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Syria: Christian Patriarch Backs Off Support For Assad

MTV (Lebanon)

BEIRUT - After having earlier stood by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Lebanon's Maronite Patriarch has now declared that the fall of what he calls the "dictatorship" of the current regime would not affect Christians in Syria, reported Lebanon's MTV television (not affiliated with the American music broadcaster)

Still Patriarch Bishara al-Rai, whose followers extend across the region, said he continues to fear that Syria could descend into civil war or into the hands of a more stringent regime.

"The Syrian regime is a dictatorship and the Lebanese have suffered from it," al-Rai said. "But still, the departure of Assad will not affect Christians in Syria."

He explained his reasoning by stating that "Christians traditionally support whomever is in power because they are not usually involved in politics."

The Patriarch cited the example of Saddam Hussein protecting the apolitical Christian minority in Iraq. "As long as they do not involve themselves in politics in Arab countries that have one party rule, they have nothing to fear," al-Rai said.

"The departure of the Syrian regime does not worry us, but there are three things we are fearful of: first, that there could be a civil war, or else a division within the country, or that extremists will come to power."

He added that Muslims are generally moderate, but "unfortunately extremists could come into power if backed by other countries."

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Settlers, Prisoners, Resistance: How Israeli Occupation Ties Gaza To The West Bank

The fate of the West Bank is inevitably linked to the conflict in Gaza; and indeed Israeli crackdowns and settler expansion and violence in the West Bank is a sign of an explicit strategy.

Settlers, Prisoners, Resistance: How Israeli Occupation Ties Gaza To The West Bank

Israeli soldiers take their positions during a military operation in the Balata refugee camp, West Bank.

Riham Al Maqdama


CAIRO — Since “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” began on October 7, the question has been asked: What will happen in the West Bank?

A review of Israel’s positions and rhetoric since 1967 has always referred to the Gaza Strip as a “problem,” while the West Bank was the “opportunity,” so that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005 was even referred to as an attempt to invest state resources in Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.

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This separation between Gaza and the West Bank in the military and political doctrine of the occupation creates major challenges, repercussions of which have intensified over the last three years.

Settlement expansion in the West Bank and the continued restrictions of the occupation there constitute the “land” and Gaza is the “siege” of the challenge Palestinians face. The opposition to the West Bank expansion is inseparable from the resistance in Gaza, including those who are in Israeli prisons, and some who have turned to take up arms through new resistance groups.

“What happened in Gaza is never separated from the West Bank, but is related to it in cause and effect,” said Ahmed Azem, professor of international relations at Qatar University. “The name of the October 7 operation is the Al-Aqsa Flood, referring to what is happening in Jerusalem, which is part of the West Bank.”

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