Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Israel’s next military offensive in Gaza, early election results in Pakistan, and fears of a growing Russian threat to NATO. Sign up to receive World Brief in your inbox every weekday.

Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at Israel’s next military offensive in Gaza, early election results in Pakistan, and fears of a growing Russian threat to NATO. Sign up to receive World Brief in your inbox every weekday.

‘Where Do We Go After Rafah?’ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to come up with a “dual plan” to evacuate civilians from the southern Gaza city of Rafah and launch a “massive” military operation against the four Hamas battalions allegedly based in the city, which the IDF said is one of the militant group’s last remaining strongholds. But with 1.5 million Palestinians now sheltering in Rafah after having been pushed out of the rest of the Gaza Strip due to Israeli military operations, an offensive there would be a “bloodbath,” Norwegian Refugee Council chief Jan Egeland warned on Thursday.

The IDF has forced more than half of Gaza’s population to flee to Rafah, which borders Egypt, in the past four months as it continues its sweeping military campaign across the area, leaving many wondering if there is anywhere left to shelter. “Where do we go after Rafah? Into the sea?” one Palestinian woman asked Sky News. On Thursday, the United States said it would not support an Israeli operation in Rafah under the current circumstances. That same day, U.S. President Joe Biden issued his strongest public criticism yet of Israeli’s military campaign in Gaza, calling it “over the top.”

“A lot of innocent people are starving” in Gaza, he added. “A lot of innocent people are in trouble, and they’re dying, and it’s got to stop.” This week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Netanyahu to try to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. But Blinken’s blitz diplomatic trip, his fifth in the region since the war began, did little to sway the Israeli prime minister, who rejected Hamas’s cease-fire counterproposal on Wednesday to continue pursuing “total victory.” Overnight Israeli airstrikes hit a residential area in Rafah on Thursday, killing at least eight people. Fighting also targeted the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, with Israeli troops storming Al-Amal Hospital, where around 220 patients and staff remain, the Palestine Red Crescent Society reported on Friday.

Nearly 28,000 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas’s Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Around two-thirds of those killed are reportedly women and children.

Today’s Most ReadElection upset. Despite most analysts predicting that Pakistan’s parliamentary election on Thursday would end in victory for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PLM-N) party, thanks in large part to efforts by the country’s military to sway the vote in that direction, early voting results on Friday showed independent candidates, many backed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, in the lead. In the months leading up to Thursday’s election, Pakistan’s military jailed opposition politicians—including the extremely popular head of the PTI, former Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was also barred from running in the election—and launched internet blackouts to crack down on PTI members to try to skew the vote in favor of the PML-N and Sharif, the military’s preferred candidate to become the next prime minister. But Sharif and his party’s lower-than-expected outcome has some experts wondering if Pakistan’s military is losing its grip on power. Khan called the “unprecedented fightback” a “landslide victory” for the PTI on Friday. Sharif, however, claimed victory in Lahore and announced his intentions to begin forming a coalition government. Meanwhile, foreign leaders raised concerns about the election’s “lack of inclusivity” on Friday, with the United Kingdom, United States, and European Union criticizing infringements on assembly and attempts to prevent some parties from contesting the results. Pakistan’s Election Commission said the final results would be delayed but did not specify when to expect them.

Threats to Article 5. Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen warned on Friday that Russia could attack a NATO member within three to five years, potentially testing the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense pact. He cited new intelligence suggesting that Moscow’s military production capabilities have increased from last year in its war against Ukraine. “That was not NATO’s assessment in 2023. This is new knowledge that is coming to the fore now,” Poulsen said. Among Russia’s latest drills, the Kremlin has begun testing St. Petersburg-class submarines in the Baltic Sea near Sweden, which is on path to join NATO in the near future, FP’s Jack Detsch reported. By joining the bloc, Stockholm would drastically increase NATO’s border with Russia and bolster the alliance’s defense capabilities in the event of a confrontation with Moscow.

Demanding elections. Haitian caretaker Prime Minister Ariel Henry issued a public address early on Thursday amid ongoing violent protests this week calling for his ouster. Henry urged demonstrators to “save” the country and said he would schedule elections after the nation’s security situation improves. Haiti was supposed to hold elections by Feb. 7, but Henry has argued that he must ensure safe voting conditions first. Rampant gang violence continues to plague the Caribbean nation, with criminal groups controlling up to 80 percent of the capital of Port-au-Prince. But many Haitians accuse Henry of using the crisis to tighten his grip on power by pushing the possibility of a credible election out of reach, Comfort Ero and Richard Atwood argued in Foreign Policy.

What in the World? According to preliminary results, what percentage of ballots did Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele win on Sunday in his bid for reelection?A. 55 percentB. 71 percentC. 83 percentD. 98 percent

Odds and Ends In a dramatic about-face, the Guinness World Records announced on Thursday that French artist Richard Plaud’s Eiffel Tower sculpture is officially the tallest building ever made out of matchsticks. The judges had previously rejected Plaud’s creation, saying his decision to use matches without a flammable tip did not adhere to guidelines calling for standard materials. But after finding inconsistencies in its own ruling, the committee decided to overturn its inflammatory judgment. Plaud’s tower stands at more than 23.5 feet tall and uses over 700,000 matches. Saying it regrets the “distress” that Plaud suffered from the initial rejection, Guinness is now congratulating the Frenchman “on his truly impressive structure—and his new Guinness World Records title.”

And the Answer Is… C. 83 percent Bukele earned strong support for his aggressive approach to combating gang violence and high levels of crime, FP’s Catherine Osborn writes in Latin America Brief. To take the rest of FP’s weekly international news quiz, click here, or sign up to be alerted when a new one is published.

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