Netanyahu warns: “We’ll turn Beirut into Gaza”

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Friday, 8th December 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened devastation in Beirut and southern Lebanon if Hezbollah opens a second front in Israel’s war with Hamas. Delivering the warning during a visit to the headquarters of the Israel Defence Forces, Netanyahu said, “If Hezbollah decides to open an all-out war, then with its own hands it will turn Beirut and southern Lebanon, which are not far from here, into Gaza and Khan Yunis.” His threat follows an Israeli airstrike that hit the town of Kounine in southern Lebanon, near the border with Israel, after the IDF identified “a number of launches” from Lebanon which led to sirens sounding in the Golan Heights. Earlier on Thursday, the IDF said that Israel Air Force fighter jets struck an “operational command and control centre” in Lebanon belonging to Hezbollah after launches were detected coming from the vicinity.

Israel denies it used white phosphorus

The Israeli military, in the early hours of Friday, denied that the IDF deployed white phosphorus in southern Lebanon on Thursday. The Lebanon National News Agency (NNA) alleged that Israeli artillery shelled the outskirts of the town of Rmeish, south Lebanon, with “phosphorus”. Video obtained by CNN shows columns of white smoke above the outskirts of the hilltop town but the US TV network was unable to confirm the use of phosphorous munitions. Last October, Human Rights Watch accused Israeli forces of using white phosphorus during military operations in Gaza and Lebanon.

Humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza

There is “unimaginable loss, destruction, and misery” in the Gaza Strip, the head of the World Food Programme said Thursday. “Everyone in Gaza is hungry,” WFP chief Cindy McCain said, adding that there was “unimaginable loss” in Gaza as people struggle to survive. Meanwhile, 70 aid trucks entered Gaza, including nearly 21,000 gallons of fuel, according to the Rafah Crossing Authority. Israel said it will open the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and Gaza for the inspection of aid trucks in the “next few days” – a move welcomed by the United Nations, which said it would help the delivery of more vital humanitarian assistance. US President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Thursday and reiterated the need for Israel to protect civilians.

Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

Hundreds of suspects arrested, questioned

Israeli forces have arrested and questioned hundreds of suspects in Gaza who are allegedly involved in terror activities, according to a military spokesperson. Meanwhile, images circulating on social media showed a mass detention of men who were made to strip to their underwear, kneel on the street, wear blindfolds, and get into the cargo bed of a military vehicle. At least some of the men are civilians with no known affiliation to militant groups, sources told CNN.

Photo: social media

“Over 17,000 Palestinians killed, 46,000 injured”

At least 17,177 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli attacks in Gaza since 7th October, a spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled health ministry said Thursday. The spokesperson added that a total of 46,000 people have been injured, and the majority of wounded people are children, women, and the elderly. At least 634 people crossed into Egypt on Thursday through the Rafah border crossing, officials said, including more than 400 dual nationals.

Photo: Aljazeera

US to hold military drills with Guyana

The United States announced joint military flight drills in Guyana on Thursday as tensions over a contested oil-rich region with neighbour Venezuela prompted the UN Security Council to call an urgent meeting. A border feud has been spiraling over the Essequibo region, which has been administered and controlled by Guyana for more than a century, although Venezuela also claims the disputed area. Venezuela recently conducted a referendum, which it claims citizens supported, that aims to give Venezuela authority over the Essequibo region. Guyanese officials said in response that the country is preparing to defend itself and its borders in case of an invasion. The spat is drawing in the international community, with Washington alarmed at the threat from the Venezuelan government of President Nicolás Maduro.

Russia warns US: Ukraine will be its ‘second Vietnam’

The Kremlin’s spy chief Sergei Naryshkin has warned the US that Ukraine will turn into its “second Vietnam” amid disagreement in Congress over funding for Kiev. “Ukraine will turn into a ‘black hole’ absorbing more and more resources and people,” Russian foreign intelligence chief Naryshkin said on Thursday in a written statement published by his agency’s house journal, the Intelligence Operative. “Ultimately, the US risks creating a ‘second Vietnam’ for itself, and every new American administration will have to deal with it,” he added. The warning comes after President Biden on Wednesday urged Congress to further support Ukraine with funding. “We can’t let Putin win,” Biden said. Biden is trying to push through a $61.4 billion emergency funding request for Kiev, but opposition against further aid to Ukraine has grown among Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Hunter Biden faces nine criminal charges in federal tax case

Hunter Biden has been charged in connection with a long-running Justice Department investigation into his taxes – the second criminal case that special counsel David Weiss has brought against President Joe Biden’s son. The charges span nine counts, including failure to file and pay taxes; evasion of assessment; and false or fraudulent tax return. According to the special counsel’s team, Hunter Biden “engaged in a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million” in taxes that he owed from 2016 through 2019. Though Hunter Biden did eventually pay his taxes from 2018, prosecutors allege that he included “false business deductions in order to evade assessment of taxes to reduce the substantial tax liabilities he faced”. Hunter Biden’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that “based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought”.

Photo: Julio Cortez/AP

Australia, Papua New Guinea sign security agreement

Australia and Papua New Guinea, the largest island state in the South Pacific, signed an important bilateral security agreement during the visit to Canberra by Prime Minister James Marape, who held talks with the head of the Australian government Anthony Albanese. The agreement consolidates Canberra’s ties with a key neighbour in the Pacific, which is persistently ‘courted’ by China. The agreement, which follows one the neighbouring Solomon Islands concluded with China this year, focuses on Papua New Guinea’s internal security.

Photo: AP

US medicine shortages hit record high

Shortages of life-saving medications have reached record highs in the United States, putting millions of Americans at risk of major relapse – and even death. The number of medications in short supply rose nearly 30 between 2021 and 2022 in the US, reaching a five-year record high of 295, according to official figures. Patients with aggressive blood cancers, life-threatening pneumonia, and mental illness are just some of those waiting more than a year for vital medicines, a investigation has learned. One notable medicine in short supply is the antibiotic ‘Amoxicillin’, used to treat bacterial infections.

Photo: National Cancer Institute

Copa América: USA to face Uruguay, Panama, Bolivia

The 2024 Copa América groups have been determined, and the US, as hosts and the top ranked team in Concacaf according to the FIFA rankings, joined reigning Copa América and World Cup champions Argentina, reigning Gold Cup champions Mexico, and Brazil as seeded teams. The US will open up group play on 23rd June against Bolivia, with that match taking place Arlington, Texas. They will then head to Atlanta on 27th June to take on Panama and wrap up the group stage Kansas City on 1st July, where they will take the field to play Uruguay.

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