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At least 12 injured in explosion at Palestinian camp in Lebanon

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(Last Updated On: December 11, 2021)

A large explosion rocked a Palestinian camp in the southern Lebanese port city of Tyre on Friday night, injuring about a dozen people, according to rescue workers on scene and a Palestinian source inside the camp, Reuters reported.

The state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported an unspecified number of deaths, but local media and civil defence workers on the scene said there had been no fatalities.

A security source also said fatalities had not been recorded.

The NNA reported that the blast emanated from a Hamas weapons depot in the Burj al-Shemali camp and a judge had ordered security forces to launch an investigation.

A number of armed Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the Fatah Movement, hold effective control over roughly a dozen Palestinian camps in the country, which Lebanese authorities by custom do not enter.

Shehab News Agency, seen as close to Hamas, quoted a Palestinian source as saying the explosion was caused by the ignition of oxygen canisters stored for use in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The security source said the fire had since been brought under control.

Hamas has not officially commented.

The area surrounding the blast had been evacuated and rescue crews had deployed, the Palestinian source said.

Videos from the scene shared by local media show a number of small bright red flashes above the southern city, followed by a large explosion and the sound of glass breaking.

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Uzbeks refuse to return military aircraft flown from Afghanistan last year

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(Last Updated On: April 30, 2022)

Uzbekistan authorities say dozens of aircraft flown into their country in August last year, during the collapse of the former government, belong to the United States and will not be returned to the interim government in Kabul.

Afghan air force personnel flew almost 50 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to Uzbekistan in mid-August as former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) forces took control.

Several more aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters were also taken to neighboring Tajikistan.

The IEA has however repeatedly requested that these aircraft are returned to Afghanistan.

But in a recent interview with VOA, Ismatulla Irgashev, a senior presidential adviser, said the aircraft would not be going back to Kabul.

“The U.S. government paid for them,” said Irgashev, his nation’s most senior diplomat dealing with Afghan matters. “It funded the previous Afghan government. So, we believe it is totally up to Washington how to deal with them.

“We’ve kept this military equipment in agreement with the U.S. and have told the Taliban (IEA) so.”

Little has been said since about the issue, in part because of the sensitivity of the issue in Uzbek-Afghan relations and the reluctance of officials on all sides to discuss it, VOA reported.

But U.S. defense officials confirmed to VOA that both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have no plans to give the aircraft to the IEA.

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Blinken and Austin visit Kyiv; announce assistance package to Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: April 25, 2022)

The United States announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed a secrecy-shrouded trip to Kyiv.

In the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February, top envoy Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelenskyy, and his advisers that the U.S. would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition, the Associated Press reported.

They also said Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.

Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv. The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.

U.S. officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help. New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained on its use in neighboring countries, the officials said.

 

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UN chief heading to Turkey ahead of Moscow, Kyiv visits

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(Last Updated On: April 24, 2022)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Ankara before heading to Moscow next week to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and then to Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a UN statement said on Saturday.

Guterres will visit the Turkish capital on Monday, where he will be received by President Tayyip Erdogan, the statement said.

The UN aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said on April 18 that Turkey was a valuable host for humanitarian talks between Ukraine and Russia.

Eri Kaneko, Guterres’ associate spokesperson, told a news briefing on Friday that Guterres would head to Moscow on Tuesday and meet Putin as well as have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, hoping to discuss what can be done to bring peace to Ukraine, Reuters reported.

The United Nations also said on Friday that Guterres would meet with Zelenskiy on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and staff at UN agencies to discuss the scaling up of humanitarian assistance efforts.

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