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Mideast countries offer condolences over deaths of Iranian president, FM

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CAIRO, May 20 (Xinhua) — Leaders across Middle Eastern countries on Monday offered their condolences to Iran over the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and members of the accompanying team in a helicopter crash a day earlier.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said on his X account that “I offer my condolences to the Iranian people on the death of Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials following the tragic plane accident.”

Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi expressed condolences, emphasizing the council’s solidarity with the Iranian government and people in the hard times, reported the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud sent condolences to Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber on the deaths of Raisi and some members of his accompanying delegation, said a statement carried by SPA.

Türkiye “stands by Iran in these painful days” and “shares grief of Iranian people,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Mokhber in a phone call on Monday, Erdogan’s office said in a statement.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi extended his sincere condolences to the people of Iran, expressing the solidarity of Egypt with the leadership and people of Iran during this tragic time, the Egyptian Presidency said in a statement.

President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed in a message “sincere condolences and deep sympathy to Iran, its leadership and people over the painful accident,” saying his country “stands in solidarity with Iran at this difficult time.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in a message, highlighted Syria’s solidarity with Iran and the families of the deceased, expressing his commitment to continuing the work initiated by Raisi to benefit both nations.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune expressed his “deep sorrow and solidarity” with the Iranian people during “this difficult time,” lamenting “the loss of my brother and partner Ebrahim Raisi, with whom I was united in serving the bonds of brotherhood, cooperation, and solidarity between our two countries and peoples, and in supporting just causes.”

Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan on Monday eulogized Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, and those who died in a helicopter crash, the sovereign council said in a statement.

In addition, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid, Tunisia’s Presidency, the Libyan Foreign Ministry as well as Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants also extended condolences to the Iranian government and people.

The crash occurred on Sunday in Iran’s Varzaqan County as Raisi, along with his accompanying team on board three helicopters, was on his way from Khoda Afarin County, where he attended the inauguration ceremony of a storage dam with his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev earlier in the day, to the provincial capital Tabriz for the inauguration of a petrochemical complex.

The other members onboard Raisi’s helicopter, including East Azerbaijan’s Governor Malek Rahmati, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Representative to East Azerbaijan Mohammad Ali Ale-Hashem, Raisi’s bodyguard, as well as the flight crew, also lost their lives.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Future of truce proposal uncertain as Gazans appeal for end to suffering

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Negotiations over the latest Gaza ceasefire proposal continue as Palestinians in the besieged enclave appeal for an end to the humanitarian tragedy.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Hamas’ response to the latest U.S.-backed ceasefire-for-hostages proposal included “numerous changes” to what was originally presented, some of which were unacceptable.

“Hamas has proposed numerous changes to the proposal that was on the table. We discussed those changes last night with Egyptian colleagues and today with the prime minister” of Qatar, Blinken told a press conference in Doha, Qatar. “Some of the changes are workable; some are not.”

“In the days ahead, we are going to continue to push on an urgent basis – with our partners, with Qatar, with Egypt – to try to close this deal,” Blinken said.

In response to Blinken, a source close to Hamas, who required anonymity, said “all we did was reaffirming our commitment to what was presented on May 5 by the mediators, and we did not discuss any new ideas or proposals.”

Noting the latest ceasefire proposal includes clauses allowing Israel to resume the fighting in Gaza after the second phase if the negotiations do not yield positive results, the source said Hamas “requested official international guarantees to prevent Israel from resuming the war and to commit to the terms of the agreement phases.”

The U.S. has said Israel accepted the proposal, but Israel has not publicly stated this.

Also on Wednesday, two Egyptian security sources told Reuters that Hamas wanted written guarantees from the U.S. for a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip in order to sign off on the truce proposal.

Despite the negotiations, Israel continued its bombing and airstrikes in Gaza, with the Palestinian death toll from the ongoing conflict rising to 37,202, according to health authorities in Gaza.

Palestinian civilians who had been displaced by over eight months of fighting had hoped that the ceasefire plan would be put into effect.

“My house was bombed. How long are we going to have to endure the conflict?” a displaced Palestinian told CMG.

“We want a solution that will allow us to rest, so that we can live in peace and tranquility like the rest of the world, and not have to fight every time. Our children, only 16 or 17 years old, have already witnessed several armed conflicts.”

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said on Tuesday that more than 600,000 Palestinian children are being deprived of an education in the besieged enclave and are on the verge of becoming a lost generation.

Source(s): CGTN

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Fighting continues as future of U.S. ceasefire plan for Gaza is uncertain

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Deadly fighting rocked Gaza on Tuesday as Hamas formally responded to a U.S. ceasefire proposal and Jordan hosted an emergency summit for the besieged Palestinian territory.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a joint statement on Tuesday that they had delivered their response to the proposal to Qatari and Egyptian mediators, expressing a “willingness to deal positively in order to reach an agreement.” They emphasized their priority of stopping the conflict in the Gaza Strip and ensuring the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory.

Egypt and Qatar said they had received Hamas’ response to the proposal but did not disclose its contents.

White House spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. had received Hamas’s response and was evaluating it.

An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Israel had received Hamas’s response to the U.S.-drafted proposal and the movement had rejected it, Xinhua reported, citing Israel’s state-owned Kan TV news.

The United States has said Israel has accepted its proposal, but Israel has not publicly said it has. Israel, which has continued assaults in central and southern Gaza, has repeatedly said it would not commit to an end to its military operation in Gaza before Hamas is eliminated.

In addition to the ceasefire proposal, Jordan hosted an emergency summit on Tuesday for the besieged Palestinian territory.

The conference, titled “Call for Action: Urgent Humanitarian Response for Gaza” and co-organized by Egypt, and the United Nations, called for intensified efforts to aid the Palestinians and aimed to develop a collective response to the dire humanitarian situation in the enclave.

In his remarks at the conference, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi called on countries to compel Israel to stop “using hunger as a weapon” in Gaza and to remove obstacles to delivering humanitarian aid to people there.

For his part, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who also attended the conference, urged support for humanitarian aid programs presented by the Palestinian Authority and other countries to assist the afflicted Palestinian people.

“The (Palestinian) government has presented its programs for relief, restoration of basic services, institutional reform, and financial and economic stability, and has announced its readiness to take on duties in Gaza, including all crossings into the strip, just as in the West Bank,” said Abbas.

He urged the Security Council and the international community to pressure Israel to open all land crossings into Gaza and hand them over to the Palestinian government.

Also at the conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community to support Jordan’s crucial role in assisting Gaza residents and as a key regional hub for humanitarian work.

Source(s): CGTN

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UN Security Council adopts Gaza ceasefire resolution

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The UN Security Council on Monday adopted a U.S.-drafted resolution aimed at reaching a comprehensive ceasefire deal in three phases to end the war in Gaza.

Adopted by a large majority of 14 votes in favor and Russia abstaining, Resolution 2735 also urges both parties to the conflict to fully implement the terms of the proposal “without delay and without condition.”

According to the resolution, phase one includes an “immediate, full, and complete ceasefire with the release of hostages including women, the elderly and the wounded, the return of the remains of some hostages who have been killed, and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners.”

It calls for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from “populated areas” of Gaza, the return of Palestinians to their homes and neighborhoods throughout the enclave, including in the north, as well as the safe and effective distribution of humanitarian assistance at scale.

Phase two would see a permanent end to hostilities “in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.”

In phase three, “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza” would begin, and the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza would be returned to Israel.

The council also underlined the proposal’s provision that if negotiations take longer than six weeks for phase one, the ceasefire will continue as long as talks continue.

The resolution says that Israel has “accepted” the deal and “calls upon” Hamas to do the same.

It also notes that the Security Council rejects any attempt at demographic or territorial change in the Gaza Strip, including any actions that reduce the territory of the enclave.

The text also reiterates the council’s “unwavering commitment” to the vision of the two-state solution where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders consistent with international law and relevant UN resolutions.

The resolution says that “in this regard stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”

Later on Monday, Hamas announced that it welcomes the resolution, saying that it’s ready to cooperate with the mediators to engage in indirect negotiations to implement resolution principles “that are consistent with the demands of our people and resistance,” including a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the full withdrawal of Israeli forces, prisoner-hostage exchange and reconstruction.

The Palestinian presidency hailed the adoption of the resolution as a step in the right direction to stop the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian News Agency WAFA reported.

The Palestinian presidency also called on all parties to fulfill their responsibilities to implement the resolution.

China’s permanent representative to the United Nations Fu Cong said after voting in favor for the resolution that China calls for the immediate realization of an unconditional and lasting ceasefire and urges the sponsor to adopt a responsible attitude and make sincere efforts for the realization of an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

Noting that there are still many ambiguities in the draft, Fu said China still has legitimate concerns about whether the main parties will accept the ceasefire proposal and whether the three-stage arrangement can be successfully transitioned.

Russia’s UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, countered that the council was signing on to the plan without “details” and “giving a carte blanche.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, the latest effort to halt the conflict, which is in its ninth month.

Since October 7, the conflict has killed at least 37,124 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The UN strongly urges all parties to prioritize the protection of civilians who are bearing the brunt of this conflict, particularly women and children. Everyone has obligations under international law. They must comply with those obligations, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told a daily press briefing on Monday.

Source(s): CGTN

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