Here’s an overview of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Middle East this week.
The Turkish opposition elects the man they believe can beat President Erdogan, Israel kills six Palestinians in a raid on Jenin, and it’s been a month since the earthquakes that devastated Turkey and Syria. Here is your overview of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Middle East and North Africa Editor of Al Jazeera Digital.
Many observers believe Turkey’s political opposition has its best chance yet of ousting longtime leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May’s presidential election. The economy used to be one of Erdogan’s main selling points, but it has struggled for years now and inflation continues to rise. The opposition — in all its various forms, including defectors from Erdogan’s closest allies — has come together in recent years and won some notable victories, such as in the 2019 mayoral races in Istanbul and Ankara. And last month’s devastating earthquakes, which killed more than 45,000 people in Turkey, have raised questions about the government’s response and the apparently lax enforcement of housing regulations that allegedly led to the collapse of so many buildings.
And yet the events of the past week may help explain some of the reasons why the opposition has dealt so few serious blows to Erdogan and his AK party in two decades of parliamentary and presidential elections. Initially, six opposition parties seemed to agree on their presidential candidate, namely the head of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. To be sure, the 74-year-old economist isn’t exactly the most charismatic of men, and he’s overseen the party’s electoral losses over the past decade. And yes, as a member of the Alevi religious minority, he is unlikely to appeal to many Turkish nationalists. Still, a united opposition should at least give him a chance to cross the line.
But then Meral Aksener, leader of the main opposition nationalist bloc (there is also a pro-government nationalist bloc, stick with me) decided that Kilicdaroglu was really not up to the task, and publicly announced that the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara would are better choices. A weekend of emergency opposition talks, a return to the table for Aksener and – crisis averted – the opposition united behind Kilicdaroglu – again.
Has Aksener’s game weakened Kilicdaroglu? Or has the eventual demonstration of public unity strengthened the opposition? Depends who you ask. But one thing is certain: don’t write Erdogan off just yet.
Israeli attack in Jenin kills six
Israeli forces killed six Palestinians this week in Jenin, in the latest armed attack on the occupied West Bank. Among the dead was Abdelfattah Kharousheh, a Palestinian fighter accused by Israel of being behind a shooting that killed two Israeli settlers last week.
Israeli soldiers were filmed dancing and singing with settlers in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara, where attacks on the Jewish holiday of Purim left five Palestinians injured pic.twitter.com/mA5FIjQLR9
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 7, 2023
Kharousheh’s funeral further exposed the growing rift between many Palestinian fighters in the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority. The PA partially controls parts of the territory and its troops fired tear gas at mourners during the funeral. The confrontation appears to be rooted in the prominent placement of a Hamas flag on Kharousheh’s body. Hamas is the Palestinian group to which Kharousheh belonged, but the PA is controlled by Fatah – Hamas’ rival.
There are also divisions on the Israeli side. Last weekend, opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrated for the ninth week in a row against his plan to weaken the independence of the judiciary. They received welcome support when dozens of Air Force reservists said they would not be attending a training day this week in protest against the government, sparking an angry backlash from Netanyahu and his supporters.
(READ: Israeli settlers attack Palestinians, in numbers)
Earthquakes, a month later
A month ago, people went to sleep in their homes, unaware of the devastation a magnitude 7.8 earthquake was about to wreak in southeastern Turkey and northwestern Syria. More than 52,000 people were killed and cities, towns and villages were destroyed for hundreds of miles. Our focus has been on the survivors and their efforts to revive their lives and rebuild their homes. They could potentially use the recovery plan from the 1999 Marmara earthquake in northwestern Turkey as a model for reconstruction, but at the same time, people in Antakya – historic Antioch – fear that a rush to rebuild ancient sites will threaten the city . identity and heritage.
And then there’s all the care needed for people with what’s called crush syndrome, a debilitating condition that can affect people who are under the weight of rubble for hours at a time. A two-year-old named Nour has already lost one leg to the condition and is at risk of losing the other.
(READ: Young Syrian refugees in Turkey worry about their future after the earthquake)
I also really recommend taking the time to read this personal account from Al Jazeera reporter Resul Serdar, who has covered the aftermath of the earthquakes. He describes the terrible desperation he has seen over the past month, including in his own hometown, Adıyaman, where he was able to reunite with his family.
And now for something else
In the Zagros Mountains of Iraq, skiing is becoming increasingly popular. A tourism company, VIKurdistan, decided to sponsor a visit by a group of refugees. skiing for the first time. As you can imagine, they loved it.
US faces calls to deny entry to Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s far-right finance minister | US Secretary of Defense pays surprise trip to Iraq | Israeli troops kill 15-year-old Palestinian after ‘shooting him in the back’ | Qatar appoints Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani as Prime Minister | Israeli strike puts Syrian Aleppo International Airport out of service | International parliamentarians urged Bahrain’s human rights at the meeting | Online scam defrauds Egyptians of almost half a million dollars | Iran Supreme Leader Promises Punishment For Poisoning Schoolgirls | Syria condemns US general’s visit to territory held by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces | Tunisian opposition defies protest ban with demonstration | Iran promises to cooperate with IAEA in nuclear field | People in northwestern Syria fear cholera epidemic | Libya approves constitutional amendments ahead of elections |
Quote of the week
“The attack took place a few days after the Tunisian president spoke. His speech was incendiary against us, and the results are starting to show.” | Nikki Yanga, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo who is trying to leave Tunisia after President Kais Saied said migration from sub-Saharan Africa threatens to change his country’s identity. The African Union has postponed a planned conference in Tunisia, after previously criticizing Saied’s comments.