Tensions between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are reaching a boiling point following a spate of recent attacks, which have escalated since Israeli forces raided the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank Thursday, killing 10 people, including two children. On Friday, a gunman killed seven people near a Jerusalem synagogue at the start of the Jewish Sabbath. Over the weekend, Israelis living in illegal settlements in the West Bank carried out scores of attacks on Palestinians. At least four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the Jenin attack, bringing the total number of Palestinians killed by Israelis since the start of the year to 35, eight of them children.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he will expedite gun permits for Israeli citizens. This is Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Itamar Ben-Gvir: “I want weapons on the streets. I want Israeli citizens to be able to protect themselves. We saw this in today’s attack near the city of David. If people have weapons, they will protect themselves.”
Meanwhile, another protest brought tens of thousands of Israelis to the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend to call out the mounting violence and attempts by the new far-right coalition government to diminish judicial powers.
Assaf Steinberg: “What we are trying to tell this government is that the need for democracy, the need for peace, the need for prosperity should be the backbone of what we are here for. And that’s what we should strive for, a democratic state that strives for peace.”
This all comes as Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem today during an official visit to the region. He is scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah Tuesday. Blinken already met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo during the first leg of his Middle East trip. Blinken says he stressed human rights during his talks with Egyptian officials. Egypt is a major recipient of U.S. military funding despite its brutal suppression of dissent and the press, including the widespread jailing of political prisoners.
Iran says it foiled an Israeli drone attack on a military facility in the western city of Isfahan. Unnamed U.S. officials confirmed the reports, though the Israeli military did not comment on the attack. It would be the first such strike under the new extreme-right government.
In Pakistan, at least 34 people were killed and 150 others wounded after a suicide bomber attacked a mosque earlier today in the city of Peshawar. Part of the building collapsed as the bomb ripped through the mosque during noon prayers; authorities fear people may still be trapped in the rubble. The mosque is located inside a high-security compound that includes government buildings, the city’s police headquarters and counterterrorism department. This comes after government forces and the Pakistani Taliban ended their ceasefire in November. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the worst since last March, when a suicide bombing at a Shiite Muslim mosque killed at least 58 people. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack.
The Memphis Police Department said Saturday it is disbanding its SCORPION unit in the wake of the brutal police killing of Tyre Nichols. The announcement came one day after the police department released the video of Nichols’s murder, showing five officers relentlessly beating the 29-year-old just 80 feet from his home. The officers, who now face murder charges, pepper-sprayed, tased, kicked and beat Nichols while shouting threats and a series of commands. Nichols died three days later of kidney failure and cardiac arrest. Medics failed to administer assistance to Nichols for at least 15 minutes after they arrived on the scene; two EMTs have been suspended pending an investigation. Nichols’s stepfather has called for the paramedics to face criminal charges, calling them “just as guilty.”
Protesters took to the streets of Memphis and other cities across the country following the video’s release. In Memphis, organizers welcomed the disbanding of the SCORPION unit but said much more is needed. This is Amber Sherman of the Memphis chapter of Black Lives Matter.
Amber Sherman: “The multilevel gang unit, the Organized Crime Unit all work under the same umbrella as the SCORPION unit and need to all be disbanded, as well, because just by ending that unit, that’s a good move, but then you still have these same task forces who are doing that same terrorism, assaulting people, overcriminalizing other poor and Black — the poor and low-income neighborhoods, mostly where Black people live, because we are a majority-Black city.”
Click here to see our interview with Amber Sherman.
Tyre’s murder has prompted fresh demands for Congress to pass police reform legislation. Ben Crump, the lawyer for Nichols’s family, called for passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which remains stalled in the Senate after the House approved it in 2021. The Congressional Black Caucus is pressing to meet with President Biden this week, who also voiced support for enacting the legislation. Many activists continue to call for a greater institutional overhaul, arguing the inherently racist policing system in the U.S. is beyond reform.
Ukraine says Russian strikes on the southern city of Kherson have killed three people and injured six others. Those attacks followed a Russian air raid on an apartment complex in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where at least one person was killed and three others injured.
Separately, Russia said a Ukrainian strike in the Russian-occupied Luhansk region hit a hospital on Saturday, killing at least 14 people and injuring two dozen. Russia’s Foreign Ministry blamed U.S.-made HIMARS rockets for the deaths and accused the United States of direct involvement in the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked allies to send long-range missiles and other high-tech weapons, saying Ukraine’s military needs to counter Russian attacks far from the frontlines.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Russia hopes to drag out the war and exhaust our forces, so we have to make time our weapon. We have to accelerate developments. We have to speed up the supply and launch of new necessary military options for Ukraine.”
In response, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ruled out sending German fighter jets to Ukraine, warning allies against entering a “bidding war” to supply weapons. Scholz’s comments came just days after Germany agreed to supply Ukraine with Leopard 2 battle tanks.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has blamed Syria’s Army for killing 43 people and sickening dozens of others in a chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held city of Douma in 2018. In a new report, OPCW investigators say a Syrian Army helicopter dropped two yellow cylinders containing toxic chlorine gas on two apartment buildings in a civilian-inhabited area of Douma. The U.S. bombed Syria days after the alleged attack.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry said it “totally rejects” the OPCW report, and has accused rescue workers with the “White Helmets” organization of staging the attack at the behest of the United States. In 2019, two former OPCW employees leaked internal documents revealing there were conflicting views within the organization about what actually happened in Douma, leading some observers to conclude that the chemical attack might have been staged by Syrian rebels.
In Tunisia, voters made their preferences known largely through their absence during weekend parliamentary runoff elections. Just 11% of eligible Tunisians cast ballots Sunday, as anger mounts against President Kais Saied, who last year consolidated his power after winning a constitutional referendum boycotted by most opposition parties. Opponents have accused Saied of carrying out a legislative coup. This is Nejib Chebbi, head of Tunisia’s main opposition coalition.
Ahmed Nejib Chebbi: “About 90% of the Tunisian people turned their backs on these elections and once again said that they do not participate in this coup, which does not concern them in anything, and thus expresses disappointment and lack of confidence in the path that was launched with the coup of July 25, 2021.”
In the Maldives, former President Mohamed Nasheed has been defeated in his primary election challenge to incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Elections officials say Solih won with 61% of the vote, though Nasheed has alleged fraud and has so far refused to concede defeat. Mohamed Nasheed is a longtime climate advocate who in 2008 was elected president in the first multiparty election held in the Maldives, a low-lying island nation in the Indian Ocean. After he was overthrown in a 2012 coup d’état, Nasheed survived imprisonment and exile, before his return to the Maldives in 2018, where he now serves as speaker of the Parliament.
Brazil’s government has declared a public health emergency in the Yanomami community as severe malnutrition and illness ravage the nation’s largest Indigenous territory, home to some 30,000 people in the Amazon. The crisis is largely due to the disastrous effects of illegal gold mining, which have displaced people, devastated the land and contaminated rivers with mercury. Current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and other officials have accused former President Jair Bolsonaro of committing “genocide” by propping up miners and neglecting calls to help the Yanomami. This is a Yanomami leader.
Junior Yanomami: “The Yanomami people, for four years, we have only been crying, the community mourning, sick children. And for many times we asked for help, and it didn’t come.”
Back in the U.S., Utah has become the first state in 2023 to ban potentially life-saving gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Republican Governor Spencer Cox signed the bill into law Saturday, as Republican lawmakers in Utah — and other states — push forward more bills targeting transgender rights, including a measure that would bar minors from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates. The ACLU’s Chase Strangio responded, “Claims of protecting our most vulnerable with these laws ring hollow when lawmakers have trans children’s greatest protectors — their parents, providers, and the youth themselves — pleading in front of them not to cut them off from their care.”
In Los Angeles, three people were killed and four others injured in a shooting at a short-term rental home near Beverly Hills early Saturday. It’s the sixth mass shooting in California in less than two weeks. Nationwide, there have been 49 mass shootings since the start of the year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. President Biden is calling for an assault weapons ban.
In Washington, D.C., a federal judge has sentenced the man who pepper-sprayed the late Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick during the January 6 insurrection to 80 months in prison. Sicknick died of a stroke one day after the riot. Julian Khater, who pepper-sprayed three officers that day, had pleaded guilty to the charges. Another man, George Tanios, who traveled to D.C. with Khater and supplied the pepper spray, was sentenced to time served. Some 950 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection.