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Israeli police beat mourners at funeral of slain Palestinian journalist

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Palestinian protestors shout slogans towards Israeli police as they hold images of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israeli raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, near her house in Jerusalem May 11, 2022. REUTE

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli police officers charged at Palestinian mourners carrying the coffin of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on Friday, before thousands led her casket through Jerusalem’s Old City in an outpouring of grief and anger over her killing.

Packed around Abu Akleh’s coffin, dozens of Palestinians, some waving Palestinian flags and chanting “with our soul and blood we will redeem you Shireen,” began walking toward the gates of St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Israeli police officers, in an apparent bid to stop them proceeding by foot rather than taking the coffin by car, burst through the courtyard gates and charged at the crowd, some beating pallbearers with batons and kicking them.

At one point the group carrying her coffin backed against a wall and almost dropped the casket, recovering it just before one end hit the ground as stun grenades detonated.

The violent scenes, which lasted only minutes, added to Palestinian outrage over Abu Akleh’s killing, which has threatened to fuel violence that has surged since March.

Abu Akleh, who had covered Palestinian affairs and the Middle East for more than two decades, was shot while reporting on an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Palestinian authorities have described Abu Akleh’s killing as an assassination by Israeli forces. Israel’s government initially suggested Palestinian fire might have been to blame, but officials have also said they could not rule out it was Israeli gunfire that killed her.

Israeli police said a group of Palestinians outside the hospital, whom they described as rioters, had begun throwing stones at officers. “The policemen were forced to act,” they added.

Qatar and Al Jazeera condemned the police’s conduct. Deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq said the scenes were “very shocking” and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was “deeply distressed by the images”, while the EU said it was appalled.

A few minutes after police intervened, Abu Akleh’s coffin was placed in a vehicle that headed toward the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin in Jerusalem’s Walled Old City, where the funeral ceremony proceeded peacefully.

Crowds of Palestinians lined the narrow alleyways of the Old City as the coffin was carried to the Mount Zion Cemetery nearby.

Her grave was covered in wreaths and the Palestinian flag draped over the grave cross as mourners surrounded it solemnly, paying tribute to Abu Akleh.

“We’re here because we are screaming for justice. Justice for Shireen Abu Akleh and justice for Palestine,” said one mourner, who did not want to be identified by name.

INVESTIGATIONS AND RAIDS

The Israeli military said on Friday that its initial investigation “concluded that it is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit and killed Ms. Abu Akleh.”

She may have been killed by shots fired by Palestinian militants shooting at Israeli military vehicles or been hit inadvertently by an Israeli soldier returning fire, it said.

Israeli forces on Friday resumed raids on the outskirts of Jenin, where Abu Akleh was killed, and the Palestinian Health Ministry said 13 Palestinians had been wounded.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group meanwhile claimed responsibility for the death of an Israeli police officer in an exchange of gunfire in Jenin.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said events in Jerusalem and Jenin could push the sides into serious escalation.

Abu Akleh’s death has drawn widespread condemnation. Video footage from the moments after she was shot showed Abu Akleh, 51, wearing a blue vest marked “Press”.

At least two of her colleagues who were with her said that they had come under Israeli sniper fire and that they were not close to militants.

Israel, which has voiced regret at Abu Akleh’s death has proposed a joint investigation with the Palestinians, asking them to provide the bullet for examination.

The Palestinians have rejected the Israeli request and have called for an international investigation.

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Massachusetts identifies first 2022 U.S. case of monkeypox infection

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© Reuters. An electron microscopic (EM) image shows mature, oval-shaped monkeypox virus particles as well as crescents and spherical particles of immature virions, obtained from a clinical human skin sample associated with the 2003 prairie dog outbreak in this undated image obtained by Reuters on May 18, 2022. Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Handout via REUTERS

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By Deena Beasley

(Reuters) – The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Wednesday said it had confirmed a single case of monkeypox virus infection in a man who had recently traveled to Canada.

The state agency said it was working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and relevant local boards of health to carry out contact tracing, adding that “the case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.”

Monkeypox, which mostly occurs in west and central Africa, is a rare viral infection similar to human smallpox, though milder. It was first recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1970s. The number of cases in West Africa has increased in the last decade.

Symptoms include fever, headaches and skin rashes starting on the face and spreading to the rest of the body.

The Massachusetts agency said the virus does not spread easily between people, but transmission can occur through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, items such as bedding or clothing that have been contaminated with fluids or sores, or through respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact.

It said no monkeypox cases had previously been identified in the United States this year. Texas and Maryland each reported a case in 2021 in people with recent travel to Nigeria.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A handful of cases of monkeypox have recently been reported or are suspected in the United Kingdom, Portugal and Spain.

Earlier on Wednesday, Portuguese authorities said they had identified five cases of the infection and Spain’s health services said they were testing 23 potential cases after Britain put Europe on alert for the virus.

European Health authorities are monitoring any outbreak of the disease since Britain reported its first case on May 7 and has found six more in the country since then.

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Turkey’s Erdogan links Sweden, Finland NATO bid to return of ‘terrorists’

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan holds a news conference during the NATO summit at the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

By Nevzat Devranoglu, Ali Kucukgocmen and Humeyra Pamuk

ANKARA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday Sweden should not expect Turkey to approve its NATO bid without returning “terrorists”, and Swedish and Finnish delegations should not come to Turkey to convince it to back their membership in the alliance.

U.S. President Joe Biden and top officials from his administration repeated that they are confident Ankara’s objection will not be a roadblock for the accession process of the Nordic countries, even though they did not spell out how Turkey’s position could be changed.

Finland and Sweden formally applied on Wednesday to join U.S.-led NATO, a decision spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the accession process expected to take only a few weeks despite Turkey’s objections.

Ankara says Sweden and Finland harbour people linked to groups it deems terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

“We have such a sensitivity as protecting our borders from attacks by terrorists organizations,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling AK Party in parliament.

Erdogan said NATO allies had never supported Turkey in its fight against Kurdish militant groups, including the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which Ankara also views as a terrorist group closely tied to the PKK.

“NATO expansion is only meaningful for us in proportion to the respect that will be shown to our sensitivities,” he said.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan in a briefing said he believed Finland and Sweden at the end of the day will have an “effective and efficient” accession process. He added that Turkey’s concerns “can be addressed”.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, on a visit to the United States, also said he conveyed to his U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a meeting in New York that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns” that needed to be addressed.

“They (Blinken) said they will convey the necessary messages about overcoming Turkey’s concerns,” he said.

The meeting was “positive, constructive,” a U.S. State Department official said.

When asked about Turkey’s objection, Biden told reporters: “I’m not going to Turkey, but I think we’re gonna be okay.”

Biden will be hosting the leaders of Sweden and Finland at the White House on Thursday to discuss their NATO applications.

ERDOGAN’S OBJECTIONS

Turkish state broadcaster TRT Haber said on Monday Sweden and Finland had not granted approval for the repatriation of 33 people that Turkey requested.

“So you won’t give us back terrorists but you ask us for NATO membership? NATO is an entity for security, an organization for security. Therefore, we cannot say ‘yes’ to this security organization being deprived of security,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalin has held phone calls with his counterparts from Finland, Sweden and the United States among others, the Turkish presidency said. Kalin said progress on the Nordic countries’ NATO bid will only be possible if solid steps are taken addressing Turkey’s national security concerns.

Erdogan also accused NATO allies of supporting terrorists, citing their arms deliveries for the YPG, a main source of disagreement between Ankara and Washington, as well as other Western countries. Cavusoglu said he told Blinken Washington should stop its support to the YPG.

In 2019, Ankara received little international backing for its plans to build a safe zone in northern Syria, including settling 1 million Syrians in part of northeast Syria that Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies seized from the YPG.

Erdogan has also said Turkey would oppose the NATO bids from those who imposed sanctions on Ankara. Sweden and Finland had banned arms exports to Turkey after its Syria incursion against the YPG in 2019.

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Russia uses new generation of laser weapons in Ukraine

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© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) summit at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 16, 2022. Sputnik/Sergei Guneev/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

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By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON (Reuters) -Russia on Wednesday said it was using a new generation of powerful laser weapons in Ukraine to burn up drones, deploying some of Moscow’s secret weapons to counter a flood of Western arms supplied to its former Soviet neighbour.

President Vladimir Putin in 2018 unveiled an array of new weapons including a new intercontinental ballistic missile, underwater nuclear drones, a supersonic weapon and a new laser weapon.

Little is known about the specifics of the new laser weapons. Putin mentioned one called Peresvet, named after a medieval Orthodox warrior monk Alexander Peresvet who perished in mortal combat.

Yury Borisov, the deputy prime minister in charge of military development, told a conference in Moscow that Peresvet was already being widely deployed and it could blind satellites up to 1,500 km above Earth.

He said, though, that there were already more powerful Russian systems than Peresvet that could burn up drones and other equipment. Borisov cited a test on Tuesday which he said had burned up a drone 5 km away within five seconds.

“If Peresvet blinds, then the new generation of laser weapons lead to the physical destruction of the target – thermal destruction, they burn up,” Borisov told Russian state television.

Asked if such weapons were being used in Ukraine, Borisov said: “Yes. The first prototypes are already being used there.” He said the weapon was called “Zadira”.

Almost nothing is publicly known about Zadira but in 2017 Russian media said Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, helped develop it as part of a programme to create weapons-based new physical principles, known by the Russian acronym ONFP.

Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has illustrated the limits of Russia’s post-Soviet conventional armed forces, though he says the “special military operation” is going to plan and will achieve all of Moscow’s aims.

The United States has ruled out sending its own or NATO forces to Ukraine but Washington and its allies have supplied billions of dollars of weapons to Kyiv such as drones, Howitzer heavy artillery, anti-aircraft Stinger and anti-tank Javelin missiles.

Putin casts such large arms shipments as part of a broader plan by the United States to destroy Russia – and has promised that it will never succeed.

Borisov’s remarks indicate that Russia has made significant progress with laser weapons, a trend of considerable interest to other nuclear powers such as the United States and China.

Using lasers to blind satellites – or even burn them up – was once a fantasy from the realm of science fiction, but major powers such as the United States, China and Russia have been working on variants of such weapons for years.

Besides the benefits in conventional warfare of burning up drones, blinding reconnaissance systems has a strategic impact too as satellites are used to monitor intercontinental ballistic missiles which carry nuclear weapons.

Borisov said he had just returned from Sarov, a closed town in the Nizhny Novgorod region once known as Arzamas-16 because it was so secret, which is a centre of Russia’s nuclear weapons research.

He said a new generation of laser weapons using a wide electromagnetic band would ultimately replace conventional weapons.

“This is not some sort of exotic idea; it is the reality,” Borisov said.

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