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We’ll always protect war-torn families from Syria horror

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Home Secretary Amber Rudd, who has visited refugees on the Syrian-Lebanese border, wanted to see the “shocking” suffering for herself which she says underlines the importance of UK support.

The terrible scenes in Syria this week of civilian suffering remind us why millions of families have fled for their lives to neighbouring countries.

The images we see on our TV screens depict suffering that is real life for these families.

I wanted to go to the region and see for myself the human impact and talk directly to refugees about the challenges they face.

Many have crossed the border into Lebanon. Families uprooted from their homes, forced to leave behind their jobs, schools, and way of life. Living in makeshift shelters they face a daily struggle for things we take for granted.

The conditions are shocking and underlined to me the importance of UK support.




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‘We are overwhelmed’: Lebanon’s plea for help with Syrian refugee crisis

In 2015 the Government made an unprecedented and ambitious commitment to bring 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria from the region to the UK by 2020.

We work closely with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who identify those who are the most vulnerable including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

Today, we are more than halfway towards meeting our pledge, ahead of schedule.

Over 10,000 vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria, nearly half of whom are children, are rebuilding their lives in safety in the UK, and that is thanks to the goodwill and bigheartedness of the British people.


Eastern Ghouta has been under heavy bombardment for several days by Assad and his allies, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries.



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Surrender or starve: The desperate fight for survival in Ghouta

I am grateful to local authorities and communities around the country who have stepped up to enable this to happen.

Often it is local residents, moved by the heartbreaking scenes on their televisions, who call on their councils to get involved.

In Lebanon I met with a family due to be resettled to Britain – a mum, dad and their three young sons.

They spoke of some natural trepidation, gratitude to the people of the UK and, perhaps most importantly of all, their hopes and expectations for the future.

Two of the three boys told me shyly they aspire to become engineers while the third wants to become a doctor. Which, in spite of everything they will have been through, was uplifting to see.


A smoke plume rises following an airstrike in Ghouta



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Bombardment ‘like doomsday’ – Ghouta resident

But the answer cannot just be moving refugees from the region they are from and have lived in all their lives to the UK.

That is why we have a dual approach of targeting resettlement at the most vulnerable while supporting the majority of refugees who remain in the region and their host countries.

We have committed £2.46bn in response to the Syria crisis, our largest-ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

Since 2012, across Syria and the region, we have provided nearly 25 million food rations, over 9.5 million relief packages and over seven million health consultations.

I know that behind all these figures are real people, with names, stories and aspirations.

These are the children and families that are being helped by the people of the UK to have a better future.

And for that, amidst the horror of the Syrian situation, we as a country should be proud.

We will always support those who are the most vulnerable with our help and protection.

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Tokyo Olympics: Opening ceremony was ‘respectful, hopeful but sombre night’ | World News

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Olympic opening ceremonies are something of a unique art form. Playing to a global audience but with the host nation wanting to make the night their own.

Japan chose sombre. It was a respectful, hopeful but above all sombre night. They didn’t want to show off when everyone has lived through such hardship – and while so many people continue to do so.

Their display using 1,824 flying drones combining like a swarm of giant worker bees to create a giant globe stood out.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron
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Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron

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There were no Team GB fans at the 2021 summer olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo due to COVID-19 but Japan put on a stunning visual show regardless

So too Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka who was given the honour of firing up the hydrogen-fuelled Olympic cauldron.

But it was their courteous bow towards the pain of the pandemic that defined the evening.

Video montages of empty cities during lockdowns, and athletes cobbling together training regimes in their back gardens – it all made for an understated opening ceremony.

Outside, the protests in the streets continued among those still vehemently against the Games taking place while Tokyo remains in a state of COVID emergency.

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There were also people outside who just felt drawn to the Olympic stadium – to come and wave to the very select numbers of VIPs and media going inside. It was as close as they could get to the Games that they had waited almost a decade for.

While these Olympics will feel unusual there were reminders too of the magic they can create.

There was a towering Tongan taekwondo player who strode into the stadium with his bare oiled chest puffed out as he carried his island nation’s flag like a warrior on a mission.

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Protests held outside Olympic stadium

The Olympics can still produce special moments like that and there will be plenty more over the coming weeks.

There will be more COVID-19 disruption too but the Games of 2020 are finally open, just one year late.

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Business leaders have ‘obligation to speak up’, ex-Unilever boss says amid Ben & Jerry’s row | Business News

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Unilever’s ex-boss has said business leaders have an “obligation to speak up” after his former company became embroiled in a row with Israel over its Ben & Jerry’s business.

Paul Polman mounted a defence of the need to “fight for what is right” in remarks to Sky News after the ice cream brand said it would stop selling its products in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Ben & Jerry’s is owned by consumer goods giant Unilever – whose array of brands ranges from Marmite spread to Dove soap – but has an independent board to take such decisions.

Alan Jope, Unilever chief executive
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Current boss Alan Jope has spoken to Israel’s prime minister about the matter

Its announcement is one of the strongest steps taken by a well-known company over Israel’s settlements, which are widely seen as illegal by the international community.

The move drew condemnation from the Israeli government, whose new prime minister Naftali Bennett said this week that Israel would “use the tools at its disposal – including legal – on this issue” and that those taking such action “need to know that there will be a price to pay”.

Mr Polman, speaking to Sky’s Ian King Live, said it would be inappropriate to say how he would have handled the issue had he still been in charge of Unilever.

But he added: “What is very important is if we want humanity to function for the long term we need to be sure that we fight for the basic values, the basic values of dignity, respect, equity, compassion.

“If we see these values being violated anywhere in the world I think we have an obligation to speak up.

“What we’ve seen in the US in the last few years – too few people, also from the business side, spoke up against things that then bit by bit moved the boundaries and put us in a very difficult situation.

Naftali Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years
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Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said there would be a “price to pay”

“So, fight for what is right and one of the few things we should fight for always is, these basic human rights.”

Mr Polman was speaking a day after current Unilever boss Alan Jope, in a conference call to discuss latest results, said the company remains “fully committed” to doing business in Israel but gave no indication that Unilever would press Ben & Jerry’s to reverse the decision.

Mr Jope, who has spoken to Mr Bennett on the phone to discuss the matter, said that it was a “complex and sensitive matter”.

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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine withdraws to avoid facing Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul | World News

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An Algerian judo competitor has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics after learning he could have faced an Israeli opponent.

Fethi Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible to compete against Tohar Butbul.

He told Algerian TV he would not “get his hands dirty” and his “decision was final”.

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics, and the news came as a shock, a thunder”, he added.

Tohar Butbul of Israel
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Tohar Butbul of Israel

The 30-year-old was drawn against Sudan’s Mohamed Asdalrasool on Monday for his first match in the men’s 73kg class. If he had won that match, he would have faced Butbul, who has a first-round bye, in the next round.

Nourine also withdrew from the world championships in 2019 for the same reason.

At the time, his coach Amar Ben Yaklif was quoted in Algerian media saying: “We were unlucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”

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Tensions between Israel and Palestinians flared in Jerusalem earlier this year causing the worst violence in the region since 2014.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Judo - Training Sessions - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - July 22, 2021. Technicians work on the mat in Nippon Budokan Arena, during training sessions. REUTERS/Sergio Perez
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Judo training sessions take place at the Tokyo Games

The conflict between the two sides has been going on for decades and has seen athletes from Iran and Egypt also previously refuse to compete against Israeli opponents.

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The opening ceremony for this year’s Olympic games took place on Friday, with fans not allowed in the national stadium for the event due to COVID-19 concerns.

Instead, around 1,000 dignitaries and members of the media were allowed the witness the spectacular event.

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