Haftar orders navy to confront ships entering Libyan waters

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Italy's Parliament has approved a plan to send naval boats to Libya as part of efforts to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. (AFP)
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Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter. (AFP)
Updated 04 August 2017

Haftar orders navy to confront ships entering Libyan waters

BENGHAZI: Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar has ordered forces under his command to bar foreign vessels from entering the country’s waters, a spokesman said Thursday, after Italy gave the go-ahead to a Libya naval mission to stem the growing tide of illegal immigration.
“Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar gave his instructions to the navy’s chief of staff to prevent any foreign vessel from entering Libyan territorial waters without permission,” Khalifa Al-Obeidi said.
He said foreign vessels needed a special permit from Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls a stretch of Libya’s 1,300-km coastline.
Al-Obeidi said Haftar’s orders were in reaction to Italy’s decision to deploy a naval mission to Libya, a main point of departure for migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
On Wednesday, Italy dispatched a navy patrol boat to Libya after Parliament in Rome approved the mission aimed at ending the migrant crisis that has engulfed Europe.
Under the mission, approved by Tripoli-based authorities, the navy patrol boat Comandante Borsini entered the North African state’s territorial waters on Wednesday afternoon headed for the capital, Italy’s navy said.
Italy’s Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni last week announced the plan to deploy vessels in Libyan waters, saying Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord had asked for Rome’s assistance.
The GNA is headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, whose authority is contested by Haftar and a rival administration based in Libya’s east that he supports.
But Sarraj last week denied he had struck any deal with Italy.
Al-Obeidi said Haftar’s orders were handed out to naval bases in the eastern cities of Tobruk, Benghazi and Ras Lanuf.
People traffickers have exploited the political and security chaos reigning in Libya to do a brisk business.
Some 600,000 mostly African migrants have arrived in Italy from Libya since the start of 2014.
Thousands have died attempting the perilous journey usually in rickety and overcrowded boats.
In a related development, Interior Minister Marco Minniti warned non-governmental orgainizations (NGOs) operating migrant rescue boats in the Mediterranean that they will not be allowed to continue if they do not sign up to new rules governing their operations.
“If NGOs do not sign up (to a new code of conduct), it is difficult to see how they can continue operating,” Minniti said in an interview with Turin daily La Stampa.
Minniti’s warning came a day after Italian authorities impounded a boat operated by German aid organization Jugend Rettet on suspicion its crew effectively collaborated with people traffickers in a way that facilitated illegal immigration.
The aid organization, which has only been operational for a year, said it would seek to overturn the seizure.
“Our Italian lawyer is appealing the confiscation of our boat. Our first priority is to free it and resume our rescue missions,” a spokeswoman said.
Italian authorities had been monitoring Jugend Rettet’s boat, the Iuventa, since October.
Its crew is suspected to taking on board dinghy loads of migrants delivered directly to them by people traffickers and allowing the smugglers to make off with the vessels to be used again.
Minniti also revealed plans for further talks this month with Libyan mayors on economic development initiatives and with Chad, Niger and Mali on measures to reduce the number of migrants leaving those countries in the hope of reaching Europe.


Leaked audio of Assad forces shooting elderly women in Idlib proves civilian killings: Report

Updated 3 min 26 sec ago

Leaked audio of Assad forces shooting elderly women in Idlib proves civilian killings: Report

LONDON: Syrian regime forces deliberately killed elderly women in northwest Syria, leaked recordings obtained by the UK’s Daily Telegraph have shown.
The audio recordings from Feb. 11 also suggest that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad attacked Turkish military posts in violation of a cease-fire deal.
The recordings captured a conversation between soldiers from the infamous elite Tiger Forces tracking a vehicle driving into the village of Mizanaz, to the west of Aleppo.
In the audio, intercepted by spotters at an observatory in the local area who picked up the soldiers’ frequency, one soldier can be heard saying: “There are women driving, their car is stuck in the mud and they’re headed to a battlefield.”
A second soldier said: “She looks elderly. It’s clear she’s coming to pack her belongings, then she’s leaving.”
Despite a clear identification of the women, one of the soldiers is heard saying: “I’m watching them. They’re about to enter a house. Yallah, I’m firing now.”
At that point, rapid machine gun fire can be heard on the tape. “Fire, fire, I’m observing for you,” the second soldier replies.
Local media reports from the time and date of the audio recording support the assertion that the women were killed in the attack.
Regime forces have used attacks on civilians as part of their strategy to clear rebel-held areas of the country, while attacking civilian institutions such as schools and hospitals. 
In September 2019, pro-Assad militants reportedly executed an elderly woman who refused to leave her home when it was confiscated after they recaptured the town of Khan Sheikhoun. 
According to figures from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, regime forces and their Russian allies are responsible for 90 percent of civilian deaths in the nine-year conflict, with three-quarters of those people victims of artillery or aerial shelling. The deliberate killing of non-combatants is a war crime under international law.
The Telegraph’s report also revealed recordings showing regime forces actively attacking Turkish posts in Idlib province that were set up as part of a de-escalation deal negotiated with Russia in 2018.
The attacks prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday to urge his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to “restrain” Assad’s advance in Idlib.