People urged to leave homes as Tripoli comes under heavy exchange of fire

The Libyan Government of National Accords said Haftar's forces used foreign planes to carry out air strikes. (AFP/File)
Updated 28 April 2019

People urged to leave homes as Tripoli comes under heavy exchange of fire

  • A GNA spokesperson said none of the strikes hit military targets
  • WHO reported that at least 278 people died in the clashes in Tripoli

TRIPOLI: Air raids were carried out on Saturday night on the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to AFP journalists and residents who heard loud explosions.

The exact locations of the strikes were not known, but
the roar of airplanes over the city was accompanied by heavy explosions between 11 p.m. and midnight.

“We are hearing sustained, uninterrupted fire” from machine guns and anti-aircraft guns “and occasional airstrikes, but we do not know where exactly,” a resident of west Tripoli told AFP.

“On Facebook, users are saying that you must leave your house if you live near a barracks or a place where armed groups have taken position,” she added. “But we are afraid to go out into the street so late at night.”

Forces loyal to the UN-recognized government of national unity — Government of National Accord (GNA) —  and fighters under commander Khalifa Haftar, have been engaged in battle for three weeks.

After GNA forces launched a counter-attack last weekend, the International Committee for the Red Cross warned that residential areas of Tripoli were being turned into battlefields.

 

Casualties

Tripoli claims that the air raids have killed four people and wounded 20 others.

“Several sites were targeted by airstrikes late Saturday night, causing victims among civilians,” the source told AFP.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, on April 4.

At least 278 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in the clashes, according to a toll released Wednesday by the World Health Organization.

Haftar’s offensive has sharpened fault lines in policy toward Libya among world powers.

On April 18, Russia and the US opposed a British bid backed by France and Germany at the UN Security Council to demand a cease-fire in the North African country.

“This criminal conceals his failures and those of his soldiers at the gates of Tripoli by resorting to foreign aviation to hit unarmed civilians in the city,” spokesman Mohanad Younes said on the GNA’s official Facebook page.

The White House revealed the next day that US President Donald Trump had reached out personally to Haftar in a phone call, during which the US president “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources.”

At least 278 people have been killed and more than 1,300 wounded in the clashes, according to the World Health Organization.

More than 35,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, according to the UN.

Most of the fighting happens on the ground, but there are occasional air raids.

The country has been mired in chaos since the NATO-backed uprising that deposed and killed Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.


Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

Updated 24 August 2019

Egypt’s creative solutions to the plastic menace

  • Egyptian social startups are taking alternative approaches to fostering awareness and reducing waste

CAIRO: Global plastics production reached 348 million tons in 2017, rising from 335 million tons in 2016, according to Plastics Europe. 

Critically, most plastic waste is not properly managed: Around 55 percent of it was landfilled or discarded in 2015. These numbers are extremely concerning because plastic products take anything from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose, and the effects on the environment, especially on marine and human life, are catastrophic.

While initiatives around the world are taking action to combat this problem, some Egyptian projects are doing it more creatively.

“We’re the first website in the Middle East and North Africa that trades waste,” said Alaa Afifi, founder and CEO of Bekia. “People can get rid of any waste at their disposal — plastic, paper and cooking oil — and exchange it for over 65 products on our website.”

Products for trading include rice, tea, pasta, cooking oil, subway tickets and school supplies.

Bekia was launched in Cairo in 2017. Initially, the business model did not prove successful.

“We used to rent a car and go to certain locations every 40 days to collect waste from people,” Afifi, 26, explained. “We then created a website and started encouraging people to use it.”

After the website was launched, people could wait at home for someone to collect the waste. “Instead of 40 days, we now could visit people within a week.”

To use Bekia’s services, people need to log onto the website and specify what they want to discard. They are assigned points based on the waste they are offering, and these points can be used in one of three ways: Donated to people in need, saved for later, or exchanged for products. As for the collected waste, it is given to specialized recycling companies for processing.

“We want to have 50,000 customers over the next two years who regularly use our service to get rid of their waste,” Afifi said.  

Trying to spread environmental awareness has not been easy. “We had a lot of trouble with initial investment at first, and we got through with an investment that was far from enough. The second problem we faced was spreading this culture among people — in the first couple of months, we received no orders,” Afifi said.

The team soldiered on and slowly built a client base, currently serving 7,000 customers. In terms of what lies ahead for Bekia, he said: “We’re expanding from 22 to 30 areas in Cairo this year. We’re launching an app very soon and a new website with better features.”

Go Clean, another Egyptian recycling startup dedicated to raising environmental awareness, works under the patronage of the Ministry of Environment. “We started in 2017 by recycling waste from factories, and then by February 2019 we started expanding,” said founder and CEO Mohammed Hamdy, 30.

The Cairo-based company collects recyclables from virtually all places, including households, schools, universities, restaurants, cafes, companies and embassies. The customers separate the items into categories and then fill out a registration form. Alternatively, they can make contact through WhatsApp or Facebook. A driver is then dispatched to collect the waste, carrying a scale to weigh it. 

“The client can be paid in cash for the weight of their recyclables, or they can make a donation to a special needs school in Cairo,” Hamdy explained. There is also the option of trading the waste for dishwashing soap, with more household products to be added in the future.

Trying to cover a country with 100 million people was never going to be easy, and Go Clean faced some logistical problems. It overcame them by hiring more drivers and getting more trucks. There was another challenge along the way: “We had to figure out a way to train the drivers, from showing them how to use GPS and deal with clients,” said Hamdy.

“We want to spread awareness about the environment everywhere. We go to schools, universities, companies and even factories to give sessions about the importance of recycling and how dangerous plastic is. We’re currently covering 20 locations across Cairo and all of Alexandria. We want to cover all of Egypt in the future,” he added.

With a new app on the way, Hamdy said things are looking positive for the social startup, and people are becoming invested in the initiative. “We started out with seven orders per day, and now we get over 100.”