PHUKET: Israel bombed militant targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day this morning (Phuket time), launching aerial and naval attacks as its military prepared for a possible ground invasion, though Egypt saw “some indications” of a truce ahead.
Forty-seven Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 12 children, were killed in Israel’s raids, Palestinian officials said. And more than 500 rockets were fired from Gaza struck Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.
Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday, killing a leading militant of the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza and rejects Israel’s existence, with the declared goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.
The Jewish state has since launched more than 950 air strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry and flattening militant homes and headquarters.
The raids continued past midnight yesterday, with warships bombarding targets from the sea. And an air raid targeted a building in Gaza City housing the offices of local Arab media, wounding three journalists from al Quds television, a station Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.
Two other predawn attacks on houses in the Jebalya refugee camp killed one child and wounded 12 other people, medical officials said.
These attacks followed a defiant statement by Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida, who told a televised news conference.
“This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning.”
The masked gunman dressed in military fatigues insisted that despite Israel’s blows Hamas “is still strong enough to destroy the enemy.”
An Israeli attack yesterday destroyed the house of a Hamas commander near the Egyptian border.
Casualties there were averted, however, because Israel had fired non-exploding missiles at the building beforehand from a drone, which the militant’s family understood as a warning to flee, and thus their lives were spared, witnesses said.
Israeli aircraft yesterday also bombed Hamas government buildings in Gaza, including the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and a police headquarters.
Among those killed in yesterday’s strikes on Gaza were at least four suspected militants riding motorcycles, and several civilians including a 30-year-old woman.
Israel’s operation has drawn Western support for what U.S. and European leaders have called Israel’s right to self-defense, but there have also been a growing number of calls from world leaders to seek an end to the violence.
British Prime Minister David Cameron “expressed concern over the risk of the conflict escalating further and the danger of further civilian casualties on both sides,” in a conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a spokesperson for Cameron said.
The United Kingdom was “putting pressure on both sides to de-escalate,” the spokesman said, adding that Cameron had urged Netanyahu “to do everything possible to bring the conflict to an end.”
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, said the United States would like to see the conflict resolved through “de-escalation” and diplomacy, but also believes Israel has a right to self-defense.
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo as his security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders, that “there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees.”
Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with the recent violence.
A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying “there is hope,” but it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.
Travel’s dynamic changes – A personal perspective
by Andrew J Wood – President SKÅL International Bangkok
With the dramatic announcement of the sale of retail travel giant Thomas Cook following the loss of £1.5 billion brings the blight of the travel agent community into the news once more. Last week Wall Street bank Citigroup advised investors to sell shares in the travel company.
Confidence that travel agents can survive in the age of DIY bookings online is paper thin.
The sheer convenience and ease of being able to book flights and holidays online, with loved ones participating in the process AND at a time and place convenient to yourself, is very attractive to most of us.
Gone are the days when you make a trip to the travel agent on the high street during office hours.
It was the only way to book a holiday in the bad old days. Booking travel online then was a complex, mystical and stressful experience with lots of jargon we didn’t understand. On top of that booking a flight was only possible on airline-backed computer systems using special codes and trained staff. Most of us didn’t know where to start.
Now it’s out with the laptop, sitting in bed in your pajamas at home, or on the settee with a cup of tea and it’s as easy as 1-2-3.
My family own a travel company. Business is nothing what it used to be. My friends work in DMCs – they certainly aren’t what they used to be.
A high-profile BBC journalist speaking at a travel industry event, recently warned the travel industry that large, well-established brands no longer have the trust they once enjoyed. That is certainly true.
“We are living through a crisis of trust,” the journalist warned.
Today instead of listening to ‘experts’ or ‘institutions’, we now now put more faith in the opinions of our colleagues, or friends on Facebook.
The BBC journalist also said, “We live in an age where feelings resonate more than facts. People now value empathy over expertise. We all need to work out what this means about how we should talk to customers.”
So it’s clear that selling travel has fundamentally changed, as was forecast more than 10 years ago. I fear during this time that this advice has largely been brushed under the carpet and as an industry, we have been largely unsuccessful in making these changes. The example of Thomas Cook demonstrates that even big travel hasn’t worked it out neither. We all need to talk to our customers in a way that appeals to them. There’s a danger for any industry that doesn’t adapt quickly enough to new audiences — remember Kodak?
Thomas Cook looks like the latest failure.
In the last 18 months there have been more retail failures than since the start of the century. Many brands have lost the art of communicating with the marketplace. They don’t know how to engage with customers.
My family are already talking about diversifying and moving into other areas of tourism and travel. I hope it’s not too late.
SOURCE: Travel Daily News – Asia Pacific
Andrew J Wood
“Very dangerous” Huawei could be part of a US-China trade deal
President Donald Trump has reiterated his complaints against China’s Huawei Technologies but conceded that they could be resolved as part of a negotiated US-China trade deal. Without providing evidence, he went on to call the Chinese telecommunications giant “very dangerous.”
The US has virtually banned firms from conducting business with Huawei, the world’s largest telecom manufacturer, citing unspecified national security concerns.
Despite the rhetoric President Trump predicts a quick end to the trade war with China. His bold prediction is not supported by any high-level talks being scheduled between the two countries since talks stalled two weeks ago.
Earlier yesterday, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the CEO of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, of lying about his company’s lack of ties to the Beijing government. Pompeo claimed the alleged ties “represented a security risk” to the US without providing any details.
Meanwhile, again without providing any specific examples or evidence, President Tump said Huawei was “very dangerous”.
“You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint, it’s very dangerous. If we made a deal, I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form or some part of it.”
“The company is deeply tied, not only to China, but to the Chinese Communist Party. And that connectivity, the existence of those connections puts American information that crosses those networks at risk,” he is quoted as saying in a Reuters report.
Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services. But tech companies around the world continue to fall in line with US curbs on the company. Japanese conglomerate Panasonic says it had stopped shipments of some Huawei components, a day after British chip designer ARM did the same, potentially crippling the Chinese company’s ability to make new chips for smartphones.
Meanwhile the US government is aiming to provide about $700 million in grants to help telecom providers with the cost of removing Huawei equipment from their networks, and to block the use of equipment or services from Huawei and Chinese telecoms firm ZTE in next-generation 5G networks.
They’ve also announced a $16 billion aid program to help US farmers hurt by the ongoing spat. The Agriculture Department says some funds will be used to open markets outside China to US products. Farmers have been among those hardest hit by the trade war.
US temporarily ease restrictions on Huawei
PHOTO: Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei and Chinese President Xi Jinping – SCMP
The US has temporarily eased some of the restrictions on China’s Huawei, the world’s largest phone and telecom equipment maker, to minimise disruption to its customers. But Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, says it means little because the company was well prepared for any US restrictions to their trading.
The US government has blocked Huawei Technologies from buying US goods last week, claiming the firm was involved in activities contrary to national security.
The targeted spat aimed at the one Chinese telecom company comes amid the escalating dispute over trade practices between the US and China.
But yesterday the Commerce Department granted Huawei a license to purchase US goods until August 19 to maintain existing Huawei-based networks and provide software updates to Huawei smartphone customers. The reprieve is intended to give telecom operators that rely on Huawei equipment time to make other arrangements.
Speaking about the matter, Huawei’s founder says the reprieve meant little for the telecom manufacturer as it had been making preparations for such a scenario.
“The U.S. government’s actions at the moment underestimate our capabilities.”
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