UK PM’s absence marks significant turnout dip at Downing Street’s Eid celebration

The prime minister’s office told the BBC that Sunak “had business in parliament” and could not host nor attend the party. (AP)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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UK PM’s absence marks significant turnout dip at Downing Street’s Eid celebration

  • Foreign Secretary David Cameron had earlier encouraged people to attend

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was notably absent from an annual Eid party held at Downing Street on Monday, which saw a turnout significantly smaller than usual, the BBC reported.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron had earlier publicly encouraged people to attend after some threatened to boycott the celebration in protest at the government’s support for Israel.

The gathering, reportedly about half its typical size with roughly 50 attendees, saw the absence of major Muslim charities and influential business figures.

Most notably absent were several high-profile guests, including Baroness Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, who is known for her vocal criticism of the situation in Gaza.

Of those present, many displayed symbols of solidarity with Palestine, such as small badges featuring the Palestinian flag or wristbands featuring the keffiyeh pattern.

Attendees expressed mixed feelings about their decision to participate, with some deliberating over ethical considerations and consulting with family before attending.

One woman told the BBC that she did not want to miss the opportunity of being invited to Downing Street for the first time, but that Israel’s war in Gaza “has not been forgotten.”

Another stated that he had attended the event for years and “thought about it; thought what it was about. And what I thought was that Downing Street is marking Eid, and it is a celebration I believe in.”

He added to the BBC: “So I came. I understand why so many boycotted, but for me the right thing was to come.”

Those who attended were “surprised” that Sunak did not attend. The event is held annually, and the prime minister has always hosted it.

Sunak said on Sunday that he was “looking forward” to meeting those invited, who were selected from prominent Muslims in charity, business and politics.

Guests were this year received by Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden.

The prime minister’s office told the BBC that Sunak “had business in parliament” and could not host nor attend the party.

Guests leaving the event reported seeing “no MPs.”

One told the BBC: “I saw parliamentary candidates, but no MPs. They may have been there but I didn't see them.”

The absences were believed to be the first significant boycott of a Downing Street event.

American Muslims boycotted an annual iftar at the White House earlier this month, citing the support of the US for Israel.


South Africans start voting in election that could see ANC lose majority

Updated 11 sec ago
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South Africans start voting in election that could see ANC lose majority

  • Voters are electing nine provincial legislatures and a new national parliament
  • More than 27 million people registered to vote out of a population of roughly 62 million
JOHANNESBURG: South Africans started voting on Wednesday in an election that could mark a big political shift if the governing African National Congress party loses its majority as opinion polls suggest.
Voters are electing nine provincial legislatures and a new national parliament, which will then choose the country’s next president.
If the ANC gets less than 50 percent of the national vote it will have to seek one or more coalition partners to govern the country, the first such alliance in the 30 years since it swept to power with Nelson Mandela as its leader at the end of apartheid.
Voting stations opened at 0500 GMT and will close at 1900 GMT, with more than 27 million people registered to vote out of a population of roughly 62 million.
South Africa’s electoral commission is expected to start releasing partial results within hours of voting stations closing. The commission has seven days to announce final results.

Philippines president says new China coast guard rules ‘worrisome’

Updated 5 min 48 sec ago
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Philippines president says new China coast guard rules ‘worrisome’

  • China has maritime sovereignty disputes with the Philippines and other claimant countries in the South China Sea

MANILA: Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Wednesday new rules outlined by China’s coast guard that could result in the detention of foreigners in the South China Sea were an “escalation” and “worrisome.”
China, which has maritime sovereignty disputes with the Philippines and other claimant countries in the South China Sea, has issued new rules that would enforce a 2021 law explicitly allowing its Coast Guard to fire upon foreign vessels.


Clashes erupt at Israeli embassy protest in Mexico

Updated 16 min 39 sec ago
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Clashes erupt at Israeli embassy protest in Mexico

  • Around 200 people joined the “Urgent action for Rafah” demonstration

MEXICO CITY: Clashes broke out Tuesday between police and protesters outside the Israeli embassy in Mexico, rallying against the country’s military offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, AFP journalists said.
Some protesters covered their faces and threw stones at riot police who blocked their path to the diplomatic complex in the city’s Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood.
Around 200 people joined the “Urgent action for Rafah” demonstration, about 30 of whom started to break down barriers preventing them from reaching the Israeli mission.
Police officers deployed tear gas and threw back the stones hurled at them by protesters.
The demonstration was called in response to an Israeli strike which ignited an inferno in a displacement camp outside Rafah, killing 45 people according to Palestinian officials.


Indian capital records highest-ever temperature at 49.9°Celsius: weather bureau

Updated 35 min 31 sec ago
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Indian capital records highest-ever temperature at 49.9°Celsius: weather bureau

  • New Delhi authorities have also warned of the risk of water shortages as the capital swelters in an intense heatwave
  • Warnings on heat’s impact on health, especially for infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseases

NEW DELHI: Temperatures in India’s capital soared to a record-high 49.9° Celsius on Tuesday, the government’s weather bureau said.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD), which reported “severe heat-wave conditions,” recorded the temperatures at two Delhi suburbs stations at Narela and Mungeshpur.
Forecasters predict similar temperatures on Wednesday.
In May 2022, parts of Delhi hit 49.2° Celsius, Indian media reported at the time.
India is no stranger to searing summer temperatures.
But years of scientific research have found climate change is causing heatwaves to become longer, more frequent and more intense.
New Delhi authorities have also warned of the risk of water shortages as the capital swelters in an intense heatwave — cutting supplies to some areas.
Water Minister Atishi Marlena has called for “collective responsibility” to stop wasteful water use, the Times of India newspaper reported Wednesday.
“To address the problem of water scarcity, we have taken a slew of measures such as reducing water supply from twice a day to once a day in many areas,” Atishi said, the Indian Express reported.
“The water thus saved will be rationed and supplied to the water-deficient areas where supply lasts only 15 to 20 minutes a day,” she added.
The IMD warned of the heat’s impact on health, especially for infants, the elderly and those with chronic diseases.
At the same time, West Bengal state and the northeastern state of Mizoram have been hit by gales and lashing rains from Cyclone Remal, which hit India and Bangladesh on Sunday, killing more than 38 people.
Bangladesh’s Meteorological Department said the cyclone was “one of longest in the country’s history,” blaming climate change for the shift.


Nikki Haley writes ‘finish them’ on Israeli shell: lawmaker

Updated 29 May 2024
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Nikki Haley writes ‘finish them’ on Israeli shell: lawmaker

WASHINGTON: Former US presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has been photographed writing “Finish Them” on an Israeli shell as she toured sites near the northern border with Lebanon.
The photograph was posted on X on Tuesday by Danny Danon, a member of the Israeli parliament and former ambassador to the United Nations, who was accompanying Haley on her visit.
“’Finish Them’. This is what my friend the former ambassador Nikki Haley wrote,” Danon said in his post that showed a kneeling Haley writing on a shell with a purple marker pen.
Haley was a hawkish UN envoy under Donald Trump, and her term overlapped with Danon.
The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on the latest Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,096 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Haley, 52, abandoned her White House bid in March after heavy defeats in Republican primary contests to Trump, and last week said that she would vote for him in the election.
Trump has ruled her out of contention to be his vice president, but she is a potential presidential runner in 2028.
The White House said Tuesday that President Joe Biden has no plans to change his Israel policy following a deadly weekend strike on Rafah but that he is not turning a “blind eye” to the plight of Palestinian civilians.