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Erdogan to address pro-Palestinian rally on eve of Turkiye’s centenary

Unlike many NATO allies, Turkiye does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation

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Erdogan to address pro-Palestinian rally on eve of Turkiye's centenary

President Tayyip Erdogan will join on Saturday what is expected to be one of the largest pro-Palestinian rallies since the Israel-Hamas war began, courting his Islamist political base a day ahead of the centenary of Turkiye’s secular republic.

Political analysts said his planned address in Istanbul aimed to reinforce his growing criticism of Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip and to overshadow Sunday’s celebrations marking Turkiye’s secular roots.

Turkiye has condemned Israeli civilian deaths caused by Hamas’s Oct 7 rampage through southern Israel, but Erdogan this week called the militant group Palestinian “freedom fighters”.

He also criticised some Western nations’ unconditional support for Jerusalem, drawing sharp rebukes from Italy and Israel.

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Unlike many NATO allies, the European Union and some Gulf states, Turkiye does not consider Hamas a terrorist organisation. It has long hosted the Islamist group’s members, supports a two-state solution and has offered to play a role in negotiating the release of hostages abducted during the Oct 7 assault.

Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and director of the Centre for Economic and Foreign Policy Studies, an Istanbul-based think-tank, said Gaza’s worsening humanitarian crisis and pressure from political allies had prompted Erdogan to sharpen his rhetoric.

Turkiye “will protect its principles and share these with the international community, but it needs to do this with a more delicate diplomacy if it expects to play such a (future) diplomatic role,” Ulgen said.

The heads of Erdogan-allied nationalist and Islamist parties – which helped him secure victory in tight May elections – are expected to attend the rally at Istanbul’s old airport. Some Turkish media reported several Arab leaders were also invited.

ATATURK LEGACY

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This week, Erdogan invited all Turks to attend the rally where he said “only our flag and the Palestine flag will wave”. His Islamist-rooted AK Party predicted more than a million people would come.

Modern Turkiye’s 100th anniversary comes on Sunday, when newspaper headlines could be dominated by news of the Saturday rally rather than celebrations of the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, analysts say.

Erdogan, Turkiye’s longest-serving leader, and his Islamist-rooted AK Party have eroded support for the Western-facing ideals of Ataturk, who is revered by most Turks. In recent years, Erdogan’s portraits have emerged alongside that of Ataturk on government buildings and schools.

“The symbolism is clear and no one in Turkiye is unaware of it – that the pro-Palestinian rally is likely to overshadow celebrations for the centennial of the secular republic,” said Asli Aydintasbas, visiting fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

She said that while Erdogan’s comments about Hamas reflected Ankara’s long-held position, he aimed to benefit from anti-Israel sentiment domestically and “consolidate Turkiye’s Sunni conservatives”.

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The government has said the Israel-Hamas conflict will not curb celebrations of the 100th anniversary, for which it has organised events across the country.

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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