Divided again, Libya slides back toward violence, chaos

Divided again, Libya slides back toward violence, chaos
Libyans celebrate the 70th anniversary of their country’s independence at the Martyrs Square in Tripoli on Dec. 24, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 02 June 2022

Divided again, Libya slides back toward violence, chaos

Divided again, Libya slides back toward violence, chaos
  • The fighting underscored the fragility of Libya’s relative peace that has prevailed for more than a year but it also looked like history was repeating itself

CAIRO: For many Libyans, clashes that erupted in the capital of Tripoli last month were all too familiar — a deja vu of street fighting, reverberating gunfire and people cowering inside their homes. A video circulated online on the day, showing a man shouting from a mosque loudspeaker “Enough war, we want our young generation!“

The fighting underscored the fragility of Libya’s relative peace that has prevailed for more than a year but it also looked like history was repeating itself. Now, observers say that momentum to reunify the country has been lost and that its future is looking grim.

Once again, there are two competing governments vying for control in Libya, already torn by more than a decade of civil war. The clashes in the capital broke out after one of Libya’s two prime ministers challenged the other by coming to Tripoli, his rival’s seat.

Libya has for years been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each supported by rogue militias and foreign governments. The Mediterranean nation has been in a state of upheaval since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and later killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

But a plan had emerged in the past two years that was meant to put the country on the path toward elections. A UN-brokered process installed an interim government in early 2021 to shepherd Libyans to elections that were due late last year.

That government, led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, briefly unified the political factions under heavy international pressure. But the voting never took place, and since then, the plan has unraveled and left the country in crisis.

Lawmakers in Libya’s east-based parliament, headed by influential speaker Aguila Saleh, argued that Dbeibah’s mandate ended when the interim government failed to hold elections.

They went ahead and chose Fathi Bashagha, a powerful former interior minister from the western city of Misrata, as new prime minister. Their position gained the endorsement of powerful commander Khalifa Haftar whose forces control the country’s east and most of the south, including major oil facilities.

Dbeibah has refused to step down, and factions allied with him in western Libya deeply oppose Haftar. They maintain that Dbeibah, who is also from Misrata with ties to its powerful militias, is working toward holding elections.

Analysts are skeptical.

Claudia Gazzini, a Libya expert at the International Crisis Group, described the Bashagha-Dbeibah rivalry as “a feud over legitimacy,” with “both governments claiming they are legitimate.”

“I don’t think they will be able to hold elections this year,” she said, and also expressed doubts that UN attempts to get Libyan parties to reach a constitutional consensus on the elections will make any progress.

The power struggle came to a head on May 17, when Bashagha entered Tripoli and attempted to install his government there. He had help from the powerful Nawasi Brigade militia, led by Mustafa Qaddur, deputy head of Libya’s intelligence agency.

But Bashagha faced stiff resistance from militias loyal to Dbeibah, leading to hourslong clashes that rocked the city until Bashagha withdrew and a day later set up his government headquarters in the coastal city of Sirte, half way between Libya’s power centers in the east and the west.

The withdrawal emboldened Dbeibah, who promptly sacked Qaddur and another military official, Osama Juwaili, who heads the military intelligence agency. The dismissal of Qaddur was subsequently reversed by the presidential council — an apparent crack within Dbeibah’s camp.

According to an official close to Dbeibah, the Tripoli-based prime minister is convinced Bashagha could not have entered the Libyan capital without “approval or coordination” with Juwaili, a powerful figure from the western city of Zintan, and also Qaddur.

Juwaili’s forces, the official said, manned checkpoints and control areas near Gharyan, a town south of Tripoli, where Bashagha’s convoy passed on its way to the capital. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence details.

Even after Bashagha’s withdrawal, tensions remain high in Tripoli.

Some, like Libya researcher Jalel Harchaoui, believe Bashagha could make another move on Tripoli — or at least attempt to galvanize more support in the area.

“Given the scars that are now out in the open, such a scenario” is entirely possible, he said.

Meanwhile, Libya’s prized light crude is again being used as a tool in the power struggle. Tribal leaders have shut down crucial oil facilities, including the country’s largest oil field in the south controlled by fighters loyal to Haftar, who supports Bashagha.

The oil blockade — which comes as oil prices are skyrocketing because of the war in Ukraine — was likely meant to deprive Debeibah’s government of funds and empower his rival. Bashagha and Saleh have said the facilities would be reopened on condition that oil revenues be temporarily frozen until rival factions agree on a mechanism to distribute oil funds.


Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits

Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits
Updated 52 min 48 sec ago

Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits

Israel announces plan to boost Gaza work permits
  • A further 1,500 people from the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip would be allowed to work in Israel from Sunday

JERUSALEM: Israel said Friday it plans to grant more work permits to Palestinians in blockaded Gaza, reviving a pledge made ahead of a visit by US President Joe Biden but later scrapped.
A further 1,500 people from the impoverished and overcrowded Gaza Strip would be allowed to work in Israel from Sunday, the military said in a statement.
“The decision will take effect ... on condition that the security situation remains quiet in the area,” said COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for civil affairs in the Palestinian territories.
The move to boost to 15,500 the total number of work permits was initially announced on July 12, on the eve of Biden’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
But it was scrapped four days later, in the wake of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and retaliatory strikes by Israeli warplanes.
The work permits provide vital income to some of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, who have been living under a strict blockade imposed by Israel since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power in 2007.
Friday’s announcement follows three days of fighting this month between Islamic Jihad militants and Israel.
At least 49 Gazans were killed and hundreds wounded, according to figures from the enclave’s health ministry.
The plan to issue additional permits follows a decision by Hamas largely to stay out of the recent fighting.


Market blast in north Syria kills at least 9, injures dozens

Market blast in north Syria kills at least 9, injures dozens
Updated 19 August 2022

Market blast in north Syria kills at least 9, injures dozens

Market blast in north Syria kills at least 9, injures dozens
  • The attack on the town of Al-Bab came days after a Turkish airstrike killed at least 11 Syrian troops and US-backed Kurdish fighters

BEIRUT: A rocket attack on a crowded market in a town held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters in northern Syria Friday killed at least nine people and wounded dozens, an opposition war monitor and a paramedic group reported.
The attack on the town of Al-Bab came days after a Turkish airstrike killed at least 11 Syrian troops and US-backed Kurdish fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, blamed Syrian government forces for the shelling, saying it was in retaliation for the Turkish airstrike.
The Observatory said the attack killed at least 10 and wounded more than 30.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense, also known as White Helmets, had a lower death toll, saying nine people, including children, were killed and 28 were wounded. The paramedic group said its members evacuated some of the wounded and the dead bodies.
Discrepancies in casualty figures immediately after attacks are not uncommon in Syria.
Turkey has launched three major cross-border operations into Syria since 2016 and controls some territories in the north.
Although the fighting has waned over the past few years, shelling and airstrikes are not uncommon in northern Syria that is home to the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011, has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.
President Bashar Assad’s forces now control most parts of Syria with the help of their allies, Russia and Iran.


Palestinian killed in Israeli West Bank raid: Palestinian ministry

Palestinian killed in Israeli West Bank raid: Palestinian ministry
Updated 19 August 2022

Palestinian killed in Israeli West Bank raid: Palestinian ministry

Palestinian killed in Israeli West Bank raid: Palestinian ministry
  • Israeli military say soldiers came under fire during a raid in the town
  • Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories Presse: A Palestinian man was killed Friday by Israeli forces during a raid in the north of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Salah Sawafta, 58, “died of critical wounds, sustained by live bullets from the occupation (Israeli military) in the head, in Tubas this morning,” a ministry statement said.
The Israeli military said soldiers came under fire during a raid in the town.
During an operation in “Tubas, several suspects hurled Molotov cocktails and opened fire at (Israeli) troops, who responded with fire,” the army said in a statement, adding “hits were identified.”
The mayor of Tubas, Hossam Daraghmeh, said Sawafta had been leaving dawn prayers when he was shot.
“He left the mosque and was heading to his house wearing a prayer robe. There was a vengeful soldier stationed in a building near the municipality who shot him in the head,” he said.
Daraghmeh said Sawafta had been unarmed when he was hit.
“This man did not have a stone or anything in his hand,” he said.
The Israeli military said five people were detained in overnight raids across the West Bank.
On Thursday, a 20-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli troops during clashes in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967, when it seized the territory from Jordan.


Algeria wildfires ‘all under control’: civil defense

Algeria wildfires ‘all under control’: civil defense
Updated 19 August 2022

Algeria wildfires ‘all under control’: civil defense

Algeria wildfires ‘all under control’: civil defense
  • Since the beginning of August, almost 150 blazes have destroyed hundreds of hectares (acres) of forest in Africa’s largest country

Algiers: Wildfires, which killed at least 38 people and left a trail of destruction in eastern Algeria this week, are now under control, a civil defense official told AFP on Friday.
“All of the fires have been completely brought under control,” said fire brigade Col. Farouk Achour, of the civil defense department.
Since the beginning of August, almost 150 blazes have destroyed hundreds of hectares (acres) of forest in Africa’s largest country.
Deadly fires have become an annual scourge in Algeria, where climate change has turned large areas of forest into a tinderbox in the blistering summer months.
The justice ministry launched an inquiry after Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud suggested some of the fires were started deliberately, and authorities on Thursday announced four arrests of suspected arsonists.
Authorities have been accused of being ill-prepared, with few firefighting aircraft available despite record casualties in last year’s blazes and a cash windfall from gas exports with global energy prices soaring.


UAE’s foreign aid over past year totalled $3.5 billion

UAE’s foreign aid over past year totalled $3.5 billion
Updated 19 August 2022

UAE’s foreign aid over past year totalled $3.5 billion

UAE’s foreign aid over past year totalled $3.5 billion

DUBAI: The UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), said on Thursday that the total value of foreign aid provided by the UAE from the start of 2021 to mid-August 2022 amounted to some $3.5 billion.
While Yemen accounted for most of the Emirati foreign aid with over $315 million, the list also included several Arab, Asian and Western countries, state news agency WAM reported.
A range of sectors and programmes received aid from the UAE, including public and health sectors, social services, and education.
Programmes aimed at supporting peace and security received over $74 million, and the water and public health services sectors received $72 million, government and civil society initiatives received nearly $60 million, and services that support the energy sector received some $57 million, and initiatives aimed at supporting the agriculture sector received over $50 million.