Archive for category Syria


1. Israel is accused of waging an assassination campaign

Israel is waging a covert assassination campaign across the Middle East in an effort to stop its key enemies co-ordinating their activities.

Israeli agents have been targeting meetings between members of Hamas and the leadership of the militant Hezbollah group, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

They are also suspected of recent killings in Dubai, Damascus and Beirut. While Israel’s Mossad spy agency has been suspected of staging assassinations across the world since the 1970s, it does not officially acknowledge or admit its activities.

The current spate of killings began in December when a “tourist bus” carrying Iranian officials and Hamas members exploded outside Damascus. The official report by Syria claimed that a tyre had exploded but photographs surfaced showing the charred remains of the vehicle — prompting speculation that a much larger explosion had taken place.

Several weeks later a meeting between members of Hamas, which controls Gaza, and their counterparts from Hezbollah in its southern Beirut stronghold in Lebanon was also attacked, resulting in several deaths.

Hamas had sought to cover up the incidents because it was embarrassed, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Times.

“There has been growing co-operation between Gaza and Iran. Israel can read the writing on the wall and they know that with the help of Iran, the Hamas Government in Gaza will become stronger and will fight better.

“But Israel is overstepping their boundaries. Other countries don’t want to become a killing field for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Most recently, the top Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in Dubai on January 19, 2010. He is believed to have been poisoned by a woman who visited his room at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai.

Israeli officials said that Mabhouh had been a key figure in procuring Iranian-made longer-range rockets for Hamas that could be fired at targets in central Israel.

The exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has vowed revenge for Mabhouh’s death. He has also suggested that the current fighting between Hamas and Israel will become more regional. In an interview with the London-based al-Hayat newspaper, Mr Mashaal said that future wars with Israel would not be fought solely in the Gaza Strip.

Under the current Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, Israel is believed to have renewed efforts to kill high-level opponents. Only months after the former paratrooper assumed leadership of the intelligence service in October 2002, senior Hezbollah operatives in Lebanon began to be targeted. He was credited with ordering the killing of two relatively senior Hezbollah members who were killed in southern Beirut in July 2003 and August 2004.

More recently, Israel has been accused of planting a car bomb in Damascus that killed the top Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyah in February 2008. The Israeli Cabinet minister Daniel Herschkowitz last week praised the Mossad chief as one of the agency’s most successful leaders.

When asked about Mossad’s involvement in the Dubai slaying, Eli Yishai, the Interior Minister, smiled and said: “All the security services make, thank God, great efforts to safeguard the security of the state of Israel.”

While some countries are questioning whether Israel isn’t taking credit to increase the reputation of its defence establishment, other moderate Arab States are now describing the assassinations as a “covert war” between Israel and Hamas.

Diplomats said they were aware that covert Israeli operations had increased. “We watch their comings and goings; we are aware that there is more activity both on our ground and other countries in the region,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “They are trying to embroil us all in their conflict.”

Tensions between Israel and Hamas have remained high, despite the relative quiet that has ensued since the end of Israel’s offensive in Gaza last winter. Israeli troops were placed on alert yesterday after intelligence suggested that Hamas planned to abduct soldiers. Israel said this week that it had foiled a kidnapping in December by arresting the Hamas operative Slaman Abu Atik on the Israeli-Gaza border. He planned to enter Israel via Egypt, said the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service.

250+ comments - Times Online

2. all that talk about the plane in the trench, etc. and now it’s 45 meters underwater… now that they squared away the black boxes

This issue, however, would raise a question of how to deal with the main parts of the plane which are still in place about 45 meters deep off the coast of Naameh south of Beirut. As-Safir newspaper on Monday quoted high-ranking official sources as saying that recovery of the main wreckage or moving it requires a decision by the international committee investigating the disaster. It said the committee is likely to take a decision in this regard on Monday or Tuesday after examining the data and pictures of the plane taken underwater.


3. Debka file — it was al qaeda that blew the plane up, but everyone’s too shy to say so.

Evidence has reached debkafile’s counter-terror sources that the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 which crashed after takeoff from Beirut on January 25, killing all 92 aboard, was blown up in mid-air. This was an al-Qaeda operation timed for one month to the day after its failed attempt to destroy an American Northwest airliner bound for Detroit.
It is becoming clear that either a bomb was planted on the Ethiopian flight with a timer or a passenger acted as suicide bomber.
Western security agencies in the Middle East involved in combating al Qaeda believe that its planners picked on the Ethiopian flight for more than one reason apart from the date: They had been tipped off that a group of French undercover agents, including Maria Sanchez Pietton, wife of the French ambassador to Beirut, and top Hizballah operatives, including secretary general Hassan Nasrallah, would be aboard.
Mme Pietton lost her life in the crash, while the Hizballah travelers were saved by switching to another flight at the last minute.
The first bodies recovered from the Mediterranean off the Lebanese town of Naama showed all the hallmarks of explosion victims:
They were found strapped to their seats with their heads, hands and feet blown off and scattered, typical effects of an explosive blast.
Eye-witnesses at the time heard a loud explosion and saw the plane enveloped in a ball of fire as it gained altitude after takeoff from Beirut international airport.  Both France and Hizballah have denied they were targets.

Lebanese officials, led by prime minister Saad Hariri, have spent two weeks trying to hide the fact that the Ethiopian airline disaster was caused by terror. But Lebanese health minister Jawad Khalifeh gave the game away by a slip of the tongue Tuesday, Feb. 9:  “The plane exploded during flight and the cabin, as well as the bodies of those on board, were dispersed into the sea, in different locations,” he said, trying to explain why some of the corpses were found dismembered. He then tried to correct himself by saying he “didn’t mean a military explosion.”

More confirmation of a terrorist hand behind the attack is found in the deep involvement of US intelligence, including the FBI, in the investigation of the disaster from the first moment. The US survey ship Ocean Alert was dispatched to the area of the crash and dropped a miniature submarine into the depths to retrieve fragments of the airliner from the seabed.
A US intelligence and naval headquarters was set up at Beirut harbor to coordinate the salvage of the plane from the sea. Treating the crash as terror-related, Washington ordered the plane to be reconstructed from recovered fragments to establish the site of the explosion and its cause.

US officials are also shy of discussing the case in public and admitting the crash was caused by an act of terror. It took place on January 25, shortly after President Barack Obama said “Al-Qaeda has been weakened.” In an address to the American people to calm their anxieties after the Nigerian would-be bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had failed to detonate explosives carried in his underwear.
Al Qaeda’s success in blowing a civilian airliner out of the sky over the Middle East proved the opposite. It therefore became the subject of a comprehensive cover-up, joined by France. Before the black box, recovered Tuesday, had even been examined, French sources announced that human error by the pilot was the cause of the Ethiopian airliner crash.
debkafile’s counter-terror sources recall a previous al Qaeda attack on a civilian airliner in the Middle East.

Six years ago, on January 8, 2004, an Egyptian charter blew up after takeoff at Sharm al-Sheikh for Cairo, killing all 148 French citizens aboard on their way back to Paris from a Red Sea vacation.
Neither Cairo nor Paris ever admitted that the disaster was caused by terrorists

4. samson blinded — this guy is very funny. he’s dead serious but he’s very funny.

Debka suggested that the Ethiopian airliner’s crash near Lebanon was a terrorist act. Possible, yes, though the plane could explode for innocuous reasons, too.

But we see no basis for the conclusion of Al Qaeda’s involvement. Al Qaeda had no good reason to bomb a plane which carried Nasrallah and other Hezbollah leaders. They changed their tickets at the last minute.

A possibility that Al Qaeda tipped Hezbollah people to change the plane also does not hold. They would rather call off the bombing rather than risk leaking their plans. Hezbollah would inform the Ethiopians about the plan, since the terrorist group depends on Ethiopia for arms trafficking. Al Qaeda had no incentive to blow an Ethiopian jet at all.

Bombing plot against Nasrallah might suggest Israeli involvement, but it is our long-standing policy to avoid huge collateral damage.

terrorist arrests in Malaysia

1. terror suspects arrested in Malaysia linked to patsy underpants, according to unnamed foreign anti-terrorism agencies

Terrorism suspects from Jordan, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen have been detained in Malaysia, activists say as a report linked them to the Nigerian behind the botched Christmas plane bombing….“It was learnt that foreign anti-terrorism agencies informed Malaysian authorities that the 10 were linked to Abdulmutallab and that they were in Malaysia,” said the daily on Thursday, which did not cite any sources for its report.

Malaysia’s controversial ISA has been used in the past against alleged militants, including members of Southeast Asian extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah, which is linked to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network. One JI member released in 2008 is accused of hosting a planning meeting ahead of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Analysts say that other militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda have used Kuala Lumpur for meetings and logistics.

more @ sydney morning herald

2. GMI claims 14, not 10, held under ISA

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — The Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI) today claimed that 14 people, including a Malaysian, were being held under the recent Internal Security Act (ISA) swoop, as opposed to the 10 announced by the Home Ministry yesterday.

It identified nine of the detainees as Azzahari Murad (Malaysia); Aiman Al Dakkak (Syria); Mohamed Hozifa (Syria); Kutiba Al-Issa (Syria); Khalid Salem (Yemen); Luqman Abdul Salam (Nigeria); Hassan Barudi (Syria); Hussam Khalid (Jordan); and Abdul Alhi Bolajoko Uthman (Nigeria).

It has yet to determine the identities of the remaining three while another two were detained earlier. GMI said the 14 were part of 50 detained in a security operation in Sungai Cincin, Gombak near here, GMI chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh disclosed today. Syed Ibrahim told reporters that all 50 were picked up on Jan 21, after having stayed there since 2003. “So they are not foreigners who have just arrived here,” he said, disputing Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s statement that those detained had just come to Malaysia and were part of an international terror ring.

Syed Ibrahim disclosed that of the 50 picked up, all but 12 were released at 3am the next day. “From the 12, GMI obtained nine names and we are trying to establish the [identities of the] other three and two more we just found out today,” he added. He said the latter two were identified as Abdullah Ahmad Alsehine (Saudi Arabia) who was detained on Jan 17, and Ibrahim (Nigeria) who was initially detained on Jan 21.“Ibrahim has yet to be detected with the other four until now,” he added. Syed Ibrahim also said information from the Saudi Arabian embassy showed that Abdullah was still in the country.

A witness to the security operation, Muhammad Yunus Zainal Abidin, 25, who was also at today’s press conference, recounted how armed policemen had burst into the house at about 9.30pm that night, disrupting the study session led by Aiman. “They said: ‘Ini operasi keselamatan dalam negeri’ (this is a home affairs security operation),” Yunus told reporters. It is understood that this is the first time that a large number of foreign students have been detained under the ISA since the Sept 11 attacks in the United States.

“Using the ISA to get forced confessions and creating a plot without proof is unfair. “ISA is the easiest tool to shift international pressure by making foreign nationals, in this case [from] the Middle East, as the scapegoats,” he added. “GMI believes that the new detentions may have been initiated in response to international pressure on terrorist threats in Malaysia,” said Syed Ibrahim.

“It might be related to the US travel advisory two weeks ago about criminals and terrorists targeting foreigners in east Sabah or to what is happening in the US and UK,” he said. “But nothing can be confirmed,” he said, and added that he will raise the issue directly with Hishammuddin this afternoon at the government briefing on itst plans to revamp the ISA. Syed Ibrahim added that the latest developments showed double standards by the government, which has promised to reform the ISA. The ISA is a preventive security law that allows for detention without trial.

Media reports today said that those detained were linked to the Nigerian underwear bomber who tried to detonate explosives aboard a US-bound flight last Christmas Day.

source: malaysian insider

3. some Malaysians believe their government is behind the civil unrest

Doc: Why do I believe it was Umno? Because:

(i) The Herald case failed to galvanise Malay support and backfired on them terribly, serving only to alienate them further from Malays. They needed to try something, anything, to regain popularity among the masses;
(ii) Placing boars’ head in mosques is not a good idea because things may really get out of hand (few dare to do this);
(iii) Exploiting racial and religions issues is a trademark of Umno;
(iv) Inspector-general of police Musa Hassan was at the scene of the incident as soon as it happened. Musa’s response is usually rapid in matters concerning Umno’s interests;
(v) These are desperate times for Umno and desperate measures are needed to regain lost support.

Christopher: So Umno has done what they know best when under siege - create public chaos. I suspect that they are planning something big, like declaring emergency rule or embarking on mass arrests under the Internal Security Act.

Watchman: Umno stands to gain if there is any racial disturbance. It tried to rile up the Christians with their church burnings and other minor acts of destruction. They are cunning enough not to create too much damage or stay too long as to get caught. It didn’t work. The Christians didn’t bite.

Umno tried the same tactics on the Sikhs. They also didn’t bite. Now Umno is trying it on the Muslims. Right-thinking Muslims will also not bite, despite prodding from Umno and Jakim (Islamic Development Department ).

Pak Ubu: Only an idiot would believe that these provocative acts are spontaneous and not part of Umno’s desperate plan to trigger racial-religious violence in the streets, which would give them an excuse to declare a national emergency and impose martial law.

Malaysian for Malaysia: This is more likely the work agent provocateurs trying to instigate Muslims into retaliating violently. Non-Muslims in Malaysia aren’t so stupid or suicidal as to start an outright religious clash with Muslims who make up 70 percent of the population in Peninsular Malaysia.

Someone is trying to instigate Muslims, and this does not bode well. What are the police doing? Sitting on their hands when not harassing opposition ceramahs?

more @ malaysiakini

North Korea, multi-purpose tool, links into all the hotspots

1. firms in 5 countries linked to N. Korean arms smuggling: Kazakhstan, Ukraine, New Zealand, UAE, Sri Lanka, Iran (natch)

Five companies in five countries were involved in a complex process of cargo laundering for a shipment of North Korean arms that was confiscated at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport last month, according to media reports.

Efforts to track the cargo were complicated by the involvement of a Kazakh arms dealer and his wife who handled the arms through a ghost company, AP said Tuesday. Thai police discovered 40 tons of North Korean arms including multiple rocket launchers, 40 surface-to-air missiles, and hundreds of rocket-propelled grenades worth an estimated US$18 million on an Ilyushin cargo plane operated by Air West of Georgia, which landed in Bangkok on Dec. 12.

All five crew were arrested, but it was not easy to trace the route the arms had taken. Alexander Zykov, a Kazakh dealer in illegal arms, is allegedly behind the transport. He hired five crew for an air freight company he owned named East Wing in Kiev, Ukraine, in July last year. Three days later, a friend of Zykov’s established a ghost company named SP Trading in New Zealand.

SP Trading then leased the cargo plane from Air West, which is also effectively run by Zykov and had earlier leased it to Overseas Trading FZE, a company in the United Arab Emirates owned by Zykov’s wife. Once SP Trading had leased the plane, it received an order from a Hong Kong-registered firm, Union Top Management, to transport “petroleum industry components” from the [North] Korean General Trading Corporation.

The plane took off from Kiev and flew via Azerbaijan and the UAE to North Korea. Once the freight had been loaded, it was scheduled to stop for refueling in Thailand and fly west to Ukraine by way of Sri Lanka and the UAE. From there, some reports say it was leapfrogged via Iran to Montenegro, but the tiny peaceful principality seems an unlikely final destination for the cargo.

source: chosun ilbo

2. North Korea also supplying ‘Congolese insurgents’

North Korea smuggled about 3,400 tons of weapons into the Democratic Republic of Congo in the midst of a civil war there in January, with some of them going to Congolese insurgents or nearby countries, VOA quoted a UN official as saying Wednesday.

Christian Dietrich, a member of the UN Security Council committee investigating Congo, told VOA that the North Korean ship Birobong arrived in the port of Boma, Congo on Jan. 21, where it unloaded some 3,400 tons of weapons, 100 times the amount seized in Thailand earlier this month.

more @ chosun ilbo

3. US congressional report says NK also passing WMD tech to Syria, through Iran of course — sorry no details classified into, you understand

A new U.S. congressional report claims North Korea is transferring weapons technology to Syria through Iran. In the report, the Congressional Research Service, an entity that works exclusively for the U.S. Congress, revealed that Iran was assisting in the procurement of weapons of mass destruction-related technology by providing North Korea with a platform for such trade with Syria. The report however does not offer further details on the alleged interaction.

source: chosun ilbo

4. Hillary Clinton — very worried about NK and Burma

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says military cooperation between North Korea and Burma would be very destabilizing for the region, and would pose a direct threat to Burma’s neighbors. She says Washington is taking regional concerns about this connection “very seriously.” Clinton addressed the concerns on Tuesday in Bangkok after meeting Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. She will join a regional security conference in Phuket on Wednesday.North Korea’s possible cooperation with Burma made headlines in June, when the U.S. Navy began tracking a North Korean ship believed to be traveling to Burma with suspicious cargo. The ship returned to North Korea without ever docking in Burma.

more @ chosun ilbo

5. Iran buys masses of arms from North Korea, ships them all over the world, including to Hamas and Hezbollah, according to WaPo, citing US and UN officials. yup they know all about it.

Iran has imported piles of North Korean-made conventional weapons, the Washington Post reported Thursday, even though both countries are under UN sanctions over their nuclear programs. Weapons also went to two Palestinian militant organizations, the Iran-backed Hezbollah and the Islamist Hamas, the paper said.

To avoid international pursuit, the North Korean weapons were “shipped halfway around the globe in sealed containers, labeled as oil-drilling supplies, that passed through a succession of freighters and ports,” including China, Southeast Asia and the Dubai free trade zone, before reaching Iran, it said.

One example was a shipment of North Korean weapons aboard the ANL Australia which was confiscated by United Arab Emirates authorities on July 22. According to U.S. and UN officials, the ship carried 2,030 detonators for 122 mm multiple rocket launchers, as well as electric circuitry and solid-fuel propellant for rockets, which Hamas and Hezbollah use when attacking Israel.

The UAE made no official announcement, but the paper said the shipment of North Korean weapons consisted of 10 cargo containers. They left the North Korean port of Nampo on May 30, five days after the North’s second nuclear test on May 25 and before the UN Security Council adopted a fresh resolution sanctioning the North.

The UNSC adopted Resolution 1874 on June 12, extending the arms embargo on North Korea and authorizing member states to inspect its cargo on land, sea, and air. By that time, the vessel carrying the arms had already arrived in China. The containers were transferred to a Chinese ship in the northern port of Dalian on June 13.

From there, they were ferried to Shanghai, where they were moved to a third ship, the ANL Australia, a 47,326 ton freighter. They were finally discovered at the port of Khor Fakkan in the UAE. The officials claimed that there were as many as five such smuggling attempts since early this year.

source: chosun ilbo

6. on top of all that, the North Koreans are firing away past an imaginary line in the ocean

North Korea vowed to continue artillery drills Wednesday along the West Sea border after firing dozens of shells on two separate occasions there, reiterating that the de-facto inter-Korean border should be redrawn. After the first batch of about 30 artillery shells in the morning, South Korea responded by firing warning shots, but no casualties or damage occurred.

The North began firing again at 3:25 p.m., with a dozen more shells landing north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto western sea border. But the South did not respond.  This is the first time that the North has fired artillery into the NLL in the West Sea, though the navies from both Koreas have exchanged gunfire near the border before.  No casualties or injuries were reported as both sides fired in the air and no fishing boats were present, a spokesman for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

more @ korea times

it doesn’t add up to “accident”

1. the pilot acted strangely, nobody knows why he didn’t respond

Defense Minister Elias Murr and Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi, meanwhile, pointed a finger on the Ethiopian pilot, blaming him for failing to follow instructions from a flight control tower for unknown reasons.

“A command tower recording shows the tower told the pilot to turn to avoid the storm, but the plane went in the opposite direction,” Murr said in an interview with LBC television late Monday. “We do not know what happened or whether it was beyond the pilot’s control,” he added, stressing that the reason as to why the pilot did not respond remains unknown.

…Aridi, in turn, said the control tower sent the pilot a second warning when he failed to heed the first one.

“The pilot, however, continued to fly the same route, then he made a sudden, strange turn before disappearing from the radar,” Aridi said, stressing that control tower officials did their job.

It was not clear why the pilot ignored the control tower or perhaps it was beyond his control. Being 737, like most other airliners, also is equipped with its own onboard weather radar which the pilot may have used to avoid flying into cumulonimbus, which is a rounded mass of cumulus cloud often appearing before a thunderstorm.

“We’d better wait until the black boxes are recovered to determine what really went wrong,” Aridi added.

Navigation sources told the daily As-Safir in remarks published Tuesday that air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane only four minutes after takeoff. While they declined to confirm whether or not the jetliner exploded into a huge fireball or burst into flames before plunging into the sea or bad weather was cause of the crash, they ruled out any terrorist attack. Until the two black boxes are recovered, many scenarios and assumptions were put forward which included that the plane was struck by lightning, caught fire or encountered engine failure immediately after takeoff.

more @ naharnet

reminiscent of Egypt Air 990

who was on the plane?

2. birds?

Aviation safety analyst Chris Yates said reports of fire on the Ethiopian Airliner that crashed in the Mediterranean sea Monday could suggest “some cataclysmic failure of one of the engines” or that a bird or debris had been sucked into the engine.

He noted that modern aircraft are built to withstand all but the foulest weather conditions.

“One wouldn’t have thought that a nasty squall in and of itself would be the prime cause of an accident like this,” said Yates, an analyst based in Manchester, England.(AP-Naharnet)


3. bad weather?

A fierce storm appears to have caused the crash of an Ethiopian Airline jet that plunged in a ball of fire into the sea with 90 people on board, Defense Minister Elias Murr said on Monday.

“Bad weather was apparently the cause of the crash,” Murr told reporters.

“We have ruled out foul play so far,” he added.

The fact that soldiers combing the Lebanese shoreline had recovered pieces of the plane supported the belief that the crash was caused by the storm rather than an explosion, Murr said.

“When there is an explosion (on board an airplane) nothing is usually left.” [?????? really ??????]

“We will continue search operations in the hope of finding survivors,” Murr said, adding that no deadline had been set.

“We are seeking to recover the black box and the recording between the control tower and the pilot to determine what happened.”

more @ naharnet

4. ‘plane tumbled out of sky’

BEIRUT - THE first sign of trouble was a flash of light on the horizon on Monday - and then witnesses said the Boeing 737 tumbled like ‘fire falling down from the sky’ into the stormy Mediterranean Sea….’We saw fire falling down from the sky into the sea,’ said Khaled Naser, a gas station attendant who saw the plane plunge into waters that had reached 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) by Monday afternoon.The Lebanese army also said the plane was on fire shortly after takeoff. A defense official said some witnesses reported the plane broke up into three pieces. — AP

more @ straits times

5. 20 Lebanese on plane lived and worked in Angola

Luanda - Twenty of the Lebanese nationals on board the Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed into the sea this week lived and worked in Angola, state media in Luanda reported on Tuesday.

The government-owned Jornal de Angola named one of the victims as Hassan Tajideen, who was the administrator of Angolan-based food import company Arosfram. Four other Arosfram staffers also died in the crash, the company’s general administrator Kito dos Santos told the newspaper. Dos Santos was due to travel to Beirut on Tuesday to attend the victims’ funerals, it said.

A large number of Lebanese nationals work in oil and diamond-rich Angola, mostly running food import businesses but with some involvement in the diamond industry.

- AFP source: news 24

6. bodies severely burned

Investigators were Monday night carrying out DNA tests on severely burned bodies recovered from the sea after an Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying 90 people caught fire during a lightning storm and crashed into the Mediterranean minutes after taking off from Beirut.

As darkness fell no survivors had been found in the stormy waters off Lebanon, despite search and rescue efforts by the country’s military, U.N. naval peacekeepers and units from nearby Cyprus who were tonight joined by British and French helicopter teams.

The plane’s 83 passengers included 56 Lebanese - two with dual British nationality - 22 Ethiopians and individuals from Canada, Syria, Iraq and Russia, as well as the American-born wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon. By tonight at least 34 bodies had been recovered.

Lebanon’s National News Agency tonight confirmed that 57-year-old Afif Karshat was one of two Lebanese with dual British nationality among the casualties.

more @ free internet press

7. other passengers:

One of the Britons on board was Afif Krisht, 57, whose ex-wife and family live in Plymouth, Devon. The name of the other Briton has not yet been confirmed.

…The others included 20 Ethiopians and two French citizens, one of them Marla Sanchez Pietton, the wife of Denis Pietton, the French Ambassador to Beirut. Her body was among those recovered.

Mr Krisht’s uncle, Mohammed Tajieddine, said that he was travelling with two others to Angola, where he had a business. The father of six had dual British-Lebanese nationality. His former wife, Tania, said that he was based in Lebanon but visited his family in Britain.

Mr Krisht owned a haulage company and has three sons with Tania Krisht: Mike, 26, Alex, 20, and Adam, 18. He also has three sons with his second wife, Ahlam, in Lebanon.

…The majority of the Lebanese passengers were Shia Muslims from south Lebanon, many of them en route to Angola where they lived and worked.

more @ times online

8. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party or SSNP leader MP Assaad Hardan has announced that one of the crashed Ethiopian plane is party member Faris Rashid Thibyan

9. the other Brit: Kevin Grainger

10. others yet to be identified

“Flight ET-409 carries 82 passenger plus eight Ethiopian crew members. Out of the total passengers 23 are Ethiopian, 51 Lebanese, one Turkish, one French, two British, one Russian, one Canadian, one Syrian and one Iraqi national.”

more @ trend news

iran is not the isolated country

1. Lebanon’s Hariri to Abu Dhabi, then to France

Prime Minister Saad Hariri met on Monday with UAE’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum at Mushrif palace in Abu Dhabi, Emirates News Agency reported. Sheikh Mohammed is also UAE vice president and Dubai’s ruler. The meeting was attended by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and National Security Advisor Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed al-Nahyan, according to WAM. Hariri was in the UAE on a two-day official visit. The premier is scheduled to travel to Paris on Wednesday for talks with top French officials.

source: naharnet

note that Erdogan is also in Abu Dhabi, and this links back to the assassination in Cyprus: here and here — Lieberman again

2. Jumblatt: Syria reconciliation nearly complete

“I believe that three-quarters of the road to Syria has opened up and what remains is the final gesture which depends on the right moment,” said Jumblatt in an interview with AFP at his ancestral home in Lebanon’s Shouf mountains, southeast of Beirut.  The 60-year-old hereditary chieftain of Lebanon’s Druze minority has come under fire since defecting in August from the US-backed March 14 ruling coalition he helped create in order to move closer to the Hezbollah-led opposition camp supported by Syria and Iran. The move came as Syria emerges from its international isolation and amid a rapprochement between Damascus and Riyadh, two key regional players. Jumblatt justified his U-turn, saying it was a necessary step to preserve the peace and avoid sectarian bloodshed. “I am willing to sacrifice everything for the civil peace even if my decisions are not popular,” he said. “One must at times swim against the current.” He said the sectarian unrest that brought Lebanon close to civil war in May 2008, when members of his Druze clan fought bitter battles with the Shiite Hezbollah in the Shouf region, had been a rude awakening.

more @ iloubnan

3. meanwhile, Iran seems pretty popular. Iran and Syria, Iran and Georgia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, etc.

TEHRAN (FNA)- Relations between Tehran and Damascus are invulnerable to third party interference, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki reiterated on Monday .

“Iran and Syria don’t allow any third party to interfere in their ties,” Mottaki stressed.  Mottaki, who was speaking to reporters in a joint press conference with his Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, further pointed to the relations between Tehran and Tbilisi, and said the two nations enjoy historical, cultural and geographical bonds.

Iran and Saudi Arabia enjoy great potential

Asked on the relations between Tehran and Riyadh, Mottaki reiterated that Iran has designed a framework for the promotion of cooperation and intimate relations with the regional countries and the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (PGCC) member states, including Saudi Arabia.  “We utilize capacities and potentials to develop cooperation,” he said, and added, “We are in contact with these states.  The two-day conference dubbed as “Persian Gulf: Challenges and Regional Mechanism” was officially kicked off at the ministry’s Political and International Studies Office following an inaugural address by Mottaki. Experts from 15 countries, including Kuwait, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Romania, France, Germany, Japan, India, China and Russia as well as academics from around the globe are present in the gathering to discuss protection of the environment, PGCC, Iraq’s role in Persian Gulf developments and stability, security of the area as well as the global economic crisis and its impacts on the Persian Gulf.

more @ fars

TEHRAN (FNA)- Venezuela’s oil reserves do not pose a threat to Iran’s position in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as the two countries cover the two ends of the market, an Iranian oil ministry official said following the discovery of major oil reserves in the Latin American country….Venezuela and Iran are two of the 12 members of OPEC along with Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Iran and Saudi Arabia are considered as OPEC kingpins with strong clout on the policies and decisions adopted by the oil cartel.

more @ fars

Georgia welcomes Iran’s presence in Nabucco — yeah this one is a little suspicious

TEHRAN (FNA)- Georgia announced on Monday that it supports Iran’s presence and partnership in the Nabucco gas pipeline project to carry natural gas from Central Asia to Austria via Turkey and the Balkan states, bypassing Russia and Ukraine.

more @ fars

4. Iran to send 5th fleet of warships to Gulf of Aden because of Somali pirates

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Iranian commander announced on Monday that the Navy is due to dispatch a fifth fleet of warships to the Gulf of Aden late January to defend the country’s cargo ships and oil tankers against continued attacks by Somali pirates.

5. Japanese envoy underscores Iran’s role in regional security

TEHRAN (FNA)- Japanese Ambassador to Tehran Akio Shirota stressed Iran’s key role in the restoration of security and tranquility in the region.

that is what you call “coordination”

1. Merkel and bibi meet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Berlin with top ministers Monday to hold a historic joint cabinet meeting on German soil, an AFP reporter said. The gathering of the two governments, the second ever after a similar meeting in Israel two years ago, will address urgent security issues such as Iran and underline the strong bond forged in the wake of the Holocaust.

Netanyahu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were also to hold bilateral talks focused on efforts to revive Middle East peace talks and face “threats to regional security”, the prime minister’s spokesman Mark Regev said. The trip is “designed to strengthen and expand the cooperation between Israel and Germany. There is a very special relationship between Berlin and Jerusalem,” Regev told AFP. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman were among members of Israel’s centre-right cabinet joining the premier.

more @ naharnet

2. mm hmm, now it was Hezbollah what killed the Iranian scientist. yup. they got a picture.

An Iranian nuclear scientist killed last week by a blast from a remote-controlled bomb strapped to a parked motorcycle may have been the victim of an Arab hit man belonging to Hizbullah, opposition groups told Britain’s Sunday Times. The Tehran regime has accused “mercenaries” financed by Israel and Washington of involvement in the killing of Massoud Ali Mohammadi, 50, a supporter of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader.

However, opposition groups who monitor Hizbullah, claim that a member of the group, known by his pseudonym “Abu Nasser,” was photographed at the scene of the explosion in Tehran’s affluent Gheytarih suburb, according to The Sunday Times. It said that a German-based opposition group released a photograph of a man of similar appearance who, it alleges, was one of the pro-regime demonstrators who stormed Mousavi’s office in Tehran after the disputed presidential polls last June.

more @ naharnet

3. Merkel backs more sanctions against Iran

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says her country will back tougher sanctions against Iran if the country doesn’t change its tune on its nuclear programme. Ms. Merkel said after meeting Israel’s prime minister on Monday that “if Iran’s reactions don’t change, we will help work on comprehensive sanctions.”

more @ hindu

4. pro-Palestinian hackers target website of top British jewish newspaper — but don’t worry, they didn’t damage anything they just did it to make asses of themselves. yeah, phew.

Britain’s flagship Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, was taken over on Monday morning by pro-Palestinian hackers. The homepage of the Web site, which was rendered unavailable in the wake of the hack, was replaced with a Palestinian flag and a message reading “Hacked by Palestinian Mujaheeds.” Apparently angered by the newspaper’s support for Israel, the message also says: “Arent [sic] you ashamed of giving tolerance to Jewish who is the main actor of wars with being of children killers? Arent [sic] you ashamed of giving support to vampire who doesn’t care any human life?”

Jewish Chronicle Editor Stephen Pollard confirmed the paper’s Web site had been replaced by anti-Semitic messages for several hours.
“Somebody hacked into the site and had a message up for a couple of hours,” Pollard told AP. “It did no damage, as far as we can tell.” Pollard said the attack could be related to the diplomatic feud that erupted between Israel and Turkey last week, but added: “I don’t want to
speculate.”  The Turkish government was outraged when Israel’s deputy foreign minister denied their ambassador a handshake and forced him to sit on a low sofa as the cameras rolled. Israel has since apologized. The Chronicle, founded in 1841, is Britain’s oldest Jewish newspaper.

5. israel had to go grovel in Turkey — looks like there’s some split between barak and lieberman / bibi

Israel’s defense minister held fence-mending talks in Turkey on Sunday, securing a commitment to military cooperation but failing to cajole Ankara into curbing its criticism of Israeli policies, officials said. Ehud Barak  traveled to Turkey in the wake of a severe diplomatic row that had threatened to plunge the already estranged allies into a serious crisis. …Barak met also with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a central figure in bilateral tensions, and President Abdullah Gul, were not available to meet him, citing programs outside Ankara.

It was the highest-level bilateral visit since Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip last year prompted an unprecedented barrage of criticism from Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government, marking a sharp downturn in relations. Barak, whose Labor Party is in favor of keeping close ties with Turkey, insisted on the visit amid a row that brought Ankara to the verge of recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv. “Turkey is a very important country… a pillar in the region, and dialogue and cooperation with it are very important,” Barak said.

Gonul voiced hope that cooperation in arms projects, which has been at the heart of the once-flourishing ties, would continue. The long-delayed delivery of 10 unmanned aircraft manufactured in Israel for the Turkish army is expected to be completed by June, he said.

...Turkey’s blooming ties with Syria and close contacts with Iran have made its snubs even harder for Israel to swallow and raised questions on whether a key Muslim-majority NATO member is sliding away from the West. Turkey became Israel’s main regional ally when the two signed a military cooperation accord in 1996. The pact eased Israel’s isolation in a hostile Arab neighborhood, while Turkey gained an ally against Syria, then an arch-foe for sheltering Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, and access to Israel’s advanced military technology.(AFP)

source: naharnet

here lies the crux of the whole matter

1. Hariri in Syria: a new political order?  BEIRUT, By Nayla Chahla | - December 21, 2009

As it was scheduled several weeks ago, the visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Syria has come amid a true transitional period that Lebanon has been witnessing lately. Prepared by other visits, one of which the recent visit of Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to Syria, this one was considered as “a turning point’ in the Lebanese-Syrian relations which deteriorated since 2005, after the assassination of former Premier Rafic Hariri. What could be the new political order to emerge from that visit? Focus with the political scientist Paul Salem.

3- How do you locate this visit regarding the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, especially that Syria is suspected of involvement in Hariri case?

To my opinion, this visit will not have any impact on the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This Tribunal is already established and is moving forward in its procedures. Lebanon is fully committed thereto. So, Hariri’s visit to Syria and the Tribunal issue are two independent questions. The latter will not halt its work, but on the contrary, it will keep up with its procedures until the whole work is done. The only question to be asked in this regard is about the outcome of the ongoing investigations. Would they confirm Syria’s involvement in Rafic Hariri’s assassination? Here lies the crux of the whole matter.

read more here

2. UN pays tribute to outgoing registrar of Special Tribunal for Lebanon

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday said that he regrets that the registrar of the United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try the perpetrators of political killings in Lebanon is stepping down, but congratulated him on his appointment as the head of an organization focusing on transitional justice.   Ban, in a statement issued here by his spokesman, said that the registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, David Tolbert, seeks resignation as he intends to become president of a leading global rights organization in New York….During Tolbert’s tenure, which began in August 2009, the Special Tribunal has made “excellent progress,” Ban said, noting his achievements which include a solid administrative infrastructure that supported future judicial activities with key measures undertaken for witness protection and court management.

more @ chinaview


4. David Tolbert appointed ICTJ President

NEW YORK, January 12, 2010 — David Tolbert, as part of a distinguished career in international justice, will become president of the International Center for Transitional Justice on March 2, 2010. Mr. Tolbert arrives at ICTJ after serving as Registrar for the United Nations’ Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in The Hague, during a tenure of almost 15 years at the UN as a senior legal advisor, deputy chief prosecutor and assistant secretary-general.

more here

5. watch out for exploding tires.

turkey plays central role in ME developments

1. Jim Jones to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestinian territories

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) — U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Palestinian territories, announced the White House on Monday….Diplomats of the Quartet, namely the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, will meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss a new U.S. plan to resume the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.  Meanwhile, representatives from the P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) are to meet in New York at the end of this week on additional sanctions against the Iranian government.

source: chinaview

2. Israeli campaign to conflate Lebanese Army and Hizbullah

Israel has launched a diplomatic campaign aimed at persuading countries providing military assistance to Lebanon that any equipment and technology delivered to the Beirut government is likely to fall into Hizbullah’s hands, The Jerusalem Post reported. The newspaper quoted Israeli government sources as saying the Jewish state is trying to convince countries supporting Lebanon that the “Lebanese army and Hizbullah are indistinguishable. As such, Israel is calling on countries that provide military aid to Lebanon to rethink the matter.” An Israeli official told The Post that “there has been a great deal of concern” in the Jewish state since the adoption of the Lebanese cabinet’s policy statement, which gave Hizbullah “the mandate to defend Lebanon” against Israel. The main concern, the official said, is weaponry being provided or pledged by the U.S. The issue is likely to be raised by Israeli officials during the expected meetings on Tuesday with U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones.

source: naharnet

3. Erdogan, in joint statement with visiting PM Hariri, says he will not go to Davos

ANKARA, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that he would honor his word and would not attend this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos of Switzerland….Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said he will attend this year’s Davos meeting instead of Erdogan and stressed the importance of Turkey’s presence at Davos in terms of relations with international investors, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on its website Monday.

more @ chinaview

4. Israel “hazes” Turkish ambassador

TEL AVIV - Israeli newspapers on Tuesday played up what they called the “hazing” of Turkey’s ambassador by Israel, in an incident likely to ratchet up already high tensions between the two allies. The media highlighted the fact that Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon made Ambassador Ahmet Celikkol sit on a low couch while the Israelis sat on high chairs. Rather than summoning Celikkol to the ministry as is the norm, Ayalon saw him in his parliamentary office after making him wait in the corridor and telling staff to remove the Turkish flag and refreshments that were on the table. “The important thing is that people see that he’s sitting low down and we’re high and that there is one flag,” Israeli television aired Ayalon as telling invited photographers and camera crews.

more @ middle east online

5. Lebanon signs six agreements with Turkey

Lebanon and Turkey have signed major agreements on military, agriculture and transport cooperation, including a deal to lift entry visas and a Turkish pledge to supply Lebanon with natural gas and electricity. …The agreement on visa-free travel between Turkey and Lebanon comes after similar deals between Turkey and Syria, and Turkey and Jordan. Visa requirements have already been cancelled between Syria and Lebanon and between Syria and Jordan.

more @ naharnet

6. last week: Iran, Turkey to discuss industrial cooperation

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Minister of Industries and Mining Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Turkish Industry and Trade Minister Nihat Ergun on Thursday discussed ways to bolster the two countries’ cooperation in Industrial fields….Mehrabian said during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Iran visit, Turkish and Iranian authorities agreed to boost commercial ties, and the two countries have been working on it.

more @ fars

7. Saudi Arabia awards prize to Erdogan

RIYADH: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose achievements have set an example of judicious leadership in the Islamic world, on Monday won the 2010 King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for Service to Islam….According to the citation read out by Othaimeen, Erdogan has pioneered a major campaign that placed Turkey among the world’s leading countries, economically and industrially. “His unyielding position on various Islamic and global issues, particularly the rights of the Palestinian people, has gained him the respect and admiration of the entire Islamic world and the international community at large,” it added.

more @ arab news

8. Assad to visit Saudi Arabia

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is to travel to Riyadh on Wednesday for talks with King Abdullah, who paid a landmark visit to Damascus last October, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA said.  The visit on Wednesday comes amid stepped-up efforts by Riyadh to build Arab unity around the Palestinians ahead of a possible resumption of peace talks with Israel.  Damascus-Riyadh ties were severely strained for years, partly over Syria’s role in Lebanon and its support for Hezbollah, before a thaw marked by King Abdullah’s trip to Damascus. But the two countries still differ over Lebanese politics, over the Palestinian division between the Hamas and Fatah factions, and Iran’s role in the region, according to diplomats and analysts.

source: al manar tv

coordinating flashpoints

1. various stories from Naharnet News Desk — Lebanon, Palestinian Camps, UNIFIL

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed readiness for war with Lebanon by next May 20 amid Israeli accusations that Hizbullah was responsible for placing large quantities of explosives in southern Lebanon. Barak warned that Israel would target Lebanon’s infrastructure if the Jewish state came under rocket fire by Hizbullah….Meanwhile, Israel said that 300 kilograms of buried explosives recently discovered by UNIFIL in the southern town of Khiam were likely planted by Hizbullah….Shalev did not say how Israel was informed of the discovery in the area of Mazraat Sarda near Khiam….She said the Hariri government is responsible for all violations of 1701 and must “take serious steps” to deal with Hizbullah’s growing military activity, particularly in civilian villages.

Druze leader Walid Jumblat said he has no information about an Israeli war on Lebanon. “There is no confirmed information about the possibility of an Israeli war on Lebanon soon, but analysis leads to this conclusion,” Jumblat said in remarks published Friday by al-Akhbar newspaper. He said Arab-Israeli Knesset member Saeed Naffaa has informed him that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to form a national unity government that will include Kadima party. “If this happened, it means he (Netanyahu) intends to launch a new war on Lebanon,” Jumblat explained.

The Lebanese army and UNIFIL launched a military exercise with live ammunition Friday morning in the border town of Naqoura. One portion of the exercise included firing 155-mm artillery shells and medium weapons. Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano, force commander of U.N. peacekeepers, as well as senior Lebanese army officers will later Friday inspect the site where the military exercises took place.

The Lebanese army intelligence has reportedly arrested a suspected Fatah al-Islam member and seized devices and equipment during a raid of an apartment in Beirut. An Nahar daily on Friday described the man as a “hefty catch” given his participation in terrorist activities in Lebanon. It said the army intelligence raided a house in the Beirut area of Aisha Bakkar and arrested the suspected terrorist after monitoring his activities for eight months. According to information received by the newspaper, the suspect, who is a Palestinian residing in Lebanon, was “plotting for new terrorist operations.” Al-Akhbar daily, in its turn, said two security officials refused to confirm the information about the arrest. However, informed sources said the suspect lived in one of the Palestinian refugee camps in northern Lebanon. As for al-Liwaa newspaper, it said the army arrested the man in the Zeidaniyeh neighborhood’s Independence Street in Beirut and opened an investigation into what it called the “large mission” carried out by the army.

The Iranian-Hizbullah-Hamas alliance is connected via a underground tunnels - which, in Iran, hide Tehran’s nuclear facilities where enriched uranium can be used to produce a nuclear weapon, said a report published by Israel National News (INN) on its website.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign policy and security advisor Christoph Heusgen has reportedly informed Lebanese officials about the infiltration of terrorists from Arab countries into Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. An Nahar daily said Friday that Heusgen told the officials during his visit to Beirut about the necessity to monitor activity inside and outside the camps and the areas surrounding Beirut airport. Heusgen also expressed his government’s readiness to provide the necessary monitoring equipment, according to the newspaper.Well-informed sources told Ad-Diyar newspaper that Merkel’s envoy also discussed with Lebanese officials the issue of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad, and the four Iranian diplomats who were kidnapped in 1982.

Israel presented UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen Claudio Graziano with its vision of arrangements in and around Ghajar following a possible Israeli army withdrawal from the village’s northern part, with diplomatic sources telling The Jerusalem Post that negotiations over a pullout are very much in their early stages. …The Israeli foreign ministry later issued a statement saying the Jewish state was committed to continuing to work toward reaching an agreement on Ghajar that would preserve Israel’s security interests, the well-being of the residents, and the fabric of life in the town, according to the Post. The daily quoted diplomats as saying that reaching an understanding over the issue had become “more complicated because Lebanon refuses” to deal with Israel and the negotiations are being conducted with UNIFIL.

2. Israel cuts off trees in Lebanon under UNIFIL eyes — must be protecting it’s “vision”

On Thursday, Israeli occupation forces, backed by military vehicles used an agricultural tractor equipped with a big electric saw to cut off trees on the Lebanese part of the border with occupied Palestine. Al-Manar’s correspondent videotaped the violation and took shots showing how the Israelis continued to cut off the trees while UNIFIL soldiers were just watching a few meters away. The United Nations Interim Forces in south Lebanon often take tough measures in case any Lebanese gets near the barbed wire on the border, including journalists.

The new Israeli provocation constitutes a breach of UNSCR 1701 that ended hostilities during the 2006 Israeli aggression on Lebanon.
The UNIFIL should have taken measures to stop Israel from violating the resolution and trespassing on Lebanese land.

read more @ al manar tv

3. Israeli aircraft pound Gaza, one Palestinian killed

GAZA, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) — A Palestinian was killed and at least four others wounded in an Israeli air strike on a tunnel on Gaza-Egypt borders, medical sources and witnesses said on Friday. The attack was the latest in a series of bombings the Israeli airplanes has carried out in the Gaza Strip early Friday….Four earlier Israeli air strikes took place, targeting open spaces and a training site for the Islamic Hamas movement, security sources and witnesses said. The Israeli army started the attacks around midnight, and said that the targeted places were used by Palestinian militants to produce, store and fire rockets into Israel.

read more @ chinaview

4. jpost: Syria will back Hizbullah if Israel attacks

If Israel were to attack Hizbullah in Lebanon, Syria would respond and not sit idly by, the Qatari Al Watan newspaper quoted unnamed Syrian sources as saying in a report published Wednesday.  The sources reportedly added that Damascus considered any threat to Lebanon’s security and stability as a threat to Syria’s security.

read more @ the truth seeker

5. jpost article quickly disappears - analysis, see comments also

Clearly, Israel is allowing the situation in the Gaza to deteriorate to such a point that it will reach a flashpoint – and that flashpoint will be coordinated with a provoked flashpoint with Hezbollah at which time the Israelis will take the punt and attack Iran knowing that the US will not be able to stand by and watch Israel put itself at such risk without helping it.

read more @ damian lataan

Gaza, or Lebanon, or both?

1. report: Israeli troops training for new Gaza war

Israeli occupation forces completed a large-scale military drill in the Negev, the country’s Channel 10 news reported, preparing troops for a military offensive against the Gaza Strip. The report, aired Tuesday evening, speculated that the training could even be seen as preparation for a re-occupation of the area….According to Channel 10, training saw occupation soldiers educated in the use of a new digital device on Merkava Tanks, the largest of the armored vehicles, which allows soldiers in the units to track troops on the ground in densely-populated areas. It is intended to prevent “friendly fire” incidents.


read more @ al manar tv

2. Israel closes Gaza crossing after Palestinian mortar fire

GAZA, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) — Israel shut down a main cargo crossing with the Gaza Strip on Thursday in response to Palestinian mortars at Israeli army posts near Gaza commercial crossings. Ten mortars landed near Kerem Shalom crossing, a major passageway used by Israel to deliver humanitarian aid and fuel to the besieged territory [what aid??? - ed.], and a military site near the closed Kissufim crossing in southeast Gaza, said Palestinian security sources. No injuries or damage were reported in the mortar attacks. Following the incident, Radio Israel said that Kerem Shalom crossing was sealed off. …Also on Thursday, Israeli planes dropped flyers in northern Gaza Strip, warning residents to stay away from an electric fence between the Hamas-controlled coastal Strip and Israel. The leaflets, printed with telephone numbers and emails, urged people to inform the army of any activities of the Palestinian militants in the border area.


read more @ chinaview

3. Israel blames Lebanon for Israel’s failure to withdraw from Ghajar

Israel is not withdrawing from the northern part of Ghajar because of Lebanon’s “adamant refusal” to reach an understanding with Israel over security arrangements in the Lebanese part of the village, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday. “The Lebanese government, apparently under pressure from Hizbullah, is not willing to provide any kind of commitments” that would allow a UNIFIL plan on Ghajar to be put into practice, The Post said. Beirut “fears” that the plan’s adoption would be seen as giving Israel legitimacy, according to the newspaper. “The talks, therefore, are solely between Israel and UNIFIL, with Lebanon unwilling to participate even indirectly,” the Israeli daily said. “The negotiations with UNIFIL are over what security arrangements and commitments UNIFIL - not the Lebanese - will provide.”

Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal and his team are scheduled to hold a second round of talks with UNIFIL commander Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano and his staff Thursday. The first round of talks on the Ghajar issue was held in early December.The Israeli government has reportedly approved a plan to turn over control of the northern half of the village to UNIFIL. Under the plan no physical barrier would be built between the northern and southern parts of Ghajar, but rather UNIFIL would patrol both the northern half and the perimeter. Graziano is to be replaced by Spanish Maj.-Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas on January 28. The Post said Israeli officials denied that Graziano’s departure was a deadline for “closing” the Ghajar deal, saying the Jewish state would continue talking to UNIFIL about the issue until it gets a commitment. According to Haaretz daily, Gal is also expected to congratulate Graziano on finding explosives near the Lebanese town of Khiam on December 26.
source: naharnet

4. Lebanese man killed in Ukraine
The body of a 47-year-old Lebanese, who was killed in Ukraine, arrived in Beirut overnight as his family urged Beirut authorities to ask officials in Kiev to follow up the investigation into the murder of Mounir Abdo Mansour. The National News Agency quoted Mansour’s family members as saying Thursday that they are planning to visit the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut to urge judicial authorities in Kiev to probe the man’s murder.

The family told NNA it was not the first time that a Lebanese was attacked in the Ukrainian capital. It said authorities there have also previously tampered with evidence at crime scenes to cover up the “heinous crimes” rather than bringing perpetrators to justice. “Lebanese youth are killed without restraint from anyone,” Mansour’s sister, Rima, told NNA. “Involved officials should interfere to follow up the issue.”

source: naharnet

5. Syrian parliament speaker: expansion of relations between Muslim states foils plots

In a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here in Tehran on Thursday morning, al-Abrash said, “Tehran-Damascus strategic relations is effective in the region.”  He also called for using all opportunities of the two neighbors to mature bilateral ties, the Iranian students news agency reported.  Ahmadinejad on his part called for strengthening relations between the two sides and said, “The resistance of nations including Iran and Syria has caused a deadlock in policies of Arrogant System in economic, political and military sections.” He also turned to presence of bulling powers’ forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen and said, “The enemies’ plots will harm themselves.”

source: fars

6. Kuwaiti-Palestinian relations “historic” — qualified: Abbas meets Kuwaiti emir…not sure that conflates to “Kuwaiti-Palestinian” relations in fact pretty sure it doesn’t but anyway, here you go.