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UN calls for end to ‘hell on earth’ violence in eastern Ghouta

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The United Nations has called for an end to the “hell on earth” violence in Syria after hundreds of civilians were killed in eastern Ghouta.

Residents in the rebel-held area outside Damascus say they are waiting for their “turn to die” after more than 290 people including dozens of children were killed since Sunday.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said the Syrian government’s bombing campaign had turned the region into “hell on earth” for civilians.

“My appeal to all those involved is for an immediate suspension of all war activities in eastern Ghouta allowing for humanitarian aid to reach all those in need,” he said.




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Moment Syrian airstrike hits rebel-held suburb

French president Emmanuel Macron has called for a humanitarian truce to allow civilians to be evacuated.

Rockets and barrel bombs continued to fall on Wednesday, killing at least 24 people, in an apparent preparation for a government ground assault.

The UN has described the situation as “beyond imagination”, while Amnesty International said “flagrant war crimes” were being committed.

Bilal Abu Salah, who lives in the eastern Ghouta town of Douma, said: “We are waiting our turn to die. This is the only thing I can say.”


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Sky’s Special Correspondent Alex Crawford has the latest

Prime Minister Theresa May has called on President Bashar al Assad’s regime and its ally Russia “to ensure this violence stops and those people in need of help are given that help”.

But the Kremlin said claims the Russian military was responsible for civilian casualties in eastern Ghouta were “unfounded”.

:: Ghouta resident: ‘Bombing and shelling never stops’

An Amnesty International spokesman said: “The Syrian government, with the backing of Russia, is intentionally targeting its own people in eastern Ghouta.

An injured man covered with blood is seen at a medical point in the besieged town of Douma,
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Rockets and artillery fire have been targeting eastern Ghouta

“People have not only been suffering a cruel siege for the past six years, they are now trapped in a daily barrage of attacks that are deliberately killing and maiming them, and that constitute flagrant war crimes.”

The Syrian government maintains it is fighting a war on terrorism and does not target civilians.

State media reported that rebels have been firing mortars on districts of Damascus near eastern Ghouta, killing at least six people on Tuesday and wounding two people on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Russia’s Defence Ministry said there had been a “massive bombardment by illegal armed groups from eastern Ghouta” which had targeted residential areas, hotels and Russia’s Centre for Syrian Reconciliation.

Syrian children cry at a make-shift hospital in Douma following air strikes on the Syrian village of Mesraba in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region
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Syrian children cry at a make-shift hospital in the town of Douma

The UN has called for a ceasefire, saying the situation for civilians in eastern Ghouta is “spiralling out of control”.

It has warned the violence could turn into a repeat of the battle for Aleppo, which endured months of conflict between rebels and government forces in 2016.

Eastern Ghouta was among the first Syrian regions to shake off government rule after popular demonstrations against President Assad swept through the country in 2011, eventually leading to civil war.

Ghaith, a wounded 12-year-old Syrian boy, cries as he receives treatment at a make-shift hospital in Kafr Batna and waits for news of his mother in the operating room
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A 12-year-old boy receives treatment in eastern Ghouta

It is also among the last places to resist Assad’s determined campaign to take back control of every last rebel-held region.

It is supposed to be one of the “de-escalation zones” agreed by Russia, Iran and Turkey as part of their diplomatic efforts. But a former al Qaeda affiliate, which has a small presence there, is not included in the agreement.

The bombardment of eastern Ghouta by Assad’s forces resulted in the worst 48-hour death toll in Syria since a chemical attack in 2013.

Smoke plumes rise following a regime air strike in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region
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Smoke plumes rise following a regime airstrike in eastern Ghouta

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 106 civilians, including 19 children, were killed in the violence on Tuesday.

It came after 127 people were killed on Monday in eastern Ghouta’s bloodiest day in four years.

The Observatory blamed Russian warplanes, saying Moscow carried out its first strikes in three months on eastern Ghouta.

A person inspects damaged building in the besieged town of Douma
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The UN has described the situation in eastern Ghouta as ‘beyond imagination’

In another development, Assad’s forces were sent to the northern Afrin region, where they came under fire by Turkish forces attacking the Kurdish-controlled area.

Syria is sending in forces to come to the aid of a Kurdish militia known as the YPG, after Turkey and its Free Syrian Army allies made unexpected gains there.

A spokesman for Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there would be “serious consequences” after a convoy of about 50 vehicles tried to enter Afrin on Tuesday but were repelled by artillery fire.

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Netherlands: Thief jailed for stealing van Gogh and Frans Hals paintings worth millions of pounds from museums | World News

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A man has been convicted of stealing a painting by Vincent van Gogh worth several million pounds from a museum in the Netherlands.

The 59-year-old was also found guilty of snatching a Frans Hals piece from another museum in the country, again worth millions of pounds, and neither of the works have been recovered.

Described as an “incorrigible and calculating criminal”, he was sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison.

The man, whose identity has been kept anonymous under Dutch privacy laws, was found guilty of taking Van Gogh’s “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam.

He later stole the 17th century Frans Hals’ “Two Laughing Boys” from the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, 60km (35 miles) south of the Dutch capital.

The Central Netherlands Court said the Hans painting was valued at €16m (£13.7m), but did not give a value for Van Gogh’s painting.

Both were stolen by a man who broke into the museums at night and fled on a scooter driven by an accomplice.

The Vincent van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam. Pic AP
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The Vincent van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam. Pic AP

The defendant, who has a previous conviction for a similar heist, denied any involvement.

“The court doesn’t believe this,” the court said in a statement. “His DNA was found at both crime scenes, and the man can’t explain how that is possible.”

The paintings were described as “part of the national cultural heritage, they are important for present and future generations”.

“That is why and given the criminal record of the suspect who is, according to the court, an incorrigible and calculating criminal, the court considers the maximum sentence to be appropriate,” the court added.

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La Palma volcano: What caused it to explode and how long could the eruption last? | World News

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A volcano that erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma in the Canary Islands is continuing to explode and spew out lava five days after it erupted.

Unstoppable lava flows have destroyed nearly 400 buildings on the western side of the volcanic island of 85,000 people and the authorities have warned of new dangers including toxic gases, volcanic ash and acid rain.

Where is the volcano in La Palma?

A map shows the location of the Cumbre Vieja eruption and the flow of lava
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A map shows the location of the Cumbre Vieja eruption and the flow of lava
LA PALMA Canary Islands  MAP
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A map of the volcanic activity on La Palma. Credit: Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System

The volcano erupted along the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge in La Palma, one of eight volcanic islands in Spain’s Canary Islands archipelago, which sit off the northwestern coast of Africa.

The Canary Islands are popular with European tourists and the nearby island of Tenerife has one of the world’s tallest volcanoes, Mount Teide.

La Palma island itself is made up of two main volcanic complexes: a large one to the north and a smaller one to the south, which erupted on Sunday. The island last saw an eruption in 1971.

How did scientists know the eruption was coming?

More on La Palma Volcano Eruption

Scientists had been monitoring a build-up of underground magma beneath La Palma for a week before the eruption and were able to warn of a possible eruption, allowing nearly 7,000 people to evacuate.

They had detected more than 20,000 earthquakes in an “earthquake swarm” which can indicate a coming eruption.

What caused the volcano to erupt?

Copernicus Sentinel-2 image shows the eruption of a volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park, on the Canary Island of La Palma
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Copernicus Sentinel-2 image shows the eruption of the volcano in the Cumbre Vieja national park
Lava spews from the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma, Spain
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Lava spews from the Cumbre Vieja volcano

Three days before the volcano erupted, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported that 11 million cubic metres (388 million cubic feet) of molten rock had been pushed into the volcano.

Professor David Pyle, a volcanologist at the University of Oxford, told Sky News: “Magma is generated within Earth’s mantle and below La Palma that magma is probably being generated continuously at depths of 100km or so. Every now and then those magmas will collect and break through, pushing up into the shallow parts of the Earth’s crust.

“When the latest swarm of earthquakes started a week before the eruption began, scientists recognised they were happening at a shallower depth than they had seen in previous years.

“They were able to look at satellite images which showed deformation of the surface and they were very confident that from these they could recognise the movement of magma towards the surface.”

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Lava from the volcano is destroying and burying homes, leaving thousands devastated

A 4.2-magnitude earthquake was recorded before the eruption, which saw two fissures open up and bright red magma bubble up into the air.

How has the eruption developed?

Earthquakes have continued and a new fissure opened on Monday following a 3.8-magnitude quake. Scientists have warned that new lava vents and cracks could emerge, putting new areas at risk.

Lava covers more than 180 hectares on the island of La Palma and destroys 390 buildings
PIC:AP
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Lava erupts from the Cumbre Vieja volcanic ridge. Pic: AP

Prof Pyle said scientists will now be measuring the amount of gas escaping from the volcano, checking whether the composition of magma changes over time and measuring the quantity of material that is being expelled to see how quickly the volcano is erupting.

“With these they will be forming an expert judgement in terms of what the trajectory is looking like in terms of the eruption, whether it is waxing or waning,” he said.

“In this crisis they are deploying all the tools they can to try and work out what is changing during the eruption. And that will give them the clues in terms of whether or not to expect the activity to last for days, or weeks, or months.”

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Scientists say the volcanic eruption could continue until December

Officials in La Palma have recorded 1,130 tremors in the area over the past week as the volcano blasted molten lava into the air.

The explosions have propelled ash almost 15,000ft into the air, according to the Guardia Civil police force. Two rivers of lava have flowed slowly down the hillside, consuming houses, banana farms and infrastructure.

How long could the eruption last?

Residents look from a hill as the lava from a volcano eruption flows on the island of La Palma in the Canaries, Spain
PIC:AP
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Residents look on from a hill as lava from the volcano flows. Pic: AP

Scientists are unclear about how long the eruption could last, with estimates ranging between weeks and even months.

The previous eruption in 1971 lasted for just over three weeks. The last eruption in the Canary Islands happened underwater off the coast of El Hierro island in 2011 and lasted for five months.

Professor Mike Burton, a volcanologist at the University of Manchester, told Sky News that while scientists were able to predict the eruption, knowing how long it could last was “the tricky bit”.

Lava from a volcano eruption flows in El Paso, on the Canary Island of La Palma, Spain, September 23, 2021.
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Lava has surrounded houses in El Paso

“It’s great that we can see when something like this is coming, but once it has started it is quite hard to be clear about how it is going to evolve.

“I think the best thing we can do is watch and look for signs of waxing and waning, increasing and decreasing activity.

“The last eruption went on for about three months, but every eruption is different. This one appears to have started with a higher lava eruption rate than the 1971 eruption, so already it seems to be more powerfully supplied.

“That might mean it goes on much longer, but you have to be cautious about making any deterministic predictions. We really need to wait and see what nature does.”

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Elon Musk and Grimes split up after three years together but ‘remain on great terms’ | Ents & Arts News

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Elon Musk and Grimes have split up after three years together, according to reports.

Musk, who is the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, confirmed to Page Six that he and the Canadian singer are semi-separate but on good terms.

The 50-year-old added that they will continue to co-parent their one-year-old son, X Æ A-Xii Musk.

Elon Musk and his newborn. Pic: @elonmusk/Twitter
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Elon Musk and Grimes welcomed their first child in May 2020. Pic: @elonmusk/Twitter

“We are semi-separated but still love each other, see each other frequently and are on great terms,” Musk told Page Six.

“It’s mostly that my work at SpaceX and Tesla requires me to be primarily in Texas or travelling overseas, and her work is primarily in LA. She’s staying with me now, and Baby X is in the adjacent room.”

The pair started dated in May 2018 and welcomed their first son two years later.

They were last seen together at the Met Gala on 13 September, when Grimes, 33, walked on the red carpet alone and Musk joined her inside.

Grimes joined Musk at a Met Gala after-party, which he was hosting, and the duo were seen leaving New York together the next day.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala - Met Gala - In America: A Lexicon of Fashion - Arrivals - New York City, U.S. - September 13, 2021. Grimes. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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Grimes walked on the red carpet alone at the Met Gala on 13 September but was joined by Elon Musk inside

Musk was previously married to author Justine Wilson, with whom he has five sons – 17-year-old twins Griffin and Xavier, and triplets Damian, Saxon and Kai, aged 15.

He has also been married twice to Westworld actress Talulah Riley, and dated Amber Heard for a year.

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