Saturday's world stories

May 1, 2021 - World

Taliban threatens to attack U.S. troops as Trump withdrawal date passes

Afghanistan security personnel on May 1 inspecting the site of a vehicle bombing that killed at least 25 people Logar Province, Afghanistan. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Taliban threatened to launch attacks on U.S. and NATO troops on Saturday as the May 1 deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops brokered by the Trump administration came and went.

Why it matters: President Biden announced last month that the U.S. would begin withdrawing troops from the country on May 1 but would not finish until Sept. 11, and the Taliban in response vowed to resume attacks on U.S. and NATO personnel.

Biden met with Mossad director in D.C. to discuss Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) sitting next to Yossi Cohen in 2015. Photo: gali Tibbon/Getty Images

President Biden met on Friday with the director of Israel's spy agency Mossad, Yossi Cohen, and discussed Iran, a source familiar with the details tells Axios.

Worth noting: The White House kept the meeting, first reported by Channel 12 news in Israel, a secret and didn't issue a statement.

May 1, 2021 - Health

Australia bans all arrivals from India

Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

The Australian government said late Friday that its citizens and residents who have been in India within the past two weeks will be barred from re-entry starting Monday.

The state of play: Government officials said that anyone who disobeys the ban will face fines and up to five years imprisonment, making it the first time Australia has made it a criminal offense for its citizens to go home, per Reuters.

Dave Lawler, author of World
May 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Hard exit from Afghanistan

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The biggest foreign policy surprise from President Biden’s first 100 days was his decision to act on a promise his predecessors hadn't: the full U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Why it matters: Biden didn't settle on an unconditional withdrawal because he saw a path to a stable Afghanistan without U.S. troops in the country. Instead, he argued that it was clear by now that no such path existed with them there.

May 1, 2021 - World

Fire in COVID-19 hospital ward in India kills 18 patients

Charred medical equipment inside a ward of the Patel Welfare Covid Hospital in Bharuch on May 1. Photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images

A fire in a COVID-19 ward in the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state in western India, killed at least 18 patients on Saturday, according to AP.

The big picture: The blaze — the cause of which is being investigated — comes on the heels of several tragedies involving coronavirus patients as hospitals across the country struggle with oxygen supplies amid a massive spike in new cases and a slowed vaccine rollout.

Nicaragua looks to the stars

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega in 2018. Photo: Inti Ocon/AFP via Getty Images

The Nicaraguan government is creating a Ministry for Ultraterrestrial, Moon and other Celestial Bodies Affairs, a proposal first put forward by President Daniel Ortega in February.

Why it matters: The plan comes as the Central American country marks three years since a popular uprising against Ortega in April, which was violently quashed and has made thousands flee political prosecution.

May 1, 2021 - Health

WHO lists Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

A health care worker administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the American Museum of Natural History vaccination site in New York on April 30. Photo: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The World Health Organization late Friday listed Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

Why it matters: With the listing, WHO authorizes that the mRNA vaccine can be part of the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative, which looks to ensure that every country in the world has access to inocculations.

May 1, 2021 - World

Portugal opens world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge

Photo: CARLOS COSTA/AFP via Getty Images

The world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge will open to the public on Monday in Arouca, Portugal.

Details: The bridge is called the 516 Arouca due to its length, 516 meters (or approximately 1,692 feet). It is suspended 175 meters (or around 574 feet) above the Paiva River, and connects both of the river banks.

May 1, 2021 - Health

Fauci: India should "temporarily shut down" amid COVID-19 rise

Photo: Amr Alfiky-Pool/Getty Images

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said in an interview that India ought to consider a temporary shutdown as the country currently faces the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world.

By the numbers: India on Saturday for the first time reported more than 400,000 new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period, Reuters writes. The country also reported a total of 211,853 deaths.

Apr 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House to take "calibrated, practical approach" to North Korea

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Biden administration will take a "calibrated, practical approach" to North Korea, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

Driving the news: Psaki said the administration has completed its review of U.S. policy toward North Korea. She did not elaborate on the findings, but suggested the administration would aim for a middle ground between former President Trump’s "grand bargain" and former President Obama’s "strategic patience" approach, AP noted.

Apr 30, 2021 - World

Scoop: Biden won't reverse Trump's Western Sahara move, U.S. tells Morocco

A Moroccan soldier on a hilltop in Western Sahara. Photo: Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty

Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita in a phone call on Friday that the Biden administration would not reverse President Trump's recognition of Morocco's sovereignty over the Western Sahara, at least for the time being, two sources familiar with the call told me. 

Why it matters: Trump's recognition of the Western Sahara as part of Morocco reversed decades of U.S. policy regarding the disputed territory, and was part of a broader deal that included the renewal of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Israel.

Apr 30, 2021 - Health

White House to restrict travel from India

Family members perform the last rites of a person, who died due to coronavirus, at a crematorium in New Delhi. Photo: Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The White House will restrict travel from India starting at midnight on Tuesday, May 4, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Friday.

Driving the news: The Biden administration cited a steep rise in coronavirus cases in the country and the possible emergence of multiple variants.

Apr 30, 2021 - World

Car bomb kills dozens in Afghanistan

A vehicle bombing in Afghanistan's Logar Province on Friday killed at least 25 people and injured more than 60, including multiple high school students, according to Afghanistan's TOLO News.

The big picture: Hasib Stanekzai, head of the Logar provincial council, said the attack targeted people staying in a public building in the city of Pul-e-Alam. No group has claimed responsibility.

Apr 30, 2021 - World

Biden calls Netanyahu to offer condolences over Mount Meron stampede

Police and worshippers at the site of the stampede. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty

President Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to offer condolences and U.S. assistance following a deadly stampede that killed at least 45 worshippers, the White House said.

Driving the news: The stampede occurred on Thursday night as tens of thousands of mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews were participating in a celebration of the Lag B’Omer holiday at Mount Meron, a pilgrimage site in northern Israel. Several of those killed were American citizens.

Updated Apr 30, 2021 - World

At least 45 killed in stampede at large Israeli religious festival

Emergency workers gather at the scene after dozens of people were killed and others injured in a stampede in Meron, Israel.

At least 45 people have been killed and 150 hospitalized in a stampede at a large Jewish festival in northern Israel, the deadliest civilian disaster in the country's history, AP reports.

The latest: President Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to offer condolences on behalf of the United States for those killed at Lag B'Omer.

Apr 30, 2021 - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine in wake of massive Russian military buildup

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Congress on April 28. Photo: Melina Mara/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Kyiv on May 5-6 to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to "reaffirm unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression," the State Department announced Friday.

Why it matters: Blinken will be the most senior-ranking U.S. official to visit Ukraine during the Biden administration. The trip comes in the aftermath of massive Russia military exercises near the Ukrainian border, and could precede a summit this summer between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Brazil surpasses 400,000 coronavirus deaths

A gravedigger walks among graves of COVID-19 victims in Brazil. Photo: Michael Dantas/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Thursday became only the second country to surpass 400,000 coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Why it matters: The rising death toll and high number of cases has some health experts worried about a new wave of the pandemic, exacerbated by the country's slow vaccination campaign and loosening restrictions, AP reports.

Apr 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice concerned about Afghan troop withdrawal

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Lev Radin (Pacific Press/LightRocket), Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee they're worried about President Biden's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, with Rice suggesting the U.S. may need to go back, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The position puts two former secretaries of State — from the Obama and Bush administrations — at odds with one of Biden's most significant foreign policy moves to date.

Scoop: White House courts progressives over Yemen

Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) and Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

A handful of progressive legislators gathered in the Situation Room early Wednesday with national security adviser Jake Sullivan to discuss the war in Yemen, multiple sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first confab of its kind at the White House with a group that's loudly criticized President Biden’s actions on the humanitarian crisis in the region — signaling the administration’s willingness to take their concerns seriously.