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Thousands flee as heavy fighting erupts in South Sudan capital

Gorkha Post

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Thousands of people have fled renewed heavy fighting in South Sudan’s capital as former rebels and government soldiers exchanged fire amid fears of a slide back into full-blown conflict in the five-year-old nation.

The fights started on the western borders of Juba where both previous rebels and government soldiers have bases at the foot of the Jebel Kujur Mountain, close to a UN camp.

Fighting was heard in several other parts of the city throughout the day, including in Gudele — where rebel leader turned Vice President Riek Machar is headquartered — and central Tongping near the international airport, with gunfire intensifying and subsiding at different times.

Forces loyal to Mr Machar said his residence was attacked by the President’s troops.

Regional leaders, including from Kenya and Sudan, have urged an end to the fighting and plan to hold a special summit in Nairobi on Monday.

The renewed conflict was condemned by the UN and others, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying he was “shocked and appalled”.

It pressed South Sudan’s neighbours to help end renewed fighting in the capital, asking for additional peacekeepers.

In a unanimous declaration, the UN Security Council’s 15 member countries also demanded that Mr Kiir and Mr Machar “do their utmost to control their respective forces, urgently end the fighting and prevent the spread of violence”.

It called for the two rivals to “genuinely commit themselves to the full and immediate implementation of the peace agreement, including the permanent ceasefire and redeployment of military forces from Juba”.

It also urged accountability, warning of sanctions.

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Speaking on Sunday afternoon, South Sudan’s Information Minister Michael Makuei blamed the former rebels for the fighting and insisted the Government was “in full control of Juba” even as shooting could be heard in parts of the city.

Mr Makuei said President Salva Kiir would call for a ceasefire later in the day.

“We are expecting his Excellency the President will issue a unilateral ceasefire, binding on his forces. We hope the First Vice President Riek Machar will follow suit,” he said.

The violence comes a day after the world’s youngest country marked its fifth independence anniversary, and is a fresh blow to a peace deal that has failed to end the civil war that broke out in December 2013.

City residents hunkered down or began fleeing their homes as the UN reported the use of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and “heavy ground assault weaponry”.

AFP

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Israeli fighter jets strike Gaza after blast wounds four soldiers

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GAZA CITY — Israeli fighter jets struck the Gaza Strip on Saturday after four soldiers were wounded when an improvised explosive device blew up along the border with the Palestinian enclave.

The explosion earlier Saturday, which left two of the Israeli soldiers severely injured, was one of the most serious incidents on the border of the Hamas-ruled enclave since the Islamist movement and Israel fought a war in 2014.

In response Israel’s army said “fighter jets targeted six military targets in Gaza belonging to Hamas, including: a terror tunnel in the Zaytun area and military compounds near Deir el-Balah and Khan Yunis”.

The army then reported a “launch was identified from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a security conference in Munich called the Gaza border incident “very serious” and pledged to ‘respond appropriately’.

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A Palestinian security source said the Israeli air strikes hit three bases belonging to Hamas in the east of the blockaded Gaza enclave.

Two Palestinians were injured in the raids, Palestinian medical sources said.

Earlier in the day the army said “two soldiers were severely wounded, one moderately and one slightly” when an improvised explosive device blew up along the border fence with Gaza.

None of the soldiers’ lives were in danger, a spokesman clarified.

In response Israeli forces said a tank quickly opened fire at an “observation post” in southern Gaza, causing no injuries on the Palestinian side.

Palestinian security sources said the explosion took place east of the city of Khan Yunis.

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