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Israel and Hamas on the brink of war

After a year of relative calm, clashes between Israel and Hamas erupted Monday, putting the two sides on the brink of full-blown war.

Flare-ups between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip seem to be cyclical. But there are a few developments that make this latest round of tit-for-tat strikes somewhat atypical.

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Will Palestinians get to vote?

The last time Palestinians went to the polls was in 2006, after Mahmoud Abbas replaced longtime Fatah stalwart Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority. But factional infighting between Fatah and Hamas (designated a terror group by the US and EU) brought the Palestinians to the "brink of civil war," Abbas said at the time. Discord over power, ideology and vision led to a bloody battle that saw Fatah expelled to the West Bank in 2007, where it has ruled ever since, while Hamas maintains power in the overcrowded Gaza Strip.

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Visitors look at Chinese Air Force fighter jets at a military base in Hangzhou.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: China targets Taiwan, Palestinian election heats up, Russia-Ukraine border tensions

Chinese jets swarm Taiwan: This week, multiple Chinese warplanes penetrated Taiwan's airspace. While Beijing does this quite often to flex its muscles, this time the jets took a different route, and one even got close to the Japanese island of Yonaguni, located less than 70 miles (113 kilometers) north of Taiwan. The maneuvers have been interpreted by experts as a direct warning from the Chinese to Japan not to overplay its hand. (It's worth noting that Tokyo could get dragged into a US conflict with China over Taiwan because, like Taiwan, it has a mutual defense treaty with the US.) More broadly, the flight patterns also indicate that China could surround Taiwan on three sides in an eventual invasion, cutting off the territory from US and Japanese military support. All this comes as the Biden administration has expressed serious concern (paywall) that Beijing is indeed planning to invade Taiwan in the very near term. With US-China relations getting hot, more rumblings over an invasion of Taiwan will surely turn the temperature even higher.

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What We're Watching: China charges Aussie journo, Palestinian election talks, WHO debunks COVID myths

Australian journalist charged in China: Australian journalist Cheng Lei was detained last August in China for allegedly passing state secrets to foreign actors. Now, the reporter — who worked for Chinese state broadcaster CGTN when she was arrested — has been formally charged with a national security crime, though Beijing has unsurprisingly remained mum on the details. Her family (including two young children in Melbourne) say that Lei is innocent, while the Australian government has pleaded with Beijing to ensure due process. But Canberra's ability to lobby for Lei's release is surely hampered by its increasingly fraught relations with Beijing: Australia has criticized Beijing's meddling in Australia's internal government affairs, its spying activities, and called for a probe into China's alleged COVID coverup — prompting China to hit back with a series of devastating tariffs on Australian goods. The Chinese government has also targeted Australian journalists, and the last two Aussie reporters in mainland China recently fled at Canberra's urging. For now, Lei remains behind bars. Is the Australian government powerless to respond?

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