Senior defense officials from South Korea, the United States and other nations on Tuesday warned North Korea over its nuclear ambitions and threats, vowing an unspecified collective response to any war-like aggression by the North toward its rival. Their joint statement came after a meeting in Seoul involving U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and officials from 16 other countries under the U.S.-led United Nations Command, which provided combat or medical forces in support of the South during the 1950-53 Korean War. The meeting came a day after Austin and Shin held annual defense talks where the allies updated a bilateral security agreement with the aim of more effectively countering North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile threats. In the joint statement, the defense ministers and other representatives of the U.N. Command’s member states strongly condemned North Korea’s “unlawful” nuclear and ballistic missile programs which violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and called for Pyongyang to recommit to diplomacy aimed at defusing the nuclear standoff. Read: Jin Air keen to operate direct flights between Bangladesh, South Korea The U.N. Command’s member states also declared “they will be united upon any renewal of hostilities or armed attack on the Korean Peninsula challenging the principles of the United Nations and the security of (South Korea).” Shin during a speech at the meeting said the North would face a “strong response from the international community centered on the U.N. Command” if it ever attempts to invade the South again. He also issued a veiled warning toward Pyongyang’s growing alignment with Russia and China, as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tries to break out of diplomatic isolation and insert Pyongyang as part of a united front against Washington. “If the countries that supported North Korea during the Korean War offer to do so again, they too will face the same punishment as North Korea,” Shin said. The Korean War was triggered by a North Korean sneak attack on the South in June 1950. The North was backed by forces from the newly formed People’s Republic of China, which was aided by the then-Soviet Union's air force. South Korea, the United States and troops from various countries under the direction of the United Nations fought to push back the invasion before the fighting was halted by an armistice in 1953, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war. The U.N. Command has since remained in the South to enforce and maintain the armistice. Before Tuesday’s meeting, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry condemned the event as reflecting a “dangerous scheme to ignite a new war of aggression.” The North’s state media also criticized the visits by Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who traveled to Seoul last week, calling them “warmongers” brining a “new war cloud” to Asia. Animosity between the Koreas has spiked recent months after Kim ramped up his weapons demonstrations, including events he described as simulated nuclear attacks on the South, and also authorized his military to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against enemies if it perceives Pyongyang’s top leadership as under threat. Read: Evidence shows Hamas likely used some North Korean weapons in attack on Israel South Korea has responded by expanding its combined military exercises with the United States as well as trilateral security cooperation with Japan. Seoul has also been seeking stronger public assurances from Washington that the United States would swiftly and decisively use its nukes to protect the South in the face of a North Korean nuclear attack. During their annual Security Consultative Meeting on Monday, Austin and Shin signed a new version of their countries’ Tailored Deterrence Strategy agreement, which was revised for the first time in a decade to address the growing threat of the North’s military nuclear program. Shin said the new document spells out that the United States would mobilize its full range of military capabilities, including nuclear ones, to defend the South in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack. He also said the document will provide a template for the allies to strategize how South Korea could assist U.S. nuclear operations in such events with its conventional capabilities but didn’t elaborate further. While Kim is also trying to strengthen relations with China, Russia has been his primary focus. A flurry of diplomacy between the countries, highlighted by a September summit between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin, has triggered concerns about an arms arrangement in which North Korea provides badly needed munitions to Russia to help it wage war on Ukraine in exchange for Russian technology transfers that would upgrade Kim’s military nuclear program. A Russian delegation led by Alexander Kozlov, minister of natural resources, arrived at Pyongyang's airport Tuesday, in the latest sign of diplomatic activity. While The Associated Press photographed the arrival, the North’s state media did not immediately release details of the visit. Read: North Korea raises specter of nuclear strike over US aircraft carrier's arrival in South Korea In written responses to questions from AP, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he will discuss the international response to the purported weapons deal between North Korea and Russia during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco this week. He said such military cooperation between the countries not only poses a serious threat to the security of Asia and Europe but also undermines the rules-based international order. Both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied U.S. and South Korean claims that the North has been supplying munitions and military equipment to Russia.
U.S. officials expressed hope Monday that this week's highly anticipated face-to-face meeting between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will produce some concrete results, including the possible reestablishment of military communication between the two nations and a shared effort to combat illicit fentanyl trafficking. The two leaders will meet Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. The Biden-Xi bilateral will be the marquee moment of the forum, which is dedicated to promoting trade, investment and economic development among nations around the Pacific Ocean. Biden and Xi have not spoken in a year. Their last meeting was at the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia last fall. And since then, tensions between the two nations have grown following a series of events touched off by the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon that had wafted across the U.S. earlier this year. The frosty relationship between the two economic superpowers has global implications: China and the U.S. produce roughly 40% of the world’s goods and services. Read: At least four people stabbed at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston; suspect in custody U.S. officials have set relatively low expectations for the Biden-Xi meeting, suggesting that simply getting back to a baseline of routine communication would be a good benchmark for success. Still, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday there could be some movement toward shared goals, through “intense diplomacy.” “All in all we’re looking forward to a productive meeting,” Sullivan said. “President Biden has a long history with President Xi and their conversations are direct, they’re straightforward and President Biden believes there is no substitute for leader-to-leader, face-to-face diplomacy to manage this complex relationship.” Among those goals: the reestablishment of communications between military leaders of the two nations. U.S. military contacts with China have eroded, particularly since the pandemic, and are now almost nonexistent, even as the number of unsafe or unprofessional incidents between the two nations’ ships and aircraft have spiked. The U.S. has consistently viewed military relations with China as critical to avoiding any missteps and to maintaining a peaceful Indo-Pacific region. They became even more important as China stepped up its efforts to aggressively militarize manmade islands in the Pacific as part of a broader campaign to control the South China Sea, including international transit by other ships and aircraft. China has also long complained about U.S. Navy and Air Force movements in the western Pacific, along with other U.S. moves to impose sanctions and other economic restrictions. Canceling military talks is viewed by China as a way to punish Washington. But there are small signs of progress. China’s defense ministry last week said the two militaries held a conference call on the search for the remains of American prisoners of war and missing personnel, discussing case investigations and cooperation on military archives. Sullivan also said there were other areas where U.S. and Chinese interests overlap, particularly on the effort to combat fentanyl trafficking. The powerful opioid is the deadliest drug in the U.S. today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that drug overdose deaths have increased more than sevenfold from 2015 to 2021. Read: More than 180,000 people across France march against soaring antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war Mexico and China are the primary sources for fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked directly into the U.S., according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is tasked with combating illicit drug trafficking. Nearly all the chemicals needed to make fentanyl come from China, and the drugs are then mass-produced in Mexico and trafficked via cartels into the U.S. Sullivan said Biden would also use the meeting to address China's relations with Iran and Taiwan. China has perceived American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent. Concern about the issue is heightened as Taiwan prepares to hold presidential elections in January. Under the “One China” policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the government of China and doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but it has maintained that Taipei is an important partner in the Indo-Pacific. Sullivan said Biden would “set out a vision for peace and stability and the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The Democratic president is also expected to let Xi know that he would like China to use its burgeoning sway over Iran to make clear that Tehran or its proxies should not take action that could lead to expansion of the Israel-Hamas war. The Biden administration sees the Chinese, a big buyer of Iranian oil, as having considerable leverage with Iran, which is a major backer of Hamas. “President Biden will make the point to President Xi that Iran acting in an escalatory, destabilizing way that undermines stability across the broader Middle East is not in the interests" of China or "any other responsible country,” Sullivan said. Read: US State Dept spokesperson says will ‘refrain from being drawn into’ internal Bangladeshi political matters The White House announced Monday that Biden would also meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador later this week. The two leaders will discuss the growing migration issue at the U.S.-Mexico border and beyond. Preparations for the summit are evident around San Francisco. The city has erected tall steel barricades downtown that snake around the streets surrounding the Moscone Center and other venues where APEC events will be held this week. Finance and diplomatic leaders from the 21 APEC economies are also gathering this week; Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opened the finance ministers meeting Monday. The San Francisco Police Department has beefed up patrols throughout downtown. In the area around Union Square, where many summit dignitaries have booked up the city’s four-star hotels, locals have taken note that the city’s significant homeless population seems less prevalent than usual.
Four women were stabbed Monday morning on the campus of Louisiana Tech University in the north Louisiana city of Ruston in what university officials and local police said appeared to be a random attack by a student. Ruston Mayor Ronny Walker said three of the four suffered serious injuries and were transported to a hospital in Shreveport. The university issued a statement saying campus police caught a suspect — a 23-year-old man —within minutes of the stabbings. Ruston Police Chief Steve Rogers said the man was being booked into jail Monday afternoon after being treated for unspecified injuries. He was to be held on four counts of attempted second-degree murder, Rogers said at an afternoon news conference with Walker. Read: Driver of Civil Aviation Authority stabbed to death in Dhaka’s Kawla Rogers said the weapon believed to have been used was a folding knife with a blade estimated about four inches long. Of the four people stabbed, one was a graduate student, who was the first to be taken to a Shreveport hospital. The other victims were not students. Two were first hospitalized in Ruston, then transferred to Shreveport, Walker said. “We have two that we know are in critical but stable condition, one that is in stable condition," Walker told reporters. Read: UN agencies' Regional Directors call for immediate action to halt attacks on Gaza hospitals A fourth victim refused treatment, according to the university. “This appears to be a random act of violence,” the university's statement said. “It sounds like he ran up behind them and surprised them,” Louisiana Tech Police Chief Randall Hermes told the Ruston Daily Leader. Rogers said police had had contact with the suspect roughly a week earlier, but provided few details. “We had one reported incident with him,” Rogers said. “It wasn't criminal. We went and checked him out and had people check him out. He was fine at that time.” Read: 48-hr countrywide blockade: Violence, arson attack, clashes marks 1st day blockade The attack happened shortly after 9 a.m. at Tech's Lambright Sports and Wellness Center, a recreation center that offers fitness classes to students and the Ruston community. Tech police received a call at 9:08 a.m. and the suspect was reported in custody about four minutes later.
More than 180,000 people across France, including 100,000 in Paris, marched peacefully on Sunday to protest against rising antisemitism in the wake of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, representatives of several parties on the left, conservatives and centrists of President Emmanuel Macron's party as well as far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended Sunday’s march in the French capital amid tight security. Macron did not attend, but expressed his support for the protest and called on citizens to rise up against “the unbearable resurgence of unbridled antisemitism.” However, the leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, stayed away from the march, saying last week on X, formerly Twitter, that the march would be a meeting of “friends of unconditional support for the massacre” in Gaza. Read: UN agencies' Regional Directors call for immediate action to halt attacks on Gaza hospitals The interior ministry said at least 182,000 people marched in several in French cities in response to the call launched by the leaders of the parliament's upper and lower houses. No major incident has been reported, it said. Paris authorities deployed 3,000 police troops along the route of the protest called by the leaders of the Senate and parliament’s lower house, the National Assembly, amid an alarming increase in anti-Jewish acts in France since the start of Israel’s war against Hamas after its Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel. France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, but given its own World War II collaboration with the Nazis, antisemitic acts today open old scars. Holding a French flag, Robert Fiel said marching against antisemitism is “more than a duty.” Read: UK police step up efforts to ensure a massive pro-Palestinian march in London remains peaceful “It's a march against violence, against antisemitism, against all (political extremes) that are infiltrating the society, to show that the silent majority does exist,” the 67-year-old said. Family members of some of the 40 French citizens killed in the initial Hamas attack, and of those missing or held hostage, also took part in the march, which Paris police said drew 105,000 participants. Patrick Klugman, a lawyer and a member of “Freethem” committee working to obtain the release of people held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza, said the large participation in the march is meaningful and symbolic in reassuring Jewish communities in France. “I am very proud of my country because of this mobilization,” Klugman said. “I feel less alone than in the past weeks and days.” Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France known as CRIF said he was encouraged Sunday's show of support, but the question remains, he told French broadcaster BFM at the march, “what will be done (against antisemitism) tomorrow?” Tomer Sisley, an Israeli and French actor insisted the massive show of solidarity proves that majority of French citizens are against violence and hate against any religious and ethnic group. “We’re not Jews, we’re not Muslims, we’re not Christians,” Sisley said. "We are French and we are here to show that we are all together.” French authorities have registered more than 1,000 acts against Jews around the country in the month since the conflict in the Middle East began. Former French president Francois Hollande said “there are many French flags in the protest but what unites us is not just a flag, it’s what it represents, it’s the value of freedom and the value of human dignity." Read: Thousands who were sheltering at Gaza City’s hospitals flee as Israel-Hamas war closes in In a letter addressed to the French on Sunday, Macron vowed that perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished. “A France where our Jewish fellow citizens are afraid is not France,” Macron said in the letter, published in Le Parisien newspaper. He called on the country to remain “united behind its values ... and work for peace and security for all in the Middle East.” Macron said he will attend “in my heart and in spirit,” but not in person. “My role is to build unity of the country and to be firm on values,” Macron said Saturday on the sidelines of Armistice Day commemorations to mark the end of World War I. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen attended Sunday's march amid fierce criticism that her once-pariah National Rally party has failed to shake off its antisemitic heritage despite growing political legitimacy. After arriving to the march with the president of the party, Jordan Bardella, Le Pen dismissed critics and said that she and the party members are “exactly where we need to be.” She called on other politicians “to take a break from fomenting political controversies” during the march. Le Pen and other far-right officials showed up at the end of the march, hundreds of meters away from government members and other officials who led the demonstration. Borne, who is the daughter of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, tweeted “the presence of the National Rally is not fooling anyone.” The president of the Paris region council, Valérie Pécresse, a former conservative presidential candidate, denounced “hypocrisy,” saying that National Rally officials ran against her in past elections “who were clearly antisemitic people and Marine Le Pen never sanctioned them.” As of Saturday, officials counted 1,247 antisemitic acts since Oct. 7, nearly three times as many as in the whole of 2022, according to the Interior Ministry. Sunday's march in Paris appears as the biggest gathering to denounce antisemitism in France since a 1990 demonstration against the desecration of a Jewish cemetery. France has banned a number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, although supporters have marched in several French cities in the past weeks, including thousands demanding a cease-fire in Gaza in a protest in Paris last Sunday.
Hundreds of thousands of pro-Palestine demonstrators gathered in London, UK on November 11, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war began a month ago. Protesters marched through the city, starting from London’s Hyde Park. The march ended at 4 pm at the US Embassy on the south bank of the River Thames, 5 km away. Authorities said the march was the largest in London since the start of the conflict. Police estimated that some 300,000 people took part in the march. Read: EU calls for 'immediate pause in hostilities' in Gaza According to Stop the War Coalition, one of the organizers of Saturday’s event, people arrived at the march on buses from different parts of the country. “Coach companies across the country reported that all their vehicles were fully booked,” it said. Palestinians living in Britain have been holding peaceful protests every Saturday for a month to protest the brutal Israeli attack in Gaza. Read: UN agencies' Regional Directors call for immediate action to halt attacks on Gaza hospitals Security was strengthened at various points around the procession since Saturday morning. Barricades surroundings the ‘Remembrance Sunday Footprint’ in Whitehall were reinforced. The Metropolitan Police Service said around 2,000 additional officers were deployed in central London to ensure peace and order. This was double the usual because the protest coincided with Armistice Day. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak objected to the procession on Armistice Day, saying that the commemoration events are “sacred” to Britain and should be a time for unity and “solemn reflection.” Read: Israel must stop killing babies and women in Gaza: Macron tells BBC More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed since Israel began its offensive, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. At least 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial Hamas attack.
The regional directors of UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO call for urgent international action to end the ongoing attacks on hospitals in Gaza. We are horrified at the latest reports of attacks on and in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Rantissi Naser Paediatric Hospital, Al-Quds Hospital, and others in Gaza city and northern Gaza, killing many, including children, said a press release. Millions of Indians set a new world record celebrating Diwali as worries about air pollution rise Intense hostilities surrounding several hospitals in northern Gaza are preventing safe access for health staff, the injured, and other patients. Premature and new-born babies on life support are reportedly dying due to power, oxygen, and water cuts at Al-Shifa Hospital, while others are at risk. The Staff across a number of hospitals are reporting lack of fuel, water and basic medical supplies, putting the lives of all patients at immediate risk. Over the past 36 days, WHO has recorded at least 137 attacks on health care in Gaza, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers on duty. A fragile global economy is at stake as US and China seek to cool tensions at APEC summit Attacks on medical facilities and civilians are unacceptable and are a violation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and Conventions. They cannot be condoned. The right to seek medical assistance, especially in times of crisis, should never be denied. More than half of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip are closed. Those still functioning are under massive strain and can only provide very limited emergency services, lifesaving surgery and intensive care services. Shortages of water, food, and fuel are also threatening the wellbeing of thousands of displaced people, including women and children, who are sheltering in hospitals and their surroundings. Netanyahu rejects growing international calls for a cease-fire in Gaza The world cannot stand silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair. Decisive international action is needed now to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and prevent further loss of life, and preserve what’s left of the health care system in Gaza. Unimpeded, safe and sustained access is needed now to provide fuel, medical supplies and water for these lifesaving services. The violence must end now.
The United States and China are the two global economic heavyweights. Combined, they produce more than 40% of the world's goods and services. So when Washington and Beijing do economic battle, as they have for five years running, the rest of the world suffers, too. And when they hold a rare high-level summit, as Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will this week, it can have global consequences. The world's economy could surely benefit from a U.S.-China détente. Since 2020, it has suffered one crisis after another — the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring inflation, surging interest rates, violent conflicts in Ukraine and now Gaza. The global economy is expected to grow a lackluster 3% this year and 2.9% in 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund. “Having the world’s two largest economies at loggerheads at such a fraught moment," said Eswar Prasad, senior professor of trade policy at Cornell University, “exacerbates the negative impact of various geopolitical shocks that have hit the world economy.” Hopes have risen that Washington and Beijing can at least cool some of their economic tensions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which starts Sunday in San Francisco. The meeting will bring together 21 Pacific Rim countries, which collectively represent 40% of the world’s people and nearly half of global trade. Read: UK police step up efforts to ensure a massive pro-Palestinian march in London remains peaceful The marquee event will be the Biden-Xi meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the summit, the first time the two leaders will have spoken in a year, during which time frictions between the two nations have worsened. The White House has sought to tamp down expectations, saying to expect no breakthroughs. At the same time, Prasad suggested that the threshold for declaring a successful outcome is relatively low. “Preventing any further deterioration in the bilateral economic relationship," he said, "would already be a victory for both sides.’’ The U.S.-China economic relationship had been deteriorating for years before it erupted in 2018, at the instigation of President Donald Trump, into an all-out trade war. The Trump administration charged that China had violated the commitments it made, in joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, to open its vast market to U.S. and other foreign companies that wanted to sell their goods and services there. In 2018, the Trump administration began imposing tariffs on Chinese imports to punish Beijing for its actions in trying to supplant U.S. technological supremacy. Many experts agreed with the administration that Beijing had engaged in cyberespionage and had improperly demanded that foreign companies turn over trade secrets as the price of gaining access to the Chinese market. Beijing punched back against Trump's sanctions with its own retaliatory tariffs, making U.S. goods more expensive for Chinese buyers. When Biden took office in 2021, he kept much of Trump’s confrontational trade policy, including the China tariffs. The U.S. tax rate on Chinese imports now exceeds 19%, versus 3% at the start of 2018, before Trump imposed his tariffs. Likewise, Chinese import taxes on U.S. goods are up to 21%, from 8% before the trade war began, according to calculations by Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. One of the tenets of Biden's economic policy has been to reduce America’s economic reliance on Chinese factories, which came under strain when COVID-19 disrupted global supply chains, and to solidify partnerships with other Asian nations. As part of that policy, the Biden administration last year forged the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity with 14 countries. In some ways, U.S.-China trade tensions are even higher under Biden than they were under Trump. Beijing is seething over the Biden administration’s decision to impose — and then broaden — export controls that are designed to prevent China from acquiring advanced computer chips and the equipment to produce them. In August, Beijing countered with its own trade curbs: It began requiring that Chinese exporters of gallium and germanium, metals used in computer chips and solar cells, obtain government licenses to send those metals overseas. Beijing has also taken aggressive actions against foreign companies in China. Orchestrating what appears to be a counterespionage campaign, its authorities this year raided the Chinese offices of the U.S. consulting firms Capvision and the Mintz Group, questioned Shanghai employees of the Bain & Co. consultancy and announced a security review of the chipmaker Micron. Read: US and India reaffirm security ties as their top diplomats and defense officials hold talks Some analysts speak of a “decoupling’’ of the world’s two biggest economies after decades in which they relied deeply on each other for trade. Indeed, imports of Chinese goods to the United States were down 24% through September compared with the same period of 2022. The rift between Beijing and Washington has forced many other countries into a delicate predicament: Deciding which side they're on when they actually want to do business with both countries. The IMF says such economic “fragmentation’’ is damaging to the world. The 190-country lending agency estimates that higher trade barriers will subtract $7.4 trillion from global economic output after the world has adjusted to the higher trade barriers. And those barriers are rising: Last year, the IMF said, countries imposed nearly 3,000 new restrictions on trade, up from fewer than 1,000 in 2019. The agency foresees international trade growing just 0.9% this year and 3.5% in 2024 — down sharply from the 2000-2019 annual average of 4.9%. The Biden administration insists it isn’t trying to undermine China's economy. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met with her Chinese counterpart, Vice Premier He Lifeng, in San Francisco and sought to set the stage for Biden-Xi summit. “Our mutual desire — both China and the United States — is to create a level playing field and ongoing, meaningful and mutually beneficial economic relations,” Yellen said. Xi, too, has reason to try to restore economic cooperation with the United States. The Chinese economy is under heavy strain. Its real estate market has collapsed, youth unemployment is rampant and consumer spirits are low. The raids on foreign businesses have spooked international companies and investors. “With serious headwinds facing the Chinese economy and many U.S. firms packing up their bags and leaving China, Xi needs to convince investors that China is still a profitable place to conduct business,’’ said Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Institute and a former U.S. trade negotiator. “This will not be an easy sell.’’ Complicating matters is that the tensions between Washington and Beijing go well beyond economics. Under Xi, the Chinese Communist Party has punished dissent in Hong Kong and the autonomous Muslim region of Xinjiang. His government made aggressive territorial demands in Asia, engaging in deadly border clashes with India and bullying the Philippines and other neighbors in parts of the South China Sea it claims as its own. It has increasingly threatened Taiwan, which it considers a renegade Chinese province. U.S.-China tensions could intensify next year with presidential elections in Taiwan and the United States, where criticism of Beijing is among the few areas that unite Democrats and Republicans. Read: India bars protests that support Palestinians Xi’s policies appear to be costing China in the battle for world opinion. In a recent survey of people in 24 countries, the Pew Research Center reported that the United States was viewed more favorably than China in all but two (Kenya and Nigeria) nations. Could China change course? Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat who serves on a House committee that monitors China, noted optimistically that Xi has reversed himself before — notably in declaring a sudden end to the draconian zero-COVID policies that crippled China's economy last year. “We have to give that possibility a chance, even at the same time that we hedge and protect our interests,’’ Krishnamoorthi said. “That’s what I’m hoping we also see come out of this meeting.’’
London police have stepped up efforts to ensure a pro-Palestinian march on Saturday remains peaceful following a week of political sparring over whether the demonstration should go ahead on the weekend Britain honors its war dead. More than 2,000 officers, some called in from surrounding forces, will be on the streets of the capital this weekend to make to ensure marchers obey the law and to prevent potential confrontations with counter protesters, the Metropolitan Police Service said. Police are also taking steps to reassure the Jewish community, which has been targeted by a surge in antisemitic incidents since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Israeli forces responded with strikes and sending troops into the Gaza Strip. “We know the cumulative impact continued protest, increasing tensions, and rising hate crimes are having across London and the fear and anxiety our Jewish communities in particular are feeling,” the police said in a statement. “They have a right to feel safe in their city, knowing they can travel across London without feeling afraid of intimidation or harassment.” Read: Thousands who were sheltering at Gaza City’s hospitals flee as Israel-Hamas war closes in The law enforcement operation comes after Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley resisted pressure from political leaders to ban the march over fears that it would interfere with Saturday’s Armistice Day events commemorating the end of World War I. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have also expressed concern that the protests could spill over into Sunday, when King Charles III and the prime ministers of Commonwealth nations will lay wreaths at the national war memorial, known as the Cenotaph. The commemoration events are “sacred” to Britain and should be a time for unity and “solemn reflection,” Sunak said in a statement. “It is because of those who fought for this country and for the freedom we cherish that those who wish to protest can do so, but they must do so respectfully and peacefully,” Sunak said. Organizers of Saturday’s march say they have taken steps to ensure it doesn’t conflict with Armistice Day events. The march is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m., more than an hour after the nation observes a two-minute silence, and it will follow a route from Hyde Park to the U.S. Embassy that doesn’t go near the Cenotaph. Read: ‘From the river to the sea': Why these 6 words spark fury and passion over the Israel-Hamas war Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the marchers are calling end to the bombing of Gaza, and he criticized Braverman for characterizing the protesters as extremists who were going to desecrate the Cenotaph. The group has sponsored marches every Saturday in London since the war began. “We said to the police we did not want to be anywhere near Whitehall on November the 11th; we did not want to disrupt preparations for the commemoration of remembrance on the Sunday,” Jamal told the BBC. “It is inconceivable, unless she doesn’t speak to the police, that the home secretary did not know that when she made her remarks.” But police have gone further, declaring an exclusion zone around the Cenotaph and stationing a 24-hour guard around the memorial, amid concerns that some protesters may seek to deface it. Protesters have also been barred from the streets around the Israeli Embassy, near the start of the march, and some areas next to the U.S. Embassy. Police also said they would take steps to prevent convoys of vehicles traveling to the march from driving through Jewish communities. In past years, convoys carrying people who waved flags and shouted antisemitic abuse caused “significant concern, fear and upset,” the force said. Read: Fights in bread lines, despair in shelters: War threatens to unravel Gaza's close-knit society Laurence Taylor, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, said police would likely have to use force to manage some of the confrontations that occur over the weekend. “We are aware there will be counter-protests, as well as a lot of people who would ordinarily come to London to mark their respect on Armistice Day, on Remembrance Sunday,'' he said. "That means we need a large and robust policing plan in place.”
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.0 jolted Ethiopia at 0626 GMT on Saturday, the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences said. Read: 3 earthquakes jolt district close to Nepal capital The epicenter, with a depth of 10.0 km, was initially determined to be at 5.31 degrees north latitude and 36.75 degrees east longitude. Read: Two earthquakes strike Nepal, sending tremors through the region
Thousands of Palestinians sheltering from the Israel-Hamas war at Gaza City’s main hospital fled south Friday after several reported strikes in and around the compound overnight. They joined a growing exodus of people escaping intense urban fighting in the north — including near other hospitals — as Gaza officials said the territory’s death toll surpassed 11,000. The search for safety across the besieged Gaza Strip has grown desperate as Israel intensified its assault on the territory’s largest city. The Israeli army says Hamas’ military infrastructure is based amid Gaza City’s hospitals and neighborhoods, and that it has set up its main command center in and under the largest hospital, Shifa — claims the militant group and Shifa staff deny. Civilians flee north Gaza or shelter at a hospital as Israel and Hamas battle in the city Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after its deadly Oct. 7 surprise incursion, which killed at least 1,200. More than 100,000 Palestinians have fled south over the past two days, according to Israel, but they still face bombardment and dire conditions. Reported strikes on or near at least four hospitals in northern Gaza overnight underscored the danger for tens of thousands more who had crowded into the facilities, believing they would be safe. BATTLES AROUND HOSPITALSEarly Friday, at least three strikes over several hours hit the courtyard and the obstetrics department of Shifa Hospital, according to Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson at the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. A video of the courtyard recorded the sound of incoming fire waking people in makeshift shelters, followed by shouts for an ambulance. In the blood-spattered courtyard, one man writhed, screaming on the ground, his leg apparently severed. Israel fights Hamas deep in Gaza City and foresees control of enclave’s security after war Al-Qidra blamed the attack on Israel, a claim that could not be independently verified. The Israeli army said one strike at Shifa was the result of a misfire by militants targeting its troops nearby. For weeks, tens of thousands of displaced Palestinians — reaching as many 60,000 this week, according to the Health Ministry — have been sheltering in the Shifa complex. The overnight strikes triggered a mass exodus of the displaced. About 10 a.m., large numbers packed up their belongings and began walking toward the south, five people who were among those who left told The Associated Press. Al-Qidra told the Qatar-based satellite news network Al-Jazeera that more than 30,000 displaced people, medical workers and patients remain in the hospital. Israel-Hamas war crowds crisis-heavy global agenda as Blinken, G7 foreign ministers meet in Japan Mainly those who could not walk or did not know where to go remained, said Wafaa abu Hajajj, a journalist who arrived in the south after leaving the hospital Friday. “The strikes were hoping to scare people and it worked. … It became too much,” said 32-year-old Haneen Abu Awda, who had been at Shifa being treated for wounds from an earlier strike on his house. At the same time, Shifa has been overwhelmed by thousands of wounded, even as it operates with minimal power and medical supplies. In video released Friday by the Gaza Health Ministry, bodies of limp children are seen on stretchers across blood-stained floors in the hospital, some dead, some barely breathing. Other patients were strewn around the floor, unable to be treated for lack of supplies. One man is seen gasping for air. The director of Shifa, Mohammed Abu Selmia, said Israel demanded the facility be evacuated, but he said there was nowhere for such a large number of patients to go. “Where are we going to evacuate them?” he said, speaking to Al Jazeera television. The Health Ministry said one person had been killed at Shifa and several were wounded. Another strike near the Nasr Medical Center killed two people, according to the ministry. Abu Selmia said at least 25 people were killed when a strike hit a Gaza City school where people were sheltered inside. The strike on Nasr forced the shutdown of its children’s hospital, the only remaining specialized pediatric care in north Gaza, said World Health Organization spokesperson Margaret Harris. She said it was not known what happened to patients there, including children receiving dialysis and on life support — “things that you cannot possibly evacuate them safely with.” Military spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht said Israel is “aware of the sensitivity” of hospitals and that forces were closing in on them slowly. Israel “does not fire on hospitals,” he said, but if militants are seen firing from them “we will do what we need to do” and kill them. Israel has produced video that it says is evidence that Hamas uses not only hospitals, but schools and mosques as well, as cover for military activities. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said on multiple occasions that Hamas uses civilians as "human shields,’’ while stressing that this does not give Israel free rein to target buildings where militants are hiding among civilians. He has pointed to international humanitarian law, which states that protection of civilians and hospitals, schools, and homes is paramount. CIVILIANS FLEE SOUTHTens of thousands of new evacuees from the north, some from Shifa, flowed down Salah al-Din road — the central spine running the length of the Gaza Strip — and reached the central city of Deir al-Balah on Friday. With no fuel for vehicles, the crowds walked for hours as explosions echoed a short distance away. Among them were wounded and older people. They arrived hungry, exhausted and with a stew of emotions: relief, rage, and despair. Reem Asant, 50, described seeing bodies on the streets as he and others made their way out of Gaza City, trying to avoid shelling. “We’re talking about children killed in a hospital,” shouted one man, Abu Yousef. “Hundreds of women killed every day. Houses collapsing on the heads of civilians. … Where are human rights? Where is the United Nations? Where is the United States? Where is the International Criminal Court? Where is the entire world?” The Israeli military announced an expanded six-hour window Friday for civilians to escape northern Gaza along Salah al-Din, the route used since last weekend. It also announced the opening of a second route, along the coastal road, after an agreement announced by the White House a day earlier. More than two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes since the war began. Israel estimates that more than 850,000 of the 1.1 million people in northern Gaza have left, according to military spokesman Jonathan Conricus. RISING DEATH TOLLSMore than 11,070 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths. Another 2,650 people have been reported missing. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that “far too many” Palestinians have died and suffered. While recent Israeli steps to try to minimize civilian harm are positive, he said, they are not enough. Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf told U.S. lawmakers this week that it was “very possible” the death toll was even higher than the Gaza Health Ministry's tally. At least 1,200 people have been killed in Israel, mainly in the initial Hamas attack, and 41 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the ground offensive began, Israeli officials say. The Foreign Ministry had previously estimated the civilian death toll at 1,400, and gave no reason Friday for the revision. An Israeli official told The Associated Press that the number had been changed after a painstaking weekslong process to identify bodies, many of which were mutilated or burned in the Hamas rampage. The final death toll could still change, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement. Nearly 240 people abducted by Hamas from Israel remain captive. Palestinian militants have continued to fire rockets into Israel, and an attack on Tel Aviv wounded at least two people Friday, said Yossi Elkabetz, a paramedic with Israel’s rescue services. Hamas claimed credit. About 250,000 Israelis have been forced to evacuate from communities near Gaza and along the northern border with Lebanon, where Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants have traded fire repeatedly.