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World News: Israeli-Hamas conflict risks spiralling into all-out war

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World News: Israeli-Hamas conflict risks spiralling into all-out war | Thaiger
PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Egypt PM to visit Gaza in support of Hamas against Israel
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Egypt’s prime minister prepared to visit the Gaza Strip today in an unprecedented display of solidarity with Hamas militants embroiled in a new escalation of conflict with Israel that risks spiraling into all-out war.

Two rockets from Gaza crashed near Tel Aviv in the first such attack on Israel’s commercial capital in 20 years. One fell into the Mediterranean Sea and the other in an uninhabited part of one of the Tel Aviv suburbs south of the city.

Two days of Israeli air strikes have killed 19 Palestinians, including seven militants and 12 civilians, among them six children and a pregnant woman. A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis in the town of Kiryat Malachi yesterday morning.

The latest upsurge in the long-running conflict came on Wednesday when Israel killed Hamas’ military mastermind, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, in a precision air strike on his car. Israel then began shelling the coastal enclave from land, air and sea.

Israel says its offensive responded to increasing missile salvos from Gaza. Its bombing has not yet reached the saturation level seen before it last invaded Gaza in 2008, but Israeli officials have said a ground assault remains possible.

The Gaza conflagration has stoked the flames of a Middle East ablaze with two years of Arab popular revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread further afield.

Israeli warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza City, rattling tall buildings. In a hint of escalation, the spokesman for Israel’s military said it had received the green light to call in up to 30,000 reserve troops.

Egypt’s new Islamist President, Mohamed Mursi, viewed by Hamas as a protector, led a chorus of denunciation of the Israeli strikes by allies of the Palestinians.

Mursi’s prime minister, Hisham Kandil, is to visit Gaza today with other Egyptian officials in a show of support for the enclave, an Egyptian cabinet official said. Israel promised the delegation would come to no harm.

An Egyptian government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials accompanying Kandil would explore the possibility of brokering a ceasefire.

Mursi faces domestic pressure to act tough. But Egypt gets $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid and looks to Washington for help with its ailing economy, constraining Mursi despite his need to show Egyptians that his policies differ from those of his U.S.-backed predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Tel Aviv targeted
Air raid sirens sent residents running for shelter in Tel Aviv, a Mediterranean city that has not been hit by a rocket since the 1991 Gulf War, when it was targeted by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

The Tel Aviv metropolitan area is home to more than 3 million people, more than 40 percent of Israel’s population. “This escalation will exact a price that the other side will have to pay,” Barak said in a television broadcast shortly after the strike.

But an Israeli cabinet statement on Wednesday spoke only of “improving” national security – acknowledgement that the Jewish state has no illusions about crushing the militants once and for all.

Speaking at the same time in Gaza, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urged Egypt to do more to help the Palestinians.

“We call upon the brothers in Egypt to take the measures that will deter this enemy,” the Hamas prime minister said.

The resurgent conflict will be the biggest test yet of Mursi’s commitment to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West views as the bedrock of Middle East peace.

Cairo recalled its ambassador from Israel on Wednesday. Israel’s ambassador left Cairo on what was called a routine home visit; Israel said its embassy would remain open.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which brought Mursi to power in an election after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, has called for a “Day of Rage” in Arab capitals on Friday. The Brotherhood is seen as the spiritual mentor of Hamas.

The Israeli army said 300 targets were hit in Gaza, including more than 130 militant rocket launchers. It said more than 270 rockets had struck Israel since the start of the operation, with its Iron Dome interceptor system shooting down more than 130 rockets bound for residential areas.

Expecting days or more of fighting and almost inevitable civilian casualties, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets in Gaza advising residents to stay away from Hamas and other militants.

Diplomatic efforts
United Nations diplomats said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would head to Israel and Egypt next week to try to mediate a ceasefire, although they gave no further details.

The United States has asked countries that have contact with Hamas to urge the Islamist movement to stop its recent rocket attacks from Gaza, a White House adviser said.

“We’ve … urged those that have a degree of influence with Hamas, such as Turkey and Egypt and some of our European partners, to use that influence to urge Hamas to de-escalate,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said in a conference call with reporters.

French President Francois Hollande began talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders in an attempt to avert an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Jean-Francois Ayrault said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Netanyahu too, saying Hamas bore the principal responsibility for the crisis.

Israel’s sworn enemy Iran, which supports and arms Hamas, condemned the Israeli offensive as “organized terrorism.”

Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militia Hezbollah, which has its own rockets aimed at the Jewish state, denounced strikes on Gaza as “criminal aggression,” but held its fire.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation condemned Israel’s action.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs

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Covid-19 vaccine CEOs say 3rd dose may be needed along with annual jabs | Thaiger
Stock photo of Pfizer vaccine via Flickr

The CEO for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines says it is likely that people will need a 3rd dose of the vaccine and to receive it annually. Albert Bourla, told CNBC, that the booster, or 3rd dose, will be needed less than a year after being fully vaccinated.

“A likely scenario is that there will be likely a need for a 3rd dose, somewhere between 6 and 12 months and then from there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed. And again, the variants will play a key role. It is extremely important to suppress the pool of people that can be susceptible to the virus.”

Bourla’s comment echoes that of Johnson & Johnson’s CEO when he stated in February, that people may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually, just like seasonal flu shots. Both statements reflect the fact that since the vaccine is new, and testing periods are shorter than most vaccines in the past, researchers are still unclear about how long the vaccine will protect against the virus.

Pfizer says that its Covid-19 vaccine was more than 91% effective at protecting against the coronavirus and more than 95% effective against severe diseases up to 6 months after the 2nd dose. Moderna’s vaccine, which uses technology similar to Pfizer’s, was also shown to be highly effective at 6 months.

Just yesterday, the Biden administration’s Covid response chief science officer, David Kessler, noted that new Covid variants could “challenge” the effectiveness of the shots.

“We don’t know everything at this moment. We are studying the durability of the antibody response. It seems strong but there is some waning of that and no doubt the variants challenge … they make these vaccines work harder. So I think for planning purposes, planning purposes only, I think we should expect that we may have to boost.”

Late last month, the National Institute of Health started testing a new Covid vaccine from Moderna in addition to the one it already has, designed to protect against a problematic variant first found in South Africa. The variant is similar to that of the UK one that has recently made landfall in Thailand.

Recent findings, by The Lancet, however, have stated that the UK variant, known as B117, has a higher reproductive rate than other strains, and it’s more transmissible. However, it refuted earlier reports that the strain is more severe. Meanwhile, Thailand’s health minister is confirming his commitment to making AstraZeneca the nation’s chosen vaccine.

SOURCE: CNBC

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Economy

China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020

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China grows 18.3%, the only major economy to grow in 2020 | Thaiger
PHOTO: China - the second largest economy, and only major economy to grow last year.

China’s economy set a record for growth in Q1, 2021, marking an 18.3% jump in year-on-year figures, the biggest quarterly growth in almost 30 years. China only started publishing growth statistics in 1992, and this drastic increase is the fastest growth recorded since then.

The figures, however impressive, are mainly due to what is called a “low base effect” where the change from a low starting point translates into big percentage statistics. Because of the devastating economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Q1 2020 figures were dismal, allowing the big gain over the last year.

Quarter to quarter, the last 3 months saw only a 0.6% growth, but in the last quarter of 2020 China recorded an economic boom of 6.5% according to the Chinese government. Still, the figures are admirable, as China was the only major economy in the world to achieve growth in 2020. Most of the planet struggled to contain global Covid-19 outbreaks, crippling economies across the globe. But China, now the second-largest economy in the world, managed a 2.3% overall expansion. Even Chinese officials called the impressive statistics “better than we had expected.”

China has been growing in terms of imports and exports as well, with exports expanding nearly 31% and imports up 38% by price over last years.

SOURCE: CNN

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine

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Denmark becomes first country in Europe to ditch AstraZeneca vaccine | Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Denmark has announced that it is abandoning the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first European country to do so, amid concerns about very rare but serious blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine has run into problems in several countries, with its use either temporarily suspended or restricted to older age groups.

When concerns first arose over the vaccine’s rare side-effects, Denmark was the first country in Europe to suspend its use. In Thailand, use of the vaccine was suspended last month, before officials judged it safe to proceed, with Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul going on to confirm it would become the Kingdom’s primary Covid-19 vaccine.

Both the European drugs regulator and the World Health Organisation are standing by the jab, saying the benefits outweigh the risks. However, health officials in Denmark have now decided to ditch it for good.

“Denmark’s vaccination campaign will go ahead without the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

Denmark has reported 2 cases of thrombosis (blood clotting) linked to administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of which proved fatal. The blood clot incidents arose after 140,000 people had received the jab. The Bangkok Post reports that 8% of Denmark’s 5.8 million inhabitants have been fully vaccinated and 17% have received their first dose.

The country plans to continue its rollout using the Modern and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Officials say they are confident that the availability of other jabs, coupled with the fact that Covid-19 is relatively under control in Denmark, means the country’s mass inoculation can continue without issue.

Meanwhile, AstraZeneca has released a statement acknowledging the decision taken by Danish health authorities.

“We recognise and respect the decision taken by the Danish Health Authority. Implementation and rollout of the vaccine programme is a matter for each country to decide, based on local conditions. We will continue to collaborate with the regulators and local authorities to provide all available data to inform their decisions.”

SOURCE: Euro News | Bangkok Post

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