Migrants in Libya forced into rape for food: UN

This photo taken on Monday and handout on Tuesday by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sand Frontieres, MSF) shows a rescue operation of 71 people from a rubber boat in distress, by the crew of the charity’s Geo Barents migrant rescue ship. (AFP)
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Updated 29 June 2022

Migrants in Libya forced into rape for food: UN

  • Investigators described how migrants in detention face “acts of murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts”
  • A flimsy rubber boat collapsed and sank off Libya's coast, leaving at least 30 people missing and feared dead

GENEVA/CAIRO: Migrants detained in Libya face horrific abuse, with women especially facing sexual violence, and often forced to submit to rape in exchange for food, UN investigators said Wednesday.
In a fresh report, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya reiterated that the worst crimes under international law were likely being committed in the war-ravaged country, with migrant women suffering some of the worst abuse.
“The mission has reasonable grounds to believe that the crimes against humanity of murder, torture, imprisonment, rape, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts have been committed in several places of detention in Libya since 2016,” it said.
Migrants are routinely detained by authorities, human traffickers and others in Libya — a key departure point for tens of thousands of people mainly from sub-Saharan Africa hoping to reach Europe.
Human traffickers have profited from the chaos that has raged since the 2011 toppling and killing of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Talks between rival Libyan governments are being held in Geneva this week over the rules for long-awaited elections, with an aim to end the chaos.
The fact-finding mission report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next week, said it had gathered broad evidence of “the systematic use of prolonged arbitrary detention” of migrants in Libya.
The investigators, who made several trips to Libya, described how migrants in detention face “acts of murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts.”
The report highlighted “sexual violence at the hands of traffickers and smugglers, often with the aim of extorting families.”
“The mission has also documented cases of rape in places of detention or captivity whereby migrant women are forced to have sex in order to survive, in exchange for food or other essential items,” it said.
In fact, the known risk of sexual violence is considered too great, the report said, that “some migrant women and girls get fitted with a contraceptive implant before traveling there to avoid unwanted pregnancy due to such violence.”
The investigators relayed some heartbreaking stories heard from migrants in Libya.
One woman, who was held in the northern town of Ajdabiya, “described how her captors demanded sex in exchange for access to water she direly needed to wash her six-month-old sick child’s soiled clothes,” the report said.
“I let them rape me. I had no choice. It was for my daughter. I could not leave her like that,” she said, according to the report.
The fact-finding mission, which was created by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020, will see its mandate expire in a few days.
But a group of African countries has presented a draft resolution to the council that would allow it to continue its work for another nine months.
Meanwhile, a flimsy rubber boat collapsed and sank in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya’s coast, leaving at least 30 people including women and children missing and feared dead, an international charity said Wednesday.
The vessel sank in the deadly central Mediterranean Sea route, said Doctors Without Borders, also known by its abbreviation MSF for the French name of the group.
A rescue ship operated by MSF reached the boat, and managed to rescue dozens of other migrants including some women. A pregnant woman died on board the rescue ship, Geo Barents, it said.
Among the rescued migrants from Monday’s boat sinking was a woman who lost her child in the sinking and another one who said she lost two children, the charity said.
The charity has called for Italian and Maltese authorities to determine a port of safety to allow the disembarkation of survivors.
* With AFP and AP


Hezbollah warns Israel against targeting Palestinian militants in Lebanon

Updated 09 August 2022

Hezbollah warns Israel against targeting Palestinian militants in Lebanon

  • Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah: ‘Any attack on any human being will not go unpunished or unanswered’
  • Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz hinted at the possible targeting of Islamic Jihad officials abroad

The head of Lebanon’s powerful armed movement Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, warned on Tuesday against any Israeli attempts to expand their targeting of Palestinian militants to Lebanon.
“Any attack on any human being will not go unpunished or unanswered,” Nasrallah said in a televised address marking Ashura, a melancholic commemoration for Shiite Muslims of the killing the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.
The comments came after a flare-up in violence between Israel and the Islamic Jihad movement in the Gaza strip, prompted by Israel’s arrest of a senior Islamic Jihad leader earlier this month.
On Saturday, Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz hinted at the possible targeting of Islamic Jihad officials abroad, who he said could be seen in “restaurants and hotels in Tehran, Syria and Lebanon.”
“They too will have to pay the price,” Gantz said.
On Monday, a day after a truce brokered by Egypt ended the Gaza violence, he said Israel could carry out “pre-emptive strikes” abroad.
“In the future too, if necessary, we will deliver a pre-emptive strike in order to defend Israel’s citizens, sovereignty and infrastructure and this is true for all fronts, from Teheran to Khan Younis,” he said.
Iran-backed Hezbollah is vehemently opposed to Israel and tensions between the two have been escalating in recent months over a disputed maritime border between Lebanon and Israel.


Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon mark festival of Ashoura

Updated 09 August 2022

Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Lebanon mark festival of Ashoura

  • The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside

BAGHDAD: Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon chanted, paraded and beat their chests on Tuesday as they marked Ashoura, one of the most important dates on the religious calendar, commemorating the 7th century martyrdom of the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein.
The symbols of Shiite piety and penitence blanketed major cities in Iraq, where Hussein was believed killed at the battle of Karbala, south of Baghdad, in 680 A.D.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people converge on Karbala, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, to observe the solemn holy day.
Shiites see Hussein and his descendants as the rightful heirs to the prophet. His killing at the hands of a rival Muslim faction embodies the rift between the Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam and continues to shape the identity of the minority branch of Islam today.
The public rituals of Ashoura often fuels sectarian tensions in places like Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan where Islam’s two main sects both reside.
Security forces were on high alert for any violence, as extremist groups that consider the Shiites heretics have seized on the occasion to mount attacks in years past.
In Iraq, the powerful cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has used the emotional religious occasion to stir up support for his movement, deepening the country’s inter-Shiite divisions. Unable to form a government, Iraq descended further into political chaos last week when thousands of Al-Sadr’s supporters stormed and occupied the parliament building. Their sit-in continues outside the assembly, making it impossible for lawmakers to convene and raising the specter of civil strife.
In the Shiite-dominated Baghdad suburb of Sadr City, Al-Sadr’s portrait hangs from nearly every door. Processions of men and boys expressed extreme fervor in the Ashoura rituals of self-flagellation on Tuesday. They beat their heads and chests in unison and whipped themselves with chains to the point of bleeding.
“We inherited this from our fathers and grandfathers,” said participant Hamza Abdul-Jalil. “God willing, we will continue on this path.”
In Lebanon, processions shut down Shiite areas across the country and Beirut’s biggest suburb.

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Palestinians say Israel troops kill 3 in West Bank raid

Updated 09 August 2022

Palestinians say Israel troops kill 3 in West Bank raid

  • Last week, Israel arrested Bassam Al-Saadi, a senior militant in the West Bank city of Jenin

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops killed three Palestinians and injured dozens more in a shootout Tuesday during an arrest operation in the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The shootout came a day after a cease-fire ended three days of fighting between Israel and the Palestinian militant group in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli police said forces encircled the home of Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, who they say was wanted for a string of shootings in the West Bank earlier this year. It confirmed that Al-Nabulsi and another Palestinian militant were killed in a shootout at the scene, and that troops found arms and explosives in his home.
The Israeli military said that troops came under attack from Palestinians throwing rocks and explosives, and that soldiers responded with live fire. It confirmed Palestinians were shot, but did not elaborate on their condition.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that three people were killed — Al-Nabulsi, Islam Sabouh and Hussein Jamal Taha — and at least 40 others were wounded.
Israel has conducted near nightly arrest raids in the West Bank in recent months as part of a crackdown on Palestinian militant groups in the aftermath of a string of deadly attacks targeting Israelis earlier this year that left 19 people dead. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops during these arrest raids.
Last week, Israel arrested Bassam Al-Saadi, a senior militant in the West Bank city of Jenin, during one of the nightly operations. The group said it was going “on alert,” and on Friday Israel said it had launched a series of strikes on militant targets in the Gaza Strip in response to an “imminent threat” by the militant group.
During the three days of Gaza fighting, at least 46 Palestinians were killed, including 16 children and four women, and 311 were wounded, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Twelve of those killed were militants, one was from a smaller armed group, and two were Hamas-affiliated policemen who were not taking part in the fighting, according to the armed factions.
Israel estimated that a total of 47 Palestinians were killed, including 14 killed by misfired rockets. It said 20 militants and seven civilians died in Israeli airstrikes and that it was still investigating six deaths.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and the Palestinians seek it as the heartland of their future state. Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people, and has constructed dozens of settlements, now home to over 400,000 Israelis.
The Palestinians and much of the international community consider Israel’s West Bank settlements a violation of international law and an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the decades-long conflict.


Iran receives first telemetry data from ‘Khayyam’ satellite — IRNA

Updated 09 August 2022

Iran receives first telemetry data from ‘Khayyam’ satellite — IRNA

DUBAI: Iran’s Space Organization has received the first telemetry data sent from the “Khayyam” satellite, a remote-sensing Iranian satellite launched on Tuesday by a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the official IRNA news agency said.

Tehran has rejected claims the satellite could be used by Moscow to boost its intelligence capabilities in Ukraine, saying Iran will have full control and operation over it “from day one.”The Washington Post reported last week that US officials are concerned by the fledgling space cooperation between Russia and Iran, fearing the satellite will not only help Russia in Ukraine but also provide Iran “unprecedented capabilities” to monitor potential military targets in Israel and the wider middle east.

Iran says the satellite is designed for scientific research including radiation and environmental monitoring for agricultural purposes.

Russia has sought to deepen its ties with Iran since Feb. 24, when the Kremlin ordered tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine.

In July, President Vladimir Putin visited Iran in his first international trip outside the former Soviet Union since the start of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

While in there, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Putin that Tehran and Moscow needed to stay vigilant against “Western deception.”


Learn to ride a camel at this Dubai school

Updated 09 August 2022

Learn to ride a camel at this Dubai school

  • People can come repeatedly, they can build relationships with the animals, co-founder says
  • There is higher turnout of women than men in this field and we are proud of that, official says

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates has opened its first official licensed camel riding school, the Arabian Desert Camel Riding Centre.

"There are other places to ride, but usually they don't offer such an in-depth experience with the animal, or that people can come repeatedly and that they can build relationships to the animals, to the camels that we have or that they can take their riding skills further from riding long distance," co-founder Linda Krockenberger said.

The Arabian Peninsula has been home to camels for thousands of years.

Camels were historically used for transport and as a source of survival.

Obaid Al-Falasi, another co-founder, said everyone who tried camel riding at the new centre "keeps coming back again."

"We found that people like this in a way that we hadn't imagined. There is a higher turnout of women than men in this field, and we are proud of that, as it exceeded our expectations."

One tourist from New Zealand decided to trial the school with her kids.

"When we got to the UAE (from New Zealand), we had never seen a camel before, so we decided to try the camel, which is different to a horse, obviously it's a lot higher, my eleven-year-old gets quite daunted by the size and it is taking her a bit longer to learn to trot," Michelle O'Malley, a student, said.

The Arabian Peninsula has been home to camels for thousands of years.

Camels were historically used for transport and as a source of survival.

Nowadays, the UAE races camels with prizes reaching thousands of dollars.