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

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

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."


Turkey COVID cases below 20,000 for first time since mid-March

Turkey COVID cases below 20,000 for first time since mid-March
Updated 4 min 27 sec ago

Turkey COVID cases below 20,000 for first time since mid-March

Turkey COVID cases below 20,000 for first time since mid-March
  • Last week Erdogan announced "full lockdown" until May 17 to curb a surge in Covid-19 infections and deaths
  • In recent weeks, Turkey has ranked fourth globally in terms of COVID-19 cases, with daily infections topping 60,000

ANKARA: Turkey’s daily COVID-19 cases fell below 20,000 for the first time since March 17 on Saturday, with 18,052 infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed.
Last week, President Tayyip Erdogan announced what he called a “full lockdown” until May 17 to curb a surge in infections and deaths after the country eased restrictions in early March.
The data showed another 281 deaths from the coronavirus on Saturday, raising the total toll to 42,746. Total cases exceeded 5 million, although there has been a fall in infections since the lockdown.
In recent weeks, Turkey has ranked fourth globally in terms of COVID-19 cases, with daily infections topping 60,000.
However, Erdogan said earlier on Saturday that he hoped a “new normalization” period would begin after May 17, adding that reopening schools would be included in steps to be announced after the lockdown.
“There is a serious fall in death numbers now. This shows the measures we took are paying off,” Erdogan said.
Despite the recent fall in infections, Turkey on Friday was placed on the UK government’s travel red list, a move that threw the status of the Champions League final on May 29 and the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix on June 11-13 — both to be held in Istanbul — into doubt.
The pandemic has also hurt Turkey’s tourism revenues, which plunged by two-thirds to $12 billion last year.


Lebanese security forces foil attempt to smuggle fuel across Syria border

Lebanese security forces foil attempt to smuggle fuel across Syria border
Updated 44 min 24 sec ago

Lebanese security forces foil attempt to smuggle fuel across Syria border

Lebanese security forces foil attempt to smuggle fuel across Syria border
  • Four Lebanese smugglers stashed subsidized fuel in secret tanks hidden inside pick-up trucks
  • Police are working vigilantly to curtail smuggling to Syria but many smugglers are covered up by politicians or influential figures, Arab News told

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces have foiled a bid to smuggle 8,000 liters of fuel into Syria.   
The Internal Security Forces (ISF) arrested a four-member gang of Lebanese smugglers, who had stashed the subsidized fuel in two secret tanks that were hidden inside pick-up trucks.
ISF said an informant had tipped off intelligence and information teams about the smugglers’ intent to conceal the fuel and smuggle it through one of the Akkar-Hermel routes to Syria.
An ISF squad stopped and impounded three vehicles in a sting operation at Bayno-Al Oyoun highway, leading to Hermel, on Thursday.
The three impounded cars were the pick-up trucks and a white Mercedes, which was used to monitor the route.
“Unfortunately, while law enforcement bodies are working vigilantly to curtail smuggling of subsidized products by smugglers to Syria, many of those are covered up by politicians or influential figures,” an unnamed senior lieutenant said. “Smuggling subsidized goods (mainly petrol and diesel) has prospered recently, especially with smugglers purchasing fuel products here for around LBP40,000 ($26.53) per tank and selling them in Syria for three or four times that price.”
Fuel prices have soared in recent months due to shortages, which Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar blamed on smugglers exporting subsidized supplies to Syria.
If drivers are lucky enough to find petrol stations that are open they are forced to queue for hours. Stations have caps on the amounts of fuel permitted per person, with nobody allowed a full tank. Many stations remain closed.
Ghajar told the media recently that the need for petrol in Syria had encouraged Lebanese smugglers to illegally export subsidized materials for massive profits.
Media reports have said a 20-liter tank of subsidized Lebanese petrol costs nearly $4 dollars per liter according to the market rate, while smugglers were exporting smuggled fuel to Syria where people were willing to pay up to $25 rather than queue for hours.
The Lebanese Army said on Saturday that it had seized four cars, including a black hearse, that were being smuggled to Syria.
The black hearse had been stolen a week previously from the funeral services association in the Sad El Bouchrieh area.
“The stolen vehicles were being prepared to be smuggled to Syria,” said the army. 
Two Lebanese suspects were apprehended in Al-Hermel, 10 kilometers away from the Syrian border, for stealing the cars and arranging them to be smuggled.


Egypt, Arab League condemn Israel’s role in Al-Aqsa Mosque clashes

Stun grenades burst in the air amid clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Stun grenades burst in the air amid clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2021

Egypt, Arab League condemn Israel’s role in Al-Aqsa Mosque clashes

Stun grenades burst in the air amid clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
  • More than 160 Palestinians and at least six Israeli police officers were injured in a series of confrontations at the mosque

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Ministry and the Arab League have condemned Israeli forces’ involvement in violent clashes outside Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

More than 160 Palestinians and at least six Israeli police officers were injured in a series of confrontations at the mosque late on Friday.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that it condemned Israeli forces’ “storming of the mosque and assault on worshippers there.”

A ministry statement called on Israeli authorities to “shoulder their responsibility in accordance with international law in providing the required protection for the Palestinian civilians and their right to perform their religious rituals.”

The ministry also highlighted the need to “halt any activities that violate the sanctity of the mosque, the holy month of Ramadan, and the Islamic and Christian Arab identity of Jerusalem city.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez reiterated Egypt’s rejection of any illegal activities that seek to undermine the rights of the Palestinian people, particularly the construction or expansion of settlements on Palestinian territory, as well as confiscation of lands and displacement of Palestinians. 

This “represents a violation of international law, undermines the chances of achieving the two-state solution, and represents a threat to the pillars of security and stability in the region,” said Hafez.

He denounced Israeli attempts to evict Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district in east Jerusalem, saying that this “represents a violation of international humanitarian law and a continuation of the policy of forced displacement.”

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit also condemned the violence at the mosque, and the targeting of unarmed Palestinians with sound and gas bombs as well as rubber bullets. 

Warning of the consequences of escalation, Aboul Gheit said that the assault “provokes the feelings of Muslims around the world and reflects the intended Israeli policy of escalation.”

The violence follows recent “provocations and irresponsible actions against the Palestinian people,” he said.

Aboul Gheit called for immediate international action to halt the assaults, warning of an irreversible escalation in the occupied territories. 

An official source in the Arab League Secretariat quoted Aboul Gheit as saying that the timing of the Israeli assault reveals “a premeditated intention to provoke the Palestinians.”

It “also demonstrates recklessness with the feelings of Muslims and their right to perform their rituals in Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan,” he said.

The Arab League chief held the Israeli government accountable for what he described as “dangerous, irresponsible escalation.”


Iran prisoner ‘forgotten’ by UK govt: Family

One of at least four UK nationals detained by Iran, Anoosheh Ashoori was imprisoned for “spying” and “acquiring illegal wealth.” (Amnesty International)
One of at least four UK nationals detained by Iran, Anoosheh Ashoori was imprisoned for “spying” and “acquiring illegal wealth.” (Amnesty International)
Updated 08 May 2021

Iran prisoner ‘forgotten’ by UK govt: Family

One of at least four UK nationals detained by Iran, Anoosheh Ashoori was imprisoned for “spying” and “acquiring illegal wealth.” (Amnesty International)
  • ‘Boris Johnson has never mentioned us or been in contact with us privately’
  • British-Iranian dual national Anoosheh Ashoori was arrested in Tehran in 2017

LONDON: The family of a British-Iranian dual national detained in Iran fear that he will “be forgotten” as the UK government negotiates the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Elika Ashoori, daughter of retired engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, said UK government officials and ministers have “refused to name” her father when discussing the hostage situation.

Elika told The Times: “(UK Prime Minister) Boris Johnson has never mentioned us or been in contact with us privately. None of us have been mentioned at all.”

She warned that the government might be choosing to focus on the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, whose case has been given more media attention, even if it means her father is left behind.

Elika said: “This is by no means the fault of Richard Ratcliffe or Nazanin — the blame is on the government.”

Anoosheh’s family previously accepted UK Foreign Office requests to “stay silent” following his 2017 arrest in Tehran.

They were warned by officials that publicizing the case would undermine his bid for freedom.

One of at least four UK nationals detained by Iran, Anoosheh was imprisoned for “spying” and “acquiring illegal wealth.”

His family say both charges were trumped up to provide Tehran with greater bargaining power in negotiations.

The UK Foreign Office has said Anoosheh’s case was “raised regularly” with Iranian authorities at the highest levels, including by Johnson.

“We strongly urge Iran to reunite Mr. Ashoori with his family,” an official said. “Our embassy in Tehran continues to request consular access. We are in close contact with his family and continue to support them.

“We remain committed to securing the immediate and permanent release of arbitrarily detained dual British nationals in Iran.”


Egypt to produce 60m doses of Sinovac vaccine from next month

Egypt is set to begin the production of 60 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine next month. (Reuters/File Photo)
Egypt is set to begin the production of 60 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine next month. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 08 May 2021

Egypt to produce 60m doses of Sinovac vaccine from next month

Egypt is set to begin the production of 60 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine next month. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Egypt is able to procure a variety of vaccines, including the Chinese Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines

CAIRO: Egypt is set to begin the production of 60 million doses of the Chinese Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine next month.

The announcement was made by Mohammed Abdel Fattah, head of the central administration for preventive affairs at Egypt’s Ministry of Health. The health official stressed that the goal was to ensure vaccination for as large a number of citizens as possible.

In televised statements, Fattah said that the elderly and those working in the medical sector would be among the prioritized categories of people to receive the vaccine, followed by those working in the tourism and banking sector.

He indicated that large doses of vaccines would become available in the coming days and confirmed that Egypt was able to procure a variety of vaccines, including the Chinese Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines. It has also contracted to receive the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.

Fattah said although there has been a significant increase in COVID-19 cases recently, medicines and oxygen tanks were available, and hospitals were ready to receive critical patients.

He said that a number of vaccination centers in the country had been opened that would allow a large number of citizens to be inoculated at the same time.

The vaccine center in the area of the Cairo International Fair accepts citizens from the governorates of Cairo, Giza and Al-Qalioubiya. Its daily capacity reaches 10,000 people, and it includes 96 clinics and a medical team. 

Fattah called on citizens to sign up for the vaccine, noting that the demand among Egyptians to become vaccinated has increased, especially after the outbreak of the Indian variant.