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Rosalynn Carter, former US first lady, dies at 96

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Rosalynn Carter, former US first lady, dies at 96

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were the longest-married presidential couple, having wed in 1946 when he was 21 and she was 18.

Rosalynn Carter, the former first lady of the United States and the closest adviser to Jimmy Carter during his one term as president, has died at age 96.

The Carter Center on Sunday said she “died peacefully, with family by her side” at her rural Georgia home of Plains after living with dementia and suffering many months of declining health.

“Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything I ever accomplished,” Carter said in a statement.

“She gave me wise guidance and encouragement when I needed it. As long as Rosalynn was in the world, I always knew somebody loved and supported me.”

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Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were the longest-married presidential couple, having wed in 1946 when he was 21 and she was 18.

After his term ended in 1981, he also enjoyed more post-White House years than any president before him and she played an instrumental role during those years, including as part of the nonprofit Carter Center and the Habitat for Humanity charity.

She was seen as unassuming and quiet before coming to Washington in 1977 but developed into an eloquent speaker, campaigner and activist.

Her abiding passion, which carried far beyond her White House years, was for those living with mental illness, not because of any personal connection but because of a strong feeling that advocacy was needed.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter dance at a White House Congressional Ball in 1978 [File: Library of Congress/Marion S Trikosko/Handout via Reuters]

Before Jimmy Carter was elected president in 1976, Roslynn was largely unknown outside of Georgia, where her husband had been a peanut farmer-turned-governor.

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A Democrat, he served one four-year term, losing his 1980 re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, a Republican former California governor and Hollywood actor.

In Washington, DC, the Carters were a team, with the president calling her “an extension of myself” and “my closest adviser”. She was often invited to sit in as an observer at Cabinet meetings and political strategy discussions.

In a 1978 interview with magazine editors, Carter said he shared almost everything with his wife except top-secret material. “I think she understands the consciousness of the American people and their attitudes perhaps better than do I,” he said.

The first lady also was sent on important official missions to Latin America and was part of the unsuccessful campaign for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution to ensure equal treatment of women under the law.

The Iranian hostage crisis – in which American diplomats and others were held captive in Tehran after the Islamic revolution – occurred when Carter was seeking re-election. The crisis contributed to the downfall of his presidency as he refrained from campaigning while trying to resolve the standoff.

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During that time, Rosalynn Carter sought to support her husband by speaking in 112 cities in 34 states during a 44-day tour.

Her speeches and forays into crowds were credited with helping Carter defeat Democratic challenger Ted Kennedy in the 1980 primaries, although he went on to lose overwhelmingly to Reagan in the general election.

Her interest in mental health issues stemmed from the early 1970s when she began to realise the depth of the problem in Georgia and the reluctance of people to talk about it.

As first lady of Georgia, she was a member of a governor’s commission to improve services for the mentally ill.

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US criticises Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand

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US criticises Israel on Gaza civilian toll as UN to hear ceasefire demand
  • LATEST DEVELOPMENTS:
  • Palestinian Authority working with US on postwar plan for Gaza – Bloomberg
  • Israel says 92 soldiers killed in Gaza since ground war began on Oct. 20

GAZA/WASHINGTON, Dec 8 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his strongest public criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, said there was a gap between the government’s declared intentions to protect civilians and the casualties.

“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south… it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken told a press conference after meeting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.

“And there does remain a gap between… the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground.”

Israel says it must wipe out the Hamas militant group after its attack on Israel two months ago and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way, including warnings about military operations.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday. Biden “emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities,” the White House said.

More than 17,170 Palestinians have been killed and 46,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry, since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to a cross-border rampage by Iran-backed Hamas militants, who control the enclave. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel’s tally.

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The Israeli military on Friday said 92 of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza fighting since its ground incursions began on Oct. 20.

CEASEFIRE DEMAND AT UN AS GAZA FIGHTING RAGES

Hundreds more Palestinians were killed as Israel fought Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip’s biggest cities on Thursday – 350 people, according to Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra. Israel said its forces killed a number of gunmen in Khan Younis, including two who emerged firing from a tunnel.

Arab states have renewed their push for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, with United Arab Emirates asking the U.N. Security Council to vote on Friday morning on a draft resolution.

The United States and ally Israel oppose a ceasefire, saying it would only benefit Hamas. Blinken is due to meet top diplomats from Arab states, including Egypt, on Friday in Washington.

The draft was amended to say both “the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law” and to “demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

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A resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France or Britain – to be adopted. The U.S. does not support any further action by the council at this time.

As pressure mounts on Israel over the civilian toll of its war to destroy Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is working with U.S. officials on a plan to run Gaza after the war is over, Bloomberg News reported.

Citing Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, it said the preferred outcome would be for Hamas to become a junior partner under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), helping to build a new independent state that includes the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

“If they (Hamas) are ready to come to an agreement and accept the political platform of the PLO, then there will be room for talk. Palestinians should not be divided,” Shtayyeh said, adding that Israel’s aim to fully defeat Hamas is unrealistic.

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KEREM SHALOM BORDER CROSSING TO OPEN

In a development that should help smooth the way for more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, Israel agreed to a U.S. request to open the Kerem Shalom border crossing for the inspection of trucks and their cargo, a U.S. official said on Thursday.

Egypt, along with the United Nations, has been lobbying Israel to speed up an inspection process, which requires the vehicles to drive to Egypt’s border with Israel before looping back to Rafah. The number of trucks crossing daily has dropped to fewer than 100, from nearly 200 during a Nov. 24-Dec. 1 truce, according to the United Nations.

Kerem Shalom sits at Gaza’s southern border with Israel and Egypt and the crossing was used to carry more than 60% of the truckloads going into Gaza before war erupted two months ago.

With no end in sight to the fighting, a top White House national security aide, Jon Finer, said the United States had not given Israel a firm deadline to end major combat operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

There are many “legitimate military targets” remaining in south Gaza, including “much if not most” of the Hamas leadership, Finer said at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington.

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Meanwhile, hostages still held by Hamas have been kept incommunicado in Gaza despite Israel’s calls on the Red Cross to arrange visits and verify their wellbeing.

Marking two months since Hamas’ attack, the start of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah was a solemn moment for many in Israel.

Idit Ohel, whose son Alon, 22, was kidnapped by Hamas gunmen from an outdoor music festival where 364 people were killed, said she was hoping for a miracle.

“He doesn’t know it’s Hanukkah. I don’t think he knows the days, what’s day, what’s night,” said Ohel. “But he’s in our hearts all the time.”

Reporting by Bassam Masoud in Gaza, Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis in Washington; Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Geneva; writing by Grant McCool and Stephenj Coates; editing by Diane Craft

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Humeyra Pamuk is a senior foreign policy correspondent based in Washington DC. She covers the U.S. State Department, regularly traveling with U.S. Secretary of State. During her 20 years with Reuters, she has had postings in London, Dubai, Cairo and Turkey, covering everything from the Arab Spring and Syria’s civil war to numerous Turkish elections and the Kurdish insurgency in the southeast. In 2017, she won the Knight-Bagehot fellowship program at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. She holds a BA in International Relations and an MA on European Union studies.

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Armenia and Azerbaijan announce deal to exchange POWs and work toward peace treaty

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Armenia and Azerbaijan announce deal to exchange POWs and work toward peace treaty

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed Thursday to exchange prisoners of war and work toward signing a peace treaty in what the European Union hailed as a major step toward peace in the long-troubled region.

The two countries said in a joint statement they “share the view that there is a historical chance to achieve a long-awaited peace.” They said they intend “to normalize relations and to reach the peace treaty on the basis of respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

THOUSANDS OF ARMENIANS FLEE NAGORNO-KARABAKH AS AZERBAIJAN RECLAIMS SEPARATIST REGION

Azerbaijan waged a lightning military campaign in September in the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The offensive ended three decades of rule there by ethnic Armenians and resulted in the vast majority of the 120,000 residents fleeing the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.

Until Thursday’s announcement, the two countries had bitterly argued on the outline of a peace process amid mutual distrust.

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As part of the deal, Armenia agreed to lift its objections to Azerbaijan hosting next year’s international conference on climate change.

Countries had been unable to agree on an eastern European host for the 2024 climate talks, with Russia vetoeing EU countries and Azerbaijan and Armenia nixing each other. A decision on the meeting’s location and presidency is due within the next week.

Ethnic Armenians flee as Azerbaijan’s military advances.

The joint statement said that “the Republic of Armenia supports the bid of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host the 29th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP29) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, by withdrawing its own candidacy.”

European Council President Charles Michel praised the agreement as a major breakthrough, saying on X that he particularly welcomes the deal to release detainees and make an “unprecedented opening in political dialogue.”

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Michel called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to finalize a peace deal as soon as possible.

The U.S. government also welcomed the deal, saying the swapping of POWs was an “important confidence building measure as the sides work to finalize a peace agreement and normalize relations.”

“The United States will continue to strongly support efforts to reach a durable and dignified peace,” added the statement from State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Armenia and Azerbaijan said in their statement that talks between Azerbaijan’s presidential administration and the office of Armenia’s prime minister led to an agreement “on taking tangible steps towards building confidence between two countries.”

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Azerbaijan said it would release 32 captured Armenian military servicemen, while Armenia will release two Azerbaijani soldiers.

The two countries said they will continue their discussions “regarding the implementation of more confidence building measures” and called on the international community for support “that will contribute to building mutual trust between two countries.”

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Netanyahu warns Hezbollah after cross-border attack kills Israeli civilian

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Netanyahu warns Hezbollah after cross-border attack kills Israeli civilian

Israeli PM says Hezbollah will turn Beirut, southern Lebanon into Gaza and Khan Younis if Iran-backed group’s attacks on Israel continue.

Israel has said that a guided missile attack from Lebanon killed an Israeli civilian in the north of the country, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to warn that Beirut would be turned “into Gaza” if Hezbollah started an all-out war.

The Israeli military said on Thursday that fighters from the Lebanese Shia group carried out an antitank attack in northern Israel.

Hezbollah, which supports the Palestinian group Hamas, said one of the 11 attacks it carried out on Thursday targeted an Israeli barracks in Mattat, a village abutting the Lebanese border.

The Israeli army said its jets struck a Hezbollah command and control centre in response to the Iranian-backed group’s attack.

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“If Hezbollah chooses to start an all-out war then it will, by its own hand, turn Beirut and southern Lebanon, not far from here, into Gaza and Khan Younis,” Netanyahu said while visiting troops near the border.

It was not immediately clear if Netanyahu’s comment was linked to the most recent Hezbollah strike.

‘Farmer killed’

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan said the man killed was a farmer and the country’s ambulance service said he was 60 years old.

Hezbollah said Thursday’s assault was in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict started on October 7 after a deadly attack by Hamas into southern Israel was followed by Israel’s massive air and ground offensive on the Gaza Strip.

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Since then, Israel and armed groups in southern Lebanon – some 200km (124 miles) from the Gaza Strip, particularly Hezbollah, have engaged in frequent back and forth exchanges across the United Nations-patrolled Israel-Lebanon border.

More than 17,100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to the authorities in the enclave.

Israel says its death toll stands at about 1,150.

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