Hamas appoints military chief Al-Aruri as deputy leader

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, center, and other officials visit a patient in an intensive care room at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Thursday. (AP)
Updated 05 October 2017
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Hamas appoints military chief Al-Aruri as deputy leader

GAZA CITY: Hamas has appointed as its deputy leader a military official accused of organizing multiple deadly attacks against Israelis, an official said on Thursday.
“Salah Al-Aruri was elected deputy to (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniya,” an official in the movement said, after a vote of its 18-member political bureau.
Al-Aruri, who lives in exile after having spent almost two decades in Israeli jails, is alleged to have masterminded a series of attacks against Israelis in the occupied West Bank.
In 2015, the US Treasury issued sanctions against Al-Aruri, along with other officials of Hamas, which is currently in negotiations with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority about reconciliation.
Al-Aruri was based in Syria for a number of years but is now resident in Lebanon, according to senior Hamas sources.
There was no immediate reaction from Israel, which had previously accused Turkey of sheltering Al-Aruri, to his appointment.
Al-Aruri’s appointment follows the election in February of another military leader, Yahya Sinwar, as Hamas’s Gaza chief.
Analysts say Sinwar is technically third in command following Al-Aruri’s appointment but has strong support in the military wing.
Al-Aruri joined Hamas in 1987 and helped establish a military wing for the movement in the West Bank, according to Hamas media.
He was jailed by Israel for 15 years after being convicted of forming military cells in the territory.
Three months after his release in 2007, he was again jailed for a further three years, before being released and deported from the Palestinian territories.
Al-Aruri’s appointment came as Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah left the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a four-day visit aimed at reconciliation with Hamas.
Hamas agreed to hand over power to a unity government last month and Hamdallah’s visit, the first since 2015, saw his ministers take control of ministries in Gaza.
The move is part of wider attempts to end a split between the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which is based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, which runs Gaza.
The two sides are set to meet for further talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Tuesday.
Before leaving on Thursday morning, Hamdallah and a number of his ministers visited the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, as well as a desalination plant.
He then left with his ministers through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, which is controlled by Israel, an AFP videographer said.
Hamas, in a statement, said: “The Gaza Strip and its ministries are under the administration of the national reconciliation government. Hamas will work to support and strengthen its role.”
Mohammed Dahlan, who played a key backroom role in a major new effort for Palestinian unity, told Reuters that a two-state peace agreement with Israel was impossible and healing wounds from a civil war that split Palestine was now a priority.
Dahlan, a member of the Fatah party, spoke to Reuters after the unity Cabinet held its first meeting in the enclave in three years.
“The internal Palestinian situation is more sacred, is more important and is more useful now than the so-called negotiation,” the veteran politician said of talks with Israel that collapsed in 2014 over issues such as Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory and Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.
Dahlan, 56, said: “There is a complete Judaization of the West Bank, not only of Jerusalem. It has become impossible for the two-state solution to be implemented. Therefore, there is no political horizon.”


Erdogan, ruling AK Party take early lead in Turkish elections

Updated 24 June 2018
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Erdogan, ruling AK Party take early lead in Turkish elections

  • President Tayyip Erdogan has over 50 percent of the vote with 40 percent of the votes counted in Turkey's presidential election
  • If no presidential candidate wins more than 50 percent in Sunday’s vote, a second round run-off will be held on July 8

ANKARA: Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party took an early lead in presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, according to preliminary partial results, boosting the president’s hopes of extending his 15-year rule.
However, the first results had been expected to give Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted party a strong lead and it is expected to shorten as more votes are tallied across the nation of 81 million people.
With about 30 percent of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 58 percent, well ahead of his closest rival, Muharrem Ince, of the main opposition, secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), on 27.5 percent, broadcasters said.
If no presidential candidate wins more than 50 percent in Sunday’s vote, a second round run-off will be held on July 8.
In the parliamentary contest, the AK Party had 53.03 percent, based on 10.25 percent of votes counted, the broadcasters said. The CHP had 14.82 percent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) 7.07 percent.
Turnout was high at around 87 percent for both contests, the state broadcaster said.
Sunday’s vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the NATO member state and entrench one-man rule.
Earlier on Sunday, a crowd of Erdogan’s supporters chanted his name as he emerged from a school after voting in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul, shaking hands with people amid tight security.
“Turkey is staging a democratic revolution,” he told reporters in the polling station. “With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilizations.”
Erdogan, the most popular but also divisive leader in modern Turkish history, argues the new powers will better enable him to tackle the nation’s economic problems — the lira has lost 20 percent against the dollar this year — and deal with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighboring Iraq and Syria.
But he reckoned without Ince, a former physics teacher and veteran CHP lawmaker, whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanized Turkey’s long-demoralized and divided opposition.
FRAUD FEARS
Voicing opposition concerns about possible electoral fraud, Ince told reporters outside the High Electoral Board (YSK) after polling stations had closed that citizens should protect ballot boxes. He also urged YSK members to “do your job the right way,” adding he believed the results would be “very good.”
Opposition parties and NGOs deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against fraud. They have said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raise fears about the vote’s fairness.
Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.
Turkey has been under emergency rule — which restricts some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees — for nearly two years since an attempted coup in 2016.
Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on his followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.
The president’s critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent.
Ince told a rally on Saturday he would lift the state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected president. He also vowed to reverse what opposition parties see as Turkey’s swing toward authoritarian rule under Erdogan.
“This is no longer a Turkey we want. Rights are violated, democracy is in terrible shape,” said health sector worker Sema, 50, after voting in Istanbul.
She and others in the city said they voted for the pro-Kurdish HDP, hoping it would exceed the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament. If it does so, it will be harder for the AKP to get a majority.