While Hassan Nasrallah rails about Hezbollah’s preparations to inflict “devastating damage” on Israel, the country actually suffering at the hands of the Lebanese Shiite militant group is Syria, Arab dailies report.
“Deaths follow clashes between Syrian rebels and armed Hezbollah fighters” is one of the leading stories on the website of the Doha-based media channel Al-Jazeera. In the last twenty-four hours, residents of the western Syrian city of Homs have seen the greatest fighting between the rebel Free Syria Army and Hezbollah since the start of the Syrian civil war. Up to 12 Syrian rebel fighters have been killed along with 3 Hezbollah militants.
While Hezbollah has been quick to state that its fighters were acting in self-defense, the Syrian National Council, the main political body of the Syrian opposition, is accusing Hezbollah of intervening militarily on behalf of Bashar Assad’s regime.
Hadi Al-Abdullah, a general spokesman for the Syrian opposition, stated that “Hezbollah’s inhumane attack on the Free Syrian Army coincided with aerial bombing by the regime.”
The embattled Syrian regime has long been one of Hezbollah’s major financial and military backers in the region, along with Iran.
In a separate interview picked up by the Cairo-based newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, Al-Abdullah claims that Hezbollah occupies eight Syrian villages close to the Lebanese border and that its weekend attack stemmed from its desire to grab three adjacent Sunni villages that were under the control of the rebels.
According to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the battle’s intensity picked up when the Free Syria Army deployed two tanks it had seized from the regular Syrian army to repel the Hezbollah attack.
Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby are once again calling for peace talks between leaders of the Syrian government and opposition forces to end the 23-month-old conflict.
The Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat reports on Brahimi’s suggestion to hold peace talks on completely neutral territory, such as the offices of the United Nations in an unspecified country.
That idea might already be done for in light of the UN Security Council’s call on Thursday night to refer Bashar Assad and his forces to the International Criminal Court in the Hague for prosecution for war crimes.
“President Assad and his forces are committing war crimes,” says the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “His security forces are directly linked and it is on the Security Council to resort to the International Criminal Court.”
Charges filed in Egypt against radical Muslim preacher
The Egyptian judiciary has launched formal charges against a radical Muslim preacher for “incitement to hatred” and “contempt of religions” for his disparaging comments against Coptic Christian women, the London-based Al-Hayat reports.
The preacher in question, Salafi Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, also known simply as Abu Islam, hosts a popular television program on Nation TV. On a number of occasions, he called on Muslims “to urinate on the Bible” and called liberal Christian women who attended protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square “prostitutes who are asking to get raped.”
According to the Egyptian Attorney General’s office, they have received over 20 requests for Abu Islam’s arrest.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi adds that Abu Islam began to achieve notoriety in Egypt after he publicly desecrated a copy of the Bible in front of the US Embassy in Cairo during protests in September 2012 against the film “Innocence of Muslims,” which was produced by an Egyptian Coptic Christian who had emigrated to the United States.
The leading editorial in Al-Quds Al-Arabi condemns Abu Islam’s activities and urges the Egyptian judiciary to bring him to justice.
“The preacher Abu Islam has crossed many red lines,” the editorial states. “There are too many television channels that preach various kinds of incitement and violence, raising the chances for instability that exist in the country due to the current chaos and lack of security.”
“The Egyptian judiciary sentenced the Copts who produced the film that abused the Prophet Muhammed to death,” the editorial goes on. “Likewise, there is no room for religious extremism in Egypt on the part of Muslims either.”