From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved
"KING OF THE SOUTH 2022 MARCH-APRIL"

    This file is attached to http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterEight/BeastThatCameOutOfTheSea.htm from “Beast That Came Out Of The Sea” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.
    This link will take you back to Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D. or return to King Of The South 2022 January-February or continue to King Of The South 2022 May-June

KING OF THE SOUTH 2022 MARCH-APRIL


    So as 2020 has passed do we know who the "King of the South in 2020" is?
    The phrase “king of the South” is found in the Bible in only one location — Daniel 11, which is also the chapter containing the most detailed prophecy in the Bible.    The first mention of this ruler is found in verse 5, where we find that “the king of the South shall become strong” and that “His dominion shall be a great dominion.”    Who was this king?    Who will he be in the “time of the end” spoken of in verse 40?    To answer these questions, we need a little background information.    One of the first considerations is the setting of this prophecy.    Daniel received the message in “the third year of Cyrus king of Persia,” which was 537 or 536 B.C. according to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Daniel 10:1).    The prophecy of Daniel 11 begins with verses 2-4, which describe what would happen in the Persian and Greek Empires after Daniel was given this vision, and continues through “the time of the end” (verse 40).
    The Persian Empire refers to any of a series of imperial dynasties that were centred in Persia/Iran from the 6th century B.C. Achaemenid Empire era to the 20th century AD in the Qajar dynasty era.    Know that Ancient Persia is modern Iran.
    Achaemenid Empire (550–330 BC) also called the First Persian Empire, in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great.    It ranges from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army.    The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.
    By the 7th century BC, the Persians had settled in the south-western portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland.    From this region, Cyrus the Great advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, establishing the Achaemenid Empire.    Alexander the Great, an avid admirer of Cyrus the Great, conquered most of the empire by 330 BC.    Upon Alexander's death, most of the empire's former territory came under the rule of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Seleucid Empire, in addition to other minor territories which gained independence at that time.    The Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century B.C. under the Parthian Empire.
    The Achaemenid Empire is noted in Western history as the antagonist of the Greek city-states during the Greco-Persian Wars and for the emancipation of the Jewish exiles in Babylon.    The historical mark of the empire went far beyond its territorial and military influences and included cultural, social, technological and religious influences as well.
    Despite the lasting conflict between the two states, many Athenians adopted Achaemenid customs in their daily lives in a reciprocal cultural exchange, some being employed by or allied to the Persian kings.    The impact of Cyrus's edict is mentioned in Judeo-Christian texts, and the empire was instrumental in the spread of Zoroastrianism as far east as China.    The empire also set the tone for the politics, heritage and history of Iran (also officially known as Persia).    The image below shows you the area for the "King of the South."
       
    So based on the above information I would acknowledge that the "King of the South" will come out of that area.
    As you may have noted that in 2019 I claimed that individual will be: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    The reason was his image of the pentagram a Satanic symbol which is at the top of Erdogan’s Tek Devlet (One State) monument in Turkey, which is a pentagram, a satanic symbol, and believed in beheading, and Shriah Will Rise Again, religious education, Koranic courses, Arabic and Ottoman lessons, Islamization of all schools, sharia education and finally compulsory worship services in all schools
   
    Could Recep Tayyip Erdogan be the upcoming antichrist and may fit the description and then may not be the final antichrist.    The Bible tells us there are “many antichrists” (1 John 2:18); many believe there will be the single antichrist, and we are rapidly approaching the end of time as we know it, before the great tribulation begins.
    All of the antichrists have the same modus operandi (mode of operation).
    As Erdogan has tried to be a force in the South and has shown hints of hypocrisy along the way, and August 2014, he has steadily become dictatorial, and enacted laws to give him excessive powers.
    “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honor of the kingdom, but he shall come in peaceably and obtain the kingdom by flatteriesDaniel 11:21.
    The Bible, in a number of instances, refers to the antichrist as the “Assyrian.”    A good part of Turkey was included in the Assyrian Empire, which also persecuted God’s people.
    “Therefore, thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Oh My people who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian; he shall smite you with a rod and shall lift up his staff against you, after the manner of Egypt.    For yet a little while and the indignation shall cease and My anger in their destructionIsaiah 10:24-25.
    “And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land and when he shall tread in our palaces; then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight principal menMicah 5:5.
    Erdogan announced, “The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the honor of 1.7 billion Muslims, not just Palestinians, and the Muslim world cannot wait to remain indifferent to the restrictions imposed on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” which is situated on the historical Jewish Temple Mount.
    Erdogan’s real crimes are buying the Russian S-400 missile system for Turkey, refusing to accept US support for America’s Kurdish YPG allies and allowing Islamist fighters to pour over Turkey’s border into Syria along with a load of weapons, mortars and missiles.    Erdogan said Turkey will work with the Syrian people directly to help achieve peace in the war-torn country.    He went on to clarify this does not mean he is willing to work with the Syrian government.
    “Russia takes the necessary measures against a (possible) threat by Syrian regime in Idlib, and as Turkey, we are taking all kind of measures against radical groups in Idlib,” stated President Erdogan.    “We are also taking joint action with Russia if it is necessary.”    His remarks come almost a month after Turkish and Russian forces announced a demilitarized zone in the Idlib province.
    In December, President Donald Trump’s called Tayyip Erdogan that he was pulling U.S. troops from Syria has stunned Turkey and left it scrambling to respond to the changing battlefield on its southern border, and delivered a standard warning to the Turkish president over his plan to attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, in the course of the conversation Trump reshaped U.S. policy in the Middle East, abandoning a quarter of Syrian territory and handing Ankara the job of finishing off Islamic State in Syria.
    As many promote what Daniel 11:40-45 claims it represents the Northern King’s Conquests. [AS SEEN IN THE VERSES ABOVE THAT THE EVENTS ARE LOOKING AS IF RUSSIA - KING OF THE NORTH AND THE MIDEAST NATIONS - KING OF THE SOUTH ARE GOING TO BECOME ENTWINED INTO THE PROPHECY ABOVE IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE AND THE KING OF THE WEST WILL AGAIN WILL INVOLVE ITSELF SO LETS SEE HOW IT UNFOLDS AND ALSO SINCE THE EUPHARATES RIVER HAS DRIED UP ENGAGING THE KINGS OF THE EAST TO GET INVOLVED.].
    The following image below is seen at http://www.mazzaroth.com/ChapterSix/Psalm83.htm so you can tell by the verses above who are the countries today.
    So lets see what will happen in 2022 regarding the King of the South:

2022 MARCH-APRIL


3/1/2022 Erdogan Discusses Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine With Lukashenko
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks following a cabinet
meeting in Ankara, Turkey February 28, 2022. Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s office said early on Tuesday that he held a phone call with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko to discuss developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    The two premiers discussed ceasefire talks between Russia and Ukraine, according to Erdogan’s office.    The talks failed to reach a breakthrough on Monday, and negotiators have not said when a new round would take place.
    Erdogan’s office said he told Lukashenko that Turkey will continue to make efforts to stop the war and restore peace.    Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation.”
    Turkey’s leader said on Monday that his country could not abandon its ties with Russia or Ukraine, adding Ankara would implement a pact on passage via straits in Turkish waters leading to the Black Sea to prevent an escalation of the war.
    NATO ally Turkey on Sunday called Russia’s invasion a “war,” allowing it to invoke articles under a 1936 international accord that will limit the passage of some Russian vessels from Turkish straits.
    Turkey has previously offered to mediate in the crisis between Russia and Ukraine.    Turkey shares maritime borders with both countries and has good relations with them.
    Lukashenko has fallen in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military assault on Ukraine after earlier playing an intermediary role between the two neighbours.
    He said last week that troops from his ex-Soviet country could take part in Russia’s military operation against Ukraine if needed.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

3/1/2022 Libya Parliament Backs New Government As Crisis Deepens
FILE PHOTO: Fathi Bashagha, designated as prime minister by the parliament, delivers a speech at Mitiga International
Airport, in Tripoli, Libya February 10, 2022. Picture taken February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya’s parliament approved a new government on Tuesday but the incumbent prime minister rejected the vote and vowed not to cede power, raising the risk of fighting among armed factions or territorial partition between rival administrations.
    The parliament speaker’s declaration of Fathi Bashagha as prime minister after a televised vote aggravates a power struggle with the administration of Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, who was installed through a U.N.-backed process last year.
    Opposing armed groups have mobilised in the capital Tripoli over recent weeks and foreign forces including from Turkey and Russia that have backed rival warring factions remain in the country.
    Whether the crisis will kindle armed conflict remains unclear, but it leaves Libya without a unified government, with the main political and military forces bitterly divided and with no clear path forward.
    Bashagha said he had made arrangements with “security and military authorities” to set up his government in Tripoli but armed groups there said they opposed his installation as prime minister, which is backed by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.
    The crisis points to a return to Libya’s division between rival governments based in east and west.    With Haftar holding most oil facilities, another blockade of the country’s 1.3-million-barrels-per-day crude exports is also in prospect.
    During the previous years of division the central bank and National Oil Corp were linked to the internationally recognised Tripoli government but operated across front lines.    The central bank governor is seen as an ally of Dbeibah.
    “The most likely option is a return to two governments, neither of which will have all that much legitimacy, but only one of which will control the central bank,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
    Bashagha’s large Cabinet with 35 members reflects the extensive negotiations and promises of positions needed to secure support from a majority of members of parliament and the various interests they represent.
    Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said the new government was approved by 92 of 101 members present in the chamber on Tuesday, which compared with the 132 who installed Dbeibah a year ago.
    The Dbeibah government disputed Saleh’s account of Tuesday’s session, with some members saying their votes had been registered although they were not there, raising questions over its validity.
    “The formal and legal aspects still matter, but a lot of what comes next will have to be determined by force,” said Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya researcher, adding that the armed groups that dominate Tripoli are divided over the crisis.
DISPUTES
    Libya has enjoyed little peace or security since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and it was divided after 2014 between warring parallel administrations in the east and west.
    The United Nations backed a ceasefire and peace process after an eastern offensive against Tripoli collapsed in 2020, with most sides in Libya publicly supporting Dbeibah’s interim unity government and scheduling elections for December 2021.
    After the election was cancelled shortly before the vote was due to take place amid disputes over the rules, the parliament moved to seize control of the political process and replace Dbeibah’s government.
    The parliament, which was elected in 2014 and mostly took the eastern side in the civil war, has declared that Dbeibah’s government expired when the election did not take place.
    Critics of the parliament, including Dbeibah, accuse it of having sabotaged the December election and of working to ensure it can remain in place indefinitely, charges it denies.
    The United Nations and foreign powers that recognised Dbeibah’s government when it was installed a year ago have avoided any definitive statement on which administration should now be seen as legitimate, and have instead pushed for quick elections.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali and Ahmed Elumami; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Edmund Blair, Mark Heinrich, William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis)

3/2/2022 Turkey Says Russia Cancelled Black Sea Passage Bid Upon Its Request
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a news conference with Lebanese Foreign
Minister Abdallah Bou Habib in Beirut, Lebanon November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Russia cancelled a bid to send four of its warships through Turkish waters into the Black Sea at Turkey’s request, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, adding the decision was made before Ankara closed the straits over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
    NATO ally Turkey borders Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good ties with both.    On Monday, Ankara said it had closed its Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits under a 1936 pact, allowing it to curb some Russian vessels crossing. The pact exempts vessels returning to their bases.
    Cavusoglu told broadcaster Haberturk late on Tuesday that Turkey had asked Russia not to send its ships through before it labelled Moscow’s invasion a “war” on Sunday, legally allowing it to curb passages under the Montreux Convention.
    “Russia has said four of its ships would cross the straits on Feb 27-28, three of which are not registered to bases in the Black Sea,” Cavusoglu said.    “We told Russia not to send these ships and Russia said the vessels would not cross the straits.”
    “Nobody should be offended by this, because the Montreux Convention is valid today, yesterday and tomorrow, so we will implement it,” he said.
    Reuters reported earlier this week that at least four Russian ships – two destroyers, a frigate, and an intelligence vessel – were waiting on Turkey’s decision to cross from the Mediterranean.    Two of them, a frigate and a destroyer, had asked to make the journey this week.
    The United States “expressed appreciation” for Turkey’s move to close the straits.    Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara said Kyiv was “grateful” to Turkey for “meticulously” implementing the pact.
    While calling Russia’s invasion an unacceptable violation of international law, Turkey has carefully formulated its rhetoric not to offend Moscow, with which it has close energy, defence and tourism ties.    It has called for dialogue and offered to host peace talks.
    Cavusoglu repeated on Tuesday that Turkey would not join its Western allies in imposing economic sanctions on Russia.
    While forging close cooperation with Russia, Turkey has also sold drones to Kyiv and signed a deal to co-produce more, angering Moscow.    It also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its 2014 annexation of Crimea.
    Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Wednesday the country was set to receive another shipment of Turkish drones, a move likely to anger Russia.
(Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Daren Butler and Andrew Heavens)

3/3/2022 Libya’s Bashagha Accuses Rival Of Seizing Ministers To Stop New Govt Taking Office
FILE PHOTO: Fathi Bashagha, designated as prime minister by the parliament, delivers a speech at Mitiga
International Airport, in Tripoli, Libya February 10, 2022. Picture taken February 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed
    BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – An armed force linked to Libya’s incumbent prime minister seized two ministers of the rival government that was to be sworn into office on Thursday, two sources close to the designated new prime minister Fathi Bashagha said.
    Bashagha said late on Wednesday that the incumbent prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah in the capital Tripoli had also closed off Libyan airspace to stop new ministers from flying to Tobruk to take the oath of office.
(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

3/3/2022 Ukraine’s Envoy Criticises Turkish Tourism Group Over ‘Two-Faced’ Approach
FILE PHOTO: Sunbeds are aligned respecting social distancing on the Yemis Kumu beach, amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) outbreak, near the Mediterranean city of Mersin, Turkey June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Kaan Soyturk/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Ukraine’s ambassador to Turkey urged Ukrainian travel agencies on Thursday not to work with an association of Turkish agencies over what he called its ‘two-faced’ stance amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    NATO member Turkey, which shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine and has good ties with both, has criticised Moscow’s invasion but so far avoided the harsher rhetoric of other alliance members and opposes their use of sanctions.
    Moscow calls the assault a “special operation.”
    Ukrainians and Russians are among Turkey’s top visitors.    In 2021, more than 2 million Ukrainian tourists arrived in Turkey, according to data from the tourism ministry, while another 4.7 million tourists came from Russia.
    Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar said the head of the Turkey Travel Agencies Association (TURSAB) had met separately with him and the Russian ambassador to Ankara on Thursday, slamming what he said amounted to an equating of Ukraine and Russia.
    “The TURSAB chairman’s meeting with us in the morning and later with the Russian Ambassador is a sign of the two-faced approach.    Putting an equal sign between the aggressor Russia and Ukraine, which is defending itself, is tantamount to being an accomplice to the crime,” Bodnar said on Twitter.
    “We urge Ukrainian travel agencies not to work with TURSAB.”
    TURSAB Chairman Firuz Baglikaya said he had discussed travel agencies’ work with the Russian ambassador and told him that the “language of tourism is peace,”, calling for an immediate halt to fighting.    He added he offered Bodnar TURSAB’s help in delivering Turkish humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
    In a statement responding to Bodnar late on Thursday, TURSAB said Baglikaya discussed with Russia’s envoy problems in tourism due to the ongoing war and the safe return of Russian tourists.     It also countered Bodnar’s account of the talks, saying the envoy had met Baglikaya after the Russian ambassador.    It added that Baglikaya conveyed to both ambassadors his wish for an end to the conflict.
    “Just like we have continuous friendly ties with the Russian people, our friendship with Ukraine and Ukrainian people will also never change,” TURSAB said, adding it opposed the war.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jonathan Oatis)

3/3/2022 West African Leaders Cancel Burkina Faso Visit After Military President’s Inauguration
FILE PHOTO: Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, who led Burkina Faso's military coup in January, sits as he attends
his sworn in ceremony for a second time as president to lead a three-year transition after a national conference
approved a transitional charter in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso March 2, 2022. REUTERS/Anne Mimault/File Photo
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – West African leaders have cancelled a planned trip to Burkina Faso to meet coup leader Paul-Henri Damiba, instead sending a team of ministers in the coming days, the region’s main political bloc said in a statement on Thursday.
    Damiba, who was inaugurated on Wednesday as interim president for three years, led a group of officers to oust President Roch Kabore in January, saying they were motivated by frustration about mounting violence by Islamist militants.
    Damiba’s government began to take shape on Thursday with the appointment of economist Albert Ouedraogo as the West African nation’s transitional prime minister. Other key positions are expected to be filled in the coming days.
    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said in a statement that the visit from regional leaders, including Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, was cancelled after Burkina Faso had gone ahead with adopting its transitional charter.
    ECOWAS did not directly comment on the long transition, which the junta argued was needed to stabilise the country.    ECOWAS did not send a representative to Damiba’s inauguration ceremony.
    Burkina Faso’s military coup was the fourth in West Africa in 18 months, following two in Mali and one in Guinea, after a period of democracy that had raised hopes the region could shed its reputation as the continent’s “coup belt.”
    Jean Claude Kassi Brou, president of the ECOWAS Commission, said after an emergency summit last month that the military leaders had shown a willingness to work toward a speedy return to constitutional order.
    International partners have sanctioned Bukina Faso’s western neighbour Mali for delaying planned elections.    ECOWAS has also put heavy sanctions on Guinea.
    The regional bloc said on Thursday that Guinea had failed to comply with a six-month deadline to propose an election timetable after the military seized control from former President Alpha Conde in September.
(Reporting by Nellie Peyton and Thiam Ndiaga; Editing by Cooper Inveen, Frank Jack Daniel and Jonathan Oatis)

3/5/2022 African Students Say They Faced Guns, Hostile Guards As They Fled Ukraine by Abraham Achirga
Nigerian students arrive at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport from Ukraine after
fleeing the invasion by Russia, in Abuja, Nigeria March 4, 2022. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
    ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian medical student Oduola Adebowale said he and some friends were trying to get on a train to flee Ukraine when the soldiers pointed guns at them and ordered them back.
    The Ukrainian troops told him they were only letting pregnant woman on the service from the city of Lviv to the Polish border, but he said he saw them stop some pregnant African women from getting on board.
    “When we asked why they were doing this, the soldiers pointed guns at us, endangering our lives,” he told Reuters days later after he finally managed to complete his journey and landed at Nigeria’s Abuja airport on Friday.
    Scores of foreign students have echoed his complaints in social media posts, saying they were treated badly as they queued up with the crowds trying to escape Russia’s invasion.
    Reuters could not independently verify the accounts of Asian and African students being pulled off trains, held up at borders and pushed to the back of long lines.
    Ukraine’s national police and state border service did not immediately respond to requests for comment on reports that Reuters had received from refugees.
    But the African Union said this week it was disturbed by what it had heard and the U.N. refugee agency said it had urged authorities in countries neighbouring Ukraine to open their borders to African citizens.
    Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Wednesday authorities had sent up a hotline for African and Asian students looking for help in getting out.    “We are working intensively to ensure their safety & speed up their passage,” he tweeted.
‘THE POLICE DRAGGED US OUT’
    Adebowale did finally manage to get away, after waiting for hours for a train at Lviv then getting permission to travel to Romania.
    He was among 415 Nigerian students who flew into Abuja on a Nigerian government-chartered flight from Bucharest.    The government has also sent planes to collect Nigerians from Poland and Hungary.
    One student still waiting in Warsaw told Reuters via Zoom he and two fellow Nigerians were pulled off a train they had boarded in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
    “We were already in our cabin, and they called police on us.    The police came and dragged us out. Police (said) that ‘this is specifically for Ukrainians’,” Alexander Orah, a 25-year-old management student, said.
    Reuters could also not independently confirm his account.
    Orah said he and his friends were eventually allowed to board a train to Medyka, on the border with Poland, but then met guards who told them that Africans, South Asians and Arabs had to use a different crossing into Romania.
    When the students refused, he said the guards put up barricades to stop them crossing while allowing white people to leave.    When the growing crowd began to move forward, a soldier pointed a gun at them, he said.
    “He cocked his gun and stood in a shooting position, so we raised our hands up and started telling him, ‘We are students; we just want to go home’.” Orah eventually made to the Polish capital and started looking for his next exit.
(Writing and additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe, Editing by Alexandra Zavis and Andrew Heavens)

3/5/2022 Israeli PM Meets Putin In Moscow, Then Speaks With Zelenskiy By Phone by Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends the Cybertech
TLV conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 3, 2022. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Saturday to discuss the war in Ukraine and later spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Bennett’s spokesperson said.
    Bennett is coordinating his efforts in the crisis with the United States, France and Germany, an Israeli official said.
    After his meeting with Putin, Bennett headed to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, his spokesperson said.
    French President Emmanuel Macron had spoken to Bennett before he flew to Moscow to brief him on his own conversations with Putin, the Elysée Palace said.
    “They will stay in touch with the aim of obtaining a ceasefire, and this in coordination with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz,” an Elysée official said.
    Israel, at the behest of Zelenskiy, has offered to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, though officials have previously played down expectations of any breakthrough.
    In their three-hour meeting in the Kremlin, the Israeli official said, Bennett also raised with Putin the issue of the large Jewish community caught up in the war in Ukraine.
    Israel will send medical teams to Ukraine next week to set up a field hospital that will provide treatment for refugees, its Health Ministry said.
    While Israel, a close ally of the United States, has condemned the Russian invasion, voiced solidarity with Kyiv and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, it has said it will maintain contact with Moscow in the hope of helping to ease the crisis.
    Israel, home to a substantial population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, is also mindful of Moscow’s military support for President Bashar al-Assad in next-door Syria, where Israel regularly attacks Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.    Communication with Moscow prevents Russian and Israeli forces trading fire by accident.
    Bennett and Putin also discussed the ongoing talks between world powers, including Russia, and Iran about reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.
    Russia said on Saturday that Western sanctions imposed on it over its invasion of Ukraine had become a stumbling block for the Iran nuclear deal. Israel opposes any revival of the deal.
    Bennett, a religious Jew, flew to Moscow in violation of Sabbath law because Judaism permits this when the aim is to preserve human life, his spokesperson said.
    He was accompanied by his Ukrainian-born housing minister, Zeev Elkin.    Elkin had in the past accompanied former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an interpreter in his talks with Putin.
(Additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Gareth Jones)

3/6/2022 Yemen’s Houthis Agree U.N. Proposal To Offload Decaying Oil Tanker
FILE PHOTO: Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, talks during an
interview with Reuters in Sanaa, Yemen August 1, 2018. Picture taken August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    ADEN (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi movement has signed an agreement with the United Nations to deal with a decaying oil tanker threatening to spill 1.1 million barrels of crude oil off the war-torn country’s coast, a Houthi official said.
    U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said last month that there was an agreement in principle to shift the oil from the tanker Safer to another ship.    He gave no timeline.
    The Safer has been stranded off Yemen’s Red Sea oil terminal of Ras Issa for more than six years, and U.N. officials have warned it could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.
    “A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the United Nations for the Safer tanker,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, said in a Twitter post late on Saturday.
    The Houthis, who are battling Yemen’s internationally recognised government, control the area where the tanker is moored and the national oil firm that owns it.
    A deal had previously been reached for a technical U.N. team to inspect the deteriorating vessel, built in 1976, and conduct whatever repairs may be feasible, but final agreement on logistical arrangements did not materialise.
    No maintenance operations have been carried out on the Safer since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Houthis after they ousted the internationally recognised government from the capital, Sanaa.
    The coalition controls the high seas off Yemen.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by William Mallard)

3/6/2022 Doctors Without Borders Workers Kidnapped In Yemen - Sources
FILE PHOTO: A logo of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) is seen on the back
of an employee during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination campaign for migrants and
homeless people organised by the association in Paris, France, August 26, 2021. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
    ADEN (Reuters) – Gunmen in Yemen have kidnapped two foreign employees of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) in eastern Hadramout governorate, a security source and two other local sources said.
    The medical charity told Reuters it had lost contact with some of its staff in Yemen and that it could not share more details at this time out of concern for their safety.
    The security source said the employees were a German and a Mexican and were taken from their car by gunmen that security forces believed to be linked to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
    Islamist militant groups are among many destabilising forces in war-torn Yemen which is grappling with a humanitarian crisis.
    In February, five United Nations staff, including four Yemenis, were abducted in Abyan governorate by gunmen also believed to be linked to Al Qaeda.
    The militant group operates in south and eastern regions of Yemen, which has been divided by a seven-year war between the Saudi-backed government based in the south and Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the north.
    Al Qaeda took advantage of 2011 Arab Spring chaos in Yemen and the ouster of a transitional government from the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis in 2014 to create mini states, but was driven back following the intervention of a Saudi-led coalition in the war against the Houthis.
    The group has also been targeted by U.S. air strikes.
(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

3/6/2022 Israel’s Foreign Minister To Meet Blinken In Latvia
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid attends the weekly cabinet meeting
at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem February 13, 2022. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday in Riga, Lapid’s office said on Sunday.
    Israel has been trying to mediate in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.    Ukraine has requested that Israel serve as intermediary, citing its good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

3/8/2022 Palestinian Killed After Stabbing Two Israeli Police Officers In Jerusalem, Police Say
People stand at the house of a Palestinian man accused of killing an Israeli after it was blown up
by Israeli forces, near Jenin in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian man after he stabbed two officers at a gate to Jerusalem’s walled Old City on Monday, a police statement said. It was the second such incident in two days.
    Police said the two officers suffered light to moderate wounds and were taken to hospital.
    Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, claimed the attacker as a member.
    It praised the stabbing attack as a response to what it called Israel’s “extrajudicial killings” of Palestinians in Jerusalem without arresting them or putting them on trial.
    “These operations will continue as long as the occupation continues its aggression and its violations against the sacred sites in Jerusalem,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said.
    A video on social media showed several police officers shouting and pointing their guns at the man as he lay on the ground at the Cotton Merchants’ Gate.
    Photos distributed by police showed a bloodied knife on the ground.
    The state-run Palestinian news agency Wafa identified the man as Abdulrahman Qasem from Jalazon refugee camp near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
    On Sunday, a Palestinian man who stabbed and wounded an Israeli policeman in the Old City was killed when officers fired at him, police said.
    Later that day, Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian who threw a fire bomb at an army post outside Jerusalem, a military spokesman said.    Palestinian officials identified him as a 16-year-old who later died of his wounds.
    Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Old City, along with the West Bank and Gaza in a 1967 war.    Palestinians seek those areas for a future state. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.
(Reporting by Henriette Chacar in Jerusalem; Additional reporting by Nidal Al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Howard Goller)

3/9/2022 UAE Minister, U.S.’S Blinken Discuss Two-Way Ties, Ukraine - Report
FILE PHOTO: UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan speaks during a news conference with his
Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (not pictured) following their
meeting at Villa Borsig in Berlin, Germany, October 6, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/Pool/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) – The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates discussed developments in Ukraine and ways to strengthen two-way ties during a telephone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, the state news agency said.
    Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Blinken discussed the importance of reaching a political settlement to the Ukrainian crisis, it added.
(Reporting by Lina Najem; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

3/10/2022 Top Russian, Ukrainian Diplomats Meet For First Time Since Invasion by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba looks on as he speaks to the media with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
(not pictured) at the Ukrainian-Polish border crossing in Korczowa, Poland March 5, 2022. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    ANTALYA, Turkey (Reuters) – Foreign ministers from Russia and Ukraine will meet in Turkey on Thursday in the first high-level talks between the two countries since Moscow invaded its neighbour, with Ankara hoping they could mark a turning point in the raging conflict.
    Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has tempered expectations for a ceasefire agreement or other results from the meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya.
    Russia’s invasion has uprooted more than 2 million people in what the United Nations calls the fastest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War Two.
    NATO member Turkey had repeatedly offered to mediate between the sides and will host their top two diplomats after weeks of mediation attempts by world powers.
    Kuleba urged Lavrov to approach the talks “in good faith, not from a propagandistic perspective.”
    “I will say frankly that my expectations of the talks are low,” Kuleba said in a video statement on Wednesday.    “We are interested in a ceasefire, liberating our territories and the third point is to resolve all humanitarian issues.”
    Moscow has said it is ready for talks with Ukraine, but that all of its demands – including that Kyiv takes a neutral position and drops aspirations of joining the NATO alliance – must be met to end its assault.
    Delegations from the two countries have held three rounds of talks previously, two in Belarus and one in Ukraine.    Despite some positive signs on humanitarian arrangements, those negotiations have had little impact.
    Moscow calls its incursion a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and dislodge leaders it calls “neo-Nazis.”    Kyiv and its Western allies dismiss that as baseless pretext for an unprovoked war against a democratic country of 44 million people.
TURKEY’S BALANCE
    Bringing Lavrov and Kuleba together marks “a step forward” and could escalate diplomacy at higher levels in Moscow, said Mustafa Aydin, professor at Kadir Has University in Istanbul.
    “Russia is not yet close to entertaining peace, though it is slowly changing its stance,” he said.    “Its initially uncompromising posture is slowly giving way to a negotiation stance though not yet enough for a concrete outcome.”
    Turkey shares a maritime border with Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea and has good ties with both.    Ankara has called Russia’s invasion unacceptable and appealed for an urgent ceasefire, but has opposed sanctions on Moscow.
    While forging close ties with Russia on energy, defence, and trade, and relying heavily on Russian tourists, Turkey has also sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow.    It also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its 2014 annexation of Crimea.     Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said both Lavrov and Kuleba had requested that he attend the talks on Thursday, adding he wished the meeting could be a “turning point.”
    At the weekend, Turkey and Israel ramped up their push for mediation. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to declare a ceasefire in a call on Sunday.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held talks with Putin in Moscow at the weekend, and later spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
(Additional reporting by Can Sezer and Birsen Altayli in Istanbul; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Cynthia Osterman)

3/12/2022 Turkmen President’s Son Likely To Succeed Father In Election
FILE PHOTO: Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Serdar Berdymukhamedov, son of President
Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, takes part in celebrations for the national Turkmen Horse Day and
the Turkmen Shepherd Dog Day, near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan April 25, 2021. REUTERS/Vyacheslav Sarkisyan
    (Reuters) – Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov’s son, Serdar, is poised to win Saturday’s snap presidential election and succeed his father as the ruler of a gas-rich Central Asian nation of six million.
    President Berdymukhamedov, in power since 2007, called the vote last month, saying he wanted to give way to a new generation of leaders and the ruling Democratic party quickly nominated his son.
    Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 40, who has already been elevated to the No.2 position in the country as a deputy prime minister, will run against eight other candidates, some of whom are virtually unknown low-level public servants.
    An engineer and a diplomat by education, he has swiftly risen through government ranks, and local media refer to him as “the son of the nation,” while his 64-year-old father is known as Arkadag, or Protector.
    The outgoing president has said he would remain the speaker of the upper house of parliament after handing over the presidency.
    Turkmenistan, a former Soviet republic bordering Iran and Afghanistan, sits on the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves and exports gas by pipelines to China and Russia.
(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Barbara Lewis)

3/12/2022 Saudi Arabia Executes 81 Men In One Day For Terrorism, Other Offences by Aziz El Yaakoubi
FILE PHOTO: A general view of Riyadh city, Saudi Arabia, February 20, 2022. REUTERS/Mohammed Benmansour
    RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia executed 81 men including seven Yemenis and one Syrian on Saturday, the interior ministry said, in the kingdom’s biggest mass execution in decades.
    The number dwarfed the 67 executions reported there in all of 2021 and the 27 in 2020.
    Offences ranged from joining militant groups to holding “deviant beliefs,” the ministry said in a statement.
    “These individuals, totalling 81, were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” the statement read.
    “Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS (Islamic State), al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” it added.
    The ministry did not say how the executions were carried out.
    The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, the statement added.
    The mass execution is likely to bring back attention to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record at a time when world powers have been focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    Rights groups have accused Saudi Arabia of enforcing restrictive laws on political and religious expression, and criticised it for using the death penalty, including for defendants arrested when they were minors.
    “There are prisoners of conscience on Saudi death row, and others arrested as children or charged with non-violent crimes,” Soraya Bauwens, deputy director of anti-death penalty charity Reprieve, said in a statement.
    “We fear for every one of them following this brutal display of impunity,” she added.
    Saudi Arabia denies accusations of human rights abuses and says it protects its national security through its laws.
    The state SPA news agency said the accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.
    The kingdom executed 63 people in one day in 1980, a year after militants seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca, according to state media reports.
    A total of 47 people, including prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr, were executed in one day in 2016.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

3/13/2022 Qatari Foreign Minister To Visit Moscow On Sunday, Says Source
FILE PHOTO: Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani speaks during a news conference following a signing ceremony
at the State Department in Washington, DC on November 12 , 2021. Olivier Douliery /Pool via REUTERS
    DOHA (Reuters) – Qatar’s foreign minister will travel to Moscow on Sunday for discussions on the Iran nuclear talks and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a source familiar with the visit said.
    The source said Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, whose gas producing country is a U.S. ally, would meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
    Eleven month-old talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal face the prospect of collapse after a last-minute Russian demand forced world powers to pause negotiations despite having a largely completed text.
    Russia wants guarantees that its trade with Iran will not be affected by sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine – a demand Western powers say is unacceptable and Washington has insisted it will not agree to.
    Sheikh Mohammed on Saturday discussed the nuclear talks in separate phone calls with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs said in a tweet.
    The talks in Vienna seek to bring Iran back into compliance with the pact’s restrictions on its rapidly advancing nuclear activities and bring the United States back into the accord it left in 2018 under former President Donald Trump.
    On Thursday, Qatar’s ruling emir met with Bektum Rostam, a special envoy for Ukraine’s president, to discuss diplomatic efforts to end the war, Qatar’s state news agency reported.
(Reporting by Andrew Mills; Editing by Mark Potter)

3/13/2022 Iran Suspends Talks With Saudi Arabia – Nour News
FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo
    DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has suspended talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia, a website affiliated to Iran’s top security body reported on Sunday, without giving a reason for the decision which comes as a fifth round of negotiations was due to start this week.
    The news comes a day after Saudi Arabia carried out mass executions that activists said included 41 Shi’ite Muslims, and amid stalled talks on an Iranian nuclear deal in Vienna.
    “Iran has unilaterally suspended talks with Saudi Arabia,” Nour news said, without providing a reason.    It said no specific date had been scheduled for a new round of talks.
    The Saudi government media office CIC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran, which are locked in proxy conflicts around the region, started direct talks last year to try to contain tensions.    Iraq’s foreign minister said on Saturday his country would host a new round on Wednesday.
    Riyadh in 2016 severed ties with Iran after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran following the execution of a Shi’ite cleric in Saudi Arabia.
    On Saturday, Saudi Arabia said it had executed 81 men in its biggest mass execution in decades.    Activists and rights defenders said 41 were Shi’ite Muslims from the eastern Qatif region, which has historically been a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated government and minority Shi’ites.
    Saudi authorities did not respond to a Reuters’ request for comment on that.
    Saudi Arabia and Iran have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and political disputes in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq for years, and Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition waging war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015.
    Riyadh has said little progress has been made in the direct talks, which have focused largely on Yemen.
    Houthi authorities said on Saturday two Yemeni “prisoners of war” were among those executed by Saudi Arabia.
    Meanwhile, talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal face the prospect of collapse after a last-minute Russian demand forced world powers to pause negotiations for an undetermined time despite having a largely completed text.
(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom Additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in RiyadhWriting by Ghaida Ghantous Editing by Richard Pullin and Mark Potter)

3/13/2022 Ballistic Missiles Hit Iraq’s Kurdish Capital, No Casualties – Officials
Workers clean the damaged office of Kurdistan 24 TV building, in the
aftermath of missile attacks, in Erbil, Iraq, March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
    ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Missile attacks that struck Iraq’s northern Kurdish regional capital of Erbil on Sunday were launched from Iran, a U.S. official told Reuters, without giving further details.
    A dozen ballistic missiles struck Erbil at 1 a.m. on Sunday, targeting the U.S. consulate’s new building and the neighbouring residential area but caused only material damage and one civilian was injured, the Kurdish interior ministry said on Sunday.
    An Iranian state-TV correspondent based in Iraq said that the missiles were aimed at “secret Israeli bases,” information.
    There was no official claim of responsibility or further details available. A U.S. State Department spokesperson called it an “outrageous attack” but said no Americans were hurt and there was no damage to U.S. government facilities in Erbil.
    U.S. forces stationed at Erbil’s international airport complex have in the past come under fire from rocket and drone attacks that U.S. officials blame on Iran-aligned militia groups, but no such attacks have occurred for several months.
    The last time ballistic missiles were directed at U.S. forces was in January 2020 – an Iranian retaliation for the U.S. killing earlier that month of its military commander Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad airport.
    No U.S. personnel were killed in the 2020 attack but many suffered head injuries.
    Iraq and neighbouring Syria are regularly the scene of violence between the United States and Iran.    Iran-backed Shi’ite Islamist militias have attacked U.S. forces in both countries and Washington has on occasion retaliated with air strikes.
    An Israeli air strike in Syria on Monday killed two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iranian state media said this week.    The IRGC vowed to retaliate, it said.
    Kurdish officials did not immediately say where the missiles struck.    A spokesperson for the regional authorities said there were no flight interruptions at Erbil airport.
    Residents of Erbil posted videos online showing several large explosions, and some said the blasts shook their homes. Reuters could not independently verify those videos.
    Iraq has been rocked by chronic instability since the defeat of the Sunni Islamist group Islamic State in 2017 by a loose coalition of Iraqi, U.S.-led and Iran-backed forces.
    Since then, Iran-aligned militias have regularly attacked U.S. military and diplomatic sites in Iraq, U.S. and many Iraqi officials say.    Iran denies involvement in those attacks.
    Domestic politics has also fuelled violence.
    Iraqi political parties, most of which have armed wings, are currently in tense talks over forming a government after an election in October.    Shi’ite militia groups close to Iran warn in private that they will resort to violence if they are left out of any ruling coalition.
    The chief political foes of those groups include their powerful Shi’ite rival, the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has vowed to form a government that leaves out Iran’s allies and includes Kurds and Sunnis.
    Talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal face the prospect of collapse after a last-minute Russian demand forced world powers to pause negotiations for an undetermined time despite having a largely completed text.
    Negotiators have reached the final stages of 11 months of discussions to restore the deal, which lifted sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
    And Iran has suspended on Sunday a fifth round of talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia that were due to take place in Baghdad on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Iraq Bureau; Additional reporting by Yasmin Hussein and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by John Davison in Baghdad and Amina Ismail in Erbil; Editing by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard)

3/15/2022 Turkmen Leader’s Son Wins Presidency In Snap Vote
FILE PHOTO: Turkmenistan's Deputy Prime Minister Serdar Berdymukhamedov, son of President
Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, takes part in celebrations for the national Turkmen Horse Day and the Turkmen
Shepherd Dog Day, near Ashgabat, Turkmenistan April 25, 2021. REUTERS/Vyacheslav Sarkisyan/File Photo
    ASHGABAT (Reuters) – Serdar Berdymukhamedov, the son of outgoing Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, won a snap election with 73% of the vote and will succeed his father, the Central Asian nation’s Central Election Commission said on Tuesday.
    The victory of 40-year-old Serdar Berdymukhamedov was widely expected after his father elevated him to the No.2 position in the country as a deputy prime minister, clearly indicating that he was the designated successor.
    There are no strong political opposition groups in the gas-rich desert nation of six million which borders Iran and Afghanistan in the south.
    Eight other candidates ran in the election, some of them largely unknown low-level public servants.    Under the Turkmen constitution, the president is elected for a seven-year term.
    Serdar Berdymukhamedov is commonly referred to by local media as “the son of the nation,” while his 64-year-old father – who intends to stay on as the speaker of the upper house – is known as Arkadag, or Protector.
(Reporting by Marat Gurt; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

3/16/2022 UK PM Johnson Defends Saudi Visit After Mass Execution
FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson inspects the Guard of Honour as he arrives at Abu Dhabi Airport
at the start of his visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, amid the Russian invasionbr> of Ukraine, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 16, 2022. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS
    LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended on Wednesday his decision to visit Saudi Arabia where he is seeking increased supplies of oil, saying ties with the country were very important and promising to raise human rights issues.
    Johnson arrived in the United Arab Emirates and will later visit Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to secure additional oil flows to replace Russian hydrocarbons and increase diplomatic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.
    His visit has drawn criticism from lawmakers and campaigners, coming days after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men in its biggest mass execution in decades.
    Asked about criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Johnson said:
    “I’ve raised all those issues many, many times over the past … and I’ll raise them all again today.
    “But we have long, long standing relationships with this part of the world and we need to recognise the very important relationship that we have … and not just in hydrocarbons.”
    He highlighted a new Saudi investment in a green aviation fuel project in Britain.
    “That is the kind of thing that we want to encourage.    (It)doesn’t in any way mean that we can’t stick to our principles and raise those issues that we all care about,” he said.
    Johnson said the West had made a mistake in allowing itself to become dependent on Russian oil and gas, and that had effectively allowed Putin to hold them to ransom.
    He promised to set out a new national energy strategy next week.
(Reporting by William James, editing by Elizabeth Piper)
[I GET A LAUGH EVERYTIME A COUNTRY TRIES TO GET THE ARAB NATIONS TO PUMP OIL AND THEY ALL FIND OUT WHY THEY WILL NOT AND THEY AND TRUMP ARE ALL LAUGHING AT THEM IN THEIR DESPERATE ATTEMPT BUT OF COURSE THEY WILL NOT ADMIT TRUMP’S VICTORIES THE ABRAHAM ACCORDS.].

3/16/2022 U.N. Seeks $4.3 Billion For Yemen To Avert Mass Starvation As Funding Dwindles
FILE PHOTO: A worker carries a sack of wheat flour provided by the local charity Mona Relief to beneficiaries at a camp
for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
    (Reuters) – The United Nations seeks to raise over $4 billion at a pledging event on Wednesday for war-torn Yemen where the humanitarian drive has seen funding dry up even before global attention turned to the crisis in Ukraine.
    More than 17 million people in Yemen need food assistance and this could rise to 19 million in the second half of the year, U.N. bodies said.
    “While Ukraine understandably and rightly requires our urgent attention and focus right now, we cannot drop the ball on other crises,” said Swedish foreign ministry official Carl Skau.
    U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths told the same news briefing that aid agencies were already forced to cut back or stop food, health and other vital assistance in Yemen where the economy and basic services have collapsed in the seven-year war.
    “This year’s response needs nearly $4.3 billion,” he said.
    Food prices, which doubled last year due to a blockade imposed by a Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi group, are set to rise further since a third of the country’s wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine.
    In Aden’s Keraa camp, Abdo Yehya told Reuters they have seen no aid this year.
    “We survive with the help of our son who collects empty plastic bottles and metal cans and sells them, and…the kindness of people,” he said.    “We are exhausted.”
    The U.N. received just over half the $3.4 billion needed in 2020 while last year, donors gave $2.3 billion.
    The World Food Programme warned on Monday that without substantial new funding mass starvation and famine would follow.
    Donor budgets were strained by the pandemic, the Afghanistan crisis and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    There are also concerns over allegations of Houthi interference in aid flows.
    The Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene months later.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai and Yemen team; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

3/16/2022 U.N. Warns Of Risks From Libya Crisis
FILE PHOTO: A Libyan flag flutters atop the Libyan Consulate in Athens, Greece, December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
    (Reuters) -The crisis over control of executive power in Libya could lead to instability and parallel governments, the U.N. political affairs chief told the Security Council on Wednesday.
    “Libya is now facing a new phase of political polarisation, which risks dividing its institutions once again and reversing the gains achieved over the past two years,” Rosemary DiCarlo said.
    Libya’s political crisis has escalated since the collapse of a scheduled election in December that was planned as part of a peace process to reunify the country after years of chaos and war following a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.
    The parliament declared the interim unity government that was meant to oversee the run-up to elections as expired, and appointed Fathi Bashagha as the new prime minister this month.
    The unity government’s prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah has refused to cede power, however, and armed factions supporting each side have mobilised in and around the capital.
    The United Nations is seeking to resolve the crisis by pushing for new elections soon and has asked political bodies to join a committee to resolve constitutional and legal disputes that helped torpedo December’s planned vote.
    “We have observed increasingly threatening rhetoric, growing political tensions and divided loyalties among the armed groups in western Libya,” DiCarlo said.
    She added that there had been worrying developments, including the suspension of domestic flights inside Libya and movement last week by some forces backing either side towards the capital.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Toby Chopra and Jonathan Oatis)

3/16/2022 Israel, Egypt Agree To Expand Flights With New Direct Route
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a weekly
cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem, March 14, 2022. Jack Guez/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel and Egypt have agreed to expand their aviation ties with a new direct route between Tel Aviv and the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh expected to launch in April, Israel’s prime minister said on Wednesday.
    “Cooperation between the two countries is expanding in many areas, and this contributes to both peoples and to the stability of the region,” the Israeli leader, Naftali Bennett, said in a statement.
    Israeli carrier Israir said once it receives necessary approvals, it plans to operate 15 weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-Sharm El-Sheikh route.
    Egyptair currently flies nonstop between Tel Aviv and Cairo.
    Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979.
(Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Steven ScheerEditing by Jeffrey Heller)

3/18/2022 West African Bloc Says Will Not Abandon Burkina Faso After Coup
FILE PHOTO: Economic Community Of West African States flags are pictured during a Nigeria, Benin and Niger foreign
ministers meeting on Nigeria's border closure in Abuja, Nigeria November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde/File Photo
    OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – A representative of West Africa’s regional bloc said on Thursday it will keep working with Burkina Faso despite concerns about the military junta’s plan to hold power for three years after a January coup.
    The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Burkina Faso after the military ousted President Roch Kabore, but has not imposed sanctions as it did on neighbouring Mali and Guinea, where the military have also snatched power in the last 18 months.
    The reason behind the differing approach is not entirely clear, but may be partly based on Burkina Faso’s struggle with an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and forced over one million people – about one in 20 – to flee their homes since 2015.
    Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, who led the delegation to the Burkina capital Ouagadougou, said ECOWAS was concerned about the three-year transition back to democractic elections but that the military leadership had explained their reasoning.
    “The issues and the problems that plague Burkina Faso are our problems as well.    It is not in this time of need of Burkina Faso that ECOWAS will abandon it,” Ayorkor Botchway said after meeting coup leader and interim President Paul-Henri Damiba.
    ECOWAS has demanded the release of former President Kabore, who has been in custody for nearly two months since the coup.     Ayorkor Botchway said Damiba gave the delegation permission to visit him and that he is in good spirits.
    Burkina Faso, alongside neighbours Mali and Niger, has been struggling to combat attacks by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in recent years.
    The worsening violence has eroded faith in democratic governments who many believe are ill-equipped to deal with the situation.
(Reporting by Thiam Ndiaga; Writing by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Edward McAllister and Bill Berkrot)

3/19/2022 Saudi Arabia Denies Reports Of Blinken Visit In Near Future - State Media
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera
at the State Department in Washington, U.S., March 18, 2022. Evan Vucci/Pool via REUTERS
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry denied media reports that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would visit the kingdom in the near future, state news agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.
    An official from the ministry was cited as saying on Friday that Saudi Arabia was looking forward to welcoming Blinken to strengthen ongoing “positive” discussions, though no meeting has been scheduled yet in Riyadh.
(Reporting by Yasmin Hussein; Editing by William Mallard)
[NO JOE BIDEN THE ARABS DO NOT WANT TO PUMP OIL FOR YOU, SO USE YOU OWN OIL IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY DUMBO JOE.].

3/19/2022 Tunisia Halts Protests On Avenue Symbolic Of 2011 Revolution - Reports
Demonstrators hold placards, Tunisian national flags and baguettes during a protest against Tunisian
President Kais Saied's seizure of governing powers, in Tunis, Tunisia March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
    TUNIS (Reuters) – The governor of Tunisia’s capital Tunis has banned political protests on Avenue Habib Bourguiba, a symbol of the 2011 revolution, ahead of a protest called by the opposition Workers’ Party on Saturday against President Kais Saied.
    Tunisian media reported on Friday that governor Kamel Fkih said in a statement that Habib Bourguiba “will be designated only for cultural, touristic and exhibition activities only
    “Other protests will be transferred to the Human Rights Square or other public squares on Mohammed V Street,” the statement cited by local media said.
    Tunis officials were not immediately available for comment.
    In July, Saied suspended parliament and seized most power in a move his opponents described as a coup, drawing widespread criticism at home and abroad. But Saied said it was aimed at saving Tunisia from collapse.
    Habib Bourguiba was the focal point in 2011 protests that ended the rule of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, after tens of thousands gathered in January, breaking the barrier of years of fear and authoritarian rule.
    The opposition has protested there in the past few months, the demonstrations sometimes broken up by authorities.
    Saied has promised to uphold rights and freedoms won in the revolution, but his critics say his actions, which also include replacing a body that guaranteed judicial independence, show he is determined to cement one-man rule.
(Reporting By Tarek Amara; editing by Grant McCool)

3/19/2022 Syria’s Assad Visits UAE, First Trip To Arab State Since War Began
FILE PHOTO: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addresses the government committee that oversees measures to curb the
spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Damascus, Syria in this handout released by SANA on May 4, 2020.
    DUBAI (Reuters) -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited the United Arab Emirates on Friday in his first visit to an Arab state since the Syrian war began in 2011, underlining warming ties with a U.S.-allied country that once backed rebels who sought his ouster.
    Assad met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan who “stressed that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security, and that the UAE is keen to strengthen cooperation with it,” Emirati state news agency (WAM) reported.
    Assad’s only trips outside Syria during the war have been to Iran and Russia, close allies whose military support helped him turn the tide against opponents who had been backed by governments including U.S.-allied Gulf states.
    A video posted by WAM showed Assad smiling as he stood alongside Sheikh Mohammed in front of the Syrian and Emirati flags, as well as gesticulating and smiling during talks.
    The United States has opposed efforts to normalise ties with Assad or rehabilitate him until progress is made towards a political solution to the conflict, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people since spiralling out of an uprising against Assad.
    Washington expressed concern in November when the UAE foreign minister visited Damascus and met Assad.
    But Washington has eroded its political capital with both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi by not heeding their concerns about regional rival Iran, ending its support for their war in Yemen and slapping conditions on U.S. weapons sales to the Gulf states.
    WAM said the sides emphasized “the preservation of the territorial integrity of Syria and the withdrawal of foreign forces” from the fragmented country where Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States all have a military presence.
    They also discussed political and humanitarian support for Syria and its people to reach a peaceful solution to all the challenges it faces, WAM reported.
    WAM said Sheikh Mohammed “expressed his wishes that this visit will pave the way for goodness, peace and stability to prevail in Syria and the entire region.”    Assad briefed him on the latest developments in Syria, it said.
    Assad was seen off by Sheikh Mohammed at the airport.
    Assad also met Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the Syrian presidency said in a statement.
    The meetings marked the latest in a series of diplomatic overtures that point to a shift underway in the Middle East where several Arab countries are reviving ties with Assad.
    Signs of rapprochement between Assad and Arab states grew last year, including a phone call with King Abdullah of Jordan, another U.S. ally.
    Analysts say political and economic considerations loom large for Arab states that are seeking closer ties with Assad, including how to counter the influence of Iran and Turkey.
(Reporting by Moataz Mohamed; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Franklin Paul, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)

3/19/2022 Archaeologists Discover Five Tombs In Egypt’s Saqqara Necropolis
Egyptian archaeologist speaks inside the tomb of a woman named Petty who was responsible for the King's beautification and
the priest of Hathor, at a recently discovered tomb at the Saqqara area, in Giza, Egypt, March 19, 2022. REUTERS/Hanaa Habib
    CAIRO (Reuters) – Archaeologists have discovered five ancient tombs adorned with well-preserved paintings at a cemetery in Saqqara, just outside the Egyptian capital Cairo, officials said on Saturday.
    The tombs belong to senior officials from the Old Kingdom and First Intermediate period, dating to more than four thousand years ago, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said.
    Located near the pyramid of King Merenre I, they also contained large stone coffins, wooden coffins and other artefacts including small statues and pottery.
    Saqqara, which lies south of the Great Pyramids of Giza, has provided a rich seam of archaeological discoveries in recent years.
(Reporting by Sameh el-Khatib; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

3/20/2022 Some Syrian Veterans Ready For Ukraine Fight, Commanders Say by Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Laila Bassam
FILE PHOTO: Syrian and Russian soldiers are seen at a checkpoint near
Wafideen camp in Damascus, Syria March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
    AMMAN/BEIRUT (Reuters) – Some Syrian paramilitary fighters say they are ready to deploy to Ukraine to fight in support of their ally Russia but have not yet received instructions to go, two of their commanders told Reuters.
    Nabil Abdallah, a commander in the paramilitary National Defence Forces (NDF), said he was ready to use expertise in urban combat gained during the Syrian war to aid Russia, speaking to Reuters by phone from the Syrian town of Suqaylabiyah.
    “Once we get instructions from the Syrian and Russian leadership, we will fight this righteous war,” Abdallah said on March 14, four days after President Vladimir Putin gave a green light for 16,000 volunteers from the Middle East to deploy in Ukraine.
    “We don’t fear this war and are ready for it once instructions come to go and join.    We will show them what they never saw … We will wage street wars and (apply) tactics we acquired during our battles that defeated the terrorists in Syria,” he added.
    The Kremlin referred Reuters’ requests for comment to the Russian Defence Ministry.    The ministry did not respond to a request for comment on whether Russia intended to issue instructions for NDF fighters to deploy or whether any NDF fighters had been recruited so far.
    Reuters received no response to questions sent to the Syrian information ministry and the army via the information ministry on whether Syria intended to issue instructions for NDF fighters to deploy or whether any NDF fighters had been recruited so far.
    Syria is Russia’s closest ally in the Middle East, and Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian war in 2015 proved decisive in helping President Bashar al-Assad defeat rebel forces in enclaves across much of the country.
    The NDF emerged from pro-Assad militias early in the Syrian war and fought in offensives that captured some of the rebel held enclaves, with Russian air support.
    Now largely demobilised, the NDF numbers in the tens of thousands, experts on Syria say, a potentially large pool of recruits for Russia if the Ukraine war drags on.
‘A JUST WAR’
    A second NDF commander, Simon Wakeel from the nearby town of Mharda, also told Reuters “a lot of our people want to enlist to join our Russian brothers (and) allies, but we have not received any instructions from the leadership.”
    “We are auxiliary forces that fought alongside the army and with our Russian allies.    We crushed the terrorists who waged the war in Syria,” added Wakeel, who has been decorated by Russia and whose Facebook page includes images of church gatherings, men in military fatigues, and Assad.
    On March 11, Putin told a meeting of Russia’s Security Council that if people from the Middle East wanted to come to Ukraine of their own accord, and not for money, then Russia should help them “get to the conflict zone.”
    Putin’s remarks came after Ukraine announced on March 3 that more than 16,000 foreigners had volunteered to fight on its side against Russia.    Ukraine has established an “international legion” for people from abroad.
    In Washington, U.S. Marine General Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, told a Senate hearing on March 15 the numbers of Syrians trying to head to Ukraine appeared to be a “trickle.”
    “We believe that out of Syria there are perhaps small, small — very small — groups of people trying to make their way to Ukraine,” he said.    “Right now it’s a very small, trickle.”
    Two senior regional officials with close ties to the Syrian government and three sources close to the Syrian army have told Reuters that Russia has been seeking to tap Syrians with combat experience for Ukraine.
    The effort is being run out of a Russian air base at Hmeimein in Syria’s Latakia province, they said, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
    The Russian defence ministry did not respond to Reuters’ questions on whether the sources’ accounts were accurate, on who was conducting the recruitment, or how it was progressing.    The Syrian information ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for the government’s assessment of the Russian recruitment drive.
    Ukrainian military intelligence said 150 mercenaries were sent from Russia’s Hmeimein air base in Syria to Russia on March 15 to take part in military actions against Ukraine, the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine said in response to questions from Reuters.
    It said more than 30 fighters had returned to Hmeimein from Russia “after being wounded in fighting with Ukrainian defenders.”
    Ukrainian military intelligence said the recruits had been promised they would be used strictly in a policing role to maintain order in occupied territories, but recently information has begun to circulate among mercenaries about taking part directly in military actions against the Ukrainian army.     The Russian defence ministry and the Syrian information ministry didn’t comment on the account from Ukrainian intelligence.
‘THE WORST DECISION’
    In a video released on March 11, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine had “information that Russian forces are bringing in mercenaries from different countries”, warning “anyone who tries to join forces with the occupier in our Ukrainian lands — this will be the worst decision of your life.”
    The senior regional officials said the salary on offer to an ordinary recruit was around $1,000 a month, some 30 times more than a Syrian soldier’s pay.    Experienced fighters could get $2,000.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that reports on Syria using sources on all sides of the conflict, said a monthly salary of 1,000 euros is on offer, along with compensation of 7,000 euros for the wounded and 15,000 euros paid to the families of fighters who die. It cited Syrian military sources for the information.
    No contracts had been issued, it said.
    When asked by Reuters about reports of money being offered or paid to go to Ukraine, NDF commander Wakeel denied this and said “we are volunteers in a righteous case.”
    Reuters could not independently verify the compensation details reported by the Observatory and the regional officials.
    At the March 11 meeting of the Russian Security Council, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the volunteers from the Middle East were ready to fight alongside Russian-backed forces in the breakaway Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
    “Many of them we know – they helped in the struggle with (Islamic State) in the most difficult time, in the past 10 years,” said Shoigu, in an apparent reference to the Syria conflict.
(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Laila Bassam and Tom Perry in Beirut, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in Washington, Guy Faulconbridge and Mark Trevelyan in London, Natalia Zinets in Lviv, and by Ron Popeski; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by William Maclean)

3/20/2022 Ukraine Conflict Opens Diplomatic And Energy Opportunities For Qatar by Andrew Mills
FILE PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walks with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin
Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Moscow, Russia September 11, 2021. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    DOHA (Reuters) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened up diplomatic and commercial opportunities for gas exporter Qatar to expand energy sales to the West and bolster its alliance with Washington amid U.S. tensions with other Gulf Arab states.
    Qatar has sought a largely neutral stance on the conflict, but while trying to avoid choosing sides, it has signalled through its response that it can offer significant political and economic assistance to Western partners.
    With many European energy importers looking urgently for ways to ease their heavy dependence on Russia, Qatar has suggested it could direct more gas in future to Europe.
    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in contrast have resisted Western calls for a rapid rise in oil output to contain a jump in crude prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine.
    Those two leading Gulf Arab powers, which sought for years to isolate Qatar, have seen their own relations with Washington strained in recent years, partly over concerns about U.S. security commitments to its Gulf Arab partners.
    Meanwhile Qatar, which hosts the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, was designated a major non-NATO ally of the United States last month – a status neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia have been awarded.
    It has sought to play a role throughout the Iran nuclear talks and has carried messages between Tehran and Washington.
    On Monday Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.    Talks focused on lifting barriers to completing the Iran nuclear deal, a source with knowledge of the Iran talks told Reuters.
    “There was coordination with Washington prior to the Qatari foreign minister’s visit to Moscow, especially with regards to the JCPOA discussion,” the source said, using the acronym for the formal name of the nuclear accord.
    A day before his Moscow trip, Sheikh Mohammed spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.    He also met counterparts in Germany and France, which are parties to the Iran talks along with the United States, Britain, China and Russia.
    After the meeting Lavrov stepped back from earlier demands that had stalled negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal.
    “It does appear that Qatar has played a role in discussions on the edges of the Iran talks.    How direct and how consequential that role is open to question,” said Mehran Kamrava, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar.
NOT TRYING TO HEDGE
    Although Doha has in recent years, like Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, strengthened its diplomatic and economic ties with Moscow, it has maintained a strong partnership with Washington.
    While the UAE abstained from a U.S.-drafted United Nations Security Council resolution last month, and U.S. President Joe Biden has yet to speak directly to Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, he met Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani at the White House in January.
    “Qatar is not trying to hedge like Saudi Arabia and the UAE…The bottom line is this little country that’s sitting on this huge gas field which is going to generate massive amounts of money believes it has only one ultimate source of protection.    And that’s the United States,” said Martin Indyk, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Middle East peace envoy.
    Among the world’s largest producers of liquified natural gas (LNG), Qatar is one of the wealthiest nations per capita and is home to barely three million people, 85% of them foreign workers.
    On the international stage, Qatar’s central role has been to host Afghan peace talks that led to the 2020 agreement for the U.S. withdrawal.
    It remains an essential link between Western nations and the Taliban-led government, hosting the West’s Afghan diplomatic missions and even flying officials into Kabul, whose airport Qatar helps manage and control.
    “Now, whenever there is an opportunity, (Qatar) just goes for it.    They’re marketing themselves as an extension of U.S. foreign and security policy in a way that no other Gulf country is doing,” said Andreas Krieg a professor at King’s College in London.
‘AN ENORMOUS OPPORTUNITY’
    When Qatar decided to hike LNG production by 2027, some questioned how Qatar would find customers.    But now, amid strong demand and high prices, Western leaders are urging Qatar to boost supplies to Europe amid concerns about Russia, which currently supplies some 30-40% of the continent’s gas needs.
    “The renewed interest in diversifying European gas supplies presents an enormous opportunity for Qatar to sell the vast new supplies coming onstream,” said Justin Alexander, director of Khalij Economics, a Gulf-focused consultancy.
    Qatar’s energy minister Saad Al-Kaabi recently stressed new LNG volumes are meant for customers in Asia and Europe, pivoting from earlier messaging that the extra gas was largely for Asia.
    However Qatar has not yet announced new long term European contracts, which Alexander says will take time to negotiate and require new infrastructure to receive Qatar’s LNG tankers.
(Reporting and writing by Andrew Mills; editing by Dominic Evans, William Maclean)

3/20/2022 South African Court Halts Construction Of Amazon HQ On Sacred Land
FILE PHOTO: Contested land earmarked for a development which includes a new Africa headquarters for Amazon is seen alongside
the Black River in Cape Town, South Africa, June 2, 2021. Picture taken June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo
    CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – A South African court has halted construction of Amazon’s new Africa headquarters after some descendants of the country’s earliest inhabitants said the land it would be built on was sacred.
    The Western Cape division of the High Court interdicted the project developer from continuing with works at the Cape Town site until there had been meaningful engagement and consultation with affected indigenous peoples.
    “This matter ultimately concerns the rights of indigenous peoples …. The fundamental right to culture and heritage of indigenous groups, more particularly the Khoi and San First Nations Peoples, are under threat in the absence of proper consultation,” Judge Patricia Goliath said in her ruling.
    The Khoi and the San were the earliest inhabitants of South Africa, the latter roaming as hunter gatherers for tens of thousands of years, and the former joining them as pastoralists more than 2,000 years ago.
    Some of their descendants had objected to the River Club development, where Amazon would be the “anchor tenant” but which also includes plans for a hotel, retail offices and homes, as it lies at the confluence of two rivers considered sacred, the Black and Liesbeek Rivers.
    Not everyone identifying with the Khoi and San was against the project. An association of Khoi and San who supported it was among the respondents in the case.
    Amazon was not named as a respondent, and the company did not respond to an emailed request for comment sent outside office hours.    When the court case was launched early this year a spokesperson declined comment.
    Goliath said her ruling should not be construed as a criticism of the development but that the core issue was that there needed to be proper consultation before it could go ahead.
    Amazon already employs thousands of people in data hubs in Cape Town, and with over a third of South Africans unemployed authorities are keen to encourage foreign investment.
    Construction of the River Club development had continued despite the case being before the court.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf and Alexander Winning; Editing by Mark Potter)

3/20/2022 Huge Crowds Turn Out For Funeral Of Israeli Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men gather for the funeral ceremony of prominent rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who died
at 94, outside his home in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel March 20, 2022. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
(Correcting day in paragraph 2)
    BNEI BRAK, Israel (Reuters) – The funeral of a revered ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi drew huge crowds of mourners to a religious suburb of Tel Aviv on Sunday, with police expecting hundreds of thousands of people to attend.
    Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading authority on Jewish law, died on Friday at the age of 94 in Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox city near Israel’s commercial capital.
    Police closed off highways around Bnei Brak to regular traffic hours before the funeral to accommodate fleets of buses ferrying mourners to the city.
    A senior police officer said that while some Israeli media predicted that up to one million people would flock to the funeral, police had deployed in accordance with the force’s own estimate that crowds would be about half of that.
    Israel’s Magen David Adom ambulance service was also on high alert, with memories still fresh of a stampede last May at a crowded Jewish religious festival in northern Israel in which 45 people were crushed to death.
    In Bnei Brak, large numbers of religious men, wearing traditional black hats and suits, stood shoulder-to-shoulder in streets leading to the cemetery, as other residents squeezed onto nearby balconies.
    Israel’s Channel 13 TV put the number of mourners at 750,000, without citing a source for the figure.
    Kanievsky, born in what is now Belarus, made headlines in Israel at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for defying government authorities and saying that ultra-Orthodox schools must remain open.    He later relented, saying preservation of human life outweighed traditional practices.
    Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up about 12% of Israel’s population of 9.4 million.
(Correcting day in paragraph 2)
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

3/20/2022 Yemen Houthis Attack Saudi Energy Facilities, Refinery Output Hit
Saudi Civil Defence member is seen at the site of what Saudi-led coalition claims was a
drone a attack by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group, that targeted the Al-Shaqeeq desalination plant and
the Aramco facility, in Jizan, Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2022. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS
    RIYADH (Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group fired missiles and drones at Saudi energy and water desalination facilities, causing a temporary drop in output at a refinery but no casualties, the Saudi energy ministry and state media said on Sunday.
    Drone strikes hit a petroleum products distribution terminal in the southern Jizan region, a natural gas plant and the Yasref refinery in the Red Sea port of Yanbu, the ministry said in a statement.
    “The assault on Yasref facilities has led to a temporary reduction in the refinery’s production, which will be compensated for from the inventory,” it said, referring to Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and China Petrochemical Corporation (Sinopec).
    Aramco CEO Amin Nasser told a call about the firm’s earnings there was no impact from the attacks on its supply to customers. [nL2N2VN03N]
    The Saudi-led military coalition that has been battling the Houthis in Yemen for seven years said the assaults on Saturday night and Sunday morning had also targeted a water desalination plant in Al-Shaqeeq, a power station in Dhahran al Janub and a gas facility in Khamis Mushait.
    Later on Sunday, another Aramco distribution plant was attacked in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, leading to a fire in one of the tanks, according to the Saudi-led coalition.    The fire was controlled and did not result in any casualties, it said.
    Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said the group had fired ballistic and winged missiles as well as drones at Aramco facilities in the capital Riyadh, Yanbu and “other areas,” followed by attacks on “vital targets” in other Saudi regions.
POSSIBLE TRUCE
    It said the attacks and debris from intercepted projectiles caused material damage but no loss of life.     The coalition said initial investigations showed the group used Iranian-made cruise missiles on the desalination plant and Aramco’s Jizan distribution centre.    It said Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile and nine drones.
    State media posted images and videos of projectile debris, damaged cars and structures, and firefighters dousing flames.
    U.S. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the United States condemned the attacks.
    Saudi Arabia has struggled to extricate itself from the war in Yemen which has killed tens of thousands and left millions of people there facing starvation.    Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia have also endangered the kingdom’s airports, oil facilities and caused some civilian deaths.
    United Nations special envoy Hans Grundberg is discussing a possible truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which starts in April, his office said on Sunday.    It was unclear if both sides had agreed on the U.N. plans.
    The Houthis ousted Yemen’s government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the alliance to intervene.    The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.    The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
(Reporting by Moataz Mohamed, Yasmin Hussein and Omar Fahmy in Cairo and Saeed Azhar and Maha El Dahan in Dubai; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Frances Kerry, Mark Potter and Pravin Char)

3/21/2022 Tunisia’s President Says All Can Express Views On New Political System by Tarek Amara
FILE PHOTO: Tunisia's President Kais Saied holds a news conference on gives a statement on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
vaccination, during a European Union - African Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Pool
    TUNIS (Reuters) – Everyone in Tunisia will have a chance to express their views on plans for a new political system before a panel gives directions for constitutional reforms, President Kais Saied said on Monday.
    Saied faces strong criticism that he seeks to establish one-man rule since he monopolised the executive authorities and suspended parliament last year, with a protest on Sunday by more than 2,000 people in the capital the latest show of disfavour.
    In Monday’s speech on state television, Saied said he would go ahead with his initial plan for a referendum on constitutional changes on July 25.
    “Work will continue to go to a referendum on July. 25, after which everyone will be involved in expressing their opinions and suggestions for the new political system,” Saied said.
    His comments came at the expiry of a deadline for an online consultation started two months ago to determine the views of Tunisians on political and economic issues, although just about 500,000 participated in the country of 12 million.
    The remarks may imply that Saied could accept talks with political opponents, although he has previously said he rejects sterile dialogue with those he calls corrupt and traitors.
    Saied did not say how people could express their views in the new system, although key players, such as the powerful labour union UGTT, feel the only way forward is through national dialogue on political and economic reforms.
    Sunday’s protesters in the capital called for the return of the democratic system.
    Most political parties have dismissed the online consultation as a fraud and a bid by Saied to impose his political project, although the leader called it an embodiment of the slogan of the Tunisian revolution, “The people want.”
(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

3/22/2022 Libyan Domestic Flights To Resume After Political Crisis Closed Skies
FILE PHOTO: Airplanes are seen at Tripoli airport after Libya's internationally recognised government
regained control over the city, in Tripoli, Libya, June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny/File Photo
    TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s Global Air scheduled a Tripoli-Benghazi flight for Tuesday afternoon, signalling resumption of domestic air travel after the country’s political crisis had closed airspace for more than two weeks.
    The United Nations had urged the reopening of Libya’s skies in line with a 2020 ceasefire between the main warring factions to allow unhindered travel within the country.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Catherine Evans)

3/22/2022 Egypt, UAE, Israel Discuss Economic Challenges As Iran Looms by Maayan Lubell and Aidan Lewis
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi meets with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israeli
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, March 22, 2022 in this handout picture.
Courtesy of The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
    CAIRO (Reuters) -Leaders of Egypt, Israel and the United Arab Emirates met in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday for talks on the economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing influence of Iran in the region.
    Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hosted the meeting with UAE de facto leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – their first three-way summit since the UAE normalised relations with Israel.
    Egypt’s presidency said they discussed energy market stability and food security, two acute challenges for Cairo after Russia’s offensive in Ukraine sent wheat and crude oil prices soaring, as well as international and regional issues.
    The three countries – allies and partners of the United States – are part of an emerging Arab-Israeli axis seeking to counter-balance Iranian power at a time of uncertainty over Washington’s security commitment in the region.
    “We clearly see the strengthening of an axis that offers another narrative in the Middle East, that we can work together and cooperate on economic and defence matters,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll said.
    “Israel is committed to build a good partnership with anyone possible against the radical axis of Iran,” he told Kann radio.
    A statement from Bennett’s office later said simply that the three countries discussed strengthening ties on all levels in their talks, which began on Monday and stretched into Tuesday.
    Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel four decades ago, while the United Arab Emirates forged ties with Israel in 2020, driven partly by shared concerns over Iran.
    In particular, the three countries are worried about a deal taking shape to restore a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and major powers, which lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.    Iran’s enemies fear it is seeking to build nuclear weapons, a charge it denies.
    Bennett says the expected deal is weaker than the original arrangement and would lead to a more violent Middle East, and has urged the United States not to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from a foreign terrorist organisation blacklist in exchange for “empty promises.”
    Gulf states have criticised the nuclear talks for not addressing Iran’s missiles programme and proxy forces, including in Yemen where Houthi fighters have fired missiles into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
    Disagreement with Washington on both those issues has increased tensions between the United States and the two oil- exporting Gulf powers, who fear a resurgent Iran if it is able to export oil again under a nuclear deal with Washington.
    “We have some of the top U.S. allies not happy with the Biden approach,” Emirati political analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdullah said.    “For them to stand up together and for them to speak in one voice – that might resonate.”
    Khaled Okasha, head of the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies, said Sisi’s meeting with Bennett would have focused on the impact of the Ukraine conflict, while all three countries had overlapping views on Iran.
    “We are concerned with the Gulf being a secure aea that is not threatened in this consistent way from Iran,” he said.
    A Cairo-based source said that a separate meeting between Sheikh Mohammed and Sisi had also been expected to cover the reintegration of Syria into the Arab world after Abu Dhabi last week hosted President Bashar al-Assad’s first visit to an Arab country since Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011.
    Sisi and Sheikh Mohammed were also expected to cover Emirati investment or economic support for Egypt, the source said.
    The war in Ukraine has pressured emerging market economies and prompted Cairo on Monday to devalue its currency by 14%.
    Cairo is typically the world’s biggest wheat importer, sourcing most of those imports from Russia and Ukraine. While those costs are rising sharply, tourism receipts from Russian and Ukrainian visitors are expected to fall.
(Reporting by Maayan in Jerusalem, Aidan Lewis and Momen Atallah in Cairo, and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; writing by Maher Chmaytelli and Dominic Evans; editing by Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)

3/22/2022 Arab Man Kills 3 In Terror-Inspired Rampage In Israel by OAN Newsroom
Policemen work at the scene of an attack in Beersheba, Southern Israel, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. A knife-wielding
Arab man killed several people and seriously wounded others in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba,
a rampage officials called a terror attack with nationalist motives. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
    A knife-wielding Palestinian man went on a violent rampage in Southern Israel, killing three people and seriously injuring at least two others.
    According to Israeli security officials, the attacker rammed his car into a cyclist in the city of Beersheba earlier Tuesday after which he stabbed four other people.    He was identified as a 34-year-old Arab man from a nearby settlement.
    Authorities said the assailant had a criminal record and had spent four-years in prison for attempting to join the Islamic State back in 2015.    This is the deadliest attack in Israel in several years.
    “Five casualties were brought here, three of them were in critical condition and after resuscitation efforts by multiple teams we unfortunately had to determine their deaths,” stated Dr. Dan Schwartzfox, Deputy Director of Soroka Medical Center.    “Two other victims in their 40s arrived in critical but stable condition.”
    Authorities also described the incident as a “nationalistically motivated terror attack.”

3/24/2022 Turkey Regrets Taliban Move To Keep High Schools Closed To Girls
FILE PHOTO: An Afghan girl goes to a school in Kabul, Afghanistan,
September 18, 2021. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey regrets the Taliban’s announcement that high schools in Afghanistan would remain closed for girls, the foreign ministry said late on Wednesday, calling on the hardline Islamist group to allow education for all.
    The Taliban on Wednesday backtracked on their announcement that high schools would open for girls, saying they would remain closed until a plan was drawn up in accordance with Islamic law for them to reopen.
    The u-turn took many by surprise, leaving students in tears and drawing condemnation from humanitarian agencies, rights groups and diplomats at a time when the Taliban administration is seeking international recognition.
    In a statement, Turkey’s foreign ministry said education for all students, including girls, was the expectation of the Afghan people and that it regretted the Taliban’s decision.
    “We call on the Interim Government of Afghanistan to allow girls of all ages to partake in education in an inclusive manner as soon as possible first and foremost for the benefit of the Afghan people, and emphasize that we will continue to stand by the Afghan people in these difficult days,” it said.
    Since the takeover of Afghanistan in August by the hardline Islamist Taliban, Turkey has been working with Qatar to maintain operations at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport, while holding talks to operate that airport and others if its security conditions are met.
    Turkey has not recognised the Taliban leadership, but it has called for more global engagement with them.    Ankara also invited Taliban officials to a diplomacy forum it hosted this month, and has said the Afghan leadership must be heard.
    The Taliban is seeking to run Afghanistan according to its interpretation of Islamic law, and it wants to gain access billions of dollars in aid to help meet the challenge of worsening and widespread poverty.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

3/24/2022 Turkey Urges More Ukraine Ceasefire Efforts, To Continue Mediation
FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the opening session of Antalya Diplomacy Forum (ADF)
in Antalya, Turkey March 11, 2022. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey called for ramped up efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine and vowed to continue its “mediation and facilitation” work between Moscow and Kyiv, ahead of a NATO summit where leaders will discuss Russia’s invasion.
    NATO member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia and has good ties with both.    While supporting Ukraine and criticising Russia, Ankara has also opposed sanctions on Moscow and launched mediation efforts.
    Although Moscow says its operation is going to plan, Russian forces have not captured a major Ukrainian city after a month of fighting.
    After a nearly 4-hour meeting in Ankara chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) said Turkey would continue to fulfil its responsibilities for regional peace.
    “It was noted that the efforts to halt attacks and achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible, and to solve problems between the two countries by taking into consideration Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in a lasting manner need to be ramped up,” the MGK said in a statement.
    Earlier this month, Turkey hosted the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers for the first high-level talks since the war, and wants to bring together Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
    While forging close ties with Russia in defence, energy and trade, and relying heavily on Russian tourists, Ankara has also sold drones to Ukraine, angering Moscow.    It also opposes Russian policies in Syria and Libya, as well as its annexation of Crimea in 2014.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

3/24/2022 Turkey Urges Libya To Avoid Steps That Could Renew Clashes
FILE PHOTO: People cross a street at Martyrs Square in Tripoli, Libya,
July 5, 2021. Picture taken July 5, 2021. REUTERS/Hazem Ahmed/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey urged Libya to refrain from any steps that would lead to renewed conflict and called on authorities to follow democratic processes, amid a crisis over control of executive power in the country.
    Libya’s political crisis has escalated since the collapse of a scheduled election in December that was planned as part of a peace process to reunify the country after years of chaos and war following a 2011 NATO-backed uprising.
    Turkey has provided military support and training to Libya’s former internationally recognised Government of National Accord, and helped it fight off an assault lasting several months on the capital Tripoli by eastern Libyan forces led by Khalifa Haftar.    It still has military personnel and Syrian militia fighters in Libya.
    Ankara has supported the peace process but remained largely silent since the latest turmoil in Libya after the formation of two rival governments.
    After an almost 4-hour meeting chaired by President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) said a “calm in Libya that was achieved through big sacrifices” was an opportunity for peace.
    The MGK called on parties involved in Libya to “refrain from steps that could cause new clashes” and urged authorities in the country to “follow democratic processes on a basis of legitimacy for the achievement of lasting peace and stability.”
    An interim Government of National Unity, which Ankara backs, was installed last year to oversee the run-up to elections and reunify divided state institutions.
    When the elections collapsed, the House of Representatives parliament in the east, based in Tobruk, said that the government’s term had expired and it designated a new administration and set elections for next year.
    However, the prime minister of the unity government said he would only relinquish power after elections, and armed forces backing each side have mobilised around Tripoli, raising fears of another conflict or a return to territorial division.
    A date for a new election has not been set.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Stephen Coates)

3/25/2022 Erdogan Says Zelenskiy’s Referendum Call Is “Smart Leadership” - Media
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following
a NATO summit, in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his Ukrainian counterpart comments on the need for a referendum for compromises with Russia was “smart leadership”, broadcaster NTV and others cited him as saying on Friday.
    Speaking to reporters on a return flight from a NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan also said Turkey could not impose sanctions on Russia due to its energy needs and cooperation.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday any compromises agreed with Russia to end the war would need to be voted upon in a referendum.
    Erdogan said he would hold separate calls with Ukrainian and Russian counterparts in coming days to evaluate the summit.
    NATO member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both and has offered to mediate the conflict.    While supporting for Ukraine and being critical of Russia, Ankara has opposed sanctions on Moscow.
    “We are buying nearly half of the natural gas we use from Russia.    Separately, we are making our Akkuyy Nuclear Power Plant with Russia.    We cannot set these aside,” Erdogan said.
    “So there is nothing that can be done here.    We must maintain our sensitivity on this issue. Firstly, I can’t leave my people in the cold of the winter.    Secondly, I cannot halt our industry. We must defend these,” he added.
    He also said Ukrainian and Russian negotiators were able to agree on four out of the six main issues being discussed during peace talks, but that territorial disputes on the eastern region of Donbass and Crimea remained.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

3/25/2022 Ethiopia’s Tigray Region Say Committed To Observing Humanitarian Ceasefire
FILE PHOTO: Eritrean refugee children walk outside of the Adi Harush Refugee camp in Mai Tsberi town
in Tigray Region, Ethiopia, June 26, 2021. Picture taken June 26, 2021. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo
    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Rebellious Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia have said they will respect a ceasefire proposed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government as long as sufficient aid is delivered to their war-scarred northern region “within reasonable time.”
    The government in Addis Ababa declared the cessation of hostilities on Thursday, saying it was to allow aid to flow into Tigray.
    “The government of Tigray will do everything it can do to make sure this cessation of hostilities is a success,” the regional Tigrayan government said in a statement late on Thursday.
    War broke out between Tigray’s rulers – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – and the central government led by Abiy, in November 2020.
    The conflict, which later engulfed neighbouring regions, has killed thousands of civilians and displaced millions across northern Ethiopia and into neighbouring Sudan.
    The United Nations has said more than 90% of the 5.5 million Tigrayans need food aid.
    The federal government has always said aid is allowed to enter Tigray but only a small amount has gone in since Ethiopian troops withdrew from Tigray at the end of June last year.
    Tigray’s leaders have blamed federal authorities and authorities in the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions for blocking aid going into Tigray, accusations they deny.
    The central government has accused Tigrayan fighters of blocking aid because they have invaded Afar, a neighbouring region along the only land route currently open into Tigray.
    The United Nations and the United States welcomed Addis Ababa’s declaration of a unilateral ceasefire, which followed a visit by the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, to the capital Addis Ababa this week.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsroom; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Robert Birsel)

3/26/2022 Saudi Aramco Storage Petroleum Facility Hit By Houthi Attack, Causing Fire by Aziz El Yaakoubi and Maha El Dahan
A view of a fire at Saudi Aramco's petroleum storage facility, after an
attack, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer
    RIYADH (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthis said they launched attacks on Saudi energy facilities on Friday and the Saudi-led coalition said oil giant Aramco’s petroleum products distribution station in Jeddah was hit, causing a fire in two storage tanks but no casualties.
    A huge plume of black smoke could be seen rising over the Red Sea city where the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is taking place this weekend, an eyewitness said.
    The coalition statement on state media said the fire had been brought under control.    Flames could still be seen in live footage aired by Saudi-owned Ekhbariya television channel.
    The Saudi energy ministry said the kingdom strongly condemned the “sabotage attacks,” reiterating that it would not bear responsibility for any global oil supply disruptions resulting from such attacks, state news agency SPA reported, citing an official in the ministry.
    The ministry blamed Iran for continuing to arm the Houthis with ballistic missiles and advanced drones, stressing that the attacks “would lead to impacting the Kingdom’s production capacity and its ability to fulfil its obligations to global markets.”    Teheran denies arming the Houthis.
    There was no immediate comment from Aramco.
    The attacks came as Jeddah was hosting the Formula One Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.    The dense black smoke could be seen from the race circuit, a Reuters witness said.
    Formula One CEO Stefano Domenicali told drivers and team bosses that the Grand Prix would go ahead as planned, according to a source familiar with the matter.
VITAL FACILITIES
    The Iran-aligned Houthis, who are battling the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, have intensified attacks on energy facilities in the kingdom, the world’s largest oil exporter.
    Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said the group launched missiles on Friday at Aramco’s facilities in Jeddah and drones at the Ras Tanura and Rabigh refineries, and said it had also targeted “vital facilities” in Riyadh, the capital.
    Saudi state media earlier said the coalition had foiled a string of Houthi drone and rocket attacks.    Saudi air defences also destroyed a ballistic missile launched towards Jizan, which caused a “limited” fire at an electricity distribution plant.
    The Houthi escalation comes as the United Nations special envoy tries to secure a temporary truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan that starts in April, and ahead of Riyadh’s hosting Yemeni parties for consultations later this month.
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attacks on ally Saudi Arabia, and said the United States would continue to work with Riyadh to strengthen its defences while working for a durable resolution to the conflict in Yemen.
    “At a time when the parties should be focused on de-escalation and bringing needed life-saving  relief to the Yemeni  people ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, the Houthis continue their destructive behaviour  and reckless terrorist attacks  striking  civilian infrastructure,” Blinken said.
      Last weekend a Houthi assault on the kingdom caused a temporary drop in output at a refinery and a fire at a petroleum products distribution terminal. On March 11, the group targeted a refinery in Riyadh, causing a small fire.
    The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.
    The conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.    The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
(Reporting by Maha El Dahan, Aziz El Yaakoubi, Maher Chmaytelli, Yomna Ehab, Lina Najem, Alaa Swilam, Yoman Ehab; additional reporting by Abhishek Takle and Simon Lewis; Writing by Maha El Dahan and Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Frances Kerry, Catherine Evans, Leslie Adler, Kirsten Donovan)

3/26/2022 West African Leaders Set Deadlines For ‘Recalcitrant’ Coup-Hit States by Cooper Inveen
Senegalese President Macky Sall, Ghanaian President and Chairman of Economic Community of
West African States (ECOWAS) Nana Akufo-Addo and ECOWAS Commission President Jean Claude Kassi Brou attend
an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS to hear reports from recent missions to Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea
following military coups in those countries, in Accra, Ghana March 25, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
    ACCRA (Reuters) - West Africa’s main political and economic bloc said on Friday it would give Mali’s military transitional government 12 to 16 months to arrange elections and offered Guinea’s ruling junta a month to propose a democratic transition timeline.
    After a summit in Accra, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also agreed to ask Burkina Faso’s interim leaders to reduce a proposed transition of 36 months to a “more acceptable timeline,” the bloc’s Commission President Jean Claude Kassi Brou told a news conference.
    West Africa has been rocked by two coups in Mali, one in Guinea and one in Burkina Faso since August 2020, tarnishing its reputation as a model of democratic progress in Africa.
    The 15-nation ECOWAS has repeatedly condemned the putsches and is trying to bring power back into civilian hands.
    “Our democratic values must be preserved,” Kassi Brou said.    “Some countries are going through challenges, but we must address those challenges collectively.”
    ECOWAS has already imposed sanctions on Guinea and Mali for dragging their feet on restoring constitutional order.
    Kassi Brou said those measures would be gradually lifted in Mali if its leaders respected the 12- to 16-month ultimatum.    Harsher penalties will hit Guinea if it misses its own April 25 deadline, he warned.
    “We have no idea when the transition [in Guinea] will end and this creates tensions in the region and inside the country,” he said.
    Mali’s interim government failed on a promise to hold elections in February and first said it would keep ruling until at least 2025, which was then revised down to 24 months.
    Guinea, whose ex-President Alpha Conde was overthrown in September, has yet to lay out handover plans.
    Meanwhile, Burkina Faso’s junta, which took over in January, has proposed relinquishing power after three years, raising eyebrows in ECOWAS.
    Before Friday’s meeting the bloc’s chair, Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo, said it was “time to take stock of where we are with our three recalcitrant member states.”
    Sanctions in Mali have already severed the country’s access to regional financial markets, caused job losses and contributed to its default on about $180 million in debt payments.
    Burkina Faso, which has so far been spared, will also face sanctions if the junta does not release ex-President Roch Kabore from house arrest within the next month, Kassi Brou said.
(Reporting by Cooper Inveen and Christian Akorlie; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Richard Chang)

3/26/2022 EU’s Borrell Says Nuclear Agreement With Iran Very Close
    DOHA (Reuters) – The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Saturday that Iran and world powers were very close to an agreement on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
    Borrell was addressing the Doha Forum international conference.
    The nuclear talks had been close to an agreement until Russia made last minute demands of the United States, insisting that sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine should not affect its trade with Iran.
(Reporting by Andrew Mills and Ghaida Ghantous, writing by Michael Georgy, editing by Alexander Smith)

3/27/2022 Blinken To Attend Israeli-Arab Summit Clouded By Iran And Ukraine by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a European Union leaders summit amid Russia's
invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Washington’s top diplomat will try to deepen Israeli-Arab rapprochement at a summit in Israel on Sunday where he may also face pushback against the emerging Iran nuclear deal and questions about the U.S.-Russia struggle over Ukraine.
    Kicking off a regional tour, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett before joining Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and counterparts from four Arab countries at a desert retreat.
    Topping the agenda are the Iran nuclear talks, about which Israel and Gulf Arab states have voiced strong misgivings, and Russia’s month-long invasion of Ukraine, a conflict in which Israel has emerged as a potential mediator.
    “I think he (Blinken) will hear a very strong position (on Iran) from all of the countries (at the summit),” Eitan Naeh, Israel’s ambassador to Bahrain, told public broadcaster Kan.
    Attending will be foreign ministers from United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, three Arab nations that were part of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration in 2020 to normalise ties with Israel.
    Egypt’s foreign minister, whose country on Saturday marked 43 years of peace with Israel, will also join the summit.
    The nuclear talks had been close to an agreement several weeks ago until Russia made last-minute demands of the United States, insisting that sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine should not affect its trade with Iran.
    Blinken’s visit comes at a time when ties with several countries in the Middle East face challenges as key allies such as Israel and the UAE question the Biden administration’s commitment to the region.
    While Washington’s strategic focus has been on China, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further complicated U.S. foreign policy priorities, leaving it to grapple with challenges on several fronts.    The venue for the foreign ministers’ meeting is Sde Boker, where Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, retired and is buried.    The remote Negev desert farm collective has long been a symbol of Israeli innovation.
    It will provide an opportunity for delegates to hold discussions in repose, one Israeli official involved in the planning said, calling it “our version of Camp David.”
    Sde Boker may also have provided an uncontroversial alternative to Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital – a status not recognised by most countries in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian claims on the city.
    Blinken is set to visit the West Bank, Morocco and Algeria. He will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, the State Department said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington. Editing by William Maclean, Ros Russell and Gerry Doyle)

3/27/2022 U.S. Envoy Not Confident Iran Nuclear Deal Is Imminent by Andrew Mills and Ghaida Ghantous
Iran's and U.S.' flags are seen printed on paper in this illustration taken January 27, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
    DOHA (Reuters) - U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said on Sunday he was not confident that a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran was imminent after 11 months of talks in Vienna that have stalled.
    The failure of efforts to restore the pact could carry the risk of a regional war, or lead to more harsh Western sanctions on Iran and continued upward pressure on world oil prices that are already high due to the Ukraine conflict, analysts say.
    “I can’t be confident it is imminent...a few months ago we thought we were pretty close as well,” Malley said at the Doha Forum international conference.
    “In any negotiations, when there’s issues that remain open for so long, it tells you something about how hard it is to bridge the gap.”
    His assessment of the negotiations in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear accord came after Kamal Kharrazi, a senior advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said a deal could come soon.
    “Yes, it’s imminent.    It depends on the political will of the United States,” Kharrazi told the conference.
    Then-U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the nuclear pact in 2018, prompting Tehran to start violating nuclear limits set under the deal about a year later, and months of on-and-off talks to revive it paused earlier this month after Russia presented a new obstacle.
    Russia later said it had received written guarantees that it would be able to carry out its work as a party to the deal, suggesting Moscow could allow it to be resuscitated.
    Kharrazi said in order for the deal to be revived it was vital for Washington to remove the foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) designation against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite unit which reports to Khamenei.
    The IRGC’s Quds Force helps Iran spread its influence in the Middle East through proxies.
    “IRGC is a national army and a national army being listed as a terrorist group certainly is not acceptable,” he said.
    Asked about any potential redesignation, Malley said: “Regardless of what happens to the IRGC issue that you raise, our view of the IRGC is many other sanctions on the IRGC will remain.    This is not a deal that intends to resolve that issue.”
    Tehran has also been pushing for guarantees that any future U.S. president would not withdraw from the deal, which would curb Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for lifting tough sanctions which have hammered Iran’s economy.
    The extent to which sanctions would be rolled back is another sensitive subject.
    Enrique Mora, the EU coordinator for the nuclear talks, had said on Friday he would travel to Tehran on Saturday to meet Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator.
(Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Andrew Mills; Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Michael Georgy;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

3/27/2022 U.S Envoy For Iran Says Not Confident That A Nuclear Deal With Iran Is Imminent
FILE PHOTO: Iranian flag flies in front of the UN office building, housing IAEA headquarters, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria, May 24, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
    DOHA (Reuters) – U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley said on Sunday that he is not confident that a nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran is imminent.
    “The sooner we get back into the deal, which is in our interest, and presumably Iran’s interest, the more faithfully we implement it, and the more we can build on it to address the other issues between us and Iran and between Iran and the region,” Malley said speaking at the Doha Forum international conference.
(Reporting by Andrew Mills and Ghaida Ghantous; Writing by Nadine Awadalla;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

3/27/2022 Russian Oligarchs Welcome In Turkey, Foreign Minister Says
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu walks in to attend a NATO summit to discuss Russia's
invasion of Ukraine, at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
    (Reuters) – Russian oligarchs are welcome in Turkey but must abide by international law in order to do any business, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday.
    Turkey has strongly criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but opposes sanctions imposed by its NATO allies on principle.
    “If Russian oligarchs … or any Russian citizens want to visit Turkey of course they can,” Cavusoglu said in response to a question at the Doha Forum international conference.
    “If you mean whether these oligarchs can do any business in Turkey, then of course if it is legal and not against international law, I will consider it,” he said, adding: “If it is against international law then that is another story.”
    Two superyachts linked to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich have docked in Turkish resorts.
    Western governments have targeted Abramovich and several other Russian oligarchs with sanctions as they seek to isolate President Vladimir Putin and his allies over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Alexander Smith)

3/28/2022 Israeli PM Bennett Tests Positive For COVID
FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the
Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, March 27, 2022. Abir Sultan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has tested positive for COVID-19 but feels well and will work while self-isolating at home, his office said on Monday.
    The news came hours after Bennett, who has been vaccinated against the coronavirus and received a booster dose, visited the scene of a shooting in the Israeli city of Hadera, where two Arab gunmen killed two police officers before being shot dead.
    “This morning, the prime minister will conduct an assessment … of last night’s attack,” Bennett’s office added in a statement.
    Participants would include the ministers of defence and internal security, the military’s chief of staff and the national police chief, it added.
    Bennett met U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jerusalem on Sunday.
    The prime minister, who turned 50 on Friday, has been a vocal proponent of vaccinations and masking, while avoiding lockdowns, as Israel battles the pandemic.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Maayan Lubell and Clarence Fernandez)

3/28/2022 Israeli-Arab Summit Convenes, Blinken Seeks To Reassure Allies On Iran by Humeyra Pamuk
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a European Union leaders summit amid Russia's
invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo
    SDE BOKER, Israel (Reuters) -Israeli and Arab partners convened for a rare summit in Israel on Sunday attended by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who sought to reassure the U.S. allies over Washington’s diplomacy with Iran.
    The issue is likely to dominate the two-day gathering, which includes foreign ministers from three Arab states that normalised ties with Israel in 2020, even as peacemaking with the Palestinians remained stalled.
    Blinken’s visit comes as some U.S. allies in the region question President Joe Biden administration’s commitment and brace for fallout from an Iranian nuclear deal and the Ukrainian crisis.
    The nuclear talks had been close to an agreement several weeks ago until Russia made last-minute demands of the United States, insisting that sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine should not affect its trade with Iran.
    Restoring a 2015 nuclear deal “is the best way to put Iran’s nuclear programme back in to the box it was in,” Blinken said.
    But whether or not that happens, “our commitment to the core principle of Iran never acquiring a nuclear weapon is unwavering,” he said alongside Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid in Jerusalem, before the summit got under way.
    “The United States will continue to stand up to Iran when it threatens us or when it threatens our allies and partners,” Blinken said.
    In Israel, internal security concerns deepened when Arab assailants, identified by security officials as Israeli citizens and Islamic State sympathisers, shot and killed two border police officers in Hadera, a city 50 km (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv.     Police shot the two men dead.
    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, according to a statement posted on the group’s Telegram account.
    On Twitter, Blinken wrote: “We condemn today’s terrorist attack in Hadera, Israel. Such senseless acts of violence and murder have no place in society.”    At the summit, Blinken is also expected to press Arab allies to step up support for Ukraine to fend off Russia’s invasion as several Gulf nations have so far stopped short of providing meaningful assistance.
    After talks with Blinken, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who has cautioned that a nuclear deal with Iran would not be binding on Israel, said he hoped Washington “will hear the concerned voices from the region, Israel’s and others'.”
    Attending the Lapid-hosted summit in a desert hotel will be the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, which were part of the so-called Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration to normalise ties with Israel.
    Egypt’s foreign minister, whose country on Saturday marked 43 years of peace with Israel, will also join the summit.
    “Normalisation is becoming the new normal in the region,” Blinken said, adding that Washington hoped “to bring others in.”
    Before travelling to the summit venue, Blinken held talks in the occupied West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and voiced continued U.S. commitment to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    The venue for the foreign ministers’ meeting is Sde Boker, where Israel’s founding father and first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, retired and is buried
.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Raissa Kasolowsky, Jane Merriman and Daniel Wallis)

3/28/2022 Blinken Will Test For COVID After Having Met Bennett, Spokesperson Says
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet at
the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, March 27, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will test for COVID-19 on Monday after having met Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem the previous day, a State Department spokesperson said.
    Bennett is isolating at home after testing positive for COVID-19, his office said on Monday.
    “Upon learning of Prime Minister Bennett’s positive test result, we determined that only Secretary Blinken is considered a close contact.    He will follow all CDC guidance, including by masking and undergoing appropriate testing,” spokesperson Ned Price said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

3/28/2022 Two Arab Gunmen Kill Two Police Officers In Israel And Are Shot Dead – Israeli Officials
The wreckage of gunmens' car is seen following an attack in which people were killed
on a main street in Hadera, Israel, March 27, 2022. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Two Arab gunmen killed two police officers on a city street in Israel on Sunday and were then shot dead, as the U.S. secretary of state and three Arab foreign ministers visited the country for a summit.
    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on its Telegram account.
    The two assailants in Hadera, a city about 50 km (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv, were Arab citizens of Israel and sympathisers of the group, Israeli security officials said.
    “We condemn today’s terrorist attack in Hadera, Israel,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter.    “Such senseless acts of violence and murder have no place in society. We stand with our Israeli partners and send our condolences to the families of the victims.”
    The attack occurred five days after an Arab from southern Israel killed at least four Israelis in a stabbing and car ramming spree in the city of Beersheba, before he was fatally shot by a passerby.
    Surveillance camera footage broadcast on Israeli television stations showed two men opening fire with assault rifles on a main street in Hadera, raising fears in Israel of a wave of such attacks.
    Two members of Israel’s paramilitary border police were killed by the assailants, police said.    The two gunmen were shot dead by police officers who had been dining at a nearby restaurant.
    “Luckily, our officers managed to neutralise the assailants and prevent a bigger terrorist attack,” national police spokesman Eli Levy said on Israel’s Kan television.
    In Israel’s southern Negev desert, the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, three countries that normalised relations with Israel in 2020, convened for a summit with Blinken in attendance.
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid “updated the foreign ministers participating in the Negev Summit on the details of the terror attack in Hadera,” the Israeli foreign ministry tweeted.
    “All the foreign ministers condemned the attack, and asked to send their condolences to the families of the victims & wishes for the recovery of the wounded,” the ministry said.
    Israeli security officials have cautioned about an escalation in attacks on Israelis in the run-up to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April – a volatile period in the past.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank on Monday in what is widely seen in Israel as an attempt to calm tensions ahead of the holiday period, which also includes Easter and Passover.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Costas Pitas and Michael Martina; Editing by William Maclean, Jane Merriman and Cynthia Osterman)

3/28/2022 Israel’s U.S., Arab Partners Close Ranks On Iran And Urge Palestine Talks by Humeyra Pamuk
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry,
Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco's Foreign Minister
Nasser Bourita and United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan pose for a
photograph during the Negev Summit in Sde Boker, Israel March 28, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS
    SDE BOKER, Israel (Reuters) – The top diplomats of the United States and four Arab countries convened in Israel on Monday in a display of unity against Iran but also used the rare summit to press their host to revive long-stalled peacemaking with the Palestinians.
    Concluding the two days of discussions at a desert retreat where its founding father David Ben-Gurion is buried, Israel said the event would be repeated and expanded as it builds up commercial and security ties with like-minded Sunni Arab states.
    “This new architecture – the shared capabilities we are building – intimidates and deters our common enemies, first and foremost Iran and its proxies,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said alongside his U.S., Emirati, Bahrani, Moroccan and Egyptian counterparts.
    Israel and some Arab countries worry than an emerging nuclear deal with Iran will leave the Persian power with the means to build a bomb and bolster Tehran-backed guerrillas.
    The United States and other world powers see restoring a 2015 Iranian nuclear deal as their best option.    But U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered Washington’s regional allies reassurances in the event that diplomacy failed.
    “As neighbours and, in the case of the United States, as friends, we will also work together to confront common security challenges and threats, including those from Iran and its proxies,” he said.
    The UAE, Bahrain and Morocco normalised ties with Israel under a 2020 U.S. initiative known as the Abraham Accords.    Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
    While hailing the accords, Blinken added: “We have to be clear that these regional peace agreements are not a substitute for progress between Palestinians and Israelis.”
    Like the Arab countries present, the United States wants a two-state solution whereby Palestinians would gain statehood alongside Israel.    Talks to that end stalled in 2014. Israel has settled much of the occupied West Bank while the Gaza Strip, another Palestinian territory, is ruled by hardline Islamists.
    The cross-partisan coalition government of nationalist Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has said conditions are not right for any renewal of diplomacy with the Palestinians – who, for their part, have placed the onus on Israel.
    “Unless the occupation ends, Arab normalisation meetings are nothing but an illusion and free reward for Israel,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told his cabinet on Monday.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah arrived in Ramallah to hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a first such visit in years that was expected to focus on efforts to reduce regional tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Israel was jarred on Sunday by a shooting spree by two Islamic State-aligned Arab citizens that killed two police officers.    Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said his presence alongside the other Arab delegates at the Israeli-hosted summit was “the best response to such attacks.”
    Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani described the discussions as helpful to fend off Iranian-backed groups like Hezbollah.    “Of course, part of this process will be renewed efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” he added.
    In another sign the allies were closing ranks against Iran, the Israeli ambassador to Manama, Eitan Naeh, said on Monday that Israel will appoint a military attache to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain soon.
(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawfta in Ramallah; Writing by Dan Williams, editing by Ed Osmond, William Maclean, Philippa Fletcher)

3/28/2022 Iran Struck Iraq Target Over Gas Talks Involving Israel – Officials by Ahmed Rasheed and Orhan Coskun
FILE PHOTO: View of a damaged building in the aftermath of missile attacks
in Erbil, Iraq March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari//File Photo
    BAGHDAD/ANKARA (Reuters) -A nascent plan for Iraq’s Kurdistan region to supply gas to Turkey and Europe – with Israeli help – is part of what angered Iran into striking the Kurdish capital Erbil with ballistic missiles this month, Iraqi and Turkish officials say.
    The March 13 attack on Erbil came as a shock to officials throughout the region for its ferocity, and was a rare publicly declared assault by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
    The IRGC said the strike hit Israeli “strategic centres” in Erbil and was retaliation for an Israeli air raid that killed two of its members in Syria.
    The choice of target, however, baffled many officials and analysts.    Most of the 12 missiles hit the villa of a Kurdish businessman involved in the autonomous Kurdistan region’s energy sector.
    Iraqi and Turkish officials who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity this week said they believe the attack was meant as a multi-pronged message to U.S. allies in the region – but that a key trigger was a plan to pump Kurdish gas into Turkey and Europe, with Israel’s involvement.
    “There had been two recent meetings between Israeli and U.S. energy officials and specialists at the villa to discuss shipping Kurdistan gas to Turkey via a new pipeline,” an Iraqi security official said.
    Iran’s foreign ministry and the IRGC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
    A senior Iranian security official told Reuters the attack was a “multi-purposed message to many people and groups.    It’s up to them how to interpret it.    Whatever (Israel) is planning, from energy sector to agriculture, will not materialise.”
    Two Turkish officials confirmed that talks involving U.S. and Israeli officials recently took place to discuss Iraq supplying Turkey and Europe with natural gas, but did not say where they took place.
    The Iraqi security official and a former U.S. official with knowledge of the plans said the Kurdish businessman whose villa was hit by the Iranian missiles, Baz Karim Barzanji, was working to develop the gas export pipeline.
    The disclosure puts Iran’s attack on Erbil in the context of regional players’ energy interests, rather than a single Israeli military attack on the IRGC, as widely reported.
    Israel’s foreign ministry said it was not familiar with the matter.    Barzanji did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
    The office of Iraqi Kurdish President Nechirvan Barzani denied any meetings with U.S. and Israeli officials to discuss a pipeline took place at Barzanji’s villa.    The Kurds deny there is any Israeli military or official presence in their territory.
TURKEY-ISRAEL RAPPROCHEMENT
    The Iraqi, Turkish and Western sources spoke mostly on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to give statements to the media.
    They said the move comes as a politically sensitive time for Iran and the region: the gas export plan could threaten Iran’s place as a major supplier of gas to Iraq and Turkey while its economy is still reeling from international sanctions.
    Efforts to revive a nuclear deal between Iran and the West have faltered in recent weeks, casting doubt on prospects for lifting sanctions on Tehran including on its energy sector.
    It also comes as Israel, Iran’s biggest enemy in the region, and Turkey are strengthening ties and looking at further energy cooperation as sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine threaten severe shortages across Europe.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said last month that Turkey and Israel can work together to carry Israeli natural gas to Europe.    Erdogan also met Barzani and said that Ankara wants to sign a natural gas supply deal with Iraq.
    Iraqi and Turkish officials did not give specific details on the plan to pump gas from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey, say how far along it was, or what Israel’s role is in the project.
    “The timing of the attack in Erbil is very interesting. It seems it was more directed at northern Iraq’s energy exports and possible cooperation that would include Israel,” one of the Turkish officials said.
    “Some talks were held for northern Iraq natural gas exports and we know that Iraq, the United States and Israel were involved in this process.    Turkey supports this too,” the official added.
    The Iraqi security official said at least two meetings to discuss the issue, with U.S. and Israeli energy specialists, had taken place at Barzanji’s villa, which he said explained the choice of target for Iran’s missile strike.    No one was seriously hurt in the attack but the villa was severely damaged.
    An Iraqi government official and a Western diplomat in Iraq said that Barzanji was known to host foreign officials and businessmen at his home and that they included Israelis.
    The Iraqi security official and the former U.S. official said Barzanji’s KAR Group company is working to expedite the gas export pipeline.    The new pipeline would eventually connect to one that has already been completed on the Turkish side of the border, the former U.S. official said.
    KAR Group could not be immediately reached for comment.
    KAR Group built and manages the Kurdish region’s domestic pipeline, the Kurdistan presidency’s chief of staff Fawzi Harir said.    It also owns a third of Kurdistan’s oil export pipeline under a lease agreement.    The rest is owned by Russia’s Rosneft.
(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad, Amina Ismail in Erbil, Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Rowena Edwards in London; additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Maha El Dahan in Dubai, Ari Rabinovitch in JerusalemAdditional reporting, writing by John Davison in Baghdad, Editing by William Maclean)

3/28/2022 Lebanon’s Central Bank Chief Is Suspect In 120 Million Euro Asset Freeze Case - German Prosecutor by Timour Azhari and Christina Amann
FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh speaks during a news conference
at Central Bank in Beirut, Lebanon, November 11, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir/File Photo
    BEIRUT/MUNICH (Reuters) – Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh is a suspect in a case the European Union’s criminal justice agency said on Monday had led to the freezing of some 120 million euros ($132 million) of Lebanese assets, prosecutors in Germany said.
    The properties and bank accounts, linked to five people suspected of embezzling some $330 million and 5 million euros between 2002 and 2021, were seized in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Monaco and Belgium, Eurojust said in a statement, which did not identify any suspects.
    An email from Munich prosecutors said the Eurojust statement referred to investigations concerning Salameh, whose wealth is being investigated in at least five European states and who was charged last week by a Lebanese judge with illicit enrichment.
    A Eurojust spokesperson declined to comment further and declined to name the suspects, in line with regulations.
    Asked by text message about the asset freeze and whether he was linked to it, Salameh told Reuters he was not aware and would check.    He has previously denied accusations against him, amid mounting scrutiny of his nearly three decades as governor.
    A spokesperson for the central bank did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.    A lawyer for Salameh did not immediately respond to emailed questions from Reuters on Monday.
    Eurojust has been involved in coordinating meetings between countries probing Salameh, who Swiss prosecutors suspect of embezzling some $330 million along with his brother, Raja, according to a letter the Swiss attorney general sent to Lebanese officials last year, which was seen by Reuters.
    Germany, France, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein are also investigating Salameh.
    A diplomat from one of the countries where the assets were seized confirmed that the freeze was related to the probes into Salameh and his brother.
    The Eurojust statement said the assets seized included some 35 million euros worth in Germany that included properties in Hamburg and Munich, two property complexes in Paris worth 16 million euros and Monaco bank accounts worth 46 million euros.
    The case in which Salameh was charged in Lebanon is related to the purchase and rental of Paris apartments, including some to the central bank.
    Denying the charge against him in Lebanon last week, Salameh told Reuters he had ordered an audit that showed that public funds were not a source of his wealth.
    His brother has been arrested for more than a week on a charge of complicity in the same case.    A lawyer for Raja Salameh has called the charge against his client unfounded.
    Riad Salameh has previously accused Judge Ghada Aoun, who brought the charges against him and his brother, of politicization.    Aoun has been publicly backed by President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movememt party he founded, and the party has called for the governor’s removal.
    Ghada Aoun says she is simply applying the law.
    Salameh still has the backing of some of the most powerful people in the land, including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has invited Salameh to a Wednesday Cabinet session, in a move widely seen as a sign of support.
    The session comes one day before a hearing scheduled by an investigative judge for Salameh in the illicit enrichment case brought against him by Ghada Aoun.
($1 = 0.9121 euros)
(Reporting by Timour Azhari in Beirut, David Villars-Gauthier in Turkey and Christina Amann in Germany; Writing by Timour Azhari and Tom Perry; Editing by John Stonestreet, Ed Osmond, David Evans and Mark Porter)

3/29/2022 U.S.’ Blinken To Meet UAE Leader In Morocco To Shore Up Ties by Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, listens as Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, speaks during
remarks at the Negev Summit, in Sde Boker, Israel March 28, 2022. Jacquelyn Martin Pool via REUTERS
    RABAT (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates in Morocco on Tuesday in a bid to ease disagreements over oil, Iran and the Ukraine crisis.
    On his visit, Blinken will also have talks with Moroccan and Algerian officials after a period of heightened regional tension surrounding the dispute over Western Sahara.
    Blinken’s trip is aimed at shoring up ties with Arab allies that have chafed at what they see as declining U.S. commitment to security in their region.
    Unusually for a Middle East tour, the U.S. secretary of state did not stop in Gulf monarchies that are among Washington’s longest-standing partners.
    However, Blinken is expected to meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan on Tuesday to stress the importance of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia to Washington.
    They will discuss the Yemen war, Iran, global energy markets and the UAE’s rapprochement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, U.S. officials said.
    The United States says it remains deeply invested in the region, even though its long-term focus is on China and its attention now is on the Ukraine crisis.
    Washington wants its Arab allies to take a stronger stance against Russia by voting with the United States in the United Nations, joining Western sanctions or even sending security assistance to Ukraine.
    The UAE abstained in a U.N. security council vote on Ukraine last month and Morocco did not show up for a general assembly vote.    The UAE and Saudi Arabia both have increasingly important energy ties with Russia.
    Gulf states have for years been frustrated at what they see as U.S. inaction in confronting Iran’s role in the region, but their concerns have grown since Joe Biden became president.
    They are worried about the impact of a potential new nuclear deal with Iran and annoyed that Washington has ended its support for their war in Yemen, put new conditions on weapons sales to Gulf states and criticised their human rights records.
    Blinken is expected to reassure Sheikh Mohammed on Washington’s commitment to stopping Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon amid a series of missile attacks by the Tehran-backed Houthi group in Yemen.
    He may also seek to overcome Gulf resistance to a U.S. request to raise oil output to tame rampant crude prices that have aggravated high inflation rates globally.
    Before Blinken’s visit, the State Department said it viewed Morocco’s plan for autonomy in Western Sahara as serious, credible and realistic and “one potential approach” to meet the aspirations of the people of the disputed territory.
    U.S. recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara in late 2020, as part of a deal that also included Rabat boosting ties with Israel, angered Algeria, which supports the territory’s Polisario Front independence movement.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Angus McDowall and Grant McCool)

3/29/2022 Ukrainian TV Says Ukraine-Russia Talks Start In Turkey Without Handshake
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before addressing them, ahead of their
face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey March 29, 2022. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS
    LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Talks between Ukraine and Russia began in Turkey on Tuesday without a handshake, Ukrainian television reported.
    “There was a cold welcome, no handshake,” a Ukrainian reporter said, without making clear whether he had witnessed the delegations meeting or had been told this by officials.
    Mykhailo Podolyak, a political adviser to President Volodymr Zelenskiy, said on Twitter the delegations were discussing “the fundamental provisions of the negotiation process.    Delegations are working in parallel on the entire spectrum of contentious issues.”
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

3/29/2022 Oligarch Abramovich Attending Russia-Ukraine Talks In Istanbul - Sources
FILE PHOTO: Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich arrives at a
division of the High Court in central London October 31, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Billionaire Roman Abramovich, one of the Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, is attending peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian delegations in Istanbul on Tuesday, three sources said.
    The Kremlin has said previously Abramovich played an early role in peace talks but the process was now in the hands of the two sides’ negotiating teams.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Orhan Coskun; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

3/30/2022 Abramovich Appears At Ukraine-Russia Talks In Istanbul by Yesim Dikmen and Daren Butler
Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich listens as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (not seen) addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators
before their face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey March 29, 2022 in this screen grab taken from a video. Turkish Presidency
via Reuters TV/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who is sanctioned by the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, made a surprise appearance in Istanbul on Tuesday at the first direct peace talks in weeks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators.
    The two teams sat facing each other at a long table in the presidential office on an Ottoman palace grounds.    The Russian oligarch sat in the front row of observers wearing a blue suit, a Turkish presidential video showed.
    In the most tangible sign yet of progress towards ending the war, Russia emerged from the talks promising to scale down military operations around Kyiv and the country’s north, and Ukraine proposed adopting a neutral status.
    For Abramovich, signals have emerged since the war began that he has sought to encourage negotiations, and he has travelled to Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and Israel in March.    Two of his superyachts are docked at Turkish resorts.
    His presence initially baffled at least one Ukrainian diplomat, while Moscow said he was not formally negotiating but rather there as a go-between and had approval from the Ukrainian side.
    A spokesman for Abramovich did not respond to a request for comment.    Abramovich showed no signs of a reported suspected poisoning early this month.
    The Wall Street Journal and investigative outlet Bellingcat, citing people familiar with the matter, said Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning after a meeting in Kyiv.
    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the poisoning reports as untrue and part of an “information war.”
    NATO member Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, has good ties with both and has offered to mediate the conflict.    While calling Moscow’s invasion unacceptable, Ankara has also opposed the Western sanctions.
    In a speech ahead of the talks by the Bosphorus strait, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told the delegations the time had come for concrete results and that progress would pave the way for a meeting of the countries’ two leaders.
    “It is up to the sides to stop this tragedy.    Achieving a ceasefire and peace as soon as possible is to the benefit of everyone,” he said.
    Footage released by Kyiv showed Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov being warmly greeted by his Turkish counterpart ahead of the talks at the Dolmabahce palace grounds.
    Reznikov, who was not wearing a face mask, joked with Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar that Ukraine had scrapped COVID-19 precautions when Russia invaded.
    Russian forces invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Putin called it a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.    Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
SUPERYACHTS IN TURKEY
    Commenting on Abramovich’s presence, Ukrainian ambassador to Britain Vadym Prystaiko told the BBC: “I have no idea what Mr Abramovich is claiming or doing.    He is not a part of the negotiation team.”
    Peskov told reporters on a conference call Abramovich was not an official member of the Russian delegation at the talks, but acknowledged his presence there to “enable certain contacts” between sides.
    The Kremlin has said he played an early role in talks but the process was now up to negotiating teams.    TV video showed he sat next to Erdogan’s spokesman and adjusted his headphones to listen to the president’s speech.
    The West has imposed heavy sanctions on Abramovich and other Russian billionaires, Russian companies and officials, in a bid to force Putin to withdraw from Ukraine.
    Abramovich had sought to sell his English soccer club Chelsea, a process that was taken out of his hands by the British government when it blacklisted him.
    Superyachts linked to him, together worth an estimated $1.2 billion, have been docked at Bodrum and Marmaris in southwest Turkey since last week.    Sources have said he and other wealthy Russians were looking to invest in Turkey given sanctions elsewhere.
    Its potential as a safe haven for Russian investment raises risks for Turkey’s government, banks and businesses that could face penalties if the United States and others pressure Moscow with broader “secondary” sanctions.
(Additional reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Orhan Coskun in Ankara, Kate Holton in London, Pavel Polityuk in Lviv and Dominic Evans in Istanbul;Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Frank Jack Daniel and Nick Macfie)

3/30/2022 Arab Gunman Kills At Least 5 In Tel Aviv Suburb, Latest In Series Of Attacks by Rami Amichay
People gather at the scene of an attack in which people were killed by a gunman
on a main street in Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Nir Elias
    BNEI BRAK, Israel (Reuters) -An Arab gunman killed at least five people in a Tel Aviv suburb on Tuesday before he was fatally shot, the national ambulance service said, in the third deadly attack in Israel in a week.
    “Israel is facing a wave of murderous Arab terror,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted after the shootings in Bnei Brak, a Jewish ultra-Orthodox city on the outskirts of Israel’s commercial capital.
    The shooting raised to 11 the number of people killed by Arab gunmen in Israel over the past week, the sharpest spike in attacks on city streets in years.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing of Israeli civilians and stressed that the killing of Israelis and Palestinians would only lead to a deterioration of the situation, cautioning against retaliatory attacks by Jewish settlers and others, Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.
    Palestinians have been reporting a rise in settler violence across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in a 1967 war.
    Amateur video broadcast on Israeli television stations showed a man dressed in black and pointing an assault rifle walking down a road in Bnei Brak.
    Israeli media reports, quoting unidentified security officials, said the assailant was a Palestinian from a village near the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
    Police said he killed four civilians and an officer who had arrived on the scene before officers fatally shot the gunman.
    There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
    Israeli officials had cautioned about a surge in assaults in the run-up in April to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period in which violence has surged in the past.
    Last year saw nightly Ramadan clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police and settlers.    Police raids at Al-Aqsa mosque compound and a ban on evening gatherings at Damascus Gate helped ignite violence between Israel and Gaza militants that led to 11 days of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli air strikes.
    In Bnei Brak, witnesses said the gunman began shooting at apartment balconies and then at people on the street and in a car.
    “I live on Hashneim Street in Bnei Brak and I was at home when I heard gunshots,” paramedic Menachem Englander said, according to a tweet posted by Magen David Adom.    “I immediately went out to the street and saw a terrorist pointing a weapon at me.    By a miracle, his weapon jammed and he couldn’t shoot.”
    Last week, an Arab citizen of Israel killed four people in a stabbing and car ramming attack in the southern city of Beersheba, before he was shot dead by a passerby.    Israeli authorities said he was an Islamic State sympathiser.
    On Sunday, as an Israeli-Arab summit convened in southern Israel, an Arab assailant shot and killed two police officers in Hadera, a city some 50 km (30 miles) north of Tel Aviv.    Other officers shot and killed him.
    Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Hadera attack.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman)

3/31/2022 Turkish Prosecutor Seeks To Halt Trial Of Saudi Suspects In Khashoggi Killing
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside
the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish prosecutor asked a court on Thursday to halt the trial in absentia of Saudi suspects over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and transfer the case to Saudi authorities.
    The court said it would ask for the Justice Ministry’s opinion on the request.    It set the next hearing for April 7.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jonathan Spicer)

3/31/2022 New Deadly Incidents After String Of Arab Attacks In Israel
Relatives of a Palestinian man who, according to medics, was killed by Israeli forces during a raid,
react to his death in Jenin in the Israeli- occupied West Bank, March 31, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman
    RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) -Israeli forces killed at least two Palestinians on Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry said, in clashes that erupted during a raid in the occupied West Bank that followed deadly Arab attacks in Israel.
    In a separate incident, a Palestinian stabbed a passenger on an Israeli bus near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and was shot dead by another passenger, the Israeli military said.
    The national ambulance service said the man who was stabbed had suffered moderate wounds.
    Earlier, the Israeli military said its forces and border police entered the refugee camp in the city of Jenin to “apprehend terrorist suspects.”
    “During the operation, terrorists opened fire at our forces.    Israeli troops returned fire that struck the gunmen.    An Israeli soldier was slightly wounded,” the military said in a statement.
    The Palestinian health ministry said two Palestinians, aged 17 and 23, were killed in the clashes.
    On Tuesday, a Palestinian gunman from the Jenin area shot dead five people in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak before he was killed by police.    The shooting, condemned by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, raised to 11 the number of people killed by Arab attackers in Israel over the past week to 11.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke late on Wednesday with U.S. President Joe Biden.    The U.S. Embassy said Biden had expressed “his deepest condolences following the horrific terrorist attacks.”
    Bennett has announced a series of measures to deal with what he has described as a new wave of attacks, saying more police would be put on city streets and security would be tightened in areas bordering the West Bank.
(Reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Writing by Jeffrey HellerEditing by Gareth Jones)

3/31/2022 Kenya’s Top Court To Issue Final Ruling On President’s Constitutional Changes by Duncan Miriri
FILE PHOTO: Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (R) talks to opposition leader Raila Odinga during the
Azimio la Umoja (Declaration of Unity) coalition conference which endorsed Raila Odinga as the Presidential
candidate for this year's general elections in Nairobi, Kenya March 12, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi/File Photo
    NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s Supreme Court is scheduled on Thursday to rule on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s bid to make sweeping constitutional changes, which critics have seized and turned into a top issue for a presidential election this August.
    Last year, the High Court and the Court of Appeal struck down the proposed amendments popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), prompting the government to appeal.
    The Supreme Court, whose ruling is final, will settle seven questions raised by appellants, including whether the president acted illegally by initiating the amendments to the constitution.
    If the court clears the changes, the ruling could lead to the creation of 70 new parliamentary constituencies and establish several powerful new posts: a prime minister, two deputies and an official leader of the parliamentary opposition.
    The amendments became a lightning rod for politicians jostling ahead of the general election scheduled for August 9.    Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, have publicly clashed over the proposals.
    Ruto is running for the presidency in the August presidential poll; he opposes the changes.    But Kenyatta is backing his former foe, veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, who favours the amendments.
    “They have told us they will bring back the BBI monster because they want to create an imperial presidency,” Ruto told his party’s delegates earlier this month.
    The constitutional changes will create an all powerful presidency by giving him control of the judiciary through a proposed office of a judicial ombudsman, Ruto said.
    It will also put the legislature under the president’s thumb because he will control the appointment to the new posts to be created, including the prime minister, he said.
    Kenyatta argues the constitutional overhaul promotes power sharing among competing ethnic groups, a position vehemently dismissed by Ruto’s camp.
    “I reject the suggestion that a united country is one that has no political competition or opposition,” Ruto told his party’s delegates, adding that a democratically elected government policed by a robust opposition was the answer.
(Reporting by Duncan Miriri)

3/31/2022 Turkey Says Oligarch Abramovich ‘Sincerely’ Working To End War
FILE PHOTO: Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich listens as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan (not seen)
addresses Russian and Ukrainian negotiators before their face-to-face talks in Istanbul, Turkey March 29, 2022
in this screen grab taken from a video. Turkish Presidency via Reuters TV/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is sanctioned by European nations over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, was “sincerely” working to end the war.
    He has been liaising between Kyiv and Moscow since the invasion began on Feb. 24, Cavusoglu said.
    Abramovich made a surprise appearance at Ukraine-Russia negotiations in Istanbul on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Gareth Jones)

3/31/2022 Turkey Working To Bring Together Ukraine, Russia Foreign Ministers Again
FILE PHOTO: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attends a meeting with his Russian
counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia March 16, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Pool/File Photo
    ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey is working to bring together the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers for talks after hosting peace negotiations in Istanbul this week, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, adding the meeting could happen within two weeks.
    Negotiators from Ukraine and Russia held the first face-to-face talks in more than two weeks in Istanbul this week, during which Ukraine presented written proposals to stop the Russian invasion.
    Speaking to broadcaster A Haber, Cavusoglu said Turkey had not seen the full implementation of the decisions from the talks in Istanbul, including the withdrawal of Russian forces from some areas, but added significant progress was still made.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Gareth Jones)

3/31/2022 Turkish Prosecutor Requests Transfer Of Khashoggi Trial To Saudi Arabia by Ali Kucukgocmen
FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside
the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo
    ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A Turkish prosecutor called on Thursday for the trial in Istanbul of Saudi suspects over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to be halted and transferred to Saudi authorities, a move which comes as Turkey seeks to mend ties with Riyadh.
    Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago triggered a global outcry and put pressure on Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    A U.S. intelligence report released a year ago said the prince had approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, but the Saudi government denied any involvement by the crown prince and rejected the report’s findings.
    Turkish officials said they believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the crown prince, was killed and his body dismembered in an operation which President Tayyip Erdogan said had been ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
    The killing and subsequent accusations strained ties between the two regional powers and led to an unofficial Saudi boycott of Turkish goods, which cut Ankara’s exports to Riyadh by 90%.
    Erdogan now seeks better ties with states which had become bitter rivals in recent years, including Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
    Israeli and UAE leaders visited Ankara in recent months, but progress with Cairo and Riyadh has been slower. Erdogan said last month he hoped to take “concrete steps” with Riyadh soon.
    The Istanbul court where the 26 Saudi suspects have been on trial in absentia for nearly two years said on Thursday it would ask for the Justice Ministry’s opinion on the request to transfer proceedings, and set the next hearing for April 7.
    In 2020, Saudi Arabia jailed eight people for between seven and 20 years for Khashoggi’s murder. None of the defendants was named in what rights groups described as a sham trial.
    At the time, Ankara said the verdict fell short of expectations, but has since softened its tone as part of the broader attempt to repair ties.    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told broadcaster A Haber on Thursday that judicial cooperation between the two countries had improved.
    Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who attended the court session, said in a statement later she was “heartbroken” by the prosecutor’s request.
    “No good will come of sending the case to Saudi Arabia,” she said.    “We all know the authorities there will do nothing.    How do we expect the killers to investigate themselves?
SAUDIS SOUGHT TRANSFER
    Last year the Turkish court rejected requests to add the U.S. intelligence assessment of Prince Mohammed’s role to the case file.    It then asked for details of the Riyadh trial from Saudi authorities to avoid defendants being punished twice.
    The Turkish prosecutor said Saudi authorities responded by asking for the case be transferred, and pledging to evaluate the accusations against the 26 defendants.
    The request should be accepted, the prosecutor said, because the defendants were foreign citizens, the arrest warrants could not be executed and their statements could not be taken, leaving the case in abeyance or suspension.
    The crown prince told The Atlantic monthly in an article published this month that he felt his own rights had been violated by the accusations against him as any person should be considered innocent until proved guilty.
    Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International secretary general, said that Turkey was “betraying” Khashoggi and justice.
    Callamard was the former U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitary executions and carried out the investigation that found Saudi officials “planned and perpetrated” Khashoggi’s killing.
    “Nothing surprising though,” she said on Twitter about the prosecutor’s request.    “Turkey is after all one of the worse jailers of journalists and cannot be counted on,” Callamard said, describing the move as “spineless.”
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, David Clarke, William Maclean and Nick Macfie)

3/31/2022 Eastern Caribbean States Open Consulate In Western Sahara
FILE PHOTO: Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addresses the 72nd United Nations General
Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo
    RABAT (Reuters) – The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on Thursday opened a consulate in Western Sahara, joining African and Arab countries that have established diplomatic missions there in a sign of support for Morocco’s claim to the disputed territory.
    The Dominican Republic’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said he opened the consulate in Dakhla on behalf of Eastern Caribbean member states, a joint statement from the Dominican Republic and Morroco said.
    The Algeria-backed Polisario front seeks to establish an independent state in the vast and sparsely populated desert region, considered by Morocco as its own land.
    Gaining international recognition for its rule over Western Sahara has long been Morocco’s prime diplomatic ambition.
    Rabat has said the most it can offer as a political solution to the dispute is autonomy under its sovereignty.    The Polisario and its ally Algeria reject this and say they want an independence referendum.
    Algeria and the Polisario have also denounced the opening of consulates in the territory.
    Skerrit said his country backed Morocco’s sovereignty over the territory and its autonomy plan.
    Major powers including France, Germany, and the United States and this month Spain and Israel have also supported Rabat’s proposal to end the conflict.
    For years most countries had backed the idea of a referendum to resolve the issue – which was agreed as part of the 1991 ceasefire.
    However, there was never agreement on how the vote would take place and in recent years even the U.N. has stopped referring to the idea of a vote, speaking instead of seeking a realistic, mutually acceptable solution based on compromise.
(Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; editing by Barbara)

3/31/2022 Another Protester Killed As Sudanese Demonstrations Enter Sixth Month – Medics
FILE PHOTO: Protesters march during a rally against military rule following
coup in Khartoum, Sudan, February 10, 2022. Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
    KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Medics said a protester was killed in Khartoum on Thursday as demonstrations against a military coup entered their sixth month across the country.
    The 23-year-old was shot in the chest, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said, bringing the total of those killed in protest crackdowns since an Oct. 25 military coup to 93.
    Thousands marched towards the presidential palace in central Khartoum, and were met with heavy tear gas launched by security forces, a Reuters reporter said.    The sound of gunshots could be heard and injured protesters, including at least two with visible bloodstains, were seen carried away.
    Security forces prevented the protesters from reaching the palace, and chased them into nearby neighborhoods, the Reuters reporter said.
    Members of the Central Reserve Police who were sanctioned last week by the United States for using excessive force could be seen deployed alongside other security forces.
    Some protesters carried signs reading “April 6,” referring to planned protests on the anniversary of the largest demonstrations against former President Omar al-Bashir in 2019, which resulted in a civilian-led transitional government.    The October coup ended a power-sharing arrangement by civilian political groups and the military.
    Parallel protests against the coup could be seen on social media in the cities of Port Sudan, Elobeid, Dongola, and Gadaref.    The protests have taken on an increasingly economic nature as the country’s currency has tumbled and prices skyrocket.
    General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who has led the country since the coup, travelled to Chad today, after visiting Egypt on Wednesday.
    “We will keep up pressure until there is an explosion and we will force the soldiers to step aside and regain democracy,” said Hassan Yasin, a 47-year old protester.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, writing by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

3/31/2022 Anti-Migrant Vigilante Group Dudula Stokes Tensions In South Africa by shafiek tassiem
FILE PHOTO: Members of the South African anti-migrant group, operating under the slogan "Put South Africa First", take part in
a peaceful campaign to force undocumented foreigners out of informal trading at Johannesburg's Hillbrow, an inner city suburb with
a large population of African migrants, in Johannesburg, South Africa February 19, 2022. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
    JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Shopkeepers pulled down their metal shutters and foreign staff stayed out of sight as hundreds marched through a Johannesburg neighbourhood demanding that migrants leave and that their jobs go to South Africans.
    The march through dilapidated Hillbrow, where many African migrants live, was organised by Operation Dudula, a vigilante group whose activities have raised fears of renewed violence against foreigners, a recurring problem.
    Dudula means “push back” in Zulu.    The group, based in the Soweto township just outside Johannesburg, blames high crime rates on undocumented migrants, who it also accuses of taking away jobs from South Africans and driving down wages.
    “We want to see the people of South Africa reclaiming the control of South Africa … and playing a meaningful role in terms of economic activities rather than being spectators,” said Dan Radebe, one of the leaders of the group.
    “You cannot sit at more than 50% unemployment rate and still have room to employ illegal migrants,” he said.
    South Africa’s official unemployment rate is at a record 35.3%, though it is even higher by other measures.
    Campaigners for migrant rights say foreigners are being scapegoated for economic woes rooted in profound structural problems and for the failure of successive governments to convert post-apartheid freedoms into widespread prosperity.
    The leader of Operation Dudula, Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini wears paramilitary-style camouflage gear and speaks of “taking back” South Africa.    He was arrested last week and is facing charges of housebreaking and malicious damage, in connection with an incident at a private home.    Dlamini’s lawyer has said he is innocent.
    The group has been linked to incidents of violence in townships against foreigners, who come from all over Africa, including Nigeria and countries in southern Africa.
    President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week that those behind Operation Dudula were contravening the law.
    “We cannot allow a situation where we are going to get people who will embark on vigilantism to deal with a problem, a social problem,” he said.
    Some civil society groups have staged counter-protests, marching through Hillbrow carrying banners with slogans such as “No To Xenophobia” and “We Are One Africa.”
    Human rights lawyer and activist Sharon Ekambaram said an increasing number of politicians were making statements hostile to migrants.    She cited the recent suspension of a special permit for Zimbabwean migrants as a sign of growing official hostility.
    “These are all signs that the state is blaming migrants for the problems in our country and in that climate, the emergence of Operation Dudula is of serious concern, their actions of attacking foreign nationals in various townships,” she said.
    Zimbabwean national Siyayi Chinemhute, who resides legally in South Africa, said members of Operation Dudula, some armed with guns, sticks and whips, had invaded the community centre in Soweto where he works and lives with his family.
    “Some of the group actually came in, went in all over the place, searching all the place and banging the doors,” he said, adding that they were chanting “mabahambe” or “they must leave.”
    “For me as a father, not only to my immediate family but to the broader community, it actually traumatised me because I was thinking to myself, ‘what is going to happen now?’.”
(Reporting by Shafiek Tassiem. Writing by Estelle Shirbon. Editing by Jane Merriman)


[A MESSAGE FROM JIM A. CORNWELL, THE LEFTIST DEMOCRAT PARTY WHO HAVE CONTROL OF MANY SERVICES USED THEIR ASSUMED POWER FORCED AT&T WHO OWN DIRECTV SERVICES WHICH I HAVE HAD FOR MANY YEARS ON CHANNEL 347 OF ONE AMERICA NETWORK AND DISCONTINUED THAT SERVICE WHICH I WILL CLAIM WAS THE MOST ACCURATE NEWS SERVICE WHO PROMOTE IT TRUTHFULLY EVEN TRUMP SAID THAT COMPARED TO ALL THE OTHER FAKE NEWS SERVICES THAT NO ONE IS WATCHING ANYMORE UNLESS THEY ARE AS STUPID THAT I THINK THEY ARE, SO THE LEFT CANNOT CONTROL THE INTERNET WHICH ALLOWED OANN TO BEGIN TO GET THEIR NEWS OUT AGAIN BY APRIL 7, 2022 AND IS REBUILDING IT UP AND WILL RISE AGAIN TO HAUNT THEM FOREVER.]

4/8/2022 Tel Aviv Shooting Leaves At Least 2 Dead, Multiple Injured by OAN Newsroom
A woman reacts at the scene of a shooting attack In Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 7, 2022. Israeli health officials say two people
were killed and at least eight others wounded in a shooting in central Tel Aviv. The shooting on Thursday evening, the
fourth attack in recent weeks, occurred in a crowded area with several bars and restaurants. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit). (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
    Multiple people were injured during a shooting in Tel Aviv, Israel.    At least two people were shot and killed with several others wounded in an attack Thursday, where a suspected Arab gunman allegedly entered a pub and opened fire.
    “You can see right behind us restaurant, families and friends were sitting having supper and drinks and all of the sudden terrorist came over and shot them,” said Mirit Ben Mayor, spokeswoman for the Israeli Police.
    Hundreds of emergency personnel had arrived at the scene while police urged residents to stay indoors and away from the area.    Additionally, police said the attack may have been politically motivated.    This comes as tensions have been running high due to a series of attacks in Israel in recent weeks.
    Later, Israeli security forces fatally shot a Palestinian man who’s believed to have killed the two people.    Authorities caught up to the man Friday after an hours-long manhunt through the city.    The officers found the terrorist hiding near a mosque in Jaffa, a port city south of Tel Aviv, where they exchanged gunfire and the suspect was ultimately killed.
    This attack was the latest in a string of recent deadly assaults, but Israeli prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the country will not be shaken by panic or hysteria.
    “Every murderer should know that we will reach him and anybody who helps terrorists need to know that the price he will pay will be intolerably heavy,” Bennett warned.    “I saw the father of the terrorist inciting for more violence, taking pride in his son, the murderer.    We saw the celebrations and distribution of sweets in Gaza.    These are the people we are facing and no, they are not individuals.    They want to break our spirit and our hold here, on our land, but they won’t succeed.    We will never break.”
    The shooter has been identified as a 28-year-old from Jenin, a city in the West Bank, who was in Israel illegally.

4/11/2022 Christians mark Palm Sunday with Jerusalem procession by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Thousands of Christian pilgrims took part in Palm Sunday celebrations in Jerusalem at the start of the Holy Week.
    The holiday this year comes as tourists are returning to the Holy Land following two years of disruption during the pandemic.    It also is taking place as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are rising amid a spate of recent Palestinian attacks in Israel that have prompted military raids in the occupied West Bank in response.
    Worshippers carried palm fronds and olive branches and marched from the top of the Mount of Olives to the Old City of Jerusalem.
    Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and is the start of the church’s most solemn week, which includes the Good Friday re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion and death and his resurrection on Easter.
    The procession made its way from the Mount of Olives past the Garden of Gethsemane where, according to biblical tradition, Jesus was betrayed, then finally into the alleyways of the Old City.

4/13/2022 Gunmen kill more than 100 in Nigeria by Chinedu Asadu, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ABUJA, Nigeria – An armed gang killed more than 100 people in a remote part of northern Nigeria, survivors and local authorities said on Tuesday.
    The attackers targeted four villages in the Kanam area of Plateau State, the most recent in a series of violent attacks in Nigeria’s north.
    Such attacks in Nigeria’s northern region have become frequent, especially between Fulani Muslims who are mostly cattle herders and Christian communities from the Hausa and other ethnic groups who are mainly farmers.
    The conflict over access to land and water has further worsened the sectarian division between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
    In this recent attack, the assailants arrived Sunday afternoon, ransacking houses and shooting at residents, according to Alpha Sambo, a survivor and Kanam youth leader.
    “The people that have been killed are more than 100,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
    Other witnesses say as many as 130 died and many have been injured and displaced.

4/13/2022 South Africa’s Durban area hit by heavy floods, 45 dead
    JOHANNESBURG – Prolonged rains and flooding in the Durban area of South Africa have claimed the lives of at least 45 people, damaging the port and surrounding areas in KwaZulu-Natal province, according to local officials.    South Africa’s military has been deployed to Durban and the surrounding eThekwini metropolitan area on Tuesday to assist with rescue operations.    Durban port, the largest shipping terminal in sub-Saharan Africa, has been inundated with floodwaters that carried away shipping containers and left them in a pile.

4/14/2020 WHO chief: Focus on Ukraine exposes bias by Maria Cheng, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LONDON – The head of the World Health Organization slammed the global community for its focus on the war in Ukraine, arguing that crises elsewhere, including in his home country of Ethiopia, are not being given equal consideration, possibly because those suffering are not white.
    WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus questioned “if the world really gives equal attention to Black and white lives,” given that the ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria have garnered only a “fraction” of the global concern for Ukraine.    He was speaking in a virtual press briefing from Geneva on Wednesday.
    Last month, Tedros said there is “nowhere on earth where the health of millions of people is more under threat” than Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
    Since a truce was declared in Tigray three weeks ago, about 2,000 trucks should have been able to bring food, medicines and other essentials to the conflict-ridden area, he said.    Instead, only about 20 trucks have arrived, said Tedros, a former minister of health in Ethiopia and an ethnic Tigrayan.
    “As we speak, people are dying of starvation,” he said.    “This is one of the longest and worst sieges by both Eritrean and Ethiopian forces in modern history.”
    Tedros acknowledged that the war in Ukraine is globally significant, but asked if other crises are being accorded enough attention.
    “I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way,” he said.    “Some are more equal than others.”
    Tedros described the situation in Tigray as “tragic” and said he “hopes the world comes back to its senses and treats all human life equally.”    He also critiqued the press for its failure to document the ongoing atrocities in Ethiopia, noting that people had been burned alive in the region.    “I don’t even know if that was taken seriously by the media.”    Earlier this year, the government of Ethiopia sent a letter to the World Health Organization, accusing Tedros of “misconduct” after his sharp criticism of the war and humanitarian crisis in the country.
    The Ethiopian government said Tedros was using his office “to advance his political interest at the expense of Ethiopia” and said he continues to be an active member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front; Tedros was Ethiopia’s foreign minister and health minister when the TPLF dominated the country’s ruling coalition.
A woman scoops up portions of wheat to be allocated to waiting families in the
Tigray region of northern Ethiopia last year. BEN CURTIS/AP FILE

4/15/2022 Floods, rain in South Africa kill 300 people by Mogomotsi Magome, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JOHANNESBURG – Heavy rains and flooding have killed at least 306 people in South Africa’s eastern Kwa-Zulu-Natal province, including the city of Durban, and more rainstorms are forecast in the coming days.
    The death toll is expected to rise as scores of people, including whole families, are missing, officials said Thursday.    The persistent rains have wreaked havoc in the province, destroying homes, collapsing buildings and washing away major roads.    The damage to Durban and the surrounding eThekwini metropolitan area is estimated at $52 million, eThekwini Mayor Mxolosi Kaunda said Thursday.
    At least 120 schools have been flooded, causing damage estimated at more than $26 million.
    Police used stun grenades to disperse residents in the Reservoir Hills areas of Durban who were protesting what they said was the lack of official assistance, according to South African media reports.
    Fourteen crocodiles that were swept away from a farm in the Tongaat area north of Durban have been recaptured, according to wildlife officials.

4/15/2022 Israel successfully tests new laser missile defense system
    JERUSALEM – Israel’s new laser missile defense system has successfully intercepted mortars, rockets and antitank missiles in recent tests, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Thursday.    The Israeli-made laser system, designed to complement a series of aerial defense systems such as the costly Iron Dome deployed by Israel, will be operational “as soon as possible,” Gantz said.    The goal is to deploy the laser systems around Israel’s borders over the next decade, Gantz added.    The tests took place last month in the Negev Desert.

4/16/2022 Egypt hikes fuel prices amid global inflationary pressures by Noha Elhennawy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    CAIRO – The Egyptian government increased fuel prices by nearly 3% on Friday, as global inflationary pressures spike in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
    The move is expected to exacerbate economic pressures on the country’s ailing middle class, which has been hit hard in recent years by austerity measures dictated by the government’s ambitious economic restructuring program.
    The new prices were announced on the cabinet’s Facebook page and went into effect Friday morning.    The price of 95 octane gasoline increased to 9.75 Egyptian pounds ($0.53) per liter from 9.5.    Meanwhile, the cost of 92 octane rose to 8.75 from 8.5, and 80 octane rose to 7.5 from 7.25.    The government left unchanged the prices of diesel, which is the main fuel used to transport goods and commuters.
    Fuel prices hikes are expected to reflect inflation rates, which already jumped from 10% in February to 12% in March, according to the state-run statistics bureau.
    Last month, Egypt’s Central Bank raised its key interest rate for the first time since 2017 to contain soaring inflation.    The move saw the Egyptian pound slip, trading at over 18 to the dollar up from an average of 15.6 pounds for $1.
    The war in Ukraine has shaken the global economy and threatened food supplies and the livelihoods of people across the world.    Last month, Brent crude oil hit a record high of $140 per barrel before lately coming down to nearly $112.
    Like many emerging markets, Egypt also witnessed capital outflows in the wake of the war, which brought the country’s net foreign reserves down to $37.082 billion by the end of March, compared to $40.99 billion in February.
    In a bid to stabilize the Egyptian economy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates pledged a total of $22 billion in the form of deposits and direct investments.    The Arab world’s most populous country has also reached out to the International Monetary Fund for assistance, although it remains unclear whether a fresh loan was requested.

4/18/2022 Turkey launches a new offensive in Iraq by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey has launched a new ground and air cross border offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, Turkey’s defense minister announced early Monday.
    Turkish jets and artillery struck targets belonging to Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, before commando troops – supported by helicopters and drones – crossed into the neighboring region by land or were airlifted by helicopters, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a video posted on the ministry’s website.
    Akar said the jets “successfully” struck shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots and headquarters belonging to the PKK.    The group maintains bases in northern Iraq and have used the territory for attacks on Turkey.
    Turkey has conducted numerous cross-border aerial and ground operations against the PKK over the past decades.    The latest offensive was centered in northern Iraq’s Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions, Akar said.
    “Our operation is continuing successfully, as planned.    The targets that were set for the first phase have been achieved,” Akar said.
    There was no information on the number of troops and jets involved in the latest incursion.
    “We are determined to save our noble nation from the terror misfortune that has plagued our country for 40 years,” Akar said.    “Our struggle will continue until the last terrorist is neutralized.”
    The minister said the incursion was targeting “terrorists” and that “maximum sensitivity” was being shown to avoid damage to civilians and cultural and religious structures.
    There was no immediate statement from the Kurdish militant group.
    Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, began an insurgency in Turkey’s majority Kurdish southeast region in 1984.

4/19/2022 Turkish forces launch assault against Kurds - New ground, air offensive kills militants in Iraq by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey has launched a new ground and air cross border offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, that has left at least 19 suspected Kurdish rebels dead and has wounded at least four Turkish soldiers, Turkey’s defense minister said Monday.
    Turkish jets and artillery struck suspected targets of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and commando troops – supported by helicopters and drones – then crossed into the region by land or were airlifted by helicopters, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a video posted on the ministry’s website.
    Akar said the jets successfully struck shelters, bunkers, caves, tunnels, ammunition depots and headquarters belonging to the PKK.    The group maintains bases in northern Iraq and has used the territory for attacks on Turkey.
    At least 19 militants were killed while four Turkish troops were wounded during the offensive, the ministry said.    There was no immediate comment from the Kurdish militant group on the incursion, and the defense ministry statement couldn’t be verified independently.
    Turkey has conducted numerous cross-border aerial and ground operations against the PKK over the past decades.    The latest offensive, named Operation Claw Lock, was centered in northern Iraq’s Metina, Zap and Avashin-Basyan regions.
    There was no information on the number of troops and jets involved in the latest incursion.
    “Our heroic commandos and maroon berets – supported by attack helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, armed unmanned aerial vehicles – arrived on the scene by land and by air and captured the determined targets,” Akar said in a second video.    “Many terrorists were neutralized.”
    The Defense Ministry said the new offensive was launched after it was determined that the militants were regrouping and preparing for a “largescale attack.”
    The offensive was carried out in coordination with Turkey’s “friends and allies,” the ministry added, but didn’t elaborate.    Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, which controls the areas that were attacked.
    The Turkish minister said the incursion was targeting “terrorists” and that “maximum sensitivity” was being shown to avoid damage to civilians and cultural and religious structures.
    Tens of thousands of people have been killed since the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, began an insurgency in Turkey’s majority Kurdish southeast region in 1984.
Turkey Defense Minister Hulusi Akar says successful strikes were made on PKK facilities. OLIVIER MATTHYS/AP

4/19/2022 Israeli troops wound 2 Palestinians in West Bank raid
    JERUSALEM – Israeli troops shot and wounded two Palestinians on Monday during clashes that broke out during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank.    The men were hospitalized, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.    The Israeli military said it arrested 11 Palestinians in operations across the territory overnight.    In a raid in the village of Yamun, the army said Palestinians hurled rocks and explosives at troops.    Soldiers “responded with live ammunition” toward “suspects who hurled explosive devices,” the military said.

4/19/2022 Militants in Gaza fire a rocket into Israel - Tensions mount as violence escalates by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel for the first time in months on Monday, in another escalation after clashes at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and military raids across the occupied West Bank.
    Israel said it intercepted the rocket, and there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.    Israel holds Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers responsible for all such projectiles and usually launches airstrikes in their wake.    It was the first such rocket fire since New Year’s Eve.
    Hours earlier, the leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, which boasts an arsenal of rockets, had issued a brief, cryptic warning, condemning Israeli “violations” in Jerusalem.
    Ziad al-Nakhala, who is based outside the Palestinian territories, said threats to tighten an Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza imposed after Hamas seized power 15 years ago “can’t silence us from what’s happening in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.”
    Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, which has long been an epicenter of Israeli-Palestinian violence.    It is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because the mosque stands on a hilltop where the Jewish temples were located in antiquity.
    Protests and clashes there this time last year helped trigger an 11-day Gaza war.
    Police said they were responding to Palestinian stone-throwing and that they were committed to ensuring that Jews, Christians and Muslims – whose major holidays are converging this year – could celebrate them safely in the Holy Land.    Palestinians view the presence of Israeli police at the site as a provocation and said they used excessive force.
    Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Monday, ahead of the rocket fire, that Israel has been the target of a “Hamas-led incitement campaign.”
    The latest tensions come during the rare confluence of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover.    Christians are also celebrating their holy week leading up to Easter.    Tens of thousands of visitors have flocked to Jerusalem’s Old City – home to major holy sites for all three faiths – for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
    Jordan and Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago and coordinate with it on security matters, have condemned its actions at the mosque.    Jordan – which serves as custodian of the site – summoned Israel’s charge d’affaires on Monday in protest.
    Jordan’s King Abdullah II discussed the violence with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, agreeing on “the need to stop all illegal and provocative Israeli measures” there, according to a statement.    Jordan planned to convene a meeting of other Arab states on the issue.
    Israel has been working to improve relations with Jordan over the past year and has recently normalized relations with other Arab states.    But the latest tensions have brought renewed attention to the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians, which Israel has sought to sideline in recent years.
    The U.S. State Department urged all sides to “exercise restraint, to avoid provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo” at the holy site.    Spokesman Ned Price said U.S. officials were in touch with counterparts across the region to try and calm tensions.
    U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed-door meeting on the tensions for Tuesday.
    In Israel, an Arab party that made history last year by joining the governing coalition suspended its participation on Sunday – a largely symbolic act that nevertheless reflected the sensitivity of the holy site, which is at the emotional heart of the century-old conflict.
    Israel captured the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem – which includes the Old City – in the 1967 Mideast war.    The Palestinians seek those territories for a future independent state.    Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally and is building and expanding Jewish settlements across the West Bank, which it views as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.
    The last serious and substantive peace talks collapsed more than a decade ago.
    Israel allows Jews to visit the site but not to pray there.    In recent years large numbers of nationalist and religious Jews have regularly visited under police escort, angering the Palestinians and Jordan.
    Israel says police were forced to enter the compound early Friday after Palestinians stockpiled stones and hurled rocks at the gate through which Jewish visitors typically enter.    That gate also leads to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.
    Recent weeks have seen a series of Palestinian attacks inside Israel that killed 14 people.    Israel has launched near-daily arrest raids and other military operations in the occupied West Bank that it says are aimed at preventing more.
    At least 26 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in recent weeks, according to an Associated Press count.
Palestinians walk past a model of a Gaza Strip-made M75 rocket displayed at a square in Gaza City on Monday.
Gaza militants fired a rocket into Israel, the Israeli army said, the first such incident in months and a sign that a wave
of violence around a Jerusalem holy site could escalate further. MOHAMMED ABED/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

4/20/2022 Mideast foes keep risky balance - Israel, Hamas both have incentives to avoid war by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Days of violence in Jerusalem and an exchange of fire in Gaza overnight Monday have raised the possibility that Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers will once again go to war, as they did less than a year ago under similar circumstances.
    This time around, both Israel and Hamas have strong incentives to avoid all-out war.    But neither wants to be seen as retreating from a Jerusalem holy site at the heart of the century-old Mideast conflict, so further violence cannot be ruled out.
    “At this stage it’s political theater in which everybody is playing his part,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a local think tank.    “But sometimes the gun that appears in the first scene will shoot at the end.”
    For Hamas, another war would devastate Gaza, which has hardly begun to rebuild after the last one.    And Israel would wield a potent new weapon – the ability to revoke thousands of work permits issued in recent months that provide an economic lifeline to Palestinians in the blockaded territory.
    For Israel, war could set back efforts to sideline the conflict and damage burgeoning ties with Arab states.    The broad-based governing coalition, which lost its majority this month, is at a small but growing risk of having a key Arab partner bolt, which would set the stage for new elections.
    All of those factors help explain the relative restraint up until now: Israel intercepted the Gaza rocket, its airstrikes caused little damage, and no one was hurt.    Neither Hamas nor any other group claimed the launch.
    At the same time, neither Israel nor Hamas can be seen as backing down over a major holy site in east Jerusalem that is sacred to Jews and Muslims, where Palestinians and Israeli police clashed over the weekend.
    The Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.    Palestinians view it as the one tiny part of their homeland that has yet to be taken over by Israel, which seized east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war.
    Hamas’ popularity skyrocketed last year when it was seen as defending the shrine – even at a devastating cost to Palestinians in Gaza.    The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which cooperates with Israel on security, faced a massive backlash.
    “Hamas would like the pressure against Israel to continue from the West Bank, from east Jerusalem, without giving Israel an excuse to launch a major war against Hamas and the Palestinians in Gaza,” says Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University.
    The hilltop on which the mosque is built is the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Jewish temples in antiquity.
    Under longstanding arrangements, Jews are allowed to visit the site but not pray there.    But in recent years, large numbers of nationalist and religious Jews have regularly toured the site and discreetly prayed there under the protection of Israeli police.
    The visits are seen as a provocation by both the Palestinians and neighboring Jordan, a close Western ally that serves as custodian of the site.    But any effort to limit them would expose the government to severe criticism from Israel’s dominant right-wing parties, which would portray it as a capitulation to the country’s enemies.
    Such a move would be even more fraught now, during the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, which this year coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.    Israeli authorities say they are committed to ensuring freedom of worship for Jews, Christians and Muslims, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett blaming the recent violence on a “Hamas-led incitement campaign.”
    Israel hopes to prevent a repeat of last year, when weeks of protests and clashes in and around Al-Aqsa helped trigger an 11-day Gaza war.
    In recent months, Israel issued thousands of work permits to Palestinians in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces 15 years ago.    It also allows tens of thousands of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to work in construction and other mostly menial jobs in Israel, where wages are far higher.
    Israeli leaders portray the permits as a goodwill measure, but they also help Israel maintain its military rule over millions of Palestinians, which is now well into its sixth decade.
    The permits can be canceled at any time, and Israel – citing security concerns – prohibits nearly all forms of Palestinian opposition to the occupation.
    For Hamas, the suspension or cancellation of the permits would push tens of thousands of Gaza residents back into severe poverty and halt the flow of millions of dollars into the economy.
    Abusada says that might deter Hamas, but not if they believe Israel is crossing a red line at Al-Aqsa.    “It’s a limited deterrence that cannot be taken for granted forever,” he said.
    The United States, Israel’s closest ally, is calling on all sides to show restraint.
    Within Israel, a small Arab party that made history last year by joining the governing coalition – giving it a razorthin majority after four gridlocked elections – suspended its participation on Sunday over the rising tensions.
    The move was largely symbolic, as parliament is currently in recess – one rival lawmaker compared it to dieting during the fasting month of Ramadan.
    The tensions are unlikely to bring down the government because a majority of lawmakers would have to vote for early elections.    That would likely require cooperation between the rightwing opposition, led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Arab parties that despise him – an even heavier lift at a time of war.
    “If there will be a true conflict, I don’t think in the short term it will threaten the current government,” said Rahat, the Israeli political scientist.    “In the long run, it all depends on the framing or the interpretation of the result of such a conflict.”
An explosion is caused by Israeli airstrikes on a Hamas military base in the town of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip,
Tuesday. For Hamas, another war would devastate Gaza, which has hardly begun to rebuild after the last one. For Israel,
war could set back efforts to sideline the conflict and damage burgeoning ties with Arab states. YOUSEF MASOUD/AP FILE

4/20/2022 Israeli protesters march in West Bank amid unrest - Crowd wants dismantled settlement to be rebuilt by Nasser Nasser and Ilan Ben Zion, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BURQA, West Bank – Thousands of Israelis marched to a dismantled settlement deep in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday and called for it to be rebuilt in a show of strength amid a wave of Israeli-Palestinian unrest and fears of further escalation.
    The army blocked roads to facilitate the march led by hard-line Jewish settlers and prevent Palestinians from reaching the area.    Dozens of Palestinian residents protested the closures.    Clashes broke out, with Israeli soldiers firing rubber bullets and tear gas at Palestinian youths hurling stones and burning tires.
    Palestinian medics said they treated at least eight Palestinians who were struck by rubber bullets or tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops in the adjacent West Bank village of Burqa.
    Israelis have repeatedly returned to Homesh, a hilltop settlement that emerged as a symbol of settler defiance after the government dismantled it in 2005.
    Israeli-Palestinian tensions have surged in recent weeks after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel and and military operations in the West Bank. Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel for the first time in months, and Israel carried out airstrikes, after days of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at a flashpoint holy site in Jerusalem.
    The unrest has raised fears of a repeat of last year, when protests and clashes in Jerusalem helped ignite an 11-day Gaza war.
    The shrine, known to Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and to Jews as the Temple Mount, is the emotional epicenter of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    Israel said its security forces entered the site in response to Palestinian rock throwing and that it is committed to ensuring that Jews, Christians and Muslims can worship freely in the Holy Land.    The Palestinians view the presence of Israeli security forces at Al-Aqsa and visits by nationalist and religious Jews as a provocation.
    Israel has faced intense criticism from Jordan, which serves as custodian of the site, as well as Egypt – Arab states that made peace with Israel decades ago.    The United Arab Emirates, which led the way in normalizing relations with Israel as part of the so-called Abraham Accords in 2020, summoned the recently appointed Israeli ambassador on Tuesday.
    The UAE said Israel needs to “fully protect worshippers, to respect the rights of Palestinians to practice their religious rites and to stop any practices that violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” according to a statement carried by the state-run WAM news agency.
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he discussed the violence in a telephone call with Israel’s largely ceremonial President Isaac Herzog.
    “During this sensitive period, I would like to emphasize, once again, the need not to allow provocations and threats against the status and spirituality of Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Erdogan said.
    It was an unusually muted statement for Erdogan, who has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians in the past.    Turkey, whose economy is in crisis, has been trying to normalize its frayed ties with Israel and other regional countries.
    Herzog visited Turkey last month, becoming the first Israeli leader to visit in 14 years.
    The U.N. Security Council emerged from a closed-door session Tuesday with no unanimous message on the tensions, though envoys from Ireland, France, Estonia, Norway and Albania stood together to express concern.
    They called for respecting arrangements at holy sites and for restraint from both sides, while condemning rocket fire from Gaza and “all acts of terrorism.”
    The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has also called on all sides to exercise restraint.
    At the march in the occupied West Bank, several thousand Israelis, including young children, walked roughly two kilometers (one mile) to Homesh, where organizers staged festivities attended by religious nationalist politicians and rabbis.
    The Israeli military didn’t formally authorize the march but closed roads to separate the settlers and Palestinians, allowing it to be held.
    Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and in the decades since has built dozens of settlements that are now home to more than 500,000 Israelis.    The Palestinians seek the territory, which is home to nearly 3 million Palestinians, as the main part of a future independent state.
Israeli border police officers detain a protester during clashes April 4 between Israeli security forces and Palestinians
next to Damascus Gate, outside the Old City of Jerusalem, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP

4/20/2022 State Dept.: We’re Deeply Concerned With Rising Tensions Between Israel, Palestinian Authority, Arab Countries by OAN Newsroom
State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks during a news conference at the State Department,
Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool)
    Top US diplomats are scrambling to simmer tensions in the Middle East amid recent violent attacks in Jerusalem.    During a press conference Monday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said several officials contacted their counterparts in Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries to make sure there is no escalation.
    Over the weekend, more than 170 Palestinians were reportedly injured by Israeli police near the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.    Police officers said they were provoked by protesters who were allegedly setting off fireworks toward the officers as well as throwing stones and other objects at them.
    In recent weeks, Israel has faced a slew of knife and gun attacks from Palestinian suspects, which have prompted a heavy-handed response from police.
    “We are deeply concerned by the recent violence in Jerusalem on the Haram al-Sharif Temple Mount and across the West Bank," Price stated.    “We also continue to urge Israeli and Palestinian officials to work cooperatively to lower tensions and ensure the safety of everyone.”
    Additionally, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denounced the recent attacks on his people while asserting they are at the hands of Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas.    He said his military intercepted a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Monday and stressed it’s the first time Hamas launched a rocket from a Palestinian territory.
    “This is unacceptable to us,” Bennett stated.    “This is a reward for the inciters, especially Hamas, which are trying to ignite violence in Jerusalem. We will not allow this to happen.    The State of Israel will continue to provide for and safeguard the dignity of all of us to enable everyone to celebrate in Jerusalem, and – most of all – our forces will continue to provide security for the citizens of the State of Israel.”
    Meanwhile, adversaries to Israel are ramping up their incendiary rhetoric against the country.    After launching two deadly attacks in Israel last month, ISIS has called on supporters to carry out more attacks while also urging violent attacks in Europe.
    Additionally, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi threatened to strike the heart of Israel if the Jewish State makes the slightest move against it.    The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps also vowed to protect Palestinians from alleged anti-Palestine attacks from Israel.
    “Our armed forces have today, after the imposed war, rebuilt themselves in a way that today our military might is not only noteworthy in the region, but in the world,” Raisi stated.
    In the meantime, spokesman Price is urging Israeli forces to use restraint when responding to attacks, ensuring diplomatic phone calls will de-escalate the situation. Experts are calling on Israel and the Arab world to continue to abide by the 2020 Abraham Accords to build off the historic meeting held late last month.

4/21/2022 Israeli-Palestinian tensions mounting by Ilan Ben Zion, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Palestinians fired several rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip early Thursday as Israeli aircraft hit Gaza militant sites soon after an earlier rocket strike that was the second such attack this week.
    The cross-border Gaza violence was an extension of Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have been boiling in Jerusalem.
    The Israeli military said four rockets were fired from Gaza early Thursday and were intercepted by air defenses. Late Wednesday, a rocket was fired from Gaza, triggering Israeli airstrikes.
    There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage, and no one claimed the rocket strikes.    Israel holds the Hamas militant group that rules Gaza responsible for all rocket fire and typically responds with airstrikes within hours.
    Early Thursday, Israeli warplanes conducted a series of airstrikes at a Hamas military site in the central Gaza Strip, local media reported.    Social media posts by activists showed smoke billowing in the air.    The Israeli military said the airstrikes were aimed at a militant site and an entrance of a tunnel leading to an underground complex holding “raw chemicals” to make rockets.
    Hamas had earlier issued vague threats over a planned march through Jerusalem by Israeli ultra-nationalists.    But Israeli police blocked roads and prevented the marchers from reaching dense Palestinian neighborhoods in and around the Old City, after a similar event nearly a year ago helped trigger an Israel-Gaza war.    Police used parked trucks and barricades just outside the walls of the Old City to close the main road leading down to Damascus Gate, the epicenter of last year’s unrest.    After some pushing and shoving with police, the marchers rallied near the barricades, waving flags, singing and chanting.
    Israeli police deployed in large numbers around the historic Old City, home to major religious sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims, out of concern that confrontations could further inflame an already tense situation during the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Tensions have surged in recent weeks after a series of deadly attacks inside Israel, followed by military operations in the occupied West Bank. On Monday, Palestinian militants fired a rocket from the Gaza Strip into Israel for the first time in months, and Israel responded with airstrikes.    That rocket was intercepted and there were no casualties from the exchange.
    It came after repeated clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
    The hilltop shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City is the third holiest in Islam, while for Jews it is their holiest site, where two temples stood in antiquity.
    It is the emotional ground zero for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a flashpoint for previous rounds of violence.
    Earlier on Wednesday, a small group of Palestinian protesters threw rocks at police while hundreds of Jewish visitors entered the flashpoint holy site.
    Amateur video from the scene appeared to show police using sponge-tipped plastic projectiles intended to be non-lethal as the protesters barricaded themselves inside the mosque.    Police said a firebomb thrown by one of the protesters set a carpet outside the mosque on fire, but it was quickly extinguished.    No injuries were reported.
    Hamas said Wednesday ahead of the march that Israel would bear “full responsibility for the repercussions” if it allowed the marchers “to approach our holy sites,” without elaborating.
    Itamar Ben Gvir, an ultra-nationalist lawmaker who frequently stages provocative visits to Palestinian areas, attended the rally and was greeted with cheers.    He is a disciple of a radical rabbi whose violently anti-Arab ideology was once shunned in Israel but is now having a revival.
    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that he would bar Ben Gvir from going to Damascus Gate.    “I don’t intend to allow petty politics to endanger human lives,” he said.
    Last May, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired rockets toward Jerusalem as a much larger group of thousands of Israelis held a flag march to the Old City following weeks of protests and clashes in and around Al-Aqsa.    Those events led to an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.
    Israeli nationalists stage such marches to try to assert sovereignty over east Jerusalem, which Israel seized in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the West Bank and Gaza, and annexed in a move not recognized internationally.    The Palestinians seek an independent state in all three territories and consider east Jerusalem their capital.
    Organizer Noam Nisan defended the march in an interview with Kan public radio before it was held, saying: “A Jew with a flag in Jerusalem is not a provocation.”
Palestinians watch as Israeli security forces patrol near Damascus Gate, just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, Wednesday. Police prevented hundreds
of ultra-nationalist Israelis from marching around predominantly Palestinian areas of Jerusalem’s Old City. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP

4/23/2022 Israeli police storm holy site after rock-throwing - Clashes continue amid heightened tensions by Joseph Krauss, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Israeli police enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where they clashed with
Palestinian protesters in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday. MAHMOUD ILLEAN/AP
    JERUSALEM – Israeli police in full riot gear stormed a sensitive Jerusalem holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims on Friday after Palestinian youths hurled stones at a gate where they were stationed.
    The renewed violence at the site came despite Israel temporarily halting Jewish visits, which are seen by the Palestinians as a provocation.    Medics said more than two dozen Palestinians were wounded before the clashes subsided hours later.
    Tens of thousands of Muslims took part in the main Friday prayers at midday, which were held as planned.
    Palestinians and Israeli police have regularly clashed at the site over the last week at a time of heightened tensions following a string of deadly attacks inside Israel and arrest raids in the occupied West Bank.    Three rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
    The string of events has raised fears of a repeat of last year, when protests and violence in Jerusalem boiled over, helping to ignite an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, and communal violence in Israel’s mixed cities.
    Palestinian youths hurled stones toward police at a gate leading into the compound, according to two Palestinian witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity out of security concerns.    The police, in full riot gear, then entered the compound, firing rubber bullets and stun grenades.
    Israeli police said the Palestinians, some carrying Hamas flags, had begun stockpiling stones and erecting crude fortifications before dawn.    The police said that after the rock-throwing began, they waited until after early morning prayers had finished before entering the compound.
    Video footage showed police firing at a group of journalists holding cameras and loudly identifying themselves as members of the media.    At least three Palestinian reporters were wounded by rubber bullets fired by police.
    Some older Palestinians urged the youths to stop throwing rocks but were ignored, as dozens of young masked men hurled stones and fireworks at the police.    A tree caught fire near the gate where the clashes began.    Police said it was ignited by fireworks thrown by the Palestinians.
    The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said at least 31 Palestinians were wounded, including 14 who were taken to hospitals.    A policewoman was hit in the face by a rock and taken for medical treatment, the police said.
    The violence subsided later in the morning after another group of dozens of Palestinians said they wanted to clean the area ahead of the main weekly prayers at midday.
    Those went ahead, with some 150,000 worshippers attending, according to the Islamic endowment that administers the site.    After prayers, a small group of Palestinians waving Hamas flags marched in protest and tried to break into an empty police post inside the compound.    The police used a drone to drop tear gas on them, sending crowds of people scattering across the esplanade.

4/24/2022 Aid group says 8 killed in Darfur region by Samy Magdy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    CAIRO – Tribal violence between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region killed at least 8 people including a woman and a child, an aid worker and activists said Saturday.
    The clashes erupted Thursday with the killing of two people by an unknown assailant around the Kreinik area of West Darfur province, said Adam Regal, the spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur charity.
    The following day, militias known as Janjaweed attacked a camp for displaced people just to the south of Kreinik, burning down dozens of houses and forcing large numbers of people to flee.
    The violence, which lasted till late Friday, also wounded 16 others, including three in critical condition, he said.
    Sudan’s Darfur region has seen bouts of deadly clashes between rival tribes in recent months as the country remains mired in a wider crisis following last year’s coup, when top generals overthrew a civilian-led government.
    In December, tribal clashes in Kreinik killed 88 people.

4/25/2022 In shadow of war, Russians, Ukrainians mark Easter in UAE by Isabel Debre, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A Russian-speaking churchgoer receives communion at the Christian Orthodox Church in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates,
Sunday. Russians and Ukrainians alike crowded into the only Russian Orthodox Church on the Arabian Peninsula
to celebrate the most important Christian religious festival of the year. ISABEL DEBRE/AP
    SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates – Hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians alike crowded into the only Russian Orthodox Church on the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday to celebrate the most important Christian religious festival of the year – far from home and in the shadow of a war that has brought devastation to Ukraine and international isolation to Moscow.
    The church’s gold Byzantine crosses rise unexpectedly from the dusty streets of Sharjah – a conservative Muslim emirate just south of skyscraper studded Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
    Although the two nationalities, united in language and history, typically celebrate Easter in harmony in this strange corner of the world where they’ve forged new lives as expats, this year there was unspoken tension even as children in floral dresses played on the stone steps and priests blessed brimming bread baskets under the blazing sun.
    “I don’t have any problems with Russians as people,” said Sergei, a Ukrainian businessman from Kyiv and Dubai resident of five years, who like all those interviewed, declined to give his last name for privacy reasons.    “But war changes people.    Children are dying.    The Russians now hate my country.”
    A few Russians interviewed said they did not support the war and felt sick or guilty about it.    But to avoid any confrontation in the pews, they stuck to small talk with Ukrainians about the festivities and warming weather, they said.
    “We’re all the same, we’ve all come from Russia or Ukraine to seek a better life here,” said Kata, who moved from Moscow to Dubai for a marketing job just before the war.    “It’s so weird between us right now.    We try as much as possible not to discuss the war. … It’s too painful, too difficult.”
    The vast Russian Orthodox Church in Sharjah, the country’s biggest church, has for over a decade served as a touchstone for Dubai’s booming Russian and eastern European community.
    Dubai’s glittering skyscrapers, white sand beaches and luxury malls have long attracted Russian visitors, who made up the city’s third-largest tourist source market last year.    Before the war, the Russian Embassy estimated there were 40,000 Russian nationals in the UAE, along with about 60,000 Russian speakers from former Soviet states.
    Dubai, one of the few remaining flight corridors out of Moscow, appears to have emerged as a magnet for scores of well-heeled Russians despairing of their country’s future and concerned their livelihoods are no longer viable amid a stranglehold of global sanctions.
    The UAE has imposed no such sanctions and retains close relations with Russia – a major trade partner and fellow member of OPEC Plus, the group of oil-producing nations and its allies that has rebuffed Western pleas for increased oil supplies to calm energy markets.    Russians need no visas to enter the UAE. Any investment of over $200,000 in real estate secures three years’ residency.
    “Dubai is the best place for business and job opportunities because the conditions in our country radically changed,” said Leonid, a Russian social media executive who moved to Dubai after the war.

4/25/2022 Israeli court rejects Gaza airstrike appeal - Rules 2014 incident was tragic mistake by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Israel’s Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a request to reopen an investigation into the deaths of four Palestinian children who were killed by an Israeli airstrike while playing on the beach in the Gaza Strip during a 2014 war.
    In its ruling, the court upheld earlier decisions by Israeli military investigators and legal authorities determining the incident was a tragic mistake.
    “With all of the sorrow and heartache over the tragic and difficult outcome of the event in this petition, I did not find that the petitioners pointed to a flaw in the decision of the attorney general,” said Sunday’s ruling, signed by the court’s president, Esther Hayut, and approved unanimously with two other justices.
    The cousins from the Bakr family, all between 10 and 11 years old, were playing soccer on the beach when they were killed during the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
    Zakaria Bakr, an uncle, said that for the family, Israel had acted as both the “criminal and judge.”
    “We are not surprised by the decision because even the so-called High Court will only act in favor of the soldiers and to protect them,” he said, vowing to continue the struggle to get the case to international courts.
    The incident drew widespread international attention, in part because many foreign journalists staying in nearby hotels witnessed the incident. Images showed the children desperately running away from a jetty as a missile fall, and then the boys falling to the ground one after another.
    The appeal to the Supreme Court was filed by three human rights organizations – the Israeli group Adalah and the Gaza-based Al-Mezan and Palestinian Center for Human Rights – who were seeking a criminal investigation into the incident.
    In a joint statement, the groups said Sunday’s decision “is further evidence that Israel is unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute soldiers and commanders for war crimes against Palestinian civilians.”
    Critics have long accused Israel and its military of whitewashing wrongdoing by its troops.    Last year, the International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged Israeli crimes in the Palestinian territories, including actions during the 2014 war.
    Bakr family members delivered testimony to the court during a preliminary inquiry.
    Israel has rejected the ICC case, saying its legal system is capable of investigating the military and accusing the court of antisemitism.

4/25/2022 Biden accepts invitation to visit Israel in coming months
    JERUSALEM – President Joe Biden has accepted an invitation to visit Israel in the coming months, the two countries announced on Sunday.    Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke to Biden on Sunday afternoon, discussing recent Israeli-Palestinian unrest in Jerusalem as well as their shared concerns about Iran, both of their offices said. Israel has opposed U.S. efforts to revive the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran, saying it does not include sufficient safeguards to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.    It also has expressed concerns that the U.S. might remove Iran’s Republican Guard from its list of foreign terrorist groups.    Then-President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, causing it to unravel.    While both governments confirmed that Biden accepted an invitation to visit Israel in the near future, neither gave a date for the expected trip.

4/25/2022 Aid group says tribal clashes kill 168 in Darfur by Samy Magdy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    CAIRO – Tribal clashes between Arabs and non-Arabs in Sudan’s war ravaged Darfur region Sunday killed 168 people, a local aid group said, one of the deadliest bouts of violence in the country in recent years.
    The fighting in West Darfur province comes as Sudan has been plunged into turmoil since a military coup last year.    The takeover upended the country’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
    The clashes raise questions over whether military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur, which has been wracked by years of civil war.    In 2020, the U.N. Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission known there.
    Adam Regal, spokesman for the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur, said Sunday’s fighting in West Darfur’s Kreinik area also wounded 98 people.
    The fighting grew out of the killing of two people by unknown assailants Thursday, he said.
    Early Sunday, large numbers of people armed with heavy weapons launched a major attack on Kreinik, torching and looting properties, Regal said.    The fighting lasted for several hours and forced thousands of people to flee their homes, he said.
    Regal, whose group provides food and other assistance to displaced people in the region, shared footage of destroyed houses in the area, with some images showing pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns.
    The clashes eventually reached Genena, where militias and armed groups attacked wounded people while they were being treated at the city’s main hospital, said Salah Saleh, a doctor and former medical director at the hospital.
    “The area was burned down, and many people were killed ... There was no intervention” from the local government to stop the fighting, he said.
    Authorities said they deployed more troops and a military aircraft to the region since fighting on Thursday left eight dead and at least 16 wounded.
    Volker Perthes, the U.N. envoy for Sudan, deplored “the heinous killings of civilians ... as well as the attacks on health facilities” in West Darfur.
    He called for an in-depth and transparent investigation and to hold those responsible accountable.
Intercommunal violence has been raging in Sudan’s Darfur region since a popular uprising led
the military to overthrow longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. MOHAMED ABUAMRAIN/AP

4/25/2022 Egypt frees 41 prisoners ahead of Eid holiday by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    CAIRO – Egypt released more than three dozen prisoners Sunday, a week before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is typically a time of amnesty, a political party and state-run media said.
    Political activists and family members confirmed several high-profile detainees were freed.    The Reform and Development Party said those freed had been political prisoners being held in pre-trial detention.    The English edition of the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said 41 prisoners in all were released.
    The government’s human rights body said in a statement only that there had been a release of individuals held in pre-trial detention but gave no details.
    The move came a week before the Eid holiday marking the end of Ramadan.    It is typically a time when prisoners are released on presidential pardons, but the number of those freed was one of the largest in recent years.    Thousands of political prisoners, however, are estimated to remain inside Egypt’s jails, many without trial.
    Among the released was political activist Waleed Shawky, his wife, Heba Anees, said on social media.    She posted a picture of the couple hugging.
    Journalist Mohamed Salah was also released, activist Esraa Abdel Fattah said.    And Nabeh Elganadi, a human rights lawyer, posted a picture with Radwa Mohamed, who was arrested after making videos posted on social media criticizing President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.
    Under broad counterterrorism laws, Egypt’s state prosecutors have often used vague charges to renew 15-day pretrial detention periods for months or years, often with little evidence.
    On Sunday, Sanaa Seif, the sister of one of Egypt’s most high-profile detained activists, Alaa Abdel Fattah, said her brother had faced new ill-treatment in prison and he was on the 22nd day of a hunger strike.
    Meanwhile, new arrests are still taking place.    On Saturday, the human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said several men in the country’s south had been arrested and accused of spreading lies after they sang a song about rising food prices in a video posted online.

4/26/2022 Rare sculpture found on farm in Gaza Strip by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – A Palestinian farmer found a rare 4,500-year-old stone sculpture while working his land in the southern Gaza Strip, ruling Hamas authorities announced Monday.
    The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the 6.7-inch tall limestone head is believed to represent the Canaanite goddess Anat and is estimated to be dated to around 2,500 B.C.
    “Anat was the goodness of love, beauty, and war in the Canaanite mythology,” said Jamal Abu Rida, the ministry’s director, in a statement.
    Gaza, a narrow enclave on the Mediterranean Sea, boasts a trove of antiquities and archaeological sites as it was a major land route connecting ancient civilizations in Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia.
    But discovered antiquities frequently disappear and development projects are given priority over the preservation of archaeological sites beneath the urban sprawl needed to accommodate 2.3 million people packed into the territory.
    In 2017, the militant Hamas group destroyed large parts of a rare Canaanite settlement to make way for a housing development.

4/26/2022 Turkish philanthropist gets life in prison - Western nations denounce verdict by Suzan Fraser, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ANKARA, Turkey – A Turkish court on Monday sentenced prominent Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole, finding him guilty of attempting to overthrow the government with mass protests in 2013.    Western governments and rights groups strongly criticized the ruling, with one calling it “a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions.”
    The court in Istanbul also sentenced seven other defendants, including 71-year-old architect Mucella Yapici, to 18 years in prison each for “aiding” the attempt.    It ordered that the activists, who were not in custody, be immediately arrested, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
    The verdict, which is likely to harm Turkey’s ties with Western nations, comes as Europe’s top human rights body, the Council of Europe, launched infringement procedures against Turkey for refusing to abide by a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which in 2019 called for Kavala’s release on grounds that his rights had been violated.
    Kavala, 64, has been jailed in Silivri prison, on the outskirts of Istanbul, since he was detained Oct. 18, 2017, accused of financing the protests.    He and other defendants denied all the accusations and are expected to appeal the verdicts.
    Human rights groups say Kavala was prosecuted with flimsy evidence and that the case is politically motivated.    Kavala is the founder of a nonprofit organization, Anadolu Kultur, which focuses on cultural and artistic projects promoting peace and dialogue.
    Supporters of Kavala and the seven other defendants protested the verdicts Monday, shouting slogans in support of the 2013 protests that morphed from a dispute over building a mall in an Istanbul Park into wider demonstrations against the government of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the verdict “blatantly contradicts the constitutional standards and international obligations that Turkey commits itself to as a member of the Council of Europe and EU accession candidate.”
    “We expect Osman Kavala to be released immediately – the European Court of Human Rights has bindingly obliged Turkey to do so,“ Baerbock said.
    The rights group PEN America called the verdict a “dark moment for Turkey” while Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International’s director for Europe, said it amounted to a “travesty of justice of spectacular proportions.”
    “The court’s decision defies all logic.    The prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that substantiates the baseless charges of attempting to overthrow the government,” Muiznieks said in a statement.    “We continue to call for Osman Kavala’s and his co-defendants’ immediate release as they appeal these draconian verdicts.”
    Ozgur Ozel, an opposition legislator whose party frequently questions the independence of Turkey’s courts, accused the judiciary of allegedly meeting the wishes of Erdogan, who is now president.
    “Justice did not prevail here today – the will of the person who rules this country was carried out,” he told reporters outside the courthouse.
    Ozel also denounced the trial as an attempt by Erdogan to “demonize the protests that were extremely peaceful and were staged out of environmental concerns.”
    Asked for his final words in court on Monday, Kavala said: “The aggravated life sentence demanded against me is an assassination that cannot be explained through legal reasons,” according to the Media and Law Studies Association group which has been monitoring the trial.
    In his defense statements Friday, Kavala rejected the accusations once again, insisting that he had merely taken pastries and face masks to the protesters.    He said allegations that he directed the protests are “not plausible.”
    “The fact that I spent 4.5 years of my life in prison is an irreparable loss for me.    My only consolation is the possibility that my experience will contribute to a better understanding of the grave problems of the judiciary,” Kavala told the court by video from Silivri.
    Kavala was initially acquitted in February 2020 of charges that connected him with the 2013 Gezi Park protests.    As supporters awaited his release, Kavala was rearrested on new charges linking him to Turkey’s 2016 coup attempt.    The acquittal was later overturned and the case was merged with that relating to the coup attempt, which the Turkish government blames on the network of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.    Gulen denies any links to the attempted coup.    The court on Monday acquitted Kavala of charges linked to the coup attempt, saying there was insufficient evidence, Anadolu reported.    In October, Kavala’s continued detention sparked a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and 10 Western countries, including the United States, France and Germany, after they called for his release on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.
    Erdogan has accused Kavala, of being the “Turkish branch” of billionaire U.S. philanthropist George Soros, whom the Turkish leader alleges has been behind insurrections in many countries.    He has threatened to expel Western envoys for meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs.
    The European Court of Human Rights’ 2019 decision said Kavala’s imprisonment aimed to silence him and other human rights defenders and wasn’t supported by evidence of an offense.
    The lengthy infringement process by the Council of Europe, a 47-member bloc that upholds human rights, could lead to the suspension of Turkey’s voting rights or membership in the organization.
    Erdogan has dismissed the infringement process, saying Turkey would not “recognize those who do not recognize our courts.”    Turkey had argued that Kavala’s detention was linked to the 2016 attempted coup and not the previous charges that were reviewed by the European court.
Placards in Istanbul read “You will go” after a Turkish court sentenced prominent civil rights
activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole, finding him guilty of attempting
to overthrow the government in connection with the 2013 mass anti-government protests. AP

4/26/2022 Sudan deploys more troops to Darfur after clashes - Violence followed the killing of 2 Arab people by Samy Magdy, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    CAIRO – Sudan’s military deployed further troops to West Darfur province to help stop tribal fighting that claimed the lives of more than 175 people over the past five days, officials and aid agencies said Monday.
    The peak of the fighting between Arabs and the African Masalit tribe was Sunday in the town of Kreinik, 80 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Genena.    The clashes eventually reached Genena where authorities declared a nightly curfew in the main market, according to the U.N. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the violence which grew out of the killing of two Arab people Thursday in Kreinik by unknown assailants.
    He called for the acceleration of the deployment of local joint security keeping forces as per a 2020 peace deal between Sudan’s government and a rebel alliance in war-wrecked Darfur region.
    At least 168 people were killed, and 89 others were wounded on Sunday alone, according to the General Coordination for Refugees and Displaced in Darfur.    Thursday-Friday clashes left 8 dead and 16 wounded, it said.
    Darfur24 news website quoted Naser al-Zein, director of Kreinik municipality, as saying that the dead included at least 17 children and 27 women.
    The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said government buildings, a police station and Kreinik’s sole hospital attacked and burned down in Sunday’s hours-long clashes.
    The fighting forced the U.N. food agency to suspend food distributions planned this week, affecting at least 62,850 displaced people in the town and two nearby villages, OCHA said.
    The Genena Teaching Hospital, where wounded people were being treated, was also attacked Sunday.    The shooting took place inside the facility including the emergency department, the Doctors Without Borders charity said.    One hospital worker was killed, and health care workers were evacuated, said the group which is known by its French acronym MSF.
    Defense Minister Maj. Gen. Yassin Ibrahim Yassin said they solidified security in the province and deployed troops to separate the warring parties.
    Tensions between Arab and Masalit communities in Kreinik date back to December when a property dispute at a local market triggered clashes that killed at least 88 people.
    The fighting has come at a critical time for Sudan, which has plunged into chaos since a military coup last year.    The takeover upended the country’s transition to democracy after a popular uprising forced the removal of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.
    The clashes raise questions over whether military leaders are capable of bringing security to Darfur, which has been wracked by years of civil war.    In 2020, the U.N. Security Council ended its peacekeeping mission there.

4/26/2022 Israel to reopen Gaza crossing after closing it over rockets by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Israel said Monday it will reopen its border crossing with the Gaza Strip to Palestinian workers after closing it for several days following rocket attacks from the Palestinian enclave.
    COGAT, the Israeli military body coordinating civilian affairs in Gaza, said the opening of the Erez Crossing on Tuesday would be conditioned “on the maintenance of a stable security situation in the area.”
    In recent months, Israel had issued thousands of work permits to Palestinians from Gaza, which has been under a crippling Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces nearly 15 years ago.
    Israel grants permits to some 12,000 Palestinians in Gaza and over 100,000 to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, mostly for work in construction and agriculture.
    The job permits have been an economic lifeline for thousands of Gazan families and were considered to be a key factor in maintaining stability before the latest fighting broke out.
    The decision to close the border came after days of rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians following a string of deadly attacks inside Israel, arrest raids in the West Bank, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, and the first rocket attacks into Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip in months.

4/27/2022 Gaza farmer finds 4,500-year-old statue of goddess by BBC News
© BBC - A stone statue of an ancient goddess of beauty, love and war has been found in the Gaza Strip.
    Hamas, the Islamist militant group which governs the tiny Palestinian territory, says the head of the Canaanite deity, Anat, dates back 4,500 years to the late Bronze Age.
    The discovery was made by a farmer digging his land in Khan Younis.
    On social media, some Gazans are making wry comments suggesting the goddess's association with war seems apt.
    In recent years, they have seen a series of devastating flare-ups in the conflict between Israel and militant groups in Gaza.
    However, the discovery of this limestone statue is a reminder of how the strip - part of an important trade route for successive ancient civilisations - was originally a Canaanite settlement.
    The 22cm-high (8.7 in) carving clearly shows the face of the goddess wearing a serpent crown.
    "We found it by chance.    It was muddy and we washed it with water," said farmer Nidal Abu Eid, who came across the head while cultivating his field.
    "We realised that it was a precious thing, but we didn't know it was of such great archaeological value," he told the BBC.
    "We thank God, and we are proud that it stayed in our land, in Palestine, since the Canaanite times."     The statue of Anat - the best-known Canaanite deity - is now on display in Qasr al-Basha, a historic building that now serves as one of Gaza's few museums.
    Unveiling the artefact at a press conference on Tuesday, Jamal Abu Rida of the Hamas-run Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the statue was "resistant against time" and had been carefully examined by experts.
    He said that it made a political point.
    "Such discoveries prove that Palestine has civilisation and history, and no-one can deny or falsify this history," he said.    "This is the Palestinian people and their ancient Canaanite civilisation."
    Not all archaeological finds in Gaza have been so highly appreciated or fared so well.
    Hamas has previously been accused of destroying the remains of a large, fortified Canaanite town, Tell al-Sakan, to make way for housing and military bases south of highly populated Gaza City.
    An ancient man-sized bronze of the Greek god Apollo was discovered by a fisherman in 2013, but later disappeared mysteriously
.
    However, this year Hamas reopened the remains of a 5th Century Byzantine church after foreign donors helped pay for a years-long restoration project.
    Work also stopped at a building site in northern Gaza when 31 Roman-era tombs were found there.
    While such ancient sites could potentially be a draw for foreign visitors, it has virtually no tourism industry.
    Israel and Egypt tightly restrict the flow of people in and out of the impoverished coastal enclave, which is home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, citing security concerns.

4/27/2022 War heats up cooking oil prices - Households, businesses around world feel impact by Dee-Ann Durbin, Ayse Wieting and Kelvin Chan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Global cooking oil prices have been rising since the COVID-19 pandemic began and
Russia’s war in Ukraine has sent costs spiraling. DMITRY LOVETSKY/AP FILE
    ISTANBUL – For months, Istanbul restaurant Tarihi Balikca tried to absorb the surging cost of the sunflower oil its cooks use to fry fish, squid and mussels.
    But in early April, with oil prices nearly four times higher than they were in 2019, the restaurant finally raised its prices.    Now, even some longtime customers look at the menu and walk away.
    “We resisted.    We said, ‘Let’s wait a bit, maybe the market will improve, maybe (prices) will stabilize.    But we saw that there is no improvement,” said Mahsun Aktas, a waiter and cook at the restaurant.    “The customer cannot afford it.”
    Global cooking oil prices have been rising since the COVID-19 pandemic began for multiple reasons, from poor harvests in South America to virus-related labor shortages and steadily increasing demand from the biofuel industry.    The war in Ukraine – which supplies nearly half of the world’s sunflower oil, on top of the 25% from Russia – has interrupted shipments and sent cooking oil prices spiraling.
    It is the latest fallout to the global food supply from Russia’s war, and another rising cost pinching households and businesses as inflation soars.    The conflict has further fueled already high food and energy costs, hitting the poorest people hardest.
    The food supply is particularly at risk as the war has disrupted crucial grain shipments from Ukraine and Russia and worsened a global fertilizer crunch that will mean costlier, less abundant food.    The loss of affordable supplies of wheat, barley and other grains raises the prospect of food shortages and political instability in Middle Eastern, African and some Asian countries where millions rely on subsidized bread and cheap noodles.
    Vegetable oil prices hit a record high in February, then increased another 23% in March, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.    Soybean oil, which sold for $765 per metric ton in 2019, was averaging $1,957 per metric ton in March, the World Bank said.    Palm oil prices were up 200% and are set to go even higher after Indonesia, one of the world’s top producers, bans cooking oil exports starting Thursday to protect domestic supply.
    Some supermarkets in Turkey have imposed limits on the amount of vegetable oil households can purchase after concerns about shortages sparked panic-buying.    Some stores in Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom also have set limits.    German shoppers are posting photos on social media of empty shelves where sunflower and canola oil usually sit.    In a recent tweet, Kenya’s main power company warned that thieves are draining toxic fluid from electrical transformers and reselling it as cooking oil.
    “We will just have to boil everything now, the days of the frying pan are gone,” said Glaudina Nyoni, scanning prices in a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe, where vegetable oil costs have almost doubled since the outbreak of the war.    A 2-liter bottle now costs up to $9.
    Emiwati, who runs a food stall in Jakarta, Indonesia, said she needs 24 liters of cooking oil each day.    She makes nasi kapau, traditional mixed rice that she serves with dishes like deep-fried spiced beef jerky.    Since January, she’s had trouble ensuring that supply, and what she does buy is much more expensive.    Profits are down, but she fears losing customers if she raises prices.
    “I am sad,” said Emiwati, who only uses one name.    “We accept the price of cooking oil increasing, but we cannot increase the price of the foods we sell.”
    The high cost of cooking oil is partly behind recent protests in Jakarta.    Indonesia has imposed price caps on palm oil at home and will ban exports, creating a new squeeze worldwide.    Palm oil has been sought as an alternative for sunflower oil and is used in many products, from cookies to cosmetics.
    Across the world in London, Yawar Khan, who owns Akash Tandoori restaurant, said a 20-liter drum of cooking oil cost him 22 pounds ($28) a few months ago; it’s now 38 pounds ($49).
    “We cannot pass all the price (rises) to the consumer, that will cause a catastrophe, too,” said Khan, who also struggles with rising costs for meat, spices, energy and labor.
    Big companies are feeling the pain, too. London-based Unilever – maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise – said it has contracts for critical ingredients like palm oil for the first half of the year. But it warned investors that its costs could rise significantly in the second half.
    Cargill, a global food giant that makes vegetable oils, said its customers are changing formulas and experimenting with different kinds of oils at a higher rate than usual.    That can be tricky because oils have different properties; olive oil burns at a lower temperature than sunflower oil, for example, while palm oil is more viscous.
    Prices could moderate by this fall, when farmers in the Northern Hemisphere harvest corn, soybeans and other crops, said Joseph Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute.    But there’s always the danger of bad weather.    Last year, drought pummeled Canada’s canola crop and Brazil’s soybean crop, while heavy rains affected palm oil production in Malaysia.
    Farmers may be hesitant to plant enough crops to make up for shortfalls from Ukraine or Russia because they don’t know when the war might end, said Steve Mathews, co-head of research at Gro Intelligence, an agriculture data and analytics company.
    “If there were a cease-fire or something like that, we would see prices decline in the short run for sure,” he said.
    Longer term, the crisis may lead countries to reconsider biofuel mandates, which dictate the amount of vegetable oils that must be blended with fuel in a bid to reduce emissions and energy imports.
    In the U.S., for example, 42% of soybean oil goes toward biofuel production, Glauber said.    Indonesia recently delayed a plan to require 40% palm oilbased biodiesel, while the European Commission said it would support member states that choose to reduce their biofuel mandates.
    In the meantime, consumers and businesses are struggling.
    Harry Niazi, who owns The Famous Olley’s Fish Experience in London, says he used to pay around 22 pounds ($29) for a 20-liter jug of sunflower oil; the cost recently jumped to 42.50 pounds ($55). Niazi goes through as many as eight jugs per week.
    But what worries him even more than rising prices is the thought of running out of sunflower oil altogether.    He’s thinking of selling his truck and using the cash to stock up on oil.
    “It’s very, very scary, and I don’t know how the fish and chips industry is going to cope.    I really don’t,” he said.
    At Jordan’s Grab n’ Go, a small restaurant in Dyersburg, Tennessee, known for its fried cheeseburgers, owner Christine Coronado also agonized about price increases.    But with costs up 20% across the board – and cooking oil prices nearly tripling since she opened in 2018 – she finally hiked prices in April.
    “You hate to raise prices on people, but it’s just that costs are so much higher than they were a couple of years ago,” she said.
For Harry Niazi, who owns The Famous Olley’s Fish Experience in London, the cost
for a jug of sunflower oil rose to 42.50 pounds ($55). KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AP

4/27/2022 EXPLOSION AFTERMATH - More than 100 buried after blast at illegal plant by Chinedu Asadu, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ABOVE: Burnt cars are shown Tuesday following an illegal refinery explosion in Imo, in southeastern
Nigeria. Remains of the workers and traders who died when the refinery exploded were gathered and
buried Tuesday even as a local official accused security agencies of “sabotage” in the incident.
    OHAJI-EGBEMA, Nigeria – Remains of more than 100 workers and traders who died after an illegal refinery exploded in southeast Nigeria were buried on Tuesday in an official ceremony after an incident that shocked the region.
    Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said at least 110 people had died in Friday’s explosion though officials believe the casualty figure could be higher.
    “As the days go by, most people who think their siblings travelled will now realize maybe they are victims of this (explosion),” said Marcel Amadioha, chairman of the Ohaji-Egbema local government area where the illegal refinery operated.
    Nigeria is Africa’s largest producer of crude oil and illegal refineries and oil bunkering activities have plagued the continent’s most populous nation for years.
    Illegal refineries are “very widespread” in the West African nation mainly as a result of “the collapse of the system (with) poor security system and the lack of care for the pipelines,” said Nnimo Bassey, director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation environmental group in Nigeria.
    Nigeria’s security forces are still hunting for two suspects who have been blamed by authorities for the explosion.
    However, local officials, including chairman Amadioha, have accused security agencies of “sabotage” in the incident, saying they work with the operators of illegal refineries.
    “They were so loose that the illegal bunkers will come here in their numbers without any kind of threat, not feeling like the police or security agencies will come,” the council chairman said of the security agencies.    “There are some of them who are collaborators, who are sabotaging the efforts of the real ones trying to make sure this illegal bunkering stops.”
    Nigeria’s police and military did not immediately respond to an inquiry for comments.
    Tuesday’s event was a hurried but solemn burial that had been delayed for four days since the explosion on Friday as local authorities made efforts to arrange for vital equipment such as excavators.
    Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the nation’s security forces “to intensify the clampdown” on such facilities being operated illegally in many parts of southern Nigeria, but there are concerns it would be a difficult task given insecurity in the area and a high rate of poverty.
    In Imo state, many of those who worked at the refinery site did so “out of frustration,” according to youth leader Onyenwoke, who said the communities in the area are being marginalized despite having dozens of oil wells.
    “There is no good road, no good water, no electricity,” he said, “so, the means of survival here is hard,” adding that sometimes taking part in illegal businesses becomes preferable.
    Oramaru Kwintus with Nigeria’s disaster management agency said that authorities will “embark on more sensitization of the youths on the dangers of these dangerous activities.” CHINEDU ASADU/AP
    “As the days go by, most people who think their siblings travelled will now realize maybe they are victims of this (explosion).”
    Marcel Amadioha, Chairman of the Ohaji-Egbema local government area where the illegal refinery operated.

4/27/2022 Syria says Israel attacked areas near its capital by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    DAMASCUS, Syria – Syrian air defenses were active early Wednesday as Israel carried out attacks near the capital, Damascus, state media reported.    There was no immediate word on casualties.
    State media said the attacks occurred shortly after midnight without saying whether they were Israeli air raids or surface-to-surface missiles.
    The attacks came hours after the Israeli military said an Israeli drone crashed on the Syrian side of the border Tuesday, adding that an investigation was opened into the case.
    The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said several missiles struck areas near Damascus International Airport on the southern edge of the capital as well as several suburbs.    It said the areas hit host Syrian military positions as well as some of Iran-backed fighters.
    There was no comment from the Israeli military on the attacks near Damascus.    It was the latest attack on Syria since April 14, when several missiles hit Syrian army positions near Damascus.
    Israel has staged hundreds of strikes on targets in Syria over the years but rarely acknowledges or discusses such operations.
    It has acknowledged, however, that it targets the bases of Iran-allied militias, such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.

4/28/2022 Ukraine war stokes concerns over Turkey’s nuclear plant by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Uncertainty over the safety of war- wracked Ukraine’s nuclear power plants has reignited concerns over a Russian-owned nuclear power station now being built in a quake-prone area on Turkey’s southern coast, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot activists said Wednesday.
    About 200 activists representing two dozen organizations from both sides of ethnically divided Cyprus converged inside the United Nations controlled buffer zone that cuts across the capital Nicosia.    They sought to voice their unease over ongoing construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is only 60 miles from the island nation’s northern coast.
    Organizers said the annual event to commemorate the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred 36 years ago has taken on an added urgency in light of safety concerns regarding Ukraine’s nuclear plants, such as Europe’s largest nuclear plant in Zaporizhzhia, which has been seized by Russia.
    “The war in Ukraine has demonstrated that nuclear power plants are a source of great uncertainty for public safety,” said George Perdikis, former leader of the Cyprus Greens Party.
    Activists have long contended that Akkuyu lies near a seismic fault line and that a potentially powerful quake could cause a radioactive leak affecting Cyprus.    Cyprus’ Geological Survey Department said Wednesday that a 4.7 magnitude quake near the island’s southwestern town of Paphos late Tuesday was felt as far away as Lebanon and Israel.
    Christina Nicolaou, environmental affairs chief for the leftist AKEL party, said an accident at Turkey’s nuclear plant as a result of either a natural disaster or “a deliberate act” would have huge repercussions for the region.
    Turkish officials said the Akkuyu plant would cover about 10% of the country’s domestic energy needs.    The first of four reactors is scheduled to become operational next year.    Russia’s Rosatom State Corporation holds a 99.2% stake in the project, whose total cost is estimated at 20 billion U.S. dollars, according to the plant’s website.

4/29/2022 Turkey’s Erdogan visits Saudi Arabia to mend ties by Andrew Wilks and Abdullah Al-Shihri, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan landed in Saudi Arabia on Thursday evening in a major reset of relations between two regional heavyweights following the slaying of a Saudi columnist in Istanbul.
    The visit marks the latest in Ankara’s bridge-building efforts with its key regional rival.    It is also Erdogan’s first visit to the kingdom since 2017, the year before the murder in Turkey of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents.
    Erdogan was greeted at the airport in the Red Sea city of Jiddah by the Mecca governor. Official photos released by the Saudi Press Agency and the kingdom’s Media Ministry showed Turkey’s leader accompanied by his wife upon landing.
    Earlier this month, Turkey dropped the trial of 26 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, who’d written columns critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for The Washington Post.    The move was largely seen as a gesture that paved the way for Erdogan’s trip to Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to meet with both King Salman and the crown prince.
    Erdogan said his talks in Jiddah will focus on ways to increase cooperation but also discuss regional and international developments.
    “It is in our common interest to increase our cooperation with Saudi Arabia in areas such as health, energy, food security, agricultural technologies, defense industry and finance,” Erdogan said.
    Erdogan said his two-day visit reflects “our common will to start a new period of cooperation as two brotherly countries.”    It also comes during the last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which he described as an auspicious time for “strengthening the bonds of brotherhood.
    “With this understanding, we are engaged in sincere efforts to ensure peace in our region, to solve problems through dialogue and diplomacy,” Erdogan said.
    Erdogan is also expected to visit Mecca for prayers at Islam’s holiest site in the final nights of Ramadan.
    Turkey’s diplomatic drive has coincided with its worst economic crisis in two decades, compounded by the COVID- 19 pandemic and now the war in Ukraine.    Official inflation stands at 61% while the national currency, the lira, has plummeted, falling 44% in value against the dollar in 2021.
    The decision earlier this month to transfer the prosecution in Khashoggi’s slaying to Saudi Arabia removed the last stumbling block to renewed Turkey-Saudi ties, in particular in Erdogan’s relationship with de-facto Saudi ruler, the crown prince.
    The killing of Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul sparked global outrage and put pressure on the prince, who was said to have approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment.    The prince has denied any knowledge of the operation that was carried out by agents who worked directly for him.
    Erdogan, while not naming the prince, has said that the order to carry out the assassination came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.    Turkish authorities also shared audio of the killing with Western intelligence and a U.N. investigator.
    A court in Saudi Arabia acquitted officials who oversaw the operation, ultimately sentencing five people to death before they were pardoned.    The trial was described as a sham by rights groups.
    Turkey, meanwhile, had launched a case in absentia against 26 Saudi suspects.
    The April 7 transfer of the case to Saudi Arabia came at the request of the Turkish prosecutor, who said there was no prospect of arresting or taking statements from the defendants.
    Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, appealed the decision, but an administrative court rejected her appeal last week.
    Over the past year, Ankara has embarked on a diplomatic push to reset relations with countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia after years of antagonism following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
    Turkey’s support for organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood initially spurred the break with Arab governments that saw the group’s vision political Islam as a threat.
    Later developments, particularly the blockade of Turkish ally Qatar by its Gulf Arab neighbors, reinforced the split.    The lifting of the embargo by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain early last year paved the way for reconciliation with Qatar, though relations remained sour with Turkey.
    Erdogan last visited Saudi Arabia in July 2017 as he attempted to resolve the blockade on Qatar imposed the previous month.    His foreign minister, however, has visited Saudi Arabia in the time since Khashoggi’s killing and Erdogan has held calls with the king.
    In past months, Turkey secured a $4.9 billion currency swap deal with Abu Dhabi, following similar agreements with Qatar, China and South Korea.
    “With this understanding, we are engaged in sincere efforts to ensure peace in our region, to solve problems through dialogue and diplomacy.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, and Saudi Arabia Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman speak before a meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. TURKISH PRESIDENCY VIA AP

4/29/2022 Israeli PM’s family receives death threat by Josef Federman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s teenage son has received a death threat and bullet in the mail, Israeli officials said Thursday, the second such warning against the Israeli leader’s family this week.
    The threats have come at a time of deep political divisions in Israel.    In a major speech on Wednesday night marking Israel’s     Holocaust Memorial Day, Bennett had spoken out against the polarization in Israel, urging citizens not to let internal divisions rip society apart.
    Israeli police said that both incidents were being investigated, but gave few other details, including where the items were sent and who might have sent them.
    Bennett has been the target of fierce criticism from Israel’s hard-line right wing since forming his governing coalition last year.    In 1995, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish ultranationalist opposed to his peacemaking efforts with the Palestinians.
    Bennett’s government is made up of eight parties from across the political spectrum, including religious nationalists, centrists and an Islamic party.    It is the first Arab party to be part of a governing coalition.
    These parties have little in common beyond their shared animosity to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.    They have agreed to put aside many of their differences while focusing on common ground, such as the economy, managing the coronavirus crisis and education and social services.
    Netanyahu, now the opposition leader, has worked hard to undermine the coalition.
    Critics have accused Bennett, who leads a small, religious nationalist party, of abandoning his core hard-line beliefs.    One member of his Yamina party was sanctioned this week as a “defector” for repeatedly supporting the opposition in hundreds of votes.    Another member of his party recently resigned from the coalition, leaving the alliance without a parliamentary majority.
    Bennett formed the coalition last June after four inconclusive elections that underscored the fissures in society over key issues as well as the polarizing effects of Netanyahu’s 12-year rule.
    In Wednesday’s speech, Bennett implored the nation to put aside its differences.
    “My brothers and sisters, we cannot, we simply cannot allow the same dangerous gene of factionalism dismantle Israel from within,” Bennett said.
    That speech came a day after his family received a bullet in the mail.
    “It’s just sad to see that real people write such horrible things,” Bennett’s son Yoni said in an Instagram post.
The teenage son of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his wife Gilat received a death threat and bullet in
the mail, the second such warning against the Israeli leader’s family this week. AMIR COHEN, POOL PHOTO /AP

4/30/2022 New COVID wave likely in S. Africa by Mogomotsi Magome, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JOHANNESBURG – South Africa has likely entered a new wave of COVID-19 earlier than expected as new infections and hospitalizations have risen rapidly over the past two weeks, the country’s health minister said Friday.
    The increase in new cases has been dominated by the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant that dominated the country’s earlier wave of the virus.
    “Whichever way you look at it, it does suggest that we may actually be entering the fifth wave much earlier,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said Friday at a televised press briefing.
    He said officials will be watching over the next few days to determine whether the increase is sustained, which would confirm a new wave.
    The country’s new infections are now several thousand per day, up from a few hundred per day a few weeks ago.
    According to Phaahla, there was no information indicating the emergence of a new strain, which scientists had suggested might drive the country’s fifth wave, expected during the country’s upcoming winter season from May into June.
    “We have always been informed that when a new wave comes, it will be driven by a new variant, but at this stage we have not been alerted to a definite new variant except changes in the omicron,” said Phaahla.
    Hospitalizations from the new cases are increasing but are still relatively low, said Dr. Waasila Jassat from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

4/30/2022 Israeli guard, Palestinian man shot dead in separate incidents by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    JERUSALEM – Palestinian assailants shot and killed a security guard at the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank late Friday, the Israeli military said, in a fresh attack that could further fuel Israeli-Palestinian tensions that have soared in the past two months.
    The Israeli military said early Saturday that the attackers arrived at Ariel settlement entrance and shot the guard in his post before fleeing the scene.    The military launched a pursuit of the suspects in the West Bank.
    In a separate incident, Israeli troops shot and killed a 27-year-old Palestinian man during clashes at Azoun village near the town of Qalqilya early Saturday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
    A string of Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank over the past two months have left 14 Israelis dead.
    Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, praised the attack but stopped short of claiming responsibility for it.
    “The operation proves that revolution is raging all over the West Bank,” said spokesman Hazem Qassem.    “This is a practical implementation of our people’s declaration that Jerusalem is a red line.”
    Tensions increased this month at a major Jerusalem holy site, with Palestinian worshippers clashing daily with Israeli police.    The site contains Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and increasing numbers of Palestinians go there to pray during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
    Earlier Friday, Palestinians hurled stones and Israeli police fired rubber coated bullets at the site, which has seen a wave of unrest in recent weeks.
    The police say Palestinians inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound began hurling stones and fireworks around dawn toward a heavily guarded gate that leads to the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray. The police advanced into the compound, firing rubber-coated bullets.
    The violence ended around an hour later after other Palestinians in the compound intervened, convincing the stone throwers and the police to pull back.
    The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said more than 40 people were wounded, with 22 requiring treatment at local hospitals.    It said Israeli forces prevented first responders from entering the compound during the clashes, and that one of its medics was beaten by police.
    The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is built on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the Jewish temples in antiquity.
Americans bring ‘souvenir’ artillery shell to Israel airport
    JERUSALEM – A bomb scare set off scenes of panic at Israel’s airport after an American family showed up with an unexploded artillery shell they had found in the Golan Heights and intended to bring back as a souvenir.
    Videos circulating online showed passengers ducking for cover, running and screaming at the departure hall of Ben Gurion International Airport on Thursday.
    The airport authority said security officers sounded an alert when they discovered the unexploded shell.    At least one person was injured after trying to run on a conveyer belt, it said.
    Normal operations resumed after the shell was safely removed a short time later.    The family was released after questioning.
    Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war, and the area saw heavy fighting during that war and another Arab-Israeli war six years later.    Areas known to contain unexploded munitions are clearly marked and fenced off.
    Israel annexed the strategic plateau in 1981 and today it is a major tourist draw, with wineries, popular hiking spots and a small ski resort with a short season.
Panic was set off at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel, after an American family showed up with
an unexploded artillery shell they had found in the Golan Heights and intended to bring it back as a souvenir. ISRAELI AIRPORT AUTHORITY VIA AP

    This page created on 3/1/2022, and updated each month by 3/31/2022 and 4/30/2022.

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