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Israel-Palestine conflict worsening and could lead to a war

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

Why has there been a recent escalation of violence in Jerusalem?

Well, it started with demonstrations of the Palestinians expecting a verdict on these cases of Palestinians that have been pushed out of their homes in East Jerusalem by settlers, contested territory that has belonged to the Palestinians. You've had lots of violence against them by Israeli police, then you had Gaza missiles from Hamas, and then Israeli missiles into Gaza, and now we've got a couple dozen Palestinians dead and the potential for this to get a lot worse is real. The shekel has even moved a little bit because there's concerns that this could lead to a war. It's not a broader war. This is not as much of a priority for the Arabs in the region, so it doesn't kill the Abraham Accords, Iran is still moving ahead with a deal, but in terms of potential for real bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians, absolutely. That's something to worry about.

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What We're Watching: Israel-Hamas escalation, Scotland's independence drive, Colombian strike continues

Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rockets: Things escalated very quickly on Monday in Jerusalem. For weeks, violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians over tensions surrounding access to the Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as an anticipated verdict in the eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, spread throughout the city. While Israeli police used heavy force to crack down on Palestinians throwing rocks and launching fireworks, the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip used the clashes as a pretext to launch a barrage of rockets into Israel. Hamas usually restricts its reach to southern Israel, but this time it launched dozens of rockets into Jerusalem, causing a mass evacuation of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Israel responded swiftly Monday by bombing the Gaza Strip, resulting in at least 24 Palestinian deaths, including nine children. Since then, Hamas has fired at least 250 rockets into Israel, including several that landed on houses in southern Israel, while Israeli forces have struck 140 targets in the Gaza Strip. For now, both sides appear to be preparing for a massive escalation, raising fears of an outright war.

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Don’t tax the dead: Colombia’s crisis

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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What We're Watching: Africa's vaccine shortage, Colombian unrest, Bibi fails to form government

India's COVID crisis hurts Africa: As COVID started to ravage India in March, New Delhi announced a ban on all vaccine exports to prioritize the domestic crisis. This development was a massive blow for the COVAX facility, which is relying on India's Serum Institute manufacturing the AstraZeneca shot for low-income countries. The impact of this export ban is now being felt acutely across Africa, where many countries have received a scarce number of doses. The World Health Organization says that at least seven African countries including Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal have already exhausted all their vaccine supplies — and because of delays from India, will now need to wait several weeks for more to arrive. COVAX, which has received 90 million fewer doses to date than it was initially promised, says it needs an extra 20 million doses by the end of June to offset shortfalls caused by the worsening crisis in India. It's a worrying trend: while inoculation drives in places like the US, the UK and Israel are allowing their economies to reopen and life to slowly return to normal, many low-income countries will not return to normalcy for years, experts warn. To date, only 2 percent of all doses administered globally have been in Africa, despite the continent accounting for 17 percent of the global population.

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What We're Watching: Colombians hit the streets, Indian state elections, Turkey locks down

Protests are back in Colombia: This week, tens of thousands of Colombians hit the streets of the country's big cities in the first major wave of street action since the late 2019 mass protests over inequality. The primary trigger for the current demonstrations was a major proposed tax increase. The government says the tax hike is necessary in order to give the state the resources it needs to pull Colombia out of the COVID-induced economic crisis, but critics say that some of its provisions — in particular services taxes — inflict too much of a burden on an already-suffering middle class. Protesters also highlighted other issues, such as the unchecked killing of social activists, broadening insecurity in the country, and frustration with the slow pace of the five-year old peace process. When GZERO Media spoke to prominent Colombian journalist Camila Zuluaga last year, she warned that pent-up grievances from before the pandemic would lead to a fresh "social explosion" this year. It looks like the fuse has been lit. The next major protest has been called for May 19.

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