Israel Deals ‘Hardest Blow’ to Hamas Since 2014 Gaza War

Israel deals 'hardest blow' to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war
Israel deals 'hardest blow' to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war
Palestinian witnesses say a building was struck in Gaza City – Israel says it hit militant training sites

Israel has carried out its biggest attack against Hamas militant targets in Gaza since the war in 2014, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says.

The raids were a response to dozens of rockets fired into Israel, he said. Hamas said a truce had been agreed, but further exchanges have been reported.

Palestinian health officials said two people were killed and 12 injured in an air strike in Gaza City on Saturday.

Three Israelis were hurt by one of more than 90 rockets fired on Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it had struck facilities used by Hamas, which dominates Gaza, including a battalion headquarters in Beit Lahia, a training camp located in a high-rise building in the al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza, weapons storage facilities and rocket launchers.

“In consultation with the minister of defence, the chief of staff and the top security command of the state of Israel, we have decided on strong action against Hamas terrorism,” Mr Netanyahu said in a video statement.

“The IDF have struck Hamas with the hardest blow since Operation Protective Edge and we will increase the strength of our attacks as necessary,” he added, referring to the 2014 conflict.

However, Palestinian officials said a ceasefire had now been agreed thanks to “Egyptian and international efforts”. Israel has not commented on the report, although Reuters quoted an unnamed Israeli defence official a saying “only the facts on the ground will dictate our further response”.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency an Israeli strike had hit an empty building in Gaza City and that the casualties were passers-by.

Hamas said another Palestinian had died after being shot by Israeli troops during border protests on Friday.

The IDF said dozens of rockets had been fired on Israel from within Gaza.

Israel deals 'hardest blow' to Hamas since 2014 Gaza war
More than 90 rockets are reported to have fallen in Israel

One rocket hit a home in the town of Sderot. Three people suffered shrapnel wounds.

The attacks come amid an escalation of violence in the region in recent months.

They coincided with mass demonstrations along the border which saw thousands of Palestinians express their support for the declared right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes in what is now Israel – as well as demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Israel and Egypt say the blockade is a necessary security measure against militants.

Gaza health officials say more than 130 Palestinians were killed and 15,000 others injured by Israeli forces during the protests.

Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist but last year said it was ready to accept an interim Palestinian state limited to Gaza and the West Bank.

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When a WhatsApp text can trigger a lynching

When a WhatsApp text can trigger a lynching
When a WhatsApp text can trigger a lynching
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MUMBAI: A WhatsApp text circulating in some districts of India’s central Madhya Pradesh state helped to inflame a mob of 50-60 villagers into savagely beating up two innocent men last week on suspicion that they were going to murder people and sell their body parts.

The essence of the message, written in Hindi, was that 500 people disguised as beggars were roaming the area so that they could kill people to harvest their organs. The message also urged recipients to forward it to friends and family. Police say the message was fake.

When a WhatsApp text can trigger a lynching
Satish Bhaykre, 21, who was beaten by a mob due to a fake WhatsApp text, poses inside his house on the outskirts of Nagpur, India, June 23, 2018. Picture taken June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Police officers who joined several local WhatsApp groups, found three men circulating the message and they were arrested, said Jayadevan A, the police chief for Balaghat district, where the incident occurred.

This happened just weeks after a WhatsApp text warning of 400 child traffickers arriving in the southern Indian technology hub of Bengaluru led a frenzied mob to lynch a 26-year-old man, a migrant construction worker from another Indian state, on suspicions that he was a kidnapper. He was attacked while he was just walking on the road.

So far this year, false messages about child abductors on Facebook Inc-owned WhatsApp have helped to trigger mass beatings of more than a dozen people in India – at least three of whom have died. In addition, fake messages about child snatchers on Facebook, as well as some texts on WhatsApp, also led to the lynching of two men in eastern India earlier this month.

When a WhatsApp text can trigger a lynching
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WHATSAPP’S BIGGEST MARKET

With more than 200 million users in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market in the world, false news and videos circulating on the messaging app have become a new headache for social media giant Facebook, already grappling with a privacy scandal.

In India, a country with over a billion phone subscribers with access to cheap mobile data, false news messages and videos can instantly go viral, creating mass hysteria and stirring up communal tensions.

Those tensions can be high between the Majority Hindu community and the minority Muslim population but also within the rigid Hindu caste hierarchy where the so-called Dalits at the bottom of the pyramid have faced attacks for trying to improve their position in society.

In 2017, at least 111 people were killed and 2,384 injured in 822 communal incidents in the country, according to the federal home affairs ministry. It is unclear whether any of these incidents were triggered by fake news messages.

WhatsApp said it is aware of the incidents in India through media coverage.

When a WhatsApp text can trigger a lynching
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“Sadly some people also use WhatsApp to spread harmful misinformation,” WhatsApp said in a statement. “We’re stepping up our education efforts so that people know about our safety features and how to spot fake news and hoaxes.”

Group texts, where fake news spreads most easily, are still a minority: 90 percent of messages are between two people, and the average group size is six people, according to the messaging platform.

WhatsApp also said it is considering changes to the service. For example, there is now a public beta test that is labeling any forwarded message.

The company is not planning any changes to its encryption, which ensures messages are not read by anyone except the sender and the recipient.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

Two senior Indian government officials told Reuters that New Delhi had engaged with WhatsApp on the issue but they are not allowed to discuss the matter publicly. WhatsApp declined to comment on possible contact with Indian government officials.

Indian ministries of IT, home affairs and information and broadcasting did not respond to requests for comment.

PRIVACY CONCERNS

A deluge of hoax news incidents, several with fatal consequences, may bolster the Indian government’s attempts to get social networks to share more user data so that police can track down those spreading rumors. That concerns privacy advocates who fear the authorities will use such access against activists and political opponents, and not just against those spreading malicious information.

“Government restrictions on dissemination of false news are too often an attempt to shroud government intentions of restricting freedom of expression and criticism,” according to David Kaye, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has also recently floated a tender for a firm to scrutinize social media posts of Indian users and identify fake news.

The Indian authorities have been signaling they will take an increasingly harsh line with foreign companies who are providing Internet services in India.

India’s central bank in April issued a directive compelling all payments firms operating in the country to store payments data locally within six months for “unfettered supervisory access”. Separately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is working on a data protection law that could force all foreign tech firms to store key Indian user data locally.

“There is a distinct link between fake news and laws being proposed undermining privacy,” said Apar Gupta, a co-founder of advocacy Internet Freedom Foundation.

Meanwhile, the inflammatory hoax news messages keep coming.

One floating in Bengaluru last month warned parents to take “extra measures towards the safety” of children during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as they remain busy with prayers and shopping.

More than 500 kidnappers have entered the southern state of Karnataka from western Rajasthan state and the cities of Chennai and Hyderabad, the message said.

WhatsApp messages on organ thieves or child abductions are just the tip of the iceberg though – fake reports can range from incorrect medical advice to news about top jobs.

A recent message circulating in India’s northeast starts by saying the deadly brain-damaging Nipah virus has arrived in Shillong city and advises parents to keep children away from lychees, a popular summer fruit. No confirmed cases of Nipah have been found yet outside of southern Kerala state.

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Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential poll

Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential poll
Erdogan declares victory in Turkish presidential poll
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ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday declared victory in a tightly-contested presidential election, extending his 15-year grip on power in the face of a revitalized opposition.

Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The stakes in this election are particularly high as the new president is the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.

Erdogan was on course to defeat his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with more than half the vote without needing a second round, initial results showed.

“The unofficial results of the elections have become clear. According to these… I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency,” Erdogan said at his Istanbul residence.

He added that the alliance led by the AKP had won the majority in parliament.

Erdogan has just under 53 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 96 percent vote count.

The figures could yet change as final ballot boxes are opened.

But celebrations were already beginning outside Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and AKP headquarters in Ankara, with crowds of flag-waving supporters, AFP correspondents said.

Trailing were Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent and Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with almost eight percent.

A count of almost over 95 percent for the parliamentary election also showed that Erdogan’s AKP — along with its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies — were well ahead and set for an overall majority.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was polling 11 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win 46 seats, which would make it the second largest opposition party in the new chamber.

‘Protect your rights’

Erdogan had faced an energetic campaign by Ince, who has rivaled the incumbent’s charisma and crowd-pulling on the campaign trail, as well as a strong opposition alliance in the legislative poll.

Ince vowed to spend the night at the headquarters of Turkey’s election authority in Ankara to ensure a fair count and urged supporters to stay in polling stations until the final vote was counted.

The CHP said it had recorded violations in particular in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, although Erdogan insisted, after voting himself, there was no major problem.

“I will protect your rights. All we want is a fair competition. Have no fear and don’t believe in demoralizing reports,” Ince said after polls closed.

Several world leaders supportive of Erdogan, including Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, called to congratulate him on his “victory”, the presidency said.

‘For the future’

Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and autocratic behavior.

Although Erdogan dominated airtime on a pliant mainstream media, Ince finished his campaign with eye-catching mass rallies, including a mega meeting in Istanbul on Saturday attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

The president has for the last two years ruled under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup, with tens of thousands arrested in an unprecedented crackdown which cranked up tensions with the West.

Erdogan, whose mastery of political rhetoric is acknowledged even by critics, has won a dozen elections but campaigned against the backdrop of increasing economic woes.

Inflation has zoomed well into double digits — with popular concern over sharp rises in staples like potatoes and onions — while the Turkish lira has lost some 25 percent in value against the US dollar this year.

But the opposition has lambasted the uneven nature of the poll, which saw state-controlled television ignore Ince’s giant rally in Istanbul on the eve of the election.

And in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP’s Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

After casting his ballot in his jail in the northwestern region of Edirne, Demirtas wrote on Twitter: “I wish that everyone uses their vote for the sake of the future and democracy of the country.”

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Guatemala volcano search called off with nearly 200 unaccounted for

Guatemala volcano search called off with nearly 200 unaccounted for
Guatemala's Fuego Volcano is seen emitting plumes of ash on June 1. Photo: AFP
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Authorities on Sunday called off a search for the nearly 200 people missing since Guatemala´s Fuego volcano erupted earlier this month, devastating the surrounding countryside.

Officials have confirmed the deaths of 110 people as a result of the volcanic eruption on June 3, but another 197 remain unaccounted for.

A spokesperson for the government´s civil protection agency, David de Leon, said the agencies involved decided to end the search “due to the fact that the area is uninhabitable and of high risk.”

The volcano, 35 kilometers southwest of the capital, is still generating four or five weak explosions an hour, sending a column of gray ash more than 3,000 feet into the sky.

Guatemala´s south-central region was also shaken on Sunday night by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake with its epicenter at Iztapa, on the Pacific coast near neighboring El Salvador, the civil protection agency said.

There were no reports of injuries or damage.

Additionally, rains were forecast for Sunday, posing a danger of volcanic mud flows.

More than 3,600 villagers have been forced to take temporary refuge in schools and community halls.

The suspended search had been focused on the hardest-hit communities of San Miguel Los Lotes and El Recreo.

The only exception to the suspension is in the area of Alotenango, where volunteer firefighters continued to search for two colleagues who went missing on the day of the disaster.

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Three people killed by a train in south London

Three people killed by a train in south London
Loughborough Junction. Photo: File
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LONDON: Three people have died after they were hit by a train in south London on Monday, with police treating the deaths as unexplained.

British Transport Police said they were called to Loughborough Junction, a station on a busy commuter trainline near Brixton, at 0630 GMT, where three people were pronounced dead at the scene.

“My team are now working hard to understand what happened and how these three people came to lose their life on the railway,” Gary Richardson from British Transport Police said in a statement.

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Telugu film producer, wife arrested in US for sex trafficking of actresses

Telugu film producer, wife arrested in US for sex trafficking of actresses
Sex Racket Busted In USA, Telugu Film Producer & Wife Held
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Telugu film Producer Kishan Modugudi alias Vibha Jayam and his wife Chandra Modugudi were arrested for allegedly running a sex racket in the US.

The accused were supplying film heroines and anchors to the customers in star hotels centre in Chicago.  The female stars were provided temporary visas on the pretext of film shootings and entertainment programmes.  They were lodged in costly hotels for customers.

The arrested pimps are supplying heroines to the customers in Dallas,  New Jersey and also Washington.  Customers are being charged 3,000 US dollars for spending a few hours.   They advertise them for sex at Indian conferences and cultural events across the country.

On a tip off, US police cracked the sex racket in America.  Police investing call data, emails and social networks. Condoms were also seized from the accused house. It also came light a noted heroine pleaded with the producer to not drag her in flesh trade through a mail.

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US ‘will not be a migrant camp’: Trump

US ‘will not be a migrant camp’: Trump
US ‘will not be a migrant camp’: Trump
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WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States would not become a “migrant camp” as he faced mounting pressure to stop families being separated as a deterrent to illegal immigration.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said in remarks delivered at the White House. “It won’t be.”

“You look at what’s happening in Europe, you look at what’s happening in other places, we can’t allow that to happen to the United States. Not on my watch.”

About 2,000 children have been separated from their parents or guardians over six weeks, according to US authorities, since the Trump administration announced that all migrants illegally crossing the Mexican border would be arrested, regardless of whether the adults were seeking asylum.

Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated from them.

Trump has repeatedly said he wants family separations to end, but has refused to take responsibility for them — instead blaming Democrats, the minority party in Congress, whom he accuses of blocking legislation on the broader issue of illegal immigration.

He doubled down on that claim on Monday in a series of tweets, and again in remarks before a meeting of the National Space Council.

“If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly. Good for the children, good for the country, good for the world,” he said.

“We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world.”

“We’re stuck with these horrible laws. They’re horrible laws. What’s happening is so sad, is so sad. And it can be taken care of quickly, beautifully,” he said.

“But just remember, a country without borders is not a country at all. We need borders, we need security. We need safety. We have to take care of our people.”

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Three dead as strong quake shakes Japan’s Osaka

Three dead as strong quake shakes Japan’s Osaka
Three dead as strong quake shakes Japan’s Osaka
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TOKYO: A powerful quake rocked Japan’s second city of Osaka on Monday, killing three people including a nine-year-old girl and injuring scores of others, according to an official tally.

Television images showed buildings swaying and burst pipes spewing water after the quake, which struck at the height of rush hour in the city of around two million people.

However, there was no large-scale destruction and no tsunami warning issued after the earthquake, although commuters were stranded and tens of thousands were left without power.

Among the casualties was a nine-year-old girl who died in the city of Takatsuki, north of Osaka city, reportedly trapped by a collapsed wall following the 5.3-magnitude quake.

Public broadcaster NHK said an 80-year-old man had also been killed by a collapsing wall and another man trapped under a bookcase in his home.

In addition to the three deaths, the government’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency said at least 91 people were injured.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the government was “working united, with its first priority on saving people’s lives”.

And government spokesman Yoshihide Suga cautioned “there is a possibility that strong aftershocks will happen”.

“Large-scale quakes are likely to happen in the next two to three days,” he told reporters.

Japan sits on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire” where a large proportion of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded.

On March 11, 2011, a devastating magnitude 9.0 quake struck under the Pacific Ocean, and the resulting tsunami caused widespread damage and claimed thousands of lives.

It also sent three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan’s worst postwar disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

 ‘Strong vertical jolt’

Local residents described the moment the quake jolted the highly urbanised area at 8:00 am, when platforms would have been heaving with passengers waiting to board their commuter trains.

“The floor moved violently. It was a strong vertical jolt. Nearly all of the dishes fell and shattered on the floor,” said Kaori Iwakiri, a 50-year-old nurse in Moriguchi, just north of Osaka city.

“My parents suffered a blackout and they have no water. I plan to take water to them now.”

Despite its relatively low magnitude, the quake caused quite a shake, registering a lower six on the Japanese experiential scale of up to seven, meaning it is hard to stay standing.

Eiji Shibuya, 52, said the tremor reminded him of the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake, which killed nearly 6,500 people.

“I was stunned. I couldn’t do anything,” he told AFP from Itami, a city in eastern Osaka region.

“I was worried about my son as he had just left for his high school. I was relieved when I confirmed he was safe.”

NHK showed footage of firefighters tackling a blaze that ripped through a home north of Osaka.

A number of train services were suspended, including the “shinkansen” bullet train, as multiple smaller aftershocks followed the quake.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said it had detected no problems at its local atomic power plants, but some companies, including Honda, said they had suspended operations at local plants.

Kansai Electric said on its website that around 170,000 homes in the Osaka region were briefly without power.

“There are fears that the risk of house collapses and landslides has increased in the areas shaken strongly,” said Toshiyuki Matsumori, in charge of monitoring quakes at the meteorological agency.

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House of Pakistani-American gutted in New Jersey fire

House of Pakistani-American gutted in New Jersey fire
A Pakistani-American family’s house was gutted in a fire early Sunday morning.
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A Pakistani-American family’s house was gutted in a fire early Sunday morning, Geo News reported early Monday morning.

“All family members were sleeping at about 2:30 AM, narrowly escaped death,” said a statement issued by the fire department, adding the house owner, Zafar Khursheed, along with one of his daughters sustained minor injuries.

A Pakistani-American family’s house was gutted in a fire early Sunday morning
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The family lost its home at the end of Eid-ul-Fitr day and the beginning of Father’s Day.

Despite the efforts of the fire brigade the house was gutted down by the blaze. The cause of the fire has yet to be ascertained.

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France, Germany close to agreement on eurozone reform

France, Germany close to agreement on eurozone reform
France, Germany close to agreement on eurozone reform
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PARIS: Paris and Berlin are very close to an agreement on eurozone reform after months of divisions, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said.

“An agreement is close at hand,” Le Maire said on Twitter late Saturday after final negotiations on the subject with this German counterpart in the northern German city of Hamburg.

The minister added that he hoped an agreement could be finalised on Tuesday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are scheduled to meet near Berlin.

Paris and Berlin are racing to bridge the gap between Macron’s vision of grand European Union reforms and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s more prudent approach by a crunch eurozone summit on June 29.

“There are two or three remaining issues” to sort out, a European source close to the negotiations told AFP. “But these are clearly defined and limited.”

The source added that “real progress had been made on the sensitive issues that remained to be decided, especially regarding the eurozone budget.”

France, Germany close to agreement on eurozone reform
Euro coins and banknotes are shown by a salesclerk at a shop. (Mindaugas Kulbis/AP) Image Source

Germany and other northern European states have baulked at Macron’s calls to give the eurozone its own big budget, fearing the more fiscally prudent north will have to pick up the tab for overspending by the more profligate south.

Earlier this month, Merkel made some concessions, agreeing to support Macron’s call for an investment fund to help poorer European countries catch up in the areas of science, technology and innovation.

But the size of the fund remains a major bone of contention, with Merkel saying it should be “at the lower end of the double-digit billions of euros range”, while Macron has called for a budget amounting to “the equivalent of several points of the GDP of the eurozone”.

The French president is on a drive to reconcile Europeans with the EU after years of austerity and mass migrant flows have helped fuel the rise of anti-immigrant and nationalist parties.

He has championed EU reform proposals such as a common finance minister and budget.

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