Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels

Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels
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A protester scuffles with riot police during a demonstration in Istanbul organized by healthcare workers for better working conditions. (File/Reuters)
Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels
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A video footage circulated on social media shows dozens of people rushing to the scene of a vehicle loaded with free potatoes. (Social media)
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Updated 20 April 2021

Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels

Food stampedes in Turkey fuel fears over rising poverty levels
  • Virus pandemic, unemployment, soaring living costs contributing to country’s economic problems: Analysts, opposition leaders

ANKARA: Images showing desperate Turkish citizens scrambling to grab free handouts of potatoes have stoked an ongoing debate over chronic poverty in the country.

The government recently began distributing potatoes and onions to needy people in some of Turkey’s poorest provinces.

But despite strict measures on large gatherings, brought in to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), recent footage has shown crowds of people stampeding for the vegetables, some even picking up loose potatoes from the ground.

And members of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) claim the situation has only served to further highlight growing concerns over mass poverty, social injustice, and soaring food prices.

Under allocations, those requiring food aid were to receive 10 kg of onions and 20 kg of potatoes purchased by the government from farms.

“The image of crowds piled up for free potatoes and onions, as their only source of diet, has been the clearest picture of the Turkish economy right now,” Serkan Ozcan, an economist and founding member of the breakaway Future Party, told Arab News.

Turkey recently saw 250,000 people added to its jobless total, taking the figure for February to 4.23 million, an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent. In the same month, official statistics showed the annual inflation rate running at 15.61 percent.

“Since 2016, Turkey’s national income per capita decreased by one-quarter, and it is the worst record among its peers in emerging markets. When people are so desperate for potatoes and onions, it means that the government is not able to govern the country,” Ozcan said.

The image of crowds piled up for free potatoes and onions, as their only source of diet, has been the clearest picture of the Turkish economy right now.

Serkan Ozcan, Economist

“Farmers are obliged to sell their excess products at cost, and people need to pile up in the streets because they cannot find jobs to feed their families.”

Food has become extremely expensive in Turkey, with annual consumer prices jumping to 15 percent, second only to Argentina among emerging market peers.

Separately, Turkish opposition parties have been pushing the government to account for money they claim has gone missing from Central Bank reserves.

In a tweet, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, said: “We are asking about the money of the poor, those in need, and orphans.”

Worries about paying bills and putting food on tables have become major priorities for Turks under the economic deterioration in the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey in Turkey by international market research firm Ipsos revealed that 40 percent of Turks were concerned about poverty and social inequality, while 47 percent had fears about unemployment.

“People are suffering not only because of the pandemic but also due to income loss and rising living costs,” said Seren Selvin Korkmaz, executive director of the Istanbul Political Research Institute.

“In addition to increasing food prices the costs of basic services such as rent, electricity, and water have contributed to poverty. As a result, the economic downturn is evident in the crowds gathered around the potato trucks.”

Despite the possibility of several short-term financial support measures, Korkmaz said that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had no expertise in health or economic crisis management.

“I think the current presidential system without independent institutions based on good governance and expertise cannot provide viable solutions for the economic problems of the country.

“Hence, the economic situation might hit the current government in the next election if the opposition can provide viable economic policy vision to the voters,” she added.

More than 100 musicians in Turkey have committed suicide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after having lost their jobs and received no state support.

The government’s wage support program for employees of companies that have been hit by the pandemic also ended this month, leaving millions of people deprived of the scheme.

Korkmaz said: “Inequalities in the country are exacerbated by the AKP’s agricultural policy, education, and healthcare policies, as well as acute poverty during the pandemic. As a result, it can take years to recover from the effects in society.”


Israel kills militant commander after Palestinian rocket fire, US calls for peace

Israel kills militant commander after Palestinian rocket fire, US calls for peace
Updated 35 min 12 sec ago

Israel kills militant commander after Palestinian rocket fire, US calls for peace

Israel kills militant commander after Palestinian rocket fire, US calls for peace
  • Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since the hostilities flared last week at 201, including 58 children and 34 women
  • Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say

GAZA/TEL AVIV: Israel killed a senior Palestinian militant commander in heavy air strikes on Gaza on Monday and Islamist groups renewed rocket attacks on Israeli cities despite mounting international calls for a cease-fire.
As the fiercest hostilities in the region in years entered a second week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged all sides to protect civilians and said Washington was working intensively behind the scenes to halt the conflict.
Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since the hostilities flared last week at 201, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.
The killing of Hussam Abu Harbeed, Islamic Jihad’s armed commander for north Gaza, was likely to draw a fierce response from the militant group that is fighting alongside Hamas, the Islamist movement that governs the coastal enclave.
The Israeli military said in a statement that Harbeed had been “behind several anti-tank missile terror attacks against Israeli civilians,” and an Israeli general said his country could carry on the fight “forever.”
Militant groups in Gaza also gave no sign that an end to fighting was imminent. Soon after Harbeed’s death, Islamic Jihad said it had fired rockets at the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod, and Israeli police said three people had been slightly hurt.
At least three Palestinians were also killed by an Israeli air strike on a car in Gaza City on Monday, medics said, after a night of heavy Israeli air strikes. Israel’s military said Gaza militants had fired about 60 rockets toward Israeli cities overnight, down from 120 and 200 the two previous nights.
Another Palestinian was killed in an aerial attack on the town of Jabalya, medics said.
“My children couldn’t sleep all night even after the wave of intensive bombing stopped,” said Umm Naeem, 50, a mother of five, as she shopped for bread in Gaza City after the latest Israeli air strikes. “What is happening to us is too much, but Jerusalem deserves all the sacrifices.”
Israel bombed what its military said was 15 km (nine miles) of underground tunnels used by Hamas after Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza at the Israeli cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon. Nine residences belonging to high-ranking Hamas commanders in Gaza were also hit, it said.
“We have to continue the war until there is long-term cease-fire — (one) that is not temporary,” Osher Bugam, a resident of the Israel coastal city of Ashkelon, said after a rocket fired from Gaza hit a synagogue there.

’War of attrition’
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.
Palestinians have also become frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state and an end to Israeli occupation in recent years.
World concern deepened after an Israeli air strike in Gaza that destroyed several homes on Sunday and which Palestinian health officials said killed 42 people, including 10 children, and persistent rocket attacks on Israeli towns.
US envoy Hady Amr, appointed by President Joe Biden last week, met Palestinian officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday and Blinken said US officials had been “working around the clock” to bring an end to the conflict.
“The United States remains greatly concerned by the escalating violence. Hundreds of people killed or injured, including children being pulled from the rubble,” he said after talks with Denmark’s foreign minister in Copenhagen.
The United States said on Sunday it had made clear it was ready to offer support “should the parties seek a cease-fire.”
Jordan’s King Abdullah said his kingdom was involved in intensive diplomacy to halt the bloodshed, but gave no details.
Brig. Gen. Yaron Rosen, a former Israeli air division commander, gave no indication on Monday there would be a let-up in attacks in what he called a “war of attrition.”
“The IDF (Israeli military) can go with this forever. And they (Hamas) can go on with their rockets, sadly, also for a very long time. But the price they are paying is rising higher and higher,” he told reporters.
The Israeli military said at least 130 Palestinian combatants had been killed since fighting began. Harbeed had been a commander with Islamic Jihad for 15 years and was behind an attack on the first day of hostilities last week, it said.
The Israeli military said Hamas, a group regarded by Israel, the United States and the European Union as a terrorist movement, and other armed factions had fired about 3,150 rockets from Gaza over the past week. Israel’s missile defense system intercepted most of them, it said.
Hamas said its attacks were in retaliation for Israel’s “ongoing aggression against civilians.”
The Israeli military said civilian casualties were unintentional and that its warplanes attacked a tunnel system used by militants, which collapsed, bringing the homes down. Hamas called it “pre-meditated killing.”


US working 'intensively' to bring Israeli-Palestinian violence to an end — Blinken

US working 'intensively' to bring Israeli-Palestinian violence to an end — Blinken
Updated 17 May 2021

US working 'intensively' to bring Israeli-Palestinian violence to an end — Blinken

US working 'intensively' to bring Israeli-Palestinian violence to an end — Blinken

COPENHAGEN: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged all parties in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to protect civilians and said the United States is working intensively to an end to the violence.
“We have been working around the clock through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to the conflict,” Blinken said at a joint briefing with Denmark’s foreign minister in Copenhagen.
The fighting entered a second week on Monday as Israel bombed targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants fired rocket barrages at Israeli cities.
Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since the hostilities flared at 198, including 58 children and 34 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, Israeli authorities say.
“The United States remains greatly concerned by the escalating violence. Hundreds of people killed or injured, including children being pulled from the rubble,” he said.
“We are ready to lend support if the parties (...) seek a cease-fire,” Blinken said.
Blinken said Israel has the right to defend itself, but said he had been alarmed that journalists and medical workers had been put at risk, in particular after Israel on Saturday destroyed a tower block in Gaza housing the offices of the US-based Associated Press and other news media.
The United States has requested additional details from Israel regarding the attack, Blinken said.


China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy
Updated 17 May 2021

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy
  • ‘We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position’
  • China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause
BEIJING: China on Monday renewed calls for the US to play a constructive role in ending the conflict in Gaza and stop blocking efforts at the United Nations to demand an end to the bloodshed.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China, as rotating head of the Security Council, has urged a cease-fire and the provision of humanitarian assistance, among other proposals, but that obstruction by “one country” has prevented the council from speaking with one voice.
“We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position to support the council and play its due role in cooling down the situation and rebuilding trust for a political solution,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
China “strongly condemns” violence against civilians and calls for an end to air strikes, ground attacks, rocket fire and “other actions that aggravate the situation,” Zhao said.
Israel should “exercise restraint, effectively comply with the relevant United Nations resolutions, stop demolishing Palestinian people’s houses, stop expelling Palestinian people and stop expanding its settlement program, stop threats of violence and provocations against Muslims, and maintain and respect the historical status quo of Jerusalem as a religious holy site,” Zhao said.
Calls have grown for the Biden administration to take a more active stance on the Israeli-Palestinian violence. Thus far, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, has blocked efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities.
China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, while building closer political, economic and military links with Israel.

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah
Updated 17 May 2021

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

DUBAI: Yemen's information minister Moammar al- Eryani has said he condemns in the strongest terms a Houthi attack on a crowded market in Al-Durayhimi district, south of Hodeidah province.   
Eryani said the attack on a market filled with hundreds of civilians by an “Iranian-made” drone killed one person and wounded five others. 
He told the Yemeni News Agency (SABA) that the attack was an extension of a series of crimes and violations committed by the Houthi militia against civilians in liberated areas of Hodeidah.
Eryani also called on the UN envoy and the United Nations mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement, to condemn the attack and to consider it a war crime.


Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week
Updated 17 May 2021

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week
  • Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave
  • The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, local authorities said

GAZA CITY: Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip pre-dawn Monday, after a week of violence between the Jewish state and Islamist militants left more than 200 people dead as international calls for de-escalation went unheeded.
Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, according to AFP journalists at the scene.
The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, local authorities said. No casualties were immediately reported.
West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed “horror and fear” at the intensity of the onslaught.
“There have never been strikes of this magnitude,” he said.
In a statement just before 2:00 am (2300 GMT Sunday), the Israeli army said its fighter jets were “striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip.”
Gazan Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should realize we’re civilians, not fighters.”
“I felt like I was dying.”
The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.
In total, 197 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 58 children, and more than 1,200 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10 after the group fired rockets. The heaviest exchange of fire in years was sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.
In Israel, 10 people, including one child, have been killed and 282 wounded by rocket fire launched by armed groups in Gaza.
Israel’s army said about 3,000 rockets had been fired since last Monday from Gaza toward Israel — the highest rate ever recorded — but added the Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.
Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel’s “campaign against the terrorist organizations is continuing with full force” and would “take time” to finish.
The Israeli army said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and armed group Islamic Jihad, including a vast tunnel system, weapons factories and storage sites.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.
Balls of flame and a cloud of debris shot into the sky Saturday afternoon as Israel’s air force flattened a building housing Al Jazeera and AP news agency, after giving journalists an hour to evacuate.
Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office.
“It is a perfectly legitimate target,” he said.
The violence between Hamas and Israel is the worst since 2014, when Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.
The war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
Opening the first session of the UN Security Council on the renewed violence on Sunday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the fighting “utterly appalling.”
“It must stop immediately,” he said.
But the UN talks, already delayed by Israel’s ally the United States, resulted in little action, with Washington opposing a resolution.
President Joe Biden’s administration says it is working behind the scenes and that a Security Council statement could backfire.
Israel is also trying to contain inter-communal violence between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied West Bank, where 19 Palestinians have been killed since Monday, according to a toll from Palestinian authorities.
Major clashes broke out at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites — on May 7 following a crackdown against protests over planned expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Sheikh Jarrah has been at the heart of the flareup, seeing weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
On Sunday, a car-ramming attack in Sheikh Jarrah wounded seven police officers, police said, adding that the attacker had been killed.
Police also said “a number of suspects” had been arrested during clashes in another east Jerusalem neighborhood overnight Sunday to Monday.
Guterres warned the fighting could have far-reaching consequences if not stopped immediately.
“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.”