Dutch far-right books landslide victory – exit poll

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Thursday, 23rd November 2023

Far-right, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders, who has vowed to halt all immigration to the Netherlands, is headed for a massive parliamentary election victory, according an exit poll which indicates that his Party for Freedom (PVV) has garnered 35 of 150 seats. That means the PVV is 10 seats ahead of the closest rival, former EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans’ Labour/Green Left combination. That margin was far greater than expected and appears to be too great for the outcome to change. Although the PVV triumphed in the exit poll, it is not clear if Wilders would be able to garner the necessary support for a broad enough coalition to form a workable government.

Mixed reactions to Wilders’ win

Hard-right figures across Europe were quick to congratulate Geert Wilders, including Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Italy’s Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen, who said the result confirmed voters’ “growing attachment to the defence of national identities”. Representatives of Moroccans living in the Netherlands reacted with apprehension, given that Wilders had previously called their countrymen “scum”, while the Dutch wing of Friends of the Earth said “a Wilders government will mean four years of climate change denial, exclusion, and a breakdown of the rule of law”.

Photo credit: Reuters

WHO asks China about pneumonia outbreak in children

China has reported an outbreak of influenza-like illness mostly among children, prompting the World Health Organisation (WHO) to seek more details from the country about the mysterious outbreak. According to reports, Chinese hospitals are “overwhelmed with sick children” who have symptoms of respiratory illness. WHO said Chinese authorities reported an increase in respiratory diseases in the country, attributing this to the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions. WHO has sought additional information on recent trends in the circulation of known pathogens, including influenza, SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that gives rise to Covid-19), RSV affecting infants, and Mycoplasma pneumonia, as well as on the degree of overcrowding in the health system, the statement added.

Car blast near Niagara Falls shuts down US-Canada crossing

A car erupted into a fireball at a US-Canada checkpoint near Niagara Falls yesterday, killing the two occupants, triggering border closures and sparking a massive security alert on the eve of a major holiday. New York Governor Kathy Hochul confirmed the two fatalities in the blast at the checkpoint, 640 kilometres northwest of New York City. A border guard and a passerby were injured slightly. Authorities don’t know what caused the explosion. Fox News was the first to talk about a terrorist attack, citing informed sources. But New York Governor Hochul said nothing pointed to a “terrorist” attack. The FBI defined the situation as “very fluid” but Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau evoked “a very serious situation”. The US said it was monitoring the situation.

Photo credit: AP

‘Hostage release now on Friday’ – Israelis

There will be no halt to the fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers “before Friday”, an Israeli official told AFP and other news outlets early Thursday after a hostage release deal was pushed back by a day. AFP, BBC, and Haaretz are reporting  there would be “no pause” in the fighting before Friday, delaying a widely-anticipated lull which had been expected to start at 10am local time. The deal was scheduled to come into force Thursday morning. Haaretz also reported the Israeli Supreme Court has rejected a petition against the agreement with Hamas that challenged the release of Palestinian detainees under the agreement in exchange for the release of hostages.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Gaza Strip: ‘the most dangerous place in the world to be a child’

The Gaza Strip is the “most dangerous place in the world to be a child,” according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The agency’s executive director, Catherine Russell, told the UN Security Council that more than 5,300 Palestinian children had reportedly been killed since 7th October. “The true cost of this latest war in Palestine and Israel will be measured in children’s lives – those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it. Without an end to the fighting and full humanitarian access, the cost will continue to grow exponentially.”

Photo caption: REUTERS/ Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Hezbollah fighters killed in Israeli airstrike

The Lebanese Hezbollah group announced early Thursday that five of its fighters, including Abbas Raad, the son of the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Raad. Throughout Wednesday, the Israeli army and Hezbollah exchanged fire across the border. Hezbollah said Wednesday that it would abide by the four-day humanitarian pause between Israel and Hamas in Gaza even though it was not part of the deal.

Yemen’s Houthis launch missiles at Israel

Yemen’s Houthi rebels said that they launched a batch of long-range large missiles toward southern Israel, including the Red Sea city of Eilat. The Iran-backed rebel group has launched at least six aerial attacks against Israel since the conflict broke out on 7th October. The Houthi are staunch foes of Israel and have vowed to continue aerial attacks and hijackings of Israeli ships.

89,000 women killed intentionally worldwide in 2022 – UN

Nearly 89,000 women and girls were killed intentionally in 2022 worldwide, a new research by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women reveals. This was the highest number recorded annually over the past two decades, up from 81,100 victims in 2021. Data currently available for 2022 suggests that the increase in femicides occurred despite a decline in the overall number of homicides. The UN research reports 55 per cent (48,800) of all feminicides, are committed by family members or partners, which, on average, means that more than 133 women or girls were killed in their own homes every day. In contrast, only 12 per cent of murders against men are perpetrated within the home. For the first time since UNODC began publishing regional estimates in 2013, in 2022 Africa overtook Asia to become the region with the highest number of victims both in total (20,000) and in relation to the size of its female population (2.8 victims per 100,000 women). Femicides committed by partners or family members also increased in North America by 29 per cent between 2017 and 2022, in part due to improved recording practices. However, they have decreased by 21 per cent in Europe since 2010.

Argentina’s ‘Green Handkerchiefs’ to defend abortion

The season of protests against the political proposals of the future government of the ultra-liberal Javier Milei in Argentina will begin even before the inauguration scheduled for 10th December. The National Movement for the Right to Abortion has called a demonstration for 25th November with the slogan “Ni un paso atrás” (“Not even a step back”). The ‘Green Handkerchiefs’ initiative is in response to the declarations of a deputy from La Libertà Avanza, who announced that the repeal of the law on voluntary termination of pregnancy will be a priority on the government’s parliamentary agenda. “We call to demonstrate the 25th November throughout the national territory against all forms of violence against women, lesbians, transvestites, trans, bisexuals, intersexuals, and non-binary people. We continue to organise ourselves to defend the rights we have won and continue to fight for the rights that are missing”, reads a statement from the movement.

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