Israel’s war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas has been selected by senior editors of Kyodo News and its member or subscriber newspapers and broadcasters as the top international news story of 2023.
(1) Death toll in Gaza tops 20,000 amid Israel-Hamas war
Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, launched a cross-border attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking hundreds of others hostage. Israel has carried out airstrikes and ground operations in Gaza, with its ultimate goal to dismantle Hamas.
The death toll in Gaza has exceeded 20,000 and some 1.9 million have been displaced as people struggle with food, water and energy shortages. A seven-day pause in the fighting saw the exchange of some Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, but the U.N. Security Council has failed to call for a cease-fire in Gaza due to a veto by the United States, which has backed Israel.
(2) Russia’s war against Ukraine drags on for second year
The war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022 after Russia invaded the country, entered its second year with no end in sight. Kyiv, which receives arms supplies from the United States and European countries, launched a counteroffensive in June this year to push back Russian forces from seized territory, but the situation has reached a stalemate.
Kyiv faces uncertainty over whether it will continue receiving assistance from the United States, with Republicans insisting on tougher domestic border security in exchange for a Ukraine aid package. Russia is forging closer ties with China and may seek to deepen military cooperation with North Korea.
(3) Shohei Ohtani 1st Japanese to win American League’s home run title, gets 2nd MVP honor
Two-way baseball star Shohei Ohtani became the first Japanese player to lead a U.S. major league in home runs with 44, and also became the first player to win two MVP awards by a unanimous vote.
It was announced in December that Ohtani signed a 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. The $700 million contract is believed to be the largest in professional sports history.
(4) U.S. Fed halts interest rate hikes, yen’s fall shows no sign of ending at one point
The Federal Reserve has kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged for three consecutive meetings since September, after carrying out a series of aggressive hikes in an attempt to tame high inflation.
Fed policymakers have projected that the federal funds rate will be lowered to 4.6 percent at the end of 2024 amid signs of cooling inflation. The U.S. dollar temporarily rose above the 150 yen line on the prospect of a widening U.S. and Japanese interest rate differential.
(5) China’s Xi secures 3rd term as president
Chinese President Xi Jinping in March was unanimously reelected to a norm-breaking third term at a plenary session of the country’s parliament in March, further solidifying his power base.
But the Chinese economy faces headwinds due to a real estate sector crisis and sluggish consumer spending. Amid the growing rivalry between China and the United States, Taiwan’s presidential election in January next year could affect Beijing’s plans to reunite the island with the mainland.