Illustration by Ben Beechener

Each week your Global Affairs team brings you five key stories of note from around the world. They are short and snappy summaries of what are inevitably nuanced and complex events and we hope you use them as a springboard to explore global current affairs in more depth.

ISIS leader killed during US raid in Syria

The leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi was killed on Wednesday 2nd February during an overnight raid conducted by the US in northwest Syria. Quarayshi detonated the blast that killed himself as US forces approached, also killing several members of his family. The Pentagon has said that they are willing to review the raid after UNICEF confirmed that at least six children were killed in Atme, the town where the incident took place, on Wednesday night. In a press release, US President Joe Biden said that the raids ‘sent a strong message to terrorists around the world: we will come after you and find you.’

Quarayshi had been the leader of ISIS since October 2019 following the death of his predecessor also during a US raid. 

African Union holds summit in Ethiopia

The 55 member states of the African Union are currently attending a two-day summit in Ethiopia that began on Saturday 5th February. Topics on the agenda include low vaccination rates across the continent, the six coups and attempted coups that have taken place in Africa over the last 18 months, and the current Tigray War that broke out in Ethiopia in November 2020. The union is facing pressure after four member states were recently suspended due to unconstitutional changes of government. 

Winter Olympics

The 2022 Winter Olympics in China officially launched this Friday after months of controversy. As of yet, these winter games have been the perfect confluence of sport and politics, with COVID restrictions and diplomatic boycotts casting a shadow over what is usually a purely sporting spectacle. Canada, Australia, the US and the UK have all imposed diplomatic boycotts in protestation of the Chinese Communist Parties’ treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Indeed, further outrage was teased at the opening ceremony where Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a 20-year-old Uyghur skier, was made the Chinese torchbearer. Many have argued that this was a deliberate ploy by the Chinese regime to give the games a more friendly appearance which masks the oppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Israel labelled as an ‘apartheid state’ by Amnesty International

Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report holding that the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians renders the country an apartheid state. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement have welcomed the report and urged supporters to redouble pressure on governments to target sanctions towards the Israeli state. However, the report sparked outrage amongst conservative strands of US politicians with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) accusing Amnesty of attempting to “demonize and delegitimize the Jewish and democratic State of Israel”. Within Israel, the report has also created great division, with some prominent left-leaning politicians, including the former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair, agreeing with the details of the report. The UK government has dismissed the accusations of Amnesty International but has re-iterated Israel’s duty to uphold international human rights law. The report follows previous publications by human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and B’tselem that have also accused Israel of apartheid. 

China reaching out with a welcoming hand

This week Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in Beijing in a display of Sino-Russian unity against a backdrop of spiralling Russian relations with western powers. Putin praised the “unprecedented” ties with China as the two leaders relayed their unwavering support for one another in their foreign policy goals. Russia openly backs the Chinese absorption of Taiwan, whilst China equally disputes the encroachments of NATO towards Russia’s western borders. However, it is unclear as to whether this support would extend to a Chinese endorsement of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Similarly, China has also established warm relations with Egypt this week, since, according to Xi Jinping, both “share similar visions and strategies in defending their own interests”. Analysts have suggested this cosmopolitan approach from China may be a foreign policy strategy used to strengthen interest in the Belt and Road Initiative.