Egypt launches 2nd day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

In this still image taken from video provided by the Egyptian military, an Egyptian fighter jet takes off from an undisclosed location in Egypt to strike militant hideouts in the Libyan city of Darna, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 28 May 2017
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Egypt launches 2nd day of Libyan air strikes after attack on Christians

CAIRO/BENGHAZI: Egypt launched a fresh round of air strikes over Libya on Saturday, Egyptian military sources and an eyewitness told Reuters, targeting militant camps it said were responsible for a shooting spree that killed dozens of Egyptian Christians.
On Friday, Egyptian fighter jets struck eastern Libya just hours after a shooting that killed 29 and wounded 24 in the southern Egyptian province of Minya when masked militants boarded vehicles en route to a monastery and opened fire at close range.
Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest directed at Egypt’s increasingly embattled Christian minority following two church bombings last month that killed more than 45, also claimed by the group.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on Friday he had ordered air raids on militant camps in Libya, where he said the Minya gunmen had trained, though he did not name a specific group responsible.
Sissi, who has presented himself as a bulwark against militants in the region, said Egypt would not hesitate to carry out additional strikes inside and outside the country to quash future threats.
Two military sources told Reuters that three additional air raids on Saturday morning struck the area of Derna, a city where east Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar, a close ally of Egypt, have been trying to gain control from militants and other opponents.
A source in Haftar’s Libyan National Army told Reuters that they had coordinated with Egyptian counterparts to strike ammunition stores belonging to the Derna Mujahideen Shoura Council, an Islamist umbrella group that opposes Daesh.
A resident in Derna told Reuters that warplanes were seen striking the Dahr Al-Hamar area in the southern part of Derna on Saturday. Egypt’s military spokesman declined to comment on the second round of strikes.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it had delivered a letter on Saturday to the United Nations Security Council informing it that the strikes were conducted as an act of legitimate self-defense, according to a ministry statement.
Derna has a history of militancy and is where Daesh set up its first presence in Libya in 2014. However, the jihadist group was later chased from the city by local fighters and rival groups.
The east Libyan air force said Friday the strikes were targeting Al-Qaeda linked forces and did not mention Daesh.
Egypt’s military said in a statement it had “conducted several intensive day and night-time strikes” that successfully destroyed many targets, including training camps responsible for the Minya attack.
A video uploaded to the military’s Facebook page depicted fighter jets being armed with missiles and taking off as well as aerial footage of air strikes.


Palestinian refugees protest Lebanese Labor Ministry restrictions

Updated 49 sec ago
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Palestinian refugees protest Lebanese Labor Ministry restrictions

  • All Palestinian political forces and popular committees took part in the protests

BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon expressed their anger on Tuesday at the decision of the Lebanese Ministry of Labor to classify Palestinian labor similarly to illegal Syrian labor. 

The refugees carried out a general strike and protests across 12 camps.

The protests, under the slogan “Day of Anger,” paralyzed movement in the camps. Protesters closed the entrances with burning tyres. All Palestinian political forces and popular committees took part in the protests. 

The speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, received a letter from the head of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zanoun, calling on him to “address the negative effects of the decision of the Lebanese Ministry of Labor.”

Zanoun said that Palestinians would support “Lebanon and its stability, as well as our determination to struggle together for the return of the Palestinian refugees, who have been graciously hosted by Lebanon for 71 years, and all refugees to their land and homes from which they were displaced by terrorism and the Israeli killing machine.”

Zanoun added that the decision of the Ministry of Labor has “caused great damage to human and civil rights and closed the doors of life for the Palestinian refugees.”

A source in the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) said: “The protests are an expression of the deteriorating social and living conditions experienced by Palestinians in Lebanon. The decision of the Ministry of Labor inspired these protests.”

The source added: “The census conducted by the Lebanese state in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in 2017 showed that the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon has reached 174,000 and the Palestinian labor force doesn’t exceed 40,000 workers. But if we repeat the census this year, we’ll find that there’s a decline in the labor force because of the quest to migrate, even if illegally, and to move to a third country in search of a better life.”

The Lebanese Parliament introduced amendments to laws 128 and 129 on labor and social security in 2010, which excludes “exclusively Palestinian refugee workers, who are duly registered in the records of the Ministry of the Interior, from the terms of reciprocity and work permit issued by the Ministry of Labor.”

The LPDC source said: “The amendment needed implementation decrees from the Council of Ministers, signed by the president, the prime minister and the minister of labor, but they’ve not been issued for nine years.”

The Palestinian labor force is present in fragile sectors such as construction and small crafts, but more problems arise among Palestinians who graduate from Lebanese universities and cannot work in their specialties because of trade union limitations. The source said that the Order of Nurses in Lebanon is the only union that allows Palestinians to work in their sector.

Alongside the protests, a meeting was held between various Palestinian factions at the headquarters of the LPDC with representatives of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers. The Palestinian side called for “ending the measures of the Ministry of Labor regarding Palestinian refugees and not linking Palestinian labor in Lebanon with foreign labor.”

Ghassan Ayoub, a Palestinian member of the LPDC, said that the ministry’s actions “have a political impact. The Palestinian refugee isn’t a guest who has remained in Lebanon because he liked the hospitality.  He’s a forced refugee who was born in Lebanon and lives on his territory. He isn’t a foreign expatriate who came to work in Lebanon. This must be taken into account in the enforcement of the Ministry of Labor’s procedures.”

Ayoub said the situation demanded “the application of the spirit of the law and not the text of the law. There are many complications in the law in terms of obtaining a work permit and conditions for establishing a business. They’re impossible conditions for the Palestinians.”

As for the implications of applying the ministry’s procedures to the refugees in Lebanon, Ayoub said: “Ninety percent of professions are forbidden to Palestinians, which means that they’re entitled to work in only a few sectors, namely porterage and digging, which are arduous. That means you’re telling the Palestinians ‘you have 10 percent of the air to breathe.’ What do you want from the Palestinians? Where should they go? What are the alternatives?”

Palestinian refugees are not entitled to work in 72 professions in Lebanon, and are not permitted access to social security. One of the contradictions of the law is that Palestinians have the right to purchase a taxi but are forbidden to work in it. Moreover, Palestinians are only allowed to fish after obtaining a special permit.

“The plan of the ministry to combat illegal foreign labor force isn’t aimed at the Palestinians and has nothing to do with conspiracy theories,” Lebanese Labor Minister Kamil Abu Sulaiman said. 

“There’s a labor law in Lebanon. We approved a plan a month and a half ago to implement the law and gave a grace period of one month before we began inspections. The law applies to everyone and law enforcement can’t be fragmented.”

Abu Sulaiman added: “The Palestinian reaction is incomprehensible and meaningless.”

He received a call from Ashraf Dabbour, the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, and said he informed the diplomat of the ministry’s readiness to facilitate the affairs of the Palestinians.

In an open letter, Dabbour called on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to avoid being “dragged into what does not serve our just cause. Our goal in the stage of our forced presence in Lebanon is to have a decent life until our return to our homeland, supported by our Lebanese brothers.”

The LPDC said that the Ministry of Labor “ignores the special case of the Palestinian refugees under the amendment of laws 128 and 129 and treats them as foreign workers.” 

The LPDC added: “The Palestinian refugees can’t return to their country, and everything that they produce inside Lebanon remains in it, which strengthens the economic cycle of the country, whether it comes from small entrepreneurs or the hard work of laborers and craftsmen.

“Lebanon also benefits from the funds flowing through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s $80 million budget. They also gain from the efforts of international organizations in Palestinian camps, as well as what Palestinian refugees send to their refugee families in Lebanon, which is estimated at several hundred million dollars.”

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary in Lebanon of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization, said: “The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are guests in this country and we respect its sovereignty, but we also respect the decent living of Palestinians in the camps.”