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HeadlinesDecember 15, 2023

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Death Toll from Israeli Strikes on Gaza and West Bank Tops 19,000

Dec 15, 2023

In the Gaza Strip, at least 33 people were killed when Israel’s military struck a U.N. school in Khan Younis being used as a “shelter of last resort” for Palestinians expelled from their homes. Israeli raids also killed and wounded Palestinians at hospitals in Deir el-Balah, Khan Younis and in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering. Abu Mohamad Klab was one of those gathered at the morgue in Rafah’s Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital Thursday. They had come to collect the bodies of loved ones killed by Israeli strikes.

Abu Mohamad Klab: “They are looking at the images, but no one is saying anything. The dead are all children, women and old people. They are not from the resistance. They are all civilians. You know the numbers of civilians, so why are you still silent? How long will you stay silent? Enough! Enough with this life!”

The death toll from Israel’s assaults on Gaza and the West Bank since October has topped 19,000. More than a third of those killed are children. An estimated 50,000 Palestinians have been injured.

Starving Gazans Intercept Humanitarian Aid Trucks in Search of Food

Dec 15, 2023

On Thursday, Israel once again cut phone and internet service across most of Gaza, further hampering relief efforts. The World Food Programme reports half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people is “starving,” while nine out of 10 people are not eating enough and don’t know where their next meal will come from. On Thursday, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian refugees, said it has become almost impossible to distribute the small amount of aid Israel is allowing into Gaza.

Philippe Lazzarini: “People are stopping aid trucks, taking the food and eating it right away. And this is how desperate and hungry they are. And I witnessed this firsthand.”

Israeli Troops Kill Child, Block Ambulances and Tear-Gas Hospital in Occupied West Bank

Dec 15, 2023

In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy inside the Khalil Suleiman Hospital. Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, also witnessed Israeli soldiers blocking medical workers in ambulances carrying discharged patients home. Drivers were forced to get out of their vehicles, strip down and kneel in the streets. MSF says it’s part of a pattern targeting healthcare workers in the West Bank since October 7, which also has included shooting live fire and tear gas at hospitals, blocking emergency vehicles, and humiliating and harassing medical staff.

Outside the hospital compound, Israeli soldiers desecrated a mosque in Jenin and read out Jewish prayers in the style of an Islamic call to prayer. This came as part of a three-day Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp which killed at least 12 Palestinians. Israeli forces arrested over 100 others.

Israel’s Military Chief Says Gaza Assault Will Last “More Than Several Months”

Dec 15, 2023

President Joe Biden said Thursday Israel’s military should be “more careful” to save Palestinian civilian lives. His comments came as U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet in Tel Aviv. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Sullivan Israel’s campaign in Gaza would continue well into 2024.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: “It will take and require a long period of time. It will last more than several months. But we will win, and we will destroy them.”

According to the White House, Sullivan told Israeli leaders the U.S. expects Israel’s military to soon switch to “lower-intensity operations.” The White House did not give a timeline for the change, but The New York Times cited four unnamed U.S. officials who said Biden wants to grant Israel three weeks to switch to “more precise tactics.”

U.N. Secretary-General Decries “Unprecedented and Unbearable” Israeli Assault on Gaza

Dec 15, 2023

Al Jazeera has obtained an advance copy of a United Nations report detailing the devastating impact of Israel’s assault on Gaza. In it, Secretary-General António Guterres condemns Israeli airstrikes on protected persons, including journalists, health workers and U.N. personnel, and pleads with the Security Council to approve a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Guterres writes, “The magnitude of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas and the scope of death and destruction in Gaza has been unprecedented and unbearable to witness.”

Jewish Protesters and Allies Organize Coordinated Actions Across U.S. for Final Night of Hanukkah

Dec 15, 2023

Jewish-led protests on Thursday shut down bridges and highways across eight U.S. cities demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. The peaceful actions in Seattle, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Portland, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Minneapolis and Atlanta came on the eighth and final day of Hanukkah. In Portland, protesters blocked the Burnside Bridge as they held a homemade nine-foot menorah and sang Hanukkah songs and prayers.

Zia Laboff: “As Jews, we come from long legacies of resistance and resilience. Rededication is a theme of Hanukkah. So on this last night, we rededicate our lineage of resilience toward the struggle against genocide, against apartheid, against occupation.”

“Peace Is the Only Path Forward”: Labor Leaders Join Progressive Dems in Call for Gaza Ceasefire

Dec 15, 2023

On Capitol Hill, labor leaders joined progressive congressmembers at a rally Thursday demanding President Biden support an immediate ceasefire and allow urgent humanitarian aid, food and water into Gaza. United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain spoke alongside Congressmembers Cori Bush and Rashida Tlaib.

Shawn Fain: “The world has seen enough slaughter and devastation. Peace is the only path forward. While we call for a ceasefire, we also condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, all of which are growing in our nation at this moment and must be stopped.”

Leaders of the Postal Workers Union and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America are also calling for a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, Biden administration staffers and other U.S. government employees are continuing to demand a permanent ceasefire. Dozens gathered for a vigil outside the White House Wednesday. Staffers concealed their identities with sunglasses and face masks as they read the names of some of the thousands of Palestinians killed in Gaza.

House Passes $886B NDAA, Including Extension of Warrantless Surveillance Program

Dec 15, 2023

The House of Representatives voted 310 to 118 to pass a record $886 billion military bill on Thursday, one day after it won Senate approval. Its passage came despite concerns over its extension of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. The Congressional Progressive Caucus encouraged its members to oppose the measure, though in the end just 45 Democrats voted against the largest-ever National Defense Authorization Act. The ACLU said, “It’s incredibly disheartening that Congress decided to extend an easily-abused law with zero of the reforms needed to protect all of our privacy.” The bill also includes more military funding for Ukraine, a 5.2% raise for troops, and a measure preventing the president from withdrawing from NATO without congressional approval.

Record 50 Million People in Western and Central Africa Expected to Experience Hunger in 2024

Dec 15, 2023

The U.N.'s World Food Programme reports nearly 50 million people across western and central Africa are expected to go hungry next year, warning that international funding for humanitarian aid is failing to keep pace with record levels of acute hunger. An analysis published by the WFP this week found more than two-thirds of households in the region cannot afford healthy diets, due to a combination of conflict, climate change and soaring food prices. Ollo Sib is the World Food Programme's head of research for western and central Africa.

Ollo Sib: “Nearly 80% of the people currently facing food insecurity are located in conflict zones. We also witness the impacts of climate change. For instance, this year there have been prolonged periods of halted rainfall in certain areas, resulting in significant crop losses for local farmers.”

U.N. Warns Sudanese Conflict Pushing Civilians to Famine-Like Conditions

Dec 15, 2023

The U.N. is warning hunger in Sudan’s conflict zones is headed toward famine-like conditions, as some Khartoum residents have been surviving on a single small daily meal. Some 30 million people, roughly two-thirds of the population, are in need of assistance in Sudan, according to the U.N. That’s double the number before fighting broke out in April between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces. The violence and economic woes have devastated Sudan’s agricultural sector, which has also been hit by below-average rains.

Meanwhile, residents of the city of Omdurman, which lies on the west bank of the Nile River, accuse Sudanese soldiers of looting and shooting civilians in the Ombada district, the only area of the city still controlled by government forces. The RSF has also been accused of looting in areas under its control.

Senegal Court Clears Path for Jailed Opposition Leader Ousmane Sonko to Challenge President Sall

Dec 15, 2023

A court in Senegal has ordered jailed opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to be reinstated on the electoral roll, paving the way for him to stand in next year’s presidential election. Sonko, who is expected to be a key challenger of President Macky Sall, was sentenced in June to a two-year prison term over an alleged sexual assault — charges he has accused the government of manufacturing to derail his candidacy. In late July, Senegalese officials dissolved Sonko’s Patriots of Senegal party — the first time a political party has been banned in the West African nation since its independence from France in 1960.

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EU to Open Membership Talks with Ukraine as Hungary’s Orbán Blocks $55B Aid Package

Dec 15, 2023

The European Union has agreed to open membership talks with Ukraine and Moldova. Leaders of 26 EU member states unanimously approved the accession talks Thursday after Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orbán left the room just before votes were cast. Orbán, who is widely viewed as an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had threatened to veto Ukraine’s bid to join the EU. He appeared to back down after European leaders released more than $10 billion worth of aid to Hungary it had withheld after determining Orbán’s nationalist government was failing to uphold the rule of law. Meanwhile, Hungary’s government blocked a European Union financial aid package for Ukraine worth $55 billion. Talks on that package will resume in the new year.

Brazil’s Congress Overrides Lula to Reimpose Date Restrictions on Indigenous Land Claims

Dec 15, 2023

Brazilian lawmakers have approved a law making it harder for Indigenous communities to make claims over ancestral territory. The law, which overrides a veto by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, says such claims are not valid unless Indigenous groups physically occupied the land when the 1988 Brazilian Constitution was signed. Many Indigenous communities were expelled from their lands over the course of decades, including during the military dictatorship. The measure comes in the wake of a September Supreme Court ruling which rejected the 1988 timeline for Indigenous territorial claims. The new law, backed by powerful agribusiness interests, threatens to open vast portions of Indigenous territory to logging, mining, farming and ranching. Congressmember Célia Xakriabá was among the minority of lawmakers who voted against the legislation.

Célia Xakriabá: “The defeat is not only for us, the Indigenous people. The defeat is for the climate agenda. We, the Indigenous people, have been the number one solution to stop the climate crisis. And today the Congress responded, throwing the solution away.”

Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to now review whether the new law is constitutional.

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