English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 01/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
What will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16/24-28: "Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? ‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 30-May 01/2024
The student demonstrations in America are being orchestrated and funded by nefarious groups including the Iranian lobby, the Muslim Brotherhood, and elements of the leftist organizations/Elias Bejjani/April 27/2024
Gas blast kills eight at Beirut restaurant: minister
Residents of northern Israel brace for possible all-out war with Hezbollah
France shares more proposals with Israel over southern Lebanon
Report: Lebanon receives amended French proposal
Hochstein reportedly sees 'serious chance' for Gaza truce, Lebanon deal
Israel-Hezbollah border clashes: Latest developments
South Lebanon: An Unabating Front
South Lebanon: Night Air Raids in Khiam
Séjourné in Israel for Gaza and Lebanon Truce Talks
UN 'alarmed' at impact of Lebanon border clashes on children
Poland probes state refiner's reported Hezbollah links
'We are with them': Lebanon students rally for Gaza
Mikati pressing to deport Syrians who entered Lebanon post 2015
Jumblat hits out at 'hardliner' Geagea
Brevet Exam Cancelled, Secondary School Exams Adjusted
Inauguration of the Naameh Water Pumping Station
Lebanese Students Join Worldwide Protests for Gaza
Children in Lebanon Pay Heavy Price for Conflict According to UNICEF
In Lebanon Roads Turn Into Rivers
Libya demands improvements after leaked photos of Gadhafi's cell
Municipal Elections: Extension Is yet Another Forced Slaughter of Democracy/Johnny Kortbawi/This Is Beirut/April 30/2024

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 29-30/2024
Blinken says he will press Netanyahu on Gaza aid measures during Israel trip
Jordan’s king and US secretary of state discuss Gaza ceasefire efforts
Why Israel is so determined to launch an offensive in Rafah. And why so many oppose it
Gaza ministry says 34,535 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes since Oct. 7
Netanyahu vows to invade Rafah 'with or without a deal' as cease-fire talks with Hamas continue
Israel awaits Hamas response on proposed halt to fighting
China says Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah met for talks in Beijing
US and Egyptian presidents warn of danger of military escalation in Rafah
UN Palestinian agency chief seeks probe into treatment of Gaza staff by Israel
Iranian official claims West's support for terrorists fuels attacks in Iran, Russia
Police officer wounded in stabbing in Jerusalem's Old City, terrorist neutralized
Israel kills Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operative in Iran - report
Protesters take over Columbia University's Hamilton Hall in escalation of anti-war demonstrations
UAE-Iran joint economic commission convenes for first time in 10 years
Turkiye bans May Day protest in Istanbul’s main square

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on April 30-May 01/2024
Ex-Unit 8200 senior officer: Israel still trouncing Iran in real-world cyber impacts/Yonah Jeremy/Jerusalem Post/April 30/2024
What Students Read Before They Protest/Ross Douthat/Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times/April 30/2024
American Universities… Facts And Dimensions/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/2024
Damascus-Tehran Amid Inconsistencies And Possibilities/Fayez Sara/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/2024
UK needs grown-up politics to end its ‘garbage time’/Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/April 30, 2024
Scotland: Humza Yousaf’s Resignation, a Blow to Independence Supporters?/Ali A. Hamadé/This Is Beirut/April 30/2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on April 30-May 01/2024
The student demonstrations in America are being orchestrated and funded by nefarious groups including the Iranian lobby, the Muslim Brotherhood, and elements of the leftist organizations

Elias Bejjani/April 27/2024
The student demonstrations in America are being orchestrated and funded by nefarious groups including the Iranian lobby, the Muslim Brotherhood, and elements of the left. This revelation sheds light on the true nature of these protests, which aim to undermine American values and sow discord.
A glaring example of this manipulation is evident in a widely circulated image depicting a student protester brandishing a guitar while proudly displaying the flag of Iranian Hezbollah—an organization designated as a terrorist group in the United States. The irony is palpable; Iranian Hezbollah, known for its archaic beliefs that reject music and advocate violence, stands in stark contrast to the principles of freedom and tolerance cherished by American society.
These orchestrated demonstrations represent a clear affront to American culture and values. They serve as a false veneer of dissent, incapable of altering the realities of oppressive regimes like the criminal mullahs’ regime in Iran, the jihadist activities of Hamas, the terrorist actions of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the pervasive influence of Iranian aggression across the Middle East.
It is imperative that Americans remain vigilant against the insidious influence of these foreign actors and reject their attempts to subvert the democratic principles. The true spirit of America cannot be swayed by the machinations of those who seek to undermine it.

Gas blast kills eight at Beirut restaurant: minister
AFP/April 30, 2024
BEIRUT: A fire caused by a gas canister explosion killed at least eight people at a restaurant in Beirut on Tuesday, a Lebanese government minister and firefighters said. The state-run National News Agency quoted the Beirut Fire Brigade as saying that “eight victims died of suffocation inside the restaurant.” The firefighters put out a blaze in a small restaurant in Beirut after “a gas leak caused an explosion at the restaurant,” NNA added, quoted the same source. Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi toured the site, also telling reporters at least eight people had been killed “by suffocation” in the blast. Some lawmakers representing Beirut also visited, with parliament member Ibrahim Mneimneh questioning safety standards at the restaurant. The accident “shows this place was not in line with public safety standards,” he said. Lebanon’s economy has been in free-fall since late 2019, worsening a long-running public oversight problem in different sectors, especially with regard to public safety.

Residents of northern Israel brace for possible all-out war with Hezbollah
Reuters/April 30, 2024
Eli Harel was an Israeli soldier in his early thirties when he was sent into Lebanon in 2006 to battle fighters from the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah in a bloody, largely inconclusive month-long war. Now 50, Harel is ready to rejoin the army to fight the same group if shelling along Israel's northern border turns into a full-blown war with Iran's most powerful regional proxy. This time Israeli forces would face some of the most challenging fighting conditions imaginable, he said. "There are booby traps everywhere," he told Reuters. "People are popping up from tunnels. You have to be constantly on alert otherwise you will be dead."Harel lives in Haifa, Israel's third biggest city, well within range of Hezbollah's weapons. Haifa's mayor recently urged residents to stockpile food and medicine because of the growing risk of all-out war. Israel and Hezbollah have been engaged in escalating daily cross-border strikes over the past six months - in parallel with the war in Gaza - and their increasing range and sophistication has spurred fears of a wider regional conflict. Hezbollah has amassed a formidable arsenal since 2006. Like Hamas, the militant Palestinian group battling Israel in Gaza, Hezbollah has a network of tunnels to move fighters and weapons around. Its fighters have also been training for more than a decade with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Hezbollah has so far restricted its attacks to a strip of northern Israel, seeking to draw Israeli forces away from Gaza. Israel has said it is ready to push Hezbollah back from the border, but it is unclear how.
Some 60,000 residents have had to leave their homes, in the first mass evacuation of northern Israel, and cannot safely return, prompting increased calls within Israel for firmer military action against Hezbollah. Across the border in Lebanon, some 90,000 people have also been displaced by Israeli strikes. Eyal Hulata, a former Israeli national security adviser, said Israel should announce a date in the next few months when displaced Israeli civilians can return, effectively challenging Hezbollah to scale back its shelling or face all-out war. "Israelis cannot be in exile in their own country. This cannot happen. It is the responsibility of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) to defend civilians. It is what we failed to do on Oct. 7," he said, referring to the Hamas attack on southern Israel that prompted the current war in Gaza. Hezbollah did not respond to a request for comment. The group's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in February that residents of northern Israel "will not return" to their homes. The Israeli military said this month it had completed another step in preparing for possible war with Hezbollah that centred on logistics, including preparations for a "broad mobilisation" of reservists. A conflict between Israel and Hezbollah would probably result in massive destruction in both countries. In the 2006 war, 1,200 people in Lebanon were killed and 158 in Israel. Since October, more than 300 people have died in fighting in the border area, mainly Hezbollah fighters. If war did break out, Israel would probably bomb targets in southern Lebanon before soldiers tried to push at least 10 kilometres across the border. Hezbollah would likely use its estimated arsenal of over 150,000 rockets to target Israeli cities. In 2006 the group fired about 4,000 missiles at Israel.
Assaf Orion, a retired Israeli brigadier general, told Reuters there was a growing likelihood of war erupting between Israel and Hezbollah, caused either by an unplanned escalation in clashes or by Israel losing patience with people being unable to return home. Orion said the intensity of bombing in any war could be 10 times greater than in Gaza. "The damage will be immense," he said. "Gaza will look like a walk in the park compared to that level of fighting." Haifa, a port city built on the slope of a mountain from where it is possible to see the Lebanon border on a clear day, was targeted in 2006. Eight people were killed in the worst attack. Nasrallah said in 2016 Hezbollah could hit ammonia storage tanks in Haifa, saying the result would be "like a nuclear bomb". The mood in Haifa is a mixture of anxiety and fatalism. Hundreds of evacuated Israelis have moved to the city and many said another war may be the only way to return home. Assaf Hessed, 35, who lived in a kibbutz two kilometres from the border, said the military has until September to force Hezbollah back or residents will move elsewhere. "We have to make a decision soon about where we live, we cannot go on like this much longer," he said.

France shares more proposals with Israel over southern Lebanon
JERUSALEM (Reuters)/Tue, April 30, 2024
French officials shared on Tuesday proposals made to Lebanese authorities to defuse tensions between Israel and Iran-backed Hezbollah, Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said as Paris attempts to work as an intermediary between the sides. Israel and Hezbollah have been engaged in escalating daily cross-border strikes over the past six months - in parallel with the war in Gaza - and their increasing range and sophistication has raised fears of a wider regional conflict. Hezbollah has amassed a formidable arsenal since 2006 and since October thousands of people on both sides of the border have been displaced. "A number of proposals that we made to the Lebanese side have been shared (with you)," Sejourne said ahead of a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz in Jerusalem. "We have a relationship with Lebanon, 20,000 citizens there and the war in 2006 was particularly dramatic for them."
Sejourne was in Lebanon on Sunday where he met officials including politicians close to Hezbollah. French officials say they had seen progress in the responses from Lebanese authorities. Sejourne said the basis of the proposals was to ensure U.N. resolution 1701 was implemented. Hezbollah has said it will not enter any concrete discussion until there is a ceasefire in Gaza, where the war between Israel and Islamist militant group Hamas is in its seventh month. Israel has flagged a potential military operation along its northern front, saying it wants to restore calm on the border with Lebanon so thousands of Israelis can return to the area without fear of rocket attacks, even if Hezbollah has said it will not stop exchanges until there is a ceasefire in Gaza. France has historical ties with Lebanon, a large expatriate population in the country and some 700 troops as part of the .N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. Sejourne presented this year a written proposal to both sides that included Hezbollah's elite unit pulling back 10km (6 miles) from the Israeli border and Israel halting strikes in southern Lebanon. It also looked at long-term border issues and was discussed with partners including the United States, which is making its own efforts to ease tensions and exerts the most influence on Israel. Katz thanked France for its help in intercepting Iranian missiles and drones in an attack on Israel in April. "It was a message that regional states participated in that because it was very important in regards to what we can expect in the future," he said.

Report: Lebanon receives amended French proposal
Naharnet/April 30/2024
Lebanon has received an amended proposal Paris had previously presented for a diplomatic resolution to the border conflict, Nidaa al-Watan newspaper sad. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné had visited Lebanon during the weekend but Speaker Nabih Berri said that Séjourné did not submit the paper during his visit and that the paper will be delivered to Lebanese officials by Tuesday. Séjourné declined to provide more details about the latest version of France’s proposal ahead of his planned trip to Israel on Tuesday. He said he will have “consultations” with Israeli authorities to move toward an agreement.
"Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati have received the amended French paper," Nidaa al-Watan said Tuesday, adding that the two leaders will present the paper to Hezbollah. Meanwhile sources told the Naccache-based MTV station that the French paper showed an American-French coordination as it proposed the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 over three stages similar to a plan that U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein had previously proposed. The new French proposal is a "reformulation" of a paper that Lebanon had received in February from Paris as part of its efforts to pacify the situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border. The February proposal involved Hezbollah withdrawing its forces 10 kilometers from the border with Israel, according to a Lebanese government official. Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily strikes with Israeli forces in the border region — and sometimes beyond — for almost seven months against the backdrop of Israel’s war against Hezbollah ally Hamas in Gaza. Israeli strikes have killed more than 350 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters with Hezbollah and allied groups but also including more than 50 civilians. Strikes by Hezbollah have killed at least 10 civilians and 12 soldiers in Israel. Tens of thousands are displaced on each side of the border. Western diplomats have brought forward a series of proposals for a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. Most of those would hinge on Hezbollah moving its forces several kilometers from the border, a beefed-up Lebanese army presence and negotiations for Israeli forces to withdraw from disputed points along the border where Lebanon says Israel has been occupying small patches of Lebanese territory since it withdrew from the rest of south Lebanon in 2000. The eventual goal is full implementation of resolution 1701 that brought to an end a brutal monthlong war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. Hezbollah has signaled willingness to entertain the proposals but has said there will be no deal in Lebanon before there is a cease-fire in Gaza. Israeli officials, meanwhile, have said that a Gaza cease-fire does not automatically mean it will halt its strikes in Lebanon, even if Hezbollah does so.

Hochstein reportedly sees 'serious chance' for Gaza truce, Lebanon deal
Naharnet/April 30/2024
U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein has contacted Lebanese figures and spoken of a “serious chance” to reach a truce agreement in Gaza, which would allow for agreeing special arrangements for the situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border, a media report said. The Lebanese figures have quoted Hochstein as saying that the Americans and many sides believe that the situations in south Lebanon and the Red Sea are linked to the situation in Gaza, al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Tuesday. “Nevertheless, the U.S. envoy has called for mulling a mechanism for curbing the exchanges of hostilities on the southern Lebanese border, in a manner that would be in harmony with the decrease in the intensity of the military operations in the Gaza Strip,” the daily added. The Nidaa al-Watan newspaper meanwhile reported that Hochstein is “optimistic” about the possibility of reaching a new border deal between Lebanon and Israel. The U.S. envoy is “declining to reveal the details or nature of the guarantees that he will offer to Israel, but he is saying that finalizing this agreement is not difficult,” the daily added.

Israel-Hezbollah border clashes: Latest developments
Naharnet/April 30/2024
Hezbollah said Tuesday it has targeted overnight groups of soldiers in Dovev and Avivim in northern Israel. The group said the attacks were in response to Israeli attacks on civilians in south Lebanon. Israeli artillery meanwhile targeted the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab while warplanes also struck overnight the southern border town, in addition to the towns of al-Jebbayn, al-Khiam, and Tayr Harfa. Artillery also shelled overnight the outskirts of al-Naqoura, al-Labbouneh and Alma al-Shaab as flare bombs targeted several border towns. On Monday, Hezbollah attacked three posts, one of them in the occupied Kfarshouba Hills. Hamas' military wing also claimed Monday a rocket attack on an Israeli army post from southern Lebanon. Hamas has fired rockets from Lebanon on several occasions since the Israel-Hamas war started in October, while Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily strikes with Israeli forces in the border region — and sometimes beyond — for almost seven months. More than 350 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 273 Hezbollah fighters and more than 50 civilians. On the Israeli side, 12 soldiers and 10 civilians have been killed. Tensions seemed to relatively de-escalate on the border as officials from Hamas visited Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials on a new cease-fire proposal in Gaza.

South Lebanon: An Unabating Front
This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
The southern Lebanese villages of Al Adayse and Yaroun were targeted by Israeli warplanes on Tuesday at noon, in parallel with continuous reconnaissance flights over the South’s central and western sectors. For its part, Hezbollah claimed in a statement on Monday evening “targeting a building where Israeli soldiers are stationed in Doviv settlement with appropriated weapons and achieving direct hits.” In a second statement, Hezbollah announced “striking a building in Avivim where Israeli soldiers were deployed and hitting it accurately.”Overnight Monday to Tuesday, Israeli warplanes shelled the town of Tayr Harfa, flattened a house, damaged surrounding properties and destroyed crops. Civil defense teams inspected the bombing site and removed rubble which was blocking the road leading to Sheihen town. Israeli air attacks also destroyed several cars, properties and homes in Kfar Kila and al-Jabeen. After midnight, the outskirts of Naqoura, Aalma al-Shaab and Mount Labbouneh were the targets of heavy artillery shelling, as drones unleashed flares above the area.

South Lebanon: Night Air Raids in Khiam
This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
Fire exchange between Hezbollah and Israel intensified on Tuesday evening. A raid was carried out on the house of Abu Hussein Mehdi in Khiam, but no casualties were reported. Several raids were also carried out in Khiam targeting Wadi al-Assafir. The Israeli army also bombed Alma al-Shaab, Dhayra, Tayr Harfa, the outskirts of Kfar Hamam-Rachaya al-Foukhar. Airstrikes also targeted Odaisseh, Yaroun, Aitaroun, the areas between Hula and Markaba, and between Odaisseh and Kfar Kila, as well as Naqoura where UNIFIL alarms blared. Rocket salvos were launched from South Lebanon towards Metula, where six explosions were heard. In a statement, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating that it had “destroyed two military buildings in the settlement of Metula.” The pro-Iranian group also claimed attacks against Israeli soldiers and a Merkava tank in Mtalleh, and the so-called Radar position in the Shebaa farms. Earlier in the afternoon, several airstrikes targeted Yaroun and Odaisseh, following a relatively calm morning during which the outskirts of Aita al-Shaab were bombed. Another attack on the road to Kfar Kila destroyed a manor and caused extensive damage to nearby properties and homes.

Séjourné in Israel for Gaza and Lebanon Truce Talks
AFP/This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné met with his Israeli counterpart Israel Katz on Tuesday, as part of a 24-hour visit to Israel, the final leg of a regional tour that has already taken him to Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Séjourné’s visit to Israel comes at a time when ongoing Qatari, Egyptian, and American mediation brings hope for a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, along with the release of hostages. This ceasefire is also expected to extend to Lebanon, with the French minister carrying a roadmap for a ceasefire along the southern border with Israel. In Israel, discussions with Katz focused on the volume of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip, as well as the military offensive in Rafah. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the necessity of this offensive, but France opposed it. According to a diplomatic source, Séjourné reaffirmed “France’s support” for Israel and “its disagreements,” particularly with the offensive planned in the city of Rafah, which has become a refuge for 1.5 million Palestinians displaced by the war, according to the UN. France has also discussed with Israel its draft resolution at the UN – announced in early April – “which includes strong Israeli demands, such as the qualification of October 7 as a terrorist act, the sexual violence committed that day, as well as the conditions for a political solution to the conflict,” according to a French diplomatic source to AFP. The French minister was also scheduled to meet with some Israeli political figures, as well as representatives of the families of hostages held in Gaza. On Monday, Séjourné stated on X that he had met with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in Riyadh, as well as “authorities from many countries to continue working towards a lasting truce around the Gaza conflict.”

UN 'alarmed' at impact of Lebanon border clashes on children
Naharnet/April 30/2024
Ongoing hostilities in southern Lebanon are taking a devastating toll on the population, forcing approximately 90,000 people – including 30,000 children – from their homes. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Public Health, 8 children are among the 344 people killed and 75 children among the 1359 people injured since the escalation of the hostilities in October 2023. The increase in armed conflict has damaged civilian infrastructure and facilities and has also impacted the essential services that children and families depend on, including significant damage to nine water stations, which serve a population of 100,000 people. More than 70 schools are currently closed, affecting around 20,000 students and significantly affecting their education. Around 23 healthcare facilities - serving 4,000 people - are closed due to the hostilities.
"As the conflict impacting the south of Lebanon is in its seventh month, we are deeply concerned by the situation of children and families who have been forced from their homes, and the profound long-term impact the violence is taking on children’s safety, health and access to education. As long as the situation remains so volatile, more children will suffer. Protection of children is an obligation under the International Humanitarian Law and every child deserves to be safe," UNICEF Representative in Lebanon Edouard Beigbeder said.
Prior to the onset of this conflict, Lebanon’s essential services, including health and education systems, were already on the brink of collapse after years of being overstretched. The health system is unable to meet the demands for public healthcare due to a scarcity of resources including energy, human resources, equipment, and medication. The unprecedented financial and economic crises that have devastated the country since 2019 have exacerbated existing economic vulnerabilities, resulting in the loss of jobs and income, high inflation, and a shortage of essential services including electricity and medication.
UNICEF, working with partners, have been delivering vital aid to families affected by the hostilities, including life-saving medical supplies, hygiene kits, micronutrient supplements and complementary feeding jars to the displaced families who are mainly living in collective shelters. UNICEF said in a statement Monday that it has also delivered fuel, water, water tanks, winter clothes and blankets. "A one-time emergency cash support was jointly delivered with the Ministry of Social Affairs to address the immediate needs of 85,000 people. Internally displaced children were able to resume their education in public schools and received new school supplies and transportation assistance," the statement added. “The situation in the south is adding to the ongoing multiple crises that the country has been facing since 2019,” said Beigbeder. “The severity of the crises is unbearable for children, and more must be done to prevent their suffering. We call for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of children and civilians. We must redouble our efforts to make sure every child in Lebanon is in school and learning, is protected from physical and mental harm, and has the opportunity to thrive and contribute to society."

Poland probes state refiner's reported Hezbollah links

Agence France Presse/April 30/2024
Polish prosecutors on Tuesday said they were investigating the Swiss unit of state-controlled refiner PKN Orlen for reported links with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The announcement came a day after Polish media reported that the former head of Orlen Trading Switzerland (OTS), Samer A., was connected to the Iran-backed Lebanese movement -- accusations he denies. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk subsequently called a meeting between prosecutors and the special services regarding the "possible ties to Hezbollah." The Polish leader had tweeted Monday that "Poles must know the truth." National prosecutor Dariusz Korneluk on Tuesday called the case "very shocking," adding that Orlen had transferred more than 1.5 billion zloty ($370 million) to its Swiss subsidiary without any supervision while OTS was headed by Samer A. The sum had notably been used to order Venezuelan oil which was never delivered, according to an Orlen report released last week. Polish media reported that Samer A. was made president of OTS -- created in 2022 -- despite negative opinions from security services, at the express request of former Orlen president Daniel Obajtek. The former right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government has widely been accused of having used Orlen to finance its political projects. Obajtek has said he benefited from the support of the PiS. Prosecutors have also launched other probes into Orlen, including its merger with domestic rival Grupa Lotos and the associated sale of major assets to Saudi Aramco that caused the refiner losses of at least 4 billion zloty. At the time Orlen also sold assets to Hungary's MOL, which is suspected of ties to the Moscow regime. Prosecutors are also looking into suspected underselling of petrol by Orlen last year, "which could have been related to the general elections" and is believed to have led to losses of one billion zloty.

'We are with them': Lebanon students rally for Gaza

Agence France Presse/April 30/2024
Hundreds of university students in Lebanon protested on Tuesday against Israel's bombardment of Gaza, inspired by recent pro-Palestinian demonstrations that have rocked U.S. and European campuses. Dozens of students gathered at the prestigious American University of Beirut (AUB), some wearing the traditional Arab keffiyeh scarf that has long been a symbol of the Palestinian cause. "We are Palestine's neighbors. If we do not stand with them today, who will?" asked AUB student Zeina, 23, declining to provide her surname. "Around the world, students my age, from our generation, are the ones raising their voices," she added. Hundreds of students gathered at the prestigious university in Beirut, AFP correspondents said. Israel's offensive has killed at least 34,535 people in Gaza, mostly women and children. The protests came as Hamas said it was considering a plan for a 40-day ceasefire and the release of scores of hostages in exchange for larger numbers of Palestinian prisoners. Some students also carried banners declaring solidarity with south Lebanon, where Israel and Hamas’ ally Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily cross-border fire since October. The protests came as similar demonstrations swept universities across the United States, posing a challenge to administrators trying to balance free speech with complaints that the rallies have veered into “anti-Semitism”. Footage of U.S. police in riot gear called in by universities to break up the rallies has circulated worldwide, recalling the protest movement that erupted during the Vietnam War. "We renew our demand to stop the American-backed Israeli genocide against Palestinians and urgently demand to stop Zionist (Israeli) attacks" on south Lebanon, a female student told the crowd at AUB, praising "the global student movement supporting our people."At the nearby Lebanese American University, dozens of students gathered, raising Palestinian flags and burning an Israeli one. "We want to convey a message to our people in Gaza: we are with them... We have not forgotten them," Lara Qassem, 18, told AFP. In Lebanon, at least 385 people have been killed in months of cross-border violence, mostly fighters but also including 73 civilians, according to an AFP tally. Israel says 11 soldiers and nine civilians have been killed in its north.

Mikati pressing to deport Syrians who entered Lebanon post 2015

Naharnet/April 30/2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati is pressing the relevant international parties to return the unregistered Syrians in Lebanon to their country, a media report said. “In the meetings that Mikati held over the past days, it was revealed that the European Union has become responsive to the Lebanese proposal,” the Nidaa al-Watan newspaper reported on Tuesday. “Mikati has told his associates that he is pressing the U.N. Refugee Agency to consider all the migrants who entered Lebanon after 2015 as being illegal residents, which necessitates their return either to the regime’s areas in Syria, to the opposition’s areas or to any other nation,” the daily added. It also quoted Mikati as saying that “practical steps are currently being taken in the file of the displaced.”

Jumblat hits out at 'hardliner' Geagea

Naharnet/April 30/2024
Former Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has said that the decision to boycott the latest Maarab meeting was taken by the PSP and not by him personally. “It wasn’t me. It was the PSP that took the decision not to go to Maarab. Then what’s the point of meeting people who do not recognize us?” Jumblat added, in an interview with the L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper. Asked whether the PSP’s boycott was aimed at preventing Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea from crowning himself as the leader of the opposition, Jumblat said: “We have our centrist stance and we support the approach of compromises, whereas he is a hardliner. If he wants to prove himself as a leader of the opposition, let him do that without us. I don’t have any problem.” “What Maarab does not want to admit is that Speaker Nabih Berri is the one tasked with negotiating with U.S. presidential envoy Amos Hochstein, and the truth is that Berri is negotiating over the possibility of separating the Lebanese file from the Gaza file,” Jumblat went on to say.

Brevet Exam Cancelled, Secondary School Exams Adjusted
This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
Caretaker Minister of Education Abbas Halabi announced on Tuesday the cancellation of the nationwide Brevet exam. Instead of Brevet, students will rely on school-assigned grades. During a press conference, Halabi also announced that the Secondary School Diploma exams will be held within the framework of a program taking into account the situation endured by students in South Lebanon. To this end, both optional and compulsory subjects will be provided. Since October 8, when Hezbollah opened the southern front in support of Hamas’ Gaza war, many schools in the South, particularly in areas close to the border, have been closed. This prevented many students from pursuing their studies. Halabi also specified that he held a series of meetings with relevant parties in the education sector, including school principals. “Everyone agrees that the overall atmosphere in the country has had an impact on the education sector,” he concluded.

Inauguration of the Naameh Water Pumping Station

This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
The newly rehabilitated Naameh Water Pumping Station was inaugurated on Tuesday thanks to a grant from the European Union (EU) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) during a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Energy and Water, together with the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment, the EU, the AFD and UNICEF. The Naameh pumping station aims to supply more than 300,000 people, in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, with water. This project, implemented by the AFD and UNICEF, is part of a broader program, co-funded by the European Union and the AFD, for a total budget of 38 million Euros, aiming to improve access to clean water for over 1 million people across Lebanon.

Lebanese Students Join Worldwide Protests for Gaza
Marguerita Sejaan/This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
Lebanese students across the country gathered in their respective campuses on Tuesday to protest against the human rights violations in Gaza. These protests come after weeks of university student protests across the world, most notably in America, Canada and France, where students have gotten expelled and arrested for their participation. The peaceful protests occurred in several Beirut universities, most notably the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, the Lebanese International University, as well as the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik.

Children in Lebanon Pay Heavy Price for Conflict According to UNICEF

This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
According to a new report of UNICEF 100000 people do not have safe drinking water due to damaged and destroyed water facilities. The conflict between Hezbollah and Israel has “taken a devastating toll” on the well-being of thousands of children in southern Lebanon, where over 70 schools have closed, according to a new report from UNICEF, which calls for an “immediate ceasefire.”According to the report titled “Caught in the Crossfire: The Impact of Six Months of Conflict on Children in Lebanon,” more than 92,000 people, almost a third of them children, have been displaced since October 8, when Hezbollah opened the southern front in support of Hamas’ war in Gaza. Furthermore, 344 people, including eight children, have been killed, while 1,359 have been injured, including 75 children. The report also states that 20,000 students have been affected by the partial or total closure of 72 schools, and 4,000 children have been impacted by the closure of 27 healthcare centers. Additionally, 100,000 people do not have safe drinking water due to damaged and destroyed water facilities. Ongoing hostilities in southern Lebanon have forced over 90000 people – including 30000 children – to leave their homes. ©UNICEF
UNICEF highlights the emotional impact of the conflict on children and their families, expressing concern over “alarming levels of psychological distress” caused by displacement, bombings and relentless shelling and air raids.
According to the report, in the South Governorate of Lebanon, 46% of parents and caregivers reported that their children were experiencing anxiety, while 29% reported depression. In the Nabatiyeh district, 46% of parents and caregivers reported anxiety and 33% reported depression.
Among Palestinian parents and caregivers across the entire territory, 47% of children exhibited anxiety, while 30% reported feelings of depression, as stated in the document. “We call for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of children and civilians,” said Edouard Beigbeder, the Lebanon representative for UNICEF, in a statement. Otherwise, “Lebanon risks a large-scale war that would have a devastating impact on the country’s 1.3 million children,” concluded the report.

In Lebanon Roads Turn Into Rivers
This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
Lebanon continues to experience rain and floods for the second consecutive day.
On Tuesday, heavy rainfall particularly affected the Keserwan region, where roads turned into rivers due to the flooding. In Jounieh, water flooded the entrances of several buildings, including that of Notre-Dame Hospital. According to videos widely shared on social media, cars in the hospital parking lot were damaged. In some areas, the flooding went hand in hand with landslides. This was the case on the Daroun-Harissa, Jeita-Sehaileh and Sehaileh-Ain al-Rihaneh roads. This prompted the Daroun-Harissa municipality to call on motorists to avoid these roads. The rainfall also disrupted road traffic, leaving motorists stranded in their cars for hours due to traffic jams, especially on coastal roads. By late afternoon, the coastal road between Beirut and Jounieh was completely blocked. Furthermore, the Traffic Management Authority called on motorists to exercise great caution due to heavy rainfall, fog and reduced visibility, especially in mountainous areas. According to Beirut Airport’s meteorological service, the atmospheric depression centered over Turkey is affecting Lebanon and the Mediterranean basin. It is expected to gradually recede starting Wednesday evening.

Libya demands improvements after leaked photos of Gadhafi's cell
Associated Press/April 30/2024
Leaked photographs of the son of Libya's late dictator Moammar Gadhafi and the tiny underground cell where he has been held for years in Lebanon have raised concerns in the north African nation as Libyan authorities demand improvements. The photos showed a room without natural light packed with Hannibal Gadhafi's belongings, a bed and a tiny toilet. "I live in misery," local Al-Jadeed TV quoted the detainee as saying in a Saturday evening broadcast, adding that he is a political prisoner in a case he has no information about. Two Lebanese judicial officials confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that the photographs aired by Al-Jadeed are of Gadhafi and the cell where he has been held for years at police headquarters in Beirut. Gadhafi appeared healthy, with a light beard and glasses. A person who is usually in contact with Gadhafi, a Libyan citizen, said the photos were taken in recent days. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media outlets. Gadhafi has been held in Lebanon since 2015 after he was kidnapped from neighboring Syria, where he had been living as a political refugee. He was abducted by Lebanese militants demanding information about the fate of prominent Lebanese Shiite cleric Moussa al-Sadr, who went missing during a trip to Libya in 1978. The fate of al-Sadr has been a sore point in Lebanon. His family believes he may still be alive in a Libyan prison, though most Lebanese presume al-Sadr, who would be 95 now, is dead. A Libyan delegation visited Beirut in January to reopen talks with Lebanese officials on the fate of al-Sadr and the release of Gadhafi. The talks were aimed at reactivating a dormant agreement between Lebanon and Libya, struck in 2014, for cooperation in the probe of al-Sadr. The delegation did not return to Beirut as planned.
The leaks by Al-Jadeed came after reports that Gadhafi was receiving special treatment at police headquarters and that he had cosmetic surgeries including hair transplants and teeth improvements. Al-Jadeed quoted him as saying: "Let them take my hair and teeth and give me my freedom." Gadhafi went on a hunger strike in June last year and was taken to a hospital after his health deteriorated. Libya's Justice Ministry in a statement Sunday said Gadhafi is being deprived of his rights guaranteed by law. It called on Lebanese authorities to improve his living conditions to one that "preserves his dignity," adding that Lebanese authorities should formally inform the ministry of the improvements. It also said Gadhafi deserves to be released. After he was kidnapped in 2015, Lebanese authorities freed him but then detained him, accusing him of concealing information about al-Sadr's disappearance. Al-Sadr was the founder of the Amal group, a Shiite militia that fought in Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war and later became a political party that is currently led by the country's Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Many of al-Sadr's followers are convinced that Moammar Gadhafi ordered al-Sadr killed in a dispute over Libyan payments to Lebanese militias. Libya has maintained that the cleric, along with two traveling companions, left Tripoli in 1978 on a flight to Rome. Human Rights Watch issued a statement in January calling for Gadhafi's release. The rights group noted that Gadhafi was only 2 years old at the time of al-Sadr's disappearance and held no senior position in Libya as an adult.

Municipal Elections: Extension Is yet Another Forced Slaughter of Democracy

Johnny Kortbawi/This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
The extension of municipal councils and mukhtars’ mandates for just one year, under the pretext of the country’s political circumstances, implies that the current councils are nearing their tenth year in office, portraying an authoritarian regime that has no consideration to democracy. While security conditions in the South prevent holding municipal elections, which may be a significant reason for delaying them, the security argument hasn’t significantly changed in Lebanon for many years. For instance, the 1998 municipal elections took place amidst Israeli threats and occupation. Similarly, the 2005 parliamentary elections were held during a pervasive wave of bombings across various areas. You probably recall the nights when we woke up to explosions? It reached a point where then-President Emile Lahoud even expressed his “fear” that someone might hurl a bomb at a gathering of protesters. However, despite these obstacles, the elections — during which the assassinations of Samir Kassir and Georges Hawi occurred — proceeded. Security threats weren’t the primary concern at the time. Instances of security circumstances during elections are many. The uncontrolled proliferation of arms extends from the North, where the Islamic Group, al Jamaa’ al Islamiya, showcased its military parade lately, all the way to the southernmost point.
The problem isn’t just the security situations, it’s the recurring trend of election cancellations. The series of extensions since 2005 rivals any other country with all possible political crises. The first extension of parliament, from 2004 to 2005, was “necessitated” due to the concurring dates of municipal and parliamentary elections. In 2013, Parliament’s term was extended due to the security conditions at the time. Another one followed in 2015, keeping parliament in office until the end of its term which was already extended. The municipal elections were first postponed for a year in 2023, and yet another year in 2024. And let’s not overlook the extension of presidential mandates, each one akin to a slaughter of democracy. A core problem compounded by the extensions of municipal mandates is that municipal councils are failing to provide a minimal level of services to the citizens. Neglect in some areas has reached a level reminiscent of the negligence that existed during the war, in addition to the deteriorating conditions and the municipal councils’ failure to address existing problems. The economic crises of recent years have further aggravated the state of municipal councils which are unable to make any change. Development has ground to a complete halt since 2019, leaving citizens with no choice but to reluctantly accept the situation. Municipal elections mark the first point of contact between the State and its citizens. But, with the cessation of governmental services due the presidential vacuum, a caretaker government and the Parliament’s inability to legislate and elect a president, compounded by today’s extension of municipal terms, we can mourn all State institutions, from the top of the pyramid to the bottom, not to mention the closed administrations due to continuous strikes. With the latest municipal extension, the State has come to a complete standstill, leaving us no option but to await the resurgence of democracy. Sadly, the decision is out of our hands.

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 30-May 01/2024
Blinken says he will press Netanyahu on Gaza aid measures during Israel trip
REUTERS/April 30, 2024
AMMAN: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday he would discuss with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu measures that Israel still needs to take to increase the flow of aid into Gaza during his planned talks in the country on Wednesday. Blinken arrived in Israel on Tuesday to also push for a much awaited ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza. Ahead of his arrival in Israel, Blinken spoke to reporters at a warehouse of the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization where aid shipments from US-based charities are gathered. While there are some improvements in the humanitarian aid situation in the densely populated enclave, he said, much more needs to be done to ensure assistance reaches people in a sustained manner. “I’m now able to go to Israel tomorrow and go over with the Israeli government the things that still need to be done if the test is going to be met of making sure that people have what they need,” Blinken said. “And I’ll be doing that (on Wednesday) directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government,” he said. Blinken’s check-in with Netanyahu on aid will take place about a month after US President Joe Biden issued a stark warning to Netanyahu, saying Washington’s policy could shift if Israel fails to take steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers. A spiraling humanitarian crisis has prompted calls from Israel’s Western and Arab partners to do more to facilitate the entry of aid to Gaza, where most people are homeless, many face famine, disease is widespread, and where much civilian infrastructure lies in ruins.
Blinken is on a tour of the Middle East, his seventh since the region plunged into conflict on Oct. 7 when Palestinian Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 others, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel has launched a relentless assault on Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, local health authorities say, in a bombardment that has reduced the enclave to a wasteland. More than one million people face famine, the United Nations has said, after six months of war. The first shipments of aid directly from Jordan to northern Gaza’s newly opened Erez crossing will leave on Tuesday, goods are also arriving via the port of Ashdod, and a new maritime corridor will be ready in about a week, Blinken said. “But more still needs to be done,” he said. “We still have to have a deconfliction mechanism that’s effective and works — that’s a work in progress,” Blinken added. He said there should also be a clear list of items needed in Gaza to avoid “arbitrary denials” — a reference to a process of rigorous inspections of aid shipments that has seen some trucks stranded at border crossings.

Jordan’s king and US secretary of state discuss Gaza ceasefire efforts
ARAB NEWS/April 30, 2024
AMMAN: King Abdullah of Jordan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday reiterated the need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. During their meeting in Amman, at which they were joined by Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, the king said it was imperative that swift action is taken to ease the escalating humanitarian crisis in the territory and protect innocent civilians. He called for the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid, including relief supplies and medical assistance, to Gaza using all available channels, and cautioned against any Israeli military operations in the city of Rafah, in southern Gaza, which has become the last refuge for more than a million Palestinians displaced from other parts of the territory by fighting. King Abdullah also warned of the potential for the effects of the war in Gaza to spill over to the West Bank, Jerusalem and the wider region. The king said international support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees is crucial to the provision of aid and support to help meet the basic needs of nearly 2 million people in Gaza, along with refugees in other areas. Jordan, which has diplomatic relations with Israel and hosts more than 2 million registered refugees from Palestine, the largest number in any single country in which UNRWA operates, is particularly sensitive to tensions in the Palestinian territories. Acknowledging the pivotal role of the US in the region, the king reiterated the importance of efforts by Washington to help establish a political framework for a just and comprehensive resolution to the long-running conflict between Israel and Palestine based on a two-state solution, which he said is crucial to the security and stability not only of those states but the entire region. Earlier, Blinken and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi reviewed their ongoing engagements with Arab leaders as part of the efforts to end the conflict in Gaza, address the humanitarian crisis, avert an Israeli military offensive in Rafah, deescalate tensions in the West Bank, and promote a comprehensive peace plan based on a two-state solution. Blinken arrived in Amman on Tuesday following talks with other Gulf Arab leaders in Riyadh as part of his seventh tour of the region since the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas. Later, Blinken was scheduled to travel to Israel to discuss the latest negotiations for a temporary ceasefire and the release of hostages. Despite criticism from some other countries and escalating protests among students on US college campuses, President Joe Biden’s administration has largely supported Israeli authorities in their war on Gaza, during which 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed.

Why Israel is so determined to launch an offensive in Rafah. And why so many oppose it
AP/May 01, 2024
JERUSALEM: Israel is determined to launch a ground offensive against Hamas in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town, a plan that has raised global alarm because of the potential for harm to more than a million Palestinian civilians sheltering there. Even as the US, Egypt and Qatar pushed for a ceasefire deal they hope would avert an assault on Rafah, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated on Tuesday that the military would move on the town “with or without a deal” to achieve its goal of destroying the Hamas militant group. “We will enter Rafah because we have no other choice. We will destroy the Hamas battalions there, we will complete all the objectives of the war, including the return of all our hostages,” he said. Israel has approved military plans for its offensive and has moved troops and tanks to southern Israel in apparent preparation — though it’s still unknown when or if it will happen. About 1.4 million Palestinians — more than half of Gaza’s population — are jammed into the town and its surroundings. Most of them fled their homes elsewhere in the territory to escape Israel’s onslaught and now face another wrenching move, or the danger of facing the brunt of a new assault. They live in densely packed tent camps, overflowing UN shelters or crowded apartments, and are dependent on international aid for food, with sanitation systems and medical facilities infrastructure crippled.
Since Israel declared war in response to Hamas’ deadly cross-border attack on Oct. 7, Netanyahu has said a central goal is to destroy its military capabilities. Israel says Rafah is Hamas’ last major stronghold in the Gaza Strip, after operations elsewhere dismantled 18 out of the militant group’s 24 battalions, according to the military. But even in northern Gaza, the first target of the offensive, Hamas has regrouped in some areas and continued to launch attacks. Israel says Hamas has four battalions in Rafah and that it must send in ground forces to topple them. Some senior militants could also be hiding in the city.
The US has urged Israel not to carry out the operation without a “credible” plan to evacuate civilians. Egypt, a strategic partner of Israel, has said that an Israeli military seizure of the Gaza-Egypt border — which is supposed to be demilitarized — or any move to push Palestinians into Egypt would threaten its four-decade-old peace agreement with Israel. Israel’s previous ground assaults, backed by devastating bombardment since October, leveled huge parts of northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis and caused widespread civilian deaths, even after evacuation orders were given for those areas. Israel’s military says it plans to direct the civilians in Rafah to “humanitarian islands” in central Gaza before the planned offensive. It says it has ordered thousands of tents to shelter people. But it hasn’t given details on its plan. It’s unclear if it’s logistically possible to move such a large population all at once without widespread suffering among a population already exhausted by multiple moves and months of bombardment. Moreover, UN officials say an attack on Rafah will collapse the aid operation that is keeping the population across the Gaza Strip alive,. and potentially push Palestinians into greater starvation and mass death. Some entry points have been opened in the north, and the US has promised that a port to bring in supplies by sea will be ready in weeks. But the majority of food, medicine and other material enters Gaza from Egypt through Rafah or the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing — traffic that is likely to be impossible during an invasion. The US has said that Israel should use pinpoint operations against Hamas inside Rafah without a major ground assault. After Netanyahu’s latest comments, US National Security spokesperson John Kirby said, “We don’t want to see a major ground operation in Rafah. Certainly, we don’t want to see operations that haven’t factored in the safety, security of” those taking refuge in the town.
The question of attacking Rafah has heavy political repercussions for Netanyahu. His government could be threatened with collapse if he doesn’t go through with it. Some of his ultranationalist and conservative religious governing partners could pull out of the coalition, if he signs onto a ceasefire deal that prevents an assault. Critics of Netanyahu say that he’s more concerned with keeping his government intact and staying in power than national interest, an accusation he denies. One of his coalition members, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, said Tuesday that accepting a ceasefire deal and not carrying out a Rafah operation would amount to Israel “raising a white flag” and giving victory to Hamas. On the other hand, Netanyahu risks increasing Israel’s international isolation — and alienating its top ally, the United States — if it does attack Rafah. His vocal refusals to be swayed by world pressure and his promises to launch the operation could be aimed at placating his political allies even as he considers a deal. Or he could bet that international anger will remain largely rhetorical if he goes ahead with the attack. The Biden administration has used progressively tougher language to express concerns over Netanyahu’s conduct of the war, but it has also continued to provide weapons to Israel’s military and diplomatic support.

Gaza ministry says 34,535 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes since Oct. 7

CAIRO (Reuters) /April 30, 2024
More than 34,535 Palestinians have been killed and 77,704 wounded in the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7 last year, the Gaza health ministry said on Tuesday. Israeli military strikes across Gaza in the past 24 hours killed 47 people and wounded 61, it said. The Gaza Civil Emergency Service estimated that the bodies of a further 10,000 Palestinians were under the rubble of hundreds of destroyed buildings. It said those figures had not been included in the updated health ministry death toll, which only registers bodies that are taken to hospitals. "In light of the lack of heavy equipment, efforts to search for the bodies of the martyrs will remain insufficient and will not be enough to recover the bodies of thousands of them," it said. The accumulation of bodies under the rubble has begun to cause the spread of diseases, it said, as summer approaches and the temperature rises. Israel says it is waging war to eradicate Gaza's Hamas rulers following the militant group's rampage in southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Netanyahu vows to invade Rafah 'with or without a deal' as cease-fire talks with Hamas continue
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP)/Tue, April 30, 2024
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to launch an incursion into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are sheltering from the almost 7-month-long war, as cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas appear to be gaining steam. Netanyahu's comments came hours before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Israel to advance the truce talks — which appear to be one of the most serious rounds of negotiations between Israel and Hamas since the war began. The deal is meant to free hostages, bring some relief to the population and avert an Israeli offensive into Rafah and the potential harm to civilians there. Netanyahu said Israel would enter Rafah to destroy Hamas’ battalions there regardless of whether a truce-for-hostages deal was struck or not. Netanyahu’s comments appeared to be meant to appease his nationalist governing partners but it was not clear whether they would have any bearing on any emerging deal with Hamas. “The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all of its goals is out of the question," Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office. “We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate Hamas' battalions there — with or without a deal, to achieve the total victory.”Netanyahu has faced pressure from his governing partners not to proceed with a deal that might prevent Israel from invading Rafah, which it says is Hamas' last major stronghold. His government could be threatened if he agrees to a deal because hard-line Cabinet members have demanded an attack on Rafah. Netanyahu met on Tuesday with one of those partners, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, according to the minister's office, although it did not disclose details. With more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people sheltering in Rafah, the international community, including Israel' top ally the U.S., has warned Israel against any offensive that puts civilians at risk.
Netanyahu on Tuesday was addressing the Tikva Forum, a small group of families of hostages that's distinct from the main group representing the families of captive Israelis that has indicated it prefers to see Hamas crushed over the freedom of their loved ones. Families and their supporters have demonstrated in the thousands every week for a deal that would bring the hostages home, saying it should take precedence over military action. Netanyahu's coalition is made up of ultranationalist and conservative religious parties, and critics of the Israeli leader say his decision-making during the war has been driven by political considerations rather than national interests, a charge Netanyahu denies. His government could collapse if one of the parties opposed to a deal pulls out, a scenario Netanyahu would try to avoid considering his support has plummeted in opinion polls since the war began, although it has seen a slight gradual uptick.
The current deal being discussed, brokered by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar, would see the release of dozens of hostages in exchange for a six-week halt in fighting as part of an initial phase, according to an Egyptian official and Israeli media. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel would also be released.
Blinken, who was meeting with regional leaders in Saudi Arabia and Jordan before landing in Tel Aviv later Tuesday, urged Hamas on Monday to accept the latest proposal, calling it “extraordinarily generous” on Israel’s part.
But a sticking point remains over what happens next. Hamas has demanded assurances that an eventual release of all hostages will bring a complete end to Israel’s nearly seven-month assault in Gaza and a withdrawal of its troops from the devastated territory. Israel has offered only an extended pause, vowing to resume its offensive once the first phase of the deal is over. The issue has repeatedly obstructed efforts by the mediators during months of talks. Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected stopping the war in return for hostage releases, and says an offensive on Rafah is crucial to destroying the militants. The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others. The war in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials. The war has driven around 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in several towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine.

Israel awaits Hamas response on proposed halt to fighting
Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi/Reuters/April 30, 2024
Israel is waiting for Hamas to respond to proposals for a halt to the fighting in Gaza and a return of Israeli hostages before sending a team to Cairo to continue talks, a person close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
With U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken due to arrive in Tel Aviv on Tuesday evening following a visit to Riyadh to help broker a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel, pressure has been building for an agreement to stop the war as it nears the end of its seventh month.
Expectations that an agreement could be in sight have grown in recent days following a renewed push led by Egypt to revive stalled negotiations between Israel and Hamas. But so far, there has been little sign of agreement on the most fundamental difference between the two sides, the Hamas demand that any deal must ensure a withdrawal of troops and a permanent end to the Israeli operation in Gaza. "We can't tell our people the occupation will stay or the fight will resume after Israel regains its prisoners," said a Palestinian official from a group allied with Hamas. "Our people want this aggression to end."
For Netanyahu, any move is likely to be affected by divisions in his own cabinet between ministers pressing to bring home at least some of the 133 Israeli hostages left in Gaza, and hardliners insisting on the long-promised assault on remaining Hamas formations in the southern city of Rafah.
An incursion into Rafah will happen "with a deal or without a deal", Netanyahu said on Tuesday, adding that ending the war before reaching its objectives was "out of the question."
But Israeli officials have said the operation could be deferred if Hamas accepts the deal on offer - which includes no definitive ceasefire but the return of 33 vulnerable hostages in exchange for a much larger number of Palestinian prisoners and a limited pause in the fighting. "As far as Israel is concerned, this is the last chance to hold off a Rafah sweep. The IDF has already started mobilizing troops for that operation," said a second Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks. Netanyahu's position has also been complicated by talk that the International Criminal Court (ICC) may be preparing arrest warrants for himself and other senior Israeli leaders on charges related to the conduct of the war. The ICC has so far said nothing to confirm the speculation, which prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz to warn Israeli embassies abroad to bolster their security. But it underlined fears in Israel of growing isolation over the fighting in Gaza, which has caused mounting international alarm at the scale of destruction and the prospect of a slide into a wider regional conflict. The Israeli campaign, launched after Hamas-led gunmen rampaged through communities around Gaza, killing some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners and taking 253 into captivity, has so far killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to health authorities there, and laid waste to much of the enclave.

China says Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah met for talks in Beijing
Agence France Presse/April 30, 2024
China said Tuesday that rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah met in Beijing recently for "in-depth and candid talks on promoting intra-Palestinian reconciliation". "Representatives of the Palestine National Liberation Movement and the Islamic Resistance Movement recently came to Beijing," foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said, referring to the groups by their formal names, adding that they made "positive progress".

US and Egyptian presidents warn of danger of military escalation in Rafah
Arab News/April 30, 2024
CAIRO: The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and his US counterpart, Joe Biden, on Tuesday discussed the efforts being made by Egypt to encourage a ceasefire agreement in Gaza between Israel and Hamas and secure the release of hostages. Ahmed Fahmy, a spokesperson for the presidency, said the two leaders expressed concern about the potential danger of a threatened Israeli military escalation in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, which has become the final refuge for more than a million Palestinians displaced by fighting from other parts of the territory. They said it would add a further, catastrophic dimension to the already worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and have wider repercussions on security and stability across the region. The war began with the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel, in which 1,170 people were killed, according to a tally by news agency Agence France-Presse. The militants also took about 250 hostages; Israeli authorities estimate 129 of them are still being held in Gaza, including 34 believed to be dead. During Biden’s telephone call to El-Sisi, the Egyptian president stressed the need for humanitarian aid workers to be granted full and unrestricted access to Gaza, and highlighted the intensive efforts Egypt has been making in support of the aid effort. The presidents agreed on the importance of preventing any regional expansion of the conflict, and reaffirmed that a two-state solution to the long-running dispute between Israel and Palestine is the best way to achieve peace, security and stability in the Middle East. They also highlighted the strategic partnership between Egypt and the US, and their continuing efforts to strengthen bilateral cooperation at all levels.

UN Palestinian agency chief seeks probe into treatment of Gaza staff by Israel
GENEVA (Reuters)/April 30, 2024
The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) called on Tuesday for countries to back an independent investigation into alleged killings and detentions of its staff and damage to its premises once the Israel-Hamas conflict ends. UNRWA has accused Israel of targeting its facilities during more than seven months of conflict in the Gaza Strip, and said 182 of its staff there had been killed and more than 160 of its shelters hit, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people fleeing Israeli bombardment. After briefing U.N. member states in Geneva, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini told reporters he wanted the countries to back an independent investigation "to look into this blatant disregard of the United Nations in order to avoid that this becomes also in the future the new standard."Lazzarini said Israel blocked him from entering Gaza last month, and that he plans to visit again on Sunday. He voiced hope that Israel would let him in. UNRWA is the biggest humanitarian aid provider in Gaza where its 13,000 staff there also run schools and social services for the refugees who make up the majority of Gazans. Israel accuses 19 of its staff members of taking part in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel that killed 1,200 people and triggered Israel's military offensive. Health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza say more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive, intended by Israel to eliminate the Palestinian militant group. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for UNRWA to be shut down, saying it seeks to preserve the issue of Palestinian refugees. A review of the agency's neutrality said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its accusations that a significant number of UNRWA staff were members of terrorist groups and Lazzarini said that all but a handful of countries had now unblocked funds they had paused after the Israeli allegations. The agency has also raised $115 million in private funding, he said. Another U.N. investigation into the allegations against UNRWA staff members is still under way. Food and other humanitarian aid supplies to Gaza have improved in April, but there is still far from enough to reverse the trend towards famine, he said.

Iranian official claims West's support for terrorists fuels attacks in Iran, Russia
Jerusalem Post/April 30/2024
Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Iran's mass aerial attack on Israel was part of the Islamic Republic's "right to legitimate defense."Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad Reza Ashtiani said that terrorist attacks in Iran and Russia recently "are the result of the support of Western countries, especially the United States, to terrorist groups," the Iranian government's semi-official Mehr News Agency reported last Saturday. Ashtiani made these comments while in a meeting with his Russian counterpart the day before, where he also praised Russia's condemnation of the alleged Israeli airstrike on the area around the Islamic Republic of Iran's consulate in Damascus Syria, the report said. While the article did not reveal which terror groups were being referenced by Ashtiani, both Russia and Iran have been the target of attacks by ISIS in recent months. In March, ISIS attacked an entertainment center and city hall in Crocus, killing scores of people. While ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed fingers at Ukraine, which has received notable military support from the West; especially from the United States. Similarly, in January, ISIS orchestrated an explosion in Kerman, Iran, which killed close to 100 people. Escalating conflict between Israel and Iran. Ashtiani's Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, said that Iran's response to the alleged Israeli strike was in line with the Islamic Republic's "right to legitimate defense," which saw hundreds of drones and missiles launched from Iran at Israeli towns and cities. Shoigu also condemned the airstrike on Iran’s embassy in Syria, which saw the death of a high-ranking IRGC official and several other IRGC members. While Israel has not publicly admitted to have orchestrated the strike, an anonymous Israeli official told Reuters that those eliminated had "been behind many attacks on Israeli and American assets and had plans for additional attacks." Ashtiani also called for collaboration with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization "to eliminate common threats" after referring to NATO, according to the report, and called for developing bilateral relations with Moscow in the fields of defense and military.

Police officer wounded in stabbing in Jerusalem's Old City, terrorist neutralized
Jerusalem Post/April 30/2024
The terrorist who carried out the attack was identified as a 34-year-old Turkish citizen. A police officer stabbed near Herod’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem Tuesday by a Turkish citizen was reported to be in light-to-moderate condition. The police officer, in his 30s, was attacked from behind, police said. A Border Police officer at the scene spotted the attack and shot the terrorist who later died of his wounds. The attacker was identified as Hasan Skalanan, a 34-year-old Turkish citizen who entered Israel the same day through the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan, according to Israeli media reports. Police confirmed his Turkish citizenship. The central unit of the Jerusalem District Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) are investigating the attack. District commander praises officers for professional conduct. The Jerusalem District commander, Doron Turgeman, praised the professional response of the officers. Turgeman visited the wounded officer in hospital.  A previous version of this article stated that two people were wounded in the attack. This was a mistake. Only one person, a police officer, was wounded in the attack.

Israel kills Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operative in Iran - report

Jerusalem Post/April 30/2024
According to the report, the eliminated operative had caused damage to Jewish centers in Germany. Israel targeted and eliminated an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) operative in Tehran, Iran who was allegedly involved in targeting Jews in Germany, Iran International correspondent Pouria Zeraati, reported on Monday. According to the reports, the eliminated operative had caused damage to Jewish centers in Germany. However, aside from the initial identification, almost no further information or details about the assassination or confirmation of who was behind it have been released. Former Radio Farda journalist Kambiz Ghafouri reported on Tuesday that the target was Ramin Yektaparast, and that one of Yektaparast's colleagues disappeared after the shooting as well. Yektaparast was recently found by a German court to have ordered an arson attack against a synagogue in Bochum, Germany, as well as several other attacks targeting synagogues in 2022. He fled Germany to Iran in order to avoid arrest. In Germany two years ago, it was suspected that the IRGC was behind three attempts to damage synagogues in the country. The incidents were synchronized to occur on the same night in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, according to Y-net.
Delicate ties between Iran and Israel
Tensions between Iran and Israel have remained high following Iran's attack on Israel earlier this month. The Iranian bombardment consisted of over 300 drones and missiles.In response to the attack, Israel fired rockets at Isfahan next to a nuclear site. Since Israel's response, Iran has not signaled any signs of further escalation. Iran's attack followed an alleged Israeli airstrike in Damascus, resulting in the death of Mohammad Reza Zahedi. Zahedi was the top commander in the Quds Force of the IRGC for Lebanon and Syria, along with his lieutenant and about five other officers, according to the IRGC. There has still been no confirmation from any official sources of the IRGC operative's elimination on Monday.

Protesters take over Columbia University's Hamilton Hall in escalation of anti-war demonstrations
NEW YORK (AP)/Tue, April 30, 2024
Dozens of protesters took over a building at Columbia University in New York early Tuesday, barricading the entrances and unfurling a Palestinian flag out of a window in the latest escalation of demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war that have spread to college campuses nationwide.
Video footage showed protesters on Columbia's Manhattan campus locking arms in front of Hamilton Hall early Tuesday and carrying furniture and metal barricades to the building, one of several that was occupied during a 1968 civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protest on the campus. Posts on an Instagram page for protest organizers shortly after midnight urged people to protect the encampment and join them at Hamilton Hall. A “Free Palestine” banner hung from a window. “An autonomous group reclaimed Hind’s Hall, previously known as ”Hamilton Hall,” in honor of Hind Rajab, a martyr murdered at the hands of the genocidal Israeli state at the age of six years old,” CU Apartheid Divest posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, early Tuesday. The student radio station, WKCR-FM, broadcast a play-by-play of the hall’s takeover – which occurred nearly 12 hours after Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline for the protesters to leave an encampment of around 120 tents or face suspension. Representatives for the university did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment early Tuesday but the Public Safety department said in a statement that access to the Morningside campus has been limited to students living in the residential buildings and employees who provide essential services, such as dining, public safety and maintenance staff. There was just one access point into and out of campus. “The safety of every single member of this community is paramount,” the advisory said. In the X post, protesters said they planned to remain at the hall until the university conceded to the CUAD's three demands: divestment, financial transparency and amnesty.
Universities across the U.S. are grappling with how to clear out encampments as commencement ceremonies approach, with some continuing negotiations and others turning to force and ultimatums that have resulted in clashes with police. Dozens of people were arrested Monday during protests at universities in Texas, Utah, Virginia and New Jersey, while Columbia said hours before the takeover of Hamilton Hall that it had started suspending students. The nationwide campus protests began as a response by some students to Israel’s offensive in Gaza after Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to stamp out Hamas, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.
Israel and its supporters have branded the university protests as antisemitic, while critics of Israel say it uses such allegations to silence opponents. Although some protesters have been caught on camera making antisemitic remarks or violent threats, organizers of the protests, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and protesting the war.
At the University of Texas at Austin, an attorney said at least 40 demonstrators were arrested Monday. The confrontation was an escalation on the 53,000-student campus in the state's capital, where more than 50 protesters were arrested last week. Later Monday, dozens of officers in riot gear at the University of Utah sought to break up an encampment outside the university president’s office that went up in the afternoon. Police dragged students off by their hands and feet, snapping the poles holding up tents and zip-tying those who refused to disperse. Seventeen people were arrested. The university says it’s against code to camp overnight on school property and that the students were given several warnings to disperse before police were called in. At Princeton University, 13 people were arrested Monday night including 11 students, after briefly occupying a building that houses its graduate school. They received summons for trespassing and have been barred from campus, President Christopher Eisgruber said in a statement. The plight of students who have been arrested has become a central part of protests, with the students and a growing number of faculty demanding amnesty for protesters. At issue is whether the suspensions and legal records will follow students through their adult lives. The Texas protest and others — including in Canada and Europe — grew out of Columbia's early demonstrations that have continued. On Monday, student activists defied the 2 p.m. deadline to leave the encampment. Instead, hundreds of protesters remained. A handful of counter-demonstrators waved Israeli flags, and one held a sign reading, “Where are the anti-Hamas chants?”While the university didn’t call police to roust the demonstrators, school spokesperson Ben Chang said suspensions had started but could provide few details. Protest organizers said they were not aware of any suspensions as of Monday evening. In a rare case, Northwestern University said it reached an agreement with students and faculty who represent the majority of protesters on its campus near Chicago. It allows peaceful demonstrations through the June 1 end of spring classes and in exchange, requires removal of all tents except one for aid, and restricts the demonstration area to allow only students, faculty and staff unless the university approves otherwise.
At the University of Southern California, organizers of a large encampment sat down with university President Carol Folt for about 90 minutes on Monday. Folt declined to discuss details but said she heard the concerns of protesters and talks would continue Tuesday.
USC sparked a controversy April 15 when officials refused to allow the valedictorian, who has publicly supported Palestinians, to make a commencement speech, citing nonspecific security concerns for their rare decision. Administrators then scrapped the keynote speech by filmmaker Jon M. Chu, who is an alumnus, and declined to award any honorary degrees. The backlash, as well as Columbia's demonstrations, inspired the encampment and protests on campus last week week where 90 people were arrested by police in riot gear. The university has canceled its main graduation event.
Administrators elsewhere tried to salvage their commencements and several have ordered the clearing of encampments in recent days. When those efforts have failed, officials threatened discipline, including suspension, and possible arrest.
But students dug in their heels at other high-profile universities, with standoffs continuing at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and others. Police in riot gear at Virginia Commonwealth University sought to break up an encampment there late Monday and clashed with protesters.

UAE-Iran joint economic commission convenes for first time in 10 years

DUBAI (Reuters)/April 30, 2024
A rare United Arab Emirates-Iran joint economic commission will convene in Abu Dhabi from Tuesday to Wednesday, the Iranian Labour News Agency reported, as Tehran seeks to bolster economic ties with Gulf states amid mounting U.S. pressure. This is the first meeting in 10 years for the bilateral joint economic cooperation commission, with Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehdi Bazrpash and Emirati Minister of Economy Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri in attendance. The UAE downgraded its diplomatic ties with Iran after Riyadh severed its ties with Tehran in 2016 following the storming of the Saudi embassy in the Islamic Republic by hardline protesters over Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shi'ite cleric. After years of animosity on different sides of geopolitical rivalries, the UAE started re-engaging with Tehran in 2019. It resulted in upgraded diplomatic ties last year between Iran and the UAE, which has business and trade ties with Tehran stretching back more than a century, with Dubai emirate long being one of Iran's main links to the outside world. The ministers are expected to mainly discuss cooperation in international trade corridors while private sector representatives will discuss trade and investment. Iran imported $20.8 billion of goods from the UAE in its last fiscal year ending in March 2024, making the latter Iran's top source of imports according to the country's Customs body. In the same period, the UAE was Iran's top third export destination, with $6.6 billion worth of goods exported.

Turkiye bans May Day protest in Istanbul’s main square
AFP/May 01, 2024
ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Tuesday sealed off Istanbul’s central Taksim Square to prevent any May Day protests as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned unions to stay away from any provocative steps. High metal barriers were erected around the square, AFP journalists reported. The stepped-up security measures came a day after Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said authorities had designated 40 areas for May Day celebrations with the exception of the emblematic Taksim Square. Yerlikaya said some unions had demanded to use the square, the epicenter of 2013 protests against the government of then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now president, but that it would not be allowed. “Taksim Square and its surrounding vicinity is not convenient for any rally,” he said. Istanbul’s governor’s office has announced some roads will be closed to traffic while restrictions will be imposed on public transport as part of security measures. Turkiye’s main opposition CHP party, which won a victory in the March 31 local elections while retaining control of several main cities including Istanbul, however pressed the government to open the square for labor rallies. CHP leader Ozgur Ozel on Monday called on the interior minister to reconsider the ban on Taksim, which has been used in the past.“Sealing off Taksim amounts to not recognizing the constitution,” he said. In an address on Tuesday, Erdogan said insisting on staging a rally at unauthorized areas was “not well-intentioned.”He said the opposition and some “marginal groups” sought to overshadow May Day spirit with their calls to rally at Taksim Square. “I invite our unions and political parties to stay away from steps that would harm the May Day atmosphere,” he said. Taksim Square was a rallying ground for May Day celebrations until 1977, when at least 34 people were killed during demonstrations. Authorities later opened up the square for celebrations in 2010, but it was shut down again after it played host to anti-government protests in 2013 targeting Erdogan. In 2023, Turkiye’s top constitutional court ruled that Taksim Square’s closure to protests constituted a violation of rights. The Amnesty International rights group also said the ban “is based on entirely spurious security and public order grounds” and called for it to be lifted. Calling the square “a place of huge symbolic significance,” Amnesty added that: “For more than a decade, the Turkish authorities have unlawfully restricted people’s right to assembly and criminalized peaceful protests that take place in the square.”More than 42,000 police will be on duty in the city for May 1.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 30-May 01/2024
Ex-Unit 8200 senior officer: Israel still trouncing Iran in real-world cyber impacts
Yonah Jeremy/Jerusalem Post/April 30/2024
Iran is succeeding in disrupting websites and minor disruptions of operations at ports, but not in significant infrastructure damage.
Israel is still routing Iran in the real world impacts of cyberattacks, even if the Islamic Republic has rallied to cause increased harm to Israeli websites and through its social media influence campaigns, former IDF Intelligence Corps Unit 8200 Col. (res.) and Team 8 Chief Ideation Officer Bobby Gilburd said.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post following Team 8’s recent report relating to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and business issues, he said, “We need to separate the psychological campaign” from the campaign to damage actual physical world functions. Gilburd had been asked to address a series of Iranian cyberattacks discussed in comprehensive detail by former deputy National Security Council chief Chuck Freilich in his INSS book The Iranian Cyber Threat. Freilich relates how in 2022 alone, Iran-affiliated APT34 disabled air traffic control at Ben-Gurion Airport for several hours, leading to numerous flight cancellations; there was an IRGC-affiliated attack led the Israel National Cyber Directorate (INCD) to declare a state of emergency when the attack disrupted websites for the Prime Minister’s Office and other government websites; and the “Hackers of Saviors” disrupted the operations of a logistics firm at the port of Ashdod. “The social media influence campaign is important, and bringing down the internet website of government ministries and [minor issues at] Ben-Gurion Airport lends itself to good photos and it shouldn’t happen – and there should be investment to defend the websites – but Israel is still not getting hit like Iran, where their supply at gas stations got hit,” Gilburd said in response. “The basic functioning of the [entire Iranian] gas distribution system [nationwide] was impacted in a way that civilians really felt it. This was a serious harm,” The former Unit 8200 senior officer stated.
“So yes, they [Iranian affiliated hackers] succeeded, but [the Israeli] people don’t feel like the government is unable to defend us,” he said, in contrast to regular Iranians feeling very vulnerable to Israeli cyberattacks in the physical world.
Defending this position, he noted how Israelis have not only not slowed, but have continued to speed up their transition to running more of their live using digital means.
More Israelis are “moving their electricity to a smart digital counter. This is a good trend. It is also more vulnerable to a cyberattack, but Israelis do not consider this transition to be a source of concern which Israel is unable to defend against,” Gilburd said. “In Iran, people feel unprotected in the digital domain.”
October 7 – and the war
MOVING ON to discussing the current war, he said that he spent six weeks back working for Unit 8200 starting from October 8 and that it was a powerful experience. “I would go out from super important Unit 8200 meetings to speak to private sector customers, mostly companies in the US and the EU, as if it was business as usual. We needed to present that” as a feeling of security for the clients – that their needs would be addressed despite the war. “We also didn’t cancel events, though we did change their structure,” he said. After some experiences where Zooms with clients were disrupted by air raid sirens, Team 8 moved all of its meetings to a secured room so that there would be no need to move even during a siren.
Eventually, many people started to return closer to regular hours at the office, though some in reserve units did not come back until early March, as the pace of the war started to slow.“There is a resilience [for the society] from the economy,” he stated. “The security resilience has been harmed, but we cannot let the economy be harmed. We are fighting the war for people to live – that means to prosper and flourish.”
Questioned about some of the October 7 intelligence failures placed by many at Unit 8200’s feet and whether it could probe itself and improve, Gilburd was unequivocal.
“Unit 8200 will rehabilitate itself. From the first day, people adapted to both continue the fight and take responsibility [for October 7]. Everyone says something was not acceptable, at every rank and level. We needed to accomplish something, and it did not work. There will need to be a different political leadership. The IDF and Unit 8200 also took responsibility. But they have the capability both to probe and to fight because we need to fight,” he said.
“We will carry out a probe not just to say who failed, but also to make sure that any problem from October 7 does not recur tomorrow,” Gilburd said.
“I served for 26 years and the IDF knows how to perform probes and to take them seriously to get to the root causes of an issue. And the IDF can change. I am calm and think the IDF can do two things at the same time.”
REGARDING THE media leaks against specific IDF officials, he said he was “sure they are not from the IDF. No one throws others under the bus.”
For example, he noted that IDF intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Aharon “Haliva said first ‘I am responsible,’” before he said anything else (Y.J.B. – Haliva also subsequently resigned).
Understanding the state of cyber war with Iran and how Unit 8200 or top Israeli political or business leaders can best perceive future threats and opportunities all connects back to the key findings of a recent Team 8 report relating to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and business issues. These findings include that 94% of Chief Information Security Officers said they are using integrated business intelligence, with over half saying they are heavily using machine intelligence platforms.
They listed the three largest cyber security challenges as: the democratization of information (54% of CISOs named this as a major challenge), the quality of data (also 54%) and those in society who ignore data (39%).
Aviad Harel, Managing Partner of Venture Creation Enterprise at Team 8 who led the study, said that “at the end of the day, everything starts and ends with data, and the area of data is the most profound challenge for modern organizations, especially in science and technology. This goes along with the increasing requirement for efficient and correct usage of the data.”Some “organizations are adopting the approach of having Data Driven decisions even as a strategic basis for their core business strategy and budget,” Harel said, adding that “organizations which adopt AI technology into their data gathering apparatus in a smart and efficient way, will have a notable competitive business advantage.”

What Students Read Before They Protest

Ross Douthat/Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times/April 30/2024What Students Read Before They Protest
Ross Douthat/Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times/April 30/2024
When I was a college undergraduate 25 years ago, the fancy school that I attended offered what it styled as a “core curriculum” that was really nothing of the sort. Instead of giving students a set of foundational courses and assignments, a shared base of important ideas and arguments, our core assembled a grab bag of courses from different disciplines and invited us to pick among them. The idea was that we were experiencing a variety of approaches to knowledge and it didn’t matter what specific knowledge we picked up. There was no real difference between taking Helen Vendler’s magisterial “Poems, Poets, Poetry” survey class or taking instead “Women Writers in Imperial China: How to Escape From the Feminine Voice.”
At the time, I looked with a certain envy southward, to Columbia University, where the core curriculum still offered what the name promised: a defined set of important works that every undergraduate was expected to encounter.
That approach survives: The Columbia that has become the primary stage for political drama in America still requires its students to encounter what it calls “cornerstone ideas and theories from across literature, philosophy, history, science and the arts.”
This is an admirable goal and also a useful one, since it gives a clear look into what kind of ideas and theories the current consensus of elite academia deems important to forming citizens and future leaders — including the future leaders currently protesting at Columbia and other campuses around the country. It helps pin down, in a particular syllabus, general impulses that anyone with eyes to see will notice all across the meritocracy, from big Ivies to liberal arts colleges to selective high schools and middle schools.
The Columbia core’s requirements include many of the traditional great books — Genesis and Job, Aeschylus and Shakespeare, Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville — along with readings in the sciences and exposure to music and fine arts. They also include sources obviously intended to diversify the traditional core and bring it up to date — some from the medieval and early modern past, many from the 20th century.
I want to look in particular at the syllabus for “Contemporary Civilization,” the portion of the core that deals most with political arguments and authors. The pre-20th-century readings follow traditional patterns (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau) with specific supplements that diversify the list: more Islamic writers in the Middle Ages, Christine De Pizan alongside Machiavelli, a raft of readings on the conquest of the Americas, the Haitian Declaration of Independence and Constitution alongside the American Declaration and Bill of Rights.
But then comes the 20th century, and suddenly the ambit narrows to progressive preoccupations and only those preoccupations: anticolonialism, sex and gender, antiracism, climate.
Many of these readings are absolutely worth engaging. (Some of them I have even assigned in my own limited experiments in teaching.) But they still embody a very specific set of ideological commitments.
To understand the world before 1900, Columbia students read a range of texts and authors that are important to understanding America and the West in their entirety — Greek and Roman, religious and secular, capitalist and Marxist.
To engage with the contemporary world, the world they are being prepared to influence and lead, they read texts that are important to understanding only the perspective of the contemporary left.
Of course, these reading lists can change, and the way they are taught will vary with the instructor. But the priorities of Columbia’s canon fit a wider trend. I speak to college students and high school students fairly often, and it is common to meet kids whose entire sense of contemporary political challenges consists of racism and climate change. (Note that these are usually children of the upper middle class; 18-to-29-year-olds in general are more likely to be worried about economic issues.) They are not necessarily enthusiastically embracing these causes; if they’re talking to me, they’re more likely to be disillusioned. But this is the scope of ideas they’re being given about what an educated person should find concerning or worthy of attention.
This has two effects, one general and one specific to the current protests at Columbia. The first effect is a dramatic intellectual and historical narrowing. In the Columbia curriculum’s 20th-century readings, the age of totalitarianism simply evanesces, leaving decolonization as the only major political drama of the recent past. Absent, too, are any readings that would shed light on the ideas that the contemporary left is ranged against: There is no neoconservatism, certainly no religious conservatism, but also nothing that would make sense of neoliberalism in all its variations. There is no Francis Fukuyama, no “end of history” debate. Class critiques are mostly invisible, left behind in the 19th century with Karl Marx. This narrowing, in turn, leaves students with an equally narrow list of outlets. There’s no clear path to engagement with many key dramas of our time — renewed civilizational competition, the stresses of digital existence.
Yet it’s actually quite difficult to make anticolonialist preoccupations map onto a world where Western Europe is aging and declining and once-colonized populations now fill its major cities, where the locus of world power has shifted into Asia, where the world’s most tyrannical and imperialist regimes are non-Western and nonwhite. But if you’re willing to simplify and flatten history — 20th-century history especially — it is easier to make these preoccupations fit Israel-Palestine. With its unusual position in the Middle East, its relatively recent founding, its close relationship to the United States, its settlements and occupation, Israel gets to be the singular scapegoat for the sins of defunct European empires and white-supremacist regimes.
Sometimes this scapegoating seems subconscious, but quite often it’s entirely literal — as in the video circulating this week in which one of the organizers of the Columbia protests explicitly analogizes contemporary “Zionists” to the slaveowners of prerevolutionary Haiti, who he says were justly murdered by their slaves. (The student has since issued a statement apologizing for rhetorical excess.) Recognizing that this is happening — that Israel is a kind of enemy of convenience for a left-wing worldview that otherwise lacks real-world correlates for its theories — does not excuse the Israeli government for its failings or justify any kind of mistreatment of student protesters. But it helps explain the two things that seem so disproportionate in these protests and the culture that surrounds them. First, it explains why this conflict attracts such a scale of on-campus attention and action and disruption while so many other wars and crises (Sudan, Congo, Armenia, Burma, Yemen ...) are barely noticed or ignored. Second, it explains why the attention seems to leap so quickly past critique into caricature, past sympathy for the Palestinians into justifications for Hamas, past condemnation of Israeli policy into antisemitism.

American Universities… Facts And Dimensions

Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/2024
The "uprising" we are seeing in numerous US university campuses deserves our attention. It is a phenomenon that should be approached in a balanced manner that does blow these developments out of proportion. Nonetheless, we cannot overlook or fail to learn from them.
First, US higher education institutions, with their diverse backgrounds, scales, and funding, mirror the entire spectrum of US society in all of its diversity.
Second, the diversity of the US population has made educational institutions on its soil diverse, and these institutions have fed on its social structure, needs, and resources.
Third, the diversity of approaches to higher education in the US, and of its institutions and universities, reflect the contradictions that have shaped the country throughout its history. That can be seen in the history of the first university, Harvard, which was founded in 1636, and the eight other universities founded before American independence, all nine of which are today known as "colonial colleges."
Fourth, the evolution of education in the US is strongly tied to the knowledge revolutions of Europe, and growing local economic, developmental, and technological needs also fueled this evolution. This is reflected most clearly by the "Morrill Act" that was passed in the 19th century, which sought to foster applied sciences by financing public institutions of higher education through “land grants” granted by every American state to support practical fields of study like engineering, agriculture, veterinary medicine, and all applied sciences.
The politicized movements in the US are more "latent" than are "newly emergent." From the very start, religious and sectarian contradictions precipitated the first "academic split." with the establishment of Yale University, which was founded by conservative priests who had graduated from Harvard. They rejected what they saw as the "unruliness and heretical liberalism" of their alma mater. Thus, Yale became a bastion of "conservative" Christianity that contrasted with Harvard's "liberalism."
American universities of different religious and sectarian affiliations emerged after that. At first, they were split along Protestant-Catholic lines, then among different Protestant denominations. Jewish universities, some religious and others secular, then followed. Socially, parallel public and private education (including religious and sectarian universities) crystallized. Between the American Civil War and before the end of the 19th century, the federal government recognized "black universities," whose origins can be traced back to Protestant religious roots.
Just as Hollywood played a crucial role in the liberal opposition to the far-right phenomenon of McCarthyism, university campuses- particularly those in the Southern states- became arenas for pushing back against the right-wing governors and politicians of the South. That happened as the civil rights movement gained strength in the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, racist fanatics refused to allow black students to enter predominantly white universities. Dr. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, a prominent anti-racism activist, was among the most prominent figures of this era, as was his leading opponent, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama at the time.
Then, in the sixties and early seventies, the Vietnam War as well as the forced conscription that followed, played a fundamental role in “revolutionizing” and “radicalizing” a generation of American university students. While the most famous scenes are those that came out of University of California campuses, especially UC Berkeley, the most heart-wrenching event of this period unfolded in Ohio’s Kent State University during the spring of 1970 when 4 students were killed and 9 others severely injured after being shot by the National Guard.
The tragedy in Kent State and the mass outrage seen across the country became a turning point. Not only did it transform Washington's approach to the Indochina wars, it also invigorated students’ political consciousness, making American youths feel that they could influence society despite the tyranny of the “establishment” and the hegemony of “influential lobbies” that complement and work alongside them.
Moreover, the Cold War’s conclusion with the “American” West defeating the “Soviet” East left a profound impact on US society, as it did the rest of the world. While many leftists in Europe and Latin America felt extremely disappointed by the collapse of the Soviet socialist model, many Americans felt that Washington’s victory had affirmed the superiority of the capitalist model. Indeed, this victory was by the hero of the “hard right” Ronald Reagan... not the “centrist” or “moderate right” politicians who tend to favor engaging in dialogue and making compromises with rivals. It seems that the decline in the economic and living conditions, in the period following the fall of the “Berlin Wall” and the end of the “Cold War,” quickly dispelled this collective sense of “pride.” With no enemy to fuel military spending, industries tied to the army were scaled down, some bases were closed, and some weapons programs were shut, and this led to negative economic and social repercussions. As a result, radicals came to dominate both the Republican and Democratic parties, eventually leading to massive swings in subsequent transfers of power.
After moderate Republican President George H. W. Bush lost his reelection bid, radical Democrat Bill Clinton became president for eight years. Then, after the radical Republican George Bush Jr won reelection, radical Democrats retook control of the White House when Barack Obama, the first African American president in history, won the election, also remaining in power 8 years. The Obama years may have played a crucial role in the election of Donald Trump, whose radical right-wing populism represents the polar opposite of what his Democratic predecessor stood for. Then, as soon as Trump’s presidency ended, Joe Biden, Obama’s vice president and “walking shadow” won power. Many expect him to face off against Trump again as the polarization between the Republican “right” and the radical Democratic “left” exacerbates.
In light of this state of affairs, university campuses seem like flammable arid fields... Indeed, the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the aggravating confusion in Washington on how to deal with Russia and China, especially regarding the Ukraine war and the future of Taiwan- and now the Gaza War, the massacres being broadcast by the international media every day- the youths in the US, both residents and citizens, have become more certain that the Republican and Democratic party “elites” are not up to par. These youths believe that they are lacking in wisdom, responsibility, and humanity.
This crisis of confidence has led young people to voice their opposition on university campuses the way they can, which is natural...
It is natural, in contrast to the excessive reactions of the two sides of the ruling establishment “elite,” be it public representatives or the powerful vested-interests “lobbies” they are tied to.

Damascus-Tehran Amid Inconsistencies And Possibilities

Fayez Sara/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 30/2024
Storms surround Syria, and some have hit neighboring countries. The latter have felt the impact domestically: Türkiye, its neighbor to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Lebanon to the west. The storms have also hit Israel, as can be seen in the struggle between Benjamin Netanyahu's government and its rivals, as well as the repercussions of its ongoing assault on the Palestinians.
Storms have encircled the Eastern Mediterranean as Israel wages its war on Gaza, which has spread to South Lebanon as Israel and Hezbollah engage in skirmishes that could escalate into a full-scale war at any moment. The Iranian-Israeli conflict has shifted after Iran had avoided direct retaliation to Israeli strikes against Iran and its allies in Syria for years. We saw a tit-for-tat following Israel’s attacks on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, with Iran going into a frenzy and launching hundreds of drones and missiles without achieving tangible results, and Israel responding with a strike on Isfahan airport. However, both sides have set new rules of engagement that could prevent a full-scale, albeit for a brief period.
Naturally, Syria has not been left unscathed by the storms hitting Syria’s neighbors in the Eastern Mediterranean. Regional conflicts have had profound ramifications on domestic developments. The repercussions are only increasing, aggravating the challenges facing this country that has been home to an array of conflicts over the past thirteen years. Syria, given the multifaceted challenges and dangers it faces, is in a more difficult position than any other country in the region. The situation is exacerbating, and the implications could go beyond threatening all aspects of life to end its future as a political entity and split the Syrian people. The most prominent manifestation of this threat is the current territorial and demographic divisions in Syria. Setting aside the issue of refugees and assuming that many of them will return in the future, especially those in neighboring countries, the country has been split into three entities. Each of these three entities is under the de facto control of a different political actor:
The Syrian regime controls the coastal region and part of the center, including the main cities from north to south. The "Autonomous Administration" governs northeastern Syria, including parts of Al-Hasakah, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and Aleppo. Then we have the Northwest, which includes Idlib and parts of rural Aleppo and Latakia; it is run by Türkiye and its local partners, the most prominent being the Syrian Interim Government of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, and the Salvation Government run by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, which is led by the al-Qaeda figure Abu Mohammad al-Julani. None of these three regions have agreed to a shared political project, as each seeks to maintain control by any means necessary, making them beholden to regional and international powers.
Political, economic, social, and security conditions in the areas controlled by the de facto authorities are tied to this primary objective of maintaining power, which shapes the decisions and actions of all the de facto authorities. The conditions of the population in the regions whose interests they claim to represent are an afterthought. As a result, we have deeply repressive authorities mired in political deadlock failing to address economic-social crises, corruption, poverty, hunger, and lawlessness amid intense infighting among the rulers of all three regions.
While the Syrian regime is not the best of the de facto authorities, it has the strongest capabilities because it has seized what remains of the Syrian state. The regime uses its capacities to retain power, whatever the policies, methods, and outcomes that achieving this goal demands. This has given rise to unique relationships between Damascus and its Russian and Iranian allies. These allies are given benefits and opportunities in return for the political, military, and economic support they provide to ensure the regime’s continuity. These relationships have made the regime seem subordinate to Iran and Russia, rendering both occupying powers.
As domestic and external developments reshape the Damascus regime’s alliance with Tehran and Moscow, we have seen shifts that reflect disputes within the alliance. Some of these disagreements concern their joint presence in Syria and are tied to regional and international dimensions. Three examples of these developments are Russia's war in Ukraine, the recent shifts in the confrontation between Israel and Iran, and the Arab and global pressure on the Damascus regime to change its policies, particularly those pertaining to its stance on a political solution to the Syrian conflict and its relationships with Iran.
The three parties to this alliance, Russia, Iran, and the Syrian regime, have taken steps and measures in response to these developments, and their actions escalated last year. The regime’s Russian and Iranian allies have reduced their support for the regime and begun demanding the repayment of debts owed to them, and they have objected to some of its policies. The Iranians have been particularly aggressive in their pursuit of expanding their presence and role in Syria, both with and without the regime's knowledge. They have developed strategies for long-term and deep entrenchment in Syria through various means, such as promoting Shia Islam, establishing Syrian militias loyal to the IRGC, securing Iranian routes from Iraq to the Syrian coast and into Lebanon through Damascus, and strengthening control over particularly sensitive areas, especially around Damascus.
These developments have angered factions within the Syrian regime and segments of its support base, leading to a deterioration of relations with its allies, particularly Iran. Iran's actions in Syria are being criticized, and the Syrian authorities have taken measures to restrict its movement in Syria. Moreover, some agreements between the two parties have not been implemented, and the regime has not been sufficiently concerned by Israel’s actions in Syria, which include the bombardment of Iranian bases, the assassination of Iranian officials, and the destruction of the consulate in Damascus. Additionally, traditional Iranian activities have been boycotted in Damascus, the most recent being “Quds Day.” The regime has also avoided taking strong positions regarding the Israeli war on Gaza and its repercussions.
The actions of the Damascus regime are being scrutinized by its allies, regardless of the aim behind them, be it to pressure these allies for more aid that would help the regime deal with its problems, or to court Arab and Western political actors, most notably the United States. While Russia, due to the nature of its presence and role in Syria, as well as the Ukraine war, might be less sensitive to these shifts, the same cannot be said for Iran. The strategic importance of Syria for Iran's regional strategy, the significant costs Iran has borne over the years, the objectives it has achieved, and the humiliation it has endured at the hands of Israel without retaliating. This all leaves Iran facing the challenge of confronting the actions of its ally, the Damascus regime, and Iran has many retaliatory options.

UK needs grown-up politics to end its ‘garbage time’
Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/April 30, 2024
In basketball in the US, the time between when a score is beyond the ability of the team chasing it to close the gap and the end of the game is known as “garbage time.” In British politics, the period between now and the next general election feels very much the same. The election date is yet to be set, but it cannot by law be any later than January of next year, although the Westminster village is inundated with rumors that it might be as early as July or, at the latest, some time in the autumn. But what is it that makes it feel like the ruling Conservative Party is merely running down the clock until it asks the public for its verdict on its 14-year stay in power, with no hope of winning the next general election?
Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has been consistently ahead in the polls since the start of 2022. This month, 43 percent of British adults said they would vote for the Labour Party in a general election, compared with 23 percent who would vote Conservative. This is an unassailable lead that is beyond the government’s ability to overturn in such a short time, especially considering how divided the party is. And it would be equally difficult for Labour, under the highly cautious leadership of Starmer, to antagonize the electorate to the extent of losing such a massive advantage.
A series of by-elections has already demonstrated voters’ distaste for the current government. However, this state of affairs leads me to suggest, perhaps naively, that the only way for the Conservative Party and its leader, Rishi Sunak, to limit some of the expected damage at the ballot box is to acknowledge its unpopularity and its past mistakes instead of denying or defending them and to show some contrition and humility.
Meanwhile, for Labour and Starmer, there is a golden opportunity, which has been ignored thus far, to present the public with new, radical and innovative policies that can take the UK forward in the post-Brexit era, in contrast with the mediocre and parochial agenda of the current government. This would be instead of just some tweaking at the margins when it comes to the economy, social services, relations with Europe, foreign and defense policies and the divisive issue of immigration, which is dominating the headlines.
After almost 14 years in power and five prime ministers, the Conservative Party is in complete disarray and is utterly bereft of ideas. But the problem is not only its inability to address any of the policy issues that the country faces and the public cares about. It is also the moral corruption and misbehavior of some of its parliamentarians, which characterizes a party that has long overstayed its welcome in government.
The expectation that the prime minister will call an election before the year is out has effectively begun the election campaign. Much of it regrettably features personal attacks and smear campaigns, while the much-needed debates over dealing with a slow-growing economy that is haunted by inflation and a country increasingly becoming another medium-sized power with an island mentality are sidelined. For the UK, the challenges are mounting at home and there have been no adequate responses from the government. Meanwhile, international affairs are turning into what is widely agreed to be a new cold war, with the present danger of a regional war in the Middle East and tensions with China over trade and the South China Sea that could lead to military confrontation. Then there is the war in Ukraine, which is far from over. And not forgetting the losing battle to mitigate climate change. Astonishingly, despite all of this, the Tories and the right-wing media are instead more concerned with the living arrangements of Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner.
In the grand scheme of the British people’s everyday concerns, let alone those of the rest of the world, the issue of whether Rayner’s “main residence” was the one owned by her or the one owned by her husband — and should she therefore have paid £3,500 ($4,300) in capital gains tax when she sold her former council flat — is of negligible importance. After all, Rayner has already announced that, if she is found to have broken the law, she will resign.
But the Tories, despite themselves being beset by scandal after scandal that have forced a number of their MPs to resign — and seen the party lose heavily in the subsequent by-elections — seem to think that clutching at straws, as in their feeble attempts to demonize Rayner, is better than no response at all.
That affair epitomizes the detachment of the party from the daily realities of the British people, who continue to pay for both the disastrous Brexit and the following calamitous application of “Trussonomics,” the brainchild of the shameless 49-day Prime Minister Liz Truss, who continues to promote these harmful ideas (along with her absurd conspiracy theories) in her new book, while the government is now headed by the fifth Conservative PM since 2010.
The Tories love to hate Rayner, first and foremost because she is the hardest hitter on the opposition benches, who demonstrates more clearly than anyone else at the despatch box that their time in government is up. They dread it when she deputizes for Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions. But their attacks and their efforts to discredit her and push her out of parliamentary politics are both misogynist and class-based. The very idea that she might hold an influential position in a future Labour government when she comes from a working-class background, grew up on a council estate, does not have a degree from a posh university and became a mother at the age of 16, is unthinkable for the Tories and their supporters. It unnerves their narrow, elitist view of British society and their deep-seated sense of being born to rule. The Tories love to hate Rayner, first and foremost because she is the hardest hitter on the opposition benches. Time will tell what the police investigation into Rayner’s affairs may or may not discover, but by going after her, the Conservatives are showing they are running scared of the forthcoming general election and that any deflection from their appalling record is welcome.
However, all this achieves is, at best, a few cheers from their ever-shrinking base and some supportive headlines from their client right-wing media. It fails to dissuade the public from wanting a change and wanting it now. Political skirmishes that become very personal ultimately do not shorten waiting lists to see your local doctor or get specialist medical help, they do not create jobs or make housing, food or transport more affordable, and they prevent the country from meeting its climate change targets. The public is longing not for mudslinging, but for an end to this garbage time and for a grown-up politics that is inclusive and addresses these real issues.
**Yossi Mekelberg is a professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Program at international affairs think tank Chatham House. X: @YMekelberg

Scotland: Humza Yousaf’s Resignation, a Blow to Independence Supporters?

Ali A. Hamadé/This Is Beirut/April 30/2024
In the heart of the Scottish political turmoil, a resounding announcement shook the circles of power: Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf announced his resignation on Monday morning. This decision comes after a series of tumultuous political developments that rocked the Scottish National Party (SNP), of which Yousaf is the leader. It all started with the breakup of the coalition between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party, following the withdrawal from the Bute House agreements last week.
These agreements, negotiated during the tenure of Nicola Sturgeon, Yousaf’s predecessor, aimed to provide the framework for a parliamentary coalition between the SNP and the Greens in the Scottish Parliament so they could govern with an absolute majority. However, Humza Yousaf announced that he would be unable to fulfill the agreed-upon commitments — specifically, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030 — leading to a unilateral withdrawal of his party from the Bute House agreements and the parliamentary coalition. This decision immediately triggered a vote of no confidence, unanimously supported by opposition parties and the Greens. In this tumultuous context, Humza Yousaf chose to resign, committing to manage affairs until his successor is appointed within 28 days. During this transitional phase, the resignation will be officially transmitted to King Charles III, thereby ending the governance of Scotland’s first Muslim leader, which lasted only a year.
How Did We Get Here?
A report published on March 20 by the Climate Change Committee (an independent British body responsible for monitoring the pace of emissions reduction in the UK) revealed that “experts are no longer convinced of the feasibility of the targets set by Edinburgh in the Bute House agreements.” They particularly criticize “a lack of credible strategy for decarbonizing Scotland.”This announcement is a humiliation for the Scottish government, which boasted of leading the world’s most ambitious country in this regard. The Executive had little choice, trapped by the damning findings of the report. This adds another layer to the turmoil facing the Scottish National Party. Beset by Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation in March 2023 and a trial accusing her of embezzlement, the SNP would undoubtedly have preferred, despite its political missteps, to avoid the resignation of its current leader, fearing it would lead to even greater chaos and instability. According to polls, these setbacks could favor the resurgence of the Labor Party to a position of dominance that it held in Scotland until the mid-2000s. Indeed, for the first time since 2014, Labor would surpass the SNP by 2 points in the percentages, according to the YouGov institute. This wear and tear, ignored by the Scottish nationalists in power since 2007, heralds their imminent downfall, already preceded by the sharp decline in pro-independence sentiment in public opinion. In other words, as succinctly summarized by the British newspaper The Times, “in Scotland, it’s the end of an era.” More worrying for this party, polls on a second referendum now show that a majority of Scots oppose it. The latest YouGov study reveals that 54% of respondents would vote against Scottish independence, and 46% for. The SNP’s resounding failure lies not primarily in Humza Yousaf’s resignation, but rather in the growing feeling that the Scottish independence dream no longer appeals.
What Happens Now?
The SNP now faces its second major leadership crisis in less than 18 months, after two decades of stability and smooth transitions. According to the provisions of the SNP constitution, any contender for party leadership must obtain the votes of at least 100 members. According to information obtained from an informed source who requested anonymity, the party will favor an experienced and unifying candidate, capable of reuniting its ranks and leading it to general elections this year and the Scottish Parliament elections in 2026. John Swinney, a respected figure within the party, quickly emerged as the favored potential successor to Yousaf. Swinney, a former deputy to Nicola Sturgeon until his resignation in March 2023, confirmed that he is seriously considering running for leadership after being strongly encouraged by key figures within the SNP. They hope to also persuade Kate Forbes, former Finance Secretary and another favored candidate, to step aside in favor of Swinney, to avoid exacerbating divisions that could tarnish the SNP’s popularity so close to a general election. If Swinney does not run, Forbes will run for party leadership. From the same source, it is indicated that Swinney had been encouraged to remain as party leader at least until the Scottish parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 2026. The youngest leader at the helm of the SNP, Humza Yousaf, who was praised for his communication skills, capable of uniting the party, thus failed to turn the page on Sturgeon’s tenure. While Humza Yousaf’s tenure did not succeed in slowing the decline of Scottish independence sentiment, it highlighted the challenges facing the SNP. However, it also symbolized openness and cultural diversity in the UK. As the first Muslim leader of a Western European country, Yousaf embodies Britain’s social and political evolution, as well as the significant contribution of immigrants and their descendants to society. His personal journey, as the son of Pakistani immigrants, illustrates the richness and value of cultural diversity in building a modern and inclusive nation. Is Humza Yousaf’s forced resignation, along with the SNP’s growing unpopularity, not a harbinger of an electoral defeat against Labor in the upcoming elections? Is it not also evidence that Scottish independence is nothing more than a myth that no longer appeals, and that Scotland’s place remains firmly within the United Kingdom?