Israel agrees cease-fire with Gaza as Palestinians begin Ramadan burying their dead

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Relatives at the Monday funeral of five Palestinians, who were killed in Israeli strikes the previous day, in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza strip. (AFP)
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Relatives carry the body of a Palestinian, who was killed in Israeli strikes the previous day, during a funeral ceremony in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza strip on Monday. (AFP)
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A man cries Monday as he carries the body of a four-month-old Palestinian girl Maria Al-Ghazali, who was killed along with her parents in a late Sunday night Israeli missile strike on their family home. (AP)
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An elderly Palestinian man walks next to the rubble of multi-story building on Monday was hit and destroyed on Sunday by Israeli airstrikes. (AP)
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Palestinians carry the bodies of those killed in Israeli strikes the previous day, during a funeral ceremony at a mosque in Beit Lahia. (AFP)
Updated 06 May 2019

Israel agrees cease-fire with Gaza as Palestinians begin Ramadan burying their dead

  • Nearly 30 Palestinians killed after Israel pounds the impoverished territory for two days
  • The escalation began Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza

GAZA: Palestinian leaders in Gaza agreed a cease-fire with Israel on Monday to end a deadly two-day escalation in violence that threatened to widen into war, officials with knowledge of the deal said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the deal, but there appeared to have been no rocket fire or Israeli strikes after it was due to take effect, an AFP correspondent in Gaza said.
Egypt brokered the agreement to cease hostilities from 4:30 a.m. (0130 GMT), an official from the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas and another from its allied group Islamic Jihad said on condition of anonymity.

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An Egyptian official also confirmed the deal on condition of anonymity.
The deal came after the most serious flare-up in violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.
The escalation began Saturday with massive rocket fire from Gaza, drawing waves of Israeli retaliatory strikes, and continued throughout Sunday.
At least 27 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed.
Four civilians in Israel were killed, at least three of them Israeli citizens.




Relatives carry the body of a Palestinian, who was killed in Israeli strikes the previous day, during a funeral ceremony in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza strip on Monday. (AFP)


The flare-up came as Hamas sought further steps from Israel toward easing its blockade under a previous cease-fire brokered by Egypt and the United Nations.
Israel faced pressure to seek to restore calm and put an end to the rocket fire hitting communities in the country’s south.
It commemorates its Memorial and Independence Days later this week and is due to host the Eurovision song contest in Tel Aviv from May 14-18, which is expected to draw thousands to Israel.
On the Gazan side, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is set to begin.
Palestinian officials in Gaza accused Israel of not taking steps to ease its blockade as promised under previous cease-fire deals.
The Islamic Jihad official said the new truce agreement was again based on Israel easing its blockade.
Among the steps, he said, were the relaxing of limits on fishing and improvements in Gaza’s electricity and fuel situation.




A man cries Monday as he carries the body of a four-month-old Palestinian girl Maria Al-Ghazali, who was killed along with her parents in a late Sunday night Israeli missile strike on their family home. (AP)

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008 and the escalation brought them to the brink of another.
Sunday was particularly bloody, with 19 Palestinians and four civilians in Israel killed.
The Palestinian dead included a commander for Hamas’s armed wing who Israel said it targeted due to his role in transferring money from Iran to militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
It was a rare admission of targeted killing by Israel’s army.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he instructed the military “to continue its massive strikes on terror elements in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said in a statement on Sunday night that “returning to a state of calm is possible” if Israel committed to a “complete cease-fire.”
Without it, “the arena could face many rounds of confrontation,” he said.
Israel said its strikes were in response to Hamas and Islamic Jihad firing some 690 rockets or mortars across the border since Saturday, with Israeli air defenses intercepting more than 240 of them.
In addition to those killed and injured, the rockets repeatedly set off air raid alarms in southern Israel and sent residents running to shelters while also damaging houses. At least 35 of the rockets fell in urban areas, according to the army.




An elderly Palestinian man walks next to the rubble of multi-story building on Monday was hit and destroyed on Sunday by Israeli airstrikes. (AP)

The army said its tanks and planes hit some 350 militant targets in Gaza in response.
It targeted militant sites and in some cases militants themselves as well as their homes if they were found to be storing weapons, military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.
Several buildings in Gaza City were destroyed.
Israel said one of the buildings included Hamas military intelligence and security offices.
Turkey said its state news agency Anadolu had an office in the building, and strongly denounced the strike.
The Gaza health ministry said the dead from the Israeli strikes included a 14-month-old baby and a pregnant woman, 37. It first identified the woman as the baby’s mother, but the family clarified on Sunday that she was the aunt.
Israel strongly disputed the claim, with Conricus saying that based on intelligence “we are now confident” that the deaths of the woman and baby were not due to an Israeli strike.
“Their unfortunate death was not a result of (Israeli) weaponry but a Hamas rocket that was fired and exploded not where it was supposed to,” he said.
The Gazan ministry reported late Sunday that another four-month-old baby was among those killed in Israeli strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel’s army had no comment.
On Sunday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said their armed wings had targeted an Israeli army vehicle with a Kornet missile.
Conricus said a Kornet missile had hit a vehicle and killed an Israeli civilian.


Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

Updated 10 April 2020

Turkey to tightly control social media platforms

  • Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent

ISTANBUL: Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will be legally bound to appoint a formal representative in Turkey under a new draft law that will be brought to the country’s parliament soon.

The bill is initially designed for the government’s fight against the spread of the coronavirus, but it covers clauses about social media restrictions.

According to the experts, if adopted, this bill will pave the way for exercising government pressure on the platforms.

Failure to comply with the requirements could shrink their access by Turkish users by up to 95 percent. The social media platforms are also obliged to share users’ information with the prosecutors’ office when required.

They will also have to execute decisions coming from the criminal courts for “content removal” and/or “access denial” without any exception. Even individuals may apply to state authorities to ask the platforms to remove content. The platforms could be fined up to 1 million Turkish lira if they do not comply with the request within 24 hours.

It is still unclear whether news outlets with social media sites will also have to abide by these requirements.

Last August, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) was officially granted the authority to regulate and monitor online platforms, including series on digital TV platforms such as Netflix, news broadcasts on YouTube and social media platforms delivering news on a regular basis. Those broadcasting online were obliged to get a license first from RTUK. According to that legislation, overseas companies who broadcast in Turkey on the internet are also required to establish a company and obtain a license.

Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, a scholar at Istanbul’s Kadir Has University and editor in chief of NewsLabTurkey.org, said it had long been the wish of the Turkish government to keep Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter — as some of the most-used social networks in the country — under control.

“This new draft that will be brought to the parliament is a concrete step toward making Turkey’s digital sphere more controllable than ever for the government,” he told Arab News.

According to Uzunoglu, it is natural that Twitter, Facebook, Google and others are questioned by governments worldwide due to their financial activities and uncontrolled flow of money worldwide.

“Some responsible governments and politicians always question this shady feature of social networks. However, unfortunately, Turkey is not one of these countries or Turkish politicians aren’t the kind of politicians that think (about) the privacy of individuals. All they want is clearly a person who will be like an ambassador for the brand in their country whom they can get in touch with on a regular basis,” he said.

The bill also requires that all data about Turkish social media users be stored in Turkey.

Uzunoglu thinks that the daily routine of such a representative will not be very different from the life of the US ambassador in the time of crisis between US and Turkey.

“The only difference is, the government will try to keep this person and social network for everything in the platform. So that will be a disaster for both the operation of the social platform and the democracy of the country. And unlike an ambassador, the national law system in Turkey will be imposed on them. So, Facebook or Twitter won’t be different from any other web site active in Turkey,” he said.

Turkey has also increased control over social media during the coronavirus outbreak. More than 400 people have been arrested for “provocative” posts on their social media accounts about the virus.

Turkey has blocked access to social media platforms several times in the recent past, especially after the military deployments to Syria.

As social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter host the remaining free-speech platforms and provide an alternative information flow, Uzunoglu thinks that being forced to give away data about their users will be an attack on individual privacy.

“This definitely shows that the government is living in a completely different reality, or they imagine to live in a completely different world,” he said.

Uzunoglu also drew attention to the problematic timing of the move, especially under the extraordinary conditions caused by COVID-19.

“Just think about the Internet freedom related activism of the early 2010s when people went into the streets for the first time to protect Internet freedom. Comparing it to the self-isolation period that we are experiencing right now, it would be naive to think that it is just coincidental,” he said.