Wave of car bombings reignites fears that Hezbollah dragging Lebanon into regional war


Back-to-back car bombings on Friday and Monday - which targeted military officials and civilians in areas of Lebanon critical to Hezbollah - have renewed worries that blowback generated by the Iran-backed terror group's participation in regional Sunni-Shiite conflicts may end up dragging Lebanon into those conflicts. The incidents were the first major explosions since March 29, and risk undermining Hezbollah's subsequent boasts that it had successfully sealed the Lebanon-Syria border to prevent the transit of jihadist personnel and materials. Friday's attack, which killed a police officer, targeted a checkpoint on the Beirut-Damascus highway and seems to have been aimed at assassinating General Abbas Ebrahim, the Hezbollah-linked chief of Lebanon's powerful General Security Agency. The Monday overnight attack, which took place outside a cafe in a Hezbollah-dominated area of southern Beirut, killed one and wounded at least 20. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades announced that similar attacks would continue until Hezbollah withdrew from the conflict in Syria, where it has provided critical support to the Bashar al-Assad regime. Saad Hariri, a top figure in the anti-Hezbollah March 14 movement, demanded more broadly that the organization untangle itself from Sunni-Shiite conflicts sweeping the region in order to "spare" Lebanon future blowback. Hezbollah-backed Syrian troops over the weekend doubled down on an offensive aimed at dislodging opposition forces from areas in the strategically critical Qalamoun region, part of an ongoing campaign in the area that has already cost Hezbollah over a dozen fighters.


Israeli officials on Tuesday doubled down on claims made earlier this week that the Bashar al-Assad regime was responsible for a weekend attack near the Israel-Syria border that killed an Israeli boy and injured at least three others. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was “clear” that forces loyal to the Assad regime were behind the attack that killed Mohammed Karkara, and earlier this week Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon had emphasized that the Assad regime was responsible for preventing all attacks launched from inside Syrian territory. Reuters noted that Jerusalem regarded the cross-border attack as ‘intentional and the most serious on the frontier’ since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011. The Israeli Air Force responded to the attack, which took place in the country’s Golan Heights, with raids on regime facilities and assets, deploying fixed wing aircraft and Tamuz missiles against the Syrian command and control infrastructure. Israel’s Golan region, near the country’s border with Syria, has long been under threat of attack by both the Syrian regime and jihadist opposition forces. The security situation along the border has steadily deteriorated over the course of the war in Syria – various forces that have secured the border for nearly four decades, including the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), have scaled back security efforts in the area. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on Tuesday called recent attacks from Syria "unacceptable" and reaffirmed "Israel’s legitimate right to self-defense in response to unprovoked assaults."


Iraq’s ambassador to Iran Mohammad Madjid al-Sheikh on Tuesday told reporters that Tehran has “played an important role in supporting Iraq politically” but that Baghdad has not asked the Islamic republic for assistance in combating extremist Sunni fighters. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has made steady gains across Iraq in recent weeks, threatening the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Daily Beast last week detailed Iranian offers to Baghdad of among other things its army and spies in an effort to curb the advance of ISIS across the country. Sheikh’s comments sit uneasily alongside a Monday report from the Washington Free Beacon that Tehran provided shelter and protection to Musab al-Zarqawi , who founded al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS. Meanwhile, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday blasted “the intervention of the U.S. and others” as an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty. The Free Beacon noted that reports of “Iran arming Iraqi insurgents and attempting to destabilize the government emerged in 20092010201120122013, and 2014.”


Israeli basketball fans are whooping it up as recently resigned Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt signs head coach position with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is the first time an Israeli will coach an NBA team. After Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a stunning upset of Real Madrid in this year’s Euroleague championship, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu begged him to stay on as coach. But the American-born, 55-year-old Blatt resigned his post and hoped for an NBA contract instead. “David is a great basketball coach and a special person. His abilities to communicate, to build relationships with his players and to foster winning environments at several stops throughout Europe and across the highest levels of International competition speaks for itself. He brings unbridled passion, energy and creativity to his craft. These qualities have enabled David to reach a level of success that is truly unique,” said Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin.

Reports say Blatt signed a three-year contract, with an option for a fourth year, in a deal worth up to $20 million. A former player, Blatt built a successful 20-year coaching career including head coaching stints in Israel, Greece, Russia and Turkey. In 1996, he was named Israeli League Coach of the Year, the first of four times he would receive the award throughout his career (1996, 2002, 2011 and 2014). (via Israel21c)

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