US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the State Department in Washington, US, June 18, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 19 June 2024
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US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken

US still reviewing one bomb shipment for Israel: Blinken
  • The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza

WASHINGTON: The United States bristled Tuesday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested ally Washington was withholding critical weapons to his country as it wages war against Hamas in Gaza.
“Let me just start off by saying that we genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
With the exception of “one particular shipment of munitions” that US officials were looking at closely, Jean-Pierre said “there are no other pauses. None.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said earlier Tuesday that Washington is “continuing to review one shipment... with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah,” a city in southern Gaza.
But the top American diplomat said other weapons were moving as usual and that Washington was “making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself.”
The pointed reaction from the White House came hours after Netanyahu said Blinken had assured him the US government was working “day and night” to address the delay in the arrival of the weapons.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza crisis, he also said he told Blinken “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, of whom Israel believes 116 remain in Gaza, including 41 who the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections

Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections
Updated 7 sec ago
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Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections

Philippines says has ‘arrangement’ with Beijing on South China Sea, but no ship inspections
  • China has long been irked by the Philippine missions to its small contingent of troops aboard the rusty ship Sierra Madre
  • Rival vessels have clashed in the past year and heated diplomatic rows have ensued with growing frequency
MANILA: The Philippines has reached an agreement with Beijing on its resupply missions to soldiers aboard a grounded naval vessel in the South China Sea, but will not submit to inspections from China, a top security official said on Wednesday.
The Philippines and China, which have sparred repeatedly at sea this past year, have reached a “provisional arrangement” on resupply missions to the ship at the Second Thomas Shoal, as both sides agreed to ease tensions and manage differences.
Philippine national security adviser Eduardo Ano said, however, the arrangement does not include agreeing to Chinese vessels conducting “on-site” inspections.
China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China has long been irked by the Philippine missions to its small contingent of troops aboard the rusty ship Sierra Madre, which was intentionally run aground in 1999 to try to reinforce Manila’s territorial claim to the remote shoal.
“There’s no such kind of on-site inspection. What the two sides agreed are really a common understanding,” Ano told a forum.
Details of the arrangement would be kept confidential unless both parties consent to make them public, Ano added.
“Both sides agreed the tension will be reduced ... to prevent skirmishes, anything that may lead to injury, harm to soldiers or to anyone,” Ano said.
“We did not agree on anything that will undermine our position,” he added.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including territory in the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. In 2016, a Hague-based tribunal said China’s sweeping claims had no basis under international law, a decision Beijing has rejected.
With the backing of defense treaty ally the United States, the Philippines has been bolder in its asserting itself in the South China Sea, engaging in joint patrols and training exercises and deploying vessels to areas of its EEZ where China has long maintained a heavy coast guard presence.
Rival vessels have clashed in the past year and heated diplomatic rows have ensued with growing frequency, prompting regional concern that an incident could escalate and trigger conflict in the important trade route.
The Philippines and United States have accused China of unlawful aggression, while Beijing has been outraged over what it sees as deliberate provocations, territorial encroachments and US interference.

Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor

Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor
Updated 58 min 1 sec ago
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Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor

Plane crashes in Nepal with 18 dead, pilot sole survivor
  • Nepal has a woeful track record on aviation safety and has seen deadly light plane and helicopter crashes
  • The country has some of the trickiest runways to land on, posing challenges even to accomplished pilots

KATMANDU: A passenger plane crashed on takeoff in Katmandu on Wednesday, with the pilot rescued from the flaming wreckage but all 18 others aboard killed, police in the Nepali capital told AFP.
Nepal has a woeful track record on aviation safety and the Himalayan republic has seen a spate of deadly light plane and helicopter crashes over the decades.
The Saurya Airlines flight was carrying two crew and 17 of the company’s staff members, Nepali police spokesman Dan Bahadur Karki told AFP.
“The pilot has been rescued and is being treated,” he added. “Eighteen bodies have been recovered, including one foreigner. We are in the process of taking them for post-mortem.”
The flight was being conducted for either technical or maintenance purposes, Gyanendra Bhul of Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority told AFP without giving further details.
Bahadur and Bhul were unable to confirm the nationality of the sole foreigner aboard.
Images of the aftermath shared by Nepal’s military showed the plane’s fuselage split apart and burnt to a husk.
Around a dozen soldiers in camouflage were standing on top of the wreckage with the surrounding earth coated in fire retardant.
The plane crashed at around 11:15 am (0530 GMT), the military said in a statement, adding that the army’s quick response team had been lending assistance with rescue efforts.
News portal Khabarhub reported that the airplane had caught fire after skidding on the runway.
The plane was scheduled to fly on Nepal’s busiest air route between Katmandu and Pokhara, an important tourism hub in the Himalayan republic.
Saurya Airlines exclusively flies Bombardier CRJ 200 jets, according to its website.
Nepal’s air industry has boomed in recent years, carrying goods and people between hard-to-reach areas as well as foreign trekkers and climbers.
But it has been plagued by poor safety due to insufficient training and maintenance — issues compounded by the mountainous republic’s treacherous geography.
The European Union has banned all Nepali carriers from its airspace over safety concerns.
The Himalayan country has some of the world’s trickiest runways to land on, flanked by snow-capped peaks with approaches that pose a challenge even for accomplished pilots.
The weather can also change quickly in the mountains, creating treacherous flying conditions.
Nepal’s last major commercial flight accident was in January 2023, when a Yeti Airlines service crashed while landing at Pokhara, killing all 72 aboard.
That accident was Nepal’s deadliest since 1992, when all 167 people aboard a Pakistan International Airlines plane died when it crashed on approach to Katmandu airport.
Earlier that year a Thai Airways aircraft had crashed near the same airport, killing 113 people.


At least 18 dead in Nepal plane crash, officials say

At least 18 dead in Nepal plane crash, officials say
Updated 24 July 2024
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At least 18 dead in Nepal plane crash, officials say

At least 18 dead in Nepal plane crash, officials say
  • The plane was carrying two crew members and 17 technicians to Pokhara city to repair another aircraft
  • Only the captain was rescued alive and is receiving treatment at a hospital

KATMANDU: At least 18 people were killed when a small plane crashed and caught fire while it was taking off from Nepal’s capital Katmandu on Wednesday, officials said.
The plane was carrying two crew members and 17 technicians to Pokhara city to repair another aircraft, officials said.
“Only the captain was rescued alive and is receiving treatment at a hospital,” said Tej Bahadur Poudyal, the spokesman for Katmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.
Television visuals showed fire fighters trying to put out the blaze and thick black smoke rising into the sky. They also showed the plane flying a little above the runway and then tilting before it crashed.
Other visuals showed rescue workers rummaging through the charred remains of the plane, strewn in lush green fields.
Bodies were carried to ambulances on stretchers as local residents looked on, the television showed.
The plane was a Bombardier, officials said, and media reported it belonged to local Saurya Airlines. The airport had been temporarily closed, the officials added.
Saurya operates domestic flights in Nepal with two Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jets, both around 20 years old, according to Flight Radar 24.
Nepal has been criticized for a poor air safety record, and nearly 350 people have died in plane or helicopter crashes in the Himalayan country since 2000.
The deadliest incident occurred in 1992, when a Pakistan International Airlines Airbus crashed into a hillside while approaching Katmandu, killing 167 people.
Most recently, at least 72 people were killed in a Yeti airlines crash in January 2023 that was later attributed to the pilots mistakenly cutting off power.


Australia confident Trump will back AUKUS sub deal after talks with his camp

Australia confident Trump will back AUKUS sub deal after talks with his camp
Updated 24 July 2024
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Australia confident Trump will back AUKUS sub deal after talks with his camp

Australia confident Trump will back AUKUS sub deal after talks with his camp
  • Possibility of a Trump victory in the November presidential election has US allies around the world scrambling to divine and prepare for his diplomatic agenda

SYDNEY: Australia Defense MInister Richard Marles said on Wednesday Canberra is confident a re-elected Donald Trump will back the AUKUS security alliance and associated nuclear submarine sales after talks with his camp.
The possibility of a Trump victory in the November presidential election has US allies around the world scrambling to divine and prepare for his diplomatic agenda, including his take on the A$368 billion ($243 billion) AUKUS deal to help Australia acquire nuclear powered submarines and deter China in the Pacific.
The deal includes the sale of three to five US nuclear-powered Virginia Class submarines in the 2030s, a time when the US fleet will shrink to a historic low. Some fear Trump’s America First stance could hew to voices in Congress who want the submarines reserved for the US navy instead.
But conversations with the Trump camp had given Australia confidence he would honor the deal should he win the presidency again, Marles said in an interview on Sky News.
“Every engagement we’ve had with the Trump camp in the normal process of speaking with people on both sides of politics in America, there is support for what is playing out in relation to AUKUS,” he said.
“We do have a sense of confidence, irrespective of what occurs in November of this year, we can firstly look forward to the alliance being as strong as ever and secondly that the equities that we have in that alliance, AUKUS front and center, will be maintained“
Marles also pointed to the passage of AUKUS legislation last December, which he said was supported by Republicans, including those associated with Trump.


Typhoon Gaemi strengthens as it nears Taiwan, work halted, flights canceled

Typhoon Gaemi strengthens as it nears Taiwan, work halted, flights canceled
Updated 24 July 2024
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Typhoon Gaemi strengthens as it nears Taiwan, work halted, flights canceled

Typhoon Gaemi strengthens as it nears Taiwan, work halted, flights canceled
  • Gaemi, expected to be the strongest storm to hit Taiwan in eight years, is set to make landfall on the northeast coast on Wednesday evening
  • After crossing the Taiwan Strait, it is likely to hit the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian late on Thursday afternoon

YILAN, Taiwan: Taiwan hunkered down on Wednesday for the arrival of a strengthening Typhoon Gaemi, with financial markets shut, people getting the day off work and flights canceled, while the military went on stand-by amid forecasts of torrential rain.
Gaemi, expected to be the strongest storm to hit Taiwan in eight years, is set to make landfall on the northeast coast on Wednesday evening, the weather authorities said.
They upgraded its status to a strong typhoon, packing gusts of up to 227kph near its center.
After crossing the Taiwan Strait, it is likely to hit the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian late on Thursday afternoon.
“The next 24 hours will present a very severe challenge,” Taiwan Premier Cho Jung-tai told a televised meeting of the emergency response center.
In rural Yilan county, where the typhoon will first hit land, wind and rain gathered strength, shutting eateries as most roads emptied out.
“This could be the biggest typhoon in recent years,” fishing boat captain Hung Chun told Reuters, adding that Yilan’s harbor of Suao was packed with boats seeking shelter.
“It’s charging directly toward the east coast and if it makes landfall here the damage would be enormous.”
Work and school were suspended across Taiwan, with streets almost deserted in the capital Taipei.
The government said more than 2,000 people had been evacuated from sparsely populated mountain areas at high risk of landslides from the “extremely torrential rain.”
Almost all domestic flights had been canceled, along with 201 international flights, the transport ministry said.
All rail operations will stop from midday, with an abbreviated schedule for high-speed links between north and south Taiwan that will continue to operate, it added.
However, TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker and a major supplier to Apple, said it expected its factories to maintain normal production during the typhoon, after it activated routine preparations.
SOLDIERS STANDING BY
The typhoon is expected to bring rain of up to 1,800mm to some mountainous counties in central and southern Taiwan, weather officials said.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had put 29,000 soldiers on stand-by for disaster relief efforts.
The typhoon has severely curtailed this year’s annual Han Kuang war games, but they have not been canceled, with scheduled live fire drills held on the Penghu islands in the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday.
Gaemi is expected to bring heavy to very intense rains over vast swathes of China from Thursday, the water resources ministry warned.
These are areas between the Pearl River basin in the south and the Songhua and Liao River basins on the northeastern border with Russia and North Korea, it said on Wednesday.
The rains are expected to last until July 31, fueled by the typhoon’s abundant moisture, it added.
Gaemi and a southwest monsoon brought heavy rain on Wednesday to the Philippine capital region and northern provinces, bringing work and schools to a halt, with stock and foreign exchange trading suspended. The storm killed 12 people.
While typhoons can be very destructive, Taiwan relies on them to replenish reservoirs after traditionally drier winters, especially in its south.