Excerpts: Iraqs worst violence since 2008. Hizbullah in Syria draws response
in Lebanon June 01, 2013
+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 1 June ’13:”Iraq hit by worst violence since 2008”,Agence
SUBJECT :Iraq’s worst violence since 2008
QUOTE:”fears of all-out sectarian strife”
FULL TEXT:BAGHDAD — The worst violence since 2008 hit Iraq in May, raising
fears of all-out sectarian strife, as political leaders were to meet on
Saturday[1 June] for talks on persistent disputes that have paralyzed the
Authorities have failed to bring the wave of unrest under control, and have
so far not addressed the underlying political issues that analysts say are
driving the attacks, while the UN envoy to Iraq has warned that the violence
is "ready to explode."
Figures for the May death toll ranged from more than 600, according to the
government, to more than 1,000, according to the United Nations.
Either would make the violence the deadliest since 2008
An AFP count based on information from security and medical sources
indicated that 614 people were killed and 1,550 wounded, while data from
government ministries put the toll at 681 dead and 1,097 wounded.
The UN gave a significantly higher toll of 1,045 killed and 2,397 wounded.
The figures were released ahead of a meeting of leading politicians
including Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and several of his key rivals
planned for later Saturday.
The long-discussed meeting is aimed at resolving a wide variety of disputes
between the country's political blocs, some of which have persisted for
several years. Analysts often link political instability to increases in
UN envoy Martin Kobler warned on Thursday that "systemic violence is ready
to explode at any moment" if Iraqi leaders do not resolve their
But so far, all efforts to bridge their differences have failed.
While violence has mainly targeted the government and members of the Shiite
majority in the past, unrest in May was more wide-ranging, with major
attacks on Sunnis as well.
The violence has struck all aspects of daily life.
Bombings cut down worshippers in mosques, shoppers in markets and people
mourning those killed in attacks. One Baghdad car bomb even tore through a
group of people cheering a bride ahead of her wedding.
Although violence in Iraq has fallen from its peak at the height of the
sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007, when the monthly death toll repeatedly
topped 1,000, the numbers of dead have begun to rise again.
There has been a heightened level of violence since the beginning of the
year, coinciding with rising discontent in the Sunni Arab minority that
erupted into protests in late December.
Members of the minority, which ruled Iraq from its establishment after World
War I until Saddam Hussein's overthrow by US-led forces in 2003, accuse the
Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting their community
Analysts say government policies that have disenfranchised Sunnis have given
militant groups both fuel and room to manoeuvre among the disillusioned
The government has made some concessions aimed at placating protesters and
Sunnis in general, such as freeing prisoners and raising the salaries of
Sunni anti-Al-Qaeda fighters, but underlying issues have yet to be
Both analysts and officials say that dealing with political issues,
including Sunni grievances and disputes over issues ranging from control of
territory to power-sharing, is key to curbing the violence.
"The government should genuinely (take) steps toward the negotiation with
the street, with the (Sunni) protesters," said Maria Fantappie, an Iraq
analyst with the International Crisis Group.
"So far, the government has not taken any genuine steps towards really...
engaging into a dialogue with the protesters," she said.
John Drake, an Iraq specialist with risk consulting firm AKE Group, agreed.
"Engagement and dialogue would likely be the most effective way to tackle
the violence. An increase in security force operations and arrests will only
provoke the situation further," Drake said.
But Iraqi authorities are approaching the unrest as a security issue alone,
and have failed to address its root causes.
So far, Baghdad's response has largely been limited to actions by security
forces, a shakeup of senior officers, and announcing a series of vague new
security-related measures. — AFP
+++SOURCE:The New York Times 1 June ’13:”Hezbollah Stronghold is Attacked
From Syria”, by Anne Barnard and Hala Droubi
SUBJECT: Hizbullah in Syria draws response in Lebanon
QUOTE:”Sixteen mortar shells and rockets fired from Syria crashed into a
stronghold of Hezbollah . . .in eastern Lebanon on Friday (31 May] night”
FULL TEXT:BEIRUT, Lebanon — Sixteen mortar shells and rockets fired from
Syria crashed in a stronghold of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant
group, in eastern Lebanon on Friday[31 May] night, Lebanon’s National News
Agency reported Saturday [1 June].
The agency reported no casualties, but said the rockets fell overnight on
Baalbek, a Bekaa Valley town and Hezbollah power center with a Shiite
majority, a sizable Sunni minority and a smaller Christian one. The rockets
set fields and bushes afire but avoided the city center.
The attacks came almost a week after Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of
Hezbollah, increased and openly declared his military support for the
government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as Hezbollah fighters
crossed into Syria to lead an assault on the strategic rebel-held town of
Qusayr. Syrian opposition groups, which aim to overthrow Mr. Assad,
condemned Mr. Nasrallah’s stand and called for his fighters to withdraw from
Syrian soil. Some rebel brigade leaders threatened to retaliate against
The location of the shelling increased fears that spillover from the Syrian
conflict was spreading deeper into Lebanon. Indiscriminate shelling has hit
the smaller Shiite village of Hermel, in northeastern Lebanon, in recent
weeks, killing several civilians. But Friday[31 May] night’s rockets could
be the most provocative yet, hitting a major population center in the
northeastern Bekaa Valley. Baalbek is the farthest south in the Bekaa that
shells from Syria targeting Hezbollah-controlled areas have reached.
Baalbek is home to one of Lebanon’s most important archaeological sites and
tourist destinations, the Baalbek ruins, which include a pre-Hellenic temple
and later Roman structures. It is also the site of an annual summer music
festival that draws people from all over the region. Unrest in the Bekaa
Valley would further hurt the Lebanese tourist and agricultural economies,
which have already been devastated by the Syrian crisis.
The Lebanese have taken opposing sides in Syria in a conflict that is
increasingly playing out in the Bekaa and is believed to be behind a rocket
attack on the outskirts of Beirut’s Hezbollah-dominated suburbs last
Sunday[26 May]. Although Lebanese Sunni and Hezbollah militants have fought
in Syria from the early days of the civil war, Hezbollah has now broadened
its fight, and sectarian anger and fear have grown.
The Syrian war took a more regional turn in April, when the government began
an aggressive campaign to recapture Qusayr. After Hezbollah started sending
fighters to support the Syrian Army in its offense on Qusayr, what had been
occasional attacks on Lebanese soil intensified, targeting
Hezbollah-controlled areas in the Bekaa Valley and its hub in Beirut’s
southern suburbs. The conflict also intensified sectarian clashes in Lebanon
between groups supporting the opposition and others supporting the Syrian
government, particularly in the northern Sunni city of Tripoli, leaving
dozens dead and many others injured.
In besieged Qusayr, the humanitarian situation was deteriorating after 13
days of fighting. Mohamed al-Abdullah, an opposition activist in Qusayr,
said via Skype that about 400 people had been killed and more than 1,000
wounded since the battle began.
Another resident of Qusayr, who had fled to Baalbek, said doctors in Qusayr
were sometimes forced to amputate limbs that had become infected because
they had run out of sterilization supplies. The man, who gave only his
family name, Zhouri, said more than 11,000 Hezbollah fighters were in town,
burning apricot and apple orchards and shooting at wounded people trying to
escape. “No matter how hard you try to keep them under the lid, Syria’s
problems and wars are bound to reach us,” said Aida Daouk, 82, a Beirut
resident reached by phone.
Anne Barnard reported from Beirut, and Hala Droubi from Dubai, United Arab
Emirates. Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut.
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA