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Thousands of refugees without shelter after Moria camp fire

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: September 9, 2020)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday a fire broke out at the controversial Moria Reception and Identification Center on the Greek island of Lesvos overnight and destroyed more than 80 percent of the camp. 

IOM said there were no initial reports of casualties but over 12,600 migrants and refugees were now displaced. 

“This devastating tragedy compounds the already existing challenges and difficult conditions at Moria due to overcrowding and COVID-19,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.  

“We are doing everything we can to support the Greek authorities and the affected migrants and refugees, to ensure their immediate care and safety as we work together on longer-term solutions.” 

IOM said it was mobilizing to provide immediate support to the authorities and people affected, particularly the unaccompanied children and said that the organization, along with other groups, is committed to transporting 400 unaccompanied children from Lesvos to suitable accommodations on the mainland and to escort them during the transfer.

Athens meanwhile declared a state of emergency on Lesvos and sent police reinforcements to the island, off Turkey, to help keep order, Reuters reported.

Deputy Migration Minister George Koumoutsakos said about 3,000 migrants and refugees would be temporarily housed in tents as the government struggles to find alternative shelter for the migrants, some of whom were now camped out in fields nearby.

The cause of the fire was not yet known but authorities were investigating whether they were started deliberately.

Reuters reported the fire broke out just after midnight and by dawn on Wednesday most of the camp was a smoldering mass of burned containers and tents, with a few people searching through the debris for their possessions.

“There was not just one but many fires in the camp. Migrants threw stones at firefighters trying to put out the fires. The cause is under investigation,” Constantine Theophilopoulos, fire brigade chief for the northern Aegean, told ERT TV.

Initial reports suggested the fires broke out at different locations in the sprawling camp after authorities tried to isolate some individuals who had tested positive for COVID-19.

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Fears of Taliban takeover post troop withdrawal are overblown: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

The US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday predictions that the Taliban will quickly overrun Afghan government forces and conquer Kabul once U.S. and coalition forces have withdrawn are unduly pessimistic.

Testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Khalilzad said: “I personally believe that the statements that their (Afghan) forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken.”

His comments came as committee members expressed concern that President Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw all troops by September 11 will lead to chaos and intensified civil war.

AP reported that Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and withdrawal critic, asserted that there is “zero chance” the Taliban will abide by the commitments their leaders made in a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, which included engaging in sustained peace negotiations and severing all forms of cooperation with and support for al-Qaida.

“It seems all but certain the Taliban will try to overrun the country and return it to a pre-9/11 state after we have withdrawn,” McCaul said. 

“They’ve already ramped up their attacks, taking new territory and bases since the (Biden) announcement was made. Without a military presence in country, the U.S. is giving them room to deepen their relationship with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, who may seek to launch external attacks on us and our allies from the country once again.”

Khalilzad argued that the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions. 

“They say they seek normalcy in terms of relations — acceptability, removal from sanctions, not to remain a pariah,” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad said the U.S. military withdrawal is proceeding “so far so good,” and added: “We expect that to continue.” 

He said diplomatic efforts are underway to seek agreements with neighboring countries to position U.S. counterterrorism forces within strike distance of Afghanistan to be able to respond to future threats.

 

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Five military facilities handed over to Defense Ministry: CENTCOM

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

U.S. Central Command said Tuesday that about 115 C-17 military cargo loads of material have been flown out of Afghanistan and more than 5,000 pieces of equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

According to a statement issued by CENTCOM, the U.S. has officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. 

“U.S. Central Command estimates that we have completed between 13-20% of the entire retrograde process,” the statement read.

The foreign troops withdrawal process started officially on May 1 and according to U.S. President Joe Biden it will be complete by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. 

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Atmar conveys condolences to Palestine just hours before media offices bombed

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TRT World
(Last Updated On: May 15, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Palestine, Riyad Al-Maliki, on Saturday and condemned the escalation of attacks and encroachment on the Palestinian people during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.

In a statement issued by his office, Atmar said the bloody attacks were unacceptable for Islamic countries and the world’s peace-loving nations. 

He also called for an immediate end to the violence in the region.

Expressing the Afghan people’s solidarity with the people of Palestine, Atmar stated that Afghanistan supported the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to an independent state, within the borders set out in the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution.

Atmar’s conversation came just hours before Israel bombed a building in Gaza City that houses The Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and a number of other foreign media outlets. 

The airstrike on the high-rise came nearly an hour after the Israeli military ordered people to evacuate the 12-story building, which also housed residential apartments. 

The strike brought down the entire structure, which collapsed in a gigantic cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked, AP reported

The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks in years. 

AP reported the strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon after the building’s owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that it would be hit. AP’s staff and others in the building evacuated immediately.

Al-Jazeera, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” an on-air anchorwoman said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.

 

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