Global News Digest – 19th October 2023

Today's top world news, in a nutshell.

Israel-Gaza conflict

  • The United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday (Oct 18) that would have called for humanitarian pauses in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants to allow humanitarian aid access to the Gaza Strip. The vote on the Brazilian-drafted text was twice delayed in the last couple of days as the United States tries to broker aid access to Gaza. Twelve members voted in favour of the draft text on Wednesday, while Russia and Britain abstained. Washington traditionally shields its ally Israel from any Security Council action.  Russia said it had now asked for the 193-member UN General Assembly to be convened for an emergency special session on the conflict. It could decide to put a draft resolution to a vote there, where no countries hold a veto power. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding.
  • US intelligence shows Israel was not to blame for a strike on a Gaza hospital, the White House said yesterday, as President Joe Biden said it appeared to be the result of a misfired rocket fired by a “terrorist group”. Biden has backed Israel’s insistence that it did not carry out Tuesday’s hospital strike that killed several hundred people. The Palestinian militant group Hamas says Israel was responsible. The Senate Intelligence Committee echoed Biden’s view, after reviewing intelligence on the attack.
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has agreed to open the Rafah crossing into Gaza to allow a first batch of around 20 humanitarian aid trucks through, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. “He agreed to … let up to 20 trucks through, to begin with,” Biden told reporters after calling Sisi from Air Force One while returning from a visit to Israel, where he was showing solidarity over the Oct 7 Hamas attacks. The shipment would likely not cross until Friday, as the road at the crossing needed repairs, Biden said. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to allow for the release of hostages and humanitarian aid access to Gaza.

Russia and China

The leaders of China and Russia met Wednesday in Beijing and called for close foreign policy coordination, as concerns grow about possible conflicts with the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Beijing’s rising threats against Taiwan. At their morning meeting, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin discussed trade and the 10th anniversary of Xi’s trademark Belt and Road Initiative that has built highways, ports and power plants across Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. China is a key purchaser of Russian oil and gas, providing Moscow with an economic lifeline in the face of punishing Western sanctions over its war in Ukraine.

Second rejection of US House Speaker

US lawmakers rejected hard-line conservative Jim Jordan’s bid for speaker of the House of Representatives for a second time yesterday, as the leadership vacuum paralysed Washington for a 15th day with no clear resolution in sight. The lower chamber of Congress has been in a tailspin since Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his party’s far right on October 3 – leaving it unable to address a looming government shutdown or war in the Middle East. Jordan, an acolyte of scandal-engulfed Donald Trump, could only afford to lose four Republican votes, but 22 of his colleagues rejected his candidacy in the second ballot, two more than were against him a day earlier.

EU visa-free travel

The European Commission has proposed sharpening its visa suspension rules to address the “abuse” of visa-free travel in Europe. The revised rules would give the EU more flexibility to temporarily suspend its visa-free travel schemes, including when it considers that third countries’ policies could lead to increased migrant arrivals to the EU. Speaking on Wednesday, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said that the EU’s visa-free travel scheme brings “huge benefits”, but that the bloc also needs to ensure its visa policy framework is not “misused” and that it has “the power to act when it is.” The bloc fears that some of the sixty countries that have visa-free access to the European Union could be used as a transit hub for irregular migrants to enter the 27-country bloc.

Recycling progress in EU slowing down

EU countries have significantly increased their recycling rates, but the speed of this progress is slowing down, experts warn. The average EU citizen generated 4.8 tonnes of waste in 2020, but only 38 per cent of it was recycled. In some member states, more than 60 per cent of household waste still goes to landfill. Households generated only 9.4 per cent of this total. Construction (37.5 per cent) and mining and quarrying (23.4 per cent) are largely responsible for the waste produced, generating over 60 per cent of total waste in the EU. Waste and water services made up 10.8 per cent, and manufacturing accounted for 10.6 per cent. Germany and France generate a third of the EU’s waste: Germany (401 million tonnes) and France (310 million tonnes) contributed the most to the total amount of waste produced in the EU. As of 2020, these two countries were responsible for one-third of the EU’s waste at 19 and 14 per cent respectively. Malta’s total amount of waste generated in 2020 was 3.5 tonnes.

Photo: (AP/Abed Khaled)

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