Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal

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US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
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People find their way through a rubble-covered alley, following overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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This picture taken from Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli armoured personnel carriers moving out of Gaza on February 26, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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Palestinians mourn as they bury their dead following overnight Israeli air strikes, at a cemetery in east Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 26, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas movement. (AFP)
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Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter at a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
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President Joe Biden eats ice cream at Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in New York, as Seth Meyers watches. (AP)
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Updated 27 February 2024
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Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal

  • Under proposed deal, hospitals and bakeries in Gaza would be repaired, 500 aid trucks would enter into the strip each day
  • Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages in exchange for 400 Palestinian prisoners

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas studied a draft proposal for a truce which includes a pause in fighting and a prisoner-hostage exchange.
The draft proposal, which a senior source close to truce talks in Paris told Reuters would allow hospitals and bakeries in Gaza to be repaired and 500 aid trucks to enter the battered enclave every day, is the most serious attempt in weeks to end the conflict which erupted in October last year.
Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of March 10th and end on the evening of April 9th.
“Ramadan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan, as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said during an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
He also warned that Israel risked losing international support due to the high death toll among Palestinians, adding that Israel had committed to make it possible for Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah in Gaza’s south before intensifying its campaign there to destroy Hamas.
Biden, whose remarks were recorded on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday, said there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between the two sides while hostages were released. He said he hoped to have a ceasefire in the conflict by the following Monday.
“There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said, adding that a temporary ceasefire would jumpstart a process for Palestinians to have their own state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a two-state solution.
Under the draft proposal, the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages would be at a ratio of 10 to one, the senior source said.
The draft also states Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages including women, children under 19, elderly over 50 and the sick, while Israeli would release around 400 Palestinian prisoners and will not re-arrest them, the source told Reuters.
Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.
After Hamas killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on Oct. 7, Israel launched a ground assault on Gaza, with nearly 30,000 people confirmed killed, according to Gaza health authorities.


China could arrange Russia-Ukraine peace conference, Lavrov tells RIA

Updated 5 sec ago
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China could arrange Russia-Ukraine peace conference, Lavrov tells RIA

  • Russia has repeatedly called for talks with a precondition that Kyiv and the West recognize its territorial gains in Ukraine
  • Lavrov criticized the United States for aiding Ukraine, which Russian invaded in February 2022

China could arrange a peace conference in which Russia and Ukraine would participate, the RIA news agency cited Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Thursday.
Lavrov said such a move would be a continuation of Beijing’s efforts to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.
“We share (China’s) position that the root causes of the conflict need to be addressed in the first place and legal interests of all parties need to be protected, with subsequent agreements based on the principle of equal and indivisible security,” Lavrov said in an interview with the agency.
“Let me underscore again, this entails respecting realities on the ground, which reflect the will of people living there.”
Russia has repeatedly called for talks with a precondition that Kyiv and the West recognize its territorial gains in Ukraine. Kyiv has rejected those proposals.
Lavrov criticized the United States for aiding Ukraine, saying Washington has become “an accomplice in the crimes of the Kyiv regime.” In the Middle East, Lavrov said, the United States was also “fanning the flames of conflict.”

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, left, greets one of the Ukrainian soldiers who are being trained here on the Patriot ground-based air defense system at a military training area in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on  May 29, 2024. (dpa via AP)

 

 

 

 

 

 


‘Are you with me?’ Biden and Harris launch Black voter outreach and warn of a second Trump term

Updated 30 May 2024
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‘Are you with me?’ Biden and Harris launch Black voter outreach and warn of a second Trump term

  • Speaking at Girard College, which has a predominantly Black student body, Biden argued that an “unhinged” Trump is peddling misinformation in an effort to win back the White House

PHILADELPHIA: President Joe Biden renewed his election-year pitch to Black voters on Wednesday, lashing out at Donald Trump’s “MAGA lies” and saying the winner of this year’s White House race will make crucial decisions, including on nominees for the Supreme Court, that could affect the country for decades.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, in a joint appearance at a Philadelphia boarding school, thanked Black voters in Pennsylvania and beyond for being the lynchpin to their 2020 victory and they made the case that their agenda has had an enormous impact on improving lives for Black voters.
The Democratic president also argued that an “unhinged” Trump is peddling misinformation in an effort to win back the White House.
“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let Donald Trump turn America into a place of anger, resentment and hate,” Biden said, calling on the crowd to help him and Harris win a second term. “My question is a simple one: Are you with me?”
At Girard College, which has a predominantly Black student body, Biden warned about the threat he said a second Trump presidency would pose and cited some of the racial controversies fanned by the presumptive Republican nominee during his life.
“This is the same guy who wanted to tear gas you as you peacefully protested George Floyd’s murder. The same guy who still calls the Central Park Five guilty, even though they were exonerated,” Biden told the crowd. “He’s that landlord who denies housing applications because of the color of your skin.”
The Philadelphia visit was the start of what the Biden campaign describes as a summerlong effort to engage Black student organizations, community groups and faith centers. It reflects in part how much of their support of him has frayed as Trump aims to make inroads into the longtime Democratic constituency.
The issue of abortion rights and the judiciary also featured in the remarks from Biden and Harris. Biden pledged to codify the protections of Roe vs. Wade, the now-nullified Supreme Court decision that had legalized the right to an abortion, if he and enough Democratic lawmakers are elected, while Harris noted that Trump dramatically shaped the Supreme Court as she invoked the name of Thurgood Marshall, the high court’s first Black justice.
Trump, she said, “handpicked three members of the Supreme Court — the court of Thurgood — with the intention that they would overturn Roe vs. Wade,” the landmark abortion rights ruling. “And as he intended, they did.”
“Who sits in the White House matters,” she said.
Underscoring that point later, Biden said the next president is “going to be able to appoint a couple justices.” With some vacancies on the Supreme Court, Biden said he could “put in really progressive judges, like we’ve always had.”
“Tell me that won’t change your life,” he said.
Among Black adults, Biden’s approval has dropped from 94 percent when he started his term to just 55 percent, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll published in March.
The economy has been a particular thorn in Biden’s side since 2022, when inflation hit a 40-year high. But there have also been signs of discontent in the Black community more recently over Biden’s handling of the seven-month Israel-Hamas war.
Turning out Black voters could prove pivotal for Biden’s chances in what’s expected to be among the most closely contested states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden beat Trump in all six states in 2020, but he could face a more difficult climb this year.
Trump has been offering himself as a better president for Black voters than Biden. At a rally last week in the Bronx, he railed against Biden on immigration and said “the biggest negative impact” of the influx of migrants in New York is “against our Black population and our Hispanic population who are losing their jobs, losing their housing, losing everything they can lose.”
The Republican National Committee zeroed in on gas prices and food costs under Biden’s presidency as it attacked his stop in Pennsylvania.
“No matter how much Biden lies, he cannot gaslight Pennsylvanians into supporting him — his approval ratings are abysmal,” RNC Chair Michael Whatley said. “President Trump continues to lead in polls in Pennsylvania and across the country. Pennsylvanians are ready to Make America Great Again, and they will vote for President Donald J. Trump in November.”
The Biden campaign wants to use the new engagement effort in part to remind Black voters of some of the Democratic administration’s achievements during his term. On Wednesday, Biden repeated the refrain “because you voted” as he rattled off a litany of his accomplishments for Black Americans, including record funding for historically Black colleges and universities, forgiveness of federal student loan debt and pardons for simple possession of marijuana.
“Black voters placed enormous faith in me,” Biden said. “I’ve tried to do my best to honor that trust.”
Biden later visited with Black business owners at SouthSide, an event space, and greeted supporters there while continuing to tout his accomplishments for Black voters and, in particular, the economic gains under his presidency. In the more intimate gathering, jointly hosted by the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, he also stressed to the crowd that “there’s not a damn thing that a white man can do that a Black man can’t do, or do better.”
The Black unemployment rate sits at 5.6 percent, according to the latest federal government data, compared with an average of about 8 percent from 2016 to 2020 and 11 percent from 2000 to 2015. Black household wealth has surged, and Biden’s effort to cancel billions in student loan debt has disproportionately affected Black borrowers.
Biden also points to his appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black female justice on the US Supreme Court and his pick of Harris as the first Black woman to serve as vice president.
The president’s visit to Philadelphia follows a series of engagements with Black community members in recent weeks, including hosting plaintiffs in the 1954 Supreme Court decision that struck down institutionalized racial segregation in public schools, a commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta, and a virtual address to the Rev. Al Sharpton’s racial justice conference.


Russian forces launch missiles on Kharkiv, four injured, Ukrainian officials say

Updated 30 May 2024
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Russian forces launch missiles on Kharkiv, four injured, Ukrainian officials say

  • In the aftermath of the strikes, air raid alerts remained in force throughout the country

Russian forces launched a series of missiles early on Thursday on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, injuring at least four people and damaging infrastructure, local officials said.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov, writing on the Telegram messaging app, said four people had been injured, a gas pipeline had been damaged and many windows had been broken.
Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said eight missiles had been fired at the city, a frequent Russian target in recent weeks. A community just north of the city had also been hit.
In the aftermath of the strikes, air raid alerts remained in force throughout the country.


China hosts Arab leaders at summit focused on trade and the Israel-Hamas war

Updated 15 min 14 sec ago
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China hosts Arab leaders at summit focused on trade and the Israel-Hamas war

  • “As war is raging causing tremendous suffering, justice can’t be absent and the two-state solution can’t be shaken,” Xi said in a speech opening the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum
  • The summit is attended by heads of state from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia among others

TAIPEI, Taiwan: Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an international peace conference focused on the Israel-Hamas war and promised more humanitarian aid as he opened a summit with leaders of Arab states Thursday in Beijing.
“As war is raging causing tremendous suffering, justice can’t be absent and the two-state solution can’t be shaken,” Xi said in a speech opening the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.
He called on Arab states to deepen cooperation in areas such as trade, clean energy, space exploration and health care.
The summit attended by heads of state from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia among others was set to focus on China’s expanding trade ties and on security concerns related to the Israel-Hamas war.
Beijing and the Arab states back the Palestinians in the conflict, where Israel is facing growing international condemnation after the strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in which at least 45 were killed over the weekend. The overall Palestinian death toll in the war exceeds 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Beijing has long backed the Palestinians and denounced Israel over its settlements in the occupied territories. It has not criticized the initial Hamas attack on Oct. 7 — which killed about 1,200 people — while the United States and others have called it an act of terrorism. However, China does have growing economic ties with Israel.
“China’s priorities in the region are primarily economic,” said Maria Papageorgiou, a lecturer in politics and international relations at University of Exeter. “It wants to continue the momentum established in recent years with Gulf states and expand its investments, particularly in trade, technology (5G networks), and other cyber initiatives.”
Additionally, China wants to present itself as an alternative to the West and a more credible partner to the region, one that doesn’t interfere in the nations’ domestic affairs nor exert pressure, Papageorgiou said.
Present at the forum is Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who met Xi on Wednesday. The two leaders signed a series of cooperation agreements in areas such as infrastructure, technology and food imports meant to further their countries’ ties.
China has invested billions of dollars in Egyptian state projects, including a Suez Canal economic zone and a new administrative capital east of Cairo. Investments between Egypt and China amounted to around $14 billion in 2023, compared to $16.6 billion in 2022, according to Egypt’s statistics agency.
Also at the forum are Tunisia’s President Kais Saied, Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain King Hamad.
The China-Arab States Cooperation Forum was established in 2004 as a formal dialogue mechanism between China and Arab states.
China is Tunisia’s fourth-largest trading partner after Germany, Italy and France. Beijing has financed hospitals and sports complexes in Tunisia, and its companies have been contracted to build strategic infrastructure such as bridges and deep-water Mediterranean ports.
 


Global team corners Chinese hacker allegedly running ‘likely world’s largest ever’ cybercrime botnet

Updated 30 May 2024
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Global team corners Chinese hacker allegedly running ‘likely world’s largest ever’ cybercrime botnet

  • Yunhe Wang was arrested on May 24 in Singapore, and authorities also seized $29 million in cryptocurrency: FBI
  • Wang is accused of selling access to the 19 million Windows computers he hijacked to criminals

WASHINGTON: An international law enforcement team has arrested a Chinese national and disrupted a major botnet that officials said he ran for nearly a decade, amassing at least $99 million in profits by reselling access to criminals who used it for identity theft, child exploitation, and financial fraud, including pandemic relief scams.

The US Department of Justice quoted FBI Director Christopher Wray as saying Wednesday that the “911 S5” botnet — a network of malware-infected computers in nearly 200 countries — was likely the world’s largest.
Justice said in a news release that Yunhe Wang, 35, was arrested May 24. Wang was arrested in Singapore, and search warrants were executed there and in Thailand, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for cyber operations, Brett Leatherman, said in a LinkedIn post. Authorities also seized $29 million in cryptocurrency, Leatherman said.
Cybercriminals used Wang’s network of zombie residential computers to steal “billions of dollars from financial institutions, credit card issuers and accountholders, and federal lending programs since 2014,” according to an indictment filed in Texas’ eastern district.

 

The administrator, Wang, sold access to the 19 million Windows computers he hijacked — more than 613,000 in the United States — to criminals who “used that access to commit a staggering array of crimes that victimized children, threatened people’s safety and defrauded financial institutions and federal lending programs,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the takedown.
He said criminals who purchased access to the zombie network from Wang were responsible for more than $5.9 billion in estimated losses due to fraud against relief programs. Officials estimated 560,000 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims originated from compromised IP addresses.
Wang allegedly managed the botnet through 150 dedicated servers, half of them leased from US-based online service providers.
The indictment says Wang used his illicit gains to purchase 21 properties in the United States, China, Singapore, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and St. Kitts and Nevis, where it said he obtained citizenship through investment.
In its news release, the Justice Department thanked police and other authorities in Singapore and Thailand for their assistance.