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Violence in the occupied West Bank escalated this week after two Hamas gunmen fatally shot four Israeli settlers, sparking revenge attacks in which dozens of Palestinian cars and homes were set on fire. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Ahmed Namatalla discuss the surge in violence and its impact on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Listen now or download on your favorite platform.
Week of June 23-30
A Look Ahead
June 25 – Guatemala elections
On Sunday, Guatemalans will choose the country’s next president and congressional lawmakers amid a turbulent and controversial election season.
What’s happened so far
At least four presidential candidates have been disqualified by Guatemala’s constitutional court over alleged administrative errors during their submission process, including Carlos Pineda of the Prosperidad Ciudadana party, a frontrunner in the polls. The three main candidates that remain leading in the polls are far-right Zury Ríos, the daughter of military dictator Efraín Ríos, who was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity before his death; center-right former first lady Sandra Torres, whose party Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza is currently the biggest in the country; and center-right former diplomat Edmond Mulet from the Cabal party.
The Guatemalan army said it plans to deploy more than 25,000 members to guarantee security at polling stations, main roads, ports and airports after the security forces declared the vote a high-risk event. More than 68,000 national police officers will also participate in the operation. 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.
June 25 – Pride March in New York City
New York City’s Pride March, believed to be the world’s largest Pride celebration, will return Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, a pivotal event in the modern LGBTQ+ liberation movement.
What’s happened so far
More than 50 years after the 1969 Stonewall riot, triggered by a police raid on a popular gay bar in the Greenwich Village area of New York City, LGBTQ+ rights are still a work in progress. The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBTQ+ people in the United States, declared a state of emergency for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans amid a recent slew of legislative attempts to restrict their rights in at least 20 states.
Federal authorities are monitoring risks to Pride marches across the country, and one person has 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, passing 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.
June 25 – Greek legislative elections
After May’s parliamentary election failed to yield a majority or coalition government, Greece will vote for the second time in less than a month Sunday.
What’s happened so far
Despite the New Democracy party winning 41 percent of the vote in May, it was unable to form a government due to Greece’s proportional representation system. Meanwhile the vote share of the second-largest party Syriza dropped 11 percent. The Mediterranean immigration crisis will be at the forefront of this vote after at least 81 migrants died off Greece’s southern coast last week, leading to a pause in election campaigning.
Following New Democracy’s victory in May, former Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to lead once again, and benefits from a tweak to the run-off rules that gives the winning party a 50-seat edge. Mitsotakis, who stepped down in May after leading since 2019, said he will prioritize regaining investment grade status, which the country lost in 2010 following a debt crisis.
June 26 – Toronto mayoral election
On Monday, voters in Canada’s largest city will choose who will serve out the remainder of Mayor John Tory’s term in a by-election following his resignation.
What’s happened so far
Tory resigned in February after admitting to an extramarital affair with a staffer, handing power to Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie. McKelvie ruled herself out of the running, promising to focus on a smooth transition of power, and opened the campaign up to more than a hundred challengers. Opinion polls have consistently shown Olivia Chow, a former city councilor and member of parliament, as frontrunner, though at least one poll shows signs other candidates are gaining momentum in the final days.
Chow has pledged to address affordable housing in Toronto, getting the city more involved in developing housing on land it owns, and to tackle the city’s transit problems by reversing recent cuts and building a new dedicated busway in Scarborough. If elected, she will serve out the remainder of Tory’s term that runs through 2026.
June 26 – Start of Hajj pilgrimage
Following the sighting of the crescent moon in Saudi Arabia, the largest annual religious pilgrimage of Muslims, known as Hajj, is set to begin in Mecca on Monday.
What’s happened so far
The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha will be celebrated Wednesday, on the third day of Hajj. Approximately 2 million people are expected in Mecca, as this is the first time coronavirus restrictions have been lifted since the pandemic began in 2020. However, new restrictions, including cuts in quotas for travelers from other countries, have drawn criticism from nations such as Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
While Israel delayed plans for direct flights for Hajj pilgrims, a recent normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran meant some 270 pilgrims could travel to Saudi Arabia via a direct commercial flight from Sanaa, Yemen’s capital controlled Iran-backed Houthis, for the first time in seven years. Saudi Arabia’s meteorological agency predicted temperatures in Mecca are set to reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and hotter-than-normal weather raises the fear of incidents similar to the 2015 stampede, in which an estimated 2,000 people died.
June 29 – UN mandate in Mali ends
After more than a decade of work trying to stabilize Mali, the United Nations could soon be forced to leave when its mandate ends Thursday, barring an unlikely extension.
What’s happened so far
In April 2013, the U.N. Security Council established a peacekeeping mission in the West African nation after a military coup destabilized the region. Thousands of troops have since been deployed in the country with an annual budget of more than $1 billion dollars. Despite this, Malians continue to face deadly jihadist attacks and are now under military rule following two coups in 2020 and 2021. The military has 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.”
Malian military leaders are now working closely with Wagner mercenaries, despite allegations of human rights abuses against the Russian paramilitary organization. The United States has accused Wagner of meddling in several countries, destabilizing them, as well as funneling support to Russia’s war on Ukraine. While 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.
What Else Matters
Israel’s military is deploying the second round of reinforcements in recent weeks to the occupied West Bank amid an escalation in fighting with the territory’s Palestinian population. Troops have conducted raids almost nightly to capture militants and demolish homes of those already arrested or killed during attacks targeting Israelis. This has led to occasionally deadly clashes involving live ammunition. This week, Israel killed at least nine Palestinian militants in a raid and a rare drone strike in the West Bank town of Jenin, while Hamas militants opened fire on Israeli civilians in the settlement of Eli, killing at least four. Complicating matters further is the growing involvement of Israeli settlers, who attacked Palestinian villages with gunfire, rocks and fire bombs.
Watch for: The escalation all but ends a period of relative calm that followed the Israeli military’s offensive against Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip that left dozens of Palestinians dead in early May. It comes against the backdrop of political turmoil inside Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tries to hold together an increasingly fragile right-wing government by advancing laws that would weaken the judiciary’s independence and power. Hamas, for its part, is vowing further escalation in response to the Israeli military’s intensification of its offensive against its members in the West Bank.
Ukraine’s summer offensive is entering its third week as heavy fighting continues along a long front primarily focused on dislodging Russia from occupied territory in the southern theater. As some analysts anticipated, the counteroffensive appears poised to push south into the occupied parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions in an attempt to sever Russia’s Crimea land bridge. Kyiv’s progress has been slow since operations commenced in the early days of June, though localized successes have been found in all three main axes as Ukraine takes on Russia’s layered defensive positions built out over more than a year occupying the areas in question.
Watch for: Rosy outlooks regarding Ukraine’s ability to swiftly breach heavily fortified defensive positions without air support were always unrealistic, and the counteroffensive appears destined to continue for weeks and months before any assessments of success. While progress has been made breaking through initial Russian lines, particularly on the front along the Donetsk border with Zaporizhzhia, the gains have been costly in deaths and mechanized equipment given to Ukraine by western countries. Numerous questions remain, including the full extent to which Ukraine has utilized forces trained and equipped in Europe, as well as whether or not Kyiv’s initial attempts are part of a strategy to probe defensive lines for weaknesses for a larger operation. While too soon to assess, these questions will be answered as fall begins to approach.
What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…
- Sierra Leone elections
- Security officers strike at Heathrow airport
- Guatemala elections
- Greece elections
- EU’s Digital Services Act comes into force
- Senegal’s President Macky Sall to address nation on question of third presidential term after conclusion of national dialogue
- Toronto mayoral election
- Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez visits Brazil
- French President Emmanuel Macron visits Marseille
- Devshayani Ekadashi Hindu holiday
- U.K. government challenge to COVID inquiry
- Closure of Russian embassy office in Lappeenranta, Finland
- Kenya and Somalia reopen three points on land border
- Jordan, Iraq power link to start production
- Deadline for all volunteer units in Ukraine to sign Russian defense ministry contracts by decree
- Turkey raises minimum wage
- Municipal elections in Peru
- British train drivers on London to Scotland line to strike
- Wimbledon begins
- U.S. Independence Day
- India hosts Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit virtually
- Scotland hosts coronation celebrating for King Charles
- Russian nuclear weapons deployed to Belarus
- Snap election in Uzbekistan
- MLB All-Star Game in Seattle
- NATO summit in Lithuania
- Wrestling Federation of India holds elections
- Black Sea grain deal expires
- Women’s World Cup 2023 begins
- Election to replace U.K.’s Boris Johnson
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