Netanyahu casts off genocide case, vows to push ahead

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Saturday, 27th January 2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struck a defiant tone on Friday after the International Court of Justice refused to throw out a genocide case against Israel. He said his troops were carrying out a “sacred mission” to defend the country and vowed to continue the war in Gaza.

In a video address shortly after the ICJ ruled Israel must contain the civilian death toll in Gaza, Netanyahu said that “Israel has an inherent right to defend itself”. The UN judicial body also put more restraints on Israel’s military campaign against Palestinian militant group Hamas. “The vile attempt to deny Israel this fundamental right [to defend itself] is blatant discrimination against the Jewish state, and it was justly rejected. The charge of genocide levelled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it.”

Friday’s ruling stops short of calling for a ceasefire and immediate halt to Israel’s military activity and displacement of Palestinian people – actions requested by South Africa when it brought the genocide case to the ICJ. But the court said Israel must restrain from the destruction of infrastructure, should support more humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza strip and prevent calls to commit genocide against the Palestinian people. Israeli officials must submit a report within a month on how those measures have been implemented, the ICJ said. And in a blow to Israel, the court rejected Israel’s request to throw out the case, finding it was plausible enough to take on. The court is expected to take years to issue a final ruling on the genocide case.

Speaking to DW in The Hague, Ammar Hijazi, a representative of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, welcomed the ruling as a “historic decision”. “Today, for the first time in the history of the Palestinian people and their struggle for independence and freedom, Israel, their oppressor, has been held to account in front of the highest court in the world,” he said.

UN summit after ICJ’s decision on Israel

The UN Security Council will meet on Wednesday to review the International Court of Justice’s decision calling on Israel to prevent a “genocide” in Gaza, the French Presidency announced. The summit, which will be held at 5pm Malta time, was requested by Algeria “in order to give executive effect to the decision of the International Court on the provisional measures imposed on the Israeli occupation”, as announced by the Algerian Foreign Ministry.

Photo: REMKO DE WAAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Image

EU ‘concerned’ that UN staff involved in Hamas attacks

The EU says it’s “extremely concerned” by Israel’s allegations that staff of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees were involved in the 7th October attacks. The European Commission and the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also called, in a joint statement, for UNRWA to “provide full transparency on the allegations and to take immediate measures against staff involved”.

UNRWA announced earlier on Friday it was probing the potential involvement of several of its staff members in Hamas’ 7th October attacks, which left more than 1,200 Israelis dead and provoked a war in Gaza that has claimed the lives of more than 26,000 Palestinians. UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said he had immediately fired the 12 employees suspected of involvement “to protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance” to the besieged Gaza Strip.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is “horrified by this news”, according to his spokesperson. The US has responded by pausing its funding to UNRWA while investigations take place. The UN agency has played a pivotal role in ensuring life-saving aid reaches the population of Gaza since the outbreak of the war.

Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

UN appeals for urgent humanitarian aid for Ukraine

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has appealed for urgent humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians, following a week-long visit to several areas affected by the war in the country. Grandi said that the millions displaced by the war, whose suffering is being worsened by the harsh winter, were “in desperate need of humanitarian assistance”.

The United Nations and its partners have requested €3.8 billion from the international community to cover the costs of aid operations in Ukraine this year – 26 per cent lower than in 2023. This would help almost 11 million people directly or indirectly affected by the military aggression launched by Russia two yars ago. The UNHCR put the latest figure of people who have been displaced from the war at 10 million. Some 3.7 million are considered to be internally displaced, while another 6.3 million are categorised as refugees.

Photo: UNHCR/Iryna Tymchyshyn

British oil tanker on fire after Houthi strike

An British oil tanker is on fire off the coast of Yemen after a missile strike claimed by the Houthis. The vessel was operated on behalf of multinational company Trafigura. A spokesperson for the company, which has offices in London, said the safety of crew on the ‘Marlin Luanda’, a vessel operated on its behalf, is its “foremost priority”. Military ships in the region are on the way to provide assistance, it said.

Houthis fire  missile at a US warship

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched a missile on Friday at a US warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden, forcing it to shoot down the projectile as their aggressive attacks on maritime traffic continue. The attack on the destroyer USS Carney marked a further escalation in the biggest confrontation at sea the US Navy has seen in the Middle East in decades. The Carney attack represents the first time the Houthis directly targeted a US warship since the rebels began their assaults on shipping in October.

Photo: AP Photo/Osamah Abdulrahman

Freight through Suez Canal down by 45%

Freight going through the Suez Canal has plunged by nearly half since Iran-backed Houthi militants began attacking vessels in the Red Sea as a show of support for Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war. The UN Conference on Trade and Development, UNCTAD, which supports developing countries in global trade, says that 39 per cent fewer ships than at the start of December transited the canal, leading to a 45 per cent decline in freight tonnage. Container shipments through the canal decreased 82 per cent in the week to 19th January from early December while for liquified natural gas (LNG) the decline was even greater. The drop-off for dry bulk was smaller, and crude oil tanker traffic was very slightly higher, the agency said.

Michel renounces candidacy for the European elections

European Council President Charles Michel has announced he is backtracking on his plans to run in the European Parliament elections scheduled for June. The Belgian politician referred to “extreme reactions” to his decision from outside the European Council, suggesting it guided his decision. He also said he was subjected to “personal attacks”.

“For all these reasons, and to maintain the focus of my mission, I will not be a candidate in the European elections. I will devote all my efforts to my current responsibilities with steadfast determination until they come to an end,” Michel said in a social media statement on Friday. Michel said he had anticipated some of the “intense media attention and speculation” which his decision to run gave rise to. He added that he planned to “reflect on the nature and direction of my future commitments” following the end of his mandate as President of the European Council.

Macron promulgates immigration law

French President Emmanuel Macron promulgated the immigration law last evening to appear in today’s Journal Officiel. The text was largely censored two days ago by the Constitutional Council called to rule on the conformity of the law with the Constitution. The nine judges of the Constitutional Council rejected the articles relating to the tightening of conditions for migrants who want to obtain health and social benefits and the restrictions on the criteria for family reunification – all clauses imposed in parliament by the right and the extreme right. The Républicains denounced a “democratic coup” and a “coup d’état” by the judges of the Constitutional Council.

Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Trump must pay E. Jean Carroll US$83.3 in defamation case

Donald Trump was ordered by a federal jury on Friday to pay US$83.3 million (€76.68m) in damages to E. Jean Carroll, who accused the former US President of destroying her reputation as a trustworthy journalist by denying he raped her nearly three decades ago. The seven-man, two-woman jury needed less than three hours to reach the verdict.

The payout far exceeded the minimum US$10m (€9.2m) that Carroll had been seeking. The jury awarded her $18.3m in compensatory damages and $65m in punitive damages. Carroll, 80, sued Trump in November 2019 over his denials five months earlier that he had raped her in the mid-1990s in a department store dressing room in Manhattan. Trump, 77, claimed that he had never heard of Carroll, and that she made up her story to boost sales of her memoirs.

Another jury last May ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5m (€4.6m) over a similar October 2022 denial, finding that he had defamed and sexually abused Carroll. Trump is appealing that decision. In the current trial, Carroll said Trump “shattered” her reputation as a respected journalist who told the truth. She also said punitive damages were appropriate, in part to keep Trump from repeating his denials.

Photo: REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid

Nikki Haley calls Trump ‘totally unhinged’

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley called former President Trump “totally unhinged” during an interview on Fox News on Friday, referring to the recent threat he made to blacklist donors who give aid to Haley. The former South Carolina governor also criticised the Republican National Committee’s move to declare Trump as the presumptive GOP nominee with only two states having held contests so far – an effort Trump reportedly backed but then publicly declined.

EU law on platform workers gets new chance to survive

EU member states have given a new chance to the Platform Workers Directive, the survival of which hangs by a thread. Ambassadors agreed on Friday to a revised mandate, which enables the Council, represented by Belgium, to head back to negotiations with the European Parliament. The face-to-face talks are expected to take place as early as next Tuesday in a race against the clock before the legislative cycle grinds to an absolute halt in anticipation of the upcoming EU elections in June.

The road, however, is not yet clear: during Friday’s discussions, six member states either opposed the revised mandate or abstained, suggesting resistance to the directive is still well entrenched. The draft law, unveiled in late 2021, is designed to improve the working conditions of those who service popular daily apps such as Uber, Deliveroo, and Glovo, who are often treated as self-employed despite being under rules similar to regular employees.

Photo: MikeDotta/Shutterstock

Football: Klopp to step down as Liverpool coach

Jürgen Klopp has announced that he will step down as Liverpool head coach at the end of the season after eight-and-a-half years. The German has been in charge of the “Reds” since 2015, winning six major trophies including the Champions League in 2019 and the club’s first Premier League title in 30 years a year later.

“I love absolutely everything about this club, I love everything about the city, I love everything about our supporters, I love the team, I love the staff. I love everything. But that I still take this decision shows you that I am convinced it is the one I have to take,” he told the club’s official website, revealing that he made his decision back in November. “It is that I am, how can I say it, running out of energy. I have no problem now, obviously, I knew it already for longer that I will have to announce it at one point, but I am absolutely fine now. I know that I cannot do the job again and again and again and again. After the years we had together and after all the time we spent together and after all the things we went through together, the respect grew for you, the love grew for you and the least I owe you is the truth – and that is the truth.”

Tennis: Sinner beats Djokovic at the Australian Open

Novak Djokovic lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open on Friday to the rising 22-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner, the first time the Serbian has lost a semifinal or a final in the tournament he has won a record 10 times – a perfect 20-0 in the tournament’s most important matches.

According to The Athletic, Sinner, who beat Djokovic twice at the end of last year, crushed his strangely out-of-sync opponent early – before preventing one of his signature surges – and beat the 24-time Grand Slam champion 6-1, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3.

In after-match comments, Sinner said, “I tried to keep pushing. I lost last year to him in the semis of Wimbledon. I learned a lot from that.” A downcast Djokovic said after the match, “I congratulate Sinner for playing a great match, and a great tournament so far. He is deservedly in the final. Today he completely outclassed me. I was, in a way, shocked with my level, you know, in a bad way. There was not much I was doing right in the first two sets. I guess this is one of the worst Grand Slam matches I’ve ever played. At least that I remember.”

Photo: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

Main photo: Ohad Zwigenberg / Associated Press

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