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Posts tagged ‘Lebanon’

Obama, Hollande Resurrect US-French Relations.


President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to dismiss the notion that France has replaced Britain as the main U.S. partner in Europe, but it was clear during the state visit of President Francois Hollande that the two have the closest relationship between the nations’ leaders since Presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand two decades ago.

Laure Mandeville, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the venerable French publication Le Figaro, best captured this situation when she pointed out to Obama at his joint news conference with Hollande, “You have actually praised France very warmly today and granted our president the first state visit of your second term …

“Does that mean that France has become the best European ally of the U.S. and has replaced Great Britain in that role?”

Obama replied that he has two daughters who are “both gorgeous and wonderful. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

However, as Obama and Hollande went through a welcoming ceremony at the White House, their news conference, and a state dinner, reporters from France and the United States recalled the sharp tensions between their countries after the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

The strong opposition by then-President Jacques Chirac to the Iraq offensive resulted in a modern-day low point of relations between Paris and Washington. In the United States, this was symbolized by the congressional cafeterias offering “Freedom Fries” in lieu of French fries.

All that was in the dim past Tuesday during the first state visit of a French president to the United States since 1996.

Hollande said Obama’s election as president in 2008 “had been welcomed in France” because “America was able to make something possible, to make progress possible.”

He went on to recall his decision last summer to stand with Obama on a strike on Syria, saying, “We were prepared to resort to force, but we found another option — negotiation.”

From France and the United States being “extremely attentive” in helping Lebanon deal with its massive influx of refugees, to his commitment to the cause of climate change, Hollande repeatedly underscored his solidarity with the American president.

The French Socialist president was warm and positive, even regarding the spy controversy by National Security Agency renegade Edward Snowden.

“Following the revelations [of European eavesdropping by the NSA] that appeared due to Mr. Snowden,” Hollande told reporters, “President Obama and myself clarified things. This was in the past.”

Hollande said, “Mutual trust has been restored, and that mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data — the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he is not being spied on.”

Obama’s response to Le Figaro’s Mandeville notwithstanding, there is a strong case to be made that Obama works more closely with France’s Hollande than with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Where Hollande stood firm with Obama on Syria, Cameron was unable to join any military alliance against the Assad regime when the British House of Commons voted down his proposal.

In addition, it is obvious that France is now the key conduit in trying to help Obama craft a new U.S. relationship with Iran.

Hollande said as much when he told reporters: “Nothing prevented us from having bilateral contacts, and I had some bilateral contacts. In New York I received [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani during the General Assembly. So it is perfectly legitimate for discussions to take place.”

Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, summarized the Obama-Hollande friendship to Newsmax.

“Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama has a tough time turning foreign leaders into confidants — and his judgment, as when he chose [Turkish Premier] Erdogan as a preferred interlocutor, has been wrong,” Weinstein said.

“It’s clear that Obama and Hollande have a real and deep rapport. Both need each other — Obama for guidance on Syria, where his policies have failed, and to show that he does have European allies after Snowden, and Hollande, these days, to prove that he isn’t a laughingstock but a world leader.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Study: Government Restrictions, Social Hostility Rise Against Religion.


Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion are on the rise around the world, a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life disclosed.

Social hostilities include “abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country,” according to Pew.

Social hostilities in a third of the 198 countries or territories surveyed were viewed as high or very high, with acts of religious violence rising everywhere in the world except the Americas, Pew noted in its study, which covered the six years from 2007 to 2012.

“We monitor this in two ways that religious freedom is restricted — actions of government and actions of individual groups of society,” the study’s lead author Brian Grim told Newsmax. “We’ve seen a steady climb overall. It’s a global phenomenon.

“There’s an association between social hostilities and government restrictions. As one goes up, the other goes up. And that may be part of what is going on,” said Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in Annapolis, Md.

Among the Pew study’s key findings:
• The number of countries with religion-related terrorist violence has doubled over the past six years.

• Women were harassed because of religious dress in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32 percent), up from 25 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2007.

• The Middle East and North Africa were the most common regions for sectarian violence, with half of all countries in the regions seeing conflicts in 2012.

• China, for the first time in the study, experienced a high level of social hostilities involving religion, with multiple types reported during 2012, including religion-related terrorism, harassment of women for religious dress, and mob violence.

• The number of countries with a very high level of religious hostilities increased from 14 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Six countries — Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma) — had very high levels of religious hostilities in 2012 but not in 2011.

Raymond Ibrahim, a religious scholar and author who studies hostilities against Christians, said persecution of Christian minorities was rising across the Islamic world, as well as in North Korea and to a smaller extent in India and China.

Ibrahim said the U.S. culture’s embrace of tolerance makes it different from other places where religious traditions tend to discount other faiths as false.

“I think the historical position on religions is about truth. If I have the truth, you don’t. I don’t want your falsehoods to get out in the open. We in the West don’t appreciate this kind of logic and we take for granted the idea of religious tolerance,” Ibrahim said.

The difference between the United States and other countries around the world is that America has “many mechanisms to address religious freedom problems as they come up,” Grim noted, citing the Department of Justice’s special branch dedicated to reviewing discriminatory issues related to religious dress as well as land use problems involving churches and mosques.

In current hot zones of violence, like the Central African Republic and Nigeria, and across sub-Saharan Africa, “there’s a real trend toward major fighting and religious violence along this Christian-Muslim line,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

In Nigeria, “you have a largely Muslim north and a largely Christian south and extremist groups stoking tensions between the two and carrying out acts of violence,” Rassbach told Newsmax.

“I think what happens is those conflicts aren’t just limited to their own countries. What you are seeing is they end up resulting in inter-religious disagreements in other countries,” Rassbach said.

Ethnic and economic conflicts are also tied up in regional disputes, and those add to the mix of religious differences, he said.

“In other parts of the world, it tends to be government-driven, especially in more authoritarian governments. You tend to see a crackdown, so to speak,” noting the crackdown on Christian house churches in China.

In Pakistan, “the government doesn’t officially target religious groups, but the way it runs itself, it ends up essentially green-lighting inter-religious violence by individuals who can often act with impunity,” Rassbach said.

In the Middle East, “the Arab Spring has intensified a lot of previously quieter disputes,” many of which have spilled over to other countries within the region as governments have been destabilized. “I think, anecdotally, you can tell that the violence and resentment is going up. But I think it’s for different reasons in different places,” he said.

There also has been some hostility toward religion in the United States, Rassbach added. “I think a lot of it has been stoked by the government,” including “issues like the contraceptive mandate that we are litigating.”

“It used to be that everybody agreed that religious liberty was a good thing. Now you are starting to see people here opposed to religious liberty.

“I think it’s because of the politicization,” he said. “Some political actors have seen it as useful to pick fights with religious groups. That ends up stoking religious tensions.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Andrea Billups

McCain: Jimmy Carter’s Failure ‘Pales in Comparison’ to Obama’s.


The Obama administration’s dearth of leadership has surpassed the failure of Jimmy Carter’s presidency and is helping al-Qaida gain footholds around the globe, laying the foundation for extremist Muslim terror groups to take up residence on U.S. soil, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said Tuesday on a Phoenix radio show.

“If you don’t care about Syria, my dear listeners, if you don’t care about Syria, it’s becoming a regional conflict,” he said while a guest on The Mike Broomhead Show.

“It’s spread to Lebanon. It’s spread to Turkey. It’s spread to Jordan. It is spreading throughout the region, and sooner or later it will affect the United States of America if you allow a place to become a base for al-Qaida.”

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Story continues below video.

McCain fielded listeners’ questions and offered his take on everything from the Super Bowl to Syria. He slammed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for failing to take responsibility for the deaths of a United States ambassador and three others in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people.

McCain railed against Obama, Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry, who he criticized for negotiating with Russia while that nation supports Syria with arms during the civil war there.

“Eleven thousand people have been tortured to death and killed and beaten and murdered in the custody of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad,” McCain said, referring to Assad as “a monster” who instructs his soldiers to “rape, torture and murder.”

McCain directed most of his ire at Obama and Clinton. McCain vowed to launch a thorough investigation of the Benghazi incident if the GOP wins control of the Senate in the midterm elections this fall.

“I will be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and we will not quit until we get the testimony of those survivors, those brave Americans that fought,” he promised.

The senator lauded New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for swiftly acting on the bridge-closing scandal and immediately firing top level aides involved. Hillary Clinton, McCain chided, should learn something from Christie’s accountability.

“What the hell is going on when our secretary of state is not held responsible for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, nor has anyone ever been held responsible for the deaths of four Americans?” he railed. “There’s a real double standard. Chris Christie held people responsible for what was obviously an abuse of power. Hillary Clinton has never taken responsibility even though the intelligence committee, Republican Party report, mentioned her specifically.”

Obama’s leadership is so deficient that Jimmy Carter’s epic failure as president “pales in comparison,” McCain says.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said. “I thought Jimmy Carter was bad.”

McCain said it’s unfathomable that Obama complains about not being able to accomplish anything because of the gridlock in Washington.

“He’s the president and he’s talking like he’s a bystander, an observer.”

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melissa Clyne

Aid Agency Chief: Syrian Refugees Creating ‘Regional Crisis’.


Image: Aid Agency Chief: Syrian Refugees Creating 'Regional Crisis'Syrian refugees walk among tents at the Karkamis refugee camp near Gaziantep, Turkey.

By Wanda Carruthers

In light of upcoming international peace talks between the opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the numbers of refugees resulting from the war has created a “regional crisis” that demands attention.

“This is a regional crisis that demands a big international engagement,” Miliband, who is also president and CEO of aid agency International Rescue Committee, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday.

The conflict in Syria has resulted in a “scale of brutality … that hasn’t been seen for a very long time,” Miliband said.

As a result, millions of people are taking refuge in neighboring countries. He called for the international response to be “massively scaled up.”

Invitations were sent to 40 countries for a one-day meeting this week of foreign ministers for peace talks in Switzerland. Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria, will moderate the meeting.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the three-year conflict between Syrian rebels and the government of President Bashar Assad. Miliband maintained the upcoming peace talks would not end the war, but could bring attention to how the war is waged.

“I think it’s important to say that this peace conference, so called, no one believes it’s going to bring peace tomorrow. But it can address the conduct of the war, in terms of the targeting of civilians, in terms of the starving of the people in Aleppo [Syria],” he said.

Half of the Syrian population has been displaced from their homes into neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turley and Jordan, Miliband explained. He said the majority of those affected are “relatively middle-class people whose lives have been completely shattered.”

“The people caught in the middle are civilians,” he said. “The figures are what make this a potentially toxic crisis.”

“What you’ve got is kids without education. You’ve got parents who’ve lost loved ones. Sons, husbands, who’ve been killed. Who’ve lost everything at home. Who’ve been totally traumatized,” he added.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Saudis Challenge Hezbollah Lebanon Dominance; Offers Army $3B.


Saudi Arabia will channel $3 billion to the Lebanese army over five years in an effort that analysts interpret as a direct challenge to Hezbollah‘s dominance over Lebanon, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The aid comes in the wake of the Dec. 27 car bomb assassination of Mohamad Chatah, a leading Lebanese Sunni politician and critic of Hezbollah.
The money, which challenges what the BBC termed Hezbollah’s “unchecked power,” has the potential of altering Lebanon’s political structure and could exacerbate sectarian tensions.
Gulf sources told the Journal that the Saudis do not want a direct confrontation with Hezbollah only to “rebalance” its influence in Lebanon.
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman, a Christian, said Lebanon would use the Saudi money to purchase weapons from France, the BBC reported.
The Journal described the money as intended to strengthen the government’s forces against Hezbollah which is backed by non-Arab Iran. Sleiman described it as intended to enable the Lebanese army to “confront terrorism.”
The Saudi money far exceeds Lebanon’s entire $1.7 billion annual defense budget, according to the Journal.
Demographics play a key role in Lebanon.
Of the 4 million Lebanese, Christians comprise about 41 percent the population; Shiites, 36 percent, and Sunnis about 20 percent. There are also other sects including 250,000 Druze.
Saudi Arabia, which is Sunni, supports the Sunni insurgency against the Assad regime in neighboring Syria, while Shiite Hezbollah has committed fighters to Assad.
Many Lebanese army officers are Shiite and some Sunnis distrust the force as being partial to Hezbollah, the Journal reported.
Meanwhile, the Saudis have been critical of what they see as the lack of American assertiveness in the region particularly regarding Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.
They have responded by more closely aligning with France and generously backing regional allies including the military regime in Egypt.
An earlier U.S. offer to provide $8.7 million to Lebanon’s army was ridiculed as too little by Sleiman, the Journal reported.
There are signs that al-Qaida is gaining a foothold among the Sunni population in Lebanon particularly in Tripoli and Sidon.

The Saudis, while adhering to a strict form of Islam, are longtime antagonists of al-Qaida.

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© 2013 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Massive Blast Kills Anti-Assad Former Lebanese Ambassador to US.


Image: Massive Blast Kills Anti-Assad Former Lebanese Ambassador to US

BEIRUT — Former Lebanese minister Mohamad Chatah, who opposed Syrian President Bashar Assad and was a former ambassador to the United States, was killed in a massive bomb blast, which one of his political allies blamed on Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah militia.

Friday’s attack also killed five other people and threw Lebanon, which has been drawn into neighboring Syria’s conflict, into further turmoil after a series of sectarian bombings aimed at Shiites and Sunnis over the past year.

Former prime minister Saad al-Hariri accused Hezbollah of involvement in the killing of Chatah, his 62-year-old political adviser, saying it was “a new message of terrorism.”

“As far as we are concerned the suspects . . . are those who are fleeing international justice and refusing to represent themselves before the international tribunal,” Hariri said.

Chatah’s killing occurred three weeks before the long-delayed opening of a trial of five Hezbollah suspects indicted for the 2005 bombing which killed former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, Saad’s father, and 21 other people.

The trial is due to open in The Hague in January. The suspects are all fugitives and Hezbollah, which denies any role in the Hariri assassination, has refused to cooperate with the court, which it says is politically motivated. Preliminary U.N. investigations implicated Syrian officials.

Chatah, a Sunni Muslim, was a vocal critic of Hezbollah.

A message on his Twitter account less than an hour before the blast accused the group of trying to take control of the country.

“Hezbollah is pressing hard to be granted similar powers in security and foreign policy matters that Syria exercised in Lebanon for 15 years,” the tweet read.

The conflict in Syria has polarized Lebanon and increased sectarian tensions. Hezbollah has sent fighters to Syria to fight alongside Assad, who is from the Alawite sect, a heterodox offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Some of the Sunni Syrian rebel groups are linked to al-Qaida, which is also seeking to topple Assad.

Former minister Marwan Hamadeh, who survived a car bomb in 2004, told Al Arabiya television: “Hezbollah will not be able to rule Lebanon, no matter how much destruction it causes or blood it spills.”

CONDEMNATION

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati and officials from across Lebanon’s sectarian political divide condemned Chatah’s killing.

Mikati said the blast targeted “a moderate academic and noble political figure who believed in dialogue, the language of reason and the right to different views.”

Hezbollah parliamentarian Ali Ammar described the explosion as a crime.

“We condemn this terrorist act,” he told Hezbollah’s Al Manar television. “It is part of a terrorist wave which the region and Lebanon are witnessing”.

While Chatah had no political power base of his own, his international experience, diplomatic contacts and academic analysis made him a key member of Hariri’s circle of advisers.

An economist and a diplomat, he worked for the International Monetary Fund in Washington and served as Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States. He was also minister of finance from July 2008 to November 2009, after which he worked as a foreign policy adviser to the younger Hariri.

Sources at the explosion site said Chatah was on his way to attend a meeting at Hariri’s headquarters when the explosion tore through his car. Hariri himself has stayed away from Lebanon for more than two years, fearing for his safety.

A Reuters witness said Chatah’s car was “totally destroyed, it is a wreck.” Chatah’s identity card, torn and charred, was found at the scene.

Iran, which backs Hezbollah, came under attack in Beirut last month. On Nov. 19, two suicide bombings rocked the embassy compound, killing at least 25 people including an Iranian cultural attaché.

The sound of Friday’s blast was heard across the city at around 9:40 a.m. and black smoke was seen rising in the chic downtown business and hotel district. It shattered glass in nearby apartment blocks and damaged cars, restaurants, coffee shops and offices.

“I heard a huge explosion and saw a ball of fire and palls of black smoke. We ran out of our offices to the streets,” said Hassan Akkawi, who works in a finance company nearby.

“The explosion caught motorists driving in the morning rush hour here. There was terror and panic among residents. There was a big ball of fire and panic everywhere and then we learned that Chatah was the target,” said Adel-Raouf Kneio.

Much of Beirut went into lockdown following the explosion, with police blocking off roads across the city.

After a series of explosions in the capital and in the northern city of Tripoli, the Lebanese army had stepped up security measures ahead of Christmas and New Year, fearing further attacks.

FEAR AND PANIC

The explosion shocked residents and emptied the streets in downtown Beirut, where people seeking a respite from recent turmoil had ventured out to enjoy the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

“I was on my way to open the store and then the explosion happened. For a while I was thinking, ‘Am I still alive?’ I didn’t know what happened. I was just seeing the people running and holding their ears and eyes, and running,” said Maya, manager of the Taten dress shop.

The owner of a restaurant down the street from the blast site, whose windows were smashed, said: “The damage to the glass is not the problem. People won’t want to come here now. We were fully booked for the next five days.”

Workers at luxury dress shops next to the site, where the entire glass facade was destroyed, were sweeping up glass, picking up damaged mannequins and counting the damage to the luxury dresses.

“I consider all this terrorism, damaging the country and the people. What can we say more? God helps us, God help this country,” said Lebanese citizen Jamal near the explosion scene.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Christians Face Danger From Jihadists in Syria.


Image: Christians Face Danger From Jihadists in SyriaThe Church of Saint Michael in the Syrian village of Qara was heavily damaged in fighting between rebels and pro-government forces in late November in the predominantly Christian region of Qalamoun, north of Damascus.

By Okke Ornstein

The biggest threats facing many Christians in war-torn Syria are the militant jihadist groups linked to al-Qaida, which want to establish a caliphate across the Levant ruled by the laws of their extremist brand of Islam.

In their members’ view, those who are not “true Muslims” deserve to be killed, and Christians most certainly qualify.

“I think my cousin was killed just because he had a Christian cross dangling from the rear-view mirror of his car,” Abraham Tunc, a representative of the Assyrian community in the Netherlands, told Newsmax.

Christians in Syria make up about 10 percent of the population, with the largest concentration living in and around Aleppo, which is now the scene of an all-out assault by the Syrian army on the various rebel groups that control most of the city.

Outside a Greek Orthodox church in Damascus, what appeared at first glance to be a Nativity scene is instead a small improvised space to remember those who were killed during the ongoing war.

The wall is covered with portraits and stories about atrocities: A family was dragged out of their house and murdered, a man was killed by a bomb. Others suffered even more gruesome treatment.

“We lost about 200 members of our community because of the war,” a church volunteer told Newsmax.

“It all started as protests. People wanted more freedom, which everybody understood. And then it became war and we are where we are today,” he added.

On Christmas Day in Damascus, the war was never far away. At the Greek Orthodox al-Salib Church, the sound of cannon fire could be heard between songs at Christmas Mass.

The church’s neighborhood in Damascus has been transformed into a heavily fortified compound. On every road there are two military checkpoints, and no cars, not even those with an official permit, are allowed to pass through.

On Christmas there was more security at the church gate where volunteers used scanners to make sure nobody carried guns or explosives inside. A surprisingly high number of visitors attended the service, lighting candles.

“Actually, visits have gone up since the start of the war,” explained the volunteer, who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

The Greek Orthodox Church is the oldest and largest Christian community in Syria, and al-Salib’s neighborhood is one of the wealthier in Damascus, reflected by the number of fur coats and other expensive fashion items people were wearing on Christmas.

Not surprisingly, the volunteer said that “you’ll find that most people here are very much pro-Assad.”

In February, Syria’s Greek Orthodox Patriarch of the Levant and Antioch John al-Yaziji met with President Bashar Assad and was quoted by state media expressing his confidence that Syria would come out victorious from its crisis.

The Greek Orthodox community is far from the only Christian group in Syria. Throughout the country, but mostly in the north, there are other Orthodox as well as Catholic groups.

Many Christians have fled, most of them to other parts of Syria or to Turkey. A vast number of them are Assyrians, an ethnic group with origins in ancient Mesopotamia which now inhabits roughly the same area as the Kurdish people in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran.

Those who can afford it, or who have family in Europe, often travel to Germany, the Netherlands, or other countries, either legally or with the aid of smugglers, Tunc said.

This often leads to harrowing scenes when rickety boats capsize on their voyage from Turkey to EU member Greece, or when refugees get stuck, abused, and extorted at the Eastern European frontiers. One of Tunc’s relatives narrowly escaped death in a boat accident while trying to make her way from embattled Syria to the safety of Europe.

Tunc has lived in Europe since long before war broke out in Syria, but he still has relatives in Aleppo with whom he sometimes manages to talk on the phone. He explained that the situation there is dangerous and some members of his extended family were killed and others now live in Turkey, near the border.

Just months ago, the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah, which is an ally of Iran and the Assad regime, drove out al-Qaida linked groups from the northwestern coastal part of Syria, where many Christian minorities live.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Lebanese PM: Rogue Soldier Will Be Held Accountable.


 

Soldiers at border
Israeli soldiers patrol near an armored vehicle at a temporary roadblock near the Rosh Hanikra border crossing with Lebanon, in northern Israel, December 16, 2013. A Lebanese “rogue” soldier has been detained after killing an Israeli soldier the day before. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

The Lebanese soldier who shot and killed Israel Defense Forces Master Sgt. Shlomi Cohen in a cross-border attack Sunday night has been detained, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati says.

According to Mikati, the soldier had not been given orders to shoot. The soldier admitted to acting independently and on his own initiative, Mikati says.

Mikati calls the attack “very unusual” and says that an investigation will be conducted. The Lebanese prime minister pledged that the soldier would be held accountable for his actions.

Mikati says Lebanon will continue to abide by all its international commitments.

Lebanese military officers informed their Israeli counterparts of the soldier’s arrest during a meeting at the headquarters of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, near the Rosh Hanikra border crossing, on Monday, Lebanese officials in Beirut have said.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said yesterday that Lebanon promised to punish the soldier who killed Cohen. Ya’alon called the shooting “a grave event.”

“They jailed him, interrogated him, and according to their claims, they will punish him,” Ya’alon said of the soldier. Ya’alon added that Israel has asked to be updated about the case.

Meanwhile, Cohen’s widow, Maayan Cohen, 26, is struggling to cope with the loss of her husband. Family and friends gathered at her apartment in Afula yesterday.

Ya’alon and Israel Navy Commander Vice Adm. Ram Rothberg visited Cohen’s apartment yesterday to express their condolences.

Cohen met her husband when they served together at the naval base in Haifa. They were married two years ago.

“Shahar, our daughter, was born in January this year, and in less than a month we will celebrate her first birthday, without her father,” Cohen told Israel Hayom. “Shlomi was very attached to her. He was an outstanding father.”

Cohen has questions about the circumstances of her husband’s death.

“Why isn’t there a regulation preventing an unaccompanied vehicle from driving next to the border fence?” she asks. “I saw an online video that showed how easy it would be to shoot at anything passing there. This makes me angry. I want to go there, see the vehicle, talk to the doctor and find out everything that happened to Shlomi, and receive answers from the IDF to many questions.”

For the original article, visit israelhayom.com.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ STANDING WITH ISRAEL.

DANIEL SIRYOTI, LILACH SHOVAL, YONI HIRSCH, ISRAEL HAYOM STAFF

Pa. Pastor Defrocked after Performing Gay Wedding.


Image: Pa. Pastor Defrocked after Performing Gay WeddingRev. Frank Schaefer

Church officials have defrocked a United Methodist pastor from central Pennsylvania who officiated his son’s gay wedding in Massachusetts.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon had already been suspended. On Thursday, he met with church officials to determine whether he would continue as a pastor.

Schaefer was told to resign from the clergy by Thursday if he could not follow the denomination’s Book of Discipline. But Schaefer says the book discriminates against gay people and says he wouldn’t voluntarily surrender his credentials.

Church spokesman John Coleman says officials decided to defrock him.

Schaefer left the short meeting with church officials without commenting but planned to address the matter later Thursday.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Israeli Soldier Killed in Lebanese Sniper Attack.


ROSH HANIKRA, Israel — An Israeli soldier was killed on Sunday when a Lebanese sniper opened fire in a normally quiet area of the border between the two countries, and a U.N. peacekeeping force said it was working with both sides to keep the incident from escalating.

Israel’s military said in a statement that a  from the Lebanese Armed Forces had shot at an Israeli vehicle driving near the Rosh Hanikra border crossing.

Editor’s NoteUS Abandons Bulwark Against Terror in Western Hemisphere 

Israel has lodged a complaint with the U.N. force in southern Lebanon and had heightened its state of preparedness along the border, spokesman Peter Lerner said.

“We will not tolerate aggression against the State of Israel, and maintain the right to exercise self defense against perpetrators of attacks against Israel and its civilians,” he said.

Lebanese sources said they had lost contact with the Lebanese soldier after the shooting, which took place at the western tip of the border region across which Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia fought a 34-day war in 2006.

The U.N. force, UNIFIL, said they had been informed about “a serious incident” at the border.

“We are now trying to determine the facts of what happened and the situation is ongoing,” spokesman Andrea Tenenti said. “UNIFIL’s force commander is in contact with counterparts in the Lebanese and Israeli army, urging restraint.”

Tenenti said both sides were cooperating with UNIFIL after the incident, which he said appeared to have happened on the Israeli side of the Blue Line dividing Lebanese and Israeli forces.

Editor’s Note: South Africa Will Struggle to Meet Mandela’s Lofty Goals 

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

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