Senior Libyan official arrives in Moscow for talks

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg of Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived in Moscow for talks. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Senior Libyan official arrives in Moscow for talks

  • The UN said it expects things to get moving in the next few days following the agreement by Libya’s warring parties to resume cease-fire negotiations
  • Eastern-based forces under Hifter launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019, and the turmoil in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervene

MOSCOW: Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteeg of Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) arrived in Moscow for talks on Wednesday, the RIA news agency reported.
The United Nations said Tuesday it expected “things to get moving in the next few days” following the agreement by Libya’s warring parties to resume cease-fire negotiations following days of heavy fighting.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams and the UN mission remain in direct contact with the UN-supported government in the capital Tripoli and Khalifa Hifter’s east-based forces “to figure out the next steps and the logistics about the resumption of the talks.”
Dujarric said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres adds his voice in welcoming the agreement to resume negotiations and calls on the parties to engage constructively and in good faith.
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups.
Eastern-based forces under Hifter launched an offensive to take Tripoli in April 2019, and the turmoil in the oil-rich country has steadily worsened as foreign backers increasingly intervene — despite pledges to the contrary at a high-profile peace summit in Berlin earlier this year.
Hifter’s offensive is supported by France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries. The government in Tripoli is backed by Turkey, which deployed troops and mercenaries to help defend the capital in January, as well as by Italy and Qatar.
Mercenaries, mainly from the Syria battlefield, are now fighting on both sides and complicating the already complex proxy war, according to UN experts.
US and Libyan officials have accused Russia of deploying fighters from the Wagner Group in key battleground areas in Libya, and last month, in an unusually bold statement, the US military accused Russia of deploying 14 aircraft to eastern Libya to help Hifter’s forces, saying the move was part of 
The UN Mission in Libya announced the agreement on a new round of cease-fire talks late Monday, expressing hope they would “mark the beginning of calm on the ground" and allow the country’s war-scarred health system to cope with the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
COVID-19 has infected at least 168 people in Libya, but testing is extremely limited. The impact of a large outbreak would likely be severe given the continued fighting and the state of the country’s health system.
The UN Mission said delegates from the rival parties will conduct the cease-fire talks through video calls because of the pandemic.
The announcement came as the foreign-fueled proxy war teeters on the edge of a major escalation, and signaled that both sides, and their foreign backers, may prefer to pull back from the brink.
The battle for Tripoli has threatened to plunge Libya into chaos on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled Gadhafi.
On Sunday, Hifter’s froces said they recaptured the strategic town of al-Asabaa, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, after launching airstrikes on militias in the area.
Control of the town gives Hifter’s forces better access to Tarhuna, their main western stronghold and supply line southeast of the capital.
Hifter’s gain more broadly reflects the seesawing nature of the war, which in recent weeks had turned dramatically in favor of rival Turkish-backed Tripoli militias that ousted Hifter’s forces from a key western airbase and several towns.
The Tripoli government had been struggling to fend off the year-long siege of the capital by Hifter’s forces when Turkey escalated its air support.


Family of Palestinian slain by police sees probe dragging on

Updated 1 min 34 sec ago

Family of Palestinian slain by police sees probe dragging on

  • Eyad was fatally shot on May 30 just inside Jerusalem’s Old City as he was making his daily walk to the special-needs school he attended
  • Police said they believed the 32-year-old was carrying a “suspicious object” and said they opened fire when he failed to heed calls to stop

JERUSALEM: The family of a Palestinian man with autism who was fatally shot by Israeli police said on Thursday that it took a month for authorities to confirm the existence of security-camera footage of the shooting, raising concerns that no one will be punished for killing their son.
The existence of the footage had been in question throughout an investigation that the family says has been painfully slow. Rights groups say Israel has a poor record of investigating and prosecuting police violence against Palestinians.
“The police say the investigation is ongoing. Though it is late, we hope that it will end by delivering justice,” said Khiri Hallaq, the man’s father.
His son, Eyad, was fatally shot on May 30 just inside Jerusalem’s Old City as he was making his daily walk to the special-needs school he attended.
At the time, police said they believed the 32-year-old was carrying a “suspicious object” and said they opened fire when he failed to heed calls to stop.
According to various accounts, two members of Israel’s paramilitary border police force chased Hallaq into a nook and shot him as he cowered next to a garbage bin.
Hallaq’s teacher, who was with him, told an Israeli TV station that Hallaq, who had difficulties speaking, fell to the ground after being shot, then ran for cover next to the garbage container. She said she repeatedly cried out to police that he was “disabled” and tried in vain to stop the shooting. At least five bullet holes were seen in a wall of a small structure at the site.
At the time, the shooting drew comparisons to the death of George Floyd in the US and prompted a series of small demonstrations against police violence. The uproar crossed Israeli-Palestinian lines and drew Jewish protesters as well.
Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, said Israel was “very sorry,” while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “tragedy” and promised a thorough investigation.
Since then, however, the family has heard little while the two officers involved in the shooting have reportedly been released from house arrest.
On Wednesday, after a month of pressure by the family, Israeli officials confirmed in a court hearing that investigators are studying security-camera footage of the shooting, said the family’s lawyer.
Israel’s Haaretz daily had reported earlier this week that there may not be any footage, even though the streets and alleyways of the volatile Old City are lined with hundreds of security cameras.
The lawyer, Jad Qadamani, said the family has not been permitted to see any of the videos because they are evidence in an ongoing investigation.
Nonetheless, he said they are “more calm because we know the videos are there.” He called the footage “an important tool” in the investigation.
Qadamani said the family was frustrated that it had required so much effort for authorities to acknowledge the existence of the videos and that the investigation has dragged on for so long.
“Maybe there is a need to investigate, but not to this extent,” he said.
Cases involving police violence are referred to an independent internal investigations department under the Justice Ministry called “machash.” The ministry said the case remains under investigation and declined further comment. Israeli police referred questions to the ministry.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, cases referred to the department rarely end with disciplinary action.
It said that over 80% of more than 5,400 cases sent to machash from 2015 to 2018 were not investigated at all, and no more than 3% of complaints resulted in indictments. About 20 cases each year result in disciplinary proceedings for the use of force, and most of those end up with little more than a reprimand or reduction in rank.
It said the figures were based on official data obtained through a freedom of information request.
The statistics “speak for themselves,” ACRI said. “With an overwhelming majority of complaints against police violence never investigated and a complete lack of accountability on behalf of authorities, the cycle of the abhorrent use of police force will never cease.”
It said the police profiling of minorities is also a “severe problem.”
Qadamani, the family lawyer, said it has been difficult for them to trust the system but they remained hopeful.
“The feeling is very problematic. I expect and very much want to believe that they will take the real and correct steps for justice for Eyad,” he said.