A storm in Lebanon: Dozens of masked Hezbollah men are documented in nighttime operation to arrest drug dealers in Beirut; Opponents of the organization: This is what a country that has given up its authority in favor of the "tiny state" looks like'; Hezbollah: Photos are of 'the young supporters of the organization,' who were told to stop.
A set of unusual pictures came out on the tailend end of last week from the southern suburb of Beirut, which is in effect a Hezbollah stronghold. The photographs show men wearing black during a raid in the Palestinian refugee camp Bourj el-Barajneh. Those who published these photos on social media claimed the men were members of the Shi'ite terror organization who had set out to catch drug dealers and drug users, in addition to other lawbreakers.
The force apparently included dozens of Hezbollah members and was presented as the organization's "social security department." Up until the end of last week, the members of this force had not been seen. The images of the men caused an uproar by Hezbollah opponents, who saw them as another sign that the Lebanese state was losing its ability to rule over Hezbollah.
The Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar asked Hezbollah's information bureau if the organization believes it has the right, regardless of how powerful it has become, to take the country's place on its missions. Hezbollah responded by saying that "The pictures that were distributed belong to the young supporters of the organization, who were eager to help the security forces and carried out this activity without coordination with Hezbollah. Hezbollah has contacted them to have them desist, and the matter is now resolved." Sources in Hezbollah told the Lebanese channel MTV that the struggle against drugs is within the jurisdiction of the state and not under Hezbollah's authority.
U.S. backed Syrian forces repelled a major counter-attack by Islamic State militants holding out at the country's largest dam and in the nearby town of Tabqa, the group and activists said on Sunday.
The dam is a key strategic target in the military campaign to isolate and capture the Syrian city of Raqqa, 40 km (25 miles) to the east and Islamic State's biggest urban stronghold.
The U.S.-backed group said militants attacked their positions north-east of Tabqa and at an airbase to the south of the town where dozens of their fighters were killed; but the coalition of Kurdish and Arab militias was making slower advances in a village east of the town.
Jehan Sheikh Ahmad, a spokeswoman for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), spearheaded by the powerful Kurdish YPG militia, said the militants were stepping up their resistance as SDF forces got closer to encircling the town and the dam.
Hundreds of families with their cattle, property, motor bikes and vans continued on Sunday to flee from villages under Islamic State control.
The U.S.-backed forces say at least 7,000 people have taken shelter in their areas since the campaign to capture Tabqa.
Many are also fleeing air strikes on civilian areas in Raqqa province that have left dozens dead according to activists and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Last month strikes believed to be conducted by the U.S.-led coalition hit a bakery and a local market in Tabqa town with dozens of civilians killed. Another raid that hit a school sheltering displaced people near Raqqa also killed scores.
US President Donald Trump is granting more and more freedom to the Pentagon in conducting US military operations and silently increasing the number of US troops around the world.
In the three months of his presidency, Trump has given the US Department of Defense significant control over US military operations around the world, in contrast to what military officials called former President Barack Obama's "micromanagement."
The US is also quietly increasing its troop deployments around the world, and using loopholes to avoid technically exceeding troop caps. In Iraq and Syria, Trump authorized the deployment of additional US ground troops, without any public debate. From now on, the US military command will stop disclosing the exact number of troops stationed in Syria and Iraq. Thanks to the decade-old Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) brought into effect after the 9/11 attacks, the White House has the power to dispatch troops without Congressional debate, and classify them as "temporary," according to ABC News. Temporary troops are not counted toward the overall numbers officially deemed to be serving in a country.
What is not known are the true intentions of the White House, or the ultimate result of ramping up military operations. A final and decisive defeat of the chaos-inducing terror groups that have sprawled around the world is surely to be desired. But as US military intervention, including toppling governments, is seen as directly contributing to their formation, its unclear whether unfettered boots on the ground will really be a solution.
Israel Radio reported Sunday that the negotiations were put on hold after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jason Greenblatt — US President Donald Trump’s special envoy — and working groups on both sides failed to reach understandings on the issue.
There was no immediate confirmation of the report, which comes days after the Israeli government announced self-imposed settlement restrictions.
On Thursday, Netanyahu told members of the security cabinet that Israel would curtail construction in West Bank settlements as a goodwill gesture to Trump.
The Prime Minister’s Office said overnight Thursday-Friday any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them.
In response to new curbs on West Bank construction, Israeli settlement supporters hoped for the best and expected the worst, tempering their initial euphoria at US President Donald Trump’s election.
Pro-settlement leaders who advocate Jewish control of the entire West Bank went as far as to cautiously welcome the government’s announcement Thursday that construction would be largely restricted to developed areas of existing Jewish communities in the West Bank. Others hoped the restrictions did not amount to a freeze on settlement building.
“You need to understand that people built up an expectation that there would be a new president, the old era would end, and we’d be able to do whatever we want,” Yesha Council foreign envoy Oded Revivi told JTA on Sunday. “All of a sudden, reality doesn’t look like our expectations.”
Much of the Israeli right anticipated Trump would give Israel a freer hand in the West Bank than had his predecessor, Barack Obama. But since being elected, Trump has backed off his pledge to move the US Embassy in Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and made moves toward the final status agreement he has said he wants to broker between Israel and the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, several right-wing lawmakers worried that the restrictions amounted to a suspension of settlement building. Yehudah Glick, a Knesset member in the ruling Likud party who lives in a settlement, held out hope in a tweet Friday that this was not the case.
“I hope, in contrast to the commentators, that the government did not decide on a freeze on settlement construction,” he said. “We cannot accept this. Construction in Judea and Samaria is important for those who want peace.”
Bezalel Smotrich, an often inflammatory Jewish Home party lawmaker who also lives in a West Bank settlement, suggested Israel’s political right had lowered its expectations too far.
“This morning, on my [news feed] and according to the commentators — the right wing claims that the cabinet decided yesterday on construction [in the West Bank], the left claims that there is a freeze,” Smotrich, an often inflammatory Jewish Home lawmaker, tweeted Friday. “Unfortunately this time the commentators on the left are correct. The right is willfully blinded.”
It seems that despite the warnings of the UN and US, Israel is poised and ready to continue its construction of settlements for years to come, according to RIA Novosti political analyst Vladimir Ardayev.
In an opinion piece for RIA Novosti, Russian political analyst Vladimir Ardayev focused on Israel's ongoing construction of settlements, which he said shows no sign of abating despite the cautionary words of both the United Nations and the Trump administration.
His remarks came after the Israeli government gave the green light to the construction of a new settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank for the first time in more than two decades.
Additionally, Jerusalem approved the further expansion of Israel's settlement construction despite President Trump's previous request that it suspend settlement activity.
Jerusalem was quick to say that it will not adhere to the resolution, which was described as a "shame" by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.