ThereAreNoSunglasses

American Resistance To Empire

Benghazi declared ‘Islamic emirate’ by militants

[IRAQ/SYRIA, now, BENGHAZI...these are the effects of a WRONG FOREIGN POLICY...the longer we wait to adjust to this new, accepted reality, the longer it will take to effectively deal with the blossoming "ISLAMIST STATES."  If they are not nipped in the buds, they will blossom into very aggressive, very noxious WEEDS.  American foreign policy is a policy that has gone way wrong.  Our leaders will eventually accept this.  Whether they allow that acceptance to be reflected in national media reports is another matter entirely.]

Benghazi declared ‘Islamic emirate’ by militants

Libya’s Islamist militant group Ansar al-Sharia has said that it seized complete control of Benghazi late on Wednesday, declaring the city an “Islamic emirate,” the group’s representative said.

Ansar al-Sharia is blacklisted by the United States over its alleged role in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, eastern Libya.

An official representative for the armed group told a local radio channel that Benghazi is now under its control.

“Benghazi has now become an Islamic emirate,” said Mohammed al-Zahawi, the spokesman, to Radio Tawhid.

However, Khalifa Haftar, a retired, renegade former army general who earlier this year launched a self-declared campaign to clear the city of Islamist militants, denied the group’s claims.

“The national Libyan army is in control of Benghazi and only withdrew from certain positions for tactical reasons,” Haftar told Al Arabiya News Channel.

“The claim that Benghazi is under the control of militias is a lie,” he said.

Ansar al-Sharia’s declaration comes a month after jihadist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) announced an “Islamic caliphate” over their territory.

Their annoucement also comes following two days of fighting in which Islamist fighters and allied militiamen overran an army base in the city.

Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Libya reported that Islamist groups had seized the headquarters of the Libyan army’s Special Forces in Benghazi late on Tuesday following heavy fighting.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency quoted Talal bin Harir, a Benghazi Shura Council member, as saying that the Islamists were in control of the army base.

Meanwhile, the country’s western region- including the capital Tripoli – has been hit with a full power cut after shelling on power plants.

Three years after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, the OPEC nation has failed to control former rebel militias who refuse to disband and threaten the unity of the country.

The extent of recent hostilities has increased Western worries that Libya is sliding toward becoming a failed state and may once again go to war.

Several foreign states have withdrawn their citizens and diplomats from the state.

The Rats Are Fleeing The Sinking Libyan Ship of State

Benghazi declared ‘Islamic emirate’ by militants

Filipino nurse kidnapped, raped in Libya’s Tripoli

Greece sends ships to Libya evacuate embassy, foreign nationals

Spain evacuates embassy staff from Libya

Chinese nationals to evacuate from warring Libya

Brazil evacuates embassy staff from Libya

Philippines to ferry workers out of Libya after beheading, rape

Proving To The World, Once Again, That The US GOVERNMENT Can Never Be Trusted

 

US to restock Israel’s dwindling ammunition supplies despite global concern

times of india


Heavy smoke billows following an Israeli military strike in Gaza City on July 29, 2014. (AFP photo)

GAZA CITY: Israel said on Thursday it would not pull troops from Gaza until they finish destroying a network of cross-border tunnels, despite sharp United Nations criticism over the civilian death toll.

Speaking at the start of a special cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants for attacking Israel.

“Until now, we have destroyed dozens of terror tunnels and we are determined to finish this mission — with or without a ceasefire,” he said at the start of a special cabinet meeting.

“So I will not accept any (truce) proposal that does not allow the IDF (army) to complete this work for the security of Israel’s citizens.”

His remarks came after the army confirmed mobilizing another 16,000 additional reservists, hiking the total number called up to 86,000. Israel does not say how many troops are currently engaged in the fighting inside the Gaza Strip.


Israeli soldiers carry shells next to a mobile artillery unit outside the Gaza Strip. (Reuters photo)

And Washington said it had agreed to restock Israel’s dwindling supplies of ammunition, despite increasing international concern over the death toll in Gaza, where more than 1,374 people have been killed in 24 days of violence.

UN figures indicate two-thirds of the victims were civilians. Of that civilian dead, nearly half were women and children.

Following the shelling of a UN school in northern Gaza on Wednesday which killed 16, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay slammed Israel for its attacks on homes, schools and hospitals, accusing it of “deliberate defiance” of international law.


An Israeli artillery gun fires a 155mm shell towards targets from their position near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip on July 30, 2014. (AFP photo)

“None of this appears to me to be accidental,” she told reporters. “There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel.”

The shelling of the school also drew sharp condemnation from UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who described it as “reprehensible”, as well as from Washington.

But the Israeli army suggested the deaths may have been the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket.

“What happened is still not clear at this stage,” military spokesman General Moti Almoz told army radio. “It is not clear if the school was hit by fire from IDF soldiers or from Hamas terrorists,” he said.​Heavy smoke billows following an Israeli military strike in Gaza City on July 29, 2014. (AFP photo)

Despite rising international calls for a halt to the bloodshed, the Israeli security cabinet decided Wednesday to press on with the operation in Gaza just hours after troops had made a significant advance into the narrow enclave.

The Israeli offensive began on July 8 with the aim of ending militant rocket fire, but expanded on July 17 with a ground operation aimed at destroying a sophisticated network of tunnels leading under the border, which Israel has vowed to dismantle.

Major General Sami Turgeman, head of the army’s southern command, said Wednesday that the army was “just days” away from completing its mission to destroy the tunnels.


Palestinian medics take a break after carrying wounded people injured from an Israeli strike to the emergency room at Gaza City’s Shifa hospital on July 30, 2014. (AP photo)

Cabinet ministers were being briefed on the progress of the operation in their first meeting since the ground assault began.

“Israel is trapped on the outskirts of Gaza without an exit strategy and without any ceasefire on the horizon,” wrote defence correspondent Alex Fishman in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot.

“Within a few days, Israel is going to have to decide either to push ahead with full force or to pull the troops out.”

Despite a heavy death toll in Gaza on Wednesday when 111 Palestinians were killed, including 17 who died in a strike on a crowded market place and another 16 at the UN school, Washington said it had restocked the army’s ammunition supplies.


Members of Code Pink hold a vigil of civil disobedience in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on July 30, 2014. (AFP photo)

The Pentagon confirmed it had granted an Israeli request for ammunition, including some from a stockpile stored by the US military on the ground in Israel for emergency use by the Jewish state.

Rights group Amnesty International had urged Washington to halt arms supplies to Israel.

Meanwhile, there was no letup in bloodshed with at least 10 Palestinians killed on Thursday, among them two women, raising the overall Palestinian toll to 1,374, medics said.


Palestinian boys look at body of four-year-old Palestinian girl who hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli air strike. (Reuters photo)

And another 15 people sheltering in the UN school in Jabaliya refugee camp that was struck on Wednesday were wounded when Israeli warplanes attacked a mosque next door, medics said.

In Israel, 56 soldiers have died and Hamas rocket fire has killed three civilians, two Israelis and a Thai national.

Despite the loss of life, there appeared to be little Israeli appetite for a truce, with a senior official telling Haaretz newspaper that a ceasefire was not even close.

Nevertheless, an Israeli delegation travelled to Cairo late Wednesday to discuss a possible ceasefire with Egyptian officials, an official at the airport told AFP.

Cairo, a key mediator in previous truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas, was also expected to host a Palestinian delegation later this week.

Zionists Waging A War of Extinction In Gaza, From Which Refugees Have No Escape

The Gaza battlefield is crowded with the displaced and homeless

haaretz logo

Many of the displaced, especially children, have developed intestinal, skin or eye diseases due to poor sanitary conditions and spoiled food.

 

Displaced Palestinians Displaced Palestinians in the courtyard of a UN school. Photo by AP

The Gazans who have been uprooted from their homes are staying throughout the Gaza Strip: In 86 UNRWA schools, roughly 20 government schools, public parks, several churches, hospitals, NGO premises, warehouses belonging to shops, the garages of family homes, with relatives and friends and also in empty apartments whose owners let people live there free of charge. They are joined by a continuous stream of more displaced people as the Israeli army expands its operations westward and southward, bombarding and flattening more neighborhoods and communities.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA) reports that since the Israeli army began its ground operation in Gaza, it has been creating a buffer zone three kilometers wide (approximately 1.8 miles) along the entire Gaza Strip — roughly 44 percent of its territory. Initially, the IDF ordered residents of this band to evacuate, via fliers dropped from airplanes, announcements in the media and recorded phone calls. It then began shelling directly the houses, whether their residents are still in, or not.

Between Monday night and Tuesday evening, IDF fire killed 118 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Based on the scale of the destruction in the evacuated areas, it looks like the army’s goal is not a temporary evacuation, but the creation of a permanent buffer zone

devoid of any structure.

[The bloodthirsty Jews of Israel Palestine will level all structures, if the "Humanitarian" world allows it]

Cautious estimates put the number of displaced persons as of Tuesday night at about 440,000 — roughly one-quarter of Gaza’s population. Since then, the number has grown by at least 140,000, including those who fled from Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood and parts of the Shujaiyeh neighborhood, as well as from the Tel al-Za’atar refugee camp and parts of the Jabalya refugee camp. A quarter of the Strip’s population is now displaced and homeless.

[There is not another nation in the world that can get away with such inhuman behavior, except for the US.]

The number of displaced Palestinians taking refuge in the 86 UNRWA schools grew Thursday morning to 225,178. UNRWA head of operations in Gaza, Robert Turner, told Haaretz Wednesday night that the UN had informed Israeli officials that it was unable to absorb more internal displaced persons in its facilities. “We have told them several times during the past two days that we expect them to assume their responsibility as the occupying power and give humanitarian aid to the displaced”.

 

“Believe me,” said Abu Adham, who joined the teams distributing food and water in the shelters for the displaced people, “because there are so many displaced people on Nasser Street, it takes an hour to go half a kilometer” — some buy food and perhaps clothing, others go to the two large medical clinics run by UNRWA, others run away a little from the overcrowding and the noise.

Schools are overcrowded and overwhelmed. More than half the displaced people — about 220,000 — are staying in those schools, and another 20,000 in governmental schools: A total number four times higher than the number that stayed in UNRWA’s schools during the 2008-2009 attack (“Cast Lead”). About 2,000 people on average are staying in each of the schools, which are intended for 500 pupils. Some schools are sheltering 45 people per classroom on average, but some classrooms have as many as 80 people stuffed into them. Women and children from the same extended family sleep in the classrooms, while the men sleep in the corridors.

Hundreds of people congregate in the yard during the day. On Tuesday night, the Israeli army bombed Gaza’s power station, which until now had supplied a small portion of Gaza’s electricity. The bombardment hit a generator and containers of diesel fuel, and the power station went out of service. Its director believes that it will take a year to repair the damage. The bombings of the past three weeks have also struck at least five out of the ten high-tension lines that Israel sells to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian power technicians have not yet managed to repair the damage because of the Israeli bombardments and shelling. Before the power station was bombed, there were power outages of 20 hours and more, and the power would be on for four hours. Now, the power outages last days at a time.

Floods of new refugees arrived on Monday night and Tuesday from the A-Zeitoun neighborhood, parts of Shujaiyeh that had not been evacuated completely last week, the refugee neighborhood of Tel a-Za’atar and the eastern portion of the Jabalya refugee camp. On Monday night, the Israeli army bombed and shelled the eastern margins of Gaza so heavily that even those who had been daunted by the overcrowding in the area outside the buffer zone were convinced that they had to leave. “After six hours of noise, they left their homes with nothing, just their babies and small children in their arms,” a man who had seen the wave of new refugees told Haaretz. As the shelling and bombardments inside the buffer zone advanced on Tuesday night, the number of displaced people concentrated in the inner circles of Gaza City and Khan Yunis further increased, placing an additional burden upon the crumbling water and sewage systems.

Abu Mohammed’s sister, who has not stopped mourning her neighbors who were killed, fled from Jabalya with her family on Tuesday to his home in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. But Abu Mohammed and his family are displaced, too. They fled several days ago to an empty apartment that friends opened for them. That apartment was actually their second place of refuge after they were forced to leave their home in northern Gaza two weeks ago because of the bombardments. First they stayed with friends, but when their friends’ family had to flee their home in the eastern neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa, Abu Mohammed searched for another refuge.

On Monday night, Gaza City experienced the heaviest bombing and shelling it had known since the war. “God protect us. God have mercy on us,” people wrote to their friends on Facebook in every possible variation. In recent years, many of them bought uninterrupted power supply packs that allowed them to run their computers even during long power outages so they could keep in touch with the world.

Illuminating bombs were fired all night long. Their light blended with the thick, acrid smoke that came in through the windows. Bisan, a 20-year-old woman, uploaded a photograph to Facebook of the yellowish-white smoke, which lit up the deserted sidewalks in Tel al-Hawa in southern Gaza. “This is not the sun,” she wrote, describing another photograph showing the bright light emitted when an illuminating bomb exploded in the middle of the night. “The holiday’s slaughter,” [alluding to Id al-Fitr, the holiday concluding the month of Ramadan] she wrote, reassuring her friends in another post, “I’m not a shahida [martyr] yet,” adding a smiley.

But her mother told Haaretz, in a voice full of exhaustion from fear and lack of sleep: “If we survive the bombardments, we’ll certainly get all kinds of illnesses from the smoke. We heard the bombing and shelling all night long from the battleships at sea, from canons in the east and from the warplanes in the sky. The building shakes more than ever, the windows rattle as they never did, and the explosions are coming closer and getting louder.” She wants to leave, but her husband says that there is no safe place in any case.

The radio constantly reports about families killed in their homes, including in the inner circles of Gaza City. The Iyads, a middle-aged Christian couple, were killed in their home in the Rimal section by a rocket strike. Those who do not hear the news on the radio hear it from other people. For example: Several displaced people from the Al Bureij refugee camp stayed in the home of Bureij’s mayor. The home was bombed on Monday night. The mayor was killed together with his wife and two daughters. No one knows why, and the displaced people, traumatized, are searching for another place to stay.

Abu Issam and his family fled their home in Beit Lahiya last Thursday, and went to stay with relatives in Jabalya. “We received several recorded messages from the defense forces saying that we had to leave,” he recalled. “But we ignored them. After all, nowhere is safe. Do you know when I decided we had to go? When my neighbors were killed. They were 50, 55 years old. Farmers, like we are. He went outside to water his orchard, and his wife went with him. A rocket struck them and they were killed instantly.

During a brief lull in the fighting last Saturday, Abu Issam hurried home to feed and water the rabbits and chickens. “You should have seen the look they gave me, as if someone had betrayed them,” he said. He almost took the cat with him, but decided not to in the end: Roughly 40 people are cramped into his friends’ apartment, he said, “and there’s no water because there’s no power, and the water has to be pumped from the well with a pump that runs on electricity.” Abu Issam says, “We’re still lucky. We didn’t have to seek shelter in a school.”

Umm Amir is a physician working with the medical teams in the schools that have become places of refuge. Nobody had been prepared for such a disastrous situation, she says. “There aren’t enough mattresses. There’s not enough water for washing. As much as they bring, it’s not enough. There’s not enough soap, not enough cleaning supplies. There aren’t enough plastic trash bags. Because of the hygiene problems, I’ve started seeing skin diseases spreading among children and among adults, too. There aren’t enough toilets for the students to begin with, and what is to be done when the number of people is four or five times higher, when they’re inside the building the whole day, not just half the day? Since there aren’t enough toilets, people are relieving themselves out the windows, into the sand dunes outside.

“People ate and drank less during the Ramadan fast. People brought break-fast meals to them as donations. Now UNRWA is the main one responsible for providing food. When people eat two or three times a day, in the terrible heat, without refrigerators, the food spoils. They open cans of tuna or meat, and the food spoils. There is fear of food poisoning. Children developed intestinal infections because there isn’t good nutrition and they’re not drinking enough, and because of the heat and the lack of hygiene. I transferred ten children to the hospital today — I found that they were fire-hot from infections. I give Acamol to the adults who catch cold. But the children? In this war, the children are paying the price, in death and in wounds. Everything is beyond UNRWA’s strength. It needs the budget of a country, not of a UN agency.” Umm Amir stopped her monologue for a moment and said, “Did you hear that? A bombardment has started.”

Umm Amir adds that the overcrowding has also led to eye diseases among the children. “We don’t know what’s in the smoke that comes from the bombs, and what’s in the bombs, that causes these infections. It’s terribly hot in the classrooms, outside there’s the sun, and together with the overcrowding, that leads to inflammations.” On top of all that, there are the people who were wounded in the bombardments and cannot remain in the hospitals, which are overcrowded with people wounded even worse than they. Those who were relatively lightly wounded go to the hospital for an examination, then return to their overcrowded refuges.

“I go from one room to another and speak with the people. A woman who has been here for almost two weeks already gave birth in the school eight days ago. Eleven women gave birth here at the school. This woman doesn’t have enough milk, there’s not enough formula to give the babies and not enough milk for the small children. There’s not enough milk for thousands of children up to four years old. There’s also no good nutrition for pregnant women and women who have given birth, which is going to affect the future development of the babies. There are also not enough diapers or feminine hygiene supplies for women who have given birth, or for women in general. There’s also hardly any way for them to wash, particularly when they are menstruating.

“All the families fled without a change of clothing. During the cease-fire they ran to their homes, only to find that everything inside had been burned or buried under the rubble. We’re asking people to donate clothing. Every day I come with a few big bags full of clothing. People have also anonymously donated money for the holiday. Most of the displaced people here are from Shujaiyeh. They came back maddened from the devastation they found.

“Both of us [Abu Amir and I] took out loans to build our homes. I think of all the people in the school who lost their homes. All of them took out loans, and now they’re left with their debts and no home. What will all these thousands of people do who have lost their homes? Will they keep on paying the banks?

“There are impoverished people here — a woman who had to go to the nearby hospital for medical treatment told me that she did not have one shekel or two for a taxi. There are also wealthy families who lost everything they had. I went to treat one woman with diabetes who was sitting in one of the classrooms — a very lovely woman, about 50 years old. She sat in a corner and cried. She told me that she had gone to get things from her home, and found her building — six floors and 12 apartments for her whole family — lying on the ground, a pile of concrete. She also found that all their cars had been crushed or bombed out.

“I told her: Don’t cry. Thank God, you are alive and your husband is alive, and your children are all right. You will rebuild. After all, we build our whole lives, and the Jews come and destroy them, and then we go back and build anew. I gave her the proper medication and left, my heart burnt”.

Obama’s Latest Anti-Russia Sanctions Keyed To Future US/Russian Business Ventures

[All of the anti-Russian sanctions are keyed to future business with Russian entities, targeting "all new transactions," "new debt of longer than 90-day maturity," "medium- or long-term financing."    (SEE: Background Conference Call on Ukraine ). 

In addition to blocking new financial dealings with US banks, new EXIM (Export Import Bank) controls block further technology transfers to Russian business, primarily those concerned with military or shipbuilding entities (United Shipbuilding Corporation).  The primary problems for BP and other Western oil mega-corporations will come new "export license requirements on a universe of technologies if they’re to be exported or re-exported to Russian deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale oil production activities."   

New export controls are intended to give Western corporations wiggle-room, allowing them to continue reaping obscene profits in Russia now, but preventing them from joining any new Russian energy-related projects, which will benefit the State.  "These are designed not to impact Russian current production but to impact their ability to produce in more technologically challenging future projects."

These new "sanctions" are another Obama lawyer-crafted response of threatening empty words.  Whatever else they are, the sanctions are just another volley in Obama's war on the Russian economy.  In any other place or time, these actions by our Commander-In-Chief amount to separate acts of war against our nuclear-armed former partner in seeking a new peaceful world order.]

BP warns investors to be braced for new sanctions against Russia

the independent

BP warned any further international sanctions imposed on Russia over the MH17 plane crash could have a “material adverse impact” on the company

 

 

Oil giant BP has reported better-than-expected second-quarter profits, fuelled largely by its investment in Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft in which it has a nearly 20 per cent stake.

The results came as it warned any further international sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine and the MH17 plane crash could have a “material adverse impact” on the company.

BP said profits for the quarter had risen by 34 per cent to $3.64 billion (£2.14 billion) from a year earlier. This came on the back of $1 billion of profits from its investment in Rosneft, nearly five times higher than a year ago.

However, despite BP announcing an 8.3 per cent increase in the dividend to 9.75 cents, the shares fell 2.66p to 494.19p.

The warning about Russia comes days after the country threatened to seize the assets of UK firms as a retaliation against David Cameron’s demand for tough sanctions.

A senior diplomatic source was quoted as saying Moscow would “fight back” against any industry-wide sanctions by putting British companies involved in Russian oil on the front line.

The official measures will include seizing the assets of British businesses in Russia. BP also increased its provision for litigation relating to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill by $260 million, taking the total pre-tax charge to $43 billion.

Centrica is set to appoint departing BP executive Iain Conn as its new boss on Thursday, paying him a lower salary and potential reward package than current chief Sam Laidlaw. Conn will reportedly receive a wage of just over £900,000 and a “golden hello” worth far less than a reported £5 million figure.

Hezbollah, Syrian and Lebanese armies Battle Nusra and ISIS Near Arsal

Hezbollah, Syrian regime battle rebels in northeast Lebanon

daily star LEB


File – A tank of the pro-regime forces is seen during alleged operations to take the control of the surrounding areas of the Rankous plain in the Qalamoun region, April 13, 2014. (AFP PHOTO/HO/SANA)

HERMEL, Lebanon: Hezbollah and the Syrian regime tightened the noose on armed rebels fighting in the mountainous regions straddling the border between Lebanon and Syria, in a major push to uproot fighters opposed to the embattled Assad regime. Hezbollah fighters gained control of hills surrounding rebel hideouts in the border province of Qalamoun and in the mountains bordering Shiite villages in northeastern Lebanon, helping seal off food and ammunition supply lines to the stranded fighters, a security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Daily Star.

Most of the fighters belong to the Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Nusra Front, the security source said. But some of the fighters are believed to have pledged allegiance to the Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), after its advances in Iraq.

Battles raged in Qalamoun, which lies opposite to the mountainous region bordering the pro-Syrian opposition town of Arsal, and in the mountains surrounding Shiite villages like Labweh, Nahlet Younin and Al-Ain in Lebanon’s northeast, between Hezbollah and the Syrian regime armed with warplanes on one side and opposition rebels on the other.

The security source said that Hezbollah is monitoring the supply lines to the rebels and is firing at any groups that attempt to provide them with aid, saying the combined siege by the party backed by the Syrian military has effectively shut off provisions from rebels concentrated in the mountainous terrain in Qalamoun and Arsal’s borders and closed off the road linking the two regions.

The security source said the current strategy is one of attrition, aimed at starving the rebels of ammunition and food ahead of a major operation by Hezbollah and the Syrian military to crush the rebels.

Labweh’s mayor Ramez Amhaz told The Daily Star that a coordinated push including Hezbollah, the Syrian and the Lebanese armies targeting armed groups in the mountainous terrain surrounding the town of Arsal is being planned, but declined to specify the time of the operation. He said efforts were underway to ensure that Arsal was not involved or affected by the operation.

Word of the campaign provoked a response by the Future Movement’s coordinator in Arsal Bakr Hujeiri, who said the Lebanese Army must explain if it is fighting in an alliance with the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.

Hujeiri said such an operation could increase tensions between the embattled, Sunni-majority Arsal and its Shiite neighbors as well as Hezbollah. Hujeiri said the outskirts of Arsal had been targeted by rockets emanating from areas controlled by Hezbollah.

Tensions between Arsal and its neighbors have flared up repeatedly since the crisis in Syria. The town is sympathetic to the Syrian opposition, and has been accused of harboring rebel fighters. Shiite villages in the area have been targeted by cross-border rocket attacks and rebel fighters are believed to be taking refuge in the mountainous area bordering Arsal, poised to strike at nearby Shiite villages in Lebanon.

Two rockets hit the outskirts of Hermel late Wednesday, but no casualties were reported. Al-Manar, Hezbollah’s TV station, aired footage of a large funeral for one of its fighters in the Western Bekaa Valley, led by Hezbollah officials and MPs. The deceased was identified as Ali Musa Musa.

Elsewhere in northern Lebanon, the family of three Lebanese smugglers distanced itself from the kidnapping and ransoming of Syrian refugees carried out by the men, and called on the Lebanese authorities to arrest and punish them.

The Ghazi family, from the village of Rama in Wadi Khaled, issued a statement Wednesday rejecting the criminal acts of three members of the family – who have been kidnapping Syrian refugees and ransoming them to the Syrian army as a means to compensate “poor business” across the border with Syria, whose three-year conflict has dented their smuggling activities.

The family’s statement identified the three by their initials only but was unequivocal in its rejection of their acts.

“The family stresses that the kidnapping of Syrian refugees for handover to the Syrian authorities in exchange for a ransom does not reflect its values, but is an act of barbarism which it strongly denounces,” the statement said.

It also called on the Lebanese authorities to act immediately to arrest the perpetrators and carry out the “most severe punishment,” stressing that the family would not give them any cover.

Security sources said four Syrian refugees were kidnapped over the weekend by a three-man gang and turned over to the Syrian army across the border.

They said one member of the gang was arrested by security forces, while the remaining two, including the gang’s leader, managed to escape.

According to the sources, the latest kidnapping brought the number of refugees who were lured by the culprits and handed over to the Syrian authorities to 12.

“They promise the refugees that they will smuggle them in and out of Syria, and once they are on the Syrian side of the border they hand them over,” the sources said.

They said the smugglers received $1,000 for each person handed over, in addition to the $100 the refugees paid for the “service provided.”

And in another security-related development, Israeli troops kidnapped a shepherd from the southern Lebanese village of Shebaa early Wednesday, the state-run National News Agency said.

NNA said the shepherd, Ismail Khalil Nabaa, was taken to the nearby Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms.

U.N. peacekeepers are exerting efforts with Israel to ensure his release, NNA added.

Israeli troops often kidnap shepherds only to free them hours later.

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