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Europe protests and strikes

French police have clashed with protesters in the capital Paris and the city of Rennes as workers stage a second day of nationwide rallies and strikes against pension reform backed by President Emmanuel Macron. Police tried to disperse the crowds using tear gas and water cannons. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in several cities in protest against the government’s contested reform plan. A police source said they were expecting over one million protesters across the country. The strikes have disrupted transport and schools, among other sectors. This is the second strike in France over the issue in less than two weeks. Workers are against the government’s bill that intends to overhaul the pension system and raise retirement age from 62 to 64. 

UK firefighters have joined a long list of workers to vote for a nationwide strike over a pay dispute with the government. The Fire Brigades Union says it has given the government 10 days to come up with an improved offer after rejecting a  five percent pay rise in November. Any walkout would be the first by firefighters over pay since 2003. Meanwhile, thousands of ambulance workers would stage fresh strikes on February 10 over similar dispute. They would be joining other trade unions that have planned to stage several walkouts in February and March. Britain is facing its biggest wave of industrial actions in decades, affecting sectors ranging from healthcare, railways to energy and academia. The strikers demand better pay in line with double-digit inflation that has squeezed household budgets.

NATO Ukraine division  

Britain says it’s not practical to send fighter jets to Ukraine, joining other NATO countries that are against supplying Kiev with military aircraft. A spokesperson for the British prime minister says fighter jets are extremely sophisticated and take months to learn how to fly, making the aircraft a non-pragmatic option in the conflict. He said, however, that London will continue to discuss the issue with its allies. The US and Germany have already rejected the idea of supplying fighter jets. The French president had previously said that he doesn’t rule out sending military aircraft to Kiev. The Ukrainian president has recently called on his western backers to supply long-range missiles and fighter jets to counter Russia. The west, the US in particular, has supplied arms and munitions worth tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine since the start of the war last year. 

Palestinian prisoners plight  

Palestinian prisoners languishing in an Israeli jail resume their hunger strike for the second day in a row. one hundred and twenty detainees have been refusing food in protest at the inhumane situation of the prison situated in the Negev desert. Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed concern over the treatment of Palestinians in Israeli detention centers. For years, locked up Palestinians have had no choice but to go on hunger strike to raise awareness about the violation of their basic rights in Israeli jails. Most of the Palestinian inmates are held in Israeli prisoners without charge or trial. 

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