Israeli airstrikes in Gaza leave dozens of civilians dead

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 13th May 2024.

Israel media reports scores of civilians have been killed bye the Israeli Defece Forces in fierce fighting in northern Gaza. The Israeli military has said that it began operating in northern Gaza overnight, and “precise operations” are continuing in eastern Rafah and near the Rafah crossing, as well as in the area of Zeitoun in central Gaza. The military action in Rafah comes ahead of a planned full-scale invasion.

In northern Gaza, following calls Saturday to 100,000 Gazans to evacuate several areas, including Jabalya, the IDF said its troops began an operation “based on intelligence information regarding attempts by Hamas to reassemble its terrorist infrastructure and operatives in the area”. Video captured heavy gunfire, Israeli tanks and the sound of drones in the area of Jabalya early Sunday.

Israeli media reports that the country’s troops are engaged in fierce fighting with armed Palestinian militants in the north of the Gaza Strip. Haaretz reported that the Israeli army had confirmed that forces of the 98th Brigade raided Jabaliya overnight into Sunday. The Times of Israel quotes Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari saying warplanes had attacked targets in Jabaliya, a densely populated area that was once a refugee camp, after the civilian population there had been told to evacuate. Hamas quoted heavy clashes between its fighters and Israeli forces in the area of Jabaliya, about 4 kms north of Gaza City. 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa) has expressed “extreme concern” about the calls for evacuation of both Jabaliya as well as Rafah in the south. The Israeli military announced the opening of a new humanitarian aid crossing into Gaza Strip in coordination with the US.

IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said he bears “the responsibility for the failure of the IDF to defend our civilians on October 7”. Halevi added, “I carry its weight on my shoulders daily, and in my heart, I fully understand its significance.”

The Civil Defence in Gaza estimates about 10,000 bodies are trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings in Gaza. Forty days after the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the vicinity of the Al-Shifa medical complex, “Civil Defense and medical staff are still retrieving bodies buried by the Israeli occupation forces in mass graves,” spokesperson Mahmoud Bassal said.

Guterres urges cease-fire, release of hostages, more Gaza aid

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, urging the return of hostages and a “surge” in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory. “I repeat my call, the world’s call, for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, the unconditional release of all hostages and an immediate surge in humanitarian aid. But a ceasefire will only be the start. It will be a long road back from the devastation and trauma of this war,” Guterres said on Sunday in a video address to an international donors’ conference in Kuwait. “The war in Gaza is causing horrific human suffering, devastating lives, tearing families apart and rendering huge numbers of people homeless, hungry and traumatised,” Guterres said.

Israel lacks ‘credible plan’ to safeguard Rafah civilians – Blinken

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned against Israel’s growing offensive in Rafah. He told US network ABC News on Sunday, Israel lacked a “credible plan” to protect more than one million civilians sheltering there. Blinken said US President Joe Biden made clear to Israel that if it “launches this major military operation to Rafah, then there are certain systems that we’re not going to be supporting and supplying for that operation”. The president has repeatedly warned against the operation and said the US would suspend supplies of artillery shells and other weapons if it goes ahead. “We have real concerns about the way they’re used,” Blinken continued. Israel needs to “have a clear, credible plan to protect civilians, which we haven’t seen,” Blinken noted.

In a separate interview with the US network CBS News, he said Israel may “have some initial success, but potentially at an incredibly high cost to civilians”. Israel would “be left holding the bag on an enduring insurgency” without an exit from Gaza and no postwar governance plan, Blinken warned.  Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Israel can “stand-alone” despite the US’ warnings.

Hamas hails Egypt for joining case against Israel at top UN court

Hamas has hailed Egypt’s decision to join South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over its deadly war on the Gaza Strip. Cairo said early Sunday that it will join the genocide case against Israel at the ICJ over “the escalating severity and scope of the Israeli assaults against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the systematic targeting of civilians and destruction of infrastructure in the strip”. In a statement, Hamas praised Egypt’s condemnation of the Israeli “crimes” in Gaza and called on all countries “to take similar steps in support of the Palestinian cause by joining the lawsuit” against Israel. It also urged all Arab and Islamic countries to join the genocide lawsuit against Israel and “to sever relations with the (Israeli) occupation, isolate it internationally, and seek to bring its leaders to accountability over their systematic crimes against children and people in the Gaza Strip”. Over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, the vast majority of whom have been children and women, and over 76,600 others injured in a brutal Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip since a Hamas attack last October 7 that killed nearly 1,200 people and took over 250 hostages. More than seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine. An interim ruling by The Hague-based court in January said it is “plausible” that Tel Aviv is committing genocide in Gaza, ordering it to stop such acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza. South Africa on Friday asked the ICJ to order Israel to withdraw from the southern city of Rafah as part of additional emergency measures over the war.

Putin appoints Shoigu to Russia’s security council

Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed former Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as the head of the national security council, the Kremlin announced. Shoigu replaced former secretary Nikolai Patrushev. Putin has nominated civilian Andrei Belousov to replace Shoigu as defence minister. The body is made up of senior Russian officials that advise Putin. The Kremlin said that Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will remain in their posts.

The reshuffle comes as Putin begins his fifth term, while the war in Ukraine continues into its third year. Belousov has served as deputy prime minister and has been one of Putin’s most influential economic advisors over the last decade. “Today, the winner on the battlefield is the one who is more open to innovation and its implementation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov told mewsmen that it was vital to ensure defence spending was aligned with Russia’s overall interests. He added that Shoigu will contain to be involved in defence policy in his role at the security council.

Zelensky speaks of ‘fierce’ fighting in Kharkiv region

Ukrainian President Zelensky said during his nightly video address that fierce fighting was underway in several villages in the northeastern Kharkiv region. He also spoke of battles in parts of the eastern Donetsk region. “There are villages that have in fact been turned from a ‘grey zone’ into a zone of hostilities,” he said, adding that there had been “fierce” fighting. “The occupier is trying to gain a foothold in some of them, while others are being used to advance further.” Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov said that “all areas” of the regional border with Russia were now “under enemy fire almost around the clock”. Russia’s Defence Ministry said its forces had “advanced deeply into the enemy defenses”. A day earlier, it claimed to have captured five villages in the Kharkiv region.

Spain’s Socialists win regional elections

Six years after plunging Spain into its worst political crisis in decades, Catalonia’s separatist parties are in danger of losing their hold on power in the northeastern region after the pro-union Socialist Party scored a historic result in Sunday’s election. The four pro-independence parties, led by the Together party of former regional president Carles Puigdemont, were set to get a total of 61 seats, according to a near-complete count of the ballots, which is short of the key figure of 68 seats needed for a majority in the chamber. The Socialists led by former health minister Salvador Illa savoured their best result in a Catalan election, claiming 42 seats, up from 33 in 2021, when they also barely won the most votes but were unable to form a government. This was the first time the Socialists led a Catalan election in both votes and seats won. “Catalonia has decided to open a new era,” Illa told his thrilled supporters at his party headquarters. “Catalan voters have decided that the Socialist Party will lead this new era, and it is my intention to become Catalonia’s next president.” Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez congratulated Illa on the X platform for the “historic result”. Analysts say Illa’s surge should bode well for Sánchez and the Socialists in next month’s European Parliament elections.

Strong earthquake strikes near Mexico-Guatemala border

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck near the coast of Chiapas in Mexico on Sunday, the United States Geological Survey said. The quake was at a depth of 75 km. Mexico’s national civil protection agency reported on social media that it was monitoring the situation but that there were no initial reports of damage. In Guatemala, where the quake could be felt in the capital of Guatemala City, the country’s disaster agency Conred reported structural damage in the departments of Quetzaltenango and San Marcos, near the country’s border with Mexico.

Flash floods kill more than 300 in Afghanistan

More than 300 people were killed in flash floods that ripped through multiple provinces in Afghanistan, the UN’s World Food Programme said, as authorities declared a state of emergency and rushed to rescue the injured. Many people remained missing after heavy rains on Friday sent roaring rivers of water and mud crashing through villages and across agricultural land in several provinces, causing what one aid group described as a “major humanitarian emergency”.

Meanwhile, the death toll from floods and cold lava flows on the western Indonesian island of Sumatra has risen to 41 while 17are  missing, an official from the local disaster management agency said.

Michael Cohen set to testify today in Trump’s hush-money tial

Donald Trump’s former ‘fixer’ and lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to take the stand Monday as the key witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s case against the former president in the $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. Through three weeks of testimony, jurors have already heard plenty about Cohen through numerous witnesses, who have painted an unflattering portrait of an aggressive, impulsive and unlikeable attorney. He will be the only witness who will testify about Trump’s alleged involvement in both the decision to pay Daniels and the plan to reimburse himself for advancing the money. Cohen will likely serve as the narrator for the prosecution and take the jury from the initial meeting in which David Pecker, former head of National Enquirer, Cohen and Trump allegedly agreed to buy negative stories that could hurt Trump’s presidential run to the payment made to Daniels just days before Election Day to an Oval Office meeting in February 2017, just weeks after Trump was sworn in. Prosecutors allege that during the February meeting, Trump and Cohen agreed how Cohen would be paid back. That arrangement, prosecutors say, included a false story that Cohen was working under a retainer agreement. The paperwork, from the invoices and general ledger entries to the cheques signed by Trump, make up the 34 criminal charges in the case.

BAFTA Awards: ‘Oppenheimer’ wins seven honors, ‘Poor Things’ gets five

“And the BAFTA goes to… Oppenheimer”. Those words were on BAFTA Film Awards ceremony presenters’ lips a total of seven times in London on Sunday – including the lips of Michael J. Fox, who unveiled the best film award for Oppenheimer after coming on stage to a huge welcome and standing ovation. The wins for Oppenheimer included the best actor award for Cillian Murphy, best supporting actor nod for Robert Downey Jr., director award for Christopher Nolan and best film, for Nolan and other members of the film team. The two BAFTAs for Nolan mean that third time was the charm for the big-name British export who had previously never won a British Academy award.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ black-comedy science fantasy ‘Poor Things’, which had been nominated 11 times, also had a strong BAFTA evening, winning five of the famous BAFTA mask trophies, including one for Emma Stone as best actress. Jonathan Glazer’s ‘The Zone of Interest’ was honoured three times out of nine nominations. But Martin Scorsese’s Western crime drama ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, which had also reached nine nods, ended up with nothing, as did ‘Barbie’ and ‘Maestro’. German star Sandra Hüller also left without a trophy after having been nominated for ‘The Zone of Interest’ in the best supporting actress category and as best leading actress for her role in ‘Anatomy of a Fall’. In the end, the best supporting actress trophy went to Da’Vine Joy Randolph for ‘The Holdovers’, while Stone was honoured with the best actress BAFTA.

Primates return to the cinema and take over the box office.

Wes Ball’s ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ is the most-watched film of the weekend in theaters in the United States and Canada, grossing $56.5 million. The 20th Century and Disney film cost around $160 million, not counting the impressive advertising campaign, and was well received around the world, where the revenue stood at $129 million.

Vatican Museums staff start legal action over labour conditions

Forty-nine Vatican Museums employees have started an unprecedented labour dispute over what they say are “unfair and poor” conditions at their workplace. The workers, mostly museum attendants, have sent a petition to the Vatican’s body that administers the Vatican City State, lamenting rules that cause “labour conditions undermining each worker’s dignity and health”, said lawyer Laura Sgrò, who is representing them. They include extra work hours paid at lower rates and insufficient health and safety provisions, Sgrò said. “Workers have decided this action only after all their demands and requests over years were left unanswered,” she said. Unions are not allowed in Vatican City.

Tennis: Djokovic says balance was off after water bottle incident

Novak Djokovic has been beaten at the Italian Open before the quarterfinals for the first time, saying he has been off kilter since a water bottle fell on his head. Djokovic lost his third-round clash with 29th-seeded Chilean Alejandro Tabilo in straight sets – 6-2, 6-3 in 67 minutes – marking the first time in 18 trips to Rome that he has not made it to the last eight. A six-time champion and six-time runner-up in Rome, Djokovic said he had struggled with balance and coordination since a water bottle fell on his head while signing autographs after beating Corentin Moutet in his opening match. Roland Garros starts in Paris on May 26, with Djokovic the defending champion.

Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Picture-Alliance/DPA/AP

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