Deadly Gaza flare-up threatens to derail peace efforts

Smoke billows from a building during Israeli air strikes on the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave on Monday night, November 12. (AFP)
Updated 13 November 2018

Deadly Gaza flare-up threatens to derail peace efforts

  • The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip
  • At least 231 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March 30 along the Gaza-Israel border

GAZA CITY: Renewed violence in Gaza threatened to thwart efforts to end months of unrest as Israeli air strikes killed three Palestinians and destroyed a Hamas TV building while a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave left one dead on Tuesday.
The flare-up came after a deadly Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip on Sunday that led Hamas to vow revenge.
Israel’s military said it had so far struck more than 70 militant sites in response to over 300 rockets fired from the Hamas-run territory Monday afternoon into the night.
Missile defenses intercepted dozens of rockets from Gaza and most others fell in open areas, though some hit houses and other civilian structures, the military said.
One man was pulled dead from the ruins of a building in southern Israel, emergency services organization United Hatzalah said, adding that a woman recovered from the same building in the city of Ashkelon was in a critical state.
Medics had earlier reported around 20 Israelis wounded, while Gaza’s health ministry said three Palestinians were killed and nine wounded in the Israeli strikes.
Militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said two of those killed were its members and the third was from Islamic Jihad’s armed wing.
The outbreak of violence came after months of deadly unrest along the Gaza-Israel border had appeared to be calming.
Recent weeks have seen Israel allow Qatar to provide the Gaza Strip with millions of dollars in aid for salaries as well as fuel to help ease an electricity crisis.
Before the flare-up, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had defended his decision to allow Doha to transfer the cash despite criticism from within his own government, saying he wanted to avoid a war if it was not necessary.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008, and deadly clashes in recent months have raised fears of a fourth.
The army said Monday an Israeli bus was hit by an anti-tank missile from the Gaza Strip, causing several injuries. A soldier was severely wounded, it added.
Palestinian militant groups in Gaza, including Hamas, claimed responsibility for the rocket fire and the missile attack on the bus, which they said was being used by Israeli soldiers.
Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said he could not yet provide further details on the bus or its passengers.
The building for Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was destroyed in an Israeli strike after a series of warning shots, with the Israeli army saying the station “contributes to Hamas’s military actions.”
No injuries were reported and workers were believed to have evacuated after the warning shots.
A former hotel in Gaza City used by Hamas as an internal security office was also hit in an Israeli strike, AFP journalists reported.
Gaza militants threatened another harsh response after the strike on the TV building and, according to police, more rockets landed in Ashkelon.
Hamas said the initial rocket fire was in revenge for the deadly Israeli operation late Sunday in the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, a clash erupted during the covert operation that killed seven Palestinian militants, including a local commander for Hamas’s armed wing, as well as an Israeli army officer.
Netanyahu cut short a trip to Paris and rushed home as tensions rose, and on Monday convened a meeting of security chiefs.
UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov, who along with Egypt has been seeking a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, called the escalation “extremely dangerous” and said on Twitter that “restraint must be shown by all.”
Israel had stressed its covert operation on Sunday was an intelligence-gathering mission and “not an assassination or abduction,” but Hamas strongly denounced it and vowed revenge.
Israel’s military signaled that Sunday’s mission did not go as planned and resulted in the clash, which Palestinian officials said included Israeli air strikes.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said the Israeli special forces team had infiltrated near Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip in a civilian car.
An exchange of fire followed in which local Al-Qassam commander Nour Baraka was killed along with another militant, it said.
The car then attempted to flee and Israeli aircraft provided covering fire.
Israel’s military declined to comment on the Al-Qassam account “because of the sensitive nature of the operation.”
A funeral was held for the seven Palestinian militants on Monday, attended by thousands, including masked Al-Qassam members carrying rifles, some firing into the air.
Violent clashes have accompanied major protests along the Gaza-Israel border that began on March 30.
At least 231 Palestinians have since been killed by Israeli fire, the majority shot during protests and clashes, while others died in tank fire or air strikes.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed in that time.


Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

Updated 28 May 2020

Turkey’s rulers plot law changes to block breakaway parties’ power grab

  • President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP is working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties

ANKARA: Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is looking at ways to change electoral laws in order to block challenges to power from two new breakaway political parties.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist coalition partner the MHP are working on a plan to stop parliamentary deputies from transferring to other parties — a move that has fueled rumors of an imminent snap election in the country.

Under Turkish election rules, political parties must settle their organization procedures in at least half of the nation’s cities and hold their first convention six months ahead of an election date.

Any political party with 20 lawmakers in Turkey’s parliament is entitled to take part in elections and be eligible for financial aid from the treasury for the electoral process.

The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has hinted at the possibility of transferring some CHP lawmakers to the newly founded parties to secure their participation in elections.

Turkey’s ex-premier, Ahmet Davutoglu, and the country’s former economy czar, Ali Babacan, both longtime allies of Erdogan, recently left the AKP to establish their own opposition groups, and have come under pressure from the AKP and MHP to leave their parties out of the race.

Babacan has been critical of Erdogan’s move away from a parliamentary system of governance in Turkey to one providing the president with wide-ranging powers without any strong checks and balances.

“The AKP is abolishing what it built with its own hands. The reputation and the economy of the country is in ruins. The number of competent people has declined in the ruling party. Decisions are being taken without consultations and inside a family,” Babacan said in a recent interview.

He also claimed that AKP officials were competing against each other for personal financial gain.

Babacan, a founding member of the AKP, was highly respected among foreign investors during his time running the economy. He resigned from the party last year over “deep differences” to set up his DEVA grouping on March 9 with a diverse team of former AKP officials and liberal figures.

Berk Esen, a political analyst from Ankara’s Bilkent University, believes Babacan’s recent statements have angered Erdogan.

“As a technocrat, Babacan gains respect from secular circles as well as the international community, which Erdogan clearly lacks. Despite being in office for 13 years, Babacan has not been tainted by corruption allegations and is known as the chief architect of Turkey’s rapid economic growth during the AKP’s first two terms,” he told Arab News.

“The legislation that the AKP-MHP coalition is working on may prevent deputy transfer only in case early elections are scheduled for the fall. Otherwise, the newly established parties will most likely build their organizations across the country and become viable for elections by summer, if not the spring of 2021.”

If Davutoglu and Babacan were successful in capturing disillusioned voters, they could prevent the ruling coalition getting the 51 percent of votes needed to secure a parliamentary majority.