Fireworks illuminated skies over Paris, Rio and Sydney to celebrate the entry to 2024, while rockets and strikes marked the year's earliest hours in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine.

Much of the world's population -- now more than eight billion -- is hoping to shake off high living costs and global tumult in 2024, which will bring elections concerning half the world's population and the Paris Olympics.

But with the new year barely started there were already ominous signs: at the stroke of midnight in Gaza a barrage of rockets was fired towards Israel in a twisted reflection of the fireworks lighting up night skies elsewhere around the world.

In New York City, thousands of visitors lined up to watch the annual dropping of a giant illuminated ball in Times Square as crooner Paul Anka saw out the final minutes of the year.


Nearby stallholders hawked vuvuzelas and 2024-branded hats as police fanned out across central Manhattan, towing suspicious cars, manning a so-called ring of steel screening would-be revelers, and monitoring pro-Palestinian protesters who have taken to the city's streets several times since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Hours earlier, more than a million partygoers had packed in around the harbor in Sydney, the self-proclaimed "New Year's capital of the world," to watch eight tonnes of fireworks.

Pyrotechnics also illuminated the skies in Auckland, Hong Kong, Manila and Jakarta, while revelers danced in the streets in Greece and bathed in the nude in southern France.

NATO Leaders Vow to Stand by Ukraine as Doubts Hang Over Biden
Other Topics of Interest

NATO Leaders Vow to Stand by Ukraine as Doubts Hang Over Biden

NATO leaders pledged enduring support for Ukraine and alliance unity as they concluded a three-day summit, despite concerns over President Biden's fitness to lead the United States.

On Rio's Copacabana beach, the 12-minute three-dimensional firework show was accompanied by a live orchestra.

"Today we have positive thoughts so that we have a wonderful 2024, in which we make our dreams come true and with health," Francielle Marinho, 39, told AFP as she toasted with friends with her feet in the sand.

In Denmark, popular Queen Margrethe II, Europe's longest-serving monarch, chose her New Year's Eve address to announce her coming abdication.


The 83-year-old monarch will step down in favor of her son, Crown Prince Frederik, after 52 years on the throne.

The last 12 months brought "Barbenheimer" to the box office, a proliferation of human-seeming artificial intelligence tools, and a world-first whole-eye transplant.

India outgrew China as the world's most populous country and then became the first nation to land an unmanned craft on the Moon's south pole.

It was also the hottest year since records began in 1880, with a spate of climate-fueled disasters striking across the world.

Fans bade adieu to "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" Tina Turner, "Friends" actor Matthew Perry, hell-raising Anglo-Irish songsmith Shane MacGowan, and master dystopian novelist Cormac McCarthy.

- Rebuilding -

2023 will be remembered for war in the Middle East, after Hamas's unprecedented October 7 raids on southern Israel and Israel's ferocious reprisals on Gaza.

The United Nations estimates that almost two million Gazans have been displaced since Israel's siege began, or about 85 percent of the peacetime population.

With once-bustling Gaza City neighborhoods reduced to rubble, there were few places left to mark the new year -- and fewer loved ones to celebrate with.


"It was a black year full of tragedies," said 37-year-old Abed Akkawi, who fled the city with his wife and three children to a UN shelter in Rafah, southern Gaza.

"God willing this war will end, the new year will be a better one, and we will be able to return to our homes and rebuild them, or even live in a tent on the rubble," he told AFP.

In Tel Aviv, Israel, 24-year-old Ran Stahl preferred to work his shift at a wine bar during New Year's Eve, saying he didn't have the heart to celebrate.

"The minute I start dancing, the sadness and mourning come back," said Stahl, whose friend died at a trance music festival during Hamas's October 7 attack.

Some in Vladimir Putin's Russia were also weary of conflict, this time in Ukraine.

"In the new year I would like the war to end, a new president, and a return to normal life," said 55-year-old theatre decorator and Moscow resident Zoya Karpova.

But Putin himself remained bullish in his New Year's Eve address, vowing that Russia "will never back down."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's New Year's Eve address was defiant after nearly two years of war.

Ukrainian pilots were mastering the F-16 warplanes supplied by their allies, he said. In 2024, "we will definitely see them in our skies. So that our enemies can certainly see what our real wrath is."


In Rome, Pope Francis prayed for the victims of conflicts around the globe, including the people of Sudan and the "martyred Rohingya" of Myanmar.

"At the end of a year, have the courage to ask how many lives have been torn apart in armed conflicts, how many deaths?" the 87-year-old pontiff said after his Angelus prayer in St Peter's Square.

- To the polls -

Several pivotal elections are scheduled in 2024, with the political fate of more than four billion people to be decided in contests that will shape Russia, Britain, the European Union, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela and a host of other nations.

But one election in particular promises global consequences.

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden, 81, and Republican Donald Trump, 77, appear set for a November rerun of their divisive 2020 presidential contest.

Biden marked the new year in a televised appearance by proclaiming optimism for the US economy -- and his well-known love for chocolate-chip ice cream.

As the incumbent, Biden has at times appeared to show his age and even supporters worry about the toll of another bruising four years in office.

There are at least as many concerns about a Trump return.

He faces prosecution on several counts, and 2024 could determine whether the bombastic self-proclaimed billionaire goes to the Oval Office or jail.

To suggest a correction or clarification, write to us here
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter