Turkey Resumes Transfer of Syrian Mercenaries in Libya

Two local militiamen during battles that took place in 2019 near the Yarmouk camp in Tripoli. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Two local militiamen during battles that took place in 2019 near the Yarmouk camp in Tripoli. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Turkey Resumes Transfer of Syrian Mercenaries in Libya

Two local militiamen during battles that took place in 2019 near the Yarmouk camp in Tripoli. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Two local militiamen during battles that took place in 2019 near the Yarmouk camp in Tripoli. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Turkey has resumed the back-and-forth transfer of Syrian mercenaries operating in Libya following the decision in late June to halt the transfer process until the end of 2022.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) revealed on Wednesday that nearly 250 Syrian mercenaries were sent back to Syria from Libya via Turkey.

Most of the repatriated individuals are wounded and sick fighters operating under the banner of “Al-Sultan Murad, Soqur al-Shamal, Suleiman Shah, Al-Hamza Division, Al-Majd Corps” and other pro-Turkish factions.

In parallel, two batches of 250 mercenaries also left Syria for Libya, the majority of who registered their names with Al-Majd Corps, Al-Sultan Murad faction and Al-Hamza division, the war monitor reported.

This step came in light of escalation of disagreements between members of the Al-Sultan Murad and Soqour al-Shamal factions since early July and the ongoing demands to resume back-and-forth transfer operations.

The mercenaries threatened to stage demonstrations if the operations were to be suspended until the end of 2022.

On July 2, reliable sources told SOHR that disagreements escalated between members of the National Army in Yarmouk camp in Tripoli.

Many of these mercenaries have been in Libyan camps for more than two years and have been prevented from visiting Syria.

Sources said members of these factions complain that leaders are stealing their salaries and not providing them with the agreed upon food allowances.

Thousands of Turkish forces have been sent to Libya to fight along dozens of mercenaries from armed factions loyal to Turkey.

This comes in line with the memorandum of understanding on security and military cooperation signed in November 2019 between Turkey and the Government of National Accord (GNA) then headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Turkey considers its military presence in Libya “legal."

Ankara says its presence in Libya is aimed at helping the country establish a unified army that brings together all the forces from the east and west under one umbrella.

Turkey’s parliament approved in June to extend the Turkish armed forces' mandate in Libya for another 18 months from July 2, at the request of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

It argues that its efforts to build democratic institutions following the February 2011 incidents were in vain due to the armed conflicts that led to the emergence of a fragmented administrative structure in the country.

The text of the decision states that Turkey will continue to uphold its strong support to protect Libya’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and political unity.

It further underlined the importance of ensuring the establishment of a permanent ceasefire, supporting political dialogue to achieve national reconciliation and creating a legal framework for national elections.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.