This Week Around the World: September 16 – 23

September 16 United Arab Emirates: According to The Times of Israel, Private Israeli and Turkish jets flew to the UAE’S capital city of Abu Dhabi via Amman, Jordan in what is theorized to be part of secret, unofficial talks between the two countries as their governments attempt to restore relations. Relations between Turkey and Israel declined in May when more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military along the Gaza border on the same day the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Israel a “terrorist state” and expelled the Israeli ambassador. Israel responded by expelling the Turkish consul-general.

September 16 Near Laredo, Texas: District Attorney to the Webb-Zapata County Isidro Alaniz informed The Washington Post on Sept. 16 of charges against Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Juan David Ortiz, who confessed to killing four women between Sept. 3–Sept. 15. All four women were sex workers, killed by gunshots to the head and left on the side of the road after Ortiz picked them up and drove them outside Laredo city limits. He was arrested at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 15 at his home after a fifth woman escaped and found a state trooper.

September 16 Washington, DC: Palestinian Ambassador to the U.S. Husam Zomlot and his family were expelled and his bank accounts frozen Sept. 16 following an announcement a few days prior by the State Department that the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s diplomatic offices would cease operations by Oct. 13. Zomlot and his two children held visas valid until 2020 when they were informed they had been rescinded and ordered to leave the country immediately.

September 16 Cuba: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel spoke in support of same-sex marriage while discussing issues relating to the country in an interview with Telesur saying, “Let’s not give way to any kind of discrimination.” Cuba’s constitution is currently under review by the National Assembly, which has approved the right to same-sex marriage in the new draft. Díaz-Canel also spoke about relations with the U.S. constitutional reform and politics in the region during the interview.

September 17 Syria: Relations between Russia and Syria intensified after Russia accused Israel of attacking its Ilyushin 20 electronic intelligence plane, killing all 15 crewmembers inside on Sept. 17. As it turns out, the plane was mistakenly attacked by Syrian air defence following a strike by the Israeli Air Force against a manufacturing facility on Syria’s coast.

September 18 Germany: Domestic Intelligence Chief Hans-Georg Maassen was removed from his position and reassigned as a deputy minister by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The decision came after Maassen suggested a video of anti-immigrant nationalists attacking Afghan refugees was actually a fake produced by a left-leaning organization, which came in direct contradiction to a statement released by Merkel. “The skepticism toward the media reports on right-wing extremist hunts in Chemnitz are shared by me,” Maassen said. “Based on my cautious assessment, there are good reasons to believe that this was intentional false information.”

September 18–19 Global: This year, one of the most important Jewish holidays Yom Kippur began at sundown on Sept. 18 of the Gregorian calendar and ended the following evening. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” and is commemorated through a 25-hour fast, intensive prayer and reflection while attending synagogue, with the central theme surrounding repentance in the wake of Rosh Hashanah, the New Year in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur falls on the tenth day of Tishrei, the first month, and marks the end of Rosh Hashanah.

September 19 Jordan; East Jerusalem; Lebanon: Middle East Eye reported Sept. 19 Saudi Arabia’s decision to ban around 634,000 Palestinians living in Jordan and East Jerusalem who hold temporary Jordanian passports from Hajj and Umrah, religious pilgrimages outlined in Islam. While Umrah is not mandatory, Hajj is a requirement under the five pillars of Islam. Another 300,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon have also been banned, as reported by Arabic news media via Middle East Monitor. The ban was reported early in September by travel agents who were told not to submit travel visa applications for anyone who does not hold an official passport from the Palestinian Authority.

September 19 India: By means of executive order, triple talaq—sometimes referred to as instant divorce—is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine as of the Sept.19 decision. Triple talaq, a practice in which a husband may divorce the wife by saying “talaq” three times, is most commonly found among India’s Muslim population who follow a different Islamic code of law. The practice is already banned in Turkey, Qatar, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; however, some rights groups believe the executive order is designed to target Muslim communities.

September 19 London, UK: The Metropolitan Police have dubbed an incident involving a car ramming pedestrians near a mosque in northwest London a possible hate crime. Around midnight, three individuals inside a car were asked to leave a private parking lot outside the Al-Majlis Al-Hussaini Islamic Centre. According to The Sunday Times, the suspects made Islamophobic comments including “dirty Muslims” before ramming three men. The suspects attempted to ram groups of people as they left, according to witness testimony via Al Jazeera. No arrests have yet been made.

September 20–21 Global: The Muslim holiday Ashura this year began the evening of Sept. 20 and ended the next evening. Ashura falls on the tenth day of Muharram, the first month in the Hijiri—Islamic—calendar. It’s celebrated to commemorate the ancient Battle of Karbala, when the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson al-Hussein and a small band of fighters were slaughtered by Umayyad forces, thus making it a critical historical marker in the division between Sunni and Shiite sects.

September 21 China: In response to a statement by the U.S. State Department condemning China’s purchase of aircrafts and missiles from Russia, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said, “The Chinese side expresses strong indignation over the above-mentioned unreasonable practices of the U.S. side,” warning the U.S. of consequences if sanctions were applied. Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson to Russian President Vladimir Putin, also commented that the U.S. was using unfair methods in order to beat competitors in the global market.

September 21 Guatemala: A prominent Mayan Ixil community leader known for her work supporting human rights was killed by gunshot while on a routine errand to the hardware store where her husband worked. Juana Ramirez Santiago was a well-known midwife and one of the founders of the Network of Ixil Women which works to promote women’s rights in the community. At the time of the attack, she was walking to bring her husband his dinner, which she did every night, when neighbors heard four gunshots. Ramirez died at the scene.

September 21 Faryab, Afghanistan: Eight children died and six more were injured after an unexploded mortar suddenly detonated. The children, all ages 5–12, found the explosive and brought it to the house where they attempted to open it, unaware of what exactly it was. Two of the injured children were in critical condition after losing limbs and being taken to a hospital in the northwest of the province.

September 22 Ahvaz, Iran: Twenty-nine people were killed and another 70 wounded during a military parade commemorating the eight-year war with Iraq under Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Four men dressed in military garb descended on the parade and opened fire, killing members of the Revolutionary Guard, women and children in attendance and one journalist. One of the gunmen was arrested and died later of his injuries, while the other three were killed at the scene of the attack. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has linked the attacks to the U.S. and its allies.