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Migrant deported by Israel back to Africa recounts ordeal

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Inside the immigration office in Tel Aviv, Yohannes Tesfagabr considered his options. He could not return to Eritrea, a country he risked his life to flee in 2010. He hoped to avoid the fate of compatriots who languished in a desert jail for illegally staying in Israel.

So in an emotional decision last November, the 29-year-old accepted what Israeli authorities were offering: $3,500 and a one-way ticket to Uganda or Rwanda.

Two weeks later he was on a flight to Uganda.

“They told me, ‘If you don’t leave you are going to jail,'” Tesfagabr recalled. “It’s forced. They tell you to say you are going voluntarily, but it is not voluntary. They force you to deport yourself.”

Tens of thousands of Africans in Israel face jail if they do not accept an offer, allegedly without further assurances of safety, to leave for an unnamed African country. Both Uganda and Rwanda, widely presumed to be the destinations, have denied any agreement with Israel’s government even though scores of migrants are believed to have already settled in the East African countries.

Tesfagabr said his group of Eritreans was not taken through the official immigration desk upon arrival in Uganda. They were ushered through the cargo area by a Ugandan official and driven to a hotel in the capital, Kampala. Their passports were confiscated. Hours later, the undocumented Eritreans were dismissed.

The five other Eritreans declined to talk to The Associated Press because of safety concerns. But Tesfagabr said he wanted to speak out because he felt he had been harshly treated by Israel, a country he had grown to love.

“My Hebrew is four times better than my English,” he said one recent evening.

Tesfagabr, a village boy who felt hopeless after being forcefully conscripted into Eritrea’s army, arrived in Israel in 2012, the victim of alleged traffickers in Sudan who helped him cross a border point in the Sinai after his family was made to pay a $3,900 ransom. To force his parents to pay, his captors beat him and staged mock executions.

But after crossing into Israel, Tesfagabr benefited from random acts of kindness. In Rehovot, a city south of Tel Aviv, he found a satisfying job as a sous chef. He had an apartment and a bank account, but he had to get his visa renewed every two months.

When two compatriots were jailed for overstaying their visas, Tesfagabr knew his days were numbered.

“They take you like a dog, like a donkey,” he said of the migrants taken to the Holot detention center in the Negev desert. “They do what they want.”

This month Israeli authorities began distributing deportation notices to some 40,000 African migrants, who have until April 1 to comply. Nearly all are from Eritrea and Sudan, countries with questionable human rights records.

The deportation plan has sparked outrage in Israel, where many say it is unethical and damages Israel’s image as a refuge. Israel cites complaints that the migrants have transformed working-class neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv into unrecognizable slums. Israeli authorities say women, children and families are exempt from the deportation order.

This month thousands of African asylum seekers protested outside the Rwandan Embassy in Israel, calling the deportations racist and urging Rwanda not to cooperate. They claim they have no rights in Uganda and Rwanda and are forced to flee toward Europe through war-torn countries like Libya.

Okello Oryem, Uganda’s deputy minister of international affairs, described reports of a deal to take in migrants from Israel as “fake news.” Rwanda’s government has insisted it “has never signed any secret deal with Israel regarding the relocation of African migrants.”

Mossi Raz, an Israeli lawmaker who recently traveled to Rwanda and Uganda to investigate, said his group concluded that the arrangement “does not ensure the safety and well-being of the refugees.”

Raz said the delegation met with two migrants believed to be among the few remaining in Rwanda. He said others, in the hundreds or thousands, were transferred to Uganda within days, forced to pay for their travel.

“The refugees will arrive in these countries and will not receive refugee status, their documents will be taken from them and they will be left with nothing,” Raz said. “Rwanda is only participating in this agreement because of the money it will receive from Israel.”

Tesfagabr, the Eritrean migrant, is now jobless, without a passport and dependent on his savings to pay the rent. The soft-spoken man said he feels like a prisoner and dreams of relocating to Europe.

“I want to start a new life,” he said.

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Associated Press writers Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda and Tia Goldenberg in Jerusalem contributed.

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NATO and European Commission condemn deadly attack on tanker near Oman | World News

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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has welcomed both NATO and the European Commission’s condemnation of the deadly attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman.

The UK, US and Israel have blamed Iran for the attack, which killed two people – a Briton and a Romanian.

On Tuesday, NATO called on Iran to “respect its international obligations”, while the EU Commission said they oppose “any action that would be detrimental to peace and stability”.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab
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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accused Iran of carrying out a ‘deliberate, targeted’ assault which constituted ‘a clear violation of international law’

The Commission called the incident “unacceptable” but said the exact circumstances surrounding it “have to be clarified”.

Posting on social media, Mr Raab said: “I welcome NATO joining the UK and international partners in condemning the unlawful attack on MV Mercer Street.

“We believe this was a deliberate, targeted attack by Iran – it must end its destabilising actions immediately.”

Reports suggest explosive drones were flown into the MV Mercer Street tanker during the attack, which happened on 29 July.

According to Eikon’s ship tracking, the Mercer Street was headed to Fujairah, a bunkering port and oil terminal in the United Arab Emirates, from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

The tanker is operated by Zodiac Maritime, which is based in London and owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer.

Releasing a statement on Tuesday, a NATO spokesperson said: “We join allies in strongly condemning the recent fatal attack on the MV Mercer Street off the coast of Oman, and express our condolences to Romania and the United Kingdom for the losses they have suffered.

“Freedom of navigation is vital for all Nato allies, and must be upheld in accordance with international law.

“The United Kingdom, the United States, and Romania have concluded that Iran is highly likely responsible for this incident. Allies remain concerned by Iran’s destabilising actions in the region, and call on Tehran to respect its international obligations.”

European Commission spokeswoman Nabila Massrali told reporters: “Of course we condemn the attack on the oil tanker which took place off the island of Masirah in Oman.

“A British citizen and a Romanian were killed and we would like to extend our sympathy to their friends and family.

“The exact circumstances of this attack have to be clarified and we take note of investigations carried out by the United States, the UK and Israel – this is an action that was against freedom of navigation in this area, and of course unacceptable.

“We oppose any action that would be detrimental to peace and stability in this area and the EU will continue to follow developments closely.”

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‘Iran should face up to the consequences’ – PM

On Sunday, Mr Raab accused Iran of carrying out a “deliberate, targeted” assault which constituted “a clear violation of international law”.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he was considering “next steps” with the UK and other allies, with “an appropriate response… forthcoming”.

Meanwhile, the head of the British armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter, held discussions with his Israeli counterpart at the weekend.

The government held a Cobra emergency meeting at the level of officials over the weekend in a sign of the serious focus on the tanker attack and how to respond, Sky News understands.

There has not yet been a Cobra attended by ministers, which is what happens in the gravest of crises.

Earlier this week, Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid blamed “Iranian terrorism” for the attack.

Iran has not yet commented on the allegations.

Yair Lapid is set to be handed the reins in two years time
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Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid blamed ‘Iranian terrorism’ for the attack

Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said the UK government needs to take a hard line with Tehran.

She said: “The prime minister must make it clear to the incoming Iranian president that lawless actions will carry costs. This is the moment where Britain must show we are resolute in our determination to end this pattern of behaviour.

“The breakdown of a clear strategy to deal with Iran has not served the UK or our allies well in recent years. The foreign secretary must now make it a priority to pursue coordinated international efforts to tackle these actions by the Iranian government.”

Antony Blinken
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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he was considering ‘next steps’ with the UK and other allies

The incident has sparked concern that tensions are increasing in the region.

A UK source said crew members reported being targeted by “some sort of drone” on Thursday in the Arabian Sea before communications with the ship were lost.

If a drone attack is confirmed it would raise speculation about a possible link to a government or some kind of proxy group.

Iran in the past has repeatedly been accused of targeting tankers in the Gulf.



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Heat dome: What is the extreme weather pattern causing record temperatures and wildfires? | Climate News

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Heat domes are becoming a more regular weather phenomenon as entire regions deal with increasingly extreme heat and wildfires.

Villages in Turkey, Greece and Italy have been engulfed this July and August, and tourists evacuated by boat from beaches as temperatures reached 47C (116F).

In June, record temperatures hit North America, with more than 100 people dying in the northwestern US and Canada.

Both these extreme weather events were caused by heat domes.

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Sky reporter at edge of Turkey wildfires

What is a heat dome?

It’s when an area of high pressure stays over a large part of a region for days, or even weeks.

Like a lid on a saucepan, it traps hot air underneath, and can cause heatwaves with temperatures well above the norm.

How does a heat dome form?

Hot air expands vertically into the atmosphere then high pressure from above means it has nowhere to escape and pushes that warm air down.

As the warm air sinks, it compresses and heats up, which then traps more heat underneath.

The ground then heats up and loses moisture which makes it heat up even more, and means it is ripe for fires to start.

The dome of high pressure also pushes the clouds around it, keeping the heat in even more.

Usually, winds can move the high pressure around but as the dome stretches high into the atmosphere, the high pressure system becomes very slow moving, almost stationary.

What has caused the European heat dome?

Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon told Sky News: “The jet stream has dipped south across western Europe and extended into northeast Europe, allowing a ridge to develop across southeast Europe.

“Within the ridge, the air has become warmer day-on-day.”

Wildfire rips through Italian beach resort
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A wildfire in a Sicilian beach resort in July

Warm air from a Saharan dust cloud has also contributed to the warmer than usual temperatures

The high pressure from the jet stream ridge and the Saharan warm air has been stuck over southeast Europe for a while, maintaining temperatures 10C to 15C above average.

Are heat domes rare occurrences?

They are quite common in temperate zones but they are getting more intense and regular in areas that do not usually see such extreme heat.

Scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found the main trigger is a strong change in ocean temperatures during the preceding winter.

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Wildfires ravage Canadian town amid heatwave

For the US, this happens in the Pacific Ocean.

The NOAA scientists said it is like a swimming pool when the heater is turned on – “temperatures rise quickly in the areas surrounding the heater jets, while the rest of the pool takes longer to warm up”.

They said the western Pacific’s temperatures have risen over the past few decades compared with the eastern Pacific, “creating a strong temperature gradient – or pressure differences that drive wind – across the entire ocean in winter”.

The gradient causes more warm air through convection, which is heated by the ocean surface and rises over the western Pacific, decreasing convection over the central and eastern Pacific.

Prevailing winds move the hot air east, towards the US, and the jet stream traps the air, moving it towards land where it sinks to cause heatwaves.

Wildfires in Pescara, eastern Italy
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Wildfires in Pescara, eastern Italy

In Europe, the water temperatures are high, especially across the Baltic region where they are more than 6C above normal.

The Atlantic Ocean around the UK and Ireland was about 2-4C above the norm for the end of July.

But it is the Mediterranean, which is warmer than other European seas anyway, that is the most concerning, with sea temperatures nearly 3C above the long-term average.

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Tokyo Olympics: Belarusian sprinter says she would have faced punishment if she returned home | World News

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The Belarusian Olympic sprinter who refused to board a plane home from the Games has said officials from her country “made it clear” she would face punishment if she returned.

Krystina Tsimanouskaya, 24, has accused her national team’s officials of trying to force her to fly to Minsk after she criticised the coaching staff on social media.

After spending a night at an airport hotel, she received a humanitarian visa by Poland and is planning to fly to Warsaw this week and seek refuge in Europe.

“They made it clear that upon return home I would definitely face some form of punishment,” she said. “There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me.”

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus reacts after competing in Heat 6 of the women's 100m at the Tokyo Olympics
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Tsimanouskaya hopes to continue her career

In an interview with the Associated Press news agency, Tsimanouskaya also said she believed she would be kicked off the national team, and demanded an investigation into who gave the order to withdraw her from Tokyo Olympics.

“For now I just want to safely arrive in Europe… meet with people who have been helping me… and make a decision what to do next,” she said.

She added: “I would very much like to continue my sporting career because I’m just 24 and I had plans for two more Olympics at least. For now, the only thing that concerns me is my safety.”

Belarus National Olympic Committee is headed by the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko and his son Viktor.

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