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Egypt, US reject any Israeli ground operation in Gaza's Rafah: Top diplomats

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Cairo, April 13 (IANS) Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken affirmed their rejection of any Israeli ground military operation in the southernmost Gaza Strip city of Rafah.

During a phone conversation, the two top diplomats discussed efforts to achieve a ceasefire and increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said on Friday in a statement.

Shoukry stressed the need to continue to pressure Israel to comply with its responsibilities as the occupying power, stop targeting defenceless civilians, and open the land border crossings between Israel and the strip to increase the flow of aid, Xinhua news agency reported.

He also urged for removing obstacles to the entry of aid, in addition to allowing displaced Palestinians to return to their homes in northern Gaza.

The Egyptian Minister also reaffirmed his country’s rejection of attempts to forcibly displace Palestinians outside their lands, saying these attempts, aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause, constitute a grave violation of the provisions of international law.

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Shoukry and Blinken also touched on the growing tensions in the region, highlighting the importance of efforts to contain the ongoing escalation, given its negative effects on regional stability.

Israel has been launching a large-scale offensive against Hamas in Gaza to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 were taken hostage.

The over six-month-long war in Gaza has so far killed 33,634 Palestinians and wounded 76,214 others since its outbreak, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza on Friday.

–IANS

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Ukraine, EU extend freight transport deal for another year

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Kiev, June 21 (IANS) Ukraine and the EU have amended and extended their agreement on freight transport liberalisation, which was due to expire on June 30, for another year, the Ukrainian government press service reported.

The updated deal includes provisions for prolonging the cancellation of special permits for haulers travelling between Ukraine and the EU, Xinhua news agency reported.

At the same time, the agreement created new mutual obligations between the parties regarding transport licenses and the labelling of trucks.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the “transport visa-free regime” with the EU would contribute to Ukraine’s integration into the European economic space and spur the country’s economy.

“It will ensure positive dynamics of exports to the EU countries, which will make us more economically sustainable,” Shmyhal added.

According to him, in the past 18 months, Ukraine’s exports to the EU increased by 48 per cent backed by permit-free freight transport travel.

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Ukraine and the EU signed the freight transport deal in June 2022.

At the end of last year, Polish carriers staged protests at several checkpoints on the Ukrainian border, demanding the return of the permit regime for Ukrainian haulers crossing into the EU.

The updated agreement includes a clause that a permit-free regime for Ukrainian carriers could be automatically extended until the end of 2025.

–IANS

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Death toll from heavy rainfall rises to 9 in China

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Beijing, June 21 (IANS) Torrential rains have killed nine people in two places in south China’s Guangdong province, local authorities said.

As of 4 p.m. Thursday, heavy rains left four people dead and four others missing in the Meixian district of the city of Meizhou, and another five dead and two others missing in Jiaoling County of Meizhou.

In Meixian, the rains have affected 32,083 people and more than 1,586 hectares of crops, causing direct economic losses of about 1.06 billion yuan ($146.4 million), Xinhua news agency reported.

In Jiaoling, a total of 64,947 people have been affected, with direct economic losses of about 3.65 billion yuan.

Rescue and disaster relief efforts are underway in the two places.

–IANS

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UN chief calls for global efforts to protect refugees

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United Nations, June 21 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for global efforts to protect the 43.4 million refugees across the globe in a video message on World Refugee Day.

“From Sudan to Ukraine, from the Middle East to Myanmar to Congo and beyond, conflict, climate chaos and upheaval are forcing record numbers of people from their homes and fueling profound human suffering,” Guterres said on Thursday.

According to the latest figures, a total of more than 120 million people around the world are forcibly displaced, including 43.5 million refugees, Xinhua news agency reported.

World Refugee Day, celebrated annually on June 20, is about honouring their strength and courage, and stepping up efforts to protect and support refugees on every step of their journey, the UN Chief added.

Refugees need global solidarity and the ability to rebuild their lives in dignity, said Guterres, adding “When given the opportunity, refugees make significant contributions to their host communities, but they need access to equal opportunities and jobs, housing, and healthcare”.

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Noting that young refugees need quality education to achieve their dreams, he said that host countries — mostly low- or middle-income countries — need the support and resources to fully include refugees in societies and economies.

“Let us pledge to reaffirm the world’s collective responsibility in assisting and welcoming refugees, in upholding their human rights, including the right to seek asylum, in safeguarding the integrity of the refugee protection regime, and ultimately, in resolving conflicts so that those forced from their communities can return home,” the UN Chief concluded.

World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe, was set for the first time on June 20, 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

–IANS

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Malawian president appoints Michael Usi as new Vice President

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Lilongwe, June 21 (IANS) Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has appointed Michael Usi as the country’s Vice President, replacing Saulos Chilima who died in a plane crash on June 10.

The President announced on Thursday through Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba, adding that the new Vice President will be sworn in on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Usi was the Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change until he was appointed Vice President.

He is also the Vice President of the United Transformation Movement, a political party that Chilima founded and led as President.

Born in 1968, Usi is known for his significant contributions to the entertainment industry as an actor, playwright, and filmmaker. He is also known for his development work in Malawi.

In addition to his entertainment career, Usi has extensive experience with non-governmental organisations, focusing on community projects in health, education, and economic development.

Throughout his career, Usi has been an advocate for social justice, education, and community empowerment, earning him widespread respect and popularity among Malawians.

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His appointment is reportedly seen as a strategic move to harness his charisma and experience to address the nation’s challenges and promote development initiatives.

–IANS

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Palestinian teen killed by Israeli army in West Bank

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Ramallah, June 21 (IANS) A Palestinian teenager was killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Qalqilya, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Ministry added on Thursday that 15-year-old Naeem Abdullah Naeem Samha died after being hit by live bullets fired by the Israeli army, Xinhua news agency reported.

Local Palestinian sources told Xinhua that Israeli forces stormed the city, leading to confrontations with young men.

The Israeli army has not yet commented.

At least 549 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 2023, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

–IANS

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