In Israel, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets over the weekend as the country’s political crisis reached new heights. On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, one day after Gallant called for a halt to the government’s drastic judicial overhaul, which has triggered months of mass protests and international condemnation. Gallant said the plan posed a security threat, after the military warned it may have to reduce operations as a growing number of reservists said they would refuse to show up for duty in protest. Israel’s largest trade union is on a general strike today. Histadrut represents over 700,000 workers across various industries, including banks, healthcare and transportation. New York’s Israeli consul general resigned in protest Sunday.
In Tel Aviv, police used water cannons against protesters late Sunday as they blocked a multilane highway. Fires were set in at least two major roads. In Jerusalem, crowds also rallied outside Netanyahu’s private residence.
Hanan Mazeh: “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. But we have no other choice but to fight. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Meanwhile, Israeli violence toward Palestinians continues. Israeli soldiers stormed Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem over the weekend, forcibly removing Palestinian worshipers marking the holy month of Ramadan. On Sunday, Palestinian authorities said Israeli settlers burned down a home in a town northeast of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
President Biden declared a federal emergency after a devastating tornado killed at least 25 people in Mississippi and one in Alabama. Entire neighborhoods were flattened. Mississippi residents recounted the harrowing moment the storm hit their homes.
Shanta Howard: “What was going through my head? Lord, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want me or the kids to die.”
Jackson resident: “Ran, got in the bathroom, in the tub with my wife, and all threw pillows over us, and we hear stuff hitting the roof, a lot of trees down.”
While visiting the aftermath of the tornado, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned extreme weather events are increasing “in gravity, in severity, and in frequency.” Over 20 million people across the South and southeastern U.S. are under threat of more severe storms today.
Tunisia’s coast guard says it recovered the bodies of 10 migrants Sunday after their ship sank in the Mediterranean. The disaster came just hours after a human rights group said another 19 refugees from sub-Saharan Africa drowned off Tunisia’s coast as they tried to cross to Italy to seek asylum. At least 67 migrants were reportedly missing. This comes as Italy’s government says the number of migrants arriving at Italian ports has tripled in the first three months of 2023 — with more than 4,000 people disembarking in southern Italy over the weekend. On Saturday, a humanitarian aid ship rescued 78 migrants aboard a sinking rubber dinghy in international waters near Malta. One day earlier, the rescue ship Geo Barents, operated by Doctors Without Borders, rescued 190 migrants, including unaccompanied minors, off the coast of Italy. Virginia Mielgo González, a coordinator with the group, said a new set of rules passed by Italy’s far-right government last month has severely curtailed rescue efforts in the Mediterranean.
Virginia Mielgo González: “Our main concern would be being detained, so being, yeah, stopped from doing what we are doing. We are rescuing people in the Mediterranean Sea, which is something that it will still happen. The people will still use this route.”
Ukraine called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Sunday as NATO condemned Russia for its “dangerous and irresponsible” suggestion it could soon deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. President Vladimir Putin made the comments Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin: “Alexander Lukashenko is right. He says, 'Listen, we're your closest allies.’ Why do the Americans deploy their nuclear weapons to their allies, on their territory, train the crews, pilots how to use this type of weapon, if needed? We agree that we will do the same.”
The head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, Rafael Grossi, is due to visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant this week amid ongoing fears over a possible nuclear disaster. The plant has had to rely on its emergency diesel generators six times over the past year due to attacks in the region.
On the battlefield, the Russian mercenary Wagner Group said it captured a metal plant in the north of Bakhmut. This comes after Ukraine said its military is still holding on to the decimated eastern city, which has been the site of some of the war’s fiercest battles for months.
In Afghanistan, at least six civilians were killed and several others wounded today in an explosion near the Afghan Foreign Ministry in Kabul. A police spokesperson said the blast occurred after guards shot a suicide bomber near a security checkpoint leading to a heavily fortified street housing several government buildings.
Honduras has formally cut ties with Taiwan, while establishing diplomatic relations with China. In a statement issued Sunday, Honduras’s Foreign Ministry called Taiwan an inalienable part of Chinese territory and said Beijing is the “sole legitimate government” there. Taiwan said it was closing its main embassy and a consulate in Honduras and is withdrawing its ambassador. The move leaves Taiwan with just 13 diplomatic partners, most of them in Central America, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.
Vice President Kamala Harris has begun a week-long tour of Africa. During her first stop in Ghana, Harris said the Biden administration is committed to increasing economic investments across the continent. Harris will also visit Tanzania and Zambia as the U.S. seeks to counter Africa’s growing ties with Russia and China.
The government of Chad says it has nationalized all assets and rights held by ExxonMobil. The U.S. gas giant announced last year it sold its operations in Chad and Cameroon to U.K.-based Savannah Energy, which said it would contest Chad’s nationalization plan. The West African nation has the 10th largest oil reserves in the continent and exports 90% of its oil.
In Germany, transportation is at a standstill as workers nationwide hold a 24-hour “mega-strike.” Union leaders say pay raises are a “matter of survival” for workers amid soaring inflation. It’s the latest mass action led by unions in Europe as people struggle with mounting food and energy costs.
Here in the U.S., educational staff in Los Angeles reached a tentative deal with the school district late Friday following a three-day strike. If approved, some 30,000 bus drivers, special education assistants, cafeteria workers, custodians and others will receive a 30% wage increase, retroactive pay of up to $8,000, and average salaries of $33,000, up from $25,000. Thirty-five thousand L.A. public school teachers joined the picket line last week with the educational support workers.
In other labor news, workers ousted the appointed president of the United Auto Workers in its first direct election by union members. Shawn Fain, a three-decades-long union member, has vowed to take a tougher approach in contract negotiations. The UAW has been dogged by corruption scandals in recent years.
Former President Donald Trump held his first major rally for his 2024 presidential campaign in Waco, Texas, Saturday, vowing to “destroy the deep state” and railing against prosecutors investigating his alleged crimes.
Donald Trump: “When they go after me, they’re going after you. … The only way to stop these arsonists is to rebuke and reject this evil persecution by sending us straight back to the White House to expel the communists and the Marxists and all of them in 2024.”
Waco is currently marking the 30th anniversary of the federal siege of the Branch Davidians, an anti-government cult led by David Koresh, which ended in the deaths of 86 people. Waco has since held symbolic value to right-wing extremists, including Timothy McVeigh, who said it inspired his deadly terror attack at a federal building in Oklahoma City exactly two years later in 1995, killing 168 people. McVeigh was executed in 2001.
Prior to the rally, Trump posted on his site Truth Social that filing charges against him could result in “potential death and destruction.” The Manhattan grand jury that could indict Trump is expected to resume its work today. Trump also posted a photo of himself holding a baseball bat next to a picture of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. On Friday, Trump referred to Bragg, Manhattan’s first Black DA, as an “animal.” Also on Friday, Bragg’s office received a letter containing a typewritten death threat and white powder.
The Texas Observer says it is shutting down and will lay off its 17-person staff after 68 years of publication. The storied magazine was the longtime home of progressive journalists, including Ronnie Dugger, Molly Ivins and Kaye Northcott. The Observer is known for its combative style, its muckraking investigative journalism, and for providing an independent voice in the face of mass media consolidation.
In eastern Pennsylvania, at least seven people are dead and 10 others were hospitalized after an explosion leveled a chocolate factory in the town of West Reading. The blast destroyed one building and damaged another at the R.M. Palmer Company plant, known for producing seasonal chocolates including Easter bunnies. Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the explosion.
Philadelphia officials said Sunday tap water remains safe to drink until the end of today, following earlier warnings not to drink from the tap after a chemical processing plant released as much as 12,000 gallons of acrylic latex polymer into a tributary of the Delaware River. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said late Sunday that no contaminants had yet been found in the city’s tap water system as authorities continue to conduct tests.
The Guardian is reporting a police officer fired pepperball rounds into the closed tent of slain activist Manuel Paez Terán before shooting at them with live fire, leading to their death. The activist, who went by the name Tortuguita, was killed while defending Georgia’s Weelaunee Forest from the construction of the $90 million police training facility dubbed “Cop City.” The new information surrounding Tortuguita’s killing was recently revealed in police incident reports and confirms Atlanta police “planned and led” the deadly operation of January 18.
In financial news, First Citizens Bank announced it will purchase a large portion of the assets of the failed Silicon Valley Bank. Seventeen former branches of SVB will now operate as First Citizens banks. The FDIC took over SVB earlier this month after a run on the bank caused it to collapse in the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history.
House Republicans passed a bill increasing parents’ control in public schools, including a right to review curricula and reading lists, as well as books that are available at school libraries. So-called parental rights have become a flashpoint for conservatives and have led to over 1,600 books being banned in school libraries and classrooms from mid-2021 to mid-2022. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Democrat-controlled Senate will not take up the bill, which he called “Orwellian to the core.” Fellow New York lawmaker Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke out against the measure Thursday on the House floor.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Look at these books that have already been banned due to Republican measures. 'The Life of Rosa Parks,' this apparently is too woke by the Republican Party. 'Song of Solomon' is unacceptable to Republican politics. Forty percent of banned book have — reported are significantly addressing and specifically addressing LGBT issues.”