“Unforgiveable” to not apply UN ceasefire resolution

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Tuesday, 26th March 2024

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday called for the immediate implementation of a UN Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas, warning failure to do so would be “unforgivable”. His remarks came after the UNSC, for the first time since the war started, passed a resolution calling for a swift ceasefire.

“The Security Council just approved a long-awaited resolution on Gaza, demanding an immediate ceasefire, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” Guterres wrote on social media platform X. “This resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable. The fighting in Gaza must end now!” he said. “The hostages must be released now! And we must not lose sight of the big picture. A lasting end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only come through a two-state solution.”

The new UN Security Council resolution was this time drawn up by the non-permanent members, including Malta. However, it is understood to be non-binding and is not expected to have an immediate impact on the ongoing fighting in Gaza, as has been the case with previous UNSC resolutions that have been adopted in other conflicts that were subsequently ignored. War erupted following Hamas’s 7th October onslaught, which saw some 3,000 militants burst across the border into Israel by land, air, and sea, killing 1,200 people. They also seized 253 hostages, mostly civilians and of all ages. Israel responded with a military campaign to topple Hamas’s Gaza regime and free the hostages, some 130 of whom are still in captivity.

Netanyahu, Gantz spar over cancelled Washington trip

Times of Israel reports a public spat broke out between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and war cabinet minister and erstwhile political rival Benny Gantz in the wake of the former’s decision to cancel a trip for his top aides to Washington, after the Biden administration declined to veto the UN Security Council resolution. Gantz says not only should the delegation set out for the US, but “it would have been good if the prime minister would travel to the US himself and hold a direct dialogue with President Biden and senior officials”. Netanyahu responded in a statement panning Gantz for suggesting the trip take place, especially after Hamas praised the UN Security Council vote calling for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of the hostages. Reuters quotes a statement from Netanyahu’s office which said that Washington’s failure to veto the proposal was a “clear retreat” from its previous position and would hurt Israeli war efforts against Hamas in Gaza as well as efforts to release over 130 hostages.

Egypt, Qatar welcome Gaza ceasefire resolution

Cairo says the United Nations Security Council resolution that passed earlier Monday demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate release of the hostages taken on October 7 “represents the first important and necessary step to stop the bloodshed”, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes in a statement to the UN. The United States withheld its veto and abstained from the vote, allowing the resolution to pass with 14 votes in favour. It was the first time that the Security Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza since the start of the war in October. Qatar, which has been hosting indirect talks on a temporary truce and hostage release deal, says it hopes the resolution “represents a step towards a permanent cessation of fighting in the Strip.”

Hamas is “sticking to full ceasefire”

Hamas says it has informed mediators that the group would stick to its original position on reaching a comprehensive ceasefire, which includes the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a return of displaced Palestinians and a “real” exchange of prisoners. The response is because Israel “did not respond to any of the basic demands of our people and our resistance (Hamas): a comprehensive ceasefire, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced, and a real exchange of prisoners,” the group says in a statement. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government bear full responsibility for thwarting all negotiation efforts and obstructing reaching an agreement so far,” Hamas adds. Israel has continuously rejected Hamas demands for a full military withdrawal and a permanent ceasefire, while Hamas has conditioned any further hostage releases on an Israeli commitment to end the war. Israel has dismissed this demand as delusional and insisted that its military campaign to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities will resume once any hostage-truce deal is implemented.

Russia adds LGBT Movement to extremist and terrorists’ blacklist

State media in Russia has reported that the country has classified the “LGBT movement” as an extremist and terrorist group. This follows a decision by the Supreme Court of Russia last November, which ruled that LGBT activists are extremists. According to Reuters, this ruling has raised concerns among gay and transgender communities about potential detentions and legal actions. An agency known as Rosfinmonitoring, which is responsible for the list, has the authority to block the financial accounts of individuals and organisations identified as extremists or terrorists – a list that includes over 14,000 names from Al Qaeda to Meta and allies of the deceased Russian dissident Alexei Navalny. The recent addition specifically targets the “international LGBT social movement and its structural components” according to the state-run RIA news agency. In recent years, under the leadership of President Putin, Russia has been moving towards what it considers traditional family values, a stance that is presented as a contrast to what is seen as the decadent morals of the West. This shift has resulted in increased limitations on the public expression of sexual orientation and gender identity. The government has enacted legislation that prohibits the dissemination of information about “non-traditional” sexual relationships and has made it illegal to legally, or medically, alter one’s gender. The Moscow Times reports that the Russian authorities have arrested employees of a gay club as part of the country’s first criminal “extremism” case against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Nearly 100 still in hospital following Moscow terrorist attack

Three days after the terrorist attack on a Moscow concert hall, 97 people are still being treated in hospitals, the head of the Moscow region’s health administration said on Monday. The patients are spread across hospitals in the capital and the Moscow region, Lyudmila Bolatayeva said. According to Russian news agencies, the injuries suffered varied in severity. By the Russian authorities’ most recent count, 137 people were killed and more than 180 injured in the attack on Friday evening. It cannot be ruled out that more bodies will be found in the rubble of the burnt-out hall. Four armed men shot indiscriminately at visitors before a rock concert in the Crocus City Hall event centre. On Sunday evening, they were brought before a court in Moscow and taken into custody. The faces of the men showed injuries as traces of suspected torture. According to media reports, mourners were still laying flowers at an improvised memorial at the Crocus City fence on Monday. The Islamic State terrorist militia claimed responsibility for the attack in several messages. Western security authorities and experts consider the claim to be credible and suspect the IS offshoot Islamic State Province of Khorasan (ISPK) to be behind the attack. President Putin hinted at a Ukrainian connection to the assault, without providing any evidence. Putin also claimed that the perpetrators of the attack attempted to flee in the direction of Ukraine.

Italy joins France in raising security level

Italy joined France on Monday in raising its security alert level following the attack on the suburban Moscow concert hall for which an affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. The decision was reached during a national security council meeting in Rome. Bolstered security is planned for the various events this week ahead of the Easter religious holiday this weekend. Pope Francis has a busy schedule of events in Rome and at the Vatican in the days leading up to Easter Sunday. “Both surveillance and checks will be increased, paying the most attention to the places of greatest aggregation and transit of people, as well as sensitive targets,” Italy’s Interior Ministry said in a statement. France had taken the same step on Sunday, saying it found the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (ISIS-K) claiming responsibility for the attack in Moscow plausible. President Emmanuel Macron said the group “also tried to commit several actions on our own soil”. The attack renewed attention in Europe on the risk from the extremists as the continent gears up for big events such as the Paris Olympics and the European Championship in Germany. In Germany, Interior Ministry spokesperson Cornelius Funke said the threat from Islamic extremists “remains acute” but authorities’ risk assessment hadn’t changed.

Trump wins pause in civil fraud ruling, avoiding asset seizures

Donald Trump has won a bid to pause his $454 million civil fraud judgment if he posts a $175 million bond within 10 days – in what has been described as “a victory for the former US president” that blocks New York state authorities from beginning to seize his assets as soon as yesterday.

Meanwhile, a Manhattan judge ruled Monday that the first of Donald Trump’s four criminal trials will begin April 15, tearing into the former president’s lawyers for what he said were unfounded claims that the hush-money case had been tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. Judge Juan M. Merchan scoffed at the defence’s calls to delay the case longer or throw it out entirely because of a last-minute document dump that had bumped the first-ever trial of a former president from its scheduled Monday start. Trump vowed to appeal the ruling. The trial, involving allegations related to hush money paid during Trump’s 2016 campaign to cover up marital infidelity claims, had been in limbo after his lawyers complained about a recent deluge of nearly 200,000 pages of evidence from a previous federal investigation into the matter.

Trump worth $6.4 billion – Bloomberg

Donald Trump gets richer: the former president is worth $6.4 billion dollars and has entered for the first time among the 500 richest in the world of the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. What should have been a black Monday for the former president turned into a historic day for his wealth. The security he must post for the inflated assets has been reduced from almost $500 million to $175 million and the expected listing of his media company, scheduled for today, will earn him billions of dollars effectively making him, at least on paper, richer.

Abortion pill being tested by the US Supreme Court

The American Supreme Court returns to deal with abortion, but this time the attention of the judges will be on the abortion pill. During the day, the High Court will hear arguments on the most popular drug for terminating pregnancy and its decision, perhaps expected in June, could have profound implications on millions of women and on the race for the White House. Some conservative American states have asked the Court to confirm the Court of Appeal’s decision limiting access to mifepristone, used in two-thirds of abortions in the United States.

UK imposes sanctions after Chinese-backed cyber-attacks

The UK government has formally accused China of being behind what it called “malicious” cyber campaigns against MPs and the Electoral Commission. Two people and a company have been sanctioned over cyber-attacks. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said they were behind attempts to access details of MPs critical of Beijing, as well as the data of potentially 40 million voters. The Chinese embassy in the UK says these are “completely unfounded” claims amounting to “malicious slander”. The two Chinese nationals sanctioned are Zhao Guangzong and Ni Gaobin and the company is Wuhan Xiaoruizhi Science and Technology Company Ltd, who they say work for the China state-affiliated cyber espionage group Advanced Persistent Threat Group 31 (APT31). The UK sanctions will freeze assets, barring UK citizens and businesses from handling their funds or resources. A travel ban will also prevent them from entering or remaining in the UK. “The UK will not tolerate malicious cyber activity,” Mr Dowden said. “It is an absolute priority for the UK government to protect our democratic system and values.”

Tractors converge at Westminster in protest over food security

Farmers converged on Westminster for a tractor protest against “substandard imports and dishonest labelling” they warn are threatening food security. The campaign groups ‘Save British Farming’ and ‘Fairness for Farmers of Kent’ assembled for a “go-slow” convoy and drive around Westminster, with organisers arriving in 50 to 100 tractors as well as other farm vehicles on Monday evening. The protesters are raising concerns over the increasing difficulties faced by the British farming industry which they say are leaving the nation’s food security at risk. They are calling for an end to trade deals which they say are allowing imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK and undercutting British farmers.

British Airways flight attendants fired for mocking Chinese passengers

British Airways has dismissed two of its flight attendants for attempting to mimic a Chinese accent and making slant-eyed gestures – actions that are considered racially-insensitive toward Chinese passengers. The incident, as reported by the South China Morning Post, involved a video that was uploaded on TikTok on 16th March and rapidly attracted significant attention. It depicted two individuals, identified as British Airways flight attendants Holly Walton and Lauren Bray, engaging in the offensive behaviour. Walton is seen making derogatory slant-eyed gestures and mimicking the accents of Chinese passengers with phrases like “Give me wine”, while Bray appeared to be recording the video and laughing.

The gesture of pulling one’s eyes in a slanting manner is universally-acknowledged as a disparaging act meant to ridicule the facial features of people of Asian descent. As per Business Insider, the video is believed to have been recorded in 2022, during a stopover on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean following Walton and Bray’s flight from London, with the duo capturing themselves consuming wine at a hotel. According to The Sun, the pair’s behaviour aimed to mock a Chinese family on their flight, who reportedly spoke limited English and had communication difficulties, as stated by comments from their co-workers. In reaction to the controversy, a representative for British Airways conveyed to Business Insider that the airline had terminated the employment of the two individuals, emphasising that the airline finds “all forms of racism are completely unacceptable”.

Investigation into Bolsonaro’s 2-night sleepover at Hungarian embassy

Brazil’s Federal Police on Monday launched an investigation into former President Jair Bolsonaro’s two-night stay last month at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia, amid widespread speculation from his opponents that he may have been attempting to evade arrest. A Federal Police source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed to The Associated Press that it was undertaken in response to a report from The New York Times, which featured security camera video of the Hungarian ambassador welcoming Bolsonaro on February 12 and footage of Bolsonaro from the rest of his stay. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, one of the leaders of a global far-right movement, is a key international ally of his. The visit took place just days after Federal Police seized Bolsonaro’s Brazilian and Italian passports and raided the homes of his top aides as part of a probe into whether they plotted to ignore 2022 election results and stage an uprising to keep the defeated leader in power. Bolsonaro has denied wrongdoing regarding this investigation, and multiple others targeting him.

Former president of the Chinese Football Federation gets life

Former Chinese Football Federation president Chen Xuyuan has been sentenced to life in prison for corruption, as part of Beijing’s crackdown on malfeasance in domestic football. A court in Hubei province found him guilty of “accepting bribes”, reported the People’s Daily, the voice of the Chinese Communist Party. Between 2010 and 2023, Chen took advantage of his positions at the Federation and other bodies to “illegally accept sums of money from other people totalling 81.03 million yuan (€11 million),” says the paper.

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