Middle East countries respond to Morocco earthquake, Libya flooding with aid and solidarity

Middle East countries respond to Morocco earthquake, Libya flooding with aid and solidarity
Jordanian soldiers prepare to load humanitarian aid on a plane at the Marka military airport in Amman on September 13, 2023, to be flown to Libya, where devastating flash floods killed at least 5,000 people and displaced at least 30,000 more. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2023
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Middle East countries respond to Morocco earthquake, Libya flooding with aid and solidarity

Middle East countries respond to Morocco earthquake, Libya flooding with aid and solidarity
  • A 6.8 magnitude quake struck Morocco’s Atlas Mountains south of Marrakech on Friday, killing nearly 3,000
  • Two river dams burst on Sunday in Libya’s coastal city of Derna, killing at least 5,000, with thousands still missing

NAIROBI/LONDON: North Africa suffered two disasters in three days when a devastating earthquake struck Morocco on Friday, followed by catastrophic flooding in Libya on Sunday, leaving thousands dead and many more missing, sparking a global aid response.

On Friday night, a powerful earthquake, measuring 6.8 in magnitude, struck high in the Atlas Mountains about 70 km south of Marrakech, flattening whole villages, killing at least 2,900 people and leaving thousands more homeless.




The graphic depicts difficulties faced by rescue teams in remote mountain villages in Morocco. (AFP)

In Morocco’s Al-Haouz province, isolated farming communities have been left cut off, with many fending entirely for themselves. It was the North African country’s deadliest earthquake since 1960 and its most powerful in more than a century.

Just as aid agencies and donor nations were rolling out their response to this catastrophe, another disaster was unfolding to the east in crisis-torn Libya, where Storm Daniel caused two river dams to burst on Sunday afternoon.

The enormous surge of water released by the dams tore through the Mediterranean coastal city of Derna, sweeping buildings, vehicles and people into the sea. The confirmed death toll surpassed 5,000 on Wednesday, with thousands more still unaccounted for.

“Libya’s situation is a roller coaster. We’ve been through so much — conflicts, political ups and downs, and now these floods adding to the chaos,” Mohammed Thabit, a Tripoli-based citizen journalist, told Arab News.

“But remember, we’re a resilient bunch. We’ve faced worse and we’ll keep pushing for a brighter tomorrow, no matter the challenges.”




This grab from a video published on the Facebook account of the Libyan Red Crescent on September 11, 2023, shows members of their team assisting drivers whose cars are engulfed in floods in al-Bayda town in eastern Libya. (Basma Badran, Libyan Red Crescent via AFP)

The city of Derna, 300 km east of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by what is normally a dry riverbed in summer, which became a raging torrent of mud-brown water that also swept away several major bridges.

Derna was home to about 100,000 people and many of its multistory buildings on the banks of the riverbed collapsed, with people, their homes and cars vanishing into the raging waters.




Emergency members work near a building destroyed when a powerful storm and heavy rainfall hit the city of Derna in Libya on September 12, 2023. (Screen grab from social media video by Ali M. Bomhadi/via REUTERS)

“In the face of these devastating floods in Libya, it’s a heartbreaker,” Thabit said. “Our dams got some funding, but it seems some folks ran off with the money instead of fixing things. Tough times, but we’re tougher.”

The Libyan Presidential Council has declared the cities of Derna, Shahat and Al-Bayda in Cyrenaica disaster zones and requested international support to confront the effects of the floods caused by the storm.

Libya is in effect under the control of two rival administrations: the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and authorities based along with the parliament in the east.

“The humanitarian needs are huge and far beyond the abilities of the Libyan Red Crescent and even beyond the abilities of the government,” Tamar Ramadan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies delegation in Libya, said in a statement to the UN.

“That’s why the government in the east has issued an international appeal for support.”

Margaret Harris, spokesperson for the World Health Organization, said the flooding was of “epic” proportions.

“There’s not been a storm like this in the region in living memory, so it’s a great shock,” she said.

There is also concern for the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees from more than 40 countries who use Libya as a jumping-off point to reach Europe and who have likely been caught up in the floods.




Rescue search through the rubble of an earthquake-damaged house in Imi N'Tala village near Amizmiz in Morocco on September 13, 2023. (AFP)

With global concern spreading about both disasters, several nations have offered aid and deployed rescue teams to Derna and isolated villages across Morocco to help survivors and retrieve the bodies of their loved ones from the rubble.

Offers of assistance came from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Tunisia and Turkiye. Saudi Arabia on Tuesday expressed solidarity with “Libya and its brotherly people, and the victims of the floods.”

King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier ordered aid flights to Morocco, and the crown prince called King Mohammed VI to affirm the Kingdom’s solidarity with the Moroccan people.




Villagers and rescuers recite a prayer in front of the body of an earthquake in the village of Imi N'Tala near Amizmiz on September 13, 2023. AFP) 

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has declared a three-day mourning period and directed military personnel to provide humanitarian aid, including relief teams, rescue equipment and shelter camps for Libya and Morocco.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, president of the UAE, ordered the dispatch of urgent relief and search and rescue teams to Libya, deploying two aid planes carrying 150 tons of food, relief and medical supplies.

A Kuwaiti flight took off on Wednesday with 40 tons of supplies for Libya, while Jordan sent a military plane loaded with food parcels, tents, blankets and mattresses.

None of this has detracted from the Moroccan earthquake response. Rescuers from Spain, the UK and Qatar are helping local search teams to find survivors.

Many villagers in Morocco have had no power or telephone network since the earthquake struck and have had to rescue loved ones and pull dead bodies from under their crushed homes without any assistance.

The UN estimated that more than 300,000 people had been affected, a third of them children, by the powerful seismic event that hit just after 11 p.m. when most families were asleep.

Moroccans have demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of adversity, but as rescue teams race against the clock to locate survivors, experts say restoring a sense of normality should be the priority.




A woman reacts by the rubble of destroyed buildings in the aftermath of the deadly 6.8-magnitude September 8 earthquake in the village of Imi N'Tala near Amizmiz in central Morocco on September 10, 2023. (AFP)

“While buildings and towns can be rebuilt through reconstruction efforts,” it is the “going back to normal for the survivors which is the biggest challenge,” Karim Wafa Al-Hussaini, a historian with roots in Morocco, told Arab News.

“Instilling a renewed sense of normal among the population will be definitely one of the biggest challenges throughout and after the reconstruction projects.”

The earthquake has underscored the fragility of buildings in Morocco’s rural areas, constructed using traditional Amazigh building techniques. Climate change has also left its mark, rendering the structures more susceptible to devastation.

Fatima Ahouli, director of operations with the Morocco-based Imal Initiative for Climate and Development, believes these latest incidents underscore the need for investment in infrastructure designed to cope with natural disasters and extreme weather events.

“This entails the construction of robust infrastructure, such as educational institutions and healthcare facilities, capable of enduring the rigors of severe weather events, all while fostering sustainable resource management practices,” she said.




The collection of satellite images shows destruction caused by Morocco's deadly earthquake. (AFP) 

Morocco’s King Mohammed has launched assessments to evaluate the structural damage and the feasibility of rebuilding the hardest-hit regions. Nevertheless, rescue operations have incurred criticism amid the rising death toll.

Meanwhile, in Marrakech, where state assistance for survivors has been most immediate, many modern buildings remained unscathed by the tremors. Several of the city’s famous historical sites, however, were not so fortunate.

“The earthquake’s fury primarily targeted ancient buildings, some dating back centuries, constructed using traditional clay methods once prevalent in Marrakech,” Yassine Soussi Temli, managing partner at the investment firm Maghreb Capital Advisers, told Arab News.

“The city’s distinctive architectural heritage has borne the brunt of the earthquake’s wrath.”


West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo

West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo
Updated 3 min ago
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West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo

West must return to imposing cost on Iran’s ‘malign activity’ to restore Mideast stability: Pompeo
  • Former US Secretary of State, speaking at FII Priority Miami summit, claimed US deterrence of Iranian regime had been lost

LONDON: Taking away Iran’s ability to create instability in the Middle East was the driving force behind the 2020 Abraham Accords, and US policy needs to move back toward imposing a cost on Tehran’s malign actions, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday.

The accords were agreements signed by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel, brokered by then-US President Donald Trump. Sudan and Morocco also later agreed to establish ties with Israel.

Pompeo told the Future Investment Initiative Priority forum in Miami that the process of formulation to signing the accords happened due to a “central thesis” held by all involved that Tehran was the “malign actor” in the region.

“You should know, I’m hopelessly biased as they’re still trying to kill me. If you see me walking around with a security team, it’s not because I enjoy it but because I still need it,” he said.

“I think that’s telling. You can see (Iran’s) hand in what happened in Gaza. They supported, funded and essentially facilitated the capacity for Hamas to carry out the barbaric attacks (on Israel) which took place on Oct. 7.

“Today, without the Iranian support you’d still have shipping through the Red Sea, instead of transit having to move some other way because you’ve got missiles being launched into (the area) with relatively good accuracy.

“Nearly all the instability that takes place in the Middle East is as a direct result of that regime in Iran. The United States had the lead in deterring them and we’ve lost that.”

Pompeo praised Saudi Aramco for stabilizing oil markets following an attack claimed by the Iran-backed Houthis on its facilities in Abqaiq-Khurais in eastern Saudi Arabia, but pinpointed that attack as the beginning of the end of the US and the West being able to deter Tehran.

Despite a US drone strike that assassinated senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps official Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Pompeo said the current administration of President Joe Biden and the leadership in many European countries are now unwilling to impose a cost on Tehran for its malign activities.

“We permitted (Iran) for three years to fire rockets out of Yemen into southern Saudi Arabia and we did nothing, and that was a precursor to what I think you’re seeing today,” Pompeo added.

He said part of the solution is being serious about taking Iranian crude oil off the market and limiting revenue for the regime from that source, adding that in January 2021, Iran had $4 billion worth of foreign exchange reserves compared with $25-$30 billion today.
 


‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC

‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC
Updated 23 February 2024
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‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC

‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC
  • Christopher Lockyear says a resolution calling for anything short of a ceasefire is ‘gross negligence’
  • He paints an apocalyptic picture of health facilities, staff and patients in Gaza, where the focus is on mere survival amid complete erosion of humanitarian laws
  • Children as young as 5 are expressing their desire to die rather than live with injuries and trauma

NEW YORK: In one of the most powerful speeches delivered at the UN Security Council since beginning of the war in Gaza, the secretary-general of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) on Thursday called for the UN body to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and ensure protection of health facilities, workers and patients.

He said the world is watching council members “deliberate and delay while civilians die,” and expressed outrage at the recent US veto that prevented the adoption of “the most evident of resolutions, one demanding an immediate and sustained ceasefire.”

Christopher Lockyear said: “Three times this council has had an opportunity to vote for the ceasefire that is so desperately needed. And three times the United States has used its veto power.”

He said the draft resolution tabled by the US last week to rival the Algerian draft it vetoed and “ostensibly” calling for a ceasefire is “misleading at best.”

Although the draft in question does support a call for a ceasefire, it refers to it as a temporary measure that needs to be enacted “as soon as practicable,” which many have understood as leaving the decision for its implementation to the Israelis.

Lockyear called on the council to reject “any resolution that further hampers humanitarian efforts on the ground and leads this council to tacitly endorse the continued violence and mass atrocities in Gaza.”

He added: “The people of Gaza need a ceasefire, not when practicable, but now. They need a sustained ceasefire, not a temporary period of calm. Anything short of this is gross negligence. The protection of civilians in Gaza cannot be contingent on resolutions from this council which instrumentalize humanitarianism to blur political objectives.”

Lockyear painted an apocalyptic picture of the situation in Rafah, the last refuge for Gazans, where over 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering and which is now being engulfed with fear of a ground invasion.

Over four months of war have killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians in Israel’s constant bombing and attacks, according to MSF.

More than 1.7 million are estimated to have been forcibly displaced and facing infected wounds and disease, as the organization says providing healthcare is becoming “virtually impossible” in Gaza, where medical facilities have not been safe from military attacks.

“Our patients have catastrophic injuries, amputations, crushed limbs and severe burns,” Lockyear said.

“They need sophisticated care. They need long and intensive rehabilitation. Medics cannot treat these injuries on a battlefield or in the ashes of destroyed hospitals. Our surgeons are running out of basic gauze to stop their patients from bleeding out. They use it once, squeeze out the blood, wash it, sterilize it, and reuse it for the next patient.

“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has left pregnant women without medical care for months. Women in labor cannot reach functional delivery rooms. They are giving birth in plastic tents and public buildings.

“Medical teams have added a new acronym to their vocabulary, WCNSF: Wounded child, no surviving family.

“Children who do survive this war will not only bear the visible wounds of traumas and injuries, but the invisible ones to those of repeated displacements, constant fear and witnessing family members being literally dismembered before their eyes. These psychological injuries have led children as young as 5 to tell us that they would prefer to die.”

On Feb. 20, a MSF staff member’s wife and daughter-in-law were killed and six other people were injured when an Israeli tank fired on a clearly marked MSF staff shelter in Al-Mawasi in Khan Younis.

Israeli forces last week evacuated then raided Nasser Hospital, the largest remaining medical facility in southern Gaza. Those who were forced out have nowhere to go, said MSF. They cannot move back to the now largely destroyed north, and in Rafah they live amid constant Israeli airstrikes and the fear of an extensive ground incursion.

Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, MSF medical teams and patients have been forced to evacuate nine different healthcare facilities in the Gaza Strip. Five MSF workers have been killed. Today’s MSF efforts to help are “entirely inadequate,” said Lockyear.

He added: “For 138 days we have witnessed the unimaginable suffering of the people of Gaza. For 138 days we have watched the systematic obliteration of a health system we have supported for decades. We have watched our patients and our colleagues be killed and maimed. This situation is the combination of a war Israel is waging on the entire population of the Gaza Strip; a war of collective punishment, a war without rules, a war at all costs.

“The laws and the principles we collectively depend on to enable humanitarian assistance are now eroded to the point of becoming meaningless.

“The humanitarian response in Gaza today is an illusion. A convenient illusion that perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws. Calls for humanitarian assistance have echoed across this chamber. Yet in Gaza, we have less and less every day: less space, less medicine, less food, less water, less safety. We no longer speak of a humanitarian scale up. We speak of how to survive even without the bare minimum.”

Lockyear said the Israeli attacks against medical facilities and staff have become now “all too familiar.”

He said: “Israeli forces have attacked our convoys, detained our staff, bulldozed our vehicles. Hospitals have been bombed and raided.

“This pattern of attacks is either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence. Our colleagues in Gaza are fearful that as I speak to you today, they will be punished tomorrow.”

Lockyear cautioned against casting international humanitarian law to the wind as that “will reverberate well beyond Gaza. It will be an enduring burden on our collective conscience. This is not just political inaction: It has become political complicity.”

The humanitarian official demanded from the Security Council “the protections promised under international humanitarian law,” and a ceasefire from both parties.

Lockyear asked council members: “We demand the space to turn the illusion of aid to meaningful assistance. What will you do to make this happen?”


How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge

How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge
Updated 23 February 2024
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How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge

How US-Iran proxy wars are keeping the Middle East on edge
  • Experts see militias backed by Iran as nothing more than “expendable pawns” in a chess game
  • Tehran strenuously denies any connection with the mainly Shiite militias

DUBAI: Iran and the US are engaged in an intensifying proxy war, which is playing out across several Middle Eastern states. Although neither side appears to be looking for a direct confrontation, vulnerable Arab countries with divided loyalties are paying the biggest price.

That seems to be the consensus view of Middle East experts as low-intensity wars rage on in several parts of the region in addition to the full-on Gaza conflict.

Since Oct. 7 last year, Iran-backed militias have mounted more than 170 attacks on US military bases and assets in Syria, Iraq and Jordan in response to US support for Israel in the Israel-Hamas war, prompting American retaliation.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Houthi allies in Yemen have launched repeated attacks on commercial and military shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, likewise prompting retaliatory strikes by the US and UK on militia targets.

While analysts believe the US and Iran are unlikely to become embroiled in a direct state-on-state confrontation, attacks by Iranian proxies are expected to occur for as long as Israel’s military campaign in Gaza continues.

Some experts think Iran is acutely aware of the Biden administration’s fear of a regional escalation and has sought to exploit this threat as a means of influencing the course of the war in Gaza.

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, believes Iran is trying “to instrumentalize that fear by directly ordering, indirectly encouraging, or acquiescing to proxy attacks against Israel, the US, and international shipping.”

This photo released by the Houthi Media Center shows the Iran-backed Houthi forces boarding the cargo ship Galaxy Leader on Nov. 19, 2023, in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. (Handout via AP)

In this way, Iran “hopes a terrified Biden administration will increase pressure on Israel to end the war before total destruction of Hamas,” he told Arab News.

However, this proxy war is playing out on the sovereign territories of Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Yemen — all nations that can ill-afford to be swept up in a regional conflict. Some commentators say Arab lives in these countries are being treated as expendable.

“I think the attacks signal bloody bargaining between America and Israel on one side and Iran on the other,” Ayad Abu Shakra, a journalist at Asharq Al-Awsat, told Arab News.

“I don’t think there is any ‘war of survival’ or a ‘war of elimination’ between the two camps, the Israeli-American camp and the Iranian camp. They are bargaining, as if in a bazaar, but with blood. The Iranians are fighting the Americans with Arab bodies and vice versa.”

This bargaining, as it were, has the potential to get out of hand, however.

On Jan. 28, US forces stationed at Tower 22, a remote installation in Jordan, close to the Syrian and Iraqi borders, came under drone attack, leaving three US soldiers dead and 34 wounded.

US President Joe Biden said the drone attack was launched from Iraq by an Iran-backed militia. He vowed to retaliate at a time and in a manner of America’s choosing.

On Feb. 3, the US military launched an air assault on 85 targets at seven locations across Iraq and Syria including command and control headquarters and weapon storage sites used by Iran-backed militias and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

This was followed on Feb. 7 by a drone attack on eastern Baghdad that killed Abu Baqir Al-Saadi, commander of Kataib Hezbollah, the Iraqi militia that Washington had deemed responsible for the attack on US troops in Jordan.

Iran of course denies links to any militias in the Middle East. For instance, in a Jan. 29 letter to the UN Security Council, Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s ambassador to the UN, said: “There is no group affiliated with the Islamic Republic or Iran’s armed forces, whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere that operates directly or indirectly under the control of the Islamic Republic of Iran or acts on its behalf.

“Therefore, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not responsible for the actions of any individual or group within the region.”

Iran denies links to any militias in the Middle East. But to fighters and supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah, there is no hiding what is obvious. (AFP/File photo)

Some Republican lawmakers had exhorted the administration to authorize a direct strike against Iran, even if it risked sparking a wider escalation. Others accused Biden of responding too slowly and giving the enemy too much forewarning.

Wary about being dragged into another potentially open-ended Middle East war, especially during an election year, Biden has appeared keen to limit the scope of America’s retaliation.

“The Biden administration partially called the Islamic Republic’s bluff by harshly reacting to the killing of three American servicemen and women in Jordan, but publicly signaled that it would not target Iranian territory,” said Alfoneh.

“Retaliating for the loss of American life was a correct response, but the US would perhaps be better off keeping the Islamic Republic guessing about America’s retaliation, which may include Iranian territory in the future.”

Iran is likewise mindful of the potential blowback from its activities. But by operating through its network of proxies throughout the region, Tehran feels it can deny any involvement in attacks on Israel or US targets while reaping the benefits.

“After 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared the export of the Islamic revolution, Iranians formed the IRGC,” said Abu Shakra.

“It was almost an open secret that they would rather fight their wars of negotiations with the Americans and Israelis in Arab cities rather than fight them in Iran’s cities.

“They eventually took over Beirut, Baghdad, Damascus and Sanaa, and now they are negotiating with the Americans and the Israelis through massacres, in which the Arabs are paying the price, not the Iranians.”

Hossein Salami, head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (AFP)

Nevertheless, according to analysts, Iran has sometimes overplayed its hand, leading to a more aggressive US response, as was the case when the administration of former President Donald Trump ordered the killing of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Jan. 2020, allegedly to stave off a planned attack on US forces in Iraq.

“They are reminded of the accepted bargaining limits,” said Abu Shakra. “The assassination of Qassem Soleimani, for example, was such a reminder and a big hit. Both America and Iran are still respecting ‘the rules of engagement.’”

The latest US retaliation does appear to have had an impact. On Feb. 12, the Pentagon announced there had been 186 US casualties in Iraq, Syria and Jordan since Oct. 18. A day later, on Feb. 13, it declared there had been no further attacks on US forces.

Washington is also likely in no hurry to attack Iran directly because the survival of the Islamic Republic has other uses. “It’s important to note that Iran is a sizable player whom the West can ‘use’ in any role,” said Abu Shakra.

“Whether Washington admits it or not, Iran is a very important bulwark against the rise of Sunni militant Islam. Iran is also a potential counterbalance against a nuclear Pakistan. Iran is an important bulwark against the expansion of the Chinese in the Gulf.

“No one has the strategic interest of destroying Iran. Neither America, nor Russia, nor India can ignore the role or influence of Iran.”

Critics of the Biden administration say its hesitance about a direct confrontation with Iran was demonstrated by its response to the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, including efforts through media leaks to play down an Iranian link and prevent a regional escalation.

When Israel began its retaliatory campaign in Gaza, the US said there was no proof that Iran was behind the Oct. 7 attack, said Abu Shakra. Then, within a week or two, the US said it did not want the conflict to spread.

“They wanted it to be limited,” he said. “The Americans did not want any involvement with the Iranian militias in Lebanon and Iraq. I think unless the Iranians overplay their cards and become too arrogant, the current fighting will remain limited to Iran’s Arab appendages.

“I think neither the US nor Israel nor the pro-Tehran Iraqi regime or Iran itself has any real interest in direct confrontation, which would be apocalyptic if it were to happen.”

INNUMBERS

269 People killed in Lebanon since violence erupted in October 2023.

40 Civilians are believed to be among the dead in Lebanon.

16 Israeli nationals were killed in the north, including 6 civilians.

Likewise, Alfoneh believes Iran has little to gain from a direct conflict with the US. Instead, it can outsource its activities to proxies to tilt regional affairs in its favor.

“The Islamic Republic achieved all of its objectives on Oct. 7,” said Alfoneh. “Hamas’ terrorist incursion into Israel shattered the myth of Israel’s invulnerability.

“Iran got even with Israel, which for years has bombed Iranian and allied positions in Syria, and even engaged in operations on Iranian soil, and the attack sabotaged diplomatic normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

The interests of the Palestinians, and indeed the populations of the wider Arab region caught in the crossfire, are thereby secondary to these geopolitical goals.

“The fate of Hamas and Palestinian civilians is of no interest to the Islamic Republic, which perceives them as expendable pawns in a grander chess game in the region,” said Alfoneh.

“Therefore, the Islamic Republic is not interested in spreading the war in Gaza, which may directly entangle Iran in a war with Israel and, possibly, with the US.”

 


Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source

Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source
Updated 22 February 2024
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Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source

Israel strike kills 2 fighters in Lebanon: security source
  • An Israeli drone shot two guided missiles at the building in Kfar Rumman
  • Hezbollah later confirmed that two of its fighters had been killed by Israeli fire

BEIRUT: Two Hezbollah fighters were killed in an Israeli drone strike on a residential building in south Lebanon on Thursday, a security source said, with the Iran-backed group later announcing retaliatory rocket fire.
Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire across the border since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7.
An Israeli drone shot two guided missiles at the building in Kfar Rumman, near the southern city of Nabatiyeh, the security source said, declining to be identified as they were not authorized to brief the media.
Kfar Rumman lies around 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the Israeli border.
Hezbollah later confirmed that two of its fighters had been killed by Israeli fire.
It said it had fired “dozens of Katyusha rockets” at two Israeli barracks in response to the drone strike and other “attacks on villages and civilian homes.”
The Hamas ally claimed at least nine other attacks on Israeli troops and positions on Thursday.
The violence on Israel’s northern border has sparked fears of another full-blown war between Israel and Hezbollah like that of 2006.
Since October, at least 273 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including 42 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side, 10 soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to the Israeli army.
Last week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah vowed that Israel would pay “with blood,” after 10 civilians, including seven members of one family, were killed in Lebanon’s largest single-day death toll so far. Five Hezbollah fighters were also killed.
On Wednesday, an Israeli strike killed a woman and a girl, prompting retaliatory fire from Hezbollah.


Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes

Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes
Updated 22 February 2024
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Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes

Libya ex-militias agree to leave capital after clashes

TRIPOLI: Armed groups in Tripoli have agreed to leave the Libyan capital and to be replaced with regular forces, the interior minister said on Wednesday, after a spate of deadly clashes.

“After a month of consultations, we came to an agreement with the security groups that they will leave the capital soon,” said Imad Trabelsi, a member of Libya’s internationally recognized government.

“There will only be city police officers, emergency police, and those who do criminal investigations,” he told a news conference.

The deal will see the General Security Force, the Special Deterrence Force which controls the east of Tripoli, Brigade 444 in southern Tripoli, and Brigade 111, attached to the general staff quit the capital.

The decision also concerns the Stability Support Authority, a group based in the neighborhood of Abu Salim, where 10 people were killed at the weekend, including SSA members.

These groups evolved from the myriad of militias that filled a security vacuum after the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.

Heavily armed and equipped, they are not under the direct authority of the ministries of interior or defense, though they receive public funds.

They operate independently and have been granted a special status by the prime minister and the presidential council in 2021.

The groups are most visible at roundabouts and main street intersections, where their often-masked members install checkpoints, blocking traffic with weapon-mounted armored vehicles.

They have sometimes been involved in violent clashes, even in Tripoli’s residential areas, as was the case last August between the Special Deterrence Force and Brigade 444. The fighting left 55 people dead and 146 wounded.