile was intercepted by Israel's Arrow air defense system, Israeli media reported. It was the most serious incident between the two countries since the Syrian civil war began six years ago. In April 2016, Netanyahu admitted for the first time that Israel had attacked dozens of convoys transporting weapons in Syria destined for Hizbullah, which fought a 2006 war with Israel and is now battling alongside the Damascus regime. "Each time we discover arms transfers from Syria to Lebanon we will act to stop them. On this there will be no compromise," Lieberman said Sunday.  "The Syrians must understand that they are held responsible for these arms transfers to Hizbullah and that if they continue to allow them then we will do what we have to do."Israel does not usually confirm or deny individual raids, but it may have been led to do so this time by the circumstances of the incident. President Bashar Assad's position has been strengthened in recent months with his forces reclaiming the whole of Syria's second city Aleppo, as well as enjoying continuing Russian support. Lieberman said he did not wish "to interfere in the Syrian civil war or provoke a confrontation with the Russians" but that Israel's security would remain his top priority. Israel seized most of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move never recognized by the international community. Israel and Syria are still technically at war, though the border had remained largely quiet for decades until 2011 when the Syrian conflict began.

People displacement continues as 1,500 evacuated Homs district
Staff writer, Al Arabiya.netSunday, 19 March 2017/The Syrian regime, once again, pursues another chapter of forced displacement of the Syrian people on Saturday, forcing hundreds of opposition fighters and civilians out of Al Waer city in Homs province. More than 1,500 people have evacuated the neighborhood on Saturday, where Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), Russian and Syrian forces were overseeing the evacuation, to ensure the departure process is completed smoothly. The evacuation process will continue until about 10 thousand people leave the besieged neighborhood.
Opposition activists and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that between 10 thousand to 15 thousand rebel fighters and civilians will leave in batch in the upcoming weeks under the deal between the regime and the committee of opposition fighters in the neighborhood. The head of the Homs Media Center, which is managed by opposition activists, said that large numbers are evacuating at a time because they do not trust the Assad regime, who has besieged the city for years, bombing and starving the people.He added that many people refuse to stay for fear of arrest, and that about 15 thousand so far signed the papers for evacuation.
The largest evacuation operation
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the buses would go to the Jarablus area in the north, held by Turkey-backed rebels. Once completed, it would mark the biggest evacuation during the war out of one Syrian district, which is home to about 40,000 civilians and more than 2,500 fighters, the monitoring group said. After three years of siege, the residents of al Waer have no other option but to get on board of the green buses of displacement and leave their homes. This human tragedy is not the first to take place in the province. Three years ago in 2014, hundreds of residents of Homs were forced out of the old city after fierce battles and siege.

Fierce battles erupt between Syrian regime, rebels near Damascus
Al Arabiya English and agenciesSunday, 19 March 2017 /Syrian government forces battled rebels on the fringes of Damascus on Sunday, after the rebels attacked from a residential district towards a main square that is a gateway to the heart of the Old City, rebels and a monitor said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the army and allied forces clashed with rebels in the Jobar district of the heavily fortified capital, an area that lies nearly two km north east of the old city walls. A rebel commander said the assault on the army’s last line of defense of the city’s residential areas was aimed at relieving pressure on rebels who have lost ground in Qaboun and Barza, north of Jobar. The assault by a coalition of rebels included two suicide bombings launched by Islamist brigades, he added. “This is to relieve the pressure on rebels with the regime not stopping its bombardment and artillery shelling,” Abu Abdo, a commander from Failaq al Rahman said via internet messaging, adding that the rebels had seized several buildings that overlooked the Abbasiyin square, in the heart of the city. Another rebel fighter told Al Arabiya English: "The regime received us in green buses so we went to them with our red guns and artillery."Sounds of shelling and gunfire could be heard in the centre of Damascus since the morning, a witness said. Syrian state television said the army was fighting to repel an attack by militants in Jobar and bombarding them with artillery. Heavy explosions rang out in the background as state TV broadcast live from Abbasiyin square, where the once teeming area seemed to be deserted of traffic and pedestrians. **Al Arabiya's Leila Alwan contributed to this report.

Clashes in Syria Capital after Surprise Rebel Assault
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Heavy clashes rocked eastern districts of the Syrian capital on Sunday as rebels and jihadists tried to fight their way into the city center in a surprise assault on government forces. The attack comes just days before a fresh round of U.N.-brokered peace talks in Geneva aiming at ending Syria's six-year war. Rebels and government forces agreed to a nationwide cessation of hostilities in December, but fighting has continued across much of the country, including in the capital. Steady shelling and sniper fire could be heard across Damascus as rebel factions allied with former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front launched an attack on regime positions in the east of the city. The attack began early in the day "with two car bombs and several suicide attackers" in the Jobar district, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Rebels seized several buildings in Jobar and advanced into the nearby Abbasid Square area, seizing part of a large bus station and firing a barrage of rockets into multiple neighborhoods, Abdel Rahman said.  Regime warplanes have targeted rebel positions with more than 30 air strikes since the morning, he added. State media denied that rebel groups had entered the Abbasid district, however, reporting that the army had successfully "blocked an attack by terrorists on military points and residential buildings in Jobar." State television aired footage from Abbasid Square, typically buzzing with activity but now empty because the army had ordered residents to stay inside.
Army sends in reinforcements
AFP correspondents in Damascus said army units had sealed off the routes into the square, where a thick column of smoke rose into the cloudy sky. The few people out on the street moved quickly between buildings, but many stayed in their homes in fear of stray bullets and shelling. Several tanks were seen entering east Damascus as reinforcements ahead of a possible counter-offensive. Several schools in the capital announced they would stay closed on Monday. Control of Jobar -- which has been a battleground for more than two years -- is divided between rebels and allied jihadists and government forces. According to the Observatory, the Islamist Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group and the Fateh al-Sham Front -- known as al-Nusra Front before it broke ties with al-Qaida -- have a presence in the area. Government forces have long sought to push the rebels out of Jobar because of its proximity to the city center. But with Sunday's attack, Abdel Rahman said, "rebels have shifted from a defensive position in Jobar into an offensive one.""These are not intermittent clashes -- these are ongoing attempts to advance," he said. The Observatory said the rebel assault sought to relieve allied fighters in the nearby districts of Barzeh, Tishreen and Qabun. "Nine regime forces and at least 12 Islamist rebels were killed" in those districts over the past 24 hours, the monitor said. In recent months, the Syrian regime has sought to secure territory around the capital with renewed offensives on besieged rebel towns along with local "reconciliation" deals. Under such agreements, the government agrees to end bombardments and stop besieging towns in exchange for a rebel withdrawal. On Sunday, dozens of rebels and civilians who had been bused out of the last opposition-held district of Homs city reached northern Aleppo province. An AFP photographer saw men, women and toddlers peeking out from behind curtains as the buses headed to Jarabulus, a town on the Syrian-Turkish border. More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced since Syria's conflict erupted six years ago with protests against President Bashar Assad's rule. After a government crackdown, the uprising turned into an all-out war that has drawn in world powers on nearly all sides. Government representatives and opposition figures are set to meet for a fourth round of negotiations on March 23 in Switzerland.

Avoiding Risky Sea Journey, Syrian Refugees Head to Italy 'Pronto'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Just before midnight in a sleepy district of Beirut, dozens of Syrian refugees huddle in small groups around bulging suitcases, clutching their pinging cellphones and one-way tickets to Italy.
"Torino! Pronto! Cappuccino!"
They practice random Italian words in a schoolyard in the Lebanese capital's eastern Geitawi neighborhood, waiting for the buses that will take them to the airport, and onwards to their new lives in Italy. Under an initiative introduced last year by the Italian government, nearly 700 Syrian refugees have been granted one-year humanitarian visas to begin their asylum process in Italy. The program is the first of its kind in Europe: a speedy third way that both avoids the lengthy United Nations resettlement process and provides refugees with a safe alternative to crammed dinghies and perilous sea crossings. Compared to fervent calls for "extreme vetting" of refugees most famously made by U.S. President Donald Trump, this "humanitarian corridor" is like a godsend. "Turin is the city I've been dreaming of," says Mohammed, 24, a Syrian refugee who has lived in southern Lebanon for five years and is traveling to the northern Italian city with his pregnant wife. After poring over pictures on Google, Mohammed says Turin looks like a "beautiful" industrial hub where he hopes to work. "This trip is a leap into the future. I can build my life anew," he says as he fires off updates by phone to relatives anxious to hear about his journey. "The most important thing we packed? Baby clothes."
'Safe and legal'
For 34-year-old Soha and her toddler Angelo, Italy will be an escape from the trauma of Syria's six-year war. "Four years ago a rocket hit our house and killed both my sons, Antoine and Michael... We want to start a new life. This is all for my son," Soha says. Another refugee, Michel, was smuggled into Lebanon earlier this year after being shot in the chest and shoulder in Syria. "I'm going to Rome. I'm looking forward to a new life there, far far away from the difficult lives we've led so far," he says. Tapping his foot nervously as the airport buses pull in, Michel admits he is relieved to be flying directly to Italy because "I don't have to get smuggled again and be humiliated." Hundreds of thousands of people landed last year on Europe's shores after crossing the Mediterranean, but some 4,500 also died trying. A country of just four million people, Lebanon hosts more than one million Syrian refugees. For members of Mediterranean Hope, the four-person team coordinating Italy's resettlement efforts from Lebanon, "humanitarian corridors" are the future of resettlement. The group interviews refugees many times before recommending them to the Italian embassy, which issues humanitarian visas for a one-year stay during which they begin the asylum process for permanent resettlement. "It's safe and legal. Safe for them, legal for us,” says Mediterranean Hope officer Sara Manisera. "After people cross the Mediterranean on the journey of death, they are put into centers for months while they wait. But with this program, there are no massive centers, it costs less, and refugees can keep their dignity," she tells AFP.
'Cross over into life'
The initiative is co-organized by Italy's Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio, the Federation of Evangelical Churches and the Valdese Evangelical Church. Mediterranean Hope says it wants people to stop looking at refugee resettlement through the lenses of security and counter-terrorism. On Wednesday, a federal court in Hawaii halted Trump's reworked travel ban, which again sought to bar all refugees from the U.S. for 120 days and halt visas for 90 days for nationals of six Muslim-majority countries. And earlier this month, Hungary voted to systematically detain all asylum-seekers. "Of course we can continue to build walls as Hungary and the U.S. are doing, but the cost will be much higher for everyone. Which kind of world do we want to live in?" asks Manira. At Beirut airport, Mohammed Khalaf can hardly believe he will start a new life in Rome in just a few hours. "Honestly, it's indescribable. I was in one country, doing everything possible to leave, and suddenly I'm going to be in another," says the slight 21-year-old from Damascus. Khalaf is traveling alone. While he is open about his weeks-long detention in two of Syria's most notorious prisons, he grimly refuses to talk about what happened to his family. He calms his nerves by reciting some Arabic poetry he has written. "I will leave this war. I will go, because my story does not end with something that saddens me... "I will cross over into life, opening her closed doors with my poetry, and with my dream."

Mosul Families Go against the Tide to Return Home
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Tens of thousands have flowed out of war-wracked Mosul in recent weeks, but Samir Hamid and 33 family members have decided to go against the tide to return home. "We stayed with relatives for a week and now we're going back home," says the father-of-five, who has traveled with his extended family from a small town outside Mosul. Iraqi forces have retaken several neighborhoods in west Mosul from the Islamic State group since starting an assault last month to recapture the jihadists' last major urban bastion in the country. More than 150,000 people have fled their homes in west Mosul, the Iraqi authorities say, of which two-thirds have found shelter in camps near the city where they receive food, blankets and foam mattresses. But Hamid says he, his five brothers and their families -- 34 people in total -- are heading home to the Wadi Hajar district after finding there was no space for them in a displaced camp in the Hamam al-Alil area. "We couldn't find any room at the camp," says the man in his thirties. "There are too many people there -- three to four families per tent," says Hamid, dressed entirely in black and his plastic sandals covered in mud.
Biscuits, milk and butter
As they approach a hill to climb on the city outskirts, Hamid's family grab small metal carts abandoned by civilians who have fled the city in the opposite direction. They pile on their bags crammed with belongings.A woman in the family, her face covered with a black face veil, struggles to advance under the weight of a dirty beige blanket she carries. She lifts the veil from her face. "We'll be better off at home," says Hamid, who has brought biscuits, milk and butter in his bags. When Hamid and his family fled Mosul, they escaped what they described as a living hell. "We hung between life and death. There was nothing to eat, nothing to drink. When we fell asleep, I'd look at my children and wonder which one would die or be wounded," says Hamid. His eldest son stands behind him, a beany hat pulled over his head. He is 12 years old, but looks half his age.
"We're going back because we were told the situation was much better, that there wasn't any more fighting," Hamid says.
Like him, many other Mosul residents dream of returning to a normal life.
Only source of income'
In the al-Jawsak neighborhood, residents have draped white flags at the entrance of small houses on the edge of streets strewn with rubble. Luay Adnan, 34, reopened the family's corner shop four days ago. "I was at home with nowhere else to go. This shop is our only source of income," he says in the dark interior of his store. The bullet-ridden white shutters are closed, and the front window has been shattered to shards in the fighting. "I opened up to allow people to shop, so that life can return to normal," he says. But many of his shelves are empty. On just a few, he has laid out items freshly ferried in from Hamam al-Alil: tomato sauce, dried vermicelli, bulghur wheat, white beans, oil, eggs and tea. "There's so much missing. The shop's empty. We don't have any chicken, meat or mobile phone top-up cards," says Adnan, who wears a cap on his salt-and-pepper hair. Ahmad, a neighbor in his forties with a graying beard, drops in to buy some mineral water, eggs and potatoes. Before IS overran Mosul in 2014, "the shop was full. You could find whatever you wanted," says the customer, wearing a gray-colored traditional long robe. His 13-year-old son Mohammed waits timidly by his side, a white bandage stretched around his forehead, where he has been wounded by shelling.

Somalia Wants Saudi Probe of Refugee Boat Attack

Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Somalia has called on the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen to investigate an incident in which dozens of Somali refugees were shot dead on board a boat. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack that killed more than 40 Somali refugees in waters off the coast of war-torn Yemen early on Friday. The bloodshed was quickly condemned by U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Somalia's Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer urged the Saudi-led coalition fighting Huthi rebels in Yemen to investigate. Somalia is a member of the U.S.-backed coalition fighting against Shiite Huthi rebels aligned with Iran. "We call on our partners in the Saudi-led coalition to investigate the raid," the minister said in a statement released late Saturday. "It is very sad, targeting a boat carrying Somali migrants near the coast of Hodeida in Yemen."On Friday, a coalition spokesman denied responsibility for the attack. The Red Sea attack took place off rebel-held port of Hodeida, with women and children among the dead. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has operations in Yemen, said 42 bodies were found, and more than 30 wounded people were reportedly taken to hospital. The IOM said it believed the boat was heading for Sudan when it was attacked. Despite a two-year war that has cost more than 7,000 lives and brought the country to the brink of famine, Yemen continues to attract people fleeing the horn of Africa. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says Yemen is hosting more than 255,000 Somali refugees.

Netanyahu Threatens Snap Polls after Broadcasting Row
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised Sunday the possibility of snap elections following a dispute with his finance minister over a new national broadcasting service. Local papers, radio and television channels carried Netanyahu's threat to dissolve the government -- the most rightwing in the country's history -- if the Public Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) isn't dissolved before its scheduled start date on April 30. Netanyahu, whose Likud party is part of a slim parliamentary majority, has long been opposed to the new service but he appeared last week to reach an agreement with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, before rowing back. "You cannot have a situation in which Likud respects all coalition agreements while small parties don't keep their commitments on important points," Netanyahu said in remarks broadcast Sunday by public radio. Some media suggested Netanyahu had deliberately triggered the cabinet crisis as a way to deflect attention from a long-running investigation into alleged corruption that has seen him questioned several times by police in recent weeks. Kahlon heads the Kulanu party which, with 10 seats in parliament, is a crucial part of Netanyahu's government. He is known as being committed to reforming Israel's public broadcasting and is reported to have held talks with opposition leader Isaac Herzog of Labor on Saturday evening as the row dragged on. Several ministers and Likud MPs are known to be against a snap election, and it is thought unlikely that rightwing and ultra-Orthodox parties would countenance joining a more centrist government. The PBC is officially meant to revigorate Israel public broadcasting in an age when private channels have an increasing share of viewers. It is set to begin broadcasting on April 30 and a team of some 400 staff have already started work. But it is expected to lead to some layoffs in Israel's existing public broadcasting service, something Netanyahu has used to attack the PBC. Allies of Netanyahu, who gave himself veto power over media issues when forming his cabinet in 2015, have suggested the new institution would cede too much control from government. Culture Minister Miri Regev last year said it would be "inconceivable to establish a company that we wouldn't control. What's in it for us?"

Libyan Warplane Downed Striking Jihadists in Benghazi
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/A fighter jet of forces loyal to a Libyan military strongman was shot down on Saturday as it attacked jihadist positions in Benghazi, a military source said. "A MiG-21 was shot down by a heat-seeking missile," said Mohammad Ghunem, spokesman for the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is battling to oust jihadists from Libya's second city. "The plane, targeted by terrorist groups, crashed in the district of Suq al-Hut but its pilot survived."He said the jet was hit as it carried out a raid on the last bastion of "extremists" in the city's Mediterranean seafront district of Al-Saberi. The pilot, Adel Abdullah Bushisha, was able to eject and landed by parachute in the east of the city, he said. Persistent conflict in Libya since the 2011 ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi allowed extremist organisations, including the Islamic State group, to gain a foothold in the country. Benghazi, which fell to Islamist groups in 2014, has been the scene of deadly fighting between them and forces loyal to Haftar, who controls much of eastern Libya in defiance of the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli. Haftar's self-declared Libyan National Army (LNA) has managed to retake a large part of Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 revolution. But the LNA says jihadists are still present in the central districts of Al-Saberi and Suq al-Hut. Among them is the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militias that includes Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia.

White House Security Boosted after Arrest
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/March 19/17/The U.S. Secret Service has bolstered security at the White House after a man was arrested making threats at one its checkpoints, a third such security scare in just over a week. CNN reported that the man made a threat claiming he had a bomb in his car, and that he was immediately arrested and the car in which he was traveling seized. President Donald Trump was away in Florida at the time. "On March 18, 2017 at approximately 11:05 pm, an individual drove a vehicle up to a Secret Service checkpoint located at 15th Street and E Street NW," a Secret Service spokesman said in the latest of a series of White House security concerns. "Upon contact with the individual, U.S. Secret Service Uniform Division Officers detained the individual and declared his vehicle suspicious. In accordance with proper protocols, Secret Service personnel increased their posture of readiness," he added. Just hours earlier, a person was arrested after jumping over a bike rack in an apparent bid to reach the fence outside the White House, the Secret Service said. The individual was detained immediately and criminal charges are pending, the agency said in a statement, without identifying the suspect. A Secret Service official speaking on condition of anonymity said that person was not found to be carrying any weapons. The arrest came about a week after a more serious incident that called into question security outside the White House. Just before midnight on March 10, a man scaled three barriers outside the White House -- a perimeter fence, a vehicle gate and then another fence -- and walked around the grounds of the executive mansion for 16 minutes before being arrested.
That time Trump was inside the building.
'Total embarrassment' -
Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz dubbed the incident "a total and complete embarrassment.""(Homeland Security chief John) Kelly told me that this person was there on the ground for 17 minutes, went undetected, was able to get up next to the White House, hide behind a pillar, look through a window, rattle the door handle," the lawmaker told CNN. According to the Washington Post, that man, who is from northern California, was carrying a backpack and two cans of mace. The White House has seen a string of high-profile trespassing incidents in recent years. In one notable incident in 2014, while Barack Obama was president, an army veteran described as mentally disturbed made it into the White House grounds, sprinted across the lawn and entered the building with a knife in his pocket before being tackled and arrested. Secret Service personnel were also involved in an embarrassing scandal in Colombia when a dozen agents were found to have hired prostitutes during a 2012 presidential trip. And just last week, a laptop was stolen from an agent in New York and remains missing, the agency said Friday, amid reports that the device contained floor plans of Trump Tower. CNN -- citing law enforcement sources in New York -- said that though the computer was highly encrypted, it contained floor plans and other sensitive contents. The Secret Service did not detail the contents of the laptop, but emphasized that such devices "contain multiple layers of security including full disk encryption and are not permitted to contain classified information," adding that an investigation was ongoing. Trump resided in the luxury high-rise before moving into the White House. His wife Melania and youngest son Barron still live there. The Secret Service, made up of some 6,500 people, is tasked with protecting the U.S. president, former presidents and vice presidents, as well as foreign heads of state on official visits.

Egypt’s Sisi to visit Washington in first week of April
Reuters, Cairo Sunday, 19 March 2017/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will make his first state visit to Washington during the first week of April at the invitation of US President Donald Trump, Egyptian state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram reported on Sunday. The trip will be Sisi’s first US state visit since being elected president in 2014 as former US President Barack Obama had never extended an invitation. Sisi was elected a year after leading the military’s ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Mursi after mass protests. Trump invited Sisi in January but the date of the visit had not been announced.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 19-20/17
Is there a future for Egyptian-Iranian relations?
Mustafa Salama/Middle East Eye/Sunday 19 March 2017
On 13 March, Ali Larijani, the chairman of the Iranian parliament, openly encouraged Egypt to pursue better relations with Iran, saying that Tehran welcomes all procedures that would lead to the eventual normalisation of relations with Cairo. Despite some steps being taken in this regard, nothing substantial has materialised, Larijani said. While Iran has been trying for some time to move its relations with Egypt forward, Larijani’s comments may have been sparked by Egypt’s announcement earlier this month that it plans to conduct military exercises with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The exercises will be conducted with both countries separately and will involve ground, air, and naval forces. The announcement came a day after Bahram Qassemi, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson, reiterated Iran’s sovereignty over three islands - Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb - over which it is in dispute with the UAE. “Iran’s sovereignty over these islands is an undeniable and eternal reality," Qassemi said. Close to the Strait of Hormuz, the islands offer a strategic advantage over the strait, which Iran has threatened to close in the past in the event of a military confrontation with the US. These comments were a response to an Arab League’s decision earlier this month calling the islands "occupied" by Iran and reasserting Emirati sovereignty over them. Clearly escalating the situation and with an alarming tone, the decision, paired with the military exercise, appears to be a direct message to Iran.
Iran's keen on Egypt
Larijani’s remarks were meant to remind Egypt that Iran is not only open for positive relations, but encourages them. Earlier this month, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, met with Yasser Othman, head of Egypt's interest section office in Iran.
Boroujerdi hoped for better relations, while Othman further stated that both have the potential to broaden their cooperation in the tourism industry. This is not new; last year the Egyptian Minister of Tourism encouraged Iranian tourists to visit the country's touristic sites the same way they visit Antalya – the Turkish resort city popular with Iranians. In Egypt many believe Iranians visit to proselytise Shiism. Contrary to popular belief, many Iranians spend their vacations abroad in order to avoid the restrictions they face in Iran.
Iran is not only open for positive relations, but encourages them
This month, Iran imported 25,000 tonnes of oranges from Egypt in preparation for Nawrouz, the Persian New Year festival. Iran certainly has no shortages in oranges or fruits, and could rely on Turkey next door if needed. This move can be seen as an attempt to break the ice with Egypt.  In terms of realpolitik, Iran has also been keen to draw Egypt closer to it. Iran views Egypt as a strong regional influencer that shares plenty with the Iranian regime on regional matters, namely Syria and to a lesser extent, Yemen. Last year, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javea Zarif, requested Egypt to be present at the Syria peace talks in the Swiss city of Lausanne. This was shortly after Egypt voted against the French proposal in the UN Security Council in line with the Russian vote. Saudi Arabia, which backed the vote, was extremely angered by Egypt’s vote, a move that added insult to injury after the disputed islands of Tiran and Sanafir, in the waters between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, were declared Egyptian by Cairo courts. Soon Saudi Arabia suspended its planned shipments of $23bn oil aid, and Egyptian-Saudi relations quickly turned sour. After the suspension, the Egyptian petroleum minister made a trip to Iran to explore the possibilities of striking an oil deal. Though a deal was not made, it struck one with Iraq instead, a close ally to Iran. Towards the end of last year, the UAE tried to mediate a meeting between Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia's King Salman, but the meeting never took place. The dent in Egyptian-Saudi relations has certainly encouraged Iran to approach Egypt, although we may find the dent unravelling very soon.
Egyptian considerations
Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil company announced on 15 March that it will resume oil shipments to Egypt, even as the latter confirmed its oil deal with Iraq will remain unaffected. This is perhaps the beginning and the fruit of the Saudi-American “historic turning point” after Deputy Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman visited the White House. Traditionally, Egypt has been aligned with the GCC states in terms of security and general overview of the region. The military exercises that will be carried with the UAE and Bahrain are a continuation of that. The new administration in the US is trying to trying to restore full cooperation between Saudi and Egypt in order to confront Iran’s rising influence in the region.
Any major rapprochement to Larijani’s call in the meantime, seems far-fetched
Looking at realpolitik alliances, it is extremely unlikely that Egypt will change anytime soon, though its improved ties with Russia may be seen by Tehran as, even if mild, a new moulding of Egyptian foreign policy. Egypt carries policy inertia that does not view the Iranian regime favourably, mainly due to the latter's promotion of its ideology. It’s worth noting that Egypt, however, has not entirely cut off Iran. Egypt has even offered its condolences upon the passing away of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani this year, a gesture welcomed by Iranian officials. Egypt has the ability to improve its relationship with Iran in matters of trade and tourism, something its suffering economy can certainly benefit from. Iran still trades with countries in the region it is in conflict with, and Egypt is no different. Any major rapprochement to Larijani’s call in the meantime seems far-fetched.
**Mustafa Salama is a political analyst, consultant and freelance writer. Salama has extensive experience and an academic background in Middle East Affairs.

Will the Dutch Protect their 'Decadence' from Islamic 'Redeemers'?
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/March 19/17
"Erasmus... came to Holland because it was a haven for freedom of thought." — Han ten Broeke, candidate for foreign minister in Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government.
The Islamic supremacists in the Netherlands see themselves as redeemers, rescuing the West from Fortuyn's "decadence": drugs, prostitution, gay life, a blasphemous press. But will the Dutch establishment be able to defend these freedoms?
You can be gay, decadent and willing to fight for your freedoms. If you are just gay and decadent, you are doomed.
General elections in the Netherlands are over, but now begins a much bigger campaign: who will defend the famous Dutch freedoms?
Only in the Netherlands is it conceivable that a politician such as Geert Wilders, a brave maverick who for 13 years, 24 hours a day, has lived under police protection; held rallies while wearing a bulletproof vest; moved from one secret location to another one and was guarded as if he were an Asian potentate. The country has already had two political assassinations related to Islam: the politician Pim Fortuyn, and the filmmaker, Theo van Gogh. Another Dutch MP at the time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- whose name, with Wilders's, was next on the hit-list pinned with a knife to van Gogh's corpse -- ended up fleeing to the United States. Only Wilders's protection, generously provided by the Dutch government, has so far avoided a third political murder.
The Netherlands has already had two political assassinations related to Islam: the politician Pim Fortuyn (left), and Theo van Gogh (right), a filmmaker. (Image sources: Van Gogh - Wikimedia Commons; Fortuyn - Forza! Nederland video screenshot)
In the Netherlands, the philosopher Baruch Spinoza became the prophet of tolerance, Karl Marx investigated capitalism and John Locke penned his "Letter on Tolerance". The mainstream media has claimed that Wilders's rise and the new "populist" shift of Prime Minister Mark Rutte (who, in January, told immigrants to "act normal or leave") has been a betrayal of that Dutch tolerance. Exactly the opposite is true.
It is from this tolerance that hard Dutch liberalism gets the will to fight against intolerance. Tolerating the intolerant does not sound like the way to have tolerance continue. This is how the Dutch multiculturalists turned their great legacy upside-down. The Dutch see themselves as "Enlightenment fundamentalists", upholding the values of Enlightenment -- even in the Islamic world.
The question now is: will the Dutch defend these freedoms or instead gradually dismantle them? Dutch Minister of Justice Piet Donner recently suggesting introducing Islamic sharia law into the Netherlands by democratic means.
The "hard liberal" Dutch tradition goes back to Pim Fortuyn, a homosexual proud of the supposed "decadence" of his country, its tolerance, and the freedoms it offers. As the late British journalist Alexander Chancellor wrote:
"The Muslim fanatics berate the West for its decadence, and many in the west guiltily agree that they have a point, but Fortuyn did not think so. He crusaded on behalf of what many would regard as decadence, and was so concerned for its survival".
Fortuyn considered permissiveness the heart of Western culture. He was a "hard liberal", militantly defending the post-9/11 Judeo-Christian, Western values ​​against Islamic intolerance, in the same way as Oriana Fallaci, Bat Ye'or, Michel Houellebecq and Geert Wilders have been trying to do.
After last week's Dutch elections, it is time for the Netherlands to rediscover Pim Fortuyn's legacy and ideas. A flamboyant, shaven-headed homosexual who taught sociology, Fortuyn wore elegant Italian suits, lived in a palatial home in Rotterdam and wrote a great book entitled, "The Islamization of Our Culture". He promised resistance against Islam, "a cold war against Islam", as he called it in an interview in Rotterdam's Dagblad.
"You have said", the newspaper Volkskrant reported in an interview, "that foreigners snatch all our blonde women, and then turn around and call them 'whores'". "No", Fortuyn calmly corrected him. "I said Islamic men do that. That's quite different, sir, than 'foreigners'". Then, the Volkskrant asked, in what would become the defining moment of Pim Fortuyn's life, "why the hate toward Islam?". "I do not hate Islam", Fortuyn said. "I find it a backward culture. I've traveled a great deal in the world; and wherever Islam rules, it is appalling".
The Islamic supremacists in the Netherlands see themselves as "redeemers," rescuing the West from Fortuyn's "decadence": drugs, prostitution, gay life, a blasphemous press. Will the Dutch establishment be able to defend these freedoms?
"Decadence" can become lethal for a country when it turns into hedonism, devirilization, the decline of education, and loss of historical memory. By "decadence", however, Islamic supremacists seem to mean all Western freedoms, not just Dutch permissiveness. But these freedoms are what we should be proud of. And these are what we must be ready to fight to protect. Fortuyn did, and he paid the ultimate price: his own life. Theo van Gogh also did with his film on the submission of women under Islam. After van Gogh was slaughtered by Mohammed Bouyeri, the film immediately disappeared from public view.
The Dutch Left also needs to rediscover its roots. A debate about integration was started in the Netherlands not by the "xenophobic" right wing parties, but by Paul Scheffer, a respected academic belonging to the Labour Party, who in 2000 wrote an essay entitled, "The Multicultural Disaster" -- before Fortuyn and Wilders had ever entered the picture. Scheffer wrote of a lenient Dutch people whose multicultural policies had failed to promote the Dutch culture in immigrant communities. Unfortunately, the Dutch Left took the opposite path and that is why it was severely beaten in the election last week.
Mark Rutte's party also has a lot to learn from this hard liberalism. It was the liberals who put into practice many of Fortuyn's ideas: banning the burqa, which many Muslims call a way of "protecting" their women, but others call a symbol of Islam dominating women. Prime Minister Rutte's reaction against the Turkish Republic's interference in Dutch life would be unthinkable in other European countries: Rutte, fearing Wilders' rise, stood for his country's independence and refused to bow to Islamist pressure to allow Turkish President Erdogan's ministers to address a rally in Rotterdam.
In France, in fact, the authorities allowed Turkish rallies, and thereby showed a submissive mentality to political Islam. Rutte and the Dutch would be wise continue on their road, which is what allowed Rutte to retain his government. Fiscal conservatism may be important, but Western values are, too.
After Fortuyn's murder, Wilders set himself as the "defender of liberalism": on gender equality, separation of church and state, and personal autonomy. Unlike many liberals in the United States and Canada, however, Wilders is not willing to surrender these freedoms to Islam. Liberals and feminists in the United States refuse to stand for women's rights in the Muslim world. They never raise the question of the separation of mosque and state. Instead, they blamed the carnage that the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo suffered in 2015 on freedom of expression.
Did the Dutch "hard liberals" ever think about Ayaan Hirsi Ali's brave battle for female rights under Islam, Theo van Gogh and other Dutch journalists, or the crusade Wilders has been leading to protect the country from Islamist intolerance?
Why are the LGBT militants not condemning the crimes of Islam, as Pim Fortuyn did? The editor of an LGBT magazine in Bangladesh was just hacked to death by Islamists; how come no one from the LGBT community in the West condemned or spoke out about it? Why are gay activists keeping silent about homosexuals being murdered by Islamists after, in Florida, a Muslim terrorist butchered 50 of them?
You can be gay, decadent and willing to fight for your freedom. If you are just gay and decadent, you are doomed.
Han ten Broeke, a candidate for foreign minister in Rutte's government, recently justified the Dutch ban of Turkish ministers by noting that Erasmus came to the Netherlands "because it was a haven for freedom of thought". This Erasmian tolerance remains very strong at the heart of the Dutch identity, but the presence, among them, of non-European, illiberal Muslims keeps testing the limits of it. The Dutch libertines and libertarians in line with Fortuyn and Wilders do not seem willing to commit suicide, unlike the liberals of Middlebury College in the US, who seem busy trying to lynch any conservative who stops by their campus.The Dutch and the Europeans should be proud of what Islamic fundamentalists call "decadence", but they also must be ready to fight to defend it. "Safe spaces" are not enough. The world does not provide them. Otherwise, they will all end up in one of the "safe houses" that Geert Wilders's puritanical tormentors have obliged him to spend his life in. "I am in jail", he has said; "They are walking around free".
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 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.

What They Do Not Tell You about Indonesia
Jacobus E. Lato/Gatestone Institute/March 19/17
The doctrine, "all Muslims are your brothers and sisters," was now everywhere.
Community prayers, Friday prayers, newspapers and television programs started roaring the idea of Islamic supremacy.
At community prayer meetings, one often hears discussion on how to behave as Muslims. Now many seminars, conventions, and newspapers, especially during Ramadan, discuss the greatness of Muslims and Islam.
My kampong [village] lies in the suburbs of Surabaya, the second biggest city in Indonesia. Densely packed in a narrow alley, it consists of more than forty houses, stacked like logs, with no gaps at all to sneak in between. A handful of residents work for the government or public schools; some run small household shops. Most residents are Muslim, except for three families who are Christian.
A handful of plants provide us with green, but just down the road scattered stores have been soaring: a big franchise department store, a gas station, banks with long rows of automatic teller machines and facilities that make us feel like a small part of growing Indonesia.
When we first moved here, it seemed ideal. There were only twelve families; they got together at events; we felt close. Communal meetings were held each month; the host would prepare snacks and even sometimes meals. If one of us were in the nearby hospital, we would usually drive together in groups to pay a visit after collecting small contributions to give the sick person. Only one lady, a convert to Islam, wore a headscarf; others only wore it when necessary: at public meetings, celebrations, or Independence Day, August 17.
Saturday nights were the long night. People sat outside on paving stones or rough and humble chairs, and discussed many matters, especially before elections. Indonesia was then under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a graduate of America's Webster University.
Religious days were marked as moments of happiness and joy. People opened wide their hearts; heaven was coming down and moving us. We visited each other after Eid al Fitr's early morning prayer. Everyone said, "Minal Aidin Wal Fa Idzin" ("Many happy returns") and "Mohon Maaf Lahir Batin" ("Please forgive my wrongdoings"). The long-held tradition of Megengan, when families exchange food or snacks -- not just Muslims but Christians, Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists -- always preceded Ramadan.
On Christmas, the three Christian families would welcome visitors. Visits to our house by our Muslim friends inspired us to see how great our nation was, and of course our religions. Our Muslim friends would say, "Merry Christmas".
"Islam with a smiling face," was what Newsweek called Indonesian Islam in 1996. The statement made us proud of our cultural hospitality (about 90% of Indonesians are Muslim): Everyone was kind; everyone was moderate; everyone respected humanistic values and a harmonious life.
But, along with the fall of Suharto after 32 years in power, a few Indonesian Muslims, who apparently share some worldwide dreams, began to try to realize this dream. Hardliner clerics, who had lived in exile under Suharto, returned. They made their way into the masses, into the power blocs supported by their networks and their donors. The dream, particularly among a handful of the educated elite, of establishing a Muslim state, or at least a Muslim society, began rushing to the surface.
There is no need for the innocent majority to have a "great idea"; their only needs are leaders and direction. The new leaders then disseminated their ideas: the greatness of Islam, the greatness of Muslims, the greatness of Islamic kinship. The doctrine, "all Muslims are your brothers and sisters," was now everywhere.
Some hardliner clerics moved out from their traditional boarding schools and started climbing the political ladder. Some of them, including those clerics belonging to the Council of Indonesian Clerics (MUI) -- the highest Islamic body in the country -- and some of the descendants of Saudi or Yemeni clerics, bluntly displayed their new aroma of Islam: Middle East Islam. Community prayers, Friday prayers, newspapers and television programs started roaring the idea of Islamic supremacy.
Many changes took place. In 1980, under Suharto and his powerful, bureaucratic Golkar Party, women almost never wore a headscarf, let alone the monotonous hijab or niqab. Many women then were on the lookout for brand new colorful scarves and cosmetics. These women are lucky: new branded products, armed with halal certifications from our MUI, are on the rise in shops. Arabian-style dresses are on display in boutiques. Arab-style long coats with headscarves are commonplace. A sea of white dresses inundates the public squares, communal prayer meetings, mosques. A leading figure in Surabaya, who requested anonymity, said, "Nowadays Muslim women feel uncomfortable if they do not wear a headscarf. They might be considered unfaithful or not sufficiently devout."
Men with long and loose beards, marked foreheads and Arabian-style dress hold a Muslim type of rosary; they chant various names of God as their lips move silently -- are now common. At community prayer meetings, one often hears discussions on how to behave as Muslims. Seminars, conventions and newspapers, especially during Ramadan, discuss the greatness of Muslims and Islam.
Unfortunately, along with those developments, our happy moments are disappearing at high speed. Being Muslim, for some, means excluding others. A polarization happens; some people do not want to deal with people of another religion.
There are stories of raids on churches, Christian shrines and mosques run by the small Ahmadiya sect. Other religious days, especially Christmas, are now marked by those for and against them, thanks to fatwas.
MUI, Indonesia's highest Islamic body, says it no longer wants Muslims to greet Christians during Christmas; it is considered a sin. Many people are afraid of being labeled unfaithful or blamed for being kind to Christians. We still can shake hands, but anything else is now forbidden. "Saying 'Merry Christmas' is against my religion," a friend explained to me. "The greeting acknowledges Jesus Christ as Allah."
Valentine's Day is another of many concerns about the supposed "Christian influence." Some department heads at educational agencies have issued circulars, banning students from celebrating it (here, here, here).
On March 12, King Salman of Saudi Arabia ended his visit to Indonesia; he boarded his royal airline and headed to Japan. Ash around the runway blew into the air. All memories of His Highness's visit reside in our people's mind, even while we were wishing His Majesty farewell.
After the oil boom, Iran's Revolution and the 444 days of the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Iran, Indonesian Muslims believed Muslim power was
President Joko Widodo of Indonesia (foreground, left) meets with King Salman of Saudi Arabia (foreground, right), at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Indonesia. (Image source: Indonesian Presidential Palace)
**Jacobus E. Lato, a writer, is based in Surabaya, Indonesia.
© 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.

On the attempt to assassinate Nabih al-Barahim
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
Saudi engineer and former member of the Qatif municipal council, Nabih al-Barahim, was the target of an assassination attempt last week. People are still reacting to this attempt to assassinate Barahim who is a patriotic man known for defending his land. This is a hideous crime. Priot to that, Shiite judge Mohammed al-Jirani was abducted. And now Barahim has now been targeted.‎ These developments also point to the importance of war against weapons which are not under the state’s control. In Al-Awamiyah, there are groups of people which tried to defect from the state by investing in smuggled and unlicensed arms. There are incendiary terrorist cells that can be described as the Shiite version of ISIS as they are not different than the Sunni ISIS. Their aim is to disrupt peace, target security personnel and plant terror in the hearts of loyal patriots who defend the country’s unity. Their objective is also to hamper the implementation of economic and development projects. Their aim is to disrupt peace, target security personnel and plant terror in the hearts of loyal patriots who defend the country’s unity.
Individual voices
There are individuals have tried to silence voices criticizing terrorism and tried to violate the law. But moderate Shiite figures who criticize Shiite extremism from within will not be silenced by the threat of arms.Criticism of extremist Shiite and Sunni ideas and legacies is mainly done by elites from within these two sects. This yields results as their criticism is more accurate than others’.Nabih al-Barahim has been steadfast against violence. He embodies the homeland’s message and represents the spirit of tolerance and unity. May God heal him and we hope he recovers soon.
**This article was first published in Okaz on March 19.

Famine in Africa confirms international aid system isn’t working
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
After much encouraging news coming out of Africa in the last decade on the development front, the continent is back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Stephen O’Brien, the UN under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has warned that as many as 20 million face famine in Africa, in South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, as well as nearby Yemen – the worst humanitarian crisis the UN has faced since its foundation in 1945. To be clear, famine is not the same things as starvation. Famine is a technical term employed by the UN. It is declared when 20 percent of a population have no access to food or know where they will get their next meal from, when 30 percent of children under 5 in that population are severely malnourished, and when you have mortality rates of over 2 per 10,000 per day, as a consequence. Put another way, to say that 20 million face famine is to say that we already have 4,000 people dying of hunger every day. And the total amount of aid required to “avert a catastrophe” would run to $4.4bn by July. What makes the situation particularly galling is that this situation is primarily a consequence of war. But in Africa itself, the conflicts which fuel the situations in South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria are internal, and the result of decades of poor management and neglect, and an entrenched culture of corruption. Nevertheless, we in the international community are left to pick up the tab. And of course we will. We must. We cannot allow so many people, usually the most innocent and vulnerable in those countries, to suffer for the follies of their overlords, or of foreign powers.
We cannot allow so many people, usually the most innocent and vulnerable in those countries, to suffer for the follies of their overlords, or of foreign powers.But it is also unreasonable that these countries, and their leaders, expect us to step in and bail them out, while many of the very same leaders continue to reign over organised systems of corruption, happily plunder the wealth of their countries, and fight any civil society efforts to improve governance and hold them accountable for their actions. Make no mistake. What we have here are some of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources which are being wrecked because of corruption and incompetence.
Immediate priority
That is why we must make sure that the humanitarian aid we provide is a bail-out for those suffering from starvation, but not also a bail-out for those who have caused these problems in the first place. Feeding those in need is the immediate, short-term priority. But making sure that those who caused the situation are held accountable for it is equally important as a longer-term priority if we are going to reduce the recurrence of these problems in the future. The first and most obvious thing to do is for the international community to focus their aid budgets more on promoting good governance and tackling corruption. Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative is a good model on how to approach this issue. But we can and should go much further than that. Take for example the money spirited away in secretive bank accounts in the West by these leaders. We already have national and global anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering powers to investigate accounts linked to criminal activity. There is no reason why we could not expand those powers to recoup, form the accounts of the relevant leaders, the cost of feeding the starving. It makes moral, financial and political sense to invoice and forcefully debit the accounts of past and present corrupt Nigerian leaders to feed Nigerians. Just as it makes sense to invoice South Sudanese accounts linked to the state to feed the opposition they are fighting. What is broken about the current model of international aid is the lack of accountability. The poor and vulnerable suffer, Western people and governments bear the financial costs for alleviating that suffering, and the perpetrators get to laugh all the way to the bank. The way to make international aid work is to make the perpetrators accountable. First of all, target the systems which allow them to plunder their countries as they so often do, and secondly, in all events serve them directly, as individuals, the bill for the consequences of their choices and actions.

Seizing opportunity: Stark contrast in approach between Obama and Trump
Pierre Ghanem/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
It’s quite important and telling to compare these two statements from the White House: one issued during Barack Obama’s term and another issued during Donald Trump’s term.
A statement issued on September 4, 2015, that is 18 months ago, said: “His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman briefed the President on the Kingdom’s views regarding the strategic partnership. The President and King Salman directed officials in their respective governments to explore appropriate ways to move forward in the coming months.”The other statement issued on March 15, 2017, said: “President Trump provided his support for developing a new United States-Saudi program, undertaken by joint US-Saudi working groups, and its unique initiatives in energy, industry, infrastructure, and technology worth potentially more than $200 billion in direct and indirect investments within the next four years. The President also provided his support for United States investments in Saudi Arabia and the facilitation of bilateral trade, which will result in sizable opportunities for both countries.”I chose these two parts because the difference between them is clear. The first statement reveals how an American president is referring an opportunity to committees to discuss it while the second statement shows how another president sees an opportunity in favor of US interests and wants to strengthen relations with friendly countries. There’s another piece of news that further clarifies this comparison. When King Salman bin Abdulaziz visited the US in 2015 and before he met with then-President Obama, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with then-US Secretary of State John Kerry and offered a new vision for American-Saudi relations that’s based on more than security and energy and includes opening the doors of investment in Saudi Arabia for American capital. Prince Mohammed bin Salman surprised Kerry with the magnitude of changes which Saudi Arabia is proposing regarding economy, controlling expenditure and developing relations with America on the cultural level. Afterwards, Kerry went to the White House and informed the National Security Council and Obama of the ambitious Saudi project. Then Obama met with King Salman and the result was directing government officials “to explore appropriate ways to move forward in the coming months.”
Benefit to both countries
However, the White House statement issued after Trump met with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on March 14, 2017 talked about $200 billion and said that the deputy crown prince addressed Vision 2030 during his meeting with Trump. It added that “they agreed to put in place specific bilateral programs to help both countries benefit from new opportunities created by the Kingdom’s implementation of those new economic plans.”I don’t want to criticize former president Obama or promote the current president Trump but I would like to highlight how Arab countries suffered during Obama’s terms and how this is different with Trump.
Obama only looked at America’s strategic interests which according to the statements of the former administration were “flow of energy, Israel’s security, maintaining strategic partners and combating terrorism.”Obama maintained these strategic interests but he did not see the available opportunities and the extended hand his friends offered.
Silence over Iran’s interference
He also did not estimate the extent of the threat because of his silence over Iranian interference in Arab countries’ affairs. The difference is that Trump sees the available opportunities and the extended hand. The recent White House statement said: “The President and the Deputy Crown Prince noted the importance of confronting Iran's destabilizing regional activities.”And last but not least, we must note that the former president during the surge of “American energy production,” announced “shifting again towards the Far East.” This means giving priority to American interests with China and the Pacific Ocean countries.
Trump, on the other hand, said he will hold China accountable for manipulating trade agreements and that he supports strong, comprehensive and sustainable relations with Saudi Arabia based on mutual interests and commitment to stability and prosperity of the Middle East.
**This article is also available in Arabic.

‘Retreat of resolve’ and the ray of hope
Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/March 19/17
Relations between Saudi Arabia and the UAE have strengthened and gradually converged into a deep and strategic partnership with the passage of time because the two nations have realized the trust and responsibility of their relationship and the common themes that bring them together.
Saudi Arabia has chosen the UAE to be its strategic partner. It is no secret about Saudi Arabia’s admiration for the popular emirates for their enormous successes in various fields and the government’s distinctive position with its people and its relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well.
‘The Retreat of Resolve’ initiative was launched in Abu Dhabi recently. It is a joint initiative put forth by the Saudi-UAE Coordination Council that was set up and launched by the Custodian of the Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
The Council includes joint task teams concerned with several sectors and fields which will hold series of periodic meetings in the coming period to step up bilateral strategic cooperation on issues of mutual concern.
The two countries did not continue with the popular pro-unity style, as followed by some of the states during a certain period of time, which proved to be unsuccessful as it was built on the objectives to suit the interests of the ruling party and not the interests of the people.
Greater confidence
Instead of expecting quick results for both between the countries, the other option of continued growth and balanced coordination and escalating in larger areas would be better, including the expansion of the area of attention and devotion of greater confidence. It is a new and an unprecedented move and the application of mind after the brainstorming sessions that brings out creative ideas and creative productivity that serves the society and improves the quality of life and accessibility to all. The inspiring and important idea is to open up the way to establish the council as a model for cooperation and integration among nations, reflecting the two countries’ determination to consolidate relations through cooperation in a wide range of fields to achieve common interests and enhance the prospects of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. The two strong nations have the urge for development, growth and union in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia holds an important position in the region and specifically the UAE has the hunger for success and excellence, creativity and inspiration. The two strong nations have the urge for development, growth and union in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia holds an important position in the region and specifically the UAE has the hunger for success and excellence, creativity and inspiration. The integration of their relationship is required and the successful joint ventures between the two countries, for example, the “Operation Decisive Storm” that has brought them together with the sweat and blood of their men who are defending their countries for a common cause, is a great model of their relationship that binds them together in a respectable way.
The ‘The Retreat of Resolve’ is a symbolic idea and it is a pleasant surprise and good news to people of both the countries because it is a practical solution to achieving common goals of both the nations and this practical coordination is an unprecedented step going forward.
**This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 13, 2016.

Analysis On His First Visit to the Middle East, Trump’s Envoy Jason Greenblatt Surprises Everyone
Barak Ravid/Haaretz/March 19/17
Greenblatt leaped effortlessly from a Palestinian refugee camp to meeting settler leaders, making positive impressions on all, along with a clear message: Trump's serious about peace, and Israel ought to be too.
ason Greenblatt’s Twitter account was the best show in town this week. Anyone following his tweets might have thought he wasn’t the U.S. envoy for the peace process, but the Energizer bunny. 
Greenblatt didn’t rest for a moment during his four days here. He bounced from Jerusalem, to Ramallah, to Jericho, to Bethlehem, to Amman and back to Jerusalem. After every meeting, he tweeted pictures and updates.
On the eve of his visit, the New York Times published an article describing him scornfully as a man with no diplomatic experience who landed his job almost by chance. But Greenblatt proved this week that even if he lacks the experience of veterans of the peace industry in America, he is blessed with sharp instincts, seriousness, common sense and a great deal of personal charm and emotional intelligence.
Everyone on the Israeli side who met with Greenblatt this week, on both the right and the left, as well as everyone on the Palestinian side, had a positive impression.
“Greenblatt is a serious, honest envoy,” tweeted MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) after meeting him.
“There’s no doubt President Trump is committed to peace, and that’s good news. It won’t be easy – but there’s hope.”
On his first visit to the region as Trump’s envoy, Greenblatt came mainly to listen and learn. Alongside his meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he held a great many meetings with segments of the population that until now most U.S. envoys had passed over. 
He surprised many on the Palestinian side by meeting with residents of the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah, and surprised others on the Israeli side by meeting with two mayors of settlements, Oded Revivi and Yossi Dagan.
He met with Palestinian and Israeli students, with residents of the Gaza Strip, with senior Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics.
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Wednesday night, Greenblatt took a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City. One stop on the tour was Yeshivat HaKotel, from which he tweeted a picture of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Five minutes later, he visited the house of a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem and tweeted a picture of the same holy sites from a different angle.
“Peace and coexistence are not just possible in this extraordinary city, they exist already and have for centuries,” he added in a follow-up tweet.
The message Greenblatt reiterated against and again, to both Israelis and Palestinians, was that President Donald Trump is very serious when he talks about his desire to make “the ultimate deal” and that Israeli-Palestinian peace is very high on his priority list. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) said after meeting with Greenblatt that he got the impression Trump was very committed to this issue and plans to launch a serious diplomatic process. A senior minister in the ruling Likud party got the same impression.