Libyan parliament calls on Egypt to protect Sirte, Al-Jufra from attacks

Troops loyal to Libya's internationally recognized government prepare themselves before heading to Sirte, in Tripoli, Libya, Libya July 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 July 2020

Libyan parliament calls on Egypt to protect Sirte, Al-Jufra from attacks

  • Turkey has sent mercenaries to Libya

CAIRO: Libya’s parliament has called on Egyptian armed forces to intervene and protect the two countries’ national security.

It welcomed a recent speech from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in which he called for concerted efforts between the two nations to achieve security and stability in Libya.

The parliamentary statement came a few days after Turkey again threatened to attack the Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra in a conflict pitting the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, headed by GNA Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, against the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by military commander Khalifa Haftar.

An imminent military escalation could affect the security and stability of Libya and threaten North African countries in general because of the large number of mercenaries that Ankara has sent to the country.

“The Libyan parliament is the only legitimate representative elected by the Libyan people and representative of its free will, confirming its acceptance of what was said in the Egyptian president’s speech in the presence of representatives of Libyan tribes,” it said. “We call for concerted efforts between Libya and Egypt to ensure the defeat of the invading occupier and preserve our common national security. It will bring security and stability to our country and the region.”

Egypt’s armed forces may intervene to protect Libyan and Egyptian national security if they saw an “imminent threat” to the security of the two countries, it added. “Our confrontation with the invaders guarantees the independence of the Libyan nation and preserves the sovereignty and unity of Libya, and preserves the wealth and capabilities of the Libyan people from the ambitions of the colonial invaders … the supreme word will be for the Libyan people in accordance with their free will and supreme interests.”

The parliamentary statement said that Libya rejected Turkish interference and any violation of Libyan sovereignty.

“Egypt represents a strategic depth for Libya at all levels of security — economic and social — throughout history. The Turkish occupation directly threatens Libya and the neighboring countries, especially Egypt, which will only stop with the efforts of neighboring Arab countries.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country would carry out oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean region on the coast of Libya, which observers said revealed Ankara's intentions to plunder Libya’s oil wealth. They said that the Turkish regime apparently planned to solve its looming economic crisis by stealing the wealth of people in the Mediterranean.

Turkey faces a number of challenges that prevent the implementation of its plan to advance on Sirte and Al-Jufra, including the lack of a true popular movement as the majority of people in the two cities support LNA forces and refuse the entry of militias or mercenaries.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the UN Security Council earlier this month that Egypt would not allow militias to threaten its security. Shoukry, speaking about the Libya situation, said: “We will not tolerate these dangers to our country. We call on the international community to face the danger of terrorist organizations in Libya.”

Mohamed El-Ghabbari, an Egyptian military expert and former director of the National Defense College, said that Turkey was unaware of Libya's vast geography and also unaware of important matters regarding the role of Libya’s tribes.

“The General Command of the Libyan Army announced more than once its readiness to confront any attempts by Turkey to advance toward Sirte and Al-Jufra,” El-Ghabbari told Arab News.

He said that its forces and military units were ready to repel any attack by Ankara by mercenaries and militias funded by the GNA government in Tripoli. Egyptian support would arrive “at the appropriate time.”

El-Ghabbari said the Turks must not forget that their recent statements came at a time when the Egyptian military was conducting military drills aimed at eliminating mercenaries from irregular armies, “which means that Egypt is ready to respond at any time.”

Ahmed Fouad Abaza, an Egyptian parliamentarian, backed the demand of the Libyan parliament, saying that the political chaos in Libya was caused by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporter Turkey “which seeks to stabilize the Brotherhood organization on Libyan lands and seeks to control Libyan oil to save its collapsed economy.”

Abaza added that, after the failure of Turkey and Qatar to revive the Brotherhood in a number of Arab countries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was seeking to try to revive the Brotherhood inside Libya.

Abaza hailed the LNA in the face of “terrorist and criminal acts carried out by Turkey inside Libyan territories” and said that if “blood and destruction” were present in any country or place within the region that Erdogan’s regime was behind it.

He called on the “legitimate political forces” inside Libya and the Libyan people to stand behind the LNA so that all Libyan lands could be "liberated from desecration and the abomination of evil, darkness and terrorism."

Political novices drawn to rally against Netanyahu

Updated 3 min 58 sec ago

Political novices drawn to rally against Netanyahu

  • The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis

JERUSALEM: In a summer of protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the accusations of corruption and calls for him to resign could be accompanied by another familiar refrain: “I’ve never done this before.”

The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis who have little history of political activity but feel that Netanyahu’s scandal-plagued rule and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have robbed them of their futures. It is a phenomenon that could have deep implications for the country’s leaders.

“It’s not only about the COVID-19 and the government’s handling of the situation,” said Shachar Oren, a 25-year-old protester. “It’s also about the people that cannot afford to eat and cannot afford to live. I am one of those people.”

Oren is among the thousands of people who gather outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem several times a week, calling on the longtime leader to resign. The young demonstrators have delivered a boost of momentum to a movement of older, more established protesters who have been saying Netanyahu should step down when he is on trial for corruption charges.

The loose-knit movements have joined forces to portray Netanyahu as an out-of-touch leader, with the country’s most bloated government in history and seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax benefits for himself at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is raging and unemployment has soared to over 20 percent.

Many of the young protesters have lost their jobs or seen their career prospects jeopardized. They have given the protests a carnival-like atmosphere, pounding on drums and dancing in the streets in colorful costumes while chanting vitriolic slogans against the prime minister.

Netanyahu has tried to dismiss the protesters as “leftists” or “anarchists.” Erel Segal, a commentator close to the prime minister, has called the gatherings “a Woodstock of hatred.”

Despite such claims, there are no signs that any opposition parties are organizing the gatherings. Politicians have been noticeably absent from most of the protests.

Israel has a long tradition of political protest, be it peace activists, West Bank settlers or ultra-Orthodox Jews. The new wave of protesters seems to be characterized by a broader, mainstream appeal.

“The partisan issue is totally missing, and the party organizations are not present,” said Tamar Hermann, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank and expert on protest movements.

Hermann said the protesters resemble many other protest movements around the world. “They are mostly middle class,” she said. “And they were kicked out of work.”

Oren, for instance, said he used to survive on a modest salary as a software analyst thanks to training he received in an Israeli military high-tech unit. Then he moved into tutoring — offering lessons in English, computers and chess to schoolchildren.

He said things were not easy, but he was “too busy surviving” to think about political activity. That changed when the coronavirus crisis began in March.

Oren’s business crashed.

With unemployment soaring, Netanyahu and his rival, Benny Gantz, formed a coalition with 34 Cabinet ministers, the largest government in Israel’s history. Beyond the generous salaries, these ministers, many with vague titles, enjoy perks like drivers, security guards and office space, and can hand out jobs to cronies.

A Netanyahu ally dismissed reports that people were having trouble feeding their families as “BS.”

Oren said he became “furious,” and about two months ago, he went to his first protest against the nation’s leaders. “They are there because we gave them the power and want them to help us. And they’re not doing anything,” he explained.

Oren now treks to Jerusalem from his home in the city of Kfar Saba in central Israel, about an hour away, three times a week. He is easily recognizable with his poster that says “House of Corruption,” depicting Netanyahu in a pose similar to Kevin Spacey’s nefarious “House of Cards” character, Frank Underwood.

Oren says he does not belong to any political party or any of the movements organizing the rallies, but that the diverse group of activists all want similar things. “No to the corruption, the poverty, the detachment. We’re just saying enough,” he said.

University student Stav Piltz went through a similar evolution. Living in downtown Jerusalem near Netanyahu’s residence, she quickly noticed the demonstrations in her neighborhood when they began several months ago. She talked to protesters as well as local residents at the cafe where she waitressed before she was laid off.

She said she noticed a common theme. “They feel that something is very critical now in the political climate and no one is listening to the citizens and the pain we are experiencing,” she said.

But Piltz said the spark that drew her to protest was a national strike last month by the country’s social workers.

Piltz, herself a social work student, said she has a history of social activism but has never been involved with party politics. The collection of women, coming from different religious, political, ethnic and racial backgrounds, was a powerful sight. “This is where I saw how much power we have when we are together,” she said.

The demonstrations, which have gained strength in recent weeks, are the largest sustained wave of public protests since hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in 2011 to draw attention to the country’s high cost of living. While those protests ultimately fizzled, two of their leaders entered parliament, and one, Itzik Shmuli, is now the country’s welfare minister.

Both Piltz and Oren said they are determined to keep up their activities in the long term.

“People have nothing to lose. So it’s very easy to go demonstrate these days, especially if you’re young and you see no future here,” Piltz said.

Hermann, the political analyst, said too many Israeli youths have been “politically ignorant” and that it is a “very good sign” for the country’s democracy that people are becoming involved.

The leaders, however, may not be so pleased to face a politically aware young generation.

“They are much more difficult to be controlled while they gain political views and confidence,” she said.