May 14, 2021
CANVAS is pleased to bring you another weekly report! This week covers the conflict between Palestine and Israel, continued violence in Myanmar, and the loosening of Covid-19 restrictions in the United States.
Israel launched an intense air and ground attack on the Gaza Strip early Friday, the single largest operation in the newest iteration of the conflict which began this week. The recent rapid escalation of aggression by Israel comes after a raid by Israeli police at the al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem left hundreds of Palestinians wounded. Hamas militants in Gaza retaliated by firing a barrage of rockets at Jerusalem, drawing Israeli airstrikes in return. The confrontation over the eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem has erupted into the largest conflict between Palestine and Israel since the 2014 Gaza War. At least 122 in Gaza and eight in Israel have been killed since the conflict began on Monday. 42% of those killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza have been women and children. Hamas, the group which governs the Gaza Strip, is supported by Iran and it appears that Hamas has taken cues from Tehran’s Houthi clients in Yemen in this most recent conflict. While threats and missile attacks by Hamas in other recent conflicts have been largely symbolic in nature, this time Hamas has targeted Israel’s Iron Dome facilities, which are designed to shoot down rockets from Gaza, along with Israeli air bases in southern Israel. Israel has massed troops along its border with the Gaza Strip and called up 9,000 reservists A shooting at a school in the Rusian city of Kazan this week killed seven students and two school employees. Witnesses and officials blamed a teenager for the rare mass shooting in the country. Within hours, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered Russia’s already strict firearm laws to be tightened further. While China has been searching for ways to boost its birth rate after decades of the One Child Policy wreaked havoc on the country’s demographic pyramid, China has ordered women in the mostly Muslim region of Xinjiang to be fitted with contraceptive devices. While Chinese authorities have said that the birth control procedures are voluntary, data depicts a coercive attempt to curb the region’s population’s reproductive rights by the Communist Party. Over the last decade, the Communist Party, with Xi Jinping at its head, has aggressively repressed Uyghurs and other Central Asian minorities in Xinjiang, putting hundreds of thousands into internment camps and prisons. In the United Kingdom, the Scottish National Party’s bid for an independent Scotland faltered this week after the party failed to win an outright majority in elections to the Scottish Parliament. Together with the seats held by the Green Party, who are also pro-independence, there is a majority for a referendum in Parliament, but public polling has swung against holding another vote.
In a report published Tuesday, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) said that a Covid-19 variant spreading rapidly in India might be more contagious than other forms of the coronavirus. The W.H.O. emphasized that it is unclear whether or not the B.1.617 variant has contributed to India’s Covid-19 nightmare because, like many other countries, India is only sequencing a small fraction of positive samples. The Organization speculated that the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom and now dominant in the United States, could be driving the global increase in cases. Dozens of bodies of suspected Covid-19 patients have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River in northern India as the coronavirus spreads from India’s metropolises to rural areas. Ashok Kumar, a local official, said that about forty dead bodies washed up in Buxar district near the border between Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, two of India’s poorest states. Some media reports said the corpses could number one hundred or more. As a new wave of infections continues to pummel Nepal, India’s neighbor to the north, relief groups are asking mountain climbers to donate used oxygen canisters so that they can be refilled for Covid-19 patients. The virus has even found its way to Mount Everest base camp, where approximately 1,500 climbers and porters have gathered for the annual climbing season. Nepal has not confirmed the number of positive cases at the base camp, but mountaineers have reported helicopters evacuating people with Covid-19 symptoms off the mountain.
One hundred days after the coup d’état, Myanmar’s military government only maintains the pretense of control in the country. Although streets in major cities are kept clear of mass protests by the threat of lethal force on the part of the police and military apparatus, discontent continues to simmer. The widespread opposition to military rule has brought together people of classes, ages, and, most importantly, different religious and ethnic backgrounds. Reports indicate that the Myanmar military used artillery to shell civilian militias in the northwest town of Mindat in Chin state on Thursday and Friday after the ruling junta declared martial law there in an attempt to quell the rebellion there. The military junta said martial law was imposed after “armed terrorists” attacked a police station and a bank. The newly-formed Chinland Defense Forces on Friday said it was behind the fighting in Mindat. It ambushed a convoy of military reinforcements Friday, according to one fighter and a local legislator. An anonymous lawmaker said the Chin forces numbered between 400 and 500 with 30-40 assault rifles along with traditional hunting rifles. In other news, a cash shortage in the country is quickly turning into an economic crisis after the banking system was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the military coup d’état, and striking bank workers. Myanmar’s central bank, now run by a junta appointee, has not returned some of the reserves it holds for private banks, without giving any reason, leaving banks short of cash. The banks themselves have only opened intermittently since the coup, citing staff strikes in protest of the military take over and internet outages that make online transfers difficult and international transactions nearly impossible. The Burmese kyat has lost approximately 20% of its value since the coup. Experts say the cash crisis is the most immediate sign of much deeper economic problems facing Myanmar, with one financial research firm forecasting that Myanmar’s gross domestic product could shrink by 20% in 2021. An analysis published by the United Nations World Food Program found that millions could go hungry in the coming months.