November 22, 2023
Hopes of hostage exchange rise amid fierce fighting in northern Gaza
BEIRUT — Fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas engulfed the Jabalya region of the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday amid hope that negotiations over a pause in the conflict and an exchange of hostages for prisoners were reaching their final stages. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened meetings Tuesday evening local time with his war cabinet, security cabinet and full cabinet, fueling speculation that the announcement of a deal was imminent. "It has been claimed that after the truce, we will end the war," Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting. "The war will continue until all our objectives are achieved." 'Difficult decision' "There is a difficult decision before us tonight, but it is the right one," he added. Hamas officials indicated at a news conference in Beirut that Hamas had accepted the deal. Khalil al-Hayya, a Hamas politburo member, said that Hamas had informed Egyptian and Qatari negotiators of its decision and that a deal would happen "if the occupation (Israel) wants it." The fighting Tuesday was close to Gaza's Indonesian Hospital, which was struck Monday and is now seeking to evacuate hundreds of staff and patients from the fighting. There were reports that Israeli fighter jets and drones were repeatedly striking targets in the area. For weeks, there have been reports of ongoing negotiations between the Israelis and Hamas through the mediation of Qatar and the United States to exchange some of the more than 230 hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners and a multiday humanitarian pause in fighting. Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq said in a statement early Tuesday that the "truce" deal was imminent and would involve the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and would be announced by Qatar, but he would not provide more details. For his part, President Biden on Tuesday also said he believed a deal was near. Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said the negotiations have reached the "closest point" to date. 'Critical and final stage' "The mediation has reached a critical stage and a final stage and has gone beyond the core issues and pivotal issues and has remained there," he told a news conference in Doha. Fighting escalated Tuesday along the Israel's northern border, where Israeli forces and fighters with the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia have been exchanging fire for the past six weeks. Four civilians, including two journalists and an 80-year-old woman, were killed in one of the bloodiest days on the border yet, Lebanon's state-owned National News Agency reported. Four suspected fighters were killed when an Israeli airstrike hit the vehicle in which they were traveling. Hamas said at least one of them was a Hamas fighter. Hezbollah said it had retaliated by striking three Israeli MILITARY targets in northern Israel. A steady uptick in the intensity and range of the fighting in recent weeks is compounding fears of a second full-fledged war erupting. 'Terroristic cells' The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that Israeli forces were active in the areas hit on Tuesday, targeting what it called "terrorist cells." In addition to the release of hostages, a pause in fighting in Gaza is expected for humanitarian reasons, which could facilitate the evacuation of facilities caught in the fighting such as the Indonesian Hospital. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said Tuesday that no safe passage has been granted yet, and Israeli tanks have surrounded the facility. He said the ministry is working with the Red Cross to evacuate the wounded. "We will not leave the Indonesian Hospital until the last wounded person has been evacuated," he added. So far, the ministry said that some 120 people have been evacuated from the hospital. The crisis in Gaza's hospitals has become a focus of the debate over Israeli tactics in Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas assault that killed at least 1,200 people in Israel. Palestinians say the attacks on hospitals indicate a clear Israeli disregard for civilian life while the Israelis say they are justified because Hamas uses the hospitals for military purposes. Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, has been overrun by Israeli soldiers who are carrying out an extensive search for the underground Hamas command center that Israel has long alleged exists. Bunkers underneath In an interview with CNN on Monday, former Israeli prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak said that Israeli engineers had originally built bunkers underneath al-Shifa in the 1980s when they controlled Gaza "in order to enable more space for operation of the hospital." So far Israel has shown images of a tunnel shaft underneath the hospital but has yet to show evidence of a major command structure. The conflict has seen a steady degradation of the hospital system in the Gaza Strip, even as casualties have mounted. The Gaza Health Ministry stopped its count of the dead at just over 11,100 on Nov. 10 after the fighting and deteriorating communications made tallying from the hospitals impossible. On Monday, Michael Ryan, emergencies director for the World Health Organization, said only three hospitals in northern Gaza are still partially functional with the remaining 21 entirely out of operation. "We are seeing a complete collapse of the higher-level infrastructure of the Gazan health system. It is just the most basic of needs that can be met now," he said. 'Absolute backbone' Al-Shifa, the vast hospital complex that has now largely been emptied, was once "the absolute backbone of health service provision in Gaza," providing advanced medical reference, cancer, dialysis and trauma services. On Tuesday, its dialysis building had been surrounded by the IDF for the second day, the Health Ministry said, and parts of the hospital had been destroyed. Jordan meanwhile sent material and personnel on Monday to construct a field hospital that should provide some succor to the Palestinians - at least in the southern region of the Gaza Strip, in the city of Khan Younis. According to statements from the royal court, the hospital will be operational in 48 hours and have 41 beds. While Israel is increasingly describing large parts of northern Gaza as under its control, fighting is ongoing, with the current focus around Jabalya, which includes the largest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip - a densely packed warren of concrete buildings. Hamas has denied that Israeli forces are in uncontested control anywhere. Israel, however, has said that operations could soon expand to other parts of the Gaza Strip. There has been increasing worry, however, from some family members of hostages that not enough is being done to bring home their loved ones. According to Israeli media reports, some families of the abducted wanted to hear that Israel's primary objective in the war was to return the abducted - rather than just destroying Hamas, which could endanger the hostages. Netanyahu held a meeting with 107 family members of hostages on Monday night and tweeted afterward, "getting our abductees back is a sacred and supreme mission. We've never relented on the task."
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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