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Studying latest Israeli ceasefire proposal: Hamas

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Gaza, April 27 (IANS/DPA) A top Hamas official said on Saturday that the Islamist militant group is studying an Israeli counterproposal regarding a potential ceasefire in Gaza, as a ground assault on the city of Rafah looms.

“Hamas will examine this proposal and submit a response,” Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy head of the group’s political arm in Gaza, said in a statement posted on Telegram.

He said the Israeli side was responding to a proposal Hamas had presented to Egyptian and Qatari mediators on April 13.

Negotiations aimed at releasing hostages held by militants in the Gaza Strip and securing a ceasefire in the devastated Palestinian territory have been deadlocked for months.

But Israel’s preparations for a large-scale ground offensive on Rafah – the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip and the territory’s last Hamas stronghold – is reportedly putting pressure on the group.

US media outlet Axios reported on Friday, citing two senior Israeli officials, that Israel had warned Egypt that this would be the “last chance” to strike a deal before its Rafah operations begin.

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Axios and Israeli media reported that Hamas and Israel are at loggerheads over the scope of the deal, including how many hostages could be released and how long the ceasefire would last. Hamas is demanding a permanent ceasefire, which Israel rejects.

Israel’s allies and critics have for months implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off the invasion of Rafah, fearing mass civilian casualties. More than a million displaced Palestinians from other parts of the Gaza Strip have taken shelter there.

–IANS/DPA

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UN chief calls for global efforts to protect refugees

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United Nations, June 21 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for global efforts to protect the 43.4 million refugees across the globe in a video message on World Refugee Day.

“From Sudan to Ukraine, from the Middle East to Myanmar to Congo and beyond, conflict, climate chaos and upheaval are forcing record numbers of people from their homes and fueling profound human suffering,” Guterres said on Thursday.

According to the latest figures, a total of more than 120 million people around the world are forcibly displaced, including 43.5 million refugees, Xinhua news agency reported.

World Refugee Day, celebrated annually on June 20, is about honouring their strength and courage, and stepping up efforts to protect and support refugees on every step of their journey, the UN Chief added.

Refugees need global solidarity and the ability to rebuild their lives in dignity, said Guterres, adding “When given the opportunity, refugees make significant contributions to their host communities, but they need access to equal opportunities and jobs, housing, and healthcare”.

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Noting that young refugees need quality education to achieve their dreams, he said that host countries — mostly low- or middle-income countries — need the support and resources to fully include refugees in societies and economies.

“Let us pledge to reaffirm the world’s collective responsibility in assisting and welcoming refugees, in upholding their human rights, including the right to seek asylum, in safeguarding the integrity of the refugee protection regime, and ultimately, in resolving conflicts so that those forced from their communities can return home,” the UN Chief concluded.

World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe, was set for the first time on June 20, 2001, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

–IANS

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Malawian president appoints Michael Usi as new Vice President

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Lilongwe, June 21 (IANS) Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has appointed Michael Usi as the country’s Vice President, replacing Saulos Chilima who died in a plane crash on June 10.

The President announced on Thursday through Secretary to the President and Cabinet Colleen Zamba, adding that the new Vice President will be sworn in on Friday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Usi was the Minister of Natural Resources and Climate Change until he was appointed Vice President.

He is also the Vice President of the United Transformation Movement, a political party that Chilima founded and led as President.

Born in 1968, Usi is known for his significant contributions to the entertainment industry as an actor, playwright, and filmmaker. He is also known for his development work in Malawi.

In addition to his entertainment career, Usi has extensive experience with non-governmental organisations, focusing on community projects in health, education, and economic development.

Throughout his career, Usi has been an advocate for social justice, education, and community empowerment, earning him widespread respect and popularity among Malawians.

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His appointment is reportedly seen as a strategic move to harness his charisma and experience to address the nation’s challenges and promote development initiatives.

–IANS

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Palestinian teen killed by Israeli army in West Bank

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Ramallah, June 21 (IANS) A Palestinian teenager was killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Qalqilya, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Ministry added on Thursday that 15-year-old Naeem Abdullah Naeem Samha died after being hit by live bullets fired by the Israeli army, Xinhua news agency reported.

Local Palestinian sources told Xinhua that Israeli forces stormed the city, leading to confrontations with young men.

The Israeli army has not yet commented.

At least 549 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army across the West Bank and East Jerusalem since October 2023, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

–IANS

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3 killed, 2 injured in Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon

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Beirut, June 21 (IANS) Three people were killed and two civilians injured in Israeli air strikes targeting several areas in southern Lebanon, Lebanese military sources told the media.

The sources, who spoke anonymously, said on Thursday that an Israeli warplane fired six air-to-surface missiles at the southeast village of Khiam, killing a Hezbollah member and wounding two civilians, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a separate incident, an Israeli drone fired four air-to-surface missiles at a car in the Tyre district of southwest Lebanon, killing a Hezbollah official, Abbas Ibrahim Hamza Hamada, who was a commander in the western region of the border area.

The sources added that an Israeli drone raided a civilian car in the village of Houmine in the Nabatieh district, killing its driver, Hadi Jumaa, whose father was reportedly close to Hezbollah.

Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border escalated on October 8, 2023, following a barrage of rockets launched by Hezbollah toward Israel in solidarity with Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7.

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Israel then retaliated by firing heavy artillery toward southeastern Lebanon.

–IANS

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Thailand pushes forward to join BRICS

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Bangkok, June 21 (IANS) Thailand is pushing forward with its plan to become a member of the BRICS group of emerging economies as early as October at the bloc’s next summit in Russia, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said.

Thailand submitted a formal letter of intent to join during the BRICS ministerial meeting more than a week ago and hoped to receive positive feedback, said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nikorndej Balankura on Thursday, in a bid to become the group’s first member from Southeast Asia.

Joining BRICS would allow Thailand to leverage further in advancing South-South cooperation as well as to play a more proactive role and contribute to crafting the global architecture, Nikorndej told a news conference as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

Thailand places importance on prioritising multilateralism and strengthening the role of developing countries in the international arena, which aligns with BRICS principles, and participating in the group would also enhance the kingdom’s opportunities on the international stage, a government statement said.

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The BRICS is the acronym for an emerging-market cooperative mechanism that initially included Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

In January, the bloc expanded its membership to include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Ethiopia.

–IANS

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