Hamas seeks ‘complete halt’ to war in Gaza proposal response

Getty Images A boy walks through rubble in Gaza

Hamas says it has submitted its response to a US-backed plan for a ceasefire in Gaza, with a senior group official telling the BBC that it still requires an Israeli commitment to a permanent ceasefire.

In a statement, the group, and its Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) allies, expressed “readiness to positively” reach a deal.

The proposed ceasefire plan – which was endorsed by the UN security council on Monday night – calls for a six-week ceasefire that would eventually become permanent.

Qatar and Egypt – who, along with the US, have mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas – confirmed that the Palestinian group had submitted its reply.

In its statement on Tuesday evening, Hamas called for a “complete halt” to fighting in Gaza.

“The response prioritises the interests of our Palestinian people and emphasises the necessity of a complete halt to the ongoing aggression on Gaza,” Hamas and the PIJ said.

The groups added that they were ready “to engage positively to reach an agreement that ends this war”.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said it was “helpful” that Hamas had submitted a response and that US officials were “evaluating” the group’s requests.

Earlier on Tuesday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “reaffirmed his commitment” to the Gaza ceasefire plan and the world was waiting for the Hamas response.

The proposal set out by President Biden last month involves an initial six-week ceasefire, with Hamas releasing some hostages in exchange for Israel releasing an undefined number of Palestinian prisoners.

A second phase would see the remaining hostages released by Hamas and a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza as part of a “permanent” ceasefire, but the latter would still be subject to negotiations.

The actual Israeli proposal – reportedly lengthier than the summary presented by Mr Biden – has not been made public and it is unclear whether it varies from what the president conveyed in his statement on 31 May. It was presented to Hamas days prior to Mr Biden’s speech.

Mr Netanyahu has acknowledged his war cabinet has authorised the plan but has not voiced unequivocally support for it. Far right members of his cabinet have threatened to quit his coalition and trigger its collapse if the deal goes forward, seeing it as surrender to Hamas.

As Mr Blinken met Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, protesters outside his hotel held American flags calling for an agreement. Many held pictures of hostages and chanted: “SOS, USA”, and “we trust you, Blinken, seal a deal”.

Vicki Cohen, the mother of Nimrod Cohen, 19, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas on 7 October, held a banner showing his picture.

She told the BBC: “We come here to ask Blinken and the USA government to help us, to save us from our government. Our prime minister doesn’t want to bring our loved ones back, we need their help to pressure our government.”

He then travelled to the Dead Sea for a conference of Arab leaders calling for greater aid access into Gaza, where he said Israel “can do more”. He also announced $404 million in new aid for Palestinians, urging other countries to also “step up” assistance.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 others back to Gaza as hostages. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive since then.

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The impact of recognising a Palestinian state

Reuters A Palestinian girl carries cans to collect water in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on 22 May
Many countries say they will only recognise a Palestinian state as part of a long-term political solution

As fighting and suffering continues in Gaza, and violence grows in the West Bank, prospects of the Palestinian people gaining their own state might seem further away than ever.

The decision by several European countries to formally recognise the existence of a Palestinian state will not overcome the reality that such ambition still faces huge obstacles.

But the declarations by Ireland, Spain and Norway will put pressure on other countries in Europe – including the UK, France and Germany – to follow them in supporting Palestinian self-determination.

“This is extremely significant,” one Arab diplomat said. “It reflects European frustration with the Israeli government’s refusal to listen.

“And it puts pressure on the EU to follow suit.”

But Israeli ministers insist this will encourage Hamas and reward terrorism, further reducing the chances of a negotiated settlement.

Most countries – about 139 in all – formally recognise a Palestinian state.

On May 10, 143 out of 193 members of the United Nations’ general assembly voted in favour of a Palestinian bid for full UN membership, something that is only open to states.

Palestine currently has a kind of enhanced observer status at the UN, which gives them a seat but not a vote in the assembly.

It is also recognised by various international organisations including the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

A minority of European countries already recognise a Palestinian state. They comprise Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria which adopted the position 1988; and others including Sweden, Cyprus and Malta.

But many European nations – and the United States – say they will recognise a Palestinian state only as part of a long-term political solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

This is often referred to as the ‘two-state solution’ where both Israelis and Palestinians agree to have their own states with their own borders.

European countries and the US differ over when they should recognise a Palestinian state.

Ireland, Spain and Norway say they are doing so now to kick-start a political process. They argue there will be a sustained solution to the current crisis only if both sides can aim at some kind of political horizon.

These countries are also responding to domestic political pressures to show more support for Palestinians.

In the past, the position of many Western countries was that Palestinian statehood should be a prize for a final peace agreement.

But Lord Cameron, the UK Foreign Secretary, and some other European countries have in recent months shifted their positions, saying the recognition of Palestinian statehood could come earlier, to help drive momentum towards a political settlement.

In February, President Macron of France said: “The recognition of a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France.”

And earlier this month, France supported Palestinian membership of the UN in the general assembly vote.

The US has privately discussed this issue with European allies but is more cautious and wants a clearer sense of what the policy would mean in practice.

So the key debate behind the scenes is about when these holdout countries should recognise a Palestinian state: when formal peace talks begin between Israelis and Palestinians, when Israel and Saudi Arabia normalise diplomatic relations, when Israel fails to undertake certain actions, or when the Palestinians take certain actions.

In other words, they want recognition of the state of Palestine to be a big moment designed to achieve a diplomatic outcome.

“It is a big card that Western countries have to play,” one Western official said. “We don’t want to throw it away.”

The problem is that recognising a Palestinian state is largely a symbolic gesture if it does not also address the vital concomitant questions.

What should the borders be? Where should the capital be located? What should both sides do first to make it happen?

These are difficult questions that have not been agreed – or even answered – satisfactorily for decades.

As of today, a few more countries in Europe now believe there should be a Palestinian state.

Supporters will cheer the move, opponents will decry it.

The grim reality for Palestinians on the ground is unlikely to change.

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Domestic tourism soars in China but foreigners stay away

BBC/KATHERINA TSE A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing
A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing

With the Chinese economy facing massive challenges, there have been concerns over its growth potential, at least in the immediate future.

Yet a key exception is emerging in the form of domestic tourism.

Last week’s five-day public holiday to mark labour day saw 295 million trips made within China, according to figures from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This was 28% higher than pre-pandemic figures recorded in 2019.

The Transport Ministry’s figures are also staggering: 92 million rail trips; almost 10 million air trips and 1.25 billion highway journeys.

However, this comes as international arrivals continue to lag, with foreigners currently entering China at barely 30% of 2019 levels. Why the disparity?

The beautiful historical river town of Wuzhen, a short drive from Shanghai, is considered one of China’s top visitor sites for travellers of all types. When we arrive the little pathways and old bridges which cross narrow waterways are filled with visitors.

A popular thing to do in Wuzhen is to pose for photos dressed in traditional hanfu clothing – as if you have really been transported back hundreds of years.

Two women in their 20s, friends since high school, are visiting from Jilin Province in the north east. After arriving, they spend an hour getting their hair done in an elaborate imperial-era style – and they are full of praise for Wuzhen’s classical beauty.

We ask if, following the post-Covid opening up, many of their family and other friends have been travelling much? “Of course, after the pandemic, we’re all visiting other places.”

Nearby a local man who is selling ice-creams also says tourist numbers are “not that bad lately”.

As good as before Covid? “Almost the same,” he replies.

Shopkeeper Wang Ying, who sells traditional snacks, echoes this sentiment with a big smile on her face. “Business is going well, and it’ll only get better.”

BBC/KATHERINA TSE Wuzhen is considered one of China's top visitor sites
Wuzhen is considered one of China’s top visitor sites

All this will be seen as good news for the Chinese government. It’s been saying that a push on domestic consumption can counter the significant faltering portions of the economy.

Major players in the once-mighty property sector are struggling to stay afloat, local government debt continues to rise, and persistent youth unemployment has left highly qualified university graduates uncertain of their future.

Amid all these challenges, the Communist Party has set a target of “around 5%” GDP growth for this year. Apart from the fact that analysts have long questioned the veracity of the country’s official growth figures, economists are also asking how such a target can be reached, in any genuine sense, in 2024 without significant extra stimulus.

One lifeline could be a more buoyant travel scene which could bring broader business opportunities and greater service industry employment.

Schubert Lou, chief operating officer at travel agency Trip.com, told the BBC: “We’ve seen very strong domestic travel demand with search volumes in hotels up 67% compared to last year, and flight volumes up 80%.”

Tourism industry consultant Peng Han from Travel Daily is following the investment trail to see how the business community really views the possibilities in the sector.

“With famous international hotel brands – like Intercontinental, Marriott and Hilton – you just have to look at their growth in China in 2023,” he says. “Then check the performance goals for these large hotel groups in 2024 which have also been set relatively high. This shows that they are very optimistic about the growth potential of the Chinese market.”

But, while the volume of local travellers might be up, Mr Peng does point to the problem of per capita consumption which remains persistently low.

He says general uncertainty about the Chinese economy is putting more emphasis on saving, so people are looking for good value options. They are going on holidays and paying for things but doing so much more frugally.

This is where an increase in big-spending foreigners could help. But they are simply not travelling to China in the numbers they used to.

In 2019, nearly 98 million international visitors came to the country. Last year it was only 35 million – including business trips, students and the like. Mr Lou describes the domestic versus international market as “uneven”.

For many in the tourism industry here specialising in services for foreign travellers, “uneven” would be an understatement. Three years of harsh Covid prevention measures drove down arrivals from other countries, but that alone can’t account for the current situation.

Huang Songshan, the head of the Centre for Tourism Research in the School of Business and Law at Australia’s Edith Cowan University, blames this weakness in part to “the shifting geopolitical landscape globally”.

Getty Images Chinese performer
China’s culture and heritage has traditionally been a big draw for tourists

In the peer-reviewed East Asia Forum, he pointed to a 2023 survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre, writing that, “Most individuals in Western nations hold unfavourable views towards China. The Chinese government’s tightening grip on societal regulations could potentially cause discomfort for foreign travellers in China.”

Official travel advice from some governments echo this sentiment, at times quite harshly.

Washington warns potential travellers to “reconsider travel to Mainland China due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws, including in relation to exit bans, and the risk of wrongful detentions”.

Australia advises “a high degree of caution” warning that “Australians may be at risk of arbitrary detention or harsh enforcement of local laws, including broadly defined National Security Laws”.

The political environment has also taken a toll on flight availability and price. This is especially the case with connections to and from North America. Last month’s 332 scheduled round trips between China and the US contrasts with 1,506 in April 2019.

As a result, finding a seat on a direct flight can be extremely difficult and those that are available are very expensive.

President Xi Jinping made a speech at a dinner on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in San Francisco last November addressing this point. “Today, President Biden and I reached important consensus,” he told the crowd.

“Our two countries will roll out more measures to facilitate travels and promote people-to-people exchanges, including increasing direct passenger flights, holding a high-level dialogue on tourism, and streamlining visa application procedures. We hope that our two peoples will make more visits, contacts and exchanges and write new stories of friendship in the new era.”

Washington has since increased the number of Chinese airline flights permitted to land – but only from 35 per week to 50. It is still well short of the 150 weekly trips pre-Covid.

The Biden administration is coming under pressure from unions and US airlines to not increase this any further because, they argue, Chinese airlines have an unfair advantage over them as they have state support; don’t face the same onerous Chinese regulations; and, crucially, can fly over Russian airspace, making trips shorter and cheaper.

A letter to the US government from the Chair of the House Committee on China, Mike Gallagher, and the committee’s top Democrat representative, Raja Krishnamoorthi, reads: “Should the US-China passenger carrier market expand without the US government addressing these significant issues, US aviation workers, travellers and airlines will pay a hefty price tag.”

Mr Lou says the frequency of international flight connections is definitely having an impact.

“What we are seeing right now, based on civil aviation data, is that inbound flight capacity won’t get back to even 80% of 2019 [levels] by the end of 2024.”

Then there are other potential turnoffs for those considering travelling in China, like the country’s state-of-the-art phone app payment and booking systems which work very smoothly for Chinese citizens and residents, but which can be an enormous headache if you have just arrived.

There are certain sites, transport options, and purchases which can only be accessed via Chinese electronic apps which are, at times, only available in Chinese.

Professor Chen Yong at Switzerland’s EHL Hospitality Business School is an authority on the economics of tourism in China. He thinks that hurdles relating to payment and booking apps can pose a real problem.

“Technologies such as social network websites, online maps, payment apps, among others, which foreigners have long been accustomed to using, are either unavailable or inaccessible when they travel to China,” he says.

“On the other hand, there are Chinese alternatives to these technologies that remain inaccessible to foreigners due to language barriers and differences in user habits. We need to bridge this divide because it affects the tourist industry badly.”

Back in Wuzhen, the presence of international travellers is much smaller than in years gone by, but there are still a few foreign faces in the crowd.

An Italian couple says the process of linking up to and using China’s payment apps was a challenge but that it was not insurmountable, though they add, with a laugh, that it is “much, much, much easier” if you have a Chinese friend to help you.

BBC/KATHERINA TSE Woman and child pose for selfies
Chinese officials have acknowledged that the foreign traveller numbers have been low but they are trying to turn this around

Eliseo, from California, says he has had problems making payments to small vendors who don’t accept credit cards and really no longer deal with cash. Another hurdle for him has been his bank at home which has blocked some payments, flagging them as potentially fraudulent coming from China.

Chinese officials have acknowledged that the foreign traveller numbers have been low but they are now trying to turn this around.

One way they’re attempting to attract more foreign visitors is by increasing the number of countries whose citizens don’t need a visa to enter. Trip.com says this resulted in an almost immediate increase in passenger arrivals from Southeast Asia.

In 23 Chinese cities, transit passengers from more than 50 countries are also able to stay for a few days visa free if they have an onward ticket. In Shanghai, hotels above a three-star level have been told that they should prepare to deal with international credit cards and an initial batch of 50 taxis have also started accepting them.

However, Professor Chen says “it would be too optimistic to envision a long-term growth in China’s inbound tourism”.

“The key is to establish a culture that puts service providers in the shoes of foreign tourists. They should imagine themselves being a foreigner who can’t speak or read Chinese and who doesn’t have a Chinese mobile number, payments apps and so on.”

He says that the culture around this can’t be changed overnight.

Yet, in places like Wuzhen – where the local travellers have already returned – the tourism companies are hoping that incredible sites like theirs will eventually be too much for foreigners to resist as well.

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UN rights chief ‘horrified’ by mass grave reports at Gaza hospitals

Reuters Palestinian civil defence workers dig mounds of earth in the grounds of Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip (21 April 2024)ReutersPalestinian workers are exhuming bodies at Nasser hospital with shovels because they have no heavy machinery

The UN’s human rights chief has said he is “horrified” by the destruction of Gaza’s Nasser and al-Shifa hospitals and the reports of “mass graves” being found at the sites after Israeli raids.

Volker Türk called for independent investigations into the deaths.

Palestinian officials said they had exhumed the bodies of almost 300 people at Nasser. It is not clear how they died or when they were buried.

Israel’s military said claims that it buried bodies there were “baseless”.

But it did say that during a two-week operation at the hospital in the city of Khan Younis in February, troops “examined” bodies buried by Palestinians “in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages”.

Ten hostages who have now been released have said that they were held at Nasser hospital for long periods during their captivity.

Prior to the Israeli operation at Nasser, staff there had said they were being forced to bury bodies in the hospital’s courtyard because nearby fighting prevented access to cemeteries. There were similar reports from al-Shifa before the first Israeli raid on the hospital took place in November.

The Israeli military has said it has raided a number of hospitals in Gaza during the war because Hamas fighters have been operating inside them – a claim Hamas and medical officials have denied.

The war began when Hamas gunmen carried out an unprecedented cross-border attack on southern Israel on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and taking 253 others back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 34,180 people – most of them children and women – have been killed in Gaza since then, the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry says.

A spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office said it was currently working on corroborating reports from Palestinian officials that 283 bodies had been found in Nasser hospital’s grounds, including 42 which had been identified.

“Victims had reportedly been buried deep in the ground and covered with waste,” Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

“Among the deceased were allegedly older people, women and wounded, while others… were found with their hands tied and stripped of their clothes.”

Mr Türk called for independent, effective and transparent investigations into the deaths, adding: “Given the prevailing climate of impunity, this should include international investigators.”

“Hospitals are entitled to very special protection under international humanitarian law. And the intentional killing of civilians, detainees, and others who are hors de combat [not participating in hostilities] is a war crime.”

On Monday, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Civil Defense force told BBC Arabic’s Gaza Today programme that it had received reports from local Palestinians that the bodies of a “large number” of people who had been killed during the war and buried in a makeshift cemetery in the hospital’s courtyard were moved to another location during the Israeli raid.

“After research and investigation, we learned that the occupation [Israeli] army had established a mass grave, pulled out the bodies that were in Nasser hospital, and buried them in this mass grave,” Mahmoud Basal said.

Gaza Today also spoke to a man who said he was searching there for the bodies of two male relatives which he alleged had been taken by Israeli troops during Israel’s recently concluded offensive in Khan Younis.

“After I had buried them in an apartment, the [Israelis] came and moved their bodies,” he said. “Every day we search for their bodies, but we fail to find them.”

Hamas has alleged that the bodies include people “executed in cold blood” by Israeli forces, without providing evidence.

Contains some violence and disturbing scenes.BBC Verify authenticates video from key moments in the story of Nasser Medical Complex in Gaza

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement on Tuesday: “The claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded.”

“During the IDF’s operation in the area of Nasser Hospital, in accordance to the effort to locate hostages and missing persons, corpses buried by Palestinians in the area of Nasser hospital were examined.

“The examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages. The examination was carried out respectfully while maintaining the dignity of the deceased. Bodies examined, which did not belong to Israeli hostages, were returned to their place.”

The IDF said that its forces had detained “about 200 terrorists who were in the hospital” during the raid, and that they found ammunition as well as unused medicines intended for Israeli hostages.

It also insisted that the raid was carried out “in a targeted manner and without harming the hospital, the patients and the medical staff”.

However, three medical staff told the BBC last month that they were humiliated, beaten, doused with cold water, and forced to kneel for hours after being detained during the raid.

Medics who remained at Nasser after the Israeli takeover said they were unable to care for patients and that 13 died because of conditions there, including a lack of water, electricity and other supplies.

Reuters Palestinian officials tape off the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City as workers search for human remains (8 April 2024)ReutersThe UN Human Rights Office said it had received reports that 30 bodies were buried in the courtyard of al-Shifa hospital

On 1 April, Israeli troops withdrew from al-Shifa hospital, which is in Gaza City, following what the IDF said was another “precise” operation carried out in response to intelligence that Hamas had regrouped there.

The IDF said at the time that 200 “terrorists” were killed in and around the hospital during the two-week raid. More than 500 others were detained, and weapons and intelligence were found “throughout the hospital”, it added.

After a mission gained access to the facility five days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) said al-Shifa was “now an empty shell”, with most of the buildings extensively damaged or destroyed, and the majority of equipment unusable or reduced to ashes.

It also said that “numerous shallow graves” had been dug just outside the emergency department, and the administrative and surgical buildings, and that “many dead bodies were partially buried with their limbs visible”.

The IDF also said it had avoided harm to patients at al-Shifa. But the WHO cited the acting hospital director as saying patients were held in abysmal conditions during the siege, and that at least 20 patients reportedly died due to a lack of access to care and limited movement authorised for medics.

Spokeswoman Ms Shamdasani said reports seen by the UN human rights office suggested that a total of 30 bodies were buried in the two graves and that 12 of them had been identified so far.

Gaza’s civil defence spokesman told CNN on 9 April that 381 bodies had been recovered from the vicinity of al-Shifa, but that the figure did not include people buried in the hospital’s grounds.

The UN human rights chief also deplored as “beyond warfare” a series of Israeli strikes on the southern city of Rafah in the past few days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

The strikes included one on Saturday night, after which a premature baby was delivered from the womb of her pregnant mother, who was killed along with her husband and other daughter.

Mr Türk also again warned against a full-scale Israeli ground assault on Rafah, where 1.5 million displaced civilians are sheltering, saying it would lead to further breaches of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

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Ukraine war: Grant Shapps ‘abandoned Odesa trip over security threat’

Getty Images Grant Shapps speaks during a join press conference with Polish Defence Minister after their meeting on a military training compound next to Orzysz, North-Eastern PolandGetty ImagesGrant Shapps made his second visit to Ukraine as defence secretary last week

Grant Shapps aborted a trip to southern Ukraine last week for “security reasons”, the UK defence ministry said.

The defence secretary had to scrap his visit to Odesa last week after UK intelligence reportedly warned Russia had become aware of his travel plans.

Mr Shapps was due to travel to Odesa a day after a missile hit the city while the Ukrainian president and the Greek prime minister were visiting.

Five people were killed in the strike, Ukrainian authorities said.

Mr Shapps had travelled on an overnight train from Poland to Ukraine, accompanied by chief of the defence staff, Adm Sir Tony Radakin, and a small team of British officials. The aim of their journey was to meet Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and senior members of his wartime administration.

But having arrived in Kyiv on 7 March, Mr Shapps’s onward journey to Odesa was cancelled abruptly at the last minute, following fears surrounding his safety.

According to the Sunday Times, which had a reporter travelling with his delegation, the trip was called off after an intelligence update revealed the Kremlin’s knowledge of it.

It added that the strike in Odesa the previous day raised the threat level to Mr Shapps’s safety from substantial to critical.

“Putin has shown himself to be reckless, ruthless and careless,” Mr Shapps told the newspaper.

“The fact that he came perilously close to essentially assassinating two western leaders, it doesn’t matter whether that is deliberate or accidental.

“What the hell is he doing, and why the heck would the West allow him to do that kind of thing?”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “On a recent trip to Ukraine, the defence secretary did not make a planned visit to Odesa for security reasons.

“The UK continues to provide strong support for Ukraine and the defence secretary’s visit and engagements only underscored the importance of this support in the face of Putin’s aggression.”

Earlier this week it emerged that an RAF plane carrying Mr Shapps between the UK and Poland had its GPS signal jammed while flying close to Russian territory. https://documentsemua.com/

Conjoined twins given days to live are proving world wrong

Marieme and Ndeye were not expected to survive for more than a few days when they were born.

Now aged seven, they are thought to be the only growing conjoined twins in Europe.

While both girls have their own unique personalities and moods, they rely on each other to survive.

“When you are told from the beginning there is no future, you just live for the present,” said their dad, Ibrahima.

Conjoined twins are rare, representing about one in every 500,000 live births in the UK.

Around half are stillborn, with another third dying within 24 hours of birth.

So seeing Marieme and Ndeye celebrate their seventh birthday with a classful of friends doesn’t just give Ibrahima joy, but also to the doctors who have cared for them.

Ibrahima Ndiaye and his daughters Marieme and Ndeye
Image caption,Ibrahima kept his daughters Marieme and Ndeye in the UK to stay under the medical supervision of Great Ormond Street Hospital

Marieme and Ndeye share one pair of legs and one pelvis but each has a spinal cord and a heart.

They have round-the-clock care but go to a mainstream school in south Wales with their friends.

“They are fighters and proving everyone wrong,” said Ibrahima.

“My daughters are very different. Marieme is very quiet, an introverted personality, but it’s completely different with Ndeye, she’s very independent.

“I would not pretend it’s easy but it’s a huge privilege. You feel lucky to witness this constant battle for life.”

When the twins were born in Senegal in 2016, their parents had been expecting one baby. Doctors didn’t expect them to live much longer than a few days.

“I was preparing myself to lose them very quickly,” Ibrahima told the BBC’s Inseparable Sisters documentary.

“The only thing we could do is be beside them and not allow them to walk alone through this journey. We saw very clearly early on that we were dealing with warriors, who hang on to life.”

Marieme and Ndeye
Image caption,Marieme and Ndeye enjoy playing with their friends at primary school in Cardiff

Their best chance of survival was believed to be separation, according to doctors in Senegal

After calling hospitals around the world “begging” for help, the family arrived in the UK for treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in 2017.

Ibrahima hoped that the renowned children’s hospital, which had separated more conjoined twins than anywhere in the world, would be able to separate them and that they could go back home to their brothers and sisters in Dakar – but it didn’t work out that way.

Tests found that Marieme’s heart was too weak for the complex surgery, and she would not survive the operation.

Ibrahima and a huge team of medical experts discussed at length the complex decision of whether or not to separate the girls.

It was eventually decided their best option would be not to separate them.

“It was killing one of my children for another, it’s something I can’t do,” Ibrahima said at the time.

“I can’t allow myself to choose who will live and who will die now.”

As their mum returned to Africa to look after their other children, Marieme, Ndeye and Ibrahima remained in the UK for medical care and the three moved to Cardiff.

An uplifting insight into the lives of seven-year-old conjoined twins, who weren’t expected to live more than a few days.

Marieme and Ndeye
Image caption,Marieme and Ndeye remained in the UK for the medical care that was not available to them at home in Senegal

Inseparable Sisters will be available on BBC iPlayer from Wednesday and on BBC One on Wednesday at 22:40 GMT. For viewers in Wales, it will be on BBC One Wales on Wednesday at 20:00 GMT.

“Not being able to go back home was very difficult because you had the rest of your family and your job back home,” said Ibrahima, who is the former managing director of a travel organisation in Senegal.

“It’s into the unknown but I didn’t think too much, I just followed my heart. It is my parental responsibility to make sure they will have somebody who will be here for them, that will be my life purpose.”

The twins need regular hospital check ups as they are at serious risk from infection and heart failure.

“At first it was a bit of a novel excitement and then a realisation that this is something I’ve only ever read about in text books,” said Dr Gillian Body, a consultant paediatrician at the University Hospital of Wales.

The girls' organs
Image caption,Marieme and Ndeye share some major organs and they also have their own separate organs

“They’ve got one pair of legs between them and one pelvis. Moving up through their abdomen we’ve got a lot of different organs. We don’t know exactly, but we know some bits are shared and they have some individual bits.

“They’ve two separate spinal cords with all their nerves yet somehow they completely coordinate and they don’t have to tell each other how to move an arm or how to move a leg, it just works.”

Clothing the twins is challenging.

“You have to buy two identical tops and take them to the alterations shop to join them together,” said Ibrahima.

“They have two legs, so they can have regular trousers, but their hip is very wide so you have to take that to the alternations shop too.”

The family have now integrated into their community in Cardiff and the twins are looked after night and day as carers help dad with respite support.

They are in year three at their local mainstream primary school, where the sisters are helped by two classroom support workers.

Marieme and Ndeye
Image caption,Marieme and Ndeye weren’t expected to last a few days but have defied medical expectations and grown stronger

“I want them to have a normal life, play and laugh with kids and make friends and develop as individuals,” said Ibrahima.

“They don’t have to hide from anybody and being in mainstream school shows they’re part of society and they are lucky to be part of this community.”

The next challenge for Marieme and Ndeye is to try to stand and walk. They are currently managing about 20 minutes each day with the help of a standing frame.

“They have achieved things that nobody thought they would,” said Ibrahima.

Ibrahima Ndiaye
Image caption,Ibrahima is grateful for the “dedicated” surgeons, doctors, school staff, classroom support workers and carers that help him look after Marieme and Ndeye

“When you’re told from the beginning there is no future, you live for the present,” he added.

“I know that any time, I can receive a call to say that something bad has happened.

“How long? I don’t want to know. We’re going to make every day a surprise and celebrate life.

“It can be conflicting but you feel lucky despite whatever the difficulties you’re having. They are bringing me such joy. It is a huge blessing to be their dad.” https://documentsemua.com/

Relawan sebut Prabowo-Gibran menang karena kampanye digital

Relawan sebut Prabowo-Gibran menang karena kampanye digital
Calon Presiden RI Prabowo Subianto menyapa warga usai berziarah ke makam Habib Ali Kwitang di Masjid Al Riyadh, Kwitang, Jakarta Pusat, Jumat (16/2/2024). Prabowo Subianto berziarah ke makam Habib Ali Kwitang sekaligus untuk bersilaturahmi dengan pengurus Majelis Taklim Al-Habsyi Kwitang. ANTARA FOTO/Galih Pradipta/tom.

Ini salah satunya sinergi dan kolaborasi kampanye darat dan udara yang masif dan mengedepankan konten-konten edukatif bagi masyarakat luas.

Jakarta (ANTARA) – Koordinator Relawan Nasional Prabowo-Gibran Digital Team (PRIDE) Anthony Leong mengatakan kemenangan pasangan calon nomor urut 2 karena masifnya kampanye digital yang bersifat edukatif.

“Ini salah satunya sinergi dan kolaborasi kampanye darat dan udara yang masif dan mengedepankan konten-konten edukatif bagi masyarakat luas,” kata Anthony dalam keterangan pers yang diterima di Jakarta, Jumat.

Menurut Anthony, pihaknya telah maksimal melalukan sosialisasi program Prabowo-Gibran lewat platform digital.

Hal tersebut, kata dia, guna meraup dukungan masyarakat di kalangan pemuda yang merupakan pengguna aktif media sosial.

Upaya tersebut, lanjut Anthony, membuahkan hasil. Hal tersebut terlihat dari tingginya perolehan suara Prabowo-Gibran ketimbang pasangan calon lain berdasarkan hitung cepat atau quick count.

“Karena sasaran strategi media sosial kita sudah dilihat oleh ratusan juta dan mendapat engagement miliaran views,” kata dia.

Anthony menyebutkan jumlah perolehan suara Prabowo-Gibran menandakan kemenangan di depan mata.

Oleh karena itu, dia berharap Prabowo-Gibran dapat menjadi pemimpin yang bisa memenuhi ekspektasi masyarakat.

“Ini bukan hanya soal Prabowo-Gibran, melainkan masa depan Indonesia untuk menjadi negara maju,” kata Anthony.

Perolehan sementara berdasarkan website KPU https://pemilu2024.kpu.go.id/ pada hari Jumat pukul 15.58 WIB, pasangan Prabowo-Gibran telah mengantongi suara sebesar 57 persen.

Di posisi kedua ada pasangan Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar dengan perolehan suara sebesar 24,98 persen, kemudian posisi terakhir pasangan Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud Md. sebanyak 18.02 persen.

Pemilu 2024 meliputi Pemilu Presiden dan Wakil Presiden RI, Pemilu Anggota DPR RI, Pemilu Anggota DPD RI, pemilu anggota DPRD provinsi, dan pemilu anggota DPRD kabupaten/kota dengan daftar pemilih tetap (DPT) tingkat nasional sebanyak 204.807.222 pemilih.

Peserta pemilu anggota legislatif (pileg) sebanyak 18 partai politik nasional, yakni (sesuai dengan nomor urut) Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB), Partai Gerindra, PDI Perjuangan, Partai Golkar, Partai NasDem, Partai Buruh, dan Partai Gelora Indonesia.

Berikutnya Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), Partai Kebangkitan Nusantara (PKN), Partai Hanura, Partai Garuda, Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN), Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB), Partai Demokrat, Partai Solidaritas Indonesia (PSI), Partai Perindo, Partai Persatuan Pembangunan (PPP), dan Partai Ummat.

Selain itu, pileg juga diikuti enam partai politik lokal, yakni Partai Nanggroe Aceh, Partai Generasi Atjeh Beusaboh Tha’at dan Taqwa, Partai Darul Aceh, Partai Aceh, Partai Adil Sejahtera Aceh, dan Partai Soliditas Independen Rakyat Aceh.

Pada waktu yang sama, Rabu (14 Februari 2024), diselenggarakan pula Pemilu Presiden dan Wakil Presiden (Pilpres) 2024 yang diikuti pasangan Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar nomor urut 1, Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka nomor urut 2, dan Ganjar Pranowo-Mahfud Md. nomor urut 3.

Seturut Peraturan KPU Nomor 3 Tahun 2022, rekapitulasi suara nasional Pemilu 2024 dijadwalkan mulai 15 Februari hingga 20 Maret 2024. https://documentsemua.com/

KLHK dan PWI tanam mangrove di TWA Angke peringati Hari Pers Nasional

KLHK dan PWI tanam mangrove di TWA Angke peringati Hari Pers Nasional
Menteri LHK Siti Nurbaya (kedua kiri) bersama Ketua Umum PWI Pusat Hendry CH Bangun (kanan) dalam kegiatan penanaman mangrove di Jakarta, Sabtu (17/2/2024). ANTARA/HO-KLHK

Jakarta (ANTARA) – Kementerian Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan (KLHK) bersama Persatuan Wartawan Indonesia (PWI) melakukan penanaman mangrove di Taman Wisata Alam (TWA) Angke Kapuk Jakarta dalam rangka peringatan Hari Pers Nasional 2024.

“Menanam mangrove kali ini karena kita tahu bersama mangrove Indonesia merupakan mangrove terluas di dunia yang mencakup sekitar 23 persen dari keseluruhan luasan mangrove dunia,” ujar Menteri Lingkungan Hidup dan Kehutanan (LHK) Siti Nurbaya di Jakarta, Sabtu.

Penanaman mangrove itu dalam rangka memperingati Hari Pers Nasional (HPN) yang diperingati setiap 9 Februari dan tahun ini rangkaiannya diselenggarakan di Jakarta pada 17-20 Februari 2024 dengan tema “Mengawal Transisi Kepemimpinan Nasional dan Merawat Keutuhan Bangsa”.

Menteri LHK Siti Nurbaya bersama beberapa tokoh pers termasuk Ketua Umum PWI Pusat Hendry CH Bangun dan Ketua Dewan Penasihat PWI H Ilham Bintang menanam mangrove di area TWA Angke Kapuk yang merupakan kawasan konservasi alam sekaligus pariwisata alam di bawah pengelolaan Balai Konservasi SDA Jakarta.

Usai penanaman, Menteri LHK menyatakan terima kasih kepada insan pers memiliki kesadaran akan pelestarian alam khususnya mangrove.

Ia menyebutkan Kementerian LHK telah bertahun-tahun berkolaborasi dengan insan pers dalam mempublikasikan upaya penanaman pohon dalam peringatan Hari Pers Nasional, seperti di Kalimantan Selatan, Kalimantan Timur, Sulawesi Tenggara, dan saat ini di TWA Angke.

“Pers itu sangat penting bukan hanya untuk pemerintah, tetapi juga untuk kehidupan. Secara teori menurut Friedman peran pers antara lain sebagai story teller, social control, dan event shape. Tiga hal tersebut yang bisa memberikan pengaruh terhadap apa yang bisa dan akan terjadi dalam suatu negara. Jadi, peran pers sangat penting,” tutur Siti.

Dalam kesempatan itu, Ketua PWI Hendry CH Bangun merasa tersanjung diajaknya insan pers dalam menyukseskan kegiatan menanam pohon terutama mangrove yang menjadi salah satu kekayaan Bangsa Indonesia.

Ia setuju jika upaya pengelolaan lingkungan itu penting sekali dan apa yang sudah dilakukan oleh KLHK dalam menjaga lingkungan dan hutan Indonesia perlu disuarakan lebih luas lagi agar diketahui publik dengan baik.

“Kami melihat apa yang sudah dikelola ini sudah baik, tetapi ini belum banyak diketahui oleh masyarakat, ini memang tugas kami untuk memberitakan keberhasilan-keberhasilan upaya pemerintah, khususnya juga pada upaya perlindungan alam yang baik bagi kehidupan masyarakat,” ujarnya. https://documentsemua.com/

Prabowo Subianto: The tainted ex-military chief who will be Indonesia’s new leader

Prabowo Subianto
Image caption,The former military commander, seen here flashing ink-stained fingers to show he voted, has overcome a troubling human rights record

After two failed attempts, Prabowo Subianto has finally clawed his way into Indonesia’s ultimate seat of power.

The ex-military general, accused of rights abuses and war crimes during the dark days of the Suharto regime, has triumphed in a modern-day democratic vote.

Gone were the inflammatory, nationalist comments of his previous presidential runs; in the 2024 election he sold himself as a cute grandpa on TikTok, flashing heart signs and doddering around with a viral dance.

It worked for younger voters – a generation poorly informed of the country’s past under a military dictatorship.

Some on voting day even told the BBC they wanted a strongman in office – someone to carry on the policies of the widely adored outgoing President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo.

But others fear that the return of a military general – someone who was the son-in-law of Dictator Suharto – spells a slide back into dark days.

A privileged upbringing and dark past

The 72-year-old has a shocking human rights record according to both local and international rights observers.

He is most notorious for allegations he commanded a unit which abducted and tortured several democracy activists during the dying days of the Suharto regime in the late 1990s. Of the 23, some survived, one died and 13 remain missing.

He was fired from the army following this and went into self-exile in Jordan in the 2000s.

But he returned to Indonesia a few years later, building up his wealth in palm oil and mining before making the jump to politics.

It was a space he felt entitled to, some might say. Prabowo is a political blue blood, born into an elite family embedded in Indonesian politics.

His father was a renowned economist who held several trade and finance ministerships, and his grandfather formed the first state-owned bank in the country.

During his childhood he and his family lived in exile in Switzerland and England, after his father was accused of involvement with separatist groups in Sumatra.

When he returned to Indonesia in 1970, he enlisted in the military where he quickly rose up the ranks.

In the 1980s, he did several tours with a special forces unit fighting separatists in East Timor, now the country of Timor-Leste. Witnesses accuse him of committing atrocities both there and in Papua.

During this period he also moved into Suharto’s inner sanctum, marrying in 1983 one of the former dictator’s daughters, Siti Hediati Hariyadi. Their marriage lasted 15 years, ending around the same time of the regime’s collapse.

Prabowo at this time was commander of a special forces unit accused of the activists’ abductions. While he was sacked, charges were never brought against him.

He later admitted to the kidnapping of those who survived; but the families of the missing are still protesting for answers.

In the chaotic last days of Suharto, he also instigated race riots in the capital Jakarta, directing anger at the Chinese ethnic minority, critics say. He has always denied these allegations.

After Suharto’s fall, he fled to Jordan, keeping a low profile as Indonesia pulled itself into a democratic age in the new millennium.

The ex-military figure was banned from entering the US and Australia at this point, on a blacklist for his human rights record. That ban was lifted only in recent years.

Prabowo Subianto and other men dressed in military uniform in East Timor in the late 1970s
Image caption,Prabowo in East Timor in the late 1970s

Prabowo made his comeback shortly before the 2004 elections, starting his own party and then dealing with coalitions to get his foot on the ladder.

In 2014 and 2019, he went head-to-head against his bitter enemy Jokowi in fierce presidential races. He lost both times.

But after violent protests from his supporters in the wake of his loss in 2019 – 10 people died in riots – Jokowi made a deal, bringing him into his government and installing him as defence minister.

He was free to travel then – from Paris to Washington and Beijing – as a senior Indonesian official. The Western sanctions vanished.

Rights advocates at the time warned how his elevation into a senior position legitimised his position in Indonesian governance.

“Prabowo’s appointment sends a worrying signal that our leaders have forgotten the darkest days and the worst violations committed in the Suharto era,” Amnesty International’s Indonesia director Usman Hamid said at the time.

“When Prabowo was at the helm of our special forces, activists disappeared and there were numerous allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.”

Prabowo has been pressed several times on his dark past. He denies most of the accusations and when he does admit to a crime – like the abductions – he falls back on the classic soldier defence: that he was only taking orders.

“It was my superiors who told me what to do,” he said during one presidential debate in 2014.

His rebranding for the 2024 vote was one part of the winning strategy.

But most crucially he received the backing of his former enemy, Jokowi, when the outgoing leader put his son on Prabowo’s ticket.

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court had to amend electoral rules in allowing the 36-year-old Gibran Rakabuming Raka to be the vice-presidential running mate for Prabowo. Previously, only those aged over 40 were eligible. Jokowi’s brother-in-law is the Chief Justice on the court and cast the deciding vote.

Prabowo and his running partner Gibran claim victory in Jakarta
Image caption,Prabowo and his running partner Gibran claim victory in Jakarta

Protesters in the lead up to Wednesday’s election accused Jokowi of abuse of power and electoral interference. They argue he just wanted to retain his influence in politics.

It was a good deal for Prabowo. Many voters told the BBC they trusted whomever Jokowi endorsed.

On Wednesday, the unofficial tallies showed this strategy had worked. Prabowo pulled ahead quickly in the counting, with nearly 60% of the vote in the first round, precluding any need for a run-off.

During his victory speech he addressed thousands of supporters in the stadium, making light references to the past. He reminisced about his lunches with Suharto.

A leader from that era has now returned to power in Indonesia.

For many freedom fighters, what was once unthinkable has come to pass. https://documentsemua.com/

X accused of taking payments from terrorists

A person holding a phone with the X logo on the screen

Elon Musk’s X, formerly Twitter, granted subscription perks to designated terrorist groups and others barred from operating in the US, according to campaigners.

The Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found X had granted blue check marks to accounts tied to Hezbollah members, among others.

For $8 (£6.40) a month, a tick allows longer posts and better promotion.

X removed some ticks after the report, saying its security was “robust”.

Mr Musk’s decision to charge for check marks was one of the most controversial changes he made after he bought Twitter in 2022, with critics saying the move would make issues of disinformation worse, opening the platform to impersonators.

The badge was previously free, meant to indicate that the social media platform had verified the identity behind the account.

Many of the recipients were journalists, as well as world leaders and celebrities.

In some cases, those included people facing sanctions in the US, which opened the company to criticism that it was giving a platform to the wrong people and accusations that it was breaking US sanctions law.

Now that the system is paid, however, “X may be raising new legal issues,” the Tech Transparency Project said.

It said X had removed the ticks from the accounts it had identified after its report was published.

The TTP said an account run by Ansar Allah, known as the Houthis, had also seemingly paid for its blue check mark. The check mark has now been removed. The account has over 23,000 followers. The Houthis are sanctioned in both the US and UK. The UK government says on its website that it has sanctioned the Houthis “to disrupt their ability to attack international shipping in the Red Sea, and to promote Yemen’s peace, stability and security”.

The US Treasury, which outlines organisations the US will not trade with, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

“The U.S. imposes sanctions on individuals, groups, and countries deemed to be a threat to national security. Elon Musk’s X appears to be selling premium service to some of them”, the TTP wrote in its report.

“A blue checkmark account that bears the name and profile image of Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, also indicates it is ‘ID verified’, a service that X offers to premium subscribers as a way to prevent impersonation. X requires users to submit a government-issued ID and a selfie to get verified in this way, though it is unclear if Nasrallah did so”, it added.

Posting on X, the firm’s team in charge of safety wrote that its subscription process was “adhering to legal obligations”, and was independently screened by X’s payment providers.

“Several of the accounts listed in the Tech Transparency Report are not directly named on sanction lists, while some others may have visible account check marks without receiving any services that would be subject to sanctions”, X wrote, adding that the firm would “take action if necessary” after reviewing TTP’s report.

The TTP responded to the post saying even though some of the organisations were not named on the US sanctions list, they were owned by entities that are under US sanctions.

The director of the TTP Katie Paul told the New York Times that it was a sign that X had “lost control of its platform”.

The owner of X, Elon Musk – who is also the chief executive of Tesla and one of the world’s richest people – has previously said that he wants the social media platform to be like a “town square”, advocating the right to free speech, while also removing illegal content.

But some decisions following Mr Musk’s takeover of X have been controversial, including the reinstatement of rapper Kanye West’s account in 2023 after an almost eight-month ban over offensive posts including antisemitic comments.

The TTP identified other accounts that had seemingly paid-for subscription accounts, including one belonging to NTV, a state-controlled television channel in Russia. The US made trade with Russia illegal after its invasion of Ukraine. https://documentsemua.com/