In Lebanon, Hezbollah and its rivals continued to trade harsh accusations this weekend over events in Syria.
Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary faction, held a press conference where he accused Lebanon’s opposition forces of “joining the American plan of aggression” against Syria via their rhetorical statements, and accused them of “completely ignoring Israel’s aggression.”
Raad’s remarks were covered Saturday in the Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq al-Awsat, which also gave extensive space to the response of Hezbollah’s rivals. Sunni MP Ahmad Fatfat rejected the insinuation that Hezbollah’s rivals are soft on Israel: “As for the claim that we don’t protest Israeli aggression, I say to Raad that we condemn it more than he does.” However, Fatfat noted, “They [Hezbollah] use their condemnations to score political points, whereas we issue these condemnations only to achieve lofty national interests.”
Meanwhile, the London-based Al-Hayat carried an interview with former Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Din Hariri, who affirmed that “I am convinced Bashar Assad’s regime will fall.” Hariri refused to say whether he is providing direct support to Syria’s rebel fighters, although he praised efforts to supply the rebels with arms and other assistance. Hariri, who has spent most of the past few years abroad, insisted that he remains active in Lebanese politics, but would not say when he will return to the country.
Lebanon’s pro-Hezbollah daily Al-Akhbar led its international news section with remarks by Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Meqdad, condemning Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his support of the Syrian rebels. Meqdad stated that “the current Turkish government deserves to be placed on the international list of terror sponsoring countries.” Meqdad also claimed that “Most Turks are opposed to [Erdogan’s] Justice and Development Party’s policy, and have demonstrated in the streets to show their solidarity with Syria.”
Salafists call for release of wounded prisoner in Hamas jail
The Jerusalem-based daily Al-Quds reports on demands by Salafists in Gaza that Hamas release Mohammed Rashwan (alias Abu Suhayb), a militant being held in Hamas’s prisons. According to a press release from the Mujahadin Shura Council obtained by Al-Quds, Rashwan was arrested after he was wounded in an Israeli airstrike.
The press release alleged that Rashwan has been tortured by his interrogators from Hamas and the Egyptian intelligence services in relation to his involvement in attacks against Israel and against Egyptian targets in the Sinai Peninsula. The press release said that Rashwan has stopped taking his medication, apparently in protest of his imprisonment and torture.
Accusations of voter registration fraud in Jordan
The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood created a minor media storm this week, posting on its website what it said were the details of 70,000 fraudulent voter registration forms. The accusations were covered in the London daily Al-Hayat, as well as in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas and the Jerusalem based daily Al-Quds.
The brotherhood claimed that the fraud was crudely orchestrated, with many fraudulent registrations being issued for persons with identical or similar names and ID numbers that differed only by a single digit.
The accusations of voter fraud were soundly rejected by Jordanian officials interviewed by the daily Al-Dustour. They argued that fraudulent registration was not technically feasible because of the computer system used by Jordan’s electoral commission, which checks information submitted on registration forms against national police and administrative databases. Officials from Jordan’s Independent Election Commission told Al-Dustour that the complete list of registered voters will be made publicly available once the registration process is completed.
Self-immolation in Jordan
In other Jordan news, the left-leaning daily Al-Arab al-Yawm reported that a young man in Aqaba was hospitalized with burns on 92% of his body after setting himself on fire. The newspaper report gave no details on the man’s identity or motive. Egypt’s ON TV satellite channel, however, reported that the man had set himself on fire to protest the removal of his street vending stall by local authorities.
Syrian refugee girls vulnerable to exploitation
Teenage girls who have fled the conflict in Syria risk being married off to older men who seek to take advantage of the difficult conditions faced by Syrian refugees in neighboring countries. So warns a front page editorial in the London daily Al-Quds al-Arabi, written by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Abd al-Bari Atwan.
Atwan noted that many Syrian refugee families in Jordan and other countries have chosen to marry off their underage daughters to wealthy local men, whether to alleviate difficult financial circumstances or out of fear that unmarried young women may fall prey to harassment or sexual assault in the refugees’ often crowded living conditions.
Atwan condemned the marriage of these girls to men many years their elder as a form of “white slavery,” and called on the Jordanian government to pass a law banning any marriage between a woman and a man more than 25 years her senior. Atwan closed his editorial by describing his own personal sorrow at the realization that despite the Arab world’s oil wealth, some Arab families are still forced to put their daughters up for sale in order to survive.