Six dead in worst Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed for years

Six people were killed in the bloodiest spate of Israeli-Palestinian violence for years, prompted by new security Israeli measures at Jerusalem’s holiest site.

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Three Israelis were stabbed to death in a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, hours after three Palestinians were killed in violence prompted by Israel’s installation of metal detectors at entry points to the Noble Sanctuary-Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s walled Old City.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the suspension of all official contact with Israel until it removed the metal detectors. He gave no details, but current contacts are largely limited to security cooperation.

“I declare the suspension of all contacts with the Israeli side on all levels until it cancels its measures at al Aqsa mosque and preserves the status quo,” Abbas said in a brief televised speech.

The three Israelis stabbed to death and a fourth who was wounded, were from the fenced-in West Bank settlement of Neve Tsuf. Israeli media said the three dead were all members of the same family, two men aged 60 and 40 and a woman of 40.

The wounded woman, 68, was hospitalised with stab wounds to her back, Israeli media said.

A still photo carried by Israeli television showed a kitchen floor completely red with blood. The family had sat down to a traditional Friday evening meal when the attack occurred, according to Israel Radio.

The Israeli army and media said the assailant slipped into the settlement under cover of darkness to carry out his attack. 

Israel Radio identified him as a 19-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank village of Khobar near Ramallah. It said he was shot, but his condition was not initially known.

0:00 Israel reopens sensitive holy site, but Muslims refuse to enter Share Israel reopens sensitive holy site, but Muslims refuse to enter

Earlier, Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli security forces. Tensions had mounted for days as Palestinians hurled rocks and Israeli police used stun grenades after the detectors were placed outside the sacred venue, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Mohammed Sharaf, 17, and Mohammad Hassan Abu Ghannam, age unknown, died of gunshot wounds in two neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem somewhat away from the epicentre of tension in the walled Old City. It reported a third Palestinian fatality, Mohammed Lafi, 18, later.

It was not immediately clear who fired the shots, with unconfirmed media reports that an Israeli settler was responsible in Sharaf’s death.

Israel decided to install the metal detectors at the entry point to the shrine in Jerusalem’s walled Old City on Sunday, after the killing of two Israeli policemen on July 14.

The shrine includes the al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, and the golden Dome of the Rock. It was also the site of an ancient Jewish temple, the holiest place in Judaism.

Despite international pressure to remove the metal detectors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet decided in Friday’s early hours to keep them in place, saying they were needed to prevent arms being smuggled into the shrine.

In protest, thousands of worshippers gathered for Friday prayers at various entrances to the sacred compound, which sits on a marble and stone plateau in the Old City. They refused to enter, preferring to pray outside, in some cases filling the narrow alleyways of the Old City’s Muslim quarter.

“We reject Israeli restrictions at the Aqsa Mosque,” said Jerusalem’s senior Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Mohammad Hussein.

Muslim leaders and Palestinian political factions had urged the faithful to gather for a “day of rage” on Friday against the new security policies, which they see as changing delicate agreements that have governed the holy site for decades.

0:00 Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank Share Three Israelis stabbed to death in West Bank

Israeli police mobilised extra units and erected barriers to carry out checks at entrances to the Old City. Access to the shrine for Muslims was limited to men over 50 but open to women of all ages. Roadblocks were in place on approach roads to Jerusalem to stop buses carrying Muslims to the site.

At one location near the Old City, stone throwers did try to break through a police line, and police used stun grenades to drive them back.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said four officers were injured in the sporadic clashes and the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service said at least 377 protesters had been hurt, some suffering from tear gas inhalation.

The hilltop compound has long been a source of religious friction. Since Israel captured and annexed the Old City, including the compound, in the 1967 Middle East war, it has also become a symbol of Palestinian nationalism. “This is our place of prayer, we have sovereignty here,” Salaam said.

On Thursday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to press for the removal of the metal detectors. Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East, appealed for calm and the White House called for a resolution. Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, has also been involved in mediation efforts.

But Netanyahu’s 11-member security cabinet opted in a late-night meeting to retain the metal detectors to ensure no weapons were smuggled in, a week after three Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen in the vicinity of the complex.

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White House spokesman Spicer out as Trump seeks to fix image

While not a surprise, Spicer’s departure was abrupt and accompanied other changes in Trump’s media and legal teams, as an investigation of possible ties between his campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election widened.

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After six months in power and still without a major legislative win, Trump shuffled some of his closest staff, parting ways with Spicer after naming Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director. Spicer had been communications director as well as press secretary following the resignation of Mike Dubke as director early last month.

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A Republican close to the White House told Reuters that Trump settled on Scaramucci, 53, a political supporter and former Goldman Sachs banker, for the head media job on Thursday and met with him on Friday morning to formally offer it to him.

A White House official briefed on what happened next said Spicer was told of Scaramucci’s hiring and Trump urged Spicer to stay on. But Spicer, 45, said he did not want to stay on under the terms and conditions described to him and quit.

0:00 White House announces new press secretary Share White House announces new press secretary

A source close to the White House said: “Basically Donald Trump likes Scaramucci on TV and saw the communications director job as a way to … make him a top TV surrogate.”

The source said Trump wanted Spicer to be press secretary and do much of the communications director’s work as well, “with Scaramucci holding the ceremonial title with no responsibility. And that was the real challenge.”

At an early afternoon briefing, Scaramucci, in his debut before the White House press corps, named Sarah Sanders as the new press secretary. She had been Spicer’s deputy.

Known by insiders as “Mooch,” the new communications director is a Harvard Law School-educated Long Islander who founded a hedge fund after leaving Goldman, and sold it to join the Trump administration.

Spicer, a veteran Washington staffer, was parodied memorably by actress Melissa McCarthy on the “Saturday Night Live” TV comedy show for his combative encounters with reporters.

“I am grateful for Sean’s work on behalf of my administration and the American people,” Trump said in a statement. “I wish him continued success as he moves on to pursue new opportunities. Just look at his great television ratings.”

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Spicer will stay on the job through August.

From the start, Spicer invited controversy, attacking the media in his first appearance as press secretary for reporting what he called inaccurate crowd numbers at Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe,” he said, an assertion that quickly drew scorn.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Spicer wrote, “It’s been an honor & privilege to serve @POTUS @realDonaldTrump & this amazing country. I will continue my service through August.”

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Before Trump tapped him for the job of press secretary, Spicer was the Republican National Committee’s spokesman. He had previously worked in the administration of former President George W. Bush. During that time, he dressed up in an Easter Bunny costume for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

Spicer and other Trump aides shook up White House dealings with the media, including cutting back daily televised news briefings and replacing them with audio briefings only.

Scaramucci told reporters, “I love the president. … It’s an honor to be here.” Asked how he was going to right the White House ship, Scaramucci said there was nothing to fix.

“The ship is going in the right direction. I like the team. Let me rephrase that: I love the team,” he said.

Trump turmoil

Separately, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the possible Trump-Russia ties, has asked White House officials to preserve any records of a meeting last year between the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer, a source with knowledge of the request said on Friday.

The spokesman for Trump’s outside legal team, Mark Corallo, resigned. His departure came amid media reports that the role of Marc Kasowitz, who had been leading the team, was being reduced.

On Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions brushed off sharp criticism from Trump, saying he loved his job and planned to stay in it. Trump took a broad swipe at his administration’s top law officers this week in a New York Times interview, saying he would not have appointed Sessions as attorney general if he had known he would recuse himself.

White House unrest was not limited to communications and legal staff, said two officials familiar with the situation.

Trump has ignored the recommendations of national security adviser H.R. McMaster and his senior director for Russia, Fiona Hill, on dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

They said McMaster is frustrated by continuing debate about sending more U.S. forces to Afghanistan. One official said tension persists between McMaster and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon and chief speechwriter Stephen Miller.

Poland’s senate approves controversial court reform

The legislation, which was pushed through by parliament Wednesday, was approved by 55 senators, with 23 opposed and two abstentions.

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During the 15-hour debate thousands of demonstrators took to the streets nationwide to protest the law, which reinforces political control over the Supreme Court.

After the vote, protesters gathered in front of parliament shouting “Shame!” “Traitors!” and “Democracy!”.

The reform of the Supreme Court, which supervises lower courts, still needs to be signed by President Andrzej Duda, himself from the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, to become law.

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The head of state has 21 days to sign the document, veto it, or, if in doubt, submit it to the constitutional court.

The opposition and protesters are all calling on Duda to veto the reform, as well as two other measures recently adopted which they say increase the control of the executive branch of government over the judiciary.

The opposition argues the measures amount to a “coup d’etat” but the PiS says the reforms are essential to rationalise the judicial system and fight corruption.

The PiS, which began making judiciary changes after coming to power in late 2015, has argued resistance to the initiatives is a case of the elite defending their privileges.

Under the current system, candidates for the Supreme Court are selected by an independent body consisting mainly of judges but also included a few politicians.

The European Commission has warned against the changes, threatening to halt Poland’s voting rights in the 28-nation bloc further down the line — a so-called “nuclear option” that the EU had never invoked.

The EU first warned Poland in early 2016 over reforms of the constitutional court, whose main role is to check that laws comply with the constitution.

Those changes resulted in tilting the makeup of the court in the conservatives’ favour and installing a PiS ally as the chief justice.

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While noting that Poland was a close ally of Washington, the US State Department said America was concerned by the legislation, according to a statement.

Last week, both houses of parliament adopted two other contested pieces of judicial legislation, including a bill stating that the justice minister will name the chief justices of Poland’s common courts.

The second bill stipulates that from now on the parliament, instead of an independent body, will choose the members of the National Council of the Judiciary, which is meant to protect the independence of the courts.

Slater, Smith injured in Storm’s NRL win

Melbourne’s NRL premiership hopes have suffered a major blow with Cameron Smith facing a stint on the sidelines and Billy Slater suffering a severe head knock in the Storm’s 20-14 victory over Canberra.

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Medical staff fear Smith could miss four to six weeks after aggravating a pectoral strain. This forced him to miss most of the second half of Saturday’s clash at GIO Stadium.

But the Storm skipper was more optimistic about the injury, saying scans on Sunday would determine its severity.

“The decision was to come off because there’s still a long way to go in the season,” Smith said.

“It wasn’t worth the risk, to be honest.”

It was the first time since 2009 the ultra-durable Smith had featured in less than 50 minutes of a match for Melbourne.

Slater was taken from the field on a medicab 10 minutes into the second half, after being knocked out by a high shot from Sia Soliola who was lucky not to have been sent off.

The Raiders’ forward was placed on report and apologised to Slater who had regained consciousness by the time he left the ground.

“He’s talking, but he’s not feeling too good, so we’ll just have to see how it goes throughout the week,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“For him to get knocked out like that, it’s pretty severe.

“If it’s not a sending off, then I don’t know what is a sending off.”

Cameron Munster extended the Storm’s lead to 14-6 with a penalty goal after the Slater hit but, without their superstar fullback and hooker, the Raiders sensed their chance.

Young gun Nick Cotric scored a try with less than 15 minutes remaining to reduce the deficit to four points.

But the Storm showed grit to stem the tide with Dale Finucane scoring his second try, diving on a grubber which trickled under the posts.

Munster was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul in the final minute and, moments later, Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer completed his own try-scoring double.

But it was too late to avoid another close loss.

The defeat keeps Canberra two wins out of the top eight, but that could be extended to three on Sunday if St George Illawarra beat Manly.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was furious with the refereeing after the match, calling for officials to be made accountable.

“Those poor bastards in there – my players – they’re accountable every week,” Stuart said.

“They busted themselves tonight; that’s was one of the best games they played all year tonight.”

Greek holiday island Kos battles to recover from deadly quake

The 6.

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7-magnitude tremor also left hundreds more injured in the Turkish resort of Bodrum, just about 20 kilometres across the sea from Kos.

“Given the amount of people outside at the time, having only two victims is a miracle,” deputy Kos mayor David Yerasklis told Kathimerini daily.

The undersea quake struck at 1:31 am Friday (2231 GMT Thursday) between Kos and Bodrum.

At the time, tourists in both places were out enjoying the nightlife.

0:00 Kos earthquake: residents, tourists assess the damage Share Kos earthquake: residents, tourists assess the damage

On Kos, a wall collapsed on people in the yard of a nightclub, killing a 22-year-old Swede and a 39-year-old Turk.

Another 120 people were hurt, seven of them seriously, while some 360 people were injured in Bodrum — many after jumping out of windows. 

The badly injured on Kos were flown to hospitals in Athens and Crete, including two men from Sweden and Norway who are in critical condition.

The Swede lost his lower leg, and doctors are struggling to save his other leg. The Norwegian has serious head injuries.

Kos is one of Greece’s top travel destinations, and particularly popular with British and Scandinavian tourists.

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Government officials and expert divers on Saturday were inspecting the harbour, which was cracked asunder by the tremor and has been declared unsafe for use. 

But the rest of island’s infrastructure is mostly intact, they stress.

Ferries have been rerouted to the smaller port town of Kefalos in west Kos until repairs are made.

Some residents spent the night outdoors, setting up tents in parks and squares, but officials noted that the majority of hotels were unaffected by the quake.

At Kos airport, delays were noted for a second straight day with over 50 outgoing flights scheduled. Over a dozen flights had landed by mid-morning.

“There is no problem at the hotels, the tourists have dealt calmly with developments,” Constantina Svynou, head of the local hotelier association, told Ta Nea daily.

Some areas of the port town were still without water, however.

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No injuries were reported among the 800 migrants and refugees housed on the island, which is one of the main gateways into Europe for people fleeing war and poverty.

But asylum procedures have been curtailed until at least Monday as the quake damaged passport inspection facilities at the harbour.

Many archaeological and medieval monuments — including the medieval Knights of St John fortifications near where the deaths occurred — have also been closed until further notice.

Turkey and Greece sit on significant fault lines and have regularly been hit by earthquakes in recent years.

This year alone, Turkey’s western Aegean coast was hit by several significant earthquakes.

In June, a 6.3-magnitude earthquake gutted a village on the Greek island of Lesbos, killing a woman and leaving more than 15 injured.