International news: This week’s top stories

By Sophia Simeone

Staff Writer

1. A coalition of Syrian rebel groups launched a major offensive on Friday in an attempt to end the siege of eastern Aleppo by Russian and Syrian government forces. At least 15 people were reportedly killed in the fighting. The siege, now in its third month, has deprived more than 250,000 people of access to food and basic humanitarian aid.

2. Two more African countries—Burundi and Gambia—have joined South Africa in withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. The court, which entered into force in 2002, was established to prosecute perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. African discontent stems from the court’s exclusive indictment of African suspects—all four convictions issued by the court since its inception have taken place in African countries. Member states of the African Union have urged the three countries to reconsider and work to reform the ICC from within.

3. Iraqi forces have entered the outskirts of Mosul as they attempt to reclaim the city from Islamic State (IS) militants. As troops approach the city, United Nations officials have expressed concern for the estimated 1.5 billion civilians living there. Iraqis are backed by a U.S. led coalition providing advisors on the ground and air support.

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Displaced people riding in the back of a truck Tuesday near Qayara, south of Mosul, Iraq. Source: Felipe Dana / AP

4. A new report from the UN children’s rights organization UNICEF says about two billion children of the world are breathing toxic air. Two-thirds of these children live in northern India and neighboring countries. Of the global total, 300 million children are exposed to pollution more than six times higher than the standards set by the World Health Organization.

5. As Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro struggles to maintain power, government representatives met with opposition parties in Caracas to mitigate the country’s current political standoff. A 2015 slash in oil prices sent Venezuela spiraling into a deep recession, causing widespread unemployment, hunger, and criminality. Protests calling for President Maduro’s resignation have escalated political tensions to the breaking point.

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President Nicolas Maduro addresses supporters in Caracas, Venezuela. Source: Carlos Becerra / Bloomberg

6. A Canadian brother and sister spent Halloween night curled up in coffins in the Transylvanian fortress that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The two beat out 88,000 people who entered a competition hosted by Airbnb to get the chance to sleep in the Romanian castle, where Vlad the Impaler, Dracula’s inspiration, is believed to have stayed.

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Tami Varma, right, and her brother Brian pose in coffins at the Bran Castle in Bran, Romania. Source: Vadim Ghirda / AP

7. President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, famous for referring to both President Barack Obama and Pope Francis as “sons of b*tches,” has vowed to stop cursing. Duterte told a crowd in Davao that God himself had commanded him not to use cuss words. As those in attendance began to applaud, he interrupted them. “Don’t applaud too much, I might fail.”

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte makes a "fist bump", his May presidential elections campaign gesture, with soldiers during a visit at Capinpin military camp in Tanay

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte makes a “fist bump”, his campaign gesture, during a visit to a military camp in Tanay, Rizai. Source: Erik de Castro / Reuters

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