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In Pictures: Family in cave home faces Israeli eviction

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Ahmed Amarneh’s home, its wooden door leading into cushion-lined rooms, is not the first Palestinian residence in the occupied West Bank to receive a demolition notice from Israel.

But it may be the first built inside a cave that Israel has threatened to destroy.

Amarneh, a 30-year-old civil engineer, lives with his family in the northern West Bank village of Farasin, where Israel insists it must approve any new residential construction and can tear down homes built without permits.

“I tried twice to build [a house], but the occupation authorities told me it was forbidden to build in the area,” said Amarneh.

The Oslo peace accords of the 1990s gave the Palestinians self-rule in parts of the West Bank. However, about 60 percent of the territory dubbed Area C, where Farasin is located, remains under full Israeli civil and military control.

The United Nations considers Area C as occupied Palestinian territory. But Israel has increasingly taken land there for the construction of Jewish settlements – considered illegal under international law.

‘Didn’t make the cave’

Convinced he would never get Israeli approval to build a home in his village, Amarneh set his sights on a cave in the foothills overlooking Farasin.

Amarneh said he figured that because the cave is a natural formation, Israel could not possibly argue it was illegally built, while the Palestinian Authority agreed to register the land in his name.

Amarneh sealed the mouth of the cave with a stone wall and installed a wooden door at its centre.

He fashioned a kitchen, a living room, and sleeping areas for himself, his pregnant wife, and their young daughter. There is even space for guests.

After living there for a year and a half, he received a demolition notice from the Israeli authorities in July along with 20 other Palestinian families in Farasin.

The Israeli military branch responsible for civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank, COGAT, said demolition notices were served to some Farasin residences because of “structures that were illegally built, without the necessary permits and approvals”.

Amarneh said he was “surprised” to learn that he had built anything illegally.

“I didn’t make the cave. It has existed since antiquity,” he said, holding his young daughter in his arms.

“I don’t understand how they can prevent me from living in a cave. Animals live in caves and are not thrown out. So let them treat me like an animal and let me live in the cave.”

Israeli bulldozers

Arab residents established the village of Farasin in 1920, said local council head, Mahmud Ahmad Nasser.

It was abandoned during the 1967 War, the year the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began. But from the 1980s, former residents began to return to the area. Nasser put its current population at about 200.

Farasin looks less like a village than a small collection of houses spaced widely apart.

The PA officially recognised the community of Farasin in March, but the coronavirus crisis has prevented it from providing electricity to the area, the local council said.

COGAT indicated in April it might suspend some scheduled demolitions because of the pandemic.

But, according to the Israeli anti-settlement campaign group B’Tselem, Israel demolished 63 Palestinian structures in June.

Roughly 450,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank, alongside some 2.7 million Palestinians.

Farasin residents have feared the arrival of Israeli bulldozers for weeks, Amarneh said.

Recently soldiers came and told Palestinian people “they had one minute to collect all their things” and leave their house, he said.

“They told us, without any shame, to leave the village.”

Amarneh is fearful that his family’s cave home could be the next target, adding that his wife and daughter are “in shock”.

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The poisoning of Alexey Navalny: Five key things to know

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What happened on the day Navalny fell ill?

On August 20, a Thursday, Alexey Navalny, Russia’s leading Kremlin critic, had finished up campaigning for opposition politicians in Siberia for local elections, which were taking place from September 11 to 13. 

He left Xander Hotel and headed for the Tomsk Bogashevo airport. There, he drank a cup of tea. He was on the way to Moscow.

In the first half-hour of the flight, he fell ill and witnesses said he screamed in pain. He was later in a coma.

He was airlifted to Germany’s capital, a six-hour flight, to the Berlin Charite hospital.The plane made an emergency landing at Omsk. He received treatment in the Russian city, where doctors said he was too unwell to be moved, but two days later on August 22, a Saturday, they said his life was not in danger.

Was he poisoned? 

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, a claim several European countries support.

A laboratory in Germany said it had confirmation on September 2, followed by laboratories in France and Sweden on September 14.

Samples from Navalny have also been sent to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague for testing.

Russia says there is no evidence to prove Navalny was poisoned, while its ally Belarus has also doubted the claim. The doctors in Omsk said they had not detected poisonous substances in Navalny’s body. 

US President Donald Trump has been criticised for towing Russia’s line, saying on September 4 – two days after Germany’s claim to have “unequivocal evidence” – that “we have not had any proof yet”.

How is Navalny’s condition now?

On September 7, more than two weeks after falling ill on the plane, Navalny’s doctors in Germany said he was out of a coma and that his condition was improving. His spokeswoman said, “Gradually, he will be switched off from a ventilator.”

On September 15, Navalny posted on Instagram that he was breathing alone. He has said he plans to return to Russia. 

If he was poisoned, who may have poisoned him and where?

Navalny’s team believes he was poisoned at the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin – a claim the Kremlin has strongly denied. 

Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh had initially said she believed Navalny’s tea at the airport was poisoned, but on September 17, his team said the nerve agent was detected on an empty water bottle from his hotel room in the Tomsk, suggesting he was poisoned there and not at the airport. 

What effect has the alleged poisoning had?

The alleged attack has widened a rift between Europe and Russia, with Germany and France leading calls for a full investigation but stopping short of outrightly blaming the Russian government. 

MEPs have called for sanctions against Russia, saying on September 17, “The poison used, belonging to the ‘Novichok group’, can only be developed in state-owned military laboratories and cannot be acquired by private individuals, which strongly implies that Russian authorities were behind the attack.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Germany’s ambassador to Moscow, while the United Kingdom has summoned the Russian envoy over the incident.

For its part, Moscow rejects what it called the politicisation of the issue.

Significantly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is under pressure to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which transfers Russian gas to Germany. Once again, the Kremlin has warned not to involve the Navalny case in any discussion about the pipeline, with Dmitry Peskov saying on September 16, “It should stop being mentioned in the context of any politicisation.”


A timeline of events surrounding the alleged poisoning attack on Navalny: 

August 20 – Navalny falls ill on flight; plane makes emergency landing in Omsk; his spokeswoman says he was poisoned, perhaps by the tea he drank at the airport

August 22 – Navalny airlifted to Berlin Charite hospital 

September 2 – Germany says it has ‘unequivocal evidence’ Navalny was poisoned, Russia responds by saying the claim is not backed by evidence

September 4 – US President Donald Trump says ‘we do not have any proof yet’

September 6 – Heiko Maas, German foreign minister, threatens action over gas pipeline project, saying, ‘I hope the Russians don’t force us to change our position on Nord Stream 2’

September 7 – German doctors say Navalny is out of an artificial coma

September 11-13 – Russia holds local elections; Navalny’s allies make gains in Siberian cities

September 15 – Navalny posts on Instagram that he is breathing alone

September 16 – Kremlin spokesman warns against politicising Navalny issue in discussions over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany

September 17 – Navalny’s team now suspects he was poisoned in his hotel room, not the airport, citing traces of nerve agent on an empty water bottle

September 17 – MEPs call for sanctions against Russia 

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Former Canada PM Turner, in office for just 11 weeks, dies

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John Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister who held the office for just 79 days in 1984, died on Saturday aged 91.

Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner, who was in office for only 11 weeks in the 1980s, has died at age 91, Canadian media outlets reported on Saturday.

Turner served as the country’s 17th prime minister and, despite his short tenure at the helm of a Liberal Party government in 1984, he spent decades in Canadian federal politics.

Turner took over from Pierre Elliott Trudeau – current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father – in late June 1984 at a time of increasing voter fatigue with the Liberals, who had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years.

At that point, he had already held the posts of finance and justice minister.

But his 79-day tenure as prime minister was the second shortest in Canadian history. He resigned as Liberal leader in 1990 and was replaced by Jean Chretien, who led the party to victory in 1993.

Turner’s time in federal politics was perhaps best remembered for his battles with former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, especially over free trade with the United States, CBC News reported.

‘Distinguished service’

On Saturday, legislators from across the Canadian political spectrum shared their memories of Turner, whom many described as being deeply devoted to the public service, and sent their condolences to his family.

Former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who held the post from 2006 to 2015, said Turner “served his family and country with great dignity”.

“His legacy and commitment to public service will be remembered for generations,” Harper tweeted.

Liberal parliament member Yvan Baker said Turner was one of his early political role models.

“Canada meant everything to him, and he will be remembered for his life-long & distinguished service to this country,” Baker wrote on Twitter, alongside an image of himself with the late former prime minister.

Deeply saddened to learn former PM John Turner has passed away. He was one of my first political role models. Canada meant everything to him, and he will be remembered for his life-long & distinguished service to this country. My sympathies to his family at this difficult time. pic.twitter.com/U1Mq6pX1ZE

— Yvan Baker, MP (@Yvan_Baker) September 19, 2020

Bob Rae, a longtime politician and now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, said Turner was many things – a lawyer, Rhodes scholar, athlete – but a “believer above all in the public service”.

Canada’s Minister of Indigenous-Crown Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, said she would miss Turner’s “wise counsel”.

“He cared deeply about this country and our democratic institutions. We must now all carry his torch as we build an even better Canada,” she tweeted.

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Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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Trump bans TikTok over security concerns

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From: Inside Story

More than 100 million Americans will not be able to download two of the world’s most popular apps from Sunday.

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