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Israel shores up Gaza border as conflict rages on

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Israel has deployed tanks and troops to its border with Gaza, as it mulls whether to launch a ground operation in the territory after days of violence.

Conflict raged throughout Thursday as Palestinian militants fired rockets into Israel and the Israeli army maintained a barrage of air strikes.

More than 100 people have been killed in Gaza and seven have died in Israel.

Jewish and Israeli Arab mobs have also been fighting within Israel, prompting the president to warn of civil war.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered a “massive reinforcement” of security forces to suppress the internal unrest, and more than 400 people were arrested.

 

Two infantry units and one armoured unit were positioned near the border with Gaza on Thursday. At least 7,000 army reservists have also been called up.

No decision has yet been made on whether to launch a ground operation. The Israeli army is expected to put forward plans for a possible offensive imminently, but it would need to be approved by army chiefs and various levels of government.

Image shows Israeli troops at the border with GazaIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionIsrael deployed additional troops to its border with Gaza on Thursday

The four-days of violence in Gaza and Israel is the worst since 2014. It was initially fuelled by weeks of Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem which led to clashes at a holy site revered by both Muslims and Jews. This spiralled into an incessant exchange of Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes.

In other developments on Thursday:

  • Three rockets were fired from Lebanon into the sea off the coast of northern Israel, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said. No group said they were responsible, but several militant groups operate in Lebanon, including Hezbollah which fought a month-long war with Israel in 2006
  • Israel’s military said it had hit targets in Gaza that included intelligence buildings and homes and businesses used by militants
  • The Palestinian militant group Hamas, meanwhile, fired further barrages of rockets towards Israel from Gaza, and a spokesman for the group said it had shown “only a small part” of its capabilities
  • Further violence broke out between Jewish and Israeli Arab groups in mixed towns and cities within Israel
  • International airlines, including KLM, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have suspended services to Israel. Incoming flights were also diverted south from Tel Aviv’s main airport

According to the health ministry in Gaza, at least 103 people have been killed in the four-days of conflict. Officials in the territory, which is controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas, many civilians have died including 27 children.

Israel says dozens of those killed in Gaza were militants, and that some of the deaths are from misfired rockets from Gaza.

In the Israeli city of Sderot, a young boy was killed when rocket fire from Gaza hit his home, and shrapnel penetrated the shelter he was hiding in.

Israel has also called up 10 reserve border patrol companies to help tackle the worst unrest between Arab and Jewish communities for many years. Political leaders have appealed for calm, and President Reuven Rivlin described the outbreaks of rioting in several towns and cities as “senseless civil war”.

There have been widespread calls for de-escalation, including from Israel’s ally the US, but little sign of the conflict easing.

A senior Hamas official said the group was ready for a “reciprocal” ceasefire if the international community pressures Israel to “suppress military actions” at the disputed Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

However, Israeli military spokesman Hilda Zilberman said Israel was not seeking a ceasefire at the current time, the Times of Israel reported.

What’s the feeling on the ground?

The fear among civilians on both sides is taking its toll.

Najwa Sheikh-Ahmad, a Gaza mother, said of Wednesday night: “You cannot sleep… In any moment your home might be your grave.

“You cannot be secure. As a mother it’s very terrifying, it’s very exhausting for my feelings, for my humanity,” she told the BBC’s Today programme.

In Israel, an apartment block was destroyed in the city of Petah Tikva shortly after residents had gone to their bomb shelters.

“We heard an alarm and suddenly there was a bang. Smoke entered the shelter, and the neighbour next to me who was sitting on a chair flew back,” one resident told the news website Ynet.

Map showing Israel and the Gaza Strip
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What caused the violence?

The fighting between Israel and Hamas was triggered by days of escalating clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at a holy hilltop compound in East Jerusalem.

The site is revered by both Muslims, who call it the Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), and Jews, for whom it is known as the Temple Mount. Hamas demanded Israel remove police from there and the nearby predominantly Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families face eviction by Jewish settlers. Hamas launched rockets when its ultimatum went unheeded.

Palestinian anger had already been stoked by weeks of rising tension in East Jerusalem, inflamed by a series of confrontations with police since the start of Ramadan in mid-April.

 

Map showing key holy sites in Jerusalem
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It was further fuelled by the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers and Israel’s annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war, known as Jerusalem Day.

The fate of the city, with its deep religious and national significance to both sides, lies at the heart of the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict. Israel in effect annexed East Jerusalem in 1980 and considers the entire city its capital, though this is not recognised by the vast majority of other countries.

Palestinians claim the eastern half of Jerusalem as the capital of a hoped-for state of their own.

BBC.COM

America

50 Cent Is Not Dead

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News of rapper 50 Cent’s death spread quickly earlier this week causing concern among fans across the world. However the June 2021 report has now been confirmed as a complete hoax and just the latest in a string of fake celebrity death reports. Thankfully, the rapper best known for hit songs like Candy Shop or In da Club is alive and well.

50 Cent death hoax spreads on Facebook

Rumors of the rapper’s alleged demise gained traction on Saturday after a ‘R.I.P. 50 Cent’ Facebook page attracted nearly one million of ‘likes’. Those who read the ‘About’ page were given a believable account of the American rapper’s passing:

At about 11 a.m. ET on Saturday (June 19, 2021), our beloved rapper 50 Cent passed away. 50 Cent was born on July 6, 1975 in New York. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page.

Hundreds of fans immediately started writing their messages of condolence on the Facebook page, expressing their sadness that the talented 45-year-old rapper, actor and business man was dead. And as usual, Twittersphere was frenzied over the death hoax.

Where as some trusting fans believed the post, others were immediately skeptical of the report, perhaps learning their lesson from the huge amount of fake death reports emerging about celebrities over recent months. Some pointed out that the news had not been carried on any major American network, indicating that it was a fake report, as the death of a rapper of 50 Cent’s stature would be major news across networks.

A recent poll conducted for the Celebrity Post shows that a large majority (92%) of respondents think those 50 Cent death rumors are not funny anymore.

50 Cent Death Hoax Dismissed Since Rapper Is ‘Alive And Well’

On Sunday (June 20) the rapper’s reps officially confirmed that 50 Cent is not dead. “He joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by this hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet,” they said.

Some fans have expressed anger at the fake report saying it was reckless, distressing and hurtful to fans of the much loved rapper. Others say this shows his extreme popularity across the globe.

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France regional election: Macron and Le Pen fail to make ground – exit poll

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Composite picture of Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le PenIMAGE COPYRIGHTEPA/REUTERS

Early results indicate both President Emmanuel Macron and his opponent Marine Le Pen will fail to make the gains they were hoping for in the first round of regional elections in France.

Mr Macron’s centrist party is projected to gain more than 10% of the vote – just enough to take part in the second round next weekend.

Ms Le Pen’s far-right National Rally has also fallen short of expectations.

Both are trailing the conservative party, Les Républicains.

One of Mr Macron’s MPs, Aurore Bergé, described her party’s poor performance as a “democratic slap in the face for all of us”.

Ms Le Pen’s National Rally party was expected to top Sunday’s first round of polling, and win at least one region for the first time. Instead it is now predicted to come second.

Mrs Le Pen is not running as a candidate but she has been leading the campaign.

She described the record-low voter turnout – a projected 66% abstention – as a “civic disaster”.

She blamed the results on the government’s inability to inspire faith in political institutions. “Let’s face it, the results were marked by a torrential and also historic abstention of nearly 70% due to the mistrust of an electoral system, which leaves voters with the feeling that nothing can change, that everything has been confiscated,” she said.

 

Voters are choosing new councils for France’s 13 mainland regions, plus one overseas, as well as 96 departments. There are more than 15,700 candidates standing for 4,100 seats.

This election is being watched particularly closely, because the next presidential elections are less than a year away. It is being used to get a taste of voters’ mood.

An Ipsos exit poll shows the conservative Les Républicains winning 27% of the vote, followed by National Rally with 19%. The Greens, the Socialist Party and Mr Macron’s La République En Marche (LREM) are all on 11%.

This is the first time President Macron’s party has taken part in regional election – La République en Marche did not exist the last time they were held in 2015.

His party was not expected to do particularly well in this election. Last month a minister told AFP news agency: “These elections are never good for the party in power. You always get it in the neck.”

Yet LREM has still fared worse than expected. It will not win any region outright, having failed to gain enough support in local regions.

Mr Macron will now undoubtedly face a challenge ahead of the presidential vote in April 2022.

The regional election was delayed for three months because of the pandemic. There will be a second-round run-off on 27 June.

BBC.COM

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Covid: Brazil hits 500,000 deaths amid ‘critical’ situation

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People visit a cemetery in Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil, on 9 MayIMAGE COPYRIGHTGETTY IMAGES
image captionThe virus continues to spread in Brazil amid a lack of co-ordinated measures

The number of deaths related to Covid-19 has passed 500,000 in Brazil, the second-highest in the world, as experts say the outbreak could worsen amid slow vaccination and the start of winter.

The virus continues to spread as President Jair Bolsonaro refuses to back measures like social distancing.

The health institute Fiocruz says the situation is “critical”. Only 15% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Congress is investigating the government’s handling of the pandemic.

President Bolsonaro has been heavily criticised for not implementing a co-ordinated national response and for his scepticism toward vaccines, lockdowns and mask-wearing requirements, which he has sought to loosen.

The opposition accuses the president of delaying the purchase of vaccines for political reasons, as he has consistently played down the severity of the pandemic.

 

The outbreak in Brazil has been fuelled by more transmissible variants of the virus, including the one first identified in the Amazon region and now known as Gamma. An average of 70,000 cases has been confirmed daily in the last week.

The rate of occupancy of intensive care unit beds remains at or above 80% in most states, and experts warn the start of winter in the southern hemisphere, next week, could result in more infections.

“Brazil faces a critical scenario of community transmission… with the possibility of worsening in the coming weeks due to the start of winter,” Fiocruz said.

On Twitter, Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga expressed solidarity with the “fathers, mothers, friends and relatives” of those who had died, saying: “500,000 lives lost due to the pandemic that affects our Brazil and the whole world.”

Only the US has reported more deaths related to Covid-19.

The seven-day daily average of deaths in Brazil has been above 1,500 since March. Gonzalo Vecina, the former head of the health regulator Anvisa, said the slow progress of the vaccine programme had and would continue to cost lives.

“There are 500,000 deaths, and unfortunately, it will continue to increase because it will take some time to increase vaccination coverage. Maybe this year will also be difficult because we depend on the delivery of vaccines, which were purchased very late,” he said.

On Saturday, thousands of people protested across the country against the Bolsonaro government and to demand the acceleration of the vaccination programme. Many cities have struggled with insufficient number of doses.

President Bolsonaro has opposed lockdown measures, saying their impact on the economy would be worse than the virus. But he insists he has done all he can to buy vaccines from several countries.

BBC.COM

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