Israel bombarded Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants kept up cross-border rocket fire, with no firm sign on Wednesday of any imminent ceasefire despite international calls to end more than a week of fighting.
Israeli leaders said they were pressing on with an offensive against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but an Israeli military spokesman acknowledged that with an estimated 12,000 missiles and mortars in the groups’ Gaza arsenal, “they still have enough rockets to fire”.
Two Thai workers were killed and seven people were wounded in a rocket strike on Tuesday on an Israeli farm just over the Gaza border, police said. Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
Rockets were also launched early on Wednesday, with sirens sounding in the coastal city of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, and in communities closer to the Gaza border. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
Gaza medical officials say 217 Palestinians have been killed, including 63 children, and more than 1,400 wounded since the fighting began on May 10. Israeli authorities say 12 people have been killed in Israel, including two children.
Israel said its aircraft attacked homes belonging to several Hamas militants that were used as command centres or for weapons storage. Israeli artillery shelled targets in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses said.
Nearly 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or badly damaged, including six hospitals and nine primary-care health centres, since the current conflict began, the United Nations humanitarian agency said. Some 48,000 of the 52,000 displaced had gone to 58 U.N.-run schools.
Israel said more than 3,450 rockets had been launched at it from Gaza, some falling short and others shot down by its Iron Dome air defences. It put the number of militants it has killed at around 160.
Hamas began firing rockets nine days ago in retaliation for what it said were Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
By linking its confrontation with Israel to the sensitive issue of Jerusalem, Hamas also posed a challenge to its main rival, West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas, who last month cancelled a parliamentary election in which the group appeared likely to make gains.
The current hostilities are the most serious between the militant group and Israel in years, and in a departure from previous Gaza conflicts have helped fuel street violence in Israeli cities between Jews and Arabs.
France called on Tuesday for a U.N. Security Council resolution on violence between Israel and Palestinian militants, as diplomats said the United States told the body a “public pronouncement right now” would not help calm the crisis.
“Our goal is to get to the end of this conflict. We are going to evaluate day by day what the right approach is. It continues to be that quiet, intensive behind-the-scenes discussions are tactically our approach at this time,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.
Egypt and U.N. mediators also stepped up diplomatic efforts, and the U.N. General Assembly will discuss the violence on Thursday.
Germany called for a ceasefire and offered more aid to help Palestinians before emergency European Union talks.
Clashes also flared in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian who tried to attack them with a gun and improvised explosives on Tuesday, the military said.
Another Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces at a West Bank protest, health officials said. The military said soldiers had come under fire, which wounded two of them, and shot back.
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, Ramadan clashes between police and worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and a court case by Israeli settlers to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem have fuelled the tensions in the West Bank.
Israel’s N12 TV news, quoting unidentified Palestinian sources, reported that Egypt, via “secret channels”, had proposed that Israel-Gaza fighting end on Thursday morning.
Ezzat El-Reshiq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau who is based in Qatar, issued a statement on Tuesday saying reports that it had agreed to such a ceasefire were untrue.
“There has been no agreement reached over specific timings for a ceasefire,” he said. “We confirm that efforts and contacts are serious and are continuing and the demands of our people are known and clear.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in a post on Twitter on Tuesday that Israel’s attacks “will continue for as long as it takes to restore calm” for all of its citizens.
Netanyahu said Israel’s strikes had “set Hamas back many years” – which some Israeli news commentators took as a possible prelude to a ceasefire within days when he could claim victory.
But Amos Yadlin, a former Israeli military intelligence chief, said the picture was more complicated, citing civil unrest in Israel, mounting protests by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and a trickle of rocket fire from Lebanon.
“As far as (Hamas) is concerned, what’s happening in the West Bank and maybe with (the Lebanese group) Hezbollah and Israel’s Arab citizens – this is where it has won,” Yadlin said on Channel 12 TV. “In the military game, they’ve lost.”
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Peter Cooney and Michael Perry)
Trudeau says he discussed border with Biden, but no deal
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday he has spoken with U.S. President Joe Biden about how to lift pandemic-related border restrictions between the two countries but made clear no breakthrough has been achieved.
U.S. and Canadian business leaders have voiced increasing concern about the ban on non-essential travel in light of COVID-19 that was first imposed in March 2020 and renewed on a monthly basis since then. The border measures do not affect trade flows.
The border restrictions have choked off tourism between the two countries. Canadian businesses, especially airlines and those that depend on tourism, have been lobbying the Liberal government to relax the restrictions.
Canada last week took a cautious first step, saying it was prepared to relax quarantine protocols for fully vaccinated citizens returning home starting in early July.
Trudeau, speaking after a Group of Seven summit in Britain, said he had talked to Biden “about coordinating measures at our borders as both our countries move ahead with mass vaccination.” Canada is resisting calls for the border measures to be relaxed, citing the need for more people to be vaccinated.
The United States is ahead of Canada in terms of vaccination totals.
“We will continue to work closely together on moving forward in the right way but each of us always will put at the forefront the interests and the safety of our own citizens,” Trudeau told a televised news conference when asked the Biden conversation.
“Many countries, like Canada, continue to say that now is not the time to travel,” Trudeau added, though he said it is important to get back to normalcy as quickly as possible.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Will Dunham)
Man with 39 wive dies in India
A 76-year-old man who had 39 wives and 94 children and was said to be the head of the world’s largest family has died in north east India, the chief minister of his home state said.
With a total of 167 members, the family is the world’s largest, according to local media, although this depends on whether you count the grandchildren, of whom Ziona has 33.
Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-story pink structure with around 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram that became a tourist attraction as a result, according to Zoramthanga.
The sect, named “Chana”, was founded by Ziona’s father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families. Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year.
They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.
Despite his family’s huge size, Ziona told Reuters in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.
“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.
“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”
(Reporting by Alasdair Pal and Adnan Abidi in New Delhi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
Huawei CFO seeks publication ban on HSBC documents in U.S. extradition case
Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday will seek to bar publication of documents her legal team received from HSBC, a request opposed by Canadian prosecutors in her U.S. extradition case who say it violates the principles of open court.
Meng’s legal team will present arguments in support of the ban in the British Columbia Supreme Court.
Meng, 49, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States, where she faces charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions on business in Iran.
She has been under house arrest in Vancouver for more than two years and fighting her extradition to the United States. Meng has said she is innocent.
Lawyers for Huawei and HSBC in Hong Kong agreed to a release of the documents in April to Meng’s legal team on the condition that they “use reasonable effort” to keep confidential information concealed from the public, according to submissions filed by the defense on Friday.
Prosecutors representing the Canadian government argued against the ban, saying in submissions filed the same day that “to be consistent with the open court principle, a ban must be tailored” and details should be selectively redacted from the public, rather than the whole documents.
A consortium of media outlets, including Reuters News, also opposes the ban.
The open court principle requires that court proceedings be open and accessible to the public and to the media.
It is unclear what documents Huawei obtained from HSBC, but defense lawyers argue they are relevant to Meng’s case.
Meng’s hearing was initially set to wrap up in May but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted an extension to allow the defense to read through the new documents.
Hearings in the extradition case are scheduled to finish in late August.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Howard Goller)
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