The New York Times 2024-02-13 00:14:45

Middle East Crisis: Biden Says ‘Credible Plan’ Needed to Protect Gazans in Rafah

King Abdullah and President Biden have met at the White House to discuss cease-fire options.

President Biden said on Monday that the major ground offensive that Israel is expected to carry out in the southern Gaza city of Rafah should not proceed without a “credible plan” to ensure the safety of more than 1 million people sheltering there.

Mr. Biden spoke after meeting on Monday afternoon with King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key figure in the push for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, in the first face-to-face conversation between the two leaders since the Israel-Hamas war started.

The president said he and the Jordanian monarch discussed the cease-fire talks, with Mr. Biden suggesting a six-week pause in the fighting that could allow for the release of hostages held by Hamas and the forging of something “more enduring.”

Mr. Biden said he was particularly concerned about the situation in Rafah, where Israeli forces conducted a rare rescue mission early on Monday to free two men held hostage for more than four months, and displaced Gazans fear an invasion that will leave them nowhere to flee.

“Many people there have been displaced, displaced multiple times fleeing the violence to the north,” Mr. Biden said. “And now they’re packed into Rafah, exposed and vulnerable. They need to be protected.”

The visit came as the king sought to shore up international support for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza — which Mr. Biden has repeatedly rejected — and as the U.S. continued to apply pressure on Israel to mitigate casualties and civilian displacements.

King Abdullah said an Israeli invasion of Rafah was “certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe.”

“The situation is already unbearable for over a million people who had been pushed into Rafah since the war started,” he said. “We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting cease-fire now. This war must end.”

Ahead of the meeting, John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, said that the U.S. continued to reject the idea of a general cease-fire that would permanently halt the fighting, but that President Biden also still supported a humanitarian pause.

“We want to see the war end as soon as possible,” he said. “And we believe one of the first steps that’s critical to doing that is a humanitarian pause, an extended pause longer than what we saw back in November of a week, that would allow us to get all the hostages out, get more aid and assistance in, and then hopefully lead to discussions that can get us closer to an end to the conflict.”

Egypt and Qatar, acting as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, have led talks aimed at halting the fighting and freeing hostages held in Gaza. The Biden administration has been actively involved in those negotiations, working publicly and behind the scenes to try to advance a cease-fire deal.

The C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, was expected to travel to Cairo for continued talks on Tuesday on the hostages, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity about the talks. Mr. Burns’s planned trip was disclosed by a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel last week publicly dismissed a Hamas proposal, Israeli officials have signaled that their government is still open to negotiation. The mere fact that more talks will be taking place in Cairo this week is seen as a positive sign.

Ahead of the meeting between Mr. Biden and King Abdullah, the White House said they would speak about “efforts to produce an enduring end to the crisis” in Gaza, where health officials say more than 28,000 people have been killed since the start of the war.

Much of Jordan’s population is ethnically Palestinian, putting the country — a close U.S. ally that has a peace treaty with Israel — in a tricky position as it navigates the fallout from the war.

King Abdullah has repeatedly called for an immediate cease-fire and for the delivery of more humanitarian aid into Gaza. He led a summit meeting in Jordan last month about the situation in the enclave and has been working in concert with other Arab leaders to push for a halt to the fighting.

Jordan and Israel share a border, in addition to maintaining a crucial regional alliance. The kingdom is the custodian of the Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, a key holy site in Islam that is also revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. The compound has often been a source of disputes between Israelis and Palestinians.

But relations between Jordan and Israel grew tenser in recent years. And since Israel launched a retaliatory war against Hamas in Gaza in response to the deadly Oct. 7 attacks, King Abdullah has repeatedly criticized how Israel has carried out its assault.

Health officials in Gaza say dozens were killed in airstrikes carried out during the raid.

Israeli special operations forces raided a building in the southern Gazan city of Rafah early Monday to free two hostages held by Hamas, the military said, as Israel launched a wave of attacks overnight that killed dozens of Palestinians in Rafah, according to the Gazan health ministry.

The operations were met with elation in Israel, and grief and foreboding in the Gaza Strip, where more than a million Palestinians have crowded into Rafah, fleeing their homes and seeking refuge from Israeli military actions farther north. Palestinians feared the raid — and the accompanying death toll — portended a more prolonged Israeli operation to capture Rafah.

The nighttime rescue operation marked only the second time Israeli forces said they had rescued captives in Gaza since the war began in October. The fate of more than 100 hostages captured at the start of the war on Oct. 7 has become one of the country’s highest priorities, along with the defeat of Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has signaled that Israeli ground forces will enter Rafah with the goal of eliminating Hamas battalions there, though the precise timing is unclear. The prospect of street battles inside the crowded city, which is bracketed by a closed Egyptian border, has created worldwide alarm over the risks to civilians who say they have nowhere else to flee.

The hostage rescue showed Israel’s determination to press ahead with its offensive despite criticism from the United States and other allies, and pressure to reduce civilian casualties and destruction. President Biden on Thursday called Israel’s campaign “over the top” and said the suffering of innocent people has “got to stop.”

At 1:49 a.m. on Monday, Israeli special forces soldiers broke into a building where the two hostages were being held, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesman, said at a news conference. About a minute later, Israeli forces fired on nearby buildings in an effort to disrupt Hamas’s communications and to allow the soldiers to safely bring the hostages out, he said. He also said that Israeli warplanes had fired on Hamas targets in the area.

Drone footage later released by the Israeli military appeared to show roughly a dozen Israeli troops entering a building by foot from a street lined with detached and flat-roofed houses. Other footage showed a blast at the building next door, caused by what the Israeli military said was an Israeli strike.

Images captured by Palestinian photographers in the aftermath of the attack showed several badly damaged concrete buildings, one of them reduced to rubble. Both the Palestinian images and the Israeli video appeared to have been taken from the same location, next to several rows of tents.

The ministry of health in Gaza said that at least 67 people had been killed overnight in Israeli strikes in Rafah. News outlets reported deadly attacks on two mosques in Rafah.

Neither the Israeli account nor the toll reported by the Gazan health ministry — which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths — could be verified independently.

Ziad Obeid, a customs official who had fled to Rafah, described being awakened at 2 a.m. by a barrage of explosions so bright that it was “as if we were in the middle of the day, not the night.” He added: “It was a horrible night.”

The Israeli military said the soldiers forced their way inside a second-floor apartment to rescue the two hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70.

The military said the ensuing strikes were intended to prevent Hamas commanders in the surrounding area from contacting the hostages’ guards and completing “an operational picture” of the raid.

The military did not reveal how the commandos reached the house, but Israeli news media reported that they forced open a door with an explosive, and that the hostages were evacuated by helicopter.

The operation was greeted joyfully in Israel, where the fate of the hostages has exacerbated social divisions and trauma.

Some Israelis want their government to agree to a deal that would free the remaining hostages in exchange for ending the war, fearing that the Israeli offensive puts the captives in jeopardy.

The rescue was a major boost for Mr. Netanyahu, who said in a statement on Monday that “only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring about the release of all of our hostages.”

Mr. Netanyahu, vowing to end Hamas’s control of Gaza, has ignored warnings — from the United States, the United Nations, aid groups and others that an advance on Rafah would be devastating to civilians and risk exacerbating a catastrophe that is already unfolding, with residents running low on food, clean water and medicine.

Mr. Netanyahu has ordered the military to draw up plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah, but aid groups and others say there is no place left for them to go. On Sunday, he promised to offer Palestinians safe passage to northern areas of Gaza before an invasion of Rafah, though he offered no details.

Yan Zhuang, Gabby Sobelman and Andrés R. Martínez contributed reporting.

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

Here’s how Israeli commandos carried out the rescue of 2 hostages in Gaza.

The Israeli commandos reached the hide-out on foot, weaving in silence through the back streets of Hamas-controlled Rafah in the pre-dawn darkness. Their mission: Rescue two of the hostages captured on Oct. 7 during the Hamas-led raid on southern Israel that began the ongoing war in Gaza.

More than 250 people were captured that day, roughly half of whom were released in November. But in the early morning on Monday, a squad from the Israeli special forces freed two of those who had now been held hostage for more than four months: Fernando Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70.

The rescue mission was described by the Israeli military, which also released videos from the operation, which the country’s military and civilian leadership — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — followed in real time from a command center in central Israel.

In Gaza, the rescue team’s moves went undetected.

Down a suburban side road, the squad — drawn from both a police SWAT team and the Shin Bet, Israel’s equivalent of the F.B.I. — halted outside a two-story house, its walls partly obscured by a tree, drone footage later showed.

At around 1:50 a.m., some of the commandos fixed a small explosive to the front door and blasted it open, according an Israeli military spokesman, Maj. Nir Dinar. Footage showed the commandos — numbering roughly a dozen — hurrying inside in single file.

After rushing up the stairs to a second-floor apartment, the commandos located Mr. Marman and Mr. Har within seconds, Major Dinar said.

Evacuating them would prove harder and take longer.

Almost immediately, the rescue team began taking fire from inside and outside the building, starting a gun battle that lasted for several minutes, Major Dinar said. Within a few moments, the Israeli Air Force began striking the area around the house, as well as other parts of Rafah.

Israel’s goal with the strikes, Major Dinar said, was to hit Hamas military command centers, confuse the militants, sever contact between the hostages’ captors and their commanders, and provide cover for the escape.

The explosions across the city lit up the night sky, terrifying the roughly 1 million Gazans who had fled there to escape fighting further north. The blasts were so bright, one refugee said, that the sky seemed closer to day than night.

Health officials in Gaza said nearly 70 people were killed. Video verified by The New York Times showed a mosque ablaze following the strikes.

Three Hamas captors were killed as the Israeli rescue team fought its way out of the building, Major Dinar said. One SWAT officer was lightly injured.

Drone footage showed the group hurrying down the street and away from the building in single file. They soon met up with members of Israel’s 7th Brigade, who escorted the team and the freed hostages back toward the front line. A helicopter flown by Shayetet 13, an Israeli unit akin to the Navy SEALs, flew the hostages to safety in Israel.

After 128 days in captivity, they were free.

“Welcome back,” one commando said in footage filmed on the helicopter. “How are you guys? How are you feeling?”

“Shocked,” one of the hostages is heard replying. “Shocked, all right.”

Gabby Sobelman and Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.

Videos show the aftermath of the Israeli strikes in Rafah during the hostage rescue.

Videos and photos verified by The New York Times showed several large craters and destroyed residential buildings left behind by Israeli strikes in Rafah during an operation early Monday that freed two men taken hostage during the Oct. 7 assault led by Hamas.

Later on Monday, the Israeli military released a video it said showed rescuers removing the hostages from a building in the area. Israeli forces later destroyed the building in an airstrike.

The military said the raid and attacks took place in the Shaboura area of Rafah, the southern city where more than a million displaced Gazans are living, according to U.N. estimates. In early December, Israeli officials told displaced Gazans to evacuate to that part of Rafah for their safety.

There are makeshift encampments less than 250 feet from the site of the rescue operation and the associated airstrikes. Several other encampments are within a quarter-mile of the damage.

Other video verified by The Times showed Al Huda mosque ablaze following strikes in a densely populated part of Rafah early Monday morning.

Gaza’s health ministry said at least 67 people had been killed overnight in Israeli strikes in Rafah.

Nader Ibrahim contributed reporting.

Palestinians in Rafah describe a ‘night full of horror’ during Israel’s hostage rescue.

Palestinians in Rafah described a night of fear as Israeli strikes pummeled the area early Monday, killing and wounding dozens, according to the Gazan health ministry, and highlighting the cost of Israel’s military operation to free its hostages.

“I swear to God it was an indescribable night,” said Ghada al-Kurd, 37, who is among more than a million people sheltering in the southern Gaza city. “The bombing was everywhere — we were convinced that the Israeli army was invading Rafah.”

Israel’s military said early Monday that it had conducted a “wave of attacks” on Rafah to provide cover for soldiers who freed two hostages held by Hamas. The health ministry in Gaza said that at least 67 people had been killed in the strikes, and that the toll was likely to rise. The ministry’s figures do not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Dr. Marwan al-Hamase, the director of Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, said that the hospital had received 100 injured people overnight, along with the bodies of 52 who were killed.

Maher Abu Arar, a spokesman for the Kuwait Hospital in Rafah, said the hospital had taken in at least 15 bodies and 50 wounded people. “There were a lot of body parts,” said Mr. Abu Arar, following “successive and sudden” Israeli strikes.

Ms. al-Kurd said that people in Rafah were panicking and considered evacuating during the night, but “no one knew where to even go.” She added in a voice message that her young nieces “were crying and I was trying to calm them down,” even though she was also “very scared.”

Gazans in Rafah have been wondering if they should evacuate ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive into the city. But many who have already been displaced multiple times since the start of the war have said that they have nowhere else to go.

Ms. al-Kurd sent five short voice messages she recorded during the night in which the sound of intense bombing and machine guns can be heard clearly. In the background of one of the recordings, a young girl cries and calls for her mother. In another message, Ms. al-Kurd says: “The bombing was very close.”

“To simply put it, it was a night full of horror, strikes, death and destruction,” said Akram al-Satri, 47, who is staying in the Shaboura neighborhood of Rafah. He said strikes there began at around 1 a.m. and that there were “very violent clashes.” He added in a voice message on Monday morning that several houses and a mosque in the area had been destroyed.

“The explosions caused a state of panic among men, women and children alike,” Mr. al-Satri said. “The state of panic pushed everyone to pack whatever they had, thinking that the ground invasion of Rafah had begun and that they would live what others have in Khan Younis, Gaza City and the north,” he added, listing areas of Gaza that Israeli ground troops have invaded over the past four months of war.

Majd Huwehe, 35, a freelance journalist, said that the strikes and clashes “started suddenly,” sending him and his family running to a nearby school for shelter because the tent they were staying in could not offer protection from shrapnel. “Everyone was terrified,” he added.

Iyad Abuheweila contributed reporting from Istanbul and Abu Bakr Bashir from London.

The UNRWA chief says it is ‘absolutely critical’ that E.U. money arrive by the end of the month.

The U.N. agency aiding Palestinian refugees said on Monday that European Union financial support is crucial to the agency, as it appealed to E.U. officials not to join other international donors in suspending aid over allegations that some of its employees participated in Hamas terrorist attacks.

Philippe Lazzarini, the chief of the agency known as UNRWA, said the civilian population of the Gaza Strip had already paid an “unspeakable” price as war between Israel and Hamas causes a humanitarian crisis that would get dramatically worse if the U.N. agency ran out of money. He warned of a deep sense of panic over the prospect of an Israeli military operation in Rafah, where much of the territory’s displaced populace has fled.

Asked before a meeting with E.U. officials in Brussels how important it was for UNRWA to receive the E.U.’s scheduled contribution by the end of the month, Mr. Lazzarini responded: “Absolutely critical.”

At least 12 countries, including the United States and Germany, have temporarily suspended their funding earlier this month after the Israeli government circulated allegations that about a dozen members of UNRWA’s staff played an active role in the Oct. 7 attacks. In total, around $450 million in this year’s funding have been withheld from the agency, Mr. Lazzarini said.

Israel has imposed a number of restrictions on the agency, he added, including freezing its bank accounts and blocking the shipment of food for over 1.1 million people. The Israeli Parliament is expected to vote later this week on banning UNRWA from operating in Jerusalem, its headquarters.

And the situation in Rafah, the area along the border with Egypt where more than a million people are sheltering, has become more difficult, Mr. Lazzarini said. On Monday, Unicef said that 600,000 children were among those in the city. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has signaled that ground forces could soon enter Rafah.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult to operate in Rafah itself,” Mr. Lazzarini said. “So the coming days will tell us if yes or not we will be able to continue to operate in an extraordinary, extraordinary, challenging environment.”

The European Union is one of UNRWA’s largest donors, and was expected to provide 82 million euros, or $88 million in 2024. But the European Commission, the bloc’s executive body, called last month for an independent audit at UNRWA, which would focus on screening and monitoring of “the possible involvement of its staff in terrorist activities.”

It said it would decide on the disbursement of the funds by the end of this month, taking into account the audit and results of a U.N. internal investigation. (A review conducted late last year by the E.U. concluded that none of its funds, including those sent to UNRWA, went to Hamas.)

Separate from its own internal investigation, the United Nations has commissioned an outside review led by a former French foreign minister. “We hope that in one month we will have already preliminary observation to be shared with the agency, and by the 20th of April we should receive the final report,” Mr. Lazzarini said of that review.

Referring to the European Union, he said: “There is a mutual commitment to find ways to address them in order to make the release of this contribution possible.”

UNRWA operates in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip, providing vital aid, including health care, food, jobs and housing assistance to more than five million Palestinians. More than 150 of its employees have been killed during the conflict, including one who was killed when Israeli forces fired on a school in Khan Younis, Mr. Lazzarini wrote on social media on Monday.

The E.U.’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, signaled his continued support for the organization and its mission, saying that the only circumstances under which UNRWA should cease to exist is when there are no longer refugees to serve.

“It should be dissolved when there is no more Palestinian refugee problem,” he said, “when the problem has been solved through the creation of two states.”

Here’s what to know about the rescued hostages.

Israeli security forces said early Monday that they had freed two hostages who were being held in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, in only the second known rescue of its kind in Gaza since the start of the war. Officials in Gaza said that accompanying Israeli strikes had killed dozens of Palestinians in the city overnight.

The hostages, Fernando Simon Marman, 60, and Louis Har, 70, were undergoing tests at a hospital near Tel Aviv and were both in good condition, according to a joint statement from the Israeli military, the police and the domestic security agency, Shin Bet.

“Fernando and Louis, welcome home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “I salute our brave fighters for the daring action that led to their release.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s office said that Mr. Marman and Mr. Har were both dual citizens of Israel and Argentina. They were among more than 240 people captured during the surprise Oct. 7 raid on southern Israel by Hamas and other militant groups. Israel said it launched attacks in Rafah to provide cover for the rescue.

The two men, looking gaunt but not visibly harmed, cried and embraced family members who had come to be reunited with them at Sheba Medical Center, according to video released by the Israeli military.

Mr. Har was pale and “a little in shock,” according to Idan Berjerano, his son-in-law, who visited him and spoke to Israel’s public broadcaster.

The Israeli military said that Mr. Marman and Mr. Har had been kidnapped from the same house in Nir Yitzhak, a kibbutz near the border with Gaza. They were taken hostage along with other family members including Clara Marman, who is Mr. Marman’s sister and Mr. Har’s partner. Ms. Marman and the other family members were freed in November as part of a weeklong cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

An Israeli news website, Ynet, reported that the two men had told their captors that they were Argentine and had tried to make conversation by talking about soccer.

The rescue was the main story in the Israeli news media, but the public reaction appeared more muted than in November, when about 100 of the hostages were released during the cease-fire. This appeared partly to reflect the knowledge that more than 100 people remained in captivity.

“Not stopping till they all come home,” the organization Bring Them Home Now, which advocates for the release of the hostages, said in a social media post.

Last week, The New York Times reported that Israeli intelligence officers had concluded that at least 30 of the remaining 136 hostages had died since the start of the war.

Before Monday, Israeli forces had said they rescued at least one hostage, Pvt. Ori Megidish, who was freed during a military operation in October. But the military has released few details about that operation.

In December, the Israeli military said its forces had mistakenly killed three hostages in Gaza who had been waving a makeshift white flag.

With military analysts saying that rescue operations are not the path to freeing most of the captives, hostages’ families have been pressing Israel to prioritize negotiations for their release. Last week, Mr. Netanyahu publicly rejected Hamas’s latest proposal for another pause in fighting that would allow for some of the hostages being held by the militants to be released. But Israeli officials have also signaled that their government was still open to negotiation.

Asked in an interview televised Sunday with ABC News how many of the remaining hostages were still alive, Mr. Netanyahu said, “Enough to warrant the kind of efforts that we’re doing.”

President Javier Milei of Argentina — who last week made his first state visit to Israel as president — thanked the Israeli military for rescuing the two men. In a statement on Monday, Mr. Milei’s office said that he had raised the subject of Argentine hostages in his meetings with Israeli leaders.

Reporting was contributed by Gabby Sobelman, Myra Noveck and Cassandra Vinograd.

A Dutch court moves to block the export of F-35 parts to Israel.

A court in the Netherlands on Monday ordered the Dutch government to stop exporting parts for F-35 fighter jets to Israel, a move that reflected mounting alarm over the heavy civilian toll of Israel’s war in Gaza but was unlikely to have an immediate effect on the military campaign.

The Netherlands hosts a warehouse of U.S.-owned F-35 parts that are exported to countries that operate the fighters. Oxfam and two other human rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government in December, demanding that it halt the exports amid concerns over potential Israeli violations of international law in Gaza.

In an initial ruling in December, a court declined to issue the order, but on Monday a court of appeals in The Hague said it agreed with the rights groups. It gave the Dutch government seven days to stop exporting F-35 parts to Israel.

“The court finds that there is a clear risk that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law,” it said in a ruling.

The Dutch government said it would lodge an appeal with the country’s Supreme Court against the ruling, which came as Prime Minister Mark Rutte was visiting Israel. Israel’s Defense Ministry declined to comment.

More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to health officials there, since Israel launched a retaliatory war against Hamas after the armed group’s deadly Oct. 7 attack. Rights organizations have increasingly called for countries to block weapons exports to Israel to protest how the country is carrying out its offensive — and on Monday the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell Fontelles, suggested the international community should “think about” providing fewer arms.

Analysts said Monday’s ruling would likely have little impact on the Israeli military’s capabilities, noting that it has other weapons at its disposal and that F-35 parts are available elsewhere.

“If one supplier isn’t able to deliver for any reason, the parts can be sourced from another,” said Gareth Jennings, aviation editor at the defense intelligence firm Janes.

For the moment, he added, the Dutch ruling seems to be “a symbolic act rather than one having any meaningful effect on Israel’s F-35 fleet.”

It’s also unclear how much Israel’s operations in Gaza have relied on its F-35, which make up a smaller share of its fighter jets.

“F-15s and F-16s form the backbone of the Israeli Air Force,” said Douglas Barrie, a military aerospace expert at I.I.S.S., calling those jets “the workhorses.”

The F-35, made by the U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin, is considered one of the most expensive weapons programs in history. Each jet has a roughly $80 million to $100 million price tag; the aircraft are capable of avoiding enemy radar and use a highly advanced software system.

More than a dozen countries — including Israel, the United States and Britain — own or have placed orders for F-35s. Israel was the first known to have used one in combat, saying in May 2018 that it had used the F-35 in two airstrikes in the Middle East, without specifying the targets.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. In December, American military officials confirmed that the United States had rushed extra support for the fighters to Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks.

“Since early October, the F-35 program has delivered surge support to Israel,” Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt told a House Armed Services subcommittee.

Gabby Sobelman and Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting.

Israeli analysts say an invasion of Rafah is not imminent. Here’s why.

The Israeli special forces operation that military officials said freed two hostages early Monday in Rafah was accompanied by a wave of airstrikes that left dozens of Palestinians dead, according to Gazan health officials. The strikes pointed to the challenges facing Israel should its ground forces invade the crowded southern Gaza city.

Israeli leaders have framed an invasion of Rafah as an imperative to achieve their goal of eliminating Hamas. But the planning for such an operation, in a city where more than 1 million Palestinians have sought shelter, is fraught with complexity and will likely take some time, according to Israeli officials and analysts.

A major challenge for Israeli forces will be how to move civilians who have crowded into the city out of harm’s way. Many Gazans fled to Rafah on the instructions of the Israeli military to avoid the fighting farther north in Gaza, and a chorus of international leaders have expressed concerns that the people there have nowhere to go.

The prospect of an assault on Rafah is creating tensions with Egypt, which fears a destabilizing influx of Palestinian refugees across its border. Egypt is an important strategic partner for Israel in the region and has played a key role in negotiations aimed at securing the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

And it has added to divisions with the United States, with President Biden warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in a phone call on Sunday that a ground offensive in Rafah must include a plan to protect civilians.

The Biden administration has also raised concern over fighting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to two Israeli officials with knowledge of the discussions. An attack during Ramadan — which is expected to start March 10, though the timing depends on the sighting of the moon over Mecca — could be viewed as particularly provocative to Muslims in the region and beyond.

Israeli officials say the military is still working on its plans for invading Rafah and that they have not yet been presented to Mr. Netanyahu. In the meantime, some have struck a defiant tone about the anticipated assault on a city that officials have called the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

“The operation in Rafah will happen,” Avi Dichter, a minister from Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, told Israel’s public broadcaster, Kan, on Sunday. “It will begin and it will end, just like in other places,” he said.

He also dismissed the idea that Ramadan should pose any constraints. “Ramadan is not a month without wars — it never was,” he said, noting that Egypt went to war against Israel in 1973 during the holy month.

Yaakov Amidror, a former general and national security adviser, said that Israeli officials understand that “Rafah is a complex issue.” But he described an invasion as necessary to destroy the Hamas battalions remaining in the city, in order to fulfill Israel’s war goals of dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities and its ability to govern Gaza.

“It is not imminent,” he said of the operation, “but it will have to be done.”

Doing so without evacuating civilians would be “almost impossible,” he added, which means civilians in Rafah would need to be moved. Mr. Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC News aired Sunday that Israel was “working out a detailed plan” to do so, although he did not provide details.

Mr. Dichter suggested that Gazans could be moved to an area west of Rafah along the seashore. Mr. Amidror suggested other options, including some areas of central Gaza where the military has not yet operated, or the nearby city of Khan Younis, once Israel winds down its campaign there.

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

The U.S., U.N. and International Criminal Court intensify warnings to Israel against invading Rafah.

The United States opposes an Israeli ground offensive into Rafah unless Israel provides for the safety of more than a million people now crammed into the city, a State Department spokesman said on Monday, adding to the Biden administration’s repudiations of the expected military action.

At the same time, officials of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court took a more absolute stand against the expected Israeli invasion of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, warning of catastrophic consequences.

So far, however, the escalating international pressure on Israel to restrain its military campaign appears to have had little effect; the Israeli government has said repeatedly that it will send ground forces into Rafah to defeat Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the military to draft a plan to evacuate civilians from the overcrowded city in order to minimize casualties, but international aid groups have said the evacuation of so many people is unrealistic.

“We do not support any military campaign in Rafah going forward as long as they cannot properly account for the 1.1 million people, by some estimates, who are in Rafah today, some of whom have already been displaced, some of whom have been displaced multiple times,” Matthew Miller, spokesman for the State Department, told reporters on Monday. “We think there needs to be a credible plan that they can actually execute before they undertake any military campaign in Rafah.”

The White House has conveyed a similar message several times in recent days. On Sunday, President Biden reaffirmed the view to Mr. Netanyahu during a phone call.

Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said on Monday that any incursion into Rafah would jeopardize the delivery of essential aid to a territory where food, water, medicine and shelter are in critically short supply, and where most people have fled their homes. Rafah contains the only border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, and that crossing is the primary portal for aid.

The United Nations, he indicated, would play no part in Israel’s evacuation plans.

“We will not be party to forced displacement of people,” Mr. Dujarric said. “As it is, there is no place that is currently safe in Gaza.”

Moving people out of Rafah, he said, would mean pushing them into places that are littered with unexploded ordnance, lack shelter and are inaccessible to aid shipments.

Since beginning a brutal military campaign against Hamas in response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel, the Israeli military has repeatedly told Gazan residents to evacuate areas ahead of ground combat, starting in the north and working its way south. The majority of the territory’s roughly 2.2 million people have squeezed into Rafah, many of them in living in squalid conditions in makeshift tent camps.

Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, said on Monday that he was “deeply concerned” about the prospect of an offensive into Rafah, and hinted at the possibility of prosecution for war crimes.

“All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted so as to render them hollow or devoid of meaning,” he said in a statement posted on social media.

He added that he had “not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel,” and that “those who do not comply with the law should not complain later when my Office takes action pursuant to its mandate.”

Leaders of the United States and other allies have called on Israel to take a more cautious and precise approach to fighting Hamas that would inflict fewer casualties and less destruction. Mr. Biden on Thursday called Israel’s conduct in the war “over the top.”

Mr. Miller declined to say what action the United States might take if Israel continued to use force that the administration considers disproportionate. When asked if the Biden administration was happy with the results of its efforts to influence Israel’s conduct in the war, he said, “in many cases no, absolutely we are not.”

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

A photograph in an earlier version of this briefing incorrectly identified the location of the funeral of an Israeli soldier, Sgt. First Class Adi Eldor, who was killed in southern Gaza. The funeral was held in Haifa, not Tel Aviv.

Lost Images Reveal the History of Rio’s Carnival

Rafael Cosme was at a Rio de Janeiro antique fair six years ago when he found a pile of film negatives on the ground. No one wanted them, the vendor said. They were $2.

“I carried home two bags of negatives thinking: What am I doing with my life?” he recalled.

So began Mr. Cosme’s obsession with the lost and discarded photos of his city’s past. Since that morning in 2018, he has collected more than 150,000 film photos and negatives, nearly all shot by amateurs, that tell the story of Rio de Janeiro from the 1890s to the 1980s, one flash in time at a time.

In his work, he has noticed that one theme keeps popping up more than any other.


It is Rio’s annual collective exhalation — a four-day eruption of art and music, costumes and joy — that began again on Saturday.

The celebration has come to define Rio around the world, while also becoming an influential driver of the city’s culture.

“There is no researching this city without going through Carnival,” Mr. Cosme said.

But through the photos, taken over decades by photographers whose names are lost to history, he could see how Carnival had changed with the city, and vice versa.

From 100-year-old prints with a sepia tint to 60-year-old saturated Kodachrome slides, the images revealed changing trends in society, humor, fashion, drug use and sexual liberalization.

Taken by amateurs with the cameras of their day, the photos often have a ragged beauty to them, compared with today’s digital perfection, and also a special intimacy.

“I realized there are endless stories I could tell about this city,” Mr. Cosme said about his discovery of Rio’s lost photos. “Because inside every house, inside every closet, there is a box with revelations.”

Carnival, a days-long celebration ahead of the Christian observance of Lent, arrived in Brazil with the Portuguese colonizers, and for centuries retained traditions from Europe. It was a costume party of sorts, where revelers would hide their identities to play pranks on neighbors.

By the middle of the 19th century, Brazilians began adding music, dancing and revelry in the street. By the turn of the 20th century, it was a full-fledged party.

Around that time, Rio’s rich elites began parading around the city during Carnival in open cars, according to Maria Clementina Pereira Cunha, a historian who has written books about Rio’s Carnival.

It was partly a way to show off their wealth, she said. But when suburbanites began pooling money to rent cars to parade around, too, the trend fell out of fashion with elites and died in the 1930s.

Even with its constant evolution, Carnival remained a costume party. The photos show that many people, particularly among Brazil’s poor, crafted creative outfits at home using what they could find.

“Mothers sewed and embroidered so their children would look well presented at Carnival,” Ms. Pereira Cunha said. “That’s why they wanted their photograph taken.”

Costumes also were satirical and playful, sometimes referring to pop culture and current events — references that are not always so clear today.

One of the most popular costumes was men dressing as women. They were designed to be a joke, often playing up sexist tropes, and the costumes fell out of favor over time.

Clown costumes were long popular, but over the decades they grew more sinister. People who wore them often tried to scare other revelers.

Eventually, men from Rio’s suburbs created a style called “bate bola,” or roughly “slam ball,” a costume that involved menacing clowns who slammed balls tied to ropes against the street. This type of costume, seen in the fifth image below, became renowned for frightening children and is still common today.

By the 1910s, people began carrying glass bottles of a scented ether-based liquid that provided a brief euphoric high. Later the bottles gave way to pressurized cans. They were called “lança perfume,” or “perfume throwers.”

Revelers would spray the concoction into crowds or at strangers, often to flirt, said Felipe Ferreira, a Carnival historian at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.

The government banned the sprays in 1961, but a stronger version is still used illegally today.

Look closely at these photos to see people carrying the bottles and cans.

The 20th century also brought “blocos,” or street bands, which became an integral part of Brazilian Carnival, and still are today. They are each a social club of sorts that play music on the street, with drums, horns and often matching outfits.

They frequently marched through the city, fueling impromptu parties, with different blocos offering differing styles of music, costumes and themes.

By the late 1920s, the so-called samba schools arrived. These were formal groups of samba musicians and dancers who performed increasingly elaborate shows that told stories through costumes, lyrics and dance.

They were made up of largely Black residents of poorer neighborhoods, and they focused on celebrating their Afro-Brazilian heritage.

As they became Rio’s most popular Carnival attraction, the city shut down a main avenue for the schools’ parades, adding large decorations and bleachers, as seen in the photos below. The schools, meanwhile, adopted even more extravagant costumes and floats.

Today the parade remains the centerpiece of Rio’s Carnival, held in a dedicated stadium built in 1984.

Produced by Craig Allen, Gray Beltran and Diego Ribadeneira.

Lis Moriconi contributed reporting.

Finland’s New President Faces Unexpected First Test: Not Russia, but Trump

Educated in the United States and deeply pro-American, Finland’s president-elect, Alexander Stubb, looked perfectly poised to lead his nation into a stronger trans-Atlantic partnership and redefine its role in the global order as a newly minted NATO member.

Instead, he will enter office next month at a time when U.S. politics has once again thrown the durability of that relationship — and the wisdom of European nations counting on it — into question.

For weeks, the two candidates in Finland’s runoff presidential elections, which Mr. Stubb won on Sunday, had played up their pro-NATO credentials and tough views on Russia. Then the former U.S. president Donald J. Trump threatened that, if re-elected, he would let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” against NATO allies that do not contribute sufficiently to collective defense.

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She Survived an Airstrike That Killed Her Entire Family in Gaza

Who Are the Major Players After Pakistan’s Stunning Election?

The stunning election success of a party whose leader is in jail has set off a political crisis in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 240 million people.

The stakes are high: Pakistanis face soaring inflation and costs of living, frequent blackouts, resurgent terrorist attacks and tense relations with their neighbors.

Here are the critical figures competing for power.

Imran Khan, a former prime minister and cricket star, has been sentenced to 34 years in prison on charges that include leaking state secrets and unlawful marriage. He is barred from holding office, and his supporters call the charges, which he denies, an effort by the military to silence its leading critic.

Mr. Khan, 71, was ousted as prime minister in 2022 but staged a comeback, rallying young people with populist rhetoric and criticism of the dynastic families and military establishment that have dominated Pakistan for decades. In the election last week, candidates aligned with Mr. Khan won more seats in Parliament than any other group — but still fell short of forming a majority on their own.

Mr. Khan faces a legal labyrinth as he seeks to leave prison. Many experts believe his party is unlikely to assemble a governing coalition, given the military’s preference for its rivals and his tense relationships with the two other major parties.

But his party’s ability to organize support online has helped Mr. Khan persevere as a powerful influence. His party is challenging election results on the basis of widely reported irregularities in vote counting, and an A.I.-generated version of Mr. Khan declared victory on Saturday.

Mr. Khan’s main rival was another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. Both men were aligned with military generals when they took office and then fell out with them.

Analysts say military pressure contributed to Mr. Sharif’s trouble holding onto power: Despite being Pakistan’s longest-serving prime minister, serving three terms, he never finished one in office. (Pakistan has never had a prime minister finish a full term in office.)

He stepped down most recently in 2017, after he and his family were ensnared in corruption allegations that the Supreme Court ruled disqualified him from office.

Mr. Sharif, 74, spent years in self-imposed exile in London before returning to Pakistan last year after reaching a détente with the military, which sensed he could rival Mr. Khan’s popular support, analysts say. During his last term, he presided over a period of relative economic stability but ultimately fell out with the military over foreign policy and its role in politics.

His party won the second-most seats in Parliament, according to preliminary counts: 77 candidates, compared with the 92 aligned with Mr. Khan.

But it is not clear that Mr. Sharif would serve again as prime minister. Before the election, he suggested he only wanted the role if his party won a simple majority. In recent years, he has also become increasingly concerned about his legacy, and leading a weak government, after elections marred in allegations of rigging, could imperil it, analysts say.

Shehbaz Sharif, the 72-year-old brother of the former prime minister, is considered the military’s preferred choice for prime minister. He led a coalition government after Mr. Khan’s ouster, and is seen as more deferential to the military than his brother.

He became the standard-bearer of their party, the P.M.L.N., and is known for his administrative skills and his oversight of large infrastructure projects. He, too, has been dogged by accusations of graft and malfeasance that were the focus of several corruption investigations.

He has denied the allegations, but has also faced criticism over his leadership in Punjab, the country’s most populous province and the home of the Sharif dynasty. While chief minister there, he was accused of doing too little to curb extremist sectarian groups and ordering extrajudicial killings. He was acquitted of those charges in 2008.

The coalition government he presided over as prime minister was also widely unpopular and seen as unable to address the economic crisis. And he does not have the popular appeal of his elder brother, who maintains a loyal base of support in parts of Punjab.

The third-most seats in Parliament went to the Pakistan People’s Party, potentially making it a key player in any coalition.

The party is led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir Bhutto, who in 1988 became the first woman to be democratically elected to lead a Muslim country. Ms. Bhutto was elected twice, twice expelled from office — under pressure from the military on charges of corruption — and assassinated in 2007 as she sought a third term in office.

Her son, 35, has sought to turn around the party’s declining fortunes, partly by appealing to people outside the party’s base in southern Pakistan. The party could form part of a Sharif-led coalition government — and on Sunday, leaders from both parties met to discuss that possibility.

Hanging over all these politicians is the military, which has for decades acted as Pakistan’s ultimate authority, ushering in civilian leaders, staging coups and guiding political decisions. Last week’s election was a stunning upset for the military, which had relied on its long effective playbook for crushing political dissent.

Gen. Syed Asim Munir, the military’s chief, is widely considered a personal rival of Mr. Khan. But since the election, General Munir has faced pressure to strike a deal with the imprisoned leader that might involve his eventual release on bail.

If they do not reach a deal, Mr. Khan could tell his party’s winning candidates to resign from Parliament in protest. That could create further political chaos for the country, undermining the legitimacy of the incoming government. Those leaders will also have to contend with rising anger that many Pakistanis feel toward the military as it cracks down on protests, and as economic problems have multiplied on its watch.

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Pope and Argentine President Appear to Find Some Common Ground

President Javier Milei of Argentina, who before taking office ridiculed Pope Francis as an “imbecile” and accused him of violating the Ten Commandments, met with the pontiff on Monday for an hourlong conversation that the Vatican described as “cordial.”

The Vatican said in a statement that the two leaders had spoken at a private meeting about their shared will to further strengthen relations and had addressed the Milei government’s program to counter the economic crisis in Argentina, where the annual inflation rate is at 211 percent.

On social media, Mr. Milei’s office posted a photograph of the pope with the president and the president’s sister, Karina Milei, one of his closest advisers.

The discussions, which came a day after Mr. Milei attended a Mass for the canonization of Argentina’s first female saint, also addressed international issues, “especially ongoing conflicts and the commitment to peace among nations,” the Vatican said.

The good will was not a given. Both men were born in Buenos Aires, and though the pope is a national hero to many in Argentina, where a majority of people identify as Roman Catholic, Mr. Milei, who says he is an “anarcho-capitalist” and who ran under the banner of a far-right libertarian party, has repeatedly denigrated Francis.

In the years preceding his election in November, Mr. Milei often attacked the pope, who in his writings and speeches has repeatedly spoken out against free market economies for generating income inequalities that affect the most vulnerable.

In 2020, Mr. Milei called Francis “the representative of the Evil One on Earth” because of the pope’s defense of “social justice.” Two years later, Mr. Milei said that Francis “always stands on the side of evil” because the pope supported taxation.

Francis appeared to be unperturbed, brushing off the criticism as electoral hyperbole. Mr. Milei’s comments were made “in jest,” the pope said in an interview in December with a Mexican broadcaster.

“You have to distinguish a lot between what a politician says in the election campaign and what he actually does afterward,” Francis added, “because then comes the moment of concreteness, of decisions.”

Francis has often downplayed criticism, even the most vitriolic — part of a strategy of keeping political doors open, even with leaders who hold views that he rejects.

It has not always worked in his favor. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the pope was initially criticized for his stance on Moscow; he eventually called out the aggressor only after months had passed.

Mr. Milei’s tone toward the pope softened after he was elected president late last year, when Francis called him after his victory. Mr. Milei’s office said in a statement at the time that the pope had contacted Mr. Milei to “congratulate him and to express his wishes for the unity and progress for our country.”

On Sunday, Mr. Milei attended a Mass for the canonization of María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa, known as Mama Antula, an 18th-century woman who gave up her wealth to care for the poor. She also kept alive the work of the Jesuits, the order that Francis belongs to, after it was expelled from Argentina.

Francis praised her on Sunday as a “model of apostolic fervor and audacity for us,” and he urged his listeners to overcome prejudice and fear and be close to the poor. “How many suffering men and women do we meet on the sidewalk of our cities,” he said.

After the ceremony, Francis was taken in a wheelchair to greet the Argentine president. The two men exchanged a few words before Mr. Milei bent over and gave Francis a hug.

It had been widely speculated by Vatican experts that the two leaders would speak of a possible papal trip to Argentina during their meeting, but the Vatican did not confirm any talks on that topic. Francis has made 44 trips outside Italy since becoming pope nearly 11 years ago, but he has never returned home. In January, Mr. Milei issued a formal invitation.

In an interview on Friday with Vatican News, an official Vatican outlet, Archbishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva of Buenos Aires said that the Argentine people were waiting for Pope Francis “and want to meet with their pastor.”

The archbishop also spoke about the current economic situation in Argentina. In the two months since Mr. Milei took office, inflation has soared and the value of the national currency has plummeted, prompting protests and strikes. Despite the economic chaos, Mr. Milei’s approval rating has remained high.

“On the one hand, we cannot remain indifferent because for us, the poverty indexes and the indigence indexes are telling us about concrete faces, about concrete brothers and sisters who are having a very bad time,” the archbishop said.

“They are not numbers but concrete faces, and, as I always say, the political, business and religious leaders, we all have a little responsibility in having reached this situation,” he added.

Mr. Milei arrived in Italy from Israel, where he had promised to move his nation’s embassy to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv. The decision was praised by the Israeli government and criticized by Hamas, the armed Palestinian group with which Israel is at war in the Gaza Strip.

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What to Know About Indonesia’s Election

The numbers are staggering.

More than 100 million people are expected to vote, many for the first time. They’ll do so in booths across thousands of islands and three time zones, hammering nails into ballots to mark their choices. And within hours, if history is any guide, the world will know the outcome of the biggest race of the day: the one for Indonesia’s presidency.

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold its general election on Wednesday. Election Day is a national holiday, and on average, about 75 percent of eligible voters have turned out. In addition to the president, voters are choosing members of Parliament and local representatives.

This election season has raised fears that Indonesia, which was an authoritarian state not long ago, is in danger of sliding back toward its dark past. The potential ramifications extend far beyond the country’s borders. As one of the world’s biggest exporters of coal, nickel and palm oil, Indonesia has a large role to play in the climate change crisis.

And in the contest between the United States and China for influence in Asia, Indonesia is seen by U.S. officials as a “swing state.” Under President Joko Widodo, ties with China have deepened significantly, but he has also maintained strong defense relations with Washington.

Here’s what you need to know.

The election is widely seen as a referendum on the legacy of Mr. Joko, who is stepping down after two five-year terms.

Often referred to as Jokowi, he remains extremely popular because he has transformed Indonesia into one of Southeast Asia’s biggest economic success stories. He ushered in a universal health care system, built more than 1,000 miles of roads and highways, and oversaw respectable economic growth of about 5 percent a year.

His supporters say his job is unfinished and that there are pressing issues, such as inequality and poverty, that still need to be addressed. Critics say that as Mr. Joko has pushed infrastructure and welfare programs, he has also presided over backsliding on democratic norms. And now, they add, he is maneuvering to extend his influence on politics once he’s out of office.

Mr. Joko appears to be backing Prabowo Subianto, a onetime rival who has been accused of human rights abuses, to become his successor, alarming even some of his supporters. The outcome of the election could determine the future of democracy in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population.

For the first time in 15 years, voters will get to pick from three presidential candidates: Mr. Prabowo, the current defense minister; Anies Baswedan, the former governor of Jakarta; and Ganjar Pranowo, who ran Central Java.

A year ago, many Indonesians thought Mr. Ganjar — the candidate fielded by Mr. Joko’s political party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle — was a shoo-in. But his reputation took a hit after he pushed to bar an Israeli team from entering Indonesia to compete in the Under-20 World Cup. That resulted in Indonesia losing the right to host the tournament, a blow to a soccer-obsessed country.

Then, in October, Mr. Joko’s brother-in-law cast the deciding vote in the Constitutional Court for a rule change that allowed the president’s 36-year-old son to run for vice president. Mr. Joko’s son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, quickly joined Mr. Prabowo’s ticket, leaving the impression that the president had used his influence to sway the court.

Mr. Prabowo has touted himself as the continuity candidate, saying this month that Mr. Joko’s policies had been “very, very beneficial for all of the people.” But he is a polarizing choice.

To many Indonesians, he symbolizes the brutal, three-decade rule of the dictator Suharto. Mr. Prabowo was married to one of Suharto’s daughters and served as a general in his military, which was notorious for human rights violations. In 1998, Mr. Prabowo was discharged from the army for ordering the kidnappings of student activists.

Surveys show Mr. Prabowo with a wide lead in the polls, but it is less clear whether he will win more than 50 percent of the vote and at least 20 percent of the vote in 20 provinces, which would give him the presidency without having to go through a runoff election in June.

Mr. Ganjar has also promised to continue most of Mr. Joko’s policies, albeit with tweaks. He has been described as “Jokowi lite.” But analysts say he has struggled to define his message, and polls show his support topping off at around 20 percent.

Mr. Anies was initially seen as the distant third in the race. A former university rector, he was perceived as too scholarly to resonate with the masses. Many people in Jakarta think highly of him for implementing a mass rapid transit system and managing the coronavirus pandemic. But his previous ties to radical Islamist preachers have made many voters wary.

In recent weeks, momentum has been building up for Mr. Anies, who is campaigning on a platform for change. His performance in recent debates has impressed Gen Z voters and educated urbanites. He has argued that Mr. Joko’s plan to move the capital to another island would not lead to equitable development, and he has warned about the return of nepotism.

Some recent surveys have shown Mr. Anies ahead of Mr. Ganjar, with support of about 22 percent.

Indonesia’s minimum voting age is 17, and people under 40 make up more than half of the voters. Surveys have found that younger voters are concerned about the economy, education, employment and eradicating corruption.

It is one of the world’s most complex single-day elections. About 205 million people are registered to vote in this sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands, roughly 7,000 of which are inhabited.

Six million election officials have begun fanning out across the country to ensure that as many people as possible get a chance to vote. Logistics are a headache in some places — officials have gone by horseback, taken boats, flown by helicopter and trekked for hours to take ballots to voters.

“It is a massive, colossal task,” said Yulianto Sudrajat, a member of Indonesia’s General Election Commission who is in charge of logistics.

Voters will mark their ballots by hammering nails into them, which election officials say is a fairer method than using a pen, since some Indonesians are unfamiliar with writing instruments. As the votes are counted, election officials hold the ballots up so people can see light shining through the hole.

Unlike India, where national elections take place over several weeks, Indonesia votes in a day. In 2019, the process took such a toll that 894 election workers died, prompting the government to urge volunteers this time to undergo health screenings.

Although the official vote count takes weeks to confirm, the results are generally known by the end of the day, based on so-called quick counts, a kind of exit poll. After polling stations close at 1 p.m. Jakarta time, independent pollsters will tally ballots from a sampling of voting stations nationwide.

In previous elections, the quick counts — released by 5 p.m. — have accurately reflected the real results.

Rin Hindryati and Hasya Nindita contributed reporting.

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An Outburst by Trump on NATO May Push Europe to Go It Alone

Long before Donald J. Trump threatened over the weekend that he was willing to let Russia “do whatever the hell they want” against NATO allies that do not contribute sufficiently to collective defense, European leaders were quietly discussing how they might prepare for a world in which America removes itself as the centerpiece of the 75-year-old alliance.

Even allowing for the usual bombast of one of his campaign rallies, where he made his declaration on Saturday, Mr. Trump may now force Europe’s debate into a far more public phase.

So far the discussion in the European media has focused on whether the former president, if returned to office, would pull the United States out of NATO.

But the larger implication of his statement is that he might invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to pick off a NATO nation, as a warning and a lesson to the 30 or so others about heeding Mr. Trump’s demands.

His statement stunned many in Europe, especially after three years in which President Biden, attempting to restore the confidence in the alliance lost during Mr. Trump’s four years in office, has repeatedly said that the United States would “defend every inch of NATO territory.” And while a spokesman for the White House, Andrew Bates, denounced Mr. Trump’s comments as “unhinged,” by Sunday morning they had already resonated with those who have argued that Europe cannot depend on the United States to deter Russia.

Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, which comprises Europe’s heads of government and defines their common policies, wrote that “reckless statements” like Mr. Trump’s “serve only Putin’s interest.” He wrote that they make more urgent Europe’s nascent efforts to “develop its strategic autonomy and invest in its defense.”

And in Berlin, Norbert Röttgen, a member of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, wrote on the social media platform X, “Everyone should watch this video of #Trump to understand that Europe may soon have no choice but to defend itself.” He added, “Anything else would be capitulation and giving up on ourselves.”

All of this doubt is bound to dominate a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Thursday in Brussels and then the Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering of national security leaders, on Friday. And while Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will doubtless use the moment to celebrate the NATO solidarity that has been critical to keeping Ukraine an independent nation two years after Russia’s invasion, any statements they make will almost certainly be met with doubts about what the alliance will look like in a year’s time.

In fact, that re-evaluation has been underway for months, some European diplomats and defense officials say, though they have alluded to it only obliquely in public, if at all.

Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, has begun talking about how Germany must prepare for the possibility of decades of confrontation with Russia. The departing secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, said last week that the alliance had to prepare for a “decades-long confrontation” with Russia.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Stoltenberg said, “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the U.S., and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.” He added, echoing statements made by NATO members in 2016, “I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election the U.S. will remain a strong and committed NATO ally.”

Denmark’s defense minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, has said that within three to five years, Russia may “test” NATO’s solidarity by attacking one of its weaker members, attempting to fracture the alliance by demonstrating that others would not come to its defense. “That was not NATO’s assessment in 2023,” he told Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, last week, calling it “new information.”

At its core, the argument underway in Europe goes to the question of whether members of the alliance can be assured that the U.S. nuclear umbrella — the ultimate deterrent against Russian invasion — will continue to cover the 31 members of the NATO alliance.

Britain and France have their own small nuclear arsenals. If, over the next year, NATO’s European members came to doubt that the United States would remain committed to Article V of the NATO treaty, which declares that an attack on one constitutes an attack on all, it would almost inevitably revive the debate about who else in Europe needed their own nuclear weapons — starting with Germany.

During the last Cold War, that discussion was quite open, in ways that can seem shocking today. Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, declared in 1957 that tactical nuclear weapons — the kind Russia has threatened to use in Ukraine — were “no more than the further development of the artillery.” He added, “We cannot, of course, do without them.” In a 1962 meeting he added that the defense of Berlin “must be fought from the very beginning with nuclear weapons.”

For six decades the United States helped tamp down such sentiments by basing American nuclear weapons across Europe. They remain there to this day. But the value of that deterrent came under question as Mr. Trump — publicly and privately — pressed his aides to withdraw from NATO in 2018.

At the time, Mr. Trump’s national security team, including the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and two successive national security advisers, H.R. McMaster and John R. Bolton, scrambled to keep Mr. Trump from sabotaging the cornerstone of European defense strategy. Their concern was that American influence in Europe would be undermined, and Russia emboldened.

That was, of course, all prior to the Ukraine war. Now the questions that seemed theoretical to Europeans — starting with whether Mr. Putin was prepared to attempt to retake the lands that he believed were rightly Russia’s, back to Peter the Great — seem vivid, perhaps life-threatening.

When Olaf Scholz, the current German chancellor, prepared last week to meet Mr. Biden in Washington, he wrote in The Wall Street Journal that “Russian victory in Ukraine would not only be the end of Ukraine as a free, democratic and independent state, it would also dramatically change the face of Europe.” It would “serve as a blueprint for other authoritarian leaders around the globe.”

In Washington, Mr. Scholz stressed that Germany had now become the second-largest provider of military aid to Ukraine and was part of the European decision in recent weeks to provide $54 billion over the next four years for the country’s reconstruction.

This year, Germany will finally reach the goal of spending 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense — the goal set for all NATO nations — years later than first promised. The commitments Europe has now made to Ukraine exceed Washington’s current promises, at a moment when it is unclear whether Republicans in Congress will continue to block additional support.

Mr. Trump mentioned none of this in his threatening remarks on Saturday, of course; Europe’s stepping up to the challenge, if belatedly, does not fit his campaign narrative.

But what will resonate in capitals around Europe will be the wording of what he described as an encounter with an unnamed president “of a big country.”

In Mr. Trump’s telling, the leader asked him, “Well, sir, if we don’t pay and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?” And Mr. Trump recalled saying: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You gotta pay.”

The story, which was seen as implausible in many European capitals, was, 75 years into the alliance, a casting of NATO as more of a protection racket than an alliance.

And whether Mr. Trump wins in November or not, the fact that such a vision of NATO has taken hold with a significant number of Americans represents a shift that is bound to affect the view of the trans-Atlantic alliance in Europe for years to come.

Christopher F. Schuetze and Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Berlin, and Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels.

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‘Feel a Bit Like Gulliver’: Peek Inside a 100-Year-Old Royal Dolls’ House

The silver crown is set with diamonds. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds and seed pearls are peppered through the design. And the red velvet cap inside would be fit to cushion the head of a monarch.

Except that the whole thing is only an inch tall.

The jeweled miniature, a copy of Britain’s Imperial State Crown, is part of Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, on display at Windsor Castle outside London, where the everyday objects, luxuries and curiosities of royal life in the early 20th century are reproduced at one-twelfth scale.

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Short on Soldiers, Ukraine Debates How to Find the Next Wave of Troops

Soldiers fight in freezing, muddy trenches bombarded by artillery, or in warrens of burned and blown-up houses in urban combat. Casualty rates are high, and dangerous missions, like storming enemy-held tree lines, abound.

As they planned for a renewal of Ukraine’s military under extreme conditions, both the country’s former top commander and his replacement have emphasized the same looming problem: a need to relieve exhausted, battered troops whose combat tours have stretched nearly two years.

In a tumultuous week for Ukraine’s war effort, President Volodymyr Zelensky removed his commanding general, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, on Thursday, while aid from the country’s largest source of weapons and ammunition, the United States, hung in doubt in Congress.

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Finland Elects Alexander Stubb President as It Ushers in NATO Era

Finns elected the center-right politician Alexander Stubb as their new president on Sunday, in the first national election since the country joined NATO, filling a post that will be critical to shaping Finland’s role in the alliance at a time of increasingly fraught relations with Russia.

The election might typically have gained little notice beyond the borders of the northern European country of 5.6 million people. But Finland, the newest member of NATO, shares the longest border with Russia — some 830 miles — and its politics have taken on special interest to its European and American allies as the geopolitical order shifts.

U.S. power is being challenged by Moscow and Beijing, and Europe is grappling with its largest land war since World War II. At the same time, the American commitment to aiding Ukraine looks increasingly in doubt, and an unpredictable American presidential election looms.

Finland has a parliamentary system of government, but its presidency is not a ceremonial role. The president is responsible for foreign policy, and the winner will play a pivotal role in steering the country through a changing world.

“What kind of a NATO country Finland is going to become is an open question at the moment,” said Jenni Karimaki, a political analyst at the University of Helsinki. “The new president is going to have a lot of say on that matter.”

Finland’s decision to join NATO was a sharp break from its decades of nonalignment, and the risks and responsibilities of the country’s new place in the world had dominated the campaign over who should succeed the popular Sauli Niinisto, whose second six-year term expires next month.

Mr. Stubb, of the National Coalition Party, went into the runoff election on Sunday against Pekka Haavisto of the center-left Green League.

Mr. Stubb won with 51.6 percent of the vote, while Mr. Haavisto had 48.4 percent.

“We’re in a new situation in international policy, where rules are challenged, institutions are challenged, we have war near us, and Russia behaves aggressively,” the president-elect said after the vote was called. “But we’re also facing a new era — because we’re militarily aligned, and we’re a NATO member.”

The two candidates expressed very similar views on the issues most on the minds of voters — they have both strongly supported joining NATO and take a tough line on Russia. The differences between them are largely stylistic.

During his campaign, Mr. Stubb, a former prime minister who went to college in South Carolina, emphasized his desire to bolster trans-Atlantic relations on the campaign trail and regularly played up his hard-line stance.

“I’m as hawkish as the best of them, there’s no question about that,” he told The New York Times in an interview before the vote.

He said countering Russia had become more difficult in an era of hybrid warfare.

A section of the Balticconnector, a gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, was damaged by a Chinese ship as it traveled between two Russian ports. Though an investigation into the episode is still underway, many security experts suspect sabotage. There also has been a surge in cyberattacks, some of which Russia has claimed responsibility for.

One issue particularly concerning to voters has been a sudden sharp increase in asylum seekers crossing into Finland over the Russian border, which many in Finland view as a signal from Russia in response to its NATO membership. Moscow had warned there would be “countermeasures” for Finland joining NATO.

“The line between war and peace has been blurred,” Mr. Stubb said.

Mr. Haavisto, who was foreign minister from 2019 to 2023, used his credentials as one of the main negotiators for Finland’s entry into NATO to show that his stance on Russia is equally tough. But the former United Nations peace negotiator shied away from more hawkish positions.

Mr. Stubb showed himself keen to push a more robust Finnish military role within NATO than Mr. Haavisto. Mr. Stubb raised the idea of permanently hosting a small number of NATO officers in the country.

He also said he would support letting the alliance transport its nuclear weapons on Finnish territory — but that possibility remains a hypothetical, as current Finnish law prohibits nuclear weapons on Finnish territory, and the president cannot legislate.

Mr. Stubb’s party, however, now holds nearly complete control on foreign policy matters for the country. In addition to the presidency, the National Coalition Party also holds the role of prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister in the government.

Voter turnout for the runoff election was around 71 percent of the electorate, and around the capital blue and white Finnish flags were hoisted on buildings to honor the day. The custom in Finland is to have coffee and cake after voting, and lots of families turned out to polling stations on Sunday with their children, who could share in the treats with their parents afterward.

Beyond their border with Russia, however, there is another concern for Finnish voters across the Atlantic: What is in store for Finland’s NATO membership should former President Donald J. Trump, an outspoken critic of the alliance who has even suggested the United States might leave it, win the presidential election in November?

“The whole decision of joining NATO banked on the idea that the U.S., the Americans, are here to stay and that U.S. commitment is long lasting,” said Matti Pesu of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. “If the U.S. decided to weaken its commitment, it would be a huge irony, and it would weaken the deterrence value of Finland’s NATO membership.”

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King Charles Appears in Public for First Time Since Cancer Announcement

King Charles III on Sunday was seen publicly for the first time since Buckingham Palace announced last week that he was being treated for cancer, strolling into a church on the royal Sandringham estate where he has his residence.

Charles, 75, waved and smiled at well-wishers who had gathered nearby to capture a glimpse of the monarch as news cameras flashed. He walked alongside his wife, Queen Camilla, before heading into the 11 a.m. service at St. Mary Magdalene Church.

Later, both the king and queen smiled and waved for the cameras as they headed back to their home at Sandringham House.

In a message released by Buckingham Palace on Saturday, King Charles thanked the public for supporting him since the news of his cancer diagnosis was announced.

“As all those who have been affected by cancer will know, such kind thoughts are the greatest comfort and encouragement,” he said.

The king added that it was “equally heartening to hear how sharing my own diagnosis has helped promote public understanding and shine a light on the work of all those organizations which support cancer patients and their families across the U.K. and wider world.”

Last month, Charles was admitted to a hospital for a routine operation to treat an enlarged prostate. But on Monday, the palace announced that during the course of that treatment, an unspecified form of cancer had been discovered. He has begun treatment for cancer and paused his public engagements during that time.

The king is currently staying at Sandringham, about 100 miles northeast of London.

The decision by the palace to disclose to the public that the king, Britain’s head of state, was being treated for cancer provided a rare candid insight into the health of a monarch.

But it has also left many questions in its wake, with little clarity on the seriousness of his illness or how long he will be receiving treatment.

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Election Shocker in Pakistan: Where the Country Goes From Here

Imran Khan’s stunning performance in Pakistan’s national election has upended most traditional political forecasts in a country where leaders who run afoul of the powerful military rarely find electoral success.

Supporters of Mr. Khan, the jailed former prime minister, are both electrified by the showing of candidates aligned with his party, who won the most seats in last week’s vote, and enraged by what they call blatant rigging and the possibility that other parties will ultimately lead the government.

Here’s what to know about the uncertainty now hanging over Pakistan’s political system.

Mr. Khan’s supporters are challenging the results of dozens of races in the country’s courts, and pressure is growing on Pakistan’s Election Commission to acknowledge the widely reported irregularities in the vote counting.

Backers of Mr. Khan say they will hold peaceful protests outside election commission offices in constituencies where they contend the rigging took place. Protests have already erupted in several parts of the country, especially in the restive southwestern Baluchistan Province.

As of midday Sunday, the Election Commission had not finalized the results from Thursday’s vote. Preliminary counts showed victories for 92 independents (primarily supporters of Mr. Khan, whose party was barred from running), with 77 seats going to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and 54 going to the third major party, the Pakistan People’s Party.

To form a majority government, a party must have at least 169 seats in the 336-seat National Assembly. The Pakistani Constitution mandates that the National Assembly, or lower house of Parliament, convene within 21 days of an election to elect its leadership and subsequently the prime minister.

With candidates associated with Mr. Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, short of a majority in the preliminary count, intense jockeying is underway to form a government.

Mr. Sharif’s party, P.M.L.N., is exploring an option to take control through a coalition with the Pakistan People’s Party and a smaller party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which secured 17 seats. In another possible path to a government led by his conservative party, Mr. Sharif is seeking to attract enough independent candidates so it would not need to align with the P.P.P., which leans left.

Although Mr. Sharif, a three-time prime minister, is heading his party’s negotiations, it is not certain who would lead any coalition opposing the populist Mr. Khan, who was prohibited from running in the election.

Mr. Sharif’s brother, Shehbaz Sharif, is a probable candidate for prime minister, having led a similar coalition after Mr. Khan’s ouster in April 2022. Shehbaz Sharif is seen as more deferential to the military than is Nawaz, who clashed with the generals during his time in office. Nawaz Sharif won a seat in Thursday’s vote, but the result has been challenged by Khan backers over rigging allegations.

Mr. Khan’s supporters might also seek to form a coalition government, though they face potential opposition from the military, which is widely believed to favor a P.M.L.N.-P.P.P. coalition. With Mr. Khan’s party banned, his backers who won seats would have to join another party that has extended support.

And his supporters are certain to form a government in the provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkwa, where he is immensely popular and won an absolute majority.

The popular wave of discontent with the military’s meddling in politics is bound to put pressure on the country’s army chief, Gen. Syed Asim Munir.

General Munir must now decide whether to have some sort of reconciliation with Mr. Khan or barrel ahead and force a coalition of anti-Khan politicians, one that many analysts believe would be weak and unsustainable. In a public statement on Saturday, General Munir called for unity and healing, a sign some read as a willingness to engage with Mr. Khan.

Whichever path the general chooses, said Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute, “the influential military could potentially lose public support.”

Continuing to keep Mr. Khan locked up will be a tough task for the military establishment. With his political victories, pressure will grow to let him out on bail, especially for the cases in which courts rushed to convict him in the days before the election.

On Saturday, Mr. Khan was granted bail in one of the many cases against him, this one involving violence by supporters who ransacked military installations in May. But he still faces decades in prison for his other convictions.

Some analysts pointed to similarities between today and 1988, when Benazir Bhutto won the election despite the opposition of the army and the intelligence service.

The generals grudgingly handed Ms. Bhutto the government under American pressure but did not allow her complete power, giving her no say in the country’s foreign policy or its nuclear weapons policy.

Ultimately, she did not complete her term, with her government ousted in 1990 over corruption and mismanagement charges.

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‘It Is Suffocating’: A Top Liberal University Is Under Attack in India

Jawaharlal Nehru University, named for India’s first prime minister, is one of the country’s premier liberal institutions, a hothouse of strong opinions and left-leaning values whose graduates populate the upper echelons of academia and government.

But to the Hindu nationalists who hold power in India, the university and others like it are dangerous dens of “anti-India” ideas. And they are working to silence them.

Masked men have stormed the J.N.U. campus and attacked students, shouting slogans associated with a far-right Hindu group. Vocal supporters of the right-wing governing party who have been installed as administrators have suspended students for participating in protests and, in December, imposed new restrictions on demonstrations. Professors have been denied promotions for questioning government policies.

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‘This Is Where I Want to Be’

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When Ayelet Khon moved back to the Kfar Azza kibbutz with her husband two months after the brutal Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, the first thing she did was hang a string of rainbow-colored lights up on the front patio.

At night, when darkness drenches this community, the twinkling colors are the only lights visible.

“We are going to keep these lights on and never turn them off — even if we’re out for the evening — they are lights of hope,” Ms. Khon said she told her husband, Shar Shnurman.

Eight hundred people used to live here, including families with children who scampered about in the evenings. Everyone who survived the attack was evacuated on Oct. 8. Since then, their homes have been dark. Even the streetlamps are gone, mowed down when tanks plowed through the narrow lanes as the Israeli Army arrived to defend against the attackers.

Ms. Khon, 56, and Mr. Shnurman, 62, are the only residents who have returned so far. At night, the silence is eerie, punctured episodically by the thunderous sound of bombs exploding in Gaza.

Some people may think they’re crazy, coming back here, just the two of them, Mr. Shnurman said. But to him, coming home was natural.

“We came back for the most basic reason: This is our home,” said Mr. Shnurman, a gregarious giant of a man. “This is where I want to be. It’s the most logical thing, to want to be home.”

He still thinks of this spot, a stone’s throw from Gaza, as a piece of paradise, or, as the locals who lived under the threat of missiles for years put it, “99 percent heaven, 1 percent hell.” Half of the homes were damaged in the attack, but nature has continued on its merry way. The swordlike leaves on the squat palm trees wear the bright green sheen of the desert winter, and thick bougainvillea vines that cling to houses spill purple flowers all about.

It is a communal settlement with no community. The dining hall that served hot lunch every day is closed, and the general store is shuttered. There is no mail, and there are no online deliveries. To buy groceries, you need to leave the kibbutz. Ms. Khon, an acupuncturist and massage therapist, can’t work; her client base was the kibbutz, and no one is around.

About 200,000 Israelis were evacuated after Oct. 7 from towns and farming communities like Kfar Azza that abut the Gaza Strip and were hit hard during the attack, and from villages near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, where shelling by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah intensified at the same time.

The government has put displaced residents up in hotels and is footing the bill for their meals. But prolonged evacuations of this scale have never happened before in Israel, and with the war now entering its fifth month, the unspoken question on everyone’s mind is whether anyone who lived near Gaza will ever feel it is safe enough to return.

Some displaced residents from Kfar Azza said it was premature to even consider returning before the government approved resettlement in towns within 2.5 miles of the border with Gaza, where the Israeli Army has been waging a war to destroy Hamas. Mr. Shnurman and Ms. Khon did not ask for permission to return, although the army’s regional Gaza division has said that residents interested in returning have the option of doing so, according to a military spokesman.

More than 60 Kfar Azza residents were among the roughly 1,200 people in Israel who were murdered on Oct. 7, and some 18 men, women and children from the kibbutz were among the roughly 240 who were kidnapped. Hamas is still holding five hostages from the kibbutz.

“We are not going home until the hostages are back home,” said Ronit Ifergen, 49, a mother of three from Kfar Azza.

So Ms. Khon and Mr. Shnurman, who hasn’t resumed his factory job yet, spend their days participating in what has become a popular pastime in Israel: cooking for troops in the area who have heard about his barbecue and her banana bread by word of mouth.

They are never entirely alone. Kibbutz members who do their military reserve duty on-site stop in for hot goulash, and journalists and others regularly come to see the devastation with their own eyes: the charred row of houses where the young adults lived, the bullet holes in kitchen cabinets, the upended mattress under which Doron Steinbrecher was hiding when she was kidnapped.

Photographs show Ms. Steinbrecher with her long blonde hair pulled back, smiling for the camera, wearing a sparkly dress for a night on the town. She is still being held hostage in Gaza and looked gaunt and fearful in a video released on Jan. 26 by her Hamas captors.

Ms. Khon was having her morning coffee on the patio on Oct. 7 when she heard a barrage of missiles that turned the sky overhead a chalky white. The noise was so loud that Mr. Shnurman thought a helicopter had landed on their house.

They checked on their next-door neighbor, whose husband was away, and then hunkered down in their bedroom that doubles as a safe room. Twenty minutes later, the neighbor’s husband called and said he couldn’t reach her. Could they check in on her again?

“Shar went over, and when he got back, he told me, ‘They murdered Mira,’” Ms. Khon said. “I said, ‘That’s not funny.’ And he said, ‘I’m not joking.’”

The couple think the only reason they survived is because their unit and the neighbor’s unit are attached, and the terrorists must not have known there was another family in the complex.

“I realized then, we’re in a fight for our lives here,” Mr. Shnurman said. “There was a war going on outside our window. And where was the army?”

It took 30 hours until Israeli soldiers rescued them from their safe room, where they had no food, water or electricity. They kept their voices down while hearing the sounds of gunfire and shouting in Arabic outside. When they emerged, they saw bodies and bullet casings all over the kibbutz, and the air was filled with the stench of blood and burned homes.

Like everyone else, the couple were evacuated to a hotel north of Tel Aviv. But they didn’t know what to do with themselves there. They love cooking and feeding people, and they didn’t even have a refrigerator. So on Dec. 10, the fourth night of Hanukkah, they moved back to their snippet of paradise.

Mr. Shnurman goes for a walk every morning. “Every day I pass the houses of the dead, and every morning, I cry all over again,” he said. “And then I come home, and I know: This is the right place to be.”

Other residents cannot bear the thought of returning. “My mother visited just once, and she hugged me and burst out crying, and said, ‘I’m scared to death just being here,’” Ms Khon recalled. “For me, it was the opposite. The desire to go home was greater than the fear.”

Coming back to the kibbutz meant that life won, Mr. Shnurman said. “We beat the death that knocked on our door,” he said.

“Our strength as Jews is that after the Holocaust, we didn’t say, ‘No fair.’ We pulled ourselves up and built a country,” Ms. Khon said. “We beat Hamas by coming back here. They came and said, ‘We’ll uproot you,’ but they failed. We came back to our home. Our victory is that we’re staying here.”

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Manhattan or Pulau Rhun? In 1667, Nutmeg Made the Choice a No-Brainer.

Richard C. Paddock and

Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono, along with the photographer Nyimas Laula, spent three days on Pulau Rhun to document life on the remote island.

The isles of Manhattan and Pulau Rhun could hardly be farther apart, not just in geography, but also in culture, economy and global prominence.

Rhun, in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, has no cars or roads and only about 20 motorbikes. Most people get around by walking along its paved footpaths or up steep stairways, often toting plastic jugs of water from the numerous village wells or sometimes lugging a freshly caught tuna.

But in the 17th century, in what might now seem one of the most lopsided trades in history, the Netherlands believed it got the better part of a bargain with the British when it swapped Manhattan, then known as New Amsterdam, for this tiny speck of land.

Map locates the Maluku Islands in eastern Indonesia. It also locates Pulau Rhan, an island in the Banda Island group, which is part of the Maluku Islands.

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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.

Nearly every day, hundreds fill the street — its overpasses plastered in green, red and white political posters — to rally for their side. Many more, their preferred party effectively disbanded amid a military crackdown, quietly curse the authorities before an election widely viewed as one of the least credible in the country’s history.

The newsstand just off the main highway in Gujar Khan is little more than a metal chair with newspapers fanned out carefully in a circle. Men gathered around the stand, chatting as they drank their morning tea and electric rickshaws rumbled by. Every day, the papers arrive with a new political advertisement splashed across their front page, said the vendor, Abdul Rahim, 60. But he has not been swayed by any of their catchy slogans or artful headshots.

Like many people across Pakistan, he has become fed up with the country’s political system. After former Prime Minister Imran Khan ran afoul of the country’s powerful military and was ousted by Parliament in 2022, infighting seemed to consume the country’s political and military leaders. All the while, people like Mr. Rahim were getting crushed by the worst economic crisis in Pakistan’s recent history, which sent inflation soaring to nearly 40 percent last year, a record high.

“For five years, I’ve been worrying about how to put food on the table — that’s all I’ve spent my time thinking about,” Mr. Rahim said.

Three governments, led by three different parties, have been in power since inflation began to surge in 2019. None were able to put the economy back on track, Mr. Rahim and some men gathered around the stand explained.

“The rulers are becoming richer, their children are becoming richer and we are becoming poorer every day,” Abid Hussein, 57, a nearby fruit stall vendor, piped in. “This is the worst period in my lifetime in Pakistan.”

The fliers are hidden at major intersections in Jhelum, wedged between the fruits and sunglasses of vendors’ carts and surreptitiously handed out to passers-by. They have a photo of Mr. Khan in the top left corner along with his party’s new slogan: “We will take revenge with the vote.”

Most of the campaigning for Mr. Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or P.T.I., has taken place in these shadows after the military started a monthslong intimidation campaign.

“They are working to crush the party. But they can’t because the party is in the hearts of the people,” the provincial assembly candidate in Jhelum, Yasir Mehmood Qureshi, said as he stood in a large, shaded yard surrounded by around two dozen supporters.

The military’s crackdown was designed to sideline the populist Mr. Khan, but most analysts say it has instead increased his support. While his popularity had plummeted as the economy declined in his last months in office, he now has a cultlike following. Supporters see him — and by extension themselves — as wronged by the military leaders who they believe orchestrated his ouster.

“We are frustrated,” one P.T.I. supporter, Momin Khan, 25, said. “Everyone is angry.”

The young men sat on a dead patch of grass at the edge of a field in Wazirabad, half-watching a cricket match. Bored with the game, Umer Malik, 28, pulled out his phone and began scrolling through TikTok. Within a few seconds, there was a video showing a P.T.I. gathering with the words “Vote Only Khan,” another mocking the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or P.M.L.N., the party seen as favored by the military in this election, and one slow-motion shot of Mr. Khan walking through a crowd.

“Every third video is about political stuff,” Mr. Malik muttered.

Mr. Malik and his friends had been captivated by the flood of political content created by P.T.I. in the past few years. The videos explained in layman’s language how Pakistan’s military had kept an iron grip on power. They taught the history of the military’s several coups. They slammed the generals for Mr. Khan’s ouster.

That content, outside the reach of state censorship, had stirred a political awakening for their generation, which makes up around half of the country’s electorate. While young people in Punjab would once take voting instructions from elders who had been promised projects like new roads by party leaders, they are now casting votes for whomever they prefer.

“The old era is over,” said Abid Mehar, 34, whose parents are staunch P.M.L.N. voters, while he supports P.T.I. “We will vote by our conscience.”

It was nearly midnight when the leaders of P.M.L.N. appeared at the rally in Gujranwala. Hundreds of party supporters crammed into rows upon rows of seats, cheering and clapping as fireworks lit up the sky. Political songs blasted from speakers: “Nawaz Sharif, he will build Punjab!” “Nawaz Sharif, he will save the country!”

Mr. Sharif’s near-certain return to power has offered a redemption of sorts. He has served as prime minister three times — never completing a single term. Twice he was ousted after falling out with the military. Then, in 2017, he was toppled by corruption allegations.

But for a military bent on gutting P.T.I., Mr. Sharif was seen as perhaps the only politician who could counter Mr. Khan’s popular appeal. After spending four years in exile, Mr. Sharif was allowed to return to the country in October to shore up P.M.L.N.’s support.

“When he returned, it revived the party,” said Ijaz Khan Ballu, a P.M.L.N. campaigner in Gujranwala. “All these votes for P.M.L.N. are really votes for Nawaz Sharif.”

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Welcome to ‘Dalifornia,’ an Oasis for China’s Drifters and Dreamers

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.

The area has long been a hub for backpackers and artists, who were lured by its cheap rents and idyllic old town, where ancient city gates and white-walled courtyard homes point to the history of the Bai ethnic minority, who have lived there for thousands of years.

But recently, Dali has filled with a different crop of wandering souls: young people from China’s megacities, fleeing the intense lifestyles that so many of them once aspired to. Worn out by the high cost of living, cutthroat competition, record youth unemployment and increasingly suffocating political environment, they have turned Dali into China’s destination of the moment.

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

“Young people who can’t fit into the mainstream can only look for a city on the margins,” said Zhou Xiaoming, 28, who moved from Shanghai three years ago.

Mr. Zhou, always a free spirit, had worked in Shanghai as a teacher at an alternative school. But he found life there too expensive and wanted to explore even more non-mainstream teaching methods. Dali had many to sample — an experimental kindergarten that taught students to hike, another focused on crafts, and many home-schoolers. Mr. Zhou now privately teaches one student, in a village nestled between tea fields on the outskirts of town.

“Dali is remote and pretty tolerant and very fluid, and it has all kinds of people. And most of those people are weird,” Mr. Zhou said.

Depending on your point of view, Dali, population 560,000, can feel like paradise or a parody.

On a recent Wednesday, a Chinese fire dancer gyrated to the drone of a didgeridoo, an Indigenous Australian instrument, in the courtyard of an Israeli musician’s home. A few miles away, throngs of young people lining the streets of the old town peddled cheap fortunetelling, as pulsing music poured out of nearby bars. At a 24-hour bookstore, a reading group scattered on floor cushions discussed Shen Congwen, a prominent 20th-century writer.

A seemingly inescapable buzzword in Dali is healing. Healing yoga, healing camping trips, even healing coffee shops. At a co-working space on a recent Tuesday, about two dozen people listened to a presentation on combating loneliness. At the bed-and-breakfast’s dance circle, participants were encouraged to rediscover their inner child.

The therapeutic atmosphere was especially thick at Veggie Ark, a sprawling complex north of the old town that houses the vegan canteen, yoga studios, gong lessons and a dye workshop. Eventually, it would also include a “self-sufficiency lab” that Tang Guanhua, 34, was building in the courtyard: a wooden dome, constructed by hand, that when completed would be powered by solar energy, and serve as an exhibition space for handicrafts made with local materials.

Mr. Tang wanted the lab to encourage visitors to try out more sustainable lifestyles. When he had pioneered back-to-nature living in China more than a decade ago, brewing homemade vinegar and generating his own electricity, many considered him strange. Now, eight people had paid to participate in building the dome.

“Before, everything was fine, everyone went to work. Now, so many things aren’t right,” he said over a dinner of vegan hot pot. “People are thinking about what to do with themselves.”

Some of the new arrivals say they want to stay forever; others acknowledge they are looking just to try on an alternative lifestyle before returning to the city grind.

Still, even the most cynical observer would admit that the city feels tangibly more open and relaxed than most other places in China.

“People here won’t deliberately try to assign you labels. You can just be yourself and be seen,” said Joey Chen, a 22-year-old freelance writer who had dropped out of college and moved to Dali a month earlier from Jiangxi Province.

Ms. Chen was lounging in the attic reading nook of a bookstore, perusing the Simone de Beauvoir novel “All Men Are Mortal.” Downstairs, the walls were decorated with photos of Kafka and Che Guevara.

The openness extends to potentially sensitive topics, too. At another coffee shop, a rainbow flag was tucked into the rafters. A different bookstore offered volumes on religious topics, such as American Indian shamanism, Christianity and the history of Tibet.

The question is how long Dali can remain such a haven.

Tourists and influencers have flocked to Dali, wielding selfie sticks and posing in hot pink cars that businesses rent out for photo shoots. Throughout the old town, kitschy souvenir shops have replaced handicraft stalls and bookstores. The lakeshore teems with slickly designed bed-and-breakfasts that wouldn’t be out of place in Shanghai or Beijing, often run by moneyed arrivals from those very places.

Rents have soared, driving longtime residents out of the old town, toward more remote villages.

And nowhere in China is truly immune to the tightening political climate — as Lucia Zhao, the owner of the bookstore where Ms. Chen was reading Beauvoir, recently learned.

Ms. Zhao, 33, moved to Dali from Chengdu in 2022 after being laid off from a tech company. She opened her bookstore, which focuses on art, feminism and philosophy, because she wanted to create a space where people could relearn to think critically, she said.

But in August, officials suddenly confiscated all her books, on the grounds that Ms. Zhao had applied for only a regular business license, not a license specifically for selling publications. She shut down for several months while applying for the license and rebuilding her inventory.

She was now more cautious in her book selection. Local officials dropped in occasionally to inspect the store and had recently scrutinized a display of antiwar books she had put out.

“You definitely have more latitude in Dali than in cities like Beijing and Chengdu,” Ms. Zhao said. “But compared to when I got here last year, the space is shrinking.”

Still, for many people in Dali, politics seems to be one of the last things on their mind. And that may be less out of fear than the fact that they came to Dali precisely to avoid those kinds of worldly headaches.

In the kitchen of a co-living space popular with coders and entrepreneurs, Li Bo, a 30-year-old programmer, recalled his own experience with the limits of Dali’s tolerance. He had moved to Dali in October after growing tired of his office job in Beijing and quickly befriended the other residents at the youth space. By day, they worked together on the rooftop patio; at night, they barhopped, laptops in tow.

Not long after arriving, on Halloween, he had dressed up as a Covid testing worker, the hazmat-suited figures who came to symbolize China’s three years of stringent restrictions. It was a lark, he insisted, not political, but he was detained briefly by the police.

But amid the bonfire parties, hikes and open mics the town had to offer, Mr. Li had better things to do than dwell on the negative. Like his latest project: developing an A.I. fortunetelling bot, which he planned to offer to fellow bargoers the next night for 70 cents per reading.

Li You and Siyi Zhao contributed research.

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.

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

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

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

“When I had my first child, there was no place to go,” she said. “Normally in Korea, the grandmother should take care of the new baby, but my mom didn’t have the skill, so we decided to go to a joriwon.”

In 2007, when Ms. Kim was pregnant with her first child, joriwons were not yet popular. The joriwon she toured was in an office building. The elevator was shared by workers returning from daily smoke breaks. The room was small and uncomfortable. “At that time, there was no nurse to take care of the baby,” Ms. Kim said.

She opened St. Park in 2008 with a mission of providing exceptional care for new mothers in a Bali-inspired retreat. It became one of the first high-end joriwons in Seoul. “It’s kind of like we are the transition between hospital and home,” Ms. Kim said. “We don’t want moms to run into trouble at home, that’s our approach.”

Throughout the hallways of St. Park, workers quietly collect dirty laundry and deliver food, including the requisite miyeok guk, or seaweed soup, a post-birth Korean staple.

In the lactation room, beads of sweat run down the forehead of a lactation specialist who squeezes drops of breast milk out of nipples — not always gently — to help with production. A limber Pilates instructor offers tips on body alignment and recovery during classes on the roof.

While Ms. Kim recommends guests stay for 21 days, she has mostly abandoned the folk customs that were still in style when she had her first child, like making sure a new mother’s hands are never put into cold water and avoiding air-conditioning, even in the summer.

“We have air-conditioning,” she said.

The new class of joriwon also hired nurses, nutritionists and pediatricians, and as the overall quality of care improved at the centers, more moms, especially first-time mothers, booked stays.

Now eight out of 10 South Korean mothers go to a joriwon after giving birth, and private centers like St. Park are known among Korean women as one of the best parts of childbirth recovery. Pregnant women clamor to get into their joriwon of choice, and the competition has become so stiff that some moms send in booking requests as soon as they see the double lines on their pregnancy test.

Chun Hye-rim, who is expecting her first child in March, said her husband had to use two phones to make a reservation at Heritage Cheongdam, one of the top joriwons in Seoul. Trinity Yongsan, another sought-after center, put her on the wait list. “They were like, ‘You called now?’” Ms. Chun said. She was just seven weeks pregnant at the time.

Part of the appeal of booking a joriwon is the chance to spend time with other first-time moms who have children of the same age. Anidar, a Seoul joriwon that opened in October, says its goal is to help moms stay connected even after they receive their postpartum care. “We bring together mothers with similar interests and personalities,” said Jeong Minyu, the chief executive officer of Anidar.

Ms. Chun pointed out that she chose Heritage because it was recommended to her by friends. “People try to make good friends at joriwon,” she said. “That culture continues throughout the child’s life.”

“You kind of want to get your children to get along with people in the same social class,” she added.

The issue of class, and cost, is highly sensitive in South Korea, where inequality is on the rise. Two weeks at St. Park — not including massages, facials and hair treatments — costs more than $6,000. Insurance does not cover the fees, but they can be subsidized by the government through a stipend meant to encourage more families to have babies.

As pricey as some joriwons can be, their cost is but a blip in the overall expense of raising a child in South Korea, a fact that may help explain the country’s birthrate.

“One of the reasons people don’t want to give birth is because all the postpartum care that’s so great here, it’s only for two weeks, and then there’s the life after that, which is forever,” Ms. Chun said.

Allison Kang, a Korean American living in Seoul, had her first child in March. She said being at a joriwon helped her recover from her complicated delivery. “I think why it works in Korea is because there is such an emphasis on recovery, and I really wish there was the same emphasis in the United States, or anywhere,” she said.

Some moms say newborns are too vulnerable to be left in the care of strangers in the joriwon system. But Ms. Kang said that her room was just steps away from her daughter in the nursery and that she never felt far away. “It’s incredibly important to allow ourselves to be able to be rested and not feel bad if we need to get better,” she said.

Standing in front of St. Park on a recent afternoon, Ms. Kim, the owner, said that even though her business was profit-driven, she still thinks “as a mom.”

“Every mom when they check out,” she added, “they always cry.”

Jin Yu Young contributed reporting from Seoul.

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The Friar Who Became the Vatican’s Go-To Guy on A.I.

Before dawn, Paolo Benanti climbed to the bell tower of his 16th-century monastery, admired the sunrise over the ruins of the Roman forum and reflected on a world in flux.

“It was a wonderful meditation on what is going on inside,” he said, stepping onto the street in his friar robe. “And outside too.”

There is a lot going on for Father Benanti, who, as both the Vatican’s and the Italian government’s go-to artificial intelligence ethicist, spends his days thinking about the Holy Ghost and the ghosts in the machines.

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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.

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

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

“In some ways she really is like the embodiment of TV history” in Japan, said Aaron Gerow, a professor of East Asian literature and film at Yale University.

Ms. Kuroyanagi is distinguished above all by her longevity, but she was also a trailblazing woman in an overwhelmingly male environment.

When she started as a variety show host in 1972, if she asked a question, “I was told I should just keep my mouth shut,” she recalled in a nearly two-hour interview in a hotel near the studio where she had taped three episodes earlier in the day.

“I do think Japan has changed from that era,” she said.

She has championed the deaf and is a good-will ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. Yet critics say that despite her pioneering career, she has done little to advance women’s causes. “She is an icon for prosperous, good-old” Japan, wrote Kaori Hayashi, a professor of media studies at the University of Tokyo, in an email message.

In the interview, Ms. Kuroyanagi did not dwell on the indignities of being the sole woman in many rooms. She said that in her 30s and 40s, men in the television industry asked her on dates or proposed marriage — offers that she implied were often unwelcome — and that she treated comments that might now be considered inappropriate as jokes.

In a society that she said retained “feudalist” elements in gender relations, she advised women to bootstrap their way through their careers.

“Don’t ever say you can’t do anything because you are a woman,” she said.

Although she said she entered television because she wanted to appear in children’s programming to prepare for motherhood, she never married or had children. “With a unique job, it’s better to stay single,” she said. “It’s more comfortable.”

Her first memoir, about her childhood attending an unusual progressive elementary school in Tokyo, Totto-chan: The Little Girl at the Window, published in 1981, has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. Last fall, she published a sequel recounting the harsh conditions in Japan during World War II, when some days all she had to eat were 15 roasted beans, and she and her mother cowered in a dugout to shelter from air raids over Tokyo.

She said she was inspired to write the sequel in part by the images she saw coming out of Ukraine after the Russian invasion. Ms. Kuroyanagi plumbed her own memories of a wartime childhood, when her mother evacuated the family out of Tokyo to northern Japan.

“Even though I haven’t said war is bad,” she said, “I want people to understand what it was like for a child to experience the war.”

Ms. Kuroyanagi maintains a childlike quality herself. For the interview, she switched out of her signature onion hair bun, concealing her own hair under an ash-blond Shirley Temple-style curly bob wig, secured with an enormous black velvet bow.

It is all part of a nonthreatening persona she has cultivated over the decades. “She’s kind of adorable and cute,” said Kumiko Nemoto, a professor of management in the School of Business Administration at Senshu University in Tokyo, where she focuses on gender issues. “She doesn’t criticize anything or bring up anything political or say any negative things.”

That may be why, Gorbachev aside, Ms. Kuroyanagi has avoided interviews with politicians. “It’s too difficult for them to really tell the truth,” she said. “And I can’t make all of them all look good.”

Although sometimes compared to Barbara Walters, the groundbreaking American newswoman, Ms. Kuroyanagi does not push her interview subjects too hard. Producers ask guests in advance what topics they want to avoid or promote, and Ms. Kuroyanagi tends to oblige.

During the taping this week, her guest was Kankuro Nakamura VI, a sixth-generation Kabuki actor whose father and grandfather were also regular visitors on Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch. Mr. Nakamura seemed to anticipate some questions about his family before they scrolled on to the teleprompter.

“What I put the highest priority on is that I control the situation with guests so that the audience will not think the guest is a weird or bad person,” Ms. Kuroyanagi said. “If possible I want the audience to realize, ‘Oh, this person is quite nice.’”

When Mr. Gorbachev appeared on her show in 2001, Ms. Kuroyanagi avoided politics. “It would have been a big deal for him,” she said. Instead, she asked him about his favorite poets, and he recited “The Sail,” by the 19th-century romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov. “I said I wished that if I asked such a question of any Japanese politician, it would be great if there was even one politician who could do that,” she said.

As she has grown older, she has forthrightly faced the challenges of her own generation on the sound stage at TV Asahi, the home of her show for 49 years. Before his death in 2016, for example, Ms. Kuroyanagi interviewed Rokusuke Ei, the lyricist of the song “Sukiyaki.” He appeared in a wheelchair, clearly showing symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s disease. Ms. Kuroyanagi frankly discussed his illness with him.

“Old people are definitely encouraged by her presence,” said Takahiko Kageyama, a professor of media studies at Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts in Kyoto.

With her speech noticeably slowed, Ms. Kuroyanagi said she was motivated to keep working to inspire older audiences. “To show that a person can appear on TV until I am 100 with a body that is OK and my mind still works,” she said, “if I can show that, I think that would be an interesting experiment.”

Hisako Ueno and Kiuko Notoya contributed reporting from Tokyo.

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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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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.

“How did the pros start playing when they were kids like us? With lêkê,” he added, referring to the sandals that are ubiquitous not only in his pickup game but almost any place an Ivorian puts their feet.

While the best African teams run out in expensive branded cleats at this year’s continental soccer championship, the Africa Cup of Nations, it is in lêkê (pronounced leh-keh) that amateur players craft the best street soccer.

They praise the cheaper sandals for their practicality — “They’re lighter, they fit better and they’re more comfortable where we play,” as Mr. Camara put it — in games that take place not on manicured grass fields in shiny new stadiums but on countless sandy pitches, dusty courtyards and narrow alleyways.

“Lêkê are the national shoes of Ivory Coast,” said Seydou Traoré, his feet resting inside an orange pair (the national color) as he watched a nerve-racking match on a television pulled into the street alongside dozens of neighbors and friends. Many of them wore lêkê, too.

It is unclear how the shoe became so popular in Ivory Coast. Most players said they had been wearing them since they were toddlers. School children wear them to school. And they blossom on countless feet when the streets of Abidjan fill with water during the rainy season.

And while the jelly shoe has become trendy in the fashion world in recent years, with luxury brands like Gucci making their own version, they’re chic in Ivory Coast for reasons of both style and pragmatism.

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“Apart from in the office, you can wear them everywhere, even at a party,” said Mr. Traoré, an amateur player who once competed in Ivory Coast’s second league.

Heels, dress shoes or leather sandals remain the favored shoes for the office in Ivory Coast, one of West Africa’s largest economies and home to a dynamic middle class. But the appeal of lêkê shone through few years ago, when one of the country’s most famous singers turned businessman posed on the cover of a style magazine wearing a Western-style gray suit and white plastic sandals.

The story goes that the jelly sandal was born in 1946, when a French knifemaker invented the original model as a way to use a large batch of plastic he had ordered to make knives. Its original shape — soles studded with spikes, a round tip and a basket-weave top — has barely changed in decades.

The French company that now owns the patent, Humeau-Beaupreau, sells 800,000 pairs a year, according to a representative of the company. But the bulk of the lêkê seen across West Africa are manufactured locally; in Ivory Coast, one can buy a pair on almost every street corner for about $1.50.

On a recent afternoon, Céliba Coulibaly and Saliou Diallo were purchasing a new pair — “chap chap,” they said, or hurriedly — because they had tickets to collect for a Cup of Nations match later that day featuring Guinea, Mr. Diallo’s home country.

Of course they would go to the stadium in lêkê, Mr. Diallo said. “They’re light and comfortable,” he added. “What else would I wear?”

In Ivory Coast, amateur soccer players are divided on the best model to wear — those bearing the name of the Argentine star Lionel Messi, or those named after Basile Boli, the Ivorian-born French player who retired from soccer before many of those now wearing lêkê were born.

As soccer shoes, lêkê are a short-term commitment, since the straps often break after only a few weeks. They are only replaced when they can’t hold the feet anymore, so worn soles are a point of pride — proof of hours of uninterrupted play on scrappy fields locally known as Maracana, in homage to the famed soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The scars and scratches left on feet by the metallic strap are both a badge of suffering and a symbol of dedication to the game, players say.

“Let a guy come with proper sneakers and we’ll make fun of him: ‘You think you’re a professional player or what?’” Iliass Sanogo said as he watched a group of friends — all wearing lêkê — play in the hazy twilight.

Street vendors said the popularity of the sandals colored with the Ivorian flag (orange, white and green) had soared during the Africa Cup of Nations.

“Then we started losing and sales collapsed,” joked one of them, Aboubakar Samaké, as he hawked jerseys for the tournament’s teams and all kinds of green and orange goodies, from bracelets to lêkê, in a bustling neighborhood in Abidjan.

The drop in sales might also be because Mr. Samaké, describing his mood as “overwhelmed” after one particularly crushing loss, didn’t leave the house for two days.

“But discouragement isn’t an Ivorian thing,” Mr. Samaké quickly added, now back at work.

A few hours later, Ivory Coast’s national team was scheduled to face the reigning Cup of Nations champion, Senegal. Mr. Camara, dusty and sweaty from his pickup game, rushed home, dropped his lêkê and jumped in the shower. He resurfaced minutes later wearing an Ivory Coast jersey and clean jeans. He left his lêkê to rest, donned flip flops, and strolled to a nearby kiosk to watch his team win.

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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.

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

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

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

Now, rather than a neat resolution to a scandal that has already dragged on for two years, figure skating — and the Olympic movement — faces the prospect of new questions about doping and its consequences, and new appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport that could take months, or even years, to resolve.

In revising the results on Tuesday, the skating union said that it had disqualified Valieva and dismissed all the points and results she had posted in competitions that took place after she had submitted a positive sample to drug testers on Christmas Day in 2021. The most high-profile of those was the Beijing Olympics weeks later, and the team event that took place early in the Games.

Her disqualification lifted the United States into first place, Japan into second and dropped Russia to third.

But in a curious bit of math, the I.S.U. adjusted only the final points totals for each team, and did not reallocate the 20 points Valieva relinquished to the other women’s competitors. Without the two extra points it believed it should have received from improved finishes in the women’s short and long programs, Canada was left in fourth place — a single point behind Russia’s adjusted total.

Canada’s skating federation said it was “extremely disappointed” and that it would “consider all options to appeal this decision.” It cited a provision buried deep in skating’s rules that says competitors “who initially placed lower than the disqualified Competitor(s) will move up accordingly in their placement(s).”

The Russian Olympic committee, meanwhile, said it was already preparing paperwork to appeal any reallocation of the team medals. In a previous statement on Monday, it had cast doubt on the “objectivity and impartiality” of the court that had banned Valieva, and like Canada pointed to skating’s rule book to fortify its position.

According to those rules, Russia said, “the results of team competitions at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games do not depend on the outcome of the consideration of the individual case of Kamila Valieva, and the awards won by our team in Beijing cannot be legally subject to review.”

Tuesday’s announcement also stripped Valieva of any results she achieved in the period in which she was ineligible, including not only the team event but also her fourth-place finish in the singles event in Beijing and her victory in the 2022 European championships.

Her four-year ban will end in December 2025, just in time to allow her to compete in the next Olympics, in February 2026 in Italy.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, on Monday ridiculed Valieva’s ban as a “politicized decision.” On Tuesday, he broadened his criticisms, suggesting that any result that took the gold away from Russia was unacceptable.

“We don’t agree with these decisions, neither by the court nor by the federation,” he said. “We don’t accept them.”

He added: “Upon their return from China, from the Olympics, these athletes were honored as Olympic champions. We are convinced that for us they will always remain Olympic champions. No matter what decisions were made in this regard, even unfair ones.”

The I.S.U., the skating governing body, said Tuesday that it would coordinate with the International Olympic Committee on the next steps in implementing its decision — essentially the long-delayed awarding of the medals from the team competition to the athletes who earned them.

The medals themselves remain in limbo. Unclear at the time about who had actually won what, the I.O.C. took the unprecedented step of retaining possession of the team golds, silvers and bronzes that were to be awarded in Beijing. It was the first time in Olympic history that medals were not awarded in a completed event.

United States Olympic officials said Tuesday that they would press to have its team’s gold medals awarded regardless of what is happening with Russia or Canada, or any appeals. “There’s no reason for any delay,” said Sarah Hirshland, the chief executive of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. “We are focused on getting those medals to Team USA.”

Ms. Hirshland said the U.S. skaters had hoped to receive their medals at the Paris Olympics this summer. “That would be a dream scenario,” said the ice dancer Madison Chock, a member of the American team in Beijing.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Juliet Macur contributed reporting.

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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.

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.”

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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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Australia introduce el derecho laboral a ‘desconectarse’

Cuando estén fuera del horario laboral y el jefe los esté llamando por teléfono, los trabajadores australianos —que ya figuran entre los más descansados y satisfechos del mundo— podrán pronto tocar la opción “rechazar” para entregarse mejor al dulce llamado de la playa.

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En lo que significó un nuevo refuerzo contra el flagelo del exceso de trabajo, el Senado australiano aprobó el jueves un proyecto de ley que podría otorgarles a los trabajadores el derecho a ignorar llamadas y mensajes fuera del horario laboral sin temor a represalias. Ahora el documento regresará a la Cámara de Representantes para su aprobación definitiva.

El proyecto de ley, que se espera sea aprobado en la Cámara con facilidad, permitirá a los trabajadores australianos rechazar comunicaciones profesionales “no razonables” fuera de la jornada laboral. Los centros de trabajo que castiguen a los empleados por no responder a ese tipo de demandas podrían ser multados.

“No se debe penalizar a alguien que no cobra 24 horas al día si no está conectado y disponible las 24 horas del día”, declaró el primer ministro Anthony Albanese en una rueda de prensa el miércoles.

La disposición es una enmienda de última hora a un paquete de cambios legales propuestos para reforzar los derechos de los trabajadores. La legislación, que incluye protecciones para los trabajadores temporales que deseen convertirse en fijos y nuevas normas para quienes hacen trabajos independientes, como los repartidores de comida a domicilio, había sido muy debatida.

Australia sigue los pasos de países europeos como Francia, que en 2017 introdujo el derecho de los trabajadores a desconectarse de los empleadores mientras no estén de servicio, una medida emulada después por Alemania, Italia y Bélgica. El Parlamento Europeo también ha pedido una ley en toda la Unión Europea que alivie la presión sobre los trabajadores a responder a las comunicaciones fuera del horario laboral.

“El mundo está conectado, pero eso ha creado un problema”, declaró Tony Burke, ministro de Trabajo y Relaciones Laborales, en una entrevista concedida el martes a la radiotelevisión pública australiana.

“Si tienes un trabajo en el que solo te pagan por las horas exactas que trabajas, algunas personas se encuentran ahora en la situación constante de tener problemas si no revisan sus correos electrónicos”, añadió Burke. Es razonable que los empleadores se pongan en contacto con sus trabajadores para hablar de turnos y otros asuntos, dijo, pero los trabajadores no deberían estar obligados a responder estos mensajes durante sus horas no compensadas.

Los sindicatos y otros grupos industriales llevan mucho tiempo defendiendo que los empleados tienen derecho a desconectarse, pero el tema cobró relevancia durante la pandemia, cuando el cambio generalizado al trabajo remoto hizo que se difuminaran aún más los límites entre la vida doméstica y la vida laboral.

Los detractores de la nueva norma, entre ellos organizaciones empresariales y legisladores de la oposición, la han calificado de precipitada y de ser una extralimitación del gobierno, expresando su preocupación de que pueda dificultar el trabajo de las empresas.

“Esa legislación generará costos significativos para las empresas y se traducirá en menos puestos de trabajo y menos oportunidades”, declaró mediante un comunicado Bran Black, consejero delegado del Consejo Empresarial de Australia.

“Ninguna de las medidas está diseñada para mejorar la productividad, el empleo, el crecimiento y la inversión, los ingredientes de una economía próspera”, señaló Michaelia Cash, senadora del Partido Liberal, de oposición y de derecha. Y añadió: “Los trabajadores ya tienen protecciones legales contra horarios laborales irrazonables”.

Otros criticaron el mecanismo de la legislación, que hace recaer en los trabajadores la responsabilidad de proteger sus derechos, en lugar de obligar a los empresarios a no ponerse en contacto con sus empleados en horas no razonables.

Unas órdenes similares, comentó Kevin Jones, experto australiano en seguridad laboral, “suelen ser utilizadas por alguien que se da cuenta de que su relación con el empleador se ha echado tanto a perder que ya no es funcional y es mejor que se vaya”.

Los australianos ya disfrutan de una serie de prestaciones normalizadas, como 20 días de vacaciones anuales retribuidas, licencia por enfermedad paga obligatoria, baja por “servicio prolongado” de 6 semanas para quienes hayan permanecido en una empresa al menos siete años, 18 semanas de baja por maternidad retribuidas y un salario mínimo en todo el país de casi 15 dólares la hora.

El país ocupa el cuarto lugar del mundo en “equilibrio entre la vida laboral y familiar”, por detrás de Nueva Zelanda, España y Francia, según un índice de la plataforma mundial de empleo Remote. Estados Unidos, con un salario mínimo federal de 7,25 dólares, ocupa el puesto 53.

“El equilibrio entre la vida laboral y personal es un marcador cultural para los australianos”, aseguró Jones. “Vamos a la playa, paseamos y tenemos tiempo libre”.

Natasha Frost escribe el boletín informativo de lunes a viernes del Times, The Europe Morning Briefing, e informa sobre Australia, Nueva Zelanda y el Pacífico. Está radicada en Melbourne, Australia. Más de Natasha Frost

Isabella Kwai es reportera de noticias en directo en la oficina de Londres. Se incorporó al Times en 2017 como parte de la corresponsalía de Australia. Más de Isabella Kwai

Bolsonaro y sus aliados planearon un golpe de Estado, según la policía de Brasil

Jair Bolsonaro, expresidente de Brasil, supervisó una amplia conspiración para aferrarse al poder al margen de los resultados de las elecciones de 2022, incluida editar personalmente una orden propuesta para arrestar a un juez del Supremo Tribunal Federal, según nuevas acusaciones de la policía federal brasileña reveladas el jueves.

Bolsonaro y decenas de altos asesores, ministros y líderes militares trabajaron juntos para socavar la confianza de los brasileños en las elecciones y preparar el escenario para un posible golpe, aseguró la policía federal.

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Sus esfuerzos incluyeron la difusión de desinformación sobre el fraude electoral, la redacción de argumentos legales para nuevas elecciones, el reclutamiento de personal militar para apoyar un golpe, la vigilancia de los jueces y alentar y guiar a los manifestantes que finalmente asaltaron edificios del gobierno, dijo la policía.

Las escandalosas acusaciones se hicieron en una orden judicial de 134 páginas que autorizó una amplia operación policial federal el jueves que apuntaba a Bolsonaro y alrededor de una veintena de sus aliados políticos, entre ellos el exministro de Defensa, el exasesor de Seguridad Nacional, el exministro de Justicia y el excomandante general de la Marina de Brasil.

La operación incluyó órdenes de registro y la detención de cuatro personas, entre ellas dos oficiales del ejército y dos de los exasesores principales de Bolsonaro.

Al expresidente se le ordenó entregar su pasaporte, permanecer en el país y no tener contacto con ninguna otra persona investigada.

Bolsonaro dijo el jueves que era la víctima inocente de una operación motivada políticamente.

“Salí del gobierno hace más de un año y sigo sufriendo una persecución implacable”, declaró el expresidente al diario brasileño Folha de São Paulo. “Olvídense de mí. Ya hay otro gobernando el país”.

Durante más de un año antes de las elecciones brasileñas de 2022, Bolsonaro sembró abiertamente dudas sobre la seguridad de los sistemas electorales de su país y advirtió que, si perdía, sería por culpa de un fraude.

Cuando, de hecho, perdió frente al presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro se negó a reconocer de manera inequívoca su derrota y sus partidarios organizaron protestas que duraron meses y culminaron con un disturbio en enero de 2023 en el Congreso, el Supremo Tribunal Federal y las oficinas de la presidencia de Brasil.

Bolsonaro ya ha sido declarado inelegible para presentarse a las elecciones hasta 2030 por sus intentos de socavar los sistemas de votación de Brasil. Ahora podría ser arrestado y procesado penalmente.

Lula dijo en una entrevista en la radio el jueves que esperaba que la investigación sobre Bolsonaro fuera justa e imparcial. “Lo que quiero es que Bolsonaro tenga la presunción de inocencia, que yo no tuve”, dijo.

Lula cumplió 580 días en prisión por cargos de corrupción que fueron anulados después de que el Supremo Tribunal Federal de Brasil dictaminara que el juez de sus casos había sido parcial.

Las acusaciones reveladas el jueves muestran cómo el expresidente y sus aliados intentaron subvertir la joven democracia brasileña, incluyendo detalles alarmantes para un país que fue gobernado por una dictadura militar de 1964 a 1985.

En un momento de noviembre de 2022, después de que Bolsonaro perdiera las elecciones pero siguiera siendo presidente, Filipe Martins, uno de sus principales asesores, le llevó un borrador de un documento legal en el que se afirmaba que el Supremo Tribunal Federal de Brasil había interferido ilegalmente en los asuntos del poder ejecutivo, según la policía federal. El documento ordenaba el arresto de dos jueces del Supremo Tribunal y del presidente del Senado y convocaba nuevas elecciones, según la policía.

Bolsonaro ordenó cambios en el documento para que solo se detuviera a uno de los jueces del Supremo Tribunal Federal, señaló la policía. Una vez que el documento fue actualizado, Bolsonaro convocó a los principales líderes militares a la residencia presidencial para presentarles el documento y presionar por un golpe de Estado, dijo la policía. El resultado de esa reunión no estaba claro.

El juez del Supremo Tribunal Federal que habría sido arrestado con esa orden era Alexandre de Moraes, el mismo juez que ha supervisado las investigaciones sobre Bolsonaro y sus aliados durante años, lo que lo convirtió en uno de los archienemigos del expresidente.

De Moraes emitió la orden judicial que autorizaba los arrestos y las acciones policiales el jueves. La orden reveló que la policía federal también descubrió pruebas de que dos de los asesores de Bolsonaro habían vigilado los viajes de De Moraes en caso de que el gobierno intentara arrestarlo.

En la orden judicial desvelada el jueves, De Moraes dijo que la precisión de los asesores a la hora de conocer su agenda daba a entender que podrían haber estado utilizando tecnología para vigilarlo.

La policía federal ha acusado por separado al hijo de Bolsonaro y al exjefe de la agencia de inteligencia de Brasil de usar un software espía israelí, entre otras herramientas, para vigilar a los enemigos políticos del expresidente, incluido De Moraes.

La orden judicial revelada el jueves también detalla una reunión en julio de 2022, tres meses antes de las elecciones, en la que Bolsonaro ordenó a altos funcionarios del gobierno y líderes militares que difundieran denuncias de fraude electoral, a pesar de la falta de pruebas. “De aquí para adelante, quiero que todos los ministros digan lo que voy a decir aquí”, dijo Bolsonaro en la reunión, según una grabación obtenida por la policía.

Las transcripciones de la grabación que aparecen en los documentos judiciales revelan que el expresidente parecía creer, o al menos seguía propagando, varias teorías conspirativas que afirmaban que sus rivales estaban amañando las elecciones.

Afirmó falsamente que los sistemas electrónicos de votación habían sido precargados con los resultados y que los jueces electorales habían recibido decenas de millones de dólares en sobornos.

“No tengo pruebas. Pero algo extraño está pasando”, dijo Bolsonaro, según la policía. “Perder una elección no es ningún problema. Lo que no podemos es perder la democracia en unas elecciones amañadas”.

En otro momento, pidió a sus ministros y líderes militares que firmaran una carta pública diciendo que no se podía confiar en el sistema electoral de Brasil. (Dicha carta nunca se hizo pública).

Sin embargo, varios ministros del gobierno y líderes militares presentes en la reunión coincidieron con la opinión de Bolsonaro sobre el sistema electoral.

Anderson Torres, exministro de Justicia de Bolsonaro, instó a los presentes a actuar, afirmando que enfrentarían consecuencias si Lula se convertía en presidente. “Quiero que todo el mundo piense en lo que puede hacer de antemano porque todo el mundo saldrá perjudicado”, dijo, según la policía.

Paulo Sérgio Nogueira, exministro de Defensa de Bolsonaro y comandante del ejército, dijo que veía a los funcionarios electorales de Brasil como “el enemigo” y que los líderes militares se reunían semanalmente para garantizar elecciones limpias.

“Que tengamos éxito en reelegirlo”, le dijo a Bolsonaro, según la policía. “Ese es todo nuestro deseo”.

Pero también hubo señales internas de duda entre los aliados de Bolsonaro. Dos días después de la primera ronda de las elecciones de Brasil, que llevó a Bolsonaro y a Lula a una segunda vuelta, un oficial del ejército envió un mensaje de texto al asesor personal de Bolsonaro, Mauro Cid, diciendo que esperaba que el equipo de Bolsonaro “sepan lo que están haciendo”.

“Yo también”, respondió Cid, quien fue instrumental en la planificación de un golpe, según la policía. “Si no, voy preso”.

Cid fue detenido poco después de la elección de Lula y acusado de ayudar a falsificar los registros de vacunas de Bolsonaro. Firmó un acuerdo para cooperar con las autoridades.

El oficial del ejército preguntó entonces si el equipo de Bolsonaro había encontrado pruebas de fraude electoral.

“Nada”, respondió Cid, según la policía. “Ningún indicio de fraude”.

Paulo Motoryn colaboró con reportería desde Brasilia.

Jack Nicas es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Brasil, que abarca Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay y Uruguay. Anteriormente reportó de tecnología desde San Francisco y, antes de integrarse al Times en 2018, trabajó siete años en The Wall Street Journal. Más de Jack Nicas

Lo que revelan los videos de soldados israelíes: burlas y destrucción

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

Un soldado israelí levanta el pulgar ante la cámara mientras maneja una excavadora por una calle de Beit Lahia, en el norte de Gaza, empujando un auto maltrecho hacia un edificio medio derruido.

“He dejado de contar cuántos barrios he borrado”, reza el pie de foto del video publicado en su TikTok personal, acompañado de un himno militarista.

Desde la invasión israelí en octubre, los soldados han publicado videos en las redes sociales desde Gaza, ofreciendo una mirada inusual y no autorizada de las operaciones sobre el terreno. Algunos han sido vistos por pequeños círculos de personas; otros han llegado a decenas de miles.

The New York Times examinó cientos de estos videos. Algunos muestran aspectos anodinos de la vida de un soldado: sus comidas, cómo pasa el rato o los momentos en los que envía mensajes a sus seres queridos en casa.

Otros muestran a soldados que han destrozado tiendas locales y aulas escolares, también los han captado haciendo comentarios despectivos sobre los palestinos o cuando arrasaban lo que parecen ser zonas civiles y pedían la construcción de asentamientos israelíes en Gaza, una idea incendiaria que promueven algunos políticos israelíes de extrema derecha.

Algunas de las publicaciones de los soldados infringen las normas de las Fuerzas de Defensa de Israel (FDI), las cuales restringen el uso de las redes sociales por parte de su personal, y que específicamente prohíben compartir contenido que pueda “afectar la imagen de las FDI y su percepción ante la opinión pública” o que muestren comportamientos que “atenten contra la dignidad humana”.

Mediante un comunicado, el ejército israelí condenó los videos filmados por soldados que aparecen en este artículo.

“La conducta de las fuerzas que aparecen en las imágenes es deplorable y no cumple con las órdenes del ejército”, señaló la institución en una declaración escrita. Y añadió que se estaban examinando las “circunstancias”.

Sin embargo, siguen apareciendo en internet nuevos videos como estos que recuerdan las muchas maneras en las que las redes sociales están cambiando la guerra. En Rusia y Ucrania, los soldados ahora comparten videos directamente desde el campo de batalla, publican con frecuencia imágenes de combate y a veces incluso ofrecen una perspectiva en primera persona desde cámaras montadas en cascos. También se han publicado videos que muestran torturas y ejecuciones.

Ahora que la guerra de Israel en Gaza está sometida a un intenso escrutinio, muchos de los videos de los soldados grabados en Gaza han avivado las críticas. Uno de ellos se proyectó y otros cinco se citaron como pruebas en el caso que Sudáfrica presentó ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia para acusar a Israel de genocidio, algo que Israel ha negado de manera categórica.

El Times rastreó más de 50 videos hasta las unidades israelíes de ingeniería de combate militar, que muestran el uso de topadoras, excavadoras y explosivos para destruir lo que parecen ser casas, escuelas y otros edificios civiles.

Los expertos en derechos humanos han expresado su preocupación por la magnitud de este tipo de destrucción en zonas bajo control militar israelí, señalando que los estándares internacionales de guerra requieren una clara necesidad militar de destruir propiedad civil.

Los videos de este artículo se han verificado determinando las fechas y lugares donde fueron grabados, o confirmando que los soldados que aparecen en ellos y sus unidades estaban en Gaza en el momento en que se subieron las imágenes.

Ninguno de los soldados que grabaron y publicaron los videos respondió cuando se les pidieron comentarios.

Más de 27.000 palestinos han muerto en Gaza desde que comenzaron los bombardeos y la invasión israelíes del enclave, según las autoridades sanitarias de Gaza. La ofensiva israelí se produjo tras los ataques dirigidos por Hamás contra Israel el 7 de octubre, que mataron a casi 1200 personas, según funcionarios israelíes.

Tras su invasión terrestre a fines de octubre, el ejército israelí estableció bases a lo largo de la costa norte de Gaza. La zona, que los soldados bautizaron como Nova Beach, en referencia al festival de música en el que murieron 364 personas a manos de Hamás y sus aliados el 7 de octubre, es el telón de fondo de muchos de los videos de las redes sociales analizados por el Times.

Antes de la guerra, la zona estaba compuesta por viviendas de familias gazatíes, propiedades vacacionales, invernaderos y campos de cultivo. Una casa dañada en Gaza, en lo que ahora es una base costera israelí, es el escenario de un video publicado en noviembre por un reservista que también es DJ.

El video iba acompañado de una versión paródica de la canción israelí This Was My Home, que apareció en una escena cómica israelí y se ha difundido en internet en los últimos meses entre los usuarios israelíes de las redes sociales para burlarse de los palestinos.

“Esta era mi casa, sin electricidad, sin gas”, dice la canción, mientras un soldado se acomoda entre los escombros de la casa dañada antes de asomarse a la ventana y señalar la escena de destrucción exterior. La casa fue destruida a finales de diciembre, según muestran las imágenes por satélite.

“Es desgarrador, inhumano”, declaró al Times Basel al-Sourani, abogado internacional especializado en derechos humanos del Centro Palestino de Derechos Humanos, organización sin ánimo de lucro con sede en la ciudad de Gaza, “y simplemente demuestra que, en esencia, los israelíes quieren a los palestinos fuera de su hogar, la Franja de Gaza”.

Usando otro meme popular, el mismo soldado también publicó un video a mediados de noviembre al son de un remix llamado Shtayim, Shalosh, Sha-ger, (Dos, tres, lanzamiento). En el video, ampliamente compartido, los soldados bailan frente a la cámara y, cuando se oye la palabra “lanzamiento”, el video pasa a una toma de un edificio siendo detonado.

Poco después de que el Times preguntó a TikTok por los videos que aparecen en este artículo, los videos fueron retirados de la plataforma. Un representante de TikTok aseguró que los clips infringían las directrices de la empresa, incluyendo sus políticas sobre incitación al odio y comportamiento.

Meta, propietaria de Facebook e Instagram, no respondió a la solicitud para hacer comentarios.

Algunas de las cuentas más activas revisadas por el Times pertenecían a soldados de unidades del Cuerpo de Ingeniería de Combate del ejército israelí, que utiliza maquinaria pesada, incluyendo excavadoras, con el fin de despejar caminos para las fuerzas militares, descubrir y destruir túneles, y arrasar estructuras. El Times documentó hace poco demoliciones controladas realizadas por unidades de ingeniería en toda Gaza.

En un video filmado en las afueras de Jan Yunis, en el sur de Gaza, a principios de enero, se puede ver a soldados de ingeniería de combate que fuman pipas de narguile antes de que unas explosiones derriben edificios residenciales en el fondo. Acto seguido, levantan copas para brindar.

​​En algunos de los videos de los ingenieros de combate, los soldados israelíes se burlan de los palestinos mientras destruyen estructuras y propiedades. En otros, que han sido muy compartidos en las redes sociales, los soldados dedican la destrucción de edificios a las víctimas de los ataques del 7 de octubre y a sus familiares. En un video de TikTok, los soldados dedican la demolición de un edificio a Eyal Golan, un cantante israelí que ha pedido la destrucción total de Gaza. Sudáfrica citó este video como prueba de lo que llamó “discurso genocida de los soldados” en su caso contra Israel ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia.

Mientras la topadora se dirige hacia los muros restantes de una casa parcialmente destruida en Jan Yunis, los soldados gritan: “Eyal Golan, nuestro hermano querido, te queremos”. Y añaden: “Esta casa es para ti”.

El 12 de diciembre, un soldado de ingeniería de combate compartió una fotografía en su cuenta de TikTok con tres excavadoras blindadas y un entorno destruido cerca de la base israelí en la costa norte de Gaza.

“Este es el resultado de mucho trabajo… todo el lugar estaba cubierto de vegetación y casas hasta que llegamos allí”, reza el pie de foto.

Casi a 1,6 kilómetros al sur de la costa, se puede ver una destrucción similar en imágenes por satélite captadas a finales de diciembre, que muestran que al menos 63 edificios, incluyendo viviendas, fueron demolidos en un radio de 400 metros de la base. En ese momento, la zona se encontraba a poco más de 2 kilómetros de la frontera del territorio controlado por Israel, según los mapas publicados por el Instituto para el Estudio de la Guerra.

Los escombros visibles coinciden con los métodos de limpieza utilizados por las unidades de ingeniería de combate que se ven en videos filmados en otros lugares de Gaza y analizados por el Times. Israel ha utilizado excavadoras para despejar grandes extensiones de tierra y propiedades en toda Gaza desde finales de octubre.

El Times envió al ejército israelí las coordenadas de cada una de las 63 estructuras y solicitó comentarios sobre la necesidad militar de destruirlas. En una respuesta por escrito, el ejército declaró que Israel “estaba librando actualmente una guerra compleja” y que “hay dificultades para rastrear casos concretos con una coordenada específica en este momento”.

Cuatro expertos jurídicos revisaron los videos de las redes sociales y las imágenes de satélite cercanas a la base y afirmaron que las imágenes podrían utilizarse para demostrar una destrucción ilegal, una violación de los Convenios de Ginebra.

John Quigley, profesor emérito de derecho en la Universidad Estatal de Ohio especializado en legislación internacional de los derechos humanos, señaló en un correo electrónico que “el alcance de la destrucción de edificios residenciales en Gaza sugiere que las FDI están aplicando un estándar para la protección de la propiedad privada que no cumple con las normas internacionales para la guerra”.

En respuesta a las preguntas sobre el derribo de viviendas civiles por parte de los soldados, un portavoz militar israelí, Nir Dinar, dijo que los militares actúan por “necesidad operativa” y siguen las leyes de la guerra. “Las casas que están siendo derribadas son edificaciones que implican una amenaza para las fuerzas que operan, o son un objetivo militar de algún tipo”, comentó al Times por teléfono. “Hay una buena razón para la eliminación de cada objetivo”.

Israel también está llevando a cabo demoliciones controladas a lo largo de los casi 58 kilómetros de frontera terrestre de Gaza con el fin de crear una “zona de contención”. Expertos jurídicos han cuestionado la legalidad de estas demoliciones y señalan que es poco probable que todos los edificios destruidos supusieran una amenaza militar inmediata.

Riley Mellen y Neil Collier colaboraron a este reportaje desde Nueva York, Johnatan Reiss y Patrick Kingsley desde Jerusalén y Mohammed Almajdalawi desde Gaza. Alexander Cardia colaboró con la producción.

Aric Toler es reportero del equipo de Investigaciones Visuales del Times, donde utiliza técnicas emergentes de descubrimiento para analizar información de código abierto. Más de Aric Toler

Sarah Kerr es reportera y productora de la unidad de video del Times y cubre historias y noticias de última hora nacionales e internacionales. Más de Sarah Kerr

Chevaz Clarke es editora de imágenes en directo en The New York Times y trabaja en estrecha colaboración con el equipo de la sección Live en la cobertura visual y se centra en la narración en video. Más de Chevaz Clarke

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.

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

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.

No obstante, cuando los soldados pasan, mucha gente aplaude o les muestra el dedo pulgar en señal de aprobación. “La mano dura la aplaudimos, la celebramos”, dijo Aquiles Alvarez, alcalde de Guayaquil. “Ha ayudado a tener paz en las calles”.

A principios de enero, Guayaquil fue azotada por una ola de violencia que podría ser un punto decisivo en la prolongada crisis de seguridad del país: las bandas atacaron la ciudad luego de que las autoridades tomaron medidas para recuperar las cárceles ecuatorianas, que estaban en su mayoría bajo el control de los grupos delictivos.

Hubo secuestro de policías, detonación de explosivos y, en un episodio emitido en vivo, una decena de hombres armados tomaron una televisora importante.

El presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, declaró la existencia de un conflicto armado interno, una medida extraordinaria para cuando el Estado es atacado por un grupo armado. Desplegó tropas contra las bandas que han tomado gran parte de Ecuador en su lucha por controlar las rutas de tráfico de cocaína y han transformado uno de los países más pacíficos de Sudamérica en uno de los más mortíferos.

El alto mando militar de Ecuador advirtió que todo integrante de un grupo delictivo se había convertido en un “objetivo militar”.

La agresiva respuesta de Noboa ha reducido la violencia y brindado un sentido precario de seguridad a lugares como Guayaquil, una ciudad de 2,7 millones de habitantes y puerto clave para el narcotráfico, impulsando la aprobación del gobierno a 76 por ciento en una encuesta reciente.

También ha alarmado a algunos activistas de los derechos humanos.

“Esto no es algo nuevo, innovador”, dijo Fernando Bastias, del Comité Permanente por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de Guayaquil. “Y más bien lo que está incrementando son casos de graves violaciones a derechos humanos”.

El enfoque de Ecuador ha suscitado comparaciones con El Salvador, en donde su joven líder, Nayib Bukele, en buena medida ha desmantelado las sanguinarias pandillas, lo que le ayudó a conseguir una arrolladora victoria de reelección y elogios por toda América Latina. Pero los críticos aseguran que también ha pisoteado los derechos humanos y el Estado de derecho al ordenar detenciones masivas en las que personas inocentes han sido capturadas.

“Ecuador es un caso importante porque es casi un segundo laboratorio para las políticas de Bukele”, dijo Gustavo Flores-Macías, profesor de gobierno y políticas públicas en la Universidad de Cornell que se especializa en América Latina. “La gente está tan desesperada que se compra la necesidad de estas políticas de mano dura para bajar la delincuencia”.

Dichas políticas pueden ser efectivas, pero, agregó, “el costo en libertades civiles es alto”.

Al igual que Bukele, Noboa, de 36 años, desea construir megaprisiones, y sus publicaciones en las redes sociales muestran música animada con imágenes de prisioneros esposados y desnudos hasta la cintura. Lo llama “The Noboa Way”.

No obstante, las diferencias son importantes, a decir de Christopher Sabatini, un investigador sénior para América Latina en Chatham House, un grupo de investigación en Londres. Si bien Bukele desdeña la democracia, Noboa “ha presentado a su gobierno como una democracia asediada”, dijo Sabatini.

Noboa también enfrenta un tipo distinto de adversario, dijo Will Freeman, del Council on Foreign Relations.

“El Salvador nunca fue importante para el narcotráfico”, dijo. “Sencillamente es demasiado pequeño”. Ecuador, en contraste, ahora es clave para el comercio mundial de la cocaína, dijo, con vínculos entre los cárteles mexicanos y Europa. Como consecuencia, sus bandas criminales disponen de millones de dólares para armarse y combatir a las autoridades.

Las autoridades de Ecuador han llevado a cabo más de 6000 detenciones después de que el presidente declaró la guerra a las bandas.

En Guayaquil, efectivos militares y agentes de policía destruyen sistemas de cámaras instalados por las bandas para vigilar barrios enteros, invaden zonas que solían estar fuera del alcance de la policía y derriban puertas para descubrir depósitos de armas y explosivos.

Las medidas han tenido algunos resultados.

De diciembre a enero, la cantidad de homicidios en Guayaquil cayó en un 33 por ciento, de 187 a 125. Fuera de la morgue municipal, Cheyla Jurado, una vendedora ambulante de 27 años que vende jugo y pan dulce a las personas que esperan para recuperar los cuerpos, dijo que era evidente que la cantidad de gente había bajado.

“Ahora son accidentes de tránsito, ahogados”, dijo.

En el mayor hospital de la ciudad, la cantidad de pacientes que llegaban con heridas de bala y otras lesiones relacionadas con la violencia ha caído de cinco al día a incluso una cada tres días, dijo Rodolfo Zevallos, médico de urgencias.

El alivio temporal de las matanzas —si bien en sus primeras fases— ha hecho que muchos animen al presidente.

“Nos sentamos afuera de noche”, dijo Janet Cisneros, quien vende comidas preparadas en la zona Suburbio de Guayaquil. “Antes no, estábamos completamente encerrados”.

Noboa, heredero de una fortuna del banano, fue electo en noviembre para concluir el mandato de su predecesor, que terminó prematuramente cuando disolvió la Asamblea Nacional y convocó a nuevas elecciones.

En enero, al estallar la violencia, cambió sus trajes y sonrisa tímida por un mohín, corte al ras y una casaca negra de cuero al anunciar que Ecuador ya no recibiría órdenes de “grupos narcoterroristas”.

El mensaje severo iba dirigido a los ecuatorianos, que volverán a votar en elecciones presidenciales el próximo año, dijo Flores-Macías, el politólogo experto, pero también para granjearse el apoyo de líderes internacionales, en especial del presidente Joe Biden. “Lo que vemos con Noboa es que claramente necesita el apoyo, la asesoría, financiamiento y ayuda de Estados Unidos”.

Hasta el momento, el gobierno de Biden ha brindado a Ecuador equipamiento y capacitación con alrededor de 93 millones de dólares en asistencia militar y humanitaria.

Las autoridades de Ecuador han dicho que el ejército es clave para recuperar los barrios de las bandas que se han convertido en la autoridad fáctica y reclutan a niños de hasta 12 años para mover drogas, secuestrar y matar.

El despacho de Noboa no respondió a las solicitudes de comentarios.

En Guayaquil, la policía cubre los murales que muestran a líderes delictivos y los soldados hacen redadas callejeras en las que sermonean a los jóvenes que son sorprendidos con pequeñas bolsas de marihuana sobre los peligros de las drogas o la vida criminal.

Pero en las redes sociales han circulado videos que muestran a las autoridades empleando tácticas más severas: hombres y chicos agrupados en las calles que reciben golpes en la cabeza o son obligados a besarse entre ellos. En un video muy compartido se ve a un adolescente obligado a restregarse un tatuaje del cuerpo hasta que le sangra el pecho.

En las prisiones a las que el ejército fue enviado para desmantelar el control de las bandas, se llevan a cabo abusos similares, según defensores de las familias de los reclusos.

“A los presos los tienes flagelados peor que a Jesucristo”, dijo Fernanda Lindao, cuyo hijo está cumpliendo condena por hurto en la penitenciaría del Litoral de Guayaquil. “Para los PPL”, dijo refiriéndose por sus siglas a las personas privadas de la libertad, “no hay derechos humanos”.

No obstante, los videos de las detenciones son inmensamente populares y muchos ecuatorianos reconocen a los soldados y al presidente.

“La gente aplaude todo lo que pasa”, dijo Alvarez, el alcalde de Guayaquil, “y no lo aplaude por ser mala persona sino porque está cansada de toda la violencia que ha vivido”.

Para explicar su respaldo a las tácticas de Noboa muchos describen lo mal que estuvo la situación.

“Aquí mataban, aquí dejaban cuerpos botados”, dijo Rosa Elena Guachicho, quien vive en Durán, una zona de Guayaquil sin agua potable ni calles pavimentadas. “Hace un mes encontraron uno en una funda, hecho pedazos”.

Dolores Garacoia dijo que las bandas se habían adueñado de Durán. Los taxistas se negaban a entrar, por miedo de que los robaran o secuestraran, dijo. Ni la policía se sentía segura.

A los dueños de pequeños negocios, como Garacoia, los extorsionaban las bandas. Contó que cerró la tienda que tuvo durante años luego de que la llamaran para pedirle un pago de miles de dólares conocido como vacuna.

“Tuve que cerrar y bajar el letrero, de una”, dijo.

De la misma manera que los guayaquileños se han adaptado la violencia —quedándose en casa, comprando pitbulls— la apariencia exterior de la ciudad también ha cambiado. Las casas se han convertido en jaulas cerradas, rodeadas de barrotes que se alzan dos y tres pisos.

Ángel Chávez, de 14 años, estaba sentado detrás de las barras de metal de un centro comunitario en Monte Sinaí, parte del distrito más peligroso de Guayaquil, en donde se registraron más de 500 homicidios el año pasado.

La llegada de los militares le causaba sentimientos encontrados.

“Eso me parece bien para ver si por fin se acaba esto que estamos sufriendo”, dijo.

Pero añadió que le inquietaba la forma en que los soldados trataban a algunos adolescentes en los videos. “No me gusta cuando los maltratan”, dijo.

No obstante, para muchos en Guayaquil, el miedo es que el ejército se retire.

Cisneros, la cocinera que al fin puede servir comidas afuera dijo: “Que no se vayan, por favor”.

Thalíe Ponce colaboró con la reportería.

Annie Correal reporta desde Estados Unidos y América Latina para el Times. Más de Annie Correal