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Ukraine summit sees hard road to peace as way forward uncertain

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By Dave Graham and Sabine Siebold

BUERGENSTOCK, Switzerland (Reuters) -Western powers and their allies at a summit in Switzerland denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Sunday, but they failed to persuade major non-aligned states to join their final statement, and no country came forward to host a sequel.

Over 90 countries attended the two-day talks at a Swiss Alpine resort at the behest of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, billed as a “peace summit” even though Moscow was not invited.

Russia ridiculed the event from afar. A decision by China to stay away all but assured that the summit would fail to achieve Ukraine’s goal of persuading major countries from the “global South” to join in isolating Russia.

Brazil attended only as an “observer”. And in the end, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and South Africa all withheld their signatures from the summit communique, even though some contentious issues were omitted in the hope of drawing wider support.

Still, the conference provided Kyiv with a chance to showcase the support from Western allies that it says it needs to keep fighting against a far bigger enemy.

“We are responding to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine not only with a full-scale defense of human life, but also with full-scale diplomacy,” Zelenskiy said.

Leaders including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron gathered at the mountaintop resort of Buergenstock. U.S. President Joe Biden, in Europe for other events last week, did not attend despite public invitations from Zelenskiy.

The frontlines in Ukraine have barely moved since the end of 2022, despite tens of thousands of dead on both sides in relentless trench warfare, the bloodiest fighting in Europe since World War Two.

In her closing remarks, Swiss President Viola Amherd warned that the “road ahead is long and challenging”.

Russia, as it has for weeks, mocked the gathering.

“None of the participants in the ‘peace forum’ knows what he is doing there and what his role is,” said Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and now deputy chairman of the country’s Security Council.

‘THINGS CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS’

After initial Ukrainian successes that saw Kyiv repel an assault on the capital and recapture territory in the war’s first year, a major Ukrainian counter-offensive using donated Western tanks fizzled last year. Russian forces still hold a fifth of Ukraine and are again advancing, albeit slowly. No peace talks have been held for more than two years.

“We know that peace in Ukraine will not be achieved in one step, it will be a journey,” European Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen said, calling for “patience and determination”.

“It was not a peace negotiation because (Russia’s President Vladimir) Putin is not serious about ending the war, he’s insisting on capitulation, he’s insisting on ceding Ukrainian territory – even territory that today is not occupied.”

In the absence of a clear path to ending the war, Zelenskiy emphasised practical issues, such as nuclear safety and securing food supplies from Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters.

The summit’s final declaration called for Ukraine’s control over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant and its Azov Sea ports to be restored. But in line with the conference’s more modest stated aims, it omitted tougher issues of what a post-war settlement for Ukraine might look like, whether Ukraine could join the NATO alliance or how troop withdrawals from both sides might work.

“The more allies that can be found to say ‘Things can’t go on like this’, ‘This is too much’, ‘That’s overstepping the mark’, that also increases the moral pressure on the Russian Federation,” said Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

As Sunday’s talks turned towards issues of food security and nuclear power, some leaders left early.

No country came forward to host another such meeting, with notable silence from Saudi Arabia, mooted as a possible future venue. Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said the kingdom was ready to assist the peace process but a viable settlement would hinge on “difficult compromise.”

Since initial peace talks in the first months after the Feb. 2022 invasion, Ukraine has consistently demanded Russia withdraw from all its land, while Moscow has demanded recognition of its rule over territory its forces captured.

Last week, in remarks clearly aimed at the conference, Putin said Russia would not halt the war until Kyiv withdraws its forces fully from four provinces that Moscow only partially controls and claims to have annexed. Kyiv swiftly denounced that as a demand for surrender.

“Of course we…understand perfectly that a time will come when it will be necessary to talk to Russia,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. “But our position is very clear: We will not allow Russia to speak in the language of ultimatums like it is speaking now.”

© Reuters. Stansstad, Switzerland, June 16, 2024. Urs Flueeler/Pool via REUTERS

Western leaders at the summit endorsed Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate under such terms.

“Confusing peace with subjugation would set a dangerous precedent for everyone,” said Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

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Hamas says it has not left ceasefire talks after Israeli attacks

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell

CAIRO/JERUSALEM (Reuters) -A senior Hamas official said on Sunday that the Islamist group has not withdrawn from ceasefire talks with Israel after this weekend’s deadly attacks in Gaza that Israel said had targeted the group’s military leader Mohammed Deif.

But Izzat El-Reshiq, a member of the political office of Hamas, accused Israel of trying to derail efforts by Arab mediators and the United States to reach a ceasefire deal by stepping up its attacks in the enclave.

Saturday’s strike in the Khan Younis area of Gaza, in which at least 90 Palestinians were killed, according to local health authorities, has put the ceasefire talks in doubt.

There had been increasingly hopeful signs in recent days that a deal could be reached to halt fighting and return hostages held in Gaza.

Two Egyptian security sources at ceasefire talks in Doha and Cairo said on Saturday that negotiations had been halted after three days of intense talks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to convene his close circle of ministers later on Sunday to discuss the talks.

The strike on Saturday which targeted Deif killed Rafa Salama, commander of Hamas’ Khan Younis brigade, the Israeli military said on Sunday, but there was no confirmation about the fate of Deif.

“The strike in Khan Younis was a result of surgical intelligence,” the head of the Shin Bet domestic security service said in a video released by the service from Rafah. He said 25 Hamas operatives who took part in the deadly Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that triggered the war had been killed in the past week.

On Saturday, a senior Hamas official denied that Deif had been killed and the group said Israeli claims were aimed at justifying the attack.

Israel’s military chief said on Sunday in a televised statement that Hamas was concealing the truth about Deif’s fate, but stopped short of confirming whether he was alive or dead.

Israeli forces pressed ahead on Sunday with aerial and ground shelling of several areas across the Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, most of whom have been displaced by the war.

A strike on a UN-run school in Nuseirat camp, one of Gaza’s eight longstanding refugee camps, killed 15 Palestinians and wounded dozens more, Hamas media and health officials said.

The Israeli military said the site was used as a base for Hamas fighters to attack Israeli forces and said numerous steps were taken to limit the risk of harming civilians, including the use of precise munitions and intelligence.

Residents said two missiles targeted the upper floor of the school, not far from the camp’s local market, usually busy with shoppers, where displaced families have also taken shelter nearby.

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli airstrikes on four houses in Gaza City killed at least 16 Palestinians and wounded dozens of others, medics said.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 38,584 Palestinians have been killed and 88,881 others injured in Israel’s military offensive since Oct. 7.

It added that 141 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military strikes across the Gaza Strip in the past day, the biggest one-day death toll in many weeks.

Gaza’s health ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants but officials say most of the dead throughout the war have been civilians.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Palestinians gather near damage, following what Palestinians say was an Israeli strike at a tent camp in Al-Mawasi area, amid Israel-Hamas conflict, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 13, 2024. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem/File Photo

Israel says it has lost 326 soldiers in Gaza and says at least a third of the Palestinian fatalities are fighters.

The war began after a Hamas-led attack inside Israel on Oct. 7, that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and saw around 250 taken hostage to Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.

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Trump rally shooting victim died shielding family from bullets

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(Reuters) -The person shot and killed at former President Donald Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday was a 50-year-old volunteer firefighter who shielded his family to protect them as gunshots rang out, the state’s Governor Josh Shapiro said on Sunday.

The victim was identified as Corey Comperatore, according to his family’s posting on Facebook (NASDAQ:).

“The PA Trump Rally claimed the life of my brother, Corey Comperatore. The hatred for one man took the life of the one man we loved the most,” the victim’s sister said in the post on Sunday.

Comperatore previously served as the chief of the Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Department, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Shapiro said he had spoken to Comperatore’s family and he relayed parts of the conversation to reporters.

“Corey died a hero. Corey dove on his family to protect them last night at this rally,” Shapiro said. “Corey was the very best of us.”

Comperatore was survived by a wife and two daughters. “Corey was a girl dad,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro added: “Corey was a firefighter. Corey went to church every Sunday. Corey loved his community and most especially Corey loves his family.”

Shapiro described the victim “as an avid supporter of the former president.”

© Reuters. A satellite image around Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump's rally location in Butler, Pennsylvania, U.S.  June 2, 2023.  Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

Trump had just begun his speech at the Pennsylvania rally when the sound of shots rang out and it became apparent that Trump was also injured when a bullet grazed his right ear.

The FBI has identified 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, as the suspect in what the government is calling an assassination attempt on Trump.

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Google parent close to $23 billion deal to buy cybersecurity startup Wiz, WSJ reports

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(Reuters) – Google parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:) is in advanced talks to acquire cybersecurity startup Wiz for roughly $23 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

A deal could come together soon, assuming the talks don’t fall apart, the report added.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Small figurines are seen in front of displayed Alphabet logo in this illustration taken February 11, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Ilustration/File Photo

Google and Wiz did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.

The U.S.-Israeli startup raised $1 billion in a private funding round in May, which values the four-year-old cloud cybersecurity company at $12 billion.

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