- Demonstration in Cairo against the Muslim Brotherhood and his US support.
Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya: The Arabs rebelled against the Muslim Brotherhood
By Pierre Khalaf
From Syria to Egypt via Tunisia and Libya, the Arab people rise up against the terror of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist extremist movements who stole their revolutions with the support of the West and Israel and trying to stifle their aspirations through massacres, political assassinations, physical violence and intellectual terrorism.
In Syria, the mask of pseudo-resolution, sponsored by the Gulfs reactionary monarchies -where Constitutions and elections have never existed and where women are deprived of their most basic rights (such as driving a car in Saudi Arabia, for example)- have fallen long ago. The Takfirist groups formed mainly of foreign extremists massacred all those who do not think like them: Sunnis, Alawites, Shiites, Druze and Christians. One of these groups, "Soldiers of the Islamic Caliphate," committed the latest atrocities in the town of Khan al-Assal, west of the city of Homs. They massacred some 150 regular soldiers and civilians and dumped their bodies in a mass grave after being mutilated. Extremists have massed 10,000 men to take the city, where they had used chemical weapons in February.
The exceptional effort they have made to take over Khan al-Assal coincides with the arrival in Damascus of UN experts to investigate the use of chemical weapons and the signing of an agreement to that effect with the Syrian state. It is clear that the purpose of taking Khan al-Assal is to disappear the clues and evidence incriminating not only extremists but also, and especially, their regional support, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
But despite the terror, the Syrian people have decided to raised against these groups. Across Syria, terrorists are now hated by the people who closed ranks behind the president, Bashar al-Assad, its national army and state. This determination and willingness to make sacrifices are probably expressed by the image of this young Syrian soldier, making the "V" for victory, a few minutes before being executed with dozens of his comrades in Khan al-Assal.
This determination is also reflected in the progress made on the ground by the army and the popular committees, the latest being the conquest, Saturday, of the HQ of the extremists in Homs, the Khaled Ibn al-Walid mosque, and neighborhood Khalidiyé. The army is poised to take the whole city in a few hours.
Millions of Egyptians mobilizes
In Egypt, millions of citizens have answered the call of the " June 30 Revolutionary Front" and the army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to denounce terrorism. In the opinion of the foreign press correspondents, the mobilization was exceptional in Cairo, Alexandria and in all major cities. The protesters carried portraits of Sisi, former President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Egyptians wanted to show their rejection of terror practiced by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is manifested by an unprecedented activism of extremist groups in Sinai and an increase in violence in the other region.
The Muslim Brotherhood had also mobilized its supporters, who demonstrated in large numbers. But the movement was not content to play the democratic process. At dawn on Saturday, supporters of "Ikhwans" tried to cut off the road to Cairo airport and approach the military in charge of securing the October 6 bridge. They clashed with residents and soldiers. The clashes left dozens dead and wounded. Taken from hysteria, the extremist Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi lashed the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azar, Ahmad al-Tayyeb, pushing the Higher Council of Ulema, which met in emergency to denounce this extremist cleric speech and he calls to violence.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian army launched a major operation called "Desert Storm" in the Sinai against the Takfirist.
Human tide in Tunisia
In Tunisia, a human tide of thousands of people from across the country attended the funeral Saturday of the secular opposition left-wing deputy Mohammad Brahmi, killed on Thursday, in a tense climate in Tunis where the funeral was completed in demonstrations against government.
Sadness and anger was clear on their faces during the funeral procession. Brahmi Mohammad, 58, was planted in mid-day el-Jellaz cemetery in the "Martyrs Square" alongside Chokri Belaïd, another opponent left, murdered in February.
Portraits of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Syrian and Palestinian flags were waved in the procession through the center of Tunis. "With our soul, with our blood, we will avenge you," the crowd chanted.
Many trade unionists and political leaders were present, unlike government officials, whose presence was not desired by the family.
Mohammad Brahmi was killed by 14 bullets fired at close range outside his home, his family, accusing the ruling Islamist party, Ennahda. The government has named a jihadist Salafist, adding that the same gun was used to murder Chokri Belaïd.
Notable of Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the deceased and cradle of the uprising that toppled the regime of Ben Ali in 2011, set up a board to manage the affairs of the city "until the fall of power" current word order demonstrators are mobilized since the assassination of MP.
Fifty-two members announced their withdrawal on the night of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), calling for a sit-in until the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and the formation of a government of national salvation.
Previously, in the cemetery above which floated huge Tunisian flags and red bench, thousands of supporters of Brahmi had chanted "The people want the fall of the regime" or "Ennahda terrorist gang" behind Hamma Hammami, left leader of the Popular Front, a coalition of nationalists and to which the deceased belonged.
The disgust of the Libyans
Same scenario in neighboring Libya, where the population scored its disgust of the reign of extremist Islamist militias. Thousands of protesters voiced their anger against the Muslim Brotherhood, accused of being responsible for the instability in Libya, after a series of assassinations that targeted officers and anti-Islamist activist.
Two army officers were killed Friday, July 26 in Benghazi in eastern Libya, a few hours after the murder of a lawyer and politician prominent activist, Abdelsalam Al-Mosmary. The latter was known for his criticism of the presence of armed militias in the streets of the country and for its hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood. He was among the first activists who protested against the regime of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi in February 2011. The protesters accuse the Islamists of being behind his killing.
The demonstrations were marred by attacks against the offices of the two main parties: the Party for Justice and construction (PJC), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its rival, the Alliance of National Forces (AFN, liberal).
Schizophrenic Europe condemns Hezbollah with one hand and wants dialogue with the other
After its decision to include "military wing" of Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations, Europe has a state of total schizophrenia, marked by diplomatic posturing in order to limit the effects of this reckless action. The Head of the Delegation of the European Union (EU) in Beirut, Angelina Eichhorst, has driven the streets of the southern suburbs, at the end of last week from a Hezbollah official to another, reaffirming its commitment to pursue "political dialogue" with the party. She met with the Head of International Relations, Ammar Moussawi, then the Minister of Administrative Development Mohammad Fneich. On Monday, she should be received by the Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan.
The statement of Ms. Eichhorst reflected the confusion of Europe after its decision inspired by the United States and Israel, and that is contradictory to its interests. The European diplomat said she was in favor of a Lebanese government including "all political parties." But these gestures of goodwill have not diminished the response of Hezbollah officials, who did not mince their words to the diplomat, repeating the main points made by the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in his speech Wednesday (see below). Moussaoui said the European decisions was an "insult to the people of Lebanon and some Arab countries". "Hezbollah considers that this decision is an insult to the Lebanese people because it conflates resistance and terrorism," he said. "You cannot condemn us in one hand and then turn the other to shake ours," he said, before adding that the decision "will not change the actions and policy of Hezbollah." Moussaoui then insisted it "will affect and will not remain without consequences", saying that he asked the ambassador to convey to European leaders call Hezbollah to revise their measurement . "We told her our absolute rejection of this decision that will hurt the Lebanese-European relations and will not serve Europe, especially since it is the result of Israeli-American dictates. The proof is that Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to see it as an Israeli diplomatic achievement without any European official will respond to ask him not to interfere in this matter, "he said.
Moussaoui mocked the distinction between EU political and military wings of the party. "Some had to be invented this concept to meet specific calculations, if everyone knows that Hezbollah is a single entity with a single command where military and policies are the same," he said. He also rejected accusations addressed to his party in the case of the attack of Burgas, Bulgaria. "Just like the case of the list of terrorist organizations, it is a manipulation to be situated within the same political pressures," commented Mr. Moussaoui.
According to informed sources, the leaders of Hezbollah and Lebanese officials who received Ms. Eichhorst felt that the diplomat was not convinced with the decision of the EU. And she is not alone. The Special Envoy of the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Syrian affairs, Marc Otte, had commented on Thursday, the European decision stating that "there is no reason not to continue our relationship with political elements in Lebanon, including Hezbollah." The diplomat also met Mr. Moussaoui, before meeting with Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s General Secretary
«European Union countries should know they are giving legal cover for Israel to launch any war on Lebanon because Israel can claim it is waging war on terrorists. These countries make themselves undeniable allies during any Israeli aggression on Lebanon, on the resistance and on any target for the resistance in the country. The EU repeatedly admits that Israel occupies Arab land but hasn’t implemented international resolutions for ten years. The whole world has witnessed the Israeli massacres. I advised European states to reconsider the decision, that it is doomed to fail. That decision wasn’t worth the ink it was written with. In this country, resistance fighters fought the Israeli occupation, endured a lot of pressure and sacrificed martyrs. Then you come to those who are the sons of these people and say they are terrorists. This is abuse to fighters, to their people and to their successive governments. This decision aims at making us bow, at forcing us to step back and be afraid. But, I tell you that all you will get is failure and frustration. Anyone who thinks the resistance will be undermined by the decision is either ignorant or delusional. The most important thing for the Lebanese resistance is to get the support of its people and to express their will, pride and view in defending their land and their sovereignty. The Resistance will remain and will be victorious by God’s will. I tell March 14, they won’t be able to use this decision in internal Lebanese politics, if anyone from March 14 believes they have something to use to isolate us I say nothing has changed. This decision will not change anything on the internal scene.»
Amine Gemayel, Kataeb Party leader
«When the Italian ambassador visited me a few days before the decision was made, he asked my opinion regarding the decision, and I told him that what they [the EU countries] were about to do will cause great confusion in the Lebanese arena and will have a negative effect on developments, especially the cabinet formation. The EU decision punishes ghosts because the military wing of Hezbollah conducting operations is concealed and unobserved. The Lebanese state is a victim and it has to abide by the EU decision because any objection to an international resolution is suicide.»
Fouad Siniora, Future bloc leader
«I regret and worry over the reasons which led the EU to blacklist Hezbollah’s military wing. Hezbollah should stops the intervention in a number of countries internal affairs which is not only unhelpful but also harmful to Lebanon’s interest.»
Emir Talal Arslan, Lebanese Democratic Party leader
«The recent European decision against the Resistance will affect all the Lebanese people without exception. It is naïve to think that this decision can be taken advantage of in order to weaken the Resistance.»
Samir Geagea, Lebanese Forces leader
«We are captives in Hezbollah’s prison because our freedom and decisions are captive and the Lebanese people do not know when will Hezbollah tamper with their fate by making a momentous decision.»
• According to Al-Akhbar daily, the Palestinian Ali Abdel Wahed (30 years), bodyguard of Sheikh Ahmad al-Asir and one of the participants in the Battle of Abra, was arrested at Beirut airport, is the a suspect in the attempted assassination of General Michel Aoun during the passage of his convoy while traveling from Beirut to Jezzine, through Sidon, last year. Ali Abdel Wahed, whose traces had been lost since the end of fighting in Abra, went to a travel agency in Sidon and bought a plane ticket to Egypt. Military intelligence in southern Lebanon got the number of the ticket purchased and communicated to the security services at the airport for his arrest.
• A Syrian national, suspected of being the perpetrator of the attack a week ago against a suspected Hezbollah convoy on the Beirut-Damascus highway, at Masnaa, was arrested by an intelligence unit of the army. The soldiers raided a house in Majdal Anjar and arrested the man believed to have placed the charge trapped on the road leading to the border crossing Masnaa. Two people who were in the targeted 4x4 were injured.
• The President of the Republic Michel Sleiman will attend the inauguration ceremony of the new Iranian President Hassan Rohani scheduled for August 3. Sleiman will travel to Tehran at the head of a small delegation composed of the Deputy Prime Minister Samir Mokbel and outgoing Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour. During his visit, the Head of State will meet Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other delegations attending the ceremony.
As-Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist, July 26, 2013)
Europe was not obliged to take the hasty and unbalanced measure to include Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organizations and then seek to justify its non-purposeful behavior, asking Hezbollah not to have negative reactions, under the pretext that Europe will not break the political relationship with him. Hezbollah’s response was: "Where is your proof and what if we decide not to have political contacts with you, or if the alleged Military wing of the party decided not to cooperate with the UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon?"
This response, the Head of the Delegation of the European Union in Beirut. Ms. Angelina Eichhorst, has heard it from the head of Hezbollah’s international relations responsible, Ammar Moussawi, and the Minister of Administrative Development Mohammad Fneich after she was forced to visit the southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold of the alleged "wing military ". She moved through the streets of this area without fear and without his convoy is worried by the people supporting the cause of the resistance in this region.
Party officials felt that the diplomat was not convinced of the EU decision, because it lacks foundation. Her meetings with the leaders of Hezbollah sought to justify this decision and mitigate the impact on relations between the two parties. But the continuation of the relationship is dependent on Hezbollah’s decisio, in the light of developments that may occur in the context of this case.
As-Safir (Lebanese daily, Arab nationalist, July 22, 2013)
Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri, called former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to return to Lebanon to facilitate the resumption of national dialogue, stalled for several months. "Mr. Hariri has to return to Lebanon to facilitate the resumption of dialogue so that we cooperate to cope with current challenges," said Berry. "I think Mr. Hariri can stay at Center House if he fears for his safety," he added.
Asked about the possibility of seeing the Futur’ leader at the head of a new government, Mr Berry said: "We can revisit this issue."
Mr. Berry also found that the attachment of the Prime Minister-designate, Tammam Salam, the 8-8-8 formula "does not serve the process of forming the government." He was surprised that Mr. Salam insists on dealing with the 8-March as a single block in the negotiations, although the Prime Minister-designate "was informed that the tandem Amal-Hezbollah on the one hand, the Free Patriotic Movement from each other, negotiate independently.
An-Nahar (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition, July 26, 2013)
The plenary parliamentary session scheduled on July 29 probably will not happen because of the decision of the March 14 Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) to boycott it. Prominent sources stated that the decision to extend the mandate of the commander of the army, General Jean Kahwaji, and the Chief of Staff, General Walid Selman will be announced Monday.
Al-Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance, July 26, 2013)
Before the EU’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s “military wing” was even publicly released, the EU Ambassador to Lebanon Angelina Eichhorst paid two of the party’s officials a visit to reassure them that the decision will not affect relations with the group’s “civilian wing.”
Eichhorst visited Ammar al-Musawi, liaison for international relations, and Minister of State Mohammad Fneish, declaring that “this decision is a political message to Hezbollah for the attack in Burgas, Bulgaria, which is a terrorist attack on European soil.”
She added, however, that this does not reflect on the Lebanese government in any way, explaining that the EU “has no problem with Hezbollah participating in any future government.” After her meeting with Hezbollah’s minister in the current caretaker government, she stated, “Financial assistance will continue, of which Minister Fneish’s ministry gets a sizeable share, and we want for this cooperation to continue.”
Both Musawi and Fneish stood their ground in their discussions with the European ambassador, insisting that the decision was an insult to the Resistance. They dismissed the decision as politically motivated, particularly given that the outcome of the Burgas investigation is rooted in allegations and conjecture, even by the admission of the ambassador herself who conceded that there are no firm results.
Fneish reminded the ambassador that “Israel occupied our land for many years, and we did not hear a single objection” from the EU, adding “we were careful to maintain good relations with Europe, despite the terrible legacy Europe left behind among our people – from the Palestinian cause to colonialism – and despite this, you choose to remind us again of this painful history.”
The minister reiterated Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah’s statement that the European decision will provide Israel with political cover for any future attack on Lebanon, in which case Hezbollah would consider the EU a partner in such a crime. Eichhorst replied, “The decision has nothing to do with resistance to Israel or Lebanese sovereignty.”
No one can say for sure what kind of impact the decision will have on Lebanese politics, but Eichhorst’s meetings with the Hezbollah officials suggest that the EU, for its part, does not want to sever lines of communications with the party. That does not mean, however, that the EU’s actions “will not have consequences,” as Musawi warned at the end of his meeting with the ambassador.
Al-Akhbar (July 25, 2013)
So far, it appears that the EU decision to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization has not broken the relative calm UN personnel from European countries are enjoying in South Lebanon, a longtime Hezbollah stronghold.
Nothing in the south, where thousands of foreign troops have been stationed since 2006, suggests that there will be any kind of reprisal. The movement of people in the villages south of the Litani River is as it is on any day. UN convoys do their rounds – maybe with a little more care than usual – as if they haven’t completely understood the repercussions of the decision.
After returning a friendly wave from a Spanish soldier at a nearby UN checkpoint, Mohammed Swaidan explains, “Whoever greets us, we will greet them right back, and despite our being labeled as terrorists, that will not change our peaceful nature.”
“Did the European countries even consult their soldiers here? Are they not the ones who are most familiar with the South and its residents?” Swaidan asks, adding “Perhaps they are like us, their governments don’t care much about their fate, because strategic interests are of more value than these soldiers.”
University student Zeinab commutes daily to attend classes and has taken to observing the UN convoys that patrol the Khiam-Marjeyoun area. She says that she has noticed that their movement has been limited to some extent, but that the UNIFIL soldiers seem at ease, interacting with local residents as they have always done.
A security source did confirm to Al-Akhbar that “the UNIFIL convoys that police the area have been reduced, and the movement of the international force has been restricted,” noting that this started a few days before the EU blacklisting.
It is worth noting that, during the EU ministers’ deliberations, the UNIFIL command took extra precautions around their bases in the South, such as adding cement blocks and barbed wire, as well as posting additional cameras and observation posts.
Many southerners remember the lack of trust and mutual suspicion that marked their relationship with UNIFIL when it was expanded substantially after the July 2006 War with Israel. The soldiers – and particularly the Spanish and French contingents among them – kept their distance, not knowing what to expect from the local population.
But within a year, the two sides warmed up to one another. “We were no longer afraid of Hezbollah,” a Belgian consultant that works with UNIFIL remembers. “Quite the contrary, we came to trust [Hezbollah General Secretary] Hassan Nasrallah.”
There were, however, some Lebanese who called on their municipalities and local institutions to cut off relations with UNIFIL forces belonging to the EU. Most, however, repeated Nasrallah’s statement, telling the European governments to “soak their decision in water and drinks its ink,” suggesting that their action will ultimately have little effect on the ground.
Al-Akhbar (July 24, 2013)
The European Union’s decision to blacklist Hezbollah’s “military wing” was made after intense pressure from both the US and Saudi Arabia to punish the Resistance for its involvement in the Syrian crisis.
European sources report that the US, along with Saudi Arabia, had a major role to play in pressuring the EU to place Hezbollah’s military wing on their list of terrorist organizations.
The difficult process leading up to the decision indicates that the conclusion reached by the European foreign ministers was a compromise between US demands to blacklist the party as a whole – and not just its “military wing” – and a European attempt to wiggle out of such a step altogether.
Diplomatic sources who followed the deliberations suggest that the decision was made reluctantly after repeated interventions on the part of Washington, who wanted to punish Hezbollah for fighting alongside the Syrian armed forces in the decisive battle of Qusayr.
From the outset, the European ministers seemed unconvinced that there was enough evidence to suggest that Hezbollah committed an act of terror on their territories, which would have provided the legal basis for such a decision. Attempts to connect the Lebanese party to the 2012 Burgas bombing in Bulgaria resulted in failure, despite relentless American and Israeli pressures on the country’s authorities.
A European ambassador explains that the committee charged with assessing security risks such as the Burgas bombing did not discuss taking any action against the Resistance for two important reasons.
First, the investigation was still underway, and Bulgaria had only requested that the European countries take “limited measures” to prevent a similar attack, not to blacklist Hezbollah. And second, the ministers were concerned about the impact of any action against Hezbollah on Lebanon’s internal stability.
As the time of reckoning approached, the Europeans were facing one of three choices: towing Washington’s line and blacklisting Hezbollah, without distinguishing between its various wings; a compromise position of naming Hezbollah’s military wing; and simply naming the individual implicated in the bombing and listing them as terrorists.
For a short time, the ministers were leaning in the direction of the last option until the US and Israel pulled out all the stops, only to arrive at the compromise position.
Diplomatic sources who closely followed the proceedings explain that Washington made it clear to the Europeans – before and after Qusayr – that Hezbollah had overstepped its bounds and must be sent a clear message that its actions will have consequences. The sources further indicate that the Gulf may soon follow in the footsteps of the Europeans to bring more yet more pressure on the Lebanese Resistance party.
Al-Joumhouria (Lebanese daily close to March-14 coalition, July 26, 2013)
According to reliable sources, from the beginning of the meeting on Thursday between the Minister of Administrative Development Mohammad Fneich, and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon. Angelina Eichhorst, the Hezbollah minister told his interlocutor: "You didn’t wait for the Bulgarian justice and you expressed your conviction and your punishment. How do you want, then we have confidence in your justice. You have adopted the accusation that Israel launched against Hezbollah on the first day of the attack, without waiting for the decision of the Bulgarian judiciary. Secondly, you condemn the resistance for what it has done to Lebanon, where you have failed to do anything. You provided a cover for Israel to face attack Lebanon. During the July 2006 war, Israel has committed massacres under the banner of 1559 UN resolution. Now, he may attack again by taking the European decision as a new pretext."
And Mr. Fneich continued: "We are surprised that the European Union, which has a presence in our social tissue, take such a decision, at a time when we were about to turn a page in our memory full of damage committed by the West; at a time when we had been open in order to find common ground based on common interests. With this decision, you have torpedoed everything we were trying to build together and you brought us back to the image of the West hostile and biased on behalf of Israel. You know that Lebanon is going through a crisis and the process of government formation is blocked because of some political Lebanese parties who want to isolate Hezbollah. Through your decision, you have made arguments in their speeches and you helped to hinder the formation of the cabinet, which threatens internal stability. You are asked to reconsider this decision and repair the damage you have caused to the interests of the Lebanese people. "
Ms. Eichhort then intervened to explain the position of the European Union, which will continue its support for the Lebanese government and will continue to respect the agreements. She described the decision of the EU as political, saying it will not have a big impact on the interests of Lebanon.
Mr. Fneich then interrupted her: "So you agree that the prosecution is political and not based on any material basis." The European diplomat said: "We respect the Resistance in Lebanon and the EU decision does not prevent him from defending the country’s sovereignty if it is a victim of any aggression because nobody will blame it if Israel commits aggression against Lebanon. " Mr. Fneich concluded by saying. "We appreciate the good intentions, but excuse me to tell you that it does not correspond to the European decision and its consequences. You made your verdict and we, for our part, we are proud of our accomplishments. Resistance is for us what is most precious and noble. "
The Daily Star (Lebanese Daily, July 26, 2013)
President Michel Sleiman is expected to sign a special decree Monday to extend the term of the Army commander, a move Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun vowed to challenge.
Political sources told The Daily Star that Sleiman would sign a special decree to postpone the retirement of Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwaji for one year to avoid a power vacuum in the top Army post. In the absence of an extension, Kahwagi would have to retire in September.
Sleiman’s move comes amid Parliament’s repeated failure to pass a draft law to extend Kahwagi’s term for three years, though a measure to do so has been on the legislature’s agenda since early July.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn will also sign the decree.
Also Monday, Ghosn and Kahwagi are expected to endorse a decree to extend the mandate of Army Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Walid Salman, whose term expires in August.
Aoun said he would challenge the move to extend Kahwagi’s term.
“I will challenge the extension of the term of the Army chief in both the Constitutionnal Council and the Shura Council, and we will see what happens,” Aoun said at a news conference at his Rabieh residence.
Aoun, who described the extension of Kahwagi’s term as unconstitutional, slammed efforts made by officials to keep the Army commander in his post, accusing them of trying to monopolize power in Lebanon.
“There are thousands of competent officers who are able to serve as Army commander ... I say that this extension is illegal and it violates the Constitution, and those seeking the extension are attempting to impose their will on the Lebanese,” the FPM leader said.
While Aoun opposes Kahwagi’s extension, the move is supported by his March 8 allies Hezbollah, Amal and the Marada Movement.
Zghorta MP Suleiman Franjieh, the Marada Movement leader, said he supported extending Kahwaji’s mandate. “The caretaker defense minister and I ... support extending the term of the Army commander in order to avoid a vacuum,” Franjieh told reporters during a visit to former MP Farid Khazen in Qleiaat, Kesrouan. “I believe it’s very difficult for all political parties to agree on the appointment of a new Army commander. I support the extension because Gen. Jean Kahwagi is trustworthy and decent,” Franjieh said. When asked about Aoun’s objection over the legality of the extension, Franjieh said there would be an attempt to secure a legal extension, adding that circumstances were not ideal, which meant an imperfect solution was needed. “We’re trying to have a legal extension ... but everything around us is boiling, and we thank God every day that we are not at war and not fighting,” he said. “You ask me, is this the ideal choice? I say no. Is it the best? I again say no, but we aren’t in ideal circumstances,” he said.
Parliament has failed to convene twice this month to extend Kahwagi’s term due to a lack of quorum.
Al Masri el-Yom (Egyptian daily, July 25, 2013)
Armed forces seized a shipment of arms on their way to being smuggled through Egypt’s western military zone, military spokesperson Ahmed Mohamed Ali said Thursday on his official Facebook page. "Border guards at the western military zone, north of [the] Salloum land crossing, detected three medium-sized sacks including 10 automatic rifles," Ali wrote.
Prosecutors will investigate the incident and take necessary measures, he added.
"This comes amid intense efforts by border guards, to secure state borders...to abort plans and attempts that aim to destabilize society and harm national security."
The Daily Telegraph (British daily, July 24, 2013)
Ruth Shrlock, Beirut
Disillusioned by the Islamist twist that the "revolution" in Syria has taken, exhausted after more than two years of conflict and feeling that they are losing, growing numbers of rebels are signing up to a negotiated amnesty offered by the Assad regime.
At the same time, the families of retreating fighters have begun quietly moving back to government-controlled territory, seen as a safer place to live as the regime continues its intense military push against rebel-held areas.
The move is a sign of the growing confidence of the regime, which has established a so-called "ministry of reconciliation" with the task of easing the way for former opponents to return to the government side.
Ali Haider, the minister in charge, said: "Our message is, ’if you really want to defend the Syrian people, put down your weapons and come and defend Syria in the right way, through dialogue’."
Mr Haider, who has a reputation as a moderate within the regime, has established a system in which opposition fighters give up their weapons in exchange for safe passage to government-held areas.
Rebel fighters have privately said that they are aware of the amnesty offer, and that some men had chosen to accept it, although they say that the numbers involved remains a small proportion of those fighting the government.
"I used to fight for revolution, but now I think we have lost what we were fighting for," said Mohammed, a moderate Muslim rebel from the northern town of Raqqa who declined to give his last name. "Now extremists control my town. My family has moved back to government side because our town is too unsafe. Assad is terrible, but the alternative is worse."
The prevalence of extremist Islamist groups in rebel-held areas, particularly in the north, has caused some opposition fighters to "give up" on their cause.
Ziad Abu Jabal comes from one of the villages in Homs province whose residents recently agreed to stop fighting the regime. "When we joined the demonstrations we wanted better rights," he said. "After seeing the destruction and the power of jihadists, we came to an agreement with the government."
Mr Haider said that he had attended a ceremony yesterday at which 180 opposition fighters rejoined the government’s police force, from which they had previously defected.
Although it was not possible to verify this claim, when The Daily Telegraph previously visited the reconciliation ministry’s headquarters in Damascus the office was crowded with the family members of rebels fighting in the city’s suburbs who said their men wanted to return.
A ministry negotiator, who gave his name only as Ahmed, was in the process of arranging the defection of a rebel commander and 10 of his men from the Ghouta district.
"It took us three months of negotiation and this is a test," he said. "If this goes well, the commander says that 50 others will follow."
He described the steps taken to allow the return of fighters willing to lay down their arms. First, he said, a negotiator must cross the front line for a meeting on rebel-held territory. "We have to hope the rebel commander orders his snipers not to shoot us."
Would-be defectors were given papers allowing them to pass through Syrian army checkpoints, and then waited in a safe house until the officials could get their names removed from wanted lists held by the more hardline defence ministry and intelligence agencies.
The rebels "did not sign up to be part of extremist Islamist groups that have now gained influence", he said. "Now they want to come back to a normal life."
In the days before the regime took the town of Qusayr last month, The Telegraph saw mediators on the Lebanese border work with the Syrian army to secure an amnesty for fighters wanting to surrender.
The phone rang with desperate calls from the parents of the rebels. "These mothers know that this is the last chance for their sons. If they don’t give up their weapons now they will die because they are losing the battle," said Ali Fayez Uwad, the mediator.
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