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7.8 Magnitude Powerful Earthquakes Shake  Turkey & Syria ‘Disaster of the Century’ Death Toll  in Türkiye, Syria  Climbs 50,000

On 6 February 2023, a Mw 7.8 earthquake struck southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria. The epicenter was 32 km (20 mi) west–northwest of Gaziantep. The earthquake had a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme). It was followed by a Mw 7.7 earthquake nine hours later, centered 95 km (59 mi) to the north-northeast from the first, in Kahramanmaraş Province. In Turkey alone, 44,218 people died as a result of the earthquakes, the country’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said on Friday,  24 Feb., while the latest announced death toll in Syria was 5,914.

UN Appeals for $397 Million to Help Syrian Quake Survivors. Turkey also said it is working to open two new routes into rebel-held parts of Syria.

Turkey reports 50,576 buildings collapsed, damaged.  In a report, the country’s Ministry of Environment said all at-risk buildings need to be demolished urgently.

(Source: TRT World, Reuters,  Al-Jazeera )


One Year to Russia Ukraine War Energy Costs, Food Prices, And Economies have been Impacted in Globally

One year ago, on February 21, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly recognised Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. The breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions had been at the heart of a conflict between Ukraine’s forces and Russia-backed separatists since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea. Putin’s recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) was a watershed moment in the months-long escalation preceding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

From the north – Russian forces moved towards Kyiv from Belarus. From the northeast –  Russian forces moved west towards Kyiv from Russia. From the east – Russian forces pushed towards Kharkiv from the Donbas region. From the south – Russian forces moved from Crimea towards Odesa in the west, Zaporizhzhia in the north and Mariupol in the east. In the past year, Russia has captured key cities and strategic ports, and Ukraine has launched multiple counteroffensives to regain lost territory. Despite protracted bombardments, Russian forces were unable to gain control of Ukraine’s capital, as they faced logistical challenges with ground forces unable to move fuel, munitions and material because of clogged roads. Satellite imagery showed a 40km (26-mile) Russian convoy stalled outside the capital. Human price :  According to latest UN human rights office (OHCHR) data, at least 8,000 non-combatants have been confirmed killed – with nearly 13,300 injured – since the Russian invasion on 24 February last year. The true number is likely to be substantially higher, OHCHR staff have repeated on many occasions. (Source: Al Jazeera /BU News )


 Catastrophic’: Palestinian’s  recount fatal Israeli raid on Nablus

(Wed.22 Feb 2023) | (By Al Jazeera Staff)

Young Mohammad Jawabreh (22 years old) has died as a result of his injuries sustained in confrontations in the Arroub Camp in Hebron. Israeli forces have killed 65 Palestinians, including 13 children, this year so far, and injured hundreds of others, making the first two months of 2023 the deadliest for Palestinians compared with the same period since 2000.

  • Israel has launched air raids north of Gaza City after rockets were fired from the
  • No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the rockets fired hours earlier from the Gaza Strip, which triggered sirens in the Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashkelon.
  • The Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad group condemned the Israeli military’s raid in Nablus as a “major crime” that the “resistance must respond to”.
  • The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since the start of 2023 has now risen to 61 people, including 13 children.


Saudi project clears 1,387 Houthi mines in Yemen

(February 14, 2023) Riyadh: An ongoing Saudi program to clear landmines in Yemen saw 1,387 devices laid by the Iran-backed Houthis dismantled in the first week of February. Overseen by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, special teams destroyed hundreds of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, unexploded ordnances, and other explosive devices. The KSrelief project, known as Masam, is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia on the orders of King Salman to help the Yemeni people. Masam teams clear routes for much-needed humanitarian aid aimed at supporting the country’s citizens. The demining operations took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale, and Saada. A total of 386,282 mines have been cleared since the start of the project. The Saudi project trains local demining engineers and provides them with modern equipment. It also offers support to Yemenis injured by the devices.(Source: Arab News)


Iran unveils underground  base for Fighter Jets

Iran’s army on Tuesday unveiled its first underground base for fighter jets designed to withstand possible strikes by U.S. bunker-busting bombs, state media reported. The base, named Oghab 44 (Persian for eagle), can accommodate “all types of fighter jets and bombers, in addition to drones,” the official news agency IRNA said, releasing images and videos from inside the base. The exact location of the base was not revealed, but state media said it was “at the depth of hundreds of meters under the mountains,” and capable of withstanding “bombs by strategic U.S. Bombers.” In May last year, Iran’s army revealed an air force base for drones under the Zagros Mountains in the western part of the country. The latest unveiling comes the day before Iran marks Air Force Day, part of the buildup to the 44th anniversary on Saturday of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. State media on Tuesday showed Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri and the army’s commander-in-chief Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi at the new base. Oghab 44 is “one of numerous tactical underground air bases for the army’s air force built in different areas of the country in recent years,” IRNA reported. It can prepare fighter jets to “counter possible offensives” such as those practiced by the U.S. and Israel in their recent military drill, according to state media.


 China and Iran strengthen cooperation amid Western pressure

By Isabella Jewell  & AP     15/02/2023

Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Iran’s  President Ebrahim Raisi. China expressed support for Iran during a visit by its president, Ebrahim Raisi, as Tehran tries to strengthen its relations with Beijing and Moscow to offset Western sanctions over its nuclear development. In a statement, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that “China supports Iran in safeguarding national sovereignty” and “resisting unilateralism and bullying,” a comment aimed at criticising Washington’s domin ation of global affairs.

Outcomes of the meeting

Surrounded by a cohort of ministers, the two leaders renewed their vows of friendship and expressed their intention to further deepen economic and trade ties between their respective countries. Both want to continue along the path initiated last September at the Samarkand summit, where Tehran submitted its application to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, to which countries such as China, Russia, Pakistan and India belong. Xi and Raisi attended the signing of 20 cooperation agreements including trade and tourism, the Chinese government announced. These add to a 25-year strategy agreement signed in 2021 to cooperate in developing oil, industry and other fields. China is one of the biggest buyers of Iranian oil.  Both China and Iran are also linked by their relations with Russia, although in a very different way. While Tehran supplies weapons and drones to the Russian Army, Beijing defends Ukraine’s sovereignty, although it claims to understand the reasons that pushed Moscow to invade that country. (Source: Euro News)


Philippines, US to hold biggest war games in years

(February 15, 2023) MANILA: The Philippines and the United States will this year carry out their biggest joint military drills since 2015, Manila’s army chief said, against a backdrop of growing tensions with China in the South China Sea. The exercises underscore improved ties with the United States under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., and come as the Philippines condemns China’s “aggressive” actions in the disputed waterway, including its use of a “military-grade laser” against one of Manila’s vessels earlier this month. The annual ‘Balikatan’ exercises will be conducted in the second quarter and involve more than the previous year’s 8,900 troops, army chief Romeo Brawner told reporters. “All of these exercises that we are doing are in response to all types of threats that we may be facing in the future, both man-made and natural,” Brawner said. The Philippines has granted Washington greater access to its military bases as part of the latter’s efforts to deter China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea and tension over self-ruled Taiwan. In 2015, more than 11,000 troops from both countries participated in the joint military exercises. “The exercises will involve a myriad of activities, not just focused on developing the war fighting capability of both armed forces, but also of the other non-traditional roles such as humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” Brawner said.


 Japan Adopts Plan to Make Maximum Use of Nuclear Power

(Jiji Press) February 11, 2023

TOKYO — The government adopted a plan to make maximum use of nuclear power, in a bid to realize a carbon-free society while ensuring stable electricity supplies. Amid an energy crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the basic plan for green transformation marks a departure from Japan’s policy of reducing its dependence on nuclear energy, decided after the 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The basic plan calls for building next-generation nuclear reactors to replace decommissioned ones within the premises of the nuclear plants, ending a freeze on any projects to add, expand or replace reactors. Japan will also change a rule that limits the operating life of reactors basically to 40 years but tolerates an extension to up to 60 years upon regulatory approval. Under the plan, Japan will allow power companies to operate reactors beyond the 60-year limit by excluding periods when reactors are halted for safety inspections or other reasons. The government drafted the plan late last year and solicited public comments for a month from Dec. 23. Many of the 3,303 comments received were critical of the nuclear policy shift, according to a senior official of the industry ministry. But the government adopted the plan with almost no changes. Industry minister Yasutoshi Nishimura stressed that the approval came after “more than 100 council meetings as well as discussions in the ruling parties.” “We’ll clearly explain the government’s plan through various means, in order to deepen public understanding,” Nishimura told a press conference. Meanwhile, the government plans to collect fees from fossil fuel importers set in accordance with the amounts of CO2 emissions resulting from fuel use, starting in fiscal 2028. From fiscal 2033, power companies will be required to buy emissions credits through emissions trading.  (Source: The Japan News)


Chinese balloon was  ‘Clearly for intelligence surveillance’ USA

By Al Jazeera Staff :

Washington, DC – The United States has released new details about the alleged Chinese “spy” balloon that flew over the country last week, saying the aircraft was “clearly” used to gather intelligence. The balloon, which was shot down by US forces over the Atlantic Ocean after traversing the continental US, was “capable of conducting signals intelligence collection operations”, a US Department of State official said on Thursday on condition of anonymity. Washington also again refuted Beijing’s claim that the balloon was used for meteorological research and had deviated off its course into US airspace. “The high altitude balloon’s equipment was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons,” the US official said in a written statement. “It had multiple antennas to include an array likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications. It was equipped with solar panels large enough to produce the requisite power to operate multiple active intelligence collection sensors.” China has condemned the shooting down of the balloon, which it said was an “unmanned civilian airship”. US defence officials also have defended the decision to allow the balloon to fly over the country for days before shooting it down off the coast of South Carolina. (Source: SOURCE: AL JAZEERA)


 What’s Boomerang,  the new kamikaze drone  in Russian armoury?

One year into the Ukraine conflict, Moscow has introduced a VR-controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that is expected to give it additional firepower in the skies. This week, Russia added a new weapon to its armoury – a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) – days after its “special military operation” in Ukraine entered the second year.  The Russian Defence Minister released a video of what has been described as “small Boomerang copter-class small FPV drones” to be used to destroy Ukrainian positions.  Since the start of the conflict, Russia has used swarms of Iran-made and indigenously built UAVs to wreak havoc on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.    So, why is Russia showcasing the new kamikaze drone as a game-changer in the conflict? Fa Small wonder The small drone can be operated by two soldiers: an operator and an assistant. . The operator controls the drone using special Virtual Reality (VR) glasses, detecting and destroying the target. On the other hand, the assistant launches the drone and tracks its flight direction on a map, guiding the operator and correcting his work, the Russian government said.  “Boomerang has a simple design of a sports drone with four propellers, four small motors, a massive battery, and a special magazine filled with high-explosive plastic explosives,” it added.

Boomerang has a high-speed capacity of up to 170 kilometres per hour, and thanks to its huge battery, it can stay in the air for at least three hours.  Since it’s a small flying object, it has an easy manoeuvring capacity and is extremely easy to control. Moreover, the VR orientation makes it possible to follow a route quickly.   Another technical speciality of the Boomerang does not have a satellite communication module for which “anti-drone electronic means are useless against him”. “Unlike conventional aircraft, the Boomerang does not have a satellite communication module. An anti-aircraft weapon is thus almost powerless against him.

 The operator controls the drone at a minimum height, almost touching the treetops,” the statement added.


Lawmakers approve Putin’s nuclear treaty decision

The State Duma has passed legislation suspending Russia’s participation in the New START agreement Russian lawmakers approved a bill submitted by President Vladimir Putin, by which Moscow will temporarily suspend its participation in the Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty (New START) – the last existing nuclear accord between Russia and the US. In an explanatory note attached to the bill, the lawmakers state that the agreement, which was meant to cut in half the number of nuclear weapons deployed around  the world, was supposed to allow both parties to carry out inspections in order to ensure compliance. The US, however, “deliberately fails to fulfill its obligations under the treaty in this area of activity,” the note states. Because of this, and in accordance with federal law, the Russian president has made a proposal to suspend the agreement, the note reads, adding that the decision to resume Russia’s participation in the treaty will also be made by the president. The document was adopted by the State Duma, the lower chamber of Russia’s parliament, and must now be passed by the Federal Council before entering into force once signed by the president. The approval comes after Putin announced in his address to the Federal Assembly that Moscow will suspend its participation in the New START Treaty, but will not withdraw completely. The president said the document is a legacy of the times when Moscow and Washington did not perceive each other as adversaries.


 Philippines Says China Ship  Used Laser Against Coast Guard

(AP) February 14, 2023

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines accused a Chinese coast guard ship of hitting a Philippine coast guard vessel with a military-grade laser and temporarily blinding some of its crew in the disputed South China Sea, calling it a “blatant” violation of Manila’s sovereign rights. The Chinese ship also maneuvered dangerously close, about 137 meters (449 feet), to block the Philippine patrol vessel BRP Malapascua from approaching Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef that has been occupied by Philippine forces, on Feb. 6, the Philippine coast guard said in a statement. The Philippines has filed nearly 200 diplomatic protests against China’s aggressive actions in the disputed waters in 2022 alone.  In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said a Philippine coast guard vessel trespassed into Chinese waters without permission on Feb. 6. Chinese coast guard vessels responded “professionally and with restraint at the site in accordance with China’s law and international law,” he said, without elaborating and mentioning the use of laser. (Source: Associated Press)


UAE strikes balance between Oil and Environment,  Sheikh Saif tells World Government  Summit 2023 in Dubai

(February 14, 2023) Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter

Dubai: The UAE has demonstrated itself as an example of striking a balance between oil and environment, as climate action and environmental protection have been at the core of the country’s foundation, Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, said at the valedictory speech of the World Government Summit in Dubai. In a thought-provoking speech attended by a packed audience


India, set to be most populous, doesn’t know its number of people

(15 Feb 2023) In two months, India is projected to become the ‘worlds most populous country with more than 1.4 billion people. But for at least a year, and possibly longer, the country will not know how many people it has because it has not been able to count them. India’s once-in-a-decade census, due in 2021 and delayed due to the pandemic, has now got bogged down by technical and logistical hurdles, and there are no signs the mammoth exercise is likely to begin soon. Experts say the delay in updating data such as employment, housing, literacy levels, migration patterns and infant mortality, which are captured by the census, affects social and economic planning and policymaking in the huge Asian economy. Calling census data “indispensable”, Rachna Sharma, a fellow at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, said studies like the consumption expenditure survey and the periodic labour force survey are estimations based on information from the census. A senior official at the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation said census data from 2011, when the count was last conducted, was being used for projections and estimates required to assess government spending. The United Nations has projected India’s population could touch 1,425,775,850 on April 14, overtaking China’s. The 2011 census put India’s population at 1.21 billion, meaning the country has added 210 million, or almost the number of people in Brazil, to its population in 12 years.


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