EU, US face increased terror threat in wake of Gaza war

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 6th December 2023

European Union Member States are facing a “huge risk of terrorist attacks” over the holiday season due to the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said on Tuesday. Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels, Johansson referred to Saturday’s knife attack in Paris, where a German tourist was killed and two people were injured. The attacker reportedly pledged allegiance to the “Islamic State” and expressed anguish about Muslims dying, notably in the Palestinian territories. He had also been under close psychological surveillance for mental health issues. “With the war between Israel and Hamas and the polarisation it causes in our society, with the upcoming holiday season there is a huge risk of terrorist attacks in the European Union,” Johansson said. “We saw [it happening] recently in Paris. Unfortunately, we have seen it earlier as well,” Johansson added. She provided no details about information that might have led to her warning.

Johansson echoed FBI Director Christopher Wray, who earlier told lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee that Hamas’ October attack may be considered inspiration for future violence. “We’re working around the clock to identify and disrupt potential attacks by those inspired by Hamas’s horrific terrorist attacks in Israel,” Wray said. But, in a separate written statement, Wray said there was no indication that Hamas “has the intent or capability to conduct operations inside the US”.

Israeli army raid Hamas’s general security HQ

Times of Israel reports Israeli troops have advanced in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, raiding Hamas’s general security headquarters in the area. IDF Southern Command General Yaron Finkelman described Tuesday as “the most intense day” since the start of the Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip. “We are in the centre of Jabalya, in the centre of Shuyaia and now also in Khan Yunis. We intend to continue to strike and achieve our results,” he said. According to the IDF, the 162nd Division began to operate deeper in Jabaliya after completing the encirclement of its refugee camp in recent days. It says soldiers located rockets and other weapons, and directed airstrikes on Hamas operatives.

Israel revokes visa for UN humanitarian coordinator

Israel has revoked the visa of UN humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings. In a post on X, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen wrote: “We will no longer remain silent in the face of UN bias”. Hastings, a Canadian veteran diplomat, faces Israeli allegations of failing to be objective and impartial in her role as she did not speak out against Hamas for the acts committed during the attack on 7th October. “Someone who did not condemn Hamas for the brutal massacre of 1,200 Israelis, for the abduction of children and elderly people, and for horrific acts of abuse and rape, and for using Gazans as human shields, but instead condemns Israel, a democratic country that protects its citizens, cannot serve in the United Nations and cannot enter Israel,” the post read. The spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stephane Dujarric, confirmed Israel’s action to CNN but said that António Guterres has  “full confidence in her”.

Photo: Getty Images

Israelis investigate claims of sexual violence by Hamas

Israeli authorities are investigating charges of rape and other forms of sexual violence possibly committed by Hamas militants during its 7th October attacks. Some of the few hundred people arrested after the attacks are the suspects. Israel’s Justice Ministry said “victims were tortured, physically abused, raped, burned alive, and dismembered”. Hamas denies the allegations of sexual assault or mutilation by members of its armed wing. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden on Tuesday castigated human rights groups, women’s organisations, and the UN for failing to speak out about the rapes and other atrocities allegedly committed by Hamas against Israeli women.

Photo: BBC

“2023 will be the hottest year in history”

Copernicus, the European atmosphere monitoring service, has announced that 2023 will be the hottest year in history. The month of November was also “extraordinary” and became the sixth consecutive month to break records: with an average of 14.22°C at the earth’s surface, it exceeded the previous record of 2020 by 0.32°C. “The 2023 now has six months and two record-breaking seasons. This extraordinary November means that 2023 will be the warmest year in recorded history,” said Samantha Burgess, Deputy Head of the Copernicus Climate Change Bureau.

Thousands attend slain Italian woman’s funeral

More than 10,000 mourners have attended the funeral in Padova of a 22-year-old female student whose death prompted a period of national reflection in Italy. Giulia Cecchettin was killed days before getting her university degree allegedly at the hands of her possessive former boyfriend last month. Her death struck a chord with many Italian women who feel patriarchal attitudes are entrenched and triggered major protests and calls for more protection for women. The biomedical engineering student’s ex-boyfriend, Filippo Turetta, reportedly could not accept that she had ended their relationship. He confessed to the murder after his arrest, according to media reports. The case has dominated Italian headlines in recent weeks amid large demonstrations in cities across the country leading Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to vow to step up protection for women.

Photo: Lucrezia Granzetti / LaPresse via AP

Zelenskyy cancels address to US senators

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cancelled a scheduled video briefing with US senators on Tuesday. He was set to appeal for continued military funding amid the ongoing Russian invasion. The Biden administration has been urging Congress to approve the White House’s nearly $106 billion (around €98 billion) request for funds for the war in Ukraine. A bloc of Republicans oppose providing more assistance to Ukraine and argue US money should be spent at home. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said that its air defenses had shot down 10 of 17 attack drones launched by Russia overnight. Meanwhile, Reuters quotes the White House as saying that leaders of the Group of Seven countries will hold a virtual meeting this afternoon with President Zelensky. They will discuss the situation in Ukraine, the Middle East, and artificial intelligence.

Photo: DMYTRO LARIN FOR UKRAINSKA PAVDA

Cyprus introduces citizenship programme in research, innovation

Cyprus has introduced its Golden Knowledge Programme for foreign nationals in the ‘research and innovation’ sector to apply for expedited citizenship through a fast-track process. The revised law, passed by parliament in a bid to attract tech talent to the island, incorporates safeguards to ensure that only qualified and deserving individuals are granted citizenship, while applicants are therefore, required to have a physical presence in Cyprus, establishing genuine connections with the island. This recent legislative amendment represents a strategic move to draw tech talent without relying on traditional citizenship-by-investment programmes, emphasising knowledge-based immigration with built-in safeguards for economic advancement.

UK doctors to stage longest NHS strike ever

Hospital doctors in England plan to strike around Christmas in their longest industrial action in the history of Britain’s state-run health service, after pay talks broke down Tuesday. Junior doctors – those below consultant level – have already staged several strikes this year because of deadlock over pay demands sparked by the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation. The doctors will walk out from 20th to 23rd December and again from 3rd to 9th January, their union, the British Medical Association (BMA), said in a statement. Members voted to strike after negotiators for the UK government’s health department failed to put forward “a credible offer to end the pay dispute” following five weeks of discussions, the BMA added. The union said junior doctors were offered a three per cent rise on average this year, on top of an 8.8 per cent increase they were already given earlier this year. The BMA said the proposal would “still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year”. Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England, said January’s six-day stoppage “will be the longest strike in NHS history during the busiest and toughest time of the year”.

Prince Harry security decision unfair, court told

Prince Harry is making a High Court challenge against the Home Office over his security protection when visiting the UK. He wants to overturn a ruling that saw his security status downgraded after he stopped being a ‘working royal’. At the start of a three-day hearing in London, Prince Harry’s lawyers argued there has been unfairness in how the decision was made. The Home Office said his security can be decided on a case-by-case basis. Much of the legal proceedings, about security arrangements for senior figures, will be held in private. Prince Harry did not attend in person. The changes followed when Prince Harry stepped down from official royal duties and settled in the US.

Photo: BBC

John Lennon’s final words revealed by concierge in new docu-series

The final words said by John Lennon have been revealed by the concierge working at the front desk of the building where the Beatles guitarist was shot at. The new Apple TV+ documentary series, John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial – which investigates Lennon’s shooting by an obsessed fan named Mark David Chapman on 8th December 1980 – shared the moment in which the ‘Beautiful Boy’ singer was shot and what he said shortly after. Jay Hastings was working as a concierge on the front desk at the Dakota building on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, New York, where Lennon and his family lived and outside which he was shot. He recalled in the documentary: “He runs past me. He goes, ‘I’m shot’. He had blood coming out of his mouth. He just collapsed on the floor.” He continued: “I half rolled him to his back and took his glasses off, put them on the desk. And Yoko was screaming, ‘Get an ambulance, get an ambulance, get an ambulance.’” John Lennon: Murder Without a Trial is set to premiere today, 6th December, on Apple TV+. Not only will it investigate the famous murder, but it will also explore many of the conspiracy theories that have emerged since the Beatles’ guitarist’s death. The three-part documentary will carry interviews with some of his closest friends, along with Chapman’s defence lawyers, psychiatrists, detectives, and prosecutors. Elsewhere in the documentary, Chapman reportedly apologised after shooting him dead. In other news, The Beatles’ track, ‘Now and Then’ landed the Number 10 spot on the NewMusicalExpress NME50 best songs of 2023 list.

Main photo: AP/Christophe Ena

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