Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Matt Gluck
Monday, May 17, 2021, 5:09 PM

The conflict between Israel and Hamas continued into its second week Monday with few signs of slowing, reports the Washington Post. Beginning soon after midnight on Monday, Israeli warplanes launched a volley of airstrikes across Gaza, striking approximately 35 sites in about 20 minutes. Israel said this series of attacks targeted several high-level Hamas commanders and almost 10 miles of Hamas’s tunnel network and that it killed the commander of Islamic Jihad forces in northern Gaza, Hasam Abu Harbid. Israeli planes also demolished a factory in northern Gaza, and an airstrike reportedly damaged the building which houses Gaza’s lone coronavirus testing lab. An Israeli military spokesman said that although the volume of Hamas’s fire has decreased over the last two days, the group continued to launch significant strikes against the Israeli cities of Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The Israeli military says it does not appear that Hamas is ready to stop attacks, and Israel said it is willing to engage in a prolonged conflict. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that while the U.S. is “ready to lend support if the parties seek a cease-fire,” he would not commit the U.S. to the U.N. efforts to influence Israel and Hamas to move toward a ceasefire. 

On Saturday, Israel struck a 12-story building in Gaza City that housed several media outlets, including the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, writes the New York Times. The Israeli military provided warning before the strike to civilians in the building to allow them to evacuate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Hamas military intelligence was working inside the building, and a senior Israeli military official said that Hamas occupied too many floors in the building to allow Israel to conduct a targeted strike. 

FBI authorities believe a man, Richard Kuykendall, who allegedly drove three bodies to an Albuquerque, New Mexico hospital last week before fleeing the scene was engaged in a white supremacist group-related conflict connected to the three men’s deaths, reports NBC News. A federal complaint accuses Kuykendall of disposing of an out-of-state pistol in a dumpster after a shootout with three men in a different car. He was arrested on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. According to the complaint, hospital security video shows Kuykendall having tattoos associated with the Aryan Brotherhood, and the three men Kuykendall dropped off at the hospital were verified members of the group.

A Russian court will hear an “extremism” case brought by the government against the political network of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent political opposition figure to Russian President Vladimir Putin, writes France24. Government prosecutors are requesting that Navalny’s network and his Anti-Corruption Foundation be labeled as “extremist” organizations, putting members of these organizations in the same group as those associated with the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda. Prosecutors allege that Navalny’s network mounted an uprising in Russia with the support of the West. 

While flu-like symptoms following coronavirus vaccinations are evidence that the vaccine is working, experts say that most people who do not experience side effects also gain protection against the coronavirus from the vaccines, reports the Wall Street Journal.  

The vaccine developed by pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline reported positive results from clinical trials on Monday, indicating the vaccine could be added to the global vaccine supply, according to France24. A previous study conducted in late 2020 demonstrated that the vaccine provided low levels of immunity in older individuals. These most recent phase two trial results show that two doses of the vaccine produced a “strong immune response” among adults of all ages, with 95 to 100 percent of adults gaining coronavirus antibodies. The companies expect the vaccine will gain approval from regulators in the last three months of 2021. 

As India continues to face a disastrous coronavirus outbreak with thousands of people dying every day, the number of coronavirus vaccinations administered per day has fallen by approximately 50 percent, reports the Washington Post. When coronavirus cases dwindled in India in late 2020, India delayed its purchase of vaccines and did not place its first orders for 16 million vaccines until January 2021. Partha Mukhopadhyay, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in Delhi, said India is “buying vaccines like monthly groceries” rather than making large advance purchases. The government said last week that vaccine shortages in the country will remain until at least July. 

India is also facing problems stemming from the fraudulent sale of medicine, oxygen and other public health supplies, writes the New York Times. In the last month, the New Delhi police have arrested over 210 people on alleged cheating, hoarding and other coronavirus-related criminal activities. 

President Joe Biden will announce Monday that the U.S. plans to send an additional 20 million coronavirus vaccines—on top of the 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine—abroad before the end of June, writes Bloomberg. This is the first time the U.S. will send vaccines abroad that have been approved for use within the United States. 

Afghan and Taliban forces fought on Sunday on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, after a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that ended on Saturday, writes France24. Afghan and Taliban officials appeared to blame the other side for instigating the violence on Sunday. On Friday, an explosion on the outskirts of Kabul disrupted the calm brought on by the ceasefire. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for that attack, and the Taliban denied involvement. 

After removing the social media app Parler from its App Store on Jan. 9, 2021, Apple allowed the app to return on Monday after Parler implemented certain content moderation procedures, according to the Washington Post. Posts that are identified and marked as “hate” by Parler’s new artificial intelligence system are not viewable on iPhones or iPads, but users who view Parler on the web or on other smartphones can see those posts by clicking through to view them. Parler is still pushing Apple to permit users on iPhones to click through warning labels indicating hate speech to view those posts. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Haroro Ingram and Lorenzo Vidino examined the Islamic State’s new affiliate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and explained where policymakers should direct their focus to combat this novel threat.

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