WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2023–46

Kumar Govindan
8 min readNov 18, 2023

About: the world this week, 12 November to 18 November 2023; Israel searching for the hostages; Ukraine-Russia stalemate; British Politics; a Dictator; Trapped in a Tunnel; World Cup Cricket.

Everywhere

Where Are The Hostages?

It’s over 40 days, and 240 Hostages-Men, Women, Children, Babies- of Israel and various other countries are being held by the terrorist Hamas following the barbaric invasion of Israel’s civilian territory on 7th October. And there is no safe word on the hostages, as yet. The number might have even gone up with a hostage who was heavily pregnant probably delivering her baby! The humanitarian cry simply isn’t loud enough.

Israel’s Defence Forces are out on foot in North Gaza in the second phase of Operation Iron Swords-the all out war to eliminate Hamas.

This week, Israeli soldiers surrounded and stormed the Dar Al-Shifa (House of Healing) Hospital in Gaza City and are carrying out a precise, targeted operation to uncover Hamas and its infrastructure. Tanks have entered the premises and troops are inside Hospital rooms. Israel maintains the action is a must, as Hamas has made the hospital facility their base and has a command centre in tunnels underneath it, used to conceal military operations and possibly the hostages.

The Al-Shifa hospital is the leading medical centre in the Gaza Strip. The hospital comprises a group of six-storey buildings. It had between 600 and 900 beds and thousands of staff, and before the war, provided a range of services such as MRI scans, and dialysis that almost no other hospital in Gaza offered.

This Monday, Israel’s chief military spokesman showed footage of a Hamas weapons cache found in the basement of Gaza’s Rantisi Hospital for Children, another hospital in the enclave.

The United States (US) also reiterated Israel’s findings, saying that Hamas was storing weapons and operating a command node from the Al-Shifa hospital.

Under the laws of war, mandated by the Geneva Conventions, hospitals get special protections during war. However, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), they lose protection if combatants are using the premises to hide fighters or store weapons — exactly what Israel is accusing Hamas of doing at Al-Shifa.

International Law experts say that Israel carries the burden to produce evidence and prove its claim that the hospital has been used by Hamas as a base. ‘The object of the attack is a civilian object. Until such time that the Israelis provide proof that it has been converted into a military object, the civilian nature of the object does not change’.

Meanwhile, Israel is struggling to keep its side of the law allowing medical supplies, and food and essentials inside Gaza and the Hospital — in a controlled manner. The biggest challenge is keeping civilians out of the way.

What next? When will the hostages return home? People in Israel are on the streets demanding they be brought home.

Ukraine-Russia Stalemate?

Did Israel steal Ukraine’s thunder? Ukraine’s fight-back against the invasion of Russia seems to be entering a stalemate with both sides apparently not knowing which direction to take. Russia will benefit from a protracted war while Ukraine fights to keep its tail up.

The Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said this week that “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough” and each day that passes gives the Russians an advantage. This sombre assessment of the battlefield is not a surprise. It’s what Ukrainians have been hearing in conversations with friends, seeing on social media, and experiencing personally on the front lines, as Russia’s mindless war against their country drags on.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia is stalled as a hard winter looms. Russia still occupies nearly a fifth of Ukraine and front lines are static for the most part while both sides continue to churn through soldiers. Russia will have superiority in weapons, equipment, missiles and ammunition for a considerable time and Ukraine needs new, innovative approaches.

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion in June this year, but it has so far failed to gain the momentum needed to turn the tide of the war in its favour.

British Politics: Like the British Weather

Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak carried out a dramatic Cabinet Reshuffle early this week, firing his Home Secretary and bringing back former Prime Minister, David Cameron, to the heart of government after a seven-year absence from politics. David Cameron’s own premiership set the course of 13 years of Conservative rule, but the self-inflicted chaos of the Brexit referendum and its aftermath threw his party into years of instability from which it is still struggling to emerge.

The hardline Home Secretary, Suella Braverman was fired after making inflammatory comments about the policing of pro-Palestinian protests in central London over the weekend. She had accused London’s police force of applying ‘double standards’ in the way they manage protests in an Op-Ed in the Times of London newspaper condemning a pro-Palestinian march. The Government said the Op-Ed was not cleared by the PM’s Office.

Her tenure was wrought with scandals and divisive remarks, which had long caused fractures in the government. Braverman has served as Sunak’s interior minister throughout his tenure, but her confrontational rhetoric towards migrants, protesters, the police, and even the homeless had caused rifts in the government and sparked speculation that she was plotting a future leadership bid.

On the homeless, Braverman said, “The British people are compassionate. We will always support those who are genuinely homeless. But we cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a ‘lifestyle choice’. Unless we step in now to stop this, British cities will go the way of places in the US like San Francisco and Los Angeles where weak policies have led to an explosion of crime, drug taking, and squalor. Nobody in Britain should be living in a tent on our streets”.

In the Braverman rain, Sunak put out an umbrella — then announced he was bringing David Cameron back to frontline politics as Foreign Secretary, in a stunning move that has few parallels in recent British political history. Cameron served as Prime Minister from 2010 to 2016, resigning after Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that he had called.

It was later confirmed that James Cleverly, formerly the Foreign Secretary, will take over from Braverman, a ‘clever shift’ that made space for Cameron’s remarkable return to the Cabinet.

The Dictator

This week US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet for a summit meeting in Filoli Estate, San Francisco, USA — their first in a year — primarily to restore military communications, which had gone cold, between the two countries. They agreed, among other things, that China would crack down on the production of ingredients for fentanyl- responsible for a deadly epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States. Last year alone more than 72,000 people in the US died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl.

Jinping on his part, warned Biden to stop arming Taiwan, adding that China’s reunification with the island nation was ‘unstoppable’.

After his meeting with Jinping, Biden told journalists he still considers the Chinese President a ‘Dictator’. “Well look he is, I mean he’s a Dictator in the sense that he’s a guy who’s running a country, a Communist country, that’s based on a form of government totally different than ours,” Biden said.

Biden’s post-summit ‘Dictator’ comment, expectedly sparked outrage and drew ‘dragon fire and fury’ from China.

Trapped in a Tunnel

The Char Dham Highway is an ambitious project of the National Highways Authority of India, aiming to connect four ancient Hindu Pilgrimage Sites through 890 kilometres (km) of two-lane roads. The project will connect the pilgrim towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri, in India’s northern State of Uttarakhand.

This week, 40 workers found themselves trapped in the 4.5 km stretch between Silkyara and Barkot on the Yamunotri-Gangotri highway of the Char Dham, following a collapse of a section of the under-construction tunnel, on 12th November.

The reasons for the tunnel caving-in, is not know as yet, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes, and floods. The project has faced criticism from environmental experts and some work was halted in January after hundreds of houses along the routes were damaged by subsidence. The Government on its part has said it is employing environmentally friendly techniques, in the design, to make geologically unstable stretches safer.

Since the tunnel collapsed, the trapped men have been supplied with food, water and oxygen via a pipe, and they are in contact with rescuers through walkie-talkies.

A six-bed medical facility has been put in place near the tunnel and hospitals nearby are on standby.

The rescue plan consists of using an ‘American auger’ machine to drill through the rubble of the tunnel’s collapsed portion and insert 800 mm and 900mm diameter sections of mild steel pipes — one after the other. Once this happens, the workers trapped on the other side of the rubble can crawl out to safety.

An auger is a spiral-shaped tool used for boring holes in different surfaces such as soil rock, stone, etc.

Rescue efforts are ongoing at a frenetic pace with experts from Norway and Thailand roped-in for consultation.

Cricket Tons

The Cricket World Cup — One Day International (ODI) — being played in India is coming to a close and its raining tons of centuries.

Last week, India’s Virat Kohli hit his 49th ODI century equalling the great Sachin Tendulkar’s record feat of most ODI centuries. And give the roaring form he was in, Sachin must have given-up any dreams of holding on to that record, which he achieved in 452 innings. And Virat Kohli did not disappoint, or keep us waiting any longer.

This week he slammed one more century in the semi- final match against New Zealand to climb to 50 centuries (in 279 innings) -the highest in the history of the ODI game. In the match, India made 397 runs for the loss of four wickets in 50 overs and beat New Zealand by 70 runs to march into the finals. Kohli made 117 runs and team-mate Shreyas Iyer made 105 of just 70 balls to give India a solid winning chance. Fast bowler Mohammad Shami took a magnificent seven wicket haul to send the Kiwis packing despite a brilliant fighting innings of 134 by Daryl Mitchell.

India look invincible thus far in the Tournament, having won all nine of the round-robin matches.

In the other semi-finals, Australia beat South Africa by three wickets, at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, to set-up a final clash with India, to be held on Sunday at Ahmedabad.

South Africa won the toss and elected to bat first. But they could only set a modest target of 213. While David Miller scored a century and Heinrich Klaasen scored 47, others failed to cross a score of 20. The second innings turned into a nail-biting affair after Australia lost three wickets between the 22nd and 34th overs, still 49 runs short of the target. But they achieved the target within 48 overs, losing seven wickets.

This is the eighth time that Australia will play a World Cup final match. Of the seven played so far, they won five — the highest in the world.

This is the fourth time India qualified for the World Cup final. Of the three played so far, India won two.

On Sunday, 19th November, the Giants of Cricket will face each other again for the final match of a World Cup, after 20 years.

More battling stories coming-up in the weeks ahead. Tunnel-out with World Inthavaaram.

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Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!