17,000 Gaza children separated from families – UN

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Saturday, 3rd February 2024

At least 17,000 children in the Gaza Strip have been left unaccompanied or separated from their families nearly four months into Israel’s assault on the enclave, the United Nations children’s agency estimates. Nearly all children in the strip also require mental health support, UNICEF said on Friday. “Each [child] has a heartbreaking story of loss and grief,” said Jonathan Crickx, UNICEF’s chief of communication for the occupied Palestinian territories. “This [17,000] figure corresponds to one per cent of the overall displaced population – 1.7 million people,” he told a media briefing via video-link from Jerusalem, saying the number was an estimation as it is near impossible to verify information under current conditions. Each one “is a child who is coming to terms with a horrible new reality,” he added. Crickx said that tracing who the unaccompanied children were was proving “extremely difficult”, as they were sometimes brought to a hospital wounded or in shock, and “they simply can’t even say their names”.

He said that during conflicts, it was common for extended families to take care of children who lost their parents. However, in Gaza, “due to the sheer lack of food, water or shelter, extended families are themselves distressed and face challenges to immediately take care of another child as they themselves are struggling to cater for their own children and family,” said Crickx. Broadly, UNICEF terms separated children as those who are without their parents, while unaccompanied children are those who are separated and also without other relatives.

Crickx also said the mental health of children in Gaza was being severely affected by the offensive, and that a million children in the Gaza Strip require mental health support. Children in Gaza “present symptoms like extremely high levels of persistent anxiety, loss of appetite, they can’t sleep, they have emotional outbursts or panic every time they hear the bombings,” he explained. Before the assault erupted, UNICEF estimated that more than 500,000 children in Gaza needed mental health and psycho-social support. Now, it believes that “almost all children are in need” of such help. “That’s more than one million children,” Crickx said.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, Israeli attacks have killed more than 27,100 people in Gaza since the war began on October 7, around 11,500 of them children. More than 66,200 others have been wounded amid a severe lack of medical supplies and functioning healthcare facilities. Thousands more are missing and are under the rubble. With Israeli ground troops encircling most of northern, central, and eastern Gaza, families have been forced to flee their homes several times since the war began. Many are now crammed in the southern Rafah governorate, which Israel has said is its next target of attack.

Many who fled their homes have been shot at and arrested. Those who make it to the south often have no contact with their relatives or caregivers in other parts of the enclave, especially during times of communication blackouts. “Children don’t have anything to do with this conflict. Yet they are suffering like no child should ever suffer,” said Crickx. “No child should ever be exposed to the level of violence seen on October 7 – or to the level of violence that we have witnessed since then.” He called for a ceasefire so that UNICEF could conduct a proper count of children who are unaccompanied or separated, trace relatives, and deliver mental health support.

Israel has gone too far in war in Gaza’ – US poll

Half of US adults say Israel’s 15-week-old military campaign in Gaza has “gone too far” – a finding driven mainly by growing disapproval among Republicans and political independents, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research. Broadly, the poll shows support for Israel and the Biden administration’s handling of the situation ebbing slightly further across the board. The poll shows 31 per cent of US adults approve of Biden’s handling of the conflict, including just 46 per cent of Democrats. That’s as an earlier spike in support for Israel following the Hamas attacks October 7 sags. The US has become increasingly isolated in its support of Israel as the Palestinian death toll rises past 27,000, with two-thirds of the victims women and children. The Biden administration says it is pressing Israel to reduce its killing of civilians and allow in more humanitarian aid.

800 European, US officials denounce Israel

More than 800 American and European diplomats and officials have signed a “transatlantic” document in which they accuse Israel of “serious violations of international law” in the context of the military response against the Gaza Strip to the October Hamas attack and ask the respective governments a more decisive reaction. Otherwise, they write in a text seen among others by the BBC, there is “the risk of becoming complicit in one of the most serious humanitarian catastrophes of the century” – potentially leading to scenarios of “ethnic cleansing and genocide”.

Biden joins grieving families of US troops killed in Jordan

Standing solemnly under gray skies, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden joined grieving families at Dover Air Force Base on Friday to witness the return of three American service members killed in last weekend’s drone attack in Jordan. It’s a ritual honouring fallen troops that is one of a commander-in-chief’ s most sombre duties. With his gloved right hand over his heart, Biden looked on as the three transfer coffins draped with American flags were carried the short distance from a C-5 galaxy military transport aircraft to a waiting hearse. Before the dignified transfer, the Bidens met privately with the families at the Centre for Families of the Fallen on the base. The president had also spoken with them earlier this week to offer his condolences. The only words spoken during the 15-minute dignified transfer, aside from the commands as each coffin was carried, were from an Air Force chaplain’s brief prayer, asking God for “grace and mercy”. Once the seven-member, white-gloved carry team – composed of members of the US Army, in which the three solders served – placed the last of the coffins in the hearse, they offered a final salute as the remains were transported to the mortuary facility at Dover.

US hits hard at militias in Iraq and Syria in retaliation

The US military launched an air assault on dozens of sites in Iraq and Syria used by Iranian-backed militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Friday, in the opening salvo of retaliation for the drone strike that killed three US troops in Jordan last weekend. The massive barrage of strikes hit more than 85 targets at seven locations, including command and control headquarters, intelligence centres, rockets and missiles, drone and ammunition storage sites and other facilities that were connected to the militias or the IRGC’s Quds Force, the Guard’s expeditionary unit that handles Tehran’s relationship with and arming of regional militias. And President Joe Biden made it clear in a statement that there will be more to come. The US strikes appeared to stop short of directly targeting Iran or senior leaders of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force within its borders, as the US tries to prevent the conflict from escalating even further. Iran has denied it was behind the Jordan attack.

Hamas says it’s studying Gaza cease-fire proposal

Hamas officials said Friday that the group was studying a proposed cease-fire deal that would include prolonged pauses in fighting in Gaza and exchanges of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners – but the militants appeared to rule out some key components. Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ top political leader, and Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, said the group remains committed to its initial demands for a permanent cease-fire. Hamdan also said the group seeks the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held for acts related to the conflict with Israel, including those serving life sentences. He mentioned two by name, including Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian uprising leader seen as a unifying figure. Hamdan’s comments on the prisoners were the most detailed demands yet raised by the group in public. The insistence on large-scale prisoner releases and an end to the fighting in Gaza put the group at odds with the multi-stage proposal that officials from Egypt, Israel, Qatar and the United States put forth this week. That proposal does not include a permanent cease-fire. The Ties of Israel rpeeorts that Hamas leaqders are reportedly at odds over the proposed hostage release deal.

Trump attacks Federal Reserve chief

Former US President Donald Trump has lashed out at the head of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, accusing him of “favouring the Democrats” and threatening to “replace him” if he returns to the White House. It was the tycoon who appointed him to lead the US Central Bank in 2017. “I wouldn’t do it again,” he said in a Fox News interview airing Sunday. “I think he will lower interest rates to help the Democrats,” Trump declared. When he was in the White House, Trump exerted unprecedented public pressure on Powell to cut interest rates in order to revive the market and have an advantage over China and Europe.

Libya considers increase in oil production

Libya is considering increasing its oil production. This was agreed during a meeting, according to ‘Libya Update’, by the governor of the Central Bank Al Siddiq al Kabir, the president of the Audit Bureau of Libya, Khaled Shakshak, and the president of the National Oil Corporation, Farhat Bengdara. The three met in the presence of the deputy governor of the financial institution, Marai al Barasi, and numerous consultants and experts and defined a mechanism to finance the development projects presented by the corporation, as well as presenting solutions to address the methods of supplying the fuel. At the same meeting, the issue of the water crisis in the coastal city of Zliten, in western Libya, was also addressed, affirming support for the efforts of the Government of National Unity (GUN, based in Tripoli) and the contribution of the National Oil Corporation to address the crisis

EU agreement on ‘the right to repair directive’

The European Council and the European Parliament have reached a provisional agreement on the directive promoting the repair of broken or defective goods, also known as’ the right to repair (or R2R) directive’. The legislation will make it easier for consumers to request repair rather than replacement, making access to repair services simpler, quicker, transparent and more attractive. The reform will apply to all products with repair requirements under EU law. It establishes the repair obligation for manufacturers of goods with repair requirements, establishes a European information module that provides consumers with key repair service data and unifies national repair information platforms into a European online platform. Among the new rights for European consumers will come the possibility to ask manufacturers to repair technically-repairable products, such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners or mobile phones. There will be a European repair information form that repairers can offer to consumers, with clear information such as repair conditions, repair times, prices, replacement products. A European online repair platform is planned to facilitate meetings between consumers and repairers and a 12-month extension of the seller’s liability period after a product has been repaired. The provisional agreement reached Friday by the Council and Parliament, however, maintains the consumer’s right to choose between repair and replacement when a product is broken or defective.

Salis case in Monday’s session of European Parliament

The Ilaria Salis case is at the top of the agenda of next week’s plenary session of the European Parliament. MEPs in Strasbourg will, on Monday afternoon, debate the case of the Italian citizen detained in Hungary. Ilaria Salis is a 39-year-old teacher from Monza who is in prison in Budapest, accused of participating in an assault against two neo-Nazis. Her story has become a real political case, drawing also in a meeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni. The trial has now started and will continue on May 24. The Milanese anti-fascist activist declared herself not guilty and now risks more than 11 years in prison. Salis was seen in court being led by a guard with a chain in hand. She was also handcuffed and her legs shackled limiting her movement, in what the Italian government described as “humiliating conditions”. “Hungary is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, therefore Ilaria Salis’ conditions are a problem that also concerns the rule of law in Hungary”, explained MEP Mercedes Bresso, during the pre-plenary briefing of Italian MEPs.

Belgian Prime Minister to farmers: ‘No more blockades, talk’

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has appealed to farmers to remove roadblocks, which have been ongoing for days across the country. “The signal has been given,” said De Croo, at the helm of the rotating EU presidency, to the microphones of the broadcaster Vrt. “We have received it both at federal and EU level. There is a commitment to continue working together in the coming weeks. I think the time has come to remove the blocks. Our approach was to start consultations while others asked us to send the army,” he underlined, hoping for “dialogue”.

Brazil river turns bright green, kills off fish in algae invasion

A Brazil river has turned bright green after an invasion of toxic algae. The Tiete River, which runs for more than 1,000km through Sao Paulo state, is said to be suffering from an uncontrolled spreading of microp-algae and water hyacinth. Grim video footage captured along a stretch in Novo Horizonte by environmentalists shows the thick, syrup-like algae clinging to the oars of a boat as it navigates the waterway. Other images show scores of dead fish washed up on the river’s banks, said to have been killed by a change in the oxygen balance in the water caused by the pollution. The river, the most important commercial waterway in the region, used to teem with fish and wildlife. Environmentalists say decades of industrial pollution and developments like hydroelectric power stations, have degraded the river. Human waste and farming fertiliser, combined with rising temperatures, caused the rapid growth of green algae. As algae toxins are released into the water they kill off fish and animals in huge numbers and can even spread through the air to humans living by polluted waterways.

Football: Laporta reveals European Super League teams

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has revealed the 15 clubs that are ‘ready to join’ the European Super League project and is hopeful that the league can be launched next season. It comes after A22 management co-founder Anas Laghrari recently claimed that 20 teams around Europe had already agreed to join the breakaway competition. After talk of the European Super League had gone quiet over the past year, A22, the company spearheading the ambitious project, announced their plans for a revamped 64-team competition in December. It came following a ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that UEFA and FIFA had acted against competition laws in their attempts to block a European Super League. But Barcelona president Laporta has named 15 clubs are reportedly interested and told Catalan radio station RAC 1 that the competition ‘may exist next season or 2025-26.’ He added: ‘If not I will think about it because UEFA is also interested in keeping Barça in the ECA (Association of European Clubs).’ The 15 teams are: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Napoli, Roma, Marseille, Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, Porto, Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Club Brugge and Anderlecht

Main photo: AP

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