Iranian attack on Israel expected in next 2 days

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 12th April 2024.

Israel is on high alert for a potential direct attack from Iran, which could occur in the southern or northern regions within the next 24 to 48 hours, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Although an individual briefed by Iranian leadership mentioned that attack plans are under discussion, a final decision has not been made yet. The heightened tensions come after Tehran accused Israel of an airstrike on a diplomatic building in Damascus, Syria, which resulted in the death of top Iranian military officials, including a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force.

US intelligence earlier indicated that an attack on Israeli assets by Iran or its proxies was likely imminent. However, it now seems the attack might take place within Israel’s borders. American intelligence reports suggest an Iranian retaliatory strike could happen within days, potentially on Israeli soil, the WSJ report said. In response to the threat, the American Embassy in Israel has limited US government employees and their families from personal travel outside of central Israel, Jerusalem, and Beersheba until further notice. Gen Michael Erik Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command, visited Israel to discuss the security threats with Israeli military officials.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking from an air base, has pledged a robust response to any attacks on Israel, emphasising readiness for both defensive and offensive actions to secure the nation.

Social media accounts linked to the Revolutionary Guard have posted videos simulating missile strikes on Israeli targets such as Haifa airport and the Dimona nuclear facility. Iran has also threatened to target Israel’s power and desalination plants if attacked. Despite the preparations, Ayatollah Khamenei has not yet decided on the plans, considering the potential repercussions of a direct attack, which could provoke a strong Israeli counterstrike.

Iran might also leverage its proxies in Syria and Iraq to carry out attacks, and has moved drones out of warehouses recently. Other potential targets include the Golan Heights, Gaza, or Israeli Embassies in the Arab world, aiming to demonstrate the risks of maintaining friendly relations with Tel Aviv.

Meanwhile, Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant declared on Thursday that Israel would retaliate to any Iranian aggression. The Pentagon highlighted the ongoing discussions about the steadfast US commitment to the security of Israel in the face of threats from Iran and its affiliates.

Israel announces new aid plan for Gaza

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has announced that the Israeli government plans on substantially increasing the amount of humanitarian aid that will enter the enclave in the coming days. In a recent interview, Gallant stated: “We plan to flood Gaza with aid and we are expecting to reach 500 trucks per day. My recent visit to the United States was essential in determining next steps and reflecting the link between our operational goals and the humanitarian effort.” The army has said as many as 500 trucks a day could soon be delivering supplies. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said a new border crossing would be opened between Israel and Gaza’s north, where the threat of famine is especially acute. Additionally, the Israeli military has announced that it plans on constructing a new land crossing starting in Israel and entering Northern Gaza, saying the new land crossing will allow “more aid to flow directly to civilians in the areas that have been challenging for trucks to access.״

China supports full UN membership for Palestine

China has announced its support for granting full membership to Palestine in the United Nations. The announcement was made by Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at a news conference on Thursday in response to a question about China’s position on Palestinian membership in the UN. “The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the severe humanitarian crisis it has caused are yet another reminder that the only way to end the vicious cycle of Palestinian-Israeli conflicts is to fully implement the two-State solution, establish an independent state of Palestine and redress the historical injustice long suffered by the Palestinians,” Mao Ning said. “China supports full UN membership for Palestine and supports speedy Council action to that end.” Palestine had formally requested the UN Security Council to consider its application for full UN membership, which it submitted in 2011. The Council met on April 8 and the Ma;tese presidency referred the application to the Committee on the Admission of New Members for discussion.

EP votes in favour of classifying abortion access as a fundamental right

The European Parliament has voted in favour of including access to abortion in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. Euronews reports the proposal was approved by 336 votes to 163 against, with support mainly coming from left-wing and centrist members. Apart from backing the enshrining of the right to abortion in the EU Fundamental Rights Charter, the resolution urges member states to fully decriminalise abortion in line with the 2022 WHO guidelines. It also calls on members to “remove and combat obstacles to safe and legal abortion and access to sexual and reproductive health and rights”. However, the vote is largely symbolic: the resolution is non-binding, and a full-fledged right to abortion access would require the backing of all 27 member states to be included in the EU’s charter. Malta is the only EU state that prohibits abortion in all situations. None of the Maltese MEPs voted for the motions: Times of Malta reports Maltese Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba and Josianne Cutajar were the only two membes of the S&D Goup to vote against, joining PN’s David Casa. Labour’s Alfred Sant was among the 39 MEPs who abstained – the only S&D member to do so. Cyrus Engerer, who is among those who proposed the final resolution and was an S&D negotiator of the text, was abroad on parliamentary duties and could not participate in the vote. The Malta Independent says that “as President of the EP, Roberta Metsola had chosen not to cast her vote on any subject.”

EU countries not enforcing migration pact could face legal action

EU countries failing to implement the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, narrowly endorsed by the European Parliament on Wednesday, could face legal action, the bloc’s home affairs Commissioner has warned. “All member states have to implement it and apply it,” Ylva Johansson, the Commissioner who spearheaded the sweeping reform, told Euronews on Thursday. “If not, the Commission will of course act and use – if necessary – infringement (procedures),” she added. “But I must say that I’m pretty convinced that member states will implement the Pact now quite quickly.” The New Pact is a set of five inter-connected pieces of legislation aimed at establishing common, predictable rules to manage the reception and relocation of asylum seekers. This, the thinking goes, will turn the page on a decade of go-it-alone, chaotic reactions.

EU parliament votes against Pieper’s appointment

EU lawmakers at the European Parliament on Thursday called to rescind the appointment of Markus Pieper as European Commission small business envoy, in a vote that passed 382 votes to 144. The hiring has led to political cronyism allegations against Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – but it’s not clear how much influence the lawmakers’ vote will have over a decision taken by a separate EU institution. The amendment proposed by MEPs from the Green, Socialists and Democrats, and centrist Renew groups “questions whether the principles of merit, gender and geographical balance were taken into consideration” when selecting Pieper.

Putin labels Ukraine conference in Switzerland as ‘a freak show’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the conference to be held in Switzerland on Ukraine, where Russia was not invited, a “freak show”, according to Tass. During a meeting in Moscow with Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, Putin is quoted as saying, “Russia is ready for talks on Ukraine, but without imposing any positions on Moscow that are not based on reality. Now, as you know, the idea is spreading to hold some kind of conference in Switzerland, where we are not invited. They also think that we should not be there, while at the same time saying that without us it is impossible to decide anything,” the Kremlin leader then specified. Putin also said recent bombings targeting Ukraine’s energy grid, which led to major power outages, followed the Kremlin’s goal of “demilitarizing” Ukraine.

Zelenskyy slams allies as Russia intensifies attacks

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Kyiv is in dire need of military aid and air defence systems amid Russia’s intensifying attacks, Al Jazeera reported. Zelenskyy said Russia fired more than 40 missiles and about 40 attack drones overnight, which targeted energy infrastructure. Zelenskyy said that Ukraine needed military assistance and air defence systems in response to Russia’s escalating strikes, criticising its friends for holding “lengthy discussions” and “turning a blind eye.”

Moscow to make deported Ukrainian boys fight – Zelenska

Ukrainian children deported to Russia “grow up, become adults, and they can even be called to arms and sent to fight against Ukraine,” Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska said in an interview with RAI’s Tg2, adding they already had testimonies in this sense. “More than 19,000 childrenhave been deported to Russia, according to our sources,” says President Zelensky’s wife. “According to the Russian side there are much more. The data is conflicting. These are figures that must be verified. But they are moving the children to Russian territory and therefore, their documents and personal details change”.

Mexico asks UN to expel Ecuador

Mexico’s president said Thursday his country is demanding that the United Nations expel Ecuador from the world body as part of a complaint to the top UN court over Ecuador’s police raid last week on the Mexican embassy in Quito. Tensions between Mexico and Ecuador have soared since late last week when Ecuadorian authorities forced their way into the diplomatic mission to arrest Ecuador’s former Vice President Jorge Glas who had been holed up there seeking asylum in Mexico. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said his country had filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice in the Hague asking the UN to expel Ecuador. “The Court, in accordance with the United Nations charter, should approve the expulsion, and there should be no veto” from the UN Security Council, López Obrador said. He also said Mexico is demanding a public apology from Ecuador for last week’s raid, reparation of damages and a promise not to do it again. Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld said her country would defend its actions and said an apology “is not something that is under discussion at this moment”.

Amia attack in Argentina: Criminal Court blames Iran

The Argentine judicial system has declared Iran a “terrorist state” in Buenos Aires, having attributed to it, together with Hamas, responsibility for the 1994 terrorist attack against the Argentine Mutual Association (Amia), which caused 85 deaths and injured 300. In the ruling, considered final and published online, the Federal Criminal Court of Cassation defined the incident as “a crime against humanity”, criticizing “the attempts at cover-up” and ensuring that these are imprescriptible crimes whose perpetrators are still today they can be prosecuted anywhere in the world.

Death penalty for Vietnam tycoon for fraud

A court in Vietnam has sentenced real estate tycoon Truong My Lan to death over her role in a €1.1 billion financial fraud case – the country’s biggest on record. Her trial, begun on March 5 and ending earlier than planned, was a dramatic result of a campaign against corruption that the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, has pledged for years to stamp out. Lan, the chairperson of real estate developer Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and violations of banking rules at the end of a trial in the business hub of Ho Chi Minh City, state media said. Lan is expected to appeal the sentence.

€65,000 gold teacup stolen from Japan department store

A Japanese department store discovered a golden teacup worth over 10 million yen (€65,000) had been stolen on Thursday, after it was showcased in an unlocked box. The teacup, made of pure 24-carat gold, went missing from a Tokyo outlet of the major department store chain Takashimaya, where an event displaying an array of gold items for sale is being held. The stolen teacup was one of the most expensive among over 1,000 pieces of shining teaware, tableware and artefacts on display, a Takashimaya spokesman told AFP. “It was kept in an unlocked transparent box at the time, so it could be taken out easily for customers to take a close look,” the spokesman said. Security footage showed a man stowing the cup in his bag and fleeing the scene, local media reported, with police seeking the apparent culprit.

Surprise visit by a newly-discovered asteroid

Earth will receive a surprise visit this evening as at around 8.31pm Malta time, there will be an extremely close passage of a small asteroid with a diameter of three metres, which was discovered only last Tuesday by the Pan-Starrs 2 telescope in Hawaii. The cosmic rock, called 2024 GJ2, will pass just 12,320 kilometers from the Earth’s surface (equal to three per cent of the Earth-Moon distance), travelling over Australia at a speed of 14.4 kilometers per second. The event, however interesting, will not entail any risk of impact, as underlined by the European Space Agency in a post on X.

O.J. Simpson dies at 76 due to cancer

The former Afro-American NFL football star who was accused of double murder has died at 76. According to the Simpson family, who announced his death on social media, “Orenthal James Simpson succumbed to his battle with cancer.” Rolling Stone magazine eported the former football star-turned-actor became the centre of one of the highest-profile trials in US history. He stood accused of murdering his ex-wife (Nicole Brown Simpson) and her ex-boyfriend (Ron Goldman) in the 1990s. According to Reuters, everything seemed to be working out for Simpson until authorities discovered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman brutally murdered in a bloody scene outside her house in LA on June 12, 1994. After O.J. Simpson attended the funeral of his ex-wife, the former NFL star was charged with the brutal murders. His friend and attorney Robert Kardashian was adamant about his innocence, and Judge Lance Ito deemed O.J. Simpson was not guilty of the murders on October 3rd, 1995. He was acquitted shortly after. O.J. Simpson would finally face justice in front of a court more than a decade later after he was accused of being involved in an armed robbery, that was planned at Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas. Judge Jackie Glass found him guilty and sentenced him to 33 years imprisonment, with a minimum of nine years without parole. O.J. Simpson served his sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Centre. It was during February 2024, when a local Las Vegas news station discovered Simpson was undergoing treatment for cancer in the state of Nevada. Nevertheless, the family never confirmed nor denied any of the information.

Photo Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

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