Key Hamas weapons supplier in Lebanon assassinated

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Sunday, 23rd June 2024.

A drone attack by the IDF has killed Ayman Ratma, one of Hamas’s key weapons suppliers in the Bekaa valley, the Israeli military has claimed. Ratma helped direct weapons supplies from Lebanon for Hamas and Jamaa Islamiya, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel claimed.

The IDF said they killed Ratma because of his “involvement in the promotion and execution of terrorist activities against Israel in the immediate future, as well as his involvement in advancing terrorist activity against Israeli civilians”. A post on X from Lebanese news agency Al-Akhbar showed the alleged vehicle Ratma was travelling in going up in flames.

Guterres highlights risk of regional conflict

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned of the risks of wider regional conflict in the Middle East, referring to escalating strikes between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Guterres said, “The risk for the conflict in the Middle East to widen is real – and must be avoided.” Guterres commented that the war had the potential to trigger a catastrophe, and that Lebanon “could not afford to become another Gaza”.

There have been near daily exchanges of fire on the border between Israel and Lebanon, where strikes between the IDF and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah have left more than 400 people and 80 civilians-dead. On the Israeli side, 16 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed over the past eight months.

The tensions have escalated in recent weeks after Israel killed one of Hezbollah’s senior commanders, Taleb Abdullah, in south-eastern Lebanon. Hezbollah retaliated by firing over two hundred rockets into northern Israel, one of its largest attacks since the war between Israel and Gaza began in October.

Hezbollah pounds multiple Israeli targets in retaliation

In the wake of heightened tensions, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have intensified their response to the Israeli attacks, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing conflict. The recent series of strikes targeted various Israeli sites across northern territories, following what the group described as “brutal Israeli actions in Gaza and southern Lebanon”. Hezbollah’s operations included a notable strike on the Ras Naqoura base using kamikaze drones, which reportedly inflicted casualties on Israeli forces. This retaliatory action was directly linked to an Israeli attack on Lebanon’s Deir Kifa village, which resulted in civilian casualties.

150,000 take to the streets to protest against Israeli government

A crowd of some 150,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday evening to protest against the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling for new elections and the release of the hostages held in Gaza. Many protesters held signs reading ‘Crime Minister’ and ‘Stop the war’ as people poured into the streets.
The anti-government protest organisation Hofshi Israel estimated that more than 150,000 people attended the demonstration, calling it “the largest since the war against Hamas began”. Yoni Levy, the father of Naama Levy, the Israeli soldier in the hands of Hamas since the October 7 attack and who turned 20 today, and the writer David Grossman also took part in the protest.

Israel attacks north Gaza after assault on southern ‘safe zone’

The Israeli military has launched attacks across the Gaza Strip after an assault on a tent camp in al-Mawasi in the south killed at least 25 people, according to Palestinian officials. On Saturday, at least 42 Palestinians were killed by Israeli attacks on the Shati refugee camp and the Tuffah neighbourhood in Gaza City, the head of Gaza’s Government Media Office told Al Jazeera.

Reporting from Deir el-Balah, in central Gaza, Al Jazeera said the Israeli military targeted a residential neighbourhood in the Shati refugee camp, where displaced Palestinians from the north of the territory were told to seek refuge. “Rescuers with the help of civilians are trying to sift through the rubble to find survivors,” it said. “The casualties arriving at Al-Aqsa Hospital are surging.” Gaza’s civil defence spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said it was “very difficult” to reach victims in Shati.

Israeli attacks killed 101 Palestinians and wounded 169 in the last 24 hours, Gaza’s Ministry of Health said on Saturday, with many people under the rubble and ambulances and civil defence crews unable to reach them.
This is the highest daily death toll recorded in the enclave by the ministry since June 8, when Israeli forces killed at least 274 Palestinians to free four Israeli captives in the Nuseirat refugee camp.

The Red Cross condemned the attack on the camp and said the location of its humanitarian office, which was struck, was known to warring parties. It reported that 22 people had died and 45 were wounded.

According to the Health Ministry on Saturday, more than 37,500 people have been killed and 85,900 wounded in Israel’s war on Gaza since October 7. The revised death toll in Israel from the Hamas-led attacks stands at 1,139, with dozens of people still held captive in Gaza.

Israel’s birth rate remains highest in OECD

Israel’s birth rate remains the highest among countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to an OECD report, as birth rates decline across the developed world. Times of Israel reports the five member states with the highest birth rates have experienced the sharpest decline, the report said, but noted that “Israel breaks this trend as women among the [ultra-Orthodox] population group often have a large number of children.” Israel’s total fertility rate sits at 2.9 children per woman, followed by Mexico and France with 1.8 children per woman and almost twice the OECD average of 1.5, the report said.

Birth rates have dropped sharply in some of the world’s richest states and are likely to stay low as economic worries leave people weighing the costs of having children, the report said. Particularly low total fertility rates were measured in South Korea, at 0.7, and in Italy and Spain, each with 1.2 children per woman.

When comparing women born in 1935 and in 1975, the percentage of ones without a child doubled in Estonia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain, according to the OECD data. “Childlessness is definitely going up almost everywhere,” said Tomas Sobotka, researcher at the Vienna Institute of Demography.

Yemen Houthis blast vessel in Red Sea drone boat strike
In a significant development, the Yemeni armed forces have unveiled footage of their first-ever drone boat strike against a sea target, as part of their ongoing maritime operations against Israeli shipping. This initiative is in solidarity with Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The video, released by Yemen’s Operations Command Centre on Saturday, features the “Tempest 1”, a drone boat equipped with a 150-kilogram warhead and capable of reaching speeds of 35 nautical miles per hour. Designed for both fixed and mobile targets, the Tempest 1 boasts high speed, manoeuvrability, and stealth capabilities, marking a notable advancement in Yemen’s maritime warfare technology.

Russia hits war-torn Ukraine city of Kharkiv

Russia bombed a residential building in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Saturday, killing three people and wounding more than 50 as it stepped up renewed hostilities. Officials said four guided bombs hit Ukraine’s second largest city, located near the Russian border, and President Volodymyr Zelensky posted footage of the torn-off facade of an apartment block and a crater outside.

“Russian terrorists have again hit Kharkiv with guided bombs,” he wrote on Telegram, announcing three dead as rescuers searched the rubble.

Fifty-two people were wounded in the strikes, including three teenagers, the regional prosecutor’s office said.

China-EU consultations on e-car investigation

China and the EU have agreed to “start consultations” on the anti-subsidy investigation launched by Brussels into Chinese electric vehicles which has led to a tightening of import duties which could become operational from early July in the event of no agreement. This is the result of the video conference held today between Chinese Trade Minister Wang Wentao and the Executive Vice President and Commissioner for Trade of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis, according to a note from the Ministry of Commerce in Beijing.

Astronauts stranded in space due to multiple issues with Boeing’s Starliner

Two NASA astronauts who rode to orbit on Boeing’s Starliner are currently stranded in space aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after engineers discovered numerous issues with the Boeing spacecraft. Teams on the ground are now racing to assess Starliner’s status.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams were originally scheduled to return to Earth on June 13 after a week on the ISS, but their stay has been extended for a second time due to the ongoing issues. The astronauts will now return home no sooner than June 26, according to NASA.

After years of delays, Boeing’s Starliner capsule successfully blasted off on its inaugural crewed flight from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on June 5. But during the 25-hour flight, engineers discovered five separate helium leaks to the spacecraft’s thruster system.

Now, to give engineers time to troubleshoot the faults, NASA has announced it will push back the perilous return flight, extending the crew’s stay on the space station to at least three weeks.

“We’ve learned that our helium system is not performing as designed,” Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Starliner programme manager, said. “Albeit manageable, it’s still not working like we designed it. So we’ve got to go figure that out.”

The return module of the Starliner spacecraft is currently docked to the ISS’s Harmony module as NASA and Boeing engineers assess the vital hardware issues aboard the vessel, including five helium leaks to the system that pressurises the spacecraft’s propulsion system, and five thruster failures to its reaction-control system.

After powering the thrusters up on June 15, engineers found that most of these issues appeared to be at least partially resolved, but their exact causes remain unknown.

However, the Harmony module’s limited fuel means Starliner can only stay docked for 45 days, so the window for a safe return flight is narrowing.

Capri mayor blocks tourists amid water shortage

An aqueduct supplying water to the popular tourist destination has failed, sparking an acute emergency, making the popular Italian travel destination inaccessible to non-residents and tourists without hotel reservations.

The situation was prompted by a technical issue on the Italian mainland that caused the island’s water supply to break down. However, the fault was rectified in the evening.

On Saturday, Capri Mayor Paolo Falco issued an order barring all non-residents and day tourists from docking until further notice. The order forced several ferries on route to Capri from Naples and Sorrento to return to port.

Paris Olympics opening ceremony rehearsal postponed

A rehearsal for the Paris Olympics opening ceremony planned for Monday has been postponed because the river Seine is flowing so fast, city authorities have said. After several weeks of rainy weather, the Seine is currently flowing at a level five times stronger than its normal summer reading, meaning it would be impossible to “draw the most relevant lessons” from a rehearsal on Monday, the city authorities and the Olympics organisers said.

The rehearsal was to have featured around 90 barges which will be used to transport teams on their parade down the river in the July 26 ceremony. Paris 2024 will be the first Olympics in history to take the opening ceremony out of its traditional setting of the main Games stadium.

The recent heavy rain in the French capital is also bad news for the ongoing fight to raise the quality of the water in the Seine to levels required to stage the triathlon and open-water swimming events at the Olympics. The Seine was too dirty when tested on June 16 to allow the Olympic triathlon and open-water swimming events to be held there, the results of an analysis showed.

US Postal Inspection Service warns of new scam: quishing

The US Postal Inspection Service is warning the public about a new scam criminals are using to commit identity fraud. It’s called quishing, a form of phishing that uses fake QR codes to trick people into revealing their personal information. The scammers typically initiate the attack by sharing a message with a QR code via social media, posting it in a public location or sending it unsolicited via text or email. The message will likely be enticing, offering a gift or a discount to willing consumers seem too good to be true.

When the viewer scans the QR, they will be taken to the scammer’s website, and although it will likely appear legitimate, it’s just a deception through which the criminal can gain a person’s trust. That trust can be used to garner the user’s personal information, including their name, address, banking information, passwords and more. The scammers can then use your personal information to commit identity fraud, which can entail charging purchases to your bank account, opening new credit card accounts in your name, misusing your social security number and fraudulently changing your address on your accounts, to name a few.

Euro 2024: 3 teams qualify for Round of 16

At least three teams have qualified for the Round of 16 at the ongoing Euro 2024. Portugal became the latest team to book their spot after they hammered Turkey 3-0 on Saturday.

A 21st-minute goal from Bernardo Silva was followed seven minutes later by an unfortunate Samet Akaydin’s own goal. Cristiano Ronaldo then set up Bruno Fernandes to make it 3-0. The Portugal captain achieved another piece of history as he set up Fernandes to tap into an empty net for the last goal of the match. That was the 39-year-old’s seventh assist in the competition, another record to add to his burgeoning collection.

The result ensured Roberto Martinez’s men qualify for the last-16 as group winners. Portugal now join Spain and Germany in the next round. All three teams have picked up the maximum six points from two fixtures.

Saturday’s results:

Group F: Georgia v Czechia 1-1 and Turkey v Portugal 0-3; Group E: Belgium v Romania 2-0. Today’s programme: Group A: Scotoland v Hungary and Switzerland v Germany (both matches at 9pm). Copa America Group B: Eduador v. Venezuela 1-2, Mexico v Jamaica 1-0.

Photo: Hassan Jarrah/AFP

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