Six In The Morning Friday 23 February 2024


Israeli ground offensive in Rafah ‘aimed at making Gaza uninhabitable’

Israel has announced plans to launch a full-scale offensive on the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza strip, claiming it is the only way to “completely destroy” Hamas. But according to former French military officer and author Guillaume Ancel, a large-scale military operation in the city that is now host to half of Gaza’s population is of no strategic interest. In his analysis, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s only goal is to make the Palestinian enclave “uninhabitable”.

The countdown has begun for Rafah. Israel repeated on Sunday its threats of carrying out a major ground attack against the southern Gaza city before the start of Ramadan: the holy month in Islam, during which Muslims fast, is expected to begin around March 10. The perspective of a ground operation in the city, which was once considered “safe” for civilians, is fuelling international concern about the fate of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in the city.

“The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know – if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue everywhere, including the Rafah area,” Benny Gantz, a former Israeli defence minister currently serving on Netanyahu’s war cabinet, told a conference of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday. “Hamas has a choice. They can surrender, release the hostages and the civilians of Gaza can celebrate the feast of Ramadan,” he added.

Having so far ignored the warnings of his Western allies, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems more determined than ever to continue the war against Hamas, reaffirming on February 9 that he was aiming for “total victory”. On February 17 he said that foreign countries calling on Israel to spare the city were effectively telling the country to “lose the war” against Hamas.

Shamima Begum ruling shows UK wants to wash its hands of such prisoners

Legal affairs correspondent

Begum and others remain in limbo, held without charge or trial in detention camps under armed guard

Five years after Shamima Begum expressed her hope of returning to the UK, having been found by a Times journalist in a detention camp in north-east Syria, she is no closer to her wish being fulfilled.

Friday’s ruling by the court of appeal that then home secretary, Sajid Javid’s, decision to strip her of her citizenship was lawful is the latest in a string of legal decisions that have gone against Begum, who was 15 when she left her east London home with two schoolfriends to travel to Islamic State (IS) territory.

As with the earlier decision by the special immigration appeals commission (Siac), the court of appeal acknowledged that Begum, now 24, may have been “influenced and manipulated” and “the likelihood that she was a child victim of others who wished to exploit her for sexual or extremist reasons” but said it was sufficient that Javid had considered such factors, even if he ultimately rejected them.

Russia appeal against Olympic ban dismissed by CAS

The IOC’s decision to ban Russia’s Olympic Committee for recognizing four annexed regions was upheld in sport’s highest court. The decision has ramifications for the Paris 2024 Olympics, but not necessarily for athletes.

Russia lost its appeal against an International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspension for recognizing regional organizations from territories annexed from Ukraine.

On Friday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that the IOC’s ban of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in October 2023 had been legitimate.

Russia’s decision to recognize four annexed Ukrainian regions as their own Olympic councils led to their ban.

Japan, U.S., S Korea agree on closer cooperation over N Korea

The top diplomats of Japan, the United States and South Korea agreed Thursday that the three countries will pursue closer cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s steady development of nuclear and missile capabilities and its expanding military cooperation with Russia.

“Cooperation and coordination with our closest allies is more important than ever,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said as he met with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Yoko Kamikawa and Cho Tae Yul, in Rio de Janeiro, citing regional challenges also including “increasingly assertive actions” by China.

In addition to North Korea, Blinken, Kamikawa and Cho discussed efforts to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to the U.S. State Department’s top spokesman, Matthew Miller.

Mexico’s teachers seek relief from pandemic-era spike in school robberies

During the COVID-19 pandemic, crime struck nearly 50 percent of schools. Teachers say the problem continues to this day.

In Maria Soto’s classroom, nearly half of the fourth-graders have not yet learned how to read. The rest are at least a year behind. For these kids, the pandemic era continues, even if no one wears a mask anymore.

But as Soto sees it, the problem lies not just in learning delays accumulated during months of remote education. It stems equally from an ongoing trend of classroom crime.

The Eduardo O’Gorman elementary school, in Guadalajara’s impoverished Chulavista neighbourhood, has been the victim of near-constant robberies since 2020, Soto said. The latest occurred this past October.

Navalny’s mother told to agree to secret funeral or have her son buried at penal colony, spokesperson says

Russian authorities told the mother of late opposition figure Alexey Navalny he would be buried at the Arctic penal colony where he died unless she agreed within three hours to a secret funeral without a public farewell, his spokeswoman said Friday.

The claim came a week after Navalny’s death was announced on February 16, sparking criticism of the Kremlin from Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden.

“An investigator called Alexey’s mother an hour ago and gave her an ultimatum. Either she agrees to a secret funeral without a public farewell within 3 hours, or Alexey will be buried in the colony,” Navalny’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said Friday.