Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Civil War In Libya -- News Updates May 10, 2011

NATO Bombs Tripoli, Fight Stirs East Front -- Time/AP (TRIPOLI, Libya) — NATO warplanes struck Tripoli early Tuesday in the heaviest bombing of the Libyan capital in weeks, hours after an uptick in fighting between rebels and Muammar Gaddafi's forces on a long deadlocked front line in the country's east. NATO struck at least four sites in Tripoli, setting off crackling explosions that thundered through the city overnight. One strike hit a building that local residents said was used by a military intelligence agency. Another targeted a government building that officials said was sometimes used by parliament members.

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NATO denies targeting Gaddafi, unaware of his status

NATO denied again today that air raids on Tripoli were aimed at killing Muammar Gaddafi and said it did not know whether he was dead or alive.

Brigadier General Claudio Gabellini insisted that the latest bombing raids in Libya as usual were aimed at command and control centres used by the regime to direct attacks against civilians.

"All NATO targets are military targets, which means that the targets we've been hitting, and it happened also last night in Tripoli, are command and control bunkers," Gabellini told reporters.

"NATO is not targeting individuals," he said via videolink from the operation's headquarters in Naples, Italy.
Asked whether Gaddafi was still alive, the Italian NATO general said: "We don't have any evidence. We don't know what Gaddafi is doing right now."

He added later: "To tell you the truth, we are not really interested in what he's doing. Our mandate is to protect civilians from attacks or from the threats of attacks, so we are not looking after individuals."
Since NATO took over military operations on March 31, jets have conducted almost 6,000 sorties, including more than 2,300 strike missions, although bombs are not dropped in all of those missions, official figures showed.

In the besieged western city of Misrata alone, Gabellini said NATO has struck more than 30 military targets since May 2, including a dozen main battle tanks, three roket-launcher systems, three self-propelled artillery pieces and 15 ammunition storage sites.

Yesterday, NATO struck three command and control facilities around Tripoli as well as one tank and one command and control node in Misrata, alliance figures showed.

It also hit 15 ammunition storages in the vicinity of Mizdah and another two in Sirte.

Gunfire, Arrests in Damascus Unrest

Local Editor
Gunfire rang out in a suburb of Damascus on Monday as Syrian troops carried out arrests of regime opponents in the coastal town of Banias and other protest hubs, AFP reported.

The source of the gunfire could not immediately be determined.

The military statement said on Sunday that six soldiers, including three officers, were killed in clashes as the army pursued "armed terrorist groups" in Homs, Banias and around the southern town of Daraa -- three protest hubs.

“Many terrorists have been killed and others wounded. Scores of them arrested and large quantities of various kinds of weapons have been confiscated,” the military source added.
Meanwhile, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad vowed on Monday in Al-Watan newspaper to press ahead with reforms and forecast the political crisis in Syria was nearing an end.

"The crisis will pass and end, and the question of administrative, political and press reforms will advance," he was quoted as telling a delegation of residents of Syria's main port city of Latakia, north of Banias.

He stressed the need "to consolidate national unity because the nation is the mother of all of us and we need to unite in the face of this plot," referring to Syrian official charges of terrorist gangs and foreign hands behind the unrest.

Al-Watan said the army had been locked "in a fierce battle against groups using heavy weapons, anti-tank rockets and machine guns" in and around Banias since Friday night.

In the mean time, an official in the Syrian Interior Ministry said that 1083 persons of those involved in the riots have been surrendered, but released after they were committed not to carry out any act, which does wrong to the security of country and citizen.

On the other hand, an Arab media resource said that prince of Emirate of Banias Anas Aerott have been arrested, along with its minister of defense and several Israeli intelligence officers.

On Sunday, a military spokesman said "units of the army and security forces continue to pursue armed terrorist groups... in Homs, Banias and the outskirts of Daraa," the state news agency SANA reported.

SANA also reported that 10 Syrian laborers returning home from Lebanon were killed in an ambush at dawn on Sunday near Homs.

The United States has warned it would take "additional steps" against Syria if it continues its crackdown, while the European Union decided on Friday to impose sanctions on 13 Syrian officials.

Hamas's Newest "Collaborators": Fatah

Khaled Abu Toameh
Hudson New York
10 May 11


The two main partners in the new Palestinian government, Hamas and Fatah, have chosen to celebrate their unity accord by targeting anyone who helps Israel.

This means that the new unity government, which is supposed to be established in the coming weeks, would not only be opposed to compromise, but would also target those who maintain contacts with Israelis.

The timing of a recent execution in the Gaza Strip was seen as a warning message from Hamas to Fatah against continued "collaboration" with Israel.

Just hours before the signing of the Palestinian "reconciliation" pact in Cairo last week, the Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip announced the execution by firing squad of Abdel Karim Shrair, 37, on charges of "collaboration" with Israel.

Days later in the West Bank, Palestinian gunmen believed to be members of Fatah, murdered Mohammed Khawaldi, 32, who had also been accused of "collaboration" with Israel.

Instead of issuing a condemnation, Fatah rushed to murder a "collaborator" in the West Bank – as if it is trying to tell the Palestinians: "You see, we are also capable of killing people who help Israel."

Fatah's failure to condemn the execution is a sign that the secular faction does not want to anger its new partner: Hamas.

Whatever Shrair did to help Israel, it could not have been more than what Abbas and Fayyad have done over the past few years. The two meet with Israelis on a regular basis and support security coordination between their security forces and the Israelis.

In the eyes of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayyad are also "traitors" because they have agreed -- at least in English and in public -- to recognize Israel's right to exist. If Abbas and Fayyad were to stand trail before a court on all what Hamas has accused them of doing, they too would end up facing a firing squad.

Shrair, after all, was also affiliated with Fatah, and had served in their security forces before Hamas seized control over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

Citing Fatah security forces' security coordination with Israel, Hamas had previously refused to sign the unity accord, demanding an end to all forms of collaboration with Israel.

In the end, under Egyptian pressure, Hamas agreed temporarily to drop its condition.

The issue of security coordination between the Fatah-controlled security forces in the West Bank and Israel had been a major obstacle to ending the dispute between the two rival Palestinian factions.

Over the past four years, Hamas complained that this security coordination has resulted in the arrest and of hundreds of its followers in the West Bank. The coordination, according to Hamas, has also led to the elimination of many Hamas-linked institutions in the West Bank.

Hamas has also accused Fatah leaders of helping Israel during the 2008 Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip known as Operation Cast Lead.

But now it appears that Hamas is willing to sit in a unity government with Palestinians it still considers to be "collaborators" with Israel.

The decision to execute Shrair hours before the signing ceremony in Cairo is an indication that Hamas continues to see the issue of collaboration with Israel as a very serious matter. Many Palestinians see it as a warning and challenge to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.

Boehner Outlines Demands on Debt Limit Fight


WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner said Monday that Republicans would insist on trillions of dollars in federal spending cuts in exchange for their support of an increase in the federal debt limit sought by the Obama administration to prevent a government default later this year.

In his most specific statement to date on what Republicans will demand in the debt ceiling fight, Mr. Boehner told the Economic Club of New York that the level of spending reductions should exceed the amount of the increase in borrowing power.

“Without significant spending cuts and changes to the way we spend the American people’s money, there will be no debt limit increase,” Mr. Boehner told members of New York’s business and finance community. “And cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given.” Mr. Boehner said those cuts should be in the trillions of dollars, not billions.

In the speech, delivered ahead of a second round of debt limit negotiations with the White House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Mr. Boehner did not provide a timeframe for when the spending reductions would have to be imposed.

(More here.)