Libya says Derna mayor, other officials detained as part of investigation into deadly dam collapse

Update Libya says Derna mayor, other officials detained as part of investigation into deadly dam collapse
The enormous flood, fuelled by torrential rains on September 10, had broken through two upstream dams and sent a giant wave crashing down the previously dry river bed, or wadi, that bisects the city of about 100,000 people.(AFP)
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Updated 25 September 2023
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Libya says Derna mayor, other officials detained as part of investigation into deadly dam collapse

Libya says Derna mayor, other officials detained as part of investigation into deadly dam collapse
  • The official death toll keeps rising, passing 3,800 on Saturday

TRIPOLI:Libya’s Public Prosecution on Monday ordered the arrest of several officials in relation to the flash flood that devastated the Libyan port city of Derna two weeks ago – killing thousands.

In a statement the Public Prosecutor’s Office said it was decided to detain 16 officials responsible for managing the country’s dam facilities, 6 officials from the Water Resources Authority, and the Derna mayor “for deviating from the obligations of the mandate of managing funds allocated for the reconstruction and development of the city.”

The official death toll keeps rising, passing 3,800 on Saturday from a flash flood that broke through two ageing dams upstream from Derna.

A wall of water swept through the area on Sept. 10, washing thousands of people into the sea.

According to the statement, investigators finished conducting the initial interrogations and recommended detaining the responsible in pre-trial detention.

They went on to request the necessary investigation into the rest of those responsible for the Derna flood incident.


What chances do war-displaced Palestinians in Gaza have of returning to their homes?

What chances do war-displaced Palestinians in Gaza have of returning to their homes?
Updated 9 sec ago
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What chances do war-displaced Palestinians in Gaza have of returning to their homes?

What chances do war-displaced Palestinians in Gaza have of returning to their homes?
  • Over a seven-week period, Israel’s military has reduced much of once densely populated part of Gaza to rubble
  • More than 1 million Palestinians have fled the enclave’s north, including Gaza City, considered the urban center

LONDON: Following a seemingly successful pause in hostilities, questions are mounting over the fate of those displaced by the war in Gaza and what hopes they have of returning home if, and when, news breaks of a permanent cessation of hostilities.

In the more than 50 days of constant shelling, Israel’s military has turned much of northern Gaza into a moonscape with entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.

The homes, hospitals and schools that remain standing are by no means fit to return to, with expectations that authorities will have to go house to house, building to building to determine what level of reconstruction Gazans require.

Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations and associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House, told Arab News questions about Gazans’ return were “heart-breaking.”

“It is a good question to ask but it is also a heart-breaking one because of the level and sheer scale of the destruction, and this is before the war has even been brought to an end and we still do not know if Israel intends to continue offensives further into the south,” Mekelberg said.

“We do know that some Gazans who fled their homes in the north have returned, or tried to return, to see whether their houses are still standing … they were not.”

Over the course of this latest eruption of violence in the more than 75-year-long conflict, it is believed that in excess of one million Palestinians have fled the north of Gaza, including from Gaza City, considered the urban center of the enclave.

Israel’s military may have described the air campaign as unavoidable but emphasizing the sheer scale, UK-based conflict monitor Airwars called it the most intense since the Second World War.

Director of Airwars Emily Tripp told Arab News that this assessment was based on drawing a comparison with the nine-month Battle of Mosul between 2016 and 2017 which, once it ended, had left 80 percent of the city uninhabitable according to the UN and other experts.

“At the time, the US assessed Mosul as the most intense urban battleground since the Second World War and our data shows no more than 6,000 munitions dropped in a single month,” Tripp said.

“If the initial IDF statement of 6,000 munitions dropped in that first week to 10 days holds true, then by the time of the temporary pause last week, it is likely that the IDF has dropped more munitions than the coalition in any month of the campaign against Daesh.”

Speaking to PBS, Yousef Hammash, a Norwegian Refugee Council aid worker who fled south from the ruins of the Jabaliya refugee camp, said he saw no future for his children where they had ended up and wanted “to go home even if I have to sleep on the rubble of my house.”

A 31-year-old taxi driver, Mahmoud Jamal, told the same broadcaster that when he fled Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, he “couldn’t tell which street or intersection I was passing.”

Efforts to keep up-to-date with the scale of damage are hampered by Israeli restrictions on access to Gaza, but in the second week of November the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights suggested at that point about 45 percent of housing stock had been destroyed.

Sources told Arab News that, despite the level of damage, it was “unsurprising” that many Palestinians in Gaza were wary of leaving their homes, but said it remained the safest option.

One said: “In an ideal world, civilians would be able to go somewhere for a short time and come back but there are always concerns that to say they should leave for their safety could be construed as supporting the contention that Israel is looking to ethnically cleanse Gaza.”

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According to Oxfam, those that have stayed number in the hundreds of thousands, even with repeated Israeli warnings for civilians to abandon the northern regions and head south.

Oxfam policy lead Bushra Khalidi, herself based in Ramallah, said Israel’s calls for civilians to relocate south, in the absence of any guarantee of safety or return, amounted to forcible transfer, describing it “as a grave breach of international humanitarian law that must be reversed.”

“There are not enough resources to host over 1.1 million people in the other governorates,” she told Arab News.

“Shelters, aid, water are already in low supply in the south. There is no guarantee that civilians will find refuge in other parts of Gaza. Those who stay behind in northern Gaza cannot be deprived of their protection as civilians.

“The US, UK, EU and other Western and Arab countries that have influence over the Israeli political and military leadership must demand Israel immediately rescind the order to relocate.”

In the face of an apparent lack of leadership from those in positions to influence Israel’s actions in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces seems to be in no mood for leniency, having urged those Gazans to have already relocated to relocate again, this time to Muwasi on the coast.

For his part, Mekelberg, noting that when it came to this conflict there was a tendency for the “temporary to become permanent,” said the question becomes one of “where next for Palestinian civilians?”

With 70 percent of Gaza’s prewar population already classified as refugees after having been displaced from other parts of Palestine at various stages of the decades-long conflict, Israel’s intelligence service seemed to have answered that with reported plans to send them to Sinai.

The proposal, subsequently denied by the Israeli government, drew sharp condemnation from Palestinians and Egypt, with Mekelberg citing the latter’s concern of Hamas fighters entering.

“We know that what starts as temporary becomes permanent, and we know this because, 75 years on, there are still Palestinians, who having been displaced in 1946, are still in other countries and this reality is compounding the difficulties of housing refugees,” he said.

“Countries will be looking at Palestinian refugees and wanting to help in the immediate term, but will also be concerned that perhaps those they let in are not allowed back.”

INNUMBERS

• 45 percent Fraction of Gaza housing stock destroyed.

• 6k Shells dropped in a single week in Gaza.

• 1.1m Gaza residents without homes or shelter.

Such concerns have been reflected in statements by Arab leaders. Jordan’s King Abdullah has been direct in saying there were to be “no refugees in Jordan,” while the country’s foreign minister has warned Israel not to leave a mess for other countries to clear up.

Mekelberg said that “if governments suspect this war of being an Israeli effort to ethnically cleanse Gaza,” they would unsurprisingly be less than keen to help.”

Even so, he stressed that in the immediate term it was “paramount” to find safe harbor for the civilian population but given the surrounding politics and availability, or lack thereof, of much-needed humanitarian aid this was proving difficult.

Pointing to international humanitarian law, Khalidi said no country could refuse those fleeing war access and safe refuge.

Nonetheless, she also said states had to be cognizant of the fact that ­­­ — given the Palestinians already displaced in Gaza and refused their right to return by Israel — any support they offered may inadvertently play into the hands of actors looking to ethnically cleanse the enclave.

With more questions than answers, Mekelberg said a complete rethink was required on how such situations were managed and the obligations and rights of those caught up in conflict.

“As far as Gazans in the present are concerned, winter isn’t coming, it is already there. If you have one instance of heavy rain pouring down and into a sewage system that before the Israeli bombing was struggling, what you will be left with is a huge health crisis,” he said.

“In the face of this, there must be a concerted international effort to establish refugee camps, to supply them with all that is needed, and to keep people safe.”

Right now, he said, we were witnessing a “very unhappy situation” but stressed international support had to be there when the fighting ends, with Gazans helped in both the rebuilding of their homes and, in cases where they were relocated, ensuring they got back to them.

Khalidi added: “An individual must have the right to live safely and peacefully in their homeland.”


US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen

US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen
Updated 8 min 34 sec ago
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US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen

US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen
  • USS Carney deemed the drone — an Iranian-made KAS-04 — to be a threat and shot it down over the southern Red Sea
  • Shootdown comes a day after a Iranian drone flew within 1,500 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier

WASHINGTON: A US Navy warship sailing near the Bab El-Mandeb Strait shot down a drone launched from Yemen, a US official said Wednesday, in the latest in a string of threats from the Iranian-backed Houthis.

The official said according to initial reports, USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, deemed the drone — an Iranian-made KAS-04 — to be a threat and shot it down over water in the southern Red Sea as the ship was moving toward the strait. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a military operation not yet made public.

The Wednesday shootdown comes a day after a Iranian drone flew within 1,500 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier as it was conducting flight operations in international waters in the Arabian Gulf.

Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, said the drone “violated safety precautions” by not staying more than 10 nautical miles from the ship. The drone ignored multiple warnings but eventually turned away.

Earlier this month, another Navy destroyer, the USS Thomas Hudner, shot down a drone that was heading toward the ship as it sailed in the southern Red Sea. It also was near the Bab El-Mandeb Strait and it shot down the drone over the water.

The Red Sea, stretching from Egypt’s Suez Canal to the narrow Bab El-Mandeb Strait separating the Arabian Peninsula from Africa, is a key trade route for global shipping and energy supplies. The US Navy has stationed multiple ships in the sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, which has heightened tensions in the region.


French envoy meets Lebanese officials, calls for swift resolution of presidential stalemate

French envoy meets Lebanese officials, calls for swift resolution of presidential stalemate
Updated 29 November 2023
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French envoy meets Lebanese officials, calls for swift resolution of presidential stalemate

French envoy meets Lebanese officials, calls for swift resolution of presidential stalemate
  • His visit coincides with violation of the ceasefire in southern Lebanon as Israeli forces fire on Lebanese Army patrol in town of Houla
  • Hezbollah says that in the past 48 days Israeli airstrikes have destroyed or burned down 48 buildings and caused damage to a further 1,500

BEIRUT: During meetings with Lebanese officials on Wednesday, French presidential envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian called for “the acceleration of presidential elections” in Lebanon, “in accordance with the position announced by the Quintet Committee in July.” He added that he was ready to provide any assistance required to help achieve this.

After meeting with the caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, Le Drian said his aim was “to secure Lebanese consensus.”

During its meeting in Doha in July, the Quintet Committee for Lebanon — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, France and the US — highlighted “the importance of Lebanese parliament members fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities and proceeding to elect a president for the country.”

Outlining the desired qualities of a president, the committee said the successful candidate should “represent honesty, unite the nation, prioritize the country’s interests, prioritize the well-being of citizens, and form a wide-ranging coalition to implement essential economic reforms, particularly those recommended by the International Monetary Fund.”

The presidency has been vacant for more than a year, since Michel Aoun’s term ended on Oct. 31, 2022. The parliament has been unable to elect a successor because of deep divisions between Hezbollah, and its allies, and opposition parliamentary blocs, primarily Christian parties. The disagreements revolve around the desired qualifications for a president.

The political rift has intensified since Hezbollah opened up a Lebanese southern front to carry out military operations in the name of “supporting Gaza.”

Le Drian’s visit included meetings with Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri, former leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt, and the head of the party’s parliamentary bloc, Taimur Jumblatt.

He also held talks with Commander of the Lebanese Army Gen. Joseph Aoun; Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi; the leader of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea; and the leader of the Marada Movement, Suleiman Frangieh, who is a candidate for the presidency and has the support of Hezbollah.

According to reports, the French envoy “reintroduced the idea of holding a consultative meeting among Lebanese officials to discuss the presidential file.”

During a Cabinet meeting, Mikati said he had informed Le Drian that “the top priority is to stop the Israeli aggression in South Lebanon and Gaza. We in the government work hard to provide services to the people in the south despite the difficult circumstances and appreciate their steadfastness and sacrifices.”

Coinciding Le Drian’s visit, Israeli forces on the southern Lebanese front reportedly violated the extended ceasefire in the wider conflict by firing on a Lebanese army patrol in the town of Houla, near an Israeli military site.

A spokesperson for the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, Andrea Tenenti, said that UN Resolution 1701, adopted 17 years ago with the aim of resolving the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, “is still valid despite the challenges it faces. We are currently facing challenges but the priorities and main monitoring of Resolution 1701 remain in place.”

He told Russia’s Sputnik news agency: “The role of our mission leader is to collect messages and perhaps also dismantle the conflict, reduce tension and prevent misunderstandings. Therefore, this conflict has remained largely balanced until now and the situation has been calmer in the past few days.

“The cooperation between UNIFIL, the Lebanese government and the Lebanese Army is still very good. We closely coordinate with the Lebanese Army and hold frequent meetings and discussions with the Lebanese authorities to calm the situation and reduce tensions.”

Maj. Gen. Patrick Gauchat, head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, continues to hold talks with officials in Lebanon.

After a meeting with the governor of South Lebanon, Mansour Daou, Gauchat said: “Our work as international peacekeeping forces is based on monitoring and recording our observations and recording them in reports that reach the Security Council, which is the body authorized to discuss and make decisions related to stopping Israeli attacks.”

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said it has completed an assessment of buildings, houses and other private properties destroyed or damaged by Israeli airstrikes in the southern area adjacent to the Blue Line during 48 days of hostilities.

Hassan Fadlallah, one of the party’s MPs, said: “Thirty-seven buildings were completely demolished and 11 buildings were completely burned. There are approximately 1,500 houses, from Naqoura to Shabaa and Kfar Shuba, that have varying degrees of damage, ranging from severe damage to broken windows, along with damage to vehicles and cultivated fields.”


Arab-Islamic ministerial committee discusses crisis in Gaza

Arab-Islamic ministerial committee discusses crisis in Gaza
Updated 29 November 2023
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Arab-Islamic ministerial committee discusses crisis in Gaza

Arab-Islamic ministerial committee discusses crisis in Gaza
  • Meeting at UN HQ led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan
  • Ministers call for lasting peace, implementation of two-state solution

RIYADH: A ministerial committee assigned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit held a meeting on Wednesday at the UN headquarters in New York, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting was led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and attended by representatives from China, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Turkiye, Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE.

The agenda focused on recent events in Gaza, including the outcomes of the humanitarian truce for Palestinian prisoners and efforts to achieve a ceasefire.

The meeting underscored the role of the UN Security Council’s permanent members in protecting civilians and enforcing international humanitarian laws, and highlighted the need to establish secure channels to allow urgent humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

The ministers reiterated their call for lasting peace through the implementation of resolutions supporting a two-state solution and the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The committee also urged the global community to consistently apply international legal and moral principles, and to protect Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank from the Israeli army and violent illegal settlers.


Israeli army fatally shoots Palestinian boys, 8 and 15, Health Ministry says

Israeli army fatally shoots Palestinian boys, 8 and 15, Health Ministry says
Updated 29 November 2023
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Israeli army fatally shoots Palestinian boys, 8 and 15, Health Ministry says

Israeli army fatally shoots Palestinian boys, 8 and 15, Health Ministry says
  • Adam Al-Ghul, Bassem Abu El-Wafa killed in raid on refugee camp

LONDON: Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinian children on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, the Palestinian health ministry reported.

“Adam Al-Ghul, 8 years old, and Bassem Abu El-Wafa, 15 years old, were killed by Israeli bullets,” it said.

CCTV footage of both shootings has been shown on news programs and gone viral online. One clip shows Abu El-Wafa writhing in agony on the ground for at least 30 seconds after being shot.

The killings happened as Israel continued its arrest campaign in Damj neighborhood of the Jenin refugee camp, where residents were forced to flee amid violent clashes, the Palestine News and Information Agency reported.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, the Israeli army prevented its paramedics from reaching people with life-threatening injuries inside the besieged neighborhood.