The New York Times 2024-02-08 06:32:14

Mideast Crisis : Netanyahu Dismisses Hamas Counteroffer on Cease-Fire

‘There is no solution besides total victory,’ Netanyahu says.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel dismissed a Hamas counterproposal for a cease-fire, saying on Wednesday that an Israeli victory in Gaza was “within reach.”

“There is no solution besides total victory,” Mr. Netanyahu said during a news conference in Jerusalem, shortly after meeting with the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, to discuss peace proposals. “If Hamas survives in Gaza, it’s only a matter of time until the next massacre.”

His comments appeared to dampen the wary hopes raised on Tuesday, when U.S. and Qatari officials said the Hamas offer reflected potential progress. But Mr. Netanyahu, a canny negotiator, avoided specifics in his news conference, leaving things somewhat murky.

In response to an offer negotiated by Qatari and Egyptian mediators, Hamas submitted a cease-fire proposal that outlined a path to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and the release of Hamas’s remaining hostages in exchange for some of thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Without specifying any details of the Hamas proposal, Mr. Netanyahu said “surrender to the ludicrous demands of Hamas” would neither free the more than 100 hostages still in Gaza nor restore Israel’s security.

Asked specifically whether Israel had formally rejected the framework, Mr. Netanyahu said: “Based on what they passed to us? From what I’ve seen so far — you, too, would have said no.”

Hamas’s proposed deal would effectively end Israel’s campaign in Gaza without toppling the group’s rule there, analysts said. Mr. Netanyahu rejects any postwar arrangement that leaves Hamas in power, saying that it would allow the group to commit another assault on Israel similar to the Oct. 7 attack that killed roughly 1,200 people.

In a news conference in Beirut, Lebanon, a Hamas leader, Osama Hamdan, insisted that the group’s proposal had been sincere, called on the United States to help halt the war, and said that a delegation from the group’s leadership would travel to Cairo to pursue talks on the offer.

Mr. Hamdan stressed the urgency of the need for the war to stop, saying, “No words or reports can describe the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe and the horror of the true tragedy left by the occupation in the Gaza Strip.”

Mr. Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel’s leadership had directed the military to prepare to deploy in Rafah, at the southern border of Gaza, an area in which over 1.4 million Palestinians are believed to have crowded, seeking shelter, according to the United Nations. The military was also planning to operate in camps in the central Gaza Strip, he added, calling the areas “Hamas’s last remaining strongholds.”

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, pronounced himself “especially alarmed” on Wednesday by reports the Israeli military intended to focus next on Rafah, where displaced Palestinians “have been squeezed in a desperate search for safety.”

“Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences,” said Mr. Guterres, renewing his call for an immediate cease-fire and the release of hostages held in Gaza.

The Israeli authorities have said 253 Israelis and foreign nationals were taken hostage on Oct. 7. More than 100 have been released, mostly during a weeklong cease-fire deal that began last November. Israeli officials say 136 remain in Gaza, including dozens who are believed to be dead.

Fearing for the remaining hostages after four months of warfare, their families have stepped up their calls for the government to immediately reach a hostage deal with Hamas. Some have begun sleeping in a protest tent near the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence.

“I address you, Mr. Netanyahu, everything is in your hands. You are the one who can,” said Adina Moshe, 72, an Israeli hostage who was freed from Hamas captivity during the weeklong cease-fire. “I’m terribly afraid if you continue with this line of dismantling Hamas, no hostages will be left to release.”

Mr. Netanyahu said he had told Mr. Blinken that after Israel toppled Hamas, Israel would “ensure that Gaza will be demilitarized forever.” Israel would continue to operate in Gaza “everywhere and anytime” in order to protect its security, so as “to ensure that terrorism will not raise its head again,” he added.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

A U.S. strike in Baghdad kills leaders of an Iran-backed militia blamed for attacks on American troops.

A U.S. Special Operations retaliatory drone strike in the Iraqi capital on Wednesday killed a senior leader of a militia that U.S. officials blame for recent attacks on American personnel, the Pentagon said, following up on President Biden’s promise that the response to a slew of attacks by Shiite militias would continue.

The Pentagon said the man was a leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, the militia that officials have said was responsible for the drone attack in Jordan last month that killed three American service members and injured more than 40.

A U.S. official said that the strike was a “dynamic” hit on the militia commander, whom American intelligence officials had been tracking for some time. A second official said the United States reserved the right to strike other Shiite militia leaders and commanders.

Videos from the scene showed the wreckage of a vehicle in a neighborhood of eastern Baghdad, and a nearby fire.

A senior Kata’ib Hezbollah official and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps both said that two commanders had been killed in the strike. Witnesses said identification cards found nearby identified them as Arkan al-Elayawi and Abu Baqir al-Saedi.

In response, crowds gathered in the streets of Baghdad, chanting “America is the devil.”

Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, a spokesman for Iraq’s security services, called the strike “an aggression,” and said it “violated Iraqi sovereignty and risked dangerous repercussions in the region.”

Wednesday’s strike came after three quieter days in the Mideast, following American salvos on Friday and Saturday that began what Mr. Biden and his aides have said will be a sustained campaign of retaliation.

On Monday, the Pentagon said that American warplanes had destroyed or severely damaged most of the Iranian and militia targets they had struck in Syria and Iraq on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, the Pentagon spokesman, said that “more than 80” of some 85 targets in Syria and Iraq had been destroyed or rendered inoperable. The targets, he said, included command hubs; intelligence centers; depots for rockets, missiles and attack drones; as well as logistics and ammunition bunkers.

Kata’ib Hezbollah, based in Iraq, is considered a proxy of Iran, and the United States considers the group a terrorist organization.

U.S. officials blame Iran and the militias aligned with it for what had become a near-daily barrage of rocket and drone attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria since the war between Hamas and Israel began on Oct. 7. The Biden administration has sought to calibrate retaliatory airstrikes to deter such groups while avoiding a wider war.

But when a drone attack hit a remote base in Jordan on Jan. 28, killing three American service members, administration officials said that a red line had been crossed, and Mr. Biden promised a sustained campaign of retaliation.

After that strike, Kata’ib Hezbollah said it would halt attacks on American forces, at the behest of the governments of Iraq and Iran, reflecting Iran’s reluctance to directly confront the United States. But other groups involved in such attacks have not made similar commitments.

The back-and-forth attacks in Syria, Iraq and Jordan — not to mention the tit-for-tat strikes that the United States and its allies have exchanged with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen — have edged the region closer to a broader conflict, even as the administration insists it does not want war with Iran. Instead, U.S. officials say they are focused on whittling away the militias’ formidable arsenals and deterring additional attacks against U.S. troops as well as merchant ships in the Red Sea.

But by targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah commanders, the administration is sending a message to Iran and the militias that it backs that every American life taken will be met with a strong response, U.S. officials said.

In January the Pentagon said the U.S. had killed a leader of another Iraqi militia, Haraqat al Nujaba, who was involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel in Iraq and Syria.

National security experts and officials say privately that to truly degrade the capability of the Iran-backed militias, the United States would have to carry out a yearslong campaign similar to the six-year effort to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Even then, the officials say, the militias, with Iran’s backing, could probably survive longer than the Islamic State, which was pressured by the United States and Iran, and even Russia. The United States would also have to target many more senior leaders and commanders.

Falih Hassan contributed reporting from Baghdad.

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

Blinken says he still hopes for a deal despite ‘nonstarters’ in Hamas’s response.

Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, said Wednesday that he still hoped a deal could be reached to pause the fighting in Gaza despite “nonstarters” in Hamas’s response to a proposal that would have allowed for the release of hostages held there and for more aid to reach Palestinians.

“We’ve looked very carefully at what came back from Hamas and there are clearly nonstarters in what it’s put forward,” he said during a visit to Israel. “But we also see space in what came back to pursue negotiations to see if we can get to an agreement, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Hours earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel dismissed Hamas’s counterproposal, saying after a meeting with Mr. Blinken that there was “no solution besides total victory.”

Mr. Blinken declined to describe specifically what Mr. Netanyahu objected to, saying, “I’m not going to speak for Israel or anyone else involved, but we believe the space is there and we believe that we should pursue it.”

On Tuesday, Hamas responded to the proposal — hammered out with Egyptian and Qatari mediators and backed by the United States — that would pause the fighting between Israel and Hamas for the first time since a one-week cease-fire in late November.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work and hopefully being able to resume the release of hostages,” Mr. Blinken said earlier Wednesday, sitting alongside President Isaac Herzog of Israel.

The two sides still differed on the terms of a cease-fire. President Biden said on Tuesday that the Hamas counterproposal was “a little over the top,” without elaborating.

Mr. Blinken also met with Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israel Defense Forces chief, and was expected to meet with Yoav Gallant, the defense minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. In his meeting with the prime minister, Mr. Blinken stressed the importance of protecting civilians in Gaza and of reducing tensions in the West Bank, according to Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman.

On Tuesday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, described the Hamas counterproposal as “positive.” The Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, said in a statement on Tuesday that “Hamas’s response was passed over by the Qatari mediator to the Mossad and its details are being examined in depth by all officials engaged in the negotiations.”

Mr. Blinken’s meetings come as Israel troops prepare to advance deeper into Rafah, a city on Gaza’s border with Egypt that has absorbed more than 1 million Palestinians, or about half of the territory’s population, according to the United Nations.

That prospect has left Palestinians fearful and uncertain about where they will be able to flee. Israeli leaders have vowed to crush Hamas, the militant group that controlled Gaza, after it led an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 others as hostages, according to Israeli officials. Israel’s retaliatory bombing and invasion have killed more than 27,000 people, according to Gazan health officials, and have damaged or destroyed more than half of the enclave’s buildings.

Mr. Herzog on Wednesday stressed that Israel was following humanitarian laws.

“We do not have a war with the citizens of Gaza — we have a war with Hamas,” Mr. Herzog said.

Mr. Blinken met with the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, on Tuesday. Mr. el-Sisi has made clear that Egypt will not accept an influx of refugees from Gaza. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk about the discussions, said the Egyptians voiced concern over the prospect of Palestinians fleeing across the border and could move to block them from crossing.

A key point of contention is whether a cease-fire would be permanent.

Hamas’s response to a new cease-fire proposal has been met with optimism by mediators, but details emerging from its counterproposal on Wednesday, including a demand for a complete Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza, revealed many of the same sticking points that have hampered previous efforts to end the Israel-Hamas war.

Under the militant group’s proposal, both sides would observe a three-stage cease-fire over 135 days, each stage lasting 45 days, during which hostages and Palestinian prisoners in Israel would be released. It calls for the Israeli military to ultimately leave Gaza altogether — a demand Israeli officials so far have publicly rejected.

Neither Hamas nor Israel formally released details about the proposal, which it submitted to Egyptian and Qatari mediators on Tuesday night. A spokesman for Hamas declined to comment, and the Israeli prime minister’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

But the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, considered close to Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, published a leaked version of Hamas’s counterproposal on Wednesday, offering the closest look yet at its terms for ending the fighting. A senior Hamas official and an Israeli official familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the text in Al-Akhbar matched Hamas’s counteroffer.

Hamas’s willingness to negotiate under a broad framework hammered out by Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the United States at talks in Paris late last month has been widely seen as a positive step.

But a key point of contention between Israel and Hamas has been the truce’s duration: Hamas demands a permanent cease-fire, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed Israel will fight until “complete victory.”

During the second phase, talks aimed at achieving “complete calm” and the end of military operations by both sides must be completed, according to the counterproposal.

The Paris framework laid out plans that would begin with a six-week cease-fire, but the Hamas’s counteroffer fills it out with many more details not contained in the original Paris framework, including the number of days each phase of the deal would last

Under Hamas’s proposal, in the first stage, Israeli forces would retreat from Gaza’s residential areas. In the next phase, the Israeli military would leave Gaza.

During the first two phases, Hamas would release Israelis and foreign nationals held hostage in the Gaza Strip, while Israel would release some of the more than 8,000 Palestinians imprisoned in its jails. During the third phase, both Israel and Hamas would swap bodies held in their custody.

Roughly 100 living hostages remain in Gaza, the vast majority of them abducted in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, as do the bodies of more than 30 others, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office.

As part of the first phase, Hamas is demanding the release of all the Palestinian women, children, older adults and sick Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. In exchange, Hamas would release all of the hostages in those same categories still held in Gaza, except for female soldiers.

Another 1,500 Palestinian prisoners would also be released during the first phase, including 500 serving long sentences for their involvement in deadly attacks against Israelis. Hamas would choose the names of the 500 prisoners serving long sentences, the document says.

Last week, Mr. Netanyahu vowed that Israel would not release thousands of Palestinian prisoners or withdraw Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip under the terms of a cease-fire agreement. “We will not compromise on anything less than total victory,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a speech in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Michael Milshtein, a former senior Israeli military intelligence officer, said the proposed deal would effectively end the war with Hamas while leaving the Palestinian armed group in power in Gaza. But given the deadlock in which Israel has found itself in Gaza, that might be the best possible scenario for the country, he said.

“Under its current policy, Israel is not succeeding at either bringing home the hostages nor toppling Hamas. Since we’ve reached this junction, it may be better to take the deal rather than end up with nothing,” said Mr. Milshtein.

Palestinians would also be allowed to return to their homes across the Gaza Strip during the first stage of the cease-fire, under the Hamas counterproposal, which would also mandate a significant increase in humanitarian aid entering the coastal enclave. It calls for a minimum of 500 trucks of aid, fuel, and other goods to enter Gaza daily.

Mr. Netanyahu has said Israel won’t allow displaced Palestinians to return to their homes in northern Gaza as long as fighting there continues.

Analysts close to Hamas contended that the group would not be able to offer concessions on the thorniest issues in the negotiations.

“Keeping one occupation soldier in Gaza would be a defeat and a catastrophe,” said Salah al-Din al-Awawdeh, a Palestinian analyst close to Hamas who was released from an Israel prison in 2011. “No one will accept that.”

Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said in a televised interview on Tuesday night that the group’s leadership would support a phased cease-fire and gradual Israeli withdrawal as long as the process ultimately led to a final truce.

“Israel wants to get all the hostages and then have the absolute freedom to return to war and killing and assassinations,” Mr. Hamad told al-Mayadeen, the Lebanese broadcaster. “But at the end, we need a text that clearly guarantees a comprehensive cease-fire and the withdrawal of occupation forces.”

Israel’s military proposes longer service for conscripts and reservists.

Israel’s military has proposed immediately extending the length of military service for conscripts and reservists, reflecting the strains placed on the armed forces by the war against Hamas.

The plan, posted online on Wednesday, would need legislative approval before going into effect. It calls for increasing the compulsory enlistment period to 36 months for all service members. Under current Israeli law, men must serve in the Israel Defense Forces for 32 months, and women for 24 months.

The proposal is consistent with prior statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel needs to significantly expand its military spending.

In the post announcing the proposal, the I.D.F. said it was motivated by “the war’s challenges” and “the importance of maintaining operational preparedness in the long term.”

“If the legislation is approved,” the post added, “the model will be applied immediately.”

The plan also includes sharply increased service requirements for low-ranking reservists — 42 days per year, up from 54 days every three years. Exemption ages for reservists would also rise, going to 45 from 40 for low-ranking roles, to 50 from 45 for officers, and to 52 from 49 for those with special roles.

Israel’s military relies heavily on reservists under ordinary circumstances, and that dependence has grown acutely since the war began on Oct. 7, with about 287,000 reservists activated, according to the I.D.F.

“This is an unprecedented amount,” its announcement says, “and the largest reserve recruitment since the establishment of the state.”

Adam Rasgon contributed reporting.

Macron condemns ‘largest antisemitic massacre of our century’ at an Oct. 7 tribute to French citizens who died in the assault.

President Emmanuel Macron of France condemned the Oct. 7 attack as the “the largest antisemitic massacre of our century” on Wednesday, as the country paid tribute to 42 French citizens who were killed in the assault.

“On Oct. 7 at dawn, the unspeakable resurfaced from the depths of history,” Mr. Macron said at a ceremony held under rainfall at the Invalides, a former military hospital in Paris where French soldiers and dignitaries are often honored after their deaths.

Mr. Macron urged France to “yield nothing to rampant, uninhibited antisemitism” and added: “Nothing can justify nor excuse this terrorism.”

The ceremony, which marked four months since the attack, also paid tribute to the handful of French citizens who were wounded or taken hostage during the assault.

Roughly 1,200 people were killed in the attack, according to Israeli officials, and the French toll was among the highest for foreigners. It was also the deadliest terrorist attack for French citizens since one in Nice that left 86 people dead in 2016.

Many of the French victims were Franco-Israelis who lived in Israel and were buried there.

“From Montpellier to Tel Aviv, from Bordeaux to the Negev, the French who died on Oct. 7 were not all born in France,” Mr. Macron said. “They did not fall under French skies. But they were of France. Because they carried it within them.”

The ceremony was attended by families of the victims, high-ranking French officials, top politicians and members of the Jewish community in France — which is one of the largest in Europe, and which has been alarmed by a significant rise in antisemitic acts since the Oct. 7 attacks.

Three French citizens are still missing and are believed to be held hostage in Gaza, according to French authorities, and three chairs were symbolically left empty at the ceremony. Four other French hostages have been released since the attack.

Mr. Macron met after the ceremony with families of the victims, many of whom were flown in from Israel on a special flight.

The French presidency said this week that it was considering organizing another “time of remembrance” for French victims of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. At least two French children have been killed in Gaza so far, according to France’s foreign ministry.

Russian Strikes Hit Ukrainian Cities at a Tense Time for Kyiv

Missiles streaked into Kyiv early Wednesday in a Russian attack that killed at least five people, according to local officials, jolted residents awake with air alarms and explosions, and ignited a fire that sent plumes of smoke billowing over the Ukrainian capital.

The barrage, which directed missiles and drones at cities across the country, coincided with a moment of heightened uncertainty for Ukraine. Russian forces are pressing assaults in towns and villages along the front, American aid is in doubt, and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine is preparing for what he has hinted will be a major shake-up in his government and the army’s leadership.

Mr. Zelensky is considering replacing Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, the country’s top military commander, but has not announced any decision on the matter. General Zaluzhny remains in his job and said on Wednesday morning that Ukrainian air defense teams had destroyed 44 of the 64 cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones that Russia had fired in the assault.

Since the end of last year, Russia has stepped up its large-scale aerial bombardments in a bid to exploit dwindling supplies of critical Western air defense munitions and inflict maximum damage.

“Ukraine needs help,” Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said in a statement. “Only the joint efforts of the democracies will stop the criminal Putin.”

A broad measure that would allow American arms to flow to Ukraine once again is expected to fail in a Senate vote on Wednesday amid growing Republican opposition and deep division on Capitol Hill.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in early 2022, the United States has provided about half of the foreign military assistance to Ukraine’s arsenal. European nations lack American-level stockpiles of weapons and ammunition, and would be unlikely to fill the gap, military analysts say.

The dwindling level of aid is affecting Ukraine on the battlefield. Its soldiers are struggling to stem relentless Russian assaults in eastern Ukraine, and the attacks by Russia, which has an advantage in artillery and personnel, are whittling away at Ukraine’s defenses.

“Ukraine could effectively hold for some part of this year” without more American military aid, Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “But over time there would be no prospect to rebuild the military, and they will start to lose slowly.”

The absence of further American help, he said, would “point to a dour, negative trajectory in the latter half of this year.”

Western support for Kyiv has not kept pace with Moscow’s military stockpiles as Russia has scaled up its production of drones and is bolstered by supplies from Iran and North Korea. So Ukraine is once again seeking ways to adapt and improvise.

To that end, Mr. Zelensky announced a new military branch this week: the Unmanned Systems Forces. The Ukrainian military, he said in his Tuesday evening address to the nation, is creating “special staff positions for drone operations, special units, effective training, systematization of experience, constant scaling of production, and the involvement of the best ideas and top specialists in this field.”

“This is not a matter of the future, but something that should yield a very concrete result shortly,” he added.

Mr. Zelensky said that the goal was to replicate on land Ukraine’s success in combating a vastly superior Russian naval force on the Black Sea through the use of maritime drones. At the moment, however, Russia’s superior firepower has Ukraine on the back foot along most of the front line.

After months of Russian assaults aimed at capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, Moscow’s forces have fought their way into the city’s northern edge, soldiers fighting there said in interviews. That has threatened a vital supply line and compromised Ukraine’s defenses.

Military analysts said that with conflicting reports about where fighting was taking place, it was difficult to assess the situation. “As for the potential of the Russians to advance, the question is open,” Ivan Kyrychevskyi, a military analyst for the Kyiv-based Defense Express Media and Consulting Company, said on Ukrainian national television.

“At the moment, we can state that the fighting has begun in the suburban area of Avdiivka, but it is too early to draw conclusions,” he added.

If the Russians have managed to entrench themselves in the city after months of fighting in the surrounding areas, the battle could shift to even more brutal urban combat.

On Wednesday morning, the scope of Russia’s latest attacks on Ukrainian cities was still coming into focus, but four people were killed in the capital and at least 32 others were injured, according to city officials.

As the Ukrainian Air Force warned that missiles were streaming toward Kyiv along the Dnipro River around 7 a.m., interceptor missiles streaked through the skies to meet the threat. Explosions echoed in the skies, and a residential building caught fire in the attack, sending plumes of black smoke over the city of more than three million during the morning rush hour.

Residents in one neighborhood temporarily lost power after debris hit a high-voltage cable, the local power provider, DTEK, said in a statement.

In the southern port city of Mykolaiv, airstrikes damaged more than 20 residential buildings, city officials said, and killed at least one person.

Missile attacks were also reported in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, in Cherkasy in the center of the country, and in the Lviv region near the border with Poland.

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Terrorized by Gangs, Ecuador Embraces the Hard-Line ‘Noboa Way’

Annie Correal and Federico Rios reported from Guayaquil, Ecuador.

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Since Ecuador’s president declared war on gangs last month, soldiers with assault rifles have flooded the streets of Guayaquil, a sprawling Pacific Coast city that has been an epicenter of the nation’s yearslong descent into violence.

They pull men from buses and cars looking for drugs, weapons and gang tattoos, and patrol roads enforcing a nighttime curfew. The city is on edge, its men and teenage boys potential targets for troops and police officers who have been ordered to take down powerful gangs that have joined forces with international cartels to make Ecuador a hub of the global drug trade.

Yet when people see soldiers pass, many clap or give them a thumbs-up. “We applaud the iron fist, we celebrate it,” said Guayaquil’s mayor, Aquiles Álvarez. “It has helped bring peace.”

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Who Created Butter Chicken? India’s Great Curry Clash.

In 1947, two men, both named Kundan, fled Peshawar during the bloody partition that carved Pakistan out of British India. They landed in Delhi and soon became partners in a restaurant called Moti Mahal serving food from the Punjab region.

On this much their descendants agree. Where they diverge is on the question of which of the men should go down in culinary history.

The two families both say that it was their own Kundan who invented butter chicken — the creamy, heavenly marriage of tandoori chicken and tomato gravy beloved everywhere north Indian food is served. And one of them has gone to court to try to prove it.

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

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Prince William Is Back at Work, Facing a New Normal

Prince William, the heir to the British throne, stepped back onto the public stage Wednesday, trying to project a steely sense of normalcy, two days after the announcement that his father, King Charles III, had been struck by cancer.

But as William carried out an honors ceremony at Windsor Castle and attended a charity fund-raiser in London, a shadow of uncertainty hung over the 41-year-old prince. Nobody, aside from Charles and his wife, Queen Camilla, faces more lingering disruption from the king’s cancer diagnosis than his eldest son.

The advocacy work, family life, and zone of privacy that William has carved out for himself is very different than that of his father, when he served as the Prince of Wales. Whether William will be able to preserve those qualities while stepping in for his father during his treatment is, at best, uncertain.

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Iraq Hosts Both U.S. and Iranian-Backed Forces. It’s Getting Tense.

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For years, Iraq has managed to pull off an unlikely balancing act, allowing armed forces tied to both the United States and Iran, an American nemesis, to operate on its soil.

Now things are getting shaky.

When Washington, Tehran and Baghdad all wanted the same thing — the defeat of the Islamic State terrorist group — the relationships were fairly tenable, but in recent months, as the war in the Gaza Strip sends ripples across the region, American and Iranian-backed forces have clashed repeatedly in Iraq and Syria. A U.S. strike on one of those militias last week killed 16 Iraqis, and Iraq is saying it has had enough.

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Giorgia Meloni Solidifies Her Credentials in Europe

The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, was isolated, the sole holdout to a landmark European Union fund for Ukraine worth billions. As pressure mounted on him on the eve of an emergency E.U. summit last week, he needed someone to talk to.

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, who had long shared his antagonism to the E.U, was that sympathetic ear.

Over drinks for an hour, Mr. Orban complained about being treated unfairly by the E.U. for his hard-right politics. A hard-right leader herself, Ms. Meloni told him that she too had felt the prejudice. But, she said, instead of attacking the E.U., she had tried to work with it in good faith, according to a European official with knowledge of the discussion. That approach, she argued, obliged the E.U. to engage her, too, and in the end, it came through for her by agreeing that Italy had complied with requirements for the release of billions of euros in Covid relief funds.

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Election Office Blasts in Pakistan Kill at Least 22 a Day Before Vote

Two separate explosions outside election offices in an insurgency-hit area of Pakistan killed at least 22 people and wounded several others on Wednesday, officials said, a deadly reminder of the deteriorating security situation in the country as it heads into national elections on Thursday.

In light of such security threats, the Pakistani authorities have designated half of the country’s approximately 90,000 polling stations as “sensitive” or “most sensitive” and have deployed the military to secure them.

“Rest assured, we will not allow terrorists to undermine or sabotage this crucial democratic process,” Jan Achakzai, the information minister in the province where Wednesday’s blasts occurred, said on social media.

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Hungary and E.U. Lock Horns, This Time Over Foreign-Interference Law

Just days after a major showdown between the European Union and Hungary over aid to Ukraine, the European Commission on Wednesday announced it was opening a new disciplinary procedure against the Hungarian government over recently passed legislation that focuses on interactions deemed subversive between foreigners and Hungarians.

The move comes on top of several other open disciplinary procedures against Hungary that the European Commission, the E.U. executive branch, has been pursuing against the government of the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban.

It’s likely to cause anger in Budapest, the Hungarian capital, following the E.U. summit last week at which Mr. Orban grudgingly agreed to release funding for Ukraine. E.U. leaders, in a nod to his complaints that he was being singled out by the bloc’s executive branch, briefly mentioned in a statement that the commission must be proportionate and fair in its punishment of member states seen to be in breach of E.U. law.

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A Year After a Devastating Quake: Container Cities, Trials and Grief

At 4:17 a.m. on Tuesday, thousands of people in cities across southern Turkey gathered to cry, light candles and chant against the government, marking the moment a year ago that a powerful earthquake devastated the region.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, and a second violent tremor hours later, damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of buildings, killing more than 53,000 people in southern Turkey and another 6,000 people in northern Syria. It was the area’s broadest and deadliest earthquake in hundreds of years.

The scale of the destruction, and the failure of emergency services to reach many people buried in the rubble until days later, angered survivors. Many accused building contractors of cutting corners to increase their profits and the government of failing to enforce safe building standards.

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King Charles Has Cancer. Here’s What to Know.

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On Monday night, Buckingham Palace made a sudden announcement that King Charles III had been diagnosed with cancer, less than 18 months after beginning his reign. He is receiving outpatient treatment in London.

The British monarch’s diagnosis prompted an outpouring of sympathy from leaders around the world, with President Biden saying that he was praying for “a swift and full recovery,” and the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, describing himself as “shocked and sad” at the news. “He’ll just be in our thoughts and our prayers,” Mr. Sunak told BBC radio on Tuesday. “Many families around the country listening to this will have been touched by the same thing.”

Here is what to know about the king’s condition and its implications for Britain’s monarchy.

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Discontent and Defiance on the Road to Pakistan’s Election

Christina Goldbaum and

The reporters traveled along a famed highway in Pakistan’s most heated political battleground to understand how Pakistanis are feeling before a national election on Thursday.

The highway is the most politically charged slice of a politically turbulent country. It winds 180 miles from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, through the fertile plains of Punjab Province to Lahore, the nation’s cultural and political heart.

For centuries, it was known only as a sliver of the Grand Trunk Road, Asia’s longest and oldest thoroughfare, linking traders in Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent. But in Pakistan, this stretch of the smog-drenched highway has become the stage for major rallies and protests led by nearly every famed civilian leader the country has had.

As Pakistan heads into national elections on Thursday, the road is buzzing. Politics dominates the chatter between its vendors and rickshaw drivers, their conversations seeped in a culture of conspiracy, cults of political personality and the problems of entrenched military control.

The map highlights the Grand Trunk Road from Islamabad to Lahore in Pakistan . The towns of Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Wazirabad and Gujranwala along the road are also located.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

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.

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

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.

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

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

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

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

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

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

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

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

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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

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

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

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

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.

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Ecuador adopta el ‘noboísmo’ como respuesta a la violencia

Annie Correal y Federico Rios reportaron desde Guayaquil, Ecuador.

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Luego de que el mes pasado el presidente de Ecuador declarara la guerra a las bandas criminales, soldados con rifles de asalto han inundado las calles de Guayaquil, una ciudad de la costa Pacífico que ha estado en el epicentro de la espiral de violencia del país, un fenómeno que ya lleva algunos años.

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De los buses y los autos hacen bajar a los hombres, en busca de drogas, armas y tatuajes de pandillas. Patrullan las calles para hacer cumplir un toque de queda nocturno. La ciudad está ansiosa, sus hombres y jóvenes son posibles objetivos de soldados y oficiales de policía que tienen la orden de derribar a las poderosas bandas que se han aliado con los carteles internacionales para convertir a Ecuador en un centro del comercio mundial de drogas.

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Sebastián Piñera, expresidente de Chile, muere en un accidente de helicóptero

Sebastián Piñera, un expresidente de Chile que ayudó a fortalecer la joven democracia del país después de convertirse en su primer líder conservador tras la dictadura militar, murió en un accidente de helicóptero el martes, informó el gobierno. Tenía 74 años.

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El helicóptero, que transportaba a cuatro personas, se estrelló en el lago Ranco localizado en la región Los Ríos, en el sur de Chile, cerca de las 3:30 p. m. del martes, poco después de despegar, según informó el gobierno. Tres personas sobrevivieron y nadaron hasta la costa, y la Armada de Chile recuperó el cuerpo de Piñera. No está claro quién piloteaba la aeronave, pero Piñera era conocido por pilotear su propio helicóptero.

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El rey Carlos es diagnosticado con cáncer. Hay preocupación y pocos detalles

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El rey Carlos III ha sido diagnosticado con un tipo de cáncer y suspenderá sus compromisos públicos para someterse al tratamiento médico, lo que ensombrece un ajetreado reinado que comenzó hace menos de 18 meses tras la muerte de su madre, la reina Isabel II.

El anuncio, hecho por el Palacio de Buckingham el lunes por la noche, se produjo una semana después de que el monarca, de 75 años, fuera dado de alta de un hospital londinense, tras una intervención para tratar un agrandamiento de la próstata.

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Nayib Bukele se adjudica la victoria en El Salvador

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Nayib Bukele, el presidente milénial que reconfiguró su país con una serie de medidas enérgicas contra las pandillas y las libertades civiles, se adjudicó una victoria aplastante en las elecciones de El Salvador del domingo, lo que podría extender durante años su control sobre cada área del gobierno.

Si bien no se han dado a conocer los resultados oficiales, las encuestas habían insinuado durante semanas que Bukele ganaría por mucho, mostrando que los votantes casi con certeza le darían otro periodo de cinco años y ampliarían la mayoría absoluta de su partido en la legislatura.

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Los incendios forestales en Chile consumieron un jardín botánico de 107 años

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El viernes por la tarde, cientos de personas deambulaban por los idílicos terrenos del Jardín Botánico Nacional de Viña del Mar, en Chile, en su mayoría ajenos a que, justo al otro lado de unas colinas y una carretera, un voraz incendio forestal galopaba hacia ellos.

El peligro no tardó en hacerse patente. Los guardaparques empezaron a recorrer el lugar en moto, gritando a los visitantes que huyeran hacia las salidas. Pero cuando muchos llegaron allí, el fuego ya había arribado.

Wildfires in Chile’s Valparaíso region

Burning in the last day
Previously burned
Source: NASA Notes: Data is as of 2:31 a.m. Chile Summer Time on Feb. 8. Areas marked in red indicate where active burning was detected within 24 hours of the most recent fires reflected on the map. Exact fire boundaries may differ from the map by 500 meters or more. By Madison Dong, John Keefe and Matthew Bloch

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