Netanyahu meets Putin amid new round of Syria strikes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed Israel’s obligation to defend itself against Iranian aggression, when he met Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow. (Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2018
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Netanyahu meets Putin amid new round of Syria strikes

  • Netanyahu viewed a parade celebrating the anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and then met with the Russian president at the Kremlin for consultations.
  • Tensions between Israel and Iran are high over Iran’s efforts to expand its military presence in Syria.

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow on Wednesday to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss military coordination amid new strikes in Syria blamed on Israel.
Together with Putin, Netanyahu toured a parade celebrating the anniversary of the World War II victory over the Nazis and then met the Russian president at the Kremlin for consultations. Netanyahu he said he was eager to discuss ways of “solving crises and removing threats in a thoughtful and responsible manner.”
After 10 hours together, Netanyahu said he conveyed Israel’s obligation to defend itself against Iranian aggression.
“I think that matters were presented in a direct and forthright manner, and this is important. These matters are very important to Israel’s security at all times and especially at this time,” he said.
Syrian state media said Israel struck a military outpost on Tuesday near the capital of Damascus. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the missiles targeted depots and rocket launchers that likely belonged to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard in Kisweh, killing at least 15 people, eight of them Iranians.
Tensions between Israel and Iran are high over Iran’s efforts to expand its military presence in Syria, where it is a key ally of President Bashar Assad. Repeated airstrikes attributed to Israel have killed Iranian fighters and prompted threats of reprisal from Tehran. President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that the US would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran has triggered uncertainty and threatened to spark more unrest in the Middle East.
“The meetings between us are always important and this one is especially so,” Netanyahu said ahead of his departure. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination” between the two militaries. Netanyahu made no mention of the overnight strikes.
The Israeli and Russian militaries have been in contact throughout much of Russia’s intervention in Syria, where Moscow has waged an air campaign in support of Assad’s forces since 2015. Russia also considers Iran a strategic ally.
Israel views Iran as its archenemy, citing Iran’s calls for Israel’s destruction, support for militant groups across the region and growing military activity in neighboring Syria. Israel has warned that it will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence in Syria.
Israel’s military went on high alert Tuesday and bomb shelters were ordered open in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights following reports of “irregular activity of Iranian forces in Syria.” After an uneventful night, the military on Wednesday called on residents to return to “full civilian routine,” meaning studies and excursions would continue as usual, although the shelters would remain open.
Israel, which almost never confirms or denies airstrikes in Syria, did not comment on Tuesday’s attack. Such strikes have become more frequent recently. The Syrian Observatory said the casualty number from Tuesday’s strike is likely to go up because of a large number of people who were wounded and a number of people who are missing.
Iran has vowed to retaliate to recent Israeli strikes in Syria targeting Iranian outposts, including an attack last month on Syria’s T4 air base in Homs province that killed seven Iranian military personnel. On April 30, Israel was said to have struck government outposts in northern Syria, killing more than a dozen pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians.
Amos Gilead, a retired senior Israeli defense official, told a security conference in the coastal town of Herzliya that Iran’s intentions in Syria meant a wider conflagration may only be a matter of time.
“They want to build a second Hezbollah-stan,” he said, referring to the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militant group that last fought a war with Israel in 2006. “They are determined to do it and we are determined to prevent it. It means we are on a collision course.”


Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

A member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) reacts next to policemen during a demonstration in solidarity with a HDP lawmaker on hunger strike in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, on February 15, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Turkey bans rally for Kurdish MP on hunger strike

  • Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Friday prevented supporters from rallying outside the home of a pro-Kurdish lawmaker on hunger strike for 100 days.
The protest bid coincides with the 20th anniversary of the capture of Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is jailed in a notorious prison island near Istanbul.
Leyla Guven of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), launched her action on Nov. 8 while in jail to protest against Ocalan’s prison conditions.
She was freed last month under judicial supervision but continued her protest, refusing any treatment. Guven, 55, is consuming only sugared or salted water.
Police on Friday blocked supporters from approaching Guven’s house in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir after a rally called by the HDP, an AFP correspondent said.
“The biggest task ahead of us today is to turn every aspect of life into an arena for struggle and support hunger strikes at the highest level,” HDP MP Dilan Dirayet Tasdemir said.
“This dark picture and severe conditions of fascism can only be broken through our organized struggle,” Tasdemir said.
More than 200 prisoners are on hunger strike to protest what they call Ocalan’s isolation, according to the HDP.
Ocalan, one of the founders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984, has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Ocalan was caught in Kenya outside the Greek Embassy in Nairobi on Feb. 15, 1999 by Turkish secret service agents after attempting to seek asylum in Europe.
Turkish authorities last month allowed Ocalan’s brother Mehmet to see him, the first visit in over two years.