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Security plan for Gaza aid workers still unclear with military pier to open soon

YOAV LEMMER/AFP via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Biden administration's plan to begin operating a pier next month off the Gaza coast to enable millions of humanitarian aid packages a day still faces several unresolved logistical issues, including who will provide security to the United Nations aid workers willing to distribute the supplies, officials say.

The ongoing discussions are pushing the project down to the wire, which is scheduled to be up and running by early May.

"The safety and security of our humanitarian partners is the most important thing," Sonali Korde, assistant administer to the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development, told reporters this week during a briefing on humanitarian efforts in Gaza.

"It's absolutely vital, and they need to feel safe and secure," Korde said.

President Joe Biden ordered the military in March to build the pier after experts warned Gaza was on the brink of famine.

U.S. military ships have already arrived in the Mediterranean, carrying the heavy equipment to construct the giant floating pier and causeway. Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday those vessels are "standing by," ready to begin construction when ordered.

Another major hurdle was cleared in recent days when USAID announced the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) agreed to distribute the aid from the pier so long as certain conditions are met.

Cooperation from the U.N. aid group was key to the project moving ahead because Biden has mandated that no U.S. troops or private American contractors operate from the ground in Gaza.

But while the U.S. military can build the pier relatively quickly -- much as it did in 2010 off the coast of Haiti following an earthquake -- officials have spent weeks wrangling over how to operate a massive humanitarian hub in the middle of a war zone.

According to one U.N. official, there have been lengthy discussions on the pier's precise location and where it might be most effective. It's also unclear how long the pier will need to be used.

On security, the U.N. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to describe internal deliberations, said the U.N. wants to rely on its own security to protect World Food Program staff, not the Israeli military. The primary concern, the person said, was to maintain neutrality in the conflict.

The Israel Defense Forces currently manage checkpoints into Gaza and provide security for designated "humanitarian corridors" that enable U.N. trucks to travel north.

"Given the catastrophic hunger situation in Gaza, WFP is open to exploring any opportunity to safely reach people in desperate need," the WFP wrote in a statement. But any final agreement must set conditions "that allow for safe, sustained, and scaled up assistance to reach people in need," the WFP added.

More than 200 humanitarian aid workers have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank since the beginning of the war on Oct. 7. Among those killed were seven aid workers with the World Central Kitchen in a strike on April 1 that Israeli forces said was a grave mistake.

USAID's Korde acknowledged the security concerns in a press briefing Tuesday.

"We're very cognizant … that the U.N. needs to maintain its principles of neutrality and independence and access throughout Gaza," Korde said.

"We're trying to abide by those principles and make sure that everyone involved has the safety and security they need," she added.

Since the Israeli strike that killed seven aid workers, and under pressure from Biden, Israel has dramatically increased the flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza, allowing on average 200 aid trucks a day, according to the State Department.

U.S. officials said this week that more needs to be done to improve the distribution of aid, provide potable water, and get lifesaving medicine to civilians. Administration officials also say they are pressing Israel to be clearer about which items included in humanitarian packages will be prohibited so that shipments don't get held up by Israeli security.

David Satterfield, the State Department's special envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues, told reporters at the briefing that the U.S. has made clear to Israel that the military pier and maritime aid route needs to be done in addition to -- not in lieu of -- keeping ground checkpoints open to aid trucks.

"There is no question that the most efficient and effective ways to deliver assistance is by as many land corridors as possible," Satterfield said.

When asked if the Israel Defense Forces would agree to the U.N. providing its own security, a spokesperson for the Israeli military declined to comment.

Both the Pentagon and USAID say that even with discussions underway, the project is still on track to become operational in early May.

"This is a complex operation that requires coordination between many partners, and our conversations are ongoing," a USAID spokesperson wrote in a statement.

ABC News' Phoebe Natanson, Dana Savir, Desiree Adib, Matt Seyler, and Kirit Radia contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US to withdraw troops from Niger after military deal revoked

FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- The United States and Niger are discussing plans to withdraw American troops from the West African nation, ending more than a decade of U.S. military presence in the country.

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed during Tuesday's press briefing that "discussions have begun between the United States and Niger for the orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country."

"In the near future, the Department of Defense will provide a small delegation from the Pentagon and U.S. Africa Command to participate in those discussions," Ryder said, adding that the U.S. will continue to work with nations throughout the region to address terror threats.

The U.S. has yet to announce a timeline for when it will pull out the more than 1,000 military personnel stationed at an American drone base in the Sahara desert near the Nigerien city of Agadez. Videos circulating on social media over the weekend showed hundreds of people marching through the streets of Agadez to protest the U.S. military presence.

Niger's ruling military junta, which ousted the democratically elected government in July 2023, announced its decision last month to immediately revoke a 2012 military cooperation deal with the U.S. following contentious meetings between high-level officials on both sides in the Nigerian capital of Niamey.

The American delegation had raised "concerns over Niger's potential relationships with Russia and Iran, as well as the status of U.S. forces in the country," according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

But the spokesperson for Niger's junta, Col. Amadou Abdramane, denounced what he called a "condescending attitude combined with the threat of reprisals by the head of the American delegation against the people of Niger." He accused the U.S. of failing to adhere to democratic protocol by trying to "deny the sovereign Nigerien people the right to choose their partners and types of partnerships capable of truly helping them fight against terrorism."

The development came just months after Niger’s former colonizer, France, heeded the junta’s demands and withdrew French troops from the country amid a shifting geopolitical landscape in Africa's arid Sahel region.

Niger has long been a key ally to the U.S., France and other Western nations in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel, south of the Sahara. But as Niger's military government moves to sever those ties, the country – and others in the region – has been increasingly turning to Russia to deal with security threats. Earlier this month, the initial deployment of some 100 officers from Russia’s newly established African Corps arrived in Niger.

The paramilitary unit, which is under direct supervision of the Russian Ministry of Defense and is believed to be rebranded from the infamous but now defunct Wagner Group, said they are there to "develop military cooperation between Russia and Niger" and will "train" Nigerien military personnel.

While testifying before Congress on March 7, the commander of the U.S. African Command, Gen. Michael Langley, warned of Russia's growing influence in the Sahel, saying "a number of countries are at the tipping point of actually being captured by the Russian Federation."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that "Russia reaffirms its commitment to helping African countries strengthen their sovereignty and security in all aspects and dimensions."

ABC News' Matt Seyler contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Loose horses, one soaked in blood, wreak havoc in central London

Two horses on the loose bolt through the streets of London near Aldwych. Picture date: Wednesday April 24, 2024. (Jordan Pettitt/PA Images via Getty Images)

(LONDON) -- As many as five horses -- and at least one of them soaked in blood -- have caused chaos across central London on Wednesday morning after breaking free in Westminster, police say.

“We are aware of a number of horses that are currently loose in central London and are working with colleagues, including the Army, to locate them,” Westminster Police said in a statement on social media on Wednesday morning.

Early reports indicate that the horses may have come from the Household Calvary, the ceremonial guard of the British monarch, in Westminster.

One of the horses reportedly ran into the front of a double decker bus while another injured horse was seen bloodied and running through central London traffic.

The Household Calvary is made up of regiments of the British Army and are responsible for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.

It is unclear how long the incident went on for but the horses are thought to have run approximately 6 miles before being contained by authorities in east London.

“We're pleased to confirm that all of the horses have been accounted for,” Westminster Police said in a statement on social media. “We are continuing to liaise with the Army.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Israel-Gaza live updates: IDF denies mass grave claims

Palestinian medics rush to the site of an Israeli strike on al-Bureij camp in the central Gaza Strip on April 22, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Israel launched a retaliatory strike against Iran early Friday morning local time, a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The strike followed Iran's attack on Saturday, when Tehran sent a volley of more than 300 drones and missiles toward targets in Israel, according to Israeli military officials. All but a few were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the United States, officials said.

Iran's weekend attack came more than six months after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, after which the Israeli military began its bombardment of Gaza.

Here's how the news is developing:

Apr 23, 5:29 PM
Highest number of trucks since Oct. 7 entered Gaza Tuesday: UNRWA

More than 310 aid trucks entered Gaza Tuesday, the highest number of aid vehicles that have entered Gaza since the Israel-Hamas conflict began, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

"It needs now to be sustained & further increased," the agency said in a statement.

The UNRWA, which has been critical of the aid effort in Gaza, reiterated its calls for increased access for humanitarian groups to prevent famine in the region.

-ABC News' Will Gretsky

Apr 23, 3:22 PM
State Department: Time to move past 'counting trucks' in Gaza

Israel has dramatically increased the flow of humanitarian supplies into Gaza, allowing on average 200 aid trucks a day, with some days as many as 400 trucks getting through, according to a top U.S. official.

Now, the focus needs to move beyond "counting trucks" and instead look to ensure the right supplies are being distributed throughout Gaza, according to David Satterfield, the State Department’s special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues.

"Our first priority was -- because it had to be -- averting famine," Satterfield told reporters on Tuesday. "But we now need to move on beyond that goal to addressing the true needs: sanitation, availability of medicines, availability of potable water, the specialized care required for these vulnerable populations."

The United Nations this week is conducting a more detailed assessment on the needs for the civilian population, Satterfield said.

He said the U.N. needs more trucks that are cleared by the Israeli military to operate inside Gaza. He also said the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel and an additional northern crossing must become accessible.

"Our work is focused every day, every hour, on seeing continuous progress made," he said.

Apr 23, 11:36 AM
Israel responds to report released on UNRWA

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, is claiming that more than 2,135 workers at UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, are members of Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

"Hamas has infiltrated UNRWA so deeply that it is no longer possible to determine where UNRWA ends and where Hamas begins," Erdan said. "Israel calls on the donor countries to refrain from transferring their taxpayers' money to UNRWA-Gaza, as these funds will go to the Hamas terrorist organization, and that violates legislation in the donor countries themselves."

This comes after an independent review of UNRWA released on Monday found the agency had policies in place to back up its principle of neutrality, but also found UNRWA had "serious gaps in implementation," The Associated Press reported. The report made recommendations to improve the agency’s neutrality.

The report also found that Israel hadn’t provided evidence to back up its claim that a significant number of UNRWA employees were members of Hamas or PIJ, the AP said.

Apr 23, 11:33 AM
IDF denies mass grave claims

The Israel Defense Forces has denied accusations from the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry that they buried at least 283 bodies in a mass grave near Nasser Hospital in Gaza.

"The claim that the IDF buried Palestinian bodies is baseless and unfounded,” the IDF said in a statement. "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 IDF said. "Bodies examined, which did not belong to Israeli hostages, were returned to their place."

Apr 22, 3:11 PM
Iran calls Israel’s attack 'harassment' that 'caused no damage whatsoever'

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani called Israel’s retaliatory strike against Iran last week "harassment" that has "caused no damage whatsoever."

"In our opinion, this issue is not worthy of addressing," Kanaani said Monday.

Apr 22, 2:58 PM
State Department considers Gaza a 'severe humanitarian crisis'

The State Department has released its annual assessment of human rights across the globe.

The U.S. assessed that Israelis have killed or injured nearly 80,000 Palestinians in Gaza -- accounting for 3% of the population.

The State Department stressed that Israel "must conduct military operations in accordance with international law and take every feasible precaution to protect civilians."

"We continue to urgently raise concerns surrounding the deaths of and injuries to tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable persons," the U.S. said. "We repeatedly have pressed concerns about Palestinian civilians’ access to humanitarian assistance, displacement of the majority of the population of Gaza, and the unprecedented number of journalists killed."

The U.S. continues to review allegations that Israel violated international laws of war in Gaza and the West Bank, and part of that review will look into whether U.S. weapons were involved, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference Monday.

Blinken said the process will be fair, whether a country is "an adversary or competitor, a friend or an ally."

-ABC News’ Chris Boccia

Apr 22, 5:36 AM
Israeli intelligence chief resigns over Oct. 7

Maj. Gen. Aharon Haliva, the head of Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate, has submitted his resignation in the wake of the Oct. 7 surprise terror attack, the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday.

"The Chief of the General Staff thanked Major General Aharon Haliva for his 38 years of service in the IDF, during which he made significant contributions to the security of the State of Israel as both a combat soldier and commander," IDF officials said in a post on social media.

Apr 22, 5:19 AM
US drops 50,000 meals over Northern Gaza

The U.S. military on Sunday dropped 50,688 ready-to-eat meals into northern Gaza, Central Command said.

The humanitarian aid, which was dropped from four Air Force aircraft, brings the total U.S. assistance supplied by air to about 1,001 tons, CENTCOM said.

"The DoD humanitarian airdrops contribute to ongoing U.S. and partner-nation government efforts to alleviate human suffering," CENTCOM said on social media. "These airdrops are part of a sustained effort, and we continue to plan follow-on aerial deliveries."

Apr 22, 3:29 AM
Three injured in 'ramming terror attack' in Jerusalem, police say

Three people were "lightly" injured after being struck by a vehicle in a "ramming terror attack," Israeli police said on Monday morning. The two suspects allegedly fled the scene.

The pedestrians were struck at about 8 a.m. on Mordechai Tekhelet Street, police said.

"Immediately afterward, two terrorists emerged from the vehicle armed with 'Carlo' type weapon, and attempted to open fire, unsuccessfully," police said.

Investigators recovered a weapon from the area following the incident, police said.

Apr 21, 6:09 PM
Israeli Defense Minister responds to potential US sanctions on IDF battalion

Israel's Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant held a discussion with IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi regarding the developing report on U.S. intentions to impose sanctions against the IDF’s Netzach Yehuda battalion, an Israeli military unit operating in the West Bank.

"Any attempt to criticize an entire unit casts a heavy shadow on the actions of the IDF, which operates to protect the citizens of Israel," Gallant said in a statement. "Damage to one battalion, affects the entire defense establishment – this is not the right path for partners and friends."

Gallant urged the U.S. not to impose sanctions on the unit.

"Our friends and our enemies are closely watching the ties between Israel and the United States, now more than ever," Gallant said. "I call on the U.S. Administration to withdraw its intention to impose sanctions on the Netzach Yehuda battalion."

Amid reports of possible sanctions, Gallant recently completed a call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Earlier today, Minister Gallant also held a discussion with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew.

Apr 21, 1:38 PM
22 reported dead in strikes on Rafah: Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry

Two strikes were launched on the southern Gaza town of Rafah, killing 22 people, including 18 children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

At least one blast occurred at the Al-Shabora refugee camp in Rafah, a spokesperson for the Kuwait Hospital in Rafah told ABC News.

The hospital spokesperson told ABC News doctors were able to rescue an unborn baby whose mother was killed in the blast at Al-Shabora camp. Officials identified the mother as Sabreen Mohamed Al-Sakani.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the strikes, telling ABC News, "At the given times, the IDF struck several military targets of the terrorist organizations in Gaza including military compounds, launch posts and armed terrorists."

Apr 21, 11:23 AM
14 'terrorists' killed in dayslong West Bank raid: IDF

Israeli forces have withdrawn after a dayslong raid in the Nur Shams area of the Tulkarm camp in the West Bank left 14 "terrorists" dead, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel Border Police forces "completed extensive counterterrorism activity based on IDF and ISA (Israel Security Authority) intelligence in the area of Nur Shams," the IDF said in a statement.

During the raid, which began Friday, "the forces eliminated 14 terrorists in close-quarters combat, apprehended 15 wanted suspects, seized numerous weapons, and destroyed dozens of explosive devices as well as two terror explosives laboratories," according to the IDF statement.

The IDF said all of the terrorists were killed during fire exchanges with Israeli forces.

Since the raid started, nine IDF soldiers and an Israel Border Police officer were "lightly to moderately" injured in the fighting, according to the IDF.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society, the first responder service in the West Bank, also said 14 people were killed as a result of the raid.

Apr 20, 6:05 PM
Netanyahu responds after Blinken says US may impose sanctions on IDF

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the department will be announcing his determinations regarding the Israel Defense Forces under the Leahy Law -- which empowers the secretary of state to withhold funding from units of a foreign military accused of human rights violations -- "in the coming days."

The State Department could announce sanctions against the IDF and withhold aid to the military.

"I think it's fair to say that you'll see results very soon. I've made determinations, you can expect to see them in the days ahead," he told press gathered for G7 meetings.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a statement on X saying sanctions must not be imposed on the IDF.

"In recent weeks, I have been working against the imposition of sanctions on Israeli citizens, including in my conversations with senior American government officials. At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose a sanction on a unit in the IDF is the height of absurdity and a moral low," Netanyahu said Saturday.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Over 4,000 IVF embryos destroyed in 1 shelling at Gaza's largest fertility center, director says

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(NEW YORK) -- A single explosion resulting from an Israeli shelling in December destroyed more than 5,000 specimens in Gaza's largest and oldest IVF clinic, according to the director of the medical center.

An estimate of 4,000 embryos and an additional 1,000 specimens of sperm and unfertilized eggs stored at the Al Basma center in Gaza City were lost, Dr. Bahaeldeen Ghalayini, the founder and director of the clinic, told ABC News.

Among these were the embryos of 45-year-old Najwa Abu Hamada.

"Najwa came to our center in 2022. She had lost her 19-year-old son Khalil in a bombing near their home in Jabalia refugee camp. He was her only child and born after many failed IVF attempts," said Dr. Ghalayini. "She was devastated. We did two operations free of charge for her, we froze her embryos."

Abu Hamada started to prepare for her impregnation in 2023 but once the war started, the clinic had to pause everything.

Lawsuit alleges negligence in hiring of maintenance man accused of torturing resident
In February, Dr. Ghalayini received a call from Abu Hamada. "I had to give her the devastating news that her embryos were destroyed," he recalled. "This was her only chance in life."

Similar to Abu Hamada, the singular shell destroyed the hopes and dreams of many women struggling with infertility in Gaza, another face of the suffering that the female population of the strip has experienced since the aftermath of Oct. 7, when Israel began a retaliatory attack after Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack in southern Israel.

Over 10,000 women have been killed in Gaza since the war began, an April report from UN Women estimated. The unsanitary conditions, as well as limited assess to food and clean water, make pregnant women and their children, particularly vulnerable to complications and significant health risks.

Dr. Ghalayini, 73, founded Al Basma in 1997, after being inspired by the work of his teachers, "I trained with the pioneers of in vitro fertilization, Mr. Patrick Steptoe and Professor Robert Edwards at the world's first IVF clinic in 1983," he told ABC News. The pioneering work of Steptoe and Edwards led to the first baby born via in vitro fertilization in 1978.

Al Basma was developed to become the main fertility center in Gaza, with over half of the treatments being carried out in the center. "We had an average of 60-70 patients a month in the last 5 or 6 years. Before that, it was 100 patients a month. We treated 50% of the patients of Gaza, while the remaining half were divided among the other eight [fertility centers]," Ghalayini told ABC News.

"We developed dramatically over the years despite Gaza being under Israeli siege," 37-year-old Mohammed Ajjour, Al Basma's chief embryologist and IVF lab director, said.

Due to the Israeli military onslaught, Dr. Ghalayini decided to close the center last November. "We told the patients who were due for an operation we will aspirate their eggs and freeze them because of the war. We estimate there were roughly 4,000 embryos and 1,000 eggs and sperm specimens stored in the nitrogen tanks at Al Basma."

Ghalayini said there was shelling at Al Basma and the surrounding area in early December.

"All the equipment was destroyed. When one shell entered the embryology lab, it damaged everything. It blew up the liquid nitrogen tanks, which held the embryos, eggs and sperm. Everything was gone," said Dr. Ghalayini.

Pictures of the clinic in April show the extent of the destruction, with the embryology lab reduced to rubble.

"We don't know if this was a deliberate targeting or not," Ajjour added. "I want to emphasize the point that while this is a very ugly, inhumane and unprovoked act, it is part of a comprehensive, collective and harsh punishment borne by Palestinian civilians. It does not compare to the horrors of what is happening to them but fits in the larger pattern of loss and destruction."

The Israel Defense Forces told ABC News the attack on the center is still being investigated.

Both men are pleading for a permanent cease-fire.

Ajjour has an extra plea. "I'm asking fertility organizations around the world, which lead in humanitarian work as we all work for humanity, to please help us. The extent of destruction is so vast that we will not be able to rebuild and provide what we did before without their support. Just as they helped the Ukrainians in the Russian-Ukraine war – we have seen the stories of the help that was extended to the IVF clinics there. Help us too. "

As for GhaIayini, he is committed to supporting his 50 employees financially and is also working on raising funds to open a branch of Al Basma in Egypt or Qatar to support his center in Gaza.

"The Palestinian people, who have been occupied for more than 70 years, have to be free. We want the free world to make us free, to help us go back to our homes so we can live in peace and safety."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

UK approves bill to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda

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(LONDON) -- The United Kingdom approved controversial legislation on Tuesday that allows the government to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda, with deportation flights expected to start this summer.

The so-called Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill completed its passage through the U.K. Parliament in the early morning after almost eight hours of debate overnight, clearing the way for it to soon receive royal assent and become law. The legislation, which aims to deter migrants from entering the U.K. illegally via small boats with hopes of claiming asylum once they reach the shore, had been stalled in Parliament for two months as lawmakers in both houses repeatedly proposed and rejected amendments.

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who described the bill as "landmark legislation," has promised that the first flights deporting illegal migrants to Rwanda, where their asylum claims will be processed, would take off in 10 to 12 weeks.

"We introduced the Rwanda Bill to deter vulnerable migrants from making perilous crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs who exploit them," Sunak said in a statement Tuesday. "The passing of this legislation will allow us to do that and make it very clear that if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay. I am clear that nothing will stand in our way of doing that and saving lives."

Rwanda is "pleased" by the U.K. Parliament's approval of the bill and "look[s] forward to welcoming those relocated to Kigali," according to Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo.

"It doesn't alter what we have always known to be true: we have worked hard over the last 30 years to make Rwanda a safe and secure country for Rwandans and non-Rwandans alike," Makolo said in a statement Tuesday.

The idea was first proposed in 2022 by former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who signed a multi-million-dollar partnership with the Rwandan government introducing the idea to have illegal migrants with asylum applications "deemed inadmissible by the U.K." flown to Rwanda instead. But the U.K. Supreme Court blocked the deportation flights last November, finding the plan "unlawful" because the government couldn't guarantee the safety of those being transferred to Rwanda.

In response, the U.K. signed a new treaty with Rwanda that increased protections for migrants and then, last December, proposed the current legislation, which declares the East African nation to be "safe" for asylum seekers.

Top officials from the United Nations released a joint statement on Tuesday calling on the U.K. to reconsider its plan, which they warned will have a "harmful impact" on human rights and refugee protection.

"The new legislation marks a further step away from the U.K.'s long tradition of providing refuge to those in need, in breach of the Refugee Convention," said Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "Protecting refugees requires all countries – not just those neighboring crisis zones – to uphold their obligations. This arrangement seeks to shift responsibility for refugee protection, undermining international cooperation and setting a worrying global precedent."

"By shifting responsibility for refugees, reducing the U.K.'s courts' ability to scrutinise removal decisions, restricting access to legal remedies in the UK and limiting the scope of domestic and international human rights protections for a specific group of people, this new legislation seriously hinders the rule of law in the U.K. and sets a perilous precedent globally," added Volker Türk, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. "It is critical to the protection of the human rights and dignity of refugees and migrants seeking protection that all removals from the U.K. are carried out after assessing their specific individual circumstances in strict compliance with international human rights and refugee law."

Just hours after the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill's approval, French authorities announced Tuesday that five people, including a child, had died while trying to cross the English Channel from France to the U.K.

The U.K. government is prepared to face a "whole range of legal challenges" to the new policy that may arise, according to British Minister of State for Countering Illegal Migration Michael Tomlinson.

"We need to get the flights off the ground, and that's when we will see the deterrent effect kick in," Tomlinson told BBC News on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Two Malaysia Navy helicopters collide mid-air killing all 10 crew members on board

Emergency personnel work at the site of helicopter crash in Lumut, Perak, Malaysia on April 23, 2024. (Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia / Handout/Anadolu via Getty Images)

(LONDON) -- Two Malaysian navy helicopters have collided in mid-air killing all 10 crew members aboard the two aircraft, according to a statement from the Royal Malaysian Navy on Tuesday.

Video on social media shows the moment of impact between the two helicopters as parts of both helicopters, including the rotor, flying off.

The circumstances that led up to the crash are currently unclear.

There are no known survivors from the crash.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince Louis, son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, celebrates sixth birthday

Prince Louis, accompanied by his parents the Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrive for a settling in afternoon at Lambrook School, near Ascot on Sept. 7, 2022 in Bracknell, England. (Jonathan Brady - Pool/Getty Images)

(LONDON) -- Prince Louis, the youngest child of Prince William and Kate, the princess of Wales, and younger sibling of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, is 6.

Six years ago, on April 23, 2018, the prince, whose full name is Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Wales, was born at 11:01 a.m., local time.

The young prince, a grandson of King Charles III, made his first public appearance just seven hours after his birth, when William and Kate brought him outside St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

In the years since, Louis has been known to steal the spotlight at royal events.

In 2022, Louis captured the public's eye when he animatedly stood next to his great-grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during her Platinum Jubilee.

Later on at the jubilee's Platinum Pageant, Louis' display of facial expressions, waving and even at times screaming, prompted William and Kate to caption a video montage of the event, "We all had an incredible time, especially Louis…," followed by an emoji of watchful eyes.

The next year, in 2023, Louis had his turn in the spotlight again at Charles' coronation, where he was seen dancing, waving and, at times, yawning.

Just after the coronation, in early May, Louis marked a royal milestone, attending his first royal engagement.

The then-5-year-old was seen trying archery and shoveling alongside Kate as they were joined by William, George and Charlotte in helping to renovate a hut for a scout troop during the Big Help Out, a coronation event meant to encourage people to volunteer in their communities.

Louis' birthday this year comes at a less celebratory time for the royal family, which has two members battling cancer.

Louis' mom, Kate, announced in March that she was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy.

Just one month earlier, in February, Buckingham Palace announced that Charles was diagnosed with cancer and had begun treatment.

The palace has not specified Charles' type of cancer, the stage of cancer or the type of treatment.

Likewise, Kensington Palace has not shared details on the type of cancer Kate was diagnosed with. She said in a video message that the cancer was discovered in post-operative tests after her planned abdominal surgery in mid-January.

In announcing her cancer, Kate asked for privacy for her family. The palace has said only that Kate will return to public duties once she is medically cleared to do so.

After taking time off during their children's Easter school holiday, William returned to work on April 18, visiting a food charity in his first royal engagement back since Kate's announcement.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Israel-Gaza updates: Israelis fired three missiles in limited strike

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(NEW YORK) -- Israel, early Friday morning local time, launched a retaliatory strike against Iran, a senior U.S. official told ABC News.

The strike follow Iran's attack last Saturday, where the country sent a volley of more than 300 uncrewed drones and missiles toward targets throughout the country, Israeli military officials previously said. All but a few were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the United States, officials said.

Iran's attack came more than six months after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, after which the Israeli military began its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country's war cabinet have met several times since the Iran strikes, and as ABC News previously reported, at least two strikes were previously aborted.

Here's how the news is developing:

Apr 19, 12:22 PM
G7 foreign ministers: Iran should be held accountable for 'malicious and destabilizing actions'

The foreign ministers at the G7 meeting in Capri, Italy, issued a lengthy statement condemning Iran’s weekend attack on Israel.

"We, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and the High Representative of the European Union, condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel of April 13-14, which Israel defeated with the help of its partners. This was a dangerous escalation, as Iran fired hundreds of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones," the leaders said.

"We will hold the Iranian government accountable for its malicious and destabilizing actions and we stand ready to adopt further sanctions or take other measures, now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives," the leaders said.

They added, "In light of reports of strikes on April 19th [from Israel to Iran], we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation."

The G7 leaders also called on Israel to do more to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

-ABC News’ Anne Flaherty

Apr 19, 11:24 AM
House votes to advance foreign aid bills, including $26B for Israel

The House on Friday cleared a key procedural hurdle in passing foreign aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan, despite dozens of Republican defections, with Democrats helping Speaker Mike Johnson avoid a defeat.

The Israel bill would provide roughly $26 billion in aid.

Its passage means the House will debate the bills Saturday morning before voting Saturday afternoon to send it to the Senate.

Apr 19, 11:08 AM
Israelis fired 3 missiles in limited strike

Three missiles were fired from Israeli fighter aircraft outside of Iran in Friday morning’s very limited strike, according to a senior U.S. official.

The Israelis were targeting an air defense radar site near Isfahan that’s part of the protection of the Natanz nuclear facility, the official said. The first assessment is that the strike took out the site, but assessment hasn’t been completed, the official said.

The strike was intended to send a signal to Iran that Israel has these capabilities, but was not looking to escalate the situation, according to the official.

Apr 19, 7:46 AM
Blinken says US 'not involved' in Israel's strike on Iran

United States Secretary of State Antony has denied any U.S. involvement in Israel's retaliatory strike on Iran.

Blinken was asked at a press conference early Friday morning if Israel told the United States in advance of the strikes in Iran.

“I’m not going to respond,” Blinken said. He went on to say that “the U.S. was not involved in any U.S. offensive.”

Apr 19, 4:14 AM
No damage to Iran’s nuclear sites after Israeli strike: IAEA

Iran's nuclear sites have not been damaged by Israel's strike on Iran early Friday morning, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a statement released on social media, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi says he "continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts."

Apr 19, 12:49 AM
Flight operations resume in Iran: State media

After suspending flights at several airports following reports of an explosion in Iran, Iranian state media said early Friday normal operations have resumed.

Apr 18, 10:31 PM
Flights to Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz suspended after reports of explosion in Iran: Iranian state media

Flights to Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz have been suspended following reports an explosion was heard in the city of Qahjavaristan, Iranian state media reported.

The city of Qahjavaristan is located near Isfahan Airport and the 8th Shekhari Base of the Army Air Force in the northwest of Isfahan.

Apr 18, 9:27 PM
Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran

A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran. The official could not confirm whether Syria and Iraq sites were hit as well.

Apr 18, 4:19 PM
In meeting with Israelis, US officials 'expressed concerns' over Rafah

In a Thursday meeting between U.S. and Israeli officials, the two sides discussed the attack by Iran as well as the Israeli military's plans for an operation in Rafah in Gaza, according to the White House.

During the meeting, the "U.S. participants expressed concerns with various courses of action in Rafah," according to a White House readout.

"Israeli participants agreed to take these concerns into account and to have further follow up discussions between experts, overseen by the U.S.-Israel Strategic Consultative Group," and the officials agreed to meet again "soon," according to the White House.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan convened the meeting and the Israeli side was led by Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer and national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi.

Apr 18, 2:38 PM
Israel makes significant process in preparations for Rafah evacuations: Source

Israel has made significant progress in preparations for the evacuation of around 1 million civilians from Rafah ahead of the Israeli military’s impending operation in the southern Gaza city, according to an Israeli source.

Preparations have been ongoing for over a month, including repairing water and sewage pipes and amassing thousands of tents, the source said

There are around 1.5 million Palestinians estimated to be in the Khan Younis and Rafah areas in southern Gaza. It’s believed around 1 million people would evacuate north. The evacuation process, which could take weeks, would not start until after Passover.

State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel stressed to reporters that "any kind of forced relocation or displacement of the Palestinian people within Gaza cannot and should not be part of any plan or an operation."

Apr 18, 12:52 PM
US, Israeli officials to hold high-level meeting on Rafah plans

U.S. and Israeli officials will hold a high-level, virtual meeting on Thursday about alternative plans for an Israeli military operation in Rafah, a White House official confirmed to ABC News.

The official said that it will be a secure video meeting that will follow up on discussions from earlier this month. National security adviser Jake Sullivan will lead the meeting for the U.S. side, the official said.

The meeting was first reported by Axios.

"The main purpose really is to talk about Rafah ... and also share our continued concerns over a major ground offensive there," White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby said.

Apr 18, 9:41 AM
US sanctions 16 people, two groups after Iran attacks

The U.S. is sanctioning two groups and 16 people it says enabled Iran's drone production following Iran's attack on Israel last weekend.

"Today, in coordination with the United Kingdom and in consultation with partners and allies, we are taking swift and decisive action to respond to Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. "We’re using Treasury’s economic tools to degrade and disrupt key aspects of Iran’s malign activity, including its UAV program and the revenue the regime generates to support its terrorism."

The Treasury Department said it’s sanctioning Khuzestan Steel Company, Iran's largest steel producer. The Treasury Department said Iran's metals sector generates "several billion dollars in revenue annually."

The U.S. is also targeting the Iranian carmaker Bahman Group for its role in making vehicles used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for military operations.

The sanctions also target people who work for Iran-based drone manufacturers, including executives of the Mado Company, which the U.S. says produced drone engines used in Iran's Shahed UAVs. The U.S. also sanctioned members of the IRGC who it says help supply proxy groups, like the Houthis in Yemen, with drones that have attacked U.S. service members in the Red Sea.

Yellen added that the U.S. would "continue to deploy" sanctions to counter any further action by Iran, with the goal of making it harder and more expensive for Iran to undertake destabilizing actions.

Apr 17, 6:16 PM
Israel not likely to carry out strike until after Passover: US official

Israel is unlikely to carry out a strike on Iran until after Passover, a senior U.S. official told ABC News, although that could always change.

Passover begins on Monday and ends after nightfall on April 30.

The Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other leadership are still on a high state of alert, with some in safe houses and underground facilities, the official said.

Apr 17, 5:50 PM
Israel aborted strikes against Iran 2 nights this week: Sources

Israel prepared for and then aborted retaliatory strikes against Iran on at least two nights this past week, three Israeli sources told ABC News.

Iran attacked Israel with more than 300 drones and missiles on Saturday night into Sunday morning local time in Israel. Israel has been weighing how and when to respond to Iran's attack since then, holding war cabinet meetings on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The members of the Israeli war cabinet are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

A range of responses have been presented to the Israeli war cabinet. The potential responses include options ranging from attacking Iranian proxies in the region but not on Iranian soil to a potential cyber attack, sources told ABC News.

There was no war cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but Netanyahu told his government cabinet that while he appreciates the advice from allies, Israel will "make our own decisions, and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself."

-ABC News' Matt Gutman and Jordana Miller

Apr 17, 3:02 PM
Iranian president: Israel invasion would be met with 'massive' response

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said at an army parade Wednesday that "the tiniest invasion" from Israel will be met with a "very massive and harsh response."

Apr 17, 2:26 PM
House GOP package totals $14.1 billion for Israel

House Republicans have posted the legislative text for three national security bills, addressing Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific.

For Israel, lawmakers have crafted a package totaling $14.1 billion, including: $4 billion for missile defense; $1.2 billion for Iron Beam; $4 billion replenishment of stocks to the Department of Defense; and $3.5 billion for Israel to purchase U.S. weapons.

"The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow," President Joe Biden said in a statement. "I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed."

Apr 17, 1:12 PM
Netanyahu: Israel 'will make our own decisions' on how to respond to Iran

After meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he appreciates their advice, but added, "We will make our own decisions and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself."

Cameron told reporters after the meeting in Jerusalem, "It's clear the Israelis are making a decision to act."

"We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible, and in a way that -- as I said yesterday -- is smart as well as tough," Cameron added.

Cameron also reiterated that the "real need is to refocus back on Hamas, back on the hostages, back on getting the aid in, back on getting a pause in the conflict in Gaza."

"That's why I'm here today to talk to the Israeli government, to talk to the Palestinian Authority to try and push those things forward," Cameron said.

-ABC News’ Ellie Kaufman

Apr 16, 7:04 PM
US says it will impose new sanctions on Iran in coming days

The United States announced Tuesday it will impose new sanctions targeting Iran in the coming days following its "unprecedented air attack against Israel."

The sanctions include targeting Iran's missile and drone program and new sanctions against entities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s Defense Ministry, according to the White House's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

"We anticipate that our allies and partners will soon be following with their own sanctions,” Sullivan said in a statement. "We will not hesitate to continue to take action, in coordination with allies and partners around the world, and with Congress, to hold the Iranian government accountable for its malicious and destabilizing actions."

The U.S. is telegraphing its sanction plan in advance to underscore the large international response that the U.S. is coordinating and to signal to Iran there will be diplomatic costs to what they've done, a senior administration official told ABC News. The official said they believe this will have an impact, in part, by bringing other countries on board.

Apr 16, 4:08 PM
IDF's conduct, ethics under scrutiny following soldiers' social media posts

Six months into the Israel-Hamas conflict, the conduct and ethics of some Israel Defense Forces members have increasingly come under the microscope.

Incidents ranging from pranks to potentially criminal acts are being exposed to the world, often by videos soldiers themselves have posted online, according to critics and Israeli officials.

In many pictures and videos that have circulated since the conflict began, and which were reposted by pro-Palestinian activists to millions of followers, IDF soldiers are seen blowing up buildings in Gaza while in combat, waving women’s underwear like flags and rifling through the possessions of Gazans with gleeful expressions.

Younis Tirawi, a Palestinian activist, says he’s seen thousands of videos of IDF soldiers reportedly behaving improperly.

"You can see all the soldiers liking their posts," Tirawi told ABC News.

Apr 16, 3:48 PM
Blinken to Israeli war cabinet: 'We do not want to see further escalation'

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, during which Blinken "continue[d] to send the same messages in all his conversations -- which is we do not want to see further escalation of the conflict," according to spokesperson Matt Miller.

Miller declined to say whether the U.S. assessed the threat of escalation had fallen, but an administration official said the amount of time that has already elapsed since Iran’s weekend attack had boosted hopes that Israel would exercise constraint.

Miller batted down reports that Iran and the U.S. were communicating through intermediaries in the wake of Tehran’s attack on Israel.

"There have not been such messages delivered. It's been days since we've communicated -- since we've sent messages to the government of Iran," Miller said. "And I say that as a reminder of something we've said before: Oftentimes, the Iranian government has misled the world about either messages they've passed to us or messages that we have passed to them."

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Apr 16, 3:36 PM
UK prime minister 'gravely concerned' about humanitarian situation in Gaza

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday. While Netanyahu thanked Sunak for the U.K.'s support to counter Iran's weekend attack on Israel, Sunak also had harsh words for Netanyahu about the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

"On Gaza, the Prime Minister said he remained gravely concerned about the deepening humanitarian crisis," a Downing Street spokesperson said. "The U.K. wanted to see a massive step change in aid access to flood Gaza with vital supplies, including Israel opening up new aid routes as quickly as possible. The Prime Minister said it was deeply disappointing that Hamas blocked a deal at the weekend that would have saved Palestinian lives and secured the safe release of hostages."

Apr 16, 3:23 PM
Israeli war cabinet meeting ends again with no final decision on response: Source

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet met for the third day in a row on Tuesday to consider an Israeli response to Iran's weekend attack.

But Tuesday’s meeting ended with no final decision made about an Israeli response, according to an Israeli source with knowledge of the meeting. A variety of options are still being considered, the source said.

Apr 16, 2:13 PM
Iran foreign minister says 'no intention of further escalating the situation'

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on a call that "Iran is willing to exercise restraint and has no intention of further escalating the situation," according to the Chinese foreign ministry’s readout of the conversation.

Apr 16, 1:56 PM
More than 19,000 children orphaned in Gaza

Over 10,000 women have been killed in Gaza during the war, according to a report from UN Women, the United Nations’ entity for gender equality and women's empowerment.

Out of those 10,000 women, 6,000 were mothers, who have left behind 19,000 orphaned children, according to the report.

-ABC News’ Kori Skillman

Apr 16, 11:18 AM
Israel focused too intensely on Iran's nuclear threat at expense of ballistic threat: IDF

Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Israel focused too intensely on the Iranian nuclear threat at the expense of its ballistic threat.

A senior U.S. official told ABC News the U.S. also relied too heavily on the misguided conception that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was cautious and would never order a direct attack on Israel, and that this weekend’s attack and the general U.S. assessment of Iran now requires study and reassessment.

Sima Shine, a former head of the Iran desk at Israeli espionage agency Mossad, also said Israel’s assessment was wrong, and said "the rules of the game" have changed. A huge barrage of missiles was considered possible, but highly unlikely, Shine said.

Shine said any Israeli response under the new conception requires the assumption that Iran will follow up with its threat of another salvo of missiles. That said, Shine believes that Iran and the supreme leader do not want a full-scale war because it would be unpopular in Iran and the U.S. could get involved.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman

Apr 16, 9:18 AM
Yellen to Iran: US 'will not hesitate' to issue new sanctions

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is warning Iran that the U.S. "will not hesitate" to impose new sanctions in response to Iran's "unprecedented attack" on Israel.

"Treasury will not hesitate to work with our allies to use our sanctions authority to continue disrupting the Iranian regime’s malign and destabilizing activity," Yellen is expected to say at a Tuesday press conference. "The attack by Iran and its proxies underscores the importance of Treasury's work to use our economic tools to counter Iran's malign activity."

Yellen's message follows President Joe Biden's Sunday meeting with the G7 nations, during which the leaders discussed a coordinated effort on sanction measures.

Apr 16, 6:31 AM
Israeli war cabinet to consider response again Tuesday

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet is expected to meet again on Tuesday to consider an Israeli response to Iran's weekend attack.

"We are closely assessing the situation. We remain at our highest level of readiness," Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said on Monday. "Iran will face the consequences for its actions."

Halevi added Israel would "choose our response accordingly."

Apr 16, 6:14 AM
UN watchdog calls for de-escalation in Israel-Iran conflict

United Nations officials called on Tuesday for Israel and Iran to de-escalate their conflict, saying the retaliatory military attacks “violate the right to life and must cease immediately.”

“All countries are prohibited from arbitrarily depriving individuals of their right to life in military operations abroad, including when countering terrorism,” the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press release, quoting U.N. officials described as "experts."

The retaliatory strikes by both countries may constitute the “international crime of aggression by civilian and military leaders responsible,” those officials said, according to the statement.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

For second time in a week, Russian strike in Ukraine kills and wounds dozens of civilians

Getty Images - STOCK

(LONDON) -- For the second time this week, Russian strikes have caused significant civilian casualties in a key Ukrainian city as Russian missiles hit areas around the southeastern city of Dnipro on Friday, killing at least 8 people -- including two children -- and wounding nearly 30 more.

Two days earlier, Russian missiles struck the center of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, killing at least 18 and injuring nearly 80 more -- one of the deadliest strikes in months.

Friday’s strikes in Dnipro damaged several floors of a residential building as well as the station, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement.

The strikes underline a shift in the war that has intensified in the past few weeks that has seen far more Russian airstrikes start to get through and Russian bombing broaden in scale as Ukrainian air defenses run out.

Russian bombing using missiles and drones now hit Ukrainian cities virtually every night, and in some cities, appear to have become once again more indiscriminate. The number of civilians dying has dramatically risen as have the number of successful Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

Pennsylvania board's cancellation of gay actor's school visit ill-advised, education leaders say
The United Nations says it has recorded a steep rise in the number of civilian casualties as the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring mission says it has verified at least 604 civilians killed or injured in March, a 20% increase from February.

Russia has improved its tactics for launching air attacks at the exact same time as Ukraine’s air defense has become far more porous as the are now short on ammunition with American military aid stalled in Congress.

While Ukraine has been largely able to protect Kyiv and Lviv, it lacks sufficient air defense systems to cover most keys cities outside the capital. Some experts and Ukrainian officials have expressed particular fear for Kharkiv, saying they worry Russia hopes to use constant strikes to make Ukraine’s second largest city -- home to a million people -- unlivable.

Meanwhile, President Zelensky has urged Ukraine’s allies to provide more air defense support urgently.

He and other Ukrainian officials have also noted that the U.S. and other western countries had intervened with their own militaries to protect Israel from the massive missile and drone attack launched by Iran on Sunday, suggesting the same could be done to shield Ukraine.

Zelensky on Friday, again, said Ukraine’s partners had the means to help stop Russian strikes.

“The world can guarantee this, the partners have the necessary capabilities. This has been proven particularly in the skies of the Middle East, and it should work in the skies of Europe,” Zelensky wrote in a post on his Telegram account.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote on the long-stalled security package worth tens of billions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine this weekend after Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson moved to put it forward along with separate aid bills for Israel and Taiwan.

The vote’s outcome still hangs in the balance, however, with far right, pro-Trump Republicans threatening to try to oust Johnson if he goes ahead with it. Johnson has vowed to put the measures to a vote even if it costs him his job.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

How the UN Plastics Treaty aims to tackle the pollution crisis

Scavengers collect plastic waste to sell to a recycling centre at a landfill in Medan, North Sumatra, March 27, 2024. (Kartik Byma/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- As Earth Day 2024 puts a spotlight on the world's climate crisis, negotiators from 175 countries are gathering for the fourth round of the United Nations Plastics Treaty negotiations next week in Canada.

Held in Ottowa, Canada, from April 23-29, the last major round of negotiations will bring together the treaty's Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to draft a global, legally binding agreement by the end of 2024, according to the U.N.

The negotiations begin immediately following Earth Day on Monday, April 22.

"Global plastic production and consumption has grown exponentially since the 1950s and is set to increase by 70% by 2040 if business continues as usual," the INC reported in a press release ahead of the negotiations.

"This requires a new, shared global vision where plastic pollution is not an option, coupled with the set of targets, policy instruments and mechanisms that will lead and enable the shift towards this vision," the committee reported.

The agreement is titled "End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument" and is expected to be finalized in late 2024 in Busan, Korea.

The INC previously met for negotiations in December 2022 in Uruguay, May 2023 in France and November 2023 in Kenya.

What is the UN Plastics Treaty?

The U.N. Plastics Treaty will be a legally binding global agreement between 175 countries that will dictate the action and timeline needed to mitigate the production and consumption of high-risk plastic, according to the intergovernmental organization.

Addressing the "full lifecycle of plastic from source to sea" the U.N. will bring together heads of state, ministers of environment and other representatives from U.N. Member States to agree upon the treaty.

According to the U.N.'s resolution, published after the negotiations in Kenya, some key points the treaty may include are:

  • Determining where the life cycle of plastic production begins, and potentially capping primary plastic polymer production.
  • The "Zero Draft" of the plastics treaty aims to promote better the sustainable production of plastics for packaging through product design and environmentally sound waste management
  • Addressing the world's oceans, the treaty may aim to advance national and international cooperative plastic reduction measures aimed at pollution in marine environments.
  • Specifying national reporting to the INC, when appropriate, and assessing the progress and effectiveness of the agreement.
  • Initiating a multi-stakeholder action agenda, including the private sector, to promote cooperation at the local, national, regional and global levels.
  • The treaty may aim to specify arrangements for capacity-building and technical assistance, mutually agreed technology transfer terms and financial assistance.

These are key points that may not be in the finalized treaty, however, are areas of interest in the negotiation process.

Why plastics are a problem

The rate of plastic production has grown faster than any other man-made material since the 1970s, according to the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP).

Approximately 36% of all plastics produced are used in packaging, which includes single-use plastic for food and beverage containers, the U.N. reports, noting, approximately 85% of those single-use products end up in landfills or as unregulated waste.

If there is no action to mitigate the production of single-use plastics, global production is forecast to reach 1,100 million tonnes by 2050, the U.N. reports.

Approximately 98% of single-use plastic products are produced from fossil fuels, according to the U.N., and by 2040, fossil fuel-based plastics are forecast to grow to 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040.

"Plastic has been found everywhere, not only in ecosystems in the atmosphere, but also in the food we eat, the water we drink, and even inside of our bodies," Renee Sharp, director of Plastics and Petrochemical Advocacy for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), said during a webinar on April 17.

Serious human health problems associated with plastics include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, respiratory issues, reproductive and hormone problems, asthma and more, according to Sharp.

Plastics may contain any mix of more than 16,000 different chemicals, and at least 4,200 of those chemicals are "highly hazardous to human and environmental health," according to a PlastChem Project study, released in March.

"The science around plastic and the health of chemicals in plastic points to the need for a collective global response," Sharp said. "This is not an issue that we can solve country by country, state by state -- we really have to be thinking about this internationally."

What experts are saying about the treaty

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP, said the agreement is the most important international multilateral environmental deal since the Paris climate accord.

"It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it," Andersen said in a press release following the treaty negotiations in Kenya.

A Greenpeace International survey published in April found 82% of respondents from 19 different countries support cutting the production of plastic to stop plastic pollution and 90% of respondents endorse transitioning away from single-use plastic packaging.

Graham Forbes, Greenpeace's head of delegation to the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations believes, "The vast majority of people want a Global Plastics Treaty that cuts plastic production and ends single-use plastic. It is time for world leaders to listen and rise to the occasion," he said in an April 4 press release.

Benny Mermans, chair of the World Plastics Council, said an "effective global agreement" is needed to "incentivize the billions of dollars of additional investment required to tackle plastic pollution," he said in an April 15 press release.

"Our members are investing billions of dollars in infrastructure to scale-up the supply of circular plastics, so that used plastics are prevented from entering the environment as waste, landfill or via incineration, and instead become new plastics," Mermans said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Injured in a Russian strike, a 13-year-old Ukrainian girl runs to raise money for other victims

Unbroken Ukraine

(KYIV, Ukraine) -- A Russian missile strike on April 8, 2022, changed Yana Stepanenko's life forever.

She was at a railway station in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, with her mom, Natalia, and brother, Yaroslav, when a missile hit, killing more than 60 people. She lost her legs. Her mom lost the left one. 

A tragic story of loss turned into an example of resilience and growth thanks to the Ukrainian and American doctors who treated the girl. Stepanenko, who is now 13, ran a 5K at the 2024 Boston Marathon on Saturday to show the courage and strength of Ukrainians and to raise money for a Ukrainian soldier.

After a few months of treatment in Lviv, in western Ukraine, the family went to San Diego thanks to Peter Harsch Prosthetics and The Right to Walk Foundation.

It was the most difficult year of their life, the family recalled. But thanks to the American surgeons and physiotherapists, Natalia and Yana quickly gathered their shattered selves together, and the girl even started swimming in the pool again. But, as she's still growing, she constantly needs to change her prosthesis, so there's still a lot ahead, her mom said.

Despite all the horrors and difficulties, Yana set a big goal for herself.

In August 2023 she came back to Lviv, to continue rehabilitation at the Unbroken Ukraine center. She became an ambassador of the clinics, raising money for the kid's treatment. And later at this center she got acquainted with Oleksandr Riasnyi, a soldier who lost his limb in fighting.

As he aims to get back to service and start running, Yana decided to help him raise money for a new prosthesis. Part of the campaign was her own challenge -- the girl registered to run the 5K in Boston.

"I never thought I would participate in such a race. I was really, really nervous!" Yana said, recalling the start of her training three months ago.

Yana was invited to the United States by One World Strong organization, which is helping people get back on their feet after losing their limbs.

The girl was persistently training four times a week, supported by her family and Ukrainian doctors.

Right before the marathon, the fear kicked in, she said.

"I was afraid I just won't be able to even walk the whole distance," she said.

And yet in several minutes she crossed the finish line running with a smile on her face, greeted by her mom, brother and friends.

"I'm incredibly proud! She's a wonderful kid, a wonderful family! They are all fantastic to work with," said Dave Fortier from One World Strong. "Yana uses movement to heal. And we set up our organization to help people to do that. So, to give them the opportunity to do things just like this, no matter where they are from in the world!"

Yana turned 13 on April 16. And she said she got the best present ever.

"We raised half a million hryvnias for a running prosthesis for Oleksandr! Now he will be able to run like me," she said. "I'm incredibly happy!"

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Some Iranian women say they fear war with Israel amid violent hijab crackdown

KeithBinns/Getty Images

(LONDON) -- In the wake of Iran's unprecedented airstrikes on Israel, dozens of Iranians gathered in Tehran's Palestine Square earlier this week to celebrate what the Iranian regime described as a retaliatory attack.

But interviews with women on the ground indicate that the scene, broadcast by Iranian state-run media in a country that lacks a free press, is not representative of how many other Iranians -- particularly women -- are feeling as Israel weighs its response.

ABC News spoke to several women in Iran who said the fear of an imminent war has been added to a long list of worries and hardships they have been grappling with for years. Their names have been changed due to concerns for their safety.

"The fear of the war is so crippling," Ramesh, a 30-year-old designer and architect, told ABC News via telephone on Wednesday. "And imagine on top of that is the anxiety of getting arrested by the hijab police and the stress of not being able to afford the rent for our flat every single month."

Iran sent a barrage of more than 300 different types of drones and missiles toward Israel late Saturday, days after a suspected Israeli airstrike hit the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria. The strike on the consulate killed seven people, including a top Iranian commander. Israel has not confirmed that it was behind the attack on the Iranian consulate but has not denied it.

All but a few of Iran's missiles and drones were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the United States, officials said.

The incident over the weekend came six months into a brutal war between Israel and Hamas, an Iran-backed Palestinian terrorist group that governs the Gaza Strip. Hamas led a surprise incursion into neighboring Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, killing about 1,200 people and taking more than 200 others hostage, with 129 believed to still remain in captivity in Gaza, according to the Israeli Prime Minister's Office. Since Oct. 7, Israeli forces have killed almost 34,000 people and injured more than 76,000 others in Gaza amid ongoing ground operations and aerial bombardment of the strip, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health.

A few hours after Saturday's retaliatory attack on Israel, Iranian authorities launched a new operation to arrest women who refuse to abide by the country’s law mandating they wear a hijab, covering their entire body except for their face, hands and feet. The operation, introduced by the police and dubbed "The Light Plan," aims to detain women who have ignored previous warnings about their dress from the country's so-called morality police, who regularly patrol the streets of Tehran and other cities, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.

Images and videos of the latest hijab crackdown have surfaced on social media, with several Iranian women posting photos of what they say are bruises from being beaten by the morality police. One video purportedly shows Iranian police officers surrounding a woman and forcing her into a white van during a patrol.

"Imagine you turn on your TV to get news about the war and the danger you are living, and what you see is the news about the new round of the morality police operation," Ramesh said. "It seems what the regime cares about most is that if there is a war and my house collapses over my head, my corpse is dragged out of the rubble with a scarf covering my hair."

"We are on the verge of an all-out war and what is it that the state media tells us? A new round of the hijab police activities," she added. "Iran says its attack on Israel was a retaliation for the 12 people Israel killed in Syria. But we know at the end we, 80 million Iranians, will be paying the price."

Azam, a 35-year-old housewife and mother, said she "couldn't sleep" the night she saw the news about Iran's strikes on Israel.

"I went to my daughter's room and held her and grabbed her from sleep, and then I went to my son's room and held him," Azam told ABC News via telephone on Tuesday. "All I am worried about now is that if there is a war and they attack us, we may get hurt or separated."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel "will make our own decisions [about its response to Iran's attack] and the State of Israel will do everything necessary to defend itself." U.S. and U.K. officials have said they don't wish to see the situation escalate.

Maral, a 28-year-old website developer, said she and her family are living in "a horrible atmosphere of distress and anxiety," fearing they are "just tools in the hands of those in power."

"I am in shock and very worried about Israel's response," Maral told ABC News via telephone on Tuesday, adding that she has urged relatives who live in a town near one of Iran's nuclear facilities to pack their things and come stay with them in case Israel decides to target such sites.

"Another bitter thing here is the divide between people," she said. "The minority that are still supporters of the regime keep saying we need to stick together if the war happens, but many others are tired of the regime. Everything is so expensive and I am afraid of things getting even more expensive."

Iran's economy and, subsequently, its people have suffered under years of widespread corruption and international sanctions. The value of the country’s currency, the rial, has plummeted 22 times in the past 10 years. In 2019, following the failure of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, one U.S. dollar was equal to 130,000 Iranian rials. This week, after the Iranian strikes on Israel, the rial fell to 650,000 per dollar.

The high inflation rate and currency devaluation have left many Iranians struggling to afford basic necessities, including food. Zahra, a 65-year-old housewife and grandmother, said a kilogram (just over 2 pounds) of beef currently costs 7 million rials (about $11), which is expensive for a household that only earns 100 million rials (about $150) per month.

"We don't buy red meat or even chicken as much," Zahra told ABC News via telephone on Wednesday.

Zahra said she fears things will get worse if Israel's war in Gaza, which the United Nations warns has triggered a humanitarian crisis and imminent famine, spreads to her own doorstep in Iran. The concern of a wider war in the Middle East has been echoed by many regional analysts and experts.

"I have seen how innocent children are being killed, I have seen the hospitals being targeted in Gaza," Zahra added. "I told my granddaughter that everything was going to be alright and I kept telling myself the same, too."

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Polish citizen accused of spying for Russia in potential plot to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- A Polish citizen was arrested for allegedly spying for the Russian government as part of a potential assassination attempt against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the top prosecutors in Poland and Ukraine said Thursday.

The Polish citizen, identified as Pawel K., was charged with readiness to act for foreign intelligence against the Republic of Poland, the Polish National Prosecutor's Office said in a press release.

The suspect allegedly "proactively established contact" with Russian military command representatives and "informed them of his readiness to cooperate" with the Russian Federation's foreign military intelligence agency, according to Andriy Kostin, the Ukrainian prosecutor general.

The suspect's alleged tasks for the Russian government included collecting and providing the agency with information on the security of the Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport, an international airport in Jasionka in southeastern Poland, Polish and Ukrainian officials said.

"This was to help Russian special services plan a possible assassination attempt on the Ukrainian President during his presence in Poland," Kostin said in a statement on X.

The Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine forwarded information about the suspect to their Polish counterpart and "key evidence" was obtained by Ukraine during the investigation, the Polish National Prosecutor's Office said in the release. The suspect was detained on Wednesday and the investigation is ongoing, the office said.

If convicted, the suspect could face up to eight years in prison, the office said.

"This case underscores the persistent threat Russia poses not only to Ukraine and Ukrainians but to the entire free world," Kostin said. "The Kremlin's criminal regime is constantly trying to undermine European and global security. It organizes and carries out sabotage operations on the territory of other sovereign states."

Zelenskyy last visited Poland in April 2023, receiving a massive welcome from its citizens and President Andrzej Duda. Poland lies on the western border of Ukraine and took in many refugees who fled from Ukraine in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion.

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Israel should not directly attack Iranian soil, ex commanders say

An Israeli army F-15 fighter jet flies over central Israel on April 15, 2024. (Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

(TEL AVIV, Israel) -- Two former senior Israeli military officials said a direct military strike against Iranian territory would not be in Israel's best interests.

Retired Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, who was head of Israel's National Security Council from 2004 to 2006, said the alliance that helped Israel successfully defend itself from Iran's first-ever direct attack against Israeli territory on Sunday has proven "that Israel cannot do everything alone."

Eiland said Iran's attack and the defensive military support and intelligence Israeli received from a coalition -- led by the U.S. and including European and Arab states -- has reversed Israel's growing isolation in relation to the war in Gaza. That sentiment is shared by retired Israeli Col. Miri Eisin.

Both former Israeli officers told ABC News that Israel should now capitalize on that sense of renewed support, both from allies and other regional players, like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who also view Iran as a regional threat.

Iran on Saturday night unleashed a retaliatory strike against Israel, sending a volley of more than 300 uncrewed drones and missiles toward targets throughout the country, Israeli military officials said. All but a few were intercepted by Israel and its allies, including the United States, officials said.

Eisin said Israel now needs to deter Iran and other adversaries from conducting future attacks. However, she said, effective deterrence would also mean working with the consent of key partners, such as the U.S., adding that allies should not be kept "out of the room."

The Biden administration has said it would not take part in any Israeli response. U.S. officials, however, are urging Israel to show restraint.

Eiland, who led the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF) planning branch from 2001 to 2003, said the Israeli military is, theoretically, capable of causing "terrible destruction to the Iranian energy sector" -- either to its oil fields or by orchestrating an attack that could "shut down the electricity" to Tehran.

The Israeli government has not ruled out a direct military strike against Iranian military territory, and Eiland conceded there was a "temptation" for Israel "to try something dramatic."

Israel is unlikely to carry out a strike on Iran until after Passover, which ends after nighfall on April 30, a senior U.S. official told ABC News, although that could always change.

However, Eiland said a direct military strike against Iran would risk sparking "a real cycle of violence" between Israel and Iran that would endanger the entire region.

He also warned that Israel might not be ready or have the ammunition to conduct a drawn-out war with Iran. As a former officer he would not have access to information on Israel's current ammunition stocks, however Israel is hoping that the U.S. Congress will soon sign-off on additional military aid for the IDF.

Congress is set to vote on the matter on Saturday, although Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson is facing opposition from some fellow Republicans on a separate vote for aid for Ukraine.

Eiland said Israel does have the capability to carry out more covert forms of attacks against Iranian territory, which would not involve a kinetic military strike.

He said cyberattacks could be one possible category of covert attack that Israel could consider but said there could be "some other creative solutions," which, because of their sensitive nature, he could not disclose.

Instead of a direct military strike against Iranian territory, Israel should increase attacks against Iran's proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, both former Israeli military officers said.

Eisin, who is now managing director of the International Institute for Counterterrorism, an Israeli think-tank, said Israel should ensure that through its response it retakes the "initiative" and "defines the rules," by significantly increasing attacks on pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Syria, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The IDF announced on Tuesday that it had killed two Hezbollah commanders in two separate attacks in Lebanon. However, there has been no official confirmation that those attacks were part of Israel's response to the Iranian attack on Saturday night.

That attack, widely attributed to, but not officially claimed, by Israel, killed seven members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, including two generals, and precipitated Saturday's first-ever direct missile and drone attack by Iran against Israeli territory.

Eiland denied Israel miscalculated by not anticipating that Iran would launch a direct military strike involving more than a hundred ballistic missiles, and argued that by degrading the capabilities of Iran's proxies in the region, Israel was conducting self defense.

The former Israeli major general also said Israel should issue an ultimatum to Hezbollah for it to halt its attacks, which have been occurring on a daily basis across Israel's northern border since Israel launched its war in Gaza following the Oct. 7 terror attack in southern Israel.

For more than six months, around 70,000 Israeli citizens have been displaced from their homes in communities near the Israeli border with Lebanon.

Eiland said Israel should threaten another major ground war against Lebanon if Hezbollah refused to halt its attacks.

At the same time, he argued that Israel should halt its war against Hamas in Gaza in return for the release of all of the remaining hostages.

Hezbollah and the Yemen-based, Iranian-backed Houthis have said their attacks against Israel are a response to Israel's war in Gaza.

However, the Israeli government has repeatedly said the war in Gaza cannot end before Israel launches a military ground operation into the southern city of Rafah, where it believes thousands of Hamas fighters are still stationed.

The former major general said an offensive in Rafah would make little difference to the security threat posed by Hamas, because "80%" of its military capabilities had already been destroyed. 

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