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US Senate confirms Austin as secretary of defense, Haines to national intelligence

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US Senate confirms Austin as secretary of defense, Haines to national intelligence

The 67-year-old will be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon.

Avril Haines, 51, is the first female director and Jewish person to lead the U.S. intelligence community.

Former U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd Austin. Source: Screenshot.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Lloyd Austin on Friday as U.S. secretary of defense.

Austin, a general who retired in 2016 and needed a congressional waiver due to a law that requires retired military personnel to wait seven years from leaving the military to become secretary of defense, was confirmed by a vote of 93-2. George Marshall and James Mattis are the only ones to have received this waiver, getting it in 1950 and 2017, respectively.

Austin, 67, will be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon.

He previously served as head of U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, which oversees the mission of the U.S. military in the Middle East. Until last week, Israel did not fall under CENTCOM.

Avril Haines. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

During his nomination hearing this week in front of the U.S. Armed Services Committee, Austin said that regarding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the United States withdrew from in May 2018, “the preconditions for us considering to re-enter into that agreement would be that Iran meets the conditions outlined in the agreement … back to where they should have been,” adding that other issues, including ballistic missiles, would need to be addressed.

Referring to the Abraham Accords normalization agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, Austin said that countries agreeing to normalize relations is a good thing and that their development has put more pressure on Tehran.

In related news, Avril Haines, 51, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday night as the first female director of national intelligence. She is also the first Jewish person to lead the U.S. intelligence community.

– JNS

 

Foreign News

29 Killed In Southern Brazil’s Worst Storms

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29 Killed In Southern Brazil’s Worst Storms

Four consecutive days of intense rainfall, floods, and mudslides that hit Brazil’s southern state of Rio Grande do Sulworst released the worst storms that killed 29 people and left 60 others missing, Governor Eduardo Leite said.

“Unfortunately, we know that these numbers will rise,” said Leite, describing the storms as the worst natural disaster in the state’s history, a top agricultural and livestock producer.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visited Santa Maria, one of the state’s worst-hit cities, and met with Leite on Thursday.

Lula offered federal funding and aid to address the emergency in the state bordering Uruguay and Argentina.

“There will be no shortage of help from the federal government to take care of health, no shortage of money to take care of transportation and food, everything that is within reach.

“Whether through ministers, civil society, or our military, we’ll dedicate round-the-clock effort to satisfy the basic needs of the people stranded by the rains,” said the president.

With more rain forecast, the governor called on residents, to head for higher ground and stay away from flood-prone areas identified by the civil defence agency.

He said 4,400 residents have been evacuated but thousands more are waiting to be rescued from their flooded homes.

According to a civil defence bulletin, 154 cities have been affected by natural disasters.

– Xinhua

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Foreign News

Israel Says Not Briefed In Time About Hamas Accepting Gaza Ceasefire Proposal – Reports

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Israel Says Not Briefed In Time About Hamas Accepting Gaza Ceasefire Proposal – Reports

The Israeli government was taken aback that Hamas accepted the latest Gaza ceasefire proposal, formed by Qatari and Egyptian mediators, as the country was only briefed on the Palestinian movement’s response an hour after its release.

The Axios news outlet reported this on Tuesday, citing three Israeli officials.

On Monday, Hamas informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators that it agreed to the terms of the ceasefire deal they had drafted.

The proposal provides for three stages of 42 days, during which a complete ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners are expected to be concluded.

In addition to allegedly being briefed on Hamas’ decision belatedly, the Israeli officials told Axios they had been outraged by the fact that the proposal accepted by the Palestinian movement allegedly contained “many new elements,” which had not been discussed with the Jewish state.

“It looked like a whole new proposal,” one of the Israeli officials was quoted by the news outlet as saying.

That “new” proposal, which allegedly was not negotiated with Israel, had been presented by the mediators to Hamas’ delegation during the latter’s visit to Cairo last weekend, the Israeli officials told Axios.

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the negotiations said Israeli representatives had also been invited by the United States to visit Cairo along with Hamas but had refused to do so.

The Israeli authorities have been seriously disappointed with Washington’s mediating role in the talks with Hamas, Axios reported.

CIA Director Bill Burns participated in the recent round of the negotiations in Cairo and Doha and was aware of that “new” proposal, but allegedly did not inform Israel about it, sources familiar with the matter were cited by the news outlet as saying.

Meanwhile, a senior US official told Axios that “American diplomats have been engaged with Israeli counterparts,” adding there were “no surprises.”

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces started a military operation in the eastern parts of Rafah, after urging residents to evacuate.

Palestinian movement Hamas said that it had agreed to the provisions of the Gaza ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal unacceptable.

More than a million people are believed to be sheltering in the city.

On Oct. 7, 2023, the Palestinian movement Hamas launched a large-scale rocket attack against Israel and breached the border, attacking both civilian neighbourhoods and military bases.

Nearly 1,200 people in Israel were killed and some 240 others abducted during the attack.

Israel launched retaliatory strikes, ordered a complete blockade of Gaza, and started a ground incursion into the Palestinian enclave with the declared goal of eliminating Hamas fighters and rescuing the hostages.

Over 34,700 people have been killed so far by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip, according to local authorities.

More than 100 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. 

– Sputnik

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East Africa Floods Affecting 750,000 People, Kill 235 – UN

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East Africa Floods Affecting 750,000 People, Kill 235 – UN

UN humanitarians said about 750,000 people were affected by flooding in eastern Africa, with 234,000 displaced and more than 236 killed.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said local authorities in Kenya reported more than 285,000 people were affected nationwide.

“The United Nations and our partners are supporting the government-led response and have reached more than 126,000 people with water and sanitation assistance.

“About 31,000 people were assisted with food and cash, more than 5,000 assisted with health services, and nearly 26,000 people with emergency shelter support,” OCHA said.

The office said that in Somalia, more than 160,000 people were affected by flooding, with more than 37,000 displaced or relocated.

Flooding has killed seven children since April 19, with the states of Hirshabelle, Jubaland and Southwest the worst affected.

Humanitarian agencies said local authorities provided more than 70,000 people with food, cash, water, sanitation, shelter and health assistance.

Some 50 boats were deployed to deliver supplies or evacuate people who may have been marooned by flood waters.

“Our partners estimate that the rains and floods could affect at least 770,000 people in Somalia,” OCHA said.

“The rains are also likely to worsen the ongoing cholera epidemic in the country.”

The humanitarians said that in Burundi, torrential rains and the rising water level of Lake Tanganyika have affected nearly 180,000 people since January.

The agriculture sector is heavily impacted, with national authorities estimating that 40,000 hectares or 10 per cent of the country’s crop area have been affected.

“A flood response plan seeking 25 million U.S. dollars is being finalised to support more than 300,000 people,” OCHA said.

“Our partners are providing health care support, drinking water, tarpaulins and psychosocial support.”

According to humanitarians, in Tanzania, the government and partners deployed search and rescue teams and distributed emergency aid, including food, mattresses, mosquito nets and tents to assist flood-affected people.

The office said that in Rwanda, heavy rains and floods killed and injured dozens of people and damaged roads, bridges and hundreds of homes.

Local authorities reported that several hectares of rice and banana plantations were also damaged.

“The governments and humanitarian partners are supporting evacuation efforts and the response,” OCHA said.  

– Xinhua

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