Erdogan backs former environment chief to win back Istanbul

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announces Murat Kurum as his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) candidate in Istanbul's mayoral election in March, in Istanbul, Turkey January 7, 2024. (REUTERS)
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan announces Murat Kurum as his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) candidate in Istanbul's mayoral election in March, in Istanbul, Turkey January 7, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 07 January 2024
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Erdogan backs former environment chief to win back Istanbul

Erdogan backs former environment chief to win back Istanbul
  • Kurum graduated from Konya’s Selcuk University with a degree in civil engineering and served as Erdogan’s environment and urbanization minister from 2018 until last year

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has entrusted a former environment minister to run for mayor of Istanbul and avenge the worst political defeat of the Turkish leader’s two-decade rule.
Murat Kurum will represent Erdogan’s Islamic conservative Justice and Development Party or AKP in March 31 municipal elections in which control of Turkiye’s main cities will be up for grabs.
The secular opposition Republican People’s Party or CHP seized back control of Istanbul for the first time since Erdogan ruled the city as mayor in the 1990s in the watershed 2019 polls.
That vote also saw the opposition win back the capital, Ankara, and keep power in the Aegean port city of Izmir.
The opposition’s control of Turkiye’s three main cities shattered Erdogan’s image of political invincibility and underscored the resentment rising against his dominant rule.

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Murat Kurum will represent President Erdogan’s AKP in March 31 municipal elections in which control of Turkiye’s main cities will be up for grabs.

The president’s rivals campaigned against perceived corruption and a sweeping political crackdown that followed a failed 2016 coup attempt.
During an economic crisis in which the annual inflation rate topped 85 percent, Erdogan bounced back last year to win a tough reelection.
He has since set his sights on winning back Istanbul — the city where he grew up playing street football and where he launched his political career as a self-proclaimed champion of Turkiye’s pious Muslims and the poor.
“We say no stopping until March 31, keep going,” Erdogan told cheering supporters during a party congress in Istanbul.
“We stand before our nation with candidates who run for solutions rather than excuses, who act with humility rather than arrogance,” he said.
Kurum graduated from Konya’s Selcuk University with a degree in civil engineering and served as Erdogan’s environment and urbanization minister from 2018 until last year.
Turkish media reported that the 47-year-old Ankara native came out on top of an internal party poll Erdogan oversaw last month.
Kurum also worked in Turkiye’s housing development administration and became a member of parliament representing one of Istanbul’s districts last year.
His wife, Sengul, has held a senior position at Turkiye’s powerful RTUK media regulator since 2021.
Kurum’s background as an urban planner fits with Erdogan’s claims that Istanbul has become run down and dysfunctional under the control of the opposition.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu edged out Erdogan’s ally in a 2019 election that gained international headlines for being controversially annulled.
Imamoglu won a re-run vote by a massive margin, turning him into an instant hero for the opposition and a formidable foe for Erdogan.
The 52-year-old is widely seen as the opposition’s best bet at winning back the presidency from Erdogan’s AKP in 2028.
He was effectively barred from running for president last year because of a politically charged defamation conviction that his supporters viewed as Erdogan’s vendetta for losing in 2019.
But he has challenged the ruling and repeatedly said he would like to run for president one day.
A defeat for Imamoglu in March could sink his political ambitions and leave the opposition with no clear presidential candidate to run in 2028.
After confirming his candidacy, Kurum appeared to take a potshot at Imamoglu’s national aspirations in a social media message.
“We are here to manage Istanbul in a systematic and planned manner and to give the city the special attention it deserves,” Kurum said.

 


Tunisian man dead after self-immolating in protest against police

Tunisian man dead after self-immolating in protest against police
Updated 11 sec ago
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Tunisian man dead after self-immolating in protest against police

Tunisian man dead after self-immolating in protest against police
  • Tunisia has seen large numbers of people set themselves alight since the death of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation in late 2010 sparked the Arab Spring and led to the ousting of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali

TUNIS: A young Tunisian man died after self-immolating in an act of protest against the police in the central region of Kairouan, his family said Friday.
Yassine Selmi, a 22-year-old construction worker, died Thursday in a hospital in Tunis, two days after setting himself on fire in front of a police station, his father Mansour Selmi told AFP.
He was attempting to “resolve a fight between two people and police officers near a police station” when the officers threatened to arrest him in Bou Hajjla, a small town in Kairouan, said his father.
The young man later came back to the police station with a gasoline container and “set himself on fire in protest” over the police’s threats, the father added.
He said he would seek justice for his son’s death.
Tunisia has seen large numbers of people set themselves alight since the death of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation in late 2010 sparked the Arab Spring and led to the ousting of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Many of the cases have been concentrated in non-coastal areas that are the hardest hit by Tunisia’s economic crisis.
The North African country’s debt currently hovers around 80 percent of its GDP, with a yearly inflation averaging up to 10 percent and an unemployment rate of 40 percent among its youth.
The latest incident came just days after another street vendor in the coastal city of Sfax set herself on fire after a dispute with the police.
Local media said the woman, who was originally from Kairouan, was taken to a hospital with severe burns.
Last year, Nizar Aissaoui, a professional football player in a local team also from Kairouan, self-immolated in protest against what he described as “the police state.”
The wider Kairouan region tops national rankings in unemployment, illiteracy and suicides.
It recorded 26 out of the nation’s 147 documented and attempted suicides in 2023, according to the non-government group FTDES.
 

 


Cable car accident in Turkiye sends 1 passenger to his death and injures 7, with scores stranded

Cable car accident in Turkiye sends 1 passenger to his death and injures 7, with scores stranded
Updated 50 sec ago
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Cable car accident in Turkiye sends 1 passenger to his death and injures 7, with scores stranded

Cable car accident in Turkiye sends 1 passenger to his death and injures 7, with scores stranded

ISTANBUL: One person was killed and seven injured Friday when a cable car pod in southern Turkiye hit a pole and burst open, sending the passengers plummeting to the mountainside below, officials and local media said. Scores of other people were left stranded late into the night after the entire cable car system came to a standstill.
Two children were among the injured in the accident at the Tunektepe cable car just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya at about 6 p.m. during the busy Eid Al-Fitr holiday, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.
Anadolu identified the deceased as a 54-year-old Turkish man, and said six Turkish citizens and one Kyrgyz national were injured.
Five of the injured were ferried off the mountain by helicopter and efforts continued to remove the other two injured people, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said three hours after the accident. The rescue operation involved more than 160 first responders including air crews from the Coast Guard and mountaineering teams from different parts of Turkiye, the minister posted on social media site X.
Some 184 other passengers were trapped in 25 other cable car pods dozens of feet (tens of meters) above the ground as engineers tried to restart the system, Antalya Mayor Muhittin Bocek said in a statement. Helicopters with night vision imaging were heading to the site, he said.
Search and rescue agency AFAD later said 49 people had been rescued from the suspended pods, leaving 135 still stranded close to midnight — about six hours after the accident.
Images in Turkish media showed the battered car swaying from dislodged cables on the side of the rocky mountain as medics tended the wounded.
Friday was the final day of a three-day public holiday in Turkiye marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which sees families flock to coastal resorts.
The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter (2,010-feet) Tunektepe peak. It is run by Antalya Metropolitan Municipality.
Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation. An expert commission including mechanical and electrical engineers and health and safety experts was assigned to determine the cause of the incident.


Blinken discusses ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza with foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt

Blinken discusses ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza with foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt
Updated 3 min 7 sec ago
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Blinken discusses ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza with foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt

Blinken discusses ceasefire, entry of aid into Gaza with foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt
  • Parties stress need to remove all obstacles to ensure adequate supplies are sent
  • Blinken also spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

LONDON: Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Friday received a phone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, and attempts to transport sufficient aid into the area, especially through Jordan.

The parties stressed the need to remove all obstacles to ensure the adequate and immediate entry of aid into the besieged Palestinian territory, the Jordan News Agency reported.

The Jordanian minister stressed the importance of opening all crossings for the entry of aid, and the need for supplies to address the humanitarian crisis caused by the war.

He said that Jordan would be able to send hundreds of trucks to Gaza daily as soon as the northern crossings were opened, allowing the UN and its agencies to receive and distribute the aid.

Safadi also stressed the need to end the Israeli assault on Gaza, and warned of “the disastrous consequences of an Israeli ground offensive against Rafah” in the southern Gaza Strip, Petra added.

US State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, confirmed both officials focused on “diplomatic efforts to achieve an enduring end to the crisis in Gaza that provides lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

He provided details on their efforts to secure an immediate ceasefire, which they hoped would continue “over a period of at least six weeks” as part of a hostage release deal with Hamas.

“Blinken thanked Jordan for its leadership in facilitating the delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, including through joint US-Jordan airdrops and deliveries by land,” Miller also said.

The two parties discussed regional developments and efforts to reduce escalation in the conflict by Iran, as well as a number of bilateral issues.

Blinken also spoke to Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Friday, and the parties agreed to maintain “constant Egypt-US consultations to contain the crisis in Gaza, end the war, and sustain aid delivery,” said Ahmed Abu Zeid, the spokesperson for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He added that Shoukry emphasized the “risks of regional conflict expansion and the unfolding consequences on (the) security and safety of the people.”


Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official
Updated 12 April 2024
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Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official

Northern Gaza facing ‘catastrophe’ without more aid: OCHA official
  • Jamie McGoldrick says communication issues hampering aid delivery, putting aid workers at risk
  • Israel’s military campaign has severely damaged infrastructure, 70% of people at risk of famine

LONDON: Northern Gaza faces a catastrophe without more assistance, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator said on Friday, with communication between the Israeli military and foreign aid groups still poor and no meaningful improvements happening on the ground.

Jamie McGoldrick, who works for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warned that Gaza was sliding into an ever more precarious situation as Israel’s war against Hamas continues into a sixth month.

He said that according to an Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report 70 percent of people in the north of the Gaza Strip were “in real danger of slipping into famine.”

In a briefing on the situation, McGoldrick said the deaths of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers earlier this month were “not a one off” and that there had been “many incidents of that kind.”

“We work with, interact with, the Israeli Defense Forces and the way we notify and communicate is challenging. We don’t have communications equipment inside Gaza to operate properly, as you would have in … other situation(s),” he said.

“We are working in a very hostile area as humanitarians without the possibility of contacting each other. We don’t have radios, we don’t have mobile networks that work. And so, what we then do is we have to find ways of passing messages back to OCHA and other organizations in Rafah and then relaying out. And if we have a serious security incident, we don’t have a hotline, we don’t have any way of communicating (with) the IDF or facing problems at checkpoint or facing problems en route.

“I think that another thing, I would say, that there’s a real challenge of weapons discipline and the challenge of the behavior of (Israeli) soldiers at checkpoints. And we’ve tried, time and time again, to bring that (to their) attention.”

McGoldrick said that communication with the Israeli military was hampering the flow of aid into Gaza.

“Israel believes that their responsibility ends when they deliver trucks from Kerem Shalom and to the Palestinian side, and I would say that that’s certainly not the case,” he said.

“Their responsibility ends when the aid reaches the civilians in Gaza — we have to have them supportive of that. And that means allowing more facilitation, a lot more routes in and, obviously, to provide security for us as we move. At the moment, we don’t have security.”

He said the toll the war had taken on Gaza’s basic infrastructure was also playing a part in hampering aid deliveries.

“The roads themselves are in very poor condition. We are, as the UN, committed to using all possible routes to scale up humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza, but right now we see that there have been a number of commitments made by Israel and a number of concessions,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s been any notable improvement in terms of our ability to move around, certainly not our approval to get convoys going to the north.”

Opening more crossings to supply northern areas of Gaza was an essential step if famine was to be avoided in the area, McGoldrick said.

“All we can do is keep reminding (Israel) and using the pressure from key (UN) member states to remind Israel of the commitments they’ve made and the commitments that we’ve been asking for such a long time.

“That would be an essential lifeline into the north, because that’s where the population, according to the IPC — the recent famine report — that is where the bulk of people who are the most in danger of slipping into famine.

“If we don’t have the chance to expand the delivery of aid into all parts of Gaza, but in particular to the north, then we’re going to face a catastrophe. And the people up there are living such a fragile and precarious existence.”

McGoldrick also noted the difficulty in accessing fresh water and the devastation caused to Gaza’s health sector by Israel’s military campaign.

“People have very much less water than they need. And as a result of that, waterborne diseases due to the lack of safe and clean water and the destruction of the sanitation systems, you know, they’re all bringing about problems for the population living (there),” he said.

“The hospital system there, Al-Shifa, and Nasser, the two big hospitals have been badly damaged or destroyed. And what we have now is three-quarters of the hospitals and most of the primary healthcare clinics are shutting down, leaving only 10 of 36 hospitals functioning.

“We hear of amputations being carried out with(out) anesthesia. You know, miscarriages have increased by a massive number. And I think of all those systems which are not in place, (and) at the soaring rates of infectious diseases — you know, hepatitis C, dehydration, infections and diarrhea. And obviously, given the fact that our supply chain is so weak, we haven’t been able to deliver enough assistance.”


Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25

Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25
Updated 22 min 52 sec ago
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Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25

Israeli settlers rampage through a West Bank village, killing 1 Palestinian and wounding 25
  • Hamas confirms Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades

JERUSALEM: Dozens of angry Israeli settlers stormed into a Palestinian village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Friday, shooting and setting houses and cars on fire. The rampage killed a Palestinian man and wounded 25 others, Palestinian health officials said.
The violence was the latest in an escalation in the West Bank that has accompanied the war in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli rights group said the settlers were searching for a missing 14-year-old boy from their settlement. After the rampage, Israeli troops said they were still searching for the teen.
The killing came after an Israeli raid overnight killed two Palestinians, including a Hamas militant, in confrontation with Israeli forces.

A Palestinian man checks a burnt vehicle after a reported attack by Israeli settlers in the village of Al-Lubban ash-Sharqiya, south of nablus in the occupied West Bank, on April 11, 2024. (AFP)

Palestinian health officials say over 460 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli forces since the war erupted in October.
The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said that settlers stormed into the village of Al-Mughayyir late Friday, searching for the Israeli boy. The group said that settlers were shooting and setting houses on fire in the village.
Videos posted to X by the rights group showed dark clouds of smoke billowing from burning cars as gunshots rang out. A photo posted by the group showed what appeared to be a crowd of masked settlers.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that one man was brought dead to a hospital and 25 were treated for wounds. The Palestine Red Crescent Society said eight of the injured were hit by live fire from settlers.
The deceased man was later identified by his family as 26-year-old Jehad Abu Alia. His father, Afif Abu Alia, said he was shot dead but was unsure whether the fatal bullet was fire by an armed settler or an Israeli soldier.
“My son went with others to defend our land and honor, and this is what happened,” Afif Abu Alia said from a hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where his son’s corpse had been transported.
The attack was condemned by Mohamed Mustafa, the new Palestinian prime minister.
The Israeli army said it was searching for the 14-year-old boy, and that forces had opened fire when stones were hurled at soldiers by Palestinians. It said soldiers also cleared out Israeli settlers from the village.
“As of this moment, the violent riots have been dispersed and there are no Israeli civilians present within the town,” it said.
US officials, including President Joe Biden, have repeatedly raised concerns about a surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since Israel’s war with the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip began. Rights groups have long accused the military of failing to halt settler violence or punish soldiers for wrongdoing.
Earlier on Friday, two Palestinians were killed in confrontations with Israeli forces in the northern West Bank, Palestinian medics and the military said. Hamas said one of those killed was a local commander.
The military said the target of the soldiers’ raid was Mohammed Daraghmeh, a local Hamas commander. It said Daraghmeh was killed in a shootout with Israeli soldiers who discovered weapons in his car. The army alleged that Daraghmeh had been planning attacks on Israeli targets but provided no evidence. It also said assailants hurled explosives at soldiers.
The Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, in a surprise attack and incursion into southern Israel. Around 250 people were seized as hostages by the militants and taken to Gaza.
Israel said Friday it had opened a new crossing for aid trucks into hard-hit northern Gaza as ramps up aid deliveries to the besieged enclave. However, the United Nations says the surge of aid is not being felt in Gaza because of persistent distribution difficulties.
Six months of fighting in Gaza have pushed the tiny Palestinian territory into a humanitarian crisis, leaving more than 1 million people on the brink of starvation.
Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounded over 76,200, the Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.
Israel says it has killed over 12,000 militants during the war, but it has not provided evidence to back up the claim.