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Turkey rescuers say voices still heard under the rubble

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(Last Updated On: February 14, 2023)

Rescue teams say they are still hearing voices from under the rubble more than a week after the devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude brought thousands of high-rise buildings crashing down in southern Turkey.

In live footage on CNN, rescue workers could be seen in two areas in the Kahramanmaras region where they were trying to rescue survivors, including three sisters.

In what has been hailed as miraculous rescues, in the same region, an 18-year-old boy and a man were pulled out alive from under rubble on Tuesday – a day after rescuers saved a 10-year-old girl.

By Tuesday, the death toll had however risen to over 37,000 as more than 9,200 foreign rescue workers helped Turkish teams recover survivors and bodies.

But as rescue workers continue to search for survivors, hope is fading fast and some of the focus is now turning to helping the hundreds of thousands of homeless people who are facing freezing temperatures and hunger.

For Turkey and Syria, Monday’s earthquake has left them with a dire humanitarian disaster.

AFP reported that the Turkish government said at least 1.2 million people have been housed in student residences, more than 206,000 tents have been erected and 400,000 victims evacuated from the devastated areas.

In a tent city near the quake’s epicentre in Kahramanmaras, father-of-four Serkan Tatoglu, 41, described how his family was haunted by their losses and that they wait out the aftershocks -of which there have been over 2,000 since Monday’s deadly quake.

Speaking to AFP, Tatoglu said his six-year-old son, the youngest, keeps asking: ‘Dad, are we going to die?’”

Turkey’s Vice-President Fuat Oktay meanwhile said Tuesday that 574 children pulled from collapsed buildings were found without any surviving parents.

Only 76 had been returned to other family members.

One voluntary psychologist working in a children’s support centre in hard-hit Hatay province said numerous parents were frantically looking for missing kids. “We receive a barrage of calls about missing children,” Hatice Goz said.

Turkey’s employers’ association, Turkonfed, meanwhile reported Monday that the economic cost of the disaster could be as much as US$84.1 billion, with nearly US$71 billion of that for housing.

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Putin arrives in China to deepen strategic partnership with Xi

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2024)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing early on Thursday for talks with Xi Jinping that the Kremlin hopes will deepen a strategic partnership between the two most powerful geopolitical rivals of the United States, Reuters reported.

China and Russia declared a “no limits” partnership in February 2022 when Putin visited Beijing just days before he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, triggering the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two.

By picking China for his first foreign trip since being sworn in for a six-year term that will keep him in power until at least 2030, Putin is sending a message to the world about his priorities and the depth of his personal relationship with Xi.

In an interview with China’s Xinhua news agency, Putin praised Xi for helping to build a “strategic partnership” with Russia based on national interests and deep mutual trust.

“It was the unprecedentedly high level of the strategic partnership between our countries that determined my choice of China as the first state that I would visit after officially taking office as president of the Russian Federation,” Putin said.

“We will try to establish closer cooperation in the field of industry and high technology, space and peaceful nuclear energy, artificial intelligence, renewable energy sources and other innovative sectors,” Putin said.

Putin, 71, and Xi, 70, will take part in a gala evening celebrating 75 years since the Soviet Union recognised the People’s Republic of China, which was declared by Mao Zedong in 1949, read the report.

Xinhua confirmed his arrival for what China’s state press has described as a state visit from an “old friend”.

Putin’s arrival and visit is the top trending item on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, with 1.4 million search requests amid a stream of images, videos and comments.

The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat while U.S. President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.

Putin and Xi share a broad world view, which sees the West as decadent and in decline just as China challenges U.S. supremacy in everything from quantum computing and synthetic biology to espionage and hard military power.

Putin will also visit Harbin in northeastern China, a city with historic ties to Russia. A mall devoted to Russian-made goods representing some 80 Russian manufacturers opened on Thursday, the China Daily reported.

XI AND PUTIN

China has strengthened its trade and military ties with Russia in recent years as the United States and its allies imposed sanctions against both countries, particularly against Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The West says China has played a crucial role in helping Russia withstand the sanctions and has supplied key technology which Russia has used on the battlefield in Ukraine.

But China, once the junior partner of Moscow in the global Communist hierarchy, remains by far the most powerful of Russia’s friends in the world.

Putin’s arrival follows a mission to Beijing late last month by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in part to warn China’s top diplomat Wang Yi against deepening military support for Russia.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said that the two leaders would hold informal talks on Thursday evening over tea and that they would touch on Ukraine, Asia, energy and trade.

Putin’s newly appointed defence minister, Andrei Belousov, as well as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu and foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov, will also attend, along with Russia’s most powerful CEOs.

It was not immediately clear if Gazprom (GAZP.MM), opens new tab CEO Alexei Miller would go to China as he was on a working visit to Iran on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

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World Court to hold hearings over Israel’s Rafah attacks

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2024)

The U.N.’s International Court of Justice will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday to discuss new emergency measures sought by South Africa over Israel’s attacks on Rafah during the war in Gaza, the court said Tuesday.

The measures form part of an ongoing case South Africa filed at the ICJ in December last year accusing Israel of violating the Genocide Convention during its offensive against Palestinians in Gaza, Reuters reported.

Israel has previously said it is acting in accordance with international law and has called the genocide case baseless and accused Pretoria of acting as “the legal arm” of Gaza’s ruling Hamas militants.

South Africa will address the court on Thursday after it asked the ICJ, also known as the World Court, last week to order Israel to cease its Rafah offensive and allow unimpeded access to Gaza for U.N. officials, organisations providing humanitarian aid, and journalists and investigators.

Israel will present its side of the case on Friday, according to the court schedule.

The war has killed nearly 35,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities there. About 1,200 people were killed in Israel and 253 taken hostage on Oct. 7 when Hamas launched the attack that started the war, according Israeli tallies.

The hearings in The Hague will only focus on issuing emergency measures, to keep the dispute from escalating, before the court can rule on the merits of the case, which usually takes years. While the ICJ’s rulings are binding and without appeal, the court has no way to enforce them, read the report.

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UN says Gaza death toll still over 35,000 but not all bodies identified

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(Last Updated On: May 14, 2024)

The death toll in the Gaza Strip from the Israel-Hamas war is still more than 35,000, but the enclave’s Ministry of Health has updated its breakdown of the fatalities, the United Nations said on Monday after Israel questioned a sudden change in numbers, Reuters reported.

U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said the ministry’s figures – cited regularly by the U.N. its reporting on the seven-month-long conflict – now reflected a breakdown of the 24,686 deaths of “people who have been fully identified.”

“There’s about another 10,000 plus bodies who still have to be fully identified, and so then the details of those – which of those are children, which of those are women – that will be re-established once the full identification process is complete,” Haq told reporters in New York.

Israel last week questioned why the figures for the deaths of women and children has suddenly halved, read the report.

Haq said those figures were for identified bodies – 7,797 children, 4,959 women, 1,924 elderly, and 10,006 men – adding: “The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing.”

Oren Marmorstein, spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Monday accused Palestinian militants Hamas of manipulating the numbers, saying: “They are not accurate and they do not reflect the reality on the ground.”

“The parroting of Hamas’ propaganda messages without the use of any verification process has proven time and again to be methodologically flawed and unprofessional,” he said in a social media post.

Haq said U.N. teams in Gaza were not able to independently verify the Gaza Ministry of Health (MoH) figures given the ongoing war and sheer number of fatalities.

“Unfortunately we have the sad experience of coordinating with the Ministry of Health on casualty figures every few years for large mass casualty incidents in Gaza, and in past times their figures have proven to be generally accurate,” Haq said.

The World Health Organization “has a long-standing cooperation with the MoH in Gaza and we can attest that MoH has good capacity in data collection/analysis and its previous reporting has been considered credible,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris.

“Real numbers could be even higher,” she said.

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