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Iran says approach to sanctions removal talks remains unchanged

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Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday that his country’s approach towards the indirect talks on lifting sanctions and facilitating the return of all parties to the 2015 nuclear deal remained unchanged.

He made the remarks at a weekly press conference in the Iranian capital Tehran, responding to inquiries about potential changes to Iran’s negotiating team after Ali Bagheri Kani, the country’s chief nuclear negotiator, was appointed as caretaker foreign minister after the death of Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and questions about the prospect of postponing relevant negotiations until after Iran’s presidential election on June 28.

He dismissed Western media reports alleging “secret” indirect talks between the United States and Iranian officials, including Bagheri Kani, in Oman earlier in the month, saying they lack credibility and were inaccurate.

He said that the exchange of indirect messages between Iran and the American side on sanctions removal had been ongoing without interruption. However, such interactions had focused solely on areas concerning the lifting of the embargoes and nuclear issues and had never gone beyond that framework.

Iran signed the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with world powers in July 2015, agreeing to put some curbs on its nuclear program in return for the removal of the sanctions on the country.

The United States, however, pulled out of the deal in May 2018 and reimposed unilateral sanctions on Tehran, prompting the latter to drop some of its nuclear commitments under the deal.

The talks on the revival of the JCPOA began in April 2021 in Vienna, Austria. Despite several rounds of talks, no significant breakthrough has been achieved since the end of the last round in August 2022.

Amir-Abdollahian lost his life in a helicopter crash in northwestern Iran on May 19. He was accompanying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on a trip to Tabriz, the capital of East Azarbaijan province.

The crash also resulted in the deaths of Raisi and the other members of his accompanying team, who were all on board the same helicopter.

Source(s): CGTN

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Blinken presses Israeli defense minister on avoiding further escalation

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to swiftly devise a strong post-war strategy for Gaza and to ensure that tensions with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border do not escalate further.

A State Department statement following the meeting noted that Blinken briefed Gallant on ongoing diplomatic efforts to advance security, governance and reconstruction in Gaza post-conflict, emphasizing the critical importance of these efforts for Israel’s security.

“He also underscored the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” the State Department added.

The viability of a U.S.-backed proposal to wind down the 8-month-long conflict in Gaza has been cast into doubt after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would only be willing to agree to a “partial” ceasefire deal that would not end the war, comments that sparked an uproar from families of hostages held by Hamas.

Netanyahu’s comments stood in sharp contrast to the outlines of the deal detailed late last month by U.S. President Joe Biden, who framed the plan as an Israeli one and which some in Israel refer to as “Netanyahu’s deal.” His remarks could further strain Israel’s ties to the U.S., its top ally, which launched a major diplomatic push for the latest ceasefire proposal, the AP reported.

Hamas has insisted it will not release the remaining hostages unless there’s a permanent ceasefire and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. When Biden announced the latest proposal, he said it included both.

But Netanyahu says Israel is still committed to destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, and ensuring it can never again carry out an October 7-style assault. A full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, where Hamas’ top leadership and much of its forces are still intact, would almost certainly leave the group in control of the territory and able to rearm.

In the interview, Netanyahu said the current phase of fighting is ending, setting the stage for Israel to send more troops to its northern border to confront the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, in what could open up a new war front. But he said that didn’t mean the war in Gaza was over.

Casualties rises continuously

At least seven Palestinians were killed and 22 others wounded in an Israeli air strike in Bani Suhaila town in the east of Khan Younis city in southern Gaza, the Hamas-run health authorities said on Monday.

In a press statement sent to Xinhua, the authorities said the casualties were transferred to the European Hospital in Khan Younis.

Palestinian security sources told Xinhua that Israeli warplanes attacked a group of people, mostly “volunteers with Hamas,” who were securing the trucks loaded with humanitarian aid.

There was no immediate comment about the incident from the Israeli army.

On Monday, the health authorities said about 28 Palestinians were killed and 66 others injured by Israeli strikes in various areas of Gaza over the previous 24 hours.

Inability to access aid

Meanwhile, access and security constraints continue to hinder food aid delivery to hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza and the medical evacuation of 10,000 patients, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Monday.

The OCHA said the inability to transport aid commodities from the Kerem Shalom crossing safely and the continued closure of the Rafah crossing compounded the challenges facing aid operations.

The UN body said fewer than half of the 86 coordinated humanitarian missions to northern Gaza planned for this month were facilitated by Israeli authorities. More than a quarter were impeded, 12 percent were denied access and 12 percent were canceled due to logistical, operational or security reasons.

“A humanitarian mission returning to southern Gaza after delivering fuel and medical supplies to Gaza City in the north was delayed for more than 13 hours at an Israeli military checkpoint, putting the convoy in danger of being caught in crossfire,” the office cited as just one example of the challenges in aid delivery. “Planned humanitarian missions requiring coordination to areas in southern Gaza also continue to face impediments and access denials.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that more than 10,000 people need medical evacuations to outside Gaza. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus appealed for their sustained medical evacuation and timely passage using all possible routes.

The reconnected U.S.-built pier off the coast of the Gaza Strip cannot supply Palestinians with anywhere near the level of aid they need, the head of the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region said on Monday.

Dr Hanan Balkhy made the remarks after the U.S. military began delivering aid through the floating pier again, after it was suspended for a second time because of rough seas.

“The pier has supported a little bit, but it’s not to the scale that is needed by any stretch of the imagination,” Balkhy told the AP in an interview. “So we need to emphasize on the land routes to ensure the amount and the quantity and the efficiency.”

The organization says that since Israel launched its ground operation into Rafah, aid delivery has declined by 67 percent, with over 50 WHO trucks stuck on the Egyptian side of the crossing into the southern city. Meanwhile, just three trucks were allowed into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Source(s): CGTN

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Rising conflict in Gaza sparks regional spillover and humanitarian crisis

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An Israeli air strike on a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) facility in western Gaza City killed five Palestinians on Sunday, local sources reported. The attack targeted a vocational college in northern Gaza, causing extensive damage and several injuries.

Those injured were transported to Baptist Hospital in central Gaza City. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the incident.

As of Sunday, the ongoing conflict has resulted in a death toll of 37,598 Palestinians since October 2023. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated on Sunday that its operations are continuing in the southern and central regions of the Gaza Strip as part of a large-scale offensive against Hamas.

Gallant meets Biden officials in D.C.

In a related development, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant flew to Washington, D.C., on Sunday to meet senior Biden administration officials to discuss the conflicts with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Before departing for the U.S., Gallant issued a statement saying that Israel is prepared to take any necessary actions in Gaza, Lebanon, and other regions. He mentioned that he would be meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Gallant’s visit came as Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, repeated his claim on Sunday that the Biden administration was presiding over a “dramatic drop” in arms shipments to Israel over the past few months. He mentioned that while deliveries had arrived sporadically, overall munitions remained largely delayed.

Netanyahu stated that Israel had approached the U.S. multiple times about the issue but received no substantial change despite various explanations. Previously, he criticized the Biden administration for allegedly withholding weapons and ammunition, a claim denied by the White House. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated they were unaware of what Netanyahu was referring to.

Netanyahu also announced on Sunday that the phase of intense fighting against Hamas in the Gaza Strip is nearing its end. However, he emphasized that the war will not conclude until Hamas no longer controls the Palestinian enclave.

After the intense fighting in Gaza subsides, Netanyahu said that Israel would be able to deploy more forces to the northern border with Lebanon, where clashes with Iran-backed Hezbollah have intensified.

Spillover effects

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the Houthi group claimed responsibility for attacks on two cargo ships, the Transworld Navigator in the Red Sea and the Stolt Sequoia in the Indian Ocean, using unmanned boats and cruise missiles.

It said these actions were in response to the ships violating the group’s opposition to entering Israeli ports. The Yemeni government confirmed that the Transworld Navigator was damaged but continued to its destination with no reported injuries. The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations also reported an incident involving a ship impacted by an unmanned aerial system.

These attacks are part of a broader Houthi campaign against vessels linked to Israel amid ongoing conflicts, which began in November 2023, targeting ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait.

Diplomatic efforts amidst ongoing conflict

On the diplomatic front, Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi met with German Bundestag member Aydan Ozoguz on Sunday to discuss halting the aggression in Gaza and addressing the resulting humanitarian crisis.

The two sides focused on joint cooperation in providing sufficient and sustainable humanitarian aid to Gaza, which has been experiencing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis since the war began.

Safadi called for immediate international action to stop Israeli aggression and violations of international law, warning of a worsening humanitarian disaster that has reached the brink of famine due to the ongoing aggression and the prevention of the necessary amount of aid from entering and being distributed, as well as its failure to fulfill its legal obligations as the occupying power.

Source(s): CGTN

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Yemen’s Houthis claim attacks on two ships in Red Sea and Indian Ocean

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The Yemeni Houthi group said on Sunday its forces had attacked two ships in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

The first ship, Transworld Navigator, had been targeted in the Red Sea using “an uncrewed surface boat” which led to a direct hit against the ship, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree said.

The second vessel, Stolt Sequoia, was attacked in the Indian Ocean with a number of cruise missiles, he said.

It was not clear when the attacks took place.

Source(s): CGTN

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