The New York Times 2024-02-14 18:29:26

Middle East Crisis: Israel Strikes in Lebanon After Deadly Rocket Attack

Fresh attacks risk efforts to calm the Israel-Lebanon border.

Israel said that its air force was carrying out extensive strikes on southern Lebanon on Wednesday in response to a deadly rocket attack, a significant escalation in recent fighting that threatened to derail diplomatic efforts to stem cross-border tensions.

The rocket attack from Lebanon was the second in two days to cause casualties in northern Israel and was the latest in months of tit-for-tat strikes across the border that have fueled fears about a wider war as Israel battles Hamas in Gaza. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion quickly fell on Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia and ally of Hamas that has regularly fired into Israel.

One woman was killed and at least eight others were wounded in rocket fire near the city of Safed, according to Magen David Adom, Israel’s nonprofit emergency medical service.

Within hours, Israel’s military said that it was carrying out strikes in Lebanon. Soon, images and videos of the strikes started coming in from Lebanese broadcasters, and the Hezbollah-owned Al Manar news station reported that at least four people had been killed.

Benny Gantz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet, described the morning’s rocket attack as “a difficult event for which the response will come soon and powerfully.” He suggested that Israel could strike at Lebanese military targets in addition to those belonging to Hezbollah.

“It is important that we be clear — the one responsible for the fire from Lebanon is not only Hezbollah or the terrorist elements that carry it out, but also the government of Lebanon and the Lebanese state that allows the shooting from its territory,” Mr. Gantz said, adding: “There is no target or military infrastructure in the area of ​​the north and Lebanon that is not in our sights.”

The latest strikes threatened to derail diplomatic efforts by the United States and others to defuse the cross-border tensions. A Western diplomat said on Tuesday that France had presented a proposal to Israel, Lebanon’s government and Hezbollah. The French proposal details a 10-day process of de-escalation and calls for Hezbollah to withdraw its fighters to a distance of 10 kilometers (six miles) from Lebanon’s border with Israel, according to the diplomat, who is involved in the talks and who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive deliberations.

In recent weeks, Israel has warned that unless a diplomatic solution is reached, it would have to use military force to stop Hezbollah’s attacks in order to allow for tens of thousands of Israelis to return to their homes. Mr. Netanyahu has been wary of opening a second front while the Israeli military continues to press its invasion of Gaza, but has faced calls from hard-liners in his government to take stronger action.

Avigdor Liberman, a former top adviser to Mr. Netanyahu who now leads an opposition party, accused the government of waving a “white flag” at Hezbollah by failing to take strong enough steps to stop the rocket attacks.

“The war cabinet surrendered to Hezbollah and lost the north,” he wrote on social media on Wednesday.

Israel’s military said that rockets from Lebanon had landed in the areas of Netu’a, Manara and a military base in northern Israel. In Safed, a city of nearly 40,000 people that has four military bases nearby, according to Tamir Engel, a spokesman for the city, rocket warnings are not uncommon but fatalities and direct hits are rare.

In early January, Hezbollah fired rockets toward a small military base not far from the city. The group said then that it was retaliating for the assassination days earlier of a senior Hamas commander in Lebanon; Israel said at the time that the attack had caused no casualties.

Safed sits about eight miles south of the border with Lebanon, far enough away that it was not included in mandatory evacuation orders issued when cross-border hostilities flared after the deadly Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

Israel and Hezbollah have engaged in near-daily cross-border strikes ever since. The clashes have displaced more than 150,000 people from their homes on both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border.

Hwaida Saad, Euan Ward and Adam Sella contributed reporting.

Hundreds flee a southern Gaza hospital after Israel orders an evacuation.

Hundreds of displaced Palestinians were fleeing a major hospital in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, according to doctors and videos from the scene, after Israeli forces ordered them to leave and threatened military action to stop what it said was Hamas activity at the hospital.

Thousands of Gazans have been sheltering at the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis for weeks, having been forced to flee their homes and other parts of Gaza by Israel’s intense bombardment of the territory and military orders to leave their towns and cities. Hospitals have become places of refuge during the war, even as they have often become a focus of Israel’s military offensive.

Inside Nasser, which is one of the last functioning hospitals in Gaza, there was terror that Israeli forces would bombard or storm the complex, said Mohammed Abu Lehya, a doctor there. Previous Israeli warnings to evacuate hospitals, including Al-Shifa, the largest in Gaza, have often preceded military raids on the facilities.

“The situation is very difficult, difficult, difficult, difficult,” Dr. Abu Lehya said in a WhatsApp message Wednesday morning. “It’s beyond the imagination or description.”

A video shared on social media on Wednesday and verified by The New York Times shows crowds of people carrying belongings and bedding leaving the hospital as explosions are heard in the background. The Israeli military called for those sheltering to evacuate but said it had not called on patients and medical staff to leave the hospital.

Israel accuses Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that ran Gaza, of using hospitals for its military operations. Hamas and hospital administrators have previously denied such claims. Classified Israeli intelligence obtained and reviewed by The Times suggests Hamas operated under Al-Shifa, but falls short of proving Israel’s early claims that there was a command center there.

Doctors at the hospital and the Gazan health ministry said that some people who tried to flee the Nasser medical compound on Tuesday were shot at by Israeli soldiers, who killed some and wounded others.

In response to questions, the Israeli military said it had “opened a secure route to evacuate the civilian population taking shelter in the area of the Nasser Hospital toward the humanitarian zone.” It did not respond to questions about reports that it had shot at Palestinians trying to leave the hospital.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Israeli military accused Hamas of conducting military activity inside the hospital grounds and said it “was used to hold hostages.” The claims could not be independently verified, but they signaled the Israeli military’s intensifying focus on the hospital, which its forces have surrounded for weeks.

“We demand the immediate cessation of all military activity in the area of the hospital and the immediate departure of military operatives from it,” the Israeli military said. It called for civilians sheltering at the hospital to leave for “safer spaces” in southern and central Gaza.

It was unclear where those who left the complex could find safety, as Israel’s military has often bombarded areas of Gaza that it had previously said were safe. Israeli leaders have also vowed to invade Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, which is sheltering more than a million people.

Inside the hospital, some medical staff were packing their belongings and preparing their families to flee.

“We are all scared,” said Dr. Mohammad Abu Moussa, a radiologist at Nasser. He added that even though he worried about an assault on the hospital, he and his wife had made the difficult decision to stay for now. They and their two surviving children — a third was killed in an airstrike in October — have been staying at the hospital for weeks.

“I have no other choice,” Dr. Abu Moussa said. “I don’t have anywhere to go in Rafah, and I have young children and they can’t walk long distances like that.”

Hanin Abu Tiba, 27, an English teacher sheltering at the hospital, described dire conditions inside, with food running out and aid convoys all but unable to deliver supplies. In text messages overnight, she said that she had seen an Israeli military vehicle outside the hospital gate.

“I’m terrified to leave the hospital and get shot,” she said. But inside the complex, she said, “the electricity is cutting out, and the water, and the canned food is almost gone. We don’t know what to do.”

Throughout the four-month war, the Israeli military has stormed other Gaza hospitals, detaining medical staff, according to the health ministry.

“We are very concerned about the situation developing at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis,” the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said on social media on Wednesday. It called on Israeli forces “to ensure the safety of all medical staff, patients and displaced people.”

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad and Aaron Boxerman 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.

An Israeli minister blocks flour from reaching UNRWA in Gaza.

The Israeli finance ministry has blocked deliveries of food for Gaza because the shipments were intended to reach the main U.N. agency for Palestinians, Israel’s finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, said on Tuesday.

Mr. Smotrich, a hard-right settler leader, said in a statement that he had issued a directive not to transfer flour shipments to the agency, known as UNRWA, citing allegations that some of its employees were affiliated with Hamas, including 12 accused of participating in the armed group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Last week, a subcontractor handling the shipments for UNRWA received a call from Israel’s customs agency — which is housed in Mr. Smotrich’s ministry — ordering it not to process any UNRWA goods in its warehouse, said Juliette Touma, an UNRWA spokeswoman.

About 1,050 containers — much of it flour — have been held up at the Israeli port of Ashdod, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, told reporters on Friday. The amount was enough to feed 1.1 million Gazans for a month, he said. Mr. Lazzarini said UNRWA still has enough supplies to feed Gazans for three months, but only because the food is now being routed through Egypt rather than Israel.

Mr. Smotrich said another aid distribution mechanism would be found “that would not reach Hamas,” which he said was utilizing UNRWA as a “key part of its war machine.” UNRWA has said it is investigating the allegations, but has stood by its work as essential humanitarian relief in a complex situation.

In an effort to get more aid into Gaza, American, British and European officials pushed last month for Israel to facilitate the entry of aid through Ashdod. Humanitarian aid already enters Gaza by land via the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel, although it can be “very challenging to get deliveries going outside of Rafah north,” Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said on Tuesday.

Under the plan, shipments would arrive at Ashdod before entering the Strip through Kerem Shalom. After a visit from Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken last month, Israeli officials indicated that the initiative would proceed. But their signals came before the allegations were unearthed, and the proposal, for now, appears to have been complicated by Mr. Smotrich’s order blocking the shipments.

The move could also complicate Israel’s international standing. The International Court of Justice last month ordered the Israeli government to take action to prevent genocide in Gaza, including by ensuring the provision of more humanitarian aid to ease the enclave’s worsening humanitarian crisis.

Aid officials say far more relief is necessary to ease the humanitarian crisis affecting the more than two million Palestinian residents of Gaza amid dire shortages of food, water and medicine.

Roughly 1.7 million people in the territory have been displaced, many of whom are facing extreme hunger, according to the United Nations. More than one million people have squeezed in and around the southern city of Rafah, joining swelling tent cities near the Egyptian border.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

Cease-fire talks in Cairo will go on at a lower level, a U.S. official says.

Negotiations in Cairo over a possible agreement to pause the fighting in Gaza have been extended for another three days, according to an Egyptian official briefed on the talks, after a first day of high-level negotiations on Tuesday ended without an agreement.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations, said the tenor of the talks was positive.

The talks over the next three days will involve lower-level officials, who will continue discussing a new framework for a deal, one that would ensure a certain number of hostages would be released and that the fighting would be halted for a certain number of weeks, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic talks.

Hamas and Israel have each rejected formulas proposed recently. Last month, a broad framework for an agreement was sketched out in Paris by representatives of the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt. That proposal included a six-week cease-fire and the exchange of hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Hamas came back with a counterproposal that demanded the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and envisioned trading Hamas’s remaining 136 hostages for thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, including people serving long sentences. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissed the counterproposal, saying he would never “surrender to the ludicrous demands of Hamas.”

So far, the multilateral talks in Cairo have not been able to bridge the gap, and the urgency of the diplomacy has grown as Israel has announced plans to press its ground offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where roughly half the territory’s population has sought refuge, many sheltering in tents with little food, water and medicine.

President Biden had dispatched the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, to join the talks. Mr. Burns met on Tuesday with the head of Israel’s intelligence agency, the prime minister of Qatar and high-level Egyptian officials, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, according to Egyptian media. Qatar has acted as a mediator for Hamas.

A third person briefed on Tuesday’s talks, also speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy, said that while some progress had been made, the sides remained far apart on a key point — the number of prisoners to be released for each hostage freed.

Israel had been reluctant to participate in the talks in the first place, reflecting Mr. Netanyahu’s ambivalence about continued negotiations with Hamas and its representatives, the first U.S. official said.

The State Department is assessing reports of civilian harm in Gaza from U.S.-made arms.

The State Department is reviewing reports of harm to Gazan civilians by Israel’s military as part of a new U.S. program that tracks cases in which foreign militaries use U.S.-made weapons to injure or kill civilians.

A State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, told reporters on Tuesday that the Biden administration was “reviewing incidents” in the Gaza war under what it calls Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance, which The Washington Post reported was established last August, several weeks before Hamas led sweeping attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.

The policy was instituted to create greater accountability for the use of American weapons by U.S. allies and partners. It aims to improve assessments of military incidents involving civilians and to create recommendations based on them but does not include automatic triggers for policy responses or penalties.

Mr. Miller suggested that the review was not likely to lead to short-term changes in America’s military support for Israel, which has become a polarizing political issue for the White House. The Biden administration has repeatedly bypassed Congress for weapons sales to Israel since the war began, and the Senate passed a foreign aid package on Tuesday that included more than $14 billion in aid for Israel, though the bill still faces uncertainty in the House.

“That process is not intended to function as a rapid response mechanism,” Mr. Miller said. “Rather, it is designed to systematically assess civilian harm incidents and develop appropriate policy responses to reduce the risk of such incidents occurring in the future.” He added that it also intended to promote “military operations in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

The State Department has not publicly discussed details of the policy before. But President Biden mentioned it in a Feb. 8 national security memorandum.

That memorandum instructed the secretaries of State and Defense to, among many other things, provide an assessment within 90 days of credible reports determining whether U.S.-supplied weapons had been used in ways that did not follow “established best practices for mitigating civilian harm.” It also ordered them to catalog any “incidents reviewed pursuant to the Department of State’s Civilian Harm Incident Response Guidance.”

South Africa asks the U.N.’s top court to act against Israel’s plans for Rafah.

With Israel continuing to warn that it plans a ground invasion of Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza, South Africa has asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to issue new constraints on Israel’s military offensive to prevent genocide.

In a filing on Monday, the South African government said that it was “gravely concerned” by Israel’s planned ground advance into Rafah, where more than a million Gazans have sought shelter, which it said “has already led to and will result in further large-scale killing, harm and destruction.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who has described Rafah as Hamas’s last stronghold, said on Sunday that a ground invasion would move forward there as soon as Israel completed plans for the more than a million people sheltering in the city to be allowed to move to safety.

In December, South Africa filed a case with the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest court, accusing Israel of genocide and asking the court to step in with emergency orders.

In response, the court ordered Israel last month to ensure that its actions would not lead to genocide and to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza. But the court did not order a halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip. The process of considering whether Israel is committing genocide could take the court several years.

In its request on Monday, South Africa argued that a ground invasion of Rafah would be in breach of the court’s January orders and that the court should consider further emergency measures, though it did not lay out what it believed those should be.

The court said that it had asked Israel for comment. Under court rules, the judges will have to consider South Africa’s request as a matter of priority. That could mean scheduling a hearing or issuing a new order as early as Monday. The court is also starting a six-day hearing on another issue involving Israel on Monday.

Israel’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, but Israel has rejected accusations of genocide.

On Monday, Israeli forces freed two hostages held in the city in a nighttime commando operation, which was accompanied by a series of airstrikes. The health ministry in Gaza said at least 67 people had been killed in the strikes. Overall, the ministry says, more than 28,000 people in Gaza have been killed.

After the rescue mission, Mr. Netanyahu said that “only continued military pressure, until total victory, will bring about the release of all of our hostages.”

Johnatan Reiss contributed reporting.

A Feared Ex-General Appears Set to Become Indonesia’s New Leader

Indonesia’s defense minister, a feared former general who was removed from the army after he was found responsible for the kidnapping of political dissidents, appeared to be on track to win the presidential election outright on Wednesday, casting doubts on the future of one of the world’s most vibrant democracies.

The candidate, Prabowo Subianto, had a commanding lead in the three-way race for president, with more than 58 percent of the vote, according to unofficial tallies that have a history of accurately predicting the final results. The two other presidential candidates said it was too early to declare a winner.

If the projections are confirmed, Indonesia — the world’s third-largest democracy — will be left contending with a president who has said that the country needs neither elections nor democracy, who was barred from entering the United States for two decades because of his human rights record and who was long associated with Indonesia’s former dictator, Suharto.

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Europe Wants to Stand on Its Own Militarily. Is It Too Little, Too Late?

As Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany broke ground for a new ammunition factory this week, he celebrated a move that should enable the country to restore its almost entirely depleted arsenal of artillery shells.

But despite his portrayal of the groundbreaking as another German response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began two years ago this month, it was also a reminder of how slow the European reaction has been. It will be a year before the new factory is able to produce 50,000 rounds annually, with hopes of doubling that in 2026.

That is too little and too late to help Ukraine at a moment of greatest need, and just as Washington’s own aid package may be faltering. And it is arguably late for Europe as a whole, as leaders warn that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, should he succeed in taking and holding even part of Ukraine, may try to test NATO’s commitment to defend every inch of its territory in the coming years.

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Austin, Speaking by Video, Reiterates U.S. Support for Ukraine

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, speaking by video, told defense ministers meeting in Brussels that the United States would maintain its support for Ukraine, but he made no mention of a multibillion-dollar aid package that has yet to gain Congressional approval.

Mr. Austin delivered his remarks in a five-minute address via video link to a meeting of some 50 countries from the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which marshals military aid for the country.

“We will continue to dig deep to provide Ukraine with both short-term and long-term support,” said Mr. Austin, who had canceled his trip to Brussels because of health issues. Seated behind a desk with the flags of the United States and Ukraine behind him, he added: “The countries of this coalition, including the United States, support Ukraine because it’s the right thing to do and because it is in our core national security interests.”

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A Palestinian Exile Champions an Arab Vision for Gaza

Adam Rasgon and

The reporters traveled to Abu Dhabi to meet Mohammed Dahlan at his compound on the grounds of an Emirati royal palace.

As the Gaza war rages, with civilian deaths soaring, few Arab leaders have publicly voiced their visions for the future of the battered enclave, fearing they will be accused of endorsing Israel’s actions.

But one influential Palestinian exile, in an interview with The New York Times, has provided public insight into the types of postwar plans that Arab leaders are privately discussing.

Mohammed Dahlan, an adviser to the president of the United Arab Emirates, outlined one under which Israel and Hamas would hand power to a new and independent Palestinian leader who could rebuild Gaza under the protection of an Arab peacekeeping force.

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Ukraine, Struggling on Land, Claims to Deal Blow to Russia at Sea

Ukraine said on Wednesday that its forces had sunk a large Russian ship off the coast of Crimea before dawn, in what would be another powerful blow against the Russians at sea, as its outgunned soldiers struggle to hold back bloody assaults on land.

The Ukrainian military released footage of the strike, which it said had resulted in the sinking of the 360-foot-long landing ship Caesar Kunikov, possibly complicating Russia’s logistical efforts in southern Ukraine.

The Ukrainian claim could not be immediately confirmed, but when NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, was asked about the attack, he called Ukraine’s campaign on the Black Sea a “great achievement.”

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An English City Gave Soccer to the World. Now It Wants Credit.

As far as the man in the food truck is concerned, the patch of land he occupies in Sheffield, England, is about as humdrum as they come. To him, the spot — in the drab parking lot of a sprawling home improvement superstore, its facade plastered in lurid orange — is not exactly a place where history comes alive.

John Wilson, an academic at the University of Sheffield’s management school, looks at the same site and can barely contain his excitement. This, he said, is one of the places where the world’s most popular sport was born. He does not see a parking lot. He can see the history: the verdant grass, the sweating players, the cheering crowds.

His passion is sincere, absolute and shared by a small band of amateur historians and volunteer detectives devoted to restoring Sheffield — best known for steel, coal and as the setting for the film “The Full Monty” — to its rightful place as the undisputed birthplace of codified, organized, recognizable soccer.

Map locates Sheffield, Manchester and London in England. It also shows where Wembley Stadium is in northwest London.

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Why Farmers Are Marching Toward Delhi Again

Once again, India’s capital is bracing itself for a siege. Not by a foreign army but by an army of Indian farmers, streaming toward New Delhi from nearby states to protest government policies.

The farmers’ march has turned the city’s main points of entry into choke points, as the federal and local police go into overdrive: barricading highways by pouring concrete and stacking shipping containers to halt the advancing tractors.

The authorities have blocked the social media accounts of some protest leaders and even used drones that were once billed as an agricultural innovation to drop tear-gas grenades on the demonstrators.

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As China Tries to Present a Friendlier Image, a New Face Emerges

Faced with declining foreign investment at home, China has sought to soften its image in the United States and Europe and make nice with some of its neighbors. One Communist Party official has played an unusually prominent role in the shift in tone.

In New York, he told an audience of scholars and businesspeople that China did not seek to rewrite the United States-led global order. In Paris, he said that China’s modernization would benefit Europe and the world. In Beijing, he told the ambassador of India, a regional rival, that China hoped relations would “return to a healthy and stable” track.

The official, Liu Jianchao, heads the Communist Party’s diplomatic arm, a body that promotes the party’s ideology and influence abroad. His recent engagements suggest to analysts, however, that he has been auditioning for the role of China’s next foreign minister.

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Imran Khan’s Opponents Reach Deal to Shut His Allies Out of Government

Pakistan’s two main political dynasties reached an agreement late on Tuesday to form a coalition government, ensuring that candidates aligned with former Prime Minister Imran Khan will not take power despite having won the most seats in last week’s election.

Leaders of the party favored by the country’s powerful military, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, or P.M.L.N., announced that they had joined forces with another major party, the Pakistan People’s Party, and others to reach a two-thirds majority in the incoming Parliament.

“This is not a time for disagreements, but to unite,” said Shehbaz Sharif, a former prime minister whom the coalition said it would nominate to regain that post. “Let’s move forward, move the economy forward, end mutual differences.”

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Here’s How Mexicans Living Abroad Can Vote in This Year’s Election

Two women will face off for Mexico’s highest office in what is set to be a historic election this spring.

Mexicans will choose their first female president on June 2, and they will also vote to renew all 500 deputies for the lower chamber of Congress and the 128 members of the Senate. At the same time, 30 of the country’s 32 states will be holding elections — with 19,000 state and local offices up for grabs.

This is the first national election in which Mexico will allow residents living abroad to vote. More than 12 million citizens live outside the country, 97 percent of them in the United States, according to the Institute of Mexicans Abroad. But in order to vote, those citizens must first register by Feb. 20.

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    A Tunnel Offers Clues to How Hamas Uses Gaza’s Hospitals

    Gaza’s hospitals have emerged as a focal point in Israel’s war with Hamas, with each side citing how the other has pulled the facilities into the conflict as proof of the enemy’s disregard for the safety of civilians.

    In four months of war, Israeli troops have entered several hospitals, including the Qatari Hospital, Kamal Adwan Hospital and Al-Rantisi Specialized Hospital for Children, to search for weapons and fighters. But Al-Shifa Hospital has taken on particular significance because it is Gaza’s largest medical facility, and because of Israel’s high-profile claims that Hamas leaders operated a command-and-control center beneath it. Hamas and the hospital’s staff, meanwhile, insisted it was only a medical center.

    Al-Shifa’s value as a military target was not immediately clear in the days after the Nov. 15 raid, even after the Israeli military released the tunnel video that was used to create the 3-D model seen here.

    But evidence examined by The New York Times suggests Hamas used the hospital for cover, stored weapons inside it and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath the complex that was supplied with water, power and air-conditioning.

    Classified Israeli intelligence documents, obtained and reviewed by The Times, indicate that the tunnel is at least 700 feet long, twice as long as the military revealed publicly, and that it extends beyond the hospital and likely connects to Hamas’s larger underground network.

    According to classified images reviewed by The Times, Israeli soldiers found underground bunkers, living quarters and a room that appeared to be wired for computers and communications equipment along a part of the tunnel beyond the hospital — chambers that were not visible in the video released by the Israeli military.

    The Israeli military, however, has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under the facility. Critics of the Israeli military say the evidence does not support its early claims, noting that it had distributed material before the raid showing five underground complexes and also had said the tunnel network could be reached from wards inside a hospital building. Israel has publicly revealed the existence of only one tunnel entrance on the grounds of the hospital, at the shack outside its main buildings.

    The Israeli military says that it moved carefully because the tunnel was booby-trapped and ran out of time to investigate before it destroyed the tunnel and withdrew from the hospital. Israeli and Qatari officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel had to leave the hospital to comply with the terms of a temporary ceasefire in late November.

    American officials have said their own intelligence backs up the Israeli case, including evidence that Hamas used Al-Shifa to hold at least a few hostages. American intelligence also indicates that Hamas fighters evacuated the complex days before Israeli forces moved into Al-Shifa, destroying documents and electronics as they left.

    Hospitals are protected under international law, even if they provide medical care for combatants, but their use for other acts that are “harmful to the enemy” can make them legitimate targets for military action. But any action must weigh the expected military advantage against the expected harm to civilians.

    Al-Shifa, Israeli officials have argued, is an example of Hamas’s willingness to use hospitals as cover and turn civilians into human shields. But critics say it is also an example of the toll on civilians when Israeli forces surround and raid hospitals to pursue Hamas fighters or rescue hostages, operations that can cut off doctors from fuel and supplies and residents from urgently needed medical care.

    Five premature babies died at Al-Shifa before the raid “due to lack of electricity and fuel,” according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which helped organize the evacuation of 31 other infants.

    “We all know that the health care system is or has collapsed,” Lynn Hastings, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, has told reporters.

    Israel launched its war in Gaza after the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 were taken hostage. Since the start of the war, more than 28,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to health officials there.

    In the face of international opprobrium over its raids on hospitals, Israel has publicized evidence that it says shows that Hamas hid fighters among the ill and injured, and held hostages in the facilities. The Israeli military said that before entering Al-Shifa, it warned the buildings’ occupants, opened evacuation routes and sent Arabic-speaking medical teams along with the soldiers.

    Hamas and Gazan health officials say the hospitals have served only as medical facilities. But beyond accusing the Israeli military of planting evidence at hospitals, Hamas and Gazan officials have not directly refuted the evidence presented by Israel.

    The Israeli military said it apprehended dozens of “terror operatives” at Kamal Adwan Hospital in December, and released videos, at the time, of men carrying weapons. A spokesman for the health ministry in Gaza said that Israeli forces had asked the hospital’s administrators to hand over the weapons of its security guards.

    After the raid on the Qatari Hospital, the commonly used name for the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics, the Israeli military showed a video on Nov. 5 of what it said was the entrance to “a tunnel that was being used for terror infrastructures” on the hospital’s grounds.

    But the video appears to show something else: a water storage area built in 2016, when the hospital was constructed, according to engineering plans and images from the hospital’s construction reviewed by The Times.

    The Israeli military declined to provide additional imagery to support its assertion that this was a tunnel entryway or part of a tunnel complex.

    Just before the Al-Shifa raid, Israeli forces entered Al-Rantisi hospital, on Nov. 13, soon after its remaining patients and staff had left. Within days, the military released two videos that showed weapons and explosives it said it found there, and a room where it said hostages had been kept. The health ministry in Gaza disputed the assertions made in the videos and said the weapons were planted.

    One of the videos released by Israel showed troops rushing into the hospital and appearing to find explosives, weapons and the hostage room. In the other, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, chief spokesman for the Israeli military, showed off guns, explosives and other weapons that he said were found in the basement of the hospital.

    The video included footage of a piece of paper taped to a wall in the hospital’s basement. Admiral Hagari said the paper — a grid with Arabic words and numbers within each square — could be a schedule for guarding hostages “where every terrorist writes his name.”

    The Gazan health ministry said it was nothing more than a work schedule. But the calendar begins on Oct. 7, the day of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, and an Arabic title written at the top uses the militants’ name for the assault: “Al Aqsa Flood Battle, 7/10/2023.”

    Given its size and history, taking control of Al-Shifa was always a more important goal for the Israeli military than the other smaller facilities.

    There is substantial independent evidence that Hamas constructed a vast tunnel network across Gaza. Senior Israeli defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, estimate the network is between 350 and 450 miles — extraordinary figures for a territory that at its longest point is only 25 miles. The officials estimate there are thousands of entrances to the network.

    There is also established documentation that Hamas used Al-Shifa before the war to mask some of its activities. During Israel’s three-week war with Hamas in 2008, armed Hamas fighters in civilian clothing were seen roaming Al-Shifa’s corridors and killing an Israeli collaborator, according to a Times correspondent reporting in Gaza at the time. Six years later, during the next round of fighting, the militants routinely held news conferences at the hospital and used it as a safe meeting place for Hamas officials to speak with journalists.

    After that war, Amnesty International reported that Hamas had used abandoned areas of Al-Shifa, “including the outpatients’ clinic area, to detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical center.”

    Israel’s critics, though, countered with statements made at the time by two Norwegian doctors, who described themselves as pro-Palestinian activists and had worked in Gaza during the 2014 war. They insisted that they saw no Hamas presence at Al-Shifa.

    Israel has also released video footage, taken by the hospital’s own security cameras, which it says shows two hostages being brought to Al-Shifa shortly after being abducted in the Oct. 7 attack.

    The Al-Shifa tunnel was discovered by following ducts that ran underground from air-conditioning units that were powered by the hospital’s electricity supply and mounted on one of its buildings, officials said. Israeli soldiers also found evidence that the hospital’s water supply was being fed to the tunnel.

    The Israeli military has also displayed weapons and other equipment it said were found inside Al-Shifa, including grenades placed near an MRI machine. Among the cache presented to journalists were belongings that Israeli officials said had been taken from hostages, including a bag emblazoned with the name Be’eri, a kibbutz attacked by Hamas.

    The military also said it found weapons in Al-Shifa’s parking lot, and a Toyota vehicle identical to those used in the Oct. 7 attack and loaded with the same equipment that militants carried during the raid, including guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Israeli officials speculated that it was a spare vehicle not used in the attack.

    Some of what the Israeli military has shown so far does not wholly match the description of a terrorist headquarters that it offered ahead of its ground invasion of Gaza on Oct. 27.

    Underneath Al-Shifa, the Israeli military wrote in a lengthy post on its website, “lies a labyrinth of tunnels and underground compounds used by Hamas’s leaders to direct terrorist activities and rocket fire and to manufacture and store a variety of weapons and ammunition.”

    There may no longer be a way to directly assess that claim. Israeli forces remained at Al-Shifa for a little more than a week.

    Hours before Israeli forces left the hospital on Nov. 24, soldiers lined the tunnel with explosives and destroyed it in a blast that sent plumes of smoke high into the air and rocked buildings on the ground above.

    How John Travolta Became the Star of Carnival

    Jack Nicas and Dado Galdieri reported this article among the giant puppets of the Carnival celebrations in Olinda, Brazil

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    It was near the start of one of Brazil’s most famous Carnival celebrations, in the northern seaside city of Olinda, and the town plaza was jammed with thousands of revelers. They were all awaiting their idol.

    Just before 9 p.m., the doors to a dance hall swung open, a brass band pushed into the crowd and the star everyone had been waiting for stepped out: a 12-foot puppet of John Travolta.

    Confetti sprayed, the band began playing a catchy tune and the crowd sang along: “John Travolta is really cool. Throwing a great party. And in Olinda, the best carnival.” (It rhymes in Portuguese.)

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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.

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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.

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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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    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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

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

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

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

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    An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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

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

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

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    Ricardo Martinelli, refugiado en la embajada de Nicaragua, promete hacer campaña desde ahí

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

    Mientras Panamá se preparaba para su ruidosa temporada de Carnaval, las celebraciones del fin de semana se producían en medio de un extraño drama político que tiene lugar en la capital.

    Un expresidente, quien también es uno de los principales candidatos en las elecciones presidenciales de mayo de este año, se refugió en la embajada de Nicaragua en Ciudad de Panamá con sus muebles, incluidos un sofá y un escritorio, así como su perro, Bruno.

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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.

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

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    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.

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    Ecuador adopta el ‘noboísmo’ como respuesta a la violencia

    Annie Correal y Federico Rios reportaron desde Guayaquil, Ecuador.

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

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

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