World (GPA) – This has been a big week in world events and we here at Geopolitics Alert have covered a few major stories. Here are your key takeaways for the week of December 25th:
Israel Reacts to the UNSC Settlement Decision.
After the United Nations Security Council bite last week calling for a halt to Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory, Israeli officials have been, in the words of some commentators, “throwing a tantrum.”
Immediately following the UNSC decision, the Israeli zoning authorities in Jerusalem approved permits for 618 new apartments across the 1949 “green line” in East Jerusalem. There were also plans for the board to debate further construction of another 5,600 new settler homes on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the board to cancel the Wednesday vote and temporarily halt the construction, presumably until after Donald Trump assumes the presidency next month. This news came too late to stop Israelis from preemptively demolishing some Palestinian properties in the area.
Netanyahu Faces Criminal Investigation for Fraud and Bribery.
Benjamin Netanyahu had his own issues to deal with when the news broke in Israel that he would most likely be facing an investigation by Israel’s Attorney General for fraud and bribery. The alleged crimes occurred from Netanyahu’s time as Finance Minister up until just recently.
The charges include receiving illegal campaign contributions (including from a convicted French con man), use of public funds for personal vacations and purchases and indulging in lavish services from wealthy businessmen such as private jet trips. The AG confirmed the investigation was officially underway on Thursday.
The War in Yemen and Saudi Crimes Escalate.
This week started off with Houthi militia members in Yemen storming and raiding of the Al Jazeera bureau in the capital of Sana’a. Gulf Kingdom mouthpiece, Al Jazeera is a prime target for Houthi fighters and it’s believed that the raid was retaliation for a documentary released by the network criticizing how the Houthis obtain their weapons.
This week also saw a spike in the intensity of the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. There were on the ground reports of US supplied, Saudi Arabian bombs being dropped on everything from schools, boats, factories and farms. According to first hand accounts in Yemen it is becoming more apparent that the Saudis are intentionally destroying important civilian infrastructure to further weaken the country’s resolve and make it fully dependent on imports. Reports also included continued use of cluster bombs in civilian areas as recently as last week.
Russian and Syrian Troops find Mass Graves & Signs of Torture in ‘Rebel’ Aleppo.
Russian and Syrian forces began their initial sweep of the formerly rebel held areas of Aleppo this week and found a variety of horrors as they disarmed bombs and booby traps left behind.
The report included instances of mutilated bodies of civilians that were missing appendages and showed signs of torture as well as multiple cases of deaths caused by single shots to the back of the head in apparent executions by the rebels. The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed these reports and said this was only an initial survey and that the more people learned the more likely the reports were likely to “shock many.”
Erdogan Alleges to Have Proof of US Arming & Supporting Terrorists.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan told reporters in a press conference on Tuesday that he had “photographic and video evidence” of the US supporting terrorists in Syria ranging from the Kurdish YPG and PYD to the Islamic State (IS).
These claims come before crucial talks between Russia, Syria, Iran and Turkey concerning the future of the Syrian conflict. We are still waiting on any actual release of this “evidence” but it’s unlikely it wouldn’t also implicate Turkey, who has been accused of aiding IS since last year.
Russian & Turkish Ceasefire Negotiated for Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Wednesday night that a ceasefire deal had been struck between a large number of rebel groups in Syria with Syrian and Russian forces. The deal was brokered by the Syrian, Russian and Turkish governments and is the first agreement to not include the US.
A total of about 60,000 rebels are included in the deal and it’s believed Turkey played an essential role due to their close connections to many of the groups included. The Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly Jahbat al-Nusra) and other groups universally agreed to be terrorists are not included in the agreement according to the Syrian government although the truth of this is debated by some parties. The ceasefire precedes talks to be held in the near future in Kazakhstan between the rebels, Turkey, Russia, Syria and possibly Iran and some of the gulf kingdoms. The ceasefire has allegedly already been violated by a group with the Free Syrian Army at 1 a.m. local time last night, an hour after it went into effect.
Obama Expels Russian Diplomats & Enacts New Sanctions.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama announced the US government’s ‘retaliation’ for the allegations of Russian hacking and manipulation of the presidential election. The retaliation includes the closure of two Russian diplomatic facilities, the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomatic staff members and a new round of sanctions.
The new sanctions encompass a group of 6 Russian individuals and 5 entities for “Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities.” The two diplomatic facilities that will be closed are located in New York and Maryland and are used by Russia for intelligence gathering. There still hasn’t been any concrete evidence of the alleged Russian hacking made public by the US government and Putin still denies the claims.
Some officials in Moscow called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate to the move by Washington by possibly closing some US facilities and expelling 35 of their staffers. However, Putin has said he would not retaliate to what the Kremlin feels is a move by Obama to sour US-Russia relations before the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20th.