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Muslim mob attacks Christian man over alleged blasphemy, sets house on fire in Pak's Sargodha

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Sargodha, May 25 (IANS) An angry mob seriously injured a Christian man and set his house on fire over an alleged incident of blasphemy in Pakistan’s Sargodha on Saturday.

Local sources revealed that the situation turned violent when an enraged mob entered Sargodha’s Mujahid Colony, an area which houses many Christian families, broke into a Christian man’s house, thrashed him badly and set his belongings on fire.

The mob also torched a shoe factory operating from within the premises besides damaging the entire property. Videos of the incident, which went viral on social media, showed a badly injured man lying on the ground as several people continued to attack him, many using even stones.

The local police, however, said that the situation was brought under control after it dispersed the angry mob and shifted the injured to a nearby hospital.

Police authorities also maintained that they had dispersed the crowd and rescued at least two more families from being attacked by the Muslim mob.

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“We have shifted the injured to a hospital and also taken into custody several suspects involved in the incident,” said Regional Police Officer (RPO) Shariq Kamal.

“The incident occurred over an incident of alleged desecration,” confirmed Sargodha District Police Officer (DPO) Asad Ejaz Malhi.

“When a heavy contingent of police reached the spot, we saw a huge crowd outside some houses. We cleared the area and took out the families safely,” added Ejaz.

While the police officials claimed that no one was injured, social media posts on the incident confirmed torture and vandalism caused by the violent mob.

“We have called in a District Peace Committee to evaluate the situation and issue a statement on the matter. District committee includes district administration, religious scholars of Muslim and minority communities,” said the DPO.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed serious concerns about the unfolding situation in Sargodha, stating, “Christian community in Gillwala is reportedly at grave risk to their lives at the hands of charged mobs.”

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The incident has brought back horrific memories of last August when angry mobs attacked Christian churches, and Christian graveyards and rampaged the Christian neighbourhood torching dozens of houses over alleged blasphemy committed by members of the community in Jaranwala.

The human rights lawyers have slammed the Pakistani government for failing to take any serious and sincere action against the perpetrators of the Jaranwala incident and emboldening radicals.

“I strongly condemn the Sardogha incident. I denounce the failure of the State to take any serious and sincere action against the perpetrators of the Jaranwala incident. It has only emboldened those who exploit religious sentiments for their criminal acts,” said politician and human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir.

–IANS

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UN chief urges renewed focus on political resolution to Gaza crisis

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UN chief urges renewed focus on political resolution to Gaza crisis

UN chief urges renewed focus on political resolution to Gaza crisis

United Nations, July 18 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged a renewed emphasis on a political resolution to the persistent crisis in Gaza.

“We must refocus on finding a political solution that will end the occupation and resolve the conflict in line with international law, and relevant United Nations resolutions,” Courtenay Rattray, chef de cabinet of the UN secretary-general, told the Security Council debate on Gaza, on behalf of the UN chief.

Rattray highlighted the severe circumstances in Gaza, characterised by ongoing conflict and lawlessness, and raised concerns about the escalating regional instability and the significant crisis in Gaza, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rattray provided a sombre update on the situation, stating, “In recent weeks, Israeli military operations and fighting intensified across Gaza. Rockets continue to be launched by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza towards Israeli population centres.”

“Rafah is in ruins — and the Rafah crossing remains closed, further hampering humanitarian operations,” he added.

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He noted the massive displacement within Gaza, where “almost 2 million people have been displaced — nearly the entire population of Gaza — and many of them multiple times.”

Highlighting the breakdown in public order and the increasing threat of a regional spillover, Rattray reiterated the UN’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

He stressed the critical need for consistent access to humanitarian aid across all crossing points to ensure the survival and well-being of the civilian population.

Rattray stressed the importance of immediate action to address these crises, stating, “We must change course. All settlement activity must cease immediately.”

He called for the restoration of governance in Gaza under a legitimate Palestinian government and the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority to lead recovery efforts.

The United Nations remains committed to supporting all efforts towards reaching a sustainable peace agreement that adheres to international law and UN resolutions.

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Rattray concluded with a call to all parties involved to intensify efforts to end the violence and to work towards a lasting resolution that respects the rights and dignities of all people involved.

–IANS

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Belarus to introduce visa-free policy for 35 European countries

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Belarus to introduce visa-free policy for 35 European countries

Belarus to introduce visa-free policy for 35 European countries

Minsk, July 18 (IANS) Belarus will introduce a visa-free policy for 35 European countries, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its official website.

The policy will take effect on Friday, July 19, and will last until December 31, 2024, according to the statement.

Citizens of the 35 countries, including members of the European Union and the UK, can stay in Belarus for 30 days at a time without a visa.

The statement said that in order to further demonstrate Belarus’s commitment to openness, peace and good neighbourliness, and to simplify personnel exchanges, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko supports citizens of 35 European countries to temporarily enter and stay in Belarus through road and rail checkpoints without a visa.

According to the State Border Committee of Belarus, the visa-free policy for citizens of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia entering Belarus which has taken effect since 2022, will be now extended to citizens of 35 other European countries. The visa-free policy can be used multiple times, and shall not exceed 90 days within a year.

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This policy does not apply to holders of special passports such as diplomatic and official passports.

–IANS

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UK 'deeply concerned' about risk of escalation along Israel-Lebanon border

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UK 'deeply concerned' about risk of escalation along Israel-Lebanon border

UK 'deeply concerned' about risk of escalation along Israel-Lebanon border

United Nations, July 18 (IANS) The UK at a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East has expressed its deep concern about the “risk of regional escalation, in particular along the blue line between Israel and Lebanon”.

UK Permanent Representative to the UN Barbara Woodward, during the meeting on Wednesday, said, “Nine months since the 7 October attacks, at least 120 hostages, alive and dead, remain held in horrific conditions. Innocent Palestinians continue to suffer and die in Gaza. A devastating humanitarian crisis is worsening by the day. There is an imminent risk of famine. And we are deeply concerned about the risk of regional escalation, in particular along the blue line between Israel and Lebanon.”

“In one of his first acts as UK Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer set out the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire, immediate release of all hostages, and an immediate surge of humanitarian aid into Gaza. We strongly support the ongoing efforts of Egypt, Qatar and the United States to this end – the deal on the table… is the best chance to support this,” she said.

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Woodward also urged both sides (Hamas and Israel) to show flexibility in negotiations and demonstrate a “clear and firm” commitment to ensure the implementation of the deal.

“We are calling on Israel to protect civilians, to allow unfettered aid into Gaza and to ensure the UN and humanitarian actors have the access and equipment necessary to safely get aid to those who need it most…,” she said.

“… We condemn recent Israeli expansion of settlements. We reject decisions by the Government of Israel to declare 2,357 hectares of land in the West Bank as ‘state lands’ so far this year — the largest of such declarations of state land since the Oslo Accords. Such acts are not only illegal under international law, but also undermine prospects for a two-state solution. We demand a halt to these illegal activities,” Woodward added.

She further said that reports of civilian casualties following Israeli strikes near schools and designated humanitarian zones in Gaza in recent weeks were appalling – as the Foreign Secretary said, urgent measures are needed to protect civilians.

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“Peace will be sustainable only if both Israelis and Palestinians recommit to a renewed peace process resulting in a two-state solution, with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian State – the undeniable right of the Palestinian people,” she said.

–IANS

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Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

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Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

Lebanon's war with Israel not to stop as long as offensive against Gaza continues: Hezbollah leader

Beirut, July 17 (IANS) Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday that Lebanon’s war with Israel will not stop as long as the offensive against Gaza continues.

In a televised speech marking the Islamic holy day of Ashura, Nasrallah warned Israel against “going too far” in targeting civilians in southern Lebanon, saying it will push its group “to launch missiles and target new settlements that were not previously targeted.”

He denied rumours about an agreement to be reached regarding the Lebanese front, stressing that “the future of the situation in the south will be decided in light of the results of the battle” in Gaza, reported Xinhua news agency.

“If the war stops, the party responsible for negotiating is the Lebanese state,” said Nasrallah.

In addition, Nasrallah accused America of “bearing full responsibility” for the killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army because it supplied weapons.

The leader also vowed to rebuild villages and towns destroyed in the confrontations.

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

–IANS

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Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

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Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

Egypt, German FMs discuss regional crisis over phone

Cairo, July 17 (IANS) Egyptian Foreign Minister Badr Abdelatty discussed regional crisis with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday in a phone conversation, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Abdelatty highlighted that the current regional conditions proved the pivotal role of Egypt, stressing that the two countries’ collaboration is important given Egypt’s weight in the region and Germany’s role in Europe and the international arena, Xinhua news agency reported.

He reviewed the Egyptian endeavours in mediating the negotiation process to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, stressing the necessity to exert pressure on the Israeli government for the full implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions regarding ending the war and delivering humanitarian aid and the importance of continued German support for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

During the talks, Abdelatty also underscored the perilous humanitarian conditions in Sudan and their impact on doubling the numbers of refugees and displaced people.

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For her part, the German minister stressed the importance of stability in the Middle East for her country.

Baerbock spoke highly of Egypt’s role in alleviating the suffering of Gazans, underscoring Germany’s keenness to support Egypt in this regard.

They agreed to continue coordination on regional situations and ways to resolve escalating regional conflicts.

–IANS

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