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Israeli strikes destroy Gaza tower housing Al-Jazeera and other media

Israeli strikes destroy Gaza tower housing Al-Jazeera and other media
Israeli strikes destroy Gaza tower housing Al-Jazeera and other media

An Israeli airstrike has destroyed a building in Gaza that houses international media offices including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press.

The Israeli army told the owner of the Al-Jalaa tower about the strike an hour before the bombing. AP staff and others in the building evacuated immediately.

It is currently unclear whether there were casualties in the attack. Video footage shows the 12-storey building collapse, with smoke billowing from it and debris flying into the air.

Al Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar’s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

“This channel will not be silenced. Al Jazeera will not be silenced,” an on-air anchorwoman said. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

AP’s CEO Gary Pruitt said he was “shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza”.

The tower also contained several apartments and other offices.

An Israeli military spokesperson confirmed the army struck the media building in Gaza, saying it contained “Hamas military intelligence”.

“Hamas deliberately places military targets at the heart of densely populated civilian areas in the Gaza Strip,” the spokesperson added, also saying that the army gave people inside the building “ample time to evacuate”.

A spokesperson said that the BBC does not have offices in the tower, contrary to reports on social media.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza rose after an Israeli air raid killed at least 10 Palestinians in the deadliest single strike since violence erupted in the region earlier this week.

The strike on a three-storey house in a refugee camp in the city is understood to have killed eight children and two women from an extended family.

Official figures show that 139 Palestinians have been killed, including 39 children, and nine people killed on the other side in Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel said that since Monday the country has been under the “most intense rocket barrage ever” from Gaza, saying it was worse than the seven-week 2014 war in terms of quantity and speed.

The official, who spoke to foreign reporters on the condition of anonymity, said that since Monday Hamas and other militants in Gaza had fired over 2,300 rockets, which is five times the total amount of rockets fired at Israel during the whole of 2020.

He added that Israel has hit back with equally unprecedented intensity: during a 40-minute ground and air bombardment on Gaza on Friday early morning, he said, the military had dropped a staggering 500 tonnes of munitions on the blockaded strip.

The army said it was targeting an underground network of tunnels the call the “metro”.

“The escalation this time is much more or intense and fast than the 2014 war,” he told The Independent during a briefing with foreign reporters. “It’s the most intense barrage of airstrikes ever.”

The senior official also claimed that that Israeli military had “totally destroyed” all of Hamas’s missile manufacturing capabilities in Gaza, after the air force struck 31 different production compounds.

“We have to destroy their missile manufacturing infrastructure . What [rockets] they have now is what they already had,” he added. The Independent was unable to verify these claims.

The Biden administration’s envoy Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary for Israel and Palestinian affairs, arrived in Israel on Friday hoping to be able to bring both sides down from the brink.

Egyptian mediators, who were furiously shuttling between the two sides, have so far failed to broker a deal. 

The Israeli official said his country would have “zero tolerance” towards any missile fired at the country.

The military admitted that during Friday’s overnight offensive, which they said targeted operatives responsible for ground force interceptors, the army pretended to launch a ground invasion in Gaza to encourage militants to return to their tunnels which were then pounded.

There were reports that the army even deliberately misled foreign media with a tweet suggesting there were Israeli troops within the Strip.

“[The bombardment] was a huge blow morally to Hamas,” he said, without ruling out that the barrage might “soften the ground” for an actual ground invasion.

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‘Unabated crime wave as president’: Former prosecutor says Trump must be prosecuted

‘Unabated crime wave as president’: Former prosecutor says Trump must be prosecuted
‘Unabated crime wave as president’: Former prosecutor says Trump must be prosecuted

A former federal prosecutor called for former president Donald Trump to be criminally prosecuted because he was responsible for “an unabated crime wave as president”.

Speaking to MSNBC on Friday night, Glenn Kirschner urged the Department of Justice to act and warned that a future “runaway criminal president” may come to occupy the White House if Mr Trump is not held responsible.

Mr Kirschner tweeted on Saturday: “It’s time for our nation to hold a criminal former president accountable for his crimes against the United States.”

Mr Kirschner listed a number of Mr Trump’s offences, such as withholding military assistance to Ukraine in an effort to get them to investigate Joe Biden, leading to Mr Trump’s first impeachment, and his administration’s obstruction of congressional proceedings.

He also mentioned the Trump campaign’s financial violations, occurring before Mr Trump took office, for which his previous personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen went to prison.

“There are so many other offences,” Mr Kirschner said. “There are countless, avoidable Covid deaths that I think could be pursued by the states. Then, of course, there is inciting the insurrection. We saw it with our own eyes.”

“If he is not held accountable, if we don’t prosecute him, then what we are doing is we are encouraging tomorrow’s version of Donald Trump,” he added. “We have to prosecute today’s version of Donald Trump to send the message that we will not tolerate a runaway criminal president.”

Mr Trump “can face criminal charges for activities that took place before he was president, after he was president, and while he was president, as long as they were not part of his duties while he was president of the United States,” attorney David Weinstein told The Guardian earlier this week.

The former president hasn’t been charged with any crimes and has denied any wrongdoing many times. He’s called the investigations into him and the Trump Organization a “witch hunt”.

A spokesperson for the office of the Manhattan District Attorney told the paper: “We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA.”

Manhattan prosecutors has convened a grand jury that is “expected to decide whether to indict Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself, should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges,” The Washington Post reported in late May.

The district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, Fani Willis, said in February that there were plans to investigate Mr Trump’s call to the state’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

The then-president pushed Mr Raffensperger to “find” just enough votes to allow him to win the state in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Mr Raffensperger resisted.

But regardless of what the end result is of Mr Trump’s legal troubles, he’s unlikely to lose the support of his ardent followers.

Francisco Pedraza, a political scientist at the University of California, told The Guardian: “The majority of the evidence that we have on hand says that people who like Trump don’t care what he does, it just doesn’t matter if he breaks the law.”

“We know from a lot of social science research that people who back Trump also register very high on validated and reliable indexes of racial resentment, for example, he serves that and offers a kind of politics that responds to that flavour of politics,” Dr Pedraza added. “Anything else doesn’t matter as long as he continues to be a champion for racist [sentiments].”

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‘Nixon On Stilts And Steroids’: Watergate-era lawyer digs into bombshell new Trump scandal

‘Nixon On Stilts And Steroids’: Watergate-era lawyer digs into bombshell new Trump scandal
‘Nixon On Stilts And Steroids’: Watergate-era lawyer digs into bombshell new Trump scandal

Former White House counsel under president Richard Nixon, John Dean, said that the Trump Justice Department secretly obtaining smartphone data of House Intelligence Committee Democrats is “Nixon on stilts and steroids”.

Mr Dean, who turned on Mr Nixon over the Watergate scandal, told CNN that the actions of the Department of Justice under former president Donald Trump was much worse than what Mr Nixon ever did.

“Nixon didn’t have that kind of Department of Justice,” Mr Dean said. He then relayed how the Nixon administration responded to the leak of the Pentagon Papers. The classified documents revealed details of US political and military activity in Vietnam.

“I got a call from the Oval Office the day after he learned that, and could the Department of Justice bring a criminal action for this? Called over, found out the short answer was they could, but they won’t,” Mr Dean said. “So Nixon couldn’t use the department as he wanted to.”

CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked Mr Dean if the actions of the Trump DOJ was “beyond what Nixon did?”

“It is beyond Nixon, yes,” he said. “It’s Nixon on stilts and steroids.”

Mr Dean added that Mr Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr “was very willing to do his bidding. The memo he wrote to get the job says ‘I’m ready to execute your presidency like a unitary executive presidency should be,’ which means no bars hold. ‘Go anywhere you want to go. I think you’re the king.’ And he did that”.

“We now know there are countless examples of norms he was willing to break,” Mr Dean added. “At the end, however, he realized that this may be too far. He probably saw the handwriting on the wall before the rest of us that this man was never going to concede and he wasn’t ready to go there,” Mr Dean said about Mr Barr’s refusal to support Mr Trump’s baseless conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from him.

“I think Bill Barr has to testify,” Mr Dean said. “I’m surprised the Department of Justice hasn’t come out with a statement… I hope they’re getting their act together because this is going to be very troublesome.”

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Big weddings may be allowed despite expected delay to lockdown easing

Big weddings may be allowed despite expected delay to lockdown easing
Big weddings may be allowed despite expected delay to lockdown easing

Boris Johnson will consider proposals to allow larger weddings to go ahead in England, despite a likely delay to the June 21 easing of England’s lockdown.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Cornwall, the UK prime minister said the government would be cautious in its approach to ending lockdown restrictions, which senior Whitehall officials said would be delayed for four weeks.

“What I can certainly say is we are looking at the data, continuing to do that, but what you can certainly take is . . . the road map was always cautious but irreversible and in order to have an irreversible road map, we’ve got to be cautious,” he told the BBC.

Johnson will meet senior ministers on Sunday to sign off on an expected delay to the easing due to the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

But ministers may still sign off on plans to allow larger weddings to go ahead. Those with knowledge of the proposals say they will mirror those currently in place for funerals. 

Indoor celebrations will be allowed up to each venue’s Covid-secure capacity, which means social distancing and masks would be required. 

Outdoor celebrations would have an overall cap, which could be 100 attendees. One person familiar with the proposals said: “It’s a completely arbitrary number and I have no idea how it would be enforced.”

Chart showing that roughly 15 million adults remain unvaccinated in England, including around two million over-50s

One senior Whitehall official said it was unclear whether the plans would be signed off. “Boris hasn’t decided but he will do it if it won’t harm the Covid situation.”

The delay to the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England for a month comes after the prime minister’s chief medical adviser pressed him to postpone the move following a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The restrictions were meant to be removed on June 21, but Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, has advised Johnson that a four-week delay to the final stage of the government’s lockdown easing plan was needed, stressing that a shorter delay would be insufficient to control the spread of the virus. Johnson is due to make an announcement on Monday.

The expected delay would come as the NHS races to vaccinate more adults amid a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations across the UK due to the coronavirus variant named Delta. Almost 15m adults in England remain unvaccinated, including 2m people aged over 50, according to Financial Times analysis.

Nine in every 10 new Covid-19 cases are the Delta variant, according to a Public Health England report released on Friday.

PHE data also indicated Delta, first identified in India, is 64 per cent more transmissible than the previously dominant Alpha variant that originated in Kent.

Chart showing that cases are rising steeply in England, and hospital metrics are now also accelerating upwards. Deaths so far show no sign of a sustained rise

With two doses of a coronavirus vaccine showing good protection against infection from the Delta variant, the government is seeking to get more jabs into arms. Currently, 55.4 per cent of the adult population has had two doses.

Johnson was given data on Thursday that outlined the latest analysis of the Delta variant and its potential impact on the NHS. “It is now critical we double jab everyone as quickly as possible,” said one official.

One Cabinet Office insider said: “A delay [to lifting the final restrictions] is the only sensible course of action. It’s our working assumption. The latest modelling is dire and it would be suicide to go ahead with a full easing.”

The government’s medical advisers have modelled the impact of a four-week delay on vaccination levels, concluding that a smaller postponement would not make much difference.

But they believe four weeks would have a substantial impact by increasing the number of adults fully vaccinated with two doses, as well as giving more younger people at least some level of protection from a single jab.

Chart showing that England’s current surge in cases has a much younger age profile than its second wave last autumn, which should make it less lethal

The UK has recorded the highest weekly rate of Covid-19 cases since early March, with 45,895 new infections reported in the past seven days. This is a rise of 58 per cent on the previous week.

Office for National Statistics data showed the infection rate was highest in the north-west of England and among children of secondary school age.

Covid-19 hospitalisations have risen sharply since the Delta variant became dominant, with 884 beds occupied in England on Friday, up from a low of 730 on May 22. They have increased 9.8 per cent over the past week.

The link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has not been broken by the vaccines, but data suggest it has weakened significantly.

More than half of the 42 people who have died after being infected with the Delta variant were unvaccinated, according to PHE.

With older people much less likely to be infected now due to vaccination than in the infection wave last autumn, the fatality rate is likely to be 75 per cent lower amid the latest surge in cases, according to FT analysis.

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Time running out for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Sunday’s crucial vote

Time running out for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Sunday’s crucial vote
Time running out for Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Sunday’s crucial vote

As Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career hangs in the balance, those in his party have claimed they are doing all they can to prevent the coalition from forming a new government and bringing an end to his 12-year tenure as Israel’s prime minister.

Ahead of Sunday’s key vote of confidence at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in which 61 votes will be needed to usher in a new administration, the Likud Party lawmaker and close Mr Netanyahu ally Miki Zohar said: “We are going to do our best to prevent this coalition government from happening.”

“If we do end up in the opposition, we will soon see the difference between a right-wing government under Netanyahu and a left-wing one under Naftali Bennett as their prime minister,” he told The Independent.

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KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest remains found along with wife in Memphis

KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest remains found along with wife in Memphis
KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest remains found along with wife in Memphis

The remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate army general, and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, have been exhumed from the Health Sciences Park in Memphis, Tennessee and taken to a secret location in the western part of the state before being moved to a museum south of Nashville.

The work, carried by a group called “The Sons of Confederate Veterans” to remove the remains of the infamous slave trader began on 1 June.

While the remains were discovered on Monday, shortly after 9am, an announcement was not made until Friday in order to ensure that all artefacts had been found, Shelby County Election Commissioner Brent Taylor told reporters, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

A statue of the KKK leader was removed from the park in December 2017.

The statue and remains will be reassembled and interred at the National Confederate Museum in Columbia south of Nashville.

A “Victorian cradle” with the initials of Mr Forrest was found, leading them to the location of his remains. The graves of the general and his wife were finally found 10 feet below the park plaza. The grand wizard’s casket remained whole, but his wife’s had decayed and her remains were placed in a temporary casket.

Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner said that no discussions have yet been had on what will replace the statue.

“Let’s just let the park breathe, let’s relax a little bit and enjoy the park,” he said. “We’re going to leave it up to the Memphians and the Shelby Countians.”

The park was previously called Forrest Park and was bought by non-profit organisation Memphis Greenspace when the statue was removed in 2017.

Mr Forrest lived from 1821 to 1877. His statue was erected in 1904. His descendants were present when his remains were placed in the park in November 1904, and again generations later when the remains were removed more than 116 years later.

“We wanted this process to be respectful, to be something that healed divisions,” Mr Turner said.

“I think the Forrest family wanted the remains of their ancestor to rest in peace,” he added. “There was never going to be peace here.”

Tami Sawyer was one of the leaders behind the effort to remove the statue. She’s now one of 13 Shelby County Commissioners.

She was harassed by one of the workers exhuming the remains as she spoke to reporters. George Johnson, 46, was seen and heard singing “Dixie” and waving the Confederate flag. He called Ms Sawyer a “communist piece of s**t”.

“If you were a man, I would beat your a**,” he said, according to a police report.

He was arrested and charged with misdemeanour assault. He has since been released.

Mr Turner said the tension around the park “could have been a disaster” but that those involved were committed to working across the aisle.

“We would hope that the example showed here with the safe removal of the monuments and the safe removal of the remains will serve as an example of what we can do to move this city forward,” he added, calling it “a great day for Memphis,” according to WREG.

“We have not had the issues other cities have had,” Mr Taylor said. “We did this right.”

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Lobster diver survives being swallowed and spat out by humpback whale

Lobster diver survives being swallowed and spat out by humpback whale
Lobster diver survives being swallowed and spat out by humpback whale

An experienced lobster diver survived being caught in a humpback whale’s mouth near Provincetown, Massachusetts on Friday morning.

Michael Packard was searching for lobsters on the ocean floor on his second dive of the day, approximately 45 feet below the surface, when he said he felt a bump and then he was in total darkness.

“All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove, and the next thing I knew it was completely black,” Mr Packard told WBZ-TV, following his release from the Cape Cod Hospital.

At first the 45-year-old thought that he was in the mouth of a great white shark, which are common in the area. But when he realised that he hadn’t suffered any obvious wounds from sharp teeth, he determined that he was in the mouth of a whale.

“I realised – oh my God, I’m in a whale’s mouth and he’s trying to swallow me.”

“And I thought to myself OK, this is it, I’m gonna die”

Mr Packard said that his thoughts then went to his wife and sons, whom he feared he would never see again.

He estimates that he was in the whale’s mouth for 30 to 40 seconds. Mr Packard was able to continue to breathe, as he had his regulator in his mouth, but could feel the whale “squeezing with the muscles in his mouth” the whole time.

Mr Packard told CBSN Boston: “It was happening so fast, my only thought was how to get out of that mouth, and I realized, there was no overcoming of a beast of that size. He was going to do with me what he wanted to do.”

Luckily, fate was on Mr Packard’s side. He said he could tell that the whale didn’t like having him in its mouth.

“All of a sudden he went up to the surface. He just erupted and started shaking his head, and I just got thrown in the air and landed in the water and I was free.”

He added: “I just floated there. I couldn’t believe I got out of that.”

Josiah Mayo, a crewman from Mr Packard’s boat, saw the whale burst to the surface and spit out Mr Packard. Mr Mayo retrieved Mr Packard from the water before calling the shore by radio, and speedily returning to the Provincetown Pier.

An ambulance met Mr Packard at the pier and took him to Cape Cod Hospital; he was released Friday afternoon, having sustained some bruising and soft tissue damage to his legs whilst in the whale’s mouth.

Jooke Robbins, the director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Centre for Coastal Studies in Provincetown told The Cape Cod Times that what happened to Mr Packard was most likely an accident, caused by a somewhat clumsy, juvenile whale.

She said that as humpback whales feed, their mouths open and billow out in a parachute-like manner, obstructing their vision, which is likely what led to Mr Packard becoming trapped in the whale’s mouth. She added that humpback whales are not known to be aggressive, especially towards humans.

Incidents of humpback whales injuring swimmers and divers are exceedingly rare, if not nonexistent, Ms Robbins said. Adding: “It is not something I have heard happening before”.

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