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BioNTech Co-founder ‘Confident’ Vaccine Works Against Indian Variant

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BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin on Wednesday voiced confidence that the vaccine that his company jointly developed with Pfizer works against the Indian variant of the coronavirus.

“We are still testing the Indian variant, but the Indian variant has mutations that we have already tested for and which our vaccine works against, so I am confident,” said Sahin.

“The vaccine is cleverly built and I’m convinced the bulwark will hold. And if we have to strengthen the bulwark again, then we will do it, that I’m not worried about,” he added.

India is facing surging new cases and deaths in the pandemic, and fears are rising that the variant could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.

The World Health Organization has said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in “at least 17 countries”.

The health agency recently listed B.1.617 — which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — as a “variant of interest”.

But so far it has stopped short of declaring it a “variant of concern”, which would have indicated that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus by, for instance, being more transmissible, deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.

The BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine was the first to win authorisation in the West, and has since been deployed in dozens of countries worldwide.

Giving an update of the authorisation process in China, Sahin said approval was “very possible in July”.

“We are almost through with all questions,” he said.

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Israeli actress Gal Gadot wishes for safety for Israel, gets hate from Islamists and ‘liberals’ in return

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Amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihadis, Israeli actress Gal Gadot put up a tweet praying for peace.

She tweeted that her country (Israel) is at war and she worries for her family and friends and the people of Israel. “This is a vicious cycle that has been going on for far too long. Israel deserves to live as a free and safe nation. Our neighbors deserve the same. I pray for the victims and their families. I pray for this unimaginable hostility to end, I pray for our leaders to find the solution so we can live side by side in peace,” she tweeted.

However, soon the ‘liberals’ and Islamists descended upon her timeline with angry, hateful tweets, accusing her of being a genocide enabler.

Despite the fact that the Palestinian terrorists were attacking Israel with rockets and missiles, the Islamists accused Israel of ‘perpetrating a televised and documented ethnic cleansing’.

They also gave a call to boycott her movies and called her a ‘murderer’.

Some Islamists even claimed that Israel as a country does not exist and hence there is no ‘my country’ that she mentions in the tweet.

One Twitter user, whose heart apparently pains for ‘Palestine’, wished death upon Gal Gadot for wishing for peace upon her country.

Some also used this opportunity to hate on Jews.

Some ‘liberals’ also felt that her pray for peace for her country was ‘meaningless’.

All this while choosing to overlook the terrorism inflicted by Hamas on Israeli people. Gadot served as a soldier in the Israel Defence Forces for two years before taking a plunge into modelling and acting.

In December 2020, Gadot had hailed the ‘Shaheen Bagh Dadi’ Bilkis Bano, who was one of the prominent faces in the anti-CAA protests which culminated into anti-Hindu riots in February 2020. Bilkis was a prominent part of the protests that were organized as India decided to give citizenship to religiously prosecuted people from neighbouring Islamic countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

However, she soon deleted her Instagram story hailing Bilkis while the post continued to be up on her profile.

Israel-Palestine conflict

Conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated when Palestinian terror unit Hamas fired multiple rockets at Jerusalem, and the Israeli Defense Forces responding back in kind. The main reason behind the current conflict is the Sheikh Jarrah property dispute, a dispute which can lead to the evictions of around 300 Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood.

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More Than 24 Covid-19 Patients May Have Died in Chamarajanagar Due to Oxygen Crisis: HC Panel

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The number of deaths of Covid-19 patients for want of oxygen at Chamarajanagar district hospital in Karnataka could be higher than 24, according to a high court-appointed panel.

The three-member panel confirmed that 24 Covid-19 patients died in the hospital on the intervening night of May 2-3 as oxygen was not available for four hours from 10.30 pm, The Times of India reported.

Headed by retired HC judge Justice AN Venugopala Gowda, the panel noted that 62 died in the hospital between May 4 and May 10, and at least 36 were in-patients on May 2.

The panel, which submitted its report before the court on Tuesday, said the death of these 36 in-patients could be attributed to non-availability of oxygen supply during the night of May 2 and early hours of May 3.

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday said it would consider the report on Thursday.

Chamarajanagar DC failed ‘miserably’

The HC panel also flagged the absence of guidelines that day, and noted that recording case-sheets maintained by doctors and nurses at the hospital on the two dates looks sketchy.

The panel, however, absolved the Mysuru deputy commissioner of any anomalies, and pinned the blame on the deputy commissioner, Chamarajanagar, saying he “has not exhibited the dynamism and leadership qualities expected of a district head in a dire crisis situation…”

It said as the chairman of the District Disaster Management Committee, “he has miserably failed to guide and supervise the crisis situation arising out of the extreme demand for oxygen”.

“On the contrary, he has indulged in an unsavoury blame game accusing the DC of Mysore of causing hindrance for oxygen supply without any basis,” it added.

Although refilling plants on which the district hospital was dependent for its oxygen replenishment are located in Mysuru, which comes under the jurisdiction of Mysuru DC, the panel said that only on that basis it cannot be said that the Mysuru DC had any control over supply of oxygen to other districts.

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Israel-Palestinian Conflict Escalates as Rockets Fly, Street Violence Flares

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Israel faced an escalating conflict on two fronts Thursday, scrambling to quell riots between Arabs and Jews on its own streets after days of exchanging deadly fire with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Despite diplomatic efforts to ease the crisis, which US President Joe Biden said he hoped would end “sooner than later”, hundreds of rockets flew across the Gaza Strip overnight. 

Air raid warnings went off across Israel, including for the first time in the country’s north.

Israel’s air force said it had launched multiple strikes, targeting what it described as locations linked to the “counterintelligence infrastructure” of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, as well as the house of Iyad Tayeb, one of the movement’s commanders. 

In Gaza, 67 people have been killed so far — including 17 children — and nearly 400 injured after days of near relentless Israeli air strikes.

On Wednesday, Hamas announced the death of its military chief in Gaza City, Bassem Issa, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saying they had killed three other senior figures as well. 

IDF strikes also destroyed a multi-storey tower housing Palestinian television channel Al-Aqsa, set up by Hamas.

Israel said around 1,500 rockets had been launched into its territory since the beginning of the week by Palestinian militants.

Seven people have been killed, including one six-year-old after a rocket struck his home in southern Israel, the United Hatzalah volunteer rescue agency said.

The past few days have seen the most intense hostilities in seven years between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups, triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

‘Pogrom’

Coinciding with the aerial bombardments is surging violence between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

On Wednesday night, Israeli far-right groups took to the streets across the country, clashing with security forces and Arab Israelis. 

Police said they had responded to violent incidents in multiple towns, including Lod, Acre and Haifa.

Israeli television aired footage of a far-right mob beating a man they considered an Arab until he lay unconscious on his back in a street of Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv.

“The victim of the lynching is seriously injured but stable,” Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said, without identifying him.

A state of emergency has been declared in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod, where a synagogue and other Jewish property has been torched and an Arab resident was shot dead.

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, in unusually strong language, denounced what he described as a “pogrom” in which “an incited and bloodthirsty Arab mob” had injured people and attacked sacred Jewish spaces.

In the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian man was killed during a confrontation with Israeli soldiers near the northern city of Nablus, the Palestinian health ministry said Thursday. 

The death brings the number killed in clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the West Bank to three on Wednesday alone.

“What has been happening these last few days in Israeli towns is unacceptable… Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, adding that Israel was fighting a battle “on two fronts”.

Stalled diplomacy

An emergency UN Security Council meeting on the tensions has been requested for Friday, diplomatic sources told AFP.

The Council has already held two closed-door videoconferences since Monday, with the United States — a close Israel ally — opposing adoption of a joint declaration, which it said would not “help de-escalate” the situation.

Netanyahu spoke later Wednesday to Biden, who said “Israel has a right to defend itself”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had spoken to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, urging an end to the rocket attacks.

Blinken had said earlier that a US envoy would travel to the Middle East to seek to calm tensions.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking alongside United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, called for an urgent meeting of the Middle East Quartet — Russia, the United States, the UN and the EU. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both sides to “step back from the brink”.

But the Israeli government has warned that “this is only the beginning”, and army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said strikes on Gaza would continue as Israel prepares for “multiple scenarios”.

Sending ground troops into Gaza was “one scenario” that was not the focus of the current operation, Conricus said.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has also threatened to step up attacks, warning that “if Israel wants to escalate, we are ready for it”.

The crisis flared last Friday when weeks of tensions boiled over and Israeli riot police clashed with crowds of Palestinians at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque.

Nightly disturbances have since flared in east Jerusalem, leaving more than 900 Palestinians injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

The unrest has been driven by anger over the looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

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