BBC 2024-02-27 22:31:51


Gazans in survival mode with cold nights and food rations

This morning dawned with news of US President Joe Biden’s hopes for an imminent ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, but many on the Gaza Strip could not think beyond scraping together breakfast.

“Before the war we used to buy bread, now we make it,” said 26-year-old journalist Aseel Mousa.

The BBC has spent the day following the lives of people across Gaza – as they scoured markets for food, worked in overcrowded hospitals and tried to keep their children entertained.

There were periods where we did not hear from our contacts – messages remained on one tick on WhatsApp and phone calls went to voicemail.

The Israel-Gaza war erupted on 7 October when Hamas gunmen infiltrated southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage.

About 130 are still being held in Gaza, and we could not speak to them. Relatives in Israel are left waiting, with no idea of the conditions they are being held in.

At least 29,800 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

This is a day in the life in Gaza.

05:00: In Rafah, 59-year-old Sami Abu Omar wakes up early after a “hard night”.

“Any person in this situation has to get used to sleeping for an hour to an hour and a half only,” he says, describing the sound of bombing.

After getting out of his tent, he prays and then heads to a distribution centre, where he will serve up lentil soup to displaced families.

07:00: In the central city of Deir al-Balah, nurse Rewaa Mohsen changes the nappies of her two young daughters. One was born two days before the war.

She says each day now follows the same routine of trying to survive and care for her children. After changing their nappies, she prepares breakfast.

09:00: Elsewhere in Deir al-Balah, 22-year-old medical student and volunteer doctor Nagham Mezied takes a photo of her breakfast.

She used to eat at 06:00 but has recently been pushing it back to try to stave off hunger later in the day. The dish this morning is called Mankouche – cheese, herbs pepper and olive oil on bread.

“This is all I eat until the evening, if we are lucky to have another meal then, otherwise this is all until tomorrow.”

09:30: Lawyer Mosa Aldous is walking in Rafah after a restless night in his tent. “It was so cold,” he says.

He can see long queues for food and water, but his attention this morning is on finding an internet connection.

“Now I am two kilometres away from my tent, trying to find signal but it is still very weak. I am slowly, slowly walking further from the tent,” he says.

11:00: Journalist Aseel Mousa is also in Rafah, but in a flat. She “seized the chance” to do some work in the morning after finding that she had power and an internet connection.

Now, she is in the process of making bread with her mum. “We get wood, start a fire, make dough, put it into portions, let it rise. This is what we’re doing now. This process takes at least three hours,” she says.

11:00: At around the same time, there is excitement in Rafah as Mosa sees aid being delivered by plane. Crowds gather on the beach.

“We suddenly heard loud noises in the sky so went out and saw large aeroplanes throwing aid via parachutes,” he says.

11:30: Back at the food distribution centre, Sami Abu Omar says four big pots of soup have already been served up.

“Today it’s cloudy and there might be rain soon. Our mothers, when this kind of weather comes, make lentil soup, so we’ve done this too for the displaced people so they feel more like they’re at home,” he says.

12:40: Aseel Mousa and her mum have finished making the bread, which they ate with tinned beans and eggs.

“It wasn’t nice, I don’t like canned food, but this is what is available in Gaza,” she says.

“I used to eat cheese and toast in the morning but now these kinds of food are not available. So it wasn’t good. But the bread was perfect because me and my mum prepared it.”

In the past, she says, she would have ordered breakfast to her office: cinnamon rolls or pastries.

She has sent her laptop to a neighbour who has solar panels so it can be charged. She does this every day.

14:30: Nurse Rewaa Mohsen is trying to keep her eldest daughter entertained.

“She has her cousins to play with. Also has toys,” she says over a WhatsApp message. “We try to keep her busy so she doesn’t hear the bombs.”

She plans to nap soon with her two daughters.

14:40: Back in Rafah, lawyer Mosa Aldous says he has given up on trying to find connection. Over a patchy line, he says he is with his family again in their tent. The line goes dead.

15:30: Rewaa’s hopes of napping did not go to plan. She sends a video of her daughter with her eyes wide looking at the camera and adds a grinning emoji.

“She refuses bottled milk. I gave her some in the first month and after that it was not available so she is dependant on breast milk,” she writes.

“My mum and only sister were killed in November and I don’t have anyone to help me with them [her children].”

16:13: At al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital where she volunteers, Nagham Mezied reflects on the “harsh realities of war”.

“Overflowing with displaced people seeking shelter – it has become a refuge for those who have lost everything: their homes, their loved ones, their sense of security.”

She says diseases are spreading and that they are struggling with shortages of basic equipment and supplies.

16:37: Rewaa sends a picture of her lunch – chicken with peppers and olives. She says the ingredients cost them more than $40 (£32). It will be the last meal she will eat today.

“We are blessed that we can afford two meals. Some people can’t afford any,” she says.

As she feeds her daughters she thinks, too, about how rising prices are affecting caring for them.

Her eldest daughter is wearing the same clothes as when the war began. She struggles to afford nappies.

17:17: Aseel, the journalist, reminisces about her former life.

“Before the war at this time, I used to be coming back from work to my home, and then I would relax on my bed and talk to my mum about my day. Now, it is not just boredom – it’s anxiety, tension all the time,” she says by WhatsApp message.

“Now we will prepare lunch, which will be canned peas, because there is nothing fresh. We only really eat tinned food.”

19:45: Volunteer doctor Nagham Mezied finished her shift a couple of hours ago.

She dreams of having a hot shower “to release the fatigue of the day” but there is no gas and no water.

She gets ready to cook some dinner – most likely tinned chickpeas and fava beans – and then will go to sleep.

“The day in Gaza now ends early as we have no internet and no electricity – we have nothing to do. We try to sleep early and have some rest in case the night brings bombs and terror.”

Additional reporting by Muath Al Khatib

Israel-Gaza war: Netanyahu and Biden spar over support for conflict

Popular support for Israel in the US will help it fight “until total victory” over Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

In a statement, Mr Netanyahu cited polls showing that more than 80% of Americans support Israel during the conflict in Gaza.

His comments come after US President Joe Biden warned that Israel risks losing global support in the war.

US officials say they are working on a possible ceasefire deal.

In his statement on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu said that, since the beginning of the conflict, he has been leading a campaign “countering international pressure to end the war ahead of time and mobilise support for Israel.”

“We have significant successes in this area,” Mr Netanyahu added, citing a recent poll showing that 82% of the American public supports Israel. “This gives us more strength to continue the campaign until complete victory.”

On Monday, Mr Biden said the US hopes to have a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza “by next Monday.”

The US president also suggested later on that Israel could “lose support from around the world” if it “keeps up with this incredibly conservative government they have”.

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Another poll, from the Associated Press and Norc, found that about half of US adults in January believed Israel had “gone too far” – up from 40% in November.

White House and State Department officials on Tuesday confirmed that negotiations on a temporary ceasefire were continuing, but declined to give details on the substance of the talks or potential timelines.

John Kirby, the White House’s National Security Council spokesperson, said that “significant progress” had been made towards a deal last week to allow hostages to leave Gaza and let humanitarian assistance in.

“We’re building on that progress this week and the president and his team remain engaged around the clock with multiple partners in the region,” Mr Kirby added.

“But as the president said just in the last 24 hours or so there’s no deal as of yet. And there’s a lot more work to do.”

The ceasefire, Mr Kirby said, would “hopefully” allow for a six-week pause, significantly longer than previous pauses in the fight.

“Maybe that could lead to something more in terms of a better approach to end the conflict,” he said.

At the State Department, spokesman Matthew Miller said that US diplomats – working with Qatar, Egypt and Israel – are “trying to push this deal over the finish line”, but that “ultimately, we would need Hamas to say yes.”

A Hamas official had earlier told BBC News the group’s priorities were on ending hostilities, rather than the release of hostages.

Israel launched a large-scale air and ground offensive in Gaza after Hamas gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took 253 hostages, some of whom have since been released.

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip says at least 29,878 people have been killed in the territory since then – including 96 deaths in the past 24 hours – in addition to 70,215 who have been wounded.

Nato allies reject Emmanuel Macron idea of troops to Ukraine

Several Nato countries, including the US, Germany and the UK, have ruled out deploying ground troops to Ukraine, after French President Emmanuel Macron said “nothing should be excluded”.

Mr Macron said there was “no consensus” on sending Western soldiers to Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has warned of direct conflict if Nato troops deploy there.

Russian forces have recently made gains in Ukraine and Kyiv has urgently appealed for more weapons.

Mr Macron told a news conference on Monday evening: “We should not exclude that there might be a need for security that then justifies some elements of deployment.

“But I’ve told you very clearly what France maintains as its position, which is a strategic ambiguity that I stand by.”

The French leader was speaking in Paris, which is hosting a crisis meeting in support of Ukraine, attended by heads of European states, as well as the US and Canada.

A full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin is now in its third year, with no signs that the biggest war in Europe since World War Two could end soon.

Mr Macron’s comments prompted responses from other European and Nato member countries.

US President Joe Biden believes the “path to victory” is providing military aid “so Ukrainian troops have the weapons and ammunition they need to defend themselves”, a White House statement said.

“President Biden has been clear that the US will not send troops to fight in Ukraine,” it added.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there had been no change to the agreed position that no European country or Nato member state would send troops to Ukraine.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said the country had no plans for a large-scale military deployment to Ukraine, beyond the small number of personnel already training Ukrainian forces.

The office of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Italy’s “support does not include the presence of troops from European or Nato states on Ukrainian territory”.

Mr Peskov, on behalf of the Kremlin, called Mr Macron’s suggestion “a very important new element” adding it was absolutely not in the interests of Nato members.

“In that case, we would need to talk not about the probability, but about the inevitability [of direct conflict],” he said.

Earlier, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg denied considering whether troops would be sent to Ukraine, although he insisted the alliance would continue to support Ukraine, which is not a Nato member.

That position has been echoed by a number of Nato member states including Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russia has an abundance of artillery and is a far bigger military force than Ukraine, whose troops are critically dependent on modern weapons being provided by Western allies, particularly the US.

‘Most intense’ meeting

On Tuesday, Mr Biden urged congressional leaders to approve $95bn (£75bn; €69bn) US aid package, which includes $60bn for Ukraine, during a meeting in the Oval Office.

The package has been facing an uphill battle in the US House of Representatives. Republican House speaker Mike Johnson held firm in the meeting insisting on more border reforms first.

Mr Johnson has said the crisis on the Mexico-US border is his priority and Mr Biden had already offered to include the reforms in the package – but the Republicans are holding out.

Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said it was the “most intense” Oval Office meeting he had ever been part of.

The US is by far the largest contributor of military aid to Ukraine and had committed €42.2bn (£36bn; $45bn) as of 15 January, Kiel Institute data showed.

Germany ranks second with commitments of €17.7bn in the same time period, followed by the UK which provided €9.1bn of military aid.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who took part in Monday’s meeting in Paris by video link, said that “everything we do together to defend against Russian aggression adds real security to our nations for decades to come”.

How significant are Russia’s recent gains on the battlefront? Listen to the latest episode of Ukrainecast on BBC Sounds

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Kate Winslet ‘spectacular’ in new show The Regime ★★★★☆

Kate Winslet gives another standout performance as an outrageous leader in HBO’s new series, an absurdist political comedy that is uncomfortably close to home.
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When the world starts tilting toward authoritarianism, you can attack that reality with anger or undermine it with mockery. The Regime, an absurdist yet close-to-home satire, assumes that it’s best to laugh to keep from crying. With a spectacular, funny and chilling Kate Winslet as the imperious chancellor of an unnamed, fictional Central European country, the captivating series is a comedy that never ignores the real-life, global dramas beneath it all.

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The show was created by Will Tracy, who co-wrote the more scathing satirical film The Menu and has written for Succession. The Regime has more in common with comedies like Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin, less sharply skewering than farcical. Chancellor Elena Vernham’s addresses to the country begin, “My Loves”. She talks to her dead father, the founder of their right-wing political party, who is preserved in a glass coffin like Snow White. And at an official banquet, she takes to the stage to sing, off-key, Chicago’s karaoke-ready If You Leave Me Now, her husband at the keyboard. But the show isn’t called The Regime for nothing. As it goes on, we see that beneath Elena’s silliness is a lethal will to power. One of Winslet’s gifts is to make it look effortless as she sinks into characters, and she never winks at the camera here. She makes Elena a woman who believes her own lies and self-delusions. In her mind, she deserves to be dictator and what’s wrong with that?

As the story begins, a soldier, Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts) is brought to the palace to work for the Chancellor. The jaunty music, by the Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel and many other films) suggests he is a buffoon and sets the comic tone. But Zubak and his unit have been branded The Butchers for shooting into a crowd protesting conditions at a cobalt mine, killing 12. Elena likes that about him.

His first, ludicrous job is to indulge her hypochondria by walking in front of her with a device measuring moisture in the air because she is convinced the palace is full of black mould. In its weaker moments – here and among Elena’s bumbling lackeys – The Regime can feel like Iannucci-light. By the end of the first episode, though, we see that Zubek is a violent sociopath, with a Rasputin-like hold on Elena. We know that Schoenaerts can be soulful in other parts, but here he gives Zubak a deranged look in his eyes, signalling that the only question is how much bad influence he will exert over the already-corrupt Chancellor.

The directors smoothly lure us into this cock-eyed world that shadows our own

The Regime was shot partly in Austria, in the gilded, opulent Schönbrunn Palace, the historical summer residence of the Hapsburgs. Mountains are visible in the background, but geography is less important than geopolitics. With her country initially under the thumb of the US economically, Elena begins to play East against West and tries to partner with China. As the story goes on and she becomes more unhinged, the series deftly balances comedy and drama, impinging on real-world connections in a light-handed way. Stephen Frears (The Queen) directed episodes one, two and four, and Jessica Hobbs (The Crown) the other three, and both directors smoothly lure us into this cock-eyed world that shadows our own.

Elena does not resemble one specific world leader but several figures. Vladimir Putin inevitably comes to mind, especially when we see how she has rivals arrested and hauled off to prison, or plots to invade a neighbouring country, claiming it was hers all along. Two years after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, the parallels are impossible to miss. But there is also a strand of Eva Peron, more from the musical Evita than from history, in her glam blonde look and her balcony speeches to what she is convinced is an adoring public. And many of her authoritarian tendencies are generic. She surveils ordinary citizens. She masquerades as a populist, giving an address while standing in a cabbage field to show her connection to farmers. She manipulates the media, spouting blatant lies and giving gaudy performances, dancing and singing Santa Baby as her Christmas video message to the country. Good taste is not her forte. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see her hawking gold trainers, like Donald Trump.

But the story becomes darker and darker as it heads toward a sobering end, not necessarily the one you might think is coming. Along the way, Hugh Grant appears in episode four as Elena’s leftist predecessor. Grant makes this surprising character wily and complicated in just a few scenes. It’s too bad he only appears in that single, standout instalment. Andrea Riseborough plays the manager of the palace, fearfully trying to please Elena in order to protect her small son. Martha Plimpton appears in one episode as a US senator, whose one-on-one standoff with Elena is a delicious model, on both sides, of not saying what you mean but being perfectly clear. Ah, diplomacy.

From start to finish, The Regime’s view of real-life politics and the state of the world is deeply cynical, but it’s not hard to believe.

★★★★☆

The Regime is released 3 March on HBO and Max in the US and 8 April on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.

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