Spain to Invest 1.4 Billion Euros to Protect Threatened Donana Wetland

National and regional authorities in Spain signed an agreement Monday to invest 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) in areas around the treasured national park of Donana in a bid to stop the park from drying up.

Ecological Transition Minister Teresa Ribera said the plan was aimed at encouraging farmers to stop cultivating crops that rely heavily on water from underground aquifers that have been overexploited in recent years, damaging one of Europe’s largest wetlands.

“This is an agreement with which we put an end to pressure on a natural treasure the likes of which there are few in the world,” Ribera said.

Andalusia regional President Juan Moreno said farmers will receive financial incentives to stop cultivating and to reforest land in and around some 14 towns close to Donana. He said farmers who wish to continue cultivating will receive less money but must switch to farming dry crops ecologically.

As part of the agreement, Andalusia will cancel previously announced plans to expand irrigation near Donana, a decision that UNESCO, the central government and ecologists criticized for putting more pressure on the aquifer.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, Donana is a wintering site for half a million waterfowl and a stopover spot for millions more birds that migrate from Africa to northern Europe.

Ecologists working in and near the park have long warned that its ecosystem of marshes and lagoons is under severe strain because of agriculture and tourism. The situation has been made worse by climate change and a long drought, along with record high temperatures.

Andalusia recently announced a plan to allow the Donana park to annex some 7,500 hectares (18,500 acres) by purchasing land from a private owner for 70 million euros.

Donana currently covers 74,000 hectares (182,000 acres) on an estuary where the Guadalquivir River meets the Atlantic Ocean on Spain’s southern coast. 

Greek Police Arrest 6 Alleged Migrant Traffickers, Hunting 7 More

Greek police have arrested six people who they say are members of a large human trafficking gang that violently extorted money from migrants to assist them in crossing into neighboring Albania and travel to European Union countries to the north.

The six suspects — a Syrian, a Palestinian and four Iraqis — were arrested Saturday at a village less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Albanian border, police said Sunday.

Seven more members of the gang were arrested in the same area on Sept. 28. At that time, 11 migrants had been found detained in shacks and abandoned military outposts.

Police said in September that the traffickers, who had already collected upward of 1,000 euros (nearly $1,100) from each of the migrants to help them cross into Albania, had detained them, demanding an additional 1,500 euros ($1,640). Police said the traffickers tortured the migrants, videotaped the torture sessions and sent the footage to the victims’ relatives in the Middle East and South Asia.

This time, no migrants were found with the traffickers.

Police say they are searching for seven other members of the gang still at large.

Church Official Says Kidnapped German Priest Freed in Mali

German missionary Father Hans Joachim Lohre who was kidnapped in Mali’s capital Bamako last year has been freed by his captor, a church official told Reuters on Sunday.

Patient Nshombo of the Missionaries for Africa told Reuters by telephone that Lohre had been released.

“Yes, he has been freed, but we have to wait for further details from the authorities,” Nshombo said.

The government of Mali did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the German foreign office declined to comment.

Lohre, who had been living in Bamako for 30 years, was meant to celebrate Mass on a Sunday morning in the Malian capital last year when his colleagues noticed that his car remained parked in front of his house and his telephone was switched off.

Russia Launches Largest-Yet Wave of Drone Strikes on Kyiv

Russia launched its largest drone strike to date on Ukraine over the weekend. Kyiv says it destroyed all but one, but falling debris caused several injuries and damaged buildings. A top U.N. official called for continued solidarity with Ukraine. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

Tens of Thousands March Against Antisemitism in London

Ten of thousands of people participated in a march against antisemitism in London on Sunday protesting a rise in hate crimes against Jews since the October 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israel and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was among the estimated 60,000 demonstrators in the first march of its kind since the Israel-Hamas war began and the largest gathering against antisemitism in London for decades according to organizers. Johnson marched along the U.K.’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and other senior government officials.

Protestors carried placards with the message “Shoulder to shoulder with British Jews” “Never Again Is Now,” and “Zero tolerance for anti-Semites.” Others showed the faces of Israeli hostages held by Palestinian militant group Hamas in a show of solidarity with the Jewish communities which have recently suffered a spate of hate crimes, especially in the nation’s capital.

Some people sang in Hebrew while others chanted “Bring them home” in reference to the hostages.

London’s Metropolitan Police received reports of 554 antisemitic offences between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, up from 44 a year earlier, a more than 10-fold increase. Reports of Islamophobic offences almost tripled to 220 during the same period.

Police arrested a far-right activist, Tommy Robinson, at the start of Sunday’s march after he refused to leave the area at the request of police officers.

Organizers of the demonstration had asked Robinson not to attend because of the distress his presence was likely to cause.

Sunday’s march took place a day after a latest demonstration in the British capital by pro-Palestinian protestors calling for a permanent cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.  

Israel Summons Irish Ambassador for Tweet It Says Doesn’t Condemn Hamas 

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that it would summon the Irish ambassador over a tweet celebrating the release of a 9-year-old girl from Hamas captivity, alleging the post didn’t adequately condemn the militant group.

Earlier Sunday, the Irish prime minister lauded the release of Emily Hand, an Israeli-Irish girl whose story has captivated both nations.

“An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered,” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar posted on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.

The girl was initially believed to have been killed in the Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel by Hamas and other militants. A month ago, her father learned that she was alive and among the 240 people held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

The Hamas attack, which killed about 1,200 people in Israel, triggered a blistering Israeli air and ground assault on Gaza in which at least 14,000 Palestinians, about two thirds of them women and children, have died.

Emily was one of 17 hostages released by Hamas Saturday, the second day of a four-day cease-fire that allowed critical humanitarian aid into Gaza and gave civilians their first respite after seven weeks of war.

Israeli government officials criticized Varadkar’s tweet, arguing that it cast what happened to Emily as a disappearance rather than a violent abduction by Hamas militants.

“Mr. Prime Minister, It seems you have lost your moral compass and need a reality check! Emily Hand was not ‘lost,’ she was kidnapped by a terror organization worse than ISIS,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen tweeted. He alleged that Varadkar was “trying to legitimize and normalize terror,” and summoned the Irish ambassador to Israel for a reprimand.

Irish government figures came quickly to the prime minister’s defense. The Irish minister for public expenditure, Paschal Donohoe, said Varadkar has been “unambiguous in condemning the violence of Hamas and also calling for restraint from Israeli military forces.”

Ireland’s foreign affairs department said that the “government has been clear at every stage that all hostages abducted by Hamas should be released immediately and unconditionally.” It said the Irish ambassador was to meet Israeli Foreign Ministry officials Monday.

The summons is the third issued by Israel since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Israel has also called in the ambassadors of Belgium and Spain after the countries’ leaders criticized Israel for the high civilian death toll in Gaza. The Spanish leader also called for European Union recognition of a Palestinian state.

13 Missing as Cargo Ship Sinks Off Greek Island in Stormy Seas 

A cargo ship sank off the Greek island of Lesbos in stormy seas early Sunday, leaving 13 crew members missing and one rescued, authorities said.

The Raptor, registered in the Comoros, was on its way to Istanbul from Alexandria, Egypt, carrying 6,000 tons of salt, the coast guard said. It had a crew of 14, including eight Egyptians, four Indians and two Syrians, the coast guard said.

The ship reported a mechanical problem at 7 a.m. Sunday, sent a distress signal and shortly after disappeared about 4 1/2 nautical miles (8 kilometers) southwest of Lesbos, authorities said.

One Egyptian was rescued, a coast guard spokesperson told The Associated Press.

She said that eight merchant ships, two helicopters and one Greek navy frigate were searching for survivors. Three coast guard vessels had difficulty reaching the area because of rough seas, she added. The spokesperson spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, and she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

Northwesterly winds in excess of 80 kph (50 mph) are blowing in the area, the national weather service said.

Russia Moves Its Air Defense System from Kaliningrad 

The British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Ukraine that Russia’s recent transport movements indicate that Russia has “likely moved” its strategic air defense systems from its Baltic coast enclave of Kaliningrad.

This move from Kaliningrad which is surrounded on three sides by NATO member states highlights “the overstretch the war has caused for some of Russia’s key, modern capabilities.”

Saturday was Holodomor Remembrance Day in Ukraine, a time when Ukrainians remember the famine that starved several million people to death in the 1930s because of Soviet policies.

The Holodomor — which means “death by starvation” in Ukrainian — was a deliberate policy of Josef Stalin that Ukrainians, along with more than 30 countries, consider genocide but something Moscow denies.

On Holodomor Saturday, Kyiv was rocked by Russia’s largest drone attack since its invasion of Ukraine in February of last year. Ukraine said it shot down 74 of the 75 Iranian-designed Shahed drones launched by Russia in a six-hour air raid.

Five people, including a child, were wounded in the attack, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko’s Telegram post. Sixty-six of the drones were downed over Kyiv, Ukraine’s air force said. The damage caused power outages for 17,000 people, a city official said.


“It looks like tonight we heard the overture. The prelude to the winter season,” Serhiy Fursa, a prominent Ukrainian economist, wrote on Facebook.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia has carried out 911 attacks, killing 19 Ukrainians and wounding 84 across the country in the last week.

“The enemy is intensifying its attacks, trying to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians,” he said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. It was doing so deliberately, “just like 90 years ago, when Russia killed millions of our ancestors.”

Greek PM to ‘Persist’ With UK Over Parthenon Marbles

Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Sunday he would push for the return of the Parthenon Marbles when he meets UK leader Rishi Sunak in Britain this week.

The sculptures, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were taken from the Parthenon temple at the Acropolis in Athens in the early 19th century by British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the earl of Elgin.

Greece maintains the marbles were stolen, which Britain denies, and the issue has been a source of contention between the countries for decades.

Mitsotakis, who is due to see Sunak on Monday, likened the collection being held at the British Museum in London to the Mona Lisa painting being cut in half.

“They do look better in the Acropolis Museum, a state-of-the-art museum that was built for that purpose,” he told the BBC.

“It’s as if I told you that you would cut the Mona Lisa in half, and you will have half of it at the Louvre and half of it at the British Museum, do you think your viewers would appreciate the beauty of the painting in such a way?”

Mitsotakis added that “this is exactly what happened with the Parthenon sculptures”.

“That is why we keep lobbying for a deal that would essentially be a partnership between Greece and the British Museum but would allow us to return the sculptures to Greece and have people appreciate them in their original setting,” he told the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme.

The 2,500-year-old collection has been on display at the British Museum since 1817.

In January, the UK government ruled out a permanent return after media reported the British Museum was close to signing a loan agreement that would see the marbles back in Athens.

Mitsotakis, who won a second term in June, said his government “had not made as much progress as I would like in the negotiations”.

But added: “I’m a patient man and we’ve waited for hundreds of years, and I will persist in these discussions.”

Mitsotakis said he would also raise the issue with UK opposition leader Keir Starmer, who — if opinion polls are believed — is set to be Britain’s next prime minister after an election expected next year.

The Parthenon temple — built in the 5th century BCE to honor the goddess Athena — was partially destroyed during a Venetian bombardment in 1687, then looted.

Its fragments are scattered throughout many renowned museums.

Earlier this year, three marble fragments of the Parthenon temple that had been held by the Vatican for centuries were returned to Greece.


Europe’s Jews Worry as Antisemitism Rises Amid Israel-Hamas War

As he sits in Geneva, Michel Dreifuss does not feel all that far away from the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of Gaza. The ripples are rolling through Europe and upending assumptions both global and intimate — including those about his personal safety as a Jew.

“Yesterday I bought a tear-gas spray canister at a military-equipment surplus store,” the 64-year-old retired tech sector worker said recently at a rally to mark a month since the Hamas killings. The choice, he says, is a “precaution,” driven by a surge of antisemitism in Europe.

Last month’s slayings of about 1,200 people in Israel by armed Palestinian militants represented the biggest killing of Jews since the Holocaust. The fallout from it, and from Israel’s intense military response that health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza say has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians, has extended to Europe. In doing so, it has shaken a continent all too familiar with deadly anti-Jewish hatred for centuries.

The past century is of particular note, of course. Concern about rising antisemitism in Europe is fueled in part by what happened to Jews before and during World War II, and that makes it particularly fearsome for those who may be only one or two generations removed from people who were the victims of riots against Jews and Nazi brutality.

What most chills many Jews interviewed is what they see as the lack of empathy for the Israelis killed during the early morning massacre and for the relatives of the hostages — about 30 of whom are children — suspended in an agonizing limbo.

“What really upsets me,” said Holocaust survivor Herbert Traube said at a Paris event commemorating the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 government-backed pogroms against Jews in Germany and Austria, “is to see that there isn’t a massive popular reaction against this.”

Acts of antisemitism — and how that’s defined

Antisemitism is broadly defined as hatred of Jews. But a debate has been raging for years over what actions and words should be labeled antisemitic.

Criticism of Israel’s policies and antisemitism have long been conflated by Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by some watchdog groups. Critics say that blurring helps undermine opposition to the country’s policies and amps up perceptions that any utterance or incident against Israeli policy is antisemitic.

Some language — whether for or against Israel or the Palestinians – “makes it sound like a football match,” says Susan Neiman of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany. “We are perpetuating the idea that you’ve got to be on one side or the other instead of being on the side of human rights and justice,” she said.

Others argue that antisemites often use criticism of Israel as a placeholder for expressing their views.

The list of examples of anti-Jewish sentiment since the Oct. 7 attacks is long and documented by governments and watchdog groups across Europe.

Little more than a month after the attack in Israel, the French Interior Ministry said 1,247 antisemitic incidents had been reported since Oct. 7, nearly three times the total for all of 2022.
Denmark's main Jewish association said cases were up 24 times from the average of the last nine months.
The Community Security Trust, which tracks antisemitic incidents in Britain, reported more than 1,000 such events — the most ever recorded for a 28-day period. 


That all comes despite widespread denunciations of anti-Jewish hatred — and support for Israel — from leaders in Europe since the attack.

Some of Europe’s Jews say they see it on the streets and the news. Jewish schoolchildren face bullying on their way to class, or — in one instance — have been asked to explain Israel’s actions, according to Britain’s Community Security Trust. There’s been talk of blending in better: covering skullcaps in public and perhaps hiding mezuzahs, the traditional symbol on doorposts of Jewish homes.

In Russia, a riot broke out at an airport in which there were some antisemitic chants and posters from a crowd of men looking for passengers who had arrived from Israel. A Berlin synagogue was firebombed. An assailant stabbed a Jewish woman twice in the stomach at her home in Lyon, France, according to her lawyer.

In Prague’s Little Quarter last month, staffers at the well-known Hippopotamus bar refused to serve beer to several tourists from Israel and their Czech guides, and some patrons served up insults. Police had to step in. In Berlin, Jews are still reeling from an attempted firebombing of a synagogue last month.

“Some of us are in a state of panic,” said Anna Segal, 37, the manager of the Kahal Adass Jisroel in Berlin, a community of 450 members.

Coming to grips with a feeling of dread

Some community members are changing how they live, Segal said. Students no longer wear uniforms. Kindergarten classes don’t leave the building for field trips or the playground next door. Some members no longer call taxis, or they hesitate to order deliveries to their homes. Hebrew-speaking in public is fading. Some wonder if they should move to Israel.

“I hear more and more from people from the Jewish community who say they feel safer and more comfortable in Israel now than in Germany, despite the war and all the rockets,” Segal said. “Because they don’t have to hide there.”

And in pro-Palestinian demonstrations, some protesters are shouting, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” Some say that’s a call for Palestinian freedom and is not anti-Jewish but anti-Israel; the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea includes not only Israel, but also the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation since 1967. Many Jews, though, say the chant is inherently anti-Jewish and calls for the destruction of Israel.

Faced with fears that antisemitism will spread, communities are taking action. A hotline has been set up in France to help provide psychological support for Jews. The Community Security Trust, which aims to protect the Jewish community and foster good relations with others, has joined with the British government to distribute primers on how to address antisemitism in primary and secondary schools.

Peggy Hicks, a director at the U.N. human rights office, says the actions of governments and political movements are fair game for criticism but warned against discrimination, which the Geneva-based office has long battled. In the chaos of the past weeks, she sees reason to hope.

“I’ve been amazed in the course of my working in human rights about the amount of compassion and the resilience of human beings,” Hicks said. “People who have lost children and come together on both sides of a conflict, who have shared a loss — but from opposing sides — and who have found a way to get past the fact that they should actually be enemies.”

She added: “I don’t think everybody has the ability to show that kind of courage. But the fact that it exists, I think, gives us all something to aspire to.”

Massive Iceberg Drifts Beyond Antarctic Waters

One of the world’s largest icebergs is drifting beyond Antarctic waters after being grounded for more than three decades, according to the British Antarctic Survey. 

The iceberg, known as A23a, split from the Antarctic’s Filchner Ice Shelf in 1986. But it became stuck to the ocean floor and had remained for many years in the Weddell Sea. 

The iceberg is about three times the size of New York City and more than twice the size of Greater London, measuring around 4,000 square kilometers. 

Andrew Fleming, a remote sensing expert from the British Antarctic Survey, told the BBC on Friday that the iceberg has been drifting for the past year and now appears to be picking up speed and moving past the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, helped by wind and ocean currents. 

“I asked a couple of colleagues about this, wondering if there was any possible change in shelf water temperatures that might have provoked it, but the consensus is the time had just come,” Fleming told the BBC. 

“It was grounded since 1986, but eventually it was going to decrease (in size) sufficiently was to lose grip and start moving,” he added. 

Fleming said he first spotted movement from the iceberg in 2020. The British Antarctic Survey said it has now ungrounded and is moving along ocean currents to sub-Antarctic South Georgia. 

Ukraine Unveils Monument to Soldier Shot Dead in Widely Shared Video

A Ukrainian soldier who was posthumously awarded a medal after a widely shared video showed him declaring “Glory to Ukraine” before apparently being shot dead, was commemorated with a statue in his northern hometown Saturday. 

The video shared in March showed a man the military later named as Oleksandr Matsievskiy, a sniper with a unit from the region of Chernihiv, saying “Slava Ukraini,” a phrase more than a century old that has become a popular expression of resistance to Russia’s February 2022 invasion. 

Standing smoking a cigarette in a wooded area, carrying no visible weaponry, Matsievskiy is then seen slumping to the ground, apparently struck repeatedly by unseen shooters. 

Kyiv blamed “brutal and brazen” Russians for his death, as did his mother Paraska Demchuk, 68. 

“He would have taken all of them with him if he had a grenade,” she said, as she proudly showed the medal President Volodymyr Zelenskiy bestowed on her son representing the “Hero of Ukraine” honor. 

“He would say to me, ‘Mum, I will never let them capture me,'” she said through tears. “He wouldn’t just bandy words about. It was on the inside, it was like a core inside him,” she said. 

Kyiv has opened a criminal investigation into the death of Matsievskiy, who was quickly talked of as a hero on social media, where many supporters posted the words “Heroyam Slava,” or “Glory to the Heroes,” the traditional response to Slava Ukraini.  

British Troops Patrol Kosovo-Serbia Border as Tensions Remain High

British troops are patrolling the Kosovo-Serbia border as part of a NATO peacekeeping presence being bolstered amid concern that the former wartime foes could return to open conflict following a series of violent incidents in recent months.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization sent hundreds of additional forces to Kosovo from Britain and Romania after a battle between the authorities and armed Serbs holed up in a monastery turned a quiet village in northern Kosovo into a war zone on Sept. 24.

One police officer and three gunmen were killed in the village of Banjska in what was seen as the worst violence since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Kosovo accused Serbia of providing financial and practical support for the gunmen, which Belgrade denies.

NATO has sent 1,000 extra troops to the region, bringing its presence there to 4,500 peacekeepers from 27 countries. British soldiers are now being deployed in 18-hour shifts in freezing conditions to make sure no weapons or armed groups enter Kosovo.

“Currently we are here on a routine patrol, which consists of understanding patterns of life, gaining intelligence on any illegal or suspicious activity that then gets fed back to KFOR (NATO mission) and higher,” Lieutenant Joss Gaddie from the British Army told Reuters at the border with Serbia.

During a visit on Monday to the western Balkans, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the organization is reviewing whether a more permanent increase of forces was needed “to ensure that this doesn’t spiral out of control and creates a new violent conflict in Kosovo or in the wider region.”

Kosovo, which has an ethnic Albanian majority, declared independence from Serbia in 2008 after a guerrilla uprising and a 1999 NATO intervention.

Around 5% of the population in Kosovo are ethnic Serbs, of which half live in the north and refuse to recognize Kosovo independence and see Belgrade as their capital. They have often clashed with Kosovo police and international peacekeepers.

For more than two decades many ethnic Serbs have refused to register vehicles with Kosovo car plates, using their own system instead which is seen as illegal by Pristina.

Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s government has set a December 1 deadline for around 10,000 motorists to register their cars with Kosovo numbers or face heavy penalties. A similar request sparked violence last year.

Pope Cancels Saturday Activities Because of Mild Flu

Pope Francis canceled his morning audiences on Saturday because of mild flu, the Vatican said in a statement.

The 86-year-old pontiff holds regular meetings with Vatican officials on Saturdays as well as private audiences.

Earlier this month, the pope skipped reading a prepared speech for a meeting with European rabbis as he was suffering from a cold, but he appeared to be in good health during a meeting with children just hours later.

In June, he had surgery on an abdominal hernia. He spent nine days in hospital and appears to have recovered fully from that operation.

The pope’s next public appearance is scheduled for Sunday, when he is expected to address crowds in his weekly Angelus message in St. Peter’s Square.

Francis is also scheduled to attend the COP28 climate conference in Dubai from Dec. 1-3, where he is expected to have nearly an entire day of bilateral meetings with world leaders attending the event. The conference runs from Nov. 30-Dec. 12.