Week of June 19th

  • On Monday, June 19th, the Israeli government announced that it would cut electricity to the Gaza Strip, leaving the area with about three hours of electricity a day. The cuts coincide with the 10-year anniversary of Hamas’ takeover of the Strip, and according to the Israeli Parliament they were asked to limit the supply by the Palestinian Authority. The president of Palestine and the Fatah political party, as well as chairman of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, views Hamas as political rivals and wants them to relinquish control of the Gaza Strip. Earlier this year the PA cut government salaries in the Gaza Strip and drastically reduced the amount of medical aid supplies allotted to the region. A spokesperson for Hamas said in a statement that Israel would “bear responsibility for the consequences of the reduction”, however, since their policies are seriously affecting the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.
  • Earlier this month, Sudan’s Ministry of Health confirmed 265 deaths, and more than 16,000 infected cases due to “acute watery diarrhea”; however, medical professionals and community activists alike have long diagnosed or identified these cases as cholera. Cholera, a waterborne illness spread spread through poor water treating and remediation, is likely due to the government’s lack of attention given to increasingly declining infrastructure in Sudan. Now, the use of the word “cholera” in describing the epidemic has been publicly banned in Sudan: authorities have fired health specialists and arrested journalists and activists for use of the word–one journalist was charged with defamation. The prohibition of the word cholera is another development in the long-standing policies of censorship by President Bashir.
  • In a surprise move, the king of Saudi Arabia has revised the country’s ruling succession, replacing now former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef with his son, Mohammed bin Salman. The decision, reported on June 21st, has upended decades of monarchical tradition: if Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS, does take the throne, he will be the first king who is not a son of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz Al Saud. The 31-year-old MBS is not only closer in age to most Saudis (Saudi Arabia has a median age of 27), but also shows promise of a progressive rule: so far, he has been involved in Saudi Arabia’s forward-thinking Vision 2030 plans for less economic dependency on oil, and has vocalized support for increased inclusion of women in the workforce. The move, though, has come with skepticism. King Salman’s decision has already slighted the aging princes who hold the extensive foreign policy and governance experience, in addition to western education, that MBS lacks. However, a young successor means the prospect of one king ruling for many years, if not decades–something Saudi Arabia has not seen in half a century.
  • The fallout of the diplomatic break between Qatar and Saudi Arabia continues to unfold this week with Saudi Arabia announcing it is deporting 15,000 Qatari camels. The camels were stuck at the border between Saudi Arabia and Qatar for days, lacking water and food. After photos of the haggard-looking camels appeared in a Qatari newspaper on June 19th, Qataris became furious. The authorities sent out caravans with provisions to relieve the situation, and the animals have now been set up in temporary shelters. The break between Qatar and several Arab countries came amid heightened tensions over the Saudi-led war in Yemen, heavily criticized in Qatar and by its media, and counter-accusations that Qatar is financing terrorism. One camel owner criticized the social implications of the diplomatic crisis, however, saying: “We just want to live out our days, to go to Saudi Arabia and take care of our camels and go back and take care of our family”.
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