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Monday
Feb182013

Lebanon (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The US Goes After Hezbollah

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses a Beirut crowd via video link on Ssturday (Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP)

See also Syria Live Coverage: Hezbollah Emerges in the Conflict
Sunday's Bahrain (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Thousands March as Clashes Continue


1503 GMT: Libya. Police chief Abdel-Salam el-Barghathi has said four detained foreigners have been accused of espionage in addition to proselytising Christianity.

The group --- a Swedish-American, a South Korean, a South African, and an Egyptian --- was arrested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi with tens of thousands of copies of literature about Christianity in their possession.

1132 GMT: Egypt. Hani Shukrallah has claimed that he has been forced out as editor-in-chief of the English-language website Ahram Online by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated administration of the flagship paper Al-Ahram.

In a note published on his Facebook page, Shukrallah said, “The deed is done: the MB has now fulfilled its resolve to drive me out of Ahram.” He claimed the Ahram administration started with cutting his own salary in half, then two-thirds, and then forced him into early retirement.

“The object of course is humiliation,” Shukrallah said.

Al-Ahram, founded as a daily newspaper in 1875, now has about fifteen publications, including two dailies, seven weekly editions, and three monthly publications.

1112 GMT: Palestine. Palestinians are holding demonstrations across the West Bank in a show of solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.

In Bethlehem, Israeli forces dispersed several dozen activists who blocked a road on Monday. In the West Bank city of Ramallah, about 50 activists demonstrated at a United Nations office.

The hunger strikers are protesting the Israeli system of "administrative detention", which allows indefinite imprisonment without charge. Israel has about 4500 Palestinian detainees.

1100 GMT: Egypt. Protesters have vowed to escalate demonstrations in Port Said, after thousands turned out on Sunday.

The protesters have put forth seven demands, including the dismissal of Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim and the lifting of a night-time curfew imposed on Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia last month after deadly clashes.

A spokesman said the protesters will hold a three-day sit-in in Martyrs’ Square, and then take further action if the demands are not met.

Schools in Port Said, the spokesman said, are closed today because of the protests.

Tension has risen in Port Said amid the death of 74 football supporters after a confrontation in the city's stadium in January 2011. Almost 40 people were killed last month amid demonstrations on the second anniversary of the uprising against the Mubarak regime and the anniversary of the stadium deaths.

0952 GMT: Israel and Turkey. In a notable sign of reconcilation after years of tenion, Israel has agreed to send electronic systems to Turkey for its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) military aircraft.

Turkey bought four AWACS-compatible aircraft from the US in the early 2000s to boost its intelligence capabilities. A contract to install the electronic equipment to integrate the warning system with military planes was won by Israel, which earlier delivered two of the planned systems.

However, in 2011, after the rift over Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in May 2010 that killed nine Turkish system, West Jerusalem said it would not deliver the remaining two systems.

A senior Turkish defense official said last month that Boeing, the manufacturer of the planes for the AWACS system, had intervened: “Boeing told Israel that their refusal to complete the delivery was hurting their business, and Israel agreed to deliver the equipment."

0945 GMT: Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq, linked to Al Qa'eda, has claimed responsibility on Monday for car bombs that killed 28 people in mainly-Shia districts of Baghdad on Sunday.

The statement posted on an Islamist website declared, "We say to the Sunnis in Baghdad and elsewhere: The situation in which you are living today is exactly what the mujahideen warned you of years ago. You are walking in a dark tunnel."

At least eight car bombs exploded near shops and restaurants in Baghdad's commercial areas, .

0805 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Senior Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya has confirmed that the Gazan leadership is holding indirect talks with Israel over the implementation of a cease-fire deal, while insisting these are not "political" negotiations.

Israel's Channel 2 TV said Friday that Israeli and Hamas representatives had been negotiating for weeks. Topics include Israeli permission for Egypt to open its Rafah border with Gaza to allow the entry of Qatari-donated construction materials and the export of Gaza's agricultural products to Israel.

0655 GMT: Lebanon. In the opening entry in our Syria Live Coverage, we noted the emerging confirmation of Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian conflict. Far from coincidentally, the highest levels of the Obama Administration go after the Lebanese organisation today, via The New York Times --- National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, in "Hezbollah Unmasked", accuses it of carrying out last July's bombing in Bulgaria that killed five Israel tourists and a bus driver:

Over the last decade, Hezbollah has worked assiduously to obscure its terrorist pedigree and convince the world that it is interested only in politics, providing social welfare services, and defending Lebanon. But it is an illusion to speak of Hezbollah as a responsible political actor. Hezbollah remains a terrorist organization and a destabilizing force across the Middle East.

Since 2011, the group has murdered civilians in Bulgaria, seen its activities disrupted in Cyprus and Thailand, and worked to plot attacks elsewhere. It is helping to prop up the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria; and it acts as a proxy for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the region and beyond. In doing so, Hezbollah is putting the well-being of Lebanon and its people at risk.

The editorial concludes with a call to the European Union to put Hezbollah on its list of terrorist organisations.

Donilon, beyond the single phrase above, does not link his intervention to the Syrian conflict. Perhaps more significantly --- although unlikely to be noticed --- he does not elaborate how the White House's approach might affect the situation inside Lebanon, where Hezbollah is a leading faction in the coalition Government.

 

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