Israeli MP prays at flashpoint Jerusalem holy site

No incidents occurred as Mr Glick, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, toured on Tuesday the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount.

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Some Muslim worshippers yelled “Allahu akbar” (God is greatest) as he left and he waved to them.

Jews are not allowed to publicly pray at the compound to avoid provoking tensions, but Mr Glick admitted praying to himself as he walked the grounds in his bare feet.

He said he prayed for his wife, who he said was in a coma, as well as his family and Israel.

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Asked afterwards whether such visits are provocations that risk more bloodshed, Mr Glick told journalists: “Those who are responsible for terror are the terrorists and those who incite them, not the victims.”

At least one other Jewish lawmaker, Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the far-right Jewish Home party, also visited on Tuesday morning, according to the Waqf, a Muslim organisation that administers the site.

Jewish lawmakers were allowed to visit in the morning, while Muslim lawmakers were permitted to do so in the afternoon – although they said they did not intend to do so.

Masud Ganaim, of the mostly Arab Joint List alliance, said allowing right-wing politicians into the compound had “the goal of provoking Arab and Muslim sentiment and inflaming the situation”.

Jordan, the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem, condemned the visits as “unacceptable”.

Mohammad al-Momani, minister of state for media affairs, said allowing the visits was an “irresponsible decision that will increase tension and escalation at a place holy to all Muslims”.

He called on Israel “as the occupying power to take measures to prevent provocations by extremists against the Al-Aqsa mosque”.

0:00 UN chief and Palestinian PM on MidEast peace Share UN chief and Palestinian PM on MidEast peace

Mr Netanyahu instructed police in October 2015 to bar lawmakers from visiting the site in the Old City of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque complex and the Dome of the Rock.

It was meant to help calm unrest that erupted in part over Palestinian fears that Israel was planning to assert further control over the compound.

Mr Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he is committed to the status quo there.

Plans to allow a temporary lifting of the ban in July were put off after violence again erupted in and around the site.

Tuesday’s one-day lifting of the ban is intended as a test to see if calm can be maintained.

The site is the holiest in Judaism as the location of the two ancient Jewish temples and the third-holiest in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

It is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mr Glick, a US-born rabbi, survived a 2014 assassination attempt by a Palestinian over his campaign for Jewish prayer rights at the site before he joined parliament.

Construction work spikes in June quarter

Construction work in Australia spiked in the three months to June, raising hopes of a boost to economic growth.

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However some economists expect the one-off surge to be offset by other factors when national accounts for the quarter are released next week.

The value of construction work done jumped 9.3 per cent in the quarter to $51.7 billion, far ahead of market expectations of a one per cent increase.

Total building work done on homes and non-residential buildings rose just 0.1 per cent to $27 billion, while engineering work done, including mines, roads and bridges, surged 21.5 per cent to $24.7 billion.

“Outside of engineering work, the remaining details of today’s release were disappointing,” JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy said.

Economists attributed the jump in engineering work to projects in Western Australia.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed private infrastructure work jumped 32 per cent, or $4 billion, in the June quarter, nearly matching a $4.1 billion increase in construction work in WA.

Westpac economist Andrew Hanlan said the numbers were likely inflated by the importation of the Prelude floating LNG platform, which set sail for WA from a South Korean shipyard on June 28.

“We had expected the ABS to amortise the value of the platform over the time that it was constructed,” Mr Hanlan said.

“This would see a relatively smooth rise in investment and in imports.”

Economists said improved construction work in the June quarter was a positive for economic growth, but the likelihood of an offsetting import adjustment would mean the volatility will not be mirrored in the national accounts.

Mr Kennedy said there is now upside to JP Morgan’s second quarter gross domestic product forecast of 0.5 per cent, but it would not be changing its tracking estimate.

UN condemns ‘outrageous’ NKorea launch

The United Nations has condemned North Korea’s “outrageous” firing of a ballistic missile over Japan, demanding Pyongyang halt its weapons program, but holding back on any threat of new sanctions on the isolated regime.

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North Korea said the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was to counter US and South Korean military drills and was a first step in military action in the Pacific to “contain” the US territory of Guam.

The North’s leader Kim Jong Un ordered the launch to be conducted for the first time from its capital, Pyongyang, and said more exercises with the Pacific as the target were needed, the North’s KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.

“The current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. The Korean People’s Army or KPA is the North’s military.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near Guam, home to a major US military presence, after President Donald Trump said the North would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

In a statement the 15-member Security Council said it was of “vital importance” that North Korea take immediate, concrete actions to reduce tensions and called on all states to implement UN sanctions on Pyongyang.

However, the US-drafted statement, which was agreed by consensus, does not threaten new sanctions on North Korea.

China and Russia’s ambassadors to the United Nations said they opposed any unilateral sanctions on North Korea and reiterated calls to halt deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China is currently discussing the situation with other Security Council members and will make a “necessary response” based on the consensus reached.

“Any measures against North Korea should be under the UN Security Council framework, and should be carried out according to Security Council resolutions,” he told a news briefing.

Tuesday’s test was of the same Hwasong-12 missile Kim had threatened to use on Guam, but the test flight took it in another direction, over northern Japan’s Hokkaido and into the sea.

Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can hit the mainland United States, said the world had received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear”.

“Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table,” Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.

The North’s latest test launch came as US and South Korean forces conducted annual military exercises on the Korean peninsula, angering Pyongyang which sees the war games as a preparation for invasion.

Kim Dong-yup, professor at the Institute for Far East Studies of Kyungnam University in Seoul said firing the missile from a densely populated area near Pyongyang and over Japan suggested North Korea was confident in the missile’s stability.

“I do not think North Korea factored in much military meaning behind yesterday’s missile launch, rather yesterday’s launch was all about North Korea being stubborn,” he said.

“At the same time, North Korea is hinting that there is room for negotiation if the US and South Korea ends the joint military exercises.”

The UN Security Council has condemned North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan.

Hajj: The incredible numbers behind the pilgrimage

The Hajj pilgrimage, which starts at Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, is one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.

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Here are some figures illustrating its scale:

More than two million pilgrims are taking part this year, according to official figures, compared to 1.86 million last year and just 24,000 in 1941.Some 221,000 Indonesians are currently in Mecca, the highest ever number from a foreign country, an Indonesian official told the Saudi Gazette newspaper.

Muslim worshippers pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 29 August 2017. Around 2.6 million Muslims are expected to attend.AAP

More than 100,000 security personnel have been mobilised to keep pilgrims safe, the Saudi interior ministry says.Some 17,000 civil defence employees backed by 3,000 vehicles are also helping with security.Thousands of security cameras have been set up along the pilgrimage route, according to a civil defence spokesman.

More readingTens of thousands of air-conditioned tents have been set up in Mina, between Mount Arafat and Mecca, to house pilgrims.The Saudi Red Crescent has mobilised 2,468 employees and 500 volunteers, who will work with 326 ambulances and eight helicopters.

Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017.AAP

More than 700 Saudi cooks have been recruited to feed the faithful, Arab News reported.Saudi Arabia hopes to welcome 30 million pilgrims annually in the kingdom by 2030, the Saudi Gazette said, up from the current 8 million. Muslims also flock to the country for the umra pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time of the year.Last year, 712,000 animals were slaughtered during the hajj, according to the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

A Muslim worshipper cries as he kisses the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 29 August 2017.AAP

North Korea says more missiles to come as UN condemns launch

The Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile that Pyongyang unleashed on Tuesday represented a major escalation in the face of tensions over its weapons programmes.

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In recent weeks it has threatened to send a salvo of missiles towards the US territory of Guam, while President Donald Trump has warned of raining “fire and fury” on the North.

0:00 North Korea launches rocket to counter South Korea-US drills Share North Korea launches rocket to counter South Korea-US drills

After the latest launch Trump said that “all options” were on the table, reviving his implied threat of pre-emptive US military action just days after congratulating himself that Kim appeared to be “starting to respect us”.

The UN Security Council — which has already imposed seven sets of sanctions on Pyongyang — said in a unanimous statement the North’s actions “are not just a threat to the region, but to all UN member states”.

Both the North’s key ally China and Russia, which also has ties to it, backed the US-drafted declaration, but it will not immediately lead to new or tightened measures against Pyongyang.

This Aug 29 2017 photo distributed on Wednesday, Aug 30 2017, by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the test launch.AAP

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, on Wednesday carried more than 20 pictures of the launch near Pyongyang, one showing Kim smiling broadly at a desk with a map of the Northwest Pacific, surrounded by aides.

Another showed him gazing upwards as the missile rose into the air.

South Korea’s military said Tuesday that it had travelled around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometres.

The official Korean Central News Agency cited Kim as saying that “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future” were necessary.

Tuesday’s launch was a “meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion”, he said, and a “curtain-raiser” for the North’s “resolute countermeasures” against ongoing US-South Korean military exercises which the North regards as a rehearsal for invasion. 

Wednesday’s statement was the first time the North has acknowledged sending a missile over Japan’s main islands. Two of its rockets previously did so, in 1998 and 2009, but on both occasions it claimed they were space launch vehicles.

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Tuesday’s missile overflight triggered consternation in world capitals and on the ground, with sirens blaring out and text message alerts being sent in Japan warning people to take cover.

“Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” Trump said in a White House statement. “All options are on the table.”

‘Something serious has to happen’

At the UN Security Council emergency meeting Washington’s Ambassador Nikki Haley warned that “enough is enough” and that tough action had to be taken.

“It’s unacceptable,” Haley said. “They have violated every single UN Security Council resolution that we’ve had, and so I think something serious has to happen.”

The North last month carried out its first two successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile, apparently bringing much of the US mainland into range, but the Pentagon said Tuesday’s launch was judged not to have represented a threat.

Any missile fired by the North at Guam would have to pass over Japan, and analysts told AFP that Pyongyang appeared to have chosen the trajectory as a “half-way house” option to send a message without crossing a red line.

0:00 North Korea fires projectile in eastern direction Share North Korea fires projectile in eastern direction

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was nevertheless visibly unsettled, dubbing the launch an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat.” 

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, officials in Washington privately echo the warning by Trump’s now former chief strategist Steve Bannon that it is too late for a pre-emptive strike against the North. 

“There’s no military solution, forget it,” Bannon told the American Prospect in an August 16 interview, his last before losing his job.

“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”