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Blinken reaffirms two-state solution ahead of Israeli-Palestinian visit

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Blinken reaffirms two-state solution ahead of Israeli-Palestinian visit

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would urge Israelis and Palestinians to calm tensions as he visits on Monday during the worst violence in years, and reaffirmed a long-stalled peace vision as the “only path” forward.

In new bloodshed, Palestinian officials said Israeli troops killed a 26-year-old man at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank. The army said troops opened fire on the man’s car after he rammed into one of them and attempted to flee an inspection.

Israel is on high alert after a Palestinian opened fire in a street outside a synagogue on Friday, killing seven people in the worst such attack in the Jerusalem area for over a decade. That followed an Israeli raid on the West Bank town of Jenin on Thursday in which 10 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, were killed.

“There is no question that this is a very difficult moment,” Blinken told reporters in Cairo before departing for Tel Aviv. “We have seen, over many months, rising violence that is affecting so many.”

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In meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken said, “we will be … encouraging the parties to take steps to calm things down, to de-escalate tensions.”

The last round of U.S.-sponsored talks on founding a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2014.

Netanyahu’s new hardline government includes partners who oppose Palestinian statehood, and control over the Palestinian territories is divided between Abbas, who favours diplomacy, and rival Hamas Islamists who are sworn to Israel’s destruction.

Nevertheless, Blinken described Washington as “a stalwart believer in the negotiated two-state solution – the only path to a lasting resolution for the conflict”.
Since Jan. 1, at least 35 Palestinians, both gunmen and civilians, have been killed in near-daily raids by the army, according to the Ramallah health ministry – making it the bloodiest month in the West Bank since 2015.

The United States has voiced support for Israel’s security and for Palestinians to enjoy equal measures of dignity.

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Containing the violence has been complicated by the actions of so-called “lone wolves” like the 21-year-old who carried out Friday’s attack and apparently had no connection with Palestinian militant groups.

Palestinian officials said Israeli settlers had set fire on Monday to two cars near the northern West Bank city of Nablus and thrown stones at a house near Ramallah, following a similar attack on Sunday.

Such incidents occur regularly without attracting much notice. But in the current climate, they have added to the potential for the violence to worsen.

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Argentina faces rising dengue epidemic risk as mosquitoes hatch early

Argentina faces rising dengue epidemic risk as mosquitoes hatch early

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Argentina faces rising dengue epidemic risk as mosquitoes hatch early

Mosquitoes are hatching earlier in Argentina and reaching cooler regions than before, as rising temperatures drive the country’s worst outbreak of dengue fever and raise the risk of more regular epidemics of the insect-borne virus, scientists said.

So far in the 2023-24 season, the South American nation has recorded 232,996 cases of the disease sometime known as “break-bone fever” for the severe muscle and joint pain it can cause, along with high fever, headache, vomiting, and skin rash.

That’s well above the previous all-time high of 130,000, recorded last season, and five times the figure at the same point a year ago, the latest official data showed. Cases usually spike in late summer around March-April, but began far earlier this season.

“The increase in the number of mosquitoes at the end of spring is getting earlier and earlier,” said Sylvia Fischer, a doctor in biological sciences and researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET).

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Scientists are seeing the disease more than before in cooler regions further to Argentina’s south, Fischer added.

“These are all places where a few years ago it could not be found,” she said, adding that it reflected a wider regional trend where the season for mosquitoes was being extended by warmer weather in part linked to climate change.

“If I had to extrapolate, I would say that we have the possibility of having dengue epidemics perhaps every year.”

In Argentina, the outbreak this year has strained hospitals and left shelves empty of insect repellent, with sellers hiking prices when they do have supply. The government has moved to ease imports of mosquito spray to meet demand.

“I have a lot of patients hospitalized for dengue,” said Leda Guzzi, an infectious disease doctor, who added that while most cases were not severe, the huge number of cases could lead to a more deadly outbreak next year as people get re-infected.

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“The disease has spread tremendously and we really think next year is going to be very difficult because there are going to be many second episodes of dengue.”

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Taiwan’s dogs search for quake victims: A success story

Taiwan’s dogs search for quake victims: A success story

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Taiwan's dogs search for quake victims: A success story

 A former drug-sniffing dog who lost his job for being too friendly has emerged as the unlikely MVP of the Taiwan rescue teams searching for survivors of the island’s strongest earthquake in 25 years.

At least 13 people were killed and more than 1,140 injured by the magnitude-7.4 quake that struck the island on Wednesday, with strict building codes and widespread disaster readiness credited with averting an even bigger catastrophe.

But landslides around epicentre Hualien still blocked tunnels and roads, making the mountainous terrain around the county difficult for rescuers to access survivors and victims.

Footage released by the county fire department on Saturday showed Roger, an eight-year-old labrador, mounting a boulder that had fallen across a hiking trail near Hualien’s Taroko National Park.

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“Have you found something? Let’s go over there,” said a rescuer to Roger, who did not budge.

“Roger must have found some clues, and his confused look made the handler feel something was up, and then they found the victim,” said Mayor Chen Chi-mai in a Facebook post titled “The Paw Paw Team’s feat”.

Handler Lee Hsin-hung said Roger located a victim “just five minutes after setting off”, and praised the dog’s confidence in an unfamiliar terrain.

Originally trained as a drug-sniffing dog as a pup, Roger was given his walking papers from that role because he was too friendly, which led to his switch to search-and-rescue missions.

“He’s very agile,” Lee told reporters. “Like this time when he went to Shakadang Trail, it’s not a rescue site we can simulate (in training) but he’s not scared.”

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The soon-to-retire dog has won hearts in Taiwan for his boisterous nature, lunging at reporters’ microphones during interviews and also destroying a chew toy given to him after his mission.

Another search dog, three-year-old Wilson, a Jack Russell terrier, is getting accolades as well after footage emerged in Taiwanese media of his persistent scramble through immovable boulders.

The quake’s aftermath was Wilson’s first mission, and he located two victims — a performance that handler Tseng Ching-lin said he was “surprised” about.

“He’s very smart, but he likes to play and he runs to other places,” Tseng said, as Wilson started to bite the microphone.

At least six people remain unaccounted for, while the number of people who can’t be accessed has steadily shrunk as authorities managed to fix roads and clear tunnels over the weekend. 

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Footage shows a lively Gaza turned to wasteland since war began

Footage shows a lively Gaza turned to wasteland since war began

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Footage shows a lively Gaza turned to wasteland since war began

Drone footage of Gaza over the six months of warfare between Israel and Hamas shows how the once vibrant Palestinian enclave has been transformed into a vast wasteland of rubble and twisted steel by Israeli bombardment.

During normal days, Palestinians used to be able to stand on their buildings’ balconies and take in a view of the Mediterranean Sea.

Those structures have vanished, footage from Reuters and other sources shows, crushed into piles of cement and debris.

Residents have been forced to wander Gaza seeking shelter from an Israeli offensive designed to destroy its arch enemy Hamas.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the campaign will not stop until Hamas is eliminated, so the bombardment and destruction are expected to continue.

Footage showed how Palestinians lived in calmer days in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

Palestinians drove their cars along a calm street with tall trees separating traffic as far as the eye could see. Footage taken later shows a nearby street with one demolished building after another. One person could be seen walking in the smashed cement of a ghost town.

The conflict began when Hamas, which runs Gaza, burst into Israel on Oct. 7, killed 1,200 people and dragged more than 200 hostages back to Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel responded with a relentless bombardment of the enclave that has killed more than 33,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities.

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As Palestinians endure the bombing and try to cope with a humanitarian crisis, they think back to some of the places in the Reuters drone footage, like a peaceful alleyway where a teenager speeds along on his bicycle.

The footage also showed a white mosque with a green courtyard overlooking the sea. Fast forward six months and footage will show many destroyed mosques in Gaza.

In another part of Gaza, cars work their way through a roundabout in pre-war footage. Barely traces of it can be seen now. 

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