‘Together we stand by Israel’s side,’ says Austria’s Kurz & flies Israeli flag. What about dead Gaza children? Twitter users ask

A post by the Austrian chancellor has received a mixed response online. While some, including the Israeli prime minister’s son, welcomed Austria’s condemnation of Palestinian “terrorism,” others slammed Vienna’s side-taking.

“Today was used as a sign of solidarity with #Israel the Israeli flag is hoisted on the roof of the Federal Chancellery,” Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted on Friday, adding “the terrorist attacks on Israel are to be condemned in the strongest! Together we stand by Israel’s side.” 

His post, accompanied by a photo of the country’s Chancellery flying the Israeli flag, while supported by some, has drawn extensive criticism on social media, leading some to question ‘Austrian neutrality’.

“If you don’t see the shameful facts and stand by Israel, you are at least as cruel and merciless as Israel,” one person wrote, adding that Vienna must be blind not to see this. 

Many others highlighted that Israel’s attacks on alleged terrorist positions in Gaza were illegal under international law and urged Vienna not to support such criminality. One individual called on Kurz to “think carefully who the terrorist is here,” referencing to decades of Israeli occupation. 

Several users responded with photos of innocent women and children injured by Israel’s assaults on targets in Gaza. One added sarcastically, “Austria stands by the side of innocent civilians and their children! Oh wait, nobody cares about you.”  

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© Twitter / @LunaSafwan
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However, Kurz’s tweet was also welcomed by many, including the son of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yair Netanyahu simply wrote “thank you,” accompanied by the flags of Austria and Israel. 

Some Twitter users defended Vienna, noting “Neutrality does not apply to terrorist organizations. The question alone is insane.” 

Others called on the EU to follow Austria’s lead and support Israel against Palestinian terrorism, with some blaming Hamas for the Palestinian deaths attributed to Israel.

The escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant groups this week, amid the backdrop of unrest in the Palestinian community, has drawn polarized reactions across the world.

Israeli violence against Palestine has been widely condemned in the Muslim world, while many international organizations as well as world leaders called for de-escalation.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said on Friday that “it’s time for the world to hold Hamas accountable.”

The IDF claims that Hamas has misfired more than 350 rockets in the last three days, many of them landing in Gaza, “resulting in the deaths of innocent Gazan civilians.”

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Mission impossible? Russian actress competing with Tom Cruise in race to blast into orbit & shoot first feature film in space

More than half a century since Washington and Moscow first raced into the cosmos to showcase their technological supremacy, a new space competition is now underway – and it is being fought by some unexpectedly familiar faces.

On Thursday, Russian officials announced that a Soyuz rocket would blast off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 5 this year, carrying an actor and a director to shoot what is hoped will be the first feature film made in outer space.

Yulia Peresild, a 36-year old actress with a long list of credits from both theater acting and the silver screen, was selected by a State Commission to go into space as the lead in the movie entitled ‘Challenge’. Klim Shipenko, a director and playwright who studied at the University of California, will accompany Peresild to oversee the shoot. The rocket will dock with the International Space Station (ISS), where production will begin.

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The Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft carrying the crew formed of Mark Vande Hei of NASA and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos blasts off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the launchpad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan April 9, 2021.
‘Great working relationship’ will allow Russia & US to travel ‘further out into space together,’ senior NASA official tells RT

However, the crew will apparently have to race against time to snatch the landmark record. A rival mission crewed by none other than Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise is also planning a flight to the ISS in October to film their own feature-length drama. The ‘Top Gun’ actor’s blast-off is backed by both NASA and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk. Cruise, who will be 59 at the time of the mission, will be hoping it doesn’t prove to be a ‘Mission Impossible’.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has previously launched a search for “a real superhero to go to the stars…at the same time as becoming a big international star.” Peresild, however, has experience playing the role of a hero, starring in the 2015 nail-biter ‘Battle for Sevastopol’ as a young Soviet woman who signs up to fight the Nazis as a Red Army sniper. Her director, Shipenko, is known most recently for filming ‘Salyut 7’, a dramatization of a Soviet mission to rescue a disaster-stricken orbital space station.

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Spain updates its Covid guidelines to vaccinate pregnant and lactating women

The Spanish Health Ministry has recommended pregnant and lactating women be vaccinated against Covid, saying that despite there being no clinical trials among expecting mothers, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are safe.

Updates to Spain’s Vaccination Strategy against Covid-19 were announced on Thursday. The inclusion of pregnant and lactating women was submitted by the country’s Health Ministry and discussed with local authorities, and the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been approved.

Although clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines did not include pregnant women, the available data, mainly from the use of vaccines in the US, does not indicate any adverse effects regarding pregnancy,” the official document regarding vaccination says. It cites studies and recommendations from the US, UK, and Belgium, saying that pregnant women should be offered Covid shots at the same time as the rest of population, as no “increased risks” have been detected.

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Although there had been concerns that expecting mothers might be at greater risk of contracting the deadly virus, Spanish health officials did not include them in priority groups for vaccination. They said that “in general, no greater risk of severe Covid-19 due to being pregnant has been detected.” Pregnant women should not be deprived of coronavirus vaccination as it might also provide additional protection for newborns, some doctors believe. The recent go-ahead is “good news for mothers, but also for babies because they are going to be born with antibodies or receive them through breast milk,” the head of the preventive medicine service at a Barcelona clinic, Antoni Trilla, told El Pais. 

US health officials have encouraged pregnant women to receive Covid-19 shots since late April. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had no safety concerns for mothers-to-be or their babies, as “pregnant people experienced the same side effects as others following vaccination” with the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech shots. Manufacturers of the latter have been conducting an international study into the safety and effectiveness of their vaccine in pregnant women since February. At least 4,000 volunteers from nine countries, including Spain, are said to have submitted for the test.

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12 killed, 15 wounded in mosque bombing near Kabul amid Friday prayers & truce with Taliban

A bomb was detonated in a mosque near Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, killing 12, including the imam, and injuring 15. The attack took place during Friday prayers and amid a three-day truce with the Taliban.

The blast occurred at the Haji Bakhshi Mosque in the Shakar Dara district, north of Kabul, Afghan media reported, citing police. A source told TV channel TOLOnews that the bomb had been placed inside the building. Mufti Numan, the mosque’s imam, was among those killed in the explosion.

Photos published by TOLOnews show debris scattered on the mosque’s floor.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast took place as the government forces and the Taliban militant group were observing a three-day truce, which came into effect on Thursday, during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The attack also occurred after nine people were killed in two explosions in the Kunduz and Kandahar provinces.

A particularly deadly terrorist attack happened on Saturday, when a car bomb detonated outside a girls’ school in Kabul, followed by two more explosions. Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Tuesday that at least 86 students were killed. The Taliban denied any involvement and condemned the blasts.

The US is on track to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, after spending two decades there fighting the Taliban and other militant groups. This week, the Pentagon reportedly turned over the Kandahar Airfield, a major American military training hub in southern Afghanistan, to Afghan security forces.

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Manchester United fortify Old Trafford with 10ft ‘Ring of Steel’ to prevent demonstrations ahead of rescheduled Liverpool fixture

Manchester United are taking measures to prevent a repeat of the scenes which forced the postponement of the recent Premier League match with Liverpool, erecting a 10ft tall ‘ring of steel’ to prevent more demonstrations.

The two arch-rivals of English of football will meet on Thursday evening, just under two weeks after irate supporters raided Old Trafford to demonstrate against the ownership of the club by the US-based Glazer family.

There were also scenes of unrest in Manchester city center which saw fierce clashes with police, during which several officers required medical treatment.

There are fears among the United hierarchy that Thursday’s rescheduled fixture could see a repeat of the chaotic scenes which came as a result of the club’s involvement in the ill-fated European Super League project, in addition to long-standing concerns about the Glazers’ handling of United’s financial affairs.

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Manchester United fans have descended on Old Trafford ahead of the match against Liverpool © Phil Noble / Reuters | © Carl Recine / Reuters
Furious Manchester United fans storm Old Trafford hours before Liverpool Premier League match in anti-Glazer protest (VIDEOS)

Such is the concern among United’s bosses that they have erected the so-called ‘ring of steel’ to protect some of the more vulnerable areas in and around the stadium, including the Munich tunnel entrance through which fans gained entry to the famous stadium in May 2. 

It is also understood that the club have instituted further security measures which they are keeping from the public in the event of another security breach.

The postponement of the original fixture has played havoc with United’s end-of-season schedule, forcing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side to play three games in the span of five days including this week’s home defeat by FA Cup finalists Leicester City, after which the Norwegian coach was pilloried by critics for fielding an under-strength side in a game which could have significant repercussions for this season’s Champions League qualification places.

Liverpool are among the teams chasing the coveted fourth position in the league which would ensure qualification for next season’s Champions League, but boss Jurgen Klopp surprisingly sprang to Solksjaer’s defence when asked about his rival’s decision to field an under strength team against Leicester.

Playing Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday is a crime,” said Klopp. “If we do not make it into the Champions League, it will not be the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or his players.

It will be our fault because even in this season, in which we have had so many injuries, we really should have been five or six points better than we are.

I know Ole made ten changes but I would have done the same thing – I expected him to do that. This is the end of a long season already and then you get Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and it’s just not right.

So it is not the fault of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, even if it means we now need to get a few favors if we are going to make the top four.”

One wonders if the German will be quite so pragmatic late on Thursday, should Solksjaer’s charges deal Liverpool another crushing blow in their hunt for European football next season.

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Manchester United fans protested and were seen burning a US flag. © Reuters / Twitter @ManUtdReports_
WATCH: Furious Manchester United fans burn US flag outside Old Trafford in protest against Glazers

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