UN envoy says military forces in Libya are flexing muscles

Libya fighters (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2018
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UN envoy says military forces in Libya are flexing muscles

UNITED NATIONS: The UN envoy for Libya said Wednesday that military forces “are flexing their muscles in many parts of the country” and the oil-rich nation needs a competent government.
Ghassan Salame told the Security Council that “the specter of violence remains present,” pointing to clashes between forces allied with two rival communities close to Libya’s border with Tunisia, rival groups at a flashpoint in the eastern vicinity of the capital of Tripoli, and heightened tension around the city of Derna.
He said he was delivering the briefing by videoconference from Tunis and not Tripoli as he had planned “because bloody clashes at the airport have halted all flights in and out ... for the whole week.”
Libya fell into chaos after the ouster and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and since 2014 it has been split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
Salame said negotiations to amend a UN-brokered political agreement in December 2015 to create a unity government “have crystalized consensus on the much-needed adjustments.”
“Although a formal agreement is yet to be reached, this consensus is desirable and reachable,” he said.
Salame said Libya needs a government that can deliver desperately needed public services, unify the country’s institutions, provide order and justice, and preside over elections that would end the current transition.
He lamented that civilians continue to be killed and injured “in crossfire and indiscriminate attacks” and “armed groups fight recklessly in residential areas, with no thought to the safety of civilians.”
Libya already has “20 million pieces of arms” and the arms embargo on the North African nation “has never been more important,” Salame said.
“It is for this reason that recent reports of a large shipment of explosives intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard are particularly alarming,” he said.
Salame said the UN panel of experts monitoring the arms embargo on Libya is looking into the shipment.


Israel clears soldiers in 2014 ‘Black Friday’ Gaza assault

Updated 15 August 2018
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Israel clears soldiers in 2014 ‘Black Friday’ Gaza assault

  • A military fact-finding mission into the “Black Friday” assault showed that a criminal investigation was “not warranted”
  • It acknowledged, however, that up to 70 civilians were "unintentionally killed"

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military on Wednesday closed its probe into a deadly 2014 assault in Gaza that followed the capture of a soldier despite a rights group’s charge of possible war crimes.
A military fact-finding mission into the “Black Friday” assault in which Amnesty says more than 130 Palestinian civilians died during the 2014 Gaza war showed that a criminal investigation was “not warranted,” the army said in a statement.
It acknowledged, however, that up to 70 civilians were “unintentionally killed as a result of attacks directed at military targets and military operatives.”
At least 42 Palestinian militants were also killed, the statement said, citing information gathered by the military advocate general.
The assault in Rafah, southern Gaza, on August 1, 2014 was launched after the kidnapping of Israeli Lt. Hadar Goldin shortly after the announcement of a cease-fire.
Two other soldiers were killed in fighting that led to the kidnapping in the Hamas-run enclave, while Goldin himself was later declared dead.
In response, the military implemented the so-called Hannibal Directive — a controversial procedure which allows for an intensive military response to secure the rescue of a captured soldier.
Israel bombed the city of Rafah and the surrounding area near the border with Egypt.
In 2015, Amnesty International said there had been “strong evidence” of war crimes by Israeli forces as it published a detailed analysis of the assault using eyewitness accounts, satellite imagery, photos and videos.
According to Amnesty, at least 135 civilians were killed in the air and ground assault.
Civilians had begun to return home due to the cease-fire announcement, Amnesty said, alleging “massive and prolonged bombardment began without warning while masses of people were on the streets.”
Israel’s statement on Wednesday said the use of force was “in accordance with operational considerations and with an effort to mitigate, as much as possible, harm to civilians.”
“No grounds were found to support the allegation that the objective of the (military’s) actions were to extract revenge following the abduction of Lt. Goldin,” it said.
The statement said there was no evidence that the Hannibal Directive led to “the use of force in a disproportionate or unrestrained manner.”
The decades-old directive has since been revoked by the military and replaced with a new one.
More than 2,250 Palestinians were killed, including more than 500 children, in the 2014 war, the third between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008.
Seventy-three people were killed on the Israeli side, including 67 soldiers.