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Phuket Gazette World News: Israel bombs Syria, war touted; Razak wins Malaysia election; Neo-Nazi trial stuns Germany

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Phuket Gazette World News: Israel bombs Syria, war touted; Razak wins Malaysia election; Neo-Nazi trial stuns Germany | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Israel strikes Syria, says targeting Hezbollah arms
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Israeli jets bombed Syria on Sunday, rocking Damascus for hours and sending pillars of flame into the night sky in what a Western source called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Local people reported massive explosions and internet video showed the capital’s skyline lit by flashes; Syrian opponents of President Bashar al-Assad rejoiced at Israel’s third raid this year, and second in 48 hours, while anger in Tehran highlighted how Syria’s civil war risks spinning further beyond its borders.

Israel, while declining to confirm the strike, stressed its focus was to deny its Lebanese foes new Iranian firepower and not take sides between Assad, long seen as a toothless adversary, and rebels who have won sympathy from Israel’s Western allies but who also include al Qaeda Islamists hostile to the Jewish state.

It appears to calculate that Assad will not risk forces he needs to fight the rebels by attacking a much stronger Israel.

Syrian state television said the bombing around a military research facility at Jamraya caused “many civilian casualties and widespread damage” and quoted a letter from the foreign minister to the United Nations saying: “The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory.”

People living near the Jamraya base spoke of explosions over several hours in various places near Damascus, including a town housing senior officials: “Night turned into day,” one man told Reuters from his home near Jamraya, also struck on January 30.

CNN quoted Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad calling Sunday’s attack a “declaration of war”, and the Iranian foreign minister urged countries to resist Israel. But a senior Iranian commander also said Syria was strong enough to defend itself without Tehran’s help – though he also offered training.

Rockets targeted

A confidant of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel hoped that by not confirming its attack, it would not force its enemies into serious retaliation. There was little response from Hezbollah, Syria or Iran to an earlier attack on the Jamraya compound, near the Lebanese border, on January 30.

After an Israeli strike on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama defended Israel’s right to defend itself from Hezbollah, which fired many rockets into Israel during a war in 2006.

A Western intelligence source told Reuters: “In last night’s attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah in Lebanon declined immediate comment. Iran denied that the attack was on armaments bound for Lebanon.

Israel has long sought to block Hezbollah’s land, sea and air transport from Iran and frets such new missiles could give the Shi’ite militants, who share in Lebanon’s government, the ability to strike its Tel Aviv conurbation with some accuracy.

Netanyahu’s colleague, Tzachi Hanegbi, noted Obama’s reluctance to heed calls for U.S. military backing for the rebels despite Assad’s forces alleged use of poison gas.

Given the confusion among world powers, he added, Israel was only trying to protect its own interests and saw little to be gained by trying to influence the outcome of Syria’s civil war.

“The world is helplessly looking at events in Syria,” he told Army Radio. “That is why, as in the past, we are left with our own interests, protecting them with determination – and without getting too involved.”

It was unclear whether Israel sought U.S. approval for the action; in the past, officials have indicated that Israel sees a need only to inform Washington once such a mission is under way.

Netanyahu and Obama have had a fraught relationship in past years, as Washington seeks to hold Israel back from any attack on Iran’s nuclear programme while diplomatic moves continue.

At a routine public appearance on Sunday, Netanyahu made no direct reference to the strikes in Syria but spoke pointedly of his responsibility to ensure Israel’s future.

He maintained a plan to fly to China later in the day, suggesting he did not expect a major escalation. However, a military source said the army had deployed more anti-missile defence systems near the northern borders in recent days.

Night of explosions

Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by Syrian activists showed a series of blasts. One lit up the skyline of Damascus, while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.

Syrian state news agency SANA said Israeli aircraft struck in three places: northeast of Jamraya; the town of Maysaloun on the Lebanese border; and the nearby Dimas air base.

“The sky was red all night. We didn’t sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night,” one man told Reuters from Hameh, close to Jamraya.

“There were explosions on all sides of my house,” he added, saying people hid in basements during the events. In the centre of Damascus, people at first thought there was an earthquake.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television aired footage showing a flattened building spread over the size of a football pitch, with smoke rising from rubble containing shell fragments. It did not identify where the film was shot.

The streets of central Damascus were almost empty of pedestrians and traffic on Sunday morning, the start of the working week. Checkpoints that have protected the area from rebel attack appeared to have been reinforced.

Some opposition activists said they were glad strikes may weaken Assad, even if few Syrians have any liking for Israel.

“We don’t care who did it,” said Rania al-Midania in Damascus. “We care that those weapons are no longer there to kill us.”

But in Israel, Netanyahu ally Hanegbi spoke of relative indifference in its attitude to the rebels and Assad, who had maintained a standoff with Israel that dated from the time of his father, who led Syria in its last war with its neighbour in 1973: “We have no interest because we have no ability to assess what is good for us regarding the future regime,” Hanegbi said.

Netanyahu appeared at the dedication of a highway junction in memory of his late father. He made no reference to raids but said his father “taught me that the greatest responsibility we have is to ensure Israel’s security and guarantee its future”.

Malaysia coalition extends rule despite worst electoral showing
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Malaysia’s governing coalition extended its half-century rule despite its worst-ever performance in a general election, a result that exposes growing racial polarisation in the Southeast Asian nation and could undermine Prime Minister Najib Razak.

With just one result left to declare, the National Front had won 133 seats in the 222-member parliament, falling well short of the two-thirds majority that Najib had aimed to capture in Sunday’s election.

The 59-year-old prime minister could now come under pressure from conservatives in his own ruling party for not delivering a stronger majority despite a robust economy and a $2.6 billion (1.66 billion pounds) deluge of social handouts to poor families.
< — Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported

The Thaiger

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Coronavirus spreads north and south in China – 139 new cases reported | The Thaiger
PHOTO: New cases reported over the weekend are concerning health offficials - BBC.com

Another 139 new cases of a flu-like disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus in China has shocked health officials. There’s also been a third confirmed death reported today. Worse, the outbreak has now spread beyond Wuhan in central China where the virus was first identified. There have been cases reported in Beijing, a province next door to Shanghai and Shenzhen in southern China.

Health authorities in Beijing have now confirmed two cases of the new coronavirus today, while Guangdong authorities in southern China reported one new case in Shenzhen as well. The Shenzhen case is the first confirmation that the virus has spread domestically beyond Wuhan.

The Wuhan Health Commission announced today that 136 new patients had been diagnosed over the weekend – 1 person died from the virus, 2 remain in critical condition, 33 are in serious condition. All three patients that have died are believed to have visited Wuhan in the last month or so.

The new cases have brought the total number of people diagnosed with the virus in China to 201. That’s a big jump over numbers reported over the weekend.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong, say they are monitoring eight patient. All eight have been quarantined for treatment. In coastal Zhejiang province, bordering Shanghai, authorities have now reported five new suspected cases who have been confirmed to have visited Wuhan. Last week, three cases were detected outside China — two in Thailand and one in Japan. All cases have been linked to Wuhan. On Monday, South Korea also confirmed its first case of the virus.

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market at the centre of the pneumonia outbreak in he city of tWuhan has been closed for disinfection since January 1.

Meanwhile, Thai officials are stepping up screening efforts with many flights flying in from Wuhan over the next few weeks for the Chinese New Year holidays. Health officials say they’re confident that their screening efforts will detect any infected passengers getting off flights at Thai airports.

SOURCE: CNN

Coronavirus spreads north and south in China - 139 new cases reported | News by The Thaiger

GRAPHIC: Bangkok Post

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year

The Thaiger

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More coronavirus cases detected in China, global alert for Chinese New Year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Conversation

Chinese medical officials have now reported four more cases of the viral pneumonia strain caused by a new coronavirus. The discoveries are causing rising concern that the disease is not fully understand and could spread during the upcoming Chinese New Year holidays.

The new virus, originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan – the apparent epicentre of the outbreak – is believed to belong in the same class of coronaviruses that includes the deadly SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 800 people around the world in 2002/03. That outbreak also started in China.

At this stage all signs are that the virus isn’t as lethal as SARS, but there is still little known about the coronavirus’ origins and how it is transmitted. But it has been established at this stage that it is not spread human to human.

Both Thailand and Japan have confirmed new cases of the virus. In Thailand the patient was detected when arriving on a flight from Wuhan. And Japan’s health ministry reported that a man who had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan was hospitalised on January 10, four days after his return to Japan.

Both patients have fully recovered.

The new cases detected in China, and the cases detected overseas, are stoking global concerns as many of the 1.4 billion Chinese will head overseas during the Chinese New Year holidays that begin next week and run through to early February.

The Wuhan Health Commission reports that the the four new cases are now in stable condition. 45 cases have been reported in the city as of last Thursday. A second patient died on Wednesday this week. Nearly 50 people are now known to have been infected globally, but all of them either lived in Wuhan or have travelled to the city.

The London Imperial College’s MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis speculates that there are probably “substantially more cases” of the new coronavirus than currently declared by Wuhan authorities. Their modelling estimates that there would be 1,723 cases showing onset of related symptoms by the second week in January.

Meanwhile US authorities say they are now screening at three airports to detect passengers arriving via direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. And in Asia, authorities in Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand are stepping up monitoring of travellers from Wuhan at airports.

SOURCE: Reuters | Science Alert

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Thailand

Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released

Greeley Pulitzer

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Dutchman jailed for 100 years in Thailand for money laundering is released | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Johan van Laarhoven walks free after serving six years of a 100 year sentence in Thai prison - The Chiang Rai Times

A Dutch citizen who was jailed for 100 years in Thailand, is now on his way home after years of campaigning for his release. His sentence was reduced to 75 years on appeal and later to 50 years by the Supreme court. Johan van Laarhoven, who ran several cannabis “coffee shops” in Holland, was jailed in Thailand for money laundering, along with his Thai wife, though the offences took place in The Netherlands.

Thai authorities began investigating Van Laarhoven in 2014 after a letter from a Dutch public prosecutor’s office, informing them that he had earned his money selling marijuana and requesting their help. Last year, MPs called on the government to to extradite Van Laarhoven and his wife back to Netherlands. The Dutch justice minister even met with PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to discuss the case.

Even though cannabis is legal in the Netherlands, Dutch officials bungled a tax query to Thai authorities regarding the sale of the Dutchman’s cannabis cafe chain. This led to a criminal investigation and his televised arrest in Thailand.

Thai authorities seized the Dutchman’s assets and he was sentenced to 100 years in prison. His young Thai wife, Mingkwan, was jailed for 13 years as an accomplice. The Netherlands has an extradition treaty with Thailand, but it can only be implemented after a case has been ruled “definitive.” Van Laarhoven’s sentence was upheld late last year, clearing the way for a diplomatic solution. It’s unclear whether his wife will be allowed to join him in the Netherlands.

Once back, Van Laarhoven will spend two years in a Dutch jail to complete his sentence, and also face criminal investigation for money laundering. The investigation will focus on tax fraud, membership in a criminal organisation and laundering €20m (675 million baht) according to a Dutch public prosecutor.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times | Dutchnews.nl

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