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Israel Mulls Gaza Ground Invasion
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Israel prepares for a potential ground invasion in Gaza, the Taliban and Afghan government begin a three-day cease-fire, and India’s COVID-19 deaths remain high.
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Israel Considers Sending Troops Into Gaza
Israel’s military is set to decide today whether to escalate its bombing campaign in Gaza by adding ground forces after another day of relentless airstrikes reportedly killed several Hamas commanders and destroyed more buildings in Gaza as Hamas continued its rocket fire into Israel. At least 90 people have been killed so far in the fighting, with Palestinians making up the vast majority of the dead.
Sectarian violence has spread to cities across Israel, as Jewish mobs ransacked Arab businesses near Tel Aviv and beat a man on live television, and the city of Lod was declared “locked down” following rioting and the torching of synagogues by Arab residents.
In a video addressing Gaza residents and condemning rocket fire from Hamas, Defense Minister Benny Gantz laid out Israel’s rationale. “If citizens of Israel have to sleep in shelters, then Gaza will burn.”
Silent Biden. As Foreign Policy reported on Wednesday, the Biden administration’s silence at the United Nations Security Council—where the 14 other nations backed a call to cease hostilities—has left the U.S. politically isolated, and put the Biden’s commitment to multilateralism into question.
Instead, the United States is sending Hady Amr, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and Palestinian affairs, as an envoy to meet with leaders from both sides.
War crime worries. What Israel will do with its superior military might, and how Hamas might react, has human rights observers worried.
“Both sides need to respect human rights law. Both sides are violating it,” Phillipe Nassif, advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA, told Foreign Policy. “One side has far more power over the other side and that tends to cause an increase in casualties among Palestinians far more than increases in casualties among Israelis. We don’t want casualties period, but that’s the imbalance.”
In a statement on Wednesday, the International Criminal Court’s main prosecutor Fatou Bensouda noted “with great concern the escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in and around Gaza, and the possible commission of crimes under the Rome Statute,” referring to the court’s statute on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
An end to green-line vision. The recent violence is helping policymakers and analysts move on from a “fanciful framework and toward one grounded in reality,” Yousef Munayyer wrote in Foreign Policy in a call for a new approach to the Israel-Palestine issue.
Knee-jerk calls for a “two-state solution” by U.S. leaders are fast becoming the new “thoughts and prayers,” Munayyer argues—empty platitudes uttered after a tragedy that dodge responsibility. Acknowledging the one-state reality, Munayyer writes, is the first step to realizing the potential for Palestinian equality within it.
What We’re Following Today
India’s COVID-19 crisis. India reported over 4,000 new coronavirus-related deaths for the second day in a row on Thursday, as the 4,120 new deaths dropped slightly below the record toll of 4,205 new deaths recorded on Wednesday. India’s official death toll has now passed 250,000, although that figure is likely misleadingly low due to problems in reporting. The jump in deaths comes as the World Health Organization warned that a virus variant identified in India may be more contagious than other versions.
Cease-fire in Afghanistan. The Taliban and the Afghan government begin a three-day cease-fire today to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. U.S. Afghanistan envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has welcomed the move, but urged both sides to adopt a permanent cessation of hostilities. Although the cease-fire is likely to hold, fighting will likely recommence shortly afterward as government forces seek to recapture the Nerkh district, near Kabul, after it was taken by Taliban forces on Tuesday.
Corruption in South Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gives evidence today before the country’s inquiry into public sector corruption and fraud. His testimony comes as Ramaphosa’s party, the African National Congress (ANC), is attempting clean up its image ahead of local elections later this year. Last week, the ANC suspended Elias Sekgobelo “Ace” Magashule, the party’s secretary-general, over multiple corruption allegations. As Lynsey Chutel writes in Foreign Policy’s weekly Africa Brief, while the ruling party fights factional battles, South Africa is “slipping deeper and deeper into economic and social malaise.”
Keep an Eye On
U.S.-Russia ties. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Arctic Council summit in Iceland next week. It is the first meeting between Lavrov and a senior Biden administration official since he and John Kerry met in India at the beginning of April. The Blinken-Lavrov meeting comes ahead of a summit between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, tentatively slated for June.
French fishing rights. France will delay a post-Brexit U.K.-EU financial services agreement until a dispute is resolved over fishing rights in U.K. waters, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The current U.K.-EU trade deal did not cover financial services, and although a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between financial regulators has been signed by both sides, it has yet to be ratified. In a bid to defuse the recent tensions between Jersey’s government and French fishermen, Jersey authorities gave French vessels until July 1 to comply with their new rules.
Bolsonaro vs. Lula. A new poll from Datafolha found that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro would get trounced by likely challenger Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in a second-round runoff election. The poll found that 55 percent of respondents would back Lula, with only 32 percent supporting Bolsonaro. There is time for Bolsonaro to make up the deficit, as presidential elections don’t take place until October 2022.
Odds and Ends
The makers of a craft liquor made from radioactive apples grown in the Chernobyl exclusion zone are in a battle with the Ukrainian government, after authorities seized all 1,500 bottles of the product before it could be exported.
The drink, called Atomik, has been impounded after Ukrainian Secret Service agents said the company used forged excise stamps, a claim the company’s founder, U.K.-based academic Jim Smith, disputes. The liquor is an attempt to prove that some products made in Chernobyl’s zone can be safe for human consumption, according to the company’s website. Smith claims the distillation process removes all traces of radioactivity.