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Forecast podcast: New round of violence erupts in the occupied West Bank

Two soldiers in patrol gear walk a street in front of rundown buildings. There are three more soldiers seeking cover behind a gate or fence.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Ahmed Namatalla discuss the new round of violence in the West Bank, plus more on New York City’s Pride March, elections in Guatemala, the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and a U.N. mandate ending in Mali.

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

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

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Ahmed Namatalla, Vivian Wang, Irene Villora, Agnese Boffano, and Jeff Landset. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. 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 June 22.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a look at the surge in violence in the West Bank, New York City’s Pride March, elections in Guatemala, the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and a U.N. mandate ending in Mali.   

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

West Bank violence

Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla

JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at the escalating violence in the occupied West Bank. For more on that I’ve got our Middle East and Africa desk lead Ahmed Namatalla.

JIMMY: Hey, Ahmed.

AHMED: Hello, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Hey, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. There’s been a lot of news coming out of the West Bank this week and I’m hoping you can get us caught up on what we need to know. Can you give us a recap? What’s up?

AHMED: Well, two days ago, it started with the Israeli military raiding the West Bank town of Jenin, which is the headquarters, you could call it, for Palestinian militants in the West Bank. They killed six Palestinians, who were all militants. The Palestinians then responded by conducting a shooting attack that killed four Israelis. This was in the West Bank settlement of Eli. Israeli settlers retaliated – these are civilians – by raiding a Palestinian village of Turmus Ayya and killing one Palestinian and injuring 10 others, and this was with gunfire. It escalated further today with Israel conducting a drone strike targeting three Palestinian militants in a car near Jenin, again, and this was the first such targeted killing in almost two decades. We are now looking at Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two main Palestinian militant organizations, vowing to respond. Others have joined in. And as we speak, Israeli forces are in the town of Nablus, demolishing the home of a Palestinian militant who is imprisoned in Israel and accused of conducting an attack on Israeli forces a few months ago.

JIMMY: So what’s the response to the violence been like domestically? And, internationally for that matter?

AHMED: It’s always split in two, right? You have the Gaza Strip based militant organizations that are quick and always using escalatory language. And then you have the Palestinian Authority, led by the president, Mahmoud Abbas, who has remained silent for the most part, although today they did issue a kind of bland statement that sides with the Palestinians, obviously. So really, on the ground, the response is, unfortunately, often seen in terms of more violence, and then eventually, usually, we see some sort of agreement to stop. But this time around, it does not appear that this round of violence is over. Internationally, Arab countries have been issuing their usual statements siding with the Palestinians and calling for calm. The US has done the usual in siding with Israel and condemning violence on both sides. But it does not appear that any international player has enough leverage to cause meaningful intervention.

JIMMY: Okay, Ahmed, I know you love it, or maybe hate it, when we ask you to predict the future. So, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

AHMED: Well, you don’t have to predict the future, you only need to look at how past similar escalations have played out. You can expect more retaliatory actions from the Palestinians. You can expect Israel to continue more military action in the West Bank. Just yesterday, the Israeli military said it’s sending more battalions to the West Bank. This is the second round of reinforcement in recent weeks. Politically, the Israelis are also escalating the scene by announcing the building of thousands more of homes for settlers in the occupied West Bank. In addition to the escalation in the West Bank, we also cannot rule out rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. We have seen that tactic being used before when Palestinian militant organizations want to respond to Israeli military action in the West Bank. So it really can happen in any part of Palestinian territories in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and possibly even inside mainland Israel.

JIMMY: Well, Ahmed, I always appreciate your briefs and today is no different. Thanks for keeping us plugged in. 

AHMED: Thank you jimmy 

JIMMY: Take care.

Pride March in New York City

Information compiled by Vivian Wang

JIMMY: New York City’s Pride March will return Sunday. 

The march, which is believed to be the world’s largest Pride celebration, is held to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal event in the modern LGBTQ+ liberation movement.

And now, more than 50 years after the riots, LGBTQ+ rights are still a work in progress. 

In fact, the U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Campaign has declared a state of emergency for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans. 

That comes amid a recent slew of legislative attempts to restrict their rights in at least 20 states.

Now, federal authorities are monitoring risks to Pride marches across the country, and one person has even been indicted for making threats against Nashville’s upcoming Pride event. 

New York City’s Pride March will begin at noon near Madison Square Park and head south toward Lower Manhattan. 

It will pass by the Stonewall National Monument and the New York City AIDS Memorial before dispersing in Chelsea. 

Organizers say millions of people, including parade participants and attendees, are expected to gather for the event.

Guatemala elections

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Guatemalans will choose the country’s next president and congressional lawmakers on Sunday. It will mark the end of a turbulent and controversial election season.

At least four presidential candidates have been disqualified by Guatemala’s constitutional court over alleged administrative errors during their submission process. 

Among the disqualified candidates is a frontrunner in the polls, Carlos Pineda of the Prosperidad Ciudadana party. 

The three main candidates that remain leading in the polls include far-right Zury Ríos, the daughter of military dictator Efraín Ríos, who was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity before his death. 

Also leading in the polls is center-right former first lady Sandra Torres, whose party Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza is currently the biggest in the country. 

And finally, there’s center-right former diplomat Edmond Mulet from the Cabal party.

Now, the Guatemalan army has deployed more than 25,000 members to guarantee security at polling stations, main roads, ports and airports. 

That, after the security forces declared the vote a high-risk event. 

More than 68,000 national police officers will also participate in the operation. 

In order to be elected, a candidate needs more than 50 percent of votes in the first round of the election. 

A runoff is scheduled for Aug. 20 if none of the contenders achieve the necessary majority in the initial round.

Start of Hajj pilgrimage

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Following the sighting of the crescent moon in Saudi Arabia, the largest annual religious pilgrimage of Muslims in Mecca, known as Hajj, is set to begin on Monday.

The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will be celebrated the following Wednesday

Around 2 million people are expected to travel to Mecca for Hajj, the first time restrictions have been lifted since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.

Saudi Arabia said it would host more than 1,300 Muslim pilgrims as official guests from across 90 countries during this year’s five-day Hajj pilgrimage. 

That, despite criticism from some countries, including Nigeria and the United Kingdom, about Riyadh’s cut on the quota of people allowed to visit as part of the program. 

Now, the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have already had an impact on this year’s Hajj. It’s paved the way for Yemeni pilgrims depart Sanaa on the first direct flight to Saudi Arabia since 2016 

Although Israel had been planning to begin direct flights to Saudi Arabia, Israeli officials said this week that this would likely be pushed back a year

And finally, there’s the weather. Saudi Arabia’s forecasters have said temperatures in Mecca during the Hajj period could reach up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit

Those higher-than-normal temperatures have raised fear of incidents similar to the stampede during the 2015 pilgrimage, in which hundreds, and possibly even thousands, of people died in a crowd crush.

UN mandate in Mali ends

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: After more than a decade of work trying to stabilize Mali, the United Nations could soon be forced to leave. That, as its mandate is set to end next Thursday, barring an unlikely extension.

The U.N. Security Council established a peacekeeping mission in the West African nation back in 2013. 

It came after a military coup destabilized the region in 2012 and thousands of troops have since worked as peacekeepers in the country with an annual budget of more than $1 billion dollars

But those efforts have not produced enough results to satisfy the local residents. 

Malians have continued to deal with deadly jihadist attacks for the entirety of the U.N. mission and are now under military rule following two other coups in 2020 and 2021. 

Those military leaders broke an alliance with France, its former colonial power, and recently urged the U.N. to withdraw all troops, calling them “part of the problem.” 

The United States extended support for the mission but said its drawdown “must be orderly and responsible.”

Now, Malian military leaders are working closely with Russia’s Wagner Group, despite claims of human rights abuses by the mercenaries. 

The United States has accused Wagner of meddling in several countries, destabilizing them in the process. 

The absence of U.N. peacekeepers may lead to a rise of Russian-backed warfare in Mali. 

It also represents a failure of the U.N.’s peacekeeping ability in favor of mercenaries.

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 Vivian Wang, Irene Villora, Agnese Boffano and Jeff Landset. Our interview featured editor Ahmed Namatalla and the podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. 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 soldiers are seen on patrol in the West Bank town of Kafr Qaddum on May 19, 2023. (Photo: שי קנדלר / Wikimedia Commons)

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