Egypt steps in to avert new war on Gaza

A photo taken from Gaza City on May 29, 2018, shows a smoke billowing in the background following an Israeli air strike on the Palestinian enclave. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2018
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Egypt steps in to avert new war on Gaza

  • Explosions shook the impoverished territory, which has been blockaded by Israel for more than a decade
  • Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the fire was in retaliation for Israeli attacks targeting their positions

GAZA: Egypt intervened on Tuesday to defuse tension after Israel launched the most devastating attacks on Gaza since the bloody conflict in 2014.

 Israeli jets pounded dozens of military targets in the impoverished territory after what it said were cross-border rocket and mortar attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers and the militant group Islamic Jihad.
The clashes came after hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during weeks of protests on the Gaza border.
A Palestinian official in Gaza said Egypt was in touch with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel to stop the fighting deteriorating into a wider conflict. Daoud Shehab, an Islamic Jihad spokesman, also said an Egyptian official had been in contact with the group to try to restore calm.
“If Israel abides by calm and ceases all forms of aggression against our people in Gaza, we will also maintain calm,” he said.
He said Islamic Jihad did not want the violence to escalate and blamed Israel for the flare-up.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in Gaza. Three Israeli soldiers were wounded by projectiles.
In a rare joint statement, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the fire was in retaliation for Israeli attacks targeting their positions.
Three members of Islamic Jihad were killed in an Israeli strike on Sunday, and the group vowed revenge.
Early on Tuesday, about 30 mortar shells were fired toward Israel from Gaza. Israel said most were intercepted by its air defense systems.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a “powerful” response after the initial mortar barrage.
Shortly after he spoke, Israel’s military began its  airstrikes. Explosions shook the impoverished territory, which has been blockaded by Israel for more than a decade,  and smoke rose from areas hit. At least seven bases of Hamas and Islamic Jihad were struck.
Later in the day, further rockets or mortar rounds from Gaza were intercepted by Israel. The Israeli military said some of the mortar rounds were supplied by Iran.
Israel said it responded by hitting more than 35 “military targets” throughout the day, including a tunnel that stretched under Egypt and into its territory, weapons storage facilities and militant bases.
Israel’s military said it was not seeking an escalation, but warned Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.
“They have the ability, the control and the power to escalate or to de-escalate the situation, to rein in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their own extremist factions in Hamas or to escalate the situation,” said military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.


Turkish civil society leaders on trial over 2013 protests

Updated 24 June 2019
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Turkish civil society leaders on trial over 2013 protests

  • The 657-page indictment seeks to paint the protests as a foreign-directed conspiracy with links to the Arab Spring
  • There has been a renewed crackdown on dissidents since a coup attempt in 2016

SILIVRI, Turkey: Sixteen leading Turkish civil society leaders went on trial Monday, accused of seeking to overthrow the government during the “Gezi Park” protests of 2013 — charges dubbed an absurd sham by critics.
The group includes renowned businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, whose detention since November 2017 has made him a symbol of what his supporters say is a crackdown on civil society.
Kavala rejected the “irrational claims which lack evidence” in his opening statement, shortly after the trial began under high security in the prison and court complex of Silivri on the outskirts of Istanbul.
He is accused of orchestrating and financing the protests which began over government plans to build over Gezi Park, one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul.
The rallies snowballed into a nationwide movement that marked the first serious challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s brand of Islamic conservatism and grandiose development projects.
The 657-page indictment seeks to paint the protests as a foreign-directed conspiracy with links to the Arab Spring, which, ironically, the Turkish government supported.
“None of these actions were coincidental... they were supported from the outside as an operation to bring the Turkish Republic to its knees,” the indictment says.
Amnesty International’s Andrew Gardner said the trial “speaks volumes about the deeply flawed judiciary that has allowed this political witch-hunt to take place.
“It is absurdly attempting to portray routine civil society activities as crimes,” he said.
“The idea that Osman Kavala led the conspiracy is utterly outlandish and unsupported by any credible evidence,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), told AFP.
One of the allegations is the claim that a map on Kavala’s phone showing bee species actually depicted his plans to redraw Turkey’s borders.
There has been a renewed crackdown on dissidents since a coup attempt in 2016, blamed by the government on US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, with thousands arrested and tens of thousands sacked from public sector, media and military jobs.
A respected figure in intellectual circles, Kavala is chairman of the Anatolian Culture Foundation, which seeks to bridge ethnic and regional divides through art, including with neighboring Armenia, with which Turkey has no diplomatic ties.
“I was involved in projects contributing to peace and reconciliation. There is not a single piece of evidence or proof in the indictment that I prepared the ground for a military coup,” Kavala told the court.
Think tank researcher Yigit Aksakoglu was also in pre-trial detention — since November — while six of the rest are being tried in absentia after fleeing Turkey, including actor Memet Ali Alabora and dissident journalist Can Dundar.
The case against Alabora focuses on his appearance in a play featuring a revolt against the ruler of a fictional country.
Others, including architect Mucella Yapici, have already been tried and acquitted for their role in the Gezi Park protests in 2015.
“I am on trial for the second time on the same charges. Peaceful protests cannot be banned. They are a right,” Yapici told the court on Monday.
Erdogan has linked Kavala to US billionaire George Soros, whose efforts to promote democracy around the world have made him a target for several authoritarian leaders.
Last year, Erdogan said Kavala was the representative in Turkey of the “famous Hungarian Jew Soros” whom he accused of trying to “divide and tear up nations.”
Soros’s Open Society Foundation, which ceased activities in Turkey last year, called Monday’s trial a “political sham.”
“At some earlier stage in Turkey’s descent into authoritarian rule, one might have described this trial as a test of judicial independence... but such exams have already been held, and the failing grades were handed down long ago,” wrote Freedom House, a US-based rights group, this week.
“The point of the coming show trial is quite simply to intimidate Turkish citizens and deter them from exercising their rights,” it added.
The hearing will continue on Tuesday.