- Over 210 people have been killed and more than 1,000 others have been injured since fighting between Hamas and Israel began last Monday,
- Over the weekend, Israel attacked tunnels used by Hamas for transportation and storage, although one of these tunnels eventually collapsed when the housing above it was destroyed, killing at least 40.
- Additionally, Israel is facing widespread backlash for targeting a building in Gaza that allegedly held Hamas military assets but also housed Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press offices.
- The Associated Press denies allowing reporters to work in a building with any military value, and the strikes have caused Reporters Without Borders to demand an investigation into possible war crimes.
Mounting Death Toll
Gaza has entered its second week of bombardment by Israeli airstrikes and ground forces while Israel is facing ongoing rocket attacks from Hamas.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territories are tense at the best of times, but they drastically escalated in recent weeks over how Israel treated worshipers at al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. Adding to fuel to the fire were the forced evictions of the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. These two events led Hamas to issue an ultimatum that Israel ignored, and the group then launched rockets into Israel last Monday.
Since then, at least 1300 Palestinians in Gaza have been injured and over 200 were killed, including more than 50 children. Nearly one-fourth of those deaths happened on Sunday when a tunnel used by Hamas was targeted by Israel and collapsed, destroying the housing above. Hamas’ tunnels extend for hundreds of miles, are well built, and are used as defensive structures. Israel targets them with airstrikes and uses ground forces to collapse them at strategic points.
In a statement, the Israeli military said, “Hamas intentionally locates its terrorist infrastructure under civilian houses, exposing them to danger.” However, after Sunday’s collapse, Israel said it would reexamine how it destroys the tunnels to try and prevent such casualties.
The claim that Hamas hides its military assets among civilian infrastructure isn’t new. The group has long been accused of doing it throughout history, and often it’s true. Yet, at the same time, Israel very much prioritizes targeting Hamas’ offensive capabilities over nearly everything else.
The Israeli Defense Force claims that it informs residents of targeted areas beforehand in order to let them evacuate, but there is an increasing amount of evidence that doesn’t always happen. Additionally, it doesn’t solve the problem that most of these residents are left without a home afterward, lending to Gaza’s reputation as one of the most impoverished areas of the world.
Accusations of Targeting Journalists
Israel’s mission to bomb any and all alleged Hamas facilities hs led it to be accused of possible war crimes. On Saturday, Israel bombed the al-Jalaa tower, a 12-story building that houses Al-Jazeera, the Associated Press, and other media outlets. Israeli officials claimed the building also held Hamas military assets and said they gave advanced warning to allow people to evacuate. While there were no casualties, the attack drew widespread condemnation.
Gary Pruitt, president of the Associated Press, said in a statement, “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today.” He also demanded that Israel provide proof that Hamas was using the building for military assets, adding, “We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building. This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
The incident has also caused Reporters Without Borders to issue a statement calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate, with its Secretary-General saying that “deliberately targeting media outlets constitutes a war crime.”
The attacks and death toll haven’t only been happening in Gaza. To date, nearly 3,000 rockets have been fired at Israel, although the vast majority were destroyed by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. The few that weren’t have led to 10 Israeli deaths.
While all of this is happening, Israel is also experiencing some of its worst internal sectarian violence in years. Throughout the country, Israelis and Palestinians have clashed on the streets, leading to stores being vandalized and many injuries, including what has been described as lynchings.
Calls for Peace
Around the world, leaders have called for the fighting to stop. The United Nations has tried to issue a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire, but the U.S. has blocked such a resolution three times by using its veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council
Looking at the U.S.’ stance further, President Joe Biden made it clear in phone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday that the U.S. supports Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas’ rocket attacks. Abbas pushed back against Biden, asking him to intervene and put an end to “Israeli attack(s) on Palestinian people everywhere.”
In a press release from Sunday, the White House emphasized that it was still committed to a two-state solution.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NBC News) (Washington Post)
Apple and Google Remove Navalny Voting App as Russian Elections Kick-Off
The decisions from Apple and Google, which followed weeks of pressure from the Kremlin, mark a continuation in the war between Western tech companies and authoritarian governments.
Voting App Removed From App Stores
Apple and Google removed a tactical voting app designed by allies of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from their app stores Friday, bowing to pressure from the Kremlin the same day voting began for the country’s parliamentary elections.
The Smart Voting app aimed to direct opposition voters in each of the country’s 225 districts to select whichever candidate was most likely to defeat competitors from President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.
Removal of the app comes as part of the Kremlin’s broader crackdown on the work and allies of Navalny, who was given a prison sentence of two and a half years in February for violating parole for a previous conviction widely believed to be politically motivated.
Russian authorities banned the app in June when the government outlawed Navalny’s movement as an extremist organization.
For weeks, the Russian censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, threatened to fine Apple and Google if they did not remove the app, arguing it was illegal and accusing the two of election interference.
People familiar with the matter told reporters that the tech companies complied with the request after Russian officials threatened to prosecute their employees based in the country.
Response and Backlash
Kremlin authorities welcomed the companies’ decision, which they painted as necessary legal compliance.
“They have met the lawful demands,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday. “This application is prohibited in the territory of our country. Both platforms received relevant notices and it seems they have made the decision consistent with the letter and the spirit of the law.”
Navalny’s allies and digital rights activists condemned Google and Apple for kowtowing to the demands of an authoritarian regime.
“Removing the Navalny app from stores is a shameful act of political censorship,” Ivan Zhdanov, a Navalny aide wrote on Twitter. “Russia’s authoritarian government and propaganda will be thrilled.”
Natalia Krapiva, a digital rights attorney with the Internet freedom group Access Now, told reporters that while it was clear Apple and Google “took this decision under pressure,” the tech companies still “owe the Russian people an explanation.”
Friday’s removals, she argued, have little precedent.
“This is really a new phenomenon to go after the app stores,” Krapiva noted.
Broader Crackdowns on Tech Companies
The move marks a continued escalation in the battle between authoritarian governments and American tech companies fighting to keep their services accessible.
In Russia, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok have faced throttling and fines in recent weeks for failing to remove calls for protests and other posts expressing dissent that the Kremlin claims are illegal.
In countries like India, Myanmar, and Turkey, authorities have increasingly pressured companies to censor political speech. Last year, Turkey passed a law that gives authorities more power to regulate social media companies.
The Indian government is also currently in a standoff with Twitter over accusations the company has failed to comply with new internet regulations that experts say limit online speech and privacy.
Now, experts worry Google and Apple’s decision to remove Navalny’s app could encourage Russia and other authoritarian regimes to pressure tech companies by threatening to prosecute their employees.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Denmark Moves To Bar Life Prisoners From Starting New Romantic Relationships After Peter Madsen Controversy
While behind bars, the convicted murderer pursued relationships with female admirers, including a 17-year-old girl and a 39-year-old Russian artist who he married in 2020.
Denmark’s government proposed a draft law this week aimed at preventing prison inmates serving life sentences from forming new romantic relationships behind bars.
If passed, the proposed bill would specifically limit correspondence and visitation rights during the first 10 years of detention to people the prisoner knew before incarceration. It would also ban prisoners from sharing details about their criminal activities on social media or on podcasts.
Demands for such legislation stemmed from public frustration over Danish inventor Peter Madsen, a 49-year-old who was convicted in 2018 for the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. According to prosecutors, Madsen sexually assaulted Wall while she was on board his submarine for an interview. He then dismembered her body before the submarine sank in what police said might have been an attempt to destroy evidence.
While incarcerated, Madsen reportedly pursued relationships with female admirers, including a 17-year-old girl named Cammilla Kürstein. Kürstein has admitted that she fell in love with Madsen after exchanging letters and talking on the phone with him over the course of two years.
However, she became jealous in 2020 when he ultimately married 39-year-old Jenny Curpen, a Russian artist living in self-imposed exile in Finland. Curpen has said her communication and visits with Madsen also began in 2018.
What Comes Next?
While Madsen has earned particular heat for pursuing new romance behind bars, he is far from the only incarcerated person to do so.
“We have seen distasteful examples in recent years of prisoners who have committed vile crimes contacting young people in order to gain their sympathy and attention,” Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup said when speaking of the bill.
“This must obviously be stopped,” he continued, arguing that jail should not serve as “dating centres or media platforms to brag about crimes.”
Denmark’s right-wing opposition in parliament has already signaled support for the bill, which was sent to the committee stage on Wednesday. If approved, it is expected to go into effect in January of next year.
Still, human rights experts said they expect challenges to the law. For example, Elo Rytter, of the University of Copenhagen, told the BT newspaper that it would “interfere with prisoners’ right to a private life.” She also said outlawing public statements might “raise questions about censorship.”
See what others are saying:(The Guardian)(The Washington Post)(BBC)
World Anti-Doping Agency Will Review Cannabis Ban Following Sha’Carri Richardson’s Suspension
Any changes that stem from the review will not take effect until 2023.
Cannabis Ban for Athletes Under Review
The World Anti-Doping Agency announced Tuesday that it will review whether cannabis should stay on its list of prohibited substances.
The move comes three months after the agency’s policies notably prevented U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson from competing at the Tokyo Olympics.
In July, Richardson was given a 30 days suspension and stripped of her 100-meter win at the U.S. Olympics Trials when THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, was detected in her system. At the time, Richardson admitted that she used marijuana in Oregon, where it is legal, after learning that her biological mother had died.
The runner was ultimately met with an outpouring of support from people who argued that the drug is not a performance enhancer and is legal or decriminalized in multiple U.S. states, as well as in countries around the world.
The anti-doping agency did not specifically mention Richardson in its announcement, but it did say the plan is a response to “requests from a number of stakeholders” in international athletics.
It also said that cannabis will remain banned in 2022, and any changes that stem from the review will not take effect until the following year.