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120 killed in Syria as govt, rebels pound populated areas

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BEIRUT: Almost 120 people were killed across Syria during a 24-hour period beginning as both pro-Assad forces and rebels bombarded heavily populated areas without any thought for the lives of non-combatants.
In one of the deadliest attacks in the Syrian capital in the country’s seven-year civil war, 44 people, most of them women and children, were killed when anti-government fighters fired mortar shells on a busy market in Damascus on Tuesday night.
In another bloody scene, an airstrike killed 21 people, 16 of them children, in a rebel-held province in northwestern Syria on Wednesday. The children, between seven and 10 years old, were leaving their schools in Kfar Batkeeh village when jets began flying overhead.
Raghda Ghanoum, an activist near Kfar Batkeeh, said the children and four adults took cover in a cave nearby, where the airstrikes hit. Ghanoum said she documented 21 victim names, including 16 children.
Meanwhile, government forces pounded opposition-held areas in Douma, the largest town in Eastern Ghouta, with shelling and airstrikes on Tuesday, killing 56 people.
The violence in both government-held and opposition-held areas came as Syrians celebrated Mother’s Day, turning the occasion that ushers the spring season into a blood-spattered day for families on both sides of the conflict.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 were people killed in the airstrikes on Kfar Batkeeh village.
The organisation put the death toll in the market shelling in Damascus at 43, including 11 pro-government fighters. Videos of the aftermath posted online showed scenes of chaos, with people screaming and bodies and store mannequins strewn across the ground.
Hospital director Mohammed Haitham al Husseini told Al Ikhbariya TV that 35 others were wounded in the mortar attack, with six in intensive care. He said most of the casualties were women and children.
Witnesses told state-run TV that the mortar shells fell during rush hour in the popular market on the eve of Mother’s Day, celebrated in the Middle East with the start of spring. A child said he was out shopping with his family for Mother’s Day when they heard a huge explosion. “Everyone started running, and people were going into narrow streets to give first aid to others,” the child said.
A woman in the hospital said her niece, who was wounded by shrapnel, lost her four-year old son. “We just saw him in the morgue,” the woman told Al Ikhbariya. The TV network did not identify the woman or the child.
The government blamed the attack on rebels in the eastern Ghouta suburbs, where Syrian troops and Russian warplanes have been waging a major offensive over the past month that has killed hundreds of people.
The first-responders group, known as the White Helmets, said 56 civilians were killed in Douma, the largest town in eastern Ghouta, as government forces stepped up their assault to dislodge the last pockets of resistance in the region outside the capital.
Video from the White Helmets showed rescue workers surrounded by fire and ongoing shelling struggling to retrieve survivors from a building in Douma.
The assault on eastern Ghouta has displaced 45,000 people, the United Nations said. Before the latest offensive, it was estimated that 400,000 people were trapped in the besieged region. The rebels first seized the area in 2012.


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International

26 killed as tour bus catches fire in China

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Beijing: A tour bus caught fire in central China’s Hunan Province killing 26 people, local authorities said. The 28 injured in the incident were rushed to three local hospitals for treatment. Among them the condition of five were state to be critical, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying.

The accident occurred around when the 59-seater bus from neighbouring Henan province suddenly caught fire on a highway in Hanshou County in the city of Changde.

The bus had 53 passengers, two drivers and a tour guide at the time of the incident.

 

The two drivers were detained and an investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.

The incident came a day after 64 people lost their lives while 640 were injured in a powerful explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China. The blast occurred on Thursday following a fire in a fertilizer factory in a chemical industrial park in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, according to the government of Xiangshui county.

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New Zealand bans Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto

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Wellington: New Zealand has banned the possession and distribution of a manifesto believed to be written by the lone terrorist who carried out the March 15 Christchurch mosques carnage where 50 people were killed, officials said on Saturday.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification announced that the document is objectionable under the law, reports CNN.

The so-called “manifesto” of Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian charged with the massacre, spans more than 80 pages and is filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rants.

 

“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech,’ which may be rejected by many right-thinking people, but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” said New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks. “It crosses the line.”

The document was posted on social media and was sent to the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just before the shooting began.

On Thursday, Shanks called on the public to delete any copies, as well as online posts or links to the document.

People can also report any social media posts, links or websites.

“New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror,” Shanks said.

“Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.”

Earlier this week, authorities banned footage of the fatal shootings, including edited clips and still images.

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Death toll climbs to 64 in one of China’s worst industrial blasts in years

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Beijing: The death toll climbed to 64 in one of the worst industrial accidents of China in recent times which knocked down buildings, tossed children into air and caused a tremor equivalent to a magnitude-3.0 earthquake, officials said Saturday. The officials said that 24 others were missing.

The explosion occurred after a fire in the fertilizer factory in Jiangsu province on Thursday, according to the government of Xiangshui county. Thirty-four people were in a critical condition and 73 seriously injured, state-run China Daily reported. The death toll is expected to rise as several people have been critically injured.

Over 640 people were injured in the incident. More than 3,000 workers and around 1,000 residents have been relocated to safe places. The Ministry of Emergency Management said that 88 people were rescued from the scene.

 

Such is the scale of the devastation that the entire industrial park in the Yancheng resembled an area struck by a massive earthquake with almost all buildings demolished in one go.

It is the worst industrial accident since the massive explosion rocked the port area of Tianjin in 2015 in which 173 people were killed. The China earthquake centre reported an earthquake of 3.0 magnitude during the time of the blast. An aerial video posted by China Daily which provided the first detailed view of the area showed shocking images of the blast which has destroyed the entire neighbourhood, causing an extensive damage showcasing the destructive side of China’s unbridled industrial development.

Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical plant, where the blast took place, was flattened and 16 neighbouring factories were left with varying degrees of damage. The impact smashed windows and uprooted roofs of some buildings and reduced others to rubble. Officials claimed that the rivers outside the chemical industrial park were not polluted.

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