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Palestinian president hails efforts of Egypt, Qatar for Gaza ceasefire deal

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Ramallah, May 7 (IANS) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed on Monday the efforts of Egypt and Qatar to mediate a ceasefire agreement for the Gaza Strip.

In a statement published by the Palestinian news agency (WAFA), Abbas expressed hope for Israel’s commitment to “ceasefire and complete withdrawal from the Strip”.

The President urged the international community to pressure Israel to agree to a ceasefire and continue efforts to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, Xinhua news agency reported.

Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas said that it had informed mediators in Egypt and Qatar that it approved the ceasefire proposal for the Gaza Strip.

Hamas said in a statement that Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s political bureau chief, made phone calls with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egyptian Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel separately to inform them of the decision.

Hamas’s announcement came hours after the Israeli army demanded around 100,000 residents in the eastern area of Rafah in southern Gaza evacuate to the Al-Mawasi area, southwest of the Strip.

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–IANS

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Two men accused of plotting knife attack on synagogue in Germany

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Stuttgart, May 24 (IANS/DPA) German authorities have detained an 18-year-old youth after he allegedly discussed carrying out a knife attack on a synagogue in the south-western German city of Heidelberg.

The suspect, who comes from the town of Weinheim, is being held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder, public prosecutors and criminal investigators in the south-western German state of Baden-Württemberg announced on Friday.

He allegedly plotted the potential attack with another 24-year-old suspect, who was shot and captured by the police earlier this month after a raid on the man’s flat turned violent.

“The killing of one or more visitors during the attack on the synagogue with a subsequent martyr’s death was discussed as the intended goal, in which both people wanted to be shot by emergency services,” the authorities said.

On May 3, police raided the home of the 24-year-old suspect in the town of Bad Friedrichshall on suspicion of preparing a serious act of violence endangering the state.

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According to police, the 24-year-old suddenly took several kitchen knives and fled outside through a window while officers were in his flat.

He was caught by officers but, instead of surrendering, he threw a knife toward a policeman and charged. The officer shot the man.

The 24-year-old man was treated for his injuries and remains in police custody on allegations of attempted manslaughter and a particularly serious case of assault on police officers.

An analysis of evidence seized during the search revealed a link to the 18-year-old man from Weinheim, with whom the 24-year-old is said to have discussed a possible knife attack on visitors to a synagogue in Heidelberg in April 2024, according to investigators.

The 18-year-old’s apartment was searched on May 18. He was arrested and remains in custody.

Authorities said that there are no indications of an imminent threat to visitors to the synagogue.

–IANS/DPA

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Czech President released from hospital after motorbike accident

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Prague, May 24 (IANS/DPA) Czech President Petr Pavel was released from hospital on Friday after a motorcycle accident and is to receive further treatment at home, a spokesman announced on platform X.

The 62-year-old reportedly injured himself in a fall while riding at low speed through rough terrain on a closed training ground. Pavel then spent the night under observation at the Central Military Hospital in Prague.

No detailed information about the nature of the injury was provided, but it is not said to be serious. The newspaper Blesk reported that Pavel may have broken a rib.

According to the presidential office, his schedule will remain unchanged in the coming days, including a planned trip to Jordan next week, where the president is due to meet with King Abdullah II.

Pavel, a former chief of general staff, has been at the helm of the EU and NATO member state since March 2023. He is known as an avid motorcycle enthusiast, with several vehicles in his garage.

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In May 2023, he rode his motorcycle to a meeting with Bavarian Premier Markus Söder in the German town of Selb near the Czech border.

After riding without a helmet last year, Pavel had to publicly apologize and donated money to an organisation that helps accident victims.

–IANS/DPA

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Germany has no plans to recognise Palestinian state, says Chancellor Scholz

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Berlin, May 24 (IANS/DPA) German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Friday that his government has no plans to officially recognise a Palestinian state.

There is “no reason” to recognise the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a separate state, Scholz said on Friday at a press conference alongside Portuguese Prime Minister Luís Montenegro.

“There is no clarity about the territory of the state, about all other issues related to it,” Scholz said. He suggested that matters were “not yet that far.”

Scholz argued that “a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians that amounts to a two-state solution” with a Palestinian Authority responsible for both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is needed instead.

“But we’re still a long way off that,” Scholz said.

What is important now is “to achieve a long-term ceasefire” and “for all parties to commit to the two-state solution,” Scholz said.

Ireland, Spain and Norway all announced plans to formally recognise a Palestinian state by the end of the month, a move that was met with fury from the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Montenegro said that Portugal will not be taking this step for the time being, although he noted that his country had voted in favour of recognising Palestine as a full member of the United Nations General Assembly.

Scholz on Friday said that it has become clear in recent weeks that Arab countries are working hard to ensure security in the Middle East region, which the German chancellor contended should give hope for a possible two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, a path of “symbolic recognition of statehood” would not lead things any further, Scholz said.

–IANS/DPA

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Seoul detects suspected signs of North Korean preparations for spy satellite launch

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Seoul, May 24 (IANS) South Korea’s military has detected suspected signs of North Korea making preparations to launch a military spy satellite, an official said on Friday.

In December, Pyongyang vowed to launch three more spy satellites this year, a month after successfully placing its first one into orbit, Yonhap News Agency reported.

South Korea’s Defence Minister Shin Won-sik told reporters earlier this year that the North’s Malligyong-1 spy satellite appears to be orbiting Earth without activity.

“As apparent signs of preparations for the launch of North Korea’s purported military spy satellite have recently been detected in the Tongchang-ri area, South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are closely monitoring and tracking related activities,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff official said.

The North staged all three of its launches last year from its satellite launch station in Tongchang-ri in the northwestern province of North Pyongan.

While the military has continuously detected activities of personnel, vehicles and equipment at the launch site, they have apparently grown larger in scale recently, reports Yonhap News Agency.

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Equipment used to measure and assess the launch trajectory of a space rocket is said to have been detected at the site.

The military has currently strengthened surveillance and monitoring of the area, with preparations being made to intercept the North’s launch vehicle if it enters South Korean airspace, the official said.

If the North presses ahead with a launch, it is expected to notify Japan of its schedule as it did prior to all three of its satellite launches last year.

The suspected preparations come as the leaders of South Korea, China and Japan will hold a trilateral summit in Seoul on Monday for the first time in 4 1/2 years, spawning speculation the North could time the launch to coincide with the meeting to maximize its political impact.

South Korea, the United States and others have condemned the North’s space rocket launches, calling them violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning it from ballistic missile launches, as they use the same technologies.

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–IANS

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Heat like 'literal hell' sends thousands to hospital in Pakistan

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Islamabad, May 24 (IANS/DPA) Thousands of heatstroke victims were being treated at hospitals across Pakistan on Friday as temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius amid a blazing heatwave, officials said.

The heat gripped the South Asian country for a fourth day and was likely to last for another week, government climate change chief Romina Alam said.

The temperatures could touch 51 degrees on Saturday, the country’s chief metrologist Sardar Sarfraz said.

In the southern province of Sindh, ambulances rushed people to hospitals and temporary heat relief camps in all major cities, local official Shah Zaman said.

“We have treated thousands and more influx is coming in,” said doctor Tahir Farooq at a hospital in the city of Dadu, where the temperature hit 50.

“It is like living a literal hell. You feel like walking on burning coals as you step out in the sun,” said Zeeshan Khan Shani, a rickshaw driver in Dadu.

“It is unbearable. I’m worried about my daughters. They can faint anytime,” said Asif Shakoor, a mother in the eastern city of Lahore.

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The Pakistani government last week ordered the temporary closure of schools, postponed exams, and declared emergencies at hospitals as the heatwave, the first of this summer, started.

Authorities said the temperatures were hovering up to eight degrees Celsius higher than their normal level at this time of the summer and cited climate change as the reason.

Hundreds of people are killed in Pakistan every year in climate-induced disasters while thousands lose their habitat and livelihood in a country that contributes little to global carbon emissions.

–IANS/DPA

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