Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities

Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities
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An aerial view shows Libya's eastern city of Soussa on September 21, 2023, days following deadly flash floods. (Ozan Kose / AFP)
Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities
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A member of an Emirati rescue team and a forensic expert check a car that was washed into the sea during the September 10 flood, moments after it was pulled out of the water, at the port of Libya's eastern city of Derna, on September 20, 2023. (Amanda Mouawad/AFP)
Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities
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Rescue teams search through the rubble in the eastern city of Soussa, Libya, on September 21, 2023, following deadly flash floods. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2023
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Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities

Libya’s flood-hit Derna to host reconstruction conference: authorities
  • The government invites the international community to participate in the conference planned for October 10 in Derna
  • The conference is being held in “response to the demands of residents of the stricken city of Derna and other towns that suffered damage”

BENGHAZI, Libya: Libya’s flood-devastated port city of Derna will host an international conference next month to aid reconstruction efforts, authorities in the east of the divided country said Friday.

There was no immediate reaction from the internationally recognized government in Tripoli nor any details on how the rival administration would accommodate delegates in a city where entire neighborhoods have been swept away.

A tsunami-sized flash flood broke through two aging dams upstream from Derna after a hurricane-strength storm lashed the area on September 10, sweeping thousands of people into the sea.

“The government invites the international community to participate in the conference planned for October 10 in Derna to present modern, rapid projects for the reconstruction of the city,” the eastern administration said in a statement.

It said the conference was being held in “response to the demands of residents of the stricken city of Derna and other towns that suffered damage” during the flooding.




A member of an Emirati rescue team inspects a car that was washed into the sea during the 10 September flood, moments after it was pulled out of the water, at the port of Libya's eastern city of Derna, on September 20, 2023.  (Amanda Mouawad/AFP)

Despite a wave of nationwide solidarity since the flood, there was no immediate show of support for the proposed conference from the Tripoli-based government of interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

And even the office of strongman Khalifa Haftar, the main military backer of the eastern administration, questioned how many donor governments would attend.

“Are donor countries going to take part or are they going to wait for a conference organized by Dbeibah?” Haftar’s spokesman Ahmad Al-Mismari asked. “This political polarization has harmed Libyans.”

Libya has been wracked by division and on-off conflict ever since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

A bloody 2019 assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces ended in defeat by Dbeibah loyalists and an August 2020 cease-fire that largely holds.

There is still no widely accepted death toll for the floods which devastated Derna and nearby coastal towns.

The latest official death toll released on Friday evening stood at 3,753 but the eventual count is expected to be far higher, with international aid groups giving estimates of up to 10,000 people missing.

Bodies are still being found in large numbers, under the debris or on beaches where they have washed up after being swept out to the sea by the flood.

On Friday, dozens of bodies were delivered in a lorry and two pick-ups to the village cemetery in Martouba, 27 kilometers (17 miles) southeast of Derna, for burial, footage posted on social media showed.

Libyan media said 200 people were buried in the cemetery in a single day.

The International Organization for Migration said Thursday that more than 43,000 people have been displaced from the disaster zone.

It said a “lack of water supply is reportedly driving many displaced out of Derna.”

In Soussa, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) to the west, residents complained that they too had no access to drinking water after the flood badly damaged a desalination plant.

Instead, volunteers have to “bring water from nearby cities in big trucks,” 34-year-old Ahmed Saleh told AFP.




A volunteer kitchen staff prepares meals for people displaced from eastern Libya following a deadly flood and housed in Tripoli, at a kitchen facility in the capital on September 23, 2023. (Mahmud Turkia / AFP)

Mobile and Internet services were restored in Derna on Thursday following a two-day disruption that came after demonstrations by angry residents on Monday.

The protests saw hundreds of demonstrators gather outside the city’s grand mosque, chanting slogans against the eastern-based parliament and its leader and calling for accountability over the high death toll.

Amnesty International reported “arrests of critics and protesters” in Derna and criticized “efforts to choreograph and control media access.”

The dams that burst had developed cracks as far back as the 1990s, Libya’s top prosecutor has said, as residents accused authorities of negligence.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution group said in a report issued on Tuesday that a deluge of the magnitude seen in eastern Libya was an event that occurred once every 300-600 years.

They said such downpours were both more likely and heavier because of human-caused global warming, resulting in up to 50 percent more rain.


Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex

Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex
Updated 03 December 2023
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Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex

Israeli strike destroys prestige Qatar-funded Gaza complex
  • The Gaza health ministry said at least 193 Palestinians had been killed since the truce ended on Friday, adding to the more than 15,000 Palestinian dead since the start of the war
  • Israel said it had recalled a team from Qatar, host of indirect negotiations with Hamas, accusing the Palestinian faction of reneging on a deal to free all the women and children it was holding

KHAN YUNIS, Palestinian Territories: At almost exactly the same time Israeli negotiators pulled out of deadlocked truce talks in Qatar on Saturday, Israeli jets sent a prestige Doha-funded housing development in the Gaza Strip up in smoke.
Hamad City is named for the former emir of the Gulf petro-state, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who laid the foundation stone on a visit 11 years ago.
Inaugurated in 2016, it was still among the newest projects in the Gaza Strip, the housing complex in the city of Khan Yunis boasting an impressive mosque, shops and gardens.
The first flats — more than 1,000 of them — were provided to Palestinians whose homes were destroyed in the war between Israel and Hamas two years earlier.
On Saturday it happened again, a day after a Qatar-brokered pause in the current war between Israel and Hamas expired.
First their phones pinged around noon with an “immediate” evacuation order SMS sent by the Israeli army, which says the system is aimed at minimizing civilian casualties.
Around an hour later, five Israeli air strikes rained down on the neighborhood in the space of just two minutes.
Bombs slammed into the pale apartment blocks one by one, reducing them largely to rubble and sending a huge pall of black smoke into the sky, as people fled and cries of ‘help!’ and ‘ambulance!’ rang out.
“At least we got through it,” 26-year-old Nader Abu Warda told AFP, amazed he was still alive.

The Israeli military has divided the Gaza Strip into 2,300 “blocs” and is now sending SMS messages to residents telling them to leave before they launch the strikes which they say will “eliminate Hamas.”
Around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, died in the Islamist movement’s October 7 assault on southern Israel and some 240 were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
The Hamas-led Gaza Strip government says Israel’s campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, since it was launched eight weeks ago.
The United Nations humanitarian agency, OCHA, has highlighted that the warning messages do not indicate where the recipients should go.
Ibrahim Al-Jamal, a civil servant in his 40s, said he does not have any “Internet, any electricity or even a radio to receive information” and that he has “never seen this map” setting out the different blocs.
“Many people in Gaza have never heard of it and it wouldn’t matter anyway as the bombings are taking place everywhere,” he said.
Humanitarian bodies say the most vulnerable in Gaza are the estimated 1.7 million displaced people.
Many of them do not have access to phones and have to rely on warning leaflets dropped by planes, not visible from inside an apartment.

According to the Gaza Strip’s Civil Defense emergency and rescue organization, in recent weeks “hundreds of displaced families” had been taking refuge in 3,000 apartments at Hamad City.
Mohammed Foura, 21, already displaced once from Gaza City, told AFP that half an hour before the strike he had been warned by other residents to flee.
They shouted “get out, get out,” he said, as families piled their belongings into cars or carried them away in enormous bundles.
Nader Abu Warda fled Jabalia, near Gaza City, at the start of the war and no longer knows which way to go or what to do.
He, his wife and three children had been staying in a friend’s apartment in the complex.
“They told us ‘Gaza City is a war zone’, now it’s Khan Yunis,” he said. “Yesterday, they were saying ‘evacuate the east of Khan Yunis’. Today, they say ‘evacuate the west’,” he added, visibly exasperated.
“Where are we going now, into the sea? Where are we going to put our children to bed?“

 


UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai
Updated 03 December 2023
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UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

UAE leader meets US vice president, other leaders on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai
  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Kamala Harris discuss areas of cooperation
  • Sheikh also meets leaders of Italy, Poland, Albania

LONDON: UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held talks with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai, state news agency WAM reported.

During the meeting, the officials stressed the importance of the conference in fostering cooperation to combat climate change worldwide and highlighted their countries’ collaborations on renewable energy and sustainable development.

The meeting also looked at the wider US-UAE relationship and explored ways to advance ties in various fields. A number of regional and international issues of mutual interest were also discussed, including the latest developments in the Palestinian territories.

“The importance of working toward a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, protecting civilians, providing secure channels to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza without obstruction, preventing their displacement and identifying a clear political horizon based on the two-state solution to achieve regional stability and peace were also highlighted,” the WAM report said.

Sheikh Mohammed also held individual meetings with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Polish President Andrzej Duda and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.

The leaders discussed ways to increase cooperation between their respective nations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Sheikh Mohammed also stressed the need for collective action to achieve practical results with regard to tackling climate change.

The heads of several foreign delegations commended the UAE president’s initiative, launched at COP28, to create a $30 billion fund to tackle the funding gap in global climate action.


GCC foreign ministers to hold preparatory meeting ahead of leaders’ summit in Doha

GCC foreign ministers to hold preparatory meeting ahead of leaders’ summit in Doha
Updated 03 December 2023
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GCC foreign ministers to hold preparatory meeting ahead of leaders’ summit in Doha

GCC foreign ministers to hold preparatory meeting ahead of leaders’ summit in Doha
  • 158th ministerial meeting will be chaired by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman

RIYADH: Gulf ministers are set to gather on Sunday to hold a preparatory meeting in Qatar’s capital Doha ahead of the 44th Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, the bloc said in a statement on Saturday.
GCC Secretary-General Jasem Albudaiwi said the bloc’s 158th ministerial meeting will be chaired by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman — whose country is also the current president of the ministerial council — and will be attended by member states’ foreign ministers.
Albudaiwi said the meeting is a continuation of the preparations underway for the launch of the 44th session of the GCC Supreme Council, scheduled to be held on Tuesday in Doha in the presence of Gulf leaders.
He added that during the ministerial meeting, several reports will be discussed regarding the implementation of decisions issued by the Supreme Council at the 43rd summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh last year, as well as memoranda and reports submitted by the ministerial and technical committees and the General Secretariat.
The meeting will also cover topics related to dialogues and strategic relations between GCC states and other countries and international blocs, in addition to the latest regional and international developments.


US VP Harris calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza

US VP Harris calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza
Updated 03 December 2023
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US VP Harris calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza

US VP Harris calls for restraint as Israel strikes southern Gaza
  • Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the US Vice President Kamala Harris meet in Dubai on the sidelines of COP28
  • King Abdullah stressed the need for the US to play a leading role in pushing for a political horizon for the Palestinian issue to reach peace on the basis of the two-state solution

GAZA/CAIRO: US Vice President Kamala Harris said too many innocent Palestinians had been killed in Gaza as Israeli war planes and artillery bombarded the enclave on Saturday following the collapse of a truce with Hamas militants.
Speaking in Dubai, Harris said Israel had a right to defend itself, but international and humanitarian law must be respected and “too many innocent Palestinians have been killed.”
“Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering, and the images and videos coming from Gaza, are devastating,” Harris told reporters.
On the sidelines of COP28, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the US Vice President met in Dubai, reported the Jordan News Agency.
King Abdullah stressed the need for the US to play a leading role in pushing for a political horizon for the Palestinian issue to reach peace on the basis of the two-state solution, during his meeting with Harris.
The King called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and protecting civilians, warning of the repercussions of the continued war on international peace and security, including further violence and conflict that could plunge the entire region into a catastrophe.
The two sides reaffirmed their rejection of any attempts of forced displacement of the Palestinians internally or outside Gaza, or attempts to re-occupy any parts of the Strip, reported Petra.
King Abdullah also stressed the importance of maintaining the uninterrupted delivery of sufficient aid, including food, water, fuel, and electricity, without any impediments, warning against the targeting of hospitals and hindering the delivery of medical supplies.
Meanwhile, Harris thanked King Abdullah for his continued leadership in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for Jordan’s leadership in providing vital humanitarian assistance to Gaza, including its three airdrops of medical supplies to the field hospital that it has established in Gaza.
She discussed the importance of the recent pause in the fighting between Israel and Hamas, and the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to supporting efforts to reach a new deal. She also discussed the US ideas for post-conflict planning in Gaza, including efforts on reconstruction, security, and governance.
The US vice president emphasized that these efforts can only succeed if they are pursued in the context of a clear political horizon for the Palestinian people, toward a state of their own led by a revitalized Palestinian Authority and backed by significant support from the international community and the countries of the region.
In a news conference in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said later on Saturday that Israel was continuing to work in coordination with the US and international organizations to define “safe areas” for Gaza civilians.
“This is important because we have no desire to harm the population,” Netanyahu said. “We have a very strong desire to hurt Hamas.”
Harris also sketched out a US vision for post-conflict Gaza, saying the international community must support recovery and Palestinian security forces must be strengthened.
“We want to see a unified Gaza and West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, and Palestinian voices and aspirations must be at the center of this work,” she said, adding that Hamas must no longer run Gaza.
The Western-backed Palestinian Authority governs parts of the occupied West Bank. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ mainstream Fatah party and has ruled the enclave ever since.

* With Reuters 


Families of Bedouin hostages wait for news as Gaza fighting resumes

Families of Bedouin hostages wait for news as Gaza fighting resumes
Updated 03 December 2023
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Families of Bedouin hostages wait for news as Gaza fighting resumes

Families of Bedouin hostages wait for news as Gaza fighting resumes
  • “There were tough times, we always had hope”
  • Bedouin Arabs make up about 4 percent of Israel’s population

TIRABIN AL SANA, Israel: The family members of four Bedouin Arabs taken hostage on Oct. 7 during the assault on southern Israel by Hamas gunmen have welcomed the return of two of the captives but wait for news of the others as fighting resumes in the Gaza Strip.
Yosef Hamis Ziadna, his sons Hamza and Bilal and his daughter, Aisha, were working on the Holit farm on Israel’s border with Gaza when they were seized by the gunmen along with more than 200 other Israelis and foreigners.
Aisha and Bilal were handed over during the seven-day truce between Israel and Hamas that ended on Friday morning but Yosef and Hamza are still being held, along with two other Bedouins, Farhan Al-Qadi and Samer Al-Talalqa.
“There were tough times, we always had hope,” said their cousin Kamel Al-Ziadna. “We want the release of Yousef and Hamza and all those held hostages, and Samer and Farhan, may God bring them back to their families.”
Bedouin Arabs make up about 4 percent of Israel’s population, living mainly in the southern Negev desert and in northern Israel.
Kamel said the families were urging Hamas to release their hostages. “They are Arab, Muslim youth,” he said.
While they wait, like the families of other hostages released during the week-long pause, their emotions are mixed.
When the news came through that Aisha and Belal were to be released, there was a large gathering of family and friends that celebrated through the night.
“It was nice moments, but the happiness was missing something, so until the whole family is reunited with Hamza and Yousef, then we will hold a huge party, and we will gather with friends and family and all those who shared these difficult times with us,” he said.