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UN-mandated rights inquiry rebukes Israel for seeking ‘complete control’

An independent commission of inquiry set up by the UN Human Rights Council after the 2021 Gaza war said Israel must do more than end the occupation of land Palestinians want for a state, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs called the report “a waste of money and effort” that amounted to a witch hunt. Israel boycotted the inquiry, accusing it of bias and barred entry to its investigators.

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While prompted by the 11-day May 2021 conflict in which 250 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel died, the inquiry mandate includes alleged human rights abuses before and after that and seeks to investigate the “root causes” of the tensions.

It cites evidence saying Israel has “no intention of ending the occupation” and is pursuing “complete control” over what it calls the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, which was taken by Israel in a 1967 war.

“Ending the occupation alone will not be sufficient,” the report says, urging additional action to ensure the equal enjoyment of human rights.

Citing an Israeli law denying naturalization to Palestinians married to Israelis, the report accuses the country of affording “different civil status, rights and legal protection” for Arab minorities. Israel says such measures safeguard national security and the country’s Jewish character.

The Israel ministry added: “It is a biased and one-sided report tainted with hatred for the State of Israel and based on a long series of previous one-sided and biased reports.”

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but, with the help of Egypt, clamps down on the borders of the enclave now governed by Hamas Islamists. Palestinian authorities have limited self-rule in the West Bank, which is dotted with Israeli settlements.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, opened the May 2021 war with rocket attacks following moves to evict Palestinian families in East Jerusalem, and in retaliation for Israeli police clashes with Palestinians near the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.

The Gaza fighting was accompanied by rare street violence within Israel between Jewish and Arab citizens.

The report will be discussed at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council next week. The body cannot make legally binding decisions.

The United States quit the Council in 2018 over what it described as its “chronic bias” against Israel and only fully rejoined this year.

Unusually, the three-member commission of inquiry has an open-ended mandate. A diplomat said that its mandate was already a sensitive issue. “People don’t like the idea of perpetuity,” he said.

Its members are from India, South Africa and Australia.

Read more: US plays down Israeli report, commits to reopening consulate in Jerusalem

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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