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Protests in Israel Mark 9 Months of War with Hamas

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As Israel’s conflict with Hamas militants reached its nine-month milestone on Sunday, widespread protests erupted across the country, with demonstrators calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign and advocating for a cease-fire.

On October 7 last year, Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and capturing around 250 hostages. This prompted Israel to launch a ground and air counteroffensive in Gaza, resulting in over 38,000 Palestinian deaths, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel estimates that Hamas still holds 116 hostages, including 42 believed to be dead.

Sunday’s protests, labeled as a “Day of Disruption,” began at 6:29 a.m. local time, coinciding with the time of the initial Hamas rocket attacks. Protesters blocked major roads and demonstrated outside the homes of Israeli parliament members. Near the Gaza border, demonstrators released 1,500 black and yellow balloons to symbolize those killed and abducted.

Hannah Golan, one of the protest organizers, expressed frustration over the government’s handling of the situation, stating, “It’s nine months today, to this black day, and still, nobody in our government takes responsibility.” Netanyahu has maintained that discussions on the security failures should wait until after the fighting ends.

Amid ongoing hostilities, at least nine Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes, including Ehab Al-Ghussein, the Hamas-appointed deputy minister of labor, in an airstrike on a school in Gaza City. The Israeli military is investigating the incident.

Despite the continued violence, there are indications of possible progress towards a cease-fire. Hamas has reportedly dropped its demand for a complete end to the war as a condition for a cease-fire. Negotiations mediated by Qatar and Egypt are ongoing, with Hamas waiting for Israel’s response to a proposed three-phase cease-fire plan introduced by U.S. President Joe Biden in late May.

The plan includes a six-week cease-fire, during which older, sick, and female hostages would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from densely populated areas of Gaza, allowing displaced people to return to their homes.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns is scheduled to travel to Qatar for further negotiations. Meanwhile, Netanyahu has stated that discussions will continue this week, but he has not provided a detailed timeline.

In northern Israel, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah launched projectiles towards Israeli towns, leading to the serious injury of an Israeli man. This follows an Israeli airstrike that killed an engineer in Hezbollah’s air defense unit. The ongoing clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have heightened concerns of a potential regional war.

As protests and hostilities continue, the hope for a cease-fire and the release of hostages remains a focal point for many Israelis. The situation remains tense, with significant implications for regional stability and international diplomacy.

Analysis

Beauty in the Crossfire: Miss Somalia Pageant Amid Violence

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Amid Explosions and Controversy, Somali Women Defy Odds in Groundbreaking Beauty Pageant

On a night when most of Somalia tuned in to the Euro football final, a very different kind of spectacle unfolded at Mogadishu’s Elite Hotel. Hundreds gathered to witness the Miss Somalia pageant, a daring celebration of beauty and resilience in one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a woman. Just a kilometer away, the grim reality of Somali life was underscored by a car bomb explosion that killed five and injured twenty. The militant group al-Shabab, notorious for its reign of terror over Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The juxtaposition of a beauty pageant with such violence highlights the schizophrenic nature of life in Somalia. While pageant contestants paraded in glamorous gowns, the nearby explosion shattered the night, a stark reminder of the pervasive threat of terrorism. This contrast paints a vivid picture of a nation grappling with its identity and future.

Hani Abdi Gas, founded the competition in 2021. In a country where Islamist militants and conservative traditions dominate, her initiative is nothing short of revolutionary. Gas, who grew up in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya before returning to Somalia in 2020, sees the pageant as more than a beauty contest. It’s a platform for lifting women’s voices, fostering unity, and empowering Somali women.

Gas believes that Somalia, long deemed one of the worst places to be a woman, is ready to join the rest of the world in celebrating female beauty and aspiration. “I want to celebrate the aspirations of women from diverse backgrounds, build their confidence, and give them a chance to showcase Somali culture worldwide,” she said.

This year’s contestants reflected this diversity. Among them was a policewoman, a powerful symbol of women breaking barriers in a traditionally male-dominated society. However, not everyone was pleased. Many Somalis view beauty pageants as affronts to their culture and religion. Clan leader Ahmed Abdi Halane expressed disgust, saying, “Such things are against our culture and our religion. If a girl wears tight clothes and appears on stage, it will bring shame upon her family and her clan. Women are supposed to stay at home and wear modest clothes.”

Some women also oppose the pageant. Sabrina, a student, criticized the contestants for appearing in public without covering their necks, saying, “It is good to support the Somali youth but not in ways that conflict with our religion.”

Despite these criticisms, the pageant proceeded with its vibrant display of Somali culture. Aisha Ikow, a 24-year-old university student and make-up artist, was crowned Miss Somalia, taking home a $1,000 prize. Ikow, representing South-West state, vowed to use her platform to combat early marriage and promote girls’ education. “The competition celebrates Somali culture and beauty while shaping a brighter future for women,” she said.

The judging panel, which included Miss Somalia 2022 and a representative from the Ministry of Youth, found it hard to choose a winner. They assessed contestants on physical beauty, public speaking, and stage presence. An online vote, costing $1 per vote, funded the event and future international pageant participation.

The glitzy event in a luxury hotel contrasted sharply with the harsh realities faced by most Somali women. Four million Somalis, a quarter of the population, are internally displaced, with up to 80% being women. The UN ranks Somalia near the bottom on the Gender Inequality Index, with alarming rates of gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. Traditional practices still dictate that a rapist must marry his victim, and legal protections for women are severely lacking.

Despite these challenges, the Miss Somalia pageant signifies a slow but significant change. The fact that such an event could be held in Mogadishu, even amid nearby violence, indicates a shift in societal attitudes and an improvement in security.

The crowd at the Elite Hotel stayed until the early hours, undeterred by the attack’s proximity. They were engrossed in the pageant, the sound of the explosion drowned out by the waves crashing on the nearby beach.

In a nation torn by conflict and conservative values, the Miss Somalia pageant stands as a beacon of hope. It is a testament to the resilience of Somali women and their determination to carve out spaces of empowerment and celebration. As Somalia continues to navigate its complex identity, events like these are crucial in shaping a more inclusive and progressive future.

Kiin Hassan Fakat, reporting with Bilan Media, and Mary Harper, author of two books on Somalia, provide a lens into this transformative moment, capturing the courage and aspirations of Somali women amidst a backdrop of turmoil.

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Tragic Encounter: Spanish Tourist Killed by Elephants in South Africa

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A Spanish tourist was fatally trampled by elephants at South Africa’s Pilanesberg National Park after leaving his vehicle to take photos. The incident underscores the critical importance of heeding safety guidelines in wildlife reserves.

In a heartbreaking incident, a Spanish tourist was killed by a herd of elephants in South Africa’s Pilanesberg National Park after leaving his vehicle to take photos. The 43-year-old man, identified as Carlos Luna from Zaragoza, Spain, was with his fiancée and two other women when he decided to approach a group of elephants, including calves, for close-up photos. Ignoring warnings from his companions and other onlookers, Luna was charged by an adult female elephant. Though he attempted to flee, he was ultimately trampled to death by the herd.

Pilanesberg Game Reserve, a popular destination and South Africa’s fourth-largest park, is home to over 7,000 animals. Authorities emphasized the importance of respecting safety protocols and maintaining a safe distance from wildlife. The North West tourism board expressed sorrow over the incident and urged visitors to only exit vehicles in designated areas.

Elephant attacks, while tragic, are not uncommon in the region. Similar incidents have occurred, highlighting the inherent dangers of close wildlife encounters. In 2019, a suspected poacher was killed by an elephant in Kruger National Park, and in the same year, a security guard met a similar fate in Limpopo province. More recently, an elderly American tourist was killed in Zambia’s largest national park.

Efforts are underway to repatriate Luna’s body. This tragic event serves as a stark reminder of the risks involved in wildlife tourism and the necessity of adhering to safety guidelines to prevent such avoidable fatalities.

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Biden Announces Additional Air Defense Systems for Ukraine Amidst NATO Summit

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NATO Marks 75th Anniversary with New Commitments to Ukraine’s Defense

In a significant show of support, President Joe Biden has announced that Ukraine will receive five more air defense systems, including three Patriot batteries from the United States, Germany, and Romania. This announcement was made during NATO’s 75th-anniversary summit in Washington, D.C., where allies gathered to reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

The summit, held at the historic Mellon Auditorium, emphasized the alliance’s unwavering support for Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had previously indicated the need for at least seven advanced air defense systems to counter Russian air strikes effectively. With contributions from the Netherlands, Italy, and other NATO partners, Ukraine is set to bolster its air defense capabilities significantly.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the importance of continued support for Ukraine, stating, “The reality is there are no cost-free options with an aggressive Russia as a neighbor.” He emphasized that the greatest risk would be allowing Russia to win in Ukraine.

This announcement follows the U.S. Congress’s approval of new aid for Ukraine, which includes hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment and billions in long-term defense funding. The latest package provides interceptors for NASAMS and Patriot air defense systems, as well as long-range ATACMS missiles, nearly doubling Ukraine’s missile striking range to 300 kilometers (about 185 miles).

The NATO allies are working closely with Kyiv to ensure these systems are delivered promptly, with further announcements on strategic air defense expected later this year.

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Opinion

Urgent Call for Legislation to Protect the Honor of Somaliland’s Founding Fathers

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Open Letter to the Somaliland Parliament

Dear Honorable Members of the Somaliland Parliament,

I write to you today with a matter of utmost importance that affects the very fabric of our nation. The sacrifices and contributions of the Somaliland National Movement (SNM) mujahedeen, who fought bravely for the freedom and security we enjoy today, must be honored and protected by our laws. Among these heroic individuals, the current President of Somaliland, Muse Bihi Abdi, and the Minister of Interior, Mohamed Kahin Ahmed, stand as the foremost founding fathers of our nation.

Lately, there has been a disturbing trend of young individuals, claiming to be politicians, disrespecting and insulting these esteemed figures. Such actions not only tarnish the legacy of our freedom fighters but also threaten the unity and stability of Somaliland.

I urge you, the esteemed members of the Somaliland Parliament, to take swift and decisive action by enacting a law that criminalizes any form of insult or defamation against the SNM mujahedeen. This law should mandate strict penalties for those who dare to dishonor the heroes who sacrificed so much for our nation’s independence.

The freedom and security we cherish in Somaliland today were hard-earned through the blood, sweat, and tears of these brave individuals. It is our collective duty to ensure that their legacy is preserved and respected. By implementing this law, we will send a clear message that Somaliland values and honors its founding fathers and will not tolerate any attempts to undermine their contributions.

Failure to enact such legislation may result in unrest, as the descendants of these heroic figures may feel compelled to defend their honor through unlawful means. It is our responsibility to prevent such outcomes by providing a legal framework that upholds justice and respect for those who have given us the gift of freedom.

I implore you to act swiftly and decisively. Protect the honor of our founding fathers and ensure that their legacy remains untarnished for generations to come. The future of Somaliland depends on the actions we take today to safeguard our past.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.

Sincerely,

Somalilander

Political Warfare: The Waddani Party’s Systematic Demonization of President Muse Bihi

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Suspect Identified in Minneapolis Mass Shooting: Officer and Civilian Dead

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Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed Named as Gunman in Deadly Ambush That Killed Officer Jamal Mitchell and Civilian Osman Said Jimale

Minneapolis — Mustafa Ahmed Mohamed has been identified by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office as the suspect behind Thursday’s mass shooting in south Minneapolis, which resulted in the deaths of Officer Jamal Mitchell and civilian Osman Said Jimale.

The tragic incident began around 5:20 p.m. when Minneapolis police responded to a double shooting report at an apartment complex in the Whittier neighborhood. Officer Jamal Mitchell, 36, one of the first to arrive while on a mandated overtime shift, was ambushed and fatally shot by Mohamed. The assailant, who had a history of violent crime and outstanding warrants, was killed in a subsequent shootout with police.

The civilian victim, Osman Said Jimale, 32, was found with multiple gunshot wounds in Apartment 18 at 2221 Blaisdell Avenue. The chaotic scene also resulted in injuries to a second police officer, a firefighter, a bystander, and another individual.

Details of the Incident

The sequence of events leading to the shootout began with Mohamed shooting Jimale and critically injuring another person inside the apartment. Witnesses reported multiple gunshots, and a resident, Reuben Molina, described hearing four or five shots from an apartment below. Molina witnessed two men leaving the complex before more gunfire erupted.

Cory Jones, a bystander, recorded the aftermath as he saw officers huddled behind a fire truck and heard at least 11 gunshots. Officer Mitchell, attempting to provide aid, was ambushed and killed by Mohamed. The attack was captured on Mitchell’s body-worn camera, although the footage has not been released publicly.

Mohamed’s Criminal History

Court documents reveal Mohamed’s extensive criminal record, including convictions for first-degree burglary, third-degree burglary, and first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle. In 2013, he was indicted for being a felon in possession of ammunition and a firearm. In a related 2014 incident, Mohamed was found with a handgun magazine and a folding knife, leading to the discovery of a hidden nine-millimeter handgun.

Community and Official Reactions

The Whittier neighborhood, known for its diversity and vibrant community life, was deeply shocked by the incident. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Governor Tim Walz expressed their sorrow and called for a thorough investigation. “The city of Minneapolis lost a hero in police officer Jamal Mitchell,” Frey said. “This officer gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect and save the lives of others.”

Governor Walz emphasized the need for a commitment to public safety, stating, “The trauma quickly should turn to anger and a commitment that this cannot happen.”

Officer Mitchell, a father and engaged to be married, had been with the department for 18 months and was recognized for his bravery and dedication. Memorials have begun to appear in his honor as the community mourns his loss.

The BCA is leading the investigation to uncover the motives behind the shootings and the connections between the involved individuals. While it is believed that Mohamed knew the victims in the apartment, the exact nature of their relationship remains unclear.

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Tens of Billions in Gold Illegally Flow Out of Africa Annually

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DAKAR, SENEGAL — A recent report highlights a significant issue of gold smuggling out of Africa, revealing that tens of billions of dollars worth of gold are illegally exported each year, primarily to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This gold is refined and sold globally, posing severe challenges to transparency and ethical sourcing in the gold industry.

In 2022 alone, over $30 billion worth of gold, or more than 435 metric tons, was illicitly exported from Africa, according to a report by Swissaid, a Swiss aid and development organization. The primary destinations for this smuggled gold were the UAE, Turkey, and Switzerland.

The report by Swissaid provides a detailed analysis of the gold smuggling issue, indicating that between 32% and 41% of Africa’s gold production went undeclared in 2022. Ghana emerged as the largest gold producer on the continent, followed by Mali and South Africa. The report estimates that the UAE received about 405 metric tons of undeclared gold from Africa in 2022 alone. Over the decade from 2012 to 2022, this figure reached approximately 2,569 metric tons, valued at around $115 billion.

The gap between the UAE’s recorded gold imports and the reported exports from African countries has widened significantly, suggesting an increase in smuggling activities. For instance, the discrepancy grew from 234 metric tons in 2020 to 405 metric tons in 2022.

Switzerland, another major destination for African gold, imported about 21 metric tons of undeclared gold in 2022. The actual amount could be much higher, considering gold that is imported through third countries. Once refined, it becomes nearly impossible to trace the gold back to its original source.

The United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database highlights Switzerland as the main buyer of gold from the UAE, emphasizing the difficulties in verifying the origins of refined gold. “Sourcing gold from the UAE is notoriously risky,” the report states, underscoring the complexities in ensuring ethical gold sourcing.

The UAE government asserts that it has implemented significant measures to address gold smuggling and the associated risks. An official from the UAE government’s media office emphasized the country’s commitment to combating gold smuggling and ensuring transparency and accountability within its gold and precious metals sector.

Similarly, the Swiss government has acknowledged the challenges in identifying the origins of gold and has introduced measures to prevent illegal gold flows. Fabian Maienfisch, a spokesperson for Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, reiterated the country’s commitment to improving traceability, transparency, and control quality.

The illegal export of gold from Africa to countries like the UAE, Turkey, and Switzerland represents a massive loss of revenue for African nations and undermines efforts to establish ethical and transparent supply chains. The recommendations provided by Swissaid aim to address these issues and improve the living and working conditions of local populations and artisanal miners in Africa. However, significant challenges remain in ensuring that gold sourced from Africa meets international standards for ethical trade.

This report serves as a call to action for both African and non-African states to take decisive steps in curbing gold smuggling and promoting responsible mining practices. As the global demand for gold continues to grow, addressing these issues is crucial for sustainable and ethical economic development in Africa.

Source: The data and insights for this article are derived from the Swissaid report and statements from officials in the UAE and Switzerland.

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Attempted Coup in DRC Foiled, Involving US Citizens

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DRC Army Neutralizes Coup Leader Christian Malanga, Arrests 50 Including Three Americans

In a dramatic turn of events, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) thwarted an attempted coup early Sunday morning, resulting in the death of the coup leader, Christian Malanga, and the arrest of approximately 50 individuals, including three American citizens. Gunfire erupted around 4 a.m. in Kinshasa, with armed men targeting the presidency and the home of Vital Kamerhe, a key political figure.

Malanga, a US-based Congolese politician, had previously attempted a coup in 2017. During this recent attempt, Malanga was killed during the assault on the Palais de la Nation, and one of the arrested Americans was identified as his son. The attackers’ motives were articulated in a live-streamed video on a Facebook page linked to Malanga, where he expressed frustration with the current government led by President Tshisekedi and Kamerhe.

In a concerning development, a shell fired from Kinshasa landed in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, causing injuries and highlighting the regional instability stemming from the failed coup.

US Ambassador Lucy Tamlyn expressed deep concern over the involvement of American citizens and pledged full cooperation with DRC authorities to investigate and hold accountable those responsible.

UN’s stabilization mission in the DRC, led by Bintou Keita, condemned the coup attempt and offered support to the Congolese government.

President Tshisekedi, who was re-elected in December and is yet to finalize his government, postponed the parliamentary election scheduled for Saturday, adding to the country’s political tension. Vital Kamerhe, a prominent figure and potential speaker of parliament, was also targeted in the attacks.

The situation remains tense as the DRC navigates the aftermath of the coup attempt, grappling with internal and regional security challenges while striving for political stability and governance.

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Iranian President and Foreign Minister Die in Helicopter Crash

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In a tragic turn of events, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were discovered dead at the site of a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran. State media reported that the crash occurred near Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province due to adverse weather conditions.

The helicopter was returning from a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, where the officials had participated in the inauguration of a dam project. Aliyev expressed his profound sorrow and offered prayers and assistance, highlighting the close ties between the two nations.

Global leaders extended their condolences, with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declaring a day of mourning, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing shock and solidarity with Iran. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and UAE President bin Zayed Al Nahyan also conveyed their condolences.

According to Iran’s constitution, Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will temporarily assume presidential duties until a new election is held within 50 days. Raisi, seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was elected in 2021 amid a contentious election process.

This tragedy has cast a pall over Iran, with the nation mourning the loss of its top leaders and pondering the future political implications.

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