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Haiti rescue charter flight carrying Americans lands in Miami as gang violence escalates

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Haiti rescue charter flight carrying Americans lands in Miami as gang violence escalates

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As Haiti spirals into chaos after weeks of gang violence, the first rescue charter flight took off from the Caribbean nation and landed in Miami Sunday afternoon, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News. 

All 47 passengers on board are believed to be Americans and the flight was reserved only for those who had U.S. passports, the official said. 

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An armed member of the G9 and Family gang rolls a tire to burn at a roadblock in the Delmas 6 neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The flight took off from the city of Cap-Haïtien, about a five-and-a-half-hour drive north from the capital of Port-au-Prince, which is largely under the control of gangs. 

The U.S. State Department announced the charter flight on X Saturday, providing a link for an application for those who wanted to get on it. It warned that U.S. citizens should consider the flight only if they could reach the Cap-Haïtien airport safely.

SENATE VOTES TO CONFIRM US AMBASSADOR TO HAITI AMID GANG ATTEMPT TO SEIZE POWER IN CARIBBEAN COUNTRY

This comes days after the State Department said there were no immediate plans to evacuate American citizens, citing the many warnings not to travel to Haiti over the last four years. 

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Meanwhile, the non-profit Project Dynamo is working on rescuing at least 40 Americans by air or sea. It’s not clear if any of those people were on board Sunday’s charter flight. 

Security forces on Haiti

Members of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, USGPN, set up a security perimeter around one of the three downtown stations after police fought off an attack by gangs the day before, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Saturday, March 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

The State Department says it is aware of at least several hundred more American citizens who are still stuck in Haiti. 

Sunday’s flight comes after the U.S. flew in military forces to beef up security and evacuate non-essential personnel at the American embassy. 

PENTAGON ALERTED TO POTENTIAL ‘MARITIME MASS MIGRATION’ FROM HAITI AMID CARIBBEAN NATION’S SPIRALING CONFLICT

The United States flew in military forces last week to beef up security at the American Embassy and seemingly quash speculation that senior U.S. government officials might be leaving.

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Haiti crowds

Pedestrians and commuters fill a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, March 12, 2024.  (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph)

Gangs have raged through Haiti in recent weeks, attacking key institutions and shutting down the main international airport. The chaos has pushed many Haitians to the brink of famine and left many more in increasingly desperate conditions.

The violence has left Haiti’s government in a state of turmoil and prompted Prime Minister Ariel Henry to pledge that he would resign once a key transitional council was in place.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Belgium probing Russian influence network suspected of paying MEPs

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Belgium probing Russian influence network suspected of paying MEPs

The Belgian federal prosecutor has opened an investigation into EU lawmakers accused of receiving payments for spreading pro-Russian propaganda.

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Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told reporters on Friday that Belgium’s intelligence services had confirmed the “existence of a pro-Russian interference network with activities in several European countries” which is “subject to prosecution” in the country.

A recent investigation led by Czech authorities revealed lawmakers sitting in the European Parliament in Brussels had received cash from a Moscow-backed influence operation to “promote” its propaganda in the bloc.

“The cash payments did not take place in Belgium, but the interference does,” De Croo said.

“As Belgium is the seat of the EU institutions, we have a responsibility to uphold every citizen’s right to a free and safe vote,” he added.

It comes just over two months before EU voters head to the polls to elect 720 members to the European Parliament, and amid mounting fears Kremlin proxies could be using information manipulation to skew the democratic vote.

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Three of the major factions of the European Parliament – the centre-left Socialists and Democrats, the centrist Renew Europe and the Greens – have called for a swift investigation, and the parliament’s press services have confirmed to Euronews they are “looking into” the allegations.

While De Croo was unable to specify how many EU lawmakers could face prosecution, Czech media citing intelligence officials have said the allegations involve politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary.

The Czech investigation resulted in the sanctioning of two individuals and news company Voice of Europe, through which investigators say the Russian operation had been channelled.

MEP Maximilian Krah of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), has spoken out after being associated with Voice of Europe, asserting that despite giving interviews to the company, he had not benefitted financially.

“There is no specific allegation that I was paid for any of these,” Krah said on X. “This shows what to think of the current campaign: Nothing!”

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Belgium calls on EU to step up

De Croo said he had discussed the probe with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola as well as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and had asked Eurojust, the bloc’s agency for cooperation on criminal justice, to “convene and discuss this matter urgently.”

De Croo also wants to examine whether the mandates of both the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) can allow for a “prosecution” in the case.

“If that is not the case, we should broaden these mandates,” he added.

Belgian authorities are also currently investigating a sprawling corruption scandal involving MEPs and other parliament officials, accused of receiving cash in exchange for wielding their political influence in favour of officials from Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania.

But the probe has faced turmoil and put the Belgian judicial services to the test, with the previous prosecutor forced to step down following allegations he was not impartial.

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The numerous debacles in the Belgian investigation have led many to brand the case as ‘Belgium-gate’.

De Croo said his authorities remained “dedicated” to their role as “consensus builders” and would  continue to work “not just in the interest of Belgium, but for the entire EU.”

He supported the Czech Republic’s proposal to look at slapping EU-wide sanctions on individuals connected to the propaganda network, but said that the people who “receive” bribes also need to be scrutinised as part of the Belgian investigation.

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Multiple injuries, arrest made after semitrailer crashes into public safety office in Texas

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Multiple injuries, arrest made after semitrailer crashes into public safety office in Texas

A suspect is in custody after a commercial vehicle crashed into a Texas Department of Public Safety office in a rural town west of Houston on Friday, seriously injuring several people, according the agency.

Texas DPS officials said in a social media post on X that the crash happened at the agency’s office in Brenham, Texas, located about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Houston. Officials said there are reports of multiple serious injuries but did not specify how many people were affected or the extent of the injuries. They also requested people avoid the area to clear the way for responding medical personnel.

The Texas Rangers are investigating the incident and there is no further threat, DPS officials said Friday.

Multiple news outlets showed images of a large, red tractor-trailer hauling material on a flatbed in the parking lot of the building. The front end of the 18-wheeler was damaged and covered with debris from the front doors of the office. Debris was also scattered out front near a gaping hole in the entrance.

DPS officials did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.

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City of Brenham officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking further information.

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Imminent attack from Iran keeps Israel on alert as US admits 'credible' threat from terror state

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Imminent attack from Iran keeps Israel on alert as US admits 'credible' threat from terror state

The U.S. continues to closely monitor what it deems to be “credible” threats of an Iranian attack on Israel in response to a strike on Iran’s Damascus consulate, even as reports indicate that Iran is looking to deploy a non-escalatory response. 

“I would just say that we’re watching this very, very closely,” U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters on Friday. “We still deemed the potential threat by Iran here to be real, to be viable, certainly credible, and we’re watching it as closely as we can.” 

“Right now, our focus is on having a conversation with our Israeli counterparts and making sure not just conversations, but making sure that they have what they need and that they’re able to defend themselves,” Kirby added. “We’re also clear it would be imprudent if we didn’t take a look at our own posture in the region to make sure that we’re properly prepared as well.”

Kirby assured that the U.S. remains in “constant communication” with Israeli counterparts to make sure they are ready for attack but refused to “armchair quarterback … in a public way in terms of the conversations we’re having or what we’re seeing in the intelligence picture.” 

ISRAELI PM, MILITARY LEADERS HOLD EMERGENCY MEETING AMID POSSIBLE DIRECT IRANIAN ATTACK

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Tehran has continued to threaten a response against Israel for the attack on an Iranian consulate in Damascus that killed seven Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) members, including two generals. Hezbollah leadership over the weekend at the annual Quds Day commemoration in Iran also touted their readiness and willingness to launch retaliation against Israel for the attack. 

U.S. CENTCOM Gen. Michael Kurilla has been in Israel, where he met with the IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen Hezi Halevi and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant to assess military preparedness, moving up his plans due to the threats from Iran, Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed during a press conference Thursday. Ryder did not speculate as to any specific threats from Iran to Israel, even as Tehran continues to promise action.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Getty Images)

The State Department also issued new travel advisories for Israel on Thursday, restricting U.S. government employees and their families from traveling outside major cities. The department warns, “Terrorist groups, lone-actor terrorists and other violent extremists continue plotting possible attacks in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Terrorists and violent extremists may attack with little or no warning.” 

Iran has signaled to Washington that it will respond to Israel’s attack on the Damascus consulate, but may do so in a way that aims to avoid major escalation and will not act hastily, Reuters reported Thursday. 

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US RESTRICTS STAFF IN ISRAEL FROM TRAVELING OUTSIDE CITIES AS IRAN ATTACK THREAT PERSISTS

Israel, as of Thursday night, had not issued any special instructions from its Home Front Command but stressed that Israelis would be immediately notified of any steps taken as the state remains “on a high state of alert and preparedness,” The Jerusalem Post reported. 

Iran U.S. Military

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Michael Kurilla met with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant amid rising tensions with Tehran. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

Gen. Jack Keane of the Institute for the Study of War (IFSW) during an appearance on Friday’s “Fox & Friends” said an attack will happen at some point because Iran “cannot avoid the international publicity surrounding the taking down of the IRGC headquarters in Syria,” saying it was “just a reality” but adding that Iran will likely pursue a “measured response” and does not really want escalation. 

“I think they’re very much enjoying the psychological impact that this is having, not only on Israel but also on the world writ-large,” Gen. Jack Keane said. “I think we’re taking the precautions we should be taking, to protect our own people, and certainly Israel is doing that.”

Tehran Jerusalem Drones

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Michael Kurilla and Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant review Israeli military capabilities as part of an ongoing effort to ensure operational cooperability.  (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

“Iran has their finger on the trigger here,” “This much we know: Iran doesn’t want any escalation of this that would lead to a war with Israel or the United States, and that has been the fact from the beginning of the war in Gaza when they operationalized all of their proxies to join in that effort that Hamas started.” 

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HOUSE REPUBLICANS TURN UP HEAT ON BIDEN TO BROKER ‘EXPEDIENT RELEASE’ OF HAMAS HOSTAGES, SUPPORT ISRAEL

Keane suggested that the best way to handle Iran was to destroy its IRGC assets in Iran, because “Iran does not want to escalate,” claiming Iran has “a weak air force … a weak navy” and “not particularly well-trained or … well-equipped” troops – instead, he argued that Iran relies heavily on its drone and missile arsenal.

“Iran knows that war with them would destroy their regime economically, and they are likely to lose it,” Keane insisted. “The leverage has always been on the side of Israel, the United States and the West, but we absolutely refuse to use it.” 

Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi

Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi holding a situational assessment and discussion with reserve commanders on the Lebanese border. (IDF Spokesman’s Unit)

Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital that Iran is better positioned to benefit from sitting back and letting tensions remain high while not actually launching any attack. 

“Despite the regime thoroughly benefiting from the wall-to-wall coverage of its impending “retaliation” against Israel, the more the delay, the greater the expectation for a larger attack, and the greater the likelihood of an even stronger Israeli kinetic reprisal,” Taleblu said. 

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“To date, Iran has never fired at Israel directly from its own territory, nor has it ever fired ballistic missiles from its own territory at defended targets,” Taleblu said, noting that Iran could look to launch an attack from its navy or cruise missiles from outside Iranian territory. 

“There are challenges aplenty for Iran: A strike that fails or is successfully intercepted will show the Islamic Republic as weak and invite more pressure; a strike that is successful will likely be responded to and beget a cycle of escalation Tehran can ill afford,” Taleblu explained. 

“That’s why Khamenei’s most important legacy as supreme leader for over three decades has been avoiding an outright war while keeping his ideological disposition,” Taleblu added. “He now faces the greatest challenge to that today.” 

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