Fri. Jun 21st, 2024


Welcome back to World Brief, where we’re looking at a U.N. shelter in Gaza hit by Israeli tank shells amid fighting, Argentina’s labor union strike, and a fatal Russian military plane crash.

No Pauses. No Progress.

A United Nations training center sheltering hundreds of Palestinians in the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip was set ablaze on Wednesday when it was reportedly struck by Israeli tank shells. At least nine people were killed and 75 others injured, Thomas White, the director of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Asked about the shelling, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the wider area of western Khan Younis where the facility is located is the target of an ongoing operation aimed at “dismantling Hamas’s military framework” there. This week, the operation saw IDF troops storm and arrest medical staff at al-Khair General Hospital and Israeli tanks surround al-Amal Hospital, which also serves as the Palestinian Red Crescent’s headquarters in the city. Israeli officials continue to accuse Hamas of working in and around Khan Younis medical centers, which it denies, and the IDF believes the city hosts the principal headquarters for the perpetrators of the Oct. 7 attack.

The Israeli military on Tuesday ordered the evacuation of the area, where half a million people are said to be located, amid the escalating fighting. However, local reports said IDF tanks advancing toward Khan Younis were blocking the primary escape route. More than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

On Wednesday, Israeli government spokesperson Ilana Stein denied reports that a 30-day cease-fire with Hamas was in the works. “Israel will not give up on the destruction of Hamas, the return of all the hostages, and there will be no security threat from Gaza towards Israel,” Stein said. “There will be no cease-fire. In the past, there were pauses for humanitarian purposes. That agreement was breached by Hamas.”

Officials familiar with the negotiations told Reuters that Hamas leaders have said they would not back any agreement that fails to lay out conditions for a future permanent cease-fire. “We are open to all initiatives and proposals, but any agreement must be based on ending the aggression and the occupation’s complete pullout from Gaza Strip,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters on Monday.

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On strike. Argentina’s largest labor union, the opposition-aligned General Confederation of Labor (CGT), launched a nationwide strike on Wednesday to protest President Javier Milei’s proposed economic overhauls. Tens of thousands of union members across major industries—including the transportation, health care, food services, and banking sectors, among others—argued that Milei’s proposed reforms would weaken worker protections.

The demonstration comes just 45 days after Milei took office, marking the first major challenge to the president’s fiscal reforms. Milei said he will dock one day’s pay from every public employee on strike and make the CGT pay the bill for Wednesday’s police deployment.

Fatal plane crash. Russia accused Ukraine of shooting down a military transport plane carrying 74 people, including 65 Ukrainian prisoners of war, that crashed on Wednesday in the Belgorod border region of Russia, killing all on board. Moscow said two missiles launched from Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast were responsible for the crash. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov requested an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting.

The Kremlin said the Ukrainian soldiers were en route to a prisoner swap, an event that Kyiv confirmed was set to occur. The general staff headquarters of Ukraine’s military did not comment on the crash but said Ukraine targets Russian military planes believed to be transporting missiles. “The armed forces of Ukraine will continue to take measures to destroy delivery means and control the airspace to eliminate the terrorist threat, including on the Belgorod-Kharkiv direction,” the agency said. It is unclear if any of the people killed were in fact Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Battling Iranian proxies. U.S. forces destroyed two Houthi anti-ship missiles aimed at the Red Sea in Yemen on Wednesday, saying they posed an “imminent threat” to commercial vessels and U.S. Navy ships in the region. This was Washington’s latest operation in a series of strikes against the Iranian-backed militant group in response to its ongoing attacks on commercial ships in the region. Since Jan. 11, the U.S. Defense Department said it has destroyed or damaged more than 25 Houthi missile facilities and more than 20 Houthi missiles.

U.S. troops also targeted three facilities in Iraq that the Pentagon said were being used by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Islamist group, on Tuesday. As many as seven militant members were killed. The strikes were in retaliation for a “serious of escalatory attacks” against Washington and its allied forces in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

Odds and Ends

Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was hoping for the adventure of a lifetime last Friday when he used the presidential helicopter to attend a Coldplay concert. Manila is known for its notorious traffic jams, and with 40,000 fans rushing to the stadium, the president’s security said waiting in line could pose a security threat. Locals criticized Marcos for wasting taxpayer money and causing many traffic hassles himself. But for Marcos, a self-proclaimed “music lover,” the British rock band was “unmissable.” Viva la vida, Bongbong.

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