TIME Israel

Hamas in Gaza Takes War Against Israel Underground, Literally

An Israeli soldier looks at a tunnel exposed by the Israeli military near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, just outside the southern Gaza Strip, Oct.13, 2013.
An Israeli soldier looks at a tunnel exposed by the Israeli military near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, just outside the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 13, 2013. Amir Cohen—Reuters

Israeli officials have discovered yet another tunnel reaching into their country from Hamas' territory in Gaza, the fourth such find in 18 months, raising fears the organization is planning ambushes from yet-undiscovered passageways under their feet

The discovery of yet another concrete tunnel reaching into Israel from the Gaza Strip has alarmed the Israeli military, now increasingly fearful of an ambush by militants attacking from underground. The latest tunnel, discovered late last week, was revealed on Tuesday to be the longest yet, reaching almost half a mile into Israeli territory.

It was also the fourth discovered in the last 18 months, and was unearthed, like others, by chance —in this case after heavy rains washed away topsoil, exposing concrete noticed by an Israeli farmer. Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that governs Gaza, acknowledged ownership and military intent. Lined with concrete and outfitted with electric lights and ventilators, the passage was tall enough to allow dozens of fighters to emerge inside Israel in a matter of minutes, perhaps to swarm nearby kibbutzim, overrun lightly manned military posts and kidnap local residents or soldiers.

“The possibility of a multi-pronged attack is the nightmare of every commander along the Gaza fence,” a senior officer in the Israel military’s southern command tells TIME.

Israeli officials acknowledge they have no firm idea how many other tunnels may be in place under the 24-mile southern boundary of the Palestinian enclave. Efforts to detect tunnels using technology have so far failed. Under Hamas, more than 1,000 tunnels were dug beneath Gaza’s six-mile western border with Egypt, mostly for the transfer of goods. Since the overthrow of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo, the tunnels have been mostly shut down. But on the Israeli border, Hamas is increasingly looking underground for a military advantage, especially since the 2006 capture of Gilad Shalit. He was seized by militants who emerged from a tunnel that came out behind the tank where Shalit and two others soldiers (both killed in the encounter) were stationed, facing toward Gaza. After being held for five years, he was exchanged for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners by Israel–the single unvarnished triumph scored by Hamas in seven years in power.

“The tunnels we are inaugurating today are the new Hamas strategy in the war against Israel—the strategy of the tunnels,” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya announced on Sunday at a rally marking the ten-year anniversary of Israel’s assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin.”From below ground and above ground, you, the Occupiers, will be dismissed. You have no place in the land of Palestine… What the resistance forces are preparing secretly for the next confrontation with Israel is beyond imagination for Israel.”

Israeli officials say they take the threat seriously. The Israel Defense Forces are working from scenarios that range from kidnapping a soldier to the armed takeover of a nearby kibbutz, and everything in between, including combined and parallel attacks. The military operates on the assumption that Hamas would not waste the element of surprise by using the tunnel in a small scale skirmish, but rather with a significant, spectacular ambush.

“If as a result of an attack by fifty Hamas combats coming out of the tunnels, twenty five people, among them children, will get killed in one of the Israeli villages close to the borders, that is going to be an event that will strike the Israeli society in shock,” says one Israeli military source. “This will be the Hamas achievement.”

The understanding is based in part on the fact that Hamas would only act boldly if it chose to discard the cease-fire it has enforced in Gaza since November 2012, when Israel carried out an offensive dubbed “Operation Pillar of Defense.” In the logic of “resistance,” the group would need something substantial — numerous Israel casualties, for instance – in order to claim victory in the face of what would surely be massive retaliation from Israel.

With that in mind, Hamas has taken great pains to keep the underground channels secret from the prying eyes and ears of Israeli intelligence, always substantial in Gaza. In October, after Israeli troops discovered a mile-long tunnel, Haniyeh said “thousands of heroes have been working in silence, below ground, to prepare for the coming battles in Palestine.” But an Israeli official says that in the interests of operational security in fact only about 100 fighters are involved, carefully vetted from Hamas’ military wing. Precautions around the digging itself sound like scenes familiar to prison escape movies: The work is slow, in order to prevent detection by Israeli surveillance. In any given moment only between five to seven people work underground, says the Israeli official. The waste and dirt are evacuated in sacks and boxes in order not to raise suspicion.

The official says the tunnel typically starts a few hundred meters from the fence, inside a house or chicken coop owned by Hamas supporters, who give their consent and receive compensation. (The Israeli military located a tunnel originating in the side room of a mosque, apparently on the assumption that Israeli forces would not attack a holy place.) The depth at the entrance runs to a depth of 18 to 20 meters. As the diggers proceed, engineers follow pouring concrete to reinforce the walls and the ceiling. The electricians follow later, installing lights, and ventilation. Communication lines are also spread along side the tunnel in order to enable communication between the various parts of the tunnel, in the absence of a cellular reception, which at any rate, would be vulnerable to interception by Israeli’s signal-intelligence services.

If the digging goes well, without cave-ins from the sandy soil or flooding from groundwater, a 1,500 meter (nine-tenths of a mile) tunnel can be dug in nine to ten months. That said, the Israeli sources noted that one of the tunnels discovered was dug over two years. The final third, perhaps 500 meters, extends into Israel, but stops several meters short of the surface, in order to be breached when the order is given for offensive action.

That order would be carried out by special forces Hamas has trained specifically to operate from the tunnels, according to Israeli officials. Their target is presumed to be civilian enclaves such as Kibbutz Ein Ha’shlosha, which stands near the “mega-tunnel” discovered in October. But the presumption is based on the tunnels already known. In recent years Israel’s renowned military research establishment has found an apparently effective defense for the rockets militants long have fired out of Gaza – the Iron Dome anti-missile system. But for two decades the quest for a technology that will detect what Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman of the Israeli army’s southern command this week called “these infernal tunnels” has come up dry.

TIME White House

Poll: Americans Sour on Obama’s Foreign Policy

All-time high disapproval for the president spells danger for Democratic lawmakers heading into the midterm elections

Americans are increasingly skeptical of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, once a political asset, and his approval ratings have taken a beating in recent weeks, according to a new poll.

The Associated Press survey released Wednesday showed that 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Obama is doing, a record high for his presidency. Americans increasingly disapprove of his handling of issues running the gamut from immigration reform to the dispute with Russia over Ukraine, according to the poll.

While Americans have typically given Obama relatively high marks on foreign policy, the new poll shows him registering his lowest level of support yet on the issue; just 40 percent of Americans approve of his foreign policy. Most Americans disapprove of how he has handled the situation in Ukraine generally (57 percent) and his interactions with Russia (54 percent).

Despite his dismal numbers on the Ukraine question, an overwhelming majority—nine in 10 Americans—supports his administration’s most significant policy response to the crisis, sanctions on Russia in response to its annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine.

Obama’s approval numbers have dipped on a number of issues, including his handling of the budget, education, the economy, and immigration. The president’s poor poll numbers are cause for concern among Democratic candidates on the ballot in the midterm elections this year.

The poll of 1,012 adults was conducted March 20-24 and has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

TIME Domestic Surveillance

Evidence Missing From Charges Snowden Works for Putin

Senator John McCain speaks at a news conference in Kiev
Senator John McCain speaks at a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 15, 2014. Nikitin Maxim—ITAR-TASS/Corbis

The Arizona Senator joins a slew of lawmakers who have accused the man who leaked secret documents on the NSA's spying program of treason, but McCain's charges lack evidence to support them

Congressional accusations of treason just keep coming for leaker Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now living under asylum in Russia.

Senator John McCain said Wednesday he believes Edward Snowden is collaborating with the Kremlin to hurt the United States. “Our real problem is Mr. Snowden is working for Russia, and he will be releasing information at appropriate times where it has the most significant impact damaging to the United States,” McCain told The Washington Examiner at the Capitol on Wednesday. “I know that Mr. Putin is hospitable, but he usually wants somebody to pay the rent.” McCain said he believed Snowden was working with Russia, “because of the timing of his releases of this information. If you look at the timing it’s when certain issues have been before us.”

Senator McCain’s office has not responded to a request from TIME for evidence to support the claim.

The charge echoes statements made by House intelligence committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. Rogers said he knows that Snowden is “under the influence of Russian intelligence officials today” and repeated the accusation he’s made before that Snowden perpetrated his leak of NSA documents with Kremlin assistance.

“I see all the intelligence and all the evidence from everything from his activities leading up to this event to very suspicious activity during the event,” Rogers said. “And so when you talk to the folks who are doing the investigation, they cannot rule it out.”

Asked for evidence to back up his assertion, Rogers’ office sent the following statement to TIME: “Chairman Rogers receives regular classified briefings on the status of the criminal investigation into what the former NSA contractor stole and the intelligence assessments about the impact of that theft to America’s national security.”

Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has said she looked into the contention that Snowden leaked documents with help from Russia and found no evidence to support it. Snowden has denied he had help from anyone in leaking secret government documents and called the accusation “absurd.”

Senator McCain’s charge that Snowden is releasing classified American documents on a schedule designed to hurt American interests contradicts statements made in the past by both Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, one of the primary journalists responsible for publishing the documents Snowden leaked. Both have said repeatedly that Snowden turned over all copies of the documents to journalists months ago, in Hong Kong, before traveling to Moscow to seek asylum.

“Edward Snowden has not leaked a single document to any journalist since he left Hong Kong in June: 9 months ago,” Greenwald wrote Sunday.

With reporting from Alex Rogers

TIME U.S.-Russia Relations

Obama on Russia: ‘This Is Not Another Cold War’

In a speech in Belgium, President Obama said that the Ukraine crisis is not the start of a global power struggle between the U.S. and Russia. But letting Russia get away with its annexation of Crimea would send a dangerous message to the world

President Barack Obama on Wednesday called on Europe and the U.S. to stand firm against Russia’s annexation of Crimea, warning that a failure to push back against Russia’s “illegal” action would undermine a century of international progress.

Delivering remarks on the U.S.-European relationship at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels on the third day of his international trip, Obama framed the Ukraine crisis as a conflict between self-determination and might. But he rejected the notion that recent events are the beginning of another global struggle.

“This is not another Cold War that we’re entering into,” he said in his 36-minute address. “After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology. The United States and NATO do not seek any conflict with Russia. In fact, for more than 60 years we have come together in NATO not to claim other lands but to keep nations free.”

“Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future,” he continued, emphasizing that there is no military solution to the situation in Crimea.

Obama acknowledged that both in Europe and the U.S., many may doubt the impact of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but cautioned that “casual indifference” would send a dangerous message to the world.

“To be honest, if we define our interests narrowly, if we applied a coldhearted calculus, we might decide to look the other way,” Obama said. “But that kind of casual indifference would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent.”

Over the course of his foreign trip, Obama has worked to marshal European allies to embrace the prospect of sanctioning the Russian economy if its government doesn’t change course — an action that could cost the global economy as well as Russia. Earlier on Wednesday, Obama and E.U. leaders met to discuss the potential for additional sanctions, with the E.U. pledging to move with the U.S. if Russia further escalates the situation in Ukraine.

Addressing Russia’s comparison of its move on Ukraine with U.S. actions in Iraq, Obama defended the U.S.’s handling of that war, saying that even though he did not support it, it was completely different.

“Even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system,” Obama said. “We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.”

TIME Syria

Syria’s Assad Prepares for Sham Elections Despite Endless War

Portraits of President Bashar Assad seen in Damascus during the previous presidential elections in May 2007.
Portraits of President Bashar Assad seen in Damascus during the previous presidential poll in May 2007. Hassan Ammar—AFP/Getty Images

President Assad won the last election in 2007 with 98 percent of the vote, in a process that can hardly be called free or fair. If he runs again in the upcoming election, it would dim the prospects of U.N.-backed peace talks to end the country's bloody civil war

For the past forty years, voting in Syria has been a pretty straightforward process. In 2007, the most recent presidential poll, the ballot asked one simple question: Should Bashar Assad stay in power for another seven-year term? Voters could check a green circle marked yes, or a red circle marked no. In at least one polling station in Damascus (though anecdotal evidence points to a wider distribution) election officials even made the act of checking optional. Instead, they offered a stack of forms pre-marked in Assad’s favor. Anyone who wanted to vote against him simply had to ask for an unmarked ballot—in front of an array of police officers and intelligence agents. “Not once in the whole day did I see someone vote against Assad,” says Siraj, a 28-year-old Syrian military defector now living in Beirut, Lebanon, who was helping his father run the local polling site that day by passing out ballot papers. “If you asked for an unmarked ballot, all eyes would be on you.”

In 2007, Assad won the referendum with 97.6 percent of the vote. With his second term drawing to a close on July 17, a new election is likely to be called in the coming weeks, though this time around it won’t be a simple yes or no vote. Electoral reforms, voted in by parliament two years ago, now allow multiple candidates to run for president for the first since Assad’s father took power 44 years ago. Few believe that it will make any difference at all. “I’ve seen how voting works in Syria,” Siraj tells TIME, asking to go by one name to protect family still in Damascus. “Assad will win no matter how many names are on the ballot.”

Not only are the upcoming elections likely to be meaningless in a country where three years of war have driven nearly half the population from their homes and taken an estimated 145,000 lives, they also threaten to undermine any chance of a political negotiation that might lead to peace. A presidential campaign with Assad in the running directly contravenes a UN-backed peace process based on the establishment of a transitional government leading to free and fair elections. “I very much doubt that a presidential election and another seven-year term for President Bashar Assad will put an end to the unbearable suffering of the Syrian people, stop the destruction of the country and re-establish harmony and mutual confidence in the region,” U.N. peace mediator Lakhdar Brahimi told the U.N. General Assembly on March 14.

Assad has yet to formally announce his candidacy, coyly stating in various media appearances that it is up to the Syrian people to nominate him. But in government-controlled areas, election preparations are in full swing. In Homs city, rubble-strewn neighborhoods are being cleaned and plastered with posters of the President and banners pleading for him to run. In Damascus shopkeepers have painted their rolling shutters with the colors of the regime’s flag while car processions waving flags and blaring music glorifying Assad make the rounds. Posters proclaiming that “Eyelids will not sleep until you elect the ophthalmologist,” in reference to Assad’s pre-presidential career have sprouted in affluent areas (the phrase rhymes in Arabic). Yet for all the election fanfare, and the fact that Parliament has cleared the way for competition, not a single opposing candidate has emerged. The risks are simply too high. Twenty-seven-year-old Damascus resident Hind doesn’t expect to see any real candidates put their name forward. Anyone who runs against Assad, she says, via Skype, will be doing it just for appearances’ sake, “to keep up the spectacle and make-believe.”

Even if a serious contender were to emerge, stringent requirements make it all but impossible to enter the race. Candidates must win the support of 35 members of the pro-Assad Parliament, and they must have lived in Syria for the past 10 years, a stipulation that automatically knocks out even officially tolerated opposition members, all of whom have spent time in exile at one point or another over the past decade. Both parents must also be Syrian, and foreign spouses are not permitted. “I have not personally seen any candidates [come out], and I don’t think we will see any because the conditions are literally incapacitating,” says Damascus resident Mazen, 24, reached by Skype. Neither Hind nor Mazen would allow their full names to be used, for fear of a backlash by Syrian security forces.

To opposition members leading the anti-Assad revolt from exile, the proposed elections, with all their hubris and constraints, are a charade. “The only unknown about this election is whether Bashar will get 97 or 98 percent of the vote,” says Oubai Shahbandar, a senior adviser to the Syrian opposition, based in Washington D.C. What is clear, warns Shahbandar, is that if Assad does go through with his putative election, “he will be signaling the regime’s unwillingness to go back to the negotiating table, and slamming the door shut on any chance of peaceful resolution for Syria.”

—with reporting by Hania Mourtada / Beirut

TIME Terrorism

Bin Laden Son-In-Law Convicted In Terror Trial

Still image taken from an undated video of Suleiman Abu Ghaith
A man identified as Sulaiman Abu Ghaith appears in this still image taken from an undated video address. Reuters

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, an al-Qaeda spokesman and the son-in-law of the 9/11 mastermind, was convicted of conspiring to kill Americans by helping to recruit terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. The charges against him could carry up to life in prison

Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was convicted by a New York jury for conspiring to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaeda’s spokesman, where he used inflammatory propaganda to create recruitment videos.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al-Qaeda official to face trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Associated Press reports. Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti imam, admitted during his three-week trial in New York he followed bin Laden’s orders shortly after the attacks in helping recruit new followers to al-Qaeda.

“Going to that man was the very first thing Osama bin Laden did on Sept. 11 after the terror attacks,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cronan during closing arguments. “The defendant committed himself to al-Qaida’s conspiracy to kill Americans, and he worked to drive other people to that conspiracy.”

Abu Ghaith insisted throughout the trial that he had intended to encourage Muslims to rise up against their oppressors, and denied he was an al-Qaeda recruiter.

The charges against the al-Qaeda lieutenant could carry up to life in prison.

[AP]

TIME

South Korean ‘Diva’ Makes $9000 a Month Eating on Camera

The success of one of South Korea's most popular food bloggers, who makes a living broadcasting herself eat, is a mark of a society coming to terms with its increasing urban alienation

+ READ ARTICLE

Park Seo-yeon eats for a living. And, boy, does she eat.

On a Sunday evening last month, I watched her gobble up $300 worth of prime beef, alongside an armful of grilled zucchini, mushroom, pepper, eggplant and pumpkin. Her second course: six fresh, blue crabs piled on a mound of greens and bathed in a clear broth. For dessert: pudding.

Also watching the 32-year-old consume copious quantities of food that night: several thousand fans. Park, who goes by the nickname ‘The Diva,’ is one of South Korea’s top culinary bloggers. Nearly every day, she prepares and eats her outsized evening meal in her home studio, live-broadcasting for up to four hours at a time. “I try to look pretty, eat pretty, and eat a lot of delicious food,” she says.

The Diva’s show is part cooking program, part virtual community. Fans tune in to see what she cooks (it varies, but it is always a lot) and how she eats it (with relish). They also send recipes, and ask her questions. (‘How do you eat so much?’) As a sign of appreciation, they send “balloons,” a digital currency that can be converted to cash. She says she now makes about $9000 per month.

Park is at the leading edge of South Korea’s burgeoning meok-bang, or ‘broadcast eating’ fad. There are thousands of hosts, although she is currently the most popular in the category. Two things are driving the trend, she says: an obsession with food, eating and dieting, and the loneliness of urban life.

The Diva’s show is a sensory feast. You can hear the meat sizzle and the mustard squirt. After cutting a particularly juicy piece of steak, Park spears it with her fork and holds it before the camera, turning it just slightly until it glistens in the light. She takes a bite. “Juicy,” she says, between chews. “It just melts away in my mouth.”

The Diva’s meals are mostly multi-course, multi-hour affairs featuring abnormally large portions. That’s part of the appeal. A lot of her fans are young people, particularly young women, who face tremendous pressure to stay thin. “A lot of my fans are on a diet,” she says. “Watching me eat gives them a vicarious thrill.”

The tone is sensual, but not overtly sexual. Park is the first to admit that her looks are part of the appeal. Although she insists she does not purge or diet, she says she spends about 1.5 hours a day doing her makeup and hair, and strives to both “eat pretty” and look good. The day TIME met her, camera in-tow, she went to the butcher’s shop in spike heels.

But the show is, quite literally, family friendly. After several years of broadcasting solo, Park made her parents regular guests. They drive to her home several nights a week to help her grocery shop, prepare food, and interact with the audience. “We tell the fans they should eat with their parents,” says her dad, Park Il-lyun, 64. “Now I have my own fans too.”

For some viewers the broadcast is a nightly ritual, a virtual re-enactment of a family meal. The number of one-person households in South Korea expected to jump from 25.3% in 2012 to 32.7% in 2030, the fastest rate among rich-world countries, according Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Many people are eating alone,” Park says. “My show makes them feel like they are eating with a friend.”

The Diva’s fans, like real-life friends and family, are full of questions and advice. “Do you have a boyfriend?” they ask. “How do you manage to stay so slim?,” “Where do you buy your makeup?,” “What brand of oil do you use?” After watching her prepare and eat an outrageous amount of beef, one fan wrote-in with some health advice: “Eating too much meat is bad for your kidneys.”

Certainly, the lifestyle takes its toll. Park’s success in the virtual world has changed her real life. She makes more money than she did at her office job, sure, but she spends most of her time alone, prepping, shopping and broadcasting. It is tough to make dinner plans, or meet a life partner (which she says she would like to do), when you have a standing date with three or four thousand online voyeurs.

But she works hard to downplay the difficulty, to make it all look easy. Park is the woman who eats as much as she pleases, but doesn’t gain a pound, the dinner companion who never tires of your company. She is selling the same thing that television shows have been peddling for years: fantasy. And audiences eat it up.

—with reporting by Stephen Kim / Incheon, South Korea

TIME Egypt

Egypt’s Al-Sisi Leaves Military To Run for President

Egypt's Military Chief Visits Moscow
Egypt's Minister of Defense, First Deputy Prime Minister and likely presidential candidate, Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin (not pictured) in Novo-Ogaryovo residence on Feb. 13, 2014 near Moscow. Sasha Mordovets—Getty Images

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who announced the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi last July, has resigned from the army to make a long-awaited bid for the country's presidency

Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi formally resigned from the military Wednesday, paving the way for his long-anticipated run for the presidency.

Al-Sisi announced the decision in a TV broadcast, the BBC reports.

The Egyptian army deposed president Mohamed Morsi last year in the midst of mass protests against Morsi’s increasingly authoritarian rule, killing over a thousand of the former president’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters in widespread unrest. Broadly supported by Egyptians who opposed Mohammed Morsi’s presidency, al-Sisi is likely to win presidential elections expected later this year.

[BBC]

TIME Vatican

Pope Francis Fires German ‘Bling Bishop’

An inquiry into Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst's $43 million residence has ended with the Vatican demanding his resignation

Pope Francis has replaced a German bishop whose $43 million new residence complex sparked outrage among Catholics.

The so-called ‘Bishop of Bling,’ Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from Limburg was temporarily expelled during a church inquiry in October, the Associated Press reports. Tebartz-van Elst spent lavishly renovating his residence, including a reported $20,000 on a bathtub and $620,000 on artwork.

That inquiry has now found him incapable of holding his diocese and demanded his resignation, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Tebartz-van Elst will be replaced by Monsignor Manfred Grothe. Tebartz-van Elst will get a new job, said the Vatican, adding that the pope hoped that residents of Limburg would accept the decision with “docility and willingness to rediscover a climate of charity and reconciliation.”

Pope Francis has emphasized charity and addressing social inequality since taking his seat in the Vatican last March. He is due to meet with President Obama Wednesday.

[AP]

TIME Turkey

Turkish Court Overturns Twitter Ban

Two Turkish women try to get on Twitter website on their laptops at a cafe in Istanbul, March 21, 2014.
Two Turkish women try to get on Twitter website on their laptops at a cafe in Istanbul, March 21, 2014. Tolga Bozoglu—EPA

The temporary injunction demands the government-controlled telecommunications authority allow citizens access again to the microblogging site, as Twitter files its own petitions for lawsuits challenging the ban

Updated 11:15 a.m. ET

A Turkish court declared a temporary injunction Wednesday demanding the government-controlled telecoms authority lift the ban on Twitter imposed by the Turkish government five days ago, according to a news agency there.

Lawyers and opposition politicians in Turkey have asked the court to overturn the moratorium on the social network, claiming it was unconstitutional and not legal, reports AP.

Twitter also filed petitions for lawsuits that would challenge the ban on its website in Turkey, the company said in blog post Wednesday. “The millions of people in Turkey who turn to Twitter to make their voices heard are being kept from doing just that,” Twitter said.

Turkey’s telecoms authority had accused Twitter of defying court orders that certain content be removed. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to “rip out the roots” of Twitter last week after it hosted content posted by users showing evidence of possible government corruption. However many online users in Turkey swiftly found ways around the ban.

[AP]

With additional reporting by Sam Frizell

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