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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Egyptian Government Building Set Ablaze as 525 Die in Clashes

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the party of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, stormed a government building in Cairo on Thursday and set fire to it, one day after government troops broke up different MB protest sit-ins scattered around the Egyptian capital, killing 525 people and wounding thousands more. “After the blows and arrests and killings that we are facing, emotions are too high to be guided by anyone”, said MB spokesman Gehad el-Haddad, adding that anger within the party “was beyond control”. The organisation has called for further marches on Thursday evening in Cairo as well as Alexandria and other cities across the country. Despite images of the violent crackdown being shown on live TV, some Egyptians voice their support for the action, showing society’s deepening divide. “They are terrorists and violent, and what happened was the only logical way to end their sit-ins, which did have weapons and violent people. Thank God the police ended them. I wish they had done so sooner”, said Ismail Khaled, a 31-year-old manager.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Begin in Jerusalem

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have begun their first direct peace talks in three years in Jerusalem, with the first meeting ending late on Wednesday after several hours of discussions. The talks were described as “long and serious” by an Israeli official quoted by the BBC, but no communiqué was issued after the first day. A Palestinian official said the teams had agreed to meet weekly and alternate between Jerusalem and Jericho, in the West Bank. The talks have been overshadowed by the Israeli decision to build more than 2,000 new settlement homes, an illegal action according to international law. “This is just the first course”, said Israeli Housing Minister Uri Aviel, adding that “thousands of homes” would be built in the West Bank.

Syria Agrees to Allow UN Chemical Weapons Inspectors In

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said late on Wednesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to allow the visit of a team of chemical weapons inspectors in the coming days. The team will be led by Swedish arms expert Ake Sellstroem. “The negotiations between Syria and the UN ended positively and the team is expected in Syria in the coming days. There were no difficulties in the negotiations and Syria said it is ready to give the team all the facilities it needs to carry out its mission. Syria has nothing to hide”, said a Syrian Foreign Ministry official. One site to be visited by the team will be the Khan al-Assal district of Aleppo, where the Syrian government says chemical weapons were used by rebels. Another two locations would also be visited, but were not disclosed by UN officials or the Syrian government.

Central African Republic a ‘Serious Threat’, Says UN Security Council

The UN Security Council has warned that the rebel takeover of the Central African Republic (CAR) was a serious threat to regional stability. “The country runs the risk of descending into anarchy and chaos”, said UN CAR envoy Babacar Gaye. Fighters from the Seleka coalition took power in March, but there is no apparent chain of command. Looting and crime are common means of sustenance for the troops. The instability in the country has also allowed troops from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda to set up bases within CAR territory. The situation has also had a detrimental effect on the country’s already impoverished healthcare system. “All the pharmacies have been hit. There are no medications, no drugs, equipment has been stolen. I’ve been to hospitals where even the mattresses have been stolen”, said Save the Children spokesman Mark Kaye.

New Zealand Opens Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch

Christchurch has held a religious service to mark the opening of the transitional, cardboard-made cathedral in its centre, replacing the neo-Gothic structure destroyed by the 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people in New Zealand’s second largest city. “The old cathedral symbolised the city in many ways and we think this cathedral is a symbol that Christchurch is regrouping and rebuilding. The community has a cathedral again. It’s a place where people can come for quiet contemplation in the city centre and somewhere we can hold concerts and art exhibitions”, said acting dean Lynda Patterson. The structure was designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, known for using low-cost and easily available materials to build structures in disaster zones.

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