1. Russian spy poisoning saga

British Military personnel wearing protective coveralls work to remove a vehicle connected to the March 4 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, from a residential street in Gillingham, southeast England on March 14, 2018. Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP

On March 4, Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter are discovered unconscious and poisoned on a bench in Salisbury, England.

London points the finger at Moscow and in September issues arrest warrants for two Russian operatives for attempting to kill the Skripals. Moscow rejects all charges.

Angry exchanges between the two capitals bring in other Western nations behind London. Eventually dozens of Western and Russian diplomats are expelled in tit-for-tat reprisals, and new sanctions are brought against Russia.

The Skripals survive but in June a British woman dies after coming into contact with Novichok in a village outside Salisbury. Her partner falls gravely ill.

2. Syria regime victories

A Syrian girl holds an oxygen mask over the face of an infant at a make-shift hospital following a reported gas attack on the rebel-held besieged town of Douma in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus on January 22, 2018. Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, the government of Bashar al-Assad has been repeatedly accused by UN investigators of using chlorine gas or sarin gas in sometimes lethal chemical attacks. Photo: Hasan Mohamed/AFP

On April 14, the Syrian army declares that all anti-regime forces have been forced out of the Eastern Ghouta area adjoining Damascus after a blistering two-month offensive that leaves more than 1,700 people dead.

It is a major victory in the government’s effort to reassert control after the 2011 uprising that pulled the entire country into a devastating conflict.

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The same day the United States, Britain and France carry out pre-dawn strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma that killed scores of civilians. The regime denies the allegations.

Backed by Russia’s military might, Assad’s forces go on to notch up a series of victories against rebels and insurgents, to be back in control of two-thirds of the ruined and divided country.

3. Trump quits Iran nuclear deal

A handout picture provided by the Iranian Parliament on May 9, 2018 shows Iranian MPs chanting US slogans at the parliament in Tehran. Iran said it will hold talks with signatories to a nuclear deal after US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord, which it branded “psychological warfare”. President Hassan Rouhani also said Iran could resume uranium enrichment “without limit” in response to Trump’s announcement. Photo: Islamic Consultative Assembly/AFP

On May 8, President Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the hard-won 2015 accord that limits Iran’s nuclear weapons programme in exchange for an easing of sanctions against the Islamic republic.

The “one-sided deal” does not go far enough in preventing Iran from creating a nuclear bomb, Trump says, among other criticisms.

The remaining parties to the accord — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — insist Iran has abided by its commitments and vow to keep the deal intact.

In August Washington reimposes a first wave of sanctions on Iran; in November there is a second.

4. US moves embassy to Jerusalem

Palestinians run for cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalia on May 14, 2018, as Palestinians protest over the inauguration of the US embassy following its controversial move to Jerusalem. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP

On May 14, the United States opens its new embassy in Jerusalem, infuriating the Palestinians — who also claim the holy city as their capital — and flouting years of international policy.

Clashes erupt on the border with Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza: after the bloodiest day in the dragging conflict in years, around 60 Palestinians are dead, killed by Israeli gunfire.

5. Populists take charge in Italy

Head of the Five Star Movement (M5S), Italy’s Labor and Industry Minister and deputy PM Luigi Di Maio (L) and Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte attend a convention of the governing coalition’s populist movement on October 21, 2018 in Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

On June 1, a populist coalition government takes power in Italy formed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right anti-migrant eurosceptics.

New Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant and anti-Islam League, introduces a hardline policy that sees Italy largely closing its borders to migrants.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe had already been boosted in April when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban lead his party to a crushing victory at legislative elections.

6. Trump, Kim meet-up

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) shakes hands with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Photo: AFP/Saul Loeb

On June 12, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in Singapore in the first-ever meeting between sitting leaders of the two countries.

They sign an agreement which reaffirms Pyongyang’s commitment to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”.

But so far North Korea has taken few concrete steps to abandon its nuclear weapons, and the two sides have sparred over the meaning of the vaguely worded agreement.

7. Yemen war reaches aid port

A Yemeni woman holds a child suffering from malnutrition as they sit on a bed at a treatment centre in a hospital in the third city of Taez in the country’s southwest on November 21, 2018. As many as 85,000 infants under the age of five may have died from starvation or disease since 2015 in war-ravaged Yemen, humanitarian organisation Save the Children said on November 21, basing its estimate on UN-compiled data, which has warned that up to 14 million people are at risk of famine in Yemen where Saudi-backed forces are battling Iran-aligned Huthi rebels. Photo by Ahmad Al-Basha/ AFP

On June 13, the war in Yemen steps up a notch when pro-government forces, supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, launch an assault to wrest back control of the vital aid port of Hodeida from Huthi rebels, backed by Iran.

The war, which started in 2014, has already killed about 10,000 people with 20 million at risk of starvation, according aid agencies.

The two sides meet for UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden in early December.

8. Eritrea, Ethiopia find peace

A runner holds Eritrea’s national flag during the first Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace and reconciliation Run in Addis Ababa on November 11, 2018. Thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans have taken part in a 10-kilometre reconciliation run, the first joint sporting event since the former bitter foes launched a rapid diplomatic thaw in July. The peace race through the Ethiopian capital caught the new positive mood after years of “cold war”. The two countries fought a war from 1998-2000 that left an estimated 80,000 people dead on both sides. Photo by Michael Tewelde/AFP

On July 9, Horn of Africa neighbours Eritrea and Ethiopia announce the end of their two-decade war and embark on a whirlwind peace process that sees embassies and borders reopened, telephone and flight links reestablished, trade ties resumed.

It comes after Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, announces in June that his government would drop claims to a disputed border territory.

The accord leads Somalia and Eritrea to also re-establish diplomatic links on July 30, after a long period of hostility. The United Nations lifts sanctions on Eritrea on November 14.

9. Thai cave boys

As flood waters rose, authorities were scrambling for the best way to extract the 11 boys from the narrow, water-filled cave complex.
Photo: Royal Thai Navy

There is a global sigh of relief on July 10 when the last of 12 young football players and their coach are extracted safe and sound from a flooded cave in northern Thailand where they had become trapped 17 days earlier.

The fate of the junior football team had captured world attention, with US and British diving experts joining the rescue effort and former Thai navy diver losing his life.

10. Heat and fire

Firefighters battle flames at a burning apartment complex in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 09, 2018. – A rapidly spreading, late-season wildfire in northern California has burned 20,000 acres of land and prompted authorities to issue evacuation orders for thousands of people. As many as 1000 homes, a hospital, a Safeway store and scores of other structures have burned in the area as the Camp fire tore through the region. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP

In July-August Europe swelters in a heatwave which approaches the continent’s record 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 Fahrenheit), as deadly forest fires rage in Greece, Portugal and Spain.

In November, California is ravaged by its deadliest fire ever, with 85 people dying before it comes under control after two weeks.

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization announces in November that 2018 is set to be the fourth hottest year on record.

11. Saudi journalist murdered

People hold posters picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and lightened candles during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, on October 25, 2018. Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was killed on October 2, 2018 after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork before marrying his Turkish fiancee. Photo by Yasin Akgul/AFP

On October 2, dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, enters his country’s consulate in Istanbul and is never seen again.

After more than two weeks of denials and contradictory statements, Riyadh admits that he had been killed inside the consulate after a brawl.

It fires various officials and arrests others, also acknowledging the journalist’s body had been dismembered.

The murder tarnishes the kingdom’s image, prompting its worst diplomatic crisis since the September 11 attacks, amid questions over whether Saudi leadership had ordered the killing, which the country vehemently denies.

12. Brazil veers right

In this file picture taken on October 28, 2018 Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL), gives thumbs up to supporters, during the second round of the presidential elections, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil’s next president, Jair Bolsonaro, takes office on January 1, 2019 with promises to radically change the path taken by Latin America’s biggest country by trashing decades of center-left policies. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP

On October 28, Latin America’s biggest country swerves to the right in an election that sees former army captain Jair Bolsonaro elected as Brazil’s new president.

During a particularly virulent campaign animated by hate speeches and peppered with outbreaks of violence, Bolsonaro is stabbed in the belly at a rally in September. He recovered from his injuries and is slated to take office on January 1, 2019.

13. Midterm boost US Democrats

Democrat Ilhan Omar became one of two Muslim women elected to Congress in the 2018 US midterm elections. Photo: Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty Images

Nearly two years after 100,000 women marched against the inauguration of President Donald Trump, a record-breaking number of female candidates won seats in the House of Representatives during the US midterm elections on November 6.

Some 116 women — including more women of colour, and the House’s first two Muslim women representatives — make up elected he incoming class of legislators, which brings the total number of female representatives to 126 out of 435 seats in Congress.

Women not only ran for office at an unprecedented rate, several knocked off white, male incumbents during their party primaries. They mobilised on the grassroots level, and played larger roles as donors than in previous election cycles.

14. France’s ‘yellow vest’ uprising

A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask makes the victory sign near a burning barricade during a protest of Yellow vests (Gilets jaunes) against rising oil prices and living costs, on December 1, 2018 in Paris. Speaking at the Paris police’s command centre, French Prime Minister said 36,000 people were protesting across France, including 5,500 in the capital for this 3rd nationwide day of blockade ands demos. Photo: Abdulmonam Eassa/AFP

On November 17, protests flare across France in opposition to rising fuel taxes and living costs, later swelling into a broad movement against the policies of the government of President Emmanuel Macron.

The “yellow vest” protests, named after the flourescent safety jackets worn by demonstrators, come to a head with rioting and looting in Paris.

After the government backs down on the planned fuel tax, Macron on December 10 outlines other measures to calm the anger, including a boost to the minimum wage.

15. The fall of Carlos Ghosn

Pedestrians look at a television screen showing a news program featuring former Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn in Tokyo on December 21, 2018. Japanese prosecutors re-arrested former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn over fresh allegations on December 21, apparently dashing his hopes of early release in the latest twist to a rollercoaster saga. Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

On November 19, the head of the giant Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi auto alliance, tycoon Carlos Ghosn, is arrested in Japan over allegations of under-reporting his salary for years, which he denies.

He is fired as chairman of Nissan and Mitsubishi and formally charged on December 10, when his detention is extended.

16. Brexit deal

File photo shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May arriving at the European Council in Brussels on October 17, 2018. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

On November 25, after 17 months of negotiations, the European Union and Britain agree on an accord covering Britain’s exit from the bloc by March 2019.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May on December 10 postpones a parliament vote on the deal set for the following day, acknowledging it would be rejected. She survived an internal party no-confidence vote on December 12, but her political future — as well as Britain’s relationship to the EU post-Brexit — hang in the balance. 

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