WFP: Palestinians in Gaza Face Acute Risk of Famine

United Nations agencies warn the Gaza Strip is slipping into an ever more disastrous situation as the Israel-Hamas war continues unabated, and hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a chronic lack of food and water face an acute risk of famine.

“We have more than half a million people in Gaza facing catastrophic food insecurity levels. The risk of famine increases each day as the conflict limits the delivery of life-saving aid to people in need,” said Abeer Etefa, World Food Program senior communications officer and spokesperson for the Middle East and North Africa.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva on Tuesday from Cairo, Etefa said WFP has procured 21,000 tons of food supplies from across the region — enough for around 2 million people inside Gaza for one month.

“The problem is that all the food is on the border outside in Egypt, but not yet inside Gaza.”

Israel has repeatedly said that humanitarian aid is entering Gaza but is being stolen by Hamas or is not being efficiently distributed. Israeli government spokesman Elon Levy said Tuesday there were “no limitations on the admission of humanitarian aid.”

Russia Blames Ukraine for Shooting Down Plane Carrying 74 People

Russia on Wednesday accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane that Moscow said was carrying 74 people, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were set to be swapped for Russians held by Kyiv.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately confirm or deny the Russian claim but said they were investigating the crash of the Il-76 transport. Russia said a crew of six and three prisoner escorts were also on board.

“We currently do not have reliable or comprehensive information on who was on board the plane or in what number,” Ukraine’s main intelligence directorate said in a statement.

Video of the crash posted on social media showed a plane falling from the sky on its side before crashing into a massive fireball as it hit the ground in Russia’s snowy, rural, western Belgorod region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in New York this week for meetings at the United Nations. He accused Ukraine of carrying out a “terrorist attack.”

Putin Eyes Nuclear Weapons After Military Losses in Ukraine: Report

Russia’s heavy losses in its full-scale invasion of Ukraine mean that Moscow now sees its battlefield nuclear weapons as increasingly important in deterring and defeating NATO, according to a new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which warns that the West must wake up to the rising nuclear threat.

On February 24, 2022, as the first tanks rolled over the Ukrainian border at the outset of the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a televised address warning the world of “consequences you have never faced in your history” if anyone tried to stop Russia, a threat widely seen as nuclear sabre-rattling by the Kremlin.

The IISS report says fear of escalation with Russia has caused the West to hesitate in supplying arms to Kyiv. But nearly two years on, a declassified U.S. intelligence report last month estimated Russia had lost around 315,000 troops in Ukraine since the outset of the invasion, nearly 90% of its pre-war army – much of it at the hands of weapons donated by the West.

“Russia has less confidence now in their conventional capabilities because of everything they’ve lost in the Ukraine war,” said William Alberque, the report author and Director of Strategy, Technology and Arms Control at IISS.

South Korea Says North Korea Fired Several Cruise Missiles into Sea

South Korea’s military said Wednesday that North Korea fired several cruise missiles into the waters off its western coast. An analysis of commercial satellite images suggested that the North has torn down an arch in its capital that symbolised reconciliation with war-divided rival South Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week described the Pyongyang monument as an eyesore and called for its removal while declaring that the North was abandoning long-standing goals of a peaceful unification with South Korea and ordered a rewriting of the North’s constitution to define the South as its most hostile foreign adversary.

The Wednesday missile launches marked North Korea’s second known launch event of the year, following a January 14 test-firing of the country’s first solid-fuel, intermediate-range ballistic missile, which reflected its efforts to advance its lineup of weapons targeting U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the U.S. and South Korean militaries were analysing the latest launches. It did not immediately confirm the exact number of missiles fired or their specific flight details.

“Our military has increased surveillance and vigilance and is closely coordinating with the United States while monitoring for further signs and activity from North Korea,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Erdogan: Turkey, Iran Agree on Need to Avoid Escalating Mideast Tensions

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he and Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi agreed at a meeting on Wednesday on the need to avoid steps that could further threaten Middle East stability three months into the Gaza war.

Turkey, which supports a two-state solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has harshly criticised Israel for its attacks on Gaza, called for an immediate cease-fire, and backed legal steps for Israel to be tried for genocide.

Unlike its Western allies and some Arab nations, NATO member Turkey does not consider the Palestinian militant group Hamas, whose October 7 attack on Israel led to the retaliatory Israeli military campaign on Gaza, a terrorist group.

Iran leads what it calls the Axis of Resistance, a loose coalition that includes Hamas and armed Shiite Muslim groups around the region that have militarily confronted Israel and its Western allies. It has voiced support for Hamas.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting Raisi in Ankara, Erdogan said the two leaders had discussed ending Israel’s “inhumane” attacks on Gaza and the need to take steps for a fair and lasting peace in the region.

Over 70 Dead After Gold Mine Collapses in Mali

An official in Mali says more than 70 people are dead after an informal gold mine collapsed late last week, and a search continues amid fears the toll could rise.

Karim Berthe, a senior official at the government’s National Geology and Mining Directorate, confirmed the details to The Associated Press on Wednesday and called it an accident.

It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse that occurred on Friday and was reported on Tuesday in a Ministry of Mines statement that estimated “several” miners dead. The collapse occurred in Kangaba district in the southwestern Koulikoro region.

Such accidents are common in Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer. Artisanal miners — small-scale, informal — are often accused of ignoring safety measures, especially in remote areas.

“The state must bring order to this artisanal mining sector to avoid these kinds of accidents in the future,” Berthe said.

The Ministry of Mines statement “deeply regretted” the collapse and urged miners and communities living near mining sites to “comply with safety requirements.”

Iran Bans Ex-President Rouhani from Running for Elite Assembly

Iran’s hardline watchdog body has banned former pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani from standing again in an election in March for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader, state media said Wednesday.

The 88-member assembly, founded in 1982, supervises the most powerful authority but has rarely intervened directly in policymaking.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 84, so the new assembly is expected to play a significant role in choosing his successor since its members are only elected every eight years.

In a statement, Rouhani criticised the Guardian Council’s ruling as “politically biased … [one] that will undermine the nation’s confidence in the system.”

Close to moderates, Rouhani was elected president in a landslide in 2013 and 2017 on a promise to reduce Iran’s diplomatic isolation.

But the mid-ranking cleric angered political hardliners who opposed any rapprochement with the U.S. “Great Satan” after reaching a 2015 nuclear pact with six major powers.

Fire in China’s Jiangxi Province Kills at Least 39

At least 39 people died and nine people were injured after a fire broke out in China’s southeastern Jiangxi province, state media said on Wednesday.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, rescuers are still trying to reach people trapped in the building. The broadcaster said the fire broke out inside a building that houses an internet cafe in the basement and tutoring centres on the upper floors. It is unclear how many remain trapped in the building.

Officials for the Yushui district of Jiangxi province said the fire broke out in the basement of a shopping area at 3:24 p.m. on Wednesday. They said 120 rescue, firefighters, police and local government officials were deployed to the scene.

The local government said that search and rescue operations are underway and that the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Over the weekend, a fire in a boarding school dorm in central Henan province killed 13 children.

20 Casualties in Mongolia Gas Explosion

Six people were killed and 14 injured in a gas explosion caused by a vehicle crash in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, on Wednesday, authorities said.

A truck carrying 60 tons of liquefied natural gas collided with a car and exploded in the early hours, the Mongolian National Emergency Management Agency said on its website.

“According to preliminary results, three people died in the fire,” NEMA said, adding that three firefighters had also been killed while 14 people had been sent for medical treatment.

Ten of those were taken for treatment for burns, while one child was being treated for poisoning, and three other infants were being cared for.

It added that rescue teams were dispatched to the scene, and the fire had been extinguished.

Images shared by NEMA showed emergency services at the scene of the fire early morning as huge flames engulfed the street.

Pictures also showed the burned-out husks of two vehicles and widespread damage to the street, with windows blown out at a nearby school.

Tank Shelling Kills Nine, Wounds 75 at UN Training Centre in Gaza

At least nine people were killed and another 75 wounded Wednesday in Khan Younis as tank shelling hit a United Nations training centre, where 800 displaced Palestinians were housed in the southern Gaza City, a UN relief official said.

Israeli forces were reported advancing through the city in the fourth month of the war with Hamas militants. Palestinian officials said Israeli forces cut off access to southern Gaza’s main hospitals and the key escape route for hundreds of thousands of people who have sought refuge in Khan Younis from fighting in central and northern Gaza.

Palestinians displayed a video showing black smoke pouring into the sky above the training centre run by UNRWA, the UN relief organisation for Palestinians.

The U.S., which has been a key Israeli ally in its war against Hamas, condemned the latest assault that killed civilians, with the State Department saying, “We deplore today’s attack on the UN’s Khan Younis training centre.”

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