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Forecast podcast: Israeli-Palestinian tensions soar following deadly raids and attacks

A fire burns in the foreground as people on a street run away. In the distance more people are gathering, looking at the fire.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss the escalating violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, plus more on a referendum in Ecuador, the US State of the Union and Sri Lanka announcing new policies.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Irene Villora, David Wyllie, Jaime Calle Moreno and Agnese Boffano.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is February 2.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got the European Union banning Russian diesel fuel, a referendum in Ecuador, the US State of the Union, Sri Lanka announcing new policies and a look at the escalating violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

EU ban on Russian diesel fuel begins

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: The European Union will cut even more ties with Russia starting Sunday. They’re banning the importing of diesel fuel and other products made from crude oil in Russian refineries.

The EU and United Kingdom have already significantly cut diesel shipments from Russia since the war in Ukraine began nearly a year ago. 

However, the EU has been slower to wean itself off of Russian energy. 

After all, Russian seaborne crude oil imports weren’t fully banned until December. 

Ahead of that deadline, countries’ use of Russian crude slowly tapered off. But over the past few months, countries have ramped up Russian diesel purchases and stockpiled it because of the difficulty of finding an alternative and its importance in the region. 

Nearly half of the continent’s cars run on diesel. 

Now, the EU ban could mean even higher diesel prices

And since Europe will need to fill in the gap somehow, it may turn to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia and that means higher shipping costs that need to be offset. 

Russia may try to export its diesel to other parts of the world, namely Latin America and Africa. That could lead to political ramifications for those countries.

Ecuador referendum

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Ecuadorians will vote Sunday on constitutional amendment proposals as well as for local government representatives.

The referendum will consist of eight questions, each of which can result in changing the constitution. 

Issues on the ballot include environmental policy, reforming accountability mechanisms, size of the national assembly and the extradition of Ecuadorians accused of drug trafficking crimes.

Voters will also choose new councilors for the Social Control and Citizen Participation Council as well as 46 provincial officials, 221 mayors and more than 4,000 rural representatives.

Now, a positive outcome in the referendum will be a sign of public approval for President Guillermo Lasso, who called the vote in November amid a crisis of popularity and a wave of gang violence that spread from prisons to cities. 

Recent polls say the majority of Ecuadorians agree with the proposed constitutional amendments. 

Still, critics argue that the reform doesn’t tackle ongoing problems like unemployment, criminality and poverty levels.

U.S. State of the Union

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday. The speech is delivered to a joint session of Congress and is the second of his administration.

Newly-elected Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy extended the invitation in mid-January for Biden to give the traditional address, normally held in the first weeks of a non-inauguration year. 

And with Republicans controlling the House and the Democrats the Senate, this will be Biden’s first to a divided Congress. 

Now, Biden is expected to list his accomplishments from the past year and outline his vision for the coming one. It will also likely emphasize the economy and the ongoing battle over the debt ceiling which shows no signs of nearing a consensus. 

Finally, the parents of Tyre Nichols are expected to be in attendance. He was the 29-year-old man who died after being beaten by a group of Memphis police officers in January. Biden is expected to highlight the issue of police brutality.

Sri Lankan government announces new policies

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe will announce a new set of policies on Wednesday.

He suspended the country’s parliament Saturday without a direct reason, saying the government would announce a plethora of long-term policies. 

The policies, set to be implemented until 2048, will aim to tackle the crippling economic crisis facing the country. 

That crisis began after widespread civil unrest and riots that ultimately ousted former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July of last year. 

The policies could include cutting military and governmental spending significantly. 

Now, the suspension of parliament allows the president to review the economical future of a country mired with political and social unrest. 

Meetings were convened prior to the suspension of parliament in relation to the Tamil minority, a long-standing conflict paralleled by a civil war that ended in 2009

Some semblance of an agreement with the Tamils will be touted as a success, but it remains unclear how the country will respond to the new policies and what effects they will  have on the economy and country’s crippling debt.

Israeli-Palestinian violence

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the recent flare-up in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For more on that I spoke with fellow Factal editor Agnese Boffano.

JIMMY: Hello, Agnese. Thanks for talking with us.

AGNESE: Hi, Jimmy. Nice being back.

JIMMY: You know, I guess to start, can you tell us when this latest flare-up began? And why? Things really seem to have heated up recently.

AGNESE: Yeah, on the last Thursday, on the 26th of January, we saw a large-scale military operation where Israeli forces raided the northern West Bank town of Jenin and its neighboring refugee camp, which resulted in the killing of nine Palestinians and more than a dozen others were injured as well. And while Israel claimed to be targeting “wanted persons,” the Palestinian health ministry says that there are two civilians among them, including a 60-year-old woman who was shot. And a few days after that we saw as well a shooting attack at a settlement in East Jerusalem, in which a Palestinian resident shot and killed seven Israelis in Neve Yaakov, and the gunman was fatally shot too. But, Jimmy, while I think it is important to acknowledge that the East Jerusalem shooting did take place in the aftermath of Jenin, it’s also important to understand the wider context of daily military raids and home incursions, of settler attacks, which, for Palestinians is not just a flare-up in the region, but a consistent state of, for them, occupation. I mean, 2022 was one of the most deadly years for Palestinians, according to health authorities, and in January alone we saw 35 Palestinians killed. So yes, you ask why it’s happening now, while we have seen an uptick in protests and incidents in the last week, it comes in the backdrop of a year of such deadly incidents.

JIMMY: That’s a good point. ‘Flare-up’ does sort of imply things had been peaceful beforehand. You know, how has Palestinian leadership responded to the latest violence?

AGNESE: The Palestinian Authority operating across the West Bank announced that it would “end security coordination” with Israel as a result of Jenin. And of course, we’ve seen them do this on a number of occasions, so in practice it may not be as significant. But then from Gaza, we saw multiple rockets fired and then intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome and subsequently Israel fired rockets inside the Gaza Strip, which it said was targeting militant sites. And luckily, this time no injuries were reported on either side

JIMMY: Well, besides hitting militant targets in Gaza, how else has Israel responded?

AGNESE: So, other than Gaza, we’ve continued seeing more and more raids across the West Bank, including a deadly operation in Hebron on Monday this week. And these come with mass arrests, too. For example, Israel arrested 42 Palestinians in connection to the East Jerusalem shooting. So over the past week, since that East Jerusalem shooting, we’ve definitely seen an uptick even more of raids and military incursions in homes and demolition sites.

JIMMY: Has the US weighed in on any of this lately?

AGNESE: Yes, so actually, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently concluded his visit to Israel and the West Bank. But as could have been expected, you know, it did not yield any significant geopolitical developments, because Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to a two-state solution. He called for de-escalation and all the while he was emphasizing, you know, the US’s political, and it’s important to add, military partnership.

JIMMY: Well, the question I always ask is, you know, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

AGNESE: Aside from an uptick in raids and other attacks, we can expect more unrest in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement that he would expedite gun permits for Israeli citizens, which will also affect events in the occupied Palestinian territories with Israeli settlers. You know, he introduced this right after the East Jerusalem settlement attack. And you know, the new coalition in the Knesset has been in power for over a month now and we are definitely starting to see some changes with regards to Palestinians, which aside from the gun licenses, they also range from the Knesset looking to reinforce their military presence in the West Bank. They wish to make it so that they arrest family members and friends of who they deem to be terrorists, as well as the immediate demolition of their homes. So in the next coming months we’re definitely going to see some Israeli right-wing new laws getting implemented in the Knesset and we’re probably also going to see the consequences of those in the Palestinian territories.

JIMMY: Well, Agnese, I think we’re gonna leave it there for today, but I thank you so much for getting us caught up to speed. Really appreciate it.

AGNESE: Thanks, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Irene Villora, David Wyllie and Jaime Calle Moreno. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: Israeli forces conducted a large-scale raid in the northern West Bank town of Jenin last Thursday. At least nine people were killed and more than a dozen others were injured. (Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit photographer)

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