Five Members Of Gaza Family Perish In Israeli Strike

Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on the Hanadi compound in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP
Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on the Hanadi compound in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

Young brothers Ibrahim and Marwan were filling sacks of straw in northern Gaza when an Israeli strike came from the skies. In an instant, they and three other relatives were killed.

Bloodstains could still be seen Tuesday outside their house in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip, close to a barrier separating the Palestinian territory from Israel.

The boys had been packing straw to sell at a local livestock market, said their cousin, also called Ibrahim.

He and the two brothers, aged 10 and 14, “had prepared three sacks, and I had just left to take one to put on the cart,” he told AFP.

“We were laughing and having fun, when suddenly they began to bomb us, everything around us caught fire.”

“I saw my cousins set alight, and torn into pieces,” said the 14-year-old, breaking down in tears.

“Why did they leave me? I would have wanted to die as a martyr like them.”

Their cousins, three-month old baby Yazan and 10-year-old girl Rahaf, were also killed in the strike.

Another family member, 22-year-old Ahmad, died later Tuesday from his injuries. He had been due to be married on Saturday.

None had had enough time to take shelter when the first Israeli strikes hit Gaza on Monday evening in retaliation for a volley of rockets launched from the Palestinian territory into southern Israel.

At least 30 dead

The Islamist Hamas group, which runs the Gaza Strip, has rained hundreds of rockets on Israel in solidarity with hundreds of Palestinians wounded since Israeli riot police clashed with large crowds of worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque on Friday.

Hamas had Monday warned Israel to withdraw all its forces from the mosque compound, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews, as well as the Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, where looming evictions of Palestinian families have fuelled anger.

Just after the Israeli strikes began, the Israeli army said it had targeted a Hamas commander in Beit Hanun. And the movement swiftly confirmed the death of Muhammad Fayyad.

Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on the Hanadi compound in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP
Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike on the Hanadi compound in Gaza City, controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 11, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

 

At least 30 people have been killed, mostly Palestinians, since the start of the air strikes on Monday evening. More than 125 have also been wounded in Gaza.

On the Israeli side, two people were killed and dozens injured in Ashkelon, an Israeli town lying close to Gaza.

Hamas said it had unleashed 137 rockets on the town on Tuesday. Later Tuesday it also unleashed a barrage of rockets close to Tel Aviv, killing one person and forcing the closure of Israel’s main airport.

‘Innocent child’

Hundreds of people brandishing Palestinian flags attended Tuesday’s funerals of several of the victims in Beit Hanun, which lies just one kilometre from the Erez crossing point into Israel.

As the procession of mourners reached the cemetery, a volley of rockets thrust into the skies heading towards Israeli territory.

Mourners shouted: “Allah Akbar” — “God is greatest”.

Sitting in the cemetery was Abu Hussein Hamad stroking the face of his 11-year-old son, Hussein, for the last time before he was buried.

Supporters of Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) gather during a demonstration in Karachi on May 11, 2021, to protest against Israel's deadly air strikes launched on Gaza killing at least 28 people. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP
Supporters of Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) gather during a demonstration in Karachi on May 11, 2021, to protest against Israel’s deadly air strikes launched on Gaza killing at least 28 people. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

“What did this innocent child do?” he asked, tears welling up in his eyes.

Hussein was killed in the same strike as the five members of the al-Masri family, his neighbours.

“I promised to buy him new shoes for the Eid al-Fitr,” said the sobbing father, referring to this week’s celebrations to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Nearby, Hussein’s grandmother also couldn’t hide her emotions.

“They killed him,” she said. “He hadn’t committed any crime.”

 

AFP

Hoodlums Attack NDLEA Office In Abia

This photo combination shows parts of the NDLEA office in Ohafia, Abia State, after it was burgled on May 11, 2021.
This photo combination shows parts of the NDLEA office in Ohafia, Abia State, after it was burgled on May 11, 2021.

 

A National Drug Law Enforcement Agency office was attacked on Tuesday in Abia State, the agency has confirmed.

According to NDLEA Abia commander, Dele Akingbade, the attack took place at 3am and was carried out by unknown hoodlums.

However, he noted that the office was not razed down, no live was lost and only minimal damage was done to the building.

“The attackers came in around 3am Tuesday morning, looking for seized drugs, ammunition, and intention to free suspects in NDLEA custody,” he said.

READ ALSO: Fire Guts INEC Office In Abia

“But prior information available to NDLEA on impending attacks on security outfits in the state necessitated the movement and relocation of the arms, including the suspects and seized drugs,

“The attackers, on getting to the place, smashed some windows, destroying some office chairs.”

He vowed that the command will continue the fight against illicit drugs.

The attack comes less than a day after fire gutted the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Ohafia.

 

Man City Crowned Premier League Champions After Man Utd Defeat

Manchester City fans, Ian Leonard and his son Jack celebrate winning the Premier League title outside the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021, after their closest challengers for the title Manchester United, lost to Leicester City this evening. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Manchester City fans, Ian Leonard and his son Jack celebrate winning the Premier League title outside the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021, after their closest challengers for the title Manchester United, lost to Leicester City this evening. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions for the third time in four seasons after Manchester United crashed to a 2-1 defeat against Leicester on Tuesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side are 10 points clear of second placed United and have wrapped up the title with three games to spare.

In the midst of a gruelling run of three games in five days, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer effectively handed the title to arch rivals City by picking a weakened team with 10 changes.

With many of City’s players watching on television, Luke Thomas’ 10th minute volley put Leicester ahead before Mason Greenwood equalised five minutes later.

Caglar Soyuncu’s towering header in the 66th minute ensured City could pop the champagne corks for a title party that has seemed inevitable for months.

City were denied the chance to celebrate on Sunday when Chelsea won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium, while United kept them waiting with a victory at Aston Villa on Sunday.

But the delay was only temporary and City, who also won the League Cup in April, can finally savour a title triumph that is all the sweeter given the obstacles they have overcome this term.

Treble-chasing City’s seventh top-flight title could be the prelude to an even greater triumph on May 29 when they face Chelsea in their first ever Champions League final.

Drained by the late finish to last season and ill-prepared due to the subsequent lack of a proper pre-season, City were slow out of the blocks.

Leicester City's players react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021. Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s players react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021. Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP

 

After a dismal 1-1 draw against lowly West Bromwich Albion in December, City had won just five of their opening 12 Premier League games.

It was the worst start to a season of Guardiola’s managerial career, prompting the Spaniard in the startling admission that he didn’t like his team.

A coronavirus outbreak in the squad added to Guardiola’s problems in December.

Having surrendered the title meekly to Liverpool the previous season, it seemed City were heading for a period of regression.

But Guardiola masterminded such a superb recovery that City turned the title race into a procession, giving him three Premier League crowns to go with three La Liga trophies with Barcelona and three at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

Dominant Dias

One of keys to City’s success has been the inspired form of Ruben Dias, who has transformed Guardiola’s defence since arriving from Benfica in August.

The Portugal centre-back’s rock-solid partnership with the revitalised John Stones laid the title foundations.

Even without club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero for long periods due to fitness issues, City have been a potent force.

File photo: (l to R) Manchester City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias and Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker react after the UEFA Champions League, last 16, 1st-leg football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v Manchester City at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on February 24, 2021. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

The emergence of England playmaker Phil Foden as a match-winning force was crucial, with Kevin De Bruyne as consistent as ever despite battling injuries.

Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez produced spells of lethal finishing, while dynamic full-back Joao Cancelo wreaked havoc with his attacking bursts.

Manchester United and Chelsea appear poised for strong title challenges next season and Liverpool are likely to improve after an injury-hit campaign.

But, after the exits of City legends David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure in recent years, Guardiola has created a new generation capable of reigning supreme for years to come.

Guardiola’s latest Premier League success gives him an astonishing 26 major trophies in his managerial career.

With two trophies already secured this season, the City boss can focus on completing a memorable treble by winning his club’s first Champions League crown.

He will have his work cut out after Thomas Tuchel’s side won the last two meetings between the sides, including the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

For all Guardiola’s protestations that domestic success is the most significant achievement, it is the Champions League that remains his holy grail.

The 50-year-old has not won the tournament since the second of his triumphs with Barcelona in 2011, leading to belittling claims Argentina superstar Lionel Messi was the key to those Champions League victories rather than the coach.

Taking City to the Champions League title in their maiden final appearance would be a glorious way for Guardiola to silence his critics once and for all.

 

AFP

Pipeline Shutdown Sparks Fear Of US Fuel Scarcity

Cars line up to fill their gas tanks at a COSTCO at Tyvola Road in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 11, 2021. Logan Cyrus / AFP
Cars line up to fill their gas tanks at a COSTCO at Tyvola Road in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 11, 2021. Logan Cyrus / AFP

 

Fears the shutdown of a major fuel pipeline would cause a gasoline shortage led to some panic buying and prompted US regulators on Tuesday to temporarily suspend clean fuel requirements in three eastern states and the nation’s capital.

A ransomware attack Friday on Colonial Pipeline forced the company to shut down its entire network, though industry experts say any shortages will be temporary.

The operator of the largest fuel conduit system in the United States, Colonial Pipeline ships gasoline and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast of Texas to the populous east coast through 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of ducts that serve 50 million consumers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday announced a one-week suspension of clean air rules in an effort to ease supply issues.

The waiver is meant “to address the fuel supply emergency caused by a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline’s computer networks that led to the pipeline’s shutdown,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a letter to the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia and the mayor of Washington.

Regan said the EPA and Energy Department “have been actively monitoring the supply of fuel” and found that “the unusual pipeline shutdown has affected gasoline supplies.”

Colonial Pipeline said it hoped to have its system back online by the end of the week, but the shutdown raised fears the shortages would cause gasoline prices to spike just ahead of the US Memorial Day holiday, the unofficial kickoff to the summer travel season.

‘No reason’ to worry

The EPA move, effective through May 18, suspends clean air rules that require urban areas to use fuel with additives like MTBE, which makes gasoline less polluting but also more expensive.

The waiver “is necessary to take action to minimize or prevent disruption of an adequate supply of gasoline to consumers,” Regan said.

Oil industry analyst Patrick De Haan said on Twitter the national average gasoline price reached $2.97 a gallon, “matching the highest since 2018.”

While some gasoline stations along the east coast are running out of fuel, he cautioned against overreacting.

“Rack prices, or the prices stations pay for gasoline, rose only by a couple of cents today throughout the southeastern US. There is no pending spike coming to (gas prices) in the area, folks. No reason to freak out,” De Haan said.

Oil prices already had been on the rise as the global economic reopening accelerated, rebounding to just over $68 a barrel Tuesday from less than $22 in April 2020.

John Catsimatidis, CEO of United Refining Company which processes over 70,000 barrels per-day of oil and owns over 400 gas stations in the New York area, said on Monday that the pipeline shutdown will send prices higher, estimating an impact of “at least four cents a gallon.”

Meanwhile, Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said “It’s still too early to know about the potential impacts to product flow.”

 

AFP

Southern Governors Ban Open Grazing, Ask Buhari To Address Nigerians

 

Southern Governors have banned open grazing of cattle across states in the region and urged the President to address Nigerians on the state of the nation.

The Governors also called for the restructuring of the country to address increasing agitations in different parts of the nation, while restating their commitment to the unity of the country.

The Governors stated these at the end of their meeting in Asaba, the Delta State Capital, on Tuesday.

Physically in attendance were the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde; Rivers State Governor, Nysome Wike; Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi; Ogun State governor, Dapo Abiodun; Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano; Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; among others.

They were received by the host, Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa.

Some of the states and sub-regions have previously banned open grazing.

In February, the Nigerian Governors Forum, representing all 36 states in the country, said it had reached a consensus on the “need for the country to transition into modern systems of animal husbandry that will replace open, night, and underage grazing in the country.”

The ban on open grazing comes as herdsmen violence continues to be reported across the country.

Beyond the herdsmen crisis, the country continues to groan under diverse security threats, including but not limited to an insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North-West and secessionist agitations in the South-East and South-West.

 

Read the Southern Governor’s full position after Tuesday’s meeting:

COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE MEETING OF THE GOVERNORS OF SOUTHERN NIGERIA IN GOVERNMENT HOUSE, ASABA, DELTA STATE, ON TUESDAY, 11TH MAY, 2021

At its meeting held today, 11th May, 2021, th e Southern Governors Forum reviewed the situation in the nation generally and focused on the current security situation, agitations/restructuring, prospect for inter-state collaboration and partnerships as well as on the incidence of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Rising from the meeting, the Forum: affirmed that the peoples of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity; observed that the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply and general security.

Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria; noted that development and population growth has put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South. Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot); recommended that the Federal Government should support WILLING States to develop alternative and modern livestock management systems; agreed that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism; recommended that in view of widespread agitations among our various peoples for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the Federal Government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency; recommended that in deference to the sensitivities of our various peoples, there is need to review appointments into Federal Government Agencies (including Security Agencies) to reflect federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogenous; resolved to foster cooperation among the Southern States and the nation at large; expressed concern on the continued gridlock on the Oshodi – Apapa Expressway and the chokehold it has exerted on the nation’s economy being the sole outlet from Apapa Wharf.

The meeting therefore recommended the activation and establishment of ports in other States of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country; the meeting expressed concern on the economic implications of another lockdown on the country, and therefore suggested greater coordination and cooperation between Federal and State Governments in evolving strategies for dealing with the pandemic; expressed very grave concern on the security challenge currently plaguing the nation and strongly urged that Mr. President should address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity and restore the confidence of our people; and expressed gratitude to our host, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for his generosity and hospitality.

Signed by:

Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN
Governor, Ondo State

His Excellency
Dr. Victor Okezie Ikpeazu
Governor, Abia State Governor

His Excellency
Chief Emmanuel Udom
Akwa Ibom State

His Excellency
Willie Obiano
Governor, Anambra State

His Excellency
Senator Diri Duoye
Governor, Bayelsa State

His Excellency
Prof. Ben Ayade
Governor, Delta State

His Excellency
Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa
Governor, Cross Rivers State

His Excellency
Engr. Dave Umahi
Governor, Ebonyi State

His Excellency
Godwin Obaseki
Governor, Edo State

His Excellency
John Olukayode Fayemi
Governor, Ekiti State

His Excellency
Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi
Governor, Enugu State

His Excellency
Senator Hope Uzodimma
Governor, Imo State

His Excellency
Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Governor, Lagos State

His Excellency
Dapo Abiodun
Governor, Ogun State

His Excellency
Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola
Governor, Osun State

His Excellency
Oluwaseyi Abiodun Makinde
Oyo State Governor

His Excellency
Ezenwo Nyesom Wike Governor
Rivers State

 

 

Returning Serena Raises Doubts Over Olympics Participation

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 1, 2021, Serena Williams of the US wears a face mask as she enters the court to face Australia’s Daria Gavrilova during their Yarra Valley Classic women’s singles tennis match in Melbourne. – (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) / — IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE —

 

Serena Williams raised doubts over her participation at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, ahead of her return to the limelight this week at the Italian Open.

The 39-year-old, still ranked eighth in the world, has been absent from the courts since her semi-final defeat by eventual champion Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open in Melbourne in February.

Williams remains uncommitted about whether she will join up with Team USA in Japan this summer, especially if it means time away from her three-year-old daughter Olympia.

“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her (Olympia) so that kind of answers the question itself,” said the American, who has won four Olympic gold medals, a record she shares with her sister Venus.

“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.

“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”

Williams says she is “ready” to get started again in Rome as preparation for the French Open which starts in Paris on May 24.

“It’s good to start fresh but it’s also hard to start fresh,” she told a press conference on Monday.

“I feel like I’m good. I’m in Rome. I’m going to have some good matches here hopefully and then I will be at another Grand Slam which always makes me excited. So I think either way I’ll be ready.”

Williams has been stuck on 23 major trophies, one behind Australia’s Margaret Court, since winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant.

Since then she has given birth, returned to the tour, and finished runner-up at four major tournaments — after losing just six out of 28 finals before 2017.

Speculation about her future followed her Melbourne defeat and her subsequent withdrawal from the Miami Open because of oral surgery, but she insisted she did not pay attention to online whispers.

“I really try not to get involved in too much of what people say about me, because I feel like it can make you nuts,” she said, adding that she had been doing some “very intense” training on clay.

“One thing I’m really good at is just to not really even engage so much but I do feel like people are wondering if I’m playing.

“And I have to say I always am, you just don’t see it. I don’t show what I do. I don’t always show my cards.”

Allardyce Refuses To Discuss Future After West Brom Relegation

West Bromwich Albion’s English head coach Sam Allardyce (C) looks on from the dugout during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium in London on May 9, 2021.
Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Former England manager Sam Allardyce has refused to commit his future to West Brom after suffering the first Premier League relegation of his career.

The Baggies are the eighth club Allardyce has managed in the English top flight but Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Arsenal condemned them to the drop.

Allardyce’s contract runs until the end of the 2021/22 season but he has yet to reveal his plans for next season and whether he will lead the promotion charge.

Both he and the club now have the option of a break clause.

Only Birmingham have suffered more top-flight relegations than West Brom’s total of 11, while Allardyce has managed in 17 different seasons in the competition.

Allardyce, who was briefly in charge of England in 2016, has established a fearsome reputation as a relegation firefighter, rescuing a number of clubs including Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

He was brought in to replace Slaven Bilic in December but was unable to turn West Brom’s fortunes around and they have managed just five wins from their 35 games this season.

The 66-year old said “words cannot describe” his feelings about being relegated to the Championship but would not give any indications on his future.

“I am not going to answer a question on whether I am staying or going — it will just be a waste of time because I won’t be saying whether I am going or staying,” he said.

“It’s too early to consider or talk about. It’s about the disappointment.”

Allardyce, who established his managerial credentials during an eight-year spell at Bolton, said his focus was to finish the campaign with three respectable performances.

“I want to win all three games but if I could choose just one, it would be West Ham (their final home match on May 19) because the fans will be there,” Allardyce told the BBC.

“I have often thought what home fans might have done. I think they might have been the extra man and lifted us to win some of those draws at the Hawthorns.”

If Fulham lose at home to Burnley on Monday they will join West Brom and Sheffield United in the second tier next season.

Aung San Suu Kyi To Appear In Court May 24, Says Lawyer

FILES) In this file photo taken on March 7, 2021 Myanmar migrants in Thailand hold up pictures of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a protest against the military coup in their home country, in front of the United Nations ESCAP building in Bangkok. 
Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

 

A judge on Monday ordered Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi to appear in person in court for the first time on May 24, her lawyer said, after weeks of delays in her case.

The Nobel laureate has not been publicly seen since she was detained in a February 1 coup, when the military ousted her from power and re-installed its rule.

She was subsequently hit with a series of charges, and her legal team has faced an uphill battle to get a private audience with their client.

Multiple court hearings in the capital Naypyidaw have seen Suu Kyi — who attended via video conferencing from under house arrest — express frustration at the pace of the proceedings.

During the latest hearing Monday, a judge ordered for her cases to be heard with her present in a special courtroom near her residence.

“She will appear in person in court on May 24,” lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

However, he cautioned that the outstanding issue of not being able to meet privately with her still remains.

“The problem is not solved yet because the police did not answer on whether they can arrange our meeting,” he said, adding that private counsel is “the right of the defendant”.

The 75-year-old former leader has been charged six times since her arrest.

The charges include flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year’s election campaign and possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies.

The most serious charge alleges that she violated the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act — a case that is pending in a court in commercial hub Yangon.

The junta has also accused her of corruption — though no charges have been filed — alleging that she received bribes of gold bars and cash.

The junta has continuously justified her arrest and the coup as a way to defend democracy, alleging electoral fraud by her National League for Democracy Party, which swept November’s elections in a landslide.

Coupmaker Min Aung Hlaing, the army’s commander-in-chief, is now leading the junta, and holds legislative, executive and judicial powers in Myanmar.

Mass protests have continued since the coup, with hundreds of thousands defying junta rule to demand a return to democracy and the release of Suu Kyi.

They have been met with live ammunition from security forces — at least 780 civilians have been killed in brutal crackdowns, said a local monitoring group.

-AFP

Taliban Declare Eid Holiday Ceasefire As Violence Soars In Afghanistan

Afghan security forces stand near an armoured vehicle during ongoing fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in the Busharan area on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital city of Helmand province May 5, 2021. Sifatullah ZAHIDI / AFP
Afghan security forces stand near an armoured vehicle during ongoing fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in the Busharan area on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital city of Helmand province May 5, 2021. Sifatullah ZAHIDI / AFP

 

The Taliban on Monday declared a three-day ceasefire for this week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday, following a sharp spike in violence as Washington goes about withdrawing its remaining troops from Afghanistan.

Violence has soared since May 1 — the deadline missed by the United States to withdraw the last of its troops — and while the Taliban have avoided engaging American forces, attacks against government and civilian targets have not stopped.

In the latest, the interior ministry said Monday that at least 11 people were killed by a bomb that struck a bus overnight in southeastern Zabul province.

READ ALSO: Large Chinese Rocket Segment Disintegrates Over Indian Ocean

That followed Saturday’s carnage outside a school in the capital Kabul when a series of bombs killed at least 50 people and wounded over 100 — most of them young girls.

Early Monday, the Taliban instructed fighters “to halt all offensive operations against the enemy countrywide from the first till the third day of Eid”.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, and the holiday begins according to the sighting of the new moon.

Permanent ceasefire needed

The Taliban declared similar ceasefires last year to mark Islamic holidays.

The government usually reciprocates, but Afghan peace council chief Abdullah Abdullah said Monday what the country needs is a permanent ceasefire.

“We believe the best solution to get out of the country’s crisis is expediting peace talks, declaration of lasting ceasefire and ending the fighting forever,” he said in a statement.

On Saturday, a series of bombs detonated outside a girls’ school in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb of the capital largely populated by the Shiite Hazara community which is often targeted by extremist Sunni Islamist militants.

A man pushes an injured boy on a stretcher along a hospital corridor in Kandahar on May 10, 2021, as he receives medical treatment after being hurt by a roadside bomb that struck a bus overnight killing at least 11 people. Javed TANVEER / AFP
A man pushes an injured boy on a stretcher along a hospital corridor in Kandahar on May 10, 2021, as he receives medical treatment after being hurt by a roadside bomb that struck a bus overnight killing at least 11 people. Javed TANVEER / AFP

 

It was the deadliest attack in more than a year and came as residents were shopping ahead of the Eid holiday.

On Sunday, on a desolate hilltop cemetery, bodies in small wooden coffins were lowered into graves, one by one, by mourners still in shock.

“I rushed to the scene and found myself in the middle of bodies, their hands and heads cut off and bones smashed,” said Mohammad Taqi, whose two daughters were students at the school but escaped the attack.

“All of them were girls. Their bodies piled on top of each other.”

‘Why are they fighting Afghans?’

Kabul resident Rashed Hashimi said the Taliban should stop fighting as US forces were leaving.

“The Taliban were saying they were fighting the foreigners, but now the foreigners are leaving,” he said. “So, why are they fighting Afghans?”

Political analyst Fawad Kochi said the ceasefire was a way for the Taliban leadership to give its forces a brief respite from fighting that has intensified since the US troop withdrawal formally commenced on May 1.

“The government will try all possible channels to extend the ceasefire but the Taliban will go back to the battlefield right after Eid,” he said.

“The Taliban know that a prolonged ceasefire will split them and kill their momentum. They will never want that.”

The Taliban insist they have not carried out attacks in Kabul since February last year when they signed the deal with Washington that paved the way for peace talks and withdrawal of the remaining US troops.

But they have clashed daily with Afghan forces in the rugged countryside.

The United States was supposed to have pulled all forces out by May 1, but Washington pushed back the date to September 11 — a move that angered the insurgents.

The leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada, reiterated in a message released ahead of Eid that any delay in withdrawing the troops was a “violation” of that deal.

“If America again fails to live up to its commitments, then the world must bear witness and hold America accountable for all the consequences,” he warned.

Hundreds Hurt In Jerusalem As Isreali Police Clash With Palestinians

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel's takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP
Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

 

More than 300 people were wounded Monday in renewed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in Jerusalem, Palestinian medics said, as an Israeli celebration of its 1967 takeover of the holy city threatened to further inflame tensions. 

Palestinians hurled rocks at Israeli officers in riot gear who fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas on the esplanade of the revered Al-Aqsa mosque, an AFP correspondent at the scene said, following a night of sporadic clashes.

Loud booms and angry screams echoed from the ancient stone walls of the compound, revered by both Jews and Muslims, where tear gas filled the air and the ground was littered with rocks, stun grenade fragments and other debris.

The violence was the latest in days of the worst such disturbances in Jerusalem since 2017, fuelled by a long-running bid by Jewish settlers to take over nearby Palestinian homes in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

A Palestinian argues with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel's takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP
A Palestinian argues with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.
EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

 

Despite mounting international condemnation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supported the Israeli police force’s “just struggle” amid the Jerusalem clashes.

“We insist on guaranteeing the (religious) rights of all, and this from time to time requires the stability and steadfastness that the Israeli police and our security forces are currently displaying,” he said.

Police said Jewish “prayers continue as usual” at the Wailing Wall, which adjoins the esplanade, adding that “we will not let extremists threaten the safety of the public”.

Jerusalem Day

The UN Security Council was to meet at Tunisia’s request later Monday on the unrest that has escalated since the last Friday prayers of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A key court hearing scheduled for Monday on Sheikh Jarrah, the flashpoint east Jerusalem neighbourhood at the centre of the property dispute, has meanwhile been postponed.

There were fears of further violence ahead of a planned march Monday by Israelis to commemorate the takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, an anniversary known as “Jerusalem Day” in the Jewish state.

Israeli police had, as of Sunday, approved the march, which was re-scheduled to start around 5:00 pm (1400 GMT).

The Palestinian Red Crescent put the toll at 305 injured, including more than 200 who were hospitalised, five of them in critical condition.

A Palestinian protester argues with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021, as a planned march marking Israel's 1967 takeover of the holy city threatened to further inflame tensions. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP
A Palestinian protester argues with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 10, 2021, as a planned march marking Israel’s 1967 takeover of the holy city threatened to further inflame tensions. EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP

 

Three people lost one eye each, said surgeon Firas Abu Akari at east Jerusalem’s Maqassed hospital.

Near the Old City, a car carrying Israelis was pelted with stones, lost control and rammed into Palestinians, according to police and footage from a journalist on the scene.

Once stopped, the vehicle was attacked by around a dozen people who continued to hurl projectiles at the passengers before an Israeli policeman dispersed the crowd by firing into the air.

The Israeli police reported nine injuries in their ranks.

US ‘serious concern’

The United States expressed “serious concerns” about the situation.

In a White House statement, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan “encouraged the Israeli government to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations”.

The Israeli role in the hostilities — especially Friday’s clashes at Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site — has met widespread criticism.

All six Arab nations that have diplomatic ties with Israel — Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — have condemned the Jewish state.

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem's Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel's takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. ahmad gharabli / AFP
Palestinians run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP

 

In Jordan, the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy Islamic and Christian sites, King Abdullah II condemned “Israeli violations and escalatory practices at the blessed Al-Aqsa mosque”.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, urged “the UN Security Council to take measures on the repeated violations carried out by Israel”.

The Middle East quartet of envoys from the EU, Russia, the US and the UN — and Pope Francis — have all called for calm.

Court case delayed

Much of the recent violence stems from a long-running legal effort by Jewish settler groups to evict several Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.

A lower court ruling this year backing the settlers’ decades-old claim to the plots infuriated Palestinians.

A Supreme Court hearing on a Palestinian appeal had been set for Monday, but the justice ministry said Sunday that in light of “all the circumstances” it would delay the hearing.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem following the 1967 takeover, a move not recognised by most of the international community.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has expressed “full support for our heroes in Al-Aqsa”.

Hamas Islamists who control the Gaza Strip have also voiced support for the Palestinian protesters and warned Israel of retribution if evictions proceed in Sheikh Jarrah.

AFP

Liverpool Beat Southampton To Keep Top-Four Hopes Alive

Liverpool's Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) heads home the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 8, 2021. Zac Goodwin / POOL / AFP
Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (C) heads home the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on May 8, 2021. Zac Goodwin / POOL / AFP

 

Liverpool kept alive their hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League as Sadio Mane and Thiago Alcantara sealed a 2-0 win against Southampton on Saturday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side moved above Tottenham into sixth place thanks to Mane’s first-half header and Thiago’s first goal for the club in the final moments at Anfield.

Liverpool’s first victory in four games in all competitions leaves them six points behind fourth-placed Leicester with a game in hand in the race to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

It was only their second league win at Anfield in their last 11 matches.

They travel to second-placed Manchester United on Thursday for a crucial clash in their attempt to catch Leicester.

After the failed defence of the title they won last season, Liverpool would be delighted to salvage a troubled campaign with a top-four place.

To do that, they need to win their last four games and hope Leicester and fifth-placed West Ham stumble in the final stretch.

Southampton, 10 points above the relegation zone with four matches left, have now lost 13 of their 17 league games since beating Liverpool in January.

The Saints have earned the fewest points and conceded the most goals in the Premier League in 2021.

Liverpool were quick to scent blood against opponents in such poor form and Mohamed Salah was denied by Fraser Forster after Mane poked the ball through to the Egyptian in the six-yard box.

Diogo Jota’s stinging strike forced another good save from Forster before Salah tested the over-worked keeper from the resulting corner.

Georginio Wijnaldum guided a diving header against the bar as Liverpool kept up the pressure.

Southampton nearly snatched the lead against the run of play when Che Adams met Nathan Tella’s low cross with a close-range effort that was well saved by Alisson Becker.

But 46 seconds later, Liverpool’s dominant spell paid dividends as they broke away to take the lead in the 31st minute.

Salah clipped a cross to the far post and former Southampton forward Mane got behind the visitors defence to head home from close range.

Remarkably, it was the first time the duo had combined for a Premier League goal this season.

Tella should have cancelled out Mane’s 14th goal of the season, but the unmarked winger headed straight at Alisson from Nathan Redmond’s cross.

Jota’s blast was pushed away by Forster early in the second half, but Liverpool weren’t quite so cohesive after the break.

Alisson snuffed out Michael Obafemi’s raid and then turned over Ibrahima Diallo’s rocket from the edge of the area.

Adams had a golden opportunity to equalise in the closing stages after Alisson gifted him possession, but the striker’s effort lacked the accuracy to beat the Brazilian.

Thiago settled Liverpool’s nerves in stoppage time when the former Bayern Munich midfielder rifled home from 18 yards.

AFP

African Union Chair Visits Sudan For Talks On Nile Dam

In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP
In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), near Guba in Ethiopia. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

The new chair of the African Union arrived in Sudan on Saturday for talks over Ethiopia’s controversial Nile dam, state media reported. 

The one-day visit by Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, came as Sudan and Egypt push Ethiopia for a binding deal over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance dam.

Ethiopia says the electricity the structure will generate is important to its development, but downstream Egypt and Sudan fear for their own dams and vital water supplies.

Last month, the DRC hosted negotiations between the three countries but the talks ended without a deal.

Tshisekedi met Saturday with Sudan’s head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, prime minister Abdalla Hamdok, and foreign minister Mariam al-Mahdi, according to SUNA news agency.

“Talks mainly focused on differences between upstream and downstream countries over the Renaissance dam,” the agency reported.

During the talks, Mahdi voiced “strong rejection of unilateral steps” by Ethiopia, which began filling the dam’s reservoir last year.

Addis Ababa has said it will proceed with further filling this year regardless of whether a deal is reached.

Cairo views the dam as an existential threat, while Khartoum fears its own dams could be harmed without a deal.

Also on Saturday, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman held talks with top Sudanese officials over the GERD as well as Sudan-Ethiopia border tensions.

Feltman underscored “the importance of leading the negotiations under the umbrella of the African Union with the involvement of the international community,” Sudan’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Relations between the two countries have soured in recent month over Al-Fashaqa, a fertile border region where Ethiopian farmers have long cultivated land claimed by Sudan.

The two sides have traded accusations of violence and territorial violations in the area.

Tshisekedi took up the rotating presidency of the AU in February after a one-year stint by South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa.

AFP