Israel says open-fire rules for Gaza protest unchanged, one Palestinian shot dead

Palestinian demonstrators react to tear gas fired by Israeli troops during clashes at a tent city protest at the Israel-Gaza border, Apr. 5, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 05 April 2018

Israel says open-fire rules for Gaza protest unchanged, one Palestinian shot dead

Jerusalem: Israeli fire killed a Palestinian at the Gaza border on Thursday and another died of wounds suffered several days ago, health officials said, 
bringing to 19 the number of Palestinian dead from a week of frontier protests.
The Israeli military said one of its aircraft targeted an armed militant near the security fence along the Gaza Strip.
Earlier, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that open-fire rules for the Gaza border which saw Israeli forces kill 18 Palestinians last week when a mass protest led to clashes will remain unchanged.
"If there are provocations, there will be a reaction of the harshest kind like last week," Lieberman said on the eve of fresh protests expected on the Gaza-Israel border.
"We do not intend to change the rules of engagement," the minister told public radio.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are holding a six-week-long protest in tent encampments along the fenced border of the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, an enclave of two million ruled by the militant Hamas group.
The demonstrators are pressing for a right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
The latest deaths are likely to add to international concerns over the violence, which human rights groups have said involved live fire against demonstrators posing no immediate threat to life.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation into the deaths on the first day of the protest last Friday, and B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, urged Israeli soldiers to “refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators.” Orders to do so were “manifestly illegal,” it said.
Sixteen Palestinians died after being shot by Israeli troops on the first day of the demonstrations, Palestinian medical officials said, and another was killed on Tuesday.
A 33-year-old man, hit by Israeli fire a few days ago near one of the tent cities, died on Thursday, the officials said.
Israel says it is doing what is necessary to defend its border. The military said that its troops had used live fire only against people trying to sabotage the border fence or rolling burning tires and throwing rocks.
On Thursday Brig.-General Ronen Manelis, Israel’s chief military spokesman, cautioned that Israel might attack deeper inside Gaza if the demonstrations did not stop.
“We have information that tomorrow, under a smoke screen and civilian cover, Hamas intends to carry out terrorist attacks against our civilians and troops, and cross the fence,” he said.
“We have no interest in harming women and children who are protesting. They are not our enemies. We have one intention, not to allow terrorist attacks against our civilians and troops on the other side of the fence.”
Many of the demonstrators who turned out for the first wave of protests along the border returned to their homes and jobs over the week. But organizers expect large crowds again on Friday, the Muslim sabbath.
Protesters on Thursday were bringing more tents and thousands of tires to burn, in what has become known as “The Friday of Tyres.” They say they intend to use mirrors and laser pointers to distract Israeli sharpshooters.
“Friday is going to be a special day, they will see that we are not afraid,” said one Palestinian youth as he delivered tires to the area. But Ahmed Ali, a 55-year-old teacher, said that while he wanted his family to see the tent camp, but would not come back on Friday.
“I taught my children one day we will be returning to Jaffa, our home, but I can’t allow them to throw stones because the Israelis won’t hesitate to kill them,” he said.
Hamas said on Thursday it would pay $3,000 to the family of anyone killed in the protests, $500 for critically injuries and $200 for more minor injuries. Israeli leaders say that such payments serve to instigate violence.
Visiting the frontier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned protesters that “every person who comes close to the fence is endangering their lives.”
The protest action is set to wind up on May 15, when Palestinians mark the “Naqba,” or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes during violence that culminated in war in May 1948 between the newly created state of Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Israel has long ruled out any right of return, fearing it would lose its Jewish majority. 


Turkey extends its presence under UNIFIL in Lebanon

Updated 50 sec ago

Turkey extends its presence under UNIFIL in Lebanon

  • It is the 11th time that there has been an extension of the time frame for Turkish soldiers supporting the UN peacekeeping forces
  • Ankara withdrew its TURKCOY troops from UNIFIL after the kidnapping of two Turkish Airlines pilots in Lebanon

ANKARA: A motion to deploy Turkish troops in Lebanon for a further year as part of the UN’s interim force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, was ratified by the Turkish Parliament on Tuesday.

It is the 11th time that there has been an extension of the time frame for Turkish soldiers supporting the UN peacekeeping forces. They will now be deployed to help the Lebanese government regain its authority and to provide security in the region until Aug. 31 next year.

UNIFIL’s total number of peacekeepers rose to 10,462 from 41 troop-contributing countries in August. Turkey, as the second largest army in NATO, has contributed 86 soldiers and one fast patrol boat.

This contribution helped the Turkish Army to boost cooperation and increased its level of recognition for the Lebanese.

Turkish engineering construction company TURKCOY joined UNIFIL in October 2006 to support the mission with engineering construction expertise, including the construction of roads, building of prefabricated accommodation and improving the protection of several UNIFIL bases. 

It also donated generators, computers and other materials to municipalities and schools, and also renovated schools.

Ankara withdrew its TURKCOY troops from UNIFIL after the kidnapping of two Turkish Airlines pilots in Lebanon.

Lebanon currently faces many security threats, largely due to the ongoing crisis in Syria, rendering the mission of UNIFIL much more crucial for the country.

Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs (LISA) in Lebanon, said that Turkey’s presence in UNIFIL is key for the security and stability of Lebanon, especially given the escalating tensions between Hezbollah and Israel. The two sides have been exchanging threats over the last weeks.

“Russia’s deployment of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system in Syria after Syrian air defenses downed a Russian spy plane during an Israeli strike in September puts Lebanon further at risk because it could be now seen as an alternative arena for this war,” Nader told Arab News.

Nader said that Turkey has always supported Lebanese sovereignty. 

It has also been critical of Hezbollah trying to control Lebanon to set up a state within a state, the director said.

“Turkey being part of Astana peace process (aimed at ending the Syrian conflict) and remaining critical of Iran’s moves in the region renders it a peace-broker by its engagement in UNIFIL. It could therefore extend the dynamic that is established in Astana to Lebanon,” he said.

Sinan Hatahet, an expert on Lebanon-Turkey relations at Al Sharq Forum in Istanbul, said that Turkish involvement in UNIFIL has changed significantly since 2006.


Internal dynamics

“Ankara was trying to play a major role in the Arab-Israeli conflict by mediating among Syria, Israel and Lebanon. But now the relationship between Turkey and Israel has deteriorated,” he told Arab News.

“Turkey’s involvement in  UNIFIL is within a larger context of Turkish objective of being present in the Levant. But I don’t think that Turkey is engaging in Lebanese internal dynamics through this mission,” Hatahet said.

Fatih Aldemir, a security consultant and a former major, said that Turkey’s presence in UNIFIL has symbolic significance for the Lebanese as they tended to see Turkey as a model country and have developed friendly relations.


Military assistance

“Turkey’s contribution to the mission is seen as material and psychological support for the current aim of this interim force which is establishing a sort of buffer zone between Israel and prevent the potential threats coming from the sea,” he told Arab News.

For the past three years, Turkey has also been providing foreign military assistance to Lebanon’s security institutions. 

On Wednesday, during a meeting with Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Hakan Cakil, Lebanese Defense Minister Yacoub Al-Sarraf thanked Ankara for its support.