ISTANBUL: Turkey has closed its airspace to Russian civilian and military planes flying to Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted as saying Saturday by local media.
The announcement marks one of the strongest responses to date by Turkey, which has cultivated close ties with Moscow despite being a member of the NATO defense alliance, to Russia’s two-month military assault on Ukraine.
“We closed the airspace to Russia’s military planes — and even civilian ones — flying to Syria. They had until April, and we asked in March,” Turkish media quoted Cavusoglu as saying to reporters on a plane en route to Uruguay. He said permission had been given for three month periods until April, and then the flights stopped.
Cavusoglu said he conveyed the decision to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who then relayed it to President Vladimir Putin.
“One or two days later, they said: Putin has issued an order, we will not fly anymore,” Cavusoglu was quoted as telling Turkish reporters aboard his plane to Uruguay.
Cavusoglu added that the ban would stay in place for three months.
There was no immediate response to Turkey’s announcement from Russia, which together with Iran has been a crucial supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad during the war-torn country’s civil war.
Turkey has backed Syrian rebels during the conflict.
Ankara’s relations with Moscow briefly imploded after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Turkish-Syrian border in 2015.
But they had been improving until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Turkey views as an important trade partner and diplomatic ally.
Turkey has been trying to mediate an end to the conflict, hosting meetings between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul, and another between Lavrov and Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya.
Cavusoglu said talks were continuing between Russia and Ukraine and the sides were working toward a draft joint declaration.
Ankara is now trying to arrange an Istanbul summit between Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, although Cavusoglu conceded that the prospects of such talks at this point remain dim.
“If they want a deal, it’s inevitable,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying. “It might not happen for a long time, but it can happen suddenly.”
(With AFP and Reuters)
TRIPOLI: Lebanese rescue teams searched the Mediterranean for survivors Monday after an overloaded people-smuggling boat capsized while being pursued by naval forces, with dozens unaccounted for still missing at sea.
At least seven people died as a result of the tragedy, which occurred late Saturday just off the coast of the northern port city of Tripoli.
It was Lebanon’s worst such disaster in years, igniting widespread rage just three weeks before May 15 parliamentary elections.
The latest body was retrieved on Monday morning.
“The body of a woman from the Al-Nimr family was recovered today from the Tripoli beach,” the director general of Tripoli Port Ahmed Tamer told AFP, adding that rescue efforts were ongoing.
The Lebanese army said on Sunday that 48 people had been rescued, but it was not immediately clear exactly how many would-be asylum seekers were crammed onto the boat when it set off.
The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said the boat was carrying at least 84 people when it capsized, about three nautical miles (3.5 miles, 5.5 kilometers) off the coast of Tripoli.
According to UNHCR figures, that means potentially some 30 people are still unaccounted for.
The passengers included Syrian and Palestinian refugees but most were Lebanese, local media reported.
The circumstances that led the small and overloaded craft to sink were not entirely clear, with some survivors claiming the navy rammed into their boat, and officials insisting the smuggler attempted reckless escape maneuvers.
Lebanon was once a transit point for asylum seekers from elsewhere in the region who were hoping to reach the shores of European Union member Cyprus by sea, an island 175 kilometers (110 miles) away.
However, an unprecedented economic crisis that has caused hyper-inflation and plunged millions into poverty is driving growing numbers of Lebanese to attempt the perilous crossing.
The UN says more than 1,500 would-be asylum seekers tried to leave Lebanon illegally by sea since the start of 2021.
“Lebanon’s economic crisis has triggered one of the largest waves of migration in the country’s history,” said Mathieu Luciano, Lebanon head of the International Organization for Migration.
At Tripoli’s port, brothers Abdelkarim and Mahmud Dandashi were anxiously waiting for news of eight relatives.
“They were trying to find refuge in European countries — countries that take pity on people. They kill people here,” Abdelkarim said.
“If you don’t die of hunger here, you die at sea,” he said.
The tragedy triggered small protests on Saturday, one by people who cut off one the main roads leading to Tripoli, and another in front of the morgue where the bodies of the victims were brought.
Overnight, activists removed electoral posters from the walls of Tripoli — a city ravaged by unemployment but also home to some of Lebanon’s wealthiest politicians.
On Sunday evening, a video started circulating on social media showing Energy Minister Walid Fayad being taken to task on the street over living conditions and shoved hard against a wall.
The man who assaulted him posted the video, and criticized Fayad and the government for being insensitive to the fate of millions of desperate Lebanese.
Social media was also abuzz with a picture of Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s 79-meter-long (259 foot) 100-million-dollar yacht docked in the French city of Nice, with a cardboard banner alongside that read: “The people of Tripoli are being assassinated by this yacht’s owner.”
Mikati hails from Tripoli and is also Lebanon’s richest man, with a net worth estimated at around $3.2 billion, slightly more than the International Monetary Fund aid package agreed earlier this month to rescue the country.
TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s state television said authorities have foiled massive cyberattacks that sought to target public services, both government and privately owned.
The report late on Sunday said Iran thwarted the attacks that planned to target the infrastructure of more than 100 public sector agencies. It did not elaborate or name specific examples of public sector agencies, organizations or services but said the incidents happened in recent days.
The report said that unidentified parties behind the cyberattacks used Internet Protocols in the Netherlands, Britain and the United States to stage the attacks.
Iran occasionally announces cyberattacks targeting the Islamic Republic as world powers struggle to revive a tattered nuclear deal with Tehran.
In October, an assault on Iran’s fuel distribution system paralyzed gas stations nationwide, leading to long lines of angry motorists stranded in long lines and unable to get subsidized fuel for days. In July, a cyberattack on Iran’s railway system caused chaos and train delays.
Iran disconnected much of its government infrastructure from the Internet after the Stuxnet computer virus — widely believed to be a joint US-Israeli creation — disrupted Iranian centrifuges in the country’s nuclear sites in the late 2000s.
JERUSALEM: A projectile fired from Lebanon hit an open area in Israel on Monday and Israeli artillery targeted an area where the attack was launched, the Israeli military said.
The rare flareup on the Israeli-Lebanese border followed clashes over the past two weeks between Palestinians and Israeli police at Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem that have stoked Arab anger and international concern.
Small Palestinian factions in Lebanon have fired sporadically on Israel in the past.
On Twitter, the Israeli military said no sirens were sounded and no alert was declared in northern Israel when the projectile, which it did not identify in its posting, struck.
Israel’s anti-missile defense system does not necessarily intercept projectiles if they appear to be on track to hit unpopulated areas.
In response to the attack, Israeli artillery “targeted the source of the launch,” the Israeli military said, without giving further details.
Israel’s northern border has been mostly quiet since a 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas, who have sway in southern Lebanon and an arsenal of advanced rockets.
CAIRO: Egypt released more than three dozen prisoners Sunday, a week before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is typically a time of amnesty, a political party and state-run media said.
Political activists and family members confirmed several high-profile detainees were freed.
The Reform and Development Party said those freed had been political prisoners being held in pre-trial detention. The English edition of the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said 41 prisoners in all were released.
The government’s human rights body said in a statement only that there had been a release of individuals held in pre-trial detention but gave no details.
The move came a week before the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan. It is typically a time when prisoners are released on presidential pardons, but the number of those freed was one of the largest in recent years. Thousands of political prisoners, however, are estimated to remain inside Egypt’s jails, many without trial.
Among the released was political activist Waleed Shawky, his wife, Heba Anees, said on social media. She posted a picture of the couple hugging.
Journalist Mohamed Salah was also released, activist Esraa Abdel Fattah said. And Nabeh Elganadi, a human rights lawyer, posted a picture with Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested after making videos posted on social media criticizing President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
Under broad counterterrorism laws, Egypt’s state prosecutors have often used vague charges to renew 15-day pretrial detention periods for months or years, often with little evidence.
On Sunday, Sanaa Seif, the sister of one of Egypt’s most high-profile detained activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah, said her brother had faced new ill-treatment in prison and he was on the 22th day of a hunger strike.
Meanwhile, new arrests are still taking place. On Saturday, the human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said several men in the country’s south had been arrested and accused of spreading lies after they sung a song about rising food prices in a video posted online.
The government of El-Sisi — a US ally with deep economic ties to European countries — has been relentlessly silencing dissenters and clamping down on independent organizations for years with arrests, detentions and jail sentences, and other restrictions.
Many of the top activists involved in the 2011 uprising in Egypt are now in prison, most of them arrested under a draconian law passed in 2013 that effectively bans all street protests.
JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a request to reopen an investigation into the deaths of four Palestinian children who were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing on the beach in the Gaza Strip during a 2014 war.
In its ruling, the court upheld earlier decisions by Israeli military investigators and legal authorities determining the incident was a tragic mistake.
“With all of the sorrow and heartache over the tragic and difficult outcome of the event in this petition, I did not find that the petitioners pointed to a flaw in the decision of the attorney general,” said Sunday’s ruling, signed by the court’s president, Esther Hayut, and approved unanimously with two other justices.
The cousins from the Bakr family, all between 10 and 11 years old, were playing soccer on the beach when they were killed during the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
The incident drew widespread international attention, in part because many foreign journalists staying in nearby hotels witnessed the incident. Images showed the children desperately running away from a jetty as a missile falls, and then the boys falling to the ground one after another.
The appeal to the Supreme Court was filed by three human rights organizations — the Israeli group Adalah and the Gaza-based Al-Mezan and Palestinian Center for Human Rights — who were seeking a criminal investigation into the incident.
In a joint statement, the groups said Sunday’s decision “is further evidence that Israel is unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute soldiers and commanders for war crimes against Palestinian civilians.”
Critics have long accused Israel and its military of whitewashing wrongdoing by its troops. Last year, the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged Israeli crimes in the Palestinian territories, including actions during the 2014 war. Bakr family members delivered testimony to the court during a preliminary inquiry.
Israel has rejected the ICC case, saying its legal system is capable of investigating the military and accusing the court of antisemitism.