The U.N.’s head of aid operations said the earthquake rescue phase is “coming to a close” and efforts would turn to providing shelter, food and care to survivors, as the combined death toll in Turkey and Syria tops 36,000, though that number is expected to continue rising. A little over one week after the first 7.8-magnitude quake rocked the two countries, the hope for miraculous rescues is fading, and anger is mounting as the U.N. admitted relief efforts “failed the people in north-west Syria.” On Friday, the Syrian government approved aid deliveries to the rebel-held northwest after major delays to the war-torn region. Over 5 million additional people in Syria may become homeless after the quakes as the region also faces winter blizzards and an ongoing cholera outbreak.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, authorities ordered 113 arrests linked to the construction of collapsed buildings. Some 25,000 buildings collapsed or were badly damaged. Opposition parties have accused the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of not enforcing regulations. Some survivors, meanwhile, say rescue operations never reached them as their loved ones were stuck under the rubble.
Didem Celik: “The situation is beyond terrible here. My mother and sister are still under the rubble, and I cannot reach them in any way. My soul is gone. They’re dying under the rubble. I’m dying here. … I don’t expect anything from the government from this point on. Everyone’s blood is on their hands.”
President Erdogan has admitted to “shortcomings” in the country’s response to the disaster. We’ll have the latest on the earthquake after headlines.
In Israel, protesters are massing outside the Knesset in Jerusalem as the far-right ruling coalition advanced a plan to expand its power and weaken the judiciary. Over the weekend, tens of thousands demonstrated against the government for the fifth straight week, as President Isaac Herzog issued a rare warning.
President Isaac Herzog: “We are long past being in a political argument. Rather, we are on the brink of constitutional and social collapse. … I feel — we all feel — that we are barely a moment away from a collision, and even from a violent collision.”
This comes as Israel legalized nine illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank, turning them into settlements, in a move the Palestinian Authority likened to an “open war.” The Biden administration said it opposed the plan, though it’s not clear if it will take any action against Israel.
Meanwhile, on Friday, a Palestinian driver rammed a car into a crowd outside of Jerusalem, killing two Israeli children and one man. The next day, a Palestinian man was fatally shot by an Israeli settler in the northern West Bank, and Israeli forces killed a Palestinian teenager Sunday during a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin.
The Pentagon says U.S. forces killed 12 al-Shabab fighters in an airstrike in a remote area of Somalia on Friday, claiming no civilians were injured or killed. It was impossible to independently verify the claim. Last year the Biden administration redeployed hundreds of special operations troops to Somalia after then-President Trump withdrew them in 2020.
The Pentagon says U.S. fighter jets shot down three unidentified objects from the skies above Alaska, Canada’s Yukon and Michigan over the weekend. A White House spokesperson said the objects posed a danger to civil aviation and were much smaller than a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon the Air Force shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month. That incident prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a planned trip to Beijing. Over the weekend, the Commerce Department announced it would sanction six Chinese aerospace companies said to support China’s spy balloon program.
In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. illegally flew high-altitude balloons into Chinese airspace more than 10 times over the past year as part of a much broader spy program. Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “For the longest time, the U.S. has abused its own technological advantages to carry out large-scale and indiscriminate wiretapping and theft of secrets from all over the world, including from its allies.”
Meanwhile, when asked whether extraterrestrial aliens could be the source of the unidentified objects, the commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command said, “I don’t rule out anything.”
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with President Biden at the White House Friday, where Biden condemned violent extremism following last month’s attack on government buildings in Brasília, one week after Lula’s inauguration. The assault by supporters of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro immediately drew comparisons with the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection just two years earlier.
President Joe Biden: “Brazil, the United States stand together. We reject political violence, and we put great value in our democratic institutions.”
The pair also discussed the climate crisis. After the meeting, Lula said he was confident the U.S. would join a fund to protect the Amazon from deforestation.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: “I am convinced that we are in a different era. Brazil has returned to the world stage and is using its political power, the respectability that Brazil has earned, so that people, together with other countries, comply with the tasks we have to fulfill for humanity.”
Brazilian government data showed deforestation in the Amazon decreased in January, the first month of Lula’s presidency, compared to the same period last year.
While in D.C., Lula also met with progressive lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and with the heads of major U.S. unions.
In North Carolina, newly released police body-camera video shows Darryl Tyree Williams, an unarmed 32-year-old Black man, warning he had heart problems after a group of Raleigh officers repeatedly used a Taser on him until he lost consciousness. Williams is heard telling officers, “I’ve got heart problems. … Please! Please!” Despite the appeal, officers tased Williams a third time. He died about an hour after his violent arrest on January 17. Six officers have been placed on administrative leave while the Raleigh Police Department carries out an investigation. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is also conducting its own probe.
In Spain, more than a quarter-million people marched through central Madrid Sunday to oppose the dismantling of the public health system by the capital region’s right-wing government. The massive protest was led by unions who complained of long patient waiting lists and staff shortages.
Adolfo Antón: “Well, our situation is getting worse and worse, as we have fewer resources and less staff. We believe that everything that is being done is in favor of private health, and it’s a business. We think we have to fight against this and defend the public health system, as it’s what makes us all equal.”
In Portugal, more than 150,000 schoolteachers and their supporters marched through Lisbon Saturday to protest soaring inflation and low wages. Portugal’s lowest-paid teachers earn less than $1,200 a month. They’re demanding pay increases, less punishing schedules and faster career progression.
Maria Coelho: “We have been badly treated for a long time by a society that forgets the importance and responsibilities of education. So we are here today, and we will be here for many more days to come.”
In France, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of cities nationwide on Saturday in a fourth day of action against plans to slash the nation’s pension system. Unions estimated over a half-million people joined protests in Paris to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s bid to raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64.
At least six refugees died after their inflatable boat was adrift at sea for several days as they tried to reach the Canary Islands in Spain. Twenty-three others on board were rescued near the island of Tenerife. The boat had departed from a coast near the city of Dakhla in Western Sahara. A Spanish humanitarian group estimates nearly 2,000 refugees died in 2022 while trying to reach the Canary Islands by boat.
New Zealand has declared a state of emergency in several regions, including its largest city of Auckland, as Cyclone Gabrielle roared ashore at high tide, bringing powerful winds, dangerous storm surge and torrential rains. Emergency officials warned residents in low-lying areas to evacuate ahead of the storm’s arrival, which follows record rainfall last month that caused extensive flooding and left four people dead.
Rachel Kelleher: “I can’t stress enough that, please, have a plan to leave your home if you see water levels rising around you or if you’re worried about land stability around your property. Don’t wait to be told to leave.”
This comes as raging wildfires in Chile have killed at least 26 people, displaced thousands and scorched some 1,400 square miles of forests.
In Norway, Greenpeace activists have disembarked a massive Shell oil vessel after 13 days of occupation and a 2,500-mile journey. Before the vessel docked at the port of Haugesund, the six activists climbed the platform’s flare boom, waving a banner that said “Stop drilling. Start Paying.” They first boarded the vessel north of the Canary Islands two weeks ago, calling on Shell and other fossil fuel corporations to take responsibility for their role in climate change and to pay loss and damage funds to help poorer countries who bear the brunt of the global disaster.