By Cristina Goerdt
Death tolls, shelter-in-place orders, and the economic meltdown dominate the headlines. And yet, politics waits for neither man nor beast (nor virus, apparently). The world keeps fighting, be it the paparazzi or Iranian-backed rebels. Here’s a quick round-up of some stories you may have missed.
- The New York Times reports that American warships have entered contested waters in the South China Sea, joining Chinese, Malaysian, and Australian craft off the coast of Malaysia. Defense officials and security experts say that China is taking advantage of the global attention captured by the coronavirus pandemic to harass fishermen and further their territorial claims. International law scholars dispute China’s right to any territory or transportation rights in the area.
- South Korean media published an article alleging North Korean leader Kim Jong-un underwent cardiovascular surgery last week. While officially declining to comment, several South Korean officials doubted the report in private. According to NBC, several U.S. intelligence agencies corroborated the South Korean press speculation.
- The former Duke and Duchess of Sussex sent a letter informing four British tabloids that Harry and Meghan will “no longer tolerate them.” The letter, sent to The Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, and The Daily Express, is the latest in the couple’s battle against privacy encroachments committed by the press. Recently released court documents revealed that Meghan repeatedly requested that her father cease speaking to the press prior to her wedding in 2018, and the two have spoken often of the pressures of the media. Meghan and Harry relocated to Los Angeles in recent weeks after renouncing official royal duties.
- On April 21, a former rapper and Egyptian national was arrested in the Spanish city of Almería on suspicion of fighting with the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, the AP reports. Unofficial sources named the suspect as Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, the son of an al-Qaeda operative who was convicted of being involved in bombings at U.S. embassies in Africa that killed over 200.
- Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz agreed to establish a unity government on Monday night, halting domestic uncertainty in Israel. After three elections in one year, Netanyahu remains in the office of prime minister and Gantz will serve as deputy prime minister. Gantz has been heavily criticized since the announcement, with many supporters stating he broke campaign promises to never serve under a prime minister who faces criminal charges (Netanyahu has been indicted for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust). Gantz argued that he chose “country over politics.”
- Fighting continues in Yemen in spite of a unilateral ceasefire declared last week by Saudi Arabia. The Saudi and Emirati-led coalition accused Houthi rebels of breaching the agreement 241 times in 48 hours. Houthi military commanders claimed that the Saudis had launched 25 airstrikes in six hours. According to the New York Times, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen told the Security Council that a ceasefire was necessary in order to properly respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The conflict has stretched on for five years, and the country’s infrastructure and economy have largely collapsed. In October, the death toll reached 100,000.
- A Human Rights Watch report claims that government security forces killed 31 unarmed men in Burkina Faso earlier this month. According to the AP, all of the victims were ethnic Fulani, a group that has been increasingly victimized by Burkina Faso’s government and military. The Ministry of Defense denied the allegations. Violence in Burkina Faso has risen in recent months as the country grapples with extremism and ethnic conflict.
- The United Nations warned that the humanitarian crisis in Libya could amount to war crimes on Monday. The UN did not name a specific actor, although heavy fighting undertaken by both Eastern and Western militias has taken place in the past few days. The AP reports that civilian targets, such as healthcare facilities, are increasingly targeted, while systematic arrests, denial of civil liberties, and retaliatory electricity blackouts are commonplace.