Despite the passage by the United Nations Security Council of a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, Israel continued its offensive in Gaza over the weekend. The resolution was passed by the United Nations with the United States abstaining, marking the first time the United States has permitted a resolution opposed by Israel to pass. Hillary Clinton, the incoming Secretary of State, is expected to deliver a speech on the Middle East next week, and speculation is that the speech may provide some insight into the policy of the Obama administration.
In other news from the last week:
1. More bleak data released last week dampened hopes for a speedy recovery from the global economic crisis. On Friday, it was reported that the United States lost more than 2.6 million jobs in 2008 and the unemployment rate jumped to 7.2 percent in December—the highest level in 16 years. Similar figures indicated that the United Kingdom and continental Europe are also suffering from falling economic output and rising unemployment.
2. Russia and Ukraine reached a deal on Saturday aimed at restoring Russian natural gas shipments to the European Union. The deal, which has yet to be formally signed by Ukraine, would permit European Union, Ukrainian, and Russian observers to monitor a pipeline that transports Russian gas through Ukraine to the E.U. The European Union hopes the deal will prevent future disputes over the pipeline, stabilizing shipments to E.U. member states.
3. After receiving a ransom payment of U.S. $3 million, Somali pirates released a captured Saudi oil tanker sized last fall. After the United Nations authorized military action against the pirates late last year, a number of countries have moved naval forces into the region in order to cut the level of piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.
4. A three-day long strike by employees of state-owned energy companies in India ended on Friday. The striking workers failed to garner popular support for their demands, and the strike, which resulted in fuel shortages throughout the country, became highly unpopular.
5. A U.S. businessman with ties to the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency has purchased lease rights over 400,000 hectares of land in Sudan. The purchase becomes the largest private land deal in post-colonial Africa, but raises concerns over the increasing foreign control over the continent’s agricultural land.