Hostage rescue for Israelis; ‘massacre’ for Palestinians

A joint operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Shin Bet, and Israeli police in the Nuseirat refugee camp of central Gaza rescued four hostages—and killed over 200 Palestinians amid pitched gun-battles in a heavy populated area. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “saluted” those involved in the operation, saying: “We will not relent until we complete the mission and return all our hostages home.” The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, described the operation as a “gruesome massacre.” Abbas has instructed Palestine’s envoy to the United Nations to request an emergency session of the Security Council over the matter. (Photo: WAFA via Jurist)

North Africa
Khalifa Haftar

War crimes suits against Libya’s Haftar dismissed

A US judge dismissed a group of civil lawsuits accusing Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar of war crimes. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case concerning crimes committed in Libya—even though Haftar has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. In the suits, first filed in 2019 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, the plaintiffs charged that family members were killed in bombardments conducted by Haftar’s forces on civilian areas of Tripoli that year. Plaintiffs noted that Haftar’s extensive properties in Virginia could have been used to compensate the survivors. The head of the Libyan-American Alliance, Issam Omeish, expressed his regret over the court’s decision, calling it a setback in the groups’ work seeking justice and accountability for rights abuses in Libya’s civil war. (Photo: Haftar with US embassy ChargĂ© d’Affaires Leslie Ordeman and USAF Lt. Gen. John Lamontagne, January 2023. Via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch

2023: ‘bonkers year’ for global climate

Records were once again broken last year for greenhouse gas levels, surface temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise, and retreat of glaciers, according to a new global report issued by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO State of the Global Climate 2023 report finds that on an average day in 2023, nearly one third of the ocean surface was gripped by a marine heatwave, harming vital ecosystems and food systems—far beyond the already inflated levels seen in recent years. Antarctic sea ice reached its lowest extent on record—at one million square kilometers below the previous record year of 2022, an area equivalent to the size of France and Germany combined. One leading oceanographer wryly stated: “The scientific term is bonkers year.” (Photo: CounterVortex)

Greater Middle East

Ecological disaster looms after Houthi ship attack

The internationally recognized Yemeni government issued an urgent plea to the international community following a Houthi attack on the Rubymar, a British-owned cargo ship carrying hazardous materials through the Red Sea. The attack has raised fears of an imminent environmental disaster due to the potential leakage of fertilizer and oil from the abandoned and damaged vessel. Yemen has formed an emergency committee tasked with crafting a plan to mitigate the threat. But the Houthis, who control much of Yemen’s territory, say they will only allow salvage or mitigation efforts in exchange for entry of relief aid into the Gaza Strip. US Central Command reports that a a 30-kilometer oil slick is already spreading from the stricken vessel, foreboding a significant ecological crisis in the area. (Map via PCL)


China moves toward recognition of Taliban regime

Chinese President Xi Jinping officially accepted the credentials of the envoy to Beijing from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan—a clear step toward recognition of the regime. A month before that, Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, visited Kabul to meet with Taliban foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi—the highest-level meeting between China and the Taliban regime since its return to power in 2021. China has already struck hydrocarbon deals with the Taliban, and has been eyeing Afghanistan’s lithium, copper and rare-earth metal mines. This is in line with Beijing’s perceived design to establish control over the planet’s rare earth minerals. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)


US sanctions Sudan companies accused of funding war

The US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on a Sudanese financial institution and two private companies accused of funding belligerents in the ongoing civil war in the African country. The sanctions name Alkhaleej Bank and metal ore company Al-Fakher Advanced Works, said to be controlled by the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), as well as development company Zadna International, controlled by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). The Treasury Department accused the companies of fueling the conflict, laundering money, and engaging in “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of Sudan.” (Map: PCL)


Who’s arming who in Sudan?

The United Arab Emirates denied arming the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces fighting Sudan’s army, despite a leaked UN document alleging “credible” evidence. The UN report said arms shipments are unloaded each week from cargo planes at an airport in Chad, and handed to the RSF at the Sudanese border. The UAE has also been accused of funnelling weapons through the Central African Republic, part of a regional supply network that has allowed the RSF to “punch above its weight” in the nine-month conflict. But the Gulf State—with business and political interests across Africa—said it has taken no side in the war. Sudan’s strategic position on the Red Sea has attracted the involvement of several regional powers. Egypt is backing the army, as is, reportedly, Iran. The multiplicity of actors has complicated resolution of a conflict that has displaced 10 million people. (Map: PCL)

arm ukraine

Propaganda game in fight over Ukraine military aid

With Republicans holding up new military aid for Ukraine on Capitol Hill, Russia launched one of the most massive aerial assaults of the war, killing 40 in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Dnipro and Lviv. Ukraine retaliated the next day with a missile strike on the Russian city of Belgorod, killing at least 22. Russia counter-retaliated with a wave of drone strikes, damaging schools, hospitals and homes across Ukraine, killing at least 24. Russia accused Ukraine of using internationally prohibited cluster munitions in the strike on Belgorod, and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Of course, Russia has itself used cluster munitions since the start of the war in February 2022, despite international criticism from bodies including the UN Human Rights Council. (Photo from Little Ukraine, NYC: CounterVortex)

Planet Watch

COP28: landmark deal, or messy compromise?

The COP28 climate summit concluded in the United Arab Emirates with a so-called “UAE Consensus” that resolves to “transition away from fossil fuels”—hailed as an historic first commitment to eliminate the principal cause of climate change. Many climate activists, however, assail the document as vague and non-binding. Another failure pointed to by skeptics is the lack of finance commitments to come out of COP28. The funds made available by rich countries to help developing countries adapt and transition continue to lag far behind what is needed. A New Collective Quantified Goal for Climate Finance is set to be discussed next year at COP29, to be held in Azerbaijan. (Photo: CounterVortex)

North America
Oil Sands

Alberta invokes Sovereignty Act over emission regs

The legislature of the oil-producing Canadian province of Alberta invoked the controversial Alberta Sovereignty Act in response to new federal environmental policies. The provincial legislature passed a resolution resolving to “urge the Government to use all legal means necessary to oppose the implementation and enforcement of the Federal Initiative in Alberta.” The initiative referred to is Canada’s proposed Clean Energy Regulations, which the resolution says would have “an extreme chilling effect on investment” in Alberta’s energy sector. Premier Danielle Smith introduced the Sovereignty Act in November 2022, asserting that Albertans no longer wanted “Ottawa to…interfere in our constitutional areas of jurisdiction,” and proclaiming a right to provincial non-compliance. (Photo of Alberta’s shale oil fields by Kris Krug, via The Tyee)

Planet Watch
northwest syria

COP 28 looks at climate-conflict overlap

For the first time, the annual UN climate summit is focusing on the overlap between conflict and the climate crisis. This convergence is especially clear in rebel-controlled northwest Syria. A years-long drought is compounding the suffering caused by over 12 years of war, and devastating earthquakes that struck the region earlier this year. Water pumping infrastructure has been repeatedly hit by regime and Russian warplanes, leaving farmers without irrigation for parched fields. Since the start of October, the northwest has been experiencing the most intense military escalation by the regime and its Russian patron in nearly three years, with scores killed and over 120,000 displaced by air-strikes. (Photo: Mahmoud Abo Ras/TNH)

Greater Middle East

‘Repressive petro-state’ UAE to host climate summit

Amnesty International joined with over 200 civil society organizations to call upon participating governments of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to address the human rights record and climate policies of the United Arab Emirates. The COP, the annual conference of governments from around the world to discuss climate policy, is to be held in the UAE in December—convened by Sultan al-Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The open letter states: “We support the concerns expressed by climate justice movements that allowing COP28 to be held by the rulers of a repressive petrostate, and overseen by an oil executive, represents a blatant conflict of interest, and threatens the legitimacy of the whole process.” (WildPixar via Jurist)