Weekly News 29 – 3 May 2019 | Mediterranean Affairs


Monday, 29 April 2019

Libya: Forces backing Libya’s internationally recognised government fought house-to-house battles with troops loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar in southern parts of the capital, Tripoli, on Sunday and appeared to be gaining ground. Government soldiers, some in jeans and t-shirts, took cover by abandoned buildings as they fired on Haftar’s positions. Some carried anti-aircraft guns they had had to remove from their trucks to get through the narrow streets. (Al Jazeera)

Spain: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) won the most votes in a snap general election on Sunday, but fell short of an outright parliamentary majority and will need to seek coalition partners, according to official preliminary results. PSOE captured 28.7% of the vote, giving it 123 of the 350 lower-house seats, according to first official results with almost 99.9% of the votes counted, while the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP) suffered a resounding defeat with only 16.7% and 66 seats. (Euractiv)

Sudan: Sudan’s ruling military council and the opposition alliance have reached an agreement in principle to form a new body to run the country until the next election. The agreement was reached during a meeting on Saturday between the ruling Military Transitional Council (MTC) and the Declaration of Freedom and Changes Forces, an umbrella organisation of opposition groups. Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from the capital Khartoum, said while the agreement marked a breakthrough, it was still at an early stage and details had yet to be ironed out. (Al Jazeera)  

Egypt: Egypt has sentenced seven Muslim Brotherhood members, including a business tycoon, to life in prison on charges of “harming the national economy” and funding a “terrorist” group. The Supreme State Security Emergency Court on Tuesday sentenced three others to 10 years, while acquitting 14 people. It ordered that all those convicted be placed under police probation after they serve their jail terms. The verdicts can be appealed. (Al Jazeera)

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Isis: The Islamic State group has released a video of a man it says is its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, vowing to seek revenge for its loss of territory. He has not been seen since 2014, when he proclaimed from Mosul the creation of a “caliphate” across parts of Syria and Iraq. In this new footage, Baghdadi acknowledges defeat at Baghuz, the group’s last stronghold in the region. It is not clear when the video was recorded. IS says it was shot in April. (BBC)

Sudan: The ruling Transitional Military Council has said the army will not accept unrest in the country, a day after protesters said soldiers were trying to disperse a sit-in in capital Khartoum. “We will not accept chaos. We will deal with it firmly in accordance with the law,” said Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the Transitional Military Council’s vice president. Thousands of protesters have been camping outside the army headquarters in Khartoum, almost three weeks after the military and security forces removed former president Omar al-Bashir from power on April 11. (Al Jazeera)

Spain: The formation of a new government in Spain is going to depend on a long arm-wrestle between the Socialist Party (PSOE), the winner of Sunday’s general election, and the leftist Unidas Podemos, which came in fourth place. There is a lot at stake for both of its leaders. Sánchez wants to try to lead a minority government all by himself on the strength of his 123 seats in Congress. But this is not enough to get himself reinstated – it takes 176 deputies for an overall majority – and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias has clearly stated that this time he is not ready to provide free support for Sánchez as he did after the no-confidence motion. (El País)

Israel: Members of Israel’s 21st Knesset were sworn in on Tuesday, three weeks after a volatile general election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been tasked by President Reuven Rivlin with forming a governing coalition. He has until mid-May to form a government, with a possible extension of a further two weeks. After being sworn in, the prime minister, who faced criticism during the campaign for comments seen as demonising Palestinian citizens of Israel, said: “We shall continue to act for the benefit of every Israeli citizen without exception.” (Al Jazeera)

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Palestine: Hamas, the group that governs the Gaza Strip, reportedly launched two rockets towards Israel on Thursday morning in response to Israeli rocket fire. Earlier on Thursday, Israeli warplanes targeted several Hamas positions in the northern part of the strip in response to the alleged launch of incendiary balloons from the besieged enclave, the Israeli army said. (Al Jazeera)

Egypt: The White House is pushing to issue an order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organization, bringing the weight of American sanctions against a storied and influential Islamist political movement with millions of members across the Middle East, according to officials familiar with the matter. Such a designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the targeted group. (New York Times)

Israel: Israel is expected to demolish more Palestinian homes. The Israeli High Court has ruled 60 houses in occupied East Jerusalem should be knocked down. Palestinians say Israel is trying to settle as many Jews as possible on the edge of Jerusalem’s old city and rename an area the Palestinians consider their capital the City of David. (Al Jazeera)

Libya: The Libyan coast guard has stopped 113 migrants trying to reach Italy over the past two days, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as boat departures resume following a lull in fighting between rival forces in Libya. Smuggling activity had slowed when forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take the capital Tripoli, home to Libya’s internationally recognized government. (Euractiv)

Thursday, 2 May 2019

UK: Theresa May would co-operate with a police inquiry into whether Gavin Williamson broke the law, her deputy said, as pressure grew for a criminal investigation. David Lidington did not commit, however, to passing on to Scotland Yard the conclusions of the Huawei leak inquiry as he tried to draw a line under the first sacking of a cabinet minister for leaking for more than 30 years. Mr Williamson, who denies leaking from the National Security Council, claims that he has been the victim of a “kangaroo court” investigation by Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary and national security adviser. (The Times)

Sudan: Convoys from around Sudan have arrived in the capital Khartoum on Thursday to join an ongoing sit-in protesting against military rule. The military council that removed Bashir from power has hinted that it is tiring of an almost month-long sit-in outside the military headquarters, which helped unseat the former president, saying it will not accept “chaos”. Thursdays have become the focus of weekly “million-strong” marches that have attracted protesters from around the country keen to join the demand for the military council to hand power to a civilian authority. (Middle East Eye)

Hungary: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said the European Parliament’s main centre-right group must forge an alliance with populist, nationalist groups after impending EU elections, receiving a swift rebuke from Germany’s conservative leader. Orbán’s ruling Fidesz Party was suspended from the mainstream European People’s Party (EPP) in March over its record on respect for the rule of law, freedom of the press and minorities’ rights. (Euractiv)

 

Syria: Russian and Syrian forces have kept up a widespread bombing campaign for a third day on towns and villages in the last rebel-held area in northwestern Syria, activists have said. The targeted areas in northern Hama and southern Idlib are part of a buffer zone established after a September agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey prevented a major government offensive on the area. Fareed al-Omri, a Syrian activist and journalist, based in the Syrian city of Maarat al-Numan, said that the bombings by Syrian helicopters and Russian warplanes have been ongoing since early Thursday morning. (Middle East Eye)

Friday, 3 May 2019

Palestine: Four Palestinians were killed and 51 injured by Israeli forces during the weekly Friday protests in the eastern Gaza Strip, medics and security sources said. Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra told reporters that two demonstrators, Raid Abu Tair, 19, and Ramzi Abdo, 31 were shot dead in the eastern Gaza Strip, near the Israeli fence. Friday’s protests broke out in the afternoon as part of weekly rallies and protests that have been going on since March 30 last year. (Al Jazeera)

Yemen: Almost two years after a resolution was first introduced, efforts in the United States Congress to end American support for the war in Yemen came to an unsuccessful end this week. The proposed legislation, which invoked for the first time a 1973 law that gives Congress the power to end US military interventions it did not authorise, was a signature away from becoming legally binding. Instead, the Senate on Thursday failed to overturn Donald Trump’s veto, effectively ending US lawmakers’ hard-fought attempt to force the president to end American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. (Middle East Eye)

Tunisia: Tunisian politicians say they are once again feeling the repercussions of the civil war next door – and fear even further blowback. The impact of the war on Libya’s neighbour has ebbed and flowed since the overthrow of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, largely affecting trade between the two countries and sending waves of migrants into Tunisia. But with Haftar’s latest offensive, lawmakers say there has been a notable increase of refugees into Tunisia. (Middle East Eye)

Saudi Arabia: Four more women’s rights activists have been temporarily freed in Saudi Arabia, bringing the total to seven in two months. UK-based Saudi rights organisation ALQST said Hatoon al-Fassi, Amal al-Harbi, Maysaa al-Manea, and Abeer Namankani were all released, with reports a fifth had also been let out. They are among 11 women held for about a year on charges related to the country’s cyber-crimes law. Saudi officials are yet to comment. The terms of their release and when they will return to jail are unclear. (BBC)

Algeria: Thousands of protesters rallied peacefully in Algiers after Friday prayers, chanting “We will not shut up!” and demanding the departure of Algeria’s ruling elite a month after the downfall of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. (Middle East Eye)