Two terrorist blasts hit southern Beirut on Wednesday near the Kuwait embassy in Bir Hassan, leaving dozens of martyrs and injured.
Security sources confirm that the bombings were suicide attacks adding that they coincided and that they were targeting the cultural center of the Iranian embassy in Beirut.
The Al-Manar correspondent reported that the first explosion took place near Gondoline sweets which lies in the building of the Iranian cultural center.
The second took place near a restaurant facing an army base.
Health minister Wael Abu Faour visited the blast scene and said that the suicide bombings left at least five martyrs and 103 injured.
State Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr also arrived in blast scene, confirming that the attacks were suicide bombings.
The first blast was carried by a BM X5 4×4 vehicle, rigged with 90 kgs of explosive materials, Saqr said. He noted that the second explosion was carried out by a Mercedes car rigged with 75 kgs of explosive materials.
For its part, the Iranian embassy in Beirut confirmed all staff were safe.
PressTV Videos · January 21, 2014
Two car bombs have gone off in a southern neighborhood of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, killing several people.
The explosions on Tuesday hit the Haret Hriek neighborhood in southern Beirut, which is considered as a stronghold of Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah.
Reports say that at least four people have been killed and another 46 have been injured.
The al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front has claimed responsibility on its twitter page for the bombings.
Hezbollah’s al-Manar television channel said the bombings hit a busy commercial street.
The neighborhood was also targeted by a deadly car bombing on January 2.
The burial of former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohammed Shatah next to assassinated ex-premier Rafic al-Hariri in Beirut’s Muhammad al-Amin mosque was as striking and deliberate in symbolism as the towering structure itself.
Last Friday’s assassination of the Hariri family’s senior advisor and one-time U.S. ambassador was by similar method: a massive car bomb detonated under his convoy as it drove through the heart of Beirut’s upscale downtown district. As if to purposefully underscore the parallels and frame the post-assassination narrative, it also occurred just a few hundred yards from the site where the billionaire Hariri was murdered in February 2005.
Just as after Hariri’s killing, the calculated recriminations of the March 14 coalition, led by the Future Movement, came fast and furious. Blame was laid squarely at the feet of Hezbollah. March 14 supporters were quick to point out that the crime took place less than three weeks before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL; the U.N.-established court tasked with investigating the Hariri assassination) was set to open proceedings against four accused Hezbollah members.
The shoddy STL investigation, relying heavily on telecommunications data wholly compromised by Israeli intelligence and their captured agents, has been previously discussed.
Did the masterminds of the Shatah assassination hope the Lebanese population would turn against Hezbollah, already facing strong rebuke for its intervention in Syria by March 14 politicians (despite that the latter have implicitly lent support to radical takfiri elements involved in the Syrian conflict since its earliest days)?
As with all political upheavals in Lebanon, the question that must be asked is, “who benefits?” Does Hezbollah? Although Shatah was a stalwart March 14 operative who decried Hezbollah’s role in Syria, he was nevertheless regarded as a relative moderate. But the increasingly virulent sectarian discourse of those on the fringes of this political alliance (and many at its center) and the cover they have extended to extremists like fugitive Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, cannot be ignored. Beirut after all, is still reeling from recent twin suicide car bombings at the Iranian embassy followed shortly thereafter by the assassination of Hezbollah senior commander Hassan al-Lakkis. On Thursday, innocent Lebanese civilians were again victims of a car bomb detonated in the Haret Hreik neighborhood of Beirut’s Shia-majority southern suburbs, known as the dahiyeh.
“Moderate” Sunni politicians like Shatah are viewed as expendable, for their killing only serves to polarize the wider Sunni community by inciting sectarian hatred and thereby marginalize more reasoned voices. Even Lebanon’s Grand Mufti was not spared as he was accosted after mourners’ passions were stoked by Sheikh Ahmad al-Omari, the cleric who delivered the sermon at the funeral of a young man also killed in the assassination. As Al-Akhbar reports, “Omari attacked Hezbollah, describing it as the ‘party of the devil.’ He called on the Shia to ‘disown’ Hezbollah ‘if they are true believers,’ and stressed the ‘patience of the persecuted Sunni sect is running out.’”
Again, does Hezbollah achieve any gain, political or otherwise, with Shatah’s demise?
The irony is that the inflammatory rhetoric and policies of March 14 parliamentary bloc members have led to the exponential growth of radical forces in the country. One only has to recall how former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Bahia Hariri and others insinuated the Lebanese Army was responsible for provoking Salafist cleric al-Assir’s armed forces to launch an attack against them this past summer in Sidon, killing 18.
Son of the late prime minister and Future Movement head Saad Hariri also did not waste any time in essentially blaming the victims themselves for Thursday’s attack: “They are at the same time victims of [Hezbollah’s] involvement in foreign wars, particularly in the Syrian war.”
The northern city of Tripoli and the Ain al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon have provided extremist groups with safe refuge. Details have now emerged pointing to a possible link between those in the camp and recent events.
Just as in Iraq, moderate Sunni politicians have been singled out for assassination by takfiris who seek to exploit their spilled blood, provoke co-religionists into committing crimes against civilians and stir a simmering sectarian pot.
Who are the likely perpetrators behind Mohammed Shatah’s assassination and the dahiyeh bombing?
The very same ones the U.S. and Saudi-backed March 14 coalition have emboldened.
Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.
The latest deadly attack in Lebanon’s capital Beirut is yet another desperate attempt to destabilize not only that country, but the entire Middle East to precipitate all-out sectarian war.
The murder of senior Lebanese Sunni political figure, Mohamad Shatah, on Friday in a massive bomb blast that hit his motorcade as it drove through downtown Beirut was aimed at implicating the Shia Hezbollah and closely allied Syrian and Iranian governments.
Syria’s government of President Bashar al-Assad, along with Hezbollah and Iran, swiftly condemned the assassination of Shatah, who was formerly Lebanon’s finance minister between 2008 and 2011.
But the condemnations didn’t stop anti-Syria politicians within Lebanon and various Western media outlets from pointing the finger.
“Anti-Assad ex-minister killed in Beirut bomb,” was the headline carried by Reuters and Britain’s Daily Telegraph, among others.
This contrived innuendo betrays who the real perpetrators are.
Mohamad Shatah, a senior political adviser to Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri, was indeed a strident critic of Hezbollah and Syria’s Assad, accusing them of fuelling bloodshed in Syria and also sectarian tensions inside Lebanon. His political views were consistent with the narrative of the pro-Zionist Western media, as well as Saudi Arabia.
Shatah could therefore be considered an ally of the West, Saudi Arabia and the Zionist Israeli regime. But that very profile may have been what made him a prime target, not for Hezbollah or Syria, but for his so-called allies.
The day before his killing, Shatah had reiterated criticism of Hezbollah, claiming that the group was using Syria to consolidate its military strength in Lebanon.
Within minutes of Shatah’s murder, the Saudi-backed Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri implicated Hezbollah for the attack. “Shatah’s murderers are the same ones who assassinated former premier Rafik Hariri.” This was a reference to the bomb-blast killing of his father, Rafik, also a former prime minister, in 2005.
A United Nations-backed Lebanese tribunal has indicted five members of Hezbollah for that 2005 murder. The trial is set to open in the coming weeks in a Hague court. For the past eight years Hariri’s group have accused Hezbollah as well as Syrian intelligence over that assassination, without the accusations gaining much credibility.
Both Hezbollah and Syria have strenuously denied any involvement, saying that there is no evidence, and that the tribunal is politically driven. Hence, they have refused to cooperate with the forthcoming trial.
That is why Saad Hariri said of the latest killing: “The accused… are the same ones who are running away from international justice.”
Shatah’s assassination this week comes at a sensitive time, which strongly suggests who the real perpetrators might be.
First, the atrocity serves to re-ignite the accusations against Hezbollah, and its regional allies, in the murder of Rafik Hariri just when the case is being re-opened in an international court.
Secondly, there is the forthcoming Geneva II political talks organized to find a peaceful solution to the nearly three-year Syrian crisis. If Hezbollah, and by extension Syria and Iran, can be linked by sensational media claims of involvement in the murder of high-profile Lebanese politicians, then that would have a damaging impact on the Assad government during the Geneva negotiations.
Thirdly, and this is more to the point of who are the likely perpetrators, the murder of Mohamad Shatah comes at a time of mounting sectarian tensions and violence across the region. Lebanon has witnessed a wave of deadly bomb attacks and assassinations in recent months, which have mainly targeted Shia areas of Beirut.
Earlier this month, a senior Hezbollah commander was shot dead. And at the end of last month, a twin suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut killed 29, including Iran’s cultural attaché, Ebrahim Ansari. Back in August, a bomb outside a Sunni mosque in Sidon reportedly butchered 40 people.
This violence replicates the pattern of sectarian bloodshed unleashed in neighboring Syria and Iraq. There is ample evidence to show that that violence is being systematically fuelled by Saudi Arabia, working in collusion with Israeli and Western intelligence.
Israel in particular has a long track record of sabotaging Lebanon from within, having invaded that country in 1978, 2000 and 2006. There is also evidence that its agents were the real authors of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Lebanon is particularly vulnerable to sectarian strife. The country’s communal wounds are still raw from the 15-year-old civil war between its Sunni, Shia, Christian and Druze communities, which ended in 1990. There have been renewed sectarian clashes between Sunni and Shia/Alawite groups in Sidon, Tripoli and several other towns over the past year. Saudi-backed Sunni clerics have been prominent in agitating sharper tensions in Lebanon.
This pattern of sectarian destabilization within Lebanon and across the Middle East by external forces is consistent with the latest murder of Mohamad Shatah in Beirut. The massive blast is believed to have come from a 50-60 kg bomb wired in a booby-trapped car. Wreckage was scattered 100 meters away and some 40 other cars were damaged, some of them upended. This was a professional hit with a devastating message.
In the grand nefarious scheme of geopolitics it matters little that Shatah was a prominent Sunni figure who was an ardent critic of Hezbollah and Syria. Indeed, from the viewpoint of the agents of subversion and destabilization, Shatah’s political and religious affiliation would have made him a prime target for their purpose of trying to explode sectarian war.
The heinous role played by Saudi, Israeli and Western intelligence in inflicting untold suffering on civilians across the Middle East, whether Shia, Sunni or Christian, means that their capability of using the dirtiest tricks knows no limits. The murder of Mohamad Shatah would be viewed by these dark forces as merely an expendable sacrifice if that means achieving the bigger aim of inciting all-out sectarian war in Lebanon; and engulfing the entire region in internecine flames.
The powers that gain from this atrocity are those that sow division and thrive on conflict in order to shore up their illegitimate hegemony over the region and over the mass of its ordinary, decent people.
The Lebanese army successfully defused a 50-kilogram bomb discovered Monday in a southern Beirut suburb, a military official said on Tuesday.
A Jeep Grand Cherokee packed with explosives was discovered in the Maamoura neighborhood of Dahiyeh, which has been swarming with security forces since two car bombs exploded in July and August.
The July 9 attack on the Dahiyeh neighborhood of Bir al-Abed injured 53 people. On August 15, a massive explosion killed 27 people in the nearby Roueiss neighborhood.
In remarks carried by Lebanon’s National News Agency, an army spokesperson said the booby-trapped vehicle discovered Monday contained a 50-kilogram bomb, three anti-tank mines and six cluster bombs wired to 20 kilograms of an explosive chemical compound and “multiple detonators.”
Investigators are looking for those responsible for planting the car bomb, the spokesperson added.
Attacks have increased on Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hezbollah draws strong support, since the powerful Shia movement publicly announced earlier this year that its troops had joined the war against Syria’s anti-government rebels.
Hezbollah erected dozens of checkpoints in Dahiyeh following the August 15 car bomb in attempt to stem further attacks.
Lebanese army and Internal Security Forces took over those checkpoints last month.
Beirut was thrown into turmoil on Thursday evening as a terrorist attack against residents of Dahiyeh – a southern suburb of the Lebanese capital and a predominantly Shia neighborhood – threatened to draw the country into a region wide crisis.
As conflicting news reports began to leak out in the immediate aftermath of the city’s deadliest car bombing in eight years, there was a disconcerting congruity in headlines beaming out from western capitals – and it had nothing to do with facts.
Wall Street Journal: “Car Bomb Blasts Hezbollah Stronghold in Lebanon”
BBC: “Deadly Lebanon Blast in Beirut Stronghold of Hezbollah”
LA Times: “Massive Explosion in Beirut Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold”
Washington Post: “Bomb Explodes in Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut, Injuring Dozens”
Reuters: “Over 50 Hurt as Car Bomb Hits Hezbollah Beirut Stronghold”
Associated Press: “Car Bomb Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Lebanon”
France24: “Car Bomb Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut”
On Twitter Thursday night, “tweeps” questioned the validity of this phrase in describing a civilian neighborhood. Said one observer: “When you write “Hezbollah stronghold” instead of South Beirut it gives the impression military barracks were bombed and no innocents died.
That view seemed to be confirmed by the reaction of an American tweep who wrote: “GREAT NEWS!!!!!” in response to the BBC headline “Deadly Lebanon blast in Beirut stronghold of Hezbollah.”
Worse yet was this reprehensible tweet by Al Monitor’s Washington correspondent and senior fellow at the Atalantic Council Barbara Slavin, who declared on Twitter: “As I recall, Hezbollah invented the car bomb; what goes around, comes around.” Except, of course, the targets of Thursday’s terror attack – where 27 died and nearly 300 injured – were civilians, not Hezbollah.
An army of tweeps quickly reminded Slavin that Hezbollah neither invented the car bomb nor targets civilians, and drew attention to the ironic fact that Israeli militant groups used them liberally in attacking British officials in Palestine last century – well before Hezbollah’s 1985 formation to combat Israel’s occupation of Lebanon.
And herein lies the problem. By calling a residential neighborhood a “Hezbollah stronghold,” western media softens public opinion to accept these terror attacks as justifiable, and their targets, legitimate. Because the only reason for characterizing civilian Shia neighborhoods as “strongholds” of Hezbollah is to justify carnage against those populations most likely to support the Lebanese resistance group.
Similar language – War on Terror, terrorism, militants, extremists, Al Qaeda – is also frequently employed to excuse western carnage in countries from Iraq to Afghanistan to Mali to Yemen to Pakistan. Droning and bombing targets are rarely characterized as “civilian,” even though data suggests that most victims of US attacks are not militants. The goal? To eradicate second thoughts about violence against innocent civilians – often bolstered by a complicit media that characterizes these deaths as “collateral damage.”
While the term “stronghold” can simply refer to an area in which an organization, party or point of view holds sway, in the context of US foes in the Mideast, it is instead usually used to suggest a militant base absolutely controlled by that foe. As one tweep noted, western media uses similar language against other American targets to scene-set for “excusable” carnage: “Hezbollah stronghold” for car bombs in Lebanon, “Assad stronghold” for car bombs in Damascus; “Assad heartland” for massacres in Latakia.”
Dahiyeh – the scene of Thursday’s explosion – is also, for instance, home to significant Maronite Christian and Sunni communities. And even within the suburb’s Shia community, there are disparate political views and affiliations. It is by no means true that all Shia residents are supporters of Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party that – in lieu of national political consensus – provides local social services and security for residents of all sects and backgrounds in these areas.
A December Christian Science Monitor article entitled “In Hezbollah Stronghold, Lebanese Christians Find Respect, Stability,” (a piece which repeats the “stronghold” theme and other Hezbollah stereotypes ad nauseum) does however manage to highlight the positive experiences of Maronites living in Dahiyeh neighborhood, Haret Hreik:
The face of the revered Shiite militant leader appears on posters, a calendar, and in several photographs nestled amid those of Christian homeowner Randa Gholam’s family members. Mr. Nasrallah is, Ms. Gholam asserts amid a string of superlatives, “a gift from God.”
Lebanon’s sectarian divides are legendary, and the residents of the historically Christian neighborhood of Harat Hreik, now a Hezbollah stronghold, remember well the civil war that set Beirut on fire. They were literally caught in the middle of some of the most vicious fighting, with factions firing shots off at one another from either side of their apartment buildings.
But in the intervening years, as Hezbollah cemented its control over the suburb of Dahiyeh, which includes Harat Hreik, the militant group has been an unexpected source of stability and even protection for the few remaining Christian families. Just a few blocks away from Nasrallah’s compound is St. Joseph’s Church, a vibrant church that Maronite Christians from across Beirut flock to every Sunday.
“I feel honored to be here. They are honest. They are not extremists. It’s not like everyone describes,” Gholam says. “I can speak on behalf of all my Christian friends. They would say the same thing.”
Why western media uses the term “Hezbollah stronghold”
Dahiyeh is not the only Lebanese area referred to as a “Hezbollah stronghold” by western media. Most Shia towns, cities and neighborhoods in this country are labelled with that moniker – facts be damned. Bekaa, Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Khiyyam and other predominantly Shia areas are frequently cited as such. Not coincidentally, all these civilian areas have been subjected to Israeli strikes over the years.
While hunting for Scuds in Lebanon two years ago – a search prompted by Israel’s fabricated claim that Hezbollah was hoarding the difficult-to-conceal ballistic missiles – I came across some IDF “3D animated clips” that allegedly “illustrate how Hezbollah has turned over 100 villages in South Lebanon into military bases.”
Introducing an array of IDF computer-generated slides that purport to identify existing Hezbollah weapons stores by marking large Xs in Shia-heavy civilian centers, the Israeli military then alleges:
“Hezbollah stores their weapons near schools, hospitals, and residential buildings in the village of al-Khiam (Khiyyam). They follow similar tactics in villages across southern Lebanon, essentially using the residents as human shields, in gross violation of UN Resolution 1701. al-Khiam was used as a rocket launching site during the Second Lebanon war.”
When I asked him about it, The Independent’s veteran Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk scoffed at the IDF slide show: “The Israelis are making excuses for the next war crimes. The Scuds don’t exist, they’re not here. I’ve seen the (IDF) pictures – garbage. There’s nothing in those houses.”
Human Rights Watch’s extensive report on Israel’s 2006 attack on Lebanon, entitled Fatal Strikes: Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon, covers at length the Jewish state’s unproven allegations that Hezbollah stashes weapons among civilian populations – charges that Israel continues to repeat despite evidence to the contrary.
The group’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth concludes: “The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military’s disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians. Our research shows that Israel’s claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel’s indiscriminate warfare… In the many cases of civilian deaths examined by Human Rights Watch, the location of Hezbollah troops and arms had nothing to do with the deaths because there was no Hezbollah around.”
Instead the Report clearly states:
“Human Rights Watch did not find evidence that the deployment of Hezbollah forces in Lebanon routinely or widely violated the laws of war, as repeatedly alleged by Israel. We did not find, for example, that Hezbollah routinely located its rockets inside or near civilian homes. Rather, we found strong evidence that Hezbollah had stored most of its rockets in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys. Similarly, while we found that Hezbollah fighters launched rockets from villages on some occasions, and may have committed shielding, a war crime, when it purposefully and repeatedly fired rockets from the vicinity of UN observer posts with the possible intent of deterring Israeli counterfire, we did not find evidence that Hezbollah otherwise fired its rockets from populated areas. The available evidence indicates that in the vast majority of cases Hezbollah fighters left populated civilian areas as soon as the fighting started and fired the majority of their rockets from pre-prepared positions in largely unpopulated valleys and fields outside villages.”
Fisk is correct. The Israelis are making excuses for the next war crimes. in 2006, the IDF used the “Hezbollah stronghold” and “human shielding” arguments for carpet bombing Dahiyeh, the very same residential neighborhood targeted by terrorists on Thursday.
And Western journalists act either as dupes or complicitly when they repeat these same Israeli-generated mantras – laying the groundwork for further military and terror strikes against Lebanese civilians.
It is not just Western media that regurgitates this irresponsible language. “Hezbollah stronghold” has been so mainstreamed that virtually all English-language media utilizes the expression, from Iranian-backed Press TV to Moscow’s Russia Today. But online searches identify Western media – by far – as the main driver of this narrative.
Not all Western journalists are complicit though. On Twitter last Thursday, a rare moment of rationality came from a Voice of America source, of all places. VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary bothered to ask the all-important question: “Does term ‘Hezbollah stronghold’ aptly describe this Beirut neighborhood that was just hit by car bomb?” The first two responses were “no” and “it’s a civilian area.”
And as freelance British journalist Patrick Galey, a past Beirut resident, noted sarcastically after the Bir al Abed car bombing in July unleashed another Twitter-frenzy of “Hezbollah stronghold” tweets: “For ‘Hezbollah stronghold’ you can also say “highly-populated civilian area.” Just a thought.”
Watching an elderly woman sitting alone on the steps outside Bahman hospital on Thursday, her head in her hands, sobbing, as she awaited news of a relative injured in the car bomb earlier that day – it seemed ludicrous that the media still uses “Hezbollah stronghold” as a term to describe Israel’s past and future civilian-targeted neighborhoods.
And yet, on Sunday, as four rockets were fired into the northern Bekaa – one landing in a school playground – the “Hezbollah” association was invoked again. There are many dangerous words and phrases used to frame people and events in the Middle East, but here, now, we can collectively make a start to change that.
Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.
Turkey closes cultural centers in Beirut after kidnapping of pilots, denies responsibility for abducted Lebanese
Turkey has closed its cultural centers and commercial office in Beirut after the kidnap of two Turkish Airlines pilots, Ankara’s ambassador to Lebanon told AFP on Monday.
The two pilots were kidnapped on Friday by a group demanding the release of nine Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Syria in May 2012, but reportedly moved to Turkey, a major backer of the kidnapers.
“As a safety measure, the Turkish cultural centre and commercial office in Beirut have suspended their activities,” ambassador Inan Ozyildiz said.
Responsibility for Abduction of Lebanese Pilgrims Denied
Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Inan Ozyildiz wondered how his country could be responsible for the abduction of the Lebanese pilgrims in Syria, saying that Turkey does not even have an embassy or consulate in the neighboring country, As-Safir newspaper reported on Tuesday.
He told the daily: “Our negotiations to release all the pilgrims failed because of the complexity of the case.” “What will Turkey gain in delaying their release? What is it seeking to achieve if its interests are being harmed?” he asked. “How could Turkey have kidnapped the pilgrims? Does it have control over Syrian territories?” he wondered.
“It cannot be responsible for the abductions that have been taking place and it only intervened in the case from a humanitarian approach and in return it was met with a second abduction of Turkish nationals in Lebanon in less than a year,” said Ozyildiz.
Commenting on the kidnapping of two Turkish pilots in Lebanon on Friday, the ambassador said: “The case is in the hands of Lebanon’s security and political authorities.” He added that he is in contact with all security officials, including General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, to follow up on the case.
Ozyildiz said however that Turkey’s decision to advise its citizens against traveling to Lebanon is only a preliminary measure and further ones will be taken if any new development takes place in the case of the two pilots.
A Turkish pilot and co-pilot were kidnapped on Friday. Six gunmen intercepted a van carrying the Turkish Airlines employees from Rafik Hariri International Airport to a hotel in the Ain Mreisseh seafront at dawn Friday, kidnapping the two pilots – Murat Akpinar and Murat Agca – but leaving the four other crew members behind.
Mohammad Saleh, a relative of the pilgrims held in Aazaz, was arrested on Sunday in connection to the kidnapping.
Saleh is a Witness not Participant
A widely-informed security source told As Safir: “He revealed the names of the individuals linked to the abduction.” He also said that the pilots were kidnapped in a hope to exchange them with the nine pilgrims.
Saleh’s relatives denied to As Safir however that their son was linked to the case, saying that he only received messages of congratulations on his telephone when news of the abduction broke out.
Meanwhile, caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel told As Safir that Saleh is considered as a witness in the kidnapping and not a participant. His release from custody is in the hands of the General Prosecution, he added.
FM: Turkey Can Help Free Pilgrims
Caretaker Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said that Turkey was able to play a major role in helping free nine Lebanese hostages held by Syrian rebels since last year.
“Lebanese people ask: Is it possible that after over a year, Turkey, with all its influence, cannot make fruitful efforts? … We deal with Turkey as a friendly state, we urge it to make efforts [to resolve the case], and we believe it can reach a positive outcome,” Mansour told The Daily Star in an interview at the Foreign Ministry in Beirut.
“I once told a Turkish security official in a meeting that no one believes Turkey can do nothing when it controls the situation in northern [Syria] and supports the opposition,” he said.
“He answered [by] saying: ‘The kidnappers are not under the control of the Syrian opposition.’ But this is an unconvincing answer,” Mansour added.
At least 53 people were wounded after a bomb exploded Tuesday morning in a parking lot in the densely-populated area of Dahiyeh in Beirut’s southern suburb.
The bomb went off around 10:15 am local time.
Al-Manar television station said the explosion was from a car rigged with explosives stationed in a public parking lot of the Islamic Coop supermarket. The blast comes on a busy shopping day on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.
Live footage from the station showed at least a dozen cars in the parking lot charred from the fire, as firefighters attempted to put out the flames.
Local news channels aired images of heavy black smoke rising over buildings on Muawad street in the Bir al-Abed neighborhood.
Residents of the area attempted to disperse the crowd gathered around the scene for fear of second bomb nearby, el-Nashra said.
Of the 53 people who were admitted to hospitals, 41 have been released while another 12 are still receiving treatment, Minister of Health Ali Khalil told reporters.
Politicians of all stripes quickly issued statements condemning the blast.
Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam called on Lebanese to remain “vigilant.”
“The ugly crime that took place in the Southern Suburb of Beirut is part of an evil scheme targeting Lebanon’s stability and the security of the Lebanese,” he said in a statement. “It is a barefaced attempt to foment strife.”
It remains unclear who was behind Tuesday’s blast, but there is no shortage of suspects.
Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar pointed the finger at Israel, which launched a 34-day war on Lebanon in 2006 which reduced much of Dahiyeh to rubble.
But Salafi radicals affiliated with Syria’s anti-government rebels are also suspected to have been behind a series of recent attacks on Lebanon.
The bomb was the second major attack on Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hezbollah maintains strong support, in recent weeks.
Suspected rebels have upped a campaign against Lebanon in what they claim is retaliation for Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian conflict.
In May, two rockets launched from hills above the capital struck Beirut’s southern Chiyah district, injuring four Syrian workers.
Dozens of rockets fired from Syria have hit Lebanon in recent weeks, killing and wounding a number of people since they began over the course of the Syrian conflict, now over two years old.
And two roadside bombs detonated late last month targeted a convoy that reportedly belonged to Hezbollah in East Lebanon near the Syrian border.
The last deadly car bomb in Beirut occurred on 19 October 2012, when Internal Security Forces Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan was killed in a massive blast in the Ashrafieh neighborhood.
In the summer of 2006, the Bir al-Abed area in Beirut’s southern suburb received the heaviest air bombardment during the Israeli war on Lebanon.
One of the deadliest attacks in Bir al-Abed history was the 1985 attempted assassination of Sayyid Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, which killed more than 80 civilians.
A string of bombings between 2004 and 2008 killed a number of high-profile military and political figures in Lebanon.
Hezbollah’ Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah told his cadres in a private gathering that the Islamist group “has changed” and that the group’s ultimate priority is to “protect Lebanon”, a source reported to Al-Akhbar.
“Hezbollah has changed and its priorities have changed based on circumstances,” Nasrallah said.
“There was a time when we used to see Lebanon as a colonial construct that was part of the Ummah,” he added. “That was in our early days, and the country was going through a civil war. All parties were calling for a nation that fit their liking.”
“Today conditions have changed. We believe that this country is our country, and that the flag of the cedar is our flag that we need to protect, too. At this stage, our priority is to protect the state in Lebanon and to build it.”
The remarks appear to fly in the face of accusations by Hezbollah’s opponents that the group is a proxy of Iran, functioning as a “state within a state.”
“What I am telling you isn’t mere rhetoric. We are convinced of this and must work to apply it,” Nasrallah said at the close of his remarks.
Hezbollah launched into the Lebanese political scene during Israel’s brutal invasion of Beirut in 1982 as a hodgepodge of Islamist groups supported by Iran.
In 1985, the groups coalesced under a single party with a manifesto that declared its loyalty to be to the Islamic Ummah, and Iran’s supreme leader rulings to be a source of the group’s bylaws.
The 1985 manifesto also mentions “the obliteration of Israel” as one of its primary goals.
This is not the first time Hezbollah rescinds Ummah-related sections of the manifesto. In 2010, an updated group charter identified Lebanon as the party’s “homeland and the homeland of our fathers and ancestors.”
“We want Lebanon to be sovereign, free, independent, strong and capable … it should be mentioned that one of the most important conditions for the establishment of a home of this type is having a fair state, a state which is capable and strong, as well as a political system that truly represents the will of the people and their aspirations for justice, freedom and security, stability and well-being and dignity,” the charter went on to say.
Lebanon is incredible – an intoxicating blend of natural beauty, rebellious spirit, pious clarity, tolerance, wild night life and unbelievable hummus. I landed in Beirut four days ago. The purpose of my visit wasn’t all that clear. I knew that a talk and a musical performance were scheduled by Almayadeen TV, but I never expected such a spiritually transforming experience.
It was my second visit to the country. 30 years ago I crossed the Lebanese border along with an IDF convoy escorted by tanks and armed vehicles. Then I was an occupier, this time I came with only my saxophone and a desire to share my thoughts and deliver some beauty.
But it didn’t take me a couple of hours to realise that Lebanon is much more than just humus, shisha, the sea and some captivating rural scenery. Early on Friday we left Beirut for the south. Our first stop was Mleeta – a Hezbollah front line outpost and a symbol of Lebanese defiance. Mleeta is located on top of a mountain, surrounded by the South Lebanese Massif which, until 2000, was controlled by the Israelis. From Mleeta, the Lebanese Mujahedeen launched daily attacks against the Israeli invader and gave the Israelis a true taste of their own medicine. Now Mleeta is a Jihadi tourist resort, there to tell the story of the heroic Hezbollah, those brave paramilitaries that confounded the ‘best army in the world’. The truth is, though armed only with light weapons, they were well supplied with Shia, spiritual ammunition.
Mleeta provides an overview of three decades of Islamic resistance in Lebanon and, in exhibiting all that the fleeing IDF soldiers have left behind, it proudly demonstrates the reality of Israeli cowardice. Mleeta is a symbol of confidence – confidence that the IDF is gone, never to return. Because when, in the summer of 2006 Hezbollah routed the IDF, it also demolished their confidence forever. The Jewish state was taught a lesson it would never forget – their phantasmic expansionist dream had come to an end.
But Mleeta was just a beginning. South Lebanon is dripping with defiance – every village, house and person is an emblem of Shia’s heroic resistance with the villages bedecked with Hezbollah posters featuring Leader Hasan Nasrallah and the many martyrs who taught the IDF those very necessary lessons.
Like Mleeta, Khiam the notorious Detention Centre is also a monument to Israeli brutality. Khiam is where Israel detained and tortured its political opponents, in some cases, for as long as 14 years. My visit there reminded me of a devastating memory, which on occasion, I share with my audience. It concerns Ansar, an Israeli concentration camp located in South Lebanon. It was back in 1984, on a piece of flat land in the middle of the camp, I noticed a dozen concrete boxes with small metal doors, they looked like dog kennels being only about 80 cm high, 100 cm long and probably about 80cm wide. When I pointed out to the commanding officer that these concrete construction weren’t suitable for dogs, he told me not to worry: no one would even think of putting dogs in them. “Put a Palestinian in one of those for 24 hours,” he laughed, “And he’ll come out singing the Hatikvah.” They were solitary confinement units for Palestinian prisoners. That was it. Then and there, I realised that Israel was not my country.
In Khiam this week I saw the exact same Israeli torture facility where the Israelis would shove their political opponents into tiny metal boxes, lock them in for days and then occasionally hit the top with a heavy stone. This time I took a picture.
But someone in Israel must have felt some shame at what Israel was leaving behind in Lebanon. In 2006 the IDF attempted to erase all trace of the detention centre at Khiam. In a desperate attempt to hide Israeli brutality, Israel sent in its engineering squads to blow up the cells and all remaining evidence of torture. But that clumsy effort to conceal the true reality of Israeli inhumanity achieved only the complete opposite. It now only affirms that Israel has, indeed, a lot to conceal.
The journey to occupied Palestine’s Border is over the most beautiful, wild and rural terrain. But then, suddenly, we were there, faced with the Jewish ghetto walls, guarded by cameras, army posts and barbed wire. Israel clearly doesn’t even try to convince its neighbours that it belongs in the region. It looks different, it smells different, it sounds different – it is in fact, just one extended Jewish European shtetl that has matured into a neurotic, psychotic and murderous collective fuelled by PRE traumatic stress. In that regard, the Israelis indeed have great deal to keep under wraps.
Inspired by Lyotard’s “Heidegger and the Jews” and my visit to the south, I decided, in my talk in Beirut, to speak about ‘History as a form of concealment.’ Instead of telling us ‘what really happened’, I argued that history is there to hide our shame, to repress that which we cannot even utter. It is, in effect, there to make us forget. Jewish history, for instance, is there to suppress Jewish shame, to disguise that which Jews prefer to hide from themselves. Jewish history is an attempt to talk about the past while avoiding the horrendous and embarrassing fact that Jews, throughout their history, have been bringing on themselves one Shoa after the other.
But concealment wasn’t invented by the Jews. The Brits also find it hard to cope with their past chain of murderous imperial genocides. This may explain why they entrusted the writing of Churchill’s biography to Jewish Zionist Sir Martin Gilbert, and why their historians have dedicated a whole floor of the Imperial War Museum to the Nazi Holocaust. As if Brits do not have enough shoas and suffering inflicted on others to remember. One of those British-inflicted shoas is obviously the Palestinian Nakba. Britain should own up to this disaster and perhaps find a little room for it also in its Imperial Museums. And like Britain, the Israelis have yet to acknowledge their own role in the original sin of 1948.
Looking at the state of the refugee camps in Lebanon, it became very clear to me that the Lebanese also might engage in some soul searching. For 65 years Palestinian refugees have lived in Lebanon and in other Arab countries in unbearable conditions and have suffered terrible discrimination. Palestinian refuge camps in Lebanon are nothing short of hell on earth. Palestinians cannot be naturalized. They are banned from certain professions and jobs such as medicine and law. In some ways, their situation is worse even than their brothers’ in Gaza or The West Bank, because for them there is not even any prospect of hope or change.
Those endless solidarity discussions about ‘One State’, ‘Two States’ or ‘BDS’ have zero significance or impact on their lives or their livelihoods. These displaced and dispossessed people need immediate change in their political status, but, being excluded from the political process, they lack the wherewithal to bring such change about. Not able to travel, their voice is hardly heard within the Western solidarity discourse and the International Palestinian solidarity movement is hardly engaged, or even concerned with their tragedy. Even that most absolute of rights, the right to return to their land has been compromised by the BDS in Ramallah and other prominent Palestinian leaders.
On my last day in Beirut I visited Sabra and Shatilla. I saw the mass graveyards, I saw the poverty, I saw the piles of rubbish in the streets, the outcome of the complete absence of even the most elementary municipal services. I have been traveling around the world for many years but this is, without doubt, one of the saddest sights I have seen. But, in those camps, I also saw some of the kindest people on this planet. People who against all odds, in spite of being crushed, humiliated and tortured for more than six decades, still look forward, still live their lives. They raise their kids and care about their education. They greet you in the warmest possible manner and, no sooner have you approached their shop, they have invited you for coffee. Surely, their suffering must be our primary concern.
- Shifting responsibility: the propaganda of The Jewish Chronicle (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Gazans fall victim to Israel’s experimental wars (windowintopalestine.blogspot.com)