Wednesday, May 30, 2007 

UN votes for Hariri tribunal

The UN has voted to create a tribunal to investigate the Hariri murder.

It will be established under Chapter 7, which refers to threats to international peace and security. It is the first time an inquiry into an assassination has been set up under Chapter 7.

It comes after the Lebanese parliament failed to support the Tribunal. The UN didn't like what Lebanon's elected representatives had to say, so they did it anyway.

An agreement between the UN and Beirut must be in place by June 10.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, May 26, 2007 

US ends committee aimed at pressuring Syria

Last year, Bush set up the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group. Its aim: to support Syrian opposition groups, like Frank Ghadry, to block Syria's access to money, and to send weapons to Syria's enemies.

Bush has now closed the committee down, in another sign of the thaw between the US and Syria. Last year, the group was meeting every week.

It was modelled on a similar Iraq committee set up before the US invaded that country. It was, essentially, a regime change committee.

Labels: ,

Friday, May 25, 2007 

Bus crash in northern Syria kills 14

14 people have died after an Iraqi bus crashed on the Aleppo to Raqqa highway.

20 others are injured.

The bus had just crossed the border from Iraq, and was travelling on the wrong side of the road.

The Aleppo to Raqqa highway is one of the country's accident hotspots.

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 24, 2007 

Hizbollah stays silent on Lebanon violence

Hizbollah is tacitly backing the Lebanese army's attempts to destroy Al Qaeda inspired Fateh Al Islam.

They have many reasons for this stance: Fateh Al Islam's stated goal is to defend the Sunnis, against what they perceive as the heretical Shias represented by Hizbollah. Fateh Al Islam is also dangerously anti-Syrian - they have carried out a number of bombings across Syria in recent years.

Hizbollah and the Lebanese army have found their own specialisms: Hizbollah targets external threats, while promising never to target a fellow Lebanese. The Lebanese army, meanwhile, targets internal threats, while remaining neutral in the face of external threats (the army was ordered not to shoot during Israel's attacks last summer).

Labels: , , ,


Even Bush isn't blaming Syria for the Lebanon violence

White House spokesman Tony Snow was pressed by journalists to finger Syria for the violence in Lebanon, between an Al Qaeda inspired group, and the Lebanese army.

Tony Snow said he 'did not know' whether Syria was involved.

Even Bush isn't blaming Syria.

Labels: ,


Explosion near Beirut injures 5 people

The third explosion in four days has hit a town east of Beirut.

5 people have been injured in the blast in the Druze town of Aley. It was in a suitcase in the entrance of a residential building.

Labels: ,


Help the Nahr Al Bared victims

A group of students and bloggers are taking supplies to the refugees caught in the crossfire in northern Lebanon.

If you can give ANYTHING, please visit this.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 

Lebanon begs US for help

The Lebanese Army has submitted an 'urgent request' for more military aid.

It will fuel fears that the current campaign in a Palestinian refugee camp is being carried out on behalf of the US.

Just weeks ago, US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh said that the US had increased funding to the Lebanese Army to carry out operations for it within Lebanese territory. The US wants Lebanon to kill its own citizens. Oh no, Palestinian refugees aren't 'citizens' in Lebanon are they.


Refugees compare Lebanese Army's treatment of them, with Israeli Army 25 years ago

Anisa Ismail, an evacuee: "This is history repeating itself. It's like the [Israeli] massacre at Sabra and Shatila. I lost my sister there. If they just want to hit Fatah al-Islam why are they cutting off the food and water and besieging us like this?"


Blog responses to the fighting in Lebanon


"Lebanese government officials and large sections of the media are blaming the Syrian regime, without providing any proof. It’s true that Fatah al-Islam’s parent organisation was Syrian sponsored, a creation of the divisions among the Lebanese-based Palestinians following the expulsion of PLO forces by Israel in 1982, but Fateh al-Islam broke away from the parent organisation a long time ago. There is far more evidence that Fateh al-Islam is being helped by Syria’s enemies. Seymour Hersh’s recent investigation, published in the New Yorker, suggested that Saad al-Hariri, among others in the wealthy Lebanese Sunni establishment, is helping to channel American funds to Wahhabi groups to counter the influence of Shia Hizbullah.

Robert Fisk in the Independent writes 'it is difficult not to feel Syria’s hand these days.' His evidence for Syrian involvement in Nahr el-Bared? The Syrian border is 'scarcely ten miles away'."

Ali, via Beirut Spring:

"Fateh el Islam split off Fateh-el-intifada (the latter a Syrian creation) precisely because they did not want to tow the Syrian intelligence line. This was their own admission. This is an extreme Sunni organization which views Alawis and the Shia on par with the Israelis and Americans, if not worse. So why exactly does Syria finance and support an organization that regards it as heretic and sees it and its allies as the enemy?

And it seems to me that after so many alleged assassinations and aims at “destabilizing” Lebanon as the March 14th camp claims , that Syria only gets deeper in the hole, and brings even more timely pressure on itself by the US and its typical international chorus, and precipitates even more vociferous calls to push the tribunal through Chapter 7 that you would think they would have learned their lesson and laid low for a while, no?"



Thousands flee refugee camp violence

Thousands of refugees are becoming refugees for a second time.

They have taken advantage of a gap in the fighting to leave the Nahr Al Bared Palestinian refugee camp near Tripoli.

Many are taking refuge in the nearby Bedawi camp.

Humanitarian organisations are warning residents are running out of food and water.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007 

Ceasefire hopes, amid humanitarian crisis in Lebanon

Fateh Al Islam has accepted a government offer of a ceasefire.

They say they will stop attacks if the army does not attack them. The army has responded by saying they never fire first.

Humanitarian organisations say it's vital to have a break in fighting to get food and water to the 40,000 refugees trapped inside the camp.

Residents say there are dead bodies all over the streets, and wounded people are also lying on the roads, unable to get help. No-one can leave the camp because the soldiers have blocked the entrances.

Labels: ,


Serenity amid Chaos

By Serene in Beirut.

"Watch it, Sunni Beirutis who believe - possibly even now, as you sit at home worried and deeply saddened about the bomb explosion in the very area that you never could visit once until the Saudi-installed so-called leader you love more in death than you did during his tragically ended life - that the Americans will stay on your side."

Labels: ,


Militants agree to government ceasefire

Fateh Al Islam agrees to ceasefire, according to the latest wires. Moments ago, the AFP were quoting government sources which said that THEY were offering a ceasefire.

Both sides have put conditions that the other side does not attack them.



7 injured by bomb in west Beirut

7 people have been injured in a car bomb in Rue Verdun.

Verdun is the most expensive shopping street in the Arab World, in a Muslim area of the city.

Labels: ,


Fateh Al Islam says it is defending "Sunni Islam"

The leader of Fateh Al Islam has told Al Jazeera that his fight against the army is designed to defend "Sunni Islam" in Lebanon. He refused to expand - saying that it is a "complicated story".



Lebanese army calls ceasefire in Tripoli

The Lebanese army says it is ready for a ceasefire with Fateh Al Islam in Tripoli, if the group agrees to stop its attacks.

It is the most advernturous activity by the army since the Civil War, and shows that they have clearly received training and funds from outside the country.

During the Israeli war on Lebanon last summer, the army received orders from the government not to fight.



Lebanon update: 9 more dead

9 more people have been killed as the Army fights Al Qaeda linked group Fateh Al Islam.

Schools and shops have been shut as fighting spreads outside the Nahr Al Bared refugee camp.

40,000 people are trapped inside the camp, which has been blocked by the Army.

Fateh Al Islam accuses the Army of attacking indiscriminately, and is threatening to start attacks outside the camp - in Tripoli. The group is accused of a bus bombing in February, near Beirut, which killed 3 people.

Labels: ,

Monday, May 21, 2007 

Large explosion in central Beirut - 1 dead

A large explosion has hit Ashrafieh in Beirut.

One person is dead and at least six others are injured.

The victim died when a bomb went off under a car and knocked the wall of her house down. It happened next to a shopping centre.

It follows battles in Tripoli between the Army and an Al Qaeda linked group which killed at least 48 people - the worst civil violence since the Civil War.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 20, 2007 

Update: at least 48 now dead in Tripoli

The death toll keeps rising. 48 now dead. Many more injured. And far more trapped inside the camp.

Labels: ,


Update: at least 38 dead in Tripoli

At least 38 people are now dead in fighting between Lebanese soldiers and Al Qaeda linked militants.

Labels: ,


Syria kills Fateh Al Islam military chiefs

Syria last week killed two of Fateh Al Islam's military chiefs. The statement was released last week, not by Syria - but by Fateh Al Islam in Lebanon.

(Fateh Al Islam today battled the Lebanese army, killing at least 24 people - see the story below)

"The Syrian forces killed two military chiefs of Fatah al-Islam, Abu Laith al-Shami and Abu Abdel Rahman al-Shami, as well as two combatants," said the spokesman, who is based in north Lebanon's Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp - where today's clashes happened.

They had crossed into Syria from Lebanon.

More evidence, if the Lebanese government needed it, of the anti-Syrian nature of this group.


Update: 24 dead, people trapped in the camp

At least 24 people are confirmed dead in the worst civil fighting in Lebanon for 16 years.

At least 40 others have called Al Jazeera to say they are trapped inside the camp by the Lebanese Army, and are not being allowed to leave to seek medicial treatment, in scenes reminscent of the Phalange siege of the Sabra and Chatilla camps.

29 people have been taken to hospital. 13 Lebanese soldiers are among the dead, and 10 Fateh Al Islam fighters. At least 1 civilian has died.

Fateh Al Islam is linked to Al Qaeda. It is alleged that the Siniora government has been funding Al Qaeda linked groups, like the anti-Syrian Fateh Al Islam. Fateh Al Islam is blamed for the February bus bombing which killed 3 people.

There is a lot of unwritten stuff between the lines of today's violence.

Labels: , ,


Syria closes border crossings

Syria has closed its northern border crossings with Lebanon at Al Arydha and Al Daboussyah because of the fighting in Tripoli.

At least 11 people have died after clashes between the Lebanese Army and anti-Syrian Al Qaeda linked militants. It is thought this group is also linked to Jund Ash Sham which has carried out terrorist attacks in Syria. Syria accuses them of coming in from Lebanon.

Labels: ,


The French President's self confessed Zionism

This is a cause for concern.



Sesame Street

A Palestinian TV network is about to launch the first Arab Sesame Street. It is an educational programme for children based on a series of puppets. It has spread across the world, and I think it is relatively culturally unspecific - although it did emerge in the US.

The programme spawned the Muppet Show, a hugely popular evening comedy show presented by the puppets, in the 1970s.

Now, Sesame Street is getting its first Arab Muppet.

Its first?



Update: 11 people die in Lebanon

11 people have died in gun battles between the Lebanese Army and Al Qaeda linked militants in Tripoli.

Some of the dead are civilians.

It is the worst fighting among Lebanese since the Civil War.



Lebanese army fights Al Qaeda linked militants in Tripoli

There has been a gun battle at the Nahr Al Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli - civilians and militants were killed.

It happened after Fateh Al Islam militants attacked an army post on the edge of the camp.

The chaos began when police tried to raid a Tripoli house (it is not clear whether this was inside the camp or not - if it was inside, it would've been highly controversial because troops do not enter the camp under a 38 year old agreement).

The Fateh Al Islam men tried to resist arrest and there was a gun battle which quickly spread to neighbouring streets.

Fateh Al Islam is allegedly linked to Al Qaeda, and has battled pro-Syrian groups. Although, the Lebanese government made an embarrasing mistake a few months ago when they said Fateh Al Islam was backed by the Syrian government (in fact Fateh Al Islam is a breakaway group from Fateh Al Intifada - Intifada is pro-Syria, and some members didn't like that, so they set up their own group called Islam).

They also have connections with Jund Ash Sham, which has carried out terrorist attacks inside Syria.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007 

Socialist looks set to become France's foreign minister

Nicolas Sarkozy officially became France's president at 11am local time.

He has been perceived to be bad news for the Arab world: for the region, and for Arabs living in France.

Ever since he brutally surpressed riots across France 18 months ago, calling the young Arab demonstrators 'scum', he has been seen as an enemy of France's Arabs.

And promises to move France closer than ever before to America and Israel have worried Arabs in the region.

But he now seems to be about to pick Bernard Kouchner to be his foreign minister. Kouchner is a maverick left-winger and one of the country's most popular politicians.

Socialists are angry at the appointment, saying it is an attempt to divide their party - which it probably is. But it also acknowledges that while France wants many many changes domestically, they are proud of their defiant independent stance on the world stage. Picking Kouchner seems like Sarkozy's way of saying he'll keep his hands off foreign policy - for now, at least.

But don't bet on this being a long-term thing: "He's capable of storming out of the job. We don't know whether it will last," said political analyst Henri Rey. "There is indeed a risk that the contract will be a short-term one, that he won't accept certain compromises."

Kouchner was one of the few French politicians to speak out in favour of the invasion of Iraq. He co-founded Medcins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders), and he has served as UN Governor of Kosovo.



The best deal in Paris, thanks to Sa'ad

French President Jacques Chirac leaves the Elysees Palace this morning, and moves into a two-storey flat on the Left Bank in one of the most expensive residential areas in the world, the Quai de Voltaire, directly opposite the Louvre.

He will be living there rent-free. It is owned by Sa'ad Al-Hariri. Sa'ad has 'loaned' him the flat to live in for as long as he wants.

It's a very very expensive thank you present. Thank you for what?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 

Lisbon - an Arab city in the heart of Europe. Part 2.

Some posts come back to haunt me. Some of the most interesting comments are often left months after I put the post up. So when André sent these messages, I thought they deserved their own post.

Back in February, I claimed that Lisbon could almost be an Arab city.

Here are André's contributions:

I'm from Portugal, I live near Lisbon and I studied ad work there for 18 years. Arab influence is present allover Portugal, but specialy in southern regions (the ancient gharb al-andalus). Northern portuguese often call us "moorish" and "morroccans".

And some free e-books in portuguese (left column) and arabic (right column) about arabic influence in Portugal, and also about cultural rapports between Portugal and some arab countries: here.

A picture from one of the most famous Lisbon restaurants, "Casa do Alentejo":

Our language is a latin language, but we have lots of arabic words. Lisbon toponimy has lots and lots of arabic names. Let me mention only some of the most known districts and subburbia with arabic names. Some are quite obvious, other no so.

Trafaria - (tarأfya)
Almada - (al-ma'dan)
Atalaia - (at-Talaha)
Alcoentre - (al-qunaytara)
Alverca - (al-burqa)
Santa Iria de Azأia - (az-zawya)
Azambuja - (az-zabuja)

City districts:
Alvalade - (al-balad)
Aljube - (al-jub)

We also have lots of arabic words used everyday by everyone. Some common exemples:

(fulanu / fulana): fulano / fulana (some man, some woman)

(insha' Allah): oxal (hopefuly)
(az-zayt): azeite (olive oil)

and lots of words starting with al.


Never ending

Fifty-nine years in exile.

And wherever they flee, they face persecution by the same people who denounce Israel for its crimes. In Lebanon, Palestinians are sub-human and barely allowed to work, or build new houses. In Syria, they live in better conditions than any other refugees in the region, but still suffer racism at the hands of their neighbours.

They are resented too, in Jordan. And in Iraq they have been kicked out of their homes - refugees for a second time - and trapped on the border because their neighbours won't let them in.

The catastrophy continues.

59 by Roba, Jordan

The Exodus by Nas, Jordan

15 May 1948 by Serene, Lebanon

59th. Memory of Al Nakba, by Golaniya, Syria

For Palestinians, memory matters by George, United States

Al Nakba, 59 years on, by BuJ, United Arab Emirates

Nakba Day, by Anglo-Libyan, UK

Labels: , ,

Sunday, May 13, 2007 

Family of missing Candian girl travel to Syria

The family of a Canadian girl, who's thought to be missing in Syria, are flying into Damascus to help search for her.

32-year-old Nicole Vienneau was due to fly home on Monday - but she's been missing for six weeks.

Her brother and boyfriend are travelling to Damascus, and will be met by the Canadian Ambassador. Back home, the Syrian Ambassador rushed through free visas to help them get into the country quickly.

They will start their search in the capital, before travelling up to Hama, where Nicole was last seen at the start of April. She was staying at the popular backpacker hotel, the Cairo Hotel, in the centre of Hama.

Two unidentified corpses have been found, but her brother Matthew is sure neither of them are Nicole, because of the dates they died.

If you have any information, or if you are able to help them when they arrive in Syria please visit her brother's blog or email


7 killed in another building collapse

7 people have been killed when a building collapsed in Aleppo.

Another 7 have been injured. The victims included a family of five with a 3 year old child.

A warning was issued when cracks started to appear, but some people decided to stay.

It is just weeks since another building collapsed in the city, leaving 4 people dead.

Many of the cities building were put up very quickly during the construction boom in the 1970s.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007 

Israel softens its tone on Syria

A raft of reassuring statements are coming out of Israel.

As the tension between the US and Syria continues to lessen - Condoleeza Rice and Walid Mouallem met in Egypt last week - it seems Israel is realising that it also needs to be less hostile.

The head of Israel's National Security Council Ilan Mizrahi (does he have Iranian roots?) told the parliament that "Syria's call for a renewal of the peace process is genuine".

Unpopular, embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert - who can surely only survive a matter of weeks in the job - said he is committed to studying the Syrian option. Last year, when his defence minister and foreign minister openly called for talks with Syria, after the attacks on Lebanon, Olmert flatly rejected it.

Syria has been offering peace talks for 7 years - it seems now that Israel is under pressure, it is finally willing to listen.

Israel also reassured Syria it is not planning to attack: their ambassador to Washington Sallai Meridor said they have no "offensive intentions".

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 06, 2007 

The man who would be President

Farid Ghadry is an interesting character. He doesn't mind being referred to as the Syrian(*) Ahmed Chalabi. He claims that if Syria held free and fair elections, he would win.

He has just written a piece called 'Why I admire Israel'. With the repugnant views aired in this blind article, I would tend to disagree that he would win any election in Syria.

Anyway, here are some select quotes from Ghadry's piece:

"As a Syrian and a Muslim, I have always had this affinity for the State of Israel. As a businessman and an advocate of the free economic system of governance, Israel to me represents an astounding economic success in the midst of so many Arab failures."

"Israel has, in less than 60 years, built an economy ten times that of Syria with one-fifth the population. How does one explain this fact? It is very simple: Israel is a vibrant democracy." (Not because of the basic arithmetic of colonisation: occupy, steal and use slave labour).

"To me, any dispute over shared lands is secondary to bringing prosperity to my people."

(* Note: I say 'the Syrian Chalabi' and not 'Syria's Chalabi' because - by his own admission, his only connection to the country is that he was last there when he was 10 years old)

Labels: ,

Thursday, May 03, 2007 

Siniora and Nasrallah disagree over Israel report

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Opposition leader Hasan Nasrallah have displayed an interesting difference over an Israeli report into last summer's attacks on Lebanon.

It is one of those rare occassions that I find myself siding with Siniora against Nasrallah.

The report criticised the Israeli government's handling of the attacks on Lebanon, accusing Olmert of "serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence."

Nasrallah responded by saying he gave: "every respect to a commission appointed by Olmert that condemns Olmert."

Israel, he said, is "committed and faithful to its own existence". And that Israelis "study their defeat in order to learn from it". That is better than Arab states which "do not probe, do not ask, do not form inquiry commissions ... as if nothing has happened

By contast, Siniora is angry that the report fails to mention the destruction of Lebanon, and murder of 1200 innocent Lebanese civilians. He warned that the report is a precursor to more Israeli terror. There is "talk in Israel of the need to launch new military operations against Lebanon," he said.

Labels: , , ,


US and Syrian Foreign Ministers hold talks

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallim have held talks for the first time.

It marks a new high in the growing relationship between the two countries. It is the highest level talks since the US recalled their ambassador to Damascus two years ago.

It comes days after the US military leader of Iraq, said through his spokesman, Major General William Caldwell: "There has been some movement by the Syrians ... there has been a reduction in the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq" for more than a month.

The talks happened on the sidelines of a conference about Iraq in Egypt. Just weeks ago a similar conference was held in Baghdad, and senior Americans and Syrians held talks, surprising everyone - it seems that was in preparation of today's groundbreaking moves.

The US has not held similar talks with Iran. So it could be that these moves are part of the Saudi initiative to split Syria from Iran - bringing Syria into the Saudi/Egypt/US fold, while continuing to isolate Iran.

The Levant has been abuzz with rumour that the Hariri tribunal is almost dead - it's daddy, French President Jacques Chirac will be replaced on Sunday, Bush is making overtures towards Syria, and on his visit to Damascus this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon rejected calls to force the tribunal through, despite Lebanese demands.

Today's talks will do nothing to quell those rumours.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 

Canadian missing in Syria

This missing person's appeal has just gone out. If you have any information, please visit her brother's blog and post a message or email There are more details there, about where she was travelling to and from.

My Sister, Nicole Vienneau, Has Gone Missing in Syria

[April 29th UPDATE: There is still no word, but we suspect she never made it out of Syria. The RCMP (Canada's police force) have involved Interpol (the nearest "local" police) and the FBI (to access her email records). Canada does have diplomatic relations with Syria, and we're pretty certain she's not in a Syrian prison. She made no bank transactions after we last heard from her. It's not looking good.

Right now we're looking for ideas and people who are familiar with (or have family in) Syria. Even someone who could check local Syrian newspapers for bus or car accidents between March 29th and April 5th, or any other incident involving a female foreigner. Google isn't so good with local news in politically charged countries.]


The Daily Star

The Daily Star is now faithfully republishing (via AFP) unsourced Israeli fantasies.

Syria appparently has an underground missile city with chemical weapons. I think there is a bunker hiding Saddam Hussein in there too, along with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

The Daily Star relies on Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot which quotes "foreign experts". That is the same newspaper which has been publishing weekly Israeli government-leaked predictions that Syria "will" launch a war on Israel this summer.

Labels: , ,


Samir Qasir and democracy

From the Angry Arab.

"Al-Yasar Ad-Dimuqrati (its very name is an insult to the real Left everywhere), held an election. The last time it held its founding election, the late Samir Qasir (one of the founders), looked at the audience and told them: No need for elections. I will select everybody. And he did".


About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
My profile

Syria News Wire discussion

Syria News Wire - the most comprehensive source of Syrian news on the web

  • The Syria News Wire now provides news for Cafe-Syria. To find out how to get exclusive Syrian news for your site, click here.

Get Syria News Wire EMAIL UPDATES

  • the important stuff: you can cancel any time, your email address wont be used for anything except Syria News Wire updates - this is an ad-free site
  • Enter your email address below to subscribe to The Syria News Wire...