1. Israel is stepping up its ground and air offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says its troops have now completely encircled Gaza City. Following Thursday’s announcement, Israel carried out intense bombings of northern Gaza. Footage showed flares lighting up the night sky, while missiles rained down amid loud explosions. 2. A large float has toppled over at a festival in Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan, killing one person and injuring at least 18. The incident took place on Friday morning during an annual festival held by Hirose Shrine in Izunokuni City. Police say one of the floats being paraded on the streets appears to have become uncontrollable and flipped on its side on a downward slope. 3. The Beatles have released what is billed as their “last” song which was produced with the help of artificial intelligence. The British rock group’s late member John Lennon composed the tune, “Now and Then,” in 1978, two years before he was killed.
1. The Japanese government has decided on a package of economic measures worth over 17 trillion yen, or 113 billion dollars, including income tax cuts. The Cabinet on Thursday approved the package designed to address the impact of higher prices as well as facilitate sustained pay increases and growth potential.
2. The funeral for China’s former Premier Li Keqiang has been held in Beijing, attended by President Xi Jinping and other top Communist Party leaders. Many citizens gathered near the venue, but police turned them away. State-run China Central Television said President Xi expressed his condolences to the former premier’s family, and that flowers were offered under the name of former President Hu Jintao, who is said to have been close to Li. 3. Japan’s Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko left Tokyo on Thursday for her visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. Her trip is the first by a Japanese cabinet minister to Israel or the West Bank since the conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic group Hamas began on October 7.
1. The government of Thailand has asked Qatar to help secure the release of Thai hostages being held by the Islamic group Hamas. Thailand Foreign Ministry said, “On this occasion, the Thai side requested Qatar’s support in finding ways to ensure the immediate release of the foreign hostages, including Thai nationals.”
2. A senior UN official has called on the UN Security Council not to lose focus on the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine, while conflict continues in the Middle East. Ramesh Rajasingham, director of the Coordination division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said more than 9,900 civilians have so far been confirmed killed in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion in February last year. 3. Japan’s two major airlines recorded sharp increases in net profit for Aril to September this year, clearly indicating a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The major factor behind the good results is tourism – a rise in both foreign tourists to Japan and Japanese travelers abroad.
1. A man has fired shots toward a hospital in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo, possibly wounding two people. The suspected shooter fled the scene and reportedly holed himself up in a nearby post office. 2. Japan’s government is arranging another flight by a Self-Defense Force aircraft to bring Japanese nationals home from Israel as the military there steps up its attacks on the Gaza Strip. 3. Policymakers at the Bank of Japan have modified the yield curve control on the long-term rate again. The central bank redefined the 1 percent threshold as an upper limit with room for allowance, rather than a rigid cap.
1. China’s top uniformed officer has warned that the military “will not be soft-handed” if anyone attempts to “separate” Taiwan from China. The Central Military Commission’s vice chair, General Zhang Youxia, spoke on Monday at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum. 2. Images suggest that Israeli forces have entered northern Gaza and have advanced about 3 kilometers southward. Israel’s military conducted intense air raids and continued ground operations in the enclave on Sunday.
3. A new fact has come to light involving the retrial of Hakamada Iwao, who has been sentenced to death but has been pleading innocent for a murder case that occurred more than half a century ago.
1. China’s former premier Li Keqiang died early on Friday at the age of 68, according to state media. China Central Television says Li had a heart attack and died shortly after midnight in Shanghai after all rescue measures failed.
2. A US-drafted resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” and a Russian resolution seeking a “humanitarian ceasefire” failed to pass in the UN Security Council on Wednesday due to a rift between the United States and Russia. Both resolutions condemned the October 7 terror attack by Islamic group Hamas in Israel. Gaza residents and the families of the hostages taken by Hamas are growing increasingly worried. 3. The total value of sales at Japan’s major supermarkets was up in September for the seventh straight month. The increase was driven by the rising cost of many items.
1. Israeli media says that a large number of hostages may be released from Hamas captivity within a few days. The Israeli government on Wednesday said that more than half the estimated 220 hostages still held by Hamas have passports from 25 different countries. 2. The number of shops and staff at Japan’s Narita airport has taken a big hit since the start of the pandemic. The slump comes at a difficult time for the transport hub, which is facing a resurgence in tourists and other travelers.
3. The Japanese government has approved the resignation of parliamentary vice-minister of education and culture Yamada Taro over a scandal. Yamada submitted his resignation to the education minister on Wednesday following a media report about his extramarital affair with a woman.
1. US leaders are calling for humanitarian pauses in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip to allow for international aid to reach civilians, but they say they oppose a general ceasefire. Palestinian authorities say the number of people killed in the bombardment has risen to nearly 5,800. So far 1,400 Israelis have been killed, most of them in the initial attack on October 7. Hamas is still holding 220 people hostage.
2. In a landmark ruling, Japan’s Supreme Court has decided that requiring people to undergo surgery to remove their reproductive functions when they wish to officially change gender is unconstitutional. A person who was recorded as male at birth but now identifies as a woman asked a family court to allow a gender change without surgery, claiming that enforcing it would violate their human rights and the Constitution.
3. The start of 2024 is still a couple of months away. But a traditional ceramics maker in southern Japan is hard at work producing figurines for the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese zodiac. Amakusa ceramics are designated as one of Japan’s traditional crafts. One porcelain maker in Reihoku, Kumamoto Prefecture, started turning out miniature dragons in early September, using locally procured stones as a base material.
1. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on Israel to ensure the safety of civilians amid the conflict between the country and Hamas. Wang said China is saddened by the large number of civilian casualties caused by the conflict. He also said that while states have the right to self-defense, they should abide by international humanitarian law and protect the safety of civilians. 2. The International Atomic Energy Agency has begun its first survey since the release of treated and diluted water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the ocean started earlier this year. IAEA Deputy Director General Lydie Evrard said the IAEA’s mission will continue until the release of the water is finished. She said the IAEA will continue its safety review with objectivity, based on the science and with an independent approach. 3. As the Christmas season approaches, Japanese people enjoy eating a typical cream sponge cake topped with large, fresh strawberries. But this year’s hot summer is raising concern about a sufficient quantity of the fruit.
1. An NHK staff member in the Gaza Strip has obtained footage taken at one of the main hospitals there. The video shows children apparently wounded by Israeli airstrikes being carried into the facility. An official of the International Committee of the Red Cross called the situation catastrophic. The official said the hospital lacks adequate fuel to remain operational and medical supplies to save lives.
2. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has announced his intention to study income tax cuts, stressing that increased tax revenue will be returned to the people as a temporary measure to help them deal with rising prices. The prime minister said in his policy speech that the economy should be given the highest priority as Japan shifts away from the cost-cutting that has continued for three decades.
3. The leaders of the United States and five other Western nations have reiterated their support for Israel amid its fighting with the Islamic group Hamas. They also urged Israel to adhere to international humanitarian law and protect civilians.