Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the Israeli military on Feb. 9 to draw up plans for the "evacuation" of Palestinians from Rafah in southern Gaza as it prepares to launch a full-scale assault on the area. Where people would be evacuated to—and how—remains unclear. Over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel's military campaign—now entering its fifth month—have been pushed into Rafah. Aid groups warn that there is nowhere left for people to flee to. People in Rafah are already experiencing disease and starvation, with aid operations struggling to meet even basic needs. A ground invasion would "exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.
UN experts Nov. 27 called for prompt, transparent and independent investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, since Israel's new military offensive began last month. "Independent investigators must be given the necessary resources, support and access required to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into crimes allegedly committed by all parties to the conflict," the experts said, calling on Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza to cooperate fully with investigations.
The Chinese government has increased mosque closures in the northern Ningxia region and Gansu province, home to significant populations of Hui Muslims, according to a report released Nov. 22 by Human Rights Watch. The campaign of closures marks an expansion of the policy beyond the Uyghur people of Xinjiang region. Officially termed "consolidation," the campaign calls for shutting down mosques or modifying their architectural features to align with more typically Chinese aesthetics. The Hui Muslims, a distinctive ethno-religious group in China numbering over 10 million, are now at the forefront of concerns regarding the government's broader campaign to "consolidate" mosques.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague issued an interim order on Nov. 16 directing the Syrian government to "take all measures within its powers" to prevent torture. This development stems from a case brought by the Netherlands and Canada, accusing Syria of engaging in a prolonged campaign of torture of its own citizens. The court's order seeks to safeguard potential victims as the case proceeds. Syria is accused of breaching the Convention against Torture & Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Italy and Albania on Nov. 6 announced an agreement that would see asylum-seekers intercepted at sea by Italian forces taken to Albania while their claims are processed. Italy is to pay for construction of two centers in Albania with the capacity to hold up to 3,000 migrants at a time. If Italy rejects the asylum bids, Albania would deport the migrants. Albania is also to provide external security for the two centers, which would be under Italian jurisdiction. Children and pregnant women would be excluded from the plan. Some experts question whether the plan is legal, and say it follows a worrying trend of European countries seeking to "externalize" migrant processing to other countries. (TNH, AP)
Iraq has taken in 192 families from Syria's al-Hol camp that houses persons accused of having links to the Islamic State (ISIS), an Iraqi member of parliament told the Kurdish Rudaw news agency on Nov. 12. A total of 780 individuals were returned to Iraq and will be placed in al-Jadaa Center for Community Rehabilitation in Nineveh province, acording to the report. The MP said the families will stay in al-Jadaa camp until they are given clearance from the Interior Ministry to return to their homes and issued identification documents.
The US government announced Oct. 16 that it will settle a 2018 class-action lawsuit that challenged the Trump administration's family separation practice at the US-Mexico border. The proposed settlement would create a process to reunify families who were separated. Additionally, the government is to provide health services and housing support for affected families, and arrange legal services through the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, "This agreement will facilitate the reunification of separated families and provide them with critical services to aid in their recovery."
The US Department of State has announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials linked to the systematic "forced assimilation" of over a million Tibetan children in state-operated boarding schools. This decision is part of a broader strategy by the Biden administration to address China's treatment of its ethnic minorities, with a particular focus on the Tibetan and Xinjiang Uighur regions.