New airstrikes pound Tripoli as two-day truce ends

This file photo taken on April 08, 2019, shows the Mitiga International Airport in Libya's capital Tripoli. Airstrikes pounded the outskirts of Tripoli early on Tuesday as fighting resumed after a two-day truce. (AFP / Mahmud Turkia)
Updated 14 August 2019

New airstrikes pound Tripoli as two-day truce ends

  • Violence in Libya worsens refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, UN says
  • The UN-brokered cease-fire was the first since Khalifa Haftar's offensive on Tripoli in April

CAIRO: Airstrikes pounded the outskirts of Tripoli early on Tuesday as fighting resumed after a two-day truce.

The UN-brokered cease-fire was the first since eastern forces of the Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive in April to capture the city.

The airstrikes focused on the road linking the city center with a shuttered old airport that Haftar’s forces took back in April, and the neighborhoods of Wadi El-Rabie, Khallat El-Fujan and Suq Al-Jumaa.

The militias allied with the regime in Tripoli also shelled Haftar’s forces in the southern and eastern outskirts of the city.

Both sides had accepted the truce before the Eid Al-Adha holiday, though they each later claimed the other had violated the cease-fire.

Authorities at the Mitiga airport, Tripoli’s only functional airport, suspended flights for several hours on Sunday after reporting that a shell had landed a few meters away from the runway. The Tripoli militias blamed Haftar’s forces for the shelling.

No civilian casualties were reported on Tuesday, but fighting since April has killed more than 1,100 people, mostly combatants, and displaced more than 100,000 civilians from their homes.

Many of the displaced have tried to flee to Europe from the Libyan coast, leading to a renewed refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.

The UN refugee agency urgently appealed to European governments on Tuesday to let two migrant rescue ships disembark more than 500 passengers who remain stranded at sea as countries bicker over who should take responsibility for them.

The refugees rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean are on ships chartered by humanitarian aid groups, which both Italy and Malta have banned from their ports.

It is unclear where they might find a harbor, even though the Italian island of Lampedusa appears closest. About 150 of the refugees have been on the Spanish-flagged charity ship Open Arms since they were rescued from the Mediterranean two weeks ago.

“This is a race against time,” said UNHCR special envoy Vincent Cochetel. “Storms are coming, and conditions are only going to get worse.”

Migrant numbers had been falling, but nearly 600 have died or gone missing this year in waters between Libya, Italy and Malta.

The UNHCR said many of the refugees were “survivors of appalling abuses in Libya.” Cochetel said the ships must be allowed to dock immediately and their passengers given humanitarian aid.

“To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya on the high seas in this weather would be to inflict suffering upon suffering,” he said.


Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

Updated 18 August 2019

Jordan criticizes Israel over Al-Aqsa Mosque changes

  • Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa

AMMAN: Jordan has stepped up its diplomatic pressure on Israel, demanding that they do not change the status quo at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Zaid Lozi, director-general of Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, summoned Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Amir Weissbrod to protest Israel’s actions in Jerusalem.

According to Petra News, Lozi told the envoy that recent remarks by Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Ardan over changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque are unacceptable. Lozi added that the mosque is a place of worship for Muslims only.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addressed a group of EU ambassadors in Amman and “stressed the urgency of effective international steps against Israel’s violations of Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem.”

Safadi told Arab News that the situation in Jerusalem is challenging and must be addressed. He said that he will present a detailed report on Jordan’s position to Parliament on Monday.

The ministry denounced the Israeli authorities’ closure of the mosque’s gates and demanded that Israel respects its obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law.

HIGHLIGHT

• Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Hatem Abdel Qader, a member of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, told Arab News that Israeli authorities had been attempting to enforce major changes at the mosque.

“Security forces barged into the mosque yesterday. They went to the Bab Al-Rahmeh Mosque where they confiscated carpets and the closet where shoes are kept.”

Jordan’s diplomatic statements follow comments by Ardan, who said that Israel is disappointed with the current state of affairs at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

According to Israeli officials, the mosque area is sovereign Israeli territory, despite it being administered by Jordan. Muslims insist that all 144,000 square meters of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are a single unit that has belonged to them for 11 centuries.

Qader said that Palestinians welcomed the Jordanian position but expressed concerns over a decline of support for Amman’s custodianship of the holy places at Al-Aqsa.

“There appears to have been a gradual deterioration of Arab and Islamic support to Jordan. It surprises me that Muslims have been quiet, perhaps they see an advantage if Jordan’s role is diminished? If true, this would be dangerous.”

Qader, a former minister in the Palestinian government and a current member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, told Arab News that Jordan’s position “guarantees continuation of the status quo.”