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Hamas says 'no ceasefire negotiations' with Israel after Rafah attack

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Gaza, May 28 (IANS) Hamas has reportedly informed mediators that it will not participate in any negotiation for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip or a prisoner exchange deal after Israel’s attack on the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah on Sunday night.

The decision was made in response to the Israeli army’s “targeting of tents housing displaced civilians in the northwest of Rafah, killing and wounding dozens of them”, Xinhua news agency reported, citing a Hamas source.

The source on Monday also said that the Hamas leadership had not received any official notification from mediators in Egypt or Qatar regarding the resumption of negotiations.

At least 45 Palestinians, including children and women, were killed in Israeli airstrikes on tents for displaced people near Rafah city, Gaza’s health authorities said in a press statement on Monday.

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said in a press conference in Beirut on Monday that Israel would not receive the hostages “except according to our conditions presented to the mediators.”

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Hamdan added that Hamas’s conditions for reaching a deal, including a permanent ceasefire, remained unchanged.

–IANS

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Despite China’s criticism, US delegation meets Dalai Lama, pushes for Tibet's autonomy

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Dharamsala, June 19 (IANS) In a significant show of diplomatic power politics, a high-level bipartisan delegation from the US, comprising ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, met Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at the latter’s residence here despite criticism by China.

This move signals a potential escalation in diplomatic tensions as the US lawmakers asserted their stance on global human rights issues, pushing for the autonomy of Tibet within China.

“His Holiness Dalai Lama will live a long time and his legacy will live forever, but to you President of China, you will be gone and nobody will give you credit for anything,” said Pelosi, a long-time supporter of the Tibetan cause, while accusing China of not doing justice with Tibet.

Pelosi’s visit exemplifies solidarity and a commitment to global human rights, challenging Chinese policies.

Holding a copy of the Resolve Tibet Act, a bipartisan Bill to enhance US support for Tibet and promote dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama towards a peaceful resolution of the long-standing dispute, the Dalai Lama said, “The issue of Tibet is an issue of justice. It is not about a religious or political cause, but about the rights of the people to preserve their culture, language, and identity. The Tibetan struggle is a struggle for human rights and dignity.”

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The copy of the Resolve Tibet Act was presented by the Congressional delegation led by Chairman Michael McCaul, Nicole Malliotakis, Gregory W Meeks, Jim McGovern, Ami Bera, and Mariannette Miller-Meeks, besides Pelosi, who were seen waving American and Tibetan flags.

The bipartisan delegation flew into Dharamsala on Tuesday to meet the 88-year-old Nobel peace laureate and other top officials of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) President Penpa Tsering said, “Grateful for your instrumental leadership in sponsoring and ensuring the passage of the Resolve Tibet Act in the US Congress. We are just one step away from this becoming a law, which will significantly add value to the middle-way policy advocated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA.”

At the felicitation ceremony, Republican representative McCaul said the Bill reaffirms America’s support for the Tibetan right to self-determination.

“Just this week our delegation received a letter from the Chinese Communist Party, warning us not to come here… But we did not let the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) intimidate us for we are here today,” McCaul said.

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Beijing, which considers the Dalai Lama a ‘separatist’, had said that it was seriously concerned about the visit of the US lawmakers to Dharamsala.

The US delegation visit came a day ahead of a planned trip by the Dalai Lama to the US to undergo medical treatment for his knees. However, his office told IANS that there will be no public engagement, including public audiences, of the Dalai Lama during the visit.

The Dalai Lama has been living in self-imposed exile in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959.

–IANS

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US restates North Korea-Russia cooperation trend of 'great concern' after Kim-Putin summit

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Washington, June 19 (IANS) The United States reiterated on Wednesday that growing cooperation between Russia and North Korea is a trend of “great concern”, after Pyongyang and Moscow signed a pact calling for mutual aid if either side comes under attack.

A State Department spokesperson made the point after Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inked a “comprehensive strategic partnership” treaty at a summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday (Korea time) amid concerns about the security implications of their military ties.

“Deepening cooperation between Russia and the DPRK is a trend that should be of great concern to anyone interested in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, upholding the global non-proliferation regime, abiding by U.N. Security Council resolutions, and supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and independence against Russia’s brutal invasion,” the spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency via email.

“As we have said before, we don’t believe any country should give Mr. Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression against Ukraine,” the official added.

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The spokesperson also stressed that Russia is “blatantly violating the U.N. Charter and working to undermine the international system.”

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the clear violations of international law Russia has committed in Ukraine,” the spokesperson said, reported Yonhap News Agency.

A Pentagon official gave a cautious response, saying that it is aware of the reports on the summit between Putin and Kim.

“We’ve seen the reports and will continue to monitor the situation,” the official said in response to a question from Yonhap News Agency. “We have nothing further to offer right now.”

The Pyongyang summit came amid deepening concerns that military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow would help prop up Russia’s war effort in Ukraine and advance North Korea’s weapons programs to the detriment of regional and global security.

–IANS

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Dozens die in extreme Haj heat, toll feared to be in hundreds

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Beirut, June 19 (IANS/DPA) Dozens of Muslims have died during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia this year due to heat-related medical issues amid scorching temperatures, according to figures released by several countries.

Tunisia’s state news agency TAP reported on Wednesday that at least 35 Tunisian pilgrims had died, while Iran’s semi-official Tasnim agency said 11 Iranian citizens were also among the dead. Senegal confirmed three of its citizens had died.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that 41 Jordanian pilgrims had lost their lives, meaning the total death toll stands at least at 90.

There are fears the number is far higher. Unconfirmed reports circulating on Wednesday said that hundreds of Egyptians had died. But neither Egyptian officials nor Egypt’s state media have commented.

Saudi Arabia has also not given any figures.

Muslims from around the world started the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Friday. Saudi Arabia expected around two million people.

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The temperature in Mecca and other holy sites in the surrounding area hovered around 50 degrees Celsius through Tuesday’s final pilgrimage day.

Authorities called on participants to carry parasols, avoid being outside during the particularly hot midday hours and drink plenty of water.

The Haj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory duty for all Muslims to make once in a lifetime – if they are physically capable of undertaking the journey to the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed and have the financial resources.

Men wear seamless white clothes and women wear loose garments as they perform the same rituals in a demonstration of religious unity, equality and pursuit of spiritual renewal.

–IANS/DPA

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Open letter to Germany Chancellor Scholz decries outsourcing asylum

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Berlin, June 19 (IANS/DPA) More than 300 advocacy groups and international organisations have written an open letter to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz opposing the possibility of holding asylum seekers in third countries for processing.

“Please issue a clear rejection of plans to outsource asylum procedures,” the authors demanded in the letter published on Wednesday.

The signatories include Amnesty International Germany, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), and the migrant advocacy group Pro Asyl.

The open letter was released ahead of Scholz’s meeting with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states in Berlin on Thursday, where the issue is expected to be a major topic.

Germany’s Interior Ministry is currently examining the possibility of outsourcing asylum proceedings to third countries outside the European Union.

State-level interior ministers also begin convening on Wednesday evening for three days of talks which are expected to be dominated with talk of migration policy, asylum and deportations. They are meeting in Potsdam, a Berlin suburb.

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The killing of a policeman by a knife-wielding migrant in late May in the German city of Mannheim has prompted renewed debate about whether Germany should deport people convicted of serious crimes to countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

The authors of the open letter warn that serious human rights abuses are foreseeable if asylum proceedings are outsourced to countries outside the EU. They argue that receiving asylum-seekers and integrating them into society can work smoothly with greater cooperation.

“Plans to deport refugees to non-European third countries or to carry out asylum procedures outside the EU, on the other hand, do not work in practice, are extremely expensive and pose a threat to the rule of law,” the letter stated.

According to the authors, the current debate about the plan in both Germany and other EU countries is already having an impact.

“Such plans often cause great fear among refugees and increase the risk of self-harm and suicide,” according to the letter.

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Scholz announced plans to resume deportations to those countries after the Mannheim attack, despite concerns from advocates about the human rights abuses there. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, a Green, spoke out in favour of that on Wednesday as well.

–IANS/DPA

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At least 346 killed in Sudan's El Fasher city since May 10, says official

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Khartoum, June 19 (IANS) At least 346 civilians have been killed in El Fasher, the capital city of Sudan’s North Darfur State, since May 10, amid intensified clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an official said on Wednesday.

“More than 346 people have been killed and 2,200 others injured since May 10,” Ibrahim Abdullah Khatir, director-general of North Darfur State’s Health Ministry, told Xinhua news agency.

“Certainly the real figures are likely more than that,” he said, adding that the statistics “only cover the dead and wounded who were registered in hospitals, while a large number of those killed were buried directly”.

He noted that the local health system is under severe strain, with only one of the five central hospitals operational, along with a few health centers.

The pressure on services is overwhelming due to a shortage of medicines, particularly anesthesia drugs and essential medical supplies, Khatir said, emphasizing the urgent need for fuel to power hospital electricity and support for hospital staff and public health operations.

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Sudan has been embroiled in a deadly conflict between the SAF and the RSF since April 2023, which has claimed 15,550 lives and displaced over 8.8 million people nationwide, according to estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

–IANS

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