February 05/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site 


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
Concept of Death In Christian Theology

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation
First Letter to the Thessalonians 05/01-11/:Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you.For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 16/19-31/: ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames."But Abraham said, "Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us."He said, "Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house. for I have five brothers that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment." Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them."He said, "No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent."He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 04-05/18
Death: The Puzzle And Mystery/Elias Bejjani/February 04/18
Lebanon will be blown back to the ‘Stone Age,’ Minister Katz warns/Attila Somfalvi, Alexandra Lukash/Ynetnews/February 04/18
How Lebanon sees Israel’s war threats/Smadar Perry/Ynetnews/February 04/18
Anti-hijab protesters defy Iranian authorities after the arrest of nearly 30 women for not wearing headscarves/Daily Mail/February 04/18
Iranian Womens' Anti-hijab Protest Gains Momentum Despite Dozens of Arrests/Reuters/February 04/18
Hamas 'Prepares for Imminent War' With Israel in Gaza/Jack Khoury/Haaretz/February 04/18
Europe: Judeo-Christian Symbols Vanish, Islam Rises/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/February 04/18
Caroline Mulroney to officially join PC leadership race Monday: source/The Canadian Press/February 04/18
The ‘of course we agree’ conference in Sochi/Mohamad Dughmosh/Al Arabiya/February 04/18
The bitter taste of civil wars/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/February 04/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on February 04-05/18
Death: The Puzzle And Mystery
Qaouq Says Hizbullah, Army Deterring Israel and U.S., Gulf Meddling in Elections
Sami Gemayel: Rift Not Sectarian but between Thugs, Decent People
Kataeb Wants '7 Seats' to Accept Alliance with LF
Report: Hizbullah Wants to Move 'Missile Factories' to Chouf
Berri Reportedly Says Aoun Reconciliation 'Does Not Involve Bassil'
Al-Rahi Hails Aoun for Contacting Berri
Lebanese Diaspora Conference calls for Lebanese identity preservation, nationality restoration
Zeaiter to Radio Lebanon: Page of disputes and sectarian provocation turned, apology still needed
Riachi: We rely on the presence of women in politics to develop society and create a new Levant
Lebanon defeats China's Taipei in the Tennis Davis Cup
Sarraf: We will not accept any threats by the Israeli enemy or any other
Lebanon will be blown back to the ‘Stone Age,’ Minister Katz warns
How Lebanon sees Israel’s war threats

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 04-05/18
Syria's Afrin Urges Russia to Oppose Turkish-Led Assault
Syria Blasts U.S. Accusations on Chemical Weapons Use as 'Lies'
France Says to Work with Turkey on Syria 'Road Map'
Exit Polls Predict Win for Incumbent in Cyprus President Vote
Iran Says U.S. Nuclear Policy Brings World 'Closer to Annihilation'
Iraq Lists 60 Most-Wanted Jihadists and Baathists
Bodies of 16 Migrants Recovered Off Morocco Coast
Netanyahu Says Will 'Defend Ourselves' after Report of Sinai Strikes
Israel 'Legalizing' Rogue Settlement in Response to Rabbi Killing
Israel begins distributing deportation notices to Africans, legalizes West Bank settlement
Israel Begins Telling African Migrants to Leave
Palestinian shot dead by Israeli army during West Bank raid
Pakistan Taliban Claims Responsibility for Attack against Soldiers in Swat Valley
Raghad Saddam Hussein responds after being named on Iraq’s most-wanted list
Graphic testimony in Paris court by Tariq Ramadan’s second victim
Five Turkish soldiers killed in attack on tank in Syria’s Afrin
Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 04-05/18
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
Qaouq Says Hizbullah, Army Deterring Israel and U.S., Gulf Meddling in Elections
Naharnet/February 04/18/A senior Hizbullah official on Sunday reassured that his party and the Lebanese Army are deterring Israel in the oil and gas file, as he accused the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the UAE of meddling in the issue of electoral alliances. "Lebanon is not waiting for the Security Council, the Arab League or a (Saudi-led) 'Decisive Storm' to protect Lebanese sovereignty and oil resources. The Resistance knows all its national duties, in integration with the Lebanese Army," Sheikh Nabil Qaouq, a member of Hizbullah's Central Councio, said. "Lebanon is an immune fortress... and Israel has to make a thousand calculations before thinking of attacking it. The Lebanon of the resistance and the army is a strong Lebanon that deters Israel," Qaouq added, noting that "through the resistance equation we can protect the oil resources."The Hizbullah official also reassured that the Lebanese are "united" in the face of Israel despite the latest disputes. Turning to the issue of the elections, Qaouq accused the U.S., Saudi and Emirati embassies of "scaring" the Lebanese of Hizbullah's potential control of the new parliamentary majority."They are inciting the Lebanese against each other and this is a major attack on Lebanese sovereignty. This is the danger that is disrupting the elections," the Hizbullah official charged.

Sami Gemayel: Rift Not Sectarian but between Thugs, Decent People
Naharnet/February 04/18/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel announced Sunday that "the rift in Lebanon is not sectarian or between certain regions but rather between thugs and decent people."Gemayel voiced his remarks during a Forum de Beyrouth ceremony to launch Kataeb's electoral campaign, calling on the Lebanese to "be the pulse of change on May 6." "The elections are a chance for all Lebanese to build a new Lebanon," Gemayel noted. "Our scream today is a scream of anger. The screams that officials are witnessing on the streets stem from people's pain. It is a real scream because people's suffering is real. It is the scream of decent people, regardless whether they are Muslim or Christian," the young leader said. He added: "The rift in Lebanon is not sectarian or between certain regions, but rather between thugs and decent people, between those who believe in the state and those who believe in the law of the jungle." The country had witnessed sectarian tensions between Shiites and Christians last week in the wake of leaked remarks by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil against Speaker Nabih Berri. In the leaked video, Bassil calls Berri a "thug" and vows to "break his head."The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil calling the foreign minister "lowly" and a "political dwarf." The video also sparked three days of protests and unrest that reached the extent of encircling the Free Patriotic Movement's headquarters in Sin el-Fil. The aforementioned incident and another in the town of Hadath witnessed gunfire as supporters and officials of the FPM and Berri's AMAL Movement traded accusations about who was behind the shooting. The FPM has however acknowledged that its HQ's guards had fired in the air to defend the building.

Kataeb Wants '7 Seats' to Accept Alliance with LF

Naharnet/February 04/18/The Kataeb Party wants to guarantee winning seven parliamentary seats as a precondition for accepting an electoral alliance with the Lebanese Forces, a media report said. "In a small and secret meeting chaired by MP Sami Gemayel, and after studying the electoral map, the secret leadership of the Kataeb Party, which is comprised of five members, decided to propose an agreement between the Kataeb Party and the LF," ad-Diyar newspaper reported Sunday. Under the supposed agreement, Kataeb "accepts to get seven seats regardless of the number of seats that the LF would get," the daily added.

Report: Hizbullah Wants to Move 'Missile Factories' to Chouf
Naharnet/February 04/18/Hizbullah "has recently purchased land lots in the predominantly-Druze Mount Lebanon region of Chouf with the aim of relocating its factories and missiles," a media report said. Quoting unnamed sources, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida said the alleged plan aims to "keep away suspicions from the party's strongholds, especially in the villages of the South that are inhabited by a Shiite majority.""There is real Israeli concern over Iran's attempts to build arms and missile factories in Lebanon," the sources added. "Through its threats and warnings, Tel Aviv is trying to send a clear message to Hizbullah and Iran about this matter," the sources went on to say. Separately, an unnamed source told the newspaper that "the situations on the Israeli-Lebanese border have become very tense.""The Israeli army has instructed its soldiers to prevent any crossing of the Blue Line," the source added.

Berri Reportedly Says Aoun Reconciliation 'Does Not Involve Bassil'
Naharnet/February 04/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has said that his latest reconciliation with President Michel Aoun does not involve Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, Ain el-Tineh sources told ad-Diyar newspaper in remarks published Sunday. Al-Hayat daily meanwhile quoted Berri's visitors as saying that he is still clinging to his stance on all the disputed issues, "especially those related to abuse of power."Berri also noted that Bassil's leaked remarks against him have "political motives." "Had there not been political motives behind Bassil's insult, things would not have reached such an extent and President Aoun would have communicated with me from the very first day," Berri told his visitors. The president "would not have waited for the escalation of tensions on the streets or for Hizbullah to inform him that it could no longer tolerate what was happening," Berri added. The Speaker's remarks come three days after he received a reconciliatory phone call from Aoun. In the phone conversation, the two leaders agreed to put an end to the war of words between their two parties and to hold a meeting on Tuesday. A reconciliation meeting was also held Friday in the town of Hadath, the scene of a major confrontation during unrest sparked by Bassil's remarks. The unrest was trigerred by a leaked video showing Bassil calling Berri a "thug" and vowing to "break his head" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil calling the foreign minister "lowly" and a "political dwarf."Aoun and Berri were already at loggerheads over a disputed decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers.

Al-Rahi Hails Aoun for Contacting Berri
Naharnet/February 04/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday lauded President Michel Aoun's initiative of holding phone talks with Speaker Nabih Berri following the political storm sparked by leaked remarks against the Speaker. "We applaud the reconciliation initiatives, topped by the president's Thursday initiative to pacify the repercussions of this week's regrettable incidents," al-Rahi said in his Sunday Mass sermon, referring to the unrest that followed Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil's labeling of Berri as a "thug" in a leaked video. The incidents "shocked the Lebanese and almost led to a sectarian strife and security chaos," the patriarch noted. "He who apologizes upon erring has great ethics and he who forgives and reconciliates also has great ethics," al-Rahi went on to say. He also hoped the "reconciliation" will entail "all disputed issues, especially those related to the work of institutions, reforms and economic growth." Aoun and Berri agreed in their phone conversation to put an end to the war of words between their two parties and to hold a meeting on Tuesday. A reconciliation meeting was also held Friday in the town of Hadath, the scene of a major confrontation during unrest sparked by Bassil's remarks.
The unrest was trigerred by a leaked video showing Bassil calling Berri a "thug" and vowing to "break his head" during a closed meeting in Batroun. The footage drew the ire of Berri's aides and political allies, who lashed out at Bassil, with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil calling the foreign minister "lowly" and a "political dwarf." Aoun and Berri were already at loggerheads over a disputed decree granting one-year's seniority to a number of army officers.

Lebanese Diaspora Conference calls for Lebanese identity preservation, nationality restoration
Sun 04 Feb 2018/NNA - The Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference for the African Continent 2018 concluded Sunday its works in the capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, with the call for preserving the Lebanese identity and promoting the restoration of Lebanese nationality being at the core of its closing session recommendations. In its four forums, the conference touched on economic affairs and investment opportunities available throughout the African Continent, and the need to maintain the Arabic language through Lebanese schools abroad, spreading the Lebanese culture, art and taste. Conferees called for increasing cooperation among Lebanese businessmen in West Africa through the establishment of partnerships between them, aimed at winning huge investment projects through tenders offered by African countries. They also highlighted the need to allow Lebanese commercial banks into the West African market, providing services to Lebanese and Africans alike. Moreover, the conference stressed the need to provide incentives for Lebanese expatriates residing in Africa to engage in large investment projects in Lebanon that exceed bank transfers and personal projects. Above said, the conference shed light on capitalizing cultural and fraternal relations with African countries as a step towards improving bilateral economic relations, proposing to form a ministerial-diplomatic committee through which business executives can work to activate trade agreements signed between Lebanon and North African countries. Additionally, such a committee can work to establish business associations and chambers of commerce and industry between Lebanon and African countries. Furthermore, among the conference's recommendations was the launching of a Lebanese-African business forum that will allow for capacity building and developing a strategy to support Lebanese investments in Africa. Also, it called for the formation of a committee specialized in the marketing of Lebanese products in Africa, which would include the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Economy, Agriculture and Industry. In this connection and speaking at the conference's closing session, Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury urged the Lebanese to "invest in their unity, since the homeland lies in the hands of all resident and expatriate Lebanese." Khoury touched in his address on the state plan for comprehensive economic development in Lebanon worth 15 billion dollars, which would help open the doors of investments and form a qualitative economic leap. The Minister also praised the success of the conference despite all the challenges, thanks to the participants' enthusiasm, determination and belief that this project is the catalyst for mobile success in all corners of the world.

Zeaiter to Radio Lebanon: Page of disputes and sectarian provocation turned, apology still needed
Sun 04 Feb 2018/NNA - Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter stated Sunday that the page of disputes and confessional provocation in the country has been turned, noting, however, that an apology to all the Lebanese is still required. "In light of the Israeli enemy's threats and constant hostility, we must realize the perils, the last of which was launched by the Israeli Security Minister against our maritime Bloc 9, probably to pave the way for an enemy attack against Lebanon expected at any moment and without any justification," said Zeaiter in an interview to "Radio Lebanon" Channel. On the recent events in the locality of al-Hadath, Zeaiter asserted that "Amal" Movement did not decide on any protest action in said area or elsewhere, recalling that throughout its history, the Movement has always called for unity and cooperation between the Lebanese. "There may have been some actions in some places and demonstrations to denounce the words uttered by the Lebanese diplomacy representative and in solidarity with House Speaker Berri without any decision taken by side," he explained. Zeaiter finally stressed on commitment to the stability and security of Lebanon and the Lebanese.

Riachi: We rely on the presence of women in politics to develop society and create a new Levant
Sun 04 Feb 2018/NNA - Minister of Information Melhem Riachi said Sunday he was betting on the presence of women in politics in order to develop society and create a new Levant. Riachi's words came at the closing ceremony of the "Pioneering Women" Organization's Project on "Women in Leadership" supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands, which was held at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut. The closing day included two dialogue sessions, the first focusing on the role of women in the media and information sector, attended by the Information Minister who responded to questions from participating university students. Riachi praised the presence of women in the media, noting that the country was in need of a culture that contributes to change and development of society, and boosts women's existence. "We are counting on the presence of women in politics to develop society and create a new Levant," he said. Referring to corruption that plagues society, Riachi called on women to take effective action in the fields of education, especially that motherhood was one of God's secrets. Touching on the female role in the media, he noted that women are responsible, more than men, for shaping and training public opinion. Riachi criticized the lack of cultural and educational programs on TV channels, with the exception of the national television that is a weak channel. He pointed out that the new media law evokes the need to oblige television channels to reserve educational segments to address the new generations.
On women's contribution to the preparation of programs and political dialogues, Riachi stressed that "women are present in the preparation of programs and in the writing of television series," adding, "the media is the key to the leadership of women in politics." In this connection, Riachi rejected programs that insult women as a consumer member through offensive expressions and remarks, disclosing that he had asked the management of a TV channel to eliminate any expressions that are harmful to the image of women. He also pointed out that a law on media ethics was submitted to Parliament since the media does not abide by a code of honor, so this law was introduced similar to the law on medical ethics. "What is needed is to change the image of women in Lebanon and the Arab world," stressed Riachi.

Lebanon defeats China's Taipei in the Tennis Davis Cup
Sun 04 Feb 2018/NNA - Lebanon has achieved a major international achievement by winning over China's Taipei (3-2) in the Asian-Oceania Cup II Series of the Tennis Davis Cup, which was held at the Solidarity Club in Beirut under the auspices of Youth and Sports Minister Mohamed Fneish.
Lebanon will face Hong Kong, winner over Iran, during the upcoming month of April within the same group.

Sarraf: We will not accept any threats by the Israeli enemy or any other
Sun 04 Feb 2018/NNA - National Defense Minister Yacoub al-Sarraf stressed Sunday that Lebanon refuses to be threatened by the Israeli enemy or any other. Touring the Southern borders following his participation in a Mass service at the ancient Monastery of St. Mamma in Deir Mimes, which was destroyed by the Israeli enemy during the July 2006 attack and rebuilt by the State of Qatar, Sarraf said, "Lebanon from the far north to the far south is standing to protect its territories." "Lebanon does not succumb to threats, and we confirm its sovereignty over its land, water and oil resources," Sarraf underscored. He indicated that his visit to the Southern border region today is an affirmation of Lebanon's sovereignty.

Lebanon will be blown back to the ‘Stone Age,’ Minister Katz warns
Attila Somfalvi, Alexandra Lukash/Ynetnews/February 04/18
وزير إسرائيلي يهدد باعادة لبنان إلى القرون الحجرية
Echoing messages conveyed to Iran and Hezbollah by the prime minister and IDF spokesperson, the transportation minister tells Ynet that ‘Israel has set a red line—it won’t allow Lebanon to become a factory for the production of precision-guided missiles for Iran’; Education Minister Bennett clarifies: ‘If missiles are fired from Lebanon, Nasrallah will become Lebanon’s destroyer.’
Attila Somfalvi, Alexandra Lukash |Published: 02.04.18 , 20:04
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on Sunday warned Hezbollah that Lebanon would go back to “the Stone Age” and maybe even to “the age of cavemen” if it turned into an Iranian factory of precision-guided weapons.
Echoing warnings issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Spokesperson Ronen Manelis as to the growing Iranian involvement in Lebanon and the missile factories being built by the Iranians in the country, Katz clarified in an interview to the Ynet studio that “Israel has set a red line—it won’t allow Lebanon to become a factory for the production of precision-guided missiles for Iran
“We have worked to prevent this from happening in Syria through Iranian weapon smuggling, and we are now making it clear that we won’t allow Iran to build factories for the production of precision-guided missiles or for the conversion of missiles on Lebanese soil. This has been clarified in talks with Russia too, and certainly with the United States and other European countries, as messages aimed at preventing a war and a conflict we have no interest in. We are making our red line clear,” said Katz, a member of Israel’s Political-Security Cabinet.
Asked whether Lebanon and the region’s other countries had the ability to meet Israel’s red lines, Katz replied: “Iran is working to turn Lebanon into an advanced post against Israel and has basically taken Lebanon hostage through Hezbollah by implementing its aggressive trends. On the other side, we have Israel with its abilities—and our abilities must be clear to prevent it.
“We are being very clear. If an open, comprehensive conflict develops as a result of Hezbollah’s aggression, we will act very firmly, much more than we did in 2006. Not a single target in Lebanon will be immune, and any infrastructure used both by Hezbollah and for military purposes will be hit. Lebanon will go back many, many years, some say to the Stone Age and others say to the age of cavemen.”Asked whether Israel had any intelligence on an Iranian desire to launch a war, Katz replied: “We are receiving intelligence that Iran is working to make the front more dangerous. It’s trying to both entrench itself in Syria and arm Lebanon with accurate missiles.”Moving on to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which he referred to as “grave,” Katz said: “There are some 2 million people there, and the conflict between Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) and Hamas is definitely making the situation worse. We can say that it’s not our businesses, but the reality is that Israel is responsible for what is happening in Gaza because of the siege. I have been suggesting a strategic separation move for a long time now—to build an island, a seaport and international facilities for water desalination and electricity. Not to reward Hamas, but reward Israel, to isolate it and free it from its responsibility.
“We are already paying the price,” Katz argued. “The defense establishment is largely dealing with ways to prevent the sewer flooding, water salinization, prevention of hunger and diseases. My suggestion allows us to lift the siege in a security-controlled manner while maintaining security, to give Gaza an economic connection to the world, to free ourselves from our responsibility for the situation there and hand it over to the world.” Katz said he was unable to confirm the New York Times report that Israel had attacked Islamic State targets in Sinai more than 100 times to assist Egypt in its battle against the jihadist organization, but stated that “in general, Israel and Egypt share a deep interest to prevent an ISIS entrenchment in Sinai. We must understand that after being defeated in Iraq and Syria, ISIS began flowing into Sinai, and it has Israel—and definitely Egypt—in its sights too.
“Naturally, there is intelligence cooperation and there will likely be other forms of cooperation to target ISIS and prevent it from making good on its threats,” Katz added. “We must also remember that ISIS attacked Eilat and the Negev. Israel definitely sees it as a threat it has to deal with alongside the Iranian threat from the north and from Gaza.”
‘Israel won’t wait for the enemy to reach the fence’
Education Minister Naftali Bennett, another member of the Political-Security Cabinet,” also addressed the growing tensions with Lebanon in an interview at the Ynet studio. “I think that was isn’t a necessary and inevitable thing,” he said. “It depends on both sides, but on us too. The clearer we are in our words and actions, clarifying that we won’t allow threats on our borders, we will be able to prevent the third Lebanon war. Asked who is expected to stop a war from breaking out, Bennett replied: “We only trust ourselves. At the moment, there’s a developing threat, the missile precision project in Hezbollah’s state of Lebanon, and we won’t let it happen. I must explain that the potential damage of tens of thousands of precision-guided missiles, God forbid, isn’t far and isn’t fundamentally different from the potential damage of a nuclear bomb. And just like we wouldn’t let Hezbollah acquire a nuclear bomb, we can’t let them acquire tens of thousands of accurate missiles that will hit us tomorrow.
“After the Second Lebanon War, (Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan) Nasrallah said that had he known how Israel would respond, he wouldn’t have kidnapped the soldiers. So we’re doing Nasrallah a favor and making it very clear that if a war develops, God forbid, and missiles are fired on us from Lebanon, Nasrallah will become Lebanon’s destroyer and the southern part of the country will sustain a critical blow because of his actions. There, we’re saying it.” As for the report that Israel was assisting Egypt in its war against ISIS, Bennett said: “I have no intention of confirming or denying the reports. Let me just say this: The State of Israel won’t wait for its enemy to reach the fence. We are working against our enemies far away from the fence, so that the threat won’t reach our door. We are not prevented and are not restricting ourselves from operating anywhere, and the terrorists targeting Israel are at risk anywhere around the globe.”Addressing the battle between religious-Zionist rabbis and the chief of staff over women’s service in the IDF and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s declaration that “war is brewing,” Bennett insisted that “there is no war with the IDF, absolutely not. The IDF is us, and we are the IDF. The overwhelming majority of the Religious Zionism movement is part of the IDF and serves in the IDF. There is some criticism. There are ways to voice criticism, and it’s perfectly fine, but we must always respect the IDF and respect the rabbis too.”

How Lebanon sees Israel’s war threats
كيف يرى لبنان التهديدات الإسرائيلية
Smadar Perry/Ynetnews/February 04/18
Analysis: Over the years, we have gotten used to seeing Lebanon as a war games field; no one asks for permission to fly IAF planes and UAVs on their way to hit Syrian targets, according to foreign reports. Suddenly, Lebanon is acquiring the status of a responsible sovereign state, and the Lebanese are flexing their muscles before signing oil-drilling contracts in disputed territory.
The flagship trio leading Lebanon—the Maronite Christian president, the Sunni Muslim prime minister and the Shiite Muslim parliament speaker—is having trouble deciding whether the flood of threats from Israel is aimed at revealing contingency plans for a military operation, or that the only purpose of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and senior IDF officers is to intimidate. And we haven’t mentioned Hezbollah, which is pulling all the strings in Lebanon and has no real interest in a third round of destruction and ruin. After 2,000 dead fighters in Syria and hundreds of disabled and wounded, as well as a painful cut in the Iranian funding budget, Hezbollah has more urgent matters to deal with.As far as the leading trio in Beirut is concerned, when Lieberman talks about ‘boots on the ground,’ he is pointing to a hot summer
The Lieberman-style figurative promise, that in the next round there will be no images of Lebanese residents on the beach while Israelis are hiding in bomb shelters, led Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to announce that “Israel also knows that it will pay a heavy price in the next war.” As far as the leading trio in Beirut is concerned, when Lieberman talks about “boots on the ground,” he is pointing to a hot summer.
We must pay attention to the fact that the top echelon in Beirut has failed to issue any denials concerning the Iranian plan to improve Hezbollah’s abilities by building factories to produce precision-guided missiles. Either they’re not in on the secret or they’re choosing to keep quiet. After Israel destroyed the Iranian military industry infrastrctures in Syria, according to foreign reports, the Revolutionary Guards are moving the effort to Lebanon without asking the leadership for permission.
The truth is that the amounts of missiles in Hezbollah’s possession even before the construction of new manufacturing houses in southern Lebanon are alarming. Nasrallah is getting the media, especially the foreign media, to do the work for him. We are already talking about thousands of missiles capable of hitting precise targets in Haifa and Tel Aviv and reaching all the way to Eilat. The amounts of inaccurate missiles, medium-range missiles and quadcopters are much bigger. Our censorship won’t allow an exposure. And there’s a timing issue: The Lebanese parliament elections will be held on the first week of May. The term of the parliament, where Hezbollah has the right to veto important decisions, has been extended repeatedly for the past 10 years due to security issues, the civil war in Syria and internal conflicts. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is now swearing that the elections will be held on May 6 and that he has no intention of postponing them, no matter what. Exactly one week later, on May 12, US President Donald Trump will have to decide about the fate of the nuclear agreements with Iran. Trump keeps tweeting that he won’t be a rubber stamp.
From the Lebanese side, that week in May is expected to be dramatic. Officials at the Kirya Base in Tel Aviv are predicting that Hezbollah could reach a 70-percent majority in the parliament, pending any “black surprises.” As far as Israel is concerned, a Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon’s state institutions and decision-making process has to be curbed. How can it be curbed? It doesn’t take a wild imagination to figure it out.
What exactly can Hariri do to stop Hezbollah from building up strength with Iranian backing? Absolutely nothing. His majority party will keep working with Hezbollah’s representatives in the parliament, and Lebanon’s parliament is meaningless to begin with. All the worthless attempts to collect Hezbollah’s weapons have been scornfully rejected. Nasrallah is defending Lebanon from the Zionist enemy, and the terror organization’s fighters are his fighters against Israel, just like they fought for Bashar Assad's survival in Syria. Over the years, we have gotten used to seeing Lebanon as a war games field. No one asks for permission to fly Air Force planes and UAVs on their way to hit Syrian targets, according to foreign reports. Suddenly, Lebanon is acquiring the status of a responsible sovereign state, and the Lebanese are now flexing their muscles before signing oil-drilling contracts in Block 9 within the sea, which is subject to a border dispute with Israel. Official Lebanon is vowing not to cave in on this issue. It’s letting others handle the warmongering from Israel.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 04-05/18
Syria's Afrin Urges Russia to Oppose Turkish-Led Assault
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Local authorities in Syria's Afrin called on Sunday for world powers to intervene to halt a Turkish-led assault on their region, accusing Russia of complicity in civilian deaths there. Ankara and allied rebels launched operation "Olive Branch" on January 20 against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey has blacklisted as "terrorists."Afrin's local administration -- the semi-autonomous government in place since 2013 -- shot back the accusation on Sunday and urged Moscow to take a firm stand. "We ask the Russian federation in particular to rescind its support for the Turkish state's terrorism against the people of Afrin," it said in a statement. "It bears responsibility for the massacres the fascist Turkish state is carrying out against innocent civilians." Russia, which intervened militarily in Syria's war in 2015, had troops positioned in Afrin but withdrew them as Turkey launched the assault. The YPG and Afrin officials say that withdrawal amounted to tacit approval of the Turkish offensive.Officials on Sunday also called for the United States, European Union, United Nations Security Council and the U.S.-led coalition fighting jihadists to "immediately intervene to stop Turkey's aggression." Ankara says it launched the operation to protect its southern border and insists that it is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties. But the campaign has sparked mass protests, including in Afrin on Sunday. Thousands of people marched in downtown Afrin with YPG flags and posters of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Turkey is vehemently opposed to the YPG because of its ties to the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkish forces. "We're holding the whole world responsible because we fought terrorism on behalf of everyone, but today the world agreed to kill Syrians," said Ali Mahmoud, 45. Other demonstrators clutched olive branches, a symbol of Afrin which is known for its abundant olive groves but also now associated with the name Turkey gave its offensive. "They named their attack 'Olive Branch'. It's a thorn in their hand, but in our hands, it's a gun," said Fikrat Afdal, 33. At least 68 civilians, including 21 children, have died in Turkish shelling as part of the assault, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. More than 100 pro-Ankara rebels and a similar number of YPG fighters have also died, the British-based monitor says.

Syria Blasts U.S. Accusations on Chemical Weapons Use as 'Lies'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Syria has denied recent accusations by the United States that it had used chemical weapons on opposition forces near the capital Damascus, shrugging them off as "lies.""The foreign ministry condemns the false claims by the United States that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta," a foreign ministry source said, cited by Syrian state news agency SANA. Eastern Ghouta is a rebel-controlled enclave adjacent to Damascus. On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters his government was concerned sarin gas may have been recently used in Syria. The Pentagon chief cited reports from NGOs and rebel groups in the battlefield who say the toxic gas has been used, although he stressed that the United States currently has no proof to support those accusations. Syria's foreign ministry seized on his comments, saying even the U.S. acknowledged their own statements were "not based on evidence". "Claims that the Syrian state used chlorine gas one moment and sarin gas the next prove that these are nothing more than lies," the statement said. "These are lies based on stories from America's so-called partners on the ground."Last month, 21 people were treated for respiratory problems after rockets were fired on the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus. Syria has staunchly denied the claims, pointing to its 2013 handover of its chemical stores as part of a deal between the United States and Russia. That agreement came after accusations that Damascus used sarin gas on Eastern Ghouta in August 2013. But the United Nations found that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks in Syria in 2014 and 2015, as well as sarin use in 2017.The April 2017 attack on Khan Sheikhun left scores dead and prompted the U.S. to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air field. On Thursday, senior U.S. administration officials said Washington was not ruling out fresh military action in the wake of new suspected attacks.

France Says to Work with Turkey on Syria 'Road Map'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/France and Turkey will be working in the coming weeks on a "diplomatic road map" for an end to the nearly seven-year war in Syria, President Emmanuel Macron's office said Sunday. The announcement came after Macron spoke by telephone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday which discussed in particular Turkey's operation against Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria. Macron had incensed Turkish officials last week by saying in a newspaper interview that France would have a "real problem" with the campaign if it turned out to be an "invasion operation."Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported Saturday that Erdogan had sought to reassure Macron during their talk, saying Ankara had no eye on Syrian territory. "The two presidents agreed to work on a diplomatic road map for Syria in the coming weeks," the Elysee Palace said. "To that end, discussions between France and Turkey, which both hope for a political solution overseen by the U.N., will increase in the coming days." On January 20 Turkey launched its "Olive Branch" operation in northern Syria against the YPG, which it brands a terror group. On Sunday it said it could expand the incursion beyond the northwestern enclave of Afrin, to the town of Manbij and possibly east of the Euphrates river. But Turkey's Western allies do not classify the YPG as a terror group and have worked closely with its fighters in the battle against Islamic State (IS) jihadists. Erdogan has sought to build a strong relationship with Macron despite rocky ties with the EU, visiting Paris in January for talks.

Exit Polls Predict Win for Incumbent in Cyprus President Vote
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades won re-election at a run-off Sunday, exit polls said, seeing off a leftist challenger with vows to restart talks to unify the island and cement an economic recovery. An estimate from state broadcaster CyBC said the conservative incumbent scooped 54.5-59.5 percent of votes in the Greek-majority European Union member, ahead of Communist-backed Stavros Malas on 40.5-45.5 percent. Two other polls from private broadcasters gave similar figures. The nearly 44-year division of the eastern Mediterranean island between the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus in the south and a Turkish-backed statelet in the north has loomed large over the vote. Anastasiades, 71, has pledged fresh talks with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci despite the acrimonious collapse last July of U.N.-backed negotiations that came closer than ever to sealing a deal. Dovish former health minister Malas, 50, had slammed his opponent for not going far enough to achieve a deal -- but voters appeared unwilling to take the risk on the unexperienced challenger. Despite the promises of a new peace push there is deep skepticism that any progress can be made to overcome issues including the presence of 40,000 Turkish troops in the north. Relations between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot sides remain tense and there is little sign that a nationalist government in Ankara will be willing to budge. This time around the economy has been a dominant issue for the roughly 550,000-strong Greek Cypriot electorate as the island recovers from a 2013 financial crisis. Anastasiades has claimed credit for an impressive recovery since agreeing a harsh 10-billion euro (more than $12-billion) bailout just weeks after taking power. But major challenges remain despite record numbers of tourists. The economy is still smaller than before 2013, employment remains around 11 percent and banks are awash with bad loans. Exploration is going on for oil and gas off the island's shores that the authorities hope could boost their coffers. AKEL -- the left-wing party backing Malas -- was in charge ahead of the crisis and is widely held responsible for tanking the economy. After a lackluster race, none of the candidates appeared to capture the public imagination. Turnout an hour ahead of the close of polls stood at 67.8 percent.

Iran Says U.S. Nuclear Policy Brings World 'Closer to Annihilation'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/The United States' new nuclear policy brings humanity "closer to annihilation", Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said. His comments late Saturday came a day after the Pentagon revealed plans to revamp its nuclear arsenal, largely in response to a perceived renewed threat from Russia. Zarif said the new policy was "in violation" of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). "The US Nuclear Posture Review reflects greater reliance on nukes in violation of the #NPT, bringing humankind closer to annihilation," Zarif said on Twitter. Zarif said the same impulse was driving the United States to undermine the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which President Donald Trump has demanded be renegotiated. "Trump's obduracy in killing the #JCPOA stems from the same dangerous imprudence," Zarif wrote, using the technical name for the nuclear deal. The latest Nuclear Posture Review published by the Pentagon called for a larger arsenal of smaller, low-yield nuclear weapons to act as a more "credible" deterrent to threats, particularly from Russia. The NPT, which came into force in 1970 and has been signed by almost all countries including the United States, calls on nations "to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament."Iran's nuclear deal, reached with six world powers, lifted some international sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear programme. Trump has consistently attacked the accord and said in January he would not continue to waive sanctions unless new restrictions were placed on Iran's missile programme and wider actions in the Middle East. The other parties -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- as well as the European Union have strongly defended the deal, saying it has achieved its aim of limiting Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Iraq Lists 60 Most-Wanted Jihadists and Baathists

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Iraqi security services on Sunday published the names of 60 people wanted on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic State group, al-Qaida or the Baath Party of late dictator Saddam Hussein. The list, seen by AFP, includes the name of Saddam's daughter Raghad, who lives in Jordan. It also features 28 suspected IS jihadists, 12 from al-Qaida and 20 Baathists, giving details of the roles they allegedly play in their organizations, crimes of which they are suspected and in most cases, photographs.All are Iraqis apart from Maan Bashour, a Lebanese man accused of recruiting fellow citizens to fight in Iraq. The name of elusive IS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is absent from the list. A senior security official contacted by AFP declined to explain why. "These are the terrorists most wanted by the judicial authorities and the security services," the official said. "This is the first time we publish these names which, until now were secret."The IS fighters the document lists are accused of fighting in Iraq's second city Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh, as well as in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala and Anbar. IS seized a third of Iraq's territory during a lightning advance in 2014, before being beaten back by security forces backed by a United States-led coalition. IS fighters on the list seen by AFP on Sunday are accused of murders, bombings, attacks on security forces, and the financing and transport of weapons. The list includes senior members of the group, among them Fawaz Mohammad Mutlaq, a former officer in Saddam's Fedayeen paramilitary organization who later became a member of IS' military council.

Bodies of 16 Migrants Recovered Off Morocco Coast
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Moroccan rescue services have recovered the bodies of 16 migrants off the coast of Spain's enclave of Melilla, Moroccan and Spanish officials said Sunday. Three women were among the dead taken to a morgue in the Moroccan city of Nador, a medical official there told AFP. All were sub-Saharan Africans apart from one Moroccan, the official said. A spokeswoman for Melilla's authorities earlier said "about 20" bodies had been recovered in Moroccan territorial waters. The bodies of the migrants were spotted Saturday by a Spanish ship, which alerted the rescue services of both countries, she said. Late Saturday, a Spanish police patrol boat found one more body, which was taken to Melilla, a Spanish enclave bordering Morocco. Spanish authorities said a Civil Guard helicopter was supporting Moroccan search patrols on Sunday morning. Migrants are increasingly favoring the so-called western Mediterranean route to reach Europe, which involves making the sea crossing between North Africa and southern mainland Spain. According to the International Organization for Migration, Spain has been the second most popular point of entry for migrants coming to Europe so far this year, with 1,279 arrivals, after Italy with 4,256. It said 243 people have died or are missing in the Mediterranean after trying to cross the sea this year, not including those recovered this weekend. Spain was last year the third point of entry for Europe-bound migrants, after Italy and Greece. Arrivals by sea tripled in 2017 compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 22,900 migrants, according to the EU border agency Frontex.

Netanyahu Says Will 'Defend Ourselves' after Report of Sinai Strikes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel would "do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves" after a report its military has carried out dozens of air strikes against jihadists in Egypt's Sinai. Netanyahu did not address the New York Times report published Saturday, commenting only generally on Israel's stance. Israel's military also declined to comment. The report, citing current and former U.S. and British officials, said Israeli forces had carried out more than 100 airstrikes in Egypt over the course of more than two years with Cairo's approval. Using unmarked drones, helicopters and jets, the strikes in northern Sinai just over the border with Israel have targeted jihadists linked with the Islamic State group, it said. Speaking at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu referred to recent meetings with U.S. President Donald Trump, European leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin. "As I also made it clear to President Trump and afterwards to European leaders and President Putin, our presence here is the main element in the Middle East blocking the spread of radical Islam, led by Iran and Islamic State, which also threaten all other elements in the world," he said. "We are not bent on war, but we will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves."IS-linked militants have waged a deadly insurgency in the Sinai against Egyptian security forces, and Israeli officials have watched the violence with concern. Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab nations with peace treaties with Israel, but relations remain sensitive due to hostility toward Israel among their populations. While there have long been suggestions of behind-the-scenes military and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel, officials from both countries rarely comment publicly on them.
Netanyahu has repeatedly spoken of improving ties with Arab nations in recent months without providing details, with many analysts saying their shared concern over Iran and IS jihadists has drawn them closer together.

Israel 'Legalizing' Rogue Settlement in Response to Rabbi Killing

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ministers would grant formal authorization Sunday to a rogue West Bank settlement in response to last month's killing of a rabbi who lived there. The move comes with European nations voicing increasing concern over settlement growth in the occupied Palestinian territory, but with U.S. President Donald Trump largely refraining from such criticism -- what many Israelis view as a green light. Israeli authorities have advanced plans for thousands of new settlement homes in recent months. Cabinet votes to authorize a pre-existing outpost such as Sunday's are relatively rare. "The government will today regularize the status of Havat Gilad to allow the continuance of normal life there," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, referring to the wildcat settlement. The official cabinet agenda says ministers will hear a motion to designate the 15-year-old outpost as a "new community" which will have the necessary building permits and a state budget. It says that about 40 families live in the outpost, but envisages its enlargement. Rabbi Raziel Shevach was shot dead near Havat Gilad, where he lived, on January 9. The following week, Israeli troops searching for his attackers shot dead what they described as a Palestinian suspect in the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Havat Gilad. However, they did not catch the man considered to have led the attack on Shevach, 22-year-old Ahmed Jarrar. The manhunt continued on Saturday with a raid on the village of Burqin. In clashes that erupted there, soldiers shot dead a teenager identified by the Palestinian health ministry as Ahmad Abu Obeid, 19. "Yesterday our forces were again in action in an effort to apprehend the last of the assassins and their accomplices in the murder of Rabbi Shevach," Netanyahu told cabinet ministers and media. "We will not rest until we bring them to justice," he pledged. "And we shall bring them all to justice."
At Shevach's funeral, there were calls for "revenge" during a speech by Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party. Bennett responded by saying that the only revenge should be in building more settlements, and Netanyahu said Sunday that was one of the planks of his policy. "Anyone who thinks that through the abominable murder of a resident of Havat Gilad, a father of six, they would break our spirits and weaken us is making a bitter mistake," he said. Settlement watchdog Peace Now, however, said that retroactively granting legal status to Havat Gilad, built without submitting development plans or obtaining construction permits, was "cynical exploitation" of Shevach's death. Israeli settlements are seen as illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state. But Israel differentiates between settlements it has approved and those it has not. Those without approval are referred to as outposts and tend to be populated by hardline religious nationalists who see the entire West Bank as part of Israel. Past attempts by Israeli authorities to dismantle Havat Gilad have led to clashes with settlers there. Israel has several times given retroactive approval to outposts, and last year work began on the first completely new government-sanctioned settlement built in the Palestinian territories in some 25 years. Israel faced sharp criticism from the administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama over settlement construction, but that has not been the case with Trump's White House and Israeli officials have sought to take advantage of this. European nations and the United Nations maintain their strong opposition to settlement building.
Israel begins distributing deportation notices to Africans, legalizes West Bank settlement
The Associated Press, Jersualem/Sunday, 4 February 2018/Israeli authorities have begun distributing deportation notices to thousands of African migrants. In letters delivered Sunday, Israel says the migrants have 60 days to accept the offer to leave the country for an unnamed African destination in exchange for $3,500 and a plane ticket. Those who don’t by April 1 will be incarcerated indefinitely. Some 40,000 migrants, nearly all from Eritrea and Sudan, fled danger for the safety and opportunities of Israel in recent years. Many have expressed fear of being sent to Rwanda, their likely destination.
The deportation plan has sparked outrage in Israel, where groups of pilots, doctors, writers, rabbis and Holocaust survivors have appealed to have it halted. They say the deportations are unethical and would damage Israel’s image as a refuge for Jewish migrants. Meanwhile, Israel’s prime minister says it will legalize an isolated West Bank outpost in response to the murder of one of its residents. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday that those who try to “break our spirit and weaken us made a grave mistake.” He says his government will legalize Havat Gilad to “allow the continuing of normal life there.” Earlier this month, Havat Gilad resident Rabbi Raziel Shevah, a 35-year-old father of six, was shot dead from a passing vehicle as he drove near his home in the unauthorized settlement outpost near Nablus. The community of a few hundred Israelis is located deep inside the West Bank. The anti-settlement Peace Now group says the effort to legalize it is a “cynical exploitation of the murder.”
Israel Begins Telling African Migrants to Leave
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 04/18/Israel began warning thousands of African migrants Sunday that they must leave by the end of March, officials said, under a plan that could see them jailed if they refuse. On January 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced implementation of a plan to deport about 38,000 migrants who had entered the country illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese. The controversial plan gives them until the end of next month to leave voluntarily or face jail and eventual expulsion. Immigration authority spokeswoman Sabine Haddad told AFP that officials began issuing migrants letters on Sunday advising them that they had 60 days in which to leave the country voluntarily. For now, the notices are being given only to men without families, officials said. Israeli newspaper Haaretz said "anyone recognized as a victim of slavery or human trafficking, and those who had requested asylum by the end of 2017 but haven't gotten a response" would also be exempt for now. It added that this left the number subject to near-term deportation at "between 15,000 and 20,000 people."The authority is offering those who agree to leave a grant of $3,500, a flight ticket and help with obtaining travel documents. Should they not leave by the deadline, the grant would be reduced and "enforcement measures" would be taken against them and anyone employing them, the authority says. Israel refers to the tens of thousands of African migrants who entered the country illegally from neighboring Egypt as "infiltrators." Israeli officials tacitly recognize that it is too dangerous to return Sudanese and Eritreans to their troubled homelands, but local media say the notices do not specify where departing migrants would be sent. Aid workers and media have named Uganda and Rwanda, although both countries deny being a destination for migrants being expelled involuntarily. Public opposition to the plan has been slow to build, but some Israeli airline pilots have reportedly said they will not fly forced deportees. Academics have published a petition and Israeli Holocaust survivors wrote an open letter to Netanyahu last month pleading with him to reconsider. The U.N. refugee agency has called on Israel to scrap the plan, calling it incoherent and unsafe. A 2016 U.N. commission of inquiry into Eritrea's regime found "widespread and systematic" crimes against humanity, and said an estimated 5,000 people flee the country each month. The International Criminal Court has indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide linked to his regime's counter-insurgency tactics in the Darfur conflict.

Palestinian shot dead by Israeli army during West Bank raid
AFP, Nablus/Sunday, 4 February 2018/A Palestinian man was shot dead in clashes with the Israeli army on Saturday during a raid in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.The man was shot in the head after fighting broke out during an Israeli army incursion into the village of Burqin in the northern West Bank, it said. The health ministry identified the dead man as Ahmad Abu Obeid, 19.The army did not comment on the death, but said in a statement it had entered the village, near the city of Nablus, in an attempt to find suspects in the shooting dead of an Israeli rabbi in January. Raziel Shevah, a 35-year-old rabbi, was shot dead near Havat Gilad, a wildcat Jewish settlement outpost in the Nablus area, on January 9. The army has been since launched multiple violent raids to search for the suspected killer, 22-year-old Ahmed Jarrar.Jarrar is the son of Nasser Jarrar, a member of Islamist militant movement Hamas who was killed while fighting Israeli forces during the second Palestinian intifada. The army did not say if he had been caught during the raid.

Pakistan Taliban Claims Responsibility for Attack against Soldiers in Swat Valley
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 04/18/The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Sunday for the first attack in over three years in the northwestern region of Swat Valley on Saturday. The suicide attack left 11 soldiers dead and wounded 13.In a statement sent to media, the extremist group said a lone suicide bomber carried out the attack to avenge the killing and arrests of fellow militants. The bomber detonated his explosives vest near an empty lot where soldiers were playing volleyball.Extremist militants ruled the picturesque Swat Valley from 2007 until a massive military operation routed them in 2009. More than 2,000 Taliban fighters have been driven out of the region, government officials say. Pakistan says militants who escaped from Swat and elsewhere are now operating out of the Kunar province in neighboring Afghanistan. An Afghan official said Pakistani forces shelled Kunar for several hours starting late Saturday, wounding at least four civilians.  Faredullah Dehqan, spokesman for the provincial police chief in Kunar, said more than 180 artillery rounds were fired overnight. Afghanistan and Pakistan frequently accuse each other of failing to crack down on extremists that operate along their porous border.  On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Pakistan was partly to blame for a wave of recent attacks in Kabul, and that Islamabad was harboring the Afghan Taliban. There was no immediate comment from Pakistan, and it was not clear if the shelling was linked to Saturday's attack. The Pakistani military has been on alert for signs of a Taliban resurgence as it seeks to rebuild civilian institutions and win over the local population as a bulwark against radical ideology. Since being chased out of Swat, the Taliban have carried out revenge attacks against anti-militancy activists and attempted to extort money from business owners in a region where Pakistan has stationed more than 4,000 soldiers. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi condemned the attack. “No cowardly attack can deter us in pursuing our struggle against the menace of terrorism to its logical conclusion. We will continue our fight till the last trace is rooted out,” the prime minister said in a statement.
Raghad Saddam Hussein responds after being named on Iraq’s most-wanted list
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/5 February 2018/Saddam Hussein’s daughter, Raghad, has vowed to confront all those who “insult her” by suing them back. Her comments came during a telephone interview with Al Arabiya in response to the inclusion of her name in the list of the most wanted Iraqis.
Iraqi security services on Sunday published the names of 60 people wanted on suspicion of belonging to ISIS, al-Qaeda or the Baath Party of late dictator Saddam Hussein.Raghad revealed during the phone call that she does not currently reside in Jordan as previously believed by media outlets.
As for her inclusion on Iraq’s most wanted list, Raghad said she knew of this since 2006 given that Jordan had confirmed to her “more than once that I was being viewed under the microscope, and that all my going ones were being known to all”. The daughter of Iraq’s late dictator criticized Baghdad for focusing on her and said they “have no other work but Raghad, at a time when their country is suffering from occupation”.She condemned what she called as insults she suffered as a mother of five children and the daughter of a former president, pointing that she stood by her father during his final days.

Graphic testimony in Paris court by Tariq Ramadan’s second victim
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 4 February 2018/Three judges are tasked with the complex case investigation of the charges against Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan after his indictment on Friday when he was charged with rape. Ramadan, who while in police custody was confronted by one of the women who he is alleged to have sexually attacked and physically tortured and humiliated, had asked his defense to discuss with the judge the possibility of relieving him from pre-trial detention, which the prosecution had asked for. This judicial decision should take place within four days.
Meanwhile, Ramadan, who lived in recent months between Switzerland and France, will spend the time in a Paris jail. On Thursday, it was decided that the testimony of Henda Ayari, who has suffered for three months attacks on social networks and is under police protection, would be scrutinized. On October 20, 2017, she had filed a rape complaint against Ramadan. But the other plaintiff, whom some newspapers have given with a first name to protect her privacy, “Christelle”, testified for three and-a-half hours, in the presence of Ramadan’s lawyers Yacine Bouzrou and Julie Granier, and counsel for his alleged victim Eric Morain.
Apartments searched
Earlier, the authorities had conducted two searches, in an apartment where the theologian had an office in Saint-Denis and the other in Haute-Savoie, on the French-Swiss border, where he has his principal residence. “Tariq Ramadan gave me an appointment at the bar of the Hilton Hotel in Lyon, where he had come down for a conference in October 2009,” said the 45-year-old woman in front of the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. At the time, this French convert to Islam had since December 31, 2008 been corresponding with Ramadan, seeking his advice, as many others who follow his writings do. Their relationship gradually changed, with the latter who was living apart from his wife, promised her a religious marriage and, meanwhile, a temporary marriage via Skype. However, the meeting in Lyon was their first, where Ramadan was attending a conference on “Living together, Islamophobia and Palestine”.“After 10 minutes, he said to me, 'We cannot stay here, everyone is watching. I am a well-known person, and the Maghrebian at the reception recognized me and does not stop to look at us’,” she explained in her complaint. Ramadan went to her room by the stairs while she, who walks with a crutch since a car accident, took the elevator.
Violent assault
According to the complainant, the assault occurred very soon after her entry into the room: slaps to the face, arms, breasts and punches in the belly, oral sex and sodomy imposed by force, new blows, a new rape. “He dragged me by the hair all over the room to get me into the bathtub to urinate on me,” she said in her complaint, claiming to have finally managed to escape only in the morning. During the testimony, the scholar denied vehemently any rape and even any sexual act, acknowledging a simple flirtation. The complainant did, however, provide multiple details, including a small scar in her attacker’s groin, which Ramadan admitted to having. At the end of this tense exchange, the Islamic scholar refused to sign the minutes. On November 7, 2017, the University of Oxford decided “by mutual agreement” with Ramadan that he would go on temporary leave of absense from the position of professor of contemporary Islamic studies. In recent days, it is Qatar, which has been funding the chair of theology - bearing the name of Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013 – an academic position which was held by Ramadan, who has hinted that he was no longer welcome in the emirate.

Five Turkish soldiers killed in attack on tank in Syria’s Afrin
Reuters, Istanbul/Sunday, 4 February 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.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 04-05/18
Anti-hijab protesters defy Iranian authorities after the arrest of nearly 30 women for not wearing headscarves أحتجاجات النساء في إيران ضد قانون فرض الحجاب مستمرة حتى بعد موجة الإعتقالات
Daily Mail/February 04/18

Iranian Womens' Anti-hijab Protest Gains Momentum Despite Dozens of Arrests
Reuters/February 04/18
'We are fighting against the most visible symbol of oppression,' said Masih Alinejad, who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom As images of Iranian women holding their hijabs aloft spread on social media, an influential activist said women are symbolically rejecting the wider "interference of religion" in their lives.
"We are fighting against the most visible symbol of oppression," said Masih Alinejad, who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos of themselves without hijabs. Under Iran's Islamic law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair with a scarf, known as a hijab, and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Violators are publicly admonished, fined or arrested. "These women are saying, 'It is enough - it is the 21st century and we want to be our true selves,'" the Iranian activist told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Iranian police said on Thursday that 29 women who took part in the campaign had been arrested in Iran for protesting against the country’s compulsory hijab rules, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. The trend picked up momentum after video and images were posted online of one woman waving a white scarf on a stick in December - a day before demonstrations erupted against economic conditions in eastern Iran, said Alinejad. Unrest quickly spread across the country and the focus broadened as protesters began calling for Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down. The video went viral as police cracked down, and Alinejad said the woman was arrested. She has since been released, according to a Facebook post by Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Although the wider anti-government demonstrations have ended, women across Iran are "fed up" and continue to protest against "the interference of religion in our personal lives", said the activist. Alinejad said she is now flooded with videos and photos of women imitating the viral video and she shares them on the My Stealthy Freedom Twitter account and Facebook page. "These people are not fighting against a piece of cloth, they are fighting against the ideology behind compulsory hijab," said Alinejad, who called the movement the "true face of feminism." To campaign against the obligatory wearing of headscarves, Alinejad last year encouraged women to take videos or photos of themselves wearing white and upload them on social media with the hashtag #whitewednesdays.
The #whitewednesdays campaign is part of a larger online movement started three years ago by Alinejad, a journalist who has lived in self-imposed exile since 2009. She has received death threats since her campaigning started. "I wake up everyday with the voices of these women in my inbox," said Alinejad from New York where she now lives. "I am full of hope. Civil disobedience is the first step to gain our victory."

Hamas 'Prepares for Imminent War' With Israel in Gaza
Jack Khoury/Haaretz/February 04/18
Hamas sees '95 percent' chance of confrontation with Israel, Al Hayat reports, but sources say Hamas is attempting to ratchet up debate about the humanitarian crisis in the Strip
The Gaza strip is preparing for confrontation with Israel within the next few days, the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat reported on Sunday. According to the report, Palestinian factions, Hamas being chief among them, assess the chances of war with Israel "at 95 percent" and assume it could erupt within hours or days. Sources that have met with Yahya Sinwar, Hamas' political leader in Gaza, say that Palestinian factions believe that Israel will use a training exercise planned on the southern front to open a military operation against Hamas. The report further said that the military wing of Hamas has declared a state of high alert, evacuating sites and headquarters and even deploying road blocks accross the Strip.Political and human rights activists in Gaza told Haaretz that the atmosphere in the Strip is very grim in light of the humanitarian crisis, some of which involves the non-implementation of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and mutual recriminations between the PA and Hamas over the freeze in talks. Still, it seems the report of an impending military clash within days is exaggerated, and is part of an attempt by Hamas to ratchet up international discussion over the severe humanitarian situation in the Strip and the lack of progress toward reconciliation. It is widely believed that Israel will not initiate war with Hamas without real escalation in the south, such as a surge in rocket fire at southern communities. In terms of the wider region, Egypt is not interested in an escalation, considering its continued operations against ISIS in Sinai and its upcoming presidential elections next week. Political and human rights activists that spoke with Haaretz say that Hamas launching a campaign against Israel remains unlikely at this point. A senior delegation of Fatah officials is set to visit the Gaza Strip this week, including members of the movement’s Central Committee. They are to hold meetings with the leadership of Hamas and the other factions. The PA says Hamas has not yet given up control over security or tax collection, while Hamas accuses the PA of shirking its responsibility toward the Gaza Strip. Hamas says that while Hamas has given up administration to the Mahmoud Abbas government, Abbas has not yet instructed that sanctions it imposed about a year ago be lifted. Palestinian sources told Al-Hayat that Abbas has presented an alternative plan to that of U.S. President Donlad Trump, which calls for a phased recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with possible exchanges of territory that will allow Israel to annex the large settlements. According to the report, Abbas has conditioned his agreement to phased recognition to agreement on borders, but the White House rejected that proposal and said its plan would be presented for implementation, not negotiation. This report has not been confirmed by officials in the PA, and talks are continuing with international officials, particularly Russia, to move ahead on a UN Security Council resolution.

Europe: Judeo-Christian Symbols Vanish, Islam Rises

Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/February 04/18
The British housing market is now dealing with a new special entry: former Christian churches. A former Methodist church in Surrey was recently put on sale for the first time in its 154-year history. And a few days later, a church in London and went on the market -- converted into apartments.
Religious symbols are an integral part of a civilization. When old symbols vanish, new ones -- with their own identities -- take their place. Europe's public imagination today is being flooded with Islamic symbols, from veils in schools, swimming pools and workplaces, to the volume and height of mosque minarets.
We impenitent secularists might be happily indifferent to the fall of the old religious symbols -- but we should not be indifferent to the new religious symbols taking their place.
French writers coined the term "le grand remplacement," meaning the demographic replacement by immigrants of native Europeans. There is, however, another replacement taking place on the old continent.
Look at the images taken by the Israeli-Hungarian photographer Bernadett Alpern. Synagogues -- like silent witnesses of the fall of a fundamental branch of the European civilization -- have been turned into museums, swimming pools, shopping centers, police stations and mosques.
Now it is the turn of the Stars of David and skullcaps, the two most visible Jewish symbols. A poll by the World Zionist Organization recently revealed that at least half of Jews in Europe do not feel safe wearing symbols of their faith. They are right. A few days ago, an 8-year-old Jewish boy wearing a skullcap was attacked and beaten in the street by two men in Sarcelles. Earlier in January, in the same suburb, a man slashed the face of a 15-year-old Jewish girl who was walking home while wearing the uniform of her Jewish school. It is the "new normal" for French Jews.
For years, European elites have been preaching multiculturalism and religious and cultural relativism. Now we find ourselves living through not only further assaults on the habitually besieged Jews and their faith, but a massive de-Christianization, as well.
A historic German church, St. Lambertus, was demolished last month. The 19th-Century Catholic site in Germany was destroyed to make way for a coal mine. It is sadly ironic that the only group protesting this shameful destruction was a secular, non-Christian one: Greenpeace. Forty activists climbed the church to protest its demolition. They displayed banners reading: "Those who destroy culture also destroy humans".
The demolition of one of the towers of St. Lambertus Chruch in Immerath, Germany on January 9, 2018.
The abandonment of old churches is not an economic question. Last year, the German Catholic Church's revenues reached a record $7.1 billion. It is rather a question of cultural decline. It is a fate also overtaking many other Christian sites in Europe.
The British housing market is now dealing with a new special entry: former Christian churches. A former Methodist church in Surrey was recently put on sale for the first time in its 154-year history. And a few days later, a church in London went on the market -- converted into apartments.
Religious symbols are an integral part of a civilization. "Communism was a kind of false religion, although it had its own liturgy," said French author Michel Houellebecq in a recent interview. "A religion is much harder to destroy than a political system. And religion plays a key role in the society and in its cohesion".
When old symbols vanish, new ones -- with their own identities -- take their place.
"Islam is a reaction to Christianity, which it wishes to replace", according to Professor Rémi Brague, author of the new book, Sur la religion ("On Religion"). Islamism, according to Brague, is an attempt to replace Judeo-Christian civilization. Europe's public imagination today is being flooded with Islamic symbols, from veils in schools, swimming pools and workplaces, to the volume and height of mosque minarets.
Brague adds that "free institutions hardly developed in areas that had not been influenced by Jewish or Christian ideas". The change should therefore also matter to the secular, who could not care less about religion.
We impenitent secularists might be happily indifferent to the fall of the old religious symbols -- but we should not be indifferent to the new religious symbols taking their place.
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 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.

Caroline Mulroney to officially join PC leadership race Monday: source
The Canadian Press/February 04/18
TORONTO — A source with Caroline Mulroney's campaign says the Toronto lawyer and businesswoman will officially jump into the race to lead Ontario's Progressive Conservatives on Monday, days after reports first emerged suggesting she was eyeing the party's top job.
Mulroney, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, was pegged as a contender to replace Patrick Brown as soon as the contest began, despite having never held political office.
The 43-year-old mother of four has hinted she intends to run for the leadership, thanking those who supported her candidacy on Twitter over the weekend but stopping short of formally announcing her plans.
Mulroney, a lawyer who studied at New York University, was acclaimed as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of York-Simcoe, north of Toronto, last August. In 2014, she was appointed to the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority to help oversee development of a $4 billion second border span between the two cities. Mulroney also co-founded the Shoebox Project in 2011, a non-profit that collects and distributes gifts to women who are homeless or at risk. Prior to announcing her political plans, Mulroney served as vice-president of Toronto-based BloombergSen Investment Partners, and used to work at a venture debt fund. "It wasn't her plan to seek the leadership, she was very, very focused on the riding and on the community and that's where her efforts went," said Peter Van Loan, a legislator with the federal Conservative Party who acted as an adviser to Mulroney.
Though new to politics, Mulroney has shown herself to be hardworking and genuine, which has won her support in the community — even among those who may judge her based on the family name, Van Loan said.
"She has intrinsic strengths and intrinsic talents of her own, whatever her name may be," he said. "When you talk about that kind of name, that's sort of the impression people have before they meet her and then when they meet her, talk to her, the response you get is, 'Wow she is so relatable, she understands me, she gets me, she listens to me, she obviously genuinely cares,'" he said.
Mulroney's lack of political experience will likely be her biggest challenge, particularly when measured against more seasoned candidates, said Kathy Brock, a policy expert and political science professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. But it could also play in her favour, bringing some freshness to the Tories at a time where their interim leader has vowed to clear out the "rot" from the party, Brock said. "This is one of the ways in which being more of a newcomer to the (Progressive) Conservative party in Ontario and Ontario politics, that might actually be an advantage, given what the Conservatives are going through," the professor said.
"She gives a fresh face, a fresh feel, and yet she has ... the potential to pull on experienced advisers and her own experiences with politics from having been involved through her family and friends."Mulroney's entry into the race means there will now be two high-profile women competing for the Tory reins, which could bolster the party's image, she said. Former Tory legislator Christine Elliott threw her hat in the ring in the last week. "That might be the type of thing that they need to get over the incident with (former party president Rick) Dykstra and Patrick Brown. It just gives them a new focus and new energy and it makes them look a little more current with the times," she said. Brown and Dykstra resigned within days of each other after being confronted with allegations of sexual misconduct, which they deny. The allegations have not been independently verified by The Canadian Press. Toronto politician Doug Ford, brother of the city's late former mayor Rob Ford, is also in the running. Sources tell The Canadian Press former Postmedia executive Rod Phillips is also set to enter the race within days.
Candidates have until Feb. 16 to register, and the new leader will be announced March 10. Paola Loriggio and Shawn Jeffords,
The Canadian Press

The ‘of course we agree’ conference in Sochi
Mohamad Dughmosh/Al Arabiya/February 04/18
At the beginning of the opening session of the Sochi conference on January 29, head of the session Ghassan Al-Qalaa, the president of Damascus Chamber of Commerce, called on members of what he called the “board of the chairmanship of the congress” to join him at the platform. He began reading the names out before the 1,300 invitees. It was clear that he has not seen these ten names before. At some point, however, he realized that everyone was staring at him as they were surprised by his sudden and unacceptable behavior so he went ahead and asked everyone to say “yes” if they approve of the committee’s members. It seems he asked this question upon a personal initiative. Dozens then answered in the Syrian dialect and said: “Of course we agree.” Qalaa then nodded and wrapped up this pledge of allegiance within minutes. He did not forget to make a hand gesture that implies underestimating the importance of the approval of all the Syrian society's’ “components” as Russia describes them. The phrase “of course we agree” and lack of a single objection summed up the invitees’ national and historical tasks in Sochi as they will not be returning there later. Russia will not deploy its airplanes again to take them there and it will not celebrate them via welcoming banners at the airport or distributing bags that carry the conference’s slogan and which were given to them so they realize their important and sensitive role that’s represented in agreeing. This committee will play a major role in the future in reaching a political solution as per Russia’s vision. It will be more helpful to Russia despite the latter’s influence on the Syrian regime and opposition delegations. What we witnessed was the birth of a Syrian reference by Russia itself – a reference that gained the approval of 1,300 people. No Syrian conference had this significant number of approvals during the past seven years. This reference will be used for years and its work will not end at the artificial final statement.
The Syrian-Russian child
It was clear to us – the reporters who were there to cover the conference – that the majestic scene carried more significance than the mere fact that certain political parties were attending especially that Russia’s efforts to include the opposition were doubted as during its meetings with the Syrian Negotiations Commission in Vienna on January 25 and 26, it did not provide anything tangible to get the opposition to change its mind and only made threats if the commission did not participate. Moscow was also not hesitant in showing its indifference towards the final statement. Accordingly, Russia, in what seemed like an unprecedented flirtatious approach, renewed its political commitment to the UN’s role in terms of the Syrian constitution to De Mistura - who was present at the conference – to please him. This did not harmonize with the Assad regime’s stance as the regime delegation at Sochi showed their discontent and viewed this as a recognition of a UN mandate over Syria. However, their discontent did not last for long and they immediately went back to playing the role assigned to them and which is simply about agreeing. The conference ended with a brief statement read out by De Mistura. He blessed the birth of the Syrian-Russian child and the 1,300 participants then went to a dinner which was held in their honor to appreciate their leading role in efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. They headed to that dinner few hours before leaving Sochi..for good.

The bitter taste of civil wars
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/February 04/18
All wars are bad but the worst and the most bitter and cruel are civil wars in which a brother kills a brother and a neighbor kills his neighbor. When it comes to civil wars, it’s not about empires’ glory, ethnicities’ distinctions or nations’ pride but it’s about people killing those close to them and destroying their own countries. These wars engrave the country’s memories with never-healing wounds. There is a long list of destructive civil wars throughout history. Unlike wars among empires, ethnicities and countries, civil wars are based on conflicts that are related to what narrowly differentiates a category from another – such as religious, sectarian, racist, ethnic or ideological differences and so on. One definition of civil war says: “War is an ancient social phenomenon that is about fighting among brothers.” Another said: “A civil war is an armed battle among the sons of the one country and it’s more than a mere rebellion or an armed disobedience.” These definitions give a clear perception of the meaning and horrors of civil war.
Horrible consequences
The world and the region have witnessed several civil wars that had horrible consequences. The most famous ones are the American civil war and the French civil war which was later dubbed a revolution. This is in addition to the Thirty Years’ War in Europe, the different European civil wars, the civil wars in Spain and Czechoslovakia, the civil war in Afghanistan which erupted after the Soviet Union exited the country and many others. As for the region, there was the civil war in Lebanon and the civil war in Sudan, the latter being a separatist war that led to dividing the country. Today, we are witnessing civil wars in Syria and Libya and what looks like a civil war in Yemen as part of the war there is separatist, especially given last week’s Aden developments. Is what Iran doing in Iraq and Syria paving way towards freedom and equality? Can slogans like “resistance” hide all the terrorist and sectarian approaches that led to bloodshed and chaos in several Arab countries? Can they help establish stable countries in the future? This is not reasonable at all; however, it’s being marketed by media outlets, intellectuals and politicians as if people cannot differentiate between good and bad! Lest we forget, we’ve seen a glimpse of the civil war atrocities in Iraq in the past and in recent days. However, concepts are redefined according to the size of political conflict and eventually contradictions are adopted in politics, slogans and stances.
Worst war in modern history
The worst war in modern history is the Syrian civil war in which all international and regional parties have gotten involved. Their intervention represents all political contradictions. There is Russia with its powerful army and two military bases, Iran with its terrorist militias and expansionist ambitions, the Syrian regime that kills its people and defies the entire world by using internationally-prohibited chemical weapons under Russia’s protection that prevents condemning it at the UN, Turkey that militarily intervenes in North Syria under the excuse of confronting the Kurds and America which is looking for a stronghold that imposes its presence on the ground and which is trying to find solutions that are more reasonable than Russia’s. Meanwhile, Syria is a war-torn country that is full of terrorism, sectarianism and racist discrimination. There’s no glimpse of hope for a better future. As civilization retreats, there are upcoming elections in several countries in the region. Some parties adhere to modern slogans and concepts related to democracy, human rights and equality not because they believe in them but because they want to employ them to serve this or that sectarian or fundamentalist project. Can these manifestations of democracy, i.e. elections, candidates and voters, be a form of civil war manifestations or a preparatory move for one? The answer is yes and no at the same time. These modern concepts are being employed in battles that are completely irrelevant to them. Animosity and crimes are being hid under civilized slogans! Is what Iran doing in Iraq and Syria paving way towards freedom and equality? Can slogans like “resistance” hide all the terrorist and sectarian approaches that led to bloodshed and chaos in several Arab countries? Can they help establish stable countries in the future? This is not reasonable at all; however, it’s being marketed by media outlets, intellectuals and politicians as if people cannot differentiate between good and bad! Nothing makes countries relapse like civil wars do. Civil wars harm the core of national unity to serve expansionist or ideological projects or strengthen narrow religious, sectarian or ethnic identities. A country loses its essence as loyalties shatter and divisions ensue. The national identity which once unified people loses its value. Then each group resorts to acts that strengthen its interests within these narrow identities. A new chapter of murder begins and all hell breaks loose.
Turkish intervention in Afrin
The Turkish intervention in Afrin must be put within the context of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statements. Erdogan has continuously presented himself as part of a fundamental project where he is a new caliph of Muslims – a project that includes a strong alliance with Qatar, the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and all terrorist political Islam groups. He always brings up the Turkish colonial era of the Arab world and sometimes delves into details of historical conflicts and events. He should not be engaging in such debates especially that he is the leader of a country that was established on secular basis by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. This state as established by Ataturk refuses the concept of Islamizing the state which Erdogan is calling for. The intervention in Syria, building a military base in Qatar and another in the island of Suakin in Sudan and the hostile alliances and projects against Arab countries must be taken into consideration as they sound the alarm. There is nothing worse than civil wars except those who market the latter as a means of salvation and survival when in fact they are the worst flavor people ever taste.