Middle East round-up: Panic, fear as new quakes hit Turkey, Syria
Here’s a round-up of Al Jazeera’s Middle East coverage this week.
Earthquake survivors deal with trauma in Turkey and Syria, Israel conducts deadliest raid on occupied West Bank in years, and more of the president’s opponents are arrested in Tunisia. Here’s your round-up of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.
It feels exceptionally cruel. After enduring not one but two devastating earthquakes, the people of Turkey and Syria have been subjected to two more, these on the order of magnitudes 6.3 and 5.8, and only three minutes apart.
Naturally, the people in those already devastated cities, towns and villages had no choice but to run out into the streets for safety’s sake. They were no doubt terrified of a repeat of those incredibly powerful earthquakes from two weeks ago, whose death toll only keeps going up, and now stands at almost 50,000. And still, it’s likely to rise even higher.
Monday’s quakes were nowhere near as deadly but they understandably led to more fear and panic. In opposition-held northwestern Syria, a spokesperson for the volunteer rescuers known as the White Helmets told Al Jazeera that this time people had been hurt because of stampedes, with some panic-stricken residents even jumping from buildings when they felt the earth shake. In Turkey, some said that the new quakes had them wondering if the ground would ever stop moving, and that the idea of rebuilding their lives increasingly feels like an illusion.
Despite the latest earthquakes, residents in affected areas are being forced now to turn away from seeking survivors and instead devoting their full attention to their survival.
“We look like we’re alive, but we’re dead,” said a man named Ahmet in the Turkish city of Adiyaman. “We lost 12 relatives; we also died with them.”
Donations are certainly necessary for things like food and shelter, with some remarkable grassroots efforts made by people from all over the world, including a destitute Bosnian grandmother and struggling Rohingya refugees. While all that is certainly appreciated and necessary, experts say that psychosocial programmes are also needed to help survivors cope with the coming days, months and likely years.
[READ: How to donate to Turkey and Syria earthquake disaster response]
Israel’s Government Refuses to Back Down on Judiciary Law
Protesters marched on Israel’s parliament on Monday, extending what has now been weeks of demonstrations against the far-right government’s attempt to limit the power of the judiciary. Despite the persistent public opposition, the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is nevertheless pushing through with the changes, which you can read about here. On the same day as the protest, the new law, which opponents say threatens their democracy, had its first reading in parliament.
Most of the framing about the proposed changes has been around the idea of them posing a threat to Israeli democracy. That said, the protest movement has largely ignored the millions of people who have been excluded from that same political system: Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Take another big story this week: the UN Security Council’s (UNSC) statement on illegal Israeli settlements, which many said was weak and failed to explicitly condemn the Israeli government’s decision to authorise more expansions across the West Bank. Taken together, those actions make the idea of an independent Palestinian state seem even more remote than it already was.
Initially at the UN, people tried to introduce a resolution that would have called for an end to settlement expansion, in accordance with international law. And yet, according to US and Israeli media reports, US pressure on the Palestinian Authority and the United Arab Emirates, which was going to bring the resolution forward at the UNSC, led to a watered-down statement. As a result, it doesn’t seem like the greatest deal. In return for the perceived slap on the wrist, Israel has agreed to merely suspend the demolition of Palestinian homes, and delay the announcement of any new settlement units.
On the ground, the Israeli authorities carried on their campaign of military raids in the occupied West Bank. Israeli forced killed 11 Palestinians on Wednesday in Nablus after fighting local armed groups during a raid, with at least a staggering 102 people injured, more than 80 of them after being shot. Palestinians described the Israeli shooting as “indiscriminate”.
Tunisia’s President Cracks Down on Opponents
President Kais Saied appears to be getting more authoritarian by the day. He got rid of a parliament filled with his opponents in 2021, and replaced it with one that he has stripped of most powers. Those powers are now in his own hands, thanks to a new constitution. And this week, he’s arrested more opponents, including a wave that included leading politicians being taken from their homes. Despite losing support fast, Saied has refused to relent.
[READ: Tunisia’s Saied says migration from sub-Saharan Africa aimed at changing demography]
And Now for Something Different
Many Irish and Palestinian people feel a sort of kindred spirit. Both populations have been occupied by another power, both believing in what they regard as their own righteous cause. Now, Bohemians FC, a top-flight football club in Ireland, have taken that to a new level after they released a football kit that features the Palestinian colours.
Iranian court sentences Iranian-German journalist Jamshid Sharmahd to death | Syria’s al-Assad thanks some Arab countries as he seeks their favour | Iran’s currency hits all-time low as EU drafts more sanctions | Senior ISIL leader killed in Syria during US raid | US secretary of state urges Finland, Sweden accession to NATO in visit to Turkey | At least 53 killed in Syria ISIL attack, says state media | Iran rejects Israeli claims it was behind tanker attack | African Union says Israel’s observer status has been suspended | Qatar-based bid confirmed for Manchester United | Iran denies enriching uranium to 84 percent in row with nuclear watchdog | Israel kills five in Damascus raid in Syria | Saudi Arabia deposits $1bn in Yemen’s Aden-based central bank | Ghanaian footballer Christian Atsu’s body found after Turkey earthquakes.
Quote of the Week
“Our moral code tells us to help people, so my sons do this … we don’t wait for someone to tell us.” | Khaled al-Hamo, after his son Mohammed started cutting hair for free after the Turkey-Syria earthquakes.