Archive for December, 2013

Turkey says it shot down Syrian helicopter

September 16, 2013

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish fighter jet shot down a Syrian military helicopter on Monday after it entered Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings to leave, an official said.

The helicopter strayed 2 kilometers (more than 1 mile) into Turkish airspace, but crashed inside Syria after being hit by missiles fired from the jet, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, told reporters in Ankara.

Arinc said he did not have any information on the fate of the Syrian pilots, but Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said rebel fighters captured one of the pilots, while the fate of the other one was unclear.

The incident is bound to ramp up tension on an already volatile border. Turkey has been at odds with the Syrian government since early in the country’s civil war and has backed the Syrian rebels, while advocating international intervention in the conflict.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking in Paris after meetings about Syria with his counterparts from other countries, said Monday’s encounter should send a message. “Nobody will dare to violate Turkey’s borders in any way again,” he said, according to Anatolia, the Turkish state-run news agency. “The necessary measures have been taken.”

Arinc noted that the Turkish military had put its forces on a higher state of alert and changed the rules for engaging with the Syrian military along the border because of “‘constant harassment fire from the other side.”

He also noted that a Turkish jet was shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft over the Mediterranean in June 2012. Turkey says it was hit in international airspace, but Syria insisted it was flying low inside Syrian airspace.

Shells from the Syrian conflict have occasionally rained down on the Turkish side of the border, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Damascus that his country would not tolerate any violation of the border by Syrian forces.

AP correspondent Ryan Lucas contributed from Beirut.

Large protests over Bedouin resettlement in Israel

November 30, 2013

JERUSALEM (AP) — Large protests over a plan to resettle nomadic Bedouin Arabs in Israel’s southern Negev desert caused injuries Saturday and led to some arrests as well as condemnation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Protests focused on a bill that would move thousands of Bedouins into government-recognized villages. Opponents charge the plan would confiscate Bedouin land and affect their nomadic way of life, but Israel says the moves are necessary to provide basic services that many Bedouins lack and would benefit their community while preserving their traditions.

Over a thousand people protested in a Negev village in southern Israel Saturday. The demonstration turned violent when some protesters threw rocks and fire bombs at police and burned tires. Police, some on horseback, responded with water cannon, tear gas and stun grenades, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Hundreds more took to the streets at protests held in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere. Police made more than 40 arrests and 15 officers were injured, Rosenfeld said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement condemning the violence. “We will treat offenders to the fullest extent of the law and will not tolerate such disturbances. We have — and will have — no tolerance for those who break the law, Netanyahu said. “Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave. We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev,” he said.

Bedouins are a small group within the Arab minority. Traditionally, they have identified more closely with Israel than their Arab brethren, but their complaints against the resettlement program, known as the Prawer Plan, echo broader sentiments among other Arab Israelis.

The government body dealing with the plan said it calls for the vast majority of Bedouin to live where they are. It said it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in housing, health, public services and education for the Bedouin.

Officials said in a statement that the body is planning “a variety of rural and urban living options which will allow the Bedouin population to integrate into the fabric of a modern state while preserving their traditions.”

It blamed Saturday’s violence on “extremists, many of whom are not Bedouin” for using the protests to further their own agenda.