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Wednesday, 23rd June 2021
8:25:10pm

North Africa

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Israeli and Egyptian officials held talks in both countries Sunday aimed at bolstering the Cairo-brokered ceasefire that ended the latest deadly flare-up of violence between the Jewish state and Gaza's Hamas rulers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem to discuss "strengthening cooperation" between their countries, Netanyahu's office said.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tasked Kamel and his delegation, who were also to visit the occupied Palestinian Territories, with hammering out a permanent ceasefire deal, senior Egyptian security officials told AFP.

On the same day, Israel's Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi made the first official visit by an Israeli top diplomat to neighbouring Egypt in 13 years, for talks with his counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

Ashkenazi tweeted on his arrival that they would "discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire with Hamas, a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Gaza with a pivotal role played by the international community".

The Egyptian foreign ministry tweeted that the ministers' talks were "part of Egypt's relentless and continued efforts to revive the peace track and to build on the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip".

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was also expected in Cairo for talks, senior Egyptian security officials said, without providing further details.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, health officials said.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, medics said.

-News24

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ethiopia seeks to impose "a fait accompli" on Egypt and Sudan, two downstream Nile basin countries, by attempting to continue filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) built on their shared Nile River.

Egypt voiced its opposition to Ethiopia's determination to carry out the second phase of filling the GERD later this year because of "the threat it poses to the interests of the Egyptian and Sudanese peoples and the impact of such unilateral measures on security and stability in the region," said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Hafez in a statement.

The statement came in response to the remarks made on Wednesday by the Ethiopian ministers of water and foreign affairs that Ethiopia would implement the second filling of the GERD in the coming rainy season starting July as scheduled.

Ethiopia, an upstream country, carried out the first phase of filling the dam in July 2020 despite the concerns of Egypt and Sudan, which have repeatedly called for a prior tripartite legally binding agreement on the rule of filling and operating the controversial dam.

"International rivers are a joint property of the riparian states, and it is impermissible to extend sovereignty over them or seek to monopolize them," Hafez said.

Ethiopia started building the GERD in 2011, while Egypt is concerned that the dam might affect its 55.5-billion-cubic-meter annual share of the Nile water. Sudan has recently been raising similar concerns over the 4-billion-U.S.-dollar dam.

Over the past few years, tripartite talks on the rules of filling and operating the GERD have been fruitless, including those first sponsored by Washington and then by the African Union.

Egypt and Sudan propose forming an international quartet to be led by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), currently chairing the African Union, to help achieve a tripartite agreement over the GERD in the coming few months.

"Egypt and Sudan have stressed the importance of an active involvement of the international community in negotiations, led and run by the DRC, through an international quartet that includes the United States, the European Union and the United Nations," the Egyptian spokesman said in the statement.

-Xinhua

Egypt received 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in the early hours of Tuesday, the health ministry said in a statement.
The new batch from China was the second shipment of the Sinopharm vaccine to Egypt. The country received its first 50,000-dose shipment in December.
The North African country also got 50,000 doses of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca earlier in February as part of its program to vaccinate health workers.
Egypt began vaccinating frontline medical staff against COVID-19 on Jan. 24 using the Chinese vaccine.
Egypt will open an online registration process next week for other groups eligible for vaccination, such as the elderly and patients with chronic diseases, Mostafa Ghoneima, a health minister assistant, said.
Vaccination of these groups will start with the arrival of more shipments of vaccines, he said at the Cairo airport upon the arrival of the latest shipment of Sinopharm vaccines.
As of Monday, Egypt had confirmed 178,774 coronavirus cases, including 10,404 deaths, since the start of the pandemic more than 10 months ago.
However, health officials say the real number is likely far higher because of the relatively low rate of coronavirus testing and the exclusion of private test results.

 
-Arab News

The speaker of Libya’s eastern-based parliament has announced that the chamber will hold a special session on March 8 to discuss holding a vote of confidence on a new unity government.

Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, said in a statement late on Friday the meeting in the central city of Sirte will take place if a joint military commission is able to guarantee the safety of participants.

The commission consists of five senior military officers from the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and five from its rival, the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The North African country, a major oil producer, has been mired in conflict since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The sometimes chaotic war has drawn in several outside powers and a flood of foreign arms and mercenaries.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between the GNA and the HoR in Tobruk, allied to Haftar.

The two sides agreed to a permanent ceasefire in October after Haftar’s failed bid to wrest control of the capital from the GNA. 

“Parliament will convene to discuss a vote of confidence on the government on Monday, March 8, at 11am in Sirte if the 5+5 Joint Military Commission guarantees the security of the meeting,” Saleh said.

“If that provides impossible, the session will be held in the temporary seat of parliament in Tobruk at the same date and time,” he added.

It was unclear whether the vote itself would take place on March 8 or whether the meeting would be limited to talks.

But General Ahmad Abu Shahma, the head of the GNA’s military committee and member of the joint military commission, said in a statement on Saturday that the Tripoli-based administration’s forces would not be able to secure Sirte for the event.

“Sirte is still under the control of foreign forces and mercenaries. There is no presence of any legitimate forces to secure the city,” Abu Shahma said. 

“It is up to the members of parliament to select the convenient place in coordination with the relevant security authorities.” 

Meanwhile, interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said earlier this week he had submitted to Saleh a “vision” for a cabinet lineup that would help steer Libya to elections in December, and that the names of proposed ministers would be disclosed in parliament during the confidence vote.

Parliament has 21 days to vote on the lineup, according to a UN road map.

Dbeibah was selected early this month in a UN-sponsored inter-Libyan dialogue, the latest internationally backed bid to salvage the country from a decade of conflict and fragmented political fiefdoms.

Saleh said on Friday Dbeibah should choose “competent people with integrity, from across the country, in order to achieve [national] consensus” for his government.

“Everyone should be represented so that [Libya] can emerge from the tunnel,” Saleh said.

If approved, a new cabinet would replace the Tripoli-based GNA, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, and the parallel administration in the east. 

The prime minister will then face the giant task of unifying Libya’s proliferating institutions and leading the transition up to the December 24 polls.

-Aljazeera

Tunisian police took Ahmed Gam from the shop where he worked, accused him of looting during recent protests, and beat him so badly during his detention last month that he lost a testicle, he said.

Lying in bed in his parents’ home in Bennane, near the coastal city of Monastir, Gam, 21, could not stand without help and cried as he described police beating and burning his genitals.

His account was supported, in part, by a hospital report viewed by Reuters.

Tunisia is widely seen as the sole relative success story of the 2011 “Arab spring” revolts for its democratic advances. It holds regular elections and has a press that criticises the state.

But Gam’s case is one of at least 100 in which, a Tunisian and international rights group says, security forces recently used violent abuse after people engaged in protest and dissent, freedoms won during the revolution 10 years ago.

The protests, which began on Jan. 15, the day after the 10th anniversary of the revolution, have increasingly focused on abusive tactics by police.

The Interior Ministry, which has oversight of the police, said it would not comment on ongoing cases, including Gam’s, when asked by Reuters. But it denounced allegations against police as “attacks aimed to undermine the credibility of its structures” and said it sought a balance between upholding rights and enforcing the law.

“Some individual mistakes happen but ... we have maintained self restraint despite provocations,” said Jamel Jarboui, spokesman for the national syndicate of security forces, a police union.

A judge in Monastir is investigating Gam’s complaint of torture. The family gave the judge the report from Sahloul Hospital in Sousse describing Gam’s admission on Jan. 30 with “testicular trauma” and a decision to remove the testicle.

The document, viewed by Reuters, is stamped by both the hospital and the Monastir Court of First Instance and dated Feb. 4. An official at the hospital, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed Gam was hospitalised on Jan. 30 and his testicle removed.

The judge could not be reached for comment but the state news agency TAP cited a court spokeswoman as saying he had opened an investigation for torture which caused the loss of an organ after seeing the doctor’s document and hearing from the plaintiff.

The judge has asked three people to appear before him on Monday in connection with the case, TAP reported.

The recent unrest, which began on the day after the 10th anniversary of the revolution, started as clashes at night between police and youths in poor city districts before spreading to daylight protests.

 
While the protests initially targeted inequality, they later focused more on anger at police abuses, with demonstrators last week shouting: “police everywhere, justice nowhere”.

TORTURE

Gam denies having taken part in the protests as well as the accusations of looting. He said police seized him on Jan. 27 while he was at work and started hitting him in the face as soon as they put him in their vehicle.

They took him to a detention centre in Monastir, tied his feet to the legs of a table “like a chicken” and then beat him in the groin with sticks, he said.

“I told them I would die,” he said.

They then removed his clothes. “One of them took a lighter and put it to each testicle,” he said. The policeman stopped when a colleague told him to, Gam said.

A group of seven police continued to torture him for more than an hour, he said. He was then held for two days without medical treatment.

To end the assault, he said he told police he “stole everything”, a confession he told Reuters was untrue.

After two days police took him to hospital in the nearby city of Sousse, his testicle swollen and blackened. Doctors then removed it, he said.

After his operation he was returned to custody and still faces prosecution for looting. However, the judge ordered his release while under investigation because of his medical condition, he said.

Apart from viewing the medical records, Reuters was not able to independently corroborate his account.

ANGER

Monther Charni, head of the Tunisia Organisation Against Torture, said he knew of more than 100 cases of ill treatment in detention. Abuses also included beatings, rape threats, stripping detainees naked and fabricating charges, he said.

Amnesty International North Africa director Amna Guellali also said the organisation had documented eight cases and believed police abuses during the recent unrest to be widespread.

Mohammed Hdaya from Kasserine told Reuters by phone that police accused him of incitement against the security forces in Facebook posts in support of the protests. They arrested him, beat him, removed his clothes and photographed him, Hdaya said. He denies incitement and said the judge rejected the charges but police continued to harass him.

“Is this a country of law?” he said.

Hamza Nassri Jeridi, a prominent activist and blogger, told Reuters he was detained on Jan. 17 after being accused of taking part in an illegal protest. He was held for three days in a crowded and dirty cell with no mattress or blanket.

Water was only available from a dirty tap in the cell. Food was served during the day but because he was taken to court each morning and returned at night he was not fed for three days, he said.

As with the case of Gam, the Interior ministry said it would not comment on ongoing cases. Reuters was unable to independently corroborate Jeridi and Hdaya’s accounts.

-Reuters

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