The IDF’s Criminal Record Again…


Expecting the unexpected in Lebanon—or should we say—the very expected?

By Forward Magazine

The unexpected was for this round of battle on the Lebanese-Israeli border to be between the IDF and the Lebanese Army—and not Hizbullah. The expected was for Israel to strike—four days after the Syrian-Saudi Summit in Beirut—in order to drown all Arab initiatives aimed at protecting Lebanon from slipping into chaos. Israel is setting the stage for a new war with Lebanon—clearly from the blatant violation of UNSCR 1701 and its invasion of Lebanese territory on August 2.

Earlier today, a patrol from the IDF crossed the border into Lebanon and was confronted by the Lebanese Army at the Odeissi village in the South. UNIFEL tried to halt the advancement, with little luck, leading to the death of 3 Lebanese soldiers, the wounding of 4, and according to Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV, the killing of a “senior Israeli officer.” The Lebanese Army, with full support of President Michel Suleiman and Army Commander Jean Kahwaji, has stressed self-defense, blaming the IDF for outbreak of hostilities and placing full support behind the Lebanese Army. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri called on the Lebanese government to take the matter to the Security Council, words echoed from the other side by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that the Lebanese Army had violated UNSCR 1701. All parties are currently waiting for a speech by Hasan Nasrallah, expected at 8:30 Beirut time, to lay out the vision for what will happen in the hours ahead.

For four years, all eyes have been on Lebanon, predicting a new war between the IDF and Hizbullah. All objectives set forth by then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were not met: the two Israeli soldiers were not released and far from being annihilated, Hizbullah emerged from that battle, stronger than ever before, morally, politically, and militarily. Several consecutive senior Israeli military officials were forced to resign as a result of that war, including the Chief-of-Staff.

It was reasoned for long that the US wanted that war more so than Israel. The Bush White House wanted to prevent Hizbullah-like groups from emerging in failed states throughout the world; in Pakistan, Sudan, and Iraq. The Pentagon wanted the war to test the pulse of Iran’s military abilities prior to waging war against Tehran. The State Department wanted the war because it had adopted the pro-Western cabinet of then-Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora, which had taken a strong Hizbullah position.

Time and again, that war did not happen. Primarily this was because nobody in Lebanon wanted a new round of battle—certainly not Hizbullah. Additionally Israel was not going to venture into another war, where results were not 100% guaranteed against Hizbullah. Israel was not going to go into another war—and not win. In 1973, Golda Meir resigned from her post as Israeli Prime Minister not because Israel lost the war against Egypt and Syria. She resigned because Israel did not win.   

For months now, however, the Israelis have been setting the stage for a new war in the Middle East. It started with a November 2009 accusation that Iranian arms were discovered on a German ship headed for Hizbullah. Then came a fabricated story in mid-April 2010, claiming that Hizbullah was receiving advanced Scud missiles from Syria. More recently Israeli Army Commander Gaby Ashkenazi further provoked the Lebanese fighters by claiming that an earthquake was in store for them next September, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) names Hizbullah officials in the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Harriri. Last Thursday, Israeli TV came out with a blatant statement, naming a senior Hizbullah commander in the Harriri Affair. Hizbullah—which has repeatedly said that it does not want war but would be ready for it—refuses all blame for Harriri’s blood, claiming that the STL is an “Israeli project” aimed at targeting the Lebanese resistance. Hizbullah would continue to refuse the STL, its leaders stressed, so long as the international probe refuses to even consider Israeli involvement in the Harriri murder.  What Israel could not achieve through bullets and missiles, Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah was saying, it would try to attain through the STL.

What is happening today brings back strong memories of the war of 2006—an Israeli army desperate to strike back at Lebanon and Hizbullah for having enforced the worse defeat on the Jewish State’s history since its creation in 1948.  

President Bashar al-Assad got on the phone with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Suleiman, expressing his country’s full support for the Lebanese in the hostilities that broke out on the border with Israel.

Echoing the Syrian leader’s words were the people of Syria and the Arab World, who have old and grey watching Israel kill whatever chances of peace and stability emerge in the Middle East.

Damascus-born Syrian girl becomes German Top Model 2010

Alisar: The beauty from Damascus who became Germany's Top Model


By Forward Magazine

Alisar Ailabouni, a 20-year old Syrian girl who lives in Austria, has been elected as German Top Model 2010, at a mega-event hosted by German supermodel Heidi Klum at the Cologne Lanxess Arena, attended by 15,000 spectators.

Alisar, who was born in Damascus then moved with her family to Europe, where she was raised in Mattighofen in Upper Austria. She is a tall, slender, and dazzling chestnut haired beauty whose hobbies include horseback riding, basketball, and skating. She now plans on making it big in the modeling business, having been crowned Top Model from among 23,000 contesters. Ailabouni has already signed up to appear on the cover of the German edition of COSMOPOLITAN Magazine after yanking the Top Model title from her predecessor, German-Ethiopian model, Sara Nunu.

Her election comes only one month after the Beirut-born Lebanese Rima al-Faqih became Miss USA for 2010.  It shows that Syrians beauty still rules all over the world!

4 Syrians arrested after the Flotilla Affair all released

By Forward Magazine

The four Syrians arrested by Israel for having been onboard the Turkish ship Marmara on Monday, have all been released from Israeli captivity and are now headed for Jordan where they will then leave to Syria.

They include: Shaza Barakat (45), Hasan Rifaii (43), Mohammad Salta (47) and Hilarion Capucci (88) the famous ex-Archbishop of Jerusalem who although Palestinian, holds Syrian nationality. This brings the saga of the Freedom Flotilla, which started last Monday, to an end although justice needs to be done to the 20 civilians killed onboard the ship, 15 of them being Turks, and the 50 others wounded.

3 new Syrians onboard the Freedom Flotilla, now in Israeli jails, including Archbishop Capucci

Archbishop Capucci

Archbishop Capucci demonstrating for Gaza


By Forward Magazine 

The original story said that only one Syrian, ex-schoolteacher Shaza Barakat, had been onboard the Freedom Flotilla and that she is now in Israeli captivity. It is now clear that three other Syrians were onboard the Turkish ship attacked by Israel at 4 am on May 31, where 20 civilians were killed and another 50 were wounded. Barakat, however, was the only Syrian female onboard the Freedom Fleet headed to the Gaza Strip. 

The remaining Syrians are Hasan Rifaii (43), Mohammad Salta (47) and Hilarion Capucci (88) the famous ex-Archbishop of Jerusalem who although Palestinian, holds Syrian nationality. Cappuci, a household name in Syria, is hailed as a struggler by yonug and old for his fierce defiance of Israel, which landed him in jail back in 1974, where he was sentenced to 12 years behind bars for support of the Palestinian resistance. He was eventually released in 1977 and exiled to the Vatican, where he still lives, traveling at length to promote Arab causes, becoming an unofficial ambassador for the Palestinians. 

According to Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, Capucci bid him farewell in Damascus before heading off to board the Freedom Flotilla, saying: “I hope that I can land on the shores of Palestine, and that I die, and get the chance to burried in my beloved country!” 

Cappuci had been honored with postal stamps carrying his image in Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Sudan. 

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, saying that the UN shoulders full responsibility for the safety of the 4 Syrians. Unconfirmed reports are saying that while most of the detained activists have been taken to a prison in Bir al-Sabei (Beersheba in Hebrew and English) for interrogation, the Syrian woman Shaza Barakat has been taken to Askalan (Ashkelon), which is a prison for those spending long prison terms, already convicted by Israeli courts. 

Meanwhile, Ali al-Oweissi (a Palestinian with British nationality) and the son of Professor Abd al-Fattah Oweissi, Dean of the Faculty of International Relations at Kalamoon University in Syria, has been confirmed alive and well but also, in Israeli jails in Bir al-Sabei for having been onboard the Turkish ship, Marmara.

Free Shaza Barakat—the only Syrian woman onboard the Freedom Flotilla

Free Shaza Barakat—the only Syrian woman onboard the Freedom Flotilla

 By Forward Magazine, Syria

The only woman onboard the Freedom Flotilla, Shaza Barakat, has been arrested by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and taken to a prison within Israel. She happens to be the only Syrian woman among the hundreds of activists who were attacked by the IDF at 4 am on Monday, where 20 civilians were killed, 15 of whom were Turkish citizens.

Shaza, aged 45, was born in the northern city of Idlib in 1965. She is an amateur scriptwriter who currently works as manager of a computer systems academy in Damascus and had formerly served as an instructor of Arabic at the Pakistani International School of Damascus (PISOD). Shaza, a mother of three, dreams of writing a 30-episode drama about the life of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. Her husband said that he had last spoken to her more than 24-hours ago, before the Freedom Flotilla was stormed by the IDF on May 31.

Forward Magazine calls for international solidarity with Shaza Barakat. She needs to be treated in a human and dignified manner, since she was illegally arrested by the Israelis, having committed no crime except help channel humanitarian aid to Gaza. She needs to be released from Israeli captivity and justice needs to be done to the thousands of those who were terrorized by the IDF earlier this week. Our prayers go out to the 20 civilians killed on Monday.

World condemns the Flotilla Massacre


A boat dedicated to American ISM activist Rachel Corrie who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003 while protesting against the demolition of a Palestinian home. (Photo and Photo-caption taken from

Twenty-seven EU countries have gone into urgent session through their ambassadors in Brussels on Monday, to debate the dramatic events off the shore of Gaza, where the Israeli Army attacked a convoy of ships carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the Strip, which has been besieged by the Israelis since the summer of 2007. At 4 am on Monday, the IDF attacked the Freedom Flotilla, 64 km into international waters, killing no less 19 civilians and wounding over 50. Fifteen of those killed onboard the Freedom Flotilla were Turkish citizens while a seasoned Palestinian leader, Raed Salah, was wounded in the attack and so head of the Lebanese delegation. Australian journalist Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty are both missing onboard the ship, and so is the best selling Swedish novelist Henning Mankell and Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, the Northern Irish Nobel peace laureate, along with four Scottish passengers and 28 British nationals. The names of those killed in the horrendous attack have not yet been disclosed at the time of writing, 24-hours after the Israeli operation.

Meanwhile, France, Egypt, Spain, Sweden, Athens, Denmark—and of course Turkey—have summoned Israeli ambassadors in their capitals, seeking an explanation for what happened. The UN Security Council went into urgent session in New York, preparing a draft resolution condemning the Israeli operation, calling for the immediate release of the besieged ships, and for an international inquiry. For his part, Ban Ki Moon said that he was “shocked” at what had happened, calling for a “full investigation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was wrapping up a visit to Canada at the time of the attack, headed back to his country as international criticism mounted on Tel Aviv for what happened off the shores of Gaza. Netanyahu abruptly canceled a Tuesday meeting scheduled earlier with US President Barack Obama, defending his country’s action, claiming that his troops were “provoked” into opening fire when attacked by men with knives, onboard the Flotilla. The official US statement—as that of the entire international community—seemed to doubt Netanyahu’s argument. In an official statement, Washington said: “The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible.” The Syrians, who have been warning of accumulated tension in the Middle East, strongly condemned the Flotilla attack, with President Bashar al-Assad saying that US support for Israel “regardless of what crimes it commits has led shattering stability in the region.” He called on the US to “pressure Israel to cease its vicious attacks and lift the siege on Gaza.” His words were echoed by Iran, Hamas, and Hizbullah in Lebanon, which called what happened, “a terrorist attack that deserves punishment.” Netanyahu said that his soldiers had been forced to open fire on the civilians onboard the Flotilla, after they had been “clubbed, beaten, and stabbed.” He added that his soldiers “had to defend themselves, defend their lives of they would have been killed.” Most observers of the crisis, both Arab and European, write off the Israeli argument as sheer nonsense. Arafat Shoukri, of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), said that he had spoken to the activists onboard the ship when the Israeli helicopters had arrived. He elaborated, “Then we started to hear screams, shouting, shooting everywhere. We heard some of them shouting ‘We are raising the white flag, stop shooting at us!’” All talk about the activists being armed, he added, “was cheap propaganda.”

The angriest response no doubt, came from Turkey’s Erdogan, who cut short a trip to Latin America and returned to Ankara, accusing Israel of “inhumane state terrorism” and “violation of international law.” The Turkish Ambassador to Israel Oguz Celikkol has been recalled to Ankara while the Turkish Prime Minister angrily defended those onboard the ships, saying that Netanyahu’s claim that they had been carrying arms were “lies.” Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in major Turkish cities and throughout Damascus, Beirut and Baghdad. For its part, Greece withdrew its joint military exercises with Israel, protesting against the Gaza raid while French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he condemned “the disproportionate use of force” while thousands of demonstrators tried to storm the Israeli Embassy in Paris. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague said that there was a “clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.”

The Elders Group—a combination of 12 past and present world leaders—launched by ex-South African President Nelson Mandela back in 2007, strongly condemned the Flotilla attack, describing it as “completely inexcusable.” In a statement on Monday, the group said: “This tragic incident should draw the world’s attention to the terrible suffering of Gaza’s 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18.” The Elders Group includes six Nobel Peace Prize winners, among who are former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former US President Jimmy Carter, and President Mandela. They collectively stated that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip “was not only one of the world’s greatest human rights violations” but also “illegal” and “counterproductive.” World respected ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad came out with a strong statement in favor of the Flotilla victims, saying: “I feel very angry that the Israelis have used force against people totally unarmed. I am sure the Israelis will say that these people are carrying weapons. That is ridiculous!”

Syria is furious

Both government and public alike awoke to horrendous news coming out of Gaza, being under vicious attack during early morning hours by the IDF on the convoy of ships carrying international activities to break the siege on Gaza. A total of 16 civilians were killed, mostly Turks, while Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Palestine and Dr Hani Suleiman, head of the Lebanese delegation, were seriously wounded in the attack.
Syrian public opinion is likely to explode. This morning the People’s Assembly (parliament) went into urgent session to discuss the onslaught. Meanwhile Syria’s ambassador to the Arab League called for a urgent session, which has been set for Monday, June 1. Massive demonstrations will likely break out in major cities throughout Syria.

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