From Iran to #Sussexit: 2020's biggest stories explained

image copyrightEPA
image captionExperts fear Australia's bushfires could lead to half a billion animal deaths

Less than two weeks into the new year, you'd be forgiven for already falling behind on the news. The start of 2020 has seen a flurry of significant events around the world.

From a deadly plane crash to the British Royals - here is a catch-up of some of the biggest news stories so far this year.

US and Iran go close to war

What happened?

Tension between the US and Iran reached its most strained point in decades.

Relations have gradually soured under the Trump administration, but reached a new low over recent events in Iraq.

In late December, Washington blamed an Iranian-backed militia for the death of an American contractor and bombed bases associated with the group in response.

The deadly raids sparked a backlash and the US embassy in Baghdad was attacked by protesters.

Then on 3 January Qasem Soleimani - one of Iran's most senior military figures - was killed in a US drone strike.

Why does it matter?

Soleimani was widely viewed as the second most powerful person in Iran. Millions came out to mourn him and leaders vowed "severe revenge" for his death.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSoleimani's death drew crowds to Iranian streets

His assassination sparked fears of escalation or even imminent war between the two nations.

What comes next?

After a period of mourning, Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing the US military on 8 January, but no-one was killed in the strikes.

It is unclear if retaliatory actions will continue between the two but President Donald Trump said Iran "appears to be standing down".

Hours later came news of another major event.

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Iran plane crash

What happened?

Shortly after Iran launched strikes on US targets in Iraq, it emerged a passenger plane had crashed in Tehran.

It soon became clear that all 176 people on board Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 had been killed.

media captionFootage appears to show missile strike on Ukrainian plane in Iran

Iranian officials were quick to blame technical problems, but the timing raised suspicion.

A day later it emerged western intelligence sources had evidence the plane might have been shot down.

Early on Saturday, Iran's military said the plane had been shot down due to human error, saying it had flown close to a sensitive site belonging to the country's Revolutionary Guards.

Why does it matter?

There were dozens of Iranians on the flight but also citizens of six other countries - including 57 Canadians and 11 Ukrainians, as well as people from Sweden, the UK, Afghanistan and Germany.

If a commercial flight is brought down, even "unintentionally" as Iran's military is now saying, it is an extremely serious matter.

media captionWhat do we know about the crash of Ukrainian Flight PS752?

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Harry and Meghan 'step back'

What happened?

The 8th of January had already been highly eventful.

But later in the day, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced their decision to "step back" as senior members of the Royal Family.

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe announcement came after the pair took a six-week Christmas holiday in Canada

Prince Harry and Meghan said they intended to become financially independent and split their time between the UK and North America.

Why does it matter?

The news sent shockwaves through the international media, with headlines like "Megxit" splashed across newspaper front pages.

Buckingham Palace was said to be "disappointed" and "hurt" at the announcement.

Such an action is almost unprecedented in modern royal history, with many comparing the move to Edward VIII's decision to abdicate the throne in 1936.

What comes next?

Much about the practicalities of their plan remains unclear, though the couple have maintained they will continue to "honour" their duty to the Queen.

media captionRoyal correspondent Jonny Dymond: "It is very clear the palace is very upset about what has happened"

People have joked about potential career options for the pair, with Meghan already having an "open invite" to join a US reality show.

A palace spokeswoman said discussions for the plan were at an "early stage" and said there were "complicated issues that will take time to work through".

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Bushfire crisis

media caption"You're an idiot, mate": Australian PM Scott Morrison heckled by bushfire victims

What happened?

Australia is continuing to struggle with massive and destructive bushfires.

Millions of hectares of land have burned, thousands of homes have been destroyed and at least 27 people have died - including volunteer firefighters.

The situation has been fuelled by record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought.

Why does it matter?

Aside from the dangers to property and the public, there is great concern about the ecological impact of the fires.

People are worried in particular about the nation's animals with estimates saying hundreds of millions may have died and many habitats been destroyed.

media captionAustralia fires: The animals struggling in the crisis

Social media has been filled with campaigns to save animals and the fires even took centre stage in speeches at the Golden Globes on 6 January.

The crisis has piled pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has been snubbed by fire victims and forced to apologise for taking a holiday during the crisis.

What comes next?

The scale of the fires has provoked sharp criticism of the government's climate policies from parts of the Australian public, and of Mr Morrison's handling of the crisis.

Tens of thousands demonstrated across major cities on Friday calling for the country to transition away from fossil fuels.

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UK's most prolific rapist revealed

What happened?

Reynhard Sinaga, originally from Indonesia, was publicly identified for the first time on 6 January.

media captionWho is Reynhard Sinaga? The BBC's Judith Moritz reports on the case

He was found guilty of 159 sex offences against 48 men, who he lured to his Manchester flat before drugging and raping them.

The 36-year-old has been jailed for life with a minimum 30-year sentence.

Why does it matter?

Sinaga has been described as the "most prolific rapist in British legal history".

The shocking case has provoked discussion in the media about male rape, including stigma, as well as around the dangers of drink spiking.

media captionSam retells his ordeal of being raped by two men - not Sinaga - during a night out in Manchester

What comes next?

Sinaga recorded his crimes on his phone and is suspected of raping dozens of more men, who police have been unable to identify.

After his crimes were made public, police said they had a "significant number" of calls from new potential victims.

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Other major stories

These are just a handful of recent events. In other news:

media captionCarlos Ghosn: Did ex-Nissan boss really escape Japan in a box?

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