Israel launches major defence drill
56 killed China rail, road mishaps
Smaller parties press govt, Maoists to end standoff
3 jailed in UK for killing Indian
Israel launches major defence drill
Jerusalem, May 23
The fourth annual home front drill comes at a time of high tensions in the region with Iran threatening to decimate the Jewish state if its nuclear facilities come under attack and suspicions in the region that Israel could be preparing for a war. Israel has relayed messages to Arab states about the drill, stressing that it has no plans to launch an attack.
Allaying concerns over its intentions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today said that the Home Front drill was an “annual and routine occurrence” which was set up months in advance.
The exercise had not been scheduled in reaction to any “irregular security development” in the North or elsewhere, he told the cabinet.
“Quite the contrary... Israel wants peace, quiet and stability - but it is no secret that we live in a region that is subject to threats of rocket and missile (attacks)”, he said in an apparent reference to recent reports of a delivery of Scud missiles to Hizbullah by Syria.
The drill, the biggest in Israel’s history will this year focus on the ability of municipalities to respond to the launching of thousands of missiles and rockets on the country.
Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak, said Israel “has no intention to declare war,” but rather “strives for calm and peace.
Barak, however, stressed that “a country like Israel must be prepared” to defend itself, “and we are indeed prepared”.
The five-day event would test the response of soldiers, emergency crews and civilians to simulated missile barrages, terrorist attacks and chemical strikes.
Israel began to test its home front preparedness conducting annual drills following the war against Hizbullah in 2006 where severe lapses were exposed in Israel’s readiness.
During the first three days the drill will involve the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) various command centres, the police, emergency services, ministries and other government offices. It will get broadened on Wednesday to include civilians, with a siren sounding at 11 am throughout the country signalling they seek cover in shelters or other secure areas.
Hundreds of police officers taking part in the exercise will practice how to react in the event of missile attacks - routine security, guiding traffic and maintaining order.
The police will also be tested on how they respond to local emergencies while the force is spread out all over the country.
The main scenario for the police will be a strike on Be’er Sheva by missiles fitted with chemical warheads. Another aspect of the drill will be surprise strikes at home front targets.
Israel will also test its response to a blow to its computer and electronic communications infrastructure after a cyber attack, the first such drill in the last four years.
The authorities will also examine their ability to evacuate hundreds of thousands of civilians from areas hit by missile barrages or strikes by unconventional weapons.
The distribution of gas masks, already underway over the past three months, will also be expedited by authorities during the drill to include other parts of the country.
Hizbollah’s deputy head, Nabil Qaouk, said Friday that the Shi’ite organisation had stepped up its alert status ahead of the “war games” being conducted by Israel.
The exercise, “Turning Point 4,” will last for five days and be carried out in all parts of the country.— PTI
Beijing, May 23
Nineteen passengers were killed and 71 others were injured when a passenger train from Shanghai to the scenic city of Guilin in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region derailed after ramming into landslides in Jiangxi Province.
The condition of the 11 injured passengers was stated to be serious, Xinhua news agency reported.
A spokesman of the Railway headquarters said 8,000 cubic meters of mud and rocks from the landslide were removed from the tracks, after 2,000 rescuers using heavy machinery completed the rescue operation. Several compartments of the train became a twisted mettle crushing many passengers.
The engine along with eight of the 17 carriages of the train derailed and some even overturned in the mountainous area. One carriage was twisted and crushed on the other.
“Each of the train carriages has 118 seats. It is not yet immediately known how many passengers were on board,” said a police officer surnamed Luo.
Meanwhile, 32 people were killed after a bus and truck collided on an expressway in Fuxin City, northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Three people on the truck and 28 passengers on the bus were killed on the spot. One of the 22 injured died in hospital.
A spokesman with the Liaoning Public Security Bureau said the accident happened in the early hours when the truck turned the wrong way coming out of a service area. The two vehicles collided head on and caught fire.
Zhang Zhijing, deputy director of the Zhangwu County People’s Hospital, said the hospital had received 25 injured people from the accident. The coach, with 53 people on board was en route from Tianjin to Harbin, capital of the northeastern Heilongjiang Province.
Maintenance work was being carried out on the section of the four-lane expressway linking Tieling and Chaoyang cities in Liaoning where the accident happened, according to the local transport authority.
In yet another road accident five people were killed after a bus rammed into the road side barrier and veered off an expressway in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality on Sunday.
The bus was carrying 47 people and heading to Chongqing rom Kaixian County, when the accident happened in the early hours, said Chongqing police.
Six injured people have been rushed to Dianjiang County People’s Hospital. None of them was in critical condition, said the police. — PTI
Kathmandu, May 23
Ten political parties of the ruling 22-party coalition asked the major parties - the CPN-Maoist, the Nepali Congress and the prime minister’s Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) - to endorse the House bill to extend the term of the Assembly so as to draft a new constitution and facilitate the logical conclusion of the stalled peace process.
The country is drifting towards a constitutional crisis as the Maoists have refused to cooperate in extending the term of the Assembly till Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal steps down.
There is no other option than extending the term of the Constituent Assembly as the constitution could not be drafted within the stipulated time and the peace process could not be concluded, said a resolution adopted by the ten ruling parties. They also asked the Maoists and other parties to resolve all issues through national consensus and to help in drafting the new constitution to institutionalise the federal democratic republic.
Meanwhile, 15 fringe parties disrupted the proceedings of the Parliament today to exert pressure on the three major parties to extend the term of the Assembly which expires on May 28.
They also shouted slogans in favour of the extension of the term of the House.
The 15 parties also handed over a memorandum to the three major parties seeking an extension of the Assembly.
The memorandum was signed by CPN-ML, Rashtriya Prajantra Party, Rashtriya Janashakti Party, CPN-United, Nepal Sadhbhawana Party-Anandidevi, Dalit Janajati Party, Nepal Pariwar Dal, Samajwadi Janatantrik Party and Chure Bhawar Rashtriya Ekata Samaj.
Second largest party Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) and the main Opposition Maoists have held separate meetings with each other but were unable to reach an agreement to extended the term of the Assembly amid its failure to promulgate a constitution.
Maoist supremo Prachanda yesterday held dialogue with Nepali Congress acting president Shushil Koirala but there was no breakthrough to end the standoff. — PTI
London, May 23
“These extraordinary paintings by these great masters are so recognisable that they will be difficult to sell in any market,” Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol’s executive director of police services, said in a statement yesterday.
In addition to Picasso’s cubist “Pigeon with Green Peas,” authorities said works by Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Leger were also stolen from the Modern Art Museum in Paris on Thursday.
Interpol said it had sent images of the paintings to police in 188 countries and also added them to the agency’s online database of stolen artwork.
“Their inclusion in Interpol’s publicly accessible works of art database will allow any legitimate buyer of paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Leger and Modigliani to determine whether their purchase would be legal and for the public to remain alert as to what has been reported stolen,” Louboutin said. He said Interpol encourages any person with information about this theft or attempted sales of any of these pieces to contact the agency immediately.
Christopher Girard, an aide to the mayor of Paris who oversees cultural affairs, said whoever stole the paintings entered through a window and was able to thwart guards and video surveillance.
The heist showed signs of organised crime, he said. “We are dealing with an extreme level of sophistication,” he said in a statement. Girard estimated the artwork was worth about 100 million euros.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said that part of the museum’s security system-the part that detects movement and body heat-had been broken at least since March 30.
Interpol lists the five stolen paintings as Picasso’s “Pigeon with Green Peas” (1911), Matisse’s “Pastoral” (1906), Braque’s “Olive Tree near l’Estaque” (1906), Modigliani’s “Woman with Fan” (1919) and Leger’s “Still LIfe with Candlestick” (1922). — PTI
London, May 23
Sarvanakumar Sellappan, 24, was returning home from his job at a petrol station when he was accosted by Armenian Roshan Samedov, 18, and Iranians Jegir Ahmmadi, 20, and Awat Muradi, 18 in the town of Diss.
The three have been found guilty of manslaughter and robbery.
Sellappan, who was reported to be the only son of his parents based in India, was targeted when the robbers saw him talking on his BlackBerry.
They followed him into residential road, where they struck, knocking him to the ground, in October last year.
He became unconscious the following morning and died from a brain injury despite being sent home from hospital.
Judge Michael Mettyear told the three accused: "This was a violent robbery on a street on a wholly innocent victim.
"With the three of you there, the probability is that the mere threat of force would have persuaded him to hand over his BlackBerry".
He added: "He was not given a chance. He was struck by a vicious blow which knocked him from his feet and caused head injuries.
"And for what? For the sake of a mobile phone which you thought was worth 100 pounds, but which netted you 60 pounds and a chicken takeaway".
Judge Mettyear said Sellappan was the only son of a family in India, who was walking home from work at a petrol station.
He did not report the robbery to police because he did not want to worry his parents and also did not want to lose time from work.
When friends took him to hospital, he said he had fallen down stairs.
But after his death, the pathologist alerted police that the head injury could not be from such a fall.— PTI