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Potential Rafah assault casualty rate would make regional peace 'very difficult': Scholz

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Berlin, March 17(IANS) The large number of civilian casualties that would result from an Israeli assault on the Gazan city Rafah would make regional peace “very difficult,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Sunday after talks with Jordanian King Abdullah, media reported.

He added that this is one of the main arguments he will bring to talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Sunday during his visit to Gaza, The Times of Israel reported.

The hastily arranged talks come after Netanyahu said on Friday that he had approved a plan for an offensive on the southern Gaza city.

“Right now, it is about ensuring we come to a long-lasting ceasefire,” Scholz said after talks with Abdullah at the monarch’s private residence in the Jordanian Red Sea port of Aqaba.

“That would enable us to prevent such a ground offensive from taking place.”

Asked if he was prepared to exert pressure on Netanyahu to stop such an assault, the German Chancellor added that it is “very clear we must do everything so the situation does not get worse than it already is”.

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“Israel has every right to protect itself… At the same time, it cannot be that those in Gaza who fled to Rafah are directly threatened by whatever military actions and operations are undertaken there.”

Israel has vowed to move into Rafah to eliminate the last Hamas stronghold there. It also believes that some of the hostages and Hamas leaders are in Rafah. Last month, special forces rescued two Israeli hostages from captivity in an apartment in the city, The Times of Israel reported.

Over half of the Gaza Strip’s population has fled to Rafah during the war sparked by Hamas’s devastating attack on October 7. The offensive in Gaza has displaced most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people and led to critical shortages of food, water and medicine.

Scholz did not directly answer a question about whether Germany would react to a large-scale Rafah offensive, for example by restricting German weapons exports to Israel.

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Germany has been one of Israel’s staunchest allies alongside the US, consistently supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, stressing Germany’s duty to stand by the country’s side in atonement for its perpetration of the Nazi Holocaust in which six million Jews died.

–IANS

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Oil tank in Russia catches fire in drone attack

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Moscow, June 21 (IANS) An oil tank at an oil facility in Russia’s Tambov region caught fire following a presumed drone attack, said Tambov Region Governor Maksim Yegorov.

Yegorov added on Thursday that a blast was heard at an oil depot in the Rasskazovsky district of the Tambov region, and an oil tank caught fire following the attack, Xinhua news agency reported.

No casualties have been reported as a result of the incident, and the remains of another drone were discovered in the Pervomaysky district of the same region, he said.

–IANS

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Energy facilities in 4 Ukrainian regions damaged in drone, missile attacks

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Kiev, June 21 (IANS) Energy facilities in four Ukrainian regions were damaged during overnight drone and missile attacks by Russia, Ukraine’s state-run energy company Ukrenergo said.

The air strikes have harmed equipment at energy infrastructure in eastern, central and northern Ukraine, the Ukrenergo added on Thursday as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

In the northern Kiev region, power transmission lines and equipment at an enterprise were damaged by the debris of intercepted drones, said the Kiev Regional Military Administration.

The attacks also hit the electric power grid in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, said regional governor Sergii Lysak.

At least seven energy infrastructure employees were injured in the air strikes and hospitalised, said the country’s Energy Ministry.

Russian forces fired 27 Shahed combat drones, four cruise missiles from Tu-95MC bombers, three ballistic missiles Iskander-M and two guided aviation missiles at Ukraine during the attack, said the Ukrainian Air Force.

All 27 drones and five missiles were shot down by the air defence.

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The Ukrenergo said it would expand power limitation restrictions in the wake of the attacks.

The power cuts, however, will not apply to critical infrastructure facilities.

Since March 22, Russia carried out seven major missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power generation and transmission infrastructure.

–IANS

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Will continue to work with India under Modi 3.0: US

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Washington, June 21 (IANS) The US reiterated on Thursday that it continues to consider India a “close partner” and looks forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in its third term

This reassertion came at the US State Department’s briefing in response to a question.

“India continues to be a close partner of the United States, not just at the government level but at the people the people level we do share close economic ties, close cultural ties, they continue to be a partner that we work with on our Indo Pacific strategy, and we will look forward to continue to do that with the government with Prime Minister Modi’s government,” spokesperson Mathew Miller said.

Prime Minister Modi and President Joe Biden spoke shortly after the election and met briefly on the sidelines of the recent G7 meetings in Italy.

In response to another question about the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, Miller said: “We value our important relationships with both India and Pakistan. As we have said we support direct discussions between India and Pakistan. But the pace, scope and character should be determined by those two countries, not by us.”

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–IANS

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Russia could mirror Western actions, arm North Korea: Putin

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Hanoi, June 20 (IANS) In a clear warning to the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday indicated his nation could supply long-range precision weapons to North Kora and other countries, on the same pattern that the US and other countries are arming Ukraine.

”We do not rule out supplying weapons to other countries, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Let the West think where they might end up,” the Russian President, who is in Vietnam on the second leg of his Asian tour after visiting North Korea, told media persons after meetings with the Vietnamese leadership, RT reported.

He was responding to this previous statement on sending missiles to adversaries of the West, in response to the US and its allies allowing Ukraine to use their supplied weapons to strike deep inside Russia.

Noting that the Western countries that have supplied long-range and other weapons to Ukraine have said they can’t be held responsible for how Kiev uses them, and insist that it does not make them parties to the conflict, Putin said that Russia, therefore, reserves the same right for itself.

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He also said that Moscow is considering modifications to its doctrine on the use of atomic weapons, as the West appears to be working on low-yield weapons to lower the nuclear threshold.

Asked about the peace terms he offered Ukraine last week, Putin said that Russia has always been willing to negotiate, while Kiev and its Western backers sabotaged both the Minsk process and the Istanbul talks. The Russian President, who had cited conditions for peace talks, including Ukraine removing its troops from Donbass and two other regions, and assuring it would not join NATO, underlined that the terms he outlined will not be valid forever.

“Our terms will change depending on the situation on the ground,” he said.

Putin arrived in Hanoi on Wednesday evening from Pyongyang, where he signed a strategic partnership treaty with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. His trip to Vietnam is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties with Hanoi, including trade and nuclear energy cooperation.

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–IANS

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In rare move, US diverts missiles ordered by other countries to Ukraine

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Yashwant Raj Washington, June 20 (IANS) The US on Thursday announced, that in an “extraordinary” step, it was reprioritising “hundreds” of air defence missiles ordered by other countries and sending them instead to Ukraine for its defence from Russia.

These interceptor missiles are meant for American-supplied Patriot and NASAMS air defence systems.

The White House said missiles ordered by other countries will be delivered but will be delayed by at least 16 months. It refused to disclose the number of countries whose orders will be affected but said Taiwan was not among them.

Announcing the extraordinary measure, John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said that the broader message for Russia was that “if you think you’re going to be able to outlast Ukraine, and if you think you’re gonna be able to outlast those of us who are supporting Ukraine, you’re just flat out wrong. And we’re going to make sure that we give you print the critical air defence capabilities they need now and into the future”.

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Asked about the number of these reprioritized missiles, he said they were “in the realm of the hundreds”.

Kirby went on to say the countries whose orders would be delayed had been informed and that they understood why the US was doing it.

“We have of course informed all the affected countries that we are taking this extraordinary step and we’re making every effort to minimize any negative impact to countries with affected foreign military sales cases. If any of our other partners were ever in a situation similar to Ukraine’s we would go to extraordinary lengths to support their security as well.”

These missiles will begin reaching Ukraine before the end of summer and the supplies will continue over the next 16 months, shoring up the country to defend its cities and populations from Russian missiles.

US President Joe Biden has committed his administration to defend Ukraine for as long as it takes and has sent billions of dollars worth of defence equipment by itself and with allies in Europe and Asia.

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–IANS

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