Six In The Morning Tuesday 16 January 2024

The Israeli military has been surprised by the extent, depth and quality of the tunnel network beneath Gaza.

Adam GoldmanRonen BergmanPatrick Kingsley and 

Reporting from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Washington

One tunnel in Gaza was wide enough for a top Hamas official to drive a car inside. Another stretched nearly three football fields long and was hidden beneath a hospital. Under the house of a senior Hamas commander, the Israeli military found a spiral staircase leading to a tunnel approximately seven stories deep.

These details and new information about the tunnels, some made public by the Israeli military and documented by video and photographs, underscore why the tunnels were considered a major threat to the Israeli military in Gaza even before the war started.

But Israeli officials and soldiers who have since been in the tunnels — as well as current and former American officials with experience in the region — say the scope, depth and quality of the tunnels built by Hamas have astonished them. Even some of the machinery that Hamas used to build the tunnels, observed in captured videos, has surprised the Israeli military.

Suspected Kenyan cult leader to be charged with terrorism after 400 deaths

Prosecutors say they intend to charge Paul Nthenge Mackenzie and dozens of other suspects with murder and terrorism

Kenyan prosecutors have said they intend to charge a suspected cult leader and dozens of other suspects with murder and terrorism over the deaths of more than 400 of his followers, after a court warned it may have to free him.

The self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie is alleged to have incited his followers to starve to death in order to “meet Jesus” in a case that shocked the world.

Mackenzie was arrested in April last year after bodies were discovered in a forest near the Indian Ocean coast. His pre-trial detention has been extended on several occasions as investigations draw out.

India: Court halts mosque survey wanted by Hindu hard-liners

India’s Supreme Court has stopped a survey of a 17th century mosque to ascertain if it contains Hindu relics. Hindu hard-liners maintain that the mosque is built over the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna.

India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday halted plans for a survey to look for Hindu relics in the Shahi Eidgah mosque in the northern city of Mathura, saying that the application filed for appointment of the local commission was “very vague.”

The ruling comes as Hindu hard-liners linked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claim that Islamic invaders and rulers destroyed Hindu temples over several centuries.

Iran launches missile strikes in northern Iraq and Syria, claims to destroy Israeli spy base

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Monday launched ballistic missiles at what it said was a spy base for Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad in northern Iraq, and at “anti-Iran terror groups” in Syria, in the latest escalation of hostilities that further risks spiraling into a wider regional conflict.

The strikes were condemned by the United States as “reckless” and imprecise.

Iranian forces said the midnight missile strike in Iraq destroyed “one of the main espionage headquarters” of Israel in Erbil, capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, in response to what they said were Israeli attacks that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard commanders and members of the Iranian resistance front.

North Korea’s Kim shuts agencies working for reunification with South Korea

Kim Jong Un says his country does not want war but does not seek to avoid it.

North Korea has scrapped several government bodies tasked with promoting reconciliation and reunification with South Korea as authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un warned that his secretive country does not seek to avoid war.

In a speech to North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim said unification with South Korea is no longer possible and called for a constitutional amendment to change the status of South Korea to a separate, “hostile country”, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Tuesday.

“We don’t want war but we have no intention of avoiding it,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

Women and children who went to live with IS in Syria are being brought home

“Welcome back to Kyrgyzstan,” says Shukur Shermatov, addressing a class of 20 women. He is wearing a traditional felt cap, but there is nothing traditional about this school. It sits inside two rings of military security and the students are women who have been brought home from camps in Syria, where they ended up after living with the Islamic State group.

The rehabilitation centre is woven into the mountains of northern Kyrgyzstan, and it is where wives and children of suspected IS recruits spend their first six weeks after being repatriated.

Our BBC World Service team are among the first visitors, and like the residents, everything we say and do is closely monitored by the state intelligence agency.