Weekly News | February 13th – 17th

Monday 13 February

Italy: The first meeting was held on Monday of a joint Italian-Libyan commission tasked with activating an operations center against clandestine migration. The center will be the first step of an agreement signed on February 2 between the two countries. Taking part for Italy is the ambassador to Libya as well as high-ranking representatives of the interior and defense ministries and from the intelligence services. Coast Guard commanders and representatives from the interior, defense and other ministries are participating for Libya. (ANSAmed)

Palestine: Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement has chosen Yahya Sinwar, freed in a 2011 prisoner swap with Israel after more than 20 years in jail, as its new chief in the Palestinian enclave following an internal election, sources close to the group said. Hani Habeeb, a Gaza political analyst, said Sinwar’s victory sent a message of defiance to Israel and was also likely to complicate efforts further to conclude a stalled reconciliation with rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly News | February 13th – 17th

 Tuesday 14 February

European Union: Amnesty International said on Tuesday that the EU-Turkey migrant accord, nearing its one-year anniversary, has left refugees “in squalid and dangerous living conditions, and must not be replicated with other countries”. It released a report titled “Blueprint for Despair” in which it documented “unlawful returns of asylum-seekers to Turkey in a flagrant breach of their rights under international law”. “The EU-Turkey deal has been a disaster for the thousands who have been left stranded in a dangerous, desperate and seemingly endless limbo on the Greek islands,” said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe. (ANSAmed)

Spain: The Spanish National Police on Tuesday announced the dismantling of “one of the most important illegal immigration and human trafficking rings”, as part of an operation carried out in collaboration with Moroccan authorities. During this operation, the Spanish authorities arrested “seven Nigerian nationals who are members of a ring specialized in the sexual exploitation of Nigerian women”, the same source pointed out in a statement. (Morocco World News)

Turkey: Turkish police have detained more than 800 people over alleged links to Kurdish fighters in nationwide operations, according to state media. Police conducted simultaneous raids in 37 different provinces and taken 834 people into custody, state-run Anadolu Agency quoted police forces as saying on Tuesday. Anadolu said authorities received intelligence that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would escalate attacks after February 15, the day marking the 1999 capture of imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan. (Al Jazeera)

Weekly News | February 13th – 17th

 Wednesday 15 February

USA: President Donald Trump has dropped Washington’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, backing away from a long-held position of the US and the international community in the Middle East. In a joint press conference on Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said he would back a single-state solution if the two sides agreed to it. (Al Jazeera)

The US’ apparent shift in stance on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “doesn’t make sense,” Palestinian leaders have said. “If the Trump administration rejects this policy it would be destroying the chances for peace and undermining American interests, standing and credibility abroad,” Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said on Wednesday. (Independent)

Libya: Warring Libyan factions tentatively agreed on an Egypt-brokered roadmap to heal divisions with the creation of a joint committee to negotiate reconciliation and elections by February 2018. The deal comes after months of diplomatic efforts by Egypt, culminating this week with visits by Fayez Seraj, prime minister of the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli, and Khalifa Haftar, a military commander supported by eastern factions. The two men met separately with senior Egyptian military officials and had been set to sit together in a session late on Tuesday, then failed to meet due to last-minute differences. (Euronews)

Lebanon: Lebanese authorities have started building a wall around the most crowded Palestinian camp south of Beirut, Ain Al-Hilweh. Palestinian sources say that about 100,000 people live in the camp, while UNRWA puts the number of Palestinians registered in the camp at 54,000 The news was reported by Munir Miqdah, deputy commander of Palestinian security forces in Lebanon and high-ranking member of Fatah, the party under Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. In response to questions from Beirut daily An-Nahar, Miqdah announced his resignation from head of the joint security committee in Palestinian camps in Lebanon to protest the decision to go forward with plans to build the wall. (ANSAmed)

Weekly News | February 13th – 17th

 Thurday 16 February

USA: The Defense Department might propose that the US send conventional ground combat forces into northern Syria for the first time to speed up the fight against ISIS, CNN has learned. “It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” one defense official told CNN. But the official emphasized that any decision is ultimately up to President Donald Trump, who has ordered his defense secretary to come up with a proposal to combat ISIS before the end of the month. The move would significantly alter US military operations in Syria if approved and could put troops on the ground within weeks. (CNN)

Terrorism: Terrorists are unlikely to be infiltrating migrant flows but migrants’ often harsh living conditions after arrival make them an “easy prey” for radicalisation, the head of the interior ministry’s anti-terror committee said Thursday. “We can’t ignore the possibility that there may be infiltrations in the masses of migrants, but as an expert I think it is unlikely that someone who has been trained for martyrdom is sent off into the unknown,” said Lamberto Giannini, the chair of the ministry’s strategic anti-terrorism analysis committee (CASA). (ANSA)

Libya Crisis: Tunisia is set to host on 1 March a much-anticipated tripartite meeting with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Algeria to discuss resolving the Libyan crisis, Tunisian Foreign Minister Khamis Alaghinawa announced. In an interview broadcast by state-owned Tunis Afrique Presse on Tuesday, the Tunisian minister said the purpose of the meeting is to prepare for a tripartite summit between the presidents of the three states, discuss what each country is doing to communicate with rival Libyan factions, and generate a comprehensive vision for the war’s resolution. According to Tunisian government sources, the presidential summit will be held in Algeria due to the fragile health of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose condition bars him from leaving the country. A date for the summit has not been announced. (Ahram Online)

Presidency Council (PC) head Faiez Serraj has sent a formal request to NATO to help in building up security and defence systems, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. NATO had agreed to send help at its Warsaw summit a week ago, but only if formally requested by the UN-backed PC. (Libya Herald)

Weekly News | February 13th – 17th

 Friday 17 February

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnia will appeal a U.N. court ruling that cleared Serbia of blame for genocide, the Muslim Bosniak member of the country’s presidency said on Friday, a move likely to widen rifts between the ethnic groups which fought the 1992-95 war. The 2007 judgment by the International Court of Justice exonerated Serbia of direct responsibility for killings, rapes and “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, though it said Serbia had failed to prevent genocide. And while the ICJ ruling concluded that genocide had occurred at Srebrenica, where about 8,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces, it did not say genocide had happened in other parts of Bosnia. Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the three-man presidency alongside Serbian and Croatian peers, has engaged a lawyer without his colleagues’ consent to prepare the lawsuit ahead of a 10-year deadline on Feb. 26. (Reuters)

Migration: At least 5,056 people died in 2016 in the attempt to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, while 256 died or went missing including 222 on the Central Mediterranean route in the month of January 2017 alone. The UNHCR figures were presented in a press conference at the Palermo port one year after the launch of rescue operations at sea of the Aquarius ship from SOS Mediterranee under Valeria Calandra, head of the Italian section of the NGO. The Aquarius rescued 8,755 people and took over 13,000 people onboard in 64 operations at sea. Of those rescued, 83% were male and 17% female. Some 24% were under age 18 and 84% of them were unaccompanied. The Aquarius carried out 14 rescue operations in the first two months of 2017, rescuing 1,628 people. Some 195 were taken onboard and treated by SOS Mediterranee and MSF teams. Aquarius operated with three teams onboard including volunteers and doctors (now from MSF) and the crew. Some 402 minors were rescued, including 324 unaccompanied ones and 14 children under age 5. The vast majority of the refugees were from Sub-Saharan Africa: Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Gambia, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast and Senegal, but some boats also carried refugees from Bangladesh, Syria, Tunisia, Libya and the Palestinian Territories. SOS Mediterranee on October 13 the 2016 European Citizen Prize from the European Parliament, while on December 15 it was given another prize for work in the civil society sector by the European Economic and Social Committee. (ANSAmed)

Around 700 migrants have stormed a six-metre (20 ft) security fence that separates Morocco from Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa. Police said security cameras showed the migrants breaking through one of the gates, some wielding shears and clubs. The Ceuta regional government said almost 500 made it across the razor wire barrier. Ceuta and Melilla, another Spanish territory in North Africa, have the EU’s only land borders with Africa. (BBC)


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