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Haiti Leader Resigns as Gangs Run Rampant Through Country Engulfed in Crisis
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The embattled prime minister of Haiti, Ariel Henry, has resigned after weeks of mounting chaos in the Caribbean nation, where gangs have been attacking government structures and social order is on the brink of collapse.

Henry said in a video address late Monday that his government would leave power after the establishment of a transitional council, adding, “Haiti needs peace. Haiti needs stability.”

“My government will leave immediately after the inauguration of the council. We will be a caretaker government until they name a prime minister and a new cabinet,” Henry said.

Henry’s adviser Jean Junior Joseph told CNN that Henry would remain in his role until the formation of a new interim government.

The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), meeting in Jamaica on Monday said it had agreed to set up a transitional council to lay the foundations for elections in Haiti.

“We are pleased to announce the commitment to transitional governance arrangement which paves the way for a peaceful transition of power, continuity of governance and action plan for near-term security and the road to free and fair elections. It further seeks to assure that Haiti will be governed by the rule of law,” said Guyana leader and CARICOM Chairman Irfaan Ali in a news conference, flanked by other Caribbean leaders.

When the worst of the violence erupted last week, Henry was in Kenya to sign an agreement to send 1,000 Kenyan police officers to the Caribbean nation to restore the security situation of which his government has lost control.

He was unable to return to Haiti as the security situation deteriorated around the airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince. A plan to travel via the neighboring Dominican Republic was abandoned after the government there refused permission for his plane to land. He has been in the US territory of Puerto Rico since last week.

The United States will contribute $300 million to the Kenyan-led multinational security mission, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after attending the CARICOM meeting on Monday. He also announced an additional $33 million in “humanitarian assistance for the people of Haiti.”

Henry was under pressure from the United States to secure a political settlement, but it is far from clear who will step in. One name touted is Guy Philippe, a rebel leader recently deported from the US to Haiti after serving a prison sentence for money laundering.

Henry, who came to power unelected in 2021 following the assassination of Haiti’s then-president, failed to hold elections last year, saying the country’s insecurity would compromise the vote. But his decision only further enraged protesters who had for months demanded he stand down as Haiti slid further into poverty and rampant gang violence.

Since Henry’s trip to Kenya, Port-au-Prince has been gripped by a wave of highly coordinated gang attacks on law enforcement and state institutions, which has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Chaos in the capital

Haiti’s government has been under a state of emergency since groups attacked the country’s largest prison in Port-au-Prince earlier this month, killing and injuring police and prison staff and allowing some 3,500 inmates to escape.

One gang leader, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, took credit for the attack and said the jailbreak was an attempt to overthrow Henry’s government.

“If Ariel Henry doesn’t step down, if the international community continues to support Ariel Henry, they will lead us directly into a civil war that will end in genocide,” Cherizier told Reuters in Port-au-Prince last week.

Gangs now control 80% of Haiti’s capital, according to United Nations estimates, and continue to fight for the rest. While Henry was out of the country, gangs laid siege to the country’s main airport to prevent his safe return.

The chaos has forced tens of thousands to flee their homes, adding to the more than 300,000 already displaced by gang violence.

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  • Lynda says:

    Why the hell are we giving them money

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    Reuters: Biden Conveyed to Iran That It’s Attack on Israel Had to Be “Within Certain Limits”

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    Iran informed Turkey in advance of its planned operation against Israel, a Turkish diplomatic source told Reuters on Sunday, adding that Washington had conveyed to Tehran via Ankara that any action it took had to be “within certain limits.”

    Turkey, which has denounced Israel for its campaign on Gaza, said earlier on Sunday that it did not want a further escalation of tensions in the region.

    The Turkish source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan had spoken to both his US and Iranian counterparts in the past week to discuss the planned Iranian operation, adding Ankara had been made aware of possible developments.

    Middle East de-escalation efforts

    Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Fidan to make clear that escalation in the Middle East was not in anyone’s interest.

    “Iran informed us in advance of what would happen. Possible developments also came up during the meeting with Blinken, and they (the US) conveyed to Iran through us that this reaction must be within certain limits,” the source said.

    “In response, Iran said the reaction would be a response to Israel’s attack on its embassy in Damascus and that it would not go beyond this.”

    Iran, which neighbours Turkey, had vowed retaliation for what it called an alleged Israeli strike on its Damascus consulate on April 1 that killed seven officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

    Turkey’s foreign ministry later confirmed the contacts in a statement, saying Ankara had called for restraint and warned of a regional war if tensions escalated further.

    It said Ankara would continue efforts to prevent further conflict and escalation in the region.

    A Turkish security source said CIA chief William Burns had spoken to Ibrahim Kalin, head of Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency, over the Eid al-Fitr holidays and asked him to act as a “mediator” in the Israel-Iran tensions.

    The two discussed ceasefire efforts in Gaza as well, the source said, without elaborating.

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    Police Seize Illegal Handgun from E. Jean Carroll

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    Police in New York took possession of a gun belonging to writer E. Jean Carroll in February after she said during testimony in her defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump that she had an unlicensed firearm at home, according to a police report obtained by NBC News.

    The chief of police in Warwick, New York, visited Carroll at her home on Feb. 15 “to discuss some open issues,” the report states, including Carroll’s disclosure of the handgun while she was on the witness stand Jan. 17.

    During the second day of the civil trial, Carroll had told the federal court in lower Manhattan that she kept a “high standard revolver, nine chambers” at home with ammunition. “By my bed,” she said.

    “I still do not have a license,” Carroll added.

    John Rader, the reporting officer, said in his report that he “offered to secure the weapon at the police station’s property for safekeeping.”

    Carroll and a member of her security team surrendered the gun a day after Rader visited, and the firearm was being held until Carroll receives a New York pistol license, the report said.

    Under New York state law, a person can be found guilty of criminal possession if they possess a firearm, such as a pistol, that has not been registered. The felony carries a maximum sentence of four years.

    It was unclear why police waited almost a month to inquire in person about the unregistered gun Carroll said she had at her house or whether police are still in possession of it.

    Carroll’s gun became a contentious topic under cross-examination in the January hearing, as Trump attorney Alina Habba pressed Carroll on her gun ownership and whether she knew she needed a license for it.

    The judge presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, appeared outwardly frustrated over the line of questioning by Habba.

    “Don’t even start,” told her when she began asking Carroll about the firearm.

    The jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $83.3 million in damages for repeatedly defaming her. The award included $11 million for damage to Carroll’s reputation, $7.3 million for emotional harm and other damages, and $65 million in punitive damages.

    Kaplan later rejected arguments by Trump’s attorneys that the case should be thrown out because Carroll deleted threatening messages, including death threats. The judge said that while Carroll admitted she deleted some of the purported death threats, the details of the deletions remain unclear.

    Trump had already been found liable for defaming Carroll while he was in the White House, with the jury tasked only with determining how much she should receive in damages.

    Trump has denied the rape and defamation claims against him, and posted a $91.6 million bond to secure the judgment while he appeals the verdict.

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    Trans High School Runner Finishes 2nd Among Girls, Would Have Finished Near the Bottom of Boys Division

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    An Oregon high school came under fire on Saturday as a transgender athlete was able to compete against girls at a meet.

    Aayden Gallagher, a 10th-grader at McDaniel High School, competed in the Sherwood Need For Speed Classic in Sherwood, Oregon.

    Gallagher was seen in one clip blowing away the competition in a heat for the 200-meter.

    Gallagher clocked in with a 25.49 mark and ended up finishing in second place in that event as well as the 400 meter and in seventh place in the 4×100 replay and eighth place in the 4×400 relay.

    But Gallagher’s ability to compete in the event sparked outrage on social media.

    “Championing boys in girls sports is blatant misogyny,” the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS) wrote on X.

    Gallagher clocked in with a 25.49 mark and ended up finishing in second place in that event as well as the 400 meter and in seventh place in the 4×100 replay and eighth place in the 4×400 relay.

    But Gallagher’s ability to compete in the event sparked outrage on social media.

    “Championing boys in girls sports is blatant misogyny,” the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS) wrote on X.

    Watch:

     

    “Abuse of girls…by the gov’t,” Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton wrote.

    “Another proud moment for ‘women’s’ sports!” OutKick founder Claty Travis wrote.

    Libs of TikTok added: “These high school girls just had their dream stolen from them because the school is catering the delusions of a boy who pretends to be a girl. . . . He is a cheater.”

    The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has a policy for transgender participation in high school sports.

    “The OSAA endeavors to allow students to participate for the athletic or activity program of their consistently asserted gender identity while providing a fair and safe environment for all students,” the policy stated.

    “As with Rule 8.2 regarding Duration of Eligibility / Graduation, rules such as this one promote harmony and fair competition among member schools by maintaining equality of eligibility and increase the number of students who will have an opportunity to participate in interscholastic activities.”

    Additionally, the OSAA rules state that “once a transgender student has notified the student’s school of their gender identity, the student shall be consistently treated as that gender for purposes of eligibility for athletics and activities, provided that if the student has tried out or participated in an activity, the student may not participate during that same season on a team of the other gender.”

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    John Bolton: Israel Should Annihilate the Iranian Nuclear Program

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    In a candid Sunday interview with CNN, former US National Security Advisor John Bolton expressed strong views on how Israel should respond to Iran’s threats.

    He urged Israel to consider the current geopolitical tension as a crucial moment to target and dismantle Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

    “I think Israel has a wide range of potential targets starting by flattening Iran’s air defense capabilities,” Bolton asserted, emphasizing the existential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions to Israel’s national security.

    Bolton articulated that the primary focus for Israel should be crippling Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

    “Most importantly, I think Israel should be looking at this as an opportunity to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program, which is the existential threat that Israel faces,” he explained.

    The former advisor’s stance sheds light on the increasing skepticism about the effectiveness of ongoing diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

    Bolton’s call for a decisive military strategy highlights a critical division in international policy circles regarding the best approach to ensure stability and security in the Middle East.

    Opportunity in light of Iranian retaliation

    Iran launched a significant missile and drone attack against Israel on Sunday, with hundreds of drones and missiles reportedly originating from Iran and other regional sources.

    Despite the extensive attack, the Iron Dome and other Israeli defense systems effectively intercepted most threats, with limited damage reported. A young girl was seriously injured in one of the attacks, underscoring the human impact amidst the strategic defenses.

    John Bolton, an American attorney and diplomat, served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as National Security Advisor from 2018 to 2019 under President Donald Trump, advocating strongly against the Iran nuclear deal.

    Known for his hawkish foreign policy views, Bolton has supported military action and regime change in several countries and has held various significant roles in the US government, including positions under Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and as a commentator for Fox News.

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    Caitlin Clark Roasts Woke Comedian on “SNL” During Surprise Appearance

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    Iowa Hawkeyes great Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend as she got ready to hear her name called that the WNBA Draft.

    Clark appeared on the “Weekend Update” segment and chided Michael Che over his jokes about women’s sports and the WNBA. In the skit, Clark told Che she “wrote some jokes” for him and asked him to read them aloud.

    “The Indiana Fever have the first pick in this Monday’s draft,” he started.

    “A reminder that Indiana Fever is a WNBA team and not what Michael Che gave to dozens of women at Purdue University.”

    Clark smiled and said, “Now that’s a good joke about women’s sports.”

    Watch:

    One of Clark’s “jokes” poked fun at Che’s Netflix special and urged him to be funnier.

    “This year, Caitlin Clark broke the record for three-pointers in a single season, and I have three pointers for Michael Che. 1 – Be, 2 – Funnier, 3 – Dumba–.”

    Once the jokes were over, Clark said she was looking forward to the start of her WNBA career and thanked legends like Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Cynthia Cooper, Dawn Staley and Maya Moore for helping pave the path for her to get to professional basketball.

    She ended the segment by giving Che an apron she signed.

    The Fever were expected to take Clark with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Clark set the all-time NCAA Division 1 basketball scoring record this year. Iowa fell short in the national championship to Staley’s South Carolina Gamecocks.

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    81-Year-Old Veteran Sucker-Punched and Carjacked While Delivering Pizzas in Chicago

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    An elderly man who has delivered pizza in Chicago for 40 years was punched in the face and robbed before having his car stolen in a brazen carjacking on the city’s Northwest Side.

    Ernie Aimone, 81, explained how the sudden attack came after he had made a delivery in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.

    A man approached from behind before striking Aimone in the head, causing him to fall to the ground.

    The assailant demanded his car keys and then punched Aimone in the face, leaving him fearing for his life.

    Aimone, a retired Army vet Sergeant who fought in Vietnam, chose not to put up a fight and instead remained on the ground as the attackers fled in his car.

    ‘They said, ‘gimme the keys, gimme the keys,” Aimone said to ABC7 ‘And they sucker punched me from behind, hit me in the face. I was afraid for my life.’

    Chicago Police confirmed the incident occurred around 9pm on Wednesday on North Ludlam Avenue.

    State police later found his car, a 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe, but it had sustained significant damage after being involved in a crash.

    One teenage suspect has been apprehended, while the others remain at large.

    Aimone has been a dedicated pizza delivery driver for Joe’s on Higgins for four decades and is said to be loved by both his coworkers and customers.

    ‘He’s like family to us,’ said Frank Demonte with Joe’s. ‘He’s seen me grow up from very young. He worked for my Dad.’

    ‘Ernie’s very special to us. Always has been,’ added Frank’s wife Gina.

    Despite the traumatic event, Aimone vows to return to work making deliveries as soon as he is able to obtain another car.

    ‘I got a daughter and a son,’ Ernie said. ‘I gotta live for them.’

    His insurance company is refusing to pay for a new car as he was carjacked while working

    A GoFundMe set up in response to the incident by the Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce has so far raised almost $27,000 towards the purchase of a new vehicle, including a $1,000 donation from the pizza joint itself.

    ‘He’s like a local legend,’ said Dan Ciolino with the Chamber. ‘He’s been loyal to Joe’s for 40 years. He served our country. He deserves our support in his time of need.’

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    Man Randomly Sucker Punches 9-Year-Old Girl in NYC Grand Central Terminal

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    A nine-year-old girl became the victim of an unprovoked attack in the heart of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.

    The assailant, identified as 30-year-old Jose Carlos Zarzuela, was apprehended following the attack that occurred in the terminal’s bustling dining area.

    According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Police Department, Zarzuela, a recently released offender with a history of similar violent behavior, approached the young girl as she was standing near her mother and punched her in the face without any warning, amNY reported.

    The impact of the assault caused the girl to suffer from pain and dizziness, necessitating her transportation to NYU Langone-Tisch Hospital. Thankfully, she is expected to recover fully from her injuries.

    MTA Communications Director Tim Minton expressed outrage over the incident to amNY, questioning the recent release of Zarzuela, who had been charged with another random attack that resulted in a broken nose for the victim.

    “It doesn’t make any sense that this guy — who recently was released after being charged with randomly punching someone else and breaking that victim’s nose — should be back in a public space where he can attack others, especially children,” Minton said.

    “The people responsible for the criminal justice system need to learn from this episode before more innocent people become victims.”

    After assaulting the girl, Zarzuela fled the scene but was later located and arrested in the evening. Surveillance footage from the terminal captured Zarzuela meandering near a Shake Shack before running onto the street post-attack.

    Zarzuela has been charged with an array of offenses, including aggravated assault of a victim under 11, second-degree assault, third-degree assault, and attempted assault. His history with the law extends to eight other arrests, as indicated by sources close to the investigation.

    WATCH:

    This latest incident follows an assault by Zarzuela on April 4, where he attacked a 54-year-old woman at Grand Central Terminal, resulting in a broken nose. Despite being initially charged with second-degree felony assault, his charge was reduced to third-degree misdemeanor assault, and after initially setting bail at 10,000, which was reduced to 2,500, Judge Laurie Peterson ordered his release without bail days later.

    More from amNY:

    In that incident, MTA Police sources said, Zarzuela allegedly punched the victim in the face without provocation or warning, breaking her nose. MTA Police officers arrested him on the spot and booked him on a second-degree felony assault charge.

    But that charge was downgraded to a third-degree misdemeanor assault count when Zarzuela appeared in New York County Criminal Court for arraignment later that day, according to court records. Prosecutors had requested that he remain behind bars on $10,000 bail; sources said that bail had been reduced to $2,500, which Zarzuela could not make.

    However, five days later at a follow-up hearing, Judge Laurie Peterson ordered Zarzuela released from custody without bail, court records noted.

    Peterson, who had ordered former Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg to serve a five-month sentence for perjury last week in connection with the former president’s civil fraud trial, gained notoriety in 2020 when she set free an individual accused of a bloody attack on a police officer amid the George Floyd protests that summer.

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    Hollywood Actor Alan Ritchson Attacks Christians Who Support “Rapist” and “Con Man” Trump

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    Alan Ritchson, known for his role as the lead character in Amazon Prime Video’s action-thriller series “Reacher,” has unleashed a barrage of criticisms against President Donald Trump.

    In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor delivered a scathing critique against President Trump, calling him “a rapist” and “a con man.”

    The actor, a self-proclaimed Christian, expressed his bewilderment at the Christian church’s embrace of Trump, whom he views as fundamentally antithetical to Christian teachings.

    “Trump is a rapist and a con man, and yet the entire Christian church seems to treat him like he’s their poster child and it’s unreal. I don’t understand it,” Ritchson said.

    “I’m a Christian quite simply because of what Jesus calls us to do. Love other people until death. It doesn’t mean we’re all to be hung on a cross, but how can I suffer for you? That is a beautiful thing.”

    “Christians today have become the most vitriolic tribe. It is so antithetical to what Jesus was calling us to be and to do,” he added.

    “It’s worth saying that the atrocities that are happening in the church that are being actively covered up, even to this day with people not being held accountable, is repulsive,” he said, adding, “I can’t for one second support the Catholic Church while there are still cardinals, bishops and priests being passed around with known pedophilic tendencies.”

    The interview turned to a 2020 Instagram post, showing the cop-hating liberal actor wearing a t-shirt with the message “Arrest the cops who killed Breonna Taylor.”

     

    View this post on Instagram

     

    A post shared by Alan Ritchson (@alanritchson)

    Viewers of his series are now calling for a boycott.

    Former Deputy Assistant Sebastian Gorka blasted “meathead” Ritchson.

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    Iran Threatens to Hit US Bases If Washington Backs Israeli Counterattack

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    Top Iranian commanders warned Israel on Sunday that the country would face a bigger attack if it retaliates against overnight drone and missile strikes, adding that Washington has been told not to back any military action from its ally.

    “Our response will be much larger than tonight’s military action if Israel retaliates against Iran,” Iran’s armed forces chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri told state TV, adding that Tehran warned Washington that any backing of Israeli retaliation would result in US bases being targeted.

    “If the Zionist regime (Israel) or its supporters demonstrate reckless behavior, they will receive a decisive and much stronger response,” Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi said in a statement.

    The commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hossein Salami, also warned that Tehran would retaliate against any Israeli attack on its interests, officials or citizens. He said Tehran had created a “new equation” in which any Israeli attack on its interests, assets, officials or citizens would be reciprocated from its own territory. Salami also said the operation was a success “beyond expectations.”

    Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said in a meeting with foreign ambassadors in Tehran on Sunday that his country had informed the US that its attacks against Israel will be “limited” and for self-defense.

    Meanwhile, the Hamas terror group, one of Iran’s proxies in the region, jumped to Tehran’s defense after the attack.

    “We in Hamas regard the military operation conducted by the Islamic Republic of Iran a natural right and a deserved response on the crime of targeting the Iranian consulate in Damascus and the assassination of several leaders of the Revolutionary Guards,” the Palestinian group said in a statement. Israel is engaged in a war, now in its seventh month, with Hamas after the Gazan terror group killed nearly 1,200 people and abducted 253 in a shock onslaught on October 7.

    Israel reported modest damage and reopened its airspace after Iran launched a large wave of around 300 attack drones and missiles in the first-ever direct attack on the Jewish state by the Islamic republic, while the United States said it would discuss a diplomatic response with major powers on Sunday.

    Tehran’s attacks late on Saturday — launched after a alleged Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 that killed officers of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a US-designated terror group — raised the threat of a wider regional conflict.

    Iran had previously relied on its proxies across the region to attack Israeli and US targets in a show of support for Hamas in the ongoing war in Gaza, which shows no sign of easing despite numerous mediation efforts.

    “We intercepted, we repelled, together we shall win,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted on X, formerly Twitter, after the Iranian attack.

    The Israel Defense Forces said more than 99 percent of the Iranian drones and missiles had been shot down by its air force and by allied countries, and it was discussing follow-up options.

    Channel 12 TV cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying there would be a “significant response” to the attack.

    The war in Gaza has ratcheted up tensions in the region, spreading to fronts with Lebanon and Syria and drawing long-range fire at Israeli targets from as far away as Yemen and Iraq.

    Iran’s most powerful ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah — which has been exchanging fire with Israel since October 8 — said early on Sunday it had fired dozens of rockets at an IDF base in the north.

    Drones were also reportedly launched against Israel by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, which has attacked shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea to show solidarity with Hamas, British maritime security company Ambrey said in a statement.

    Those clashes now threaten to devolve into a direct open conflict pitting Iran and its regional allies against Israel and its main supporter, the United States. Regional power Egypt urged “utmost restraint.”

    IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari called Iran’s actions “very grave,” saying during a televised briefing that they “push the region toward escalation.”

    The Iranian salvo caused light damage to an Israel Air Force base in the south, Hagari said.

    Iran had vowed retaliation for what it called the Israeli strike on its embassy compound that killed seven IRGC officers, including two senior commanders. Tehran said its strike was punishment for “Israeli crimes.” Israel has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the consulate attack.

    “Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe,” the Iranian mission to the United Nations said, warning the US to “stay away.” However, it also said Iran now “deemed the matter concluded.”

    US President Joe Biden, who spoke by phone with Netanyahu after the Iranian attack, said he would convene a meeting of leaders of the Group of Seven major economies on Sunday to coordinate a diplomatic response to what he called Tehran’s “brazen” attack.

    US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said America did not seek conflict with Iran but would not hesitate to act to protect US forces and support the defense of Israel.

    The UN Security Council was set to meet at 4 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Sunday after Israel requested it condemn Iran’s attack and designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.

    Iran’s Fars news agency quoted a source as saying Tehran was closely watching Jordan, which might become the next target in case of any moves in support of Israel.

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    Biden: US Won’t Support an Israeli Counterattack on Iran

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    President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister that nothing of “value” was hit in Iran’s airborne attack Saturday and asserted American forces will not be participating in any offensive against Iran, according to a report.

    The president called Israel’s defense during the attacks a win — telling Netanyahu Israel’s ability to intercept nearly all of the hundreds of missiles and drones showed its military superiority, a US official told CNN.

    Biden also made it very clear that the US would not be engaging in any military offensive against the Islamic Republic, the senior official told the channel.

    Israeli Defense Forces said it had shot down the “vast majority” of projectiles outside of Israel’s borders. It was assisted by the US military.

    “At my direction, to support the defense of Israel, the U.S. military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week,” Biden said in a statement Saturday night after his phone call with the Israeli leader, according to readout of the call released by the White House.

    “Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” he added.

    “At my direction, to support the defense of Israel, the U.S. military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week,” Biden said in a statement Saturday night after his phone call with the Israeli leader, according to readout of the call released by the White House.

    “Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” he added.

    A handful of missiles made it through, with one striking an Israeli base, but damages were minor and no injuries were reported, according to IDF officials.

    A senior US official told CNN that the US forces intercepted more than 70 drones and at least three ballistic missiles. The missiles were shot down by two guided missile destroyers deployed in the eastern Mediterranean.

    US fighter jets also helped defend Israel from the barrage, another official told the outlet.

    Biden said he will meet with G7 leaders on Sunday “to coordinate a united diplomatic response to Iran’s brazen attack.”

    “While we have not seen attacks on our forces or facilities today, we will remain vigilant to all threats and will not hesitate to take all necessary action to protect our people,” the president said.

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    Chicago Mass Shooting: 8-Year-Old Girl Killed, 10 Wounded Including Small Children

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    Eleven people standing outside a family gathering Saturday night were shot including a young girl who was killed in what Chicago police believe was gang-related violence on the city’s South Side.

    Four victims were children, police said Sunday. An 8-year-old girl was fatally shot, while a 1-year-old boy and a 8-year-old boy were each shot multiple times and listed in critical condition. A 9-year-old boy was also injured with a graze wound to his finger and hospitalized.

    The department’s Sunday statement updated the number of shooting victims to 11 from 8 and gave new ages for the victims compared with a news conference late Saturday.

    No one was in custody Sunday.

    Department Deputy Chief Don Jerome told reporters Saturday that the shooting happened when shots were fired at a crowd standing outside a family gathering around 9 p.m.

    “This was not a random act of violence. It was likely gang-related,” Jerome said.

    “The offenders’ actions, make no mistake, are horrific and unacceptable in our city.”

    Police responding to a gunfire alert applied tourniquets and chest seals to victims, who also included adults between the ages of 19 and 40, Jerome said.

    A 36-year-old man who was shot in the arms and and back was listed in critical condition.

    The other adults were listed in good condition, police said Sunday.

    The investigation was still in the preliminary stages but witnesses told police that a black sedan approached and someone fired shots into the crowd before fleeing, police said Sunday. Jerome also told reporters Saturday that witness accounts described two possible shooters on foot.

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    Trump Slams Biden and Dems Amid Iranian Drone Attack on Israel

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    Former President Donald Trump started his rally in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, with remarks that the Iranian attack on Israel on Saturday would not be occurring if he were still president.

    “I want to say God bless the people of Israel — they’re under attack right now,” he said as he began his rally, taking place ahead of Pennsylvania’s primary on April 23.

    “That’s because we show great weakness — this would not happen. The great weakness that we’ve shown is unbelievable, and it would not have happened if we were in office. You know that, they know that, everybody knows that.”

    “But America prays for Israel. We send our absolute support to everyone in harm’s way. This is an attack that would not have happened,” he added. “I will revive American strength abroad, and we will restore American strength at home.”

    “ISRAEL IS UNDER ATTACK!” Trump had posted earlier in the day on his Truth Social platform. “This should never have been allowed to happen – This would NEVER have happened if I were President!”

    Trump and Biden have each become the presumptive nominees of their respective parties and are headed for a rematch in November.

    Biden had returned to Washington, D.C., from Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, on Saturday earlier than expected to meet in the White House Situation Room with national security advisers that afternoon.

    “President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement. “His team is in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as other partners and allies.”

    The first drones were expected to reach Israel around 2 a.m. local time, or 7 p.m. Eastern time.

    “This attack is likely to unfold over a number of hours,” Watson added. “President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

    On Friday, the president told reporters his “expectation is sooner than later” that Iran would attack Israel, but he did not provide specifics.

    “We are devoted to the defense of Israel,” Biden added Friday afternoon. “We will support Israel and help defend Israel and Iran will not succeed.”

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    REVEALED: Sydney Knife Killer’s Secret Life as Escort

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    The knifeman who carried out the Sydney shopping centre massacre had a secret life as an escort offering sexual services online to men and women, it has been revealed – as his family condemned the attack as ‘truly horrific’.

    New details have emerged about Joe Cauchi, who murdered six people and left a nine-month-old baby fighting for her life following Saturday’s stabbing rampage.

    The shoppers were killed during the attack at Bondi Junction’s Westfield centre in Sydney before Cauchi was gunned down by a hero female police officer.

    The knifeman, 40, had previously listed himself on several male escort websites, including Australia Cracker, Empire Escorts and Escorts Australia.

    In his online biography, Cauchi described himself as an ‘athletic good-looking 39-year-old’ based in Sydney who was looking for a ‘fun time’ – and offered dozens of ‘closed door services’ which are too graphic to publish.

    After identifying Cauchi as the man behind Saturday’s stabbing rampage, Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said he was known to police and was ‘very clearly’ suffering from mental health issues.

    Mr Cooke said: ‘We know that shortly after coming to Sydney, he took possession of a storage facility that has been identified.

    ‘We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved.’

    His family has now issued a statement via Queensland Police, saying he had suffered mental health issues ‘since he was a teenager’.

    The family said: ‘We are absolutely devastated by the traumatic events that occurred in Sydney yesterday.

    ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims and those still undergoing treatment at this time.

    ‘Joel’s actions were truly horrific, and we are still trying to comprehend what has happened. He has battled with mental health issues since he was a teenager.

    ‘We are in contact with both the New South Wales Police Force and Queensland Police Service and have no issues with the police officer who shot our son as she was only doing her job to protect others, and we hope she is coping alright.’

    According to his social media profiles, Cauchi grew up in Toowoomba and claimed he worked as an English tutor.

    He was a surfing enthusiast and just last week posted in a Sydney Facebook group asking if anyone would like to meet him for a surf in Bondi.

    In an profile for seeking shared accommodation, Cauchi said he was looking for a place to live in Sydney’s western’s suburbs in ‘Liverpool, Blacktown, Pendle Hill or Parramatta’.

    He wrote: ‘I love meeting new people and seeing new interesting places!’

    The new information emerged as police also provided an update on the condition of a nine-month-old baby girl who was seriously injured in the attack.

    The infant was rushed to hospital in a critical condition last night for emergency surgery.

    A police spokesperson said: ‘We understand baby Harriet is stabilising this morning.

    ‘We understand that she underwent surgery and she remains in a serious but stable condition.’

    Harriet’s mother, Ash Good, 38, was among those killed during Cauchi’s rampage.

    Another victim was last night identified as the 25-year-old daughter of millionaire businessman John Singleton – Dawn Singleton, known to friends as Dawnie.

    A local artist has been identified as the fifth victim of the stabbing horror – Pikria Darchia, 55, who is understood to originally hail from Tbilisi in Georgia.

    The male victim was a security guard at the shopping centre and was later identified as 30-year-old Faraz Tahir from Pakistan.

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    US Steel Shareholders Approve Sale to Japan’s Nippon Steel

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    U.S. Steel shareholders on Friday approved its proposed $14.9 billion acquisition by Japan’s Nippon Steel, as expected, taking the merger one step closer to completion even as political opposition to the deal mounts.

    U.S. Steel said that over 98% of the votes were in favor of the deal under which Nippon will pay $55 per share, an amount that represented a hefty premium when the takeover was announced in December.

    Since then, however, several U.S. lawmakers have come out in opposition to the deal, citing national security concerns. President Joe Biden has said U.S. Steel must remain a domestically owned American firm.

    U.S. Steel’s shares closed down 2.1% at $41.33 on Friday, well below Nippon Steel’s offer of $55 a share, reflecting uncertainty over whether the deal will secure regulatory approval.

    The deal has drawn strong criticism from the United Steelworkers (USW) labor union, which is worried about potential job losses.

    “We are not surprised by stockholders electing to cash in and sell out the iconic American company’s employees and retirees,” the USW said in response to the vote.

    Regulators are also scrutinizing the deal. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a powerful panel that reviews foreign investments in U.S. companies, has met with the parties to discuss the deal, Reuters has reported.

    The U.S. Justice Department has opened an in-depth antitrust investigation into the takeover, Politico reported on Wednesday.

    Nippon has pledged no job cuts as a result of the deal, to honor all agreements between the union and U.S. Steel, as well as to move its own U.S. headquarters to Pittsburgh where U.S. Steel is based.

    The Japanese steelmaker said in a statement that it is “confident” the acquisition will “protect and grow U.S. Steel and bring significant benefits to its stakeholders …as well as to the American steel industry and the United States as a whole.”

    “We look forward to collaborating closely with U.S. Steel to move forward together as the ‘Best Steelmaker with World-Leading Capabilities,’” said Vice Chairman Takahiro Mori.

    Friday’s vote “represents a major step,” the company said.

    Nippon Steel won the race for U.S. Steel over rivals Cleveland-Cliffs, ArcelorMittal and Nucor.

    The deal is expected to close in the second or third quarter of this year, the companies have said previously.

    Bloomberg News reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter, that both steelmakers are expected, to announced they now anticipate the deal to close in the second half of 2024.

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    Brigitte Macron Sues Conspiracy Theorists Who Claim She Was Born a Man

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    France’s first lady, Brigitte Macron, is about to take the extraordinary step of going to trial in a Paris court to fight a conspiracy theory — amplified last month by American conservative commentator Candace Owens — that she was born a man.

    Brigitte, 70, has long been the subject of fascination because of her marriage to the much younger Emmanuel Macron, 46. The two met in northern France when he was a 15-year-old student and she was his drama teacher, and wed in 2007.

    But now wild claims, made by two female French Internet influencers, that she was actually born Jean-Michel Trogneux and became a trans woman in the 1980s have electrified France.

    The French scornfully call it part of the burgeoning “complosphère,” or world of conspiracy theories.

    Brigitte’s libel trial is set for June, where she will face off against the accuser and freelance journalist Natacha Rey, who hides behind avatars to push rumors that powerful members of the French establishment are hiding Brigitte’s true identity.

    Emmanuel Macron has angrily hit back at the rumors, calling them “false and fabricated.”

    He was unusually candid and emotional about the ongoing speculation about his wife, whom he married in 2007.

    “The worst thing is the false information and fabricated scenarios,” Macron said at an International Women’s Day event in Paris in February after he guaranteed the right to abortion in France’s Constitution.

    “People eventually believe them and disturb you, even in your intimacy.”

    The bizarre saga began back in December 2021 when Rey, 49, a self-described freelance journalist and Amandine Roy, 53, who calls herself a clairvoyant, made a now-deleted YouTube video as part of Roy’s online show “Mediumsation,” in which they claimed that Brigitte was born as a baby boy called Jean-Michel Trogneux in 1953.

    Trogneux is Brigitte’s maiden name, and Jean-Michel is her older brother.

    The conspiracy theory first surfaced in an article written by Rey in the French magazine “Faits et Documents” after Macron was first elected president of France in 2017.

    The women also alleged that Brigitte Macron’s first husband, André-Louis Auzière, had never actually existed. The two, who were married from 1974 to 2006, shared three children: daughters Tiphaine, 40, and Laurence, 47, and son Sébastien, 49. Auzière passed away in 2019 at age 68.

    Rey claimed that and uncle of André-Louis, Jean-Louis Auzière, forged administrative documents to hide that his wife had given birth to all of Brigitte’s three children.

    Last summer, a judge in Normandy found Rey and Roy guilty of libel. Both Brigitte and her brother have brought separate suits against the women. Following appeals, Roy was fined the equivalent of just under $1,000 and Rey had to pay about $500.

    “After looking into this, I would stake my entire professional reputation on the fact that Brigitte Macron is in fact a man,” Owens wrote in a Tuesday post on X, formerly Twitter. “Any journalist or publication that is trying to dismiss this plausibility is immediately identifiable as establishment. I have never seen anything like this in my life. The implications here are terrifying.”

    Jean-Michel is far left, while young Brigitte is on her sister’s lap.

    After Owens’ tweet, Brigitte’s Paris lawyer Jean Ennochi said he requested the trial date involving the defamation case against Rey be moved up to June 2024. It had originally been scheduled for March 2025.

    “In recent weeks, particularly internationally via the Trumpist influencer Candace Owens, I felt that the harm to my clients was increasing day by day,” Ennochi said.

    “It doesn’t make sense, I think it’s insane and so does most of France,” Marie, a 70-something fashion executive in Paris who did not want to give her last name for fear of online backlash, told The Post.

    “I think it’s all jealousy and propaganda. Just look at them. Macron is always reaching for her hand or her shoulder. She has that big smile when she looks at him. She always looks like she’s in love. Married people don’t usually look like that.”

    Though many in France wonder why the Macrons are giving the conspiracy theory attention by suing, some admire them for it.

    “The whole story really angers me, similar to the same story that still circulates about Michelle Obama who certain trolls still call Michael,” Allison Coe, a 25-year resident of France and veteran blogger, told The Post.

    “It’s peak trolling because it is just so mean and humiliating and you don’t want to stoop to defend against it. The lawsuit definitely gives the story more oxygen, but on the other hand it takes enormous courage to dare face it head-on knowing the predictable tabloid backlash,” Coe added. “I cringe for [Brigitte] but really admire her for having the (courage) to refuse to cower.”

    Longtime French Riviera-based musician Rose Leroux agreed:

    “She is so clearly a woman. A smart woman. A woman not afraid to defend herself rather than to ask anyone else, like a man, like her husband, who is president of France, to help her. She is the quintessential, ultimate French femme.”

    Many French media outlets have weighed in with headlines about Brigitte’s supposed secret side.

    The infamous satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo ran a graphic cartoon of Macron gesturing at his wife’s crotch, saying: “She isn’t transgender, she’s always been a man!”

    Brigitte’s daughter Tiphaine Auzaine, an attorney who rarely gives interviews, first addressed the painful rumors in an interview in February in Paris Match.

    “I have concerns about the level of society when I hear what is circulating on social networks about my mother being a man,” Auzaine told the outlet.

    “The confidence of what is affirmed and the credit given to what is proclaimed. Anyone can say anything about anyone, and it takes time to get it taken down.”

    Though journalists have confronted Amandine Roy with photographic evidence and other documentation showing Brigitte as a young girl and evidence that her brother is still alive, Roy was undeterred.

    “‘I come from Brittany,” Roy told the Daily Mail last month. “People from Brittany are stubborn. A lot of people have said I am crazy. They look at me with contempt. But I follow the facts, so if this really is untrue, then Brigitte Macron can prove it by taking a simple DNA test.”

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    Meghan Markle’s Brother Mocks Duchess in “Grotesque” YouTube Video

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    Meghan Markle’s estranged half-brother has been accused of “betrayal” after sharing a savage new YouTube video in which he dresses up as the duchess and accuses her of faking her pregnancies.

    Thomas Markle Jr., 57, donned a wig and a tiara in the 87-minute video posted to the platform on Wednesday, while stuffing a pillow up his shirt to imitate a pregnant woman.

    “My name’s Me-again Swamp-donkey Crotch,” Thomas declares during the bizarre impersonation. “I was just showing off the new bump I bought used on eBay out of Montecito.”

    Royal commentator Jennie Bond slammed the video on Sunday, telling the Daily Mail: “‘To have your own flesh and blood lead the assault must feel like the ultimate betrayal for Meghan.”

    She further described the footage as “grotesque.”

    Thomas has reportedly not spoken to his half-sister in more than a decade, but seemingly has no qualms about milking his connection to the royal.

    “If you don’t like it, don’t watch, right? I’m gonna be riding those coattails, baby,” he shamelessly says in the clip. “Oh, yeah, if it wasn’t for Meghan Markle I don’t know what I’d be doing.”

    According to The Mirror, Thomas plans to bring out his a range of merchandise, including lines of glasses, mugs and T-shirts.

    Thomas, who works as a window fitter and lives in Grants Pass, Ore., is one of Meghan’s two half-siblings.

    The duchess’ other half-sibling is Samantha Markle, 59, who has also cashed in on her connection to the royal.

    Samantha, who is similarly estranged from Meghan, has brutally described the former “Suits” star as having “narcissistic personality disorder.”

    Last month, Samantha lost a defamation suit she brought against her estranged sister, with a judge saying Samantha had “failed to identify any statements that could support a claim for defamation or defamation-by-implication” made by Meghan.

    Meanwhile, British politician Damian Collins, who serves as digital economy minister, told the Daily Mail that Thomas’ videos could constitute harassment.

    “The major social media companies must do more to combat harmful content on their platforms, including campaigns of harassment and intimidation,” he declared.

    Meghan appears to be paying her hateful half-brother no mind, however.

    The budding lifestyle maven — who is soon set to launch her brand American Riviera Orchard — looked happy and relaxed as she joined Prince Harry in Florida earlier this week, where he is shooting a new Netflix series about polo.

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    Biden Cancels Beach Weekend, Returns to White House.

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    President Joe Biden is cutting his weekend at the beach short and racing back to the White House to deal with spiraling tensions in the Middle East that could lead to a full-scale war.

    Biden, 81, is set to leave Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, home on Saturday afternoon so he can meet his national security team just 24 hours after he said an Iranian strike on Israel would happen ‘sooner rather than later’.

    He was due to stay until Sunday, but will now return to Washington D.C. after less than 20 hours following reports Tehran was moving more than 100 cruise missiles and drones to prepare for an assault.

    The White House said Biden is set to ‘consult with his national security team about events in the Middle East’ – the day after he delivered a one-word warning to Tehran over possible strikes: ‘Don’t.’

    He is also set to be briefed in the White House Situation Room as the drama unfolds.

    It is unclear if Biden received new information that forced him to quickly cut his trip short, as he had previously indicated belief that an Iranian attack was being readied before he departed on Friday evening.

    The Pentagon has already moved aircraft carriers into the Red Sea amid fears of a full-scale war, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant today to tell him he has ‘unwavering’ backing from the U.S.

    Austin reiterated ‘that Israel could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies’, in a statement made shortly after Biden returned from his beach trip.

    In response, Gallant said the nation is closely following ‘a planned attack’ from Iran.

    After issuing his one-word message to Iran not to strike Israel, Biden affirmed that the US was committed to supporting one of its oldest allies despite simmering tensions with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over the war in Gaza.

    Iran has publicly threatened to hit back at Israel over an attack in Syria last week, which Tehran say was an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus.

    The strike in Syria led to the deaths of seven members of the Revolutionary Guard, including two generals.

    Amid fears over a retaliatory attack from Tehran, reports indicated Iran was preparing its offensive as officials conceded that such a strike may be inevitable.

    It is unclear if Biden received new information that forced him to quickly cut his trip short, as he had previously indicated belief that an Iranian attack was being readied before he departed on Friday evening.

    The Pentagon has already moved aircraft carriers into the Red Sea amid fears of a full-scale war, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant today to tell him he has ‘unwavering’ backing from the U.S.

    Austin reiterated ‘that Israel could count on full U.S. support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies’, in a statement made shortly after Biden returned from his beach trip.

    In response, Gallant said the nation is closely following ‘a planned attack’ from Iran.

    Emergency national security meeting

    President Biden is to hold an emergency national security meeting after Iran launched a drone attack on Israel.

    A National Security Council spokesperson said the White House meeting will take place Saturday afternoon, hours after Biden canceled his weekend break in Delaware and rushed back to Washington DC.

    The spokesperson said: ‘Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel. President Biden is being regularly updated on the situation by his national security team and will meet with them this afternoon at the White House.

    ‘His team is in constant communication with Israeli officials as well as other partners and allies. This attack is likely to unfold over a number of hours.

    ‘President Biden has been clear: our support for Israel’s security is ironclad. The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.’

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    UPDATE: Sydney Stabbing Spree Killer Identified

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    Update:

    NSW Police have identified the 40-year-old knifeman as Joel Cauchi.

    Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said he was known to police and originally hailed from Queensland.

    ‘We know that shortly after coming to Sydney, he took possession of a storage facility that has been identified and we have worked through that very small storage facility,’ he said.

    Assistant commissioner Cooke said the attacker ‘very clearly’ had been suffering from mental health issues.

    ‘We are continuing to work through the profiling of the offender but very clearly to us at this stage it would appear that this is related to the mental health of the individual involved,’ he said.

    ‘Investigations will very clearly continue through the day.’

    According to his social media profiles, Cauchi grew up in Toowoomba and claimed he worked as an English tutor.

    He was a surfing enthusiast and just last week posted in a Sydney Facebook group asking if anyone would like to meet him for a surf in Bondi.

    Cauchi is understood to have suffered from schizophrenia.

    Original post:

    Six people have been killed and several others injured, including a nine-month-old baby, in a mass stabbing at a busy shopping mall in Sydney, Australian police said.

    The offender, who NSW Police believe to be a 40-year-old man, was shot dead at the scene by a senior officer.

    Five of the victims — four women and a man — died at the busy centre on Saturday afternoon and another woman died from her injuries in hospital.

    Eight others who were injured, including a nine-month-old child, remain in hospital and some are in a critical condition.

    NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Anthony Cooke said authorities believed the man acted alone and there was no ongoing threat.

    Police Commissioner Karen Webb said police believed they knew who the man was but he had not been formally identified.

    She said the man was known to police and, while the motive was unclear, early indications suggested the attack was not related to terrorism.

    “There’s no suggestions anyone was targeted but that could change,” she said.

    Police said the man was in the shopping centre at about 3pm before leaving and then returning around 20 minutes later with a knife.

    A female police inspector, who was nearby, was directed towards the man by witnesses, and she shot him dead after the offender confronted her.

    “She confronted the offender, who had moved by this stage to level five, as she continued to walk quickly behind him to catch up with him. He turned to face her, raised a knife,” Assistant Commissioner Cooke said.

    “She discharged a firearm and that person is now deceased.”

    Commissioner Webb said the officer was “doing well under the circumstances”.

    “She showed enormous courage and bravery … we just talked [and] she’s OK, her family is OK. She’s got everything she needs for the time being.”

    She said the officer would be formally interviewed on Sunday.

    A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said the injured people were taken to a number of hospitals across Sydney.

    The baby has undergone surgery Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick. Another victim was taken to St George Hospital and another to Royal North Shore Hospital.

    Three people were taken to St Vincent’s Hospital at Darlinghurst. Another two are at Royal Prince Alfred in Camperdown.

    Acting NSW Premier Penny Sharpe said the event was horrific and distressing for the whole state, particularly as it came at a time when people were doing ordinary things and enjoying the first day of the school holiday.

    “I’m personally distressed by this … This is not who we are, this is not the community that we live in,” Ms Sharpe said.

    “We hold in our hearts the families and the friends and those who have lost loved ones.

    “We stand with those who are waiting to hear from those that have been injured.”

    She thanked the innocent bystanders who risked their lives to help others, particularly the police officer who stopped the offender.

    Premier Chris Minns is in Tokyo on leave, but Ms Sharpe said he had been briefed and was part of a crisis cabinet meeting which would be looking at providing support going forward.

    “This is going to be difficult, it’s going to be hard for days to come,” she warned.

    “This is really just the beginning of the pain and the grief for so many people.”

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    Iran Launches Drone Attack at Israel

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    Iran on Saturday launched attacks against Israel, according to U.S. officials, escalating long-standing tensions between the two nations that have the potential to trigger a regional war.

    “Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a Saturday statement. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran.”

    Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Saturday that Israel would work “in close coordination” with the U.S. and regional partners to intercept the launches.

    “We are monitoring the threat in the airspace. It is a threat that takes several hours to reach the territory of the State of Israel,” he added.

    The Biden administration is expecting Iran’s attack to target Israeli government sites, not civilian or religious sites and not U.S. assets in the area, U.S. officials told NBC News.

    The administration is anticipating the attack to involve 100 drones, dozens of cruise missiles and dozens of ballistic missiles, one of the officials added.

    Ahead of the attacks on Saturday, President Joe Biden was en route back to the White House, earlier than initially scheduled, to meet with his national security team, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, amid the growing prospect of an Iranian strike.

    Earlier on Saturday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard seized a Portuguese-flagged cargo ship with links to Israel in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route. The White House condemned the move shortly after.

    In anticipation of the attacks, airspaces in Israel and throughout the region were being temporarily shut down.

    Israel also announced that beginning on Sunday, it would close schools and limit gatherings to 1,000 people in certain areas.

    Strains between Iran and Israel have been heating up since the start of the war in Gaza in October, and especially over the past several weeks after Iran accused Israel of perpetrating an attack on its consulate in Damascus on April 1.

    The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a Saturday statement that the missile and drone launches were “in response to the crimes by the Zionist Regime.”

    Iranian leaders, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had previously pledged to retaliate against Israel for the Damascus strike and Israel, in turn, threatened a counterattack of its own. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the Damascus attack.

    “If Iran attacks from its territory, Israel will react and attack in Iran,” Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Israel Katz wrote in a Wednesday post on X, tagging the Ayatollah’s X account.

    Given Iran’s various warnings, the White House had been expecting an Iranian strike and had been communicating with Israel to ensure they would be prepared to defend themselves.

    In a statement after the launches, Iran’s mission to the United Nations warned the U.S. not to get involved.

    “It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!” the mission posted to X.

    UPDATE:

    Israel shot down the “vast majority” of drones and missiles shot at them by Iran after the Jewish state was attacked in a vicious Saturday barrage, officials said.

    Iran launched some 200 drones and missiles from within the Islamic Republic — as well as from proxies in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon.

    The “vast majority” of the missiles were intercepted outside of Israeli air space, the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement. Only minor damages were reported.

    “A wide-scale attack by Iran is a major escalation,”  Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told The Associated Press.

    When asked whether Israel would respond, Hagari responded that the army “does and will do whatever is required to protect the security of the state of Israel.”

    A few missiles managed to get through Israeli defenses, he said. Israeli emergency officials confirmed that one strike critically wounded a 7-year-old girl in southern Israel.

    But there were no casualties as a direct result of the Iranian strike, according to Magen David Adom [MDA], Israel’s emergency service agency.

    Earlier, MDA said a 7-year-old girl was severely injured in southern Israel by shrapnel from an interceptor missile during Iran’s attack.

    The agency said it responded to 31 people who were injured seeking shelter or suffering from anxiety.

    Another missile struck an army base, causing some damage but no injuries were reported, Hagari said.

    US military forces shot down an undisclosed number of Iranian drones, according to officials.

    “In accordance with our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, US forces in the region continue to shoot down Iranian-launched drones targeting Israel,” the official told CNN.

    Hours after Iran’s attack, the IDF’s Home Front command told Israelis nationwide no longer need to stay near protected rooms — but that restrictions on gatherings announced earlier would remain in effect, The Times of Israel reported. All educational activities have also been canceled.

    Follow live updates.

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    West Bank Sees Some of Worst Violence Since War Began as Israeli Teen’s Body Found

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    The Israel Defense Forces announced that a teenage Israeli boy who was reported missing on Friday has been found “murdered in a terrorist attack” in Gaza’s West Bank, after his disappearance set off a clash between Palestinians and Israelis.

    The body of 14-year-old Binyamin Achimair was found near where he had been reported missing, and an investigation into his death is underway. The investigation is being carried out by Israel’s security agency Shin Bet.

    “The body of 14-year-old Binyamin Achimair was located in the area of Malachei HaShalom a short while ago,” the IDF said in a post to X on Saturday.

    “Binyamin went missing yesterday morning (Friday) and was murdered in a terrorist attack. Security forces continue the pursuit after those suspected of his murder.”

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also ordered investigations by the Israeli police and IDF to be carried out in Palestinian towns near where the boy had disappeared.

    “The abominable murder of the boy Binyamin Achimair is a serious crime. I send my heartfelt condolences to his family,” Netanyahu said in a statement obtained by the Jerusalem Post. “IDF and Shin Bet forces are in an extensive pursuit of the despicable murderers and all those who cooperated with them. We will get to the murderers and their helpers as we do to anyone who harms the citizens of the State of Israel.”

    The Israeli boy had been grazing sheep at the “Gal Farm” on Friday morning, when his sheep returned home without him, according to local police.

    Achimair’s disappearance led to a clash on Saturday that resulted in one death of a Palestinian man so far. It is not clear whether the 26-year-old Palestinian was killed by a settler or an IDF soldier.

    Two other Palestinians were also shot and killed by Israeli forces in riots on the West Bank, according to the BBC. One was confirmed to be a local Hamas commander, according to the terrorist organization.

    Tensions have been rising in the Middle East recently, and Achimair’s death comes as Israel prepares for a possible attack from Iran over the weekend, in response to the deaths of seven Iranian military members who were killed by Israeli air strikes in Syria.

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