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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Unannounced Israeli Missile Tests Sparks Concern Over Syria

A missile launch first reported by Russian defence officials as two ballistic “objects” fired eastward from the Mediterranean, roughly in the direction of Syria, was later revealed as an Israeli test of a missile against its own missile shield. The launch was initially picked up by an early warning radar station in Armavir, near the Black Sea, whose main task is to detect missile launches from Europe and Iran. The projectiles fell into the sea, according to sources in Damascus quoted by Russian news agency RIA-Novosti. “These things give us the power to protect ourselves, and anyone who considers harming us would do best not to”, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a speech on Tuesday. Such tests are normally announced in advance, but the system’s designer, Uzi Rabin, told Reuters that “what apparently made the difference today is the high state of tension over Syria and Russia’s unusual vigilance”.

UN Says More Than Two Million Have Already Fled Syria

UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has said the current refugee crisis stemming from the Syrian civil war is the world’s worst refugee crisis in 20 years, calling it a “humanitarian calamity”. More Syrians are now displaced that any other nationality, with over two million of the country’s citizens now registered as refugees. As of the end of August this number comprised 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon and 460,000 in Turkey. “The war is now well into its third year and Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs. This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months”, said UNHCR in a statement. UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said “the only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees”.

Japan to Build US$470m Ice Wall to Contain Fukushima Radioactive Leaks

The Japanese government announced on Tuesday that it will invest US$470m in the construction of a subterranean ice wall in an attempt to stop the leaks of radioactive water stemming from the Fukushima Daichii nuclear plant. The wall would run 1.4 kilometres and encircle the plant’s four destroyed nuclear reactors, with vertical pipes driven into the ground at one-metre intervals and receive constant coolants, effectively creating a wall of frozen earth. This would eventually produce a barrier that should keep groundwater out and any nuclear contaminants within its perimeter. The wall will also be able to resist power outages. “It would take months or years to thaw the wall out”, said Daniel Mageau, president of Seattle-based SoilFreeze, which builds such structures.

Germany to Prosecute 31 Former Auschwitz Guards

German prosecutors announced on Tuesday that the country’s justice system had decided to pursue 31 former Auschwitz guards who are still alive in the country. In addition to these, prosecutors said it had identified seven more former guards living abroad, two of whom they could not trace. “This shows that even 68 years after the end of World War II, there can be no end to the prosecution” of war criminals, said Baden-Württemberg state justice minister Rainer Stickelberger. The next step will be to search for former guards from other death camps, as well as surviving former members of the Einsatzgruppen, the elite SS force responsible for patrolling them. “This undertaking is proving to be most difficult, as it involves going through the entire collection of files”, said the country’s Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in a statement.

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