Turkey’s interior ministry on Sunday lifted a full lockdown that had ordered people to stay home to fight COVID-19 infections, shifting to a less-restrictive program that still involved curfews on weeknights and weekends.
In a new directive, the ministry called the steps that apply from Monday to June 1 a “gradual normalization.”
Shopping malls will be able to reopen. Some businesses will remain closed, including gyms and cafes, but restaurants will be able to offer take away in addition to delivery. Preschools will resume in-person education but upper grades will continue remote learning.
Turks can return to their workplaces but will have to stay home from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of walking to a market to buy food. Civil servants will continue working remotely or in shifts in offices. Foreign tourists and workers with special permits are exempt.
Unvaccinated senior citizens over 65 will only be allowed to leave their homes between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Intercity travel during curfews is subject to permission.
Despite the curfew, hundreds of soccer fans were out in Istanbul late Saturday to celebrate the Super League win for Besiktas.
New infections and COVID-19 deaths exploded after Turkey lifted most restrictions in March, prompting the government to introduce a full lockdown at end of April. It was the strictest measure the government had taken since the beginning of the pandemic, following record new cases above 60,000 a day.
Health ministry statistics showed 11,472 new cases reported Saturday and an overall confirmed death toll of 44,537. Experts say both numbers, like in many nations, are undercounts due to limited testing and missed cases.
Turkey’s president said the COVID-19 restrictions aimed to reduce new cases to below 5,000 a day so that Turkey’s vital tourism industry wouldn’t be devastated for a second straight summer.
Israeli warplanes have unleashed a series of heavy airstrikes at several locations of Gaza City.
Explosions rocked the city from north to south for 10 minutes early Monday.
The airstrikes were heavier, on a wider area and lasted longer than a series of air raids 24 hours earlier in which 42 Palestinians were killed. That attack was the deadliest single attack in the latest round of violence between Israel ad the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza.
In a brief statement, the Israel Defense Forces says only that “IDF fighter jets are striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip.”
TOP NEWS IN THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT:
— Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flatten three buildings and kill at least 42 people on Sunday
— An AP reporter documents the terrifying final minutes of leaving the Gaza office before it is blown up by the Israelis
— An Israeli airstrike destroys a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press office in the Gaza Strip despite urgent demands by the news agency to halt. AP’s top editor called for an independent investigation into the airstrike.
— Protesters in major US cities urge Israelis to halt attacks on the Gaza Strip
— French police use tear gas to quell pro-Palestinian march that was banned in Paris
RABAT, Morocco — Moroccans have taken to the streets in the capital and other cities to protest Israeli air raids on Gaza during clashes with the Hamas extremist group that rules the Palestinian territory.
Sizeable demonstrations were held Sunday across the North African kingdom, including in Casablanca, the country’s largest city, where thousands waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans denouncing Israel’s military actions. Protesters also gathered outside the Parliament building in Rabat.
In December, Morocco announced it had resumed relations with Israel as part of a U.S. brokered deal. As part of the agreement, the United States agreed to recognize Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara region.
On Friday, Moroccan King Mohammed VI ordered forty tons of aid to be be shipped to the West Bank and Gaza in solidarity with Palestinians in the wake of recent clashes.
UNITED NATIONS — The three U.N. Security Council nations trying to get the U.N.’s most powerful body to take action on the escalating violence between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers say they are still trying to get the U.S. to support a statement including a call to end the fighting.
China, Norway and Tunisia tried unsuccessfully at closed meetings Monday and Wednesday to get agreement on a council statement. Diplomats say the U.S. argued such a statement could interfere with diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the situation.
There also was no agreement at Sunday’s first open meeting on the violence.
The ambassadors of China, Norway and Tunisia issued a joint statement on the Gaza conflict demanding an immediate end of all acts of violence, provocation and destruction.
PARIS — A media watchdog group is asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s bombing of buildings housing The Associated Press and other media organizations in Gaza as a possible war crime.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says in a letter to the court’s chief prosecutor that the offices of 23 international and local media organizations have been destroyed over the past six days.
The group says the Israeli military’s “intentional targeting of media organizations and intentional destruction of their equipment” could violate one of the court’s statues. It says the attacks serve “to reduce, if not neutralize, the media’s capacity to inform the public.”
Israel’s military says Hamas was operating inside the building where AP had offices and accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields.
AP journalists and other tenants were safely evacuated after the Israeli military warned of an imminent strike Saturday.
UNITED NATIONS — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is urging the United States to join the 14 other members of the U.N. Security Council and support a statement urging a halt to violence between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza.
He also wants the U.S. to support calling for a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Wang chaired a high-level emergency meeting of the Security Council on Sunday and said the “dangerous and urgent” situation calls for an immediate cease-fire.
He urges Israel to exercise restraint, stop evictions and settlement expansion, “put an end to the violence, threats and provocations against Muslims” and respect the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem. He says Palestinians must avoid steps that would escalate the situation, avoid civilian casualties and work for an immediate de-escalation.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says the United States “has been working tirelessly through diplomatic channels” to try to end the conflict between Palestinians in Gaza and Israel, and is warning that the current cycle of violence will only put a negotiated two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict further out of reach.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a high-level emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that President Joe Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken with senior Israeli, Palestinian and regional leaders.
At the same meeting, Israel’s U.N. ambassador called the rocket attacks launched by Gaza’s Hamas rulers against Israel “completely premeditated” to gain political power and replace the Palestinian Authority as the leader of the Palestinians.
He said the rocketing of Israel was part of “a vicious plan” by Hamas, which not only seeks the destruction of Israel but is vying to take power in the West Bank and was frustrated when Abbas postponed elections last month that would have been the first in 15 years.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says he has spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging them to end violence and expressing support for mediation by Egypt and the United States.
Rutte said in a statement Sunday that the Netherlands “stands ready to help” using its good relations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the U.S.
He says that “a further escalation and yet more Palestinian and Israeli civilian casualties must be avoided.”
Rutte says Israel “has the right to defend itself” against rocket attacks but says the country must “act proportionally within the borders of international law.”
UNITED NATIONS — Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al-Malki is accusing Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and carrying out a policy of “apartheid” in Jerusalem.
Al-Malki told a high-level emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Sunday that “there are no words that can describe the horrors that our people are enduring,” listing families and children and infants killed by Israeli airstrikes.
“Israel is killing Palestinians in Gaza, one family at a time,” he said. “Israel is trying to uproot Palestinians from Jerusalem. It’s expelling families, one home, neighborhood at a time. Israel is executing our people, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
ISRAEL — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday renewed his claim that a Gaza building leveled by an Israeli airstrike housed a Hamas office as well as American and Middle East news organizations, but gave no evidence.
Netanyahu spoke to CBS’s Face the Nation about ongoing violence between Israeli forces and the armed Palestinian group Hamas, and about Saturday’s airstrike that leveled the building housing Gaza offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera news organizations. “It’s a perfectly legitimate target,” he said.
Asked if he had provided any evidence of Hamas presence in the building in a call later Saturday with President Joe Biden, Netanyahu said, “We pass it through our intelligence people.”
Netanyahu gave no time frame for when Israel would be ready to halt its side of the fighting after nearly a week of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages. “We hope that it doesn’t continue very long, but we were attacked by Hamas,” he said.
Asked about reports that Hamas had agreed to an Egypt-brokered cease-fire but Israel had not, he said, “That’s not what I know.”
UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. Mideast envoy says the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip has displaced some 34,000 Palestinians from their homes.
Tor Wennesland told the Security Council on Sunday that over 40 U.N. schools in Gaza have been turned into shelters. He says the schools have limited water and no access to food or health care, and serve “for protection purposes only.”
After nearly a week of fighting, Wennesland called for calm and said further escalation would have “devastating consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis.”
He called Hamas’ rocket fire from civilian neighborhoods in Gaza into Israeli population centers a violation of international law. He also urged Israel to show “maximum restraint to spare civilians and civilian objects” in its operations in Gaza.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people Sunday, medics said. It is the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and the territory’s militant Hamas rulers nearly a week ago.
The violence, which came as international mediators worked to broker a cease-fire and stave off an Israeli ground invasion of the territory, marked the worst fighting here since the devastating 2014 war in Gaza.
The airstrikes Sunday hit a busy downtown street of residential buildings and storefronts over the course of five minutes just after midnight, destroying two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.
UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief is appealing to Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza to immediately stop the “utterly appalling” escalation in fighting and “senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror and destruction” at the start of a high-level emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the virtual meeting on Sunday that “the United Nations is actively engaging all sides towards an immediate cease-fire.”
He warned that the most serious escalation in violence in Gaza in years “only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction and despair, and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence and peace.”
The open meeting is scheduled to be addressed by the Palestinian foreign minister and the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, China, Tunisia, Norway, Ireland, Algeria and the deputy foreign minister of Russia along with ambassadors from other nations on the 15-member council, an Israeli representative and the head of the Arab League.
Guterres said he is “appalled by the increasingly large numbers of Palestinian civilian casualties” from Israeli airstrikes, and deplores Israeli casualties from rockets launched from Gaza. He called the destruction of media offices in Gaza “extremely concerning,” stressing that “journalists must be allowed to work free of fear and harassment.”
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Gaza Health Ministry says the death toll from Israeli strikes on a main thoroughfare in Gaza City has climbed to 33, including 12 women and eight children.
It was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers erupted nearly a week ago. The airstrikes hit Wahda Street, a major thoroughfare.
The ministry says another 50 people were wounded in the strikes early Sunday, mostly women and children.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency has offered to share its Gaza offices with The Associated Press and Al Jazeera after Israel bombed the building that housed the media offices.
Anadolu said its Director-General Serdar Karagoz made the offer in letters to AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt and Al-Jazeera’s chairman.
Karagoz said the Turkish wire service was “appalled” by the Israeli military’s targeting of media offices.
“Since this recent conflict has escalated over the past week, there is an apparent pattern of targeting journalists who are carrying out their professional duties so as to block coverage of the situation on the ground,” Karagoz said.
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