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World News: Israel hits Syrian artillery; Deep concerns voiced by UN

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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World News: Israel hits Syrian artillery; Deep concerns voiced by UN | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

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

Israel hits Syrian artillery that fired on Golan
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Israel’s army fired tank shells into Syria yesterday and scored “direct hits” in response to a Syrian mortar shell that struck the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Israeli military said in a statement.

It was the second time in as many days that Israel had fired across the disengagement line drawn at the end of a war in 1973, underscoring international fears that Syria’s civil war could ignite a broader regional conflict.

Israeli military sources said Syrian army mobile artillery was directly hit in the incident.

On Sunday the military said it had a fired a guided missile into Syria in a potent “warning shot” after errant mortar fire had fallen on land that Israel seized in a 1967 war.

Israel upped the ante and carried through with a threat to target directly anyone firing across the lines.

“A short while ago, a mortar shell hit an open area in the vicinity of an (Israeli Defense Forces) post in the central Golan Heights, as part of the internal conflict inside Syria, causing no damage or injuries,” the military statement said.

“In response, IDF soldiers fired tank shells towards the source of the fire, confirming direct hits. The IDF has filed a complaint with the U.N. forces operating in the area, stating that fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity.”

Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad have been battling his army for months in towns inside and adjacent to the Area of Separation between Israel and Syria, along the disengagement line from the 1973 war.

Technically the countries are still at war, but the Golan, a strategic plateau, has been largely quiet for decades.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday: “We will not allow our borders to be breached and our citizens to be fired at.”

Assad caution
Earlier yesterday, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon said he did not believe Assad wanted to wage war with Israel, saying it was the last thing the Syrian leader needed as he struggled to maintain his grip on power.

“In my estimation, there is almost no doubt that he has no interest in opening a front,” he told Army Radio.

“He understands this. He is very careful. He responded to messages that were passed through different channels, and not just by us. Regarding chemical weapons and fighting on the border,” he added, giving no further details.

Spill over violence this month from Syria onto the Golan has jangled the nerves of Israelis worried the front will add to threats facing the Jewish state from Islamic militants in neighboring Lebanon, Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai.

There have been similar worries in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon about incidents on their own borders with Syria, where forces loyal to Assad have been fighting rebels for 19 months.

There was no immediate comment from the 1,000-man United Nations Disengagement Observer Force that patrols the Golan Heights disengagement area.

The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban ki-Moon, has expressed deep concern about the potential for escalation, his office said in a statement late on Sunday.

“He calls for the utmost restraint and urges Syria and Israel to uphold the Disengagement Agreement, respect their mutual obligations, and halt firing of any kind across the ceasefire line.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Australia and New Zealand welcome the first passengers in the southern travel bubble

Tim Newton

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Australia and New Zealand welcome the first passengers in the southern travel bubble | Thaiger

Whilst travel bubbles remain a bureaucratic nightmare for most SE Asian countries, Australia and New Zealand have opened their first green lanes since April last year, nearly 400 days. For the two countries it allows family and friends to re-unite. For New Zealand it opens the gates for its largest chunk of tourists. In 2019 some 1.5 million tourists visited New Zealand from Australia.

The first flights landed this morning taking advantage of the quarantine-free travel bubble between the 2 countries.

The arrangement means that passengers can fly across the Tasman Sea without going through the mandatory Covid quarantine when they arrive at either end of their journey.

The New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern hailed the success of the 2 countries in coming to grips with Covid-19 and somewhat containing the spread of the virus, allowing the travel corridor to open today.

Australia is home to hundreds of thousands of New Zealand expats who regularly shuffled across the Tasman Sea on the 3 hour flights. Both Air New Zealand and Qantas were scheduling flights for the tentative re-opening to travel.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Deputy PM Michael McCormack says the Oz government remains in active discussions with Singapore as it looks to create another quarantine-free travel bubble.

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World

Doctors in India see alarming rise in severe Covid symptoms in younger patients

Maya Taylor

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Doctors in India see alarming rise in severe Covid symptoms in younger patients | Thaiger
PHOTO: Trinity Care Foundation / Flickr

Doctors in India are reporting a worrying rise in the number of young patients being hospitalised with severe Covid-19 symptoms. One medical practitioner in the western state of Gujarat says more young people are developing serious symptoms affecting their lungs, hearts and kidneys, with one hospital opening the state’s first paediatric Covid-19 ward. Other states are reporting a similar increase in severe symptoms among the younger population.

A new wave of infections has struck India, just as the country thought the worst was over and had begun to roll out vaccines. It has now recorded 1 million positive cases in a nation of 1.3 billion people. Despite this, hundreds of thousands of people gathered for the recent Kumbh Mela religious festival, with social distancing and face masks dispensed with. There were similar scenes at election rallies.

According to an AFP report in Thai PBS World, doctors in India are warning of a steep rise in infections among the younger generation. Around 35% of India’s population is under the age of 65 and Arvind Kejriwal, chief minister of New Delhi says around 65% of new Covid cases are in patients under the age of 45. Khusrav Bajan, a hospital consultant in Mumbai, has also expressed concern at the number of children being admitted

“We are also seeing children under the ages of 12 and 15 being admitted with symptoms in the second wave. Last year there were practically no children.”

Meanwhile, in India’s own “Silicon Valley”, Bangalore, 58% of Covid-19 infections in early April were in people under the age of 40, a 46% increase compared to last year. Tanu Dogra, a 28 year old book publicist in New Delhi, spent a week in bed after testing positive for the virus last month.

“I haven’t seen such a rise in cases in the last 1 year as I’ve seen in the last 1 week. Everybody on my timeline, on my WhatsApp, is frantically messaging each other because they’ve all tested positive.”

Medical professionals are critical of the slow vaccination rollout in India, with jabs currently limited for those over the age of 45. They are calling for inoculation to be extended to everyone, with many young people saying they feel exposed in the workplace, but have no choice, as the sole earners for their families.

Venkat Ramesh, a specialist in infectious diseases in the southern city of Hyderabad, feels the worst is yet to come.

“When I speak to my colleagues in major metropolitan cities across India, they have numerous calls from patients trying to find a bed. I’m quite afraid for the next month. Given the rapidity of the rise in cases, it is certainly worrying.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Business

Bitcoin sheds nearly 15% of its ‘value’ in one day

Tim Newton

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Bitcoin sheds nearly 15% of its ‘value’ in one day | Thaiger

After a meteoric, and probably unsustainable rise and rise over the past 12 months, Bitcoin has suffered a short and sharp mini-crash over the weekend, dropping nearly 15% of its value in less than an hour – a stark warning of the cryptocurrency’s unpredictable volatility.

Bitcoin dropped in ‘value’ from about US$59,000 to US$51,000 before rebounding. Ethereum and Dogecoin also suffered dramatic and sudden losses, before clawing back some of their losses.

This time last year Bitcoin was simmering around US$7,725 after bumping up and down on the spot since 2018. But last year, fuelled by fears of an over-heated US stock market, Covid volatility (whatever that is), government handouts and people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands, Bitcoin went on a spectacular climb to peak at US$63,588 last Tuesday. But Newton’s first law (the scientist, not me) kicked into action, and with venom.

The price of a single Bitcoin hit a low of US$52,810.06 Saturday after tumbling more than US$7,000 in just one hour, before stabilising.

The drop on Saturday appears to have been triggered by a Twitter rumour that the US Treasury would crack down on money laundering schemes involving cryptocurrencies. Separately, Reuters reported a power blackout in China’s Xinjiang region, where a lot of Bitcoin ‘mining’ happens, was blamed for the steep dive.

That information came from data website CoinMarketCap.

The sudden rise of the cryptocurrencies over the past 12 months has drawn a lot of attention from governments and investors, and RobinHood-esque day trade brigade. Coinbass went public, and therefore ‘mainstream’, last Wednesday.

“All eyes are on Coinbase… as the cryptocurrency exchange prepares for its first day of trading as a public company on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ‘COIN’.

Coinbase’s market debut is a special event for several reasons. First, it will be Nasdaq’s first major direct listing, an unusual route for companies to go public without the underwriting of an investment bank.” – USA Today

Then Dogecoin had a 500% rally – an ‘asset’ that was created as a joke 8 years ago – on April 16. 500%!!!

The fervent supports of cryptocurrencies, almost a cult, are having their moment and proving, for now, that they can have their day in the financial sun as well. With Coinbase’s successful debut on Wall Street last week, they’ve gone all suit and tie.

Last year’s sharp, and very tempting, rise in Bitcoin values has the wider financial market talking about the bubble in the cryptocurrency market – Bitcoin has more than doubled in value since the start of this year. The market will decide whether that bubble will continue to grow or do what bubbles eventually do.

At the end of 2017 the Bitcoin digital token rose in value to nearly US$20,000 before crashing to almost US$3,000 the following year.

For now, it’s all eyes on the cryptos to see which way they move. The only thing that can be guaranteed is that their valuations will remain volatile and that there will be winners and losers.

Bitcoin sheds nearly 15% of its 'value' in one day | News by Thaiger

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