Rescuers recover over 2,000 bodies after floods devastate eastern Libya

Rescuers recover over 2,000 bodies after floods devastate eastern Libya
A man stands next to a damaged car, after a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hit Libya, in Derna, Libya on September 12, 2023. (Photo courtesy: REUTERS/TPX IMAGES)
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Updated 13 September 2023
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Rescuers recover over 2,000 bodies after floods devastate eastern Libya

Rescuers recover over 2,000 bodies after floods devastate eastern Libya
  • Officials fear the death toll could exceed 5,000 in the nation made vulnerable by years of turmoil and neglect
  • Floding caused significant infrastructure damage in coastal city of Derna, displaced at least 30,000 people

DERNA, Libya: Rescuers have found more than 2,000 bodies as of Wednesday in the wreckage of a Libyan city where floodwaters broke dams and washed away neighborhoods.

Officials fear the death toll could exceed 5,000 in the nation made vulnerable by years of turmoil and neglect.

The flooding caused significant infrastructure damage in the coastal city of Derna and displaced at least 30,000 people, the UN migration agency said. The damage is so extensive the city is almost inaccessible for humanitarian aid workers, the International Organization for Migration said.

Mediterranean storm Daniel caused deadly flooding in many eastern towns, but the worst-hit was Derna. As the storm pounded the coast Sunday night, Derna residents said they heard loud explosions when the dams outside the city collapsed. Floodwaters washed down Wadi Derna, a river running from the mountains through the city and into the sea.

More than 2,000 corpses were collected as of Wednesday morning and over half of them had been buried in mass graves in Derna, said eastern Libya’s health minister, Othman Abduljaleel. Rescue teams were working day and night to recover many other bodies scattered in the streets and under the rubble in the city. Some bodies were retrieved from the sea.

The startling devastation pointed to the storm’s intensity, but also Libya’s vulnerability. The country is divided by rival governments, one in the east, the other in the west, and the result has been neglect of infrastructure in many areas.

The floods damaged or destroyed many access roads to Derna. Of seven roads leading to the city, only two are accessible from its southern edge. Bridges over the river Derna that link the city’s eastern and western parts have also collapsed, according to the UN’s migration agency. The destruction has hampered the arrival of international rescue teams and humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of people whose homes were destroyed or damaged.

“The city of Derna was submerged by waves 7 meters (23 feet) high that destroyed everything in their path,” Yann Fridez, head of the delegation of the International Committee for The Red Cross in Libya, told France24. “The human toll is enormous.”

Local emergency responders, including troops, government workers, volunteers and residents, continued digging through rubble looking for the dead. They also used inflatable boats and helicopters to retrieve bodies from the water and inaccessible areas.

“This is a disaster of every sense of the word,” a wailing survivor who lost 11 members of his family told a local television station as a group of rescuers tried to calm him. The television station did not identify the survivor.

Ahmed Abdalla, a survivor who joined the search and rescue effort, said they were putting bodies in the yard of a local hospital before taking them for burial in mass graves at the city’s sole intact cemetery.

“The situation is indescribable. Entire families dead in this disaster. Some were washed away to the sea,” Abdalla said by phone from Derna.

Bulldozers worked over the past two days to fix and clear roads to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and heavy equipment urgently needed for the search and rescue operations. The city is 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of Benghazi, where international aid started to arrive on Tuesday.

Libya’s neighbors, Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia, as well as Turkiye and the United Arab Emirates, have sent rescue teams and humanitarian aid. President Joe Biden also said the United States is sending emergency funds to relief organizations and coordinating with the Libyan authorities and the UN to provide additional support.

Mohammed Abu-Lamousha, a spokesman for the east Libya interior ministry, on Tuesday put the death tally in Derna at more than 5,300, according to the state-run news agency. Dozens of others were reported dead in other towns in eastern Libya, he said.

Authorities have transferred hundreds of bodies to morgues in nearby towns. In the city of Tobruk, is 169 kilometers (105 miles) east of Derna, the Medical Center of Tobruk’s morgue received more than 300 bodies for people killed in the Derna flooding; among them were 84 Egyptians, according to a list of dead obtained by The Associated Press.

Dozens of bodies of Egyptians killed in the floods were returned to their home country. A funeral for 22 Egyptians was underway Wednesday in their village of el-Sharif in the southern province of Beni Suef. Another four were buried in their hometown in the Nile Delta province of Beheira, local media in Egypt reported.

At least 10,000 people were still missing in the city, according to Tamer Ramadan, Libya envoy for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He said 40,000 people have been displaced in Derna and other towns affected by the floods in eastern Libya.

Known for its white-painted houses and palm gardens, Derna is about 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the capital of Tripoli. It is controlled by the forces of powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar, who is allied with the east Libya government. The rival government in west Libya, based in Tripoli, is allied with other armed groups.

Much of Derna was built by Italy when Libya was under Italian occupation in the first half of the 20th century. The city was once a hub for extremist groups in the years of chaos that followed the NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.


Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report

Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report
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Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report

Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report
  • Rights issues include credible reports of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture, says report
  • Israeli military's conduct has come under scrutiny as its forces have killed over 34,000 in Gaza since Oct. 7

WASHINGTON: The war between Israel and Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis has had “a significant negative impact” on the human rights situation in the country, the US State Department said in its annual report on Monday.

Significant human rights issues include credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture and unjustified arrests of journalists among others, said the State Department’s 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

The report added that the Israeli government has taken some credible steps to identify and punish the officials who may have been involved in those abuses.

Israel’s military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces have killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities, many of them civilians and children. The Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine.

Israel launched its assault in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed.

Rights groups have flagged numerous incidents of civilian harm during the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, as well as raised alarm about rising violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian Health Ministry records show Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 460 Palestinians since Oct. 7. But so far the Biden administration has said it has not found Israel in breach of international law.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to its longtime ally. Leftist Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support for Israel, which they say provides it with a sense of impunity.

But this month, President Joe Biden for the first time threatened to condition support for Israel, and insisted that it take concrete steps to protect humanitarian aid workers and civilians.


Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report

Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report
Updated 23 April 2024
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Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report

Israel’s Gaza war has negatively impacted human rights, says US report
  • The Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine

WASHINGTON: The war between Israel and Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis has had “a significant negative impact” on the human rights situation in the country, the US State Department said in its annual report on Monday.
Significant human rights issues include credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture and unjustified arrests of journalists among others, said the State Department’s 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
The report added that the Israeli government has taken some credible steps to identify and punish the officials who may have been involved in those abuses.
Israel’s military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces have killed 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the enclave’s health authorities, many of them civilians and children. The Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine.
Israel launched its assault in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed.
Rights groups have flagged numerous incidents of civilian harm during the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, as well as raised alarm about rising violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian Health Ministry records show Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 460 Palestinians since Oct. 7. But so far the Biden administration has said it has not found Israel in breach of international law.
Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to its longtime ally. Leftist Democrats and Arab American groups have criticized the Biden administration’s steadfast support for Israel, which they say provides it with a sense of impunity.
But this month, President Joe Biden for the first time threatened to condition support for Israel, and insisted that it take concrete steps to protect humanitarian aid workers and civilians.


Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’

Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’
Updated 23 April 2024
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Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’

Nobel laureate urges protest against Iran’s ‘war on women’
  • Narges Mohammadi issues plea from Evin prison amid new crackdown by Tehran’s morality police

JEDDAH: Jailed Iranian Nobel laureate Narges Mohammadi urged Iranians on Monday to protest against the clerical regime’s “war against women” amid a new crackdown forcing women to cover their heads.
Mohammadi, who is being held in Evin prison in Tehran, called on Iranian women to share their stories of arrest and sexual assault at the hands of the authorities.
Iran launched a nationwide operation this month to enforce the wearing of the headscarf. Women have been arrested and taken to police stations by the morality police, and the Farsi hashtag meaning “war against women” has been trending on social media.
“People of Iran, I ask you, artists, intellectuals, workers, teachers, and students ... inside and outside the country to protest against this war against women,” Mohammadi said in a message from inside the prison. “Do not underestimate the power of sharing your experiences. Doing so will expose the misogynistic government and bring it to its knees.” She accused the authorities of bringing “a full-scale war against all women to every street in Iran.”
Mohammadi said she had been joined in jail by Dina Ghalibaf, a journalist and student who was arrested after accusing security forces on social media of putting her in handcuffs and sexually assaulting her during a previous arrest at a metro station. “For years, we have witnessed many women who have endured assault, abuse, and beatings by government agents,” Mohammadi said.
Mohammadi, 52, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year in recognition of her campaign for human rights in Iran, which has led to her spending much of the past two decades in and out of jail. She has been imprisoned since November 2021 and has not seen her husband and twin children, who live in Paris, for several years.


Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state

Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state
Updated 23 April 2024
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Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state

Bahrain’s crown prince discusses developments in Gaza with US secretary of state
  • Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad reiterates his nation’s ‘firm stance’ in support of the Palestinian cause; Antony Blinken thanks Bahrain for its contributions to maritime security

LONDON: Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad of Bahrain and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Monday discussed the latest developments in Gaza, along with other regional and global issues of common interest.

During their telephone conversation, the Prince “reviewed the strength of the Bahrain-US partnership, highlighting the importance of bolstering joint coordination to achieve common goals and interests,” the Bahrain News Agency reported.

During their talks about the current situation in the Middle East, and in particular the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the crown prince reiterated Bahrain’s “firm stance toward the Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to reaching a peaceful, lasting and fair solution in support of Palestinians’ legitimate right to establish an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

He also highlighted the important need to protect civilians and deescalate the violence in Gaza, which he said threatens regional security and stability.

The US State Department said both officials “reinforced their shared commitment to preventing the spread of regional conflict,” and Blinken thanked Bahrain for its contributions to maritime security.

They also discussed ways in which “cooperation under the Comprehensive Security Integration and Prosperity Agreement continues to strengthen the strategic partnership” between their countries, spokesperson Matthew Miller added.


Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house

Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house
Updated 23 April 2024
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Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house

Israeli protesters burn symbolic Passover table outside PM’s house
  • Israel has killed 34,151 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry
  • Outside Netanyahu’s house, demonstrators, some of whom were relatives of hostages, set fire to a symbolic seder table after laying out empty places on another table to mark the hostage’s continued captivity

CAESAREA, Israel: Israeli protesters burnt a symbolic Passover table outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s house at the start of the Jewish holiday on Monday, accusing him of failing hostages in Gaza.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the gates leading to the house in the coastal town of Caesarea, calling for the release of hostages abducted by Palestinian militants on October 7 and criticizing Netanyahu’s leadership.
Israeli officials say 129 captives remain in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas attack, including 34 whom the military says are dead.
Their plight has cast a pall over this year’s Passover, also known in Hebrew as the “holiday of freedom.”
Guy Ben Dror said he was protesting against “the worst prime minister in the history of Israel.”
“He doesn’t want the hostages back because he doesn’t want the war to end or he’ll go to prison,” said the 54-year-old investment firm worker.
Passover commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. A ritual meal, known as a seder, takes place on the first evening, with participants sitting around a tray laden with symbolic food.
Outside Netanyahu’s house, demonstrators, some of whom were relatives of hostages, set fire to a symbolic seder table after laying out empty places on another table to mark the hostage’s continued captivity.
“We are here to share our feelings, our grief, our sorrow with the families of the kidnapped,” said demonstrator Yael Ben Porat.
“I didn’t want to celebrate this holiday when we have so many of our people, our brothers and sisters kidnapped over there in Gaza,” the 62-year-old lawyer said.
“All of us believe he is responsible for the horrible disaster of October 7,” she said, accusing Netanyahu of failures in negotiating their release.
“This night is only bitter, no freedom,” she said.
In a post on X marking the start of Passover on Monday, Netanyahu insisted “our resolve remains unyielding to see all hostages back with their families.”
“Tonight, we think of those who cannot join their families at the seder table. Their absence strengthens our resolve and reminds us of the urgency of our mission. We will not rest until each one is freed,” he said.
“The days ahead will see increased military and diplomatic efforts to secure the freedom of our hostages,” he said.