Israelis kill 112, injure 760 Palestinians waiting for food aid

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 1st March 2024

Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City on Thursday, killing at least 112 Palestinians and wounding more than 760. Israeli officials acknowledged that troops opened fire, saying they did so after the crowd approached in a threatening way. The military said in a statement that “dozens were killed and injured from pushing, trampling and being run over by the trucks”. An eyewitmess, who said they had been “eating animal feed for two months”, said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd as people pulled boxes of flour and canned goods off the trucks, causing them to scatter, with some hiding under cars. After the shooting stopped, people went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said. Medics arriving at the scene on Thursday found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground, according to Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan Hospital.

Trucks carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, the first major aid delivery to the area in a month. Aid groups said it had become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, with crowds of desperate people overwhelming aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation; around 80 per cent have fled their homes. The Israel attack drew condemnation from the UN, the EU, France, Italy and the Arab world.

Israel says ‘the majority of deaths in Gaza due to the crush’

Israel has denied responsiblity for most of the casualties reported in Gaza. Military spokesman Peter Lerner said that two separate incidents occurred, hundreds of metres apart. “At 4am a convoy of 30 aid trucks passed the army checkpoint in Wadi Gaza and was later surrounded by thousands of people. The crowd spiraled out of control and dozens of people were injured or killed in the crowd, others were hit by trucks.” The soldiers opened fire only in the second episode, “feeling threatened by dozens of civilians”, he said.

Israel killed 25,000 Gaza women and children – Lloyd Austin

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has admitted that Israeli forces had killed more than 25,000 Palestinian women and children since October 7 last year, stressing that munitions provided to “allies and partners” should be used responsibly. Austin’s remarks came during a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee when California Representative Ro Khanna questioned him about the death toll caused by the Israeli army since the surprise blitz by resistance group Hamas. Shortly after his remarks, the Pentagon said that Austin’s “answer was quoting an estimate from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry that more than 25,000 total Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. We cannot independently verify these Gaza casualty figures. We’re dependent on open-source information. We’re certain that thousands of people have been killed, but as for the specific numbers, we cannot verify those specific statistics.” Israel has killed at least 30,035 Palestinians, mostly children and women, and wounded 70,457 others since October 7.

White powder sent to judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case

White powder was found in an envelope addressed to the New York judge who ordered Donald Trump to pay a $454 million (€420 million) civil fraud judgment. It’s the latest security scare involving people in key roles in the former president’s legal cases. A court officer screening mail at Judge Arthur Engoron’s Manhattan courthouse opened the envelope around when some of the powder fell out of the envelope and landed on the officer’s trousers. Preliminary tests were negative for hazardous substances, court spokesperson Al Baker said. The courthouse operations office where the mail was opened was briefly closed, but the courthouse remained open. The officer and other workers who may have been exposed to the powder were temporarily isolated, Baker said. No injuries were reported. Engoron had no exposure to the letter or the powdery substance. The scare came less than two weeks after Engoron issued his verdict penalising Trump, his company and executives, including his two sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., for scheming to dupe banks, insurers and others by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals. Along with staggering financial penalties, the judge’s ruling forced a shakeup at the top of Trump’s company, putting the Trump Organisation under court supervision and imposing strict restrictions on how it does business. Hoax attacks using white powder play on fears that date to 2001, when letters containing deadly anthrax were mailed to news organisations and the offices of two US senators. Those letters killed five people.

More than a billion people worldwide are obese –  WHO

More than a billion people globally are now considered obese, a condition linked to an increased risk of numerous serious health problems, according to updated estimates from the World Health Organisation and an international group of researchers. Obesity is so prevalent it has become more common than being underweight in most nations, including many low- and middle-income countries that have previously struggled with undernourishment. “A staggering number of people are living with obesity,” said Majid Ezzati, senior author of the paper published in The Lancet and a professor at Imperial College London. The findings, considered among the most authoritative of independent estimates, are based on data from more than 220 million people in more than 190 countries. Obesity rates for adults more than doubled between 1990 and 2022, and more than quadrupled among children and adolescents aged 5 to 19, the paper said. Over the same period, the proportion of girls, boys and adults considered underweight fell by a fifth, a third and half, respectively, the analysis found. Ezzati called the rise in obesity rates among children “very concerning”, mirroring a trajectory seen with adults since even before 1990. At the same time, he said, hundreds of millions still do not have enough to eat.

If Ukraine loses, NATO will fight against Russia” – Pentagon

“Allocating funds for Ukraine is crucial,” US Secretary of Defence and Pentagon head, Lloyd Austin, told the US House of Representatives, underlining that if Ukraine loses the war, NATO countries will have to fight against Russia. “We know that if Putin succeeds he will not stop. He will continue to be more aggressive in the region. And other leaders around the world, other autocrats will look at this. And they will be encouraged by the fact that this has happened without us being able to support one democratic state,” Ukrainian media quoted him as saying. “If you are a Baltic country, you are very worried whether you will be next: they know Putin, they know what he is capable of. And frankly, if Ukraine falls I really believe that NATO will go to war with Russia.”

Western troops to Ukraine would risk global nuclear conflict, warns Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed on Thursday to fulfil Moscow’s goals in Ukraine and sternly warned the West against deeper involvement in the fighting, saying that such a move is fraught with the risk of a global nuclear conflict. Putin’s warning came in a state-of-the-nation address ahead of next month’s election he’s all but certain to win, underlining his readiness to protect Russian gains in Ukraine. In an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement earlier this week that the future deployment of western ground troops to Ukraine should not be “ruled out”, Putin warned that it would lead to “tragic” consequences for the countries who decide to do that. Speaking before an audience of lawmakers and top officials, Putin said the West should keep in mind that “we also have the weapons that can strike targets on their territory, and what they are now suggesting and scaring the world with, all that raises the real threat of a nuclear conflict that will mean the destruction of our civilisation”. Putin emphasised that Russia’s nuclear forces are in “full readiness”, saying that the military has deployed potent new weapons, some of them tested on the battlefield in Ukraine.

Zelensky secures Balkan states support for peace plan

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has secured further support for his peace plan from the participants at the Ukraine South-East Europe Summit hosted in Albania’s capital Tirana. “Russia’s unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine remains the greatest threat to the European security and international peace,” the joint declaration published said. The declaration was also signed the presidents of Kosovo, Moldova, North Macedonia and the heads of government of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania as well as by pro-Russian Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. The parties also pledged to take part in a peace summit planned by Kiev in Switzerland in the spring. The aim is to discuss the implementation of the peace plan proposed by Zelensky in 2022. His plan is based on the complete withdrawal of Russian troops, reparations and trials for war crimes.

Germany to deploy troops in Lithuania

As NATO allies continue to reject calls to send ground troops into Ukraine, around 5,000 German soldiers are preparing to relocate to Lithuania in 2027, in a historic move that will see the first permanent deployment of German troops since the Second World War. German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius visited troops in Bavaria who will be affected by the move. He said Germany has experience with foreign deployments, including through the Battle Group. Germany is to deploy two combat battalions to support Lithuania following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago. The reinforcement of Lithuania is high on the agenda amid mounting concerns about a potential attack from Moscow, whose Kaliningrad enclave borders Lithuania, along with its ally Belarus.

EU adopts resolution against Russian political oppression

The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution condemning political oppression in Russia and the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The voting session, held in Strasbourg, worked through issues such as the need for EU action in support of political prisoners and oppressed civil society in Russia, as well as the urgency of strong EU support for Ukraine two years since the Russian invasion began. The resolution states that both the Russian state and President Vladimir Putin personally bear criminal and political responsibility for Navalny’s death. It calls for an independent and transparent international inquiry into the circumstances of his demise.  Navalny, Russia’s best-known opposition leader, died suddenly in an Arctic prison colony earlier this month while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges. His mother had to campaign publicly for the release of his body, which is now being handed over to Navalny’s family. His widow, Yulia Navalnaya confirmed that her husband’s funeral is due to take place in Moscow’s southeast Maryino district this afternoon. She is unsure whether the funeral will be peaceful. Putin critics say hearse drivers are refusing to take Navalny’s body to the funeral.

Meanwhile, in a speech to lawmakers in Strasbourg, Navalny’s widow asked MEPs to “stop being boring ‘to defeat Putin’s regime”. She told them, “You cannot hurt Putin with another resolution or another set of sanctions that is no different to the last one,” she added. “You cannot defeat him by thinking he is a man of principle who has morals and rules. He is not like that. And Alexei realised that a long time ago. You are not dealing with a politician, but with a bloody monster.” Her speech was interrupted several times by applause. EU Parliament president Roberta Metsola said the “hope” Alexei represented remains “as bright as ever”.

Navalnaya told the hemicycle that there were “tens of millions” of Russians who oppose the Kremlin but who are unable to express their resistance due to fear. “We must not persecute them,” she said. “On the contrary, you must work with them, with us.” Navalnaya has vowed to continue her husband’s crusade and become the new face of Russia’s stifled opposition, galvanising pro-democracy Russians to stand up to the regime.

EU unblocks frozen funding for Poland

The European Commission on Thursday formally approved the release of €137 billion to Poland. The commission cut off funding to Poland in 2022 due to rule of law concerns. Poland could also access some €76.5 billion in cohesion funds to help raise living standards in poorer EU member states. It will also get access to almost €60 billion from a post-Covid recovery fund. The latter still needs to be approved by EU member states. It comes after Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk pledged to reverse the previous government’s policies. The previous nationalist Law and Justice (PiS)-backed government had become embroiled in a dispute with the EU over judicial reforms and interventions in state media.

EU asylum applications reach highest number since 2016

More than 1.14 million people applied for asylum in the EU in 2023, according to annual figures released by the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA). It is the largest number of applications in the European Union and the closely aligned EU+ countries Norway and Switzerland since displaced people arrived in the bloc en masse from 2015 through 2016. Germany received 29 per cent of the asylum applications, with more than 334,000 people seeking protection in 2023. The nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has used the topic of migration to surge to 19 per cent support in the country. France (167,000), Spain (162,000) and Italy (136,000) followed as the biggest recipients of applications. With 12,000 applications, Cyprus received the most relative to its population of 1.2 million.

44 dead, 40 injured in Bangladesh restaurant fire

At least 44 people were killed and dozens were injured by a fire that blazed through a seven-storey building in an upscale neighborhood in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka late Thursday, authorities said. “So far, 43 people have died from the fire,” Bangladesh’s health minister Samanta Lal Sen told AFP after visiting the Dhaka Medical College Hospital and an adjoining burn hospital. Police inspector Bacchu Mia said one more person died at Dhaka’s main police hospital to bring the death toll to 44. Sen said at least 40 injured people were being treated in the city’s main burn hospital. “None of them are out of danger,” he told AFP. The blaze quickly spread to the upper floors, trapping scores of people. Firefighters rescued 75 people

Cristiano Ronaldo suspended for an “offensive gesture”

Cristiano Ronaldo has been suspended for one match for making an allegedly offensive gesture during a Saudi Championship match while playing for Al Nassr in the Saudi Pro League. Following Al-Nassr’s 3-2 victory over Riyadh rivals Al-Shabab on Sunday, video footage showed Ronaldo covering his ear and repeatedly pushing his hand forward, near his pelvis, in a gesture that appeared to be aimed at Al-Shabab supporters. Background chants of “Messi”, about Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s longtime rival, were heard. The Saudi Football Federation’s Disciplinary and Ethics Committee announced the sanction on social media early Thursday morning, before Al-Nassr’s next league match was at home against Al-Hazm, which ended 4-4. The former Real Madrid and Manchester United star will also have to pay a fine of 20,000 Saudi riyals (€5,000) to Al-Shabab, to cover the costs of filing a complaint by the club, and half of that amount to the Federation. The commission said the decision was not subject to appeal. Although the incident was not captured by television cameras, Ronaldo’s gesture, who scored a penalty in the first half, was widely criticized in Saudi Arabia by former players and commentators. According to Saudi media, the 39-year-old told the commission it was a victory gesture, common in Europe.

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