INDEPENDENT 2024-07-05 12:09:53

Nine in 10 people in Gaza displaced since war began, says UN agency

About 90 per cent of the population of Gaza has been displaced at least once since the beginning of the IsraelHamas war, according to a UN humanitarian agency.

About 1.9 million people are believed to be displaced in Gaza, Andrea De Domenico, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Palestinian territories, said.

“We estimate that nine in every 10 people in the Gaza Strip have been internally displaced at least once, if not up to 10 times, unfortunately, since October,” he told reporters, according to AFP.

“Before we were estimating 1.7 (million) but since that number, we had the operation in Rafah, and we had additional displacement from Rafah,” he said.

“Then we also had operations in the north that [have] also moved people,” he added.

Israel launched a brutal ground and air war on Gaza after Hamas attacked southern Israel and killed nearly 1,200 people on 7 October last year.

The Israeli war has killed around 38,000 Palestinians so far, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Mr De Domenico said: “Behind these numbers, there are people … that have fears and grievances. And they had probably dreams and hopes; the less and less, I fear today, unfortunately.

People who in the last nine months have been moved around like pawns in a board game.”

Gaza is “the only place in the world where people cannot find a safe refuge, and can’t leave the front line”, he said, according to Al Jazeera.

Just days ago, Israel’s military ordered a mass evacuation of Palestinians from the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. The evacuation order covered the eastern half of Khan Younis as well as a large part of Gaza’s southeastern corner.

“For your safety, you must evacuate immediately to the humanitarian zone,” Army spokesperson Avichay Adraee told residents in a post on X.

The Israeli military’s evacuation order for Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city, affected about 250,000 people, according to the UN.

Palestinians in the area also reported receiving evacuation orders through audio messages from Israeli numbers. ​​“We received a message on our mobile phones” to evacuate, a displaced woman identified as Zeinab Abu Jazar was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “Look at these children, how they walk. We did not find a car to ride in.”

Khan Younis was destroyed in an Israeli assault earlier this year, but large numbers of Palestinians had moved back to escape another offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

“It’s an unendurable life,” Anwar Salman, a displaced Palestinian told AP. “If they want to kill us, let them do it. Let them drop a nuclear bomb and finish us. We are fed up. We are tired. We are dying every day.

Earlier, Clive Baldwin, a senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch said in a statement: “Governments supporting Israel and Palestinian armed groups should not only use their leverage to stop further abuses, but also to ensure that victims and survivors receive meaningful reparations.”

The OCHA had also previously stated that the number of “Palestinians from Gaza who have been detained by the Israeli military” since 7 October last year “remains unknown”.

Additional reporting with agencies.

Japanese man dies while descending one of Pakistan’s highest mountains

A Japanese climber fell to his death while descending one of the highest mountains in northern Pakistan, just weeks after two other Japanese climbers died in the South Asian country.

Hiroshi Onishi, 64, fell into a crevasse earlier this week on the 7,027m (23,054ft) Spantik Peak, also known as Golden Peak.

“While descending, he fell into a crevasse near Camp 2,” Ataur Rehman Kakar, the Nagar district deputy commissioner, told AFP.

“The other climbers and porters recovered the body and brought it to Camp 1 safely,” he added. Rescuers located his body and arrangements were being made to airlift the corpse by helicopter to the base camp, the Alpine Club of Pakistan said.

Mr Khan said authorities were in contact with the Japanese embassy.

Onishi was among the four Japanese mountaineers who began their climb on 10 June with the help of two Pakistani porters, who summited the peak on 1 July.

Earlier two Japanese climbers, Atsushi Taguchi and Ryuseki Hiraoka, died while trying to scale the same mountain. They went missing on 13 June and Hiraoka’s body was found two days later.

His colleague was presumed dead after an unsuccessful weeklong search. Both had fallen into a deep crevasse, authorities said.

The secretary of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, Karrar Haidri, conveyed condolences to Onishi’s family and friends. “It is indeed shocking for all of us because another Japanese has died on the same mountain where two Japanese died in June,” Mr Haidri said.

The Golden Peak is renowned for its distinct golden hue at sunrise and sunset, making it a popular destination.

Several climbers die in Pakistan every year while trying to reach the summit of some of the world’s highest mountains, including K2, which is located in Pakistan’s north.

More than 8,900 foreigners visited the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region where Spantik is located in 2023, according to government figures.

Pro-Palestinian protesters climb on roof of Australian parliament

Pro-Palestinian protesters climbed on the roof of Australia’s parliament in Canberra on Thursday and unfurled banners with slogans as police locked down the building in the wake of the security breach.

The protesters were taken away by police after they climbed down two hours later. It was not clear if any of them had been charged.

At least four protesters were seen on top of the building, holding banners with slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” in support of the embattled people of Gaza.

One banner read, “War crimes, enabled here”.

Israel launched a brutal ground and air war on Gaza after Hamas attacked southern Israel and killed nearly 1,200 people on 7 October last year.

The Israeli war has killed around 38,000 Palestinians so far, according to Gaza’s health ministry. It has also displaced 90 per cent of the territory’s 2.3 million population, according to the UN’s humanitarian agency, and left them facing starvation.

The security breach caused concern among Australian parliamentarians as the opposition coalition called for an investigation. “This is a serious breach of the parliament’s security,” the coalition’s home affairs spokesperson James Paterson said.

“The building was modified at great expense to prevent incursions like this. An investigation is required.”

MP Keith Pitt said there were “serious questions” that must be asked about how the protesters accessed the roof.

“I support an individual’s right to protest, that’s something that has been fought for and defended in this nation since we commenced,” he was quoted as saying by the ABC.

“But I don’t support an individual’s right to firstly put themselves at risk, as these individuals have done, and secondly to prevent the Australian public from accessing their parliament and seeing their representatives work.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters from the group Renegade Activists coordinated with advocates of other causes such as Indigenous people’s rights and the climate crisis.

At around 10am on Thursday, anti-coal protesters wearing “Rising Tide” shirts attracted the police and security personnel at the parliament building by glueing themselves to its marble pillars.

While they were being removed, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters climbed onto a portico above the main entrance, unfurling banners against Israel’s war in Gaza and in support of Indigenous Australians.

The activists on the roof read aloud a statement demanding the end of “American and Australian support for the genocidal state of Israel”.

They also sent out paper planes with their messages.

“To the Albanese government: we will not forget, we will not forgive, and we will continue to resist,” they said.

They also declared: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”

Shaun Murray, a spokesperson for Rising Tide, which organised the climate protest at the parliament, claimed ignorance when asked if they were aware other demonstrations would take place at the same time.

“No. I guess it’s just democracy in action. This government has got a shocking record on genocide and a shocking record on climate,” he told The Guardian.

Responding to the protests, defence minister Richard Marles said: “I think it’s really important that we do everything we can to take the temperature down here. It’s not about denying anyone their right to have their say — people should have their say — but that can be done in a respectful way, which contributes to the national debate without doing anything to disrespect other Australians, to put people in danger and to give rise to social disunity.”

Pro-Palestinian student protesters in Australia previously filled universities in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Canberra demanding they cut academic ties with Israel and end research partnerships with companies supplying weapons to the Israeli military.

Australian police find remains of missing child after crocodile attack

Australian police have found what appeared to be the remains of a 12-year-old child who went missing after a suspected crocodile attack.

The child went missing on Tuesday afternoon after going for a swim near the remote Northern Territory community of Palumpa, around 350km from Darwin, police said.

“This is devastating news for the family, the community and everyone involved in the search,” senior police sergeant Erica Gibson said on Thursday.

She said the recovery of the remains was “particularly gruesome, and a sad, devastating outcome”.

“Police are providing support to the family and community, along with the first responders who attended the scene.”

Ms Gibson said police were working to trap the crocodile believed to be responsible for the child’s death.

“Investigations will continue, that is a long and protracted matter,” she said. “The search element will still continue insofar as the croc traps and monitoring the activities in the waterways.”

The victim belonged to the remote Aboriginal community of Nganmarriyanga, also known as Palumpa. The family was visiting the creek for holidays, police told ABC Radio.

Police said they discovered the child’s T-shirt upstream on Wednesday and their search had shifted to the recovery stage.

Ms Gibson said the remains indicated injuries consistent with a crocodile attack.

“It was an extremely difficult 36 hours for the first responders involved in the search,” she said.

Members of the community in Palumpa had joined the search led by Northern Territory police.

The Northern Territory is home to some 100,000 saltwater crocodiles that are larger and more dangerous to humans.

The territory has a population of 252,469 but only about 364 people live in Palumpa, according to federal data.

Last month, a crocodile that had been terrorising people in the Northern Territory was killed and eaten by villagers. The reptile was blamed for devouring pets and chasing children and the local authorities deemed it a “significant risk to the community”.

Police said they shot the crocodile after consultation with traditional owners, elders, community members and the Parks and Wildlife officials.

In January, a nine-year-old boy was left fighting for life after being attacked by a crocodile while swimming in the territory.

Last year, an Australian man dramatically escaped an attack by a saltwater crocodile after prising its jaws off his head. Marcus McGowan, 51, from Brisbane, was snorkelling at a luxury private island resort on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia when he was attacked.

Scientists discover world’s oldest cave painting

Scientists have discovered artwork depicting three human-like figures interacting with a wild pig in what they have determined is the world’s oldest-known confidently dated cave painting – created at least 51,200 years ago.

The artwork was found on the ceiling of a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The discovery drives home the point that Europe was not the birthplace of cave art, as had long been assumed.

The researchers used a new scientific approach to determine the minimum age of the newly disclosed painting inside the Leang Karampuang cave in the Maros-Pangkep region of South Sulawesi province by using a laser to date a type of crystal called calcium carbonate that formed naturally on top of the painting.

“The method is a significant improvement over other methods and should revolutionize rock art dating worldwide,” said Maxime Aubert, a specialist in archaeological science at Griffith University in Australia and one of the leaders of the research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The scene, dominated by a representation of a pig measuring 36 inches by 15 inches (92 cm by 38 cm) that is standing upright along with three smaller human-like figures, is painted in a single shade of dark red pigment. There are other images of pigs in the cave as well.

The researchers interpreted the painting as a narrative scene, which they said would make it the oldest-known evidence of storytelling in art.

“The three human-like figures and the pig figure were clearly not depicted in isolation in separate parts of the rock art panel,” said Griffith University archeologist Adam Brumm, another of the study leaders.

“Rather, the juxtaposition of the figures – how they are positioned in relation to each other – and the manner in which they are interacting were clearly deliberate, and it conveys an unmistakable sense of action. There is something happening between these figures. A story is being told. Obviously, we don’t know what that story was,” Brumm added.

The researchers used the same dating method to reassess the age of another Sulawesi cave painting from a site called Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4, also depicting a narrative scene, this time depicting apparent part-human, part-animal figures hunting pigs and dwarf buffalo. It turned out to be at least 48,000 years old, upwards of 4,000 years earlier than previously thought.

“We, as humans, define ourselves as a species that tells stories, and these are the oldest evidence of us doing that,” Aubert said.

In the Leang Karampuang painting, the interaction between the human-like figures and the pig, a species still inhabiting the island, is somewhat cryptic.

“Two of these figures are holding objects of some kind, and at least one figure seems to be reaching towards the pig’s face. Another figure is positioned directly above the pig’s head in an upside down position,” Brumm said.

Little is known about the people who created the Sulawesi cave paintings. Aubert said the paintings may turn out to be older than the minimum age determined by the new testing and possibly date to the first Homo sapiens wave to sweep through the region, eventually reaching Australia about 65,000 years ago, on their migration out of Africa.

Until now, the oldest-known cave painting was one at Leang Tedongnge cave, also in Sulawesi, from at least 45,500 years ago.

The Leang Karampuang painting, the researchers said, predates the cave paintings of Europe, the earliest of which is at El Castillo in Spain, dating to about 40,800 years ago.

There is a hand stencil painting from Spain‘s Maltravieso cave that some scientists have dated to around 64,000 years ago and attributed to Neanderthals. Other scientists have disputed the age of the painting and have argued that it was created by Homo sapiens.

“This discovery of very old cave art in Indonesia drives home the point that Europe was not the birthplace of cave art, as had long been assumed. It also suggests that storytelling was a much older part of human history, and the history of art in particular, than previously recognized,” Brumm said.

“The earliest Sulawesi rock art is not ‘simple,’” Aubert added. “It is quite advanced and shows the mental capacity of people at the time.”

Nearly 500 hospitalised in Japan after taking red yeast supplements

Nearly 500 people in Japan have been hospitalised after consuming health supplements containing red yeast rice, the country’s health ministry said on Tuesday.

The dietary supplements from Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co, billed as helping to lower cholesterol, have been under investigation since being linked to five deaths in March. The supplements have beni koji which contains Monascus purpureus, a species of red mould used as a food colouring.

In all, the supplements have been linked to 175 deaths. The exact causes of death haven’t been confirmed but the health and welfare ministry told Reuters in April that “beni koji may be the cause”.

As many as 492 people have been hospitalised as of Sunday, 291 of them with kidney diseases, the Japan Times reported.

Kobayashi, based in Osaka, has been making beni koji products for years, with about one million packages sold in the last three fiscal years. But there has been a problem with the supplements produced in 2023.

The firm has said it found potentially toxic puberulic acid that could be produced by blue mould penicillium in beni koji materials produced between April and October last year at its Osaka factory.

It has recalled the supplements, which could be purchased without a doctor’s prescription, and launched an investigation.

The government has criticised the company for taking two months to announce the health impacts of its products. Kobayashi began recalling products on 22 March after receiving reports of kidney ailments.

The firm has since apologised and issued a statement asking consumers to not consume the supplements. “Please stop taking our products and please do not use them in the future,” it said.

“We will fully cooperate with the investigation so that we can resolve the problems as early as possible,” the head of Kobayashi’s investor relations, Yuko Tomiyama, told reporters in April.

The products are consumed outside Japan as well, with Taiwan reporting cases of acute renal failure. The island’s food and drug administration is investigating three “unexpected health reactions” that it said may be linked to imported materials from Kobayashi, the official Central News Agency reported.

A Chinese consumers association has urged people to stop using the supplements, state media reported.

The Independent has reached out to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical Co for a comment.

Indian cricket team returns home to hero’s welcome

The Indian men’s cricket team arrived to a colourful welcome in capital Delhi on Thursday after being stranded in Barbados due to the Hurricane Beryl.

Led by Indian skipper Rohit Sharma, the men’s team on Sunday won the T20 World Cup against South Africa in a nail-biter that broke a 12-year unsuccessful streak.

The team was eagerly expected after being stranded for three days in the Caribbean nation due to the Category 4 hurricane which passed through Barbados early Monday morning, causing heavy storm and high winds in the region.

The hurricane then made landfall on nearby Carriacou Island late Monday morning, bringing “catastrophic” 150mph winds and “life-threatening storm surge” to the Windward Islands, according to the National Weather Service.

Despite overcast weather in Delhi, the mood on the team’s arrival from Barbados was lifted by dhol beats, flower bouquets and cakes bearing the winning team’s photos.

An enthused squadron of over a dozen players, coaches, and their families were expected to fly home on a charter flight but were unable to do so earlier this week as airports were shut since Sunday evening.

Flight-tracking website Flightradar24 showed that the Air India flight with the World Cup champions was the most tracked plane on late Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Captain Rohit Sharma held up the World Cup trophy after arriving at the New Delhi International Airport as supporters waved the Indian national flag and chanted the country’s name.

The cricketers were then taken to meet prime minister Narendra Modi at his residence in New Delhi.

They are due to fly to Mumbai to participate in an open bus roadshow, followed by a celebration ceremony later on Thursday at the local Wankhede Stadium.

“We want to enjoy this special moment with all of you. So let’s celebrate this win with a victory parade at Marine Drive & Wankhede on July 4th from 5pm onwards. It’s coming home,” said Sharma on social media.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced a cash bonus of 1.25bn rupees ($15m) for the winning squad. This is the Indian men’s cricket team’s fourth World Cup win – bagging the ODI trophies in 1983 and 2011 and the T20 World Cups in 2007 and 2024.

At the post-match presentation, Sharma, 37, and Virat Kohli, 35, both announced their retirement from the format.

The duo are the two top run-scorers in the history of T20 internationals, both boasting over 4,000 runs, and they picked their moment of shared triumph to leave the stage.

Taiwan calls China’s capture of fishing boat ‘psychological warfare’

China’s seizure of a Taiwanese trawler is likely an act of psychological warfare to build pressure on the island’s government amid rising tensions in the region, Taiwanese officials claimed on Thursday.

The boat was captured after it reportedly sailed into Chinese waters on Tuesday.

Taipei is working to have the boat released, the officials said.

There were five fishermen onboard, three of them Indonesian.

They were fishing for squid in the waters near the Kinmen islands, the officials said.

Kinmen lies just off China’s coast but is controlled by Taiwan.

China reacted strongly to the vessel’s presence in its waters and said it violated a summer ban on fishing.

It accused Taiwan of carrying out illegal trawling in Chinese waters.

Tsai Ming-yen, director general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, claimed it was unusual for Chinese officials to board and detain a Taiwanese trawler.

“We must continue to analyse whether this is a cognitive warfare operation and will fully assess what the motivations are for the Chinese communists,” Tsai said.

Taiwan’s coast guard said China has seized Taiwanese trawlers before for illegal fishing but released them after fines were paid.

Chiu Chui-cheng, a top Taiwanese official for China affairs, said Taipei will work to get the boat and its fishermen released.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday confirmed the seizure of the boat and called it an act of “normal law enforcement” to protect fishery resources and the environment.

It said the boat was engaged in illegal fishing. “The relevant departments will deal with it in accordance with the law and regulations.”

The capture of the boat comes as a time of heightened tensions in the region.

China and Taiwan have been engaged in a diplomatic war of words especially since Lai Ching-te took over as Taiwan’s president in May.

Beijing, which considers Taiwan an integral part of its territory, has accused Mr Lai of being a “separatist”, meaning that he wants to prevent the island’s unification with the mainland.

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