Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal.
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The Debrief: The unprecedented escalation in the Israel-Gaza conflict has given rise to heightened levels of misinformation, with conflicting claims issued from each side and little possibility of independent verification due to access limitations. In this month’s edition of the Debrief, Factal editors Alex Moore and Agnese Boffano discuss the strike on the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City as a microcosm of this issue and explore how changes to social media policies have complicated authentication efforts by journalists. Read more in this month’s edition of the Debrief.
Week of November 10-17
A Look Ahead
Nov. 10 – Thailand allows visa-free visits for tourists from India and Taiwan
Indian and Taiwanese nationals will be allowed to enter Thailand for tourism without a visa starting Friday.
What’s happened so far
Travelers from India and Taiwan will be allowed to stay in the country for 30 days without any visa requirements until May 10, 2023. The measure follows the scrapping of visa requirements for Chinese and Kazakhstani tourists in September.
The relaxation of entry requirements is part of an attempt by the government to boost tourism after the coronavirus pandemic impacted revenues from one of Thailand’s main industries. China and India represent the first and fourth tourism markets for Thailand. Thai officials estimate some 700,000 Taiwanese citizens will visit the country by the end of the year.
Nov. 11 – APEC meeting in San Francisco begins
World leaders will head to the Bay Area on Saturday for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, bringing heavy security, heightened anger and high-stakes diplomacy.
What’s happened so far
Dignitaries from 21 Pacific Rim countries, notably U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, will meet along with American business leaders. This will be Xi’s first trip to the United States since 2017, when he met with former President Donald Trump. Protests have been a large part of this summit in recent history, especially since the Royal Canadian Mounted Police used pepper spray on students in 1997 and an off-duty federal agent shot and killed a man in Hawaii in 2011. Community activists have announced plans to bring attention to several issues, and police said there will be a large security zone and the amount of law enforcement will be “well above what anyone has seen before.”
Biden and Xi are expected to have a face-to-face meeting on the sidelines of the summit. There is no shortage of topics to talk about, especially with high-profile politicians from Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines set to attend. Recently, the United States and China met to talk about playing a constructive role in the Israel-Gaza and Russia-Ukraine wars. The two countries also spoke about nuclear-arms control. If the talks go well, it could represent a reset in the two powerful countries’ relationship, especially after the spy balloon incident earlier this year.
Nov. 11 – Arab League meeting on Gaza
Arab foreign ministers are set to meet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday to discuss the war in Gaza Strip, having taken little tangible action over more than a month of Israeli bombardment that has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians.
What’s happened so far
With the United States’ and Europe’s backing, Israel refuses to ease its attack on the Gaza Strip, claiming the bombings of hospitals, schools and residential buildings are targeting Hamas militants. On the ground, Israeli forces have surrounded Gaza City. The talks are the first since Oct. 7, when Hamas fighters broke through the territory’s barriers and attacked Israeli towns, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostages.
Arab autocrats and ruling families have been hesitant to take action in favor of Gaza Strip’s Palestinian population for fear of strengthening Hamas, a group they see as a direct threat to their hold on power. Egypt is unlikely to allow more than a trickle of aid to flow across the border or let in refugees, though there’s growing speculation that the cash-strapped country may be willing to negotiate in exchange for debt relief. Jordan, which pulled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, dropped supplies for its hospital in Gaza, though it’s not seen as part of a wider relief campaign. Meanwhile, most Gulf nations are keeping their distance, with UAE having established close ties with Israel and Saudi Arabia moving closer before the outbreak of violence.
Nov. 11 – Hezbollah leader set to give speech
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah is set to speak on Saturday for “Martyr’s Day,” which commemorates a 1982 suicide bombing at Israel’s military headquarters in Tyre that killed at least 90 people, including 75 soldiers.
What’s happened so far
The remarks will be Nasrallah’s second since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel. In his Nov. 3 speech, he said all options were on the table for the Lebanese group, but stopped short of announcing a full entrance into the war, claiming that cross-border strikes from southern Lebanon have forced Israel to devote resources that would otherwise be used to counter Hamas in Gaza.
Fears remain that the current conflict could escalate into a regional war, with Nasrallah warning the United States in his previous remarks that Americans “must quickly halt the aggression on Gaza” to prevent a larger conflict.
Nov. 13 – Poland’s president calls for new parliament to hold session
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda has called for the newly elected parliament to convene Monday.
What’s happened so far
The new parliament convening will begin what is expected to be a lengthy process to appoint Poland’s new prime minister in the wake of last month’s elections that saw an opposition bloc led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk defeat the ruling far-right PiS party. Duda, a PiS member, has decided to grant the PiS and incumbent Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki the first chance to secure enough support in parliament to form a government, a longshot effort likely to fail.
Duda’s decision to grant the PiS a first chance at forming a government signals that he will likely be a thorn in the side of a Tusk-led parliament until the conclusion of his term in 2025. Parliament will have 14 days to approve a new government, after which the Tusk-led opposition will get its chance. Poland appears likely to enter into a divided government for the first time since PiS swept into power in 2015, giving the Tusk-led government the opportunity to begin mending multiple long-running disputes with the European Union that currently is blocking €36 billion ($38 billion) in EU funds earmarked for Warsaw.
Nov. 16 – Madagascar presidential elections
Madagascar is braced for political crisis surrounding Thursday’s presidential elections due to a bitter divide between incumbent President Andry Rajoelina and a coalition of opposition candidates over Rajoelina’s eligibility to run.
What’s happened so far
The opposition argues Rajoelina should not be allowed to participate as he became a naturalized French citizen in 2014, effectively meaning he is no longer Malagasy as Madagascar’s legal system does not allow anyone to hold dual citizenship by choice. The country’s High Constitutional Court dismissed this challenge and permitted Rajoelina to run, a decision described as biased by the opposition. Since Oct. 2, the coalition has been staging regular protests, calling for a new electoral commission and court.
The election has already been postponed once, from Nov. 9 to Nov. 16, after one candidate was injured during a protest, and it could be postponed again if further violence is recorded. Police banned demonstrations at a symbolic square in the capital Antananarivo, and opposition candidates could face arrest if they attempt to protest there. A runoff vote is scheduled for Dec. 20 if no single candidate acquires a majority in the first round.
What Else Matters
Myanmar rebel forces capture key border town with China
Myanmar is experiencing a renewed surge in conflict since its military staged a coup in 2021, with resistance groups claiming to have seized a district capital, towns along the Chinese border and dozens of military outposts. A rebel alliance of three ethnic militias launched an offensive in the northeastern state of Shan in late October, capturing a slew of strategically important towns, including Chinshwehaw, which hosts an official border trade crossing with China. Resistance forces also claim to have seized the city of Kawlin in the Sagaing region, the first administrative capital to fall under their control.
Watch for: Myanmar’s junta has vowed to carry out counter-attacks against allied ethnic groups in the northern Shan state, after acknowledging that the military was forced to cede control of strategic border towns with China. Civilians continue to be displaced en masse across the country, with tens of thousands uprooted in northern Shan alone since late October, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. China has urged for stability along its border with Myanmar amid the uptick in fighting.
Ground incursion into Gaza City
Earlier this week, the Israeli military announced it had surrounded Gaza City and seized land from the Gaza Strip’s eastern border to the Mediterranean, essentially dividing the Palestinian territory in two. The military since opened a humanitarian corridor along Gaza’s main Salah ad-Din road for hour-long evacuation windows, urging civilians to flee south, though many refuse to leave after documented strikes on the corridor, as well as continued strikes in areas in the south deemed “safe” by the military. The heavy air strikes this week coincided with a third Gaza-wide telecommunications and internet outage. Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital is also reported to be quickly running out of fuel, risking its closure as the death toll surpasses 10,000, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Watch for: The Israeli military tactic in Gaza appears to be to isolate and wear-down fighters, despite troops facing resistance from Palestinian guerilla warfare ambushing troops from their extensive underground infrastructure. Meanwhile, Israel continues to move closer to Gaza City in what the military has described as a three-step operation to “remove Hamas.” Although the Israeli government has continued to assure the public that it is engaging in operational and diplomatic steps to free the more than 200 hostages still in Gaza, Hamas has so far released only four hostages with one other freed by the army during ground operations. There is no indication that a ceasefire will take place, despite it being urged by international actors and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…
- Thailand allows visa-free visits for tourists from India and Taiwan
- Hezbollah leader set to give speech
- APEC meeting in San Francisco begins
- Arab League emergency summit in Riyadh
- Polish parliament to convene to form government
- Provincial election in Northwest Territories, Canada
- APEC Ministerial Meeting
- First round of Madagascar presidential election
- U.S. government funding deadline
- Argentina presidential runoff
- 110th Grey Cup in Hamilton, Ontario
- 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara, Solomon Islands
- Netherlands elections
- UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivers autumn statement
- U.S. Thanksgiving
Nov. 25-Dec. 1
- Deadline to form government in Spain
- Deadline to form government in Poland
- COP 28 in Dubai
- Trial against Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu
- Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis to debate California Gov. Gavin Newsom
- Venezuela referendum over Esequibo territorial dispute with Guyana
- China Evergrande debt restructuring hearing
- Hanukkah begins
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