August 14, 2005

News for August 14, 2005

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Army to close Kissufim crossing tonight (August 14, 2005) - At midnight tonight, less than 24 hours before disengagement commences, the army will seal the Kissufim crossing into the Gaza Strip. Tomorrow morning, teams of Israel Defense Forces and police officers will fan out to every settlement in the Strip to inform residents they have 48 hours to leave their homes and if they refuse, they will be evacuated by force. The order in which settlements are to be evacuated will be decided on Tuesday afternoon. A senior police source told Haaretz that even then, each brigade commander will be given two alternative assignments, to keep the order of evacuation vague for as long as possible. The real assignments will be handed out only on midnight Tuesday. The evacuation itself is to begin on Wednesday morning. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced Thursday that the new target date for completion of disengagement is September 4. In response to the shorter deadline, the IDF will bring in two evacuation divisions simultaneously, one in the north and one in the south, and put off the evacuation of the northern Gaza Strip and the isolated settlements to a later stage, beginning the evacuation Wednesday with five or six smaller settlements. more...


Gazans celebrate pullout; Abbas: Jerusalem is next (August 14, 2005) - The government-organized rally is Abbas’ most high-profile attempt yet to seek credit for the pullout. Tens of thousands of Palestinians crowded into Gaza City’s small fishing harbor Friday to celebrate the impending Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, waving flags and hearing promises from their leader, Mahmoud Abbas, that the West Bank and Jerusalem will be next. The government-organized rally under the theme “Setting Sail for Freedom” - the first mass celebration - was Abbas’ most high-profile attempt yet to seek credit for the pullout, and defuse claims by political rival Hamas that its attacks have driven Israel out. Abbas, surrounded by security guards, spoke briefly. “From here, from this place, our nation and our masses are walking toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Abbas told the crowd. Yet tensions between Abbas and Hamas became apparent when Cabinet minister Mohammed Dahlan said the Palestinian flag must be the official banner at all celebrations. He did not refer to Hamas directly, but the militant group has said it plans its own military-style celebrations, and is sewing thousands of its own green banners. “This era is the era of unity, and the era that will end any competition or disagreement,” Dahlan told the crowd. more...


On Jews’ ‘darkest day,’ expulsion set to begin (August 14, 2005) - With Jews in Israel and around the world marking the darkest day of their history by fasting and reading the Book of Lamentations, the Jewish state today prepares to expel its residents from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, and a nation once again braces for the possibility of tragedy. Today marks the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, the date on the lunar calendar on which the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Other more recent tragedies occurred on the same date, such as the outbreak of pogroms against Jews during the First Crusade, the expulsion of Jews from Spain and later from England, and the crushing of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in Germany. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC 100,000 Jews were killed and the remainder were exiled from their Holy Land for 70 years. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans, according to traditional sources, because of baseless hatred between Jews. The Jewish people at the time, the Talmud relates, hated one another for no reason. Two million Jews were killed during the destruction, and those remaining were once again exiled. more...


Lutherans In National Meeting Condemn Israeli Security Barrier (August 14, 2005) - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denounced the security barrier Israel is building along the West Bank, saying Saturday that Israeli policy throughout the territories has brought “extreme hardship” to Palestinians. The statement, called “Peace Not Walls: Stand for Justice in the Holy Land,” is part of an advocacy plan for Mideast peace that delegates to a church wide assembly adopted on a 668-269 vote. It was approved at a time of heightened tension between Protestants and Jews. Several protestant groups have angered Jews by protesting construction of the barrier, and some Christian denominations have considered divestment from companies that profit from Israeli control of the Palestinian territories. The new ELCA strategy doesn’t mention divestment, but it urges the denomination to move toward “stewarding financial resources - both U.S. tax dollars and private funds - in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land.” Lutheran leaders insist it is not an endorsement of economic pressure against Israel. more...


Moderate Earthquake Jolts Indonesia Island (August 14, 2005) - A moderate earthquake shook parts of Indonesia’s Sumbawa island on Saturday, but no damage or injuries were reported. The 5.6-magnitude quake was centered about 150 miles beneath the Flores sea and 25 miles northwest of Sumbawa Besar, capital of Sumbawa island, according to Budi Waluyo of the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency. The quake, which struck Saturday morning, also was felt in the neighboring tourist islands of Bali and Lombok, Waluyo said. Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” — a series of volcanoes and fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia. A massive earthquake and tsunami on Dec. 26, killed more than 131,000 people in Indonesia and left half a million homeless. Three months later, another strong temblor left more than 900 dead on Nias and smaller surrounding islands.


Strong earthquake shakes southern Mexico (August 14, 2005) - A 5.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the southern Pacific coast of Mexico on Sunday, 370 km south-southwest of Mexico City, according to the US Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Centre. The earthquake struck the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca near Santiago Pinotepa Nacional at 0820 hrs IST and could be felt in Mexican City, where building swayed lightly. There were not immediate reports of damages or injuries near the epicenter in towns along the Oaxaca coast, said Leopoldo Jimenez, a radio operator with the Oaxaca Civil Protection Department in Oaxaca City, 170 kilometers northeast of the quake. “They told us it was very light,” said Jimenez, describing a round of telephone conversations with officials in cities along the coast, including the popular resorts of Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. “We don’t have any related reports of human loss or of material damages.” Miguel Angel Rodriguez, night manager at the Hotel Carmona in Pinotepa Nacional, said the quake lasted what felt like 10 seconds with light tremors afterward. “Things on the tables moved, like televisions,” he said.


Moderate Earthquake In Sumatra (August 14, 2005) - A moderate earthquake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale occurred in the west coast of Sumatra at 2.27am Sunday, the Meteorological Services Department said. It said the centre of the earthquake was located 79km off Nias and 561km Southwest of Kuala Lumpur at coordinates 1.4 North, 96.9 East. Based on its location and magnitude, the earthquake was not expected to generate a tsunami, it added.


Earthquake topples houses in China (August 14, 2005) - An earthquake hit southwest China on Saturday, bringing down several houses and causing injuries, Xinhua news agency said. The quake, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, hit Wenshan county in Yunnan province just after midday, local time. “Injuries have been reported in seven townships... The earthquake has also toppled some houses. However, the exact number of injuries and economic losses are unavailable,” Xinhua said. Earthquakes are common in China. In December 2003, a tremor measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck the remote northwestern region of Xinjiang. At least 10 people, mostly herdsmen, were killed and 700 mud and brick houses destroyed. Yunnan’s Huize county was hit by a quake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale last week. Nine people were injured.


Siberia’s rapid thaw causes alarm (August 14, 2005) - The whole western Siberian sub-Arctic region has started to thaw. The world’s largest frozen peat bog is melting, which could speed the rate of global warming, New Scientist reports. The huge expanse of western Siberia is thawing for the first time since its formation, 11,000 years ago. The area, which is the size of France and Germany combined, could release billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This could potentially act as a tipping point, causing global warming to snowball, scientists fear. The situation is an “ecological landslide that is probably irreversible and is undoubtedly connected to climatic warming,” researcher Sergei Kirpotin, of Tomsk State University, Russia, told New Scientist magazine. more...