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Forecast: US House members return from recess, Thailand and China hold joint air force exercises, and ceasefire holds in Israel and Gaza

Pedestrians are seen wearing masks on a street in central Hong Kong in March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic began to sweep the globe. (Photo: Prachatai / Flickr)

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.

We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead.

A ceasefire has continued to hold following three days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza, but tensions remain high after dozens of Palestinians were killed. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Agnese Boffano discuss what the conflict means for Gaza and Israel. 

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of August 12 – 19

A Look Ahead

Aug. 12  

Hong Kong shortens quarantine for travelers
Hong Kong will slash the quarantine period for travelers arriving in the city-state from seven days to three as of Friday in a bid to restore its damaged economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

What’s happened so far 
Hong Kong has maintained some of the world’s strictest quarantine rules throughout the pandemic, with travelers required to complete a three-week isolation period in a government facility. Beginning Friday, arriving travelers will still have to take five PCR tests and undergo four days of medical surveillance after their quarantine, during which time they cannot visit restaurants, bars and gyms.
The impact 
Business leaders praised the quarantine reduction introduced by Chief Executive John Lee, who has been in power since July 1. Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay Pacific welcomed the measure but called for authorities to go further by setting out a clear plan to lift all coronavirus restrictions.

Aug. 12  

U.S. House returns from recess
Lawmakers will return to Capitol Hill on Friday, where they’re expected to take up the climate, tax, and health care bill passed by Senate Democrats over the weekend.

What’s happened so far 
On Sunday, the evenly-divided Senate approved the $750 billion measure with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. Democrats hold a narrow 220-210 majority in the House, leaving them with little wiggle room for defections on final passage. Republicans have blasted the bill, claiming it will make inflation worse and negatively impact small business and manufacturing, while Democrats point to provisions allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and a $60 billion outlay for domestic production of clean energy components as significant progress.
The impact 
With most forecasts currently projecting Republicans will take control of the chamber following the November midterms, Democratic leadership is hoping to make inroads with voters with the passage of several key legislative priorities in the coming months. 

Aug. 13

PTI holds rally in Lahore  
Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party will hold a rally in Lahore on Saturday to celebrate the country’s 75th anniversary of its independence.

What’s happened so far 
The rally will be held at Lahore’s hockey stadium instead of the original venue, Islamabad’s Parade Ground, amid concerns of a protest by rival party Tehreek-e-Labbaik party supporters, PTI’s leader Omar Ayub said. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to unveil a “strategy” against the current coalition government at the rally.
The impact 
Beyond celebrating Pakistan’s independence, the rally aims to serve as a display of power for the party and Khan, who recently announce his candidacy to nine constituencies in the country’s September by-elections after being ousted from the premiership in a no-confidence vote in April. Pakistan’s interior minister warned PTI sympathizers of a strong police response if the rally turns into a violent protest.

Aug. 13

ASLEF train drivers strike  
Rail passengers across England and Wales are being warned to expect disruptions Saturday as train drivers from nine companies stage a one-day strike after the firms failed to make a sufficient pay offer, the union Aslef says.

What’s happened so far 
Union members voted to strike after rail companies refused pay offers in line with the soaring rate of inflation in the U.K. This is the second round of industrial action by the union, and this strike by train drivers is the latest in a series of stoppages by workers belonging to several different unions across the U.K.
The impact 
Train timetables across the country are expected to be upended as drivers working for at least seven companies stage this round of industrial action. Premier League fans could face difficult travel to games on that day, and other travelers have been asked to postpone journeys until Sunday. Conditions may be exacerbated by extreme temperatures on Saturday. Rail staff, port workers, barristers and bus drivers, among others, are planning a number of other strikes in the coming days.

Aug. 14  

Thailand and China hold joint air force exercises
Aircraft from Thailand and China, mainly fighter jets, will descend upon a Thai air base in Udon Thani on Sunday to conduct joint exercises for the first time since 2019.

What’s happened so far 
First held in 2015, the Falcon Strike exercises have taken place five times, aimed at benefiting both countries’ capabilities and relations. This year’s exercises will primarily involve Chinese-made J-10 and Swedish-made Gripen multirole aircraft, leaving out both country’s Russian-origin and U.S-made jets.
The impact 
The exercises come at a precarious time in relations between China and the United States, just days after the former launched massive live-fire exercises in extreme proximity to Taiwanese territory. The U.S. designates both Taiwan and Thailand as a “major non-NATO ally,” while concerns have mounted that Thailand is falling into Beijing’s orbit. A chill in relations between Washington and Bangkok could have significant ramifications for Thailand, whose largest import partner is the United States and whose air force is largely composed of U.S.-made jets, which may soon include F-35s.

Aug. 15

India celebrates 75 years of independence
On Monday, Indians across the subcontinent will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the country’s independence and partition from the British Raj in 1947. 

What’s happened so far 
This year’s celebrations will specifically focus on the “elixir of energy” of India’s history, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to deliver the traditional address from Agra’s Red Fort, followed by a military parade. Airlines have offered discounts for travelers, museums will have no entry fee and citizens are encouraged to hoist the tricolor flag as part of a national campaign.
The impact 
As is the norm, a large influx of domestic tourism is set to occur in the coming days. With this influx, heightened police activity across major cities is already being seen, with police allegedly thwarting an attack on Tuesday, and a large IED recovered in Jammu and Kashmir. In Agra alone, 10,000 police officers will be deployed around the Red Fort and warnings have been issued to remember the no-fly zone, including kites and balloons, around the monument during independence celebrations.

Aug. 18

Serbia, Kosovo leaders to discuss tensions
The heads of state of Serbia and Kosovo will meet in Brussels starting Thursday, following late-July’s border flareup.

What’s happened so far 
Tensions escalated starkly the last weekend of July with gunfire along the border and blockades erected along multiple roads and border crossings. The unrest was sparked by a new Kosovar law designed to force ethnic Serbs to acquire Kosovar license plates and visitors to get ID cards, which reignited issues surrounding the sovereignty of the partially-recognized state.
The impact 
Next week’s talks are under the auspices of the European Union, which has acted as the arbiter of such discussions since 2011, three years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. While tensions have deescalated after the implementation of the license plate and ID law was delayed, the respite is just for one month, leaving a longer term solution a more daunting prospect. European leaders hope the talks can find a more lasting solution and avoid a repeat of the border crisis come early September.

What Else Matters

Former President Donald Trump is greeted by local officials during a trip to Tampa, Fla., in July 2020. Trump's residence in the state was raided this week by the FBI, reportedly in connection with classified material. (Photo: White House / Joyce N. Boghosian)
Former President Donald Trump is greeted by local officials during a trip to Tampa, Fla., in July 2020. Trump’s residence in the state was raided this week by the FBI, reportedly in connection with classified material. (Photo: White House / Joyce N. Boghosian)

Israeli operation on Gaza 
In early August. Israeli forces arrested a member of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) during a raid in the West Bank town of Jenin. In fear of retaliatory attacks, Israel then announced a “military operation with surgical strikes” targeting PIJ bases. In just three days of strikes, Palestinian health officials said 45 people had been killed, including 15 children and several militants, with more than 360 others injured. The PIJ responded by launching more than 300 missiles into Israel until a Cairo-brokered ceasefire was reached Sunday.

Watch for: While the ceasefire has held up so far, with U.N. fuel trucks entering the besieged strip Monday and Palestinian workers crossing through northern Erez on Tuesday, the security situation along the Gaza border and across the West Bank remains and will likely stay tense. More recently, on Aug. 9, Israel conducted a raid on Nablus that Palestinian authorities said led to the death of three members of Fatah’s armed wing, the Al-Aqsa brigade. 

FBI raids Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home
The FBI raided the residence of former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday, reportedly in connection with classified material taken from the White House, according to NBC News. Trump blasted the operation as “political persecution,” while both the Department of Justice and FBI declined to comment. The White House said it was not given advance notice of the raid, which is linked to just one of five possible criminal probes facing the former president.

Watch for: Politico called the search “the most aggressive law enforcement action ever taken against a former American president” and many Republicans were quick to condemn it. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California promised an investigation into the matter should the GOP regain control of the House and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley went as far as calling for Attorney Gen. Merrick Garland to resign or be impeached. Regardless, it should become clearer in the days and weeks ahead just how much trouble Trump may face. In the meantime, some of Trump’s more extreme followers have already ratcheted up their rhetoric, suggesting the raid is an attack on their movement or even mentioning civil war, while others argue the raid might actually help the former president.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

Aug. 13-19

Aug. 13

  • Primaries in Hawaii
  • ASLEF strike 
  • PTI rally in Islamabad 

Aug. 14

  • Pakistan Independence Day
  • APEC tourism ministers meeting
  • Thailand and China joint air force exercises 

Aug. 15

  • India Independence Day
  • Liechtenstein Independence Day

Aug. 16

  • Primaries in Alaska and Wyoming, runoffs in South Dakota
  • Indonesia state of the union

Aug. 18

  • Serbia, Kosovo leaders to discuss tensions

Aug. 19

  • Airport unions begin strike in Portugal
  • Montenegro no-confidence vote

Aug. 20-26

Aug. 20

  • Chad national reconciliation dialogue
  • U.K. rail strikes
  • Greece to exit EU surveillance framework

Aug. 23

  • Budapest Pride
  • Primaries in Florida and New York

Aug. 24

  • Angola presidential elections
  • Poland marks the 33rd anniversary of the creation of the first post-Communist government 
  • Ukraine Independence Day

Aug. 25

  • Uruguay’s Independence Day

Aug. 27-Sept. 2

Aug. 27

  • Asia Cup begins in UAE

Aug. 29

  • EU informal meeting of defense ministers
  • US Open begins

Aug. 30

  • Human Rights Council meeting
  • EU foreign ministers meeting in Prague
  • Russian military drills begin

Aug. 31

  • EU foreign ministers meeting

Sept. 1

  • European Parliament president visits Portugal
  • Kosovo ID measure enters effect

Sept. 3-Sept. 9

Sept. 4

  • Chile referendum on new constitution

Sept. 5

  • New UK PM and Conservative Party leader announcement

Sept. 6

  • Boris Johnson resignation 

Sept. 7

  • North Korea Supreme People’s Assembly meeting

Sept. 8

  • NFL season start

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