World’s police chiefs confront dark net at Interpol General Assembly in Dubai

World’s police chiefs confront dark net at Interpol General Assembly in Dubai
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Ministers and police chiefs from around the world join delegates at Interpol’s General Assembly in Dubai. (Supplied)
World’s police chiefs confront dark net at Interpol General Assembly in Dubai
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Secretary General of Interpol Jurgen Stock poses for a photograph at the Interpol headquarters in the southern French city of Lyon on November 8, 2018. (AFP)
World’s police chiefs confront dark net at Interpol General Assembly in Dubai
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Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2018

World’s police chiefs confront dark net at Interpol General Assembly in Dubai

World’s police chiefs confront dark net at Interpol General Assembly in Dubai
  • The world’s law enforcement body is looking at how emerging technologies are changing crime fighting
  • Saudi Arabia has worked with Interpol since 1956 to combat crime and terrorism across the Middle East and beyond

DUBAI: With emerging technologies developing at a rapid pace in today’s digital age, drug trafficking through the dark net is one field that global police chiefs are confronting as they upgrade their skills to confront the new reality.
As part of Interpol’s 87th General Assembly, about 40 ministers and 85 police chiefs from around the world are meeting this week in Dubai for the first time to discuss innovation in policing and today’s major crime threats.

Saudi Arabia is one of 173 countries taking part in the discussion about the future of crime fighting.
“In the age of unprecedented information exchange, police the world over are increasingly facing new challenges,” Kim Jong Yang, Interpol’s senior vice president, said during the event’s opening ceremony on Sunday.
“Interpol must evolve to continue strengthening its global early-warning system by means of policing capabilities, to detect and prevent the flows of transnational crime,” he added.
“Global connectivity is something Interpol strives for among law enforcement worldwide.”
The event enables Interpol’s 192 member countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, to work together to fight international crime, and learn about investment in innovation, data overload and changing the culture of policing to keep pace with technology.
“It is a swiftly transforming environment, not least in terms of scope and technologies. This is the era of artificial intelligence, cyberspace unknowns and intensive digital activity,” Kim said.
“A highly innovative outlook to how police traditionally operate is rapidly being adopted by many governments at the national level,” he added.
“Criminal data and the rules surrounding its processing have become critical contours for shaping the work of international police cooperation.”
Saudi Arabia has been working with Interpol since 1956 to combat transnational crime across the Middle East and beyond, with the country contributing toward some 40,000 foreign terrorist profiles in Interpol’s database.
“International police cooperation is important,” Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock said during a press conference.
“Interpol’s database contains 93 million records, and they are being checked up to 200 times a second,” he added.
“This is just a snapshot of the activity of our member countries, which doesn’t include regional and global activities targeting all forms of crime by Interpol,” Stock said.
“Every gap that remains provides opportunities for criminals to hide their terrorist activities, so it’s important we strengthen this system.”
Drug trafficking is a prime example of a crime affected by the digital revolution. “Drug dealers trafficking their drugs physically from place to place is still ongoing, but the new threat dimension is definitely drug trafficking with regards to the underground economy and the dark net,” Stock said. “One of the challenges for global law enforcement is to adapt to new technologies.”
Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said cyber threats presented an extraordinary security challenge to the world, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states.
“Saudi Arabia is already facing some level of underground criminal activities, mostly related to money laundering and illegal drugs,” he added.



“These operations aren’t conducted in isolated ways; they’re highly complex and coordinated regional and global operations conducted from several locations around the world, from where strategies, shipments, communications, money laundering and additional logistic services to these criminal enterprises are happening.”
These transnational criminal groups have no limitations regarding countries and possess the capacity to undermine the stability of any nation if they reach a level of national underground control, Obdola said.
“The dark web is the most ideal cyber tool for criminal and terrorist groups to operate, as it provides the anonymity and hard-to-track platform required for these groups,” he added.
“From anarchists to terrorism, criminal activities including prostitution, assassination services, weapon sales, radicalization literature, child prostitution and money laundering are provided, acquired and coordinated through the dark web.”
The Gulf is one of the most attractive regions for criminal groups due to its sustainable economic growth and development, Obdola said.
“The GCC is becoming a region where the future is present, with the latest technologies, luxury at its best, sustainable growth and top business opportunities,” he added. “This means opportunities for operations of criminal and terrorist organizations.”
He cited Hezbollah which, 14 years ago, initiated aggressive and coordinated specialized operations in Latin America and Africa to slowly bring cocaine to the Gulf.
“Since 2011, the operations started to become noticed by intelligence agencies across the GCC, and, in 2014, it was acknowledged by law-enforcement officials from the Gulf,” Obdola said.
“Their (Hezbollah’s) aim is to penetrate the GCC to later manipulate the system using tools to compromise governments, to establish a growing demand for drugs and to strengthen their relations with drug cartels.”
Officials from the Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB) for Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Interior Ministry, are taking part in this week’s event.
The NCB serves as a gateway for international investigations involving the Kingdom and its citizens.
“Relevant police information is key for any kind of preventive work, to ensure we can prevent terrorist attacks from taking place or to successfully investigate crime and terrorist activity,” Stock said.
“We’re grateful for the support from the whole MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, and we’ve been doing a lot to intensify dialogue with all countries in the region.”
Interpol supports a number of operations in the Middle East, with partners including the GCC and the Arab Interior Ministers Council.
“We try to coordinate our activities so that we build up a complementary architecture of security,” Stock said. “Every country supporting us counts. If we don’t do this, criminals and terrorists will take benefit.”
Interpol Riyadh works regularly with all of the organization’s member countries to locate fugitives and bring them to justice, among other tasks.
Last month, it arrested a Saudi accused of issuing four bad checks abroad amounting to almost
SR30 million ($8 million).
Information recovered from improvised explosive devices in Iraq and the Gulf, shared via Interpol, has also resulted in the identification of suspects in Europe and Asia.
But global crime is becoming more complex and international in today’s digital age, requiring police chiefs and ministers to address complex terrorism and crime threats, Stock said.
Interpol’s number of Red Notices, a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition, has been on the rise, reaching 57,289 to date.
Daily arrests of murderers, rapists, perpetrators of sexual child exploitation, drug dealers and other members of organized crime take place throughout the world.
“In the past few years, we have also strengthened the legal framework behind the system of the Red Notice to ensure every notice request is assessed by an international legal team,” Stock said.
“It is quite clear all these phenomena can’t be fought in isolation. No country or region can fight these in isolation, so this strengthens our global fight against terrorism and crime.”
Increased use of artificial intelligence and robotics, as well as innovation in the field of forensics, are high on the event’s agenda.
As societies continue to change, and with more than 55 percent of the world connected to the Internet, Stock said a more hyper-connected world and the “Internet of Everything” will provide unprecedented opportunities for criminals to attack private computers and critical infrastructure, including the health system and water supply.
“This needs to be protected, and police work needs to adapt to this new environment. Police agencies need to invest in capabilities, in expertise and investigation in the dark net, where you can simply click and buy drugs which will then be sent, or buy and rent a botnet, hacking tools and organize a criminal group through the Internet,” he added.
“That’s a new dimension of crime, which all member countries are facing, so modern policing needs to be innovative.”
During the event, Interpol will elect a new president and consider the membership applications of Kosovo, Kiribati and Vanuatu.
The organization’s former president, Meng Hongwei, resigned by letter tendered by the Chinese government last month over “suspected corruption,” before disappearing. Interpol has come under increased pressure to provide answers as to his disappearance.


As Palestinians observe ‘Nakba’ worldwide, Israeli forces go on rampage in Gaza

Palestinians burn an Israeli flag in the occupied-West Bank town of Bethlehem on May 15,2021, as they commemorate the Nakba, the
Palestinians burn an Israeli flag in the occupied-West Bank town of Bethlehem on May 15,2021, as they commemorate the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)
Updated 20 min 42 sec ago

As Palestinians observe ‘Nakba’ worldwide, Israeli forces go on rampage in Gaza

Palestinians burn an Israeli flag in the occupied-West Bank town of Bethlehem on May 15,2021, as they commemorate the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)
  • Israel airstrike kills 10 women and children from one family
  • Saudi foreign minister calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

GAZA CITY/LONDON/NEW YORK: Palestinians on Saturday marked the anniversary of the Nakba, the “catastrophe” when more than 700,000 were driven from their homes to establish the state of Israel in 1948.

Israel observed the day by killing two women and eight children from one family in an airstrike on a refugee camp.

Three heavy missiles also destroyed the 12-story Al-Jala’a Tower in Gaza City, which housed the offices of media outlets including The Associated Press and Al Jazeera, and bombed the home of Khalil Al-Hayeh, a senior Hamas leader.

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed at least 139 people, including 39 children and 22 women.

 

 

Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel and killed eight people, the latest on Saturday when a man died in a rocket strike on the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan.

There was outrage over the attack on the AP building, which also contained residential apartments. The Israeli military said Hamas was operating inside the building, but offered no evidence.

“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” AP chief executive Gary Pruitt said. “We are shocked and horrified.”

Earlier, an Israeli air raid on the densely populated Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City killed 10 Palestinians from one family, Israel’s deadliest single strike of the conflict.

Palestinians burn an Israeli flag in the occupied-West Bank town of Bethlehem on May 15,2021, as they commemorate the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948. (AFP / HAZEM BADER)

Missiles targeted the three-story home of Alaa Abu Hatab, 35, killing his wife, four of his five children, his sister, and four of her five children. A five-month-old baby survived, along with Abu Hatab’s daughter, who is in intensive care.

Abu Hatab’s brother-in-law Muhammad Al-Hadidi wept as he told Arab News how his children had insisted on spending the night at their uncle’s house to play with their cousins.

“I heard the sound of the bombing, but I did not know it was the building my wife and children were in. I received a call to tell me Abu Hatab’s house was targeted. I went quickly, to find all my children with my wife, under the rubble.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

As Israeli airstrikes continued, Heba Al-Attar, 45, told Arab News: “The feeling I have is, when will I be killed? When will our house be destroyed? How will my three children live without me if they survive? I feel scared every day, I can’t sleep at night.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called on Saturday for an immediate ceasefire. They urged “the international community to confront the aggressive Israeli practices against the brotherly Palestinian people.”

Tens of thousands march

As Israeli forces stepped up the bombardment of Gaza, tens of thousands of protesters marched in major European cities including London, Berlin, Madrid and Paris in support of the Palestinian cause.

In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march toward the Israeli embassy.

 

 

Packed crowds stretched all along Kensington High Street where the embassy is located.

“This time is different,” Palestinian Ambassador Husam Zomlot told the demonstrators.

“This time we will not be denied any more. We are united. We have had enough of oppression.”

Simon Makepace, a 61-year-old accountant told AFP he had joined the protests because “the whole world should be doing something about it, including this country.”


Click here to read our previous stories about the Nakba 



'Palestine will be free'

In cities across North America, tens of thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators also called for an end to Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The protests were held on the anniversary of Nakba Day, or “catastrophe,” that saw hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced during Israel’s creation in 1947-1948.

Gatherings to show solidarity with Palestinians on the anniversary of Nakba Day, took place in cities including New York, Boston, Washington, Montreal and Dearborn, Michigan.

Several Jewish people attended, carrying placards that said “Not in my name” and “Solidarity with Palestine” as the protesters took over a street in the area which has a large Arab population.

Protesters and activists gather near the Washington Monument in the US capital to voice their anger at Israeli military action in Gaza that has left many civilians dead. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/AFP)

“I’m here because I want a Palestinian life to equal an Israeli life and today it doesn’t,” said 35-year-old Emraan Khan, a corporate strategist from Manhattan, as he waved a Palestinian flag.

“When you have a nuclear-armed state and another state of villagers with rocks it is clear who is to blame,” he added.

Alison Zambrano, a 20-year-old student, traveled from neighboring Connecticut for the demo.

“Palestinians have the right to live freely and children in Gaza should not be being killed,” she told AFP.

Mashhour Ahmad, a 73-year-old Palestinian who has lived in New York for 50 years, said “don’t blame the victim for the aggression.”

 

 

“I’m telling Mr. Biden and his cabinet to stop supporting the killing. Support the victims, stop the oppression.

“The violence committed by the Israeli army recently is genocide,” he added, raising a poster above his head that said “Free Palestine, End the occupation.”

President Joe Biden spoke separately Saturday with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, expressing his “grave concern” over six days of violence that has left scores dead or wounded.

He expressed Washington’s “strong commitment to a negotiated two-state solution as the best path to reach a just and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the White House said.

People in Montreal attend a demonstration on May 15, 2021, to denounce Israel's military actions in the Palestinian territories. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

Throngs of people gathered in Copley Square in Boston, while a few hundred rallied on the Washington Monument grounds in the US capital.

Several thousand demonstrated in Montreal, Canada, calling for “the liberation of Palestine.”

Protesters also denounced “war crimes” committed by Israel in Gaza and carried placards accusing Israel of violating international law during the protest in the center of the Canadian city.

(With AFP)

Decoder

What is the Nakba?

The Nakba, or "catastrophe", is commemorated by Arabs worldwide as the day more than 710,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their villages and cities during Israel’s creation in 1947-1948. Palestinian society has never been the same since, with many still living until today in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Gaza.


UN chief: Foreign fighters in Libya are violating ceasefire

UN chief: Foreign fighters in Libya are violating ceasefire
Updated 16 May 2021

UN chief: Foreign fighters in Libya are violating ceasefire

UN chief: Foreign fighters in Libya are violating ceasefire
  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said progress must continue on the political, economic and security tracks in Libya to enable elections to go ahead on Dec. 24

NEW YORK: The UN chief said foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya in violation of last October’s ceasefire agreement and called for their withdrawal and an end to violations of the UN arms embargo, saying these are “critical elements” for lasting peace in the north African country and the region.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the UN Security Council obtained by The Associated Press that the smooth transfer of power to a new interim government, which took power in March, “brings renewed hope for the reunification of the country and its institutions and for a lasting peace.”

But he said progress must continue on the political, economic and security tracks to enable elections to go ahead on Dec. 24.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and split the North African country between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the country’s east, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Haftar and his forces launched an offensive to try and capture Tripoli. 

His 14-month-long campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed regime with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries. An October cease-fire agreement that included a demand for all foreign fighters and mercenaries leave Libya within 90 days led to a deal on the transitional government and December elections.

The UN estimated in December that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians. But at an informal council meeting in late April, speakers said there were more than 20,000, including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese, according to diplomats.

Guterres said in the new report that while the ceasefire continues to hold, the UN political mission in Libya has received reports of fortifications and defensive positions being set up in central Libya on the key route between the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals, and Jufra.

“Despite the commitments made by the parties, air cargo activities reportedly continued with flights to various air bases in Libya’s western and eastern regions,” the secretary-general said. “Reports indicated that there was no reduction of foreign fighters or of their activities in central Libya.”

Guterres said the Government of National Unity must prioritize security sector reform including filling senior civilian and military appointments, producing a roadmap for reunifying the Libyan army, and addressing the proliferation of armed groups.

“Bringing one of the world’s largest uncontrolled stocks of arms and ammunition under state control is vital,” he said. 

“I reiterate my call on member states and Libyan national actors to put an end to violations of the arms embargo and to facilitate the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from the country.”

Last month, the Security Council approved a resolution urging all foreign forces and mercenaries to leave Libya and authorizing a small UN team to monitor the cease-fire agreement. In an April 7 letter to the council, Guterres proposed an initial maximum of 60 monitors for a phased deployment as part of the UN mission, known as UNSMIL.

In his new report, Guterres said that the monitors’ deployment to Libya is contingent on the UN General Assembly approving the resources to cover security, logistical, medical and operational requirements, which will be submitted “in the near future.”

He also raised human rights violations, especially the continuing detention of migrants and refugees. 

According to the International Organization for Migration’s most recent report, there are more than 571,000 migrants in Libya. And as of May 2, Guterres said over 4,300 migrants and refugees were being held in detention centers across the country.

Guterres called on Libyan authorities to release migrants and refugees from detention centers “on an urgent basis,” and put in place measures to protect them from sexual violence.


Global protests held in support of Palestinians

Global protests held in support of Palestinians
Updated 16 May 2021

Global protests held in support of Palestinians

Global protests held in support of Palestinians
  • Demos in France, UK, Spain, Australia, Iraq demand end to ‘genocide’

PARIS: Police officers used tear gas and water cannons in Paris on Saturday to try and disperse a pro-Palestinian rally held despite a ban by authorities, who fear a flare-up of anti-Semitic violence during the worst fighting between Israel and Hamas in years.

Thousands of people converged in the heavily immigrant Barbes neighborhood in the north of the capital, defying orders issued by loudspeakers that the march was illegal.

Officers blocked off wide boulevards as well as narrow streets where some of the protesters were forced to retreat, while knots of residents and passersby watched or recorded the scene with their phones.

Some threw stones or tried to set up roadblocks with construction barriers, but for the most part police pursued groups across the district while preventing any march toward the Place de la Bastille as planned.

“You want to prohibit me from showing solidarity with my people, even as my village is being bombed?” Mohammed, 23 and wearing a “Free Palestine” T-shirt, said.

The march was banned on Thursday over concerns of a repeat of fierce clashes that erupted at a similar Paris march during the last war in 2014, when protesters took aim at synagogues and other Israeli and Jewish targets.

“We all remember that extremely troubling protest where terrible phrases like ‘death to Jews’ were yelled,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said, welcoming a “wise” decision to ban the march.

But Walid Atallah, president of the Association of Palestinians in Ile-de-France, the region encompassing Paris, accused the government of inflaming tensions with the ban.

“If there were genuine risks of public disorder, of serious problems, they would have prohibited it right away,” he told a press conference ahead of the march.

“They banned it at the last minute — it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Similar protests in Germany and Denmark this week have degenerated into clashes leading to several arrests.

The protest had originally been called to mark the Nakba, as Palestinians call the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation in 1948, which turned hundreds of thousands into refugees.

But a Paris court upheld the ban Friday, saying the “international and domestic context” justified fears of unrest “that could be as serious or even worse than in 2014.”

Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin also called for similar bans in other cities if necessary, and officials prohibited marches in Nice, where around 150 people gathered nonetheless, and in some Paris suburbs.

“We don’t want scenes of violence, we don’t want to import a conflict onto French soil, we don’t want eruptions of hate on our streets,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Saturday in Marseille.

But no incidents were reported as thousands of people gathered for protests and marches in several other cities including Montpellier, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

The ban has caused a split among French politicians, with President Emmanuel Macron’s center-right party and the right-wing opposition supporting the move, but leftists calling it an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.

Thousands of protesters in London and Madrid marched in support of Palestinians on Saturday.

In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march toward the Israeli Embassy.

In Madrid, some 2,500 people, many of them young people wrapped in Palestinian flags, marched to the Puerta del Sol plaza in the city center.

“This is not a war, it’s genocide,” They chanted.

“They are massacring us,” said Amira Sheikh-Ali, a 37-year-old of Palestinian origin.

“We’re in a situation when the Nakba is continuing in the middle of the 21st century,” she said.

“We want to ask Spain and the European authorities not to collaborate with Israel, because with their silence, they are collaborating,” said Ikhlass Abousousiane, a 25-year-old nurse of Moroccan origin.

In Sydney, protesters gathered at Town Hall to march through the streets, chanting slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Free, free Gaza.”

“I see an uprising,” said one protester in Sydney, Walla Abu-Eid. “I see people who are no longer going to remain silent. People who are fed up, people who are responding to oppression and violence by standing up for themselves.”

In Melbourne, protesters gathered at the State Library of Victoria and then marched to Parliament House, many carrying “Free Palestine” posters.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in cities across Iraq to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.

The demonstrators on Saturday waved Palestinian flags and banners across five provinces in rallies called for by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Al-Sadr called on followers to take to the streets and support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Protesters gathered in Baghdad, and the southern provinces of Babylon, Dhi Qar, Diwanieh and Basra in a show of support. In Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, demonstrators carried a Palestinian flag several feet long. Many also held up photos of Al-Sadr.

Several thousand people marched in Sydney and hundreds in Melbourne on Saturday, protesting against Israeli attacks on Gaza.


Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan

Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan
Updated 16 May 2021

Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan

Ethiopia says ‘destroyed’ force coming from Sudan
  • Tens of thousands of Tigray refugees have fled into Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s army said that a large group of fighters, allegedly members of the former ruling party of the conflict-torn Tigray region, had been “destroyed” attempting to enter the country from neighboring Sudan.

Brig. Gen. Tesfaye Ayalew told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Friday that a force of some 320 had tried to enter Ethiopia via the town of Humera in northern Tigray.

“Some of them perished by thirst on the road, a portion was captured, and those who refused to surrender were destroyed by the army,” he said.

Tigray was plunged into conflict in November last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which dominated the country’s politics for decades.

While he promised a brief military campaign, fighting continues with no end in sight, with evidence of massacres, brutal sexual violence and fears of humanitarian catastrophe.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into Sudan, with whom Ethiopia is locked in multiple disputes over a contentious border zone, and the construction of a massive hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile.

Ayalew, referring to the force as the “junta,” which is how the Ethiopian government refers to the TPLF, said it was led by “US-based former Ethiopia defense forces officers who turned traitors and another group based in Khartoum.”

He alleged a military agreement “reveals the junta has been working secretly together with a few Sudanese leaders and army officers as well as Ethiopia’s enemies.”

He described the destruction of the force, details of which could not be independently confirmed by AFP, as “a big victory, for our army and our country.”

AFP has reached out to the Sudanese government, which was not immediately available for comment. Khartoum has previously denied accusations it is helping forces in Tigray.

“We are deeply concerned about increasing political and ethnic polarization throughout the country,” the State Department said Friday.

Ethiopia has again delayed its national election after some opposition parties said they would not take part and as conflict in

the Tigray region means no vote is being held there, further complicating the prime minister’s efforts to centralize power.

The head of the national elections board, Birtukan Mideksa, in a meeting with political parties’ representatives on Saturday said the June 5 vote in Africa’s second most populous country would be postponed until a yet-unknown date, citing the need to finish printing ballots, training staffers and compiling voters’ information.

The election board has said some 36.2 million people have registered to vote. It was hoped that up to 50 million would do so.

Ethiopia last year delayed the vote, the first major electoral test for Abiy, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. That heightened tensions with the Tigray region’s leaders, who declared that the prime minister’s mandate had ended and defiantly held a regional vote of their own that Ethiopia called illegal.

The prime minister, who introduced sweeping political reforms after taking office in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year, has repeatedly vowed that this election would be free and fair. Abiy will keep his post if his Prosperity Party wins a majority of seats in the national assembly.

But questions about the vote have been growing. 

The campaign director for one of Ethiopia’s largest opposition parties, Yilkal Getnet with the Hibir Ethiopia Democratic Party, said his party has long believed the country is not ready to hold an election at this time.

“There are lots of peace and security challenges across the country in addition to the border issue with Sudan,” Yilkal said, adding that the safety of millions is in question. 

“As opposed to the ruling party’s thinking, we don’t believe that the election will solve these problems. A national dialogue on a range of issues should come first.”


Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery
Updated 16 May 2021

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery
  • Lebanese Army guard Israel border after man killed by Israeli bullets
  • Post-Eid total lockdown lifted after two days

BEIRUT: Political and economic figures have expressed their opposition to dragging Lebanon into a regional conflict amid the Palestine-Israel crisis and violent clashes.

The Vice President of the General Labor Confederation Hassan Fakih warned against “taking the country into total chaos that will wipe out what is left of Lebanon.”

His comments come as people returned on Saturday to queueing at gas stations and searching for missing medicines in pharmacies.

Sales of meat have dipped after the price of a kilogram of unsubsidized beef exceeded LBP120,000 ($80).

Fakih said that “matters in Lebanon have reached an unbearable level, as the economic situation has become a real threat to all classes of people.”

He added that the people “have crossed the poverty threshold as a result of the policies adopted by the political system that has been running the country for many years.”

The Lebanese economy is trying to recover from the double losses that it has incurred as a result of measures brought in to control the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the devastating economic situation.

Hopes have been raised for economic improvements following a remarkable decline in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army on Saturday prevented non-Lebanese residents from crossing to the southern border area amid calls made by Palestinian factions to refugees to protest against the Israeli attacks in the occupied territories.

Hezbollah operatives in civilian clothes participated in the prevention measures in the border area, especially in points close to the Blue Line facing Israeli settlements, indicating that the party has no intention of escalating the situation in Lebanon.

These measures come the day after the killing of Lebanese citizen Mohammed Tahhan, 21, by an Israeli soldier.

One of the activists in the Tyre area who accompanied the protesters to the barbed fence told Arab News: “A group of protesters carrying Palestinian flags and Hezbollah banners tried to cross the barbed wire from the Lebanese side opposite the Mutla settlement on Friday.

“Tahhan stepped forward and broke an Israeli security camera. The Israelis fired at Tahhan, killing him with a bullet in the side.”

Hezbollah mourned Tahhan and participated in his funeral on Saturday in the southern town of Adloun and wrapped his body in the party’s banner.

However, the activist, who knows the Tahhan family, said: “The young man is a leftist and his family members are communists, and they face their plight with silence.”

There were unconfirmed reports that Hezbollah asked a Palestinian faction in Lebanon to claim responsibility for the launch of Grad rockets on Thursday night from southern Lebanon to occupied Palestine, but the faction refused.

On Saturday, the Lebanese Army ramped up security measures on the coastline leading to the south. The soldiers set up checkpoints and checked the identities of those traveling to the border area.

Only Lebanese citizens were allowed to cross, while non-Lebanese needed special permits.

The army closed all roads leading to the Marjayoun area, opposite the settlement of Mutla, in occupied Palestine.

Soldiers prevented four Palestinians who tried to infiltrate the barbed wire fence on Saturday.

Activist Ali al-Amin, who opposes Hezbollah, told Arab News: “The party does not tolerate any Israeli escalation toward Lebanon due to internal and regional conditions, and thus its options are limited.

“If it is true that the Palestinians rejected Hezbollah’s request to take responsibility for the rocket fire, this means that the party’s ability and influence to move the street in Lebanon has diminished. Hezbollah cannot make any mistakes because its cost in light of internal and regional developments is not yet clear.”

Israeli military spokesman Avichai Adraee justified the shooting at the Lebanese and Palestinian protesters and the killing of Tahhan.

The spokesman said: “The suspects acted in an orderly manner and left behind them suspected explosive devices and acted in a manner that revealed their intention to infiltrate into Israel and commit a sabotage operation in Israel.”

Adraee held Lebanon “responsible for what is happening inside Lebanon and anything that starts from it, and it will bear responsibility for any attempt to harm the citizens of Israel.”

Hussein Ezz El-Din, an activist from Tire, said hundreds of Palestinian youths “tried on Saturday to cross the main road to the border area, and some of them came from camps in the far north to protest in front of the border. But a security cordon formed by the army and other security elements affiliated with Hezbollah prevented crossing the street to the Blue Line.”

Ezz El-Din added: “The people in the southern border region are divided into two parts. A section is affiliated with the axis of resistance and is trying, through the events that are taking place, to look for a new victory.

“There is also an axis that is not affiliated with either Hezbollah or any other party, which is apprehensive and adheres to the national interest.”

He added: “Those who are not affiliated with any party have not answered the call to go to the borders to protest despite their full sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

“Some of them even believe that going to the Syrian borders to protest there against smuggling operations is more beneficial to Lebanon and its interests than going to the southern borders because it is nothing more than propaganda.”

While a cautious atmosphere prevailed on the southern border, Lebanon regained its near-normal life Saturday, in light of the lifting of the state of complete lockdown that lasted for two days due to the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.