Entire Gaza population facing hunger – UN report

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 22nd December 2023

A UN-backed report warns that the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza is facing crisis levels of “catastrophic hunger and starvation” and the risk of famine is increasing each day, a United Nations-backed report says. The proportion of households in Gaza affected by high levels of acute food insecurity is the largest ever recorded globally, according to the report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) published on Thursday. The extent of hunger in Gaza has eclipsed even the near-famines in Afghanistan and Yemen of recent years, according to figures in the report. “I have never seen anything at the scale that is happening in Gaza and at this speed – how quickly it has happened in just a matter of two months,” said World Food Programme’s chief economist, Arif Husain. “Everybody in Gaza is hungry”.

Hamas leader says hostage deal is “all or nothing”

Hamas’s de-facto leader said he will only agree to a new truce if it guarantees the release of all Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails, according to reports. Al Arabi Al Jadidi, a Qatari newspaper, has quoted an unnamed Egyptian official saying the “leadership of Hamas” had rejected Israel’s offer of a temporary truce in exchange for the release of several dozen Israeli hostages. Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in Gaza, insisted on a lasting ceasefire and all Palestinian prisoners being released, including several high-profile figures, the newspaper reported. Sinwar also reportedly demanded that Israel halt its combat operations in Gaza before the deal goes into effect. Hamas later on Thursday said it would reject any deals to free more hostages until Israel stops bombing Gaza. “If Israel wants its prisoners alive, then it has no other options but to stop the aggression and the war,” said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing. Meanwhile, Israeli media quoted an unnamed senior Israeli official saying there were no discussions under way on a possible hostage release.

Photo: Samar Abu Elouf/The New York Times

UN Security Council again delays Gaza vote

The UN Security Council has again delayed the vote on the resolution urging scaled-up humanitarian aid access to Gaza after another day of intense negotiations. Al Jazeera reports Security Council members continued to meet behind closed doors to go over the fine print on the draft resolution and, according to diplomatic sources, three major changes have been suggested. Diplomatic sources told Al Jazeera that both the Russian and Palestinian ambassadors are not pleased with these changes and negotiations continue to go on behind closed doors and, according to some diplomatic sources, they characterise the negotiations as, at times, being tense.

Photo: Getty

Israel says it killed 8,000 Hamas gunmen

Israeli Army spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says that since the end of the temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on 1st December, the military has killed more than 2,000 Hamas operatives in strikes and during ground combat. This brings the military’s estimates of Hamas fighters killed in the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the war to around 8,000. Another 1,000 Hamas terrorists were killed in Israel on 7th October.

Photo: Israel Defense Forces

Freight inflation soars following Red Sea crisis

With 158 vessels carrying approximately $105 billion in ocean freight being diverted away from the Red Sea amid the risk of continuing Houthis’ attacks, cargo prices are soaring. CNBC reports that just when Covid supply chain inflation seemed vanquished, ocean freight rates are increasing 40% on some trade routes and container prices reaching $10,000, with some logistics executives concerned about “opportunistic” price gouging. IKEA, one of the companies to say there will be delays in products reaching stores, tells CNBC it is reviewing options to move freight, while Danone is disputing reports that it is experiencing short-term supply chain delays.

Photo: Reuters

Italian MPs reject reform of eurozone rescue fund

Italy’s lower house of parliament voted on Thursday against a long-awaited reform of the Eurozone bailout fund, throwing into doubt the ratification of a European Union agreement that is designed to provide help for failing banks. Reuters reports the vote confirmed the deep hostility within Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s ruling coalition to the overhaul of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which has been approved by all other Eurozone countries except Italy. Meloni and Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti were not in the chamber on Thursday for the debate and subsequent vote, which saw a Opposition motion to approve a reform of the eurozone’s bailout fund defeated by 184 votes against to 72 in favour, with 44 abstentions. Fratelli d’Italia and Giorgetti’s La Lega both voted against, whilst the other main coalition group, Forza Italia, abstained. Movimento Cinque Stelle also opposed the motion.

Paschal Donohoe, president of Eurogroup, said he regretted the outcome and would continue to engage on the issue with the Italian authorities in the coming months. “The finalisation of the ESM Treaty reform is a key element of our common safety net in the euro area, to the benefit of all euro area member countries,” he said in a statement.

14 killed in Prague University shooting

A student opened fire on Thursday at a university in Prague, killing at least 14 people and injuring more than 20 in the Czech Republic’s worst mass shooting, officials said. The bloodshed took place at Charles University, and the shooter was a student. The gunman also died, authorities said. Authorities warned that the death toll could rise. Police gave no possible motive for the shooting. Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala addressed the nation later in the evening and said the government  had declared Saturday a national day of mourning to honor the shooting victims.

Photo: Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images

Argentina: a new night of protests

Another night of protests in Argentina against the mega decree on deregulation and privatisation issued by the new President Javier Milei. Thousands of people took to the streets not only in Buenos Aires, but also in Cordoba, Rosario, Santa Fe, and Mar del Plata. Clashes between police and demonstrators were recorded in Cordoba, where the police used spray and tear gas to disperse a spontaneous gathering in the Patio Olmos square. Despite the street protests and the assessment of unconstitutionality by the main opponents, the government is determined to continue the parliamentary process of the decree. The unions have announced a protest demonstration against the government for Wednesday and the presentation of an unconstitutionality complaint to justice.

Rudy Giuliani files for bankruptcy

Rudy Giuliani filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, acknowledging severe financial strain exacerbated by his pursuit of former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election and a jury’s verdict last week requiring him to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election workers he defamed. The former New York City mayor listed nearly $153 million in existing or potential debts, including almost $1 million in state and federal tax liabilities, money he owes lawyers, and many millions of dollars in potential judgments in lawsuits against him.

Photo: Luis Magana/AP

I’ll beat Trump alone, I don’t need judges, says Nikki Haley

“I will defeat Donald Trump on my own, I don’t need a judge to remove him from the primaries, Republican candidate for the White House Nikki Haley said when commenting on the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify the former president from the 2024 primaries. “I don’t think Trump should be President, I think I should be President. The country would be much better off if I were.” Haley then slammed the Colorado Court’s decision, branding it a “threat to democracy”. The former governor of South Carolina is rising in the polls and is also ahead of Ron DeSantis.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach get married in secret

After 12 years of living together and having two children together, Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig are husband and wife. The filmmaking couple behind Barbie, the film phenomenon of the summer of 2023, got married in secret and the news has only now been leaked to the American media. They met on the set of Greenberg, directed by Baunbach, and worked together in Mistress America and Frances Ha, for which they wrote the screenplay together, with Noah directing and Greta in the lead role. Baumbach, who has directed films such as the autobiographical The Squid and The Whale and Netflix’s Marriage Story, has previously been married and has a son with Jennifer Jason Leigh. For Barbie, he and Greta wrote the screenplay during the pandemic without knowing if the film would actually come to fruition. Barbie became a phenomenon, the box office champion of the year, with a box office of $1.4 billion and the potential to enter more than five at the Oscars.

Photo: HT News Service

Major new format announced for European Super League

The European Super League has been revamped with a new tournament format after court ruling stopped UEFA from blocking breakaway competition. The fresh proposal for the men’s European Super League (ESL) features a pan-European pyramid with three tiers: the Star League, the Gold League (both with 16 clubs each), and the Blue League (comprising 32 clubs). Participation is based on sporting merit, and there are no permanent members in the league. There will be annual promotion and relegation between leagues. However, promotion to the third-tier Blue League is contingent on domestic league performance. Clubs will engage in home and away matches organised in groups of eight, ensuring a minimum of 14 matches per year. At the season’s end, a knockout stage will determine champions for each league and clubs to be promoted. The proposal assures no increase in match calendar days beyond existing competitions, and mid-week matches will not disrupt domestic league calendars. In the inaugural year, clubs will be selected based on transparent performance criteria. The competition will also have a women’s competition with two leagues of 16 clubs each. The new format follows the European Union’s top court ruling against FIFA and UEFA in the ESL case, saying that their rules demanding prior approval for establishing a new competition and prohibiting clubs and players from playing in them were “unlawful”.

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