Six In The Morning Wednesday 31 January 2024

Netanyahu faces pressure from all sides as hostage deal hopes rise

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas don’t agree on much. But there are two ways in which they do: first, they both reject a two-state solution; and second, when it comes to a deal to bring back the 100-plus hostages Hamas abducted on October 7, both sides want to have their cake and eat it.

Hamas is demanding Israel withdraw all its troops from Gaza and release vast numbers of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Netanyahu responded on Tuesday: “We will not withdraw the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen. What will happen? Total victory.”

Both are likely to be disappointed. Negotiators have reportedly agreed on a “framework” for a deal. Phase one would see a six-week pause in fighting, during which civilian hostages would be released; three Palestinian prisoners would be freed for each one. A higher ratio would be applied in later phases, when IDF soldiers and bodies of dead hostages would be released, perhaps alongside a longer truce.

Myanmar hands over junta-backed warlords to China in telecoms scam case

Ten people extradited on Tuesday accused of being key figures in fraud involving victims of trafficking

Myanmar has extradited 10 people, including notorious warlords, to China, where they are wanted for their alleged role in running abusive online and telephone fraud centres in which tens of thousands of foreign nationals are trapped and forced to run scams.

The centres – which target people in China as well as in other countries – have flourished since the Covid-19 pandemic and China says about 44,000 people have been involved, including victims of human trafficking.

The Chinese embassy in Myanmar on Tuesday named six of the people who had been handed over to China’s ministry of public security from the Kokang self-administered zone. They included Bai Suocheng, a Chinese warlord who heads one of the four families who have effectively ruled the area in north-east Myanmar for several years.

How does Germany ban foreign far-right extremists?

Germany is considering banning Austrian far-right extremist Martin Sellner from entering the country. Such a move is not unprecedented, but the legal hurdles are high in the EU.

Austrian far-right extremist Martin Sellner spent the day on Monday taunting leading German politicians as he defied a mooted plan to ban him from German soil. Live-streaming his two-hour journey in a rented car to the German border, the leader of Austria’s Identitarian group posted regular videos to social media after vowing to drink a coffee in the Bavarian town of Passau, just across the border.

The stunt, cheered on by a handful of supporters on the roadside, culminated in a brief encounter with the German police, who let him pass into Bavaria. He promptly filmed another video where he sarcastically thanked German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The 35-year-old Sellner recently gained public attention when it emerged that he was a key speaker in a gathering of far-right extremists in Potsdam last November, also attended by members of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). At the meeting, he presented a “masterplan” to forcibly “remigrate” foreigners from Germany, including German citizens with an immigrant background.

Farmers arrested as protests blockade key food market, close in on Paris

French police arrested about 20 farmers on Wednesday as convoys of tractors edged closer to Paris, Lyon and other key locations, with many ignoring police warnings over the scope of their action.

France has been at the centre of growing rural discontent across Europe, with protests also held in Germany, Poland, Romania, Belgium and Italy. Spanish farmers have said they will join the movement.

Amid mounting calls for higher incomes, less red tape and protection from foreign competition, “there are huge expectations” among farmers, said Arnaud Rousseau, head of France’s largest agricultural union the FNSEA.

But he added that not all of the demands could be immediately answered “so I’m trying to call for calm and reasonableness”.

Eighteen people trying to blockade the Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris, a key food distribution hub for the capital region’s 12 million people, were arrested for “interfering with traffic”, police said.

Japan earthquake survivors battle unsanitary conditions with no running water

By Sakura Murakami and Tom Bateman

A month on from a huge earthquake that struck Japan’s west coast, survivors are battling freezing and unsanitary conditions while tens of thousands of homes remain without running water.

Some areas in the isolated Noto Peninsula may not have water restored for another two months, the government of Ishikawa Prefecture said, adding to risks for those living in cramped evacuation centers where authorities say respiratory infections and gastroenteritis have been detected.

“There’s no water, so we can’t wash our clothes or bathe,” said Yoshio Binsaki, a 68-year-old resident of the battered coastal town of Suzu, as he prepared to haul a 20-liter water tank to his car to take home.

Kenya declares cult an ‘organised criminal group’ after starvation deaths

The authorities’ declaration comes as cult leader Mackenzie faces charges of murder, child torture and “terrorism”.

Kenyan authorities on Wednesday proscribed the church of a religious leader who ordered his followers to starve themselves and their children to death so that they could go to heaven, as an organised criminal group.

Paul Mackenzie, head of the Good News International Church, is currently facing charges of murder, child torture, and “terrorism” after last April’s discovery of hundreds of bodies of his followers who had starved to death on his instructions.

In an official gazette document published on Wednesday, the Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki declared the church an “organised criminal group”, paving the way for further investigation and possible prosecution of members deemed to have aided Mackenzie.