At least five people have been killed and 15 others wounded in a multiple suicide bomb attack in north-eastern Lebanon, officials and medics say.
Four bombers blew themselves up outside a house in the predominantly Christian village of Qaa, close to the border with war-torn Syria.
It was not immediately clear who or what the attackers planned to target.
Al-Manar TV, which is owned by the militant Shia group Hezbollah, blamed the Sunni jihadist group Islamic State.
Category : Lebanon
At least five people have been killed and 15 others wounded in a multiple suicide bomb attack in north-eastern Lebanon, officials and medics say.
The crisis in Lebanon, where 1.2 million Syrian refugees are competing for limited resources with host communities, is a “ticking time bomb”, two aid workers gave warning this week.
The country, which is the size of Yorkshire, has the highest number of refugees per capita: a quarter of the population. Of these, 70 per cent live below the poverty line. Since the UN’s Syria regional-response plan is less than half-funded, and the influx costs the country a third of its GDP, communities are in crisis.
“It’s more than just tension: I think it is a ticking bomb,” the communications manager for World Vision in Lebanon, Patricia Mouamar, said on Tuesday. “It’s like the whole country of Greece moving into UK. . . If no funding is made available to us, it will explode at a certain time.”
When Islamic State seized Iraq’s largest northern city of Mosul almost a year ago, tribal leader Hekmat Suleiman was sure the extremist militants wouldn’t expand further into his hometown.
“We bet Islamic State won’t have what it takes to last,” Suleiman said in October during a visit to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, smoke rising from his shisha water pipe. “We’ve reached the beginning of the end of extremism.”
He was wrong. His hometown of Ramadi fell last month, three days before Islamic State captured Palmyra, a 2,000-year-old UNESCO world heritage city on the Syrian side of its territory.
Days after seizing the Syrian desert city of Palmyra, Islamic State militants blew up the notorious Tadmur Prison there, long used by the Syrian government to detain and torture political prisoners.
The demolition was part of the extremist group’s strategy to position itself as the champion of Sunni Muslims who feel besieged by the Shiite-backed governments in Syria and Iraq.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has managed to advance in the face of American-led airstrikes by employing a mix of persuasion and violence. That has allowed it to present itself as the sole guardian of Sunni interests in a vast territory cutting across Iraq and Syria.
It’s always nice to learn something new. I was talking to some Lebanese students in London recently. They were looking forward to returning home for Christmas, and celebrating this great feast in traditional Lebanese style. In the West, we think of Christ lying in a manger in a stable. In Lebanon, I was told, Christians depict the nativity as taking place in a cave. The reasons for this are lost in the mists of time. Yet the image of Jesus being born in a cave is rich and suggestive.
As we reflect on what Christmas means for billions of Christians across the world, this image can help us unlock some of its themes, and help us understand why it is seen as being so significant….
The St. Raphael Cathedral near the Lebanese capital has added more than 1,400 Iraqi refugee families from Mosul alone to its aid rosters since July, all of them having fled the city now occupied by Islamic State fighters.
On Tuesday, several of the uprooted families stood in line at the cathedral in Baabda southeast of Beirut””the seat of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Lebanon””waiting for a food handout. As Rev. Youssef Denha ””himself a refugee from Iraq””flipped through the pages of the ledger where he tracked each handout, he set aside any pretense of seasonal optimism.
“This is a holiday of sadness, not happiness. Daesh has left us with nothing,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Christian minorities are in danger of being eradicated in the Middle East, leaders of evangelical and Protestant denominations in Syria and Lebanon said in a joint statement Aug. 29.
Leaders of the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon, the highest representative body of all the Evangelical and Protestant denominations in the two countries, issued a “state of emergency” to preserve “what remains of the Christian and moderate non-Christian presence” in the region “and to circumvent its complete demise.”
“The issue of Christian presence in the Middle East has gone beyond the stage of calling for equal rights and protection from persecution,” the statement said. “It has become a cry of warning before further events cause the annihilation of Christian presence in the Middle East.”
The Syrian civil conflict is both a proxy war and a combustion point for spreading waves of violence. This didn’t start out as a religious war. But both Sunni and Shiite power players are seizing on religious symbols and sowing sectarian passions that are rippling across the region. The Saudi and Iranian powers hover in the background fueling each side.
As the death toll in Syria rises to Rwanda-like proportions, images of mass killings draw holy warriors from countries near and far. The radical groups are the most effective fighters and control the tempo of events. The Syrian opposition groups are themselves split violently along sectarian lines so that the country seems to face a choice between anarchy and atrocity.
Meanwhile, the strife appears to be spreading. Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq is spiking upward. Reports in The New York Times and elsewhere have said that many Iraqis fear their country is sliding back to the worst of the chaos experienced in the past decade. Even Turkey, Pakistan, Bahrain and Kuwait could be infected.
I was recently struck by some photos and reports I saw on the al-Arabiya network, the most respected news outlet in the Middle East. There was a starving child in Yemen, a burnt-out ancient souk in Aleppo, Syria, car bombs in Iraq and destroyed buildings in Libya.
What links all these images is that the destruction and the atrocities were not perpetrated by an outside enemy. The starvation, the killings and the destruction in these Arab countries were carried out by the same hands that are supposed to protect and build the unity of these countries and safeguard their people. Who, therefore, is the real enemy of the Arab world?
Many Arabs would say it is Israel ”” their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they have never recognised. From 1948 to today there have been three full-scale wars and many confrontations. But what was the real cost of these wars to the Arab world and its people? The harder question that no Arab wants to ask is: what was the real cost of not recognising Israel in 1948 and why didn’t the Arab states spend their assets on education, healthcare and infrastructure instead of wars? But the very hardest question of all is whether Israel is the real enemy of the Arab world and the Arab people.
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Israeli military experts Sunday worked around the clock to examine the remains of a mysterious drone that was shot down after penetrating Israeli airspace from the Mediterranean Sea.
The Israeli military announced Saturday that the unmanned aerial vehicle was shot down over the northern Negev Desert. They say the drone did not take off from Gaza, leading them to consider the possibility that it originated in Lebanon.
Israeli security experts point the finger at Israel’s longstanding rival Hezbollah, the Shiite militia based in southern Lebanon.
Events in recent days have illustrated just how quickly the violence in Syria could spiral into a regional war. After Syrian mortar bombs once again fell on Turkish soil, this time killing five civilians, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan felt compelled to act. The Turkish military’s retaliation on Wednesday and Thursday startled the international community.
With its actions, Turkey obviously proceeded with caution: It answered the repeated attacks from Syria with a few artillery shots — not missiles. And the permission for further military action granted to Erdogan by his parliament is intended primarily as an intimidation measure. There is no apparent intent to declare all-out war — at least for the time being. The United Nations Security Council, meanwhile, has strongly condemned the Syrian attack on Turkish soil and called on both sides to show restraint.
The fact of the matter is that the longer Syrian civil war continues, the more often incidents like that seen earlier this week will occur — particularly in Turkey and Lebanon. A large part of the border region around Syria has already become a war zone. Previously, the international community had worried that a military intervention could fuel a regional wildfire, but now it is being forced to look on as this increasingly appears to be the reality — without it ever even having gotten involved.
The pope also demanded that everyone must have the right to freely choose their own religion, and to practice it publicly, “without endangering one’s life.”
He said the time has come “to move beyond tolerance to religious freedom.”
Further, the pope seemed to link the deprival of religious liberty to Christian flight from the Middle East, warning that the long-standing decline in the region’s Christian footprint means “human, cultural, and religious impoverishment.”
“A Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East,” the pope said, calling on political leaders to avoid the advent of a “monochromatic Middle East” without religious diversity.
By telling his disciples that he must suffer and be put to death, and then rise again, Jesus wants to make them understand his true identity. He is a Messiah who suffers, a Messiah who serves, and not some triumphant political saviour. He is the Servant who obeys his Father’s will, even to giving up his life. This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. Jesus thus contradicts the expectations of many. What he says is shocking and disturbing. We can understand the reaction of Peter who rebukes him, refusing to accept that his Master should suffer and die! Jesus is stern with Peter; he makes him realize that anyone who would be his disciple must become a servant, just as he became Servant.
Following Jesus means taking up one’s cross and walking in his footsteps, along a difficult path which leads not to earthly power or glory but, if necessary, to self-abandonment, to losing one’s life for Christ and the Gospel in order to save it. We are assured that this is the way to the resurrection, to true and definitive life with God. Choosing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who made himself the Servant of all, requires drawing ever closer to him, attentively listening to his word and drawing from it the inspiration for all that we do….
The vocation of the Church and of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially. Consequently, in a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship! Dear brothers and sisters, I pray in particular that the Lord will grant to this region of the Middle East servants of peace and reconciliation, so that all people can live in peace and with dignity. This is an essential testimony which Christians must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will. I appeal to all of you to be peacemakers, wherever you find yourselves.
The visit has coincided with anti-US protests across the region over a film deemed insulting to Islam.
The Pope appealed for the crowd to “be peacemakers” and prayed for an end to violence in neighbouring Syria.
“May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle East the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the cessation of all violence,” he said at the end of his Mass.
“Religious fundamentalism seeks to take power for political ends, at times using violence, over the individual conscience and over religion,” the Pope said.
“All religious leaders in the Middle East [should] endeavour, by their example and their teaching, to do everything possible to uproot this threat, which indiscriminately and fatally affects believers.”
The pontiff’s exhortations were made public as he signed recommendations on how to improve the lives of the Christian minority, making up 40% of Lebanon’s population, and its relations with Islam and Judaism.
Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Lebanon on Friday for a three-day visit that he labeled a “peace pilgrimage” at a time when the region and its people are facing anguish, from war in Syria to violence in Libya.
Ahead of the trip, a senior Vatican official said Thursday he didn’t expect the pope to make specific remarks about the violence against U.S. embassies in the area, or the online video that many protesters said had sparked it, during his visit so as not to risk angering the Muslim street and inflaming the crisis.
The trip “was already a minefield. Now a few more mines have been tossed in,” the official said.
the director of the Vatican press office, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, …[Wednesday] released a message asserting that “profound respect for the beliefs, texts, outstanding figures and symbols of the various religions” is essential if people hope to coexist peacefully.
“The serious consequences of unjustified offense and provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers are once again evident in these days, as we see the reactions they arouse, sometimes with tragic results, which in their turn nourish tension and hatred, unleashing unacceptable violence,” the statement added.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is responding to the needs of Syrian refugees in Jordan, where an estimated 150,000 Syrians — 39,600 of which are registered with the United Nations as refugees — have fled. As the conflict in Syria continues to worsen, some Syrians have also fled to Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
The Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of The Lutheran World Federation, has been in conversation with Jordanian officials about how Lutherans can best be involved in addressing the needs of Syrian refugees. He is helping to identify ways in which his church, the ELCA and The Lutheran World Federation can deepen their participation in relief efforts.
Last week warnings that Syria’s conflict could spread rang out in the halls of the UN and world capitals. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said she’s worried about a scenario where “the violence escalates, the conflict spreads and intensifies… in involves countries in the region it takes on increasingly sectarian forms and we have a major crisis not only in Syria, but in the region.”
That concern was echoed Sunday by Akmaluddin Ihsan Oglu, the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, who warned that Lebanon could slip into civil war once again if the clases continue. “We want all sides in Lebanon to seek their country’s higher interest, which is peaceful coexistence between its people,” he said.
Tripoli’s hilltop district of Jabal Mohsen is where the first embers of a spreading fire could land.