Thursday, August 18, 2011

Attackers from Egypt kill 7 inside Israel,JERUSALEM — Squads of gunmen armed with heavy weapons and explosives crossed into southern Israel on Thursda

The interior of a damaged passenger bus is pictured after one of three attacks in southern Israel near the Egyptian border on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Channel 2 TV)

JERUSALEM — Squads of gunmen armed with heavy weapons and explosives crossed into southern Israel on Thursday, killing seven in an attack on buses, cars and an army patrol in one of the boldest attacks on the Jewish state in years, officials said. Israel said the Palestinian assailants came from Hamas-ruled Gaza and crossed through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Exchanges of gunfire across the Israel-Egypt border continued late into the evening, but it was not clear whether assailants were still at large within Israeli territory, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said. Gaza militants fired a rocket at the southern city of Ashkelon Thursday night, but Israel’s new missile defense system knocked it down, said Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

The series of attacks were the boldest against the Jewish state in years and stoked concerns that Palestinian militants might be exploiting instability in Egypt. Within hours, Israeli aircraft bombed southern Gaza in retaliation, and Gaza medical official Adham Salmia said five militants and one child were killed in a strike on a private home.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not put up with stepped up attacks from Sinai.

“If the terror organizations think they can strike at our civilians without eliciting a response, then they will find that Israel will exact a price — a very heavy price,” Netanyahu said in a brief broadcast statement Thursday night.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attack. “This violence only underscores our strong concerns about the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula,” she said in a statement, praising “commitments by the Egyptian government to address the security situation.”

Egypt and Hamas denied involvement.

The onslaught on southern Israel began at midday. The attacks came close together in time and location and appeared coordinated. Mordechai said security forces killed five assailants in all — three on the Israeli side of the border and two others who had been shooting at Israeli forces from Egypt. Earlier military reports said seven assailants were killed.

The attackers were booby-trapped, Mordechai said. There was no word on whether any of the attackers were captured alive or exactly how many in all were involved.

Israel said the gunmen started out from Gaza and made their way through Sinai, which borders both Israel and Gaza. Eilat and Gaza are about 130 miles (200 kilometers) apart along the border.

“The incident underscores the weak Egyptian hold on Sinai and the broadening of the activities of terrorists,” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in a statement. “The real source of the terror is in Gaza, and we will act against them with full force and determination.”

Mordechai said Israel coordinated its operation against the assailants with Egyptian security sources, who helped to battle gunmen operating against Israel from its side of the border.

It was the deadliest assault in Israel since a Palestinian gunman entered a religious seminary in Jerusalem in March 2008 and killed eight people.

Security in Sinai has deteriorated sharply since February, when longtime leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising. Many Israelis saw Mubarak as a source of stability with shared interests in containing Iran and its radical Islamic proxies in the region, such as Hamas. Mubarak also upheld the decades-old peace treaty with Israel.

Last week, Egypt moved thousands of troops into the Sinai peninsula as part of an operation against al-Qaida inspired militants who have been increasingly active in Sinai since Mubarak’s ouster in February. The militants have taken advantage of the security vacuum caused by the abrupt withdrawal of police forces. Authorities have blamed the militants for brazen attacks on police patrols as well as a string of bombings on a key pipeline carrying natural gas to Israel and Jordan.

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Obama demands Syrian leader step down,After watching Syria’s bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters for months, President Obama on Thursday mo

**FILE** Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech at Damascus University in Damascus, Syria, on June 20, 2011. (Associated Press/SANA)**FILE** Syrian President Bashar Assad delivers a speech at Damascus University in Damascus, Syria, on June 20, 2011.

After watching Syria’s bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters for months, President Obama on Thursday morning called for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down.

“For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. “His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.”

The president said his administration is imposing “unprecedented” new sanctions against Syria's government to further pressure Mr. Assad to step down, including a freeze of Syrian assets in the United States.

The demand for Mr. Assad’s departure comes more than a month after Mr. Obama said the Syrian leader had lost legitimacy. There is a growing clamor in the United Nations to formally condemn the violence.

Human-rights activists say Syrian forces have killed more than 2,400 anti-government demonstrators since the uprising began about five months ago. As Syrian protesters have taken to the streets, Mr. Assad has sent tanks and ground troops to retake control in rebellious areas. Syrian leaders maintain they are dealing with a rebellion led by Islamic extremists.

As the pro-democratic “Arab spring” uprisings have spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East, Mr. Obama has spoken out forcefully against strongman leaders such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Col. Moammar Gadhafi. But critics say he has been slow to take the same forceful posture against Mr. Assad, despite the Syrian government’s clear acts of brutality.

As the killings mounted, the White House has issued a series of statements calling on Mr. Assad to “lead or get out of the way.” The administration also has imposed sanctions, including penalties on senior members of Mr. Assad’s inner circle.

“It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past,” Mr. Obama said. “But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.”

Mr. Obama signed an executive order freezing Syrian assets and banning U.S. imports of petroleum products that originate in Syria. It prohibits people in the U.S. from operating or investing in Syria.

Minutes after the president’s statement was released, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that “no outside power can or should impose” on Syria’s transition, a warning directed at Iran.

“We understand the strong desire of the Syrian people that no foreign country should intervene in their struggle, and we respect their wishes,” Mrs. Clinton said. “We will do our part to support their aspirations for a Syria that is democratic, just and inclusive. And we will stand up for their universal rights and dignity by pressuring the regime and Assad personally to get out of the way of this transition.”

In Europe, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued their own statement, saying Mr. Assad, who succeeded his father as president in July 2000, should quit and announcing they were imposing new sanctions as well on Damascus.

“Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country,” they said. “We call on him to face the reality of the complete rejection of his regime by the Syrian people and to step aside in the best interests of Syria and the unity of its people. Violence in Syria must stop now.”

On a visit to Israel, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, echoed Mr. Obama’s call for Mr. Assad’s resignation.

“Under the Assad regime, Syria has been a proxy for Iran, a supporter of terror, and a threat to United States interests and our allies in the region,” Mr. Cantor said. “The recent atrocities and Assad’s brutalization of his own people in Syria are extremely alarming and reflect a long history of anti-American hostility, and I join President Obama in calling for Mr. Assad’s resignation.”

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Traders decide to shut markets,KARACHI: Markets in old city areas were shut in protest against increasing incidents of extortion from various mafias a

KARACHI: Markets in old city areas were shut in protest against increasing incidents of extortion from various mafias active in the city, Geo News reported.

The Traders' Action Committee has warned if extortion is not stopped than markets and Eid bazaars will be closed down. In a statement the chairman of the committee said that markets and Eid bazaars were operating without any security and traders were living in fear.

President Karachi Chamber of Commerce Industry (KCCI) Saeed Shafique told Geo news that due to volatile city situation a decision has been taken to close the markets. The KCCI has also convened a meeting to discuss the situation.

Hazare to launch 15-day hunger strike, NEW DELHI: India's beleaguered government caved in to popular fury over corruption on Wednesday after thousand

Hazare to launch 15-day hunger strike

Updated at: 1947 PST, Thursday, August 18, 2011
Hazare to launch 15-day hunger strike NEW DELHI: India's beleaguered government caved in to popular fury over corruption on Wednesday after thousands protested across the country, granting permission for a self-styled Gandhian crusader to stage a 15-day hunger strike in public.

Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, hours ahead of a planned fast to demand tougher laws against the graft that plagues Indian society from top to bottom.

But the jailing of the 74-year-old campaigner sparked nationwide protests and put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government on a backfoot, forcing it to relent.

"We are India's youth. We are with Anna. I've already seen corruption at this age," said 21 year-old Sweta Dua outside the jail. "In my college people got admitted despite being unable to clear the required cut-off scores, simply by paying money."

The Congress party-led government, facing one of the most serious protest movements since the 1970s, at first agreed to release Hazare, but he refused to leave the high-security Tihar jail until he won the right to lead an anti-corruption protest.

Crowds by the jail erupted in joy after a deal was struck to allow Hazare to fast in public, reached early on Thursday, shouting "I am Anna" and "We are with you". An impromptu stage was set up with musicians playing for the crowds.

"Anna wishes to congratulate everyone as we have started a great momentum for this fight against corruption," said Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist and close aid of Hazare.

Hazare is expected to postpone his public fast until Friday because the Ramlila Maidan grounds in central Delhi are not ready to host massive crowds, his advisers told reporters.

A medical team is on standby to monitor Hazare's health as he has already begun his fast in jail and a sharp deterioration could further worsen the crisis for the government, although there were signs a compromise would eventually be reached.

"It's an indefinite fast, not a fast-unto-death. He will be there as long as he can sustain it," said Kiran Bedi, a former senior police officer and a member of Hazare's team.

The protests across cities in India, helped spread by social networks, have not only rocked the ruling Congress party, they have sent shockwaves through the political class.

Students, lawyers, teachers, executives and civil servants have taken to streets in cities and remote villages stretching to the southern end of the country.

"The movement has meant politicians realise that they cannot fudge these issues or ignore public opinion any longer," said Vinod Mehta, editor of the weekly Outlook magazine.

"It has succeeded in concentrating the minds of politicians across the political spectrum on one issue for the first time."

A weak political opposition means that the government should still survive the crisis, but it could further dim the prospect for economic reforms that have already been held back by policy paralysis and a raft of corruption scandals. (Reuters)

Several villages in Thatta, Mirpur Khas and Badin inundated,THATTA: Flood affectees are awaiting relief in Thatta and Mirpur Khas, while protests were

Updated at: 1400 PST, Thursday, August 18, 2011
Several villages in Thatta, Mirpur Khas and Badin inundated THATTA: Flood affectees are awaiting relief in Thatta and Mirpur Khas, while protests were held against the lackluster conditions in relief camps in Badin, Geo News reported.

40 villages are inundated in Badin because of a breach in the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LOBD) and locals are fleeing the area.Diseases are spreading in relief camps and affectees complain of a lack of medicine, food and clean drinking water in these camps. Due to these horrid conditions several locals have refused to leave their homes.

Meanwhile water continues to seep through cracks in drains in Mirpur Khas and Thatta. Several villages in the area are inundated and relief work has not been initiated in affected areas. Flood affectees are fleeing their homes without any assistance.

47 killed in Karachi since yesterday,KARACHI: Firing continues in old city areas including Lyari and those surrounding it while the death toll during

Updated at: 1415 PST, Thursday, August 18, 2011
47 killed in Karachi since yesterday KARACHI: Firing continues in old city areas including Lyari and those surrounding it while the death toll during the last 17 hours in the targeted killings in the provincial capital has mounted to 31, bringing the number of people killed in two days to 47.

Eighteen out of the 31 killed are those who were slain after being abducted from houses and passenger busses in different parts of the city.

During the last 36 hours post-mortem of 39 bodies has been carried out, said a Senior Medico-Legal officer Dr. Aftab Chunar. He said 34 autopsies were done in Civil Hospital while 5 in Jinnah Hospital. Medical cases of 35 injured were also registered.

He said many families were taking away the bodies of their loved ones without waiting for the legal formalities to be completed.

The spokesman of Edhi Welfare Trust said that 19 bodies had so far been shifted to Edhi morgue and out of these 10 were yet to be identified.

According to police and Capital Police Liaison Centre (CPLC), reports were coming in of 30 people having gone missing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Violence in Karachi claims six lives

Violence in Karachi claims six lives

Updated at: 1058 PST, Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Violence in Karachi claims six lives KARACHI: Six persons were shot dead in the fresh wave of violence in the city Wednesday, Geo News reported.

According to police, three bodies were recovered from PECHS Block 2 and Tariq Road area who were shot dead. The victims were identified as Kamran, Saqib and Shahnawaz who were the residents of Lyari and went for shopping to Tariq Road Tuesday night.

A trussed up body was found from Soldier Bazar area who was identified as Shahabuddin.

Another body, bearing torture marks was found near Hashoo Centre, Saddar who was also shot dead while a body was recovered from Malir Nadi in the vicinity of Shah Faisal Colony police station. The victim was not identified until last reports.

DG FIA Tehsin Shah tenders resignation

Updated at: 1203 PST, Wednesday, August 17, 2011
DG FIA Tehsin Shah tenders resignation ISLAMABAD: Director General Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Tehsin Anwar Shah tendered his resignation in the Supreme Court on Wednesday during the hearing of the National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) scam case, saying that he can not work under a junior, Geo News reported.

Responding to which, Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said that Shah should not threat the court with his move and resign before the concerned authorities.

Tendering his resignation, Shah said being the director general of the FIA, he could not work under his subordinate FIA’s Additional Director General Zafar Qureshi, chief investigator probing the NICL scam.

The members of Qureshi’s team also appeared before the court on Wednesday.

Furthermore, CJ reprimanded Director FIA Lahore Waqar Haider saying he was creating hurdles in the way of implementing the court’s orders.

The two officials had been summoned by the court over the bomb scare in the FIA office.

Assistant Director FIA Lahore Khwaja Imad told the court Haider had said that he was “under a lot of pressure”

Earlier on Tuesday, the court had ordered Shah to allow officers from Qureshi’s team to rejoin the probe. Moreover, the court had directed Shah to associate himself with the team to facilitate the probe.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nation celebrates Independence Day

Nation celebrates Independence Day

Updated at: 1447 PST, Sunday, August 14, 2011
Nation celebrates Independence Day ISLAMABAD: The nation is celebrating its 65th Independence Day with great fervour but simplicity. The day began with special prayers in mosques for the unity, solidarity and prosperity of the country.

The celebrations began with a 31-gun salute at the federal capital and 21-gun salute at all the provincial headquarters. Quran Khawani are being held for the martyrs of the Pakistan Movement for their eternal peace.

The national flag has been hoisted on government and private buildings. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani hoisted the national flag in a ceremony at 9:00am in Jinnah Convention Centre. The national anthem was also played on the occasion.

The prime minister felicitated the nation on its 65th Independence Day and paid tribute to the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and leaders of Pakistan Movement for providing a spirited leadership which created the world's first ideological state through democratic struggle.

The flag hoisting ceremonies were also held at provincial capitals.

Sindh Governor, Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan, Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah along with members of the Sindh cabinet visited mausoleum of father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to pay homage to the great leader on 65th Independence Day of the country.

They hoisted the national flag at the ceremony held at Mazar-e-Quaid in connection with the Independence day of the country.

Various political parties and civil society organisations across country have also arranged seminars, walks and debates to mark the Day.