Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Israeli frustration over slow hostage negotiations, mass protests in Greece, and Guinea’s newly appointed prime minister.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Israeli frustration over slow hostage negotiations, mass protests in Greece, and Guinea’s newly appointed prime minister.

Embattled Hostage Talks

Families and supporters of Israeli hostages held captive by Hamas in Gaza set out on a four-day march to Jerusalem on Wednesday to call for the release of their loved ones. The demonstration began near the site of Hamas’s Nova music festival massacre and is set to end near Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence. This is the second march organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

Hamas is holding an estimated 99 Israelis captive in Gaza, while another 31 are believed to be dead. Their release is part of ongoing cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Doha, Qatar, this week, an effort led by U.S., Egyptian, and Qatari mediators. If agreed to, the current framework would establish a six-week pause in fighting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin on March 10, and would include the release of 35 to 40 Israeli hostages in exchange for around 400 Palestinian prisoners—or roughly 10 prisoners per 1 captive.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday that he hopes a deal can be reached in “the next few days,” and U.S. President Joe Biden suggested in comments published on Tuesday that a cease-fire could begin as early as next Monday. But other key negotiators have distanced themselves from the fast-approaching timeline. Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh touted the group’s flexibility on Wednesday but warned Israel and the United States that “what they have failed to impose on the battlefield they will not take through political machinations.” He called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to Al-Aqsa Mosque when Ramadan begins to protest the war in Gaza.

Today’s Most Read

What We’re Following

Seeking justice. More than 30,000 people took to the streets in Athens on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of Greece’s deadliest train crash, which killed 57 people. A 24-hour strike halted transportation infrastructure as students and workers alike demanded justice for the crash’s victims as well as bigger pay raises. Greece’s largest public sector union organized the walkout, and church bells across the country rang 57 times to symbolize each person killed.

Last year, a passenger train carrying a crowd mostly made up of students en route to the city of Thessaloniki collided head-on with a freight train. An initial investigation into the crash revealed that system deficiencies were to blame. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed on Wednesday to hold those responsible to account, acknowledging that “human error inevitably met with persistent state failure.”

However, many Greeks have accused the government of not doing enough to reform the nation’s railways, with remote train control and communication systems still not functioning despite being mandatory under European Union law. Official investigation inquiries are not due to finish until March 8.

New transitional leader. Interim Guinean President Mamady Doumbouya appointed former opposition leader Mamadou Oury Bah on Tuesday to be the country’s next prime minister. The 65-year-old economist spent four years in exile after being accused of involvement in a 2011 attack on then-President Alpha Condé before he was pardoned in 2016. His close ally, Doumbouya, helped lead the military coup that removed Condé from power in September 2021.

Bah is expected to replace the government that Doumbouya dissolved last week and faces pressure to address high costs of living. Many Guineans hope that Bah’s political experience will help ease the democratic transition set to occur in 10 months, when Guinea is scheduled to hold national elections.

Public sector unions staged a nationwide strike on Monday following Doumbouya’s surprise decision to remove the transitional government from power. They accused the ruling junta of stifling dissent and cracking down on press freedom. Two children were killed in the capital during the protests.

Rights activist jailed. Russian authorities sentenced activist Oleg Orlov on Tuesday to 30 months in prison for opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine. Orlov co-chaired the rights group Memorial, which was one of the recipients of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, and he continues to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reign despite increasing state repression. “The country that left behind communist totalitarianism thirty years ago has slipped back into totalitarianism, only now of the fascist variety,” Orlov wrote in November 2022.

Orlov maintained his innocence on Tuesday and condemned the court’s failure to “clearly explain” the essence of the state’s accusations. “I don’t regret anything, and I don’t repent anything,” Orlov added in his closing statement. Rights activists and Western leaders quickly denounced the ruling.

Odds and Ends

Embezzlement, undermining election results, and inciting an insurrection are only the tip of the iceberg for the charges against former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. On Tuesday, the populist leader appeared in federal court for allegations that he “harassed” a humpback whale while riding a personal watercraft in June 2023. Under Brazilian law, maritime vessels must remain at least 100 meters from whales, but a video posted to social media last year appeared to show Bolsonaro a mere 15 meters from the sea creature. If convicted, Bolsonaro faces a sentence of up to five years in prison.

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