EU lawmakers back conditional ceasefire in Gaza

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 19th January 2024

EU lawmakers back conditional ceasefire in Gaza

In a resolution that analysts said “showed significant support for Israel”, the European Parliament has called for a permanent ceasefire after all hostages are “immediately and unconditionally released” and “the terrorist organisation Hamas is dismantled”. The resolution was adopted by 312 votes in favour, 131 against and 72 abstentions. At the same time, the MEPs denounced “the disproportionate Israeli military response, which has caused a civilian death toll on an unprecedented scale”. They also called for full humanitarian access throughout the Gaza Strip, and for a “European initiative to put the two-state solution back on track”. Moreover, they backed the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The MEPs said the “occupation of the Palestinian territories” must end, while calling for terrorists to be held to account. They also expressed strong support for the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice and called for “those responsible for terrorist acts and for violations of international law to be held to account”.

‘Arab nations develop plan to end war’

Arab states are working on an initiative to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages in Gaza as part of a broader plan that could offer Israel a normalisation of relations if it agrees to “irreversible” steps towards the creation of a Palestinian state, the Financial Times reports. A senior Arab official said they hoped to present the plan – which could include the prize of Saudi Arabia formalising ties with Israel – within a few weeks in an effort to end the Israel-Hamas war and prevent a wider conflict erupting in the Middle East. Arab officials have discussed the plan with the US and European governments. It would include western nations agreeing to formally recognise a Palestinian state, or supporting the Palestinians being granted full membership of the UN.

The initiative comes as Israel faces mounting international pressure to end its offensive in besieged Gaza, with the US stepping up diplomatic efforts to prevent a broader conflagration and pushing for a longer-term resolution to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday described the war in Gaza as “gut-wrenching”, adding that what was needed was a Palestinian state “that gives people what they want and works with Israel to be effective”. Some 25,000 Palestinians, about 70 per cent of them women, children, and adolescents, have been killed in Israeli bombardments in Gaza, according to the Hamas government.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Washington, Reema Bandar Al Saud, told the World Economic Forum in Davos that progress toward normalisation with Israel will only be possible if there is a ceasefire in Gaza and if a process is launched creating a clear pathway to a Palestinian state. “The kingdom has been quite clear: while there is violence on the ground and the killing persists, we cannot talk about the next day.” Princess Reema elaborated on the Saudi position, saying that “cooler heads must prevail”. “There’s trauma and pain on both sides. I can’t take that back. But what we can do is ceasefire now.” Princess Reema says she is “profoundly concerned” about escalation that could send the region “back to the stone age”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads a far-right government opposed to Palestinian statehood, repeated his long-standing opposition to a two-state solution. He said in a televised news conference that a Palestinian state would become a launching pad for attacks on Israel. He said Israel “must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” adding: “And I put the brakes on the attempt to coerce us to a reality that would endanger the state of Israel.”

Houthis claim new attack on a US ship

The Houthis have claimed another attack against an American ship in the Gulf of Aden. The pro-Iranian movement that governs Yemen said in a statement it launched “naval missiles” against an American ship, the Chem Ranger, on Thursday. “The Yemeni armed forces confirm that retaliation for American and British attacks is inevitable and that any new aggression will not go unpunished,” reads the note. “We will not give up targeting Israeli ships or ships heading towards ports in occupied Palestine… in support of the Palestinian people,” the group’s spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam told Al Jazeera TV, adding that they would respond to new strikes on Yemen by the United States or Britain.

Biden admits strikes not halting Houthi attacks

US President Joe Biden has pledged to continue strikes against Yemen’s Houthis even as he admitted that military action against the rebel group has failed to halt attacks on commercial shipping. Biden made his remarks on Thursday after the US conducted its fifth round of strikes against targets in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. US Central Command said it had destroyed two anti-ship missiles after determining they were an “imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region”.

New European mission in the Red Sea

Italy is working with France and Germany on “a new European mission, Aspis, which will incorporate Emasoh Agenore, already operational in the Strait of Hormuz, and will also operate in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden” for the safety of maritime transit. Answering questions in the Senate, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said: “Countries that are not members of the European Union could also participate. Our objective is to make a political decision as early as Monday” at the EU Foreign Affairs Council “so that the mission could be operational as soon as possible. It will not be an attack mission, but a defence one,” he explained.


90,000 troops in massive NATO war games in Europe

NATO will next week kick off the alliance’s largest war games since the Cold War era, as an estimated 90,000 troops from all NATO countries and Sweden, which still awaits final approval for its membership bid, are expected to take part in “Exercise Steadfast Defender 2024”. The war games are set to run through May. The months-long manoeuvers are taking place amid soaring tensions with Russia over the ongoing war in Ukraine. “The alliance will demonstrate its ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area via trans-Atlantic movement of forces from North America,” Army Gen. Chris Cavoli, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said on Thursday at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. More than 50 ships, including aircraft carriers, will also take part in the exercise along with almost 100 military aircraft, NATO officials said.

North Korea tests submarine nuclear weapon system

North Korea said it tested an “undersea nuclear weapons system” in response to joint naval exercises by Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier. According to what was reported by the North Korean Defence Ministry through state news agency KCNA, the exercises were “seriously threatening the security” of the country and therefore, in response, Pyongyang “conducted a major test of its Haeil-underwater nuclear weapon system 5-23 under development in the East Korea Sea”.


Trump tells Supreme Court: “Without immunity there will be chaos”

Donald Trump has warned the Supreme Court that if he is excluded from the 2024 vote there will be “chaos and bedlam across the nation”. The statement eminates from the arguments presented by his lawyers to the highest US court, which must rule on the former President’s immunity. “Excluding me from the 2024 vote would disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans” and “spark chaos and bedlam across the nation”.

Mexican police arrest leader of the Gulf Cartel

Mexican authorities confirmed the arrest on Thursday in Nuevo León of José Alberto García Vilano, alias “La Kena”, considered one of the leaders of the Gulf Cartel, a criminal group that competes for dominance of drug trafficking in the region with the Jalisco Nueva Generacion Cartel (Cjng). The capture of “La Kena” took place in a well-known shopping centre in the municipality of Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo Leon. Garcia Vilano is considered “one of the main architects of the violence that afflicts the north-east of the country”, and among other things he is also accused of the kidnapping of five US citizens in Matamoros in 2023. The arrest of the Gulf Cartel boss, the authorities report, occurred without resistance and the moment was captured and published on social media by several witnesses.

Oppenheimer beats Barbie as Bafta nominations announced

Christopher Nolan, arguably the most commercially and critically successful British director in decades, looks set to secure his first British Academy Film Awards (Bafta) victory next month, after his latest film, Oppenheimer, was nominated in 13 categories. The film is up for best film, director, adapted screenplay, leading actor for Cillian Murphy, supporting actress for Emily Blunt, supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr, cinematography, editing, costume design, makeup and hair, original score, production design, and sound – but it was overlooked in the visual effects category. Although Nolan, 53, received the Britannia award from Bafta in 2010, and has been nominated eight times for previous films including Dunkirk and Inception, he is yet to win either a Bafta or an Oscar. This year’s Academy Award (Oscar) shortlists are announced next Tuesday; to date Nolan has five nominations.

Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos’s steampunk fantasy, came in second place on Thursday with 11 nominations, including nods for best film and adapted screenplay, and for Emma Stone’s leading performance, although her co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Willem Dafoe were not mentioned. Stone will compete against Margot Robbie (Barbie), Carey Mulligan (Maestro), Sandra Huller (Anatomy of a Fall), Fantasia Barrino (The Color Purple) and Rye Lane’s Vivian Oparah – but not Past Lives’ Greta Lee, nor Killers of the Flower Moon’s Lily Gladstone, who had been considered Stone’s key competition, having taken the Golden Globe for best female actor in a drama earlier this month. “It’s a very competitive year,” Bafta chair Sara Putt told The Guardian of the omission. The 77th BAFTA ceremony is set to take place at London’s Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre on 18th February.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Cillian Murphy in a scene from “Oppenheimer.” (Universal Pictures via AP)

Protesting police underline Paris Olympics strike risk

French police officers were on Thursday urged to protest to press their claim for extra pay during this year’s Paris Olympics, underlining the threat of strikes and disruption to the Games. Aware of the risk to the country’s image, French authorities are scrambling to agree pay deals with a host of public sector trade unions who are using the 26th July – 11th August Olympics as leverage to secure bonuses for their members. Several police unions urged officers to show “minimum activity” on Thursday and a protest was called for midday near the main police station in Paris, with other demonstrations planned by night-shift workers later. “For an exceptional event, exceptional measures,” the Alliance union wrote, explaining how unions were demanding up to €2,000 for their members in compensation for lost holidays and extra work over the summer.


FIFA World Cup 2026 match schedule to be announced on 4th February

FIFA has announced that the match schedule for the FIFA World Cup 2026, the biggest and most inclusive FIFA World Cup ever, will be revealed to fans around the world on Sunday, 4th February. Match schedule details will be shared during a special liveTV programmes world-wide and on FIFA’s digital and social platforms. The host city allocations for the 104 matches of the game-changing tournament in 2026 will be announced during a special programme. The broadcast will also reveal the location of the tournament’s opening matches in Canada, Mexico and the USA, the group stage locations for each host country’s national team and the venue for the eagerly awaited FIFA World Cup final, which is scheduled for Sunday, 19th July 2026. FIFA World Cup 2026 will welcome millions of fans to 16 iconic, world-class venues in unique cities across Canada, Mexico and the USA: Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Guadalajara, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, Monterrey, New York New Jersey, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver. Canada will host the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2026, nearly 40 years after it first started hosting FIFA events and 11 years after the country welcomed the world to one of the most successful FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments ever in 2015. Mexico will become the first nation to stage the FIFA World Cup for a third time, as the country previously hosted unforgettable editions in 1970 and 1986.

Photo: Kansas City Sports Commission

Tennis: Sinner overwhelms Baez and flies to the round of 16

Jannik Sinner flies to the round of 16 of the Australian Open in Melbourne. The Italian (number 4 in the world ranking) overwhelmed the Argentine Sebastian Baez (29), defeating him in three sets with a ‘peremptory’ 6-0, 6-1, 6-3. The match was without history: Sinner won the first set in 29 minutes, the second in 32 minutes and the third in 51 minutes. In the round of 16 the South Tyrolean will face the Russian Karen Khachanov (15).

Photo: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

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