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Russian spy in German military sentenced to 3.5 years (Lead)

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Dusseldorf, May 27 (IANS/DPA) A 54-year-old German army officer who confessed to spying for Russia has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison by a court in Dusseldorf.

The man, a captain, had acknowledged betraying sensitive military information to the Russian secret services. He also joined the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party around the same time he offered himself up to Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors accused him of serving as an agent for a hostile, ruthlessly aggressive foreign power.

German police officers arrested the man in Koblenz on August 9, and he has been held in custody since then. The incident was one of several Russian spy scandals that have rocked Germany in recent months and heightened concerns about security in the country.

He faced a shorter prison sentence because the information he offered to the Russians was classified as official secrets. If he had also betrayed more sensitive state secrets, he could have faced more severe punishments, up to a life sentence.

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The captain had claimed that he was driven by fear of a nuclear escalation during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His defence lawyer argued that he began consuming fake news, propaganda and conspiracies on the social media platforms Telegram and TikTok during a difficult stretch of professional work.

“It’s the biggest cock-up I’ve ever made in my life,” the defendant said in a closing statement to the court. He said that depression caused by chronic overwork had impaired his rational thinking.

His defence lawyer said that the decision came during a four-day period in which he destroyed everything he had built over a years-long career as a professional soldier: “Four days of betrayal in which he crossed red lines. Four days of complete failure.”

At times, he was far removed from reality, his defence lawyer said. He also noted that the man has since quit the AfD party.

–IANS/DPA

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Israel confirms killing high-ranking Hamas commander in Gaza

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Jerusalem, July 15 (IANS) Israeli security forces have confirmed that they killed Rafa’a Salameh, the commander of Hamas’s Khan Younis Brigade, in airstrikes in the Gaza Strip late last week.

In a statement, the Israeli military and Shin Bet internal security agency said on Sunday that Salameh was killed in the area of Khan Younis, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israeli warplanes on Saturday bombed the tents of displaced people in the Mawasi area in Khan Younis, killing at least 90 Palestinians and wounding 300 others, most of them women and children, according to the health authorities in Gaza.

Israeli media reported that Mohammed Deif, the commander of Hamas’s military wing, and Salameh were the targets of the Israeli airstrike.

Israel has not confirmed Deif’s status but a Hamas official said on Sunday that the senior militant, who survived at least seven assassination attempts by Israel, has survived the recent attack.

“Salameh was one of the closest associates of Mohammed Deif,” the military said, adding he was also “one of the masterminds” of Hamas’ rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023.

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Salameh joined Hamas in the early 1990s.

In 2016, he was appointed commander of the Khan Younis Brigade, and was responsible for launching projectiles from the Khan Younis area towards Israeli territory and overseeing the operation of attack tunnels, the military said.

“The elimination of Rafa’a Salameh significantly impedes Hamas’ military capabilities,” the military noted.

–IANS

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12 Palestinians killed in Israeli air raid on school in Gaza: Sources

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Gaza, July 15 (IANS) At least 12 Palestinians were killed and dozens of others wounded in an Israeli air raid on a school housing displaced people in the central Gaza Strip, said Palestinian security and medical sources.

Israeli aircraft bombed a school in the Nuseirat refugee camp run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with at least one missile, security sources told Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

Some video footage circulated on social media platforms shows the moment the school was bombed, parts of which were destroyed, Xinhua news agency reported.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli army on the raid.

UNRWA condemned the Israeli raid, stressing that there is no safe place in Gaza.

“The UN agency sends the coordinates of its facilities daily to the Israeli army, yet the army insists on targeting it and the United Nations headquarters,” the UN agency advisor Adnan Abu Hasna told Xinhua.

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The attack came a day after Israeli warplanes bombed the tents of displaced people in the Mawasi area in Khan Younis, killing at least 90 Palestinians and wounding 300 others, most of them women and children, according to the health authorities in Gaza.

–IANS

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Police seize arms, ammunition in Afghanistan

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Kabul, July 15 (IANS) Police have seized a variety of arms and ammunition from across north Afghanistan’s Balkh province over the past four months, provincial police spokesperson Mohammad Eisa Wasiq said.

The counter-terrorism police have collected 29 pieces of different types of arms and ammunition during a series of operations in different districts of the province, Wasiq added on Sunday.

Calling upon Afghans to help police in recovering arms and ammunition from the illegal possession of any person, the official added that the police are trying to recover and register any arms illegally kept by individuals over the past 20 years, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Afghan caretaker government has recovered a lot of arms and ammunition, including battle tanks and missiles, since taking over power following the withdrawal of the US-led forces from the war-ravaged Asian country in August 2021.

–IANS

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Philippine Airlines plane overshoots runway in Philippines

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Manila, July 15 (IANS) A Philippine Airlines (PAL) propeller plane overshot the runway at an airport in Palawan province, the airline company said.

All 53 passengers and four crew members were safely deplaned, the company added on Sunday.

The plane, travelling from Cebu to Palawan, overran the runway upon landing at Busuanga airport before 3 p.m. local time amid poor weather conditions, PAL said.

The aircraft stopped on a grassy area beyond the concrete runway, causing the airport’s closure, and forcing incoming flights to be diverted to other airports, Xinhua news agency reported.

PAL said it is working with related authorities to restore normal operations in Busuanga airport.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is expected to investigate the incident.

–IANS

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7 missing following water barrier breaching in Myanmar

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Yangon, July 15 (IANS) Seven construction workers were missing following a water barrier breaching at a construction site near the bank of Ayeyarwady River in central Myanmar’s Mandalay region, said an official from the Myanmar Rescue Organisation.

The incident occurred in Amarapura township of Mandalay around 8.30 a.m. local time on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

When the water barrier broke and river water flooded the construction site, seven workers went missing as a result, the official told Xinhua.

The river water only overflowed the construction site and did not reach the villages, he added.

Search and rescue efforts are underway with the Myanmar Rescue Organisation and Myanmar Fire Services Department working together, the official said.

–IANS

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