Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley tore into former US President Donald Trump on Saturday night after he mocked the absence of her husband, who is deployed overseas. At a rally in South Carolina, his first visit to the state this year, Trump asked, “Where’s her husband? Oh, he’s away. … What happened to her husband? Where is he? He’s gone,” Trump said at his rally in Conway.
Haley fired back at Trump’s comments, saying, “If you mock the service of a combat veteran, you don’t deserve a (US) driver’s license, let alone being president of the United States.” She told a crowd in Gilbert, South Carolina, “Donald, if you have something to say, don’t say it behind my back; get on a debate stage and say it to my face.” He husband Michael is deployed in Africa with the South Carolina Army National Guard in support of the US Africa Command, his second active-duty deployment overseas. In a rare move, Michael fired back at the former president, posting a meme on X reading, “The difference between humans and animals? Animals would never allow the dumbest ones to lead the pack!” while mentioning Trump’s account in the caption.
Observers noted that notably, former first lady Melania Trump has not joined her husband for any public campaign event since his presidential announcement in November 2022 and has not appeared alongside him at any of his court appearances.
Gaza and others warn Israel of disaster if it invades crowded Rafah
Israel’s neighbours and key mediators warned Saturday of disaster and repercussions if its military launches a ground invasion in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, where Israel says remaining Hamas strongholds are located – along with over half the besieged territory’s population. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry asserted that Israel aims to eventually force the Palestinians out of their land. Another mediator, Qatar, also warned of disaster, and Saudi Arabia warned of “very serious repercussions”. There’s even increasing friction between Netanyahu and the United States, whose officials have said a Rafah invasion with no plan for civilians there would lead to disaster. “The people in Gaza cannot disappear into thin air,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on X.
Israeli airstrikes killed at least 44 Palestinians, including more than a dozen children, in Rafah, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had asked the military to plan for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people ahead of an invasion. He gave no details or timeline. The announcement set off panic. More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are packed into Rafah, which borders Egypt. Many fled there after following Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of the territory following the October 7 Hamas attack that sparked the war. It’s not clear where they could go next. When asked where the civilians should go, Netanyahu said: “You know, the areas that we’ve cleared north of Rafah, plenty of areas there. But we are working out a detailed plan to do so.”
Hamas tunnel under the UNRWA Gaza City building
The Israeli army discovered a Hamas intelligence tunnel that passed under a main UNRWA building in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City. A military spokesperson said “the tunnel was 700 metres long and 18 metres deep” and “UNRWA structures supplied electricity to the tunnel” itself. The tunnel – the entrance of which was found near “a school” also belonging to UNRWA – “served as a significant resource for Hamas military intelligence”. In essence, he explained, it was an “intelligence” centre with rooms “for Hamas operators”, under UNRWA.
UNRWA: ‘We didn’t know what was under the headquarters in Gaza City’
“UNRWA did not know what was under its headquarters in Gaza,” Philippe Lazzarini, the director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, stated on X. Explaining that “UNRWA personnel left their headquarters in Gaza City on October 12, following Israeli evacuation orders and intensified shelling in the area, Lazzarini said “We have not used that compound since we left it, nor are we aware of any activity that may have taken place there.”
“Oh, you knew,” Israeli Foreign Minister tells Lazzarini
The Israeli military and Foreign Minister Israel Katz, however, immediately cast doubt on the claim by UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini. “Oh, you knew,” Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, known by its acronym COGAT, tweeted at Lazzarini Saturday night, after the UN agency chief pleaded ignorance. Katz dismissed Lazzarini’s claim that he was unaware of the Hamas facility’s presence as “not only absurd but also an affront to common sense” and reiterated calls for Lazzerini to step down. “His prompt resignation is imperative,” Katz wrote on X.
Senior Hamas official in Lebanon survives Israeli strike
A senior Hamas official survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Lebanon on Saturday, a Palestinian security source told AFP, with rescuers reporting two civilians killed in the strike south of Beirut. Israeli forces and Lebanese movement Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, have traded near-daily fire since war broke out in the Gaza Strip. But the Israel-Lebanon violence has been largely contained to the border area, and Saturday’s strike was the second-farthest deadly attack from the frontier in four months of hostilities. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Israeli forces struck a car in the coastal town of Jadra, about 40 kilometres from the border. The Palestinian source, requesting anonymity for security concerns, said the strike “was a failed attempt to assassinate a senior official in the (Hamas) movement”. An official with the Lebanese Risala Scout association, which operates rescue teams and is affiliated with the Hezbollah-allied Amal movement, told AFP that two civilians had been killed. The official identified them as a vegetable vendor and a Syrian man on a motorbike who both happened to be nearby.
Hungarian President resigns after pardoning a pedophile
Hungarian President Katalin Novak has announced her resignation following the outrage sparked in the country by her decision to pardon a convicted child sex offender. “I resign from my position,” the head of state declared in an official speech, acknowledging that she had made “a mistake”. In March 2022 Novak, considered very close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, became the first woman to hold this essentially-ceremonial position. “I apologise to those I have hurt and to any victims who may have felt that I did not support them. I am, was and will remain in favour of the protection of children and families,” added the 46-year-old former minister of family affairs. Minutes after Novak’s speech, another Orban ally, Judit Varga, also announced her “retirement from public life” for having given her approval as Justice Minister – a post she left this summer to lead the European election campaign. “I renounce my mandate as a member of parliament and list leader in the European Parliament,” she declared on Facebook. The controversy was triggered by the pardon granted last April, on the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit to Budapest, to a former deputy director of an institute for minors, sentenced in 2022 to more than three years in prison for having covered up the actions of the his superior. Since the revelation of this decision by the investigative website ‘444’ last week, the opposition has called for her resignation and anger has grown in the country.
Show maturity, Pakistan army chief tells politicians
Pakistan’s army chief told feuding politicians Saturday to show “maturity and unity” after an election failed to produce a clear winner, leaving the military’s favoured party having to cobble together a coalition in order to rule. The country faces days of political horse-trading after a strong performance by independent candidates loyal to jailed former prime minister Imran Khan scuppered the chances of the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from winning a ruling majority. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) defied a months-long crackdown that crippled campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents with a combined showing that still challenged their rivals. The military looms large over Pakistan’s political landscape, with generals having run the country for nearly half its history since partition from India in 1947. “Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people,” army chief General Syed Asim Munir said in a statement released by the military. “As the people of Pakistan have reposed their combined trust in the Constitution of Pakistan, it is now incumbent upon all political parties to reciprocate the same with political maturity and unity. The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation which does not suit a progressive country of 250 million people.”
Millions around the world celebrate Lunar New Year
Millions of people around the world have celebrated the Lunar New Year – one of the largest events in east and south-east Asian communities. The annual holiday has been marked by reunions between family and friends, with festive treats aplenty. Each year is named after one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, with this year being the Year of the Dragon. In China, the Year of the Dragon is a popular birth year because many couples hope their children will possess remarkable qualities symbolised by dragons, including strength, power and success. Along with the predominantly Chinese societies in the Greater China region, the festival is also celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam and in overseas Chinese communities. Residents in Hong Kong this year dressed in red, a lucky colour in Chinese culture, to recognise the occasion.
Americans becoming less satisfied with their lives
Americans are reporting record low levels of satisfaction with their lives, a new Gallup study revealed. Just under half, 47 percent, of Americans said they were “very satisfied” with their personal lives, the new Gallup report found. This marked only the third time in more than two decades that less than half of Americans reported high satisfaction with their lives. The number moved down by three per cent since last year and is only one point higher than the 2011 record low of life satisfaction. Specifically, for this year, 31 per cent of Americans said they were somewhat satisfied, and 11 and nine percent said they were somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied respectively. Americans are facing heightened economic insecurity.
Angelina Mango wins the Sanremo festival
Angelina Mango has won the 74th edition of the Sanremo festival with the song “La noia”. In second place was Geolier with “I’ p’ me, Tu p’ te” and in third place Annalisa with “Sinceramente”. Then came Ghali with “Casa mia” and Irama with “Tu no”. Fiorella Mannoia won the award for the best text, while Angelina Mango won the award for the best musical composition for the song “La Noia”. Gigliola Cinquetti, now 76 years old, was given a warm ovation for celebrating 60 years of “Non ho l’età” – and experts said “she still looks like that little girl who won first the festival and then Eurovision in 1964… ‘and the hearts of the Italians.’ She is the lady of song, elegant and refined.”
Main photo: ALLISON JOYCE/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES