A Pro-Hezbollah website on Monday quoted Lebanon’s parliament speaker as denouncing an Israeli warplane’s breaking the sound barrier a day earlier as “a direct threat.”

The Al-Akhbar site said that Speaker Nabih Berri additionally called the loud flyover, which damaged some buildings in the Sidon area of southern Lebanon, “a message directed at us, meaning that we [Israel] is aware of what you [Lebanon] has been able to accomplish, but we have not forgotten you. We are here all the time.”

The IDF is currently holding its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army simulating a war with Hezbollah.

Lebanese security sources and residents said Israeli jets flew low over the city of Saida on Sunday, causing sonic booms that broke windows and shook buildings, for the first time in years. The IDF had no comment.

In addition to the dozens of ground troops brigades, the army’s cyber units, the navy and air force are also taking part in the drill. The air force will be practicing bombing runs and close air support, as well as supplying troops in the field with intelligence.

According to the IDF, the drill is unique and unprecedented in scope and will enable the army to maintain a high level of readiness in an ever-changing region.

Al-Akhbar also quoted Hezbollah’s deputy secretary-general, Sheikh Naim Qassem, as saying the maneuvers were not viewed by the group as “preparation for war, but we are ready for any war.”

IDF assessments state that while it is unlikely that Hezbollah would attack Israel in the near future, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict between the two would be devastating.

“Israel’s interest is to prevent another confrontation in Lebanon, and so our new strategy is simple: Lebanon equals Hezbollah, Hezbollah equals Lebanon,” Bennett said. “Unlike the Second Lebanon War, this time we won’t differentiate between the organization and the State of Lebanon. This means any attack by Hezbollah will cause destruction throughout Lebanon and its institutions.”

A brigade commander in the Artillery Corps taking part in the exercise told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that although the Lebanese Armed Forces is not Israel’s “main enemy,” as long as it is connected to Hezbollah, the IDF is prepared to deal with it.

“The IDF knows all targets and positions of the Lebanese Army,” he told the Post close to the border area with Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. “The army is prepared to fight the Lebanese Army as an enemy.”

In August the Lebanese Army carried out an offensive against Islamic State forces on its northeast border with Syria near the town of Ras Baalbek, while Hezbollah assaulted them from the Qalamoun region of the Syrian side.

While the Lebanese Army said that it was not coordinating with Syria or Hezbollah, according to the Al-Akhbar report Qassem stated that “it is true that there is no joint operations room with the army, but coordination has achieved what needs to be achieved in the war against terrorism.”

In 2006 Israel fought against Hezbollah in the 34-day Second Lebanon War. Since then, hostilities have been limited to occasional firing across the border and air strikes by Israel against Hezbollah leaders and military equipment in Syria, where the group is fighting in support of President Bashar Assad.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said he would file a complaint to the United Nations against Israel for violating the country’s airspace on Sunday.

“We have started preparing to file a complaint to the Security Council against Israel for flying its planes at low altitude… causing material, moral and sovereign damage,” Bassil said in a tweet.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said Lebanon would issue its complaint “against Israel for planting spy devices on Lebanese land and continuously breaching” its airspace, his office said.

Israeli warplanes regularly enter Lebanon’s airspace, the Lebanese Army says, but rarely fly so low.




LONDON – Trade in illegal organs is a booming business in Lebanon as desperate Syrian refugees resort to selling body parts to support themselves and their families, according to an investigation by the BBC.

A trafficker who brokers deals from a coffee shop in Beirut, identified as Abu Jaafar, said while he knew his “booming” business was illegal, he saw it as helping people in need.


He spoke to the BBC journalist Alex Forsyth from his base in a dilapidated building covered by a plastic tarpaulin in a southern Beirut suburb.

“I exploit people, that’s what I do,” Jaafar told Forsyth.

“I know what I’m doing is illegal but I’m helping people, that’s how I see it.

“Some of my clients would have died anyway.”

Since the Syrian conflict erupted in 2011, at least 1.5 million people have poured into Lebanon, where they make up around a quarter of the country’s population.

Many have no legal right to work, and families are forced to find other ways to pay for food, shelter and healthcare.

According to a report published in June, some 70 percent of refugees in Lebanon are living below the poverty line.

“Those who are not registered as refugees are struggling,” Jaafar said in a report aired on BBC television late on Tuesday.

“What can they do? They are desperate and they have no other means to survive but to sell their organs.”

Jaafar said in the last three years he had arranged the sale of organs from some 30 refugees.

“They usually ask for kidneys, yet I can still find and facilitate other organs,” he said.

“They once asked for an eye, and I was able to acquire a client willing to sell his eye.”

The Middle East is becoming a “hot spot” in international organ trade, where the influx of refugees desperate to earn money is providing a new market for brokers, shifting focus from China and the Philippines, Forsyth said, citing experts.

The journalist said despite difficulties organs could be exported to buyers around the world, while sometimes refugees were being flown to nearby countries for surgery using fake papers.

Jaafar said he drives blindfolded people who agreed to sell their organs to a hidden location on a designated day, where prior to surgery they undergo basic blood tests.

Sometimes the doctors operate in rented houses that are transformed into temporary clinic.

“Once the operation is done I bring them back,” Jaafar said.

“I keep looking after them for almost a week until they remove the stitches. The moment they lose the stitches we don’t care what happens to them any longer.”

“I don’t really care if the client dies as long as I got what I wanted. It’s not my problem what happens next as long as the client gets paid.”

Jaafar’s most recent client, a 17-year-old Syrian boy had sold his kidney for 6,500 pounds ($8,300) to pay off debts and support his mother and five sisters.

Two days later, lying in the back room of a coffee shop he said he’s in constant pain.

“I already regret it but what can I do,” the teenager said. “I didn’t want to do this but I’m desperate. I had no other choice.”

Lebanese PM calls for permanent ceasefire with Israel

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri urged the UN Friday to help his country reach a permanent ceasefire with Israel, Reuters reported.

“I urge the UN secretary-general to support efforts to secure, as soon as possible, a state of permanent ceasefire. This is long overdue and my government is committed to move this agenda forward,” Hariri said.

Hariri made the comments during a visit to south Lebanon, a day after Hezbollah organized a tour for journalists along the Lebanon-Israel border.

The Lebanese leader criticized the media tour organized by Hezbollah during which armed gunmen from the group appeared in a UN-created border buffer zone meant to be free of Hezbollah presence, calling it “unacceptable in our opinion.”

The Hezbollah tour, intended to show journalists defensive measures taken by Israel along the border in the past year, was also criticized by other opponents of the Iranian-backed group as a provocation and a violation of a 2006 UN Security Council resolution that created the buffer zone.

Hariri, on his visit Friday, met with United Nations peacekeepers stationed in the area and renewed Lebanon’s commitment to international resolutions.

“What happened yesterday is something that we, as a government, are not (involved) with and do not accept,” Hariri said. He struck a conciliatory tone, however, saying “there are political differences (with Hezbollah) that we put aside, and this is one of them.”

“I came here to emphasize that our role as a government is to preserve Resolution 1701,” Hariri said.

Thursday’s tour sought to paint Israel as afraid of a new conflict, while depicting Hezbollah as ready for war despite having committed thousands of its fighters to bolstering Syria’s President Bashar Assad.

While taking queries from the journalists, a Hezbollah officer refused to answer questions about a possible next war with Israel or about the terror organization itself.

During the tour, Hezbollah detailed the Jewish state’s new defenses and claimed that Israel had switched to a “defensive” doctrine for the first time in its history. In a clip aired on LBC, one of its officers is seen showing familiarity with Israeli northern towns and with Israeli military units operating in the area and their chain of command.

Hezbollah officer gives field tour to Lebanese journalists on the border with Israel on April 20, 2017. (Screenshot from LBC)

While eager to discuss the measures they say Israel has been taking, Hezbollah officials refused to be drawn on their own preparations for war, beyond insisting on their ability to fight if one comes.

Some analysts believe Hezbollah would be hard-pressed to fight on two fronts, Syria and Israel, but others note the group’s combatants have also gained new experience during years of battle in the Syrian conflict.



Lebanese television reporter Maria Maalouf took to Twitter on Saturday night to urge Israel to make good on past threats and take out Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
In two different tweets Maalouf published on her official Twitter handle late Saturday night, the reporter turned to the State of Israel and said that if the latter really wanted to see peace in the region, it ought to arrive at some sort of agreement with the Shi’ite terror organization.
“If Israel really wants peace, then it should prove it and sign on agreements with Hezbollah. Because, to this day we have not gotten rid of Hassan Nasrallah, who is deluding us in his fight against Israel,” Maalouf wrote in her first tweet.

Shortly after, Maalouf tweeted again, this time taunting Israel and claiming that it could not really deter its enemies if it didn’t take more extreme measures. “If Israel sees Hassan Nasrallah as its enemy, why doesn’t it carry out an air strike that would rid us of him, thus gaining our faith and protecting itself?”


This second quote gained a lot of traction, triggering a heated debate among the reporter’s 222,000 Twitter followers. Many lashed at Maalouf, who is known for her avid stand against the Syrian regime, while others reacted by saying that her suggestions couldn’t possibly happen because “Israel and Hezbollah are on the same side,” alluding to radical conspiracy theories claiming that Israel and Hezbollah are actually in contact and seeking collaboration behind the scenes.

It appears that the timing of Maalouf’s comments was a contributing factor in the sensation they sparked. In recent months many voices across the Lebanese political map have been raising a similar concern that Hezbollah could potentially cause a crisis in Lebanon due to its ongoing involvement in the Syrian Civil War alongside the Assad regime.

This is not the first time Maalouf has made controversial statements, nor is it the first that she comes under the harsh fire of the critics. Last week the son of Syria’s envoy to Jordan threatened to kill Maalouf, writing on his personal Facebook page that “we have the hanging rope ready for you” and making further threats on her life. In response, Maalouf called for Lebanese authorities to try the ambassador’s son.

Maalouf is considered one of the main central figures in the Lebanese media to actively speak out against Iran, Hezbollah’s militias and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Often drawing the ire of critics and television viewers, she is known for raising provocative questions and reporting sensitive stories regarding corruption among the Lebanese political elite.

Lebanese politician brands Palestinian attackers ‘suicide seekers’

The leader of a minor Lebanese political party told a local television station that Palestinian teens who carry out stabbing attacks against Israelis are “suicide seekers.”

Roger Edde, a Maronite Christian who is the founder and head of the Lebanese Peace Party (Assalam), also said in the January 20 TV interview that Iran poses a larger problem for the Arab world than Israel does.

“All the people who today call to fight Israel while downplaying concerns about Iran have a problem,” he told the Hezbollah-affiliated al-Mayadeen channel, according to a translation of his comments on Monday by MEMRI, an NGO monitoring Middle Eastern news.

Edde also said he wanted Iran to give Lebanon “reassurances” following its agreement with world powers over its nuclear program.

Lebanon, Edde said, wanted Iran to “benefit from the normalized ties that have begun with the international community.”

“I don’t want it to ‘export’ the [Islamic] revolution in an effort to sow civil strife in the Levant and in the rest of the Arab World,” Edde added, apparently referring to the influence of the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah.

When asked about the “132 young Palestinians” who, according to the TV host, “have been killed in cold blood by Israel in the past two months,” Edde replied that “Israel must not accept this under any circumstances, because anybody who tries to carry out any operation knows that he is heading toward his death.”

He added: “If he grabs a knife in order to attack a woman, he knows that this is suicide — because somebody will shoot him.”

The host, seemingly surprised by Edde’s response, asked: “Do you consider Israel to be your enemy?”

Edde answered: “Yes, of course. Why? Because we do not have peace with it, we are in a state of war. [But] we have a truce with Israel and we are committed to that truce.”

The Assalam party, part of the moderate March 14 Coalition in Lebanon, currently has no seats in the Lebanese parliament.

Songs and death threats for Lebanese American porn star Mia Khalifa


(CNN)Few parents are delighted to learn that their daughter is a porn star, even a highly successful one. But for 21-year-old Mia Khalifa of Florida, a family dispute has taken on international dimensions.

Khalifa is PornHub’s highest-ranked adult star. But she is also Lebanese-born — and her chosen line of work has not only disappointed her parents but generated huge controversy in her native country.

The debate has gained such a head of steam that some Arab news outlets published a family statement this week condemning Khalifa’s actions and expressing the family’s regret about her fame as a porn star.

She is also criticized for her tattoo, in Arabic, of the opening lines of the Lebanese National Anthem.

“We are probably paying the price of living away from our homeland; our kids had to adapt to societies that don’t resemble our culture, traditions and values,” the family statement said.

“Hence, we emphasize that we disassociate ourselves from her actions which do not reflect her family beliefs, her upbringing or her true Lebanese roots. We hope that she comes back to her senses as her image does not honor her family or her homeland — Lebanon.”

According to the statement, Khalifa, born in 1993, moved with her family to the United States in 2000. They left behind them one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East but one where religion plays a central, sometimes divisive, role in daily life and many are deeply socially conservative.

Having turned 18, Khalifa left home, the statement says, “as is common in the West. She married an American guy in February 2011 and is currently living with him in Florida. Mia has since lost contact with her family.”

Despite the family rift, Khalifa has been doing well for herself.

And she’s been fighting back against the criticism on her Twitter feed, which has more than 100,000 followers (and contains some slightly NSFW content).

She writes: “@borenstein_alex: @miakhalifa how do we achieve peace in the Middle East?” Stop talking about pornstars that aren’t living in your country”

But many critics continue to voice their disgust on Twitter.

“I am a Palestinian patriot and what you are doing is shameful,” one person wrote. Another says her head should be cut off for what she’s doing.

And that’s far from the only death threat she’s received.

She posted a doctored photo that appeared to show her as a prisoner of ISIS.

At the same time, she has many online supporters.

British-Lebanese author and publisher Nasri Atallah posted at length in her defense on his Facebook page.

“The moral indignation about Mia Khalifa, presumably the first Lebanese pornstar, is wrong for two reasons. First and foremost, as a woman, she is free to do as she pleases with her body,” he wrote.

“Secondly, as a sentient human being with agency, who lives halfway across the world she is in charge of her own life and owes absolutely nothing to the country where she happened to be born. There is this odd perception that being Lebanese is a vocation and a duty first and that your personal life comes second.”

And like Khalifah, Atallah believes the fevered interest her actions have stirred back home is unwarranted.

“For the record, I don’t think we should be particularly proud of Mia Khalifa, we should just be indifferent. She’s doing a job she chose, in a regulated industry, no different to banking. Actually, it’s probably more regulated than banking.

“I certainly don’t think she’s our last frontier against ISIS as some have suggested. She is a 21-year old in Florida who has made a decision for herself, with absolutely no wider implications.”

Another boost came from American duo Timeflies, who recorded a song about her this week, posted to their Twitter feed.

It’s already proven pretty popular with her fans, with several posting that, together, she and the band “broke the internet.”

And Khalifa herself remains defiant in the face of the trolls.

“How does it feel to be the most hated arab at the moment?” she wrote. “Pretty good since @Timeflies wrote a song about me.”