“No one will stop us now”, says defiant Netanyahu

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Sunday, 14th January 2024

Israel will not compromise except with “total victory” in the war against Hamas, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said in a defiant speech on Saturday, adding that “no one will stop us, not even The Hague or the Axis of Evil”. Netanyahu spoke as thousands of Israelis protesters took to the streets, calling for the release of hostages being held in Gaza by Hamas and for Netanyahu to resign. The crowds carried a massive banner that read: “And the world remains silent”, and chanted that the 137 hostages still held in Gaza must be released “Now, now, now”.

Channel 12 TV reports that hundreds also demonstrated in Haifa to demand the immediate resignation of the Netanyahu government, accusing it of failing to manage the war in Gaza. Other demonstrations were also held in various cities around the world, including London, Paris, and New York.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for fresh talks for the release of the hostages. “The French nation is determined that … all the hostages of the 7th October terrorist attacks are freed,” he said in a video posted online and broadcast at a meeting in Tel Aviv in support of the hostages. “France does not abandon its children,” he added. “That is why we have to resume negotiations again and again for their release.” Three French citizens remain unaccounted for following the 7th October attack. They are thought to be among the hostages held in Gaza.

On the eve of the anniversary of the start of the war between Hamas and Israel, the UN said the 100 days of war in Gaza were “a stain on our common humanity”.

Meanwhile, Hamas Health Ministry officials said attacks launched by Israel between Friday night and Saturday morning killed at least 60 people in the Gaza Strip. The attacks also caused a telecommunications blackout.

World leaders react to Lai’s Taiwan election win

World leaders have congratulated Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for a historic third presidential term, even as President Biden warned that the US will not endorse independence for the island. “We do not support independence,” Biden told reporters when asked for comment on DPP candidate William Lai’s victory. Lai declared victory after a tightly-contested election saw him beat Kuomintang party (KMT) candidate Hou Yu-ih, the mayor of New Taipei City. Beijing had not declared a clear preference for any candidate, but Chinese officials described Lai as “dangerous”.  Taiwan has urged China to “face reality” and respect the results of the elections. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we read in a note, “calls on the Beijing authorities to respect the election results, face reality, and give up plans to repress Taiwan so that positive cross-Strait interactions get back on the right track”.

In a statement posted on social media platform X, US Secretary of State Atony Blinken congratulated Lai as well as “the Taiwan people for participating in free and fair elections and demonstrating the strength of their democratic system”.

The European Union did not mention or directly congratulate Lai on his victory, simply referring to the need for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” as “key to regional and global security and prosperity”. “The European Union welcomes the elections held in Taiwan on 13th January, and congratulates all the voters who participated in this democratic exercise,” the EU wrote in a statement released Saturday.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron offered his “warm congratulations” to Lai and urged China and Taiwan to continue working on efforts to “resolve differences peacefully through constructive dialogue,” The Independent reported. “The elections today are a testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Cameron said in his statement.

Japan congratulated Taiwan for the “smooth implementation” of its presidential election, and Lai for his victory, promising to “work toward further deepening cooperation and exchanges between Japan and Taiwan, based on its position to maintain working relationship on the non-governmental basis.”  China has made “solemn declarations” to Japan’s Foreign Minister in response to Tokyo’s “blatant congratulations on regional elections on the Chinese island of Taiwan”. The Chinese embassy, in a statement, underlined that “this constitutes a serious interference in China’s internal affairs – a clear violation of the ‘One China’ principle and a clear contradiction with the spirit of the four political documents between China and Japan”.

Lai defeated his rival, New Taipei City Mayor Hou Yu-ih of the KMT party, by just over 7% of the vote after Hou conceded defeat. According to the Taipei Times, Taiwan saw around 69% of voters turn out for the election. The victory marks DPP’s third successive win over KMT for the first time since Taiwan began democratic elections over 30 years ago – the first time a party has done so.

Lai’s win risks stoking tension with China. The Financial Times writes that the result could drive Beijing to ratchet up pressure on its democratic neighbour. “Taiwan has told the whole world that between democracy and authoritarianism, we stand on the side of democracy [and] will continue to walk side by side with the democracies of the world,” Lai said. “The Taiwanese people have successfully resisted efforts by external forces to influence the results of this election. Only people of Taiwan have the right to elect our President,” he added.

Despite losing the presidential election, KMT picked up 14 seats to the detriment of DPP, which fell just one seat shy of having the most seats and losing its majority. The 52-seat KMT and 51-seat DPP will need to curry favour with third-party TPP, which won eight seats, to pass any legislation.

The Beijing Taiwan Affairs Office issued a harsh statement that claimed the DPP “cannot represent the mainstream public opinion on the island” and “will not impede the inevitable trend of China’s reunification”.

Iran issues Houthi warning to US: ‘justified’ targets – Newsweek

Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani, Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations, has accused the US and the UK of declaring war against the Yemeni people after two nights of joint airstrikes on the country. The strikes targeted positions of the Houthi movement – officially known as Ansarullah – that, since 2014, has been at war with the internationally-recognised government backed by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

The Houthis have long maintained close ties with Tehran and are widely considered to be part of Iran’s regional “Axis of Resistance”. In response to Israel’s war on Gaza, the Houthis have been attacking shipping in the Red Sea. The US and its allies responded by launching a new maritime security operation, which this week broadened to include airstrikes on Houthi targets. The Houthis – who have weathered almost a decade of war with America’s Gulf partners – have vowed retaliation. In an exclusive interview with Newsweek, Iravani said that “any country engaging in this military aggression or subsequent hostilities may expose itself to potential danger”.

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

France’s top diplomat vows support to Ukraine

France’s newly-appointed foreign minister, Stéphane Séjourné, arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday for his first official trip abroad. He praised “the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people” and pledged that Paris “will not falter” in its support for Ukraine. Séjourné’s visit comes at a time when Kyiv’s allies in Brussels and Washington are struggling to secure further funding for military aid and modern weapons systems. A parliamentary report published last November put France’s military support to Ukraine at €3.2 billion .

Meanwhile, President Zelensky has hailed the UK’s £2.5 billion military aid package for Ukraine, as British Prime Miniter Rishi Sunak promised to continue to stand with the country in its fight against Russia. Sunak travelled to Kyiv on Friday to unveil the new funding, becoming the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine this year. With an increase of £200 million on the last two years, the UK military support comes at a crucial time for President Zelensky amid fears that interest is flagging among allies as the war drags on.

Photo: AP

Crack on ANA pilot cabin window

A crack on one of the four cockpit windows of an All Nippon Airways (ANA) Boeing forced the plane to return to its departure airport in Japan. The BBC said no injuries were reported on board ANA flight Nh1182, which departed from the city of Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido in the north of the Japanese archipelago and landed in Toyama, on the main island of Honshu.

Trump ordered to pay $400,000 to The New York Times

Former US President Donald Trump has been ordered to pay The New York Times nearly $400,000 in legal fees over a $100 million lawsuit the former President lost. The tycoon had accused the newspaper and his niece Mary Trump of “conspiring” to obtain his tax documents in 2018 for a series of articles that won the Pulitzer Prize. In particular, the lawsuit claimed that three journalists had incessantly persecuted his niece, with whom the former president has been at odds for some time, and had convinced her to hand over the documents “out of revenge”. Democratic judge Robert Reed threw out the lawsuit, ruling the arguments invalid and acknowledging “journalists’ right to engage in their work under the First Amendment of the Constitution”.

Over 40 hostages freed in Ecuador

More than 40 people kidnapped in Ecuadorian prisons have now been released, bringing the number of hostages still held by prisoners to 136, the Ecuadorian prison administration announced without providing further details. There are currently 133 prison officers and three officials still in the hands of prisoners, according to an official statement.

Photo: EFE/ Fuerzas Armadas De Ecuador

William “betrayed” as King Charles reconciles with Harry and Meghan

Prince William reportedly feels “betrayed” by King Charles as the monarch is said to have finally reconciled with Prince Harry. The insider told In Touch Weekly that Prince William is furious that Harry and King Charles were talking again.

“His brother has caused so much drama for the royals that, when William heard Harry and Charles were talking again, he told his father: ‘It’s Harry or me’. And Charles chose Harry. Now William can’t help but feel betrayed.” The source went on claiming that, “As of now, he refuses to show up”. The future king is also giving his father the silent treatment as a kind of revenge. “There’s a lot of tension between them at the moment.” According to the claims, King Charles is giving Prince Harry and Meghan Markle new roles in the monarchy, and the Prince of Wales is feeling beyond “stressed and bitter”.

Princess of Wales Kate Middleton is said to have infuriated her father-in-law King Charles months after the monarch dubbed her “beloved daughter-in-law”. The royal insider told the publication that Kate Middleton’s constant conflict with Queen Camilla, about issues big and small, infuriates Charles. “It appears to have further driven him, and Camilla, toward Harry and Meghan”, the insider claimed.

Image: Getty

New Zealand’s Ardern marries her partner

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (43), married her partner Clarke Gayford (47) in a ceremony at Craggy Range, in Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of the North Island. The wedding was initially scheduled for 2022 but was postponed due to the pandemic. New Zealand Herald reports that Neve di Lei, the couple’s five-year-old daughter, wore a crown of flowers in her hair and a white dress. Jacinda and Clarke had their first date exactly 10 years ago.

Football: Ivory Coast beat Guinea Bissau in Africa Cup opener

Two-time winner and host of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, Ivory Coast, beat Guinea Bissau 2-0 in the tournament’s opening game on Saturday. Seko Fofana gave the hosts the perfect start in the Group A clash in Abidjan when he blasted home from just inside the area in the fourth minute. Jean-Philippe Krasso hooked in the second after the break after some smart control under pressure in the box. Nigeria face Equatorial Guinea this afternoon in the second Group A match, while 2021 runners-up Egypt and four-time champions Ghana will also be in action later in the day as Group B commences.

Photo: SkySports

Tennis: Djokovic bids for 25th Slam crown at Australian Open

A “pain-free” Novak Djokovic begins his Australian Open defence against a teenage qualifier today, Sunday, as he bids for an unprecedented 25th major crown. The opening Grand Slam of the year got underway on Saturday as a 15-day event for the first time, aimed at cutting down on late-night finishes. World number one Djokovic is an overwhelming favourite, with a sore wrist that cast a shadow over his build-up no longer troubling him. He should have few problems progressing from his clash against 18-year-old Croat Dino Prizmic, who is making his main draw Slam debut. But the Serbian’s first real test could come in the third round, with a potential blockbuster showdown against fellow veteran Andy Murray. Scotland’s Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, begins against Argentine 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry.

Photo: David GRAY / AFP

Main photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

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