Top story: ‘The cost of war in Gaza is devastating’
Hello, Warren Murray with your first look at Wednesday’s news.
Israeli jets and Palestinian militants have traded fresh airstrikes and rocket fire with the death toll rising to at least 40 since unrest broke out early on Tuesday, including 35 in Gaza and five in Israel. Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza and Palestinian militant groups fired multiple rocket barrages at Tel Aviv, Beersheba and other central Israeli cities.
Among targets has been a 13-storey tower housing apartments and the offices of officials from Hamas, which collapsed after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike. Israeli aircraft also attacked another high-rise building in Gaza City. Five warning rockets were fired from a drone to alert people in the nine-storey block beforehand.
The UN’s Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, called for a cessation of hostilities. “We’re escalating towards a full-scale war … The cost of war in Gaza is devastating and is being paid by ordinary people,” said Wennesland, who is expected to brief the UN security council on the crisis on Wednesday. In the US, Julian Borger writes that the situation has left Joe Biden playing for time and the president needs to decide quickly how to deal with Donald Trump’s legacy of unwavering support for Netanyahu.
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Variant cloud over easing of lockdown – The rise in UK cases of a Covid variant first discovered in India could undermine the country’s roadmap for reopening, scientists are cautioning. The variant B.1.617.2 is one of three closely related variants initially detected in India. Public Health England has designated it a “variant of concern” that appears to be at least as transmissible as the dominant so-called Kent variant in the UK. Meanwhile, lockdown has led to the smallest number of people on record being treated by the NHS for injuries caused by violence away from the home, a study shows. The closure of pubs, clubs and other venues that sell alcohol was a key reason, the researchers say. And Boris Johnson has said a full public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis will start in this session of parliament – usually a period of around a year. More on the Covid situation worldwide at our live blog.
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> More than 2 million UK voters may lack the ID to vote in future elections under measures that are among government priorities outlined in the Queen’s speech, sparking outcry from opponents who say impersonation of voters is virtually nonexistent in the UK.
> British and Canadian troops were more than twice as likely to get killed in Afghanistan as their US counterparts, according to a study by the Costs of War project at Brown University.
> Ten people killed in Belfast during a British army operation in 1971 were unarmed, innocent civilians and posed no threat to soldiers, an inquest in Northern Ireland has found. The findings may galvanise a new push to prosecute army veterans.
> The US energy secretary has urged Americans not to “hoard gasoline” amid shortages and long lines after hackers shut down a major pipeline. More than 1,000 gas stations in the US south and east coast have reported running out of fuel.
> Animals are to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law for the first time, in a victory for animal welfare campaigners, after the government set out a suite of animal welfare measures.
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Dua Lipa in near-sweep of Brits – Dua Lipa has topped the winners at the 2021 Brit awards, including the top prize of British album for Future Nostalgia. She also won female solo artist, bringing her total Brit award tally to five. Lipa was beaten to British single by Harry Styles with his song Watermelon Sugar. Little Mix became the first all-female band to win the British group award. Los Angeles trio Haim won international group, the first all-female group to do so in nearly two decades following Destiny’s Child’s win in 2002.
Billie Eilish won international female, pop singer Griff won the rising star award, and Taylor Swift became the first woman to receive the global icon award, while 20-year-old Arlo Parks won breakthrough artist after releasing her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams. British male was won by J Hus, the east Londoner whose blend of rap with African pop production resulted in his No 1 album Big Conspiracy. International male was won by the Weeknd. Here is every Brits performance reviewed.
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‘I couldn’t leave the house’ – Domestic abuse cases in which technology was used have soared over the last year, the charity Refuge has warned. Cases can involve perpetrators using multiple accounts and devices as well as malicious apps to abuse, control and monitor partners. A report from Avast has found a 93% increase in the use of malicious stalkerware. Refuge has set up a website aimed at helping women secure their tech and to provide support if they are experiencing tech abuse.
One victim, Amy Aldworth, went on a date and afterwards the man bombarded Amy, her mother, grandmother and friends with messages accusing her of giving him a sexually transmitted disease. “I had to go on very short course of strong anxiety medication, I couldn’t leave the house without having a panic attack.” The man ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of harassment, receiving a 12-month community order and a restraining order.
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A surprise, that’s for Cerne – The huge, naked, club-wielding giant carved into a steep hillside in Dorset has been thought prehistoric, Celtic, Roman or even a 17th century lampoon of Oliver Cromwell. Now the National Trust has revealed the probable truth, stunning experts: the Cerne Giant is none of the above, but late Saxon, possibly 10th century. Researchers studied sediment to show when grains of sand were last exposed to sunlight. The deepest layer had a date range of 700-AD1100.
It was in the middle of that date range, AD978, that Cerne Abbey was founded nearby. Martin Papworth, a senior archaeologist at the trust, said he was “flabbergasted … He’s not prehistoric, he’s not Roman, he’s sort of Saxon, into the medieval period. I was expecting 17th century.” There is no shortage of theories on how or why the giant was made, but when asked for his, Papworth said: “I don’t know why he is on the hill, I’ve no idea. I can’t work it out. I never would have guessed he would be 10th century.”
Today in Focus podcast: No easy answers for Labour
After another set of disappointing election results for Labour, columnist John Harris asks if Labour under Keir Starmer can reconnect with voters in its former heartlands, where support is increasingly swinging to the Conservatives.
Lunchtime read: Windrush survivors’ fearless champion
When he applied to university in the 80s, Anthony Brown was told to leave the UK. Decades later, finally awarded a law degree, he set about helping people who had been targeted by the Home Office.
Pep Guardiola said his third Premier League title as Manchester City manager was “the hardest one” to win after they were crowned champions following Manchester United’s defeat by Leicester. City’s title is a triumph of class and refinement on the hoof, writes Barney Ronay, and the solutions found by Guardiola and his team are to be admired.
The Tour de France organiser, Christian Prudhomme, has confirmed to the Guardian that there will be a women’s race in 2022 and that it will be held after the men’s Tour. Rafael Nadal has added his voice to the chorus of tennis players expressing doubts about either their presence at the Olympic Games this summer or whether the event should be held under current circumstances.
Héctor Bellerín is among a group of senior Arsenal players who could leave during a summer that will bring swingeing changes to Mikel Arteta’s squad. Eddie Hearn has insisted there is “no reason” why Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight unification showdown with Tyson Fury will not be finalised this week, with the fight expected to take place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on either 7 or 14 August. And Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit was treated with an antifungal ointment containing the steroid betamethasone that may have caused the horse to fail a postrace drug test, trainer Bob Baffert said on Tuesday.
Stock markets are starting to suffer from a serious case of the jitters amid concerns about inflation. Shares in Asia tumbled to two-month lows overnight in the wake of losses on Wall Street and Europe. Taiwan’s stock market fell more than 8% amid additional concerns about a rare outbreak of Covid on the island. The FTSE100 looks like shedding around 0.6% at the opening today, while the pound is on $1.412 and €1.164.
Our Guardian print edition leads today with “Warning Johnson’s ID plan risks freezing out over 2 million voters”. Of the Queen’s speech, the Metro says the monarch is “Back in the office … at 95”. The only real hint of policy coverage on the paper’s front comes in the form of that hoary three-word catchphrase, “build back better”. The Times gets a bit more into that side of things with “New laws to protect university free speech” while the Express makes it about guess who, with “Boris: our land of hope and opportunity”.
The Mail berates Boris Johnson for devoting “just nine words” to social care in the Queen’s speech. Its headline is “When will they show they care?” The i has another big story of the day, this one concerning a former PM: “Cameron’s 47 attempts to use Covid to lobby UK government” – the Guardian counts at least 50 efforts to lobby ministers and senior officials. The Financial Times has it as “Cameron deluged Whitehall in Greensill lobbying bid, files show”.
“Body dig at West cafe” – that’s the Sun on the search for evidence in the case of Mary Bastholm, one of Fred West’s suspected victims, at a cafe in Gloucester where the Sun says West “was a regular and did building work”. The Mirror presents that story as “Cops dig for Fred West victim”. The Telegraph reports “Social media firms that fail children to be barred”.
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