International roundup: terror attack in Egypt, Hariri returns to Lebanon, and Zimbabwe gets a new president

Around the world

In Egypt, a terrorist attack on a mosque in the Sinai Peninsula killed more than 300 people on Friday.

  • It is the worst terror attack in modern Egypt’s history, eclipsing a 2015 attack by ISIS that brought down a Russian airliner, killing all 224 people on board.
  • The attack was carried out by Islamic militants who have been waging a guerrilla war against the Egyptian government for years. These militants have aligned themselves with ISIS, whose influence continues to be felt, despite recent defeats as a military force in Iraq and Syria.
  • Most of the victims of the attack were Sufi Muslims, a mystical sect of Islam deemed heretical by the militants.
  • Egypt launched airstrikes against suspected militant positions in retaliation.

A new twist emerges in the saga of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who returned to Lebanon on Tuesday, once again taking up the mantle of Prime Minister.

  • Hariri agreed to resume his post at the behest of Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, until discussions could be held with the rest of the Lebanese government about the situation.
  • It appears Saudi Arabia’s attempt to replace Hariri failed, “in part because Saudi Arabia’s Western allies say they were caught off guard and pressured the Saudis to back down,” according to the New York Times.
  • US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster called Hariri on Friday to assure him of US support for Lebanon’s stability, reports Naharnet, an online Lebanese newspaper.

While the Lebanese political situation has temporarily calmed, threats of war in Lebanon continue.

Donald Trump announced plans to put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism last week, paving the way for additional US sanctions on the country.

  • The Treasury Department is expected to announce additional sanctions today.
  • From Reuters: “Experts say the designation will be largely symbolic as North Korea is already heavily sanctioned by the United States.”
  • Only three other countries have been designated state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Sudan, and Syria.

The bigger story out of North Korea last week was a defector’s harrowing escape through the demilitarized zone.

  • Video of the escape was released Wednesday showing the defector, a member of the North Korean Border Patrol, crossing the border while fellow border guards fired at him during their pursuit. He was shot five times.
  • One of the guards violated the 1953 Korean War Armistice by briefly crossing the Military Demarcation Line between the two countries. In response, North Korea replaced all the border guards in the area and dug a trench to hinder future escape attempts.
  • Since regaining consciousness, the defector has “asked to watch television and is being shown South Korean films,” according to the BBC.
  • In what’s possibly a significant shift, China has temporarily closed its main road connection into North Korea for ‘maintenance work,’ deepening North Korea’s isolation. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson “gave no date for the reopening or other details,” according to The Independent.

Robert Mugabe officially resigned from his post as President of Zimbabwe on Tuesday, closing the books on nearly four decades as the country’s leader.

  • In exchange for his resignation, Mugabe secured a substantial amount of money and immunity for his family, including his controversial wife, Grace Mugabe.
  • Incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s long-time ally, had his inauguration on Friday, praising Mugabe and vowing to re-engage with the world and clean up corruption.
  • For a thorough chronology of the events, take a look at this Reuters special report.

Bonus round:

The blockade of Yemen has been partially eased, with the first UN aid ship carrying food being allowed to dock in a rebel-held port in 3 weeks. The ship, carrying enough food to feed 1.8 million people, according to World Food Programme country director Stephen Anderson, had been forced to “hover off the coast” for two weeks.


Poland is facing fines of 100,000 euros ($117,000) a day from the European Union over its decision to continue logging in the Białowieża Forest. The forest and UNESCO World Heritage Site preserves one of the last stretches of the primeval forest that once stretched across the European Plain. Poland has recently tripled its logging quotas in the forest.


Former Serbian general Ratko Mladić has been convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment by a UN tribunal for his actions during the Yugoslav Wars following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Mladic is believed to have ordered the Srebrenica Massacre in Bosnia.


Venezuela’s already grim situation continues to deteriorate with inflation reaching 4,000% compared to last year. “As of Tuesday,” as CNN reports, “it took 84,000 bolivars to buy an American dollar…[whereas] at the start of this year, it only took 3,100 bolivars to buy a dollar.”


President Trump announced plans to end the temporary residency permit program that allowed 60,000 Haitians to live and work in the US following Haiti’s 2010 Earthquake. His plan has met opposition from members of both political parties and the president of Haiti, all of whom are concerned that Haiti does not yet have the infrastructure to support its displaced citizens.


The National Security Council is preparing to present President Trump with a proposal to sell $47 million in weapons to Ukraine. The arms deal includes Javelin anti-tank missiles, which would prove useful to the Ukrainian government as it continues its battle against Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine.


Troubles for the United States Navy’s 7th Fleet continue as a Navy Destroyer collided with a Japanese tug boat on November 18th. This is the third collision involving a Destroyer since June. This past Wednesday saw the crash of a US Navy aircraft in the Philippine Sea, claiming the lives of 3 sailors. The 7th Fleet is also currently ensnared in the Fat Leonard Corruption Scandal, in which US Navy personnel, including high-ranking officers, accepted bribes from a Malaysian defense contractor in exchange for classified information that was then used to defraud the Navy. 

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