The conflict between Hamas and Israel in Gaza continued this week, with Israeli air strikes and rocket attacks by Hamas through much of the week culminating with an Israeli ground attack over the weekend. So far, more than 400 Palestinians and 4 Israelis have been killed in the fighting. A Libyan-sponsored United Nations resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire was blocked by the United States on Saturday. Meanwhile, some international observers warned that the use of military force will not achieve a stable solution to the Gaza conflict.
In other news from the previous week:
1. The Chinese government has moved to isolate dissidents who support Charter 08. The Charter, often referred to as the most significant push for opening the one-party state in China since the Tiananmen Square protests, has been signed by 7,000 Chinese and foreign intellectuals. The Charter warns of “the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions” if the Chinese Communist Party does not move towards greater democratization and political openness. A number of signatories to the document have been detained by police, and the government has cautioned the media against carrying interviews with the Charter’s signatories.
2. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine are growing as both sides seek to mobilize support for their position in Europe. Russia cut off natural gas flows to Ukraine last week, accusing the Ukrainian government stealing gas from the pipeline; the Ukrainian government denies the charges. The standoff is a major concern for several members of the European Union, which secures up to 20 percent of its natural gas demands through the disputed pipeline.
3. Cuba celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution on January 1. The revolution led to the overthrow of the dictatorial government of Fulgencio Batista and the establishment of a communist state under the leadership of Fidel Castro. The resignation of Fidel Castro earlier this year, the economic slowdown on the island, and the devastation brought by two hurricanes have left the country in crisis. As a result, celebrations of the revolution were scaled back. The future of U.S.-Cuban relations is likely to be a significant policy question for the incoming Obama administration.
4. John Atta Mills, the leader of the opposition National Democratic Congress, was declared the winner of Ghana’s presidential runoff elections on Sunday. He defeated Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party to win the presidency in elections characterized as free and fair. Ghana has long been viewed as the model for political and economic reform in Africa, and the peaceful political transition in Ghana is viewed as a model for other struggling countries.
5. On Friday, the government of Sri Lanka announced it had seized control of the northern town of Killinochchi in the northern part of the country. Sri Lanka has effectively been divided in half for years, with the northern part of the country under the de facto control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the Tamil Tigers) and the southern part of the country under the control of the Sri Lankan government. The government’s victory in the Tiger stronghold of Killinochchi is widely seen as a dramatic blow to the Tamil Tiers.