Hamas militants blew up several sections of the wall separating the Gaza strip from the Egyptian Sinai on Jan. 23. Several hundred thousand Palestinians streamed across the border to buy food, fuel and other necessities which had become scarce in Gaza. Egypt, which loathes to be seen as aiding the Israeli blockade, has nonetheless come under strong pressure from the United States to help contain the situation. Egyptian security forces have shut down several main roads through the North Sinai town of el-Arish in an effort to seal off the border areas.
Italian Premier Romano Prodi resigned on Jan. 26 after his ruling coalition lost a vote of non-confidence in the senate. His resignation dissolved the 20 month-old government, which had been plagued by infighting, and leaves President Giorgio Napolitano to determine the country’s immediate political future.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) panel overseeing Ukraine’s candidacy reached an ascension agreement on Jan. 25 and is expected to achieve full membership this year. The country’s ruling, pro-Western coalition has also expressed interest in NATO membership; much to the ire of neighbouring Russia.
Reports of tribal violence came in from across Kenya on Saturday Jan. 26 despite the relative calm in the capital of Nairobi. Two hours away, in the city of Nakuru, gangs of men roved the streets with six-foot iron bars, poisoned swords, clubs, knives and crude circumcision tools. All told, some 700 people are believed to have been killed since the controversial re-election, on Dec. 27, of President Mwai Kibaki. Also on Saturday, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan denounced the “gross and systematic” human rights abuses occurring in Kenya. The ongoing violence has undermined hopes that he might be able to mediate an end to the crisis.
United States Secretary of Defence Robert M. Gates said on Jan. 25 that the United States remains “ready, willing and able” to assist Pakistan in its fight against Al Qaeda. Instability in Pakistan’s frontier tribal areas, an endemic ground reality of the Pakistani state, has picked up in the weeks since the Dec. 27 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Pakistan’s army initiated a major new offensive Jan. 24, sending 600 troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gun-ships, into South Waziristan. The aim of the new offensive is to kill or capture Taliban commander Baitulah Mehsud and rout his forces in the region. bouring Sudan.