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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Morocco, Polisario exchange fire in Western Sahara: report

Rabat controls around three quarters of the Western Sahara [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 November, 2020

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Morocco's official news agency said the army responded to fir by the Polisario Front along the UN-patrolled buffer zone in Western Sahara.
Morocco's army has responded to fire by the Polisario Front along the UN-patrolled buffer zone in Western Sahara, said an online report picked up by the official MAP news agency.

"Since 13 November 2020, Polisario militias have fired provocative shots along the line of defence without causing human or material damage," MAP said, citing the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news.

The retaliatory fire from the Moroccans destroyed an armoured vehicle east of the line of defence at El Mahbes, it said on its Facebook page.

The pro-independence Polisario Front said on Sunday that intense fighting was continuing along the 2,700-kilometre Moroccan wall of defence that cuts through Western Sahara.

The Algeria-backed Polisario said it was mobilising "thousands of volunteers" to join its fighters.

Morocco launched a military operation on Friday to reopen a key highway on the border between the territory and Mauritania that it said had been blocked by the Polisario.

In response, the Polisario declared the end of an almost three-decade UN-supervised ceasefire in Western Sahara. However the Moroccans say they are still committed to the ceasefire.

The territory is tough to travel through and the Moroccan authorities do not allow journalists access, making it difficult to verify reports from either side.

Rabat controls around three quarters of the Western Sahara, a vast swathe of desert on the Atlantic coast, including its phosphate deposits and its lucrative ocean fisheries. The Polisario controls the remainder.

Read also: UAE opens consulate in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara

Morocco maintains that Western Sahara is an integral part of the kingdom and has offered autonomy for the disputed territory, but insists it will retain sovereignty.

Negotiations involving Morocco, Polisario, Algeria and Mauritania have been at a standstill since 2019.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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