Pro-Palestinian protests at US universities escalate

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 24rd April 2024.

Pro-Palestinian protests continued to rock major American universities on Tuesday, prompting school officials to take extraordinary steps to confront the growing crisis. New York’s Columbia University, facing a seventh day of tense demonstrations, said it is moving to mostly hybrid classes on its main campus until the end of the semester. The students occupying the West Lawn at Columbia said they are planning on staying there until the university meets their demands of divestment from anything related to Israel. Meanwhile, House Speaker Mike Johnson will meet Jewish students at Columbia later today and deliver remarks “regarding the troubling rise of virulent antisemitism on America’s college campuses,” according to his office.

Over 34,000 killed in Israeli operations in Gaza

Israeli military operations in Gaza have killed at least 34,183 people after 200 days of war, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The Government Media Office in Gaza said that, over the past 200 days, 14,778 children had been killed – as had 9,752 women. The Media Office also said that 17,000 children in Gaza had lost one or both parents.

Meanwhile, more bodies have been found at Khan Younis hospital. Emergency workers on Tuesday recovered at least 35 more bodies from a mass grave within the Nasser medical complex, in southern Gaza, after Israeli forces withdrew from the neighbourhood earlier this month. The total number of bodies found increased to 310, Col. Yamen Abu Suleiman, the director of Civil Defence in Khan Younis, told CNN, adding that operations are ongoing.

However, Israel’s army rejected as “baseless” claims that its troops had buried hundreds of Palestinian bodies at a Gaza hospital, saying corpses had been examined in a search for hostages. Gaza’s Civil Defence agency said yesterday that health workers had uncovered nearly 340 bodies, updating an earlier figure, of Palestinians allegedly killed and buried by Israeli forces at the medical complex. “The claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded,” the military said, without directly addressing allegations from the Hamas-run authorities that the Israeli troops were behind the killings. It acknowledged that troops had examined corpses buried at the facility.

On the ground, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) issued a warning to people in parts of the area of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza to evacuate and relocate to shelters in other parts of the enclave. The Israeli military and journalists in Gaza reported extensive strikes overnight in several parts of the territory. Also, Israeli air strikes demolished the top three floors of the Al-Sahaba building in Gaza City, in the northern part of the enclave. The IDF also said it had “successfully intercepted two suspicious aerial targets off the northern coast.” Elsewhere, Abu Obaida, the spokesperson of the Hamas military wing Al Qassam Brigades, urged continued attacks on Israel in his first video message in more than six weeks on Tuesday, marking 200 days of the Israel-Hamas war.

More than 270,000 tons of solid waste across the entire Gaza Strip remain uncollected, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said Tuesday, as Israel’s military campaign has disrupted essential services in the enclave. The agency also reported that more than 75 per cent of the entire population across Gaza has been displaced as of April 21, that relief operations there have been “severely restricted” by Israeli authorities and that the health system in the enclave has been crushed. Jordan has conducted an airdrop of humanitarian and relief aid into Gaza on Tuesday, according to Jordanian state news agency Petra. Also, US military vessels are in the Mediterranean region and “standing by” and prepared to begin construction on the temporary pier off the coast of Gaza when given the order to do so, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.

The Israeli military says it killed two members of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon. In the the southern village of Hanine in Lebanon, an Israeli airstrike targeted a house that killed at least two people and injuring six others, according to state-run media NNA.

Iranian threats: An Israeli attack on Iranian territory would have serious consequences and result in there being “nothing left” of Israel, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi said Tuesday, Iranian state news agency IRNA reported. The warning came after Israel on Friday carried out a military strike inside Iran, a US official told CNN, although Israel has not officially claimed the attack.

‘310 aid trucks enter Gaza’ – UNRWA

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, said that “more than 310 aid trucks” entered the Gaza Strip yesterday, underlining that this was the highest number since October 7. “This shows that when there is a will there is a way: now we need to support it and increase it further,” Lazzarini wrote on his X account adding that “trucks should include both commercial and humanitarian supplies so that markets can reopen” in the Palestinian enclave. The famine in the northern Gaza Strip “can only be avoided with a significant and uninterrupted supply” of aid “including through UNRWA”, added the head of the UN agency.

Russia cancels annual Victory Day parade

Moscow and other Russian cities have cancelled their annual Victory Day parade on May 9. The co-chair of the organising committee of the Immortal Regiment movement, Elena Tsunayeva, said the decision was taken for security reasons. “Due to existing threats to public security, the headquarters has decided to cancel the 2024 Immortal Regiment march,” Tsunayeva explained, adding that this year the celebrations will take the form of other events. Victory Day is celebrated annually in Russia in memory of the capitulation of Nazi Germany during World War II.

Witness reveals Trump’s plan to influence 2016 election

A longtime friend of Donald Trump admitted on the stand Tuesday that their relationship had devolved into an orchestrated scheme to influence the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf. David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer and former CEO of its parent company, American Media Inc., told the court that he and Trump had coordinated not just to publish positive coverage of his friend ahead of the 2016 election, but also to publish negative coverage of other presidential candidates. In doing so, Pecker practically admitted to the catch-and-kill media scheme that Trump has repeatedly denied. The magazine’s “catch and kill” operations are central to the case, and prosecutors allege the hush money deal with Stormy Daniels that Pecker helped broker was part of a larger conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election. Also in court Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan had a heated exchange with Trump’s lawyer over whether the former president should be fined for social media posts prosecutors say violated the gag order. The judge has not issued a decision. Court is not in session today and the trial will resume Thursday morning.

Spain’s High Court reopens investigation in Pegasus spying scandal

Spain’s High Court on Tuesday ordered the reopening of an investigation into the alleged hacking of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and other Spanish politicians’ phones with Pegasus spyware. The investigation was launched in 2022 when the government said software from the Israeli firm NSO Group was used to spy on ministers, triggering a political crisis in Spain. The probe was shelved last year over “the complete lack of legal cooperation” from Israel. After receiving new information from French judicial authorities, Judge Josè Luis Calama decided to reopen Spain’s investigation.

Pegasus is a software that can be used on mobile phones to extract data or activate a camera or microphone to spy on owners. Developed by Israel’s NSO company, the spyware requires a government license for export because it is considered a weapon. NSO insists that it is only made available to governments to fight terrorism and other security threats. Pegasus has been used to target more than 1,000 people across 50 countries, including activists and journalists, according to security researchers and a 2021 global media investigation.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Defence Minister Margarita Robles, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, and Agriculture Minister Luis Planas were among those allegedly targeted in Spain. The revelations caused a political crisis in the country that led to the resignation of its spy chief. French President Emmanuel Macron and several of his ministers were also targeted. The Spanish court said Tuesday, “comparing the technical elements gathered in the French investigation” with the one in Spain “may enable the investigation to progress… to trace the origin of the piracy”. The investigation is trying to discover who is responsible for the snooping. However, no one has been accused yet.

The judge ordered expert analysis to determine the authorship of the cyber attacks by cross-examining the technical elements collected in the French and Spanish investigations. “All of this will allow for joint and coordinated action by the French and Spanish judicial authorities in order to determine the authorship of the infestation carried out through the Pegasus spy programme in both France and Spain,” the judge said.

5 asylum seekers die while crossing English Channel to UK

Five asylum seekers died while crossing the English Channel from France to Britain in an overcrowded small boat on Tuesday. The tragedy came just hours after the UK government approved a Bill to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda. The boat carrying 112 people set out from Wimereux, about 32km  southwest of the French port of Calais, to cross one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. However, rescuers picked up 49 people, and four were taken to hospital, but others stayed on the boat and continued their journey to Britain. Local prefect Jacques Billant said, “A tragedy occurred on a boat overloaded with migrants early this morning. We deplore the deaths of five people, a seven-year-old girl, a woman and three men. The engine stopped a few hundred metres away from the shore, and several people fell into the water,” Billant added. The French coastguard said that 58 people stayed on board and it was still searching for any other survivors. “They did not want to be rescued. They managed to restart the engine and headed towards Britain,” Billant said.

Reportedly, over 6,000 people have arrived in Britain this year on small, overloaded boats that risk being lashed by waves as they try to reach British shores. The UK government has been trying for two years to get approval for a divisive policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, and finally, on Tuesday, the House of Commons passed legislation overnight to allow the deportations. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he expected the first flights to take off in 10 to 12 weeks, giving time for further legal challenges from charities, campaigners and unions. Sunak further said that the government was acting out of compassion, wanting to prevent people smugglers from pushing vulnerable people out to sea. “They are packing more and more people into these unseaworthy dinghies. You’ve seen an enormous increase in the numbers over the past few years,” he said. “This is what tragically happens.”

Under the Rwanda scheme, people who have arrived in Britain in an irregular way after January 1, 2022, will be sent to Rwanda, about 6,400km away. More than 50,000 people have arrived since that date, according to official figures. However, the United Nations refugee agency and the Council of Europe called on the UK on Tuesday to rethink its plans over fears that the Bill could damage international cooperation on tackling the global migration crisis.

UK MasterChef cook cuts off top of her finger

Shocked MasterChef viewers were left feeling queasy after a contestant suffered a gruesome knife injury on Tuesday episode of the BBC cooking show. Just minutes into the show one vegan cook, Charlotte, 42, accidentally sliced off the tip of her finger while preparing her food. It appeared she went too fast chopping and managed to cut off the end of one of her fingers –  which was then shown on the chopping board by the cameras. She looked panicked and held her hand up as judge John Torode rushed over and said: “I’m sorry to say this, but you’ve actually cut the top of your finger off.”  John then said to the camera: “Sadly Charlotte has cut herself and she’s had to leave the MasterChef kitchen for medical attention so she won’t be finishing off her dish.” Fans were left feeling queasy after the accident was shown as they wrote on Twitter: “Did they have to show us the top of her cut off finger?”

French police union threatens to disrupt Olympics relay

A French police trade union threatened Tuesday to disrupt the Olympics torch relay ahead of the start of the Paris Games this July unless officers were given bonuses. The Alliance union said that the French prime minister’s office and economy ministry were holding up special Olympics payments of as much as €1,900 promised to police. Warning that a first demonstration had been called for Thursday, the union said that other actions could follow and “we do not rule out disturbing the torch relay”. The threat underlines the challenge for French authorities as they negotiate Olympics bonuses for public sector staff who are being asked to work over the traditional summer holiday period. The biggest union representing staff in the civil service, the CGT, has issued a strike threat from its members over the duration of the Olympics which begin on July 26. The torch relay is set to begin in Marseille on May 8. The country’s militant air traffic controllers have also announced a strike this Thursday, even though they had promised an “Olympic truce” last September. Workers at the national mint producing the medals for the competitors have also been on strike, demanding bonuses for what they say is highly demanding work. The first Olympics in Paris in 100 years are set to take place from July 26 to August 11 followed by the Paralympics from August 28 to September 8.

UK Premier League: Arsenal hammer Chelsea 5-0

Kai Havertz scored twice against his former club as Arsenal tightened their grip on top spot in the Premier League by denting Chelsea’s European aspirations with a thumping 5-0 win. Gunners forward Havertz, who made a £65million switch from Stamford Bridge last summer, registered two of four second-half goals on a remarkable evening at a jubilant Emirates Stadium. Defender Ben White also claimed a brace for Mikel Arteta’s title-chasing side, adding to Leandro Trossard’s early opener, as the Blues’ recent resurgence floundered in embarrassing fashion in the absence of key man Cole Palmer. Victory moved Arsenal three points ahead of second-placed Liverpool having now played one game more, while reigning champions Manchester City sit four points behind with two matches in hand.

Lazio win but Juventus go to Coppa Italia final

Arkadiusz Milik’s late strike helped Juventus reach the Italian Cup final on Tuesday with a 3-2 aggregate win over Lazio despite losing a tense second leg 2-1. Nursing a 2-0 first-leg win, Juventus found themselves 2-0 down on the night and completely dominated as Lazio made a fight of it with a brace of goals from Valentin Castellanos. But late Juventus substitute Milik scored with his first touch on 83 minutes to settle Juve’s nerves and the two-legged semi with a prod-in. The Turin side will play either Atalanta or Fiorentina in the May 15 final, with the Florence outfit leading 1-0 before tonight’s return leg.

Photo: Stefan Jeremiah/AP

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