Watchlist: Protests Continue in Gaza

Week of April 2nd

Palestinians participating in Land Day demonstrations protest along the Gaza-Israeli border (Source: Mohammed Salem/Reuters)


Dozens Killed in Al-Shabaab Attack in Somalia

Dozens of Ugandan soldiers were killed by Al-Shabaab militants in a double suicide car bomb attack on a peacekeeper base in the town of Bulamarer, 80 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. More than 40 peacekeeper soldiers and 30 Islamic militants are thought to be dead. The Ugandan soldiers formed part of a force of more than 20,000 soldiers from across the continent posted in Somalia by AMISOM, the regional peacekeeping mission of the African Union (AU). Al-Shabaab, an Islamic extremist group and al-Qaeda affiliate, once controlled much of Somalia. Though it has lost significant territory since the early 2010s, the group nonetheless has successfully carried out a series of attacks on civilians and soldiers in Somalia in recent years. In January 2016, al-Shabaab killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers stationed in El Adde in southern Somalia; in October 2017, the group killed more than 500 civilians in a truck bombing in Mogadishu, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks ever. In July 2016, the AU announced plans, authorized by the United Nations (UN), for AMISOM to withdraw from Somalia, beginning in October 2018. Many in Somalia fear that an AMISOM withdrawal may provide al-Shabaab an opening to continue its series of deadly attacks on soldiers and civilians across the country. The ultimate impact of AMISOM’s mission in Somalia – as well as al-Shabaab’s future – remains unclear. MARK DOVICH


China’s Space Lab Falls to Earth

Tiangong-1, a space lab launched in 2011 and intended to be China’s first permanent space station, plummeted to earth and crashed into the Pacific Ocean last night. The space lab malfunctioned and stopped working in May 2017, though the Chinese government has not revealed the cause of the breakdown. Scientists predicted in December that the lab would fall to Earth in late March and stressed that there would be no reason to worry about being hit with debris as the pieces would burn up while entering the atmosphere. The China Manned Space Engineering Office had stated, “It won't crash to the Earth fiercely, as in sci-fi movie scenarios, but will look more like a shower of meteors." China has already launched a new space station, Tiangong-2, which will test its potential for a permanent human presence in space. MAYA ZREIK


Río Nuevo in Argentina: River System in Argentina’s Heartland Caused by Human Activity

An overall change in the agricultural marketplace in Argentina from mainly cattle ranching to the growth and exportation of soya beans has caused massive soil erosion and the formation of massive rivers and ravines from out of nowhere across central Argentina, mainly in rural areas. These rivers are said to have appeared nearly overnight back in 2015 in some cases but also going back to 1985. They have been created by the water table rising over the past few decades with the environment shift from heavily forested areas with larger root systems among fields for grazing cattle to fields of soya plants grown for only a few months of the year. Scientific American wrote about this phenomenon of erosion and river formation all across areas of dryland agriculture worldwide. The Argentine press has picked up the story, interviewing scientists about the dangers these river systems create especially across San Luis province for rural and now urban areas. Argentina has pledged that they will make farmers plant more trees and more water-using crops during the off-season for soya beans. However, massive efforts will need to be undertaken to reverse these changes to the environment which are taking away from agricultural yields of those growing soya, and trends which destroy the livelihoods of those who still ranch in this nation. ANDREW MITCHEL


Kemerovo Governor Resigns After Fire

The governor of the Russian region of Kemerovo, Aman Tuleyev, has resigned amidst a shopping mall fire that killed dozens. The Winter Cherry shopping center went up in flames last week after alleged safety failings, particularly broken fire alarms and unresponsive security guards. Over 60 people were killed, 41 of them children, who were using entertainment facilities such as theaters at the top of the building whose doors were supposedly locked. Thousands of protestors took to the streets in the aftermath of the tragedy, blaming the incident on political corruption and governmental incompetence. In his final video address to the region, Tuleyev , whose niece was one of the victims, referred to stepping aside as “the right, conscious, and only true decision.” President Vladimir Putin previously met with him, blaming the act on “criminal negligence”, but abstained from firing Mr. Tuleyev as the Kremlin is able to do. However under immense pubic pressure, experts speculate that the Kremlin indirectly forced Mr. Tuleyev out so as to calm community outrage without giving the impression that the office can be swayed by public opinion. Mr. Tuleyev’s has been governor of the Siberian region since 1997. MEGHAN ROWLEY

Middle East

17 protestors killed in Gaza

In honor of Land Day, on March 30 thousands of Palestinians staged demonstrations near the Gaza-Israeli border to demand the right to return to their homes, in a protest dubbed by civil organizers as the Great March of Return. On Friday, Israeli military opened fire on the protestors, killing 17 people and injuring over 1,500 others. Israeli representatives have argued that the response was justified, however multiple members of the international community have condemned what they see as a disproportionate use of force. Israel has dismissed an international inquiry into the events despite growing global outrage. On Saturday the United States blocked a statement from the United Nations Security Council calling for an investigation. The statement had emphasized that Palestinians have a “right to peaceful protest” and expressed “grave concern at the situation at the border.” Also on Saturday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called for an independent investigation into the killings. The Great March of Return protests are intended to last for six weeks until May 15. MAYA ZREIK

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