“Strong” Palestinian Authority needed for peace – Borrell

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 27th May 2024.

A “strong” Palestinian Authority is needed to bring peace in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa in Brussels. “A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.

He made the remarks to journalists just before holding talks with Mustafa on how the Palestinian administration can be built up to take over Gaza rule from Hamas.

“We see the meeting today as a very important opportunity for us as a government and new government to present our international partners with the outlines of our priorities and plans for the coming period,” Mustafa said. The Palestinian leader said the “first priority” was to support Palestinians in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” in that territory, which Hamas seized control of in 2007. He also called on international partners to press Israel to release Palestinian Authority funding so “we will be ready to reform our institutions… and, hopefully together, sustain our efforts towards statehood and peace for the region”.

The Brussels meeting, focused on international aid, was being chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, in connection with the 1993 Oslo Accords that established a series of arrangements between the Palestinians and Israel.

Israel is furious with Norway, Spain and Ireland, for announcing they will recognise the State of Palestine tomorrow, Tuesday.

Israeli airstrikes kill 35 in Rafah

Palestinian health workers said Israeli airstrikes killed at least 35 people Sunday and hit tents for displaced people in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and “numerous” others were trapped in flaming debris. Gaza’s Health Ministry said women and children made up most of the dead and dozens of wounded.

The attacks came two days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population had sought shelter before Israel’s incursion earlier this month. Tens of thousands of people remain in the area while many others have fled.

Footage from the scene of the largest airstrike showed heavy destruction. Israel’s army confirmed the strike and said it hit a Hamas installation and killed two senior Hamas militants. It said it was investigating reports that civilians were harmed. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was in Rafah on Sunday and was briefed on the “deepening of operations” there, his office said.

A spokesperson with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said the death toll was likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continued in Rafah’s Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood about 1.5 km northwest of the city center.

The airstrike was reported hours after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets from Gaza that set off air raid sirens as far away as Tel Aviv for the first time in months in a show of resilience more than seven months into Israel’s massive air, sea and ground offensive. There were no reports of casualties in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January. Hamas’ military wing claimed responsibility. Israel’s military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from Rafah and “a number” were intercepted, and the launcher was destroyed.

Earlier Sunday, dozens of aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel under a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. Israel’s military said 126 aid trucks entered via the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing.

Macron makes plea to defend democracy on Germany state visit

President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday began the first state visit to Germany by a French president in a quarter of a century, bringing a plea to defend democracy against nationalism at the European elections. Macron made an appearance at a democracy festival in Berlin, his first stop, where he warned of a “form of fascination for authoritarianism which is growing” in the two major EU nations. “We forget too often that it’s a fight” to protect democracy, Macron said, accompanied by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

If the nationalists had been in power in Europe in recent years, “history would not have been the same”, he said, pointing to decisions on the Covid-19 pandemic or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Steinmeier said: “We need an alliance of democrats in Europe. Macron has rightly pointed out that the conditions today before the European elections are different from the previous election. A lot has happened,” he said.

The trip comes two weeks ahead of elections where polls show, in a major potential embarrassment for Macron, that his coalition is trailing well behind the far-right and may struggle to even reach third place. In Germany too, all three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition are polling behind the far-right AfD in surveys, despite a series of scandals embroiling the anti-immigration party.

Speaking at a news conference, Macron said he would work to “unmask” France’s far-right National Rally, warning that “nothing in their rhetoric holds water”.

Earlier, French far-right politician Marine Le Pen said at a rally, “These European elections are the last ballot to sanction Emmanuel Macron’s record and pave the way for an alternative future.”

Taiwan president calls on China for cooperation

Taiwan’s President Lai Ching-te called on China to work with the island to ensure regional stability on Sunday, following two days of Chinese war games near the island. The call for cooperation came amidst growing aggression towards Taiwan in recent days, with China undertaking two days of military drills surrounding Taiwan over the weekend.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Defence has detected 21 Chinese aircraft and 11 warships around the island, as well as four coast guard units. It said 10 jets entered the air defence recognition zone (Adiz) from the south-west and south-east. The surge in activity occurred on the day of the separate arrival on Sunday of a bipartisan delegation of US parliamentarians a few days after China’s massive punitive military exercises.

China said they intended the drills to punisht for what it perceives as “separatist acts” by the self-governed island, as well as a test of their ability to seize and control key areas. The military drills came just three days after the inauguration of Taiwan’s President William Lai, whom Beijing has labeled a “dangerous troublemaker.”

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province destined to come under Beijing’s control, whereas Taiwan considers itself a distinct entity.

UN fears 670 dead after Papua New Guinea landslide

The death toll from Papua New Guinea’s massive landslide rose to 670, the International Organisation for Migration estimated Sunday, as aid workers and villagers braved dangerous conditions in a desperate search for survivors. The once bustling hillside village of Yambali, in the province of Enga, was almost completely wiped out when the landslide struck in the early hours of Friday morning, burying dozens of homes and the people sleeping in them. “There are an estimated 150-plus houses now buried” said UN migration agency official Serhan Aktoprak, adding that “670-plus people are assumed dead.”

Relief workers were moving survivors to safer ground as tons of unstable earth and tribal warfare common in Papua New Guinea’s highlands threatened rescue efforts. The village was home to more than 4,000 people and served as a trading post for alluvial miners who panned for gold in the highlands.

Zelenskyy urges world leaders to join Global Peace Summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday urged the global leaders to participate in the June 15 Global Peace Summit, stressing that Russia is run by men who want to make it a norm of burning lives and dividing people. He emphasised that no nation can stop such war alone and unaided. In a post on X, Zelenskyy said that together with Switzerland, Ukraine is preparing for such a summit. “More than 80 countries confirmed their attendance,” he stated.

“For them, it is a pleasure to burn. We all know who we are dealing with. Russia is run by men who want to make it a norm – burning lives, destroying cities and villages, dividing people, and erasing national borders through war. There is no nation that can stop such war alone, unaided. World leaders’ engagement is needed,” the Ukrainian President said. He further said that Ukraine has the world’s largest experience of lies from Russia in terms of dialogue and negotiations.

Hungary’s Orban isolates Ukraine and US in fight against Russia

Hungary is reassessing its role in NATO, with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán asserting that his country has no intention of participating in actions that could lead to a direct clash with Russia. Speaking on Kossuth Radio, Orbán emphasised Hungary’s stance on non-participation in NATO operations outside its territory. He warned about the emotionally-charged rhetoric from Western media and politicians, drawing parallels with the prelude to the World Wars. Hungary has consistently opposed NATO’s funding and arming of Ukraine, calling for a ceasefire and diplomatic resolution.

Meanwhile, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, told German radio Deutschlandfunk, “Whoever talks and behaves like Putin doesn’t want peace, but he will move forward. And that is why it is so important to constantly support Ukraine and strengthen EU’s defence capacity, because if we have to maintain peace on our continent, then we have to invest in defence. There are two ways to finance defence investments, either with national contributions to the EU budget or European own resources. Both have been tested,” she said.

Lagging in polls, Tories pitch national service at 18

Britain’s Conservative Party will introduce mandatory national service for 18-year-olds if it wins the national election on July 4, comprising military or community participation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Sunday. Young adults will be able to choose between spending one weekend a month volunteering over the course of a year or take up one of 30,000 spaces to spend a year in the armed forces, Sunak said. The announcement followed Labour Party leader Keir Starmer’s comments on Saturday that he was in favour of allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote.

Sunak’s Conservatives lag Labour by a wide margin in opinion polls, which have shown little change in fortunes for the prime minister since his surprise election call last Wednesday. Sunak said that he believed the service would help young people learn “real-world skills, do new things and contribute to their community and our country”, as well as fostering “national spirit”.

Labour will change Britain for the better, vows Starmer

A Labour government will keep energy prices down across the whole of the UK, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer vowed as he spoke about his party’s goal to “change Britain for the better”. On the campaign trail in Scotland ahead of the General Election on July 4, Sir Keir insisted his party can “kick the Tories out” of Downing Street. He said Labour can “bring about the change we desperately need”, with plans to “rebuild” the economy and “get it functioning, working for everyone”. Speaking as analysts warned energy regulator Ofgem could increase the price cap on bills in October, Sir Keir also spoke about Labour’s plans to establish a publicly-owned energy company. Speaking to BBC One, Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves insisted there was ‘not going to be a return to austerity’ as she was pressed to rule out public sector cuts under  Labour.

Twelve injured as Qatar Airways flight hits turbulence

Twelve people travelling on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin were injured during a bout of turbulence, Dublin Airport said Sunday, adding that the plane landed safely and as scheduled. Reuters reports Flight QR017, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, “was met by emergency services, including Airport Police and Fire and Rescue vehicles, as six passengers and six crew on board reported injuries after the aircraft experienced turbulence while airborne over Turkey,” Dublin Airport said in a statement. Irish broadcaster RTE, citing passengers arriving at the airport, said the incident lasted less than 20 seconds and occurred during food and drinks service.

Qatar Airways said in a statement that a “small number” of passengers and crew sustained minor injuries during the flight and were receiving medical attention. The airline did not directly comment on the turbulence, but said the matter is subject to an internal investigation. The incident took place five days after a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore was forced to land in Bangkok due to severe turbulence, which killed a 73-year-old British man and left 20 others in intensive care.

Lithuania re-entrusts Nauseda with the presidency

Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda has declared victory in the final round of the Baltic nation’s presidential election, as partial results showed him far ahead in the two-way race against Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte. Ballots from nearly 90 percent of polling stations on Sunday showed Nauseda, 60, winning roughly three-quarters of the vote, followed by Simonyte, 49, from the ruling centre-right Homeland Union party, who admitted defeat.

Nauseda is a centre-right former banker who established himself as a pro-European statesman and staunch defender of Ukraine during his first term.

Musical genius behind ‘Mary Poppins’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ dies aged 95

Richard M. Sherman, who composed songs for ‘Mary Poppins’, ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ has died aged 95. Sherman, together with his late brother Robert, won two Academy Awards for Walt Disney’s 1964 smash ‘Mary Poppins’ – best score and best song, ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’. They also picked up a Grammy for best movie or TV score.

The Walt Disney Co. announced that Sherman died on Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital due to age-related illness. “Generations of moviegoers and theme park guests have been introduced to the world of Disney through the Sherman brothers’ magnificent and timeless songs. Even today, the duo’s work remains the quintessential lyrical voice of Walt Disney,” the company said in a remembrance posted on its website.

The Shermans wrote over 150 songs at Disney, including the soundtracks for such films as ‘The Sword and the Stone’, ‘The Parent Trap’, ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’, ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘The Aristocrats’ and ‘The Tigger Movie’.

‘It’s a Small World’ – which accompanies visitors to Disney theme parks’ boat ride sung by animatronic dolls representing world cultures – is believed to be the most performed composition in the world. It was first debuted at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair pavilion ride.

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