China blames US for hyping fears of uncontrolled rocket re-entry

"These people are jealous of China's rapid progress in space technology."

China blames US for hyping fears of uncontrolled rocket re-entry

For a week, China's Long March 5B grabbed global attention, as space agencies and experts closely tracked its trajectory, speculating where debris would fall upon the rocket's uncontrolled reentry.

In China, however, the country's space administration stayed silent for days amid criticism that allowing such a large rocket stage to free-fall towards Earth was irresponsible and posed a safety risk — albeit a small one — to many countries.

Finally, on Sunday morning Beijing time the China Manned Space Engineering Office broke its silence, confirming the remnants of the rocket had plunged into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, after most of it had burned up in the atmosphere.

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For many who have followed the rocket's return, the news came as a big relief.

In China, it was not only seen as a vindication of the rocket's design, but also used by state media to argue that the intense global attention was merely a Western effort to discredit China's space program and thwart its progress.

"Their hype and smears were in vain," the Global Times, a state-run newspaper, said in an editorial on Sunday, accusing US scientists and NASA of "acting against their conscience" and being "anti-intellectual."

"These people are jealous of China's rapid progress in space technology," the paper said.

"Some of (them) even try to use the noises they made to obstruct and interfere with China's future intensive launches for the construction of its space station."

While Beijing has long accused Western countries and media of holding China to a different standard, Chinese officials also routinely have a nationalist response to any criticism, branding it an ill-intended attempt to "smear China."

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Such fierce defensiveness is particularly evident when it comes to China's space program, an important point of national pride for the Chinese public and a source of prestige for the ruling Communist Party.

China was a latecomer to space exploration, launching its first satellite only in 1970, 13 years after the Soviet Union and 12 years after the United States.

But in recent decades, it has swiftly become a frontrunner in the space race — it was the first country to land on the far side of the moon in 2019, and successfully brought back lunar rocks last year.

The defensiveness to criticism from the West, especially the United States, is partially born out of what Beijing perceives as Washington's hostility to block its progress beyond Earth's atmosphere.

Since 1999, the US has imposed export controls on satellite technology to China. And in 2011, Congress passed a law that imposed restrictions on NASA engagement with China.

Consequently, Chinese astronauts are barred from the International Space Station (ISS) — the only space station in orbit and a collaboration between the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

As a result, China is building its own space station, the Tiangong (meaning heavenly palace in Chinese).

Last month, it successfully launched its first module with the Long March 5B — the rocket that drew the world's scrutiny.

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In blaming the West for their "smear campaign," however, Chinese state media and space experts omitted to explain why the Long March 5B had caused anxiety among global scientists.

Rocket stages are often dropped before they reach orbit along trajectories that can be predicted before the launch.

And when they are designed to reach orbit, they usually come with devices that allow more controlled reentries and aim for the ocean.

Or they are left in so-called "graveyard" orbits that keep them in space for decades or centuries.

The Chinese rocket, estimated to weigh more than 20 tonnes, is the largest space object to return uncontrolled to Earth in nearly three decades — and a major deviation from the practice of other space agencies.

There are also worrying precedents for what happens in such incidents: the US Skylab space station broke up over the Indian Ocean and scattered debris across Western Australia when it returned to Earth in 1979.

More recently, a piece of debris from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket landed on a farm in Washington state, after the second stage of the rocket broke up on reentry.

https://twitter.com/GrantCoSheriff/status/1378031863785263106

But amid deepening political mistrust of the US, and a lack of technological exchanges, meaningful scientific international exchanges with Beijing are being sidestepped in favour of fanning the flames of nationalist anger.

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More than 300 hurt as Israeli police, Palestinians clash in Jerusalem

Israeli police have clashed with Palestinian protesters inside a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site.

More than 300 hurt as Israeli police, Palestinians clash in Jerusalem

Israeli police firing tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets have clashed with stone-throwing Palestinians at a flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, leaving hundreds injured.

The Monday unrest was the latest in a series of confrontations that threatened to push the contested city towards wider conflict.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by ultranationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.

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The marchers were ordered to avoid the area and sent on a different route circumventing the Muslim Quarter on their way to the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

But tensions remained high after Monday morning's violence.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene.

Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the iconic golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza.

Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

More than 305 Palestinians were hurt, including 228 who went to hospitals and clinics for treatment, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent. Seven of the injured were in serious condition.

Police said 21 officers were hurt, including three who were hospitalised. Israeli paramedics said seven Israeli civilians were also hurt.

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The confrontation was the latest after weeks of mounting tensions between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Old City of Jerusalem, the emotional centre of their conflict.

There have been almost nightly clashes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, already a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fuelled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Monday was expected to be particularly tense since Israelis mark it as Jerusalem Day to celebrate their capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war.

On Monday, two anti-Arab members of Israel's parliament, surrounded by an entourage and police, pushed through a line of protesters in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Several Arab members of parliament were among those trying to stop Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, amid shouting and jostling.

At one point during the scrum, the protesters pounded on the sides of a dumpster, and one man yelled at Mr Smotrich in Arabic, "Get out of here, you dog!"

Mr Smotrich and Mr Ben Gvir eventually got to the other side of a police barricade and entered a house already inhabited by settlers.

Over the past few days, hundreds of Palestinians and several dozen police officers have been hurt in clashes in and around the Old City, including the sacred compound, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

The compound, which has been the trigger for rounds of Israel-Palestinian violence in the past, is Islam's third holiest site and considered Judaism's holiest.

An AP photographer at the scene said that early Monday morning, protesters had barricaded gates to the walled compound with wooden boards and scrap metal.

Sometime after 7am, clashes erupted, with those inside throwing stones at police deployed outside.

Police entered the compound, firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets and stun grenades.

At some point during the morning about 400 people, both young protesters and older worshippers, were inside the carpeted Al-Aqsa Mosque. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades into the mosque.

Police said protesters hurled stones at officers and onto an adjoining roadway near the Western Wall, where thousands of Israeli Jews had gathered to pray.

After several days of Jerusalem confrontations, Israel has come under growing international criticism for its heavy-handed actions at the site, particularly during Ramadan.

The UN Security Council scheduled closed consultations on the situation on Monday.

Late Sunday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben-Shabbat.

A White House statement said that Mr Sullivan called on Israel to "pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm" and expressed the US's "serious concerns" about the ongoing violence and planned evictions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against the criticism on Monday, saying Israel was determined to ensure the rights of worship for all and that this "requires from time to time stand up and stand strong as Israeli police and our security forces are doing now."

Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Mr Netanyahu, claimed in a tweet that "extremist Palestinians planned well in advance to carry out riots" at the holy site, sharing photos of mounds of stones and wooden barricades inside the compound.

Ayman Odeh, a leading Arab politician in Israel, blamed the violence on Israel's discriminatory policies towards the Palestinians and said it had provoked the violence. "Wherever you find occupation, you will find resistance," he said at a news conference in Sheikh Jarrah.

In other violence, Palestinian protesters hurled rocks at an Israeli vehicle driving just outside the Old City walls.

The driver later told public broadcaster Kan that his windows were smashed by stones and pepper spray shot into the car.

CCTV footage released by the police showed a crowd surrounding the car and pelting it with rocks when it swerved off the road and into a stone barrier and a bystander.

Police said two passengers were injured.

The day began with police announcing that Jews would be barred from visiting the holy site on Jerusalem Day, which is marked with a flag-waving parade through the Old City that is widely perceived by Palestinians as a provocative display in the contested city.

But just as the parade was about to begin, police said they were altering the route at the instruction of political leaders.

Several thousand people, many of them from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, were participating.

In the 1967 war in which Israel captured East Jerusalem, it also took the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It later annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital.

The Palestinians seek all three areas for a future state, with East Jerusalem as their capital.

The recent round of violence began when Israel blocked off a popular spot where Muslims traditionally gather each night during Ramadan at the end of their daylong fast.

Israel later removed the restrictions, but clashes quickly resumed amid tensions over the planned eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah.

Israel's Supreme Court postponed a key ruling on Monday that could have forced dozens of Palestinians from their homes, citing the "circumstances."

The tensions in Jerusalem have threatened to reverberate throughout the region.

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired several barrages of rockets into Israel, and protesters allied with the ruling Hamas militant group have launched dozens of incendiary balloons into Israel, setting off fires across the southern part of the country.

Hamas issued an ultimatum, giving Israel until 6pm to remove its forces from the mosque compound and Sheikh Jarrah and release Palestinians detained in the latest clashes. It was not immediately clear what Hamas planned to do if its demands weren't met.

In response, COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry organ responsible for crossings with the Gaza Strip, announced Monday that it was closing the Erez crossing to all but humanitarian and exceptional cases until further notice.

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