- 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)
Flight Deporting Refugees From U.K. to Rwanda Canceled at Last Hour
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said the U.K.’s asylum policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.
Saved By The Bell
The inaugural flight in the U.K. government’s plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda was canceled about an hour and a half before it was supposed to take off Tuesday evening.
A last-minute legal intervention by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) halted the flight. Tuesday’s flight originally included 37 people, but after a string of legal challenges that number dwindled to just seven.
In its ruling for one of the seven passengers, a 54-year-old Iraqi man, the court said he cannot be deported until three weeks after the delivery of the final domestic decision in his ongoing judicial review proceedings.
Another asylum seeker, a 26-year-old Albanian man, told The Guardian he was in a “very bad mental state” and did not want to go to Rwanda, a country he knows nothing about.
“I was exploited by traffickers in Albania for six months,” he said. “They trafficked me to France. I did not know which country I was being taken to.”
A final domestic effort to block the flight in the Court of Appeals failed on Monday. The High Court will make a ruling on the asylum policy next month.
Britains Divided by Controversial Policy
U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke to lawmakers after the flight was canceled, defending the asylum policy and saying preparations for the next flight will begin immediately.
“We cannot keep on spending nearly £5 million a day on accommodation including that of hotels,” she said. “We cannot accept this intolerable pressure on public services and local communities.”
“It makes us less safe as a nation because those who come here illegally do not have the regularized checks or even the regularized status, and because evil people-smuggling gangs use the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains to fund other appalling crimes that undermine the security of our country,” she continued.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Filippo Grandi, told CBC the policy sets a “catastrophic” precedent.
“We believe that this is all wrong,” he said. “This is all wrong. I mean, saving people from dangerous journeys is great, is absolutely great. But is that the right way to do it? Is that the right, is that the real motivation for this deal to happen? I don’t think so. I think it’s… I don’t know what it is.”
An Iranian asylum seeker in a British detention center who was told to prepare for deportation before being granted a late reprieve was asked by ABC whether he ever thought the U.K. would send him to Africa.
“I thought in the U.K. there were human rights,” he said. “But so far I haven’t seen any evidence.”
The Conservative government’s plan was announced in April, when it said it would resettle some asylum seekers 4,000 miles away in Rwanda, where they can seek permanent refugee status, apply to settle there on other grounds, or seek asylum in a safe third country.
The scheme was meant to deter migrants from illegally smuggling themselves into the country by boat or truck.
Migrants have long made the dangerous journey from Northern France across the English Channel, with over 28,000 entering the U.K. in boats last year, up from around 8,500 the year prior. Dozens of people have died making the trek, including 27 who drowned last November when a single boat capsized.
See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Guardian) (CNN)
Ryanair Draws Outrage, Accusations of Racism After Making South Africans Take Test in Afrikaans
Afrikaans, which is only spoken as a first language by around 13% of South Africa, has not been the country’s national language since apartheid came to an end in 1994.
Airline Won’t Explain Discrimination
Ryanair, Europe’s largest airline, has received widespread criticism and accusations of racism after it began requiring South African nationals to complete a test in Afrikaans to prove their passport isn’t fraudulent.
The airline told BBC the new policy was implemented because of “substantially increased cases of fraudulent South African passports being used to enter the U.K.”
Among other questions, the test asks passengers to name South Africa’s president, its capital city, and one national public holiday.
Ryanair has not said why it chose Afrikaans, the Dutch colonial language that many associate with white minority rule, for the test.
There are 11 official languages in South Africa, and Afrikaans ranks third for usage below Zulu and IsiXhosa. Only around 13% of South Africans speak Afrikaans as their first language.
“They’re using this in a manner that is utterly absurd,” Conrad Steenkamp, CEO of the Afrikaans Language Council, told reporters. “Afrikaans, you have roughly 20% of the population of South Africa understand Afrikaans. But the rest don’t, so you’re sitting with roughly 50 million people who do not understand Afrikaans.”
“Ryanair should be careful,” he continued. “Language is a sensitive issue. They may well end up in front of the Human Rights Commission with this.”
Ryanair’s policy only applies to South African passengers flying to the United Kingdom from within Europe, since it does not fly out of South Africa.
The British government has said in a statement that it does not require the test.
Anyone who cannot complete the test will be blocked from traveling and given a refund.
Memories of Apartheid Resurface
“The question requiring a person to name a public holiday is particularly on the nose given that SA has a whole public holiday NEXT WEEK commemorating an historic protest that started in response to language-based discrimination,” one person tweeted.
South African citizen Dinesh Joseph told the BBC that he was “seething” with anger when asked to take the test.
“It was the language of apartheid,” he said, adding that it was a trigger for him.
Officials in the country were also surprised by Ryanair’s decision.
“We are taken aback by the decision of this airline because the Department regularly communicates with all airlines to update them on how to validate South African passports, including the look and feel,” South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.
Any airline found to have flown a passenger with a fake passport to the U.K. faces a fine of £2,000 from authorities there. Ryanair has also not said whether it requires similar tests for any other nationalities.
Many people expressed outrage at Ryanair’s policy and some told stories of being declined service because they did not pass the test.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Al Jazeera)
Leaked Documents and Photos Give Unprecedented Glimpse Inside Xinjiang’s Detention Camps
The so-called vocational schools, which China claims Uyghurs enter willingly as students, oversee their detainees with watchtowers armed with machine guns and sniper rifles, as well as guards instructed to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape.
Detained for Growing a Beard
The BBC and a consortium of investigative journalists have authenticated and published a massive trove of leaked documents and photographs exposing the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims in unprecedented detail.
According to the outlet, an anonymous source hacked several police computer servers in the northwestern Xinjiang province, then sent what has been dubbed the Xinjiang police files to the scholar Dr. Adrian Zenz, who gave them to reporters.
Among the files are more than 5,000 police photographs of Uyghurs taken between January and July 2018, with accompanying data indicating at least 2,884 of them were detained.
Some of the photos show guards standing nearby with batons.
The youngest Uyghur photographed was 15 at the time of their detention, and the oldest was 73.
One document is a list titled “Relatives of the Detained,” which contains thousands of people placed under suspicion for guilt by association with certain family members. It includes a woman whose son authorities claimed had “strong religious leanings” because he didn’t smoke or drink alcohol. He was jailed for ten years on terrorism charges.
The files also include 452 spreadsheets with information on more than a quarter of a million Uyghurs, some of whom were detained retroactively for offenses committed years or even decades ago.
One man was jailed for ten years in 2017 because he “studied Islamic scripture with his grandmother” for a few days in 2010.
Authorities targeted hundreds more for their mobile phone use, like listening to “illegal lectures” or downloading encrypted apps. Others were punished for not using their phones enough, with “phone has run out of credit” listed as evidence they were trying to evade digital surveillance.
One man’s offense was “growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism.”
The Most Militarized Schools in the World
The files include documents outlining conditions inside Xinjiang’s detention camps, or so-called “Vocational Skills Education and Training Centers.”
Armed guards occupy every part of the facilities, with machine guns and sniper rifles stationed on watchtowers. Police protocols instruct guards to shoot to kill any so-called “students” trying to escape if they fail to stop after a warning shot.
Any apprehended escapees are to be taken away for interrogation while camp management focuses on “stabilizing other students’ thoughts and emotions.”
The BBC used the documents to reconstruct one of the camps, which data shows holds over 3,700 detainees guarded by 366 police officers who oversee them during lessons.
If a “student” must be transferred to another facility, the protocols say, police should blindfold them, handcuff them and shackle their feet.
Dr. Zenz published a peer-reviewed paper on the Xinjiang police files, in which he found that more than 12% of Uyghur adults were detained over 2017 and 2018.
“Scholars have argued that political paranoia is a common feature of atrocity crimes,” he wrote. “Here, it is suggested that the pre-emptive internment of large numbers of ordinary citizens can be explained as a devolution into political paranoia that promotes exaggerated threat perceptions.”