Category: World

Israeli soldiers storm Al Aqsa Mosque during Eid al-Adha prayers

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According to Arabic-language al-Ahednews website, the Israeli troops stormed the mosque during the prayer ceremony of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which is one of the most important Muslim-calendar events.

Over 100,000 Palestinians had convened in Al-Aqsa this morning to perform the prayers of the Eid.

There is a clash going on between the Israeli forces and Palestinians outside of the mosque.

While people around the world traditionally head to markets several days before the Eid to buy gifts, sweets and new clothes for their families, the impoverished people in Gaza have been marking Eid al-Adha under harsh conditions imposed by the Israeli regime since 2007.

Around two million Palestinians in Gaza are marking another Eid al-Adha holiday this year under difficult conditions due to the Israeli blockade. Like previous years, the festivity is once again marred by rampant poverty and unemployment.

The religious occasion comes at the end of the Hajj Pilgrimage that takes place in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

MNA/PR

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North Korea boosts Kim’s rising status as a global statesman

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SEOUL, South Korea — There’s no question that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in full control of his nation. But a recent change to the way he’s being formally described in the North Korean Constitution may allow him even more diplomatic leverage as he steps with increasing confidence onto the world stage for negotiations over his powerful weapons program.

Despite a flurry of unprecedented summits between Kim and the world powers that surround him, the outcome of that crucial diplomacy is very much in question amid currently deadlocked nuclear disarmament talks and an outburst of North Korean weapons tests in recent weeks.

North Korea on Friday said that its rubber-stamp parliament will hold its second meeting of the year on Aug. 29. It follows weeks of intensified North Korean weapons tests and belligerent statements over U.S.-South Korea military exercises and the slow pace of nuclear negotiations with the United States.

Kim has said he said he would seek a “new way” if Washington doesn’t change its hard-line stance on sanctions relief by the year’s end, though experts doubt he’ll fully abandon diplomacy and give away his hard-won status as a global statesman.

President Donald Trump on Saturday said that Kim wrote him a “beautiful” three-page letter in which he expressed a desire to meet once again to “start negotiations” after U.S.-South Korea military exercises end, and also apologized for the flurry of short-range missile tests.

The North’s new constitutional changes, which show Kim’s further consolidation of his already formidable powers, could allow him to act more clearly as a diplomat on the world stage, technically signing a peace treaty with Trump, for instance, or giving speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, analysts say.

The changes, which were only made public recently on the country’s Naenara website, appear linked to an unusual political reality in the North: While Kim Jong Un is the undisputed leader, it is Kim’s grandfather, national founder Kim Il Sung, who is enshrined as North Korea’s eternal president.

Kim has governed from his position as chairman of Pyongyang’s powerful State Affairs Commission, which was established in 2016 to replace his father’s military-based National Defense Commission as the country’s top decision-making institution.

The constitution makes clear that Kim’s role as chairman of the new commission makes him the country’s supreme leader. But it now adds that he also “represents the country.” This signals potential changes from previous decades, analysts say, when it was the president of the presidium of North Korea’s parliament — the Supreme People’s Assembly — who acted as the ceremonial head of state.

“You could argue that the head-of-state business is meant to put Kim on the same plane as Xi, Trump or Putin. It certainly elevates his stature,” said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate with the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, California, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Whatever the new changes mean, no one, inside or outside the country, is disputing Kim’s status as the ultimate decision-maker, and despite the new constitutional description, he has already been doing high-level diplomatic work on the world stage, releasing statements with Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in following those respective summits.

The North’s new constitution is the “Kim Jong Un Constitution,” according to South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank affiliated with Seoul’s main spy agency. It is clearly designed with Kim’s future role in diplomacy in mind, including negotiations with the U.S. and also potential activities on the U.N. stage, the think tank said. Kim will be handling the important stuff in foreign affairs, while the head of the parliament will be mostly relegated to formalities, such as issuing credential letters to diplomats, it added.

North Korea’s government has yet to weigh in on the change.

“The constitutional revisions reinforce the shift Kim Jong Un has been trying to make away from the ‘military first’ politics of his father’s era, toward a new strategy of prioritizing economic development,” said John Delury, a Korea expert at Seoul’s Yonsei University. It allows Kim to “represent North Korea in the international community.”

Following a flurry of nuclear and missile tests in 2017, including three launches of long-range missiles potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, Kim declared his nuclear arsenal as complete and urged a shift in national focus toward economic growth. But there are doubts whether he’ll ever fully deal away from an arsenal he may see as his strongest guarantee of survival.

The new constitution maintains a description of North Korea as an “invincible political and ideological power, a nuclear power and an indomitable military power” and emphasizes Kim’s commitment to economic growth and developing science and technology.

North Korea’s weapons tests in recent weeks have been accompanied by rising frustration over the pace of nuclear talks and continued military exercises between the United States and South Korea, which the North claims are an invasion rehearsal. The series of short-range ballistic launches are seen as measured brinkmanship aimed at pressuring Washington and Seoul and building leverage ahead of negotiations, which could resume sometime after the end of the military drills later this month.

The United States has called for North Korea to commit to completely relinquishing its nuclear and missile program and rejected the North’s demands for sanctions relief in exchange for piecemeal deals toward partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities.

Yemen separatists seize Aden in blow to the alliance

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The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Aden on Aug. 11 in support of the Yemeni government after southern separatists effectively took over the port city, fracturing the alliance that had been focused on battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

The Sunni Muslim coalition said it attacked an area that posed a “direct threat” to the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which is temporarily based in Aden.

It did not specify the site, but a local official told Reuters it had targeted separatist forces surrounding the nearly empty presidential palace in the Crater district. Hadi is based in Riyadh.

“This is only the first operation and will be followed by others … the Southern Transitional Council (STC) still has a chance to withdraw,” Saudi state TV quoted it as saying.

The alliance had threatened military action if the separatists did not quit government military camps they seized in the city on Saturday, after four days of clashes that killed at least nine civilians, and halt fighting.

STC Vice-President Hani Ali Brik, writing in a Twitter post marking a Muslim holiday that began on Sunday, said that while the Council remained committed to the coalition it would “not negotiate under duress”. It had earlier agreed to a truce.

The United Arab Emirates-backed separatists have a rival agenda to Hadi’s government over the future of Yemen, but they have been a key part of the coalition that intervened in the Arabian Peninsula nation in 2015 against the Houthis after the group ousted Hadi from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The violence complicates the United Nations’ efforts to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the long-impoverished country to the brink of famine.

The fighting trapped civilians in their homes with limited water supplies in Aden, the port of which handles some commercial and aid imports. Residents said clashes had ceased on Saturday night.

Coalition member the UAE, which has armed and trained thousands of southern separatists, urged calm. Riyadh said it would host an emergency meeting aimed at restoring order. Hadi’s government has asked Abu Dhabi to stop backing southern forces.

The infighting is a serious setback for the coalition in its more than four-year campaign to break the grip of the Houthis, who control Sanaa and most urban centers.

The Aden clashes began on Wednesday after the separatists accused an Islamist party allied to Hadi of complicity in a missile attack on a southern forces military parade in Aden.

Analysts said that Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, Sunni Muslim allies united against Shi’ite foe Iran, would work together to contain the crisis even though the UAE in June scaled down its military presence in Yemen as Western pressure mounted to end the war.

“The UAE and Saudi Arabia have allied with distinct Yemeni partners … Yet to this point in the conflict, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have worked to maintain a relative detente between competing interests in the south,” Elizabeth Dickinson, senior analyst at International Crisis Group, told Reuters.

“That is the approach again today,” she said, but added that there was a real concern that the situation could deteriorate into “a civil war within a civil war”.

The war has revived old strains between north and south Yemen, formerly separate countries that united into a single state in 1990 under slain former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The Houthis‘ deputy foreign minister on Saturday said that the Aden events proved Hadi’s government was unfit to rule and called for a dialogue with other main powers in Yemen to establish a federation under a “unified national framework”.

The U.N. is trying to salvage a stalled peace deal in the main port city of Hodeidah, north of Aden, to pave the way for peace talks at a time of heightened tensions after the Houthisstepped up missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities.

The Yemen conflict is widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis deny being puppets of Iran and say their revolution is against corruption

Five killed in Russian missile test explosion

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Five people were killed in an explosion during tests on a military site in northern Russia, the country’s state nuclear agency Rosatom said on Saturday.

The accident on Thursday happened during the testing of a liquid propellant rocket engine at a missile test site in the northwestern region of Arkhangelsk, the agency said.

In a statement carried by RIA news agency, Rosatom said three more of its staff had received injuries of varying degrees of seriousness during the accident, including burns.

They were receiving the necessary medical treatment in specialised facilities, it said.

Conflicting reports

Russian state media had initially reported that a fire occurred on board a vessel at the facility in the port of Severodvinsk in the Arkhangelsk region, an area where nuclear submarines are based.

The Russian defence ministry said two people died while six others were injured when a jet engine exploded.

Authorities said they had been forced to shut down part of a White Sea bay to shipping as a result.

Although the defence ministry said that no harmful chemicals were released into the atmosphere and that radiation levels were unchanged, authorities in the nearby city of Severodvinsk, about 30km from the test site, reported on their website what they described as a brief spike in radiation.

That statement was taken down on Friday without explanation.

Meanwhile, residents have been stocking up iodine – used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure – after the accident, regional media reported.

WATCH

Is it the end of US and Russian arms control?

Two US-based experts said in separate interviews with Reuters news agency that a liquid rocket propellant explosion would not release radiation.

They said they suspected the explosion and the radiation release resulted from a mishap during the testing of a nuclear-powered cruise missile at a facility outside the village of Nyonoksa.

“Liquid fuel missile engines exploding do not give off radiation, and we know that the Russians are working on some kind of nuclear propulsion for a cruise missile,” said Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow with the Federation of American Scientists.

Greenpeace has cited data from the Emergencies Ministry that it said showed radiation levels had risen 20 times above the normal level in Severodvinsk, about 30 kilometres from Nyonoksa

North Korea ‘launches two more ballistic missiles into the sea’

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North Korea has launched what appears to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, according to South Korea’s military.

It is the fifth set of missile tests in less than three weeks and is being seen as a protest at the slow pace of nuclear talks with the US, and the ongoing US-South Korea joint military exercises in the region.

The launches were revealed hours after Donald Trump said he received a “beautiful” letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and predicted that they will engage in further talks to try and resolve the nuclear stand-off.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 10: People watch a TV showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station on August 10, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. Today's launch came just four days after North Korea fired two projectiles believed to be the newly developed short-range ballistic missiles. It is also the fifth such launch since July 25, when it also fired two short-range missiles. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Image:South Koreans watch on as news of another test from Pyongyang reaches them

Mr Trump reiterated that he was not concerned by the weapons being launched, despite the threat they pose to the US allies in the region.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said that the alleged ballistic missiles were fired from the North’s eastern coast – traveling about 250 miles and reaching a height of 30 miles.

They landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Officials in Seoul said that the tests were likely aimed at confirming how reliable the North’s newly developed weapons were, and demonstrating their resentment over the US-South Korea military drills.

More from North Korea

  • North Korea test-fires two more missiles and warns over South’s ‘hostile military moves’

  • Kim Jong Un has ‘great and beautiful vision’ for N Korea – Donald Trump

  • Donald Trump ‘not worried’ as North Korea tests missiles for the third time in a week

  • North Korea says missile launch was the test of ‘multiple rocket system’

  • North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles, South Korea says

  • North Korea fires two short-range missiles into sea, says South Korea

Pyongyang has launched a number of short-range missiles over the last few weeks, saying that the allied military drills compel it to “develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense”.

Mr Trump has been downplaying the secretive state’s launches, with experts saying this tactic has allowed the country to intensify its testing activity, whilst it seeks to build leverage ahead of negotiations, which could start again sometime after the end of drills later in the month.

Leif-Eric Easley, an expert at Seoul’s Ewha Woman’s University, said that the North is also seeking to exploit Mr Trump’s preoccupation with getting South Korea to pay more for US troop deployment in the country, as well as Seoul’s deteriorating relationship with Japan.

South Korea has threatened to end a military intelligence-sharing agreement with Tokyo, in what is thought to be an attempt to pressure the US to intervene in the dispute.

Mr Easley said: “Kim appeals to Trump directly about the exercises, trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul.

“Meanwhile, North Korean propaganda supports rising anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, calculating that a diplomatically isolated Seoul will be more subject to Pyongyang’s coercion.”

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Image:Mr Trump and Mr Kim’s latest meeting was at the Korean border in June

The military drills have been scaled down since the first summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in June 2018 in Singapore created space for diplomacy – but North Korea insists that even the reduced drills violate an agreement between the pair.

However, the recent tests in the North have dampened optimism that followed the third and most recent meeting between the US and North Korean leaders in June at the Korean border.

They have since agreed to resume working-level nuclear talks, but no known meetings have yet taken place since.

Major attack from Gaza thwarted, Hamas bears responsibility for attempted infiltration

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The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday that it foiled a major terror attack in the area of the Gaza border in the early hours of the day, placing responsibility for an attempted infiltration by four Palestinians on Hamas

Troops from the Golani Brigade killed the four infiltrators – who were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers – as they tried to enter Israeli territory from Gaza early Saturday morning.

Weapons seized from Palestinians killed in a failed infiltration attempt from Gaza (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Weapons seized from Palestinians killed in a failed infiltration attempt from Gaza(Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

“The incident began around 4 a.m. when observers from the Gaza Division identified a group of four suspects creeping together towards the fence,” the IDF said.

“Fighters from the 12th Battalion positioned themselves in front of the squad, opposite (the town of) Deir el Balah in central Gaza.

“An exchange of fire ensued, and a grenade was thrown and guns fired, while three were directly at the border fence… and one had already crossed.”The four terrorists wore makeshift uniforms, were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and were carrying a medical bag (and) pipe bombs,” the army said.

“At the same time, a tank opened fire in order to remove a threat in the area of operations.”

There were no casualties among the soldiers.

 

The four armed Gazans killed during an infiltration attempt, identified by Palestinian sources

The four-armed Gazans killed during an infiltration attempt, identified by Palestinian sources

 

Hamas rejected any responsibility for the pre-dawn incident, saying that it was a direct result of the land and sea blockade Israel has placed on the Strip. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent terror attacks on its population. .

 

“Israel is seeing the results of the perpetual pressure and rage in which the residents of the Gaza Strip live, which is caused by the siege it imposes on the Strip,” the terror group that rules the coastal enclave said in a statement.”The actions of Israel are pushing young Gazans into independent responses,” the group said.

 

But IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Israel holds Gaza’s ruling Hamas authorities “responsible and accountable for any acts of violence emanating from the Gaza Strip,” regardless of whether Hamas ordered the attack.

The area of the attempted infiltration

The area of the attempted infiltration

 

Sources in the Gaza Strip initially said that three of the dead Palestinians were members of Hamas’ unit responsible for preventing infiltration into Israel near the perimeter fence. The same sources named the three Hamas men as Abdullah Hamada, aged 21; Abdullah a-Ghari, aged 19, and Ahmed Adini aged 20.

The troops involved in thwarting the attack were from the 12th Battalion, which nine days ago was involved in infiltration from Gaza a little south of the scene of the Saturday morning incident.

An IDF officer was shot dead and two soldiers were lightly wounded in the attack.

The UK’s new plan to attract foreign scientists, as Brexit looms

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London (CNN)UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to Facebook Live Thursday to announce a points-based fast-track immigration route to encourage “elite researchers and specialists in science” to move to the UK — a move which comes just 12 weeks ahead of the UK’s planned withdrawal from the European Union.

“We are today announcing…that we are changing the rules on immigration so as to make the UK even more open and even more welcoming to scientists around the world,” Johnson said.
“I want the UK to continue to be a global science superpower, and when we leave the EU we will support science and research and ensure that, far from losing out, the scientific community has a huge opportunity to develop and export our innovation around the world,” the Prime Minister added in a statement released shortly after.
According to the government’s proposals, the new rules will abolish the cap on Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas and the need to hold an offer of employment before arriving, as well as providing an accelerated path to resettlement.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said Thursday that the government plans to introduce a points-based immigration system “centered on what people will contribute” the UK in order to attract “gifted minds” who will “bolster the UK’s standing as a hub for science and innovation.”
“We want Britain to be the most prosperous economy in Europe with an immigration system that attracts the brightest and best global talent. Our new fast-track visa route will be a key part of this – encouraging the world’s top scientists and researchers to our shores,” the Home Secretary added.