20 Gazans die in desperate fight for food as crisis deepens

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 27th March 2024

Gazans waited again Tuesday in their hundreds for food to fall from the sky at beaches in the famine-stalked north – a day after nearly 20 died trying to get to parachutes carrying aid. Twelve of them drowned trying to wade into the sea to get aid packages that went astray, according to Hamas authorities and the Swiss-based Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. They were  “young men and children “, witnesses told AFP.  “They didn’t know how to swim. They went and did not return. Six of those who died amid the dunes and rubble on Monday were killed in stampedes, Hamas and Euro-Med said.  “The situation is deeply humiliating. “

 “Everyone is hungry, so there’s chaos to get food, “ said Ahmed Al-Rifi, a mechanic from nearby Gaza City, much of which has been reduced to ruins by months of war, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 massacre.  “Every day people get hurt or even killed fighting to get basic items like flour, canned food, water, lentils, and beans, “ he added.  “We are risking our lives just to receive aid. What should be a humanitarian effort has turned into fights and beatings. The strong take from the weaker ones. Sometimes they use knives or even shoot. Even those who manage to get food risk being robbed on the way home. “ But such is the hunger in northern Gaza, which the United Nations warned is on the brink of a  “man-made famine, “ that every day people are prepared to take the risk.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Tuesday lamented the reports of the drowning deaths of Palestinians who were trying to retrieve the air-dropped aid that landed off the coast of northern Gaza.  “It is a tragedy, “ Miller said when asked about the reports in a briefing.  “It is not just a tragedy that [these] individuals died trying to get aid. It is a tragedy that they felt so desperate that they had to swim out into the ocean to try and retrieve it in the first place. “

Israel and Hamas are almost six months into a war triggered by Hamas’ devastating October 7 attack, when thousands of terrorists killed close to 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted 253 people of all ages to Gaza, where more than half remain. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 32,000 have been killed since October, an unverified figure that does not differentiate between combatants and civilians. The figure cannot be independently checked and includes some 13,000 Hamas terrorists Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Four protesters arrested in Tel Aviv rally after collapse of hostage talks

Four protesters were arrested for public disturbances during Tuesday evening’s rally outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, after the collapse of the latest round of hostage negotiations in Qatar and the return of the Israeli delegation from Doha. The Israel Police said the protest had not been authorised in advance, but was allowed to take place because it was organised by family members of hostages. However, after protesters blocked traffic on the Ayalon Highway, police forces began to disperse the demonstration, upon which four protesters were arrested for violating the dispersal order, the statement says.

Biden heckled over Gaza

Dozens of far-left, pro-Palestinian protesters heckled US President Joe Biden throughout his trip to Raleigh, North Carolina for a campaign event in the battleground state. A group of them managed to briefly interrupt his remarks at an event promoting his administration’s healthcare agenda by shouting,  “What about healthcare in Gaza? “  “Everybody deserves healthcare, “ Biden responds. One of the protesters then shouts,  “Ceasefire now! “ To which, Biden answers,  “They have a point… We need to get a lot more care into Gaza. “  “Women are being raped! “ another extremist protester shouts, apparently referring to claims reported on Al Jazeera. The hecklers annoyed the crowd, which sought to shout them down, but Biden responded,  “Be patient with them, “ before carrying on with his remarks.

Pentagon presents alternative to Israel’s plan to assault Rafah

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant yesterday that civilian casualties in Gaza are  “too high “ and suggested alternatives to a major Israeli operation in the territory’s south. A separate Israeli delegation was supposed to visit Washington to discuss US concerns over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to launch an assault on the southern city of Rafah, where much of Gaza’s population has sought refuge. But Israel scrapped that visit after the United States abstained in a Monday vote on a UN Security Council resolution that called for a Gaza ceasefire, allowing it to pass.  “In Gaza today, the number of civilian casualties is far too high, and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low, “ Austin said at the beginning of the meeting. He presented an alternative vision to Israel’s stated plan to assault Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where more than one million Gazans have fled. The discussion between Austin and Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant came as negotiations over a cease-fire and hostage release hit an apparent impasse.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with Israel’s offensive and blasted a UN Security Council resolution calling for a pause in the fighting, saying it had emboldened Hamas to reject a separate proposal for a cease-fire and hostage release. Netanyahu has said Israel can achieve its aims of dismantling Hamas and returning scores of hostages if it expands its ground offensive to the southern city of Rafah, where over half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge, many in crowded tent camps. Hamas has said it will hold onto the hostages until Israel agrees to a more permanent cease-fire, withdraws its forces from Gaza and releases hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including top militants. Netanyahu said in a statement Israel will not surrender to Hamas’ delusional demands and will continue to act to achieve all the goals of the war: releasing all the hostages, destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and ensuring that Gaza will never again be a threat to Israel. “

Baltimore Bridge stood no chance after it was hit by cargo ship

The dramatic collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge after being struck by a container ship as large as the MV Dali was inevitable, The New York Post quotes an engineering expert saying. The Singapore-flagged vessel rammed into one of the bridge’s pivotal points in the early hours of Tuesday, causing the nearly 50-year-old steel structure to crash into the Patapsco River. Ben Schafer, a structural engineering professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that he doesn’t believe most bridges would have withstood the impact of a modern cargo ship.

The Baltimore Bridge collapse sent cars plunging into the water in what was quickly declared a mass-casualty event. Six workers were presumed dead Tuesday evening after the catastrophic collapse, Jeff Pritzker, executive vice president at Brawner Builders, told The Baltimore Sun. Two people have been rescued, authorities said during a mid-morning conference. The mission, which includes an active marine search operation, first started with 50 personnel and sonar has been used to track vehicles found in the water, Baltimore City Fire Department Chief James W. Wallace told CNN. Air, land and sea resources are being used in the search-and-rescue mission to find at least six people missing after the bridge collapse, Gov. Wes Moore said at the presser with Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg.

A safety investigation into the bridge collapse will include whether contaminated fuel was a factor in a cargo ship losing power and crashing into the bridge. Fox News reports. Investigators had not boarded the ship as of late Tuesday while it remained stuck on a pillar of the collapsed bridge, and the vessel could stay there for weeks. “The vessel went dead, no steering power and no electronics,” an officer aboard the ship said Tuesday. “One of the engines coughed and then stopped. The smell of burned fuel was everywhere in the engine room and it was pitch black.”

Cargo ship had “serious power outages

A port worker has said the cargo ship that rammed the Baltimore Bridge was experiencing technical issues for two days before the crash. Julie Mitchell, Co-Administrator of Container Royal, which tracks the tonnage on container ships in Baltimore port, told ITV News the ship was  “having serious power outages”. She said:  “The reefer boxes were tripping the breakers or mechanics that were keeping the generators running while they were trying to fix the ship. They had a severe electrical problem.” The ship’s operators reported losing power moments before the collision. While it is unclear why the ship did not stop, video shows all the lights on the huge vessel turning black seconds before hitting the bridge.

The ‘Dali’ had passed two inspections in 2023

The container ship that crashed into the Baltimore bridge, knocking it down, causing numerous injuries, while six workers are still missing, passed two inspections in 2023. The port authority of Singapore announced this early this morning, underlining that the certifications attesting to the structural integrity and equipment of MV Dali were valid at the time of the accident. The cargo vessel flies the Singapore flag, is 48 metres wide and 300 meters long and was built in 2015. She was heading to Colombo and should have arrived at her destination on April 22.

US, UK, and Ukraine behind Moscow attack” – Russian FSB

The director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov, said on Tuesday that the US, UK and Ukraine were behind the Moscow concert hall attack that killed at least 139 people on Friday – despite repeated claims of responsibility by the Islamic State. Russian officials persisted in saying Ukraine and the West had a role in last week’s deadly Moscow concert hall attack despite vehement denials of involvement by Kyiv and a claim of responsibility by an affiliate of the Islamic State group. Without offering any evidence, Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, followed similar allegations by President Vladimir Putin, linked the attack to Ukraine even as he acknowledged that the suspects arrested were  “radical Islamists”. The IS affiliate claimed it carried out the attack, and US intelligence said it had information confirming the group was responsible. French President Emmanuel Macron said France also had intelligence pointing to  “an IS entity” as responsible for the attack.

“Kiev trains Islamists in the Middle East

Bortnikov also accused Ukraine of training Islamist militants in the Middle East. According to the head of Russia’s domestic intelligence service, quoted by Tass, this is evidenced by the large number of foreigners fighting with Kiev’s forces.  “They are nationalists, mercenaries, Islamists that the country brings to fight against Russia,” added the head of the FSB, without making direct reference to the four arrested for the attack in Moscow but underlining that Ukrainian representatives visited terrorist bases in the Middle East.

Trump hit with gag order in New York ‘hush-money’ criminal trial

Donald Trump was barred Tuesday from publicly bashing witnesses, prosecutors, court staff and jurors in his upcoming “hush money” criminal trial in New York. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan issued the limited gag order, citing Trump’s extensive history of ripping prosecutors, court staff and even people sitting on secret grand juries with “threatening” barbs in press conferences and on social media. “Such inflammatory, extrajudicial statements undoubtedly risk impeding the orderly administration of this court.”

Trump selling $60 ‘God Bless the USA’ bibles

Meanwhile, Trump announced on his social media platform, Truth Social, that he was partnering with country musician Lee Greenwood to sell  “God Bless the USA” Bibles ahead of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  “Happy Holy Week! Let’s Make America Pray Again. As we lead into Good Friday and Easter, I encourage you to get a copy of the God Bless The USA Bible,” Trump wrote in a post. The former president said every American needs to have a Bible in their home and added that he has many copies himself. “All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many. It’s my favourite book,” Trump said in his video posted on Truth Social. “I’m proud to endorse and encourage you to get this Bible. We must make America pray again.” The Bible will also feature the United States Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, The Pledge of Allegiance, as well as a handwritten chorus of  “God Bless The USA”, according to the website.

Shares in Donald Trump’s social media business soared on their stock market debut in New York yesterday – valuing the former US president’s stake at nearly £5billion. Trump Media & Technology Group, which is behind his Truth Social platform, rose almost 60 per cent to $79 on the Nasdaq in early trading. That gave the company a value of over £7billion – making Trump’s 58 per cent stake worth £4.9billion.

UK court grants Assange reprieve in US extradition fight

The British high court ruled Tuesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be immediately extradited to the US on espionage charges unless officials in Washington guarantee he won’t face the death penalty and that he is afforded the same free speech protection as American citizens. The ruling is a partial legal win for Australian-born Assange in his long battle over the website’s role in the publication of thousands of classified US military and intelligence documents.

The website, which he launched in 2006, rose to prominence in 2010 when it published a classified video provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Recorded three years prior, it showed a US military helicopter killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in Baghdad. When a van arrived to pick up the wounded, it was also shot at. More than 10 people were killed. Manning was convicted at a court-martial of espionage and other charges in 2013 for leaking secret military files to WikiLeaks. She was sentenced to 35 years, but was released in 2017 after President Obama commuted her sentence.

Japan nappy maker shifts from babies to adults

A Japanese nappy maker has announced that it will stop producing diapers for babies in the country and, instead, focus on the market for adults. The BBC reports Oji Holdings is the latest firm to make such a shift in a rapidly ageing Japan, where birth rates are at a record low. Sales of adult nappies outpaced those for infants in the country for more than a decade. The number of babies born in Japan in 2023 – 758,631 – was down by 5.1 per cent from the previous year. It was also the lowest number of births on record in Japan since the 19th Century. In the 1970s, that figure stood at more than two million.

British Museum sues former curator over stolen artifacts

The British Museum sued a former curator on Tuesday, alleging that he stole hundreds of artifacts from its collections and offered them for sale online. Peter Higgs was fired last July after the museum discovered that more than 1,800 artifacts were stolen or missing. The museum, one of the most well-funded and famous galleries in the world, found itself at the eye of a storm after gold jewellery and semi-precious stones dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD were declared stolen or missing early last year. The director of the museum also resigned last year. The Museum told the court Higgs sold the stolen gems to at least 45 buyers on eBay.

Photo: AP

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