Friday, January 27, 2023

India Tests Hypersonic Glide Vehicle From Integrated Test Range

India today (27 January) tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) from Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha.

The HSTDV was tested for the first time by the Defence Research and Development Organisation in 2019.

It is an unmanned aircraft built for flying at hypersonic speed (five times greater than that of sound).

Former DRDO Chief V K Saraswat, in 2008, said that the aim of the HSTDV project was to demonstrate the “performance of a scram-jet engine at an altitude of 15 km to 20 km.” With the scram-jet engine, the HSTDV can travel at Mach 6 (7408.8 km/h).

“Under this project, we are developing a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scram-jet engine,” he said back then.

A scramjet engine (supersonic-combustion ramjet) is one which can operate at hypersonic speeds.

Like a normal ramjet engine, a scramjet, one, carries the fuel in the aircraft but uses atmospheric air for the oxidiser; and two, uses its high speed to compress the incoming air forcefully before it enters the combustion chamber.

However, while a ramjet decelerates the air to subsonic velocities (speeds less than that of sound) before combustion, the airflow in a scramjet is supersonic throughout.

The engine, therefore, only starts after the vehicle reaching a certain velocity. This velocity is achieved by other means of propulsion like a rocket engine.

Unlike a rocket engine, which carried both the fuel and the oxidiser with itself, the scramjet carries only fuel. So it can only operate at suborbital atmosphere when oxygen is present in sufficient amounts.

Using the technologies validated through the HSTDV test, India can develop hypersonic missiles in the future.

India Expects More Clashes With Chinese Troops In Himalayas: Document

A security assessment by Indian police in the Himalayan region of Ladakh says there could be more clashes between Indian and Chinese troops along their contested frontier there as Beijing ramps up military infrastructure in the region.

At least 24 soldiers were killed when the armies of the Asian giants clashed in Ladakh, in the western Himalayas, in 2020 but tensions eased after military and diplomatic talks. A fresh clash erupted between the two sides in the eastern Himalayas in December but there were no deaths.

The assessment is part of a new, confidential research paper by the Ladakh Police that was submitted at a conference of top police officers held from January 20 to 22 and has been reviewed by Reuters.

The report said the assessment was based on intelligence gathered by local police in the border areas and the pattern of India-China military tensions over the years.

The Indian army did not respond to a request for comment but the assessment assumes significance as it was submitted at a conference attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India's defence and foreign ministries also did not respond to requests for comment.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

"Given the domestic compulsions ... in China and their economic interests in the region, the PLA would continue to build up its military infrastructure and skirmishes would also get frequent which may or may not follow a pattern," the paper said, referring to China's People's Liberation Army.

"If we analyse the pattern of skirmishes and tensions, the intensity has increased since 2013-2014 with an interval of every 2-3 years," it said.

"With the massive infrastructure build up by PLA on Chinese side both the armies are testing each other's reaction, strength of artillery and infantry mobilization time".

The report also said India has been slowly losing ground to China in Ladakh as the border has been pushed inside Indian territory through the creation of buffer zones.

India and China share a 3,500 km (2,100 miles) border that has been disputed since the 1950s. The two sides went to war over it in 1962.

'Release Surgical Strike Video...' Congress' Rashid Alvi Backs Digvijaya Singh

New Delhi: Amid the ongoing controversy over Congress leader Digvijaya Singh questioning the authenticity of the '2019 Surgical Strike', Congress leader Rashid Alvi on Friday came in support of his party colleague and asked the Centre to release the surgical strike video that it claimed it has.

"Government says it has a video (of a surgical strike) so what is wrong with Digvijaya Singh asking the government to show it? We're not asking for proof (of strike) but the government should show the video it claims it has," said Rashid Alvi while speaking to ANI.

Alvi's reaction comes days after Digvijaya Singh's remark on the surgical strike.

Digvijaya Singh had said the government talks of surgical strikes. "They (government) claim to have killed so many people but no proof is given," Singh had said.

Congress leader Rashid Alvi said that the country has confidence in the security forces but can't trust the BJP government. "We have faith in our security forces but can't trust the BJP government," he added.

Rashid Alvi further raised questions about various ministers' statements surrounding the surgical strike.

"Sushma Swaraj, who was a minister in the government, had said that the air strike was done at a place where there was no possibility of anyone getting killed. Amit Shah claims that more than 300 terrorists were killed in the air strike. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath claims that more than 400 terrorists were killed in the air strike," Alvi pointed out.

Citing the above statements, Congress leader Alvi said that it varies and therefore if the government claims to have video proof it should be shown.

"These contradictory statements raise questions as to what exactly happened in the surgical air strike. That's why the government if it claims that it has the video evidence of the air strike should make it public," Rashid Alvi demanded.

Congress leader Alvi further sought an apology from the Centre in case it does not have video proof.

"If they do not have any video evidence to prove its claims, then the government should apologize," he added.

In strong disapproval of Digvijaya Singh's remarks on surgical strikes, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the party leader had stated a "ridiculous thing" and that he disagrees with the views.

"I do not agree with what Digvijaya Singh said. We have full trust in our Army. If Army takes action, there is no need for proof. I disagree with his (Digvijay)'s statement and Congress' official position is also that this is his opinion," Rahul Gandhi said.

The party had officially also distanced itself from Digvijaya Singh's remarks on Monday.

China Has Strong Economic, Strategic Need In Eastern Sector, Hence Aggressively Building Its Army To Dominate: Report

China has a strong economic and strategic need in the Ladakh sector, which is why it is aggressively building its army to dominate the unfenced locations on the Indian side to lay claim on more areas, according to an official paper circulated at a high-level meeting. The paper, prepared by Indian Police Service officers and submitted at the DGPs/IGPs meet held last week, said the country's border defense strategy should be given a new meaning and purpose with an economic incentive for the future, given India's limitation to be a part of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

The paper suggests the strategy needs to be area-specific e.g. border tourism can be promoted aggressively in the Turtuk or Siachen sector, and Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) or Depsang plains.

On the the Karakoram pass in the DBO, the paper said it is an ancient connection to India's silk route history, and opening the area to domestic tourists shall counter the remoteness of the idea.

It suggested that expeditions on the pass which were famous since the 1930s can be restarted and trekking and hiking areas be opened in a limited manner.

China has a strong economic and strategic need in the eastern border sector and they are aggressively building up their army to dominate the unfenced areas marked by the patrolling points (PPs) on the Indian side to lay their claim on the area for further domination, the paper noted.

Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the three-day annual conference was attended also by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and about 350 top police officers of the country.

An officer posted in Ladakh noted in the paper that during an interaction a senior security personnel, whose unit is based right on the forward area, told him it's worth it if India can buy peace with China's PLA for four years by retreating 400 metres.

This came amidst reports that out of 65 patrolling points (PPs), the presence of Indian Security Forces (ISFs) is lost in 26 PPs due to restrictive or no patrolling by the ISFs.

The OBOR project of China has given a greater purpose to the PLA to build road and military infrastructure in the eastern sector that shall also aid the CPEC project connecting the Chinese producers to the Central Asian market and Gwadar port in Pakistan, the paper noted.

Other than the reason that Ladakh is a strategic area for India with a historic connection, the monetisation potential of the region is missing in the country's purpose and so the constant loss of area since 1962 in the form of buffer zones being contested by the adversary keeps the security forces on the backfoot, it said.

The paper noted that for inviting a large number of tourists, nomadic festivals at all India level should be celebrated at Ladakh's Demchok, Koyul, Dungti, Kakjung villages which are located on the banks of Indus river and very close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

According to the paper, the Chota Kailash at Demchok can be opened to tourists to pay obeisance and prayers for the mount Kailash and promote religious tourism for the devout Hindus who cannot go to Mansarovar yatras.

The Mount is under surveillance by PLA's cameras and the access to the top is highly restricted by the army. The documents said the civilian population near the border are the country's assets and their interests in terms of reclaiming lost pasture lands should be protected.

Manual patrolling in the areas at regular periods needs to be replaced by more sophisticated technologies like camera surveillance and comprehensive integrated border management system, the paper said.

"The surveillance systems need to be tested for harsh weather conditions, strong power and storage backup at subzero temperatures. Premier research institutes like IISc, IITs, post graduate and Phd students can be funded with research by the government to find solutions on the suitable material for sub-zero climatic conditions that can be used in surveillance mechanisms," it suggested.

Patents can be an incentive to promote the research on finding suitable dwelling solutions for Jawans, winter uniform and surveillance, it said.

"Needless to say, this shall cost a lot to the government exchequer and so a monetisation plan of border tourism is required to support the expense, even if it's a small start, it shall serve a purpose," the paper said.

'Have Invited All Members To SCO Film Festival, Attending Or Not Up To Them': Anurag Thakur

Mumbai: Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Thakur, on Friday said all member countries were formally invited to the ongoing Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Film Festival in Mumbai and attending the event was entirely up to them.

The minister was replying to a media query on whether Pakistan, as a member country of the SCO, had also been invited to the event.

While 57 films from different SCO member states are to be screened at the film festiuval, there is none from Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference on Friday, Thakur said, "All member countries were invited to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Film Festival and it was entirely upto them to decide if they want to attend the event. We extended invitations to all SCO members."

The Union minister added, "Since this is a multinational festival, one expects all member countries to attend it."

Listing the member countries invited to the ongoing film fest, Thakur said, "We sent invitations to China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The event also features three observer states -- Belarus, Iran and Mongolia."

India currently holds the chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of State for 2022-23. It also holds the presidency of the SCO Film Festival.

According to a PIB release, the event also features Dialogue Partners in the form of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives, Myanmar, UAE and Turkey.

Pakistan on Thursday said that it had yet to decide on accepting India's invite to Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to a meeting of the SCO in Goa from May.

"Pakistan and India are members of SCO. India is holding the chairmanship of the SCO Council of Heads of State for 2022-2023. These invitations are being processed as per standard procedures and a decision will be taken in due course," said the spokesperson for Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Bhutto has been invited to the SCO foreign ministers' meeting to be hosted by Goa on May 4-5, this year.

Russias' Atommash Readies Reactor Pressure Vessel For Kudankulam-5 Unit

Overhead view of the reactor pressure vessel assembly as the head is positioned

Major equipment for India's Kudankulam 5 is complete at the factory of the Russian supplier, Atommash. The reactor pressure vessel was assembled in a trial and the pressuriser passed crucial tests.

The Kudankulam nuclear power plant is about 100 kilometres from the port city of Tuticorin in the state of Tamil Nadu at the southern tip of India. The Russian export project has two large VVER-1000 reactors in operation while four more are currently under construction. Units 3 and 4 began construction in 2017 and units 5 and 6 followed in 2021.

The reactor pressure vessel is central to a nuclear power plant. It contains the nuclear fuel assemblies which produce heat and forms part of the primary coolant circuit. It needs to be able to be opened for refuelling and also contains provisions for sensors and moving parts such as control rods.

The entire assembly for Kudankulam 5 was put together at Atommash's factory in Volgodonsk, Russia, using a deep recess in the concrete floor that simulates the position the vessel will hold in the real power plant. First, the 11-metre-long body of the vessel was lowered into place using a crane with a lifting capacity of 600 tons. Then a 10-metre hull weighing 73 tons was placed inside, as was a 38-ton fence and further items adding up to another 68 tons. Once the reactor vessel head was attached and closed the entire component was some 603 tons.

Performing the assembly will significantly reduce installation time on site, Atommash said.

Kudankulam 5's pressuriser during testing

Meanwhile, at Atommash's Izhora plant near Saint Petersburg, another major component of Kudankulam 5's primary circuit was tested - its pressuriser. This will maintain the appropriate pressure of the coolant water used to transfer heat from fuel assemblies in the reactor pressure vessel to the steam generators. This was successfully taken to its maximum permissible value of 24.7 MPa before acceptance. It is now being prepared for shipment, said Atommash.

Anti-Indians Using Twitter As A Propaganda Tool To Harm Country's Image: Report

New Delhi: Twitter is the biggest platform for sharing information but it is now being used as a propaganda tool by anti-Indians to harm the country's image, Indian non-profit fact-checking website Digital Forensics, Research and Analytics Centre (DFRAC) revealed.

DFRAC analysed the Twitter account @MuslimsinIndia7, created with the intention to harm India's international image.

@MuslimsinIndia7 in an old post dated July 11, 2022, tweeted that mosques in Kashmir were closed on Eid al-Adha and Muslims were not allowed to celebrate Eid.

DFRAC, to verify the claims, searched Google for news related to Eid in Kashmir. There, they found reports from leading valley newspapers of Kashmir, The Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Observer, in which it was said that except the historic Jamia Masjid in the old city, Eid al-Adha was celebrated at all Muslim places of worship across the valley. More than 45,000 people offered prayers at Hazratbal Dargah.

Therefore, according to DFRAC, @MuslimsinIndia7's claim of India keeping mosques closed on Eid al-Adha in Kashmir is Fake.

Also on November 6, 2022, @MuslimsinIndia7 shared a video of a rally claiming that protests are continuing in the Valley of India over the change in Kashmir's identity and demographics.

DFRAC team to verify the claims, keyframed the video using InVID tool. A reverse search of the keyframes led them to reports by TwoCirclesNet.

It was learned that the protest marches were taken out from Kupwara to Jammu by the members of the Gujjar Bakarwal community in Jammu and Kashmir against the Indian government's proposal to include hill people in the ST category, according to DFRAC.

DFRAC hence proved that @MuslimsinIndia7's claim that Gujjars and Bakarwals were protesting against the Indian government's attempt to change Kashmir's identity and demography was misleading.

On October 5, 2022, @MuslimsinIndia7 posted a video on Twitter claiming that six Kashmiri youths were killed by the Indian Army. The bodies of some youths are visible at the beginning of the video. Later, a man is seen carrying the body of a young man in his lap.

DFRAC to verify the claim, keyframed the video using the InVID tool. Then on reverse searching the keyframes, they found a similar video on YouTube, in which it was reported that a civilian died in a misfiring incident in Pulwama.

DFRAC's fact check, hence, confirms that @MuslimsinIndia7's claim that six Kashmiri youths were killed in Kashmir by the Indian Army in a barrage of bullets is fake.

IAF's Joint Air Defence Exercise With Japan 'Veer Guardian 2023' Concludes

New Delhi: The inaugural edition of the bilateral air exercise 'Veer Guardian 2023' between the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) concluded in Japan, on January 26, 2023.

The JASDF participated in the exercise with its F-2 and F-15 aircraft, while the IAF contingent participated with the Su-30 MKI aircraft. The IAF fighter contingent was complemented by one IL-78 Flight Refueling Aircraft and two C-17 Globemaster strategic airlift transport aircraft.

According to an official statement, during the joint training spanning 16 days, the two Air Forces engaged in complex and comprehensive aerial manoeuvres in multiple simulated operational scenarios.

"The exercise involved precise planning and skilful execution by both the air forces. IAF and JASDF engaged in air combat manoeuvring, interception and air defence missions, both in Visual and Beyond Visual Range settings. Aircrew of the two participating Air Forces also flew in each other's fighter aircraft to gain a deeper understanding of each other's operating philosophies," the statement said.

Exercise 'Veer Guardian 2023' provided the two Air Forces with an opportunity to enhance mutual understanding. The exercise also witnessed numerous ground interactions between IAF and JASDF personnel wherein various aspects were discussed by both sides.

"This enabled the participating contingents to obtain an invaluable insight into each other's best practices and learn from each other's unique capabilities," it said.

Pakistan's Intransigence On Indus Waters Treaty Causes India To Issue Notice For Modification of Treaty

New Delhi: India has issued notice to Pakistan for modification of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of September 1960 after Islamabad's actions adversely impinged the provisions of the treaty, according to sources.

The notice was conveyed on January 25 through respective Commissioners for Indus Waters as per Article XII (3) of the IWT.

The objective of the notice for modification, according to sources, is to provide Pakistan with an opportunity to enter into intergovernmental negotiations within 90 days to rectify the material breach of the IWT. This process would also update IWT to incorporate the lessons learned over the last 62 years.

India has always been a responsible partner in implementing the IWT. Pakistan's actions, however, have encroached on the provisions of IWT and their implementation and forced India to issue an appropriate notice for modification of IWT, sources said.

In 2015, Pakistan requested for the appointment of a Neutral Expert to examine its technical objections to India's Kishenganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs). In 2016, Pakistan unilaterally retracted this request and proposed that a Court of Arbitration adjudicate its objections.

According to sources, this action by Pakistan is a breach of the graded mechanism of dispute settlement envisaged by Article IX of IWT. India thus made a separate request for the matter to be referred to a Neutral Expert.

The initiation of two simultaneous processes on the same questions and the potential of their inconsistent or contradictory outcomes creates an unprecedented and legally untenable situation, which risks endangering IWT itself. The World Bank acknowledged this itself in 2016, and took a decision to "pause" the initiation of two parallel processes and requested India and Pakistan to seek an amicable way out, sources say.

Pakistan, despite repeated efforts by India to find a mutually agreeable way forward, has refused to discuss the issue during the five meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission from 2017 to 2022.

The World Bank at Pakistan's continued insistence initiated actions on both the Neutral Expert and Court of Arbitration processes. Such parallel consideration of the same issues is not covered under any provision of IWT.

The World Bank in October 2022, made appointments in two separate processes requested by India and Pakistan in relation to the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants.

It appointed a chairman of the Court of Arbitration and a neutral expert "in line with its responsibilities" under the Indus Waters Treaty.

A World Bank release said that the two countries disagree over whether the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the Treaty.

It said Pakistan asked the World Bank to facilitate the establishment of a Court of Arbitration to consider its concerns about the designs of the two hydroelectric power projects, while India asked for the appointment of a Neutral Expert to consider similar concerns over the two projects.

Michel Lino was appointed as the Neutral Expert and Sean Murphy was appointed as Chairman of the Court of Arbitration. They will carry out their duties in their individual capacity as subject matter experts and independently of any other appointments they may currently hold, the release said.

New Delhi Bids Farewell To Egyptian President El-Sisi, Says His Visit Opened New Chapter In Bilateral Ties

New Delhi: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who was the first Egyptian premier to have been invited as the chief guest at India's 74th Republic Day Parade on Thursday, emplaned for his homeland on Friday.

Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh said President El-Sisi's visit elevated India-Egypt ties to a strategic partnership and opened a new chapter in their bilateral relationship.

"Bid farewell to H.E. President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi@AlsisiOfficial. Apart from being the hon'rd Chief Guest of @ the 74th Republic Day Celebrations, your visit has taken India-Egypt ties to a Strategic Partnership & opened a new chapter in bilateral ties.@MEAIndia @indembcairo," tweeted Singh.

During his visit, India and Egypt elevated ties to a 'strategic partnership' featuring four key pillars -- "political and security cooperation, cultural, scientific, and people to people contact."

Exuding confidence in India, El-Sisi said under New Delhi's presidency, the G20 will be successful in achieving its goal.

The two countries decided to work together during India's Presidency and reiterated that the interests and priorities of the Global South be given due attention and focus in key global forums, including the G20.

India and Egypt reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism, the principles of the United Nations Charter, international law, the founding values of the Non-Aligned Movement, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states.

The two sides took into consideration the cultural and social sensitivities of all states and, in this regard, they agreed to work together to promote and safeguard these basic principles through regular consultations and coordination at bilateral and multilateral levels.

As per the statement, PM Modi and President El-Sisi reiterated their common resolve to promote the values of peace, tolerance, and inclusiveness and make concerted efforts to fight terrorism and violent extremist ideologies.

They emphasised the need for a holistic approach to counter terrorism and violent extremism, which includes inter alia disrupting the use of the internet and social media and preventing the use of religious centers to radicalize youth and recruit terrorist cadres.

Both leaders also agreed on the need to hold the JWG on Counter-Terrorism on regular basis to exchange information and best practices. The two sides further agreed on enhancing interaction between their respective National Security Councils, as per the official statement.

Talking about the financial data, both the leaders appreciated the strong bilateral economic engagement and expressed satisfaction at the current level of bilateral trade at a record high of USD 7.26 billion in 2021-22, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

They expressed confidence that a bilateral trade target of USD 12 billion could be achieved within the next five years by both countries, by diversifying the trade basket and focusing on value addition.

The Egyptian side welcomed the flow of more Indian investments and promises to offer incentives and facilities as per applicable regulations and frameworks. On its part, India underlined its support for this approach by encouraging its companies.

The Egyptian side also considered the possibility of allocating a special area for the Indian industries in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCEZ), and the Indian side can arrange for the master plan, according to the statement.

Egypt also took note of India's candidature for a non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for the term 2029-29.

The two leaders highlighted the leading role of India and Egypt in the maintenance of international peace and security by being among the ten largest troop and police contributing countries to the United Nations peacekeeping missions. They reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the participation of troop-contributing countries in the decision-making process of such operations.

During his visit from January 24-27, President El-Sisi attended India's 74th Republic Day parade as the chief guest. He was the first Egyptian premier to have been invited to the Republic Day parade.

During the Republic Day Parade, a military contingent of the Egyptian Army marched towards the saluting dais on the Kartavya Path for the first time.

Indian-American Astronaut Chari Nominated For US Air Force Brigadier General

Washington: Indian-American astronaut Raja Chari has been nominated by United States President Joe Biden for the appointment to the grade of Air Force brigadier general, according to the US Defence Department.

The nomination was announced on Thursday and will have to be confirmed by the Senate which approves all senior civilian and military appointments, according to the US Defence Department.

"Air Force Col. Raja J Chari for appointment to the grade of brigadier general. Chari is currently serving as the Crew-3 commander and astronaut, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Johnson Space Center, Texas," the statement reads.

Chari, earlier, was one of the four astronauts that were part of the SpaceX spacecraft which docked successfully at the orbiting lab in May, last year.

Chari was the commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-3 mission. He was responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry.

He also served as an Expedition 66 flight engineer aboard the station. This was the first spaceflight for Chari, who was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 2017.

Chari along with Kayla Barron, Tom Marshburn -all of NASA and European Space Agency's (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown into the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, US at 12:43 am EDT completing the agency's third long-duration commercial crew mission to the International Space Station.

He was born in Milwaukee but considers Cedar Falls, Iowa, his hometown. He is a colonel in the US Air Force and joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot. He has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time during his career.

Chari had completed his graduation from Columbus High School in Waterloo, Iowa.

He earned a bachelor's degree in Astronautical Engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and a master's degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Graduated from the US Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland and also graduated from US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Israel Launches Air Strikes On Gaza Strip In Response To Rocket Fire

Tel Aviv: Israel launched a series of bombing raids in the central Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks from Gazan terrorists, and said that the raids will lead to "significant harm to Hamas efforts" in building up its arms, The Times of Israel reported on Friday.

The Israel Defence Force (IDF) said that they targeted Bottom of Form, an underground facility where rockets are manufactured in the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza.

"The attack will lead to significant harm to Hamas' efforts to build up its arms," the IDF said in a statement, according to The Times of Israel.

Footage published on social media showed several large explosions from the airstrikes in Gaza.

Nine Palestinians, including several members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) cell, other gunmen, and at least one uninvolved civilian, were killed, and another 20 were wounded in the clashes, reported The Times of Israel..

Israel says it holds Hamas responsible for all violence emanating from the Gaza Strip and generally responds to rocket fire with airstrikes against the group regardless of who launched the attack.

According to Israeli officials, the IDF had foiled a "ticking time bomb" in Jenin on Thursday after receiving "accurate intelligence" from the Shin Bet security agency about the PIJ cell's hideout apartment in the camp, reported The Times of Israel.

As tit-for-tat continues, Israel and Gazan terrorists continued launching their rockets against each other. After Israel launched rockets, on Friday morning Ghaza launched several rockets toward southern Israel.

At least three rockets were fired from Gaza at around 3:30 am Friday, Israeli jets bombed sites said to belong to the Hamas terror group in retaliation for a rocket attack hours earlier.

One of the rockets was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, another landed in an open field and a third fell short of the border, the army said, after alarms sounded in the towns of Nir Oz, Ein Habesor and Magen.

Separately on Thursday afternoon, a Palestinian man was killed in clashes with Israeli troops in the town of a-Ram, north of Jerusalem, the PA Health Ministry said.

Tensions have recently soared in the West Bank as the Israel Defence Force presses on with an anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that have left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, as per the The Times of Israel report.

IMF Delegation To Visit Pakistan Next Week For Talks On 9th Review: Official

Islamabad: An international Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation will visit Pakistan next week to discuss the ninth review of the USD 7 billion Extended Fund Facility, Dawn reported citing the official.

According to the statement released by the IMF, the international fund organization Resident Representative for Pakistan Esther Perez Ruiz said: "At the request of the authorities, an in-person Fund mission is scheduled to visit Islamabad [from] January 31 - February 9 to continue the discussions under the ninth EFF review."

The Pakistani rupee has dived to a historic low against the United States dollar after an exchange cap was lifted as the cash-strapped country seeks the help from IMF. Earlier, Pakistan entered a USD 6 billion programme in 2019 but later on, it increased to USD 7 billion.

If everything goes well then the international organization would release USD 1.8 billion, which is still pending, according to Dawn.

It had earlier been put off for two months due to the Pakistan Muslim League-N-led government's unwillingness to accept certain conditions placed before it by the IMF, and the disagreements have yet to be resolved.

However, it is pertinent to mention that Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has indicated that the government is finally ready to swallow the bitter pill of the IMF's "stringent" conditions to revive the loan programme.

In the statement, Ruiz said that the mission would focus on policies to restore domestic and external sustainability, including strengthening the fiscal position with durable and high-quality measures while supporting the vulnerable and those affected by the floods; restoring the viability of the power sector and reverse the continued accumulation of circular debt; and re-establish the proper functioning of the foreign exchange market, allowing the exchange rate to clear the forex shortage.

"Stronger policy efforts and reforms are critical to reduce the current elevated uncertainty that weighs on the outlook, strengthen Pakistan's resilience, and obtain financing support from official partners and the markets that is vital for Pakistan's sustainable development," Dawn quoted her as saying.

The Financial Post recently reported that with Pakistan Finance Ministry being unable to furnish tenable answers for the IMF to commence formal negotiations on the 9th review, it may delay the release of funds from the IMF.

The IMF visit to Pakistan scheduled for October has been delayed amidst differences between Pakistan's commitment to the IMF on fiscal consolidation.

"Pakistan and the global lender continued talks virtually but differences still persisted over tax collection targets, and non-starter energy reforms including hiking of gas tariff, rising circular debt, and expenditure overrun, making consensus harder to strike on a staff-level agreement for completion of the review," according to the Financial Post report.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has said that the government knows that it has no other option but to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and face humiliation and that their legs start shaking at the name of elections, reported The Express Tribune.

India Repatriates 17 Pakistani Nationals Via Attari-Wagah Border

New Delhi: Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi on Friday said that India repatriated 17 Pakistani nationals via the Attari-Wagah border who was under imprisonment in the country.

"17 Pakistani nationals imprisoned in India were repatriated today via Attari-Wagah border after hectic efforts of @PakinIndia& @ForeignOfficePk& cooperation of Indian side. Our efforts will continue to repatriate all Pakistani prisoners from India on completion of their sentences," tweeted the Pakistan High Commission of India.

Earlier on Thursday, India repatriated a Pakistan national.

"In close coordination with @ForeignOfficePk & also the Indian side,a Pakistani national who was under imprisonment in India,was repatriated today via Attari-Wagah border. We will continue our efforts for early repatriation of those Pakistani prisoners who have completed their sentences," tweeted the Pakistan High Commission of India.

India and Pakistan this month had exchanged the lists of civilian prisoners and fishermen in their custody, in line with the longstanding agreement between the two countries.

In an earlier statement on January 1, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said India shared lists of 339 Pakistani civilian prisoners and 95 Pakistani fishermen currently in Indian custody. Similarly, Pakistan has shared lists of 51 civilian prisoners and 654 fishermen in its custody, who are Indians or are believed to be Indians.

In the statement, the Indian government called for early release and repatriation of civilian prisoners, missing Indian defence personnel, and fishermen along with their boats, from Pakistan's custody.

"In this context, Pakistan was asked to expedite the release and repatriation of 631 Indian fishermen and 02 Indian civilian prisoners, who have completed their sentence and whose nationality has been confirmed and conveyed to Pakistan. In addition, Pakistan has been asked to provide immediate consular access to the remaining 30 fishermen and 22 civilian prisoners in Pakistan's custody, who are believed to be Indian," the MEA said.

The ministry said India remains committed to addressing, on priority, all humanitarian matters, including those pertaining to prisoners and fishermen in each other's country.

In this context, India has also urged Pakistan to expedite necessary action at its end to confirm the nationality status of 71 Pakistani prisoners, including fishermen, whose repatriation is pending for want of nationality confirmation from Pakistan.

The External Affairs Ministry also said Pakistan had been requested to ensure the safety, security and welfare of all Indian and believed-to-be Indian civilian prisoners and fishermen, pending their release and repatriation to India.

Pakistan's Recent Countrywide Electricity Blackout Linked To Forex Woes

Islamabad: Pakistan's recent countrywide electricity blackout is a symptom of its enduring economic crisis as its forex reserves are dwindling and are not in a position to buy oil for the energy sector, writes Adnan Aamir in Nikkei Asia.

A prolonged shortage of dollars is wreaking havoc throughout the economy and a nationwide power outage this week underscored the razor-thin margins for error in Pakistan's energy sector, he writes.

The government said the blackout, which lasted around 16 hours, was caused by a technical glitch in the transmission system, however, a federal official who spoke on condition of anonymity drew an indirect connection to dwindling fuel supplies, reported Nikkei Asia.

"The government turns off the power plants at night to save fuel," said the official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, adding, "When they tried to resume them on Monday morning, the system tripped, and it created a crisis-like situation."

As per distributors and some officials, a shortage of dollars will lead Pakistan toward an oil crisis, writes Aamir.

The Oil Companies Advisory Council -- a body representing refineries, marketing and pipeline companies -- on January 13 sent a letter to the Ministry of Finance, a copy of which was seen by Nikkei Asia.

The group highlighted the problems industry players are having opening letters of credit to import petroleum products.

A letter of credit, or LC, is a document issued by the importer's bank, guaranteeing payment to the exporter once the terms of the contract have been met.

"If LCs are not established on a timely basis, critical imports of petroleum products would be impacted, which may lead to a fuel shortage in the country," the letter read. It further stated that once the supply chain is compromised, it could take six to eight weeks to normalise it.

The letter revealed further that Pakistan needs to import around 430,000 metric tonnes of gasoline, 200,000 tonnes of high-speed diesel and 650,000 tonnes of crude oil every month. The total bill comes to about USD 1.3 billion, writes Aamir.

Echoing the council's warning, the Power Division of Pakistan on Saturday wrote to the governor of the State Bank, saying stocks of petroleum products may dry up as banks refuse to open and confirm LCs for imports.

The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) has downplayed the concerns over fuel, saying in a news release that Pakistan has enough stocks to meet gasoline demand for 18 days and diesel needs for 37 days.

But the federal official who spoke with Nikkei Asia said oil stocks are at dangerously low levels.

"Oil stocks are replenished on a regular basis through imports, which is not taking place as frequently as required due to the shortage of forex reserves," he said.

Pakistan's forex stockpile stood at USD 4.6 billion as of January 13, according to data released by the State Bank. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that Pakistan's total external debt will be around USD 138 billion by the end of the current fiscal year in June, with about USD 21 billion worth of repayments due this year.

The situation has raised fears that Pakistan could join smaller South Asian neighbour Sri Lanka in default.

Islamabad is scrambling to revive a stalled IMF bailout programme originally worth USD 6 billion and expanded with another USD 1 billion last year.