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South African President Jacob Zuma refuses to resign despite being sacked by party

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South Africa’s embattled president is facing huge pressure to resign, after his party issued a “final” demand he stand down.

Jacob Zuma has defied calls from the African National Congress (ANC) to quit, bidding to stay on for between three and six months.

Despite “exhaustive discussions” between the leader and his party, they have failed to agree a departure timetable.

ANC general secretary Ace Magashule announced on Tuesday he expected Mr Zuma to “heed” an “order to leave”.

South African ruling Party African National Congress Secretary General Ace Magashule gives a press briefing on February 13, 2018 on the outcome of the ANC National Executive Committee, in Johannesburg at the African National Congress Headquarters.
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Ace Magashule said a vote to sack Mr Zuma was ‘final’

Talks have resumed and the 75-year-old will respond on Wednesday to a vote by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee to sack him.

But despite further negotiations being planned, Mr Magashule said the decision to remove him is “final”.

If Mr Zuma continues fighting the bid to oust him, it could force a vote of no confidence in parliament.

The ANC wants Cyril Ramaphosa to take over from Jacob Zuma
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Cyril Ramaphosa won an election to replace Mr Zuma in December

Officials had hoped for a smoother exit because it is an election year next year.

In local polls in 2016, the ANC recorded its worst electoral result since coming to power in 1994.

Mr Zuma’s hold over the ANC was shaken at the end of 2017, when his chosen successor – his former wide – narrowly lost the contest to replace him.

The man elected instead was Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC deputy president and a former trade unionist who was a key ally of Nelson Mandela.

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Myanmar: Bloodiest day since coup as ’38 killed’ in military crackdown | World News

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Another 38 people have been killed in Myanmar as the military tries to quell demonstrations by pro-democracy campaigners against last month’s coup, the United Nations said.

It was the bloodiest day since generals seized power on 1 February, with more than 50 people now dead and many others wounded, according to UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener.

A human rights group said the military had killed at least 18 on Wednesday but by the end of the day that number had risen sharply.

“It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told the Reuters news agency.

Police stand on a road during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar
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Police stand on a road during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar
Protesters cover with makeshift shields during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay, Myanmar
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Protesters cover with makeshift shields during an anti-coup protest in Mandalay

Four children were reportedly among the latest fatalities, including a 14-year-old boy who was shot dead by a soldier on a passing convoy of military trucks in Myingyan, Radio Free Asia claimed.

Security forces have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds in several towns and cities to break up protests, giving little warning, witnesses said.

In the main city of Yangon, they claimed at least eight people were killed, one early in the day and seven others in the early evening.

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Six people died in the central town of Monywa, the Monywa Gazette reported.

And two were killed during clashes at a protest in the country’s second-biggest city Mandalay, a witness and media reports said.

A pro-democracy activist displays the three-finger salute, known to be a symbol of resistance
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A pro-democracy activist displays the three-finger salute, known to be a symbol of resistance
One person was killed when police opened fire in the main city of Yangon, Myanmar
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Eight people was reportedly killed when police opened fire in the main city of Yangon

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment, Reuters said.

The security forces detained about 300 protesters as they broke up protests in Yangon, Myanmar Now news agency reported.

According to activists, a total of 1,300 people have been detained, among them six journalists in Yangon.

The violence comes a day after foreign ministers from Myanmar’s southeast Asian neighbours urged the military to end the protests but failed to unite behind a call for the military to release ousted government leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said in a statement: “We expressed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner.”

Myanmar‘s state media said the military-appointed foreign minister attended the ASEAN meeting that “exchanged views on regional and international issues”, but made no mention of the focus on Myanmar’s problems.

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Myanmar protesters honour killed comrade

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
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A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment

The 1 February coup ended Myanmar’s tentative steps towards democratic rule and triggered nationwide protests and international outcry.

Generals seized power, claiming there was fraud in last November’s election which the party of de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi won by a landslide.

Analysis: The bullets keep on coming

By Siobhan Robbins, Southeast Asia correspondent

In Myingyan, a 14-year-old has been confirmed dead.

Photos showed a woman, believed to be his mother, sitting beside his body.

It’s reported her boy had been shot in the head by a bullet during the protests.

Desperate demonstrators were filmed trying to save him but he didn’t have a chance.

In Mandalay, guns and tear gas were also being fired at protesters.

A video shows 19-year-old Ma Kyal Sin crouching down, desperately trying to stay low.

“Everything will be ok” her T-shirt promises – but the bullets keep on coming and Ma Kyal Sin’s family is preparing to bury her.

“Before the crackdown, most of us noticed the little sister who got shot from the back of the head because she was very active and at the frontline,” said an eyewitness who asked to remain anonymous.

“Then there was a crackdown at 12 and we were running, we were streaming live too. The girl got hit behind her head. It would not be accidentally because of her height. We assumed that she was targeted. Another man also died. They were shooting at us from 12 to the evening.”

Around the country, the death toll and injuries being reported continued to rise.

Generals seized power in Myanmar after claiming there was fraud in last November's election which the party of de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi won by a landslide.
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Generals seized power in Myanmar after claiming there was fraud in last November’s election

The crackdown has become increasingly brutal – live ammunition is now regularly fired at protesters along with tear gas and rubber bullets.

One especially distressing video from North Okkalapa, Yangon, shows a man in white being led away by police when he suddenly appears to be shot.

When he falls to the ground, his body is viciously kicked and then later he is callously dragged off.

Hein Thar, a journalist at Frontier Myanmar, told Sky News he has witnessed high levels of violence against demonstrators in North Okkalapa.

“They started to shoot with mortars again, not only with rifles and I heard the “dededededede”, they continuously shoot,” he said. “They don’t need to beat people who are lying on the ground but they do. They beat the people who are lying on the ground. They shoot the people.”

Frustrated by the ongoing civil disobedience movement and the powerful resistance which it had possibly been underestimated, Myanmar’s military is doing what it can to crush the opposition.

“An arms embargo is very important. The reason is the military is using these arms against its own people, the civilians. So no one should sell arms or keep any military to military relations with Burma,” said Kyaw Win, director of the Burma Human Rights Network.

The generals who took over the country in February’s coup have previously proven they will kill Myanmar’s civilians if needed.

How many more will die on the streets which are fast becoming battlefields?

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War crime allegations in Palestinian territories to be investigated by International Criminal Court | World News

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An investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories has been launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Nearly a month after the court ruled that it did have the necessary jurisdiction, a formal inquiry has been launched.

The ICC’s outgoing prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said her office had carried out a “painstaking preliminary examination” lasting “close to five years”.

“In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides.”

Ms Bensouda said the court’s inquiry into events since 2014, will follow “the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized”.

It was initially said that the actions of both Israel and armed groups in Palestine would be looked in to, but later reports said the investigation will focus on alleged Israeli actions.

Predictably, like February’s announcement about jurisdiction, Wednesday’s development was welcomed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), but rejected by Jerusalem.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the opening of an investigation as “the epitome of antisemitism and hypocrisy” and promised to reverse it.

Warning that Israel “is under attack tonight”, he evoked memories of the Holocaust as he condemned the decision.

Smoke rises in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike in August 2014
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Smoke rises in Gaza City after an Israeli airstrike in August 2014

“The court set up to prevent the recurrence of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people is now turning against the state of the Jewish people,” he said.

In contrast, a PA foreign ministry statement called it “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”.

The US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said the decision “moves Israeli and Palestinian victims of serious crimes one step closer to obtaining a measure of justice that has for too long eluded them”.

Ms Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan in June, said in December 2019 that “war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”.

Palestinian militants take part in a military drill organised by Hamas and other armed factions in Gaza
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Palestinian militants take part in a military drill organised by Hamas and other armed factions in Gaza

The Palestinians joined the court in 2015 and have long pushed for an investigation of Israel, which is not a member.

They especially want Israeli actions during its 2014 war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip to be assessed, as well as Israel’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

Ms Bensouda has reportedly also vowed to look into the actions of Hamas, which fired rockets indiscriminately into Israel during the 2014 war.

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‘Terror motive’ investigated after eight hurt in stabbing attack in Sweden | World News

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Eight people have been injured in a Swedish town after a stabbing attack police say could be terror-related.

A man in his 20s attacked people in the town of Vetlanda, about 210 miles south of the capital Stockholm, on Wednesday afternoon.

Aftonbladet said the weapon used was a knife but the Associated Press reported it was an axe.

Police said people had been stabbed in at least five locations in the town of roughly 13,000 people, and some of the victims were in a serious condition.

The attacker’s motive was not clear but Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said terrorism was possible.

He said: “In the light of what has emerged so far in the police investigation, prosecutors have initiated a preliminary investigation into terrorist crimes.

“We confront such heinous acts with the combined force of our society.”

Sweden’s domestic security agency SAPO is also working on the case, he said, adding: “They continuously assess whether there are reasons to take security-enhancing measures and are prepared to do so if necessary.”

Regional police chief Malena Grann said: “We have started a preliminary investigation of attempted murder but there are details in the investigation that make us investigate possible terror motives.”

Asa Karlqvist owns a flower shop in the town and told local newspaper Vetlanda-Posten: “We heard a scream from the street.

“Then we saw a man enter the store, shouting that he had been stabbed.

“Blood was pouring from his shoulder, so we got towels and applied pressure on the wound.”

Meanwhile, the attacker is in hospital after being shot by police before he was arrested.

Local police chief Jonas Lindell said “it seems that the injuries are not life-threatening” but he did not give further details.

Police have not identified the attacker publicly but said he was previously known to them for minor crimes.

There is no indication that others were involved in the attack, they added.

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