Israel: Police officer killed in Bedouin village attack

epa02505114 Israeli riot police accompany a bulldozer as it demolishes a bedouin living structure in the site of Al Akrib in the Negev Desert, near Beersheba, Israel on 23 December 2010. Israeli authorities have razed this 'unrecognized village,' which includes a cemetery, eight times as they try to get the Bedouins to move to the nearby Bedouin city of Rahat, something the Bedouins refuse to do, citing family deeds to this piece of land that pre-dates the establishment of the State of Israel.  EPA/JIM HOLLANDER

An Israeli police officer was killed in an attack on the Bedouin village of Um el-Hiran in the Negev desert after being hit by a car driven by a Bedouin of the village whom police said was “a terrorist affiliated with the Islamic movement”, a police spokesman said.

The attack took place after police arrived in the village to protect the demolition of 14 houses built illegally.

The vehicle’s driver was shot and killed by police on the scene.

Various others were wounded in the clash, including Ayman Oudeh, leader of the United Arab List, the third-largest party in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

The tension stems from the decision by Israeli authorities to tear down the village of Um el-Hiran, defined as illegal, in order to build a Jewish village on the same land.

Interior Security Minister Ghilad Erdan said broad development plans were provided for the Bedouins in other areas of the Negev.

The demolition of the first homes in Um el-Hiran was sanctioned by various court orders.

On Tuesday night Israeli police took up positions in the village in order to protect the bulldozers.

Oudeh accused police of having acted with “unjustified brutality” in their response to the attack.

Last week the Arab community in Israel held a national protest strike following the demolition of 11 illegal buildings in Kalanswa, northeast of Tel Aviv.

Lebanon, Hezbollah finds downed Israeli drone

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Hezbollah says it has found an IDF spy drone that crashed in a rugged region of southern Lebanon, Al Manar reports.

Hezbollah says its fighters found the UAV, reportedly a Skylark drone, and “moved it to a safe place for examination.”

The UAV has been missing since early Monday, and Israeli officials had asked UNIFIL for help in locating the craft.

Hezbollah says that the Lebanese military was unable to reach the area and that the UN force also searched but did not find it.

Libyan National Army claim control of Islamist holdout in Benghazi

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Forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government said on Tuesday they had gained control over one of the last pockets of resistance held by Islamist-dominated opponents in Benghazi, like reported by reuters.com.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) troops captured the south-western district of Bosnaib from fighters loyal to Islamic State following a two-day assault backed by heavy weaponry and air strikes, said Fadel al-Hassi, an officer in the LNA’s special forces.

The LNA has been battling Islamists and other opponents in Benghazi since 2014, making major advances over the past year. It is led by Khalifa Haftar, who has become an increasingly dominant figure for factions based in the east that have refused to join a U.N.-backed government in Tripoli.

A medical official said 25 LNA troops were killed and 45 wounded in the latest fighting, and Hassi said two field commanders killed by mines were among the dead. No casualty figures were available for the LNA’s opponents.

On Sunday LNA forces lost a MIG fighter jet over Benghazi, which spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said had likely been hit by a missile. The crew ejected and survived.

 

Egypt: 8 policemen killed after Islamist terrorists attack a security checkpoint

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A group of terrorists attacked a security checkpoint at Al-Naqb in southwestern Egypt’s New Valley Governorate, 70 km from Kharga city, killing eight police officials and injuring three others, like reported by outlookindia.com.

The attack took place on Monday night in which two of the attackers were killed during the gunbattle between security forces and the terrorists, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

The forces have launched a hunt for the remaining attackers who managed to escape after the attack, it said.

No terror group has claimed responsibility of the attack so far.

Egypt has witnessed many violent attacks by militants in the last few years and since the January 2011 revolution that toppled the ex-president Hosni Mubarak.

The attacks targeting police and military increased after the ouster of Islamist ex-president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 by military following massive protests against his rule.

Libya forces rout jihadis from Benghazi district

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Forces loyal to Marshal Khalifa Haftar retook a district in Libya’s Benghazi from jihadis after fighting that killed nine soldiers in two days, a military source said to japantimes.co.jp.

“We now control the district of Abu Sneib” in the southwest of the city, said a commanding officer in the army headed by Haftar, who backs the parliament in the country’s east.

“Our forces now completely surround the Qanfuda area” nearby, the same source said.

The source said 52 troops had died in fighting since Jan. 1 in and around Benghazi.

Haftar has managed to retake a large part of the eastern coastal city from jihadis since Benghazi came under their control in 2014.

But jihadis still control the central districts of Al-Saberi and Souq al-Hout.

These jihadi groups include the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militias that includes the al-Qaida-linked Ansar Al-Sharia.

With Libya in chaos, migrant deal with Italy collapses

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Italy’s Coast Guard was able to rescue only four people after a rubber dinghy with 110 migrants sank in rough waters in the Mediterranean Sea about 30 miles off the coast of Libya, like reported by breitbart.com .

These situations are brought about by people smugglers. They charge desperate migrants thousands of dollars each. Typically, the people smugglers put hundreds of migrants into a single large rubber dinghy, and give the migrants enough fuel to leave Libyan waters and a cell phone to use to call the Italian coast guard.

The four who were rescued were among 550 who were rescued on one day, Friday.

It is expected (or feared) that, like last year, hundreds of thousands of migrants will attempt to cross from Libya to Italy this year. According to Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat:

Come next spring, the number of people crossing over the Mediterranean will reach record levels. The choice is trying to do something now, or meeting urgently in April, May … and try to do a deal then.

It is also expected that there will be thousands of migrants departing from Egypt, with the same objective. Libya Herald and Reuters and Telegraph (London) and AP

With Libya in chaos, migrant deal with Italy collapses

Italy reopened its embassy in Libya’s capital city Tripoli last week, the first Western country to do so since 2015. Italy had hoped that doing so would lead to an agreement with the government of Libya to slow the flow of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.

Unfortunately, the agreement was never signed by the government of Libya because the phrase “the government of Libya” is meaningless. There are several governments in Libya:

  • Libya Dawn or the General National Congress (GNC), seated in Tripoli and western Libya, composed of militias that seized Tripoli in 2014.
  • The Libya National Army (LNA), headed by Maj-Gen Khalifah Haftar, seated in Beida in eastern Libya. a secular government that fled from Tripoli in 2014.
  • The Government of National Accord (GNA), also in Tripoli, which was created by the United Nations a year ago in the hope of unifying the country behind it.

None of these three governments recognizes either of the others, and so there is no hope of getting any agreement.

In fact, the Beida government last week accused Italy’s Coast Guard of violating Libyan sovereignty with its rescue program. Italy had received the approval of the Government of National Accord, but in a note last week, the Beida government said,

An Italian military vessel loaded with soldiers and ammunition has entered Libyan territorial waters. It is a clear violation of the UN charter and a form of repeated aggression.

Libyan jihadists now have deadly chinese landmines: the Type 84 makes an appearance in Benghazi

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On Dec. 8, 2016, a social media account supporting the Libyan National Army — one of two main forces battling for control of war-torn Libya — published footage of an unused, Chinese-made Type 84 remotely-delivered anti-vehicle landmine along with a Type 122-15 ATML rocket, according to warisboring.com .

The rocket was apparently found in the Ganfouda district of Benghazi, in a neighborhood that the Tobruk-based LNA had seized from the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, an Islamist militia.

The footage apparently marks the first appearance of the Chinese mine in Libya since 2011 — and, more importantly, the first evidence that a Libyan Islamic group has gotten its hands on the munition.

The Type 84 mine is an air-dispersed landmine with an explosively-formed penetrator warhead that can penetrate up to 110 millimeters of rolled homogeneous armor.

The Type 122-15 ATML rocket — the export version of China’s GBL212 122- millimeter rocket — includes an ejection charge, a main body containing six scatterable mines and a nose cone. The type is launched from BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket systems.

The GLD220 variant of the Type 84 disarms itself after 72 hours — and also features a self-destruct function that can trigger between four and 72 hours after deployment. Once the rocket launches, a time fuse activates at a predetermined distance. The rocket’s head bursts, ejecting the mines, which then descend under parachutes.

During the descent, the three legs at the feet of the mines open downward to form a tip that pierces the ground. The mine is then armed.

The Type 84 is not a cluster munition, unlike the Type 81 which can deliver explosive submunitions. Hezbollah used Type 81s during the 2006 conflict in south Lebanon.

Still, “the Type 84 mine is extremely dangerous and should not be handled or disturbed, as it is equipped with a sensitive magnetic influence fuse that also functions as an inherent anti-disturbance feature,” wrote Mark Hiznay, a researcher in the arms division of Human Rights Watch.

“The magnetic influence fuse explodes the mine when it detects a change in its immediate magnetic environment. That change can result from a vehicle passing over the mine or a person approaching it while wearing or carrying a sufficient amount of ferrous metal, such as military equipment or even a camera.

“Additionally, given the sensitivity of the fuse, any change in orientation or movement of the mine may cause the fuse to function.”

The first use of the Type 84 landmine in Libya was reported by C.J. Chiversof The New York Times and confirmed by Human Rights Watch. The rockets were launched on May 5, 2011 in the port area of the city of Misrata by forces loyal to then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Two guards patrolling the port in a truck ran over two of the mines. One guard was seriously wounded in the blast. An international deminer was killed in Dafniya in March 2012 and two injured in November 2011 when they tried to defuse a Type 84 submunition.

The LNA Air Force is known to have used cluster munitionssince at least 2015 in its attacks on Islamist militia in Derna and Benghazi.

Since the current round of fighting broke out in Libya in 2014, civilians in eastern Libya have found themselves trapped between the LNA’s cluster bombs, indiscriminate Emirati air strikes and the Islamists’ dispersed landmines launched by Islamist militia fighters.

Malta raises alarm on Russia in Libya

HMS Liverpool escorts Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov 04/02/12 HMS Liverpool today paid escort to the Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and Russian Ship Admiral Chabanenko as they passed by British Territorial waters. The Type 42 destroyer carried out her role as the Fleet Ready Escort as she prepares for decommissioning during the Spring which will mark the end of her 30 year career. Image taken by LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson, FRPU(E), Royal Navy

A Russian-backed Libyan warlord could start a “civil war” in Libya, increasing refugee flows to the EU, Malta has warned according to euobserver.com.

The danger comes as the Libyan commander, Khalifa Haftar, advances on Tripoli, the seat of the UN-recognised government, Malta’s foreign minister, George Vella, told press in Valletta on Friday (13 January).

“Haftar with his army is moving gradually, slowly from the east to the west … and possibly, eventually linking up with his colleagues from the west, from Zintane, and advancing in a pincer movement on the region of Bani Walid, Misrata, and Tripoli”, Vella said.

“That would be disastrous because it would create civil war and it would create more refugees running away from Libya”, he said.

Vella also raised the alarm on Haftar’s contacts with Russia.

He said Russia had so far respected a UN embargo on weapons transfers to Libya, even though Haftar had been “going to Moscow asking for arms”.

But he added that Russia, which has funded Haftar, had a strategic interest in establishing a foothold in the central Mediterranean.

“It’s very difficult to predict what’s going to happen”, Vella said.

“I’m not comfortable. We all know the Russians’ dreams have always been to have [military] bases in the Mediterranean”, he said.

Haftar, on Thursday, toured Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, as it was sailing from Syria.

He also held a video call with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, in which they discussed “urgent issues in the fight against international terrorist groups in the Middle East”, a Russian statement said.

Collapsing state

The EU, with the Maltese presidency at its helm for the next six months, is keen to strike a deal with the Libyan government in Tripoli, the GNA, on reducing the flow of migrants to Europe.

Libya became the primary route for asylum seekers after the EU closed the Western Balkan corridor, with the refugee crisis high on the political agenda in France and Germany.

Even without the Haftar problem, the EU was finding it hard to make headway.

Another warlord, Khalifa Ghwell, tried to stage an anti-GNA coup in Tripoli on Thursday, highlighting the fragility of the country.

“At the moment, things are not happy in Tripoli,” Malta’s Vella said on Friday.

“Libya is on the brink of becoming a failed state. Let’s hope we won’t go that far”, he said.

He aded that the GNA and Italy had held talks on a potential migrant deal, but that they were “far, far apart” in their positions.

Russia and Syria

Valla spoke with the GNA prime minister, Fayez Sarraj, on Thursday.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels for the first time in 2017 aim to speak mainly about the war in Syria and the Middle East Peace Process.

An EU diplomat said “there will be a debate about Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict … but no specific debate on Russia itself”. He said Libya “should be” discussed in February.

Russia has been accused of war crimes for targeting civilians and hospitals in Syria.

It is fighting on the side of the Syrian regime, which has allowed it to expand its naval base in the country.

Russia’s Syria campaign has also drawn accusations that it was trying to influence French and German politics by increasing refugee flows to Europe via Turkey.

Speaking in Brussels on Friday, the departing US ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, said Russian president Vladimir Putin was not a partner for the West.

“To think that Russia is somehow seeking to promote our shared agenda is folly”, he said.

He added that it would be “inconceivable and shameful if we would consider lightening sanctions on Russia”, referring to EU and US economic sanctions, which were imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trump card

The incoming US president, Donald Trump, is a wild card in Russia relations, however.

He has praised Russia, but his nominees for US security chiefs have condemned its actions.

Another EU priority is to see where Trump stands on the Middle East peace process.

Trump has said he might move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, Israel’s internationally-recognised capital, to Jerusalem, which it claimed by conquest from Palestine.

“If he does all the threats he said he would, he will not just violate EU policy, but also international order”, a senior EU diplomat said.

Is Russia set to train Libyan strongman Haftar’s troops?

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Russia are set to imminently sign a military cooperation deal with Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar according to reports from Radio France International this week, according to alaraby.co.uk.

Following meetings between Haftar and a Russian military delegation in Tobruk last Wednesday, Moscow is preparing to send military experts to train forces loyal to Haftar – who call themseleves the Libyan National Army (LNA) – at a number of bases such as Tobruk and Benghazi in the east of the country, the French radio station reported, citing informed sources.

Additional training of pro-Haftar troops, RFI reported, will take place at sea aboard Russian military vessels.

Haftar previously visited Moscow in November and met with Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov who has recently praised Libya’s military role in countering terrorism in the country.

At that time sources close to Haftar leaked information that the Libyan army chief was seeking to persuade Moscow to supply arms and military equipment through a third party in order to bypass a UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya. However, at that time Moscow abided with the UN Security Council ruling.

Libya has been mired by in-fighting since the 2011 revolution that overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The country was split between two competing governments, while myriad rival militias also looked at carving up influence in the country.

The Tobruk government has received backing from neighbouring Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But the Tripoli-based government has the backing of the UN with six western states recently renewing their support.

Haftar, once an ally of Gaddafi who studied in Russia and spent time in exile in the United States, has allied his forces to authorities in Tobruk.

He has been accused by opponents of committing war crimes and in one noticeable power play in September 2016 his forces seized control of most of Libya’s oil installations and for the last two years of battled Islamist groups including from the Islamic State group for control of the second city of Benghazi.

Fighter jet shot down over Libya’s Benghazi

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A fighter jet from Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces was shot down over Libya’s Benghazi on Sunday as it carried out raids on jihadist positions, a military source said to thepeninsulaqatar.com.

The MiG-23 went down after being targeted by “extremist militias”, said a commanding officer with Haftar’s forces.

The pilot ejected himself and survived unharmed, he said.

A source at the Benghazi airbase told the LANA news agency loyal to the parliament in Libya’s east backed by Haftar that a “heat-seeking missile” had hit the plane.

Haftar has managed to retake a large part of the eastern coastal city of Benghazi from jihadists since it came under their control in 2014.

But violent clashes have been ongoing for several weeks between his forces and jihadists surrounded in their last bastions, especially in the area of Qanfuda southwest of the city.

These jihadist groups include the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, an alliance of Islamist militias that includes the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Al-Sharia.