SWEDEN

Prime minister issues appeal over covid threat

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven used a rare Sunday night address to warn of the growing coronavirus threat, amid fears that the strategy used so far may not be enough to fight an increasingly deadly pandemic.

Lofven, the third prime minister in Sweden’s history to deliver such a national address, declared that “too many people have been careless about following the recommendations” of health authorities.

Sweden famously avoided a lockdown, relying instead on voluntary measures. But with a death rate considerably higher than elsewhere in the Nordic region, and intensive care beds rapidly filling up, authorities are recalibrating their approach.

Lofven said in his speech that it’s clear “everyone must do more” to fight the virus.

has killed more than 6,000 Swedes, with total cases well above 200,000. At the same time, intensive care beds are filling up quickly, with twice as many covid patients as of Nov. 19 compared with the preceding two weeks.

This month, Lofven took what he called the “unprecedented” step of banning public gatherings of more than eight people. Sales of alcohol are no longer permitted after 10 p.m.

On Sunday, he said that “everything that you would like to do but that isn’t necessary, call it off, cancel, postpone.”

— Bloomberg News

ETHIOPIA

Tigray civilians warned ahead of final offensive

Ethiopia’s military is warning civilians in the besieged Tigray regional capital that there will be “no mercy” if they don’t “save themselves” before a final offensive to flush out defiant regional leaders — a threat that Human Rights Watch said Sunday could violate international law.

“From now on, the fighting will be a tank battle,” Col. Dejene Tsegaye said this weekend, asserting that the army was marching on the Tigray capital, Mekele. “Our people in Mekele should be notified that they should protect themselves from heavy artillery.”

He accused the Tigray leaders of hiding among the population of the city and warned civilians to “steer away” from them.

But “treating a whole city as a military target would not only unlawful, it could also be considered a form of collective punishment,” Human Rights Watch researcher Laetitia Bader tweeted Sunday.

“In other words, war crimes,” former U.S. national security adviser Susan E. Rice tweeted.

Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, , is giving the leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front 72 hours to surrender, saying that “you are at a point of no return.”

The conflict erupted Nov. 4. The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for a quarter-century before Abiy introduced dramatic political changes and sidelined TPLF leaders after he took office.

— Associated Press

Al-Qaeda names new North Africa leader:
Al-Qaeda’s North African branch said it has appointed a new leader, after confirming the death of its former chief, killed in June by French forces, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. The group said that in a video published Saturday, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb showed the body of Abdelmalek Droukdel, the former leader, for the first time. AQIM also confirmed the death of Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly, captured in January 2016 in Mali. The group attributed her death to a failed bid by “French crusaders” to free her, SITE said.

Netanyahu rival launches probe of submarine purchase: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has appointed a committee to investigate the government’s purchase of German submarines in 2015, a step that further strains his poor relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The $2 billion purchase is the focus of a broad corruption scandal in which seven business executives, including Netanyahu confidants, have been named as suspects. Netanyahu, on trial in three other corruption cases, is not a suspect in the submarine case. But critics have said he behaved improperly. Gantz and Netanyahu formed a power-sharing deal in May after battling to a deadlock in three consecutive elections. But their government has been plagued by infighting.

— From news services

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