TRIPOLI: Libyan armed factions fought in the western outskirts of Tripoli early on Saturday as forces aligned with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s government further consolidated their control over the capital.
Fighting took place in Warshafala, a district west of Tripoli that has been the site of repeated clashes throughout the 11 years of violence and chaos since a NATO-backed uprising ousted veteran leader Muammar Qaddafi.
The clashes, along with a major pro-Dbeibah group taking over a military headquarters in southern Tripoli, come a week after Libya’s biggest bout of warfare for two years, as several rival factions battled in and around the capital.
Last week’s fighting dislodged several groups that had aligned with Dbeibah’s rival as prime minister — the former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha who has been appointed by the eastern-based parliament to head a new government.
The standoff between the two men had lasted for months, with Libya’s powerful eastern faction lined up behind Bashagha, while the numerous factions controlling Tripoli and the rest of the northwest were divided.
Following last week’s fighting, both Bashagha and Dbeibah have visited Turkey, which helped the now-divided western factions fight off an eastern assault in 2020.
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Turkey retains a military presence around Tripoli, including drones that could play a critical role in deciding the outcome of any major bout of warfare if it decided to back a side. Last week there were unconfirmed reports that drones were used against factions backing Bashagha. Diplomacy to resole Libya’s crisis has faltered.
Late on Friday UN Secretary -General Antonio Guterres appointed a new envoy to Libya but with the UN Security Council divided, it is unclear how much clout Abdoulaye Bathily will enjoy in the role.
Bathily succeeds Jan Kubis, who stepped down from the role late last year as diplomacy aimed at resolving Libya’s longstanding conflict faltered in the run-up to an aborted national election.
In fighting late on Friday and early on Saturday, a witness said mortars were being fired in Warshafana, a district of farmland, villages and patches of urban sprawl between Tripoli and the western city of Al-Zawiya.
During last week’s fighting, a major Bashagha-aligned faction based in Zawiya was said to be among groups that were repulsed from the outskirts of the capital.
In the southern Tripoli district of Ain Zara, a powerful faction that backed Dbeibah during last week’s fighting took over a security headquarters. Fighters and vehicles bearing its insignia stood guard there on Saturday morning with checkpoints set up nearby.
Survivors ‘praying for miracles’ as Turkiye steps up quake rescue efforts
Heavy rain and snow are hindering efforts to save thousands of people trapped under rubble
Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a state of emergency for three months
Updated 11 sec ago
ANKARA: Turkiye is praying for a miracle as the search continues for survivors of a massive earthquake that devastated southern regions of the country.
Heavy rain and snow are hindering efforts to save thousands of people trapped under rubble as the death toll continues to climb.
More than 5,000 people were killed and 15,000 injured in Turkiye and neighboring Syria when the magnitude 7.8 quake and a series of aftershocks struck in the early hours of Monday.
Turkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared a state of emergency for three months in areas affected by the earthquake, the most severe in the country for 80 years.
The death toll in Turkiye stands at 3,500, with over 22,000 injured and 6,000 buildings destroyed. More than 8,000 survivors have been hauled from the ruins of collapsed buildings.
Authorities warn the number of dead will continue to rise.
Turkiye has announced one week of national mourning and allocated $5.3 billion in emergency aid, while Turkish Airlines has carried more than 11,000 volunteers to the quake zone.
Tens of thousands of aid workers and emergency personnel have been sent to the affected area as part of national and international humanitarian assistance, with more 70 nations offering help.
Firat Gerger, a lawyer in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, drove his wife and children to their country house after surviving the quake before returning to the city center to join rescue efforts.
“I began evacuating guests from the hotel I own in the Haliliye district of Urfa. Then we noticed that the columns of the building next to my hotel were cracking. The building tilted to one side. We quickly surrounded the building with ropes and moved away nearby cars,” he told Arab News.
Gerger and his team climbed through a window into a veterinary surgery on the first floor of the building to rescue animals trapped inside.
However, their attempts to get a refugee family to leave their third-floor apartment ended in tragedy when the building collapsed shortly afterwards.
“We even threw a stone at their window to attract their attention,” he said. “The old building collapsed in seconds under a cloud of dust like in a horror movie,” he said.
The refugees were the only people to remain in the building after calls for evacuation. The bodies of five members of the family were found following the rescue operation.
Millions of Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country now live in the region.
Local people say that many buildings were not built to required standards to withstand earthquakes, and were never inspected properly.
New buildings, even those built only months ago, collapsed in the quake.
Serdar Ozsoy, a photojournalist who reached the port city of Iskenderun yesterday, was in the hard-hit Kirikhan district in Hatay province after the quake struck.
“It is one of the most affected zones. The damage is so widespread that rescue teams cannot be organized effectively. Today the humanitarian assistance seems much better than yesterday. I saw so many tents arriving for survivors. But the rain keeps falling and hampering rescue efforts,” he said.
“The first day was critical to find survivors under the collapsed buildings. But now the chances to rescue people are diminishing, apart from miracle cases.”
Ozsoy said that he had talked to a survivor whose house had been ransacked while he was at the cemetery burying his mother.
“The thieves found a golden opportunity to break into his house and steal anything precious,” he said.
Rescue teams from Uzbekistan reached Kirikhan district early on Tuesday, while other international rescuers, including from EU countries, are working across the region.
Turkiye’s Red Crescent is also providing tents and blankets, along with mobile kitchens.
In Hatay, thousands of survivors are sheltering in their cars amid fears of further aftershocks.
“There is an urgent need for cash because there is no electricity and no ATM to draw money,” Ozsoy said.
In other cities, such as southeastern Gaziantep, stocks of essential items are running low.
Ugur Poyraz, general secretary of the IYI Party, said there is no bread because natural gas supplies to the city were hit by the quake.
“Some local people are trying to distribute soup to the survivors with their own facilities,” he said.
In Hatay, Ghanaian football player Christian Atsu, who made 107 appearances for English Premier League side Newcastle and is now playing for the Turkish club Hatayspor, was rescued from a collapsed building.
Damaged roads, a fire that erupted in Iskenderun port and a blocked airport runway have made access to Hatay province more difficult.
Duygu Duman told Arab News that her relatives could hear voices beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in the center of Hatay, where her grandmother and aunt were trapped.
“My grandmother is very old, she cannot wait for so long. It is a race against time,” Duman said.
Another survivor, Ismail Keser, rescued his sister-in-law from the ruins of a five-story building in Antakya.
“We cannot enter the house because of the aftershocks,” he said. “I’m still involved in rescue efforts, but we are running out of hope. There is a chaos here,” he told Arab News.
A Jordanian rescue team, including five doctors, was also on the plane
Updated 27 min 32 sec ago
AMMAN: Jordan’s first of several aid planes loaded with rescue equipment, tents, and logistical and medical materials for the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkiye, took off on Tuesday.
Aboard the plane was a team of 99 personnel from the Jordanian International Search and Rescue Team and five doctors from the Jordanian Royal Medical Services.
Jordan’s News Agency shared on Tuesday a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, saying the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization on Monday evening reached out to authorities in Syria and Turkiye in order to send aid to the areas affected by the earthquake and to take part in rescue operations.
The JHCO is the only entity in Jordan responsible for delivering aid, the statement underscored, and any cash or in-kind donations will be delivered through the organization.
UK activates aid for Turkiye, Syria rescue efforts
Development minister: ‘The aid budget is under very considerable strain’
The UK is sending 76 experts and specialists to Turkiye, as well as an emergency response team
Updated 07 February 2023
LONDON: The UK is sending aid to Syria and Turkiye to support earthquake recovery efforts, The Guardian reported.
Development Minister Andrew Mitchell said although Britain’s development budget faces “very considerable strain,” there are reserve funds that can be activated to respond to severe humanitarian disasters.
Dozens of countries around the world, as well as hundreds of aid organizations, have committed to sending aid and personnel to Turkiye and Syria in the wake of the earthquakes, which killed more than 5,000 people.
The UK is sending 76 experts and specialists to Turkiye, as well as an emergency response team, Mitchell said.
“The aid budget is under very considerable strain. But Britain always carves out a certain amount to cope with humanitarian crises,” he told Sky News.
The death toll from the series of earthquakes, which measured at magnitude 7.5, could rise to more than 20,000, the World Health Organization has warned.
“There’s continued potential of further collapses to happen so we do often see in the order of eightfold increases on the initial numbers,” said Catherine Smallwood, the WHO’s senior emergency officer for Europe.
“We always see the same thing with earthquakes, unfortunately, which is that the initial reports of the numbers of people who have died or who have been injured will increase quite significantly in the week that follows.”
Egypt to send urgent relief aid for Syria, Turkiye quake victims
Updated 07 February 2023
Cairo - Egypt is to send urgent relief aid to Turkiye and Syria following Monday’s earthquake that killed thousands of people in the two countries.
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry offered condolences to his Syrian counterpart Faisal Al-Miqdad, informed him about the Egyptian aid, wished success for the rescue efforts, and a speedy recovery for the injured.
Shoukry also passed on his country’s condolences to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said the consular sector in the ministry was in constant touch with the Egyptian embassies in Ankara and Damascus to monitor the situation for Egyptians affected by the quake.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit sent messages to the foreign ministers of Syria and Turkiye expressing “sincere sympathy for this great affliction,” and wishing a speedy recovery for those wounded in the earthquake.
Hundreds still under earthquake rubble in rebel-held Syria — rescue workers
Rescue effort hampered by freezing conditions
White Helmets rescuers seek international help
Updated 07 February 2023
AMMAN: Time is running out to save hundreds of families trapped under the rubble of buildings brought down by Monday’s earthquake, the head of the Syrian opposition-run civil defense service said on Tuesday.
Raed Al-Saleh told Reuters urgent help was needed from international groups for the rescue effort by the organization known as the White Helmets in rebel-held northwest Syria, where hundreds were killed and injured.
“Every second means saving lives and we call on all humanitarian organizations to give material aid and respond to this catastrophe urgently,” he said.
The magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Turkiye and Syria early on Monday, toppling apartment blocks, wrecking hospitals and leaving thousands of people injured or homeless.
At least 1,444 people were killed in Syria and about 3,500 injured, according to figures from the Damascus government and rescue workers in the northwestern region controlled by insurgents.
Rescue teams worked early on Tuesday to free people trapped in the rubble of buildings in southern Turkiye as the death toll in that country rose to more than 3,400.
In areas hit by the earthquake in northwestern Syria, rescue efforts were hampered by lack of equipment and freezing conditions. Rescuers cleared piles of debris using makeshift tools and their hands.
“There are a lot of efforts by our teams but they are unable to respond to the catastrophe and the large number of collapsed buildings,” Al-Saleh said.
Syria’s Emergency Response Team, a non-governmental organization that operates in the rebel-held enclave, said snow storms had closed roads within makeshift camps that house tens of thousands of displaced Syrians.
“We have great difficulty in getting heavy equipment because of the large spread of places that were affected,” said Salamah Ibrahim, a senior rescuer operating in the city of Sarmada, where a whole neighborhood fell to the ground.
The rebel-held enclave in the northwest of Syria is a refuge for around four million people, many of whom have been uprooted by a Russian-backed Syrian government assault that turned the tide in favor of President Bashar Assad during the more than decade-long Syrian conflict.
“Most of the hospitals are full and the situation is catastrophic. We are in need of medicines urgently to cover the needs,” said Zuhair al Qarat, head of the health authority in Idlib city.
Damage was also widely seen in government-held Aleppo city’s eastern sector, whose buildings bore the brunt of intensive aerial bombing by Russia and the Syrian military to push out rebels in 2016, according to rescuers and aid workers.