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Israeli official says Hamas rejected US-drafted ceasefire deal proposal

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Jerusalem, June 12 (IANS) An Israeli official has said that Israel had received Hamas’s response to the US-drafted proposal for a ceasefire-hostage release deal and the movement had rejected it, the media reported.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a joint statement earlier on Tuesday that they had delivered their response to the proposal to Qatari and Egyptian mediators, expressing a “willingness to deal positively to reach an agreement”.

They emphasised their priority of stopping the war in the Gaza Strip and ensuring the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel has yet to formally announce its position, although both US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had endorsed the proposal.

White House Spokesman John Kirby said the US had received Hamas’s response and was evaluating it.

–IANS

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Zelensky calls on Saudi Crown Prince in Jeddah

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Riyadh, June 12 (IANS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday, media reports said.

Ukraine is bringing together dozens of world leaders and international organisations at the Burgenstock resort in Switzerland this weekend to mount pressure on Russia and outline a path towards peace.

Zelensky arrived in the coastal city earlier on Wednesday and was received by the deputy governor of the Makkah region Prince Saud bin Mishal bin Abdulaziz.

In a post on social media platform X, the Ukrainian President said the two leaders discussed preparations for the summit, “its expected outcomes and their possible implementation.”

Bilateral relations between Ukraine and Saudi Arabia were also discussed, Zelensky added.

Ukraine has invited more than 160 nations to participate at the summit and Zelensky has said garnering support from as many countries as possible will be key to the summit.

–IANS

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2019 Easter Sunday bombings: Lanka to probe why prior info from Indian intel was ignored

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Colombo, June 12 (IANS) Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a Committee of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate the actions taken by the Lankan intelligence services on the prior information received from their Indian counterparts regarding the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings which killed around 270 people.

President Wicremesinghe’s decision follows the findings of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry dated January 31, 2021, which highlighted that Indian Intelligence agencies and other sources had provided advance warnings about the impending attacks.

“The committee’s mandate includes examining whether adequate actions and measures were taken by the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Chief of National Intelligence (CNI), and other relevant authorities based on the prior intelligence, and evaluating the sufficiency of these measures,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement on Wednesday.

President Wickremesinghe has given full powers to the committee headed by retired high court judge A.N.J. De Alwis to question relevant officials and examine important documents to thoroughly investigate these matters.

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Additionally, the committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the Directorate of Military Intelligence’s (DMI) initial belief that the Vavunathivu killing of two police officers on November 30, 2018, was connected to the LTTE.

This belief was held for four months before suspects with alleged links to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) were identified.

A compact disk containing the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 bomb attacks has been provided to the committee, with a Senior Assistant Secretary to the President serving as the Secretary to the Committee of Inquiry.

The committee is expected to submit its report, including findings and recommendations, to the President by September 15, 2024.

A series of coordinated bomb attacks on three star hotels in Colombo and three churches carried out by ISIS suicide bombers on Easter Sunday in 2019 resulted in the death of 270 people, including at least 45 foreign nationals, besides injuring over 500 others.

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–IANS

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Taliban courts deliver punishments for sodomy, 'moral corruption'

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Islamabad, June 12 (IANS/DPA) The Taliban’s Supreme Court said on Wednesday that three convicts have been separately punished in two Afghan provinces for allegedly committing sodomy and “moral corruption”.

A convict in Zurmat district of Paktia province was sentenced to one year in prison and whipped 36 times for committing moral corruption. The specific nature of the crime was not disclosed.

Another two convicts were publicly punished in the Balkhab district of Sar-e-Pul for sodomy. One received a one-year sentence and 21 whips, while the other received six months and 31 whips.

In a separate development from Paktika province, a murder case in Mata Khan district was resolved through mediation by local officials, tribal elders, and religious scholars, resulting in forgiveness from the victim’s family, according to the Supreme Court.

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has seen the reintroduction of corporal punishment, including executions and whipping, for crimes such as murder, robbery and adultery.

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The United Nations has criticised the Taliban’s use of corporal punishment, saying it violates the UN Convention against Torture, and has called for an end to the practice.

The Taliban authorities have rejected the criticism, saying this form of punishment is in line with the country’s law and necessary to ensure security and safety for the public.

–IANS/DPA

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Death toll in Kuwait building blaze climbs to 49 (2nd Ld)

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Kuwait City, June 12 (IANS/DPA) The death toll in a fire that erupted on Wednesday in a building housing workers in Kuwait has risen to 49, the Gulf country’s state news agency Kuna reported, citing the Interior Ministry.

Local media said the fire broke out in a six-floor building crammed with migrant workers in al-Mangaf area, south of the capital Kuwait City.

The blaze occurred while the workers were asleep and some residents had to jump from the building in an attempt to survive, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas reported, citing witnesses.

Kuwait’s Emir Meshal Al Ahmad has ordered investigations to determine the cause of the blaze and bring to account those found responsible, Kuna said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasser Abu Salib said without elaborating that stringent measures would be taken against the building’s owners.

He added that the ministry was investigating the circumstances of the fire and identifying the victims.

Initially, officials had put the death toll at more than 35.

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Most fatalities were caused by smoke inhalation, according to a security official.

The Health Ministry earlier Wednesday said at least 43 people had been transferred to hospitals for treatment.

–IANS/DPA

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South Africa on high alert after five confirmed cases of monkeypox

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Johannesburg, June 12 (IANS) South Africa is on high alert following the outbreak of monkeypox in May, with five laboratory-confirmed cases including one death, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Wednesday.

Phaahla told the media that all five patients diagnosed with monkeypox, also known as Mpox, three from KwaZulu-Natal Province and two from Gauteng Province, were men between the ages of 30 and 39 with no history of travel. Two remain hospitalized, two have been discharged, and one died on Monday in a hospital in Johannesburg, reported Xinhua News Agency.

“All five cases were classified as severe cases as per the World Health Organization (WHO) definition requiring hospitalization. Since the beginning of 2024, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has received 12 Mpox test requests, with three testing positive. The other two cases were diagnosed by private laboratories,” said the minister. “Guidelines have been updated and shared widely across networks of healthcare workers using various platforms.”

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According to him, the outbreak response team, consisting of experts from various government sectors, the WHO, and other stakeholders, has embarked on contact tracing and case finding in the affected provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

“We can disrupt the local transmission by supporting those diagnosed with this disease in taking their treatment to prevent infecting others. We can prevent avoidable deaths by cooperating with health officials when they conduct contact tracing and case finding,” Phaahla said, adding that they have held webinars about Mpox disease with more than 500 healthcare workers.

Fabian Ndenzako, a doctor with the WHO in South Africa, said they are working with the South African government to provide medicine for those infected with Mpox. A total of 10 doses of vaccine have been packaged in Geneva, Switzerland, and are awaiting paperwork to be processed and then shipped to South Africa.

The WHO defines an outbreak of monkeypox when two cases are confirmed. Ndenzako noted that since all five cases have no travel history, the country could be sitting on a high number of Mpox cases.

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Monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. Most people fully recover, but some get very sick. The virus can be transmitted to humans through physical contact with someone infectious, with contaminated materials, or with infected animals. Symptoms of monkeypox include an unexplained acute rash and back pain, swollen lymph nodes, acute onset of fever, headache, muscle and body aches, and low energy.

According to the WHO, from January 1, 2022, to May 31, 2024, a total of 97,208 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported, including 186 deaths from 117 countries. South Africa recorded five cases of monkeypox in 2022, with no cases reported in 2023.

–IANS

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