Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Israel – Palestine issue
- Digital India Act and Future of Country’s Cyberspace
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Israel – Palestine issue
Context: Israel declares war and approves ‘significant’ steps to retaliate for surprise attack by Hamas.
Creation of Israel and Palestine
- After World War I, both West Bank and the Gaza Strip became part of British-mandated Palestine. But by the end of Word War II, there was a strong demand from Jews fleeing Nazi Europe for a homeland within Palestine, an Arab-dominated region.
- When the British mandate ended in 1947, the United Nations (UN) proposed an Arab-Jewish partition of Palestine — between Palestine and the new state of Israel. This partition plan mandated 53 per cent of the land to the Jewish-majority state (Israel) and 47 per cent to the Palestinian-majority state (Palestine). But the idea of creating a new-Jewish majority state didn’t bode well for the Arab countries in the Middle East.
- Jewish paramilitary groups, however, formed the state of Israel by force in 1948.
First Arab Israeli War:
- On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was created, sparking the first Arab-Israeli War. The war ended in 1949 with Israel’s victory, but 750,000 Palestinians were displaced, and the territory was divided into 3 parts: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.
- Over the following years, tensions rose in the region, particularly between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Following the 1956 Suez Crisis and Israel’s invasion of the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria signed mutual defense pacts in anticipation of a possible mobilization of Israeli troops.
Six Days War
- In June 1967, following a series of maneuvers by Egyptian President Abdel Gamal Nasser, Israel preemptively attacked Egyptian and Syrian air forces, starting the Six-Day War.
- After the war, Israel gained territorial control over the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt; the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan; and the Golan Heights from Syria.
What was the Yom Kippur War?
- The Yom Kippur war, or the October war, or the Ramadan war, was fought between Israel on one side and Egypt and Syria on the other, from October 6 to 25, 1973.
- It is also called the Fourth Arab-Israeli war, coming after three wars in 1949, 1956, and 1967.
- Israel was able to stem the advance on both Syrian and Egyptian sides after three days and soon launched its own counterstrikes. Meanwhile, the US and the Soviet Union stepped in to back Israel and Egypt-Syria respectively, and tensions between the superpowers escalated dangerously.
- The first ceasefire, brokered by the UN on October 22, did not hold. However, by October 25, a lasting ceasefire had been arrived at, with Israel’s reputation of invincibility dented.
Camp David Accords and first Intifada:
- In 1979, following a series of cease-fires and peace negotiations after the Yom Kippur War, representatives from Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, a peace treaty that ended the thirty-year conflict between Egypt and Israel.
- Even though the Camp David Accords improved relations between Israel and its neighbors, the question of Palestinian self-determination and self-governance remained unresolved.
- In 1987, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rose up against the Israeli government in what is known as the first intifada.
- The 1993 Oslo I Accords mediated the conflict, setting up a framework for the Palestinians to govern themselves in the West Bank and Gaza, and enabled mutual recognition between the newly established Palestinian Authority and Israel’s government.
- In 1995, the Oslo II Accords expanded on the first agreement, adding provisions that mandated the complete withdrawal of Israel from 6 cities and 450 towns in the West Bank.
- In 2000, sparked in part by Palestinian grievances over Israel’s control over the West Bank, a stagnating peace process, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, in September 2000, Palestinians launched the second intifada, which lasted until 2005.
- In response, the Israeli government approved the construction of a barrier wall around the West Bank in 2002, despite opposition from the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
- In 2013, the United States attempted to revive the peace process between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. However, peace talks were disrupted when Fatah, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, formed a unity government with its rival faction Hamas in 2014.
- In the summer of 2014, clashes in the Palestinian territories precipitated a military confrontation between the Israeli military and Hamas in which Hamas fired nearly three thousand rockets at Israel, and Israel retaliated with a major offensive in Gaza.
- The skirmish ended in late August 2014 with a cease-fire deal brokered by Egypt, but only after 73 Israelis and 2,251 Palestinians were killed. After a wave of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in 2015, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinians would no longer be bound by the territorial divisions created by the Oslo Accords.
- In 2018, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip conducted weekly demonstrations at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The final protest coincided with the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian exodus that accompanied Israeli independence. While most of the protesters were peaceful, some stormed the perimeter fence and threw rocks and other objects. According to the United Nations, 183 demonstrators were killed and more than 6,000 were wounded by live ammunition.
- in May of 2018, fighting broke out between Hamas and the Israeli military in what became the worst period of violence since 2014. Before reaching a cease-fire, militants in Gaza fired over one hundred rockets into Israel; Israel responded with strikes on more than fifty targets in Gaza during the twenty-four-hour flare-up.
- In August and September 2020, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then Bahrain agreed to normalize relations with Israel, making them only the third and fourth countries in the region following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994 to do so.
- The agreements, named the Abraham Accords, came more than eighteen months after the United States hosted Israel and several Arab states for ministerial talks in Warsaw, Poland, about the future of peace in the Middle East. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas rejected the accords; Hamas also rejected the agreements.
Clashes in Jerusalem
- In October 2020, an Israeli court ruled that several Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah—a neighborhood in East Jerusalem—were to be evicted by May 2021 with their land handed over to Jewish families. In February 2021, several Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah filed an appeal to the court ruling, prompting protests around the appeal hearings, the ongoing legal battle around property ownership, and the forcible displacement of Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem.
- In 2021, Palestinians began demonstrating in the streets of Jerusalem to protest the pending evictions, and residents of Sheikh Jarrah and other activists began to host nightly sit-ins. In early May, after a court ruled in favor of the evictions, the protests expanded, with Israeli police deploying force against demonstrators. Following weeks of daily demonstrations and rising tensions between protesters, Israeli settlers, and police during the month of Ramadan, violence broke out at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, with Israeli police using stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons in a clash with protestors that left hundreds of Palestinians wounded.
- After the clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City, tensions increased throughout East Jerusalem, compounded by the celebration of Jerusalem Day. After several consecutive days of violence throughout Jerusalem and the use of lethal and nonlethal force by Israeli police, Hamas, the militant group which governs Gaza, and other Palestinian militant groups launched hundreds of rockets into Israeli territory. Israel responded with artillery bombardments and airstrikes, several of which killed more than twenty Palestinians, against targets in Gaza. While claiming to target Hamas, other militants, and their infrastructure—including tunnels and rocket launchers—Israel expanded its aerial campaign and struck non-military infrastructure including residential buildings, media headquarters, and refugee and healthcare facilities.
- On 2021, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire, brokered by Egypt, with both sides claiming victory and no reported violations. More than two hundred and fifty Palestinians were killed and nearly two thousand others wounded, and at least thirteen Israelis were killed over the eleven days of fighting. the United Nations estimates that more than 72,000 Palestinians were displaced by the fighting.
What is happening now?
- Earlier on Saturday, 7 October 2023, Hamas fired as many as 5,000 rockets into Israel. Warning sirens wailed in cities and towns across Israel as people sought refuge in bomb shelters.
- Alongside the rockets, Palestinian fighters crossed over into Israel, breaking through the heavy fencing at multiple locations.
Who are Hamas?
- Hamas is the largest Palestinian militant Islamist group and one of the two major political parties in the region. Currently, it governs more than two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
- The organisation, however, is also known for its armed resistance against Israel.
- Hamas as a whole, or in some cases its military wing, is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other countries.
How was Hamas formed?
- The group was founded in the late 1980s, after the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip — the Jewish state had captured the two Palestinian territories after winning the 1967 Israeli-Arab War.
- Hamas is essentially “the internal metamorphosis” of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, which was established in Jerusalem in 1946.
- The main reason for Hamas’ creation was a deep sense of failure that had been set within the Palestinian national movement by the late 1980s.
How did Hamas begin its ‘resistance’?
- Hamas gained prominence after it opposed the Oslo Peace Accords signed in the early 1990s between Israel and the PLO, the body representing most Palestinians. The accords aimed to bring about Palestinian self-determination, in the form of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
- To break down the deal, Hamas launched suicide bombings. It carried out numerous bus bombings, killing many Israelis, and stepped up its attacks after Israel killed the group’s chief bomb maker Yahya Ayyash in December 1995.
- Hamas’ suicide attacks once again made headlines during the second intifada between 2000 and 2005 — it began after the peace talks between Israel and Palestine completely collapsed.
How did Hamas gain political power?
- In 2006, the militant group registered an astonishing victory in the democratic elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) of the limited Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
- There were several factors behind Hamas’ win. Some supported the group’s tactic of carrying out the bombings against Israelis to avenge their own losses. Others recognised its efforts to help the poor and needy by organising schools and clinics.
What is meant by the Intifada?
- It is an Arabic word that means to ‘shake off’. It came into popular usage in December 1987, with Palestinians using it to describe their uprising against the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza.
- Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, in a 1989 essay titled ‘Intifada and Independence’, described the intifada as the response of a people pushed to the wall by the “bare-knuckled” Israeli attempt to rob them of their history, land and nationhood.
- The First Intifada lasted from 1987 to 1993, and the Second Intifada from 20o0-2005. These were extremely popular uprisings spearheaded by Palestinian youth sick of the treatment they faced from the much more powerful Israeli settlers in their own homeland.
- Many have been wary of a ‘Third Intifada’ for years, especially amidst the rise of the ultranationalist far-right in Israel with its extreme position on Palestine.
- Now, Some observers have referred to the latest escalation as the beginning of the “Third Intifada”. Further, it has also been compared to the Yom Kippur War.
Why is the current violence being compared with the Yom Kippur war?
- For one, this has been the deadliest attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur war of 1973. Gunmen from Hamas carried out a rampage in Israeli towns on Saturday, killing at least 400 Israelis so far and abducting many civilians. In retaliation, Israeli strikes have killed at least 313 Palestinians. In the Yom Kippur war, more than 2,500 Israeli soldiers were killed.
- The second similarity is the criticism within Israel for the state being found unprepared. The attack on Saturday came as a surprise, despite Israel’s advanced intelligence and interception systems. The Yom Kippur war, too, had found Israel unprepared, with many soldiers on leave because of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in Judaism. The attack came when many Israelis were preparing to observe Simchat Torah, which marks the end of the annual cycle of public Torah readings, and the beginning of a new one.
Other groups involved in the conflict- Hezbollah:
- Hezbollah, whose name means ‘Party of God’, is a Shiite Islamic militant organisation from Lebanon.
- It originated during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), which was a result of long-simmering discontent over the large, armed Palestinian presence in the country.
- It opposes Israel and Western influence in West Asia. It has also, along with Russia and Iran, supported the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in neighbouring Syria during its civil war.
- It became more visible in Lebanese politics in the mid-2000s and currently holds 13 of the country’s 128-member Parliament. Along with allies, it is part of the ruling government.
2 . Xenotransplantation
Context: The design and successful transplantation of kidney grafts from genetically modified pigs into non-human primates has been described in a recent study published in Nature.
About the Research
- The researchers introduced 69 genomic edits into the porcine donor (a Yucatan miniature pig), knocking out three glycan antigens thought to induce rejection, overexpressing seven human transgenes (to reduce hostility of primate immune system) and inactivating all copies of the porcine retrovirus gene.
- These kidney grafts survived substantially longer than grafts with only the glycan antigen knockouts (176 days versus 24 days), suggesting that the expression of these human transgenes offers some protection against rejection. Combined with immunosuppressive treatment, the transplant provided long-term primate survival of up to 758 days. These results demonstrate the promise of pig organs in future human transplantations and bring the technique a step closer to clinical testing, the authors conclude.
- “These results show that preclinical studies of renal xenotransplantation could be successfully conducted in nonhuman primates and bring us closer to clinical trials of genetically engineered porcine renal grafts” they write.
- Xenotransplantation is any procedure that involves transplanting cells, tissues or organs from one species to another.
- Xenotransplants were largely abandoned after the 1984 case involving Stephanie Fae Beauclair, better known as Baby Fae, in California. Born with a fatal heart condition, the infant had received a baboon heart transplant but died within a month of the procedure due to the immune system’s rejection of the foreign heart
- Xenotransplantation could potentially provide an unlimited supply of cells, tissues, and organs for humans. Any disease that is treated by human-to-human transplantation could potentially be treated by xenotransplantation.
- Organ xenotransplants could include whole hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys or pancreases. Tissue xenotransplants could include skin grafts for burn patients, corneal transplants for the visually impaired, or bone transplants for limb reconstruction.
- Cellular xenotransplants may provide treatment for people with diabetes, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases.
- The most serious risk of xenotransplantation appears to be cross-species transmission of undetected or unidentified animal infectious agents to patients that could, in turn, be transmitted to the general public. The worst-case scenario would be a major new epidemic.
- The potential risk of cross-species infection is largely compounded by the practices of patient immunosuppression for transplantation.
- Some of the other scientific concerns surrounding xenotransplantation include immune rejection, uncertain efficacy/viability (whether it will work), and whether high levels of immunosuppression will leave the patient vulnerable to more frequent infectious diseases or cancer.
India’s 1997 transplant
- In 1997, two surgeons — Dr Dhani Ram Baruah, a transplant surgeon from Assam, and Dr Jonathan Ho Kei-Shing, a Hong Kong surgeon — made a bold announcement.
- The duo conducted a pig-to-human heart and lung transplant in Guwahati on a 32-year-old farmer, Purno Saikia.
- To address the rejection problem, Baruah had “developed a new anti-hyperacute rejection biochemical solution to treat the donor’s heart and lung, and blind its immune system”.
- Unfortunately, Saikia could not make it. He died a week later from an infection.
- Baruah and Kei-Shing were arrested for culpable homicide and imprisoned for 40 days.
Why Pigs are considered as Potential Donors?
- Physiological Similarity: Pigs have organs and tissues that are anatomically and physiologically similar to those of humans. This similarity makes them suitable candidates for xenotransplantation, as their organs are more likely to function in a manner compatible with the human body.
- Availability: Pigs are readily available and have a relatively short reproductive cycle, allowing for the production of a large number of potential organ donors. This availability is important because there is a significant shortage of human organ donors.
- Size Compatibility: The size of pig organs is often compatible with those of humans, making them suitable for transplantation into adult recipients.
- Genetic Manipulation: Advances in genetic engineering have enabled scientists to modify pig genes to reduce the risk of immune rejection and the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. These genetic modifications aim to make pig organs more compatible with the human immune system.
3 . Digital India Act and Future of Country’s Cyberspace
Context- The recent announcement of the Digital India Act 2023 (DIA) represents a significant step towards establishing a future-ready legal framework for the country’s burgeoning digital ecosystem.
About the Digital India Act
- The DIA, poised to replace the two-decade-old Information Technology Act of 2000 (IT Act), is designed to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the dramatic growth of the internet and emerging technologies.
- The primary objective of the DIA is to bring India’s regulatory landscape in sync with the digital revolution of the 21st century.
- The DIA recognises the changes in the usage of internet and aims to provide a comprehensive legal framework to address them.
- It places a strong emphasis on online safety and trust, with a commitment to safeguarding citizen’s rights in the digital realm while remaining adaptable to shifting market dynamics and international legal principles.
- It provides guidelines for the responsible utilisation of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.
- It further ensures that their deployment is in line with ethical and legal principles.
- It upholds the concept of an open internet, striking a balance between accessibility and necessary regulations to maintain order and protect users. Additionally, the DIA mandates stringent Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements for wearable devices, accompanied by criminal law sanctions.
- It contemplates a review of the “safe harbour” principle, which presently shields online platforms from liability related to user-generated content, indicating a potential shift in online accountability standards.
- Impact on innovation : One key concern is the potential impact on innovation and the ease of doing business. Stricter regulations, particularly in emerging technologies, could inadvertently stifle entrepreneurial initiatives and deter foreign investments.
- Safe harbour principle: the review of the “safe harbour” principle, which shields online platforms from liability for user-generated content, could lead to a more cautious approach among these platforms, possibly impinging on freedom of expression.
- Enforcement: the DIA’s success hinges on effective enforcement, which will require substantial resources, expertise, and infrastructure.
- Balancing the interests of various stakeholders: including tech giants, while ensuring the protection of citizen rights.
4 . Facts for Prelims
Crew module and Flight test vehicle abort mission – Gaganyaan
- The first development flight Test Vehicle (TV-D1) is a single-stage liquid rocket developed for this abort mission. The payloads consist of the Crew Module (CM) and Crew Escape Systems (CES) with their fast-acting solid motors, along with CM fairing (CMF) and Interface Adapters. This flight will simulate the abort condition during the ascent trajectory corresponding to a Mach number of 1.2 encountered in the Gaganyaan mission.
- Crew Module (CM) is where the astronauts are containedin a pressurized earthlike atmospheric condition during the Gaganyaan mission. The CM for the Gaganyaan mission is in different stages of development.
- CES with CM will be separated from the Test Vehicle at an altitude of about 17 km. Subsequently, the abort sequence will be executed autonomously commencing with the separation of CES and deployment of the series of parachutes, finally culminating in the safe touchdown of CM in the sea, about 10 km from the coast of Sriharikota. The Crew Module will be recovered after touchdown in the Bay of Bengal, using a dedicated vessel and diving team from the Indian Navy.
- Test Vehicle mission with this CM is a significant milestone for the overall Gaganyaan programme as a near-complete system is integrated for a flight test. The success of this test flight will set the stage for the remaining qualification tests and unmanned missions, leading to the first Gaganyaan mission with Indian Astronauts.
Ganges river dolphin
- The Ganges river dolphin was officially discovered in 1801. Ganges river dolphins are found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems of Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.
- The Ganges river dolphin can only live in freshwater and is essentially blind.
- They hunt by emitting ultrasonic sounds, which bounces off of fish and other prey, enabling them to “see” an image in their mind.
- They are frequently found alone or in small groups, and generally a mother and calf travel together. Calves are chocolate brown at birth and then have grey-brown smooth, hairless skin as adults.
- Females are larger than males and give birth once every two to three years to only one calf.
- Their IUCN Status is Endangered.
- The Territorial Army (TA) of India is an auxiliary military organisation of part-time volunteers that provides support services to the Indian Army.
- It is composed of officers, junior commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and other personnel holding ranks the same as in the Indian Army, who also have civilian occupations.
- The role of the TA is to relieve the regular army from static duties and assist civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services and to provide units for the regular army as and when required
- The TA was constituted by the Territorial Army Act of 1948 in the Dominion of India as a successor to the Indian Defence Force (1917–1920) and the Indian Territorial Force (1920–1948).
- It is commanded by a three-star ranking Director General of the Territorial Army, a Lieutenant General-ranking officer deputed from the Indian Army,and headed by the Chief of Defence Staff under the Department of Military Affairs of the Ministry of Defence.
Asiatic Wild dog
- The Asiatic Wild dog, also known as dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a canid native to Central, South, East and Southeast Asia.
- The dhole is a highly social animal, living in large clans without rigid dominance hierarchies and containing multiple breeding females.
- It is a diurnal pack hunter which preferentially targets large and medium-sized ungulates.
- The IUCN status is Endangered .
Ensign of different forces
- The Indian Air Force unveiled its new Ensign at the annual Air Force Day parade at Prayagraj. The new ensign includes the Air Force Crest in the top right corner towards the fly side. The IAF Crest has the national symbol, the Ashoka lion, on the top with the words Satyameva Jayate in Devanagari below it. Below the Ashoka lion is a Himalayan eagle with its wings spread, denoting the fighting qualities of the IAF. A ring in light blue colour encircles the Himalayan eagle with the words ‘Bharatiya Vayu Sena’ and the motto of the IAF is inscribed below Himalayan eagle in golden Devanagari.
- The Indian Naval Ensign consists of the Indian national flag on the upper canton, a blue octagon encasing the national emblem atop an anchor to depict steadfastness, superimposed on a shield with the Navy’s motto “Sam No Varuna” (a Vedic mantra invoking the god of seas to be auspicious) in Devanagari.
- The octagon represents the eight directions and has been included as a symbol of the Navy’s “multidirectional reach and multidimensional operational capability”. The golden borders of the octagon have been inspired by the seal of Maratha Chhatrapati Shivaji.