Four killed in Turkey campaign clash ahead of polls

File photo showing a member of police special forces walks during a security operation in Diyarbakir, Turkey, November 3, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 15 June 2018
0

Four killed in Turkey campaign clash ahead of polls

ISTANBUL, Turkey: Four people were killed in southern Turkey Thursday in clashes that erupted when a lawmaker from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party was campaigning in a mainly Kurdish town near Syria, 10 days ahead of tightly-contested polls.
Reports said those killed were shot dead in chaotic fighting at Suruc in the Sanliurfa region, although rival sides gave starkly contrasting versions of events.
The incident added to tensions ahead of the June 24 elections, where Erdogan will seek a second term as president and also a thumping majority in parliament.
The Sanliurfa governor’s office said a fight erupted between two groups during the visit by MP Ibrahim Halil Yildiz to small businesses in the center of Suruc.
It said three people were killed and nine wounded in an “incident” that took place afterwards. It did not confirm reports that a shooting had taken place.
Both the Anadolu and Dogan news agencies said there was a shooting and video reports from the scene published by Dogan contained the sound of gunfire.
One of the victims later died in hospital from the wounds sustained in the attack, Anadolu said, bringing the death toll to four.
The lawmaker escaped unharmed, the reports said, but the identity of all the victims was not immediately clear.
There were conflicting reports about the circumstances of the killings, with pro-government media saying Yildiz and his supporters came under attack from opponents armed with knives and sticks.
The state-run Anadolu described it as an attack against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and added that among those killed was the MP’s brother.
It claimed that supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were among those involved in the attack.
In his first reaction to the incident, Erdogan appeared to blame the bloodshed on the HDP and the outlawed Kurdish militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
“This is the most obvious example that the HDP and PKK have not been able to abandon basing their growth strategy on feeding off the blood of Kurds,” he said.
“We have no problem with our Kurdish brothers. We have a problem with the PKK,” he said.
But unconfirmed reports on pro-Kurdish media blamed the MP’s bodyguards for the attack, after he was met with hostility during the visit to the shopkeepers.
“We are faced with very sad events with just days to go before June 24,” said the HDP’s co-leader Pervin Buldan.
“We see that some are trying to incite the people with provocations,” she added, condemning those behind the killings.
Reports indicated that the fighting had initially broken out after a dispute between Yildiz and a local representative of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) which is close to the HDP.
After the first clashes, fighting even continued at the hospital where the wounded were brought, reports said.
Suruc, a mainly Kurdish town, was the scene of a bombing on July 20, 2015, blamed on so-called Daesh jihadists that killed 34 people and wounded about 100.
That bombing sparked huge tensions in Turkey at the time, with many Kurdish activists taking to the streets and accusing the government of not doing enough in the fight against Daesh.
Turkey is entering what is expected to be a tense final week of campaigning ahead of the polls.
Analysts are forecasting that the parliamentary and presidential elections will be tight, with Erdogan possibly forced into a run-off and with his ruling party at risk of losing its overall majority in parliament.
One of the crucial questions will be whether the HDP is able to exceed the 10 percent threshold needed to win seats in parliament. If it does, the AKP’s chances of winning an overall majority will be sharply reduced.
HDP presidential candidate and former leader Selahattin Demirtas is campaigning from behind bars following his arrest in November 2016 on charges of links to the PKK.


Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

Updated 20 June 2018
0

Israeli planes hit 25 targets in response to Gaza rocket fire

JERUSALEM: Israeli jets struck 25 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday after militants launched rockets and mortar shells at Israeli territory, the military said.
Two Hamas security men were lightly hurt in one air strike in the southern Gaza Strip, residents said. No casualties were reported in Israel after one of the most intense recent barrages of militant rocket launches and Israeli air strikes.
Air raid sirens and Israeli phone warning applications sounded throughout the pre-dawn hours.
The military counted 30 rockets and mortar shells fired at Israeli territory and said its Iron Dome anti-missile shield intercepted seven rockets.
Since its last war with Gaza’s dominant Hamas in 2014, Israel has stepped up efforts to prevent cross-border attacks, improving rocket interceptors and investing in technologies for detecting and destroying guerrilla tunnels.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage.
At least 127 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon.
Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation.
Palestinians say the protests are an outpouring of rage by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from following the founding of Israel 70 years ago.
Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies.
Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.