Tripoli, Feb 4 (Xinhua/UNB) -The United Nations Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sunday said it evacuated more than 4,000 refugees from Libya from 2018 to the end of January 2019.
The commission said it resettled or evacuated 4,080 refugees from Libya and provided 34,505 medical consultations during last year up until the end of last month.
It also said that 6,219 families have received cash assistance, and 1,311 shelter kits have been distributed to internally displaced Libyans.
UNHCR confirmed that 56,643 refugees and asylum seekers have been registered in Libya so far.
Libya has become a preferred departure point for illegal immigrants hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe because of insecurity and chaos in the North African country following the 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Shelters in Libya are crowded with thousands of illegal immigrants rescued at sea or arrested by the Libyan security services.
Yorba Linda, Feb 4(AP/UNB) — Five people died and two others were injured after a small plane apparently came apart, raining debris across a Southern California neighborhood and igniting a house fire before landing in a backyard, authorities said Sunday.
The male pilot, who was the only person in the twin-engine plane, and four people in the Yorba Linda house that caught fire died Sunday, Orange County Sheriff's Lt. Cory Martino said at a news conference Sunday night. He says the deceased occupants of the home were two males and two females. No other identifying information such as names or ages was immediately released.
The Cessna 414A took off from the Fullerton Municipal Airport about a dozen miles west of the blaze, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.
A two-story house burst into flames after being struck by the main cabin and one engine of the plane, sending panicked neighbors into the streets. The second engine dislodged and fell onto the street, creating a large hole in the asphalt, according to Eliott Simpson, an aviation accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
"It was a boom. It sounded like something exploded. It shook our house," said John Wolbart, who lives a block away.
He said he ran to the burning house and saw a woman come out with singed hair.
The wounded were taken to a hospital with burn injuries, said Pokey Sanchez, an assistant chief with the Orange County Fire Authority. A firefighter was also treated for a minor injury.
Clint Langford, who lives about a half-mile away, said he was in his living room when he heard a low rumbling.
"It's the eerie, low rumbling sound that keeps getting lower and louder. It was scary," he said. "And then all of a sudden boom. It shook the house."
He looked out his front door and could see plane parts falling out the sky in the distance.
Pat Rogers, who lives about a mile from the crash site, told the Orange County Register he saw the plane on fire and coming apart.
Video posted on Twitter showed panicked residents running to the house as it became engulfed in flames and dark smoke. One man doused a burning wing that landed on the street with a garden hose.
Aerial footage taken from news helicopters show plane parts, including side panels and a propeller, scattered on rooftops and driveways near the burned house. The main body of the twin-engine plane was found in the backyard of another home not far from the burned house. The fire spread to a SUV that was parked in the driveway.
Debris was scattered over four blocks, Simpson said.
Rain from a winter storm helped firefighters extinguish the house fire. They planned to search the burned house in case there were additional victims, Sanchez said.
The National Transportation and Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.
Jerusalem, Feb 4 (AP/UNB) — Israel says it has started reinforcing its border fence with the Gaza Strip, erecting a galvanized steel barrier six meters (20 feet) high that will run the length of territory.
Israel's Defense Ministry issued a statement Sunday saying it had commenced construction of an above-ground barrier that complements a subterranean wall aimed at thwarting Hamas attack tunnels beneath the border.
The fence's construction comes after months of mass protests by Palestinians in Gaza along the border. Nearly 190 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since they began last March. An Israeli soldier was killed by a Palestinian sniper last July.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the new barrier "will prevent terrorists from Gaza from penetrating into our territory on the ground."
South Korea, Feb 4 (AP/UNB) — Senior U.S. and South Korean officials met Sunday to discuss an expected second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump's special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in South Korea earlier amid reports that he'll meet North Korean officials soon to work out details for the summit.
Trump told CBS' "Face the Nation" that "the meeting is set" with Kim, but he provided no further details about the meeting expected around the end of February. The president said there was "a very good chance that we will make a deal."
With the North under economic penalties and the U.S. unwilling to ease them under the North denuclearizes, Trump said Kim "has a chance to have North Korea be a tremendous economic behemoth. It has a chance to be one of the great economic countries in the world. He can't do that with nuclear weapons and he can't do that on the path they're on now."
Seoul's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Biegun and his South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon held consultations about working-level U.S.-North Korea talks ahead of the summit.
South Korean media reported Biegun and his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol will likely meet at the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom or in the North's capital of Pyongyang early this week.
Little progress has been made toward ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons since Trump and Kim held their first summit in Singapore last June. During that summit, Kim pledged to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, though he did not provide a timetable or roadmap for his disarmament steps.
Last year, North Korea suspended nuclear and missile tests, dismantled its nuclear test site and parts of its rocket launch facility and released American detainees. The North demanded the United States to take corresponding measurers such as sanctions relief.
U.S. officials want North Korea to take more significant steps, saying sanctions will stay in place until North Korea denuclearizes.
Satellite footage taken since the June summit has indicated North Korea has been continuing to produce nuclear materials at its weapons factories. Last Tuesday, U.S. intelligence chiefs told Congress they believe there is little likelihood Kim will voluntarily give up his nuclear weapons or missiles capable of carrying them.
Biegun said last week that Kim committed to "the dismantlement and destruction of North Korea's plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities" during his summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in September and at a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in October.
During the second summit, some experts say North Korea will likely seek to trade the destruction of its main Yongbyon nuclear complex for a U.S. promise to formally declare the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, open a liaison office in Pyongyang and allow the North to resume some lucrative economic projects with South Korea.
Venezuela, Feb 4 (AP/UNB) — Opposition leader Juan Guaido's calls for Venezuelans to abandon Nicolas Maduro's government are booming across the world outside, but the self-declared interim president is having a harder time delivering his message at home.
Watchdog groups in Venezuela and abroad say Guaido's efforts to reach citizens via the internet have been hindered by the dominant provider — state-run CANTV — in a country where critical newspapers and broadcast media already have been muzzled.
Since Jan. 23, when Guaido proclaimed himself interim president and when protests against Maduro's rule broke out, CANTV has blocked access to social media sites at least four times, according to the monitoring groups.
Those disruptions have coincided with politically significant events, including a rally attended by thousands of people last week and a Jan. 27 night speech that Guaido livestreamed on Periscope to call for a new round of protests and urge members of the military to defect.
CANTV accounts for about 70 percent of Venezuela's fixed internet connections and 50 percent of mobile, and Netblocks, a non-government group based in Europe that monitors internet censorship, found that the government provider blocked Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube during 12 of the 13 minutes that Guaido's speech lasted, so the stream could only be seen without interruptions by people using privately run internet providers.
The organization runs tests from its headquarters with software that captures evidence of connection failures. It also has designed a scanner app that volunteers in affected countries can use to run tests from their own phones or computers.
"We built tools that could diagnose the problems and differentiate between overload disruptions and actual blocking," said Netblocks director Alp Toker.
VESinFiltro, a Venezuelan internet monitoring group that uses technology developed by the Open Observatory for Network Interference, published similar findings on the Guaido speech.
Rights groups say the targeted disruptions show that methods to silence critics are becoming increasingly sophisticated in Venezuela, where internet providers have been hindering access to news sites and illegal currency exchange sites since 2014.
VESinFiltro director Andres Azpurua said that while internet providers previously restricted access to websites through a technique known as DNS blocking, methods have evolved to allow just-in-time disruptions during different stages of a computer's connection to websites, making it harder for site administrators to evade.
He also said other civil liberties advocates have been urging Venezuelans to try to avoid blockages by using virtual private network software that encrypt data and often hide the origin of a connection, and he said use of VPNs has increased over time.
A study by Venezuela's Press and Society Institute found that 53 websites were partially blocked by internet providers in Venezuela last year, including an investigative news site and the website for one of the country's last remaining opposition newspapers. Analysts say that this year, Guaido's Wikipedia page and social media sites have suffered blocks.
"The previous modus operandi was to place long-term blocks on certain web addresses," Azpurua says. "But the most recent forms of blocking are more tactical. You can tell that someone is investing in the technology to do this." While some analysts have speculated the know-how could come from Russia, Toker points out that technology developed by Western countries to block sites run by terrorist groups can also be reconfigured to block other sites.
Social media include some of the few platforms where Guaido can still be seen by Venezuelans. Local television and radio stations, fearful of government sanctions, have generally refrained from airing opposition rallies for years and avoid interviews with Guaido. A nationally broadcast radio program hosted by journalist Cesar Miguel Rondon was cancelled after it covered last week's turmoil and discussed Guaido's claim to Venezuela's presidency.
The opposition leader argues that Maduro's re-election in May was fraudulent and with no legitimate president, the constitution gives him power to be interim leader because he is head of the congress. The Trump administration and a dozen other countries have recognized Guaido as the country's rightful leader.
The Venezuelan government has previously ordered some internet news content to be blocked, claiming it is defamatory. It has also banned some news networks from cable systems, arguing they violated communication laws.
Venezuela's telecoms regulator and the Ministry of Communication did not respond to requests for comment on the most recent blocks on social media sites.
Technical interference isn't the only problem for internet users in Venezuela, where social media are rife with campaigns of false information benefiting both the government and the opposition.
Twitter last week removed 1,900 accounts located in Venezuela as part of a broader purge of international accounts tied to misinformation campaigns.
Twitter's head of site integrity, Joel Roth, wrote that many of the deleted Venezuelan accounts appeared to be engaged in a "state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences."
Mariengracia Chirino, a researcher at the Venezuelan Press and Society Institute, said that access to information is also hampered by Venezuela's low bandwidth, as telecommunications infrastructure crumbles in the economically struggling nation.
The average connection speed in Venezuela is 1.8 mpbs, which is less than half the average speed in Latin American countries. Chirino said that her organization conducted tests during the Jan. 23 protests that found connection speeds dropping to an average rate of 0.9 mbps, making it difficult to share videos.
"During the protests, we also registered temporary blocks on Google sites like Gmail and YouTube," Chirino said.