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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Inui

Weekly News Blast | March 31 - April 7


humanitarian aid being packed to be sent to Gaza

Israel military accidentally attacks humantarian caravan, killing seven aid workers and provoking international outrage (Christopher Michel, Wikimedia Commons)


Israel Military Strike Kills Seven Aid Workers in Gaza


Seven humanitarian aid workers were killed in Gaza on April 1 after Israel led deadly airstrikes on their truck caravan. According to the Israeli military, the workers from the humanitarian organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) had just delivered more than 100 tons of food aid in Gaza and were returning to the group’s warehouse when the military misidentified and attacked them. A senior Israeli military official identified the event as a series of mistakes on Israel’s part, including a breakdown in communication and violations of Israel’s rules of engagement. “It’s a serious event that we’re responsible for, and it shouldn’t have happened,” said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, Israel’s chief military spokesman.


In a statement, WCK founder José Andrés called Israel’s comments “cold comfort” and pushed for an independent inquiry into the events. “This was not just a bad luck situation where 'oops' we dropped the bomb in the wrong place,” he told Reuters. “What I know is that we were targeted deliberately nonstop until everybody was dead in this convoy.” WCK has suspended operations in Gaza and has not clarified whether they intend to resume operations. However, President Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign policy advisor Ophir Falk denies that this was a targeted attack, claiming “the last thing we would want in the world is to endanger civilian lives.”


On Friday, the Israeli military announced that two officers involved in the attack would be dismissed from their positions and several senior officials of the southern command would be formally reprimanded. The military also said findings would be sent to military prosecutors to assess whether they should push criminal charges. However, experts say this is not an isolated incident. According to senior U.N. relief official Jamie McGoldrick, at least 196 aid workers have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank between October 2023 and March 2024. “This is not an isolated incident,” he said. “There is no safe place left in Gaza.”


Activist Group No Labels Suspends Centrist Presidential Campaign


On April 3, the political group No Labels announced that it was abandoning plans to run a centrist presidential ticket in the 2024 U.S. presidential election. “No Labels has always said we would only offer our ballot line to a ticket if we could identify candidates with a credible path to winning the White House,” said No Labels founder and CEO Nancy Jacobson. “No such candidates emerged, so the responsible course of action is for us to stand down.”


The group had raised $60 million to put forward what it called a “unity ticket,” representing bipartisanship and moderation. However, they received a string of rejections from potential candidates including Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, and even former Republican presidential candidates Nikki Haley and Chris Christie. While most candidates did not give reasons publicly for declining the group’s advances, many seemed to share former governor Chris Christie’s sentiments. “If my candidacy in any way, shape, or form would help Donald Trump become president again, then it is not the way forward,” he said last week. This had been a major concern for allies of President Joe Biden who feared that No Labels would draw a greater vote away from Biden than Republican nominee Donald Trump.  


Despite withdrawing from the race, No Labels continues to argue that there has been a political shift towards the middle as people become increasingly dissatisfied with extremist politicians. “Americans remain more open to an independent presidential run and hungrier for unifying national leadership than ever before,” said Jacobson, adding that the organization will stay involved in what she considered “the most divisive presidential election of our lifetimes.”


Taiwan Earthquake Reveals Fruits of Previous Disaster Experiences


A massive, 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan on April 3, killing at least nine and injuring 1,000 more. However, experts agree that Taiwan was overall extremely prepared for the quakes. “India and Haiti faced less powerful earthquakes but had far more casualties and Taiwan has managed to have so few,” said Daniel Aldrich, a political science professor at Northeastern University who studies earthquake resilience.


The last time Taiwan experienced an earthquake of this scale was in 1999 when more than 2,000 people died in a 7.3 magnitude quake, largely because of poorly enforced building codes. Since then, Taiwan has worked to revamp its infrastructure and disaster response capabilities. “We have upgraded our infrastructure a lot since then, including thickening walls and adding pillars,” said Zheng Rushi, a civil engineer with the Hualian municipal government. Aldrich added that the government has become stricter about issuing fines and penalties for construction firms not meeting building standards. September 21, the date of the 1999 earthquake, even became a designated day for disaster drills in Taiwan, with mock alert messages being sent to mobile phones and schools staging evacuation drills. 


However, the earthquake has also further strained already fraught relations with China. Taiwan condemned China for thanking the world for its concern about the earthquake, implying that Taiwan’s issues are domestic Chinese issues. They also rejected disaster aid offered by the Chinese government. “It’s not real kindness because you are constantly threatened in conflict,” explains Lev Nachman, an assistant professor of political science at National Chengchi University in Taipei. “Aid from China is always conditional,” added Ja Ian Chong, associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore. “There is a lot of skepticism towards the intent of [China], because of this military intimidation, because of its unwillingness to move away from the threat of using force to extend control over Taiwan.”

 


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