6 killed, 81 injured in Istanbul terror bombing; suspect arrested

Update 6 killed, 81 injured in Istanbul terror bombing; suspect arrested
Ambulances arrive near the scene following an explosion in central Istanbul's Taksim area, Turkey November 13, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 November 2022

6 killed, 81 injured in Istanbul terror bombing; suspect arrested

6 killed, 81 injured in Istanbul terror bombing; suspect arrested
  • Saudi Arabia condemns “attack” in busy city tourist center
  • Broadcasting ban imposed on explosion in wake of fake social media videos

ISTANBUL: At least six people were killed and 81 injured in an explosion on Sunday in a popular tourist area of Istanbul in Turkiye.

Videos posted on social media showed bodies lying on the ground in the city’s busy Istiklal street following the blast at around 4:20 p.m. local time.

Hours later on Monday, Turkiye's interior minister Suleyman Soylu  announced the arrest of the suspected bomber, according to state-run Anadolu agency’s English-language Twitter account.

Confirming casualty numbers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the explosion as an “attack,” prompting Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to condemn the incident.




Crime scene investigation police work as Turkish policemen secure the area after a strong explosion shook Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, on Nov.1 3, 2022. (AFP)

The usually bustling pedestrian shopping street is a hotspot for tourists.

Speaking prior to leaving for the G20 summit in Bali, Erdogan said: “Our nation should ensure that the perpetrators of the incident on Istiklal Street will be punished as they deserve.”

Although not immediately confirmed as a terror attack, the Turkish leader added there was “a smell of it” and hinted that a woman may have been involved in causing the explosion.

CCTV footage showed a woman leaving a bag on a bench on Istiklal Street and Turkish media reported witnesses hearing gunshots in streets around nearby Taksim Square.

Turkish anti-terror and crime scene investigation teams were quickly on the scene and cordoned off the area.

Turkiye’s media watchdog has imposed a broadcasting ban in the vicinity of the blast after fake footage was posted on social media platforms. Restrictions were also applied to Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.




Police and security forces work at the scene after an explosion on busy pedestrian Istiklal street in Istanbul, Turkey, November 13, 2022. (Reuters)

The explosion took place near a mosque and 300 meters away from the French consulate.

Other foreign consulates are also located on Istiklal Street which has been the scene of several terror attacks. Sunday’s blast was the deadliest since December 2016.

Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have all claimed responsibility for recent terror attacks in Turkiye. Al-Qaeda in Turkiye carried out two separate suicide bombings in the same district in November 2003, killing more than 60 people and injuring at least 650, and one week before that attacked two synagogues.




Turkish policemen try to secure the area after a strong explosion of unknown origin shook the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul, on November 13, 2022. (AFP)

In 2016, a Daesh member targeted an Israeli tourist group, leaving five people dead and 36 wounded.

And In December 2016, bomb attacks outside a busy stadium in Istanbul killed 38 and wounded 166.

As yet, no group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blast.

During a speech in Turkiye’s Bilecik province on Saturday, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that the number of terrorists operating inside Turkish territories was now down to below 120.

Turkish anti-terror teams have been conducting operations throughout the country in recent months against PKK and Daesh operatives.

While the PKK has been conducting a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state for almost four decades, the country has also been the target of Daesh, with more than 300 people killed and hundreds injured in suicide bombings, bomb attacks, and armed assaults.

 

 


Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32
Updated 58 min 20 sec ago

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32

Egypt officials: Hospital fire in Cairo kills 3, injures 32
  • The fire took place at the Noor Mohammadi hospital in eastern Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood
  • Firefighters were able to put out the blaze

CAIRO: A fire broke out Wednesday at a hospital in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, killing at least three people and injuring at least 32 others, health authorities said.
The Health Ministry said the fire took place at the Noor Mohammadi hospital in eastern Cairo’s Matariya neighborhood. The facility is run by a charity.
The ministry said in a statement that flames broke out at the hospital’s radiology department without elaborating on what caused it. Provincial authorities said firefighters were able to put out the blaze.
Health Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar said the injured patients suffered from burns, fractures and smoke inhalation. They were transferred to other hospitals in Cairo.
He said the causality tally was a preliminary one, suggesting it could increase.
Safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced in Egypt and have been linked to many deaths. A 2020 fire at an intensive care unit at a private hospital in Cairo killed seven coronavirus patients.


Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor

Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor
Updated 01 February 2023

Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor

Militants kill eight soldiers in northwest Syria: monitor
  • "HTS fired shells and rockets at a Syrian military post, killing eight soldiers," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said
  • The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced

BEIRUT: Eight Syrian soldiers were killed in the country’s northwest on Wednesday in an attack carried out by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham militant group, a war monitor reported.
“HTS fired shells and rockets at a Syrian military post, killing eight soldiers near Kafr Ruma in Idlib province,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
HTS is headed by ex-members of Syria’s former Al-Qaeda franchise.
Syrian state media did not immediately report the attack.
About half of the northwestern province of Idlib and areas bordering the neighboring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia are dominated by HTS and other rebel factions.
The Idlib region is home to about three million people, around half of them displaced.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP that since the end of 2022, the militants “have intensified operations against regime forces in Idlib... in the context of a rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.”
He said exchanges of fire and clashes between regime forces and militant factions had killed 63 people since the start of the year, 45 of them pro-regime forces. One of the 18 militants was a French national.
Ankara became a sworn enemy of Damascus when it began backing rebel efforts to topple Assad at the start of the civil war.
But in late December the defense ministers of Turkiye and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow — the first such meeting since 2011.
The mooted reconciliation has alarmed Syrian opposition leaders and supporters who reside mostly in parts of the war-torn country under Ankara’s indirect control.
President Bashar Assad said in January that a Moscow-brokered rapprochement with Turkiye should aim for “the end of occupation” by Ankara of parts of Syria.
Turkiye has military bases in northern Syria and backs some local groups fighting the regime and against Syrian Kurdish forces which it considers “terrorist” groups.
Ankara has never publicly backed hard-line group HTS but is believed to coordinate with its forces.
HTS, which is sanctioned by the UN as a terrorist organization, formally broke ties with Al-Qaeda in 2016 and incorporated a number of smaller Syrian rebel factions in a major re-branding effort.
Widely seen as the strongest and best organized of Syria’s rebel groups, it has presented itself as the mainstay of Syria’s opposition.
With Russian and Iranian support, Damascus has clawed back much of the ground lost in the early stages of Syria’s conflict, which erupted in 2011 when Assad’s government brutally repressed pro-democracy protests.
The war has killed nearly half a million people since it broke out over a decade ago, displacing almost half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Despite periodic clashes, a cease-fire reached in 2020 by Moscow and Turkiye has largely held in the northwest.


Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
Updated 01 February 2023

Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem

Israel steps up demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem
  • Properties were razed in the city’s Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Hummus and Silwan neighborhoods on Wednesday
  • Residents of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar are staging a sit-in amid fears they will be displaced after a final deadline to leave the village expired

RAMALLAH: Israeli authorities have stepped up their demolitions of Palestinian homes in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, following a policy formulated by extreme right-wing ministers in the country’s new government, local leaders say.
On Wednesday, Israeli bulldozers knocked down buildings in the Sur Baher, Wadi Al-Hummus and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Rights activists urged people to publicly denounce the demolitions by posting messages on social media sites such as Twitter using the hashtag #Stop_Demolishing_Jerusalem.
They also called on the Palestinian Authority, the international community and global institutions to intervene immediately to force Israel to halt the demolitions and displacements that threaten the Palestinian community in Jerusalem.
Since the beginning of this January, occupation forces have razed 30 homes in a number of the historic city’s neighborhoods. Last year, 211 Palestinian homes were demolished in Jerusalem.
In the village of Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, a sit-in protest by villagers and activists from the Palestinian Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission continued for a second day on Wednesday.
Residents of the village and surrounding Bedouin communities fear Israeli authorities will demolish their homes, after a final six-month deadline for them to leave expired on Wednesday.
Eid Khamis Jahalin, a Bedouin leader from Al-Khan Al-Ahmar, told Arab News that people are scared that Israeli bulldozers will destroy the village and displace its 250 residents.
“The electoral program of both Itamar Bin-Gvir (the new Israeli national security minister) and Bezalel Yoel Smotrich (the minister of finance) is based on the demolition of Al-Khan Al-Hamar and the displacement of its inhabitants,” he said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, from the Palestine Liberation Organization, called on the international community to intervene immediately to halt the demolitions carried out by Israeli occupation forces in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which he described as a continuation of a policy of displacement and “apartheid.” He said the Palestinian leadership would meet on Friday to discuss ways to respond.
Elsewhere, Israeli army forces continued to besiege Jericho, in the eastern West Bank, for a fifth day on Wednesday as they searched for two young men responsible for an attempted gun attack on a settlers’ restaurant at the entrance to the city five days ago.
Critics accused Israeli authorities of imposing a collective punishment policy in the city by obstructing the free movement of residents, searching their cars and checking their identities, resulting in long queues and people being stuck in their vehicles for hours.
Journalist Adel Abu Nima from Jericho told Arab News that the Israeli army on Saturday set up military checkpoints at all main entrances to Jericho city and its camps, Aqbat Jabr and Ein Al-Sultan, and blocked secondary entrances with mounds of earth, causing great disruption to the lives of city residents and visitors.
“Some citizens and workers wait at the Israeli military checkpoints for four hours, and some are prevented from leaving Jericho,” Abu Nima said.
Jericho is the only place from which 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank can travel to other countries, so the checkpoints have affected people traveling abroad and those who are returning.
“As a journalist covering the events in West Bank, including Jenin and Nablus, I have not seen such Israeli military measures against entire cities as is happening now against Jericho,” Abu Nima said.
Meanwhile, an Israeli human rights organization has accused Israeli authorities of tolerating settler violence against Palestinians for more than 17 years.
Yesh Din said in a report published on Feb. 1 that only 3 percent of cases of ideological crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians in the West Bank during that time resulted in convictions and 93 percent of cases were closed with no indictment filed.
Data contained in the report showed that between 2005 and 2022, Israeli police failed to investigate 81.5 percent of alleged crimes committed by Israelis against Palestinians and their property.
The researchers said: “The state of Israel is evading its duty to protect Palestinians from Israelis who seek to harm them in the West Bank, as international law requires.
“Yesh Din’s long-term monitoring of the results of police investigations into incidents of ideological crime committed by Israelis demonstrates the enduring systemic failures of the Israeli authorities to enforce the law on Israeli civilians who harm Palestinians and their property in occupied territory.
“The fact that this systemic failure has persisted for at least two decades indicates that this is a deliberate policy of the state of Israel, which normalizes ideological settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, supports it and then reaps the rewards resulting from it.”
In another development, the Israeli Cabinet is due to discuss a decision to stop recognizing degrees awarded by Palestinian universities.
Avi Dichter, the Israeli agriculture minister, who previously was chief of the Israeli spy agency Shin Bet, said: “During the studies of Palestinian students from Israel in Palestinian universities, they are exposed to anti-Israel materials and messages, with which they return to the country and pass on to their students.”
Sheeran Haskel, a member of the Likud Party, claimed that more than 20 percent of teachers in Arab schools in Israel had graduated from Palestinian universities “after they absorbed the implications of portraying Israel as an enemy.”
Thousand of Palestinians who live in Israel study at universities in the West Bank.


IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup

IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup
Updated 01 February 2023

IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup

IAEA chides Iran for undeclared change to Fordow uranium enrichment setup
  • IAEA found the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel enrichment Plant
  • Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there

VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.
The International Atomic Energy Agency found the change during an unannounced inspection on Jan. 21 at the Fordow Fuel enrichment Plant (FFEP), a site dug into a mountain where inspectors are stepping up checks after Iran said it would dramatically expand enrichment.
Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities.
In a confidential report to member states seen by Reuters, the IAEA did not say how the interconnection between the two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges had been changed except that “they were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).”
In a public statement summarising that confidential report, the IAEA said its chief Rafael Grossi “is concerned that Iran implemented a substantial change in the design information of FFEP in relation to the production of high-enriched uranium without informing the Agency in advance.”
“This is inconsistent with Iran’s obligations under its Safeguards Agreement and undermines the Agency’s ability to adjust the safeguards approach for FFEP and implement effective safeguards measures at this facility.”
The IAEA has had regular access to Fordow to carry out verification activities like inspections and it is in talks with Iran on stepping up those activities, the report said.
“The Agency and Iran have continued their discussions. The Agency has increased the frequency and intensity of its verification activities at FFEP. However, some other safeguards measures are still required and are being discussed with Iran,” the report added.


Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip

Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip
Updated 01 February 2023

Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip

Israel says it intercepted rocket fired from Gaza Strip
  • Sirens sounded in the city of Sderot and in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip late Wednesday afternoon
  • The rocket was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system

TEL AVIV, Israel: Sirens sounded in southern Israel and a rocket was intercepted from Gaza on Wednesday, the Israeli army said, as tensions soared between Palestinians and the country’s new ultranationalist government.
The army said in a statement that sirens sounded in the city of Sderot and in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip late Wednesday afternoon. The rocket, it said, was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.
Local residents reported hearing explosions. Israel’s rescue service said it received no reports of injuries except for a 50-year-old woman who slipped and fell while running to a shelter. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rocket.
The action in Israel’s skies Wednesday came after a spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent days and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited with a call for calm.
An Israeli military raid on a militant stronghold in the West Bank city of Jenin last week killed 10, most of them militants. The next day, a Palestinian shooting attack in an east Jerusalem Jewish settlement killed seven people. A separate east Jerusalem shooting over the weekend by a 13-year-old Palestinian wounded two Israelis.
Following the unrest, Israel approved a series of punitive steps against the Palestinians, further ratcheting up tensions just as Blinken began meetings with leaders.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, said the rocket fire from Gaza won’t stop him from implementing his punitive policies against Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons. He called for an urgent Security Cabinet meeting to discuss a response.