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Israeli attacks killed 27 in Rafah, alleges Hamas-run health authority

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Gaza/Tel Aviv, April 29 (IANS/DPA) At least 27 Palestinians have been killed in fresh Israeli attacks on the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the territory’s Hamas-controlled Health Ministry said on Monday.

Authorities said 20 people in residential buildings in the border town were killed in various attacks during the night.

Seven members of a family in Rafah were also reportedly killed in shelling on Monday morning.

The information could not be independently verified.

An Israeli army spokesman said he could not comment without the exact coordinates of the incidents.

Israel has said it will launch an offensive in Rafah to eliminate the remaining strongholds of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Israel’s allies have repeatedly urged caution, as hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinian civilians are sheltering in the city.

The planned military operation could yet be avoided, with a Hamas delegation arriving in Egypt on Monday to hold negotiations on the release of Israeli hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners.

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–IANS/DPA

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Fijian PM calls for creating jobs for youth

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Suva, June 23 (IANS) Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has urged communities and stakeholders to work together to create opportunities for all young school-leavers, adding that being a school dropout should not carry a stigma.

According to Rabuka, more than 18,000 young people in Fiji leave schools every year, out of which around 14,000 are men who could enter the job market, reported Fiji Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday.

The formal sector can only absorb 7,000 to 8,000 jobseekers each year, he said as reported by Xinhua news agency.

Rabuka said Fiji is experiencing rural-to-urban migration, which has added further pressure on employment opportunities.

“But the government is passionate about creating a society that embraces young people, recognising that the young people matter in taking the next nation forward,” he added.

Youth aged between 15 and 24 represent nearly 30 per cent of Fiji’s social population, according to the Prime Minister.

–IANS

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US expert calls for S.Korea's inclusion into G7, touts its 'trustworthiness'

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Washington, June 23 (IANS) A prominent US expert has made an emphatic call for the G7 to consider its membership expansion to include South Korea, touting the Asian democracy’s “trustworthiness,” performance and potential role to add diversity to the club of the world’s leading industrialised nations.

Victor Cha, senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), made the case, stressing the need for G7 leaders to pursue “serious” reforms to enhance the group’s capabilities, effectiveness and legitimacy, Yonhap news agency reported.

His call came as the government of President Yoon Suk Yeol has sought South Korea’s role as a “global pivotal state” to contribute more to address a growing list of global issues in tune with the country’s enhanced global stature.

“The G7 must transform from an old boys club of financiers chatting about monetary policy to a coalition of action-oriented, like-minded partners inspired to sustain the rules-based international order by addressing issues ranging from Ukraine to digital security,” Cha said in an opinion piece that he contributed to Yonhap news agency on Saturday.

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“To do this, G7 leaders must consider serious reforms that enhance the group’s capabilities, effectiveness, and legitimacy. Expanded membership to include Korea would be an important step in the right direction,” he added.

His op-ed came after the leaders of the G7 — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US — held a summit in Italy earlier this month.

Yoon was not invited there as the host country, which has sole authority on the guest list, focused on migration among other main issues. He attended the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last year.

“But it is self-evident that South Korea should not only be invited to the G7 but also that it should become a permanent member,” he said.

Cha corroborated his case for South Korea’s entry into the G7 forum, cataloguing a series of examples that highlight South Korea’s growing capacity and role on the global stage.

In particular, he cited a recent CSIS report that shows Seoul can contribute to the G7’s expanded agenda of global issues, including economic security, digital competitiveness, climate change, food security, non-proliferation and Ukraine.

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“South Korea is ranked above Italy and just below Japan in total performance,” he said, citing the report.

“On digital competitiveness, Korea is ranked higher than all G7 members except the US and the UK. And on Ukraine, South Korea last year was one of the largest suppliers of humanitarian assistance.”

Cha also said that South Korea offers a combination of “trustworthiness” and “effectiveness,” which G7 leaders value as the hallmark of their group.

He then pointed out that South Korea’s status meets the G7 “bar”.

“South Korea is an advanced industrialised democracy, an OECD member, and is the first former aid recipient to become a member of the OECD’s donor club,” he said, referring to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Cha also said that South Korea would add “diversity” to the G7 forum in “numerous ways”.

“The inclusion of more views from Asia is critical to the future of the G7 if it is to be a leader in global affairs,” he said.

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“The entirety of the vast region of Asia is currently represented by only one country, Japan.”

He noted that Japan is the “outspoken” opponent against South Korea joining the G7.

“The reasons for this opposition are unclear,” he said.

“It stems not just from the desire to hold the sole seat from Asia, but also a sense of entitlement as historically, the region’s sole great power.”

–IANS

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Pakistani PM approves re-invigorated national counter-terrorism campaign

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Islamabad, June 23 (IANS) Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved a re-invigorated and re-energised national counter-terrorism campaign.

Sharif made the decision here while chairing a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on National Action Plan, which decided that operation “Azm-e-Istehkam” (resolve to stability) would integrate multiple lines of efforts to combat the menaces of extremism and terrorism comprehensively and decisively, the Prime Minister’s office said on Saturday in a statement.

In the political-diplomatic domain, efforts will be intensified to curtail the operational space for terrorists through regional cooperation, the statement added as reported by Xinhua news agency.

The campaign will be complemented by socio-economic measures aimed at addressing genuine concerns of the people and creating an environment that discourages extremist tendencies, it said.

–IANS

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Death toll of Tunisian pilgrims in Mecca reaches 53

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Tunis, June 23 (IANS) The death toll among Tunisian pilgrims who performed Haj in Saudi Arabia has risen to 53, the media reported.

“Until this Saturday, the number of Tunisian pilgrims who died in holy places in Saudi Arabia while performing the Haj rituals, increased further from 49 to 53,” said the report.

The Tunisian diplomatic mission in Riyadh and the consulate general in Jeddah are currently coordinating to monitor the situation of Tunisian pilgrims who are missing, deceased, or hospitalised in Saudi Arabia, according to the report.

On Friday, Tunisian President Kais Saied sacked Ibrahim Chaibi, the Minister of Religious Affairs, without specifying the reason for the dismissal, Xinhua news agency reported.

Chaibi headed the official Tunisian delegation to Saudi Arabia during this year’s Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

The delegation was tasked with supporting and assisting Tunisian pilgrims during the Haj.

Chaibi attributed the loss of human life to factors, including extreme temperatures, surpassing 50 degrees Celsius, a significant presence of elderly pilgrims, and a high number of pilgrims with pre-existing illnesses.

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Haj, a key pillar of Islam, is annually performed in Mecca, by pilgrims from all over the world. The number of pilgrims exceeded 1.8 million this year, according to Saudi authorities.

–IANS

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Egypt cracks down on travel agencies over Haj trip frauds

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Cairo, June 23 (IANS) The Egyptian government is set to ban the operation of 16 travel agencies for arranging “fraudulent” Haj trips to Saudi Arabia for unregistered pilgrims.

At a Haj deaths crisis unit meeting held on Saturday, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said he has ordered the license of these agencies to be revoked and those involved persons and entities transferred to public prosecution, according to an Egyptian cabinet statement.

The statement did not detail which agencies or concerned persons were behind organising such trips through fraudulence or other illicit means for unregistered pilgrims to Mecca, Xinhua news agency reported.

Madbouly updated that among more than 50,000 registered Egyptian pilgrims, a total of 31 people with “chronic diseases” were confirmed dead.

The move came amid media reports of more than 600 deaths among unregistered Egyptian pilgrims during their performance of Haj over the past week under the extreme heatwaves in the Saudi city. The temperatures there at times hit 51 degrees Celsius.

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Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told the meeting that the crisis was most deadly to unregistered pilgrims, claiming that the tourism companies transporting them “did not provide any services”.

He noted that his Ministry would continue to coordinate with the Saudi authorities to find missing Egyptian pilgrims as soon as possible and ensure the home return of all Egyptian pilgrims.

Haj, a pillar of Islam, is annually performed in Mecca by crowds of pilgrims from all over the world.

The number of pilgrims has exceeded 1.8 million this year, according to Saudi authorities.

–IANS

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