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At least 31 dead in Iran train crash

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At least 31 people were killed in Iran on Friday when a passenger train rammed into the back of an intercity express which had broken down, the provincial governor said.

More than 70 people were admitted to hospital after the crash in the northern province of Semnan on the main line between the capital Tehran and second city Mashhad, Mohammad Reza Khabbaz told state television.

The express train, operating one of Iran’s longest distances services from Tabriz in the northwest to Mashhad, had been forced to stop between stations by a mechanical failure, perhaps caused by the cold November weather, Khabbaz said.

Two of its coaches burst into flames when the train behind ran into the back of it at 7:50 am (0420 GMT).

The front four coaches of the second train — running from Semnan to Mashhad — derailed and overturned.

“One minute I was sleeping and the next I was being carried out of a coach on fire,” one hospitalised passenger told state television.

Initial reports had said that the express train was stopped in a station when the accident happened.

But Khabbaz said it was some four kilometres (two and half miles) outside Haft Khan station between Semnan and Damghan, the next major town.

At midday emergency services were still battling to put out the fire and rescue injured passengers from the overturned carriages.

The province’s Red Crescent director, Hassan Shokrollahi, said the remote location of the crash site had complicated rescue efforts.

“Due to the difficulty of access, only our helicopter has managed to reach the scene,” he said earlier in the day.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Semnan and Damghan.

Map showing location of the deadly train crash in Iran

Map showing location of the deadly train crash in Iran ©Jonathan Storey (AFP)

Iran's railway network has a patchy safety record

Iran’s railway network has a patchy safety record

Middle East

UN appeals for countries to take in 1,300 Libyan refugees

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Libyan refugees

The UN has appealed to countries worldwide to take in 1,300 mainly African refugees stranded in Libya. Many of them were mistreated while being detained appalling conditions.

Niger has agreed to temporarily host the most vulnerable of the evacuees, including unaccompanied children and single mothers, pending their processing and departure for resettlement, Reuters said.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that it “urgently requests 1,300 places for resettlement” to be made available by the end of March. The UNHCR intends to evacuate between 700 and 1,300 people from Libya to Niger by the end of January 2018.

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Middle East

‘Don’t buy from Arabs’, says Israeli Defense Minister

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Avigdor Lieberman

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on his fellow citizens to boycott the Palestinian market of the Wadi Ara region of north-east Israel, after riots broke out there on Saturday over the American decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem.

Three people were injured when protesters began hurling stones at a bus. “I am calling for a boycott of Wadi Ara. Don’t go there and don’t buy there. They need to understand that it is impossible to demonstrate with Hezbollah flags, Palestinian flags and pictures of [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah.

To accept billions from the National Insurance [Institute] and to also destroy us from within,” Haaretz quoted Lieberman telling Army Radio.

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Hamas leader calls for ‘new intifada in the face of Israel’

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Ismail Haniyeh

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has called for a new uprising against Israel following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state.

“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada in the face of the Zionist enemy,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a speech in Gaza Thursday, Reuters reports.

Anti-US protests erupted almost immediately after Trump’s declaration Wednesday, with Palestinians first to take to the streets, calling for three days of rage against the move.

World leaders expressed serious concern over the decision and its potential to destabilize the region.

The decision has been welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who thanked Trump, and said he be believes “many” other nations will follow suit in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Pope Francis said he could not “remain silent” and spoke of his “great anxiety” surrounding the decision, while the EU voiced “serious concern.”

“I cannot remain silent about my deep concern for the situation that has developed in recent days,”Francis said at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

“Jerusalem is a unique city,” he added, “sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, where the Holy Places for the respective religions are venerated, and it has a special vocation to peace.”

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