Why these Taiwanese Americans flew home to vote

Confetti flies over the stage and crowd as Taiwan's Vice President and presidential-elect from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Lai Ching-te and his running mate Hsiao Bi-khim speak to supporters at a rally at the party's headquarters on January 13, 2024 in Taipei, Taiwan.
Image caption,A riot of pink and green as William Lai emerges aa the winner in Taiwan’s presidential election

“I shouted his [William Lai’s] name so much on the night of the election, I lost my voice the next day,” says Nancy Yang, who flies home to Taiwan from San Francisco every four years so she can vote.

William Lai Ching-te won Taiwan’s presidential election on Saturday, giving his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) a third, unprecedented term. And Ms Yang is one of a few thousand Taiwanese living overseas who returned last week to vote in an election that China had framed as a choice between war and peace.

In Taiwan, where voters must cast their ballots in person, many travelled to their hometowns – even Mr Lai went to Tainan in southern Taiwan to vote. Others, like Ms Yang, flew across the world.

“The rallies, the noise – you feel the excitement being here,” she says. “You feel like you’re making a difference on the ground.”

It’s unclear how many of the voters were Taiwanese Americans, but some 4,000 citizens living abroad registered to vote, according to the Central Election Commission. Relations with China were a major factor for the Taiwanese watching from afar, and especially those who live in the US, which has long been Taipei’s most powerful ally.

“China thinks it owns Taiwan. We don’t think so. We don’t belong to you,” Ms Yang had declared the night before the election, when the BBC had met her while she was volunteering at a DPP rally. Clad in the party’s green varsity-like sweater and surrounded by green and pink flags, she was all smiles, talking to voters and other volunteers.

The former IT manager has lived in the Bay Area for 40 years. She said this election felt different, compared to the last one in 2020: “This time we had three parties, and it was a close race.”

Nancy Yang
Image caption,Nancy Yang was all smiles at the DPP rally the night before the vote

The DPP was battling dissatisfaction over poor wages and high cost of living, while emphasising the threat that China posed. The main opposition Kuomintang or KMT campaigned on better relations with Beijing, while the third player, the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), positioned itself as an alternative to the other two, especially on improving cost of living.

The TPP did far better than polls suggested, emerging as a serious future contender – evidence perhaps of how much the economy weighed on the minds of voters here, unlike those who live on the other side of the world.

“It’s not the outcome that we are satisfied with,” says Jason Hsu, an advisor to the KMT and a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School.

Mr Hsu is at Taipei’s Da’an Forest Park – the soft strings of a guitar and the calming Tai Chi exercises are a contrast to the energy of the election from the previous night.

Next to him is Jen Tsao, who travelled from her home in San Francisco to vote, and Chiaoning Su, who teaches journalism and communication at Oakland University.

Ms Tsao supports the KMT, which is traditionally seen as being closer to Beijing, and Ms Su voted for the DPP.

They weren’t all happy about the result. But they were all proud of the way the world saw Taiwan.

“This is something we fought for. We enjoy it, we celebrate it, but we can also lose it… it’s hard-earned,” Ms Su says, explaining that it was the reason she picked the DPP. http://surinamecop.com/

Ms Tsao says the election is an opportunity for her to come home and soak up the atmosphere and excitement. She says several of her family and friends also flew from the US to vote: “We do appreciate the process of democracy. That’s the main difference between Taiwan and China.”

Taiwan’s is a young democracy – this is only the eighth presidential vote since 1996 – and its elections are joyful.

On Saturday, millions of Taiwanese went to the polls, including parents who brought their children, many too young to vote themselves. But they said they wanted them to experience the polling stations. First-time voters spoke of their thrill. Still others turned up with their pets in tow, taking advantage of the sunny, clear skies.

The rallies were like carnivals – a mix of motivational speeches, music and chants, sometimes all at once, in a sea of flags. Some enthusiasts added their own personal touch to the party colours. But the euphoria aside, there was also anxiety and urgency.

(L-R) Jen Tsao, Chiaoning Su and Jason Hsu
Image caption,(L-R) Jen Tsao, Chiaoning Su and Jason Hsu all flew home from the US to vote

Ms Yang said China’s warnings in the lead-up to the vote filled her with dread: “Taiwan needs strong leadership to protect it. To keep it safe. We feel that very strongly.”

But she adds that the fraught situation has also put the island on the geopolitical map, not least because it’s a vibrant democracy and the world’s largest producer of semiconductors.

“Twenty years ago, people didn’t know much about Taiwan. When I talked to someone about it, they thought I was talking about Thailand. Now they know. I feel so proud. I feel like America recognises how important Taiwan is and its responsibility to protect it.”

Ms Su says Taiwan is now a “key word” in international news. And China’s authoritarian grip over Hong Kong, which has firmed since Taiwan’s last election, convinced her she had to vote: “We are sending the right message to the international community that we want to safeguard our way of life. And we want to keep fighting for democracy.”

Ms Tsao, who voted for the opposition KMT, is worried Mr Lai will inflame an already tense relationship with Beijing, pushing Taiwan closer to a confrontation no-one wants.

“I think the current government has not done a very good job to protect the best interests for our people. So, I wanted to be here [and voice my concern].”

Mr Hsu agrees. He congratulated Mr Lai but also warns of a “very tumultuous four years” ahead.

“But I think the victory really belongs to the people of Taiwan – we’ve made a choice.”

Trump lawyers warn Supreme Court of ‘chaos and bedlam’ if states are allowed to bar him from 2024 ballot

Conway breaks down challenges facing Trump’s legal team after SCOTUS filing

Former President Donald Trump is urging the US Supreme Court to reverse the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that removed him from that state’s ballot.

The brief submitted by Trump’s attorneys Thursday to the high court sets out their arguments for why the state court erred when it issued the unprecedented decision last month.

“The Court should reverse the Colorado decision because President Trump is not even subject to section 3, as the President is not an ‘officer of the United States’ under the Constitution. And even if President Trump were subject to section 3 he did not ‘engage in’ anything that qualifies as ‘insurrection,’” Trump’s attorneys argued.

The efforts, Trump team argues, “promise to unleash chaos and bedlam if other state courts and state officials follow Colorado’s lead and exclude the likely Republican presidential nominee from their ballots.”

The Colorado Supreme Court last month said Trump is constitutionally ineligible to run in 2024 because the 14th Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists holding office covers his conduct on January 6, 2021.

The US Supreme Court agreed earlier this month to hear the case, accepting an appeal brought by Trump. The justices are separately involved in other matters that could impact the federal criminal case against the former president.

The Colorado ruling has been on pause pending the US Supreme Court’s resolution of the case, and the state’s top election official has certified the 2024 presidential primary ballots with Trump’s name on the Republican ballot. Should the justices conclude Trump is ineligible for public office before Colorado’s primary, then any votes cast for him wouldn’t count.

Oral arguments in the Colorado case are scheduled for February 8.

Republican allies suggest a ‘parade of horribles’ if Trump is removed

Also Thursday, House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and scores of other GOP lawmakers threw their support behind Trump at the Supreme Court.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Republicans argue that the Colorado Supreme Court “severely intrudes” on Congress’ power by allowing the Constitution’s “insurrectionist ban” to be enforced without authorization from Congress.

The Colorado ruling “will only supercharge state officials to conjure bases for labeling political opponents as having engaged in insurrection,” they added, arguing that the justices should overturn the decision “to minimize the partisan incentive to boot opponents off the ballot” under the 14th Amendment’s “insurrectionist ban.”

A group of GOP secretaries of state also urged the court to prevent fellow secretaries of state from disqualifying candidates.

“Any other result leads to a foreseeable and unfortunate parade of horribles,” they wrote.

“If Secretaries of State—partisan elected officials—alone may determine who meets the obtuse provisions of Section Three, there are few obvious safeguards preventing abuse. A disqualification decision would presumably be unreviewable and made without any of the constitutional protections of due process that our system takes for granted in much less significant moments. If disqualification from receiving a social security check merits some constitutional protection, perhaps disqualification for a ballot likewise does,” the brief added.

That brief was submitted by secretaries of state from Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

So far, Trump has been removed from the ballot in Colorado and Maine, though both decisions were put on hold, pending a resolution from the US Supreme Court. A Maine judge on Wednesday sent that case back to the Maine Secretary of State and ordered her to wait for a final resolution of Colorado case.

Judges across the country are watching this case closely. The Oregon Supreme Court dismissed a similar case last week, telling the anti-Trump challengers that they might be able to refile it later, based on what the US Supreme Court does in the Colorado case.https://milodingines.com

Israel-Gaza: The man held with the hostages Israel mistakenly killed

Mr Wichian, seen here with his wife, at a temple
Image caption,Like many from Thailand’s poor north-east, Wichian Temthong left for Israel to find better-paid work

“Am I lucky or unlucky?” Wichian Temthong pondered the question. “I guess I’m lucky, because I’m still here, still alive.”

The 37-year-old farm worker is one of 23 Thai hostages who were released by Hamas last month. Now Wichian is back in Thailand, living in a small room in an industrial suburb south of Bangkok with his wife Malai.

While he survived, three young Israeli men he met in captivity did not. They were mistakenly shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

Wichian had gone to Israel only in late September, driven like so many Thais from the poor north-east of the country to find better-paid work on Israeli farms. After nine days he was moved to an avocado orchard on the Kfar Aza kibbutz. He woke up on 7 October, his first morning there, to the sound of gunfire.

His fellow Thai workers assured him it was normal. But as the shooting got louder towards midday, they decided to lock themselves in one of the buildings. Before they could do that gunmen burst in, one holding a hand grenade. They started beating the Thais with their rifle butts.

“I crouched down like this and shouted ‘Thailand, Thailand, Thailand’, he said, showing how he pulled his arms over his head. “But they kept beating me. All I could do was keep my face down. One guy stamped on me with his feet. I crawled under the bed to hide. I tried to text my wife to say I was being taken, but they dragged me out by my leg.”

Wichian was eventually taken down into tunnels deep under Gaza, and would be kept there for 51 days. His was a lonely ordeal, because he was the only Thai, and he speaks no English, so could only communicate through drawings and hand gestures.

Conditions were grim. The hostages were fed just once a day; sometimes this was no more than a piece of bread and a dried date.

“When I was distressed they would come and talk to me, to calm me down, but I could not understand them. The only way I got by was by thinking of the faces of my children, my wife and my mother.

“When there was nothing else to do, I’d just sit against the wall and meditate. I kept thinking about the same thing over and over, which was that I had to survive.”

He remembers the other hostages who were with him in the tunnels; three young Israeli men – Yotam, Sammy and Alon – who remained in captivity after his release, only to be shot dead by nervous Israeli soldiers as they came out, waving a white cloth, last Friday. http://clasicccop.com/

Mother of killed Israeli calls Hamas videos ‘psychological warfare’

Iris Haim
Image caption,Iris Haim, mother of Yotam, in Jerusalem

The mother of an Israeli hostage accidentally killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza has described hostage videos released by Hamas as “psychological warfare”.

Iris Haim told BBC News that recent videos of hostages who appeared to be dead were intended to turn Israelis against their government to “try and make us weak”.

A video released by Hamas on 15 January appears to show the bodies of two hostages, Yossi Sharabi and Itay Svirsky.

On Tuesday evening, the death of both men was confirmed in a statement from Kibbutz Be’eri and the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum.

It said their bodies were still being held by Hamas, and requested their return.

Yossi Sharabi’s brother Eli was also kidnapped on October 7 and is still being held hostage. Eli’s British-Israeli wife, Lianne, and daughters, Noiya and Yahel Sharabi, were murdered by Hamas.

Itai Svirsky’s parents, who he was visiting at the kibbutz, were both murdered in the attack.

Hamas said the two had been killed by air strikes. But in the deaths of other hostages which the group has blamed on air strikes, Israeli forensic officials say post-mortems on the bodies do not support this.

The video was narrated by a third hostage, Noa Argamani. Her fate is not known.

Mrs Haim’s own son Yotam was killed along with two other Israeli captives, Alon Shamriz and Samer Talalka on 15 December. All three were captured by Hamas gunmen during the group’s attack on Israel on 7 October, which killed around 1,300 people, mostly civilians.

Over 24,000 Gazans have also been killed – most of them women and children – in the Israeli bombardment since then, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says more than 9,000 of those it has killed were Hamas fighters.

Yotam and the other two men are believed to have escaped into an empty building close to Israeli army positions. An official investigation found that the men had used food to write the words “SOS” and “Help, 3 Hostages” on a sheet to try and alert soldiers to their presence.

“He and his friends were leaving captivity,” Mrs Haim says with pride.

Israeli soldiers suspected a Hamas trap and did not enter. Later, the hostages exited the building, shirtless and waving a makeshift white flag. But an Israeli sniper opened fire on them. Yotam was wounded, the other two men killed on the spot.

According to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a command was given to hold fire and Yotam was told to come forward. But one of the soldiers shot nonetheless, killing him. According to the official investigation, the soldier didn’t hear the order because of noise from a tank.

“We were really sorry and disappointed, of course, because just a week before [his death] we had heard that he was okay.”

Days after, Iris Haim recorded a message to the soldiers who killed her son, telling them she did not see his death as their fault. Speaking through tears, she explains her decision. “What happened, happened … we have enough suffering here,” she said. “These soldiers also have families and mothers. I was also worried for them.”

“We felt that we cannot be angry, because they were Israeli forces,” she added.

She is clear about who she blames for her son’s death: “Hamas, just Hamas. Hamas is in charge of all of this.” http://masurip.org/

Her reaction contrasts with that of Alon Shamriz’s family. At his funeral, his brother Ido blamed the Israeli government for his kidnapping and death, saying: “The one who abandoned you also murdered you.”

Ukraine is piling pressure on China to help bring an end to the war. But Beijing’s peace plans are focused on Gaza

Ukrainian soldiers with the 43rd Heavy Artillery Brigade fire a projectile from a 2S7 Pion self propelled cannon, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, during intense shelling on the front line in Bakhmut, Ukraine, December 26, 2022.

Ukrainian soldiers fighting Russia fire a projectile during intense shelling on the front line in Bakhmut, Ukraine late last month.

As Ukraine scrambles to keep international support with Russia’s invasion grinding into a third year, its leader has made clear one country he would like to see join his push for peace: China.

Ratcheting up pressure on Beijing – Moscow’s most powerful political ally – appeared as a key talking point for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials this week during a gathering of the global elite in Switzerland’s Davos.

There, Zelensky told reporters he would “very much like China to be involved” in Ukraine’s peace plan. His foreign minister said the country wanted more contact with China at “all levels,” Interfax-Ukraine reported, while Zelensky’s chief of staff left the door open that the wartime leader could even meet China’s top delegate on the gathering’s sidelines.

But Chinese Premier Li Qiang appeared to depart the World Economic Forum earlier this week without meeting Zelensky – and didn’t directly address the conflict in a roughly 25-minute speech that focused heavily on reassuring his audience about China’s faltering economy.

Even as Chinese officials last year ramped up efforts to present the country as a potential peace broker in the war, analysts say it’s unlikely Beijing sees now as the time to leverage its deep and growing Russia ties to ramp up a push for its end – especially on Ukraine’s terms.

“China thinks it is already playing an important role in moving toward peace. It’s just the Chinese version of peace is not what Zelensky wants to see,” said Yun Sun, director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank.

Last year, after Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke to Zelensky for the first time some 14 months after the war began, Beijing dispatched an envoy to both Kyiv and Moscow. It has also released its own proposal for peace, which unlike Ukraine’s demands, calls for a ceasefire without the prior withdrawal of Russian troops illegally occupying Ukrainian territory.

Now, the latest events at Davos spotlight China’s wait-and-see approach when it comes to any further push to bring the war to a close, analysts say, as fighting remains locked in stalemate with neither side giving signs of backing down – and another major conflict, in the Middle East, draws global attention.

“China previously might have wanted to mediate because it didn’t want Russia to lose too badly. But now there is less worry on that front … China has more incentive to observe how battlefield development will evolve, which will form the foundation for any (peace) negotiation,” according to Sun.

“Now that the US is distracted by Gaza and the resources available to Ukraine are more limited, things have shifted in Russia’s favor. There is even less reason for China to ‘advance a fair peace as advocated by the West and Ukraine,’” she said.

China responds to conflict in Gaza

As Li focused on the economy in Davos, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi kept his focus on Gaza earlier this week.

In Cairo as part of the foreign minister’s customary first trip of the year to Africa, Wang issued a joint statement with the Arab League calling for an “immediate and comprehensive ceasefire” in Gaza to end more than three months of war – echoing Beijing’s stance on the conflict since its early days.

Wang also said China called for convening a “larger-scale, more authoritative and more effective international peace conference,” and a specific timetable for implementing a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

Though it is unclear how much sway China has in the region to play a strong role backing such an effort, an independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, is consistent with Beijing’s long-standing foreign policy; it was one of the first countries to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state in the late 1980s and has long advocated for a two-state solution.

However, analysts say, the conflict also presents an opportunity for Xi as he maneuvers to position China as an alternative international leader to the United States, in particular for the Global South – and fan perceptions that American policies have disrupted global stability.

“So much (global) frustration and anger has shifted to the conflict in Gaza … and that’s where China scores points for trying to position itself as a diplomatic force for good,” said Alex Gabeuv, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin.

“When it comes to the Gaza war, the bulk of Global South countries are strongly, strongly opposed to what Israel is doing … that’s a conflict where portraying yourself as an agent for peace and a negotiated solution yields you much more sympathy (in the Global South) … unlike the Ukrainian war, where most of the countries are sitting on the fence and it’s only the West that’s so united,” he said.

Peace summit

Whether Beijing has an interest in joining a growing number of countries – including those from the Global South – willing to sit down at the table with Ukraine and hear its peace conditions will be tested at an upcoming peace summit, announced Monday.

The meeting, which Switzerland said it would host on an undisclosed date at Zelensky’s request, is expected to draw world leaders to discuss how to end the conflict as it nears entering its third year. Zelensky portrayed it as an event “where all countries that respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity are welcome to attend.”

When asked whether an invitation had been extended to Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry earlier this week sidestepped a direct reply, saying China’s position “is centered on promoting talks for peace” and supported “any efforts for peace.”

Analysts say it’s unlikely that will translate into high-level attendance at talks where Ukraine’s views, but not Russia’s, would be the starting point.

Russia has not been represented in any of the four closed-door international peace talks that have taken place so far, though its participation would be needed for a peace agreement. Of those three, China only attended one hosted by its increasingly close strategic partner, Saudi Arabia.

Beijing views Moscow as a key partner in counterbalancing what it sees as a hostile West, and the two countries have continued to bolster security, diplomatic and economic ties since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

“As long as Russia doesn’t accept it, whatever happens at the peace conference is irrelevant. China will not support conditions that Russia opposes,” said Sun in Washington. “Any attempt to draw China into such a setting will fail because China also understands the optics of it joining such a session.”

For now, that may see China sit on the sidelines, until it feels there’s a moment for compromise between Kyiv and Moscow – an opening within which it may seek to ramp up its role.

But when it comes to how Beijing may maneuver toward brokering peace in Gaza, China likely doesn’t see itself as yet having captured the opportunity “to present itself as a conflict mediator,” according to Sun. “Therefore, more is on the way.”https://merupakan.com

Intense Israeli strikes in south Gaza city as hostages sent medicine

Picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on 17 January 2024
Image caption,A journalist said there was a “state of panic” among people at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, seen here from nearby Rafah

Residents of Khan Younis in southern Gaza say they have faced one of the most intense nights of air strikes since the start of Israel’s offensive.

Videos showed flames light up the sky as the sounds of Israeli bombings and gunfire reverberated across the city.

Displaced families have been fleeing a local hospital as fighting closes in.

Meanwhile, medicines are being sent for Israeli hostages held by Hamas in exchange for more aid for Palestinian civilians under a Qatar-mediated deal.

The White House says Qatar has also been overseeing “very serious, extensive discussions” about a possible new hostage release deal, which were joined by a US envoy.

“This is the loudest sound of armed clashes [between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian fighters] that I’ve ever heard,” Yasser Zaqzouq, who has been sheltering at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis with his family, told the BBC.

“This is the first time we saw such scenes [of air strikes]. We were in terror. All the kids were screaming and crying.”

An injured man is brought to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip (16 January 2024)
Image caption,The UN says Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis is at risk of closure due to hostilities in the surrounding area

A local journalist, Tariq Dahlan, said: “There is a state of panic among the displaced people in the hospital.”

“People are running away from this area towards the West, but nobody knows where they’re going and what his fate will be.”

Israeli tanks were said to be just metres from the hospital.

A woman in southern Gaza, who did not wish to be named, said children could not sleep “because of the sounds of missiles”.

“We are living in fear and terror,” she told the BBC, adding that many of the children had begun to wet themselves out of fear.

“The air strikes were very intense and very close around my house,” another resident who lives opposite Nasser hospital, Abu Omar Al-Husseini, told the BBC.

“We fled under fire at dawn today. We carried a few blankets and walked for 5km (3.1 miles) to reach the entrance to the city of Rafah, and now we are in the street, not knowing where to go.”

On Wednesday the Jordanian army said its military field hospital in Khan Younis had been badly damaged as a result of Israeli shelling in the area. The Jordanian army said it held Israel responsible for a “flagrant breach of international law”. http://sayurkana.com/

The UN says that the war has displaced around 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, many of whom have been forced to cram into shelters and are struggling to get basic supplies.

In a joint statement, a number of UN special rapporteurs said: “Currently every single person in Gaza is hungry, a quarter of the population are starving and struggling to find food and drinkable water, and famine is imminent.”

Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, has said that the intense stage of Israel’s military operations against Hamas would “soon” wind down in the south of Gaza, including Khan Younis, where it is thought local leaders of the armed group may be hiding.

He said that the military had already switched to more targeted action in the north, where it began its ground offensive.

However, in recent days, the return of Israeli tanks to parts of the north which ground forces had previously left has led some Gazans – who had been planning to return home – to think again.

Israeli military officials have repeatedly warned that the fighting will continue for months.

Qatar now says that medicines are being flown from Doha to El-Arish in northern Egypt to be transported to Gaza, as part of a deal it brokered between Israel and Hamas.

The plan had previously been announced but was apparently held up by logistical problems.

It is not clear how exactly the medicines will be delivered to some 45 of the remaining more than 100 Israeli hostages, who are reported to be suffering from chronic diseases or in need of other life-saving drugs.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said “Qatari representatives in the Gaza Strip” would be involved and it is thought that the International Committee of the Red Cross may have a role.

The agreement is also said to involve a significant increase in medicines for Palestinians.

On Tuesday, the White House spokesman, John Kirby said Washington was “hopeful” that a new deal could soon be reached to free the hostages.

Both Qatar and Egypt, who are key mediators, have recently laid out plans that would see them released in exchange for a halt in fighting.

Netanyahu publicly rejects US push for Palestinian state

Israeli PM Netanyahu
Image caption,The Israeli Prime Minister vowed to press on with the offensive in Gaza ‘until complete victory’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he has told the United States that he opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state once the conflict in Gaza comes to an end.

In a news conference, a defiant Mr Netanyahu vowed to press on with the offensive in Gaza “until complete victory”: the destruction of Hamas and return of the remaining Israeli hostages, adding that it could take “many more months”.

With almost 25,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and 85% of the strip’s population displaced, Israel is under intense pressure to rein in its offensive and engage in meaningful talks over a sustainable end to the war.

Israel’s allies, including the US – and many of its foes – have urged a revival of the long-dormant “two-state solution”, in which a future Palestinian state would sit side-by-side with an Israeli one.

The hope in many circles is that the current crisis could force the warring parties back to diplomacy, as the only viable alternative to endless cycles of violence. But from Mr Netanyahu’s comments, his intention appears quite the opposite.

During Thursday’s news conference, he said Israel must have security control over all land west of the River Jordan, which would include the territory of any future Palestinian state.

“This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What to do? I tell this truth to our American friends, and I also stopped the attempt to impose a reality on us that would harm Israel’s security,” he said.

Mr Netanyahu has spent much of his political career opposing Palestinian statehood, boasting just last month that he was proud to have prevented its establishment, so his latest remarks come as no surprise.

But the very public rebuttal of Washington’s diplomatic push, and determination to stay the current military course, show the chasm widening with Israel’s western allies.

Since the 7 October attacks – the worst in Israel’s history, when Hamas gunmen killed about 1,300 Israelis and took some 240 hostage – the US has supported its right to defend itself.

But as the death toll in Gaza has grown, and the scenes of horror there have abounded, Western governments have called for Israeli restraint.

The White House has repeatedly tried to influence Israel’s military policy: urging more precision-guided weapons rather than the blanket air strikes; discouraging a ground offensive; and calling for a two-state solution, with a role for the Palestinian Authority in post-conflict Gaza.

A protester holding a sign
Image caption,Protesters in Tel Aviv have been calling for the safe release of Israeli hostages

But Washington’s advice has frequently fallen on deaf ears or been met by outright rejection – often publicly so, during visits by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

That, in turn, has hardened frustration in some American circles over the Biden administration’s apparent blanket support for Israel, with strident calls to put conditions on US aid to its Middle East ally.

Responding to Mr Netanyahu’s latest comments, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said his government would not stop working towards a two-state solution, adding there would be “no reoccupation of Gaza.” http://kolechai.com/

Israel’s prime minister’s comments will please his dwindling support base and the far-right ministers who prop up his government.

But they will dismay those at home and abroad who are increasingly horrified by the human cost of this war. Recent polls show most Israelis want him to prioritise bringing the remaining hostages home over the potentially impossible aim of destroying Hamas.

Biden says US strikes on Houthis in Yemen have not stopped Red Sea attacks

Biden speaks to reporters on his way to North Carolina

Houthi forces launched a new missile attack on a US-owned vessel on Thursday, after President Joe Biden said American strikes have not deterred the militants’ campaign in the Red Sea.

The Pentagon said no damage or injuries were reported after Houthis fired two missiles at the MV Chem Ranger.

The attack followed a fifth round of US strikes in Yemen earlier on Thursday.

The White House said US forces “took out a range of Houthi missiles” that were to be fired towards the Red Sea.

Speaking after the US strikes, Mr Biden was asked by reporters in Washington DC if the attacks on Houthi targets were working.

“Well, when you say working are they stopping the Houthis? No,” he said.

“Are they gonna continue? Yes.”

US Central Command – which oversees US operations in the Middle East – said in a statement that it had “conducted strikes on two Houthi anti-ship missiles that were aimed into the Southern Red Sea and were prepared to launch” on Thursday.

“US forces identified the missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen” around 15:40 local time (12:40GMT) “and determined they were an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships in the region”.

“US forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missiles in self-defense.”

Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh later told reporters at a briefing: “We do not seek war.”

“We are not at war with the Houthis. Actions we are taking are defensive in nature.”

Centcom also confirmed the attempted attack on the MV Chem Ranger. Officials said two anti-ship missiles were fired at the Marshall Island-flagged, US owned ship, but both fell short of the vessel.

Yemen’s military spokesperson earlier released a statement saying that there had been “direct hits” to the ship.

A US-owned vessel was also hit on Wednesday, hours after Washington re-designated the Houthis as a terrorist organisation.

In a fiery speech on Thursday, the leader of the Houthis called it a “great honour” to be “in direct confrontation” with Israel, the US and the UK.

“The aggression against our dear people is a violation, aggression, a direct encroachment of the sovereignty of Yemen and a direct assault on the Yemeni people”, said Abdul Malik al-Houthi.

The Houthis began attacking merchant vessels in November, saying they were responding to Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Since then, the group has launched dozens of attacks on commercial tankers passing through the Red Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. http://jusnarte.com/

In response, the US and UK launched a wave of air strikes against dozens of Houthi targets on 11 January. The strikes – supported by Australia, Bahrain, the Netherlands and Canada – began after Houthi forces ignored an ultimatum to cease attacks in the region.

Diego Garcia: UN says UK military island not suitable for stranded migrants

Migrants fleeing Sri Lanka pictured on the deck of the Marayan, a 50 ft fishing boat
Image caption,An image provided by one of the migrants shows people on the deck of a boat before landing on Diego Garcia

The United Nations refugee agency has said a remote British territory in the Indian Ocean, which hosts a secretive UK-US military base, is “not a suitable location” for migrants to be held long-term, after being granted rare access.

Dozens of Sri Lankan Tamils have been stranded for more than two years in a makeshift camp on Diego Garcia.

It is the first time asylum claims have been filed in the territory.

The UK government said it was looking for a “long-term solution”.

“The wellbeing and safety of migrants is the… top priority” of the British Indian Ocean Territory administration, a spokesperson added. British Indian Ocean Territory (Biot) is the islands’ official name.

UNHCR representatives visited Diego Garcia towards the end of 2023 in a trip facilitated by UK authorities. It was the first time they had been given access to the island since the migrants’ arrival more than two years ago.

The UN agency said it was “following up” with officials about what it had found.

“Diego Garcia is an island hosting a military base with virtually no civilian population, and is not a suitable location for long-term residence for this group,” a spokesperson said in a brief statement to the BBC.

“We continue to call on the UK to ensure fair and efficient determination of the pending claims, and to secure solutions for those found to be in need of international protection, in line with international law.”

The first group of Tamils landed on Diego Garcia in October 2021 after their boat ran into trouble while trying to sail to Canada, according to migrants and officials.

The island is located hundreds of miles from any other population, and unauthorised visitors are forbidden.

The group’s subsequent asylum claims were the first ever to be launched on Biot – an area described as being “constitutionally distinct and separate from the UK”, and where court papers say the Refugee Convention does not apply.

Many of the group claim to have links with the former Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka, who were defeated in the civil war that ended in 2009, and say they have faced persecution as a result.

Hunger strikes

Asylum seekers have described conditions on the island as hellish, but the territory’s unusual legal status has left them in limbo.

There have been multiple suicide attempts and instances of self-harm. There have also been hunger strikes, which lawyers say have involved children.

“We are living a lifeless life. I feel like I am living like a dead man,” one man told the BBC last year.

Lawyers representing asylum seekers on Diego Garcia say about 60 people remain on the island. Several people have been relocated to Rwanda for treatment following suicide attempts.

The BBC understands this arrangement is separate to the government’s plan to send some asylum seekers to the east African country, which passed a significant milestone in Parliament this week..

“Our clients have been in limbo on Diego Garcia for over two years and have still not had their claims for international protection lawfully determined,” one of the group’s lawyers, Tessa Gregory, said.

“The conditions they are having to endure… are dire and entirely unsuitable for a group which includes children and survivors of torture and sexual violence.”

Ms Gregory added that UK lawyers representing the migrants were seeking access to the island.

So far, five people have had their claims for international protection approved, but no country has yet been identified to relocate them to.

The spokesperson said the government was “working with third countries to accept any who cannot be safely returned to their country of origin”. http://kueceng.com/

The government has previously told the BBC that “all allegations of mistreatment are taken seriously and fully investigated”.