Weekly Newscast – February 28, 2014By
Allison Hrabar: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Allison Hrabar.
Henry Zhang: And I’m Henry Zhang. Tensions rose between pro-Russian and pro-Western protesters in Ukraine this week following the collapse of the government under Viktor Yanukovych. Pro-Russian separatists brawled with supporters of the new government outside the regional parliament in Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea. As protests escalated, Russia suspended its financial and political support for Ukraine and moved naval forces to the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov vowed that Russia would not intervene militarily in Ukraine. The country, however, recently began surprise military exercises in the Crimean peninsula. The recent tension in Crimea has demonstrated the potential challenges that Ukraine’s new government will have to confront. The ethnic, religious, and political diversity of the region has historically bred conflict, and the political instability of the country may only increase the likelihood of violence.
Hrabar: Anti-government protest leaders in Venezuela have refused to enter peace negotiations with President Nicholas Maduro, continuing to demand his resignation. Demonstrations have persisted in and around the capital city of Caracas, after two weeks of violent clashes between government forces and protesters, leaving 14 people dead and 147 injured. Opposition leaders, including Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez, have accused Maduro of failing to control inflation, crime, and food shortages throughout the country. Although United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has formally called for an end to the violence, protesters on both sides show no signs of ceasing demonstrations.
Zhang: Tensions between security forces and anti-government protesters in Thailand continued to escalate this week. At least four people were killed–including three children–and more than 50 were injured in clashes with police officers in the capital city of Bangkok and in the northeastern Trat province. President Yingluck Shinawatra condemned the violence and labeled the conflict, quote, “terrorist attacks for political gains.” The protesters, however, allege that the demonstrations are merely a response to government crackdowns imposed last month. Despite a recent court decision ruling the protests non-violent, both protest leaders and government officials have acknowledged the inevitability of future violence. Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of the protest movement, has threatened to use violence if the police infringe on the rights of protesters, while ruling officials have expressed willingness to kill protesters who continue to defy the government.
Hrabar: North Korea fired four short-range missiles into the East Sea earlier this week. Although spokespeople for North Korea have not released any information about the motivation behind the test launch, the incident coincided with the beginning of joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. In the past, North Korea has protested annual South Korean military exercises–which they perceive as rehearsals for future invasions–by launching similar short-range missiles. Unlike in past years, however, tension has actually diminished between North and South Korea in recent months. Last week’s reunion of family members separated during the Korean War has inspired optimism about an improvement in relations between the two countries. This week’s launches do not seem likely to disrupt this trend. Many foreign policy experts have noted that the fairly routine tests are purely symbolic and do not pose a direct military threat to South Korea.
Zhang: Syrian armed forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 175 rebels in an ambush earlier this week. The majority of the rebels killed and injured in the assault were members of the Al Qaeda-backed Nusra Front. Several combatants, however, were foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, and Qatar, affiliated with the Salafi Jihadist Liwa al-Islam group, according to a report released by the Syrian state news agency SANA. The assault was one of the deadliest attacks on rebel forces by the government during the three-year conflict, underscoring the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shi’ite groups in the country. Sunni factions have spearheaded much of the rebellion against former president Bashar al-Assad’s regime, while Assad has found Shi’ite allies in Iran and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group.
Hrabar: The Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group threatened to retaliate after Israeli warplanes struck one of its military positions near the Lebanese-Syrian border this week. Hezbollah released a statement condemning the attacks, saying, quote, “The resistance will choose the time and place and the proper way to respond to it.” Israel has neither directly confirmed nor denied the attack. Although Israeli jets have bombed Syrian targets several times during the current Syrian conflict, this could be the first strike by Israel on Lebanese territory since the Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah has allied with both Iran and Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad and has sent thousands of fighters to the country to back Assad’s regime.
Zhang: At least 14 people were killed in an attack on a medical facility in the South Sudanese city of Malakal this week. Patients at the facility were shot in their beds while attackers looted and set fire to the building. Violence continues to escalate throughout the country as government forces and rebel factions clash over oil-rich territory. According to a statement released by the aid group Doctors Without Borders, Malakal is not the only city in which hospitals have been targeted. Two facilities run by Doctors Without Borders in other cities were looted and destroyed this week as well. The violence has caused the organization to re-examine their operations in the country, in order to ensure the safety of their staff and patients.
Hrabar: At least 29 students were killed this week in an attack on a Nigerian boarding school by the Islamist militant organization Boko Haram. At a federal college in the northeastern Yobe state, the assailants separated the male and female students before shooting dozens of the male students and setting several buildings on fire. None of the female students were harmed. The assault was the fourth attack on a school by the group in less than a year. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sinful,” has targeted public education institutions throughout the country as part of its campaign against the secularization of the school system.
Zhang: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Aneesa Andrabi, Caroline Batten, Jay Clayton, Anita Desai, Joelle Hageboutros, Sabrina Merold, Jerry Qin, Zoey Werbin, Tyler Welsh, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Henry Zhang.
Hrabar: And I’m Allison Hrabar. Until next time, thanks for listening.