More protests against Germany’s far-right

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 19th February 2024

Protesters again took to the streets in several German cities over the weekend under the motto of “defend democracy”. One of the larger gatherings on Sunday took place in the northern city of Wolfsburg, with roughly 6,000 people taking part. The event was partly called by the city’s primary employer, Volkswagen, and also included speakers from Wolfsburg’s men’s and women’s football clubs. Other demonstrations took place in cities including Hanover, Magdeburg, Bochum, Rietberg, Essen, and a series of smaller towns and communities over the weekend. In Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt State Premier Reiner Haseloff of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) told thousands gathered at the city’s cathedral, “We must fight all forms of racism and inhumanity wherever they appear.” Magdeburg’s Catholic bishop, Gerhard Feige, told those gathered, “I’m less fearful of ‘alienation from without’ than I am of ‘dehumanisation from within’.” This weekend also saw popular support for the right-wing, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) drop for the first time in months. A weekly poll by the INSA institute showed the party losing a percentage point over last week, with its 19 per cent approval rating its lowest since June 2023.

“Navalny’s body found with bruises on head, chest”

The body of Alexei Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who died in a Russian prison, was reported to have bruising on his head and chest, according to a Russian newspaper citing a paramedic professional. The unnamed source, identified as an experienced paramedic, said Navalny’s head and chest were bruised when his body arrived at the mortuary, as reported by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta Europe. “They also said he had a bruise on his chest – the kind that comes from indirect cardiac massage,” the source said, also claiming that the injuries were consistant with some kind of seizure.

Alexei Navalny’s widow to meet EU ministers

Yulia Navalnaya will attend the European Union foreign affairs council later today to discuss her husband’s case, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday. She would be welcomed at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, Borrell said late on Sunday on X, formerly Twitter. “EU Ministers will send a strong message of support to freedom fighters in Russia” and “honour” Navalny’s memory, he said. Yulia Navalnaya paid a heartfelt tribute to her husband Sunday while the family waits for the return of his body after he died in an Arctic prison on Friday. She posted a picture of the pair, heads touching, with the caption “I love you” on Instagram. More than 12,000 people have submitted requests to the Russian government asking for the politician’s remains to be handed over to his relatives, the prominent rights group OVD-Info said. The Russian authorities have told Navalny’s team that they would not release his body until investigations into his death were complete, which could take weeks.

Nikki Haley accuses Trump of siding with Putin

US Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said former US President and her main primary rival Donald Trump empowered Russian President Vladimir Putin after he said he would encourage Moscow to invade America’s allies if they weren’t pulling their weight. She told ABC News, Putin was not someone with whom Americans can be friends. “We need to remind the American people that Vladimir Putin is not our friend. Vladimir Putin is not cool. This is not someone we want to associate with. This is not someone that we want to be friends with. This is not someone that we can trust!” Haley reminded the American people that Putin said once he takes Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. “Now he is putting soldiers around those countries, just like he did around Ukraine. And if that happens, those are NATO countries. That immediately puts America at war. That is what we are trying to avoid.” Haley, 51, is the only one standing between Trump, 77, and him becoming the Republican nominee for the November 4th presidential elections against incumbent President Joe Biden, 81.

Israel “outright rejects” creation of Palestinian state

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government unanimously approved a measure declaring that the country “outright rejects” any attempts by foreign powers to create a Palestinian state. Netanyahu announced the move at the start of a cabinet meeting Sunday morning. It comes as various forces at the UN and even US President Biden’s administration have pushed Israel to accept a two-state solution after the war against Hamas in Gaza. Fox News quotes Netanyahu telling the cabinet in Hebrew, he was bringing a “declarative decision” for the approval of the government: “Israel outright rejects international dictates regarding the permanent settlement with the Palestinians,” the declaration said. “Such an arrangement will be reached only through direct negotiations between the parties, without preconditions. Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such a recognition, following the massacre of October 7, will reward the terrorism, a reward like no other, and will prevent any future peace settlement.” The statement echoed a message Netanyahu personally delivered to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, telling the top Biden administration official that direct or even indirect recognition “would be a prize for those who planned and orchestrated the October 7 massacre.”

Israeli livid at Brazil’s Lula as he likens Gaza war to Holocaust

Israel accused Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of trivialising the Holocaust and causing offence to the Jewish people on Sunday after he likened the Israeli war against Hamas militants in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War II. “What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments. In fact, it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews,” Lula told reporters during the 37th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it would summon the Brazilian ambassador for a reprimand over the remarks, which Netanyahu described as “disgraceful and grave”, adding, “This is an attempt to attack the Jewish people and the right of Israel to self-defence. Drawing comparisons between Israel and the Nazis and Hitler is to cross a red line.”

Meanwhile, Hareetz reports Netanyahu has accepted National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s request to restrict the entry of Israeli Arabs to the Temple Mount Mosque complex during Ramadan, despite the Shin Bet’s opposition.

Gaza’s second-largest hospital knocked out

Fighting, fuel shortages and Israeli raids put the Gaza Strip’s second-largest hospital completely out of service on Sunday, local and UN health officials said, as Israel battled Hamas militants in the devastated Palestinian enclave. The Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis still sheltered scores of patients suffering from war wounds and Gaza’s worsening health crisis, but there was no power and not enough staff to treat them all. Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said, “There are only four medical teams –  25 staff in all – currently caring for patients inside the facility.” Water supply to the hospital had stopped because generators had been out of action for three days, sewage was flooding emergency rooms and the remaining staff had no way of treating intensive care patients. Lack of oxygen supplies, also a result of having no power, had caused the deaths of at least seven patients, he said. Israel has raided medical facilities alleging that Hamas keeps weapons and hostages in hospitals. Hamas operates across densely-populated Gaza but denies it uses hospitals for cover.

US conducts five strikes in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen

Amid escalating tensions in the Red Sea, the United States conducted five strikes in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Sunday. The US Central Command (Centcom) said it struck three mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, an unmanned surface vessel, and a unmanned underwater vessel. According to the US, the Houthi vessels presented an “imminent threat” to US Navy ships and these actions will protect freedom of navigation in the region. Notably, this is the first reported use of an unmanned underwater vessel by Houthis since the attacks began last October. Earlier on Saturday, the Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a British oil tanker that the US identified as a Panamanian-flagged vessel carrying crude oil bound for India.

Two dead, 3 missing as 80 migrants rescued off Libya

More than 80 migrants were rescued, but two died and three were missing following two sea rescue operations in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Sunday. MSF’s vessel Geo Barents picked up over 60 people late Saturday from a rubber dinghy in distress in international waters off Libya. It also recovered one body, and one of the migrants taken on board died shortly after the rescue. Nineteen other people were picked up from a nearby abandoned Tunisian offshore oil platform, MSF said. The migrants told rescuers they swam there after the boat they were travelling on started taking in water. Three people remained on the boat and were now missing, the charity added.

64 dead in new Papua New Guinea tribal violence

Tribal violence in Papua New Guinea has resulted in at least 64 deaths. The local police said the massacre occurred following an ambush in Enga province, near the town of Wabag, 600 kilometers northwest of the capital Port Moresby. The incident is thought to be linked to a conflict between members of the Sikin and Kaekin tribes. Videos and photos the police have received from the scene show stripped and bloodied bodies lying on the side of the road and piled on the back of a flatbed truck. Clans from the Highlands region have fought each other for centuries in Papua New Guinea, but the influx of automatic weapons has made the clashes even deadlier and intensified the cycle of violence. The government has attempted repression, mediation, amnesties and a variety of other strategies to control the violence but with limited success. The army has deployed around 100 soldiers to the area, but their impact has been limited and security services remain outnumbered and outgunned. Opponents of Prime Minister James Marape’s government on Monday called for the deployment of more police and the resignation of the force’s commissioner.

Oppenheimer dominates BAFTAs 2024 with seven award wins

Atomic bomb epic ‘Oppenheimer’ won seven awards at the 77th British Academy Film Awards, including best picture, best director, and best actor. Christopher Nolan’s direction and Cillian Murphy’s gripping performance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, clinched the respective honours. Oppenheimer also took home prizes for editing, cinematography and musical score, as well as the best supporting actor prize for Robert Downey Jr. Yorgos Lanthimos’ spellbinding gothic tale ‘Poor Things’ secured the second most awards of the evening, five in total, including best actress for Emma Stone, production and costume design and visual effects. Holocaust drama, ‘The Zone of Interest’, a British-produced film shot in Poland with a largely German cast, was named both best British film and best film not in English, a first. Da’Vine Joy Randolph was named best supporting actress for playing a boarding school cook in ‘The Holdovers’ while the prize for original screenplay, went to French courtroom drama ‘Anatomy of a Fall’.

Four killed, one injured in Minnesota shooting spree

Four people were killed – two police oficers, a firefighter and the susopected gunmen at the scene of a domestic call in Minnesota. A third officer was wounded in the shooting by a man armed with multiple guns and large amounts of ammunition from inside a suburban home that was filled with children on Sunday. The authorities were still piecing together details of what has been described as a “terrible day”. The armed man had barricaded himself with his family, including seven children ranging in age from two to 15, and negotiations lasted for hours before the suspect opened fire.

Tennis: Unstoppable Sinner wins Rotterdam crown

Italian Jannik Sinner emerged victorious against Australian Alex De Minaur 7-5, 6-4 to secure his second back-to-back championship of 2024. The thrilling encounter witnessed yet another display of Sinner’s exceptional skills as he faced off against De Minaur for the coveted title. The Italian prodigy continued his dominance on the hard court, extending his winning streak into the next tournament. With this triumph, Sinner surpassed his previous ranking to secure a career-high position of World No.3. Three weeks ago, in a historic triumph in the Australian Slam, Sinner gave Italy back a victory in the tennis majors that had been missing for 50 years. “Congratulations, campione! Thank you for the emotions you are giving to Italy,” wrote Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on social media, publishing a photo of herself together with the tennis player, recently received at Palazzo Chigi.

Main photo: Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

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