Rockets hit Libya airport as UN, French officials visit to talk peace

Rockets hit Libya airport as UN, French officials visit to talk peace
In this file photo, the interior of Mitiga airport is seen empty following clashes that took place in Tripoli in January 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2018

Rockets hit Libya airport as UN, French officials visit to talk peace

Rockets hit Libya airport as UN, French officials visit to talk peace
  • One rocket hit an Airbus 320 and others struck the arrivals hall at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport.
  • A security group that controls the airport alligned to Libya’s government said the rockets were fired by men loyal to a militia leader known as Bashir “the Cow.”

Tripoli: Rockets hit Libya’s main airport and damaged a plane as it was waiting to take off early on Thursday, a security force said, the same day as the United Nations envoy and France’s ambassador were visiting the capital to discuss a peace plan.
One rocket hit an Airbus 320 and others struck the arrivals hall at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport at around 2 a.m. (midnight GMT), but no one was injured, a spokesman for the Special Deterrence Force (Rada) said.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame and French ambassador Brigitte Curmi arrived at the same airport — the only one operating in the city. Their offices did not immediately release a statement on the attack or say when they landed.
Tripoli has been controlled by a patchwork of armed groups since a 2011 uprising that toppled long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi and splintered the country.
There have been rival governments in Tripoli and the east since 2014, when most diplomatic missions evacuated to neighboring Tunisia.
Armed groups fighting for territory and power have regularly attacked Tripoli’s transport hubs — undermining the government’s efforts to persuade diplomatic missions to return to the capital.
Airlines have also struggled to maintain services and keep the oil-producing country connected to the outside world as attacks damage their planes.
Rada, a security group that controls the airport alligned to Libya’s internationally recognized government, said the rockets were fired by men loyal to a militia leader known as Bashir “the Cow,” a group it has clashed with before.
France’s Curmi met representatives of that govenrment in Tripoli at around 9 a.m., and the UN’s Salame held his meeting in the early afternoon.
When asked whether elections would be held this year, Salame said after meeting Foreign Minister Mohamed Taher Siala: “Sure. We promised this the UN Security Council.” He did not elaborate.
The United Nations launched a new round of talks in September in Tunis between the rival factions to prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 but divisions have prevented reaching an accord.
Mitiga is a military air base near the center of Tripoli that began hosting civilian flights after the international airport was put out of service in 2014.


Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process

Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process
Updated 3 min 21 sec ago

Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process

Ahmadinejad abstains from Iran election, slams process
  • Ex-president among hundreds of prospective candidates prevented from running
  • Low turnout predicted as observers liken election to coronation for hardliner Ebrahim Raisi

LONDON: Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he will not vote in Friday’s election, and warned that the heavily restricted process will produce a government without domestic or international legitimacy.

Ahmadinejad, who served as president from 2005 to 2013, said he will exercise his “personal right” to abstain from voting.

“I am not going to vote. And the main reason is that I am witnessing that a major part of the people are put aside,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“A weak government is coming to power. And a weak government will weaken the situation in Iran. It will weaken the domestic situation and it will weaken our relations with the world. It will turn our relations with the rest of the world against Iran.”

Ahmadinejad was among hundreds of prospective candidates prevented by the Guardian Council — a religious body beholden to and appointed in large part by Iran’s supreme leader — from running in this year’s election.

His own re-election in 2009 also proved controversial, with some of Iran’s largest post-revolution protests sweeping the country to express dismay at what the public perceived to be a sham vote.

This year saw some of the heaviest vetting of candidates by the Guardian Council ever. Almost all so-called reformist candidates were prevented from running — with one token reformist candidate allowed — and with only a series of obscure hardline figures allowed to run against the prolific head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi.

Three of those withdrew from the race, facilitating an election that observers have likened to a coronation for the controversial hardliner Raisi.

Despite the autocratic nature of the Iranian regime, authorities view election turnout as an important legitimizing tool.

They are doing their best to convince citizens to head to the polls by putting up banners in cities and by covering the election heavily on state TV. 

Turnout is expected to be significantly lower this year, with some polls predicting just 40 percent.


New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan
Updated 53 min 50 sec ago

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan

New joint force to ‘crack down on insecurity’ in Sudan
  • Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in Khartoum
  • The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser Al-Atta

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military has announced plans to create a joint force to “crack down on insecurity” and assert the state’s authority in the capital and nationwide as an economic crisis and regional tensions plague a fragile transition period.
The announcement was made in an order from General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of Sudan’s ruling sovereign council, that was published late on Thursday.
Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, is head of the Rapid Support Forces which will be part of the new force with the police, armed forces, General Intelligence Service and “representatives” of rebel groups and the public prosecutor, the order said.
In a speech this week defending reforms meant to tackle a deep economic crisis and stabilize a political transition toward elections, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said there was a danger of chaos or civil war fomented by loyalists of the previous leadership.
The latest of those reforms was the removal of fuel subsidies last week at a time when annual inflation has risen to 379 percent, causing a public outcry.
Sudanese authorities have warned about “gangs and criminal groups” which they blame for disturbances in the capital, Khartoum, in recent days.
Sudan’s Darfur region has seen an uptick in deadly violence, as has the country’s eastern region, since the installation of a military-civilian power-sharing government in mid-2019.
A peace agreement signed late last year called for the integration of rebel groups into a unified national army which has not yet begun.
UN special representative Volker Perthes told a news conference he was concerned about the delay, adding that he considered the police to be best suited to protect civilians.
Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces, which emerged out of the janjaweed militias in Darfur’s conflict of the early 2000s, are viewed with mistrust by many in the country.
The force announced on Thursday would be formed “immediately,” under the leadership of sovereign council member General Yasser Al-Atta, according to the order.
Dagalo also ordered the signatory rebel groups to get their members under control and designate gathering places. Many rebel troops had moved toward Khartoum as their leaders joined the government following the singing of the agreement.


Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal
Updated 18 June 2021

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal

Israel to send Palestinians 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in exchange deal
  • Vaccine deal was among initial policy moves toward the Palestinians by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett
  • Some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose

TEL AVIV: Israel will send at least 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under a deal to share shots, officials said on Friday, in a boost for the Palestinians’ vaccination campaign in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Under the terms of the deal, announced by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, the PA agreed to give Israel a reciprocal number of doses from one of its own shipments due to arrive later this year.
The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves toward the Palestinians by Bennett since he was sworn in on Sunday, replacing veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Israel will transfer to the Palestinian Authority 1-1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” a joint statement from Bennett’s office and the health and defense ministries said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech doses earmarked for transfer “will expire soon,” the statement said, and they were “approved in light of the fact that Israel’s vaccine stock meets its needs today.”
A source in the PA health ministry confirmed the deal and said the Palestinians expect to receive a shipment of Pfizer doses in August or September. The Israeli statement said Israel would receive reciprocal doses from the PA in September or October.
Neither side said when the initial Israeli transfer to the PA would be made.
Israel, which led the world with its swift vaccine roll-out, had faced criticism for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in territory it captured in a 1967 war.
Around 55 percent of eligible Israelis are fully vaccinated — a turnout largely unchanged by this month’s expansion of eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
Some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.


Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability
Updated 18 June 2021

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability

Egypt’s affirms support for Libya’s stability
  • Sisi called on Libyan institutions concerned with the upcoming elections to fulfill their national duty

DUBAI: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has affirmed Cairo’s support for the Libyan government to achieve stability, presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi said.

Radi issued the statement on Thursday following Egypt intelligence chief Abbas Kamel’s visit to Tripoli, where he met with Abdel Hamid Al-Dabaiba, Libya’s Prime Minister-designate of the new Government of National Unity. They discussed how to strengthen cooperation relations and support the political process in the war-torn country.

Sisi affirmed that the efforts exerted for national unity in Libya are a key pillar for its stability, renewing Egypt’s support for carrying out the Libyan elections, local daily Egypt Today reported.

Sisi called on Libyan institutions concerned with the upcoming elections to fulfill their national duty, the report said.

Meanwhile Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry met with his Libyan counterpart Naglaa Al-Manqoush on the sidelines of an Arab ministerial meeting in Doha earlier this week.

Both ministers discussed developments in Libya steps to hold elections by the end of the year.


Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons
Updated 18 June 2021

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for fire balloons

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli jets launched air strikes on Gaza overnight Thursday to Friday after militants in the Palestinian territory again set off incendiary balloons into southern Israel, the army and AFP journalists said.
The fire balloons and air strikes are the latest violence heaping pressure on a fragile cease-fire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers that came into place on May 21, ending 11 days of heavy fighting.
“Over the past day, arson balloons were launched from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory,” Israel’s military said in a statement.
“In response... fighter jets struck military compounds and a rocket launch site belonging to the Hamas terror organization.”
AFP journalists in the Palestinian enclave also reported hearing explosions, which the army said hit sites in both Gaza City and in Khan Yunis, in the south of Gaza, home to some two million people.
Soon after the strikes, Hamas militants opened fire with heavy machines guns toward the Jewish state, as Israeli warning air raid sirens rang out.
US Secretary of State Blinken spoke on Thursday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and discussed “the need to improve Israeli-Palestinian relations in practical ways,” the State Department said in a statement.
“They also shared opinions on opportunities to deepen normalization efforts as well as on regional security issues, including Iran,” the State Department said.
Palestinian militants in Gaza launched balloons for a third day running on Thursday, according to Israeli firefighters battling the blazes sparked by the devices.
The balloons are basic devices intended to set fire to farmland and bush surrounding Gaza.