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Israel attacks Islamic Jihad in Gaza, killing 13

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Abraham Accords passes first real test with Gaza conflict, but obstacles remain

Thirteen people were killed after Israel attacked targets of the militant Palestinian organisation Islamic Jihad, according to officials on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the dead included four women and four children in the strikes on Gaza and Rafah.

Russians Jamal Khaswan and his wife and son were also among those killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza, according to the Russian mission in the West Bank.

About 30 Palestinians were injured, some of them critically, the ministry said.

Militant groups said they would retaliate.

Israel’s army justified the operation by citing rocket attacks from Gaza on the Israeli border area in recent weeks.

The Israeli army said the three militants were Chalil Bahitini, a commander in the northern part of the Gaza Strip who was responsible for recent rocket attacks on Israel.

Jahed Ahnam, head of the military council, and Tarek Az Aldin, coordinated the attacks in the West Bank.

UN envoy, Tor Wennesland, condemned the civilian deaths as unacceptable.

“I urge all concerned to exercise maximum restraint to avoid an escalation.

“We must be prepared for every scenario – the IDF and security forces are prepared to defend every front,” Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, said.

The military was ordered to prepare for a possible mobilisation of reservists.

The opposition backed the Israeli government’s deployment.

The U.S. was informed about the plans, according to media reports.

Several Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan, condemned the Israeli attacks.

Civilians in southern Israel were ordered to stay near a designated shelter until Wednesday.

Border crossings with Gaza were closed and regional rail traffic was restricted.

According to eyewitnesses, the Gaza region saw little traffic, while schools, universities, and all ministries and public services were closed.

Amid fears of escalation, Managing Director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Tamir Hayman, has said.

“As far as Israel is concerned, Hamas is not the target of the operation but the main question that will determine the intensity of this conflict and its duration is whether or not Hamas will join the campaign.’’

Israeli news site Ynet reported that Israel had sent a message to Hamas that they were not targeted.

A Hamas spokesman said that the Palestinian people know how to respond to the crime of the targeted killing of Jihad members and attack the occupying power.

A Jihad spokesperson said that Israel had ignored all the initiatives of the mediators.

In August last year, Israel killed the jihadi military chief, Chalid Mansur, in an air strike.

Two other jihad members were killed, including Mansur’s deputy.

At that time, there were massive rocket attacks from the Palestinian territory and further Israeli air strikes.

An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into effect three days later.

The latest tensions stem from the death of Khader Adnan a week ago.

The senior member of the Islamic Jihad movement died after spending almost three months on hunger strike in an Israeli jail.

The Gaza Strip is home to more than two million people living in very poor conditions, while Hamas seized power in the Palestinian territory by force in 2007.

In response, Israel tightened a blockade of the coastal area, which was supported by Egypt.

The U.S., the EU, and Israel classify Hamas and Islamic Jihad as terrorist organisations.

Both groups were committed to the destruction of Israel.

Islamic Jihad, however, was seen as more radical than Hamas. 

– dpa

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Israeli Defence Minister Reports Death Of Hamas Terrorists

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…As Norway is to deliver six F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine

 Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday said that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have killed a majority of Hamas terrorists and most of the Islamist organisation’s battalions smashed.

Gallant commented on parliament on Wednesday, according to Israeli media.

Israel announced the destruction of Hamas as a war objective after the massacres carried out by Hamas and other extremist groups on October 7.

“As long as Hamas retains a hold in the Gaza Strip, it can rebuild and strengthen itself, “Israeli officials have said.

So the IDF would then have to return and fight in areas where it had already been deployed.

Gallant has called for the creation of a political alternative to Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far refused to present a plan for the administration and reconstruction of Gaza after the end of the war.

Observers say this is likely because he is trying to avoid conflict with his far-right coalition partners who favour the building of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, a proposition. 

In another developmnet, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) member, Norway, will supply six F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

The first is due to arrive by the end of the year, the government in Oslo confirmed on Wednesday.

“Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against air attacks is crucial in its battle against Russia,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

It has been known for some time that Norway intends to send F-16s to Ukraine as part of an international coalition.

However, the timing has so far been as unclear as the exact number of aircraft.

Even though several countries have pledged to deliver the US-built fighters, none are known to have yet arrived in Ukraine.

On the fringes of the NATO summit in Washington on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country hopes to receive its first F-16s this summer.

Ukraine, which has been under attack from Russia since February 2022, needs at least 128 fighter jets, Zelensky said.

According to the government, Norway decommissioned its F-16s in 2021 as part of the introduction of new F-35 fighter jets. Of the fighters withdrawn from service, 32 were sold to Romania.

– dpa

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Sunak Insists Predictions Of Defeat Not Going To Stop Him

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Sunak Insists Predictions Of Defeat Are Not Going To Stop Him

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted that predictions of a Conservative defeat are not going to stop him after the likelihood of his return to Downing Street.

He said this was put at less than “lightning striking twice in the same place” by a polling expert.

He was asked during a “BBC Breakfast’’ interview whether he accepted the analysis by-elections guru Professor John Curtice, the prime minister said: “That’s his view.

“That’s not going to stop me from working as hard as I can over these final few days to talk to as many people as possible about the choice.”

“And I was up at 4 this morning talking to workers at a distribution facility.

“I’m here talking to you. I’ll be out till the last moment of this campaign because I think it’s an important choice for the country.”

Sunak kicked off a final push for votes on the last two days of the campaign with an early morning visit to an Ocado packing plant in Bedfordshire.

Then he stopped at a Morrisons near Witney the former Oxfordshire seat of Foreign Secretary, David Cameron where the conservatives won with a 15,200 majority in 2019.

In a last-ditch attempt to rally conservative voters, the Tory leader claimed in a speech on Tuesday that just 130,000 voters could prevent a Labour “supermajority.”

He denied that his switch from talking about his policy plans to warnings about a landslide for Keir Starmer and his Labour Party was the language of defeat.

“No, I’m much still talking to people about our plan,” he said.

Sunak also defended the conservative campaign, in spite of it having failed to narrow the opinion poll gap with Labour.

It was asked if he had got the campaign wrong after it was hit by debacles including his early D-day departure and the gambling row, the prime minister said

“No, actually everywhere I’ve been going, people are waking up to the dangers of what a labour government would mean for them, particularly when it comes to taxes.”

He said under the conservatives, things were undeniably better than they were a few years ago.

“When it comes to the things that we want to do, people can see that we have turned a corner,” he said.

Meanwhile, Starmer said a big Labour majority would be better for the country.

The Labour leader hammered home his get-out-the-vote message on a whistlestop campaign tour to Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire on Tuesday.

In an interview with The Times, he said he needed a strong mandate to reform the planning system and improve the economy.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey is continuing his action-packed campaign tour to the South-West of England where he will call on voters to end the sewage scandal. 

– dpa

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S/Korea slams N/Korea-Russia treaty, hints at potential arms supply to Ukraine

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S/Korea slams N/Korea-Russia treaty, hints at potential arms supply to Ukraine

….As Another cargo ship is seized on suspicion of violating UN sanctions on N/Korea

The South Korean government on Thursday said it would reconsider its stance on arms supply to Ukraine after North Korea and Russia signed a treaty to mutually provide immediate military assistance if one of them is attacked.

National Security Advisor Chang Ho-jin also condemned “the comprehensive strategic treaty” signed during the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

“The government expresses grave concern and condemns the signing of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement between North Korea and Russia, which aims to strengthen mutual military and economic cooperation,” Chang said in a press briefing at the presidential office.

Chang said any cooperation that directly or indirectly aids North Korea’s military enhancement is a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and will be subject to international scrutiny and sanctions, and vowed to take corresponding measures.

“We plan to reconsider the issue of arms support to Ukraine,” Chang also said, suggesting a shift in South Korea’s policy of not providing lethal aid to Ukraine.

A presidential official said South Korea will maintain strategic ambiguity regarding the types of weapons that could be supplied to Ukraine.

“Specific measures will be revealed later, and it will be interesting to see how Russia responds, rather than revealing our plans in advance,” the official told reporters.

Air defense systems could be on the list as Ukraine is in desperate need of missile shields to counter Russian air strikes, according to government sources.

South Korea will also slap additional sanctions on four Russian ships, five organizations, and eight individuals involved in the transfer of weapons and oil between Russia and North Korea, Chang said.

There are 1,159 items subject to export controls to Russia following the Ukraine war, and South Korea will add 243 new items, bringing the total to 1,402 items under sanctions.

Chang said it is “troubling” that North Korea and Russia, with their history of initiating the Korean War and the Ukraine War, respectively, pledged military cooperation based on the hypothetical scenario of a preemptive attack.

“This is a fallacious and irrational argument that disregards international responsibility and norms,” he said.

In light of deepening ties between Pyongyang and Moscow, the government vowed to sternly respond to any security threats in coordination with the international community.

“We will further strengthen the extended deterrence of the S. Korea-U.S. alliance and the security cooperation among South Korea, the United States, and Japan to deter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Chang said. 

In another development, the South Korea seized a 2,900-ton cargo ship near the Korea Strait on Thursday on suspicion of violating UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against North Korea, sources said.

File photo shows a cargo ship, DEYI, on March 30, 2024, in waters off Yeosu committing alleged activities in violation of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea. (Yonhap).

The foreign-flagged freighter, reportedly carrying coal and iron ore with 10 crew members, was en route from Russia to China, presumably via North Korea, when it was seized.

The vessel is now anchored at an anchorage in Busan on the country’s southeastern coast.

“With the vessel’s suspected violation of the UNSC sanctions, relevant government agencies are taking necessary steps in line with the international and domestic laws,” the foreign ministry said in response to a Yonhap query about the ship, without providing further details.

In late March, another 3,000-ton cargo ship, DEYI, which was heading to Vladivostok, Russia, was seized in waters off Yeosu, along the southern coast, under similar suspicions.

The ship is also currently anchored at the anchorage at Busan Port, with the captain and other crew onboard.

– Yonhap

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