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France abandons petrol tax rises after deadly protests

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France abandons petrol tax rises after deadly protests

French President Emmanuel Macron scrapped a fuel tax rise amid fears of new violence after weeks of nationwide protests and the worst rioting in Paris in decades.

Three weeks of demonstrations left four people dead and were a massive challenge to Macron.

“The government is ready for dialogue and is showing it because this tax increase has been dropped from the 2019 budget bill,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told lawmakers on Wednesday.

French protesters welcome Macron’s decision to scrap the fuel tax rise planned for next year, but said it may not be enough to contain public anger.

Jacline Mouraud, a protest group’s self-proclaimed spokespeople, told The Associated Press, “I think it comes much too late.”

She said each of the disparate protesting groups will decide what to do next, but many will probably keep demonstrating. She said Macron’s move “is on the right path but in my opinion it will not fundamentally change the movement”.

France suspends fuel tax hikes amid ‘yellow vest’ protests

Deadly riots

A day after Edouard Philippe announced a six-month suspension of the fuel tax hikes that kicked off the “yellow vest” protest, the movement showed no sign of slowing down on Wednesday.

Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilised, trucking unions called for a rolling strike, and France’s largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.

The demonstrations, which began on November 17, sparked on Saturday Paris’ worst rioting in decades, with protesters clashing with police, setting fire to vehicles and looting shops around the capital’s famed Champs Elysees avenue.

The yellow vest protests were originally spurred by a squeeze on household spending brought about by Macron’s taxes on diesel, which he said are necessary to combat climate change and protect the environment.

However, they have since evolved into a bigger, general anti-Macron uprising, with many criticising the president for pursuing policies they claim favour the richest members of French society.

Paris police said 412 people were arrested during the clashes in Paris on Saturday and 363 remained in custody, according to the latest figures.

Macron and Philippe’s approval ratings hit new lows in the wake of the crisis.

The president’s approval rating fell to 23 percent in a poll conducted late last week, down six points from the previous month, while the prime minister’s rating fell 10 points to 26 percent. 

People of Reunion Island blame Paris for inflation, poverty

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Hamas leader Haniya says movement wants ‘national unity’

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Hamas leader Haniya says movement wants ‘national unity’

Hamas chief Ismail Haniya affirmed his willingness to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “at any place” to discuss the internal Palestinian divide.

Haniya’s remarks came in a speech on Sunday during a festival organised by Hamas in Gaza City to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the movement’s establishment, which saw the participation of thousands of Palestinian people.

Members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, participated in the rally in camouflage and carrying rifles, while brandishing a range of weapons.

The movement said the large turnout reflected widespread support despite domestic and external challenges.

Palestinians in Gaza take part in a rally marking the 31st anniversary of Hamas’ founding [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Haniya stressed the readiness of his organisation to “comply with any requirement to restore Palestinian national unity and end the division.”

The Hamas leader also expressed his group’s willingness to hold elections, either the presidential or parliamentary.

Last month, delegations from Hamas and Fatah held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo on ending the Palestinian division.

The talks were one of dozens of rounds – in Cairo and several Arab capitals – between Hamas and Fatah since the start of the Palestinian discord in 2007, but discussions have yet to bear fruit.

‘In total harmony’

Haniya also praised the “resistance” in the occupied West Bank following attacks against Israeli settlers and soldiers in recent days.

“We place our hopes in the West Bank, which is the main area where events are occurring and the most appropriate area to resolve the conflict with our Zionist enemy,” he told the crowd, which waved green Hamas flags.

“The West Bank has shaken and stood up with glory, strength and skill, as if it wanted to say to our people on the occasion of this glorious anniversary that it was with the resistance, in total harmony.”

West Bank shootings kill three Palestinians, two Israelis

He told the crowd the pace of attacks would continue until US President Donald Trump’s policy in the region is brought a halt, singling out the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Separate shootings last week killed two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank city of Ramallah, while an Israeli baby, born prematurely after its mother was critically wounded in the settlement of Ofra, later died at hospital. 

“Our people in the West Bank never accept humiliation,” Haniyeh said, describing the recent increase in Palestinian attacks as “another Intifada”.

Israel’s security forces say they arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he issued a warning to Hamas after the deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank. “We will exact a high price over them,” he said.

Failed operation

According to Haniya, the Qassam Brigades managed to seize a “security trove” during the failed Israeli security operation in the Gaza Strip, without giving further details.

On November 11, the Qassam Brigades announced they discovered an Israeli special forces’ unit infiltrating Khan Younis, east of the Gaza Strip, and killed one officer in an ensuing clash.

The failed operation led to an escalation in Gaza that left seven Palestinians dead.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007.

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World

What can be done to ensure food security and preserve water?

The Azeri Times

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Over 800 million people live in hunger-stricken areas. The majority of those live in conflict zones.

Ensuring quantity and quality of water for survival, but also for food production in the context of agricultural intensification, is essential to mitigate the risk of mass migration conflict.

On this special edition of Inside Story from the Doha Forum, we ask: Are the current world food governance support systems enough to mitigate current risks?

And what can be done to avoid price volatility and its impact on the poorest?

Presenter: Dareen Abughaida

Guests:

Pablo Campana – Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments

Bader Al-Dafa – executive director at Global Dryland Alliance (GDA)

Miguel Angel Moratinos – future UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations

Djimé Adoum – executive secretary of Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, CILSS

Source: Al Jazeera

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Blast kills four in Syria’s Afrin held by Turkey-backed rebels

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Blast kills four in Syria’s Afrin held by Turkey-backed rebels
Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from Kurdish fighters in early 2018 [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]
Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from Kurdish fighters in early 2018 [File: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters]

A car bomb has killed at least four people and wounded 20 others in the northern Syrian city of Afrin, held by pro-Turkey rebels, the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The explosion on Sunday came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened earlier this week to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria “in a few days”.

Meanwhile, the UK-based war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said eight people – four civilians and four fighters – were killed, with activist-operated Shaam news agency reporting the same death toll.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the blast.

Rebel forces backed by the Turkish army seized Afrin from the YPG in early 2018 in their second large-scale operation into northern Syria since 2016.

Turkey accuses the YPG of being terrorists. However, the armed group is the backbone of a US-backed alliance fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Syria. 

The YPG, as well as US forces, are currently present in areas along the Turkish border to the east of Afrin.

Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the car bomb, which exploded “near a position of pro-Turkey fighters” in a market, wounded dozens.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump agreed with Erdogan for a “more effective coordination” between them in the war-torn country.

Erdogan has strongly criticised Washington’s support for the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces fighting ISIL in their last holdout in the far east of the country.

The US military has set up observation posts in the region in an effort to prevent friction between its NATO ally and the Syrian Kurdish forces.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

It has since spiralled into a complex conflict and a proxy war involving armed groups and world powers.

SOURCE:
News agencies

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