The Guardian 2024-07-02 22:13:26


Good morning US politics readers. Joe Biden’s reelection team held difficult phone calls on Sunday and Monday with top campaign funders in an attempt to reassure them that the 81-year-old president should stay in the race following his car crash debate performance last week.

Senior campaign officials held a call on Monday evening with hundreds of top Democratic donors and fundraisers to tamp down the panic that has gripped the party since the CNN debate, multiple outlets reported. “Can the president make it through a campaign and another term?” One donor asked during the call, according to Reuters.

The Biden campaign has been engaged in full-on damage control, while many Democratic officials and strategists are privately mulling whether Biden should remain on the ticket of step aside in favor of a younger candidate who might stand a better chance of defeating Donald Trump.

Amid calls for the campaign to make Biden more visible, the president added public remarks to his schedule on Monday evening where he issued a full-throated denunciation of the supreme court’s decision to grant Trump broad immunity from criminal charges of trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Here’s what else we’re watching:

  • Biden will receive an operational briefing and deliver remarks at the DC emergency operations center. In the evening, he’ll attend a campaign reception in McLean, Virginia.

  • The White House’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, will brief at 2.30pm ET.

  • Kamala Harris will speak at an event in San Francisco.

Trump seeks to set aside hush-money verdict hours after immunity ruling

Lawyers ask New York judge to delay sentencing while he weighs high court’s decision and how it may influence case

Donald Trump has asked the New York judge who presided over his recent hush-money trial to set aside his conviction as he seeks to capitalise on Monday’s supreme court ruling granting him broad immunity from prosecution.

In what is probably just the first real-world impact of the controversial ruling from the conservative-dominated court, which said Trump cannot be held criminally liable for many acts taken when he was president, Trump’s legal team sent a letter to the trial judge, Juan Merchan, asking to postpone the sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for 11 July, while Merchan weighed how Monday’s court ruling affected the case.

The president was convicted on 34 felony charges.

The immediate request, filed only a few hours after the supreme court decision, indicates it is likely the beginning of the fallout from a ruling that is being celebrated by Trump supporters but that critics warned paves the way to a vastly inflated definition of presidential powers, one which could lead to a future US dictatorship – perhaps even under Trump himself.

A Manhattan jury found Trump guilty on 31 May after a trial lasting several weeks on charges of falsifying documents to cover up hush money paid to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, shortly before the 2016 presidential election, which he won.

Although the offences happened before Trump was president, the lawyers argue that the supreme court ruling confirms their argument that some evidence should be inadmissible because it related to presidential acts.

Trump had sought immunity from prosecution in prior court filings for conduct alleged to have involved official acts while he was president. While the lawyers did not raise this as a defence in the hush-money case, they argued that some evidence – including tweets about his former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who testified against him in the trial – should have been ruled out because he was president at the time and therefore should have had immunity.

Trump reacted triumphantly to Monday’s ruling high court ruling, writing on his Truth Social site: “Big win for our constitution and democracy. Proud to be an American!”

Joe Biden and senior Democrats condemned the decision, which complicates Trump’s prosecution on unrelated charges that he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential result and incited a mob to attack the US Capitol. The ruling stemmed from the former president’s claim that he had immunity from those charges, which are being pressed by a special prosecutor, Jack Smith, who accuses Trump of trying to defraud the United States by seeking to stay in office following Biden’s victory.

It means, in the first instance, that Trump’s trial is unlikely to take place before November’s presidential election. Should he win, he could order the justice department to drop the case.

Biden, speaking from the White House, said the ruling set a “dangerous precedent” and warned that it would embolden Trump if he is elected president again, freeing him to act without constraint.

“The American people will have to render a judgment about Donald Trump’s behaviour,” Biden said. “The American people must decide whether Trump’s assault on our democracy on January 6 [2021] makes him unfit for public office.”

Biden also invoked the dissenting opinion of the liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor, who said the 6-3 ruling was tantamount to elevating an elected president into a “king” who would be above the law.

“I concur with Justice Sotomayor’s dissent today. So should the American people dissent. I dissent. May God bless you all. May God help preserve our democracy,” Biden said, as he sought to portray the ruling as an attack on democracy that “undermined the rule of law”.

Biden’s remarks were his first in public since a weekend family meeting at Camp David, where they were said to have discussed his remarkably poor performance at last week’s presidential debate with Trump, a showing that has left his candidacy in crisis and sparked calls for him to step aside for a younger Democratic candidate.

Speaking from a teleprompter, the president cut a more vigorous figure than the rasping-voiced, frail-looking figure that frequently stumbled over his words in the Atlanta debate, but did not respond to questions from reporters, including one who asked if he planned to step aside after his debate performance.

Mike Johnson, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives and a close Trump ally, told Fox News that Biden’s remarks were “despicable” and “dangerous”, and accused him of “trying to undermine the supreme court”.

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James Carville calls on Democratic party to ‘deliver change’ and replace Biden

Strategist reiterates his months-long calls for party to look at ‘staggering talent’ of governors for candidate

James Carville, the strategist who has been one of the few establishment Democrats to have been warning about Joe Biden’s age issue before the president’s disastrous debate performance Thursday, has called on his party to “deliver change” and replace the president as its nominee for November’s election.

In an interview Monday with the Guardian, he also said it would be in the US’s best interest for Biden’s Democratic presidential predecessors Barack Obama and Bill Clinton to help persuade him to half his re-election – and support an open nomination convention in Chicago in August to select a new ticket for the party.

“If it’s too hard for the Democrats to deliver change, then they’re going to hurt themselves bad – really bad,” said Carville, who led Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign. “Change is messy. But you have to listen to the vox populi. We want something new. I see staggering talent in the Democratic party.

“Let them speak their minds.”

Carville’s comments come after he has spent months saying Biden was too old, should not run again – and that the party’s governors were among the most “breathtaking talent”, as he put it in a 16 December interview. He added: “We’re keeping it bottled up.”

Democrats initially did not like hearing Carville attack Biden on the age issue. Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman told Politico he wished Carville would “would shut the fuck up!”

Avoiding a tangle with Fetterman, Carville fell in behind Biden after his re-nomination became inevitable. But in February, when Biden refused an interview offer during the Super Bowl, Carville fumed on CNN: “It’s the biggest television audience, not even close, and you get a chance to do a 20, 25-minute interview … and you don’t do it, that’s a kind of sign that the staff or yourself doesn’t have much confidence in you.

“There’s no other way to read this.”

As Carville watched Biden debate Donald Trump in his room at the hotel where he was staying for the Ideas festival in Aspen, Colorado, the Democrat quickly began faltering. Text messages started arriving after three minutes.

“I wasn’t surprised this happened,” he said. “It’s like knowing where you were the night JFK got shot, you’ll remember where you were on Thursday night. Every election is about one thing: is this a change election, or a stay-the-course election? That’s the axis on which politics operates. This is clearly a change election.”

As the text traffic intensified, he got back to the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein, saying: “I tried, man. I tried.”

He saw a theme emerge as people reacted to Biden’s raspy voice and confusion in certain answers, saying: “OMG – that was my daddy five years ago! Everyone understands old age as they go through it or help their parents through it. Everyone has helped an old lady across the street. This is a water-cooler issue.”

Carville turns 80 in October. “This is nothing to be ashamed of,” he said. “Ageing happens.”

But, Carville said, there are now “two wars going on”. On one hand, “the ugly, mad supreme court is greenlighting every element of corporate rapacity in their rulings trying to gut the EPA”.

The supreme court on Monday also issued a ruling granting “absolute immunity” from prosecution to presidents for acts that are considered official. Many interpreted the ruling as a boost to Trump’s efforts to combat prosecutions against him in connection with a sprawling effort to subvert the outcome of the 2020 election that he lost to Biden – all of which are still pending after his conviction in the New York case involving hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.

Meanwhile, Carville said, Biden is being told to “stay the course” by the first lady, Jill Biden, and their son Hunter, recently convicted himself – on federal gun charges.

“They have every reason in the world to love a tremendous dad, a guy who worships his wife,” Carville said. “My children love me, even though my oldest daughter says: ‘Daddy, I wish you wouldn’t say some of those things.’”

“Change is hard!” Carville declared in a voice of semi-thunder. “The polls show 72% of the public wants change – and not the kind Trump and his cult offer.”

Carville said organizers of an open convention could line up speakers including California governor Gavin Newsom, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, former New Orleans mayor and Biden re-election campaign co-chairman Mitch Landrieu, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and Maryland governor Wes Moore.

“You know how many networks would cover that as major breaking news?” Carville said. “It could split the party, yes. Then go cut a deal! Soothe the hurt feelings – do the things that make politics what fascinates so many of us.

“It was a lot of trouble for Magellan to go around the world. Martin Luther King Jr had a nice church in Montgomery – it was a lot of trouble to lead that bus boycott.”

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Voters react to Biden v Trump debate: ‘Cynical and damaging to our country’

Readers share their reactions, highlight limitations of format and whether event has changed their intentions

US voters shared their reactions to Thursday’s presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, highlighting limitations of the format, weak performances from both candidates and whether the event has changed their voting intentions.

‘A lifetime of being a skilled politician isn’t undone by one bad debate’

“I’m bemused and somewhat disappointed about all the media and political responses that seem to say – a man who’s spent a lifetime as a successful political leader has proven otherwise by one bad debate, a debate that he participated in, in spite of being ill.

“For me the most important outcome of that debate was that Donald Trump reinforced that he was danger to democracy by his pathological lying, delusion, racism and misogyny. The bottom line is that one bad debate has not changed anything, Biden is still the same person. Isn’t he entitled to one bad hour? Annan Boodram, 67, a retired educator, journalist, author and change agent engaged in mental health advocacy and activism through a not for profit NGO, the Caribbean Voice, from New York City

‘Discussions about who’s better at golf are disheartening’

“I knew the debate would be tough, but I couldn’t imagine it would turn out so disastrous. I lean towards the Democratic party but I would not be inclined to support a hollow political agenda whose main argument is simply being anti-Trump.

It’s disheartening to see years of political experience wasted on discussions about who’s better at golf. This makes me question President Biden’s decision not to support a more robust project that could effectively defeat Trump. We’re all going to have to brace ourselves for an election period filled with sadness, frustration and disappointment.” Felix, in his 40s, a hispanic college professor from Indiana

‘I’m not worried about a second Biden term’

“Public speaking has never been Biden’s forte, but I believe his actual performance as chief executive continues to be very good; I have no reason to worry about a second term with him. My only fear is of a felonious [Trump] taking advantage of people who value style over substance.

“Trump lied through the entire debate and looked like an idiot.

“Biden spoke truthfully and rationally and like an adult. His grasp of policy far exceeds anything Trump will ever be capable of. I’m not going to panic; debates don’t decide elections. I hope Democrats will remain calm and stay the course. That said, in the extremely unlikely event that the Dems change candidates, of course I will support that person too. Paula, a retired teacher from Massachusetts

‘An exercise in futility framed as the most important thing’

“I tried to watch, but stopped watching [a short while in], as it was typical soundbite answers and I have better use of my time. As an informed voter who reads the news, presidential debates have always greatly disappointed me in how shallow they are, how much significance they’re given by the press when many in the public don’t watch and don’t care, and how completely divorced anything the candidates may say ends up being from their actual approach to governing.

“An exercise in futility that is framed as the most important thing that happens all year. What a farce the whole production of it ends up being. Yes, I tune in hoping for it to be better. Every time I have less patience as it never is.

“I tend to vote Democrat, and did so last time, but am always reluctant to rubber-stamp the party and desperately want a system that makes third parties and independents a serious and viable option, like proportional representation and ranked voting.” Daniel Dromboski, 30, unemployed, from Pennsylvania

‘The press pounced’

“President Biden had a lukewarm night. The press pounced on it in order to satisfy their billionaire owners. There are very few undecided voters. I don’t think the debate made much difference. I’ll be a Democrat until the day I die.” Della, 70, from New Mexico

‘It’s getting difficult to defend Biden as my choice for president’

“I’ve seen this debate before, four years ago. But this one was different, honestly it just made me sad. I lean left, but have had concerns about Biden’s mental acuity for a long time – even last election, when I voted for him. It’s getting difficult for me to defend him being my choice for president. “I will never vote for Trump, but I have to admit he sounded like the more articulate and compelling candidate in this debate. It makes me sad, because I don’t know if I should just not vote, vote independent, or do I really just sacrifice all of my integrity by voting for a person that I don’t believe has their wits about them.

“Just watching the two of them talk, because Biden’s labored breathing gives me anxiety, and Trump – although I should mention Biden too – are both extremely negative. Neither of them even tries to convince me of a bright future I should believe in. They only try to convince me that the other screwed up this country to lows never seen before, and I believe them.” Manny Alalouf, 28 a conservationist for an international nonprofit from Michigan

‘Biden is not going anywhere’

“Trump lied constantly and the moderators did not call him on it. Yes, Biden is old, but he is a good person and is not going anywhere.” Walter Kopp, 60, retired, from California

‘It was painful to watch Biden squander this opportunity’

“I am angry about the debate, both presenters were terrible. It was painful to watch President Biden squander this opportunity to show voters what Trump, and the Republicans who support him, are really proposing if they are elected.

“Trump has provided so much ammunition to the Democrats and they fail again and again to use it. Instead they are presenting too many statistics and losing the story line. Biden displayed everything the Republicans accuse him of, being old and feeble and incoherent. And – why was Trump allowed to spew so many unchallenged lies? An hour after the debate to correct him is pointless.

“I think both parties are being driven by too many extreme ideas.” Melanie, middle aged, from North Carolina

‘The debate was cynical and damaging to our country’

“Thursday night’s debate was embarrassing. CNN’s moderators glossed over crucial issues. Trump, a convicted felon with a history of serious lies and deceptions, was allowed to evade tough questions, by the moderators.

“The debate focused on familiar topics like the deficit and taxes, with Biden giving sincere but tired sounding responses and Trump making bombastic and false claims. The event highlighted that debates are more about showmanship than substance. The Earth is facing an existential threat through climate change. This is what we should be focusing on.

“The elephant in the room, why a convicted felon should have access to the levers of power, was not addressed.

“Meanwhile, Biden’s hoarse voice and demeanor made him seem like a weak leader. Debates are supposed to inform voters, but both candidates are well-known, and this debate didn’t offer new insights. The event was cynical and damaging to our country.” Alison, a program manager from Seattle who voted Democrat in 2020 and will support an Independent candidate this election

‘This embarrassing debacle has, sadly, likely changed nothing’

“I have for years been waiting for Democrats to put forward a convincing case and a strong character to rally if not liberal then moderate minds in Appalachia and other ‘conservative’ regions, to stand for some common sense. Being the stronger, better candidate than Trump should be an easy game, but it’s almost like it’s being actively thrown. What are the Democrats thinking?

“I used to say I have values in common with both major parties. I’ve come to see their duopoly as the proverbial albatross around our neck. If it were not already a chaotic time in the world, one might hope to see them both collapse.

“Embarrassing as this debacle was, the sad truth is that likely nothing has tangibly changed.” Alex, 29, a clerical worker from Tennessee

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Dozens feared dead at Hindu gathering in northern India, say police and media

Crowd crush reported after religious celebration of the deity Shiva in the city of Hathras, south-east of Delhi

At least 87 people are feared to have been crushed to death at a Hindu religious gathering in northern India, the broadcaster NDTV has reported.

Crowds had gathered to celebrate the Hindu deity Shiva in the city of Hathras, 87 miles (140km) south-east of Delhi. The district police spokesperson Manish Chikara put the death toll at about 60 people, but said that figure might rise.

Deadly incidents are common at places of worship during major religious festivals in India, the biggest of which prompt millions of devotees to make pilgrimages to holy sites.

Authorities said a large crowd had gathered in response to a call from a local religious leader. “The incident happened due to overcrowding at the time when people were trying to leave the venue,” the Hathras district administrator Ashish Kumar told reporters.

Witnesses and local media reports said the victims were crushed to death as the audience left the sermon. “When the sermon finished, everyone started running out,” Shakuntala, a woman who gave only one name, told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“People fell in a drain by the road. They started falling one on top of the other and got crushed to death.”

An unidentified witness told the broadcaster India Today there was a narrow exit at the venue: “As we tried to exit towards a field, suddenly a commotion started, and we didn’t know what to do.”

The local chief medical officer, Umesh Kumar Tripathi, told reporters that most of the dead were women.

Videos on social media showed bodies piled up on the ground outside a local hospital.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, Yogi Adityanath, ordered an investigation. “Instructions have been given to the concerned officials to conduct relief and rescue operations on war footing and to provide proper treatment to the injured,” he posted on X.

Religious gatherings in India have a grim track record of deadly incidents caused by poor crowd management and safety lapses.

At least 112 people were killed in 2016 after a huge explosion caused by a banned fireworks display at a temple marking the Hindu new year. The blast ripped through concrete buildings and ignited a fire at a temple complex in Kerala state, where thousands had gathered.

In 2013, 115 devotees died after a crush at a bridge near a temple in Madhya Pradesh.

Up to 400,000 people were gathered in the area, and the crush occurred after a rumour spread that the bridge was about to collapse.

About 224 pilgrims died and more than 400 others were injured in a crush in 2008 at a hilltop temple in the northern city of Jodhpur.

  • Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Speaking on France Inter this morning, the far-right National Rally’s Marine Le Pen said she would be respectful of Jordan Bardella’s role if he becomes prime minister and that she wouldn’t want to be part of the government herself.

Asked if the National Rally would attempt to form a government if it doesn’t get a majority in the national assembly, Le Pen argued a majority would be needed.

“It is evident that we cannot accept to go to government if we cannot act,” she said.

“We wish to govern,” she stressed.

But she also said that if the National Rally is a bit short, it will try to make up that majority with extra MPs, for example from the right.

Le Pen also said she would not sit in the government and that she won’t be president of the national assembly.

“I will be at the head of the group of deputies,” Le Pen said.

Asked whether she would join a new European political group formed by Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, she did not give a concrete answer, instead saying the party will look at what’s on the table after the French election.

“We are concentrated on an election that is fundamental for the future of the country,” she said.

Israel risking disastrous war against Hezbollah for political reasons, says former US official

Harrison Mann, military expert who quit over Gaza, says ruinous war in Lebanon would pull US into regional conflict

Israel risks going to war against Hezbollah to ensure Benjamin Netanyahu’s political survival, but it would be a miscalculation that could lead to mass civilian deaths in both Lebanon and Israel, a former US military intelligence analyst has warned.

Harrison Mann, a major in the Defence Intelligence Agency who left the military last month over US support for Israel’s war in Gaza, also told the Guardian that such a disastrous new war would pull the US into a regional conflict.

Despite an announcement in June by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that planning for a Lebanon offensive had been completed, and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from Israeli politicians, US officials have been saying privately that Netanyahu’s government is aware how dangerous a war with Hezbollah would be and is not seeking a fight.

Mann, the most senior US military officer to have quit over Gaza to date, said that assessment was optimistic and that there was a high risk of Israel going to war on its northern border for internal political reasons, led by a prime minister whose continuing hold on power and consequent insulation from corruption charges, depends largely on the nation being at war.

“We know specifically that the Israeli prime minister must continue to be a wartime leader if he wants to prolong his political career and stay out of court, so that motivation is there,” Mann said in an interview. He added that any Israeli government would be sensitive to political pressure from tens of thousands of Israelis displaced from the border area because of Hezbollah rocket and artillery attacks.

On top of that, the Israeli military establishment is convinced that the heavily armed, Iranian-backed Shia militia will have to be confronted sooner rather than later, as it grows in strength, Mann said, but he argued the Israelis have miscalculated the costs of a new war in Lebanon.

“I don’t know how realistic their assessments are of the destruction that Israel would incur, and I’m pretty sure they don’t have a realistic idea of how successful they would be against Hezbollah,” the former army officer and intelligence analyst said.

He argued Israel military was well aware it could not strike a decisive blow against Hezbollah’s fearsome armoury with pre-emptive strikes, as the rockets, missiles and artillery are dug into the mountainous Lebanese landscape.

Instead Mann said the IDF would launch decapitation strikes against Hezbollah leaders, and bomb Shia residential areas, to demoralise the movement’s support base, a tactic known as the Dahiya doctrine, after the Dahiya district of Beirut which Israel targeted in the 2006 war.

“It’s not like an actual written doctrine, but I think we can be very comfortable assessing that bombing civilian centres as a way to compel the enemy is clearly an accepted and shared belief in the IDF and Israeli leadership. We’ve just seen them do it in Gaza for the past nine months,” Mann said – but he stressed that such a plan would backfire.

“They think that launching a pre-emptive strike would successfully deter Hezbollah and make Israel safer, and that I think shows the limits of their strategic thinking and planning in general,” he said.

Mann predicted Hezbollah would unleash a mass rocket and missile attack, if it felt it was under existential threat.

“They probably have the ability to at least partially overwhelm Israel’s air defences, strike civilian infrastructure around the country, and inflict a level of destruction on Israel that I’m not sure Israel has really ever experienced in its history – certainly not in its recent history,” Mann said.

Unable to destroy Hezbollah’s arsenal in the air, the IDF would launch a ground offensive into southern Lebanon which would come at high cost in Israeli casualties. Mann warned the shelling of Israeli cities meanwhile would make it impossible for the Biden administration, in the run-up to an election, to turn down Netanyahu’s appeals for the US to become more involved.

“Our least escalatory participation will be possibly striking supply lines or associated targets in Iraq and Syria to help cut off lines of communication and armaments flowing to Hezbollah,” Mann said. “But that on its own is risky, because if we start doing that, some of the people that we hit could be Hezbollah, but they could be IRGC [Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].”

He said he thought that the Biden administration would seek to avoid any direct clash with Iran, but the risk of such a conflict would rise anyway.

“I trust the administration not to do that, but I think between us or the Israelis striking Iranian targets outside of Iran, the risk of escalation is also going to get much higher,” Mann said.

Mann first submitted his resignation in November and it took effect in June. In May, he published a resignation letter on the LinkedIn social media platform, saying that US support for Israel’s war in Gaza had “enabled and empowered the killing and starvation of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians”.

As the descendent of European Jews, Mann wrote: “I was raised in a particularly unforgiving moral environment when it came to the topic of bearing responsibility for ethnic cleansing.”

He said the response from his former colleagues since he resigned his commission had been mostly positive.

“A lot of people I worked with reached out to me, a lot of people I didn’t work with as well, and expressed that they felt the same way,” he said. “It’s not just a generational thing. There’s quite senior people who feel the same way.”

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Palestinians flee Khan Younis as eight reported dead after Israeli strikes

IDF bombards ruined city and orders mass evacuation after rocket barrage claimed by Islamic Jihad

Hundreds of Palestinians were fleeing Khan Younis in southern Gaza after the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) once again bombarded the largely ruined city and ordered a mass evacuation of residents.

Witnesses reported strikes on Tuesday in and around the city, where eight people were killed and more than 30 were wounded, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent and a medical source, Agence France-Presse said.

The attacks came after a rare rocket barrage on Monday claimed by the militant group Islamic Jihad, which has fought alongside Hamas.

The Israeli military said about “20 projectiles were identified crossing from the area of Khan Younis”, most of which were intercepted. It reported no casualties and said artillery was “striking the sources of the fire”.

The bombardment and evacuation orders suggested that troops could launch a new ground assault on the territory’s second-largest city. Israeli forces fought for weeks in Khan Younis earlier this year and withdrew, claiming to have destroyed Hamas battalions.

“For your safety, you must evacuate immediately to the humanitarian zone,” the army spokesperson Avichay Adraee posted on X, addressing residents and displaced people.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said the IDF is “making progress toward ending the phase of the destruction of Hamas’s terror army”, but that “there will be a continuation to strike its remnants”.

Israeli military officials have described a shift to a third phase of the fighting in Gaza, with intermittent raids from troops based at strategic locations within the territory replacing the major offensives seen in recent months.

Monday’s evacuation order also covered much of the Gaza Strip’s south-eastern corner, including the towns of Al-Qarara and Bani Suhaila.

The Bani Suhaila resident Ahmad Najjar said the Israeli order had led to “fear and extreme anxiety”, and “a large displacement of residents”.

Israel’s army told people to move to al-Mawasi, a coastal area designated by the IDF as a safe zone, which has become filled with crowded and unsanitary tent camps.

International aid organisations report that the zone is massively congested and suffers acute shortages of water. Sanitation is almost non-existent, and raw sewage and mountains of rubbish have led to soaring infections of disease.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said the new evacuation order “just shows yet again that no place is safe in Gaza” for Palestinian civilians. “It’s another stop in this deadly circular movement that the population in Gaza has to undergo on a regular basis,” he said in a statement calling for a ceasefire.

Much of Khan Younis was destroyed in a long assault this year, but large numbers of Palestinians had moved back to escape another Israeli offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city, Rafah.

Israeli forces have been sent back into parts of Gaza where there was fierce fighting earlier in the conflict. Analysts and officials have said Hamas has been able to reform its fighting units in pockets of the north and centre of the territory.

Despite suffering significant losses, the senior leadership of the militant Islamist organisation remains unharmed.

Last week, the Israeli military ordered an evacuation from the northern Gaza district of Shuja’iya, which has been the focus of Israeli offensives, and intense fighting followed soon after.

The military said its forces were operating in northern and central Gaza as well as in Rafah, where aircraft carried out strikes and troops “ambushed an armed terrorist squad” in a car and killed them.

In Shuja’iya, Palestinian militants “were eliminated and dozens of terrorist infrastructure sites above and below ground were dismantled, including tunnel shafts”, it added.

In central Gaza, witnesses said strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp where the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least one dead, a child.

A fresh offensive in the Khan Younis area could further hamper Palestinians’ access to much-needed aid. The area surrounding the Kerem Shalom crossing, the major aid crossing to southern Gaza, is in the evacuation zone.

Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes, with many repeatedly displaced. Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of public order have hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid, fuelling widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine.

Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel that triggered the war has resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the IDF says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eradicating the Palestinian militants in Gaza has killed at least 37,900 people, according to Palestinian officials. About half of those fully identified so far are women or children.

  • Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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Lucy Letby found guilty of trying to kill two-hour-old baby

Former neonatal nurse is convicted in retrial after jury in original trial last year was unable to reach verdict

Lucy Letby has been found guilty of trying to kill a two-hour-old baby girl on the hospital ward where she murdered seven other infants.

The former neonatal nurse, who is serving 14 whole-life prison terms, was convicted on Tuesday of attempting to murder the “extremely premature” infant after a retrial at Manchester crown court.

The infant, known as Baby K, was born 15 weeks premature and weighed only 692g (1.52lbs) when Letby was alleged to have tampered with her breathing tube, causing a “life-threatening” deterioration.

Letby faced a three-week retrial on the single count of attempted murder, which she denied, after the jury in her original trial was unable to reach a verdict last year.

The 34-year-old from Hereford has now been convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder seven others at the Countess of Chester hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

There are ongoing police investigations and a public inquiry into how Letby was allowed to remain on the neonatal unit despite the concerns of senior doctors.

Letby, who has consistently maintained her innocence, was refused permission to appeal against last year’s convictions by the court of appeal in May. Its full ruling is due to be published imminently.

The nurse’s latest trial centred on Baby K, who was born at the Countess of Chester hospital in the early hours of 17 February 2016. She died three days later after being transferred to another hospital. Letby was not alleged to have caused her death.

Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, told jurors that Letby attempted to murder the infant about 90 minutes after she was born by displacing her breathing tube moments after the child’s nurse had left her side. This caused the child’s blood oxygen levels to plummet to “life-threatening” levels, the court heard.

By this time she had murdered five babies and attempted to murder three others. Senior doctors had linked her to a number of unexplained incidents but she remained on the neonatal unit for a further five months, going on to kill two triplet brothers by injecting air into their stomachs.

She was “caught virtually red-handed” trying to kill Baby K, the prosecution said, when a senior doctor walked in on her alone beside the infant’s incubator after tampering with her breathing tube.

The consultant, Dr Ravi Jayaram, said Letby was doing nothing to help the child as she fought for her life. An alarm on the baby’s monitor appeared to have been silenced, the court heard.

Prosecutors said the nurse tampered with Baby K’s breathing tube twice more in the following hours in an attempt to convince her colleagues that the newborn, who was sedated on morphine, had dislodged it by herself.

Giving evidence, Letby said she had never harmed any babies and that she was “not guilty of what I’ve been found guilty of”.

The defendant told jurors she could not remember the night in question and had no memory of Baby K beyond the fact she was so premature. She could not explain why she had searched for the child’s family on Facebook more than two years later.

Detectives are analysing the records of about 4,000 babies cared for by Letby during her time as a children’s nurse at Liverpool Women’s hospital and the Countess of Chester, both in north-west England.

Cheshire constabulary has launched an investigation into possible corporate manslaughter and is examining the decision-making of senior leadership at the time of the deaths.

A public inquiry led by Lady Justice Kathryn Thirlwall will begin in September into how Letby was able to continue working with babies despite the concerns of senior doctors who connected her to a number of suspicious incidents.

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Lucy Letby found guilty of trying to kill two-hour-old baby

Former neonatal nurse is convicted in retrial after jury in original trial last year was unable to reach verdict

Lucy Letby has been found guilty of trying to kill a two-hour-old baby girl on the hospital ward where she murdered seven other infants.

The former neonatal nurse, who is serving 14 whole-life prison terms, was convicted on Tuesday of attempting to murder the “extremely premature” infant after a retrial at Manchester crown court.

The infant, known as Baby K, was born 15 weeks premature and weighed only 692g (1.52lbs) when Letby was alleged to have tampered with her breathing tube, causing a “life-threatening” deterioration.

Letby faced a three-week retrial on the single count of attempted murder, which she denied, after the jury in her original trial was unable to reach a verdict last year.

The 34-year-old from Hereford has now been convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder seven others at the Countess of Chester hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

There are ongoing police investigations and a public inquiry into how Letby was allowed to remain on the neonatal unit despite the concerns of senior doctors.

Letby, who has consistently maintained her innocence, was refused permission to appeal against last year’s convictions by the court of appeal in May. Its full ruling is due to be published imminently.

The nurse’s latest trial centred on Baby K, who was born at the Countess of Chester hospital in the early hours of 17 February 2016. She died three days later after being transferred to another hospital. Letby was not alleged to have caused her death.

Nick Johnson KC, prosecuting, told jurors that Letby attempted to murder the infant about 90 minutes after she was born by displacing her breathing tube moments after the child’s nurse had left her side. This caused the child’s blood oxygen levels to plummet to “life-threatening” levels, the court heard.

By this time she had murdered five babies and attempted to murder three others. Senior doctors had linked her to a number of unexplained incidents but she remained on the neonatal unit for a further five months, going on to kill two triplet brothers by injecting air into their stomachs.

She was “caught virtually red-handed” trying to kill Baby K, the prosecution said, when a senior doctor walked in on her alone beside the infant’s incubator after tampering with her breathing tube.

The consultant, Dr Ravi Jayaram, said Letby was doing nothing to help the child as she fought for her life. An alarm on the baby’s monitor appeared to have been silenced, the court heard.

Prosecutors said the nurse tampered with Baby K’s breathing tube twice more in the following hours in an attempt to convince her colleagues that the newborn, who was sedated on morphine, had dislodged it by herself.

Giving evidence, Letby said she had never harmed any babies and that she was “not guilty of what I’ve been found guilty of”.

The defendant told jurors she could not remember the night in question and had no memory of Baby K beyond the fact she was so premature. She could not explain why she had searched for the child’s family on Facebook more than two years later.

Detectives are analysing the records of about 4,000 babies cared for by Letby during her time as a children’s nurse at Liverpool Women’s hospital and the Countess of Chester, both in north-west England.

Cheshire constabulary has launched an investigation into possible corporate manslaughter and is examining the decision-making of senior leadership at the time of the deaths.

A public inquiry led by Lady Justice Kathryn Thirlwall will begin in September into how Letby was able to continue working with babies despite the concerns of senior doctors who connected her to a number of suspicious incidents.

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Viktor Orbán visits Kyiv for surprise talks with Volodymyr Zelenskiy

Hungarian PM, an outspoken critic of aid to Ukraine, makes first trip to country since start of Russia’s full-scale invasion

Hungary’s prime minister, an outspoken critic of western aid to Ukraine, has held talks with president Volodomyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv, following a surprise visit by Europe’s most pro-Russian leader to the Ukrainian capital.

The trip by Viktor Orbán came a day after Hungary took over the rotating EU presidency until the end of the year, to the dismay of many other European politicians, given the country’s frequent clashes with Brussels over domestic rule-of-law issues and foreign policy.

“The aim of the Hungarian presidency is to contribute to solving the challenges ahead of the European Union. That’s why my first trip was to Kyiv,” Orbán wrote on Facebook under a photograph of him shaking hands with Zelenskiy.

At a joint media briefing, Zelenskiy said Tuesday’s discussions between the two leaders in Kyiv could serve as a basis for a future agreement between Ukraine and Hungary.

Orbán, in turn, said he asked his Ukrainian counterpart to consider a quick ceasefire that could accelerate peace talks. Zelenskiy, who spoke before Orbán, did not respond to those comments.

Orbán’s visit, his first to Ukraine in a decade, was a rare gesture in a relationship that has long been marred by tensions.

Hungary has been at odds with other Nato countries over Orbán’s continued cultivation of close ties to Russia and refusal to send arms to Ukraine, with Budapest’s foreign minister in May calling plans to help the war-torn country a “crazy mission”.

The Kremlin downplayed Orbán’s visit to Kyiv, stating on Tuesday it did not “expect anything” from the trip.

A Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the Hungarian leader was merely “fulfilling his duties” as part of the country’s presidency of the EU. He added that Moscow was not in contact with Budapest before Orbán’s trip. Peskov commended the Hungarian leader as “a politician who strongly defends his country’s interests”.

Budapest has kept channels open with Moscow, and Orbán’s foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, has made at least five trips to Russia since the start of the war, most recently to visit an economic forum in St Petersburg last month.

Hungary said last month it would not block Nato decisions on providing support for Ukraine as long as Budapest was not involved in the aid.

Orbán, a self-described “illiberal” leader, also recently endorsed Mark Rutte to become the next head of Nato with the assurance that Hungary’s forces and financial resources would not be committed to supporting Ukraine.

One source in Budapest with knowledge of the matter, said Orbán’s plan to visit Kyiv came together after lengthy negotiations on the issue of rights for Ukraine’s Hungarian-speaking minority, who live in the far west of Ukraine close to the two countries’ border.

“It was a precondition for the meeting that the issue of nationality rights was resolved. In recent weeks, an agreement has been reached. They will be able to announce this as a success,” said a source in Budapest with knowledge of the buildup to the visit.

While nationality rights have been one of Budapest’s most vocal complaints when it comes to Ukraine, critics of Orbán have accused him of using the issue as a smokescreen to facilitate the promotion of Russian talking points over the conflict.

Zelenskiy and Orbán have clashed numerous times since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Orbán included Zelenskiy in a list of “opponents” who had supposedly conspired against him and backed the opposition, while the Ukrainian president personally called out the Hungarian leader for his lack of support to Kyiv in the days after Russia’s invasion.

The two leaders were last seen having an animated exchange at the European Council summit in Brussels on 27 June.

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Cambodia jails 10 environmentalists in ‘crushing blow to civil society’

Activists from the award-winning Mother Nature found guilty on charges of plotting against government

Ten activists from a prominent youth-led environmental group in Cambodia have been sentenced to between six and eight years in jail in a case human rights experts have widely condemned.

The activists from Mother Nature, an award-winning group of environmental campaigners, were found guilty on charges of plotting against the government, while three were also convicted of insulting the king. They denied the charges.

Four of the defendants were arrested outside the court in Phnom Penh after the verdict was delivered on Tuesday morning, according to reports. Others were sentenced in absentia.

Amnesty International said the verdict was “another crushing blow to Cambodia’s civil society”.

“Instead of listening to young leaders at the forefront of the environmental movement, the Cambodian government has chosen to jail those that dare to speak out,” said Montse Ferrer, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for research.

Human Rights Watch said the case sent “an appalling message to Cambodia’s youth that the government will side with special interests over the environment every chance it gets”.

Mother Nature, which has been praised for its use of viral videos and training to engage young Cambodians, is one of the few remaining environmental groups in the country, where freedom of expression has become increasingly restricted.

Last year, Hun Sen, who had led the country for decades, handed power to his son Hun Manet, who was named prime minister after an election in which the only major opposition party was banned from running and independent media outlets were closed down or blocked online.

Mother Nature activists have previously been imprisoned and faced intimidation. In 2023, the group won the Right Livelihood award from the Swedish charity the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, in recognition of what was described as its “fearless and engaging activism”.

The group was praised for successfully campaigning to prevent the Chinese-led construction of a hydroelectric dam in Areng valley, south-western Cambodia, which threatened an Indigenous community and rare species. It also helped end the environmentally damaging, and often corrupt, business of sand export from the coastal estuaries of Koh Kong.

The group’s founder, Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson, a Spanish national who was deported from Cambodia in 2015 and sentenced on Tuesday in absentia, told Reuters the accusations of plotting against the state had not been clarified in court, but said three members were arrested after documenting suspected pollution runoff into the Tonlé Sap River in Phnom Penh in 2021.

The lese majesty charges relate to an internal Zoom meeting about political cartooning that was leaked.

Among those sentenced on Tuesday were Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, Phuon Keoraksmey, Binh Piseth and Pork Khoeuy, who were handed six years in prison for plotting, according to Amnesty International. Three others, Gonzales-Davidson, Sun Ratha and Yim Leanghy were sentenced to eight years for both plotting and insulting the king, and also face a fine of KHR 10,000,000 (£1,900).

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Paris mayor says rise of far right will not dampen Olympics mood

Anne Hidalgo says Paris ‘stands up for freedom’ amid Marine Le Pen success in first round of voting

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The Paris mayor has sought to reassure visitors that the festive mood at the Olympics will not be dampened by Marine Le Pen’s electoral successes in France’s snap parliamentary elections, with less than a month to go before the city hosts the Games.

“The party will not be spoilt,” Socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo told broadcaster France 2 on Tuesday. “I say to visitors from the world over – come over! Because Paris is a city that stands up for freedom and is a city of resistance against the extreme right.”

Le Pen’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally (RN) and its allies finished first with 33% of the vote in Sunday’s first round.

Before the second, decisive round on 7 July, more than 160 candidates have withdrawn in an effort to build a united front capable of halting Jordan Bardella, Le Pen’s 28-year-old protege with no governing experience, from becoming prime minister.

Le Pen on Tuesday said her party would seek to form a government, cobbling support from a minimum of “for example, 270 deputies” and then find support from 19 more MPs in order to make Bardella prime minister.

“If we then have a majority, then yes, of course, we’ll go and do what the voters elected us to do,” she told broadcaster France Inter.

The party’s worst results, however, were in Paris, where all of the party’s candidates were eliminated in the first round. Instead Parisians cast their votes for the leftwing New Popular Front alliance (NFP), which nationally earned 28% of the vote and Emmanuel Macron’s broad alliance of centrists, who gained 22% of the vote across the country.

Hidalgo, who would not say if she would stand next to Bardella, should he become prime minister, at the opening and closing ceremonies, insisted that the focus at the moment should be on halting the RN’s rise to power. “We have to do all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” she said. “Why? Because it would be a catastrophe for the country. It would be a surrender of our values.”

She described the RN as a party “anchored in a programme of extreme racism”, pointing to the party’s promises to bar dual nationals from strategic jobs and the party’s language around immigration.

Hints of how the RN would act once in power could be seen in countries where the far-right was already governing, such as Italy and Argentina, she said. “What do they do when they’re in power? They constantly, permanently attack women, foreigners, so-called minorities and people who are gay,” she said. “They attack all fragile people, they sow chaos.”

The RN on Tuesday said it would withdraw one of its candidates in north-western France after a photo emerged of her wearing a Nazi hat bearing a swastika, media outlet France Bleu Normandie reported. Ludivine Daoudi had placed third in the constituency, with 20% of the vote in the first round.

As questions swirled over the extent to which Macron’s centrist alliance would employ tactical alliances to block the RN, Hidalgo insisted there was no other choice. “We have to do it because if we don’t, it’s not just a hangover that we’ll have on 8 July,” she said. “It will be a disaster for the country.”

She linked the political turmoil to Macron’s shock decision to dissolve parliament “on a whim” and call snap elections. “Emmanuel Macron bears major responsibility for everything that has happened,” she added. “He’s obviously the one responsible for this chaos.”

In the weeks leading up to the snap election, Macron had reportedly suggested that the sporting event could work in his favour as he scrambled to shore up votes for his struggling alliance.

“I don’t think they [voters] want Olympic Games that look bad,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in Italy, according to Le Monde. “French people are concerned about the image of France, in its ability to welcome the world.”

Bardella hit back, saying that he had confidence in the ability of state services to organise the games. “If we win the parliamentary elections, I will not change the arrangements that have been in place for several months. This event must be a major success for the nation,” Bardella said on social media at the time.

The interview with Hildalgo came days after it emerged that the Seine River had again failed water quality tests, casting doubt over one of the longest-running, most expensive and high-stakes endeavours of the Games: the plans to host the open-water swimming competition and the swimming leg of the triathlon in the river.

Tests completed last week suggested that levels of E coli bacteria – an indicator of faecal matter – remain far above the upper limits imposed by sports federations.

On Tuesday Hidalgo said she was still planning to swim in the Seine and that she had invited Macron to join her. She did not address the failed test results, which were released by her office.

“After letting the storms pass, we are in the process of setting the date which will be after 14 July but before the Olympics of course,” she said.

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Hurricane Beryl strengthens to category 5 storm as it ‘flattens’ island in Grenada

The hurricane has already made landfall on the Caribbean island of Carriacou, ripping off roofs with 240km/h winds

  • Caribbean leader calls out rich countries for climate failures as ‘horrendous’ storm makes landfall

Hurricane Beryl has strengthened to a Category 5 status as it crosses islands in the south-eastern Caribbean.

In a post on X, the National Hurricane Center said “Beryl Becomes a potentially catastrophic Category 5 hurricane In the Eastern Caribbean. Expected to bring life-threatening winds and storm surge to Jamaica later this week.”

Beryl ripped off doors, windows and roofs in homes across the south-eastern Caribbean on Monday after making landfall on the island of Carriacou in Grenada as the earliest Category 4 storm in the Atlantic, fuelled by its record warm waters.

Grenada’s prime minister, Dickon Mitchell, said late on Monday that one person had died and authorities had not been able to assess the situation on the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

There were initial reports of major damage but communications were largely down.

“In half an hour, Carriacou was flattened,” Mitchell told a press conference, according to Agence France-Presse.

Later on social media, the prime minister said the government was working to get relief supplies to both Carriacou and the island of Petite Martinique on Tuesday. “The state of emergency is still in effect. Remain indoors,” he wrote on Facebook.

From St Lucia island south to Grenada, the streets were strewn with shoes, trees, downed power lines and other debris. Banana trees were snapped in half and cows lay dead in green pastures with homes made of tin and plywood tilting precariously nearby.

Late on Monday, Beryl’s winds increased to 260km/h (160mph). Fluctuations in strength were likely in the coming days.

Beryl is pushing into the Caribbean Sea on a track heading just south of Jamaica and toward Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by late Thursday as a Category 1 storm.

Hurricane warnings were in effect for Barbados, Grenada, St Lucia, Tobago, and St Vincent and the Grenadines on Monday as thousands of people hunkered down in homes and shelters.

“It’s going to be terrible,” Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, said ahead of the storm as he urged people to stay indoors “and wait this monster out”.

The last strong hurricane to hit the south-east Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan nearly 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Martinique and Trinidad. A tropical storm watch was issued for Dominica, Haiti’s entire southern coast, and from Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic west to the border with Haiti.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” warned the National Hurricane Center in Miami earlier.

Beryl amassed its strength from record warm waters that are hotter now than they would be at the peak of hurricane season in September, he said. Experts say the hotter water temperatures are a result of the global climate crisis driven primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.

With Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice Beetlejuice to open Venice film festival

The much-anticipated sequel to the director’s 1988 hit Beetlejuice will get its world premiere at the festival in August

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s sequel to his 1988 hit Beetlejuice, has been selected as the opening film of the Venice film festival. The screening will be the world premiere of the film, which reunites original stars Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder with Burton.

Festival director Alberto Barbera said in a statement that it “marks the long-awaited return of one of the most iconic characters of Tim Burton’s cinema, but also the happy confirmation of the extraordinary visionary talent and the masterly realisation of one of the most fascinating auteurs of his time”.

Burton said: “I’m very excited by this. It means a lot to me to have the world premiere of this film at the Venice film festival.”

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice takes place 36 years after the events of the original movie, and features Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega as Astrid Deetz, the daughter of Ryder’s character Lydia Deetz. Keaton returns as “bio-exorcist” Beetlejuice, with Monica Bellucci appearing as his ex-wife Delores.

Written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with story credits going to Gough, Millar and Seth Grahame-Smith, the sequel has been long in the works, with versions in development as far back as the late 1980s. (One of Burton’s first scripts was Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, in which the title character enters a surf contest.)

The opening slot at Venice is particularly prized on the festival circuit, with a significant number in recent years – including La La Land and Birdman – going on to awards success. In 2023, the Zendaya tennis film Challengers was given the slot, only to drop out as a result of the Hollywood actors’ strike.

The Venice film festival starts on 28 August and runs until 7 September.

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