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Israel mourns teens, launches air strikes on Gaza

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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Israel mourns teens, launches air strikes on Gaza
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Thousands of mourners gathered on Tuesday in an outpouring of national grief for the burial of three Israeli teenagers whose abduction and killing Israel blamed on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group it vowed to punish.

Israel bombed dozens of sites in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, wounding two Palestinians, striking at Hamas a day after finding the bodies of the Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank, not far from where they went missing while hitchhiking on June 12.

But officials said Israel’s security cabinet, which held an emergency session late on Monday and was due to meet again on Tuesday, was split on the scope of any further action in the coastal enclave or in the West Bank. The United States and regional power-broker Egypt urged restraint.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised Hamas would pay. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, speaking at a funeral service for one of the teens, said: “Hamas’s leaders and members should know that the blood of whoever dares strike at the citizens of Israel is forfeit. They should know that we will pursue them wherever they are and hit them hard.”

The military said aircraft attacked 34 targets in Gaza, mostly belonging to Hamas. Its statement did not link the strikes to the abductions. The military cited 18 Palestinian rockets launched against Israel from Gaza in the past two days.

Palestinian medics said two people were slightly wounded.

The Islamist group has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the disappearance of the students nor in the cross-border rocket salvoes from Gaza.

Before their joint burial in the Israeli city of Modi’in, funeral services were held outside the homes of Gil-Ad Shaer and U.S.-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19.

“There hasn’t been a show of unity like this in Israel for years,” Fraenkel’s father, Avraham, said at the service, as he stood facing the body of his son, which was draped with an Israeli flag.

Israeli television and radio stations interrupted regular programming to broadcast the funerals.

“We will learn to sing without you, but we will always hear your voice within us,” Naftali’s mother, Rachel, said.

At the security cabinet meeting, the army proposed “considered and moderate actions” against militants in the West Bank, officials said. Any sustained campaign there could undermine U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But the cabinet did not agree on a future course of action at that session, officials said.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel against going too far.

“The response of the resistance has been limited, and Netanyahu must not test Hamas’s patience,” said Abu Zuhri, whose group’s arsenal includes rockets that can reach Tel Aviv.

STATUS QUO

Netanyahu seized on the abduction to demand Abbas annul a reconciliation deal he reached with Hamas, his long-time rival, in April that led to a unity Palestinian government on June 2.

An Arab diplomat familiar with Egyptian mediation between Israel and the Palestinians said Cairo, echoing Washington, expected the Netanyahu government to tread carefully. “I don’t believe Israel is ready, just yet, to change the status quo,” he told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “It can punish those who did the crime, but should not get out of control with civilians who had nothing to do with the crime.” In the West Bank on Tuesday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said troops opened fire at a man, identified by Palestinian officials as Yousouf Al-Zagha, 19, who threw a grenade at soldiers attempting to arrest a militant in Jenin refugee camp. A Palestinian witness said Zagha was an innocent passerby.

The men Israel has accused of carrying out the abductions are still at large.

Troops set off explosions late on Monday in the family homes of the alleged abductors in the West Bank town of Hebron, blowing open a doorway in one, an army spokeswoman said. The other property was on fire after the blast. Soldiers, who arrested one of the suspect’s father and brothers, ordered the inhabitants of the dwellings to leave before the detonations.

“This kind of act is a sin, whether you’re a Muslim or Jew. They’ve scared the kids so much,” Um Sharif, the mother of one of the alleged kidnappers, said about the damage to her home.

Hamas has been rocked by the arrest of dozens of its activists in an Israeli sweep in the West Bank over the past three weeks during the search for the teenagers that Israel said was also aimed at weakening the militant movement. Up to six Palestinians died as a result of the Israeli operation, local residents said

Abbas condemned the abduction and pledged the cooperation of his security forces, drawing criticism from Hamas and undercutting his popularity among Palestinians angered by what they saw as his collusion with Israel.

Hamas, which has maintained security control of the Gaza Strip since the unity deal, is shunned by the West over its refusal to renounce violence. The group has called for Israel’s destruction, although various officials have at times indicated a willingness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Travel

UPDATE: Thomas Cook financial collapse

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UPDATE: Thomas Cook financial collapse | The Thaiger

“These insolvency proceedings do not involve the continental and Nordic businesses.”

The UK Thomas Cook businesses are now under the control of the official receiver who has appointed AlixPartners and KPMG as special managers to oversee the liquidation, and in the case of AlixPartners, to work with the business to assist the UK Civil Aviation Authority on repatriation of existing customers on holiday.

Current information from the management of Thomas Cook…

“Negotiations on the planned recapitalisation of Thomas Cook Group have failed. Therefore, Thomas Cook GmbH is forced to switch to emergency management.

Traveling on the 23rd and 24th of September can not be guaranteed. Any sale of travel is stopped. We are currently finalising options. Should these fail, we are forced to file for bankruptcy for Thomas Cook GmbH, Thomas Cook Touristik GmbH and Bucher Reisen & Öger Tours GmbH and possibly other companies.

We will contact guests with departures on September 23 and 24 as soon as possible. Please refrain from calling our own Call Centres. The organiser Aldiana is not affected by this bankruptcy.

As part of an open letter to staff the Thomas Cook CEO outlines that the company’s nordic and continental businesses were not affect and will continue to trade.

CEO Peter Fankhauser wrote an email to staff explaining that the failure occurred despite “fierce negotiation”.

“It is with a heavy heart that I write this message to you. I deeply regret to inform you that after many months of fierce negotiation we have failed to find the support required for the continued future of the Thomas Cook Group.

I know you will find this incredibly difficult to digest – as I do. However, I want you to know that the team and I explored every avenue and beyond to save this business.

These insolvency proceedings do not involve the continental and Nordic businesses.

The coming weeks are going to be extremely difficult. However, I know I can rely on you all to behave in the same exemplary way you have always done in times of crisis.

Shortly, you will receive invitations to relevant townhalls and team meetings that will be supported by our HR colleagues and professionals from AlixPartners or KPMG. It has been an honour and my great privilege to work with all of you for the past 20 years.

I am so proud of everything you have done to keep our customers at the heart of everything we do; your dedication and expertise is the reason why Thomas Cook will always be one of the best loved brands in travel.

Thank you for all of your support. I truly wish you all the best for your future.”

UPDATE: Thomas Cook financial collapse | News by The Thaiger

CEO Thomas Cook, Dr Peter Fankhauser

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Tourism

UK travel icon Thomas Cook bankrupt, stranding tourists

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PHOTO: Axios.com

“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”

British travel giant Thomas Cook declared bankruptcy today after failing to reach a last-ditch rescue deal. The collapse triggers the UK’s biggest repatriation since World War II to bring back stranded passengers.

The 178 year old operator had been desperately seeking a 200 million pound (US$250 million, 227 million euros) bailout from private investors to save it from collapse.

“Despite considerable efforts, those discussions have not resulted in agreement between the company’s stakeholders and proposed new money providers.”

“The company’s board has therefore concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect.”

The government says it has already hired planes to fly home an estimated 150,000 holidaymakers to the UK, in an operation starting today.

In Thailand there are also “probably a few thousand” holidaymakers as local operators assess the challenge of getting British holiday-makers in Thailand back to the UK. A Thai-based hotelier told The Thaiger this morning that the collapse will be catastrophic for the UK holiday market and will impact Thai bookings from the British, especially over the forthcoming Christmas and New Year season.

“There are many hotels with long-term contracts with Thomas Cook, but those bookings will now fall through. It’s not good for tourism in Thailand that has been so popular for British tourists for twenty years.”

Following the collapse of Thomas Cook and the cancellation of all its flights, the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that the government and UK Civil Aviation Authority hired dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge,” a separate statement said, describing it as the largest repatriation in peacetime history.

“All customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date.”

Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser called it a “deeply sad day”.

“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful,” he said.

“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” he added in the group’s statement.

22,000 jobs

The firm’s creditors held marathon meetings yesterday to try and work out a deal, followed by a meeting of the board of directors. Reports said a collapse of the group would mean the repatriation of 600,000 tourists, including around 150,000 seeking government help returning to the UK.

Two years ago, the collapse of Monarch Airlines prompted the British government to take emergency action to return 110,000 stranded passengers, costing taxpayers some £60 million on hiring planes. As well as the grounding of its planes, Thomas Cook has been forced to shut travel agencies, leaving the group’s 22,000 global employees – 9,000 of whom are in Britain – out of a job.

Holidaymakers had already reported problems, with guests at a hotel in Tunisia owed money by Thomas Cook being asked for extra money before being allowed to leave, according to a tourist interviewed by AFP.

Chinese peer Fosun, which was already the biggest shareholder in Thomas Cook, agreed last month to inject £450 million into the business as part of an initial £900 million rescue package.

In return, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate acquired a 75% stake in Thomas Cook’s tour operating division and 25% of its airline unit.

Thomas Cook in May revealed that first-half losses widened on a major write-down, caused in part by Brexit uncertainty that delayed summer holiday bookings. The group, which has around 600 stores across the UK, has also come under pressure from fierce online competition.

Cabinet maker Thomas Cook created the travel firm in 1841 to carry temperance supporters by train between British cities. It soon began arranging foreign trips, being the first operator to take British travellers on escorted visits to Europe in 1855, to the United States in 1866 and on a round-the-world trips in 1872. The company was also a pioneer in introducing “circular note” – products that would later become traveller’s cheques.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

UK travel icon Thomas Cook bankrupt, stranding tourists | News by The Thaiger

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Last five years “Hottest on record” – UN Climate Summit

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Last five years “Hottest on record” – UN Climate Summit | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Greenpeace USA

“Average global temperature between 2015-2019 is on track to be the hottest of any five-year period on record, according to the report compiled by the World Meteorological Organisation.”

A damning new UN report published yesterday says the world is falling badly behind in the race to avert “climate disaster” because of runaway warming, with the five-year period ending 2019 set to be the hottest ever.

It comes ahead of today’s UN climate summit that is being attended by more than 60 world leaders. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will be pushing for countries to increase their greenhouse gas reduction targets. Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is one of the world leaders attending the Summit in New York.

The report “highlights the urgent need for the development of concrete actions that halt global warming and the worst effects of climate change,” says its authors, the Science Advisory Group to the summit.

Average global temperature between 2015-2019 is on track to be the hottest of any five-year period on record, according to the report compiled by the World Meteorological Organization.

The period “is currently estimated to be 1.1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than 2011-2015,” it said. The past four years were already the hottest since record-keeping began in 1850.

Guterres said last week the world was “losing the race” on climate change, and the latest report spells out the extent to which the gap between what is required and what is happening is widening. Rather than falling, carbon dioxide grew another 2% in 2018.

More importantly, there is also no sign yet of reaching what is known as “peak emissions,” the point at which levels will start to fall, though these are not growing at the same rate as the global economy.

The 2015 Paris Agreement saw countries lay out national targets to reduce their emissions in order to limit long term temperature rise by under two degrees Celsius or ideally 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

These are benchmarks that will limit in important ways the impact of warming on world weather systems.

But even if all countries meet the goals they set themselves, the world will warm by 2.9 degrees Celsius to 3.4 degrees Celsius, the report found.

The current levels of ambition would need to be tripled to meet the two degrees Celsius goal and increased five-fold to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal – technically still possible.

“This reads like a credit card statement after a five-year long spending binge,” said Dave Reay, a professor and chair in Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh.

“Our global carbon credit is maxed out,” he added. “If emissions don’t start falling there will be hell to pay.”

Last five years

One of the biggest power stations in Germany

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