Forces loyal to Libyan renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar have blocked oil exports from the war-ravaged country’s main ports on the eve of an international summit aimed at bringing peace to the North African country.
Powerful tribal groups loyal to Haftar, whose forces control eastern Libya and much of the south, seized several large export terminals on Friday along the eastern coast as well as southern oil fields in a challenge to the rival UN-recognised government based in Tripoli, which collects revenues from oil production.
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The National Oil Company (NOC) said the closure of Libya’s “oil crescent” will cause the country’s daily crude production to plunge from 1.3 million barrels to 500,000 barrels and cause losses of $55m a day.
The critical oil industry is dominated by the NOC, which declared that the suspension of exports would prevent the company from fulfilling contracts with international oil companies.
The NOC condemned the unrest, describing oil as the “lifeblood of the Libyan economy” and the country’s only source of revenue.
“Oil facilities belong to the Libyan people and should not be used as a card for political bargaining,” the chairman of the corporation, Mustafa Sanalla, said.
Haftar and head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj are expected to join the leaders of Russia, Turkey and France at a summit in Berlin on Sunday aimed at bringing peace to Libya.
‘Message of rejection’
Haftar’s forces and oilfield guards have ordered five subsidiaries of the national oil company to halt exports from key oil fields and port terminals.
In a news conference, a spokesperson for the forces described efforts to cripple oil production as a “major step for the Libyan people”.
“The Libyan people are the ones who shut down oil ports and fields and are preventing oil exports,” said spokesman Ahmed al-Mosmari, adding that it sent a “message of rejection” to militia groups defending Tripoli against a months-long siege by Haftar’s forces.
Earlier, the United Nations mission in Libya expressed “deep concern” over the efforts to disrupt oil production, warning of “devastating consequences”.
Its statement urged Libyans to “exercise maximum restraint” as international negotiations seek a resolution to the crisis.
Tribal groups protested at the facilities, claiming the Tripoli-based government, which controls Libya’s Central Bank, has used oil revenues to pay Syrian and Turkish mercenaries.
They demanded that Arab countries take a “strong and clear position” in support of Haftar’s eastern government and against “terrorist” militias.
Turkey’s escalating involvement in the oil-rich country, including through maritime and military agreements with the Tripoli government, has rattled eastern Mediterranean countries that see Turkey as a threat to their gas and drilling rights in the region.
The warring parties and their various international backers will convene on Sunday in Berlin. The summit aims to find a political solution to the conflict and halt intensifying foreign interference in the country.
Security forces tear gas anti-gov’t protesters on centennial |NationalTribune.com
Beirut, Lebanon – Angry protesters threw rocks and used metal frames to climb over steel walls surrounding Lebanon’s heavily fortified Parliament complex in central Beirut as security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. A smaller group of demonstrators marched towards Parliament after hundreds of others gathered in Martyrs’ Square on Tuesday to demand justice…
Beirut, Lebanon – Angry protesters threw rocks and used metal frames to climb over steel walls surrounding Lebanon’s heavily fortified Parliament complex in central Beirut as security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
A smaller group of demonstrators marched towards Parliament after hundreds of others gathered in Martyrs’ Square on Tuesday to demand justice for victims of the devastating port blast and commemorate the centennial anniversary of the creation of Greater Lebanon.
The protests coincided with the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Beirut for the second time since the enormous explosion at the capital’s port last month, which killed at least 190 people, injured thousands, and left 300,000 others homeless.
The two-day visit came after Lebanese leaders named the country’s former ambassador to Berlin, Mustapha Adib, as the new prime minister-designate, tasking him with the formation of a new government in the wake of the blast.
Hundreds of people gathered in Martyrs’ Square to mark the centennial and protest the ruling class [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]
Protesters, coming from various parts of the country and representing many civil society groups and political movements, chanted anti-government slogans and demanded the government step down.
“We want them gone, all of them gone,” said a young protester as he threw rocks at steel walls.
Firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets, security forces pushed back the protesters away from Parliament into Martyrs’ Square. Sporadic clashes erupted between both sides. By late evening, however, only a few dozen demonstrators remained on the streets.
Earlier at Martyrs’ Square, protesters called for early elections, a new electoral law, and an independent government to resolve the prolonged financial crisis and hold those responsible for the August 4 port explosion accountable.
Many also expressed their rejection for Adib as the country’s new prime minister and Macron’s visit, saying it was a reflection of foreign involvement in the country’s internal affairs.
Ruling class rejected
Nay Elrahi, a 33-year-old university instructor from Mount Lebanon, said she wanted to express her rejection for the ruling elite, including the newly appointed prime minister.
“We are here to say no to the ruling class and to the farcical appointment of Adib. The political parties don’t seem to realise how devastating the blast was,” the activist and protest organiser told Al Jazeera.
“They’re proceeding with the same business-as-usual mode, appointing people in an unconstitutional way,” said Elrahi. “This blatant lack of accountability with appointments by political parties for public offices is what got us where we are.
“Adib has no vision, no plan. He just parachuted into office with the help of an international chaperon.”
Protesters use rocks to try to break down steel walls surrounding the Parliament [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]
Echoing similar sentiments, Rami Finge, a 54-year-old dentist from Tripoli – Adib’s hometown – said while he and a group of 25 other activists came from the northern city to reject Macron’s visit, Adib’s appointment was even more reason for him to participate.
“Especially we, the residents of Tripoli, have suffered from this regime. Adib represents the same ruling class which we reject completely,” said Finge, adding he went to school with the newly appointed prime minister.
“He’s not an independent politician, nor is he cut out for this job,” he added.
Adib was tasked on Monday with forming a new government after he received 90 of 120 votes in favour of his appointment from across the main political parties in power – including Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Amal and the Future Movements.
A day before his formal appointment, four senior Sunni politicians and former prime ministers – Saad Hariri, Fouad Seniora, Najib Mikati, and Tammam Salam – endorsed Adib for the role, while rumours circulated in local media that Macron had also shown support for Adib.
Adib’s appointment came after his predecessor, Hassan Diab, who came to power by the support of a narrower margin of the country’s ruling elite following anti-government protests that toppled Saad Hariri’s government last year.
‘No to foreign interference’
Doumit Azzi, a 22-year-old university student from Jounieh, north of Beirut, said a principle reason behind his participation was “to show opposition to Macron’s involvement”.
“All it [the visit] does is give international legitimacy to the current regime,” said Azzi, who is also a member of the grassroots Lahaki – For My Rights – movement.
“We are angry at this regime, which has done nothing after the blast. And before that, it did nothing to address the demands of the revolution or solve the economic crisis – now even worse,” he told Al Jazeera.
On Monday, the World Bank estimated the explosion caused at least $3.2bn in physical damage, mostly to the transport sector, housing, and cultural sites, in addition to at least $2.9bn in losses to the country’s economic output.
Angry protesters use steel frames to climb into the heavily fortified Parliament complex as security forces use tear gas to disperse them [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]
Even before the blast, Lebanon’s economy was in tatters because of the breakdown of the banking system, skyrocketing inflation, and the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the World Bank projecting that 45 percent of the population would be living under the poverty line this year.
Neamat Baderaldeen, 39, from Nabatiyeh in south Lebanon, said she came to show her rejection for “foreign interference” in Lebanon’s affairs.
“I’m against Macron’s visit and any other foreign involvement in our country,” said Baderaldeen. “Whether its tasking Adib or Macron’s visit and his meeting with civil society groups and NGOs, the developments mean there’s been no change.
“We all know that Macron isn’t here to help us. He’s here for foreign interests.”
Protesters march near Parliament to demonstrate against Lebanon’s ruling class [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]
Tuesday’s protest was the first large demonstration since August 8, which left dozens of people injured after thousands of anti-government protesters were met with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, and sporadic live ammunition fire from security forces, only four days after the blast.
Clashes erupted between rioters and members of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) as demonstrators tried to reach the country’s Parliament building, a site that has often been targeted since the launch of the protest movement in October last year.
Thousands of people have since taken to the streets in mass demonstrations to protest corruption, the lack of basic services, and government mismanagement.
The protest movement experienced a lull as coronavirus-related restrictions were imposed to curb its spread in February. But the centennial and recent developments pushed people back onto the streets.
“We’re here because today marks 100 years since Lebanon was established, but we still have no country,” said 30-year-old Mohamed Sarhan. “We’re here to demand a change.”
Follow Arwa Ibrahim on Twitter: @arwaib
Israeli forces kill Palestinian at occupied West Bank checkpoint |NationalTribune.com
Israeli forces have shot and killed the nephew of a senior Palestinian official at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. The deceased was identified as 27-year-old Ahmad Erakat, nephew of Saeb Erakat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). Israeli border police said on Tuesday they shot and killed a suspect who they say…
Israeli forces have shot and killed the nephew of a senior Palestinian official at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.
The deceased was identified as 27-year-old Ahmad Erakat, nephew of Saeb Erakat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Israeli border police said on Tuesday they shot and killed a suspect who they say attempted to run over a female officer at a checkpoint in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. Police said the officer was slightly wounded in the incident.
Palestinian officials rejected the police’s account of the man’s death.
Ahmad was “executed” by the Israeli police, his uncle Saeb told AFP, adding that he held Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for “this crime”.
He dismissed the police allegation of an attempted car ramming as “impossible”, saying that Ahmad was due to be married later in the week.
“This young man was killed in cold blood. Tonight was his sister’s wedding,” Saeb said.
“What the occupation army claims, that he was trying to run someone over, is a lie.”
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the man “drove his vehicle quickly towards the direction of a female border police officer who was injured lightly”.
The officer was evacuated to a hospital.
Police did not immediately release a video of the incident, and there was no way to independently verify the account. But police released a photo that appeared to show the vehicle after it had collided into the checkpoint.
A man prays at the side of the road as traffic backs up near the scene of the incident at a checkpoint near the town of Abu Dis in the West Bank [Ammar Awad/Reuters]
Palestinians and human rights groups have also accused Israeli security forces of using excessive force, or in some cases opening fire at cars that merely lost control.
The director of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in Bethlehem confirmed that a soldier prevented Palestinian medical personnel from approaching the man and was left to bleed, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
“Ahmed Erekat, 27, beautiful young man. A son. A brother. Fiancee. My baby cousin,” Noura Erakat, a human rights attorney based in the US wrote on Twitter, sharing his photos.
“Israeli cowards shot him multiple times, left him to bleed for 1.5 hours and blamed him for his death. Tonight was his sister’s wedding, his was next month. We failed to protect him. I am so sorry,” she wrote.
Ahmed Erekat, 27, beautiful young man. A son. A brother. Fiancée. My baby cousin. Israeli cowards shot him multiple times, left him to bleed for 1.5 hours and blamed him for his death. Tonight was his sister’s wedding, his was next month. We failed to protect him. I am so sorry. pic.twitter.com/3E341iE7sM
— Noura Erakat (@4noura) June 23, 2020
‘Palestinian lives matter’
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi called on the international community to take “concrete steps” against Israel over the death of Ahmad Erakat.
“Palestinian lives matter,” she wrote in a statement, recalling last month’s police killing of an autistic Palestinian man in Jerusalem.
“It is time for the world to hold Israel to account and ensure that justice is done by Palestinian victims.”
The incident comes nearly a month after a Palestinian man was killed in similar circumstances near Ramallah in the West Bank.
He was shot dead on May 29 after trying to ram a car into Israeli soldiers, none of whom were injured, police said at the time.
Tuesday’s incident comes ahead of plans by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the West Bank.
Netanyahu said the government would take steps towards annexing Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, and the Jordan Valley from July 1, as part of a broader US plan. The Palestinians have rejected the plan and want the West Bank to form part of a future Palestinian state.
The proposals have sparked widespread international criticism and warnings that such a move would lead to violence.
Indian forces kill armed fighters in Kashmir’s main city |NationalTribune.com
Three fighters have been killed in a shoot-out with Indian government forces in the heart of Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, police said on Sunday, two days after eight rebels were killed in another gun battle. New Delhi has stepped up military operation in the disputed territory since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed in…
Three fighters have been killed in a shoot-out with Indian government forces in the heart of Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, police said on Sunday, two days after eight rebels were killed in another gun battle.
New Delhi has stepped up military operation in the disputed territory since the nationwide coronavirus lockdown was imposed in late March. Indian-administered Kashmir has been under a security lockdown since August last year when the Muslim-majority region’s limited autonomy was revoked.
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The rebels were killed in a firefight in the Zoonimar area of the densely populated old city of Srinagar, a police officer who asked to remain anonymous told AFP news agency.
One home was destroyed during the clash.
This was the second such gun battle in the old city in a week and took the death toll of armed fighters to at least 100 this year. More than 30 rebels have been killed in the past 20 days of this month, according to the local media.
Rebel groups have fought for decades for the region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan and enjoy broad popular support.
Just over a month ago, the son of a top pro-independence leader and his associate were killed in the city.
The May incident – a day-long firefight that saw 15 homes blown up by police and soldiers – was the first armed encounter between rebels and government forces in Srinagar in two years.
The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians, since 1989, when armed rebellion erupted against Indian rule.
India has more than 500,000 troops stationed in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory also claimed by Pakistan.
Indian fire kills Pakistani girl
Meanwhile, local officials and Pakistan’s military said Indian troops – backed by artillery and long-range guns – fired on villages along the border in the Pakistani-administered side of the Kashmir region, killing a 13-year-old-girl and wounding her mother and brother.
In a statement on Sunday, Pakistan’s military blamed the Indian army for initiating Saturday night’s “unprovoked ceasefire violation” in the villages of Hajipir and Bedori. It said Pakistani troops “effectively responded” to the Indian fire, without elaborating.
Mortars fired by Indian troops also damaged several homes, according to local media reports and government officials.
In neighbouring India, the local police blamed Pakistani troops for initiating the gunfire, saying Pakistani mortar shelling wounded five civilians on their side of Kashmir.
Pakistan and India often trade fire in the disputed Himalayan region, with both blaming the other side for initiating the fire. The latest incident comes days after Indian fire killed four villagers in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
Tensions have soared between Pakistan and India since last August, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist-led government removed Article 30 of the constitution that guaranteed special status to the Muslim-majority region, touching off anger in Indian-controlled Kashmir and in Pakistan. Pakistan wants the changes reversed.
Since early May, China and Indian troops have been engaged in a standoff on their disputed border in Ladakh region, which was carved out of Kashmir last August. Defence experts say China has objected to New Delhi’s decision to change the status of Kashmir.
India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from British rule in 1947.
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