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First emergency aid trucks enter Gaza after overnight Israeli air strikes

First emergency aid trucks enter Gaza after overnight Israeli air strikes

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First emergency aid trucks enter Gaza after overnight Israeli air strikes

The first trucks bearing emergency humanitarian aid since Israel began a devastating siege of Gaza 12 days ago entered the enclave from Egypt on Saturday after further heavy Israeli bombardment overnight that killed dozens of Palestinians.

U.S. President Joe Biden had said earlier this week that agreement had been reached for 20 aid trucks to cross through Gaza’s Rafah border point with Egypt, and said on Friday he believed those first trucks would pass through within 48 hours.

Fifteen of the 20 trucks were on the Gaza side of the heavily fortified border after checks by the Palestinian Red Crescent and were preparing to proceed to recipients in populated areas, witnesses said, after days of diplomatic wrangling over conditions for delivering the relief.

But that would only be a small fraction of what is required in Gaza, where Israel’s “total siege” has left its 2.3 million people running out of food, water, medicines and fuel in what the United Nations says is a budding humanitarian catastrophe.

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The United Nations said the convoy included life-saving supplies that would be received and distributed by the Palestinian Red Crescent. Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza, said the delivery included medicine and limited amounts of food but not fuel.

Palestinian health officials said the lack of fuel was jeopardising the lives of patients including people injured by air strikes. Fourteen medical centres have already suspended operations for want of fuel.

U.N. officials say at least 100 trucks daily are needed to cover urgent, life-saving needs and that any aid operation must be sustainable at scale – a tall order now with Israel carrying out devastating bombardments of the enclave day and night.

FIRST TWO HOSTAGES RELEASED

Israel kept up heavy bombardment of targets throughout Gaza in Saturday’s early hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “fight until victory” following the release of the first two hostages by Hamas.

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Hamas on Friday freed Americans Judith Tai Raanan, 59, and her daughter Natalie, 17, who were among around 210 kidnapped in its Oct. 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by militants of the Islamist movement. Hamas said it acted in part “for humanitarian reasons” in response to Qatari mediation.

Hamas gunmen seized the hostages when they burst out of the blockaded enclave into Israel and killed 1,400 people, mainly civilians, in a shock rampage, the deadliest single attack on Israelis since the country’s founding 75 years ago.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says Israel’s retaliatory air and missile strikes have killed at least 4,137 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, while over a million of the besieged territory’s 2.3 million people have been displaced.

Israel has amassed tanks and troops near the fenced border around the small coastal enclave for a planned ground invasion with the objective of annihilating Hamas, after several inconclusive wars dating to its seizure of power there in 2007.

Overnight Israeli fighter jets struck a “large number of Hamas terror targets throughout” Gaza including command centres and combat positions inside multi-storey buildings, the military said ion a statement.

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Palestinian medical officials and Hamas media said Israeli aircraft had overnight targeted several family houses across Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated places, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens.

Hamas said it fired rockets towards Israeli’s biggest city Tel Aviv on Saturday in response to Israel’s killing of civilians overnight. The Israeli military reported a fresh salvo of rockets from Gaza against southern Israeli border communities before dawn. There was no immediate word of any casualties. 

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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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