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Trump targets violent gang MS-13 in immigration crackdown



Donald Trump has put MS-13, one of the world’s deadliest gangs, at the heart of his immigration reform.

He’s vowed to destroy the group and send members back to El Salvador.

Sky News has followed the journey of some of those deported from America in recent months to see how El Salvador is coping.

MS-13 was in fact formed on the street corners of Los Angeles and only spread when members were deported back to Central America.

The new wave of deportees from America are returning to a country many haven’t seen in decades and one where the gangs dominate neighbourhoods with the threat of extortion, rape and murder.

But it’s not just criminals being sent back.

President Trump has vowed to defeat MS-13
President Trump has vowed to defeat MS-13

The Trump administration is also ending permits for nearly 200,000 Salvadorans to live and work in the US.

They were granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) after earthquakes rocked the Central American country in 2001.

Salvadorans have until 9 September to leave or face deportation, unless they find a legal way to stay.

There are up to eight deportation flights arriving each week, with no more than 135 people on each flight.

The United States is part of an agreement that states that it cannot send home more than 56,000 Salvadorans a year.

But the recent flow of people has already tested the system. In the past two years, America has sent back 39,000.

At La Chacra, the country’s main repatriation centre, nervous deportees arrive with their few belongings bundled into bags.

Shoelaces that have been confiscated by the immigration authorities are returned and the anxious men and women inside receive a briefing.

Some openly acknowledge they have committed crimes.

I ask one young man, what he thinks when Donald Trump talks about sending back “the bad hombres”.

He smirks and replies: “What can I say? He’s right. We’re not coming back for no reason.”

Jefferson Alvarado fears he will be targeted by the gangs
Jefferson Alvarado fears he will be targeted by the gangs

Jefferson Alvarado has a very different take.

He’s been living in Iowa for 13 years and says he was sent back by Immigration and Customs Enforcement because his mother forgot to turn up to an immigration hearing.

“A lot of people are here for minor issues like driving without a licence..a lot of us here are actually hard workers,” he says. When we meet him days later, he’s in hiding, scared of gangs targeting him and unable to go out for work.

Everyone faces a rapid and extreme adjustment.

The centre itself is in an area dominated by gangs who see them as easy prey.

Very few of the deportees we speak to know where they will go next.

Some will try to scratch a living in the markets, earning perhaps five dollars a day.

But there aren’t enough jobs in the market to absorb them – the best job opportunities are ironically working in call centres for US companies.

And El Salvador’s economy depends on money sent back from America. Remittances from Salvadorans living in the United States account for a 17% of GDP.

MS-13 and Barrio 18 still have a heavy presence in the country.

On the first day we arrive, 23 people are killed in gang related violence.

In just the first 50 days of 2018, there were 494 murders.

The police have been accused of extra-judicial killings
The police have been accused of extra-judicial killings

The National Civil Police patrol the streets with balaclavas and assault rifles.

A young officer tells us he’s worried for his family and colleagues: “I have lost four friends,” he says. But police and soldiers have also been accused of extra judicial killings.

Locking people up in the country’s overcrowded jails hasn’t solved the gang crisis.

In the 1990s, those sent back just regrouped and recruited on the inside.

We gain rare access to Apanteos, a model prison, where inmates can learn religion and languages.

But leaving the gang can be extremely difficult.

Inmates, covered in easily identifiable MS-13 tattoos tell us: “Once you leave, they’ll get you.”

Even in prison it is impossible to escape the grip of the gangs
Even in prison it is impossible to escape the grip of the gangs

The next day, we face a stark reminder of the constant threat.

We see the body of an 18-year-old man in an arid field in an area where MS-13 operates. He’s been shot in the head and chest and his weeping mother says he’s been targeted.

This moter has just discovered her son has been murdered
This moter has just discovered her son has been murdered

Back in America, poverty and intimidation is driving young people to join MS-13.

The gang has been linked to a spate of gruesome killings.

The murder of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, two teenage girls from Long Island who were killed with a machete and baseball bats, caught the President’s attention.

He invited their parents to the State of the Union address and called for immigration loopholes to be closed.

Ten of those charged were citizens of El Salvador or Honduras who were in the US illegally.

But some of those living alongside the threat in immigrant communities fear Donald Trump’s focus will only embolden the gang and further silence witnesses.

The MS-13 threat isn’t new and there are no easy solutions to target a complex, clandestine and fractured organisation.

America’s hospitality and patience is running out though.

Aquiles Magana from the National Council for the Protection and Development of Migrants accepts it is El Salvador’s responsibility to provide for it’s people.

But he adds: “I don’t think Trump understands the nature of the problem. And he’s not interested in understanding it.”

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Ireland’s health service shuts down IT systems over ‘significant ransomware attack’ | World News



Ireland’s health service has closed down its computer systems after what it described as a “significant ransomware attack”.

The Republic’s Health Service Executive (HSE) said it had shut down its entire IT network as a “precaution.”

It said COVID-19 vaccinations were not affected by the attack.

“There is a significant ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems,” the HSE said on Twitter.

“We have taken the precaution of shutting down all our IT systems in order to protect them from this attack and to allow us fully assess the situation with our own security partners.”

It added: “We apologise for inconvenience caused to patients and to the public and will give further information as it becomes available.

“Vaccinations not affected are going ahead as planned.”

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Israeli ground forces launch attacks on Gaza as fighting worsens | World News



Israeli ground forces began launching attacks on Gaza in a widening of hostilities as Israel braced for more internal strife between its Arab and Jewish citizens following Friday prayers.

The Israeli military said air and ground forces were firing at the Hamas-run enclave, though it does not appear to mean the start of a ground invasion, with Sky News witnessing troops launching artillery and tank rounds from Israel’s side of the border.

“I said we would extract a very heavy price from Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a videotaped statement. “We are doing that, and we will continue to do that with heavy force.”

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system has intercepted many of the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip

Thousands of Israeli forces along with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery are massing along the frontier with Gaza, preparing to push inside if given the order, in what would be a hugely significant escalation.

Unperturbed, Palestinian militants continued to launch rockets from the strip towards Israel into Friday morning.

At least 109 Palestinians have died since the exchanges began on Monday, including 28 children and 15 women, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Palestinian militants have said 20 of their fighters are among the dead, though Israeli officials said this figure is much higher.

Almost half of the deaths happened on Thursday – the deadliest day so far.

On the Israeli side, seven people have been killed, including two children and a soldier.

But this is a crisis on many fronts, as decades of Israeli-Palestinian trauma erupt into clashes on the streets of many towns and cities inside Israel – with Arabs and Jews, who had lived together peacefully, turning on each other, prompting warnings of a risk of civil war.

Synagogues have been attacked, cars torched and individuals beaten up by mobs in the worst internal violence in decades.

New protests could erupt following Friday prayers, with al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City a potential flashpoint.

It was at this walled compound – one of the most sacred sites in Islam, which is also revered by Jews and Christians – that violence between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters on Monday sparked the first volley of rockets from Gaza into Israel that ignited the wider crisis.

A Palestinian boy looks at ruins of buildings which were destroyed in Israeli air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip. Pic:  Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock
The blockaded strip is home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee. Pic: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

There is of course a regional dimension as well.

On Thursday night, three rockets were fired towards Israel from Lebanon. They landed harmlessly in the Mediterranean Sea in what appears to have been a show of solidarity with Gaza by Palestinian groups in Lebanon rather than the start of a separate offensive.

With so much at stake, frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to try to broker a ceasefire.

Egyptian officials have been speaking with both sides as have officials from the United Nations. The US has dispatched a senior diplomat to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin has added his voice to those calling for both sides to de-escalate.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about calming the fighting but also backed the Israeli leader by saying “there has not been a significant overreaction”.

He said the goal is to “get to a point where there is a significant reduction in attacks, particularly rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centres”, and called the effort “a work in progress”.

The UN Security Council is due to hold its first public session on the situation on Sunday after the US objected to an open session on Friday, apparently wanting to give diplomacy a little longer to have an effect.

However, with bombardments between the two sides – unprecedented in their intensity – entering their fifth day, there is no obvious sign that diplomacy is cooling heads.

The Israel Defence Forces has hit close to 1,000 targets in Gaza, including multi-storey buildings, rocket launch sites and individual Hamas military commanders. But this blockaded strip of territory is also home to some two million Palestinians who have no means to flee.

Overnight, masses of red flames illuminated the skies as deafening blasts from the outskirts of Gaza City jolted people awake.

The strikes were so strong that people inside the city, several miles away, could be heard screaming in fear, according to the AP news agency.

At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a fellow Palestinian militant group, have fired close to 2,000 rockets towards Israel. Many were shot down by the country’s air defence system but some have penetrated deep into Israeli territory, including the commercial capital of Tel Aviv, sending families racing into shelters.

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Fresh uncertainty for UK tourists as Portugal extends ‘state of calamity’ until 30 May | UK News



Britons hoping for a holiday in Portugal when travel restrictions lift next week are facing fresh uncertainty after the country extended its “state of calamity”.

The second-highest level of alert is going to remain in place until 30 May at the earliest, almost two weeks after the country is added to a “green list” of destinations where holidaymakers can go without having to isolate on their return.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for travellers seeking a quick sunny break, as many of the other countries on the “green list” are either closed to tourists, too cold, or too remote.

Portugal would have been one of the few options for sun-seeking British tourists

Other popular hotspots such as Greece, Italy, Spain and France are on the amber list, requiring 10 days of isolation and two COVID-19 tests on return to the UK.

The new restrictions cast a shadow over the Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea that is due to take place in Porto on 29 May – an event that has already been moved from Turkey, which is on the red list.

When asked whether restrictions on travel from the UK would be lifted, Portuguese Cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said she had “no information to give yet”.

In comments reported by the BBC, she said: “Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”

She said British fans could still come to see the football game but they would need to fly on charter planes, arriving and leaving on the same day.

On Thursday, the world’s largest travel firm warned it may be forced to cancel holiday flights to Portugal, just as the UK allows them again, because of a continuing EU ban on non-essential travel from countries outside the bloc.

TUI, which told Sky News earlier this week that people were giving up on booking a break abroad because of a lack of clarity on the rules, said holidays could not happen unless “borders are open”.

The “state of calamity” means non-residents of Portugal can only enter if their travel is essential, a COVID test is required within 72 hours of departure, and even those with a negative result can still be refused permission to board a flight or be made to quarantine in government-approved accommodation on arrival.

It is understood the UK government has been speaking with Portuguese representatives this week about unlocking travel between the two countries.

The government is also talking to the European Commission about how to safely reopen travel on the continent, the PA news agency understands.

Portugal has reported 840,929 cases of COVID-19, with 16,999 deaths.

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