Greece, Dec 7 (AP/UNB) — Protesters in Athens set up a massive burning barricade and pelted riot police with firebombs and rocks Thursday on the 10th anniversary of the fatal police shooting of a teenager, a death that sparked Greece's worst riots in decades.
The violence broke out in the Exarchia district of the Greek capital, where 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead on Dec. 6, 2008, and which anarchists have adopted as a stronghold.
Protesters set a car alight and hurled rocks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at lines of Greek riot police, who responded with tear gas and water cannon. Police said 35 people were detained in Athens, while three were injured, including two policemen.
The clashes broke out after a peaceful march by about 1,700 people through central Athens. Another gathering was planned later Thursday night at the spot where Grigoropoulos died.
An earlier midday Athens march by about 700 people also degenerated into violence, with police firing tear gas at hooded youths who were throwing objects and smashing bus stops.
Authorities deployed about 2,500 police and a helicopter Thursday for the Athens marches and shut down the main subway station at the central Syntagma Square.
In the northern city of Thessaloniki, protesters set up barricades in the streets and hurled Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas. The running clashes went on for hours, and vandals also set fires at two subway construction sites.
There was a lull in the violence during a peaceful evening protest in Thessaloniki but riots continued later. At least 15 people were detained.
Grigoropoulos had been on a night out with friends in Exarchia when he was killed as a policeman fired his gun following an altercation. The policeman later said he had not aimed at the teen but he was killed by a ricochet.
The ensuing two-week outburst of violence in 2008 spread to cities across Greece as youths smashed and looted stores, burned buildings and cars and set up flaming street barricades.
The policeman, Epaminondas Korkoneas, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. His appeals trial is ongoing. The second policeman present was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was granted conditional release several years ago.
Greece, Dec 7 (AP/UNB) — Human rights and migrant welfare groups are urging Greece to scrap its part of a deal between the European Union and Turkey, designed to reduce unchecked migration to Europe from the east.
In a statement Thursday, 20 groups sharply criticized the winter living conditions in Greece's eastern Aegean island migrant camps, where asylum-seekers are held under the 2016 agreement. The statement called for all camp residents to be moved to mainland Greece or other EU countries.
The deal foresees Greece containing migrants arriving illegally from Turkey on the islands until their bids for asylum in Greece are processed. Theoretically, if the applications are rejected, Greece could then return Syrians to Turkey and other migrants to their homelands. But this rarely happens.
Turkey is also supposed to discourage migrants from heading for Greece under the deal.
United Nations, Dec 7 (AP/UNB) — A U.S.-sponsored draft resolution that for the first time would have condemned the militant Islamic group Hamas, which controls Gaza, failed to win the required two-thirds majority in the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday.
Before the vote on the resolution, the 193-member world body had narrowly voted to require a two-thirds majority for approval as sought by Arab nations for rather than the simple majority urged by the United States.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the assembly before the vote that it could make history and unconditionally speak out against Hamas, which she called "one of the most obvious and grotesque cases of terrorism in the world."
"What the U.N. chooses to do today will speak volumes about each country's seriousness when it comes to condemning anti-Semitism," she said. "Because there is nothing more anti-Semitic than saying terrorism is not terrorism when it's used against the Jewish people and the Jewish state."
But the vote on the resolution to condemn Hamas was 87 in favor against 57 opposed, with 33 abstentions — a plurality but below the two-thirds requirement to adopt it. The vote to require a two-thirds majority was much closer, 75-72, with 26 abstentions and several countries changing their votes to "yes" at the last minute.
In an official statement, Hamas thanked U.N. member states "that stood by our people's resistance and the justice of their cause" and attacked Haley who it said "is known for her extremism and her positions that support the Zionist terrorism in Palestine."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party is locked in a bitter decade-long split with Hamas, also welcomed the resolution's defeat saying: "The Palestinian presidency will not allow for the condemnation of the national Palestinian struggle."
By contrast, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the "large majority" — 87 countries — "that took a stance against Hamas" for the first time, calling it "an important achievement for the United States and Israel."
The U.S. attempt to condemn Hamas and demand that the militant group stop firing rockets into Israel, using "airborne incendiary devices" and putting civilians at risk sparked a Palestinian-backed amendment sponsored by Bolivia.
It outlined the basis for comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace and referred to a December 2016 Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as a "flagrant violation" of international law. It also reaffirmed "unwavering support" for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — issues not included in the U.S. draft.
But before the vote on the U.S. draft resolution, Bolivian Ambassador Sasha Llorentty Soliz withdrew the amendment.
That was because the Palestinians and their supporters wanted a vote instead on a short rival resolution entitled "Comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East" sponsored by Ireland that included the exact language of the amendment — but no mention of Hamas.
After the U.S. draft on Hamas failed to win adoption, the General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Irish resolution by a vote of 156-6, with 12 abstentions.
It calls for "the achievement, without delay" of lasting Mideast peace on the basis of U.N. resolutions, singling out the December 2016 measure. And it reaffirms "unwavering support ... for the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security within recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 borders."
The rival resolutions reflect the deep divisions among the 193 U.N. member states over the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and the failure to end it.
Saudi Arabia's U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, reflecting the Arab view, said the U.S. resolution would "undermine the two-state solution which we aspire to." And he said it would also turn attention away from Israel's occupation, settlement activities and "blockade" — whether in Gaza, the West Bank or east Jerusalem which the Palestinians want as their future capital.
Haley sharply criticized the United Nations as having an anti-Israel bias, noting that "over the years, the U.N. has voted to condemn Israel over 500 times" — an average of 20 times a year.
She stressed that Hamas' charter "openly calls for the destruction of Israel" and cited a variety of "barbaric terrorist tactics" it has used including suicide bombers and thousands of rockets, flaming kites and balloons.
Haley called condemnation of Hamas "an essential step" to a peace settlement.
The United States changed its initial draft resolution to get backing from the 28-nation European Union, adding that it supports a comprehensive peace agreement "bearing in mind relevant United Nations resolutions."
But the resolution that was voted on never mentioned a two-state solution or referred to Israeli actions against the Palestinians, which some countries considered unbalanced.
The overwhelming support for the Irish resolution reflects global support for action "without delay" toward an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a two-state solution.
Washington, Dec 6 (AP/UNB) — After several years of little growth, global emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide experienced their largest jump in seven years, discouraging scientists.
World carbon dioxide emissions are estimated to have risen 2.7 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to three studies released Wednesday from the Global Carbon Project, an international scientific collaboration of academics, governments and industry that tracks greenhouse gas emissions. The calculations, announced during negotiations to put the 2015 Paris climate accord into effect, puts some of the landmark agreement's goals nearly out of reach, scientists said.
"This is terrible news," said Andrew Jones, co-director of Climate Interactive, which models greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures but was not part of the research. "Every year that we delay serious climate action, the Paris goals become more difficult to meet."
The studies concluded that this year the world would spew 40.9 billion tons (37.1 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide, up from 39.8 billion tons (36.2 billion metric tons) last year. The margin of error is about one percentage point on either side.
The Global Carbon Project uses government and industry reports to come up with final emission figures for 2017 and projections for 2018 based on the four biggest polluters: China, the United States, India and the European Union.
The U.S., which had been steadily decreasing its carbon pollution, showed a significant rise in emissions — up 2.5 percent — for the first time since 2013. China, the globe's biggest carbon emitter, saw its largest increase since 2011: 4.6 percent.
Study lead author Corinne Le Quere, a climate change researcher at the University of East Anglia in England, said the increase is a surprising "reality check" after a few years of smaller emission increases. But she also doesn't think the world will return to the even larger increases seen from 2003 to 2008. She believes unusual factors are at play this year.
For the U.S., it was a combination of a hot summer and cold winter that required more electricity use for heating and cooling. For China, it was an economic stimulus that pushed coal-powered manufacturing, Le Quere said.
John Reilly, co-director of MIT's Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, said the results aren't too surprising because fossil fuels still account for 81 percent of the world's energy use. The burning of coal, oil and gas release carbon dioxide, which warms the Earth . Reilly, who wasn't part of the study, praised it as impressive.
Global Carbon Project chairman Rob Jackson, a Stanford University climate scientist, said he was discouraged.
The Paris accord set two goals. The long-held goal would limit global warming to no more than 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) from now, with a more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 0.9 degrees (0.5 degrees Celsius) from now.
The trend is such that the world would have to be lucky to keep warming to 1.8 degrees, let alone the lower goal, Le Quere said.
China increased its emissions to 11.4 billion tons (10.3 billion metric tons), while the U.S. jumped to a shade under 6 billion tons (5.4 metric tons). The European Union spewed 3.9 billion tons (3.5 billion metric tons) and India soared to 2.9 billion tons (2.6 billion metric tons). Overall, the world is spewing about 1,300 tons (1,175 metric tons) of carbon dioxide into the air every second.
Use of coal — the biggest carbon emitter — is rising. And while countries are using more renewable fuels and trying to reduce carbon from electricity production, emissions from cars and planes are steadily increasing, Le Quere said.
Global carbon dioxide emissions have increased 55 percent in the last 20 years, the calculations show. At the same time, Earth has warmed on average about two-thirds of a degree (0.38 degrees Celsius), according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Israel, Dec 4 (AP/UNB) — The Israeli military launched an operation on Tuesday to "expose and thwart" tunnels it says were built by the Hezbollah militant group that stretch from Lebanon into northern Israel.
The military said the tunnels were not currently being used by militants and that its work to find and neutralize them was taking place inside Israeli territory. However, the Israeli operation could send tensions soaring between Israel and its Iranian-backed foe, which have both been preoccupied with other conflicts since their last conflagration more than a decade ago.
"We see Hezbollah's activities as a flagrant and blatant violation of Israeli sovereignty" and of U.N. resolutions, said Lt. Col Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman. "This activity is another example of the negative effects of Iranian entrenchment in the region."
The military did not disclose how many tunnels snake into Israeli territory from Lebanon nor what tools it was using to deal with the threat, although it said the operation could last for weeks. Israel has spent years attempting to tackle a network of tunnels from the Gaza Strip into Israel and has used a variety of methods to destroy tunnels and prevent them from being rebuilt.
A Lebanese military official told The Associated Press that Lebanese troops and military intelligence agents, along with U.N. peacekeepers deployed in southern Lebanon, were observing the border on Tuesday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, had no further details.
Israel has been using earthmovers and other large machinery to build a massive wall along its northern border, saying the barrier is needed to protect civilians from Hezbollah attacks. While the construction has prompted complaints from the Lebanese army, Hezbollah has not responded, an indication it could remain restrained amid the new operation.
Israel, meanwhile, gave no special orders to residents of northern Israel, signaling that it too was not expecting an immediate response from Hezbollah.
The existence of the tunnels did not appear to have surprised Israel.
Conricus said that Hezbollah has been developing an offensive plan against Israel that would "shift the battleground into Israel." The group would use firepower and ground units and "the surprise component of that plan was supposed to be tunnels that would allow infiltrators into Israel."
He added that Israel has investigated the possibility of underground Hezbollah tunnels since 2013 and that a task force has been searching for them for more than two years. He did not explain why the operation was launched now.
On Tuesday, bulldozers and military vehicles were seen operating near the pastoral Israeli border town of Metula. Residents of the area told Israeli media they had been hearing digging noises for years and had reported their suspicions to the military.
There was no immediate comment from Hezbollah. Its Al-Manar TV quoted Israeli media report on the operation.
An official from the so-called "Axis of Resistance" — a grouping led by Iran and made up of Syrian officials, Iraq Shiite militias, Hezbollah and other groups — said Hezbollah fighters were "on high alert to confront any possible Israeli aggression." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the group's military activities with the media.
Malene Jensen, spokeswoman for the U.N. force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL, said the situation in the peacekeepers' "area of operation remains calm" and that they are in touch with all relevant parties to make sure calm and stability is maintained.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Israel's border with Lebanon has been relatively quiet in the years since, but Israel has continued to identify the Shiite militant group and its expanding weapons cache of tens of thousands of rockets as a major threat.
The Israeli operation began hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a snap trip to Brussels to meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which the two discussed "ways to halt together Iranian aggression in the region," including in Lebanon.
Israel has long voiced concern about Iran's growing military presence along its northern border, warning of an Iranian corridor that could assist in the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah. Israel has generally refrained from engaging in Syria's civil war, though it has carried out scores of airstrikes against what Israel says were Iranian shipments of advanced weapons bound for Hezbollah.
The operation comes weeks after Netanyahu faced a major crisis in his governing coalition over the handling of a cease-fire with Gaza militants. Amid the crisis he took on the defense portfolio from his resigning minister and promised to pursue a hard line against Israel's enemies during what he described as a "complex" security situation.
Although its attention has been diverted to violent protests along its border with Gaza in recent months, Israel's main security concerns lie to the north, along the border with Lebanon.
Israeli officials have long warned the threat posed by Gaza's Hamas rulers pales in comparison to that of Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah — a heavily-armed mini-army with valuable combat experience and an arsenal of some 150,000 rockets that can reach nearly every part of Israel.
Hezbollah meanwhile has also been distracted by the war in Syria, where it has fought fiercely alongside Assad's troops. With Syria's civil war winding down, Hezbollah is now free to re-establish itself back home in Lebanon and refocus on Israel.
Neither side appears interested quite yet in another full-fledged confrontation like the 2006 war, but any skirmish could spark an all-out conflict along the tense border.