Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the members of the militant Palestinian organisation Hamas to lay down their weapons in a video broadcast on Sunday evening. Netanyahu said that “in recent days, dozens of Hamas terrorists” have surrendered to Israel’s armed forces: “they throw down their weapons and hand themselves over to our heroic fighters”. The war will continue, “but this is the beginning of the end for Hamas,” he added. “To the terrorists I say it’s over, don’t die for Sinwar, surrender now”. Citing anonymous security sources, the Haaretz newspaper wrote that, of the several hundred Palestinians detained so far, only between 10 and 15 per cent were affiliated with Hamas or other militant groups.
The Israel Defence Forces announce on X this morning that they had eliminated Emad Krikae, commander of Hamas’ Shejaiya battalion, who had assumed command after his predecessor was killed. Previously, he had been deputy commander of the same battalion and responsible for anti-tank missile training in the Gaza City Brigade.
‘No hostages will return to Israel without negotiations’ – Hamas
Israel will not be able to recover any of its hostages unless it engages in talks on targeted exchange deals. Abu Obaida, spokesperson for the al-Qassam Brigades, said in a pre-recorded message broadcast by Al Jazeera: “We tell the Israelis that Netanyahu, Gallant, and other members of the war cabinet cannot bring back their prisoners without negotiations. The latest killing of a prisoner they tried to take back by force proves this,” Obaida added.
Half the population of Gaza is dying of hunger, says UN
Half of the population of Gaza is dying of hunger while the fighting between Hamas and Israel continues, the deputy director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Carl Skau, told the BBC. Only a fraction of the needed supplies have made it into the Strip and in some areas nine out of 10 families are unable to eat every day, the official added, stressing that conditions in Gaza have made humanitarian aid deliveries “almost impossible”. Skau commented that nothing had prepared him for the “fear, chaos, and desperation” that he and his WFP team encountered during their trip to Gaza this week. They witnessed “confusion in warehouses, in distribution points with thousands of hungry and desperate people, in supermarkets with empty shelves and in overcrowded shelters with overflowing toilets”, he said. International pressure and a temporary seven-day ceasefire last month have allowed some much-needed aid into the Gaza Strip, but a second border crossing is now needed to meet demand, according to the WFP. In some areas, nine out of ten families spend “an entire day and night without food”, the official stressed.
“In Gaza there is hell on Earth”
A ceasefire is vital to put an end to the “hell on Earth” in Gaza, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said at the Doha Forum in Qatar. “The dehumanisation of the Palestinians has allowed the international community to tolerate continued Israeli attacks on Gaza,” Lazzarini said, stressing that the agency is on the verge of collapse. “It’s definitely the worst situation I’ve ever seen,” he added. “People come to the UN to ask for protection, but even the blue flag is no longer protected. The situation has reached a catastrophic nature.”
Guterres: “We are heading towards a catastrophe”
The same sentiments were echoed by the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, speaking at the same Doha Forum. “We are running a serious risk of collapse of the humanitarian system” in Gaza, where “the situation is rapidly turning into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for the Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region,” he said on Sunday. Guterres also deplored the “paralysis” of the United Nations in the face of the war between Israel and Hamas, saying he was sorry that the Security Council did not vote in favour of a ceasefire.
Former top Hamas minister blames Gaza ‘madmen’ for war
A former top Hamas official blamed the war on what he called “Gaza madmen’’, including infamous leader Yahya Sinwar, and claimed that everyday Palestinians support for Hamas was waning. According to a newly-released interrogation video, quoted by The Times of Israel, Yousef al-Mansi, an ex-communications minister, surrendered to Israel – and proceeded to slam Sinwar as “the boss of a group of crazies” who threw the Jewish state and Gaza into horrific conflict again by orchestrating the 7th October attack that killed more than 1,200 people. “A madman threw a big stone,” al-Mansi said, summing it up for Israel’s Shin Bet interrogators. “This is a group of madmen that Sinwar leads. They destroyed the Gaza Strip; set it back 200 years,” he said. Al-Mansi described Sinwar as a man who suffers “delusions of grandeur” and claimed that no civilians in Gaza support Hamas or its leadership after more than two months of war have devastated the Palestinian enclave.
Netanyahu’s 50-minute call with Putin
On Sunday, Netanyahu left a government cabinet meeting for a 50-minute telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Haaretz quotes Netanyahu’s office saying he expressed his disappointment to Putin over some statements made by Russian officials at the UN and other fora against Israel. He expressed appreciation for the Russian effort to release an Israeli citizen with Russian citizenship and said that Israel will use all to release all hostages.
Orderly, silent queues mark Egypt’s election
Orderly and silent queues, patriotic music, and tight cordons of army and police marked the first day of presidential elections in Egypt, brought forward in light of the serious decisions to be made regarding a growing economic crisis and the war between Israel and Hamas increasingly close to the border. At the polling stations, set up partly on the street and partly inside schools and public offices, the four candidates also voted Sunday, accompanied by bodyguards and large groups of supporters. Outgoing president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in power since 2014, is the favourite to win a third term. Results will be announced on Sunday.
Argentina’s President Milei warns of shock adjustment to economy
Argentina’s newly-empowered President, 53-year-old Javier Milei, presented figures to lay bare the scope of the nation’s economic “emergency” and sought to prepare the public for a shock adjustment with drastic public spending cuts. He was sworn in inside the National Congress building and broke with tradition by delivering his inaugural address not to assembled lawmakers but to his supporters gathered outside, telling them: “We don’t have alternatives and we don’t have time. We don’t have margin for sterile discussions. Our country demands action, and immediate action. The political class left the country at the brink of its biggest crisis in history,” he told thousands of supporters in Buenos Aires.
COP28: sticking points remain on fossil fuels and climate adaptation
Negotiators have been urged to narrow down their options so they can agree on how to save Earth from disastrous levels of warming and help vulnerable societies adapt to weather extremes as the clock runs down on UN climate talks. COP28 President Sultan al-Jaber told journalists on Sunday that negotiators were “making good progress” – just not fast enough. So he brought together ministers from all countries for conversation. According to observers, the new format seemed to work better than other methods, getting frank and deep discussions. Veteran negotiators at the talks said that the push to wean the world from dirty fossil fuels had gained so much momentum that they had poked a powerful enemy: the oil industry. Late Friday, multiple news sources reported that the leader of OPEC, the powerful oil cartel, wrote to member countries urging them to block any language that would phase out or phase down fossil fuels. The news had the effect of a thunderclap, shining a light on host and petrostate United Arab Emirates, which clearly has oil interests but also wants to show the world that it can lead the conference toward a substantive result. Small island states, Latin American countries, and European nations are pushing for a phase-out, but others are “still far apart”.
Children of Mohammadi accept Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf
The children of imprisoned Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on her behalf on Sunday, reading out a speech she’d written behind bars in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Her prize was placed on an empty chair between her 17-year-old twins, Ali and Kiana Rahmani, at the award ceremony in Oslo. Mohammadi, who was awarded the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize in October for her decades of human rights activism, went on a hunger strike as her prize was announced. “I am an Iranian woman, a proud and honourable contributor to civilisation, who is currently under the oppression of a despotic religious government,” her children said on her behalf. “I am a woman prisoner who, in enduring deep and soul-crushing suffering resulting from the lack of freedom, equality, and democracy, has recognised the necessity of her existence and has found faith.”
Outside Oslo Central Station, a crowd gathered in front of a stage where the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom” for Mohammadi resounded in Norwegian. Despite the sub-zero temperature, 1,500 turned out to show their support, police told public broadcaster Nrk. Then the crowd moved in a torchlight procession, reaching parliament square in front of the Grand Hotel, where Mohammadi’s family was together with the other guests of honour for the Nobel gala dinner. The image of Mohammadi was projected on the facade of the hotel. The family then appeared on the balcony to greet the crowd and the video of the Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour was shown, singing Baraye, the song that has become the protest anthem in Iran and which this year won the Grammy for the social impact it has had.
Lowest ever turnout in Hong Kong elections
The turnout rate in the local elections held on Sunday in Hong Kong, reserved for “patriotic” candidates and excluding any opposition, was 27.54% – the lowest ever recorded. The vote was intended to designate the councillors of the 18 districts of the city. According to the government website, only 1.2 million voters of the 4.3 million registered voters went to the polls.