Ethiopia’s Tigray leader confirms firing missiles at Eritrea

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Ethiopian refugees who fled the war in Tigray region line up for water in Qadarif region, eastern Sudan, on Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
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Ethiopian refugees fleeing the war in Tigray region gather in Qadarif region, eastern Sudan, on Nov. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Marwan Ali)
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Updated 16 November 2020
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Ethiopia’s Tigray leader confirms firing missiles at Eritrea

  • War is brewing between Ethiopia's federal government and the Tigray, who once dominated the country’s ruling coalition
  • Tigray regional leader accuses neighbor Eritrea of sending troops into the region

NAIROBI, Kenya: The leader of Ethiopia’s rebellious Tigray region has confirmed firing missiles at neighboring Eritrea’s capital and is threatening more, marking a huge escalation as the deadly fighting in northern Ethiopia between Tigray forces and the federal government spills across an international border.
Tigray regional President Debretsion Gebremichael, in a phone interview Sunday with The Associated Press, wouldn’t say how many missiles were fired at the city of Asmara on Saturday, but said it was the only city in Eritrea that was targeted.
“As long as troops are here fighting, we will take any legitimate military target and we will fire,” he said, accusing Eritrea of sending troops into the Tigray region and denying reports that Tigray regional forces have entered Eritrea.
“We will fight them on all fronts with whatever means we have,” he said. He asserted that around 16 Eritrean divisions are fighting in what he called a “full-scale war.”
The brewing civil war in Ethiopia between a regional government that once dominated the country’s ruling coalition, and a Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister whose sweeping reforms marginalized the Tigray region’s power, could fracture a key US security ally and destabilize the strategic Horn of Africa, with the potential to send scores of thousands of refugees into Sudan.
The United States strongly condemned the Tigray region’s “unjustifiable attacks against Eritrea ... and its efforts to internationalize the conflict.”
At least three rockets appeared to be aimed at the airport in Asmara, hours after the Tigray regional government warned it might attack. It accuses Eritrea of attacking at the invitation of Ethiopia’s government after the conflict in the Tigray region erupted on Nov. 4 with an attack by regional forces on a federal military base there.
In a security alert, the US Embassy in Eritrea said “a series of loud noises were heard in Asmara” on Saturday night, and “unconfirmed reports indicate they may have been explosive devices believed to be in the vicinity of the Asmara International Airport. There are no indications the airport was struck.”
The Tigray regional leader would not say how many missiles remain at his forces’ disposal but said “we have several. We can use it selectively, anywhere.” When asked about targeting Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, he replied: “I don’t want to tell you, but the missiles are long-range as well.”
Officials in Eritrea, one of the world’s most reclusive nations. have not responded to requests for comment.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a brief statement declared that “Ethiopia is more than capable of attaining the objectives of the operation by itself.” He did not mention the missiles or Eritrea but added: ”Justice will prevail. Ethiopia will prevail!” His office in a separate statement said “we will see this operation to its end.”
The Tigray leader said he had no communication with Ethiopia’s federal government. The African Union is pushing for a cease-fire, he said, “but the prime minister is not ready to listen. He believes in the might he has.” He called this a “really messy situation which requires international intervention.”
Tigray’s heavily armed regional government broke away from Ethiopia’s ruling coalition last year, and it objects to the postponement of national elections until next year, which extends Abiy’s rule. In September it held a regional election in defiance.
Each side regards the other as illegal, and the federal government says members of the Tigray region’s ruling “clique” must be arrested and their arsenal destroyed. Abiy calls it a “law enforcement action” while his military officials call it war.
The Tigray leader told the AP he didn’t have a number of people killed in the fighting but said “a very massive displacement is happening. The fighting is happening on all fronts, in addition to airstrikes.” He added, “we have to defend ourselves, you know?”
The Tigray region is boxed in among Ethiopian forces, Eritrea and Sudan, which has closed its border but allows in refugees.
The Tigray leader said his government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, had no communications channel with Eritrea even before the conflict. The two sides are at bitter odds after a long and deadly border war that ended after Abiy took office in 2018.
Abiy has rejected international pleas for an immediate de-escalation.
In a separate, bloody example of Ethiopia’s growing tensions, at least 34 people were killed in a “gruesome attack” on a passenger bus in the western Benishangul-Gumuz Region on Friday, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said. It did not say who attacked.
The conflict could pull in more countries. A senior TPLF official, Getachew Reda, on social media asserted that Ethiopia’s prime minister “is now enlisting the support of UAE drones based in (the Eritrean city of) Assab in his devastating war against the people of Tigray.” He offered no evidence.
Officials in the United Arab Emirates did not comment. For years, the UAE has built up a military presence in Eritrea at the port of Assab and a once-abandoned airfield there, but it has since reportedly drawn down its forces after largely withdrawing from the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The United Nations and others have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in the growing conflict as some 25,000 Ethiopian refugees, hungry and scared, have fled the Tigray region into Sudan. Communications and transport links with the Tigray region remain almost completely severed, and millions are at risk as food, fuel and other supplies run low.
Over the border in Sudan, the refugees — roughly half of them children — huddled in makeshift tents of sheets, even umbrellas, as authorities rushed to organize assistance in the remote area and more arrivals were on the way.
“The situation is very bad at the moment,” Jens Hesemann with the UN refugee agency said in Hamdayet town, which he described as a generous but “very burdened” community.
“War is meaningless,” one refugee, Fabrik Tessafay, said. “This is genocide, it seems to me. This is genocide, to destroy Tigray and Tigray people.”
Shaken, they described being under attack even as they fled.
“Like this, all of Tigray will be killed,” said another refugee, Alem Gabril. “The (Eritrean) President Isaias Afwerki also attacked us, we were hit in the Al-Hamra region, we went to the river and we were attacked there, and some of the people died, and the others crossed into Sudan.”
One woman wailed as she was told her son had died in the fighting.
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US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks

Updated 5 sec ago
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US rushing delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine to counter increased Russian attacks

  • White House says it can do this by redirecting orders made by other allies for air defense systems
  • Russia has resumed its aerial pounding of Ukraine’s power grid while Kyiv’s forces are again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes

WASHINGTON: The White House announced Thursday that it will rush delivery of air defense interceptor missiles to Ukraine by redirecting planned shipments to other allied nations, as Washington scrambles to counter increased Russian attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
National security spokesman John Kirby said the US had taken the “difficult but necessary decision to reprioritize near-term planned deliveries of foreign military sales to other countries,” though he wouldn’t say which nations would be affected or how many.
“Right now, we know that Ukraine urgently needs these additional capabilities,” Kirby said on a call with reporters, adding, “Obviously more is needed, and it’s needed now.”
The announcement comes after President Joe Biden, during last week’s Group of Seven meeting in Italy, suggested such action might be necessary, saying, “We’ve let it be known for those countries that are expecting, from us, air defense systems in the future, that they’re going to have to wait.”
“Everything we have is going to go to Ukraine until their needs are met,” Biden said. “And then we will make good on the commitments we made to other countries.”
The US was already sending Ukraine a consistent stream of interceptors for its air defense systems, including for the Patriot missile batteries and the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS. But Kirby said that more was urgently needed as Russia’s military has accelerated missile and drone attacks against cities and infrastructure centers “trying to destroy Ukraine’s energy system ahead of this winter.”

This handout photograph taken on June 18, 2024 and released by the Press service of the 24th mechanized brigade shows Ukrainian servicemen repairing military equipment at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (AFP)

Russia has resumed its aerial pounding of Ukraine’s power grid while Kyiv’s forces are again targeting Russian oil facilities with drone strikes, as each side seeks to hinder the other’s ability to continue fighting.
The number of interceptors to be sent isn’t clear but Kirby said it could involve “hundreds” of Patriot interceptor missiles.
Kirby said Ukraine will get prioritized shipments as soon as systems roll off assembly lines for the next about 16 months, and those will provide the country with “enough capability” during that period.
After that, he said, “Countries that have been asked to delay will start to get” deliveries of systems they had already ordered.
Kirby said the move means “a range of countries” will face delays in receiving missile systems that are being diverted to Ukraine but that the shift would not affect Taiwan or what it “continues to need and receive for self-defense” in the face of potential threats from China.
Asked to describe how other countries reacted to the shift, Kirby said they were “broadly understanding of it.”
“They know how serious the need is in Ukraine,” he said.


Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

Updated 58 min 59 sec ago
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Le Pen’s National Rally seen leading vote in French snap elections — polls

  • The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district

PARIS: Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally is seen leading the race ahead of France’s parliamentary elections, three polls showed on Thursday, ahead of the leftwing Popular Front and President Emmanuel Macron’s centrists.
Pollster IFOP in a survey for broadcasting group TF1 and Le Figaro said the National Rally (RN) would secure 34 percent of the vote, while the Popular Front would reach 29 percent and Macron’s Together bloc would get 22 percent.
Another poll by Harris Interactive — conducted for RTL radio, M6 TV and Challenges Magazine — put the RN at 33 percent, while the left was seen at 26 percent and Macron’s camp at 21 percent.
A third poll published on Thursday, by OpinionWay on behalf of CNews TV, Europe 1 radio and the Journal du Dimanche paper, also put the RN in the lead with 35 percent of the votes, ahead of the Popular Front which had 27 percent and Macron’s camp which had 20 percent.
The simulation of the national popular vote does not allow for a direct forecast of the balance of power in France’s next National Assembly, as the election on June 30 and July 7 is held as a two-round majority vote in each district.
The Harris poll, however, made rough seat projections and forecast 235 to 280 seats for RN and its allies, which would fall short of the 289 needed for an absolute majority but make it by far the largest bloc.


New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

Updated 21 June 2024
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New York moves to limit ‘addictive’ social media feeds for kids

  • The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday signed a bill that would allow parents to block their children from getting social media posts suggested by a platform’s algorithm, a move to limit feeds critics argue are addictive.
Under the legislation, feeds on apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited for people under age 18 to posts from accounts they follow, rather than content suggested by an automated algorithm. It would also block platforms from sending minors notifications on suggested posts between midnight and 6 a.m.
Both provisions could be turned off if a minor gets what the bill defines as “verifiable parental consent.”
The law does not take effect immediately. State Attorney General Letitia James is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying a user’s age and parental consent. After the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement the regulations.
“We can protect our kids. We can tell the companies that you are not allowed to do this, you don’t have a right to do this, that parents should have say over their children’s lives and their health, not you,” Hochul, a Democrat, said at a bill signing ceremony in Manhattan.
The signing is the first step in what is expected to be a drawn out process of rule making, and a probable lawsuit from social media companies to block the law.
NetChoice, a tech industry trade group that includes X and Meta, has criticized the legislation as unconstitutional.
“This is an assault on free speech and the open Internet by the State of New York,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age.”
Most of the biggest social media platforms send users a steady stream of suggested videos, photographs and other content, using a computer to try and predict what will keep users entertained and engaged for as long as possible. The algorithms use a variety of factors to curate that content, including what a user has clicked on before and interests of other people with similar preferences.
The bill marks the latest attempt by a state to regulate social media as part of concerns over how children interact with the platforms.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced plans to work with the Legislature on a bill to restrict smartphone usage for students during the school day, though he didn’t provide exact details on what the proposal would include. Newsom in 2019 signed a bill allowing school districts to limit or ban smartphones while at school.
There hasn’t been broad legislation on the subject at the federal level but it is a common point of discussion in Washington. This week the US surgeon general called on Congress to put warning labels on social media platforms similar to those on cigarettes, citing mental health dangers for children using the sites.
Some tech companies, with pressure mounting, have decided to set up parental controls on their platforms. Last year, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, created tools that allowed parents to set time limits on the apps for children.
The New York legislation, debuted last October, had faced major pushback in the Legislature from the tech industry.
“Social media platforms manipulate what our children see online to keep them on the platforms as long as possible,” said James, a Democrat who pushed for the bill. “The more time young people spend on social media, the more they are at risk of developing serious mental health concerns.”


Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric

Updated 19 min 11 sec ago
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Trump proposes green cards for foreign grads of US colleges, departing from anti-immigrant rhetoric

  • A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, allows individuals to live and work permanently in the United States and is a path to citizenship

MIAMI: Former President Donald Trump said in an interview posted on Thursday he wants to give automatic green cards to foreign students who graduate from US colleges, a sharp departure from the anti-immigrant rhetoric he typically uses on the campaign trail.
Trump was asked about plans for companies to be able to import the “best and brightest” in a podcast taped Wednesday with venture capitalists and tech investors called the “All-In.”
“What I want to do and what I will do is you graduate from a college, I think you should get automatically as part of your diploma a green card to be able to stay in this country. And that includes junior colleges too, anybody graduates from a college. You go there for two years or four years,” he said, vowing to address this concern on day one.
Immigration has been Trump’s signature issue during his 2024 bid to return to the White House. His suggestion that he would offer green cards — documents that confer a pathway to US citizenship — to potentially hundreds of thousands of foreign graduates would represent a sweeping expansion of America’s immigration system that sharply diverges from his most common messages on foreigners.
Trump has blamed immigrants who are in the country illegally for committing crimes, stealing jobs and government resources, and suggested that they are “poisoning the blood of our country.” He has promised to carry out the largest deportation operation in US history if elected.
Trump and his allies often say they distinguish between people entering illegally versus legally. But during his administration, Trump also proposed curbs on legal immigration such as family-based visas and the visa lottery program.
Right after taking office in 2017, he issued his “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, directing Cabinet members to suggest reforms to ensure that business visas were only awarded to the highest-paid or most-skilled applicants to protect American workers.
He has previously said the H1-B program commonly used by companies to hire foreign workers temporarily — a program he has used in the past — was “very bad” and used by tech companies to get foreign workers for lower pay.
During the conversation with “All-In,” Trump blamed the coronavirus pandemic for being unable to implement these measures while he was president. He said he knows of stories of people who graduate from top colleges and want to stay in the US but can’t secure visas to do so, forcing them to return to their native countries, specifically naming India and China. He said they go on and become multibillionaires, employing thousands of workers.
“You need a pool of people to work for your company,” Trump said. “And they have to be smart people. Not everybody can be less than smart. You need brilliant people.”

 


Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape

Updated 21 June 2024
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Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape

  • The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said

PARIS: Several hundred people protested against anti-Semitism and “rape culture” in Paris on Thursday after the gang rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl at the weekend sparked nationwide outrage.
Various anti-racist, rights and feminist groups had called for the demonstration following Saturday’s gang rape.
Dominique Sopo, president of anti-racist group SOS Racisme, said it was “an anti-Semitic crime that chills our blood.”
Anne-Cecile Mailfert, the president of the Women’s Foundation, said the incident reflected a rise in anti-Semitism since the start of the Gaza war.
But it also highlighted “a rape culture to which young people are more likely to subscribe,” having been “bottle-fed pornography,” she added.
Ner Sfez, a 24-year-old Jewish woman, said she had come to protest a crime “at the intersection of sexism and anti-Semitism.”
Hundreds had already protested on Wednesday in Paris and Lyon in central-eastern France after the incident was reported in the news.
The Jewish girl told police three boys aged between 12 and 13 approached her in a park near her home in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday evening, police sources said.
She was dragged into a shed where the suspects beat her and “forced” her to have sex “while uttering death threats and anti-Semitic remarks,” one police source told AFP.
The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said.
Two boys, both aged 13, were charged on Tuesday with gang rape, anti-Semitic insults and violence, and issuing death threats. They have been taken into custody.
A third boy, 12, was charged with anti-Semitic insults and violence and issuing death threats, but not with rape. He was allowed to return home.
France has the largest Jewish community of any country outside Israel and the United States.
At Thursday’s protest, Arie Alimi, a lawyer known for tackling police brutality and the vice president of the French Human Rights League, said anti-Semitism, racism and sexism were “everywhere.”
In the run-up to snap parliamentary polls on June 30 and July 7, he urged voters to prevent the far right from seizing power and “installing a racist, anti-Semitic and sexist policy.”
But he also said he was sad to hear “anti-Semitic remarks from a part of those who say they are on the left.”
President Emmanuel Macron called the parliamentary elections after the far right thrashed his centrist alliance in European polls.
His surprise move has seen part of the right ally itself with the far right and the left form a new alliance, with both sides accusing the other of being anti-Semitic.