Mid-term Elections, Southern Border, and Supreme Court decision on abortion: DHS issues alert of Increased Violence next 6 months

2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Important Takeaways:

  • US sees heightened extremist threat heading into midterms
  • A looming Supreme Court decision on abortion, an increase of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and the midterm elections are potential triggers for extremist violence over the next six months, the Department of Homeland Security said
  • DHS also warns that China, Russia, Iran and other nations seek to foment divisions within the U.S. to weaken the country and its standing in the world.
  • “The alert highlights the fact that society is becoming more violent every single day,” said Brian Harrell, a former assistant secretary at DHS.

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An atmosphere of hostility toward the homeless population

Mark 13:12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Serial murders, beatings and beheadings: violence against the homeless is increasing, advocates say
  • According to experts and advocates, the last year has seen a spike in violence against people experiencing homelessness. There was a beheading in Colorado. A sleeping man lit on fire in the stairwell of a New York City apartment complex. An attack by four juveniles on a sleeping woman in Spokane, Wash.
  • Beyond these lurid headlines, however, are dozens of daily acts of violence occasioned by increasing collisions between the housed and unhoused populations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, experts say.
  • The increased levels of unhoused individuals have also triggered a public backlash against homelessness.
  • Advocates argue these public displacements pit the homeless against law enforcement, while also creating an atmosphere of official hostility toward this vulnerable population.

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Iran Threatens Violence, US Warns of ‘Severe Consequences’

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Iran Threatens Violence Against Trump Officials, US Warns of ‘Severe Consequences’ if Americans Attacked
  • On Saturday, Iran sanctioned 51 Americans over the 2020 killing of top Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. The sanctions will allow Iran to seize any assets those individuals may have in Iran, but as Reuters noted, the move is largely symbolic.
  • But the Iranian regime is now indicating that it’s seeking violent revenge against members of the Trump administration, and it is essentially calling on assassins within the U.S. to carry out its wishes.
  • Commander Esmail Qaani of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps said, “We provide the ground for revenge against the Americans from inside their homes…We deal with the enemies and the crime of Commander Soleimani’s assassination with our own tactics… They did what they did, it’s far less expensive for the United States than for the children of the Resistance Front, who know no borders, to go and take revenge on themselves. This revenge has begun.”
  • The White House warned that America would work with its allies in the Middle East to “deter and respond to any attacks carried out by Iran.”

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‘Horrified’ U.N. official condemns reported killings of civilians in Myanmar

(Reuters) -A senior U.N. official called on Myanmar authorities to investigate the reported killing of at least 35 civilians that opposition activists blamed on government soldiers, saying he was “horrified” at the violence.

The ruling military has not commented on the killings near Mo So village in Kayah State on Friday and several calls since Saturday to junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun went unanswered.

State media reported on Sunday that soldiers had fired on and killed an unspecified number of “terrorists with weapons” in the village. It did not say anything about civilians.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said there were credible reports the civilians, including at least one child, were forced from vehicles, killed and burned. He did not elaborate on why he considered the reports credible.

“I am horrified by reports of an attack against civilians… I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” he said in a statement.

Griffiths called for “a thorough and transparent” investigation so the perpetrators could be brought to justice.

The Save the Children aid group said two of its workers, travelling to their home villages for the year-end holiday, had been killed by the Myanmar military in the attack. It suspended operations in Kayah State and parts of neighboring Karen State and the Magway region.

The two staff were both new fathers who were passionate about educating children, the group said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that violence against civilians was intolerable.

“The UN Security Council must convene as soon as possible to set out the steps they will take to hold those responsible to account,” chief executive Inger Ashing said.

The U.S. Embassy said in a post on Twitter it was “appalled by this barbaric attack.”

“We will continue to press for accountability for the perpetrators of the ongoing campaign of violence against the people of Burma,” it said, using another name for the country.

Two residents and the Karenni Human Rights Group, which operates in the area, said soldiers had killed more than 30 civilians.

They said details were sketchy but it appeared the victims had been in vehicles, including at least one truck, that were stopped on a road. They were killed and the bodies set ablaze, the residents and the rights group said.

CHARRED BODIES

A villager who declined to be identified for security reasons said he knew there had been a fire at the site on Friday but could not go there as there was shooting.

“I went to see this morning. I saw dead bodies that had been burnt and also the clothes of children and women spread around,” he told Reuters by phone on Saturday.

Photographs posted by the rights group showed charred bodies, some in the back of a burned-out truck. Reuters was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the pictures.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military on Feb. 1 overthrew the elected government of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some opponents of the military have taken up arms, some linking up with ethnic minority guerrillas who have for years been fighting the government for self-determination in various parts of the country, including Kayah State in the east.

The killings and burning of bodies in Kayah State followed similar violence in the central Sagaing region on Dec. 7 when villagers said soldiers rounded up 11 people, shot them and then set fire to their bodies.

The military government has not commented on that incident.

Since Myanmar’s military launched the coup, more than 1,300 people have been killed in crackdowns on protests and more than 11,000 have been jailed, according to a tally by the Association for Assistance of Political Prisoners rights group.

The military disputes the group’s death toll.

Fighting has also flared in Karen State, also in the east, between the army and the Karen National Union (KNU) insurgent group.

Thai authorities say more than 5,000 villagers from Myanmar have fled across a border river to the safety of Thai territory since Dec. 16.

(Reporting by Reuters StaffEditing by Robert Birsel, James Pearson, Nick Macfie and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

North Cameroon violence between farmers, herders kills 22; residents flee

By Josiane Kouagheu and Mahamat Ramadane

DOUALA/N’DJAMENA (Reuters) -A resurgence of tit-for-tat violence between herders and farmers has killed at least 22 people and injured more than 30 others this week in Cameroon’s Far North region, a regional government official said on Thursday, prompting residents to flee to Chad.

“We are in a full-on inter-community conflict,” said the Cameroonian regional official, who asked not to be named.

Hundreds of people fleeing the violence between Arab Choa herders and Mousgoum and Massa farmers have streamed across the border into neighboring Chad, the mayor of Chad’s capital N’Djamena, Ali Haroun, told Reuters.

A traditional leader in northern Cameroon, who asked not to be named, told Reuters the violence began over access to water.

“The Arab Choa wanted to take their herds to the banks of a river. The Mousgoum and Massa prevented them,” the leader said.

“This problem needs to be resolved quickly because a few months ago, there were already deaths. Today, when there is a problem between two people from different communities, all the communities get involved with weapons,” the leader said.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) which is responding to the crisis, said in a November report that scant rainfall had dried up rivers and seasonal ponds that communities depend on, leading to clashes in the area.

A UNHCR official in the Cameroonian town of Kousseri acknowledged the conflict between the parties, saying the agency has been responding to the crisis after clashes in August and helped the government organize a reconciliation meeting last week.

She said 40 villages involved in the conflict participated but that on Saturday, an Arab Choa herder tried to take his herd to the river and was prevented by farming communities, triggering a fight between the farmers and herders.

On Thursday, she said the Kousseri town of around 90,000 was empty, but that the situation remained tense as armed community members regrouped.

“The fighting in Kousseri has been very violent. We had to cross the river at night to find refuge here,” said Florent Mbang, who fled from Cameroon to a refugee camp in N’Djamena.

“Our children have not eaten since yesterday, we ask the Chadian authorities to help us, otherwise our situation here will be worse than the conflict we have at home,” he said.

Similar violence in August between Choa herders and Mousgoum fishermen killed dozens of people and forced thousands to flee to Chad.

Chad’s President Mahamat Idris Deby said on Twitter late on Wednesday that over 30,000 Cameroonians had sought refuge in Chad, but did not specify if they were all from the latest wave of violence.

He urged the international community to provide prompt aid to help Chad deal with the situation.

(Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu and Mahamat Ramadane; Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Aaron Ross and Bernadette Baum)

New caravan sets off from Mexico as officials struggle with immigration claims

By Jose Luis Gonzalez

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) – Some 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers departed the southern Mexican city of Tapachula near the Guatemalan border overnight on Sunday in the latest in a series of caravans setting out for the United States.

By Monday morning, the caravan had advanced about 25 kilometers (15 mi) to reach the town of Huehuetan, according to a Reuters witness.

The majority of its members were families from Central America and the Caribbean fleeing violence, poverty and growing hunger crises in their home countries.

For months, migrants and human rights advocates have denounced the “prison-like” conditions in Tapachula. Under Mexican rules, migrants must wait to process their claims – often for months – before being able to relocate to other parts of the country without fear of deportation.

Thousands of migrants waited on Monday in an hours-long line inside a stadium where immigration officials had set up a processing center.

“In Tapachula, there’s no life for migrants. We don’t have work, we don’t have money to pay for housing,” said Atis, a Haitian migrant waiting in line who declined to give his last name.

“We’re waiting here at immigration, but if there’s no other option, then we’ll leave here on foot, in another caravan.”

Last week, the Mexican government transported hundreds of migrants from Tapachula to other states in efforts to head off the formation of more caravans. But tens of thousands of migrants still remain in the city.

(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Daina Solomon and Dan Grebler)

At least six dead after armed gang attack in Rohingya refugee camp

By Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) – At least six people were killed in an attack at a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh’s Cox Bazar on Friday, a police official said – the latest incident of violence in the world’s largest refugee settlement.

A gang armed with guns attacked a religious school before dawn in Cox Bazar’s Ukhiya area and killed three teachers, two volunteers and a student, police superintendent Shihab Kaiser Khan said.

“A drive is underway to arrest those responsible for the incident,” Khan told Reuters, adding one Rohingya man with weapons and ammunition had been taken into custody.

More than a million Rohingya live in a cluster of refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, with most having fled neighboring Myanmar during a military crackdown in 2007.

The sprawling settlements have become increasingly violent, residents say, with armed gangs vying for power, kidnapping critics and warning women against breaking conservative Islamic norms.

Late last month, gunmen shot and killed a prominent Rohingya Muslim leader in the camps.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Edwina Gibbs)

U.S. finds Pakistan useful only to clean up mess in Afghanistan -Khan

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan accused the United States of seeing his country as useful only in the context of the “mess” it is leaving behind in Afghanistan after 20 years of fighting.

Washington has been pressing Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban to broker an elusive peace deal as negotiations between the insurgents and Afghan government have stalled, and violence in Afghanistan has escalated sharply.

“Pakistan is just considered only to be useful in the context of somehow settling this mess which has been left behind after 20 years of trying to find a military solution when there was not one,” Khan told foreign journalists at his home in Islamabad.

The United States will pull out its military by Aug. 31, 20 years after toppling the Taliban government in 2001. But, as the United States leaves, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any point since then.

Kabul and several Western governments say Pakistan’s support for the insurgent group allowed it to weather the war.

The charge of supporting the Taliban despite being a U.S. ally has long been a sore point between Washington and Islamabad. Pakistan denies supporting the Taliban.

Khan said Islamabad was not taking sides in Afghanistan.

“I think that the Americans have decided that India is their strategic partner now, and I think that’s why there’s a different way of treating Pakistan now,” Khan said.

Pakistan and India are archrivals and have fought three wars. The two share frosty ties and currently have minimal diplomatic relations.

A political settlement in Afghanistan was looking difficult under current conditions, Khan added.

He said he tried to persuade Taliban leaders when they were visiting Pakistan to reach a settlement.

“The condition is that as long as Ashraf Ghani is there, we (Taliban) are not going to talk to the Afghan government,” Khan said, quoting the Taliban leaders as telling him.

Peace talks between the Taliban, who view Ghani and his government as U.S. puppets, and a team of Kabul-nominated Afghan negotiators started last September but have made no substantive progress.

Representatives of a number of countries, including the United States, are currently in the Qatari capital of Doha talking to both sides in a last-ditch push for a ceasefire.

U.S. forces have continued to use air strikes to support Afghan forces against Taliban advances, but it remains unclear if such support will continue after Aug. 31.

Khan said Pakistan had “made it very clear” that it does not want any American military bases in Pakistan after U.S. forces exit Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; editing by John Stonestreet and Jonathan Oatis)

Spanish rescuers search sea for missing toddler after girl found dead

By Borja Suarez and Emma Pinedo

TENERIFE, Spain (Reuters) -Spanish rescuers were searching waters off the coast of Tenerife for a one-year-old girl on Friday after a body which was reportedly confirmed to be her six-year-old sister was found weighed down in the ocean to an outpouring of rage and grief on the island.

Their father, Tomas G., is the main suspect in the disappearance of Olivia, 6, and Anna, 1, after failing to return them to their mother as agreed at the end of April. He is also missing.

Fingerprint checks have confirmed that the body found weighed down in the sea was that of Olivia, according to judicial sources cited by El Pais newspaper.

The family lived on Tenerife, where officials and a few local residents observed a minute of silence in memory of the sisters in front of the main city hall and outside other official buildings on the Canary Islands.

“All Spain is shocked, all our support for the families whose pain is absolutely unbearable and unimaginable, all our rejection of sexist violence, the vicarious violence that some still deny in our country,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday during a visit to Costa Rica.

The body of the 6-year-old, which authorities said was likely that of Olivia, was found on Thursday afternoon at a depth of 1,000 meters inside a sports bag tied to an anchor, near where her father’s boat was drifting.

Another empty sports bag was also found next to them, a court statement said.

Authorities were about to call off the maritime search earlier this week when they found personal belongings of the father at sea.

On the streets of Tenerife people mourned the girls.

“Every mother and grandmother feels the greatest sorrow, mainly for her (the girls’ mother)… It’s as if they were our own daughters or granddaughters,” said local resident Maria Victoria.

Spain’s left-wing government has put women’s rights at the top of its political agenda and sought to combat prevailing macho attitudes.

In Seville, a former boyfriend of Rocio Caiz, 17, was arrested after he allegedly confessed to killing her and cutting up her body.

Almost 1,100 women have been killed by partners or ex-partners since a register was created in 2003, shortly before a gender violence law was approved, while some 39 children have been killed during attacks on their mothers since 2013.

(Reporting by Borja Suarez in Tenerife, Emma Pinedo and Cristina Galan in Madrid; Graham Keeley writing by Emma Pinedo; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alistair Bell)

Gaza conflict intensifies with rocket barrages and air strikes

By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian militants fired more rockets into Israel’s commercial heartland on Thursday as Israel kept up a punishing bombing campaign in Gaza and massed tanks and troops on the enclave’s border.

The four days of cross-border fighting showed no sign of abating and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the campaign “will take more time”.

Violence has also spread to mixed communities of Jews and Arabs in Israel, a new front in the long conflict. Synagogues were attacked and fighting broke out on the streets of some towns, prompting Israel’s president to warn of civil war.

At least 87 people have been killed in Gaza, including 18 children, over the past four days, Palestinian medical officials said. Hospitals already under heavy pressure because of the COVID-19 pandemic have faced further strain.

Seven people have been killed in Israel: a soldier patrolling the Gaza border, five Israeli civilians, including two children, and an Indian worker, Israeli authorities said.

Worried that the region’s worst hostilities in years could spiral out of control, the United States is sending an envoy, Hady Amr. Truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have so far offered no sign of progress.

U.S. President Joe Biden called on Thursday for a de-escalation of the violence, saying he wants to see a significant reduction in rocket attacks.

Militants fired rocket salvoes at Tel Aviv and surrounding towns, Israel’s commercial heartland, with the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting many of them. Communities near the Gaza border and the southern desert city of Beersheba were also targeted.

Five Israelis were wounded by a rocket that hit a building near Tel Aviv.

Israeli warplanes struck a six-story residential building in Gaza that it said belonged to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Palestinian enclave. Netanyahu said Israel has struck a total of close to 1,000 militant targets in the territory.

Israeli aircraft also attacked a Hamas intelligence headquarters and four apartments belonging to senior commanders from the group, the military said, adding that the homes were used for planning and directing strikes on Israel.

Standing beside a Gaza road damaged in Israeli air strikes, Assad Karam, 20, a construction worker, said: “We are facing Israel and COVID-19. We are in between two enemies.”

In Tel Aviv, Yishai Levy, an Israeli singer, pointed at shrapnel that came down on a sidewalk outside his home.

“I want to tell Israeli soldiers and the government, don’t stop until you finish the job,” he said on YNet television.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

A number of foreign carriers have cancelled flights to Israel because of the unrest.

‘DISRUPTING’ HAMAS

Brigadier-General Hidai Zilberman, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said attacks on militants’ rocket production and launching sites were “disrupting Hamas’ activities”, but still not to the point of stopping the barrages.

“It is more difficult for them, but we have to say in fairness that Hamas is an organized group, one that has the capability to continue to fire for several more days at the places it has been targeting in Israel,” he said on Israeli Channel 12 TV.

He said between 80 and 90 militants had been killed in Israeli attacks.

Zilberman said Israel was “building up forces on the Gaza border”, a deployment that has raised speculation about a possible ground invasion, a move that would recall similar incursions during Israel-Gaza wars in 2014 and in 2009.

Israeli military affairs correspondents, who are briefed regularly by the armed forces, have said however that a major ground operation is unlikely, citing high casualties among the risks.

Hamas armed wing spokesman Abu Ubaida responded to the troop buildup with defiance, urging Palestinians to rise up.

“Mass up as you wish, from the sea, land and sky. We have prepared for your kinds of deaths that would make you curse yourselves,” he said.

FOREIGN APPEALS

So far some 1,750 rockets have been fired at Israel, of which 300 fell short in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military said.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said two of its schools were hit on Tuesday and Wednesday “within the context of air strikes by Israel”, and that at least 29 classrooms were damaged.

School is in recess in Gaza, and classes have also been suspended in many parts of Israel, including in one town where an empty school was hit by a rocket on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an “urgent de-escalation” of violence and French President Emmanuel Macron urged a “definite reset” of long-frozen Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also appealed for an end to the fighting.

The hostilities have fuelled tension between Israeli Jews and the country’s 21% Arab minority who live alongside them in some communities.

Jewish and Arab groups attacked people and damaged shops, hotels and cars overnight. In Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, dozens of Jews beat and kicked a man thought to be an Arab as he lay on the ground.

One person was shot and badly wounded by Arabs in the town of Lod, where authorities imposed a curfew, and over 150 arrests were made in Lod and Arab towns in northern Israel, police said.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for an end to “this madness”.

Although the latest unrest in Jerusalem was the immediate trigger for hostilities, Palestinians are frustrated by setbacks to their aspirations for an independent state in recent years, including Washington’s recognition of disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The conflict has led to the freezing of talks by Netanyahu’s opponents on forming a governing coalition to unseat him after an inconclusive election in March.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Rami Ayyub and Dan Williams, Additional reporting by Nandita Bose and Steve Holland in Washington and Michelle Nichols in New York; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Angus MacSwan and Frances Kerry)