Hifter's fighters slow push toward Tripoli

A self-styled army from eastern Libya slowed its push into the capital over concerns for civilians caught up in the violence, as the U.N. refugee agency said Monday that the fighting for Tripoli has displaced more than 32,000 people.

Fighting erupted April 5, pitting the Libyan National Army, led by renegade general Khalifa Hifter and aligned with a rival government in the east, against militias affiliated with Tripoli’s U.N.-supported government.

The clashes threaten to ignite a new civil war in Libya on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi.

The U.N. envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, said Monday that “divisions that prevail in the international community over the Libyan problem” are impeding efforts to impose a cease-fire.

Hifter, whose offensive is seen by many as a power grab for Tripoli, has received aid from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia and France.

On Friday, President Trump spoke with the Libyan commander by phone. A White House statement said that “the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

The death toll from the fighting has climbed to 254, including combatants and civilians, the World Health Organization said Sunday.

— Associated Press

Catholic Church decries beating of Jewish effigy

The Catholic Church in Poland poured scorn Monday on an anti-Semitic ritual enacted over the Easter holiday that involved an effigy of Judas, represented as a stereotypical Jew, being hanged, burned and beaten.

Residents, including children, beat and burned the effigy in Pruchnik, a small town in southeast Poland, on Good Friday. The figure represented Judas, the disciple of Christ who betrayed him, according to the New Testament.

“The Catholic Church will never tolerate manifestations of contempt towards members of any nation, including the Jewish people,” said Bishop Rafal Markowski, chairman of the church’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism.

Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski called the ritual “idiotic, pseudo-religious chutzpah” and asked why “Satans” revived the abandoned tradition.

On Sunday, the World Jewish Congress expressed “disgust and outrage” at the effigy ritual.

The incident comes after a diplomatic crisis last year between Poland and Israel sparked anti-Jewish sentiment in Poland and anti-Polish feeling in Israel.

For centuries, the Catholic Church taught that Jews killed Christ, a position that long fomented hatred against
the Jewish communities in Europe. This position was rescinded by the Second Vatican Council’s revolutionary 1965 document on non-Christian religions, “Nostra Aetate” (In
Our Time).

— Associated Press

Homicides rise by 9.7% in first quarter in Mexico: Homicides in Mexico rose by 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019 compared with the same period of 2018, with 8,493 killings in the first three months of the year, the most on record for the period, according to figures released by the Security Department. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December promising to reduce violence, said Mexico is "starting to stabilize, so that violence won't continue to grow at the same rate," but noted that "it's going to take some time."

Iran announces joint border force with Pakistan: Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, said a new joint security force with Pakistan will be formed to combat militants based along the countries' shared border. Pakistan and Iran have said militant groups operate from the other country's soil, occasionally carrying out cross-border attacks. Rouhani said the quick-reaction force had been agreed to at a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan a day earlier. Groups operating within Pakistan's and Iran's Baluchistan provinces, which share a long border, seek independence from both countries.

Children sickened in Pakistan after polio vaccinations: Hundreds of schoolchildren in Pakistan were taken to hospital complaining of nausea and vomiting after being given polio vaccinations, officials said. They said relatives stormed a health facility in the city of Peshawar and set it ablaze. The incident deals another blow to efforts to eradicate the disease. Islamist extremists have targeted polio workers and stoked conspiracy theories that the vaccinations are part of a Western plot to sterilize Muslims. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only nations where polio is endemic.

Britain intercepts 36 migrants in Channel: British officials intercepted 36 migrants trying to cross the English Channel in small boats. The officials said the migrants, reportedly from Iraq and Iran, were stopped in three incidents.

— From news services