Israeli lawmakers voted to dissolve parliament early on Thursday, paving the way for a new election in September after veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a coalition government before a midnight deadline.
The Sept. 17 ballot will be Israel’s second this year.
According to Reuters, the poll spells unprecedented upheaval even for a country used to political infighting and is a big blow to Netanyahu, who had claimed victory in the last election on April 9.
Parliament’s 74-to-45 vote took place just minutes after a midnight deadline for Netanyahu to assemble his fifth government.
The turmoil arose – officially, at least – from a feud over military conscription between Netanyahu’s presumed allies: ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, a far-right secularist, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.
Those parties want young religious scholars exempted, en masse from mandatory national service. But Lieberman and many other Israelis want them to share the burden.
Netanyahu denounced the draft spat as a “Kafkaesque” ruse.
“It’s just unbelievable. Avigdor Lieberman is now part of the left,” he told reporters. “It is perfectly clear that he wanted to topple this government … to cobble together a few more votes.”
Yet the new ballot represents less of a setback for Netanyahu than the alternative in which Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, could have asked another politician to try and form a ruling coalition.
Faced with the prospect of having to step aside and watch one of his political rivals push him to the margins, Netanyahu instead drummed up votes to dissolve the 120-seat Knesset.
Netanyahu signalled he will run in the next election, telling reporters: “We will win”. The spokesman for his conservative Likud party sent out a text emoji showing a smiling Netanyahu with the message: “Get out and vote.”
But the failed coalition building of a 69-year-old leader who just weeks ago was hailed by supporters as a political “magician” may open rifts and stir up challenges within Likud.
The premier is also dogged by potential criminal charges in three corruption cases. He has denied wrongdoing and is due to argue at a pre-trial hearing in October against any indictment.
Smoke billows during reported Syrian government forces’ bombardments on the village of Sheikh Mustafa in the southern countryside of the jihadist-held Idlib province on May 27, 2019. / AFP
The latest strikes in the fiercest wave of regime bombardment on a jihadist enclave in northwestern Syria killed at least 15 civilians on Wednesday, a war monitor said, despite calls to halt the attacks.
Air strikes by Russian and government warplanes, some using barrel bombs, and shelling have claimed a mounting civilian death toll over the past few weeks.
The violence, which comes despite a truce deal brokered by Moscow and Ankara in September, has caused mass displacement and heightened fears of the worst humanitarian catastrophe in Syria’s eight-year conflict.
The United States and the United Nations demanded an end to the bombardment on Tuesday, as strikes by Damascus killed 27 people — the single highest civilian death toll in the region since the regime increased its attacks in late April.
But the aerial bombardment on Wednesday did not relent against Idlib province, most of which is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group dominated by former members of Al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate.
According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring organisation, seven of Wednesday’s victims were killed in an air raid on the village of Sarja.
A father and his three children were killed in the village of Bara and four other civilians died in strikes in the towns of Hbeit and Areen, said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman.
“The bombardment by the regime and Russia continues to be intense on several areas. The Russian strikes are focused on Khan Sheikhun but have not caused any casualties for now,” he said.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported one woman was killed by jihadist shelling on northern Hama.
– ‘Spare no effort’-
The civilian death toll has mounted in and around Idlib in recent days, reaching more than 270 over the past month, according to the Observatory.
In villages struck by regime raids, excavators have dug new graves and civilians buried the dead stealthily at dusk to avoid being targeted by more air raids.
Despite the surge in attacks, the government has not announced an all-out offensive to retake the entire jihadist enclave, a large area which is home to almost three million people.
Analysts predict that President Bashar al-Assad and his allies will continue to chip away at the area but not unleash a major assault that would create chaos on Turkey’s doorstep.
The regime is likely to continue applying sustained military pressure whilst attempting to preserve the fragile truce agreement reached in Russia last year to spare the region a large-scale humanitarian disaster.
On Tuesday, Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Jaafari said Damascus “will spare no effort” to end the jihadist control of Idlib, according to comments carried by SANA.
UN deputy aid chief Ursula Mueller, however, told the Security Council that a further escalation would threaten humanitarian assistance for the region’s residents.
She said some 270,000 people had been displaced by the fighting in Idlib since late April.
Aid agencies have been forced to suspend their work in some areas, she said.
At least 23 medical facilities have been hit since April 28, including two medical facilities that have been attacked twice, said David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office.
Five health workers have died and 7 others were injured as a result, he told AFP on Wednesday.
The United States has said that “indiscriminate attacks on civilians and public infrastructures such as schools, markets and hospitals is a reckless escalation.”
The conflict in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since it started in 2011.
China is bracing up to hit America where it will hurt most: depriving it of rare earth, a key resource used to make everything from smartphones to military hardware.
China at the moment supplies 80 percent of America’s needs.
Chinese state media on Wednesday dangled the threat of cutting the exports of the rare earths to the United States as a counter-strike in the trade war and as America attempts to castrate China’s telecommunication giant Huawei.
The threat is the latest salvo in a dispute that has intensified since President Donald Trump ramped up tariffs against China and moved to blacklist telecom giant Huawei earlier this month, while trade talks have apparently stalled.
Huawei stepped up its legal battle on Wednesday, announcing it had filed a motion in US court for summary judgment in its bid to overturn US legislation that bars federal agencies from using its equipment over security concerns.
Beijing had already dropped a big hint that rare earths could be in the firing line by showing images last week of President Xi Jinping visiting a rare earths factory in Ganzhou, central China.
An unnamed official from the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s state planner, issued a cryptic warning late Tuesday.
“You asked whether rare earths will become China’s countermeasure against unwarranted suppression from the US. What I can tell you is that if anyone wants to use products made from our rare-earth exports to curb and suppress China’s development, I’m sure the people of Ganzhou and across China will not be happy with that,” the official said in answers to questions published by state media.
The official said rare-earth resources should “serve domestic needs first” but China is also willing to meet the “legitimate needs of countries around the world”.
Shares in rare earth companies surged in the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets during Wednesday trading.
“Waging a trade war against China, the United States risks losing the supply of materials that are vital to sustaining its technological strength,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.
The state-owned Global Times tabloid warned in an editorial posted online that the “US will rue forcing China’s hand on rare earths”.
“It is believed that if the US increasingly suppresses the development of China, sooner or later, China will use rare earths as a weapon,” the nationalist tabloid said.
China produces more than 95 percent of the world’s rare earths, and the United States relies on China for upwards of 80 percent of its imports.
Rare earths are 17 elements critical to manufacturing everything from smartphones and televisions to cameras and lightbulbs.
Beijing could hurt US companies in what is shaping up as a battle for who will dominate the future of high-tech.
Huawei took the US to court over a defence bill passed by Congress last year that bans government agencies from using its equipment. But it also faces a recent Trump administration order that cuts it off from critical American-made components for its products.
“The US government has provided no evidence to show that Huawei is a security threat,” Huawei’s chief legal officer Song Liuping told reporters, rejecting US warnings that the company’s equipment could be used by China to spy on other countries.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has fulfilled his pledge to constitute a trimmed cabinet, slashing the number of ministries from 36 to 28. Among the new appointees was finance minister Tito Mboweni, retained to send a message of stability to investors.
However, Ramaphosa raised eyebrows when he appointed over 30 deputy ministers.
“Trimming the size of cabinet by the size he did is a strong message, but creating so many deputy ministries is a problem. So no, it’s not enough yet,” said Ralph Mathekga, an independent political analyst.
Ramaphosa was sworn in as South Africa’s president on Saturday for his first full five-year term.
Analysts said the trimmed cabinet will serve as an early barometer of his ability to push through change more efficiently, having struggled to implement tough reforms since he succeeded scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma last year.
“All South Africans are acutely aware of the great economic difficulties our country has been experiencing and the constraints this has placed on public finances,” he said in a televised national address.
“It is therefore imperative that in all areas and spheres of government, we place priority on revitalizing our economy while exercising the greatest care in the use of public funds.”
The immediate task of the new cabinet will be to help Ramaphosa revive Africa’s most industrialized economy and preserve its last investment-grade credit rating.
Ramaphosa’s long to-do list also includes generating jobs, acting against entrenched corruption in and outside the ANC, resolving policy uncertainty in the mining sector and speeding up reforms of power utility Eskom and other state-owned entities.
Here is the full list of ministers and deputy ministers as published by News24.com
* Deputy President: David Mabuza
* Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development: Thoko Didiza (Deputy Ministers are Sdumo Dlamini and Mcebisi Skwatsha)
* Minister of Basic Education: Angie Motshekga (Deputy Minister is Dr Regina Mhaule)
* Minister of Communications: Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (Deputy Minister is Pinky Kekana)
* Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs: Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Deputy Ministers are Parks Tau and Obed Bapela)
* Minister of Defence and Military Veterans: Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (Deputy Minister is Thabang Makwetla)
* Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries: Barbara Creecy (Deputy Minister is Maggie Sotyu)
* Minister of Employment and Labour: Thulas Nxesi (Deputy Minister is Boitumelo Moloi)
* Minister of Finance: Tito Mboweni (Deputy Minister is Dr David Masondo)
* Minister of Health: Dr Zwelini Mkhize (Deputy Minister is Dr Joe Phaahla)
* Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology: Dr Blade Nzimande (Deputy Minister is Buti Manamela)
* Minister of Home Affairs: Dr Aaron Motsoaledi (Deputy Minister is Njabulo Nzuza)
* Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation: Lindiwe Sisulu (Deputy Ministers are Pam Tshwete and David Mahlobo)
* Minister of International Relations and Cooperation: Dr Naledi Pandor (Deputy Ministers are Alvin Botes and Candith Mashego-Dlamini)
* Minister of Justice and Correctional Services: Ronald Lamola (Deputy Ministers are John Jeffery and Inkosi Phathekile Holomisa)
* Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy: Gwede Mantashe (Deputy Minister is Bavelile Hlongwa)
* Minister of Police: General Bheki Cele (Deputy Minister is Cassel Mathale)
* Minister in the Presidency: Jackson Mthembu (Deputy Minister in the Presidency is Thembi Siweya)
* Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities: Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (The Deputy Minister is Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize)
* Minister of Public Enterprises: Pravin Gordhan (Deputy Minister is Phumulo Masualle)
* Minister of Public Service and Administration: Senzo Mchunu (Deputy Minister is Sindy Chikunga)
* Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure: Patricia De Lille (Deputy Minister is Noxolo Kiviet)
* Minister of Small Business Development: Khumbudzo Ntshavheni (Deputy Minister is Rosemary Capa)
* Minister of Social Development: Lindiwe Zulu (Deputy Minister is Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu)
* Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture: Nathi Mthethwa (Deputy Minister is Nocawe Mafu)
* Minister of State Security is Ayanda Dlodlo (Deputy Minister is Zizi Kodwa)
* Minister of Tourism: Nkhensani Kubayi-Ngubane (Deputy Minister is Fish Mahlalela)
* Minister of Trade and Industry: Ebrahim Patel (Deputy Ministers are Fikile Majola and Nomalungelo Gina)
* Minister of Transport is Fikile Mbalula (Deputy Minister is Dikeledi Magadzi)
The longtime struggles of pensioners of the defunct Nigeria Airways appears to be paying off as President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the sum of N22.6 billion to settle their entitlements.
The Permanent Secretary, Special Duties, Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Mohammed Dikwa revealed the development on Wednesday night in Abuja.
According to him, the fund approved is purposely to settle the second tranche (50 per cent) of the entitlements of former Airways staff, pension benefits of retirees, as well as payments to families of deceased workers.
Recall that the first tranche had been released in October, 2018 and payment made to verified beneficiaries, who were screened across the country.
Dikwa revealed this to the workers of the company who were protesting their exclusion from the list of screened workers.
He told the protesters that their action was unnecessary given the fact that adequate arrangements had been made to screen them.
He also ventilated his annoyance at the protesters, especially on how they blocked the ministry’s gate when former Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, who ensured they were paid their entitlements after a long period of neglect by past administrations was leaving the office.
Recall that the protesters were annoyed after which the Presidential Initiative for Continuous Audit, PICA, had invited them to Abuja for verification and that they had not been attended to by Tuesday evening and were afraid that yesterday’s public holiday would make it impossible until Thursday.
Spokesman of the group, Comrade Sam Nzene told newsmen that the protesters were angry because some of them had spent two days in Abuja, without being addressed by officials of the ministry.
Nzene, who is the Chairman of Nigeria Union of Pensioners, NUP, Nigeria Airways Branch, said that the consultant claimed that government owed him for the past exercise and therefore was not ready to provide further services until he was paid.
The verification exercise which started on Tuesday was still ongoing as of yesterday (Wednesday).