English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 05/2024
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18/18-22:”Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 04-05/2024
Holy Flame Arrives in Beirut on the Eve of the Greek Orthodox Easter
Holy Fire of Jerusalem: Orthodox Easter’s Recurring Marvel
Relative calm in southern Lebanon amid talks on French peace plan and Israeli-US coordination
South Lebanon: Tensions Persist at the Border Southern Border
UK: Construction of Observation Towers Along Lebanon’s Southern Border
Mikati says remarks about 'European bribe' are baseless
Bassil criticizes seasonal migration to Europe and the one-billion-euro aid package for Lebanon
Salem Zahran on LBCI deciphers the French paper and its ramifications
Sethrida Geagea Calls for Strict Law Enforcement on Illegal Syrian Presence
Tackling online harassment: Protecting children in the digital world
In contact with Berri, Mikati hopes to call for a general parliamentary session to discuss the issue of the displaced and stop political exploitation of this file.
Gathering of the families of the martyrs and wounded of the port explosion in its monthly vigil: We will continue to fight for truth and justice

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 04-05/2024
‘Substantial progress’ in Cairo talks on Gaza truce
Deadline set: Israel gives Hamas one week to respond to prisoner exchange proposal
Israeli official says Hamas demand for end to war ‘thwarting’ truce efforts
Hamas negotiators begin Gaza truce talks; CIA chief also present in Cairo
Israeli forces kill Hamas gunmen in West Bank raid
Thousands of Israelis protest to demand hostage return
Senior UN official says northern Gaza is now in 'full-blown famine'
Anti-war protest ruffles University of Michigan as demonstrations collide with graduation season
Saudi foreign minister reaffirms support for Palestine at OIC forum in Gambia
Yielding to pressure at home, Erdogan halts trade with Israel, says the aim is Gaza truce
Russia puts Ukraine's Zelenskiy on wanted list

Titles For The Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources on May 04-05/2024
Iran and the US Administration: Mocking US Sanctions/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 04/2024
Why the Oslo Accords failed to put Palestinians on the path to statehood/JONATHAN GORNALL/Arab News/May 04, 2024
Israel and Hamas are stuck in a dangerous, deliberate stalemate/Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/May 04, 2024
Future of the UK, and wider world, is boosted by Scottish National Party’s decline/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/May 04, 2024
Keep an eye on the Balkans: It’s the world’s next flash point/Luke Coffey/Arab News/May 04, 2024

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 04-05/2024
Holy Flame Arrives in Beirut on the Eve of the Greek Orthodox Easter
This Is Beirut/May 04/2024
As is customary annually, the Sacred Flame, originating from the Holy Sepulcher Basilica in Jerusalem, arrived in Beirut on Saturday evening at around 8 PM. A clergyman from the Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut, Father Nektarios Kheirallah, was chosen to travel to Jordan to retrieve it. Upon arrival at the airport, the Sacred Flame was transported to the seat of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Beirut, in Ashrafieh, where it was received by Metropolitan Elias Audi, bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of Beirut. Subsequently, it was moved by the priests to their respective churches. Fireworks marked the arrival of the holy fire which will be transported from one church to another, to be reverently passed from hand to hand among the faithful. The flame made the journey from Jerusalem through Jordan before landing in Beirut, in what has become a yearly tradition on the eve of the Greek Orthodox Easter to mark the Christ’s rebirth. The sacred flame, deemed miraculous, was transported in a special private plane to Lebanon.

Holy Fire of Jerusalem: Orthodox Easter’s Recurring Marvel
Fady Noun/This Is Beirut/May 04/2024
Today, on Holy Saturday, the Orthodox world will celebrate with joy the appearance of the Holy Fire, also known as the Holy Flame. This mysterious physical phenomenon is characterized by the sudden appearance of a light-density fire on the tombstone where Christ’s lifeless body was placed after his crucifixion. This fire rapidly spreads and does not burn in its initial moments. For the Orthodox world, this flame from an unseen realm serves as a sign that undeniably authenticates Jesus’s emergence from the tomb, affirming him as truly the one he claimed to be: the “Son of God.” The Nicene Council in 325 understood this title to mean “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” a formulation found within the Christian Creed. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III, will have the honor of entering the special structure containing the remains of Jesus’ tomb and receiving the Holy Fire. He will then light the bundle of 33 candles, symbolizing the years of Christ’s life, which he will hold in his hand. Afterwards, he will offer it to the crowd of pilgrims who accompanied him inside the grand basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, which encloses the chapel.
A Phenomenon Attested Since the 4th Century
Since the 4th century, the phenomenon of the Holy Fire, deemed miraculous, has stood as one of Christianity’s most extensively documented events, yet it remains inexplicable. According to an auxiliary archbishop who witnessed this “miracle,” “a blue light emanates from the stone rock where Jesus’ lifeless body was laid, ascending towards the marble slab covering it. This phenomenon occasionally manifests as a column comprising “a sort of fire.” The man described observing on the marble slab “a sparkling light, as if tiny pearls of white, blue, scarlet, and other colors were scattered on it.” “These pearls then melded together, glowing and transforming into fire.”Before this solemn moment, a unique ceremonial unfolds. On Good Friday, the Israeli authorities, responsible for the site, meticulously ensure its emptiness of any flame-inducing objects before sealing it until the following day. At dawn, a multitude of pilgrims gather, ready to join in a solemn procession led by the patriarch and attended by clergy. Around noon, after shedding his sacred garments and enduring a thorough search, the Greek Orthodox patriarch (or occasionally the Armenian Orthodox patriarch) enters the tomb’s dwelling, flanked by two bishops or alone, while the crowd holds its breath in anticipation. Fifteen minutes later, the Holy Fire ignites. Amidst a chorus of jubilation, the flame is reverently passed from hand to hand among the faithful, each holding their candle aloft. According to the pilgrims, during the first moments, the Holy Fire miraculously refrains from burning either hair or faces. The Sacred Flame is then transported on specially arranged flights to multiple countries, including Lebanon. This remarkable — and deemed miraculous — phenomenon draws thousands of pilgrims to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher each year. Despite lingering skepticism about the Holy Fire, Orthodox believers assert its authenticity as “a genuine miracle.” For some, this event serves as “convincing evidence of the truth of the Orthodox faith.” According to certain traditions, the “non-start of the Holy Fire” would indicate the imminent “end of the world.”
Field Scientific Experiments
Accusations of fraud surrounding the Holy Fire are numerous, but there is no consensus on the mechanisms involved. Physics and chemical explanations put forward are often so implausible that it seems more logical to entertain the idea of intervention from another reality into our physical world, echoing the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, who famously stated, “There is no effect without a cause.”In the early 2000s, the Commission for Describing Miraculous Events of the Russian Orthodox Church initiated a program to study the “phenomena accompanying the descent of the fire.” Employing sophisticated instrumentation — such as an antenna, a digital converter, an oscilloscope, and a laptop for recording electromagnetic spectra — they conducted measurements during the descent of the Holy Fire. Remarkably, the analysis revealed radiation levels akin to those produced by an electric welding arc! Conclusion: this is an “authentic miracle,” achievable only through an electrical shock.”From their standpoint, the editors of the journal Science and Religion proposed that the unique sound resonance of chants and prayers in the basilica “might trigger a piezoelectric effect, resulting in a significant electrical charge.”
The Essence Lies Elsewhere
On the archaeological level, the unveiling of the slab and the discovery of the stone purported to be Christ’s resting place showcased its alignment with first-century Jewish tombs. Nonetheless, according to Marie-Armelle Beaulieu, editor-in-chief of Terre Sainte magazine, the essence lies elsewhere. The journalist, who has lived in Jerusalem for nearly thirty years, is among the privileged few to have entered these spaces. She shares, “The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a disconcerting site… It is not a site to be visited casually, but rather a place for prayer. Thanks to a clergyman, I was able to reach the very rock that supported Christ’s body, an experience beyond my wildest dreams… I was in a strange state, almost weightless, yet every detail remains vivid in my memory. My future visits to the Holy Sepulcher won’t be the same again. Today, the marble slab has been restored over it, and the tomb is partly visible through an opening (shielded with bulletproof glass, Editor’s Note). Yet, I know the stone lies beneath. I used to kneel before Christ’s tomb, reflecting on its significance, and I would contemplate the absurdity, thinking there was no Real Presence, that true genuflection belonged to the Sacred Species. However, at the Holy Sepulcher, in front of this tomb, there is the genuine absence. The presence of an absence.”

Relative calm in southern Lebanon amid talks on French peace plan and Israeli-US coordination
NAJIA HOUSSARI/Arab News/May 04/2024
BEIRUT: Discussions continued on Saturday about a French proposal designed to ease tensions and halt clashes between the Israeli army and Hezbollah along Lebanon’s southern border. Lebanese officials received an amended version of the proposal on Friday, which summarized meetings held by Stephane Sejourne, France’s foreign minister, in Lebanon and Israel. The proposal also aims to ensure the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was adopted in 2006 with the aim of resolving the war that year between Israel and Hezbollah. One political observer said Lebanese officials had prepared a response to the French document and were awaiting Israel’s response. On Friday and Saturday there was a noticeable decline, generally, in hostilities between the two sides in southern Lebanon, though there were exceptions. One of them was the targeting of the “Israeli Meron Airbase in the Safed area on Friday from Lebanese territories,” Israeli authorities said. Hezbollah did not immediately claim responsibility for the attack. However, the group did say it shelled the Israeli site of Bayad Blida at dawn on Saturday while Israeli soldiers were there.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army opened fire in the vicinity of a shepherd in Wazzani but he was unharmed. Israeli artillery targeted Aita Al-Shaab, Jabal Blat and the outskirts of the towns of Naqoura and Alma Al-Shaab. Extreme caution seemed to prevail in many border areas as Israeli reconnaissance warplanes continued to operate over Hasbaya and the occupied Shebaa Farms, reaching Western Bekaa and Iqlim Al-Tuffah.
In addition to the diplomatic processes related to the French peace plan, Lebanese authorities were also awaiting the outcome of negotiations in Cairo for a possible agreement between Israel and Hamas on a ceasefire in Gaza. Hezbollah previously linked any end to hostilities in southern Lebanon along the border with Israel to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Channel 12 news in Israel reported on Saturday that the security establishment in Tel Aviv believed Israeli authorities were close to an agreement with Hezbollah and Lebanon, similar to the provisions of UN Resolution 1701. It said the Israeli security establishment was working with US officials on the process, including American envoy Amos Hochstein, who oversaw indirect negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate their maritime borders in 2022. Regarding the French peace plan, Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, said he had received a copy of the document from the French Embassy in Lebanon and will respond. “It included acceptable points and others that are unacceptable and must be amended, subject to discussion and review,” he added. The revised proposal refers to a previous ceasefire agreement signed by Israel and Lebanon on April 26, 1996. It also highlights the steps that can be “taken to stop the escalation and ensure the effective implementation of UN Resolution 1701.”
Media leaks suggested its recommendations included “creating a monitoring group with the US, France, Lebanon and Israel. This group would oversee implementation and address any complaints from the involved parties in stages.”The first stage would require Lebanese armed groups to halt their military operations inside Israel and disputed border regions, refrain from attacking personnel or facilities belonging to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, and guarantee unrestricted freedom of movement for UNIFIL forces, including patrols in all areas south of the Litani River. It calls on Israel to “halt military operations inside Lebanon, including airstrikes on Lebanese territory, refrain from any actions that may put UNIFIL personnel or facilities at risk, and ensure UNIFIL’s freedom of movement, including stopping the locking of aircraft radars on UNIFIL naval forces ships.”Regarding UNIFIL’s mission in the first phase, the French initiative said the force will be “monitoring the cessation of hostilities on the ground and increasing the number of patrols and redeployments along the Blue Line to ensure effective respect for the cessation of hostilities and subsequent commitments by the parties.”The Blue Line is a demarcation line dividing Lebanon from Israel that was set by the UN in June 2000 to determine whether Israeli forces had fully withdrawn from Lebanon. The second phase of the French initiative, to be implemented within three days, would involve “dismantling all installations, facilities and centers near the Blue Line, including containers, small towers and tents, and the withdrawal of combat forces, including the Radwan militia, and military capabilities, including shooting capabilities in depth and anti-tank systems, for a distance of not less than 10 kilometers north of the Blue Line.”It would also require Israel to “stop flying over Lebanese airspace.” It urges Lebanon to resume meetings of the tripartite mechanism, involving UNIFIL and the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, and deploy about 15,000 Lebanese soldiers along the Blue Line south of the Litani River, with UNIFIL and other international partners supporting this deployment.
During a 10-day third phase, Lebanon and Israel, with UNIFIL support, would be expected to resume talks about their land borders. These are intended build on negotiations that took place in 2017, and focus on areas already discussed in 2018 within the framework of the UNIFIL tripartite mechanism, with the aim of establishing an area between the Blue Line and the Litani River free of armed groups and weapons other than those related to the Lebanese government and UNIFIL.These talks would take place in parallel with international efforts in the form of a support group to assist in the deployment of Lebanese forces in the southern region, and the social and economic development of the region.

South Lebanon: Tensions Persist at the Border Southern Border
This Is Beirut/May 04/2024
Saturday was marked by several Israeli attacks in the border regions of southern Lebanon, without any casualties. The Israeli army opened fire on a shepherd in the Wazzani region, almost hitting him. An Israeli drone attack also targeted a car parked on the main road between Bint Jbeil and Kounine. No casualties were reported. Another raid targeted an unoccupied house in Tayr Harfa, destroying it completely. Israeli artillery shells also hit Jabal Blat and the outskirts of Naqoura, Alma al-Shaab and Aita al-Shaab. For its part, Hezbollah claimed responsibility for an attack on the Israeli position at Bayyad Blida and the Israeli radar post in the Shebaa farms. It also announced that it had targeted surveillance equipment at the Raheb site.

UK: Construction of Observation Towers Along Lebanon’s Southern Border
Bassam Abou Zeid/This Is Beirut/May 04/2024
Despite the ongoing war between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon and the absence of a long-term solution, reports have emerged regarding preparations to implement security measures along the Lebanese-Israeli borders, notably by a British team, in order to build observation towers in the area.
According to detailed information, the British team, previously responsible for erecting towers along the eastern borders with Syria, has initiated discussions with the Lebanese Army (LAF) and relevant authorities to build three towers along the southern border as an initial step. Preliminary agreements have been reached to the extent that the British team has imported the necessary equipment for the construction of these towers, which are expected to be located in the central sector of the border region. Furthermore, a dialogue was conducted with Hezbollah regarding the construction of these towers, and the party’s stance appears to have shifted from initial rejection to tentative approval. However, the realization of this plan hinges on attaining a sustainable ceasefire, coupled with a political accord between Israel and Hezbollah facilitated by American and European mediation, under the auspices of Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Moreover, in the event of failure to secure a ceasefire and political agreement, these three towers may be relocated to the Syrian border. This strategic move aims to bolster surveillance in that region, particularly regarding border control to prevent the illegal entry of Syrians into Lebanon and their unauthorized migration to Europe via Cyprus. Since the onset of the “Al-Aqsa Flood” war, the UK has consistently informed the Lebanese Army of its readiness to increase assistance in border control operations with Syria and Israel, particularly in terms of contributing to the implementation of Resolution 1701 and guaranteeing a permanent ceasefire in southern Lebanon.

Mikati says remarks about 'European bribe' are baseless

Naharnet/May 04, 2024
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Saturday said recent remarks about “a European bribe to Lebanon to keep the displaced (Syrians) on its soil” are “baseless,” stressing that “this grant is unconditional.”“What’s happening is a malicious attempt to thwart any governmental solution under false excuses and accusations,” Mikati added in a statement released by his press office. The statement came shortly after Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil lashed out at Mikati and the EU over the recent one-billion-euro aid package. Bassil accused the European Commission of seeking to "replace the Lebanese people with the displaced Syrians and to change the identity of the people and the land." EU chief Ursula von der Leyen had announced Thursday 1 billion euros in aid for Lebanon during a visit to the crisis-hit country and urged it to tackle illegal migration to the bloc.
The bulk of the package — 736 million euros — would go to supporting Syrian refugees “and other vulnerable groups” in Lebanon, while 200 million euros would bolster Lebanese security services in enforcing border and migration control, according to figures provided by the Cypriot government.

Bassil criticizes seasonal migration to Europe and the one-billion-euro aid package for Lebanon
LBCI/May 04, 2024
Gebran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), commented on the seasonal migration to Europe and the one-billion-euro aid package for Lebanon, explaining that European countries, in need of foreign labor in sectors such as healthcare and agriculture, issue three-month renewable visas, implying a disguised and gradual displacement of Lebanese under the guise of seasonal migration. He added, "Europe is struggling with the migration of Syrians to its countries and tells Lebanon, 'You want to keep the Syrians, and we are opening our doors to your people's migration,' meaning replacing the Lebanese people with Syrian refugees." Bassil emphasized that Lebanon needs a unified political decision, stating, "Release a few thousand Syrians, and see how the European Union kneels! Are you willing to sell yourselves so cheaply and accept a billion euros? If Lebanon opens its borders, see how the Europeans will pay billions to return instead of staying." He pointed out that it is the responsibility of the Syrian government to prepare places to receive refugees and for the European Union and the Refugee Agency to fund the return of economically displaced Syrians. He also stressed the need to lift the blockade on Syria for its reconstruction and the return of its people.

Salem Zahran on LBCI deciphers the French paper and its ramifications

LBCI/May 04, 2024
Salem Zahran, the Director of the Media Center, considered that "if a ceasefire is not achieved in Gaza, it will not happen in Lebanon."On LBCI's "Nharkom Said" TV show, Zahran stated that the French paper supports the deployment of the Lebanese army in southern Litani and provides logistical support to it from fuel, food, and medicine. However, he said the paper did not include supporting the army with weapons. Zahran highlighted the recent submission of 10 notes by the Amal Movement-Hezbollah duo on the French paper, which will be conveyed to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. "Berri then will communicate with the caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, to give the French side the notes, and this paper resembles the paper of the US envoy Amos Hochstein," he added. Referring to Hochstein's paper, Zahran clarified that it focuses on troop repositioning and weapon withdrawal rather than a retreat of the Radwan forces by 10 kilometers, as suggested in the French paper. He emphasized that while Lebanon is not outright rejecting the French paper, there are reservations, primarily linked to the cessation of hostilities in Gaza and the notes provided by the Amal Movement-Hezbollah duo. Zahran highlighted a preference for the US paper over the French. Moreover, he stressed the importance of a sustainable solution within the French framework, expressing skepticism about the possibility of an immediate ceasefire given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stance on Rafah. Looking ahead, Zahran emphasized that a ceasefire in Gaza could pave the way for a comprehensive solution in southern Lebanon, offering a potential breakthrough in implementing UN Resolution 1701. Addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, Zahran advocated for dialogue between Lebanon, Syria, and the European Commission to identify safe zones. He urged Prime Minister Najib Mikati to engage directly with European counterparts to facilitate the return of Syrians to their homeland. In addition, Zahran highlighted recent incidents involving the deportation of Syrian migrants by Cyprus, underscoring the need for a coordinated approach to address the humanitarian challenges facing Lebanon.

Sethrida Geagea Calls for Strict Law Enforcement on Illegal Syrian Presence
This Is Beirut/May 04/2024
MP Sethrida Geagea of the Strong Republic Bloc, led by the Lebanese Forces (LF), emphasized on Saturday the illegality of the Syrian presence in Lebanon, advocating for a strict classification of their status in the country. Speaking from Maarab during a meeting of the Cedar’s Mountain Foundation (CMF), Geagea criticized the current terminology used to describe Syrians in Lebanon, stating, “The Syrian presence in Lebanon is illegal, and we must all start characterizing things as they are, and we can never again use the term ‘refugees’ or ‘asylum seekers’ to describe their presence.”Geagea, who chaired the meeting in the presence of several notable officials, including former MP Joseph Ishac and Vice President of the Foundation Dr. Leila Geagea, pointed out the specific agreement with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that was inked in 2003 and which classifies Lebanon as a ‘country of transit’ and not a ‘country of asylum’. This distinction, she argues, underscores the necessity of reevaluating the status of Syrians in Lebanon. Expressing frustration over the lack of progress in addressing this issue, which she believes threatens Lebanon’s economic, financial, and security stability, Geagea declared, “We can no longer tolerate any laxity in resolving this matter.”She said she was actively engaged with high-level officials, including Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the General Director of the Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Osman, to push for a resolution. “The aim is to urge the officials to exercise their authority in order to preserve the rights of the Lebanese citizens to live in safety and security and to prevent issues and tension between the Lebanese and Syrians who are illegally present in Lebanon,” Geagea explained. She also mentioned presenting practical suggestions to ensure these policies are implemented effectively. Geagea detailed how her colleagues are working with local municipalities and security services to enforce existing laws regarding the Syrian presence, treating them as any other foreigners in Lebanon.

Tackling online harassment: Protecting children in the digital world
LBCI/May 04, 2024
The case of the Lebanese TikToker George Moubayed, who lured children through social media for harassment, has gripped both Lebanese and Arab public opinion. However, this issue is not unique to Lebanon but rather a global phenomenon. Estimates from Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram, in its annual report indicate that around 100,000 child users of Facebook and Instagram are subjected to online sexual harassment daily. This includes receiving "adult genital images," according to internal company documents. In an era where technology and social media significantly impact our lives and those of our children, how can we detect if they are being harassed on social media? What steps should parents take to protect them? Parental vigilance is crucial, but the foundation lies in sexual education and trust between parents and their children. Social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram are among the few sites that can be misused, posing risks to our children. Some online multiplayer games, which involve exchanging messages between players, can also endanger children, as they spend long periods conversing with strangers. Moreover, dating apps, prevalent in Lebanon and worldwide, where teenagers and young adults interact with individuals based on certain profiles without any verification, pose significant risks. Despite its risks, social media remains an integral part of our daily lives. Additionally, you can communicate with your internet service provider, whether Ogero or others, to restrict access to inappropriate pages for children. Awareness of the basic measures needed to protect children from the risks of social media and the internet is crucial. Therefore, solutions mitigate risks, but the ultimate solution lies in parental education, maturity, and seeking psychological assistance rather than succumbing to panic in the event of any incident.

In contact with Berri, Mikati hopes to call for a general parliamentary session to discuss the issue of the displaced and stop political exploitation of this file.
NNA (Google transtion)May 4, 2024
Prime Minister Najib Mikati made a phone call to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, during which he discussed the current situation. During the call, the Prime Minister wished that “President Berri would call for a general parliamentary session to discuss the issue of the displaced, in order to stop the cheap political exploitation taking place in the country regarding this issue at the expense of the public interest.”

“Gathering of the families of the martyrs and wounded of the port explosion” in its monthly vigil: We will continue to fight for truth and justice
NNA (Google transtion)May 4, 2024
The “Gathering of the Families of the Martyrs, Wounded, and Victims of the Beirut Port Explosion” carried out its monthly vigil this afternoon in front of the Martyrs’ Gate No. 3 of the Beirut Port, with the participation of a number of the families of the martyrs and the wounded. The head of the assembly, Ibrahim Hoteit, delivered a speech to the families of the martyrs and said: “Ninety days separate us from the fourth anniversary of the crime of explosion or bombing of the port of Beirut. 1,350 days have passed and the massacre continues against the families of the martyrs and wounded on that fateful day on the fourth of August 2020. The families of the victims and martyrs are struggling for the truth and justice to rest.” Their souls are lost and their souls are calmed with the accountability they hope for, even for the first time in this country, and the wounded are still suffering from aches and pains, bleeding and surgical operations in light of the absence and even complete neglect of the state, social security and the Ministry of Health in a new massacre against them that has so far claimed ten wounded who have died. As a result of this negligence, while some of them are still in a coma and others are in dire need of permanent operations and treatments, especially those who were left with permanent or partial disabilities without any attention from any official after they were deprived of the law to equate them with the wounded in the army, like martyrs, so they were transferred to Social Security with an ambiguous decision that did not specify their names or The entity that must pay the subscriptions on their behalf. What made matters worse was that the security service refused to implement this law without informing anyone of this matter, for which the wounded paid, as they began begging associations and white-collar workers for assistance to carry out their operations. He added: “From the beginning, we took it upon ourselves. As the families of the martyrs, we are following up on this issue, considering those wounded in the explosion as living martyrs and that they are an integral part of our national and humanitarian cause. We raised their injustice in every forum and in all of our monthly vigils, such as the gathering of the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and those affected by the Beirut Port explosion. We also carried their cause with all the meetings and communications we had with most of the representatives of the deputies. The parliamentary blocs from which we heard sympathy and promises to equate them with the wounded in the army, without any result. The matter made us threaten the representatives to force them to sign this law in the first legislative session of the House of Representatives through demonstrations, which is what happened last April 25 after we called on the wounded via Voice of Mount Lebanon radio and some WhatsApp groups, where we noticed a great response from them to this initiative. We were surprised on the day of the desired action that those who responded to the call. They did not exceed 13 wounded, but it later became clear that associations and parties had contacted the wounded and put pressure on them, intimidating them not to help them and enticing them to make certain contributions on the condition that they do not come with us to move under the pretext that they are the strongest. Those who exploited the needs of the wounded to score suspicious and well-known goals instead of contributing with us in taking away the rights of the wounded away from the hateful political alignments that do not concern us, near or far.” He congratulated MPs Hagop Pakradounian, Cynthia Zarazir, and Waddah Al-Sadiq for joining the movement to register their solidarity. “This is what we thank them for, and our thanks here comes. To confirm what is certain, we are far removed from politics and political positions with which some people confuse us.” He said: “As for our message to the Minister of Interior, Bassam Mawlawi, we had previously requested an appointment from your protocol director about a year ago, and we promised to set an appointment after we informed him of the reasons for the visit, including the request not to procrastinate.” The security forces concerned with the investigations they are conducting into the deaths of some of those wounded in the explosion so that their families can benefit from their inclusion among the army’s martyrs, and we have not received a response despite our numerous inquiries after the protocol director was prevented from answering his phone. Four months ago, we contacted your office manager for the same reason and she promised us to set an appointment, and the same thing was repeated with her, and she did not. She no longer answers her phone, which is reprehensible.”
He concluded: “If you know this, then it is a disaster, and if you do not know, then the disaster is greater, Your Excellency Minister, especially since the treatment of our association is at a standstill with you today. It is an association whose goal is to carry our national cause in the relevant forums and help the people in these harsh and difficult circumstances. Therefore, we hope that you will clarify what is happening and we hope that it will not happen.” "Intentionally."

Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 04-05/2024
‘Substantial progress’ in Cairo talks on Gaza truce
MOHAMED EL-SHAMAA/Arab News/May 04, 2024
CAIRO: Talks in Cairo involving a Hamas delegation and Egyptian mediators have made substantial progress toward achieving a ceasefire in Gaza, according to a high-ranking source. The source, who preferred not to be named, told Cairo News Channel that Hamas representatives and an Egyptian security delegation have reached consensus on many contentious points. Hours before the Hamas delegation’s arrival in Cairo on Saturday, Gen. Abbas Kamel, chief of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, received a phone call from the movement’s leader, Ismail Haniyeh, concerning the negotiations. Security and political expert Ahmed Mustafa told Arab News: “According to my information, Hamas has agreed to the first phase of the ceasefire deal in Gaza. “This includes the release of a number of hostages, with the assurance that Israel will fully withdraw from Gaza after 124 days, upon completion of the three stages of the major agreement being coordinated here in Cairo.” Mustafa also said the Hamas delegation in Cairo is expected to inform the Egyptian side of its agreement with only minor amendments. “I believe that Hamas has agreed on some terms with the Egyptian mediators now, and previously with the Qatari mediators under American guarantees,” he said. However, Mustafa said that Israel’s refusal to end the war in Gaza as part of any hostage deal and its determination to eliminate what remains of Hamas remain “major points of contention.”According to Mustafa, another point of disagreement concerns allowing the entry of dual-use materials into the enclave, for example humanitarian supplies that could also be used for combat purposes, such as fuel. He said that the first phase, which Hamas “has tentatively agreed upon, will last up to 40 days, during which up to 33 of more than 100 Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Oct. 7 will be released.”The second phase will last at least six weeks, with both sides agreeing to release a larger number of hostages and prisoners, and also committing to a longer halt to the fighting. Aboud Jamal, a researcher on Palestinian affairs, told Arab News: “Hamas announced on Friday evening that settlements had been reached, and a delegation from the movement would head to Cairo on Saturday to secure an agreement in a way that meets the demands of the Palestinians.”Jamal added: “It is clear that the coming days will witness an agreement to cease fire along with the release of some Israeli hostages. “The only remaining issue is the stance of the Israeli government, which seems to want to prolong the war to maintain (Benjamin) Netanyahu’s government following the recent protests against him in Israel.”Jamal said the Israeli government stands to benefit by obstructing any agreement. “So, by sending its delegation to Cairo and discussing its agreement to terms in the prospective deal through mediators, Hamas has preempted the Tel Aviv government, a move for which the movement’s leaders are to be commended.”He added: “It appears that Egypt truly stands with the Palestinian people and is supportive of reaching an agreement that ensures a ceasefire to save what can be saved of the lives of Gaza’s residents. “This was evident from the statement issued by Hamas before its security delegation headed to Cairo, stating that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh appreciates the role that Egypt is playing.”

Deadline set: Israel gives Hamas one week to respond to prisoner exchange proposal
LBCI/May 04, 2024
Israel has granted the Hamas movement a one-week period to respond to the proposed prisoner exchange deal presented by Egypt, reaffirming its rejection of halting hostilities in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, a Hamas delegation returned to Cairo concurrently with the arrival of CIA Director William Burns, who is intensifying discussions in Cairo and pressing for progress toward an imminent deal. Hamas, on its part, seeks a deal that guarantees a long-term ceasefire with American assurances to respect the ceasefire. In contrast, Israel aims for a swift deal, although leadership in Tel Aviv remains skeptical about the American optimism regarding an imminent agreement. By exerting further pressure and military posturing, both the political and military establishments in Israel seek to subdue Hamas. They have hinted at an attack on Rafah and leaked information about Washington handing over evacuation maps for civilians and relief workers to areas such as Al-Mawasi and Al-Khayyam, coinciding with continued planning for an attack on the Philadelphi Axis. Regarding the Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, he believes the war is far from over. On the Lebanese front, Israel is also working to balance military threats and progress towards a settlement. Tel Aviv has objections to Paris' policy in managing peace negotiations and leaking information. According to a security official, Tel Aviv seeks to communicate only with Washington, as it appears that the American mediator, Amos Hochstein, is moving towards a peaceful settlement, awaiting the success of the prisoner exchange deal before its launch. According to Tel Aviv, what is being negotiated is similar to Resolution 1701. Meanwhile, amid ongoing tensions, residents of the north and mayors intensify their protests, demanding an immediate resolution to ensure security and the return of residents. While awaiting the outcome of the Cairo talks and Hamas' response, the army continues to bolster its forces in both the south and the north.

Israeli official says Hamas demand for end to war ‘thwarting’ truce efforts
AFP/May 04, 2024
JERUSALEM: A top Israeli official said Saturday that Hamas’s continued demand for a lasting ceasefire in the war in Gaza was stymying prospects of reaching a truce. “So far, Hamas has not given up its demand to end the war, thus thwarting the possibility of reaching an agreement,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The official rejected reports that Israel had agreed to end the war as part of a deal to free the hostages held by Gaza militants. The official said suggestions Israel was prepared to allow mediators to provide Hamas with guarantees of an end to the war were also “not accurate.” The official’s comments came after Hamas negotiators returned to Egypt on Saturday to give their response to a proposed pause in the nearly seven-month war. Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been waiting for Hamas to respond to a proposal that would halt fighting for 40 days and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, according to details released by Britain. Despite months of shuttle diplomacy between the warring parties, the mediators have been unable to broker a new truce like the week-long ceasefire that saw 105 hostages released last November, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinians held by Israel. Thousands of Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv late Saturday demanding a deal to free the remaining hostages. They waved Israeli flags and placards calling on the government to “Bring them Home!“Israel says 128 hostages remain in Gaza. The army says 35 of them are presumed dead. On Saturday, shortly before 9 p.m. (1800 GMT), a senior Hamas source close to the negotiations in Cairo told AFP there had been “no developments” and the day’s talks “have ended.” “Tomorrow, a new round will begin,” the source said. Earlier, the Israeli official had said Israel would not send a negotiating team to Cairo until it saw “positive movement” on the framework for a hostage deal. “What we are looking at is an agreement over a framework for a possible hostage deal,” the official said. “Tough and long negotiations are expected for an actual deal.” Hamas has said the main stumbling block is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on sending ground troops into Rafah, the south Gaza city that is packed with displaced civilians. Washington has said repeatedly that it opposes any military operation in Rafah that endangers the 1.2 million civilians sheltering there.

Hamas negotiators begin Gaza truce talks; CIA chief also present in Cairo
Nidal al-Mughrabi and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan/Reuters/May 4, 2024
Hamas negotiators began intensified talks on Saturday on a possible Gaza truce that would see the return to Israel of some hostages, a Hamas official told Reuters, with the CIA director present in Cairo. The Hamas delegation arrived from the Palestinian Islamist movement's political office in Qatar, which, along with Egypt, has tried to mediate a follow-up to a brief November ceasefire amid international dismay over the soaring death toll in Gaza and the plight of its 2.3 million inhabitants. Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas official and advisor to Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh, said meetings with Egyptian and Qatari mediators had begun and Hamas was addressing their proposals "with full seriousness and responsibility".However, he reiterated a demand that any deal should include an Israeli pullout from Gaza and an end to the war, conditions that Israel has previously rejected. "Any agreement to be reached must include our national demands; the complete and permanent ending of the aggression, the full and complete withdrawal of the occupation from Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced to their homes without restriction and a real prisoner swap deal, in addition to the reconstruction and ending the blockade," Nono told Reuters. An Israeli official signalled Israel's core position was unchanged, saying it would "under no circumstances" agree to end the war in a deal to free hostages. The war began after Hamas stunned Israel with a cross-border raid on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 252 hostages taken, according to Israeli tallies.
More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed - 32 of them in the most recent 24-hour period - and more than 77,000 have been wounded in Israel's assault, according to Gaza's health ministry. The bombardment has devastated much of the enclave. While the meetings in Cairo were under way, Israeli forces said they had killed Aiman Zaarab, who they said had been a leader of Islamic Jihad forces in southern Gaza and taken part in the Oct. 7 attack.
Before the talks began there had been some optimism. "Things look better this time but whether an agreement is on hand would depend on whether Israel has offered what it takes for that to happen," a Palestinian official with knowledge of the mediation efforts, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
Washington - which, like other Western powers and Israel, brands Hamas a terrorist group - has urged it to enter a deal. Progress has stumbled, however, over Hamas' long-standing demand for a commitment to end the offensive. Israel insists that after any truce it would resume operations designed to disarm and dismantle the faction. Hamas said on Friday it would come to Cairo in a "positive spirit" after studying the latest proposal, little of which has been made public. Israel has given a preliminary nod to terms that one source said included the return of between 20 and 33 hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and a truce of several weeks. That would leave around 100 hostages in Gaza, some of whom Israel says have died in captivity. The source, who asked not to be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters their return may require an additional deal. "That could entail a de facto, if not formal, end to the war - unless Israel somehow recovers them through force or generates enough military pressure to make Hamas relent," the source said. Egyptian sources said CIA Director William Burns arrived in Cairo on Friday. He has been involved in previous truce talks and Washington has signalled there may be progress this time. The CIA declined to comment on Burns' itinerary. Cairo made a new push to revive talks late last month, alarmed by the prospect of an Israeli assault against Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have taken shelter near the border with Egypt. Such an Israeli operation could derail fragile humanitarian operations in Gaza and endanger many more lives, according to U.N. officials. Israel says it will not be deterred from taking Rafah eventually, and is working on a plan to evacuate civilians. Saturday's Cairo talks come as Qatar reviews its role as mediator, according to an official familiar with Doha's thinking. Qatar may cease hosting the Hamas political office, said the official, who did not know if, in such a scenario, the Palestinian group's delegates might also be asked to leave.

Israeli forces kill Hamas gunmen in West Bank raid
Reuters/May 04, 2024
Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in an overnight raid in the occupied West Bank, including four fighters from the militant group Hamas. That’s according to Israeli and Palestinian officials on Saturday. Hamas confirmed that four of the men killed during the raid near the city of Tulkarm were from its al-Qassam armed wing. The Palestinian health ministry said their bodies had been taken by the Israeli military. There was no information about the fifth man, whose body was too disfigured for immediate identification. During the raid, the Israeli army leveled a two-story house with a bulldozer in an operation that lasted more than 12 hours. According to Palestinian Health Ministry records, nearly 500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or Jewish settlers in the West Bank or East Jerusalem since Oct. 7. That’s when Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, according to Israeli tallies. Health authorities in the Hamas-ruled enclave say more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's seven-month-old assault on the Gaza Strip. Palestinians want the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as the core of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. U.S.-backed talks to reach an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled for the past decade but the Gaza war has raised pressure for a revival of efforts to reach a two-state solution.

Thousands of Israelis protest to demand hostage return
Reuters/May 4, 2024
People attend a protest calling for the immediate release of hostages, in Tel Aviv
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Thousands of Israelis protested on Saturday, demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accept a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist movement Hamas that would see the remaining Israeli hostages brought home from Gaza. At a rally in Tel Aviv that took place as Hamas officials were meeting Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo, relatives and supporters of the more than 130 hostages still in captivity said anything possible had to be done to bring them home. "I'm here today to support a deal now, yesterday," said Natalie Eldor. "We need to bring them back. We need to bring all the hostages back, the live ones, the dead ones. We got to bring them back. We got to switch this government. This has got to end." The protests, ahead of the Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls this year on May 6, came as the war in Gaza nears the end of its seventh month amid growing international pressure to stop the fighting. "The only thing that keeps us going is the hope that Bar is alive and surviving," said Ora Rubinstein, the aunt of Bar Kupershtein, who was seized along with more than 250 others when Hamas-led gunmen rampaged through Israeli communities near Gaza on Oct. 7.
Many of those taken hostage are believed to be dead but families want all of those taken to be brought back. "Everyone must be returned. We will not abandon them as the Jews were abandoned during the Holocaust," said Hanna Cohen, an aunt of 27-year-old Inbar Haiman, who was initially believed to have been taken hostage on Oct. 7 but was subsequently found to have been killed. Her body is still believed to be being held by Hamas in Gaza. Some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed on Oct. 7, in the deadliest day in Israel's history, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel launched a devastating assault on the Gaza Strip, destroying large swathes of the enclave and killing more than 34,000 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. Netanyahu's government has insisted that it will not stop the war until Hamas is destroyed and all the hostages are returned but intensive efforts are underway to secure a halt to the fighting that might lead to a full ceasefire. However Netanyahu faces pressure from nationalist religious parties in his coalition to refuse a deal with Hamas and go ahead with the long promised offensive against the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Senior UN official says northern Gaza is now in 'full-blown famine'
Associated Press/May 4, 2024
A top U.N. official said that hard-hit northern Gaza was now in "full-blown famine" after more than six months of war between Israel and Hamas and severe Israeli restrictions on food deliveries to the Palestinian territory. Cindy McCain, the American director of the U.N. World Food Program, became the most prominent international official so far to declare that trapped civilians in the most cut-off part of Gaza had gone over the brink into famine. "It's horror," McCain told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview to air Sunday. "There is famine — full-blown famine — in the north, and it's moving its way south." She said a cease-fire and a greatly increased flow of aid through land and sea routes was essential to confronting the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, home to 2.3 million people. There was no immediate comment from Israel, which controls entrance into Gaza and says it is beginning to allow in more food and other humanitarian aid through land crossings. The panel that serves as the internationally recognized monitor for food crises said in March that northern Gaza was on the brink of famine and likely to experience it in May. Since March, northern Gaza had not received anything like the aid needed to stave off famine, a U.S. Agency for International Development humanitarian official for Gaza told The Associated Press. The panel's next update will not come before this summer.
The USAID official said on-the-ground preparations for a new U.S.-led sea route were on track to bring in more food — including treatment for hundreds of thousands of starving children — by early or mid-May. That's when the American military expects to finish building a floating pier to receive the shipments.
Ramping up the delivery of aid on the planned U.S.-backed sea route will be gradual as aid groups test the distribution and security arrangements for relief workers, the USAID official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns accompanying the official's work on conflicts. They were some of the agency's first comments on the status of preparations for the Biden administration's $320 million Gaza pier project, for which USAID is helping coordinate on-the-ground security and distribution.
At a factory in rural Georgia on Friday, USAID Administrator Samantha Power pointed to the food crises in Gaza and other parts of the world as she announced a $200 million investment aimed at increasing production of emergency nutritional paste for starving children under 5. Power spoke to factory workers, peanut farmers and local dignitaries sitting among pallets of the paste at the Mana nonprofit in Fitzgerald. It is one of two factories in the U.S. that produces the nutritional food, which is used in clinical settings and made from ground peanuts, powdered milk, sugar and oil, ready to eat in plastic pouches resembling large ketchup packets. "This effort, this vision meets the moment," Power said. "And it could not be more timely, more necessary or more important." Under pressure from the U.S. and others, Israeli officials in recent weeks have begun slowly reopening some border crossings for relief shipments. But aid coming through the sea route, once it's operational, still will serve only a fraction — half a million people — of those who need help in Gaza. Aid organizations including USAID stress that getting more aid through border crossings is essential to staving off famine. Children under 5 are among the first to die when wars, droughts or other disasters curtail food. Hospital officials in northern Gaza reported the first deaths from hunger in early March and said most of the dead were children.
Power said the U.N. has called for 400 metric tons of the nutritional paste "in light of the severe hunger that is pervading across Gaza right now, and the severe, acute humanitarian crisis." USAID expects to provide a quarter of that, she said. Globally, she said at the Georgia factory, the treatment made there "will save untold lives, millions of lives."USAID is coordinating with the World Food Program and other humanitarian partners and governments on security and distribution for the pier project, while U.S. military forces finish building it. President Joe Biden, under pressure to do more to ease the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as the U.S. provides military support for Israel, announced the project in early March. U.S. Central Command said in a statement Friday that offshore assembly of the floating pier has been temporarily paused due to high winds and sea swells, which caused unsafe conditions for soldiers. The partially built pier and the military vessels involved have gone to Israel's Port of Ashdod, where the work will continue. A U.S. official said the high seas will delay the installation for several days, possibly until later next week. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operation details, said the pause could last longer if the bad weather continues because military personnel and divers have to get into the water for the final installation. The struggles this week with the first aid delivery through a newly reopened land corridor into north Gaza underscored the uncertainty about security and the danger still facing relief workers. Israeli settlers blocked the convoy before it crossed Wednesday. Once inside Gaza, the convoy was commandeered by Hamas militants, before U.N. officials reclaimed it.
In Gaza, the nutritional treatment for starving children is most urgently needed in the northern part of the Palestinian territory. Civilians have been cut off from most aid supplies, bombarded by Israeli airstrikes and driven into hiding by fighting.
Acute malnutrition rates there among children under 5 have surged from 1% before the war to 30% five months later, the USAID official said. The official called it the fastest such climb in hunger in recent history, more than in grave conflicts and food shortages in Somalia or South Sudan. One of the few medical facilities still operating in northern Gaza, Kamal Adwan hospital, is besieged by parents bringing in thousands of children with malnutrition for treatment, the official said. Aid officials believe many more starving children remain unseen and in need, with families unable to bring them through fighting and checkpoints for care. Saving the gravely malnourished children in particular requires both greatly increased deliveries of aid and sustained calm in fighting, the official said, so that aid workers can set up treatment facilities around the territory and families can safely bring children in for the sustained treatment needed.

Anti-war protest ruffles University of Michigan as demonstrations collide with graduation season
AP/May 05, 2024
NEW YORK: Protesters chanted anti-war messages and waved Palestinian flags during the University of Michigan’s commencement Saturday, as student demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war collided with the annual pomp-and-circumstance of graduation season at American universities. The protest happened at the beginning of the event at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. About 75 people, many wearing traditional Arabic keffiyeh along with their graduation caps, marched up the main aisle toward the graduation stage. They chanted “Regents, regents, you can’t hide! You are funding genocide!” while holding signs, including one that read: “No universities left in Gaza.”Overhead, planes flew competing messages. One read: “Divest from Israel now! Free Palestine!” The other read: “We stand with Israel. Jewish lives matter.”Officials said no one was arrested, and the protest didn’t seriously interrupt the nearly two-hour event, which was attended by tens of thousands of people, some of them waving Israeli flags. State police prevented the demonstrators from reaching the stage and university spokesperson Colleen Mastony said public safety personnel escorted the protesters to the rear of the stadium, where they remained through the conclusion of the event. “Peaceful protests like this have taken place at U-M commencement ceremonies for decades,” she added.
US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro paused a few times during his remarks, saying at one point, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you can please draw your attention back to the podium.”Before he administered an oath to graduates in the armed forces, Del Toro said they would “protect the freedoms that we so cherish,” including the “right to protest peacefully.”The university has allowed protesters to set up an encampment on campus but police assisted in breaking up a large gathering at a graduation-related event Friday night, and one person was arrested. Michigan was among the schools bracing for protests during its commencement ceremonies this weekend, including Indiana University, Ohio State University and Northeastern University in Boston. Many more are slated in the coming weeks. At Indiana University, protesters were urging supporters to wear their keffiyehs and walk out during remarks by President Pamela Whitten on Saturday evening. The campus in Bloomington, Indiana, has designated a protest zone outside Memorial Stadium, where the ceremony is set to take place. Tent encampments of protesters calling on universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies they say support the war in Gaza have spread across campuses nationwide in recent weeks in a student movement unlike any other this century. Some schools have reached agreements with the protesters to end the demonstrations and reduce the possibility of disrupting final exams and commencements. Many encampments have been dismantled and protesters arrested in police crackdowns. The Associated Press has recorded at least 61 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the US More than 2,400 people have been arrested on 47 college and university campuses. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies. At Princeton, in New Jersey, 18 students launched a hunger strike in an effort to push the university to divest from companies tied to Israel. Senior David Chmielewski, a hunger striker, said in an email Saturday that the latest protest started Friday morning with participants consuming water only. He said the hunger strike will continue until university administrators meet with students about their demands, which include amnesty from criminal and disciplinary charges for protesters.
Other demonstrators are participating in “solidarity fasts” lasting 24 hours, he said.
Princeton students set up a protest encampment and some held a sit-in at an administrative building this week, leading to about 15 arrests. Students at other colleges, including Brown and Yale, launched similar hunger strikes earlier this year before the more recent wave of protest encampments. In other developments Saturday, police broke up a demonstration at the University of Virginia. Campus police called it an “unlawful assembly” in a post on the social platform X. Footage from WVAW-TV showed police wearing tactical gear removing protesters from an encampment on the Charlottesville campus. Authorities have not said how many people were arrested. Meanwhile near Boston, students at Tufts University peacefully took down their protest encampment without police intervention Friday night. Officials with the school in Medford, Massachusetts, said they were pleased with the development, which wasn’t the result of any agreement with protesters. Protest organizers said in a statement that they were “deeply angered and disappointed” that negotiations with the university had failed. The protests stem from the Israel-Hamas conflict that started on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Israeli strikes have devastated the enclave and displaced most of Gaza’s inhabitants.

Saudi foreign minister reaffirms support for Palestine at OIC forum in Gambia
Arab News/May 04, 2024
The Gambia: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan reaffirmed on Saturday the Kingdom’s call for an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza, safe humanitarian corridors, and the fulfillment of Palestinians’ legitimate rights, including their right to self-determination and an independent state. Prince Faisal, who was speciaking at the 15th Islamic Summit Conference in The Gambia, also called for restructuring, developing, and reforming the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to tackle regional and international challenges. Representing Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Prince Faisal led the Saudi delegation at the conference. During his address, he expressed regret over the failure of the UN Security Council and the international community to halt Israeli attacks on Palestinians. “The Palestinian cause has remained a priority for the OIC since its inception,” Prince Faisal said. “It is unfortunate to witness the failure of the Security Council and the international community to halt unprecedented Israeli attacks, which have escalated through indiscriminate shelling, destruction of hospitals, schools, shelters, and infrastructure in Gaza, leaving thousands of innocent civilians, including children, women, and the elderly, as victims,” he added. On the sidelines of the forum, Prince Faisal met with the Iranian and Pakistani foreign ministers, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Ishaq Dar respectively, to discuss the situation in Gaza.

Yielding to pressure at home, Erdogan halts trade with Israel, says the aim is Gaza truce
AFP/May 04, 2024
Yielding to domestic pressure President Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to halt trade with Israel and said Friday the decision was designed to force the Jewish state to accept a ceasefire in Gaza. The decision, announced on Thursday, came after criticism at home for having maintained diplomatic and economic ties to Israel despite its bloody attack on Gaza. “We have taken some measures to force Israel to agree to a ceasefire and increase the amount of humanitarian aid to enter” Gaza, Erdogan told a group of businessmen in Istanbul. “We will oversee the consequences of this step we have taken in coordination and consultation with our business world.” Already in April Turkey, one of the few Muslim-majority nations to keep formal ties with Israel, announced it was restricting exports to Israel, covering 54 products from iron and steel to jet fuel. “We do not run after hostility or conflict in our region,” Erdogan said Friday. “We do not want to see conflict, blood or tears in our geography. “We know now that we did the right thing.”The Gaza Strip is suffering a humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s war against Hamas that has been raging since October 7, with the United Nations and aid agencies warning of impending famine. Erdogan has been sharply critical of Israel’s offensive in Gaza while keeping close ties to Hamas. He has accused the government of “state terrorism”, branding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the “butcher of Gaza”.But Turkey’s trade action against Israel came after criticism inside the country against Erdogan’s government for having failed to act sooner. His party suffered a historic defeat in the March 31 local elections, losing control of many cities, especially to the Islamist Yeniden Refah (New Welfare) Party, which had called for harsher steps against Israel. Turkish-Israeli trade volume amounted to $9.5 billion, Erdogan told journalists after Friday prayers in Istanbul. “We closed that door.”Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Thursday accused Erdogan of breaking agreements between the two countries after Ankara announced the trade freeze. But Erdogan said: “We have one goal here, and that’s to force the Netanyahu government, which went out of control with the unconditional military and diplomatic support of the West, to a ceasefire.”“If a ceasefire is declared and an adequate amount of humanitarian aid is allowed to enter Gaza, the goal will be achieved.”

Russia puts Ukraine's Zelenskiy on wanted list
Reuters/May 04, 2024
Russia has opened a criminal case against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and put him on a wanted list, the state news agency TASS reported on Saturday, citing the Interior Ministry's database. The entry it cited gave no further details. Russia has issued arrest warrants for a number of Ukrainian and other European politicians since the start of the conflict with Ukraine in February 2022. Russian police in February put Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Lithuania's culture minister and members of the previous Latvian parliament on a wanted list for destroying Soviet-era monuments. Russia also issued an arrest warrant for the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor who last year prepared a warrant for President Vladimir Putin on war crimes charges.

Latest English LCCC  analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 04-05/2024
Iran and the US Administration: Mocking US Sanctions
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 04/2024
Never before have sanctions been so ostentatiously disregarded without any seeming awareness by those violating them of the possible consequences.
The US administration, it appears, has actually been funding Iran to attack Israel and itself.
The Biden administration has provided a lifeline to the Iranian regime by providing it with much-needed financial relief to export more oil and terror.
The Biden administration has provided a lifeline to the Iranian regime by providing it with much-needed financial relief to export more oil and terror.
The evasions of US sanctions by Iran and its allies – largely thanks to the Biden administrations' sanctions waivers -- mark a new chapter in America's history. Never before have sanctions been so ostentatiously disregarded without any seeming awareness by those violating them of the possible consequences.
Flouting international agreements not only undermines the integrity of the sanctions themselves but has also been demolishing the authority and credibility of the US administration. The problem is that such ostentatious flouting of sanctions has been producing a global lack of respect for the United States. Such derision has been transforming the once formidable reputation of the US into little more than a punchline, and, in the eyes of allies and adversaries alike, reducing America's stature to that of an attractive target.
Despite the sanctions, Iranian oil exports have continued to surge, funding Iran's October 7 war on Israel -- in addition to more than 150 attacks on US troops in the Middle East by Iran's militias and proxies. The US administration, it appears, has actually been funding Iran to attack Israel and itself.
In addition, Iran continues sending weapons to Russia, to help it crush Ukraine
March 2024 witnessed a notable spike in Iranian oil exports, that reached a staggering 1.82 million barrels per day, a figure not seen since October 2018, just prior to the Trump administration's decision to reinstate oil sanctions. This upward trajectory in export volumes represents a direct defiance of the sanctions regime. The sustained growth in exports carries profound implications for Tehran's fiscal landscape, as oil revenues traditionally constitute a substantial portion of Iran's total income, comprising nearly 80% of the nation's revenue stream.
During the tenure of President Donald Trump, the United States adopted a markedly stringent approach towards Iran, aiming to exert maximum pressure and curtail its economic activities, particularly in the realm of oil exports. The impact of this approach was evident in the decline of Iran's oil exports, plummeting to a mere fraction of their previous levels.
Under the weight of stringent sanctions and diplomatic pressure, Iran's oil exports dwindled to approximately 200,000 barrels per day, marking a decline of more than 90% from previous levels. This reduction in export volumes not only highlighted the severity of the measures imposed by the Trump administration but also reflected how effective the strategy was in disrupting Iran's economic lifelines and constraining its ability to generate vital revenue streams. The drop in oil exports served as a cornerstone of the previous US administration's broader strategy to isolate and weaken the Iranian regime, and signaled a departure from appeasement.
When the sanctions were rigorously enforced, the impact reverberated beyond Iran's borders by significantly disrupting the flow of funds to the Iranian regime and hampering its ability to support various proxies and agendas throughout the region. The reduction in Iran's oil revenues dealt a severe blow to the regime's financial capabilities, curbing its capacity to fund entities such as Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, and terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis.
An example of this financial strain surfaced through reports in Syrian-state-controlled media, indicating a reduction in Tehran's financial assistance to Damascus. Publications like Al-Watan highlighted Iran's decision to halt its credit line to the Syrian government, and the hobbling of its ability to ship oil to Syria, which subsequently causing fuel shortages there. These tangible consequences underscored the direct impact of sanctions on Iran's ability to extend its influence and support networks beyond its borders.
In addition, the stringent enforcement of sanctions and the Trump administration's uncompromising stance towards Iran also had an effect on Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon. As a key ally and beneficiary of Iranian support, Hezbollah found itself under increasing financial strain as, due to the sanctions, the flow of funds from Tehran dwindled. A senior Hezbollah official, speaking anonymously to the Washington Post in 2019, candidly acknowledged the adverse impact of US sanctions on the group's financial operations. He admitted that the regime was forced to make significant cuts in expenses.
The admission exposed the tangible consequences faced by Hezbollah as a result of the economic pressure on Iran, its primary patron. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah also publicly addressed the financial challenges posed by the sanctions. He urged Hezbollah's fundraising arm to redouble its efforts to solicit financial support to sustain its military activities and further its jihadist agenda. This acknowledgment from within Hezbollah's ranks testified to the effectiveness of sanctions in curbing the ability of terrorist organizations to sow violence and destabilize the region.
By contrast, the Biden administration has provided a lifeline to the Iranian regime by providing it with much-needed financial relief to export more oil and terror.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
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Why the Oslo Accords failed to put Palestinians on the path to statehood

JONATHAN GORNALL/Arab News/May 04, 2024
LONDON: Monday, Sept. 13, 1993, was a sunny day in Washington and, for those gathered on the lawn of the White House, it seemed that a bright new era had dawned in the fraught relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
The occasion was the formal signing of the Oslo Accords, a declaration of principles on interim Palestinian self-government that had been agreed in the Norwegian capital the previous month by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
It was a historic moment, and it produced a remarkable photograph that claimed its rightful place on the front pages of newspapers around the world: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat smiling and shaking hands in front of a beaming US President Bill Clinton.
With ironic timing, given the current tragedy unfolding in Gaza 30 years later, a unique memento of that day is being offered for sale by the Raab Collection, a US company that specializes in the buying and selling of important historical documents and autographs.
The single piece of paper, embossed with the golden seal of the President of the United States, and apparently torn from the White House program for the signing ceremony, is signed by all the key players on that hopeful day.
A unique memento of Monday, Sept. 13, 1993, is being offered for sale by the Raab Collection. The single piece of paper, embossed with the golden seal of the US president, and apparently torn from the White House program for the Oslo Accords signing ceremony, is signed by all the key players on that hopeful day. The document is offered for sale at $35,000. (Supplied)
According to Raab, which declines to reveal who put the document up for sale, it was “acquired from the archives of one of the important participants at the event.”
Each of the seven signatures has great value for any student of politics and history — here are the hands of Arafat, Rabin, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli President Shimon Peres, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, whose country had co-sponsored the 1991 Madrid Conference that set the stage for the Oslo Accords. Taken together, they offer a bittersweet reminder of a moment when, in the words that day of an ebullient Clinton, “we dare to pledge what for so long seemed difficult even to imagine: That the security of the Israeli people will be reconciled with the hopes of the Palestinian people and there will be more security and more hope for all.”Rather like a rare stamp, the value of which is increased by a printing anomaly, the document includes a curious discrepancy. It was signed on Sept. 13, the day of the White House ceremony, but only two of the signatories added the date to their signature. While Abbas wrote the correct date, the 13th, Arafat dated his signature the 14th. The document is offered for sale at $35,000, but in political terms, with the hope expressed that day by Clinton that it was the gateway to “a continuing process in which the parties transform the very way they see and understand each other,” it is worthless.
• 10 Israeli prime ministers since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
• 4 Palestinian prime ministers since creation of the post in 2013.
As a reminder of the seemingly intractable nature of a conflict that has raged unresolved since 1948, the 30-year-old document is priceless.
One of the witnesses on the White House lawn that September day in 1993 was philosopher Jerome M. Segal, a peace activist who in the spring of 1987 had been part of the first American-Jewish delegation to meet with the PLO leadership.
Jerome M. Segal, a philosopher and founder of the Jewish Peace Lobby, was part of the first American-Jewish delegation to meet with the PLO leadership in 1987. (Supplied)
The following year Segal played a key role in negotiations that led to the opening of a dialogue between the US and the PLO, and a series of essays he published is credited with having informed the PLO’s decision to issue a Declaration of Independence and launch a unilateral peace initiative in 1988.
In 1993, as he watched Arafat and Rabin shaking hands, Segal, the founder of the Jewish Peace Lobby, had good reason to think that the elusive prize of peace might actually be within grasp.
Four days before the signing, Arafat and Rabin had exchanged letters, the former renouncing violence and acknowledging Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and the latter recognizing the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people and committing to peace negotiations.
It was agreed that a new Palestinian National Authority would be formed, and would assume governing responsibilities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
After five years, “permanent status” talks would be held to forge agreement on key issues to pave the way for the creation of a future Palestinian state, including borders, the right of return of Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem.
But Segal, and everyone else imbued with optimism on that bright September day, was to be disappointed.
Many reasons have been proposed for the withering of the olive branch of Oslo, but according to Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim, writing in 2005, “the fundamental cause behind the loss of trust and the loss of momentum was the Israeli policy of expanding settlements on the West Bank, which carried on under Labour as well as Likud.”
This policy — which continues to blight relations between Israel and the Palestinians to this day — “precluded the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, without which there can be no end to the conflict.”
In a terrible pre-echo of the provocative visits to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound carried out recently by some of the right-wing members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, Ariel Sharon, while campaigning to become Israel’s prime minister in September 2000, made a similarly controversial visit to the site.
The result was an outbreak of violent protests by outraged Palestinians. The Second Intifada would last almost five years and claim thousands of lives.
For Segal, director of the International Peace Consultancy, the failure of Oslo owes less to the supposed intransigence of the PLO over the years than to the internal dynamics of Israeli politics.
“The thing to realize about Oslo is that since 1993, the Palestinians have had only two leaders, Arafat and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas, the second and current president of Palestine),” he told Arab News.
“Their positions on final status were almost identical, so there has been a consistency on the Palestinian side of a willingness to end the conflict and recognize the State of Israel — even through the Second Intifada, that never changed, and it’s still there today.
“But on the Israeli side, we’ve had enormous flip-flops, from Rabin, to Peres, to Netanyahu, to Ehud Barak, to Ariel Sharon, to Ehud Olmert, and back again to Netanyahu.”The precarious nature of peace talks for Israeli politicians was underlined in November 1995 when, just two years after shaking Arafat’s hand, Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli extremist opposed to the Oslo Accords.
“After Rabin’s death we have only had two Israeli prime ministers, Barak and Olmert, who have gone into serious final-status negotiations with the Palestinians,” said Segal. Barak, who beat Netanyahu in the polls by a wide margin to become prime minister in 1999, “did it in a terrible context — the Second Intifada had already started.”
In 2000, Barak took part with Arafat in the Camp David Summit, which ended without agreement. As the violence continued in 2001, Barak stood for reelection as prime minister, losing to Ariel Sharon, one of the founders of Israel’s right-wing Likud party.
In 2006, Sharon was succeeded by Ehud Olmert, leader of the more liberal Kadima party. By 2009 he too would be gone, enmeshed in a series of corruption allegations and succeeded by Netanyahu.
“So, in the entire period since 1993, we’ve actually had only two Israeli prime ministers, and for a combined total of not more than three years, under whom there was a serious effort to pursue the final negotiations envisioned by Oslo,” Segal said.
That, he added, “leads to a very interesting question: Why, with the promise of ending the conflict, does the Israeli public regularly elect prime ministers who aren’t interested, like Netanyahu — why, as I heard Avi Gill (a former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs) put it, do Israelis poll left, but vote right?”
Ironically, given the unwillingness of every Israeli leader since Olmert to compromise in the interest of peace, “even though they would support the two-state solution, they don’t believe there’s a Palestinian partner who will. In their mind they’re not losing a conflict-ending agreement they might get if they had a left-wing leader, so they end up going for Mr. Security.”
This, believes Segal, is a crucial factor in the ongoing failure to find the peace that seemed so close in 1993.
“You have to deal with this, what I call ‘no-partnerism,’ the dogma that there is not, and has never been, a Palestinian partner for peace, because this is not just a Netanyahu thesis. It’s one that’s deep in the belief structure of the majority of Israelis.
On Oct. 6, the eve of the Hamas-led attack on Israel, Segal was optimistic that a breakthrough was close.
In his book “The Olive Branch from Palestine,” published in 2022, he had urged “a Palestinian return to unilateral peacemaking, with the Palestinians taking the lead in establishing ... a UN commission through which the Palestinians would advance, in full detail, without any ambiguity, the end-of-conflict, end-of-claims agreement that they are prepared to sign.”
This he dubbed UNSCOP-2, an allusion to the UN committee formed in 1947, which proposed the original partition plan for Palestine.
“On Oct. 6, I believed that we could get major changes through the UNSCOP-2 process. I believed that a committee could be created in a matter of months, that all I had to do was to get Abu Mazen across the line, to get him to go from calling on the secretary general of the UN to do something to doing something himself in the General Assembly, and we could move very rapidly.
“We talked to many countries at the UN. We even talked to Iran, and nobody was opposed. I believed that we could then put in front of the Israeli public something that in decades of conflict they have never had, which is a Palestinian ‘Yes’.”
By training a philosopher, Segal remains philosophical, despite the disastrous events of the past seven months.
“On Oct. 6, I was optimistic for the short term. Now I see the timeframe is very different, but I do have proposals. Our approach after Oct. 7 is what you could call ‘Gaza-first’.”
This is the reawakening of a plan first proposed by Segal in 1995 at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Peres — the idea that while granting Palestinians sovereignty over the West Bank might be an initial step too far for most Israelis, an experiment in Palestinian statehood limited at first to Gaza might win their confidence and, ultimately, lead to an Arab state that includes the West Bank.
In 1995, it was Arafat who rejected the plan, fearing not unreasonably that “Gaza first” would come to be “Gaza last,” with the PLO confined to the coastal strip in perpetuity, even though “I presented a 20-point proposal designed to give the PLO confidence that they wouldn’t get stuck in Gaza.”
The reason, Segal believes, is because Oslo was still alive, and it made sense for the PLO to hold out for what would prove to be the illusory promise of final-status talks.
Now his view is that “Gaza first” offers the only realistic hope of progress.
As he wrote in a column for Foreign Policy on Feb. 6, in the wake of Oct. 7 “no Israeli government will ever agree to a Palestinian state in the West Bank unless ­there is substantial confidence that it will not be a threat to Israel.”
Nearly 30 years on since Israeli assassins killed the Oslo Accords, shockwaves of the conflict are being felt even in college campuses around the world. (AFP)
If there is an answer, Segal concluded, “it will require abandoning the defunct Oslo paradigm, which sees Palestinian statehood emerging as a result of successful end-of-conflict negotiations.
“The alternative is a sovereignty-in-Gaza-first approach, to test Palestinian statehood in Gaza first and, only if it is successful over an agreed period, to then move to negotiations on extending Palestinian sovereignty to the West Bank.”
Right now, Segal’s dogged commitment to the peace process is as admirable as it is remarkable.
But, in the face of a general lack of alternative proposals, it perhaps also offers the best hope of achieving Clinton’s wish, expressed on the White House lawn over 30 years ago, that “two peoples who have both known the bitterness of exile” might “put old sorrows and antagonisms behind them ... to work for a shared future shaped by the values of the Torah, the Qur’an, and the Bible.”

Israel and Hamas are stuck in a dangerous, deliberate stalemate
Yossi Mekelberg/Arab News/May 04, 2024
Negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a ceasefire, the release of hostages and allowing more humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip have been taking place mainly in Cairo, and for a reason. To begin with, the Qatari negotiators have become increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with both sides, to the extent that a senior Qatari official, Majed Al-Ansari, told an Israeli newspaper that his country has decided to re-evaluate its role. Secondly, Egypt has its own interest in brokering an agreement between Hamas and Israel, as it would avert a threatened Israeli ground offensive in Rafah that would almost certainly result in many thousands of Palestinian refugees, and probably many Hamas militants, crossing the border into Egypt in search of a safe haven. Of all the possible scenarios, this is the one Egypt dreads most, both for its humanitarian implications and because of the links between the Gazan Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt.
In one sentence, Al-Ansari summed up the general feeling about the negotiations between Israel Hamas when he suggested that neither side is convinced an agreement is in their best interest, and said: “Every time we get close to a deal there’s sabotage, from both sides.”
This suggests neither side trusts the other, with good reason, and so resorts to maintaining the current unresolved situation, or at least views it as the lesser evil. It is an approach that is shocking to the rest of us.
To be sure, one needs to distinguish between what the leaderships of these two sworn enemies see as being in their best interest and what would actually be beneficial for their people. A temporary ceasefire that brings about the release of the hostages, increased humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip, and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails could create fresh momentum for the longer and more permanent ceasefire that is urgently needed. However, it would also increase the pressure on both leaderships to justify the fact that they have inflicted this physical, psychological and political calamity on their own peoples.
In Israel, anti-government protests, which understandably were suspended after the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, are once again gathering momentum, and many among the protesters are the families and friends of hostages. Not all of the current protesters were necessarily supporters of the demonstrations last year that focused on preventing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from weakening Israeli democracy through its attempts to compromise and reduce the powers of the judiciary. Rather, they are united by a strong sense of betrayal, firstly by the government’s colossal failure to defend the country and its people on Oct. 7, and secondly for its inability to bring the hostages home after more than 200 days.
Netanyahu knows that when the war is over, the demands for him to go will increase exponentially
There is a strong sense among very many Israelis that in recent months there have been enough opportunities to reach an agreement over the release of the hostages but that Netanyahu, for his own reasons and personal interests, is employing delaying tactics to prolong the war as his only hope of clinging to power, thereby derailing such opportunities.
He knows that when the war is over, the demands for him to go will increase exponentially and there will be no escape from the immediate establishment of a state commission to investigate the war from day one, an inquiry that in all probability will strongly question his suitability to remain in office.
Moreover, some of his even more extreme, warmongering colleagues in government, who still believe that destroying Hamas is an achievable objective, are threatening to quit the coalition if the army does not enter Rafah.
By all accounts, such an incursion would be bound to result in even more mass killings of Palestinians, end the chance of any of the hostages being released alive, and lead to the further displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, in some cases for at least the third or fourth time since the war began.
In addition, because of the proximity of Rafah to the border, it would put pressure on Egyptian authorities to allow civilians caught in the crossfire to enter the country, creating further tensions between Israel and the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with it.
A certain degree of brinkmanship in negotiations is understandable but in this particular case one has to question the will on either side to reach an agreement at all, unless the other capitulates.
For Israel, the main achievement from a successful conclusion to the negotiations would be the release of the hostages — but there are strong elements within the Israeli government for whom this is not a priority.
On the Hamas side, although the most recent offer tabled was described by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron as “extraordinarily generous,” in terms of the release of Palestinian prisoners and more humanitarian aid being allowed into the Gaza Strip, their main concern is an end to the war and this is not on offer.
One does not have to feel any sympathy for Hamas and its leadership to understand the logic behind their demand for an end to the war. As cruel as their mind games with the hostages and their families might be, this is currently the group’s main asset in their negotiations with Israel; the more they release, the more vulnerable they become, with no guarantee that an Israeli offensive on Rafah will not take place.
In fact, in a Cabinet meeting this week, Netanyahu promised a military incursion into Rafah “with or without” a hostage deal. This can only be interpreted as the prime minister caving in to the most extreme elements within his coalition. One such minister declared this week that the release of a few dozen hostages would not justify failure to “complete” the war’s objectives.
Under these conditions it seems the leaderships of both sides are more interested in deliberate procrastination to sabotage any hopes of an agreement.
In the absence of sufficient political will on the parts of Israeli authorities and Hamas to reach an agreement, it is left for the mediators to use whatever leverage they can bring to bear on the two sides to push them over the finishing line. This is in their best interests, too; if this conflict has managed to prove anything, it is that just when we think things cannot get any worse, they do.
Should the fighting spread to Rafah, a catastrophe is almost inevitable. This would escalate the fragile situation in the Middle East very quickly, adversely affecting domestic politics and societies throughout the region and far beyond.
This is reason enough to call for a united international front to do whatever is in its power to prevent such a horrific scenario, and to do it now.
• 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

Future of the UK, and wider world, is boosted by Scottish National Party’s decline
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/May 04, 2024
The union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has appeared highly prone to rupture over the past decade or so owing, primarily, to the rise of the Scottish National Party.
However, the unexpected resignation last Monday of First Minister Humza Yousaf, the leader of the party, which rules the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, underlines the fact that the almost two decade-long era of SNP control of Holyrood politics is ebbing fast.
The declining fortunes of the party are significant because not only has it enjoyed a very long period in control of the Parliament, dating back to 2007, the SNP also charged the debate over Scottish independence and came within a relative whisker of winning the 2014 referendum on whether or not Scotland should leave the UK.
This “near miss” should matter to the wider world because Scottish independence would damage the UK, including its ability to “punch above its weight” on the world stage. Losing the Scottish tax base, for example, especially at a time of huge fiscal challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, would make it harder for the UK to meet its new plans to spend 2.5 percent of gross domestic product on defense in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Though a resurgence of support for Scottish independence in the longer term cannot be ruled out, the current era of SNP rule is on its last legs.
Moreover, the UK’s large overseas aid budget and its extensive network of diplomatic and trade missions would also be affected. Collectively, this would undermine both the hard and soft power that has enabled the nation to punch above its weight for so long.
Scottish independence would also erode the UK’s voice in international forums, including the UN, G7, G8, G20 and NATO. It could also, potentially, and perhaps most significantly, be seized upon by some nonpermanent members of the UN Security Council, or other UN member states, to catalyze calls for a review of the UK’s role as a permanent member of the council.
Certainly, reform of the Security Council is overdue. However, Scottish independence could have resulted in this issue being decided on less favorable terms for the UK than might otherwise be the case.
Though a resurgence of support for Scottish independence in the longer term cannot be ruled out, the current era of SNP rule is on its last legs. The resignation of Yousaf, after he terminated a power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Green Party, will probably hasten the transition to a new administration in Holyrood through an election that could take place as soon as this year, and no later than 2026.
While Yousaf made multiple missteps during his year in office, and his was the second-shortest term of a first minister in the 25-year history of the Scottish Parliament, he inherited a troubled legacy from predecessor Nicola Sturgeon, the nation’s longest-serving first minister. From at least 2014, following the independence referendum and the resignation of her predecessor Alex Salmond, she was the dominant Scottish politician, until her resignation last year.
While Sturgeon proved to be a formidable politician, even she was unable to find a solution to the vexed conundrum of how to stage and win a second referendum on Scottish independence within a generation of the previous poll. Therefore she spent much of the final years of her time in power on the back foot.
Part of the reason for this also lay in her championing of a number of controversial policies, including one on trans rights through a Gender Recognition Reform Bill that would have allowed people in Scotland as young as 16 to easily change their legal gender (the bill was ultimately vetoed by the UK government on the grounds that it would undermine UK-wide equality laws).
The combined effect was that some polls showed backing for the SNP had slumped to its lowest level in five years by the time Yousaf took office.
Scottish independence is a bad idea which would weaken the domestic underpinnings of the UK’s international influence.
However, the issue of independence was the one on which the SNP most significantly failed to grasp the nettle. Its case was not helped by a clear ruling by the UK’s Supreme Court that the Holyrood legislature does not have the authority to unilaterally call a fresh referendum on the issue without the consent of the UK government.
Since 2014, Sturgeon and Yousaf repeatedly sought ways to push the independence debate in their favor, but a decade later there is relatively little to show for their efforts. This despite their attempt to capitalize on the political unpopularity of the outcome of the 2016 Brexit referendum. Though the UK-wide result was a narrow victory, by 52 percent to 48 percent, in favor of leaving the EU, the people of Scotland voted 62 percent to 38 percent in favor of remaining.
The SNP argued that Brexit represented a material change to the UK in the aftermath of the 2014 independence referendum, and so this justified granting the Scottish people another chance to vote on whether or not to remain part of the union. Latterly, Sturgeon’s favored tactic was either to wait for the next UK general election, which must take place by January 2025, and use a good result for the SNP to put pressure on the UK government to agree to another referendum, or to wait and portray the next Scottish Parliament election as a de facto vote on independence.
Given the declining popularity of the SNP, however, neither approach is likely to be a game changer. The party therefore still lacks a road map for delivering the independence that would unravel the UK, one of the world’s longest and most successful political unions. Any new referendum is now unlikely to take place until the 2030s, at the earliest.
Certainly, Scotland has legitimate concerns about the “thin” Brexit deal agreed between the UK and the EU in 2020. However, the failure of the SNP project is welcome because it was potentially leading Scotland, and the wider UK, down a political and economic black hole that would probably weaken all members of the union, given that their futures are better together.
For Scotland, there remain huge uncertainties about whether it would benefit significantly from independence, not least because of the deficit between tax revenues and public spending in the country, which it can better deal with as part of the union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
All of this underscores the fact that Scottish independence is a bad idea which would weaken the domestic underpinnings of the UK’s international influence. At a time of growing geopolitical and economic uncertainty, the future of Scotland and the UK is better together.
**Andrew Hammond is an associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics

Keep an eye on the Balkans: It’s the world’s next flash point
Luke Coffey/Arab News/May 04, 2024
When considering the security and stability of Europe, the first thing that comes to mind is Russia's invasion of Ukraine. After all, it is the largest outbreak of war in Europe since the 1940s.
However, about 1,000 kilometers to the southwest of the front lines in Ukraine, another European security crisis is brewing.
The Balkans region in southeastern Europe is prone to instability. It faces many economic challenges. Ethnic, religious and sectarian differences remain a source of friction in society. And for better or worse, it is also susceptible to the influence of outside actors; Russia, the US, China and Turkiye, among others, all have interests and hold sway in the region. After several bloody sectarian wars in the 1990s, following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Europeans and Americans were able to stabilize the region through a series of peacekeeping operations. The geopolitical situation in the Balkans has since remained stable but fragile. There has not been a serious threat of instability— until now.
The Balkans is a good example of Europe’s unfinished business in terms of Euro-Atlantic integration. In part, this could be a source of the region’s current difficulties. Croatia and Slovenia are in the EU and NATO. North Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro are in NATO but not in the EU. Kosovo aspires to membership of both the EU and NATO. Serbia remains firmly in the Russian sphere of influence, serving as Moscow’s toehold in the region, but occasionally sends signals it wants to get closer to the EU.
The Balkans is a good example of Europe’s unfinished business in terms of Euro-Atlantic integration
But perhaps the most complicated, yet consequential, country in the region is Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although it has started the formal processes for joining both the EU and NATO, little progress has been made. Like its neighbors, it faces many social and economic challenges and, as you might expect, these challenges are exacerbated by sectarian divisions inside the country that are being fueled by those outside it.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, two sub-state entities emerged as a result of the Dayton Accords following the civil war of the 1990s: the ethnically Bosnian and Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the ethnically Serb Republika Srpska. The leader of the latter, Milorad Dodik, has long advocated for independence. In recent years he has also taken steps to undermine the legitimate state structures of Bosnia and Herzegovina by creating parallel institutions inside Republika Srpska.
Last month, for example, Republika Srpska’s National Assembly passed a new electoral law, considered to be unconstitutional, and established a legal framework for holding referendums, which many people fear could be used for a future vote on independence. Not only do these measures undermine the state sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina, they threaten to bring instability to the Balkans by jeopardizing the success of the 1995 Dayton Accords.
Two upcoming events could serve as a pretext for fresh instability in the region. The first potential flash point is a draft resolution being debated by the UN General Assembly that proposes to designate July 11 as the “International Day of Remembrance for the Genocide in Srebrenica.” In 1995, Bosnian Serbs, along with paramilitary units from Serbia, massacred more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica after the UN declared the city a safe area.
Of course, Dodik and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic have vehemently criticized the resolution. This criticism from people such as Dodik is unsurprising; there are many officials in Republika Srpska and Serbia who downplay what happened in Srebrenica in 1995. Dodik has said that reports of Serbia’s involvement in the deaths of nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslims are “untrue,” and many of the victims are “still alive.”
Raising the stakes even higher, Dodik has stated that should UN General Assembly adopt the resolution, he will seek out the next opportunity to secede from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Considering his previous rhetoric on the issue of independence for Republika Srpska, his threats should be taken seriously.
Redrawing borders based on ethnic and sectarian lines would open up a Pandora’s box
Secondly, next week a so-called grand Easter Assembly of Serbia and Republika Srpska will convene in Belgrade (next week marks the Easter holiday in the Orthodox Christian world). According to a statement by the Serbian government, “important decisions will be made about the survival of the Serbian people in their hearths, their economic progress, the preservation of the Serbian language and the Cyrillic alphabet and common cultural heritage.”
The political elite in Serbia have often discussed their vision for the so-called “Serbian world,” with Belgrade as its center. There is concern that the vote in the UN General Assembly, combined with the staging of the so-called Easter Assembly, could convince Dodik that the time is right to declare independence from Bosnia and Herzegovina and form a union with Serbia.
Such a move would be disastrous for the region. Redrawing borders based on ethnic and sectarian lines would open up a Pandora’s box. The Balkans already went through a tidal wave of border changes in the 1990s. During this period, more than 100,000 people died and millions were displaced during sectarian conflicts. The effects of redrawing the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia would be felt elsewhere, too. This is particularly true in other regions of the Balkans, such as Kosovo, with its Serbian minority, Macedonia, with its ethnically Albanian regions, and even Serbia, with the Muslim-majority Sandzak region and Vojvodina region.
Since the 1990s, the international community has invested a lot of blood and money to ensure that the Balkans remains peaceful and stable. Even countries as far away as Argentina, in Latin America, Morocco, in North Africa, and the UAE, in the Middle East, have served as peacekeepers in the region over the years.
With the present focus of the international community on Ukraine, Iran, Taiwan and Gaza, it should not ignore the Balkans. Over the next few weeks, things will start to heat up there.
• Luke Coffey is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. X: @LukeDCoffey