How Senegal’s presidential election was postponed, reinstated and moved up

Voters in Senegal go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president in the most wide-open election in the country’s history. The vote comes a few weeks after the explosion of a profound political crisis triggered by its cancellation and then delay by President Macky Sall. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at recent events.

Senegal is set to experience a new stage in its electoral drama on Sunday as some 7 million voters go to the polls across the West African country to elect their next president.

The election is remarkable in several ways, not least because it marks the end of President Macky Sall’s 12 years in power. And with 17 candidates vying to succeed him, it is the most wide-open presidential vote since Senegal gained independence from France in 1960.

It also marks the culmination of an intense political battle over the date of the polls, which began when Sall cancelled the election three weeks before its initial date of February 25, sending shock waves throughout Senegal. FRANCE 24 traces the key developments during the democratic crisis that ensued. 

Postponement of the vote

Sall announced that the ballot would be postponed indefinitely while speaking on national television on February 3, just a few hours before the start of the presidential campaign.

“For the past few days, our country has been faced with a dispute between the National Assembly and the Constitutional Council, in open conflict over an alleged case of corruption of judges,” he said, arguing that this situation threatened the credibility of the vote.

FRANCE 24 Special Edition: Senegal vote postponed ‘indefinitely’

Senegalese President Macky Sall postponed the country’s presidential elections © FRANCE 24 screengrab

Senegalese lawmakers four days earlier approved a parliamentary inquiry into how some potential candidates’ applications to enter the race had been invalidated. The inquiry was called for by the party of Karim Wade, who was excluded from the contest due to his French citizenship, as only citizens of exclusively Senegalese nationality are allowed to run. Wade’s supporters said they suspected two Constitutional Council judges of having “dubious connections” with some candidates, notably Prime Minister Amadou Ba, Sall’s preferred successor.

At the same time, police took presidential candidate Rose Wardini, whose application had been validated by the Constitutional Council, into custody on charges of “forgery, use of forgery and fraud” on suspicion of having dual French-Senegalese nationality.

A political manoeuvre?

Sall said on national TV that “these troubled conditions” could “sow the seeds of pre- and post-electoral dispute”.

“Our country cannot afford a new crisis” after episodes of violence in March 2021 and June 2023, he said.

Sall announced the establishment of a “national dialogue” for “a free, transparent and inclusive election”, while reaffirming his commitment not to stand for a third consecutive term.

But Sall’s decision to postpone the vote sparked many questions in Senegal, not least because ruling party MPs themselves had voted in favour of the parliamentary inquiry. While these legislators said they wanted to clear the name of their candidate Amadou Ba, the opposition blasted a manoeuvre designed to torpedo the election and prevent his defeat. 

Ba is also facing two dissident candidates from within his own camp: former prime minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne and former interior minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye.

But general opinion in Senegal holds that Bassirou Diomaye Faye, a candidate chosen by opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to replace him after his own candidacy was invalidated, poses the main threat to the outgoing president’s preferred candidate.

Reacting to Sall’s decision to postpone the election, lawyer and Faye supporter Amadou Ba (not to be confused with the prime minister) criticised the president’s arguments as “incredibly unserious”, pointing out that the parliamentary commission of inquiry was set up only on “mere suspicions” of corruption.

The day after Sall’s televised speech, hundreds of Senegalese demonstrated in the capital Dakar, where clashes broke out with police.

Lawmakers approve December polls

To cancel the February 25 election, Sall repealed a decree summoning the electorate. All that remained was to set a new date. Wade’s coalition called for a six-month postponement and submitted a bill to parliament. During a particularly tense session, lawmakers on February 5 approved December 15 as the new election date, judging the initially proposed date of August 25 to be unfit due to the rainy season.

The new deadline meant that Sall’s mandate, due to end on April 2, would be extended by 10 months. Many people in Senegal objected, denouncing a “constitutional coup d’état” enabling the president to hold on to power. 

Read moreSenegal’s democratic record on the line as presidential vote delay sparks crisis

Several presidential candidates lodged appeals with the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Council to block the postponement of the vote. 

Tensions quickly escalated in the streets. Police cracked down on demonstrations organised across Senegal on February 9 and in the days that followed. Four people died in Dakar, Saint-Louis and Ziguinchor – the southern town where Sonko was elected mayor in 2022 – in connection with the protests, the worst outbreak of violence during the election crisis.

Constitutional Council rules against postponement

The Constitutional Council on February 15 delivered its verdict on the appeal of the election postponement, and it was a clear blow to Sall: the court annulled his decree abrogating the vote for lack of legal basis. The council also found that the law adopted by parliament to postpone the vote violated the constitution, a second no-go.

Noting “the impossibility of organising the presidential election on the initially scheduled date” of February 25, the Constitutional Council asked “the competent authorities to hold it as soon as possible”.

The “national dialogue” organised by Sall but boycotted by the opposition recommended in early March that the delayed vote take place on June 2. In that scenario, Sall would remain in office until the inauguration of Senegal’s fifth president. The proposal was rejected by the Constitutional Council, which ruled that the election must occur before the end of Sall’s term on April 2.

The president and the council on March 7 finally agreed to hold Senegal’s election on March 24. The new date has the advantage of not falling on the Easter holiday, but meant that the presidential campaign unfolded during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan – a first in Senegal’s history. The campaign period was also shortened from 21 to 17 days.

As part of an amnesty law passed by parliament a week earlier, Sonko and his replacement candidate Faye were released from prison on March 14 to rapturous celebrations by their supporters in the streets of Dakar.

On the following day, a final petition from Wade’s camp seeking to ban the ballot on the grounds that it would occur too soon was rejected by the Supreme Court, thus removing the last potential obstacle to the presidential election on Sunday.

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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Navalny widow joins protest against Putin in Berlin on final day of voting

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, took part in a noon protest against President Vladimir Putin on Sunday in Berlin on the final day of the country’s elections. Thousands of people also turned up at polling stations across Russia to take part in what the anti-Kremlin opposition said was a peaceful but symbolic political protest against Putin’s re-election. 

Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh posted pictures on X of Navalnaya standing in line in Berlin where Russians queued up to vote. Activists said that some people chanted “Yulia, Yulia”, and clapped.

Queues of people were also seen forming outside polling stations in Moscow and Saint Petersburg at noon, when Russia‘s opposition called for people to collectively spoil their ballots or vote against Putin.

Others had vowed to scrawl the name of late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died last month in an Arctic prison, on their ballot paper.

More than 74 people have been detained in thirteen Russian cities in connection to the presidential election taking place, the OVD-Info protest-monitoring group said.

The three-day vote had already been marred by a surge in fatal Ukrainian bombardmentincursions into Russian territory by pro-Kyiv sabotage groups and vandalism at polling stations.

Ukrainian drones attacked at least eight Russian regions overnight and on Sunday morning, with some reaching as far as the Moscow region, the defence ministry said.

Three airports serving the capital briefly suspended operations following the barrage, while a drone attack in the south sparked a fire at an oil refinery.

In the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, where voting is also taking place, “kamikaze drones” set a polling station ablaze, according to Moscow-installed authorities.

The defence ministry said it had “intercepted and destroyed 35 unmanned aerial vehicles” across the country.

The turnout at Russia’s presidential election hit 67.54% on Sunday, surpassing 2018 levels several hours before the end of polling, according to the TASS news agency. The 2018 turnout was 67.5%.

Last ‘legal’ protest

There were repeated acts of protest in the first days of polling, with a spate of arrests of Russians accused of pouring dye into ballot boxes or arson attacks.

Read more‘Noon against Putin’: Navalny’s last wish and an act of Russian opposition

Before his death in an Arctic prison last month, opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged Russians to collectively vote at noon in a protest the opposition dubbed “Midday Against Putin”.

AFP reporters saw an increase in people queuing outside polling stations at midday (09:00 GMT) in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

“This is the last kind of protest action through which you can legally express yourself. It’s safe,” 29-year-old IT worker Alexander told AFP.

He voted around noon at a polling station in Maryino, a district of Moscow where Navalny used to cast his ballot.

“If I didn’t do it, I’d feel like a coward,” he said.

Elena, 52, who also voted around noon, doubted the demonstration would have much of an impact. 

“Honestly, I don’t think it will show anything,” she told AFP.

Any public dissent in Russia has been harshly punished since the start of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine on February 24, 2022 and there have been repeated warnings from the authorities against election protests.

‘Difficult period’

The 71-year-old Putin, a former KGB agent, has been in power since the last day of 1999 and is set to extend his grip over the country until at least 2030.

If he completes another Kremlin term, he will have stayed in power longer than any Russian leader since Catherine the Great in the 18th century.

He is running without any real opponents, having barred two candidates who opposed the conflict in Ukraine.

Read moreRussia’s presidential election: Three Putin challengers but little suspense

The Kremlin has cast the election as an opportunity for Russians to show they are behind the assault on Ukraine, where voting is also being staged in Russian-held areas.

In a pre-election address on Thursday, Putin said Russia was going through a “difficult period”.

“We need to continue to be united and self-confident,” he said, describing the election as a way for Russians to demonstrate their “patriotic feelings”.

The voting will wrap up in Kaliningrad, Russia’s western-most time zone, at 18:00 GMT and an exit poll is expected to be announced shortly after that.

A concert on Red Square is being staged on Monday to mark 10 years since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula – an event that is also expected to serve as a victory celebration for Putin.

‘No validity’

Ukraine has repeatedly denounced the elections as illegitimate and a “farce”, and urged Western allies not to recognise the result.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as well as more than 50 member states, have slammed Moscow for holding the vote in parts of Ukraine.

Guterres said the “attempted illegal annexation” of those regions has “no validity” under international law.

Ahead of the election, Russian state media have played up recent gains on the front and portrayed the conflict as a fight for survival against attacks from the West.

Moscow has also sought to press its advantage on the front line as divisions over Western military support for Ukraine have led to ammunition shortages, although Kyiv says it has managed to stop the Russian advance for now. 

In Ukraine, a Russian missile strike on the Black Sea port city of Odesa on Friday killed 21 people including rescue workers responding to an initial hit – an attack President Volodymyr Zelensky described as “vile”.

In Russia’s border city of Belgorod, Ukrainian shelling killed a 16-year-old girl and wounded her father, the region’s governor said Sunday.

The governor has ordered the closure of shopping centres and schools in Belgorod and the surrounding area for two days because of the strikes.


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Russians vote in presidential election amid sporadic acts of protest

Russia began three days of voting Friday in a presidential election that is all but certain to extend President Vladimir Putin’s rule for six more years after he stifled dissent.

At least half a dozen cases of vandalism at polling stations were reported, including a firebombing and several people pouring green liquid into ballot boxes — an apparent nod to the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who in 2017 was attacked by an assailant splashing green disinfectant in his face.

Voting is taking place through Sunday at polling stations across the vast country’s 11 time zones, in illegally annexed regions of Ukraine and online. Putin cast his ballot online, according to the Kremlin.

The election comes against the backdrop of a ruthless crackdown that has crippled independent media and prominent rights groups and given Putin full control of the political system.

Read moreFive things to know about Russia’s upcoming presidential election

It also comes as Moscow’s war in Ukraine enters its third year. Russia has the advantage on the battlefield, where it is making small, if slow, gains. A Russian missile strike on the port city of Odesa killed at least 14 people on Friday, local officials said.

Ukraine, meanwhile, has made Moscow look vulnerable behind the front line with long-range drone attacks deep inside Russia and high-tech drone assaults that put its Black Sea fleet on the defensive.

Border clashes

Russian regions bordering Ukraine reported a spike in shelling and repeated attacks this week by Ukrainian forces, which Putin described Friday as an attempt to frighten residents and derail the vote.

“Those enemy strikes haven’t been and won’t be left unpunished,” he vowed at a meeting of his Security Council.

“I’m sure that our people, the people of Russia, will respond to that with even greater cohesion,” Putin said. “Whom did they decide to scare? The Russian people? It has never happened and it will never happen.”

Read more‘Noon against Putin’: A small gesture and a powerful symbol of Russia’s opposition


By the time polls closed Friday night at Russia’s westernmost region of Kaliningrad, more than a third of the country’s eligible voters had cast ballots in person and online, according to the Central Election Commission. Online voting, which began Friday morning, is available around the clock in Moscow and 28 other regions until 8 p.m. local time Sunday.

Officials said voting proceeded in an orderly fashion, but in St. Petersburg, a woman threw a Molotov cocktail on the roof of a school that houses a polling station, local news media reported. The deputy head of the Russian Central Election Commission said people poured green liquid into ballot boxes in five places, including Moscow.

News sites also reported on the Telegram messaging channel that a woman in Moscow set fire to a voting booth. Such acts are incredibly risky since interfering with elections is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The election holds little suspense since Putin, 71, is running for his fifth term virtually unchallenged. His political opponents are either in jail or in exile; Navalny, the fiercest of them, died in an Arctic penal colony last month. The three other candidates on the ballot are low-profile politicians from token opposition parties that support the Kremlin’s line.

‘No opposition. No freedom. No choice’

Observers have little to no expectation the election will be free and fair.

European Council President Charles Michel mordantly commented Friday on the vote’s preordained nature. “Would like to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his landslide victory in the elections starting today. No opposition. No freedom. No choice,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Beyond the few options for voters, the possibilities for independent monitoring are very limited.

No significant international observers were present. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s monitors were not invited, and only registered candidates or state-backed advisory bodies can assign observers to polling stations, decreasing the likelihood of independent watchdogs. With balloting over three days in nearly 100,000 polling stations, any true oversight is difficult anyway.

“The elections in Russia as a whole are a sham. The Kremlin controls who’s on the ballot. The Kremlin controls how they can campaign. To say nothing of being able to control every aspect of the voting and the vote-counting process,” said Sam Greene, director for Democratic Resilience at the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington.

Ukraine and the West have also condemned Russia for holding the vote in Ukrainian regions that Moscow’s forces have seized and occupied.

In many ways, Ukraine is at the heart of this election, political analysts and opposition figures say. They say Putin wants to use his all-but-assured electoral victory as evidence that the war and his handling of it enjoys widespread support. The opposition, meanwhile, hopes to use the vote to demonstrate its discontent with both the war and the Kremlin.

Two anti-war politicians were banned from the ballot after attracting genuine — albeit not overwhelming — support, depriving the voters of any choice on the “main issue of Russia’s political agenda,” said political analyst Abbas Gallyamov, a former Putin speechwriter.

‘Most vapid’ campaign since 2000

Russia’s scattered opposition has urged those unhappy with Putin or the war to show up at the polls at noon on Sunday, the final day of voting, in protest. The strategy was endorsed by Navalny not long before his death.

“We need to use election day to show that we exist and there are many of us, we are actual, living, real people and we are against Putin. … What to do next is up to you. You can vote for any candidate except Putin. You could ruin your ballot,” his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, said.

How well this strategy will work remains unclear.

Golos, Russia’s renowned independent election observer group, said in a report this week that authorities were “doing everything so that the people don’t notice the very fact of the election happening.”

The watchdog described the campaign ahead of the vote as “practically unnoticeable” and “the most vapid” since 2000, when Golos was founded and started monitoring elections in Russia.

Putin’s campaigning was cloaked in presidential activities, and other candidates were “demonstrably passive,” the report said.

State media dedicated less airtime to the election than in 2018, when Putin was last elected, according to Golos. Instead of promoting the vote to ensure a desired turnout, authorities appear to be betting on pressuring voters they can control — for instance, Russians who work in state-run companies or institutions — to show up at the polls, the group said.

The watchdog itself has been swept up in the crackdown: Its co-chair, Grigory Melkonyants, is in jail awaiting trial on charges widely seen as an attempt to pressure the group ahead of the election.

“The current elections will not be able to reflect the real mood of the people,” Golos said in the report. “The distance between citizens and decision-making about the fate of the country has become greater than ever.”


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Israel’s ‘refuseniks’: ‘I will never justify what Israel is doing in Gaza’

from our special correspondent in Israël – On December 26, Israel’s first conscientious objector since the start of its war against Hamas, Tal Mitnick, was sent to prison after refusing to serve in the army. Mitnick, however, is not alone. A small group of Israelis are refusing to take part in the “oppression of the Palestinians” by refusing to serve in the Gaza conflict. FRANCE 24 met with some of them in Israel.  

Young people refusing to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are known as “refuseniks” in Israel. The term dates from the Soviet era and once referred to Jews denied the right to emigrate to Israel from the Soviet bloc.

Although military service in the Jewish state is compulsory for both men and women – with many seeing it as an important part of their national identity – the refuseniks are increasingly speaking out.

“On February 25th (my enlistment date) … I will refuse to enlist and go to military jail for it,” Sofia Orr, an 18-year-old Israeli woman, told FRANCE 24 in the Pardes Hanna-Karkur municipality of the Haifa district.

“I refuse to take part in the violent policies of oppression and apartheid that Israel enacted upon the Palestinian people, and especially now with the war,” Orr said in English. “I want to fight to convey the message that there is no military solution to a political problem, and that is more apparent than ever now. And I want to be part of the solution and not the problem.”

Orr’s words echo those of her friend Tal Mitnick, the jailed 18-year-old who was sentenced on January 2 to 30 days in prison by a military court.

In a statement published on social media before his incarceration, Mitnick said that a lasting solution will not come from the army. “Violence cannot solve the situation – neither by Hamas, nor by Israel. There is no military solution to a political problem. Therefore, I refuse to enlist in an army that believes that the real problem can be ignored, under a government that only continues the bereavement and pain.”

“I’m very proud of him (Mitnick) and also inspired by his courage,” Orr said. “Everyone has different beliefs. But in the general sense, yes, I absolutely stand behind his open letter and behind his stand.”

She said the political situation in Israel has made it harder than ever to conscientiously object.

“Right now, it’s more difficult than ever to refuse and to take this stand, because the political environment in Israel has gotten way tougher since the war started. There has been a strong shift to the right, and the entire political sphere has become a lot more violent and aggressive,” Orr said.

The Israeli army relies almost exclusively on reservists. Men are required to enlist for 32 months and women for 24, after which they can be mobilised until their 40th and 38th birthdays, respectively.

Following Hamas’s surprise attacks on October 7 that left more than 1,100 Israelis dead, the army mobilised more than 360,000 reservists, about 4 percent of the country’s population of 9.8 million, representing Israel’s largest mobilisation since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

‘A politically motivated decision’

Orr, who describes herself as an “activist” and a “political person”, said it was already clear to her that she would conscientiously object at the age of 15. And she has not wavered since.

“The 7th of October changed nothing in either direction,” she said. “It should have been expected, because when you put people under extreme violence, extreme violence will rise back at you. It’s inevitable.”

She said the attacks in southern Israel “only made me surer in my decision”.

“Since the war started, and the horrible violence that is enacted on the Gazans in Gaza and the destruction of the whole place, it made me surer that we must fight for a different option and that this will never solve anything. And that I have to resist this cycle of bloodshed or it will never end,” Orr said.

The Israeli army rarely accepts refusals to enlist on grounds of pacifism or ethics.

Apart from the ultra-Orthodox and Israeli Arabs, who are automatically exempt from military service, only young Israelis suffering from physical or mental problems can be declared unfit after a medical examination.

Exemption was, however, out of the question for Orr.

“I choose to be part of the rare few who do have political motivations behind [not serving] … more than that, [who] choose to make it public [as] a public statement and a political statement,” she said. Orr chooses “to resist” and to do so publicly, “to raise awareness for the situation as a whole”.

With the support of her parents and sister, Orr is convinced that she can make a difference.

When a classmate rallied to her cause, Orr said, it “made me believe that I can change things, and that as small an impact that I have, it’s still an impact and it’s still worth it”.

Violence only leads to more violence

Seeking to bring the plight of Palestinians to public attention in Israel, Orr travelled to the West Bank to meet Palestinians.

“I went to the West Bank and talked to settlers, and then went and talked to Palestinians. And I think it’s an important experience, to see for yourself … how the settlers live and how the Palestinians live, what the settlers say and what the Palestinians say,” Orr said.

“We’ve seen for the past 70 years that the military using military means leads us nowhere. The only progress we’ve ever made on this piece of land has been by political means and negotiations and trying to make peace. So again, there is no military solution to a political problem. And this problem is both political and humanitarian. And the military does not solve either of those things,” she said.

Surprisingly mature and filled with conviction, Orr has stuck by her words and refused to abandon her beliefs even though talk of peace in Israel has mostly been silenced since the October 7 massacres.

“Israel’s attempts to eradicate Hamas is only making Hamas stronger, because if you offer no alternative to the Palestinians and they think that violent resistance is the only way … and [if they think] it’s the only language that Israel knows how to speak and … their only chance at freedom … Then, yes, of course they will join Hamas and try violent resistance,” Orr said.

The violence wrought by Hamas was also counter-productive, she said. “I don’t think that the horrible attack on October 7 made any progress for the Palestinian cause.”

But Israel’s war on Gaza pushes any hopes for a solution farther away.

“I will never justify what Israel does right now in Gaza. Violence only leads to more violence. So I think the only way to really weaken the violent resistance is to offer an alternative. And that has to come from inside Israel, and that has to come from Israel, because Israel is a much stronger side in the equation,” Orr said, adding that both Israelis and Palestinians should try to make peace amid the increasingly brutal Gaza war.

“It’s the only viable solution.”

While Orr’s words have, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears in Israel, some have resorted to calling her a “traitor” and a “self-hating Jew” while others even threatened to murder or rape her.

Orr said she has also suffered other consequences of her choice to go public, whether while job hunting or in the social sphere.

“People aren’t supposed to ask if you went to the army – and definitely not why you didn’t, if you didn’t,” she said. But of someone Googles her, her decision not to serve comes up.

“It can have consequences,” she acknowledged. “The biggest consequences are social because it’s a very militaristic society, and I’m very publicly not a militaristic person … but I believe that it’s worth it no matter what … I will endure [the consequences].”

When asked if she’s afraid of going to prison, Orr, who planned on studying literature after serving her sentence, didn’t equivocate. “It’s scary. I know it will be hard … but it’s part of the whole thing. I’ve made peace with it long ago.”

Avital Rubin, a young Israeli, has already served a total of four months in prison. Then 19, Rubin was sentenced for refusing military service in 2021.

Quietly seated on the terrace of a café in Haifa, Rubin said he was born into a family that he described as “dovish Zionist” – both liberal and conciliatory in their attitude.

Evyatar Rubin, 20, spent four months in prison for having refused to enroll with the Israeli military. © Assiya Hamza, FRANCE 24

“I remember as a kid, my mother bought me these mini biographies of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. And I always viewed these people as heroes. But the moment [Donald] Trump won, there was this shift on the internet and it all of a sudden became much more right-winged or much more bigoted, homophobic, sexist. And so I had to find places that I felt comfortable being … I had to [find] more and more leftist places,” Rubin said.

Rubin, who currently works in IT, educated himself by watching videos of Noam Chomsky and calls himself “anti-Zionist”.

Rubin took part in 2021 demonstrations by Jews and Arabs in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem that has been the centre of a heavy legal battle over the past 20 years between Palestinian families and Israeli settlers.

Without knowing how to exempt himself from military service, Rubin hesitated on whether to enlist.

‘Each time, the solution is to bomb Gaza’

Rubin was introduced to a member of Mesarvot – “Those who refuse” in Hebrew – at one of the group’s gatherings.

The NGO informs and advises young people without necessarily discouraging them from joining the army.

Like Mitnick and Orr, Rubin saw that it was possible to refuse military service on political grounds.

Mesarvot provided him with legal support and even visited him in prison.

“I’m happy I didn’t do it (military service) and I refused. Not because I’m a pacifist, but because I always grew up viewing the occupation and the Nakba (“Catastrophe” in Arabic; Nakba refers to the forced exodus of Palestinians in 1948) with disgust. And so to be part of the IDF would be to be part of this thing. And I think that is what, more than anything, pushed me away from enlisting in the military,” Rubin said.

While clearly disapproving of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, Rubin admitted to having discovered the realities of the West Bank only when he was 16.

“When I was in prison, and I told people I’m refusing because of the occupation … they were like, ‘what is the occupation?’ I said, you know, over the Green Line (the pre-1967 border from before the Six-Day War). And they were like, what is the Green Line? Honestly, I didn’t blame them because three years prior to that, I didn’t know what the Green Line was either,” he said.

Rubin has since chosen to isolate himself, likening his isolation to the mark of Cain, a visible mark placed by the Abrahamic God on the biblical figure Cain’s forehead, so that others would recognise him as the murderer of his brother Abel.

This self-isolation has allowed Rubin to distance himself from the Nakba and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

“The only thing I actually sacrificed was an easy job because, if I enlisted, I would have gone to some intelligence [unit], done like three years – maybe signed for an extra two years – then I would have left and found some cushy job in high tech and gotten paid like six figures for doing nothing. Which is basically what all my high school friends are going to do,” he said.

Rubin said his family and friends didn’t try to persuade him otherwise, as they saw that he stood by his convictions, which remained unchanged even after the October 7 attacks.

“Israel has this spectacular capability of never learning from anything. It’s like, for 100 years, we’ve been bombing and murdering and occupying, and then a massacre happens, and then we bomb and occupy and kill. Then a massacre happens. But every time something happens, the solution is to bomb Gaza. This time it will work. This time it will be different … And that’s what people say,” Rubin said.

“[The PLO] committed acts of terror and massacres, but ultimately they wanted, at the beginning, a one-state secular democratic solution, then a two-state solution. And then, in the 80s, Israel didn’t want to deal with the PLO. So we invaded Lebanon to try to push PLO [out] and instead we got Hezbollah, which is like a million times worse. And then Israel didn’t want to deal with the PLO in the occupied territories in Gaza. So it helped raise Hamas, which is a million times worse … The history of Israel is just like [a series of] military solutions that just make the situation worse time and time and time again,” he said.

When asked about the future, Rubin didn’t attempt to hide his pessimism.

“I think the situation is going to become noticeably worse. Israel is in a death spiral … There’s no room left for personal agency in Israel. I feel it has all been determined by by the currents of history. The same way that the earth revolves around the sun and slowly sinks into it – the same way that Israel cannot help but fulfill its historic destiny,” Rubin said, adding that even a change in premiership wouldn’t bring about a significant change in Israel.

“It doesn’t matter who is the next prime minister – who will it be? Probably [Israeli opposition leader Yair] Lapid or no, probably Benny Gantz most likely,” referring to the MP and onetime challenger to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“But it doesn’t matter. He’s the same as Binyamin Netanyahu,” he said.

Despite his pessimistic outlook, Rubin said he would remain in Israel.

Citing Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved hundreds of Jews from Nazi extermination camps, Rubin said he hoped to sacrifice himself in some way to save others.

“That’s the most heroic thing a man can do. The most correct thing a man can do. And that’s what matters for me most. And there’s no other place in the world where I can actually do it, other than Israel. So I will. My place will always be here,” he said.

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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Maidan Square: ‘A rather modest Ukrainian protest turned revolution’

November marked 10 years since the start of the Maidan revolution which ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.


On November 21, 2013, Yanukovych announced he was shelving an agreement to bring the country closer to the European Union and instead would deepen ties with President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Outraged crowds soon filled Independence Square, or Maidan Square, for peaceful anti-government protests. Later, after riot police used truncheons and tear gas to disperse the people, demonstrators set up tent camps with barricades, self-defence units and banners with revolutionary slogans. In response to the police violence, hundreds of thousands joined the demonstrations in early December.

The standoff reached a climax in February 2014, when police unleashed a brutal crackdown on the protests and dozens of people were slain between February 18 and 21, many by police snipers. A European-mediated peace deal between the government and protest leaders envisioned the formation of a transition government and an early election, but demonstrators later seized government buildings, and Yanukovych fled to Russia.

The Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance said 107 people were killed in the uprising that became known as the “Maidan Revolution” or the “Revolution of Dignity.”

Euronews asked several people in Kyiv during those months to share their memories of the revolution.

“I think that then, actually, for every Ukrainian there was not even a choice to leave or not for every conscious Ukrainian. We knew what we wanted, and we understood that our government, Yanukovych, somehow decided to deceive us. At first, he told us that this is how we would have a path to European integration, and then at one point, he signed some new agreements with Russia. And we understand we are not moving where we want,” recalled Kyiv-based documentary filmmaker Marina Chankova.

Ukrainian historian Yevhenii Monastyrskyi told Euronews that he found himself in Kyiv in the early days of Euromaidan because he had come to the capital for a scientific conference.

“I then went out to see what was happening in the centre. And this is the first moment that I remember very well: a small group of students gathered together on the first night in Independence Square, and then on the second and third days I just watched other people joining them,” Yevhenii said.

The first to express their discontent in the centre of Kyiv were mostly young people. The protest was peaceful, but after a few days, the authorities decided to disperse the protesters, motivating their actions by the fact that a Christmas tree was planned to be installed in the central square.

“The events that stuck with me took place on 30 November: students were beaten up,” recalled Marcy Shore, a specialist in Eastern European history at Yale University in the United States.  “Most people in the square were young because they had the most to lose. Europe was close to them, and Euromaidan in November 2013 belonged to this generation.”

According to Marcy Shore, Viktor Yanukovych was counting on the fact that the massacre of students would scare their parents and force them to take their children away from the square.

“And then something unexpected happened: instead of taking the children off the street, the parents joined them,” said Shore.

After the dispersal of the student protest “many people said, you know, I went to bed in Kiev, I woke up in Moscow,” recalled Atlantic Council contributor Peter Dickinson.

“And at that point, the protests mushroomed massively. So this was the 1st of December 2013. And then within hours, the next day, you had almost a million people on the streets of central Kyiv. Buildings were occupied. A permanent tent city was established on Maidan. And what had been a pretty modest protest movement had become a revolution, essentially,” said Dickinson.

Sergio Cantone was running Euronews’ Kyiv bureau in those days.

“It was extremely cold and they were burning the tyres. The protesters burned the tyres and then also the Molotov cocktails. And I remember this kind of almost, if I may say so, legendary. I have a kind of legendary feeling, mythological feeling. It was the war of the ice and the fire because the two things were together,” Cantone remembered.

“And then, of course, the stun bombs used by the Berkut to contain the protest. The sound of stun bombs,” he added, referring to the riot police.

“Most people I spoke to at the time considered it a decisive moment for Ukraine in terms of how it would develop, what kind of state it would become. Would it become a European country or suffer the fate of a Soviet-type authoritarian state? It was a civilisational choice,” said Peter Dickinson.


“The idea was to get rid of an unjust, immoral and corrupt system,” Cantone said.

In January three protesters were shot dead, the first fatalities of the protests.

Then, between February 18 to 20, dozens of people were killed in clashes with the police in the city, the most tragic days of the revolution. 

“Before our eyes, people in the city centre were killed by our authorities. Well, that was the kind of turning point that caused even more outrage. And at that moment, the Ukrainian people in general, and as much as they felt later, understood that no, we will go to the end, we will go to the end, and no one was afraid,” Marina Chankova said.

“Presumably the mass killings were designed to disperse the crowd. They were designed to terrify Ukrainians and to send them out. What I saw as I came down and began walking towards Maidan was a vast sea of humanity going towards Maidan of Ukrainians. And people were carrying bottles of water, medicines, coats, food, anything they had, and to go and see if they could help. So the killings had the exact opposite impact,” Dickinson recalled.


“People were deeply shocked and traumatised, but they were very determined and their response to these mass killings was, no, we will not, we will not flee, we will not run, we will go, we will confront this threat to all our nation, our independence, our democracy,” he added.

“The Maidan shootings were the biggest shock of all these months,” Yevhenii Monastyrskyi said.

“Such a thing cannot be forgiven by anyone. The long journey of building civil society, which began in the early 2000s, reached its first peak precisely in February 2014, when it became clear that we, the citizens of Ukraine, civil society, had reached the point where we could no longer co-exist with this government and something had to change,” recalled Yevhenii.

“This is this very long movement to create a civil society, which began in the early 2000s. We reached this first peak, in fact, in February of the fourteenth year, when it became clear that we’re citizens of Ukraine. Civil society has reached the point where we can no longer coexist with this government and something needs to change.”

After Yanukovych’s ouster, Russia responded in March 2014 by illegally annexing Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. Then, separatist forces backed by Moscow began an uprising in the eastern Ukraine region known as the Donbas, which grew into a long-running conflict, leaving thousands dead.


Finally, in February 2022, Putin launched his war that continues to this day, with tens of thousands of deaths on both sides amid Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II.

Ukrainians in 2013 had wanted the country to enter into a deal with the EU, but Putin pressured Yanukovych to pull out at the last minute. Ukrainian leaders who followed were more eager than ever to bring Kyiv into the Western fold.

Despite the calamities, Ukraine has become more united than in its 32 years of independence and has drawn closer to the EU, the United States and the West in general — an outcome Putin had tried to prevent. Today, under President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the country has won widespread support and admiration amid the Russian invasion.

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Russia ‘will lose’ says Zelenskyy, as Kyiv claims gains near Bakhmut

All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine nibbling away at ground near Bakhmut

Ukraine recaptured a small area from Russian forces last week near the eastern city of Bakhmut, the country’s deputy defence minister claimed on Monday. 


There was no change on the southern front, however. 

“An additional three square kilometres were liberated” near Bakhmut in seven days, said Ganna Maliar on Ukrainian television, adding Ukraine’s armed forces had taken more than 43 km2 since June.

Bakhmut, in the hotly contested Donetsk region, was captured by Russian forces in May. This came after months of deadly fighting, involving the notorious Wagner mercenary group. 

“In the south, the situation has not changed significantly, our defenders continue to advance towards (the occupied cities) of Berdyansk and Melitopol,” continued Maliar, without detailing whether concrete gains were made.

Ukraine launched a massive counter offensive in June to try and liberate regions occupied by Moscow.

This operation has so far achieved only modest gains, capturing a handful of villages after more than two months of fighting. 

Russian forces have had months to fortify their positions with trenches, anti-tank traps and extensive minefields covering hundreds of kilometres.

Russia recently launched an attack of its own in northeastern Ukraine, forcing civilians to evacuate, though Maliar claimed the Ukrainian line was holding firm.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said in its daily report its soldiers have “improved” their positions in this sector.

UNESCO training psychologists for trauma victims

UNESCO has launched a programme to train 15,000 school psychologists to help tackle the mental health impacts of the war on Ukrainian students and teachers.  

In coordination with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, the UN agency said on Monday it was “committed to helping Ukraine improve mental health and psychosocial support in the education sector”. 


According to UNESCO, 75% of Ukrainian school children have suffered from stress and 26% of adolescents have post-traumatic stress syndrome. 

“There is… an urgent need to… help them recover from the trauma and emotional distress induced by the war,” it said in a statement. 

The operation will be financially supported by Japan and carried out in two stages, though the UN organisation did not specify how much it will cost. 

In recent months, UNESCO and its partners have trained 117 psychologists across 24 regions of Ukraine. 

‘Russia will lose this war,’ says Zelenskyy

Ukraine’s president has said he is convinced Russia’s invasion will fail, during a visit to Denmark on Monday. 


Volodymyr Zelensky made the claim as Denmark and the Netherlands announced the upcoming delivery of F-16 fighter jets to his country. 

“Today, we are convinced that Russia will lose this war,” he told the crowd gathered near the Danish parliament in Copenhagen. 

The 19 F-16 planes promised by Denmark will be delivered gradually to Kyiv: Six towards the end of the year, eight next year and five the following, according to the Danish Prime Minister.

“The main thing is what we prove with our victory, our cooperation,” said Zelesnkyy. “Together, we prove that life has value, that people matter.”

“Freedom is important, Europe is important”, he continued. 


A day earlier, Zelenskyy hailed the “historic” decision by the Netherlands and Denmark to deliver a total of 61 American-made F-16 fighter jets. 

The Russian ambassador to Denmark denounced the move as “an escalation”. 

“Denmark seeks, by its deeds and its words, to leave Ukraine no choice but to continue the confrontation. military with Russia,” said Ambassador Vladimir Barbin. 

He added the decision “pushes Ukraine into the abyss and condemns its people to new victims.”

Drone attacks foiled

Russia says it foiled two Ukrainian drone attacks on Monday morning, which caused no casualties, the Russian Defence Ministry says. 

At around 06:50 local time (3:50 GMT) on Monday, an attempt by Kyiv to carry out “a terrorist attack (using an) unmanned aerial vehicle (…) was foiled”, the ministry said on Telegram.

Detected by air defences in the Moscow region, the craft was “neutralised by electronic warfare means” and then “crashed near the village of Pokrovskoye, in the Odintsovo district”, south-west of the capital, the Russian Defence Ministry added.

Another “terrorist attack by the Kyiv regime” was foiled at 08:16 (05:16 GMT), when Russian air defence shot down a drone in the Istra district, also in the Moscow region, to the north-west of the Russian capital, the same source said.

According to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, following these incidents, Moscow’s Vnukovo and Domodedovo international airports temporarily imposed restrictions on departures and arrivals and redirected several flights to other locations.

Drone attacks inside Russian territory have been on the increase for several weeks, usually without causing any damage or casualties, and have targeted the Russian capital in particular.

Kremlin ‘expanding its military structures in the face of wartime realities’

British military intelligence says the Kremlin is “expanding its military structures in the face of wartime realities.” 

The Ministry of Defence makes the assessment in its latest Monday morning briefing, and says one new measure will mean that units currently operating in the Kherson region, including the 22nd Army Corps, are likely to be amalgamated into a new structure called the 18th Combined Arms Army. 

The British MoD says the new 18th CAA is likely to consist mostly of mobilised personnel and to focus on defensive security operations in the south of Ukraine. 

“Russia likely aims to free up more experienced units to fight on key axes.2 

“There is a realistic possibility that this has led to the recent re-deployment of airborne forces from Kherson to the heavily contested Orikhiv sector,” the Ministry of Defence adds.

Protests in Poland and Finland against Putin

Several hundred people took to the streets of the Finnish capital Helsinki, and the west coast city of Turku on Sunday to mark the third anniversary of the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny. 

And in the Polish capital Warsaw, protesters gathered outside the Russian embassy waving banners which read “Putin the killer” and “Freedom for Political Prisoners.”

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Netanyahu to push ahead with judicial plan after ’emergency’ surgery

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushed to the hospital early Sunday for an emergency implantation of a heart pacemaker, plunging Israel into deeper turmoil after widespread protests over his contentious judicial overhaul plan.

A physician at the Sheba Medical Center said later that the procedure went well and Netanyahu felt fine.

In announcing the hospitalization, Netanyahu’s office said that he would be sedated and that a top deputy, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, would stand in for him while he underwent the procedure. In a brief video statement before the implantation, Netanyahu said he “feels excellent” and planned to push forward with the judicial overhaul as soon as he was released.

Netanyahu’s announcement, issued well after midnight, came a week after he was hospitalized at Sheba for what was described as dehydration. It also came after a tumultuous day that saw some of the largest protests to date against the judicial overhaul plan.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Israel on Saturday night, while thousands marched into Jerusalem and camped out near the Knesset, or parliament, ahead of a vote expected Monday that would approve a key portion of the overhaul.

Further ratcheting up the pressure on the Israeli leader, over 100 retired security chiefs came out in favour of the growing ranks of military reservists who say they will stop reporting for duty if the plan is passed.

Netanyahu and his far-right allies announced the overhaul plan in January, days after taking office. They claim the plan is needed to curb what they say are the excessive powers of unelected judges. Critics say the plan will destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and put it on the path toward authoritarian rule. US President Joe Biden has urged Netanyahu to halt the plan and seek a broad consensus.

Netanyahu, 73, keeps a busy schedule and his office says he is in good health. But over the years, it has released few details or medical records. On 15 July, he was rushed to Sheba with dizziness. He later said he had been out in the hot sun and had not drunk enough water.

His return for the pacemaker procedure indicated his health troubles were more serious than initially indicated. In the video, Netanyahu said that he was outfitted with a monitor after last week’s hospitalization and that when an alarm beeped late Saturday, it meant he required a pacemaker right away.

“I feel excellent, but I listen to my doctors,” he said.

Professor Roy Beinart, the senior physician and director at the Davidai Arrhythmia Center at Sheba’s Heart Institute, said in a video that Netanyahu was called in to get the pacemaker because he experienced “a temporary arrhythmia,” or irregular heartbeat, Saturday evening.

“The implantation went smoothly, without any complications. He is not in a life-threatening condition. He feels great and is returning to his daily routine,” Beinart said.

It was not immediately clear what the hospitalization meant for the judicial overhaul, which has bitterly divided the nation. Netanyahu said he expected to be released in time to go to the Knesset for Monday’s vote. In the meantime, his office said the weekly meeting of his Cabinet, usually held each Sunday morning, had been postponed.

A pacemaker is used when a patient’s heart beats too slowly, which can cause fainting spells, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can also be used to treat heart failure. By sending electrical pulses to the heart, the device keeps a person’s heartbeat at a normal rhythm. Patients with pacemakers often return to regular activities within a few days, according to NIH.

The procedure normally involves a doctor inserting the pacemaker near the collarbone, according to Mayo Clinic. A hospital stay of at least a day is usually required.

As Netanyahu spoke, thousands of Israelis camped out in Jerusalem’s main park, just a short walk from the Knesset, after completing a four-day march from Tel Aviv to rally opposition to the judicial overhaul. Late Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities in a last-ditch show of force hoping to head off the judicial overhaul.

In scorching heat that reached 33C, the procession into Jerusalem turned the city’s main entrance into a sea of blue and white Israeli flags as marchers completed the last leg of a four-day, 70-kilometre trek from Tel Aviv.

The marchers, who grew from hundreds to thousands as the march progressed, were welcomed in Jerusalem by throngs of cheering protesters before they set up camp in rows of small white tents.

The proposed overhaul has drawn harsh criticism from business and medical leaders, and a fast-rising number of military reservists in key units have said they will stop reporting for duty if the plan passes, raising concern that Israel’s security could be threatened. An additional 10,000 reservists announced they were suspending duty Saturday night, according to “Brothers in Arms,” a protest group representing retired soldiers.

More than 100 top former security chiefs, including retired military commanders, police commissioners and heads of intelligence agencies, joined those calls on Saturday, signing a letter to Netanyahu accusing him of compromising Israel’s military and urging him to halt the legislation.

The signatories included Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, and Moshe Yaalon, a former army chief and defence minister. Both are political rivals of Netanyahu.

“The legislation is crushing those things shared by Israeli society, is tearing the people apart, disintegrating the IDF and inflicting fatal blows on Israel’s security,” the former officials wrote.

In his statement, Netanyahu said he would continue to seek a compromise with his opponents. He paused the plan in March after widespread demonstrations, but he revived it last month after compromise talks collapsed.

Israel Katz, a senior Cabinet minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the bill would pass one way or another Monday and rejected the pressure from the ranks of the military, the most respected institution among Israel’s Jewish majority. “There is a clear attempt here to use military service to force the government to change policy,” he told Channel 12 TV.

The overhaul measure would limit the Supreme Court’s oversight powers by preventing judges from striking down government decisions on the basis that they are “unreasonable.”

Proponents say the current “reasonability” standard gives judges excessive powers over decision-making by elected officials. Critics say removing the standard, which is invoked only in rare cases, would allow the government to pass arbitrary decisions, make improper appointments or firings and open the door to corruption.

Monday’s vote would mark the first major piece of legislation to be approved.

The overhaul also calls for other sweeping changes aimed at curbing the powers of the judiciary, from limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions, to changing the way judges are selected.

Protesters, who come from a wide swath of Israeli society, see the overhaul as a power grab fueled by personal and political grievances of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, and his partners, who want to deepen Israel’s control of the occupied West Bank and perpetuate controversial draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men.

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Mass protests are a ‘tribute’ to Israel’s democracy, President Herzog tells US Congress

Israeli President Isaac Herzog sought to reassure Congress on Wednesday about the state of Israel’s democracy and the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, acknowledging “intense and painful debate” at home over actions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government. 

Herzog, whose post in Israel is largely symbolic, became the second Israeli president, after his father, Chaim Herzog, to address Congress. While his speech officially marked modern Israel’s celebration of its 75th year, he also indirectly addressed deep unease in the Biden administration and among Democratic lawmakers over the Netanyahu government’s controversial overhaul of Israel’s judicial system, expanded Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, and other matters.

The divide was reflected in his audience. While lawmakers repeatedly rose to their feet in thundering applause of Herzog’s recounting of Israel’s founding, a handful of leading young progressive Democrats boycotted his speech. 

On the eve of Herzog’s speech to the joint meeting of Congress, the House passed a Republican-led resolution reaffirming its support for Israel with strong bipartisan approval — an implicit rebuke of Rep. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who over the weekend called the country a “racist state” but later apologized.

“Mr. Speaker, I am not oblivious to criticism among friends, including some expressed by respected members of this House. I respect criticism, especially from friends, although one does not always have to accept it,” Herzog said.

“But criticism of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the state of Israel’s right to exist. Questioning the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, is not legitimate diplomacy, it is antisemitism.”

The House resolution, introduced by Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, passed with more than 400 lawmakers backing the measure. It did not mention Jayapal by name but was clearly a response to her recent remarks about Israel. The measure was drafted soon after she criticized Israel and its treatment of Palestinians at a conference on Saturday.

Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, walked back the comments the next day, insisting they were aimed at Netanyahu and not at Israel. 

“I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist,” Jayapal said in a statement. “I do, however, believe that Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the only Palestinian-American in Congress, is boycotting Herzog’s speech and criticized the resolution as normalizing violence against those living in the occupied West Bank, given the Netanyahu government’s approval of expanded Jewish settlements there. 

“We’re here again reaffirming Congress’ support for apartheid,” Tlaib said during floor debate Tuesday on the Republican measure. “Policing the words of women of color who dare to speak up about truths, about oppression.” 

After the speech to Congress, Herzog was to return to the White House on Wednesday to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris. Her office said the leaders will announce that both governments intend to spend $70 million over five years to support climate-smart agriculture programs. 

During an Oval Office meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday, Herzog sought to assure him that Israel remains committed to democracy amid deepening U.S. concerns over Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul his country’s judicial system.

Netanyahu and his allies say the overhaul is needed to rein in the powers of unelected judges. Opponents say the plan will destroy Israel’s fragile system of checks and balances and move the country toward authoritarian rule. 

Herzog has appealed for a compromise that has thus far proven elusive. Many American Jewish groups and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns about the plan.

Herzog’s visit comes weeks after Israeli forces carried out one of their most intensive operations in the occupied West Bank in two decades, with a two-day air and ground offensive in Jenin, a militant stronghold. Senior members of Netanyahu’s government have been pushing for increased construction and other measures to cement Israel’s control over the occupied West Bank in response to a more than yearlong wave of violence with the Palestinians.

U.S. officials have broadly supported Israel’s right to defend itself from militant attacks but have also urged restraint to minimize harm to civilians and have lobbied against additional settlements that would further diminish the chances of securing a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Just before Herzog’s visit, Biden spoke with Netanyahu by phone and invited him to meet in the U.S. this fall, although the president expressed reservations about several of the policies from Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition.

The Biden administration declined to say whether Biden would host Netanyahu at the White House — as the Israeli leader has hoped — or in New York on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly in September.

White House visits are typically standard protocol for Israeli prime ministers, and the delay in Netanyahu receiving one has become an issue in Israel, with opponents citing it as a reflection of deteriorating relations with the U.S.

On Wednesday, Herzog evoked what are now 28 weeks of large grassroots protests at home against the proposed judicial overhaul by Netanyahu’s government, a mix of ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist parties.

“Dear friends, it’s no secret that over the past few months, the Israeli people have engaged in a heated and painful debate” while “renegotiating the balance of our institutional powers,” he said.

“In practice, the intense debate going on back home, even as we speak, is the clearest tribute to the fortitude of Israel’s democracy,” Herzog said.


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Curfews and transport cancellations as France braces for more riots

Curfews and transport cancellations in some parts of France as tensions simmer over the police shooting of a teenager in Nanterre

France braced for another feared eruption of urban rioting on Thursday night after the deadly police shooting of a suburban 17-year-old, with tens of thousands of officers patrolling the streets and commuters rushing home before transport services closed down early for safety reasons.

Despite government appeals for calm and vows that order would be restored, smoke from cars and rubbish set ablaze was already billowing over the streets of the Paris suburb of Nanterre following a peaceful afternoon march in honour of the teen identified only by his first name, Nahel.

Peaceful march for Nahel

The police officer accused of pulling the trigger was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide after prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude ‘the conditions for the legal use of the weapon were not met.’

After a morning crisis meeting following violence that injured scores of police and damaged nearly 100 public buildings, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the number of police officers would more than quadruple, from 9,000 to 40,000. In the Paris region alone, the number of officers deployed would more than double to 5,000.

Thousands of police on the streets

‘The professionals of disorder must go home,’ Darmanin said. While there’s no need yet to declare a state of emergency – a measure taken to quell weeks of rioting in 2005 – he added: ‘The state’s response will be extremely firm.’

Bus and tram services in the Paris area were shutting down before sunset as a precaution to safeguard transportation workers and passengers, a decision sure to impact thousands of travellers in the French capital and its suburbs.

‘Our transports are not targets for thugs and vandals!’ Valerie Pecresse, head of the Paris region, tweeted.

The town of Clamart, home to 54,000 people in the French capital’s southwest suburbs, said it was taking the extraordinary step of putting an overnight curfew in place from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. through to Monday.

Clamart curfew

It cited ‘the risk of new public order disturbances’ for the decision, after two nights of urban unrest. ‘Clamart is a safe and calm town, we are determined that it stay that way,’ it said.

The shooting captured on video shocked the country and stirred up long-simmering tensions between police and young people in housing estates and other disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The teenager’s family and their lawyers haven’t said the police shooting was race-related and they didn’t release his surname or details about him.

Still, his death instantly inflamed raw nerves in neighbourhoods that have welcomed generations of immigrants from France’s former colonies and elsewhere. Their France-born children frequently complain that they are subjected to police ID checks and harassment far more frequently than white people or those in more affluent neighbourhoods.

Anti-racism activists renewed their complaints about police behaviour in the shooting’s wake.

‘We have to go beyond saying that things need to calm down,’ said Dominique Sopo, head of the campaign group SOS Racisme. ‘The issue here is how do we make it so that we have a police force that, when they see Blacks and Arabs, don’t tend to shout at them, use racist terms against them and in some cases, shoot them in the head.’

Prache, the Nanterre prosecutor, said officers tried to stop Nahel because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish licence plates in a bus lane.

He ran a red light to avoid being stopped then got stuck in traffic. Both officers involved said they drew their guns to prevent him from fleeing.

The officer who fired a single shot said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car, according to Prache. The officers said they felt “threatened” as the car drove off.

Two magistrates are leading the investigation, Prache said. Under French law, which differs from the American and British legal systems, magistrates often lead investigations.

Police officer placed in detention

Preliminary charges mean investigating judges have strong reason to suspect wrongdoing, but they allow time for further investigation before a decision is made on whether to send the case to trial. The police officer has been placed in provisional detention, according to the prosecutor’s office.

In a separate case, a police officer who fatally shot a 19-year-old Guinean man in western France has preliminarily been charged with voluntary homicide, the local prosecutor said Wednesday. The man was fatally shot by an officer as he allegedly tried to flee a traffic stop. The investigation is still ongoing.

Despite a beefed-up police presence Wednesday night, violence resumed after dusk with protesters shooting fireworks and hurling stones at police in Nanterre, who fired repeated volleys of tear gas.

As demonstrations spread to other towns, police and firefighters struggled to contain protesters and extinguish numerous blazes. Schools, police stations, town halls and other public buildings were damaged from Toulouse in the south to Lille in the north, with most of the damage in the Paris suburbs, according to a spokesperson for the national police.

Fire damaged the town hall in the Paris suburb of L’Ile-Saint-Denis, not far from the country’s national stadium and the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Darmanin said 170 officers had been injured in the unrest but none of the injuries was life-threatening. At least 90 public buildings were vandalised.

The number of civilians injured was not immediately released.

Scenes of violence in France’s suburbs echo 2005, when the deaths of 15-year-old Bouna Traoré and 17-year-old Zyed Benna led to three weeks of nationwide riots, exposing anger and resentment in neglected, crime-ridden suburban housing projects.

The two boys were electrocuted after hiding from police in a power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Emergency security meeting

French President Emmanuel Macron held an emergency security meeting Thursday about the violence.

“These acts are totally unjustifiable,” Macron said at the beginning of the meeting, which aimed at securing hot spots and planning for the coming days “so full peace can return.”

Macron also said it was time for “remembrance and respect” as Nahel’s mother called for a silent march Thursday that drew a large crowd to Nelson Mandela Square, where he was killed.

Some marchers had “Justice for Nahel” printed on the front of their T-shirts. “The police kill” read one marcher’s placard.

‘I’m afraid of what might come next,’ said marcher Amira Taoubas, a mother of four boys, the eldest aged 11. ‘I’d like it to stop and that it never happens again. It’s just not possible to die like this, for no reason. I wouldn’t want it to happen to my own children.’

Bouquets of orange and yellow roses now mark the site of the shooting.

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Lech Walesa joins hundreds of thousands of Poles in anti-govt march in Warsaw

An enormous anti-government march took place in Poland’s capital Sunday, with citizens traveling from across the country to voice their anger at a right-wing administration that has eroded democratic norms and created fears the nation is following Hungary and Turkey down the path to autocracy.

The local government in Warsaw estimated that 500,000 people joined the march, which was led by the opposition party to which the city’s mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski, belongs. It was not possible to verify that figure.

Large crowds gathered in Krakow and other cities across the nation of 38 million, showing frustration with a government that critics accuse of violating the constitution and eroding fundamental rights in Poland, a country long hailed as model of peaceful and democratic change.

Former President Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement that played a historic role in toppling communism in Poland, stood on a stage with the leader of the opposition Civic Platform party, former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

The crowd cheered on the two men, both of whom are reviled by the ruling Law and Justice party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and at times chanted “Democracy!” and “Constitution!”

Tusk had called on Poles to march with him for the sake of the nation’s future — a message that resonated for Radek Tusinski, 49, who rallied with his wife and two young children. A handmade sign reading “I cannot give up freedom” was attached to their baby stroller.

Tuskinski said he worries about the creeping return of an authoritarian system similar to what he remembers from his childhood.

“We want a free country for our children,” he said.

Supporters of the march have warned that the election might be the nation’s last chance to stop the erosion of democracy under the ruling party, Law and Justice, amid growing fears that the fall election might not be fair.

In power since 2015, Law and Justice has found a popular formula, combining higher social spending with socially conservative policies and support for the church in the mostly Catholic nation.

However, critics have warned for years that the party is reversing many of the achievements made since Poland emerged from communist rule in 1989.

Even the United States government has intervened at times when it felt the government was eroding press freedom and academic freedom in the area of Holocaust research.

Critics point mainly to the party’s step-by-step takeover of the judiciary and media. It uses state media for heavy-handed propaganda to tarnish opponents. Law and Justice also tapped into animosity against minorities, particularly LGBTQ+ people, whose struggle for rights the party depicts as a threat to families and national identity. A clampdown on abortion rights has triggered mass protests.

Critics fear that the party could eventually force the country to leave the European Union, a 27-member union founded on democratic ideals.

March participants carried EU and Polish flags, with some also holding up rainbow flags.

Some also voiced anger at the double-digit inflation in the country. The government blames Russia’s war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic, but economists say its spending policies have accelerated spiraling prices.

Barbara Dec, 26, and her grandmother left their hometown of Zielona Gora at 4:30 a.m. and traveled seven hours on a bus organized by Civic Platform to protest. They planned to return home immediately after the Warsaw event.

Dec held up a cardboard sign that read, “I am afraid to have children in Poland.”

“Women have lost the right to have an abortion even when the fetus is terminally ill, and some women have died,” she explained. “And I am also afraid I couldn’t manage financially.”

Alarm over press freedom

The march was held on the 34th anniversary of the first partly free elections, a democratic breakthrough in the toppling of communism across Eastern Europe. It was seen as a test for Tusk’s Civic Platform, a centrist and pro-European party which has trailed behind Law and Justice in polls.

However, the passage of a controversial law last month appeared to mobilize greater support for Tusk. Poland is expected to hold a general election in October, though a date has not yet been set.

The law allows for the creation of a commission to investigate Russian influence in Poland. Critics argue that the commission would have unconstitutional powers, including the capacity to exclude officials from public life for a decade. They fear it will be used by the ruling party to remove Tusk and other opponents from public life.

Amid uproar in Poland and criticism from the U.S. and the EU, President Andrzej Duda, who signed the law on May 29, proposed amendments to it on Friday. In the meantime, the law will take effect with no guarantees lawmakers in parliament will weaken the commission’s powers.

Some Poles say it could come to resemble the investigations of Joseph McCarthy, the U.S. senator whose anti-communist campaign in the early 1950s led to hysteria and political persecution.

That fear was underlined last weekend when Kaczynski, the ruling party leader, was asked by a reporter if he still had trust in the defense minister in connection with a Russian missile that fell in Poland in December.

“I am forced … to view you as a representative of the Kremlin,” he replied. “Because only the Kremlin wants this man to stop being the minister of national defense.”

The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders expressed concerns that the commission might be used to “wage a witch-hunt against journalists” and “could serve as a new weapon for this type of attack, in which doubt is cast on journalists’ probity in an attempt to smear their reputation.”

Tusk, who is also a former EU council president, had called for the march weeks ago, urging people to demonstrate “against high prices, theft and lies, for free elections and a democratic, European Poland.”

Initially some opposition figures planned to stay away. But after Duda signed the law, other opposition leaders announced they would join in.

Law and Justice sought to discourage participation in the march with a video spot using Auschwitz as a theme — drawing criticism from the state museum that preserves the site of the Nazi German death camp.


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