Welcome to Friday, where Gaza’s health ministry says the death toll since Oct. 7 has topped 9,000, Storm Ciaran hits Tuscany, and a Swiss village is in a bad moo-d. Meanwhile, for London-based, Persian-language news site Kayhan, Haqiqatjou writes that to understand what is currently going on in Gaza, we ought to look back at Tehran in 1979.
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• Israel-Gaza update: With the Gazan health ministry putting the death toll above 9,000 after more than three weeks of Israeli air and ground assaults, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Jerusalem to seek a “pause” in the fighting to address humanitarian needs. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a nearly $14.5 billion military aid package for Israel on Thursday that links the support to cuts in government spending elsewhere. President Joe Biden says he plans to veto the bill.
• North Korea to increase military deterrent following U.S. missile test: North Korean state media reported that the nation will be increasing its military arsenal to ensure security against U.S. military nuclear power. The move comes after the Wednesday launch of a nuclear-capable Minuteman III missile from a base in California, which was then blown up because of an anomaly. The launch had been attended by South Korean defense officials in their first visit since 2016.
• Iran rehab center fire kills 32: At least 32 people have been killed in a fire that blazed through a drug rehabilitation center located in Langarud, in northern Iran. Authorities reported that initial investigations found that a heater may have caused the fire.
• Storm Ciaran update: As storm Ciaran continues to hit Western Europe, at least three people have died in the Italian region of Tuscany, and several more are reported missing. Rescue efforts are underway, but the situation may yet escalate with the Arno river reaching a peak around midday.
• Rwanda introduces visa-free entry for all Africans: Rwanda announced that it will become the latest African country to allow visa-free travel for people within the continent in an effort to boost free movement of people and trade. Rwanda will be the fourth country to implement this policy, behind Gambia, Benin and Seychelles.
• Sam Bankman-Fried convicted of fraud: Founder of cryptocurrency exchange company FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried, was found guilty in one of the biggest financial fraud cases on record. Prosecutors made the case that Bankman-Fried had looted $8 billion from clients, and the jury found him guilty of all seven charges against him. Sentencing is set for March, and the 31-year-old former billionaire could face decades in prison.
• Less cowbell! The Swiss village of Aarwagen found itself in a dilemma when new residents filed a formal complaint against the traditional cowbells that ding and dong throughout the night. The complaint only requested that the bells be removed in the evening, but it was followed by mass outrage and a 1,000 signature petition to maintain cultural tradition. One farmer called it a “personal insult to him and his cows".
Santiago-based daily La Tercera, dedicates its front page to Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s White House visit, where he told U.S. President Joe Biden that Israel’s actions were violating international law. Boric has condemned the Israeli military’s bombardment of Gaza and recalled his envoy to Israel. Read an America Economia piece from last year on Latin America’s resurgent but fractured political left, translated from Spanish by Worldcrunch.
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Some 20 years after its release, U.S. rapper 50 Cent’s hit song “In Da Club” has been certified diamond by Recording Industry Association of America, becoming only the 121st song to sell more than 10 million copies.
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The Ayatollah's war, from Tehran 1979 to Gaza 2023
Who should we blame for the death and destruction in Gaza: terrorists, Israel or “warmongers” beyond them, notably the Tehran regime that envisaged, decades ago, a regional war as the prelude to spreading its "Islamic revolution”, writes Haqiqatjou for Kayhan-London.
🇮🇷 War has spread like wildfire, first in Ukraine and now the Middle East, as the world looks on aghast. It becomes increasingly difficult now to discern between good and bad, as we're forced to watch the abject sight of ordinary people, and especially children, killed or weeping amid the ruins. Yet in spite of the anguish, we must be clear-eyed about the source of this calamity. Ordinary Iranians in particular knew in their hearts, from the very moment we learned of the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, that it could be traced back directly to the regime that calls itself an "Islamic Republic," led by a supreme leader busy pursuing a particular and sinister agenda of his own.
⚖️ But can you "measure" good, bad and worse with numbers? More Palestinians have died, certainly, from Israel's fire power. If Hamas had the same weaponry, how many would it have killed by now? Would it have refrained from killing as many as it could? Have its patrons in Tehran not stated for decades a desire to "wipe Israel off the map"? The revolutionary mullahs are not horrified then — in principle at least — by the idea itself of carrying out a massacre.
✊ But ultimately, Iran's youth have shown that they are sick of the old, anti-imperialist discourse, as shown by the soccer fans pulling down a Palestinian flag at a stadium soon after the Gaza attack, or car drivers loudly tooting their horns in Tehran, just when authorities had asked people to keep a moment's silence for Gaza.
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“How Israel does this matters.”
— U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for meetings with the country’s top officials. Speaking alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv, Blinken reiterated that the U.S. stands by Israel, but emphasized that civilians in Gaza must be protected. “How Israel does this matters. And it is very important that when it comes to the protection of civilians who are caught in the crossfire of Hamas’ making, that everything be done to protect them and to bring assistance to those who so desperately need it, and were not in any way responsible for what happened on October 7.”
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