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Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire


Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire

Meanwhile, Egyptian-mediated efforts to deliver a long-term truce have struggled with the sides unable to agree on a system to renew Qatari payments to needy Gaza families

Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday in response to a series of rocket launches out of the Hamas-ruled territory. It was the third consecutive night of fighting between the enemies.

Tensions have been heightened following last week’s escape from an Israeli prison by six Palestinian inmates, as well as struggling efforts by Egypt to broker a long-term cease-fire in the wake of an 11-day war last May.

The Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches late Sunday and early Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses.

In response, it said it attacked a number of Hamas targets. There were no reports of casualties on either side.

Over the weekend, Israel caught four of the six Palestinian inmates, who tunneled out of a maximum security prison on Sept. 6. Palestinian militants responded with rocket fire. Israel’s search for the last two prisoners is continuing.

Meanwhile, Egyptian-mediated efforts to deliver a long-term truce have struggled with the sides unable to agree on a system to renew Qatari payments to needy Gaza families. Israel has demanded guarantees that Hamas does not divert the money for military use.

Gaza is an impoverished territory whose population is overwhelmingly comprised of families who fled or were forced from properties in what is now Israel during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.

Hamas is pushing for Israel to end a crippling blockade that has devastated Gaza’s economy, while Israel is demanding that Hamas free two captive Israeli civilians and return the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the forces of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007, a year after the Islamic militant group won Palestinian parliamentary elections.

Since then, Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous smaller rounds of fighting.




Taliban: Women can study in gender-segregated universities


Taliban: Women can study in gender-segregated universities

The Taliban have also banned women from sports and have used violence in recent days against women protesters demanding equal rights.

Women in Afghanistan can continue to study in universities, including at post-graduate levels, but classrooms will be gender-segregated and Islamic dress is compulsory, the Taliban government’s new higher education minister said on Sunday.

The announcement came as a Taliban official said Qatar’s foreign minister arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul — the highest-level visitor since the Taliban announced their interim Cabinet. There was no immediate confirmation of the visit by Qatari officials.

Earlier Sunday, the higher education minister, Abdul Baqi Haqqani, laid out the new policies at a news conference, several days after Afghanistan’s new rulers formed an all-male government. On Saturday, the Taliban had raised their flag over the presidential palace, signaling the start of the work of the new government.

The world has been watching closely to see to what extent the Taliban might act differently from their first time in power, in the late 1990s. During that era, girls and women were denied an education and were excluded from public life.

The Taliban have suggested they have changed, including in their attitudes toward women. However, women have been banned from sports and the Taliban have used violence in recent days against women protesters demanding equal rights.

Haqqani said the Taliban did not want to turn the clock back 20 years. “We will start building on what exists today,” he said.

However, female university students will face restrictions, including a compulsory dress code. Haqqani said hijabs will be mandatory but did not specify if this meant compulsory headscarves or also compulsory face coverings.

Gender segregation will also be enforced, he said. “We will not allow boys and girls to study together,” he said. “We will not allow co-education.”

Haqqani said the subjects being taught would also be reviewed. While he did not elaborate, he said he wanted graduates of Afghanistan’s universities to be competitive with university graduates in the region and the rest of the world.

The Taliban, who subscribe to a strict interpretation of Islam, banned music and art during their previous time in power. This time around television has remained and news channels still show women presenters, but the Taliban messaging has been erratic.

In an interview on Afghanistan’s popular TOLO News, Taliban spokesman Syed Zekrullah Hashmi said last week that women should give birth and raise children. While the Taliban have not ruled out the eventual participation of women in government, the spokesman said “it’s not necessary that women be in the Cabinet.”

The Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, the day they overran Kabul after capturing outlying provinces in a rapid military campaign. They initially promised inclusiveness and a general amnesty for their former opponents, but many Afghans remain deeply fearful of the new rulers. Taliban police officials have beaten Afghan journalists, violently dispersed women’s protests, and formed an all-male government despite saying initially they would invite broader representation.

The new higher education policy signals a change from the accepted practice before the Taliban takeover. Universities were co-ed, with men and women studying side by side, and female students did not have to abide by a dress code. However, the vast majority of female university students opted to wear headscarves in line with tradition.




Taliban flag rises over seat of power on fateful anniversary


Taliban flag rises over seat of power on fateful anniversary

The white banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony

The Taliban raised their flag over the Afghan presidential palace Saturday, a spokesman said, as the U.S. and the world marked the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The white banner, emblazoned with a Quranic verse, was hoisted by Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, the prime minister of the Taliban interim government, in a low-key ceremony, said Ahmadullah Muttaqi, multimedia branch chief of the Taliban’s cultural commission.

The flag-raising marked the official start of the work of the new government, he said. The composition of the all-male, all-Taliban government was announced earlier this week and was met with disappointment by the international community which had hoped the Taliban would make good on an earlier promise of an inclusive lineup.

In a tweet, Afghanistan’s first president to follow the 2001 collapse of the Taliban, Hamid Karzai, called for “peace and stability” and expressed the hope that the new caretaker Cabinet that included no women and no non-Taliban would become an “inclusive government that can be the real face of the whole Afghanistan.”

He marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America with a meeting of tribal elders on his high-walled compound in the Afghan capital where he has remained with his family since the August return of the Taliban to Kabul.

Two decades ago, the Taliban ruled Afghanistan with a heavy hand. Television was banned, and on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the horrific attacks on America, the news spread from crackling radios across the darkened streets of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The city rarely had electricity and barely a million people lived in Kabul at the time. It took the U.S.-led coalition just two months to drive the Taliban from the capital and by Dec. 7, 2001, they were defeated, driven from their last holdout in southern Kandahar, their spiritual heartland.

Twenty years later, the Taliban are back in Kabul. America has departed, ending its ‘forever war’ two weeks before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and two weeks after the Taliban returned to the Afghan capital on Aug. 15.

Some things have changed since the first period of Taliban rule in the 1990s.

This time, the gun-toting fighters don’t race through the city streets in their pickups. Instead, they inch through chaotic, clogged traffic in the city of more than 5 million. In Taliban-controlled Kabul in the 1990s, barbershops were banned. Now Taliban fighters get the latest haircuts, even if their beards remain untouched in line with their religious beliefs.

But the Taliban have begun issuing harsh edits that have hit women hardest, such as banning women’s sports. They have also used violence to stop women from demanding equal rights from protesting.

Inside a high-end women’s store in the city’s Karte Se neighborhood Saturday, Marzia Hamidi, a Taekwondo competitor with ambitions of being a national champion, said the return of the Taliban has crushed her dreams.

She was among the women attacked by the Taliban and called “agents of the West” during one of the recent protests. She said she’s not surprised about America’s withdrawal.

On Saturday, the Taliban even orchestrated a women’s march of their own. This one involved dozens of women obscured from head to toe, hidden behind layers of black veils. They filled an auditorium at Kabul University’s education center in a well-choreographed snub to the past 20 years of Western efforts to empower women.




Peru: Abimael Guzmán, head of Shining Path insurgency, dies


Peru: Abimael Guzmán, head of Shining Path insurgency, dies

Guzmán launched an insurgency against the state in 1980 and presided over numerous car bombings and assassinations in the years that followed. Guzmán was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for terrorism and other crimes.

Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the brutal Shining Path insurgency in Peru who was captured in 1992, died on Saturday in a military hospital after an illness. He was 86. Guzmán died at 6:40 a.m. after suffering from an infection, Justice Minister Aníbal Torres said.

Guzmán, a former philosophy professor, launched an insurgency against the state in 1980 and presided over numerous car bombings and assassinations in the years that followed. Guzmán was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for terrorism and other crimes.

President Pedro Castillo tweeted that Guzmán was responsible for taking ’’countless″ lives. “Our position condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering. Only in democracy will we build a Peru of justice and development for our people,” Castillo said.

Even so, Castillo has faced criticism over alleged links of some of his Cabinet ministers to the Shining Path. Primer Minister Guido Bellido has been investigated by authorities over his alleged sympathy for the group. Last week, a media outlet made public police records from the 1980s that describe Labor Minister Iber Maraví as a Shining Path member and a fugitive.

“We do not forget the horror of that time, and his death will not erase his crimes,” Economy Minister Pedro Francke said.

Guzmán preached a messianic vision of a classless Maoist utopia based on pure communism, considering himself the “Fourth Sword of Marxism” after Karl Marx, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Zedong. He advocated a peasant revolution in which rebels would first gain control of the countryside and then advance to the cities.

Guzmán’s movement declared armed struggle on the eve of Peru’s presidential elections in May 1980, the first democratic vote after 12 years of military rule.

Throughout the 1980s, the man known to his followers as Presidente Gonzalo built up an organization that grew to 10,000 armed fighters before his capture inside a Lima safehouse in September 1992 by a special intelligence group of the Peruvian police backed by the United States. Since then, he was housed in a military prison on the shores of the Pacific that were built to hold him.

A truth commission in 2003 blamed the Shining Path for more than half of nearly 70,000 estimated deaths and disappearances caused by various rebel groups and brutal government counterinsurgency efforts between 1980 and 2000.




UN humanitarian chief in Afghanistan for talks with Taliban


UN humanitarian chief in Afghanistan for talks with Taliban

The authorities pledged to cooperate with the humanitarian community to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan, said the statement

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sent Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths to Kabul for talks with the Taliban leadership, a top official of the world body confirmed

“At the request of the Secretary-General, Martin Griffiths is currently in Kabul. During his visit today (Sunday), Griffiths met with Mullah Baradar and the leadership of the Taliban in Kabul to engage with the authorities on humanitarian issues,” Xinhua news agency quoted Stephane Dujarric, Guterres’ spokesman, as saying in a statement.

In this meeting, Griffiths reiterated the humanitarian community’s commitment to delivering impartial and independent humanitarian assistance and protection to millions of people in need, said the statement.

Griffiths emphasised the critical role of women in the delivery of aid and called on all parties to ensure their rights, safety and well-being, according to the statement.

He called for all civilians, especially women and girls and minorities, to be protected at all times and expressed his solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, it addd.

The authorities pledged that the safety and security of humanitarian staff, and humanitarian access to people in need, will be guaranteed and that humanitarian workers, both men and women, will be guaranteed freedom of movement.

The authorities pledged to cooperate with the humanitarian community to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan, said the statement.

Further meetings are expected in the coming days, it said.

Griffiths will also meet and convey his thanks on behalf of the UN to representatives of humanitarian organisations, who remain operational in the country and have assisted 8 million people this year, said the statement.

Presently in Afghanistan, half of the population, 18 million people, need humanitarian assistance to survive.

A third do not know where their next meal is coming from. More than half of all children under 5 are at risk of acute malnutrition.

A severe drought, the second in four years, will further contribute to hunger in the months ahead.

Now more than ever, the people of Afghanistan need the support and solidarity of the international community, the statement added.




4 people killed in Florida shooting


4 people killed in Florida shooting

No police were injured in the shootout. The suspect reportedly was a survivalist “who came for a gunfight” and admitted to using methamphetamine

Four people, including an infant, were killed in the US state of Florida, according to local media reports.

An 11-year-old girl was injured after being shot “multiple times” in the incident on Sunday in Lakeland, Xinhua news agency quoted the reports as saying.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the shootings took place at 4.30 a.m. in two separate houses, adding that the suspect surrendered after being wounded in a shootout with police.

No police were injured in the shootout, he added.

The suspect reportedly was a survivalist “who came for a gunfight” and admitted to using methamphetamine.




Raisi open to ‘useful’ talks on lifting sanctions


Raisi open to ‘useful’ talks on lifting sanctions

Regarding Lebanon, Raisi expressed Iran’s support for the formation of a strong government that can ensure and protect the rights of the Lebanese.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that his country is ready for “useful” talks aimed at lifting sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

“We do not oppose useful negotiations, but the plan and result of negotiations must be the lifting of sanctions against Iran,” he said while speaking to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Sunday.

This was the second phone conversation between the two leaders within a month.

Besides the nuclear issue, the independence of Iran and France in their policies is a “valuable reserve” that may be used to establish “balanced, strong and stable” ties between the two countries, Raisi told the French President.

Concerning the current situation in Afghanistan, the Iranian president said the US and NATO policy of military intervention has failed, and 20 years of occupation have had no benefit for the Afghan people.

“In the current situation, everyone must help form an inclusive government with the participation of all groups” in the country and let the Afghan people decide their own destiny, he added.

Regarding Lebanon, Raisi expressed Iran’s support for the formation of a strong government that can ensure and protect the rights of the Lebanese.

He said Iran would not withhold any humanitarian aid to Lebanon, and voiced Tehran’s readiness to cooperate with France for the progress.

For his part, Macron stressed the need to review the ties between France and Iran, and expressed his country’s interest in developing its relations with Tehran.

Macron mentioned the Afghan refugees in Iran as well as the problems caused by their presence, and emphasised the need for the assistance of the UN Refugee Agency.

Concerning the situation in Lebanon, Macron expressed France’s readiness to cooperate with Iran, along with Hezbollah to help create a strong and efficient government in the country.

Macron also voiced hope that the Vienna talks aiming to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement could resume with the presence of Iran.




Yemen army recaptures strategic mountains


Yemen army recaptures strategic mountains

The UN has warned that the offensive on Marib, which hosts nearly 1 million internally displaced people, could lead to a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Following days of deadly fighting, the Yemen army has recaptured a chain of strategic mountains near the southeastern tips of the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, a military source said.

“The army forces backed by Saudi-led coalition warplanes pushed back the Iran-backed Houthi rebels from the chain of Al-Abzakh mountains in Rahabah district southwest of Marib province,” the source told Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

According to the pro-government local media, the army during the week-long fighting also recaptured many areas north and east of the Al-Abzakh mountains.

“The rebels fled, leaving behind heavy weapons. Now most of Rahabah district is under the army’s control,” the source sadded.

Meanwhile, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV reported 29 Saudi-led airstrikes on Rahabah district over the past two days, without providing further details.

In February, the Houthis began a major offensive on Marib in a desperate attempt to seize control of the oil-rich province, the government’s last northern stronghold.

The UN has warned that the offensive on Marib, which hosts nearly 1 million internally displaced people, could lead to a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Yemen’s civil war flared up in late 2014 when the Houthi group seized control of much of the country’s north and forced the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of Sanaa.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in the Yemeni conflict in March 2015 to support Hadi’s government.




Covid disproportionately affects people of colour in US: Poll


Covid disproportionately affects people of colour in US: Poll

According to July data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black and Hispanic people are now hospitalised at 2.8 times the rate as white people

The Covid-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected people of colour in the US, a new poll has revealed.

The survey, conducted by US market analytics company The Harris Poll, revealed that nearly one in four Latina women in the US have reported losing a family member to the coronavirus, reports Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, Latina women were at least 5 per cent more likely to get infected or have a family member who contracts Covid-19 than other women of colour, according to the poll.

Nearly 80 per cent of Latina women have reported feeling personally affected by the pandemic, whether they underwent falling ill, losing a family member, unemployment or eviction.

At least 37 per cent of Latina women also reported facing mental health difficulties amid the pandemic, as compared to 29 per cent of Black women and 34 per cent of Asian American and Pacific Islander women.

The poll was conducted from April 7 to May 16 with 1,617 US adult women who self-identify as Black or African American; of Hispanic, Latina, or Spanish-speaking background; or Asian American Pacific Islander, or of any ethnicity/national origin recognised in the Asian race by the US Census Bureau.

The survey comes after more than a year of statistics showing that people of colour have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to July data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black and Hispanic people are now hospitalised at 2.8 times the rate as white people and contract the virus at least 1.1 times the rate.

Additionally, vaccination rates across the country have frequently been lower among people of colour than white individuals since the rollout first began in December 2020.

So far, less than 10 per cent of Black and Asian Americans have been vaccinated for Covid-19, while roughly 16 per cent of Hispanic and Latino Americans have received at least one dose, according to the CDC.

By comparison, over 58 per cent of white people in the US are at least partially vaccinated against the virus.




5 killed in clashes in Beirut: Report


5 killed in clashes in Beirut: Report

Contacts among Lebanese authorities are underway to reduce tensions in Khaldeh while the Lebanese army units were deployed in the area

Five people were killed and over 10 others were wounded on Sunday in an armed clash between supporters of Hezbollah and a rival faction in Khaldeh at the southern entrance of Beirut, al-Jadeed local TV channel reported.

The armed clashes erupted after the funeral of Ali Chebli, a Hezbollah supporter who was killed during a wedding in the area on Saturday night. Saturday’s killing was committed by the brother of a teenager who was killed in a clash last year, allegedly by Chebli, according to the report.

Contacts among Lebanese authorities are underway to reduce tensions in Khaldeh while the Lebanese army units were deployed in the area, the Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Red Cross has been calling for a ceasefire so that the injured people can be sent to hospitals.




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