Israel’s bombardment of the Gaza Strip continues as its ground forces push deeper into urban areas across the north of the enclave. Al Jazeera quotes Human Rights Watch saying thousands of patients and displaced Palestinians sheltering at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City are at “grave risk”. Palestinian Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza says an Israeli strike hit the yard of al-Shifa medical complex. Meanwhile, Israeli army conducted more nightly raids across the occupied West Bank after one of the deadliest incursions since the Gaza war began. At least 10,812 Palestinians, half of whom are children, have been killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7. In Israel, the death toll stands at more than 1,400.
Israel agrees to daily 4-hour humanitarian pauses
Meanwhile, Israel has agreed to daily, four-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting in northern Gaza, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed Thursday. The Israelis have informed the US there will be no military operations in those areas for the duration of the pauses, and the timing will be announced three hours before the pause begins each day. Rights groups have said the “pauses” are not enough, urging an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to protect Palestinian civilians and allow critical humanitarian into the enclave.
Rishi Sunak mulls sacking Home Secretary
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was weighing up last night whether to sack Suella Braverman after the Conservative Party descended into open warfare over her claim that police are “playing favourites” with protesters. The Home Secretary defied Downing Street’s instructions to tone down an incendiary article for The Times in which she compared Saturday’s pro-Palestinian Armistice Day rally to sectarian marches held in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. No 10 said that it was attempting to “establish the detail” of how the article was published without formal approval amid claims that Braverman had breached the ministerial code. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for her to be sacked.
EU economy and finance ministers make progress on new fiscal rules
EU economy and finance ministers have made significant progress on the reform of the bloc’s fiscal rules. But, according to Euronews, the final push depends on a Franco-German compromise. An extraordinary meeting has been pencilled for later this month, hoping talks between Paris and Berlin will have borne fruit by then. The talks focus on the most divisive issues of the fiscal overhaul, namely the numerical safeguards to guarantee an annual reduction of debt and deficit levels. The two heavyweight capitals have embraced opposing views in the months-long debate, which needs to be resolved by year’s end to allow Member States to design their next budgets under the new rules. Failure to do so will lead to the reactivation of the old norms, suspended since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Portugal’s President calls snap elections
Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has dissolved parliament and called snap elections, two days after the country’s prime minister Antonio Costa resigned amid a continuing corruption investigation. He said the country would hold snap elections on March 10, the second in as many years. The 62-year-old Costa, who first took power in 2015, denied any wrongdoing but said that he could no longer continue in his role. Prosecutors have said that he is the subject of a separate investigation.
‘South Korean food makers reap huge profits from hiked prices’
Korean food makers are reaping huge profits from price hikes they blamed on the rising cost of raw materials. Chosun Ilbo notes international flour prices have fallen 34.1 per cent since last year, but the prices of flour-based products are not coming down and are lining the pockets of producers. Pasta is up 17.3 per cent, bread 5.5 per cent and cereal 2.9 per cent. Major food makers posted unexpectedly high first-half earnings ranging from increases of between 204.5 per cent and 29.7 per cent. The prices of wheat and palm oil fell 31 per cent and 41.2 per cent in the first half to $252 and $914. But some hiked dairy product and ice cream prices blaming rising global oil prices, and one raised packaged coffee prices 10.3 per cent last May and has decreased the content of canned tuna and dried laver packages by more than 10 per cent for the old price.
Germany unveils huge electricity price relief for industry
Germany announced Thursday a huge relief package including tax cuts on electricity for the manufacturing sector, in a bid to shore up an economy that many fear could end the year in recession. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement: “Alone in the coming year, the relief will reach up to €12 billion.” In 2024 and 2025, electricity tax will be slashed from the current 1.537 cents per kilowatt to the European Union minimum of 0.05 cents per kilowatt for the manufacturing sector. The lowered tax could be extended for a further three years, said the government in a statement.
De Niro’s production company ordered to pay ex-employee $1.2 million
A Manhattan jury Thursday found actor Robert De Niro’s production company, Canal Productions, liable for gender discrimination and retaliation in a civil trial related to a workplace dispute brought by De Niro’s former assistant, Graham Chase Robinson. Robinson, who worked as De Niro’s executive assistant in 2008 and rose through the ranks of his company to vice president before she left in 2019, was awarded $1.264 million in damages on both counts, CNN confirmed with Robinson’s attorney. The jury also considered claims by Canal Productions that were first filed in state court against Robinson for alleged misuse of company funds. On Thursday, Robinson was found not liable for those claims.
Kmart pulls ‘Merry Ham-mas’ Christmas bag from sale
Kmart has pulled a Christmas-themed ham bag from sale and apologised after a complaint from an Australian Jewish group. The superstore chain had the bag for sale in anticipation of the holiday season. But the Australian Jewish Association took to X, formerly Twitter, to point out a awkward association with the bag’s slogan. Emblazoned on it were the words “MERRY HAM-MAS”, unintentionally echoing the name of the group that controls Gaza and is currently involved in a war with Israel. The Australian Jewish Association acknowledged Kmart’s bag blunder was “potentially funny” but said it was “really not a good look”. Kmart has since removed the bag from sale and apologised.
Colombia guerrillas free father of Liverpool star
Colombia’s National Liberation Army guerrillas have freed the father of Liverpool football star Luis Diaz, after holding him for 12 days, local media reported. The 26-year-old’s parents, Luis Manuel Diaz and Cilenis Marulanda, were kidnapped on October 28 by the armed group while they were in the northern city of Barrancas. Diaz’s mother, Marulanda, was successfully rescued a few hours later. The Colombian government then demanded the release of her husband, setting off a massive search operation. Luis Manuel was handed over by the rebels to a humanitarian mission in the northeastern city of Valledupar, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Barrancas. Colombia’s Catholic Church, which was involved in negotiating the handover, released a photograph of Diaz in a wooded area to prove he had been released.
Main photo credit: Reuters