"And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness, the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us. But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief. "
Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)
Khalil Gibran (How I Became a Madman)
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Monday, May 30, 2016
Democratic Gathering bloc MP Walid Jumblat commented on the initial victory of resigned Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi in the municipal elections in the northern city of Tripoli and said that the lists that faced him in the polls were unsuccessful.
“It seems that the Titanic (in reference to a list backed by the Mustaqbal Movement chief MP Saad Hariri, former Prime Minister Najib Miqati, and former ministers Faisal Karami and Mohammed al-Safadi) that carried strongmen from Baysour and Kfar Matta has arrived in Tripoli to drown there,” said Jumblat via Twitter.
The last round of the municipal elections concluded on Sunday in the North and Akkar.
In the city of Tripoli, a list backed by Rifi competed against one backed by Hariri, Miqati, Karami and al-Safadi.
Concern mounted Monday for the fate of tens of thousands of displaced Syrian civilians caught in the middle of a desperate fight in the countryside north of Aleppo.
Days of clashes between moderate and Islamist rebel factions and the Islamic State group, which has mounted a fierce offensive on two key border towns, imperils rebel resupplies from Turkey.
The battles have drawn in Turkish and U.S.-coalition warplanes and Kurdish militiamen from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in a multisided fight in an area measuring only 25 by 55 kilometers.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Heavy fighting between the Islamic State group and rebels gripped a town in northeastern Syria Saturday, a monitor and an activist said, after a lightning assault by the jihadists cut a main supply route.
"Heavy clashes took place overnight between IS fighters and rebels inside the walls of Marea town," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
IS swept through rebel-held territory early Friday in a shock offensive in Aleppo province, cutting off the main road between Marea and Azaz, 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the northeast near the Turkish border.
The surprise advance came as the jihadist group faced an offensive by a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance in its own heartland of Raqa province further east.
Maamoun Khateeb, a journalist and activist from Azaz, told Agence France Presse that IS attacked Marea early Saturday mainly from the east and north using tanks and two car bombs.
As the Islamic State seized a handful of villages from rebels in northern Aleppo yesterday, their forces also took control of a weapons depot in the village Kaljibrin.
Effectively, dozens of guns are now in the hands of ISIS – the weaponry and ammunition were likely supplied by Gulf states which back the Syrian Opposition.
The U.S. trained New Syrian Army – not to be confused with the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) – has virtually been wiped out, according to the Washington Post.
It now transpires the small rebel group was hit by a major ISIS suicide attack on May 7, killing most of its members, according to its leader Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Tallaa.
The New Syrian Army otherwise seized the al-Tanf border crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border on March 5th, earlier this year.
Turkish and US-led coalition airstrikes killed 104 Islamic State militants in retaliation for the latest attack on a Turkish border province, Turkish media reported on Saturday, citing military sources.
Pro-government Sabah Daily news reported five people were injured on Friday when rockets fired from Islamic State controlled territory in northern Syria hit Turkey’s border province of Kilis.
Kilis has been hit by rockets from Islamic State-controlled territory more than 70 times since January, killing 21 people including children, in what security officials say has gone from accidental spillover to deliberate targeting.
The U.S. backed “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) reportedly captured the village of Sheikh ‘Issa in the northern Aleppo countryside on Saturday after launching an attack against the Turkish backed “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) near the strategic town of Mar’e.
With Sheikh ‘Issa under their control, the Syrian Democratic Forces are in prime position to strike the town of Mar’e from the western flank.
This latest advance by the U.S. backed rebels is likely due to the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) push to take Mar’e from the Free Syrian Army.
Friday, May 27, 2016
The cabinet on Thursday avoided debate on controversial plans to construct a dam in the Janna Valley in Nahr Ibrahim, postponing the topic to its next session, as environmental activists staged a rally outside the Grand Serail.
Several ministers had voiced conflicting stances before entering the cabinet session.
“We are against the Janna dam project,” State Minister for Administrative Development Nabil de Freij said.
De Freij is close to al-Mustaqbal movement of which several officials have said that they are opposed to the project over environmental concerns. The Free Patriotic Movement has meanwhile rejected the environmental arguments, accusing Mustaqbal of obstructing the project due to political motives.
“Our behavior has been purely environmental in the issue of the Janna dam and we will abide by what the experts say. We are not against the project as a project but we must take its environmental impact into consideration,” Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq, who is close to Mustaqbal, said.
Tensions were high on Friday between Mustaqbal Movement MP Hadi Hbeish and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea over Sunday's municipal elections in the northern town of Qoubaiyat.
Geagea had stated earlier during the day that it would be inevitable that the elections take on a political turn if it seeks to advance its developmental ambitions to which Hbeish later said that the residents of the town themselves will further its aspirations.
Geagea had vowed that the elections will transform the town from an “isolated island,” which prompted Hbeish to respond: “Qoubaiyat was never an isolated island.
“It has produced several statesmen and members of the army. So how could it ever be labeled as an isolated island?
“Qoubaiyat and its residents have themselves placed themselves on the map in Lebanon and we are not waiting a municipal list to place it on the map.
Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh stressed Thursday that he has “the right to be alternative candidate” if Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun does not secure consensus on being elected as president.
“When ex-PM (Saad) Hariri endorses General Aoun, I will go to parliament to elect him, but if General Aoun does not have chances, then I have the right to be the alternative candidate,” said Franjieh in an interview on LBCI television.
“The problem over the presidency is not about me and I won't let General Aoun down should ex-PM Hariri endorse him, although ex-PM Hariri is still supporting my presidential run,” he added.
In response to a question, the Marada leader noted that he would “understand” Hariri's decision should the latter decide to back Aoun.
“Our problem with General Michel Aoun is not about him being the top Christian leader. He is the top leader but he is not the only leader,” Franjieh explained.
“Hizbullah's support for me is equal to its support for General Aoun,” he pointed out.
BEIRUT - ISIS has launched a wide-scale offensive in northern Aleppo, splitting rebel lines in the pocket of opposition-held territory south of the Turkish border.
Heavy clashes erupted after midnight Thursday in the vicinity of the strategic town of Marea, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The monitoring NGO tracking developments in war-torn Syria reported that ISIS seized "large areas of Kaljbrin," which lies along the road from Marea to the border town of Azaz that serves as a vital supply line for rebel groups in the area that are sandwiched between Kurdish and ISIS forces.
One of the opposition factions active in the area, the Turkish-backed Sultan Murad Division, called the fighting "the most violent of its kind" to rock northern Aleppo. The group made no mention of any territorial losses, saying only that it was targeting ISIS armored vehicles.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) – backed by the Levantine Front (Jabhat Al-Shamiyah) – launched a counter-offensive in the northern Aleppo countryside on Friday in order to forestall the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham’s (ISIS) offensive near the strategic border-town of ‘Azaz.
With the help of the U.S. Air Force, the Free Syrian Army and their allies were able to recapture Tatiyah after losing this village to the Islamic State terrorists just 16 hours prior to their counter-assault in northern Aleppo.
Currently, the Free Syrian Army and Jabhat Al-Shamiyah are pushing east towards the small town of Barisha, which was also captured by the Islamic State terrorists on Thursday.
SIS conducted an unprecedented series of complex suicide attacks in regime-held Tartus City and Jableh on the Syrian Coast on 23 MAY, killing at least 150 civilians and wounding over 200 others. ISIS issued a statement claiming the attacks under the name of the newly-reestablished Wilayat al-Sahel. ISIS will likely escalate its attacks against Alawites on the Syrian Coast in order to exacerbate the sectarian nature of the Syrian Civil War during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, ISIS seized at least six villages from opposition forces in Northern Aleppo Province, besieging the key town of Mare'a and advancing into the outskirts of Azaz on the Syrian-Turkish Border. These gains mark a major setback for efforts by the U.S. and Turkey to bolster opposition groups along the Mare'a Line and deny ISIS access to the Syrian-Turkish Border.
The next forty-five days constitute a high-risk period for a surge of attacks by ISIS during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. ISIS traditionally uses Ramadan – which begins on June 6 and ends on July 5, 2016 - as a justification for its attacks and as an occasion to reorient its strategy. This year, ISIS will likely take action to reverse serious losses in Iraq and Syria while expanding its attacks against the non-Muslim world in an attempt to spark an apocalyptic total war. ISIS is still operationally capable in its core terrain and stands poised to expand its operations over the next six weeks, particularly in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. This forecast will outline the most likely and most dangerous targets that ISIS may seek to operate against during Ramadan.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) launched another counter-attack in the northern Aleppo countryside on Thursday that targeted several villages that were under the control of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Levantine Front (Jabhat Al-Shamiyah).
According to ISIS’ official media wing “Al-Amaq”, the terrorist group captured 4 villages from the rebel factions in northern Aleppo, forcing them to retreat to the outskirts of ‘Azaz.
Al-Amaq identified the villages that were captured by their terrorist forces as Tal Hussein, Tatiyah, Baryshah, and Janhat; these are all located to the east of ‘Azaz and only a few kilometers south of the Turkish border-crossing.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
What is the Syrian death toll now? 400,000? Less? More? While the aphorism “One death is a tragedy, one million deaths is a statistic”, has been attributed to many, it is likely none foresaw the inverse utility of this concept for shaping narratives in an age of humanitarian intervention. Statistics are now weapons in themselves. Raw numbers are ambiguous; as journalist Sharmine Narwani writes, “It doesn’t tell us who is killing and who is dying. And that information matters – the global political response to a genuine civil conflict would be different than to a genocide committed by a ruthless authority.”
When the United States’ Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) released its eighth summary of the Syrian death toll in mid-2015 it painted this confused picture: 230,000 total deaths, between 150,000 and 160,000 ‘opposition deaths’ (civilian and military), a further 98,000 ‘other’ civilian deaths, and a very precise 18,476 ‘regime’ deaths – an actual minimum total of 266,476.
As this example shows, there are serious problems with the Syrian statistics. As the Washington Post reported earlier in 2016 “In some ways, the details matter more than the big picture in the death toll, but again, the details are divisive.”
While death toll reporting in conflicts is never accurate, CFR’s sources are hardly reliable. It cites three pro-opposition outlets – the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR), the Violation Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), and the Syrian Revolution Martyr Database (SRMD) – which report significantly different figures in all casualty categories. Difference could be attributable to the difficulties of gathering information and providing ‘best estimates’ – yet the VDC and SRMD, who are most often quoted by CFR provide seemingly precise detail as to date, location and even ‘death method’. You can search the VDC database choosing between ‘Field Execution’, ‘Kidnapping execution’ and ‘Kidnapping-Torture-Execution’ among many others. So which is it, fine detail or lack of it?
Al-Mustaqbal movement chief ex-PM Saad Hariri stressed on Thursday that his party has never sought to monopolize power as claimed by Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his latest speech, and urged him to give ear to the “silent Shiite majority” that opposes his interventions in Syria and Yemen.
“If the Mustaqbal movement was seeking monopolization to dominate authority, it wouldn't have approved a hybrid proportional draft law with the Lebanese Forces and the Democratic Gathering bloc at the parliament,” said Hariri via Twitter.
During his speech on Wednesday, Nasrallah accused Mustaqbal and the Progressive Socialist Party without naming them of “rejecting proportional representation because you are insisting on monopolization and unilateralism in your sects and regions,” he said.
Hariri added: “We have heard Sayyed Hassan say that he adheres to the opinion of people representing around 20 per cent or a little bit more of any (political) group. How about that he listens to the majority of the Lebanese, including the silent majority of the Shiite sect, before he involves our country in his Janissary wars from Syria to Yemen.”
Democratic Gathering bloc leader MP Walid Jumblat stated on Thursday that Iran is obstructing the election of a Lebanese president, blaming it for the two-year vacuum at the post, An Nahar daily reported.
“Obstructions hampering the elections of a head of state are Iranian,” said Jumblat in an interview to the daily.
The PSP leader urged the two candidates running for the post, founder of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun and Marada chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, to “review” their positions “even if they had to withdraw” from the race paving way for the election of another candidate.
On the suggestion of Speaker Nabih Berri that called for shortening the term of the current parliament, Jumblat said: “I agree to stage early elections but it must be held based on the 1960 electoral law.”
Berri's proposal, made last week, calls for shortening the term of the current parliament and staging the parliamentary polls and later the presidential ones.
The parliamentary elections would be held based on the proportionality electoral law.
Should the political powers fail to agree on this law, then the 1960 one would be used. This law was adopted in the 2009 elections.
The Russian foreign minister has called on the West to push the Syrian opposition toward talks instead of setting deadlines for establishing the administrative mechanism in Syria
MOSCOW, May 26./TASS/. The Gulf Arab states have come out in favor of coordinated action of Russia and the US-led coalition on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday after a session of the Russia-Gulf Cooperation Council strategic dialog.
ALEPPO, Syria — More than five years into a raging war in Syria, Syrian women are shouldering a very heavy burden. Some see their rights violated when they are detained and others are displaced in refugee camps. Many of them have lost a husband or son.
In a report issued on March 20, 2013 — the latest available on Syrian mothers, issued on the eve of Mother’s Day in Syria — the Syrian Network for Human Rights indicated that at least 54,000 women had lost their husbands, including 40,000 mothers. The rest are widows with no children. The report counted 35,000 married men who have died for certain, while 19,000 have disappeared, leaving their wives unknowing whether their husbands will return.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Lebanon has officially completed two years of vacuum in the presidency with no end in sight to the dispute that has crippled the country's top post since May 2014.
An Nahar daily on Wednesday marked the occasion by surveying the opinion of major Lebanese political leaders, with Free Patriotic Movement founder MP Michel Aoun, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea, and head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad abstaining from the interview.
Speaker Nabih Berri lamented the ongoing vacuum, saying that the “sooner we elect a president, the sooner we escape the threat of division or federalism that is lurking around us.”
Former president and former head of the Kataeb Party Amin Gemayel described the situation as a “moment of abandonment by some Lebanese leaders, who have not yet grasped the severity of the vacuum.”
“Neighboring countries are passing through a severe situation, which is being dragged to Lebanon through our own free will,” he remarked.
He hailed foreign efforts to resolve the deadlock, but noted that “ultimately this is a Lebanese issue that should be resolved through 128 lawmakers electing a president.”
“We cannot rely on foreign efforts as long as the Lebanese people have not yet realized the danger of what is happening in our country,” warned Gemayel.
U.S.-led coalition warplanes carried out intense airstrikes Tuesday on Raqqa, the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group, a monitoring group said, continuing days of air-raids that appear to be aimed at demoralizing jihadist fighters before an offensive by Kurdish-led forces on villages to the north of the city.
The airstrikes appear targeted mostly on IS defensive positions on the outskirts of the city. This may be to try to avoid civilian casualties, although civilian deaths have been reported.
Raqqa political activists have been warning that IS is using civilians as human shields, spreading fighters and their weaponry around civilian areas and housing militants in residential blocks
In Ain al-Hilweh, Islamist militants are working alongside the PLO and pro-Syrian factions to prevent allies of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra from dragging the camp into war.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by US airstrikes, launched today a wide-scale military operation to capture large swaths from ISIS to the north of its de facto capital of Al-Raqqa.
“We’re launching this campaign with the help of [U.S.-led] coalition forces in northern Raqqa,” said Rojda Felat, a female Kurdish commander.
“We intend to bring an end to attacks perpetrated by Daesh (IS) against our people.” The attacking forces have massed thousands of fighters at Ain Issa, located nearly 50 km to the north of Al-Raqqa, and marched on three directions with the aim to capture a 4 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide area.