The Telegraph 2024-02-05 18:00:29

Israel will eliminate Hamas leaders and end war ‘in months’, says Netanyahu

Israel will eliminate Hamas’ leadership and end the war in Gaza within “months”, Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed.

The pledge comes as the Israeli leader faces serious questions over whether defence forces can defeat the terror group, which has been rebuilding its battalions in the northern part of the Strip.

He is also under pressure to agree to a truce and secure the release of the remaining 132 Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu said the war would not conclude before Israel had fulfilled its stated military objectives, but downplayed suggestions it would be pulled into a “forever war”.

“Our goal is a complete victory over Hamas,” Mr Netanyahu told a meeting of his party, Likud.

“We will kill the Hamas leadership, therefore we must continue to act in all areas of the Gaza Strip,” he continued. “The war must not end before then. It will take time, months not years.”

Mr Netanyahu claimed that Israel had destroyed three-quarters of Hamas’ battalions, and would deal a “fatal blow” to the Middle East’s “axis of evil”: Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah and the Houthis.

He added that Hamas had presented “demands that we will not accept” over the release of hostages.

Israel has recently been forced to renew its efforts in the northern part of Gaza, having previously withdrawn forces to concentrate on its campaign in the south.

However, it was forced to change course amid warnings that Hamas was rebuilding northern battalions shattered earlier in the war. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimate roughly 2,000 Hamas fighters remain in the north of the Strip.

Its 162nd Division is “increasing the pace of operations and the pressure” on Hamas’ remnants in the area, according to The Times of Israel.

However, Mr Netanyahu is reportedly under pressure from Joe Biden, the US president, to end the war before he stands for re-election in November.

Politico reported on Monday that Mr Biden had called his Israeli counterpart a “bad f—ing guy” amid growing divisions over the war.

The US is thought to be alarmed by Mr Netanyahu’s lack of vision for ending the conflict and his opposition to Palestinian governance of Gaza.

Britain’s unluckiest game show contestant has made more than 50 TV appearances but hasn’t won a penny

A cafe worker believed to be the UK’s most prolific game show contestant has told how he is yet to win a penny, despite more than 50 appearances on television…

Dad’s Army star Ian Lavender dies aged 77

Ian Lavender, the last surviving main cast member of Dad’s Army, has died at the age of 77.

Lavender played Private Pike in the much-loved BBC series, with his character known for his frequent run-ins with Captain Mainwaring, played by Arthur Lowe, which would usually end with a cry from Mainwaring of: “Stupid boy!”

Jon Petrie, the BBC’s director of comedy, said: “Ian was a much-loved actor and will be sorely missed by all those who knew him.

“In his role of Private Pike in Dad’s Army, he delivered some of the most iconic and loved moments in the history of British comedy. Our thoughts are with his family.”

Lavender was just 22 and only nine months out of drama school when he was cast in Dad’s Army as the youngest member of the Home Guard troop. In his role he became the subject of one of the most famous lines in British comedy TV: “Don’t tell him, Pike!” The series ran from 1968-77. 

The BBC said the actor died on Friday. Hilary Gagan, his agent, told the PA news agency that he had been ill for some time and his wife and sons were by his side when he died.

Lavender’s later roles include Derek Harkinson in EastEnders, who he played for four years in the 2000s, and he appeared in comedies including Yes Minister, Keeping Up Appearances and Goodnight Sweetheart. 

He also appeared on stage, in The Merchant of Venice with Dustin Hoffman, and as the narrator in a touring production of The Rocky Horror Show.

But the actor remained best-known for Dad’s Army and he had a cameo role in the 2016 film version of the sitcom.

Lavender sometimes said he had been typecast as a comic actor but had no regrets about playing Pike.

“If you asked me ‘would you like to be in a sitcom that was watched by 18 million people, was on screen for 10 years, and will create lots of work for you and provide not just for you but for your children for the next 40-odd years’ … I’d be a fool to have regrets,” he said.

He always took references to his most famous role – and the famous line associated with it – in good humour, such as in 2008 when he appeared in an edition of Celebrity Mastermind alongside the musician Rick Wakeman.

When Lavender took his seat and was asked to state his name by host John Humphrys, Wakeman yelled: “Don’t tell him, Pike!”

Producers of The Dad’s Army Radio Show, a stage production, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear the passing of the wonderful Ian Lavender.

“In what truly marks the end of an era, Ian was the last surviving member of the Dad’s Army main cast. His wonderful performance as Private Frank Pike will live on for decades to come. He leaves behind a legacy of laughter enjoyed by millions.”

Lavender is survived by his wife, the choreographer and stage director Michelle Hardy, and their sons Sam and Daniel. 

British infants more likely to die before first birthday than those in other developed countries

British infants are more likely to die before their first birthday than those in most other developed countries after an “appalling decline” in children’s health since the pandemic.

By the age of five, 20 per cent of British children are considered overweight or obese, and one in four is suffering from tooth decay, a report has said.

The UK ranked 30 out of 49 developed countries for infant mortality, which is the proportion of children who are dying before their first birthday, experts from the Academy of Medical Sciences said.

It means Britain’s children are less likely to reach one than 60 per cent of other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, as progress on improving survival rates has stalled.

There were four deaths per 1,000 births in the UK between 2019 and 2022, according to the OECD. Japan had the lowest infant mortality at 1.7 deaths per 1,000 births, while most of Europe and Australia also fared better.

The US, Canada, India, South Africa and several South American countries ranked below the UK.

The UK’s global ranking has gradually fallen from 23rd in 2015 when the infant mortality rate was 3.9 deaths per 1,000 births. While other countries improved, Britain’s rate stagnated before it fell during the pandemic back to figures not seen since 2012.

Pandemic contributed to decline in children’s health

The report found children’s decline in health had been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the cost of living crisis, but started in the years preceding 2020.

The academics said a national rise in child poverty and in mental health issues were also to blame for children’s ill health.

The number of children living in extreme poverty tripled between 2019 and 2022, the report found.

The authors said the cost to the economy of not addressing children’s poor health was at least £16.13 billion, using data from the London School of Economics.

Professor Helen Minnis, co-chairman of the report from Glasgow University, said it was clear that “we are betraying our children”.

“Child deaths are rising, infant survival lags behind comparable countries, and preventable physical and mental health issues plague our youngest citizens.

“Unless the health of babies and young children is urgently prioritised, we condemn many to a life of poorer health and lost potential. The time to act is now,” she said.

‘Disconcencerting’ report findings

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, co-chairman from the University of Oxford, said: “There are huge challenges for the NHS today, driven by the growing pressures on health and social care from an ageing population.

“Even more disconcerting is the evidence cited in our Academy of Medical Sciences report of an appalling decline in the health of our children, which makes for an even more bleak outlook for their future.

“There is clear evidence in the report that tackling childhood health conditions, addressing inequalities and providing early years social support can change the future of health and prosperity.”

A government spokesman said short-term and long-term action has been implemented to improve children’s health. This includes “dramatically reducing sugar in children’s foods, investing over £600 million to improve the quality of sport for children, and encouraging healthy diets for families from lower-income households through schemes like Healthy Start”.

They added: “We’re also investing an additional £2.3 billion a year into mental health services, the number of children seen by NHS dentists rose by 14 per cent last year, and we’re taking steps to reduce youth vaping and introducing the first ever smoke-free generation.

“Cutting waiting lists is one of the Government’s top five priorities. Despite ongoing pressure on the NHS, we have cut the total waiting list and the number of individual patients waiting for treatment compared to the previous month.”

Prince William to return to work after taking time off for Kate’s surgery

The Prince of Wales is to get back to work this week for a day of engagements before returning to his wife’s side.

The Prince, who has been off public duty since Jan 16 when the Princess of Wales went into hospital, will undertake an investiture on Wednesday at Windsor Castle, just down the road from home at Adelaide Cottage.

Later that evening, he will attend the London Air Ambulance annual fundraising gala in Central London, to show his support for first responders and medics.

The Princess is understood to be settled at home following her abdominal surgery, with the Prince’s decision to briefly leave her understood to be a positive sign for her continued recovery.

The two jobs are the only engagements of this week. Next week is half term, which the Prince will take off to spend with his three young children as has become the Waleses custom.

The Prince has been patron of London’s Air Ambulance since March 2020, after supporting the charity’s 30th anniversary in 2019. He also flew with the crew to launch the 30 Years Saving Lives campaign and met staff and patients from the service at a number of fundraising events.

His decision to go back to work suggests that the Princess of Wales is doing well in her recovery from planned surgery. He had said he would only return when she was settled and comfortable.

She is due to be out of the public eye until Easter, and will work from home on her Early Years project when she is able.

Princess making good progress, says Palace

The Princess was admitted to the London Clinic for a planned operation on Jan 16 and was discharged on Jan 29, almost two weeks later.

A Kensington Palace spokesman said at the time: “The Princess of Wales has returned home to Windsor to continue her recovery from surgery. She is making good progress.

“The Prince and Princess wish to say a huge thank you to the entire team at The London Clinic, especially the dedicated nursing staff, for the care they have provided.

“The Wales family continues to be grateful for the well wishes they have received from around the world.”

The Princess will be under the careful eye of royal doctors and can benefit from the London Clinic’s aftercare, which offers physiotherapists and a video check-up at home with a nurse specialist.

The family live in Adelaide Cottage in Windsor’s Home Park and are being supported by their staff, including loyal, long-standing nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo.

The Princess’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, and siblings, Pippa Matthews and James Middleton, are also expected to be hands-on in helping the family during her recovery.

Train operator re-records 34 station names – but still hasn’t managed to get it right

A train operator has come under fire for mispronouncing a station name, six months after re-recording its announcements to amend the problem.

Northern said it had re-recorded 34 place names in August following criticism from passengers over the errors.

But months later, those travelling between Carlisle and the Cumbrian coast have complained that Aspatria, in Cumbria, is still being announced “As-spat-ria” rather than “As-spay-tria”.

Alan Maxwell, the mayor of the town, told the BBC he would “like to see it fixed if possible”. 

“In local dialect, people call the town ‘Spyat-ree’, but the correct pronunciation is ‘As-spay-tria’. To have it right [on the trains] would be nice.”

Another passenger said the error was “really noticeable” and complained about the service itself. They said: “The service is so unreliable, we’re just grateful when the trains are running”.

Northern confirmed to the BBC that Aspatria was one of the re-recordings it did last year “as part of a programme to ensure our onboard announcements respected local pronunciation”.

A spokesman for Northern said: “Aspatria was one of 34 station recordings that were re-recorded in August 2023 as part of a programme to ensure our on-board announcements respected local pronunciation. The roll-out of those new recordings across our fleet of 345 trains continues apace, with the process due for completion by the summer.”

Last year the company asked passengers across its network for help flagging any mispronounced station names. Northern then revealed it had rerecorded 34 names and would roll them out across its 345-strong fleet.

The operator could not confirm how many had been implemented in the subsequent six months, when approached by the BBC.

Northern told the broadcaster it hoped to complete the roll-out of its updates by the “summer”. Onboard software systems are updated manually by engineers when trains are serviced.

Drill rapper who owned suspected XL Bully dogs that mauled grandmother to death granted bail

A drill rapper has been released on bail following his arrest after his two suspected XL Bullies mauled a woman to death while she was visiting her grandson.

Esther Martin, 68, was found seriously injured and is believed to have been attacked by two of the now-banned breed at a house in Jaywick Sands, near Clacton-on-Sea.

The pensioner died at the scene, and Ashley Warren, a drill rapper who goes by the name Wyless Man and is said to have eight dogs, was arrested for dangerous dogs offences.

He has now been released on conditional bail until March 5, Essex Police said.

Officers said they were working with experts to confirm the breed of the dogs, although Mr Warren posted a Facebook advert in November selling XL Bully puppies for £500.

The victim’s daughters, Sonia Martin and Kelly Fretwell, said the dogs involved were XL Bullies, and that there were a total of six puppies and two adult dogs in the property.

Acting Det Supt Stuart Truss said: “We’re making good progress in our investigation into Esther’s death.

“It is an investigation with a number of complexities, but we are determined to give Esther’s family the answers they need.

“We are working with experts to confirm the breed of the dogs. This may take some days but it’s really important we get it right.

“I would ask people not to speculate about this element – we will establish the facts and we will keep the community in Jaywick updated.”

He added: “We’re continuing to support Esther’s family. They have asked to be able to grieve in peace.”

Members of the public tried to rescue Ms Martin during the attack at around 4pm on Saturday before the dogs were shot dead by police.

Neighbours said they saw a man attempting to smash his way into the property with a spade after going to check on the woman and seeing blood on the walls.

XL Bullies were banned in England and Wales in January and it is a criminal offence to own one of the dogs without a certificate.

Owners have to follow a strict set of rules around their care, including having them neutered, keeping them on a lead and muzzling them in public.

However, there are no rules around muzzling when the dogs are on their owner’s private property.

Guidance published by the Government in November provides a minimum height for a dog to be classed as an XL Bully – 20in at the shoulders for a male and 19in for a female, and 32 physical characteristics the dog could have.