Israeli Leaders Defiant, Vow to Continue Gaza Strip War Despite Mounting International Pressure

Israeli Leaders Defiant, Vow To Continue Gaza Strip War Despite Mounting International Pressure

In the face of increasing international pressure, including from key ally the United States, Israeli leaders affirmed on Wednesday their determination to press ahead with the ongoing Gaza Strip war, now in its third month. The conflict was sparked by the unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which Israeli officials claim resulted in the deaths of 1,200 individuals, predominantly civilians.

The war has inflicted severe devastation upon Gaza, leaving more than 18,600 people dead, with women and children constituting the majority of the casualties, according to the health ministry. Infrastructure, including roads, schools, and hospitals, has been decimated, and the scale of destruction has been described as “unparalleled.”

Despite the UN General Assembly’s recent overwhelming endorsement of a non-binding resolution calling for a ceasefire, Gaza has continued to witness fresh strikes and intense battles. Reportedly, the heaviest fighting has been concentrated in Gaza City, the largest urban center, as well as in Khan Yunis and Rafah in the south, according to correspondents from AFP.

The already dire situation has been compounded by wintery rains that have battered the territory. The UN estimates that out of Gaza’s 2.4 million population, 1.9 million people have been displaced, forced to live in makeshift tents as essential supplies such as food, drinking water, medicines, and fuel dwindle. Concerns about the spread of diseases, including meningitis, jaundice, and respiratory tract infections, have also intensified, as per the warning issued by the UN.

Ameen Edwan, a resident of Gaza, shared the harsh realities faced by the displaced population, recounting how rainwater seeped into their makeshift shelter at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital. With a shortage of nylon covers, they resorted to using stones and sand to keep the water out, highlighting the desperate conditions faced by those affected.

The World Health Organization reported that only 107 humanitarian aid trucks entered Gaza from Egypt, a significant drop from the daily average of 500 before the events of October 7. This limited flow of aid exacerbates the challenges faced by the beleaguered population, further straining their access to essential resources.

As the conflict persists, the international community grapples with finding a resolution to the longstanding crisis. The determination of Israeli leaders to continue with the war in the face of mounting international pressure further underscores the complexity and gravity of the situation, leaving the people of Gaza in a state of uncertainty and anguish.


Source: The New Arab

UK Immigration Minister Resigns Over Rwanda Asylum Transfer Legislation

Cabinet Meeting At Downing Street In London

In a significant development, UK Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has resigned over the government’s proposed legislation regarding the Rwanda asylum transfer scheme. Jenrick stated that the new law “does not go far enough” in providing sufficient safeguards for the success of the policy. The government’s plan to transfer certain asylum seekers to Rwanda has faced extensive legal challenges since its announcement in April 2022. Despite the UK Supreme Court ruling the scheme unlawful, successive Home Secretaries have attempted to push it forward.

Jenrick, who serves within the Home Office, expressed his inability to support the latest draft bill through the legislative process, citing the need for stronger protections to prevent ongoing legal challenges that could hinder the scheme and undermine its intended deterrent effect. His resignation letter emphasised the high stakes involved in addressing illegal migration to the UK effectively.

Previously, Jenrick had publicly pledged to take any necessary measures to tackle illegal migration, including the possibility of withdrawing from the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Some hardliner lawmakers within the Conservative Party, including former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, have advocated for the UK’s departure from the ECHR, arguing that it hampers the Rwanda policy.

The government’s newly unveiled legislation did not withdraw the UK from the ECHR but included a crucial caveat. Home Secretary James Cleverley acknowledged on the first page of the bill that he could not guarantee its compatibility with Convention rights. The bill also disallowed specific sections of the UK Human Rights Act, which incorporates ECHR rights into domestic law. Furthermore, a clause asserted the bill’s sovereignty and its independence from key international law instruments, including the ECHR and the Refugee Convention.

The opposition Labour Party strongly criticised the legislation, highlighting that this is the third draft presented by the government. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper described the government as being in a state of “total chaos” and called for a focus on combating criminal gangs involved in smuggling people into the UK.

Legal experts, including Professor Mark Elliot of the University of Cambridge, have also voiced criticism. Elliot argued that the bill is “hypocritical” as it assumes Rwanda’s compliance with international law obligations to treat asylum seekers humanely while allowing the UK to potentially breach its own obligations.

The Rwandan government issued a warning to the UK, threatening to withdraw from the partnership if the UK fails to adhere to international law. Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta emphasised that without lawful behaviour by the UK, Rwanda would not be able to continue the Migration and Economic Development Partnership.

The next step for the bill is its debate in parliament during the “second reading” stage, where UK lawmakers will discuss its merits and potential implications.


Source: CNN

Rishi Sunak Stands Firm on Immigration Reduction Goals, Despite Manifesto Setback

Rishi Sunak Stands Firm On Immigration Reduction Goals, Despite Manifesto Setback

In a recent interview conducted at the Nissan plant, Chancellor Rishi Sunak declined to apologize for the government’s inability to fulfil the 2019 Tory manifesto pledge of reducing immigration. However, he reiterated his belief that current immigration levels were excessively high.

Expressing his stance, Sunak stated, “I’m very clear that the levels of migration are too high, and they’ve got to come down to more sustainable levels. I’ve been clear about that.” While he acknowledged the Office for National Statistics’ recent affirmation that migration rates were slowing, he emphasized the need for further progress.

Highlighting his commitment to addressing the issue, Sunak pointed out the stringent policy he announced in May. This measure aimed to restrict the number of dependents accompanying students entering the country, representing the most rigorous action taken in a long time to curtail legal migration. He assured the public that additional actions would be taken if the system continued to be exploited.

However, when questioned about his support for the reported proposals put forth by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, such as implementing a higher minimum salary threshold for work visa recipients and enforcing a cap on NHS work visas, Sunak evaded a direct response. Instead, he reiterated his previous statements, refraining from providing a clear stance on the proposed measures.

Despite the government’s failure to honour the immigration reduction promise outlined in the 2019 Tory manifesto, Rishi Sunak remains resolute in his commitment to decreasing migration levels. As the debate surrounding immigration policy continues, the Chancellor’s refusal to endorse specific measures leaves room for speculation on the government’s future approach.


Source: The Guardian

WHO Requests Detailed Information from China Amidst Unexplained Outbreak of Respiratory Illness in Children

Who Requests Detailed Information From China Amidst Unexplained Outbreak Of Respiratory Illness In Children

In recent days, local media in cities such as Xian in northwest China have been sharing videos online depicting hospitals overwhelmed with parents and children waiting to receive medical attention. Concerned about the situation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reached out to China, requesting more detailed information about the outbreak of a respiratory illness and the reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia among children.

The WHO has observed that since mid-October, northern China has experienced a surge in influenza-like illnesses compared to the same period in previous years. In response to these developments, the organization has officially asked China for additional information and laboratory results regarding the reported outbreaks among children.

While waiting for a response from the Chinese authorities, the WHO has issued recommendations for Chinese communities to take preventive measures. These measures include getting vaccinated, wearing masks, maintaining a distance from sick individuals, staying at home when feeling unwell, and practicing regular hand-washing.

Chinese authorities have attributed the increase in respiratory illnesses to a combination of factors. They include a cold snap, the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, the circulation of known pathogens such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, as well as common bacterial infections affecting children like mycoplasma pneumonia.

As the temperatures dropped in Beijing, located in the northern part of the country, the city entered a high incidence season for respiratory infectious diseases. Wang Quanyi, deputy director and chief epidemiological expert at the Beijing Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that the city is currently experiencing a trend of multiple pathogens coexisting.

On Wednesday, the WHO revealed that various groups, including the Programme for Monitoring Emerging Diseases, reported clusters of undiagnosed pneumonia in children in northern China. Children’s hospitals in Beijing and Liaoning, which are 500 miles apart, were described as “overwhelmed with sick children” in a report by Taiwanese outlet FTV News.

The WHO emphasized that it remains unclear whether these cases are linked to the overall increase in respiratory infections previously reported by Chinese authorities or if they are separate events. The organization has requested further information about the circulation of known pathogens and the impact on healthcare systems. It is actively collaborating with clinicians and scientists to gather more data.

The WHO’s office in China has described this action as a routine check. The increase in respiratory diseases was initially disclosed during a news conference held by Chinese officials from the National Health Commission last week.

The situation is being closely monitored both locally and internationally as health authorities work to understand and address the unexplained outbreak of respiratory illness among children in China.


Source: Sky News

Finland Erects Barriers at Border with Russia to Control Influx of Migrants

Finland Erects Barriers At Border With Russia To Control Influx Of Migrants

Finnish authorities have taken measures to address the increasing number of undocumented migrants crossing the border with Russia, as barriers topped with barbed wire have been erected at selected crossing points. The move aims to better manage the flow of migrants entering Finland, particularly from the Middle East and Africa. While only a few dozen migrants arrived in September and October, the number surged to approximately 600 in November, raising concerns about border security and the proper processing of individuals without valid visas or documentation.

Tomi Tirkkonen, deputy commander of the Kainuu border guard district in eastern Finland, emphasized the necessity of these measures to maintain order and ensure the security of legal border traffic. With two of Finland’s nine crossing points falling under Tirkkonen’s district, which monitors the 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, Finland plays a crucial role in safeguarding the European Union’s external border and NATO’s north-eastern flank.

However, the Kremlin has expressed regret over Finland’s decision to close certain checkpoints and has rebuffed allegations that Russia has encouraged the influx of migrants as a means to punish Finland for joining NATO. Finnish authorities have accused Russian border officials of assisting migrants without proper documentation to reach the border zone, thereby exacerbating the situation.

Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen stated that Russia is instrumentalizing migrants as part of its “hybrid warfare” against Finland. Valtonen underscored the existence of evidence indicating that Russian border authorities have not only allowed individuals without proper documentation to reach Finland but have also actively aided their journey. These developments are seen as a departure from the previous cooperative and friendly relations between Finland and Russia, as Finland recently joined NATO after decades of military non-alignment.

The Finnish government’s decision to close four busy Russia border crossings in south-eastern Finland last week was motivated by suspicions of foul play by Russian border officials. As the situation unfolds, Finland remains committed to ensuring border security, managing the influx of migrants, and addressing the concerns raised by the Kremlin. The erection of barriers at the border serves as a visible symbol of Finland’s determination to exercise control while upholding its obligations as a member of the European Union and NATO.

Despite the objections from the Kremlin, Finland stands firm in its resolve to handle the situation effectively and protect its borders. The ongoing dialogue between Finnish and Russian authorities will be crucial in addressing the concerns raised and finding a mutually acceptable resolution to this complex issue.


Source: ABC News

North Korea Claims to Have Launched Its First Spy Satellite

North Korea Claims To Have Launched Its First Spy Satellite

North Korea has declared the successful launch of its first military spy satellite, marking a significant advancement in the country’s space ambitions. The launch comes two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged support for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s space program.

According to North Korean state media, the Malligyong-1 reconnaissance satellite achieved orbit following a rocket launch from a site in the western part of the country on Tuesday night. The Korean Central News Agency stated that Pyongyang’s space agency plans to launch multiple additional reconnaissance satellites in the near future, aiming to enhance its ability to identify and strike targets in South Korea and Japan.

Kim Jong Un, who oversaw the launch, expressed congratulations to the cadres, scientists, and technicians involved, acknowledging their significant contribution to strengthening the country’s war deterrent, as reported by KCNA.

However, the United States, South Korea, and Japan have been unable to independently verify if the satellite was successfully placed into orbit. North Korea had earlier informed Japan of its intention to launch a satellite on Wednesday.

The US National Security Council denounced the launch as a blatant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, warning that it escalates tensions and poses a risk of destabilising the security situation in the region and beyond. A functional spy satellite would enhance North Korea’s capability to conduct preemptive strikes and monitor potential threats from the US and South Korea. Nevertheless, analysts have raised concerns about the technological sophistication of a North Korean spy satellite.

North Korea asserts that its space program is a legitimate response to the US-led “space militarisation” aimed at attacking North Korea and attaining global dominance.

Following the launch announcement, South Korea partially suspended a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement that established buffer zones to reduce the risk of armed conflict. This move allows South Korea to resume reconnaissance and surveillance operations closer to the demilitarised zone separating the two countries. South Korea also plans to launch its own military spy satellite into orbit by the end of the month.

North Korea’s claim of a successful satellite launch follows two failed attempts earlier this year, in May and August.


Source: KCNA

China Expands Crackdown on Mosques Outside Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch Says

China Expands Crackdown On Mosques Outside Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch Says

The Chinese government’s crackdown on mosques has extended beyond the borders of Xinjiang, the region where it has long been accused of persecuting Muslim minorities, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch on Wednesday.

The report reveals that authorities in the northern Ningxia region and Gansu province have closed mosques as part of an official process known as “consolidation.” These areas are home to significant populations of Hui Muslims. Human Rights Watch compiled the report based on public documents, satellite images, and testimonies from witnesses.

In addition to closures, local authorities have been removing architectural elements from mosques to give them a more “Chinese” appearance. This move is part of a broader campaign by the ruling Communist Party to exert greater control over religious practices and minimise the potential for challenges to its authority.

Since 2016, when President Xi Jinping called for the “Sinicization” of religions, the Chinese government has intensified its crackdown, primarily focusing on Xinjiang, where over 11 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities reside.

According to Human Rights Watch, Chinese authorities have taken various measures in regions outside Xinjiang, including decommissioning, closing down, demolishing, or re-purposing mosques for secular use. Disturbingly, the report also highlights videos obtained by the organisation that show damage inflicted on the ablution hall of one mosque.

The expansion of the mosque crackdown beyond Xinjiang raises concerns about the worsening situation for religious freedom in China. Human rights advocates continue to call on the international community to address these human rights violations and press for meaningful change to protect the rights of religious minorities in the country.


Source: The Independent

France Issues Arrest Warrant for Bashar al-Assad and Three Generals Over Chemical Attacks That Killed 1,000

France Issues Arrest Warrant For Bashar Al Assad And Three Generals Over Chemical Attacks That Killed 1,000

France has issued an arrest warrant for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and three of his generals in connection with the devastating chemical attacks that claimed the lives of approximately 1,000 people. The warrants, which were confirmed by legal sources in Paris on Wednesday, come as a result of the ongoing investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the August 2013 attacks.

The chemical attacks, which involved rockets filled with sarin gas, targeted the Damascus suburbs of  Douma and Ghouta. The United Nations investigators described the Ghouta attack as the deadliest use of chemical weapons since the Iran-Iraq War, with clear and convincing evidence pointing to the use of sarin gas. A subsequent UN report concluded that significant quantities of sarin were used in a well-planned indiscriminate attack on civilian-inhabited areas, causing mass casualties.

The arrest warrants not only target Bashar al-Assad but also include three of his generals who were allegedly involved in the gassing of their own citizens. While it is highly unlikely that they will be brought to trial in Paris, the warrants serve as a symbol of France’s commitment to holding international war criminals accountable.

The names of the accused will be placed on Interpol’s red list, making travel outside Syria extremely dangerous for them. This move further isolates al-Assad and his associates from the international community and underscores the gravity of the charges against them.

Bashar al-Assad, who has ruled Syria with an iron fist for many years, has been heavily involved in a civil war that has led to the deaths of thousands of people and left countless others living in fear, danger, and poverty. Despite allegations of horrendous human rights violations, he managed to secure his re-election in 2021 with an official vote count of 95.1 percent, according to Syrian officials. Throughout his reign, al-Assad has enjoyed the support of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, a fellow despot who has also faced accusations of human rights abuses.

The warrants issued by France serve as a reminder that justice can still be pursued, even for those who wield significant power and influence. While bringing the accused to trial may prove to be a formidable challenge, the legal action taken by France underscores the importance of accountability and the determination to hold international war criminals responsible for their actions.


Source: Independent

Meta Introduces Subscription Fees for European Users in Response to Data Privacy Regulations

Meta Introduces Subscription Fees For European Users In Response To Data Privacy Regulations

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, is rolling out monthly subscription fees for users in Europe on its social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram. This strategic move comes as a response to new European Union regulations aimed at curbing Meta’s data collection practices for personalised advertisements.

The subscription service, named Meta+, offers an ad-free experience on both platforms along with exclusive content. Pricing for the service is set at €9.99 ($10.60) per month for web users and €12.99 ($13.79) for mobile app users. Initially, a single subscription covers all linked accounts. However, starting from March 2024, additional accounts will incur an additional €6 ($6.37) monthly fee for web and €8 ($8.49) for mobile.

This step aligns with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which imposes requirements for user consent in personalised ad data processing. In July, the EU’s Court of Justice ruled that Meta had violated GDPR by transferring user data from Europe to the US without adequate protections. Consequently, Meta stopped using user data for personalised ads in Europe unless explicitly authorised by users.

Meta will continue to offer ad-supported versions of Facebook and Instagram in Europe. Users will have the choice to opt-in to receive personalised ads; otherwise, they will be presented with generic, non-targeted advertisements. Users will also have the flexibility to adjust their settings at any time to influence the types of ads they receive and the data used for targeting.

The subscription service will be launched in Europe in November 2023. Users can sign up for Meta+ either through their Facebook or Instagram accounts or via a dedicated website. Meta plans to closely evaluate user feedback and performance, with the possibility of expanding the subscription service to other regions in the future.

Israeli Forces Escalate Operations in Gaza Strip Amid Reports of Heavy Bombing and Communication Blackout

File Photo: Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Gaza

Israeli air and ground forces have intensified their operations in the Gaza Strip, according to Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesperson. Reports have emerged of heavy bombing in the besieged enclave, accompanied by a disruption of internet and mobile phone services within the Palestinian territory.

Speaking at a televised news briefing, Rear Admiral Hagari stated, “In the last hours, we intensified the attacks in Gaza,” indicating a potential commencement of the long-anticipated ground invasion of the area. The Israeli air force has been conducting extensive strikes on tunnels and other infrastructure, while preparations for expanding ground operations are underway.

The escalation in Israeli military activities comes in response to a deadly attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7. Since then, Israel has been carrying out an intense campaign of aerial bombardment. As tensions rise, Israeli forces have amassed outside Gaza, heightening concerns about a potential ground invasion.

The impact of the intensified operations is evident in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian mobile phone service provider Jawwal reported that phone and internet services have been disrupted due to heavy bombardment. The Palestine Red Crescent Society released a statement expressing complete loss of contact with its operations room in Gaza and its teams on the ground.

While Israel has stated its preparations for a ground invasion, the United States and Arab countries have urged restraint, advocating for a delay in the operation. The concern is that a ground invasion would result in a significant increase in civilian casualties in the densely populated coastal strip, potentially igniting a broader conflict.

The situation in the Gaza Strip remains precarious as the conflict escalates. The international community continues to monitor developments closely, hoping for a de-escalation of tensions and a peaceful resolution to the crisis.


Source: SABC