Hamas accepts ceasefire; Israel strikes Rafah

Hamas has announced that its leaders have told Egyptian and Qatari mediators that they accepted the most recent Gaza ceasefire proposal. Israel’s war cabinet responded by voting to continue the planned military operation in Rafah, and the IDF announced air-strikes on targets in the southern Gaza city. The strikes came as Palestinians in Gaza were celebrating Hamas’ announcement, and Israeli protestors joined families of the hostages to demand that Israel accept the deal. (Image: Workers set up tents donated by the Qatari Red Crescent in al-Mawasi, an Israeli-designated “safe zone” in Gaza. Credit: Mohamed Soulaimane/TNH)

Greater Middle East

EU ‘blank check’ for Egypt dictatorship

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are preparing to sue the European Commission over the 7.4-billion-euro aid package extended to Egypt in March, aimed at stopping migration. The deal—similar to others the EU has pursued in recent years—has been criticized for ignoring human rights concerns. “Throwing money at dictators is not migration policy,” one MEP said. Meanwhile, the EU has announced a 1-billion-euro aid package for Lebanon, also aimed at stemming migration. (Map: PCL)

Planet Watch

How to break cycle of rising global hunger?

More countries facing crises; more people going hungry. Some 281 million people were locked in high levels of acute hunger last year, according to the latest Global Report on Food Crises—a benchmark analysis of food insecurity by a network that includes UN agencies, donors, and famine analysts. The figure is 24 million higher than the previous year—a rise driven in part by Sudan’s civil war and Israel’s destruction of Gaza. Global hunger numbers have spiked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to rise. A mix of conflict, extreme weather, El Niño, inflation, and volatile food prices suggest there won’t be a reprieve by the time 2024’s numbers are tallied. (Photo: Maan News Agency)


Podcast: the peace protests in Israel

Amid the police crackdown on Gaza protests coast-to-coast—drawing concern from the UN human rights office—hostage advocacy organizations, rights groups and co-existence activists have been protesting in Israel, and similarly meeting with repression. They are, at a minimum, demanding a deal with Hamas for release of the hostages and putting off the promised invasion of Rafah. While far-right Israelis have been blocking the roads to the Gaza crossings to prevent aid trucks from entering, the group Rabbis for Ceasefire held a march to the border of the Strip to deliver food in defiance of the siege, and were met with arrests. Such voices begin to de-escalate the dangerous polarization which has also infected the scene on American campuses. Bill Weinberg discusses in Episode 224 of the CounterVortex podcast. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)


Nigeria: displaced sent back into conflict zones

The recent closure of all eight official displacement camps in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in conflict-torn northeast Nigeria, has coincided with a fresh wave of violence and displacement. More than 150,000 people who were relocated from their camps may now be forced to flee again due to the insecurity and lack of protection at their new resettlement sites. Borno has witnessed a surge in violence this year, with 176 reported attacks on civilians, particularly targeting IDPs and returnees, and 195 incidents of abduction, kidnapping, and forced disappearance just between January and March. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)


Syrian refugees face illegal ‘push-backs’

The Cyprus spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency, Emilia Strovolidou, has urged the country to stop forcibly pushing away Syrian refugee boats arriving from Lebanon, a practice that violates international human rights law and the principle of non-refoulement. Strovolidou accused Cyprus authorities of using “violent” tactics to “destabilize” boats in order to thwart refugees from arriving on the island’s shores. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says Lebanese authorities have “arbitrarily detained, tortured, and forcibly returned Syrians to Syria in recent months.” (Photo: Syrian refugees arriving in Lesvos, Greece. Greek authorities have also been accused of push-backs. Via Wikimedia Commons)


Gaza aid groups brace for Israeli invasion of Rafah

As Israel continues to threaten a full-scale assault on Rafah in southern Gaza, aid organizations are scrambling to try to prepare to respond to the catastrophic humanitarian impact a ground invasion is expected to have. Facing a severe scarcity of supplies and resources, people involved in the effort say whatever preparations they are able to make will undoubtedly fall far short of the needs. (Photo: Mohamed Solaimane/TNH)

Burkina Faso

Hundreds of civilians massacred in Burkina Faso

Security forces in junta-led Burkina Faso summarily executed more than 223 civilians, including at least 56 children, in the northern villages of Nondin and Soro in February, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The report says the massacres are among the worst atrocities carried out during the country’s nearly 10-year internal conflict, and may amount to crimes against humanity. Survivors said they were accused by the military of being complicit with jihadists—which is a common and unfair charge that soldiers make against civilians living in areas where militants operate. Abuses like this have increased significantly under the current junta. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Planet Watch
air pollution

Lower emissions from US power grid (at least)

The US Department of Energy released its preliminary estimate for the nation’s carbon emissions in the previous year. While falling far short of the kind of drop needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals, a dip in emissions was recorded—almost entirely due to changes in the electric power sector. US carbon emissions have been trending downward since 2007, when they peaked at about six gigatonnes. The COVID-19 pandemic produced a dramatic drop in emissions in 2020, bringing the yearly total to below five gigatonnes for the first time since before 1990, when DoE monitoring began. Carbon releases rose after the return to “normalcy“; 2023 marked the first post-pandemic decline. The drop is largely due to the phase-out of coal-burning power plants. However, electricity generation remains the second source of emissions, behind transportation. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

South Asia

India: security forces launch new anti-Naxal ops

Indian security forces killed at least 29 Naxal insurgents in Kanker Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state this month. The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and District Reserve Guard (DRG) carried out the joint operation in what the BSF called “a major crackdown against the Maoist menace.” Among those reported killed was a top Naxal commander, Shankar Rao. A large cache of weapons was also reported to have been seized in the operation. Chhattisgarh is one of several states, mostly in east-central India, officially designated as affected by Left-Wing Extremism (LWE). (Map: Wikipedia)

Planet Watch

Russia vetoes UN resolution to bar nuclear arms in space

Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution sponsored by the US and Japan which called on all nations to contribute to the peaceful use of outer space and to prevent a dangerous arms race in space-based weapons. The resolution reaffirmed the principles set out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which compels states to “not place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.” The resolution was announced after the US accused Russia of developing an anti-satellite nuclear weapon to put in space. President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s ministry of defense have denied the accusations. Russia’s UN ambassador called the resolution a “cynical ploy.” (Photo via University of Portsmouth)

Warsaw Ghetto

Podcast: from Warsaw Ghetto to Gaza Strip

Masha Gessen in a New Yorker essay draws a parallel between the Warsaw Ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland and the Gaza Strip, where Israel’s long siege is now escalating to genocide. Some Israeli military tactics in Gaza mirror those of the Nazis in Warsaw. Yet, while some voices on the ostensible “left” go so far as to glorify Hamas, Israel’s online partisans are drawing a parallel that reverses the roles, depicting Hamas as the new Nazis. In a case of paradoxical fascistic pseudo-anti-fascism, the genocidal rhetoric of figures such as hardline Israeli cabinet member Bezalel Smotrich dehumanizes the victims by portraying all Gazans as Nazis. In Episode 223 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg turns to the words of Leon Trotsky and Albert Camus to make sense of the seeming contradiction. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Stroop Report via Wikipedia)