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UN seeks immediate action to avoid another war in Gaza

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Palestinians

United Nations, Oct 19 : The United Nations envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, has demanded that Palestine and Israel take immediate action to reduce current tensions in the area and avoid another armed conflict in Gaza.

“We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to prevent,” said Mladenov in a videoconference speech to the Council on Thursday.

“Barring substantial steps to reverse the current course, this precarious sense of calm is doomed to give way under the mounting pressure. It is already beginning to fray,” he said, reports Efe.

The diplomat called on Hamas and other groups to “immediately” halt all “provocations and attacks” and to stop all violence along the border, while adding that Israel must facilitate access of goods and people to Gaza and ensure that its security forces are acting with maximum restraint.

Mladenov addressed the Security Council to review the new escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, where on Wednesday Israel staged about 20 airstrikes in reprisal for the launching of rockets from the Palestinian enclave.

Mladenov, who is working with Egypt in negotiations to try and stabilize the situation in Gaza and facilitate reconciliation among the Palestinian factions, said that the arrangements that have maintained a certain calm in recent years are breaking down under growing pressure.

The UN official said he was afraid that there is no more time for mere words and that the international community and the local parties must act now.

The upsurge in violence is taking place as Israeli society and members of the country’s Cabinet debate whether to launch a broad new military operation against Gaza to guarantee calm, after six months of mobilizations in the Strip, the launching of hundreds of incendiary balloons and dozens of attempts to damage the border fence and infiltrate into Israel, some by armed militias.

These actions come amid the so-called Great March of Return, which began on March 30 resulting in the deaths of more than 200 Palestinians in demonstrations and in violent incidents or Israeli bombings against militias.

Mladenov emphasized that the situation in Gaza is absolutely not sustainable: “Gaza is collapsing. This is not hyperbole. It is not alarmism. It is a reality.”

He said that the economy of the Strip is in free fall, with unemployment of 53 percent, and 70 percent unemployment among young people.

All the key indicators – humanitarian, economic, security and political – continue to deteriorate, he said.

Mladenov emphasized that there is a clear and growing international consensus about the need to act to respond to the situation, above all with humanitarian initiatives, adding that reducing the humanitarian pressure on the ground will directly reduce the threat of escalation and provide space for efforts led by Egypt to return the legitimate Palestinian government to Gaza, which is currently under the control of the Islamist Hamas movement.

Middle East

Netanyahu: Iran to face consequences for threatening Israel

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem, Jan 21 (IANS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday that Iran would face consequences for threatening Israel, hours after Israeli fighter jets struck targets in Syria’s capital Damascus.

“We are acting against Iran and the Syrian forces that abet the Iranian aggression. Whoever threatens to destroy us will bear the full responsibility,” Netanyahu said in a speech.

He said that the overnight assault targeted mainly Iranian sites in Syria, which was a response to a rocket fired by Iranians in Syria towards the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We will not ignore such acts of aggression as Iran attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria,” Netanyahu said.

Earlier in the day, Damascus said that it intercepted multiple Israeli guided missiles targeting the country’s south. Some 11 pro-government fighters were killed, according to reports.

In a rare public acknowledgment, the Israeli military confirmed it carried out the attacks.

Israel says it is not part of the eight-year war in Syria but its military has carried out hundreds of air attacks over the past years against Iranian targets, which Israel accuses of attempting to entrench itself in Syria, in addition to Syrian Army positions.

It also bombed weapons convoyed to Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia militia.

Israel has mostly kept silent on its actions against Iranian targets in Syria, fearing such comments might trigger an escalation. That policy started to change under Netanyahu, who confirmed earlier in January that the Air Force had struck Iranian sites in Syria hours after the attack.

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Disaster

Earthquake jolts Iran’s Gilangharb city

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Earthquake

Tehran, Jan 6 (IANS) At least 31 people were injured in a 5.9-magnitude earthquake that shook Gilangharb city in Kermanshah province in the west of Iran on Sunday, Iran Emergency Organization was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

Assessment teams of Iran’s Red Crescent Society have been dispatched to the site of earthquake to study the damage, Kourosh Mahmoudian, the governor of Gilangharb, told Tasnim.

Some residential buildings and cattle farms have been damaged and rockfall has blocked the roads in the area, Mahmoudian said, Xinhua reported.

The quake has also affected the quality of drinking water in Gilangharb, he said.

However, he assured the local people of the sufficient quality drinking water reserves.

According to Iran’s Seismological Center, the epicenter of earthquake was monitored at 34.16 degrees north latitude and 45.66 degrees east longitude, with a depth of 10 km.

At least 15 aftershocks, ranging from 3.0 to 4.8 magnitude, have shaken the region so far, according to the center.

The earthquake was also felt in neighboring Lorestan province as well as in Iraq.

In November 2017, 211 Iranians died in a 7.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the Iranian-Iraqi border in Sar pol Zahab area.

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Middle East

CCTV Footage may show men carrying Khashoggi body parts in suitcases, bags

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Jamal Khashoggi

A Turkish TV station has broadcast CCTV footage showing men carrying Suitcases, bags it says contained Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s body parts. The images shown on A-Haber television late feature three men carrying five suitcases and two large black bags into the home of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul.

A-Haber said the bags and suitcases were put into a minibus which travelled the short distance from the consulate to a garage at the residence. The men are then seen taking them inside.

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