At least 35 Houthis killed in clashes with Yemeni army

            By Jeyhun Aliyev</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - At least 35 Houthis were killed in clashes with the Yemeni army Tuesday in Qataba district of Al-Dhalea province, according to the Ministry of Defense’s official website September Net.</p>  <p>National army forces backed by popular resistance groups launched an attack on positions of the Houthi militia in the areas of Hamrat and Watta Al-Wa’al, it said.</p>  <p>At least 15 others were wounded during the clashes, the source said, adding the soldiers destroyed and confiscated some military vehicles and ammunition of the Houthis.</p>  <p>Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.</p>  <p>The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains. </p>  <p>The ongoing conflict has wrecked much of the impoverished country’s basic infrastructure, prompting the UN to describe the situation there as “one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times”.</p>  <p> 

Gunmen kill soldier in NW Pakistan

By Islamuddin Sajid

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – At least one soldier of the Pakistan army was killed and three others wounded when militants targeted army vehicles near the northwestern border with Afghanistan.

A military vehicle was ambushed near Khar Kamar area when the soldiers were on their way to Datta Khel in North Waziristan, state-run Radio Pakistan reported.

The injured soldiers have been shifted to Miran Shah Hospital, official media added.

Later, security forces cordoned off the area and launched a search operation to apprehend the culprits.

This was the second militant attack on soldiers in Waziristan district during the last four days.

North Waziristan, one of the seven tribal districts last year merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan, has been a battleground between the army and Taliban militants since June 2014 following the launch of a full-scale military onslaught.

According to Pakistan's army, almost 3,000 militants have been killed in the operations which have left more than 200 troops dead from 2014 to 2016.

Sudan’s army to make statement soon, state TV says

             By Omer Erdem</p>    <p>KHARTOUM, Sudan (AA) - Sudan's state TV announced on Thursday that army would make an important announcement soon.</p>    <p>Sudanese troops were deployed around the state media building, and some soldiers reportedly entered the building in Omdurman, the country’s second largest city.</p>    <p>Hundreds of Sudanese protesters on Wednesday staged a sit-in outside army headquarters in the capital for the fifth day in a row amid continued calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down. </p>    <p>Since Saturday, at least 22 people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which have repeatedly tried to disperse the sit-in by force, according to the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors. </p>    <p>The police, for their part, said that only a single protester was killed.</p>    <p>Sudan has been shaken by protests since last December, with demonstrators demanding the departure of al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989.

Venezuelan army arrests soldiers calling for uprising

By Gamze Turkoglu Oguz

CARACAS, Venezuela (AA) – A group of soldiers calling for an uprising against the Venezuelan government were reportedly arrested on Monday.

"A small group of soldiers were arrested who betrayed their oath of allegiance to the homeland," said a statement published on Twitter accounts of Television of Venezuela and the Ministry of Popular Power for Defense.

A series of videos against President Nicolas Maduro shared on social media on Monday triggered a wave of demonstrations in the city.

In the video, a man who introduced himself as Sergeant Armando Figueroa called on Venezuelans and soldiers to gather on the streets against the government.

Security forces intervened with tear gas to disperse protesters in Cotiza district, a poor neighborhood 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the presidential palace.

The Venezuelan government has not yet commented on the issue.

*Beyza Binnur Donmez from Ankara contributed to this story

Turkey 'neutralizes' 68 terrorists in past week

By Muhammed Boztepe

ANKARA (AA) – The Turkish army "neutralized" 68 PKK terrorists in domestic and foreign counter-terror operations over the week.

Turkish Defense Ministry told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the army has 'neutralized' 68 PKK terrorists in operations held across Turkey and in northern Iraq from Nov. 9 to 15.

Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralize" in their statements to imply the terrorists in question either surrendered or were killed or captured.

In these anti-terror operations, Turkish security forces seized several infantry rifles, anti-tank systems, ammo and mines.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children.

UPDATE 2 – Israel strikes dozens of targets in Gaza Strip

ADDS MORE TARGETS HIT BY ISRAELI JETS

By Mustafa Deveci

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Israel launched airstrikes early Saturday against several targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rockets it said were fired towards the country.

Fighter jets and helicopters pounded 80 Hamas targets in Gaza in an operation lasting more than two hours, the Israeli army said in a press release.

The army said on its Twitter account that 30 rockets had been fired from Gaza towards Israel since late Friday but 10 were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defense system.

Sirens were heard in Israeli settlements near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone because of the rockets fired from Gaza.

Israel targeted several sites, including two weapons manufacturing facilities, five military compounds, a training compound, a tunnel and an anti-aircraft observation post.

There have been no deaths from the airstrikes, according to Palestinian medical sources in Gaza.

Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that Israeli jets struck five Hamas targets in Gaza.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said an Israeli airstrike damaged the Indonesia Hospital in northern Gaza.

Other eyewitnesses said several people at the hospital were slightly injured from glass shards and pieces of concrete.

The hospital, inaugurated by the country’s vice president in 2016, was the latest foreign hospital to open in Gaza following the $34 million Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, a project Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – then premier — agreed to sponsor in 2010.

Condemning the Israeli airstrikes, al-Qidra called on international organizations to protect medical institutions and paramedics against Israeli air attacks in Gaza.

The latest developments come after five Palestinians were killed and 85 others injured by Israeli army gunfire during demonstrations Friday along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Hundreds of Palestinians had converged along the zone as part of ongoing demonstrations against Israel’s decades-long occupation.

More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by Israeli troops deployed near the buffer zone since such rallies began on March 30.

Pakistan army denies 'deal' with ex-PM Nawaz Sharif

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Pakistan's powerful army on Tuesday denied it had reached an agreement with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted and jailed in a corruption scandal.

Rana Mashood, a former minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, in a television interview claimed that issues with the "establishment" — a term coined to denote the army — had been sorted out and that his party will form a government in Punjab province, the country's political power base, in the coming weeks.

"Attribution of an obvious vested statement by Rana Mashhood is baseless and regrettable. Such irresponsible expressions are detrimental to stability in the country," army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said in a tweet.

The rare denial to a political statement led to speculations by analysts and experts.

Mashood later said that he had been quoted out of context, but insisted that a change of government in Punjab was likely.

His party distanced itself from the statement.

Party spokeswoman Marriyum Aurangzeb said: "Rana Mashhood's statement has nothing to do with the PML-N or its leadership."

The opposition in the country alleges that the general elections in July were tilted in favor of Prime Minister Imran Khan, with Sharif embroiled and jailed in a corruption case. Some go as far as to say Khan was selected by the army to lead the country.

Sharif was released from jail last month after a high court suspended his sentence in a case related to the purchase of four upmarket London apartments.

Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party forms the government in Punjab currently with the help of smaller coalition partners, even though PML-N emerged as the single largest party in the election.

Worst may be over for Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – A court verdict securing the release of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter, and son-in-law has brought some relief to the country's most influential political dynasty.

But analysts claim that Wednesday's ruling by the Islamabad High Court suspending jail terms for the trio is not the end of troubled times ahead.

The three-time prime minister still stands trial for two corruption cases. The conviction in the third case has been suspended but not set aside.

Last July, 68-year-old Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court over the Panama Papers scandal, which also led to the filing of three corruption cases against him and his family. Not long after, the top court also barred him from holding the leadership of his party.

Subsequently, he was sentenced to 10 years in jail by an accountability court in Islamabad in a corruption case in May.

Sharif, his daughter and political heir Maryam Nawaz, and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were convicted of buying four apartments at Avenfield House in London’s posh Park Lane area in 1993 through illegal means.

Maryam Nawaz and Safdar — not co-accused — in the two pending cases against Sharif were sentenced to seven years and one year in jail, respectively.

– Troubled times ahead

Speaking about the verdict, Rasheed Rizvi, a former high court judge, said: "This is just a bail granted to Sharif family. The conviction is very much there, which can be upheld or set aside by the high court after hearing the appeal."

Rizvi, who also formerly headed the Supreme Court Bar Association, added that Sharif would only be considered out of danger if he is acquitted in the two pending corruption cases and the appeal against his conviction in the Avenfield case is granted.

"This will be a lengthy judicial process. Even if he is acquitted in the two cases by the trial court, the government will move to high and supreme courts against his acquittal, which takes a long time," he maintained.

The country's anti-corruption watchdog, National Accountability Bureau (NAB), has already announced to challenge the suspension of Sharif's conviction in the Supreme Court.

Ali Ahmed Kurd, another former head of the Supreme Court Bar Association, does not see Sharif in jail in the near future.

"Suspension of conviction is a huge victory for Sharif on moral, legal and political grounds. The prosecution completely failed to convince the judges because there was no weight in the conviction handed down by the trial court," Kurd said speaking to Anadolu Agency.

He agreed that the two pending cases against Sharif might turn the table but he does not see any weight in the trial, which is likely to take a month or so to conclude.

"Avenfield case was the strongest case chosen by the establishment [a term used for the country's powerful military and top bureaucracy] to try Sharif. When this case has failed to convince the judges, then one does not need to be a genius to figure out the potential in the other two cases," he said.

Relations between Sharif and the army remained sour during all three of his terms in office — 1990 to 1992, 1997 to 1999, and 2013 to 2017.

Sharif's elected government was toppled by then-army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf in a bloodless military coup in 1999.

"It's hard to predict anything in Pakistan. But I believe there is no longer any need to send Sharif back to jail because the purpose for which the whole exercise was carried out has been served," Kurd said, echoing a widely-held perception that the former premier was sent to jail to provide an open playing field for incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan, who his opponents call the blue-eyed boy of the establishment.

– Morale boost

Sharif's release is not likely to bring about a radical change in the current political set up, however it will boost the morale of workers of his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), observers say.

"There will be no change in the political arena as the new government has just been formed. Not only the establishment but Sharif himself would not want to destabilize the current system," Salman Ghani, a Lahore-based political analyst told Anadolu Agency.

"Sharif's release would serve as a morale booster for party workers who appeared dismayed for several reasons, including the defeat in the general election," he said, "and as a result keep a check on Imran Khan's government."

Iftikhar Firdous, an Islamabad-based political commentator, said: "A premier who was de-seated, jailed and now released, though temporarily, is quite a significant development keeping the country's political history in view."

He was referring to the hanging of the country's first democratically elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 by then-army chief Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

"Sharif alone at the moment will not be as powerful without support of other political allies. The real threat to Imran Khan would be when and if he [Sharif] manages to get the major chunk of the opposition parties on his side," he added.

Firdous added that Maryam Nawaz could lead the party against the new government as Sharif remains embroiled in court cases.

– Saudi role

Ghani claimed that he senses a secret role of Saudi Arabia behind Sharif's release, citing a meeting between the Saudi ambassador and Sharif last week while he was out on parole to attend the funeral of his wife.

Kulsoom Nawaz died after a long battle with cancer in London, while her husband and daughter were jailed in Pakistan.

"I cannot comment on the court judgment but I strongly believe that there was a behind the curtain role of Saudi Arabia in Sharif's release," he said.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry rejected the perception saying Sharif will not be allowed to leave the country, or be given any favor, in an interview to local broadcaster Geo News.

Riyadh, Islamabad's longtime ally, has frequently played its role in settling Pakistan's local disputes. The most significant was a deal brokered by the late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz to secure Sharif's release in 2001 following dismissal of his government by Musharraf. Sharif later remained in exile in the Kingdom till 2007 in line with the deal.

* Islamuddin Sajid contributed to this story from Islamabad