The New York Times 2024-02-19 16:39:34

Middle East Crisis: Israel Weighs More Curbs on Muslims at Holy Site

Israel is discussing new limits on access to an important mosque in Jerusalem.

The Israeli government is discussing whether to increase restrictions on access to an important mosque in Jerusalem during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, leading to predictions of unrest if the additional limits are enforced.

Cabinet ministers discussed on Sunday whether to bar some members of Israel’s Arab minority from attending prayers at the Aqsa Mosque compound during Ramadan, according to two officials briefed on the deliberations, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a sensitive matter.

The office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that a decision on the matter had already been reached, without saying what it was. But the two officials said a final decision would be made only after the government received recommendations from the security services in the coming days.

Israel has long limited access to Al Aqsa for Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and since the start of the Gaza war, it has imposed extra restrictions on Arabs in Israel. But some had hoped those limits would be largely lifted for Ramadan, which starts in early March.

The mosque complex is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because it was the site of two Jewish temples in antiquity that remain central to Jewish identity. By Muslim tradition, it was the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and tens of thousands of Muslims visit the mosque every day during Ramadan.

Israeli police raids at the site, riots there by young Palestinians and visits by far-right Jewish activists have often been a catalyst for wider violence, including a brief war between Israel and Hamas in 2021.

The move to further restrict access was promoted in the Israeli cabinet by Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right minister for national security, who has long pushed for greater Jewish control over the site and less Muslim access to it. In recent days, he had warned that Muslim worshipers might use access to the mosque to display support for Hamas, the armed group whose Oct. 7 terrorist attack prompted Israel to launch airstrikes and a ground invasion in Gaza.

Analysts say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is wary of angering Mr. Ben-Gvir because his ruling coalition depends on Mr. Ben-Gvir’s support. But Arab leaders as well as some Jewish Israelis have warned that by allowing Mr. Ben-Gvir to dictate policy at the mosque, Mr. Netanyahu ‌could inflame an already volatile situation‌, as well as‌ undermine freedom of worship.

The move would be “liable to pour unnecessary oil on the fire of violence,” Waleed Alhwashla, an Arab Israeli lawmaker, wrote on social media.

Dan Harel, a former deputy chief of staff in the Israeli military, said in a radio interview that the move would be “unnecessary, foolish and senseless” and might “ignite the entire Muslim world.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

Gabby Sobelman and Myra Noveck contributed reporting.

The Aqsa Mosque site has long been a fuse in conflicts between Jews and Muslims.

If the Israeli government moves to restrict access for some of its Arab citizens to Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Arab leaders warn of potential conflict. The mosque is one of the holiest structures in the Islamic faith, and is a chronic flashpoint in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

The 35-acre site that encloses the mosque is known by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, and by Jews as the Temple Mount. The site is part of the Old City of Jerusalem, and is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

In Arabic, “aqsa” translates as farthest, and in this case it is a reference to Islamic scripture and its account of the Prophet Muhammad traveling from Mecca to the mosque in one night to pray and then ascending to heaven.

The mosque, which can hold 5,000 worshipers, is believed to have been completed early in the eighth century and faces the Dome of the Rock, the golden-domed Islamic shrine that is a widely recognized symbol of Jerusalem. Muslims consider the whole compound to be holy, with crowds of worshipers filling its courtyards to pray on holidays.

For Jews, the Temple Mount, known in Hebrew as Har Habayit, is the holiest place because it was the site of two ancient temples — the first was built by King Solomon, according to the Bible, and was later destroyed by the Babylonians; and the second stood for nearly 600 years before the Roman Empire destroyed it in the first century.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has classified the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls as a World Heritage Site, meaning it is regarded as “being of outstanding international importance and therefore as deserving special protection.”

Israel captured East Jerusalem, including the Old City, from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, then annexed the area. Israel later declared a unified Jerusalem to be its capital, though that move has never been internationally recognized.

Under a delicate status quo arrangement, an Islamic trust known as the Waqf, funded and controlled by Jordan, continued to administer Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, as it had done for decades, a special role reaffirmed in Israel’s 1994 peace treaty with Jordan.

Israeli security forces maintain a presence on the site and they coordinate with the Waqf. Jews and Christians are allowed to visit, but unlike Muslims, are prohibited from praying on the grounds under the status quo arrangement. (Jews pray just below the sacred plateau at the Western Wall, the remnants of a retaining wall that once surrounded the Temple Mount.)

Tensions over what critics call the arrangement’s discrimination against non-Muslims have periodically boiled over into violence.

Palestinians tell the International Court of Justice that Israeli policies amount to ‘colonialism and apartheid.’

The International Court of Justice in The Hague began hearing arguments on Monday on the legal consequences of Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The six-day hearings, which are expected to address Israel’s actions in areas it occupied in 1967, have gained attention amid Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas.

The court is scheduled to hear from about 50 nations, including some of Israel’s allies, such as the United States and Britain, as well as critics, including China and Russia.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, opened the proceedings by telling the court that Israel had subjected Palestinians to decades of discrimination, leaving them with the choice of “displacement, subjugation or death.”

“The Palestinians have endured colonialism and apartheid,” he said. “There are those who are enraged by these words. They should be enraged by the reality we are suffering.”

Israel has said it does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction over its activities in the West Bank, arguing that the questions raised by the proceedings are political but not legal.

The court, the United Nations’ highest judicial body, is expected to issue an advisory opinion after the hearings, although it could take weeks to reach one. It will not be legally binding, and Israel has ignored opinions from the court before. But the proceeding this time comes amid growing international pressure on Israel to halt fighting in Gaza, which began after Hamas-led attacks on Israel last October.

The proceedings this week before a panel of 15 judges are separate from a case brought by South Africa that accuses Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, a charge Israel denies. Last month, the court ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide in the territory, without ruling on whether genocide was occurring.

Still, the timing of this week’s hearings could contribute to an uncomfortable spotlight on Israel’s policies when questions about Palestinian statehood are top of mind for diplomats internationally as negotiations for a cease-fire in Gaza continue.

The United Nations General Assembly first asked the court to consider Israel’s activities in Palestinian territories more than two decades ago. In 2004, the court concluded in an advisory opinion that a wall that Israel was building around the territories violated international law, although Israel ignored the finding.

Human rights groups view the proceedings this week as a long-delayed opportunity to address questions about the Israeli occupation, what they consider discriminatory practices that violate international law and Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

“Governments that are presenting their arguments to the court should seize these landmark hearings to highlight the grave abuses Israeli authorities are committing against Palestinians,” said Clive Baldwin, the senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch, which says it has documented abuses amounting to illegal persecution and apartheid.

The U.S. says it struck more Houthi targets in Yemen, including an underwater drone.

The United States struck five Houthi military targets, including an undersea drone, in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen on Saturday, the U.S. military announced on Sunday.

The use of the underwater drone is believed to have been the first time that Iran-backed Houthis had employed such a weapon since they began their campaign against ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden on Oct. 23, the military’s Central Command said in a statement.

American military officials provided few details of what they called an “unmanned underwater vessel,” but the Houthis have received much of their drone and missile technology from Iran. In addition to the underwater drone, the Houthis were also using a remotely piloted boat, the statement said.

The U.S. struck both the surface drone and the submarine drone and launched other strikes against anti-ship missiles, the military said in its statement, but provided no precise details on the location.

Maritime drones are becoming an increasingly powerful and effective weapon. Ukraine has used sea drones to devastating effect against Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Ukraine has deployed both drones that skim the surface of the water and those that travel underwater to attack Russian ships.

Mick Mulroy, a former Pentagon official and C.I.A. officer, said the Houthis’ use of an underwater drone was significant. He said the Houthis appeared to be adjusting their strategy.

“Unmanned surface and subsurface vessels are likely more difficult to detect and destroy than aerial drones and anti-ship missiles,” Mr. Mulroy said. “If all of these weapons systems were used against one target, it could overwhelm the ship’s defenses.”

The United States Central Command, which is overseeing operations against the Houthis, said the strikes were conducted on Saturday after determining the missiles and the drones posed a threat to both American Navy ships and commercial vessels.

In late October, the Houthis began a campaign to target commercial vessels, mostly in the Red Sea, off the coast of Yemen, saying that the attacks were in solidarity with Palestinians under attack in Gaza by Israel. The stepped-up attacks have prompted an American-led international maritime response, including a series of strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.

The U.S. has accused Iran of supplying the Houthis and in some cases helping plan operations. However, more recently, American officials have said that Iran does not have direct control over the Houthis.

Brazil’s president angers Israel after comparing the war in Gaza to the Holocaust.

Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, drew the ire of Israeli authorities on Sunday after he compared Israel’s actions in the war against Hamas to the Holocaust, in which Nazis killed six million Jews in a systematic roundup in Europe during World War II.

“What is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments,” Mr. Lula told reporters during the 37th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. But, he then added, “it did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

In the summit’s opening speech on Saturday, he said it was necessary to condemn both the Hamas attacks against Israeli civilians and “Israel’s disproportionate response.” The Gazan Health Ministry says that more than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s invasion of Gaza following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 strike on Israel, which killed more than 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

Mr. Lula’s statement outraged Israeli officials. The Israeli foreign minister, Israel Katz, said in a statement on social media in Hebrew that the remarks were “shameful and egregious.” He said that Brazil’s ambassador will be called in to his office on Monday for a “reprimand,” adding that “no one will harm Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel echoed those sentiments in his own social media post. Mr. Netanyahu accused Brazil’s president of “trivializing the Holocaust and trying to harm the Jewish people and Israel’s right to defend itself” and said that “comparing Israel to the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler is crossing a red line.”

Mr. Netanyahu added in a separate statement that Mr. Lula “has disgraced the memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and demonized the Jewish state like the most virulent anti-Semite.”

Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, also condemned Mr. Lula’s remarks, saying in a statement that it was “extremely disappointing that the Brazilian leader, a country of significant stature, would resort to distorting the Holocaust and propagating antisemitic sentiments in such a blatant manner.”

Hamas, in a statement on social media, welcomed the Brazilian president’s comments and expressed appreciation for the comparison between the Holocaust and the current fighting in Gaza.

Brazil’s president initially condemned the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack but has since been critical of Israel’s response. In November, as he welcomed a flight with about 30 people who made it out of Gaza through Egypt with the help of the Brazilian government, he condemned the war’s impact on civilians, saying, “I have never seen such brutal, inhumane violence against innocent people.”

The U.S. says it will not support a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said the United States would not support an upcoming Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, arguing that it could jeopardize talks on the return of hostages held in the territory.

Algeria will put forward the resolution on Tuesday for a vote by the U.N. Security Council, the country’s national press agency reported. The United States, one of the five permanent members of the Council, vetoed a separate resolution in December that called for a cease-fire, saying Israel had the right to defend itself against attacks by Hamas.

In a statement, the U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that President Biden has held multiple calls over the past week with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel as well as leaders in Qatar and Egypt to press for a deal to free the hostages still being held in Gaza.

The deal would “bring an immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement on Saturday, adding that the U.N. resolution may run counter to those outcomes. “For that reason, the United States does not support action on this draft resolution. Should it come up for a vote as drafted, it will not be adopted,” she said.

The expected resolution comes as Mr. Netanyahu is resisting pressure from the United States and other governments, as well as the United Nations, to call off a planned ground invasion of the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than one million people have taken refuge after being displaced from their homes by Israel’s invasion.

At the same time, Mr. Netanyahu has played down the chances of a quick breakthrough in talks to release the hostages, who were seized during a devastating attack led by Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7.

Inside Aleksei Navalny’s Final Months, in His Own Words

Confined to cold, concrete cells and often alone with his books, Aleksei A. Navalny sought solace in letters. To one acquaintance, he wrote in July that no one could understand Russian prison life “without having been here,” adding in his deadpan humor: “But there’s no need to be here.”

“If they’re told to feed you caviar tomorrow, they’ll feed you caviar,” Mr. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, wrote to the same acquaintance, Ilia Krasilshchik, in August. “If they’re told to strangle you in your cell, they’ll strangle you.”

Many details about his last months — as well as the circumstances of his death, which the Russian authorities announced on Friday — remain unknown; even the whereabouts of his body are unclear.

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Shaken by Grisly Killings of Women, Activists in Africa Demand Change

A wave of gruesome killings of women across several African countries in recent weeks has prompted outrage and indignation, triggered a wave of protests and precipitated calls for governments to take decisive action against gender-based violence.

Kenyans were shocked when 31 women were killed in January after they were beaten, strangled or beheaded, activists and police said. In Somalia, a pregnant woman died this month after her husband allegedly set her on fire. In the West African nation of Cameroon, a powerful businessman was arrested in January on accusations, which he has denied, of brutalizing dozens of women.

The upsurge in killings is part of a broader pattern that got worse during economic hard times and pandemic lockdowns, human rights activists say. An estimated 20,000 gender-related killings of women were recorded in Africa in 2022, the highest rate in the world, according to the U.N. Experts believe the true figures are likely higher.

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Ursula von der Leyen Seeks Second Term as Top E.U. Official

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“Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”

The answer to the famous question — attributed to Henry Kissinger, but probably apocryphal — has been easier to answer over the past four years than ever before: You call Ursula von der Leyen.

President of the European Commission since 2019, Ms. von der Leyen has emerged as the face of Europe’s response to major crises, and on Monday she announced that she would seek a second five-year term.

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Navalny’s Widow Pledges to Carry On Opposition Leader’s Work

The widow of Aleksei A. Navalny said on Monday that she would carry on her husband’s work to challenge President Vladimir V. Putin’s autocratic rule, presenting herself for the first time as a political force and calling on his followers to rally alongside her.

Mr. Navalny’s sudden death in prison, which was announced by the Russian authorities on Friday, left a vacuum in a decimated Russian opposition. His supporters had wondered whether his wife, Yulia Navalnaya — who long shunned the spotlight — might step in to fill the void, a move fraught with difficulties.

In a video released on Monday, Ms. Navalnaya, 47, signaled that she would. She said she was appearing on her husband’s YouTube channel for the first time to tell his followers that the most important thing that they could do to honor his legacy was “to fight more desperately and furiously than before.”

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U.S. Strike Killed Afghans Recruited to Fight for Iran

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It was a memorial for the “martyrs” killed when the U.S. struck military bases in Syria, according to Iranian state television.

A small crowd sat in rows of folding chairs, men in the front and women in the back, at the main cemetery in Tehran, the Iranian capital, earlier this month. Children milled around and a young man passed a box of sweets. A man recited prayers through a microphone.

But the 12 fallen men weren’t Iranians. They were Afghans, according to other soldiers and local media reports, part of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, a largely overlooked force that dates to the height of the Syrian civil war a decade ago. To help President Bashar al-Assad of Syria beat back rebel forces and Islamic State terrorists, Iran at the time began recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight, offering $500 a month, schooling for their children, and Iranian residency.

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Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian Territories Draws Focus of U.N. Court

Israel’s Occupation of Palestinian Territories Draws Focus of U.N. Court

Dozens of countries are expected to argue before the International Court of Justice about the legality of Israeli actions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Reporting from Paris

The International Court of Justice began hearing arguments on Monday on the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. It is the first time the world’s highest court has been asked to give an advisory opinion on the issue, which has been the subject of years of debates and resolutions at the United Nations.

The hearings are expected to focus on decades of Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But the arguments have gained urgency amid the deadliest ever Israeli-Palestinian war, in Gaza, and less than a month after the court ordered Israel to restrain its attacks in Gaza in a separate case.

The sessions began on Monday at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Israel has not appeared, but it has filed a written submission rejecting the validity of the proceedings.

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Dozens Killed After Gunfight in Papua New Guinea

More than two dozen people were killed in a gunfight on Sunday in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea, where deadly violence between more than a dozen tribal groups has been escalating. The precise cause of the latest episode remained unclear.

“What I’ve been briefed on thus far is that a situation occurred in the early hours of yesterday, Sunday the 18th, in Enga where a gun battle between warring tribes ensued,” David Manning, the police chief of Papua New Guinea, told reporters, referring the Enga Province.

Officials initially reported a death toll of more than 50, but that number was revised down to 26, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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Against a Canvas of Despair, Gaza’s Artists Trace Their Struggle

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The incessant buzzing of an Israeli drone fills the room.

On one large wall, scenes of death and desperate rescues by hand through twisted metal and crushed rock play out on a video loop. A large mound of rubble — metal rods, bricks and broken plaster — extends nearly the length of the exhibition hall.

Along blue walls meant to evoke Gaza’s sky and sea hang paintings that mostly evoke life before Israel’s intense bombardment and invasion: Palestinian still lifes, native cactuses, music, cats and cows, and even one Catwoman.

The map locates The Philadelphia Museum in the West Bank, north of Jerusalem, as well as Shababek, a gallery in Gaza City.

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Israelis, Newly Vulnerable, Remain Traumatized and Mistrustful

Steven Erlanger reported from Jerusalem, Army Base Julis, Tel Aviv, and Beersheba to try to get a sense of Israel’s mood four months into the war against Hamas.

After the Hamas invasion on Oct. 7, Doron Shabty and his wife and their two small children hid in Sderot, near the border with Gaza, and survived. A reservist in the infantry, he went into the army the next day.

He just returned after more than 100 days in Gaza, having lost friends. Mr. Shabty, 31, who sees himself on the political left, said he felt no sense of revenge, even if other soldiers did. Nor did he justify every act of the Israeli military, expressing sorrow over the many thousands of Gazans killed in the fight against Hamas.

But he said he felt certain that to restore Israelis’ faith in their country’s ability to protect them, there cannot be a return to the situation of Oct. 6. “We can’t live with an armed Gaza — we just can’t do that,” he said. “And in order to disarm Gaza, you need to pay a terrible price.”

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The Father, the Son and the Fight Over Their King

Old World
Young Africa

The Father, the Son and the Fight Over Their King

The riot police appeared out of nowhere, charging furiously toward the young protesters trying to oust King Mswati III, who has ruled over the nation of Eswatini for 38 years. The pop of gunfire ricocheted through the streets, and the demonstrators started running for their lives.

Manqoba Motsa, a college student, and his fellow Communists quickly slipped into disguise, pulling plain T-shirts over their red hammer-and-sickle regalia. They ducked down a sloped street and raced away, thinking that, somehow, they had escaped.

The map locates Eswatini in southern Africa. It is bordered by the country of South Africa to the north, west, south, and southeast.

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The Death Throes of a Ukrainian City

Marc Santora and Tyler Hicks traveled with civilian volunteers to villages under Russian bombardment on the outskirts of Avdiivka, and with Ukrainian military units in the area, to report this article.

Even from a few miles away, the death rattle of another Ukrainian city echoed through the mist and fog. Russian warplanes were dropping more thousand-pound bombs on Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine, reducing an already battered city to rubble and ashes.

Since Jan. 1, President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces have dropped around one million pounds of aerial bombs on an area encompassing just 12 square miles, according to estimates by Ukrainian officials and British intelligence.

Avdiivka fell to the Russians on Saturday, after some of the most horrific and destructive fighting of the two-year-old war. In the end, Russia’s superior firepower and manpower overwhelmed Ukrainian forces over many months, even as Russia incurred a staggering number of casualties.

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A Stunned Russian Opposition in Exile Considers a Future Without Navalny

The death of Aleksei A. Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader, has stunned Russian dissidents. But it is also spurring some hope that in its desperate moment, the opposition to President Vladimir V. Putin will be able to unite like never before.

Doing so will be a challenge, given the often aloof approach of Mr. Navalny’s movement and the disparate assembly of other leading opposition Russian figures: nearly all of them in exile, and none with his broad national appeal.

Among them is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch who fell out with Mr. Putin, spent 10 years in prison and in London became one of his most prominent opponents in exile. Then there is Maxim Katz, a YouTube influencer and a former poker champion, who is based in Israel. There is also Ilya Yashin, a longtime liberal politician who is serving an eight-year sentence for publicizing Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

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Hungary Snubs U.S. Senators Pushing for Sweden’s Entry Into NATO

Hungary, the last holdout blocking Sweden’s entry into NATO, thumbed its nose over the weekend at the United States, declining to meet with a bipartisan delegation of senators who had come to press the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to swiftly approve the Nordic nation’s entry into the military alliance.

The snub, which Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, described on Sunday as “strange and concerning,” represented the latest effort by Mr. Orban, a stalwart champion of national sovereignty, to show he will not submit to outside pressure over NATO’s long-stalled expansion.

Despite having only 10 million people and accounting for only 1 percent of the European Union’s economic output, Hungary under Mr. Orban has made defiance of more powerful countries its guiding philosophy. “Hungary before all else,” Mr. Orban said on Saturday at the end of a state of the nation address in which he said Europe’s policy of supporting Ukraine had “failed spectacularly.”

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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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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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Architect Embraces Indigenous Worldview in Australian Designs

Jefa Greenaway will never forget the first time he heard his father’s voice. It was in 2017, when he was watching a documentary about Indigenous Australians’ fight to be recognized in the country’s Constitution.

“It was poignant, surreal,” Mr. Greenaway recalled. “In one word: emotional.”

In the film, his father, Bert Groves, an Indigenous man and a civil rights activist born in 1907, recounts how he was prevented from pursuing an education because of the size of his skull, a victim of phrenology, the pseudoscience that lingered in Australia into the 20th century.

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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.

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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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Alexéi Navalny, crítico de Putin, muere en prisión, según las autoridades rusas

Andrew E. Kramer y

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Alexéi Navalny, activista anticorrupción que durante más de una década lideró la oposición política en la Rusia del presidente Vladimir Putin, murió el viernes en una prisión en el círculo polar ártico, informaron las autoridades rusas.

Su muerte fue anunciada por el Servicio Penitenciario Federal de Rusia, que declaró que Navalny, de 47 años, perdió el conocimiento el viernes luego de dar un paseo en la prisión a la que fue trasladado a finales del año pasado. La última vez que se le vio fue el jueves, cuando compareció en una audiencia judicial por videoconferencia; sonreía tras los barrotes de una celda y hacía bromas.

[El video a continuación muestra imágenes del medio de comunicación ruso SOTA en donde aparece Alexéi Navalny riendo y haciendo bromas entre rejas durante su última comparecencia ante el tribunal a través de una conexión de video].

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Ucrania afirma que Rusia utilizó por primera vez un nuevo misil hipersónico

Ucrania dijo tener pruebas de que Rusia utilizó por primera vez un nuevo misil de crucero hipersónico en un ataque la semana pasada, algo que, de confirmarse, podría plantear otro nuevo desafío a las ya abrumadas defensas aéreas del país.

Un análisis preliminar de fragmentos de misil realizado por el Instituto de Investigación Científica y Peritaje Forense de Kiev, organismo dirigido por el gobierno, concluyó que se había utilizado un misil 3M22 Zircón en un ataque llevado a cabo el 7 de febrero contra ciudades de toda Ucrania. Según el instituto, en los escombros se encontraron marcas típicas del misil.

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Rusia oculta su número de bajas. Estas son las pistas que tenemos

El verdadero número de bajas en Rusia por su invasión a Ucrania es un secreto a voces. El Kremlin mantiene una política de silencio y muchos rusos no hablan públicamente por miedo a las repercusiones.

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Pero se cree que el número de rusos heridos en combate es abrumador.

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En Venezuela, un día eres crítico y al siguiente estás detenido

De todos los críticos del gobierno, pocos pensaban que Rocío San Miguel sería la que iba a desaparecer.

San Miguel, de 57 años, durante mucho tiempo ha sido una de las expertas en seguridad más conocidas de Venezuela, una mujer que se atrevió a investigar al gobierno autoritario de su país incluso cuando otros huían. También es moderada, cuenta con reconocimiento internacional y parecía tener fuertes contactos en el hermético mundo del ejército venezolano, cualidades que sus colegas pensaban que podrían protegerla.

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Pero a finales de la semana pasada, San Miguel llegó al aeropuerto de las afueras de Caracas con su hija, con destino a lo que un familiar calificó como un viaje corto a Miami, cuando fue detenida por agentes de contraespionaje. Poco después, su familia también empezó a desaparecer. La hija, dos hermanos y dos antiguas parejas sentimentales. Desaparecidos.

Durante cuatro días, la única información pública sobre San Miguel procedió del fiscal general de Venezuela, que afirmó en redes sociales, sin aportar pruebas, que San Miguel había sido vinculada a un complot para asesinar al presidente del país, Nicolás Maduro.

Finalmente, el martes por la noche, sus abogados dijeron que había aparecido, y que estaba recluida en un centro de detención conocido por su crueldad. Su familia también estaba bajo custodia estatal.

La detención de San Miguel, directora de una modesta pero influyente organización sin fines de lucro que monitoreaba a las fuerzas armadas, ha desencadenado un pequeño terremoto en los círculos de derechos humanos de Venezuela, donde hace solo unos meses muchos observaban con cautelosa expectativa cómo Maduro firmaba un acuerdo con la oposición del país, donde prometía trabajar para lograr unas elecciones presidenciales libres y justas este año.

El cambio político, aunque todavía era una posibilidad lejana, parecía un anhelo digno de consideración.

Ahora, el pequeño grupo de activistas, trabajadores humanitarios, críticos, analistas, periodistas y otros que han podido resistir dentro del país —a pesar de años de represión y crisis económica— ven cómo se reducen aún más los estrechos espacios de actuación disponibles para ellos.

Como resultado, el camino hacia la democracia parece tan arduo como siempre.

Una nueva ley propuesta por el partido de Maduro pretende regular estrictamente las organizaciones sin fines de lucro, prohibiéndoles participar en acciones “que amenacen la estabilidad nacional”, lo que hace temer que se utilice para criminalizar a estos grupos.

La principal candidata de la oposición del país, María Corina Machado, ha sido inhabilitada para presentarse a las elecciones presidenciales, varios miembros de su equipo han sido detenidos y una violenta banda afín al gobierno interrumpió recientemente uno de sus actos, ensangrentando a sus partidarios.

“Si esto le ocurrió a Rocío San Miguel, ¿qué le queda a los demás?”, dijo Laura Dib, que dirige el programa sobre Venezuela en la Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos.

El encarcelamiento de personas que el gobierno de Maduro considera una amenaza no es nuevo. En Venezuela hay 263 presos políticos, según un grupo de vigilancia, Foro Penal, muchos de los cuales llevan años recluidos sin juicio.

Lo que distingue el caso de San Miguel no es solo lo conocida es y lo bien relacionada que estaba, sino que las autoridades detuvieron a toda su familia y luego los mantuvieron a todos sin comunicación durante días, táctica conocida en el derecho internacional como “desaparición forzada”.

En conjunto, estas medidas forman parte de un cambio notable en la represión, dijo Gonzalo Himiob, de Foro Penal, en el que el gobierno busca casos que atraigan la atención de los medios de comunicación y tácticas de detención que puedan aumentar el miedo entre quienes lo desafían.

“El gobierno está cruzando líneas que no había cruzado antes”, dijo.

En el centro de estas acciones parece estar el propio miedo de Maduro. El chavismo, el movimiento que lidera, ha gobernado Venezuela desde que su predecesor, Hugo Chávez, ganó las elecciones presidenciales en 1998.

Chávez, y luego Maduro, dirigieron una revolución de inspiración socialista que al principio sacó a muchos de la pobreza. Pero en los últimos años, la mala gestión gubernamental del sector petrolero, así como la corrupción y las sanciones estadounidenses, han devastado la economía.

Una crisis humanitaria al interior del país ha desbordado sus fronteras, con millones de venezolanos que buscan refugio fuera de él.

Maduro quiere que Estados Unidos retire las sanciones, algo que podría ayudar a mejorar la situación financiera del país, y que Washington ha dicho que hará si Maduro toma medidas para apoyar la democracia.

En octubre, con cautelosos elogios de Estados Unidos y sus aliados, Maduro firmó un acuerdo con la oposición para celebrar elecciones presidenciales.

Días después, la principal candidata de la oposición, Machado, ganó unas primarias con una participación que superó las expectativas y que se consideraron una señal de la debilidad de Maduro.

Las detenciones de San Miguel y su familia, dijo Dib, son un “mensaje a la sociedad civil de que no van a conseguir lo que quieren”. Es decir, unas elecciones de verdad.

Maduro, añadió, “no está dispuesto a perder el poder”.

San Miguel, que tiene doble nacionalidad, venezolana y española, es la directora de Control Ciudadano, que ha publicado una investigación sobre el número de personas asesinadas por las fuerzas de seguridad del Estado y ha criticado una ley venezolana que permite el uso de fuerza letal durante las protestas.

La mañana del 9 de febrero, San Miguel había llegado al aeropuerto en las afueras de Caracas con su hija de 26 años, según Minnie Díaz Paruta, tía de la hija.

San Miguel fue abordada por agentes del gobierno y detenida.

Aterrorizada, la hija volvió a Caracas. Un día después, regresó al aeropuerto para recuperar su equipaje, pero desapareció al poco tiempo y dejó de contestar a los mensajes, dijo la tía. Los hermanos y exparejas de San Miguel fueron detenidos por esas fechas, según Díaz y otros informes.

Dos días después, el fiscal general de Venezuela, Tarek William Saab, anunció en la plataforma de redes sociales X que San Miguel estaba detenida por el Estado, acusada de participar en una operación que, según él, buscaba el asesinato de Maduro.

Aseguró que la detención se había producido de acuerdo con “las normas nacionales e internacionales de protección de los derechos humanos”.

(El gobierno de Maduro afirma con frecuencia haber descubierto complots de asesinato contra el presidente).

A los abogados de San Miguel no se les permitió verla ni se les dijo dónde estaba.

Un grupo de activistas de derechos humanos recorrió algunos de los centros de detención del país con la esperanza de encontrarla, dijo Dib, sin éxito. No está claro cómo dieron con ella finalmente.

La embajada estadounidense para Venezuela, que se encuentra en la vecina Colombia, dijo que las detenciones seguían “una tendencia preocupante de detenciones aparentemente arbitrarias de actores democráticos”.

El Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, que en 2020 afirmó que Maduro había cometido “crímenes contra la humanidad” en sus esfuerzos por silenciar a la oposición, emitió una declaración similar.

Saad dijo el 13 de febrero que San Miguel había comparecido en una audiencia celebrada la víspera, acusada de traición, conspiración y terrorismo. Sus abogados dijeron que no estuvieron presentes.

Más tarde ese mismo día, un miembro de su equipo de defensa anunció en internet que la habían localizado: estaba en el Helicoide, un edificio de la década de 1950 construido como centro comercial que desde entonces se ha convertido en un conocido centro de detención.

La misión de las Naciones Unidas que examina las violaciones de derechos humanos en el país ha entrevistado a detenidos del Helicoide y afirma que han denunciado torturas, incluidas palizas y el uso de descargas eléctricas.

La misión también informó, en 2022, que el director de la principal agencia de inteligencia del país, que ostenta un poder significativo en el Helicoide, recibía órdenes directas de Maduro.

El abogado de San Miguel dijo que una de sus exparejas, Alejandro González, estaría recluido en otro centro, y que ambos permanecerían bajo custodia.

Los otros cuatro miembros de la familia, Miranda Díaz San Miguel, Víctor Díaz Paruta, Miguel San Miguel y Alberto San Miguel, serían puestos en libertad con la condición de que no salieran del país ni hablaran con los medios de comunicación.

La noticia de las detenciones se difundió rápidamente. Jairo Chourio, de 46 años, que vive en la ciudad de Maracaibo, dijo que se enteró de la detención de San Miguel en un grupo de Telegram, donde recibió información del partido socialista del país. Celebró las detenciones, que debían ser “bien merecidas”.

Otros dijeron que las detenciones eran señales angustiosas del estado de la democracia del país.

“En mi familia, todos tenemos miedo de opinar”, dijo Andrea Bracho, de 28 años, también de Maracaibo.

Bracho solo había decidido hablar con una periodista, dijo, “porque ya mañana me voy”.

“Por ahora, no tengo esperanzas”, continuó. “Y lo siento mucho”.

Sheyla Urdaneta colaboró con reportería desde Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Julie Turkewitz es la jefa del buró de los Andes, que cubre Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Perú, Surinam y Guyana. Antes de mudarse a América del Sur, fue corresponsal de temas nacionales y cubrió el oeste de Estados Unidos. Más de Julie Turkewitz

El Carnaval de Brasil solo empieza cuando llega John Travolta (el que mide 4 metros)

Jack Nicas y Dado Galdieri reportaron este artículo entre los gigantescos muñecos de las celebraciones de Carnaval en Olinda, Brasil

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Era casi el comienzo de una de las celebraciones más famosas del Carnaval en Brasil, en la ciudad costera de Olinda, al norte del país, y la plaza de la ciudad estaba repleta de miles de asistentes. Todos esperaban a su ídolo.

Justo antes de las 9 p. m., las puertas de un salón de baile se abrieron de par en par, una banda de música se abrió paso entre la multitud y salió la estrella que todos habían estado esperando: un muñeco de John Travolta de cuatro metros.

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