North Africa
Khalifa Haftar

War crimes suits against Libya’s Haftar dismissed

A US judge dismissed a group of civil lawsuits accusing Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar of war crimes. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case concerning crimes committed in Libya—even though Haftar has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. In the suits, first filed in 2019 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, the plaintiffs charged that family members were killed in bombardments conducted by Haftar’s forces on civilian areas of Tripoli that year. Plaintiffs noted that Haftar’s extensive properties in Virginia could have been used to compensate the survivors. The head of the Libyan-American Alliance, Issam Omeish, expressed his regret over the court’s decision, calling it a setback in the groups’ work seeking justice and accountability for rights abuses in Libya’s civil war. (Photo: Haftar with US embassy ChargĂ© d’Affaires Leslie Ordeman and USAF Lt. Gen. John Lamontagne, January 2023. Via Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: hold on presidency consolidated amid repression

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt was sworn in for a third term after being re-elected in a December vote in which he faced no serious challengers. El-Sissi won 89.6% of the vote, running against three virtually unknown opponents. First elected in 2014 (after coming to power in the previous year’s coup d’etat), then re-elected in 2018, el-Sisi was allowed a third term under constitutional amendments passed in a 2019 referendum. In addition to allowing a third run, the reform also extended his terms from four to six years. Another such reform allowing him to stay in office beyond 2030 has been broached. The election took place in an atmosphere of repression, with opposition candidates barred from running and even prosecuted. Hundreds of protesters and regime critics were arrested in the lead-up to the vote. (Photo: Abdelrhman 1990 via Wikimedia Commons)


Netanyahu orders ‘evacuation’ of southern Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military to draw up plans for the “evacuation” of Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza as it prepares to launch a full-scale assault on the area. Where people would be evacuated to—and how—remains unclear. Over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel’s military campaign—now entering its fifth month—have been pushed into Rafah. Aid groups warn that there is nowhere left for people to flee to. People in Rafah are already experiencing disease and starvation, and aid operations are struggling to meet even basic needs. A ground invasion would “exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare,” UN Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres said. (Photo: Yousef Hammash/NRC)


Who’s arming who in Sudan?

The United Arab Emirates denied arming the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fighting Sudan’s army, despite a leaked UN document alleging “credible” evidence. The UN report said arms shipments are unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. The UAE has also been accused of funnelling weapons through the Central African Republic, part of a regional supply network that has allowed the RSF to “punch above its weight” in the nine-month conflict. But the Gulf State—with business and political interests across Africa—said it has taken no side in the war. Sudan’s strategic position on the Red Sea has attracted the involvement of several regional powers. Egypt is backing the army, as is, reportedly, Iran. The multiplicity of actors has complicated resolution of a conflict that has displaced 10 million people. (Map: PCL)


Egypt fears Israel pushing Palestinians to Sinai

Since the “humanitarian pause” ended, Israel has focused its air-strikes on Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis—now swelled with hundreds of thousands displaced from the north of the Strip. Along with the strikes, Israeli planes are dropping leaflets on the city, warning the populace to flee further south to Rafah on the Egyptian border—despite having earlier declared the southern Strip a “safe zone.” Most of the Strip’s 2.3 million population has already fled to the south, and Egyptian officials believe that Israel is preparing to next drive them across the border into the Sinai desert. The aim of the Khan Younis strikes is to “disrupt the mass of the population from the south and push it towards Egypt,” one Cairo official told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has categorically rejected a forced resettlement, and the idea is generating anger among Egyptians. (Photo via The New Arab)


Expel Palestinians from Gaza: Israeli intelligence ministry

The Israeli Ministry of Intelligence is recommending the forcible and permanent transfer of the Gaza Strip’s 2.2 million Palestinian residents to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, according to an official document revealed in full by progressive Israeli website Local Call, and acknowledged by the ministry as authentic. The document, which has been translated into English, recommends that Israel act to “evacuate the civilian population to Sinai” during the course of the conflict; establish tent cities and later more permanent settlements in the northern Sinai that will absorb the expelled population; and then create “a sterile zone of several kilometers…within Egypt, and [prevent] the return of the population to activities/residences near the border with Israel.” (Photo of bombed Jabalia refugee camp via Maan News Agency)


UN pleads for urgent Gaza aid access

During a visit to the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, UN Secretary-General AntĂłnio Guterres called for trucks carrying humanitarian aid to urgently be allowed into Gaza. According to the UN, around 200 trucks are waiting on the Egyptian side of the border. The World Health Organization called it a “drop in the ocean of need right now.” The UN estimates that around one million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes in two weeks of intense Israeli bombardment and siege. More than 4,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed and over 13,000 injured, Gaza residents are struggling to find clean water to drink, food supplies are dwindling, and the healthcare system is reportedly on the brink of collapse. (Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/TNH)


Israel orders north Gaza evacuation —but to where?

One week after the unprecedented and bloody Hamas incursion, Israel has ordered 1.1 million people living in the north of the Gaza Strip to evacuate to the south of the enclave within 24 hours, ahead of an expected ground invasion. The UN is calling on Israel to rescind the evacuation order, with a spokesperson saying it is “impossible for such a movement to take place without devastating humanitarian consequences.” Since the Hamas incursion, which left some 1,300 dead, Israel has imposed a complete siege on Gaza, cutting off electricity and water, and blocking the entry of food and fuel. It has dropped more than 6,000bombs on the enclave, killing more than 1,500 people—a third of them children. The evacuation order has created fear and confusion, as north Gaza residents flee south with little idea of where they will find shelter or how their basic needs will be met. All the borders of the enclave are now closed to civilians trying to flee. (Photo: Maan News Agency)

Africa Climate Summit

Did Africa’s first climate summit miss the point?

The inaugural biennial Africa Climate Summit, attended by some 30,000 delegates including 17 heads of state, wrapped up in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, following three days of discussions largely centred on the opportunities for “green” economic growth on the continent. The summit issued the Nairobi Declaration, containing a slew of pledges and demands, including calls to accurately value the continent’s natural carbon sequestration assets (such as its forests). The declaration also called on wealthy countries to live up to their existing commitments to cut emissions and to deliver funds for adaptation—by properly launching, for example, the Loss & Damage Fund agreed to at last year’s COP27 in Egypt. However, the summit was also dogged by controversy and protests, with more than 500 civil society organizations signing an open letter claiming its agenda had been hijacked to market “false solutions” such as carbon markets. (Photo: Evan Habil/Greenpeace)

Greater Middle East
Ahmed Douma

Egypt: iconic activist’s decade-long detention ends

An attorney representing imprisoned Egyptian political activist Ahmed Douma took to social media to announce the activist’s release, thanks to a presidential pardon. Douma had endured a decade of incarceration within Egyptian penitentiaries, and had five more years of his sentence to serve. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi apparently responded to repeated calls for his release by human rights organizations. A leading figure in the January 25 Revolution of 2011, Douma was convicted of violating a ban on protests in December 2013, following Sisi’s military coup. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch

Migrant fatalities surged in 2022: UN

The UN migration agency reported that 2022 was the deadliest year yet for migrants crossing from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) into Europe. According to the report from the International Organization for Migration‘s Missing Migrants Project, a record number of 3,800 people died along these migratory routes last year. The report underscored the urgent need for action to improve the safety and protection of migrants. The data, though recognized as undercounted due to the challenges in collecting information, sheds light on the magnitude of the problem. The recorded deaths in 2022 represent an 11% increase from the previous year. (Photo: Flavio Gasperini/SOS Mediterranee via InfoMigrants)

North Africa
migrant camp

Drones deployed in Libya migrant crackdown

Libyan politicians wrapped up nearly three weeks of talks in Morocco meant to set a framework for the country’s long-delayed elections. Back at home, the country’s rival sides are both cracking down hard on migrants and refugees. The Tripoli-based Government of National Unity is using armed drones to target what it says are migrant traffickers bringing people in from Tunisia. In eastern Libya, authorities have reportedly rounded up some 6,000Egyptian migrants, deporting some and holding others in a customs hangar near the border. Some suspect that this has been driven by the political calculations of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the “Libyan National Army” that controls much of the country’s east. Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s far-right prime minister, visited Haftar last month to talk migration control amid an increase in people crossing the central Mediterranean. (Photo of migrant camp near Tunisian border with Libya: UK Department for International Development via Jurist)