World

Pope apologizes for reported use of offensive term for gay men

Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images

(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Francis is apologizing after reports that he used an offensive term for gay men in a recent closed-door meeting.

"Pope Francis is aware of articles that recently came out about a conversation, behind closed doors, with the bishops of the [Italian Bishops Conference],” the Vatican press office said in a statement from Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni.

Italian media sourced the use of the term to unidentified bishops who reportedly overheard Pope Francis' speech at a meeting of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. They claim in reports that Pope Francis used the term while reinforcing longstanding Church instruction against allowing homosexual men to enter the seminary to train for the priesthood.

"The Pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term, reported by others," the Vatican's statement continued. "As he has had the opportunity to state on several occasions, 'In the Church there is room for everyone, for everyone! No one is useless, no one is superfluous, there is room for everyone. Just as we are, everyone.'"

In 2023, Pope Francis called on a crowd of hundreds of thousands on World Youth Day to yell back at him that the Catholic Church is for "todos, todos, todos" -- everyone, everyone, everyone. He was later asked how he could reconcile his "todos" message with the fact that LGBTQ+ people are excluded from the sacraments. The pope answered the Church has laws, but is still a place for everyone.

The pope's reported use of the slur surprised many. Throughout his papacy, Francis has introduced an openness concerning the LGBTQ community, though he has upheld the church's position on doctrinal matters.

When a journalist asked Francis a question about gay priests while returning from the first foreign trip of his papacy in 2013, the pope stunned people with his response: "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

Pope Francis also has criticized laws that criminalize homosexuality, and has formally approved allowing Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples – a significant change in Vatican guidance.

Pope Francis, whose native language is Spanish and not Italian, has at times during his papacy made up words, or used slang or inappropriate phraseology during his remarks, often while speaking off-the-cuff.

ABC News' Melissa Gaffney and Ines de la Cuetara contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rough seas cause portion of US temporary aid pier off Gaza to detach

Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza over the U.S. Army's temporary Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) system has been paused after rough seas caused parts of the pier to detach, a U.S. official told ABC News Tuesday.

At a press briefing on Tuesday an Israeli Defense Forces official also confirmed that JLOTS is not functioning after parts broke off during high seas off the coast of Gaza.

That official said that it will likely be a few more days before the pier can resume operations.

The sea conditions in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Gaza have already caused issues for the U.S. Army's temporary pier system, intended to create a maritime corridor for international aid to be delivered from Cyprus into Gaza.

U.S. officials have said that the pier's operations were always intended to begin slowly and then ramp up as more aid arrived from Cyprus. So far, the U.S. has said that 820 metric tons of aid had made it to shore.

Over the weekend, U.S. Central Command confirmed that four small U.S. Army vessels involved in the transport of cargo from sea to the 1,500 foot causeway attached to a beach in Gaza had broken free as a result of rough seas.

"The vessels broke free from their moorings and two vessels are now anchored on the beach near the pier," said a statement issued Saturday. "The third and fourth vessels are beached on the coast of Israel near Ashkelon. Efforts to recover the vessels are under way with assistance from the Israeli Navy."

At the time, CENTCOM said that the Israeli Defense Forces would support the recovery efforts near the pier and that the pier remained fully functional.

The rough seas off of Gaza had earlier led to delay in the initial deployment of the JLOTS systems, forcing the U.S. military to eventually set it up in calmer seas off of Ashdod, Israel, before moving it down to waters off of Gaza.

It is unclear whether this latest setback will lead to consideration of other alternative ways of transporting the aid from Cyprus into Gaza.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


American sentenced to time served, fined $9,000 for bringing ammo to Turks and Caicos

Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force

(NEW YORK) -- A Virginia man was sentenced to time served and fined $9,000 for bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos, avoiding a potential 12-year sentence under the islands' strict gun laws.

Tyler Wenrich, from Richmond, traveled to Grand Turk on a cruise ship for a bachelor party in late April when ammunition was found in his possession while going through a security checkpoint, police said.

The 911 operator and emergency medical technician has remained on the island since being arrested and pleaded guilty on May 21 to two counts of possession of ammunition, for two 9 mm rounds.

"I have a lot of fear and anxiety as to what's going to happen and I'm hoping that the judge finds some compassion and leniency in the situation that I'm in," Wenrich told ABC News earlier this month.

Wenrich had gone shooting at a gun range with friends and said he forgot he was carrying the ammunition.

ABC News' Matt Rivers and Wilkie Arthur contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Israel-Gaza live updates: Netanyahu calls strike on Rafah that killed 50 a 'tragic mishap'

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah on May 27, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (Photo by EYAD BABA/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- As the Israel-Hamas war crosses the seven-month mark, negotiations are apparently stalled to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist organization, and Israeli forces continue to launch incursions in the southern Gazan town of Rafah ahead of a possible large-scale invasion.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 28, 10:31 AM
'No justice in the world': Palestinian man's wife killed in Rafah strike

Days after a deadly strike on Rafah killed 50 Palestinians and injured at least 249 others, a father of five who lost his wife told ABC News his family fled from Beit Lahia to Deir al-Balah — in the south of Gaza — before heading to Rafah for safety.

"One of my disabled sons had his leg amputated and my wife was killed. What injustice is this?" Murid Saadi Agha told ABC News. "There is no justice in the world. Israel is above all the law."

"I hold America and Israel responsible. We are innocent," he said.

Three of Agha's children have already lost limbs in the war.

"After sunset, my wife and I were sitting here outside the shelter with our neighbors, and my disabled son was feeding his other disabled brother, who is older than him. Even the Indomie that he was eating was still here," he said, describing the aftermath of the deadly Rafah strike.

"There was a very intense explosion. My wife declared once that the shrapnel entered her chest and killed her. I went to my sons and found that one of them had an amputated foot, as the shrapnel entered from the top and from the side. There were many martyrs here. It was a massacre," he said.

May 28, 9:21 AM
Israel continues Rafah strikes as Palestinian death toll surpasses 36,000

Strikes on Rafah have continued, barely 48 hours since an Israeli airstrike near a camp of displaced people killed 50 and injured 249 others. The continued offensive comes as at least 36,050 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7 and 81,026 others have been injured.

The Israel Defense Forces said their ongoing Rafah operation is “precise.”

The Israeli military’s deadly airstrike in Rafah on Sunday night hit an area about 650 feet away from the boundary of an IDF-designated “humanitarian area,” according to an ABC News analysis of geolocated images and the IDF’s statements and maps.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting later Tuesday to discuss Sunday’s strike on Rafah.

At least one million people have fled Rafah in the past three weeks, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

May 27, 4:30 PM
Kuwait Specialized hospital in Rafah out of service

The Kuwait Specialized Hospital in Rafah, one of its largest, announced that the hospital had been out of service due to the expansion of the Israeli military operation on the city and the repeated and deliberate targeting of the hospital's vicinity, hospital's director Suhaib Al-Hams said Sunday.

The Israeli occupation repeatedly targeted the hospital, the most recent of which was targeting the hospital gate, which led to the death of two of the staff working there, as well as the injury of five members of the medical staff in a previous targeting, Al-Hams said in a press statement received by Sanad News Agency.

"We announce that the Kuwait Specialized Hospital has been out of service and the working medical teams have been transferred to the field hospital that is being prepared in the Al-Mawasi area," Al-Hams said.

May 27, 3:39 PM
Israel strike hits fuel tank, causing large fire: US official

The U.S. received information from the Israelis overnight that they believe shrapnel or something else from the strike ignited a fuel tank 100 meters away, which engulfed a tent, creating a massive fire, according to a U.S. official.

The U.S. does not have information to confirm or dispute that information. The U.S. is in the process of understanding what has happened, waiting for Israel to conduct its own investigation and determining what action to take next, according to the official.

The U.S. maintains that while they’ve warned about a major ground offensive in Rafah, that’s not what’s happening, according to the official.

May 27, 3:37 PM
Hamas leader says Rafah strike shows Israel is defying international law

Commenting on the Rafah strike that killed 50 people, Hamas released a statement saying Israel’s attack on Rafah is like "the announcement of Netanyahu’s government’s defiance of international justice decisions," referring to the International Court of Justice’s decision last week ordering Israel to stop its operation in Rafah.

"The massacre committed in the areas where its considered safe area," Hamas leader Osama Hamdan said. "The timing of these murders during the last two days is like the announcement of Netanyahu's government's defiance of international justice decisions."

May 27, 6:17 PM
Netanyahu calls strike on Rafah a 'tragic mishap'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the strike on Rafah which killed at least 50 Palestinians Sunday, a “tragic mishap,” in a speech to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, Monday.

"We are fighting with force in the north of the Gaza Strip, in its center, its south and in Rafah. In Rafah we have already evacuated about a million uninvolved residents and despite our best efforts not to harm the un-involved, unfortunately a tragic mishap happened last night. We are investigating the case and will draw the conclusions because this is our policy," Netanyahu said.

May 27, 2:45 PM
Death toll from Israeli strike rises to 50

At least 50 people have been confirmed dead in Israel's strike on Rafah, with a number of victims still under the rubble, the Gaza Health Ministry said in a statement Monday. Ambulance and civil defense crews cannot reach them the victims, the statement noted.

Since Oct. 7, 36,050 people have been killed in Gaza and 81,026 others have been injured.

"Never before in history has such a large number of mass killing tools been amassed and employed together in front of the world as is happening now in Gaza, where the population is deprived of water, food, medicine, electricity, and fuel, crushing the infrastructure, destroying all institutions, disrupting sanitation, spreading epidemics, crushing the health system, implementing the siege, closing crossings, and preventing the entry of medical supplies and delegations," the Gaza Health Ministry said.

May 27, 2:15 PM
Egyptian border guard killed in shooting at Rafah border

An Egyptian border guard was killed in a shooting in the Rafah border area with Gaza, Egypt’s military spokesman said in a statement on Monday.

"The Egyptian armed forces, through the competent authorities, are investigating a shooting incident in the Rafah border area which led to the martyrdom of one of the security personnel on duty," the statement said.

The Israeli military had earlier reported an exchange of fire on the Egyptian border and said it was discussing the incident with Egypt.

“A few hours ago (Monday), a shooting incident occurred on the Egyptian border. The incident is under review and discussions are being held with the Egyptians,” the IDF said.

Initial investigations into an incident that killed an Egyptian border guard indicate the incident occurred while there was an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and "the Palestinian resistance," an Egyptian security source told Egypt’s state-affiliated Al Qahera News TV on Monday.

In October 2023, weeks after the war started, Israel said one of its military tanks mistakenly fired at an Egyptian position near the border with Gaza. Egypt said at the time that several army personnel were slightly injured.

Tensions between Egypt and Israel have escalated after Israeli forces earlier this month seized control of the Rafah border crossing, a key entry point for humanitarian aid. Egypt said it would not reopen its side of the crossing unless it is operated by Palestinians and accused Israel of preventing aid deliveries.

May 27, 1:52 PM
UNRWA commissioner general calls scenes of Rafah after strike 'hell on earth'

The images that have emerged after the Israeli strike on Rafah are a "testament to how Rafah has turned into hell on earth," Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, said in a post on X.

"Children and women living in tented plastic makeshift shelters are among the killed. Many were injured. Others were reportedly burnt to death. The images from last night are testament to how Rafah has turned into hell on earth," Lazzarini said went on.

Some UNRWA staff are unaccounted for and it’s very hard to establish contact with UNRWA teams in Rafah, Lazzarini said, adding that the UNRWA is doing its best to bring aid to people in need in Gaza.

"UNRWA is doing everything possible not to interrupt the delivery of humanitarian assistance. But with every day passing, providing assistance & protection becomes nearly impossible," he said.

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

May 27, 1:02 PM
White House says images out of Rafah are 'heartbreaking' but maintains Israel has 'a right' to go after Hamas

The "devastating images" coming out of Rafah are "heartbreaking," a White House National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement Monday, adding that even though Israel "has a right to go after" Hamas, the country also has to protect civilians.

"Israel has a right to go after Hamas, and we understand this strike killed two senior Hamas terrorists who are responsible for attacks against Israeli civilians," the spokesperson said. "But as we’ve been clear, Israel must take every precaution possible to protect civilians."

The spokesperson also said that the U.S. is engaging with the Israeli authorities to figure out "what happened" in addition to the IDF investigation.

-ABC News' Michelle Stoddart

May 27, 12:18 PM
'Outraged': Macron calls for immediate cease-fire after Rafah attack

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned Israel's attack on Rafah that left at least 45 people dead, saying he was “outraged" and called for “respect for international law” and an "immediate cease-fire."

“Outraged by the Israeli strikes which caused numerous victims among the displaced in Rafah. These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” Macron said in a post on X.

The Israel Defense Forces claimed it took several measures to protect civilians. The strike is now under investigation.

"The General Staff's Fact-Finding and Assessment Mechanism is investigating the circumstances of the deaths of civilians in the area of the strike. The IDF regrets any harm to uninvolved civilians during combat," the IDF said in a statement.

The White House has not commented on the attack yet, and the Israeli prime minister’s office has not released a statement.

-ABC News' Ellie Kaufman

May 27, 7:58 AM
Dozens killed, hundreds injured in Sunday Rafah strike, Gaza ministry says

Forty-five people were killed and 249 were injured in an IDF strike on Rafah on Sunday, the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Monday.

Action Aid UK had on Sunday placed the death toll higher, saying at least 50 people were killed.

IDF officials said the strike had targeted "significant Hamas terrorists" who were operating in a Hamas compound.

"The IDF is aware of reports indicating that as a result of the strike and fire that was ignited several civilians in the area were harmed," IDF officials said on social media. "The incident is under review."

-ABC News' Joe Simonetti and Kevin Shalvey

May 26, 6:44 PM
IDF claims 2 top Hamas officials killed in Rafah airstrike

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed two top Hamas officials were killed in the deadly airstrike in western Rafah Sunday night.

The IDF said Hamas' Chief of Staff in the Judea and Samaria wing, Yassin Rabia, and an additional senior Hamas official, Khaled Nagar, were both killed.

"Hamas' Judea and Samaria wing is responsible for the planning, funding, and carrying out of terror attacks throughout Judea and Samaria and within Israel," the IDF said in a statement Sunday.

The IDF claimed Rabia was responsible for "numerous murderous terror attacks, including in 2001 and 2002, in which IDF soldiers were killed."

The IDF also claimed Nagar "directed shooting attacks and other terrorist activities in Judea and Samaria, and transferred funds intended for Hamas' terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip."

"Previously, Khaled Nagar carried out several deadly terror attacks between 2001-2003 which led to the deaths of several Israeli civilians and the injury and death of several Israeli soldiers," the IDF claimed.

The airstrike in Rafah on Sunday also resulted in the deaths of at least 50 individuals, including civilians, according to Action Aid UK.

May 26, 6:18 PM
Death toll in Rafah airstrike rises to 50: Action Aid UK

The death toll in the IDF airstrike that hit western Rafah Sunday night has risen to at least 50 individuals, including civilians, according to Action Aid UK.

The organization said Israeli fighter jets launched eight missiles at makeshift shelters housing internally displaced persons next to UNRWA warehouses stocking vital aid.

"We are outraged and heartbroken by the recent attacks in West Rafah," Action Aid UK said in a statement Sunday.

"These shelters were supposed to be safe havens for innocent civilians, yet they became targets of brutal violence," the organization continued. "Children, women, and men are being burned alive under their tents and shelters."

Action Aid UK expects the number of casualties to rise.

-ABC News’ Victoria Beaule

May 26, 5:49 PM
At least 35 killed, including civilians, in airstrike on Rafah: Gaza Ministry of Health

A deadly airstrike has killed at least 35 people inside western Rafah, near the UNRWA logistics base in Tal Al-Sultan, according to officials at the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

Numerous individuals remain stuck in a fire that resulted from the airstrike and in the tents destroyed by the bombardment.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed the airstrike to ABC News in a statement on Sunday and acknowledged that civilians were harmed as a result of the strike.

"A short while ago, an IDF aircraft struck a Hamas compound in Rafah in which significant Hamas terrorists were operating. The strike was carried out against legitimate targets under international law, using through the use of precise munitions and on the basis of precise intelligence that indicated Hamas' use of the area," the IDF said.

"The IDF is aware of reports indicating that as a result of the strike and fire that was ignited several civilians in the area were harmed," the IDF continued, adding, "The incident is under review."

-ABC News' William Gretsky

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Over 130 killed in two weeks as fighting intensifies in major Sudanese city, aid group says

Internally displaced women wait in a queue to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gadaref on May 12, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images)

(LONDON) -- At least 134 people have been killed and another 979 have been wounded since May 10 as fighting intensifies between Sudan's military and a powerful Sudanese paramilitary force in a major city of the country's northwestern Darfur region, according to an international aid group.

Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French acronym MSF, said Sunday that the casualties were all recorded at a single hospital in el-Fasher, the provincial capital of Sudan’s North Darfur state. South Hospital is currently the last functioning medical center in North Darfur and only has around 10 days of supplies left, according to the aid group.

MSF said one of its staff members was among those killed when shelling hit his home near el-Fasher's main marketplace.

Civilians with a range of injuries are arriving in droves at South Hospital in el-Fasher, according to MSF.

"Some have gunshot wounds, some have been wounded by bomb fragments, and others have been wounded by shelling," Claire Nicolet, MSF's head of emergency programs, said in a statement last Tuesday.

An estimated 505,000 people have been displaced from their homes in North Darfur since clashes escalated earlier this month between the official Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), according to the United Nations.

"Reports from el-Fasher in Sudan are terrible: deadly attacks on civilians, horrifying accounts of ethnic targeting, people too fearful of checkpoints to even flee," U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement last Thursday. "Deliberate violence on civilians must stop."

A report released last week by the Yale School of Public Health's Humanitarian Research Lab found "significant new conflict–related damage to the northeastern, eastern, and southeastern neighborhoods" from May 14 to May 20, as RSF forces gained control in "several directions."

The SAF and the RSF, as well as their allied militias, have been locked in a bitter battle for control of the resource-rich North African nation since April 2023. The fighting first erupted on the streets of Sudan's densely populated capital, Khartoum, before spreading elsewhere across the country.

El-Fasher is the last major city in Darfur still in the hands of the SAF. The besieged city is a key humanitarian hub and "safe haven" to an estimated 800,000 people, according to the U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last Thursday that hostilities have entered an "alarming new chapter" with the humanitarian situation "rapidly deteriorating."

During last Friday's U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation in Sudan, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned that "history is repeating itself" and "there is no time to waste," citing the RSF's tightened siege on el-Fasher and the SAF's continued obstruction of aid.

"The people of Sudan have endured immense suffering at the hands of the warring parties who continue to plunge the country into a spiral of death and despair," Thomas-Greenfield said. "Five million Sudanese are on the brink of famine, and tens of millions more are in desperate need of food."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Multiple people killed, dozens injured in Russian airstrike on Ukraine shopping center

Getty Image - STOCK

(UKRAINE) -- Russian forces struck a Ukrainian shopping center in Kharkiv on Saturday, leaving four people dead and 38 people wounded according to local officials.

Sources in local law enforcement tell ABC News they expect the casualty numbers to rise as this supermarket is usually crowded on weekends and employs dozens of people. Oleh Synyehubov, the Kharkiv governor, said on Ukrainian television that they have so far identified 16 people as officially missing.

Synyehubov also said there was a second strike in Kharkiv that injured 12 people, including a 13-year-old boy.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 200 people were believed to have been in the shopping center when the attack happened. He continued to plead with other nations for support.

"If Ukraine had enough air defense and modern combat aircraft, such Russian strikes would simply be impossible. And that is why we appeal to all leaders, to all states: we need a significant strengthening of air defense and sufficient capabilities to destroy Russian terrorists," Zelenskyy said in a Telegram post.

ABC News' Popova Zaliznyak contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Israel-Gaza live updates: UN court rules Israel must stop Rafah operation

Palestinians look at the rubble of a family house that was hit overnight in Israeli bombardment in the Tal al-Sultan neighbourhood of Rafah in southern Gaza on May 20, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group. (AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- As the Israel-Hamas war crosses the seven-month mark, negotiations are apparently stalled to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist organization, and Israeli forces continue to launch incursions in the southern Gazan town of Rafah ahead of a possible large-scale invasion.

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

May 25, 2:56 PM
Rough seas force 4 US vessels to break free near JLOTS pier

Four U.S. Army vessels that were part of the JLOTS temporary pier mission bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza broke free Saturday from their moorings because of rough seas and ended up beached near the pier in Gaza and near Ashkelon, Israel, U.S. Central Command said.

"Efforts to recover the vessels are under way with assistance from the Israeli Navy," Central Command said in a statement.

No injuries were reported and no U.S. personnel will enter Gaza during the recovery efforts, according to Central Command.

-ABC News' Luis Martinez

May 24, 1:38 PM
Biden says Egypt will reopen Kerem Shalom crossing to aid deliveries

President Joe Biden secured a commitment from Egypt in a discussion Friday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to resume deliveries of U.N. aid into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, according to a White House readout of their call.

Biden also expressed his support to reopen the Rafah crossing with "arrangements acceptable to both Egypt and Israel and agreed to send a senior team to Cairo next week for further discussions."

"The two leaders agreed to deliver quantities of humanitarian aid and fuel to the United Nations at the Kerem Shalom crossing. This is temporary until a legal mechanism is reached to reopen the Rafah crossing from the Palestinian side," the Egyptian presidency said.

Aid delivery through the Rafah crossing stopped after Israel stepped up its military offensive in southern Gaza and took control of the crossing on the Palestinian side on May 7.

The leaders also discussed "new initiatives" to reach a deal to secure the release of hostages being held by Hamas and a cease-fire in Gaza. No specifics were provided.

"President Biden and President Al-Sisi affirmed their commitment to work together to set the conditions for a durable and sustainable peace in the Middle East region," the White House said. "They agreed to remain in regular contact both directly and through their senior national security teams."

-ABC News' Justin Ryan Gomez and Ayat Al-Tawy

May 24, 11:29 AM
Israel severs diplomatic mission with Spain

The Spanish consulate in Jerusalem will not be allowed to provide service to Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Friday.

“Following Spain's recognition of a Palestinian state and the anti-Semitic call of the Deputy Prime Minister of Spain not to be satisfied with recognizing a Palestinian state 'and to liberate Palestine from the river to the sea' - I have decided to sever the connection between the Spanish diplomatic mission in Israel and the Palestinians and prohibit the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from providing service to the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria,” Katz said in a statement.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

May 24, 9:40 AM
ICJ rules Israel must stop Rafah operation

The International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel must immediately halt its military operation in Rafah, citing "immediate risk to the Palestinian people."

The vote was 16-2, with Israel being one of the votes against the ruling. The other to vote against the decision was Uganda.

The U.N. court has no way to enforce its decision and Israel has said it would defy any order to stop fighting.

May 24, 8:34 AM
3 more bodies of hostages recovered

The Hostage Families Forum has released a statement confirming that the bodies of three hostages have been recovered.

"It is with profound sorrow that the Families Forum bows its head following the announcement of the murder of Michel Nisenbaum, Hanan Yablonka, and Oryon Hernandez Radoux, may their memories be a blessing, at the hands of Hamas terrorists,* the statement obtained by ABC News said.

The bodies of the three hostages, who were murdered by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, have now been returned to Israel for burial.

"The sorrowful return of Michel, Hanan, and Oryon is another heartbreak for the 125 families of the hostages, who share the pain, sorrow, and endless worry. Their return for burial provides important closure for the family members, and efforts must be made to bring all the murdered hostages back to Israel," the statement read.

May 23, 7:03 PM
3 US service members injured, 1 in critical condition, in accident related to pier off Gaza

Three U.S. service members were injured, with one remaining in critical condition, after a non-combat accident related to the U.S.-built pier off Gaza known as JLOTS, or the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability, according to U.S. Central Command.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, CENTCOM deputy commander, didn't provide specifics Thursday other than saying they were non-combat-related injuries and that two of the service members had returned to duty, while the third is receiving care at a local Israeli hospital.

A defense official told ABC News the third service member is in critical condition and was injured aboard the USNS Benavidez, a U.S. Navy cargo ship. A U.S. official said it involved a forklift accident.

No further details were immediately released.

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez

May 23, 5:57 PM
Over 500 metric tons of aid delivered to Gaza through pier since Friday, officials say

U.S. officials shared an update Thursday on efforts to bring aid into Gaza through the Army's Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore (JLOTS) system, a floating pier built to transport aid to the region.

Since Friday, over 506 metric tons of aid have been transported via the pier, according to officials.

Officials from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) held an audio-only briefing with reporters on continued aid efforts.

"Since the first shipments of this aid arrived through the humanitarian maritime corridor on Friday, the UN has been distributing more than 506 metric tons of humanitarian supplies to people in need," Daniel Dieckhaus, Director for USAID’s Levant Response Management Team, said Thursday.

"To put it into perspective, more than two thirds of the supplies entering through this new corridor have already been distributed, or are in the process of being distributed by humanitarian partners directly to people in need," he added.

Humanitarian aid has also been delivered through land-crossing distribution via 70 trucks that crossed the border into Gaza, according to Dieckhaus.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy commander of CENTCOM, noted that, "In the last several days, we've delivered over a million pounds of aid into the hands of Palestinians," adding, "We can all feel good about that."

May 23, 3:30 PM
Biden doesn't say if US has evidence Israel is using starvation as method of war

President Joe Biden refused to say whether the U.S. has any evidence that would support the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s allegation that Israeli leaders are using starvation as a method of war in Gaza.

Biden was asked if that evidence exists and if the administration would commit to releasing that information before any warrants are issued, but he only reiterated that the U.S. does not recognize their jurisdiction.

"We've made our position clear on the ICC. We don't recognize their jurisdiction -- the ICC, the way it's being exercised -- and it's that simple. We don't think there's an equivalence between what Israel did, and what Hamas did," Biden said.

-ABC News' Justin Ryan Gomez

May 23, 2:02 PM
Israel expands operations into central Rafah: IDF

Israeli Defense Forces are now fighting near central Rafah, representing an expansion of its operations, the IDF said Thursday.

Close to 1 million people have been evacuated from Rafah, according to IDF Commanding Officer Daniel Hagari.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

May 23, 1:38 PM
Israel expands operations into central Rafah: IDF

Israeli Defense Forces are now fighting near central Rafah, representing an expansion of its operations, the IDF said Thursday.

Close to 1 million people have been evacuated from Rafah, according to IDF Commanding Officer Daniel Hagari.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

May 22, 5:59 PM
Egypt threatens to withdraw from Gaza mediation

The Egyptian government said Wednesday that attempts to undermine its efforts to broker a Gaza cease-fire deal could push it to entirely pull out of mediation in the conflict.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Services, said Egypt categorically rejected a report from CNN that claimed his government changed the terms of a Gaza cease-fire deal that Israel had already signed off on before submitting it to Hamas.

Rashwan called the report "false" and "devoid of any information or facts."

"The ongoing attempts to cast doubt and insult the Egyptian mediation efforts and roles, with allegations that contradict reality, will only lead to further complicating the situation in Gaza and the entire region, and may push the Egyptian side to take a decision to withdraw completely from the mediation it is carrying out in the current conflict," he said in a statement.

Rashwan added that Egypt would only open the Rafah border crossing if the Palestinian side is operated by Palestinians, reiterating that Cairo does not acknowledge the Israeli control of the Palestinian side of the crossing.

May 22, 5:18 PM
Video shows 5 young women being taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7

The Israeli Hostage Center released a video Wednesday showing five girls being taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, all of whom are considered to be alive and in Hamas custody.

Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniela Gilboa and Naama Levy were taken hostage from the Nahal Oz Base, according to the Hostage Center. Families of hostages criticized the Israeli government's failure to secure their release.

"A damning testament to the nation's failure to bring home the hostages, who have been forsaken for 229 days," the Hostage Center said in a release.

Ayelet Levy, Naama's mother, said in a statement that her heart was with the 19-year-old "in those horrifying moments in the horrifying day of October 7th."

"We only see in that video a fraction of the horrible things that are going on in their surrounding in the shelter. She is terrified and wounded, there is fear in her eyes, and she is saying what she can, she is begging for her life."

Shlomi Berger, Agam's father, told ABC News they decided to release the video to apply pressure on the Israeli government to reach a cease-fire deal that secured the release of the hostages.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the video is evidence of why the war must continue until Hamas is "eliminated."

"I am shocked by the video documenting the kidnapping of our precious female observers. We will continue to do everything to bring them home," Netanyahu said in a statement.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky and Britt Clennett

May 22, 3:03 PM
Sullivan says Israel has made 'refinements' to Rafah operations following US concerns

Israel has made "refinements" to its military operations in and around Rafah following U.S. concerns about harm to civilians, U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Wednesday.

"We had detailed discussions on Rafah during my visit to Israel. These have built on weeks now, as I've discussed with you from this podium, of discussions on a professional basis, about Rafah and about how Israel can achieve the defeat of Hamas, everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah, while minimizing civilian harm," Sullivan said discussing his recent trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia.

"What we have seen so far in terms of Israel's military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas," he said.

Sullivan said the U.S. will "now have to see what unfolds from here" and whether what Israeli officials have laid out continues to happen.

-ABC News' Justin Ryan Gomez

May 22, 12:12 PM
Israel responds to move to recognize Palestinian state by withholding funds

Israel will not transfer funds to the Palestinian Authority after Spain, Ireland and Norway recognized Palestine as a state, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision by Israel's far-right finance minister could push the Palestinian government into an even worse financial situation.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

May 22, 12:06 PM
Israel allows settlers to enter northern West Bank

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has authorized settlers to enter parts of the northern West Bank that they had previously been barred.

The Israelis previously had settlements in this area that were evacuated and then demolished in 2005. Settlements in the area will still need government approval, but this authorization will make it easier for settlers to establish outposts.

"Just as I have acted in all my positions in the governments of Israel - I will continue to develop the settlements in Judea and Samaria, to strengthen the security elements and the security of the citizens - in roads and settlements," Gallant said in a statement.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

May 22, 10:08 AM
White House reacts to countries recognizing Palestinian state

The White House responded to Ireland, Norway and Spain recognizing Palestine, saying President Joe Biden supports a two-state solution, but said he thinks a Palestinian state should be realized after negotiations and "not through unilateral recognition."

With the additions of Ireland, Norway and Spain, some 143 countries now recognize the state of Palestine, according to the U.N.

-ABC News' Michelle Stoddart

May 22, 6:09 AM
Three European countries to recognize Palestinian state

Ireland, Norway and Spain said Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state.

"Ireland today recognises Palestine as a nation among nations with all the rights and responsibilities that entails," Simon Harris, the country's Taoiseach, or prime minister, said in a statement.

The recognition by the Norwegian Government is an effort to "keep alive" the possibility of a "political solution" that might end the war in Gaza, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a statement.

"Two states, living side by side, in peace and security," Støre said.

The announcement drew sharp criticism from Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, who said he'd been instructed to immediately recall Israel's ambassador's to Ireland and Norway "for consultations."

"Today's decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays," Katz said. "After the Hamas terror organization carried out the largest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, after committing heinous sexual crimes witnessed by the world, these countries chose to reward Hamas and Iran by recognizing a Palestinian state."

Spain's prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, said his country will recognize a Palestinian state on May 28.

"Time has come to move from words into action," he said on social media. "Peace, justice and coherence are the basis of our historic decision."

May 21, 6:19 PM
Kamal Adwan Hospital suffers damage after hit four times: WHO

Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza was reportedly hit four times Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization.

The attacks damaged the intensive care unit, reception, administration and the roof, the organization said. Efforts are underway to evacuate 20 health staff and 13 patients who remain inside, according to WHO.

"We appeal once again for [the] protection of all patients and health workers. We urge for a ceasefire and safe, sustained humanitarian access," WHO said in a statement.

Over the past few weeks, intense hostilities have reportedly occurred in the vicinity of the hospital and resulted in an increased influx of injured patients to the already overstretched facility.

Kamal Adwan is the largest partially functional hospital in northern Gaza, and the only one providing hemodialysis services.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know about Turks and Caicos' strict gun laws after US tourists charged with possessing ammunition

ABC

(TURKS AND CAICOS) -- The plight of multiple Americans charged with bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos has drawn attention to the islands' strict gun laws.

Those convicted under the firearms ordinance of possessing ammunition could face a minimum sentence of 12 years in prison -- unless a judge grants them leniency for "exceptional circumstances," Turks and Caicos officials said.

Several American tourists who recently traveled to the popular tropical destination have been charged after inadvertently bringing ammunition, according to a coalition of U.S. Congress members advocating on their behalf.

Here's what to know about the law and cases.

Turks and Caicos' strict gun laws
Turks and Caicos prohibits anyone from keeping, carrying, discharging or using an unlicensed firearm or ammunition. There is no constitutional right to carry firearms.

In the U.S., it is legal to fly with unloaded firearms and ammunition in checked baggage, according to the Transportation Security Administration. American tourists previously arrested in Turks and Caicos for possessing ammunition typically were briefly jailed and paid hefty fines before being able to return home.

The British Overseas Territory -- which has its own legislature and government -- has strengthened its firearms ordinance over the years. Most recently in 2022, it passed an amendment that mandates a minimum 12-year prison sentence for those convicted of breaking the law. The harsher penalty followed an increase in gun-related violence and weapons trafficking.

Turks and Caicos, where crime has been relatively low, saw a "marked increase" in homicides in 2020 and 2021 associated with "international crime, gangs, the availability of firearms, and drug dealing and trafficking," according to the U.K. Government.

The amendment was one of 11 pieces of legislation the Turks and Caicos House of Assembly passed in November 2022 aimed at addressing rising crime and gang violence.

For those convicted of possessing ammunition and firearms, exceptional circumstances may be considered during sentencing. The sentencing judge "has discretion to impose a custodial sentence (less than the twelve years) and a fine that are fair and just in the circumstances of each case," the Turks and Caicos attorney general said in a statement in April.


To date, no U.S. national has received the mandatory minimum sentence of 12 years for the offense, the Governor's Office of Turks and Caicos said Wednesday.


The Americans charged
In recent months, multiple Americans have been charged after ammunition was allegedly found in their luggage:

Michael Grim

The Indiana resident was arrested in August 2023 after one magazine containing 20 rounds of 9 mm ammunition was found in his luggage at Providenciales International Airport when it was screened during a security check, according to court documents.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight months in prison in September 2023 -- with the court finding there was no criminal intent though "the need to send a message to travelers to the Turks and Caicos Islands to exercise caution when packing suitcases and to ensure that items of this nature are brought to the attention of airport officials."

He was released in February.

Michael Lee Evans

The Texas septuagenarian was arrested in December 2023 after seven rounds of 9 mm ammunition was found in his luggage, police said. He pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition and is out on bail. He was allowed to return to the U.S. due to medical reasons, police previously said. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 18.

Bryan Hagerich

The Pennsylvania father of two was arrested in February while returning home from a family vacation after ammunition was found in his checked luggage. He pleaded guilty to possession of 20 rounds of ammunition. He told ABC News he forgot hunting ammunition was in his bag while he was traveling.

A judge sentenced Hagerich on Friday to a suspended 52-week sentence with a fine of $6,700. Once he pays this fine, he will be given his passport and can return to the U.S. without serving the sentence. The judge found exceptional circumstances and that the mandatory minimum of 12 years was unjust and disproportionate to the crime committed.

Prior to his sentencing, he told ABC News he hoped the judge was lenient and that he didn't want to be separated from his family for 12 years.

"I'm a man of integrity, character," he said. "I did not have intent in this."

Ryan Tyler Watson

The Oklahoma resident was returning with his wife from a trip to Turks and Caicos to celebrate several friends' 40th birthdays when he was arrested on April 12. Four rounds of ammunition were allegedly found in his carry-on bag at the Howard Hamilton International Airport, police said.

Watson has since been released on $15,000 bond but remains on the islands as his court case continues, separated from his wife and two children. His next hearing has been scheduled for June 7.

Watson, who is living with Hagerich amid the legal proceedings, told ABC News he didn't know the hunting ammunition was in the bag.

"I stand behind Turks and Caicos and what they're trying to accomplish to get out in front of their gun violence that they are experiencing on the island," he said, though he added he doesn't feel that putting those like himself and Hagerich "makes this island any safer."

"We both just made a mistake," he said.

Tyler Scott Wenrich

The Virginia resident traveled to Grand Turk on a cruise ship for a bachelor party in late April when ammunition was found in his possession while going through a security checkpoint, police said.

The 911 operator and emergency medical technician, who has a young child, has remained on the island since being arrested and pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of possession of ammunition, for two 9 mm rounds. The judge's sentence is expected within seven days.

"I have a lot of fear and anxiety as to what's going to happen and I'm hoping that the judge finds some compassion and leniency in the situation that I'm in," Wenrich told ABC News.

Wenrich had gone shooting at a gun range with friends and said he forgot he was carrying the ammunition.

"I take a lot of responsibility for it because I have to," he said, though noted that the ammunition was overlooked by several entities before being found.

"It could happen to anybody," he said.

Defense attorney Sheena Mair said in court, in arguing for a more lenient sentence, "A mandatory minimum of 12 years in this case is not what Parliament intended with the firearm ordinance change in October 2022."

"Tyler's sentencing will not fix the gun issue in this jurisdiction," she added.

Mair detailed past cases of Americans in which lesser sentences were imposed, including Grim, as well as American Dave O'Connor. O'Connor was found to have 44 rounds of 9 mm ammunition, but received a $5,670 fine and no sentence. In both cases, the Court of Appeals defended the finding of exceptional circumstances.

Sharitta Grier

The Florida resident was visiting Turks and Caicos with her daughter for Mother's Day when, during a routine search at the Howard Hamilton International Airport on May 13, officials claim to have found two rounds of ammunition in her bag, police said.

She told Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV she had no idea that two rounds were in the bottom of her duffel bag.

Grier was charged with one count of possession of ammunition and released on $15,000 bail. She has been ordered to remain in the Caribbean territory until the completion of her case, police sources said.

A hearing has been scheduled for July 5. She has been living with Hagerich and Watson while her case proceeds.

"They are my forever family," she told ABC News.


US response
The American Embassy in the Bahamas, the nearest embassy to the islands, issued an alert in April urging all travelers to Turks and Caicos to "carefully check your luggage for stray ammunition or forgotten weapons before departing from the United States."

Firearms, ammunition (including stray bullets) and other weapons are not permitted in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)," the alert stated. " TCI authorities strictly enforce all firearms-and-ammunition-related laws. The penalty for traveling to TCI with a firearm, ammunition, or other weapon can result in a minimum custodial sentence of twelve (12) years."

The alert said that TSA screening in the U.S. may not identify ammunition in your baggage and it is "your responsibility to ensure your baggage is free of ammunition and/or firearms."

U.S. officials have been pressuring the Turks and Caicos government to release their constituents.

In mid-May, the governors of Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia sent a joint letter to Turks and Caicos Gov. Dileeni Daniel-Selvaratnam to release Watson, Hagerich and Wenrich.

"This action will create the necessary recognition of your laws that will impact the future actions of travelers and continue our mutual interest in justice and goodwill between our jurisdictions," the letter read.

A State Department official confirmed on Thursday that foreign service officers have met with Hagerich and Watson on several occasions since their arrests.

A bipartisan congressional delegation also traveled to Turks and Caicos this week to address the fate of the five Americans charged.

Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin, one of the members of the delegation, told "Good Morning America" that he left the meetings feeling like they "didn't find a real path forward" and are considering next steps if they can't reach a solution.

"We thought we could find some type of common ground to separate the two -- ones with the intent and one with no criminal intent," Mullin said. "We weren't able to get to that conclusion. So their whole point was that, let the system work."

Mullin said the next step might be warning American citizens about traveling and doing business in Turks and Caicos.

"I don't think we're to that point. But if we can't come to a solution, that's the next option for us," he said.

Turks and Caicos' response
The Turks and Caicos attorney general has said the firearms ordinance applies to all those on the islands, "regardless of status or origin."

Following the meeting with the congressional delegation, the Turks and Caicos governor's office said in a statement that the government has "clear laws prohibiting the possession of firearms and/or ammunition and strict penalties are in place to serve and protect all who reside and visit the Turks and Caicos Islands."

The office said the government officials "appreciated that the circumstances for U.S. nationals who find themselves in this position can be difficult but were aware that U.S. officials are providing consular support to each of the individuals."

"Where the court finds there are exceptional circumstances, the sentencing judge does have discretion, under the law, to impose a custodial sentence and a fine that are fair and just in the circumstances of each case," the governor's office added.

ABC News' Stefan Joyce contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Three US service members treated for injuries related to pier off Gaza: CENTCOM

U.S. Central Command via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Three U.S. service members have been treated for injuries related to the U.S.-built pier off Gaza known as JLOTS, or the Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability, according to U.S. Central Command.

Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, CENTCOM deputy commander, didn't provide specifics Thursday other than saying they were non-combat-related injuries and that two of the service members had returned to duty, while the third is receiving care at a local Israeli hospital.

A defense official told ABC News the third service member is in critical condition and was injured aboard the USNS Benavidez, a U.S. Navy cargo ship. A U.S. official said it involved a forklift accident.

The three service members were sent to Israeli medical facilities to get more care because they required more medical care than could be provided on the U.S. ships offshore.

No further details were immediately released.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Winemaker discovers approximately 40,000-year-old mammoth bones in cellar

Yannik Merkl

(GOBELSBURG, Austria) -- While renovating his wine cellar, a man in Austria made a discovery far older than a vintage bottle of Merlot. Instead, he discovered a rare collection of mammoth bones, believed to date back approximately 40,000 years.

Marking one of the most significant mammoth fossil finds in over a century in Austria, according to the Austrian Archeological Institute, researchers believe the prehistoric Stone Age bones belonged to at least three different mammoths.

Winemaker Andreas Pernerstorfer discovered the bones while renovating his cellar, located in the Austrian village of Gobelsburg, about 45 miles west of Vienna, according to a Tuesday press release from the institute.

Pernerstorfer reported the bones to the Federal Monuments Office, which referred him to the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Dubbed an "archaeological sensation," archaeologists say they have uncovered several layers of mammoth bones since beginning the excavation process in mid-May.

"Such a dense bone layer of mammoths is rare," Hannah Parow-Souchon, who is leading the excavation said in the press release. "It's the first time we've been able to investigate something like this in Austria using modern methods."

The discovery has furthered an ongoing query into how Stone Age people were able to hunt the now-extinct, giant creatures, which are members of the elephantid genus.

"We know that humans hunted mammoths, but we still know very little about how they did it," Parow-Souchon said in the press release.

Researchers question if the cellar was the location where the mammoths died and if they were chased and trapped there, according to the release.

The collection of fossils is currently being examined by researchers and will be sent to the Natural History Museum Vienna to undergo restoration.

In 2021, an international team of researchers discovered million-year-old molars from three mammoth specimens in northeast Siberia, which marked the oldest-dating skeletal fragments ever found.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Why British PM Rishi Sunak called snap election for July 4, according to expert

Henry Nicholls - WPA Pool/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called for a snap general election in the United Kingdom on July 4, despite having until January of next year to hold one. Sunak, the leader of the ruling Conservative Party, and leaders of other political parties have already started their election campaigns.

On a rainy Wednesday, the 44-year-old delivered a surprise announcement outside the prime minister's official residence at 10 Downing Street in London. Unlike in the U.S., Britain's parliamentary system gives the ruling party a five-year term and allows it to call an election at any time.

ABC News Foreign Correspondent James Longman believes Sunak's unexpected announcement is in part meant to demonstrate confidence as his Conservative Party faces an uphill struggle to extend its 14 years in power – years marked by a succession of generally unsuccessful leaders amid growing domestic problems.

"Start Here" spoke with Longman about the upcoming snap election, the likely reasons for it, and the problems that Britons and their leaders are facing.

START HERE: James, I assume the 4th of July doesn't matter at all over there, but if you're the prime minister and you have the power to set an election date, I imagine you do it at a time you think will be advantageous to you. Why was this so sudden?

LONGMAN: Well, I mean, that's just our system. And I think it was a prime minister in Rishi Sunak who's just trying to play one last hand, trying to show perhaps confidence, taking a shot, rolling the dice. Because, you know, most people assume that his ruling party, the Conservatives, are going to lose the next election. It's just a question of by how much.

Now, this was a massive shock. It's been bubbling for some time – the idea that he's going to call an election soon-ish, we just didn't know when. The system in Britain is a parliamentary system. Basically, the ruling party has five years in office and they can choose at any time to call an election. We thought that he was going to hold off for as long as possible to remain prime minister, for the conservatives to stay in government. We thought perhaps we were going to clash with a U.S. election in November, perhaps even as long as January, to try to see some kind of economic recovery and therefore sell to the country, you know, it's not that bad, things are getting better.

But no, he came out with this shock announcement. I have to say, it was all rather depressing. He stood in the rain outside Downing Street. He didn't look like a man about to announce an election; he actually sounded like he was about to resign. There was one point, someone with a speaker phone down the end of Downing Street played "Things Can Only Get Better," which was the theme tune to the 1997 Labour winning election campaign. So the whole thing was pretty miserable. I think the Labour Party, the opposition, will be very happy about this, the beginning of this election. But look, it's been 14 years of conservative control in Britain. Most people assume that they're not going to win the election. He's trying to take the bull by the horns, if you like. But it wasn't a very confident start.

START HERE: What is going so wrong for his party, for the Conservatives. I mean, what what's happening that is so politically damaging right now?

LONGMAN: Well, there's the economics, which has been bad around the world. You know, inflation has been high in many countries. The United States, people are worried about their bills. It's exactly the same situation in Britain. The war in Ukraine has meant that energy prices have gone up. COVID, the pandemic caused massive labor shortages. So there have been issues beyond the this conservative government's control.

But by and large, people think that the country is stagnating. We have a huge crisis at the moment with sewage being pumped into our waterways. We have an NHS, the National Health Service, which is not working. We have massive, massive waiting lists for people to get surgeries, with ambulances waiting outside hospitals. Built lots of schools that are in buildings which are not fit for purpose. In just about every way, people look at various different issues across society and say, look, the country can't really see the benefit of 14 years of a conservative government.

That, plus the politics of all this, because the Conservative Party seems to have been eating itself. We've had successive prime ministers, successive leaders. Remember David Cameron, he had to step down because he had wanted for the United Kingdom to remain in Europe. So Brexit ripped the party apart. Since his time in office, we've had Theresa May and then Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss, and now Rishi Sunak, and it's just been one after the other. So I think there's a general sense in the country that the Conservative Party are a party on the way out and they haven't been doing themselves any favors in kind of projecting that image. It's going to be difficult for any party after 14 years in government to project an image of that they're the ones with the solutions, because every time they say, "We're going to fix a problem," people say, "Well, what have you been doing for the last 14 years?" The big question is, who's going to be their replacement?

START HERE: So if it's not the Conservative Party – you'd assume if Rishi Sunak is the one calling the election that he would think of himself as the frontrunner, but who is the frontrunner, then, if not him?

LONGMAN: Well, he is going to be leading the Conservative Party into this election so there's not going to be a conservative leadership battle, another one, thank God. But the most likely prime minister is going to be Keir Starmer, who is the leader of the Labour Party. Been out of power for quite some time, like I say, 14 years. He's been leader of the Labor Party for the last five years. He's considered, not really a showman, I think that's putting it mildly. He's uncharismatic, would be more critical. Boring. his critics might say, I don't know if in the U.S. you ever saw Mr. Bean, but he is a little bit like that. He's got horn-rimmed specs and he's a former public prosecutor. He's not someone who necessarily, you know, can rouse a crowd. But I think maybe after 14 years of conservative government and all the psychodrama of Brexit and Boris Johnson and Partygate, maybe people are in this country ready for a little bit of boring.

But his issue, though, Keir Starmer, is that people don't really know very much about him. So that's what this campaign is going to be all about. Six hundred and fifty MPs sit in Parliament. Now, if they had a majority – Labour at the moment are so far behind given the 2019 result, which saw a massive conservative majority under Boris Johnson, that they would have to have a massive swing. So it's all to play for.

START HERE: Right. Sometimes this results in power-sharing agreements: You're voting for the party, not the person. So we'll see how this all shakes out. But really wild timing here. James Longman, there in London. Thank you so much.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Kenyan mountaineer dies on Everest as he attempts to summit without supplemental oxygen

Tents of mountaineers are pictured at Everest base camp in the Mount Everest region of Solukhumbu district on April 18, 2024. (Purnima Shrestha/AFP via Getty Images)

(LONDON) -- Kenyan mountaineer Joshua Cheruiyot Kirui, who went missing with his guide on Wednesday morning on Mount Everest, has been found dead, officials announced Thursday.

Kirui's body was found 62 feet, or about 19 meters, below Everest's peak, Nepal's Department of Tourism said.

Kirui had been on a mission to summit the world's highest peak without supplementary oxygen, attempting to become the first African to achieve the feat. He went missing above the Hillary Step.

"A no-oxygen attempt comes with its special preparations and risks," Kirui wote on Instagram before his summit attempt. "Finally. Tonight we head up. Summit Rotation. After 10 basecamp days."

He was accompanied by a Nepalese climber and guide, Nawang Sherpa, whose fate remains unknown. Search teams have been deployed to the mountain.

Kirui wrote that he had made extensive preparations for his summit: "Nawang Sherpa will ferry an emergency bottle of oxygen to be used; if I go lights out or if I go bananas. If I'm time barred, unfavourable weather, body limit reached: when I realize I'm no superman."

Kirui's death takes this week's toll on Everest to at least three, following the deaths of two Mongolian climbers who had gone missing on May 12.

British climber Daniel Paterson and his Nepali guide, Pas Tenji Sherpa, also remain missing after their expedition was hit on Tuesday by icefall on Everest's northern slope.

"Waiting patiently for a summit window," wrote Paterson -- a fitness trainer from Wakefield, U.K. -- in an Instagram post before going missing.

Standing at 8,848 meters, Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Approximately 800 people attempt to summit the mountain annually, and officials said over 450 climbers have already scaled the mountain from the Nepali side this climbing season. Over 100,000 people visit the Sagarmatha National Park in the Himalayas of northeast Nepal every year.

Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first men to summit Everest without supplemental Oxygen, achieving the feat in May of 1978.

In 2022, James Kagambi became the first Kenyan to reach Everest's peak, reaching the summit at the age of 62.

"His indomitable will and passion for mountaineering will forever be an inspiration," the publication Everest Today wrote of Kirui. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends during this time of sorrow."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ukrainian colonel presses for more US arms as his brigade battles Russian onslaught: Reporter’s notebook

ABC News

(NEAR KHARKIV, Ukraine) -- Ukraine's 57th Motorized Brigade is one infantry unit among many battling the new Russian offensive North of Kharkiv, and it was also amongst the first to engage the Russians as they pushed over the border.

ABC News sat down in a rare interview with Col. Oleksandr Bakulin, commander of the 57th, alongside a senior Army leader at a secret location. The military leaders talked about the latest Russian offensive, how the lack of ammunition and weapons, particularly those from America, has impacted this war in recent months and the morale of his soldiers, who had to retreat and cede territory and who are now having to fight Russians in areas that they had driven Russians from in 2022.

With the Russian offensive, the situation right now in the Northern Kharkiv region is “quite difficult,” Bakulin said.

“The battles are going on. We managed to slow down the enemy,” he said.

The Ukrainian military have stabilized the front and, for now, Russian forces are no longer advancing as rapidly as they did in the opening days of their offensive. But the Russians are still making incremental gains.

Bakulin said that the Russians “still have reserves and will bring these reserve[s] into the battle.”

About $60 billion in American military aid to Ukraine has recently been approved but the weapons and ammunition are still not here and the shortfall over the last few months has had a real impact on the fighting.

“We do understand how crucial this [US] aid is,” Bakulin said. “The whole the world understands. Yes, our soldiers are brave and courageous, but without this aid, these weapons, shells, everything, without this we would not be able to keep fighting in a war against Russia, just because we are way smaller than Russia.”

Bakulin acknowledged the withdrawals but said it was a normal part of the ebb and flow of warfare. He’s made clear he’s been enjoying being close to the Russian border.

“Firing at Russians in the Russian territory is way more pleasant than firing at them on the Ukrainian soil,” he said.

Despite the advances made by the Russians, he pushed back at the idea that Ukraine is losing the war, saying, “I personally think that we have already won this war. The question is at what point it is going to end, and at what stage.”

Bakulin said he predicts that in the end this war will be ended by a deal, saying, “Every war ends in peace talks and deals.”

And he even seemed to accept that in order for this to happen, territory might need to be given up, citing the experience of nearby Finland.

“Little Finland once fought against big USSR,” Bakulin said. “Yes, it lost some territories. But it still does exist as a country and Russia doesn't even look in that direction. We are in a similar position, but I hope we will not lose our land.”

The war is far from over and the lack of heavy weaponry is still operationally critical. He put it succinctly when asked about the casualties caused by the lack of armaments, saying, “The sweat of the artillery soldiers saves the blood of the infantry soldiers. But if there is only sweat without the shells, then infantry soldiers pay it with their blood.”

Bakulin said he accepts that American support is essential for fighting the war, despite some dissent in Congress over how much funding the U.S. has pledged to Ukraine.

“I understand that we spent the money of their taxpayers. Money of the citizens of these countries. We understand this,” Bakulin said. “But we are fighting because we want to be with you; to be a part of the civilized world. We want to play in your team. Yes, we are going through hard times now. But I believe that we are fighting for the values that U.S. propagates in the world and it has always stood by these values.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


UNRWA suspends aid to Rafah citing 'insecurity, lack of supplies' amid Israel-Hamas war

Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced Tuesday it has suspended aid deliveries in the southern border city of Rafah due to security concerns amid ongoing hostilities and a lack of supplies.

The agency also said just seven out of its 24 health centers are operational and that those centers had not received any medical supplies in the last 10 days to "closures" and "disruptions" at the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, according to an UNRWA statement posted on X.

UNRWA said its distribution center and the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse are located in eastern Rafah and have been inaccessible as a result of Israel's ongoing military operation in the area.

"We have a lot of people on the ground ready to provide aid and provide services, but without access across the borders to any supplies and without access to our distribution centers, we are simply unable to distribute food," UNRWA spokesperson Louise Wateridge said Wednesday.

The WFP said in a post on X that it ran out of food to distribute to families in Rafah.

"Thousands of families still in #Rafah need aid," WFP in the Middle East wrote on the social media platform.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) dropped leaflets in Rafah and sent text messages in Arabic on May 6 calling for about 100,000 people to evacuate the eastern part of the city and to head north to the Al-Mawasi humanitarian corridor ahead of a long-promised major ground invasion into Rafah. As of Monday, UNRWA estimates that 810,000 people have evacuated from Rafah.

While the crossings in the south are either closed or have limited access, the Erez West/Zikim crossing is open in northern Gaza , which is experiencing "full-blown famine," according to WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain.

However, in update to the U.N. Security Council on Monday, Tor Wennesland, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said "much more aid is needed to meet the enormous scale of the needs. … There is no substitute for the full and increased operation of existing land crossings."

"I am deeply concerned that the current trajectory -- including the possibility of a larger-scale operation -- will further undermine efforts to scale-up the entry of humanitarian goods and their safe distribution to desperate civilians," he said.

UNRWA has had intermittent challenges providing aid to Gaza since Israeli officials alleged in January that several UNRWA members participated in Hamas' Oct. 7, 2023 surprise terrorist attack in Israel.

UNRWA said it terminated the accused employees after the allegations were made public. An independent investigation by the U.N.'s Office of Internal Oversight is ongoing. Meanwhile, a separate independent review released last month found that Israel has yet to provide evidence that UNRWA staff are members of terrorist organizations.

The UNRWA isn't the only organization facing logistical challenges delivering aid. Very little of the aid unloaded from the temporary pier built by the U.S. off of Gaza has been distributed to the broader population, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Ryder said 569 metric tons have landed and that U.S., Israel and the United Nations are working "to identify alternative routes for the safe movement of staff and cargo."

Since Hamas' surprise terrorist attack in Israel, more than 35,709 people in Gaza have been killed and more than 79,990 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health. More than 1,700 Israelis have been killed and 8,700 have been injured, according to Israeli officials.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


US says Israel has made 'refinements' to Rafah assault strategy to reduce risks of civilian harm after Biden demands

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's national security adviser said Wednesday that Israel has made "refinements" to its military operations in and around Rafah following pushback from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the president's demands.

Jake Sullivan, just back from a trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, noted to reporters at the White House press briefing that Israel's assault on Rafah in southern Gaza has been "more targeted and limited."

"We had detailed discussions on Rafah during my visit to Israel. These have built on weeks now, as I've discussed with you from this podium, of discussions on a professional basis, about Rafah and about how Israel can achieve the defeat of Hamas, everywhere in Gaza, including in Rafah, while minimizing civilian harm," he said.

For weeks, the U.S. had insisted Israel produce a "plan" to minimize civilian casualties in an attack on Rafah, where it said more than a million Palestinian civilians had sought shelter after being forced from other areas of Gaza.

Biden had suggested his demand to limit civilian casualties was his "red line" amid protests in the U.S. and abroad over his response to Israel's attacks in Gaza.

Sullivan met with Netanyahu during his visit.

"I was briefed by Israeli officials and by Israeli professionals on refinements that Israel's made to its plans to achieve its military objectives while taking account of civilian harm. What we have seen so far in terms of Israel's military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas," he said.

Sullivan said the U.S. will "now have to see what unfolds from here" and whether what Israeli officials have laid out continues to happen.

"There's no mathematical formula. What we're going to be looking at, is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation or if it is more precise and proportional. And we will see that unfold. And we will obviously remain closely engaged with the Israeli government as we go. That's how we see the situation right now."

Amid increased tensions over Israel's vow to invade Rafah with the aim of wiping out what it said were the last four battalions of Hamas fighters, Biden had paused a shipment of 2,000 pound bombs to Israel that he and other administration officials said Israel could use to kill civilians in Gaza.

Sullivan's comments come after a senior administration official said on Tuesday that Israel has taken the U.S. concerns over an operation in Rafah "seriously" and had "updated their plans."

"They've incorporated many of the concerns that we have expressed and the president has expressed," the senior official said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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