March 27, 2017 at 3:55 am

One dead as 1,000 refugees rescued in the Mediterranean

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One woman was found dead while more than 1,000 refugees were rescued off the Libyan coast, aid groups said on Sunday. 

Around 400 people were crammed onto a single wooden boat, while others were picked up from huge inflatable dinghies, which had set sail from the coast of Libya, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and SOS Mediterranee. 

A young woman was found unconscious on one of the vessels and later died, MSF said.

Two rescue ships found the refugees, just days after 250 migrants and refugees from African countries were reported missing in boat disasters off the Libyan coast.

The weekend rescues mean that about 22,000 mainly African refugees have been picked up heading to Italy so far this year, while around 520 have died trying to make the crossing.

READ MORE: 2016: The year the world stopped caring about refugees

An Italian prosecutor said last week that humanitarian ships operating off Libya were undermining the fight against people smugglers and opening a corridor that is ultimately leading to more deaths.

Non-governmental organisations deny any wrongdoing, saying they are simply looking to save lives.

Despite rough winter seas, refugee departures from Libya on boats chartered by people traffickers have accelerated in recent months from already record levels.

More people  died in the Mediterranean over the first nine weeks of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says. From January 1 to March 9 this year, at least 521 people drowned while attempting to cross the rough waters compared with 471 in the same period a year ago.

There were about 5,000 recorded deaths in all of 2016.

Last month, European leaders signed a controversial plan to help stem the flow of African migrants to Europe. As part of the deal, the European Union will give $215m to Libya’s fragile government to step up efforts to stop boats in the country’s territorial waters.

READ MORE: EU roadmap for Libya to stem flow of sea migrants

The EU will also provide support for the setting up of “safe” camps in Libya and the voluntary repatriation of refugees willing to return to their countries of origin.

The plan has been criticised by several aid groups, however, that say leaders have abandoned humanitarian values and misrepresented conditions in Libya, where the UN-backed government of Fayez Serraj has only shaky and partial hold on the country. 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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at 3:55 am

Prosecutors seek arrest of ex-president Park Geun-hye

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South Korean prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for ousted president Park Geun-hye, they said, days after questioning her over the corruption and abuse of power scandal that brought her down.

Park, 65, had her removal from office confirmed by the country’s top court earlier this month, ending her executive immunity, and her prosecution has been a key demand of the millions of people who took to the streets to protest against her.

The former president is accused of multiple offences including bribery, leaking government information, and abuse of power in the scandal.

READ MORE: Prosecutors question S Korea’s Park Geun-hye

“The accused abused her enormous power and status as president to receive bribes from companies or to infringe upon the rights to freedom of corporate management and leaked important confidential information on state affairs. These are grave issues,” the prosecutors said in a statement on Sunday.

“A large amount of evidence has been collected so far but the accused is denying most of the charges, and there is a risk of destroying evidence in the future,” it said.

Choi Soon-Sil, Park’s secret confidante at the heart of the scandal, is already on trial for forcing top local firms to “donate” nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations she allegedly used for personal gain.

Prosecutors said it would be “counter to the principle of fairness” if Park was not arrested.

If Seoul Central District Court approves the warrant, Park will become the third former leader to be arrested over corruption in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, where politics and big business have long been closely tied.

READ MORE: The day Park Geun-hye was ousted

Two former army-backed leaders who ruled in the 1980s and 1990s – Chun Doo-Hwan and Roh Tae-Woo – both served jail terms for charges including bribery after they retired.

Park has been named as Choi’s accomplice for allegedly offering governmental favours to top businessmen who enriched her friend, including Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong, who was arrested last month and charged with bribery last month.

She is also accused of letting Choi, a high school graduate with no title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including nomination of top officials.

The former president has denied any legal wrongdoing. She apologised for putting trust in Choi, but said she only let her edit some of her presidential speeches and provide the president with some “public relations” help.

Park, daughter of late dictator Park Chung-Hee, is also said to have ordered aides to leak secret state files to Choi, and to have cracked down on thousands of artists who had voiced criticisms of her or her father’s rule from 1961 to 1979.

Park was elected in 2012, largely thanks to a bedrock of support among older, conservative voters who benefited from rapid economic growth under her father’s rule.

Source: News agencies

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March 26, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Gaza-Israel border shut after Mazen Faqha killing

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Hamas authorities have shut the Gaza border with Israel after the killing of a senior commander, which Hamas blamed on “Israel and its collaborators”.

The rare measure reflected Hamas’ shock after the killing of Mazen Faqha , who was found shot dead at the entrance of his Gaza City home late on Friday.

Hamas Interior Ministry spokesman Iyad al-Bozum on Sunday announced  (Arabic) that the Beit Hanoun checkpoint, which faces the Israeli crossing of Erez in the north of the Gaza Strip, would be closed until further notice.

“In light of the humanitarian situation, only the residents of Gaza with humanitarian cases will be allowed to return to Gaza via the Beit Hanoun checkpoint,” Bozum said.

Bozum confirmed that Hamas security services were investigating the circumstances of Faqha’s killing.

He called on Gaza’s citizens and media to be responsible in dealing with the event and not to circulate rumours about the incident.

IN PICTURES: Thousands attend Gaza funeral of slain Hamas official

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, told Al Jazeera that Hamas will not announce how it plans to respond to the assassination, but the “blood of our people will not go in vain, especially in a crime this big”. 

On whether the group plans to respond militarily, al-Zahar said, “This is a security issue that we cannot disclose. But for sure, the Israeli entity will be punished and deterred.” 

Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, said Faqha was shot four times in the head with a silenced gun. The group said that Israel and its “collaborators” were responsible for the killing. 

“No one would benefit from this crime except the Zionist enemy and not to mention, the Zionist enemy announced in all of its media that the leader, Mazen Faqha, is on the top of the wanted list,” senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil told Al Jazeera. 

“The Palestinian resistance has its methods and the capacity to respond,” al-Bardawil said. 

“The punishment will be of the same nature as the attack. The matter is now in the resistance movement’s hands,” he added. 

READ MORE: Hamas blames Israel after Mazen Faqha assassination

Faqha, 38, was a senior Hamas official in the Israeli-occupied West Bank when he was jailed by Israel in 2003 for planning attacks against Israelis.

He was sentenced to nine life terms but was released into the Gaza Strip as one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners that Israel let go in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalit was held in the coastal enclave after being seized in a cross-border raid in 2006.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the assassination in the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal enclave, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2006.

The Islamic Jihad movement said Faqha’s assassination marked the beginning of “a new offensive” by Israel against the Palestinian resistance, and that the resistance had the right to respond and defend itself.

With additional reporting by Hosam Salem from Gaza

Source: Al Jazeera News

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at 3:46 pm

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny detained in Moscow rally

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and dozens others have been detained as thousands of people across Russia defied bans on rallies to protest against government corruption.

The demonstrations on Sunday were organised by Navalny, a Kremlin critic and anti-corruption campaigner, who urged people to take to the streets to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

“Don’t try to fight for me,” Navalny wrote on Twitter after police in Moscow put him in a minibus, urging people to stay with the rally. “Our issue today is the fight against corruption.”

Navalny called for the protests after publishing a detailed report this month accusing Medvedev of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of non-profit organisations.

Medvedev, who has so far made no comments on the claims, is accused of amassing a private collection of  mansions, yachts and vineyards. The alleged luxuries include a house for raising ducks, so many placards in the protests showed mocking images of yellow duck toys.

The protests, which attracted crowds of hundreds or thousands in most sizeable Russian cities, were the largest coordinated outpourings of dissatisfaction in Russia since mass protests in 2011-2012.

Navalny’s website had previously said that more than 80 towns and cities across Russia would hold protests on Sunday and that authorities had not sanctioned the majority of the rallies.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow, said the “big story” of the day was the number of demonstrations taking place across Russia.

“That is rare,” he said. “This suggest that Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption message is really resonating at the moment in Russia, in a way that more generalised anti-government messages don’t.

“When people feel like the politicians above them are cheating them, that it seems is when Russians get angry and stand up and do something.”

Police officers detain an opposition supporter during an anti-corruption protest in Vladivostok [Yuri Maltsev/Reuters]

Russian authorities had warned Navalny’s supporters on Friday not to attend the rally because the event had not been sanctioned by the city administration.

The Russian constitution allows public gatherings but recent laws have criminalised protests unauthorised by city authorities, who frequently refuse to grant permission for rallies by Kremlin critics.

OPINION: Russia’s soft warfare

In the far eastern city of Vladivostok, a Reuters news agency reporter saw the detention of at least 30 protesters at an unsanctioned rally drawing hundreds of young people to a square near the city’s railway station.

The detentions started after protesters unfurled banners reading “Corruption steals our future” and “The prime minister should answer”.

The protesters then marched to a local police station to demand that police free those who had been detained.

Police officers detain an opposition supporter during a rally in the city of Vladivostok on Sunday [Reuters]

Hundreds also rallied in the city of Yekaterinburg in the industrial Urals region.

Witnesses said at least four people holding banners were detained on the city’s Labour Square, where opposition protesters, nationalists and supporters of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party gathered.

Police said 500 to 700 people had gathered on Labour Square but did not confirm that there had been any detentions.

“Corruption affects every person. The fight against corruption can unite all people irrespective of their convictions,” 20-year-old student Ivan told Reuters, asking that his last name not be published.

OPINION: Under surveillance in Russia

Some demonstrators have protested with their faces painted green, a reference to a recent attack on Navalny when an assailant threw a green anti-septic liquid onto his face.

In February, a Russian court found Navalny guilty in a retrial of a 2013 fraud case, which barred him from running for president next year.

Judge Alexei Vtyurin handed down a five-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of about $8,500 to Navalny for embezzling timber worth about $500,000.

Navalny, 40, pledged to appeal against the “politically motivated” ruling and continue with his plans of challenging President Vladimir Putin in the forthcoming presidential elections, even though the Russian law bars anyone convicted of a crime from running for a public office for 10 years.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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at 3:46 pm

In west Mosul, ‘nowhere is safe for civilians’

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The Iraqi army on Sunday resumed operations against ISIL in Mosul after a one-day pause, amid growing concerns over an escalating civilian death toll as fierce fighting reaches the city’s most densely populated areas.

The offensive was briefly put on hold after local officials and residents in west Mosul said suspected US-led coalition air raids last week had killed scores of civilians at the ISIL-held al-Jadida district. 

Security forces on Saturday did not permit journalists to get where the strikes were said to have taken place, but the coalition admitted that it had struck the area on March 17, and said it was investigating the reports of civilian deaths. 

What exactly happened on March 17 remains unclear and details are difficult to confirm as Iraqi forces battle with ISIL to recapture the heavily populated parts of the western half of Mosul, the armed group’s last stronghold in Iraq.

Witnesses and local officials say more than 200 bodies have been pulled from a collapsed building after a coalition air raid.

But in a statement on Sunday, the Iraqi army said there was no sign the structure had been hit by a strike – blaming the collapse on booby-traps set by ISIL instead.

“A team of military experts from field commanders checked the building where the media reported that the house was completely destroyed. All walls were booby-trapped and there is no hole that indicates an air strike,” it said, adding that 61 bodies were recovered from the rubble.

READ MORE: Grief and questions amid wreckage of Mosul air strikes

Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from a hospital in Erbil, northern Iraq, spoke to people who confirmed they had lost family members on the air raids of March 17.

“We’ve been speaking to some of the patients and certainly the words air strikes come up a lot in the conversation,” she said, referencing a man who said 22 of his relatives had been killed in an air raid, while he had to spend several days under the rubble before being rescued.

“When you ask them what happened … people here say the main problem is that you have ISIL fighters who are roaming around, going in and out of houses, on top of rooftops to take positions and then disappear.

“So apparently many of the air strikes, according to the people we spoke here, hit the wrong target – simply by the time the air strike arrives and is called in, the ISIL fighters have disappeared”.

‘Brutal fighting’

The US-backed offensive to drive ISIL out of Mosul, now in its sixth month, has recaptured most of the city. The entire eastern side and about half of the west is under Iraqi control.

But advances have stuttered in the past two weeks as fighting enters the narrow alleys of the Old City, home to the al-Nuri Mosque where ISIL group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning large areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Iraqi forces on Sunday deployed snipers to target ISIL fighters who were using civilians as human shields, Joint Operations Command spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told the AFP news agency.

The military was relying on “light and medium weapons, among them sniper (rifles), to hunt for Daesh (ISIL) members” located among civilians, he said.

RED MORE: Battle for Mosul – Civilians at ‘grave risk’ 

Rasool accused ISIL of gathering civilians together and then blowing up explosives-rigged vehicles nearby to make it look like “Iraqi forces … are targeting innocent civilians”.

However, Iraqi forces have also frequently fired mortar rounds and unguided rockets during the battle for west Mosul – weapons that pose a much greater risk to residents of areas where fighting is taking place.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still inside the Old City and exposed to the intense fighting.

“Patients here say there is nowhere safe in western Mosul for civilians,” Al Jazeera’s Abdel-Hamid, reporting from the hospital in Erbil, said.

“They say the fight in western Mosul is not the same as the fight that happened in the east part of the city. They say it’s much more brutal, with many more air strikes and much more shelling.”

According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 people have fled west Mosul since the operation to retake the area was launched on February 19.

But the United Nations has said that around 600,000 are still present inside the city.

Caroline Gluck, a senior public information officer in Iraq with the UN’s refugee agency, said the situation is deteriorating daily.

“The fighting is coming closer to people’s home. It’s a very densely-packed area, particularly in the Old City, so families have been terrified by the mortars, the shelling and the air strikes,” she told Al Jazeera from Baghdad.

Gluck said a major factor in many residents’ “very difficult decision” to flee is growing hunger.

“Families have told us they rely on one meal a day and that meal is really just water and flour. People are getting desperate; there is no fuel, no heating, and they are burning furniture and old rugs to try and stay warm.”

mosul war map isil isis control who controls what

Following the raids, the UN called on parties to the conflict to do “everything possible” to protect civilians in Mosul.

“International humanitarian law is clear. Parties to the conflict – all parties – are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians.

“This means that combatants cannot use people as human shields and cannot imperil lives through indiscriminate use of fire-power,” said Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.

According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 people have fled west Mosul since the operation to retake the area was launched on February 19.

But the UN has said that around 600,000 are still present inside the city.

Source: News agencies

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at 3:45 am

Scores detained after defying Belarus protest ban

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Authorities in Belarus have detained scores of people, including journalists, as protesters attempted to hold a banned rally in the capital, Minsk, amid rising public anger over falling living standards and an unpopular tax on the unemployed.

The planned demonstration was the latest in a wave of protests since February that pose the biggest challenge in years to President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state since 1994.

News agencies reported that protesters were taken away by riot police on Saturday, a day after authorities told organisers the event would be illegal.

Amnesty International said on its Russian-language Twitter account that dozens of people were grabbed off the street “indiscriminately”. Several journalists were among those held, while some of those seized were beaten, according to reports.

The wide-scale detentions were also reported by Viasna, a human rights group, which also said that police had earlier raided its offices and briefly detained about 60 activists.

Opposition leader Vladimir Nekliayev, who was set to speak at the main protest, was also stopped at the border on Saturday morning on his way to Minsk, his wife told the AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Minsk, said smaller groups of protesters gathered in other places around the city after the main demonstration was blocked by police. He added though, that police soon turned up at those gatherings as well.

WATCH: Belarus: Europe’s last dictatorship

Earlier this week, Lukashenko accused a “fifth column” of plotting to overthrow him with the help of foreign-backed fighters. On Friday, he built on this theme, saying “someone wants to blow up the situation, and they use our scumbags”.

Belarus has been in recession for the past two years, suffering the knock-on effects of an economic downturn in Russia and a sharp fall in oil prices.

Uladzimir Matskevich, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that this hardship has brought thousands to the streets, including former Lukashenko supporters.

“The special thing about this year is that this protest wave has spread to small towns where unemployment is high and they are economically depressed,” Matskevich said.

“In these places people used to support this regime. Now the situation has changed and the authorities got frightened,” he added.

Protester Lubov Sankevich told Reuters news agency that he no longer supports Lukashenko.  

“I voted for him, but now I tell Lukashenko – leave,” Sankevich said. “I’m afraid but how long we can be afraid? Why should I be afraid of prison if I’m already in prison?” 

A tax on those unemployed for six months, known as a law against “social parasites”, was among the issues that first triggered the protests.

Lukashenko suspended the tax in light of the backlash, but the protests have continued.

Those against the tax say it is unfairly punishes people who are unable to find work.

The protests were triggered by a tax on the unemployed, which the government has since suspended [Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters]

Journalists targeted

Saturday’s crackdown was the culmination of the Belarussian authorities hardening their position on the protests.

Valentin Stefanovich, a rights activists, told Al Jazeera he believed the crackdown was meant to bring down the momentum of the protesters. 

“I suspect that the goal is to bring down the intensity of the rallies which we’ve seen during last month,” Stefanovich said. 

On Friday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) joined 48 rights organisations in calling for Lukashenko to end the “detention and harassment of protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists and members of the country’s opposition party”.

According to CPJ, at least 32 journalists have been detained or obstructed since the beginning of the month.

It is unclear as yet how the crackdown will affect relations with Belarus’ neighbours.

Lukashenko has sought to improve ties with the West against the backdrop of cooling relations with Russia.

He has pardoned several political prisoners, spurring the European Union to lift sanctions against a country once described by the US as ” Europe’s last dictatorship“. 

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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at 3:45 am

Has the rule of engagement changed in Iraq?

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There has been a dramatic rise in the number of civilians killed in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Syria and Iraq.

Rights groups who monitor deaths of civilians in both countries have said dozens of people have been killed in recent weeks in three separate air strikes.

Most of those who died were in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

The US-led coalition on Saturday admitted to carrying out air raids last week at a location in west Mosul where scores of civilians were reportedly killed.

Several more were killed in northern Syria, when bombs were dropped on a school sheltering people and on a mosque. The US is investigating the incidents.

So, what is behind what appears to be an increase in the number of air raids against ISIL? And why has there been a sharp increase in the number of civilian deaths?

Presenter: Martine Dennis


Mark Kimmitt – retired US brigadier general who served as the deputy director of operations and chief military spokesman in Iraq

Ahmed Rushdi – director of the House of Iraqi Expertise Foundation

Chris Woods – director of, which tracks air strikes and civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria

Source: Al Jazeera News

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at 3:45 am

Erdogan: Turkey may hold EU accession referendum

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey may hold a referendum on whether to carry on with negotiations about joining the European Union.

Turkey, which applied for EU membership in 1987, began accession talks in 2005. Yet, negotiations have moved very slowly due to disagreements over Cyprus, human rights and other issues. 

Speaking on Saturday at a Turkish-Anglo conference in southern Antalya province, Erdogan said Ankara would likely review its ties with the bloc after a nationwide vote next month on sweeping constitutional changes.

“You [Britain] have made a decision with Brexit, there may be different things after April 16,” he said, referencing a June 2016 referendum in which British voters backed the country’s exit from the EU.

“We have a referendum on April 16. After it, we may hold a Brexit-like referendum on the [EU] negotiations. No matter what our nation decides, we will obey it,” Erdogan was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency as saying.

READ MORE: Turkey’s constitutional reform – All you need to know

April’s referendum comes less than a year after a failed coup attempt against the government.

Voters will decide if they want a set of constitutional changes to significantly expand presidential powers.

The key amendments foresee the creation of vice presidents and the abolition of the office of the prime minister.

The government says the changes will prevent a return to fragile parliamentary coalitions of the past, and provide stability at a time of turmoil.

But critics say the proposed changes are actually aimed at weakening the parliament while creating a political system without checks and balances, which may eventually bring Turkey under a one-man rule.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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March 25, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Frustration as cabin electronics ban comes into force

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The US and British ban on laptops and tablets in carry-on luggage on some flights from the Middle East and North Africa has come into force, immediately drawing complaints from passengers at several airports.

The ban requires that personal devices larger than a mobile phone – such as tablets, laptops and cameras – be placed in checked baggage for US and Britain-bound flights.

The US restrictions apply to flights originating from 10 airports in countries including Turkey , Qatar and the United Arab Emirates .

The British restrictions do not include the UAE or Qatar , but do affect Turkey, Lebanon , Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia .

The affected airports had until Saturday to implement the new rules.


The bans have already led to discontent and complaints from passengers at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, which is one of those listed.

“This airport is so secured. The security level is so high compared to other airports in the rest of this part of the world. So, why doing that from here?” Haggai Mazursky, a traveller, told Reuters news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said the airlines were trying to limit passengers’ frustrations while holding talks with the United States to lift the ban. 

“They [Turkish airlines] believe that if the comfort of passenger is affected, it will impact the industry as a whole and the company as well,” she said.

“In efforts to make it easier for the passengers, they [Turkish Airlines] are offering free wifi during flights and will also launch a special mobile application in April.”

READ MORE: The Arab airlines using Trump’s bans for marketing

US and British officials said the decision to implement the security measures was a result of intelligence showing an increased risk for “terrorist activity” involving commercial aviation.

However, many observers in the Middle East and North Africa said the ban amounted to discrimination, while others questioned the basis for the electronics ban, saying they were a ploy to undermine the aviation industry of the countries affected.

“If you say it like this, you are saying everybody can be a terrorist. It’s not respectful. I think it’s not good,” said one passenger at Ataturk International Airport.

READ MORE: US electronics ban for Middle East flights draws doubts

Geoffrey Thomas, the editor-in-chief of, said the UK joining the ban gave it some credibility that there might be an evolving threat, “but, at the same time, the UK has not banned UAE and Qatar, which raises a lot of concern as to what this is all about”.

“Some suggest that the ban on UAE and Qatar has more to do with the Trump administration’s desire to curb the power of Middle East carriers, because one of the crazy parts about this ban is that Emirates from Dubai to Athens, and on to the US, is not included in the measures.

“And then, you have cities that actually have security challenges, such as  Lagos and Islamabad, which are also not included in the ban. So, there are questions about this that leave a lot of experts perplexed,” Thomas said.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that talks were under way to try to persuade the US and Britain to exclude Turkish Airlines and Istanbul airport from the ban s.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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at 3:43 pm

Hamas blames Israel after Mazen Faqha assassination

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Unknown assailants in the Gaza Strip have shot dead a senior Hamas member, officials in Gaza said, blaming Israel for the killing.

Iyad al-Bozum, an interior ministry spokesman in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, said that gunmen opened fire on Mazen Faqha in the Tell al-Hama neighbourhood, adding that an investigation into the incident has been launched. 

“Hamas and its military wing hold Israel and its collaborators responsible for this despicable crime… Israel knows that the blood of fighters is not spilled in vain and Hamas will know how to act,” the group said in a statement.

Another senior Hamas official, Izzat El-Reshiq, said the killers used silencers on their weapons during the attack.

Police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji said Faqha had “four bullets in his head” and said Israel and its “collaborators” were responsible for the killing. “We know how to respond to this crime,” he added.

Faqha, 38, was a senior Hamas official in the Israeli-occupied West Bank when he was jailed by Israel in 2003 for planning attacks against Israelis.

He was sentenced to nine life terms but was released into the Gaza Strip as one of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners that Israel let go in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit.

Shalit was held in the coastal enclave after being seized in a cross-border raid in 2006.

An Israeli military spokeswoman declined to comment on the assissination in the Hamas-run Palestinian coastal enclave, which has been under Israeli blockade since 2006.

Source: News agencies

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