The following is a year in review for the top international news that we covered in 2020. Palestinians betrayed, calamity in Beirut, crisis in Yemen.
Protests in Lebanon over deepening economic crisis
Authorities in some of the most populous areas of Lebanon cracked down on mass protest by Lebanese expressing their frustration over the ever-deepening economic crisis in the country. The anger was directed at an inept and callous wealthy political class that has been accused of corruption and self-service while common Lebanese faced widespread hunger and joblessness. A new cabinet formed under then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab to quell some of that civil unrest in January.
Trump’s “steal of the century” satisfies Netanyahu, insults Palestinian rights
President Trump and his right-wing ally in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, struck a “peace plan” that left Palestinians completely out of the conversation. Netanyahu was emboldened by the plan, which gave him carte blanche to continue with his plans to annex the Jordan Valley, continue settlement construction over Palestinian land in the West Bank and ensured Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel. Palestinians, the United Nations and U.S. Palestinian rights organizations and several U.S. lawmakers rejected the so-called peace deal.
Former long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak dies
After a presidency that spanned three decades, and an outing by mass popular protests in 2011, Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak died at the age of 91. Mubarak was known to resist Islamic militancy in his country, which gained strength after his ousting.
COVID worsens crisis in Yemen
The COVID-19 virus worsened the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, as aid groups were forced to scale down operations in a country that had been rocked by food insecurities and a genocidal war led by Saudi Arabia with help from the U.S. Millions have been internally displaced because of the five-year conflict between warring Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition.
Calamity in Beirut
A massive explosion at the port of Beirut in Lebanon shook the entire country and laid bare deep corruption and ineptness of the country’s government in its wake. A blast occurred in early August when an unsafe stock of ammonium nitrate caught fire, killing almost 200 people and displacing hundreds of thousands. So far, no prosecutions have been undertaken of those responsible for maintaining the 2,750 tons of the dangerous chemical left at the port by an abandoned Russian cargo ship years ago. The Lebanese diaspora in Michigan, and the entire world, saw the devastation of the enormous blast play out on social media over and over again in the weeks and months following the blast. Former colonial powers like France looked to financially discipline the Lebanese government and its people while promising aid in the wake of the blast, while other international charity poured into the country.
Palestinian decry “normalization” deal between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain
President Trump hosted so-called “peace” agreements between economic powers Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in September, in the face of outcries by Palestine and international observers over the betrayal by the Gulf Nations of the people of Palestine. “This is deal that condones and militarily, politically and financially invests in occupation and apartheid,” said activist Zeina Ashrawi.
Assassinations in Iran: Soleimani killed by U.S., leaders promise revenge for killing of Fakhrizadeh
Qasem Soleimani, Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed by a targeted drone strike in January, ordered by Trump, increasing tensions between Iran and the West. The U.S. made contradictory claims about Soleimani, using alleged future plots to kill Americans in the Middle East as justification, before turning to the death of an Iraqi-American contractor as justification. In retaliation, Iran launched a missile strike against U.S. bases in Iran, wounding 110 U.S. troops.
A more mysterious fate met Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in November. The physicist was shot just outside of Tehran while he traveled with his wife, escorted by three armored vehicles, in an ambush. Early reports indicated gunmen, though Iran later alleged a satellite controlled gun. Iran has largely blamed Israel for the attack and has vowed revenge. Fakhrizadeh was a brigadier in the Revolutionary Guard and a respected scientist. Netanyahu and U.S. allies called him the mastermind of Iran’s nuclear program.