Gaza ceasefire in force, first hostages to be released

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 24th November 2023

A brief ceasefire in Gaza was being observed this morning and the first 13 hostages will be released this afternoon, according to Qatar’s foreign ministry, setting out a timeline for what would be the most significant diplomatic breakthrough since Hamas’s 7th October  attacks on Israel.

World powers gave the news a cautious welcome as fighting raged on, with local officials saying a hospital in Gaza City was among the targets bombed as the hours counted down to the start of the first break in a brutal, near seven-week-old war. Israeli airstrikes and ground troops pummeled northern Gaza amid the countdown to  the four-day pause in fighting this morning. Numerous clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups were reported in Jabaliya, an area just north of Gaza City that Israeli officials have called a stronghold of Hamas. A Palestinian doctor has reported at least 27 people have died following an Israeli bombing of a United Nations school in northern Gaza – the home to hundreds of displaced people.

Israel’s military has vowed to resume operations in Gaza once the pause in fighting against Hamas ends, saying fighting could last two months after the four-day truce. IDF fighter jets, directed by intelligence together with the security forces (ISA), killed Amar Abu Jalalah, commander of the Hamas naval forces, in Khan Yunis, and another Hamas naval forces officer. They also arrested the director-general and doctors of the Al-Shifa hospital, accusing them of permitting Hamas to dig a tunnel under the compound.

Rocket attacks reported from Gaza after start of truce

Anti-missile sirens sound in the evacuated towns of Kissufim and Ein Hashlosha, in the Gaza border area of southern Israel. The Times of Israel reports the alarms went off 15 minutes after a four-day ceasefire came into force, meaning that if the rockets had actually been fired, this would appear to be the first violation of the truce from Gaza’s side.

Both sides also signalled the pause would be temporary before fighting resumes. Israel and Hamas have been locked in indirect negotiations to clinch the final details of the agreement, which includes a four-day pause in hostilities during which at least 50 women and children held hostage in Gaza would be exchanged for 150 Palestinian women and minors imprisoned in Israeli jails. The first hostages to be released by Hamas in today’s exchange are expected to be 13 women and children from the same family held captive in Gaza. Israel has decided not to release the names. Hamas has confirmed and announced the release of 23 Thais without conditions.

Photo caption: AP/Ohad Zwigenberg

‘15,000 dead in Gaza, over 6,100 minors’

The Hamas government in Gaza announced that the death toll in the Palestinian territory has reached 14,854 since the war between Israeli forces and Hamas militants began on 7th October. The Hamas government said the victims included 6,150 minors and 4,000 women, while another 36,000 people were injured. The Hamas’ health ministry had previously said it was no longer able to provide exact figures as intense fighting prevented the recovery of bodies.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Arafat Barbakh

Iran reportedly hangs activist linked to last year’s protests

Iran today secretly executed a man after finding him guilty of killing a member of its security forces during the mass protests that swept the country last year following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. The Norwegian-based human rights organisation Hengaw notes this was the eighth execution carried out by Iran as part of its crackdown on protests that erupted in September 2022.

Milad Zohrevand, who was in his early 20s, was executed at dawn in a prison in the western city of Hamadan. He was sentenced to death for killing a Revolutionary Guards officer during a protest in the town of Malayer in November last year. Hengaw, who works on Kurdish issues, said Zohrevand had not received prior notification of the impending execution and was not granted a final meeting with his family. Zohrevand’s execution was not reported by Iranian media. The legal body Dadban also confirmed the hanging on social media, adding that Zohrevand was denied a lawyer.

Muslims in shock over anti-Islam party’s Dutch poll win

Dutch Muslims have expressed shock at the election win of far-right populist Geert Wilders, who has previously called for mosques in the Netherlands and the Koran to be banned and had called Moroccans “scum”. Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) beat all predictions on Wednesday night by winning 37 out of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament – well ahead of a Labour/Green combination and the outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservatives. “These election results are shocking for Dutch Muslims. We did not expect such a party with a programme that is against the basic principles of the rule of law to be so big,” said Muhsin Koktas of the Muslim organisation CMO. Muslims make up around 5 per cent of the Dutch population of almost 18 million people.

Photo credit: EPA

Argentinas labour leaders warn of resistance to President-elect

Right-wing populist Javier Milei has been president-elect just four days and already Argentina’s unions and social organisations are vowing pushback and even protests if he makes good on his promises to srink the State and privatise state-owned companies. Milei, who famously campaigned with a revving chainsaw to demonstrate what he would do to public spending, says radical measures are needed to get the South American country’s moribund economy back to life and reduce annual inflation of 140 per cent.

The day after winning the election with a wider than expected margin, 56% to 44%, the libertarian said in a radio interview that “everything that can be in the hands of the private sector will be in the hands of the private sector”. He said he wants to privatise state-owned media companies and state-run oil and gas firms, and has raised the possibility of privatising water distribution and train services, as well as ending all public works. Labour union leaders said Thursday they were paying close attention to what the president-elect says and what they were hearing was in opposition to their interests.

Photo credit: AP/Natacha Pisarenko

Clashes in Dublin after children injured in knife attack

Violent clashes broke out in central Dublin on Thursday evening, with vehicles torched and riot police attacked, after a five-year-old girl was seriously injured in a knife attack earlier in the day that also saw a woman and two other young children hospitalised. Irish police said the girl was receiving emergency medical treatment in a Dublin hospital following the attack outside a school. Soon after that announcement, at least 100 people took to the streets, some armed with metal bars and covering their faces. Police said over 400 officers, including many in riot gear, were deployed in Dublin city centre to contain the unrest, which they said was “caused by a small group of thugs.” A police cordon was also set up around the Irish Parliament building.

$12,000 of Nike goods stolen in Los Angeles

At least $12,000 (€11,000) worth of merchandise was stolen from a Nike store inside a Los Angeles mall. ABC News there are 17 suspects – four women and 13 men, all aged between 15 and 20. The thieves broke into the shop on South Alameda Street, in the South Gate neighborhood, last Sunday around 5.50pm local time, but the news only came out in recent days when the videos from the security cameras were released. The young people had their faces covered by anti-Covid masks; they grabbed clothes and shoe boxes, placed them in blue garbage bags and fled the store. No arrests have since been made. Los Angeles, together with New York, is the US city that has seen the greatest increase in shoplifting in the last four years.

Photo credit: Los Angeles Police Department

FIFA open investigation into Maracana chaos

Brazil’s 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign is in jeopardy as FIFA opened investigations into last Tuesday’s Maracana chaos. They face the threat of a points deduction following the chaotic scenes that marred their World Cup qualifying defeat to Argentina on Tuesday. They slipped to a 1-0 reversal, in a game which saw Newcastle midfielder Joelinton sent off, but it was events in the stands which dominated the post-match headlines. A mass brawl broke out between rival supporters ahead of the game, with local police forces stepping in, and Lionel Messi led his side off the pitch before a ball was kicked – leading to the match being delayed by 30 minutes. Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez also took matters into his own hands as he leapt towards the crowd and slapped a baton from the hand of one of the security officers considered to be acting with excessive force. According to Globo, Brazil could now face fines, matches could be ordered to be played behind closed doors or, ultimately, points deducted.

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