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Israel wants temporary ceasefire agreement in Gaza: Hamas official

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Gaza, April 16 (IANS) Israel is seeking a ceasefire agreement with Hamas to secure the release of its hostages before resuming military operations in the Gaza Strip, Ezzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, has said.

Al-Rishq said on Monday that Israel wanted “a temporary agreement to release its prisoners, in order to resume war and extermination thereafter”, Xinhua news agency reported, citing a statement.

Noting that the attempts by Israel to release its hostages “by force have failed”, the Hamas official stressed that “there is no alternative to a real deal with the resistance.”

He emphasized that a permanent cessation of firing is the only guarantee to protect the Palestinian people “and to stop the bloodshed and massacres,” adding that Hamas adheres to its position represented by the complete withdrawal of the Israeli army and the return of displaced persons to their homes freely.

Qatar and Egypt, along with the United States, are mediating a deal between Hamas and Israel to exchange prisoners and achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.

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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 airstrikes.

More than 9,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons, with some having died since the onset of the conflict in Gaza on October 7, 2023, according to HaMoked, an Israeli human rights group.

–IANS

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Spain to send Leopard 2 tanks & Patriot missiles to Ukraine in June

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Madrid, May 21 (IANS/DPA) Spain will deliver a further batch of German-made Leopard 2A4 battle tanks, along with Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and other ammunition to Ukraine, by the end of June, said the Defence Ministry in Madrid .

Defence Minister Margarita Robles had confirmed the delivery during a video conference with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Ministry said on Monday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government sent 10 Leopard 2A4s last year, and in March announced that a further 19 would be delivered this year, with the first 10 promised by the end of June and the remaining nine following in September.

Spain had around 100 Leopard 2A4s in stock along with considerably more than 200 Leopard 2A6s. The latter are being retained for the Spanish army.

On Monday, Robles stressed the “significant efforts” that Spain was making to support Ukraine in fighting off the Russian invasion. She mentioned in particular the training given to Ukrainian troops.

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Spain would support Ukraine for as long as necessary, she said.

–IANS/DPA

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UNRWA says land crossings mostly feasible, effective way to deliver aid to Gaza

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Gaza, May 21 (IANS) The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has said that land crossings are the most feasible and effective way to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip.

“While we welcome the arrival of the first shipments to the newly-anchored floating aid pier, land roads remain the most feasible, effective, efficient, and safe way to deliver aid,” said UNRWA in a brief statement on Monday on X.

The statement indicated that only 69 trucks arrived in southern Gaza since May 6, stressing the necessity of reopening the crossings and providing safe access to them to avoid the continuation of the disastrous humanitarian conditions, Xinhua news agency reported.

Local Palestinian sources told Xinhua that a ship carrying humanitarian aid had reached the shores of the Strip while smaller boats began unloading and delivering the cargo to the aid pier west of the city.

The Palestinian sources added that dozens of trucks carried humanitarian aid and transported it to warehouses belonging to the World Food Program in the southern regions of the Strip.

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In March, the US Department of Defense announced its plans to build a temporary floating dock on the coast of the Gaza Strip to facilitate humanitarian aid delivery to the Gaza Strip, which suffers from severe shortages of food, medicine, and other life necessities, according to local and international health sources.

–IANS

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Sri Lankan govt to introduce 2 bills to bolster economy

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Colombo, May 21 (IANS) The Sri Lankan government will introduce two significant bills aimed at bolstering the country’s economy to Parliament on Wednesday, a Minister said.

The “Economic Transformation Bill” and the “Public Financial Management Bill” are designed to enhance public finance management and safeguard against future economic downturns, State Minister of Finance Shehan Semasinghe told a press conference on Monday.

Semasinghe said it is necessary to maintain optimal levels of public financial management to avert future economic crises, and the bills are aligned with recommendations from a collaborative program with the International Monetary Fund, Xinhua news agency reported.

He added that the legislation encompasses reforms essential for international trade, trade agreements, and climate change mitigation efforts.

In 2022, Sri Lanka’s public debt ratio stood at 128 per cent, a figure slated to be reduced to less than 95 per cent by 2032, said Semasinghe.

Similarly, the fiscal requirement, which was 34.6 per cent of GDP in 2022, aims to be lowered to below 13 per cent by 2032, according to the Minister.

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–IANS

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5 Hezbollah terrorists killed in Israeli strikes in Lebanon

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Beirut, May 21 (IANS) Five Hezbollah members were killed and five others were injured in Israeli air strikes on several villages and towns in southern Lebanon, Lebanese military sources told the media.

The sources, who spoke anonymously, said on Monday that Israeli warplanes carried out four raids on the southwest town of Naqoura, killing two Hezbollah members and wounding three others, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel also implemented two raids on the southeast village of Mays al-Jabal, killing two Hezbollah members and injuring another one, and a raid on the town of al-Qusayr on the Lebanese-Syrian border in eastern Lebanon, killing a Hezbollah member and injuring another.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah said its fighters responded by attacking several Israeli sites.

Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border escalated on October 8, 2023, following a barrage of rockets launched by the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah toward Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7. Israel then retaliated by firing heavy artillery toward southeastern Lebanon.

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The confrontations between Hezbollah and Israel have killed 477 people on the Lebanese side, including 301 Hezbollah members and 89 civilians, according to Lebanese security sources.

–IANS

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Palestinian death toll in Gaza rises to 35,562: Ministry

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Gaza, May 21 (IANS) The Palestinian death toll from ongoing Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip has risen to 35,562, Gaza health authorities said in a press statement.

During the past 24 hours, the Israeli army killed 106 Palestinians and wounded 176 others, bringing the total death toll to 35,562 and injuries to 79,652 since the Palestinian-Israeli conflict broke out in October 2023, Xinhua news agency reported.

The statement noted on Monday that some victims remained under the rubble amid heavy bombardment and a lack of rescue crews.

Israel launched a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and around 250 were taken hostage.

–IANS

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