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IDF takes control of Rafah border crossing in Gaza

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Tel Aviv, May 7 (IANS/DPA) The Israeli military has taken control of the Rafah border crossing in the south of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said on Tuesday.

“Following intelligence that indicated that the Rafah crossing in eastern Rafah was being used for terrorist purposes, IDF troops obtained operational control of the Gazan side of the crossing,” the Army wrote on its Telegram channel.

It followed an overnight operation in which the ground troops together with the Air Force “began a precise counterterrorism operation” to eliminate the Palestinian Islamist militia Hamas and dismantle its infrastructure in eastern Rafah, the IDF said.

It added that it eliminated Hamas military structures, underground infrastructures, and other facilities the group operated.

The Army said about 20 Hamas fighters were killed in the operation. There were no Israeli injuries reported, the IDF said.

On Monday, Israeli forces began evacuating Rafah in southern Gaza as they geared up for an expected military operation there.

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Israel’s allies and other international leaders have been warning against an offensive in the Rafah region. Large numbers of Palestinian civilians have sought shelter in the city after fleeing Israeli airstrikes and ground operations elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.

Israel wants to use the military operation in Rafah to destroy the remaining battalions of Hamas, which it has been fighting in the coastal strip since it attacked Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking nearly 250 hostages.

More than 100 remaining hostages are reported to be held captive in Rafah.

Israel has been threatening to launch a ground offensive into Rafah for months, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has struck an uncompromising stance in recent weeks, vowing to attack the city even if a deal to release the hostages is reached.

–IANS/DPA

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International

German Chancellor calls on climate activists to end their hunger strike

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Berlin, May 25 (IANS/DPA) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called on the climate activists taking part in a hunger strike in Berlin to end it.

“It is my greatest wish that the action be stopped,” Scholz said on Friday at the Democracy Festival in Berlin. “I think it is a mistake to use violence against others, but violence against oneself is also a mistake.”

Scholz added: “Violence against oneself is not good for democracy. And that’s why I’m asking for this campaign to be cancelled.”

Two participants in the “Starve until you are honest” campaign have since called off their hunger strike, while others are continuing despite the risks to their health.

They are living in a camp near the Federal Economy Ministry in Berlin. According to their own statements, the climate activists want to persuade Scholz to make a government statement on the excessive concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the urgency of changing course.

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Scholz made it clear at the citizens’ dialogue at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Germany’s constitution or Basic Law, that he attends similar events every week.

People could ask him any question and he would answer them. “In a society where it is so easy to talk to the federal chancellor, you don’t have to go on a hunger strike to get that done.”

–IANS/DPA

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Man suspected of spying for Russia arrested in Romania

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Budapest, May 25 (IANS/DPA) A Romanian man has been arrested on suspicion of spying for Russia for the past two years, prosecutors in Bucharest said on Friday.

His suspected Russian contact, a diplomat, was expelled.

Since 2022, the Romanian man had been “collecting information of a military nature and taking photographs of military combat equipment and the movement of personnel in the border area with Ukraine,” the statement said.

The man is suspected of spying on Romanian or NATO military positions located in the vicinity of the city of Tulcea, it continued.

Tulcea is located on the Danube Delta, about 7 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. There are transport connections to Ukraine from there.

The suspect had transmitted this data to the Russian embassy in the Romanian capital Bucharest, the public prosecutor’s office added.

The Russian diplomat was declared persona non grata in connection with the espionage case at the suggestion of the Romanian domestic intelligence service (SRI), intelligence officials announced.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest also confirmed the Russian’s expulsion, but did not state the exact reason for the move.

As is usual in such cases, it only noted a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

An investigating judge has ordered that the suspected spy, who is a Romanian citizen, be remanded in custody for an initial period of 30 days.

The investigation was conducted by a special unit of the Romanian public prosecutor’s office, which is responsible for organized crime and terrorism, in collaboration with the country’s domestic intelligence service, NATO’s intelligence service and Romania’s army.

Following searches of the suspect’s home, several pieces of evidence were identified and seized, investigators said.

He had tried to submit his candidature for the local elections planned for June, but without success.

–IANS/DPA

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Hezbollah leader threatens 'surprise' attacks against Israel

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Beirut, May 25 (IANS) Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to launch “surprise” attacks against Israel after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has “surprising” military plans for Lebanon.

“You must expect surprises from our resistance,” the Hezbollah leader said during a televised speech on Friday.

Nasrallah also claimed that “the resistance” is well-prepared for any surprising attacks from Israel, saying they have “studied all hypotheses and scenarios”, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a meeting with several Israeli generals on Thursday, Netanyahu said Israel has “detailed, important, and even surprising plans for the North,” namely the country’s northern neighbour Lebanon.

“We are constantly in action on the northern front,” Netanyahu said, adding Israel has “eliminated hundreds” of Hezbollah members.

Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border escalated on Oct. 8, 2023, following a barrage of rockets launched by Hezbollah toward Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel the day before. Israel then retaliated by firing heavy artillery toward southeastern Lebanon.

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–IANS

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Ready to continue talks with Ukraine, but on previous agreements: Putin

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Minsk, May 25 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his country is ready to continue negotiations with Ukraine, but only based on the agreements reached before.

“Well, let them (negotiations) return, but not from what one side wants, but based on those agreements reached during negotiations in Belarus and Turkey and based on the current situation on the ground,” Putin told a press conference on Friday following talks with his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksandr Lukashenko, in Minsk.

The Istanbul agreements satisfied both the Ukrainian and the Russian sides in 2022, Putin said, adding that Russia supports the resumption of negotiations with Ukraine, Xinhua news agency reported.

–IANS

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Egypt, US agree to deliver aid to Gaza via Kerem Shalom crossing

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Cairo, May 25 (IANS) Egypt and the US have agreed on sending large quantities of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The decision was made on Friday during a phone conversation between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and his US counterpart Joe Biden, Xinhua news agency reported.

According to an Egyptian presidential statement, this would be a temporary procedure until “a legal mechanism is reached” to resume the operation of the Rafah crossing from the Palestinian side.

The statement did not detail with whom the mechanism would possibly be reached, but the White House said Friday that Biden, via the phone talk, expressed his commitment to support efforts to reopen the Rafah crossing with arrangements acceptable to both Egypt and Israel and agreed to send a senior team to Cairo next week for further discussions.

The Rafah crossing had served as a major entry point for humanitarian aid into Gaza before the Israeli military, which is a war with Gaza-ruling Hamas, took control of it on May 7, forcing the aid delivery there to a halt. The next day, Israel announced the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing between it and Gaza.

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The Kerem Shalom crossing, known in Egypt as the “Karam Abu Salem crossing,” sits south of the Rafah crossing and at the junction of two borders — one between Egypt and Gaza and the other between Israel and the enclave.

In the phone talk, the two leaders also called for intensifying international efforts to end the protracted humanitarian crisis in Gaza, said the Egyptian presidency.

They rejected any attempt to displace the Palestinians from their land, affirming their support for all means aimed at preventing the aggravation and expansion of the conflict, it noted.

–IANS

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