The death of a Palestinian militant in the West Bank Wednesday night and the wounding of three Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip hours earlier, highlight the volatile situation in the search for peace, despite significant moves by both sides along the international "roadmap." \nThe violence came hours after Palestinian security forces returned to the streets of the Bethlehem Wednesday after Israel handed over responsibility for control of the West Bank town in the latest peace move. \nIsrael also released eight Palestinian prisoners who were arrested recently in the Hebron region and held without trial in the West Bank, Israeli public radio said. \nThe moves gave yet further impetus to the US-backed peace roadmap following a meeting late Tuesday between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmud Abbas, which saw both sides voice optimism for the future. \nHowever a poll published Wednesday revealed that almost two-thirds of Israelis believe the truce will fall apart within a month. Those fears were swiftly underlined by the fresh violence. \nA local head of the hardline Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, was killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops overnight in the town of Qalqiliya, in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian security source said early Thursday. \nMohammed Shawa, 31, was killed while the soldiers were attempting to arrest him. \nOne of his supporters was injured and arrested in the Israeli raid which was backed by armored cars. \nAccording to a military source, Shawa had been hit after be opened fire on the troops and attempted to flee. \nEarlier three Jewish settlers were wounded when four anti-tank shells were fired in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli army spokesman said. \nThe mortars landed in the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom, in the south of the Gaza Strip, the spokesman said. \nIsraeli soldiers and Palestinians exchanged automatic weapons fire around Kfar Darom following the incident, the spokesman said. \nAlso Wednesday an Israeli border guard was shot and lightly wounded near Tulkarem, in the West Bank, at the construction site of a security fence being built between the territory and Israel, military radio said. \nBefore the latest incidents of violence, US President George W. Bush, who convened a summit with Abbas and Sharon in Jordan a month ago, said he was "very happy" with the signs of progress. \n"We're really happy with what we've seen so far, but we're realists," Bush told reporters at the White House. \nA key to progress was making all sides realize "there's a better day ahead of them", he said. \nScores of police in dark-colored uniforms took up positions in Bethlehem after a Palestinian flag-raising ceremony over the local security headquarters. \nThe Bethlehem withdrawal came three days after Israeli troops pulled out of some reoccupied areas in the northern Gaza Strip and transferred policing duties there to the Palestinian services. \nThat coincided with a truce announcement by most armed Palestinian factions which is expected to help the Palestinian Authority pass the test as the army gradually hands over control of areas reoccupied since the start of the Intifada in September 2000. \nMilitary radio reported that the latest security talks yielded an agreement for the rules of engagement to be tightened, with Israeli troops allowed to open fire only if their life is threatened. \nIsraeli security sources said both parties had agreed to hold more talks in coming days. \nIn the opinion poll survey, carried by military radio, 36 percent of respondents said they did not expect the ceasefire to last a week while a further 26 percent thought that it would survive no longer than a month. \nThe truce on the suspension of military activity against Israel is conditioned on a halt to army incursions, targeted killings and house demolitions, as well as on the release of prisoners.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big