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Israeli warplanes strike Gaza following rocket fire

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Israeli warplanes strike Gaza following rocket fire

Israeli warplanes struck Gaza early Thursday, drawing retaliatory rocket fire from Palestinian militants, as violence flared despite US calls for “urgent steps” to restore calm.

Israel said the pre-dawn strikes were in response to an earlier rocket launch and targeted military training camps used by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

A statement from the Israeli military said fighter jets had “struck a production site for raw chemical material production, preservation and storage along with a weapon manufacturing site” belonging to Hamas.

The strikes came “in response to the rocket launch from the Gaza Strip into Israel earlier” Wednesday.

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“(Hamas) will face the consequences of the security violations against Israel,” the army said on Twitter.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant vowed that Israel stood ready to respond to any attack.

“Every attempt to harm our citizens will be met with the full force of the IDF.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem called the Israeli strikes “a continuation of the cycle of aggression against the Palestinian people”.
He accused Israel of “opening the door to escalation on the ground”.

During talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged both sides to prevent further bloodshed.
He expressed sorrow for “innocent” Palestinians killed in months of spiralling violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, warning that the Palestinian people faced “a shrinking horizon of hope”.

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Escalating violence

The US top diplomat’s visit came after a deadly upsurge in violence in the West Bank last week.

A Palestinian shot dead seven people outside a synagogue in an Israeli settler neighbourhood of annexed east Jerusalem on Friday, a day after the deadliest army raid in years in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.

The synagogue attack on the Jewish Sabbath was the deadliest targeting Israeli civilians in more than a decade and was celebrated by many Palestinians in Gaza and across the West Bank.

Israel said its deadly raid on Jenin refugee camp targeted Islamic Jihad militants. An 11th Palestinian was killed elsewhere in the West Bank that day.

This year the conflict has killed 35 Palestinians — including attackers, militants and civilians — as well as the six Israeli civilians, including a child, and one Ukrainian, killed on Friday.

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Last year was the deadliest year in the West Bank since the United Nations started tracking fatalities in the territory in 2005.

Some 235 people died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict last year, with nearly 90 percent of the deaths on the Palestinian side, according to AFP figures.

The Palestinian governor of Jericho on Wednesday accused Israel of putting the town under “siege” after a Saturday shooting at a restaurant, which had no casualties.

Jericho’s ancient ruins have been a major tourism draw in the past.

“This is the fifth day of the siege on Jericho,” governor Jihad Abu al-Assal told AFP.

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Israel’s army told AFP it had boosted its forces in the area and “inspections were increased at the city’s entrances and exits”.

An AFP correspondent said cars were backed up at entrances to the city, with checks to get in and out of the city often taking hours.

Islamic Jihad said it would send a delegation led by the militant group’s leader Ziad al-Nakhala to Cairo on Thursday at Egypt’s invitation.

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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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