UPDATE – Israeli troops kill 4 Palestinians at Gaza border

<p>REVISES HEADLINE, DECK AND LEDE, ADDS DETAILS </p> <p>By Ayse Sumeyra Aydogdu and Hamdi Yildiz</p> <p>GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Four Palestinians, including a teenager, were martyred Friday in the blockaded Gaza Strip during a rally against Israel’s decades-long occupation and an Israeli airstrike. </p> <p>The Health Ministry in Gaza said in a written statement that two people, including 19-year-old Raid Abu Tair, were killed by Israeli gunfire in Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis during the rally. </p> <p>It said the others were martyred in an Israeli airstrike targeting the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing. </p> <p>A total of 51 people were also injured in both incidents, the ministry said. </p> <p>According to the Israeli army, two of its soldiers were injured at the Gaza border.</p> <p>In response, the army said it destroyed a target belonging to the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.</p> <p>Protesters in Gaza demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.</p> <p>They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly 2 million inhabitants of many basic commodities.</p> <p>Palestinians have been protesting against Israel since March 2018 as part of the &quot;Great March of Return&quot;, during which Israeli troops have opened fire on civilian crowds with live bullets.</p> <p>At least 200 Palestinians have been martyred since the beginning of the demonstrations.</p> *Writing by Nilay Kar Onum and Can Erozden


UPDATE – Erdogan unveils new projects at Istanbul mega-rally

By Ali Murat Alhas <br>


ANKARA (AA) – Addressing voters at a mega-rally in Istanbul Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced several projects to create jobs and benefit the economy.

The rally of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and its election ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) came just one week before Turkey faces critical local polls on March 31.

The rally was headlined by Erdogan, also the AK Party head, along with MHP leader Devlet Bahceli and Binali Yildirim, the party’s Istanbul mayoral candidate.

Erdogan said the rally drew 1.6 million supporters, citing official figures.

He said Turkey would establish a technology development facility worth 3.5 billion Turkish liras ($600 million), with a view to producing technology using its own resources.

He added that Istanbul, Turkey’s commercial capital, would host a “giant ” 900 million Turkish liras ($156 million) movie production facility.

“We’re establishing the 6 billion Turkish liras [$1.04 billion] Tuzla Biotechnology Valley, where antibodies, vaccines, lenses, and chemotherapy drugs will be produced. It will create 20,000 jobs, ” he vowed.

President Erdogan went on to say that 17 large-scale rehabilitation centers would be set up to assist 200,000 disabled people in Istanbul.

The massive rally in Yenikapi Square, spanning some 270,000 square meters, featured a huge platform, large speakers, and mega-video screens so all the spectators could see the stage.

With the clock ticking down to March 31, Election Day, Turkey is seeing daily campaign rallies and speeches by candidates and political leaders.

Twelve political parties are set to compete in the local polls.

The AK Party and MHP joined forces for the elections under the People’s Alliance banner.

Their opponents are the Nation Alliance, which is a bloc including the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Good (IYI) Party.

* Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this story from Ankara


Palestinian dies of wounds sustained during Gaza rally

By Hidaye es-Saidi</p> <p>GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – A Palestinian child succumbed to injuries sustained Wednesday while taking part in anti-occupation rallies east of Gaza.</p> <p>“Seyfeddin Abu Zeid, 15, has died of injuries suffered Wednesday at the hands of Israeli occupation forces,” Gaza’s Health Ministry said in a statement.</p> <p>More than 250 Palestinians have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire and thousands more injured since Gazans began staging weekly protests at points along the border between Gaza and Israel in March of last year. </p> <p>Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel. </p> <p>They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.


Europe owes its safety to Turkey’s sacrifices: Erdogan

By Ahmet Salih Alacaci

ANKARA (AA) – Europe owes its current peace to the sacrifices of Turkey and its people, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Speaking at a rally in southeastern Kahramanmaras province, Erdogan said the Syrians, who fled civil war in their country and took shelter in Turkey, “missed their country. ”

<p>&quot;They [Syrians] want to return to their homeland as soon as possible,&quot; he added.</p> <p>The Turkish president said around 311,000 Syrians have returned to areas in Afrin, Jarablus and Idlib that are cleared of terrorists by Turkish forces and its allies. </p> <p>Erdogan noted that Turkey was pushing to make the region of Idlib totally secure and said Ankara had made &quot;significant progress&quot; in talks with Russia and Iran in this regard.</p> <p>He underlined if cooperation from these countries was not possible, Ankara was determined to reach this goal via its own efforts.</p> <p>Calling for support for Turkey’s efforts to facilitate the return of Syrians to their country, Erdogan stressed at least 500,000 Syrians were waiting for Turkey to secure the northern Syrian town of Manbij — currently under the control of the YPG/PYD/PKK terror group — before being able to return to the region.</p> <p>&quot;Millions of Syrians will return home when we secure the east of the Euphrates [River],&quot; Erdogan said.</p> <p>Turkey has promised a counter-terrorist operation east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, following two similar successful operations since 2016.</p> <p>Since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, including Al-Bab, Afrin and Azaz, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence there to return home.</p> <p> </p> <p>In its 30-year terrorist campaign, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives, including women and children. The YPG is its Syrian branch. </p> <p>


Turkey: First ruling AK Party election rally on Friday

By Serhat Zafer</p> <p>SIVAS, Turkey (AA) – Turkey’s president and ruling party leader will kick off campaign rallies for the March 31 local elections on Friday, according to officials.</p> <p>Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president and ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party leader, will hold his first rally in the historic central province of Sivas, said the local governor on Wednesday.</p> <p>&quot;We’ve been expecting the 100th anniversary of the Sivas Congress to be joyous and exciting,&quot; Salih Ayhan told reporters, adding that Erdogan’s rally would commemorate the day the decisions known as the National Pact — which fundamentally shaped the course of the Turkish War of Independence — were taken.</p> <p>An opening ceremony will double as a campaign rally for Erdogan.</p> <p>Turkey is gearing up for the local polls, held every five years, with 13 political parties taking part this year.</p> <p>Turkish citizens are set to elect some 1,398 mayors across the country.</p> <p>Among them are 30 municipalities in 81 provinces and 921 district municipalities.</p> <p>Voters will also elect municipal council members as well as other local leaders.</p> <p>


Gazans demonstrate in support of Venezuela president

By Nour Abu Aisha </p> <p>GAZA CITY (AA) – Dozens of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Monday staged a rally in support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who is currently facing an attempted coup.<br>

The rally, organized by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), was held outside the UN’s office in Gaza City.

Demonstrators chanted pro-Maduro slogans, such as, “Greetings from the revolutionaries … to the symbol of freedom “.

Addressing the crowd, leading DFLP member Talal Abu Zarifa said: “We declare our full solidarity with Venezuela and its government under the leadership of the democratically elected Maduro.”

He added: “We salute the Venezuelan people's willingness to defend their national dignity against the [foreign] hostility that endangers their future.”

Abu Zarifa also hailed the Venezuelan people for “rejecting U.S. interference in their internal affairs”.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10, when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following an election boycotted by the opposition.

Last week, Juan Guaido, leader of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, abruptly declared himself the country’s acting president.

U.S. President Donald Trump quickly recognized Guaido as interim leader, with several countries following suit, including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay.

Bolivia and Mexico, meanwhile, both still recognize Maduro as head of state.

Russia and China, for their part, both oppose Washington’s support for Guaido, condemning what they describe as “foreign interference” in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Ankara and Tehran have also both thrown their support behind Maduro.


2019 WRC season to kick off on January 24

By Bugra Ersavas

ANKARA (AA) – World Rally Championship — one of the world most prestigious motorsports organizations — will kick off with Rally Monte Carlo on January 24.

The new season calendar had been given green light by the International Federation of Automobile (FIA) during a meeting in Paris on Friday.

With its new stage in Chile, there will be 14 hosting countries in 2019 WRC season.

Turkey had hosted a rally in the WRC for the first time in 2018 in Marmaris — a touristic district of Mugla in Aegean region.

This year, Rally Turkey will be the 11th leg of the schedule, between Sept. 12-15.

“Turkey successfully brought a WRC footprint back to the Asian continent and Chile will prove an equally worthy addition to the 2019 calendar, ” said FIA officials after the schedule meeting.

Here is the WRC 2019 calendar:

1. Rally Monte Carlo (Jan. 24-27)

2. Rally Sweden (Feb. 14-17)

3. Rally Mexico (Mar. 7-10)

4. Tour de Corse/Rally France (Mar. 28-31)

5. Rally Argentina (Apr. 25-28)

6. Rally Chile (May 9-12)

7. Rally Portugal (May 30-Jun. 2)

8. Rally Italy (Jun. 13-16)

9. Rally Finland (Aug. 1-4)

10. Rally Germany (Aug. 22-25)

11. Rally Turkey (Sept. 12-15)

12. Rally Great Britain (Oct. 3-6)

13. Rally Spain (Oct. 24-27)

14. Rally Australia (Nov. 14-17)


UPDATE – Turkey-Qatar cooperation to deepen: President Erdogan


By Ahmet Salih Alacaci

ANKARA (AA) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said Ankara’s cooperation with Qatar will continue to strengthen in various sectors including defense, trade, tourism and energy.

“We have never forgotten and will never forget the solidarity displayed to our country by our Qatari brothers on nearly all issues — from the July 15 coup attempt to the attacks in August on [our] exchange rates [Turkish lira],” Erdogan said, speaking at a meeting of automotive manufacturer BMC in Turkey’s northwestern province of Sakarya.

Underlining that the partnership between the two countries is based on a “win-win” model, Erdogan said that Ankara and Doha consolidated their friendship with every “calamity” they faced.

Erdogan underlined that Turkey’s progress would continue in its defense industry, which he said had more than halved its foreign dependence — from 80 percent in 2002 to 35 percent at present.

“Turkey’s military capacity and economic, political and diplomatic capabilities should be robust,” he said, adding that the deterrence of its defense sector had to be “particularly” high.

In a separate rally in Sakarya, Erdogan underlined his government’s support for local entrepreneurs in the defense sector.

“Believe me, were it not for our armed and unarmed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ships, artillery, missiles, armored vehicles, communications systems and software, they would not allow us even to breath, ” he said.

Erdogan also reiterated that education, health, justice and security will be the priorities of his administration.


Erdogan: Terror groups to trouble states that back them

By Ahmet Salih Alacaci </p> <p>ANKARA (AA) – The Turkish president on Saturday said the PKK, YPG, Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO) and Daesh terror groups would eventually become a problem for those nations that have been supporting them. </p> <p>&quot;These are their good days. The terror organizations — PKK, YPG, FETO and Daesh — which they feed and arm today will trouble them in the end,” Recep Tayyip Erodgan said at a rally in Turkey’s northwestern Kocaeli province.</p> <p>Erdogan added the terror groups with &quot;mafia-like methods&quot; — including drug trade, racketeering, human trafficking and prostitution — will become a “nightmare” for those countries which supported them.</p> <p>He said that had “old Turkey” still existed, a terror corridor would have been established in northern Syria and Iraq would have disintegrated.

On the upcoming local elections to be held across Turkey on March 31, the president announced that one million new voters would cast their ballots for the first time.

At the end of the rally, Erdogan announced his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party’s mayoral candidates for the province and its 12 districts.

– Upcoming elections

AK Party and opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are expected to support each other’s candidates in some districts and provinces, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Good (IYI) Party are expected to make same arrangement.

AK Party has nominated Mehmet Ozhaseki, its deputy chairman and a former environment and urbanization minister, for mayor of capital Ankara in the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, Binali Yildirim, current parliament speaker and former prime minister, will run for mayor of Istanbul for AK Party.

CHP also has nominated Ekrem Imamoglu for mayor of Istanbul and Mansur Yavas for Ankara mayor.

Turkish local polls are held every five years to elect mayors of 30 metropolitan municipalities and 51 provincial municipalities.

Along with metropolitan, provincial and district mayors, voters will also elect municipal council members in cities and — in rural areas — mukhtars and members of elder councils.

The last local elections were held on March 30, 2014, which saw AK Party clinch more than 45.5 percent of the vote.


Indonesia: Millions gather for anti-government rally

By Dandy Koswaraputra

JAKARTA (AA) – More than 2 million Indonesians gathered in capital Jakarta on Sunday to mark the second anniversary of the “212 movement ” by holding a peaceful anti-government rally.

The protesters read verses from the holy Quran and sang songs against incumbent President Joko Widodo.

“People are lied to, promises are denied, scholars are tyrannised, mandates are betrayed. In 2019, replace the senseless president, ” said the lyrics of one song.

The protesters dressed in white poured into Jakarta on Saturday night from several cities. They camped overnight to pray in congregation at dawn.

Some 20,000 troops were deployed for their security.

The “212 movement ” was formed after a rally on Dec. 2, 2016 to call for the prosecution over blasphemy of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent.

He was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison in May.