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Blinken Says U.S. Will Aid Gaza Without Helping Hamas


JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed Tuesday to “rally international support” to aid Gaza following a devastating war there while keeping any assistance out of the hands of its militant Hamas rulers, as he began a regional tour to shore up last week’s cease-fire.

The 11-day war between Israel and Hamas killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. The truce that came into effect Friday has so far held, but it did not address any of the underlying issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something Blinken acknowledged after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We know that to prevent a return to violence, we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild,” he said.

“The United States will work to rally international support around that effort while also making our own significant contributions.” He added that the U.S. would work with its partners “to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance.”

Blinken will not be meeting with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and which Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist organization. 

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Israel's prime minister in Jerusalem on May 25



Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Israel’s prime minister in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021.

Blinken addressed the larger conflict, saying “we believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity.”

But the top U.S. diplomat faces the same obstacles that have stifled a wider peace process for more than a decade, including a hawkish Israeli leadership, Palestinian divisions and deeply rooted tensions surrounding Jerusalem and its holy sites. The Biden administration had initially hoped to avoid being drawn into the intractable conflict and focus on other foreign policy priorities before the violence broke out.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is fighting for his political life after a fourth inconclusive election in two years. He faces mounting criticism from Israelis who say he ended the offensive prematurely, without forcibly halting rocket attacks or dealing a heavier blow to Hamas.

Netanyahu hardly mentioned the Palestinians in his remarks, in which he warned of a “very powerful” response if Hamas breaks the cease-fire.

Netanyahu spoke of “building economic growth” in the occupied West Bank, but said there will be no peace until the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” The Palestinians have long objected to that language, saying it undermines the rights of Israel’s own Palestinian minority.

The war was triggered by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a site revered by Jews and Muslims that has seen several outbreaks of Israeli-Palestinian violence over the years. The protests were directed at Israel’s policing of the area during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

The truce remains tenuous since tensions are still high in Jerusalem and the fate of the Palestinian families is not yet resolved.

The evictions were put on hold just before the Gaza fighting erupted, but the legal process is set to resume in the coming weeks. Police briefly clashed with protesters at Al-Aqsa on Friday, hours after the cease-fire came into effect.

Adding to the tensions, an Israeli soldier and a civilian were stabbed and wounded in east Jerusalem on Monday before police shot and killed the assailant in what they described as a terrorist attack.

Palestinian volunteers sweep the rubble of buildings, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City's Rimal district on



Palestinian volunteers sweep the rubble of buildings, recently destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City’s Rimal district on May 25, 2021. 

Then, early Tuesday, a Palestinian man was shot and killed by undercover Israeli forces near the West Bank city of Ramallah, according to the Wafa news agency. Pictures circulating online appeared to show the man bloodied and lying in the street. The Israeli army referred questions to the Border Police, which did not respond to requests for comment.

Blinken will head to Ramallah later Tuesday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has no power in Gaza and was sidelined by recent events. Abbas heads the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank but whose forces were driven from Gaza when Hamas seized power there in 2007.

Abbas, who called off the first Palestinian elections in 15 years last month when it appeared his fractured Fatah movement would suffer an embarrassing defeat, is seen by many Palestinians as having lost all legitimacy. A crowd of worshippers at Al-Aqsa chanted against the Palestinian Authority and in support of Hamas on Friday.

But Abbas is still seen internationally as the representative of the Palestinian people and a key partner in the long-defunct peace process. The Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella group led by Abbas, recognized Israel decades ago, and the Palestinian Authority maintains close security ties with Israel.

Blinken will also visit neighboring Egypt and Jordan, which have acted as mediators in the conflict. Egypt succeeded in brokering the Gaza truce after the Biden administration pressed Israel to wind down its offensive.

The administration had been roundly criticized for its perceived hands-off initial response to the deadly violence, including from Democratic allies in Congress who demanded it take a tougher line on Israel. Biden repeatedly affirmed what he said was Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from Gaza.

The administration has defended its response by saying it engaged in intense, but quiet, high-level diplomacy to support a cease-fire.

Blinken has said the time is not right for an immediate resumption in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but that steps could be taken to repair the damage from Israeli airstrikes, which destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged infrastructure in Gaza.

The narrow coastal territory, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from importing arms, while the Palestinians and human rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.

Associated Press writers Josef Federman and Ilan Ben Zion contributed to this report.





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Palestinians Rally As Gaza Truce Faces Early Test


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinians rallied by the thousands early Friday after a cease-fire took effect in the latest Gaza war, with many viewing it as costly but clear victory for the Islamic militant group Hamas over a far more powerful Israel.

The 11-day war left more than 200 dead — the vast majority Palestinians — and brought widespread devastation to the already impoverished Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. But the rocket barrages that brought life to a standstill in much of Israel were seen by many Palestinians as a bold response to perceived Israeli abuses in Jerusalem, the emotional heart of the conflict.

The truce faces an early test on Friday, when tens of thousands of Palestinians attend weekly prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, a flashpoint holy site revered by Jews and Muslims. Celebratory protests could spark confrontations with Israeli police, setting in motion another cycle of escalation like the one that led to the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against any further attacks, saying “if Hamas thinks we will tolerate a drizzle of rockets, it is wrong.” He vowed to respond with “a new level of force” against any aggression anywhere in Israel.

Thousands took to the streets of Gaza as the cease-fire took hold at 2 a.m. Young men waved Palestinian and Hamas flags, passed out sweets, honked horns and set off fireworks. Spontaneous celebrations also broke out in east Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank.

An open-air market in Gaza City that was closed throughout the war reopened and shoppers could be seen stocking up on fresh tomatoes, cabbage and watermelons. Workers in orange traffic vests swept up rubble from the surrounding roads.

“Life will return, because this is not the first war, and it will not be the last war,” said shop owner Ashraf Abu Mohammad. “The heart is in pain, there have been disasters, families wiped from the civil registry, and this saddens us. But this is our fate in this land, to remain patient.”

Palestinians take the streets after "mutual and simultaneous" cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas reached with Egypt med



Palestinians take the streets after “mutual and simultaneous” cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas reached with Egypt mediation took effect at 2 a.m. Friday in Gaza City, Gaza on May 21, 2021.

There was little to celebrate in the hard-hit northern town of Beit Hanoun, where residents, many of whom had lost loved ones, surveyed the wreckage of their homes.

“We see such huge destruction here, it’s the first time in history we’ve seen this,” said Azhar Nsair. “The cease-fire is for people who didn’t suffer, who didn’t lose their loved ones, whose homes were not bombed.”

The mood was also somber in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced angry accusations from his right-wing base that he had halted the war too soon.

Like the three previous wars between the bitter enemies, the latest round of fighting ended inconclusively. Israel claimed to have inflicted heavy damage on Hamas with hundreds of bruising airstrikes but once again was unable to halt the rockets.

Hamas also claimed victory, despite the horrifying toll the war took on countless Palestinian families who lost loved ones, homes and businesses. It now faces the daunting challenge of rebuilding in a territory already suffering from high unemployment and a coronavirus outbreak.

At least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and 39 women, with 1,910 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and 16-year-old girl, were killed.

In Gaza, rescue workers were still recovering bodies from areas that had been too dangerous to enter. The Red Crescent emergency service said it recovered five bodies in the southern town of Khan Younis on Friday, including the body of a three-year-old child.

The fighting began on May 10, when Hamas militants in Gaza fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem. The barrage came after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at Al-Aqsa. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound, and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.

The competing claims to Jerusalem lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have repeatedly triggered bouts of violence in the past.

The cease-fire was brokered by neighboring Egypt after the U.S. pressed Israel to wind down the offensive. Netanyahu announced that Israel had accepted the proposal late Thursday, while emphasizing that “the reality on the ground will determine the future of the campaign.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to visit the region in the coming days “to discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians.” the State Department said.

Hamas and other militant groups fired over 4,000 rockets at Israel throughout the fighting, launching the projectiles from civilian areas at Israeli cities. Dozens of projectiles flew as far north as Tel Aviv, the country’s bustling commercial capital.

Israel, meanwhile, carried out hundreds of airstrikes targeting what it said was Hamas’ military infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network.

The United States, Israel’s closest and most important ally, initially backed what it said was Israel’s right to self-defense against indiscriminate rocket fire. But as the fighting dragged on and the death toll mounted, the Americans increasingly pressured Israel to stop the offensive.

Biden welcomed the cease-fire. He said the U.S. was committed to helping Israel replenish its supply of interceptor missiles and to working with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority — not Hamas — to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

A Palestinian woman offers sweets to worshippers to celebrate the end of fighting between Israel and Hamas, during Friday pra



A Palestinian woman offers sweets to worshippers to celebrate the end of fighting between Israel and Hamas, during Friday prayers in Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam, on May 21, 2021. 

Netanyahu faced heavy criticism from members of his hawkish, nationalist base. Gideon Saar, a former ally who now leads a small party opposed to the prime minister, called the cease-fire “embarrassing.” Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Jewish Power party, tweeted that the cease-fire was “a grave surrender to terrorism and the dictates of Hamas.”

In a potentially damaging development for the Israeli leader, the Palestinian militants claimed Netanyahu had agreed to halt further Israeli actions at the Al Aqsa Mosque and to call off the planned evictions of Palestinians in the nearby Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

An Egyptian official said only that tensions in Jerusalem “will be addressed.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes negotiations and provided no details.

Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group both appear to have suffered significant losses. The two groups said at least 20 of their fighters were killed, while Israel said the number was at least 160 and probably higher.

Some 58,000 Palestinians sought shelter in crowded United Nations schools at a time of a coronavirus outbreak. Thousands returned to their homes as the truce took hold.

Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated, and airstrikes have damaged schools and health centers.

Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority in 2007. Since then, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has governed autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and has limited influence in Gaza.

Krauss reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.





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Israel Ignores U.S. Pressure To Wind Down Offensive, Launches New Strikes On Gaza


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip early Thursday, killing at least one Palestinian and wounding several others. The latest strikes came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against U.S. pressure to wind down the offensive against Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, who have fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

Explosions shook Gaza City and orange flares lit up the night sky, with airstrikes also reported in the central town of Deir al-Balah and the southern town of Khan Younis. As the sun rose, residents surveyed the rubble from at least five family homes destroyed in Khan Younis. There were also heavy airstrikes on al-Saftawi Street, a commercial thoroughfare in Gaza City.

At least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1,620 people wounded. Some 58,000 Palest



At least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1,620 people wounded. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

The Israeli military said it struck at least four homes of Hamas commanders, targeting “military infrastructure,” as well as a weapons storage unit at the home of a Hamas fighter in Gaza City.

An Israeli airstrike smashed into the Khawaldi family’s two-story house in Khan Younis, destroying it. The 11 residents, who were sleeping in a separate area out of fear, were all wounded and hospitalized, said Shaker al-Khozondar, a neighbor.

Shrapnel hit his family home next door, killing Hoda al-Khozondar, his aunt, and wounding her daughter and two cousins, he said. Weam Fares, a spokesman for a nearby hospital, confirmed her death and said at least 10 people were wounded in strikes overnight.

Netanyahu has pushed back against calls from the Biden administration to wrap up the operation that has left hundreds dead. It marks the first public rift between the two close allies since the fighting began last week and could complicate international efforts to reach a cease-fire. His pushback also poses a difficult early test of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

After visiting military headquarters, Netanyahu said Wednesday he appreciated “the support of the American president,” but that Israel would push ahead to return “calm and security” to its citizens. He said he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met.”

U.S. President Joe Biden had earlier told Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” the White House said.

Biden had previously avoided pressing Israel more directly and publicly for a cease-fire with Gaza’s Hamas militant rulers. But pressure has been building for Biden to intervene more forcefully as other diplomatic efforts gather strength.

Egyptian negotiators have also been working to halt the fighting, and an Egyptian diplomat said top officials were waiting for Israel’s response to a cease-fire offer. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a top Hamas official, told the Lebanese Mayadeen TV that he expected a cease-fire in a day or two.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was expected in the region Thursday for talks with Israelis and Palestinians. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the foreign ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic would join him after being invited “to express their solidarity and support” for Israel.

The current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas began May 10, when the militant group fired long-range rockets toward Jerusalem after days of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Heavy-handed police tactics at the compound and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers had inflamed tensions.

Since then, Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, including a vast tunnel network it refers to as the “Metro.” Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired over 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted or landing in open areas.

At least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1,620 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed.

Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas seized power in 2007.

Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organization said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.

The fighting, the worst since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, has ignited protests around the world.

Krauss reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.





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At Least 24 Palestinians Killed As Israel Launches Airstrikes On Gaza


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza early Tuesday, hitting the high-rise home of a Hamas field commander and two border tunnels dug by militants, as Hamas and other armed groups fired dozens of rockets toward Israel. It was an escalation sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.

Since sundown Monday when the cross-border fighting erupted, 24 Palestinians — including nine children — were killed in Gaza, most by airstrikes, Gaza health officials said. The Israeli military said 15 of the dead were militants. During the same period, Gaza militants fired more than 200 rockets toward Israel, injuring six Israeli civilians in a direct hit on an apartment building.

This was preceded by hours of clashes Monday between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, mainly in Jerusalem but also across the West Bank. More than 700 Palestinians were hurt, including nearly 500 who were treated at hospitals.

In a sign of widening unrest, hundreds of residents of Arab communities across Israel staged overnight demonstrations against the situation in Jerusalem, one of the largest protests by Palestinian citizens in Israel in recent years.

The current violence, like previous rounds, was fueled by conflicting claims over Jerusalem, home to major holy sites of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The rival national and religious narratives of Israelis and Palestinians are rooted in the city, making it the emotional core of their long conflict.

In the past, cross-border fighting between Israel and Hamas, the group that rules Gaza, would typically end after a few days, often helped by behind-the-scenes mediation by Qatar, Egypt and others. It was not clear if that trajectory would be repeated this time.

Palestinians evacuate a building targeted by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on May 11, 2021. 



Palestinians evacuate a building targeted by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on May 11, 2021. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Monday that fighting could “continue for some time.” Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that the military was in “the early stages” of strikes against Gaza targets it had planned well in advance.

The escalation comes at a time of political limbo in Israel.

Netanyahu has been acting as a caretaker prime minister since an inconclusive parliament election in March. He tried and failed to form a coalition government with his hardline and ultra-Orthodox allies, and the task was handed to his sworn political rivals last week. One of those rivals is Israel’s defense minister who is overseeing the Gaza campaign. It is not clear if and to what extent the toxic political atmosphere is spilling over into military decision-making, though the rival camps have unanimously expressed support for striking Hamas hard.

Israeli media have reported that the new round of violence is slowing efforts by Netanyahu’s rivals to form a ruling coalition consisting of parties with a broad range of ideologies, but a shared goal of toppling Netanyahu. The support of an Arab-backed party with Islamist roots is key for the anti-Netanyahu bloc’s efforts. The party’s leader, Mansour Abbas, has essentially said he’ll work with the political camp offering the most improvements in Arab communities, but the current tensions over Jerusalem and Israel’s Gaza strikes might deter him from joining a coalition, at least for now.

The tensions in Jerusalem coincided with the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in mid-April. Critics say heavy-handed police measures helped stoke nightly unrest, including a decision to temporarily seal off a popular night-time gathering spot where Palestinian residents would meet after evening prayers. Another flashpoint was the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah where dozens of Palestinians are under treat of eviction by Jewish settlers.

Over the weekend, confrontations erupted at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in east Jerusalem, which was captured and annexed by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The compound, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism.

For four successive days, Israel police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at Palestinians in the compound who hurled stones and chairs. Hundreds of Palestinians were hurt, requiring treatment at hospitals. Two dozen officers were also injured. At times, police fired stun grenades into the carpeted mosque.

On Monday evening, Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem, after giving Israel a deadline to withdraw Israeli security forces from the compound. From there on, the escalation was rapid.

Conricus, the army spokesman, said Gaza militants fired more than 200 rockets at Israel, with about one-third falling short and landing in Gaza.

Smoke rises from an apartment in Gaza City after Israeli warplanes conducted airstrikes in various parts of Gaza Strip on May



Smoke rises from an apartment in Gaza City after Israeli warplanes conducted airstrikes in various parts of Gaza Strip on May 11, 2021. 

The army said that a rocket landed a direct hit on a seven-story apartment block in the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon. Photos and videos from the scene showed a large blast hole on the side of the building. Israeli paramedic service Magen David Adom said it treated six people injured in the rocket strike. Two were hospitalized in moderate condition.

Conricus said the military hit 130 targets in Gaza, including the high-rise home of a Hamas field commander and two tunnels militants were digging under the border with Israel. In all, Israel killed 15 militants, Conricus said, including some tunnel diggers. He said Israel’s new system of concrete barriers and electronic sensors, intended to thwart tunnel digging, has been operational for the past six months and has proven itself.

He did not address Gaza Health Ministry reports that nine children were among 24 Palestinians killed overnight.

In Gaza, most of the deaths were attributed to airstrikes. However, seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket.

More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.

In one sign of escalation, an Israeli missile hit the upper floors of an apartment building in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City early Tuesday, killing two men and a woman inside, according to health officials.

Israel had struck scores of Gaza homes in its 2014 war with Hamas, arguing it was aiming at militants, but also killing many civilians. The practice drew broad international condemnation at the time.

Israel’s tactics in Jerusalem have drawn angry reactions from the Arab and Muslim world.

Regional power house Saudi Arabia said in a new statement that it condemns in the strongest terms what it said were attacks by Israeli forces against the sanctity of Al-Aqsa and the safety of its worshippers. The Saudi foreign ministry called Tuesday on the international community to hold Israeli forces responsible for any escalation.

Separately, the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation is holding an emergency meeting of its permanent representatives in Jiddah to discuss the tensions in Jerusalem.

Laub reported from the West Bank. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed from Jerusalem.



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Beefed-up Israel Police Confront Palestinians In Jerusalem On Ramadan Holy Night



Akram

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli police on Saturday clashed with Palestinian protesters outside Jerusalem’s Old City during the holiest night of Ramadan, in a show of force that threatened to deepen the holy city’s worst religious unrest in several years. Earlier, police blocked busloads of pilgrims headed to Jerusalem to worship.

Police defended their actions as security moves, but these were seen as provocations by Muslims who accuse Israel of threatening their freedom of worship. Competing claims in east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have triggered major rounds of violence in the past.

The unrest came a day after violence in which Palestinian medics said more than 200 Palestinians were wounded in clashes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and elsewhere in Jerusalem. Friday’s violence drew condemnations from Israel’s Arab allies and calls for calm from the United States and Europe and the United Nations, and prompted the Arab League to schedule an emergency meeting on Monday.

Police chief Koby Shabtai said he was deploying more police in Jerusalem following Friday night’s clashes, which left 18 police officers wounded. After weeks of nightly violence, Israelis and Palestinians were bracing for more conflict in the coming days.

Saturday night was “Laylat al-Qadr” or the “Night of Destiny,” the most sacred in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Islamic authorities estimated 90,000 people were gathered for intense nighttime prayers at Al-Aqsa, the third-holiest site in Islam.

“The right to demonstrate will be respected but public disturbances will be met with force and zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act responsibly and with restraint,” Shabtai said.

Paramilitary border police marched along the streets of east Jerusalem in full riot gear, with some mounted on horses. In one instance, police clashed with protesters outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate after being pelted with water bottles. Police patrols fired stun grenades as they moved through the area, and a police truck periodically fired a water cannon.

One man with a small boy yelled at the police as they marched by. “You should be ashamed!” he said.

 Earlier, police reported clashes in the Old City, near Al-Aqsa, and in the nearby east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where dozens of Palestinians are fighting attempts by Israeli settlers to evict them from their homes. Police reported several arrests, and Palestinian medics said two protesters were hospitalized after being beaten by police. Police said one officer was struck in the face with a rock.

Earlier Saturday, police stopped a convoy of buses that were filled with Arab citizens on the main highway heading to Jerusalem for Ramadan prayers. Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said police stopped the buses for a security check.

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, and travelers, upset that they were stopped without explanation on a hot day, exited the buses and blocked the highway in protest. Kan showed footage of the protesters praying, chanting slogans and marching along the highway toward Jerusalem. The road was reopened several hours later.

Ibtasam Maraana, an Arab member of parliament, accused police of a “terrible attack” on freedom of religion. “Police: Remember that they are citizens, not enemies,” she wrote on Twitter.

Protests broke out at the beginning of Ramadan three weeks ago when Israel restricted gatherings at a popular meeting spot outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel removed the restrictions, briefly calming the situation, but protests have reignited in recent days over the threatened evictions in east Jerusalem, which is claimed by both sides in their decades-old conflict.

Other recent developments, including the cancellation of Palestinian elections, deadly violence in which a Palestinian teenager, two Palestinian gunmen and a young Israeli man were killed in separate incidents in the West Bank, and the election to Israel’s parliament of a far-right Jewish nationalist party, also have contributed to the tense atmosphere. One right-wing lawmaker, Itamar Ben-Gvir, briefly set up an outdoor “office” in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood last week, infuriating local residents.

On Sunday evening, Jewish Israelis begin marking “Jerusalem Day,” a national holiday in which Israel celebrates its annexation of east Jerusalem and religious nationalists hold parades and other celebrations in the city. On Monday, an Israeli court is expected to issue a verdict on the planned evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza — territories the Palestinians want for their future state — in the 1967 Mideast war.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally, and views the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians view east Jerusalem — which includes major holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims — as their capital, and its fate is one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict.

The Al-Aqsa mosque compound is the third holiest site in Islam. It is also the holiest site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount because it was the location of the biblical temples. It has long been a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In recent days, protests have grown over Israel’s threatened eviction in Sheikh Jarrah of dozens of Palestinians embroiled in a long legal battle with Israeli settlers trying to acquire property in the neighborhood.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned” about both the violence and the threatened evictions. The so-called Quartet of Mideast peace makers, which includes the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations, also expressed concern.

Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago, condemned Israel’s actions, as did the Gulf countries of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, two of the four Arab countries that signed U.S.-brokered normalization agreements with Israel last year. The UAE expressed “strong condemnation” of Israel’s storming of Al-Aqsa.

In a call to Palestine TV late Friday, President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bore full responsibility for the violence. Abbas last week postponed planned parliamentary elections, citing Israeli restrictions in east Jerusalem for the delay.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the Palestinians of seizing on the threatened evictions, which it described as a “real-estate dispute between private parties,” in order to incite violence.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel’s existence, has called for a new intifada, or uprising.

In an interview with a Hamas-run TV station, the group’s top leader Ismail Haniyeh warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to “play with fire” in Jerusalem.

“Neither you, nor your army and police, can win this battle,” he said.

Akram reported from Gaza City, Gaza Strip.





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Israeli Extremist Group Chants ‘Death To Arabs’ During Jerusalem Protests


JERUSALEM (AP) — The holy city of Jerusalem, a tinderbox of competing religious and political claims, has repeatedly triggered bouts of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

This time around, there have been some additional sparks, including Jewish extremists who, emboldened by their political patrons’ recent election to parliament, staged a provocative march to Jerusalem’s walled Old City chanting “death to the Arabs.”

Over the course of a few days, nightly Jerusalem street brawls between Israeli police and disaffected Palestinian residents of the city escalated to cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas. Gaza militants fired an intense barrage of rockets into southern Israel and Israel launched several airstrikes at Gaza.

Political posturing by Israeli and Palestinian leaders has added to the tense atmosphere.

Here is a closer look at what’s been driving the violence:

Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians claim all three areas for a future independent state, with east Jerusalem as their capital.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem, home to the city’s most sensitive Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, after the war and views the entire city as its unified capital.

The fate of Jerusalem and its holy sites is one of the most explosive issues in the conflict, and the city has seen many waves of violence over the years.

The immediate spark for the current round of unrest was Israel’s decision to barricade a plaza outside of Jerusalem’s Old City during the holy month of Ramadan.

That decision appeared to have been reversed late Sunday, when the barricades were suddenly removed, setting off joyous celebrations outside Damascus Gate.

Palestinians traditionally gather at the spot each evening after prayers and a daylong fast.

Angry that their popular gathering spot was taken away, hundreds of young Palestinian men have taken to the streets each evening. Crowds have hurled stones, firebombs and other objects at police, while officers have used stun grenades and water cannons to disperse them. Dozens of people have been hurt.

Israel’s apparent reversal late Sunday could help calm tensions. Crowds clapped and chanted “God is great” as people sat on the steps once again.

The crackdown in recent weeks had touched on Palestinian fears that Israel is trying to deepen its control over east Jerusalem.

“All we wanted to do is to be able to sit on the stairs of Damascus Gate at night to drink coffee or tea,” said Rami, a 24-year-old resident who asked that his last name be withheld because he feared arrest.

“It’s a tradition for Old City residents to go outside for refreshments. My father used to sit on the stairs of Damascus Gate before me,” he said before the spot was opened. “What police are trying to do is simply erase our identity.”

On Thursday night, a far-right Israeli group called Lehava staged a massive demonstration just a few hundred meters (yards) from the Palestinian crowds.

It said the march was a response to TikTok videos showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. But the group’s leader is a disciple of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who promoted the forced expulsion of Palestinians from the Holy Land. Although police kept the sides apart, Lehava protesters chanted “Death to Arabs” and “Arabs Get Out.”

Early Saturday, Gaza militants responded by firing 36 rockets into Israel, the most intense barrage in over a year. Israel retaliated with a series of airstrikes on Hamas targets.

JERUSALEM - APRIL 23: Israeli forces intervene Palestinian Muslims, who gathered in Damascus Gate after performing Tarawih pr



JERUSALEM – APRIL 23: Israeli forces intervene Palestinian Muslims, who gathered in Damascus Gate after performing Tarawih prayer in Al-Aqsa Compound, with water cannon vehicles and sound bombs to now allow for gathering at Old Town district in Eastern Jerusalem on April 23, 2021. 105 Palestinians injured during Israeli interventions. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

With the Palestinians scheduled to hold elections next month, both President Mahmoud Abbas and his Hamas rivals have tried to portray themselves as defenders of Jerusalem.

Abbas is threatening to postpone the election unless Israel allows Palestinians in east and Jerusalem to vote. It has not announced its position but appears unlikely to cave in. That could give Abbas, whose Fatah party is expected to do poorly, a pretext to cancel the vote. But it could also heighten tensions in Jerusalem.

While Hamas is not believed to be directly involved in the latest rocket fire, it has done little to stop it — and may be tacitly encouraging it — as a message of solidarity with Jerusalem Palestinians.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is desperately trying to hold on to power after Israeli elections last month ended in deadlock for a fourth consecutive time.

Netanyahu has courted the support of “Religious Zionism,” a far-right party with loose ties to Lehava. This outreach appears to have emboldened Lehava. With just over a week to form a new coalition, Netanyahu seems unlikely to rein in the group or its supporters.

“The question lurking in the background is to what extent has Netanyahu’s failure to form a coalition shaped the clashes and the government’s reaction,” commentator Nadav Eyal wrote in the Yediot Ahronot daily. “There are simply too many matches that might get lit.”

Israel’s decision to allow the Palestinians to remove the barriers late Sunday appeared to be aimed at easing tensions.

Earlier, both Israel and Hamas have signaled they want to cool things down.

Late Saturday, rocket fire out of Gaza resumed, but at a much lower rate, with only four projectiles launched. Israel decided not to retaliate, and the rocket fire subsided.

At the same time, Netanyahu appealed for quiet in Jerusalem. “Right now we demand that the law be followed; I call on all sides to display calm,” he said.

Jordan, which acts as the custodian over Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites, and Egypt issued a joint call on Sunday for Israel to “stop all attacks and provocative measures” in Jerusalem.

The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers discussed the tensions in a phone call and jointly condemned “violence and incitement carried out by extremist groups against the Palestinians,” the Jordanian foreign ministry said.

While it was impossible to predict whether the clashes will end, the initial reaction to the removal of the barriers outside the Old City appeared to be a positive sign.

But late Sunday, minor scuffles broke out in Jerusalem, while the Israeli military reported two rocket launches out of Gaza, signaling the latest round of troubles was not over.



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Giant Ship Ever Given Partially Refloated, But Still Stuck In Suez Canal



Asia

SUEZ, Egypt (AP) — Engineers on Monday “partially refloated” the colossal container ship that continues to block traffic through the Suez Canal, a canal services firm said, without providing further details about when the vessel would be fully set free.

Satellite data from MarineTraffic.com showed that the ship’s bulbous bow, once firmly lodged in the canal’s eastern bank, had been wrested from the shore.

Nearly a week ago, the skyscraper-sized Ever Given got stuck sideways in the crucial waterway, creating a massive traffic jam. The obstruction has held up $9 billion each day in global trade and strained supply chains already burdened by the coronavirus pandemic. At least 367 vessels, carrying everything from crude oil to cattle, were still waiting to pass through the canal, while dozens more were taking the alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip, adding some two weeks to journeys and threatening delivery delays.

The partial freeing of the vessel came after intensive efforts to push and pull the vessel with 10 tugboats when the full moon brought spring tide, Leth Agencies said, raising the canal’s water level and hopes for a breakthrough. Videos shared widely on social media appeared to show tugboats in the canal sounding their horns in celebration of the Ever Given being wrenched from the shore, the most significant sign of progress yet.

Lt. Gen. Osama Rabei, the head of the Suez Canal Authority, confirmed that the vessel had been partially refloated after responding successfully to “pull-and-push maneuvers.” He said that workers had almost completely straightened the vessel’s course and that the stern had moved 102 meters (334 feet) from the canal bank.

When high tide returns at 11:30 a.m. local time on Monday, salvage crews will resume their attempts to pull the ship into the middle of the waterway and toward the Great Bitter Lake, a wide stretch of water halfway between the north and south end of the canal, where it will undergo technical examination, he said.

Overnight, several dredgers had toiled to vacuum up 27,000 cubic meters of sand and mud around the ship. Another powerful tugboat, Carlo Magno, was racing to the scene to join the efforts.

Although the vessel is vulnerable to damage in its current position, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., the company that owns the Ever Given, dismissed concerns on Monday, saying that the ship’s engine was functional and it could pursue its trip normally when freed. It wasn’t clear whether the Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship, hauling goods from Asia to Europe, would head to its original destination of Rotterdam or if it will need to enter another port for repairs.

Ship operators did not offer a timeline for the reopening of the crucial canal, which carries over 10% of global trade, including 7% of the world’s oil. Over 19,000 ships passed through last year, according to canal authorities. Millions of barrels of oil and liquified natural gas flow through the artery from the Persian Gulf to Europe and North America. Goods made in China — furniture, clothes, supermarket basics — bound for Europe also must go through the canal, or else take a circuitous 5,000 kilometer (3,1000 mile) detour around the southern tip of Africa.

The unprecedented shutdown has threatened to disrupt oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East and raised fears of extended delays, good shortages and rising costs for consumers.

Canal authorities have desperately tried to free the vessel by relying on tugs and dredgers alone, even as analysts warned that 400-meter-long ship, weighing 220,000 tons, may be too heavy for such an operation. As a window for a breakthrough narrows with high tide receding this week, fears have grown that authorities would be forced to lighten the vessel by removing the ship’s 20,000 containers — a complex operation, requiring specialized equipment not found in Egypt, that could take days or weeks.

DeBre reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.



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More Than 200 Vessels Stuck In Maritime Traffic Jam At Blocked Suez Canal


SUEZ, Egypt (AP) — A maritime traffic jam grew to more than 200 vessels Friday outside the Suez Canal and some vessels began changing course as dredgers worked frantically to free a giant container ship that is stuck sideways in the waterway and disrupting global shipping.

One salvage expert said freeing the cargo ship, the Ever Given, could take up to a week in the best-case scenario and warned of possible structural problems on the vessel as it remains wedged.

The Suez Canal Authority said it welcomed international offers to help free the vessel, including one from the United States, although it did not say what kind of assistance was offered.

The EverGiven, owned by the Japanese firm Shoei Kisen KK, got wedged Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal, about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez. The vessel remained grounded Friday morning, said Leth Agencies, which services the canal.

Tugboats and a specialized suction dredger were trying to dislodge it, as Egyptian authorities prohibited media access to the site.

In addition to the over 200 vessels waiting near the canal, more than 100 ships were en route to the waterway, according to the data firm Refinitiv.

Apparently anticipating long delays, the owners of the stuck vessel diverted a sister ship, the Ever Greet, to head around Africa instead, according to satellite data. 

This satellite image shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, on March 25, 2021.



This satellite image shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, on March 25, 2021.

Others also are being diverted to avoid the canal. The liquid natural gas carrier Pan Americas changed course in the mid-Atlantic, now aiming south to go around the southern tip of Africa, according to satellite data from MarineTraffic.com.

About 10% of world trade flows through the canal, which is particularly crucial for the transport of oil. The closure also could affect oil and gas shipments to Europe from the Middle East.

Capt. Nicolas Sloane, a maritime salvage expert who led the high-profile effort to salvage the cruis ship Costa Concordia in 2012, said extracting the Ever Given is “quite a challenge” and could take five days to a week.

The Ever Given’s location, size and large amount of cargo make the operation more complex, Sloane said. The operation should focus initially on dredging the bank and sea floor around it to get it floating again, rather than unloading its cargo, which could take weeks.

That’s because the clock is also ticking structurally for the vessel, he added.

“The longer it takes, the worse the condition of the ship will become, because she’s slowly sagging,” said Sloane, vice president of the International Salvage Union. “So ships are designed to flex, but not to be kept at that position with a full load of cargo for weeks at a time. So it’s not an easy situation.”

The Ever Given container ship is lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal, on March



The Ever Given container ship is lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt’s Suez Canal, on March 26, 2021.

International companies are preparing for the effect that the canal’s blockage will have on supply chains that rely on precise deliveries of goods. Singapore’s Minister of Transport Ong Ye Kung said the country’s port should expect disruptions.

“Should that happen, some draw down on inventories will become necessary,” he said on Facebook.

The backlog of vessels could stress European ports and the international supply of containers, already strained by the coronavirus pandemic, according to IHS Markit, a business research group. It said 49 container ships were scheduled to pass through the canal in the week since the Ever Given became lodged.

The delay could also result in huge insurance claims by companies, according to Marcus Baker, Global Head of Marine & Cargo at the insurance broker Marsh, with a ship like the Ever Given usually covered at between $100 million to $200 million.

GAC



Those trying to dislodge the vessel want to avoid complications that could extend the canal closure, according to an Egyptian official at the canal authority. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

Satellite and photos distributed by the canal authority show Ever Given’s bow touching the eastern wall, while its stern appeared lodged against the western wall.

A team from Boskalis, a Dutch firm specializing in salvaging, is working with the canal authority. with efforts focusing on dredging to remove sand and mud from around the port side of the bow.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the Ever Given to get wedged, although the canal authority blamed bad weather. GAC, a global shipping and logistics company, said the ship had experienced a power blackout, but it did not elaborate.

Evergreen Marine Corp., a major Taiwan-based shipping company that operates the ship, said the Ever Given had been overcome by strong winds as it entered the canal from the Red Sea, but that none of its containers had sunk.

Pilots from the canal authority get aboard ships sailing through the waterway to guide them through it, but the ship’s captain retains ultimate authority over the vessel, according to shipping experts.

The Ever Given was involved in an accident in northern Germany in 2019, when it ran into a small ferry moored on the Elbe River in Hamburg. No passengers were on the ferry at the time and there were no injuries, but it was seriously damaged.

Hamburg prosecutors opened an investigation of the Ever Given’s captain and pilot on suspicion of endangering shipping traffic, but shelved it in 2020 for lack of evidence, spokeswoman Liddy Oechtering told The Associated Press.

Oechtering also could not say what the investigation had determined the cause of the crash was, but officials at the time suggested that strong winds may have blown the slow moving cargo ship into the ferry.

Associated Press writers David Rising in Berlin and Pan Pylas in London contributed.



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2 Trains Collide In Southern Egypt, Killing At Least 32 And Injuring Dozens


CAIRO (AP) — Two trains collided on Friday in southern Egypt, causing three passenger cars to flip over, killing 32 people and leaving 66 injured, health authorities said.

Dozens of ambulances rushed to the scene in the southern province of Sohag, according to a statement by Egypt’s heath ministry.

Local media displayed videos from the scene showing flipped wagons with passengers trapped inside and surrounded by rubble. Some victims seemed unconscious, while others could be seen bleeding. Bystanders carried bodies and laid them out on the ground near the site.

Egypt’s railway system has a history of badly maintained equipment and poor management. Official figures show that 1,793 train accidents took place in 2017 across the country. 

26 March 2021, Egypt, Tahta: People gather to inspect damaged train cars after two passenger trains collided near Tahta in So



26 March 2021, Egypt, Tahta: People gather to inspect damaged train cars after two passenger trains collided near Tahta in Sohag Governorate. Egyptian media said the the collision caused some carriages to derail, killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens others. (best quality available) Photo: Mahmoud Maqboul/dpa (Photo by Mahmoud Maqboul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

In 2018, a passenger train derailed near the southern city of Aswan, injuring at least six people and prompting authorities to fire the chief of the country’s railways.

In the same year, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said the government lacks about 250 billion Egyptian pounds, or $14.1 billion, to overhaul the run-down rail system. El-Sissi spoke a day after a passenger train collided with a cargo train, killing at least 12 people, including a child.

A year earlier, two passenger trains collided just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.

Egypt’s deadliest train crash took place in 2002, when over 300 people were killed when fire erupted in speeding train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.



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Do you have to keep getting botox?



My name is Leah Brunie. A couple of questions we’re getting about Botox. Do you have to keep getting Botox over and over and over? Well, Botox frequently depends on your age, wrinkles and how long the treatment normally lasts for you. Not everyone is the same following a typical Botox treatment. You will need to keep getting Botox as your wrinkles reappear and with appropriate frequency and amount, the muscles become less strong and you may not need as much Botox or need it as frequently. When your muscles are trained not to move, it helps with that aging process and prevents wrinkles with what we call pre-rejuvenation.

We like to treat younger patients with the goal of not needing as much Botox as they age. If you continue to use Botox faithfully, those lines and fine wrinkles will stay soft and they’ll never form at all. If you stop getting Botox and your lines reappear, once you start your Botox again, you’ll be smooth again.

Leah Brunie, joined Advanced Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center’s exceptional StudioA Team this month and we are thrilled to have her as part of our non-surgical Injection team.

Leah Brunie is a Nurse Practitioner and is super excited to be joining the StudioA Team at the Advanced Cosmetic Surgery & Laser Center. I have been a Nurse for almost 20 years. I’ve been a Nurse Practitioner for 13 years, and I have been injecting for the last six years. My journey as an injector in aesthetics started actually in Cairo, Egypt, when I worked with a plastic surgeon.

So this has been a continuation of a dream of mine to help women and men feel their absolute best inside and outside.

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