Israel in a COVID-19 “arms race”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden renews ties to Palestinians
ISRAEL closed its airports for at least a week and will close its land borders tomorrow (including the much-traveled Allenby Bridge linking it to Jordan) to prevent new coronavirus variants from entering the country. Israel leads the world in COVID-19 vaccinations with 82 percent of its population over 60 vaccinated, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Davos World Economic Forum today the country is “in an arms race between vaccination and mutation.”
U.S. President Joe Biden will renew ties with Palestinians, including opening diplomatic outposts in East Jerusalem and the West Bank closed under the Trump administration. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has called for elections later this year in the West Bank and Gaza—something regarded in the region as an empty gesture to gain Washington’s favor.
IRAQ: Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Baghdad last week—the first such attack in more than two years—that killed at least 32 people and wounded 75 others.
Next week, Iraqis will bury 104 Yazidi victims of ISIS genocide from Kocho in Sinjar, the hometown of leading Yazidi activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad.
SYRIA: Heavy rains and flooding have forced 20,000 internally displaced people from their tent camps in Idlib. The UN reports that barely 1.6 percent of nearly 1.5 million refugees prioritized for resettlement last year were allowed to—the lowest number in two decades.
ETHIOPIA: With access to the Tigray region blocked, it’s been difficult to confirm an attack last month in Aksum that reportedly killed 750 church members defending Maryam Tsiyon Church (St. Mary of Zion), which many Ethiopian Christians believe houses the Ark of the Covenant. One expert said Ethiopian forces want to wipe out the Tigrayan culture, whose people are majority Christian but a minority ethnic group.
CANADA: President Joe Biden entered office pledging to restart important international alliances, but one of his first moves—canceling the Keystone XL pipeline project—is causing a world of hurt for one of the top three U.S. trading partners. North American labor unions and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are fuming.
NORTH KOREA: If the Biden administration takes a new tack on North Korea, its residents are unlikely to know it, say mission groups working there.
CHINA: Some on the left and right are deriding the outgoing Trump administration’s labeling as genocide Beijing’s campaign against ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province. “There has been no mass murders of Muslims in China. The reeducation camps may be evil, but that is not genocide,” said one reader following last week’s Globe Trot. The international convention on genocide is clear: Besides actual killing, genocide applies to:Inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transferring children.
Leaked documents make clear China’s plans for forced detention of Uighurs, forced sterilization and abortions, and forced labor (that involves children), which have led to U.S. sanctions on Xinjiang cotton. Even for Han Chinese (non-Uighurs) living in Xinjiang, “The mentality of maintaining social order, of living in a police state, has become normalized.”
IRAN: On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, one forgotten chapter is how Jews escaping Nazi Germany were welcomed in the east, including in Tehran.
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