Thousands flee northern Gaza after Israeli warnings

July 13, 2013

Thousands of Palestinians are fleeing northern parts of Gaza after Israel warned it was targeting the area in its campaign to stop rocket attacks.

The UN says 17,000 people have sought refuge in its facilities as Israeli air strikes continue for a sixth day.

Israeli forces have raided a suspected rocket-launching site in Gaza in their first reported ground incursion.

At least 159 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s offensive began, according to health officials in Gaza.

The dead are said to include 17 members of one family who died in an Israeli missile strike on Saturday evening.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants and “terror sites”, including the homes of senior operatives. However, the United Nations has estimated that 77% of the people killed in Gaza have been civilians.

The UN Security Council called for a ceasefire and peace talks on Saturday.

In the latest developments

  • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke out against “importing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” on to French soil after rioters tried to break into two synagogues in Paris following a rally against the Israeli air strikes in Gaza
  • A mortar shell or rocket fired from Syria hit the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights, the Israeli military said
  • A rocket fired from Gaza hit electricity infrastructure in Israel that supplied power to Gaza, cutting power to about 70,000 people, the Israeli military said

‘Nowhere to go’

The military confirmed it had dropped leaflets over the city of Beit Lahiya on Sunday morning telling civilians to seek shelter.

“We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe,” the IDF said.

UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness said in a tweetthat the agency had doubled its spaces for displaced people from 10,000 to 20,000.

Meanwhile, about 800 Palestinians holding dual citizenship began leaving Gaza via Israel’s Erez Crossing.

The Palestinian Authority’s envoy in the UK, Manuel Hassassian, told BBC News there was nowhere for Gaza residents to hide.

“There are no shelters, no bunkers, no place to go, except their homes,” he said. “If they leave their homes, they will be hit on the street.”

Early on Sunday, Israeli air strikes destroyed most of the security headquarters and police stations run by Hamas Islamist militants.

Israel has been building up its troops along the border with northern Gaza, fuelling speculation of a possible ground invasion.

Defending Israel’s actions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US broadcaster CBS: “We’re sorry for any accidental civilian deaths but it’s the Hamas that bears complete responsibility for such civilian casualties.”

The IDF says it has so far struck some 1,320 “terror” sites across Gaza, while Hamas has launched more than 800 rockets at Israel.

At least three Israelis have been seriously injured since the violence erupted, but no Israelis have been killed by the attacks.

Palestinian sources say more than 1,000 people have been injured in Gaza.

France on Sunday again condemned the Hamas rocket attacks, but also called on Israel to “show restraint” in its Gaza campaign and avoid civilian casualties.

Germany is sending Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Israel on Monday for talks with Israelis and Palestinians to help negotiate an end to the violence.

Rocket fire and air strikes increased after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June and the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Israel and militants in Gaza fought an eight-day war in November 2012, which ended with a truce.

Ukraine conflict: Fighting flares near city of Luhansk

July 13, 2013

Fighting has flared outside the rebel-held east Ukrainian city of Luhansk, with rebels saying government forces tried to storm the city with tanks.

Rebel military leader Igor Strelkov was quoted as saying his forces had beaten off columns of government armour attacking from the south and west.

Pro-Ukrainian sources in the city of 425,000 people reported skirmishes in villages to the south and west.

Germany and Russia have urged direct talks between Kiev and the rebels.

Meeting briefly in Rio de Janeiro before the World Cup final, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the talks to be held by video link, Mrs Merkel’s office said in a statement(in German).

The two leaders agreed that the situation in Ukraine was “tending towards a deterioration”, a Kremlin spokesman said.

Pro-Russian separatist rebels have been fighting the government in Kiev since declaring independence in Luhansk and the neighbouring region of Donetsk in April.

Talks in Rio between Mr Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko were cancelled after the Ukrainian leader announced he would not be attending the final after all.

‘Seventy tanks’

Strelkov (the nom-de-guerre of Igor Girkin) said the rebels had beaten off two government armoured columns numbering between 40 and 70 tanks.

The rebels fought artillery skirmishes with the Ukrainian army “along the front”, he said.

According to a report (in Russian) on the local anti-rebel news website Informator, Ukrainian forces entered the village of Sabivka, just west of Luhansk, on Sunday. Shooting broke out and local residents took shelter in cellars, it said.

Another local pro-Ukrainian news website, 0642.ua, also reported fightingin Sabivka, quoting an unnamed local woman.

Fighting was also reported around 17:00 (14:00 GMT) just south of Luhansk, in the villages of Heorhiivka and Rozkishne, by the Luhansk news website sxid.info.

An Luhansk anonymous blogger, who tweets as @journal1st_88, wrote of hearing explosions, sirens, shooting and planes flying overhead in Luhansk.

The government began an “anti-terrorist operation” in April to crush the rebellion in the eastern regions.

On Friday, it suffered one of its heaviest losses when an armoured column was hit by rebel rockets in Donetsk region and at least 19 soldiers were killed and about 100 injured.

A rocket attack on the Donetsk city suburb of Marinka on Friday night killed at least four people, with the rebels and government blaming each other.

And earlier on Sunday, Russia warned of “irreversible consequences” after a man was allegedly killed on its side of the border by a shell fired from Ukraine.

The incident reportedly happened when a shell hit the courtyard of a residential building in a small Russian border town, also called Donetsk. The Ukrainian government denied firing on Russian territory.

More than 1,000 civilians and combatants are believed to have died in the fighting since April.

Libyan rival militias clash near Tripoli airport

July 13, 2014

At least seven people have been killed and 30 hurt in clashes between rival militias at Libya’s airport near the capital, Tripoli, officials say.

Rebels from the Zintan region who control the international airport have been attacked by a rival group trying to take over the area.

Flights have been suspended amid reports of heavy shelling and gunfire.

Libyan leaders have struggled to bring stability to the country since Muammar Gaddafi was removed from power in 2011.

Zintan fighters seized control of the airport and surrounding areas, 30km (18 miles) south of Tripoli, shortly after Col Gaddafi’s 42-year-rule came to an end.

It is not clear who the attacking rebels are, but Libyan media report they call themselves the Stability and Security Force.

Armed vehicles massed in the area overnight before fighting broke out at dawn, witnesses told CNN.

The violence has prompted airport authorities to suspend flights for three days, starting Sunday.

The BBC’s Rana Jawad, in Tripoli, says there have recently been threats from various militias wanting to seize the airport area.

The situation in Libya remains unstable as a complex web of armed groups, which emerged from the aftermath of the civil war, are fighting for power.

Analysts say the rebels are seen by Libyans as both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, in the absence of an effective army, they provide security across much of the country and protect the borders.

On the other, they have been accused of human rights abuses, unlawful detention and of taking the law into their own hands.

Iraq: Gunmen kill ‘at least 29′ in attack in Baghdad

July 12, 2014

Gunmen have stormed two buildings in the Iraqi capital, killing at least 29 people, officials say. At least 20 of those killed were said to be women.

The attack took place late on Saturday in the neighbourhood of Zayouna in east Baghdad, police said. One officer said he “found bodies everywhere”.

The motive for the killings is not clear. No group has said it carried out the attack.

Reports said the two buildings were suspected to be brothels.

Writing left on the door of one of the buildings read: “This is the fate of any prostitution,” AFP news agency reports.

Locals in Zayouna have accused Shia militias of killing women thought to be prostitutes, Reuters news agency reported. The neighbourhood is a mixed district of Sunni and Shia Muslims.

A brothel in Zayouna was attacked in May 2013, with seven women and five men shot dead.

Prostitution is prohibited under Islam, the dominant religion in Iraq.

Iraq is experiencing an upsurge in instability as government forces battle an Islamist insurgency led by the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which has seized huge swathes of the country’s north-west and closed in on cities near Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Kurdish ministers have suspended participation with the government after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki accused the autonomous region of sheltering extremists.

The current conflict in Iraq has acquired strong sectarian overtones, with disputes between the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shia.

The Shia-led government is struggling against predominantly Sunni Isis fighters, and other Sunni rebel groups.

Institutional corruption in the Gardaí

May 8, 2014

Shell to Sea notes the resignation of Alan Shatter and his replacement by Frances Fitzgerald as Minister for Justice as a long overdue development. Terence Conway, Shell to Sea spokesperson, says “Alan Shatter showed contempt for everybody who raised issues of wrongdoing in an Garda Siochána and it was clear he never had any intention of dealing with institutional corruption in the Gardaí. We ask that his successor takes immediate action to deal with the blatant abuses of power that, unfortunately, are rampant within the force.”

While Mr Shatter came under strong criticism for his handling of the Garda whistleblowers, the bugging of GSOC’s offices and the penalty points controversy, his refusal to consider any investigation of Garda policies, tactics and procedures in relation to the policing of the Shell/Corrib dispute was nothing short of belligerent. Not only did Minister Shatter rebuke every call for an inquiry into the Gardaí in relation to this matter, he also engaged in a hostile campaign to discredit the legitimate protests that have taken place in north Mayo since 2002, consistently referring to “protest tourism” and attempting to obscure the fact that opposition to Shell/Corrib stems first and foremost from local residents who have never been properly consulted nor given their consent for the imposition of a massive industrial project in the heart of their community.

The issues relating to breaches of fundamental human rights by Gardaí policing the Shell/Corrib dispute have been highlighted by various NGO’s such as AFRI, TABLE Observers, Frontline Defenders and UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Margaret Sekeggya, when she visited Ireland in 2012 and recommended full independence be given to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission to investigate the matter.

Shell to Sea will be contacting Frances Fitzgerald, the new Minister requesting she authorise GSOC to conduct a section 106 investigation of the Gardaí’s role in north Mayo and re-iterating our demand for fully independent international inquiry into all aspects of the Shell/Corrib dispute. Shell to Sea also support retired Garda John Wilson’s demand that the next Commissioner of the Garda be recruited from outside the ranks of the force as only a fully independent person can bring about the change necessary to restore public confidence in the Gardaí.

Nigeria Is Melting Down

May 4, 2014

As business leaders arrive in Abuja, Nigeria for a meeting of the World Economic Forum this week, they will be walking into a civil society under siege from a terror group bent on destroying Western society and a corrupt and unsecure oil sector.

More than 200 girls remain missing in the country’s northeast, kidnapped and in the opinions of some “enslaved” by an Islamist terror group called Boko Haram, which literally translates as “Western education is blasphemy.” Over the weekend, the U.S. pledged unspecified aid in response to the incident.

The insidiousness of Boko Haram, which has claimed responsibility for a string of attacks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is difficult to understate. According to Reuters’ Tim Cocks and Lanre Ola, they “want to install a medieval Islamic kingdom in Nigeria.” They have already killed thousands over the course of a five-year insurgency.

Nigerians have lost faith that their government is capable of adequately meeting the challenge. Dozens of protesters marched on Nigeria’s parliament for failing to do more.

“The abduction has also become a symbol of the military’s impotence in protecting civilians against Islamist insurgents whose attacks appear to be getting less discriminating,” Cocks and Ola write.

“If 230 girls can go missing for this long and nobody knows how to find them, thensomething’s very wrong with our country,” Tokumbo Adebanjo, 45, a travel agent and mother, told them. “I feel the pain of those other mothers. Obviously the government are not doing their job.”

Meanwhile, the FT’s Javier Blas reports the country’s fiscal stability is now threatened by a triple whammy of corruption, theft, and falling prices in its oil sector, on which it largely depends for growth. Earlier this year, Lamido Sanusi, Nigeria’s highly respected central bank governor claimed he’d found a $US20 billion hole in the country’s oil account. For announcing this discovery, he was suspended and had his travel rights revoked. A promised investigation into the missing revenues has yet to begin.

Blas says falling prices and a massive theft problem have led to a full-on crisis that threatens the country’s fiscal stability. “The government based its budget on oil production of 2.39m b/d,” he writes. “According to estimates by the IEA, the country has not produced 2.3m-2.4m b/d for any sustained period since 2005-06.”

Last year, a report from Chatham House said Nigerian crude was being stolen “on an industrial scale,” with up to $US8 billion in proceeds getting “laundered through world financial centres”. Major western oil companies have begun shutting down operations.

“The impact of the activities of crude oil thieves and illegal refineries on the environment in the Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy is now a crisis situation, ” Mutiu Sunmonu, the head of Shell in Nigeria, said last year. “We find it difficult to safely operate our pipelines without having to shut them frequently to prevent leaks from illegal connections impacting the environment.”

Some executives have already begun pulling out of the conference. Fernando de Sousa, General Manager of Microsoft Africa Initiatives, canceled his trip “for security reasons following the bombings in Abuja”, a PR company representing the firm told Reuters.

The State Department has warned unspecified terror groups were planning attacks against two Lagos Sheraton hotels this week.

Clever Thieves Are Using These Tiny Cameras To Steal Credit-Card Info From NYC Subway Riders

Apr 11. 2014

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is warning New Yorkers to keep an eye out for hidden cameras installed in MetroCard vending machines that can steal their credit-card info.

The cameras record video as customers put their cards into the machine and enter their PIN or ZIP code.

A hidden camera and a skimming device were found and removed by a customer earlier this week in a vending machine at the 59 Street-Columbus Circle station. It’s impressive that anyone spotted the camera, which was built into a plug adapter and attached to the top of the machine.

The MTA has detected these devices before, on machines that sell Metro North and Long Island Rail Road tickets as well as MetroCards. It recommends that customers sign up for an EasyPay MetroCard, which is linked to a credit card and refills automatically as it’s used, so that they don’t have to use vending machines.