Archives

February 23, 2011

EDITOR: The changes start arriving!

The Egyptian government has removed the blockade of Gaza, and the world has not collapsed! After five years of playing the Israeli sidekick on this illegal and immoral blockade, the revolution has brought this to an end. Bravo to the Egyptian masses!

Arabic w/ English subtitles:  Sout Al Horeya  Voice of Freedom صوت الحريه – Amir Eid ft. Hany Adel

Not to be missed – a beautiful freedom song out of the Cairo of the Egyptian Revolution!

Gaddafi loses more Libyan cities: Al Jazeera online

Protesters wrest control of more cities as unrest sweeps African nation despite Muammar Gaddafi’s threat of crackdown.
23 Feb 2011
Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s long-standing ruler, has reportedly lost control of more cities as anti-government protests continue to sweep the African nation despite his threat of a brutal crackdown.

Protesters in Misurata said on Wednesday they had wrested the western city from government control. In a statement on the internet, army officers stationed in the city pledged “total support for the protesters”.

The protesters also seemed to be in control of much of the country’s east, and an Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from the city of Tobruk, 140km from the Egyptian border, said there was no presence of security forces.

“From what I’ve seen, I’d say the people of eastern Libya are the ones in control,” Hoda Abdel-Hamid, our correspondent, said.

She said there were no officials manning the border when the Al Jazeera team crossed into Libya.

‘People in charge’

“All along the border, we didn’t see one policeman, we didn’t see one soldier and people here told us they [security forces] have all fled or are in hiding and that the people are now in charge, meaning all the way from the border, Tobruk, and then all the way up to Benghazi.

“People tell me it’s also quite calm in Bayda and Benghazi. They do say, however, that ‘militias’  are roaming around, especially at night. They describe them as African men, they say they speak French so they think they’re from Chad.”

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

“We are on the side of the people,” he said. “I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed – he’s a tyrant.”

Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, was where people first rose up in revolt against Gaddafi’s 42-year long rule more than a week ago. The rebellion has since spread to other cities despite heavy-handed attempts by security forces to quell the unrest.

With authorities placing tight restrictions on the media, flow of news from Libya is at best patchy. But reports filtering out suggest at least 300 people have been killed in the violence.

But Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, said there were “credible’ reports that at least 1,000 had died in the clampdown.

Defiant Gaddafi

Amid the turmoil, a defiant Gaddafi has vowed to quash the uprising.

He delivered a rambling speech on television on Tuesday night, declaring he would die a martyr in Libya, and threatening to purge opponents “house by house” and “inch by inch”.

He blamed the uprising in the country on “Islamists”, and warned that an “Islamic emirate” has already been set up in Bayda and Derna, where he threatened the use of extreme force.

He urged Libyans to take to the streets and show their support for their leader.

Several hundred government loyalists heeded his call in Tripoli, the capital, on Wednesday, staging a pro-Gaddafi rally in the city’s Green Square.

Fresh gunfire was reported in the capital on Wednesday, after Gaddafi called on his supporters to take back the streets from anti-government protesters.

But Gaddafi’s speech has done little to stem the steady stream of defections from his side.

Libyan diplomats across the world have either resigned in protest at the use of violence against citizens, or renounced Gaddafi’s leadership, saying that they stand with the protesters.

Late on Tuesday night, General Abdul-Fatah Younis, the country’s interior minister, became the latest government official to stand down, saying that he was resigning to support what he termed as the “February 17 revolution”.

He urged the Libyan army to join the people and their “legitimate demands”.

On Wednesday, Youssef Sawani, a senior aide to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, one of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons, resigned from his post “to express dismay against violence”, Reuters reported.

Earlier, Mustapha Abdeljalil, the country’s justice minister, had resigned in protest at the “excessive use of violence” against protesters, and diplomat’s at Libya’s mission to the United Nations called on the Libyan army to help remove “the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi”.

A group of army officers has also issued a statement urging soldiers to “join the people” and remove Gaddafi from power.

IDF fires on militants on Gaza border, wounding 11: Haaretz

Palestinians report three children were among the wounded, while the rest belonged to Islamic Jihad; IDF says explosive device was detonated towards soldiers patrolling border.

Eleven Palestinians were injured Wednesday when Israeli Defense Forces fired at a group of militants on the border with Gaza, Palestinian news agencies reported.

They said that three children were among the injured; the other eight were members of the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad.

Gaza emergency services chief Adham Abu Selmeya said that the injured suffered shrapnel wounds. One was in a critical condition while two were in serious condition.

The IDF responded by saying that an explosive device was detonated toward soldiers who were performing routine activity in the area, on the northern part of the border.

“Shortly afterwards, a mortar shell was fired at the force and five additional mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory, landing in the Sdot Negev Regional Council,” the IDF statement read. “Subsequently, the force identified a number of militants in the same area and returned fire in their direction. A direct hit was confirmed.”

The al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) movement, said in a statement that a group of its members was targeted.

Abu Selmeya added that earlier Wednesday two workers collecting gravel near the border between northern Gaza and Israel were shot and injured by Israeli soldiers.

The IDF noted that in the past two months, “over 12 devices were laid along the security fence and exploded at IDF forces.”

They added that two explosive devices were found on the border as recently as Tuesday.

“The terrorist organizations are constantly operating against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers,” the IDF stated, adding that they held “the Hamas terrorist organization solely responsible for maintaining the calm in the Gaza Strip and for any terrorist activity emanating from it.”

Inside Libya’s first free city: jubilation fails to hide deep wounds: The Guardian

The first foreign journalist to reach Benghazi sees how Muammar Gaddafi’s bid to cling to power has failed

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/23/inside-libya-banghazi-jubilation

At the heart of the city where he launched his rise to power, Muammar Gaddafi’s indignity is now complete. In little more than three days of rampage, the rebels in Libya’s second city have done their best to wind the clock back 42 years – to life before the dictator they loathe.

Benghazi has fallen and Gaddafi’s bid to cling on to power, whatever the cost, has crumbled with it. There is barely a trace of him now, except for obscene graffiti that mocks him on the dust-strewn walls where his portraits used to hang.

Residents who would not have dared to approach the town’s main military base without an invitation were doing victory laps around it in their cars. Every barrack block inside had been torched and looted. The stage where Gaddafi would address the masses on the rare occasions that he came here had collapsed. His house across the road had been ransacked and there wasn’t a loyalist soldier inside.

“He is gone. A dragon has been slain,” cried Ahmed Al-Fatuuir outside the secret police headquarters. “Now he has to explain where all the bodies are.”

The Middle East’s longest ruling autocrat seems disinclined to do that, or to go quietly. His rambling speech on Tuesday night, in which he vowed to die in his homeland as a “martyr”, has convinced many in Benghazi that although they may have ousted their foe from eastern Libya, they have not seen the last of the bloodshed.

At the city’s hospitals, administrators are still tallying the toll from the most savage fighting seen here in decades. At the al-Jala hospital, at least 65 deaths have been recorded since 17 February, along with dozens of injuries, many of them horrific. And they are still coming in.

A Libyan soldier, who along with many of his colleagues had joined the anti-government insurgency, was pronounced dead as the Guardian arrived inside the overworked intensive care unit. A small bullet wound near his right kidney had caused irreversible chaos inside his body.

“They are still out there,” said the doctor who pronounced him dead. “These mercenaries who are hired by Gaddafi are lurking in the shadows.”

Wherever they are hiding, they must be running out of arms. All day defecting troops and officers were lugging in thousands of pounds of ammunition to a courtyard inside the secret police headquarters on Bengazi’s waterfront. By the day’s end an arsenal that could easily supply an army brigade was piled up. There were plastic explosives, rockets, machine guns and even the anti-aircraft weapon that was used to mow down demonstrators as they assaulted the military base on Sunday.

Evidence of the carnage it caused was clear on the walls of nearby buildings and in the mortuaries. Doctors had used their mobile phones to capture the carnage that was caused by military weapons on human flesh. And they coolly displayed the aftermath of the battle, denouncing Gaddafi as a criminal as they did so.

Nearby Filipino orderlies were putting the finishing touches to the short life of a dead soldier, washing his body with a clinical calm and slowly readying a green body bag. It was a process they were clearly familiar with. ” Too many times, too many times,” said one orderly as he rested on a trolley. “It has been terrible in here.”

At least 232 demonstrators in Benghazi are believed to have been killed since the uprising began and up to 1,000 injured. There are no reliable figures on the number of soldiers or mercenaries killed during the assault of the barracks, or in the hours of chaos that followed.

One thing that is clear is that this was not a peaceful stroll through the streets of Bahrain, as has largely been the case on the other side of the Arabian peninsular. This was a savage rampage on both sides, a blood and guts revolution, fuelled by decades of repression, neglect and rage. There has been nothing peaceful about it.

Testimony to the protesters’ vehemence is dotted all around the base, in the form of bulldozers stolen from nearby worksites that were used to breach the walls. At least six of them stand burned and mangled near where their work had been successfully done – gaping holes in whitewashed walls that allowed protesters to storm through.

“That is where the anti-aircraft gun was and that is where all the African mercenaries were found dead,” said Mohamed Fatah, who was part of the throng that attacked the base. “The people were leading a funeral march past the big roundabout and people from inside the base opened fire,” he said. “They went home, gathered themselves and came back. This is what happened.”

Gaddafi’s reported use of mercenaries appears to have tipped the hand of many protesters and armed forces. “That is why we turned against the government,” said air force major Rajib Feytouni. “That and the fact that there was an order to use planes to attack the people.”

Workers at an oil refinery 120 miles west of Benghazi said that they had seen an air force jet crash nearby and two parachutes land. There were widespread reports that those on board had refused to carry out an order to attack the east of the country.

The reports could not be independently verified. However, Feytouni confirmed that an air force base to the east had been hit on Sunday by two bombs dropped from a jet. “They were trying to make sure that the weapons did not end up in the hands of the opposition,” he said.

He added that he had personally witnessed 4,000-5,000 mercenaries flown into his air force base on Libyan military transport planes, beginning on about 14 February – several days before the uprising started.

“They [the planes] had 300 men at a time, all of them coming out with weapons,” he said. “They were all from Africa: Ghanaians, Kenyans.”

Several of the alleged soldiers of fortune are being held in a jail at the top of the ransacked courthouse on Benghazi’s corniche. One was briefly brought to meet the Guardian. He was quickly ushered away by lawyers who said he was not allowed to speak until the case against him was finished.

But the court of public opinion on the heaving street below had already convicted the unnamed African, along with anyone else linked to what they believe are the dying days of 42 years of sadistic oppression. There was no sign of any pro- regime figures. And even those who have recently defected, such as the country’s justice minister, are not prepared to show their faces publicly, fearing the reactions from a combustible street.

The mood of people fluctuated easily between nervousness and violence; warmth and zeal. The first western reporters seen in the city since law and order collapsed were embraced almost as liberators. At some points during the morning and at the hospital, it was difficult to move without people eagerly thrusting in our faces more macabre images of dead people or missing relatives.

“His time will come,” said one man brandishing a simple sign that said in English: “Freedom for Libya”. He added: “You are welcome here. The world needs to see what is happening.”

Along the long and winding way from the Salum crossing from Egypt, there was not an official to be seen.

Neighbourhood Watch-like groups, all armed with AK-47s, manned checkpoints in and out of all the towns. But every military and police post for 360 miles had been abandoned. The scattering of the police was leading to claims of victory and the feeling of triumphalism among many of the city’s young people.

The deathly emptiness of a rainy morning in a city under siege had by dusk given way to teaming streets and jubilant cheers. Celebratory burst from AK-47s cracked into the air thoughout the afternoon – always a disconcerting sound in a war zone.

The jubilation did little to hide Benghazi’s wounds, though. Here, more than in the capital, Tripoli, or Gaddafi’s other strongholds, mainly in the west, society remains brutalised and stagnant, a drab decaying old-order feel, much like Iraq in 2004.

“Here hospitals are nothing like in Tripoli,” said an intensive care nurse who identified herself as Fatima. “It is first world there, but we have to make do.”

It’s the same with government buildings – what remains of them. There is barely a typewriter left, let alone a computer or the basic tools of administration.

Neglect had been a clear strategy for Gaddafi for a city that had in 1969 deeply resented the coup he launched against the monarch, King Idris, and has not forgiven him since. The independent flag last flown 42 years ago has become a prominent symbol of this revolution. It flies above key government buildings and even hospitals and it is worn as a badge by most organisers.

Benghazi feels Libya’s time has come. Residents are adamant that the leader who forgot them has days, or perhaps weeks, left as president. “He can’t survive and he won’t survive,” one man shouted outside the courthouse. “He is deluded and he is cruel. He will attack us again even though everyone knows he is finished.”

The city has little sense of what is happening in the west of the country where Gaddafi still appears to be in control of at least large parts of the capital.

Meanwhile, many of the 1.5 million foreigners still in Libya are scrambling for the border, or waiting from help from their governments. Several passenger ferries are waiting in the choppy waters off the coast of Benghazi for any evacuation order. And the Salum border crossing to Egypt is a chaotic scramble of fleeing Egyptians who overran the arrival hall on Tuesday evening as the Guardian was trying to enter Libya. Riot police were moved into position but weren’t used.

The international community again appears hamstrung by the man it had spent decades trying to rehabilitate. Leverage is limited and options are few.

“The people of the international community had been helping their governments to help the assassin,” said an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Shakir, in al–Jala hospital. “And that only because the assassin and his government is helping them. That is a flawed logic.”

So far reactions to the gathering storm here, which may soon lead to the overthrow of the third Arab autocrat in less than three months, has been to renounce the volatile leader and the compulsive savagery he is launching as his legacy melts away.

But there remains a gnawing fear that the worst may be yet to come. “Of course it is true,” Saad Achmed, a 24-year-old student, said. “If he feels he is cornered he will come for us. Those roads you came in on may be clear, but you did not see who is hiding over the hills? We have won the big battle, but that does not mean the war is won just yet.”

Click here to continue reading “February 23, 2011″ »

Permalink Print