Tunisia finds bodies of pregnant migrant, toddler after boat sinks

A representative of the Tunisian Red Crescent association checks bodies recovered from a boat carrying 86 migrants that capsized off the Tunisian coast while crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, as they lie on a beach in Aghir in Tunisia’s southern island of Djerba on July 6, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 07 July 2019

Tunisia finds bodies of pregnant migrant, toddler after boat sinks

  • The number of bodies retrieved from the water has reached 15The number of bodies retrieved from the water has reached 15
  • The latest tragedy came to light the same week as 44 migrants were killed in an air strike on their detention center in Libya

TUNIS: Tunisia’s Red Crescent said Sunday three more bodies had been retrieved off the country’s coast, including those of a pregnant woman and toddler, days after a boat carrying scores of migrants sank.
“The number of bodies retrieved (from the water) has reached 15,” said Red Crescent official Mongi Slim.
The bodies of a three-year-old and two women, one pregnant, were recovered Saturday night off the island of Djerba in southern Tunisia, Slim said.
On Saturday the Red Crescent said 12 bodies had been retrieved by the coast guard from waters off southern Tunisia that morning.
Including the corpse of a woman that the National Guard said it found on a beach off Zarzis on Friday, the total number of bodies recovered since the boat sank on Monday stands at 16.
A Malian survivor told the UN’s migration agency that 86 people had been on board the dinghy, which capsized.
“People were terrified as water started pouring in, some of them fell into the water. They stayed down there,” survivor Soleiman Coulibaly told AFP.
Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration, tweeted on Thursday that “about 80 migrants are feared dead.”
The Red Crescent and the navy said three Malians and an Ivorian were rescued on Wednesday by the coast guard, who had been alerted by local fishermen.
The Ivorian, however, died in hospital and one of the Malians has also been hospitalized in intensive care.
The boat tipped over only hours after setting out to sea from the Libyan town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, with the intention of reaching Italy.
Libya has in recent years been a major departure point for migrants seeking to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.
Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya, with many held in squalid detention facilities.
An air strike Tuesday on a migrant center in the capital Tripoli killed at least 53 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Tension builds in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes kill commander

Updated 5 sec ago

Tension builds in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes kill commander

GAZA CITY: Israel killed a senior commander of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing, Bahaa Abu Al-Atta, in an airstrike on his home on Tuesday, also killing his wife and wounding two of his sons.

Al-Quds brigades responded by firing rockets towards Israeli towns, some threatening the city of Tel Aviv.

Israeli warplanes also bombed a number of Islamic Jihad military sites, killing at least two and wounding 16 others.

Islamic Jihad, in a press statement, threatened revenge for the assassination, saying that Israel would not go unpunished.

“We affirm that the response to this crime will have no limits and will be the size of the crime committed by the enemy and that the occupation will bear the consequences of this aggression.”

Islamic Jihad said Al-Atta was the commander of the northern Al-Quds brigade and a member of its military council, which Israel accuses of being behind rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel in recent months.

Hamas issued a press statement condemning the Israeli attack and threatening it would not allow Israel to “change the rules.”

The statement said: “This aggression will backfire in the face of Israeli occupation and its criminal leaders. Israel started this attack and thus will pay a price for it.”

Hamas accused the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of trying to escape an internal political crisis by escalating the situation in Gaza.

“Palestinian blood is a red line, so we will not let the Israeli occupation shed it or turn Gaza into an arena to export its internal crises,” the statement continued.

Israel closed the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, as well as the commercial crossing of Karam Abu Salem in the southern Gaza Strip until further notice, and reduced the area of fishing in the sea to 6 miles after previously expanding it to 15 miles.

A military escalation between Israel and Gaza could evolve into a fourth war, but assuming it may happen would be premature, and would depend on Hamas’s response to the assassination of Al-Atta.

Hamas has more political clout than Islamic Jihad as it is responsible for governing the Gaza Strip and providing services. At the same time, it does not want to help Netanyahu.

Mokhaimer Abu Seada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University, said: “Hamas does not seem to be interested in reaching an open confrontation with Israel at this stage due to the difficult humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the political crisis in Israel.”

Although the assassination of Al-Atta is the first of a military leader since the 2014 war, Hamas does not see conditions could lead to further attempts on senior Palestinian figures.

Ibrahim Al-Madhoun, a columnist for the Hamas-affiliated Al-Risala newspaper, said: “I believe Hamas will try to avoid war and only respond to Islamic Jihad to rein in the occupation.

“Hamas realizes that Netanyahu wants to escape his internal predicament and … drag the region to a violent military confrontation.”

But the question remains whether Hamas will be able to control Islamic Jihad. That will depend on “the ability of Egyptian mediators to put pressure on the leadership of Islamic Jihad in Gaza and help Hamas,” said Abu Saeda.