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Israel pushes back into northern Gaza, ups military pressure on Rafah

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) -Israel sent tanks into eastern Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip early on Sunday after a night of heavy aerial and ground bombardments, killing 19 people and wounding dozens of others, Palestinian health officials said.

The death toll in Israel’s military operation in Gaza has now passed at least 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The bombardment has laid waste to the coastal enclave and caused a deep humanitarian crisis.

The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which some 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 people taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel says 620 soldiers have been killed in the fighting, more than half of them during the initial Hamas assault.

Jabalia is the biggest of Gaza’s eight historic refugee camps and is home to more than 100,000 people, most of whom were descendants of Palestinians who were driven from towns and villages in what is now Israel during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that led to the creation the state of Israel.

Late on Saturday, the Israeli military said forces operating in Jabalia were preventing Hamas, which rules Gaza, from re-establishing its military capabilities there.

“We identified in the past weeks attempts by Hamas to rehabilitate its military capabilities in Jabalia. We are operating there to eliminate those attempts,” Israeli military’s spokesperson Admiral Daniel Hagari told reporters.

Hagari also said Israeli forces operating in Gaza City’s Zeitoun district killed about 30 Palestinian militants.

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Israeli forces thrust deep into Jabalia camp, deeper than the first time when they invaded northern Gaza, with tanks close to the local market, residents said. They also reported the fiercest gun battles in months there.

“They were bombing everywhere, including near schools that are housing people who lost their houses,” Jabalia resident Saed, 45, told Reuters via a chat app. “War is restarting, this is how it looks in Jabalia.”

The army sent tanks back into Zeitoun, as well as Al-Sabra, where residents also reported heavy bombardments that destroyed several houses, including high-rise residential buildings.

The army had claimed to have gained control of most of these areas months ago.

The Israeli Defence Forces said air sirens had sounded in the southern Kerem Shalom area and it had successfully intercepted two rockets launched from the vicinity of Rafah. It said there were no injuries and no damage reported.

Later on Sunday, sirens sounded in the Israeli city of Ashkelon as a result of incoming rocket fire from Gaza, which signalled militants there were still able to launch rocket attacks after over seven months of war.

Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV said on its telegram account, the rockets were launched from Jabalia, despite the active army raid.

GUNFIGHT ON DEIR AL-BALAH OUTSKIRTS

Tanks did not invade eastern Deir Al-Balah city, residents and Hamas media said, but some Israeli tanks and bulldozers penetrated the fence on the outskirts of the city prompting a gunfight with Hamas fighters.

In an air strike late on Saturday in Deir Al-Balah two doctors, a father and his son, were killed, health officials said.

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The armed wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said their fighters attacked Israeli forces in several areas inside Gaza with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, including in Rafah, previously the Palestinians’ last refuge where more than a million people were sheltering.

The Palestinian Telecommunication company said internet services in southern areas of Gaza had resumed after several hours of cuts which it blamed on the ongoing Israeli “aggression”.

On Sunday, more families, estimated in the thousands, were leaving Rafah as the Israeli military pressure intensified. Tank shells landed across the city as the army gave new evacuation orders covering some neighbourhoods in the centre of the city, which borders Egypt.

Israel’s military said on Sunday it had opened a new crossing in northern Gaza, called “Western Erez”, to transfer humanitarian aid to the strip.

“As I moved out of Rafah, I passed through Khan Younis, I cried,” said Tamer Al-Burai, a resident from Gaza, who had been sheltering in Rafah.

“I saw a ghost city, all buildings on the two sides of the road, complete districts were wiped out. People are fleeing for safety, knowing there was no place safe, and there are no tents and no people to care for them,” he told Reuters.

Burai, a Palestinian businessman, said the Palestinians were abandoned by the world , with world powers failing to end hostilities and international mediation efforts to reach a ceasefire collapsing over Hamas and Israel disputes.

“No ceasefire, no U.N. decision, no hope,” he said.

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Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said Cairo would continue its mediation between Israel and Hamas and urged the two sides to show the flexibility and the will needed to reach a deal.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Cairo; Additional reporting by Nayera Abdallah in Dubai, Emily Rose and Maytaal Angel in Jerusalem; Editing by Sharon Singleton and Tomasz Janowski)

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Comet fragment lights up sky over Spain and Portugal ‘like a movie’

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By Catarina Demony and Ana Cantero

LISBON (Reuters) – A bright comet fragment lit up the skies over parts of Spain and Portugal late on Saturday, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), with one Lisbon resident saying the dazzling display “felt like a movie”.

On Sunday morning, the ESA shared on X a video captured by its “fireball camera” of what it described as a “stunning meteor” over the skies of the western Spanish city of Caceres, near the Portuguese border.

But it later said it appeared to be a “small piece of a comet” and not a meteor, estimating it flew over Spain and Portugal at a speed of 45 km (28 miles) per second before burning up over the Atlantic.

“The likelihood of any meteorites being found is very low,” the ESA said.

In both countries, videos shot in several cities and towns went viral on social media, showing the object crossing the night sky at high speed and illuminating it in bright tones of blue and green.

The Spanish Calar Alto astronomical observatory also said a preliminary analysis by Andalusia’s Institute of Astrophysics revealed the object had a “cometary origin”.

During a concert in the Portuguese city of Barcelos, the object was filmed streaking across the sky as the singer performed. Another video showed the skies of Porto, Portugal’s second biggest city, turning bright for a few seconds.

Many contacted emergency services to report what happened. A spokesperson for the Spanish Emergency service 112, in Madrid, told Europa Press news agency it had received several calls.

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Lisbon resident Bernardo Taborda, 31, told Reuters he was walking around the city with friends when the sky suddenly turned bright green: “It almost looked like daylight … we all looked back and saw it.”

“It felt like a movie, we all looked at each other and we were stunned,” Taborda said. “It was amazing.”

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Helicopter carrying Iran’s President Raisi crashes in mountains, official says

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By Parisa Hafezi and Elwely Elwelly

DUBAI (Reuters) -A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister crashed on Sunday as it was crossing mountain terrain in heavy fog, an Iranian official told Reuters, and rescuers were making their way to the site of the incident.

The official said the lives of Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian were “at risk following the helicopter crash”, which happened on the way back from a visit to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan.

“We are still hopeful but information coming from the crash site is very concerning,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The bad weather was complicating rescue efforts, the state news agency IRNA reported. The chief of staff of Iran’s army ordered all the resources of the army and the elite Revolutionary Guard to be put to use in the search and rescue operations.

State TV stopped all its regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country and, in a corner of the screen, live coverage of rescue teams deployed on foot in the mountainous area in heavy fog.

The rescue teams were expected to reach the site of the crash later on Sunday evening, state TV reported.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is the supreme leader rather than the president who has the final say on all major policies.

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But many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed his 85-year-old mentor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has strongly endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

Raisi’s victory in a closely managed election in 2021 brought all branches of power under the control of hardliners, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated a nuclear deal with Washington.

However, Raisi’s standing may have been dented by widespread protests against clerical rule and a failure to turn around Iran’s economy, hamstrung by Western sanctions.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalaisi Dam, a joint project.

Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi told state TV only that one of the helicopters in a group of three had come down in the incident, and that authorities were awaiting further details.

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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs apologizes after video depicting attack on ex-girlfriend

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By Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs posted an apology to social media on Sunday, two days after the release of hotel surveillance video that appeared to show him attacking his ex-girlfriend.

“I’m truly sorry,” Combs said in a video post on his Instagram page. “My behavior on that video is inexcusable. I take full responsibility for my actions in that video. I’m disgusted. I was disgusted then when I did it. I’m disgusted now.”

Addressing the camera directly, Combs said he had sought therapy and gone into rehab.

In the surveillance video from 2016, which was released by CNN on Friday, the rapper appears to grab R&B vocalist Casandra Ventura as she waits by an elevator in a California hotel. Clad only in a towel, he throws her to the floor, kicking her repeatedly before dragging her toward a hallway, the video shows.

A representative for Combs could not be immediately reached for further comment.

Ventura, who performs under the stage name Cassie, sued Combs in 2023, accusing him of serial physical abuse, sexual slavery and rape during a 10-year professional and romantic relationship in which he controlled her through intimidation, drugs and alcohol. The parties settled the matter the following day for undisclosed terms. Representatives for Combs said at the time the settlement was “in no way an admission of wrongdoing.”

The lawsuit was one of at least four civil complaints in recent months that leveled sexual assault allegations against Combs.

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said in March it had opened an investigation into the hip-hop star and searched his homes in the Miami area and in Los Angeles; it provided no details of the nature of the investigation.

Local television images of the search showed an armored vehicle and officers carrying rifles outside Combs’ Los Angeles home. Authorities detained some people at the property with their hands bound by zip ties.

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