Evan Gershkovich sentenced to 16 years in Russian penal colony on charges of espionage

A view of the Sverdlovsk Regional Court building prior to a hearing in the trial of US journalist Evan Gershkovich, accused of espionage, in Yekaterinburg on July 18, 2024. — Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images

(LONDON) — Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been sentenced to16 years in a Russian penal colony on charges of espionageafter a guilty verdict was announced in the American journalist’s trial on Friday.

The State Prosecutors Office in Russia were looking for a sentence of 18 years but was given 16 instead.

The trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich moved to closing arguments early Friday morning after only two days of hearings in a case his newspaper and the United States have denounced as a sham.

Gershkovich has already been in detention for 15 months.

The exceptional speed of the trial has prompted speculation that Russia may be hurrying to convict Gershkovich in order to conduct a prison exchange that may have been agreed. In the past, Russia has preferred to only trade people once they have been convicted. However, the State Department on Thursday said it doesn’t have any assessment of why the trial was moved up so quickly.

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American, has spent more than a year in Russia detention since he was arrested on espionage charges that the Wall Street Journal and the United States say are fabricated. Gershkovich’s trial began in June with a one-day hearing behind closed doors in the Sverdlovsk Regional Court in Yekaterinburg, a city about 900 miles from Moscow.

After just a second day of hearings on Thursday, the court announced it had already completed considering all the evidence in the case and that closing arguments would now be heard on Friday.

After that, Gershkovich will be asked for his “final statement” and the court will consider its verdict, a spokesman for the court said, without giving a time frame for when those might happen.

The process is moving exceptionally fast for an espionage trial, which normally take months or even years. The second hearing was also moved up abruptly by a month, after originally being scheduled for mid-August.

If convicted Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison.

Gershkovich was arrested by Russia’s FSB intelligence agency while on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg in March last year. The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. and dozens of international media organisations have vehemently denied the charges against him.

The U.S. has accused Russia of seizing Gershkovich and a number of other Americans as hostages using sham charges with the goal of exploiting them as a political bargaining chips. In recent years Russia has arrested several U.S. citizens including WNBA star Brittney Griner and later traded them for Russians imprisoned in western countries on serious charges.

Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have publicly signalled Russia wants to trade Gershkovich. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier this week again confirmed negotiations for an exchange have continued with the Biden administration.

“The intelligence services of the two countries, by agreement between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden back in June 2021, have been in contact to see if someone can be exchanged for someone else,” he said.

Gershkovich’s trial is being held in secret and Russian authorities have never presented any evidence publicly to support the charges against him. Russian prosecutors have charged him with gathering secrets on the “production and repair of military equipment” for the CIA, a claim his newspaper has denied as a “transparent lies,” saying Gershkovich was doing his job as a reporter.

“Evan’s wrongful detention has been an outrage since his unjust arrest 477 days ago, and it must end now,” the Journal said in a statement. “Even as Russia orchestrates its shameful sham trial, we continue to do everything we can to push for Evan’s immediate release and to state unequivocally: Evan was doing his job as a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Bring him home now.”

Thursday’s hearing lasted for more than five hours, with a few short breaks, according to reporters sitting outside the courtroom. A local news outlet It’s My City reported that only one witness appeared in court Thursday, Vyacheslav Vegner, a lawmaker from Putin’s ruling United Russia party in Sverdlovsk’s regional parliament, who has previously said he gave an interview to Gershkovich before his arrest.

Vegner told the local website 66.ru that Gershkovich at the time had asked him about public support for Russia’s war in Ukraine, the activities of the Wagner mercenary group and how the Sverdlovsk region’s industrial enterprises were being repurposed.

Vegner on Thursday told Interfax that he had been questioned in court by the prosecution and defense for about a half-hour.

The Biden administration has said it is negotiating with Russia to try to free Gershkovich and another American, former Marine Paul Whelan, who has spent more than five years imprisoned by Russia on espionage charges the U.S. also says are fabricated. Russia freed Brittney Griner in exchange for the arms trafficker Viktor Bout, and another former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed was traded for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot convicted in the U.S. on drug smuggling charges.

Another American journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva, a reporter for the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has also spent 9 months in detention in Russia on charges relating to her coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Roger Carstens, the U.S. State Department’s special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, this week said that both Gershkovich and Whelan would make it back to U.S. soil one day, but he couldn’t say when.

“The U.S. government is going to bring both of them home,” he said, speaking at the annual Aspen Security Forum. “And when we go into negotiation with the Russians, we are intent on something that brings both people home.”

ABC News’ Joe Simonetti and Mike Levine contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Kate Middleton supports London Natural History Museum amid cancer treatment

Catherine, Princess of Wales during the trophy ceremony for the Mens Singles Final at The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club at Wimbledon, on July 14, 2024, in London. — Simon M Bruty/Getty Images

(LONDON) — Kate, the Princess of Wales, appears to be working amid her ongoing treatment for cancer.

On Thursday, the royal shared her support for the opening of the new gardens at London’s Natural History Museum, for which she is royal patron.

“I am hugely supportive of the Museum’s commitment to create a special space which encourages people of all ages to reconnect with nature and learn more about how we can protect our natural world,” Kate said in a statement shared on the royals’ official Instagram account.

The statement from Kate was accompanied by a photo of her admiring the garden with young children.

Another slide showed an image of Kate in the garden, holding a jar of honey and surrounded by children.

“I know the power of nature to support our development and wellbeing, both by bringing us joy and helping to keep us physically, mentally and spiritually healthy,” the statement from the princess continued. “I hope these gardens will be inspiring and transformative for the thousands of people who visit.”

The messages from Kate come just days after she attended the men’s singles final at Wimbledon on Sunday with her daughter, Princess Charlotte.

Kate, who is a longtime tennis fan and royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, sat in the Royal Box to watch Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic compete in the final.

She was also greeted with applause from spectators as she entered the stadium. When Alcaraz defeated Djokovic, she presented him with his trophy.

Wimbledon and the photos taken at the Natural History Museum gardens are recent instances that the princess has been out and about since announcing her cancer diagnosis in March.

In a pre-recorded video that was shared at the time, amid growing speculation about her health and absence from the public eye, Kate said that the cancer was discovered in post-operative tests after abdominal surgery in January. The type of cancer has not been disclosed, and she started a course of preventative chemotherapy in late February, according to Kensington Palace.

The palace added that she would return to official duties when she is cleared by her medical team.

In June, the Princess of Wales shared an update on her health and said that she is “making good progress” as she undergoes chemotherapy but is not “out of the woods yet.”

She also joined royal family members days later for Trooping the Colour.

While Kate has limited the number of royal engagements she’s taken on, her husband, Prince William, who she shares daughter Charlotte and sons Prince George and Prince Louis with, has continued to undertake engagements and work.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

As WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich’s espionage trial resumes, US and Russia raise potential for trade

Natalia Kolesnikova via Getty Images

(LONDON) — The espionage trial of The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich resumed on Thursday, proceeding behind closed doors in a remote Russian courtroom after Washington and Moscow officials each raised the potential for the journalist to be part of an international prisoner exchange.

Gershkovich’s court date had been moved forward from August 13 after a request from his defense team, Grainne McCarthy, an international editor at the Journal, told staff in an email on Wednesday.

“The process remains opaque but what we do know is that the sooner this is over, the better,” McCarthy wrote in the email, which was shared with ABC News. “Evan cannot be freed soon enough.”

The trial of Gershkovich, a 32-year-old American, began in June behind closed doors in Sverdlovsk Regional Court in Yekaterinburg, a city hundreds of miles from Moscow. A second closed-door hearing began Thursday morning. U.S. officials accused the Kremlin of using the case “to achieve its political objectives.”

Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023 while reporting in the Sverdlovsk region, where Russian officials claimed he was collecting secrets on the “production and repair of military equipment” for the CIA. The indictment against Gershkovich was approved by prosecutors in June, sending the case to the regional court for trial.

Prosecutors began at the June 26 hearing to lay out their evidence against the journalist. Whatever evidence Russia has against the journalist hasn’t been publicly released, according to U.S. officials. The trial amounted to “a performance put on by Russian authorities to justify their repression of journalists and independent voices,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in June.

“Russia should stop using individuals like Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan as bargaining chips,” Miller said, referring to a Marine veteran separately detained in Russia. “They should both be released immediately.”

During a United Nations Security Council meeting on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield addressed Gershkovich’s detention, telling Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Americans wrongfully detained in Russia should be released.

“We will not rest until Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich come home, and Russia has ceased this barbaric practice of holding human pawns once and for all,” she said on social media afterward.

Lavrov following the meeting said that using journalists for intelligence gathering was “absolutely natural,” adding that Russia has “irrefutable evidence that Gershkovich was engaged in espionage.” But he also said an international prisoner exchange may be possible, echoing what Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously said.

“The intelligence services of the two countries, by agreement between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden back in June 2021, have been in contact to see if someone can be exchanged for someone else,” Lavrov said.

Russia and the United States carried out similar high-profile swaps in 2022 when WNBA star Brittney Griner was exchanged for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker, and a former U.S. Marine, Trevor Reed, was traded for a pilot convicted of drug smuggling.

Russia has maintained that discussions about trades for Gershkovich can only start in earnest after the trial is over, Brian D. Taylor, a Syracuse University political science professor who serves as director of the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, told ABC News.

“So the quicker the trial and the inevitable verdict, the quicker they can offer Evan as a piece in a possible trade,” Taylor said.

Miller, of the State Department, said in June that the U.S. continued to negotiate for Whelan’s and Gershkovich’s releases in private discussions, including putting a “significant” offer on the table months earlier.

“We shouldn’t have to do that. They should both be released immediately, but we will continue our efforts,” he said. “Those have been happening before Evan’s trial, they will continue during the trial. And should he be convicted — which, of course, he will be, it’s not a free trial — they will continue after the trial. But we want to see him returned home immediately.”

ABC News’ Mike Levine, Will Gretsky, Joe Simonetti and Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Prince George joins dad Prince William in Berlin at UEFA European Championship

British businesswoman and sports administrator Debbie Hewitt, Britain’s Prince George of Wales and Britain’s Prince William sing the national anthem ahead of the UEFA Euro 2024 final football match between Spain and England at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on July 14, 2024. — Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

(BERLIN) — Prince George made a surprise appearance in Berlin Sunday, joining his dad Prince William to cheer on England against Spain at the 2024 UEFA European Championship final.

George, who will turn 11 later this month, and William both wore dark suits for the game, held at the Olympiastadion Berlin in Germany.

Unfortunately for the royal duo, England lost to Spain 2-1.

William, president of the Football Association, England’s governing body for soccer, offered words of consolation after the game, writing on social media, “This time it just wasn’t meant to be. We’re all still so proud of you. Onwards @England. W.”

Kensington Palace announced before Sunday’s game that William would attend, but George’s appearance with his dad was a surprise.

Earlier in the day, George’s younger sister, Princess Charlotte, 9, joined their mom Kate, the Princess of Wales, at Wimbledon.

Charlotte and Kate, who were also joined by Kate’s sister, Pippa Middleton, watched Carlos Alcaraz defeat Novak Djokovic for his second Wimbledon title.

After the match, Kate, the royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, presented the championship trophies to Alcaraz and Djokovic.

Leading up to Sunday’s final, it was not known whether Kate would attend this year’s tournament. In March, the 42-year-old princess announced she had been diagnosed with cancer.

The type of cancer has not been disclosed.

After remaining out of the public eye since announcing her diagnosis, Kate stepped out for the first time in public in June to attend Trooping the Colour with other members of the royal family on the famed balcony at Buckingham Palace.

George and Charlotte’s sports outings with their parents come just a few weeks after they attended the first London show of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour on June 21, alongside William.

After the concert, Swift shared a sweet selfie with William, George and Charlotte.

Neither Kate nor George and Charlotte’s younger sibling, Prince Louis, attended the concert.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Israel-Gaza live updates: Hamas military chief target of strike that killed 90 people

pawel.gaul/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As the Israel-Hamas war continues, efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist organization are ongoing, and Israeli forces have launched an assault in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Jul 13, 2024, 4:36 PM EDT
‘No absolute certainty’ Hamas commander was killed deadly attack, Netanyahu says

Israel has not confirmed whether Saturday’s strike that killed 90 Palestinians killed two Hamas officials, including military chief Mohammed Deif, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press conference.

“There is still no absolute certainty that the two have been eliminated, but I want to assure you that one way or another we will reach the entire top of Hamas,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said he was briefed about the type of weapons that would be used and the expected “collateral damage,” as well as confirming Israel did not believe any hostages were held in the area, before giving the go ahead for the strike.

“Why should we risk something leaking out? Suppose something leaked, Deif and his deputy would go underground in a second. We update our American friends when necessary,” Netanyahu said.

Asked about not telling the U.S. about the strike beforehand, Netanyahu said it was to avoid an information leak.

-ABC News’ Anna Burd

Jul 13, 2024, 4:14 PM EDT
UN Human Rights Office condemns IDF’s strikes in Gaza humanitarian zones

The United Nations Human Rights Office has condemned the Israel Defense Forces’ use of weapons in populated areas of Gaza, including humanitarian zones, hours after an attack killed 90 Palestinians.

“The latest attack and casualty followed right after another massive attack on the north, which lasted for a week, resulting in further destruction and casualties,” the UN Human Rights Office said in a statement.

The U.N. said the IDF’s use of weapons in densely populated areas “despite the overwhelming evidence that these means and methods have led to disproportionate harm to civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure, suggests a pattern of willful violation of the disregard of [International Humanitarian Law] principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.”

“The use of such weapons in an area to which IDF is ordering people to evacuate demonstrates a rampant disregard for the safety of civilians. Even if Palestinian armed group members were using the presence of civilians in these areas in an attempt to shield themselves from attack, which would violate IHL, this would not remove IDF’s obligations to comply with these fundamental IHL principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution,” the U.N. said.

Jul 13, 2024, 3:14 PM EDT
Death toll from Israeli attack on Khan Younis rises to 90

The death toll from Israel’s deadly attack on Al Mawasi, west of the southern city of Khan Younis, has now risen to 90 people killed and 300 injured, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Israel had admitted earlier that the strike was in the expanded humanitarian zone.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

From pineapples to perfection: The fascinating history of Wimbledon’s trophies

Julian Finney/Getty Images

(LONDON) — Every summer, a total of 256 men and women — a group of the best tennis player’s this world has to offer — make their way to the London postcode of SW19 and onto the courts of Wimbledon to battle it out in an attempt to be the last person standing and a potential claim to be the best in the world at the sport.

The prize? A few moments on the world stage with Gentlemen’s Singles Challenge Cup for the winning man or the Ladies’ Singles Challenge Plate — more commonly known at the Venus Rosewater Dish — something only a few dozen people in the world have ever done in the history of the 157-year-old tournament.

“I think why these trophies are so iconic and special is because they are so consistent, truly historic, and I think they really sort of parallel what Wimbledon is about,” Eleanor Thomas, the Collections Manager at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, told ABC News during a visit during the middle Sunday of the 2024 Championships. “They have remained true to Wimbledon’s roots since the beginning.”

The Gentleman’s Singles Trophy, officially known as the Challenge Cup, is perhaps the most storied prize in all of tennis.

“This trophy has a history that dates back to 1887, crafted by Elkington & Co. in Birmingham,” explains Thomas, who added that the company’s expertise in metalwork at that time made them a perfect choice for crafting a trophy meant to symbolize excellence and perseverance in tennis.

Before Wimbledon formally started in 1877, the winners of the Championships received a trophy known as the Field Cup. It was agreed back then that anyone who won The Championships three years in a row should keep the trophy. William Renshaw managed this from 1881 to 1883 — so he kept it and a new trophy had to be made. The Field Cup was subsequently replaced with a new Challenge Cup but William Renshaw won three times in a row – again — from 1884 to 1886 and kept this too.

It was then that the club decided to create a “perpetual” trophy in 1887 and the Challenge Cup, which is the current iteration of the men’s singles trophy, was introduced with the intent to last indefinitely.

It has since carried the names of every single champion dating back to the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877 until 2009, when they officially ran out of space for any more engravings.

“We ran out of space on the trophy for all the winners,” Thomas laughed as she explained the dilemma. “So it was decided that adding a plinth to the existing trophy was the best way of preserving all those names and that has been arguably the biggest change to the trophy since its inception.”

One of the more distinctive features of the Gentleman’s Singles Trophy is the fact that there is a pineapple adorning the very top of it.

“So the pineapple, to be honest, we don’t actually have an exact reason as to why it’s there,” Thomas told ABC News. “The pineapple was a symbol of luxury and hospitality in the Victorian era, something only the wealthy could afford. Historically, it was a popular motif at the time, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with Wimbledon or tennis. It does now, obviously.”

The Gentleman’s Singles Trophy stands in stark contrast to what the women receive when they win the Wimbledon women’s singles title — the Venus Rosewater Dish.

“Unlike the men’s trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish reflects a tradition of awarding more decorative prizes to women,” Thomas explains. “Early women’s prizes included flower baskets and bracelets, but the dish has since transcended these to become a symbol of achievement in its own right.”

Introduced in 1886, the dish’s design draws heavily on Renaissance art and features a central figure of Temperance surrounded by representations of the four elements — air, water, earth, and fire. The outer rim is adorned with plaques representing the Seven Liberal Arts – grammar, logic, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry and astrology — each overseen by the goddess Minerva, the intricate iconography intended to showcase the intellectual and artistic aspirations of the late 19th century.

Champions’ names have been engraved on the dish since its inception, initially on the front but moving to the back when the trophy ran out of room and, much like the men’s trophy in 2009, the names are now engraved on a plinth that was added in 2016 once the trophy ran out of space on the back.

However, just like the gentleman’s singles trophy, winners do not actually get to take the original home, or even a full-sized replica. They spend time with the award on the court after the tournament when they celebrate and at the Wimbledon champions’ dinner on the last night. That’s it.

What winners will receive, however, is a three-quarter-sized replica, meticulously engraved with their names on it, exactly like the real thing only smaller.

The engravings — both on the replicas and the real trophy — are almost instantaneous, something Wimbledon does deliberately and takes a great amount of pride in. Thomas, along with her colleague, Malin Lundin, oversees this meticulous process.

“We manage about 84 engravings during the championships, including the main trophies and the replicas given to the players,” said Thomas.

The second the winning point is scored, a team of expert engravers gets right down to work so that the trophies are ready for the victors almost immediately. This doesn’t just happen for the men’s and women’s singles champions, the practice extends to include every single winner in each of the events held at Wimbledon, including doubles, mixed doubles, and wheelchair events, ensuring that every winner’s achievement is immortalized from the moment of victory.

Once the trophies are handed out and then given back to the All England Club in exchange for their replicas, Thomas will turn to her work of preserving these historical artifacts through rigorous conservation efforts.

“We have a dedicated team of conservators who clean and polish the trophies annually. This ensures they remain in pristine condition despite their age and the wear from being handled by champions,” Thomas explained, adding that these trophies not only honor the achievements of the world’s best players, but also serve as a reminder of Wimbledon’s unwavering commitment to its heritage.

As the final ball is struck and The Championships come to a close for another year, Wimbledon’s trophies are deliberately designed to endure for decades and centuries to come, the iconic awards meticulously preserved, intricately engraved and always embodying the rich history and traditions of The Championships.

“These are probably some of the most famous trophies in the world,” said Thomas. “It’s a big deal.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Princess Anne returns to royal duties following hospitalization

Princess Anne, Princess Royal visits the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) National Championships at Hartpury University and Hartpury College on July 12, 2024 in Gloucester, England. — Cameron Smith/Getty Images

(GLOUCESTERSHIRE, England) — Princess Anne returned to royal duties Friday, nearly two weeks after she was hospitalized following what Buckingham Palace described as an “incident” at Gatcombe Park, her estate in Gloucestershire, England.

Anne, the younger sister of King Charles III, visited the Riding for the Disabled Association National Championships at Hartpury University and Hartpury College in Gloucester.

The 73-year-old princess, wearing a hat, coat and gloves, was seen interacting with officials and attendees at the championship event.

Anne was treated at Southmead Hospital in Bristol on June 23, following the incident at her home. The palace said the princess was being treated in the hospital “as a precautionary measure” and was “expected to make a full and swift recovery.”

The palace has not shared any further details of Anne’s health.

It’s not clear precisely how the incident occurred, but the princess sustained injuries to her head while out walking on her Gatcombe Park estate. There were horses nearby, and the medical team who examined her said that her head injuries are consistent with a potential impact from a horse’s head or legs.

Anne has been a working member of the royal family since 1969, when she started public engagements at the age of 18, according to her official biography.

She is described on the royal family’s website as having “one of the busiest working schedules of any member of the royal family.”

The princess is married to Sir Tim Laurence, who shared a public update on Anne after visiting her in the hospital on June 25.

“She is recovering well, thank you. We are both profoundly grateful to the medical team and hospital support staff for their expert care — and to the emergency services who were all so wonderful at the scene,” the 69-year-old said at the time. “We are both deeply touched by all the kind messages we have received from so many people near and far. It means a great deal.”

Anne is also a mom of two children — Peter Phillips and Zara Phillips Tindall — whom she shares with her former husband, Captain Mark Phillips.

ABC News’ Zoe Magee and Kevin Shalvey contributed to this report.

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Israel-Gaza live updates: Kibbutz Be’eri survivors hear results of IDF investigation

Tents sheltering displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip are pictured on June 4, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by EYAD BABA/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — As the Israel-Hamas war continues, efforts to secure the release of hostages taken by the terrorist organization are ongoing, and Israeli forces have launched an assault in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

Here is how the news is developing:

Jul 11, 2024, 9:38 AM EDT

Survivors of Kibbutz Be’eri massacre hear results of IDF investigation

The survivors of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri heard for the first time Thursday the results of an Israel Defense Forces investigation into the failed response to the attack. Over 100 people were killed at Kibbutz Be’eri and many were taken hostage.

Jul 10, 2024, 6:00 PM EDT
Biden administration releases bombs that were put on hold for Israel

The Biden administration lifted the suspension on 500-pound bombs for Israel that had been in place since May, when the administration placed a hold on at total of 3,500 U.S.-made bombs that it feared might be used in Rafah.

The administration announced at the time that 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs would not be delivered because of their potential use in civilian areas.

The hold on the 2,000-pound bombs will continue, a U.S. official told ABC News on Wednesday.

The official said the use of the larger bombs was the main concern because they’re sometimes “co-mingled” with other munitions.

“Because our concern was not about the 500-[pound] bombs, those are moving forward as part of the usual process,” the official said.

Jul 10, 12:04 PM EDT
Hezbollah leader says Hezbollah will also cease fire if deal is reached

As attacks intensify along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israel, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Wednesday that if a cease-fire agreement is reached, “our front will cease fire without discussion.”

Jul 10, 11:36 AM EDT
Israeli delegation heads to Qatar for cease-fire talks

An Israeli delegation is headed to Doha, Qatar, to continue cease-fire talks, an Israeli official told ABC News.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Presidential Special Envoy for the Middle East Brett McGurk on Wednesday, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office.

In the meeting, Netanyahu “emphasized his commitment to the deal as long as Israel’s red lines are preserved,” Netanyahu’s office said.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller and Ellie Kaufman

Jul 10, 11:25 AM EDT
52 killed in Gaza in 24 hours

In the last 24 hours, 52 people have been killed in Gaza and another 208 people have been injured, the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health said.

The Israel Defense Forces said over the last day its forces have killed terrorists in areas in southern Gaza, central Gaza and northern Gaza.

The IDF said one of the counterterrorism operations overnight targeted “terrorists who were operating inside UNRWA’s Headquarters.”

“After a defined corridor was opened to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from the area, IDF troops conducted a targeted raid on the structure, eliminated terrorists in close-quarters combat, and located large amounts of weapons,” the IDF said.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller

Jul 10, 2024, 9:28 AM EDT
Israel strikes Syrian military infrastructure, IDF says

The Israel Defense Forces struck Syrian military infrastructure on Wednesday, the military said.

“A short while ago, IDF tanks and artillery struck military infrastructure that was used by the Syrian military, which violated the Disengagement Agreement between Israel and Syria (1974) in the buffer zone,” IDF said on messaging app Telegram.

Israel added that it held the Syrian military “responsible.”

“The IDF holds the Syrian military responsible for all activities occurring within its territory and will not allow any attempts to violate Israeli sovereignty,” the IDF said.

Jul 09, 2024, 4:54 PM EDT
19 people killed in Israeli airstrike on school, Palestinian officials say

At least 19 people were killed in an Israeli strike on a school housing displaced people in Gaza, the apparent fourth time it has done so within the last four days.

The Israel Defense Forces said they were targeting Hamas and other militants in all of the strikes and the IDF is looking into Tuesday’s strike. Dozens of people were reported killed in the strikes -– including women and children.

One child told ABC News he lost his father, cousin and two uncles in Tuesday’s strike. He broke down as he described what happened, saying was the only survivor.

The U.N.’s Human Rights Office said this week they were “appalled” to see a new round of evacuation orders issued throughout the strip, including to “where IDF military operations are ongoing and where civilians continue to be killed and injured.” The U.N. said nowhere is safe in Gaza.

-ABC News’ Matt Rivers, Victoria Beaule and Guy Davies

Jul 09, 2024, 3:09 PM EDT
50 killed in Gaza City amid IDF operations

Amid ongoing Israel Defense Forces’ operations in Gaza City, 50 people were killed and another 130 were injured in the last 24 hours, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

Israeli forces continue to operate in Gaza City, specifically in the Shejaiya neighborhood, the IDF confirmed in two separate releases issued Tuesday.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller and Diaa Ostaz

Jul 09, 2024, 3:07 PM EDT
UN experts declare famine has spread throughout Gaza Strip

United Nations experts have declared that a famine has spread throughout the Gaza Strip.

Of Gaza’s 36 hospitals, only 13 are “partially functioning,” the UN World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said Tuesday.

In northern Gaza’s Kamal Adwan hospital alone, 60 cases of severe acute malnutrition were detected last week, according to the U.N. World Health Organization.

“Fayez Ataya, who was barely six months old, died on 30 May 2024 and 13-year-old Abdulqader Al-Serhi died on 1 June 2024 at the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah. Nine-year-old Ahmad Abu Reida died on 3 June 2024 in the tent sheltering his displaced family in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis. All three children died from malnutrition and lack of access to adequate healthcare,” U.N. experts said.

“With the death of these children from starvation despite medical treatment in central Gaza, there is no doubt that famine has spread from northern Gaza into central and southern Gaza,” U.N. experts said.

-ABC News’ Emmanuelle Saliba and Camilla Alcini

Jul 08, 2024, 7:50 PM EDT
More flexibility from Hamas in cease-fire and hostage talks: US officials

With CIA Director Bill Burns and White House Middle East adviser Brett McGurk working to advance a cease-fire and hostage release deal in the Middle East, two U.S. officials familiar with the negotiations said they see more flexibility from Hamas than they did previously.

The officials assessed this is coming from Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar; however, they stopped short of saying they felt a breakthrough was in the offing.

The officials also said they believe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still committed to achieving a deal.

The American delegation headed by Burns arrived in Cairo earlier Monday to continue Gaza cease-fire talks, Egyptian state TV reported.

Jul 08, 2024, 6:30 PM EDT
Latest Gaza evacuation order will affect life-saving care: WHO

A new evacuation order in Gaza will “further impede delivery of very limited life-saving care,” the World Health Organization said Monday.

The Israel Defense Forces issued an evacuation order in Gaza City on Monday, telling people to go to designated safe zones.

Al-Ahli and Patients’ Friendly hospitals are now “out of service,” with some patients referred to hospitals that are experiencing shortages of beds and medical supplies, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Multiple health care centers are also located within the evacuation zone, while three hospitals are close by, he said.

“These key hospitals and medical facilities could quickly become non-functional due to hostilities in their vicinity or obstruction to access,” he said in a statement.

The IDF said Monday it launched a “counterterrorism operation in Gaza City targeting Hamas and Islamic Jihad infrastructure.”

“Civilians were warned and a route was opened for their safe evacuation,” the IDF said.

Jul 08, 2024, 1:34 PM EDT
Israel says it’s killed another Hezbollah leader in Lebanon

Israeli forces claimed Monday they have killed another Hezbollah leader in southern Lebanon.

An Israel Defense Forces aircraft “struck and eliminated the Hezbollah terrorist Mustafa Hassan Salman in the area of Qlaileh,” the military said in a statement.

The IDF accused Salman of participating in the “planning and execution of numerous terror attacks” against Israel.

Last week, the IDF said it assassinated Muhammad Ni’Mah Nasser, one of the most senior Hezbollah commanders killed since the group began firing at Israel in solidarity with Gaza on Oct. 8.

Attacks between Israel and Hezbollah forces continued Monday.

Jul 08, 2024, 1:19 PM EDT
Hostages and Missing Families Forum asks Netanyahu to delay US trip

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay his trip to the United States at the end of the month and stay in Israel to “prioritize finalizing a hostage release deal.”

Netanyahu is currently scheduled to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on July 24.

“For 9 months, 120 innocent men, women, children, and elderly have been held captive in Gaza by Hamas,” the Hostages Families Forum said in a statement on Monday. “These hostages endure unimaginable horrors daily. Every moment in captivity is a risk to their lives and well-being.”

Jul 08, 2024, 12:31 PM EDT
Israeli forces attacking in Khan Younis, Gaza City and Rafah

Israeli forces have been attacking in Rafah, Khan Younis and Gaza City, the Israel Defense Forces said Monday.

Over the past day in Rafah, Israeli troops “operated to eliminate more than 30 terrorists who posed a threat to IDF troops,” IDF said in a statement.

Jul 07, 2024, 5:07 PM EDT
American hurt by Hezbollah rocket fire: US Embassy

A U.S. citizen was injured Sunday by one of multiple rockets fired into Israel from Lebanon by the terrorist group Hezbollah, according to the U.S. embassy in Israel.

Embassy officials said they received information regarding the injured private U.S. citizen. The embassy confirmed the individual does not work for the U.S. government.

The embassy was working to gather more information on the injured person, officials said.

Further details about the incident were not immediately disclosed.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller

Jul 06, 2024, 6:26 PM EDT
IDF gives more details on strike on school

Israel Defense Forces released details about a strike on a school in Nuseirat refugee camp that Gaza officials said killed 16 and wounded at least 50.

The IDF claimed its intelligence found that the site allegedly “served as a hideout and operational infrastructure from which attacks against IDF troops operating in the Gaza Strip were directed and carried out.”

“Prior to the strike, numerous steps were taken in order to mitigate the risk of harming civilians, including the use of precise aerial surveillance and additional intelligence,” the IDF said without disclosing what steps were taken.

-ABC News’ Dorit Long

Jul 06, 2024, 4:19 PM EDT
IDF admits it’ll be fighting Hamas insurgency in Gaza for 5 years

Israel is planning for a long insurgency against Hamas, saying it expects Hamas to still exist in five years, but it said the group is no longer capable of perpetrating an Oct. 7-style attack.

“Will you and me be talking five years from now about Hamas as a terror organization in Gaza? The answer is yes,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari told ABC News.

Hagari is the first Israeli official to publicly admit that the insurgency will be long and difficult, in stark contrast to the bombast of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who continues to vow the quick destruction of Hamas.

Gaza, and even to some degree Hezbollah, are “perpetual wars” distracting Israel from what he called their main enemy, Iran, a senior Israeli official told ABC News.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Fire breaks out on cathedral spire in France’s Normandy region

Smoke billows from the spire of Rouen Cathedral in Rouen, northern France on July 11, 2024. (Patrick Streiff/AFP via Getty Images)

(LONDON) — A fire broke out and was extinguished on Thursday on the spire of a cathedral in Rouen, France, the capital of the Normandy region, local emergency officials said.

Fire officials said the blaze had been put out, saying it appeared from an initial investigation that it had been the plastic canopy that covered the spire that was on fire.

The gothic cathedral had been evacuated, and more than 60 firefighters were at the scene, police officials in Normandy said.

Black smoke and flames could be seen in photos taken midday Thursday. The section where the cathedral’s spire appeared to be on fire had been wrapped in scaffolding.

Fire officials said they would check on the stability of the scaffolding, along with possible water damage to the interior of the cathedral.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

China responds to NATO accusations saying Beijing is ‘enabler’ of Russian war

Rainer Puster / EyeEm/Getty Images

(HONG KONG and LONDON) — A Chinese official rejected on Thursday an accusation from NATO members, who said that Beijing has become a “decisive enabler” of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A spokesperson for China’s Mission to the European Union said a declaration issued on Wednesday by NATO members was “filled with Cold War mentality and belligerent rhetoric.”

“We never provide lethal weapons to either party of the conflict, and exercise strict export control on dual-use goods including civilian drones,” the spokesperson said in published remarks.

NATO members, who are in Washington for a summit, had included the accusations against China as part of a wide-ranging declaration. The document said China’s international ambitions and efforts “continue to challenge our interests, security and values.”

The declaration also included direct references to what NATO members described as China’s “deepening strategic partnership” with Russia.

That relationship, which NATO said was “mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut and reshape the rules-based international order,” was a cause “for profound concern,” the 32-member alliance wrote in the declaration published Wednesday.

“The PRC has become a decisive enabler of Russia’s war against Ukraine through its so-called ‘no limits’ partnership and its large-scale support for Russia’s defence industrial base,” the declaration said, using an acronym for the People’s Republic of China. “This increases the threat Russia poses to its neighbours and to Euro-Atlantic security.”

NATO members said China supplied Russia with dual-use materials, including components used for building weapons. China also supplied equipment and raw materials that “serve as inputs for Russia’s defence sector,” the declaration said.

“The PRC cannot enable the largest war in Europe in recent history without this negatively impacting its interests and reputation,” the declaration said.

China, using language similar to its previous statements, characterized its trade with Russia as “normal.” The spokesperson said the NATO declaration included “obvious lies and smears,” which China was “firmly” rejecting.

“The normal trade flows between China and Russia does not target any third party, nor should it be subject to disruption or coercion,” the Chinese spokesperson said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.