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 arrest ruling party member, eight others after opposition chief attack

Updated 22 April 2019
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Turkish police arrest ruling party member, eight others after opposition chief attack

  • Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted on Sunday as he attended a funeral in Ankara
  • A video of the attack showed the CHP leader being mobbed and punched

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Monday arrested nine people, including a member of the ruling AKP party, after a mob attack on opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu that sparked widespread criticism.
Kilicdaroglu, 70, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted on Sunday in a crowd as he attended a funeral in Ankara for a soldier killed fighting Kurdish militants in the southeast.
The attack came days after the opposition CHP won Ankara and Istanbul from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP in March 31 local elections, seen as a major setback for the ruling party after a decade-and-a-half in power.
A video of Sunday’s attack showed the CHP leader being mobbed and punched, then chanting crowds surrounded a house where he was taken for his protection. The images went viral on social media.
CHP leaders blamed Erdogan’s AKP for provoking the attack and demanded those detained be held accountable. They called for the interior minister to resign over the incident.
“This is not an ordinary attack, this is not an ordinary provocation. This is planned,” CHP Istanbul chief Canan Kaftancioglu told several thousands of supporters at a rally from the top of a bus.
The crowds chanted slogans “Shoulder to shoulder against Fascism,” and waved banners reading: “Are you so scared by the CHP’s success?” in reference to the AKP’s loss of Istanbul and Ankara.
During campaigning for the local polls, Erdogan often accused Kilicdaroglu and the CHP of backing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and showed videos of the opposition leader at his rallies.
Kilicdaroglu was not badly injured in the assault.
The chief suspect in Sunday’s attack, identified only by his initials O.S., was arrested in Sivrihisar in central Anatolia and was being taken to Ankara, private NTV television reported.
The AKP later identified him as Osman Sarigun and said he was a party member who would face expulsion.
“AKP is against any form of violence... There is no room for violence in democratic politics,” AKP spokesman Omer Celik said on Twitter.
Eight other people have also been detained, officials said.
Speaking to AFP, the CHP’s Kaftancioglu welcomed the move to expel the suspect but said the problem was about the polarization of Turkish society.
“The situation will not change with one person’s dismissal unless the mentality encouraging attackers by polarizing society changes,” she said.
Erdogan had presented the local elections as a matter of national survival. He campaigned heavily even though he was not running in the election himself.
For his supporters, Erdogan is the strong leader Turkey needs to deal with its security threats and is a voice for more religiously conservative Turks.
Critics say Erdogan has stoked divisions by branding foes as enemies of the state and has undermined the rule of law with a broad crackdown on dissent.
The AKP has won every election since coming to power 17 years ago, but voters appeared to punish the party in major cities in this ballot as the economy slid into recession after a currency crisis last year.
Electoral authorities have given the CHP candidates their mandates for the Istanbul and Ankara mayor posts, but Erdogan’s AKP is seeking a re-run of the Istanbul vote, citing irregularities.
The CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu won the Istanbul race by a very tight margin after two weeks of recounts.
The CHP held Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu responsible for “provocation” after he said last year he had ordered governors not to allow CHP members to join soldiers’ funerals.
Soylu ruled out any “outside provocation” in the incident, and said the main culprit was a relative of the dead soldier.