Mideast news brief: Errant NATO airstrike kill 5 rebels in Eastern Libya
Errant NATO airstrike kill 5 rebels in Eastern Libya A NATO aerial attack near the Eastern oil town of Brega has mistakenly killed 5 rebels, and wounded over a dozen according rebel fighters. The attack, the second incident of mistaken fire by NATO in a week, comes as the rebels and Qaddafi’s forces seem to ...
Errant NATO airstrike kill 5 rebels in Eastern Libya
Errant NATO airstrike kill 5 rebels in Eastern Libya
A NATO aerial attack near the Eastern oil town of Brega has mistakenly killed 5 rebels, and wounded over a dozen according rebel fighters. The attack, the second incident of mistaken fire by NATO in a week, comes as the rebels and Qaddafi’s forces seem to be engaged in a stalemate–albeit one with a fairly loose front line. “This kind of desert fight is very fluid; advancing 20 kilometres and then retreating 20 kilometres is normal in a desert war,” Mustafa Gheriani, a rebel spokesman, said. Meanwhile, NATO has accused Qaddafi’s forces of using human shields during the fighting. NATO’s chief of allied operations, Brig. Gen. Mark van Uhm noted: “We have confirmation that in Misurata tanks are being dispersed, being hidden, humans being used as shields in order to prevent NATO sorties to identify targets.” In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called out the Qaddafi forces for its abuse of civilians, while noting that such behavior had made NATO’s mission tactically more difficult: “It is difficult when you have a force such as is deployed by Qaddafi, insinuating itself into cities, using snipers on rooftops, engaging in violent, terrible behavior that puts so many lives at risk.” Also yesterday, Colonel Qaddafi sent a letter to President Obama decrying the West’s “unjust war”, but still managing to heap praise on the U.S. president, noting: “We still pray that you continue to be president of the U.S.A. We Endeavour and hope that you will gain victory in the new election campaigne [sic].”
- Bashar al-Assad takes steps to placate protesters, including granting citizenship to Kurds in the East, releasing 48 Kurds from jail, and replacing the governor of Homs.
- Medicins Sans Frontieres released a new report detailing the deliberate targeting of hospitals during the Bahrain regime’s crackdown on protesters; meanwhile, the New York Times reports how Bahrain has further tightened its control over the fractured opposition movement
- The Qatari Prime Minister indicated that the Gulf states are seeking a deal between Yemen’s government and opposition forces that would see President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down
- Robert Gates visited U.S. troops in Iraq in what is likely his last visit as Secretary of Defense
- Israeli billionaire Alexander Machkevitch plans to launch a global TV network to rival Al-Jazeera and present a more ‘pro-Israel’ news slant
People gather around the coffin of Arab-Jewish actor and theatre director Juliano Mer-Khamis during his funeral procession in the west bank city of Jenin, on April 6, 2011, two days after the 52-year-old was shot dead by a gunman (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images).
Arguments & Analysis
‘Building the Palestinian State: Sustaining Growth, Institutions, and Service Delivery’ (World Bank, Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee)
The World Bank released its annual report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a consortium of donor bodies which support the Palestinian Authority, in advance of their meeting next week in Brussels. In assessing the state of the Palestinian economy and the institutions that would underpin a future Palestinian state, Mariam J. Sherman, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza, said, “Action is required by all parties — Israel, the PA and the donor community — but the closure regime remains the most substantial obstacle to Palestinian economic viability.” Among the report’s conclusions: “The economic growth observed in the West Bank and Gaza is arguably donor-driven, and sustainable growth remains hampered by Israeli restrictions on access to land, water, a range of raw materials, and export markets, to name a few”.
‘Popular Protests in North Africa and the Middle East (III): The Bahrain Revolt‘ (International Crisis Group)
The trajectory of Bahrain’s protest movement will certainly be a bellwether for how the West will operate with friendly autocrats in a post-Mubarak era. While visiting Riyadh yesterday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a reporter that he did not raise the issue of Saudi military presence in Bahrain. According to ICG, “Manama’s crackdown and Saudi Arabia’s military intervention are dangerous moves that could stamp out hopes for peaceful transition in Bahrain.” The report also looks at the “largely unfounded” fear of an Iranian “takeover” in Bahrain.
In addition to a stock-taking of the major players in Bahrain, the report offers this takeaway:
Given the level of distrust, involvement of a credible third party facilitator appears to be both essential and urgent. The goal would be to work out a plan for gradual but genuine reform toward a constitutional monarchy, with real parliamentary powers and redress of sectarian discrimination. In this context, Saudi Arabia and the other contributing Gulf states should withdraw their security forces and equipment from the island. Protesters should continue to use peaceful means to express their grievances and demands while agreeing to negotiate with the regime.
Meanwhile, a new NOREF report, ‘Consequences of the political deadlock in Bahrain on reforms in the Gulf,’ assesses the unrest in light of the “Manama Spring” of the 1990s.
‘Tunisian Labor Leaders Reflect Upon Revolt‘ (Chris Toensing, Middle East Report)
Chris Toensing, executive director of MERIP, recently interviewed key leaders fromTunisia’s labor federation, the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail, on political and labor developments since Ben Ali’s ouster. According to Abdellatif Hamrouni, secretary-general of the country’s federation of public works employees, “[O]ne of the issues each of us in Tunisia faces is how to get rid of self-censorship. Even now that Ben Ali is gone, two months later, we still feel that we are practicing it sometimes. We have all learned to speak in code. And we have learned to doubt everyone-even, sometimes, ourselves.”
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