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Hamas official says no agreement with Israel if war continues in Gaza

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Gaza, April 29 (IANS) A Hamas official has said that the group will not accept any agreement with Israel that does not include a cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, said in a statement on Sunday that the group “will not accept any agreement that does not include a cessation of war in Gaza”, Xinhua news agency reported.

Abu Zuhri added that Israel’s response, which reached the movement through mediators, is under study, and that it is too early to reach a decision regarding it.

A Hamas delegation is scheduled to visit Cairo on Monday, to deliver the movement’s response regarding a ceasefire in Gaza and to negotiate a hostage-for-prisoner swap deal with Israel, according to a source from the movement.

The source, who preferred not to mention his name, added that the delegation is headed by Khalil Al-Hayya, the Hamas deputy chief in Gaza.

Earlier in the day, as reported by Israeli public radio, a senior Israeli official described the current development as “decisive moments in the efforts to reach a new hostage deal with Hamas.”

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The official added, “We are awaiting the response of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar,” expecting it to be made “within the next 48 hours.” He noted that Israel has expressed readiness to make “very significant concessions” regarding the return of displaced persons to northern Gaza.

On Saturday, Hamas announced that it had received Israel’s official response to the movement’s position on the Gaza ceasefire, which was submitted to the mediators Egypt and Qatar on April 13.

At the time, Hamas reiterated its demands, including “a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of the (Israeli) army from Gaza, the return of the displaced to their areas and places of residence, the increase of relief and aid for the strip, and the start of its reconstruction.”

Abu Zuhri noted in the Sunday statement that Hamas would study the new Israeli proposal, and upon completion, it would hand over its response to the mediators.

The movement’s announcement came after Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel recently arrived in Israel in an effort to broker a ceasefire deal between the conflicting parties.

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Kamel held a series of meetings with Israeli security officials on the potential military operation in Rafah and the release of detainees, according to Israeli media outlets.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States are seeking to reach a deal for a prisoner exchange and a second ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, following the first one that ended last December.

Israel estimated that there were still about 134 Israelis held hostage in Gaza, whereas Hamas announced that 70 of them had been killed in Israeli indiscriminate airstrikes.

Israel holds more than 9,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails, whose conditions have worsened since its war on Gaza began last October, resulting in deaths among them, according to Palestinian organizations concerned with prisoners.

–IANS

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International

Sri Lanka Navy seizes 702 kg of Tendu leaves

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Colombo, June 16 (IANS) Sri Lanka Navy said on Sunday that it seized 702 kg of Tendu leaves smuggled into the country and arrested two suspects during a search operation.

The Navy added that it conducts regular search operations and patrols in the coastal areas of the island, to prevent the influx of a wide range of illegal items into the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

As part of these ongoing efforts, staff vessel SLNS Thambapanni, under the Northwestern Naval Command, conducted a search operation on Saturday in the Daluwa area leading to the seizure.

The seized consignment was packed in 19 sacks.

Additionally, the operation led to the confiscation of a three-wheeler used in the illegal activity, according to the Navy.

–IANS

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2 killed, 4 injured in explosion in Pakistan

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Islamabad, June 16 (IANS) Two people were killed and four others injured in an explosion of an improvised explosive device in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday, official sources said.

The incident happened in the Kurram district of the province, where a vehicle carrying civilians was hit by a roadside planted device, the sources told Xinhua news agency.

The injured people were shifted to a nearby hospital, where four of them were in critical condition.

The vehicle was completely destroyed in the explosion, and the police cordoned off the area for investigation.

No group or individual has claimed the attack yet.

Further details are awaited.

–IANS

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Pride march in Kyiv for the first time since Russian invasion

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Kyiv, June 16 (IANS/DPA) About 500 demonstrators protested on Sunday in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv under heavy security for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

It was the first Pride march since the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

Due to the martial law in place, permits for demonstrations are difficult to obtain.

The first Pride demonstration took place in 2013 and was held regularly between 2015 and 2021.

On Sunday, the protesters demanded the legalisation of civil unions and harsh penalties for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

For security reasons, the march was only allowed to proceed for a few dozen metres.

The participants were directed to the underground metro after a few minutes.

Several Ukrainian soldiers and diplomats from Western embassies also took part.

Local media reported that hundreds of partially masked supporters of far-right organisations simultaneously marched through the centre of Kyiv and tried to prevent the LGBTQ demonstration from going forward.

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The police reportedly separated the two demonstrations.

–IANS/DPA

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Taliban confirms taking part in upcoming Doha meeting on Afghanistan

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Islamabad, June 16 (IANS/DPA) The Taliban government on Sunday officially announced its intention to send a delegation to the upcoming Doha meeting on the situation in Afghanistan.

Taliban Chief Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told TOLOnews that the group believes their participation in the Qatar talks will benefit Afghanistan when it comes to humanitarian aid and investment.

The UN-hosted meeting will be held on June 30 and July 1, to increase international engagement with the country as it faces a series of crises.

Since returning to power in 2021, the Taliban have rejected calls for the formation of an inclusive government and to ensure women’s rights to education and work.

As a result, no country has recognised the Taliban government.

The country’s banking reserves are frozen in the West, and senior Taliban leaders are on US wanted lists.

However, the UN Security Council eased travel restrictions for key Taliban leaders so they could perform the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

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Last week the European Union announced a €150 million ($160 million) humanitarian aid package to the country.

The Taliban has been seeking more cooperation with the UN — while also rejecting the world body’s initiatives.

In December, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution asking the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy for Afghanistan.

The Taliban has consistently been against having such a figure for the country.

In February, the Taliban refused to attend a similar UN meeting in Doha on account that Afghan activists had been invited.

–IANS/DPA

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Heavy rainfall triggers flooding in 22 rivers in China

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Beijing, June 16 (IANS) Heavy rainfall has caused flooding in 22 rivers in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the regional hydrology centre reported on Sunday.

According to the centre, a total of 30 hydrologic stations in 22 rivers in Guangxi reported water levels between 0.03 and 2.63 metres above the warning levels, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Hezhou hydrologic station of the Hejiang River reported the largest flooding in a decade.

From 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday, heavy rains lashed about half a dozen prefecture-level cities in Guangxi, including Hechi, Liuzhou, Yulin, Hezhou and Baise.

One township in the city of Hechi and another in the city of Liuzhou saw precipitation of around 140 mm within the day.

The centre also predicted that the water levels in some swollen local rivers will continue to rise by up to one metre in the next 24 hours.

–IANS

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