Archive for July, 2016

Palestinians rally to celebrate defeat of Turkey coup

16 July 2016 Saturday

Hundreds of people took to the streets in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon on Saturday to celebrate the failure of a coup attempt by a renegade faction of Turkey’s military.

“With the support of its people, Turkey has emerged victorious,” Gaza resident Mohamed Ashour, 50, told Anadolu Agency.

The father of seven went on to recount how he had surfed through television channels all night to follow the dramatic events in Turkey.

“News of the coup attempt came as a big shock,” he said. “But now the shock has turned to joy.”

Waving Turkish and Palestinian flags, hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the Gaza Strip’s southern city of Khan Younis on Saturday to voice support for Turkey’s elected government.

Some carried banners reading, “Gaza won’t forget those who stood by it” — a reference to the Turkish government’s longstanding support for the people of Gaza, who have suffered under a decade-long embargo imposed by Israel and Egypt.

“This is a message to our brothers in Turkey that the Palestinian people stand by you,” Yunus al-Astal, a leading member of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, which has governed the strip since 2007, said.

In Lebanon, meanwhile, hundreds of people rallied in the southern city of Sidon to celebrate the failure of the coup bid in Turkey.

Waving Turkish flags, demonstrators gathered outside the city’s Turkish hospital amid chants in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government.

Dozens of Lebanese also staged a sit-in in the northern city of Tripoli in a show of support for Turkey’s elected government.

Some demonstrators performed dawn prayers in Tripoli’s Nour Square in what they described as an “expression of gratitude to God” for the failure of the coup bid in Turkey.

On Friday night, renegade elements within Turkey’s military attempted to stage a coup against the government.

Although the coup was soon put down by the country’s legitimate authorities and security apparatus, roughly 160 people were martyred in the violence, according to Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Source: World Bulletin.


Second aid shipment for Gaza by September Eid

15 July 2016 Friday

Turkey will ready another aid ship to Gaza before the Eid-al-Adha holiday in September, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said on Thursday.

Speaking in Turkey’s capital Ankara, Kaynak confirmed that another aid ship will be readied before the Eid of Sacrifice.

Following a breakthrough restoration of Turkish-Israeli ties, a Turkish aid ship carrying 11,000 tons of supplies for the Gaza Strip arrived at Israel’s Ashdod port on July 3, just before the post-Ramadan Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The Panama-flagged Lady Leyla delivered 10,000 toys and 10,000 packages of food and aid for children in Gaza.

Kaynak recalled how Turkey and Israel froze their ties in 2010 after Israeli troops stormed the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in international waters, killing 10 Turkish activists.

“Israel realized our terms to revive relations between the two countries,” he said. “Israel agreed that Turkey will be the coordinating country in delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

Kaynak said that distribution of the aid shipment — food, toys, and packages of aid for children — began on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday and still continues.

He also confirmed that the new shipment will deliver as much aid as the first.

Under the deal reached between Turkey and Israel — in addition to agreeing to Turkey’s humanitarian presence in Gaza — Israel will pay $20 million in compensation to the families of the Mavi Marmara victims.

Source: World Bulletin.


Hamas says to take part in Palestinian vote

15 July 2016 Friday

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip said Friday it will participate in local elections set for October, after boycotting the last round four years ago.

Its rival, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority headed by president Mahmud Abbas, has said local and municipal polls will be held on October 8 throughout the Palestinian territories.

The movement boycotted the last round of elections held in 2012 and Gazans have been unable to vote since the Islamists took power in the territory in 2007.

“Hamas will work for the success of these elections and will facilitate them in the interest of the people and the (Palestinian) cause,” the statement said.

Hamas and Fatah agreed a unity deal in April 2014 that was supposed to lead to a technocratic government taking over administration of Gaza and the West Bank.

However, Hamas never accepted relinquishing its authority in Gaza, and the two sides remain at loggerheads.

Source: World Bulletin.


Jordan agrees one-off aid for Syrians blocked at border

13 July 2016 Wednesday

Jordan has agreed to a one-off aid delivery to more than 100,000 desperate Syrians blocked in the desert no-man’s land on its northeastern border, the United Nations said.

Jordan closed the border to both would-be refugees and aid agencies after a June 21 suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group killed seven soldiers near the makeshift desert camp.

“We have negotiated with the government for an intervention… to create packages that will include food as well as non-food items that we will get to the people at the berm” marking the frontier, the executive director of the UN’s World Food Program, Ertharin Cousin, told AFP.

“But the Jordanian government has been very clear with us it is a one-time intervention,” she added in an interview on Tuesday.

Cousin said the details of the aid delivery were still being worked out with the UN Children’s Fund and the International Organization for Migration and she could give no firm date for it.

On Tuesday, armed forces chief General Meshaal Mohamed al-Zaban reiterated at a meeting attended by the WFP director that the border would remain closed, the official Petra news agency reported.

Zaban said Jordan would “allow nobody” to cross, because the kingdom’s security was an “absolute priority.”

Jordanian officials have charged that the vast Rukban camp has become a hotbed of jihadist activity.

Cousin said she had flown over the camp by helicopter early on Tuesday.

“You are looking out of the window and it is just all desert and the sun rising and suddenly thousands of tents,” she said.

“The numbers have been estimated by our teams on the ground as high as 100,000-plus at the border on the berm.”

Aid agencies have voiced concern about the plight of the camp’s residents who had been dependent on food and water deliveries across the border before its closure.

The refugees are “enduring very harsh weather conditions, sweltering heat and frequent dust storms” and “have or are running out of food,” WFP Jordan spokeswoman Shaza Moghraby told AFP late last month.

Source: World Bulletin.


Syrians in Turkey could become citizens: Erdogan


KILIS, Turkey

Millions of Syrians living in Turkey will have a chance to become citizens of the country that gave them shelter, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday.

Speaking in the southern Turkish province of Kilis, which borders Syria and hosts more than 120,000 Syrians, Erdogan said that many of the Syrians now in Turkey want to become citizens of the Republic of Turkey.

“There are steps our Interior Ministry has taken on the issue,” he said.

“We will give the chance to [acquire] citizenship by helping out these brothers and sisters by monitoring through offices set up by the ministry,” Erdogan said.

Around 2.7 million Syrians who have fled the civil war in their country are being sheltered at camps inside Turkey.

Referring to the Syrian crisis, which turned violent in 2011 when regime leader Bashar al-Assad cracked down on peaceful protesters, Erdogan said the Syrians had been prevented from governing themselves.

“The organization called Daesh is, in fact, a puppet put forward with this aim. The organization called the PYD, [and] the YGP are subcontractors which were empowered for the same purpose.”

Stating that just as Daesh does not represent Muslims, the PYD and YPG likewise do not represent Kurds, Erdogan said those groups “are tools used for dirty designs on the region by those who hold their leashes in their hands.”

About Turkey’s attitude toward Syrians, Erdogan said: “Even today we are defending the same principles that we defended six years ago. We are saying the same things.”

Syria has remained locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN figures.

The conflict in Syria has now driven more than 4 million people – a sixth of the country’s population – to seek sanctuary in neighboring countries, making it the largest refugee crisis for a quarter of a century, according to the UN.

Source: Anadolu Agency.


Erdogan calls Assad a ‘more advanced terrorist’ than IS

July 02, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Saturday that Syrian President Bashar Assad was a “more advanced terrorist” than the Islamic State group, despite the deadly attack on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport that Turkish officials blame on IS.

Speaking in the town of Kilis near the border with Syria, Erdogan said the Syrian leader was responsible for the deaths of some 600,000 of his own citizens and was the root cause of the war in Syria. “He is a more advanced terrorist than a terrorist from the PYD or the YPG,” Erdogan said. “He is a more advanced terrorist than Daesh.” Erdogan was referring to Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara accuses of being a terror organization because of their affiliation with Turkey’s Kurdish rebels, and to the IS group by its Arabic name.

Three militants armed with assault rifles and suicide bombs attacked one of the world’s busiest airports on Tuesday night, killing at least 44 people. Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Turkish officials say they believe it was the work of IS.

Turkish authorities have detained at least 24 people in raids in several Istanbul neighborhoods over possible connections to the attack. Seventeen other people were detained in the province of Gaziantep, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Erdogan paid an unannounced visit to the airport on Saturday, saying a prayer in front of a memorial set up for the victims, which features the pictures of airport employees killed in the rampage. He later flew to Kilis, where the number of Syrian refugees is higher than the local Turkish population. IS militants have also attacked the town with cross-border rocket fire, killing 21 people there since January.

Erdogan said countries he did not name were supporting the Syrian Kurdish militia and the IS in a bid to prevent democracy in Syria and for their “dirty calculations” in the region. He also announced that his government would allow Syrian refugees in Turkey to take on Turkish citizenship.

Turkey has been accused of long turning a blind eye to jihadi fighters who crossed into Syria from Turkish territory in the hope that they would hasten Assad’s downfall. Turkey has also been accused of not doing enough to fight IS, despite allowing the U.S.-led coalition to use a key air base to conduct air strikes against jihadists.

Turkey denies the accusations but such statements from Erdogan help reinforce beliefs that fighting IS is not a priority for Ankara despite the extremist groups’ attacks on Turkish territory. Earlier, the Istanbul governor’s office said 52 people were still in the hospital — 20 of them in intensive care — four days after the devastating airport attack. It said 184 airport victims had been discharged from hospitals so far, including 13 people released Saturday.

Prosecutors have established the identity of two of the three airport attackers — giving their names as Rakim Bulgarov and Vadim Osmanov — and were trying to identify the third, Anadolu said. Other media reports have given different versions of Osmanov’s name.

Investigators’ attentions have reportedly focused on whether a Chechen extremist known to be a top lieutenant in the Islamic State group masterminded the attack. U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told CNN that Akhmed Chatayev directed the attack. The CIA and White House declined to comment on McCaul’s assertion and officials said the investigation into the airport bombings is still ongoing. McCaul could not be reached for further comment.

Turkish officials also were not able to confirm Chatayev’s possible role in the deadly attack. The Sabah newspaper, which is close to the Turkish government, said police had launched a manhunt for him.

The Islamic State group, which has used the porous border with Turkey to establish itself in neighboring Syria and Iraq, has repeatedly threatened Turkey. In turn, Turkey has blamed IS for several major bombings in the past year in Ankara and Istanbul.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

Israel’s Netanyahu in Uganda to start 4-nation Africa tour

July 04, 2016

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country’s raid on Uganda’s Entebbe airport 40 years ago, in which his brother was killed, “changed the course” of his life. Speaking shortly after his arrival in Uganda, Netanyahu praised Israel’s commando raid on the airport which freed Israeli hostages from a hijacked plane. “International terrorism suffered a stinging defeat,” from the mission in July 1976.

The Entebbe rescue is a seminal event in Israeli history and is widely seen as one of the country’s greatest military successes. It also was a monumental event for Netanyahu, as the death of his brother, Yonatan, pushed him into the public eye and on a track that would take him to the country’s highest office.

An Israeli band played somber tunes at the airport on the shore of Lake Victoria to mark the anniversary of the Israeli rescue mission, during which three hostages were killed. A relative of one of the Israeli hostages lit a memorial flame as Netanyahu and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni stood in silence.

Netanyahu traveled to Uganda with soldiers and pilots who were members of the rescue team. “This is a deeply moving day for me,” he said. “Forty years ago they landed in the dead of night in a country led by a brutal dictator who gave refuge to terrorists. Today we landed in broad daylight in a friendly country led by a president who fights terrorists.”

Netanyahu’s visit to Uganda starts his four-nation tour of Africa. “After many decades, I can say unequivocally Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel,” he said. “All of our peoples will benefit greatly from our growing partnership.”

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said his government opposes the “indiscriminate use of violence” as well as bigotry. He said Uganda’s government supports a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“The two of you belong to that area,” Museveni said, urging both sides to live “side by side in two states … in peace and with recognized borders.” The one-day visit to Uganda is the start of Netanyahu’s tour of Africa during which he will also visit Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Later on Monday Netanyahu will attend a summit of regional leaders focusing on security. In exchange for its expertise in security and other fields, Israel wants African states to side with it at the U.N., where the General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state in 2012. Israel also has a shared interest with the four African countries of confronting Islamic extremists.

Uganda’s Entebbe Airport is where Netanyahu’s brother, Yonatan, was struck by a bullet as he led Israeli commandos in a daring rescue mission to rescue hijacked Israeli passengers. Israel’s success in the raid humiliated then-Ugandan President Idi Amin.

Four decades later, Uganda has good relations with Israel, which is courting allies to counter Palestine’s rising influence at the United Nations. While in Uganda Netanyahu will also attend a security-themed summit of regional leaders, including those from Kenya and Tanzania, said Don Wanyama, a spokesman for Uganda’s president.

Although the rescue mission breached Uganda’s territorial integrity, Amin, who had taken power by force and ruled as a dictator, had become an increasingly isolated figure and would soon be forced out of power with the help of Tanzanian forces. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni himself led one of several exile groups that waged a guerrilla war against Amin.

A lingering loathing of Amin, who was accused of many human rights atrocities and who died in Saudi Arabia in 2003, is one reason why many Ugandans today do not see the success of the Israeli raid — in which many Ugandan soldiers were killed and military equipment destroyed — as a disaster for Uganda. Yonatan Netanyahu was shot dead as he helped the Israeli hostages who had been held inside the airport terminal back onto the plane. His death made Yonatan an Israeli hero, and thrust Netanyahu toward public life.

Still, some Ugandans say Netanyahu’s historic visit should be a moment to mourn the Ugandan victims of the operation. Moses Ali, Uganda’s deputy prime minister who served as a government minister under Amin, told Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper that the rescue mission should not be celebrated by Ugandans.

“If you are siding with Israelis, then you can celebrate because it was their victory,” he said. “If you are not, then you should be mourning our dead ones.” Netanyahu will also be visiting Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia this week.

Israel wants African states to side with it at the U.N., where the General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state in 2012. The Palestinians have used their upgraded status to launch a diplomatic offensive against Israel and its occupation of lands where the Palestinians hope to establish a future state.

“Israel has been on a mission to repair its image globally and more specifically within the U.N. where the Africa group has for decades now supported the Palestinian cause, and vote in general toward that end,” said Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst who runs a think tank called Fana Kwawote.

As a key U.S. ally on regional security, especially in violence-prone Somalia, Uganda is an attractive ally for Israel as well, according to Izama. “Washington views the Museveni administration as a regional hegemon, a key to the security of the wider region. Uganda’s involvement in counter-terrorism in Somalia … and its significant expenditure on security goods, including arms and technology, are another reason” for Netanyahu’s visit, he said.

Netanyahu’s African trip has generated some controversy at home, due to the large size of his delegation, as well as the personal nature of the visit. In an editorial published Monday, the Haaretz daily praised Netanyahu for strengthening Israel’s ties with Africa, but suggested that he was largely driven by his own emotional involvement. “Despite the expected success of the diplomatic and economic contacts, it’s hard to shake off the impression that the entire trip would not be taking place were it not for Netanyahu’s desire to take advantage of his official position in order to conduct a ceremony in the old Entebbe airport,” it wrote.

AP writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

Netanyahu lauds benefits of normalizing ties with Turkey

June 27, 2016

ROME (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that his nation’s agreement with Turkey to normalize ties will have “immense” implications for the Israeli economy. The Israel-Turkey reconciliation deal, which is to be officially announced later in the day, is meant to end a bitter six-year rift between the Mideast powers. News of the deal first emerged on Sunday, and an Israeli official confirmed the details of the deal to The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement.

Speaking in Rome during talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome, Netanyahu said Monday the agreement is an important step, alluding to the development of Israel’s offshore natural gas reserves.

“I use that word advisedly, immense implications for the Israeli economy, and I mean positive immense implications,” the Israeli prime minister said. As Netanyahu and Kerry met for the second time in as many days, the U.S. top diplomat welcomed the agreement and congratulated Netanyahu. He said the U.S. has been working on the rapprochement for several years, and called it a “positive step.”

Israel and Turkey were former close allies, but relations imploded in 2010 following an Israeli naval raid that killed nine Turkish activists, including a dual American citizen, who were on a ship trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Following the incident, Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and greatly scaled back military and economy ties. The move toward rapprochement comes amid Turkey’s deepening isolation in the region, following a deterioration of ties with Russia and Egypt as well as the turmoil in neighboring Syria.

An Israeli official said the impending deal would include $20 million in Israeli compensation for families of those killed in the raid, an end to all Turkish claims against Israeli military personnel and the state of Israel over the raid, and the mutual restoration of ambassadors.

A senior Turkish official said that under the agreement, Turkey would deliver aid to Gaza and engage in infrastructure investments to construct residential buildings and a hospital, and to address energy and water shortages in Gaza.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan briefed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas about the deal, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said on Monday. Officials from Erdogan’s office said Abbas expressed his “satisfaction” over the deal.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly about the matter.

Associated Press writer Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.