Jacques Delors, father of European integration, dies at 98

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Thursday, 28th December 2023

Former European Commission President Jacques Delors, a key figure in the creation of the euro currency, has died aged 98. Delors, a Socialist, become president of the European Commission in 1985. His ten-year presidency remains the longest in the institution’s history and shaped the outlines of modern-day Europe. Under Delors, the European Union changed considerably, introducing a number of key reforms including the Single European Act, the Schengen Agreement, the Erasmus student exchange programme, an overhaul of the Common Agricultural Policy, and the Economic and Monetary Union, which later led to the creation of the Euro currency.

Photo: Getty

Israel pounds central and southern Gaza, widening its offensive

Israel launched heavy strikes across central and southern Gaza overnight and into Wednesday after broadening its offensive against Hamas to more areas where the military had told Palestinians to seek shelter earlier in the war. Residents reported heavy bombing in the built-up Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, and in the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah, areas where tens of thousands have sought refuge as much of northern Gaza was pounded to rubble.

CBS News reports warplanes flew overhead and gunfire and explosions echoed from the eastern edge of the camp. With much of northern Gaza levelled, Palestinians fear a similar fate awaits other areas, including Khan Younis, where Israeli forces launched ground operations in early December, and a cluster of built-up refugee camps in central Gaza where the focus has shifted this week. The military’s latest evacuation orders cover an area of central Gaza that was home to nearly 90,000 people before the war and now shelters more than 61,000 displaced people, mostly from the north, according to the UN humanitarian office.

Israel said the bombing campaign and ground offensive are necessary to dismantle Hamas and prevent a repeat of its 7th October attack. Achieving its goals, Israel said, will take “many months”. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military was deepening the fighting and warned: “We say to the Hamas terrorists: We see you and we will get to you.”

In one of the most devastating military campaigns in recent history, more than 21,100 Palestinians, most of them women and children, have been killed. Some 85% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes, crowding into smaller and smaller areas.

Photo: AP/Majdi Mohammed

‘The population of Gaza is in grave danger’ – WHO

The population of Gaza is in “grave danger”, the director general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has declared as only 15 of the Strip’s 36 hospitals were operating at full capacity. WHO said it had delivered supplies to two hospitals on Tuesday, with Ghebreyesus stressing that the international community must take “urgent measures to alleviate the grave danger facing the population of Gaza and which jeopardises the ability of humanitarian workers to help people with terrible injuries, acute hunger, and at serious risk of disease”. The WHO warning came as Israeli forces pounded the Gaza Strip by land, air, and sea in the most intensive series of attacks since 7th October. UN officials said a quarter of the territory’s population was starving under Israel’s siege, which allows in only a trickle of food, water, fuel, medicine, and other supplies.

Photo: X/Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Israel warns of war with Lebanon

Senior Israeli minister Benny Gantz says the situation on the country’s border with Lebanon “must change”, hinting at the possibility of military escalation with the armed group Hezbollah. Gantz, a member of Israel’s emergency war cabinet, told reporters on Wednesday: “If the world and the Lebanese government don’t act in order to prevent the firing on Israel’s northern residents, and to distance Hezbollah from the border, the [Israeli military] will do it.” Speaking on Wednesday on a tour near the border, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Israel might target Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. “We will  make the most of the diplomatic option, but all options are on the table.”

Photo: AYAL MARGOLIN/FLASH90

Erdogan compares Netanyahu to Hitler, draws Israeli ire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler, likening Israel’s assault on Gaza to Nazi Germany’s killing of Jews.

In remarks at an awards ceremony in the capital Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan asked what difference there was between Netanyahu and Hitler. “He is richer than Hitler, he gets the support from the West. All sorts of support comes from the United States. And what did they do with all this support? They killed more than 20,000 Gazans,” he said.

The Israeli prime minister later hit back at Erdogan, criticising Turkey for its own record of alleged rights abuses at home and in its conflict with Kurdish armed groups that has culminated in more than 40,000 deaths. Netanyahu also accused Erdogan of holding “the world record for imprisoning journalists who oppose his regime” and said the Israel Defence Forces is the “most moral army in the world”.

Pro-Palestinian protesters in New York, Los Angeles

Pro-Palestinian protesters briefly blocked entrance roads to airports in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday, forcing some travellers to set off on foot to bypass the jammed roadway. As US airlines contended with a rush of holiday travel, the demonstrations snarled traffic on the outskirts of New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Los Angeles International Airport. A total of 62 people were arrested during the two protests, police said.

Photo: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

Kim Jong Un pledges to advance atomic ambitions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s plans for the New Year include pressing forward with his nuclear arms programme and potentially deeper ties with Russia, according to an address he gave at a major policy-setting meeting attended by top cadres from his ruling party. “He set forth the militant tasks for the People’s Army and the munitions industry, nuclear weapons, and civil defence sectors to further accelerate the war preparations,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday. Kim also said that North Korea will “expand and develop the relations of strategic cooperation with the anti-imperialist independent countries,” KCNA reported. Kim has tested more than 100 ballistic missiles over the past two years, increasing his ability to deliver a nuclear strike on the US and America’s allies in the region.

Photo: Korean Central News Agency/Yonhap

US announces last 2023 shipment of aid to Ukraine

The US has announced its latest military aid package to Ukraine for this year – a $250 million shipment, according to the State Department. The new military aid package consists of ammunition for air defence and high-mobility artillery missile systems, 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds, and over 15 million rounds of firearms, according to the State Department note that concludes with an appeal for Congress “to act quickly, as soon as possible, to promote our national security by helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future”.

West to blame for world turmoil, says Russia’s Lavrov

The intrigues of Western countries whose dominance is ebbing away are largely responsible for pitching the world into turmoil, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview published on Thursday. In a year-end interview released by the official Tass news agency, Lavrov warned that no one world-wide could be certain of escaping unscathed from Western machinations in 2024. “Storms continue in the world and one of the reasons is that the ruling circles in the West provoke crises thousands of kilometres from their borders in order to resolve their own issues at the expense of other peoples,” Tass quoted Lavrov as saying.

US Supreme Court asked to overturn anti-Trump ruling

The Colorado Republican Party says it has asked the US Supreme Court to overturn the unprecedented state Supreme Court ruling that removed Donald Trump from Colorado’s 2024 ballot. The Colorado Republian Party was also a party in the case and is fighting to preserve its right to include Trump on its March primary ballot. Trump has not yet filed his appeal, which is expected soon. The petition came hours after the Michigan Supreme Court rejected a similar 14th Amendment lawsuit, keeping Trump on the ballot there.

Poland puts state media into liquidation

Poland’s new culture minister announced the liquidation of all public media on Wednesday, deepening a political rift over the state-run broadcasters. The move, however, does not mean public broadcasters will be dissolved. After taking power earlier this month, the new pro-EU government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk started an overhaul of state media outlets. Many critics of the previous government, which was led by the nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), claim the broadcasters were reduced to the mouthpieces of the PiS and its allies during their eight-year rule. But the push to reform them faced an obstacle when Poland’s conservative President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, vetoed the new government’s budget for public media.

“One must never dialogue with the devil” – Pope

Pope Francis warned pilgrims gathered at the Vatican on Wednesday to “never argue with the devil; he is astute and intelligent”, adding that “the devil is a deceiver. Never talk to him, because he is smarter than all of us and will make us pay.” The Pope was inaugurating a new catechetical series on vices and virtues during the general audience by opening with the story of Adam and Eve, which introduces “the dynamic of evil and temptation” and points toward the dangers of dialoguing with the devil. “When temptation comes, never talk. Close the door, close the window, close your heart. In this way we defend ourselves from this seduction,” the Pope said. He argued that “he who guards his heart, guards a treasure.”

Photo: Vatican Media

Homelessness soars in rural England as living costs hit poor

Homelessness in rural England has risen by 40% in five years, with many sleeping in the open air, tents, or makeshift shelters, according to a British rural charity. A cost-of-living crisis in the UK, fuelled by high inflation, has left many Britons struggling to make ends meet, as bills for food, energy, rent, and mortgages increase. The CPRE charity, which campaigns for affordable housing in rural England, said homelessness in the countryside had increased from 17,212 in 2018 to 24,143 in 2023, with wages stagnating and housing costs rising in many areas.

Photo: Reuters

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