A deserted Bagram airfield after the departure of all US and Nato forces from Parwan province, eastern Afghanistan. | Photo Credit: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Jul 5: US and NATO forces leave Afghanistan base, shooting rampage in Haiti, Israel conducts fourth air raid on the Gaza Strip

North America

  • Lightning strikes have resulted in more than 130 wildfires in Canada last Wednesday (Jun 30). This has forced the village of Lytton to flee, leaving their belongings behind. The extreme heat has contributed to 719 sudden deaths last week, which is thrice as many as the average for the time of year. Canada’s federal government will be sending military aircraft to assist emergency services in British Columbia battling to control the fires. 
  • The last United States (US) and North American Treaty Organization (NATO) forces left the key Afghanistan base last Saturday (Jul 3). The US forces will be gone by Sep 11, according to US President Joe Biden. This marks the end of America’s longest war, handing back the security of Afghanistan to its government. 
  • A massive ransomware attack on an American IT company potentially targeted a thousand businesses last Friday (Jul 2). This resulted in one of Sweden’s biggest supermarket chains to temporarily close around 800 stores after losing access to its checkouts. The cyberattack is believed to be the act of the Russia-linked REvil ransomware gang. REvil is known to be one of the most prolific and profitable cyber-criminal groups in the world. US intelligence agencies are still in the midst of checking and will respond if they determine that Russia is to blame.
  • The death toll from Florida’s condominium collapse on June 23 has risen to 22 after search and rescue crews found two more bodies last Saturday (Jul 3), which includes a firefighter’s seven-year-old daughter. There are currently still 126 people missing and feared to be buried beneath the pulverised concrete. The rescue team is racing against time as the city is expecting to experience a 120km/h hurricane early this week.
  • The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has reached a preliminary US$850 million (S$1.15 billion) settlement last Saturday (Jul 3) with some 60,000 people over claims of historic sexual abuse. This may be the largest sexual abuse settlement in US history. The BSA had filed for bankruptcy last year and apologised to the victims. They will also be setting up a compensation trust for victims. 
  • Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld passed away last Thursday (Jul 1). Rumsfeld was known to be the architect of the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

South America

  • A shooting rampage in Haiti last Tuesday (Jun 29) has killed at least 15 people including a journalist and a political activist. This is largely a result of the surge in gang violence, displacing thousands in June. 
  • Parts of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have suffered from tropical storm Elsa since Saturday (Jul 3). Heavy rain will be expected in parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica, which could lead to flash floods and mudslides. Storm Elsa resulted in three deaths last Saturday (Jul 3) as trees were uprooted and roofs were blown off. 
  • Mexico’s Supreme Court has decriminalised the private recreational use of cannabis by adults last Tuesday (Jun 29). The Court has called the current prohibition unconstitutional. The new legislation will allow users to carry up to 28g and grow as many as eight plants at home for personal use.
  • Mexico has been experiencing a long-term drought with temperatures hitting 40 degrees Celcius last Wednesday (Jun 30) in the northern region. This could worsen in the coming weeks, damaging crops and causing a shortage in water supply.
  • Brazilians went to the streets of Rio De Janeiro last Saturday (Jul 3) to demand the president to step down. This was triggered by Brazil’s widespread criticism against the president’s mismanagement of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak. President Bolsonaro not only declined to be vaccinated but also sowed doubts about inoculations, pushed unproven miracle cures and underplayed the severity of a pandemic, leading to the deaths of more than half a million Brazilians.
  • Brazilian murder suspect, Lázaro Barbosa, has died last Tuesday (Jun 29) in a police shootout. Barbosa was shot as the police were closing in on him. The police have been searching for him since June after he murdered a family of four. Barbosa also reportedly held people hostage, set one home and several cars alight, and injured a police officer while on the run. 

Asia Pacific

  • China celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party on Thursday (Jul 1). In a speech delivered to a crowd of 70,000 people, President Xi Jinping praised the country’s effort in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as issued stern warnings to China’s critics, saying they would not be able to “bully, oppress or subjugate China”. President Xi’s remarks come at a time of increased international criticism regarding human rights abuses of the country’s Uighur population, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and its recent National Security Law in Hong Kong. 
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga warned on Thursday (Jul 1), that the delayed 2021 Tokyo Olympics may have to be a closed-door event due to a recent rise in Covid-19 infections. The games, which are set to begin in three weeks, will accommodate a smaller crowd of 10,000 local spectators per venue. Prime Minister Suga has said that the government will prioritise the safety of Japanese citizens. The country was previously slated to ease its current restrictions on July 11, however, the measures may remain in place in light of the rise in cases. 
  • Philippine military aircraft carrying troops crashed and burst into flames last Sunday (Jul 4). Most of the passengers were recent army graduates. At least 45 people have been killed while 17 are still missing. This mishap is one of the country’s deadliest military aviation accidents. 
  • North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un reportedly accused and recalled officials for negligence over the management of the spread of Covid-19 in the country. In his remarks reported by the local network KCNA, the oversight had caused “a grave incident” which put many North Koreans at risk of the disease. The incident came as the government insisted that the country had no Covid-19 cases earlier in the year. North Korea is also grappling with food shortages and a worsening economy.
  • The Bombay High Court has instructed the government of Maharashtra, India on Wednesday (Jun 30), to put a stop to all political rallies in the state due to continual breaches of Covid-19 restrictions on mass gatherings. The state flouted restrictions as it held a recent rally of 25,000 people. The High Court has been unable to operate at full capacity due to surging cases, and remarked, “We are shutting down courts… and yet, these political leaders are organising rallies?” The country is battling its third deadly wave of Covid-19 infections due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. 
  • The Chinese government introduced a controversial National Security Law in Hong Kong on Wednesday (Jun 30). The law criminalises “secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces”, making it easier to clamp down on pro-democracy protests as well as restrict the autonomy of Hong Kong’s judicial court. Locals expressed worries regarding the law’s restriction on personal freedom and are concerned that Hong Kong’s judicial system could be eroded to bear greater resemblance to that of mainland China.

Europe

  • A wildfire broke out in the southern Limassol district in Cyprus on Saturday (Jul 3). The fire, which spanned at least 40km, was confirmed to have claimed four lives last Sunday (Jul 4). Cyprus appealed for international aid from the European Union (EU) and Israel after the blaze intensified. The country had been under a heatwave in the week leading up to the wildfire.  
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of a risk of a new wave of Covid-19 infections across Europe due to the highly transmissible Delta variant. Reported cases increased by 10 per cent across European nations in the week before. The warning came amid slow rates of vaccinations and increased social mixing in events such as the UEFA European Football Championship games. Hundreds of fans returning from matches in London and St Petersburg have tested positive for Covid-19. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofe criticised the UEFA, calling the association “irresponsible”.
  • More than 5.6 million EU citizens met a deadline last Wednesday (Jun 30) to apply for legal permission to remain in the United Kingdom (UK) under a post-Brexit “EU Settlement Scheme”. The scheme requires EU nationals to register for a “settled” or “pre-settled” status to continue to study, travel out of the country and have access to the National Health Service (NHS).  
  • Belarus closed its border with Ukraine last Friday (Jul 2), due to concerns over illegal arms being smuggled into the country. President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that the arms were being delivered to terrorist groups funded by nations such as Germany, Ukraine and the United States, in a ploy to overthrow his regime. However, the President failed to provide proof to support his accusations. Ukraine denied the claims, and said that the border closure would cause its citizens to “suffer”. 
  • A UK-based study by the Oxford vaccine group published findings on Monday (Jun 28) that the mixing of Covid-19 vaccines provides strong protection against the virus. The Com-cov trial compared two dose regimens of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines against a mix of a single dose of each vaccine. The study found that a first dose of AstraZeneca and a second of Pfizer four weeks later provided an immune response higher than if the order of doses was reversed. The mixed dosage also prompted a higher antibody response than two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The results are significant as it offers “flexibility” in vaccine rollouts across countries.

Middle East

  • Protestors took to the streets in Iraq after a major powerline failure caused widespread electricity cuts across the country during a period of intense heat waves. Electricity Minister Majed Mahdi had resigned due to public pressure over the numerous outages. On Friday (Jul 2), Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Khadimi announced the formation of a committee to find a solution to the crisis. 
  • Israeli airstrikes were carried out on the Gaza Strip on Saturday (Jul 3), for the fourth time since a ceasefire was called in May. The Israeli government cited it as retaliation for the incendiary balloons launched from Gaza. Violent clashes broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian civilians in East Jerusalem as the demolition of local housing to build Israeli settlements began on Tuesday (Jun 29) in the neighbourhood of Silwan.
  • Fears of a fifth wave of Covid-19 infections arose in Iran on Wednesday (Jun 30) after a rise in cases due to the Delta variant of the virus in its Southern and Southeastern provinces. The country has the highest death toll from the virus in the Middle East, with more than 80,000 fatalities.
  • Lebanese judge Tarek Bitar announced that legal action would be taken against top officials, including caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, for the unsafe storage of ammonium nitrate at a port in Beirut. The chemical stockpile had detonated in a fatal explosion last year, killing 211 people and wounding over 6,500. Locals expressed a new sense of hope that justice could be obtained for the victims of the accident. Judge Bitar’s predecessor had previously been removed from the investigation earlier this year.
  • Iran denied on Saturday (Jul 3), any links to the attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria on Monday (Jun 28). The country also condemned airstrikes directed by US President Joe Biden on Iran-backed militia in the region the day before, claiming that the attack was in “flagrant violation of international law”. The incidents occurred even as the Biden administration looks towards reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. 

Africa 

  • The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has threatened to take the South African government to court last Thursday (Jul 1). This was triggered by the inability of 228 new junior doctors to find placements despite the shortage of healthcare frontliners amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. South Africa is still struggling to tackle their third wave of Covid-19 cases which have become more infectious due to the Delta variant. Covid-19 cases hit a record of 24,000 new Covid-19 cases last Friday (Jul 2). Healthcare frontliners are overworked and hospitals are overwhelmed. 
  • An al-Shabab suicide attack occurred in a crowded tea shop in Mogadishu last Friday (Jul 2), killing ten people and wounding dozens. It is suspected that the shop was targeted as it is near heavily guarded government institutions. The attack is linked to al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked armed group fighting to overthrow Somalia’s government.
  • At least 10 people have been killed in an overnight raid in Beni, the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo last Thursday night (Jul 1). While no group has stepped forward yet, officials blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) armed group. There are still missing people, which means that the death toll could rise.
  • Thousands gathered on the streets of Burkina Faso last Saturday (Jul 3) to demand a stronger response to rising bloodshed after a massacre killed more than 130 people in June. The massacre was linked to armed groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) who launch regular attacks on civilians. Protestors are demanding the government to take a stronger stand against such violent acts and to protect the civilians.  
  • The United Nations (UN) has reported that Ethiopia’s Tigray war has resulted in the worst famine situation experienced, and is now affecting more than 400,000 people. The fighting has already caused the death of thousands and more than two million displaced.
  • DR Congo imposed a curfew in the city of Beni last Monday (Jun 28) after three bombs rocked the east of the country. The bombings occurred in a Catholic church, outside a bar and next to a petrol station. Authorities suspect that more attacks could follow. 
  • Thousands gathered last Friday (Jul 2) to attend the funeral of Zambia’s founding president and supporter of African nationalism, Kenneth Kaunda. Many other leaders from the continent also came to pay their respects.
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