The New York Times 2024-01-31 04:20:08


Widening Mideast Crisis: Iraqi Militia Blamed for Lethal Attack Says It Will Stop Targeting U.S. Forces

The Iraq-based militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah, hints at pressure from Iran and Iraq.

In a surprise move, an Iran-linked militia in Iraq that the Pentagon said was likely responsible for a lethal drone attack on an U.S. base in Jordan over the weekend announced on Tuesday that it was suspending military operations in Iraq under pressure from the Iraqi government and from Iran.

The announcement came shortly after President Biden said that he had decided how to respond to the attack in Jordan on Sunday that left three U.S. soldiers dead, though he did not say what that response would be. His comment raised fears in Iraq about a possibly retaliatory U.S. attack on its territory.

The militia, Kata’ib Hezbollah, or Brigades of the Party of God, is the largest and most established of the Iran-linked groups operating in Iraq. It has spearheaded a majority of the some 160 attacks on U.S. military installations in Iraq and Syria that have occurred since Israel began its ground operations in Gaza, acting in response to the Oct. 7 attack Hamas led from the enclave.

The U.S. military has about 2,500 troops in Iraq advising and training the Iraqi Army and about 900 in Syria, supporting the Kurdish Syrian Defense forces in their fight against the Islamic State.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is part of what is known as the Axis of Resistance, a network of Iran-backed groups operating in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and occasionally farther afield. (Kata’ib Hezbollah is separate from the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.)

The other two Iraqi groups that are believed to have been involved in strikes U.S. targets — Harakat al Nujaba and Sayyid Shuhada — have not announced they will halt attacks.

The leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, Abu Hussein al-Hamidawi, said in a statement: “We announce the suspension of military and security operations against the occupation forces — in order to prevent embarrassment to the Iraqi government.” It was the first time that the militia had publicly declared a suspension of operations.

The statement made clear that Iran had pressured the group to stop the attacks on U.S. troops and that Kata’ib Hezbollah was not happy about it. The group made a point of suggesting that it chooses its own targets and timing, rather than follows Iran’s orders.

“Our brothers in the Axis, especially in the Islamic Republic of Iran, they do not know how we conduct our Jihad, and they often object to the pressure and escalation against the American occupation forces in Iraq and Syria,” the statement said.

Asked about Kata’ib Hezbollah’s announcement, a Defense Department spokesman, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, said at a Pentagon briefing: “I don’t have a specific comment to provide other than actions speak louder than words.”

He added: “I’m going to refrain from editorializing on those kinds of comments after 160-plus attacks against U.S. forces.”

Interviews with Iraqi and Iranian officials close to both governments suggest that there were intensive negotiations in recent days aimed at pushing Kata’ib Hezbollah to stop its attacks.

Iraq’s prime minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, started pushing for a halt several weeks ago, according to senior government advisers. He was endeavoring to start negotiations on an eventual withdrawal of the U.S.-led international military presence in Iraq, but the American side had not wanted to negotiate while under fire, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials.

The United States eventually did agree to start talks without a guarantee the attacks would stop, but with a clear push in that direction.

Kata’ib Hezbollah and other groups had ignored the Iraqi government’s request to stand down, but once the attack in Jordan on Sunday took American lives, Mr. Sudani demanded a complete halt from Kata’ib Hezbollah. Mr. Sudani reached out directly to Iran, according to a military strategist for the Revolutionary Guards who works closely with the Axis groups in Iraq.

Mr. Sudani made the argument that he was trying to negotiate what Iran most wanted — to end the U.S. troop presence in Iraq — and that Kata’ib Hezbollah’s attacks were undermining his government’s ability to do so, according to the Iranian military strategist and a senior Iraqi official, who spoke anonymously to discuss private negotiations.

An Iraqi government spokesman, Hisham al-Rikabi, painted much the same picture. “Kata’ib Hezbollah’s decision came as a result of the action taken by the prime minister internally and externally, to prevent escalation, and to ensure the smooth completion of negotiations on completing the process of the international coalition’s withdrawal from Iraq,” he said.

Mr. al-Rikabi added: “We hope that all parties will listen to the government’s call in order to reduce tension and ensure that there are no hot spots of tension in the region, and in Iraq in particular.”

Involved in the negotiations were senior officials in Mr. Sudani’s government who are close to Iran, according to Iraqi and Iranian officials close to their respective government leaders. Among those involved in the negotiations were former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the leaders of two armed groups that have not targeted U.S. forces: Qais al-Khazali and Hadi al-Ameri. Participating in the talks on the Iranian side was Gen. Esmail Qaani, the leader of the Quds Force, a division of the Revolutionary Guards that works with Axis groups outside Iran.

Reporting was contributed by Falih Hassan from Baghdad, Farnaz Fassihi from New York and Eric Schmitt from Washington, D.C.

Biden says his response to a lethal militia attack in Jordan has been decided but not what the decision is.

President Biden said on Tuesday that he had decided on a U.S. response to the drone attack on a remote outpost in Jordan on Sunday that killed three American soldiers and injured more than 40 others, leaving unstated what that decision was.

Asked by reporters outside the White House whether he had decided on a response to the lethal attack, Mr. Biden said, “Yes” but declined to provide further details.

John F. Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, refused to elaborate on Mr. Biden’s remarks other than to say it was “very possible” that the United States would carry out “a tiered approach” — “not just a single action, but potentially multiple actions” over a period of time.

Biden administration officials have blamed an explosives-laden drone, most likely launched by an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, for the attack — the most deadly of the more than 160 militia attacks the Pentagon says U.S. forces have come under in the region since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza nearly four months ago.

Mr. Biden has vowed to retaliate and has met twice this week with his national security aides to discuss targets in Syria, Iraq and Iran. He could order strikes on Iran’s proxy forces, a major escalation of the whack-a-mole attacks the United States has conducted in recent weeks in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Or Mr. Biden could opt to attack the Iranian suppliers of drones and missiles, perhaps including inside Iranian territory, which poses a much higher risk. His first targets could well be members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, many of whom are based in Syria and Iraq, officials said.

Mr. Biden emphasized on Tuesday that he was seeking to avert a broader regional conflict, telling reporters as he prepared to depart for a fund-raising swing in southern Florida: “I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East. That’s not what I’m looking for.”

Analysts at the Pentagon and its Central Command continued their investigation on Tuesday into how the drone evaded air defenses at the small resupply base, Tower 22, in northeast Jordan, near its borders with Iraq and Syria.

A major contributing factor was that the enemy drone was mistaken for an American surveillance drone returning to the remote resupply base, and air defenses failed to shoot it down before it slammed into a living quarters early Sunday while troops were still asleep in their beds, U.S. officials said on Monday.

“This could very well have been a combat identification problem,” said Thomas Karako, who directs the missile defense project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

About 350 Army and Air Force personnel are deployed to the Tower 22 outpost. It serves as a logistics and resupply hub for Al Tanf garrison in nearby southeastern Syria, where U.S. troops work with local Syrian partners to fight remnants of the Islamic State.

The Pentagon on Monday identified the dead soldiers as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Ga.; Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Ga.; and Specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Ga. The three were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade, an Army Reserve unit based in Fort Moore, Ga.

The U.S. Army Reserve said on Tuesday it had posthumously promoted Specialists Sanders and Moffett to the rank of sergeant “in recognition of their exceptional courage, dedication and leadership.”

Mr. Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III are expected to receive the remains of the three soldiers on Friday at Dover Air Force, Del.

Maps: Tracking the Attacks in Israel and GazaSee where Israel has bulldozed vast areas of Gaza, as its invasion continues to advance south.

Hamas’s political chief says the group is studying a new proposal for a pause in fighting.

Hamas’s political chief said on Tuesday that the group was considering a proposal to pause the fighting in Gaza and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners, a potentially promising sign for a deal that was immediately followed by a reminder of the hurdles ahead.

The Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, suggested his openness to a deal in a statement, but stuck to longstanding demands for the total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, which the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately rejected.

Representatives from four nations — the United States, Qatar, Egypt and Israel — agreed over the weekend at talks in Paris to present the group with a framework that would begin with a six-week cease-fire to allow for the release of more hostages.

Mr. Haniyeh said that Hamas was studying the proposal, thanking Qatar and Egypt for their efforts, and suggested in his statement that Hamas was willing to work with the framework, if it helps achieve its demands. In addition to a permanent cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, he said Hamas was seeking the reconstruction of Gaza, the lifting of a yearslong Israeli blockade on the territory and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu appeared to immediately push back at Mr. Haniyeh’s statements, saying that Israel would not withdraw its military from Gaza or free thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

“We will not compromise on anything less than total victory,” he said in a speech in the West Bank, according to an Israeli statement.

It was unclear whether the two men’s comments were attempts to stake out negotiating positions or to appeal to their constituencies at home. But the agreement by Hamas’s leader to even consider a proposal floated in part by Israel raised hopes that there was a possibility of a deal, even if there were still big differences between the sides.

After talks in Paris on Sunday, representatives from the four nations agreed to have Qatar present a framework to Hamas that proposes a pause in the war, during which Hamas would exchange some hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, officials said.

In the proposed framework, Hamas would release older hostages, women and children, if any are still being held and are alive, according to the officials, who said that would be the first of three potential phases of swaps.

Mr. Haniyeh added in his statement that Hamas had received an invitation to Cairo to discuss “the framework agreement from the Paris meeting.”

The officials, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive diplomacy, cautioned that the talks were at an early stage and that many details would need to be worked out if Hamas agreed to start building on the framework. The group’s political leaders, including Mr. Haniyeh, would need to convey the proposal to its military leaders — a process that could take days or longer because the military leaders are believed to be hiding in tunnels deep beneath Gaza.

The meeting in Paris — which included the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns; Israeli security officials; and the prime minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani — came as Israel’s government has faced increased pressure over its handling of the war, which began on Oct. 7. That day, Hamas led sweeping attacks into Israel that Israeli officials said killed about 1,200 people and took about 240 more hostage, making it the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.

More than 100 hostages were released during a weeklong pause in the fighting in November, along with 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held by Israel. But efforts toward another deal have so far been elusive.

Family members of those still being held in Gaza have called for an urgent deal and the International Court of Justice in The Hague last week ordered the delivery of more humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, where health officials say more than 26,000 people have died since Israel’s military campaign began.

Sheikh Mohammed, the Qatari prime minister, said on Monday that “good progress” had been made in the negotiations. Speaking at an event hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, he said that talks were the only viable path toward de-escalation, adding that the rising death toll from Israel’s campaign in Gaza was “not getting any results to get the hostages back.”

The Israeli military confirms that it has begun flooding Hamas tunnels.

The Israeli military said Tuesday that it had begun pumping water into the vast network of tunnels beneath Gaza, which Hamas has used to launch attacks, store weapons and imprison Israeli hostages.

The military “has implemented new capabilities to neutralize underground terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip by channeling large volumes of water into the tunnels,” the Israeli military said in a statement.

The statement was the military’s first public acknowledgment that its engineers were flooding tunnels, a contentious strategy that some military officials have said is ineffective and that the U.N. has warned could damage Gaza’s drinking water and sewage systems.

Even before the war started in October, Israeli military officials had warned that Hamas’s tunnels presented a major threat. In the months since Israel launched its ground offensive and started uncovering the underground network, military spokesmen have expressed surprise at the length, depth and quality of the tunnels. Some sections of the network are large enough to drive a truck through.

Elsewhere, the military has discovered underground chambers in which, they say, some of the 240 hostages taken to Gaza after the Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7 have been held.

Senior Israeli defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, estimated this month that the underground network is between 350 and 450 miles — extraordinary figures for a territory that at its longest point is only 25 miles. Two of the officials said there are close to 5,700 separate shafts leading down to the tunnels.

In December, after reports that the military had begun experimenting with flooding some tunnels in northern Gaza, a U.N. official in Gaza warned against it.

“It will cause severe damage to the already fragile water and sewage infrastructure that’s in Gaza,” said Lynn Hastings, then the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories.

In its statement Tuesday the military said it had selected tunnels to flood after an “analysis of the soil characteristics and the water systems in the area to ensure that damage is not done to the area’s groundwater.”

The military began experimenting with flooding tunnels only after the war began, according to three military officials with knowledge of the effort, which was code-named Atlantis. The purpose was never to drown Hamas fighters taking refuge in the subterranean network, but rather to flush them out, the officials said.

On the whole, however, the project has had limited success, the officials added. Despite large volumes of water being pumped, many of the tunnels are porous, resulting in seepage into the surrounding soil rather than a deluge through the passageways.

Israeli forces kill a Hamas commander inside a West Bank hospital.

Israeli forces stormed a Palestinian hospital in the occupied West Bank early Tuesday morning, killing three militants, including a commander in Hamas, according to the Israeli military and Palestinian officials.

The top Palestinian health official in the city of Jenin, Wisam Sbeihat, said that Israeli forces had entered Ibn Sina Specialized Hospital there dressed in civilian clothes and carrying weapons. They went to the room where the Hamas commander, Mohammad Jalamneh, 27, was staying with two friends, and shot all three dead, Mr. Sbeihat said.

Surveillance video released by the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry shows multiple gunmen in apparent civilian garb — including one dressed in a white medical coat and another in blue scrubs — walking through the hospital halls, brandishing weapons. The Israeli raid took less than 15 minutes, said Niji Nazzal, the Ibn Sina hospital director.

“This is a hospital. It deserves protection from all kinds of violence,” Dr. Nazzal said. “But unfortunately,” he added, “this is what happened.”

In a statement, Hamas mourned Mr. Jalamneh as a leader in the Al-Qassam Brigades, the Palestinian faction’s armed wing. A local militia affiliated with Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed his companions — brothers Mohammad Ghazawi and Basil Ghazawi — as members.

The Israeli military said all three had been involved in militant activity, including attacks against Israelis. Mr. Jalamneh had also been planning “to carry out a terror attack in the immediate future and used the hospital as a hiding place,” the military said.

Basil Ghazawi was paralyzed and had been treated in the hospital’s rehabilitation ward since late October, Dr. Nazzal said. The Israeli military said that he and Mohammed Ghazawi “hid inside the hospital.”

Basil Ghazawi was wounded in his spinal column by shrapnel from an Israeli drone strike on Oct. 25, Dr. Nazzal said. That could not be independently confirmed, but the Israeli military said at the time that a drone had fired on Palestinian gunmen who had hurled explosive devices and fired on Israeli soldiers in Jenin. It did not name Mr. Ghazawi.

Surging violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where millions of Palestinians live under Israeli military rule, has prompted fears of another front in the Middle East crisis spiraling out of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza. Since the war in Gaza began, at least 367 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and civilians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest toll in years, the United Nations said on Monday.

Israel has escalated its attempts to crack down on Palestinian militant activity in the West Bank since Hamas’s surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel prompted full-blown war. More than 2,980 Palestinians have been arrested since the beginning of the war in near-daily raids, over 1,350 of them affiliated with Hamas, according to the Israeli military.

The covert raid within the hospital in Jenin raised questions under international law, experts said. Hospitals require special protection and respect under the laws of war, although that protection ceases if the compounds are used for military purposes, according to Eliav Lieblich, an expert on international law at Tel Aviv University.

If Mr. Ghazawi was indeed paralyzed and incapable of defending himself, he should not have been subject to attack under customary international law, Professor Lieblich added. “Whether this was the case here is a question of fact,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement of concern. “Under international humanitarian law, hospitals and medical patients should be respected and protected at all times,” the statement said, noting that the I.C.R.C. would “address this as part of its confidential dialogue with the concerned authorities.”

Israeli forces opened fire on the grounds of another hospital in Gaza, aid group says.

Israeli forces stormed the grounds of another hospital in Gaza after bombing the area around it for nine consecutive days, the Palestine Red Crescent Society said on Tuesday.

The besieged facility, the Al-Amal Hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, is run by the Red Crescent and located inside a compound that is home to the local headquarters of the aid group and to one of its ambulance centers.

Thousands of displaced people were sheltering at the compound when Israeli forces moved tanks into the hospital’s front yard, fired live ammunition and smoke grenades and ordered people to leave the premises, the Red Crescent said. Earlier in the day, the organization said at least one displaced person had been killed and nine others injured by heavy shelling and gunfire around the compound.

In a statement, the Israeli military denied that it had operated “inside” the Al-Amal Hospital on Tuesday or called for its evacuation but did not answer specific questions about actions in and around the broader hospital compound.

The Israeli military has accused Hamas of operating command and control centers inside hospitals in Gaza and has raided health care facilities up and down the strip. Those include Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Al-Awda Hospital in Jabaliya, Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia and Al-Khair Hospital near Khan Younis. Hamas, Palestinian officials and hospital workers have denied Israel’s claims.

The Israeli military made similar accusations last week about Hamas militants operating from within the Al-Amal Hospital. The Red Crescent firmly denied the allegation, saying in a statement that Israel’s “siege and its consequences are a blatant violation of international agreements” to protect medical and humanitarian missions.

Those consequences have been particularly dire for some 7,000 displaced people who have been forced to take shelter around the hospital, the aid group said.

On Monday alone, the Red Crescent reported that the hospital’s surgical ward had ceased operations because of a lack of oxygen supplies, that two displaced people were killed while trying to retrieve the body of a third and that emergency teams were having trouble reaching the wounded because of gunfire.

Late Tuesday evening, the aid group announced that a baby girl at the hospital had died because of the lack of oxygen supplies. “Occupation vehicles have retreated from the vicinity of Al-Amal Hospital,” the Red Crescent added in a separate statement, “while shelling and gunfire continue in the hospital’s surroundings.”

As fighting rages in Gaza City, some residents are forced to move — again.

Several weeks after Israel partly withdrew from the northern Gaza Strip, intense clashes have broken out between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants, sending weary residents on treacherous journeys in search of safety.

On Sunday evening, deafening booms ripped through Gaza City, the enclave’s most populous city before the war, and powerful explosions lit up the night sky, residents said. The fighting came after a period of relative quiet for some residents of the north.

“The situation was calm, but then there was violent bombing, shelling, and clashes,” Ghada Ikrayyem, 23, a solar panel technician, said in an interview. “It was extremely dangerous.”

Ms. Ikrayyem had been living with her parents and nine siblings on the grounds of a gutted tailor shop in Gaza City, sleeping without pillows or blankets for most of the past month.

Hamas fighters have tried to re-establish themselves in recent weeks in parts of northern Gaza captured by Israel, according an Israeli security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. The Israeli army has sought to prevent Hamas from regrouping, and clashes have ensued, the official said.

The fighting indicates that even though the Israeli military said it has dismantled Hamas’s command structure in the north, the group has continued to pose a challenge for Israel.

On Monday morning, an Israeli drone flew over Gaza City and called on residents to relocate. Ms. Ikrayyem and her family gathered their belongings and joined a procession of people flowing south. At first they had no destination, but then a family friend across town agreed to take them in, even though the friend was already hosting 40 people.

“We’re exhausted,” Ms. Ikrayyem said. “We’ve just been going from place to place. It doesn’t stop.”

Since the start of the war, nearly two million people in Gaza have been displaced, many of them multiple times. The constant relocation has been particularly hard on large families, who have struggled to find space in crowded shelters or in the homes of friends and relatives.

Even the quieter days before the latest round of fighting were tiring, Ms. Ikrayyem said. She described walking long distances to collect drinking water, cooking food on a makeshift stove and waiting in line for an hour to use a restroom.

“The simplest things have become real challenges,” she said.

Ms. Ikrayyem said some foods were available but skyrocketing prices had made them difficult to afford. Her family, she said, was subsisting mainly on rice, but they had recently tried bread made from flour mixed with animal feed — a practice that has surfaced in recent weeks in the north.

Food shortages in northern Gaza have been particularly severe, with insufficient aid trucks reaching Gaza City and the surrounding towns, according to U.N. officials.

When the war ends, Ms. Ikrayyem and her family are hoping to leave Gaza because life there has become unbearable, she said.

“There’s barely anything left here,” she said. “It will take so many years to rebuild what was lost — the schools, the universities, the institutions, the homes.”

Britain’s foreign secretary signals willingness to recognize a Palestinian state sooner.

David Cameron, Britain’s foreign secretary, has signaled that Britain is willing to move up conversations about formally recognizing a Palestinian state, saying that his country and other allies should show Palestinians “irreversible progress” toward that long-sought goal.

Mr. Cameron, speaking to the Conservative Middle East Council, an organization that promotes discussion about the region among the Conservative Party, said on Monday that showing progress toward a two-state solution was essential to negotiating peace, and called Israel’s security policies of the last three decades “a failure.”

The British government has long held the position that it would only recognize a Palestinian state at the “right time” in the peace process with Israel, and Mr. Cameron’s comments, in London, suggested that Britain may be aiming to do that sooner.

A top priority “is to give the Palestinian people a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution and crucially the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Mr. Cameron said, according to the BBC, which reported his remarks.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the prime minister said that Mr. Cameron’s comments were not a departure from the government’s longstanding position about a Palestinian state.

“Our position has not changed on recognition of a Palestinian state: We would do so at a time that best serves the cause of peace,” the spokesman said. “The U.K. for its part, and I think along with its allies, continues to believe that a two-state solution protects the peace and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The United States, Britain and other allies have been pushing for Israel to agree to conditions for the creation of a Palestinian state, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has remained defiant, calling such a plan “an existential danger to Israel.”

Mr. Cameron, who tried to put pressure on Mr. Netanyahu at a meeting in Israel last week, had tough words for Israel in his comments on Monday, saying that it was important to recognize the mistakes of recent years in order to find a path forward.

“If the last 30 years tell us anything, it is a story of failure,” he said. “Ultimately it is a story of failure for Israel because, yes, they had a growing economy; yes, they had rising living standards; yes, they invested in defense and security and walls and the rest of it; but they couldn’t provide what a state most wants, what every family wants, which is security.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed Mr. Cameron’s comments, calling international support for an eventual Palestinian state “a necessary strategic step to resolve the conflict and achieve security and stability in the Middle East and the world.”

The comments came hours before Mr. Cameron traveled to Oman on Tuesday for the first leg of his fourth visit to the Middle East since taking up the role of foreign secretary late last year. His trip will again focus on de-escalation of hostilities in the region, the Foreign Office said in a statement, with a focus on halting the ongoing attacks by the Houthi militia in the Red Sea.

Mr. Cameron also plans to push for an immediate pause to the fighting in Gaza to allow much-needed humanitarian aid into the enclave and for the release of hostages.

The British Foreign Office also said it had been “alarmed” by a conference that some Israeli ministers joined over the weekend that called for Jewish settlements to be built in Gaza.

“The U.K.’s position is clear: Gaza is occupied Palestinian territory and will be part of the future Palestinian state,” the Foreign Office said. “Settlements are illegal. No Palestinian should be threatened with forcible displacement or relocation.”

Stephen Castle, Myra Noveck and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting.

Aid groups call halts in funding for UNRWA ‘reckless.’

Aid groups working in Gaza expressed dismay at the decision by some donor nations to suspend funding to the main U.N. agency operating in the territory, calling the move “reckless” at a moment when the humanitarian crisis there is rapidly getting worse.

The United States and at least eight other countries said in recent days that they were halting funding for the agency, known by the acronym UNRWA, after Israel presented allegations that a dozen of its employees had played a role in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack or its aftermath. The attacks left at least 1,200 people dead and about 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli estimates.

Donations from three of the countries that paused funding — the United States, Germany and Japan — made up nearly half of all contributions to the agency in 2022, according to UNRWA.

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, is expected to meet with major donor nations on Tuesday in New York to urge them to keep the agency afloat, according to his spokesman. UNRWA’s leaders have warned that it does not have a financial reserve and could run out of money to pay its staff within weeks if donors withhold funding.

The European Union, the third-largest donor to UNRWA after the United States and Germany, said on Monday that it was not suspending funding, but that it would make decisions about future donations based on the outcome of a U.N. investigation into Israel’s allegations. The U.N. internal oversight office, the body’s highest investigative authority, is looking into the allegations about the 12 UNRWA staff members, but no timeline for the investigation has been publicly announced.

Twenty aid organizations, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam and Save the Children, said in a joint statement on Monday that UNRWA’s role in Gaza as the largest humanitarian agency was irreplaceable, and that the suspension in funding could result in a “complete collapse” of the aid response there.

“The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel’s continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza,” the groups said.

Doctors Without Borders, which has physicians and staff working in Gaza’s besieged hospitals, said in its own statement that the funding suspensions would lead to more death and suffering.

“Humanitarian organizations are already grappling to meet even a fraction of the urgent needs in Gaza,” the group said. “Much more aid is required to meet those needs, not less.”

Asked Monday under what circumstances the United States would restore funding to UNRWA, Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, said the Biden administration would look at the steps the agency takes to thoroughly investigate the allegations, ensure accountability and put preventative measures in place.

While the United States has not independently investigated the allegations, Mr. Blinken said they were “highly, highly credible.”

Israel has presented evidence that one UNRWA worker kidnapped a woman during the Oct. 7 attack and that another took part in a massacre at a kibbutz. The agency has fired nine of the people accused; two of them are dead, according to the agency.

Israel has also alleged that roughly 10 percent of the agency’s 13,000 employees in Gaza are Hamas members. Juliette Touma, UNRWA’s director of communications, said in an interview on Tuesday that Israel had not presented that allegation, or any supporting information, to the agency.

“UNRWA is not in possession of either the names or any other information about this figure,” Ms. Touma said, adding: “We learned about it from the media.”

Michael Crowley and Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting.

Israel recruits Indian workers to fill its labor needs amid the war.

Thousands of people in India are applying to work in Israel, whose need for labor has grown since the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7. Much of Israel’s foreign work force has left, work permits issued by Israel to Gazans have been annulled and many West Bank residents have been denied entry.

In India, which suffers from high unemployment and inflation in food and fuel prices, crowds of job seekers have been filling recruitment centers in northern states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, where Israel says it is recruiting for around 10,000 positions.

Israeli officials have said the recruitment in India is not intended to fill the gap left by Palestinian workers, but to meet an expanded quota for Indian workers under an agreement signed by the two countries last May. Among the main needs: workers with experience in plastering, steel fixing and ceramic tiling.

Ukraine’s Latest Challenge: Festering Tension Among Top Leaders

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As Ukraine fights against a fierce Russian offensive and its leaders wait to see whether their Western allies will approve more than $100 billion in much-needed assistance, the government in Kyiv is dealing with a festering distraction: tumult in its top ranks centered on the fate of the top military commander.

Speculation raged this week in political and military circles, the news media and online that President Volodymyr Zelensky had fired the commander, Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, with rumors becoming so widespread that the president’s office was forced to issue a public denial.

“There was no dismissal,” the president’s spokesman, Serhiy Nikiforov, told the Ukrainian media on Monday.

The curt response only fueled further speculation, and on Tuesday the capital was still consumed with whether the general would be staying or going. Neither the president’s office or the military command provided any new information.

A former senior Ukrainian official said Mr. Zelensky’s government had been planning on dismissing the general, but backed off Monday evening when the news was leaked. Now they were slowing down the process, the official said.

A Ukrainian member of Parliament who had been briefed on the plans gave a similar account, saying the two men met Monday night but no decision was made. One of the sticking points for the government was that there was no immediate replacement to take General Zaluzhny’s place, the person said.

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The War the World Can’t See

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To many people outside Gaza, the war flashes by as a doomscroll of headlines and casualty tolls and photos of screaming children, the bloody shreds of somebody else’s anguish.

But the true scale of death and destruction is impossible to grasp, the details hazy and shrouded by internet and cellphone blackouts that obstruct communication, restrictions barring international journalists and the extreme, often life-threatening challenges of reporting as a local journalist from Gaza.

There are pinholes in the murk, apertures such as the Instagram feeds of Gaza photographers and a small number of testimonies that slip through. With every passing week, however, the light dims as those documenting the war leave, quit or die. Reporting from Gaza has come to seem pointlessly risky to some local journalists, who despair of moving the rest of the world to act.

“I survived death multiple times and put myself in danger” to document the war, Ismail al-Dahdouh, a Gaza reporter, wrote in an Instagram post this month to announce he was quitting journalism. Yet a world “that doesn’t know the meaning of humanity” had not acted to stop it.

At least 76 Palestinian journalists have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, when Hamas led an attack on Israel and Israel responded by launching an all-out war. The Committee to Protect Journalists says more journalists and media workers — including essential support staff such as translators, drivers and fixers — have been killed in the past 16 weeks than in a whole year of any other conflict since 1992.

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Zuma’s Enduring Appeal Threatens His Old Allies’ Hold on South Africa

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When the African National Congress suspended former President Jacob Zuma this week, a top party official portrayed him as a traitor to the ongoing struggle for Black prosperity in South Africa and a symbol of corruption that the organization is looking to move past.

But to Vincent Mthembu, a longtime A.N.C. activist on the local level, Mr. Zuma was the only hope for the party, which has governed South Africa for 30 years, and the country.

“He is the people’s president,” Mr. Mthembu, who owns a construction business in Johannesburg, said on Tuesday. “Whatever that he was doing was enriching Black people.”

Many countries seem to have their Donald J. Trumps these days — brash, populist leaders who, no matter how many corruption allegations or legal troubles they face, attract fiercely loyal supporters.

Mr. Zuma, 81, a former president of both the party and the republic, might well fill that role in South Africa.

Mr. Zuma provoked the A.N.C. suspension by openly campaigning for a competing political party, with critical national and provincial elections just months away. The A.N.C.’s unprecedented move to sideline him will test the enduring popularity and pull of a former freedom fighter who easily won two presidential elections but resigned under pressure six years ago.

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Tiny Political Party Shuns Amnesty Measure, in Setback for Spanish Leader

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The fragile coalition of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of Spain revealed deep and potentially paralyzing cracks on Tuesday when a tiny, hard-line Catalan separatist party he has allied with rejected a critical amnesty measure as unsatisfactory.

The party, Together for Catalonia, provided the support that allowed Mr. Sánchez to form the government last year, on the condition that he give amnesty for alleged crimes linked to the 2017 failed bid for independence. On Tuesday, the party argued that the legislative shield against prosecution for it and its leaders needed to be broader.

The rejection of the measure in Spain’s 350-seat lower house with 179 votes against and 171 in favor, was a setback for Mr. Sánchez, creating the likelihood of more weeks of arduous negotiations. It also raised the prospect that haggling over the amnesty deal — the very thing that gave birth to his second term in office — might render the government unable to pass basic legislation, including an upcoming budget.

“The problem is that this could be a zombie government,” said Pablo Simón, a political scientist at Carlos III University in Madrid, who added that since Mr. Sánchez had no incentive to call for early elections, the government could simply march along for months or years doing nothing if it didn’t untie the amnesty knot.

“This is revealing that the party support of this government is really weak,” he added.

The Together for Catalonia party, a pro-independence movement, has the ability to hold Mr. Sánchez and his government hostage over the issue because its few votes are required to pass legislation in a deeply divided, and polarized, Parliament.

The party itself is divided, making it harder to negotiate with, but it is seeking a blanket amnesty for Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president of Catalonia who led the failed secessionist movement in 2017 and who is still living in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

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French Government Vows Rapid Aid for Farmers but Blockades Persist

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal promised more aid for French agriculture on Tuesday and vowed to shield it from “unfair competition” in an attempt to appease protesting farmers, but many appeared unmoved by his efforts as they blocked major roads around Paris for a second day.

The barricades of tractors and bales of hay caused miles of traffic bottlenecks in the Paris region, but protesters have not encircled the city. Neither have they crippled the French capital itself, which has experienced only limited disruptions so far.

Still, the farmers have become a growing thorn in the French government’s side as it struggles to respond to a wide-ranging mix of demands on farming subsidies, environmental regulations and foreign competition — to name only a few.

“Our agriculture is an asset: not only because it feeds us, in the truest sense of the word, but because it is one of the foundations of our identity and traditions,” Mr. Attal said in his first major policy speech since his appointment by President Emmanuel Macron this month.

“There must be a French agricultural exception,” he added in a wide-ranging presentation of his government’s plans before France’s lower house of Parliament, an appearance scheduled before the protests spread last week.

But Mr. Attal also acknowledged that there was no one-size-fits-all answer to the crisis, even as Mr. Macron vowed on Tuesday to press the farmers’ demands at an upcoming European Union summit.

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Imran Khan Sentenced to 10 Years Ahead of Pakistan’s Elections

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Former Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday, the latest twist in what is widely seen as a campaign by the military to sideline one of its leading critics.

The sentence, delivered in a case in which Mr. Khan is accused of leaking state secrets, came about a week before Pakistan is set to head to the polls for the first national election since he was ousted in a vote of no confidence in April 2022.

Analysts have called the election among the least credible in Pakistan’s 76-year history because of the military’s widespread crackdown on Mr. Khan and his supporters.

His ouster set off a political showdown between Mr. Khan, 71, and the powerful military — long the invisible hand guiding the country’s politics — that has left Pakistan in crisis for a year and a half. Mr. Khan and his supporters have accused military leaders of orchestrating his removal — an accusation they deny.

As Mr. Khan and his backers have railed against the country’s generals, his popularity has remained high and public anger at the military has swelled. In May, hundreds of protesters attacked military installations in scenes that were once unimaginable in Pakistan.

In response, the military launched a widespread intimidation campaign aimed at weakening Mr. Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., and curbing the remarkable political comeback he has made even as he has been jailed in several legal cases and barred from contesting the national election next week.

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‘A Long Time Coming’: Northern Ireland Deal Receives Broad Welcome

Britain, Ireland and the United States on Tuesday welcomed a deal to end almost two years of political deadlock in Northern Ireland that will, for the first time, hand the territory’s top leadership role to Sinn Fein, a party that mainly represents Roman Catholic voters committed to a united Ireland.

The breakthrough came in the early hours of Tuesday morning when the Democratic Unionist Party, whose largely Protestant supporters want to remain in the United Kingdom, said it was ready to end a lengthy and crippling boycott of Northern Ireland’s political assembly.

“I believe that all the conditions are now in place for the assembly to return,” said Chris Heaton-Harris, Britain’s secretary of state for Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

Claire Cronin, the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, said she welcomed the news. “The people of Northern Ireland are best served by a power-sharing government in Stormont as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement,” she wrote on social media, adding that President Biden “has long made clear his support for a secure and prosperous Northern Ireland.”

Ireland’s foreign minister, Micheal Martin, said the imminent restoration of power-sharing was “good news” and that he looked forward to working with the assembly in the future.

The deal between the Democratic Unionist Party, or D.U.P., and the British government opens the door to a seismic change in the politics of modern day Northern Ireland, where the first minister has, up to now, always been drawn from the ranks of the D.U.P.

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German Authorities Seize $2 Billion Worth of Bitcoin

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Reporting from Berlin

A German programmer who is accused of running an illegal movie streaming site more than a decade ago transferred $2.17 billion worth of Bitcoin to the authorities to repay at least some of the money he had made illegally, the police said on Tuesday. The transfer required the man to use his unique Bitcoin credentials to hand over the funds.

“This is the most extensive seizure of Bitcoins by law enforcement in the Federal Republic of Germany to date,” said Kay Anders, a spokesman for the Saxony state police. The money will remain in the authorities’ Bitcoin account until a court can figure out what to do with it, Mr. Anders added.

The man, identified only as a 40-year-old German citizen, and his business partner are under investigation on allegations that they ran what was once the country’s most successful illegal video-sharing site.

In its heyday, from 2008 to 2013, the site, movie2k.to, had tens of thousands of movies in a host of languages available for download. Users from around the world visited the site, making it among the 25 most-visited websites in Germany, according to news reports at the time. After the authorities shut it down in 2013, several sites with similar names opened to fill the void.

In the five years that movie2k.to was active, it allowed users to illegally download nearly 880,000 copies of films, the authorities said.

The police said the programmer had taken the profits from the site and invested it in Bitcoin, which soared to a value of more than 40,000 euros per coin.

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If It Isn’t Perfect, Is It Still K-Pop?

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What comes to mind when you hear the word “K-pop”? Is it the global boy band phenomenon BTS, wearing studded jackets and dancing in perfect sync? Or the girl group Blackpink, performing at Coachella in trendy fashions and perfectly curled hair?

How about an “independent music collective” of casually dressed people, crowded around a mixing board in a one-room studio, across the street from a Seoul restaurant specializing in fried chicken?

“Give me some more bass,” said Omega Sapien, a vocalist with electric-green hair and grills, swaying his hips and grunting to the beat. The studio was cluttered with art, vinyl records, dumbbells and other odds and ends. Another singer lay prone nearby, nursing a bad hangover.

For Balming Tiger, this is daily life as an alternative K-pop band. Their music, a fusion of diverse genres from electro to hip-hop, is funky and edgy. Their look, unkempt and grungy, is far from the professional styling of the groups that most of the world associates with K-pop.

But they claim that label, too. K-pop is any music that comes out of South Korea, according to Omega Sapien. “Everything in that realm is K-pop,” he said.

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Arms Dealer Linked to Myanmar Junta Acquitted in Thai Money Laundering Case

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A wealthy Myanmar arms broker with close ties to the leader of Myanmar’s brutal military regime was acquitted on Tuesday by a Bangkok court on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, raising fears that he will be free to resume his activities aiding the junta.

U Tun Min Latt, who was placed under sanctions by the United States last year for supplying the Myanmar regime with weapons, had spent 16 months in a Thai jail awaiting trial. The case is the first known instance of a close associate of Myanmar’s army commander, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, being arrested abroad and put on trial since the military seized power in a coup three years ago.

The Thai authorities had accused Mr. Tun Min Latt and three associates of engaging in a scheme to launder drug money by using it to buy electricity in Thailand and sending it across the border to Myanmar. But the Thai criminal court found that the record of bank transactions presented by prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence to prove the charges.

With the ruling, about two dozen family members and supporters of the accused burst into applause in the courtroom. Some wept tears of joy.

But Phil Robertson, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch in Asia, expressed disappointment.

“It’s hard to believe that a Burmese tycoon that many have referred to as being junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s bagman got off,” he said. “The only people happy with this outcome are the junta generals who are increasingly desperate to find resources and, quite clearly, Tun Min Latt has proved very helpful in that regard in the past.”

In recent months, an armed resistance made up of pro-democracy forces and ethnic rebel groups has reported gaining ground against the military, saying it has seized hundreds of military outposts and dozens of towns in Myanmar’s border regions.

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Hong Kong Pushes New Security Law to Root Out ‘Seeds of Unrest’

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The Hong Kong government will enact a long-shelved security law to curb foreign influence and expand the definition of offenses like stealing state secrets and treason, officials announced on Tuesday, in a move expected to further silence dissent in the once-freewheeling Chinese territory.

The proposed law would lay out five major areas of offenses: treason, insurrection, theft of state secrets, sabotage and external interference. Some of the definitions would echo mainland Chinese treatments of those offenses.

“Foreign intelligence organizations, the C.I.A. and British intelligence agencies have publicly stated that they are doing a lot of work against China and Hong Kong,” the city’s leader, John Lee, said at a news conference announcing the push. Internally, the city is also still facing “the seed of unrest,” he continued.

The law, he said, “is to protect us from attacks by foreign forces and by foreign countries.”

The proposal, known as Article 23 legislation, has long been a major political flashpoint in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was promised certain freedoms when it returned to Chinese control in 1997. The government first tried to enact it in 2003, but backed down after major protests by residents who worried that it would limit civil liberties. Since then, successive leaders put off attempts to revive the legislation, which is required by Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, wary of triggering further backlash.

But in 2020, the central Chinese government imposed a sweeping national security law of its own on Hong Kong, after months of fierce street protests against Beijing’s growing influence in the city. In the past three years, the authorities have used that law to virtually wipe out the city’s political opposition, reshape its elections and severely limit the media and free expression.

Hong Kong officials say the new law will complement Beijing’s law and weed out what Mr. Lee said were hostile forces “still lurking in our society.” Critics say it will ensure a further decimation of human rights.

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Legal Fight

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International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

The decision to allow Russia to earn a medal despite the presence of an athlete convicted of doping raised yet more questions about Russia’s influence over top sports bodies. It also highlighted the inability of global sports to enforce rules on doping and to punish athletes and countries in a timely manner.

Critics have for years accused the I.O.C. of taking a soft approach on Russia by issuing tough-sounding sanctions that still allowed Russian athletes and teams to take part in competitions like the Olympics. Others noted that Russia’s antidoping agency was itself banned when it conducted the initial investigation into Valieva’s positive test.

“It’s unimaginable that a young woman, Valieva, is thrown under the bus with a four-year sanction, but Russia is allowed to keep Olympic glory with the bronze,” Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said. “It reeks of political favoritism, and there is lots of explaining to do, as athletes deserve answers.”

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Northern Ireland’s D.U.P. Signals End to Political Deadlock After 2 Years

The Democratic Unionist Party, the main Protestant party in Northern Ireland and one of its biggest political forces, said on Tuesday that it was ready to return to power sharing after a boycott of almost two years had paralyzed decision-making in the region.

After an internal meeting that stretched into the early morning, Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the party, known as the D.U.P., said at a news conference that he had been mandated to support a new deal, negotiated with the British government, under which his party would return to Northern Ireland’s governing assembly.

“Over the coming period we will work alongside others to build a thriving Northern Ireland firmly within the union for this and succeeding generations,” Mr. Donaldson said. He added, however, that the return to power sharing was conditional on the British government’s legislating to enshrine a new set of measures that had not yet been made public.

The decision by the D.U.P., which represents those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, will be welcomed by many voters frustrated by the political stalemate, as well as by the British and Irish governments, which have both put pressure on the party to end the deadlock.

But it could also herald a seismic shift in the territory’s history, opening the door for Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party, to hold for the first time the most senior political role of “first minister” rather than “deputy first minister.”

Sinn Fein is committed to the idea of a united Ireland, in which Northern Ireland would join the Republic of Ireland, rather than remain part of the United Kingdom.

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For New Moms in Seoul, 3 Weeks of Pampering and Sleep at a Joriwon

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Four mothers sat quietly in the nursing room around midnight, breastfeeding their newborn babies. As one mother nodded off, her eyelids heavy after giving birth less than two weeks earlier, a nurse came in and whisked her baby away. The exhausted new mom returned to her private room to sleep.

Sleep is just one of the luxuries provided by South Korea’s postpartum care centers.

The country may have the world’s lowest birthrate, but it is also home to perhaps some of its best postpartum care. At centers like St. Park, a small, boutique postpartum center, or joriwon, in Seoul, new moms are pampered for a few weeks after giving birth and treated to hotel-like accommodations.

Fresh meals are delivered three times a day, and there are facials, massages and child-care classes. Nurses watch over the babies around the clock.

New moms are summoned from their rooms only when it is time to breastfeed in the communal nursing room, where they are watched by the nurses. Women who choose not to breastfeed are free to spend their time focused on healing. (The babies are kept in the nursery throughout the day, though mothers can request their newborns be sent to their rooms at any time.)

Staying at a joriwon can cost from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the length of stay, which is often 21 days, the amount of time it takes for a woman’s body to heal after childbirth, according to Korean custom. But the centers weren’t always so luxurious, said Soohyun Sarah Kim, 46, the owner of St. Park.

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London’s Highline Will Echo Its New York Inspiration, With Local Notes

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The derelict rail bridge stretches across a busy north London street, green foliage peeking out of the gaps between the beams overhead, where bright blue paint flakes from rusting steel.

Farther east, the railway’s grand Victorian-era arches span a small slice of park wedged between two streets, where tents belonging to homeless people, a discarded mattress and broken bottles are scattered about.

While the elevated train line and some of the areas it cuts through may look neglected now, if all goes according to plan, it will become the site of the Camden Highline, a planned public park that aims to turn this disused stretch of the city into a thriving green space.

“They’re all unloved bits of Camden,” said Simon Pitkeathley, the chief executive of Camden Town Unlimited, the business improvement district behind the initiative, of the areas that will one day provide the ground-level entrances to the Highline.

Strolling along the route of the planned park, which will sit some 25 feet above the streets, allows for a different view of London. Up here, the air feels fresher and the bustle below fades away as the view stretches over a patch of north London peppered with homes and office buildings.


Map locates the proposed Camden Highline in Camden Town in north central London. It also locates the town of King’s Cross, east of Camden Town.

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An Italian Town Full of the Elderly Wants to Feel Young Again

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As the traveling brass band ended San Giovanni Lipioni’s annual holiday concert with a rendition of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” the gray-haired villagers seated in the old church of the central Italian hill town gazed dotingly at the few young children clapping to the music.

“Today there is a little movement,” Cesarina Falasco, 73, said from the back pew. “It’s lovely. It’s different.”

San Giovanni Lipioni used to be known — if at all — for the discovery in its countryside of a third-century B.C. Samnite bronze head, a rare Waldensian Evangelical community and an ancient annual pageant with pagan roots that venerates a circular cane garlanded in wild cyclamen flowers. (“It represents the female genital organ,” said a tourism official, Mattia Rossi.)

But decades of emigration have shrunk the population to 137 full-time residents, and in 2023, San Giovanni Lipioni became the town with the oldest average population in Italy, a country with one of the oldest average populations in the world. While that national designation has prompted existential angst — heightened by warnings from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (the country was “destined to disappear” unless it got busy) and Pope Francis (“the future of the nation is at stake”) — the town has embraced its creaky distinction as a lifeline.


Map locates the the town of San Giovanni Lipioni in the Abruzzo region of Italy, as well as the town of San Salvo, also in Abruzzo. It also locates the region of Molise, south of Abruzzo, and the cities of Bologna, and Ribordone in northern Italy.

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New Utopian Enclave? Or a Testament to Inequality?

Simon Romero and

Reporting from Guatemala City

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Try going for a stroll in much of Guatemala City: It is a pedestrian’s nightmare.

Motorcycles speed down crowded sidewalks. Rifle-grasping guards squint at each passerby, sizing up potential assailants. Smoke-belching buses barrel through stop signs.

But tucked within the chaotic capital’s crazy-quilt sprawl, there is a dreamlike haven where none of that exists.

In the City of Cayalá, a utopian domain created by one of Guatemala’s richest families, the streets are quiet and orderly, the stores are upscale and the homes attainable — if only to families from the country’s small, moneyed elite, or foreigners, like the American diplomats stationed at the huge newly built United States embassy nearby.

Evoking the feel of a serene Mediterranean town, Cayalá features milky white buildings with red-tile roofs, a colossal civic hall with Tuscan columns, cafes and high-priced restaurants, colonnade-lined plazas and walkable, stone-paved boulevards. All of this is open to the public — except for the gated sections where about 2,000 families live.

“In 20 years, Cayalá will be just like La Rambla,” said Andrés García Manzo, a restaurateur who lives in one of Cayalá’s secluded villas, drawing a comparison to Barcelona’s legendary pedestrian-friendly promenade. “You can walk everywhere here in peace.”

But critics say it is largely a playground for the well-off, hard to reach by public transit, environmentally devastating and has attracted significant investment even as other parts of crime-ridden Guatemala City fall into decay.

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‘Frozen Garlic!’ Taiwan Likes Its Democracy Loud and Proud

Chris Buckley and

Chris Buckley and Amy Chang Chien visited rallies in several cities and counties in Taiwan and interviewed dozens of voters, politicians and performers. It was fun.

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Huang Chen-yu strode onto an outdoor stage in a southern Taiwanese county, whooping and hollering as she roused the crowd of 20,000 into a joyous frenzy — to welcome a succession of politicians in matching jackets.

Taiwan is in the final days of its presidential election contest, and the big campaign rallies, with M.C.s like Ms. Huang, are boisterous, flashy spectacles — as if a variety show and a disco crashed into a candidate’s town hall meeting.

At the high point of the rally, the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, was introduced to the crowd in Chiayi, a county in southern Taiwan. Ms. Huang roared in Taiwanese, “Frozen garlic!”

The phrase “dongsuan” sounds like “get elected” and, yes, also like “frozen garlic.” Ms. Huang and another M.C. led the crowd of supporters, now on their feet, in a rapid-fire, call-and-response chant: “Lai Ching-te! Frozen garlic! Lai Ching-te! Frozen garlic!” Then they sped up: “Lai Ching-te! Lai Ching-te! Lai Ching-te! Frozen garlic! Frozen garlic! Frozen garlic!”

For Ms. Huang, the event, days before Taiwan’s election on Saturday, was one of at least 15 rallies she would have led by the end of this campaign season.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

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When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

The country, he said “is one of the places that has welcomed me most and been the most supportive of my music.” And so especially after the Russian invasion two years ago, he added, “I wanted to come now, to show my support in these hard times.”

Mr. Ramic, born in Bosnia, is a child of war himself. At 11, he lost his father in the shelling of his hometown, Mostar, and spent years as a refugee, moving from country to country with his mother as she struggled to find a way to survive.

They lived in Zagreb, Croatia; Tunis; and Prague, before moving to the United States, first to Arizona, and eventually Boston. There, he finished his education and began a career as a musician, forming an electronic band, Arms and Sleepers, with a college friend, Max Lewis.

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A Woman Who Shows Age Is No Barrier to Talk Show Stardom

Pushing a walker through a television studio in central Tokyo earlier this week, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi slowly climbed three steps onto a sound stage with the help of an assistant who settled her into a creamy beige Empire armchair.

A stylist removed the custom-made sturdy boots on her feet and slipped on a pair of high-heeled mules. A makeup artist brushed her cheeks and touched up her blazing red lipstick. A hairdresser tamed a few stray wisps from her trademark onion-shaped hairstyle as another assistant ran a lint roller over her embroidered black jacket. With that, Ms. Kuroyanagi, 90, was ready to record the 12,193rd episode of her show.

As one of Japan’s best-known entertainers for seven decades, Ms. Kuroyanagi has interviewed guests on her talk show, “Tetsuko’s Room,” since 1976, earning a Guinness World Record last fall for most episodes hosted by the same presenter. Generations of Japanese celebrities across film, television, music, theater and sports have visited Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch, along with American stars like Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga; Prince Philip of England; and Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union. Ms. Kuroyanagi said Gorbachev remains one of her all-time favorite guests.

Ms. Kuroyanagi, who jokes that she wants to keep going until she turns 100, is known for her rapid-fire chatter and knack for drawing out guests on topics like dating, divorce and, now, increasingly, death. Even as she works to woo a younger generation — the Korean-Canadian actor and singer Ahn Hyo-seop, 28, appeared on the show this month — many of her guests these days speak about the ailments of aging and the demise of their industry peers.

Having survived World War II, she broke out as an early actor on Japanese television and then carved out a niche as a feel-good interviewer with a distinctive style that is still instantly recognized almost everywhere in Japan. By fashioning herself into a character, rather than simply being the person who interviewed the characters, she helped establish a genre of Japanese performers known as “tarento” — a Japanized version of the English word “talent” — who are ubiquitous on television today.

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They Thought They Knew Death, but That Didn’t Prepare Them for Oct. 7

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At 76, David Weissenstern has collected the remains of the dead for most of his adult life. But after the Oct. 7 attacks, in which Hamas-led fighters killed about 1,200 people along Israel’s border with Gaza, he can no longer stand the smell of grilled meat. The odor, he says, reminds him too much of burned human flesh.

His son Duby Weissenstern, 48, has lost track of time after working successive days and nights to recover those killed on Oct. 7. He now marks time in relation to that date.

And his son-in-law Israel Ganot, 32, now gags at the smell of food that has turned rotten. He was in the second wave of recovery workers who reached bodies that had been trapped under rubble for weeks.

All three men are part of ZAKA, an Israeli nonprofit founded in 1995 whose name is the Hebrew acronym for Disaster Victim Identification. Its black-and-yellow vests have become synonymous with bus bombings and shootings in Israel, and its members are often first and last on the scene, rushing to collect every drop of blood and bone fragment for burial, sometimes even before the police arrive.

Made up of more than 3,000 volunteers, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, the group says it is driven by a holy mission to give families closure after the violent death of loved ones.

But there is little closure for the volunteers.

The work, they say, can be psychologically taxing, with many not even beginning to cope with the trauma of Oct. 7. And they are frequently called upon to recount what they saw by Israeli government officials and journalists, which can re-traumatize them, psychologists say.

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The Year in People: Our 12 Favorite Saturday Profiles of 2023

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A teenager jailed in Egypt, determined to bear witness to the abuses he suffered during years of detention. A proponent of peace in Colombia, shadowed by death threats. A father in India, fighting his own patriarchal impulses to give his two daughters a better life.

With reports from six continents and 34 countries, the Saturday Profile in 2023 revealed people making a difference, mostly under the radar. Every week, our correspondents often sought out not the famous nor the powerful, but the unheralded with stories worth hearing.

A Muslim cleric in Ukraine, now a medic on the front lines of the war. An anticorruption whistle-blower in Bangkok, with (he’d be the first to admit) a disreputable past. A scientist and hair salon owner in Paris, dedicated to styling curly hair.

Some of our subjects spoke to top news trends, like Africa’s first heat officer; an ex-fisherman devoted to persuading fellow Senegalese not to migrate to Europe; and a rap producer in France, who lost his voice to A.L.S. and was experimenting with artificial intelligence to replace it.

All our subjects, from a teenage rapper in Chile to an 87-year-old climate scientist in Canada staring the “death zone” in the face, are leading lives of purpose. And whatever their passions — from protesting to sewage to lakes to batik to contemporary dance to legal marijuana — all our subjects are memorable characters.

Here are our 12 favorite Saturday Profiles of the year.

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For Archbishop of Canterbury, Heading Anglican Church Is ‘High-Wire Act’

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When the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, welcomed friends to sing Christmas carols at his London residence last week, his remarks ran, as they often do, to his coronation of King Charles III in May.

The vaulted chamber in which his guests were gathered, he told them, had been used to rehearse the ceremony twice a week over four months. Members of his staff were assigned to play Charles and other royals in a rotating cast. “I always played the archbishop,” he said dryly.

Then he ran through the script a few times with the actual king. “We practiced putting it on and screwing it down,” Archbishop Welby said later of the 17th-century St. Edward’s Crown. “It’s a wobbly old thing.”

But on coronation day, before a hushed assembly of 2,300 and a worldwide television audience of hundreds of millions, the archbishop made one conspicuous error: He bent down after placing the crown to inspect whether it was sitting level on the sovereign’s head, an unscripted move that made him look vaguely like a carpenter inspecting his work. “I got it right,” he recalled. “I just didn’t trust myself.”

Such matter-of-factness is typical of Justin Portal Welby, a trim, affable 67-year-old clergyman who wears the trappings of his weighty post — the archbishop of Canterbury also serves as the Primate of All England and spiritual leader of 85 million Anglicans worldwide — with an almost gossamer lightness. The Church of England’s looser formality means he is known as Mr. Welby, but his aides simply call him Justin.

It’s not that the archbishop isn’t high-minded. He reached for his iPad to share a quote from the midcentury American theologian and lawyer, William Stringfellow, about the “moral power of death” triumphing over earthly empires (translation: “don’t kid yourself,” Mr. Welby said). But he also cheerfully noted that he drives a seven-year-old Volkswagen Golf and confessed to getting a speeding ticket.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

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Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

Emboldened by the vacated convictions, they are asking that their records be wiped clean and their money returned.

Their hopes are linked to the September cases, in which the two defendants benefited from two recent Supreme Court rulings that had rejected federal prosecutors’ application of the law at play in the soccer cases and offered rare guidance on what is known as honest services fraud. The defendants in the soccer trial had been found to have engaged in bribery that deprived organizations outside the U.S. of their employees’ honest services, which constituted fraud at the time. But the judge ruled that the court’s new guidance meant that those actions were no longer prohibited under American law.

That blow to the case, which federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are contesting, could turn the story of world soccer’s deep-seated corruption — detailed in a 236-page indictment, and proved through 31 guilty pleas and four trial convictions — into one equally about the long arm of American justice reaching too far.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

Depardieu, 75, has denied any wrongdoing, and he has not been convicted in connection with any of the accusations against him.

On Monday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said that Darras’s suit was dropped in late December because the statute of limitations had run out on the alleged assault, an outcome that was widely expected — including by the actress herself. She told Agence France-Presse in December that she still “wanted to respond to the defense that plays down our allegations by saying they’re ‘just’ witness accounts.”

In France, adult victims of sexual assault have six years after an alleged crime to file a lawsuit.

Another lawsuit, filed in Spain by Ruth Baza, a Spanish journalist who has accused Depardieu of kissing and groping her without her consent when she was in Paris in 1995, could face a similar fate.

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

Unless she is willing to suppress her testosterone levels through medication — which she is not — or she prevails in an appeal she has filed challenging the new regulations, she and other intersex athletes will be barred from competing in all running, jumping and throwing events under the increasingly restrictive and contentious rules that govern women’s track and field.

The legality of those rules has been disputed as they have evolved, and as sports governing bodies attempt to balance fair play in women’s sports with the complicated issues of biological sex and gender identity. But the application of the regulations continues to cause confusion for those affected: rule changes sometimes made with little or no warning; careers forcibly switched abruptly or ended at their peak; and embarrassment, humiliation and fears about personal safety.

“They are destroying our talent, and our dignity,” Ms. Imali said in a recent video interview about her appeal. She said she should not be punished for the way she was born because she had done nothing wrong.

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Luis Rubiales, Ex-Chief of Spanish Soccer, to Face Trial Over World Cup Kiss

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Luis Rubiales, Spain’s onetime soccer chief, is due to be tried over his nonconsensual kiss of a star player during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony last summer after a judge recommended on Thursday that he face a court’s judgment in a high-profile case that has upended the sport in Spain.

The judge also recommended that Mr. Rubiales and three officials with the Royal Spanish Football Federation, soccer’s governing body in the country — including Jorge Vilda, who was fired as the women’s team coach in the wake of the incident — be tried on charges of coercion for exerting pressure on the player, Jennifer Hermoso, to show support for Mr. Rubiales in the immediate aftermath of the kiss.

The judge concluded that the kiss by Mr. Rubiales, after the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney, Australia, “was nonconsensual and was a unilateral and surprise act.” The judge also found that even if the kiss was more celebratory than sexual in nature, Mr. Rubiales’s behavior was within the bounds of the “intimacy of sexual relations” and he should be held to account.

Public prosecutors and Ms. Hermoso now have 10 days to formalize their accusations, and then a trial will take place. If found guilty of sexual assault, Mr. Rubiales would face a prison sentence of one to four years.

Mr. Vilda filed an appeal regarding the judge’s findings on Thursday. As a result, the judge is required to gather further testimony about the matter. All of the accused have three days to appeal the judge’s recommendations.

The ruling was the culmination of a pretrial inquiry, presided over by the judge, Francisco de Jorge, in which witnesses including Ms. Hermoso, officials and other players gave evidence regarding sexual assault accusations against Mr. Rubiales in a closed-door hearing that ended on Jan. 2. The judge also examined videos of the kiss from numerous angles and a video recorded on a bus after the medal ceremony, in which Ms. Hermoso initially seemed to make light of the incident.

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Italian Culture Official Investigated in Stolen Art Case

A deputy culture minister in Italy is under investigation, accused of laundering stolen goods, in particular a Baroque painting that had been reported stolen from a castle in Piedmont, Italy, a decade ago.

The deputy minister, Vittorio Sgarbi, who is an art historian and critic, as well as a media personality, has said he is innocent.

The tale of the investigation began in 2013, when, according to police documents, a painting was reported stolen from the castle, which had been a restaurant for a time. Eight years later, in 2021, Mr. Sgarbi featured a painting called “The Capture of St. Peter,” attributed to the 17th-century artist Rutilio Manetti, from his own collection, in an exhibit that he curated in Lucca, Tuscany.

This month, prosecutors in the central Italian town of Macerata confiscated “The Capture of St. Peter,” saying in a statement issued with Italy’s art theft police that they believe that the painting reported stolen from the castle in Piedmont and the painting Mr. Sgarbi exhibited are one and the same. Mr. Sgarbi, though under investigation, has not been charged with a crime.

The inquiry comes after an investigation of the reported theft of the Piedmont painting by the daily newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano and “Report,” an investigative television program on the national broadcaster RAI 3, interviewing restorers and associates of Mr. Sgarbi.

The owner of the castle told the reporters and said in a police statement that the painting went missing shortly after a man had visited the castle and offered to buy the artwork, which she had refused to sell. The man was identified in the television investigation as a former collaborator and friend of Mr. Sgarbi.

Surgen detalles sobre personal de la ONU acusado de ayudar a Hamás en un ataque

A uno se le acusa de secuestrar a una mujer. Otro habría repartido munición. Un tercero fue descrito como participante en la masacre de un kibutz en la que murieron 97 personas. Y se dice que todos eran empleados de la agencia de ayuda de Naciones Unidas que escolariza, alberga y alimenta a cientos de miles de palestinos en la Franja de Gaza.

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Las denuncias figuran en un expediente proporcionado al gobierno de Estados Unidos en el que se detallan las acusaciones de Israel contra una decena de empleados del Organismo de Obras Públicas y Socorro de las Naciones Unidas que, según afirma, desempeñaron un papel en los atentados de Hamás contra Israel del 7 de octubre o durante sus repercusiones.

La ONU dijo el viernes que había despedido a varios empleados tras ser informada de las acusaciones. Pero poco se sabía de las acusaciones hasta que el informe fue examinado el domingo por The New York Times.

Estas acusaciones son las que han llevado a ocho países, entre ellos Estados Unidos, a suspender el pago de parte de la ayuda a la UNRWA, como se conoce al organismo, mientras la guerra sume a los palestinos de Gaza en una situación desesperada. Más de 26.000 personas han muerto allí y casi dos millones han sido desplazadas, según funcionarios gazatíes y de la ONU.

Los trabajadores de la UNRWA han sido acusados de ayudar a Hamás a organizar el ataque que desencadenó la guerra en Gaza, o de prestarle ayuda en los días posteriores. Según las autoridades israelíes, ese día murieron unas 1200 personas en Israel y unas 240 fueron secuestradas y trasladadas a Gaza.

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El abrumador trabajo de verificar datos en Medio Oriente

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En las frenéticas primeras horas del 7 de octubre, entre el llanto de las sirenas y noticias de tiroteos a lo largo de la frontera sur de Israel, Achiya Schatz se apresuró con su niño pequeño y su esposa, que estaba embarazada, a resguardarse en un refugio antibombas cerca de Tel Aviv.

No se quedó mucho tiempo.

Los primeros informes del ataque de Hamás ya se estaban mezclando con rumores, inundando las redes sociales y grupos de chat privados, convirtiéndose en una masa cargada de emoción y en gran medida no verificada. Schatz, uno de los investigadores de desinformación y verificadores de datos más conocidos en Israel, se apresuró a volver a su computadora en casa, sabiendo que tenía poco tiempo para detener la propagación de las falsas afirmaciones.

De alguna manera, ya era demasiado tarde.

Desde el ataque inicial, los vigilantes de desinformación en la región han sido abrumados por narrativas infundadas, medios manipulados y teorías de conspiración. El contenido se ha difundido en enormes volúmenes a gran velocidad: fragmentos de videojuegos y reportajes antiguos haciéndose pasar por imágenes actuales, intentos de desacreditar fotos auténticas como generadas artificialmente, traducciones inexactas y acusaciones falsas distribuidas en múltiples idiomas.

En la niebla de la guerra, los rumores y las mentiras son especialmente peligrosos, pues son capaces de adoptar la apariencia de hechos y afectar decisiones. Los verificadores de datos y analistas de la desinformación están destinados a ser parte de la defensa, y ofrecer una evaluación clara de la evidencia disponible.

Sin embargo, el trabajo es difícil incluso para los profesionales experimentados, quienes enfrentaron resistencia mientras luchaban contra narrativas falsas y engañosas a través de múltiples elecciones y una pandemia. En Medio Oriente, donde los sitios web de verificación de datos y la investigación de la desinformación son relativamente recientes y a menudo están mal financiados, los desafíos se han multiplicado.

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Una inesperada amenaza a la estabilidad de Haití: un grupo ambiental armado

En Haití, debido al incremento en el número de asesinatos y secuestros, ahora hasta los policías abandonan el país.

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En vista de que no hay un presidente electo en el poder y la percepción generalizada sobre el primer ministro es que es ilegítimo, ahora se escuchan clamores que piden la destitución del gobierno por parte de un grupo inesperado: una brigada de oficiales armados cuya supuesta tarea es proteger áreas expuestas a peligros ambientales.

Esta semana, integrantes armados y uniformados de la brigada se enfrentaron a fuerzas gubernamentales en el norte de Haití, con lo que exacerbaron las tensiones en una nación de por sí volátil donde las pandillas han tomado el control de grandes sectores de la capital, Puerto Príncipe, además de sembrar el caos en áreas rurales.

El grupo ambiental, llamado Brigada para la Seguridad de Áreas Protegidas (conocido como B-SAP), enfureció cuando el primer ministro despidió a su líder. El miércoles, oficiales del grupo intentaron invadir la oficina local de aduanas y las unidades de la Policía Nacional de Haití enviadas a contener el ataque los detuvieron con gases lacrimógenos.

Algunos analistas han mostrado su preocupación porque ciertos líderes del grupo expresaron públicamente su lealtad a Guy Philippe, antiguo comandante de la policía y golpista que hace poco regresó a Haití después de cumplir una condena de seis años en una prisión federal estadounidense.

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Propuestas de alto al fuego y negociación de rehenes entre Israel y Hamás: lo que hay que saber

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El director de la CIA está preparado para dar un nuevo impulso a las negociaciones sobre la liberación de rehenes en Gaza y un alto al fuego prolongado, según funcionarios estadounidenses, quienes dijeron que el director de la agencia se reunirá con altos funcionarios israelíes, egipcios y cataríes en Europa.

Los funcionarios esperan zanjar las discrepancias entre Israel y Hamás, especialmente en dos cuestiones: la duración de cualquier pausa en los combates y el destino de los líderes de Hamás en Gaza, según funcionarios informados sobre las conversaciones.

Esta es la situación actual.

Una tregua de una semana en noviembre permitió la liberación de más de 100 de los rehenes secuestrados en el ataque de Hamás del 7 de octubre sobre Israel; 240 prisioneros palestinos fueron liberados como parte de ese acuerdo. Desde entonces, ambas partes han adoptado posiciones aparentemente inamovibles para otro acuerdo similar.

Las conversaciones han avanzado de manera errática, y el líder de la agencia israelí de inteligencia el Mosad se ha reunido con funcionarios cataríes tanto en Catar como en Europa. Muchos de los líderes políticos de Hamás residen en Catar. Egipto, que colinda con la Franja de Gaza, también ha desempeñado un papel clave.

William Burns, el director de la CIA, se reunirá con altos funcionarios israelíes, egipcios y cataríes, de acuerdo con funcionarios estadounidenses. Dijeron que la aparente disposición de Israel a acordar un cese de hostilidades más larga como parte de cualquier liberación adicional de rehenes ha creado una nueva oportunidad para las negociaciones.

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Israel sopesa liberar rehenes o destruir a Hamás

Tras más de cien días de guerra, el avance limitado de Israel para desmantelar a Hamás ha generado dudas en el alto mando militar sobre la viabilidad a corto plazo de alcanzar los principales objetivos bélicos del país: erradicar a Hamás y liberar también a los rehenes israelíes que aún permanecen en la Franja de Gaza.

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A estas alturas de la guerra, Israel ha establecido el control sobre una parte de Gaza menor de lo que había previsto en un principio en los planes de combate desde el comienzo de la invasión, que fueron revisados por The New York Times. Ese ritmo más lento de lo previsto ha llevado a algunos mandos a expresar en privado su frustración por la estrategia del gobierno civil para Gaza y los ha llevado a concluir que la libertad de los más de 100 rehenes israelíes que aún permanecen en Gaza solo puede conseguirse por medios diplomáticos y no militares.

El doble objetivo de liberar a los rehenes y destruir a Hamás es ahora mutuamente incompatible, según las entrevistas con cuatro altos mandos militares, que hablaron bajo condición de anonimato porque no se les permite hablar públicamente de sus opiniones.

También existe un conflicto entre el tiempo que Israel necesitaría para erradicar por completo a Hamás —una larga lucha en la red de túneles del grupo— y la presión, ejercida por los aliados de Israel, para acabar con la guerra con rapidez en medio de una espiral de muertes de civiles.

Los generales afirmaron además que una batalla prolongada destinada a desmantelar por completo a Hamás quizá costaría la vida de los rehenes israelíes retenidos en Gaza desde el 7 de octubre, cuando militantes de Hamás invadieron Israel, mataron a alrededor de 1200 personas y secuestraron a cerca de 240 individuos, según estimaciones israelíes.