Pictures shared with Sky News, taken by survivors of the Palma terror attack in Mozambique, give a graphic illustration of a terrifying three days under fire, surrounded by insurgents.
Nearly 200 people – including foreign workers – took refuge in one of the town’s hotels.
But survivors have told Sky News how they fled for their lives because they felt they’d been abandoned and no one was coming to rescue them.
One South African contractor spoke of almost constant shooting and shelling during the three days they were trapped inside the Amarula Lodge in Palma.
Wesley Nel filmed on his mobile phone throughout and his footage shows those pinned down in the Lodge – including his brother Adrian and father Greg – lying on the floor of the hotel’s upstairs restaurant as a volley of gunfire is heard.
“The gunfire just didn’t stop,” Mr Nel said.
“The mortars – you’re talking about 100’s of mortars going off… probably 40 to 50 an hour. We counted them.
“And it went on constantly for three, four days.
“They [the insurgents] must have been stockpiling tonnes of ammunition nearby or in the town for months before.”
Mr Nel, his father and brother were sub-contracted to work on the huge multi-billion-dollar LNG (liquified natural gas) project being developed on the Afungi Peninsula near to Palma.
They had been told, despite militant unrest around the northern Cabo Delgado Province since 2017, that the town of Palma was secure and stable.
But when, on 24 March, the insurgents mounted their most audacious attack so far, it seemed to take the military and the police completely off-guard.
British contractor Philip Mawer, went missing in the melee and a body was later found matching his description.
A week after the attack, Islamic State extremists said they had carried out the attack. But little is known about the group called ISIS Mozambique (also known locally as al Shabaab).
Many analysts believe the ISIS flag is simply one of convenience with many more complex layers at the heart of the insurgency including geo-political rivalries over Africa’s largest oil and gas investment as well as discontent over economic inequalities in the country.
The vast natural resources are just off the coast of Mozambique’s poorest province.
The Palma attack was vicious, brutal and appeared to have a level of planning. It came only hours after the French gas giant Total announced it was resuming work on the LNG project after months of hiatus over security concerns.
When shooting broke out in the town, the foreign workers who were stationed near to the lodge headed straight there.
It was considered secure and had high perimeter walls and a helicopter landing pad for airlifts.
“We, 100% thought we were going to get out by helicopter [on the first day of the terror attack],” Mr Nel said.
But he said only helicopters manned by the private security company DAG appeared to mount any rescue attempt.
DAG’s small helicopters could only airlift six people at a time. Women, children and the sick were loaded on first with more than 20 being taken to safety in Pemba.
But with light fading and fuel running out, the controversial security company which had only weeks earlier been accused of war crimes by human rights groups, halted its rescue mission.
The civilians trapped inside the Amarula Lodge used the satellite phones they had among them, to appeal for help from the Mozambican military, from their employers, from anyone.
“We said to them, we’re sitting ducks… we’ve got nothing to protect ourselves,” Mr Nel told Sky News.
The footage shows the group left behind in the hotel still appearing to believe there would be further attempts to take them out of what was now a battle zone.
They are filmed sitting and standing around with small bags ready to flee. But the help never came.
“We knew the insurgents were getting closer,” said Mr Nel. “It was only a matter of time before they breached the gates and we were slaughtered.”
In desperation, his elder brother Adrian hatched a plan to run out of the lodge gates to try to recover a weapon they believed had been hidden in one of the parked vehicles outside.
It took him three runs to find it. You can hear his brother Wesley urging him on as he films him tearing across the road.
“Come on Adrian, come on!” he can be heard saying.
“Ordinarily he’d have got a medal of honour,” his brother said.
But with just a single weapon between them, and some abandoned flak jackets left behind in the hotel by aid agencies, the group decided to organise a convoy of vehicles, pack as many people in as possible and take their chances outside.
The mobile phone video shows the back of one pick-up truck crammed full of people waiting to bolt out of the hotel gates.
“We were determined to take everybody who wanted to go. We had four people in the boot of just our car,” Mr Nel said.
His brother Adrian opted to be one of the drivers.
“You’ve got the drive of your life bro,” his younger brother can be heard saying to him on the footage.
But only two minutes outside the gate, the convoy of 17 vehicles was ambushed.
Vehicles stopped, Mr Nel said, and there was panic and frantic running into the bush as well as into other cars.
The convoy continued with the brothers’ vehicle about fourth from the front, only to run into another ambush as militants shot at specifically the drivers from the side of the road.
Adrian was hit, twice. His brother relays what happened.
“He started shouting that he’s hit, he’s hit and his leg was off and he can’t drive… someone needs to take over…and everyone was shouting keep driving as far as you can.
“He was like, I’m trying. Probably about a kilometre after, he was saying I can’t… I’m going guys, I’m going…”
His brother pulled over to the side and when Wesley reached him, he was shaking uncontrollably. Now the younger brother took over the driving.
“I was holding his shoulder over the bullet wound trying to stop the blood and it was just pumping out,” said Mr Nel.
“I started to drive and I was just shouting back at them, to put the other doses inside the gunshot wounds to stop the bleeding.”
And all the time, his younger brother is trying to reassure him of his love.
Mr Nel breaks down as he remembers: “I was shouting that I love him and that I’d look after his family and that I’m so, so sorry that this had happened to him.”
He managed to drive the vehicle to the quarry where they were hoping helicopters might be able to land to pick them up. But still there were none.
The men fled into the thick bush nearby and camped out all night and until well into the next day before emerging.
This time they managed to reach a DAG helicopter which flew them to the nearby Afungi airstrip.
“I begged them to go back and retrieve my brother’s body,” said Wesley. “I wasn’t going to leave him there.”
The DAG team followed through on its promise, retrieved his brother’s body and with Mr Nel laying next to his dead brother in the helicopter, they were taken onto Pemba – and then flown back to South Africa.
Now he says friends and family have started crowdfunding to raise money for his brother’s young family. He leaves behind a wife and three young children.
“We did everything for everybody and it felt like no one was doing anything for us,” said Mr Nel.
“And my brother paid the ultimate price… they just abandoned us and now I’m left with this… I can’t understand why there wasn’t foreign military in there that could help us.”
There are still more than 20,000 people unaccounted for more than two weeks after the Palma terror attack.
The Mozambican authorities have sent hundreds of soldiers into the town and have declared it free of terrorists.
The Mozambican President, Felipe Nyusi has called for unity and promised a huge job creation scheme and there have been expressions of solidarity among the southern African countries which make up SADC.
But the insurgents still hold the strategically important port of Mocimboa da Praia and the challenge will be for the authorities to regain control there and crush the insurgency before it spreads further.
‘We dread the nights’: Life under Israeli bombardment as Gazans live through the ‘madness’ again | UK News
Laila Barhoum, a humanitarian worker and human rights advocate in Gaza, describes her feelings of “dread” and “injustice” as the region is pounded by Israeli air strikes.
In Gaza, we always joke about the fact we shouldn’t ask “What worse can happen?” as it seems that we are always proven wrong.
But our worse this time came unexpectedly with innocent people losing their lives.
Last week, we were preparing for Eid, buying chocolate, children getting new clothes and mothers cooking Eid cookies.
This would have contributed to making happy memories. Memories that are now replaced with images of destruction, fear and death.
The fact that what is happening is happening again because we had been failed by the international community makes it even worse. Knowing that hundreds of innocent people who lost their lives this time and many times before could have been alive now, celebrating Eid with us.
Every day we dread the nights, as with them comes the worst targeting and airstrikes, when we hear the numbers of people killed rising. When we see women and children running, screaming, and houses and buildings turning into dust.
I look around me at my nieces while thinking they live an occupation that I was born under. That I am moving toward my 40s while they are marking their first years, yet we are both suffering from the same injustice.
Thinking that you are trying to make the world a better place for them because it wasn’t made better for you makes you feel sad and frustrated.
No one feels safe in Gaza, and no place is safe in Gaza.
There are no shelters, no places away from any air strikes. And this is a feeling you carry with you all day long, while you are trying to make sense of what you are going through.
We have been failed and forgotten for decades, which is why we live through this madness again.
The lives of generations of young people and children are shaped by loss, fear and injustice.
These are the lost generations, who only saw what a normal life looks like through a screen. These are the generations who wait for the sun to rise every night so they can breathe.
Israel says it only attacks targets containing Gaza militant groups – who have been launching hundreds of rockets at Israel. It says it makes strenuous efforts to avoid civilian casualties such as giving people advance warning and chance to evacuate.
Inside the Iron Dome: How Israel’s missile defence shield is battling Hamas rocket attacks | World News
From the moment a giant, green radar detects rocket fire blasting out of Gaza towards Israel, it is only a matter of seconds before an Israeli defence missile shoots up to intercept.
The radar, at a secure site in southern Israel, relays the information to what the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) call a “battle management centre”.
In reality, it’s a beige-coloured, small metal cabin on the other side of the square-shaped compound.
Everything here is mobile – to be able to move in relation to the threat.
A number of military personnel – some aged between just 18 and 21 – in the cabin then calculate the trajectory of the rocket, the anticipated impact point and which air defence missile launcher to use to fire back.
It’s a job that needs manning 24 hours a day.
Launcher selected, a single operator is able to fire multiple missiles against multiple Hamas rockets at the same time.
The missiles are guided onto their targets and either smash directly into the incoming rocket or explode near to it, with the shrapnel rendering the incoming fire redundant.
Major Kifr – we were not allowed to use his full name for security reasons – is in charge of the 947 Iron Dome Battalion.
He and his team have been busy since the conflict with Hamas started eight days ago.
The rate of rocket fire, launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants is unprecedented.
But the officer says his unit and the many others that comprise Israel’s Iron Dome air defence shield are more than up to the task.
“We have been trained for this situation,” he told Sky News.
He said the shield – which has blocked about 90% of the incoming rocket fire – could handle an even heavier tempo of attack if necessary.
It is the main reason why, despite more than 3,000 rockets being fired in their direction, Israel has only suffered a relatively low number of fatalities.
“We are very proud of our mission,” Major Kifr said. “We do not distinguish between Arabs, Jews or anyone. We protect everyone.”
His troops are not immune to the threat posed by the incoming fire though.
As Sky News was at the site, a siren sounded warning of rocket fire.
Military personnel moved into a concrete shelter to wait until the threat was over – a common scene across the country these days.
As we stepped back outside, small clouds of white smoke could be seen in the air – evidence of successful interceptions by a different air defence unit.
COVID-19: Disneyland Paris to reopen but no hugs from Mickey Mouse – as Netherlands sex workers return amid lockdown easing across world | World News
Disneyland Paris has announced the date it will reopen and sex workers in the Netherlands will return this week, as several countries ease COVID restrictions.
Having been closed since last October, Disney’s amusement park in the French capital will welcome visitors back from 17 June.
A statement said the site’s reopening would be accompanied by “appropriate health and safety measures” – with hugs from the likes of Mickey Mouse and other mascots suspended.
It will also limit the number of visitors, with those over six being asked to wear masks.
Meanwhile, Netherlands health minister Hugo de Jonge revealed a series of measures to relax coronavirus rules.
Parks, zoos, gyms and outdoor swimming pools will reopen on Wednesday, after the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations eased pressure on hospitals, the minister said.
And sex workers will be allowed to resume five months after being ordered to pause operations in mid-December.
They had protested in Amsterdam in March, saying they were being discriminated against as the authorities allowed other “contact businesses” including hairdressers and masseurs to reopen.
Public libraries will reopen on Thursday and further steps, including reopening museums and allowing indoor service at restaurants, are expected over the next three weeks, Mr de Jonge added.
“This a responsible step at this moment, but we have to stay very careful,” he said of the broader relaxation.
“We see a significant contribution from vaccinations. But we’re not there yet.”
COVID infections in the Netherlands have dropped by more than a quarter this month, after climbing to their highest levels of the year in April.
Another city to be easing measures is Dubai, where hotels in the regional tourism hub will be allowed to operate at full capacity and concerts and sports events will be able to welcome crowds and participants who have been vaccinated.
The United Arab Emirates ranks highly globally for coronavirus testing and vaccination rates, which has allowed for capacities for restaurants and entertainment venues to also be increased.
Authorities in Sri Lanka have announced shops and public transport can reopen, easing a three-day travel restriction imposed across the country.
Sri Lankans had been from banned from leaving their homes since Thursday night to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Authorities said though that those restrictions would now be imposed for five hours overnight for the next two weeks.
And in Turkey, the interior ministry has said a full lockdown that had ordered people to stay home to fight infections would be shifting to a less-restrictive program.
This will still involve curfews on weeknights and weekends from 1 June, which authorities said was part of a “gradual normalisation”.
Shopping malls can reopen – and while some businesses will remain closed, including gyms and cafes, restaurants will be able to offer takeaway in addition to delivery. Preschools will resume in-person education but upper grades will continue remote learning.
People in Turkey can also return to their workplaces but must stay at home from 9pm to 5am on weekdays.
However, other parts of the world have been tightening restrictions.
Hong Kong authorities say quarantine rules for arrivals from countries like Singapore, Japan and Malaysia would become tightened from Friday amid a surge in coronavirus infections.
And Trinidad and Tobago has declared a state of emergency, also citing a sharp increase in cases.
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