UN political chief in Libya to push elections

UN undersecretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman (C), UN special representative and head of the UN support mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salame (L) and undersecretary of the foreign ministry Lutfi Al-Maghrabi (R) attend a press conference in the Libyan capital Tripoli on January 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
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UN political chief in Libya to push elections

BENGHAZI: The United Nations’ political chief held talks on Thursday with the head of Libya’s parliament about elections to be held under a UN plan to stabilize the strife-ridden country.
Jeffrey Feltman, who is on a tour of Libya and Tunisia, traveled to the eastern town of Al-Qobba where the parliament is based for the meeting with speaker Aguila Saleh.
“The meeting, attended by the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame, focused on the elections scheduled for this year,” said parliament spokesman Abdallah Bleheq.
The elections “should meet the expectations of the people and appease the various political actors,” he told AFP.
A 2015 UN-brokered deal that saw the establishment of a Government of National Accord was meant to calm years of chaos that followed the ouster of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
But Libya has remained mired in violent turmoil as the country is riven by divisions between the GNA in Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.
On Wednesday in the capital, Feltman met Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the internationally recognized GNA.
It is struggling to assert its authority across the country, especially because of the presence of a parallel administration in the east.
In September, the UN presented the plan to hold legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2018 as the GNA’s mandate neared the end of its two-year lifespan with no solution to the crisis in sight.
Analysts have expressed skepticism that elections will help end the bitter divisions, and say they could in fact increase tensions between Libya’s rival camps.
Feltman acknowledged on Wednesday that “credible elections will require an understanding in terms of political agreements” as well as new legislation and the necessary security conditions.
But he insisted the UN wants “to do our part in promoting the political, the security, the technical and the legislative condition to see that the Libyan people’s desire for these elections can be realized this year.”
In December, Haftar said he would support elections but also implied he would seize power if the polls did not occur.
Haftar — who never recognized the GNA’s authority — has insisted the unity government has lost all legitimacy after the expiry of the 2015 agreement at the end of last year.


Did lightning strike trigger Gaza rocket attack on Israel?

Updated 23 October 2018
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Did lightning strike trigger Gaza rocket attack on Israel?

  • Hamas took the unusual step of denying it had carried out an attack
  • Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was reason to believe that was true

JERUSALEM: A theory that a lightning strike triggered Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza last week gained traction in Israel on Tuesday and might explain the Israeli military’s limited response.
Two rockets were launched from the Hamas-ruled enclave on Oct. 17. But the group took the unusual step of denying it had carried out an attack. Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi said there was reason to believe that was true.
One of the rockets wrecked a house in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, causing no casualties, the other landed in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel responded with air strikes that killed a militant in Gaza.
Soon afterwards, video appeared on social media showing lightning illuminating the night sky in Gaza and then two flaming rockets streaking into the air.
Israel’s best-selling daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet now believed the lighting set off a launch mechanism.
Asked about the report, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the security cabinet, told Israel Radio: “I won’t discuss security cabinet meetings and I don’t know which ministers are chatting with journalists, but I can say that as far as we know, Hamas did not intend to fire those rockets.”
Hamas officials had no immediate comment.
The rocket launchings coincided with Egyptian efforts to broker a long-term cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars in the past 10 years.