Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Agnese Boffano discuss the deadly Hamas attack and Israel's retaliatory strikes in Gaza, plus more on Poland’s parliamentary elections, a national holiday in restive Guatemala, runoff polls in Ecuador and a special session of Japan’s parliament.
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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Agnese Boffano, Jess Fino, Irene Villora, Jeff Landset and Vivian Wang. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
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Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is October 12th.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got a look at the Israel-Hamas war, Poland’s parliamentary elections, a national holiday in restive Guatemala, runoff polls in Ecuador and a special session of Japan’s parliament.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
Information compiled by Agnese Boffano
JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at Hamas' deadly attacks on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza. For more on that I’ve got fellow Factal editor Agnese Boffano.
JIMMY: Hello, Agnese.
AGNESE: Hey, Jimmy.
JIMMY: So glad you're here. You're my go-to person for questions on the Levant and I'm hoping you can get us caught up on what we need to know about this situation. So to start, can you talk a little bit about the initial Hamas attack and the first 24 hours of this?
AGNESE: Of course. So at approximately 6:30 a.m. Jerusalem time last Saturday, on the seventh of October, we saw sirens sounding across much of Israel, including in Tel Aviv, following reports of a series of rocket attacks that were being launched from the Gaza Strip. And this initial set of missiles caused some casualties, some injuries and material damage, and hits were reported as far as Jerusalem. But although rockets from Gaza are not very common, they are types of incidents that we've seen over the last few years. But what was particularly unprecedented about this happened approximately one hour later. So, around 7:30 a.m., when we began seeing reports of an incursion into Israeli territory, which was shortly thereafter confirmed by the military saying that Palestinian armed groups had breached the Gaza border and entered Israeli territory by land, by air and by sea. And in fact, what happened and what we witnessed in the coming hours was that Hamas-led offensive coded operational Al Aqsa flood, which saw some fighters using motorized hang gliders and paragliding over the eastern Gaza fence into Israeli towns in the south. We also saw armed men breaching the main border crossing in the north, the Erez Crossing, and taking over the military checkpoints there and very quickly making their way to nearby towns and in turn taking over those military and police stations. And the Gaza fence was breached on multiple other spots as well. We've got footage showing fighters detonating explosive devices, all simultaneously – like all of this was happening simultaneously – and then entering by ground through those openings. We also saw some people taking hostages back into Gaza. We saw a breach of the maritime territory in the northeast with some individuals entering Israel through there by boats. And so this was an absolutely large-scale, unprecedented offensive that completely took Israel by surprise. And coupled with the continuous missile strikes that were still ongoing during this time, it completely overpowered the system. We've all seen footage from, you know, Israeli towns nearby Gaza, so I don't think it serves any purpose to describe the shootings of Israeli soldiers and civilians along those areas, but as of Wednesday night when we're recording this the death toll from Israelis of both the airstrikes and the initial incursion stands at more than 1,200.
JIMMY: And how has Gaza been impacted so far?
AGNESE: So, a couple of hours after the initial incursion, Israel convened a security cabinet meeting and declared a state of war by launching a series of airstrikes into the Gaza Strip as it continued engaging in shootouts with Palestinian fighters as described earlier. But this was on Saturday, so on Saturday morning, and as we speak the airstrikes into the densely-populated area have not stopped. You know, five days of constant bombardment on multiple cities have left the population completely devastated beyond description, you know, cities and entire neighborhoods have just been left to rubble. And the death toll has equally been immense. Today, the death toll on Wednesday surpassed 1,000 people in Gaza.
JIMMY: What have reactions to Hamas' incursion and Israel's response been like domestically?
AGNESE: So domestically, Israel has mobilized approximately 300,000 reservists and has enhanced security across its territory, especially in the northern border with Lebanon and also along the southern areas surrounding Gaza, seeing as, you know, occasional militant activity is still reported in some towns, although most have actually been called to evacuate. When it comes to Gaza, aside from the constant airstrikes, one of the most significant policies that was introduced earlier this week was the announcement that it would impose a complete siege on Gaza's water, electricity and fuel. This was announced by the Israeli defense minister. And just earlier today, on Wednesday, this culminated when Gaza's electricity officials confirmed that the entire Gaza Strip actually reported power outages, because its only power plant ran out of fuel.
JIMMY: And how has all this, you know, been received internationally?
AGNESE: So, the international response has been overtly condemning Hamas and in support of Israel, especially most Western countries. You have a lot of Arab countries, on the other hand, they have expressed solidarity with Palestinians. But most statements, including those from US President Biden, have kind of reiterated the largely Western stance of Israel having the right to defend itself. And one of the most significant developments internationally, when it comes to the Palestinians, is something that is bound to have an immense effect on Gaza, and that is that a lot of countries and organizations, including the European Union, have decided to hold or are considering halting funding and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, as a result of the Hamas offensive.
JIMMY: Now, I know, things are moving incredibly fast so this is a tough question to answer, but what do you think folks should be watching for next?
AGNESE: Yes, it's really difficult to point to one scenario and likely next steps given that yeah, as you said, things are moving incredibly fast and information might no longer be relevant in a few hours. So I'll keep some things to watch out for next as quite general. So firstly, we can expect an uptick in protests and attacks in the West Bank, which has continued to resist the Israeli occupation and military presence there since the outbreak of the fighting on Saturday. And when it comes to Gaza, we can definitely expect the security situation around the border to remain extremely volatile and tense in the next few weeks at least, independently if there is a ground invasion or not. And likewise, the situation on the border with Lebanon in the north is also likely to remain full of reservists and also UN and Hezbollah presence on the Lebanese side. Now, internationally, I think this has the potential to spill over to a wider regional conflict for sure. You know, before last week, it seemed almost certain that an Israel-Saudi normalization deal was going to be imminent. And so if Iran, through Hezbollah or Hamas, decides to intervene, we're again going to have those two major regional players, you know, Iran and Saudi Arabia, they're definitely going to play a role in the upcoming developments in the region.
JIMMY: Well, Agnese, we'll pause there for today, but thank you so much for your time and all the information. Appreciate it.
AGNESE: Thank you, Jimmy.
JIMMY: Take care.
Polish parliamentary polls
Information compiled by Jessica Fino
JIMMY: On Sunday, Poland will hold one of the most closely watched elections in Europe this year. They’re going to elect a new parliament.
The Law and Justice (PiS) party – that is, the dominant political force in the country led by Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński – well, it’s seeking an historic third term in power while facing a strong challenge from former European Council President Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition.
Of course, despite Tusk attracting large crowds during his campaign, polls suggest the ruling party is still ahead on the vote, though it remains unclear if it will manage to win an outright majority.
Now, the opposition coalition has pledged to undo the controversial changes to the judiciary system if elected, as well as improving the fragile relationship with Germany, which has been damaged by the current government.
Western countries are following these elections closely amid the current rule-of-law dispute with the European Union, with some critics worried that a third term for the Law and Justice party would mean a complete crackdown on the judiciary independence, media freedom and democratic institutions.
Ecuador runoff elections
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: The second round of Ecuador’s presidential election will take place on Sunday.
Luisa González is the candidate of former President Rafael Correa’s left-wing Citizen Revolution Movement party and Daniel Noboa is the candidate of the conservative National Democratic Action party.
The vote will take place amid unprecedented crime rates across the country and after a campaign marked by acts of violence, including the assassination of candidate Fernando Villavicencio and two other political figures.
Insecurity has been at the center of the political debate since the election was triggered by President Guillermo Lasso’s dissolution of the National Assembly in May. That came amid an impeachment trial against him over alleged embezzlement.
Other issues like economic recovery are also among the main worries of Ecuadoreans.
Now, the outcome of this election will define the immediate future of the country with two very different proposals to tackle the current challenges posed by widespread gang violence, crime and unemployment.
While González has advocated for a “social-justice” approach centered on the expansion of the welfare state and the fight against corruption, Noboa seeks to attract the business sector with the promise of tax benefits as well as reinforcement of the judiciary and prisons systems.
Revolution Day in Guatemala
Information compiled by Jeff Landset
JIMMY: Protests in favor of Guatemala’s President-elect Bernardo Arévalo will likely ramp up next Friday. That, as the country celebrates the movement that led to the election of his father.
In October 1944, Guatemalan students forced out a junta, kicking off the “October Revolution.”
Juan Arévalo won the presidential race the following year in what’s been described as the country’s first free and fair election.
And now, the country is seeing widespread road blockades and other protests in support of Arévalo’s son who won an election but has run into several attempts to keep him from taking office.
Protesters are calling for the resignation of Attorney General Maria Porras, labeled by the United States as corrupt, after they say she made several efforts to keep Arévalo from taking office.
Porras, however, is still in power and President Alejandro Giammattei has not made any effort to remove her.
He even said he’d arrest the protest leaders.
Now, as long as officials in the Guatemalan government continue their fight against Arévalo, there will be protests from the citizens who overwhelmingly voted for him as well as condemnation from the international community.
Protesters will also likely keep blocking roads and holding mass gatherings until Arévalo is assured his rightful position.
Japan’s parliament convenes special session
Information compiled by Vivian Wang
JIMMY: Japan’s parliament will convene on Friday for an extraordinary session, their first since a cabinet reshuffle last month.
Japanese Prime Minister Kishida debuted a new cabinet line-up mid-September amid low approval ratings, including a new pro-Taiwan defense minister and the country’s first female foreign minister since 2002.
Now, Kishida announced he will be aiming to pass a supplementary budget for a new economic package in the upcoming extraordinary session.
That makes a snap election unlikely despite speculation among lawmakers that Kishida might dissolve the legislature early.
JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.
Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jess Fino, Irene Villora, Jeff Landset and Vivian Wang. Our interview featured editor Agnese Boffano and the podcast was produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.
Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe