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Israel Welcomes Sanctions Against International Criminal Court Officials By Donald Trump

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US President Donald Trump has authorized sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) officials — the latest attempt by Washington dissuade the international body out of an inquiry into possible war crimes by US security agencies.

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The international tribunal called the action “the latest in a series of unprecedented attacks on the ICC” that “constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.”

Under the new executive order, any person who “has directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any US personnel without the consent of the United States” or have tried the same against a US ally without that country’s consent may be subjected to sanctions.

The sanctions come after the ICC commissioned an investigation into alleged war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan by US and Afghan security forces as well as alleged war crimes committed by the Taliban.

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It also follows a push by the court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to examine probable crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians to which US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said they were “gravely concerned.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi congratulated President Trump on the decision to impose sanctions on officials at the International Court of Justice officials. “I thank President Trump for taking steps against the politically driven tribunal which illegitimately claims jurisdiction over Israel and the United States,” Ashkenazi said on Twitter. 

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The US under Donald Trump has long repudiated the jurisdiction of the ICC — noting that the US is not a party to the international tribunal — and had already taken measures to hinder the probe, including cancelling Bensouda’s entry visa last year.

“The International Criminal Court’s actions are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

“As the President’s Executive Order makes clear, the United States will continue to use any means necessary to protect our citizens and our allies from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court,” she said.

Speaking at the State Department on Thursday, Mike Pompeo said, “We cannot and we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court.” Pompeo also said the economic sanctions would be determined on a case-by-case basis. He also said the visa restrictions would include family members of the targeted officials.

“It gives us no joy to punish them, but we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop, travel, and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms,” the top US diplomat said.

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China Imposes Sanctions On US Defence Giant Behind F-16s, F-22 Raptors

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China has threatened to impose sanctions on US defence giant Lockheed Martin – the makers of Stealth F-22 Raptors, in response to US approving of a possible deal for Taiwan to buy parts to refurbish defensive missiles built by the company.

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Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made announced at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, adding that the US should cut defence ties with Taiwan “so that it doesn’t do further harm to bilateral relations and damage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

“China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,” Zhao said, adding: “China decides to take measures to protect national interests. We will impose sanctions on the main contractor of this arms sale Lockheed Martin.”

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The US State Department last week approved a possible $620 million foreign military deal for Taiwan to buy parts of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles so that they can last 30 years.

Beijing’s actions come amid growing tensions between the US and China tensions over various issues including trade war, South China Sea dispute, COVID-19 pandemic, new security law in Hong Kong, 5G network and hostilities against key US allies including India and Australia.

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Despite it being a strategic American ally, the US has no official embassy in Taiwan nor does Australia, Canada, the UK or Germany. China calls Taiwan a ‘renegade province’ and has vowed it to merge it with mainland China, at all costs.

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Comet Neowise in India: Rare Neowise Comet will be visible in North-West India from Today – NASA

NASA Comet Neowise India: NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet on 27 March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about five kilometres across and its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

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The Comet Neowise, or C/20202 F3  will be noticeable in the northwest sky in India from 14 July onwards. As per NASA, Neowise should be visible just before and around the time of first light till 11 July. It will again start to be visible in the evening between 15 and 16 July.

“From July 14, C/2020 F3, a comet discovered on March 27, will be clearly visible in the north-western sky. It will be visible after sunset for around 20 minutes for the next 20 days. People can observe it from naked eyes,” said Subhendu Pattnaik, deputy director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium in Bhubaneswar told ANI.

“In the evenings to follow, the comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky and will be visible for a longer period,” he added.

Comet Neowise swept within Mercury’s orbit a week ago. Its close vicinity to the sun caused dust and gas to burn off its surface and create an even bigger debris tail. According to CNET, Neowise passed a critical point when it survived its closest brush with the sun without cracking up from the heat last week.

NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet on 27 March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about five kilometres across and its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Soon after, numerous amateur photographers began sharing stunning images of the comet just above the horizon during predawn hours. Twitter user Jeremy Perez shared the image shot from close to the Wupatki National Monument showcasing the bright celestial body.

According to the CNET report, as the comet moves farther away from the sun and closer to Earth, it will be visible in the evening sky and not before dawn. As per NASA solar system ambassador Eddie Irizarry, Neowise should be visible just before and around the time of first light till 11 July. It will again start to be visible in the evening between 15 and 16 July.

While it’s visible with the naked eye in dark skies with little or no light pollution, binoculars are needed to see the long tail, according to NASA. It will be about 7,000 years before the comet returns, “so I wouldn’t suggest waiting for the next pass,” said the telescope’s deputy principal investigator Joe Masiero of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Recently, astronauts from the International Space Station managed to get a stunning glimpse of a natural light show from a comet this weekend. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken shared a tweet highlighting Neowise. He captioned the post, “Last night’s fireworks, for real. Because Science.”

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US-China ties to worsen as Trump set to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea

Ties between US and China could dramatically worsen over the South China Sea after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate. 

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Ties between the US and China are set to further deteriorate over the South China Sea as the Trump administration is set to outrightly reject almost all of Chinese maritime claims in the contentious waterbody.

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The Trump government presented the decision as an endeavour to restrain China’s increasing belligerence in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. This move in the South China Sea will further enrage the Chinese, who are already countering against various US sanctions and other penalties.

Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime spats between China and its smaller neighbours be settled peacefully through UN-backed arbitration.

But in a statement released on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

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Although the US will continue to remain impartial in territorial conflicts, the announcement means Washington is now directly supporting Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese declarations of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding disputed islands, reefs and shoals.

“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.

The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that discarded Chinese maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.

China has declined to recognise that ruling, rejected it as a “sham” and withdrew from the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to oppose the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.

However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.

In addition to reemphasising support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legitimately claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, Washington said it would regard any Chinese intimidation of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.

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