Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.


Turkey may work with Syria’s Assad if elected fairly

Updated 21 min 25 sec ago
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Turkey may work with Syria’s Assad if elected fairly

  • Renewed Ankara-Damascus ties will contribute to reconstruction of Syrian cities through Turkish companies, says analyst
  • Mistrust between Ankara and Damascus remains a significant hurdle to smoother diplomatic relations

ANKARA: In a potentially major policy shift, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Sunday said Ankara will consider working with Syrian President Bashar Assad if he wins a free and fair election. 

Ankara had previously called on Assad to step down following the start of the uprising against him in 2011. 

There are suggestions that the U-turn may be due to Turkey’s opposition to growing Kurdish influence on both sides of the border.

“Turkey can’t solve the (Kurdish) Democratic Union Party (PYD) problem with the US alone,” said Timur Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council. “A start of dialogue with Assad … seems like a logical step.” 

Turkey will also be driven by ambitions to install friendly political figures in the Syrian government, Akhmetov added.

“Renewed relations between Turkey and Syria will contribute to reconstruction of (Syrian) cities with Turkish companies and bilateral trade,” he said. 

A UN-led plan to draft reforms to Syria’s constitution, laying the ground for fresh elections, is expected to be established within weeks.

Under the plan, the Syrian regime will choose 50 members of the Constitutional Committee, with Turkey proposing 50 Syrian opposition members and the UN nominating a further 50 people — comprising academics, experts and civil society members — to oversee the reforms. 

Last week, Ankara said it will launch within days a military campaign east of the Euphrates River against the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), whose political wing is the PYD.

“Ankara may intend that Russia rhetorically supports such a campaign in exchange for a positive message about Assad’s theoretical chances of staying in power,” said Akhmetov. 

But mistrust between Ankara and Damascus remains a significant hurdle to smoother diplomatic relations. 

Last month, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad demanded that Turkish “occupation” forces leave the country. 

He said Damascus would not count on Turkish assurances because Ankara’s intentions are “colonial” and “expansionist.” 

Aron Lund, a Syria analyst at the Century Foundation, said he does not think Turkey’s expressed willingness to work with Assad constitutes a big change. 

“What Cavusoglu seems to be saying is that Syria should have a democratic election, as is called for in UN Security Council resolution 2254, and that the winner — even if it’s Assad — could be considered legitimate by Turkey,” he told Arab News. 

Cavusoglu simply responded to a hypothetical question, Lund said, adding: “For now, Turkey seems content to continue along the current course of action, working with Russia to secure its interests in Syria and relaying messages to Damascus through Moscow and Tehran.”

Ankara still refuses to talk directly to Damascus to seek an end to the conflict in Syria. Sinan Hatahet of Al-Sharq Forum in Istanbul said Turkey’s stance is conditional upon elections in Syria.

“Previously, Turkish officials made it clear that they don’t believe that the regime would let elections happen,” he told Arab News. 

“It’s still difficult to believe there will be any reconciliation between the parties for now.”