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Biden says missile that killed two in Poland may not have come from Russia

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(Last Updated On: November 16, 2022)

A missile that killed two people in Poland was probably not fired from Russia, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday after an emergency meeting of NATO leaders called to discuss what Poland called a strike by a Russia-made projectile, Reuters reported.

The explosion on Tuesday at a grain facility near the Ukrainian border came as Russia unleashed a wave of missile attacks targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure, raising concerns the conflict could spill into neighbouring countries.

According to Reuters the Polish foreign ministry said the rocket fell on Przewodow, a village about 6 km (4 miles) from the border with Ukraine. Russia denied it was responsible for the explosion but Polish officials said the missile was Russian-made.

A resident who declined to be identified said the two victims were men who were near the weighing area of a grain facility.

A Russian strike on Poland could risk widening the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are committed to collective defence under its Article 5, read the report.

Biden convened a meeting of leaders gathered for the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss the incident. Leaders from NATO members Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France and Britain attended, as well as non-NATO member Japan and representatives from the European Union.

Asked whether it was too early to say if the missile was fired from Russia, Biden said: “There is preliminary information that contests that. I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate it, but it is unlikely in the lines of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia but we’ll see.”

The United States and NATO countries would fully investigate before acting, Biden said.

The explosion in Poland came as Russia pounded cities across Ukraine with missiles, in attacks that Kyiv said were the heaviest wave of strikes in nearly nine months of war. Some hit Lviv, which is less than 80 km (50 miles) from the border with Poland, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian missiles hit Poland in a “significant escalation” of the conflict. He did not provide evidence of Russia’s involvement.

“All of Europe and the world must be fully protected from terrorist Russia,” he said in a tweet after a phone call with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

Two European diplomats said Poland requested a NATO meeting under the treaty’s Article 4 for consultations among the allies. Poland was also increasing the readiness of some military units, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

Polish officials sought to avoid inflaming the situation. Morawiecki called on all Poles to remain calm, and President Duda said there was no concrete evidence showing who fired the missile and that it was a one-off incident, read the report.

Biden told Duda in a call that Washington has an “ironclad commitment to NATO” and will support Poland’s investigation, the White House said.

The Associated Press earlier cited a senior US intelligence official as saying the blast was due to Russian missiles having crossed into Poland.

But in Washington, the Pentagon, White House and US State Department said they could not corroborate the report and were working with the Polish government to gather more information. The State Department said the report was “incredibly concerning.”

Germany and Canada said they were monitoring the situation, and the European Union, the Netherlands and Norway said they were seeking more details. French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a verification effort, while Britain was “urgently” looking into the report.

According to Reuters Russia’s defence ministry denied that Russian missiles hit Polish territory, describing such reports as “a deliberate provocation aimed at escalating the situation”.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he had no information on an explosion in Poland.

Latvian Deputy Prime Minister Artis Pabriks said the situation was “unacceptable” and it could lead to NATO providing more anti-aircraft defences to Poland and Ukraine.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said on Twitter: “Every inch of #NATO territory must be defended!”

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv had warned of the danger Russian missiles posed to neighbouring countries and called for a no-fly zone to be imposed, read the report.

“We were asking to close the sky, because sky has no borders. Not for uncontrolled missiles. Not for the threat they carry for our EU & NATO neighbours. Gloves are off. Time to win,” he said in a Twitter post.

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Israeli airstrike kills two people in Damascus, Syrian state TV says

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

An Israeli airstrike hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district in Syria’s capital Damascus on Wednesday, killing two people, Syrian state media and a security source said.

A military source cited by Syrian state TV said the strike at about 9:40 a.m. (0640 GMT) wounded a number of other people, identifying the dead as civilians, Reuters reported.

Images published by Syrian state media showed the charred side of a multi-storey building. The security source said the “attack did not achieve its aims”.

The neighbourhood hosts residential buildings, schools and Iranian cultural centres, and lies near a large, heavily-guarded complex used by security agencies. The district was struck in an Israeli attack in February 2023 that killed Iranian military experts.

Witnesses heard several back-to-back explosions. The blasts scared children at a nearby school and ambulances rushed to the area, the witnesses told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Iran’s semi-official Student News Network said no Iranian citizens were killed in the strike, read the report.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Reuters witness heard another large blast in the capital that shook the windows of homes. Local Syrian outlet Sham FM said several explosions were heard in the capital without specifying the cause.

Iran has been a major backer of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s nearly 12-year-old conflict. Its support for Damascus and the Lebanese group Hezbollah has drawn regular Israeli air strikes meant to curb Tehran’s extraterritorial military power.

Those strikes have ramped up in line with flaring regional tensions since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, with more than half a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria since December.

As a result, the Guards have scaled back deployment of their senior officers in Syria and have planned to rely more on allied Shi’ite militia to preserve their sway there, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month.

Iran, a backer of Hamas, has sought to stay out of the conflict itself even as it supports groups that have entered the fray from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria – the so-called “Axis of Resistance” that is hostile to Israeli and U.S. interests.

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World

US military drone shot down near Yemen, US officials say

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(Last Updated On: February 21, 2024)

A U.S. military Mq-9 drone was shot down near Yemen by Iran-backed militants, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday, the second time such a shoot down has taken place in recent months during a near daily tit-for-tat between the group and U.S. forces, Reuters reported.

The Houthis, who have controlled most of Yemen for nearly a decade, have carried out repeated drone and missile strikes since November in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait against commercial and military ships. U.S. and British forces have responded with multiple strikes on Houthi facilities but have so far failed to halt the attacks.

One of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial information showed that the U.S. drone, made by General Atomics, was hit near Hodeidah on Monday. The official said information could change and did not say if the drone was in international airspace.

The second official said the drone was shot down by a Houthi surface-to-air missile fired from near Hodeida.

The comments by the officials confirm a claim by the Houthis that they had shot down a drone near the port city, read the report.

In November, another Mq-9 was shot down by the Houthis and two drones were brought down by the group in 2019.

The Houthi militants said on Monday they had attacked the Rubymar cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden, which was at risk of sinking, raising the stakes in their campaign to disrupt global shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

Despite Western attacks on them in Yemen, the Houthis have vowed to continue targeting ships linked to Israel until attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip stop, Reuters reported.

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World

Israel opposes ‘unilateral’ imposition of Palestinian state

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(Last Updated On: February 19, 2024)

Israel on Sunday formalised its opposition to what it called the “unilateral recognition” of Palestinian statehood, and said any such agreement must be reached through direct negotiations, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the “declaratory decision” to a vote in cabinet, which unanimously approved the measure, according to a statement.

Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly meeting that the move comes after “recent talk in the international community about an attempt to unilaterally impose on Israel a Palestinian state.”

The war in Gaza that has raged since Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage through Israeli communities is the latest in a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has rumbled on for seven decades and destabilised the Middle East.

Efforts to achieve a two-state solution – a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel – have been stalled since 2014, read the report.

U.S. President Joe Biden has been trying to clinch an even broader deal in the Middle East, that would include Saudi Arabia and other Arab states normalizing ties with Israel, as well as the creation of a Palestinian state.

The formal Israeli statement, according to Netanyahu’s office, reflects the fact that: “Israel rejects outright international dictates regarding a permanent accord with the Palestinians. An accord, should it be reached, will only come through direct negotiations between the sides, without preconditions.”

“Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre will grant a huge, unprecedented reward to terrorism and prevent any future peace accord,” it said.

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