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HeadlinesDecember 20, 2023

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Openings for New Truce as Deadly Israeli Attacks Continue to Target Civilians in Jabaliya, Rafah

Dec 20, 2023

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is in Egypt to discuss a possible new truce. The Wall Street Journal reports Hamas is also in discussion with Palestinian rivals Fatah about a possible joint scenario for ruling Gaza and the West Bank after the war. On Tuesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said the country is open to a new temporary truce to secure the release of more hostages.

For now, Israel’s bloody assault continues, with a major attack reported just an hour ago on Rafah near the Kuwaiti Hospital. On Tuesday, more strikes in Rafah killed at least 20 people. A Palestinian woman lost her two grandchildren in the attack.

Suzan Zourob: “At 2:30 in the morning, we woke up as the house was falling on our heads. I did not wake up when the young men came to pull us out of the rubble. I have two grandchildren who were martyred. Princess Aisha is 2 weeks old. Her name was not recorded in the texts. She does not have a birth certificate, meaning her identity has been unknown since the day she was born. She does not have it, a birth certificate. And her brother was 2 years old.”

Elsewhere, the Health Ministry says dozens were killed in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Many others remain trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

The Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court to request immediate access for foreign media to enter the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military has restricted much of the territory to foreign outlets and required journalists to embed with its forces and receive Israeli approval on their reporting. The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 68 media workers have been killed since October 7.

U.N. Security Council Again Delays Gaza Resolution Vote as U.S. Stalls over Language

Dec 20, 2023

A U.N. Security Council vote on a Gaza resolution that would push to halt fighting was postponed for a second time and rescheduled for today. The delay comes amid reported disagreements within the Biden administration, which has been blocking or trying to water down any U.N. statements.

Lloyd Austin Announces Coalition to Combat Houthi Red Sea Attacks

Dec 20, 2023

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a 10-nation coalition to protect trading interests in the Red Sea after a series of attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The coalition includes Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the U.K. and the Seychelles. Houthi officials have said their drone and missile attacks would continue as long as Gaza suffers from Israel’s unrelenting assault.

Police Arrest High-Profile Activists as Multifaith Groups from Across the U.S. Protest at Capitol

Dec 20, 2023

In Washington, D.C., dozens of protesters were arrested inside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday in a peaceful action demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. Over 80 organizers, made up of a coalition of Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, labor, racial justice and immigrant rights leaders, gathered in the Capitol Rotunda chanting and holding white banners, including one that read, “The people choose life. Ceasefire now.” Among those arrested at Tuesday’s rally is Palestinian American community organizer Linda Sarsour.

Colorado Supreme Court Bars Trump from Appearing on Presidential Primary Ballot

Dec 20, 2023

In a historic decision, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump does not qualify for the state’s 2024 presidential primary ballot, citing his role in the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. In a 4-3 ruling, the Colorado justices found Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution applies to Trump, reversing a lower court’s decision. Last month, a judge agreed that Trump had “engaged in an insurrection,” but said presidents are not subject to the Constitution’s insurrection clause, which was originally designed to prevent Civil War Confederates from returning to government. Trump has vowed to appeal, as he used the news to launch a fresh fundraising request. The case could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court and set a major precedent for all other states.

In related news, a judge has ordered Pennsylvania Congressmember Scott Perry to turn over some 1,700 cellphone records as part of the federal January 6 probe.

Senate Confirms Final Pentagon Nominees as Tuberville Blockade Ends

Dec 20, 2023

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed nearly a dozen nominations for senior military positions, putting an end to Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of Pentagon promotions. Tuberville had unsuccessfully sought to force a change on the military’s policy of paying for abortion-related travel for employees.

U.N. Says Russian Forces Have Committed War Crimes in Ukraine, Incl. 142 Civilian Executions

Dec 20, 2023

The Senate decided it will not vote on a new funding package for Ukraine until 2024. Congress has stalled on the issue in part over Republican demands that any aid be tied to harsh new immigration restrictions.

New air attacks hit Kyiv and other regions of Ukraine overnight, though no casualties were reported. Meanwhile, the U.N. on Tuesday condemned Russian violations of international law and war crimes in occupied areas of Ukraine, including 142 documented cases of civilian executions. This is U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk.

Volker Türk: “On occupied territory, we have documented widespread torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including sexual violence, as well as large numbers of forced disappearances. In addition, there has been extensive failure by the Russian Federation to take adequate measures to protect civilians and protected civilian objects against the effects of their attacks.”

Sudan’s Paramilitary RSF Seizes 2nd-Largest City Amid Spiraling Humanitarian Crisis

Dec 20, 2023

Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces have seized control of Wad Madani, the nation’s second-largest city, which was once a refuge for hundreds of thousands of people escaping violence in Khartoum. Thousands have fled their homes on buses and on foot, as fighting between the Sudanese army and RSF intensified in Wad Madani. The RSF’s takeover of the city has marked a new turn in Sudan’s eight-month conflict that broke out in April. The U.N. has warned hunger in Sudan’s conflict zones is headed toward famine-like conditions while nearly 7 million people have been internally displaced or forced to flee Sudan.

DRC Voters Face Polling Site Issues as Presidential Election Gets Underway

Dec 20, 2023

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nationwide polls for president and local leaders have opened after a three-hour delay. In eastern DRC, voters and observers complained of poorly organized election sites and missing names from voting rolls.

Sarah Bujirwa L’or: “There were quite a few people who didn’t end up on the lists. We, the observers, can see that the organization was not good in this respect. People are wondering how they are going to vote if they can’t find their way around. Yet they also have the right to do their duty to vote.”

Ongoing violence in the war-torn east has displaced millions and prevented an estimated 1.5 million people from registering to vote. Incumbent President Félix Tshisekedi is seeking a second five-year term and is running in a packed field of nearly 20 hopefuls. Other candidates include Moïse Katumbi, a former governor and mining magnate; former oil executive Martin Fayulu; and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege. Mukwege’s Panzi Hospital has treated tens of thousands of survivors of sexual violence from armed groups.

The DRC is home to massive reserves of natural resources, including cobalt, which is used to make lithium batteries for cellphones and other electronic devices. Lithium is considered essential amid the transition away from fossil fuels. But Congolese people have not benefited from the prized mineral. Insecurity, poverty, corruption, and the management of resources are key issues in the election.

In related news, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to gradually phase out its 14,000 peacekeeping troops in the DRC. Congolese authorities and local communities have called for their withdrawal, saying the international force failed to prevent escalating violence.

Foreign Firms Court Bolivia as It Ramps Up Lithium Exploitation

Dec 20, 2023

Bolivia has signed a multimillion-dollar deal with a Russian firm to build a pilot lithium plant that would produce parts for electric vehicles. This is Bolivian President Luis Arce.

President Luis Arce: “We want our Bolivian lithium company Bolivian Lithium Deposits, YLB, to compete with foreign technology and companies that have come to Bolivia to work with our lithium. We want that competition because we are the world’s top lithium reserve.”

Bolivia has the largest untapped lithium deposits in the world, drawing interest from foreign powers. Earlier this year, Bolivia’s state company, YLB, also signed an agreement with China. But many have opposed lithium exploitation over fears it could lead to the displacement and impoverishment of Indigenous communities in the Andes. Environmentalists have also warned lithium extraction places massive demands on freshwater supplies.

New York Establishes Commission to Explore Reparations for Black Residents

Dec 20, 2023

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill creating a commission to consider reparations for Black New Yorkers who have endured the ongoing legacy of slavery and racism. It’s the third state to launch such a taskforce, after California and Illinois. Among other things, the commission will investigate housing discrimination, policing and incarceration, and income inequality. A recent report by the New York City Comptroller’s Office found white households in the state have a median net worth almost 15 times higher than Black households. The commission could recommend monetary or other forms of compensation, though the state would not be compelled to abide by these. Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at Tuesday’s signing ceremony.

Rev. Al Sharpton: “I do not know where the commission will go, but I know that history is made, because there is a commission and there is a recognition. And sometimes even if you can’t take away the pain and the scar, we gain a lot by being recognized that is due to be repaired.”

Masha Gessen Receives Hannah Arendt Prize in Pared-Down Ceremony

Dec 20, 2023

In Germany, acclaimed Russian American writer Masha Gessen received the prestigious Hannah Arendt Prize on Saturday in a scaled-down ceremony. The event was supposed to take place last week in Bremen’s City Hall, but award sponsors and the city of Bremen withdrew after Gessen compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto in a recent New Yorker article. Gessen, who is Jewish, spoke earlier this week at another event hosted by the prize organizers.

Masha Gessen: “The biggest difference between Gaza and the Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe is that Gazans, many Gazans, most Gazans, are still alive, and the world still has an opportunity to do something about it.”

Click here to see our recent interview with Masha Gessen in Bremen.

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