Thousands mass at pro-Palestinian rally called by Erdogan

Protesters step on an Israel flag, foreground, and US flag after a rally in solidarity with Palestinians and before an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 18, 2018. (AP)
Updated 18 May 2018
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Thousands mass at pro-Palestinian rally called by Erdogan

  • Large crowds thronged the massive Yenikapi meeting area on the shores of the sea of Marmara under the slogan “Curse the oppression, support Jerusalem,” ahead of an address by Erdogan.
  • Demonstrators held Palestinian and Turkish flags and brandished slogans like “Jerusalem is our red line.”

ISTANBUL: Thousands of people on Friday massed in Istanbul for a rally called by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to show solidarity with the Palestinians and condemn Israel after its deadly shootings of Gaza protesters, an AFP correspondent said.
Large crowds thronged the massive Yenikapi meeting area on the shores of the sea of Marmara under the slogan “Curse the oppression, support Jerusalem,” ahead of an address by Erdogan.
The rally came hours ahead of an extraordinary summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) also called by Erdogan to denounce Israel’s actions and the moving of the US embassy for Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Demonstrators held Palestinian and Turkish flags and brandished slogans like “Jerusalem is our red line.”
Some of the leaders and ministers set to attend the summit were present at the rally, including Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah.
“We are calling on the world and say ‘Israel, America and Zionism, you all dragged humanity into chaos’,” said protester Levent Ayaz.
“With God’s permission, Jerusalem belongs to us and is the capital of Islam as long as this ummah (Islamic community) exists,” he added.
“There is no political view here, there is no right, there’s no left,” said fellow demonstrator Recep Kerven.
“The only reason we are here is to support our (Palestinian) brothers. That’s a message delivered to the entire world.”


Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million have been uprooted from their homes. AP
Updated 16 July 2018
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Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

  • Regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside
  • In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on an opposition-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.
The regime’s push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families left the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the opposition-held Idlib province in the north.
Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the UN and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to “liberate all of Syrian territories” of “terrorism.”
In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian regime has restored control of over 60 percent of previously opposition-held territory across the country.
Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad’s office said the two agreed that the “elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level” that could put an end to Syria’s war.
Syria’s regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists” and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.
The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.
In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since early Sunday, regime forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles, from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian regime Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.
The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where regime forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the fighters. Capturing the hill would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to Daesh.
Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa.
Pro-regime TV Al-Ikhbariya said 10 buses carrying 407 people left for northern Syria.
The station said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people was likely to be completed by Sunday.