Sunday, May 4, 2014

War Watch May 4 , 2014 -- Syria in focus ........Rebel infighting ( this time the fighting seems centered around Syria's oil fields ) kills 62 fighters and force thousands to flee their homes in East Syria , Homs ceasefire holds for a second day as Rebel fighters prepare to leave their symbolic stronghold of Homs ( Syria Government slowly but surely retaking land held by the Rebels ) ...... Iraq Updates - Post election and while awaiting the results , the daily death dealing continues ....... Libya Updates - Still awaiting the next Prime Minister ( GNC unable to agree in its morning session on PM ) ........ Heavy fighting between Ansar Al- Sharia and Saiqa Special Forces in Benghazi

Al Jazeera......

Aleppo next after the fall of Homs ?

Report: Thousands flee Syria rebel clashes

UK-based rights group says fighting between rival rebel groups have displaced 60,000 people in Deir Ezzor province.

Last updated: 04 May 2014 13:22
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The fighting comes as rebels agreed a deal with the Syrian government to withdraw from Homs [AP]
At least 60,000 people have fled towns in the Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria which has been the scene of fierce clashes between rival rebel groups, opposition activists say.

The al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front have been battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for four days despite an order from al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri to stop fighting, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday.

"Residents of the towns of Busayra, home to 35,000 people, Abriha, home to 12,000 people, and al-Zir, home to 15,000 people, have nearly all been displaced by the fighting in the area," the Observatory said.

The group, which relies on a vast network of contacts on the ground for its data, said al-Nusra Front's fighters burnt down several houses in Busayra, as did ISIL in Abriha.

At least 62 fighters have been killed in this week's clashes, said the Observatory. "There are battles now in an area around 10km from Busayra that has an oil rig and a gas plant," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The latest showdown between al-Nusra and ISIL erupted on Wednesday in energy-rich Deir Ezzor, bordering Iraq.

Homs evacuation delayed

Meanwhile, the planned evacuation of fighters from rebel-held parts of the Syrian city of Homs has been delayed by a day, activists say, though a ceasefire is still holding in the country's third-largest city.

A rebel pullout from Homs, which is known as the 'capital of the revolution', would hand President Bashar al-Assad complete control of the city and deal a major symbolic blow to the uprising-turned civil war.

But local activists said it wasn't clear why Syrian forces weren't allowing the first phase of several hundred rebel fighters to leave the Old City area on Saturday.

Rebels in the city agreed on Friday to surrender territory in exchange for safe passage to other opposition-held areas. Homs is strategically important as it connects government strongholds along the western coast with the capital, Damascus.

The conflict in Syria since March 2011 has killed more than 150,000 people and forced nearly half the country's population to flee their homes.

Associated Press.....

May 4, 8:27 AM EDT


BEIRUT (AP) -- Heavy fighting between rival Islamic rebel groups in eastern Syria killed 62 fighters and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, activists said Sunday.

Meanwhile, talks continued over allowing rebels to leave the besieged Old City in Homs.

Rebels from the al-Qaida breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and fighters of the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front have fought each other for months over territory they previously captured together from President Bashar Assad's forces.

The rebel-on-rebel violence has raged in the north along the Turkish border that opposition fighters have controlled since a mid-2012 offensive. Earlier this year, it spread to Syria's east, home to most of the country's oil fields.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebel infighting Sunday took place around three villages in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border. In the past four days 62 rebels have been killed there, The Observatory said.

The rebel infighting has forced tens of thousands to flee the contested villages of Abreeha, Bseera and Sabha, The Observatory said. It gathers information through a network of activists on the ground.

Syria's conflict, which began with largely peaceful protests in March 2011, has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones that activists say has killed more than 150,000 people. Islamic extremists, including foreign fighters and Syrian rebels who have taken up hard-line al-Qaida-style ideologies, have played an increasingly prominent role, dampening the West's support for the rebellion to overthrow Assad.

That has led to a backlash by Islamic brigades and more moderate rebels who launched a war against the al-Qaida breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Fighting between opposing rebel groups has killed more than 3,000 people since the beginning of the year, activists say.

In Homs, a cease-fire held for a second day Sunday, but the planned evacuation of opposition fighters has not started, activists and a government official in the city said. The official told The Associated Press that talks were still taking place and "no new developments have taken place" in the city. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal details of the ongoing talks.

Rebels in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, agreed Friday to surrender the territory in exchange for safe passage to other opposition-held areas. The agreement came after a blockade by Assad's forces caused widespread hunger in rebel-held parts of the city, which have been hit relentlessly by government artillery and airstrikes over the past year.

A local activist said the rebels expect to leave Homs as early as Monday.

"They are prepared to leave," the activist, who goes by the nickname Thaer Khalidiya, said. "They collected their personal belongings and weapons to protect themselves along the way in case of (cease-fire) breach."

Khalidiya said the rebels trust the government forces to stick to the deal, but fear that pro-government militiamen will attack them along the evacuation route.

Homs was once known as the capital of the Syrian revolution for its fierce opposition to Assad's rule.

Assad's forces have been taking back rebel-held areas throughout Syria in the past months with a mix of crippling blockades, deals with rebels and relentless pounding of opposition-held areas.

Al Qaeda figurehead Zawahri ignored by ISIL and NUSRA Front .....

Yahoo news

Al Qaeda's leader says Iraqi branch in Syria must return to fight at home

May 3 , 2014

RIYADH (Reuters) - Iraqi al Qaeda's entry into Syria's civil war caused "a political disaster" for Islamist militants there, the movement's global leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in a video message, urging the faction to redouble its efforts in Iraq instead.
Zawahri has repeatedly tried to end infighting between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and another al Qaeda-aligned group, the Nusra Front.
He said on Friday in a message translated by SITE Monitoring that if ISIL had accepted his decision not to get involved in Syria and had instead worked to "busy itself with Iraq, which needs double its efforts" then it could have avoided the "waterfall of blood" caused by militant infighting.
ISIL militants joined the conflict in Syria last year and unilaterally declared they were taking over the Nusra Front, which had won the admiration of many rebels fighting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad for its battlefield prowess.
Zawahri, who has run al Qaeda since Osama bin Laden was killed in April 2011, accused ISIL's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, of "sedition" and said rebel disunity had been handed "on a plate of gold" to Assad, the ultimate target of all Sunni Islamist groups in Syria.
Zawahri said Baghdadi should instead redouble his efforts against the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who is a Shi'ite - an Islamic sect regarded by al Qaeda as heretical. Shi'ism is the dominant sect in Iran.
He said that toppling Assad would "cause the elimination of more than half of the Iranian power alliance that seeks to establish a Shi'ite state from Afghanistan to south Lebanon".
On Wednesday the United States said al Qaeda's core organization in Pakistan, led by Zawahri, had been severely degraded, but that the movement's affiliates in Africa and the Middle East were becoming more autonomous and aggressive.


Syria's Nusra sets conditions to stop fighting ISIL

May 4 , 2014

Beirut (AFP) - Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate on Sunday set its conditions to stop battling the rival Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, despite an order by the Al-Qaeda chief to quit fighting.
Al-Nusra Front and ISIL have in recent months fought intense, bloody battles against each other, particularly in eastern Syria on the border with Iraq.
"We will follow the orders of... Ayman al-Zawahiri... to stop any attack from our side against ISIL, while continuing to respond whenever they attack Muslims and all that is sacred to them," Al-Nusra said in a statement.
"As soon as ISIL announces the end of its attacks on Muslims, we will spontaneously stop firing," said the jihadist group, adding it had only fought ISIL in areas "where it was on the attack".
While rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad initially welcomed both Al-Nusra Front and later ISIL in the Syrian war, widespread opposition to ISIL later emerged over its quest for dominance in opposition-held areas.
Rebels including Islamists launched a massive offensive against ISIL on January 3, and Al-Nusra Front joined the fight against the group later on.
As far back as last June, Zawahiri weighed in on ISIL's involvement in Syria, designating Al-Nusra as responsible for operations there and ordering ISIL chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to restrict the group's activities to its home base in Iraq.


Military troops advance in northern, southern Syria   2014-05-03 23:35:09   

DAMASCUS, May 3 (Xinhua) -- The Syrian government troops on Saturday made new progress in the northwestern province of Aleppo and eastern countryside of the capital Damascus, according to local media reports.

The army units seized control over the strategic Aleppo Hill, west of the Industrial City of al-Sheikh Najjar in Aleppo, the state news agency SANA said. The area was considered one of the main supply lines for rebels in the eastern part of Aleppo city.
SANA said that the army also advanced in al-Ramoseh and al- Ameriah neighborhoods in Aleppo, adding that the Syrian forces continued the process of removing mines planted by the rebels in al-Breij town which the army recaptured a day earlier. The progress in al-Breij would enable the troops to secure the vicinity of the central prison of Aleppo which has been besieged by the rebels for over a year.
Aleppo, Syria's largest city and economic hub, has emerged as a main battlefield in the country's three-year-old crisis since the rebels vowed to "liberate" Aleppo from the government forces in June 2012.
Since then the clashes have been incessant, as the rebels managed to seize considerable swathes of land in Aleppo. But the government forces have recently launched an offensive to regain control of the city.
In the eastern edge of Damascus, the military troops swept through the rebel-held Mliaha town, as part of a wide-scale offensive aimed at routing the rebels in eastern fringes of Damascus, the pan-Arab al-Mayadeen TV said.
The government troops have unleashed a crushing offensive against the rebel-held towns of Jobar and Mlaiha east of Damascus in the recent weeks. The battles have raged over the past 48 hours.
The Syrian army on Saturday stormed Mlaih from all directions covered by heavy fire. Reports said that the town has almost fallen to the government troops.
The army's victory in Mlaiha would have an important impact on the battles in the countryside of Damascus, following the government troops' successive victories in the northern countryside of Damascus.
Seizing the town would also deter the rebels' mortar fire from that area against nearby government-controlled areas, such as the suburb of Jaramana, which has been plagued by daily mortar attacks from the rebels of Mliha. Tens of people have been killed in Jaramana as a result of the indiscriminate shelling.
The progress of the Syrian military came at a time when the country is bracing itself for the June 3 presidential vote.
Syria's three-year crisis has killed more than 150,000 people and forced one third of its population to leave their homes.

Daily Star 

Syrian militants, Hezbollah clash near borderMay 03, 2014 04:11 PMBy Rakan al-Fakih
A general view of Brital, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. (The Daily Star/Rakan al-Fakih)
A general view of Brital, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. (The Daily Star/Rakan al-Fakih)
HERMEL, Lebanon: Syrian militants clashed with Hezbollah fighters on the border with Lebanon Saturday, a security source told The Daily Star.

The clashes erupted on the outskirts of Brital, east Lebanon, in the Ain al-Bnayyeh village along the porous border.

Hezbollah and Syrian fighters have clashed in the area on several occasions, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The National News Agency said the fighters were trying to sneak into Lebanon.

The shadowy group Liwaa Ahrar al-Sunna said on its Twitter feed that members of the radical group engaged in clashes with Hezbollah on the outskirts of Brital.

The group has also claimed Friday it had "captured" three Hezbollah members near Baalbek, and has claimed an ambush against Army soldiers as well as several rockets on Shiite areas associated with Hezbollah.


Human Rights Watch ....

Humanitarian Crisis in Anbar Province
MAY 4, 2014
The government should be helping people trapped by the fighting, not keeping them in harm’s way and denying them aid. Anbar residents are caught in a nightmare and the government is only making it worse.
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director
(Baghdad) – The Iraqi government is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in Anbar Province by hindering residents from leaving areas where fighting is taking place and impeding aid from getting in. The government should immediately facilitate safe passage for residents who want to flee the fighting and halt restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Eight residents of Fallujah or Ramadi, Anbar’s two main cities, told Human Rights Watch that, between January and April 2014, they saw government forces shoot residents who were trying to leave or return to Anbar, killing some of them. It is unclear whether armed opposition forces were in those areas at the time of these attacks but witnesses gave consistent accounts of what they said was, at the very least, indiscriminate government fire.

“The government should be helping people trapped by the fighting, not keeping them in harm’s way and denying them aid,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Anbar residents are caught in a nightmare and the government is only making it worse.”

Fighting in Anbar between government forces and various Sunni armed groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), has been ongoing since January 2014. According to the United Nations, the fighting has displaced more than 400,000 of the province’s estimated 750,000 people, many of them still trapped in conflict areas. From the 72,910 families registered as displaced, at least 51,000 are still in in Anbar.

The fighting in Anbar posed major obstacles to the voting there during national elections on April 30, Human Rights Watch said. Voter turnout in Anbar was reportedly under 30 percent.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly condemned ISIS for its deliberate attacks on civilians across Iraq, which likely amount to crimes against humanity. The armed group has claimed responsibility for attacks targeting civilians, including an April 25 attack on an election campaign rally in Baghdad that killed more than 30 people and at least eight attacks on polling centers on April 28, when army and other security officers voted.

On election day, violence reportedly prevented many people from voting, particularly in Sunni and mixed Sunni-Shia areas. A suicide bomb in Tikrit killed five people and a bomb in Kirkuk killed two women.  Explosives destroyed two polling stations in Beiji and shells were fired at polling stations in Diyala, local media reported. Polling stations in several majority Sunni areas in Baghdad province, including Adhamiyya, Abu Ghraib, Latifiyya, and Yousifiyya, remained closed throughout the day, according to local politicians and to residents’ reports to Human Rights Watch.

In March, the UN mission chief in Iraq reported that armed groups in Ramadi had placed booby-traps in residential buildings and along roads, preventing displaced families from returning to their homes.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 42 Anbar residents, 35 of whom had been forced to flee their homes and 7 of whom had remained in Ramadi and Fallujah, as well as 4 government officials and representatives from 6 international humanitarian organizations working in Iraq. Human Rights Watch could not visit Anbar province due to the ongoing hostilities.

Human Rights Watch was unable to establish accurate casualty figures from the four months of fighting. On April 25, the director of Fallujah General Hospital told the media that the hospital had recorded the killing or wounding of 1,418 people since the start of the fighting, mostly from shelling of Fallujah’s residential neighborhoods. An employee of the hospital told Human Rights Watch on April 27 that the hospital had recorded 262 deaths since January, “most of them civilians.” Between 40 and 50 percent of those recorded by the hospital as having been killed were women and children, he said.

On March 27, the UN reported that the medical directorate for Anbar province had tallied the killings of 336 civilians and wounding of 1,562 civilians since the conflict began, and on May 1 announced that the Anbar Health Directorate reported 135 killed and 525 injured in Anbar in April, with 57 killed and 265 injured in Ramadi and 78 killed and 260 injured in Fallujah.

Anbar residents, medical professionals, and aid workers told Human Rights Watch that casualty figures are likely to be much higher because many people cannot reach hospitalsdue to the fighting. Some do not go to the hospitals because they fear harassment by government forces or government attacks on the hospitals, they said.

The UN has reported that “on at least one occasion” government shelling hit Fallujah General Hospital. The Fallujah hospital employee Human Rights Watch interviewed said government mortars and tank shells had hit the hospital a number of times since January, including the emergency room, intensive care unit, radiology department, and central air conditioning unit. He said that no one was killed in the attacks but that four Bangladeshi hospital staff, three Iraqi doctors, and some patients had been wounded. Human Rights Watch could not confirm the employee’s account but reviewed five photographs of what appeared to be a mortar lodged in the destroyed air conditioning unit.

The hospital employee said armed men he did not know guard the hospital compound and other institutions in Fallujah, but he had never seen them enter the hospital or use the grounds as a base. A doctor from the hospital interviewed in March, as well as Fallujah residents who have been in the hospital periodically over the past four months, also said they had not seen armed men inside the hospital.

Since early March, the army has closed all roads leading into Fallujah, except for a narrow footbridge from Saqlawiyya, a town to the northwest. One Fallujah resident said the government was also allowing foot traffic across a bridge to the south of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, but only for about one hour at a time.

The government should stop preventing people from fleeing the fighting in Anbar, and provide shelter, food, medical supplies, and other necessities to displaced people inside the province, Human Rights Watch said.

“Armed groups should be held accountable for what amount to crimes against humanity, but their crimes in no way excuse government forces punishing civilians in Sunni areas,” Stork said.

Shooting at Fleeing Residents 
Human Rights Watch interviewed eight residents of Fallujah and Ramadi who said that in January and February 2014 they had witnessed government attacks in which residents trying to leave or return to Anbar were injured or killed. It is not clear whether armed opposition forces were in those areas when the attacks took place, but witnesses gave consistent accounts of what they said was, in the very least, indiscriminate government fire, and may have amounted to deliberate attacks on the fleeing residents.

In one case, 33-year-old Said (whose name, as with others interviewed, has been changed for his protection) said government soldiers for no apparent reason shot at his car and about 10 other cars, all with residents fleeing the city, as they tried to leave Fallujah through the al-Muadhafeen checkpoint east of the city at about 3 p.m. on January 30. Human Rights Watch interviewed Said at a hospital in Erbil, where he was being treated for a bullet lodged near his spine. He said:
Out of nowhere, the shooting started. It sounded like it was coming from everywhere. There were helicopters flying overhead firing on the cars and on Hay al-Askari and al-Dhubat al-Thaltha [two eastern Fallujah neighborhoods]. Eight APCs [armored personnel carriers] along the highway were shooting at the cars, and mortars were coming from the al-Mazraa base [an Iraqi army base that is part of the Mazraa/Tariq military compound east of Fallujah], which is about 3 kilometers from the highway. They all started shooting at once.

It all happened so quickly, without warning, and it only lasted five or six minutes. People in three or four other cars were also injured, I saw one person shot in the hand and one in the head. He was a child. But I don’t know what happened to them.
Said said he saw no anti-government fighters in the area at the time and did not know why the government attacked.

Another Fallujah resident, Abdulwahhab, said that in mid-February he witnessed army troops kill the mother and father of two children as they were trying to leave Fallujah for the town of Sicher, about 5 kilometers to the north, also with no sign of opposition forces in the area:
They were waiting in their car – a mother, father, and their two young children – at the checkpoint that leads north to Sicher when the army began shooting. The mother and father were shot dead, but the kids survived. They waited for the firing to stop and then they walked to Sicher. My friend, who lives close by, told me the bodies of the husband and wife stayed there in their car for two days before residents finally came and buried them.
Abdulwahhab said that in late January he saw soldiers shoot and kill a truck driver for no apparent reason as the driver was trying to leave Fallujah for Saqlawiyya, north of the city. “The army claimed they thought he was ISIS,” Abdulwahhab said. “When they say that they can do whatever they want.”

Abu Mohamed, from Hay al-Askari in Fallujah, told Human Rights Watch over Skype that he decided to leave Fallujah with his family in early January after a mortar hit their home. The main roads were closed, he said, so he used dirt roads into the desert until he encountered two damaged cars from which people were pulling dead bodies. Abu Mohamed said the people told him that a government helicopter had shot at the cars:
I stopped and I helped them get the bodies out. I counted six dead, three of them children – two very small, and one 12- or 13-year-old girl, and two women and a man who looked to be about 22 years old. There were also wounded people, some of them severe and some not.
Abu Mohammed said he drove on and, about 20 minutes later, he saw two government helicopters flying overhead. “We were terrified,” he said. “We thought they would shoot us like they did those other two cars.” After the helicopters landed, the troops inside threatened Abu Mohamed’s family with arrest but then let them go, he said.

The employee of Fallujah General Hospital told Human Rights Watch that on two occasions in mid-January he saw security forces shoot at cars with men, women, and children as they were trying to leave Fallujah on the eastern highway. He said that since the beginning of the conflict, the hospital has treated members of at least 12 families who were shot by government forces at checkpoints.

Blocking Humanitarian Aid
Human Rights Watch spoke with representatives of six international humanitarian organizations. Each talked about government restrictions on aid deliveries into Anbar, including convoys blocked at checkpoints.

On April 3, UNICEF delivered hygiene kits (packages that include soap, toothpaste, and other necessities) to Fallujah, which the UN called “the first successful distribution by a UN agency within the city limits.” On March 7, UNICEF reported that a first aid convoy had managed to reach Amiriyat al-Fallujah, south of Fallujah, the previous day. The April 3 delivery is the only humanitarian delivery, as far as Human Rights Watch has been able to determine, that has reached Fallujah since fighting began in January.

According to the UN, on January 30 army personnel stopped convoys from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Health Organization (WHO) at a checkpoint, detained an unidentified IOM employee for 24 hours and an unidentified WHO employee for over a month, and confiscated their goods, even though the organizations had army clearance to enter the area.

Five Anbar residents separately told Human Rights Watch that in January and February they saw government soldiers at checkpoints prevent trucks carrying aid from entering Anbar. The employee at Fallujah General Hospital said that he had seen security forces turn away both humanitarian agencies’ deliveries and individual residents attempting to bring in food and other supplies.

“We’ve received next to nothing from international organizations,” the hospital employee said. “And when we try to bring in goods ourselves we’re harassed and turned away.”

The hospital employee said he tried to bring two containers of vegetable oil into Fallujah in January but soldiers sent him back to Baghdad and accused him of “bringing the oil for terrorists.”

Humanitarian Needs
The four months of fighting in Anbar has created severe humanitarian needs, aid agencies and the UN said. Preliminary findings of a World Food Programme assessment released on April 20 indicated that 79 percent of displaced people in Anbar lack sufficient food. A detailed assessment of displaced people’s needs in Anbar released by IOM on April 9 found that 40 percent of internally displaced people are under 15 years old. Over one-fifth of the more than 400,000 registered internally displaced people in Anbar are sleeping in schools, abandoned buildings, or public spaces, and lack money for food, the assessment said.

All of the seven displaced people still in Anbar interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had not received any form of Iraqi government aid, and that aid from humanitarian organizations was negligible.

On March 27, the head of the UN mission in Iraq, Nikolai Mladenov, reported that many of the families displaced by the crisis remain trapped in areas of active conflict. Access by the UN and other organizations to those affected has been significantly constrained, he said.

In addition to the logistical problems of getting aid to those in need, Mladenov said that donor funding for the UN and nongovernmental organizations in Iraq is running out. As a result, he said, the UN will “very soon be unable to continue its humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the fighting in Anbar.” On April 17, the UNreported that “Most UN agencies have run out of cash and supplies required to aid the IDP families” because of lack of sufficient donor response, including from the Iraqi government, to the UN’s request for US$103.7 million for its Anbar Strategic Response Plan launched in mid-March.

The influx of displaced people in various parts of Anbar province has stretched resources such as shelter, food, and medicine, and led to inflated prices, people in Anbar told Human Rights Watch. A teacher in Heet, a city in western Anbar, told Human Rights Watch on February 16 that Heet was experiencing shortages of food, medical supplies, kerosene, and benzene. The number of displaced people in Heet has more than doubled since then, according to IOM figures, with at least 11,655 displaced families in Heet as of April 2.

Ramadi residents and an employee in Ramadi’s general hospital told Human Rights Watch that they have access to only about 20 percent of the usual medical supplies, leading to inflated prices and limited options for treatment.

Fighting in Anbar
Fighting in Iraq’s western Anbar province began on December 30, 2013, when Iraqi government forces surrounded a protest camp in a central square in Ramadi. Sunni protesters had been demonstrating for over a year against what they alleged were ongoing abuses by security forces. The government raid on the protest camp prompted fighting between security forces and local Sunni armed men.

Fighting quickly spread throughout the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. A journalist who travels regularly to Ramadi told Human Rights Watch that many neighborhoods there have been badly damaged by fighting between SWAT, Special Forces, and the Iraqi army on one side and local armed groups with some fighters from ISIS on the other.

The Ramadi neighborhoods of Hay al-Dhubat, Hay al-Adel, Hay al-Bakr, Hay al-Malaab, Sharia 60, Hay al-Hajji al-Fakra, and Albu Jabbar have been partially destroyed and are deserted, he said. Human Rights Watch viewed photographs from the Hay al-Bakr, Hay al-Dhubat, and Hay al-Malaab areas that showed nearly all the buildings leveled and streets covered in rubble.

In March 2014, Mladenov, the UN mission chief, reported to the UN Security Council that armed groups in Ramadi had placed booby-traps in residential buildings and along roads, preventing families from returning to their homes. Armed groups, including ISIS, remain based on the outskirts of the city and heavy fighting has contributed to shortages of food and medical supplies.

Armed opposition groups, apparently including ISIS, remain in and around Fallujah. Since January, government forces have fired mortars on the city from the eastern al-Mazraa/al-Tariq military base, about 5 kilometers from Fallujah’s city center, shot from APCs stationed along the city’s eastern highway, about 2 kilometers from the center, and used helicopters to shoot missiles, concentrating on the northern and eastern areas of Fallujah, according to Fallujah residents and information provided to Human Rights Watch by a government official. An April 17 UN humanitarian report on Anbar said that “[r]enewed artillery bombardment on several districts in Fallujah continue with reports indicating that shelling targeted most of the central, south and eastern parts of the city.”

The conflict in Anbar province has spread to other areas of the country, with intermittent fighting in Diyala, Mosul, Salah al-Din, and Abu Ghraib in February, March, and April.
Legal Standards
The actions by government security forces to prevent people from leaving areas of fighting and the government’s failure to assist or facilitate assistance for displaced people in Anbar violate Iraq’s international legal obligations.

Iraq has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), international human rights treaties that protect the right to life, the right to access to adequate shelter and medical care, the right to food, and the right to health. Failure to facilitate humanitarian access to people fleeing the fighting in Anbar may violate or contravene these provisions. Security force attacks on people seeking to flee Anbar and other forms of government harassment also violate Iraq’s international obligations, which require authorities to ensure freedom of movement.

The government’s facilitation of access to aid and accountability for security forces attacks on displaced people was a litmus test for the government’s commitment to its international obligations in the period leading up to the elections. The accounts of residents, displaced people, aid workers, and officials to Human Rights Watch make it clear that Iraqi authorities failed that test.The fighting shows no sign of abating, and nor does the hardship for families the violence has trapped and displaced.

Anti War ....

Pilgrims Targeted in Northern Iraq; 43 Killed, 60 Wounded
by , May 03, 2014
Pilgrims commemorating the death of Imam Ali al-Hadi were targeted in northern Iraq today. Also, Human Rights Watch called on Iraq to provide safe passage to residents of Anbar who wish to flee to safer areas and to provide those who stay with humanitarian aid. HRW interviewees said, among other things, that they witnessed government soldiers shoot fleeing civilians and steal aid.
In Anbar:
Two people were killed during a bombing attack in Falluja. The Falluja Educational Hospital reported that 267 dead and 1,230 wounded were brought in due to military operations over the last four months. Six militants were killed and seven more were wounded in military operations.
Six militants were killed while trying to enter Iraq from Syria.
Eight soldiers were wounded and four militants were killed in a clash in Jurf al-Sakhar. Shelling wounded four soldiers at a checkpoint.
In nearby Fadhiliya, the bodies of five soldiers who disappeared several days ago were found.
Gunmen killed four Sahwa members at a Tarmiya checkpoint; another seven people were wounded.
Mortars left one person dead and nine more wounded in Samarra.
In Mosul, gunmen killed a mokhtar. A civilian was shot dead.
Two policemen were wounded in a clash in Shura.
In Baquba, a bomb wounded two policemen.
Security forces killed a suicide bomber targeting pilgrims in al-Jazira.

Rudaw .......

The Kurdish Muscle in Post-Election Iraq

By Yerevan Saeed 2/5/2014
The presidency can be exchanged for something more important to the Kurds, the Defense or Finance Ministry, for instance.
The presidency can be exchanged for something more important to the Kurds, the Defense or Finance Ministry, for instance.
Initial results of the Iraqi parliamentary polls show that no party, list or alliance is likely to win enough votes to dictate how the next government should be formed. This means the country’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds will have to brace themselves for long negotiations, political squabble and backroom deals.
In light of this reality, Kurdish leaders and their parliamentarians who are to head to Baghdad soon, should make the Kurdistan Region’s right to produce, export and sell oil the main precondition in any future political deal or alliance.
First though, Kurdish groups, with help from Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, whose Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) appears the strongest on the local and national level, have to form a united front at home and in Baghdad in order to have a say in the Iraqi capital.
Early results show that the Kurds may win 58 seats in the Iraqi parliament, around the same number of seats (57) they won four years ago.
In their own territory the Kurds have shown some serious signs of division in the past few months. Despite six months of talks since the September 21 regional parliamentary elections, Erbil still doesn’t have a government. 
Unless the five major Kurdish parties gather under one umbrella and form a strong bloc, they will easily fall victim to Nuri Maliki or any new prime minister who will happily exploit a Kurdish division. 
Within the Kurdistan Region, each of the PUK, the KDP, the Change Movement (Gorran), Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) and the Islamic League (Komal) has their strength and weaknesses. But if they unite against Baghdad, they are a force to be reckoned with.
Iraq’s presidency which has been held by the Kurds for ten years must not be a major point in future negotiations. For the Kurds, that post seems to have run its course, especially since Jalal Talabani, the PUK leader who often acted as a pacifying figure, is no longer there to play that role.
The post can be exchanged for something more important to the Kurds, the Defense or Finance Ministry, for instance.
The Kurds will also be wise to retain the Foreign Ministry that has been held by Hoshyar Zebari for a number of years. In the past two years alone more than 20 foreign countries have opened consulates in Erbil, which would have been impossible in Iraq’s intricate bureaucracy if not for the foreign ministry’s quick green lights.
Baghdad isn’t in an enviable position right now. Corruption is rife, people grieve over lack of services, and most importantly Sunni insurgents are back full force. Under Maliki, Iraq has lost control of many towns and cities, especially in Anbar. 
The residents of Anbar, Mosul and Salahaddin are angry with Maliki and possibly with any future Shiite government. This would only offer the Kurds another ally in Baghdad. With the security situation worsening in the center and west of the country, Baghdad couldn’t afford to antagonize the Kurds, unless it wants to push them towards independence.
The Iraqi prime minister has already spoken of forming a majority government ‘for a better performance’, something he can do in coalition with, for example, the Arabia bloc of Salih Mutlaq who has enjoyed good relations with Maliki. But in practice, cutting off the Kurds would give credence to their idea of independence as there won't be any point in Kurdish MPs going to Baghdad.

Libya .......

Libya Herald.....

Breaking: Prime Minister unable win first round of voting

Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 4 May 2014:
The General National Congress (GNC ) was unable to agree on a new Prime Minister in its morning session today.
A vote took place this morning to choose one of the two candidates who had won through from the last round of voting last week, which was interrupted by gun fire outside the GNC building.
In today’s voting the results were as follows:
Ahmed Maetiq    73 votes -
Omar Sulaiman Al-Hassi    43 votes
Spoilt votes – 36
The votes totaled 152.
This still means that neither Ahmed Maetig nor Omar Al-Hassi obtained the required 120 votes.
The GNC has now moved to giving a vote of confidence on Ahmed Maetig. But, Libya Herald understands that he will need 120 votes of confidence in order to be elected as Prime Minister.

Heavy fighting between Ansar Al-

Sharia and Saiqa Special Forces in 


By Noora Ibrahim and Motaz Ahmed.
(Photo: Abdulla Doma)
Action during the attack on Benghazi police headquarters (Photo: Abdulla Doma)
Benghazi, 2 May 2014:
Heavy fighting broke out across Benghazi last night at around 2 am, reportedly between Saiqa Special Forces and Ansar Al-Sharia. At least four soldiers are known to have been killed.
A member of Saiqa Special Forces Brigade told the Libya Herald the worst of the fighting took place outside the headquarters of Benghazi Security Directorate (also known as Police Headquarters) in the city’s Hawari district. He said that clashes erupted after Saiqa blocked the road around the headquarters following an attack by Ansar Al-Sharia earlier in the night.
An eye-witness has said that around 20 technical vehicles belonging to Ansar Al-Sharia could be seen moving in convoy towards the police headquarters at around 2 am. Benghazi residents have said that the worst fighting was between then and the morning call to prayer at around 4 am but that sporadic shooting continued until seven o’ clock.
A doctor at Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) told this paper that the bodies of four Special Forces members had been brought in. However, they had not been killed in the fighting but were murdered outside their base in the Boutani area and had had their throats cut. The doctor added that a further eight, also Saiqa Special Forces, had been brought in wounded in the clashes in Hawari. The total figure of the dead and wounded is yet to emerge.
The doctor added during the night some shots had hit BMC but could not say whether these were ricochets or had been been fired directly at the hospital.
Three days ago, two Saiqa Special Forces members were killed and two injured after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in his car at the entrance to the brigade’s 21 Battalion headquarters. The government stated in the aftermath of the attacks that they would provide authorities with all the resources at their disposal to ensure security in the city.

Benghazi death-toll rises as 

government condemns Ansar Al-

Sharia as terrorists

By Noora Ibrahim and Motaz Ahmed.
Benghazi, 2 May 2014:
As differing reports come in from government, medical and security sources on this morning’s armed clashes between security forces and Ansar Al-Sharia, the death-toll in Benghazi is at least nine, possibly  more, with as many as twenty wounded.
In a  statement issued following an emergency cabinet meeting this morning, the government said that nine members of Saiqa Special Forces had been killed in the attack on Benghazi Security Directorate by Ansar Al-Sharia. It did not give a definitive count of the injured.
It condemned the incident in the strongest terms saying that “armed brigades belonging to the so-called Ansar Al-Sharia and other terrorist groups” had attacked “the legitimate forces of the Libyan state”.
It is the first time the government has referred to Ansar Al-Sharia in these terms.
The statement went on to describe, two more times, the attacks as terrorist in nature saying the government would not tolerate the existence of such organisations in the country. It said the group that had carried out the attack was ideologically motivated and that the state’s legitimacy would be upheld with force.
The government has said a number of members of Ansar Al-Sharia were killed or captured in the clashes but did not say how many. Figures for Ansar’s dead and wounded have been noticeably absent from all reports today.
A Saiqa Special Forces official told the Libya Herald that nine members of the security forces and one civilian had been killed, with 20 injured. Of the latter he said five were in intensive care.
However, another member of Saiqa has suggested that the number of those killed could be higher. He told this newspaper that eight members of the Special Forces Brigade had disappeared. They are feared to have been taken by Ansar Al-Sharia and there are unconfirmed reports of bodies being found dumped on a beach in the holiday resort of Masif Nerouz in south west Benghazi.
Meanwhile, confusion about numbers has been furthered by a spokesman for Benghazi Medical Centre (BMC) saying that his hospital had received the bodies of seven members of the security forces. Some had been burnt, he said, adding that all had died from bullet wounds either to the head or chest. He also disclosed that 19 injured members of the police and Saiqa had been taken to the hospital and that three were in intensive care.
Earlier today it was reported that four members of Saiqa had had their throats slit and brigade sources have since said that the bodies had also been burnt. It is not known if Saiqa was mistaken or if the four were not among those taken to the BMC.
Responding to the slaughter, the government has sent the Justice Minister Salah Maghrani at the head of a committee of inquiry to investigate what happened and take action.
Meanwhile, violence continued in Benghazi later today with the attempted murder of another Saiqa Special Forces member. A bomb blew up beneath his car as he left Friday prayers at a mosque in Sidi Younis district.