Jerusalem, Nov 12 (AP/UNB) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushing back to Israel on Monday following a sudden burst of fighting the previous night that left in doubt efforts to bring to an end months of relentless violence between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli military said an officer was killed and another was moderately wounded during an operation in the southeast Gaza Strip, involving an exchange of gunfire. It did not disclose other details surrounding the incident.
The Palestinians said seven people, among them at least five militants, were killed in the conflagration.
Netanyahu's office said he cut short a visit to Paris because of the flare-up and he was set to arrive back in Israel on Monday morning.
The unexpected spasm of violence came days after both Israel and Hamas had begun taking steps to ratchet down months of border fighting, that has seen thousands of protesters descend on the perimeter fence between Gaza and Israel, with many throwing stones, burning tires and hurling grenades at Israeli troops.
About 170 demonstrators, many unarmed, have been killed by Israeli fire in the months of confrontations, which appeared to be reaching a turning point with the steps toward an unofficial cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million in aid to Gaza's cash-strapped Hamas rulers. Hamas responded by lowering the intensity of the border protest last Friday.
While the fighting eased early on Monday, and the sides appeared to show restraint, the fate of the progress toward a truce remained uncertain.
It was not clear what exactly touched off Sunday's fighting.
Hamas' armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said Israeli undercover forces in a civilian vehicle infiltrated 3 kilometers (about 2 miles), into Gaza on Sunday and fatally shot Nour el-Deen Baraka, its local commander in Khan Younis town. It said militants discovered the car and chased it down, prompting Israeli airstrikes that killed "a number of people." The Israeli military said militants launched 17 rockets from Gaza toward Israeli communities, where school was cancelled in response.
Netanyahu was in Paris, where he had joined dozens of world leaders in commemorating the end of World War I.
On Sunday, he defended his decision to allow through the Qatari cash to Gaza as a way to avert an "unnecessary war," maintain quiet for residents of southern Israel and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the impoverished Gaza Strip.
Hamas has been leading the protests since March 30 in a bid to ease a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was imposed in 2007 in order to weaken the militant group. The blockade has led to over 50 percent unemployment and chronic power outages, and prevents most Gazans from being able to leave the tiny territory.
Israel says it is defending its border against militant infiltrations, but its army has come under international criticism because of the large number of unarmed protesters who have been shot.
Turkey, Nov 11 (AP/UNB) — Officials from Saudi Arabia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain have listened to audio recordings related to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey's president said Saturday, in the first public acknowledgement of the existence of tapes of the slaying.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also told reporters that Saudi Arabia had to "act fairly" and disclose those responsible for the Oct. 2 killing of The Washington Post journalist to rid itself of "suspicion."
"We gave them the tapes. We gave them to Saudi Arabia, to America, to the Germans, the French, to the British, to all of them," Erdogan said before departing for Paris to attend ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
"They (Saudi officials) also listened to the conversations and they know. There is no need to distort this. They know for certain who among the 15 is the killer or are the killers," he said.
He was referring to an alleged 15-member assassination squad that Turkey believes was sent to kill Khashoggi at the consulate where he had arrived to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancee.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, who visited Turkey last month for information on the investigation, is reported to have heard the audio recordings of the killing. The existence of the recordings was leaked to the media but never openly confirmed until now.
Turkey says Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was strangled and dismembered at the consulate as part of a premeditated killing. Media reports have suggested that his body could have been chemically dissolved.
Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include the 15 members of the alleged assassination squad.
Saudi Arabia had insisted for weeks after Khashoggi disappeared that he had walked out of the consulate, before changing its account to say he died in a brawl.
Last month, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Turkish evidence indicates that Khashoggi's killing was premeditated, shifting its explanation in an apparent effort to ease international outrage over the death.
Saudi officials characterize the killing as a rogue operation carried out by Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. Yet some of those implicated in the killing are close to the crown prince, including a member of the prince's entourage on foreign trips who was seen at the consulate before Khashoggi's slaying.
Erdogan accused Saudi Arabia's chief prosecutor, who was sent to Istanbul last month as part of a joint probe, of employing "delaying tactics."
"Saudi Arabia needs to accept that (the killer) is among the 18 and needs to get rid of the suspicion by responding to Turkey's good will and acting fairly," Erdogan said.
Ankara, Nov 10 (AP/UNB) — Turkey's president says four soldiers have been killed and around 20 others injured in an explosion at an ammunition depot at a base in southeast Turkey.
The Defense Ministry had announced Friday that 25 soldiers were wounded and seven others were missing following an unexplained accident during the firing of heavy weapons ammunition. The blast occurred at a base in Hakkari province, bordering Iraq and Iran. The base is used to combat Kurdish rebels.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that the incident involved an ammunition depot explosion and resulted in four deaths.
He was speaking at a memorial on the 80th anniversary of the death of the Turkish republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
It wasn't clear if the explosion occurred during training or a clash against rebels.
Syria, Nov 10 (AP/UNB) — A Syrian woman liberated from captivity says Islamic State militants held her and more than two dozen other women and children in different hideouts for nearly three months.
She says they once kept them captive in a moving car for over 12 hours without knowing where they were headed.
Najwa Abu Ammar, from the southern Sweida province, says the militants didn't torture them but fed them sporadically and insulted and beat the children.
As her ordeal was about to end, Najwa Abu Ammar's 8-year-old was shot by IS militants during an operation by the Syrian military to liberate the hostages held since July. Her son Rafaat died in her arms.
His cousin Qusay, 13, was also shot and bled for five hours before he died.
Dubai, Nov 10 (AP/UNB) — The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said early Saturday it had "requested cessation of inflight refueling" by the U.S. for its fighter jets after American officials said they would stop the operations amid growing anger over civilian casualties from the kingdom's airstrikes.
The decision by Americans to pull out also comes amid outrage by U.S. lawmakers from both political parties over the Oct. 2 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The Saudi acknowledgement, and later U.S. comments, appeared aimed at suggesting the kingdom was behind the decision. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who launched the Yemen war as the kingdom's defense minister in March 2015, faces widespread international criticism for the war and after members of his entourage allegedly took part in Khashoggi's slaying.
"We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. government, to use the coalition's own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen," U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement. "The U.S. will also continue working with the coalition and Yemen to minimize civilian casualties and expand urgent humanitarian efforts throughout the country."
It wasn't immediately clear what impact the U.S. withdrawal from air refueling operations would have. American officials earlier said Saudi forces now handled some 80 percent of their refueling operations, which crucially allow aircraft to fly longer sorties over possible targets and can ease the pressure for quick strikes.
Yet even with that refueling support, Saudi Arabia has faced widespread international criticism over its campaign of airstrikes in the coalition's war in Yemen, targeting Shiite rebels known as Houthis who hold the capital, Sanaa.
Saudi strikes have hit public markets, hospitals and other nonmilitary targets, killing scores of civilians. One such Saudi-led airstrike in August in Yemen's Saada province hit a bus and killed dozens of people, including schoolchildren wearing backpacks. Human rights groups have found fragments of American-made munitions after several of these strikes.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday to discuss the decision before its announcement, said the end to refueling wouldn't stop American training and military assistance. The Post first reported the Trump administration's desire to end the refueling.
The Saudi statement, carried early Saturday on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, did not acknowledge the Trump administration's discussions and pressure for its withdrawal.
"Recently the kingdom and the coalition has increased its capability to independently conduct inflight refueling in Yemen," the statement read. "As a result, in consultation with the United States, the coalition has requested cessation of inflight refueling support for its operations in Yemen."
It also said it hoped upcoming United Nations sponsored talks "in a third country" would help end the war. U.N. special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has said he is consultations with Yemen's warring parties to finalize details for a new round of peace talks. However, Griffiths' effort to revive peace talks in September fell through after the Houthis failed to attend, arguing they didn't have guarantees for their safe return.
The pullout from refueling comes amid new American efforts to force an end to a conflict described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, has stood on the brink of famine and faced disease outbreaks in a conflict that has killed at least 10,000 people.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE view the war as a means to limit Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula. While Iran directly denies arming the rebels, the United Nations and Western powers have documented arms transfers to the Houthis by Tehran of everything from Kalashnikov assault rifles to the ballistic missile technology used to periodically target cities as far away as the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. The Houthis also have imprisoned opponents and indiscriminately laid land mines.
Both Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have pushed for a cease-fire in recent days. Saudi and Emirati forces, as well as their allies on the ground, have made a renewed push for the Houthi-held Red Sea port city of Hodeida, through which most food and aid enters Yemen. International aid agencies warn any disruption to the port could sever that crucial lifeline.
"Hodeida is at risk of being obliterated," said Mohamed Abdi of the Norwegian Refugee Council. "We are now warning that by allowing this to go on, parties to the conflict and their international backers will be responsible for the death, injury and suffering of millions of people."