Tigrayan forces take over Ethiopian town known for its ancient churches

The World
An several storeys tall stone church is shown carved into the side of a hillside.

A view of the Saint George Church in Lalibela, Ethiopia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Top of The World — our morning news roundup written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Tigray-Lalibela
Tigrayan forces have taken over the Ethiopian town of Lalibela, known for its rock-hewn churches that are on the list of UN World Heritage Sites. It's also a holy site for millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Fighting has spread from Tigray into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions in recent weeks, forcing around 250,000 people to flee their homes. Thousands have been killed since war broke out last November and as many as 400,000 people are now facing famine in war-torn Tigray.

IOC Belarus
The International Olympic Committee has expelled two Belarus coaches from the Tokyo Olympic Games for allegedly playing a role in trying to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to go back home. The IOC announced that it canceled the credentials of the coaches "in the interest of the wellbeing of the athletes of the NOC of Belarus who are still in Tokyo and as a provisional measure." Poland granted Tsimanouskaya a humanitarian visa over fears for her safety. Belarus has been cracking down on anyone expressing opposition to the government.

Hong Kong residents
President Joe Biden has deferred the deportation of Hong Kong residents living in the United States, over fears of repression by Chinese authorities upon return. The move, criticized by Beijing, would allow residents from Hong Kong who have been in the US to extend their stay by at least 18 months, authorizing them to seek employment. The Chinese government imposed fresh sanctions on a handful of Americans a few days ago in retaliation for sanctions imposed by the Biden administration on Chinese officials.

From The World

Athens’ first-ever chief heat officer says historic heat wave feels ominous, like a 'prequel' of the city's future

Athens has appointed a chief heat officer, the first such appointment in Europe, and only the second in the world. Chief heat officer Eleni Myrivili told The World’s Lydia Emmanouilidou that in taking on the new role, she wakes up every morning and worries about "making the city more livable and making the vulnerable populations safer in relation to rising heat and heat waves."

Iraq needs to reclaim its cultural past to develop its future, art historian says

This week, the US agreed to return more than 17,000 treasures to Iraq. Nada Shabout, a professor of art history, told The World's host Marco Werman that the move by the US was refreshing, but that more needs to be done.

"Returning them is great," Shabout said. "But also, this is just a little drop in a bucket full of water. So, this is a good step, but neither resolves the problem of all the looted works, nor does it really actually establish a system for stopping or returning."

Global hit

🎧 Jazz multi-instrumentalist Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, has a new album out titled "An Elegant Ritual." After many years leading large ensembles, this is the first outing in a trio for the Grammy-nominated Turkish American composer. The sound is deep and complex, according to The World's host Marco Werman. Have a listen and sink into your weekend. 🎼

In case you missed it

Listen: WHO: Countries must hold off on COVID-19 boosters to promote vaccine equity

A woman receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, July 11, 2021. 

A woman receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 11, 2021. 

Credit:

Rahmat Gul/AP

The World Health Organization took a clear stance this week on COVID-19 booster shots: Countries must hold off because the majority of people, globally, have yet to receive their first dose. And since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, tens of thousands of ancient artifacts and art pieces have been looted and smuggled out of the country. This week, the US agreed to return more than 17,000 artifacts and treasures to Iraq. Also, a controversial new bill in Ghana could make life even more difficult for LGBTQ people; same-sex relations are already illegal in the country. The proposed legislation would further criminalize LGBTQ people.

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