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West Brom turn to Bilic to guide them into Premier League

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West Bromwich Albion have appointed former Croatia and West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic as their new head coach on a two-year deal, the Championship side said on Thursday.

Bilic, 50, returns to England after a five-month spell with Saudi Arabian side Al Ittihad, which followed his dismissal by Premier League side West Ham in November 2017.

The Croatian, who also played in England for West Ham and Everton, will look to guide West Brom back into the top flight.

West Brom missed out last season following a defeat in the playoff semi-finals by West Midlands rivals Aston Villa.

“We want to improve on the pitch and Albion have convinced me they want to return to the Premier League.

Albion have a short-term project and a long project and they do not clash,” Bilic told the club’s website.

“They wanted me to lead them, to help improve them. They made it clear they wanted me to be the one to lead them in this and I didn’t think twice once they had spoken to me.”

Bilic succeeds Darren Moore, who was sacked in March, with Albion sitting fourth in the second tier.

 

Georgina Bode: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng

Foreign

Helicopter hit during anti-IS operation in western Iraq

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An Iraqi army helicopter was slightly hit by a machinegun on Monday during an operation by Islamic State (IS) militants in the western province of Anbar, the Iraqi military said.

The incident took place when an army force destroyed IS positions and seized weapons and explosives during an operation to hunt down IS militants in a desert area near the two of al-Rutba, some 400 km west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement.

It said that the troops were backed by two helicopter gunships and during the operation the helicopters pounded three IS vehicles, but one of the vehicles was carrying a heavy machinegun and opened fire at the helicopters.

One of the helicopters was slightly damaged, but managed to return to the base safely, the statement added.

Earlier in the day, an Iraqi army source told Xinhua that one helicopter was shot down after being attacked by the extremist IS militants in south of al-Rutba.

The incident came as the Iraqi security forces are carrying out operations to hunt down IS militants in the desert and rugged areas in the provinces of Anbar, Salahudin and Nineveh as well as the border areas with Syria.

The security situation in Iraq has been improving since Iraqi security forces fully defeated the IS militants across the country late in 2017.

However, IS remnants have since melted in urban areas or deserts and rugged areas, launching frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Zimbabwe president castigates West for continued interference in affairs of African states

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Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has castigated the West for meddling in the internal affairs of African countries and called on Africans to deepen the culture of democracy and good governance as taught by the continent’s founding fathers.

In his address to the nation on the eve of the 57th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, Mnangagwa said former colonial powers had no authority to lecture Africa on democracy as the continent had fought to achieve the democracy being enjoyed to this day.

Africans should not be shy to express the rich cultural heritage, languages and identities, he added.

He said Zimbabwe continued to suffer from unwarranted interference and endure illegal sanctions imposed as punishment for reclaiming land.

“However, we are buoyed by the fact that we have re-united with our land, which is now irreversibly reposed into our hands, we its true owners,” he said.

“As we commemorate and celebrate the unity of our continent, we in Zimbabwe deeply thank our SADC region and the whole continent of Africa for standing with us. Africa has rejected and denounced the sanctions against Zimbabwe and the Sudan, urging those responsible for these illegal, heinous measures to immediately lift them without conditionalities.

“They are illegal, unjust, spiteful and undeserved. Above all, they go against the grain and spirit of civilized international relations as espoused in the United Nations Charter. We reiterate that sanctions have no place in modern international relations.”

He said Zimbabwe also continued to pursue robust cooperation with its neighbours and the continent as a whole; subscribing to a fully integrated continent of Africa.

“We must now urgently consolidate the implementation of cross-border projects, to improve our road networks, water, energy and ICT infrastructure, among others. This will inevitably accelerate multi-faceted sustainable development in the region and on the continent,” he said.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Once-in-a-decade storm hammers Australia’s west coast

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Australia’s western coastline endured damaging wind and rain, as a “once-in-a-decade” storm struck on Sunday night and continued into Monday.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology warned of abnormally high tides and damaging surf spanning a distance of roughly 3,000 kilometres, from Albany to the Kimberley Coast.

Trees and powerlines knocked down by the storm created hazards and left more than 47,000 homes without power, according to reports by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, while several boats were blown ashore after breaking free from their moorings.

The State of Western Australia (WA) Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) acting assistant commissioner Jon Broomhall warned residents to take particular care securing their homes and property due to the unusual nature of the weather.

“So it’s a once-in-a-decade-type system and it’s from a different angle,” Broomhall said.

“Normally our storms come from the south-west and this will come from the north-west so it will test people’s buildings, sheds and all those unsecured items, so we’re asking people to secure property and make sure everything loose is tied down.”

The storm was the result of a system from ex-Tropical Cyclone Mangga interacting with a cold front over the Indian Ocean.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

5.1-magnitude quake hits 3 km northwest of Do Gonbadan, Iran — USGS

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An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 jolted 3 km northwest of Do Gonbadan, Iran at 09:11:28 GMT on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 30.3873 degrees north latitude and 50.7777 degrees east longitude.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Nigerian troops kill 135 militants in northwest region in 3 days

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At least 135 local militants have been killed and others wounded by Nigerian troops in Zamfara and Katsina states, northwest of Nigeria, a defense spokesperson said Saturday.

John Enenche, the Nigerian defense spokesperson, who disclosed this in a statement sent to Xinhua, said armed bandits were killed in massive air raids by the the air component of Operation Hadarin Daji at several locations in the two states between Wednesday and Friday.

The air raid was part of the renewed offensive to rid the northwest of armed bandits and other criminal elements, according to the military spokesperson.

Enenche said the air strikes were undertaken sequel to credible intelligence reports as well as series of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions that led to the identification of the camps.

He said the air interdiction missions were undertaken by the attack aircraft to the locations in multiple bombing runs, adding that some were executed simultaneously.

Nigeria has been grappling with security challenges, with the over-a-decade insurgency of Boko Haram in the northeast, and frequent armed attacks by militants in the northwest.

Nigerian troops have recently intensified efforts to calm the situation with a series of operations against the armed groups in the northwest.

(XINHUA)

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General news

Badagry West LCDA Chairman warns residents to heed curfew

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The Chairman, Badagry West LCDA, Mr Joseph Gbenu, has warned residents of the area to refrain from unnecessary movements during the 8p.m to 6a.m. curfew imposed by government.

Gbenu gave the warning on Saturday at a security meeting and inauguration of a Security Joint Task Force to monitor compliance with the COVID-19 curfew in the area.

He said that the Joint Security Task Force on COVID-19 would be headed by Air Commodore Morakinyo Akiode of the Nigeria Air Force Base in Badagry.

“Henceforth, anybody caught wandering aimlessly within the town after 8p.m. will be arrested and prosecuted by the task force.

“I urge everyone to stay at home and avoid unnecessary movement from 8p.m. to 6a.m. as directed by the Federal Government,” Gbenu said.

He said that the meeting had allowed the team to critically discuss issues as it related to security and resolve complaints emanating from different communities.

The council chairman said that the meeting also deliberated on complaints of motorists and other road users on the issue of proliferation of security check points on Badagry roads.

Also speaking, the Chairman of Badagry Local Government, Mr Olusegun Onilude, decried the proliferation of checkpoints at Aroko-Iyafin before the Gbaji bridge in Badagry.

Onilude, who was represented by his Vice Chairman, Mr Andrew Akoteme, said that the proliferation of checkpoints in the area had resulted in the extortion of motorists.

He lauded the initiative of the security chiefs to rid the Badagry highway of Illegal checkpoints.

Onilude urged all security personnel to synergize and intensify their efforts towards ensuring a peaceful relationship in the city.

“I am convinced that we are capable, but we need to do more, we want peace for our people, and we trust that God will not disappoint us,” said Onilude.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Joint Local Security Committee immediately went on physical inspection to Aroko-Iyafin police check points, where necessary adjustments were made on the spot.

NAN reports that in attendance at the meeting were representatives of Nigeria Police Force, The Nigeria Army, The Nigeria Navy, The DSS, The Nigeria Airforce, Nigerian Legion.

Others were Nigeria Customs Service, Police Border Patrol, Nigeria Civil Defence and Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps.

Edited By: Bayo Sekoni (NAN)

 

 

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Economy

Group launches coop society to aid food production in Southwest

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A pan-Yoruba Socio-Cultural group, Yoruba Ko’ya Leadership and Training Foundation, on Friday in Lagos launched a Multipurpose Cooperative Society to help entrepreneurs and boost food production in Southwest.

The Director of Finance and Investment of group, Mr Olakunle Osuntokun, said the multipurpose society would be used to propel knowledge-based entrepreneurship, food production, trading, and vocational training among the youth.

Osuntokun said the multipurpose society, also known as Ijinle Development Multipurpose, would also be used by market men and women in the Southwest geopolitical zone.

According to Osuntokun, the organisation is worried over the abysmal level of food production, high level of poverty and hunger in the zone.

He said the group, therefore, resolved to launch a formal platform through which residents of the zone would be empowered financially without any burden.

Osuntokun noted that the Ijinle Development Multipurpose would help in promoting a culture of savings among the market men and women.

He said it would help both existing and aspiring young entrepreneurs in the zone and boost their savings through loans that attract only five per cent interest payable in one year for growth of their businesses.

“We are focusing on food production; Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM); vocational trainings; agriculture value chain; and digital wealth.

“Our vision is to build an industrialised Southwest, which is strong in commerce and knowledge-based economy.

“The reality is that any nation that lacks the capacity to feed, at least, 70 per cent of her people will lack true peace.

“Today, the Southwest cannot feed 5 per cent of its people; which is a worry to us,” he said

According to Osuntokun, the Ijinle Development Multipurpose is going to bridge the gap and with consistency, the zone shall get there.

In his address, the convener of Yoruba Ko’ya, Deji Osibogun, said he was worried that the Southwest which used to be a haven of agricultural production in the First and Second Republics now rely heavily on other parts of the country for virtually all food.

“Reports have shown that this COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed the zone as a weak entity in terms of food security and agricultural production.

“Also, the pandemic has opened our eyes that every nation must promote and develop knowledge-based entrepreneurship otherwise known as Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM).

“Therefore, Yoruba Ko’ya, through Ijinle Development Multipurpose will be promoting our innovative and creative young men and women on knowledge-based entrepreneurship,” Osibogun said.

In his speech, the Ikeja Area Officer of the Directorate of Cooperative in the Lagos State Ministry of Commerce, Cooperative and Industry, Mr Olusegun Odedina, said many nations of the world, including South Africa, are now strengthening their economy.

Odedina, who inaugurated the multipurpose cooperative society in line with Lagos Coop Law Cap of 2004, said nations were building wealth and creating employment opportunities for their teeming population through Multipurpose Cooperative.

He charged Yoruba Ko’ya to remain committed to its vision and dream of making the Southwest part of the country a producing entity, rather than a consuming land that it is at the moment.

Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

 

 

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Defence/Security

We will clear bandits in Katsina, North-West — Air Chief

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The Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, said that officers and men of the Nigerian Air Force would soon clear bandits in Katsina State and the North-West region.

Sadique stated this when 60 additional Airmen and Officers were deployed on Thursday to Katsina for Special “Operation Harbin Daji” in Batsari and Jibiya areas and other flash spots in the state.

The Air Officer Commanding Special Operation, Bauchi Command, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) Charles Ohwo, represented the Chief of Air Staff during the deployment.

Sadique said that the Air Force would soon rid Katsina State and the entire North West geo-political zone of banditry and other crimes.

He charged the air men and officers deployed for the operations to remain committed in the operation in accordance with the Air Force Core Values.

“I implore you to inject more fighting techniques which you have learnt to bear with your assignment with a view to bringing the bandits to their kneels.

“I am very sure, with the help of God, we will succeed. There’ll soon be no hiding place for the bandits in Katsina and the entire North West Geo-Political Zone,” he assured.

Sadique thanked Gov Aminu Masari for his support and cooperation to the Air Force and the Special Operations unit in the state.

He said barely 48 hours after their  deployment to the state, the operation had started yielding positive results.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari recently gave the nation’s Armed Forces marching order to rid the state of criminals.

The order came following growing activities of bandits, cattle rustlers, kidnappers and armed robbers in parts of the state.

Edited By: Shuaib Sadiq/Wale Ojetimi (NAN)

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Foreign

Indian PM announces 131.6 mln USD as immediate relief for cyclone Amphan-hit West Bengal

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday afternoon financial assistance of 131.6 million U.S. dollars as immediate relief for eastern state of West Bengal after he undertook an aerial survey of the areas battered by severe cyclonic storm Amphan.

The storm, according to officials, has killed at least 80 people.

“Prime Minister announced financial assistance of INR 1,000 crore (131.6 million U.S. dollars), for immediate relief activities, to the state of West Bengal,” read a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). “After receiving memorandum of assistance from the state, the union (federal) government will deploy an inter-ministerial team to visit the state to assess the extent of damage in the state, based on which further assistance will be given.”

Earlier in the morning, Modi reached Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal. From there he along with Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee undertook an aerial survey of some of the worst-affected parts of the state.

The cyclonic storm triggering gusty winds up to 190 kmph and rain battered West Bengal and coastal Odisha on Wednesday evening, flattened makeshift houses, uprooted electric poles and trees.

West Bengal was the worst hit in the cyclone as gusty winds swept through several parts, including capital Kolkata, leaving behind a trail of destruction, with thousands of homes damaged, and trees and electric poles uprooted.

Modi also announced 2,632 U. S. dollars for each family that lost member in the cyclone and 658 U.S. dollars for each injured.

Banerjee on Thursday asked the prime minister to visit the state and inspect the damage, which she said was around 13.20 billion U.S. dollars.

Modi will also visit adjacent Odisha, where also he is scheduled to undertake an aerial survey. The cyclone also caused widespread devastation in Odisha, damaging power and telecom infrastructure in several coastal districts.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Wetland in western Myanmar designated as Ramsar site

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The Nantha Island and Mayyu Estuary in western Myanmar were designated as a Ramsar site on Friday, the International Day for Biological Diversity, according to the Information Ministry.

Lying on the western coast of Myanmar within Rakhine state, the Nantha Island and Mayyu Estuary were designated as a wetland site to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.

“We are very proud that Nantha Island and Mayyu Estuary is today designated as a Ramsar site, as sixth Ramsar site for our country,” Dr. Naing Zaw Htun, director of Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division of the Forest Department under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, told Xinhua.

Being home to a variety of animal species including endangered species and having a productive marine ecosystem, the Nantha Island and Mayyu Estuary met five of nine Ramsar site criteria, the ministry’s release said.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Death toll from cyclone in India’s West Bengal rises to 80

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The Death toll from cyclonic storm Amphan in India’s eastern state of West Bengal rose to 80 Friday as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on an aerial tour to review the damage.

“Eighty people died in this cyclone. We have evacuated more than 600,000 people. Time and density of cyclone was worse. It is more than a national disaster,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told media.

According to Banerjee, the radius of the cyclone was 450 km.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life. There was severe disruption in electricity supply, even I did not have electricity at my home. Mobile connectivity has also been disrupted, but don’t worry, everything will be alright,” she said.

Meanwhile, Modi has landed at Kolkata airport, officials said. On Friday morning he took off from Delhi to undertake an aerial survey of West Bengal and Odisha and see for himself the damage caused by Amphan.

“He will conduct aerial surveys and take part in review meetings, where aspects of relief and rehabilitation will be discussed,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement on Thursday night.

After West Bengal, Modi will fly onwards for an aerial survey of Odisha.

The cyclone also caused widespread devastation in Odisha, damaging power and telecom infrastructure in several coastal districts.

The cyclonic storm triggering gusty winds up to 190 kmph and rain battered West Bengal and coastal Odisha on Wednesday evening, flattening makeshift houses and uprooting electric poles and trees.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Palestine accuses Israel of reducing water supply to parts of West Bank

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Palestine on Thursday blasted Israel for reducing water supply to different West Bank districts this week without prior notice.

The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) said in a statement that Israeli authorities significantly reduced the amount of water allotted to the West Bank districts of Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin and Hebron, during the past few days.

The Israeli sudden cuts directly affected the amount of water supplied to the public and led to irregular water pressure, said the PWA, adding that it was under great pressure to manage and distribute the available amount of water in a fair manner.

“We are facing this crisis as we enter the summer season, a time of the year when people are usually in need of more and not less quantities of water. Demand for water is expected to increase by about 30 percent,” PWA leader Mazen Ghneim was quoted as saying.

Ghneim called upon the international community to pressure Israel to stop its arbitrary policy of using water as a tool to clamp down on the Palestinian people.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Flooding kills 8 in western Uganda

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Eight people have been confirmed dead and over 2,000 displaced after River Ihubiriha burst its banks, resulting into flooding in the western Ugandan district of Kasese, a humanitarian official said here on Thursday.

Primrose Natukunda, the coordinator of Uganda Redcross Society in Kasese, told Xinhua by telephone that four family members were swept away by the floods.

A soldier, who was on patrol and three other people were also swept away by the floods.

Natukunda said more than 2,000 people have been displaced and about 400 houses washed away.

She said the displaced people were now moving to settle in schools and churches.

“For now it is the usual basic needs of shelter, food and medicine that the people need here,” Natukunda said.

Early this month, thousands of people were displaced after several rivers flooded in the same district. A number of roads were washed away while a hospital was partially destroyed.

According to the weather department, several parts of the country especially western and eastern regions, are currently experiencing normal to above-normal rainfall, with destructive effects.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Japan’s Abe lifts coronavirus emergency in three western prefectures, Tokyo regions, Hokkaido still restricted

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday lifted the state of emergency for the three western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo, but said emergency measures would be kept in place for Tokyo, three surrounding areas and Hokkaido for the time being.

“We are lifting the state of emergency declaration for Osaka, Kyoto, and Hyogo prefectures. Tokyo, its three neighbors, and Hokkaido will remain under the state of emergency,” the prime minister said.

“But the number of new infections is steadily declining and the strain on the medical system is easing. Therefore, we will ask experts to evaluate the situation early next week, likely on Monday. If the situation remains the same, we may be able to lift the declaration for those prefectures,” Abe added.

With the spread of COVID-19 broadly marking a downward trajectory in the majority of regions across Japan, 42 out of the country’s 47 prefectures have now seen emergency measures lifted.

However, the remaining prefectures still under the state of emergency, comprising Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Hokkaido, account for around 30 percent of Japan’s economy.

While the government is keen to bring the whole nation back online economically, with Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo meeting the criteria for the emergency period to be lifted, including the rate of new COVID-19 cases dropping to less than 0.5 per 100,000 people over the past week, Tokyo and Kanagawa prefecture did not meet the target.

Although Saitama and Chiba prefecture did meet the government’s criteria, the four prefectures are being treated as one “region” due to their proximity, with Hokkaido being kept under the state of emergency owing to a reappearance of the pneumonia-causing virus.

“We need a little more effort so that we can achieve this standard,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said, indicating that those in areas where restrictions still apply should continue to refrain from non-essential trips outside, avoid crowded places, minimize contact with people and maintain social distancing.

Abe has said these regions may see restrictions lifted as early as Monday, although the official declaration for Tokyo and surrounding areas is set to expire at the end of the month.

As to areas where the state of emergency has been lifted, Abe said economic and social activities could gradually be increased.

“In the areas where the emergency has been lifted, social and economic activities can increase in stages,” Abe said, adding “the challenge of creating a new normal is beginning across the country.”

Along with COVID-19 cases dropping, the government’s criteria for lifting the emergency declaration also involves the availability of medical facilities and personnel, the ability to provide enough virus tests and the close monitoring the virus’ spread.

In April, a month-long state of emergency was first issued by the prime minister for seven prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka and expanded nationwide thereafter. The official deadline was then extended until May 31, although 39 prefectures saw the emergency measures lifted last week.

Tokyo, the hardest hit among the 47 prefectures has recorded more than 5,000 infections, but the rise in new cases has dropped to single digits of late, although officials reported 11 new cases in the capital on Thursday, despite the overall downward trend recently.

Health experts have said it is still too early for the nation to lower its guard against the virus, and have warned that a second and possible third wave of COVID-19 cases could hit the county henceforth.

They added that crowds seen returning to urban areas around the country since the end of the Golden Week string of national holidays in early May, has been cause for some concern.

According to the latest official figures released Thursday, 34 new infections were confirmed nationwide, bringing the total cases of the virus to 16,467. The death toll from the virus stands at 789.

Cases in Tokyo have totaled 5,086, those in Osaka 1,780, Kanagawa Prefecture 1,313, Hokkaido 1,024, Saitama 993, Chiba 896 and Hyogo prefecture has confirmed a total of 699 COVID-19 cases, the latest data Thursday from the health ministry and local authorities showed.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Cyclonic storm Amphan kills 72 in India’s West Bengal: chief minister

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Chief Minister of India’s eastern state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, said on Thursday that 72 people were killed in her state due to the severe cyclonic storm Amphan.

“Seventy-two people were killed because of the cyclone here yesterday,” Banerjee told a press briefing. “The damage caused by Amphan is more than the coronavirus pandemic. I would request Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come and visit cyclone Amphan-affected areas.”

The cyclonic storm triggering gusty winds up to 190 kmph and rain battered West Bengal and coastal Odisha on Wednesday evening, flattening makeshift houses and uprooting electric poles and trees.

“There have been casualties. I announce a compensation of 3,310 U.S. dollars (INR 250,000 to each family that lost a member in the cyclone,” she said.

Officials are yet to decide on the losses the state has suffered in the cyclone. However, Banerjee put the damages at around 13.20 billion U.S. dollars in the affected parts of state.

Earlier Modi said he would leave no stone unturned to help those affected by cyclonic storm Amphan in West Bengal and Odisha.

“Have been seeing visuals from West Bengal on the devastation caused by cyclone Amphan. In this challenging hour, the entire nation stands in solidarity with West Bengal,” Modi said in a brief statement posted on social media. “Authorities are working on the ground to ensure all possible assistance to those affected.”

Reports said the cyclone has also killed five in the neighboring state of Odisha.

The deaths, according to officials in the two states, have been caused due to falling of trees, electric poles, failing structures and house collapses.

Authorities have rushed additional teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to speed up restoration work, especially in Kolkata.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Cyclone kills 17 in India’s West Bengal, Odisha states

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At least 17 people were killed after severe cyclonic storm Amphan crossed India, local media reported Thursday.

While 12 people were killed in West Bengal, five were reportedly dead in adjacent Odisha.

Meanwhile, the severe cyclonic storm Thursday morning crossed West Bengal coast and moved towards Bangladesh, India Metrological Department (IMD) said.

“The super cyclonic storm — Amphan moved north-northeastwards with a speed of 27 kmph during past six hours, further weakened into a cyclonic storm and lay centered at 5:30 a.m. (local time) today over Bangladesh near Latitude 24.7 N and Longitude 89.5 E about 270 km north-northeast of Kolkata, 150 km south of Dhubri and 110 km south-southeast of Rangpur (Bangladesh). It is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards and weaken further into a deep depression during next three hours and into a depression during subsequent six hours,” the IMD said in its bulletin.

The cyclonic storm triggering gusty winds up to 190 kmph and rain battered West Bengal and coastal Odisha on Wednesday evening, flattened makeshift houses, uprooted electric poles and trees.

The cyclone has claimed 12 lives in West Bengal, officials and local media reports said, and the deaths were caused due to falling of trees, electric poles, failing structures and house collapses.

According to officials, Kolkata, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24 Parganas districts and their nearby areas bore the brunt of the natural calamity.

According to officials, the cyclone has claimed five lives in Odisha, and caused intense rainfall.

Amphan is considered to be the most powerful cyclone to form over the Bay of Bengal in over two decades, officials said, adding that the impact of Amphan was worse than the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kolkata airport, which remained shut, was left flooded and many structures within damaged. Witnesses said in Kolkata city, strong winds upturned cars and felled trees and electricity poles. The streets were waterlogged at many places.

The local government has evacuated half a million people from the affected areas and kept them in relief shelters. Authorities have also evacuated over 158,000 people in adjacent Odisha state that was also hit by the cyclone.

Authorities have deployed 41 teams of National Disaster Response Force in West Bengal and Odisha.

The severe cyclonic storm comes at a time when India is fighting COVID-19, which has affected 112,359 people in the country and killed 3,435.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Turkey’s western city struggles against COVID-19 pandemic

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Turkey’s western port province of Izmir has been consolidating its struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic with increasing controls and new measures amid the government’s ongoing normalization process.

Local officials have significantly stepped up their controls in crowded places, continuously warning people to follow the rules, including the social distancing measure, after the government introduced a schedule to ease the pandemic restrictions.

Wearing masks outside became mandatory as of Wednesday, the governor’s office of Izmir declared at a written statement the previous day, noting that those who do not obey will be fined.

Izmir, with a population of over 4 million, is the country’s third-biggest city after Istanbul and the capital Ankara, and one of the most affected regions from the coronavirus. Being a port city and a major tourist attraction spot of Turkey, it has been particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

In line with the normalization process, shopping malls and barbershops had resumed their operations last week across the country.

Following their openings, long queues were seen in front of the shopping malls in Izmir with people not wearing masks and not obeying the social distancing rule, according to press reports.

The Izmir Scientific Council operating under the umbrella of the municipality said the risk was not yet over in the city and warned residents to stay at home, the Sozcu daily reported.

Tunc Soyer, mayor of Izmir, told Xinhua that municipal teams are strictly patrolling shopping malls in the city and carrying out scrutinized inspections to see if the rules are followed.

“We also conduct disinfection works in barbershops and regularly disinfect public areas such as public transport, health institutions, and police stations against the coronavirus pandemic,” Soyer added.

The Izmir municipality has also been working hard to supply the increasing demand for surgical masks in the city, producing around 60,000 masks per day for those who are in need.

Soyer also urged all Izmir citizens to be more patient, expecting normal life to come back soon.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

Israel reports 6 new COVID-19 cases, lowest daily rise since March 7

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Israel’s Ministry of Health reported six new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the tally to 16,665 in the country.

This marks the lowest daily increase since March 7, when only four new cases were recorded.

The number of victims rose from 278 to 279, while the number of patients in serious condition dropped from 50 to 46, out of 143 patients currently hospitalized.

Also, the number of recoveries increased by 139 to 13,574, while the number of active cases dropped to 2,812, the lowest since March 26.

Earlier on Wednesday, beaches and places of worship were reopened in Israel, under distance restrictions and hygiene measures.

Swimming pools, hotels and restaurants across the country are scheduled to reopen on May 27.

(XINHUA)

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Foreign

3 killed as super cyclone Amphan batters India’s West Bengal, Odisha

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Three people were killed Wednesday after super cyclone Amphan battered India’s eastern states of West Bengal and Odisha.

According to local media reports, two women and a man were killed after gusty winds uprooted trees in Howrah and North 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal.

The super cyclone triggering winds of up to 190 kmph entered West Bengal accompanied with heavy rains, leaving a trail of destruction.

Officials said the cyclone after making landfall entered into human habitations blowing away makeshift houses, uprooting electric poles and trees.

“The very severe cyclonic storm lay centered at 7:30 p.m. (local time) today, over West Bengal near Latitude 22.6°N and Longitude 88.5°E, close to Kolkata. Super cyclone – Amphan crossed West Bengal – Bangladesh coasts as a very severe cyclonic storm with the speed of 155-165 kmph gusting to 185 kmph across Sunderban near Latitude 21.65°N and Longitude 88.3°E,” reads information released in the bulletin by India Metrological Department (IMD).

Authorities said they have evacuated 658,000 people in West Bengal and Odisha ahead of the cyclone. Half a million people were evacuated in West Bengal, and over 158,000 were evacuated in Odisha.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) chief S N Pradhan told a press conference in New Delhi that 20 teams of rescuers have begun road clearing operations in Odisha, while in West Bengal the personnel were shifting people to safety.

Video footage telecast on television showed huge tidal waves crashing into beaches and coastline.

The cyclonic storm is likely to get weaker while crossing over Nadia and Murshidabad in West Bengal later on Wednesday night before entering Bangladesh.

Authorities have deployed 41 teams of NDRF in West Bengal and Odisha.

The severe cyclonic storm comes at a time when India is fighting COVID-19, which has affected 106,750 people in the country and killed 3,303.

Authorities have advised fishermen not to venture into north Bay of Bengal along and off West Bengal-Odisha coasts until Thursday.

Reports said cyclone Amphan is one of the worst storms over the Bay of Bengal in years.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: Palestine exits all agreements with Israel, U.S. to protest against West Bank annexation

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Palestine on Tuesday declared the abolition of all agreements and understandings with Israel and the United States in protest against the Israeli plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

“The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at the end of an urgent leadership meeting held in Ramallah.

From now on, the Palestinian leader called on Israel to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations as an occupying power, with all its consequences and repercussions based on international law and humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

The convention holds the occupying power responsible for protecting the civilian population under occupation and their property, criminalizing collective punishment, banning theft of resources, appropriation and annexation of land, banning forced transfer of the population, he added.

Analysts have said that “the security ones (obligations)” Abbas mentioned in his speech referred to the Palestinian decision to put an end to its security cooperation with Israel and the United States.

At present, the Israeli and Palestinian security forces have long-term cooperation in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank to maintain local law and order. Palestine also have an intelligence cooperation agreement with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to share counter-terrorism intelligence.

Once Palestine exits the “security obligations,” a security vacuum in the West Bank may occur, which means the suppressed forces — the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Organization and other factions — may stage a comback, and Palestine and Israel may return to the old path of returning violence for violence, the analysts have said.

Abbas’s decision came in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration of his plan to the Jordan Valley, part of the occupied West Bank, and apply Israeli law on the Israeli settlements built there, as his new government was sworn in before the parliament on Sunday.

The West Bank is an area seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, where the Palestinians wish to build their future state.

In his speech, Abbas held the U.S. administration “fully responsible for the oppression befalling the Palestinian people and we consider it a primary partner with the Israeli occupation government in all its aggressive and unfair decisions and measures against our people.”

He urged the countries that have rejected U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, known as Deal of the Century, to take “deterrent steps and impose serious sanctions to prevent the Israeli occupation state from implementing its schemes and its continuing denial of the rights of our people.”

Furthermore, Abbas declared that the state of Palestine will press ahead with signing and joining more international agreements and conventions.

“We will continue to pursue the occupation for its crimes against our people at all international authorities and courts. In this context, we affirm our confidence in the independence and integrity of the International Criminal Court,” he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel on Wednesday for talks with Israeli leaders on Israel’s plan to annex portions of the occupied West Bank, which is part of Trump’s peace plan.

On Jan. 28, Trump unveiled the controversial peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which would limit the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state.

The plan is strongly objected by the Palestinians and the Arab world as well as international organizations such as the UN, which denounced the plan as a violation of international law.

(XINHUA)

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