Move to ban pro-Kurdish party would ‘undermine democracy’ in Turkey: US

Move to ban pro-Kurdish party would ‘undermine democracy’ in Turkey: US
State Department spokesman Ned Price. (AFP/File)
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Updated 18 March 2021

Move to ban pro-Kurdish party would ‘undermine democracy’ in Turkey: US

Move to ban pro-Kurdish party would ‘undermine democracy’ in Turkey: US
  • Turkey has a long history of shutting down political parties
  • Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of banned Kurdish militants

ANKARA: The United States warned Wednesday that efforts to bar the main pro-Kurdish party in Turkey would undermine the nation’s democracy.
A Turkish prosecutor has asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest group in parliament.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of banned Kurdish militants who have been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives since 1984.
“We are... monitoring the initiation of efforts to dissolve the People’s Democratic Party, a decision that would unduly subvert the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey, and deny millions of Turkish citizens their chosen representation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“We call on the government of Turkey to respect freedom of expression in line with protections in the Turkish constitution and with Turkey’s international obligations,” he added.
Wednesday's request to ban the party came from a Supreme Court prosecutor who is investigating the HDP.
Turkey has a long history of shutting down political parties which it regards as a threat and has in the past banned a series of other pro-Kurdish parties.
The HDP had recently come under intensified pressure, with nationalist allies of President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) calling for it to be banned over alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
That has coincided with falling poll support for the AKP and its nationalist allies as Erdogan’s government battles the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Elections are not scheduled until 2023.
The HDP said prosecutors acted on political orders and accused the ruling AK Party of shaping politics through the courts.
“The closure case launched against our party is a heavy blow to democracy and law,” the HDP said in a statement, adding that its “determined struggle for democratic politics” would continue.
"We call on all the democratic forces, the social and political opposition, and on our people to join a common fight against this political coup," it said in a statement.
The embattled lira extended losses on concerns about the political impact of the move, weakening 2% to 7.64 against the dollar.
“(The HDP) move together with the PKK terrorist group and other linked organizations, they act as a branch of the organization with the aim of breaking the unity of the state,” appeals court chief prosecutor Bekir Sahin said in a statement.
The HDP, which has 55 seats in the 600-member parliament, denies any links to the militants.
The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. It has fought an insurgency against the state in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey since 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
The US State Department said in a statement a decision to dissolve the HDP “would unduly subvert the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey, and deny millions of Turkish citizens their chosen representation.”
The Haberturk news website cited the indictment as saying the prosecutor demanded a political ban for more than 600 HDP officials, including its current co-chairs and the jailed former leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag.
The prosecutor also demanded financial restrictions on the party, including a halt to financial aid from the Treasury and a cautionary judgment on the party’s assets, Haberturk said.
Islamist parties have also been banned in previous decades, with Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party itself surviving a closure case in 2008. In years since, Erdogan has repeatedly expressed his opposition to closing parties down.
HDP co-leaders Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar said earlier this month that if shut down the party’s members would regroup under a different banner, as was done in the past when similar parties were closed.
The HDP first took part in elections in 2014, espousing broadly left-wing and pro-minority policies which helped it appeal beyond its grassroots support in the mainly Kurdish southeast to liberal voters elsewhere. In 2018 parliamentary elections it won 11.7% of the vote, or nearly 6 million votes.
Earlier on Wednesday Turkey’s parliament stripped prominent HDP deputy and human rights advocate Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu of his seat over a criminal conviction for spreading “terrorist propaganda” in a social media post.
The HDP says Gergerlioglu, who received a 2-1/2 year jail sentence, was punished for sharing on Twitter the link to a news story that included comments from the PKK.
The US State Department said the move against Gergerlioglu was “troubling.”
This month Erdogan announced a plan to strengthen rights to a fair trial and freedom of expression, but his critics say it is just a public relations exercise.

Desert Storm: 30 years on
The end of the Gulf War on Feb. 28, 1991 saw the eviction of Iraq from Kuwait but paved the way for decades of conflict

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Israel-Gaza violence shows few signs of slowing as global diplomacy ramps up

Israel-Gaza violence shows few signs of slowing as global diplomacy ramps up
Updated 18 May 2021

Israel-Gaza violence shows few signs of slowing as global diplomacy ramps up

Israel-Gaza violence shows few signs of slowing as global diplomacy ramps up
  • Palestinian death toll at 212, including 61 children and 36 women, since hostilities began last week
  • Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children

GAZA/TEL AVIV: More than a week of fighting between Israel and Hamas showed few signs of abating on Tuesday despite intense US and global diplomacy to stop the region’s fiercest hostilities in years.
The Israeli military said late on Monday that Hamas and other Palestinian groups had fired about 3,350 rockets from Gaza – 200 of them on Monday alone – and that Israeli air and artillery strikes had killed at least 130 militants.
Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll at 212, including 61 children and 36 women, since hostilities began last week. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.
Amid seemingly fruitless diplomatic efforts to stop the violence, the top US military officer, Army General Mark Milley, warned that the violence could spread.
“My assessment is that you risk broader destabilization and you risk a whole series of negative consequences if the fighting continues,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters before landing in Brussels on Monday for talks with NATO allies. “It’s in no one’s interest to continue fighting.”
Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave continued overnight. Soon after dawn, missiles struck two buildings in Gaza City, sending plumes of thick smoke into the air.
Militants in the Strip fired rockets early on Tuesday that set off sirens in southern Israeli cities, sending thousands running for bomb shelters.
There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side.
The overnight rocket fire from Gaza appeared to be less than in previous nights. There was a six-hour lull in rocket fire overnight before they again began being launched at dawn, according to rocket siren information from the Israeli military.
US President Joe Biden expressed his support for a cease-fire during a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the White House said in a statement.
But Netanyahu told Israelis earlier that strikes against militant sites and leaders in Gaza would carry on.
“The directive is to continue to strike at terror targets,” he said in a televised speech, after meeting with military and intelligence chiefs. “We will continue to act as necessary to restore peace and security to all residents of Israel.”
The armed wing of Hamas promised more rockets in return: “The criminal Zionist enemy intensified its bombing of homes and residential apartments in the recent hours, and therefore, we warn the enemy that if it did not stop that immediately, we would resume rocketing Tel Aviv,” said spokesman Abu Ubaida.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all sides to protect civilians.
Although stressing that Israel had the right to defend itself, Blinken said he had not seen any evidence from Israel about its suggestion that Hamas was operating out of a building housing media outlets – including the US-based Associated Press – which was destroyed in an Israeli missile strike at the weekend.
Hamas denied having offices in the building. “These are false allegations and an attempt to justify the crime of targeting a civilian tower,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
Egypt and UN mediators also stepped up diplomatic efforts, while the UN General Assembly will meet to discuss the violence on Thursday.
The Biden administration approved the potential sale of $735 million in precision-guided weapons to Israel, and congressional sources said on Monday that US lawmakers were not expected to object to the deal.
Hamas began its rocket assault last Monday after weeks of tensions over a court case to evict several Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the city’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The hostilities between Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza have been accompanied by an uptick of violence in the West Bank, where the Palestinians have limited self-rule.
There have also been clashes between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities in mixed areas.
Israel’s president has warned that tension between Jewish and Arab Israelis could devolve into “civil war.”
General strikes are planned for Tuesday in Arab towns within Israel and Palestinian towns in the West Bank, with posts on social media urging solidarity “from the sea to the river.”


Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory

Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory
Updated 18 May 2021

Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory

Israel shells Lebanon after failed launches toward Israeli territory

TEL AVIV/BEIRUT: Six shells were fired from Lebanon towards northern Israel on Monday but fell short of crossing the border, the Israeli military said.
It said that in response, artillery was fired at "the sources of the launches" in Lebanon.
A Lebanese security source said shells were heard being fired from south Lebanon and efforts were being made to identify the location. The source said about 22 shells were fired by Israeli artillery on Lebanese territory.
There were no reports of casualties or damage, and the shelling did not appear to signal the opening of a new front in Israel's fighting with militants in the Gaza Strip.
The Lebanese shelling caused Israeli air raid sirens to blare near the kibbutz of Misgav Am, along Israel's northern border with Lebanon.
It was the second incident of cross-border fire in the past week. On Thursday, three rockets were launched from Lebanon toward northern Israel but landed in the Mediterranean Sea, causing no damage or casualties.
Israel fought a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and advanced rockets. The border has been mostly quiet since then.
Small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past.


Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200

Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200
A man inspects the rubble of destroyed commercial building and Gaza health care clinic following an Israeli airstrike on the upper floors of a commercial building in Gaza City, on Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP)
Updated 17 May 2021

Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200

Gaza facing water, power crisis after deadly Israeli attacks lift death toll to 200
  • Gaza City mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj accused Israel of deliberately targeting infrastructure and destroying main streets, including access to Al-Shifa Hospital
  • 59 children, 35 women among victims of Gaza strikes

GAZA CITY: Residents of the Gaza Strip were awakened in the early hours of Monday by the heaviest Israeli bombardment since the conflict escalated a week ago as residential buildings were hit and vital power and water links destroyed.

The overnight attacks brought the Palestinian death toll to almost 200, including 59 children and 35 women, while more than 1,300 have been injured.

Israel targeted homes, apartments and commercial buildings, and also struck a car and a cafeteria on the seashore, resulting in deaths and injuries.

The relentless bombardment has severely hit electricity, water and sanitation services in Gaza, raising fears of a deepening humanitarian crisis for the 2 million people living there.

Gaza City mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj said that essential services had been cut back significantly in recent days due to limited resources and damage to roads, power lines and water pipes.

He accused Israel of deliberately targeting infrastructure and destroying main streets, including access to Al-Shifa Hospital.

Sanitation and water supply to the population have been badly hit, Al-Sarraj told Arab News.

“The only desalination plant in Gaza City has stopped working as a result of the Israeli bombardment of the surrounding areas and the inability of workers to reach it, and the continuous electricity cuts have affected the pumping of water in the wells into homes,” he said.

Ziad Sheikh Khalil, 44, is trying to provide lighting for the house he shares with his wife and four children by charging batteries during the few hours that electricity is available.

“We hardly get three hours of electricity a day,” he told Arab News.

“When the power is on, all the family members work quickly to charge mobile phones, as well as operate the washing machine and pump water to the tanks at the top of the building.”

The Gaza Strip has suffered from severe electricity shortages for many years, but in recent days the crisis has worsened due to the lack of fuel and damage to the 10 power lines that come from Israel.

Six of Gaza’s 10 electricity lines are down and supply has been more than halved, according to Mohammed Thabet, a spokesperson for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company.

“There are some border areas completely cut off from electricity,” he said.

Repair crews are unable to fix the lines due to continued attacks.

The closure of the Kerem Abu Salem crossing has also hit fuel supplies for the only power station in the Gaza Strip, he said.

Thabit added: “Electricity networks inside the Gaza Strip also have been hit by the Israeli bombing of residential areas. It increases the difficulties facing the company.”

 


Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion

Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion
Updated 17 May 2021

Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion

Jordan MPs launch diplomatic assault on Israel with call for envoy’s expulsion
  • Ninety MPs out of Jordan’s 130-strong lower house of parliament signed a memorandum requesting the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador
  • Move comes as a sign of protest and rejection of Israel’s “brutal and barbaric” attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Gaza

AMMAN: Jordanian MPs on Monday called for Israel’s ambassador in Amman to be expelled in response to “Israel’s crimes against humanity.”

Almost all lawmakers who took the podium during Monday’s special session on the violence in Gaza and the occupied West Bank urged the government to expel the envoy following Israel’s actions in Jerusalem and subsequent bombing campaign.

Jordan is the custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Ninety MPs out of Jordan’s 130-strong lower house of parliament signed a memorandum requesting the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador in Amman as a sign of protest and rejection of Israel’s “brutal and barbaric” attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and Gaza.

The petition, a copy of which was seen by Arab News, calls on the government to adopt a bold stance toward cutting diplomatic ties with the “Zionist entity” by expelling the Israeli envoy and recalling Jordan’s ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Last week, the Jordanian government said it had summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires in Amman to object to the “Israeli assaults against Al-Aqsa Mosque worshippers and East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.”

Other MPs demanded the cancelation of all agreements with Israel, including the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty and the gas deal between the two countries.

In 2016, Jordan’s National Electric Power Company signed a 15-year agreement with Noble Energy, a Houston-based company that holds the largest share in the Israeli Leviathan gas field, to buy $10 billion of natural gas.

The government at the time said it would import 250-300 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from Noble Energy, adding the deal would save the kingdom around $990 million. Under the agreement, Jordan will receive 3 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Other deputies, mostly of Islamist leaning, hailed Hamas’ “acts of resistance,” and called for action against Israel in the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh, who attended the session, said that Jordan has its own legal and diplomatic toolbox to deal with the Israeli attacks on Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank, adding: “All options are on the table.”

Al-Khasawneh said that some of these diplomatic options will be used to protect Palestinians’ rights and others to highlight Israel’s violations.

The prime minister accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity, and said that Jordan’s unwavering position on the long-running conflict is rooted in the three “no’s” declared by King Abdullah: No to giving up Jerusalem, no to dropping the right of return for Palestinians, and no to the resettlement of Palestinians in Jordan.

With some MPs threatening the government with a no-confidence motion if it fails to expel the ambassador, Al-Khasawneh said that the “government will examine all options and will take the right action that serves the national interests once it receives the parliamentary petition.”

Sheikh Jarrah

A group of MPs also requested that a parliamentary delegation visit Sheikh Jarrah to deliver a message to the world’s parliaments on what they termed the “injustice exercised against the Palestinians” in the East Jerusalem neighborhood.

In a memorandum submitted for immediate action, 100 MPs demanded that a parliamentary delegation be formed to visit Sheikh Jarrah with the aim of supporting the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and reaffirming Jordanian custodianship of the Old City’s holy shrines.

Al-Khasawneh said that the government has provided the Palestinian Authority with documents on Sheikh Jarrah to help the Ramallah-based government address Israeli “demographic change” practices in Jerusalem.

During a visit to Ramallah on April 22, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi submitted documents to PA President Mahmoud Abbas proving Palestinian ownership of Sheikh Jarrah.

Jordan administered the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, until the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, but remains custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Safadi’s trip to the occupied West Bank came after families were reportedly given court orders to leave their homes in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah by May 5 or face eviction.

“We have provided all the documents that we have that can help the Palestinian residents to preserve their full rights. Jerusalem is a red line for Jordan, the king and our people, as it is a red line for the state of Palestine. We will confront any effort to undermine the existing historical and legal status of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem,” Safadi was quoted as saying following his meeting with Abbas.

In response to some deputies who claimed that the government has failed to submit all registration documents to the Palestinians, Safadi said: “This is untrue. The government has checked every relevant paper in the (national) archives and has submitted all documents to the Palestinian people and government, and has also attested all the documents handed to the Sheikh Jarrah’s residents proving their ownership of their neighborhood.”

At a meeting with MPs on Sunday, King Abdullah said that “no country is more supportive of the Palestinians than Jordan,” adding that intensive talks were underway with active international stakeholders to stop the Israeli escalation, and safeguard Palestinian lives and property.


Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon

Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon
A fighter loyal to Yemen's government mans a position near the frontline facing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country's northeastern province of Marib. (AFP file photo)
Updated 18 May 2021

Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon

Houthi leader kills cardiologist, his brother for opposing mosque sermon
  • Civilians abducted for removing pictures of Soleimani, Nasrallah from streets, walls of homes

AL-MUKALLA: A Houthi religious leader shot dead a cardiologist and his brother and wounded several others for denouncing his sermons at a mosque in the southern Yemeni province of Taiz, residents and officials reported on Monday.

Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesman in Taiz city, told Arab News that Azit Al-Azi Abdul Nour opened fire at a gathering in Maqbanah district when a number of people took exception to his radical preaching.

Ahmed Al-Shameri, a cardiologist, and his brother Hamoud were killed in the shooting and others, including a child, were injured.

“The Houthi preacher angered locals after insulting the prophet’s companions and wives,” Al-Baher said.

He added that locals disconnected electricity from the small mosque where the Houthi was giving his address when he refused to stop speaking and members of the Iran-backed militant group sneaked him out of the building as tensions mounted and residents demanded justice.

Separately, an international rights group said on Monday that Houthis had abducted a group of residents from a small village in Yemen’s Al-Mahwit province for allegedly tearing down and removing images bearing slogans of Iranian and Hezbollah leaders.

Abdurrahman Barman, a Yemeni human rights advocate and director of the American Center for Justice (ACJ), told Arab News that heavily armed Houthis in three military vehicles descended on Al-Oura village in Shibam Kawkaban district and abducted 42 people, including children.

Those seized were accused of taking down pictures of the late Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah from streets and walls of their homes.

The Houthis released the villagers three days later after a tribal mediation in which it was agreed they would attend a local police station when the Eid break was over.

Following interviews with relatives of the captured villagers, the ACJ said that the abductees had been subjected to psychological and physical torture in a bid to force confessions out of them.

“Our children and women are living in great fear at that moment, and some women have fallen ill from the terrible tragedy as the Houthi forces stormed houses and pointed their weapons at people,” one relative reportedly told the organization.

FASTFACT

Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al- Eryani, on Monday strongly condemned a Houthi drone strike on Sunday on a local market in Al-Durihimi district, south of Hodeidah province, that killed a civilian and wounded several others.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s information minister, Moammar Al- Eryani, on Monday strongly condemned a Houthi drone strike on Sunday on a local market in Al-Durihimi district, south of Hodeidah province, that killed a civilian and wounded several others.

He called on the UN mission responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement in Hodeidah to condemn the shelling of civilian targets which was in breach of the terms of the deal.

In a tweet, Al-Eryani said: “This heinous terrorist crime is a continuation of the crimes and violations committed by the Houthi militia against citizens in liberated areas of Hodeidah, shelling with artillery, mortars, drones, planting mines, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) on public roads, whose victims are civilians, including children and women.”

Without naming the Houthis, Gen. Abhijit Guha, head of the UN mission in Hodeidah, condemned the drone strike.

Gen. Guha urged warring factions on Monday to adhere to their pledges to avoid targeting civilians during military operations.

“I urge the parties to respect the sanctity of human life and protect civilians as per their obligations and undertake steps that will move further toward peace in the governorate and across Yemen,” he said in a statement seen by Arab News.