Global News Digest – 17th October 2023

Today's top world news, in a nutshell.

Belgium terror alert

The Belgian capital, Brussels, is on the highest terror alert after two Swedish citizens were killed in a shooting. Officials say the suspected gunman remains at large. In a video posted on social media, a man claimed he was the assaliant and was from “the Islamic state”. As a result of the shooting, the Euro 2024 qualification football match between Belgium and Sweden was abandoned at half-time when the score was 1-1.

Israel-Gaza war

Following days of confusing and sometimes contradictory messaging about the EU’s stance on the developing Israel-Hamas conflict, leaders of the bloc’s countries are today to try to rally around a clear statement. A videoconference of the leaders, taking place at 1630 Malta time and chaired by European Council President Charles Michel, will seek to supersede initial steps taken by the European Commission and its chief, Ursula von der Leyen, when she flew to Israel last Friday to tell its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Europe backed Israel’s right to defend itself without the caution being voiced by other Western leaders that Israeli action must abide by international humanitarian law.

Several EU governments bristled at von der Leyen taking it on herself to wade into foreign policy matters, which are decided by member countries, without prior consultation and straying from their national positions.

As calls intensify for Israel to open border crossings to allow aid into Gaza, US President Joe Biden will travel to Israel tomorrow to reaffirm US “ironclad commitment” to Israeli security. Biden’s trip to Israel will be his strongest message yet to stand alongside Israel as it reels from the devastating Hamas terror attacks of October 7. Biden’s administration has pledged military support for Israel, sending US carriers and aid to the region. Biden has also called for aid to be allowed into Gaza, where the situation remains dire. Around one million people have evacuated from northern Gaza to the south of the strip, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths told reporters Monday. “My main concerns right now… is to get aid into Gaza,” he said, “because they won’t get out of Gaza”.

The Gaza Strip is suffering from a “very severe” shortage of drinking water,amid the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the strip. Gaza’s Interior Ministry said in a statement on the Telegram messaging platform on Monday that Israel has not pumped “a single litre of potable water into any of the strip’s provinces for the tenth day in a row”. Citizens were forced to drink unsuitable water, the ministry added, warning of “a dangerous health crisis that threatens citizens’ lives”. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees also reported on Monday that “Gaza is running dry”, adding that “a quarter of a million people moved to shelters over the past 24 hours”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken to US President Joe Biden before he travels to Israel today, the White House has confirmed. “It is important to meto also express my solidarity with Israel very practically with my visit,” Scholz told reporters Monday, while confirming a “later trip” to Egypt. The German leader will be the first head of government to visit Israel following the attacks.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he had agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to develop a plan to enable humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza. Blinken was in talks for more than six hours with Israel’s war cabinet, with the meeting extending beyond midnight in Israel. The top US diplomat was on the region’s fifth consecutive day of round-the-clock diplomacy. He returned to Israel on Monday after visiting six Arab countries in four days.

The Israel Defence Forces said it was “striking military targets of the terrorist organisation Hezbollah on Lebanese territory” during the early hours of Tuesday. Since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israeli territory claimed the lives of more than 1,400 people, tensions have risen along the Lebanon-Israel border. Hezbollah militants fired anti-tank missiles on Israeli army positions and Israeli troops shelled border areas on the Lebanese side of the border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel will not stop Gaza operations until Hamas militants were destroyed, according to an Israeli readout of the call between the leaders on Monday. Putin told Netanyahu that Moscow wanted to help prevent a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, according to the Russian readout of the call. Putin expressed Moscow’s willingness to work towards “ending the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation and achieving a peaceful settlement through political and diplomatic means”.

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