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Civilian deaths in Rafah caused by unexpected secondary explosions, fire: Israeli army

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Jerusalem, May 29 (IANS) The Israeli military has said its initial investigation findings indicated that it was unexpected secondary explosions and fire that caused dozens of civilian deaths in its airstrike on Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Sunday night.

In a video posted on Tuesday on the website of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), IDF Spokesman Daniel Hagari said that the army had launched a “precise” attack on a structure where two senior Hamas commanders, Yassin Rabia and Khaled Najjar, were located, Xinhua news agency reported. The IDF accused the two Hamas officials of “orchestrating and executing terror attacks against Israelis”.

Hagari said that “due to unforeseen circumstances, a fire was tragically ignited, resulting in the loss of lives of nearby Gazan civilians”.

He noted that two munitions “with only 17 kilos of explosive material” were used for the strike, “the smallest amount that the IDF jets can use,” stressing the army’s munition alone “could not ignite a fire of this size.”

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The investigation was still ongoing to verify the cause of the fire, Hagari said, adding, “We are looking into all possibilities, including the option that weapons stored in a compound next to the original target were the cause of the fire.”

Hagari released video and photos of the targeted structure, pointing out that “no tents” were nearby and that the entire area had been evacuated in advance.

The spokesman said the IDF has taken “all measures” in advance to prevent harm to civilians, as “the war is against Hamas, not the people of Gaza”.

The Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported that an Israeli airstrike targeted on Sunday evening the tents in a newly established camp for the displaced civilians in Rafah.

The attack, which resulted in the deaths of at least 45 Palestinians and injuries to numerous others, has sparked severe criticism from regional countries and the international community.

–IANS

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Putin warns S.Korea against arms deliveries to Ukraine

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Hanoi, June 21 (IANS/DPA) Russian President Vladimir Putin has said South Korea would be making a “big mistake” if it supplies arms to Ukraine.

“If that happens, then we will make corresponding decisions that will not please the current leadership of South Korea,” Putin said on Thursday during a trip to Vietnam.

The South Korean government had earlier expressed concern over a new Russia-North Korea strategic partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country is attacked.

Seoul said the security commitments violated UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

It also suggested it could reconsider its long-standing policy of not supplying weapons to Kiev.

North Korea, ruled by President Kim Jong Un, is subject to far-reaching UN sanctions and import bans due to its nuclear weapons programme, including the trade in weapons and the transfer of military technologies to the country.

During a state visit to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Putin signed the partnership agreement with Kim.

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At a press conference in Hanoi on Thursday, Putin called Seoul’s concerns unfounded.

He said South Korea had nothing to fear as the pact would only apply if either Russia or North Korea was attacked by a third country.

“As far as I know, (South Korea) is not planning any aggression” against North Korea, he said.

This means that “there is no need to fear our cooperation”.

Putin also said that he would not deploy any North Korean soldiers in Ukraine.

However, he threatened to deliver high-precision weapons to North Korea as a response to Western arms deliveries to Ukraine.

–IANS/DPA

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Washington prioritises Ukraine, postpones military supplies to others

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Washington, June 21 (IANS/DPA) The US government plans to postpone the delivery of some military equipment to other countries to prioritise strengthening Ukraine’s air defences.

White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that given Kiev’s urgent needs, the US government had made the “difficult but necessary” decision to postpone certain planned arms sales to other countries, in particular missiles for the Patriot and NASAMS air defence systems.

These should go instead to Ukraine, whose armed forces urgently need additional air defence capacities, he added.

The countries concerned had been informed, Kirby said, though he did not say which countries were involved.

All are to receive what they had ordered, just a little later than originally planned, he added.

This was first mentioned by US President Joe Biden during a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a few days ago on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy.

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–IANS/DPA

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White House: Netanyahu criticism is 'perplexing' and 'disappointing'

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Washington, June 21 (IANS/DPA) The US government has expressed its anger at statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he asserted that Washington is withholding arms deliveries to Israel.

White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby on Thursday called Netanyahu’s recent video message “perplexing to say the least,” “deeply disappointing” and “vexing”.

“This President put fighter aircraft up in the air in the middle of April to help shoot down several hundred drones and missiles, including ballistic missiles, that were fired from Iran proper at Israel,” Kirby noted.

Kirby said “no other country was doing more” to help Israel in its fight against Hamas and that the White House had “no idea” what prompted Netanyahu to make the comments in a video released on Tuesday.

In it, Netanyahu said it was “inconceivable” that the US had been “withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel,” but did offer specifics.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who recently met with Netanyahu, has also pushed back.

ALSO READ:  Israeli army kills senior Hamas official: Spokesperson

Blinken said earlier that all arms shipments were moving as they “normally” would to Israel, apart from certain bombs that could be used in densely populated areas of Gaza. Those explosives have been paused pending a review.

Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden have been at loggerheads for months.

Biden and other high-ranking US government officials have made it unusually clear that they do not agree with Netanyahu’s actions in the Gaza war.

Criticism has been levelled in particular at the high number of civilian casualties and the humanitarian hardship in the Gaza Strip.

–IANS/DPA

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15 shot during Juneteenth celebration in Oakland

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San Francisco, June 21 (IANS) A shooting during a Juneteenth celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland, US state of California, left 15 people injured, the police said.

The crowds were peaceful until around 8:15 p.m. local time on Wednesday when an illegal sideshow involving vehicles and motorbikes occurred near Grand Avenue and Bellevue Avenue, Oakland Police Department said on Thursday in a press statement.

During the sideshow, someone walked onto the hood of a car, which led to the occupants getting out and assaulting that person. Then came the gunfire, Oakland Police Department Chief Floyd Mitchell said at a press conference on Thursday noon.

The Oakland Fire Department said it transported at least four gunshot victims to a local hospital.

Police also took some victims to nearby hospitals. Other victims were self-transported.

–IANS

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Iran condemns Canada's blacklisting of IRGC

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Tehran, June 21 (IANS) Iranian Caretaker Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has condemned the Canadian government’s “provocative and irresponsible” decision to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “terrorist entity”.

He made the remarks in a post on Thursday on social media platform X while reacting to an announcement on Wednesday by Canadian Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc that his country had decided to list the IRGC as a “terrorist group”.

Bagheri Kani said Canada’s act of blacklisting the IRGC, which is an integral part of Iran’s official armed forces, was a “provocation” of the principles and rules of international law and threatened regional peace and stability, Xinhua news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Thursday condemned the Canadian government’s move as “unconventional and unwise,” saying the decision was a “hostile action in contradiction with international law, regarding the sovereign equality and non-interference in the internal affairs of states”.

Kanaani called it “an instance of aggression against Iran’s national sovereignty”.

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In his remarks on Wednesday, LeBlanc vowed that Canada would use all the tools at its disposal “to combat the terrorist activity” of the IRGC while accusing the Iranian armed force of disregarding human rights both inside and outside of Iran.

Thousands of senior Iranian officials, including top IRGC members, are now banned from entering Canada, and those already inside the country may be investigated and removed, LeBlanc said.

As a consequence of the decision, Canadian financial institutions are required to immediately freeze the property of a blacklisted entity, and it is a criminal offence for anyone in Canada and Canadians abroad to knowingly deal with property owned or controlled by a terrorist group, according to a press statement issued by Public Safety Canada.

–IANS

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