Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket fire

The Israeli strikes did not target Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad but Hamas. (AFP)
Updated 17 November 2019

Israel strikes Hamas targets in Gaza after rocket fire

  • Palestinian security sources said the Israeli strikes were aimed at two Hamas sites in the north of the territory
  • It was the first time Hamas has been targeted since this week’s escalation

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israel targeted Hamas in strikes on Gaza early Saturday after rockets were fired toward it from the Palestinian enclave, the army said, two days after a fragile cease-fire began.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that has de facto control over the Gaza Strip, has so far kept its distance from the deadly exchanges of fire that erupted this week.

A cease-fire has been in place since Thursday morning following the violent escalation between Israel and Islamic Jihad — the territory’s second most powerful Palestinian militant group.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it was “currently striking Hamas terror targets” in Gaza, where AFP journalists saw the Israeli strikes and reported retaliation from inside the enclave.

The army said it launched the strikes after “two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory” and were intercepted by air defenses.

Palestinian security sources said the Israeli strikes were aimed at two Hamas sites in the north of the territory.

It was the first time Hamas has been targeted since this week’s escalation began early Tuesday with Israel’s targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander.

That strike triggered almost immediate retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel, setting off air-raid sirens and sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country’s southern and central regions.

Israel’s military had said around 450 rockets were fired at its territory during the fighting and air defenses had intercepted dozens of them.

It then responded with its own air strikes, saying it had targeted more Islamic Jihad militant sites and rocket- and missile-launching squads.

After two days of violence — in which 34 Palestinians died but no Israeli fatalities — a cease-fire was agreed.

But it has so far been precarious, with fire coming from both sides on Friday after the agreement went into effect.

The Gaza Strip is home to two million Palestinians, and Israel and Palestinian militants have fought three wars there since 2008.

Israeli analysts said earlier this week that the focus on Islamic Jihad instead of Hamas was a clear signal that the army sought to avoid a wider conflict in Gaza.

Hamas repeatedly said it would not abandon its ally, but not joining the fight helped it maintain a fragile truce with Israel that has seen tens of millions of dollars in Qatari aid flow into the impoverished Gaza Strip since last year.

On Thursday, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters that the army had “wanted to keep Hamas out of the fighting.”

“Throughout the operation, we of course between distinguished Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And all of our operations were measured, proportionate and focused only on military assets belonging to Islamic jihad,” he said.


Erdogan-Davutoglu standoff before launch of splinter party

Updated 09 December 2019

Erdogan-Davutoglu standoff before launch of splinter party

  • Davutoglu is among the founders of the university being built on land in Istanbul’s Asian sector

ANKARA: Turkish domestic politics has seen intense infighting over the weekend between two leaders who were once close allies.

Former prime minister and architect of Turkey’s “zero problem policy with neighbors,” Ahmet Davutoglu, who is preparing to launch his opposition party, was called “fraudulent” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday.

Erdogan accused his former allies — Davutoglu as well as former deputy prime ministers Ali Babacan and Mehmet Simsek — of swindling state-run Halkbank by not making payments in time and by inappropriately allocating public land to Sehir University.

Babacan and Simsek are also expected to start another opposition party by the end of the year, which is believed to have liberal leanings.

Davutoglu is among the founders of the university being built on land in Istanbul’s Asian sector.

“They are not sincere people,” Erdogan said. “We allocated the land for the university just because we cared for them. How could I allot such a precious land otherwise?”

Around midnight, Davutoglu released a harshly worded press statement hitting back and called on the Turkish Parliament to investigate the wealth of the president and his family as well as that of high-ranking officials.

Davutoglu insists that the land for his university was allocated lawfully. The standoff is mostly seen as political revenge, not a legal conflict, especially as Davutoglu’s new party is expected to be announced within days.

The assets of Sehir University were recently frozen by a court order after Halkbank claimed that the university might not be able to pay back the $70 million credit it had taken. Sehir, which has more than 7,000 students, will be turned over to state-run Marmara University and hosts many foreigners from the Gulf region with their future at stake.

Davutoglu’s splinter party against Erdogan is set to launch within days at a press conference in Ankara.

The party, whose name has not been announced, intends to appeal to some of the disillusioned voters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), but also other segments including Kurds and Alevis.

Davutoglu has recently increased his criticism of the government, focusing on backpedaling on the rule of law, freedoms and rights.

According to a high-level official from the council of founders of Davutoglu’s incoming party, the latest row between Erdogan and Davutoglu would benefit the latter.

“It has created a feeling of victimhood among public opinion, and many people started to question the timing of this accusation and why this issue didn’t make headlines before. It is a political showdown,” he told Arab News on condition of anonymity.

“If Erdogan accuses his former allies of corruption and fraud, why did he insist on Babacan remaining in the party when he was determined to leave and establish his own party? It is also unfortunate to target an educational institution for trying to weaken an incoming political party.”

Davutoglu, a former academic, was forced to resign his post in 2016 over his disagreements with Erdogan. Davutoglu and the council of founders will disclose their wealth with the legal foundation of the party, and this step is expected to bring them more support from the public, which attaches importance to transparency in politicians.

According to a survey carried out by the Turkish polling firm Metropoll during Oct. 20-26 via interviews with 1,669 people in 28 provinces, 74 percent of AKP voters expressed themselves “loyal” to Erdogan. Over the past year, AKP has lost 10 percent of its members, say official figures.

Another survey by Ankara-based research company ORC showed that in a general election, 8.5 percent of the respondents would support Davutoglu.

To gain seats in the Parliament, new parties prefer to form coalitions with others that are more established to pass the 10 percent threshold. Davutoglu has been meeting politicians over recent months, especially Temel Karamollaoglu, the head of the Islamist opposition Felicity Party, which is represented in the Parliament.