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.


Israel approves new settlement 2 days before polls: official

Updated 42 min 15 sec ago

Israel approves new settlement 2 days before polls: official

  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government approved a new settlement in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, his office said, just two days ahead of closely fought general elections.

Netanyahu’s cabinet agreed to turn the wildcat settlement of Mevoot Yericho in the Jordan Valley into an official settlement, the premier’s office said.

All settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Israel distinguishes between those it has approved and those it has not.

Sunday’s approval follows Netanyahu’s pledge last week to annex the Jordan Valley, which amounts to one-third of the West Bank, if he wins Tuesday’s elections.

“The government passed the PM’s motion to build Mevoot Yericho,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said as the weekly cabinet meeting was convened ceremoniously in the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu has also said he intends to annex settlements in the wider West Bank, but in coordination with US President Donald Trump, whose long-awaited peace plan is expected to be released after the election.

The prime minister’s annexation plans could effectively destroy any remaining hopes for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Palestinians, the European Union and the United Nations condemned Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley announcement last week.

Netanyahu said the Jordan Valley annexation would not include Palestinian cities such as Jericho, but it would effectively be encircled by Israeli territory.

Netanyahu is locked in a tough re-election battle with ex-military chief Benny Gantz and his Blue and White centrist alliance, and right-wing nationalist votes are key for his Likud.