Ukraine says ‘fierce’ fighting inside symbolic frontline town

Ukraine says ‘fierce’ fighting inside symbolic frontline town
A view shows residential buildings heavily damaged by permanent Russian military strikes in the front line town of Avdiivka in Donetsk region on Nov. 8, 2023. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 17 February 2024
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Ukraine says ‘fierce’ fighting inside symbolic frontline town

Ukraine says ‘fierce’ fighting inside symbolic frontline town
  • “Fierce battles are taking place within the city,” Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the Ukrainian general commanding the zone, said
  • “Unfortunately, during one of these sorties, several of our soldiers were captured”

KYIV: Ukraine said Friday that some of its soldiers were captured in fierce fighting in the beleaguered frontline city of Avdiivka that has become a main Russian target ahead of the second anniversary of its invasion.
As President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Berlin and Paris in a new bid to secure desperately needed military aid, Ukrainian generals said there was bitter fighting inside Avdiivka, which is surrounded by Russian forces on three sides. “Fierce battles are taking place within the city,” Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the Ukrainian general commanding the zone, said on social media.
“Where necessary” Ukrainian forces were taking up “new positions,” Tarnavsky posted on Telegram. “Unfortunately, during one of these sorties, several of our soldiers were captured.”
The Ukrainian military said on its social media that Ukrainian troops were being reinforced and were “standing their ground.”
Russia has been trying to capture Avdiivka for months. Its fall would be a significant symbolic victory for Russia ahead of the February 24 anniversary of the start of the invasion, and its most significant territorial gain since it seized Bakhmut last May.
A Ukrainian army spokesman said the “complicated” operation of bringing in supplies and evacuating the few hundred civilians who remained had started.
“Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington, citing Ukrainian reports.
Zelensky said Kyiv was sending as much support as possible to the region.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that our warriors have enough managerial and technological capabilities to save as many Ukrainian lives as possible,” Zelensky said during his evening address.
The battle for the industrial hub, less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the city of Donetsk, has been one of the bloodiest of the two-year war.
Many compare it to the battle for Bakhmut, in which tens of thousands of soldiers were killed.
Ukrainian leaders have highlighted the increasingly difficult situation on eastern frontlines because of ammunition shortages and fresh Russian attacks.
Zelensky late Friday signed a security pact with France, after earlier in the day securing a similar deal with Germany. Both accords include military assistance and security arrangements.
Meanwhile, Republicans in the US House of Representatives are blocking authorizing $60 billion in new military aid for Ukraine.
A research institute that monitors assistance estimated Friday that the European Union will have to double its military support to Ukraine to fill a gap left by the United States.
“It is highly uncertain whether the US will send further military aid in 2024,” the Germany-based Kiel Institute said in a report.
According to its data up to January 15, 2024, the United States sent 42.2 billion euros ($45.4 billion) in military aid to Ukraine between February 2022 and December 2023, at a rate of around two billion euros a month.
The European Union and its 27 members have promised 49.7 billion euros of military aid since the start of the war, but have delivered or earmarked just 35.2 billion euros.


Hundreds protest Netanyahu interview broadcast in France

Hundreds protest Netanyahu interview broadcast in France
Updated 5 sec ago
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Hundreds protest Netanyahu interview broadcast in France

Hundreds protest Netanyahu interview broadcast in France

PARIS: Hundreds of demonstrators rallied late Thursday outside a top French television station to protest the broadcast of an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the Gaza war.

Wearing black and white keffiyeh scarves and waving Palestinian flags, protesters gathered peacefully outside the offices of private broadcaster TF1 in the western Paris suburbs.

Kept away from the building by a heavy police presence, the protesters chanted: “Gaza, Paris is with you,” “Immediate ceasefire!” and “Israel, murderer.”

In the interview broadcast on TF1’s news channel LCI, Netanyahu defended his country’s devastating offensive in Gaza.

The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,224 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

In the interview, Netanyahu told LCI “the number of civilian losses compared to losses of (Palestinian) combatants is the lowest rate we have seen in an urban war.”

He rejected claims that Israel was targeting civilians or deliberately trying to cause a famine as “anti-Semitic slander.”

The interview came amid international indignation over an Israeli strike and resulting fire at a displacement camp in the Gaza city of Rafah on Sunday, which killed 45 people, according to Gaza officials.

Members of parliament from French far-left party France Unbowed had called for the demonstration when they heard the interview was planned.


Muslim nurse in New York fired after calling Israel’s war in Gaza ‘genocide’

Muslim nurse in New York fired after calling Israel’s war in Gaza ‘genocide’
Updated 9 min 48 sec ago
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Muslim nurse in New York fired after calling Israel’s war in Gaza ‘genocide’

Muslim nurse in New York fired after calling Israel’s war in Gaza ‘genocide’

WASHINGTON: A New York City hospital fired a Palestinian American Muslim nurse after she called Israel’s war in Gaza a “genocide” during an acceptance speech for an award for her work with bereaved mothers who lost their children during pregnancy and childbirth.

A spokesperson of the hospital, NYU Langone Health, said on Thursday that labor and delivery nurse Hesen Jabr had previously been warned not to bring her views “on this divisive and charged issue into the workplace.”

Jabr posted on Instagram that she was awarded on May 7, when she made her remarks, adding that she was handed a termination letter later in the month.

In a portion of her acceptance speech, she spoke about mothers who had lost babies during the war in Gaza, saying the award was “deeply personal” to her.

“It pains me to see the women from my country going through unimaginable losses themselves during the current genocide in Gaza,” Jabr said in the video of her speech that she posted online.

The hospital’s spokesperson in an email said Jabr had been warned in December, “following a previous incident, not to bring her views on this divisive and charged issue into the workplace.

“She instead chose not to heed that at a recent employee recognition event that was widely attended by her colleagues, some of whom were upset after her comments,” the spokesperson said without providing details about the earlier incident.

“As a result, Jabr is no longer an NYU Langone employee.”

Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza has left over 36,000 dead in the past eight months, the local health ministry says. The war has also caused widespread hunger in the narrow coastal enclave and displaced nearly its entire 2.3 million population.

The conflict, which has led to rising Islamophobia and antisemitism and widespread demonstrations in the US and elsewhere, began when the militant Palestinian group Hamas, which governs Gaza, attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 and taking more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.


What guilty verdict? Unfazed Republican donors focus on Trump’s polling

What guilty verdict? Unfazed Republican donors focus on Trump’s polling
Updated 18 min 50 sec ago
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What guilty verdict? Unfazed Republican donors focus on Trump’s polling

What guilty verdict? Unfazed Republican donors focus on Trump’s polling
  • Republican donors are mostly eyeing a growing number of public opinion polls that put Trump ahead against Biden in some battleground states

Major Republican donors say they are likely to keep pumping cash into supporting Donald Trump’s presidential run, excited by polls showing him in the lead and undeterred by his unprecedented criminal conviction, according to interviews with around a dozen donors and fundraisers.
Many conservative donors already viewed the New York hush money cash as political persecution, echoing the Republican presidential candidate’s claim that Democrats are trying to weaken him ahead of the Nov. 5 election against President Joe Biden. Prosecutors have dismissed those claims as untrue. A New York jury found Trump guilty on Thursday of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.
Republican donors are mostly eyeing a growing number of public opinion polls that put Trump ahead against Biden in some battleground states.
“I think that big donors are paying attention to the polls, not the verdict,” said oil businessman Dan Eberhart, a Trump donor who also helps raise money for the former president’s campaign. “The polls are motivating this latest round of businessmen,” Eberhart added, saying that calls from donors had picked up “considerably.”
Robert Bigelow, who is one of Trump’s top supporters having given over $9 million to an outside group supporting him, said the verdict had no impact on him. “All of the charges are contrived,” Bigelow told Reuters.
The interviews show the depth of Trump’s donor support despite his legal woes, suggesting he will retain significant financial firepower against Biden including from Wall Street, tech and the oil sector.
The donors interviewed by Reuters were upbeat about Trump winning in November and felt the New York case against Trump was weak and designed to ensnare him.
After setting out with a major fundraising disadvantage against Biden, Trump for the first time in April outraised his Democratic rival, aided by a flurry of major fundraising events across the country. Several major donors, including casino billionaire Miriam Adelson, recently pledged support for Trump.
Andy Sabin, a metals businessman and Republican donor who supported three different candidates in the Republican presidential before settling on voting for Trump but has not donated to him so far, does not see the verdict having an impact.
“I haven’t met one donor yet that gives a shit about the trial. No matter how much they hate Trump, they think he’s getting screwed,” said Sabin, who regularly attends fundraisers and is donating to congressional candidates.
Trump can absolutely win the election, Sabin added, “as long as he keeps his mouth shut.”
In the last few weeks, Trump has hit the fundraising trail hard, hosting high-end events from Texas to New York. He is due to host three fundraisers in California next month, according to invitations seen by Reuters, including one in left-wing San Francisco hosted by tech venture capitalists.
“Every event that I’m involved with is exceeding budget,” said George Glass, a major Trump campaign fundraiser and his former ambassador to Portugal. “Most donors feel like the ‘fix’ is in,” Glass said about legal proceedings against Trump.
Some Republican donors do remain holdouts, put off by the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol riot or Trump’s brash attitude. “I’m on the sidelines,” said one donor unsure about whether to donate, mostly because of the “drama” around Trump.


US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate

US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate
Updated 29 min 44 sec ago
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US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate

US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate

WASHINGTON: A US State Department official who quit this week said on Thursday her resignation was precipitated by an administration report to Congress that she said falsely stated Israel was not blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza, prompting her to resign in protest of President Joe Biden’s Israel policy.

Stacy Gilbert, who served in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, was a subject matter expert working on the report.

“There is so clearly a right and wrong, and what is in that report is wrong,” Gilbert said in an interview.

The United Nations and aid groups have long complained of the dangers and obstacles to getting aid in and distributing it throughout Gaza.

As the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has exceeded 36,000 and a humanitarian crisis has engulfed the enclave, human rights groups and other critics have faulted the US for providing weapons to Israel and largely defending Israel’s conduct.

The State Department submitted the 46-page unclassified report earlier this month to Congress as required under a new National Security Memorandum that Biden issued in early February.

Among other conclusions, the report said that in the period after Oct. 7 Israel “did not fully cooperate” with US and other efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

But it said this did not amount to a breach of a US law that blocks the provision of arms to countries that restrict US humanitarian aid.

Gilbert, who worked for the State Department for over 20 years, said she notified her office the day the State Department report was released that she would resign. Her last day was Tuesday.

US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters on Thursday that he would not comment on personnel issues but that the department welcomes diverse points of view.

He said the administration stood by the report and continued to press the government of Israel to avoid harming civilians and urgently expand humanitarian access to Gaza.

“We are not an administration that twists the facts, and allegations that we have are unfounded,” Patel said.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gilbert’s accusations.

Gilbert’s bureau was one of the four that contributed to a classified initial options memo, reported exclusively by Reuters in late April, that informed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Israel might be violating international humanitarian law.

Gilbert said the State Department removed subject matter experts from working on the report to Congress when the document was a rough draft about 10 days before it was due. She said the report was then edited by more senior officials.

In contrast to the published version, the last draft she saw stated that Israel was blocking humanitarian assistance, Gilbert said.

Officials who resigned prior to Gilbert include Arabic language spokesperson Hala Rharrit and Annelle Sheline of the human rights bureau.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s air and land war in Gaza. Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters crossed from Gaza into southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year, killed 1,200 people and abducted more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.


‘Real verdict’ will be November 5 election, Trump says 

‘Real verdict’ will be November 5 election, Trump says 
Updated 24 min 2 sec ago
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‘Real verdict’ will be November 5 election, Trump says 

‘Real verdict’ will be November 5 election, Trump says 
  • Faving the media after he was declared guilty on all counts, Trump dismisses trial as "rigged, disgraceful"
  • "I'm a very innocent man, and it's OK. I'm fighting for our country. I'm fighting for our constitution,” he insisted

NEW YORK CITY: Former president Donald Trump said the "real verdict" would be the US election in November after a New York jury convicted him on all charges in his hush money case on Thursday.
"This was a rigged, disgraceful trial. The real verdict is going to be November 5, by the people. And they know what happened here, and everybody knows what happened here," Trump said as he left the court.
"I'm a very innocent man, and it's OK. I'm fighting for our country. I'm fighting for our constitution."