Houthi missile strikes US-owned cargo ship

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 16th January 2024

A Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile struck a US-owned and operated cargo ship on Monday, US Central Command said in a statement. The ‘Gibraltar Eagle’, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier owned and operated by US-based Eagle Bulk, sustained minor damage and did not report any injuries on board, the Central Command said. The ship is continuing on its way. A statement from Eagle Bulk Shipping has confirmed that the vessel, which is carrying a cargo of steel products, was hit “by an unidentified projectile” roughly 100 miles offshore in the Gulf of Aden.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they fired a number of “direct” and “accurate” missiles. In a video statement, Brig. Gen. Yehya Sare’e, the Houthis’ military spokesperson, announced that the Yemeni militant group had “carried out a military operation targeting an American ship in the Gulf of Aden”. He said the hits were “accurate and direct”. Earlier on Monday, the Houthis attempted to launch an anti-ship ballistic missile that failed in flight and crashed in Yemen, Central Command said.

CNN reports the attack against the ‘Gibraltar Eagle’ appears to be the first time the Houthis have successfully struck a US-owned or operated ship, raising the stakes in the Red Sea after the US vowed that further Houthi launches would be met with a response. It came just days after a US-led coalition carried out strikes against the Iranian-backed rebel group in Yemen and warned more strikes were possible if the Houthi attacks continue.

One of the Houthi leaders, Ali al-Qahoum, told Iranian Irna agency that Yemen would turn into a “cemetery” for US forces. “We tell the Americans that your actions against Yemen will be defeated and that we will face you with all our strength. After this aggression, Yemen will turn into the cemetery of the Americans and they will leave the region humiliated,” al-Qahoum said.

Iran’s Guards attack Israel’s “espionage centres” in Iraq

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they attacked the “espionage headquarters” of Israel in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, state media reported, while the elite force said they also struck in Syria against the Islamic State. Reuters reports the Iran’s Guards saying in a statement: “Ballistic missiles were used to destroy espionage centres and gatherings of anti-Iranian terrorist groups in the region” late on Monday, naming Israel’s Mossad spy agency. In addition to those strikes near Kurdistan’s capital Erbil, the Guards said they launched attacks against the “perpetrators of terrorist operations” in Iran, including the Islamic State. Explosions were heard in an area some 40km northeast of Erbil in the Kurdistan region. No US facilities were impacted by the missiles’ strikes, two US officials told Reuters. At least four civilians were killed and six injured in the strikes on Erbil, the Kurdistan government’s security council said in a statement, describing the attack as a “crime”. Earlier this month, Islamic State claimed responsibility for two explosions in Iran’s southeastern Kerman city that killed nearly 100 people and wounded scores at a memorial for top commander Qassem Soleimani.

Photo: Rudaw TV via AP

Israeli Cabinet approves 2024 budget

Overcoming strong opposition from within his own government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to push an amended 2024 state budget worth NIS 582 billion (€142 billion) through the cabinet on Monday, pairing an overall spending increase of around NIS 70 billion (€17.2 billion) with widespread budget cuts, in order to pay for the war in Gaza. Times of Israel says one Likud and five National Unity ministers voted against the wartime budget to protest across-the-board reductions. However, its extra funding includes money for defence and compensation for those impacted by the war, along with higher allocations for healthcare, police, welfare, and education. “We reached an agreement, and we will now pass a very important budget. This is the war budget, which also takes care of the needs of our reservists, their families, the self-employed, and government ministries, and the needs of the public,” Netanyahu declared. It will now go to the Knesset, where it must pass three readings in the plenum in order to become law.

Photo: Haim Zach, GPO

25 dead in new Israeli raids on the Gaza Strip

Palestinian news agency Wafa says 25 people, including women and children, were killed and dozens more injured in Israeli shelling carried out last night in several areas of the Gaza Strip. Local medical sources reported that the death toll from Israeli attacks on the Strip in the last 24 hours was at least 132. A spokesperson for the Red Crescent described the situation as “catastrophic” with what it describes as “massacres”, which occured while telephone communications remained blocked in the Strip for the fourth consecutive day. This further complicated rescue operations.

Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Iowa Republicans kick off 2024 US election season

Republicans in Iowa have kicked off the US election season, heading to local caucuses to decide who they want as the party’s candidate in this year’s presidential election. The Des Moines Register newspaper’s poll suggests Donald Trump simply cannot be beaten tonight, having garnered 48 per cent, while Nicky Haley and Ron DeSantis obtained 20 and 16 per cent respectively. With the caucuses in Iowa, the first 40 delegates in the long race for the Republican nomination for the White House will be assigned proportionally. There are 2,429 in all and a candidate must get 1,215 to win and be crowned at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee on 15th July.  For the Democrats, however, the delegates are around 3,900, and the quorum to triumph is 1,969. For the Dems, the first stage of the primaries is on the 3rd February in South Carolina.

Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

Trump blasts judge for not delaying trial for Melania’s mother’s funeral

Donald Trump railed against a judge for refusing to postpone his defamation trial so he could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral – but he has a campaign rally planned at the same time. Trump’s lawyers claimed that his defamation trial brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll conflicts with the funeral of his wife Melania’s mother, Amalija Knavs. US District Judge Lewis Kaplan declined Trump’s request, stating that the trial start date was scheduled seven months prior and postponing it would could pose logistical issues. Trump reacted by writing on his Truth Social platform: “Lewis Kaplan, the terrible, biased, irrationally angry Clinton-appointed Judge, refused to postpone the sham trial next week, even in light of the funeral of my beloved mother-in-law.” The trial is set to start later today, and Trump plans to attend. The former president faces up to $10million (€9.15 million) in defamation damages owed to Carroll after a jury found he sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Kim calls for change in status of South, warns of war

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for a constitutional amendment to change the status of South Korea as a separate state and warned that while his country did not seek war, it didn’t intend to avoid it, state media KCNA reported. In a speech at the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim said it was his final conclusion that unification with the South was no longer possible, while accusing Seoul of seeking regime collapse and unification by absorption. Three organisations dealing with unification and inter-Korean tourism will shut down, state media said.

Photo: Reuters

Meloni’s birthday wish: “I would like to sleep…

Over a thousand messages were received by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on her 47th birthday – from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. During a live link on radio, she revealed the gift she would like most: sleeping. “I’m 47 and I feel like I’m 47, maybe even 48 or 49 at the moment. Among the most appreciated gifts was that of a friend, “some new beautiful placemats for the kitchen, which I needed. But what I would like most,” she admitted, “is to sleep. I do not sleep a lot! Eh, just a little…”.

Emmy Awards: The Bear, Succession biggest winners

The Bear and Succession were the biggest winners, picking up six Emmy awards each during the broadcast, including best comedy and best drama, respectively. Netflix’s Beef also won big on Monday, picking up best limited series, best actress in a limited series for Ali Wong and best actor in a limited series for Steven Yeun. For the second year in a row, Jennifer Coolidge of White Lotus wins the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Quinta Brunson is the best actress of the year to star in a comedy TV series for ABC’s Abbott Elementary. She is the first Afro-American woman to win this recognition since Isabel Sanford in 1981 for The Jeffersons. Ayo Edebiri, the willing and talented chef who stars alongside Jeremy White Allen in The Bear, won the award for best supporting actress in a comedy series.

Other winners were: outstanding directing for a drama series: Mark Mylod, for Succession; outstanding writing for a limited or anthology series or movie: Lee Sung Jin for Beef; outstanding writing for a drama series: Jesse Armstrong, Succession; outstanding scripted variety series: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver; outstanding talk series: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; outstanding reality/competition series: RuPaul’s Drag Race; outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or TV movie: Niecy Nash-Betts, Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story; outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or TV movie: Paul Walter Hauser, Black Bird; outstanding lead actor in a limited series or TV movie: Steven Yeun, Beef; outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series: Ebon Moss-Bachrach, The Bear; outstanding supporting actor in a drama series: Matthew Macfadyen, Succession; utstanding lead actress in a drama series: Sarah Snook, Succession; Outstanding lead actor in a drama series: Kieran Culkin, Succession;  Outstanding limited series Beef; Outstanding comedy series: The Bear; outstanding drama series: Succession.

Photo: AFP

Oppenheimer dominates at the Critics Choice

Oppenheimer consolidates its position as favorite in the awards season which will culminate with the night of the Oscars. Universal’s blockbuster, about the father of the atomic bomb, won eight Critics Choice awards, including best film and best director for Christopher Nolan. The 29th edition of the awards presented by the largest association of film and TV critics, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, was a further indicator of which titles and names capture the favour of Hollywood this year. Oppenheimer’s haul includes other heavy awards, such as best cast, cinematography, visual effects, editing and soundtrack. Robert Downey Jr followed up with the Golden Globe for Supporting Actor.

The other summer box office phenomenon, Barbie, received six awards, including best comedy of the year. Emma Stone won the best actress award for her role as Bella Baxter in Poor Things! while Paul Giamatti, a gruff but very human professor in The Holdovers by Alexander Payne, won the award for best actor, repeating his victory at the Globes.

As for the small screen, the awards followed those of the Globes, exactly 24 hours from the Emmys, which were celebrated earlier today. Succession, The Bear, and Beef won best drama, comedy and limited series respectively. Succession’s Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook were voted Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Drama Series; Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri of The Bear in a comedy, and Ali Wong and Steven Yeun won for Beef.

Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
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