“Is Syria likely to attack Israel directly? It is possible–most likely via a deniable terrorist attack by a mysterious group. That is exactly how Syria is now trying to undermine Lebanon, with many in the West swallowing the propaganda that Fatah al-Islam is a shadowy al-Qaida branch rather than a Syrian surrogate. More likely, Syria might use Hizballah in a year or so to launch another attack on Israel. But next time, Israel might retaliate against the sponsor of the aggression–Syria–unlike what happened in summer 2006″.Barry Rubin
By Jamie Glazov, FrontPageMagazine.com, June 1, 2007
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research for International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the Interdisciplinary university (IDC), and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and of Turkish Studies journal. He is the author of The Long War for Freedom, Yasir Arafat, The Tragedy of the Middle East, and Hating America. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, and many other publications. He has been a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow and is the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. He is the author of the new book The Truth about Syria. CONTINUE
More evidence of Syria’s active abetting of jihad activity. By Christopher Allbritton in the Washington Times, with thanks to all who sent this in:
NAHR EL-BARED, Lebanon — Heavily armed foreign jihadists have been entering Lebanon from Syria from around the time Western authorities noticed a drop in the infiltration of foreign fighters from Syria to Iraq, Lebanese officials say.Syrian authorities, hoping to disrupt Lebanon so they can reassert control of the country, “have stopped sending [the jihadists] to Iraq and are now sending them here,” charged Mohammed Salam, a specialist in Palestinian affairs in Lebanon. “They sent those people to die in Lebanon.”
Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, commander of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, said about half of the militants who have been battling Lebanese forces in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp outside Tripoli for nine days had fought previously in Iraq.
“They are very dangerous,” he said in an interview. “We have no choice, we have to combat them.”
“…the army has no other choice but finish them off”
TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) – Lebanese tanks and armored vehicles battled their way into the neighborhoods of a Palestinian refugee camp Friday in some of the heaviest fighting since violence broke out between the military and al-Qaida-inspired militants nearly two weeks ago.
The prime assassination suspect, Syria, will respond to the UN move by stepping up support for Palestinian Islamists battling the Lebanese army and for Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which (a) aims to control Lebanon, and (b) is preparing for war with Israel. With Syrian help, Iran has rearmed its Shiite proxy; and the stage is set for a new round of rocket assaults against the Jewish state.
Hezbollah has tens of thousands rockets ready to go, while, in the south, Syrian-Iranian Palestinian ally, Hamas, has also achieved unprecedented levels of armament and is actively preparing for full-blown war.
Contrary to Israeli and American expectations, Syria will not sit out the conflict; rather, it will seize the opportunity to divert attention from its role in the Hariri killing–which was personally approved by Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad–by making every effort possible to defeat Israel and erase the stain of perceived humiliation dating 40 years to the Six-Day War of June 1967, which resulted in Syria’s loss of the strategic Golan Heights to Israel.
Assad’s father, Hafez, tried and failed to liberate Golan in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, although he did succeed in regaining some lost territory in susbequent, American-sponsored peace talks. His son, who has been in power since 2000, feels conditions are ripe for victory. Threatened by a rising Islamist movement (which his father managed to crush), the present despot of Damascus has decided to roll the dice with Tehran’s turbaned tyrants. The Baathist buzz in the Syrian capital is that the once-ridiculed Bashar could ironically emerge as the Arab world’s next hero in its decades-old struggle against the “Zionist entity.”
Ahead of all-out war, Assad will escalate tensions by stirring the terrorist pot in Lebanon–and on Israel’s borders.
Hariri’s assassination was the latest in a long line of Syrian-sponsored political killings in Lebanon. The billionaire politician and 22 others were killed in a massive car bomb in the capital, Beirut, on 14 February 2005.
An interim UN investigation found Hariri’s killing was “probably” politically motivated and has implicated Syria, which has naturally denied any involvement in his death.
The killing recalled Syria’s Soviet-supported assassination of Lebanese president-elect Bachir Gemayel in September 1982. The charismatic, beloved Maronite Christian leader–who was the son of the Phalangist party founder and leader Pierre Gemayel–was murdered nine days before he was due to take office, along with 25 others, in an explosion at party headquarters in the Maronite stronghold of Achrafieh.
Five years ealrier, in March of 1977, Lebanon’s Druze leader, Kamal Jumblat, was assassinated by the pro-Syrian faction of the Lebanese Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party. Syrian intelligence officers collaborated in the killing. Jumblat was shot and killed in his car by four gunmen a few meters from a Syrian check point.
Jumblat’s son, Walid, who has succeeded his father as Druze leader, has also been threatened by Syria. An unsuccessful attempt on the life of a political ally was widely regarded as a Syrian signal.
By Arlene Kushner
In the last several days world attention has been drawn to the Nahr al Bared UNRWA refugee camp in northern Lebanon, where Lebanese Armed Forces have entered and are doing battle in order to drive out a militant Sunni group associated with al-Qaida, called Fatah al-Islam. The group, which has Syrian support, is led by a Palestinian, Shaker Abssi, and consists, according to reports, mostly of Palestinians, but includes others such as Syrians and Jordanians.
The Lebanese army has encountered stiff resistance in the camp – where they were fired upon by machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. That a militant group would headquarter in a Palestinian refugee camp, and that violence would ensue, should not come as a surprise.
There are presently close to 400,000 Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon who are registered with UNRWA as refugees. Of these, some 225,000 live in the 12 official UNRWA refugee camps that currently exist in Lebanon – all but one of these camps (the exception being one adjacent to Ba’albek) are situated near the Mediterranean coast. The remainder of the registered refugee population lives in close proximity to the camps.
The situation of the Palestinian refugees inside of Lebanon is – by any one of a number of measures – worse than that of Palestinian Arab refugees living in other areas in which UNRWA functions: Jordan , Syria , Gaza , and Judea and Samaria . They endure greater poverty, a higher infant mortality rate, and poorer housing. Lebanon affords the Palestinians little in the way of social and civil rights and actually prevents them from working in dozens of professions. In a word, the Lebanese are hostile to the Palestinians and have no intention of making life easy for them or integrating them.
There have been UNRWA refugees camps in Lebanon since 1950, and the Palestinians situated there were never welcomed or integrated. But current Lebanese hostility to the Palestinians was generated in good part by historical events of thirty years ago. When the PLO was thrown out of Jordan in 1970, Arafat moved his cadres to south Lebanon , and took over the refugee camps there, establishing a political, economic and military presence so considerable that it was referred to as a “state within a state.”
Ultimately the Lebanese paid an enormous price for this situation. The PLO financial empire, called SAMED, established farming and manufacturing industries and, utilizing cheap Palestinian refugee labor, became one of Lebanon ’s largest employers; they harvested poppies in the Bekaa Valley for an extensive drug trade, as well. The balance of Lebanon ’s fragile multi-factional society was upset in part by the presence of the Palestinians, who numbered some 300,000 by 1975 and had developed into a primary military force in Southern Lebanon . They established a law unto themselves that undermined Lebanese sovereignty, and they played a role in Lebanon ’s civil war.
Perhaps bitterest of all to the Lebanese was the PLO use of Lebanese soil as the base for attacks into northern Israel . This provoked Israeli bombardment of Palestinian targets in south Lebanon , and then, in 1982, Israeli military movement into southern Lebanon to drive out the Palestinians.
The PLO infrastructure was driven out and moved to Tunis . The Palestinian presence in the camps remained, however. To a considerable degree the residents of the camps continued to be a law unto themselves: By long standing agreement – dating from the time of the PLO – the Lebanese army has no authority to enter the camps, which are controlled by armed Palestinian militias. The entrance now of the Lebanese army into this camp marks a departure from what has been the norm. Lebanese from the area of Tripoli , near Nahr al Bared, cheered as the LAF entered.
The Palestinian residents of the UNRWA refugee camps in Lebanon , as described above, are seen as a beleaguered population – and there is clearly a way in which this is so. But they are also a radicalized population, often working against the best interests of a stable, independent Lebanon . In 2005, after the withdrawal from Lebanon of Syrian forces, both Syrian weapons and agents were moved into the Palestinian camps. Last summer, during the Lebanese War, the Palestinians in the UNRWA camps provided support for Hezbollah and a secure hiding place for some of its weaponry.
At present close to one-half of the 30,000 residents of Nahr al Bared have fled, many to the UNRWA camp at Beddawi or to Tripoli . Meanwhile, Richard Cook, Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon , is expressing outrage that a UNRWA relief convoy that entered the camp on Tuesday was fired upon.
UNRWA officials now concede that they knew months ago about the presence of a heavily armed Fatah al-Islam group in the camp in Lebanon but were helpless to do anything about it. “Somebody hasn’t been doing their job,” said Commissioner-General Karen AbuZayd, referring to the Palestinian militias who patrol the camps. According to her the Palestinians refugees in the camp are unhappy about the presence of Fatah al-Islam.
AbuZayd’s statement opens the door to many questions:
In early 1998, Kofi Annan, then secretary-general of the UN, stated in a report that, “Refugee camps and settlements must be kept free of any military presence or equipment, including arms and ammunition…the neutrality and humanitarian character of the camps and settlements must be scrupulously maintained.”
The Security Council, reflecting the spirit of Annan’s words, subsequently adopted Resolution 1208, acknowledging that “the maintenance of the civilian and humanitarian character of refugee camps and settlements is an integral part of the national, regional and international response to refugee situations, and underlining “the unacceptability of using refugees and other persons in refugee camps and settlements to achieve military purposes.”
In light of this, how is it that armed Palestinian militias have been permitted to continue to control the UNRWA camps in Lebanon ? Further how is it that UNRWA officials kept quiet for months when in possession of the knowledge that a heavily armed Fatah al-Islam group was in an UNRWA camp? The inability of UNRWA officials to “do anything” about the situation directly – because UNRWA possess no armed forces – does not absolve them of responsibility to call the situation to the attention of the Security Council or the international community more broadly.
Lastly, AbuZayd’s statement regarding the fact that the Palestinian militias in the camp “weren’t doing their job” shines a spotlight on the very serious matter of possible complicity of Palestinians in the camps with the radical Islamic group.
Lebanon Fights Al-Qaeda
By Micah Halpern
MicahHalpern.com | May 22, 2007
For a long time the international community has thought of Lebanon as a wash out, a puppet state, a sorry, unfortunate mess. It’s time to take a new look at this small, Arab, Middle-Eastern country. The eyes of the Western world should begin focusing on Lebanon.
The Lebanese Army is now engaged in a serious fight with a new enemy, Fatah al Islam. This group, led by a Palestinian named Shahr al Abassi, came into existence only last year as a break-off from a Syrian-backed Sunni fighting group. Fatah al Islam is composed of Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian fighters. Lebanon’s new nemesis was created in the image of al Qaeda, espousing al Qaeda beliefs and pursuing al Qaeda goals.
Fatah al Islam is probably – nay, almost certainly, sponsored by Syria. The ultimate mission of this group is to bring disorder and unrest to Lebanon. The short term goal is to act as a distraction thereby preventing any investigation into the assassination of beloved, anti-Syrian, independent, Lebanese leader Harriri – believed by the Lebanese and the free world to have been brutally murdered by the Syrians.
The fighting is fierce. In one day of battle the death tally was nineteen for Fatah al Islam, thirteen for the Lebanese army, six civilians caught in the crossfire and sixty civilians wounded. This particular battle took place in a refugee camp just outside of Tripoli. Fatah al Islam claims that their group is being targeted unjustifiably by the Lebanese army and that there will be just payment in return for the attacks against them. Turns out that in this case members of the group had robbed a bank and all the army was doing was doing their job and attempting to arrest the culprits.
The emergence of Fatah al Islam in Lebanon and the response of the Lebanese army to fight Fatah al Islam offer us several important insights into the new workings within Lebanon and the new reality of al Qaeda terrorists.
Al Qaeda is in Lebanon.
Al Qaeda today is not the al Qaeda the Western world was first introduced to, an al Qaeda headed by a very active Osama bin Laden. Today, al Qaeda is a very loosely linked structure. New al Qaeda groups all agree with the principles of al Qaeda – they are tutored through the al Qaeda-terrorist-DVD box set, they tune in to al Qaeda websites and receive spiritual support from the network that al Qaeda established and continues to develop. But this new generation of al Qaeda-ists has never been to an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. This new generation is locally trained and sponsored. This is the fresh, new face of al Qaeda, this is al Qaeda as we are seeing it emerge in Lebanon.
The Lebanese Army is at last making a stand for honor, country and control.
The future might be changing for the people of Lebanon. Lebanon has been a country hesitant to act on its own behalf, frustrated and impotent in the face of stronger military and governmental elements. Now, thanks to the support and encouragement of the Germans and the Italians, the Lebanese are actually starting to police Lebanon. The Lebanese are beginning to put an end to the days when Hezbollah and other outside and terrorist groups simply ran roughshod over their country. The border with Syria is still not totally sealed, but Germany and Lebanon are endeavoring to work out a system that will better secure the border. The proof is that the Lebanese army has actually confiscated convoys of weapons – not enough and not all, but more than they ever did before. And, not at all surprisingly, Hezbollah has demanded that their weapons be returned.
Terrorists are actually thieves and thugs.
It is essential to see terrorists for what they truly are – all around bad guys. Terrorists don’t only kidnap and bomb, terrorists murder for the thrill of it, they rape because they feel like it, they rob banks. Terrorists use their guns to terrorize locals – in Lebanon and every place else they can be found. Terrorists are not freedom fighters, they are thugs with weapons creating their own wild, wild, West. They use fear and intimidation to get what they want. And what they want is often religious submission, but it is also material goods and cold, hard cash. In this case, in this Lebanese refugee camp, the terrorists truly showed their hand.
Sunni/Shiite conflicts are well-documented but there are also Sunni/Sunni conflicts.
Intra-Sunni conflicts are not about religious orientation and dominance. Intra-Sunni conflicts are about law and order, about politics and power. Fatah al Islam does not want law and order, Fatah al Islam refuses to accept the power of elected politics. Fatah al Islam refuses to accept that the people of Lebanon have spoken and they want law and order and they want an investigation into the Harriri assassination. Fatah al Islam wants and respects only what Fatah al Islam wants.
Syria is still the power and influence behind much of what happens in Lebanon.
And not for the better. The reality is that the Syrian flag waves behind almost all illegal activity and every group within Lebanon that challenges the authority of Lebanon. Fatah al Islam is not the lone exception. Almost every single act of violence within Lebanon is Syrian – sponsored – almost every act. Syria would like nothing more than to destabilize Lebanon and step back into power. Right now that is not happening, but nor for lack of trying on their part.
The enemies of stability are the friends of terror. Lebanon has chosen to fight those enemies. Lebanon needs the support of strong, freedom-loving, friends.
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Death toll mounts as Lebanon troops pound Islamists
May 21, 2007
NAHR AL BARED, Lebanon — Lebanese troops bombarded Islamist militiamen with tank shells and heavy artillery Monday, the second day of the bloodiest internal fighting since the civil war that has now left 55 people dead and raised fears about Lebanon’s fragile security. Nine civilians were killed in heavy shelling of a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, besieged by soldiers in tanks who are battling militants from the shadowy Sunni group Fatah Al Islam, a camp medic said.
Huge plumes of thick black smoke billowed into the sky over the Nahr Al Bared camp, which has been turned into a war zone by ferocious gunbattles between soldiers and Fatah Al Islam, a group accused of links to Al Qaeda and Syrian intelligence services.
Fears were mounting of a humanitarian crisis in the camp, a coastal shantytown of narrow alleyways where rescue workers were struggling to evacuate the dead and wounded, and buildings were bombed out and power supplies cut.
The international community condemned the violence and voiced support for the Lebanese government’s efforts to restore order after 46 people were killed Sunday alone.
As warships patrolled nearby coastal waters, troops were locked in heavy exchanges of artillery and machinegun fire, and a military spokesman said the army had extended its control to all camp entrances.
But Fatah Al Islam threatened to extend attacks beyond Tripoli if the army continues to pound its positions.
“The army is not only opening fire on us. It is shelling blindly. If this continues, we will carry the battle outside the city of Tripoli,” spokesman Abu Salim Taha said.
Officials voiced fears about the plight of refugees trapped in the camp, where the Red Cross was able to evacuate about 17 people during a brief lull in the fighting.
“We are deeply concerned about the developing humanitarian crisis, particularly the danger to civilian lives,” UN Palestinian refugee agency director Richard Cook said.
Doctors described seeing bodies strewn on the streets of Nahr Al Bared, which, like all refugee camps in Lebanon, remains outside the control of the government and in the hands of Palestinian factions.
“The electricity has been cut, there is not much water and the camp’s bakeries are shut,” said Hajj Rifaat, an official from the mainstream Palestinian movement, Fatah.
It is the worst explosion of violence – excluding warfare with Israel – since the 1975 to 1990 civil war and has raised fears about the stability of multi-confessional Lebanon, already in the grip of an acute political crisis.
A 63-year-old woman was also killed and 10 people wounded in a bomb blast in a Christian area of Beirut Sunday.
Over the past two years, the country has been rocked by a string of attacks, many targeting critics of the regime in neighboring Syria, which still has political clout in Lebanon despite pulling out its troops in 2005.
The gunbattles erupted at dawn Sunday after Fatah Al Islam ambushed an army post outside the camp, and spread to Lebanon’s second city of Tripoli where troops were staging an assault on a building where fighters were holed up.
That day, 27 soldiers and 17 gunmen were reported killed, in addition to a civilian and a refugee in Nahr Al Bared, home to about 30,000 of Lebanon’s estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees.
A security official said government forces found the bodies of 10 Islamists, including Saddam Hajj Dib who was wanted over a plot to blow up trains in Germany last July, in the building stormed Sunday.
Another was identifed as Abu Yazan, Fatah Al Islam’s number three, accused of responsibility for bus bombings in February that killed three people.
Officials from the main Palestinian factions – which deny any links with Fatah Al Islam – offered to help crush the militiants in talks with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
“We hope to cooperate in order to eliminate the Fatah Al Islam phenomenon, on the condition innocent civilians do not pay a high price,” said Abbas Ziki, Lebanon representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Siniora, whose Western-backed government has been paralyzed for months by feuding between opponents of former power broker Damascus and pro-Syrian factions, said the government was determined to enforce law and order across all of Lebanon.
“We will not allow anyone to harm our unity,” he said Sunday.
The German presidency of the European Union condemned the bloodshed and called for the disarmament of militias in Lebanon while France voiced solidarity with the government.
“We call on all parties to avoid a further escalation of the conflict. We cannot allow Lebanon to be sucked into a spiral of violence again,” said German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger.
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon’s biggest foreign financier, also said it deplored the violence.
Lebanese authorities have accused Fatah Al Islam, inspired ideologically by Osama Bin Laden’s network, of working for the Syrian intelligence services, which Damascus has denied.
It is headed by Shaker Abssi, said to be linked to former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who was killed in a US raid in 2006.
Islam’s War in Lebanon Against Christians
By Michael Hirst
Sunday Telegraph | April 3, 2007
Christians are fleeing Lebanon to escape political and economic crises and signs that radical Islam is on the rise in the country.
In a poll to be published next month which was exclusively leaked to The Sunday Telegraph, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating. Of these, more than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies. Their exodus could have a devastating effect on the country, robbing it of an influential minority which has acted as an important counter-balance to the forces of Islamic extremism.
About 60,000 Christians have already left since last summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many who remain fear that a violent showdown between rival Sunni and Shia factions is looming.
“If we love our children we have to tell them to get out,” said Maria, a Christian mother of one from the northern city of Tripoli, who refused to give her surname for fear of reprisal. “When my daughter finished her high school I sent her to Europe, and I will follow her if I can.”
Christine, another Christian woman, said that all of her family’s younger generation had left the country, adding that Tripoli had become increasingly Islamised in recent years. There is a rising number of veiled women and religiously bearded men on the streets – although she blamed economic and political instability for much of the emigration. Christians, who make up 22 per cent of the population, have historically played a major role in the development of Lebanon’s political, social and cultural institutions. Currently the president, the army commander and the head of the central bank are all Maronites, and under the agreement which ended the civil war in 1989, half the 128 seats in Lebanon’s parliament are reserved for Christians.
“Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving towards the model of Islamisation seen in Iraq and Egypt,” said Fr Samir Samir, a Jesuit teacher of Islamic studies at Beirut’s Université Saint-Joseph.
Lebanon’s Christian community is concerned that its influence is waning as a result of a continuing internal power struggle, which for the past five months has pitted a Sunni-led government against a predominantly Shia opposition, spearheaded by the Shia militant group Hezbollah. The collapse in influence has been exacerbated by a roughly equal spilt in support among Christians for rival Shia and Sunni leaders. The battle between Muslim factions has paralysed the Lebanese administration and crippled the economy.
The exodus of young workers crosses the religious spectrum. Some 22 per cent of Shias and 26 per cent of Sunnis say they are considering going abroad, according to the study by Information International, an independent Beirut-based research body.
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Syria negotiates with its knife on the table, dripping with blood