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submitted 11 months ago by HeapOfDogs@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

I can't seem to find anything in a sidebar or sticky thread that talks about the moderation / rules of the news community. I'm very interested in coming to this community to learn about news, but right now it seems whats being posted tends to be relatively low (lower?) quality.

Examples of common rules

  • Use the same titles as the article itself
  • No blog spam, link to the source
  • Political news, should go to the political community
  • No dupes of same topic

As an example, take a look at other news aggregators that focus on news.

My goal here isn't tell people what to do but its start a conversation on the topic.

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submitted 46 minutes ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

- Residents said Rafah's Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood, the scene of Sunday's night-time strike in which tents and shelters were set ablaze as families settled down to sleep, was still being bombarded.

- Spain, Ireland, Norway to formally recognise Palestinian state.

Israeli tanks advanced to the centre of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, witnesses said, three weeks into a ground offensive in the southern Gaza city that has stirred global condemnation for its continued civilian toll. Tanks and armoured vehicles mounted with machineguns were spotted near Al-Awda mosque, a central Rafah landmark, the witnesses told Reuters. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area, without commenting on reported advances into the city centre.

Overnight, its forces battered the city with airstrikes and tank fire, residents said, pressing the offensive despite an international outcry over an attack on Sunday that sparked a massive blaze in a tent camp, killing at least 45 Palestinians, more than half of them children, women and the elderly.

Global leaders voiced horror at the fire in a designated "humanitarian zone" where families uprooted by fighting elsewhere in Gaza had sought shelter, and urged the implementation of a World Court order for a halt to Israel's assault.

In another move purportedly aimed at reining in the violence, Spain, Ireland and Norway were to officially recognise a Palestinian state on Tuesday. The three countries have said they hope their decision will accelerate efforts towards securing a ceasefire in Israel's war against Hamas militants, now in its eighth month, that has reduced much of the densely populated territory to rubble.

Residents said Rafah's Tel Al-Sultan neighbourhood, the scene of Sunday's night-time strike in which tents and shelters were set ablaze as families settled down to sleep, was still being bombarded.

"Tank shells are falling everywhere in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families have fled their houses in western Rafah under fire throughout the night," one resident told Reuters via a chat app.

Around one million people - many repeatedly displaced by shifting waves of the war - have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Tuesday.

A video obtained by Reuters showed families on the move again, carrying their belongings through Rafah's shattered streets, their weary children trailing behind them.

"There are a lot of attacks, smoke and dust. It is death from God...The (Israelis) are hitting everywhere. We're tired," said Moayad Fusaifas, pushing along belongings on two bicycles.

Israel says it's in combat near Egypt border

Since Israel launched its incursion by taking control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago, tanks had probed around the outskirts and entered some eastern districts but had not yet moved into the city in full force.

In recent days, Israeli tanks have thrust towards western neighbourhoods and taken up positions on the Zurub hilltop in western Rafah. On Tuesday, witnesses reported gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters in the Zurub area.

Witnesses in central Rafah said the Israeli military appeared to have brought in remote-operated armoured vehicles and there was no immediate sign of personnel in or around them. An Israeli military spokesperson had no immediate comment.

The Israeli military said it operated overnight along the Philadelphi Corridor that separates Gaza from Egypt "based on intelligence indicating the presence of terror targets".

Israeli troops were engaged in close-quarter combat and were locating tunnel shafts, weapons and militant infrastructure, it said in a statement. Israel has kept up attacks despite the ruling by the International Court of Justice on Friday ordering it to stop, arguing that the top U.N. court's ruling grants it some scope for military action there.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's offensive, Gaza's health ministry says. Israel launched its air and ground war after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.

Since Sunday's strike on the tent camp, at least 26 more people have been killed by Israeli fire in Rafah, health officials in the Hamas-run enclave said.

In Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip, one of the largest of the enclave's eight historic refugee camps, Israeli forces have been engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters, residents said.

In some residential districts from which Israeli forces have retreated, civil emergency teams said they were recovering bodies from the ruins.

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submitted 2 hours ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

- The very few companies that own many luxury brands, which include L'Oréal and Estée Lauder, are squeezing budgets, resulting in very low pay, forcing Egyptian jasmine pickers to involve their children often aged as young as 5.

- In their promotional material, the perfume companies and fragrance houses paint a picture of ethical sourcing practices, with every employer in the supply chain signing letters of commitment assuring safe working practices and eliminating child labour.

- "There's a big disconnect between the preciousness that is talked about in the marketing talk, and what is actually given to the harvesters," one insider said.

A BBC investigation into last summer's perfume supply chains found jasmine used by Lancôme and Aerin Beauty's suppliers was picked by minors.

All the luxury perfume brands claim to have zero tolerance on child labour.

L'Oréal, Lancôme's owner, said it was committed to respecting human rights. Estée Lauder, Aerin Beauty's owner, said it had contacted its suppliers.

The jasmine used in Lancôme Idôle L'Intense - and Ikat Jasmine and Limone Di Sicilia for Aerin Beauty - comes from Egypt, which produces about half the world's supply of jasmine flowers - a key perfume ingredient.

Industry insiders told us the handful of companies that own many luxury brands are squeezing budgets, resulting in very low pay. Egyptian jasmine pickers say this forces them to involve their children.

And we have discovered the auditing systems the perfume industry uses to check on supply chains are deeply flawed.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said he was disturbed by the BBC's evidence, which includes undercover filming in Egyptian jasmine fields during last year's picking season.

"On paper, they [the industry] are promising so many good things, like supply chain transparency and the fight against child labour. Looking at this footage, they are not actually doing things that they promised to do."

Heba - who lives in a village in the district of Gharbia, the heart of Egypt's jasmine region - wakes her family at 03:00 to begin picking the flowers before the sun's heat damages them.

Heba says she needs her four children - aged from 5 to 15 - to help. Like most jasmine pickers in Egypt, she is what is known as an "independent picker" and works on a smallholder farm. The more she and her children can pick, the more they earn.

On the night we filmed her, she and her children managed to pick 1.5kg of jasmine flowers. After paying a third of her earnings to the land owner, she was left with roughly US$1.5 [£1.18] for that night's work. This is worth less than ever before, given inflation in Egypt is at an all-time high, and pickers are often living below the poverty line.

Heba's 10-year-old daughter Basmalla has also been diagnosed with a severe eye allergy. At a medical consultation we attended with her, the doctor told her that her vision will be affected if she continues jasmine picking without treating the inflammation.

Once the jasmine has been picked and weighed, it is transferred via collection points to one of several local factories which extract oil from the flowers - the main three being A Fakhry and Co, Hashem Brothers and Machalico. Each year, it is the factories that set the price for the jasmine picked by people like Heba.

It is difficult to say exactly how many of the 30,000 people involved in Egypt's jasmine industry are children. But during the summer of 2023 the BBC filmed across this region and spoke to many residents who told us the low price for jasmine meant they needed to include their children in their work.

We witnessed that, at four different locations, a significant number of pickers working on smallholder farms - which supply the main factories - were children under the age of 15. Multiple sources also told us that there were children working on farms directly owned by the Machalico factory, so we went undercover to film there and found pickers who told us their ages ranged from 12 to 14.

It is illegal for anyone under the age of 15 to work in Egypt between the hours of 19:00 and 07:00.

The factories export the jasmine oil to international fragrance houses where the perfumes are created. Givaudan, based in Switzerland is one of the largest, and has a longstanding relationship with A Fakhry and Co.

But it is the perfume companies above them - which include L'Oréal and Estée Lauder - which hold all the power, according to independent perfumer Christophe Laudamiel and several other industry insiders.

Known as "the masters", they set the brief and a very tight budget for the fragrance houses, he said.

"The masters' interest is to have the cheapest oil possible to put in the fragrance bottle," and then to sell it at the highest possible price, said Mr Laudamiel, who spent years working inside one of the fragrance houses.

"They actually don't govern the salary or the wages of the harvesters, nor the actual price of jasmine, because they are beyond that," he explained.

But he said that because of the budget that they set, the pressure on wages "trickles down" - to the factories, and ultimately, the pickers.

"There's a big disconnect between the preciousness that is talked about in the marketing talk, and what is actually given to the harvesters," he added.

In their promotional material, the perfume companies and fragrance houses paint a picture of ethical sourcing practices. Every employer in the supply chain has also signed a letter of commitment to the UN, pledging to abide by its guidelines regarding safe working practices and eliminating child labour.

The issue, according to a senior executive with fragrance house Givaudan, is the lack of oversight the perfume companies have of their supply chains.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the executive said these companies relied on the fragrance houses to instruct third-party auditing companies to check for due diligence.

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submitted 5 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

- Hungary takes over the rotating EU Council presidency on 1 July

- However, some EU diplomats say Hungary’s 'veto actions' might require a discussion about practical changes to the bloc’s decision-making processes

The foreign ministers gathered in Brussels focused on how the bloc could unlock funds from the EU’s off-budget European Peace Facility (EPF).

Hungary has been blocking partial reimbursements for weapons earmarked for Ukraine under the EU’s off-budget European Peace Facility (EPF) for almost a year, with the amount estimated at €6.5 billion – three reimbursement tranches and the new €5 billion-heavy Ukraine Assistance Fund (UAF).

Budapest initially cited Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency for having blacklisted Hungary’s OTP Bank as an “international sponsor of war” as one of the main reasons for their blockage. But while the bank has since then been removed from the blacklist, Hungary has kept the veto in place.

“There is growing frustration (to say the least), as the EU currently sits on €5 billion of support and very soon on the [Russian] windfall profits stemming from immobilised assets, which are at risk of not being used properly if there is no agreement,” one EU diplomat said.

In Monday’s discussion, Budapest was now quoted as saying that its economy is being discriminated against in Ukraine, according to people familiar with the discussions. The new explanation had drawn significant pushback from other EU counterparts, they said.

Inside the room, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on Budapest “to finally allow aid to Ukraine once again, because Europe is only strong if it is united.”

An increasing number of EU member states are starting to point to Hungary’s overall track record, rather than the fact that Budapest has ‘not yet completely vetoed’ any EU decision on Ukraine.

“We looked into this and about 41% of resolutions by the EU on Ukraine have been blocked by Hungary,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrelius Landsbergis told reporters.

“The EPF is blocked; Ukraine’s accession talks are being held hostage by Hungary – and I could go on and on – the [EU’s] declaration on Georgia, the EPF [support] to Armenia – basically, almost all of our discussions and needed solutions and decisions (…) are being blocked by just one country,” Landsbergis said.

“We have to start seeing this as a systematic approach towards any efforts by the EU to have any meaningful role in foreign affairs – and we have to start talking about this,” he added.

Echoing the criticism, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, told reporters ahead of the talks: “We cannot accept that a single country, which also signed up to this amount a few months ago at the heads of state’s Council meeting, is now blocking this crucial aid for Ukraine.”

Estonia’s Foreign Margus Tsahkna said: “Every time we are coming here, we have to convince Hungary about not blocking very important initiatives.”

“This is crucial now for Ukraine, and also for Europe, to use these EPF funds,” Tsahkna added.

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told reporters Rome would be “against the blocking. We want to move on.”

Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto did not answer questions from reporters heading into Monday’s talks.

EU diplomats said they expect the discussion on EU military aid to Ukraine now to shift towards Tuesday’s defence ministers meeting.

Should there be no breakthrough, EU ambassadors “will come together when needed to unlock this very unfortunate situation,” a second EU diplomat said.

Hungary takes over the rotating EU Council presidency on 1 July.

However, some EU diplomats have said they see Hungary’s veto actions as a pattern of behaviour that might require a discussion about practical changes to the bloc’s decision-making processes.

With Monday’s discussion having for the first time addressed the ‘overall picture’ of Hungary’s actions, a growing number of member states would increasingly see this as becoming a serious problem, people familiar with the discussion said.

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submitted 6 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

A haunting new video has sent a clear warning to Taiwan following China’s two-day military operation that sent a chill across the globe.

China has made its intentions for Taiwan crystal clear, responding to pleas for de-escalation by releasing a dramatic video simulating an all-out attack on the tiny island nation.

The video, which simulated a full-scale attack with bombs raining down on Taiwan, coincided with the Chinese military’s two-day “Joint Sword-2024A” military exercises around Taiwan, which have continued to raise tensions in the region.

Fighter jets completely encircled the nation during the exercise, flooding the waters and airspace in a bold display of military might that left military officials around the world on high alert.

The drills come after Taiwan’s new president, Lai Ching-te was sworn and immediately shot barbs at China’s ruling party in his inauguration speech.

Beijing denounced his remarks as a “confession of independence” and deployed their forces as a “strong punishment for the separatist acts of ‘Taiwan independence’ forces”.

“Taiwan independence forces will be left with their heads broken and blood flowing after colliding against the great... trend of China achieving complete unification,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, prompting a swift response from the United Nations.

Chinese nationalist forces fled to the then region of Taiwan in 1949 when the Communist Party took over Beijing. The People’s Republic insists that Taiwan is an indivisible part of China of which it is the rightful government. But Taiwan has never been run by Communist China. For many years the government in Taipei claimed that it, not the CCP, was the true leaders of China. Taiwan has never formally declared independence but in essentially every way is its own sovereign nation.

The US has “strongly” urged China to exercise restraint as the world watched Beijing’s drills.

But the following day, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) responded to calls of de-escalation from the West with a 70-second animated video depicting a chillingly realistic simulation of warships, warplanes, and missiles executing a co-ordinated attack on Taiwan.

The video begins with supposed news footage showing the deployment of fighter jets, bombers, and warships, followed by animated scenes of missiles being launched from land, sea, and air.

Projectiles are then depicted raining down on and obliterating major Taiwanese cities like Taipei, Hualien, and Kaohsiung, underscoring the potential devastation.

As the warships and warplanes close in on Taiwan from all sides, the island is shown flashing a countrywide red alert, accompanied by the wail of an alarm siren.

The video, which included the slogans “Destroy the support pillars! Strike the base camp! Cut the blood vessels,” attracted a number of comments from pro-military accounts calling for the eradication of Taiwan’s “base camp”.

While several analysts believe China would ultimately be unwilling to step off the cliff and start an all-out war, the US has been warned it must consider its resources, in case it becomes entwined in a territorial battle.

According to simulations conducted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an American thinktank, the combined forces of the US, Japan and Taiwan would be able to repel a full-scale attempt from China to seize the island.

However, they would likely suffer “devastating” losses in the process.

“Allied air and naval counter-attacks [would] hammer the exposed Chinese amphibious and surface fleet, eventually sinking about 150 ships,” Marc Cancian, a former White House defence budget analyst and retired Marine, told UK newspaper The Times.

“In nearly all the scenarios, the US/Japan/Taiwan are able to prevent Chinese forces from occupying the entire island. However, the cost is extremely high,” he said, adding that CSIS had taken the scale of China’s recent display of firepower into account.

Mr Cancian said no matter the outcome, a war with China would wreak havoc on America’s military, not to mention the economic toll it would carry.

“It would take years for the US to rebuild its forces because of low production rates. Other nations such as Russia and Iran might take advantage of US weakness,” he said.

“The US will need to strengthen its position enough to deter China or to win the war without experiencing high attrition.”

While several analysts believe China would ultimately be unwilling to step off the cliff and start an all-out war, the US has been warned it must consider its resources, in case it becomes entwined in a territorial battle.

Taiwan’s President will ‘stand on the front line’

Taiwan’s recently elected President Lai boldly claimed he would “stand on the front line” to defend his nation.

“Faced with external challenges and threats, we will continue to defend the values of freedom and democracy, and safeguard peace and stability in the region,” he said.

China has warned Mr Lai’s leadership will bring upon “war and decline” to the island, which is home to 23.5 million people.

As Taiwanese people went to the polls earlier this year, Chinese ambassador Xiao Qian warned Australia to steer clear of supporting the new leader.

Mr Xiao warned that Australia would be “pushed over the edge of an abyss” if it tied itself to Mr Lai and Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

He said Mr Lai’s party was guilty of “changing the status quo across the Straits” by colluding with “external forces in successive provocative actions”.

Chinese ambassador Qian Xiao warned that Australia would be “pushed over the edge of an abyss” if it tied itself to Mr Lai and Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“If Australia is tied to the chariot of Taiwan separatist forces, the Australian people would be pushed over the edge of an abyss,” the ambassador said at the time.

China’s threat to ‘kill independence’

China’s military has also released a series of ominous posters promoting what it called its “cross-strait lethality”, featuring rockets, jets and naval vessels next to bloodstained text.

“The weapon aimed at ‘Taiwan independence’ to kill ‘independence’ is already in place,” it declared.

Taipei’s defence ministry said 49 jets and planes had been detected since the drills began, with 35 of the aircraft crossing over the median line bisecting the Taiwan Strait.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for all sides to “refrain from acts that could escalate tensions in the region”.

US President Joe Biden has previously said he does not support Taiwan’s independence but also that he would back sending forces to defend the island. The official US position on intervention is one of ambiguity.

“We strongly urge Beijing to act with restraint,” a US spokesman said, adding China’s actions “risk escalation and erode longstanding norms that have maintained regional peace and stability for decades”.

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submitted 7 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

The man, identified only as Thomas H, had been a captain in the army's procurement office when he contacted Russian embassy in Berlin and passed on secret military information.

German police arrested him in the city of Koblenz in August and accused him of sharing photographs of munitions training systems and aircraft technology.

The 54-year-old admitted to a Düsseldorf court on Monday to passing information to Russia, saying it was a "stupid idea" and that he regretted his actions.

"It is the biggest mess I have ever made in my life," he told the court.

Prosecutors said the man approached the Russian embassy in Berlin and the consulate in Bonn unprompted and "almost persistently offered himself to Russia".

They said he photographed sensitive military files and dropped information through a letterbox at the consulate building in Bonn.

In a closing statement, the man said he had contacted the embassy after becoming concerned about the risk of nuclear war driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

He added that he was especially concerned that Germany's supply of heavy weapons to Ukraine could draw it into the conflict. According to government figures, Berlin supplied about €6.6bn (£5.62bn) worth of military hardware to Ukraine in 2022 and 2023. This included 40 Leopard 1 tanks and 100 infantry fighting vehicles.

The man claimed that chronic overwork had impaired his ability to think critically about his actions.

His lawyer said he had been influenced by a stream of pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation that he had been consuming on TikTok and Telegram at the time. He noted that his client had also joined the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.

He added that the decision came during a four-day period "in which [his client] crossed red lines".

While prosecutors said the leaks had revealed sensitive military information, they noted that he had not disclosed state secrets, an act which would have attracted a much heavier lifetime sentence.

The trial comes as a slew of Russian spy affairs have hit headlines in Germany.

In April, two men with dual Russian-German citizenship were arrested, accused of spying on US army bases in Germany where Ukrainian soldiers were being trained.

Since December, an employee for German domestic intelligence, Carsten L, has been on trial accused of passing on classified data to Russian agents.

And in February 2023, a former security guard at the British embassy in Berlin was sentenced to 13 years in prison for passing on large amounts of sensitive information to the nearby Russian embassy.

The affairs have sparked a debate about whether security measures in Germany are tight enough. The government has admitted that more cases are likely to come to light.

In a recent television interview, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said that Germany was a target for foreign powers. He added that over the next few months, more spies were likely to be “unmasked”.

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submitted 14 hours ago by alyaza@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org
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submitted 20 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

European Union foreign ministers decided on Monday to impose sanctions on Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service and on 19 Russians for human rights violations after the death of opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a prison in February.

"Alexei Navalny’s shocking death was another sign of the accelerating and systematic repression by the Kremlin regime. We will spare no efforts to hold the Russian political leadership and authorities to account," EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

The Kremlin has denied any state involvement in Navalny's death.

The sanctions include Russian judges, prosecutors and members of the judiciary. Their assets in the European Union, should they have any, are frozen and European companies are forbidden from making funds available to them.

The 19 people under sanctions also cannot enter, or transit through, the EU.

The new sanctions also restrict exports of equipment which might be used for internal repression and equipment, technology or software for use in information security and the monitoring or interception of telecommunication, the ministers said in a statement.

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submitted 20 hours ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Poland will introduce restrictions on the movement of Russian diplomats on its territory due to Moscow's involvement in what it deems a hybrid war against the European Union, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on Monday.

Relations between Poland and Russia have deteriorated sharply since Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022. Warsaw has also accused Moscow of spying and sabotage.

"These are national decisions, but we have evidence that the Russian state is involved in authorizing sabotage in our country as well. We hope that the Russian Federation will treat this as a very serious warning," Radoslaw Sikorski told journalists in Brussels.

The Russian embassy in Warsaw said it could not immediately comment as it had not received official information on the measures.

Sikorski said the embassy would receive a note on the matter soon and that the restriction would apply to all embassy and consulates' personnel except for the ambassador.

They will be allowed to travel only within the province where they are assigned.

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submitted 1 day ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

Here is the video interview (2 min)

Jens Stoltenberg says the rules on using Western weapons should be eased

NATO Secretaries-General do not normally attack the policies of the alliance’s biggest and most important member country. But Jens Stoltenberg, whose ten-year stint in charge is coming to an end, has done just that.

In an interview with The Economist on May 24th, he called on NATO allies supplying weapons to Ukraine to end their prohibition on using them to strike military targets in Russia. Mr Stoltenberg’s clear, if unnamed, target was the policy maintained by Joe Biden, America’s president, of controlling what Ukraine can and cannot attack with American-supplied systems.

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submitted 1 day ago* (last edited 1 day ago) by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

Reviving a Mao-era surveillance campaign, the Chinese authorities are tracking residents, schoolchildren and businesses to forestall any potential unrest.

Volunteers from a neighborhood committee keep watching on Beijing's streets. “Stability maintenance” — a catchall term for containing social problems and silencing dissent — has increasingly become a preoccupation in China under Xi Jinping.

The wall in the police station was covered in sheets of paper, one for every building in the sprawling Beijing apartment complex. Each sheet was further broken down by unit, with names, phone numbers and other information on the residents.

Perhaps the most important detail, though, was how each unit was color-coded. Green meant trustworthy. Yellow, needing attention. Orange required “strict control.”

A police officer inspected the wall. Then he leaned forward to mark a third-floor apartment in yellow. The residents in that unit changed often, and therefore were “high risk,” his note said. He would follow up on them later.

“I’ve built a system to address hidden dangers in my jurisdiction,” the officer said, in a video by the local government that praised his work as a model of innovative policing.

This is the kind of local governance that China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, wants: more visible, more invasive, always on the lookout for real or perceived threats. Officers patrol apartment buildings listening for feuding neighbors. Officials recruit retirees playing chess outdoors as extra eyes and ears. In the workplace, employers are required to appoint “safety consultants” who report regularly to the police.

The Chinese Communist Party has long wielded perhaps the world’s most sweeping surveillance apparatus against activists and others who might possibly voice discontent. Then, during the coronavirus pandemic, the surveillance reached an unprecedented scale, tracking virtually every urban resident in the name of preventing infections.

Now, it is clear that Mr. Xi wants to make that expanded control permanent, and to push it even further.

The goal is no longer just to address specific threats, such as the virus or dissidents. It is to embed the party so deeply in daily life that no trouble, no matter how seemingly minor or apolitical, can even arise.

Mr. Xi has branded this effort the “Fengqiao experience for a new era.” The Beijing suburb in the propaganda video, Zhangjiawan, was recently recognized in state media as a national exemplar of the approach.

“Fengqiao” refers to a town where, during the Mao era, the party encouraged residents to “re-educate” purported political enemies, through so-called struggle sessions where people were publicly insulted and humiliated until they admitted crimes such as writing anti-communist poetry.

Mr. Xi, who invokes Fengqiao regularly in major speeches, has not called for a revival of struggle sessions, in which supposed offenders were sometimes beaten or tortured. But the idea is the same: harnessing ordinary people alongside the police to suppress any challenges to the party and uphold the party’s legitimacy.

The party casts this as a public service. By having “zero distance” from the people, it can more quickly gather suggestions about, say, garbage collection or save residents the trouble of going to court over business disputes. Instead, conflicts are hashed out by party mediators.

Mr. Xi frequently points to the Fengqiao experience as proof that the party is responsive to people’s needs and desires, even as he has smothered free expression and dissent.

It is also an effort to assert his political legacy. Top officials have hailed Fengqiao as an example of Mr. Xi’s visionary leadership, while scholars have described it as “a model for showcasing Chinese governance to the world.”

The campaign strengthens Beijing’s repressive abilities at a time of mounting challenges. With China’s economy slowing, protests about unpaid wages and unfinished homes have increased. Tensions with the West have led Beijing to warn of omnipresent foreign spies. The party has also tightened scrutiny of groups like feminists, students and L.G.B.T. rights activists.

In the name of Fengqiao, the police have visited Tibetans, Uyghurs and other minority groups in their homes, promoting party policies. Companies have been required to register their employees in police databases. Government workers have given “anti-cult” lectures at churches. Police officers and judges have been installed in elementary schools as “deputy principals of law,” keeping files on students’ perceived risk levels.

But by blocking even mild or apolitical criticism, the party could also erode the very legitimacy it is trying to project.

A Mao Idea, Repurposed

Mr. Xi’s interest in the Fengqiao experience dates back two decades, to when he was still ascending the ranks of power.

The year was 2003, and Mr. Xi had just been named party secretary of Zhejiang Province in China’s east. China’s economic opening had brought great wealth to the province, but also led to rising crime. Mr. Xi was looking for a solution. According to official media reports, he turned to a small Zhejiang town called Fengqiao.

The town had entered party lore in the 1960s, after Mao exhorted the Chinese people to confront “class enemies,” such as landlords or rich farmers. In the official telling, Fengqiao residents at first clamored for the police to make arrests. But local party leaders instead urged the residents themselves to identify and “re-educate” the enemies.

Ultimately, nearly 1,000 people were labeled reactionaries, according to Fengqiao officials. They and their families had trouble finding work, going to school or even getting married. Mao declared the “Fengqiao experience” a model for the country. Not long after, he launched the Cultural Revolution, another mass movement that led to a decade of bloodshed.

After Mao died, the phrase fell out of favor, as his successors distanced themselves from the chaos of his rule.

Mr. Xi, though, embraced the phrase. His first visit to Fengqiao in 2003 was to the local police station, where he inspected an exhibition about the 1960s. Months later, he visited again and praised the idea of nipping problems in the bud. “Though the situation and responsibilities we face have changed, the Fengqiao experience is not outdated,” he said.

Mr. Xi’s call for more social control was part of a broader shift by the party, amid the rapid change of the 2000s, toward “stability maintenance” — a catchall term for containing social problems and silencing dissent.

After Mr. Xi became top leader in 2012, he redoubled that focus. Mentions of Fengqiao in state media became ubiquitous. Then came the coronavirus pandemic — and the government began tracking individuals’ movements down to the minute.

It did so partly through technology, requiring residents to download mobile health apps. But it also leaned on old-fashioned labor. Using a method called “grid management,” the authorities divided cities into blocks of a few hundred households, assigning workers to each. Those workers went door to door to enforce testing requirements and quarantines, sometimes by sealing people into their homes.

State media hailed China’s early success in containing Covid as proof of the Fengqiao experience’s continued utility. Chinese research papers described Fengqiao-style policing during the pandemic as a model for crisis management around the world.

When people began to chafe at the restrictions — culminating in nationwide protests in 2022 — the granular approach proved its utility in another way, as the police used facial recognition cameras and informants to track down participants.

“The architecture is there,” said Minxin Pei, a professor at Claremont McKenna College who recently published a book about China’s surveillance state. “After three years of lockdowns, seeing how the system works probably gave them a lot of insights.”

A Push to Penetrate Daily Life

The Covid controls are gone. The stepped-up surveillance is not.

It is clear now that the government’s heightened intrusiveness during the pandemic was an acceleration of a longer-term project. Mr. Xi’s goal is to deploy the masses to bolster the party, as Mao had done, but without the turmoil. That is where technology and the police come in, to ensure people never slip out of control.

“This is the next iteration” of the party’s obsession with stifling unrest, said Suzanne Scoggins, a professor at Clark University in Massachusetts who has studied Chinese policing.

And Beijing is pushing to expand it rapidly. It has encouraged local governments to hire many more workers to watch assigned grids. Last month, the party also issued its first-ever top-level guidance on the management of such workers, calling for stronger ideological training and formalized rewards and punishments.

Those new grid monitors will supplement the extensive ranks of China’s surveillance workers, which on top of uniformed police and party workers also include as many as 15 million ordinary people recruited as local government informants, according to Professor Pei’s research.

Volunteer from neighborhood committees watching on streets are especially visible on holidays or during major political meetings, ensuring that public order is maintained.

Beijing also deploys vast numbers of “security volunteers,” mostly retirees, during important political meetings or holidays. They are tasked with ensuring the streets look orderly: steering homeless people into shelters, scolding those who litter and alerting the police if they see suspected protesters.

On a recent Thursday in central Beijing, two residents stood on the sidewalk wearing red vests and name tags. They would be there for two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, guarding their assigned grid unit of three apartment buildings, said one of them, Qi Jinyou, 76. Other duos were stationed regularly down the block.

Mr. Qi had joined about a year ago, after neighborhood officials called residents at home to recruit. In return, he received gifts like tissues or toothpaste. But he also felt a sense of duty: “We have to protect, right? Safety first.”

In Zhangjiawan, the Beijing suburb held up as a model of Fengqiao’s successes, some residents praised the increase in patrols. Near a billboard depicting a smiling Mr. Xi, a meat seller named Wang Li said that neighborhood officials often inspected for fire hazards like loose electrical wires, or reminded residents to go for health checkups.

Seeing police cars on patrol when she got off work late, she said, “I feel more at ease.”

‘To Grind You Down’

Others have seen how the approach can be used to try and compel obedience.

On the outskirts of Zhangjiawan, the government is demolishing and redeveloping several villages into a tourist attraction. By January, 98 percent of the roughly 1,700 households had agreed to relocate, thanks to village representatives who had visited homes more than 1,600 times, according to a social media post by the local government touting how the Fengqiao experience had “taken root.”

They “won trust with their professionalism, and intimacy with their sincerity,” the government said.

A villager named Ms. Mu was one of the holdouts. Standing outside the low-slung house that her family had lived in for more than 20 years, she surveyed the fields where neighboring buildings had already been flattened.

Party officials and representatives of the developer had repeatedly called and visited her family, urging them to move out, but she felt the compensation was too low.

“They don’t have a proper conversation with you. They just send people to grind you down,” said Ms. Mu, who asked that only her surname be used.

One night, as negotiations dragged on, men were stationed outside their home to intimidate them, she said. Their water supply was also cut off during the demolition of nearby buildings, but local officials did not seem to care about that, Ms. Mu said: “Not a single village official has come to ask, how can we help with this water problem?”

She and her siblings now drive into town to fill bottles with tap water.

The risks of empowering low-level officials to fulfill sweeping political mandates became especially clear during the pandemic. Under pressure to prevent infections, neighborhood workers at times prevented residents from buying groceries or seeking medical care.

Even high-profile political activists, for whom surveillance has long been routine, have felt the controls intensify. Wang Quanzhang, a human rights lawyer who was released from more than four years in prison in 2020, said that 30 or 40 people were watching his home in Beijing at any given time. He shared photographs of groups of men in black clothing sitting inside his building and following him on the street.

Several landlords had forced him to move out, under official pressure, he said. The authorities had also pressured schools not to let his 11-year-old son enroll, he added.

“We didn’t think that when they couldn’t chase us away from Beijing, they would start targeting our child,” he said. “After the epidemic, it’s gotten worse.”

The Cost of Control

The success of this labor-intensive approach hinges upon the zeal of its enforcers. That has often worked to the advantage of the party, which uses financial incentives, appeals to patriotism and sometimes threats, such as to their jobs, to mobilize officials and ordinary people alike.

But the reliance on an army of paid workers could also be the surveillance apparatus’s central weakness, as the slowing economy forces local governments to tighten budgets.

Already, some community workers and police officers have complained on social media of being overworked.

Even propaganda about Fengqiao has acknowledged the toll of making officials responsible for ever-smaller issues. One state media article lauded a police officer who, to resolve a dispute between neighbors, helped unclog a blocked pipe. “Suddenly, a large amount of sewage and feces sprayed onto his head and body,” the article said. The residents, the article continued, “felt both pity and gratitude.”

The party’s tightening grip could also stifle the dynamism that it needs to revive the economy. A fried chicken vendor in Zhangjiawan, who gave only her surname, Ma, said she had not made enough money to pay her rent for three months, in part because constantly patrolling officers prohibited her from setting up her cart on the sidewalk.

“If the economy suffers, then there will be security problems,” she said. “People need to eat. If they get anxious, things will get messy.”

[Edit typo.]

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Archived link

In response to the recent wave of long-range missile strikes by Russian forces on targets in western Ukraine, Polish and allied aircraft were deployed in Polish airspace during the night. This intense activity, observed and reported early Sunday morning by the Operational Command of the Polish Armed Forces, aimed to ensure the security of Poland’s airspace.

“With the conclusion of the long-range missile strikes by the Russian Federation’s air force on targets in the western part of Ukraine, the operation of military aviation in Polish airspace has been completed, and the deployed forces and resources have returned to standard operational activities,” announced the Operational Command via social media.

The night saw heightened activity from the Russian air force, which conducted missile attacks on various targets, including those in western Ukraine. As a precautionary measure, Polish and allied aircraft were mobilized to operate within Polish airspace, particularly increasing aerial presence in the southeastern regions of the country. This deployment might have led to elevated noise levels in these areas, as noted by the Operational Command.

By morning, the Command confirmed the end of these maneuvers. The last significant activity from the Russian air force in connection with these strikes was recorded during the night of May 7th to 8th.

The Operational Command emphasized that all necessary procedures to ensure the safety of Polish airspace were activated. The situation continues to be closely monitored to respond to any further developments promptly.

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By Professor Natasha Lindstaedt, Department of Government, University of Essex.

[The island of] Gotland has been a popular holiday destination for decades, but recently Swedish commander-in-chief, Mikael Bydén, claimed that Russian president Vladmir Putin “has his eyes” on the island. Concern was further ramped up, showing Gotland was just one part of Russia’s ambitions in the Baltics, in the last few days when Russia published a document suggesting that it needed to reassess the maritime borders in the Gulf of Finland.

That draft decree by the Russian defence ministry, which has since been removed, proposed that Russia wanted to revise its borders with Finland and Kaliningrad (based on a resolution adopted by the Soviet Union’s council of ministers in 1985) and expand its territorial waters.

Gotland holds a strategically important location of being in the middle of the Baltic Sea (halfway between Sweden and Estonia) and only 300km from where Russia’s Baltic fleet is based. Sweden joining Nato and giving it access to Gotland has significantly increased the alliance’s ability to deploy and sustain its forces in the Baltic Sea region, and this could make a decisive difference in the defence of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Poland.

Because of its strategic importance, for most of the cold war Sweden maintained a large military presence on the island. But Gotland was demilitarised in 2005 in order to promote peace and cooperation in the Baltic region.

This gesture of goodwill was immediately tested by the Russians as, not long after doing so, Russian men who did not fit the usual Gotland tourist profile, began regularly visiting the island.

Then, on March 29 2013, two Tupolev Tu-22M3 nuclear bombers came within 24 miles of Gotland on dummy bombing runs. Sweden’s part-time air force had the weekend off on account of the Easter holiday, emphasising both the country’s military weakness and Gotland’s vulnerability to Russia.

After Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, Sweden took significant steps to protect itself, reintroducing 150 permanent troops on the island in 2016. By 2018, Sweden had expanded the number of permanently placed troops to 400, equipping them with CV90 armoured vehicles and Leopard 2 tanks. Air defence systems were also reactivated by 2021.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 led to additional reinforcements, exercises, and investment in Gotland’s defence, totalling US$160 million (£125 million). In April 2023, Sweden held its biggest military exercise in 25 years alongside Polish and British troops on the island.

For Swedish commander-in-chief Bydén, the reasons for increasing its defences in Gotland are clear. Gotland is both a major strategic asset and potential liability, and therefore must be protected in order to prevent greater threats from Russia to Nato countries from the sea.

The geographical distances in the Baltics are small, and if Russia seized Gotland in a crisis, it could dominate the Baltic Sea region. This would make it very difficult for the west to provide reinforcement to the Baltic states by sea or by air.

It’s not only Sweden that is concerned. Lithuania borders both the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (which itself has become increasingly militarised) and Belarus, it is concerned that it could be attacked, and would then be physically isolated from the rest of the Baltics.

In usual Moscow fashion, when the online document about changing Russian maritime borders was spotted in the west, the Kremlin denied that it had any plans to do so. But there was no explanation from Russian officials as to why the ministry proposal was removed from the government’s portal.

As leaders of the Baltic countries sought clarification, Lithuania warned that this was, at the very least, another Russian intimidation tactic. Estonia’s prime minster, Kaja Kallas, went further, claiming that Russia is engaging in a “shadow war” with the west.

Shadow war in the Baltic

The Baltic Sea has already been an area of heightened tensions this year. Russian ships have stoked hostilities due to their increasingly brazen and careless behaviour, breaching maritime rules and sailing old and uninsured oil tankers, which could potentially cause an environmental catastrophe.

Russian shadow tankers (which are ships that are used in countries that have been sanctioned) have been present in Sweden’s exclusive economic zone off the eastern coast of Gotland, and have loitered off Gotland’s east coast. Russia’s fleet consists of about 1,400 ships that are not officially part of Russia’s military.

Many of these shadow tankers refuse pilotage, the practice of directing the movement of a ships by using visual or electronic observations, even when navigating Denmark’s narrow Great Belt. It appears they are engaging in forms of brinkmanship.

These provocations all take place just outside the 12 nautical mile limit (a country’s territorial waters), making it impossible for Sweden to do anything about it, as these commercial tankers are not part of Russia’s official navy. The Swedish navy has warned that Russia is likely to be using these oil tankers to engage in sabotage, reconnaissance and espionage.

Because of these developments, the Swedish prime minister informed citizens in March that they needed to be prepared for war.

In the past, Gotland was a deterrent against Soviet expansion. But Russia today under Putin seems less easily deterred and more risk-acceptant. What’s not clear is if these provocations are part of a Russian shadow war to psychologically divide and terrorise the west, or if this is a prelude to an actual war, which would certainly begin if Russia attacked Gotland.

As Sweden is now a member of Nato, this means that all members must come to Sweden’s defence should it face an attack. On its own, Sweden has a world-class and modern submarine fleet and air force and a technologically advanced defence industrial base.

Given Sweden’s military capabilities, it’s hard to predict if this is enough to deter conflict with Russia. For now, it seems, Russia is determined to create suspense around its intentions in the Baltics — a region that holds both Nato’s greatest assets and vulnerabilities. As a result, the Baltic region has become a playground in Russia’s shadow war.

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- Gazprom posted a loss of $7 bln in 2023, first since end-1990s - Gazprom's pipeline gas sales to Europe slump - Russia banks on business with Asia - Price of Russian gas for China seen gradually declining

Kremlin-owned energy kingpin Gazprom, once Russia's most profitable company, could face a long period of poor performance as it struggles to fill the gap of lost European gas sales with its domestic market and Chinese exports.

The company recently announced an annual net loss of $7 billion, its first since 1999, following a steep decline in trade with Europe.

Gazprom's troubles reflect the deep impact the European sanctions have had on Russia's gas industry, as well as the limitations of Moscow's growing partnership with China.

The impact of international sanctions on oil exports has been easier for Moscow to absorb because Russia has been able to redirect sea-borne oil exports to other buyers.

Gazprom relied on Europe as its largest sales market until 2022, when Russia's conflict with Ukraine prompted the EU to cut Gazprom gas imports.

Russia supplied a total of around 63.8 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to Europe by various routes in 2022, according to Gazprom data and Reuters calculations. The volume decreased further, by 55.6%, to 28.3 bcm last year.

That's compared to a peak of 200.8 bcm Gazprom pumped in 2018 to the EU and other countries, such as Turkey.

Mysterious blasts at Nord Stream undersea gas pipelines from Russia to Germany in September 2022 also significantly undermined Russian gas trade with Europe. Russia has turned to China, seeking to boost its pipeline gas sales to 100 bcm a year by 2030. Gazprom started pipeline gas supplies to China via the Power of Siberia in the end of 2019.

It plans to reach the 38 bcm annual capacity of Power of Siberia by the end of this year, while Moscow and Beijing also agreed in 2022 about exports of 10 bcm from the Pacific island of Sakhalin.

Russia's biggest hope is the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline via Mongolia, which is planned to export 50 bcm per year. But that has hit some pitfalls due to the lack of agreement over pricing and other issues.

"While Gazprom will see some additional export revenues when all those pipelines will be up and running, it will never be able to offset completely the business it has lost to Europe," Kateryna Filippenko, a research director on gas and LNG at Wood Mackenzie, said.

Chinese pipedream?

Russia has also struggled so far to establish a gas trading centre in Turkey, an idea first floated by President Vladimir Putin in October 2022. No significant development has been reported since.

Even if Gazprom can get its pipeline supply to China up and running, sales revenues will be much lower than from Europe.

According to Moscow-based BCS brokerage, Gazprom's revenue from gas sales to Europe in 2015-2019 averaged at $3.3 billion per month thanks to monthly supplies of 15.5 bcm.

Taking into account a price of $286.9 per 1,000 cubic metres, as reported by the Russian economy ministry, and Gazprom's gas exports of 22.7 bcm last year, the total value of the company's gas sold to China could have reach $6.5 billion for the whole of 2023.

Gazprom did not reveal its revenue from sales to Europe or China for 2023 separately.

Dr Michal Meidan, head of China Energy Research at Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said China is unlikely to replace Europe for Russia as a highly profitable gas export market.

"China gives Russia an outlet but at much lower prices and revenue than Europe," she said.

In 2023, Russian pipeline gas was sold at $6.6 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) to China and slightly lower than that in the first quarter 2024 at $6.4/mmBtu.

That's compared to an average price of Russian gas in Europe of $12.9/mmBtu last year.

According to a document seen by Reuters last month, Russia expects its gas price for China to continue gradually declining in next four years, while a worst-case scenario does not rule out a 45% fall to $156.7 per 1,000 cubic metres (around $4.4 per mmBtu) in 2027 versus 2023.

It didn't say what might drive prices down, but Russia is facing rivalry from other pipeline gas suppliers to China, such as Turkmenistan, as well as sea-borne liquefied natural gas.

The financials of Gazprom, which also include its oil and power units, showed that the revenue from the natural gas business more than halved last year, to just over 3.1 trillion roubles, while oil and gas condensate sales amounted to 4.1 trillion roubles, up 4.3%, according to BCS brokerage.

Alexei Belogoriyev of Moscow-based Institute for Energy and Finance said it would be impossible for Gazprom to restore profitability relying solely on its gas business. He said strategic shift to production and export of ammonia, methanol and other gas processing products for Gazprom is possible, but it will not give a quick return.

"At the same time, the prospects for the Power of Siberia 2 remain vague: China most likely won't need for so much additional imports in 2030s due to the likely slowdown in demand growth and high domestic gas production rates," he said.

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Radosław Sikorski also says he favours deepest possible inclusion of UK in EU defence structures

  • Radosław Sikorski also called for majority voting for EU sanctions as some of them [EU sanctions] "have been delayed by one member state blocking them"

  • Sikorski said Poland backed the right of Ukraine to strike at military targets inside Russia, arguing that the west had to stop constantly limiting itself in what it does to support Ukraine. He said:

“The Russians are hitting the Ukrainian’s electricity grid and their grain terminals and gas storage capacity, civilian infrastructure. The Russian operation is conducted from the HQ at Rostov-on-Don. Apart from not using nuclear weapons, Russia does not limit itself much."

"Always declaring what our own [the EU's] red line is only invites Moscow to tailor its hostile actions to our constantly changing self-imposed limitations.”

  • Poland is spending 4% of its GDP on defence and Sikorski said other countries had catching up to do

  • Sikorski admitted European defence manufacturers still did not feel that the process of rearmament was permanent, and said Vladimir Putin was spending 40% of GDP on defence and would eventually bankrupt his country by making the military so resource hungry

  • Sikorski said that it should be an EU crime to breach EU sanctions and therefore prosecutable by the European prosecution service

  • Sikorski was sceptical about Russian threats to use nuclear weapons, saying:

"The Americans have told the Russians that if you explode a nuke, even if it doesn’t kill anybody, we will hit all your targets [positions] in Ukraine with conventional weapons, we’ll destroy all of them." Adding:

“I think that’s a credible threat. Also, the Chinese and the Indians have read Russia the riot act. And it’s no child’s play because if that taboo were also to be breached, like the taboo of not changing borders by force, China knows that Japan and Korea would go nuclear, and presumably they don’t want that.”

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday issued new provisional measures that order Israel to immediately end military operations in Rafah in southern Gaza and to open the governate’s border crossing for urgent aid deliveries.

This follows a request from South Africa in a pending case accusing Israel of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention.

Reading the new provisional measures in an open session at the court in The Hague, ICJ Justice Nawaf Salam announced that Israel must abide by its obligations under the Genocide Convention to “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governate which may inflict upon the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole and in part”. Tweet URL

The court issued that decision by 13 votes in favour to two against.

The new provisional measures came in response to South Africa’s request made on 10 May related to its initial accusations in December that Israel is violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention during the war in Gaza, which broke out after Hamas-led attacks on Israel in October that killed more than 1,200 people and left another 250 taken hostage.

Israel’s military response has, to date, killed nearly 36,000 Palestinians and caused widespread destruction and a looming famine in the besieged and bombarded enclave.

Court orders opening of Rafah border crossing

Given the worsening conditions on the ground since Israel’s incursion into Rafah on 7 May, the court decided, also by votes of 13 in favour to two against, the new provisional measures shall require Israel to open the Rafah crossing for the unhindered delivery of urgent humanitarian aid and ensure unimpeded access for fact-finding missions to investigate allegations of genocide.

The Rafah border crossing, which has been the main entry point for aid to the enclave, has been closed since 7 May.

“The court is not convinced that evacuation efforts and related measures that Israel has affirmed to have undertaken to enhance the security of civilians in the Gaza Strip, and in particular those recently displaced from the Rafah governate, are sufficient to alleviate immense risks to which the Palestinian population is exposed as a result of the military offensive in Rafah,” Mr. Salam said.

In addition, the ICJ ordered Israel to submit a report within one month on steps taken to implement these provisional measures.

Deteriorating conditions

Mr. Salam said the ICJ had noted that the situation in Gaza has deteriorated since it last issued provisional measures in March, adding that since Israel’s incursion into Rafah, the Najjar Hospital was no longer functioning and aid efforts have been impacted.

The court also noted that Israel’s evacuation orders for Rafah residents had led more than 800,000 people to flee to places like the coastal area of Al Mawasi, which lacked the basic essentials and services to accommodate them.

Since taking up South Africa’s case in January, the ICJ had already issued provisional measures in January and March by which Israel must, among other things, take all steps to ensure sufficient humanitarian aid enters Gaza.

However, UN agencies are reporting that scant aid is currently entering Gaza.

Court reiterates call to release hostages

On Friday, Mr. Salam recalled that in the two previous orders for provisional measures “the court expressed its grave concern over the fate of the hostages abducted during the attack in Israel on 7 October 2023 and held since then by Hamas and other armed groups, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.”

He said “the court finds it deeply troubling that many of these hostages remain in captivity and reiterates its call for their immediate and unconditional release.”

What’s the difference between the ICJ and the ICC?

There is frequent confusion between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Both courts have open cases against Israel related to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

The simplest way to explain the difference is that ICJ cases involve countries, and the ICC is a criminal court, which brings cases against individuals for war crimes or crimes against humanity. While the ICJ is an organ of the United Nations, the ICC is legally independent of the UN, although it is endorsed by the General Assembly.

The ICJ is currently considering South Africa’s accusations that Israel is violating the Genocide Convention.

On Monday, the ICC sought arrest warrants related to possible war crimes against three Hamas leaders and Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. The request for the warrants are now being considered by the court’s judges.

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By Elaine L Ritch, Reader in Fashion, Marketing and Sustainability, Glasgow Caledonian University

Fast-fashion brand Shein expressed interest last year in listing on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). But, having met some opposition from US politicians, including Republican Florida senator Marco Rubio, it has now reportedly turned its attention to London.

While this would be a boost for the London Stock Exchange (LSE), which has lost several organisations to other international exchanges over the last five years, it raises the question of why Shein has not been successful with its application to the NYSE.

Shein has gained a significant global market share in online fast fashion since launching in China in 2008. It found success accelerating the already lucrative fast-fashion business model to become an ultra-fast fashion retailer.

That Shein is the second most popular fashion retailer for American generation Z is unsurprising, given the vast choice of up to 10,000 new garments uploaded daily at significantly lower prices than fast-fashion competitors like Zara and H&M.

Yet those strategies that have enabled Shein’s international expansion are now likely hindering its application to the NYSE. The low cost of fast fashion in general has long been linked to potential labour exploitation, and the precariousness of outsourcing fashion production to the cheapest supplier within a global supply chain was evident during the pandemic. And as awareness of unethical and unsustainable practices in the wider industry grows, activists may yet have the power to disrupt Shein’s growth.

Swiss NGO Public Eye has reported on alleged exploitation at factories said to be used by Shein, which itself recently issued a comprehensive response saying it has made “extensive progress” in improving conditions. In the US, Rubio introduced a law in 2021 blocking imports made by Chinese Uyghur slave labour and has since ordered an investigation into Shein and fellow Chinese low-price retailer Temu to see if their goods fall foul of the law.

Climate emergency

The US is going further in regulating the fashion industry. In New York, the Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act will, if passed, legislate that fashion and footwear brands with more than US$100 million (£79 million) in revenue must map 50% of their supply chain to ensure transparency. They will also have to develop plans to reduce their social and environmental impact.

Similarly, in 2019 the European Parliament declared a climate emergency, and the European Commission responded by developing the European Green Deal. This includes planned legislation forcing the fashion industry to address sustainability issues, meaning that by 2030 fashion and textiles will have to become more durable, repairable and recyclable. Businesses will also need to have strategies in place from the design process through to the end of life to maximise resources and avoid contributing to landfill.

French politicians are also “legislating to limit the excesses of ultra-fast fashion”, with a surcharge from 2025 of €5 (£4.29) per item, rising to €10 by 2030. This is recognition that ultra-fast and fast fashion does not only exploit labour, but also the environment. In being seen as disposable, fast fashion has been shown to encourage constant consumption.

While listing Shein on the LSE could improve the company’s respectability and profits, it could backfire for the brand in the long term. Shein could become more visible to a wider audience and with more understanding of sustainability and business practices that contribute to the climate emergency, activists could begin targeting shareholders and other organisations and people with connections to the company.

There is precedent for this – activists who targeted museums and galleries over their sponsorship from energy companies, as well as campus protests in the US and Europe calling for universities to divest from Israeli companies over its war in Gaza.

This trend of publicly criticising brands for exploitative or unethical practice has been levied at fast fashion retailers on social media for years. In particular, influencers who promote “fashion hauls” have been criticised for encouraging unsustainable fashion consumption.

The fashion industry may appear to be unfairly scrutinised for failing to address sustainability. After all, it’s hardly the only industry that damages the environment. But the scrutiny appears to be valid; the United Nations now believes that the fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world.

What’s more, as an industry it makes an overt display of its cheap prices and rapid turnover, with marketing tactics claiming “last chance to buy” or “low in stock”, along with discounts that encourage frequent impulsive purchases. Our research has found that fast fashion marketing on social media is “in your face” and encourages mindless consumption of clothing that often languishes in wardrobes with the tags still on.

Fast-fashion retailers frequently make sustainability claims to alleviate consumer “eco-guilt”, which are often ambiguous and can’t be readily substantiated. But fast and ultra-fast fashion can never be sustainable due to the speed of turnover and items that are often binned after one wear.

So, although the marketing entices customers through social media, the messages consumers see as they scroll are increasingly competing with stories of activism and protests about fast fashion’s harmful effects.

As moves to regulate the fast-fashion industry spread to more regions, the effects will almost certainly affect the profits of those in the sector. While a London listing for Shein might be a shot in the arm for the LSE, it could spell trouble for the retailer as it finds itself – and its practices – under increasing scrutiny.

Shein was approached about the claims made in this article but declined to comment.

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Archived link

Cash-strapped Pakistan is moving to restructure more than $15 billion in power-plant debt owed to Chinese energy producers, in a move that threatens to dampen Beijing’s appetite for future investment.

The South Asian nation is already on the hook for about $1.9 billion in unpaid operating bills at 20 China-backed power plants across the country. Most were built under the $50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key part of Beijing’s globe-spanning Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

But Islamabad announced this weekend that it was seeking to restructure $15.4 billion in loans linked to the construction of those China-funded plants.

Pakistan wants to extend the maturity of the loans by five years to save roughly $2 billion in debt-servicing costs over the next several years, according to an official involved in the process who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media.

Delaying payment could give the government some wiggle room to avoid raising electricity prices in the midst of soaring summertime demand. An energy price hike last year triggered widespread protests.

The surprise announcement came as Pakistan negotiates another bailout package in the range of $6 to $8 billion with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has called on Islamabad to stop subsidizing the energy sector

“It reduces the [debt] burden [of Pakistan] when it comes to negotiating with the IMF,” Aadil Nakhoda, an assistant professor of economics at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi, said of the restructuring plan.

Pakistan is aiming to get the restructuring approved before Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visits China next month. But observers said convincing Beijing could be difficult. The request comes amid tensions between the two countries after a series of deadly militant attacks on Chinese nationals and economic interests in Pakistan.

Abdul Rehman, a Pakistan-based energy market expert, said Chinese officials will not agree to restructure the multibillion-dollar loans.

“China will give new loans, which can be used to repay the existing loans of power projects,” Rehman said. “In this way, the debts will not be restructured and Pakistan’s forex accounts will also get a breather.”

Chinese companies have repeatedly called on Pakistan to settle its outstanding power bills, stoking fears that producers could suspend their operations to force Islamabad’s hand. Pakistan is paying some of the operations’ variable costs, such as fuel, and it is unlikely the Chinese companies would take such a drastic step, Rehman said. But “Chinese power producers’ payment problems will surely affect future Chinese investment in Pakistan,” he added.

This month, Chinese investors called for Pakistan to place funds in a foreign bank account to ensure that debts owed to power producers are paid on time. Pakistan has not accepted this demand, but it is under mounting pressure to placate them before next month’s Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meeting. The body makes decisions for the broader China-Pakistan investment framework, including about future funding and the suspension of existing projects.

“Given its burgeoning economic problems, Pakistan expects major investments from China at the next JCC meeting,” another government official told Nikkei on condition of anonymity. “We fear that Pakistan’s failure to honor commitments to pay Chinese power producers has made our investment pitch to China a very hard sell.”

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submitted 4 days ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

***Written by Amy Maguire, Associate Professor in Human Rights and International Law, University of Newcastle ***

The request by Karim Khan, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), for arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders is a significant step in the effort to bring justice to the victims of international crimes in Israel and Palestine.

Khan has asked ICC judges to issue warrants on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes against Yahya Sinwar (head of Hamas in Gaza), Mohammed Diab Ibrahim Al-Masri (also known as Mohammed Deif, the commander of the military wing of Hamas) and Ismail Haniyeh (head of Hamas’ political bureau, based in Qatar).

They are alleged to bear responsibility for international crimes on Israeli and Palestinian territory at least since October 7 2023.

Khan has also requested arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, again for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They are alleged to be responsible for crimes in the Gaza Strip since October 8 2023.

What have they been accused of?

Sinwar, Al-Masri and Haniyeh are charged in relation to the attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7, in which an estimated 1,200 Israeli civilians were killed and at least 245 taken hostage.

In addition, the Hamas leaders are accused of other crimes in the context of the ongoing conflict in Gaza. These include:

  • extermination
  • murder
  • hostage taking
  • rape and other acts of sexual violence
  • torture
  • cruel treatment

Khan said in his statement:

I saw the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today. Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability.

Khan noted his office conducted extensive investigations, including site visits and interviews with victim survivors, and relied on evidence relating to the conditions in which Israeli hostages have been held in Gaza.

Netanyahu and Gallant are alleged to be criminally responsible for a number of international crimes since Israel launched its military action against Hamas in Gaza on October 8, including:

  • starvation of civilians as a method of warfare
  • wilfully causing great suffering
  • wilful killing
  • intentional attacks against a civilian population
  • extermination and/or murder
  • persecution.

The prosecutor said the alleged crimes:

.... were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Palestinian civilian population pursuant to state policy. These crimes, in our assessment, continue to this day.

Noting the horrific suffering of civilians in Gaza, including tens of thousands of casualties and catastrophic hunger, Khan alleged that the means Netanyahu and Gallant chose to pursue Israel’s military aims in Gaza

… namely, intentionally causing death, starvation, great suffering, and serious injury to body or health of the civilian population – are criminal.

What does this mean in practice?

The next step in this process is for three judges in the ICC pre-trial chamber to decide if there are reasonable grounds to believe war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. If so, they will issue arrest warrants. It could take months for the judges to make this assessment.

If arrest warrants are issued, however, they are very unlikely to be executed. And if none of the accused can be arrested, then no trial will take place because the ICC does not try people in absentia.

So, why is it unlikely the accused will be arrested? There are several reasons.

First, none of the accused will hand themselves in for prosecution. Netanyahu was outraged by Khan’s decision, calling it “a moral outrage of historic proportions” and accusing him of antisemitism.

Hamas has issued a statement strongly denouncing the issuing of arrest warrants against its leaders, claiming it equates “the victim with the executioner”.

Second, none of the accused are likely to put themselves in a position to be arrested and turned over to the ICC. Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the ICC. Its chief ally, the United States, is also not a member. This would guarantee Netanyahu and Gallant could travel to the US without fear of arrest.

Meanwhile, Haniyeh is based in Qatar, which is also not an ICC member state. He may need to curtail travel to other states to avoid risk of arrest. The other two accused Hamas leaders are believed to be hiding in Gaza – they appear more at risk of being killed by Israeli forces than arrest.

However, Palestine is an ICC member state, so technically it is obliged to cooperate with the court. In practice, though, it is hard to see how this will happen.

Third, the ICC relies on its member states to enforce its actions. It has no independent police force or capacity to execute arrest warrants.

The ICC has 124 state parties, while the United Nations has 193 member states. This disparity makes clear the gap between what the ICC seeks to achieve – namely, universal accountability for international crimes – and what it can practically achieve when it lacks the support of implicated or nonaligned countries.

What does this mean for the ICC?

Khan’s move is unprecedented in one respect. This is the first time the prosecutor’s office has brought charges against a head of state who is supported by Western nations.

The move triggered a predictable response from the US. President Joe Biden called it “outrageous” and added:

[…] there is no equivalence – none – between Israel and Hamas. We will always stand with Israel against threats to its security.

But Khan emphasised the importance of the ICC’s independence and impartiality, as well as the equal application of law.

No foot soldier, no commander, no civilian leader – no one – can act with impunity.

The ICC has previously confirmed its jurisdiction over crimes allegedly committed by the five leaders this week. The prosecutor will be confident the pre-trial chamber will issue the arrest warrants, based on the highly visible nature of the alleged crimes and the volume of evidence available to show reasonable grounds for prosecution.

The request for arrest warrants undoubtedly complicates relations between Israel and its allies that are ICC member states. In such a politically charged context, it is fair to describe this effort as a test of the international community’s commitment to the goal of ending impunity for international crimes.

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submitted 4 days ago by mozz@mbin.grits.dev to c/news@beehaw.org
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submitted 4 days ago by tardigrada@beehaw.org to c/news@beehaw.org

Prisoners held at an Israeli detention camp in the Negev desert are being subjected to widespread physical and mental abuses, with at least one reported case of a man having his limb amputated as a result of injuries sustained from constant handcuffing, according to two whistleblowers who worked at the site.

The sources described harrowing treatment of detainees at the Israeli Sde Teiman camp, which holds Palestinians from Gaza and suspected Hamas militants, including inmates regularly being kept shackled to hospital beds, blindfolded and forced to wear nappies.

According to the two sources, the facility, located approximately 18 miles from the Gaza border, consists of two distinct sections: an enclosure where up to 200 Palestinian detainees from Gaza are confined under severe physical restrictions inside cages, and a field hospital where dozens of patients with war injuries are handcuffed to their beds and often deprived of pain relief.

One whistleblower, who has worked in the facility as a prison guard, said detainees were forced to stand up for hours, or to sit on their knees. The source, who spoke out at risk of reprisals, said several detainees were beaten with truncheons and not able to move their heads or to speak at the facility.

“The prisoners are detained in a sort of cages, all blindfolded and handcuffed,” the source said. “If someone speaks or moves, they are immediately silenced or they are forced to stand with their hands raised above their head and handcuffed for up to one hour.

“If they are unable to keep their hands raised, the soldiers attach the handcuffs to the bars of the cage. Many of the detainees had infected wounds that were not being properly treated.”

He added: “The floor is very dirty, and it smells so bad that we were forced to wear face masks. You could hear sometimes the sound of beating and them screaming, and [a] banging sound like against the metal wall.”

The whistleblower said prisoners were given one cucumber, a few slices of bread and a cup of cheese, and that some of them were visibly malnourished.

The source claimed the military had no proof that detainees were all members of Hamas, with some inmates repeatedly asking why they were there. According to the whistleblower, most were considered suspects and some were released. “But they had not been formally charged. It was a kind of filtering camp, a provisional detention,” he said.

According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which demanded the closure of the camp, “since the start of the war, all Gazan residents detained are classified as ‘unlawful combatants’, a classification which deprives them of prisoner of war status, enabling Israel to prohibit lawyers’ visits for prolonged periods, leading to a lack of critical oversight during a time of heightened risk of severe incarceration conditions and torture.”

According to information obtained from the Israeli prison service dating from early April, 849 individuals classified as “unlawful combatants” were being held in its custody.

The source described the field hospital in the detention camp as consisting of tents with an emergency room where patients underwent surgery on a stretcher as there was no operating table. The patients were handcuffed to the beds, they all had nappies and were blindfolded.

He claimed he was told that some patients had come from hospitals in Gaza. “These were patients who had been captured by the Israeli army while being treated in Gaza hospitals and brought here. They had limbs and infected wounds. They were moaning in pain.”

In one case, he said, he learned that a detainee’s hand had been amputated “because the wrists had become gangrenous due to handcuffing wounds.”

The PHR report detailed the case of Izz ad-Din al-Bana, a 34-year-old Gaza resident who relied on a wheelchair before his arrest, and who died at another medical centre in February after being transferred from Sde Teiman to be treated for severe pressure ulcers. Other prisoners alleged that he had been complaining of pain for several days and did not receive an appropriate response or treatment.

The prison guard’s statements are corroborated by a second whistleblower who spoke to the Guardian and who was part of the medical staff operating in the field hospital in Sde Teiman.

“There were about 15 patients in total, they were all handcuffed and blindfolded,” he said. “They were naked, wearing diapers and were covered by blankets. Most of them appeared to have obvious war injuries, some had undergone amputations and others underwent major abdominal or chest surgery. They were practically naked except for a diaper.”

The member of the medical staff added: “I understand that it is difficult to treat a patient accused of heinous crimes, but it is the job we have chosen and as physicians we should recognise that every human being has a right to appropriate healthcare regardless of their backgrounds.”

The source said he witnessed a patient undergoing painful medical procedures without any painkillers.

Responding to the claims, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement: “Among the detainees held at the Sde Teiman facility are skilled military operatives at a very high level of danger. Detainees are handcuffed according to their level of risk and their state of health.

“Routinely procedures are carried out on handcuffing in order to make sure that the handcuffing is carried in a manner that does not harm the detainees … Early in the war and after reports of handcuff injuries, the type of handcuffs in the facility was changed to reduce, as much as possible, possible harm as a result of the handcuffs.”

It added that detainees were allowed regular access to toilets located in the prison complex and that nappies were used only for those who had undergone medical procedures for which their movement was limited, and were intended to maintain their hygiene.

The IDF said it treated detainees “appropriately and carefully” and “any allegation regarding misconduct by IDF soldiers is examined and dealt with accordingly. In appropriate cases, criminal investigations are opened by the military police.”

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submitted 4 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

Archived link

The Bulgarian prosecutor’s office has filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down two pro-Russian paramilitary groups that have been particularly active on social media, with calls to change the country’s constitutional order.

The two groups are working against the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of the nation and towards the incitement of ethnic or religious enmity,” the prosecutor’s office said on Wednesday.

Both the Bulgarian National Movement “Shipka” and the Bulgarian Military Union “Vasil Levski” are registered in Varna, Bulgaria’s largest city on the Black Sea coast, just 300 kilometres from Ukraine.

The Bulgarian media first raised the alarm about the activities of both organisations in their investigations, as did the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. So far, the prosecutor’s office has ignored calls to intervene and demand the banning of the paramilitary groups, which openly boasted of preparing armed self-defence units and threatened to revise the country’s constitutional structure.

Now, however, investigating authorities have found that the leaders of the two associations had contacts with representatives of groups in Germany known for their far-right views, prosecutors said, without naming the German extremists.

Euractiv Bulgaria requested additional information from the prosecutor’s office about the German links of the Bulgarian paramilitary groups, but no response had been provided by the time of publication.

Pro-Russian organisations registered in Bulgaria have used calls for religious and ethnic hatred in their propaganda, as well as calls for action against foreign citizens and representatives of different ethnicities and religions.

“The investigation has gathered evidence that the associations have organised training sessions for their sympathisers to acquire certain combat skills. It was also found that organised visits were made to the border with Turkey in order to catch illegal migrants,” the prosecutor’s office said.

These groups attracted the attention of some independent Bulgarian media in the spring of 2016, when they announced the launch of Operation Liberation of Bulgaria and presented themselves as the “transitional common Bulgarian people’s government”.

Even then, the organisations’ websites publicly announced that they were discussing the creation of paramilitary structures, including their own “detachments, platoons, companies and battalions”.

Vladimir Rusev led Operation Liberation and introduced himself as Walther Kalashnikov, a combination of the German Walther pistol and the Russian AK-47 (Kalashnikov).

Rusev claimed to be a lieutenant colonel, but he only reached the rank of sergeant major in the Bulgarian army.

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submitted 4 days ago by 0x815@feddit.de to c/news@beehaw.org

A furious China launched "punishment" drills around Taiwan on Thursday in what it said was a response to "separatist acts", sending up heavily armed warplanes and staging mock attacks as state media denounced newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te.

The exercises, in the Taiwan Strait and around groups of Taiwan-controlled islands beside the Chinese coast, come just three days after Lai took office, a man Beijing detests as a "separatist".

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, denounced Lai's inauguration speech on Monday, in which he urged it to stop its threats, saying the two sides of the strait were "not subordinate to each other". On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Lai "disgraceful". Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed. He says only Taiwan's people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims.

The Eastern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) said it had started joint military drills, involving the army, navy, air force and rocket force, in areas around Taiwan at 7:45 a.m. (2345 GMT).

The drills are being held in the Taiwan Strait, the north, south and east of Taiwan, as well as areas around the Taiwan-controlled islands of Kinmen, Matsu, Wuqiu and Dongyin, the command said in a statement, the first time China's exercises have included areas round these islands.

State media said China sent out dozens of fighter jets carrying live missiles, and conducted mock strikes, along with warships, of high-value military targets. Taiwan's defence ministry said 15 Chinese navy ships, 16 coast guard and 33 aircraft were involved, but no live fire drills were held in any areas close to Taiwan.

The drills, dubbed "Joint Sword - 2024A", are set to run for two days. However, unlike a similar "Joint Sword" exercise in April last year, these drills are tagged "A", opening the door to potential follow-ups.

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