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.

Advertisements

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

Turkish, Chinese army officials to meet soon

By Zuhal Demirci and Tevfik Durul

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish and Chinese army officials will organize a high-level delegation meeting in the coming months, said China's military attaché in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday.

Speaking at the 91st anniversary of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), Zheng Qinli said that exchanges between the two armies would produce fruitful results.

He also expressed pleasure at last month's reelection of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that it will strengthen ties between the two countries.

Turkey: President to make top military appointments

By Sarp Ozer

ANKARA (AA) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will make changes in the top brass of the military, according to a new presidential decree published in the official gazette early Tuesday.

Under the new decree, the president will decide on the promotion of top officers, including colonels, brigadier generals, rear admirals, generals and admirals, in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK).

The appointment of military officers will be made on Victory Day, Aug. 30, every year but this date may also be changed by the president.

The service period for the chief of staff will be four years.

The country officially switched to a new presidential system of government on Monday.

Erdogan’s re-election in the June 24 polls marked Turkey's transition to an executive presidential system of government, doing away with the prime minister's post, among other changes.

Erdogan won an absolute majority in the presidential election with 52.5 percent of the vote, according to Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK).

Turkish army chief vows to fight against terror groups

By Sarp Ozer

ISPARTA, Turkey (AA) – Turkey’s army chief on Thursday vowed to continue the fight against terror groups.

“We continue fighting against all kinds of threats and terror organizations especially FETO, [and] PKK/PYD/YPG and Daesh with determination,” Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar said during a graduation ceremony at the Mountain Commando School in the southwestern province of Isparta.

“Our fight against terrorism will continue uninterrupted in the country and beyond the borders until the last terrorist is destroyed,” Akar added.

The army chief was accompanied by commanders of the Turkish Land, Air and Naval Forces, Gens. Yasar Guler and Hasan Kucukakyuz, and Adm. Adnan Ozbal.

Turkey has launched anti-terror operations in both Qandil and Sinjar regions in northern Iraq, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists from northwestern Syria's Afrin region. On March 18, Day 58 of the operation, Turkish troops, and Free Syrian Army members liberated the town of Afrin.

The PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — resumed its armed campaign against Turkey in July 2015.

Since then, it has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children.

FETO and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated Turkey's defeated coup on July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

UPDATE – Police, army cast ballots in Iraqi parliamentary polls

UPDATES WITH MALFUNCTIONING VOTING MACHINES

By Ibrahim Saleh and Aamer al-Hasaani

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi police, military and security personnel on Thursday began voting in the country's second parliamentary election since 2011.

Polling among the general public is set to take place nationwide on Saturday.

The first polling stations opened in Baghdad’s Al-Karkh district on Thursday morning, where some 935,000 members of the Iraqi army and police — along with Peshmerga loyal to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government — will be eligible to cast ballots.

In the Kurdish region, meanwhile, 99 polling stations have been opened for Peshmerga and Interior Ministry personnel.

Shortly before noon, a number of electronic voting machines — which are being used for the first time in Iraqi elections — malfunctioned, according to Baghdad security chief Jalil Jabbar al-Rubaie.

“The electoral commission has been contacted to address the problems that have occurred at some polling stations due to the malfunctioning of some electronic devices,” al-Rubaie said without stating the number of polling stations effected.

On Saturday, voting will be opened to the general public in Iraq’s second parliamentary poll since U.S. forces withdrew from the country in 2011.

The election will see more than 7,000 candidates compete for seats in Iraq’s 328-member national assembly.

Roughly 24 million Iraqis are registered to take part in the polls.

Police, army cast ballots in Iraqi parliamentary polls

By Ibrahim Saleh

BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraqi police, military and security personnel on Thursday began voting in the country's second parliamentary election since 2011.

Polling among the general public is set to take place nationwide on Saturday.

The first polling stations opened in Baghdad’s Al-Karkh district on Thursday morning, where some 935,000 members of the Iraqi army and police — along with Peshmerga loyal to northern Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government — will be eligible to cast ballots.

In the Kurdish region, meanwhile, 99 polling stations have been opened for Peshmerga and Interior Ministry personnel.

On Saturday, voting will be opened to the general public in Iraq’s second parliamentary poll since U.S. forces withdrew from the country in 2011.

The election will see more than 7,000 candidates compete for seats in Iraq’s 328-member national assembly.

Roughly 24 million Iraqis are registered to take part in the polls.

TIKA donates office equipment to Gambian Supreme Court

By Mustapha K Darboe

BANJUL, Gambia (AA) – The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency has on Thursday donated office equipment to Gambia’s Supreme Court.

The donated items were computers, printers, photocopiers and projectors, among others.

The items were handed over to President of Gambia’s Supreme Court and Chief Justice Hassan Jallow by Turkish ambassador Ismail Sefa Yuceer.

“Gambia is a country that is transitioning to democracy and in a democracy better justice delivery is of special importance,” Yuceer said.

Turkey has also donated similar items to country’s Justice Ministry few months ago.

“We have been making efforts to ensure the efficient running of the Supreme Court and this equipment will be of huge help,” Jallow said.

Murat Oral, TIKA’s regional director was present at the handing over ceremony in Banjul.

Meanwhile, TIKA has also donated sixty flags to Gambian military at the country’s defense headquarters in Banjul as Yuceer and Oral met the country military chief Masanneh Kinteh.

Turkey and Gambia has a longstanding cooperation in the area of security and over 7000 Gambian military men have so far been trained in Turkey.

Turkey is also helping the Gambian army with logistical support which is due to arrive in the country later this year, army chief Kinteh has said.