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Over 200 injured as Israeli police and Palestinians clash

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: May 8, 2021)

Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youth at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday amid growing anger over the potential eviction of Palestinians from homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers.

Reuters reported at least 205 Palestinians and 17 officers were injured in the night-time clashes at Islam’s third-holiest site and around East Jerusalem, Palestinian medics and Israeli police said, as thousands of Palestinians faced off with several hundred Israeli police in riot gear.

Tension has mounted in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with nightly clashes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah – a neighbourhood where numerous Palestinian families face eviction in a long-running legal case.

Calls for calm and restraint poured in on Friday from the United States and the United Nations, with others including the European Union and Jordan voicing alarm at the possible evictions, Reuters reported.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians packed into the hilltop compound surrounding the mosque earlier on Friday for prayers. Many stayed on to protest against the evictions in the city at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But following the evening meal that breaks the Ramadan fast, clashes broke out at Al-Aqsa with smaller scuffles near Sheikh Jarrah, which sits near the walled Old City’s famous Damascus Gate.

Reuters reported police used water cannons mounted on armoured vehicles to disperse several hundred protesters gathered near the homes of families facing potential eviction.

“If we don’t stand with this group of people here, (evictions) will (come) to my house, her house, his house and to every Palestinian who lives here,” said protester Bashar Mahmoud, 23, from the nearby Palestinian neighbourhood of Issawiya.

An Aqsa official appealed for calm on the compound through the mosque’s loudspeakers. “Police must immediately stop firing stun grenades at worshippers, and the youth must calm down and be quiet!”

Israel’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the Sheikh Jarrah evictions on Monday, the same day that Israel marks Jerusalem Day – its annual celebration of its capture of East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestine Red Crescent ambulance service said 108 of the Palestinians injured were taken to hospital, with many hit with rubber-coated metal bullets.

Reuters reported a police spokeswoman said Palestinians had thrown rocks, fireworks and other objects towards officers, with about half of the 17 injured requiring medical treatment in hospital.

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Australia agrees on increased US air deployments in Australia

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Australia and the United States have reached new force posture agreements that will see greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday.

Speaking at a joint news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Dutton said the two sides would be “significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.”

“This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia,” he said.

“We’ve also established combined logistics sustainment and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities, including logistics and sustainment capability for our submarines and surface combatants in Australia.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the meeting had endorsed “major force posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia.”

Dutton and Austin spoke a day after the United States and Britain said they would provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

China on Thursday denounced the new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain, and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said France was a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region and that Washington would continue to cooperate with Paris, comments that appeared aimed at calming French anger after the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom clinched the historic defense export contract to supply Australia with submarines.

The three countries announced on Wednesday they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will help Australia acquire U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.

France has reacted angrily to the loss of the deal, calling it a “stab in the back.”

Speaking at a news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Blinken said Washington had been in touch with its French counterparts before the announcement of the submarine deal.

In 2016 Australia had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

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Ukraine, U.S. to hold joint military drills

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Ukraine and the United State will start joint military exercises in western Ukraine next week, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Thursday, days after Belarus and Russian staged large-scale drills that have concerned neighbouring countries, Reuters reported.

The “Zapad-2021” war games ran on Russia and Belarus’ western flanks, including sites close to the European Union’s borders, and alarmed Ukraine and some NATO countries.

Ukraine said the “RAPID TRIDENT – 2021” exercises would involve 6,000 troops from 15 countries – Ukraine, the United States and other NATO members – and would last till Oct. 1.

“The main goal is to prepare for joint actions as part of a multinational force during coalition operations,” it said in a statement.

According to the report Ukraine views the military exercises with Western partners as an important step on the path to NATO, believing that membership in the alliance would strengthen the country’s resistance to Russian aggression.

Kyiv’s relations with Moscow deteriorated in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and backed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s Donbass region. The seven-year war with separatists killed more than 13,000 people.

Ukraine’s relations with Belarus also have worsened since Kyiv called the 2020 presidential election in Belarus neither free nor fair and condemned violence against protesters, Reuters reported.

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Macron says French forces killed ISIS leader in Sahara

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that French military forces had killed Islamic State (ISIS) militant Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

“It’s another major success in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,” Macron said in a tweet, without disclosing the location of the operation.

Sahrawi was the historic leader of ISIS in the Sahel region of West Africa and his group targeted U.S. soldiers in a deadly attack in 2017, Macron’s office said.

In August 2020, Sahrawi personally ordered the killing of six French charity workers and their Nigerien driver, it added.

Macron said in July that France would soon begin reshaping its force in the Sahel, where it has been on the front line of the fight against ISIS, and would ultimately halve its military presence, Reuters reported.

With no apparent end in sight to France’s operations and political turmoil especially in Mali, Paris had grown frustrated.

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