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Chemical explosion sparks major factory fire in Melbourne

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Sydney, July 10 (IANS) Authorities rushed to a factory in Melbourne’s west after a large chemical explosion sparked a major fire on Wednesday.

Fire Rescue Victoria reported that crews arrived at Swann Drive at approximately 11.20 a.m. local time, responding to a “significant factory fire” in Derrimut, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Specialist appliances are on scene, including aerial appliances. A community advice warning has been issued for Albion, Braybrook, Brooklyn, Derrimut, Laverton North, Sunshine, Sunshine West, Tottenham, and Truganina,” the fire authority noted.

A “Watch and Act” alert remains in place for the impacted regions, urging residents to take shelter indoors immediately, as the wind is blowing “toxic smoke towards the East across Derrimut.”

At the current stage, additional appliances are continuously being deployed to the scene to douse the fire.

“There have been no reports of injuries and it is believed everyone inside the premises evacuated safely,” a spokesperson from Victoria Police confirmed to Xinhua.

“Traffic in the area is expected to be impacted for some time with Swann Drive closed as well as westbound traffic on the Deer Park bypass being stopped for safety,” the spokesperson added.

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Located some 17 km west of Melbourne’s central business district, Derrimut is home to more than 8,000 residents, with the suburb’s Swann Drive connecting several distribution centres and warehouses.

–IANS

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Trump assassination bid: Biden orders 'independent review'

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Washington, July 15 (IANS) US President Joe Biden on Sunday announced an independent review of the security at the election rally at which a shooter made an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump who is also the putative Republican nominee for the White House.

The US President also said that he has ordered a continued heightened level of security for his Republican rival and a review of the security arrangements at the Republican party’s presidential convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In a short speech after meeting top security officials in the Situation Room, Biden also said he spoke to Trump.

“An assassination attempt is contrary to everything we stand for as a nation, everything. It’s not who we are as a nation, it’s not America, and we cannot allow this to happen,” he said, adding: “Unity is the most elusive goal of all but nothing is important right now, Unity. We will debate and will disagree. It’s not that’s not going to change. But we’re gonna not lose sight of who we are as Americans”.

Biden said the shooter’s motive remains unclear and appealed to Americans to not speculate and wait for the FBI’s investigation. The FBI is leading the probe into the shooting. He did not specify who or which agency will conduct the “independent review”, but promised to share its findings.

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While the FBI is leading the investigation into the shooting, the US Justice Department’s National Security Division is also involved in it, as Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

This indicates the US is treating the assassination attempt as also a threat to national security.

While the shooter has been identified as Thomas Matthew Crooks, officials have said nothing yet about his motivation. According to news reports, he was a registered Republican but had donated $15 to a liberal voter mobilisation group in 2021. The gunman used an AR-15 military-style assault rifle that has been the weapon of choice for most mass shooting perpetrators. New reports now suggest the shooter was carrying two explosive devices in the car and a possible third at his residence.

Earlier in the day, Trump struck a defiant note the morning after surviving the assassination attempt, writing on social media, “We will FEAR NOT”.

He also announced he would be speaking at the Republican party convention.

Trump is recovering at his home in New Jersey, where he reached last night from Butler, Pennsylvania when a 20-year-old white man opened fire on his election rally, wounding the former President and killing an attendee.

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The shooter was killed by snipers of the US Secret Service that protects past and present American Presidents and their immediate families.

“We will FEAR NOT, but instead remain resilient in our Faith and Defiant in the face of Wickedness,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, a social media platform he launched after he was banished from Twitter, now called X.

He added: “I truly love our Country, and love you all, and look forward to speaking to our Great Nation this week from Wisconsin.”

The Republican party convention kicks off Monday in Milwaukee to anoint Trump formally as the party’s nominee for the White House. He will announce his pick for his running mate over the next few days, if he doesn’t do it on Sunday.

Political violence in US politics has become a new threat, from both the right and the left.

Trump’s supporters attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, to stop a joint sitting of the Congress from certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 election and the next President. Several people, including a police officer, were killed during or after the rampage.

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An armed man was arrested from outside the house of Brett Kavanaugh, one of the six conservative justices of the Supreme Court.

Biden said: “There is no place in America for this kind of violence. It’s sick. It’s sick. It’s one of the reasons why we have to unite this country. We cannot allow this to be happening. We cannot be like this. We cannot condone this.”

Trump has posted several statements on Truth Social but has not expressly addressed the question of political violence. “In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United, and show our True Character as Americans, remaining Strong and Determined, and not allowing Evil to Win,” he wrote on Sunday morning.

But his campaign leaders Chris Lacivita and Susie Wile confronted the issue directly. “Please do not comment publicly on the occurrence of today,” they wrote in a memo to staff. “We condemn all forms of violence, and will not tolerate dangerous rhetoric on social media.”

–IANS

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Hamas claims killing Israeli soldiers in Rafah

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Gaza, July 15 (IANS) Hamas has claimed that its fighters killed and wounded some Israeli soldiers, who were trying to infiltrate Rafah City in the southern Gaza Strip.

“Our fighters monitored a private Israeli force hiding inside a truck loaded with humanitarian aid … then the soldiers entered a local Palestinian house and hid inside it,” al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on Sunday in a press statement.

Al-Qassam said, “Our fighters clashed with the soldiers, attacking them with homemade shells, killing and wounding all of them.”

The Israeli army has not commented on the incident yet, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel has been waging a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 others were taken hostage.

–IANS

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4 killed in armed clashes, 42,000 displaced in Somalia: UN

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Mogadishu, July 14 (IANS) At least four people were killed and 42,000 others displaced by recent armed clashes between local clans in the town of Luuq in southern Somalia, the United Nations relief agency said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Sunday that the three-day fighting that started on July 5 in the Gedo region was caused by a dispute over land ownership, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The displaced people were not only caught up in the crossfire but also were targeted in some cases due to their clan affiliation. Some of them faced secondary displacement due to fear of being directly affected,” the OCHA said in its latest update released in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

The OCHA added that some calmness has been observed since July 8 as the armed clashes ceased, though tensions remain high.

It said access to the displaced population in some areas is restricted due to possible attacks from non-state armed actors, including militiamen from the conflicting parties.

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The UN agency said the conflict paralysed the ongoing delivery of humanitarian services, including health, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions.

Conflicts over land and revenge killings have been fueling inter-clan violence in Somalia for years, instilling widespread fear among the populace, with minimal efforts visible to mitigate the violence, leading to numerous fatalities, according to residents.

The OCHA said the burnt-down market will have a significant economic impact, as many people have lost their livelihoods and may face food insecurity.

“Initial assessment by humanitarian partners on the ground indicate that the displaced communities, especially women, children, elderly, and persons with disabilities, are facing critical conditions and urgent needs of humanitarian assistance, including temporary shelters, health services, clean water, and provision of food,” the OCHA added.

–IANS

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Campaigns end as Rwanda readies for presidential, legislative elections

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Kigali, July 14 (IANS) Campaigning has ended in Rwanda ahead of presidential and legislative elections.

Three presidential candidates are facing off, including incumbent President Paul Kagame of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), Frank Habineza of the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, and Philippe Mpayimana, an independent candidate, Xinhua news agency reported.

On Monday, polling will open at 7:00 a.m. local time and end at 3:00 p.m. for about 9.5 million eligible voters, according to the National Election Commission.

The electoral commission demarcated more than 2,500 polling stations throughout the country to ensure fair elections.

All three candidates ended their campaigns with rallies in Kigali, the country’s capital.

Kagame, who has been in office since 2000, ended his campaign in Kigali’s Kicukiro District.

The RPF politics is about ensuring the development of all Rwandans without leaving anyone behind, according to Kagame. RPF’s manifesto for the next five years, unveiled earlier this year, will build on what has been achieved so far toward the country’s national Vision 2050, which aims to achieve sustainable development and better quality of life for every Rwandan.

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After his last rally in Kigali’s Nyarugenge District, Habineza said this year’s campaigns were different from 2017’s, attributable to an increased level of political maturity.

“It was quite different across the country this time as voters received us quite well. You could see that there was a better atmosphere despite a few issues here and there,” he said.

Campaigns also ended for over 500 parliamentary candidates contesting for 80 seats in the lower chamber of parliament.

–IANS

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Hamas denies freezing ceasefire negotiations following attack on Khan Younis

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Gaza, July 14 (IANS) Hamas on Sunday denied freezing indirect ceasefire negotiations with Israel following a massive bloody attack on Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Izzat al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said in a statement that “all reports over the movement’s decision to stop negotiations in response to the Al-Mawasi massacre is baseless.”

He added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are trying to obstruct reaching an agreement to stop the aggression on Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some reports said that Hamas asked mediators Egypt and Qatar to stop ceasefire negotiations and a swap deal after the Al-Mawasi incident.

On Saturday, 90 Palestinians were killed and 300 others wounded after an Israeli airstrike hit tents for displaced people in Khan Younis, the Gaza-based health authorities said.

Israel said that the target of the Israeli attack was Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif, noting that the army was awaiting the results of the raid.

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Meanwhile, Netanyahu said in a press conference on Saturday that the “war will end only after Israel achieves all its goals.”

In addition, the Hamas movement said in a press statement on Saturday that the head of the political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, held a series of contacts with mediators and some regional countries in light of the “massacre” committed by the Israeli army in the Mawasi area.

Haniyeh pointed out that while Hamas showed a positive and responsible response to the latest proposal with the aim of reaching an agreement to stop the aggression against our people, the Israeli position taken by Netanyahu was to place obstacles that prevent reaching an agreement, added the movement.

–IANS

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