"We will take revenge from everyone who kept silent and everyone who applauded the death of all innocent immaculate souls in Aleppo," Hosam Al-Bakri, a teary-eyed youth refugee told me, referring to the recent recapture of Aleppo, considered as a fateful victory for the Syrian regime over the armed opposition. "Assad is worse than ISIL, believe me," he continued. This judgement may raise a few eyebrows, but it shouldn't, as this is an inevitable sentiment of young people watching their fellow countrymen killed in cold blood and evacuated from their homes. Aleppo was a key battleground in the war between forces loyal to the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and rebels who want to overthrow him. After the heavy air strikes carried out by the regime forces and supported by Russian troops, the rebels were forced to withdraw from the city.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance money for cash-strapped Lebanon is being held up because of the country's nearly two-year-old political stalemate, the president of the World Bank group warned Friday, imploring the country's politicians to vote for a president who can enact laws. In an interview with The Associated Press in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Jim Yong Kim also said the World Bank, which pulled out of Syria in 2011, is getting ready to move as quickly as possible to contribute to the rebuilding of the war-ravaged country if and when the fighting stops. But he said battling extremism is going to be complicated. Kim is on a two-day joint visit to Lebanon with the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Islamic Development Bank Group President Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani to get a first-hand look at the impact of the Syrian crisis and to assess how the combined strengths of the three organizations can best support the country. On Friday, he traveled to northern Lebanon to visit a social development center that provides health, nutrition and social services to extremely poor households, and an informal tented settlement for Syrian refugees.
Next month, a French initiative to revive peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis is expected to take place in Paris. The new initiative, however, is being held against the background of tensions that have boiled over into violence since October in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the blockaded Gaza Strip. During this period, the Israeli army has killed at least 206 Palestinians, including protesters, bystanders and alleged attackers, while 33 Israelis were killed in stabbing and shooting incidents. Detached from the reality of hostility are dozens of joint Israeli-Palestinian peace-building NGOs - and other highly creative ventures - who are working "to overcome challenges and foster tolerance in the absence of political reconciliation". Focusing on dialogue, social change and cooperation, activists say they are working to humanise "the other" and to construct peace on the personal level.