The New York Times 2024-02-05 04:25:28

Days after devastating wildfires ripped through Chile’s Pacific Coast, ravaging entire neighborhoods and trapping people fleeing in cars, officials said on Sunday that at least 112 people had been killed and hundreds remained missing and warned that the number of dead could rise sharply.

“That number is going to go up, we know it’s going to go up significantly,” President Gabriel Boric said earlier in the day, when 64 deaths had been confirmed. He described the fires in the Valparaíso region as the worst disaster in the country since a cataclysmic earthquake in 2010 left more than 400 people dead and displaced 1.5 million.

“We’re standing before a tragedy of immense proportions,” said the president, who visited the fire zone and announced that the nation would observe two days of mourning. He said a top priority was to recover the bodies of victims.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

A bomb burned his body.

A bomb killed his children.

A bomb sent them fleeing.

A bomb paralyzed a toddler.

Portraits of Gazans

Declan Walsh and

Samar Abu Elouf, a photojournalist, spent weeks documenting five Palestinians in Gaza whose lives had been shattered by the war. Declan Walsh is an international correspondent for The New York Times.

A toddler, a 12-year-old, a mother, a photojournalist.

Their lives were ripped apart in one of the deadliest and most destructive wars of the 21st century.

Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, now in its fourth month, is often conveyed in stark numbers and historical comparisons: Some 27,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza health ministry. Nearly two million are displaced and more than 60 percent of residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed in a territory smaller than Manhattan.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Ben Hubbard and

Ben Hubbard and Safak Timur were present when four members of the Karapirli family were pulled from their collapsed apartment building in Gaziantep, Turkey. Over the past year, with the photographer Emin Ozmen, they visited the family members repeatedly and interviewed their doctors, relatives and friends to track their recovery.

Read in Turkish

Finally, 106 days after the ambulances rushed their battered bodies to the hospital, the couple were cleared to leave.

Ibrahim Karapirli hobbled back from physical therapy on crutches to protect his aching leg. His wife, Pinar, wrangled their twin toddlers, unsure how she would care for them with her one remaining arm.

The couple were still mourning their two sons who were killed when a powerful earthquake pancaked their six-story apartment building in southern Turkey before dawn last February.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

In El Salvador’s presidential contest on Sunday, there is no real competition: Nayib Bukele, the millennial president who reshaped the country with a crackdown on gangs and civil liberties, is expected to win re-election in a landslide.

Legal scholars say Mr. Bukele, 42, is violating a constitutional ban by seeking a second consecutive term, but most Salvadorans don’t seem to care.

Surveys show that voters overwhelmingly support Mr. Bukele’s candidacy and will likely cement his party’s supermajority in the legislature on Sunday, extending the leader’s unimpeded control over every lever of government for years.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Marc Santora and Tyler Hicks spent time with Ukrainian units on the front line outside Avdiivka and in and around Vuhledar to report this article.

His unit decimated by Ukrainian fire, the last surviving soldier in a Russian assault took cover in a shallow crater while Ukrainians shouted at him to surrender. As he lifted two grenades in the air, a Ukrainian drone swept in from above and exploded.

Soon, the smoke cleared, a surveillance drone overhead showed, revealing the Russian soldier’s corpse. That day’s attack, just north of the destroyed city of Avdiivka, was repelled. But the Ukrainians were under no illusions: There would be many more.

“They come in waves,” said Lt. Oleksandr Shyrshyn, 29, the deputy battalion commander in the 47th Mechanized Brigade. “And they do not stop.”

As the war enters its third year, Ukrainians find themselves outmanned and outgunned. After dominating the fighting in the first year and battling mostly to a standstill in the second, they have relinquished the momentum to Russia. Now they are digging in and fighting to hold on.

Mortar crews need to ration artillery shells. Troops are being rotated from units in the rear to join undermanned infantry units at the front, and there are shortages of critical supplies needed to repair and maintain Ukraine’s armored vehicles.

Because the Ukrainians are critically short of ammunition, for instance, they cannot afford to fire at only one or two advancing enemy soldiers, so the Russians have adapted and often move in small numbers to their most forward positions. They try to amass enough soldiers to storm a Ukrainian trench and overwhelm the defenders.

“Now, we don’t have enough equipment, enough people to go on the offensive,” Lieutenant Shyrshyn said. “So the main goal, for now, is to hold the position we have.”

Kyiv recently announced the allocation of nearly $500 million to build fortifications along its border with Russia and to create a deeper defensive line in the eastern Donbas region that can serve as fallback positions should the Russians achieve a major breakthrough.

The epicenter of the fighting remains around Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region, where the Russians have staged relentless assaults, no matter the obstacles. They spent weeks fighting for control of an industrial slag heap on the outskirts of the city, sending waves of troops up only to be cut down in horrifying fusillades. They creep through tunnels under the city streets and direct unmanned vehicles packed with explosives at Ukrainian positions.

It is all in the pursuit of another annihilated city. But their attacks in Avdiivka and elsewhere along the front serve a larger goal: to seize the advantage at a time American military support to Ukraine has ceased, and to overwhelm the Ukrainians with sheer mass.

While they are now almost exclusively engaged in defensive operations, Ukrainian soldiers interviewed along the front said that did not mean they could simply hunker down. They are seeking to inflict maximum pain on Russian forces while avoiding prolonged battles that could result in their own steep losses.

For the moment, Russian forces are achieving only marginal gains despite pouring enormous amounts of resources into their winter offensive.

Last month, journalists from The New York Times were able to watch several recent battles with commanders and drone operators around Avdiivka and another ruined city, Vuhledar — two key hot spots on the eastern front. The scope of the Russian losses was evident in the fields of ruined armor and the broken bodies of soldiers littering snow covered fields.

The Ukrainians are using mines and other obstacles to channel Russian armor into kill zones, where they can be hit with heavy guns nearly every time they mount an armored assault. They are aggressively using Western-supplied fighting vehicles and tanks as hunter-killers when Russian troops get close to the Ukrainian positions.

Since the Russians are now able to fire five times as many shells as the Ukrainians in some parts of the front, according to artillery units working on the front, the Ukrainians have had to increasingly turn to bomb-laden drones piloted remotely, known as FPVs, to try to plug the gap.

But the Ukrainian firepower is still limited. Major Serhii Bets, 30, the chief of staff of the 48th Separate Rifle Battalion of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, said that the drones were an effective tool but could not be compared with the big guns.

“A first-person drone will not disassemble the dugout, will not mow the tree line,” he said. “It does not exert such psychological pressure on the enemy. And we don’t have a lot of FPV crews”

The Russians also still dominate the skies and, after a brief pause following the downing of several Russian fighter jets, the aerial bombardments have resumed, soldiers said.

Scores of giant craters left by 1,000-pound bombs in annihilated villages testify to the destructive force that Russia continues to bring to bear.

While it is unclear how long Kyiv can sustain its defense if its Western allies do not continue to provide robust military support, Ukrainian forces continue to inflict heavy damage on Russian forces while mostly holding the line.

Since Russia began renewed offensive operations in October, it has lost 365 main battle tanks and some 700 armored vehicles, “but only achieved minor territorial gains,” the British military intelligence agency said last Monday.

More than 13,000 Russian soldiers were killed and wounded in only two months of operations aimed at capturing Avdiivka, according to a declassified American intelligence assessment released in December. That works out to about 3,000 Russian casualties for every square mile of territorial gains.

Still, the British intelligence agency warned that Russia would most likely be able to “continue this level of offensive activity for the foreseeable future.”

“If the Russians are interested in a particular section of the front, they will raze it to the ground,” said Major Bets of the rifle battalion, pointing to a screen showing live drone footage to illustrate his point.

“Since mid-December, the Russians have completely destroyed this tree line,” he said. “If you look around the tree line in a radius of 100 by 100, there is just plowed land.” But, he said, Ukrainian defenders are “digging holes to live somehow, holding on.”

Still, even small Russian gains pose risks for Ukraine. The capture of Marinka — a town near Avdiivka outside the city of Donetsk — after years of fighting has allowed the Russians to open up a new line of attack on another town, Vuhledar, from the north.

“The enemy has partially succeeded,” Major Bets said. “We will not hide it.”

They use their advantage in artillery to “disorient our guys in the trenches, and then the infantry comes,” he said. “We are fighting against the infantry calmly and holding our ground.”

It is no secret that the Kremlin’s strategy is to outlast the Ukrainians, and its forces are keenly aware of Ukrainian artillery shortages, soldiers said, repeatedly adjusting tactics to try to gain an advantage.

As cannon fire thundered above ground last week in Avdiivka, more than 150 Russians crept through a narrow pipe underground to an important Ukrainian fortified position in a recreational facility called “The Tsar’s Hut.”

They emerged behind the Ukrainians and ambushed them, according to both sides. At a campaign event on Wednesday, President Vladimir V. Putin, who is running for re-election, appeared to cite the operation as evidence of success on the battlefield, saying Russian soldiers “seized 19 houses and are holding them.”

As supplies and ammunition dwindle, Ukrainians said they would have to pay a higher price in blood to simply hold their lines.

Lt. Serhii Stetsenko, 40, a commander of an assault platoon, said that even if the Russians only manage to claw their way forward a few feet, they dig in and fortify.

They will often leave only two or three soldiers at these new forward positions. “They call them camels,” he said, using a slang term for people who do tedious work while being treated like animals.



Those soldiers can spend several days digging, while another group assembles before starting another storming operation, he said.

Sgt. Danylo, the commander of an air reconnaissance unit for the 47th who asked that his surname not be used for security reasons, said that if the defense is working well, they will break up an attack before it can get fully underway.

“Defensive operations are much more controlled,” Sergeant Danylo said during an interview at an outpost near Avdiivka. “You are setting the conditions for the ground you control.”

But in battle, things can quickly spiral out of control.

Lt. Stetsenko described one recent clash when a Russian tank managed to make it to their position.



“The tank destroys everything in its path, so you won’t even stick your head out,” he said. “They jump out of the vehicles and rush into the trenches, destroying everything in front of them. Guys who surrendered, they shot them all.”

Major Bets likened the confrontations to a boxing match. “The main thing is the ability to take a punch,” he said. “I can proudly tell the whole world that Ukraine knows how to take a punch. But this is not the last round.”

Liubov Sholudko and Anastasia Kuznietsova contributed reporting.

Enjoy unlimited access to all of The Times.

6-month Welcome Offer
original price:   $3sale price:   $0.50/week

Learn more

Biden has ordered further retaliation over the killings of U.S. soldiers, officials say.

Top U.S. national security officials said Sunday that President Biden had ordered further retaliation to the killings of three service members by Iran-backed militias, but declined to say when or how it would be carried out.

The officials’ comments followed dozens of military strikes on Friday by U.S. forces on targets in Iraq and Syria. Officials said they were still assessing the effects of those strikes, but they believed they had degraded the ability of the militias to attack U.S. forces.

“The president was clear when he ordered them and when he conducted them that that was the beginning of our response and there will be more steps to come,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Sullivan said he did not want to “telegraph our punches” by revealing details of future action. And, he added, the president was attempting to calibrate his responses to avoid a sharp escalation of the fighting in the Middle East.

John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, rejected criticism from Republican lawmakers who have accused the administration of waiting too long — nearly a week — after the three service members were killed by a drone attack at a base in Jordan, near the border with Syria.

“You want to do this in a deliberate way,” Mr. Kirby said on “Fox News Sunday.” “You want to carefully select your targets. You want to make sure that all the parameters are in place to have good effects, including factoring in the weather. I mean, these attacks were using manned aircraft. You want to make sure your pilots can get in and get out safely.”

Mr. Kirby also rejected calls from some lawmakers in both parties for the president to request specific authorization from Congress — which has the constitutional power to declare war — before continuing with military actions in the Middle East.

Mr. Kirby cited the president’s role as detailed in the Constitution.

“The president is acting consistent with his Article Two responsibilities as commander in chief,” he said. “These are self-defense actions that we’re taking to prevent and to take away capability from these groups from targeting our troops and our facilities.”

Hamas is still weighing a proposal to halt fighting, free hostages and get aid into Gaza, a broadcaster says.

Hamas officials were still evaluating the framework of a proposal to pause the fighting in the Gaza Strip and release Israeli hostages who have been in captivity for nearly four months, a broadcaster affiliated with the group said Sunday, a week after negotiators formulated the proposal.

The broadcaster, Al-Aqsa, reported that Hamas was still holding consultations on the proposal. Leaders of the group had previously signaled that substantial gaps remained between the two sides even as representatives from the United States, Egypt and Qatar sought common ground.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “the ball is in Hamas’s court.”

A deal that would release hostages, pause fighting and allow humanitarian aide to reach Gaza is of “paramount” importance, he added.

“We’re going to press for it relentlessly, as the president has done, including recently in calls with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, the two countries that are our central brokers in this effort,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7, during which Israeli officials said about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 others taken hostage, prompted a heavy military response by Israel and touched off a wider crisis in the Middle East. Israel has traded fire with members of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi militia that controls part of Yemen has fired on ships traveling to and from the Suez Canal. Other Iran-backed militants have launched attacks against U.S. bases in the region, including one recently that killed three U.S. soldiers in Jordan.

The United States has responded to the Houthi attacks with repeated strikes, including on Sunday, and to the Jordan attack with a separate series of military strikes this weekend against Iranian forces and the militias they support at seven sites in Syria and Iraq. Top U.S. national security officials said on Sunday that further retaliation against Iran-backed militias was still planned.

But Mr. Sullivan said he believed those efforts were a separate issue from the talks intended to reach a cease-fire deal that has eluded both sides since a one-week pause in November.

“We believe that the steps that we took on Friday and the steps we took against the Houthis last night are not connected to the hostage negotiations,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And we believe that now, at this point, it’s up to Hamas to come forward and respond to what is a serious proposal.”



Senators released details of a deal for aid to Israel and Ukraine, but its fate is uncertain.

Senate Republicans and Democrats on Sunday unveiled a $118.3 billion compromise bill to crack down on unlawful migration across the U.S. border with Mexico and speed critical security aid to Ukraine, but the deal faces long odds in a Congress deeply divided over both issues.

The release of the agreement, struck after more than three months of near-daily talks among senators and Biden administration officials, counted as an improbable breakthrough on a policy matter that has bedeviled presidents of both parties and defied decades of efforts at compromise on Capitol Hill. President Biden, who last month promised he would shut down the border immediately if the measure became law, implored Congress on Sunday to pass the bill and send it to his desk as soon as possible.

“If you believe, as I do, that we must secure the border now, doing nothing is not an option,” he said in a statement, adding that Republicans “have to decide. Do they want to solve the problem? Or do they want to keep playing politics with the border?”

The bill features some of the most significant border security restrictions Congress has contemplated in years. They include making it more difficult to claim asylum, vastly expanding detention capacity and effectively shutting down the border to new entrants if more than an average of 5,000 migrants per day try to cross over unlawfully in the course of a week, or more than 8,500 attempt to cross in any given day.

But Speaker Mike Johnson has already pronounced the bill “dead on arrival” in the Republican-controlled House, and Representative Steve Scalise, the majority leader, said on Sunday that it would not receive a vote in the chamber. And with former President Donald J. Trump actively campaigning against the deal, it was not clear whether the measure could even make it out of the Democratic-led Senate, where it needs bipartisan backing to move forward.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said he planned to put the package to an initial vote on Wednesday, in a critical test of its ability to survive.

“I know the overwhelming majority of senators want to get this done, and it will take bipartisan cooperation to move quickly,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement on Sunday.

Yet Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the minority leader, stopped short of ordering G.O.P. colleagues to back the bill on Sunday, even as he hailed the measure for including “direct and immediate solutions to the crisis at our southern border.”

The measure includes $20.2 billion to pay for improvements to border security, including hiring new asylum officers and border security agents, expanding the number of available detention beds and increasing screenings for fentanyl and other illicit drugs. It also includes $60.1 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones including Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.

But the bill falls short of several Republican demands, including ramping up border wall construction and limiting parole and related programs that allow migrants to live and work legally in the United States without visas while they await hearings on their immigration claims — sometimes for years.

Those omissions have alienated right-wing Republicans who insisted on far more severe measures, while the restrictions have enraged progressive Democrats.

“Hard no,” Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said on social media on Sunday, adding in a second post, “This is an open-borders bill if I’ve ever seen one.”

Some immigration proponents also blasted the bill as too restrictive.

“This border deal misses the mark,” Senator Alex Padilla, Democrat of California, said in a statement. “The deal includes a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy that will cause more chaos at the border, not less.”

That opposition could complicate the plan’s path through the closely divided Senate, where it needs bipartisan support — at least 60 votes — to move forward. And the compromises threaten to kill the agreement altogether in the G.O.P.-led House, where there is deep opposition to providing additional aid to Ukraine and many right-wing Republicans regard the immigration restrictions as insufficiently tough.

Mr. Johnson and other House Republicans have said repeatedly that they will accept a border deal only if it includes, or at least substantially mirrors, a severely restrictive bill they passed last spring. That legislation would revive a series of Trump-era policies, including a requirement that migrants who cannot fit in detention centers in the United States await their immigration court dates in Mexico.

Mr. Johnson, who has openly resisted putting the Senate deal to a vote, plans to have the House vote instead this week on a measure to send $17.6 billion in security aid to Israel alone and impeach Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, on charges that he willfully failed to secure the border.

The bipartisan Senate negotiations were spurred by an ultimatum in the fall by Republicans, who threatened to withhold their support for any bill to send Ukraine a fresh infusion of U.S. assistance unless the money was paired with severe border enforcement measures.

The Senate G.O.P. followed through on the threat in December, blocking an emergency national security spending package requested by Mr. Biden that contained tens of billions in aid to Ukraine, funding for Israel’s war effort in Gaza, humanitarian assistance for Palestinians and security measures to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Mr. Biden had included $13.6 billion for border security in his request, an early indication that he and Democrats in Congress saw the situation at the border as a potential political liability in an election year. In the weeks that followed, their willingness to negotiate with Republicans about major policy changes to clamp down on unauthorized border crossings reflected a growing sense in the party of an untenable status quo, with a record-setting influx of migrants arriving in the United States without visas.

Right-wing Republicans have rushed to capitalize on public dissatisfaction with Mr. Biden’s handling of the border, and many have argued that they should not support any immigration legislation that could allow the president or Democrats to claim credit for addressing the issue.

The president’s parole power emerged as a central sticking point in negotiations. Republicans clamored for hard caps on how many people could be let into the United States on humanitarian grounds, as well as an end to most programs allowing people fleeing war-torn and economically ravaged countries to live and work in the United States temporarily.

The bill preserves the president’s parole authority, and does not count people entering under group-based programs or unaccompanied minors toward the threshold of daily migrant encounters that would trigger a border shutdown.

The deal’s authors insist that its new restrictions would still significantly reduce border crossings. In December, the average number of Border Patrol encounters at the southwest border topped 8,000 per day, according to data compiled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“If this law were already in effect, the border would have been closed every single day this year,” Senator Kyrsten Sinema, independent of Arizona who was one of the main senators negotiating the deal, told reporters.

Encounters would have to fall to an average of 75 percent of the shutdown thresholds for a week before affected processes could be restarted. The bill would also give the president discretionary authority to shut down the border if encounters rose above an average of 4,000 encounters per day in a week.

Republicans have also taken aim at some of the provisions of the compromise that would streamline the asylum process.

The bill would raise the bar for migrants claiming a “credible fear” of persecution if returned to their home countries and would create a new voluntary repatriation program for the government to fly migrants back home on commercial airlines. But it would also direct that migrants with a reasonable fear of persecution be released to live and work in the country, and allow immigration officers to grant asylum status on the spot to migrants presenting especially compelling cases. The bill would also create a review board to hear any appeals of the decisions instead of sending such cases to the courts, with the goal of making final asylum determinations within six months.

The bill includes a measure to provide a government-funded lawyer to any unaccompanied children age 13 or younger, and give any migrant put into expedited removal proceedings 72 hours to find a lawyer to contest deportation.

To relieve backlogs, the bill would also create 50,000 new green-card-eligible visas per year, for five years, 32,000 of which would be for families and 18,000 of which would be employment-based visas. It would also ensure that the children of H-1B visa holders do not lose their green card eligibility once they become adults, and create a new temporary visa category to let noncitizens visit U.S.-based family.

And the measure incorporates a version of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which creates a pathway to citizenship for Afghans who fled to the United States after the Taliban takeover.

Further complicating the bill’s path, several left-wing Democratic senators have expressed uneasiness with the idea of sending military aid to Israel without certain conditions attached. They have called for votes on amendments stipulating that weapons be used in keeping with international law, that humanitarian aid not be hindered and that Congress retain the power to scrutinize any supplies sent to Israel.

Those sentiments could be further inflamed by a provision in the bill that prohibits any of the humanitarian aid from being distributed through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The United States and other countries suspended funding to the agency after Israel accused a dozen of its employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Hamed Aleaziz contributed reporting.

The Houthis vow to respond to an earlier wave of American and British airstrikes in northern Yemen.

The United States said on Sunday that it had targeted Iranian-backed armed groups in the Middle East for a third straight day, destroying an anti-ship cruise missile belonging to the Houthi militia in Yemen, which had vowed to respond to earlier strikes by the U.S. and its allies.

The strike came a day after the United States, Britain and a handful of allies said they had hit 36 Houthi targets in 13 locations in northern Yemen in the latest salvo aimed at deterring the group from attacking ships in the Red Sea. A Houthi military spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said on Sunday that targets in at least six regions of Yemen were hit, though his statement did not say how much damage the strikes had caused. He said the attacks would not go unpunished.

Soon after the statement was posted, the U.S. military announced its latest strike, saying it had destroyed a Houthi anti-ship cruise missile that had posed “an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.”

The Houthis, a militia that controls large swaths of Yemen, have launched dozens of attacks on ships traversing the Red Sea in recent months, in what the group has described as acts of solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli bombardment in Gaza. Their attacks have roiled the commercial shipping industry, forcing many vessels to take long detours around the southern tip of Africa.

The escalating confrontation between the United States and the Houthis has raised fears that the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza could spread to other parts of the Middle East. On Friday, the United States carried out a separate series of military strikes against Iranian forces and the militias they support at seven sites in Syria and Iraq. Those were in retaliation for a drone attack on a remote outpost in Jordan last Sunday that killed three American soldiers.

But the United States refrained from attacking Iran itself, a move analysts have said was designed to avoid stoking a broader war. And Iran also has signaled it wants to de-escalate and lower the temperature in the region.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, repeated his condemnation of the strikes in Yemen, as well as the U.S. military response to the deadly drone strike, saying they “risked the wrath of the region.”

“We consider the security of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Palestine (Gaza and the West Bank) to be the security of the region,” he wrote on X.

Hamas and the Houthis are both backed by Iran, as is the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which has traded fire with Israel across the country’s northern border since the war in Gaza began in October.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said at a news briefing on Saturday that three divisions had been stationed at Israel’s northern border, and that the military had launched over 3,400 strikes on Hezbollah positions inside Lebanon since the war with Hamas began.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.



Here’s how the latest U.S.-led strikes have unfolded.

The United States has led a major wave of retaliatory strikes in the Middle East, hitting scores of targets belonging to Iranian-backed armed groups since Friday. The strikes are a sharp escalation of hostilities in the region, one that President Biden had sought to avoid since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza began in October.

Here is how the latest strikes have unfolded.

Jan. 28: Three U.S. service members were killed and dozens of others were injured in a drone attack on their remote military outpost in Jordan, the Pentagon said. They were the first known American military fatalities from hostile fire in the Middle East since October, when regional tensions rose with the start of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The Biden administration said the drone had been launched by an Iran-backed militia from Iraq, and Mr. Biden pledged to respond. The U.S. has blamed Iranian-backed armed groups for launching more than 150 attacks since October on U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East.

Jan. 30: Mr. Biden said he had decided on a response to the attack in Jordan, but did not say what it would be. Some Republican lawmakers called for a direct strike against Iran, but Mr. Biden’s advisers said he was determined to avoid a wider regional conflict.

Friday: The United States carried out airstrikes on more than 85 targets in Syria and Iraq, aiming at Iranian-backed forces including the group it said was responsible for the Jordan strike. The Pentagon said the strikes targeted command and control operations, intelligence centers, weapons facilities and bunkers used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force and affiliated militia groups.

Afterward, U.S. officials said that Mr. Biden had not seriously considered striking inside Iran, and that by targeting facilities used by the powerful Quds Force, while not trying to take out its leadership, the United States sought to signal that it did not want all-out war.

Saturday: American and British warplanes, with support from six allies, launched strikes at dozens of sites in Yemen controlled by Houthi militants. A joint statement from the allies said that the targets included weapons storage facilities, missile launchers, air defense systems and radars, and that the strikes were intended to deter the Houthis’ attacks on Red Sea shipping.

Sunday: Shortly after the Houthis said they would respond to the U.S. and British strikes, American forces said they had carried out another attack on the group, destroying a cruise missile that had posed “an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.”

Blinken is heading back to the Middle East to continue negotiations on hostages and Gaza aid.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken departed on Sunday for a four-nation trip to the Middle East as part of continuing diplomatic negotiations related to the Israel-Hamas war.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, said on Sunday that making sure more humanitarian aid reaches civilians in Gaza would be a “top priority” for Mr. Blinken on his trip and in meetings with the Israeli government.

“We want to ensure that they are getting access to lifesaving food, medicine, water, shelter. And we’ll continue to press until that is done,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Blinken’s trip comes after two days in which the United States helped carry out a new round of strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen and also bombed seven sites in Syria and Iraq that are linked to militias with close ties to Iran, a significant escalation in the use of American force that runs the risk of widening the conflict rippling out from Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria on Friday were in retaliation for a drone attack on a military base in Jordan that killed three American soldiers, an assault Washington has blamed on an Iran-backed militia in Iraq. In what appeared to be an effort to avoid sparking a war involving Iran, the United States refrained from hitting Iranian territory and let it be known the attack was coming days in advance, giving the militias being targeted and their Iranian military advisers time to move.

Mr. Blinken’s four-day trip is the latest of several diplomatic tours he has made since October trying to resolve interlocking problems connected to the war in Gaza. He was expected to travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank, the State Department said on Friday.

The goal is an agreement that would include the release of the more than 100 remaining hostages kidnapped during Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and a humanitarian pause in the conflict to allow for the delivery of aid to civilians in Gaza.

“He will continue work to prevent the spread of the conflict, while reaffirming that the United States will take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea,” said Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman.

Mr. Blinken, he added, would also “continue discussions with partners on how to establish a more integrated, peaceful region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

The trip is Mr. Blinken’s fifth to the region since the Oct. 7 attacks, the department said. His French counterpart, Stéphane Séjourné, was also embarking on a tour of the Middle East, making his first stop on Sunday in Egypt.



At least 17,000 children in Gaza are unaccompanied or separated from their families, UNICEF says.

At least 17,000 children in Gaza are unaccompanied or separated from their families, according to estimates by UNICEF, the U.N. children’s fund.

UNICEF has described Gaza as the “most dangerous place in the world to be a child,” saying that Israel’s war against Hamas has turned the enclave into “a graveyard for thousands of children.” Amid a deepening humanitarian crisis and warnings about the imminent risk of famine, UNICEF has said that many children are malnourished and sick.

A spokesman for the agency, Jonathan Crickx, said on Friday that the number of unaccompanied children — “each one a heartbreaking story of loss and grief” — was an estimate, since the current security and humanitarian conditions made it nearly impossible to fully verify.

“Behind each of these statistics is a child who is coming to terms with this horrible new reality,” he added in a statement following a trip to Gaza.

In a conflict, members of an extended family often take in children who have been separated from their parents, including those who have been orphaned, he noted. But shortages of food, water and shelter in Gaza have made it so that the extended families of unaccompanied children are often “struggling to cater for their own children” and unable to care for another, he added.

Children account for about 40 percent of the 27,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to Gazan authorities and international organizations.

Given the scale of Israeli bombardment in Gaza, some parents have spread their children out, splitting them up and sending them to relatives in different parts of the Gaza Strip to try to increase their odds of survival. Others have taken to scrawling names directly onto their children’s skin, in case they are lost, orphaned or killed and need to be identified.

Gaza’s hospitals have treated so many wounded children arriving alone for treatment after Israeli airstrikes that medical workers earlier in the war coined a new abbreviation, W.C.N.S.F.: “Wounded Child, No Surviving Family.”

Mr. Crickx said the war had also severely affected the mental health of children in Gaza. Before Oct. 7, UNICEF estimated that more than 500,000 children there needed help with their mental and emotional well-being. Now, Mr. Crickx said, nearly all of the estimated 1.2 million children in Gaza need it.

Children were showing symptoms of “extremely high levels of persistent anxiety,” he said, adding that many can’t sleep and “have emotional outbursts or panic every time they hear the bombings.”

House G.O.P. plans a vote on aid for Israel as the Senate tries to close a broader deal.

Speaker Mike Johnson pledged Saturday that the House would hold a vote next week on legislation to speed $17.6 billion in security assistance to Israel with no strings attached, a move likely to complicate Senate leaders’ efforts to rally support for a broader package with border security measures and aid to Ukraine.

Mr. Johnson’s announcement to members of his conference came as senators were scrambling to finalize and vote on a bipartisan national security bill that has taken months to negotiate. The move could further erode G.O.P. support for the emerging compromise, which was already flagging under criticism from party leaders like Mr. Johnson and former President Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, has said that the Senate package would be dead on arrival in the House, arguing that its border security measures are not stringent enough to clamp down on a recent surge of immigration. He said the House would instead focus its efforts on the impeachment of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary — a vote on which is now expected to take place next week.

In a letter to his members Saturday, he said the House would also prioritize its own approach to helping Israel’s war effort against Hamas, regardless of what — if any — related legislation the Senate might produce.

“Their leadership is aware that by failing to include the House in their negotiations, they have eliminated the ability for swift consideration of any legislation,” Mr. Johnson wrote, adding that “the House will have to work its will on these issues and our priorities will need to be addressed.”

Senate negotiators have been working on a sweeping national security funding bill to address Republican demands that any legislation sending military aid to Ukraine also significantly improve security at the southern border with Mexico. The emerging legislation, which includes measures making it more difficult to claim asylum and increasing both detentions and deportations, would also send more military aid to Ukraine and Israel, dedicate humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and fund efforts to counter Chinese threats to the Indo-Pacific region.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, announced this week that the Senate would vote no later than Wednesday on whether to take up the bill, the text of which negotiators are expected to publicize no later than Sunday.

But the measure is already facing stiff headwinds from Senate Republicans who think the border enforcement provisions ought to be tougher, as well as those loath to take a politically challenging vote for a bill that is all but assured to die at the G.O.P.-led House’s door.

Several Republicans in the Senate and the House have clamored for a split approach that would address Israel’s war effort separately from Ukraine and the border. Late last year, the Democratic-led Senate rejected a G.O.P. attempt to force a vote on an earlier Israel aid bill that was backed by the House. Democrats objected to the way that the House G.O.P. bill sought to pay for the funds, by making cuts to the Internal Revenue Service.

In his letter Saturday, Mr. Johnson acknowledged that history.

“Democrats made clear that their primary objection to the original House bill was with its offsets,” he wrote, adding that with the new Israel package, “the Senate will no longer have excuses, however misguided, against swift passage of this critical support for our ally.”

The new bill, which was unveiled by House appropriators, is larger than the House’s previous Israel measure, which totaled $14.3 billion. President Biden had sought that amount for Israel as part of a larger request he made in October for supplemental funds to address various global crises, including Ukraine.

But it does not include any funding for humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, which many Democrats have insisted must accompany any military aid for Israel. Several left-wing Democrats are also pressing for conditions to be attached to whatever military assistance Congress approves for Israel, to guarantee U.S.-supplied weapons are used in keeping with international law and that aid shipments to Palestinian civilians are not hindered.

The $17.6 billion House measure would direct $4 billion to replenishing Israel’s missile defense systems known as Iron Dome and David’s Sling, as well as $1.2 billion to counter short-range rocket and mortar attacks. An additional $8.9 billion would go toward supplying Israel with weapons and related services, helping it produce its own and replenishing defense stock the United States has already provided; while $3.5 billion would go toward supporting U.S. military operations, embassy security and efforts to evacuate American citizens in the region.

Tucked away on a patch of dying grass on the outskirts of Islamabad, the gathering hardly looked like a political rally at the height of an election season. Two dozen men sat on plastic chairs in silence. There were no posters to promote a campaign, no microphones to deliver speeches, no sound system to amp up the crowd.

Even the candidate, Aamir Mughal, was missing: He had gone into hiding months earlier, at the first signs of a military-led crackdown on his political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I. The authorities had already raided his home, arrested two of his sons and lodged a case against him in connection with anti-military protests.

“They are putting pressure on us to quit the party and to quit politics,” Mr. Mughal said in an interview from a safe house where he stayed before emerging for gatherings this weekend. “It’s all part of an effort to weaken and eliminate the party.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

U.S. and U.K. Launch Heavy Strikes on Houthi Sites in Yemen

The airstrikes, meant to deter attacks on ships in the Red Sea, came one day after the United States struck at other Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria.

Eric Schmitt and

Reporting from Washington

The United States and Britain carried out large-scale military strikes on Saturday against multiple sites in Yemen controlled by Houthi militants, according to a statement from the two countries and six allies, as the Biden administration continued its reprisal campaign in the Middle East targeting Iran-backed militias.

The attacks against 36 Houthi targets at 13 sites in northern Yemen came barely 24 hours after the United States carried out a series of military strikes against Iranian forces and the militias they support at seven sites in Syria and Iraq.

American and British warplanes, as well as Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles, hit deeply buried weapons storage facilities; missile systems and launchers; air defense systems; and radars in Yemen, the statement said. Australia, Bahrain, Denmark, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand provided support, which officials said included intelligence and logistics assistance.

“These precision strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the capabilities that the Houthis use to threaten global trade and the lives of innocent mariners, and are in response to a series of illegal, dangerous and destabilizing Houthi actions since previous coalition strikes,” the statement said, referring to major attacks by the United States and Britain last month.

The attacks were the second-largest salvo since the allies first struck Houthi targets on Jan. 11. They came after a week in which the Houthis had been particularly defiant, launching several attack drones and cruise and ballistic missiles at merchant vessels and U.S. Navy warships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The American-led air and naval strikes began last month in response to dozens of Houthi drone and missile attacks against commercial shipping in the Red Sea since November. The Houthis claim their attacks are in protest of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

The United States and several allies had repeatedly warned the Houthis of serious consequences if the salvos did not stop. But the U.S.-led strikes have so far failed to deter the Houthis from attacking shipping lanes to and from the Suez Canal that are critical for global trade. Hundreds of ships have been forced to take a lengthy detour around southern Africa, driving up costs.

“Our military operations against the Zionist entity will continue until the aggression against Gaza stops, no matter what sacrifices it demands from us,” a senior Houthi official said in response to the latest attacks. “We will meet escalation with escalation.”

While the Biden administration maintains that it is not looking to widen the war in the region, the strikes over the past two days represent an escalation.

In scope, the strikes in Yemen were roughly the size of U.S. and British attacks on Jan. 22, but smaller than the salvos on Jan. 11, officials said.

The strikes on Saturday came after a back-and-forth exchange of more limited attacks in the previous 36 hours between the Houthis and U.S. forces in the Red Sea and nearby waters.

At about 10:30 a.m. local time on Friday, the destroyer Carney shot down a drone flying over the Gulf of Aden. Six hours later, the United States attacked four Houthi attack drones that the military’s Central Command said were about to launch and threaten merchant ships in the Red Sea. At about 9:20 p.m., U.S. forces struck cruise missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen after determining they presented a threat to vessels in the region, Central Command said in another release. And about five hours after that, early Saturday, the destroyer Laboon and FA-18 attack planes shot down seven drones flying over the Red Sea.

Then on Saturday night, before the planned strikes, the United States hit six Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles as they were being prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea, Central Command said.

So far, the Biden administration has been trying to chip away at the ability of the Houthis to menace merchant ships and military vessels without killing large numbers of Houthi fighters and commanders, which could potentially unleash even more mayhem into a widening war.

“I don’t see how these airstrikes achieve U.S. objectives or avoid further regional escalation,” said Stacey Philbrick Yadav, a Yemen specialist at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. “While they may degrade Houthi capabilities in the short term, the group’s leadership has vowed to continue its Red Sea attacks and to retaliate in response to these airstrikes.”

Saturday’s strikes came as the U.S. military had begun assessing the dozens of airstrikes it conducted Friday night that hit 85 targets at seven sites in Iraq and Syria.

The strikes were in retaliation for a drone attack on a remote outpost in Jordan last Sunday that killed three American soldiers. Washington has suggested that an Iran-linked Iraqi militia, Kataib Hezbollah, was behind that attack.

Syria and Iraq said Friday’s strikes killed at least 39 people — 23 in Syria and 16 in Iraq — a toll that the Iraqi government said included civilians.

The multiple strikes left the region on edge, though analysts said they seemed designed to avoid a confrontation with Iran by focusing on the operational capabilities of the militias.

“We do not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else,” the U.S. defense secretary, Lloyd J. Austin III, said after the Friday strikes, “but the president and I will not tolerate attacks on American forces.”

The reaction from Iranian officials to Friday’s round of strikes was condemnatory but not inflammatory. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said the U.S. attacks represented “another strategic mistake,” but did not speak about striking back.

Syria and Iraq denounced the U.S. strikes in their countries as violations of their sovereignty, adding that the attacks would only impede the fight against Islamic State militants.

Washington not only calibrated the attacks to avoid stoking a broader war, but had openly warned that they were coming days in advance of the strikes, said Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon. Both sides, she added, had sought ways to attack that remained “below a threshold that would spell an all-out war.”

The stakes of this particular American bombing were high, given rising tensions across the Middle East because of the war in Gaza and related violence it has fueled elsewhere in the region.

Since the deadly Hamas-led assault on Israel on Oct. 7, and Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign and ground invasion in Gaza, Iran-backed militias have carried out more than 160 attacks on U.S. forces in the region, as well as on commercial ships in the Red Sea.

The Houthis in Yemen have said they will not stop the attacks in the Red Sea until there is a cease-fire in Gaza. Mr. Kanaani, the Iranian foreign minister, echoed that sentiment, saying on Saturday that the “unlimited support for the U.S.” for Israel was a main driver of regional tensions.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will return to the region this week to continue negotiations on the release of Israeli hostages and a temporary cease-fire. More than 27,000 Palestinian have died in the conflict, according to Gazan health officials, and about 1,200 Israelis have been killed, Israeli officials said. More than 100 hostages kidnapped from Israel in the Oct. 7 assault remain captive in Gaza.

The three U.S. soldiers killed in Jordan were the first to die in Gaza-related military violence since the war began. The United States said it struck only targets associated with militias backed by Iran that had been involved in the attack on the base in Jordan, or in other offensives against U.S. troops.

But the United States did not attack Iran itself, despite its status as the patron and overall coordinator of these militias. Nor did it strike Hezbollah in Lebanon, the most powerful of Iran’s regional proxies, which has been battling Israeli troops along the Lebanon-Israel border throughout the war in Gaza.

That fits with the United States’ efforts to keep its own military activities separate from those of Israel, which says it is seeking to destroy Hamas.

How successful the new strikes will be in degrading the military capabilities of Iran and its proxies — or in deterring them from attacking the United States — remains an open question.

Iran created its network, with affiliates in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, to extend its influence and give it a way to strike foes without having to do so itself, analysts say. Anti-Iran hawks in the United States and the Middle East often argue that attacking the proxies without hitting Iran is a waste of time.

Ms. Yahya of the Carnegie Center said she did not expect the new U.S. strikes to drastically change the activities of Iran’s regional proxies.

“The only thing that will get them to pull back would be a clear sign from Iran telling them to pull back,” she said. “But even then, they may listen and they may not.”

That is because Iran does not directly control its proxies, who have significant latitude to make their own decisions, Ms. Yahya said.

Reporting was contributed by Raja Abdulrahim and Aaron Boxerman from Jerusalem, Max Bearak from New York, Ben Hubbard from Istanbul, Hwaida Saad from Beirut and David E. Sanger from Berlin.

President Hage G. Geingob of Namibia, a prominent figure in a struggle for independence from apartheid-era South Africa who later became the country’s first prime minister and a long-serving head of state, died early Sunday. He was 82.

Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, now the acting president, announced the death in a televised address on Sunday morning. Mr. Geingob had said last month that he had been diagnosed with cancer. He traveled to the United States to seek treatment in late January before returning to Namibia, in southern Africa, where he died at a hospital in Windhoek, Mr. Mbumba said.

The nation, Mr. Mbumba said, had “lost a distinguished servant of the people, a liberation struggle icon, the chief architect of our Constitution.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Senegal’s president has canceled the election for his replacement three weeks before voting was set to take place, saying that a dispute between the legislative and judicial arms of government needed to be resolved first.

Speaking on Saturday afternoon from the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, his words live-streamed on his social media platforms, President Macky Sall said that he was repealing the decree convening the electoral body, effectively postponing elections indefinitely.

But his opponents said he was essentially carrying out a coup d’état, and accused him of treason.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Nineteen days after taking power as China’s leader, Xi Jinping convened the generals overseeing the country’s nuclear missiles and issued a blunt demand. China had to be ready for possible confrontation with a formidable adversary, he said, signaling that he wanted a more potent nuclear capability to counter the threat.

Their force, he told the generals, was a “pillar of our status as a great power.” They must, Mr. Xi said, advance “strategic plans for responding under the most complicated and difficult conditions to military intervention by a powerful enemy,” according to an official internal summary of his speech in December 2012 to China’s nuclear and conventional missile arm, then called the Second Artillery Corps, which was verified by The New York Times.

Publicly, Mr. Xi’s remarks on nuclear matters have been sparse and formulaic. But his comments behind closed doors, revealed in the speech, show that anxiety and ambition have driven his transformative buildup of China’s nuclear weapons arsenal in the past decade.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

To find the dance circle in the bed-and-breakfast’s courtyard, drive north from the bedsheet factory converted into a crafts market, toward the vegan canteen urging diners to “walk barefoot in the soil and bathe in the sunshine.” If you see the unmanned craft beer bar where customers pay on the honor system, you’ve gone too far.

Welcome to the Chinese mountain city of Dali, also sometimes known as Dalifornia, an oasis for China’s disaffected, drifting or just plain curious.

The city’s nickname is a homage to California, and the easy-living, tree-hugging, sun-soaked stereotypes it evokes. It is also a nod to the influx of tech employees who have flocked there since the rise of remote work during the pandemic, to code amid the picturesque surroundings, nestled between snow-capped, 10,000-foot peaks in southwest China, on the shores of glistening Erhai Lake.

Map locates the city of Dali in southwest China, on the shores of Erhai Lake.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

As Michelle O’Neill walked down the marble staircase in Northern Ireland’s Parliament building on Saturday, she appeared confident and calm. She smiled briefly as applause erupted from supporters, but her otherwise serious gaze conveyed the gravity of the moment.

The political party she represents, Sinn Fein, was shaped by the decades-long, bloody struggle of Irish nationalists in the territory who dreamed of reuniting with the Republic of Ireland and undoing the 1921 partition that has kept Northern Ireland under British rule.

Now, for the first time, a Sinn Fein politician holds Northern Ireland’s top political office, a landmark moment for the party and for the broader region as a power-sharing government is restored. The first minister role had previously always been held by a unionist politician committed to remaining part of the United Kingdom.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has begun warning Germans that they should prepare for decades of confrontation with Russia — and that they must speedily rebuild the country’s military in case Vladimir V. Putin does not plan to stop at the border with Ukraine.

Russia’s military, he has said in a series of recent interviews with German news media, is fully occupied with Ukraine. But if there is a truce, and Mr. Putin, Russia’s president, has a few years to reset, he thinks the Russian leader will consider testing NATO’s unity.

“Nobody knows how or whether this will last,” Mr. Pistorius said of the current war, arguing for a rapid buildup in the size of the German military and a restocking of its arsenal.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.)

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Simon Romero and

Reporting from Guatemala City

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.


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!”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Depardieu has been charged with rape and sexual assault in a case involving Charlotte Arnould, a French actress who says he sexually assaulted her in Paris in 2018, when she was 22. That investigation is continuing, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

While allegations of Depardieu’s sexual misconduct had been growing for years, criticism of the actor resurfaced recently after the France 2 documentary.

Darras was one of 13 women — actresses, makeup artists and production staff — who in April had told Mediapart, an investigative news website, that Depardieu had made inappropriate sexual comments or gestures during film shoots over the years.

In the France 2 documentary, and in interviews with Mediapart and other outlets, Darras said that in 2007, on the set of “Disco,” Depardieu had groped her repeatedly in between takes, touching her hips and buttocks, and had propositioned her, even after she refused.

Darras, who was 26 at the time, had said that no one on set had reacted to the groping because Depardieu was treated like a “king,” and that she had been afraid to speak out because she was just starting her career and was worried about being blacklisted.

In a news conference this month, Macron — who had condemned what he called a “manhunt” against Depardieu — said he had “no regrets about defending the presumption of innocence for a public figure.”

But, he added: “If I have one regret, at that moment, it’s that I didn’t say enough about the importance of the voice of women who are victims of this violence, and how essential this fight is for me.”

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Ms. Hermoso, who is expected to play for Spain in the Paris Olympic Games this summer if the country qualifies, was not immediately available for comment.

The player filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Rubiales in September, two and a half weeks after he forcefully kissed her on the lips, on live television, on the podium as the team celebrated its victory over England in the World Cup final. That complaint cleared the way for public prosecutors to open a case against Mr. Rubiales.

The public reckoning over the kiss has overshadowed one of Spain’s finest hours in soccer and fed a broader debate about sexism and power imbalances in the sport. The episode also led to the resurfacing of decades-old accusations of disrespect and controlling behavior by male coaches and managers in Spain toward female players.

When players vowed, in protest, not to take the field for the national team and Alexia Putellas, one of that team’s stars, coined the phrase “se acabó” or “it’s over” in support of Ms. Hermoso, comparisons were made to the #MeToo movement.

Even Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez waded into the post-match fray, calling the kiss “unacceptable.”

Mr. Rubiales initially offered a halfhearted apology for his behavior. But he later tried to shift the blame onto Ms. Hermoso, saying that she had “moved me close to her body” during the embrace. After a defiant speech in which he refused to resign and railed against what he called “false feminism,” he received a standing ovation from his colleagues at the soccer federation.

In response, members of Spain’s women’s national soccer squad and dozens of other players signed an ultimatum, insisting that they would not play for their country — potentially blowing Spain’s chances of an Olympic ticket — “if the current managers continue.”

As public attention on working conditions in Spanish women’s soccer grew, players from Spain’s professional clubs disrupted the league’s opening weekends in September by staging a strike over low pay, maternity leave and harassment protocol.

Mr. Rubiales initially resisted calls for his resignation. But when a court issued a restraining order against him less than a month after the World Cup final, he stepped down as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation and as a vice president of UEFA, European soccer’s governing body.

By October, FIFA — soccer’s governing body, which initially suspended him for 90 days over the incident — had barred him from the sport for three years.

Mr. Rubiales is also the subject of an investigation by anticorruption prosecutors over irregularities in the use of federation funds.

Other heads have also rolled. Mr. Vilda, a close Rubiales ally who in 2022 was dogged by accusations of controlling behavior toward national squad players, was fired as the team’s coach in September, despite leading the team to victory in the World Cup a month earlier. He was replaced by Spain’s first female national coach, Montse Tomé.

Mark A. Walsh contributed reporting from London.

Reportando desde Soyapango, El Salvador

Read in English

El gobierno de El Salvador ha encarcelado a miles de personas inocentes, suspendido libertades civiles cruciales de manera indefinida e inundado las calles de soldados. Ahora, el presidente detrás de todo esto, Nayib Bukele, está siendo acusado de violar la Constitución al buscar la reelección.

E incluso su compañero de fórmula para la vicepresidencia admite que su objetivo es estar “eliminando” lo que él considera la democracia rota del pasado.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

Pero las encuestas muestran que la mayoría de los salvadoreños apoyan a Bukele, a menudo no a pesar de sus tácticas autoritarias, sino debido a ellas.

En las elecciones de este domingo, se espera que los votantes le den a Bukele y su partido, Nuevas Ideas, una victoria contundente, lo que consolidaría el control del presidente milénial sobre todos los sectores del gobierno.

La razón principal, dicen los analistas, es que el líder de 42 años ha logrado una hazaña que parecía imposible: diezmar a las brutales pandillas que habían convertido a El Salvador en uno de los lugares más violentos del mundo.

“Unos le llaman dictadura”, dijo Sebastián Morales Rivera, un pescador que vive en una localidad que solía ser bastión de una pandilla. “Pero yo prefiero vivir bajo la dictadura de un hombre que le sirva la mente y no bajo la dictadura de un montón de maniácos psicópatas”.

Durante más de dos décadas, la guerra entre pandillas aterrorizó a El Salvador, lo que afectó a la economía, provocó la muerte de civiles a voluntad y causó una ola de migración a Estados Unidos.

Los dos partidos que gobernaron el país hicieron poco para controlar el derramamiento de sangre, y posicionaron presidentes que se enriquecieron mientras sus compatriotas salvadoreños eran presas de los criminales.

Bukele, un milénial con gorra hacia atrás que prometía un cambio, llegó al poder en 2019 por votantes indignados con el establishment político. Y si bien las medidas estrictas que siguieron han restringido las libertades, también produjo los resultados que muchos habían anhelado.

“A esta gente que dice se está desmantelando la democracia. Mi respuesta es sí. No la estamos desmantelando, la estamos eliminando, la estamos sustituyendo por algo nuevo”, dijo Félix Ulloa, quien se está postulando para la reelección como vicepresidente junto con Bukele.

El sistema democrático que existió durante años en El Salvador, dijo Ulloa, solo benefició a políticos corruptos y dejó al país con decenas de miles de personas asesinadas. “Eso era podrido, eso era corrupto, eso era sanguinario”, afirmó.

Con un triunfo en las urnas el domingo, Bukele se uniría a una clase de líderes mundiales que han ganado repetidas elecciones incluso cuando se les acusa de socavar las bases de la democracia.

Los líderes de India, Turquía y Hungría, por ejemplo, han obtenido varios mandatos en las urnas y han sido acusados de tener tendencias autoritarias. En Estados Unidos, Donald Trump se está acercando a la nominación republicana a la presidencia, mientras enfrenta un proceso judicial por organizar una insurrección.

Con cada victoria, afirmaron los analistas, estos carismáticos líderes autoritarios están obligando a sus países a considerar una pregunta cada vez más urgente: ¿cuánto le importa realmente a los votantes el sistema de controles y equilibrios, el cual solía considerarse la base de la sociedad liberal?

En ninguna parte se pregunta eso de manera más abierta que en El Salvador, donde Bukele disfruta del respaldo de alrededor del 80 por ciento de la población, según muestran las encuestas, y muchos parecen no tener problemas con darle el control total sobre el país si eso les garantiza seguridad.

Bukele necesita “el control de todos, porque no todos son de la mente que él tiene”, dijo Morales, quién aseveró que lo reelegiría “tres veces” de ser necesario.

La Constitución de El Salvador prohíbe a los presidentes buscar un mandato consecutivo, según los juristas. Pero en 2021, el partido de Bukele, que tiene una mayoría calificada en la legislatura, remplazó a los principales jueces de la Corte Suprema, quienes luego reinterpretaron la Constitución para permitirle postularse de nuevo.

“Esta ya no es una república constitucional”, dijo Noah Bullock, director ejecutivo de Cristosal, una organización salvadoreña defensora de derechos humanos. “Es un régimen autoritario de facto”.

Algunos defensores de los derechos humanos se preguntan si Bukele podría encontrar una manera de permanecer en el cargo a largo plazo. Bukele aseguró en Twitter Spaces que no buscaba una “reelección indefinida” y señaló que “la norma actual no lo permite”.

Pero Ulloa afirmó que la gran mayoría del país en realidad quiere que Bukele sea presidente “para toda la vida”.

Tras una explosión de violencia en la primavera de 2022, el gobierno impuso un estado de excepción y lanzó una campaña de detenciones masivas sin el debido proceso.

Unas 75.000 personas han sido encarceladas, incluidas 7000 que finalmente fueron liberadas y miles más que no son miembros de pandillas pero siguen tras las rejas, según organizaciones defensoras de derechos humanos. El gobierno construyó una megaprisión para albergarlos a todos.

Cristosal y Human Rights Watch informaron que los reclusos estaban siendo torturados y privados de alimentos. Sus destinos se decidieron en juicios masivos con jueces cuyas identidades se mantuvieron en secreto. “Esos son crímenes contra la humanidad”, aseveró Bullock.

Pero el estado de excepción, que ha durado casi dos años, transformó el país. La cantidad de asesinatos se desplomó. Según informes, los pagos por extorsión han disminuido notablemente.

Las detenciones de salvadoreños que cruzaban la frontera de Estados Unidos disminuyeron en aproximadamente un tercio durante el último año fiscal —cuando la migración en general aumentó—, una disminución que los expertos atribuyen en parte a la nueva sensación de seguridad en las calles.

Muchos considerarían a Irma Mancía de Olmedo una víctima del nuevo Estado policial.

Su hijo, Mario Olmedo Mancía, fue detenido por las autoridades la mañana de un viernes de abril de 2022, cuando salió de su casa para cortarse el cabello. Su familia no ha sabido nada de él desde entonces.

“No sé ni como está ni nada”, dijo entre lágrimas Mancía de Olmedo.

Mancía de Olmedo afirmó que Mario no estaba involucrado con pandillas y tiene documentos que demuestran que trabajaba en un centro de llamadas.

Pero incluso en medio de su dolor, la mujer de 56 años no siente más que admiración por Bukele.

“Él ha hecho todo lo que ha podido para mejorar mi país”, dijo. “Que algunos, pues, estamos sufriendo las consecuencias. Todo pasa”.

Durante años, Mancía de Olmedo nunca se había atrevido a visitar a su madre, la cual vivía en un barrio controlado por la pandilla MS-13. Ahora la visita con regularidad.

Todavía hay focos de resistencia contra Bukele, en particular entre familias que afirman que sus parientes fueron encarcelados de manera injusta. Además, quedan dudas sobre si el gobierno está realmente comprometido a perseguir a los líderes de las pandillas.

Funcionarios estadounidenses afirmaron que antes de las medidas enérgicas, el gobierno de Bukele negoció con los líderes de las pandillas una reducción de los homicidios a cambio de beneficios en las prisiones. Altos funcionarios salvadoreños, según el Departamento de Justicia, ayudaron a un líder de la MS-13 a escapar del país, a pesar de que Estados Unidos había solicitado su extradición.

Bukele ha negado haber hecho tratos con pandillas y la acusación no ha tenido ningún impacto perceptible en su enorme popularidad.

Bukele, expublicista, no pasa mucho tiempo recorriendo el país ni realizando mítines: es una estrella en Facebook, TikTok y X, donde sus mensajes llegan a millones.

La mayoría de los salvadoreños piensa que la Asamblea Legislativa no debería interponerse en el camino de Bukele, porque solo él puede solucionar los problemas del país, según una investigación del Instituto Universitario de Opinión Pública de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas.

“El carisma que se ha instaurado entre la población salvadoreña es sumamente determinante para no solo evaluar su gestión, sino también como factor para interpretar la realidad que está viviendo el país”, dijo Laura Andrade, directora del instituto.

Bukele se está vendiendo como una “figura mesiánica, esa figura salvadora que rescata este pueblo que ha sido violentado por sus otros gobernantes”, afirmó.

No solo los salvadoreños están comprando ese discurso. Bukele se ha ganado admiradores en todo el hemisferio occidental, especialmente en países violentos como Ecuador, donde el presidente recientemente elegido ha prometido construir cárceles como las de Bukele.

La oposición de El Salvador está hecha añicos, y sus cinco candidatos apenas aparecen en las encuestas. Mientras tanto, la campaña del partido gobernante, Nuevas Ideas, consiste principalmente en prometer a la gente más de Bukele y en avivar el miedo a perder todo lo que les ha dado.

La amenaza ha funcionado. Muchos de los que viven en los barrios que alguna vez fueron zonas de guerra afirmaron que creen que poner a cargo a otra persona que no sea Bukele podría poner en riesgo su seguridad.

“Van a liberar a los presos”, dijo Morales. “Toditos los políticos son manejables”.

Gabriel Labrador colaboró con el reportaje desde San Salvador.

Natalie Kitroeff es la jefa de la corresponsalía del Times para México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

El presidente estaba enfrentando una economía en desaceleración, una mortífera avalancha humana y amenazas nucleares de un vecino beligerante. Luego se presentó un escándalo mucho más personal: las imágenes de una cámara oculta que mostraban a su esposa aceptando como regalo un bolso Dior de 2200 dólares.

Se ha convertido, rápidamente, en una de las mayores crisis políticas para el presidente Yoon Suk Yeol de Corea del Sur, quien se ha destacado en la política exterior al alinear su país más estrechamente con Estados Unidos y Japón, pero se ha visto empantanado con controversias en casa. Y muchas de ellas involucran a la primera dama, Kim Keon Hee.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Daisuke Wakabayashi y

Reportando desde Seúl

Read in English

La principal agencia de inteligencia de China emitió el mes pasado una ominosa advertencia sobre una amenaza creciente para la seguridad nacional del país: los chinos que critican la economía.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

En una serie de publicaciones en su cuenta oficial de WeChat, el Ministerio de Seguridad del Estado pidió a los ciudadanos que comprendieran la visión económica del presidente Xi Jinping y no se dejaran influir por quienes buscan “denigrar la economía de China” mediante “falsas narrativas”. Las autoridades del ministerio dijeron que, para combatir ese riesgo, los organismos de seguridad se centrarán en “reforzar la propaganda económica y la orientación de la opinión pública”.

China intensifica su represión mientras lucha por recuperar el dinamismo y el rápido crecimiento económico del pasado. Pekín ha censurado y ha tratado de intimidar a economistas prestigiosos, analistas financieros, bancos de inversión y personas influyentes en las redes sociales por sus valoraciones críticas de la economía y las políticas del gobierno. Además, se están suprimiendo los artículos periodísticos sobre personas que pasan apuros económicos o sobre el bajo nivel de vida de los trabajadores inmigrantes.

China ha seguido dando unas perspectivas positivas para la economía, señalando que el año pasado superó su previsión de crecimiento económico del 5 por ciento sin recurrir a medidas de estímulo arriesgadas y costosas. Sin embargo, más allá de las cifras, su industria financiera batalla por contener enormes cantidades de deuda de los gobiernos locales, su mercado bursátil se tambalea y su sector inmobiliario está en crisis. El lunes se ordenó la liquidación de China Evergrande, una promotora inmobiliaria ambiciosa que estaba acuciada por una deuda de más de 300.000 millones de dólares.

El alcance de la nueva campaña de información es mayor que el de la labor habitual de los censores gubernamentales, quienes siempre han vigilado de cerca las conversaciones sobre economía en internet. Ahora sus esfuerzos se extienden a los comentarios económicos generales que se permitían en el pasado. La implicación de las agencias de seguridad también evidencia cómo los intereses empresariales y económicos entran en la visión cada vez más grande de Xi acerca de lo que constituye una amenaza para la seguridad nacional.

En noviembre, el Ministerio de Seguridad del Estado, autodenominándose como “firmes guardianes de la seguridad financiera”, afirmó que otros países utilizaban las finanzas como arma en los juegos geopolíticos.

“Algunas personas con segundas intenciones intentan crear problemas y sacar provecho del caos”, escribió el ministerio. “No se trata solo del ‘mercado del oso’ y ‘los vendedores en corto’. Estos agoreros del mercado intentan sacudir la confianza inversora de la comunidad internacional en China y desencadenar una agitación financiera interna en nuestro país”.

En el último año, China ha fijado su atención en las empresas consultoras y asesoras con vínculos en el extranjero mediante redadas, detenciones y arrestos. Estas empresas, que ayudaban a las compañías a evaluar las inversiones en el país, se han convertido en un daño colateral en la campaña de Xi para reforzar la seguridad nacional. Estos esfuerzos por frenar el flujo de información, restringir la publicación de datos económicos desfavorables y limitar el discurso financiero crítico solo parecen aumentar la preocupación de los inversores y las empresas extranjeras sobre el estado real de la economía china.

“En mi opinión, cuanto más suprime el gobierno la información negativa sobre la economía, menos confianza tiene la gente en la situación económica real”, dijo Xiao Qiang, investigador científico de la Escuela de Información de la Universidad de California en Berkeley.

Las nuevas inversiones extranjeras en China cayeron un 8 por ciento en 2023, su nivel más bajo en tres años. El índice chino CSI 300, que sigue a las mayores empresas cotizadas en Shanghái y Shenzhen, cayó un 12 por ciento el año pasado, frente a una subida del 24 por ciento del S&P 500. El índice chino ha bajado otro 5 por ciento este año, hasta mínimos de casi cinco años.

El primer ministro Li Qiang pidió el lunes medidas más eficaces para estabilizar el mercado bursátil, en un contexto de informaciones sobre un posible paquete de rescate del mercado de valores.

Xiao, el investigador académico, dijo que en la segunda mitad de 2023 empezó a notar que los censores chinos retiraban con más rapidez muchos artículos de noticias financieras. Entre ellos: un artículo de diciembre en el sitio de noticias financieras Yicai que citaba una investigación según la cual 964 millones de chinos ganaban menos de 280 dólares mensuales.

Este mes, también se retiró de internet un documental de NetEase News sobre trabajadores inmigrantes que soportaban un nivel de vida extremadamente bajo. Los resultados de la búsqueda del documental titulado Working Like This for 30 Years, también se restringieron en Weibo, un sitio de redes sociales similar a X.

Desde junio, Weibo ha restringido que decenas de cuentas publiquen después de que, según dijo, “publicaran comentarios que hablaban mal de la economía” o “distorsionaran” o “desprestigiaran” las políticas económica, financiera e inmobiliaria de China.

En noviembre, Weibo advirtió a los usuarios que no fueran “maliciosamente pesimistas” sobre la economía ni difundieran sentimientos negativos. El mes pasado, la empresa dijo que esperaba que los usuarios ayudaran a “incrementar la confianza” en el desarrollo de la economía.

Otros servicios de redes sociales también están tomando medidas para censurar el discurso negativo sobre la economía. Douyin, la versión china de TikTok, tiene normas específicas que prohíben la “malinterpretación maliciosa de las políticas relacionadas con el sector inmobiliario”.

A Liu Jipeng, decano de la Universidad China de Ciencias Políticas y Derecho de Pekín, se le prohibió publicar o añadir nuevos seguidores en Douyin y Weibo el mes pasado, después de que dijera en una entrevista que no era el momento adecuado para invertir dinero en acciones. También escribió en Weibo, donde tiene más de 500.000 seguidores, que a la gente le resultaba difícil invertir con seguridad porque había muchas instituciones poco éticas. Su cuenta de Douyin, en la que tiene más de 700.000 seguidores, tiene un aviso que dice que el usuario “tiene prohibido ser seguido debido a una violación de las normas de la comunidad”.

Los bancos y las sociedades de valores también están sometidos a un intenso escrutinio por el contenido de sus estudios económicos. En junio, la Oficina Reguladora de Valores de Shenzhen advirtió a China Merchants Securities, una agencia de valores con sede en Shenzhen, sobre un informe “elaborado descuidadamente” un año antes, en el que se advertía que las acciones nacionales seguirían bajo presión debido a la economía.

En julio, Goldman Sachs provocó una venta masiva de acciones bancarias chinas después de que uno de sus informes de investigación calificara con la etiqueta de “venta” a tres grandes prestamistas y advirtiera que los bancos podrían tener dificultades para mantener los dividendos por las pérdidas derivadas de la deuda de los gobiernos locales. Securities Times, un periódico financiero estatal, contratacó diciendo que el informe se basaba en una “interpretación errónea de los hechos” y que “no es aconsejable malinterpretar los fundamentos de los bancos chinos”.

Un economista de una sociedad de valores extranjera dijo que un funcionario del gobierno chino le había pedido recientemente que fuera “más reflexivo” al redactar informes de investigación, especialmente si el contenido podía interpretarse de manera negativa. El economista pidió no ser identificado por temor a represalias.

Incluso un comentario que antes era aceptable se ha vuelto problemático a la luz de los actuales retos económicos de China.

En una entrevista de 2012, un año antes de que Xi asumiera el poder, Wu Jinglian, un famoso economista chino, advirtió que el país se encontraba en un punto de inflexión. Afirmó que China podía avanzar con una economía de mercado regida por la ley, o podía dejarse influir por quienes buscaban una agenda alternativa de fuerte implicación gubernamental.

Wu dijo en la entrevista que los problemas sociales de China “son fundamentalmente el resultado de unas reformas económicas incompletas, un grave retraso en las reformas políticas y una intensificación del poder administrativo para reprimir e interferir en las actividades económicas privadas legítimas”.

La entrevista se volvió a publicar el año pasado con motivo del 45 aniversario de la apertura de la economía china. Fue ampliamente compartida y es considerada como un reproche a la política económica de Xi —que ha impulsado un mayor control estatal a expensas de las reformas del mercado— antes de que fuera retirada de WeChat.

Pero la campaña de presión se ha intensificado tanto que está convirtiendo en críticos a quienes suelen defender las políticas de Pekín. Hu Xijin, influyente comentarista y exredactor jefe de Global Times, periódico del Partido Comunista, escribió en Weibo que la labor de las personas influyentes era “ayudar constructivamente” al gobierno a identificar los problemas, “en vez de encubrirlos activamente y crear una opinión pública que no es real”.

Daisuke Wakabayashi es corresponsal de negocios en Asia para el Times, con sede en Seúl. @daiwaka

Claire Fu cubre noticias en China continental para The New York Times en Seúl. @fu_claire

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.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

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.

El domingo, el secretario general de la ONU, António Guterres, se describió a sí mismo como “horrorizado por estas acusaciones” y señaló que nueve de los 12 empleados acusados habían sido despedidos. Pero Guterres imploró a las naciones que habían suspendido sus pagos de ayuda que lo reconsideraran. La UNRWA es uno de los mayores empleadores de Gaza, con una plantilla de 13.000 personas, en su mayoría palestinas.

Al preguntársele el domingo por las acusaciones de Israel, la UNRWA dijo que dos de los 12 empleados habían muerto, pero que no podía proporcionar más información en tanto que la Oficina de Servicios de Supervisión Interna de la ONU seguía investigando.

Dos funcionarios de países occidentales confirmaron, bajo condición de anonimato, que habían sido informados del contenido del informe en los últimos días, pero dijeron que no habían podido verificar los detalles. Si bien Estados Unidos todavía no ha corroborado por sí mismo las afirmaciones israelíes, los funcionarios estadounidenses afirman que las consideraron lo bastante creíbles como para justificar la suspensión de la ayuda.

El Times verificó la identidad de uno de los 12 empleados, un encargado de almacén, en cuyo perfil de las redes sociales figura como empleado del OOPS y aparece vistiendo ropa con logotipos de la ONU.

El informe israelí, presentado a funcionarios de EE. UU. el viernes, enumera los nombres y puestos de trabajo de los empleados de la UNRWA y las acusaciones contra ellos.

El informe decía que los agentes de inteligencia israelíes habían establecido los movimientos de seis de los hombres dentro de Israel el 7 de octubre basándose en la localización de sus celulares; otros habían sido vigilados mientras hacían llamadas telefónicas dentro de Gaza durante las cuales, según los israelíes, hablaban de su participación en el atentado contra Hamás.

Otros tres recibieron mensajes de texto en los que se les ordenaba presentarse en los puntos de reunión el 7 de octubre, y a uno se le dijo que llevara granadas propulsadas por cohetes almacenadas en su casa, según el informe.

Los israelíes describieron a 10 de los empleados como integrantes de Hamás, el grupo militante que controlaba Gaza en el momento del atentado del 7 de octubre. Se dijo que otro estaba afiliado a la Yihad Islámica, otro grupo militante.

Sin embargo, se dice que siete de los acusados también eran profesores en escuelas de la UNRWA, e instruían a los alumnos en asignaturas como matemáticas y árabe. Otros dos trabajaban en las escuelas en otros cargos. Los tres restantes fueron descritos como un empleado, un trabajador social y el encargado del almacén.

Las acusaciones más detalladas del informe se referían a un consejero escolar de Jan Yunis, en el sur de Gaza, a quien se acusa de colaborar con su hijo para secuestrar a una mujer de Israel.

Un trabajador social de Nuseirat, en el centro de Gaza, está acusado de ayudar a llevar a Gaza el cadáver de un soldado israelí muerto, así como de distribuir munición y coordinar vehículos el día del atentado.

Las acusaciones israelíes se producen en un contexto de fricciones con la UNRWA que duran décadas. Desde 1949, la agencia se ocupa de las familias de palestinos que huyeron o se vieron obligados a abandonar sus hogares durante las guerras que rodearon la creación del Estado de Israel.

La organización proporciona ayuda vital a más de cinco millones de refugiados palestinos dispersos por Medio Oriente, cuyo futuro y estatus nunca se han resuelto a pesar de años de negociaciones.

Pero según sus críticos, entre ellos muchos israelíes, la agencia es un obstáculo para la resolución del conflicto. Su mera existencia, dicen, impide que los refugiados palestinos se integren en nuevas comunidades y aviva sus sueños de regresar algún día a lo que ahora es Israel, un objetivo que Israel dice que nunca permitirá. Y en Gaza, argumenta Israel, la UNRWA ha caído bajo la influencia de Hamás, una afirmación que la agencia rechaza.

No es la primera vez que Estados Unidos recorta dinero a la agencia de la ONU. El gobierno de Donald Trump suspendió la ayuda como parte de sus esfuerzos por presionar a los dirigentes palestinos para que dejaran de exigir que se permitiera a los refugiados regresar a Israel.

Pero la actual amenaza a su financiación se considera la más grave de su historia porque llega en un momento de crisis para Gaza.

En medio de las advertencias de hambruna, el colapso del sistema de salud y el desplazamiento masivo de la población palestina, la labor de la UNRWA se considera más importante que nunca. Ayuda a coordinar la distribución de los suministros de ayuda que —por escasos que sean— llegan cada día al sur de Gaza, y sus escuelas dan cobijo a más de un millón de gazatíes, según las estadísticas de la agencia.

Las suspensiones de financiación pueden hacerse sentir rápidamente. A diferencia de otras agencias de la ONU, la UNRWA no tiene una reserva financiera estratégica. El domingo, Guterres dijo que podría ser necesario reducir los servicios a partir de febrero.

Un día antes, el comisario general de la agencia, Philippe Lazzarini, advirtió de una catástrofe inminente.

“Sería inmensamente irresponsable sancionar a una agencia y a toda una comunidad a la que sirve por acusaciones de actos delictivos contra algunos individuos, especialmente en un momento de guerra, desplazamientos y crisis políticas en la región”, afirmó.

“Las vidas de los habitantes de Gaza dependen de este apoyo, al igual que la estabilidad regional”, dijo Lazzarini.

El viernes, el Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. reconoció el papel humanitario fundamental que desempeña la UNRWA, pero dijo que suspendía su financiamiento mientras evaluaba tanto las acusaciones como la respuesta de la agencia a las mismas.

Los propios funcionarios israelíes expresaron preocupación el domingo por si sus acusaciones podrían al final dificultar su propia posición, según tres funcionarios implicados en el debate. Un colapso en la prestación de servicios a Gaza podría obligar a Israel a asumir un papel más importante en la gestión de la distribución de la ayuda, un papel que no desea.

Los informes sobre las acusaciones contra los trabajadores humanitarios se produjeron el mismo día en que la Corte Internacional de Justicia emitió una sentencia provisional sobre las acusaciones de genocidio formuladas contra Israel por Sudáfrica. El tribunal ordenó a Israel que tomara medidas para impedir actos de genocidio por parte de sus fuerzas en Gaza y que permitiera la entrada de más ayuda en el territorio.

Colaboraron con reportería Johnatan Reiss, Julian E. Barnes, Gabby Sobelman y Myra Noveck.

Ronen Bergman es reportero de The New York Times Magazine y vive en Tel Aviv. Su libro más reciente es Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, publicado por Random House. Más de Ronen Bergman

Patrick Kingsley es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Jerusalén, que abarca Israel y los territorios ocupados. Ha reportado desde más de 40 países, escrito dos libros y antes cubrió migración y Medio Oriente para The Guardian. Más de Patrick Kingsley

Tiffany Hsu y

Read in English

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.

El Times  Una selección semanal de historias en español que no encontrarás en ningún otro sitio, con eñes y acentos.

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.

“No tienes muchas organizaciones de verificación de datos establecidas con larga trayectoria en la región, y eso lo hace más difícil”, dijo Angie Drobnic Holan, directora de la Red Internacional de Verificación de Datos, que apoya a los verificadores en todo el mundo. “En el campo, es un área nueva que necesita desarrollo”.

Muchos verificadores de datos israelíes y palestinos han apenas ingresado en este campo en los últimos años. En los últimos meses han realizado un trabajo valioso, a veces sin pago, intentando extraer los datos de una zona de combate, dijo Holan. Su proximidad al conflicto los hace estar profundamente comprometidos con la verdad y mejor equipados para entender las sutilezas culturales que la moldean.

También los expone a ser acusados de tener un sesgo. La neutralidad puede ser difícil en una región donde las diferencias políticas y religiosas han sido acaloradamente disputadas durante generaciones, y aún más durante una guerra tan polarizadora como esta.

Otra dificultad es que el acceso a información confiable es irregular, especialmente en Gaza, donde los bombardeos intensos y los cortes de energía interrumpen los esfuerzos para verificar las afirmaciones. El acoso y las amenazas han aumentado. Su salud mental se encuentra en un estado muy frágil: los verificadores de datos enfrentan trastorno de estrés postraumático causado por la exposición continua a imágenes violentas y gráficas; algunos están de luto por colegas y familiares que han sido asesinados.

La carga emocional pesa fuertemente sobre Baker Mohammad Abdulhaq, periodista y verificador de datos en Nablus, una ciudad palestina en Cisjordania a menos de 80 kilómetros de Jerusalén. Hace ocho años, fundó una iniciativa de verificación de datos llamada Observatorio Tahaqaq, que se traduce como “verificación”. Entre el 7 de octubre y el 25 de diciembre, él y su equipo de nueve verificadores de datos publicaron un promedio de casi dos informes al día, casi cuatro veces más que su tasa en septiembre.

Llevar a cabo su investigación ha sido un proceso arduo, a veces requiriéndoles “presenciar escenas duras en Gaza de niños y mujeres asesinados como resultado de ataques aéreos israelíes”, dijo Abdulhaq por correo electrónico.

“También nos comunicamos directamente con sus familias, y recolectamos testimonios desgarradores de aquellos que sufren, lo que genera una presión psicológica significativa”, dijo.

La principal audiencia del Observatorio Tahaqaq es palestina, y la mayoría de sus informes están escritos en árabe. Muchos no son favorecedores para Israel: Abdulhaq y su equipo han evaluado afirmaciones inexactas sobre intercambios de prisioneros y preocupaciones de que Israel usó fósforo blanco contra civiles. Tahaqaq, dijo, fue objeto de 179 ciberataques que intentaron desactivar el sitio web el 23 de octubre después de escribir sobre la mortal explosión en el Hospital Árabe al-Ahli en Ciudad de Gaza.

Abdulhaq afirmó que tuvo interacciones angustiantes con las autoridades israelíes antes del 7 de octubre, incluyendo una detención de varias semanas en 2018 en una cárcel israelí tras regresar de una conferencia sobre asuntos palestinos en Líbano y recibir un premio de medios en El Cairo. Dijo que fue interrogado sobre sus actividades periodísticas, y luego fue liberado sin cargos.

Sin embargo, tales experiencias han tenido un efecto limitado en su verificación de datos, dijo.

Tahaqaq también ha examinado afirmaciones falsas y engañosas de cuentas palestinas y de otros países árabes, incluyendo un video mal traducido para sugerir que un oficial israelí se lamentaba de la dificultad de luchar contra Hamás cuando en realidad estaba discutiendo la precisión y profesionalismo de sus tropas. Otro video que pretendía mostrar a un niño palestino cuya familia entera había sido asesinada por ataques aéreos israelíes documentaba en realidad a un chico que había sobrevivido a inundaciones en Tayikistán durante el verano.

El Observatorio Tahaqaq comenzó en 2015 como parte de la tesis de maestría de Abdulhaq sobre la verificación de datos. Se quedó sin dinero dos años después, y luego resurgió en 2020 para informar sobre afirmaciones acerca de la COVID-19. Ahora, el grupo depende del tiempo donado por sus verificadores y de la asistencia financiera ocasional a través de la Red Árabe de Verificadores de Datos.

La red, un proyecto de tres años dirigido por la organización de medios Reporteros Árabes de Periodismo de Investigación, incluye a más de 250 verificadores de datos de Egipto, Irak, Yemen y otros lugares. Saja Mortada, la periodista libanesa a cargo de la organización, dijo que la guerra entre Israel y Hamás ha sido la crisis más complicada de monitorear en un año que también incluyó afirmaciones relacionadas con la guerra en Sudán, los terremotos en Siria y Marruecos y las tormentas en Libia.

“El miedo y la incertidumbre pueden hacer que la información falsa se propague con rapidez, ya que la gente podría creer y compartir fácilmente cosas que coinciden con lo que temen o ya piensan”, dijo.

Las señales de advertencia de tal oleada de desinformación fueron evidentes de inmediato para Schatz, el investigador israelí, el 7 de octubre.

“Estaba en shock, como todos los demás, pero me di cuenta de que es precisamente en ese estado de shock que las peores cosas se materializan y se vuelven virales en internet”, dijo.

Su organización, FakeReporter, depende de un equipo de 14 personas para investigar y verificar conspiraciones y rumores que circulan en las redes sociales. Es conocido por descubrir una campaña de desinformación iraní en 2021 que utilizó grupos de WhatsApp para sembrar confusión entre los israelíes. Ese otoño, la organización también descubrió grupos de WhatsApp formados por extremistas israelíes para intentar ataques contra ciudadanos palestinos. Los hallazgos de FakeReporter han sido citados en publicaciones israelíes de izquierda y de derecha.

Schatz llegó a la investigación de la desinformación a través del activismo político. Se unió a otros reservistas israelíes en un grupo que protestaba por la ocupación militar del país de los territorios palestinos y, en 2020, participó junto con miles de otros israelíes en manifestaciones contra la corrupción gubernamental.

Comenzó a notar afirmaciones extrañas sobre los manifestantes que aparecían en los grupos de WhatsApp que se usaban para planificar y llevar a cabo las protestas. Vio como cuentas que usaban una sintaxis extraña se unían al grupo y rápidamente difundían afirmaciones falsas de que los manifestantes estaban siendo pagados o reunidos intencionalmente en grandes multitudes para propagar la COVID-19. Los rumores de que el gobierno israelí estaba desplegando bots en línea para plantar desinformación habían circulado durante mucho tiempo, dijo, pero no se habían estudiado mucho.

“Las tácticas eran tan manipuladoras, que parecía que algo más grande estaba sucediendo”, afirmó. Con el tiempo, rastreó algunos de los mensajes engañosos sobre los manifestantes hasta llegar a cuentas de bots.

Más tarde ese año, Schatz inició FakeReporter con cinco amigos. El proyecto pidió a los activistas israelíes que reportaran cuentas extrañas o engañosas de redes sociales y mensajes de WhatsApp; miles de mensajes inundaron el sistema. Después de un año de trabajo a tiempo completo sin paga, el grupo comenzó a recurrir a subvenciones y donaciones para ayudar a financiar sus esfuerzos.

Schatz dijo que reportar sobre la desinformación requiere que las personas dejen de lado su postura política. Su equipo recibe afirmaciones para analizar de israelíes de todo el espectro político, y el grupo recientemente comenzó también a aceptar informes en árabe. Durante el primer mes de la guerra, el grupo desmintió imágenes que pretendían mostrar niños israelíes encerrados en jaulas en Gaza. (Las imágenes eran de años atrás, y no se sabía con certeza cuál era su origen). También desmintieron afirmaciones de que Israel había fabricado, o utilizado inteligencia artificial, para fingir las muertes de sus propios civiles en el festival de música Nova.

“Trabajamos arduamente para adherirnos a lo que sabemos o no sabemos y dejar de lado nuestras opiniones políticas”, dijo Schatz. “Especialmente ahora, en tiempos de guerra, tenemos que trabajar con cuidado para no dejar que nuestras opiniones nublen lo que es fáctico y lo que no lo es”.

Tiffany Hsu cubre casos de información errónea y desinformación y sus orígenes, movimientos y consecuencias. Ha sido periodista por más de dos décadas. Más de Tiffany Hsu

Sheera Frenkel es una reportera afincada en la bahía de San Francisco que cubre el impacto de la tecnología en la vida cotidiana, centrándose en las redes sociales, como Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Telegram y WhatsApp. Más de Sheera Frenkel