Japan has announced its withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) next year and will resume commercial hunting in its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone from July. It will also cease whaling activities in the Antarctic Ocean, according to an official statement released Wednesday, and hunt species with so-called “healthy” population numbers. The move to resume commercial whaling drew criticism from conservation groups and governments.
President Donald Trump made a surprise Christmas visit to U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday, his first trip to a conflict zone nearly two years into his presidency and days after announcing a pullout of American troops from neighboring Syria. Accompanied by first lady Melania Trump and speaking at the Al Asad Air Base west of Baghdad, Trump defended the withdrawal from Syria and said it was made possible by the defeat of Islamic State militants.
Russia has branded as “provocative” an alleged Israeli air strike on Syria late on Tuesday. Israel has not commented, but after the reported strikes it said it had fired at a Syrian anti-aircraft missile. It did not report any damage or injuries. It says it is acting to thwart advanced weapons transfers from Iran to the Lebanese pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement and the strengthening of Iran’s military presence in Syria.
An overnight earthquake, triggered by Mount Etna’s eruption two days ago, caused injuries and damage in Eastern Sicily early Wednesday morning. The volcano has been spewing ash and lava has flowed down its slopes since it began erupting on Monday. Mount Etna is the most active stratovolcano in the world, according to the United Nations, which has named it a World Heritage Site. Etna has one of the world’s longest documented history of eruptions, stretching back to 1,500 B.C.
A 33-year-old American man has become the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unassisted. Explorer Colin O’Brady finished in 53 days, ahead of British Army Captain Louis Rudd, 49, after an epic race across the ice. Only days earlier they had met for the first time at a hotel bar in Chile and agreed to turn their separate attempts to cross solo and unaided into a formal competition.