New Zealand rushes to identify Christchurch terror attack victims

New Zealand authorities are racing to identify the 50 people killed in a massacre at two mosques so that their families can bury them in accordance with Muslim tradition.

In addition to the people killed in the attack Friday, an additional 50 others were wounded in the shootings, authorities said. Of the injured victims, 34 remain in Christchurch Hospital, including 12 in intensive care.
Islamic tradition calls for a person to be buried as soon as possible after death — ideally within 24 hours.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that authorities had started returning identified bodies to families, and all bodies will be returned by Wednesday.
Six disaster victim identification experts have traveled from Australia to help hasten the process, she said.
New Zealand police described efforts to identify the victims as “detailed and complex work” that must be completed thoroughly.
“It’s vital we have certainty around cause of death for any future court proceedings,” Detective Superintendent Peter Read said.
Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall addressed the difficulties faced by authorities in correctly identifying the bodies of the victims of Friday’s terror attack.
“There could be nothing worse than giving the wrong body to the wrong family,” Marshall said. “This is not going to happen here.”
Speaking at the same press conference, deputy police chief Wally Haumaha said that authorities are working closely with imams and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.
“We acknowledge that the last 48 hours have been the most horrific in these families’ lives. We understand it is an added trauma for them that they have not been able to bury their loved ones quickly, according to their religious duty,” said Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha.
“This is an unprecedented event and the support of the Muslim leaders and their community has been invaluable.”
Diggers work behind a white screen fence to dig graves for some of the 50 people who died in Friday's terror attack.

The victims’ names were not made public but a preliminary list has been shared with families, New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said Sunday.
Two days after the shootings, Brenton Harris Tarrant, 28, appears to be the only person in custody who has been linked to the attack.
Three other people who were initially detained were not involved in the attacks, Bush said, but authorities are not ruling out the possibility of other suspects.
“I will not be saying anything conclusive until we are absolutely convinced as to how many people were involved, but we hope to be able to give that advice over the next few days,” the police commissioner said.

Graphic video raises questions over offensive content

Tarrant live-streamed the attack on Facebook and the graphic video was copied and reshared by users of the platform.
Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the New Zealand mosque attack in the first 24 hours, the social media company tweeted Sunday.
Of the 1.5 million deleted videos, Facebook says over 1.2 million were blocked at the point of upload.
Additionally, all edited versions of the video that don’t show the graphic content were also removed “out of respect for the people affected by this tragedy and the concerns of local authorities,” Mia Garlick, of Facebook New Zealand tweeted.
Friday’s horrendous video has reignited questions about how social media platforms handle offensive content, with many questioning if companies are doing enough to try to catch this type of hate-filled content.
Tarrant also sent an 87-page manifesto to Ardern minutes before the attack began.
The document, also posted on social media before the shooting, was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim screeds. Authorities have declined to discuss potential motives for the attack.
Tarrant, who is facing one murder charge, made a hand gesture associated with white supremacists when he appeared in court Saturday.
He was remanded in custody and will reappear in court April 5.

Some victims had found refuge in New Zealand

A Syrian refugee, a Pakistani academic and their sons were among the 50 people killed, family members and nonprofit organizations confirmed.
Syrian refugee Khaled Mustafa and his family moved to New Zealand in 2018 because they saw it as a safe haven, Syrian Solidarity New Zealand said on its Facebook page.
He was at the mosque with his two sons for Friday prayers when the shooter opened fire. His older son, Hamza Mustafa, 14, was killed and his younger son was wounded.
Victims hailed from around the world. Naeem Rashid, 50, and his son, Talha Rashid, 21, were among six Pakistanis who were killed in the mosques, according to Mohammad Faisal, spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Makeshift memorials have sprung up in the area around the mosques, with flowers and notes bearing messages of hope and love.
“They may take our innocence but we will show the world the meaning of love and compassion,” said one note taped to flowers left on a road divider.
Before two lightly armed community police officers ended the attack by running the gunman’s car to the side of the road, some attempted to elude the suspect, according to survivors.
Survivor Ahmed Khan, after dodging a bullet fired by the shooter, ran to a mosque to warn others.
Inside he found a friend bleeding — he had just been shot in his right arm. “I said to him, ‘Calm down, the police is here now,'” Khan recalled. “And then the gunman came through the window and shot him — when I was holding him — in the head. And he was dead.”
In video of the attack posted online by the shooter, he is greeted as he arrives at the first location, the Al Noor mosque, by a man who says “hello brother.” Less than a second later, the attacker raises his semi-automatic shotgun and fires his first shots.

Suspect traveled to Turkey and Pakistan

Tarrant is an Australian citizen who had been living in the southern city of Dunedin, about 225 miles from Christchurch, Ardern said. He had traveled around the world and was in New Zealand sporadically, she added.
Officials said he had no criminal history in New Zealand or Australia and had not drawn the attention of the intelligence community for extremist views.
Tarrant visited Pakistan last October and a senior Turkish official told CNN that Tarrant traveled to Turkey a number of times and spent “an extended period of time” there. Turkey is “currently investigating the suspect’s movements and contacts within the country,” the official told CNN. The suspect may also have traveled to other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, the official added.

Lawmakers will meet for policy changes

“I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change,” Ardern told reporters on Saturday. She said the Cabinet will meet Monday to have preliminary policy discussions on gun policy issues.
The Prime Minister confirmed that her office received an email with Tarrant’s hateful, racist manifesto nine minutes before he shot worshipers at the Al Noor mosque. However, the email did not include a time, location or specific details of the attack, Ardern said, and it was given to security within two minutes of receipt.

ow the world the meaning of love and compassion,” said one note taped to flowers left on a road divider.

Survivors tried to warn others

Before two lightly armed community police officers ended the attack by running the gunman’s car to the side of the road, some attempted to elude the suspect, according to survivors.
Survivor Ahmed Khan, after dodging a bullet fired by the shooter, ran to a mosque to warn others.
Inside he found a friend bleeding — he had just been shot in his right arm. “I said to him, ‘Calm down, the police is here now,'” Khan recalled. “And then the gunman came through the window and shot him — when I was holding him — in the head. And he was dead.”
In video of the attack posted online by the shooter, he is greeted as he arrives at the first location, the Al Noor mosque, by a man who says “hello brother.” Less than a second later, the attacker raises his semi-automatic shotgun and fires his first shots.

Suspect traveled to Turkey and Pakistan

Tarrant is an Australian citizen who had been living in the southern city of Dunedin, about 225 miles from Christchurch, Ardern said. He had traveled around the world and was in New Zealand sporadically, she added.
Officials said he had no criminal history in New Zealand or Australia and had not drawn the attention of the intelligence community for extremist views.
Tarrant visited Pakistan last October and a senior Turkish official told CNN that Tarrant traveled to Turkey a number of times and spent “an extended period of time” there. Turkey is “currently investigating the suspect’s movements and contacts within the country,” the official told CNN. The suspect may also have traveled to other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, the official added.

Lawmakers will meet for policy changes

“I can tell you one thing right now — our gun laws will change,” Ardern told reporters on Saturday. She said the Cabinet will meet Monday to have preliminary policy discussions on gun policy issues.
The Prime Minister confirmed that her office received an email with Tarrant’s hateful, racist manifesto nine minutes before he shot worshipers at the Al Noor mosque. However, the email did not include a time, location or specific details of the attack, Ardern said, and it was given to security within two minutes of receipt.
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Donald Trump won little applause during Munich Security Conference — and Ivanka wasn’t too pleased

Donald Trump is winning little applause in Europe. Literally.

On Friday, world leaders and country representatives gathered for the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany.

In addition to handshakes, exchanged pleasantries and speeches from world leaders, we were treated to some rather awkward footage of Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump.

The Vice President gave a speech representing the US — but things took an icy turn when he brought up Mr Trump.

“To all of you, I bring greetings from a great champion of freedom and of strong national defence, who must work with these members of Congress to strengthen America’s military might and strengthen the leadership of the free world,” Mr Pence said. “I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.”

At this, there was a complete silence from the crowd. In the footage, Mr Pence waits expectantly his head down for several painful seconds of silence, before he moves on:

You might dismiss this as a simple gesture of listening politely.

But consider this stark contrast: German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a standing ovation after she gave a speech that repeatedly criticised US foreign policy.

In the speech, before 30 heads of government and 90 ministers, Ms Merkel resisted Mr Pence’s calls to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and criticised the US decision to withdraw its troops from Syria.

“Is it a good thing to immediately remove American troops from Syria, or will it not strengthen Russia and Iran’s hand?”

Mr Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka, who was listening in the a

udience, did not stand up.

At one point, Ms Merkel slammed the President’s “frightening” move to declare European car imports a “threat to national security”.

“These cars are built in the US — BMW has its largest factory in South Carolina,” she said. “Not in Bavaria — in South Carolina.

“We are proud of our cars and so we should be. If that is viewed as a security threat to the United States, then we are shocked.”

Judging by her facial expression, Mr Trump’s daughter was not happy:

To be fair, she did later tweet a photo of the pair greeting each other and smiling, saying it was “a pleasure” to be with the Chancellor.

It’s not known if the photo was taken before or after the speech.

Speaking after the speeches, Ms Trump said: “(President Trump) said consistently that American first doesn’t mean America alone, and the reality is that we are proud of our heritage, of being the world’s most generous donor.

“And development assistance is important to us, but that development assistance has to align with American values.”

The 2019 Munich Security Report — put together by the conference’s global leaders and defence chief — took a cynical view of the President.

The report, released prior to the conference, blasted Mr Trump’s theme of praising authoritarian and “illiberal” leaders from Brazil, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

“The US effort to rally ’the noble nations of the world to build a new liberal order’ and to oppose authoritarian great powers would be far more credible if President Trump and his administration did not display an irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe, suggesting that this administration is living in ‘post-human rights world’,” it said.

“The whole liberal world order appears to be falling apart ― nothing is as it once was,” Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, wrote in an editorial published ahead of the conference.

MERKEL DEFENDS IRAN DEAL

During her speech, Ms Merkel said she shared American concerns about many Iranian efforts to increase its power in the region.

But while she said the split with the US over Iran’s nuclear agreement “depresses me very much,” she defended it as an important channel to Tehran, stressing the need for international diplomacy.

“I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria,” she said. “The only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?”

Germany, Britain, France, China, Russia and the European Union have been trying to keep the 2015 deal with Iran alive since Mr Trump unilaterally pulled out of it last year.

The deal offers Iran sanctions relief for limiting its nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that, so far, Tehran is sticking to the agreement.

But the US argues that the deal just puts off when Iran might be able to build a nuclear bomb. Mr Pence, in turn, pushed for Europeans to end their involvement in the nuclear deal, calling Iran “the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world”.

“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” the Vice President said. “The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

HUGE PRAISE FOR MERKEL’S SPEECH

Merkel’s speech was warmly received by a number of high-profile figures and analysts.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden, who was in office when the Iran nuclear deal was negotiated, went out of his way to thank Ms Merkel and defended the Iran deal as a “significant agreement”.

Mr Biden told the group that many Americans did not agree with the Trump administration’s “America first” approach.

“You heard a lot today about leadership but in my experience, leadership only exists if somebody and others are with you,” he said after Mr Pence’s address. “Leadership in the absence of people who are with you is not leadership.”

“This was a big and say-it-as-it-is Merkel speech,” said Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations think tank. “Minutes of applause and standing ovations for a powerful commitment to picking up the pieces of a shattered (world) order and working on a European and (international) order that creates win-win situations.”

Former American diplomat Nicholas Burns praised Ms Merkel as the first non-American “leader of the West” since Franklin D Roosevelt.

In her speech, Merkel also questioned whether it was a good idea for the US to withdraw troops quickly from Syria.

“Is that not also strengthening the possibilities for Iran and Russia to exert influence there?” she asked.

Ms Merkel also defended Germany’s progress in fulfilling NATO guidelines for countries to move toward spending 2 per cent of their gross domestic product on defence by 2024, which has been criticised as too slow. And overall, she rejected the idea of a go-it-alone foreign policy.

She said it’s better to “put yourself in the other’s shoes … and see whether we can get win-win solutions together”.

Mr Pence stuck to the US line that the 2 per cent NATO guideline is a strict commitment rather than a target, saying while more alliance members have met the criteria, “the truth is, many of our NATO allies still need to do more”.

He also reiterated American opposition to the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, which Washington fears will make Europe overly reliant on Russian gas.

“The United States commends all our European partners who’ve taken a strong stand against Nord Stream 2,” he said. “And we commend others to do that same.”

He added: “We cannot ensure the defence of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.”

Ms Merkel defended the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, dismissing the American concerns as unfounded and assuring Ukraine that it won’t get cut off from Russian fuel.

Speaking as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko looked on, she told him his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the pipeline is complete.

Ms Merkel noted that Europe also has enough terminals to receive more liquefied gas from the US among other options.

“There’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal,” she said.

Police make dozens of arrests and fire tear gas on protesters at Paris France on fuel tax and price increase

French police made dozens of arrests across France Saturday amid violent anti-government protests described by one of the protesters as a “civil war,” CNN affiliate BFM reported.

 

In Paris, police resorted to tear gas and water cannon to try to clear the Champs Elysée.
“The objective was to unite everybody here in Paris. I am disappointed because it wasn’t meant to be like this,” Thierry Paul Valette, one of the organizers of Saturday’s demonstration in Paris told CNN.
He blamed it on a “small section” of “the extreme left and the extreme right” and said it was like a “civil war.”
In total, 35 people were taken into custody.
The “yellow vest” protests, which began as a campaign against rising gas prices, have morphed into a wider demonstration against the government of President Emmanuel Macron in recent weeks, spreading as far as France’s Indian Ocean territory of Reunion.
Police say they have mobilized 3,000 officers in Paris to contain the 8,000 protesters. A security perimeter has been set up in the city center, with government buildings protected. Three people have been arrested so far.
At a news conference on Saturday, French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner blamed the clashes on far-right extemists infiltrating the demonstrations.
“Today, the far right has mobilized,” he told reporters. “The security forces perfectly anticipated this situation.”
Far-right political leader Marine Le Pen rejected the accusations, describing them as a “pathetic and dishonest” form of “political manipulation” by the government.
Earlier Castaner said of the protesters: “Their freedom of expression will be guaranteed, but it must not be exercised to the detriment of security, public order and the right of everybody to come and go. There is no liberty without public order.”
Last weekend a protester was accidentally run over and killed by a car, and more than 200 people were injured during a demonstration in eastern France.
Protesters clash with riot police who fired  tear gas canisters in central Paris on Saturday.

Macron under fire

In addition to concerns over spiraling fuel prices, the protests also reflect long-running tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.
Diesel prices have surged 16% this year from an average 1.24 euros ($1.41) per liter to 1.48 euros ($1.69), even hitting 1.53 euros in October, according to UFIP, France’s oil industry federation.
The price hike is largely caused by a leap in the wholesale price of oil, with Brent crude oil — a benchmark for worldwide oil purchases — increasing by more than 20% in the first half of 2018 from around $60 a barrel to a peak of $86.07 in early October.
French protesters are, however, not directing their anger at OPEC for reducing oil production, or at the US administration for implementing tariffs on Iran, crippling its oil exports.
Macron is instead bearing the brunt of widespread French discontent, with many protesters furious at the current leader’s extension of environmental policies implemented under François Hollande’s government.
Notably, taxes were increased by 8 centimes last January on diesel, and by 4 centimes on petrol. Tax on diesel will also increase by another 6.4 euro cents in 2019, and by 2.9 cents for petrol. These rises follow many decades of under-taxation of diesel in France.
President Macron is instead bearing the brunt of widespread French discontent.

Further revolts

The growing resentment has also been a springboard for partisan political attacks, with opponents of Macron’s centrist En Marche party attempting to energize their bases to fuel further revolt.
One protester, Ludivine Landrin, a 32-year-old from near Paris, explained why she was protesting. “I’m here because I am a citizen. I want the struggle to come together. I want the French state to understand that we are here together. We want another state, we want another government,” she told CNN.
“In France we have a lot of taxes. The beginning of the movement was about taxes on fuel. The movement became bigger because all the taxes are making people fed up. The Macron government is making everyone fed up — on the right and on the left. We are all fed up with Macron and his government.”
Another protester, 33-year-old Emilie, declared that a revolution was happening. “We pay our taxes but it is only the rich who profit,” she said.

Voting rights, LGBT rights, marijuana, and immigration: The night in ballot measures

State passes largest expansion of voting rights in decades as Massachusetts affirms transgender protections.

Four more states voted on the legalization of marijuana.

It’s not all about the red v blue. In dozens of states, voters cast ballots on Tuesday on issues ranging from voting rights and climate change to gun control and taxing tech to fund homeless services. Four states will see voters weigh in on the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, while Massachusetts voters will have a chance to reaffirm (or reject) a measure protecting the rights of transgender people.

We’ll be updating this story all night as the results come in, so stay tuned …

Voting rights

Last-minute lawsuits, long lines, voter roll purges, and inconvenient polling places – Americans’ ability to exercise their right to vote has been under pressure since the supreme court invalidated parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Five states had voting rights issues on their ballots tonight, including Florida, where voters chose to restore the franchise to 1.5 million people who were convicted of felonies and have completed their sentences. Activists who fought to pass Amendment 4 cheered the victory, which represents the largest expansion of voting rights in decades.

Maryland approved a measure that will expand voting rights by allowing same-day registration, and Nevada enacted automatic voter registration when drivers have contact with the department of motor vehicles.

Meanwhile, North Carolina and Arkansas both passed constitutional amendments requiring voters to provide photo IDs to vote – measures that generally have the effect of restricting the voting rights of the poor and elderly.

Tech tax for the homeless

A controversial measure that will levy a tax against the largest businesses in San Francisco to fund housing and services for the homeless has passed. The 0.5% gross receipts tax on companies with revenues over $50m had touched off a battle between the city’s tech billionaires, with the Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, publicly feuding with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and other tech titans who complained the tax was unfair.

Another California housing measure, Proposition 10, which would have allowed cities to enact rent control measures, failed.

Transgender rights

Actor Laverne Cox poses with supporters of a 2016 Massachusetts law that protects transgender people from discrimination.
 Actor Laverne Cox poses with supporters of a 2016 Massachusetts law that protects transgender people from discrimination. Photograph: Josh Wood for the Guardian

A Massachusetts civil rights law came under attack this year with Question 3, which sought to repeal the 2016 state law banning discrimination against transgender people. But voters rejected the measure, making Massachusetts the first state to affirm transgender rights in a statewide vote.

Reproductive rights

It was a tough night for reproductive rights, with voters in two staunchly Republican states approving measures to restrict abortion. Alabama passed a constitutional amendment to recognize the “right to life” of fetuses and deny public funding for abortion. West Virginia also passed a constitutional amendment declaring that the state does not protect the right to abortion and restricting public funding for the procedure. A similar measure prohibiting public funding of abortion was rejected by voters in Oregon.

Marijuana

Legal weed continues to spread across the US, as four more states voted on legalization. Missouri voted to legalize medical marijuana, and Michigan voted to approve recreational use of the drug. North Dakota, which allows medical marijuana, rejected legalization for recreational purposes. We’re still awaiting results from Utah, where a measures legalizing use for medical purposes is leading the polls.

Immigration

Thirty years after Oregon passed a sanctuary law, barring state and local law enforcement from using public resources for immigration enforcement, voters in the state rejected an attempt to repeal the measure.

Criminal justice

Voters in Louisiana elected to require a unanimous verdict from a 12-person jury for a felony conviction. Juries in the state had previously been allowed to convict with 10 out of 12 votes, a remnant of Jim Crow-era laws that disproportionately affected African Americans.

Minimum wage

It’s not quite $15 an hour, but hundreds of thousands of workers in Arkansas and Missouri will get raises after voters in the two states approved increases to the minimum wages. In Arkansas, the rate will increase from $8.50 to $11 an hour by 2021; in Missouri the wage will ramp up from the current $7.85 to $12 an hour by 2023.

Fossil fuels

A renewable energy measure has failed in Arizona.
 A renewable energy measure has failed in Arizona. Photograph: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Efforts to curb America’s addiction to fossil fuel consumption saw little success at the ballot box on Tuesday. In Arizona, a well-funded campaign to require electric utilities to get half their power from renewable sources by 2030 was rejected by voters, and in Colorado, a measure to place restrictions on where new oil and gas wells can be located failed to pass.

Missouri and Utah voters also rejected increases on gasoline taxes. Another major environmental initiative – a carbon emissions fee in the state of Washington – is currently trailing. California voters did manage to reject an attempt to repeal the state’s most recent gas tax increase.

Gun control

Washington state enacted tough new gun control laws, increasing the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and establishing background checks and waiting periods.

Animal rights

Chicken farms must convert to cage free in California.
 Chicken farms must be cage-free by 2022. Photograph: Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

In a blow to factory farms, California’s Proposition 12 passed, establishing minimum space requirements for farm animals. The measure also requires that all egg-laying hens be raised “cage-free” by 2022.

Medicaid expansion

Four states voted on the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more low-income residents, a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, that many Republican state governments rejected. So far, voters in Nebraska and Idaho have approved the expansion, and the measure is leading in Utah. In Montana, voters are facing a slightly different question: whether to maintain the Medicaid expansion beyond 2019 and fund it through a tobacco tax. That race is still too close to call.

Tampon tax exemption

And in one small victory for women, Nevada voted to exempt feminine hygiene products from state and local sales taxes.

Israel-Gaza: Heavy firefight traded across the border between Israel military and Hamas

A bus set ablaze after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, 12 November 2018

Israel says its fighter jets have hit 100 Palestinian militant targets overnight in the Gaza Strip after militants fired 370 rockets at Israel.

Six Palestinians, four of them militants, died in the strikes on Gaza, while a man was killed in a rocket attack in the Israeli town of Ashkelon.

Both Israel and Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, have threatened to escalate their actions.

Violence erupted when a covert Israeli mission was exposed in Gaza on Sunday.

Seven Palestinian militants, including a Hamas military commander, and an Israeli lieutenant colonel who was in the undercover unit were killed in clashes.

The incident came after apparent progress in an effort by Egypt and the UN to secure a truce on the Gaza border, where more than 200 Palestinians have been killed during protests since March.

How serious is the upsurge?

After a brief lull following Sunday night’s violence, a barrage of rockets and mortars was launched towards Israel late on Monday, which Israeli medics said killed one person and injured 28.

A bus, which had reportedly been carrying troops, was hit by an anti-tank missile in the Shaar Hanegev region, seriously wounding a male soldier.

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Overnight, one man was killed when a block of flats in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket. Unconfirmed Israeli media reports identified him as a Palestinian from the West Bank.

Eight other people were injured in the attack, including two women who the Israeli ambulance service said were in a serious condition.

In response, the Israeli military carried out what it called a wide-scale attack against military targets belonging to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups.

It said they included Hamas’ military intelligence headquarters in northern Gaza and “a unique vessel” in a harbour in the south of the territory.

The building housing Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV was also bombed after being evacuated, disrupting broadcasts. Israel said the outlet “contributes to Hamas’s military actions”.

The building housing the Hamas-run television station Al-Aqsa in the Gaza Strip is hit during an Israeli air strike, 2 November 2018Image copyright by GETTY IMAGES
Image captionIsraeli air strikes targeted the Hamas-run television station Al-Aqsa

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said six people were killed and 25 others injured in the strikes. Four of the dead were militants and two are said to have been farmers.

This is one of the most serious rounds of fighting since Israel and Hamas fought a war in 2014.

The Israeli military has warned it is prepared to “dial up its response” to the rocket fire, while Hamas’s military wing said it was ready to “expand the circle of fire” against Israel.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov called on all sides to show restraint and said efforts were being made with Egypt to pull Gaza “back from the brink”.

“The escalation in the past 24hrs is EXTREMELY dangerous,” he tweeted on Monday night.

How did the violence start?

Palestinians said they discovered an undercover Israeli unit in a civilian car about 3km (2 miles) inside the Gaza Strip late on Sunday.

A firefight ensued in which the Hamas commander was killed. Israel launched air strikes and opened fire with tanks on the area, witnesses said. Six other militants were killed as well as one of the Israeli special forces soldiers.

The incident is reported to have happened east of Khan Younis, in the south of the territory.

  • Life in the Gaza Strip
  • Gaza protest image likened to famous painting

Why did Israel kill the commander?

Due to the secrecy of the operation, Israel has not revealed specific details about the mission.

The IDF said, however, that the operation was “not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security”.

Palestinians look at wreckage of car destroyed in Israeli air strike in Khan Younis (12/11/18)Image copyright by REUTERS
Image captionIsrael carried out air strikes when Sunday night’s firefight erupted

The BBC’s Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says that according to a former Israeli general, the incident was likely to have been an intelligence-gathering operation that went wrong.

The exposure of such an operation by Israeli special forces inside Gaza would be extremely rare, he says.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, denounced Sunday’s incident as a “cowardly Israeli attack”.

Why are Israel and Hamas enemies?

Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and reinforced its power in the Gaza Strip after ousting West Bank-based Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah faction in clashes the following year.

While Mr Abbas’s umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has signed peace accords with Israel, Hamas does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and advocates the use of violence against it.

A school under closure in Sderot (12/11/18)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionSchools have been ordered to close in Israeli border communities as a precaution

Israel, along with Egypt, has maintained a blockade of Gaza since about 2006 in order, they say, to stop attacks by militants.

Israel and Hamas have gone to war three times, and rocket-fire from Gaza and Israeli air strikes against militant targets are a regular occurrence.

map of Gaza showing buffer zone (on land) and six-mile fishing exclusion zone
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