Turkish tourist charged with aiding Hamas

Turkish citizen, Ebru Ozkan, who was arrested at an Israeli airport last month, is brought to an Israeli military court. (Reuters)
Updated 08 July 2018

Turkish tourist charged with aiding Hamas

  • Ebru Ozkan, 27, has been held since last month
  • Turkey threatens to 'retaliate'

JERUSALEM: Israel charged a detained Turkish tourist on Sunday with helping smuggle money and packages to militant group Hamas, in a case that has angered Ankara, which has vowed to retaliate.
Ebru Ozkan, 27, has been held since last month when she was detained trying to board a flight in Tel Aviv. One of the charges she faces is for smuggling five bottles of perfume, which her lawyer ridiculed as trivial, saying she should be released.
The case has further strained relations between Israel and Turkey, who once enjoyed friendly ties but have seen them become acrimonious in recent years as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has solidified his power in Turkey.
Ozkan was led, manacled, to the dock in an Israeli military court on the boundary with the occupied West Bank, where she was indicted on two counts of acting in the service of a proscribed group, one count of transferring money for enemy agents, and one count of threatening public order.
If convicted, she could face several years in jail.
Though she is accused of having also brought other items, prosecutors put at the top of the list her smuggling of five bottles of perfume to be sold to raise funds for Hamas.
In response to that charge, her lawyer Omara Khamaisi told Reuters outside the court: “Come on, really?“
“I think that in this the case the decision will ultimately be a brave one — to release her, I hope.”
Khamaisi said Ozkan had been denied access to legal counsel for most of her detention and had not been interrogated in Turkish, leading to distortions in the way her answers to questions were recorded.
The indictment did not give specifics on where the alleged offenses took place. Khamaisi said Ozkan had spent three days in Jerusalem during her stay.
There was no immediate comment from Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip under de facto Israeli blockade. Hamas is classified as a terrorist group by Israel and the West, but not by NATO-member Turkey.
Asked about Ozkan’s case on Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu referred to her as “our sister” and accused Israel of “taking deterrent measures against our citizens traveling to Jerusalem.”
“However, we will retaliate against this. Our relations will normalize when Israel stops its inhumane policies,” he said without elaborating.
Turkey and Israel once had a bedrock security partnership. But the relationship has deteriorated over the last decade, with Ankara condemning three Israeli wars in Gaza. Ties were ruptured after Israeli commandos stormed a Turkish aid flotilla trying to reach Gaza in 2010, killing nine activists.
Muslims account for just a small percentage of incoming tourists to Israel. In 2016, most of them, around 100,000, came from Turkey.


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 36 min 26 sec ago

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”