Israel closes people crossing with Gaza

The border was closed after a weekend of demonstrations. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)
Updated 19 August 2018
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Israel closes people crossing with Gaza

  • Border protests and clashes on Friday left two Palestinians dead by Israeli gunfire
  • Israel’s army said firebombs and IEDs were also hurled at the border fence

JERUSALEM: Israel closed its only crossing for people with the Gaza Strip on Sunday except for humanitarian cases after border clashes, the latest tightening of its blockade on the Palestinian enclave.
The move could prevent Gazans from traveling via the crossing for this week’s Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, which runs from Monday night until Thursday night, but Israeli officials did not say how long the closure would last.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement the closure was due to “violent incidents on the border last Friday.”
Border protests and clashes on Friday saw two Palestinians killed by Israeli gunfire.
Israel’s army said firebombs and improvised explosive devices were also hurled at the border fence, while a number of Palestinians briefly crossed into Israeli territory. No Israelis were reported wounded.
The closure and border incidents occurred despite attempts by Egypt and UN officials to reach a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority civilian affairs office in Gaza also confirmed the closure except for medical cases and Palestinians seeking to cross back into the enclave.
Israel has enforced an air, land and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, but grants permission to a limited number of people to cross for various reasons.
The two sides have fought three wars since 2008.
Israel had just last week reopened its only goods crossing with Gaza after closing it to most deliveries for more than a month over border tensions.
Gaza’s only other border is with Egypt.
Egypt’s Rafah crossing with Gaza had largely been kept closed in recent years, but Cairo opened it in mid-May and it is has mostly remained so since.
Protests and clashes began on the Gaza border on March 30 and have continued at varying levels since then.
At least 171 Gazans have been killed by Israeli fire during that time. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
There have also been several severe military flare-ups, including three since July.
The latest was on August 9, when Israel responded to some 180 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza with widespread air strikes.
UN officials and Egypt have been seeking to secure a long-term truce between Hamas and Israel to allow for humanitarian issues in the impoverished enclave of two million people to be addressed.
Israel is demanding calm and a return of the remains of two soldiers Hamas is believed to be holding.
Two Israeli civilians, both said to be mentally unstable, are also believed to have entered Gaza and to be held by Hamas. Israel is also seeking their return.
Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya told AFP on Friday that he believed a durable truce with Israel was near.
He said that UN and Egyptian talks taking place in Egypt with various Palestinian factions have “taken a big step forward toward understandings with the occupation... and the possibility of restoring calm.”
An Israeli official said on condition of anonymity Wednesday that an initial set of “understandings” had been reached with the help of the UN and Egypt, leading to several days of calm on the border last week and the opening of the goods crossing.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has however expressed concern over any agreement that bypasses the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, have been deeply divided for more than a decade.


Turkish police detain 12 academics, activists in raids

Updated 10 min 44 sec ago
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Turkish police detain 12 academics, activists in raids

  • They are being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala
  • Police are searching for eight other people linked to the association

ANKARA: Police in Istanbul detained 12 academics, businesspeople and journalists as part of an investigation into an association that was headed by a jailed prominent businessman and activist, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Friday.
Anadolu Agency said professors Betul Tanbay and Turgut Tarhanli of Istanbul’s Bosphorus and Bilgi universities and journalist Cigdem Mater were among those detained in simultaneous police operations in the city.
They are being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala, a philanthropist businessman who was arrested a year ago pending trial, accused of alleged attempts to “abolish” the constitutional order and the government. No indictment has been issued against him.
Anadolu said police were searching for eight other people linked to the association which says it aims to promote peace and minority rights through culture.
Since an attempted coup in 2016, Turkey’s government has been accused of stifling freedom of expression for arresting thousands of people for alleged connections to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the failed attempt, or links to terror groups. It has purged many more people from state institutions and jailed dozens of journalists.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Kavala “Turkey’s Soros,” a reference to American billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations have funded education, health, justice and media projects around the world. Pro-government media in Turkey accuse Kavala of engaging in anti-government conspiracies.
Eleven prominent activists, including Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman, were arrested last year at their hotel on an island off of Istanbul while training. They were eventually released from jail pending the outcome of their trial for supporting terror groups.
Separately on Friday, police detained 86 people, most of them former Air Force personnel, in operations across Turkey and were looking for 100 others for alleged links to Gulen’s movement, Anadolu reported.
More than 15,000 people have been purged from the military since the coup, Turkey’s defense minister has said.
The cleric denies involvement in the coup.