Turkiye asks US for F-16 jets amid NATO, Congress rows

Turkiye asks US for F-16 jets amid NATO, Congress rows
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meet at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 19 January 2023
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Turkiye asks US for F-16 jets amid NATO, Congress rows

Turkiye asks US for F-16 jets amid NATO, Congress rows
  • Mevlut Cavusoglu: ‘As we said together before, this is not only for Turkiye but also important for NATO and for the United States as well’
  • Blinken called Turkiye a close ally and praised its role in negotiating with Ukraine and Russia to allow grain shipments from the key global breadbasket

WASHINGTON: Turkiye on Wednesday appealed to the United States to expedite the sale of F-16 jets, a sale some US officials hope could coax Ankara to lift objections to NATO expansion but is bitterly opposed by a key senator.
Meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he intended to discuss his country’s request for modernized versions of the mainstay F-16 fighter jets.
“As we said together before, this is not only for Turkiye but also important for NATO and for the United States as well,” Cavusoglu said.
“So we expect the approval in line with our joint strategic interests.”
The United States is finalizing a $20 billion package for Turkiye that is expected to include around 40 new F-16 fighter jets.
The sale would be simultaneous with a deal for top-of-the-line F-35 jets for Greece, Turkiye’s historic rival with which tensions have risen sharply over a series of sea disputes.
The United States has been looking for ways to persuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to lift objections to allowing Sweden and Finland into NATO.
The two Nordic nations shed their earlier hesitation at formally entering the Western alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
But all NATO members must agree, and Erdogan has pushed Sweden and Finland to crack down on Kurdish militants who have moved to the two countries.
President Joe Biden has indicated support for selling F-16s to Turkiye. Blinken in his meeting called Turkiye a close ally and praised its role in negotiating with Ukraine and Russia to allow grain shipments from the key global breadbasket.
But Senator Bob Menendez, a member of Biden’s Democratic Party who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has vowed to block any sale.
In a speech late last month, Menendez said that Erdogan’s remarks threatening missiles on Athens were “totally unacceptable” and condemned a ban from politics of Istanbul’s popular mayor, earlier seen as a top threat to Erdogan in May elections.
“He might be doing it out of spite. Or he might be doing it because he is a thug,” Menendez said of Erdogan.
“But one thing is clear — the United States must take the Turkish president’s actions seriously,” he said, vowing to hold up the F-16s until Erdogan “halts his campaign of aggression across the entire region.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price, asked about Menendez’s stance, acknowledged opposition from lawmakers when the administration shared its support for F-16 sales.
But Price noted that Congress also was united on wanting to see a path forward on NATO.
“There is strong support within the US Congress for Finland, Sweden, to become NATO’s newest members,” Price said.
Still, Price acknowledged concerns with Turkiye including on a potential offensive against Syrian Kurds, reconciliation with Syrian President Bashar Assad and on domestic political freedoms.
“We remain deeply concerned by the continued judicial harassment of civil society, media, political and business leaders in Turkiye,” Price said.
Turkiye in 2019 was kicked out of the F-35 program after Erdogan went ahead with a major arms purchase from Russia, the key adversary of NATO.


US strike in Iraq kills 5 militants preparing attack

US strike in Iraq kills 5 militants preparing attack
Updated 13 sec ago
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US strike in Iraq kills 5 militants preparing attack

US strike in Iraq kills 5 militants preparing attack
  • Iraqi armed groups have claimed more than 70 such attacks against US forces since Oct. 17 over Washington’s backing of Israel in its bombardment of Gaza
  • The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Daesh, which in 2014 seized large swaths of both countries before being defeated

BAGHDAD: A US air strike killed five Iraqi militants near the northern city of Kirkuk as they prepared to launch explosive projectiles at US forces in the country, three Iraqi security sources said, identifying them as members of an Iran-backed militia.
A US military official confirmed a “self-defense strike on an imminent threat” that targeted a drone staging site near Kirkuk on Sunday afternoon.
A statement by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella group representing several Iraqi armed factions with close ties to Tehran, said five of its members had been killed, and vowed retaliation against US forces.
The group had claimed several attacks against US forces throughout Sunday.
Earlier Sunday, the US military official said US and international forces were attacked with multiple rockets at the Rumalyn Landing Zone in northeastern Syria, but there were no casualties or damage to infrastructure.
Iraqi armed groups have claimed more than 70 such attacks against US forces since Oct. 17 over Washington’s backing of Israel in its bombardment of Gaza.
The attacks paused during the recent Israel-Hamas cease-fire but have since resumed.
The US in November launched two series of strikes in Iraq against what it said were Iran-aligned armed groups who had engaged in attacks against their forces.
Those strikes killed at least 10 militants who were identified both as members of shadowy militia Kataeb Hezbollah and of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an official security institution composed mainly of Shiite Muslim armed groups.
Iraq’s government condemned those strikes as escalatory and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.
The United States has 900 troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Daesh, which in 2014 seized large swaths of both countries before being defeated.

 

 


US stock rally could wobble if tensions spike after Red Sea attacks

US stock rally could wobble if tensions spike after Red Sea attacks
Updated 22 min 34 sec ago
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US stock rally could wobble if tensions spike after Red Sea attacks

US stock rally could wobble if tensions spike after Red Sea attacks
  • The developments risk inflaming fears that the Israel-Hamas war could widen into a broader conflict encompassing the US and regional players like Iran

NEW YORK: An attack on an American warship and commercial vessels in the Red Sea on Sunday risks reigniting investor worries about a widening of the war between Israel and Hamas, potentially complicating the outlook for a rally that saw US stocks crest a fresh closing high for the year last week.
The Pentagon said it was aware of reports regarding attacks on an American warship and commercial vessels in the Red Sea on Sunday, while Yemen’s Houthi group claimed drone and missile attacks on two Israeli vessels in the area.
Also on Sunday, a US military official told Reuters the United States carried out a self-defense strike in Iraq against an “imminent threat” at a drone staging site.
The developments risk inflaming fears that the Israel-Hamas war could widen into a broader conflict encompassing the US and regional players like Iran. Such worries flared after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel but subsided in recent weeks.
Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial, said a widening conflict could push some investors to take profits on the recent rally in stocks. The S&P 500 rose nearly 9 percent in November on signs of easing inflation and hopes the Federal Reserve is done raising interest rates. The index is up almost 20 percent on the year after notching a 2023 closing high on Friday at 4594.63.
“The market is sensitive to any expansion of this conflict,” she said. “I think active managers in any event are more likely to lock in their gains if this is a harbinger of a deeper military conflict that involves the US.”
Past spikes in geopolitical tensions have made investors head for popular havens such as gold, Treasuries and the US dollar. Signs of an intensifying Middle East conflict could also boost oil prices, which have slumped in recent weeks.
Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Hermes, said rising tensions in the region could send West Texas Intermediate crude prices up to between $80 and $90 per barrel. Prices on Friday stood at $74.07.
The developments come as investors eye factors that could sway stocks in coming weeks. A US employment report due on Friday could bolster the case for those arguing that a cooling economy will keep the Fed from raising interest rates further and possibly loosen monetary policy sooner than expected.
Other potential catalysts include the Fed’s monetary policy meeting on Dec. 12-13, as well as seasonal factors such as tax-loss selling and the so-called Santa Claus rally.
Orlando said a spike in geopolitical tensions could drop the S&P 500 by “one or two hundred points.”
“There’s no question this represents an opportunity for investors to take profits,” he said. “However I’m still convinced the index ends the year at 4,600.”

 


Pope calls for new Gaza ceasefire as Israel intensifies raids

Pope calls for new Gaza ceasefire as Israel intensifies raids
Updated 03 December 2023
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Pope calls for new Gaza ceasefire as Israel intensifies raids

Pope calls for new Gaza ceasefire as Israel intensifies raids
  • Six-story building in Jabalia refugee camp hit
  • UN rights chief: Civilian suffering ‘too much to bear’

JEDDAH: Pope Francis said Sunday that he was saddened the truce in the Gaza Strip had been broken and urged those involved in the conflict to reach a new ceasefire deal as soon as possible.

The pope’s appeal came as international concern deepened over the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza after a truce ended.
Israeli forces bombed wide areas of the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, as civilians in the besieged territory sought shelter in an ever-shrinking area of the south.
“There is so much suffering in Gaza,” the pontiff said in comments from his private residence, which were read by an aide and broadcast on giant screens in Saint Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis said the end of the ceasefire meant “death, destruction, misery,” stressing that the besieged Palestinian territory lacked even essential supplies.
He said the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was “serious.”
“Many hostages have been freed but so many others are still in Gaza,” he said.
More than 15,500 people have been killed in the besieged Palestinian territory in more than eight weeks of combat and heavy bombardment, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Israeli air and artillery strikes hit Gaza’s northern frontier with Israel, throwing thick clouds of smoke and dust into the sky.
The Israeli army reported 17 rocket salvos from Gaza into Israel on Sunday, adding that most were intercepted.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 160 Palestinian deaths were reported in two incidents in northern Gaza Saturday: the bombing of a six-story building in Jabalia refugee camp, and of an entire block in Gaza City.
OCHA said around 1.8 million people in Gaza, roughly 75 percent of the population, had been displaced, many to overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.
Juliette Toma, director of communications at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said nearly 958,000 displaced people were in 99 UN facilities in the southern Gaza Strip.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk urged an end to the war, saying civilian suffering was “too much to bear.”
Hopes for another temporary truce in Gaza were fading as the US intensified calls for the protection of civilians.
“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at UN climate talks in Dubai.
She and Jordan’s King Abdullah discussed the Gaza crisis on the sidelines of COP28. The king stressed the need for the US to play a leading role in pushing for a political horizon for the Palestinian issue to reach peace on the basis of the two-state solution.
Israel ordered more evacuations in and around Khan Younis as the military’s offensive shifted to the southern half of the territory.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were running out of places to go in the sealed-off territory.
Gaza residents said they feared an Israeli ground offensive on the southern areas was imminent.
 Tanks had cut off the road between Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, effectively dividing the Gaza Strip into three areas, they said.
Fighting also flared on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
The Israeli army said it had launched artillery strikes in response to cross-border fire.


Wounded and dead overwhelm southern Gaza hospital as Israelis step up attacks

Wounded and dead overwhelm southern Gaza hospital as Israelis step up attacks
Updated 03 December 2023
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Wounded and dead overwhelm southern Gaza hospital as Israelis step up attacks

Wounded and dead overwhelm southern Gaza hospital as Israelis step up attacks
  • Palestinian Health Ministry says 316 have been killed since Friday in Gaza since the truce expired

GAZA: In southern Gaza’s Nasser Hospital, a young man cradled the lifeless body of his brother and then reached out to try to grab a medic running past him in the corridor.

“My brother!” the man yelled out, crying and slapping the floor as others crowded around him, seeking treatment for their wounded and mourning their loved ones on Sunday, the third day of renewed warfare and Israeli bombardment.

The hospital is one of only a handful operating in Khan Younis, a southern city that residents say is one of the focuses of the Israeli offensive that resumed on Friday after the collapse of a truce with Hamas.

Nearby, doctors stepped over bodies and pools of blood as they rushed to their next case, and relatives brought more dazed and sometimes unconscious children through the main doors.

Footage taken by Reuters showed about a dozen young people needing treatment, several of them with what looked like serious injuries.

The UN and aid groups say dozens of medics have been killed since the war began and basic supplies, including fuel to run generators, are running short in hospitals and clinics.

More than 15,500 people have been confirmed killed in Gaza since the start of the conflict, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said on Sunday that 316 had been killed since Friday in Gaza since the truce expired following the breakdown in talks over an exchange of prisoners and hostages.

There was no immediate comment from Israel on the reports of Sunday’s strikes. 

The Israeli military earlier ordered Palestinians to evacuate several areas in and around Khan Younis and posted a map highlighting shelters they should go to.

But residents said that areas they had been told to go to were themselves coming under attack.

One man at Nasser Hospital told Reuters that an air strike had hit a house in the city, and he had carried a young boy who was injured to the hospital, but the boy had died in his arms on the way.

Elsewhere in Khan Younis, families gathered at funerals.

One man, Akram El-Rakab, said he was burying his son as well as a sister and a nephew. 


Palestinian man killed in West Bank in settler raid

Palestinian man killed in West Bank in settler raid
Updated 03 December 2023
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Palestinian man killed in West Bank in settler raid

Palestinian man killed in West Bank in settler raid

RAMALLAH: Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank, killing one man and torching a car, Palestinian authorities said.

The Palestinian ambulance service said a 38-year-old man in the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, in the northern West Bank, was shot in the chest and died as residents confronted settlers and Israeli soldiers.

The Israeli military said soldiers arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal means and live fire to break up the confrontation between residents and settlers. 

It said Palestinians shot fireworks in response, and an Israeli and four Palestinians were injured. 

It said the incident was being examined and handed over to police.

In another incident, Wajih Al-Qat, head of the local council of the village of Madama near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, said a group of about 15 settlers burned the car and broke the windows of a house with stones.

The attacks are the latest in a series of similar incidents involving settlers that have drawn condemnation from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, whose administration is set to impose visa bans on extremist settlers.

The West Bank, which the Palestinians want as part of a future independent state, has seen a surge of violence in recent months as Jewish settlements have continued to expand and US-backed peacemaking efforts have stalled for nearly a decade.

The violence, at a more-than-15-year high this year, surged further after Israel launched an invasion of the separate enclave of Gaza in response to an attack by Hamas in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Yesh Din, a human rights group that monitors settler violence, said there had been at least 225 incidents of settler violence in 93 Palestinian communities since the war started.

Before Saturday’s incident, it said at least nine Palestinians had been killed in such attacks.

In a separate incident near Nablus, Palestinian authorities said a 14-year-old boy died of his wounds after he was shot during an incident in which the Israeli military said he brandished a knife at soldiers on a checkpoint.