Israel, Hamas complete more swaps after tense delay

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Sunday, 26th November 2023

Hamas militants on Saturday released 17 hostages, including 13 Israelis, from captivity in the Gaza Strip, while Israel freed 39 Palestinian prisoners in the latest stage of a four-day cease-fire. The Associated Press correspondents reported the late-night exchange was held up for several hours after Hamas accused Israel of violating the agreement.

The last-minute delay created a tense stand-off on the second day of what’s meant to be a four-day cease-fire. By nightfall, when hostages had been expected to emerge from Gaza, Hamas alleged that aid deliveries permitted by Israel fell short of what was promised and that not enough was reaching hard-hit northern Gaza. Hamas also said not enough long-time prisoners were freed in the first exchange on Friday. But Egypt, Qatar, and Hamas itself later said the obstacles had been overcome. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced early Sunday that it had received a new list of hostages slated to be released later in the day in the third of four scheduled swaps.

Hamas release hostages at midnight

Shortly before midnight, Hamas released the hostages – 13 Israelis and four Thais. The Israelis were turned over to Egypt and then transferred to Israel, where they were taken to hospitals to be reunited with their families. As masked militants led them to Red Cross vehicles headed out of Gaza, some of the hostages waved goodbye to the militants. The Israeli hostages included seven children and six women, Netanyahu’s office announced. The children ranged in age from three to 16, and the women ranged from 18 to 67. The mother of one of the released hostages, 12-year-old Hila Rotem, remained in captivity, the spokesperson said. Another, Emily Hand, is a girl whose father believed her to be dead for weeks before finding out she was held as a hostage.

Palestinians burst into wild celebrations

Some of the Palestinian prisoners were released in east Jerusalem, while the bulk returned home to a hero’s welcome in the occupied West Bank. In the West Bank, hundreds of people burst into wild celebrations for a second night as a busload of Palestinian prisoners arrived early Sunday. Teenage boys released in the deal were carried on the shoulders of well-wishers in the main square of the town of Al Bireh. Among those released was Nurhan Awad, who was 17 in 2016 when she was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years in jail after having been accused of attempting to stab an Israeli soldier with a pair of scissors. In Jerusalem, Israeli troops evicted journalists who gathered outside the home of Israa Jaabis, who had been imprisoned since 2015 after being convicted of carrying out a bombing attack that wounded an Israeli police officer, and left Jaabis with severe burns on her face and hands. Jaabis later told reporters at her home that she is “ashamed to be happy at a time when Palestine is injured”. In Al Bireh, the teenage boys were paraded through the main square where they waved Palestinian flags as well as green banners of Hamas and yellow banners of the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, an advocacy group, Israel is holding 7,200 Palestinians, including about 2,000 arrested since the start of the war.

Photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Palestinian militants execute 2 alleged Israeli collaborators

Two Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel were executed and their corpses put on public display, Israeli news outlets reported. The two men were allegedly executed in Tulkarm on the West Bank, accused of being Israeli collaborators on Friday night, as per i24NEWS. The men, whom Israeli media disclosed as 31-year-old Hamza Mabarech and 29-year-old Azzam Joabra, were accused of being involved in the death of three Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters earlier this month, according to the N12 new outlet. It was reported that the suspects, one of whom detailed the collaboration in video recordings, confessed to receiving substantial sums — 17,000 shekels (€4,200) and 10,000 shekels (€2,460), respectively. Videos on social media appeared to show one man suspended from an electricity pylon and a second hanging upside down from a wall. A large crowd gathered to chant ‘Allah hu Akbar’, and many appeared to be filming the bodies.

Photo credit: social media

Thousands march to denounce violence against women

Thousands of people took to the streets across the world yesterday to condemn violence against women on the UN-designated international day highlighting the crime. Protesters marched in Europe and the Americas.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said violence against women was “a horrific violation of human rights, a public health obstacle and a major obstacle to development”. In a video message, Guterres called on everyone to work on eliminating violence against women. He said, “These abuses are among the world’s most horrific, persistent, and widespread human rights violations, affecting one in every three women in the world. Stigma, misconceptions, underreporting, and poor enforcement of the laws only perpetuate impunity. And rape is still being used as a horrendous weapon of war. All of that must change… now!”

In a statement, US President Joe Biden said that “the scourge of gender-based violence continues to inflict pain and injustice on too many.” He remarked that “an estimated one in three women globally will experience physical violence, rape, or stalking at some point in their lifetimes. It’s an outrage. Particularly in areas of conflict, countless women and girls suffer at the hands of perpetrators who commit gender-based violence and use rape as a weapon of war.”

In Italy, which has been shaken by the murder of a 22-year-old university student allegedly by her former boyfriend, some 50,000 people, according to the AGI news agency, demonstrated in Rome, where the Colosseum was to be lit up in red. The country has been horrified by the case of Giulia Cecchettin, who went missing for a week as she was due to receive her degree in bio-medical engineering from the University of Padua. Her body was eventually found in a gully about 120 kilometres north of Venice, and her former boyfriend, 22-year-old Filippo Turetta, was arrested in Germany and extradited to Italy. Up to 12th November, there have been 102 murder cases with female victims in Italy, 82 of them by family members or current or former partners.

In France, several thousand people, many wearing purple, the colour of women and gender equality, wove through the chilly streets of Paris and other cities, carrying signs reading: ‘One rape every six minutes in France’ and ‘Protect your girls, educate your boys’. Maelle Lenoir, an official from the All of Us activist group, told reporters: “We don’t want to count the dead any more” and urged the government to devote more money to eradicating violence against women. France has recorded 121 women killed so far this year in femicides, compared to 118 in 2022. Calls have been made to change the justice system to deal effectively with the phenomenon as many contend the system was ill-adapted to deal with the issue, she said.

In Turkey, as riot police stood by, some 500 women gathered in the Sisli district in Istanbul, unfurling banners reading ‘We will not remain silent’ and ‘Women are united and fighting against male-state violence’. Protesters also took to the streets in Ankara.

In Guatemala, protesters kicked off commemorations on Friday evening, placing candles to write out 438 – the number of women killed so far this year.

In the Chilean capital of Santiago, some 1,000 protesters also marched through the streets Friday night, chanting “Not one step backward” and demanding action by the government to protect women. A women’s advocacy group estimates that 40 femicides have occurred in the country this year.

Along Rio de Janeiro’s famed Copacabana Beach, protesters lined up 722 pairs of women’s shoes, from high-heels to sneakers, each pair before a woman’s name to represent the femicides recorded in 2022 — the highest number since 2019, according to the non-governmental Brazilian Forum on Public Safety. In Argentina, demonstrators in Buenos Aires – including those concerned by the election of incoming president Javier Milei – combined a protest on violence against women with a show of support for the Palestinian people. Milei has suggesting eliminating the Ministry of Women, Genders and Diversity, in charge of preventing gender violence, and has taken hardline stances on issues including abortion and equal pay.

Photo credit: MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP

‘Hunger Games’ prequel and ‘Napoleon’ rule US box office

Hollywood Reporter says there’s high drama in the US at the Thanksgiving box office. Heading into the long holiday corridor, Disney Animation’s music-infused original event picture Wish was expected to rule the feast. Now, the family film could come in behind Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Napoleon, from Apple Original Films and Sony. The Hunger Games prequel will easily top the holiday chart in North America with a projected gross of $40 million-plus for the Wednesday to Sunday corridor after earning a hearty $11.4 million on Friday. The movie, which opened the weekend before Thanksgiving, will finish Sunday with a 10-day domestic total of nearly $100 million. In a surprise twist, Ridley Scott’s new historical epic Napoleon (filmed mainly in Malta) is in a close race with Wish for No. 2. The historical epic, starring Joaquin Phoenix, grossed $8.4 million on Friday for a projected five-day debut of $32 million to $33 million. Napoleon – a win for Apple’s theatrical ambitions – is coming in well ahead of expectations for an adult drama (the vast majority of ticket buyers are 35 and older). Its performance is also impressive considering it only earned a B-CinemaScore from moviegoers. Heading into the Thanksgiving frame, Napoleon was looking at a five-day holiday cume of $22 million to $25 million.

Main photo credit: Hamas

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