How a visit to Egypt 60 years ago exerted a formative influence on David Hockney’s artistic career

Special How a visit to Egypt 60 years ago exerted a formative influence on David Hockney’s artistic career
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David Hockney walks past a photographic copy of his 2007 painting ‘Bigger Trees Near Water’ at the Tate gallery in London in 2009. (AFP)
Special How a visit to Egypt 60 years ago exerted a formative influence on David Hockney’s artistic career
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Visitors attend the 'David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away)’ immersive exhibition at the Lightroom gallery in London on February 22, 2023. (AFP)
Special How a visit to Egypt 60 years ago exerted a formative influence on David Hockney’s artistic career
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Visitors attend the 'David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away)’ immersive exhibition at the Lightroom gallery in London on February 22, 2023. (AFP)
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David Hockney walks past a photographic copy of his 2007 painting ‘Bigger Trees Near Water’ at the Tate gallery in London in 2009. (AFP)
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Updated 13 May 2023
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How a visit to Egypt 60 years ago exerted a formative influence on David Hockney’s artistic career

How a visit to Egypt 60 years ago exerted a formative influence on David Hockney’s artistic career
  • Hockney spent most of October 1963 in Egypt on commission for The Sunday Times, visiting Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor
  • The British artist’s contact with one of the world’s major civilizations left a permanent mark on his subsequent work

LONDON: In October 1963, a young British artist, fresh out of London’s Royal College of Art but already making a name for himself as a groundbreaking painter, traveled to Egypt, fulfilling an ambition to visit a country that had long fascinated him.

David Hockney’s odyssey to the land of the pharaohs 60 years ago would prove to be a turning point in the nascent career of an artist on the cusp of achieving global fame.




Cover of the catalogue for the “Egyptian Journeys” exhibition, featuring a comprehensive selection of the drawings Hockney made in 1963 and on a subsequent return trip to Egypt in 1978. (Supplied)

As Marco Livingstone, an art historian and author of numerous books about Hockney, would later write, Hockney “responded to his first experience of the country and its monuments with some of the liveliest and most inventive drawings he had yet made directly from life.”

Furthermore, “his contact with one of the world’s major civilizations left a permanent mark on his subsequent work, encouraging him towards a greater naturalism through direct observation.”

The 40 or more drawings Hockney produced on that journey “remain among his masterpieces.”

But as fascinating as fans of the artist might find the details of Hockney’s long-forgotten expedition to Egypt, even more intriguing is the story of what became of those 40 drawings, a tale in which politics and the machinations of the art world played out against a background of not one but two of the most momentous events the modern world has known.

In February 1962, The Sunday Times had become the first British newspaper to publish a color supplement, and the following year its editor, Mark Boxer, hit on the idea of commissioning Hockney, then an up-and-coming young artist, to produce some art for the magazine.

It was, as Livingstone would later write, “a great opportunity and an honor for an artist then aged only 26.”




David Hockney in 2016. (AFP file photo)

Hockney rejected Boxer’s first suggestion, that he travel north to make some drawings in his hometown of Bradford, but when the newspaper offered to bankroll a journey to Egypt, he leaped at the chance.

The commission chimed with an interest Hockney had already developed in ancient Egyptian art, which had influenced paintings he had produced while still a student.

These included “A Grand Procession of Dignitaries in the Semi-Egyptian Style,” “Egyptian Head Disappearing into the Clouds,” and “The First Marriage,” all painted between 1961 and 1962 and inspired by studies he had made of Egyptian art in Western museums.

Hockney spent most of October 1963 in Egypt, visiting Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor. It was, as he later recalled, “a marvelous three weeks … a great adventure.”




A view of the Cairo roundabout in the 1960s when David Hockney first visited Egypt, where he was inspired to draw ‘everywhere and everything.’ (Getty Images/AFP)

He took no camera, only drawing paper, and “I drew everywhere and everything — the pyramids, modern Egypt. It was terrific. I carried all my drawings everywhere and a lot of equipment, and I would get up very early in the morning.”

Hockney “loved the cafe life” of Cairo. He found Egyptians to be “very easy-going people, very humorous and pleasant. I liked them very much.”

But not one of the drawings he produced under the Egyptian sun would ever be printed in The Sunday Times.

On Nov. 22, 1963, a month after Hockney’s return to England with his portfolio of work, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. In the wave of global coverage that followed, the planned Hockney issue of the magazine was swept aside, never to be revisited.

Exactly two weeks after Kennedy’s killing, however, many of the drawings went on public display as part of Hockney’s first solo exhibition, “Pictures with People in,” held at the London gallery of his dealer, John Kasmin.

FASTFACTS

David Hockney’s first trip to Egypt was commissioned by art critic David Sylvester and journalist Mark Boxer at the Sunday Times.

“View from Nile Hilton” sold for $426,666 at Christie’s London on Feb. 8, 2001.

“Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” stands as the most expensive painting by a living artist ever sold, for $90 million, in 2018.

The show was a great success, and many of the drawings were snapped up for what, as would soon become apparent, were bargain prices.

At the show’s end, Hockney left for America, setting up a studio in Los Angeles, where he embarked on the trio of iconic paintings of swimming pools for which he is best known.

In February 2020, one of them, “The Splash,” painted in 1966, sold at a Sotheby’s auction in London for $30 million. Another, “A Bigger Splash,” painted the following year, hangs in Tate Britain.

Meanwhile, Hockney’s Egyptian drawings had found their way into various private collections around the world. Here they would remain, discreetly changing hands occasionally and accruing value and mystique. None has ever been purchased by a public gallery.

Hockney made only one painting after his return from Egypt. “Great Pyramid at Giza with Broken Head from Thebes” was painted in 1963, very shortly after his trip. It went into private hands but 50 years later came up for sale at Christie’s in London, where it sold in February 2013 for £3.5 million.




A view of the Sphinx and the Giza Pyramids in Cairo, which inspired David Hockney to draw the “Great Pyramid at Giza with Broken Head from Thebes” after his return from Egypt in the 1960s. (Shutterstock image)

On Feb. 8, 2001, however, one of the drawings Hockney had made in Egypt surfaced in spectacular fashion in an earlier Christie’s auction in London. “View from Nile Hilton,” made in colored wax crayons and pencil on paper, measuring 31 cm by 25.4 cm and signed and dated by the artist, went under the hammer with an estimated price of between £8,000 ($10,000) and £12,000.

That, as Livingstone told Arab News, was already considerably more than the £50 or so that the drawing would have fetched back in 1963.

But then something extraordinary happened. After a bidding war between two anonymous bidders, the drawing went for £234,750.

At the time, the identities of both bidders remained unknown.

But, as Livingstone revealed to Arab News, the victorious collector was Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani, Qatar’s then minister of art, culture and heritage, who at the time was creating collections for his country’s planned museums and was one of the most prolific art buyers in the world.




David Hockney working in a studio, around 1967. (Getty Images/AFP)

The reason the price of the Hockney went through the ceiling at the auction, said Livingstone, was because the sheikh “was in battle for it with David Thomson, who was the son of Roy Thomson, who was the owner of the Sunday Times in 1963.

“In 1963, they could have bought the drawing for next to nothing. Thomson wanted to have a memento of the Egypt trip, but he was outbid by Sheikh Saud, who I think was determined that every one of the drawings that was available would go to him.”

Because Sheikh Saud had a plan.

“Kasmin, Hockney’s dealer from 1962 until 1992, was contacted by Sheikh Saud about finding other drawings because Sheikh Saud wanted to do an exhibition of them in Cairo at the Palace of Arts,” said Livingstone.




Marco Livingstone. (Supplied)

Livingstone, an authority on Hockney who over the years has worked closely with the artist on many book and exhibition projects, was in turn contacted by Kasmin, and between them “we brought together everything we could find that people were willing to lend, and by then Sheikh Saud had bought some of the best drawings.”

Rounding up the body of work was not an easy task.

“I knew where a few things were and so did Kasmin, who would have sold some of them, but this was nearly 40 years later. By then he had sold his archive to the Getty, so he didn’t necessarily have that information to hand, and so we relied on his memory about whom he might have sold them to, but some of those pictures would have changed hands in the meantime,” Livingstone said.

Eventually, under the exhibition title “Egyptian Journeys,” they pulled together “a comprehensive selection” of drawings Hockney had made in 1963 and on a subsequent return trip to the country in 1978.




David Hockney walks past a photographic copy of his 2007 painting ‘Bigger Trees Near Water’ at the Tate gallery in London in 2009. (AFP)

Once again, however, a major geopolitical event would intervene.

Four months before the Hockney exhibition was due to open in Cairo, the 9/11 attacks on America threw the region into turmoil.

In the event, the show did go ahead, running at Cairo’s Palace of Arts from Jan. 16 to Feb.16, 2002, but it was touch and go, as Livingstone’s preface to the catalogue, printed in Italy ahead of the show, made clear.

Although planning for the exhibition had begun in the summer of 2001, “the catalogue goes to press at a time of great uncertainty on the world stage,” he wrote.

This might, he added, “seem on the surface like a small show,” but “we are making a very important statement with this exhibition about the mutual respect between our cultures, and the degree of friendship and understanding that can be achieved through the healing power of art.”




Visitors attend the 'David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away)’ immersive exhibition at the Lightroom gallery in London on February 22, 2023. (AFP)

In a foreword to the catalogue, Farouk Hosni, who at the time was Egypt’s minister of culture, wrote that “art has never been seen as such a vital and powerful tool of cross-cultural communication and dialogue in the world as it is today, especially in light of the critical recent events that have shaken the world.”

He added: “In these days of dispute, anxiety and confusion, the exhibition is an invitation for all artists and creative people of the world to communicate, and paves the way for a more tolerant, harmonious and human world.”

But thanks to the fallout from the 9/11 attacks and US President George W. Bush’s subsequent “war on terror,” the show ultimately failed to make the big splash that had been hoped for.




A view of the Nile in Cairo in the 1960s, which inspired David Hockney's "Nile Hilton" painting. (Getty Images/AFP)

“Hockney was meant to go to the opening of the show in Cairo,” Livingstone revealed to Arab News.

“Sheikh Saud wanted it to be a surprise for him. When he got off the plane, he was going to be taken to the Palace of Arts and shown this exhibition, then Sheikh Saud was going to take him on a two-week tour around the Egyptian archaeological sites that are not available to the normal tourist.

“But at the last minute, a day or two beforehand, David decided he didn’t feel safe traveling to the Middle East when there was the possibility of another Gulf war.”

It was an opportunity lost forever.

Although unaware of the secret exhibition that had been created, Hockney had been planning to revisit Egypt again anyway in 2001, after an absence of 22 years, and the catalogue’s poignant conclusion hinted at the possibilities.

“The huge discoveries that he has made in his work during the interim period will undoubtedly affect the kinds of drawings that he will make when he finally arrives there again,” it read.

“Now older and wiser than when he first saw Egypt as a young man, he remains as open as ever to new influences.

“It seems more than likely, therefore, that he will again emerge transformed from the experience, thrilled by the contact with this great and ancient civilisation, spellbound by its magical atmosphere to rise to the challenge of producing more great art.”

Sadly, however, both for art and for Egypt, it was not to be.

 


Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation

Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation
Updated 20 April 2024
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Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation

Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation
  • United States received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran, reports US media
  • Countries around the world called on both sides to avert further escalation amid tensions

DUBAI/JERUSALEM: Explosions echoed over an Iranian city on Friday in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged toward averting region-wide war.

The limited scale of the attack and Iran’s muted response both appeared to signal a successful effort by diplomats who have been working round the clock to avert all-out war since an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel last Saturday.

Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from Iran’s air defenses hitting three drones over the city of Isfahan. Notably, they referred to the incident as an attack by “infiltrators,” rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation.

An Iranian official said there were no plans to respond against Israel for the incident.

“The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed. We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more toward infiltration than attack,” the official said.

Israel said nothing about the incident. It had said for days it was planning to retaliate against Iran for Saturday’s strikes, the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran in decades of shadow war waged by proxies which has escalated throughout the Middle East through six months of battle in Gaza.

The United States received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran but did not endorse the operation or play any part in its execution, US media quoted officials as saying.

NBC and CNN, citing sources familiar with the matter and a US official, respectively, said Israel had provided Washington with pre-notification of the strike.

Various networks cited officials confirming a strike had taken place inside Iran, with CNN quoting one official as stating the target was not a nuclear facility.

The two longstanding foes had been heading toward direct confrontation since a presumed Israeli airstrike on April 1 that destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers including a top general.

Iran’s response, with a direct attack on Israel, was unprecedented but caused no deaths and only minor damage because Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of missiles and drones.

Allies including the United States had since been pressing hard to ensure any further retaliation would be calibrated not to provoke a spiral of hostilities. The British and German foreign ministers visited Jerusalem this week, and Western countries tightened sanctions on Iran to mollify Israel.

In a sign of pressure within Israel’s hard-right government for a stronger response, Itamar Ben Gvir, the far-right national security minister tweeted a single word after Friday’s strikes: “Feeble!.”

Countries around the world called on Friday for both sides to avert further escalation.

“It is absolutely necessary that the region remains stable and that all sides restrain from further action,” EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said. Similar calls came from Beijing and from Arab states in the region.

In financial markets, global shares eased, oil prices surged and US bond yields fell as traders worried about the risks.

NO MENTION OF ISRAEL

Within Iran, news reports on Friday’s incident made no mention of Israel, and state television carried analysts and pundits who appeared dismissive about the scale.

An analyst told state TV that mini drones flown by “infiltrators from inside Iran” had been shot down by air defenses in Isfahan.

Shortly after midnight, “three drones were observed in the sky over Isfahan. The air defense system became active and destroyed these drones in the sky,” Iranian state TV said.

Senior army commander Siavosh Mihandoust was quoted by state TV as saying air defense systems had targeted a “suspicious object.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had warned Israel before Friday’s strike that Tehran would deliver a “severe response” to any attack on its territory.

Iran told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

By morning, Iran had reopened airports and airspace that were shut during the strikes.

Still, there was alarm over security in Israel and elsewhere. The US Embassy in Jerusalem restricted US government employees from travel outside Jerusalem, greater Tel Aviv and Beersheba “out of an abundance of caution.”

In a statement, the embassy warned US citizens of a “continued need for caution and increased personal security awareness as security incidents often take place without warning.”

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas Islamists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed about 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.

Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, carrying out attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, raising fears the Gaza conflict could grow into a wider regional war.


UN warns of new flashpoint in Sudan’s Darfur region

UN warns of new flashpoint in Sudan’s Darfur region
Updated 20 April 2024
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UN warns of new flashpoint in Sudan’s Darfur region

UN warns of new flashpoint in Sudan’s Darfur region

United Nations, US: Senior UN officials warned the Security Council on Friday of the risks of a new front opening in Sudan, around the town of el-Fasher in Darfur, where the population is already on the brink of starvation.
After a year of war between the armed forces (SAF) of General Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (FSR), under the command of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the country is experiencing “a crisis of epic proportions... wholly man-made,” denounced Rosemary DiCarlo, UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs.
“The warring parties have ignored repeated calls to cease their hostilities... Instead, they have stepped up preparations for further fighting, with both the SAF and the RSF continuing their campaigns to recruit civilians,” DiCarlo said.
In particular, she voiced concern at reports of a possible “imminent” attack by the RSF on el-Fasher, the only capital of the five Darfur states it does not control, “raising the specter of a new front in the conflict.”
El-Fasher acts as a humanitarian hub for Darfur, which is home to around a quarter of Sudan’s 48 million inhabitants.
Until recently, the town had been relatively unaffected by the fighting, hosting a large number of refugees. But since mid-April, bombardments and clashes have been reported in the surrounding villages.
“Since then, there have been continuing reports of clashes in the eastern and northern parts of the city, resulting in more than 36,000 people displaced,” said Edem Wosornu, a director at for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, noting that Doctors Without Borders has treated more than 100 casualties in el-Facher in recent days.
“The total number of civilian casualties is likely much higher.”
“The violence poses an extreme and immediate danger to the 800,000 civilians who reside in el-Fasher. And it risks triggering further violence in other parts of Darfur,” she warned.
DiCarlo added that fighting in el-Fasher “could unleash bloody intercommunal strife throughout Darfur” and further hamper the distribution of humanitarian aid in a region “already on the brink of famine.”
The region was already ravaged more than 20 years ago by the scorched-earth policy carried out by the Janjaweed — Arab militiamen who have since joined the RSF — for then-president Omar Al-Bashir.
The new conflict in Sudan, which began on April 15, 2023, has already claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 8.5 million people, according to the UN.


US says UN World Food Programme has agreed to help in distribution of aid to Gaza via sea route

US says UN World Food Programme has agreed to help in distribution of aid to Gaza via sea route
Updated 20 April 2024
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US says UN World Food Programme has agreed to help in distribution of aid to Gaza via sea route

US says UN World Food Programme has agreed to help in distribution of aid to Gaza via sea route
  • US officials say they were working with WFP on how to deliver the aid to Palestinian civilians “in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner”
  • The NGO group World Central Kitchen stopped its aid distribution work after an Israeli attack killed seven aid workers on April 1

WASHINGTON: The UN World Food Programme has agreed to help deliver aid for the starving civilians of Gaza once the US military completes a pier for transporting the humanitarian assistance by sea, US officials said Friday.

The involvement of the UN agency could help resolve one of the major obstacles facing the US-planned project — the reluctance of aid groups to handle on-the-ground distribution of food and other badly needed goods in Gaza absent significant changes by Israel.
An Israeli military attack April 1 that killed seven aid workers from the World Central Kitchen intensified international criticism of Israel for failing to provide security for humanitarian workers or allow adequate amounts of aid across its land borders.
President Joe Biden, himself facing criticism over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza while supporting Israel’s military campaign against Hamas, announced March 8 that the US military would build the temporary pier and causeway, as an alternative to the land routes.
The US Agency for International Development confirmed to The Associated Press that it would partner with the WFP on delivering humanitarian assistance to Gaza via the maritime corridor.
“This is a complex operation that requires coordination between many partners, and our conversations are ongoing. Throughout Gaza, the safety and security of humanitarian actors is critical to the delivery of assistance, and we continue to advocate for measures that will give humanitarians greater assurances,” USAID said in its statement to the AP.
US and WFP officials were working on how to deliver the aid to Palestinian civilians “in an independent, neutral, and impartial manner,” the agency said.
There was no immediate comment from the WFP, and an WFP spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Israel promised to open more border crossings into Gaza and increase the flow of aid after its drone strikes killed the seven aid workers, who were delivering food into the Palestinian territory.

The war was sparked when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking some 250 others hostage. The Israeli offensive in Gaza, aimed at destroying Hamas, has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials. Hundreds of UN and other humanitarian workers are among those killed by Israeli strikes.
International officials say famine is imminent in northern Gaza, where 70 percent of people are experiencing catastrophic hunger.
The US military will be constructing what’s known as a modular causeway as part of the maritime route, in hopes that handling the inspection and processing of the aid offshore will speed the distribution to Gaza’s people.
Offshore, the Army will build a large floating platform where ships can unload pallets of aid. Then the aid will be transferred by Army boats to a motorized string of steel pier or causeway sections that will be anchored to the shore.
Several Army vessels and Miliary Sealift Command ships are already in the Mediterranean Sea, and are working to prepare and build the platform and pier.
That pier is expected to be as much as 1,800 feet (550 meters) long, with two lanes, and the Pentagon has said it could accommodate the delivery of more than 2 million meals a day for Gaza residents.
Army Col. Sam Miller, commander of the 7th Transportation Brigade, which is in charge of building the pier, said about 500 of his soldiers will participate in the mission. All together, Pentagon officials have said about 1,000 US troops will be involved.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters this week that the US in on track to have the system in place by the end of the month or early May. The actual construction of the pier had been on hold as US and international officials hammered out agreements for the collection and distribution of the aid.
He said the US has been making progress, and that Israel has agreed to provide security on the shore. The White House has made clear that there will be no US troops on the ground in Gaza, so while they will be constructing elements of the pier they will not transport aid onto the shore.
US Navy ships and the Army vessels will provide security for US forces building the pier.


Hamas chief Haniyeh arrives in Turkiye for talks

Hamas chief Haniyeh arrives in Turkiye for talks
Updated 20 April 2024
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Hamas chief Haniyeh arrives in Turkiye for talks

Hamas chief Haniyeh arrives in Turkiye for talks
  • Fidan said he spoke with Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar, about how Hamas — designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — “must clearly express its expectations, especially about a two-state solution”

ISTANBUL: A leader of Palestinian militant group Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Istanbul Friday evening for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the death toll in Gaza passed 34,000.
A statement from Hamas Friday said Erdogan and Haniyeh would discuss the conflict in Gaza, adding that the head of the group’s political bureau was accompanied by a delegation.
Middle East tensions are at a high after Israel’s reported attack on Iran and Gaza bracing for a new Israeli offensive.
Erdogan insisted on Wednesday that he would continue “to defend the Palestinian struggle and to be the voice of the oppressed Palestinian people.”
But talking to journalists on Friday, he refused to be drawn on the details on the meeting.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan was in Qatar Wednesday and said he spent three hours with Haniyeh and his aides for “a wide exchange of views in particular about negotiations for a ceasefire.”
Qatar, a mediator between Israel and Hamas, acknowledged Wednesday that negotiations to end hostilities in Gaza and liberate hostages were “stalling.”
Fidan said he spoke with Haniyeh, who lives in Qatar, about how Hamas — designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union — “must clearly express its expectations, especially about a two-state solution.”
Erdogan’s last meeting with Haniyeh was in July 2023 when Erdogan hosted him and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at the presidential palace in Ankara. Haniyeh had last met Fidan in Turkiye on January 2.
The war in Gaza started after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people, mainly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel says around 129 are believed to be held in Gaza, including 34 presumed dead.
Israel’s retaliatory military campaign has killed at least 34,012 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.
 

 


Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, sources say

Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces advance towards the city of Tal Afar, Iraq. (AFP file photo)
Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces advance towards the city of Tal Afar, Iraq. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 April 2024
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Huge blast at military base used by Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, sources say

Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces advance towards the city of Tal Afar, Iraq. (AFP file photo)
  • PMF sources said the strikes targeted a headquarters of the PMF at the Kalso military base near the town of Iskandariya around 50 km south of Baghdad

BAGHDAD: A huge blast rocked a military base used by Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to the south of Baghdad late on Friday, two PMF and two security sources told Reuters.
The two security sources said the blast was a result of an unknown airstrike, which happened around midnight Friday.
The two PMF sources pointed out the strikes did not lead to casualties but caused material damage.
PMF sources said the strikes targeted a headquarters of the PMF at the Kalso military base near the town of Iskandariya around 50 km south of Baghdad.
Government officials did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The PMF started out as a grouping of armed factions, many close to Iran, that was later recognized as a formal security force by Iraqi authorities.
Factions within the PMF took part in months of rocket and drone attacks on US forces in Iraq amid Israel’s Gaza campaign but ceased to do so in February.