The Guardian 2024-02-10 18:01:07


Dozens killed in Rafah airstrikes as full-scale Israeli ground offensive looms

Dozens killed in Rafah airstrikes as full-scale Israeli ground offensive looms

More than a million civilians sheltering in Gaza’s last place of relative safety brace for all-out assault

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Airstrikes on the Gaza Strip’s southernmost town of Rafah have killed at least 44 people as more than a million civilians sheltering in the area brace for the possibility of a full-scale Israeli ground offensive on the territory’s last place of relative safety.

As Israeli forces have expanded ground operations steadily southwards in their war against Hamas over the past four months, Rafah – situated on the border with Egypt, and home before the war to about 280,000 people – has become the last refuge for more than half of the strip’s population of 2.3 million.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Friday that he had instructed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and defence ministry to draw up plans for troops to enter Rafah and evacuate civilians, leading to widespread panic in the overcrowded makeshift tent camps that now cover the area.

With two-thirds of Gaza already under evacuation orders, widespread destruction throughout the coastal strip and continuing fighting, it is unclear to where such a large number of people could safely be moved.

The Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, said on Saturday that an Israeli ground offensive on Rafah would have “disastrous consequences,” and that Israel’s aim was eventually to force the Palestinians from their land.

An Egyptian official told the Guardian that under no circumstances would fleeing Palestinians be allowed to cross the border into the Sinai peninsula, and that any attempt to relocate them to Egyptian soil would collapse the peace deal between Egypt and Israel.

A doctor at a UN-run clinic in Rafah said: “I encountered an elderly woman who was looking for a wheelchair for her disabled husband. She said: ‘If I can’t get this chair for my husband, it will be our end. With the occupation in Gaza, how can I take him to Sinai? I cannot leave him alone in Gaza.’”

Israel has carried out airstrikes in Rafah almost daily, even after telling civilians in recent weeks to seek shelter there from fierce ground combat in Khan Younis, just to the north.

Three airstrikes on homes in the Rafah area killed 44 people overnight into Saturday, according to a health official and Associated Press journalists who saw the bodies arriving at hospitals. The strikes killed members of three families, including 12 children, the youngest three months old.

In Khan Younis, Israeli forces opened fire at Nasser hospital, the area’s largest, killing at least two people and wounding five, according to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. Ahmed Maghrabi, a physician at the hospital, said in a Facebook post that Israeli tanks had reached the hospital gates on Saturday morning, trapping those inside and making the facility inaccessible to those in need of medical attention.

Israel’s threats of a full-scale attack on Rafah – designed to put pressure on the Hamas leadership, which is believed to be hiding in tunnels in the area – have not yet been realised, and Netanyahu did not provide details or a timeline in his announcement.

He has, however, implied the operation is inevitable, and appears ready to push ahead despite mounting warnings from aid agencies and the international community that a Rafah offensive would be a “bloodbath”.

“It is impossible to achieve the goal of the war of eliminating Hamas by leaving four Hamas battalions in Rafah,” Netanyahu’s office said on Friday.

Outside Israel, criticism of his statement was swift. The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said on Friday that a major Israeli offensive in Rafah “can only lead to an additional layer of endless tragedy”.

Hamas said in a statement on Saturday that any Israeli military action in Rafah would have catastrophic repercussions that “may lead to tens of thousands of martyrs and injured”.

The Palestinian militant group, which assumed control of Gaza in 2007, said it would hold “the American administration, international community and the Israeli occupation” responsible if that happened.

Israel’s plans for Rafah drew unusually fierce criticism from the US, the Jewish state’s most important ally, after days of increasing friction between Netanyahu and the Biden administration.

Joe Biden described Israel’s military response in Gaza as “over the top” and said he was seeking a “sustained pause” in fighting in remarks to reporters earlier this week.

“I’m of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” the US president said after his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, left the region without any progress on a ceasefire deal.

Biden said he had been pushing for a deal to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, increase humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians and pause the fighting temporarily to allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas.

US officials have also made clear to their Israeli counterparts that Washington expects significant progress towards a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict at the end of the fighting. Netanyahu, however, is opposed to Palestinian statehood, and his hawkish governing coalition could collapse if he is seen to be making too many concessions.

“I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage ceasefire,” Biden said. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s got to stop.”

Netanyahu this week flatly rejected the terms of a Hamas counter-proposal for a ceasefire and exchange of hostages and prisoners after the success of a week-long truce in late November. He has also rebuffed US pressure, saying there could be no solution to Israel’s security issues except “absolute victory”.

He said at televised press conference that “surrendering to Hamas’s delusional conditions”, which include a call for a 135-day ceasefire in exchange for the release of the remaining 130 or so hostages, “would lead to another massacre, and to a great tragedy on Israel that no one would be willing to accept”.

In a blow to the hopes of the families of the remaining hostages being held by Hamas, Netanyahu also said they would be released only by continued military pressure on the militant group.

Israel’s war in Gaza, now in its fifth month, was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented offensive of 7 October in which 1,200 people were killed and another 250 abducted as bargaining chips.

The Israeli offensive has killed 28,000 people in Gaza, displaced more than 85% of the population and reduced over half of the strip’s infrastructure to rubble.

According to the UN, about 10% of children under five in Gaza are showing signs of acute malnutrition. Food deliveries that reach the strip are regularly mobbed by desperate and hungry people, residents say.

Violence triggered by the war in Gaza is escalating across the Middle East, as hostilities between Iran and Israel, as well as the US, move increasingly into the open through the actions of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

During a visit to Lebanon on Saturday, the Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said a political solution was the only way to end the Gaza conflict, and that Tehran was in talks with Saudi officials on the issue.

He also warned Israel against taking any steps towards a full-scale war against the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, saying it would be Netanyahu’s “last day.” Hezbollah and Israel have traded near-daily fire across the disputed Israeli-Lebanese border since 7 October.

A senior Hamas official survived what Palestinian security forces called an Israeli assassination attempt in Beirut on Saturday in which two civilians were killed. Israel did not immediately comment on the allegation, and rarely acknowledges drone and airstrikes conducted beyond Palestinian territory.

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Two-state solutionBiden’s fresh push to solve Gaza conflict

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Two-state solution: Biden’s fresh push to solve the Israel-Gaza conflict

The US commitment to a Palestinian state alongside Israel had come to look like lip service. How serious is the latest effort?

The United States has for decades formally supported a two-state solution to the conflict in the Middle East. But through many failed rounds of talks, dashed hopes, political volatility and violence in the region, talk of establishing Palestine and Israel as neighbors in a secure peace has looked, to many, increasingly like lip service. But in recent weeks, there have been signs of a shift in messaging from the Biden administration. Here’s what’s happening:

What is the current US position?

Just weeks before Hamas launched its 7 October surprise attacks on southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostage, the US had been trying to broker a historic deal to normalize relations between longtime adversaries Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Biden administration, gunning for a major foreign policy achievement before the 2024 presidential elections, had hoped to strike an agreement in which Saudi Arabia would establish formal relations with the Jewish state in return for a defense pact with the US. Saudi Arabia was also seeking Washington’s aid in developing a civilian nuclear program and progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Talks were shelved by Riyadh in October over Israel’s war in Gaza, which has so far killed more than 27,000 Palestinians. They have since resumed but Saudi Arabia now insists Israel must first end the war in Gaza and put Palestinians on a path toward statehood.

The US, UK and Israel, unlike nearly 140 other UN member states, have not formally recognized Palestine. The US has long stressed that Palestinian statehood should be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which oversees parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, while Hamas controls Gaza. Earlier this month, however, the state department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, told reporters that the US was “actively pursuing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state” after the war in Gaza.

His remarks came amid reports that the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has asked the state department to conduct a review and present policy options on possible future recognition of a Palestinian state.

But Khaled Elgindy, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said he doubted the US would actually invest a lot of manpower or resources in that goal on its own. “They’re more interested in stabilizing and rebuilding Gaza but also Saudi-Israel normalization,” he said. “That’s the big prize that they’re chasing. For them to achieve that, they have to look more serious about a Palestinian state.”

Blinken is on his fifth visit to the Middle East since 7 October

The US secretary of state returned to Israel on Wednesday. At the top of his agenda is advancing a new ceasefire and hostage-release deal between Israel and Hamas, while at the same time pushing for a larger postwar settlement in which Saudi Arabia would normalize relations with Israel in return for a “clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state”.

Blinken has said that Washington would use any pause in fighting to build out plans for the reconstruction and future governance of Gaza, as well as a wider regional peace agreement.

What are the main obstacles?

Netanyahu has dismissed US calls for a path to a Palestinian state, insisting that he would not “compromise on full Israeli security control over all territory west of the Jordan River”. The Israeli prime minster, who has boasted that he was instrumental in preventing Palestinian statehood, is trying to cling to power and elude the threat of prison by appeasing the far-right members of his coalition government.

Shortly after meeting Blinken on Wednesday, Netanyahu rejected the latest Gaza ceasefire terms proposed by Hamas, and rebuffed US pressure to move more quickly towards a mediated settlement to the war, insisting again that “total victory” against Hamas was the only solution.

Biden continued to maintain that the creation of an independent state for Palestinians was still possible, claiming that Netanyahu was not opposed to all forms of a two-state solution.

Other countries are vital to a two-state process

The US is certain to lead any fresh negotiations. Saudi Arabia has told the US that it would not open diplomatic relations with Israel unless it recognizes an independent Palestinian state on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem, which Israel has unilaterally annexed, as its capital. Israel’s coalition government includes far-right parties who are adamantly opposed to a Palestinian state, and Netanyahu himself blocked progress on the issue for many years.

Britain’s foreign secretary, David Cameron, has floated the idea of the UK recognizing a Palestinian state in combination with allies as a means to make the process of negotiating a two-state solution “irreversible”. “It could be something that we consider as this process, as this advance to a solution, becomes more real,” Cameron said during a visit last week to Lebanon.

What hope is there?

Aaron David Miller, who served six US secretaries of state as an adviser on Arab-Israeli peace talks, believes the chances of the US unilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine are slim to none, but that talks on establishing Palestinian statehood form part of a “grand bargain” with Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-Israeli normalization deal faces many obstacles, Miller says, but “it’s a serious proposal from the administration, and they’ve actively working on it.” He noted, though, how unlikely Israel was to agree to what Blinken on Tuesday called for: a “time-bound, irreversible” path to a Palestinian state.

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Search for Ballarat woman turns to dashcam footage as police ‘scale back’ on-the-ground operation

Search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy turns to dashcam footage as police ‘scale back’ on-the-ground operation

Mother-of-three, 51, was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home about 7am last Sunday to go for a run

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Police have expanded an appeal for dashcam or CCTV footage as they investigate the disappearance of the Victorian woman Samantha Murphy.

Murphy, 51, was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home in Ballarat East about 7am last Sunday to go for a run.

As they announced an on-the-ground search that has canvassed large areas of Ballarat would be scaled back over the weekend, police called on members of the public to submit any CCTV or dashcam footage covering the Ballarat East, Mount Helen and Buninyong areas last Sunday.

“Even if the footage does not depict Samantha, detectives are keen to review all footage in the areas between 7am and 7pm on Sunday, 4 February,” they said in a statement on Saturday.

“Police previously urged everyone in the Ballarat East and Mount Helen areas, particularly around the Canadian Forest, to check their CCTV for any possible sightings over the past six days however would now like to collect all footage.”

Despite extensive searches in the area over the past six days, no sign of Murphy has been found.

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Police, with assistance from a number of other agencies, searched in the Canadian Forest area where Samantha was known to regularly run.

Following further information about possible run routes, the search moved to the nearby Mount Helen area to the east of Geelong Road on Wednesday.

The local community has also helped with the search, many on foot, others riding bicycles, on horseback or in four-wheel drives, with residents picking through scrub on the roadsides throughout the day or after finishing work.

Police said in a statement they continued to be in regular contact with Murphy’s family regarding the search and the status of the investigation.

“The investigative stage of the investigation continues and as any new information comes to hand identifying areas of interest, the search will be scaled up,” they said.

Police said the missing persons squad would continue to work with local police, as they had done since the early stages of Murphy’s disappearance.

The specialist detectives will manage the investigation into her disappearance and will work alongside local police, who will continue to lead the search when required. As of Friday, homicide detectives are not involved in the case.

Police again released two images of Murphy in the hope someone recognises her and can provide any information about her movements since Sunday.

On Thursday, the mother-of-three’s distraught eldest daughter, Jess, called for help to bring her mother home.

“I know she’s out there somewhere, so if you could please continue to search for her to give us something to work with, we’d really appreciate it,” she said.

Murphy’s husband, Mick, said: “People just don’t vanish into thin air. Someone has got to know something.”

Insp Bob Heaney said this week that Murphy’s movement’s last Sunday morning were in line with what she’d normally do.

“Samantha’s very fit – both physically and mentally – she would cover up to 14 to 15km on her runs,” he said.

“She’s normally due back from her run within a couple of hours and alarm bells went up when she didn’t return from that run.”

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Atlantic Ocean circulation nearing ‘devastating’ tipping point, study finds

Atlantic Ocean circulation nearing ‘devastating’ tipping point, study finds

Collapse in system of currents that helps regulate global climate would be at such speed that adaptation would be impossible

The circulation of the Atlantic Ocean is heading towards a tipping point that is “bad news for the climate system and humanity”, a study has found.

The scientists behind the research said they were shocked at the forecast speed of collapse once the point is reached, although they said it was not yet possible to predict how soon that would happen.

Using computer models and past data, the researchers developed an early warning indicator for the breakdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc), a vast system of ocean currents that is a key component in global climate regulation.

They found Amoc is already on track towards an abrupt shift, which has not happened for more than 10,000 years and would have dire implications for large parts of the world.

Amoc, which encompasses part of the Gulf Stream and other powerful currents, is a marine conveyer belt that carries heat, carbon and nutrients from the tropics towards the Arctic Circle, where it cools and sinks into the deep ocean. This churning helps to distribute energy around the Earth and modulates the impact of human-caused global heating.

But the system is being eroded by the faster-than-expected melt-off of Greenland’s glaciers and Arctic ice sheets, which pours freshwater into the sea and obstructs the sinking of saltier, warmer water from the south.

Amoc has declined 15% since 1950 and is in its weakest state in more than a millennium, according to previous research that prompted speculation about an approaching collapse.

Until now there has been no consensus about how severe this will be. One study last year, based on changes in sea surface temperatures, suggested the tipping point could happen between 2025 and 2095. However, the UK Met Office said large, rapid changes in Amoc were “very unlikely” in the 21st century.

The new paper, published in Science Advances, has broken new ground by looking for warning signs in the salinity levels at the southern extent of the Atlantic Ocean between Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Simulating changes over a period of 2,000 years on computer models of the global climate, it found a slow decline can lead to a sudden collapse over less than 100 years, with calamitous consequences.

The paper said the results provided a “clear answer” about whether such an abrupt shift was possible: “This is bad news for the climate system and humanity as up till now one could think that Amoc tipping was only a theoretical concept and tipping would disappear as soon as the full climate system, with all its additional feedbacks, was considered.”

It also mapped some of the consequences of Amoc collapse. Sea levels in the Atlantic would rise by a metre in some regions, inundating many coastal cities. The wet and dry seasons in the Amazon would flip, potentially pushing the already weakened rainforest past its own tipping point. Temperatures around the world would fluctuate far more erratically. The southern hemisphere would become warmer. Europe would cool dramatically and have less rainfall. While this might sound appealing compared with the current heating trend, the changes would hit 10 times faster than now, making adaptation almost impossible.

“What surprised us was the rate at which tipping occurs,” said the paper’s lead author, René van Westen, of Utrecht University. “It will be devastating.”

He said there was not yet enough data to say whether this would occur in the next year or in the coming century, but when it happens, the changes are irreversible on human timescales.

In the meantime, the direction of travel is undoubtedly in an alarming direction.

“We are moving towards it. That is kind of scary,” van Westen said. “We need to take climate change much more seriously.”

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Horror film Talk To Me cleans up

Horror film Talk To Me cleans up at 2024 Aacta awards

Film takes home awards for best film and direction – with Deadloch, The New Boy, The Newsreader and Margot Robbie also winning big

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The surprise international box office hit Talk To Me has collected eight gongs at the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards, including best film, best director for Danny and Michael Philippou and best lead actress for Sophie Wilde.

The A24 supernatural horror film, which earned in excess of A$138m worldwide in 2023, also collected best screenplay, best editing, best sound and best original score, in a ceremony on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

The night was hosted by Rebel Wilson, with guest appearances by Ron Howard, Simon Baker and Cate Blanchett, who was producer for the other production that dominated the film category, The New Boy – but missed out in the best lead actress category.

The New Boy won the award for best cinematography by its director, Warwick Thornton, best production design and best leading actor for tween First Nations newcomer Aswan Reid. Deborah Mailman was recognised for her role as best supporting actress in the film.

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The awards night also saw recognition for Margot Robbie, who won Aacta’s trailblazer award for her work in front of the camera and behind it, through her production company LuckyChap.

The announcement, made by Blanchett sporting an oversized pink polkadot headdress representing “middle-age Barbie”, included pre-filmed congratulatory messages from Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Greta Gerwig and America Ferrera.

Her film Barbie was the highest grossing film of 2023, earning more than A$2bn worldwide and taking home the Golden Globe award for cinematic and box office achievement last month.

Robbie’s role as the film’s star controversially failed to win her a best actress nomination at the forthcoming Academy Awards, but on Saturday she collected the Australian equivalent in the international category. Barbie also won best film, while the only nods for Barbie’s main box office competitor, Oppenheimer, were for Christopher Nolan’s direction and Cillian Murphy’s performance.

In television, the drama series The Newsreader and the comedy series Deadloch dominated.

The 1980s newsroom series won five awards, including best television drama series, best direction (for an episode directed by Emma Freeman), best lead actress for Anna Torv and best supporting actor for Hunter Page-Lochard.

Deadloch also won five awards, including best comedy series, best acting in a comedy for Kate Box, best screenplay, best editing and best original score.

Box used her acceptance speech to show her support for the Palestinian people in the Gaza conflict, calling on the audience and viewers to recognise “settler violence on the stolen lands” of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and globally.

“We can choose to radically reimagine ourselves, that community and our world so let us please call action on that ceasefire now,” she said. “Free Palestine.”

The were some tearful moments in the audience when Cal Wilson was awarded best comedy performance for The Great Australian Bake Off. Wilson died at the age of 53 in October 2023. Her husband Chris Woods and son Digby accepted the award on Wilson’s behalf.

The ABC’s long-running animated series Bluey won for the fifth consecutive year best children’s program, and best documentary was won by Poppy Stockwell’s John Farnham: Finding the Voice.

Rachel Perkins’ SBS series The Australian Wars collected three awards in the nonfiction television category.

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Horror film Talk To Me cleans up

Horror film Talk To Me cleans up at 2024 Aacta awards

Film takes home awards for best film and direction – with Deadloch, The New Boy, The Newsreader and Margot Robbie also winning big

  • Get our weekend culture and lifestyle email

The surprise international box office hit Talk To Me has collected eight gongs at the annual Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (Aacta) awards, including best film, best director for Danny and Michael Philippou and best lead actress for Sophie Wilde.

The A24 supernatural horror film, which earned in excess of A$138m worldwide in 2023, also collected best screenplay, best editing, best sound and best original score, in a ceremony on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

The night was hosted by Rebel Wilson, with guest appearances by Ron Howard, Simon Baker and Cate Blanchett, who was producer for the other production that dominated the film category, The New Boy – but missed out in the best lead actress category.

The New Boy won the award for best cinematography by its director, Warwick Thornton, best production design and best leading actor for tween First Nations newcomer Aswan Reid. Deborah Mailman was recognised for her role as best supporting actress in the film.

  • Sign up for the fun stuff with our rundown of must-reads, pop culture and tips for the weekend, every Saturday morning

The awards night also saw recognition for Margot Robbie, who won Aacta’s trailblazer award for her work in front of the camera and behind it, through her production company LuckyChap.

The announcement, made by Blanchett sporting an oversized pink polkadot headdress representing “middle-age Barbie”, included pre-filmed congratulatory messages from Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron, Greta Gerwig and America Ferrera.

Her film Barbie was the highest grossing film of 2023, earning more than A$2bn worldwide and taking home the Golden Globe award for cinematic and box office achievement last month.

Robbie’s role as the film’s star controversially failed to win her a best actress nomination at the forthcoming Academy Awards, but on Saturday she collected the Australian equivalent in the international category. Barbie also won best film, while the only nods for Barbie’s main box office competitor, Oppenheimer, were for Christopher Nolan’s direction and Cillian Murphy’s performance.

In television, the drama series The Newsreader and the comedy series Deadloch dominated.

The 1980s newsroom series won five awards, including best television drama series, best direction (for an episode directed by Emma Freeman), best lead actress for Anna Torv and best supporting actor for Hunter Page-Lochard.

Deadloch also won five awards, including best comedy series, best acting in a comedy for Kate Box, best screenplay, best editing and best original score.

Box used her acceptance speech to show her support for the Palestinian people in the Gaza conflict, calling on the audience and viewers to recognise “settler violence on the stolen lands” of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and globally.

“We can choose to radically reimagine ourselves, that community and our world so let us please call action on that ceasefire now,” she said. “Free Palestine.”

The were some tearful moments in the audience when Cal Wilson was awarded best comedy performance for The Great Australian Bake Off. Wilson died at the age of 53 in October 2023. Her husband Chris Woods and son Digby accepted the award on Wilson’s behalf.

The ABC’s long-running animated series Bluey won for the fifth consecutive year best children’s program, and best documentary was won by Poppy Stockwell’s John Farnham: Finding the Voice.

Rachel Perkins’ SBS series The Australian Wars collected three awards in the nonfiction television category.

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Rescuers find girl alive 60 hours after landslide

Philippines rescuers find girl alive 60 hours after landslide

Three-year-old has given fresh hope of finding more survivors in a gold-mining village where death toll has climbed to 27

The rescue of a child nearly 60 hours after a landslide hit a gold-mining village in the southern Philippines has been hailed as a “miracle” after searchers had given up hope of finding more survivors.

The girl, who the Philippine Red Cross said was three years old, had been among scores of people missing after the rain-induced landslide hit the village.

Officials said on Friday the death toll had almost doubled to 27.

The girl was found as rescuers used their hands and shovels to look for survivors in Masara village on southern Mindanao island, a disaster agency official, Edward Macapili of Davao de Oro province, said.

“It’s a miracle,” Macapili said, adding that searchers had believed those missing were probably dead.

“That gives hope to the rescuers. A child’s resilience is usually less than that of adults, yet the child survived.”

Video of a rescuer carrying the crying, mud-caked child in his arms was shared on Facebook.

“We can see in the social media posts that the child did not have any visible injuries,” Macapili said.

He added that the girl’s father saw his child before she was taken to a medical facility.

The Philippine Red Cross posted photos on Facebook of their workers carrying the girl, wrapped in an emergency blanket and hooked up to an oxygen tank, into a hospital in Mawab municipality.

The landslide occurred on Tuesday night, destroying houses and engulfing three buses and a jeepney waiting to pick up workers from a goldmine.

Landslides are a frequent risk across the archipelago islands owing to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, and widespread deforestation from mining, slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging.

Rain has intensified in parts of Mindanao for weeks, triggering dozens of landslides and flooding that have forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters.

Earthquakes halted a search on Saturday.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the magnitude 5.8 quake that shook the Mindanao region at 11:22 am (03:22 GMT) or from a second magnitude 5.4 tremor that followed about two hours later.

Massive earthquakes have also destabilised the region in recent months.

Hundreds of families from Masara and four nearby villages have had to evacuate from their homes and shelter in emergency centres for fear of further landslides.

Schools across the municipality have suspended classes.

The area hit by the landslide had been declared a “no-build zone” after previous landslides in 2007 and 2008, Macapili told AFP.

“People were asked to leave that place and they were given a resettlement area, but the people are so hard-headed and they returned,” he said.

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Army chief calls for unity as election fails to produce clear winner

Pakistan army chief calls for unity as election fails to produce clear winner

Country faces uncertainty after strong performance by independent candidates loyal to former PM Imran Khan

Pakistan’s army chief has told feuding politicians to show “maturity and unity” after an election failed to produce a clear winner, leaving the military’s favoured party having to cobble together a coalition in order to rule.

The country faces days of political horse-trading after a strong performance by independent candidates loyal to the jailed former prime minister, Imran Khan, scuppered the chances of the army-backed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) from winning a ruling majority.

Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) defied a months-long crackdown that hindered campaigning and forced candidates to run as independents with a combined showing that still challenged their rivals.

The military looms large over Pakistan’s political landscape, with generals having run the country for nearly half its history since partition from India in 1947.

“Elections are not a zero-sum competition of winning and losing but an exercise to determine the mandate of the people,” the army chief, Gen Syed Asim Munir, said in a statement.

“As the people of Pakistan have reposed their combined trust in the constitution of Pakistan, it is now incumbent upon all political parties to reciprocate the same with political maturity and unity.

“The nation needs stable hands and a healing touch to move on from the politics of anarchy and polarisation which does not suit a progressive country of 250 million people.”

After long delays in results that prompted further allegations that the military establishment had engaged in vote rigging, PML-N declared victory on Friday as the party with the largest number of seats.

To form a government, however, the party founded by the three-time former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, will be forced to cut deals with rivals and independents.

There were reports late on Friday of leaders from several parties arriving in PML-N’s power base of Lahore for talks.

“We don’t have enough of a majority to run the government ourselves, therefore we invite the other parties and candidates who have been successful to work with us,” Sharif said at his party headquarters in the city.

In an AI-generated video produced by PTI, Khan was credited as claiming victory for the party.

“According to independent sources, we were winning 150 national assembly seats before the rigging started,” said the message posted on his X account, which featured a genuine video clip of him from a year ago and an AI-generated voiceover.

A slow counting process showed independents had won at least 100 seats – 89 of them loyal to Khan – by Saturday morning.

PML-N took 71 and the Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) 54, with 13 in the elected 266-seat national assembly still to be declared.

Minor parties shared 27 seats between them – including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which took 17.

If PTI’s independents join one of them, they can take a share of the further 70 unelected seats reserved for women and religious minorities, which are allocated according to party performance in the contested vote.

Most of the seats won by Khan loyalists were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where police said at least two PTI supporters were killed on Friday and more than 20 wounded when they protested against alleged vote-rigging in Shangla district – the first serious post-election violence reported.

“Our results have been changed,” claimed Muhammad Saleem, a 28-year-old shopkeeper who joined about 2,000 PTI supporters marching in Peshawar.

“The government should recount all of our votes.”

Khan was barred from contesting the election after being handed several lengthy prison sentences in the days leading up to the vote.

A nationwide mobile phone blackout on election day and the slow counting of results led to suspicions the military establishment was influencing the process to ensure Sharif’s success.

“PTI as a party and political group, despite significant efforts by the civilian and military establishment, has held on to its vote bank,” said Bilal Gilani, the executive director of Gallup Pakistan.

“It shows that the military does not always get their way. That is the silver lining.”

The PPP, whose popularity is largely limited to its Sindh heartland, also did better than expected.

The PML-N and PPP joined forces with minor parties to remove Khan from office in April 2022 after his PTI won a slender majority in the 2018 election.

The former international cricketer then waged an unprecedented campaign of defiance against the military-led establishment, which originally backed his rise to power.

Khan was convicted last week of treason, corruption and having an un-Islamic marriage in three separate trials – among nearly 200 cases brought against him since being ousted.

Britain said it noted “serious concerns” about the election, while the US said “claims of interference or fraud should be fully investigated”.

The Free and Fair Election Network gave the election commission a generally positive report card for how it conducted the vote, but said the delay in announcing results “overshadowed an otherwise orderly election”.

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Peter Dutton looked like he was running on empty – then he refuelled on the Coalition’s latest culture wars

Peter Dutton looked like he was running on empty – then he refuelled on the Coalition’s latest culture wars

Paul Karp

Sideshows on cars and windfarms are a helpful distraction from its stage-three tax cuts backdown – and part of its plan to win back power via the regions

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Coalition’s new tax policy is a bit of a hybrid.

It’s got the new-fangled electric motor: the half-hearted commitment to support Labor’s tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners.

But it’s also got the internal combustion engine: the plan to revive some elements of the stage-three flat tax plan that benefited the rich.

In his grouchy interview on ABC’s 7.30 this week and around the traps in Canberra, opposition leader Peter Dutton looked like a very reluctant hybrid driver. The Coalition backflip to wave through Labor’s tax changes was sealed on Tuesday with an air of “let’s get this over with”.

That left a long-term dilemma about how to design a tax alternative “in line with” the stage-three cuts they’d agreed to gut, and a short-term problem about how to change the narrative this week.

First, there was the effort to focus on Labor’s broken promise and the insinuation that you’re next because the government would not rule out a laundry list of other changes.

Those include: negative gearing, tax treatment of the family home, trusts, franking credits and capital gains tax – a wish list the Greens were happy to pick up and run with as they pressure Labor over the cost of housing.

In question time, Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers counted the minutes as they were asked about everything but Labor’s new $107bn tax cut package.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Then the opposition found a bunch of other diverting pastimes outside the field of tax.

Coalition members inside parliament complained Labor had failed to deliver its projected $275 annual savings for households from renewable energy, while those who joined a dubious anti-renewables rally outside threw up further roadblocks.

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said we should “pause” the rollout of large-scale renewables because tearing up agricultural land was “pure insanity”; and was supported by former leader Barnaby Joyce’s complaints about the cost of transmission. Both claims are exaggerated.

The shadow climate and energy minister, Ted O’Brien, busied himself online shopping for new cars. In question time he suggested that the $19,000 price difference between a Mazda in the UK and in Australia (it is more expensive in the UK) was entirely down to fuel efficiency standards – which is a policy Labor has adopted.

On Friday Dutton followed that up with a visit to a Mazda dealership in the byelection seat of Dunkley to complain about Labor’s “new car and ute tax”.

Labor says the yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia will actually save consumers $1,000 in lower petrol bills, prompting a bunfight over the modelling to prove it.

Holding the government to account on claimed savings is fair enough, but is the Coalition really arguing once again that any form of regulation Labor proposes is a tax, even if it collects no revenue?

You bet they are. So let’s revise former Tony Abbott chief of staff Peta Credlin’s admission about the last time the Coalition pulled that trick: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax.”

Meanwhile, up in Queensland, there’s a bout of fear and loathing about youth crime, and the Liberal National party’s push to scrap the principle that detention is a last resort for young people. Dutton is ever the Queensland cop and wanted to weigh in. It was the first topic in his usual radio pow-wow with Ray Hadley on Thursday, giving him clear air to argue it is “not just Queenslanders but a lot of Australians who are facing this crime endemic – they want a leader who can stand up”.

The Coalition lent in again during question time: the first question was to Mark Dreyfus about plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

So here we have a party leader at a protest, a well-advanced stop in a byelection campaign and a pre-vetted question in parliament. These aren’t the random musings of reactionary characters with offbeat obsessions, they’re deliberate steps to advance a political strategy.

The value to the Coalition isn’t just as a distraction from the tax cut backdown. Take a look at the political map to see the potential of their sideshow-alley strategy.

Misinformation about wind turbines killing whales abounds on social media and community groups in the Illawarra and the Hunter region in New South Wales. The latter is rich in Labor seats on skinny margins and Dutton has visited the region to campaign against renewables.

In Tasmania two weeks ago, Dutton was warning that Tanya Plibersek could take a “political decision” to “destroy the lives and the livelihoods” of people in the small west coast town of Strahan, harming the salmon industry and its “world’s best practice” towards the Maugean skate.

The contrast is clear. The Albanese government is focusing on trying to materially improve people’s lives with low- and middle-income tax cuts and industrial relations changes to improve job security and pay.

Dutton’s path through the suburbs and regions is searching for a combination of issues that can shake enough seats loose to tip the government into minority or out of office.

To do so, he is prepared to whip up hip-pocket scare campaigns and cultural war issues to signal that inner-city lefties like Albanese and Plibersek are not like the average marginal-seat voter.

It seems a long-shot outsider political strategy, but for now it’s giving Dutton petrol in his tank to flee the scene of tax cut defeat.

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Peter Dutton looked like he was running on empty – then he refuelled on the Coalition’s latest culture wars

Peter Dutton looked like he was running on empty – then he refuelled on the Coalition’s latest culture wars

Paul Karp

Sideshows on cars and windfarms are a helpful distraction from its stage-three tax cuts backdown – and part of its plan to win back power via the regions

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Coalition’s new tax policy is a bit of a hybrid.

It’s got the new-fangled electric motor: the half-hearted commitment to support Labor’s tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners.

But it’s also got the internal combustion engine: the plan to revive some elements of the stage-three flat tax plan that benefited the rich.

In his grouchy interview on ABC’s 7.30 this week and around the traps in Canberra, opposition leader Peter Dutton looked like a very reluctant hybrid driver. The Coalition backflip to wave through Labor’s tax changes was sealed on Tuesday with an air of “let’s get this over with”.

That left a long-term dilemma about how to design a tax alternative “in line with” the stage-three cuts they’d agreed to gut, and a short-term problem about how to change the narrative this week.

First, there was the effort to focus on Labor’s broken promise and the insinuation that you’re next because the government would not rule out a laundry list of other changes.

Those include: negative gearing, tax treatment of the family home, trusts, franking credits and capital gains tax – a wish list the Greens were happy to pick up and run with as they pressure Labor over the cost of housing.

In question time, Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers counted the minutes as they were asked about everything but Labor’s new $107bn tax cut package.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Then the opposition found a bunch of other diverting pastimes outside the field of tax.

Coalition members inside parliament complained Labor had failed to deliver its projected $275 annual savings for households from renewable energy, while those who joined a dubious anti-renewables rally outside threw up further roadblocks.

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, said we should “pause” the rollout of large-scale renewables because tearing up agricultural land was “pure insanity”; and was supported by former leader Barnaby Joyce’s complaints about the cost of transmission. Both claims are exaggerated.

The shadow climate and energy minister, Ted O’Brien, busied himself online shopping for new cars. In question time he suggested that the $19,000 price difference between a Mazda in the UK and in Australia (it is more expensive in the UK) was entirely down to fuel efficiency standards – which is a policy Labor has adopted.

On Friday Dutton followed that up with a visit to a Mazda dealership in the byelection seat of Dunkley to complain about Labor’s “new car and ute tax”.

Labor says the yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia will actually save consumers $1,000 in lower petrol bills, prompting a bunfight over the modelling to prove it.

Holding the government to account on claimed savings is fair enough, but is the Coalition really arguing once again that any form of regulation Labor proposes is a tax, even if it collects no revenue?

You bet they are. So let’s revise former Tony Abbott chief of staff Peta Credlin’s admission about the last time the Coalition pulled that trick: “Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax.”

Meanwhile, up in Queensland, there’s a bout of fear and loathing about youth crime, and the Liberal National party’s push to scrap the principle that detention is a last resort for young people. Dutton is ever the Queensland cop and wanted to weigh in. It was the first topic in his usual radio pow-wow with Ray Hadley on Thursday, giving him clear air to argue it is “not just Queenslanders but a lot of Australians who are facing this crime endemic – they want a leader who can stand up”.

The Coalition lent in again during question time: the first question was to Mark Dreyfus about plans to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

So here we have a party leader at a protest, a well-advanced stop in a byelection campaign and a pre-vetted question in parliament. These aren’t the random musings of reactionary characters with offbeat obsessions, they’re deliberate steps to advance a political strategy.

The value to the Coalition isn’t just as a distraction from the tax cut backdown. Take a look at the political map to see the potential of their sideshow-alley strategy.

Misinformation about wind turbines killing whales abounds on social media and community groups in the Illawarra and the Hunter region in New South Wales. The latter is rich in Labor seats on skinny margins and Dutton has visited the region to campaign against renewables.

In Tasmania two weeks ago, Dutton was warning that Tanya Plibersek could take a “political decision” to “destroy the lives and the livelihoods” of people in the small west coast town of Strahan, harming the salmon industry and its “world’s best practice” towards the Maugean skate.

The contrast is clear. The Albanese government is focusing on trying to materially improve people’s lives with low- and middle-income tax cuts and industrial relations changes to improve job security and pay.

Dutton’s path through the suburbs and regions is searching for a combination of issues that can shake enough seats loose to tip the government into minority or out of office.

To do so, he is prepared to whip up hip-pocket scare campaigns and cultural war issues to signal that inner-city lefties like Albanese and Plibersek are not like the average marginal-seat voter.

It seems a long-shot outsider political strategy, but for now it’s giving Dutton petrol in his tank to flee the scene of tax cut defeat.

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William hires ex-diplomat to top team following king’s cancer diagnosis

Prince of Wales hires ex-diplomat to top team after king’s cancer diagnosis

Ian Patrick, who has also worked for Lib Dems’ Paddy Ashdown, takes private secretary role as prince returns to duties

The Prince of Wales has appointed a former diplomat as his private secretary, as he returns to royal duties after his father’s cancer diagnosis.

Ian Patrick, who has also worked for the former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, would take up the role, Kensington Palace said.

The prince resumed regular duties this week having taken time off to support his family after the Princess of Wales had planned abdominal surgery.

Prince William hosted an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on Wednesday before attending the London air ambulance charity gala dinner later that evening, thanking the public for their messages of support for the king.

Addressing guests at the dinner, he said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you, also, for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days. It means a great deal to us all.”

It was announced on Monday that Charles would have regular treatment for an unspecified cancer, found during a recent hospital stay for a procedure on an enlarged prostate.

William was expected to take over some engagements as the king’s diary was hastily rearranged and as Catherine recovers at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor. He had said he would return to work only once the princess’s care and recovery had settled. Catherine, 42, is not expected to resume official duties until after Easter.

Patrick worked under Lord Ashdown when he was in Bosnia from 2002 to 2006 before joining the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. He is a trustee of the charity Crohn’s & Colitis UK.

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Two men charged over alleged kidnapping and torture of woman

Two men charged over alleged kidnapping and torture of Brisbane woman

Police say victim did not know alleged attackers but there is no threat to wider community or indication it was gang-related

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Two men have faced court charged with torture, kidnapping and other offences while two others are wanted for questioning over an alleged violent attack on a woman in Brisbane.

Detectives say the victim did not know her alleged attackers but there is no threat to the wider community or indication it was gang-related.

Queensland police allege a group of men took the 43-year-old from a home in Doolandella on Friday.

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The woman was allegedly assaulted, placed in a vehicle and taken to a property at Forest Lake, Queensland police acting inspector Michael Hogan told reporters on Saturday.

He said a firearm was then discharged into the vehicle “at least once” but no one was shot.

A tip-off from a member of the public led officers to an address in Stafford Heights where four men were arrested, with two later released.

Two men, aged 18 and 20, were charged with kidnapping, extortion, torture, armed robbery, dangerous conduct with a weapon, enter a dwelling with intent whilst armed and other offences.

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries and has since been released from hospital.

“You could obviously understand that she’d been significantly shaken and traumatised by these events,” Hogan said.

Investigators have called on a further two men, ages unknown, to come forward for questioning about their alleged involvement.

“There’s no indication it’s gang related at this stage, it’s certainly something that we do look into as the Investigation progresses,” he said.

Crime scenes were established at three properties and a car taken away for forensic examination.

The investigation remains open and anyone with information about what happened or footage from the area has been asked to come forward.

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Family’s plea for answers 40 years after Melbourne woman was murdered in her home

‘Someone must know’: family’s plea for answers 40 years after Melbourne woman was murdered in her home

Victoria police launch fresh appeal for information on anniversary of death of Boronia woman Nanette Ellis

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The family of a single mother murdered in her own home say their pain has been made worse by not knowing who killed her, as they launched a fresh plea for answers on the 40th anniversary of her death.

Melbourne woman Nanette Ellis was stabbed in her Boronia home by an unknown offender or group of offenders on the evening of 10 February 1984.

Her 16-year-old son Greg discovered his mother’s body about 45 minutes after she was seen arriving home.

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No one has ever been charged over the 41-year-old’s death although homicide squad detectives have spoken to a number of people.

Ellis’s car was subjected to a series of attacks in the days leading up to her death, including having tyres slashed, number plates removed, paint tipped over it as well as having rocks thrown while she was driving.

A number of other cars were attacked with rocks at the time and detectives have never been able to draw a clear link between those incidents and her death.

Ellis’s family say they are tormented by the brutality of what she endured in a place that should have been her safe haven.

“Our lives have gone on but have never been the same again since Nanette’s death,” her family said in a statement.

“A sense of enduring loss and sadness continue to this day, exacerbated by not knowing who was responsible, and why Nanette was targeted.

“We believe that someone must know who murdered Nanette.

“No one can carry such an appalling secret forever without sharing it with another.”

Ellis, an advertising manager, enjoyed a quiet life with her two boys and had no criminal associations or other links that could be connected to her death, according to Homicide Squad Det Insp Dean Thomas.

He stressed it’s not too late to come forward with information. “The time to come forward is now,” Thomas said.

“The Ellis family have waited four decades for answers, four decades of grief and mystery.

“If there is anyone out there who knows anything about Nanette’s death, no matter what it is, I urge you to come forward and speak to police or Crime Stoppers.”

A $500,000 reward remains on offer for information leading to the conviction of her killer.

The Department of Public Prosecutions is also considering indemnification from prosecution for anyone who provides information about those responsible.

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UK woman creates lifesize Taylor Swift cake for Super Bowl

Baker’s version: UK woman creates lifesize Taylor Swift cake for Super Bowl

Cake depicts Swift wearing a sweatshirt of the Kansas City Chiefs – her boyfriend Travis Kelce’s team

A baker who has created a lifesize Taylor Swift cake for Sunday’s Super Bowl said it was the “perfect opportunity” to finally get around to making it.

The cake sculpture by Lara Mason, from Walsall in the West Midlands, has racked up more than 3m views on TikTok.

Her cake creation depicts Swift wearing a sweatshirt of the Kansas City Chiefs – the team her footballer boyfriend Travis Kelce plays for – and holding the NFL Super Bowl trophy above her head.

Mason, 37, who runs her own business, Lara Cakes, told the Guardian she had wanted to turn the US singer into a cake for a while but it was her and her husband’s love of American football that made it “even more special”.

“I’ve always wanted to make a Taylor Swift cake because for the last maybe five years, she has been top of everyone’s list,” she said. “I really like her, I’m not a diehard Swiftie but I do really appreciate her music and the fact she is a role model for women.

“I never got round to making a cake but obviously the Super Bowl is coming up and me and my husband really enjoy the NFL so to put the two things together, it was the perfect opportunity to go ahead with it. She’s amazing, but having the NFL connection made it even more special.”

The red velvet vanilla-flavoured cake took 38 hours to make, spread over a week, using 130kg of ingredients.

Mason said her six-year-old twin daughters had enjoyed watching her creative process, adding: “The girls love it because every day they come home from school, I’ve done a little bit more on the cake. They love telling all their schoolmates that their mummy is the lady that made the Taylor Swift cake.”

Mason said she started baking 13 years ago and found herself watching US TV shows where people made “big, extravagant cakes”. She said: “I was thinking, how hard can it actually be? Then I tried it and realised yeah, actually it’s really hard. It was just all about the challenge at first.”

Her business has since taken off and her designs have been seen around the world. A lifelike depiction of the Grinch proved a particular success online. “Whenever something has sort of ugly features, like the Grinch is green and has all the creases in the face, that’s a little bit easier because even if you get something slightly wrong, you still know it’s the Grinch,” she said.

“But when it comes to making Taylor Swift, obviously she is so beautiful and her features are so perfect, it’s so hard to do. People will pick apart tiny little details because everyone knows exactly what she looks like.”

Mason has not ruled out carving her creation up as a half-time treat. “It’s still standing at the moment. In a way, it’s good that the UK is so cold at the minute because it will stay preserved for a good three or four weeks. She could be our half-time snack during the Super Bowl.”

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