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Battle for Mariupol

It's Day 56 of the war in Ukraine. Fighting continues over the control of Mariupol, with Russian forces now very close to fully capturing the strategic port city. Ukraine has just announced that it reached a preliminary agreement with Russia, to open a humanitarian corridor for women, children, and elderly people, out of the besieged city. But thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians remain holed up at a steel plant in Mariupol. A commander has pleaded for help from inside the factory, saying his forces are facing their last days, if not hours. He has said in a Facebook post that his troops are largely outnumbered. A few days ago, Russia gave a deadline to foreign and Ukrainian troops still fighting in Mariupol, to lay down their arms in exchange for security guarantees.

NATO membership bid

Finland's parliament will shortly start debating a decision to apply for NATO membership, with the issue gaining more political and public support, mainly because of the war in Ukraine. The government is hoping to reach a parliamentary consensus within weeks. At least half of Finland’s 200 lawmakers are now supporting a NATO membership. Also, opinion polls indicate that over 60 percent of the public are in favor of the move. Neighboring Sweden is also discussing a membership bid. A recent poll shows 57 percent of Swedes approve of joining the alliance. But Russia is strongly opposed to NATO’s eastward expansion. Moscow has previously warned Finland and Sweden against joining the alliance, saying that could result in a nuclear buildup in the Baltic. 

Raid on Al-Aqsa

Israeli forces have once again attacked Palestinian worshipers at the al-Aqsa mosque compound. 

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