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Survivors of Turkiye, Syria quake struggle to stay warm, fed

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Survivors of Turkiye, Syria quake struggle to stay warm, fed

Thousands who lost their homes in a catastrophic earthquake huddled around campfires and clamored for food and water in the bitter cold, three days after the temblor and series of aftershocks hit Turkiye and Syria, killing more than 17,000.

Rescuers continued their race to pull more people alive from the rubble, with the window closing to find trapped survivors. While stories of miraculous rescues briefly buoyed spirits, the grim reality of the hardship facing tens of thousands who survived the disaster cast a pall.
In the Turkish city of Antakya, dozens of people scrambled for aid in front of a truck distributing children’s coats and other supplies.

Ahmet Tokgoz, a survivor, called for the government to evacuate people from the devastated region. While many of the tens of thousands who have lost their homes have found shelter in tents, stadiums and other temporary accommodation, others have spent the nights outdoors since Monday’s 7.8 magnitude quake.
“Especially in this cold, it is not possible to live here,” he said. “People are warming up around campfires, but campfires can only warm you up so much. … If people haven’t died from being stuck under the rubble, they’ll die from the cold.”

Meanwhile, the first U.N. aid trucks to enter rebel-held northwest Syria from Turkiye since the quake arrived Thursday morning. Smaller aid organizations have sent in shipments, but the U.N. is only authorized to deliver aid through one border crossing and road damage has prevented that thus far.

Winter weather and damage to roads and airports from the quake have hampered the response throughout a region already contending with the repercussions of more than a decade of civil war in Syria. That conflict displaced millions of people within Syria and left many reliant on humanitarian aid, while also sending millions more over the border into Turkiye to seek refuge.

Some in Turkiye have complained the response was too slow. Any perception that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has mismanaged the crisis could hurt him at a time when he faces a tough battle for reelection in May. Erdogan — who was scheduled to continue his tour of devastated areas on Thursday — has sought to play down the criticism.

Meanwhile, emergency crews on both sides of the border worked through the night to find survivors. Experts said the survival window for those trapped under the rubble or otherwise unable to obtain basic necessities was closing rapidly. At the same time, they said it was too soon to abandon hope.

In the Turkish town of Elbistan, rescuers formed human chains as they dug through collapsed buildings, urging quiet in the hopes of hearing stifled pleas for help. But more and more often, they pulled out dead bodies from under the rubble.

The family of Havva Havam still hoped to see three of its members alive again, sitting by the fire opposite their former home, now the pile of debris.

In Antakya to the south, rescuers pulled out a young girl, Hazal Guner, from the ruins of a building and also rescued her father, Soner Guner, news agency IHA reported.
As they prepared to load the man into an ambulance, rescue crews told him that his daughter was alive. “I love you all,” he faintly whispered.

Elsewhere in the city, Serap Arslan said machinery only started to move some of the heavy concrete covering trapped people on Wednesday.

“We tried to clear the debris on our own, but unfortunately our efforts have been insufficient,” the 45-year-old said.

Turkyie’s disaster management agency said more than 110,000 rescue personnel were now taking part in the effort and more than 5,500 vehicles, including tractors, cranes, bulldozers and excavators had been shipped.

In the Syrian government-held city of Aleppo, rescue workers pulled seven people out alive and 44 bodies on Thursday from a collapsed building in the city center, state TV reported.

“We are racing against time. Time is running out,” said the Syrian paramedic group in the rebel-held northwest known as White Helmets. “Every second could mean saving a life.”

As in Turkyie, heavy machinery was urgently needed there to speed up rescue operations, the group said.

Aid efforts in Syria have been hampered by the ongoing war and the isolation of the rebel-held region along the border, which is surrounded by Russia-backed government forces. Syria itself is an international pariah under Western sanctions linked to the war.

On Thursday, the first U.N. aid trucks crossed into northwest Syria from Turkiye. U.N. officials said they are also trying to scale up deliveries to the area from the capital, Damascus.

The shipment was scheduled before the earthquake happened but was delayed by the road damage. U.N. officials said more trucks were set to follow with assistance specifically for the current crisis.

Still, the scale of loss and suffering to tend to is massive. Erdogan announced Thursday that the death toll had risen to more than 14,000 in his country, with more than 63,000 injured. On the Syrian side, which includes in government-held and rebel-held areas, of the border, more than 3,100 have been reported dead and more than 5,000 injured.

On Wednesday, Erdogan sought to deflect criticism of the response — and vowed it was improving.

“It is not possible to be prepared for such a disaster,” Erdogan said as he visited the hard-hit province of Hatay. “We will not leave any of our citizens uncared for.” He also hit back at critics, saying “dishonorable people” were spreading “lies and slander” about the government’s actions.

He said the government would distribute 10,000 Turkish lira ($532) to affected families.

The earthquake’s toll is the highest worldwide since a 2011 earthquake off Japan triggered a tsunami, killing nearly 20,000 people.

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

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White-led DA party joins ANC in South African unity government

 The African National Congress and its largest rival, the white-led, pro-business Democratic Alliance, agreed on Friday to work together in South Africa’s new government of national unity, a step change after 30 years of ANC majority rule.

Once unthinkable, the deal between two sharply antagonistic parties is the most momentous political shift in South Africa since Nelson Mandela led the ANC to victory in the 1994 elections that marked the end of apartheid.

“Today, South Africa is a better country than it was yesterday. For the first time since 1994, we’ve embarked on a peaceful and democratic transfer of power to a new government that will be different from the previous one,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said in a televised address.

“From today, the DA will co-govern the Republic of South Africa in a spirit of unity and collaboration,” he said, adding that multi-party government was the “new normal”.

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The ANC lost its majority for the first time in an election on May 29 and has spent two weeks locked in intensive behind-the-scenes talks with other parties, which came down to the wire on Friday morning as the new parliament was convening.

The DA’s entry into national government is a big moment for a country still processing the legacy of the racist colonial and apartheid regimes. The party has struggled to shake off its image as a defender of rich white people and convince a broad spectrum of South Africans that it reflects their aspirations.

Two smaller parties, the socially conservative Inkatha Freedom Party and the right-wing Patriotic Alliance, will also take part in the unity government, they said. 

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Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

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Hamas' armed wing says Israeli airstrike killed two hostages in Rafah

Hamas’ armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said on Friday that two Israeli hostages held in Gaza were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Rafah a few days ago.

The group, in a video posted on its Telegram channel, did not release the names of those said to have been killed or provide any evidence.

The Israeli government “does not want your hostages to return, except in coffins,” the al-Qassam Brigades statement said.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on June 8. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said more than 250 Palestinians were killed in the raid.

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The war in Gaza erupted when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. 

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

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US attack sub, Canada navy patrol ship arrive in Cuba on heels of Russian warships

A Canadian navy patrol ship sailed into Havana early on Friday, just hours after the United States announced a fast-attack submarine had docked at its Guantanamo naval base on Cuba, both vessels on the heels of Russian warships that arrived on the island earlier this week.

The confluence of Russian, Canadian and U.S. vessels in Cuba – a Communist-ruled island nation just 160 km (100 miles) from Florida – served up a reminder of old Cold War tensions and of current fraught ties between Russia and Western nations over the Ukraine war.

However, both the U.S. and Cuba have said the Russian warships pose no threat to the region. Russia has also characterized the arrival of its warships in allied Cuba as routine.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate and the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, half submerged with its crew on deck, sailed into Havana harbor on Wednesday after conducting “high-precision missile weapons” training in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Canada`s Margaret Brooke patrol vessel began maneuvers early on Friday to enter Havana harbor, part of what the Canadian Joint Operations Command called “a port visit…in recognition of the long-standing bilateral relationship between Canada and Cuba.”

A Canadian diplomat characterized the Margaret Brooke`s arrival as “routine and part of long-standing cooperation between our two countries”, adding it was “unrelated to the presence of the Russian ships.”

Russia and Cuba were close allies under the former Soviet Union and tensions with Washington over Communism in its “backyard” peaked with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Moscow, which has maintained ties with Havana, has questioned the apparent nervousness of the West over the warships this week. 

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