Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters, 350 Palestinians hurt

Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters, 350 Palestinians hurt
Palestinian protesters flee from incoming teargas canisters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza strip east of Gaza City, on the sixth straight Friday of mass demonstrations calling for the right to return to their historic homelands. (AFP)
Updated 05 May 2018

Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters, 350 Palestinians hurt

Israeli troops fire shots, tear gas at Gaza protesters, 350 Palestinians hurt

GAZA BORDER: Israeli troops fired live rounds and tear gas at Palestinians thronging the Gaza-Israel border on Friday as part of a long-running protest, injuring about 350 people.
Medics said around 50 people were shot and wounded with live fire, three of them critically, and 300 more treated for gas inhalation and other injuries along the Gaza side of the 25-mile (40-km) border fence, where Palestinians set up tent encampments on March 30 for what they call “The Great March of Return.”
Youths rolled burning tires to within 300 meters (yards) of the fence, trying to use the smoke as cover for throwing stones across it while eluding Israeli snipers. Army gunfire has killed at least 43 Palestinians on the frontier over the last month.
Protesters said they used slingshots to down two small Israeli observation drones. The army confirmed the drone losses.
Israel has been facing international censure over its use of live fire in the protests.
On Friday, troops faced “approximately 7,000 Palestinians participating in riots in five locations along the Gaza Strip border,” a military spokesman said, adding that one group had tried to breach the fence and enter Israeli territory.
As Israel celebrates its 70th birthday, Palestinians mourn what they call the “Nakba” (Catastrophe) of their people’s mass dispossession during the conflict that broke out in 1948.
Two-thirds of the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are war refugees or their descendants. The protests have seen thousands gather — in greater numbers on Fridays — to demand access to their families’ lost homes or lands, now in Israel.
“GIVE US A STATE“
Israel rules that out, concerned it would lose its Jewish majority. Alternatives, such as accommodating refugees and their descendants in a future Palestinian state, have been discussed in peace talks that date back to 1993 but which are now stalled.
“If it wasn’t for the occupation we would have lived as free as people like in other countries,” Ahmed, 24, said at a protest site east of Gaza City. “If they don’t allow us back, at least they should give us a state.”
Israel says the protests have been organized by Hamas, which controls Gaza and is sworn to Israel’s destruction — to provide cover for attacks, and that most of the dead were militants. Palestinians deny those allegations.
The protests take place at a time of growing frustration as prospects for an independent Palestinian state look poor. While the peace talks are stuck, Israel, which withdrew settlers and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 after a 38-year occupation, has expanded its settlements in the occupied West Bank.
An added focus this year is President Donald Trump’s decision to begin moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.
Trump’s moves angered Palestinian leaders, who have refused to talk to his administration, accusing it of pro-Israel bias. Israel’s government celebrated the US decision, saying it recognized the “reality” that Jerusalem was the historic capital of the Jewish people.
Visiting the Middle East earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lent his support to Israel’s handling of the border protests. “We do believe the Israelis have a right to defend themselves,” he said. (Reporting by Nidal Al-Mughrabi; Editing by Stephen Farrell and Mark Heinrich)


More Jerusalem clashes on eve of contentious Israeli parade

More Jerusalem clashes on eve of contentious Israeli parade
Updated 10 May 2021

More Jerusalem clashes on eve of contentious Israeli parade

More Jerusalem clashes on eve of contentious Israeli parade
  • US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan calls his Israeli counterpart to express "serious concerns" over the increasing violence
  • Israeli PM says the planned parade for Jerusalem Day will go on despite warnings that it is causing further violence

 

JERUSALEM: Israeli police faced off with Palestinian protesters Sunday in another night of clashes in east Jerusalem, a day before Israeli nationalists planned to parade through the Old City in an annual flag-waving display meant to cement Israeli claims to the contested area.
The late-night skirmishes raised the likelihood of further clashes Monday during the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations. Israeli police gave the go-ahead to the parade Sunday, despite days of unrest and soaring Israeli-Palestinian tensions at a flashpoint holy site and in a nearby Arab neighborhood where Jewish settlers are trying to evict dozens of Palestinians from their homes.
Addressing a special Cabinet meeting ahead of Jerusalem Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel “will not allow any extremists to destabilize the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly.”
“We will continue to maintain freedom of worship for all faiths, but we will not allow violent disturbances,” he said. At the same time, he said, “We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem.”
The United States again expressed its “serious concerns” about the situation in Jerusalem, including clashes between Palestinian worshippers in Jerusalem’s Old City, home to sites sacred by Muslims and Jews, and Israeli police, as well as the expected expulsion of Palestinian families.
Washington made its concerns during a phone call between National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart. Sullivan urged Israel “to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations,” according to a statement by National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne.
Jerusalem Day is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem, home to the Old City and its sensitive holy sites, in the 1967 Mideast war. But the annual event is widely perceived as provocative, as hard-line nationalist Israelis, guarded by police, march through the Damascus Gate of the Old City and through the Muslim Quarter to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.
This year the march coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a time of heightened religious sensitivities, and follows weeks of clashes. That, combined with Palestinian anger over the eviction plan in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, could set the stage for an especially volatile day.
Amos Gilad, a former senior defense official, told Army Radio that the parade should be canceled or at least kept away from Damascus Gate, saying “the powder keg is burning and can explode at any time.” Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said the final route of the parade had not yet been decided.
In recent days, dozens of Palestinians have been wounded in clashes near the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City. The site, known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam. It has been a tinderbox for serious violence in the past.
“The occupier plays with fire, and tampering with Jerusalem is very dangerous,” Saleh Arouri, a top Hamas official, told the militant group’s Al-Aqsa TV station.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for a future state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.
The violence, along with the planned evictions in east Jerusalem, have drawn condemnations from Israel’s Arab allies and expressions of concern from the United States, Europe and the United Nations.
In Sunday night’s clashes, Palestinian protesters shouted at police and pelted them with rocks and bottles, while police fired stun grenades and a water cannon to disperse the crowds. Palestinian medics said at least 14 protesters were injured.
The clashes were less intense than the previous two nights. Police said over 20 police officers had been injured in recent days.
But there were signs the violence was beginning to spread.
Late Sunday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired four rockets toward Israel, setting off air raid sirens in southern city of Ashkelon and nearby areas, the Israeli military said. It said one rocket was intercepted, while two others exploded inside Gaza. Early Monday, Israeli tanks and artillery struck several Hamas posts near the border in retaliation for the rocket fire. There were no reports of injuries.
Earlier in the day, Israel carried out an airstrike on a Hamas post in response to another rocket attack. Gazan protesters affiliated with Hamas militant group also launched incendiary balloons into southern Israel during the day, causing dozens of fires.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Israeli police also clashed with hundreds of Arab students at Israel’s Hebrew University, using stun grenades to disperse the crowd. Police said 15 people were arrested at another protest in the northern city of Haifa.
Jordan and Egypt, the first two countries to strike peace deals with Israel, both summoned senior Israeli diplomats to condemn the Israeli actions.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who acts as custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites, condemned what he called “Israeli violations and escalating practices” and urged Israel to halt its “provocations against Jerusalemites.”
At the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was following the events in Jerusalem with worry and called for an end to the clashes.
“Violence only generates violence,” he told the public gathered at St. Peter’s Square.
With tensions high, the Israeli Supreme Court postponed a decision on the possible evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. The decision had been expected for Monday, but was pushed back by up to 30 days in light of “circumstances,” the court said
Palestinians and international rights groups portray the planned evictions as a part of a campaign by Israel to drive Palestinians from traditionally Arab neighborhoods, especially in the heart of Jerusalem. Israel has cast the evictions case as a real estate dispute.
The flare-up in hostilities comes at a crucial point in Israel’s political crisis after longtime leader Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition. His opponents are now working to build an alternate government. If they succeed, Netanyahu would be pushed to the opposition for the first time in 12 years.


Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles
European Union leaders continue to warn of sanctions against Turkey if Ankara continues exploring for gas and oil in contested waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. (Reuters/File)
Updated 10 May 2021

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles
  • Erosion of liberties, disputes with Cyprus and Greece mean membership still some way off

ANKARA: Since the approval of its candidacy to EU membership in 1999, Turkish relations with Brussels have been strained, exacerbated by Turkey’s controversial moves in the eastern Mediterranean and concerns over its ongoing democratic issues.

Now, though, Turkey wants to begin a new era with the EU, despite recent diplomatic gaffes, such as the Sofagate crisis, when Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, was not given a seat next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her high-profile visit to Ankara.
“Turkey keeps its determined stance and efforts toward its strategic goal of EU membership, despite the double standards and obstacles it faces,” Erdogan said in a statement on May 9, celebrated across the bloc as Europe Day. “Turkey’s membership will pave the way for the rise of a Europe that is more effective at regional and global levels, giving hope not only to its citizens, but also to the people of its neighborhood as well as the whole world.”
Some EU member states, especially Greece, France and Cyprus, continue to halt accession negotiations with Turkey, citing the country’s eroding democracy, human rights issues and the rule of law at home. The nonimplementation of European Court of Human Rights’ rulings by Ankara has also drawn anger from Brussels.
Dr. Ilke Toygur, CATS fellow at German think tank SWP Berlin, said that it is important to be realistic over Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU.
“After months of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, 2021 has (seen) a positive spin Turkey-EU relations. This positive agenda is, however, centered on fruitful cooperation rather than advancing Turkey’s accession negotiations,” she told Arab News.
Ankara is seeking an update to the 2016 refugee deal that obliges Turkey to stem the tide of people seeking to reach Europe from its shores in return for financial aid. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson paid a visit to Turkey on Friday for talks about the deal, and to discuss visa liberalization.
The EU offered Turkey €6 billion ($7.1 billion) to help Syrian refugees, but only €3.6 billion have been sent so far — a point of contention for Ankara. However, the deal was criticized by some EU member states, who claimed Turkey had used millions of Syrian refugees as leverage against Brussels to extract more money.

FASTFACT

Some EU member states, especially Greece, France and Cyprus, continue to halt accession negotiations with Turkey, citing the country’s eroding democracy, human rights issues and the rule of law at home. The non-implementation of European Court of Human Rights’ rulings by Ankara has also drawn anger from Brussels.

In February 2020, Turkey allowed thousands of migrants gathered on the border with Greece to make their way toward Europe.  
Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU began in 2015, but the unresolved Cyprus conflict has always been a barrier to progress, while EU leaders continue to warn of sanctions against Turkey if the country continues exploring for gas and oil in contested waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
Ankara’s EU candidacy should be formally suspended if Turkey continues on its “autocratic track,” EU lawmakers at the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee stated on April 23, adding that the country no longer fulfilled the democratic criteria to be accepted as a candidate, let alone a full member, to the EU.
However, Turkey remains dependent on trade with the bloc. Exports to EU member states surged by 35 percent and reached $26.86 billion in the first four months of 2021. Ankara also expects the expansion of the EU-Turkey Customs Union to new sectors of its economy, like services and agricultural trade.
Toygur thinks the EU would like to work on existing trade issues and pave the way for Customs Union modernization; however, the process itself would require an official mandate and a lot of good will from both sides to settle issues of contention.
“High level of dialogue in older files, such as transport, economy or energy, as well as new files (such as) global health or climate change, are also concrete proposals on the table,” she said.
The German Marshall Fund’s latest public opinion survey “Turkish Perceptions of the European Union” revealed, however, that half of Turkish young people think the EU does not intend to let the country join the bloc.
Despite this, Turkish public opinion favors the EU as the closest partner in dealing with international matters, while this trend seems stronger in people aged 18-24 compared to the general population. 68.8 percent of Turkish young people said they would vote “yes” in any referendum on EU membership.


Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model

Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model
An armed supporter of the Houthis sits in the back of a pick-up. (AFP/File)
Updated 10 May 2021

Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model

Dozens sign petition for the release of abducted Yemeni model
  • Amnesty International on Friday urged the Houthis to halt plans for subjecting the model to virginity testing and to release her, also accusing the militia of arbitrarily detaining opposition figures, journalists, and other artists and actresses

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Yemeni activists, politicians and journalists have signed an online petition to force the Iran-backed Houthis to release the abducted Yemeni model Entesar Al-Hammadi and her colleagues.
Appalled by reports that the Houthis would subject the model to virginity testing, the petition called upon the militants to apologize to the model and release her.
“We strongly call for the immediate release of Entesar Al-Hammadi and her colleagues and (for) an apology for Entesar Al-Hammadi and her colleagues for (this) arbitrary detention,” the petition read.
Amnesty International on Friday urged the Houthis to halt plans for subjecting the model to virginity testing and to release her, also accusing the militia of arbitrarily detaining opposition figures, journalists, and other artists and actresses.

BACKGROUND

Amnesty International on Friday urged the Houthis to halt plans for subjecting the model to virginity testing and to release her, also accusing the militia of arbitrarily detaining opposition figures, journalists, and other artists and actresses.

Snatched by the Houthis in a Sanaa street on Feb. 20, the model was thrown into solitary confinement as the rebels banned media coverage of the case and forbade her lawyer from speaking to international news outlets.
Ahmed Seif Hashed, an MP, described the group as “the worst” rulers Yemen had on Twitter.


What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely
Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna. (Supplied)
Updated 10 May 2021

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely
  • COVID-19 insurance mandatory for those under the age of 18 wishing to travel

JEDDAH: With one week to go before international travel resumes, Saudis are being encouraged to cover all the necessary basics before leaving the country.

During a joint press conference on Sunday, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and the Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) shared new instructions and updated travel insurance policies for all Saudis wishing to travel abroad following a previous announcement stating the four categories allowed.
Ibrahim Alrwosa, GACA official spokesman, outlined the new travel procedures for citizens, health protocols followed at airports, and the shipment, transport and reception of vaccines at the Kingdom’s airports.
“After a week, our airports will witness the resuming of flights for citizens starting 1 a.m. We call on everyone to thoroughly follow the set health precautions to achieve a completely safe trip,” said Alrwosa, adding that the authority will update its safety instructions to add COVID-19 health measures in a new leaflet.
Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna. Travelers who have received two vaccine doses, those who have completed two weeks since receiving the first jab, those who are immune by recovery no more than six months since infection and children under the age of 18 who have travel insurance obtained in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank will be the only groups allowed to cross international borders.
Alrwosa stressed that travelers follow their country of destination’s health precautions to avoid any problems.

HIGHLIGHT

Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna. Travelers who have received two vaccine doses, those who have completed two weeks since receiving the first jab, those who are immune by recovery no more than six months since infection and children under the age of 18 who have travel insurance obtained in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank will be the only groups allowed to cross international borders. 

Meanwhile, CCHI spokesman, Othman Al-Qasabi, revealed that the new insurance policy will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection, and that it is mandatory for those under the age of 18 wishing to travel.
“This is in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank. Persons vaccinated with two doses, first dose, and immune by recovery with the required timeline, will have the travel insurance available for them, but it has been made mandatory for those under the age of 18 to reduce the risks accompanied by the virus.”
The travel insurance, which is only valid for 30 days, will cover emergency medical expenses related to COVID-19 such as emergency rooms, urgent care and transportation. It also covers quarantine-related accommodation costs, medical evacuation and issues related to canceling flights due to COVID-19 conditions.
“These new benefits have been added to the already existing travel insurance benefits.”
The council revealed that a consortium of 12 companies has been approved for people to receive travel insurance from, with Tawuniya Insurance Company chosen to lead the alliance.


Zverev beats Berrettini to win his 2nd Madrid Open title

Zverev beats Berrettini to win his 2nd Madrid Open title
Updated 10 May 2021

Zverev beats Berrettini to win his 2nd Madrid Open title

Zverev beats Berrettini to win his 2nd Madrid Open title
  • Zverev won his first Madrid title in 2018 in a final against Thiem
  • The win on Sunday gave him his fourth Masters 1000 title

MADRID: Alexander Zverev continued his impressive form going into the French Open by winning his second Madrid Open title on Sunday.
After beating top-seeded Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and fourth-ranked Dominic Thiem in the semifinals, Zverev rallied to defeat Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-3 for his second title this season. The sixth-ranked German also won the Mexican Open in Acapulco in March.
Zverev won his first Madrid title in 2018 in a final against Thiem. The win on Sunday gave him his fourth Masters 1000 title, and first in three years. Zverev will be trying to improve from his fourth-round exit last year at the French Open.
“To do well at the French Open, you need to be playing well during the clay court season,” the 24-year-old Zverev said. “That is in a way important for me, as well. At the end of the day I won a Masters. There’s really very little in terms of bigger than this one right here. I’m happy with this achievement. Obviously, yeah, I look forward to the next few weeks. I look forward to what’s ahead.”
The 10th-ranked Berrettini won the title in Belgrade last week. The Italian has been gradually returning to form after struggling with an abdominal injury that kept him from playing his quarterfinal match against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Australian Open. The injury kept Berrettini out until Monte Carlo, where he lost his opening match.
“This was my first (Masters 1000) final. Hopefully it’s not going to be my last,” Berrettini said. “But like I said before, I’m really happy on my level. Today unfortunately I think I didn’t play my best tennis.”
After exchanging a break each in the first set, Berrettini opened the tiebreaker with a 5-0 lead but allowed Zverev to come back. The Italian closed it out on his fourth set point after Zverev also squandered a set point in the back-and-forth tiebreaker. It was the first set dropped by Zverev this week.
Zverev, who finished with seven double-faults, evened the match after breaking Berrettini at 4-4 and serving out to clinch the second set at the Magic Box center court, which had its roof closed because of rain in Madrid.
Berrettini, who ended with 50 unforced errors, squandered a break point early in the third set, and Zverev broke him in the following game to take the lead. He earned another break at the end, converting on his second match point to clinch the victory.
In the men’s doubles final, Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina defeated Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia 1-6, 6-3, 10-8.
The Madrid Open was one of the first sporting events in Spain that allowed the presence of a limited number of fans. The tournament was among those canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Local health workers were honored by tournament organizers before the final on Sunday.
In the women’s edition, Aryna Sabalenka beat top-ranked Ash Barty 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 in Saturday’s final.