Morocco warns against Polisario provocation in W. Sahara

Uniformed soldiers of the pro-independence Polisario Front stand before a Sahrawi flag flying at the Boujdour refugee camp near the town of Tindouf in Western Algeria, in this October 17, 2017 file photo. (AFP)
Updated 03 April 2018

Morocco warns against Polisario provocation in W. Sahara

RABAT: Morocco’s government is threatening to take control of UN-monitored buffer zones in Western Sahara amid concerns that the mission is failing to keep out Polisario Front independence fighters.
The warning Sunday came as the UN is preparing a report this week on whether to extend its 27-year-old peacekeeping mission for Western Sahara, a territory claimed by both Morocco and the Polisario.
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said Sunday that the Polisario recently moved members to the UN-controlled areas of Bir Lehlou and Tifariti. He also said Polisario members are again entering the Guerguerat area near the Mauritanian border, despite a UN-brokered deal to leave after tensions erupted there in 2016.
“If the UN, its secretary general and the Security Council are not ready to put an end to these provocations, Morocco will have to act out its responsibility and intervene in the buffer zones,” Bourita told reporters after an emergency Parliament session to address Western Sahara.
Bourita said Morocco has alerted the Security Council to its plans to step in the deserted land, but declined to specify what kind of intervention or when it would begin.
Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit said: “Morocco is ready to do everything to preserve its Sahara.”
The UN brokered a cease-fire in 1991 and established a peacekeeping mission to monitor it and to help prepare a referendum on the territory’s future that has never taken place.
The Saharans’ envoy to Algeria Abdelghafour said Polisario members in the buffer zones are under surveillance by UN forces, and accused Morocco of violating the cease-fire. “Morocco is threatening everything,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s obvious that these maneuvers are aimed at influencing the next UN Security Council meeting to stop it from taking practical, effective measures.” The UN envoy for Western Sahara Horst Kohler has sought to broaden the discussions on the territory’s future.
Morocco considers the mineral-rich Western Sahara its southern provinces and has invested heavily in development programs, and proposed giving the territory wide-ranging autonomy.


Hezbollah says 2 Israeli drones downed in south Beirut

Updated 25 August 2019

Hezbollah says 2 Israeli drones downed in south Beirut

  • Israelii jets earlier attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus to pre-empt an alleged Iranian drone attack plot

BEIRUT: A Hezbollah official said Sunday that an Israeli drone went down over the Lebanese capital of Beirut and another exploded in the air, amid regional tensions between Israel and Iran.
Residents of the Iranian-backed group’s stronghold in southern Beirut reported one large explosion that shook the area early Sunday, triggering a fire. They said the nature of the blast in the Moawwad neighborhood was not immediately clear, but said it might have been caused by an Israeli drone that went down in the area amid Israeli air activity in neighboring Syria.
They said they heard an aircraft flying just before the blast and reported later that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group sealed off the area. The blast occurred near the militant group’s media office in the Moawwad district.
The Hezbollah official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as the person was not authorized to speak on the record to journalists. No details were immediately available.
Israeli warplanes fly over Lebanon regularly and have struck inside neighboring Syria from Lebanese airspace on numerous occasions.
A few hours earlier, late Saturday, the Israeli military attacked targets near Syria’s capital of Damascus in what it said was a successful effort to thwart an imminent Iranian drone strike on Israel, stepping up an already heightened campaign against Iranian military activity in the region.
The late-night airstrike, which triggered Syrian anti-aircraft fire, appeared to be one of the most intense attacks by Israeli forces in several years of hits on Iranian targets in Syria.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Al Quds force, working with allied Shiite militias, had been planning to send a number of explosives-laden attack drones into Israel.
On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack by Israeli warplanes a “major operational effort.”
Syrian state TV said the country’s air defenses had responded to “hostile” targets over Damascus and shot down incoming missiles before they reached their targets.
In recent days, US officials have said that Israeli strikes have also hit Iranian targets in Iraq.