Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

The future of Gaza after the Israel-Hamas war, escalating tensions in the Korean Peninsula, and a major legal setback for Senegal’s opposition are the focus of this edition of World Brief.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant outlined the next stage of Israel’s war against Hamas during a security cabinet meeting on Thursday, including what the “day after” or future governance of the Gaza Strip might look like. The announcement comes as Israel withdraws thousands of troops from Gaza to begin less intense combat operations there and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in the Middle East for the new year’s first round of shuttle diplomacy—his fourth such trip since war broke out on Oct. 7.

Israeli troops will execute a more targeted military strategy in northern Gaza through raids, tunnel demolitions, air and ground strikes, and special forces operations. In the south, where most of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have evacuated to, Israel will continue its pursuit of Hamas leaders as well as focus on hostage rescue efforts. Hamas is believed to still have more than 100 Israelis in captivity.

Although rights actors, including the United Nations, continue to push for an immediate cease-fire, Israel’s Defense Ministry said the war will continue “for as long as is deemed necessary,” with one Israeli official suggesting that fighting will extend for “six months at least.”

As for future control of Gaza, under Gallant’s proposal, Israel will allow local Palestinian actors not affiliated with Hamas to govern the enclave. “Gaza residents are Palestinian. Therefore, Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against the State of Israel,” Gallant said.

This appeases Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who previously opposed the Palestinian Authority returning to the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority is the governing coalition that oversees the West Bank and is the international community’s favored ruling body for Palestinians. U.S. President Joe Biden has argued that allowing the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza will carve a path forward for a two-state solution.

Israel will maintain operational freedom of action in Gaza and will continue to inspect goods entering the region for security purposes. Gallant said Israeli settlements will not return to Gaza. But far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir urged “voluntary emigration” for Palestinians in the area, a suggestion that Washington accused of being “inflammatory and irresponsible.”

The proposal also calls for a multinational task force led by the United States in coordination with the European Union and regional partners, including Egypt, to oversee rehabilitation of the territory, including postwar construction and economic development. Egypt has served as a primary mediator for conflict negotiations and is home to Gaza’s only foreign border crossing not controlled by Israel, in Rafah.

Discussing Gallant’s proposal will be at the top of Blinken’s agenda this weekend as the United States’ top diplomat meets with officials in Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, and Egypt. Blinken is also set to discuss increasing humanitarian aid for Gaza, protecting Palestinian civilians, returning Israeli hostages, preventing Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, reducing tensions in the West Bank, and preventing the war from spiraling into a wider regional conflagration, particularly in Lebanon.

In other news, North Korea fired more than 200 artillery rounds near a disputed maritime border with South Korea on Friday. This resulted in no destruction of civilian or military infrastructure but forced residents of two remote South Korean islands to seek shelter. South Korea condemned the barrage, calling it an “act of provocation” that threatens the peninsula’s security despite North Korea saying it was a “natural response” to large-scale military drills. Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a change to Pyongyang’s South Korea policy, referring to Seoul as an enemy state and saying peaceful reunification is no longer possible.

Senegal’s Supreme Court ruled against an appeal on Friday to overturn opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s defamation conviction. This marks another blow to Sonko’s presidential ambitions. Senegal was once one of West Africa’s most stable democracies but various issues have soured the country’s reputation.

The Taliban arrested dozens of women for wearing “bad hijab” this week, Afghanistan’s Vice and Virtue Ministry announced on Thursday. It is unclear if the women will be released on bail or face other judicial consequences. This is the first official confirmation of a nationwide crackdown against Afghan women not adhering to the country’s strict dress code, and it follows neighboring Iran’s policy of punishing women who do not comply with strict interpretations of proper Islamic dress. Under the Taliban, women and girls are banned from pursuing higher education, accessing public spaces, and seeking certain types of employment.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in his New Year’s address that China’s takeover of Taiwan would “surely” happen in the future.

Peru announced the discovery of 19 new bird species, bringing its total to 1,879 avian types, which has contributed to increased tourism in the country.

Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election could quickly increase tension in the Taiwan Strait—particularly if current Vice President Lai Ching-te wins, FP’s James Palmer predicted in last week’s China Brief.

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