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By AFP


From Israel-Hamas war to ‘forced’ Spanish kiss: Global events that defined 2023

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to 'destroy' Hamas.


From Hamas‘s brutal attacks in Israel and the fierce retribution it provoked to the kiss that sparked a revolt in Spanish football, here are 10 events that marked a tumultuous 2023:

Israel-Hamas war

On October 7, hundreds of Hamas gunmen pour across the border from Gaza, killing around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 people hostage in the worst attack in Israel’s history, traumatising the country and stunning the world.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows to “destroy” Hamas and launches a relentless campaign of air strikes in Gaza followed by a ground offensive that reduces entire neighbourhoods in the territory’s north to rubble.

Seven weeks into the war, the two sides agree to a week-long truce during which Hamas releases 105 hostages, mostly women and children, and Israel frees 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Fearing Hamas could regroup, Israel then resumes its offensive, shifting its focus to southern Gaza, including areas previously declared “safe zones”.

The US vetoes a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire but is increasingly critical of what Biden calls Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombing campaign.

On December 18, Gaza’s Hamas-run health authorities report that 19,453 people have been killed in the war, mostly women and children.

A total of 129 hostages from the October 7 attacks remain in Gaza, according to Iraaeli authorities. Around 20 are believed to be dead.

Faltering fightback

Sixteen months after Russia invaded its neighbour, Kyiv launches a highly anticipated counteroffensive after amassing billions in powerful Western-made weapons and training new recruits.

But the pushback fails to make much of a dent in Russia’s deep defensive lines, disappointing Kyiv’s allies.

As winter sets in and the world’s attention pivots to the Israel-Hamas war, Ukraine struggles to secure further pledges of long-term military backing from the United States and European Union.

There is rare good news for President Volodymyr Zelensky in mid-December when EU leaders agree to open membership talks with Kyiv, but Russia ally Hungary promptly dampens the euphoria by vetoing a 50-billion-euro ($54.5 billion) Ukraine aid package.

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Devastating quake

In the early hours of February 6, one of the deadliest earthquakes in a century flattens entire cities in southeast Turkey, killing more than 50,000 people, with nearly 6,000 others killed across the border in Syria

Two images come to define the devastating 7.8-magnitude tremor: that of a father holding the hand of his dead 15-year-old daughter, protruding from under a collapsed building in Kahramanmaras, the epicentre, and that of a newborn baby rescued from the rubble while still umbilically attached to her dead mother.

Coup contagion

The spate of coups that have marked a brutal democratic backsliding in francophone Africa continues in 2023, with Niger and Gabon the latest countries to overthrow an elected president.

An unpopular France is forced to withdraw both its ambassador and counter-terrorism troops from Niger -the third time its forces are sent packing by a former African colony in under two years.

In August, meanwhile, Gabon’s president Ali Bongo Ondimba, heir to a dynasty that ruled for 55 years, is deposed after a presidential election which the army and opposition declared fraudulent.

Hollywood on strike

The existential dread caused by generative AI in the creative economy spreads to Hollywood in 2023, where writers go on strike in May to demand curbs on the use of the technology in films as well as a pay rise.

Hollywood actors join the biggest work stoppage in Tinseltown since the 1960s in July, partly due to fears that AI could be used to clone their voices and likenesses.

The strike delays hundreds of popular shows and films before the studios and actors agree a deal in November, two months after the writers went back to work.

Global boiling

The year goes out with a sizzle, with the European Union’s climate monitor predicting 2023 to be the hottest on record.

Drought made worse by climate change is cited as one of factors behind the deadliest wildfire in the United States in a century that claims at least 115 lives on the Hawaiian island of Maui in August.

At a landmark UN climate summit in Dubai in December, around 200 countries agree to “transition away” from fossil fuels.

Moon race

The space race heats up in 2023, with rising star India becoming the first nation to successfully land an unmanned craft on the Moon’s south pole in August, just days after a Russian lunar vehicle crashed into its surface.

Over half a century after US astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, several countries are jostling to return humans to the celestial body.

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Forced kiss

Spain’s victory over England in the women’s football World Cup final in Sydney on August 20 triggers scenes of wild rejoicing at home.

But the euphoria quickly gives way to outrage when Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales is caught planting a kiss on the lips of captain Jenni Hermoso minutes after the game- a kiss she says later she saw as “an assault”.

A defiant Rubiales insists the kiss was consensual but faced with a huge outcry eventually resigns.

Caucasus exodus

The breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh winds up its three-decade push for independence in September after being recaptured by Azerbaijan in a lightning offensive that empties the mountainous region of most of its ethnic Armenian population.

Karabakh residents flee to Armenia, fearing violence and not wanting to be ruled by Turkic-speaking Azerbaijanis with whom ethnic Armenian separatists fought two wars over the territory since the 1990s.

Argentina shocker

In November, Argentina takes a leap into the unknown with the election of libertarian wild card candidate, Javier Milei, known for his foul-mouthed rants against the political “caste”.

Milei, who rides a wave of fury over decades of economic decline and double-digit inflation under the long-dominant Peronists (centre-left), devalues the local peso by over 50 percent against the dollar as part of his prescribed economic “shock therapy”.

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