February 04/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Concept of Death In Christian Theology
Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 15/35-58: "But someone will say, “How are the dead raised?” and, “With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish one, that which you yourself sow is not made alive unless it dies.  That which you sow, you don’t sow the body that will be, but a bare grain, maybe of wheat, or of some other kind.  But God gives it a body even as it pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own.  All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds.  There are also celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial differs from that of the terrestrial.  There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.  However that which is spiritual isn’t first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.  The first man is of the earth, made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven.  As is the one made of dust, such are those who are also made of dust; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.  As we have borne the image of those made of dust, let’s also bear the image of the heavenly.  Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can’t inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  But when this corruptible will have put on incorruption, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then what is written will happen: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “Death, where is your sting? Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 03-04/18
Death: The Puzzle And Mystery/Elias Bejjani/February 03/18
Hezbollah ducks and dives to beat new US sanctions/Najla Houssari/Arab News/February 03/ 2018
Lebanon's multi-dimensional political crisis/Raghida Dergham/February 03/ 2018
HRW urges Turkey to end 'lethal force' against fleeing Syrians/AFP/February 03/2018/
Canada: M-103 Heritage Committee report promises government action against “Islamophobia”/Christine Douglass/New Agencies/February 03/18
Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K./David Kirkpatrickfeb/The New York Times/February 03/2018
Europe: Making Islam Great Again/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/February 03/2018
Palestinians: Arbitrary Arrests, Administrative Detentions and World Silence/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/February 03/2018
No Winners in Turkey’s New Offensive into Syria/Noah Bonsey/Asharq Al Awsat/February 03/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on February 03-04/18
Death: The Puzzle And Mystery
Bassil: Some of Hezbollah’s Choices Don’t Serve Lebanon’s Interests
Hariri Warns against Use of Arms to Solve Political Disputes
Lebanon’s Hariri: We Will Not Force Syrian Refugees to Return Home
Hezbollah ducks and dives to beat new US sanctions
Machnouk: Relentless work is needed instead of mere complaints
Geagea launches LF electoral machine: Let this year's elections be a white revolution against all traditional policies
AlAbsi arrives at Prophet Elijah's Cathedral Nejmeh Square
Berri meets with Aridi, Expatriates delegation in Africa, Red Cross International Federation delegation
Majdalani: Bassil's positions may be spontaneous, street reaction dangerous
Lebanese Diaspora Conference windsup its works in Ivory Coast
Maalouf: Talk about Bloc 9 a doorway to Blocs 8 and 10
Richard attends ceremony at Beirut National Museum for repatriation of archaeological rrtifacts
Lebanon's multi-dimensional political crisis

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 03-04/18

HRW urges Turkey to end 'lethal force' against fleeing Syrians
Egyptian Army Bulldozes 12 Terrorists’ Hideouts, Disrupts 12 Explosive Charges in Sinai
EU Hosts Conference to Curb Qatar Funding of Terrorism
Tariq Ramadan Charged with Rape
Israel Shuts Down Palestinian Institutions In East Jerusalem
Memo Alleging FBI Abuse Released on Trump's Okay
Israeli attempts to tax churches opposed
Five Turkish soldiers killed in attack on tank in Syria’s Afrin
Aircraft attack civilian convoy on Syrian highway, at least seven killed
Russian pilot ‘killed in fighting’ after plane downed in Syria
Police: Extreme-right gunman shoots 6 Africans in Italy
Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 03-04/18
Death: The Puzzle And Mystery/لغز الموت: غموض وحيرة
Elias Bejjani/February 03/18
Far from politics, terrorism, the Middle East chaos, and the on going world wide Jihadists’ and terrorism wars, my editorial today dwells with thorough and deep personal contemplation on death; this mystery that has puzzled and pre-occupied man since God created him with Eve.
How much of an awakening and spiritual realization would it be if each and every one of us attended a funeral at least once every year, and fully utilized this short yet precious and odd period of time to deeply meditate and contemplate the very human reality of this inevitable and irreversible journey?
During this short, internal procession of great solemnity and silence, from the funeral home to the church, and then to the cemetery, one should mentally and physically relax and release his self, putting aside all of his every day life burdens.
To truly learn and benefit from this spiritual experience, one must temporarily forget who he is, his fortunes, his poverty, all problems that he is encountering, his enemies and friends, physical ailments he suffering from, and marital, or family difficulties he may be going through.
One needs to imagine that his body is so light, so clean, and innocent, and his mind and soul so pure, free of sin with no conflict of any kind or magnitude.
One needs to reminisce and go back in time to the period when he was an innocent child, not yet polluted with human evil deeds and thoughts, hatred, grudges, greed, selfishness and fear.
When one feels that every kind of evil feeling and venomous instinct inside him is numb, he needs to ask himself sincerely and honestly, what this dead person who is now just a cold corpse resting motionless and breathless in the coffin, is going to take with him from this mortal world to whichever world the dead go to? No matter how rich, powerful, fearless, intelligent, famous, or mighty this dead person was while alive, would he now be able to carry with him any of his riches, or ask any of his beloved ones to join him in death, and be buried with him in the cemetery?
At this scary, terrifying, contemplative and somber moment, the individual needs to relate with the dead person and accept death, imagining himself actually lying in the casket!
By the end of the funeral procession, and after the coffin has been buried, the dead person who could not take anything with him, becomes just a memory and his body returns back to dust. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” Genesis 3:19 19
To be the actual creatures that almighty God has created us in His own image, and to be wise, humble and forgiving, we need to occasionally ask ourselves these simple questions:
Can we not die?
Can we not escape death’s inevitable journey?
What can we take with us when leaving this mortal life?
These questions should be asked whenever we are engaged in bloody competitions, conflicts, disputes, grudges, hatred and struggle for power and money.
The one and only answer to all these questions is a definite, NO!
Attending funerals at least twice a year helps us to get back in touch with reality; to know who we are, and where we are going; to wake up and to always remember that God, on the judgment day, will judge our deeds, and not the magnitude of our earthly riches, nor our earthly power.
Does any one of us, rich or poor, weak or powerful, sick or healthy, know when almighty God will reclaim his soul? Definitely not!
So let us live each day of our lives as if it were our last.
Let us always be ready to face our Creator on the day of judgment with a set of righteous deeds.
Let us solidify our trust and faith in almighty God, and ask Him to lead our lives and grant us the graces of patience, humbleness, hope, love and forgiveness, so that we can carry with courage our life burdens.
Let us remember in the face of every difficulty and crisis what the Holy Bible teaches us: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11, 28-30).
Death, this mystery that has worried, perplexed and confused man since his first day on earth, has been defeated by Jesus’ resurrection and made conceivable by man’s mind. We do not die, but sleep on the hope of resurrection!
“Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed”, (Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 15 / 51-52).
N.B: The Above editorial was first published in 2014

Bassil: Some of Hezbollah’s Choices Don’t Serve Lebanon’s Interests
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat//February 03/18/Hours after a deal was struck between Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement to contain a crisis that erupted following remarks made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil about Speaker Nabih Berri, the FM said that “Hezbollah” takes decisions that don’t benefit Lebanon. “Hezbollah makes choices that do not serve the interests of the Lebanese state and all of Lebanon pays the price,” Bassil told Magazine, a French-language Lebanese publication. His published comments came as his FPM and Amal, which is led by Berri, struck a deal for calm following tension between the two sides after a leaked video showed the foreign minister calling the speaker a “thug.” The foreign minister issued a statement after local media picked up on the Magazine report and claimed that parts of the interview were placed “out of context.” Yet the statement didn’t deny Bassil’s remarks.
The FPM leader also told Magazine that “in the memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah, there is a fundamental clause concerning state building.”“Unfortunately, this point is not put into practice, under the pretext of strategic considerations.” The FPM and "Hezbollah" have been allies since the two sides struck an MoU in 2006. But the foreign ministry statement said Bassil “regrets that there are some differences in local matters. There are some decisions that Hezbollah takes in internal matters that don’t serve the state and this is what makes Lebanon suffer. One of the main items of the MoU was to build a state and this isn’t being implemented under the pretext of external policies.” It added that despite attempts by some sides to harm FPM’s relations with “Hezbollah,” they would not succeed.

Hariri Warns against Use of Arms to Solve Political Disputes
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/February 03/18/Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said that the recent upheaval in the country “was a lesson for everyone, that loud rhetoric does not lead to a solution but creates political tension.”It was also a lesson that “the use of weapons to solve political disputes will only lead to strife,” Hariri said on Friday in a speech at a Future Movement ceremony in Beirut. “Closing roads and burning tires does not lead to any solution,” the PM stated. “Even those who carry weapons inside Lebanon are now afraid of it,” he stressed. Hariri told his supporters that his slain father former PM Rafik Hariri and himself had been the target of insults much worse than those currently effecting the country. “But we have always thought that the country’s dignity is more important than the dignity of people and parties, and that our country deserves concessions from our part,” he said. “The voice of reason and wisdom prevailed yesterday (Thursday) over the voice of motorcycles, stopping a problem that could have taken the country to another level,” Hariri added. President Michel Aoun spoke with Speaker Nabih Berri by telephone Thursday, easing heightened tensions following offensive remarks made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil against the speaker. The remarks triggered a wave of street protests by Berri’s supporters from Amal Movement who blocked main roads in Beirut and set fire to tires and to pictures of Aoun and Bassil, who is the president’s son-in-law and heads his Free Patriotic Movement.

Lebanon’s Hariri: We Will Not Force Syrian Refugees to Return Home
Asharq Al Awsat/February 03/18/Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Thursday that Beirut would not force Syrian refugees to return to their country against their will. “My government’s position is very clear. Nobody’s going to force anyone to go back if they don’t want to go back,” he stressed. In a speech at a donor conference in Beirut calling for $2.68 billion in humanitarian aid for the crisis this year, Hariri warned that refugees would try to move to other countries if there was not enough support for them in Lebanon. “We need more from the international community because we are doing a public service for the international community. Otherwise these people, if we do not do more, if you do not do more, they will seek refuge somewhere else,” he said. More than a million Syrians fled into neighboring Lebanon after war broke out in their country in 2011 and now account for about a quarter of its population. The UNHCR said last month that the number of registered refugees in Lebanon dropped to below one million for the first time since 2014. As the Syrian regime has gained control over more territory, and as fighting has ended in more parts of Syria, some Lebanese politicians have called for Syrian refugees to return. One refugee who has returned is Ammar Maarawi, who fled Aleppo in 2016, but is now back. He paid smugglers and endured a dangerous sea crossing to Greece and an exhausting journey by train, bus and foot through Europe.
Two years later, the 36-year-old is back home in Aleppo. He returned last summer — depressed, homesick and dreading another winter, he could not bear life in the German city of Suhl. Maarawi is among a small number of refugees who have come back to Syria from among the more than 5.4 million who fled their homeland since 2011.
So far, they are just a trickle, numbering in the tens of thousands. The United Nations and host governments in Europe are not encouraging returns, saying the country is not safe, said an Associated Press report. Motivations for going back are many. Simple homesickness is one. Many refugees have burned through whatever savings they have and either cannot find or are not allowed to work. Hundreds of thousands languish in camps in the neighbor countries. Those who make it to Europe often get assistance, but some find the West does not hold the opportunities they hoped — or they face discrimination or they feel alienated in a different culture with language barriers and harsh weather. The UNHCR has observed some 68,000 refugees who returned on their own from neighboring countries from January to October 2017, the most recent figures available, according to spokesman Andrej Mahecic. He said the number of returnees is dwarfed by those remaining in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Europe, and those still leaving Syria. Turkey, home to 3.5 million Syrian refugees, seized a pocket of territory in northwest Syria along the countries' shared border last year. Since then, some 130,000 Syrians from that area have returned.
From Jordan, home to 650,000 refugees, only around 8,000 Syrians returned home in all of 2017, according to UNHCR figures. Not all are going back because they are ready. One woman, Umm Wissam, told The Associated Press she returned to Syria in August after six years in Jordan. Her husband was deported several months earlier — one of around 2,300 deported by Jordan in 2017. He had been working in construction in Jordan and without his income, Umm Wissam and the couple's five children could not continue to live there. The family is from Aleppo, but the cost of living there has forced them to settle in the southern Syrian city of Daraa.
Hezbollah ducks and dives to beat new US sanctions
Najla Houssari/Arab News/February 03/ 2018
/BEIRUT: New US sanctions on six individuals and seven companies linked to Hezbollah will have a limited effect on the group because it constantly changes how it operates, experts have told Arab News. Hezbollah “has expanded its business paths and diversified the individuals with whom it deals, and the process of money transfer,” said Ali Al-Amin, a member of the Independent Shia Personalities group. He said the new sanctions were a message from the US that there would be no let-up in the pressure on the group, “but they will not disturb Hezbollah because it has adopted a new business approach.”Lokman Slim, a researcher at UMAM Documentation and Research, told Arab News: “The impact of sanctions on Hezbollah cannot be measured as quickly as breaking news is published — measuring the impact of economic sanctions is done as they contribute to strangling Hezbollah over time. “The more the US strangles Hezbollah, the more Hezbollah seeks new ways out, which means these sanctions are more political than technical in nature and are merely a reminder of US policy.”The main aim of the new sanctions, announced by the US Treasury on Friday, is to block the activities of a network of companies in Lebanon, Ghana, Liberia and elsewhere linked to the Hezbollah financier Adham Tabaja, who is already designated a terrorist by the US. These companies and their executives act on Tabaja’s behalf, forming “conduits” of funding for the militant group, the US said. The sanctions also target Al-Inmaa Engineering Contracting, a company run by Tabaja and based in Hezbollah’s stronghold south of Beirut.
“We will no longer allow corrupt Hezbollah and other Iranian regime cronies to hide their crimes behind front companies,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “We will be relentless in identifying, exposing, and dismantling Hezbollah’s financial support networks globally,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. Senior US officials said Iran sent Hezbollah about $700 million a year, and the group had become the Iranian regime’s main tool to project its power. “Hezbollah is a terrorist organization responsible for the killing of hundreds of Americans and is an Iranian tool for sabotaging legitimate Arab governments,” the Treasury Department said. “Adham Tabaja is from the southern Lebanese town of Kafr Tibnit and was the town’s mayor, but when his name was included in the list of sanctioned individuals, he resigned as mayor,” Al-Amin told Arab News.
“He was an engineering student at the Beirut Arab University, but he dropped out during the 1980s when he became wanted by Amal Movement following the clashes between Hezbollah and Amal. With some colleagues, he founded a construction company, raised capital, and operated in the southern suburb of Beirut during the economic boom between 1990 and 1991. “He proudly announces that he’s a member of Hezbollah — not simply a supporter or a sympathizer — and his power was evident in his construction violations in Beirut’s southern suburb. His company’s activities expanded to reach several regions, including Iraq during the economic boom between 2008 and 2009. “Al-Inmaa has been under suspicion since it was first sanctioned along with Tabaja.” Slim said: “Al-Inmaa’s name gets repeated every time new sanctions are announced, even though it claims to be a holding company that operates across the world. “The so-called money laundering and illegal trading are, according to Hezbollah, legitimate trade activities carried out by respectable people who Hezbollah defends.”

Machnouk: Relentless work is needed instead of mere complaints
Sat 03 Feb 2018/NNA - Interior and Municipalities Minister Nuhad el-Machnouk highlighted the need to work hard in order to achieve the aspired results instead of just complaining, noting that "oppression" is an inappropriate word for Beirut. Machnouk's words came during a dinner banquet hosted by Beirut's Corniche el-Mazraa Trade Merchants, patronized by Beirut Governor Ziad Shbib at the Phoenicia Hotel on Friday evening. The Interior Minister stressed on working for the capital's brighter future, noting that "Beirut is a great city that cannot be linked to the unattractive word of oppression." Machnouk commended the content of the "Beirut Document" which was launched two days ago, considering it a services and literary pact that entails a lot of hard, relentless work.

Geagea launches LF electoral machine: Let this year's elections be a white revolution against all traditional policies
Sat 03 Feb 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea called Saturday for rendering the upcoming parliamentary elections "a white revolution against all traditional policies instead of being a mere democratic practice." "Our fate is in our hands. Let us act in accordance with our dreams and aspirations," said Geagea during a ceremony marking the launching of his Party's electoral machine in Mehrab today. "Our project is clear: building a strong and effective Lebanese State...This year's elections ought not to be a normal democratic practice, but rather a white revolution against all the traditional policies we live in," he asserted. "Our fate all-together for the next four years lies in this paper, which will be dropped by each one of us in the ballot box on May 6. Let us assume our responsibilities, place the current grim reality behind us and vote for transparency, public policies, integrity and true patriotism," Geagea underscored.

AlAbsi arrives at Prophet Elijah's Cathedral Nejmeh Square
Sat 03 Feb 2018/ NNA - Patriarch of Antioch and the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem of Greek Melkite Catholics, Joseph I Absi, arrived shortly at the Cathedral of Prophet Elijah in Nejmeh Square, downtown Beirut, on a first visit after his election as Patriarch, NNA correspondent reported.
Deputy Head of the Greek Catholic Supreme Council, State Minister for Planning Michel Pharaon, accompanied the Patriarch representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri. After a short prayer in the Cathedral, Absi will preside over a celebratory Mass Service at St. John Chrysostom's Church in the Archdiocese, Damascus Highway.

Berri meets with Aridi, Expatriates delegation in Africa, Red Cross International Federation delegation

Sat 03 Feb 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House Nabih Berri met Saturday in Ain el-Tineh with MP Ghazi Aridi, with talks touching on general prevailing conditions. A delegation of Lebanese expatriates residing in Africa also called on the House Speaker this morning, including members of the African Continental Council headed by Atef Yassin, who said on behalf of the delegation, "The visit is to confirm our solidarity with Speaker Berri in his national positions."The delegation "deplored the recent insulting stance against the House Speaker," reiterating support to Berri in his strive to protect the country and maintain its stability. The Speaker later met with Vice President of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent of Asia, Dr. Chen Zou, accompanied by Lebanese Red Cross President, Antoine Zoghbi, and Secretary-General George Kettani, with relevant issues of concern topping their discussion.

Majdalani: Bassil's positions may be spontaneous, street reaction dangerous
Sat 03 Feb 2018/NNA - MP Atef Majdalani commented Saturday on the dispute between House Speaker Nabih Berri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, saying, "Bassil's stances may be spontaneous," adding, "The reaction in the street is very dangerous." "There is no radical solution to this sectarian issue since any dispute could lead to sedition, and stability in Lebanon is weak," said Majdalani in an interview to "Radio Free Lebanon" today. "We have to raise political discourse to a decent and national level," he underscored. Asked about the recent Israeli threats, Majdalani considered that "they aim at keeping the atmosphere tense." "Israel aspires to take a lot...Its ambitions are clear in our waters and our territories, but the international community prevents the implementation of its plans. These threats are without content or proof, especially that the companies that signed the exploration are French and Russian," explained Majdalani.

Lebanese Diaspora Conference windsup its works in Ivory Coast
Sat 03 Feb 2018/ NNA - Abidjan is to conclude Saturday the second Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference in Africa and the eighth in the world in its continental version. On the second and final day of the conference, two forums will take place: the first focusing on the status of Lebanese investment in Central, South and East Africa and on the economic opportunities available to the Lebanese in that region, as well as in Lebanon. The second and last forum will discuss the concept of Lebanon or "Lebanity" as a way of life, highlighting the need to preserve the Lebanese identity and the Arabic language through Lebanese education and schools, a number of which are located in the continent. Additionally, the forum will also shed light on the importance of restoring the Lebanese nationality, motivating a large number of Lebanese expatriates to regain their Lebanese identity as a source of pride.Following both forums, a luncheon banquet in honor of the participants will be held before concluding the conference works with a dinner ceremony at the Sofitel Ivory Hotel, during which the final recommendations will be announced.

Maalouf: Talk about Bloc 9 a doorway to Blocs 8 and 10
Sat 03 Feb 2018/NNA - MP Joseph Maalouf deemed Saturday that "the Israeli threats regarding Bloc 9 are a flagrant and very dangerous attack on Lebanese sovereignty," adding that such talk is a door way to tackle Blocs 8 and 10. "Our position altogether is unified and we have heard a clear stance by Dr. Samir Geagea in this respect...There are steps within official institutions to follow-up on this matter between the three presidents," Maalouf added in an interview to "Radio Free Lebanon" this morning. Asked about the timing of the threats, Maalouf said "they are probably due to the launching of explorations in Blocs 4 and 9."

Richard attends ceremony at Beirut National Museum for repatriation of archaeological rrtifacts
Fri 03 Feb 2018/NNA - In a press release by the US Embassy in Beirut, it siad: "U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard took part in the ceremony organized by the Ministry of Culture celebrating the repatriation of five archaeological artifacts to be displayed permanently at the Beirut National Museum."
In her remarks, Ambassador Richard highlighted the close collaboration between the U.S. and the Lebanese governments to successfully recover the artifacts and return them to their home. The following are Ambassador Richard's remarks as delivered: "Thank you everyone for being here. Thank you Mr. Minister, distinguished guests and especially Anne Marie [Afeiche] who's done so much on this particular case. You know, when I talk about our relationship with Lebanon, I almost always use the word partnership, and I use it on purpose because it is a very special word and has a very special meaning, and partnership only comes when we have shared values. That is the only time you have a partnership, and I think today is a great example of the fact that despite one disagreement here and an argument there, we the United States and Lebanon fundamentally share the same values, and one of these values is appreciation for our history, for our culture, and for our shared patrimony. I think if you look around this wonderful museum, you will see not just an exhibit of Lebanon's history, but our history as the world. This is global history and I appreciate every day what everyone here is doing to conserve it.
The second thing I'd like to say on the issue of partnership is that Mr. Bogdanos was very eloquent about how hard the Lebanese have worked to obtain and return these antiquities to Lebanon. I'd also like to say a word about how hard Lebanon has worked to return other people's antiquities to them. I know that it's been a tireless effort over the years for Lebanese ministry officials, Directorate of Antiquities officials, but also the security services: the police, the army, the other security and border services, as they have found items coming from Syria, from Iraq, from other places, and confiscated these, kept them in safekeeping and managed in a number of cases to send them home to where they belong. So I'd like to say a word to you in appreciation for what you have done for others, and that it is the least of what we can do for Lebanon, to help you return what is rightfully yours.
The last thing I'd like to say to everyone today is, every time I have been to this museum, I have the same inspiration and I have really seen it today with all the work that has been done, and that is the power of one person to really make dramatic change. There was a curator somewhere in a museum in New York, and I don't know who it was, who looked at that object and said something is not right. That person had supervisors who said, I am listening to you, something is not right. They contacted people in Lebanon, and you had individuals here who said, we are here, and we have been working quietly over many many years to document our patrimony and we are going to work with you on this. We have individuals in law enforcement who said we are going to work on this, we are going to take this on, and I really want to emphasize that, especially standing in this museum today, because I am always reminded of Maurice Chehab, who is an inspiration to me of the power of one: one person that took the initiative to say I am going to act to preserve for history what rightfully belongs to history, and he did that during the time of the civil war. Every time I am here, I am grateful for him and what he did. So I would just tell all of you, for myself personally that I take inspiration from these individuals and I hope all of us can take the inspiration to do what we need to do in the future to preserve the patrimony for all of us."

Lebanon's multi-dimensional political crisis
Raghida Dergham/February 03/ 2018
When the Trump administration slapped sanctions on 114 Russian officials and 96 oligarchs close to President Putin, there were no riots, flag burning, or threats. Russia’s leaders reacted wisely and coolly, to preserve the bilateral relationship. Putin called it an “unfriendly act”. He said: “"We were waiting for this list, and I will not hide it, were ready to take retaliatory steps, serious ones, which would have reduced our relations to zero," Putin said, before adding: "For now, we will refrain from these steps. But we will carefully watch how the situation develops.”
By comparison, when Lebanon’s foreign minister, Gebran Bassil of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement, flouted all the norms of diplomacy, labelling the country’s parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, of the Shia Amal movement, a “thug” during a closed session, Berri’s supporters were sent to the streets. The rallies, which headed in motorcades to FPM strongholds east of Beirut, quickly turned violent, putting Lebanon on the edge. The actions of both sides quickly undermined Lebanon’s efforts on the eve of major upcoming events, reinforcing the international impression of Lebanon as a ‘gimmick state’.
Were this incident not this serious, threatening a Shia-Christian confrontation that could have ignited the entire country, it would have been comical. The juvenility has invalidated all claims to wise leadership by all sides, with the spat spreading from Beirut all the way to Abidjan. But while the tit-for-tat and one-upmanship may seem like a farce to an outsider, they are part and parcel of the calculations behind the ever-shifting alliances between the ruling echelons.
Only remarks by Israel’s defense minister Avigdor Lieberman were able to bring a halt to what was a snowballing crisis, when he characterized Lebanon’s oil and gas exploration efforts in Bloc 9, located in a disputed zone between the two countries’ territorial waters, as “very provocative”. Lebanese politicians immediately closed ranks, insisting on Beirut’s right to contract an international consortium to carry out prospecting in the area as part of its sovereignty over its territorial waters, and reserving the right to self-defense in the event of aggression.
“Lebanon has demarcated its maritime borders according to international laws and will use all means to defend its oil-related activities,” Lebanon’s energy minister said in response to Lieberman. Hezbollah for its part stressed it was prepared to confront any “assault on our oil and gas rights and defend Lebanon’s infrastructure”.
This comes amid growing talk of a planned Israeli war, but it is not yet clear whether the prospects are serious or whether the warmongering is meant for deterrence.
What is clear however is that the escalation in Lebanon has more profound backgrounds that one would divine from just looking at the surface. One is related to a long-standing issue regarding the distribution of power between the ‘three presidencies’ of Lebanon – the president, speaker, and prime minister – and the privileges of their parties and associates. Another has to do with the electoral alliances in the upcoming legislative vote, and the relations between Lebanese entities with regional and world powers. And perhaps all these revolve around the theme of the future of the Christian alliance with the dominant two Shia groups Hezbollah and Amal.
The foreign minister, son in law of the president Michel Aoun, or the Lebanese version of Jared Kushner, is one of the key architects of the FPM’s alliance with Hezbollah, and of the recent détente with the Sunni Future Movement, via close relations with Nader Hariri, prime minister Saad Hariri’s chief of staff.
Officially, the row between President Aoun and Speaker Berri began over the delayed promotion of senior Lebanese army officers, but in reality, the powers of their two offices is the crux of the matter. Indeed, Aoun’s faction insist on having the powers of a ‘strong’ president, while Berri’s faction believes this reflects Aoun’s authoritarian tendencies, insisting on the terms of the Taif Accord that ended the civil war, and on the powers it had assigned to the president, speaker, and prime minister – always a Maronite Christian, a Shia Muslim, and a Sunni Muslim respectively.
And prior to that row, the foreign minister had made demands to amend the electoral law for the May 6 vote, but failed to get his way.
If that was the first challenge, the leaked video of Bassil’s ‘thug’ remarks during a meeting of the FPM’s Christian constituency could be seen as the third challenge to Berri. The remarks were probably a deliberate message to the speaker, otherwise he would not have used such language with a large group of people present, even if it was a closed session. So what did he have in mind?
One possible explanation is that Bassil wanted to bait Hezbollah to rush to its close Shia ally’s defense, in order to justify a break from Hezbollah in the elections as a prelude to strategically disengaging from the alliance with the powerful group.
The alliance may have started to become too costly, because the Trump administration is determined to impose tough sanctions including against Hezbollah’s allies, with major financial and political ramifications.
Moreover, the Arab Gulf countries have made it clear to the Christian factions in Lebanon that the continuation of the alliance with Hezbollah is tantamount to a full partnership in the group’s projects, including those that target Gulf interests in the region.
The Gulf countries are determined not to endorse any cover provided to Hezbollah by other Lebanese groups, be they Christian or Sunni factions. Indeed, part of the Saudi falling out with Saad Hariri was related to this very issue. And today, there is a fresh attempt by Gulf states to build better relations with Lebanon’s Christians, but the condition is that they should not be part of Hezbollah’s political cover, such as is the case with the Lebanese president and the foreign minister.
Could Aoun and Bassil therefore be in the process of reconsidering the alliance with Hezbollah? Is this a temporary phase, related to the ramifications of the differences with Amal and Hezbollah’s need to place its Shia allies first, for various reasons? Or have calculations changed radically ahead of the elections, with the Shia bloc seeking a vetoing bloc in parliament and the continuation of Berri in his post as the speaker and the final authority in the parliament?
Regionally and internationally, there is no indication a decision has been made to destabilize Lebanon, however, the first layer of Lebanon’s security remains quintessentially Lebanese. Outside powers are keen to see through the general election, and are interested in the electoral alliances – as astounding as they are in terms of the insistence of the establishment to continue to share patronage and economic interests in a quasi-feudal manner. There are also serious moves afoot not just concerning Hezbollah directly, but also the banking sector and other parties as part of the drive to contain Hezbollah and its network.
Israel too has entered the fray too with Lieberman’s remarks, which entailed threats to the Russian, Italian, and French consortium that had won the exploration tender.
The issue of maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel has been the focus of UN secretary generals since March 2016, with a focus on resolving disputes rather than the more sensitive issue of demarcation. In 2010, Lebanon submitted its evidence establishing its maritime boundaries, but Israel objected. Those efforts began with Ban Ki-moon at the helm in the UN, but now his successor Antonio Guterres must double his efforts to prevent any incidents.
Indeed, in a country as delicate as Lebanon, an explosion is always around the corner. Therefore, its leaders must show exceptional wisdom, and the kind of plausible deniability sought by Amal for the rioting of its supporters is unacceptable. Equally unacceptable is Lebanon’s top diplomat giving himself the right to flout all norms for his political gains, be they personal or for more powers for his president.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 03-04/18
HRW urges Turkey to end 'lethal force' against fleeing Syrians
AFP/February 03/2018/
Human Rights Watch has called on Ankara to stop using "lethal force" against Syrians trying to cross into Turkey and instead to open its border to the tens of thousands who have fled a government offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib Human Rights Watch called on Ankara on Saturday to stop using "lethal force" against Syrians trying to cross into Turkey, urging it to open its border to those seeking asylum. A major offensive waged by Syrian government troops in the northwestern province of Idlib has displaced more than 270,000 people since mid-December, according to the United Nations. Many have tried to flee into Turkey, but border guards have been "indiscriminately shooting at and summarily returning Syrian asylum seekers," HRW said. Turkey, which hosts an estimated 3.5 million Syrian refugees, has tried to push back anyone trying to enter across its southern border since August 2015. Some Syrians have managed to cross by resorting to the services of smugglers, including more than a dozen who crossed between May and December 2017 and shared their accounts with HRW. "Syrians fleeing to the Turkish border seeking safety and asylum are being forced back with bullets and abuse," HRW's deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih said. Others described being detained, beaten and prevented from seeking medical attention, and said at least 10 people, including a child, were killed by fire from Turkish border guards. "The Turkish government should issue standard instructions to the border guards at all crossing points that lethal force must not be used against asylum seekers and no asylum seeker is to be mistreated, but should be given access to medical aid when required," HRW said.
"It should ensure that all crossing points comply with these core legal obligations, as well as the ban on refoulement," the return of refugees to a country where they could be persecuted. Public debate on the return of Syrian refugees has been growing in Turkey, as well as in Lebanon and Jordan, which also host large numbers. But HRW warned that Syria remained too dangerous for civilians to be sent back, particularly after Turkey opened up a new front in the conflict last month with a cross-border assault on Kurdish militia in the Afrin enclave. "Conditions in Syria are not safe for refugee returns," Fakih said.
"With hostilities in Afrin contributing to the growing displacement crisis in the country, Turkey should allow the thousands of desperate Syrians seeking refuge to cross the border."

Egyptian Army Bulldozes 12 Terrorists’ Hideouts, Disrupts 12 Explosive Charges in Sinai
Cairo - Walid Abdul Rahman/ASharq Al Awsat/February 03/18/The Egyptian Army captured a huge number of suspects supporting takfiri members in Sinai.  Official spokesman of the armed forces Colonel Tamer al-Rifai stated that 12 hideouts were bulldozed and 12 explosive charges were discovered in addition to four vehicles containing huge quantity of spare parts, motorbikes and materials used in making explosive charges.In a statement, Rifai said that eight suspects were captured for supporting takfiri members. He affirmed that the Third Field Army continues efforts to eradicate takfiri elements in central Sinai. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis is strongly active in Sinai, knowing that this group pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014 calling itself ISIS in Egypt. This coincides with a time when Egypt's state security prosecution ordered a 15-day extension of the imprisonment of six suspects of plotting to execute terrorist operations against security men and to join a terrorist group. Suspects are facing charges of endorsing takfiri ideology, provoking violence, disturbing public security, threatening social peace, plotting to commit terrorist operations and communicating with terrorist groups to plot against the state.The trial of 66 suspects on charges of forming a terrorist group and joining it in Egypt proceeds at Giza Criminal Court. Chief prosecutor Nabil Sadeq had referred one of the suspects to the criminal court for accusations of funding terrorist operations. The Supreme Administrative Court looks on Saturday in the appeal on the verdict of eliminating the freeze imposed on assets of former footballer Mohamed Aboutrika. In Jan. 2017, North Cairo Criminal Court put Aboutrika, 38, among 1,500 others on the terrorist groups and figures’ lists, after accusing him of funding the Muslim Brotherhood with intention to conduct terrorist affairs and undermine the country’s economy.

EU Hosts Conference to Curb Qatar Funding of Terrorism
Brussels - Abdullah Mostafa/ASharq Al Awsat/February 03/18/Arab and European officials and experts discussed in a conference, which kicked off on Thursday in Brussels, possible means to curb Qatar funding of terrorist organizations, especially after Islam image was defamed by the violent acts done in its name. The conference entitled “Gulf Diplomatic Crisis, Combating Funding Terrorism” was held in the European Union headquarters. It was organized by Brussels International Center for Research and Human Rights and Hedayah, the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism.
European speakers agreed that Qatar is involved in funding terrorism. They also highlighted the necessity of finding European mechanisms to cooperate with the GCC countries in the field of combating funding terrorism, assisting Qatar in ridding from endorsing terrorists and returning to the GCC away from controversial topics. This was stated by Ramadan Abu Jazar, director and head of the research department, to Asharq Al-Awsat after the conclusion of the conference. Joost Hiltermann, program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, said in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that the current dispute represents a huge problem and has consequences on the GCC. It also led to an instability in the region, namely North Africa, and there should be a solution for this crisis, he added. Ramona Manescu, member of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, said to Asharq Al-Awsat that the EU seeks working with everybody, and all states should exert more efforts to settle the matter. Manescu added that a look at the Gulf twenty years back, ten years back and now shows the difference, and this is a matter of interest for the Europeans because they want a partnership with the whole region and not with only one state. Hedayah chairman Rashid al-Nuaimi declared to Asharq Al-Awsat that he rejects any impartial standpoint from terrorism, “It is either you are with terrorism or against it, because neglecting the Qatari role in supporting and funding terrorism encourages this regime and others to proceed with this.” Nuaimi added that the “Qatari regime didn’t reform its condition, and still embraces dozens of terrorists whose names are designated on terrorism lists."

Tariq Ramadan Charged with Rape
Paris - /ASharq Al Awsat/February 03/18/Academic Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt Hasan al-Banna, has been charged with rape, a judicial source said, and remains in custody. Ramadan, 55, is being held on charges of rape of a vulnerable person after two women accused him of violently assaulting them in hotel rooms in Lyon and Paris in 2009 and 2012. He was arrested on Wednesday as part of a preliminary inquiry, and after two days of questioning by investigators, Ramadan was brought before three magistrates who have been assigned to the case which he denies. Henda Ayari, 41, accused Ramadan of raping her in a Hotel in Paris in 2012, and according to Agence France Presse (AFP), as part of his defense, he has presented investigators with conversations and evidence that could hurt her credibility. Another woman, referred to as “Christelle”, accused the academic of raping and violently assaulting her in a hotel room in the south-eastern city of Lyon in 2009. On Thursday, "Christelle" recounted the incidents to the judge in Ramadan's presence, in a three-hour heated testimony during which Ramadan rejected her allegations. Rejecting her testimony, Ramadan refused to sign the official summary of the account, sources close to the case said. “Both sides maintained their positions,” a legal source said. She revealed that Ramadan had a small scar on his groin that would not have been noticed except in the case of close contact, a source said. Police interviewed dozens of people close to both Ramadan and the two women, and examined email and social media exchanges between them. On his Facebook page on Oct. 28, Ramadan described the allegations as a "campaign of lies" carried out by his "longtime enemies."In November, Oxford University announced that Ramadan, 55, took a leave of absence from his post as professor of contemporary Islamic studies "by mutual agreement". Ramadan said in a statement in November: “Contrary to reports in the French-language press, I have taken leave of absence upon mutual agreement with Oxford University, which will permit me to devote my energies to my defense while respecting students’ need for a calm academic environment.”

Israel Shuts Down Palestinian Institutions In East Jerusalem
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/February 03/18/The Israeli authorities decided on Friday to shut down a number of Palestinian institutions operating in the occupied city of East Jerusalem. Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan extended the order against a number of Palestinian institutions, including the Orient House, in East Jerusalem due to their affiliation to the Palestinian Authority. The Israeli decision anticipated an expected decision from the PA to announce the city of Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State. Israeli sources said on Friday that Erdan’s order does not only involve political institutions, but also include a number of vital civil institutions, the East Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Council for the Arab Tourism Industry, the Center for Palestinian Studies, the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, and the Office for Social and Statistical Studies. The sources said that the decision is based on an Israeli law issued in 1994, and which prevents the Palestinian Authority to open representational offices or to exert any activity inside Israeli areas. The law also grants the Interior Minister the power to issue decisions that prohibit such activities. Erdan said that "the struggle for sovereignty over all parts of Jerusalem continues all the time, and the Palestinian Authority is trying to undermine Israel's sovereignty in our capital consistently. I will not allow it." The Israeli minister added that he had noticed that after President Donald Trump's Jerusalem declaration in December, the PA increased efforts to renew operations in Jerusalem, and transferred funds to its representatives there. Meanwhile, the occupying Israeli municipality in Jerusalem began to impose taxes on church and UN properties in the occupied East Jerusalem. The decision affects 887 properties, which belong to Christian churches and UN. It is estimated that the municipality will earn 650 million shekels ($191 million) from the new policy.

Memo Alleging FBI Abuse Released on Trump's Okay
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 03/18
The U.S. Congress released a Republican memo Friday alleging bias in FBI investigations into Donald Trump's election campaign, moments after the president authorized the explosive move. "What's happening in our country is a disgrace," Trump said, announcing that he had declassified the memo drafted by Republican Congressman and former Trump transition team official Devin Nunes. "A lot of people should be ashamed," added Trump, who earlier Friday accused the leaders of the Justice and FBI of politicizing their investigation in favor of the Democrats. "So I sent it over to Congress. They will do what they're going to do. Whatever they do is fine. It was declassified, and let's see what happens." The move set up an extraordinary confrontation with the country's top law enforcement authorities, and triggered speculation that FBI Director Christopher Wray would step down just six months into the job.
Trump's critics allege the memo is designed to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of his campaign's ties with Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously agree tried to tilt the election in his favor. Based on classified materials, the four-page document claims that the FBI used an unsubstantiated, Democratic-funded research report to obtain a warrant in 2016 to surveil Trump advisor Carter Page, who had extensive Russian contacts. The FBI had warned that the memo, crafted by Nunes as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, contained "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."But Trump lashed out hard at the leaders of the FBI and Justice Department as he prepared to declassify the document. "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans," he tweeted. The president called the alleged bias "something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!"
Memo's release
The document, which has circulated among many members of Congress, was based on the highly classified, much larger record of the application to obtain a so-called FISA national security warrant in 2016 to surveil Page. Democrats have sought approval for the release of their own counter-memo that argues Nunes simplified and "cherry-picks" facts to distort what happened. Directly in the firing line were Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, all chosen last year for their jobs by Trump. Sessions has stayed out of the fray, but Rosenstein, who directly oversees Mueller's Russia investigation, and Wray have battled Nunes and the White House over the memo since the beginning of the year. Democrats allege that the ultimate target is Rosenstein, the sole person able to fire Mueller. Rosenstein and Wray this week lobbied Trump's chief of staff John Kelly, and Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, against the release. On Tuesday the FBI issued an extraordinary public warning that it had "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy." On Thursday, however, Ryan backed Nunes, characterizing the release as an act of transparency and a defense of American civil liberties. "This memo is not an indictment of the FBI or the Department of Justice," Ryan said.
Republican senators uneasy over fight
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and the author of the still-secret counter-memo, rejected Ryan's explanation, citing the president's own Friday tweet. Speaking to CBS Friday morning, Schiff said the president's tweet made plain that the memo's release was "designed to impugn the credibility of the FBI -- to undermine the investigation; to give the president additional fodder to attack the investigation.""It's a tremendous disservice to the American people, who are going to be misled by this -- by the selective use of classified information."Not all Republicans were on board, however. Four senior Republican senators, including John Thune, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Jeff Flake, expressed their unease about Nunes' use of intelligence in a political battle. "The president's apparent willingness to release this memo risks undermining U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts, politicizing Congress' oversight role, and eroding confidence in our institutions of government," Flake said in a joint statement with Democratic Senator Chris Coons.

Israeli attempts to tax churches opposed
Arab News/February 2018 /AMMAN: Church leaders and lawyers have reacted angrily to news of Israeli attempts to charge municipal taxes on church properties in Jerusalem.
According to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP), Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat has decided to change a policy applied to churches in Jerusalem since 1967. The AFP report says the Jerusalem Municipality informed the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office that it is demanding that church and international institutions pay municipal taxes on properties owned by them. It is estimated that the municipality is demanding 650 million shekels ($191 million) from the new policy from churches and international agencies that have previously been exempt from paying such taxes.
Rif’at Bader, director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, told Arab News that the issue is not new, but that the timing is curious and seems linked to political, rather than economic, reasoning. “It comes after the churches in Jerusalem took a strong stand against the US president’s declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and after they refused to meet with the visiting vice president Mike Pence,” he said. Wadia Abu Nassar, adviser to the Assembly of Catholic Bishops in the Holy Land, told Arab News that the municipality had not discussed the issue with church leaders. “No one has been contacted on it,” he said. “This is an idea from some of the Jerusalem municipality council members.”Nassar said that the Vatican and Israel have been discussing various municipal issues since 1993, and claimed there is an agreement between the two parties that no changes would be made to the status quo until those talks were concluded. The Eastern Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah Hanna, told reporters in Jerusalem that the tax initiative is part of a campaign to empty Jerusalem of its remaining Christians. “At a time when Israel is targeting our endowments in various illegal and crooked ways, now they are using the lever of high taxes against our churches, convents and institutions in Jerusalem with the aim of emptying the old city of Jerusalem of its Christians and to marginalize the Christian presence in Jerusalem,” he said. Atallah pointed out that churches existed in Jerusalem long before the creation of the state of Israel. “Some of our churches go back to the fourth and fifth century AD,” he said. “The tradition has always been to exempt the churches and their properties from taxes. This was the case during the British mandate, during the Jordanian rule, and even as far back as the Ottoman period.”Botrus Mansour, a Nazareth-based lawyer and general director of an evangelical school, told Arab News that Israel must treat all faiths equally if they wish to begin imposing taxes. “The ultra-orthodox Jewish organizations enjoy a wide range of privileges and tax exemptions,” he said. “The minute they treat all religious institutions of all faiths equally then they are entitled to implement this law on Christians.”

Five Turkish soldiers killed in attack on tank in Syria’s Afrin
Reuters, Istanbul/February 04/2018/Five Turkish soldiers were killed when their tank was hit in an attack carried out by Kurdish YPG militia fighters on Saturday in northwest Syria’s Afrin region, Turkey’s armed forces said. According to state-run Anadolu news agency, the latest attack brought to seven the number of Turkish soldiers killed on Saturday in Operation Olive Branch, which Turkey launched against the YPG in Afrin last month. This comes just hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the military operation in Afrin is about to end. His statement comes after Turkish forces gained control of the strategic mount-Darmak in Afrin, Syria. According to Anadolu news agency, the forces reportedly raised the Turkish flag at its peak.:15

Aircraft attack civilian convoy on Syrian highway, at least seven killed
Reuters, Amman/3 February 2018/Warplanes have hit a convoy of civilians fleeing along a major Syrian highway, rescuers and a witness said on Saturday. It took place in an area where Syrian and Iranian-backed troops were pushing, with air cover, towards a rebel-held town in northwestern Idlib province, they said.Syrian soldiers and Iranian-backed militiamen were now around 12 km from Saraqeb, advancing towards the Damascus-Aleppo highway under cover of heavy Russian air strikes, two opposition sources said. Rescuers said at least seven civilians were pulled out of the wreckage of cars after the air strikes on Friday. "We believe two Russian planes struck the convoy of civilians on the highway and left at least seven killed and 12 injured, mostly elderly and children," said Ammar al Adnan, a civil defence worker from Saraqeb.
Thousands flee
Activists' videos on social media showed rescuers extinguishing fires on the route, used by thousands of villagers fleeing areas south of Aleppo now overrun by the Syrian army and its allies.Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the footage.A Syrian monitoring group and the media arm of al-Qaida-linked militants are reporting intense airstrikes on a rebel-held stronghold in Syria's northwest. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 35 airstrikes on Saraqeb since late Friday, adding that many of its residents are fleeing.The Ibaa News Agency of the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee, said Russian and Syrian warplanes and helicopter gunships have been pounding Saraqeb and Tel Mardeekh village in Idlib province since the early hours of Saturday. Syrian government forces and their allies pushed into Idlib, an opposition stronghold, inching closer to a key highway that connects Syria's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. The UN says more than 270,000 have been displaced in Idlib because of the government onslaught since December 15. Russia's defense ministry regularly says it is attacking hardline Islamist militants. It denies opposition and witness accounts that its planes target civilians, market places, medical centers and residential areas away from frontlines. Syrian media made no mention of the strikes.
Syrian army offensive
A major Syrian army offensive, begun earlier this year in southern Aleppo and eastern Idlib, has allowed it to take control of a large amount of territory from rebel forces. The advances have caused an exodus of thousands of civilians to the relative safety of territory further north towards the Turkish border.
Air raids have struck several cave hospitals and exacerbated a refugee crisis along the Turkish frontier, where camps now house tens thousands of displaced people. The army confirmed new gains on Saturday, saying it had seized a string of villages from al Qaeda fighters, state television said, quoting a military source.

Russian pilot ‘killed in fighting’ after plane downed in Syria
Al Arabiya English and AFP/February 2018 /Russian pilot was killed in Syria on Saturday after parachuting into rebel-held territory when his plane was shot down, the Defense Ministry said.“A Russian Su-25 aircraft crashed during a flight over the Idlib de-escalation zone. The pilot had enough time to announce he had ejected into the zone, under the control of al-Nusra Front fighters,” the ministry said, quoted by Russian press agencies. “The pilot was killed in fighting against terrorists.”It added that “according to preliminary reports, the plane was shot down by a portable anti-aircraft missile system.”The Russian army claimed it had killed “more than 30 al-Nusra Front fighters” during a strike with “high-precision weapons” in the area where the plane was shot down. The region where the plane crashed is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist outfit dominated by Al-Qaeda’s former Syrian affiliate. Forces supporting president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, backed by Russia, launched an offensive at the end of December to recapture the southeastern province of Idlib, the last enclave completely out of Damascus’s control. Opposition groups have in the past shot down Syrian planes, but rarely those of the Russian army.
In August 2016, five Russian soldiers were killed after their helicopter was shot down by rebel groups in Idlib. In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian military aircraft, which caused a diplomatic crisis between Moscow and Ankara.

Police: Extreme-right gunman shoots 6 Africans in Italy
AP/Arab News/February 2018/MILAN: An Italian gunman with extreme right-wing sympathies shot and wounded six African immigrants Saturday in a two-hour drive-by shooting spree, authorities said, terrorizing a small Italian city where a Nigerian man had been arrested days earlier in a teenager’s gruesome killing. Police photos showed the shooting suspect with a neo-Nazi tattoo prominently on his forehead as he sat in custody and an Italian flag tied around his neck as he was arrested in the central Italian city of Macerata,. Authorities identified him as Luca Traini, a 28-year-old Italian with no previous record.
Traini had run for town council on the anti-migrant Northern League’s list in a local election last year in Corridonia, the party confirmed, but its mayoral candidate lost the race. The news agency ANSA quoted friends of his as saying that Traini had previously been affiliated with Italian extremist parties like the neo-fascist Forza Nuova and CasaPound.
The shooting spree came days after the slaying of 18-year-old Pamela Mastropietro and amid a heated electoral campaign in Italy where anti-foreigner sentiment has become a key theme. Italy has struggled with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants in the last few years coming across the Mediterranean Sea in smugglers’ boats. After the attack, Premier Paolo Gentiloni warned in Rome that “the state will be particularly severe against whoever thinks of feeding the spiral of violence.”
In Macerata, Interior Minister Marco Minniti said the gunman had been motivated “by racial hatred,” and had “a background of right-wing extremism with clear references to fascism and Nazism.” “What happened appears to be a completely random armed retaliation raid,” Minniti said, adding that evidence indicated that while the gunman had planned the attack, he had acted alone. “In a democracy, it is not permitted for individuals to seek justice alone, even if in this case, there is nothing that recalls a notion of justice.”Authorities said the six wounded — five men and one woman — appeared to be random targets in various parts of the city of 43,000 in Italy’s central Marche region. Italian news reports indicated that the gunman’s trajectory included the area where the Italian murder victim was found and where the prime suspect in her slaying lived. The identities and nationalities of the shooting victims remained unknown. Hospital officials said late Saturday that one had been treated and released, while the others had either undergone surgery or were facing operations for their injuries. One of them remained in intensive care. As the violent attack unfolded, police told residents to stay inside and ordered a halt to public transport to limit the casualties. Such violent shootings are rare in Italy, and usually associated with the southern Italian mafia.
A video posted by the il Resto di Carlino newspaper showed the suspect with an Italian flag draped over his shoulders being arrested by armed Carabinieri officers in the city center, near where he apparently fled his car on foot. Italian news reports said a registered gun was found inside the car and the suspect did a fascist salute as he was arrested, but no salute was visible in the video. The tattoo on Traini’s forehead was that of the Wolfangel, an ancient runic symbol that according to the Anti-Defamation League was appropriated by Nazi Germany and later adopted by neo-Nazis in Europe and the United States.Macerata Mayor Romano Carancini confirmed that all six victims were black Africans. “They were all of color, this is obviously a grave fact. As was grave what happened to Pamela. The closeness of the two events makes you imagine there could be a connection,” Carancini said.
Mastropietro’s dismembered remains were found Wednesday in two suitcases two days after she walked away from a drug rehab community. A judge on Saturday confirmed the arrest of the main suspect, identified as 29-year-old Innocent Oseghale. Italy is heading into a general election on March 4 and the head of the rebranded League party, Matteo Salvini, had capitalized on the teen’s killing in campaign appearances even before the shooting Saturday. Salvini is pledging to deport 150,000 migrants in his first year in office if his party wins control of parliament and he is named premier. That has drawn sharp rebukes that Salvini is using the migrant crisis to foment xenophobia for political gain. Salvini’s League, which dropped “northern” from its name in a bid for a national following, has joined a center-right coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Giorgia Meloni’s much smaller Brothers of Italy. They are running against Matteo Renzi’s much-splintered center-left Democratic Party and the populist 5-Star Movement. Salvini told reporters Saturday at a campaign stop in Bologna that he would bring security to Italy. “Whoever shoots is a delinquent, no matter the skin color. It is clear that out-of-control immigration ... brings social conflict,” he said. Senate president Pietro Grasso of the small liberal party Free and Equal chastised Salvini for using the tragedies to gain votes. “Whoever, like Salvini, exploits news events and tragedies for electoral purposes is among those responsible for the spiral of hatred and violence that we must stop as soon as possible,” Grasso said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 03-04/18
Canada: M-103 Heritage Committee report promises government action against “Islamophobia”

Christine Douglass/New Agencies/February 03/18
The Canadian government’s Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage has completed its draft report on “anti-Islamophobia” Motion M-103, and is ready to “take action.”
Motion M-103, introduced by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid just over a year ago, recognized
“the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear… condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and take note of House of Commons’ petition e-411 and the issues raised by it…and request that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage undertake a study.”
After the passing of M-103 in Parliament, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage proceeded with its study, conducting nearly a year of hearings from selected groups and members of the public, both for and against the motion.
The cost of this extensive year-long Heritage Committee project was footed by taxpayers. The actual purpose and methodology of the study were vague.
Now that it has emerged that the government is preparing to “take action” on those it deems to be “Islamophobic,” Canadians are left in the dark as to what action will be taken (or range of actions) and by whose standards and definition one is deemed to be “Islamophobic.”
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is pleased to make available the report entitled “Taking action against systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”.
In the Heritage Committee Report, the section on “Islamophobia” is oddly short: less than two pages. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) definition of the term “Islamophobia” was included, as follows:
Islamophobia can be described as stereotypes, bias or acts of hostility towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling, Islamophobia leads to viewing Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.
The definition of “Islamophobia” provided by the OHRC is nebulous. Questions to ponder: what is the global jihad, and what doctrine is behind it? If reporting global abuses committed in the name of Islam inadvertently leads to the “viewing of Muslims as a greater security threat,” then is the OHRC stating that one must not report on those abuses (such as Christian persecution, jihad attacks, attacks on women in Europe, honor violence, stonings, FGM, the murders of apostates, gays, Pakistan’s stringent blasphemy laws, etc.), since such reports may potentially affect how Muslims are viewed?
The Heritage Committee report has delivered a passive-aggressive document that threatens “action” against those who practice “Islamophobia,” while not providing a concise definition of “Islamophobia.” Nor does it present thorough findings despite following exhaustive hearings, and fails to grasp the importance of Petition e-411, which formed the basis of M-103 and stated: “We, the undersigned, Citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to join us in recognizing that extremist individuals do not represent the religion of Islam, and in condemning all forms of Islamophobia.”
Muslim Brotherhood-linked individuals and groups have been at the helm of a hardline Canada-wide campaign to drive an “Islamophobia,” victimology agenda, which attempts to forbid criticism of Islam — thus putting a single religion over all others, as all other religious doctrines are and should be subject to scrutiny. Numerous suggestions from Canadians to replace the word “Islamophobia” with “anti-Muslim bigotry” were firmly rejected.
Despite many media accusations that the “alt-right” had stirred paranoia about the word “Islamophobia” being a threat to free speech and an implementation of tacit Sharia blasphemy laws, the threat posed by the word went on full public display when “Islamophobia” was concretely defined in writing in a Toronto District School Board curriculum “Guide Book.” “Islamophobia” was defined as ” fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture,” substantiating widespread concerns that political Islam is in fact at play in the use of the word “Islamophobia,” and that there is a concerted effort to foreclose upon discussion of it. (Sections of the Guide Book were amended following complaints.)
It is significant that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has established an “Observatory” that is dedicated to combating global “Islamophobia,” and has made it clear that “Islamophobia” encompasses not only anti-Muslim bigotry, but also criticism of Islam and any speech that is deemed offensive to Muslims; hence the existence of blasphemy laws in Islamic states.
What Canadians think about the direction of Canada is of little worry to Justin Trudeau and his acolytes. Canada can no longer be considered a diverse, free country when merely offending Islam has become a punishable offence, while the government discounts routine hate preaching on al Quds Day, on campuses and in mosques, including hatred and incitement against the LGBTQ community, which Justin Trudeau claims to defend. The vagueness of the Heritage Committee Report should raise alarm bells. One basic service the exhaustive hearings provided was an opportunity to calculate the fervor and strength of opposition to M-103, which gives insight into just how far the Trudeau government can manage to push the envelope with Canadians.
A few points about Canadian sentiment on some issues enforced by Trudeau:
The vast majority of Canadians rejected M-103 and the term “Islamophobia”;
Most Canadians objected to Syrian refugees coming into Canada;
Canadians did not approve of a $10.5 million dollar payout to jihadist Omar Khadr, and in fact, wanted Khadr to remain in custody;
Most Canadians oppose “mindless multiculturalism,”, the kind that Justin Trudeau advocates for, including welcoming illegals rejected by America and much worse: Trudeau’s embarrassingly impassioned advocacy for returning Islamic State jihadists.
Trudeau is also the first leader ever to break federal ethics law, as he vacationed with his family at the private Bahamian island owned by the Aga Khan. He also conveniently gave away a $15-million grant of hard-earned taxpayer money to the Aga Khan’s endowment fund. Favor for favor, right?
Some other troubles with Trudeau:
He accused the Conservative party of “Islamophobia” for inquiring about jihad terrorism;
He has met privately with Joshua Boyle, a suspicious former Taliban captive who is also now up on 15 criminal charges;
His government has been trying to reopen relations with the Iranian Islamic regime, after the previous Conservative government shut down the Iranian embassy in Ottawa because of its clandestine operations — including espionage and infiltration. Liberal Iranian MP Majid Jowhari started a petition to reestablish diplomatic ties with Iran.
His Sharia-supporting MP, Omar Alghabra, represented Canada at the 44th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Since when is Canada an OIC state?
Leaked intelligence documents now reveal a much greater threat of Islamic terror than the Trudeau Government will admit to.
As Trudeau continues to spend taxpayer money on policies and projects that are undesirable to most Canadians, Canadians can expect more surprises. The Trudeau government has seen fit to deem Canadians “phobic” about Muslims, and will take action against citizens for this so-called “phobia.” One in three countries in the world have blasphemy laws that “criminalize anti-religious sentiment,” and Canada is well on its way. Despite the length and seemingly benign nature of the Heritage Committee report, it promises action against “Islamophobia,” a term it failed to adequately define, giving the government far too much leeway.
“Anti-Islamophobia Draft Completed,”
by Robert Tuomi, Windsor Square, February 1, 2018:
(OTTAWA, ON) – The federal Government’s standing committee on Canadian Heritage has completed a draft report on Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination, including Islamophobia, in Canada. Although its latest meeting, on Wednesday, was in-camera, the committee, led by Liberal MP Hedy Fry, has released its minutes. According to the minutes, the committee, with members of all three major political parties, agreed to adopt a draft report to be entitled Taking action against systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia. The document will now be reviewed by Fry and civil servants whose role will be to make, “grammatical and editorial changes as may be necessary without changing the substance of the report.” It was agreed by the committee to have the Government table a comprehensive response following the presentation by Fry to the House of Commons. Once Fry presents the committee’s findings, at a date yet to be announced, civil servants working on the document will release a news announcement and will place related information on the committee’s website. The committee was given the task of examining Islamophobia and religious discrimination following the passage of Motion 103 in April last year. As part of its work, the committee held 93 meetings and heard from 78 witnesses. Brought to Parliament by Iqra Khalid, a Liberal MP representing Mississauga-Erin Mills, the then non-binding motion called on the Government to condemn Islamophobia in Canada……

Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, With Cairo’s O.K.
David Kirkpatrickfeb/The New York Times/February 03/2018
The jihadists in Egypt’s Northern Sinai had killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, briefly seized a major town and begun setting up armed checkpoints to claim territory. In late 2015, they brought down a Russian passenger jet.
Egypt appeared unable to stop them, so Israel, alarmed at the threat just over the border, took action.
For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.
For Cairo, the Israeli intervention has helped the Egyptian military regain its footing in its nearly five-year battle against the militants. For Israel, the strikes have bolstered the security of its borders and the stability of its neighbor.
Their collaboration in the North Sinai is the most dramatic evidence yet of a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region. Shared enemies like ISIS, Iran and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel — even as their officials and news media continue to vilify the Jewish state in public.
American officials say Israel’s air campaign has played a decisive role in enabling the Egyptian armed forces to gain an upper hand against the militants. But the Israeli role is having some unexpected consequences for the r egion, including on Middle East peace negotiations, in part by convincing senior Israeli officials that Egypt is now dependent on them even to control its own territory.
Seven current or former British and American officials involved in Middle East policy described the Israeli attacks inside Egypt, all speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.
Spokesmen for the Israeli and Egyptian militaries declined to comment, and so did a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry.
Both neighbors have sought to conceal Israel’s role in the airstrikes for fear of a backlash inside Egypt, where government officials and the state-controlled media continue to discuss Israel as a nemesis and pledge fidelity to the Palestinian cause.
The Israeli drones are unmarked, and the Israeli jets and helicopters cover up their markings. Some fly circuitous routes to create the impression that they are based in the Egyptian mainland, according to American officials briefed on their operations.
In Israel, military censors restrict public reports of the airstrikes. It is unclear if any Israeli troops or special forces have set foot inside Egyptian borders, which would increase the risk of exposure.
Mr. Sisi has taken even more care, American officials say, to hide the origin of the strikes from all but a limited circle of military and intelligence officers. The Egyptian government has declared the North Sinai a closed military zone, barring journalists from gathering information there.
Behind the scenes, Egypt’s top generals have grown steadily closer to their Israeli counterparts since the signing of the Camp David accords 40 years ago, in 1978. Egyptian security forces have helped Israel enforce restrictions on the flow of goods in and out of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian territory bordering Egypt controlled by the militant group Hamas. And Egyptian and Israeli intelligence agencies have long shared information about militants on both sides of the border.
Israeli officials were concerned in 2012 when Egypt, after its Arab Spring revolt, elected a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood to the presidency. The new president, Mohamed Morsi, pledged to respect the Camp David agreements. But the Israelis worried about the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological kinship with Hamas and its historic hostility to the Jewish state itself.
A year later, Mr. Sisi, then the defense minister, ousted Mr. Morsi in a military takeover. Israel welcomed the change in government, and urged Washington to accept it. That solidified the partnership between the generals on both sides of the border.
The North Sinai, a loosely governed region of mountainous desert between the Suez Canal and the Israeli border, became a refuge for Islamist militants in the decade before Mr. Sisi took power. The main jihadist organization, Ansar Beit al Maqdis — the Partisans of Jerusalem — had concentrated on attacking Israel, but after Mr. Sisi’s takeover it began leading a wave of deadly assaults against Egyptian security forces.
A few weeks after Mr. Sisi took power, in August 2013, two mysterious explosions killed five suspected militants in a district of the North Sinai not far from the Israeli border. The Associated Press reported that unnamed Egyptian officials had said Israeli drones fired missiles that killed the militants, possibly because of Egyptian warnings of a planned cross-border attack on an Israeli airport. (Israel had closed the airport the previous day.)
Mr. Sisi’s spokesman, Col. Ahmed Ali, denied it. “There is no truth in form or in substance to the existence of any Israeli attacks inside Egyptian territory,” he said in a statement at the time, promising an investigation. “The claims of coordination between the Egyptian and Israeli sides in this matter are totally lacking in truth and go against sense and logic.”
Israel declined to comment, and the episode was all but forgotten.
Two years later, however, Mr. Sisi was still struggling to defeat the militants, who by then had killed at least several hundred Egyptians soldiers and policemen.
In November, 2014, Ansar Beit al Maqdis formally declared itself the Sinai Province branch of the Islamic State. On July 1, 2015, the militants briefly captured control of a North Sinai town, Sheikh Zuwaid, and retreated only after Egyptian jets and helicopters struck the town, state news agencies said. Then, at the end of October, the militants brought down the Russian charter jet, killing all 224 people on board.
It was around the time of those ominous milestones, in late 2015, that Israel began its wave of airstrikes, the American officials said, which they credit with killing a long roster of militant leaders.
Though equally brutal successors often stepped in to replace them, the militants appeared to adopt less ambitious goals. They no longer dared trying to close roads, set up checkpoints or claim territory. They moved into hitting softer targets like Christians in Sinai, churches in the Nile Valley or other Muslims they view as heretics. In November 2017, the militants killed 311 worshipers at a Sufi mosque in the North Sinai.
By then, American officials say, the Israelis were complaining to Washington that the Egyptians were not holding up their end of the arrangement. Cairo, they said, had failed to follow the airstrikes with coordinated movements of its ground troops.
Although Israeli military censors have prevented the news media there from reporting on the strikes, some news outlets have circumvented the censorship by citing a 2016 Bloomberg News report, in which an unnamed former Israeli official said there had been Israeli drone strikes inside of Egypt.
Zack Gold, a researcher specializing in the North Sinai who has worked in Israel, compared the airstrikes to Israel’s nuclear weapons program — also an open secret.
“The Israeli strikes inside of Egypt are almost at the same level, he said. “Every time anyone says anything about the nuclear program, they have to jokingly add ‘according to the foreign press.’ Israel’s main strategic interest in Egypt is stability, and they believe that open disclosure would threaten that stability.”
Inside the American government, the strikes are widely known enough that diplomats and intelligence officials have discussed them in closed briefings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers in open committee hearings have alluded approvingly to the surprisingly close Egyptian and Israeli cooperation in the North Sinai.
In a telephone interview, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declined to discuss specifics of Israel’s military actions in Egypt, but said Israel was not acting “out of goodness to a neighbor.”
“Israel does not want the bad stuff that is happening in the Egyptian Sinai to get into Israel,” he said, adding that the Egyptian effort to hide Israel’s role from its citizens “is not a new phenomenon.”
Some American supporters of Israel complain that, given Egypt’s reliance on the Israeli military, Egyptian officials, diplomats and state-controlled news media should stop publicly denouncing the Jewish state, especially in international forums like the United Nations.
“You speak with Sisi and he talks about security cooperation with Israel, and you speak with Israelis and they talk about security cooperation with Egypt, but then this duplicitous game continues,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee. “It is confusing to me.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also pointedly reminded American diplomats of the Israeli military role in Sinai. In February 2016, for example, Secretary of State John Kerry convened a secret summit in Aqaba, Jordan, with Mr. Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan and Mr. Netanyahu, according to three American officials involved in the talks or briefed about them.
Mr. Kerry proposed a regional agreement in which Egypt and Jordan would guarantee Israel’s security as part of a deal for a Palestinian state.
Mr. Netanyahu scoffed at the idea.
Israeli’s military was already propping up Egypt’s military, he said, according to the Americans. If Egypt was unable to control the ground within its own borders, Mr. Netanyahu argued, it was hardly in a position to guarantee security for Israel.
**David M. Halbfinger contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
Some of the reporting in this article was conducted by Mr. Kirkpatrick for the book “Into the Hands of the Soldiers,” to be published by Viking in August.

Europe: Making Islam Great Again
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/February 03/2018
In Germany, 47% of Muslims believe Sharia is more important than German law. In Sweden, 52% of Muslims believe that Sharia is more important than Swedish law.
The studies are supported by European intelligence reports. In Germany, intelligence agencies warned in the early fall of 2015 that, "We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples, as well as a different understanding of society and law."
A recent Belgian study, in which 4,734 Belgians were polled, showed that two-thirds of Belgians feel that their nation is being "increasingly invaded".
"We cannot and will never be able to stop migration", wrote the EU's Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos recently. "At the end of the day, we all need to be ready to accept migration, mobility and diversity as the new norm and tailor our policies accordingly".
Given that such people would have us believe that migration has become such a categorical and seemingly incontestable policy of the EU -- "Migration is deeply intertwined with our policies on economics, trade, education and employment", Avramapolous also wrote -- it is crucial to analyze what kind of "diversity" the EU is inviting to make its home on the European continent.
Professor Ednan Aslan, Professor of Islamic Religious Education at the University of Vienna, recently interviewed a sample of 288 of the approximately 4,000 predominantly Afghan asylum seekers in the Austrian city of Graz, on behalf of the city's integration department. Members of the department understandably wanted to know the views of the Muslim newcomers there. The results were published in a study, "Religiöse und Ethische Orientierungen von Muslimischen Flüchtlingen in Graz" ("Religious and ethical orientations of Muslim refugees in Graz").
According to the study, two-thirds of the asylum seekers are men, mostly under 30 years old. They are all in favor of preserving their traditional, conservative, Islamic values. The migrants are extremely religious; 70% go to the mosque every Friday for prayers.
The women are just as religious, if not more: 62.6% pray five times a day, notably more than the men (39.7%). In addition, 66.3% of the women wear a headscarf in public, and 44.3% refuse to shake hands with a man.
Half of the migrants (49.8%), report that religion now plays a larger role in their daily lives in Europe, than it did in their native country. 47.2% are convinced that Jews and Christians have strayed from the "right path", and 47.8% think that the future of Islam would be in danger if Islam were to be interpreted in a modern and contemporary fashion.
For 51.6% of the interviewees, the supremacy of Islam over other religions is undisputed. 55% believe in hell for unbelievers.
Anti-Semitism is deeply ingrained: 46% believe that Jews have "too much influence in world affairs", and 44% believe that Judaism is harmful. 43% opine that Jews themselves are at fault for being persecuted, while 54.5% think that Jews only care about themselves.
The migrants are not only intolerant of other religions: 50% find that homosexuality is a punishable sin. 44% of respondents said they would endorse violence against a woman if she cheated on her husband. 43% also said that fathers have a right to use violence on children if necessary.
When the integration department of the city of Graz, Austria interviewed a sample of 288 of the approximately 4,000 predominantly Afghan asylum seekers in the city, the migrants expressed deep intolerance towards Christians, Jews and homosexuals. Pictured: City Hall, Graz, Austria. (Image source: Tamirhassan/Wikimedia Commons)
The Austrian study is not the first of its kind to show that Muslim migrants to Europe hold supremacist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic views. In 2016, a study of nearly 800 migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea in the German state of Bavaria was conducted by a German think tank, the Hanns Seidel Foundation. This study showed that patriarchal beliefs were widespread among the migrants interviewed, especially among migrants from Afghanistan and the mainly non-Muslim migrants from Eritrea, over 60% of whom believed that women should stay at home. Anti-Semitism was another major finding of the study, which showed that regardless of age and educational background, a majority of the migrants held anti-Semitic beliefs. Well over 50% of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans said that the "Jews in the world have too much influence".
Anti-Semitism in Germany has indeed become so widespread that Germany recently decided to appoint a special commissioner to fight it. Germany is reportedly preparing legislation that could see migrants who express anti-Semitic views deported from the country. "You Jew!" has apparently become a common insult among Muslim pupils in Berlin schools.
Other studies and polls also reveal the large degree to which Muslims in Europe value sharia law over national law:
A 2016 UK poll showed that 43% of British Muslims "believed that parts of the Islamic legal system should replace British law while only 22 per cent opposed the idea". A different poll, also from 2016, found that nearly a quarter (23%) of all Muslims supported the introduction of sharia law in some areas of Britain, and 39% agreed that "wives should always obey their husbands". Nearly a third (31%) thought it was acceptable for a British Muslim man to have more than one wife. According to the same poll, 52% of all British Muslims believe that homosexuality should be illegal.
According to a 2014 study of Moroccan and Turkish Muslims in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Sweden, an average of almost 60% of the Muslims polled agreed that Muslims should return to the roots of Islam; 75% thought there is only one interpretation of the Koran possible and 65% said that Sharia is more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live. The specific numbers for Germany were that 47% of Muslims believe Sharia is more important than German law. In Sweden, 52% of Muslims believe that Sharia is more important than Swedish law.
The studies are supported by European intelligence reports. In Germany, intelligence agencies warned in the early fall of 2015 that, "We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples, as well as a different understanding of society and law." Four major German security agencies made it clear that "German security agencies... will not be in the position to solve these imported security problems and thereby the arising reactions from Germany's population."
In Norway, the head of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST), Benedicte Bjørnland, said, in January 2016, that one cannot, "assume that new arrivals will automatically adapt to the norms and rules of Norwegian society."
"Furthermore, new arrivals are not homogenous and can bring ethnic and religious strife with them... If parallel societies, radicalization and extremist environments emerge in the long run, we will have challenges as a security service."
It is hardly surprising, then, that Europeans have begun to report that they no longer feel at home in their own countries. A recent Belgian study, in which 4,734 Belgians were polled, showed that two-thirds of Belgians feel that their nation is being "increasingly invaded". Two thirds of the people said that there are "too many immigrants in Belgium", while 77% agreed with the statement, "Today we no longer feel at home as we did before [mass migration]". According to 74% of people surveyed, Islam is "not a tolerant religion", while 60% said the presence of so many Muslims in their nation presents a threat to its identity. Only 12% said they believe the religion is "a source of enrichment" for Belgium.
The study also surveyed 400 Belgian Muslims: 33% said they "don't like Western culture", 29% said they believe the laws of Islam to be superior to Belgian law, and 34% said they "would definitely prefer a political system inspired by the Quran". The study also found that 59% of Muslims in Belgium would "condemn" the marriage if their son chose a non-Muslim partner, and 54% would condemn the marriage if their daughter chose a non-Muslim partner. Tellingly, the response of the researchers behind the study -- public broadcaster RTBF, liberal newspaper Le Soir, sociology research institute Survey and Action and a foundation called This is Not a Crisis -- was to claim that they "observed the development of a true anti-Muslim paranoia [among Belgians], which has taken on a pathological dimension".
None of these studies, polls, and intelligence reports appear to be making the least impression on European leaders. In the starry-eyed words of Avramapolous, it is not enough that the mainly Muslim migrants who have come to Europe, "have found safety in Europe". According to him, "We also need to make sure they find a home".
The question that remains unanswered -- as European leaders seek to make Islam great again on the continent -- is where Europeans are supposed to make their homes.
**Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2018 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.

Palestinians: Arbitrary Arrests, Administrative Detentions and World Silence
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/February 03/2018
While Israel uses "administrative detention" as a tool to thwart terrorism, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership holds people without trial as a means to silence them and prevent them from voicing any form of criticism against Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.
While administrative detainees in Israel are entitled to see a lawyer, receive family visits and appeal against their incarceration, the Palestinians detained by the PA are denied basic rights. Yet, Israel-obsessed human rights organizations seem uninterested in this fact.
Particularly disturbing, however, is not that the PA leadership is acting as a tyrannical regime, but the abiding silence and indifference of the international community and human rights organizations. Those who scream bloody murder about Israel's security measures against terrorism would do the Palestinians a better service by opening their mouths about how human rights are ravaged under the PA.
For many years, Palestinians and their supporters around the world have been condemning Israel for arresting suspected terrorists without trial.
It turns out, however, that the Palestinian Authority (PA) also has a similar policy that permits one of its senior officials to order the arrest of any Palestinian, regardless of the nature of the offense he or she commits.
Israel holds suspected terrorists in "administrative detention" on the basis of laws such as: Israeli Military Order regarding no. 1651 Security Provisions, Incarceration of Unlawful Combatants Law and Defense (Emergency) Regulations, a law that replaces the emergency laws from the period of the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948).
It is worth noting that Israeli citizens, and not only Palestinians, have also been held in "administrative detention" over the past few decades. This means that Israel does not distinguish between a Palestinian and an Israeli when it comes to combatting terrorism.
While the campaign against Israel's "administrative detentions" has been going on, the Palestinian Authority has been, according to Palestinian human rights activists and lawyers, conducting unlawful and arbitrary arrests against its own constituents.
Once again, the double standards of the Palestinians and their international supporters have been exposed.
For more than a decade, the PA has been detaining Palestinians without trial for up to six months -- on the basis of an order signed by one of its senior officials, usually a governor appointed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
But while Israel uses "administrative detention" as a tool to thwart terrorism, the Palestinian Authority leadership holds people without trial as a means to silence them and prevent them from voicing any form of criticism against Abbas and other Palestinian leaders.
The PA argues that its "administrative detentions" are being conducted within the framework of the law and as a preemptive measure to safeguard public safety and prevent violence.
While administrative detainees in Israel are entitled to see a lawyer, receive family visits and appeal against their incarceration, the Palestinians detained by the Palestinian Authority are denied basic rights. Yet, Israel-obsessed human rights organizations seem totally uninterested in this fact.
The Palestinian Authority detains people without trial as a means to silence them and prevent them from voicing any form of criticism against President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders. Pictured: PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
How, then, do the Palestinian Authority's "administrative detentions" work?
According to Palestinian human rights advocates and lawyers, a Palestinian governor or senior official is authorized to issue arrest warrants against any Palestinian for any reason.
Although it remains unclear on what basis PA governors and top officials are entitled to order arrests, some legal experts say they believe the practice is based on a 1954 Jordanian law that is still in effect in the West Bank.
Experts say that although a Jordanian court abrogated the law many years ago, the Palestinian Authority continues to use it against its own people.
Palestinian lawyer and former judge Daoud Dirawi said that the practice of detaining Palestinians on orders of Abbas's governors and top officials was "illegal" and "unconstitutional." He pointed out that the Palestinian High Court of Justice has ruled against the practice.
"Unlawful incarceration is a crime punishable by law," Dirawi explained. "Anyone affected by this practice is entitled to sue for damages. This is one of the most dangerous assaults on public freedoms."
The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (Musawa), says it has received many complaints from Palestinians about the unlawful detentions by the Palestinian Authority.
Noting that the detentions were "unconstitutional" and constitute a grave violation of human rights, Musawa said that governors and senior officials do not have the power to order the arrest of anyone.
Last year, the Faculty of Law at An-Najah University, the largest Palestinian university in the West Bank, held a seminar dedicated to the Palestinian Authority's "administrative detentions."
Dr. Muayad Hattab, dean of the faculty, said that most Palestinian legal experts agreed that the detentions without trial were in violation of the Palestinian law and constitution. He too pointed out that Palestinian courts had repeatedly ruled against the practice of holding people without trial.
Palestinian lawyer Ala Al-Badarneh, who conducted a study about the Palestinian Authority's "administrative detentions," found that most of the detentions were carried out without the knowledge of the governor or the senior Palestinian official in whose name the detention was carried out.
"Detaining people on orders of the governor sometimes occur without the knowledge of the governor," Al-Badarneh said.
"Even when the governor is made aware of the detention, the detainee is not brought before the governor. The governor often denies knowledge of the detention when asked by the families. Jordanian law stipulates that when someone is detained on orders of the governor, he or she must be brought before the governor. But this is not what is happening with those who are being detained without trial by the Palestinian Authority."
Al-Badarneh also noted that the Palestinian "administrative detainees" were being taken into custody on the basis of assessments by the Palestinian security forces, without referring to the party that purportedly ordered the arrest: a governor or senior official.
In some cases, the Palestinian governors and senior officials, who have turned themselves into law-enforcers, resort to "administrative detentions" to circumvent implementing court orders.
A court, for example, can order the release of a detainee, but he or she can still remain behind bars if a governor or top official signs an arrest warrant.
Take, for instance, the case of Mahmoud Asideh of Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank. After 37 days in detention, a number of Palestinian courts ordered Asideh released. To avoid implementing the courts' orders, however, Palestinian Authority security forces served him with an arrest warrant signed by the governor of Nablus. Another detainee, Anas Judallah, also from Nablus, was held in detention on orders of the Nablus governor although a Palestinian court had decided to release him.
In 2016, Palestinian journalist Ragheed Tabasiyeh was detained for 17 days on order of the governor of the West Bank city of Kalkilya. Tabasiyeh said he was interrogated about the nature of his journalistic work and the party he was working for. He was finally released without bail or charges.
In December 2017, Palestinian human rights groups received complaints from seven Palestinians who said they had been detained without trial on the orders of a governor. Two of the detainees have since been released, while the remaining five are still being held without trial.
Palestinians say that the PA is using "administrative detentions" mostly as a tool against its political opponents and to silence critics, and not as a precautionary measure to prevent a crime, as the Palestinian Authority claims.
Khalil Assaf, head of the Independent Palestinians Association in the West Bank, denounced the practice as a crime, saying that it was primarily aimed at silencing the Palestinian Authority's critics. Referring to President Mahmoud Abbas, Assaf wondered:
"How can he who is at the helm of the Palestinian Authority and is breaking the law ask his people to abide by the law? The violation of the law by anyone is unacceptable. Detaining any person on orders of the governor or a senior official is a crime punishable by law."
Thus, we have yet another example of how the Western-funded Palestinian Authority makes a mockery of its judicial system and continues systematically to violate human rights and wage assaults on public freedoms. In a world where any of Abbas's senior officials can sign an arrest warrant against a Palestinian, the Palestinians can only continue to dream of having a country of law and order.
Particularly disturbing, however, is not that the PA leadership is acting as a tyrannical regime (this is absolutely expected by those familiar with the inner workings of Abbas and his loyalists), but the abiding silence and indifference of the international community and human rights organizations. Those who scream bloody murder about Israel's security measures against terrorism would do the Palestinians a better service by opening their mouths about how human rights are ravaged under the Palestinian Authority.
**Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based in Jerusalem.
© 2018 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.

No Winners in Turkey’s New Offensive into Syria
Noah Bonsey/Asharq Al Awsat/February 03/18
No victor is likely in costly new battles between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces in north-western Syria. Difficulties faced by Turkish troops include a hostile population and hilly territory that favours its battle-hardened insurgent foes, and the offensive puts new stress on Turkey’s already strained relationship with its main strategic ally, the US.
A Turkish attack on the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” (YPG), the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was long expected. For most observers, the question was not if, but when, where, and under what circumstances.
Now we have the answers: seizing on an inflammatory (and subsequently amended) US statement concerning Washington’s cooperation with the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Turkey has launched an aerial and ground offensive against the YPG-held enclave of Afrin in north-west Syria.
The battle is likely to prove indecisive and costly for both sides. It is already a tremendous headache for Washington, their mutual ally, and putting huge strain on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-member Turkey’s relations with the US Unless all involved adjust their strategies, including a return to a broader peace process in the PKK’s decades-old insurgency in Turkey, it may also prove a sign of worse to come.
It has long been clear that the conclusion of major US-backed offensives against the ISIS would prove a sensitive moment in northern Syria. Ankara, furious since 2015 that US backing has empowered the YPG as the military backbone of the SDF even as the PKK wages active insurgency in Turkey, hoped that its NATO ally would wind down support for the SDF following the capture of ISIS strongholds.
Washington appears to have decided to do quite the opposite: to stay and continue to invest in its partners on the ground. The US views the “stabilisation” of areas captured from ISIS as essential to prevent extremist resurgence; does not want to abandon a reliable ally in the fight against ISIS to regime assault; and hopes to leverage its military presence to promote a political transition in Damascus and contain Iranian influence. The YPG’s coherent internal structures, efficient decision-making and capable performance make it the US’ only plausible local counterpart for maintaining security and delivering governance. There is little reason to believe that the SDF and local bodies could hold up without it.
The US made its intentions public on 11 January 2018 in a testimony by Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, and in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s speech six days later. It was this statement of policy, rather than the poorly-conceived 13 January US statement about building “border security forces”, that heightened Turkey’s frustration. Ankara strongly opposes continued US support for the YPG, which it sees as enabling the PKK to consolidate and legitimise its affiliate’s de facto rule along a large part of its southern border, bestowing diplomatic clout and respectability on the mother organisation in the process.
In response, Ankara has launched its most significant action yet against the YPG, in the one place it can do so without directly confronting its NATO ally: Afrin. The US has no military presence in this geographically isolated YPG-held canton in north-west Syria, which Washington has always described as outside the framework of its counter-ISIS efforts.
Unprotected by the US security umbrella in northern Syria, Afrin is an easier target for Turkey than SDF-held territory to the east. It is Moscow, not Washington, that had previously provided some degree of implicit protection for the area. Russia dominates the airspace over that part of Syria, and has maintained a small military presence in Afrin. Its approval (or at least acquiescence) was widely perceived as a prerequisite for any major Turkish operation there. Indeed, Turkish intelligence head Hakan Fidan and Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar visited Moscow immediately prior to the offensive. After the visit, Russia acknowledged Turkey’s security concerns, blamed the crisis on US “unilateral action” (an apparent reference to the policy announced by Tillerson), and moved its troops in Afrin out of harm’s way. For now, this decision has severely damaged its previously cordial relations with the YPG but for Moscow that apparently was a small price to pay: proving the US’ unreliability and, by contrast, Russia’s ability to control events on the ground in tandem with Turkey, was of greater value.
Militarily, however, Afrin presents particularly challenging terrain for Turkey. The YPG has both military control and deep local roots. Unlike most of the SDF-held north east, Afrin is wooded, partially mountainous and densely populated. And while the YPG is surrounded by rival forces – Turkey to the west and north, Turkey-backed rebels to the east, the Syrian regime to the south east and the jihadists of Hei’at Tahrir al-Sham to the south – a road connects Afrin to SDF-held territory in the north east via regime-held areas; the YPG may be able to negotiate with Damascus use of that road to transport reinforcements.
Turkey and its rebel allies, who at times struggled to gain ground during their “Euphrates Shield” offensive against ISIS in late 2016 and early 2017, are likely to find the going much tougher against the better-trained, better-led YPG. Even if they seize the enclave, it remains unclear how Ankara hopes to secure an area inhabited by a hostile population and with a topography suitable for guerrilla warfare. More likely, Turkey will end up in a prolonged fight against a potent, deeply-motivated insurgency.
Things could get especially messy if Turkey expands operations to Manbij, a city at the western edge of the SDF’s north-eastern territory, which President Erdoğan has suggested could be Ankara’s next target.
Manbij is sensitive, disputed territory. The US helped the SDF seize it from ISIS in 2016, and assured Turkey that the YPG would withdraw from the city and adjacent areas west of the Euphrates River following their capture. In practice, however, the YPG has retained control there via local partners. Washington, aware that its pledge was not fully implemented, has on some occasions deployed its own forces to the area to deter Turkish attack. If Ankara decides to extend its current offensive there, it will broaden its exposure to YPG insurgency and risk far deeper damage to its relationship with Washington, as US and Turkish forces could collide.
The Afrin offensive may boost temporarily the Turkish leadership at home. But it entails major risks and is unlikely to significantly weaken the YPG overall. The attack may even encourage the PKK to revert to bombings in Turkish cities – a tactic the organisation has shied away from over the past year (likely due in part to Washington’s exhortations, delivered via the YPG). This fight is unlikely to end well for anyone, and it highlights the urgency of addressing the Turkey-PKK/YPG conflict – and the associated contradictions of US policy – more constructively.
Ankara has largely routed the PKK in the three years of fighting in south-eastern Turkey that have followed the breakdown of peace efforts in 2015. However, it did so at great human cost. The PKK is still confident in its northern Iraq headquarters, and Turkey faces much bleaker prospects – and formidable geopolitical constraints – inside Syria. Turkey can mount damaging attacks against and destabilise YPG-held areas, but it has no discernible path to military victory there.
For its part, the PKK has lost “a generation” of fighters (as one of its cadres told Crisis Group) in combat that has arguably strengthened its adversaries politically. It has no reason to expect better results from future insurgent campaigns in Turkey. It can take heart in the continued success of its Syrian affiliate, which has brighter political and military prospects – but, as Crisis Group reported in May 2017, that depends on it finding sustainable means of averting prolonged Turkish attack.
Rather than costly pursuits of quixotic objectives where their respective hands are weaker, Turkey and the PKK/YPG would be better served by a quid pro quo: PKK military concessions in Turkey (eg, an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of arms from Turkish soil) in exchange for Ankara’s returning to the peace process and acquiescence to continued YPG control within much of northern Syria.
The obstacles are formidable, but not insurmountable. Even as US officials shuttle between their warring allies in an attempt to contain the fighting, they should begin exploring the potential for an eventual deal in which the PKK makes concessions on one side of the border in exchange for a compromise from Turkey on the other. Without such an understanding, Washington’s new approach to Syria will end up harming both its allies whose cooperation it needs if it is to play a role in settling Syria’s war.
**Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst on Syria