PHN Rewind (28 March-3 April)

On this week’s Rewind, El Salvador declares a state of emergency, two Israeli police officers were shot dead by two gunmen, the 12 French presidential candidates, Russia’s pledge to reduce military activity in Ukraine, and Amnesty International’s annual report.

Two Israeli Police Officers Killed By the IS

Two police officers were shot dead by two shooters in the northern city of Israel, Hadera. The gunmen were killed by counter-terrorism officers who were at a restaurant nearby. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

The two Israeli police officers, Yezen Falah and Shirel Abukart were both 19 years old. The shooters came from an Israeli Arab town, 25km away from Hadera.

The US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken condemned the attacks in a statement posted on Twitter: “We condemn today’s terrorist attack in Hadera, Israel. Such senseless acts of violence and murder have no place in society. We stand with our Israeli partners and send our condolences to the victims’ families.”

The Arab League foreign ministers met at a summit in Israel for the first time, and they also denounced the attacks, according to Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid.

State of Emergency in El Salvador After Gang Killings

El Salvador’s legislative assembly has approved the request of President Nayib Bukele to declare a state of emergency lasting 30 days following a surge in gang violence.

Within two days, the country had witnessed the worst criminal wave in 20 years. Over 80 people were murdered, and 600 gang members were arrested, according to the police.

El Salvador is known for its high crime rates and its history of organized crime groups which try to take over territory throughout Central America.

President Nayib Bukele, who was elected in 2019, and other government officials were accused of negotiating with MS-13, a criminal gang, of reaching an agreement with them.

French Presidential Elections: Candidate Profiles

The first round of the French presidential election will be held on 10 April between 12 candidates. A runoff will take place between the top two candidates on 24 April.

This year’s elections include:

53-year-old Nathalie Arthaud, the spokesperson for the Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle) and economics teacher in a secondary school in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Anne Hidalgo, 63, runs for president for the first time. She has been the Mayor of Paris since 2014 and has held several governmental positions. She is a candidate for the Parti socialiste (Socialist Party).

Yannick Jadot, 54, has been a European deputy since 2009. He is a candidate for Europe Ecology Les Verts (Europe Ecology – The Greens).

Jean Lasalle, aged 66, has been the representative of the 4th constituency of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in the National Assembly since 2002. He runs under the banner of his party, Résistons! (Resistance Party).

Marine Le Pen, 53, had formerly been an attorney for five years before becoming a regional advisor from 1998 to 2021 and European deputy from 2004 to 2017. It is the third time she has run for the elections as a candidate of the Rassemblement national (National Rally).

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, 61, is the president of the party Debout la France (France Arise). He was formerly Mayor of Yerres, a town located in the Essonne area.

President Emmanuel Macron, aged 44, is also running for office this year. He has been president since 2017. He was the minister of Economy during François Hollande’s mandate. Macron founded the party En Marche (On the Move) in 2016, which later became La République en Marche (The Republic On The Move).

Jean-Luc Mélanchon 70 has been the deputy of La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) since 2017. He has held many governmental positions and is running for office for the third time.

The 54-year-old candidate of the Republican party, Valérie Pécresse, was minister of higher education during the Nicolas Sarkozy mandate. She is the president of the Île de France region.

Philippe Poutou, 55, the spokesperson of the New Anticapitalist Party, is a former trade unionist and a car factory worker. He has been unemployed since the closing of the site. 

Fabien Roussel, 52, is campaigning for the first time. He has been a deputy since 2017 and was elected secretary-general of the French Communist Party in 2018.

Éric Zemmour, 63, is a columnist who has written many essays. He worked for the daily newspaper Le Figaro and several TV channels. He is considered a far-right politician.

Russia Pledges to Reduce Military Activity in Russian Capital Kyiv

Following negotiations held in Istanbul between Russian and Ukrainian delegations, Russia announced that it would reduce military activity around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and Chernihiv in northern Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexandr Fomin said that the decision was necessary to “reach a consensus and sign an agreement” and “create conditions” to continue negotiations.

Despite its pledge, Russia did not remove its troops from the cities. It continued to attack the towns overnight, according to the regional authorities.

On Wednesday, a US defense official said that Russian troops were leaving the Chernobyl area where a former nuclear plant witnessed the world’s worst nuclear accident in 1986.

NGO Amnesty International Publishes Annual Report

The non-governmental human rights organization Amnesty Internation published its annual report last week stating that “at least 67 countries introduced new laws in 2021 to restrict freedom of expression, association or assembly.”

The US and the UK were particularly criticized for introducing legislation limiting freedom of assembly. Other countries include Russia and China, which used digital technologies to restrict freedom of expression.

Many other countries blocked Internet access: “In Cuba, Eswatini, Iran, Myanmar, Niger, Senegal, South Sudan, and Sudan, authorities resorted to internet shutdowns and disruptions to prevent people from sharing information about repression and organizing in response.”

Yemen: Two-month Truce Between Saudi-Iranian Rivalry

With the start of the Islamic holy month Ramadhan, The Saudi-backed government and the Houthis have agreed to a two-month ceasefire, according to UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg.

“The aim of this truce is to give Yemenis a necessary break from violence, relief from the humanitarian suffering and most importantly hope that an end to this conflict is possible,” said Grundberg.

Boris Johnson welcomed this announcement on a Twitter post: “We now have a window of opportunity to finally secure peace and end humanitarian suffering – I urge all parties to work towards a lasting political solution.”

Russia Demands Payment for Gas in Roubles

After several sanctions against Russia, Putin announced in a televised government meeting that Russia would cut off the gas supply to EU members unless they “open rouble accounts in Russian banks” to pay for it.

Putin demands that Russian gas be paid in roubles by “unfriendly” countries or else “we will consider this a failure by the client to comply with its obligations,” he said.

France and Germany rejected Putin’s demands for gas payment in roubles and considered it “blackmail.”

A new deal was set up to pay for gas in euros and dollars, which the Russian Gazprombank would later convert into roubles.

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