Hamas Leader in Gaza: Be Ready for Great Battle

Sinwar (L) with several members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, in Gaza on Saturday. (AFP)
Sinwar (L) with several members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, in Gaza on Saturday. (AFP)
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Hamas Leader in Gaza: Be Ready for Great Battle

Sinwar (L) with several members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, in Gaza on Saturday. (AFP)
Sinwar (L) with several members of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, in Gaza on Saturday. (AFP)

The leader of the Hamas movement in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, called on Palestinians Saturday to be ready for the "great battle" against Israel to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

"Our people must prepare for a great battle if the occupation does not cease its aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque," he said during a meeting with military leaders from several Palestinian factions, in addition to journalists and intellectuals in Gaza.

Displaying a photo of Israeli police raiding Al-Aqsa Mosque, he said, "This photo will not be repeated. Whoever makes the decision to allow this photo to be repeated, has decided to allow the violation of thousands of synagogues all across the world."

He accused Israel of seeking to turn the clashes into Al-Aqsa into a religious war.

The Palestinians do no want such a conflict, but they are up to the challenge if it is imposed on them, he added.

A religious war, such as the one desired by Israel, will not spare anyone, he warned.

He called on the Palestinian factions and all Palestinians to prepare for the "great battle" if the Israelis do not cease their violations at Al-Aqsa.

"The battle will not conclude with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but it will only begin if the violations persist," Sinwar said.

However, he called on the world to act to prevent this war.

"Currently, there is an opportunity to prevent this war, but our military wings must still be prepared for it,” he stressed.

Moreover, Sinwar confirmed that Hamas has prepared 1,111 missiles that will be launched in the next confrontation with Israel.



Lebanon Likely to Postpone Municipal Elections for 3rd Time amid Political Division

MP Jihad Al-Samad (NNA)
MP Jihad Al-Samad (NNA)
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Lebanon Likely to Postpone Municipal Elections for 3rd Time amid Political Division

MP Jihad Al-Samad (NNA)
MP Jihad Al-Samad (NNA)

The Lebanese Parliament is scheduled to convene next week to discuss the postponement of the municipal elections for the third time in a row.

The term of the municipal and elective councils in Lebanon ended for the first time in 2022. The elections were postponed for a year to coincide with the parliamentary elections. But in 2023, they were delayed again for another year by a parliamentary decision.

As the extended term ends on May 30, political figures underlined the need to hold the elections across the country, with the exception of three governorates out of seven, namely the South, Nabatieh and Baalbek-Hermel, “for security reasons related to the Israeli war in the South.”

The head of Parliament’s Defense, Interior and Municipal Affairs, MP Jihad Al-Samad, said he submitted a draft-law to Parliament that would extend the mandate of the municipal and elective councils for another year, noting in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat that the proposal will be in the agenda of the session that is expected to be held next week.

“During the month of Ramadan, we held a session of the Defense and Interior Committee in the presence of Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi, and there were two opinions; The first calls for holding elections, excluding the three governorates, and the second calls for postponing them in light of the existing circumstances,” Al-Samad said.

Although the government says it is prepared to organize the vote, “the first indication of its lack of seriousness was not including financial allocations for holding the elections in the 2024 budget.”

The Interior Ministry announced last week that Mawlawi issued a decree to invite municipal electoral bodies in the districts of Mount Lebanon Governorate to elect members of municipal councils and mukhtars on May 12, 2024.

Political parties voiced their objection to postponing the elections. The head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea, described such decision as “an additional crime against Lebanon and the Lebanese.”

Geagea addressed the “axis of resistance and its allies” by saying: “After you deprived the Lebanese of an actual state, and after you took them to hell, and you disrupted the presidential elections, today you are working hard to deprive them of local authorities.”

Geagea called on the Free Patriotic Movement, which is headed by MP Gebran Bassil, “not to participate in this crime, and not to attend the expected session, in order to force the government to organize municipal elections in all Lebanese regions except those witnessing military operations.”

The Amal Movement, Hezbollah, and the Progressive Socialist Party, in particular, support postponing the elections, while mainly the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb party oppose it.


Jordan Thwarts Relentless Iranian Efforts to Target its Security

Jordanian King Abdullah II. AP file photo
Jordanian King Abdullah II. AP file photo
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Jordan Thwarts Relentless Iranian Efforts to Target its Security

Jordanian King Abdullah II. AP file photo
Jordanian King Abdullah II. AP file photo

Jordanian King Abdullah II affirmed his country’s position on “not allowing Jordan to be a battlefield for any party.”

His comments, which came during a meeting on Tuesday with figures from the Mafraq Governorate (70 kilometers northeast of the capital), reflected the same stance that the king conveyed to US President Joe Biden on Sunday.

During a telephone call with Biden, King Abdullah stressed that his country will not “be an arena for a regional war,” calling for the need to “immediately stop the escalation in the region,” and saying that any “Israeli escalatory measures will lead to expanding the circle of conflict.”

At dawn on Sunday, Fars News Agency quoted a military source as saying that the Iranian “armed forces are carefully monitoring Jordan’s movements during the process of disciplining the Zionist entity... If Jordan participates in any potential actions, it will be the next target.”

The Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday that it had summoned the Iranian ambassador to Amman and asked his country to “stop insulting and questioning” the kingdom’s positions.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in a televised appearance that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “will try to create a confrontation with Iran to drag the United States and the West into a regional war, so the focus will shift toward Iran, and the world will forget about Gaza.”

Meanwhile, Jordanian sources confirmed “sensitive information about persistent Iranian efforts to target security in the kingdom” during the past few months.

Those were thwarted and kept secret to avoid causing more tension in the relationship between the two countries, according to the sources.

Jordan is aware that Tehran’s intentions are “to nurture security hotspots, which it will use to harass its opponents in the region.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, a political source noted that Iran wants to “destabilize Jordan and it is looking for a foothold that will disturb the kingdom.”

Earlier this month, Asharq Al-Awsat reported that pro-Iranian Iraqi militias have sought since Oct. 7 to carry out infiltration operations across the Jordanian border to support the Palestinian resistance.

But the Jordanian army was able to thwart many of these attempts, sending “serious threats” through official channels to bomb the Shiite militias that had set up camps in the Trebil area in Iraq, and forcing them to retreat 40 kilometers inside Iraqi territory.

“Amman does not trust Tehran” is a summary of the history of the relationship between the two countries, as described by Jordanian politicians and elites.

“The more chaos in the region expands... the more Iran is able to negotiate to achieve its interests, in a war it is conducting through its proxies,” said Minister Khaled Al-Kalaldeh.


US Envoy Says Full UN Membership Won’t Help Palestinians with Statehood 

A man looks at a plume of smoke after Israeli bombardment at Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on April 16, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A man looks at a plume of smoke after Israeli bombardment at Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on April 16, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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US Envoy Says Full UN Membership Won’t Help Palestinians with Statehood 

A man looks at a plume of smoke after Israeli bombardment at Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on April 16, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A man looks at a plume of smoke after Israeli bombardment at Al-Daraj neighborhood in Gaza City on April 16, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Wednesday she did not see a UN resolution recommending the Palestinian Authority become a full UN member helping lead to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thomas-Greenfield made the comments at a news conference in Seoul, after being asked whether the United States was open to recognize the request by the Palestinian Authority to have full UN membership.

"We do not see that doing a resolution in the Security Council will necessarily get us to a place where we can find... a two-state solution moving forward," said Thomas-Greenfield.

She said US President Joe Biden had categorically said that Washington supported a two-state solution and was working on the ground to get that in place as soon as possible.

The Palestinian Authority is expected to push the 15-member Security Council to vote, as early as Thursday, on a draft resolution recommending it become a full member of the world body, diplomats said. Security Council member Algeria circulated a draft text late on Tuesday.

A UN Security Council committee considering the application "was unable to make a unanimous recommendation" on whether it met the criteria, according to the committee report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

An application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council - where the United States can cast a veto - and then at least two-thirds of the 193-member General Assembly.

Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s.

Among the obstacles are expanding Israeli settlements, and Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan has said that the Palestinian Authority had not met the required criteria for statehood.

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank and is Israel's partner to the Oslo Accords. Hamas in 2007 ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in the Gaza Strip.


Italy Foreign Minister Calls on Israel to Halt Military Operations in Gaza 

Palestinian children check a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment the previous night in Rafah the southern Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinian children check a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment the previous night in Rafah the southern Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Italy Foreign Minister Calls on Israel to Halt Military Operations in Gaza 

Palestinian children check a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment the previous night in Rafah the southern Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinian children check a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment the previous night in Rafah the southern Gaza Strip on April 17, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on Wednesday called on Israel to halt its military operations in Gaza, reiterating that it was time for a ceasefire in the Palestinian enclave.

Italy initially backed Israel's actions following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on its southern territories, but more recently it has softened its support in the light of the thousands of civilian deaths.

In an interview with daily La Stampa, Tajani stressed that the war in Gaza was triggered by the Hamas's "barbaric" assault.

He then added: "However, now a ceasefire is necessary. Israel must stop the military operations that have massively affected the Palestinian population."

The interview was conducted ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven wealthy nations which will be hosted by Tajani on the Italian island of Capri. Italy holds the rotating presidency of the G7.


Egypt, Türkiye Forge Closer Ties After Ending Rift

The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)
The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)
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Egypt, Türkiye Forge Closer Ties After Ending Rift

The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)
The Egyptian president shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Cairo last February (AFP)

Cairo and Ankara are swiftly repairing their relationship after years of tension. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is expected to visit Türkiye this week, setting the stage for a possible visit by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Ankara, as previously announced.

According to Turkish diplomatic sources, Shoukry will discuss Middle East developments and Gaza with his Turkish counterpart Hakan Fidan. The focus will be on ceasefire negotiations in Gaza.

While Egypt hasn’t confirmed the visit officially, reports suggest Shoukry will meet Fidan in Türkiye by the week’s end. This marks Shoukry’s second visit since relations normalized in 2023.

Experts see Shoukry’s visit as preparation for Sisi’s potential visit to Türkiye, aiming to discuss cooperation and set the agenda for an Egyptian-Turkish summit.

This sentiment was echoed by Karam Said, an expert on Turkish affairs at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

“A part of Shoukry’s visit will focus on preparing for the anticipated visit by Sisi and agreeing on the agenda for the Egyptian-Turkish summit and clarifying the issues to be discussed between the two countries,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Said highlighted that Shoukry’s upcoming visit to Türkiye is crucial given current tensions in bilateral relations and regional conflicts.

It aligns with both countries’ efforts to ease tensions, prevent escalation, and mitigate the fallout from the Iranian-Israeli conflict.

Last year’s groundbreaking meeting between Sisi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Cairo signaled a shift toward normalization after over a decade of strained relations.

Egypt and Türkiye elevated diplomatic ties, with both presidents meeting twice and officials from both countries holding multiple discussions.

Enhancing relations benefits both countries and could contribute to resolving regional conflicts. The timing of Shoukry’s visit is crucial, given regional tensions, especially concerning Gaza and the Iranian-Israeli escalation.

Egypt and Türkiye’s warming relations could pave the way for broader regional cooperation, potentially easing conflicts and fostering dialogue in the region.


Iran-Israel Tension Delays Decision on US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
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Iran-Israel Tension Delays Decision on US Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani at the Pentagon in Arlington, VA, US, April 15, 2024. REUTERS/REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani struck military deals and security agreements in meetings at the White House and with US officials, welcomed by Iraqi circles.

Sudani and US President Joe Biden had conflicting viewpoints on the Gaza conflict. The Iraqi PM stressed no escalation and voiced Iraq’s wish to end the US-led international coalition’s mission and move to a bilateral relationship, covering various fields under the “Strategic Framework Agreement,” according to Asharq Al-Awsat sources.

Biden and Sudani agreed, however, to work together on politics, economics, and security.

They aim for Iraq to produce its own energy by 2030, improve electricity reliability, and connect its power grid with neighboring countries, including Jordan and Gulf states.

A key focus of their talks was preventing ISIS from regrouping after setbacks inflicted by the international coalition over the past decade.

Biden and Sudani pledged to keep discussing security threats and strengthening Iraqi forces, with an eye toward ending the coalition’s mission and transitioning to a lasting bilateral security partnership as per Iraqi law and agreements between Baghdad and Washington.

Tensions rise in the Middle East amid worries about potential Israeli actions against Iran, while discussions continue on the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Iraq.

The US insists on ongoing talks without setting a clear exit date for the troops.

Conversations also covered financial reforms, combating money laundering and corruption, and boosting Iraq’s ties to the global economy to attract foreign investment.

US officials vowed to work with Baghdad against illicit finance and sanctioned activities.

Biden praised the Iraqi Prime Minister’s efforts in reaching agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government and ensuring salaries for civil servants in the region.

Both sides affirmed Kurdistan’s integral role in Iraq, with Biden backing free and fair elections there.

Farhad Alaa Al-Din, advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, stated the visit is on track with productive meetings.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that after key political discussions, Iraqi officials will meet with investors, companies, and communities in Houston and Michigan, engaging with media and intellectuals.


CENTCOM Forces Successfully Engage 2 Houthi UAVs

Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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CENTCOM Forces Successfully Engage 2 Houthi UAVs

Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Armed Houthi fighters stand guard at the entrance to a mosque during Eid al-Fitr prayers in Sanaa, Yemen, 10 April 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Wednesday its forces successfully engaged two unmanned aerial (UAV) vehicles in areas controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on April 16.

"There were no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships," CENTCOM said in a statement.

A Houthi spokesman said Sunday that the militias had been in direct confrontation with Israel since Oct. 7, by attacking the southern Israeli port of Eilat with missiles and drones and by preventing Israeli ships from sailing through the Red Sea.


UN Appeals for $2.8 Billion to Help 3 Million Palestinians

FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
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UN Appeals for $2.8 Billion to Help 3 Million Palestinians

FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)
FILE - Palestinians line up for a meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair, File)

The United Nations appealed for $2.8 billion on Tuesday to provide desperately needed aid to 3 million Palestinians, stressing that tackling looming famine in war-torn Gaza requires not only food but sanitation, water and health facilities.

Andrea De Domenico, the head of the UN humanitarian office for Gaza and the West Bank, told reporters that “massive operations” are required to restore those services and meet minimum standards — and this can’t be done during military operations.

He pointed to the destruction of hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, homes, roads and schools, adding that “there is not a single university that is standing in Gaza.”

According to The Associated Press, De Domenico said Israel's recently-ended second major military operation at Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical facility, was so destructive the facility has been forced to shut down. As an example, he questioned what the military objective was in shooting an MRI scanner that examines parts of the body and can detect cancers.

He said his team has been dealing with “a scene of terror” at the hospital, with UN and Palestinian colleagues helping people try to recognize family members from shoes or clothes on “the remnants of corpses.”

The Israeli offensive in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

De Domenico said there are signs of Israel’s “good intention” to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza, citing the opening of a crossing to the north, which faces the most serious threat of famine, and the opening of bakeries there.

But the UN keeps pushing Israel to do more, he said.

De Domenico pointed to Israeli denials and delays on UN requests for aid convoys to enter Gaza.

He said 41% of UN requests that required going through Israeli checkpoints were denied during the week from April 6-12, and last week a convoy from the UN children’s agency UNICEF and the UN World Food Program was caught in crossfire in an area that was supposed to be safe.

De Domenico said convoys often spend hours at checkpoints and are only cleared in the afternoon, too late to make deliveries and return safely in daylight hours. He said the Israelis know this is how the UN operates, and delays allow them to say “we’re not blindly denying you” while controlling what happens.

“We continue to engage with them and our objective is really to solve the issue and deliver aid,” he said.


Bathily Resigns as UN Envoy, Says Libya Is Arena for Fierce Rivalry Among Regional, Int'l Actors

UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)
UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)
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Bathily Resigns as UN Envoy, Says Libya Is Arena for Fierce Rivalry Among Regional, Int'l Actors

UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)
UN envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily. (AFP)

United Nations envoy for Libya Abdoulaye Bathily tendered his resignation on Tuesday, accusing the country's feuding parties of revealing an “intentional defiance” to engage in UN-led efforts to help resolve their political crisis and a tenacity to perpetually delay elections.

The North African country has become the playground for “fierce rivalry” among regional and international actors, Bathily warned during a briefing at the UN Security Council.

He said the renewed scramble for Libya, its position and immense resources among internal and external players is rendering a solution ever elusive.

Bathily said his invitation to the five key Libyan stakeholders for a dialogue to resolve all contested issues pertaining to the electoral laws and the formation of a unified government were met with “stubborn resistance, unreasonable expectations, and indifference to the interests of the Libyan people.”

Since the end of 2022, the UN-led efforts to help resolve Libya’s political crisis through elections faced national as well as regional pushbacks, revealing an “intentional defiance to engage in earnest and a tenacity to perpetually delay elections,” he noted.

“Therefore, amidst this environment of entrenched positions and regional and global complexities, the challenges facing UN-led efforts in Libya have become increasingly pronounced,” he continued.

Also, he added, “despite continuous and extensive engagement with the main institutional actors, their persistent positions are significantly impeding efforts to advance the political process.”

The envoy then explained that head of the High Council of State (HCS) Mohamed Takala and head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah nominated their representatives for the proposed dialogue, but both put pre-conditions which require the reopening of the electoral laws obtained by consensus after eight months of negotiations by the 6+6 Interparliamentary Committee and published in the Official Gazette by Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh.

Takala and Dbeibah also require the adoption of a new constitution as a pre-requisite for the electoral process, Bathily told the Security Council.

He said that “Saleh also continues to set the formation of a new government by the HoR as his priority,” arguing that the HoR “is the main legislative body that enjoys utmost legitimacy.”

Meanwhile, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) General Khalifa Haftar conditions his participation either to the invitation of the HoR-backed government led by Ossama Hammad, or to the disinvitation of Dbeibah, or in other terms the exclusion of both governments.

Bathily said that while the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and UN agencies, funds and programs engage the HoR-backed government especially on issues pertaining to humanitarian assistance and to the reconstruction on Derna, the administration is not, on its own, one of the key institutions whose buy-in is needed for a political settlement to enable elections.

He noted that “the rivalry among the five major Libyan players is at the heart of the problem”, adding that the dialogue proposal is a balanced way to an inclusive solution.

“These complexities were exacerbated by an apparent agreement between President of the Presidential Council Mohamed al-Menfi, Saleh, and Takala, according to a joint statement following a trilateral meeting on March 10 in Cairo, with which UNSMIL was not associated,” the envoy said.

Bathily stressed that his subsequent discussions with the leaders who participated in the Cairo meeting revealed diverging interpretations of and lack of details on its outcome.

Therefore, preconditions put forward by Libyan leaders contradict their proclaimed intention to find a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned solution to the conflict, according to the UN envoy. “So far, they have not demonstrated their good will.”

Also, he said concerns regarding the weakening of the international consensus on Libya are growing within the general population, as their country has become the playground for “fierce rivalry among regional and international actors motivated by geopolitical, political and economic interests as well as competition extending beyond Libya and related to its neighborhood.”

“The renewed scramble for Libya, its position and immense resources among internal and external players is rendering a solution ever elusive,” he lamented.

At the economic level, Bathily said the situation in Libya is becoming severely strained, amid warnings from the Central Bank of Libya of an impending liquidity crisis.

He explained that the temporary surcharge on official foreign currency exchange, combined with the declining value of the Libyan dinar in the domestic parallel market and restricted access to foreign currencies, has noticeably fueled public anger.

Bathily, therefore, urged Libyan authorities to promptly agree on a national budget and decisively address significant deficiencies in transparent, equitable, and accountable management of state resources for the benefit of all Libyans, including those in the marginalized areas of the country.

He then warned that any escalation of tensions in Libya would exacerbate instability not only in Chad, Niger and Sudan, but also across the wider region of the Sahel.


Israeli Tanks Push Back into Northern Gaza, Warplanes Hit Rafah, Say Residents

A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Israeli Tanks Push Back into Northern Gaza, Warplanes Hit Rafah, Say Residents

A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
A man mourns over the bodies of relatives who were killed the previous night during Israeli bombardment, at Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 16, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli tanks pushed back into parts of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday which they had left weeks ago, while warplanes conducted air strikes on Rafah, the Palestinians' last refuge in the south of the territory, killing and wounding several people, medics and residents said.

Residents reported an internet outage in the areas of Beit Hanoun and Jabalia in northern Gaza. Tanks advanced into Beit Hanoun and surrounded some schools where displaced families have taken refuge, said the residents and media outlets of the armed Palestinian group Hamas.

"Occupation soldiers ordered all families inside the schools and the nearby houses where the tanks had advanced to evacuate. The soldiers detained many men," one resident of northern Gaza told Reuters via a chat app.

Beit Hanoun, home to 60,000 people, was one of the first areas targeted by Israel's ground offensive in Gaza last October. Heavy bombardment turned most of Beit Hanoun, once known as "the basket of fruit" because of its orchards, into a ghost town comprising piles of rubble.

Many families who had returned to Beit Hanoun and Jabalia in recent weeks after Israeli forces withdrew, began moving out again on Tuesday because of the new raid, some residents said.

Palestinian health officials said an Israeli strike had killed four people and wounded several others in Rafah, where over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are sheltering and bracing for a planned Israeli ground offensive into the city, which borders Egypt.

Later on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials and Hamas media said an Israeli air strike had killed 11 Palestinians, including children, in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

"My brothers were sitting by the door, my brother was injured, and his cousin too, and I lost my son, I do not have a house, nor a husband, nor anything anymore," said Wafaa Issa al-Nouri, whose son Mohammad and husband were killed in the strike.

"He was playing by the door, we didn't do anything, I swear we didn't do anything," she said.

Gunmen targeted

After six months of fighting, there is still no sign of any breakthrough in US-backed talks led by Qatar and Egypt to clinch a ceasefire deal in Gaza, as Israel and Hamas stick to their mutually irreconcilable conditions.

The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the central Gaza Strip and that they had killed several gunmen who attempted to attack them.

"Furthermore, over the past day, IDF fighter jets and aircraft destroyed a missile launcher along with dozens of terrorist infrastructure, terror tunnels, and military compounds where armed Hamas terrorists were located," it added.

In Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, residents said Israeli planes had bombed and destroyed four multi-storey residential buildings on Tuesday.

Israel is still imposing "unlawful" restrictions on humanitarian relief for Gaza, the UN human rights office said on Tuesday, despite assertions from Israel and others that barriers have eased.

The amount of aid now entering Gaza is disputed, with Israel and Washington saying aid flows have risen in recent days but UN agencies say it is still far below bare minimum levels.

Israel is under international pressure to allow more aid into Gaza, especially northern areas where famine is expected by May, according to the United Nations.

Israel's military said it had facilitated the entry of 126 trucks into northern Gaza late on Monday from the south.

It also said it was working in collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP) to facilitate the opening of two more bakeries in northern Gaza after the first began operations on Monday with WFP help.

The Palestinian health ministry said more than 33,000 Palestinians have so far been killed by Israeli fire since Oct. 7, including 46 in the past 24 hours.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza after fighters of the Hamas group that has been running the territory attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.