The New York Times 2024-02-22 04:44:47


Middle East Crisis: Gazans Ambush Aid Convoys Amid Food Shortages

The attackers have hurled stones, a cement block and an ax at the trucks.

Amid widespread food shortages and a breakdown in civil order, groups of desperate civilians in Gaza are regularly attempting to ambush aid convoys, according to two Western officials who were recently in the enclave and images of one such ambush reviewed by The New York Times.

In the images, several dozen young men, some of them carrying clubs, attempt to block the passage of a convoy of trucks as they drive along a major highway in southern Gaza after entering the territory from Egypt. The trucks are briefly forced off the road as the drivers swerve to avoid hitting the men. Some of the assailants throw stones at the trucks’ windshields, seemingly to try to stop them.

The images, with time stamps indicating they were taken in recent days, were reviewed by a reporter for The Times.

Such attacks have become common since Israel’s invasion last year as desperate civilians face starvation in pockets of the enclave, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid complicating their work in Gaza. In one recent attack, assailants threw an ax at a driver’s cabin, attempting to break into it, while in another the attackers hurled a cement block, according to one of the officials.

Israel blames much of the theft on Hamas, which it accuses of siphoning off supplies for its own forces.

But the Western officials said the attacks appeared to be mostly organized by groups of Gazans who were unaffiliated with Hamas, or were the spontaneous acts of desperate civilians. Hamas officials are barely present on the ground in any part of Gaza, the officials said, and international aid organizations are no longer coordinating their movements with the group that until October controlled the entirety of the territory.

The ambushes on aid convoys are partly a result of a breakdown in law enforcement, the officials said. Gazan policemen are now refusing to protect the convoys because they fear they will be targeted by Israel because of their affiliation with the Hamas-run government, the officials said. That leaves the convoys more vulnerable, they added.

Foreign diplomats privately say that enough food is reaching the Gazan border via Egypt to prevent famine, but the problem is its distribution to areas beyond Rafah, the southern city that lines the border with Egypt.

In northern Gaza, aid groups say another major obstacle is the difficulty in coordinating safe passage with the Israeli military.

Unlike southern Gaza, the north is mostly under full Israeli control, and aid groups say Israel regularly blocks access to Gaza City and its surrounding districts.

Israel has accused the aid groups of failing to coordinate their convoys closely enough with the Israeli government, and says that not all requests for access can be granted because of continued fighting.

In one case in early February, the United Nations accused the Israeli navy of shelling an aid convoy heading up Gaza’s coastal road toward Gaza City. The Israeli military said it was looking into the claim.

The U.S. defends Israel at the International Court of Justice.

A day after vetoing calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, the United States on Wednesday defended Israel’s decades-long occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, arguing at the United Nations’ highest court that Israel faced “very real security needs.”

The latest United States defense of Israel on the global stage came at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where Richard C. Visek, the acting legal adviser at the U.S. State Department, urged a 15-judge panel not to call for Israel’s immediate withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory.

He said that only the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel could bring about lasting peace, repeating a longstanding U.S. position but one whose prospects appear even more elusive amid the war in Gaza.

The court is hearing six days of arguments over the legality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian-majority territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which has been the subject of years of debates and resolutions at the United Nations. The hearings — involving more than 50 countries — were called long before Israel went to war against Hamas in Gaza, but have become part of a concerted global effort to stop the conflict and examine the legality of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians.

Israel has said it would not participate in the hearings, and sent a letter to the court last year arguing that they were unwarranted and failed to “recognize Israel’s right and duty to protect its citizens” or its right to security.

The United States has strongly defended Israel during the war, including on Tuesday, when it cast the lone veto against a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for an immediate cease-fire, saying it would disrupt efforts to free hostages held in Gaza.

On Wednesday, Mr. Visek asked the court to uphold the “established framework” for peace that he said U.N. bodies had agreed to — one that is contingent on a “broader end to belligerence” against Israel — rather than to heed calls by other nations for Israel’s “unilateral and unconditional withdrawal” from occupied territories.

The Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on Israel were a reminder of the threats facing the country and of its security needs, Mr. Visek said, “and they persist.”

“Regrettably, those needs have been ignored by many of the participants in asserting how the court should consider the questions before it,” he said, referring to others countries’ testimony in the hearings.

Mr. Visek’s appearance directly preceded that of Vladimir Tarabrin, Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands.

When he took the microphone, Mr. Tarabrin said Russia values its “stable relations” with Israel and expressed condolences over Oct. 7. But in what appeared to be a thinly veiled swipe at the United States, he said Russia “cannot accept the logic” of those who “try to defend the indiscriminate violence against civilians” in Gaza by citing Israel’s right to defend itself.

“Violence can only lead to more violence,” he said.

The court, which often hears staid disputes among nations, has lately become a venue for countries to oppose Israel. Last month, South Africa argued at the court that Israel was committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly rejected. The judges have not ruled on that claim, but issued an interim order for Israel to take steps to prevent genocide in Gaza.

On Tuesday, South Africa forcefully condemned Israel’s policies against Palestinians, calling them “a more extreme form of apartheid,” the race-based system of laws that deprived Black South Africans for decades.

Israel has long rejected accusations that it operates an apartheid system, calling such allegations a slur and pointing to what it says is a history of being singled out for condemnation by U.N. bodies and tribunals.On Wednesday, the Israeli Parliament voted overwhelmingly in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance against any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

The United States has remained Israel’s staunchest defender internationally. But the Biden administration, under increasing pressure from parts of the Democratic Party, has also shown signs of impatience with Israel’s conduct of the war, the rising toll in Gaza and the plight of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

President Biden this month said that Israel’s military response in Gaza — which began after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks — had been “over the top” and that the immense civilian suffering had “got to stop.” The remarks came days after Mr. Biden imposed broad financial sanctions against four Israeli men over violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.

After the hearings, which are scheduled to conclude on Monday, the court will give an advisory opinion, a decision that is expected to take several months. The opinion will be nonbinding.

Cassandra Vinograd 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.

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As Russia and the U.S. argue before the I.C.J., each accuses the other of hypocrisy.

The United States and Russia made opposing statements on Wednesday during hearings at the International Court of Justice focused on whether Israel’s lengthy occupation of Palestinian-majority territory is legal.

They were among 50 nations expected to address the I.C.J. in the matter — an unusually high number — underscoring the fact that the court, which once focused on staid issues like border disputes, has suddenly become a venue to wade into major, sensitive international issues.

“The I.C.J., which was previously seen as a kind of snoozy backwater of the U.N. system where disputes went to die, is turning into more and more of a platform for states to try to corner each other,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director for the International Crisis Group.

As Russia and the United States each use the court’s newfound prominence to promote their own agendas, they have both accused the other of hypocrisy.

The United States on Wednesday repeated its longstanding defense of Israel’s conduct of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of its need to defend itself, while Russia said that need failed to justify Israel’s treatment of Palestinian civilians.

In recent months, the court, the U.N.’s highest judicial body, has also heard preliminary arguments in a case South Africa brought against Israel, accusing it of genocide, while Ukraine and Russia have faced off concerning their war.

The increased politicization of a court created around strictly legal issues makes larger powers uneasy, Mr. Gowan said. Recent cases involving Israel, Ukraine and Myanmar touched on issues that the United States, Russia and China, respectively, consider their bailiwick.

“The I.C.J. is a place where little countries can line up and leverage international law to constrain what big powers and their allies try to do,” Mr. Gowan said.

The case regarding the legality of Israel’s occupation was triggered by a General Assembly vote long before the current war. In a separate case brought by South Africa after the war started, the judges have not yet ruled on whether Israel committed genocide, but decreed that Israel must take action to prevent it.

On Wednesday, the United States and Russia did not address each other directly in the courtroom in The Hague. But Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Vladimir Tarabrin, criticized the United States several times, calling American policy an impediment to finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Both the United States and Russia have repeatedly been accused of employing a double standard at the U.N. in the two conflicts, with the United States not pushing for a cease-fire in Gaza while demanding one in Ukraine, as Russia criticizes Israel for some of the very things Moscow has done in Ukraine.

For example, Ambassador Tarabrin said on Wednesday that the deaths that Israel experienced in the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 did not justify the subsequent level of Israeli violence in Gaza. Though the hearing on the legality of Israel’s occupation does not center on Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, much of Russia’s argument focused on the current war there.

“We cannot accept the logic of those officials in Israel and some Western countries who try to defend the indiscriminate violence against civilians by referring to Israel’s duty to protect its nationals,” Mr. Tarabrin said.

Yet the Kremlin has said that it was forced to invade eastern Ukraine to protect ethnic Russians under attack there. The Russian invasion, started in 2022, has devastated dozens of cities, towns and villages across the region and killed thousands of civilians.

Asked about that double standard in an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vassily A. Nebenzia, mostly dodged the question. He argued that people in the regions annexed by Moscow voted in a referendum in September 2022 to join Russia, a referendum rejected as illegal by most United Nations members.

A vast majority of United Nations members have voted repeatedly to demand that Russia stop the violence in Ukraine. The I.C.J. issued a similar ruling, although earlier this month it rejected many accusations that Ukraine made against Russia in the court, basically saying that its jurisdiction was limited.

In the hearing this week, Israel has declined to take part in the proceedings, and the Russian ambassador stressed that no ruling should be imposed on it. The court is expected to release a nonbinding advisory opinion.

The I.C.J. has no enforcement mechanism — it can only forward its rulings for action to the Security Council. The five permanent members can veto it, as the United States has done repeatedly with Gaza cease-fire resolutions and Russia with attempts to halt the fighting in Ukraine.

Marlise Simons and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting.

An Israeli rape-crisis group’s report finds ‘systematic and widespread’ sexual violence on and after Oct. 7.

An Israeli organization that supports survivors of sexual abuse released a report on Wednesday concluding that acts of sexual violence against Israelis during and after the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 were “systematic and widespread.”

“The report finds that the Hamas attack included brutal acts of violent rape, often involving threats with weapons, specifically directed towards injured women,” said the group, The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, an umbrella organization of nine such organizations in Israel. The report added that many incidents involved gang rape.

“Often, the rape was perpetrated in front of an audience — partners, family or friends — in a manner intended to increase the pain and humiliation of all present,” the report said.

The attackers also “cut and mutilated sexual organs and other body parts with knives,” the report said.

The report asserted that its information and analysis “clearly demonstrates that sexual abuse was not an isolated incident or sporadic cases but rather a clear operational strategy.”

Based on analysis of the information collected by the organization, the report concluded that sex crimes were committed against people at a rave site, in kibbutzim and at military bases and against hostages held in Gaza.

The report was based on testimonies, interviews with emergency medical workers and articles, including a monthslong investigation published by The New York Times in late December, which documented a pattern of gender-based violence in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack.

The subject of sexual violence has been among the more contentious aspects of the Oct. 7 attack. Multiple news organizations have reported allegations of sexual violence during the attack, and The Times, on Dec. 28, included accounts from several eyewitnesses who said they saw women being sexually assaulted and killed.

The Times viewed photographs and videos of women’s bodies that bore signs suggestive of sexual assault and mutilation. The Times also spoke with emergency responders who said they found bodies of naked or half-naked women and girls who appeared to have been sexually assaulted.

Some critics on social media have challenged these findings, saying there was not enough forensic evidence to substantiate the claims. Experts have said that it is not unusual for such evidence to be minimal in cases of wartime sexual violence.

Women’s advocacy groups in Israel have denounced the pushback, saying that the numerous and detailed allegations that Israeli women were brutally attacked that day have been held to different standards than allegations of women in other places who claimed to have been victimized.

Demonstrators in Israel, angry at what they consider a slow response by the U.N. and other international organizations, have chanted at protests, “Me too, unless you’re a Jew!”

Hamas, which the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group, has repeatedly denied that its fighters perpetrated sexual violence on Oct. 7. For instance, three days after the Times investigation was published, Hamas said in a statement that the group’s leaders “categorically deny such allegations” and called it a part of Israel’s attempt to justify the killing of Palestinian civilians.

Hamas has maintained that its fighters’ “religion, values and culture” forbid such acts, and that, as Muslims, they are “honor-bound to respect and protect all women.” The group has said it welcomes any international inquiries into allegations of sexual violence.

In late January, a U.N. team visited Israel to examine these reports, led by Pramila Patten, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict. Ms. Patten’s office said she will share some preliminary findings and that additional information will be included in her office’s annual report on sexual violence in conflict.

Orit Sulitzeanu, the executive director of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, said in a news release that the report was submitted to decision makers at the U.N. “Silence is no longer an option,” she said. “We expect international organizations to take a clear stance; we cannot stand on the sidelines.”

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A member of the Israeli war cabinet reports ‘preliminary signs’ of progress in a cease-fire deal.

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said Wednesday night that “preliminary signs” of progress have emerged on a deal to pause fighting in Gaza in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages.

Without offering specifics, Mr. Gantz said there has been momentum on a new draft of the deal that indicates a “possibility to advance.”

“We won’t stop looking for the way, and won’t miss any opportunity to bring the boys and girls home,” Mr. Gantz said in a televised news conference.

According to Israeli officials, about 130 hostages are still held in Gaza, though officials believe that at least 30 of them are dead.

As the war stretches into its fifth month, the status of a possible truce remains unclear, with various sides offering vastly different perspectives on where talks stand. On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said cease-fire discussions had reached an impasse after delegations from Israel, Hamas, the U.S., Qatar and Egypt met for a round of indirect talks in Cairo.

A spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office, Ilana Stein, said in response to a question at a news conference earlier on Wednesday that she had no comment on whether Israel intended to send a delegation to future talks in Cairo or Paris, where multiple peace brokers assembled last month to push for a cease-fire.

Hamas said that a delegation led by Ismail Haniyeh, the group’s political chief, was in Cairo on Tuesday to discuss efforts to end the war with Egyptian officials.

Later on Wednesday, Mr. Gantz warned that Israel was preparing to advance into the southern city of Rafah once the civilians there are evacuated, and that without a deal to release the hostages Israel would continue its military operations during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins in March.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have fled to Rafah after being displaced from their homes by the fighting in northern Gaza. The international community has denounced Israel’s plan to invade the city, but Israeli leaders have repeatedly said that they are continuing with their plans.

An Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin kills 3, the military says.

Israeli forces killed three people and detained at least 14 others in an overnight raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, the Israeli military said on Wednesday.

The military said that the raid had targeted “terrorism” and was part of a broader operation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority’s news agency, Wafa, said Israeli forces had stormed two houses in a densely packed area of Jenin, resulting in “violent confrontations.”

The agency reported that a 26-year-old man had been killed, three people had been injured and homes and vehicles were damaged. It said eight Palestinians had been detained during the raid, which began when undercover Israeli special forces entered the area.

Most of the violence was in a crowded neighborhood of the city that was founded more than 70 years ago as a refugee camp for Palestinians displaced in the wars surrounding the creation of the state of Israel. The neighborhood has long been a bastion of armed resistance against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Israeli military raids there, common for years, have become far more frequent since the Hamas-led terrorist attack launched against Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7.

On Wednesday afternoon, just hours after Israeli forces withdrew from Jenin, residents were still “very anxious and scared” and anticipating another raid, leading some to leave for nearby towns, said Faraj Jundi, a resident of the camp and a volunteer paramedic.

When news of the raid reached him around 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Mr. Jundi said, he immediately gathered his wife and six children in the safest room of their home and tried his best to calm them down before he headed out to treat the wounded. He was still very worried about his family, he said, because “there is no safety in the camp.”

By the time Israeli forces left, Mr. Jundi said, “The smell of death, sewage, and blood and the smell of fear and terror” permeated the camp, where roads and other infrastructure — already severely damaged by previous raids — had been bulldozed by Israeli forces. “We fear that we could suffer the same fate as Gaza,” he said.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks set off Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians have been detained in raids in the West Bank, which Israeli officials describe as counterterrorism operations against Hamas and an extension of the war.

At least 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank in since Oct. 7, according to health officials, making it the deadliest period there in nearly two decades. Deadly violence against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank has also reached record levels since Oct. 7, according to the United Nations.

This week, the International Court of Justice in The Hague started hearing six days of arguments over Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation” of Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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 U.N. General Assembly asked the court to review the legality of Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories more than a year ago, before Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Adam Sella and Cassandra Vinograd contributed reporting from Tel Aviv.

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Scientists’ worst-case model for Gaza over the next 6 months: 85,000 deaths from war and disease.

An escalation of the war in Gaza could lead to the deaths of 85,000 Palestinians from injuries and disease over the next six months, in the worst of three situations that prominent epidemiologists have modeled in an effort to understand the potential future death toll of the conflict.

These fatalities would be in addition to the more than 29,000 deaths in Gaza that local authorities have attributed to the conflict since it began in October. The estimate represents “excess deaths,” above what would have been expected had there been no war.

In a second scenario, assuming no change in the current level of fighting or humanitarian access, there could be an additional 58,260 deaths in the enclave over the next six months, according to the researchers, from Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

That figure could climb to 66,720 if there were outbreaks of infectious disease such as cholera, their analysis found.

Even in the best of the three possibilities that the research team described — an immediate and sustained cease-fire with no outbreak of infectious disease — another 6,500 Gazans could die over the next six months as a direct result of the war, the analysis found.

The population of the Gaza Strip before the war was 2.2 million.

“This is not a political message or advocacy,” said Dr. Francesco Checchi, professor of epidemiology and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“We simply wanted to put it at the front of people’s minds and on the desks of decision makers,” he added, “so that it can be said afterward that when these decisions were taken, there was some available evidence on how this would play out in terms of lives.”

Dr. Checchi and his colleagues estimated the projected excess deaths from health data that was available for Gaza before the war began and from that collected through more than four months of fighting.

Their study considers deaths from traumatic injuries, infectious diseases, maternal and neonatal causes, and noncommunicable diseases for which people can no longer receive medication or treatment, such as dialysis.

Dr. Checchi said the analysis made it possible to quantify the potential impact of a cease-fire in lives. “The decisions that are going to be taken over the next few days and weeks matter hugely in terms of the evolution of the death toll in Gaza,” he said.

The projected 6,500 deaths even with a cease-fire is predicated on the assumption there will not be epidemics of infectious disease. With an outbreak of cholera, measles, polio or meningitis, that figure would be 11,580, said Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Hopkins Center for the Humanitarian Health and an author of the research, which has not been peer-reviewed.

While it is obvious that a military escalation would bring additional casualties, he added, policymakers should be cognizant of the range in the number of deaths that these scenarios indicate.

“We hope to bring some reality to it,” Dr. Spiegel said. “This is 85,000 additional deaths in a population where 1.2 percent of that population has already been killed.”

Patrick Ball, an expert on quantitative analysis of deaths in conflict who was not involved in the research, said it was unusual to see such a rigorous effort to calculate the potential humanitarian cost of an ongoing war.

“The paper illuminates this conflict in a way that we haven’t had in any prior conflicts,” said Dr. Ball, who is the director of research for the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, a nonprofit organization. “It illuminates the probable costs in human lives and human suffering of different kinds of future actions that are under human control.”

“People are going to make decisions that are going to lead to one of these three scenarios, or some complex mix of them, and this gives us a sense of what the likely outcomes of those decisions are,” he added.

The analysis projects that fatalities from traumatic injuries in Gaza over the next six months will be distributed across all ages and genders.

“Forty-three percent of the trauma deaths occur among females, and 42 percent are among children under 19 years,” the paper says, which “reflects the intensity and widespread nature of bombardment.”

Even with an immediate cease-fire, war-related deaths would continue, according to the analysis. The toll includes deaths of people who succumb to previous injuries or who are hurt by unexploded ordnance, deaths of babies and women for whom complex care in childbirth is not possible, and deaths of undernourished children who are unable to fight off infections such as pneumonia.

“I don’t think people realize how long it will take for that to change,” Dr. Spiegel said.

The Israeli military’s top lawyer reports some troop conduct that crosses ‘the criminal threshold.’

The Israeli military’s top lawyer on Wednesday said that her office had discovered unacceptable conduct by Israeli forces in Gaza, including some that appeared criminal, and warned that commanders must prevent unjustified force and destruction or plunder of civilian property.

In a letter to officers, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer Yerushalmi, the military’s advocate general, said that her unit had encountered “conduct that deviates from I.D.F. values ​​and orders,” using the abbreviation for Israel’s military.

She said this included “inappropriate statements that encourage unacceptable phenomena; the application of non-operationally justified force, including on detainees; looting, which includes the use or disposal of private property that doesn’t serve an operational use; and the destruction of civilian property against orders.”

General Tomer Yerushalmi’s letter described the unacceptable actions as not representing the Israeli military as a whole, but said that they harm the international perception of Israel and its military in a way that “is difficult to exaggerate.”

The letter said that following investigations into these incidents, some of which “cross the criminal threshold,” military officials would determine how they would be addressed. It did not elaborate on the specific incidents. The letter called on commanders to prevent future incidents by creating an environment of zero tolerance.

International criticism of Israel has mounted as the war has taken an increasing toll on Gaza, where local health authorities say that more than 29,000 people have been killed and many more wounded. Israel’s conduct of the war is under scrutiny at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ highest court, and the country must present a report there by next week to show how it is complying with a ruling that it must take action to action to prevent acts of genocide by its forces in Gaza.

Some incidents involving Israeli soldiers have been filmed and posted on social media — sometimes by the soldiers themselves — forcing senior military officials to publicly discuss discipline. The military declined to comment on Wednesday on how many soldiers it had disciplined since the start of the war.

A visual investigation by The New York Times in early February found that soldiers in Gaza had vandalized shops and classrooms, destroyed what appeared to be civilian property and promoted inflammatory ideas of building settlements in Gaza. In response to questions by The Times, the military said in a written statement at the time that “the conduct of the force that emerges from the footage is deplorable and does not comply with the army’s orders.”

In January, The Times also found that Palestinian detainees from Gaza had been stripped to their underwear and beaten while they were held incommunicado, and that some had been interrogated for months. In response to questions in that period, the military said that Israeli authorities were treating detainees in accordance with international law.

Maj. Gen. Tomer Yerushalmi’s letter came a day after Israel’s chief of staff announced that the military would begin investigating its response and security failures leading up the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks on the country.

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Syria blames Israel for a deadly strike in Damascus.

Syrian state media reported on Wednesday that an airstrike on a residential building in Damascus had killed two people, and said that Israel was responsible for the attack.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the strike, which the Syrian government’s official SANA news agency said hit a building in the Kafr Sousa neighborhood just after 9:30 a.m. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war in Syria, said that a third person had been killed by shrapnel from the attack, which also damaged surrounding buildings.

A strike last February in the same neighborhood killed at least five people. At the time, a senior Western diplomat said the strike was targeting Iranians near a site used by the Iranian military.

While Israel did not comment on the latest attack, it has acknowledged hundreds of past strikes on Iran-linked targets in Syria.

Israel, Iran and Iranian proxies such as Syria have been waging a shadow war by air, land, sea and cyberspace for years. Iran supports and arms a network of proxy militias that have been fighting with Israel, including Hamas and other Palestinian groups.

The strikes and counter-strikes across the region have escalated in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks against Israel. Last month, Iran accused Israel of launching an airstrike on the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed senior Iranian military figures.

Cassandra Vinograd and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting.

In Brazil, Blinken intervenes in a dispute with Israel.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken confronted President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil on Wednesday about his recent sharp comments on Israel, including the Brazilian leader’s comparison of Israel’s attacks in Gaza to the Holocaust.

The sparring showed how the enduring war in Gaza has continued to expand into a broader diplomatic problem for the United States, and how the war’s mounting death toll has spurred more nations to speak out against Israel’s offensive.

An intensifying dispute between Brazil and Israel broke out this week over Mr. Lula’s comments on Sunday that the only comparison to Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza is “when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.” It was a significant escalation of his previous rhetoric.

Since then, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has said Mr. Lula “crossed a red line,” Israel’s foreign minister called Brazil’s ambassador to the Holocaust museum and scolded him in front of the media, and Israel’s official account on X said Mr. Lula “went full on Holocaust denier.”

Brazil responded by recalling its ambassador to Israel “for consultations” and, according to Brazilian news outlets, discussed expelling Israel’s ambassador to Brazil if the situation escalated further.

In a 90-minute meeting in Brasília, Brazil’s capital, Mr. Blinken had a “frank exchange” with Mr. Lula, saying that he disagreed with the Brazilian leader’s recent statements and that the United States was trying to get hostages held by Hamas freed and get extended humanitarian pauses enacted, according to a senior U.S. State Department official.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity while on the secretary’s flight to Rio de Janeiro. Mr. Blinken is in Brazil for meetings at a conference of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 nations.

A senior Brazilian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the conversation about Israel was calm and respectful, and that Mr. Lula condemned both the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, and the scale of Israel’s response, emphasizing the deaths of Palestinian children.

The conversation came at the end of the meeting, and Mr. Blinken opened the topic by discussing how his stepfather, Samuel Pisar, survived the Holocaust, the Brazilian official said. The biggest point of contention was over Mr. Lula’s stance that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, the official said.

Both officials said the two leaders agreed on the goal of ending the conflict as soon as possible. However, Mr. Blinken emphasized that must be done under conditions that prevent Hamas from carrying out another Oct. 7-style attack and that end the long-running cycle of violence.

That the Israel-Gaza war has become a point of friction in the Biden administration’s dealings with one of the most influential nations in Latin America, one considered a leading voice in the region, illustrates how the conflict has thrown a shadow on American diplomacy around the world.

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The W.H.O. says Nasser hospital is still without power, which Israel denies.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis had no electricity or running water after an Israeli raid last week, calling the destruction around the hospital “indescribable” and saying piles of medical waste and garbage were breeding disease.

But Israeli authorities pushed back on the W.H.O.’s description of dire conditions at the hospital, maintaining that the facility had sufficient medical supplies and that Israel had delivered a generator for the intensive care unit and food for the remaining patients.

Israeli forces raided the grounds of the facility — one of the last and largest hospitals still in operation in Gaza — late Thursday. Videos posted online showed chaotic scenes from inside smoke-filled corridors. The military said it had arrested 20 people who had participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel and had found mortar shells and grenades it said belonged to the militant group.

According to the W.H.O., an estimated 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said on Friday that the electric generators powering the hospital had stopped, and that five patients had died as a result. In a statement on Tuesday, the W.H.O. said that the hospital’s intensive care unit was not functioning and that, aside from minimal supplies it had been able to bring in, the remaining patients and staff were “cut off from aid.” The last remaining patient in the I.C.U. had been transferred to a ward where patients are receiving basic care, the W.H.O. said.

Col. Moshe Tetro, the head of the Israeli government agency that oversees aid in Gaza, said at a news conference that there had been electric power in the intensive care unit throughout the operation. He said Israel had delivered a generator to ensure this was the case.

He acknowledged that there were problems with power outages in other parts of the hospital, but he said the issues were not related to Israel’s raid last week.

Neither the Israeli claims nor those of the W.H.O. and the Gaza Health Ministry could be independently verified.

Colonel Tetro also said that Israel had delivered “large amounts of water, food and baby food for those remaining in the hospital.” Based on conversations with the hospital’s staff, he added that “it is our understanding that there is no shortage of medical supplies at the moment.”

Colonel Tetro said that Israel has also assisted in transferring patients to other places for treatment since the raid.

Before the raid, the Israeli military ordered an evacuation of thousands of displaced people who had taken shelter at the hospital. Israel has repeatedly said that Hamas uses hospitals for military activities, a claim Hamas regularly denies.

The Israeli military said that the raid was based partly on intelligence that hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel had been held at the complex and that their bodies might be there. No hostages have been reported as found.

On Friday, the Israeli military said medication bearing the names of Israeli hostages had been discovered during a search. The source of the drugs and how they were used was being investigated, the military said in a statement.

While Israel and Hamas reached a deal last month to deliver medications to the remaining hostages, it has been unclear if any had reached the captives. Qatar, which has served as a mediator, said on Tuesday that Hamas had confirmed that it had received the medications and that it had started delivering them.

Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

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A week after Hamas-led terrorists stormed his kibbutz and kidnapped his wife and three young children, Avihai Brodutch planted himself on the sidewalk in front of army headquarters in Tel Aviv holding a sign scrawled with the words “My family’s in Gaza,” and said he would not budge until they were brought home.

Passers-by stopped to commiserate with him and to try to lift his spirits. They brought him coffee, platters of food and changes of clothing, and welcomed him to their homes to wash up and get some sleep.

“They were so kind, and they just couldn’t do enough,” said Mr. Brodutch, 42, an agronomist who grew pineapples on Kibbutz Kfar Azza before the attacks on Oct. 7. “It was Israel at its finest,” he said. “There was a feeling of a common destiny.”

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U.S. Warns Allies Russia Could Put a Nuclear Weapon Into Orbit This Year

American intelligence agencies have told their closest European allies that if Russia is going to launch a nuclear weapon into orbit, it will probably do so this year — but that it might instead launch a harmless “dummy” warhead into orbit to leave the West guessing about its capabilities.

The assessment came as American intelligence officials conducted a series of rushed, classified briefings for their NATO and Asian allies, as details of the American assessment of Russia’s intentions began to leak out.

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An Election Shatters the Image of Pakistan’s Mightiest Force

The intimidating myth of an all-powerful military in Pakistan has been smashed in public view.

The first cracks began to appear two years ago, when thousands of Pakistanis rallied alongside an ousted prime minister who had railed against the generals’ iron grip on politics. A year later, angry mobs stormed military installations and set them aflame.

Now comes another searing rebuke: Voters turned out in droves this month for candidates aligned with the expelled leader, Imran Khan, despite a military crackdown on his party. His supporters then returned to the streets to accuse the military of rigging the results to deny Mr. Khan’s allies a majority and allow the generals’ favored party to form a government.

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A British Nuclear Missile Test Fails, Again

The British government confirmed on Wednesday that the test launch of an unarmed Trident missile from a Royal Navy submarine last month had failed, raising questions about the state of Britain’s nuclear deterrence capability.

It was the second straight malfunction of such a launch, coming nearly eight years after another Trident flew off course at sea, an incident that at the time drew criticism about the government’s failure to disclose it.

This time, too, the failed launch was first reported not by the defense ministry but by a London tabloid, The Sun, which said the missile’s boosters failed and it landed in the water not far from the submarine, the H.M.S. Vanguard, which had just come out of a seven-year refurbishment.

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A Russian Military Blogger Dies After Criticizing Army Losses

A pro-war Russian military blogger died on Wednesday, his lawyer said, after the blogger wrote the country’s military pressured him to remove a post exposing the scale of its losses in a recent battle in Ukraine.

The blogger, Andrei Morozov, claimed in his post that Russia had lost 16,000 men and 300 armored vehicles in its assault on the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which the Russians captured last week. He deleted the post on Tuesday after what he said was a campaign of intimidation against him.

The following morning, Mr. Morozov published a series of posts on Telegram outlining the complaints he had received from Russian military command and Kremlin propagandists about his exposé. In the posts, he threatened to end his life.

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Russian Forces Press On With Attacks in Southern Ukraine

Russian forces in recent days have launched multiple attacks around the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne, military officials and experts said, targeting land hard-won by Ukraine in a rare success of its counteroffensive last summer.

The Ukrainian Army said it had repelled four consecutive days of assaults from Saturday to Tuesday involving armored vehicles and large numbers of troops that had massed in the area.

Open-source maps of the battlefield compiled by independent groups analyzing combat footage suggest that Russia has made marginal gains to the west and south of Robotyne. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said on Monday that Russian forces had advanced to the western outskirts of the village.


Russian gains since Dec. 1
Russian-controlled area

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In Latin America, Guards Don’t Control Prisons, Gangs Do

Ecuador’s military was sent in to seize control of the country’s prisons last month after two major gang leaders escaped and criminal groups quickly set off a nationwide revolt that paralyzed the country.

In Brazil last week, two inmates with connections to a major gang became the first to escape from one of the nation’s five maximum-security federal prisons, officials said.

Officials in Colombia have declared an emergency in its prisons after two guards were killed and several more targeted in what the government said was retaliation for its crackdown on major criminal groups.

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Hundreds of Ukrainian Troops Feared Captured or Missing in Chaotic Retreat

Hundreds of Ukrainian troops may have been captured by advancing Russian units or disappeared during Ukraine’s chaotic retreat from the eastern city of Avdiivka, according to senior Western officials and soldiers fighting for Ukraine, a devastating loss that could deal a blow to already weakening morale.

The Russian capture of Avdiivka has emerged as a significant symbolic loss for Ukrainian troops, a sign of the battlefield impact of the failure of the U.S. Congress, so far, to approve more military assistance as dwindling supplies of artillery shells make it even harder to hold the line.

Estimates of how many Ukrainians were captured or missing vary, and a precise count may not be possible until Ukraine solidifies new defensive lines outside the city. But two soldiers with knowledge of Ukraine’s retreat estimated that 850 to 1,000 soldiers appear to have been captured or are unaccounted for. The Western officials said that range seemed accurate.

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The Two-Decade Fight for Two Letters on the Internet

The South Pacific island of Niue is one the most remote places in the world. Its closest neighbors, Tonga and American Samoa, are hundreds of miles away. The advent of the internet promised, in a small way, to make Niue and its 2,000 or so residents more connected to the rest of the world.

In the late 1990s, an American businessman offered to hook up the island to the internet. All he wanted in exchange was the right to control the .nu suffix that Niue was assigned for its web addresses. The domain did not seem as lucrative as .tv — which was slotted to Tuvalu, another South Pacific nation — and the leaders of Niue (pronounced New-ay) signed off on the deal. But the two sides were soon at odds.

Now, after more than two decades of back and forth, the disagreement is finally nearing a resolution in a court of law. Disputes over domain names were not uncommon during the internet’s infancy but experts are hard pressed to recall one that has lasted this long.

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‘Beginning of the End’ as Assange Case Returns to Court

Since 2019, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been held in a high security prison in southeast London while his lawyers fight a U.S. extradition order. Now, that particular battle may be nearing its end.

On Tuesday Mr. Assange’s case returned to a British court for a two-day hearing that will determine whether he has exhausted his right to appeal within the U.K. and whether he could be one step closer to being sent to the United States. At the conclusion of the hearing, it was still unclear when a decision would be made.

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That ‘Unimaginable’ Smell in Cape Town? A Docked Ship With 19,000 Cows.

When a smell so foul that locals called it “unimaginable” wafted over Cape Town this week, a search for the source of the stench choking the scenic South African tourist destination led to the city’s harbor.

Nearly a mile from the dock on Monday morning, Terence van der Walt, a local wine distributor, was stuck in traffic when the odor, made worse by the hot summer weather, began to drift into his car. With a smell so enveloping, rolling up his windows felt pointless.

“It was so putrid,” Mr. van der Walt said on Tuesday, describing his experience. “It would have been green if this were a cartoon.”

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Can the Olympics Rejuvenate One of France’s Poorest Corners?

Parisians are already grumbling about the crowds for this summer’s Olympics. They envision sweaty tourists jamming the subway cars, making the hell of commuting even more, well, hellish. They are planning their summer escapes; at worst a “télétravail” schedule to work from home.

But not Ivan Buyukocakm. Glancing out at a corner known for drug dealing near his family’s kebab shop in the low-income district just north of Paris, he sees the upcoming Olympics as heralding something totally different: opportunity.

“They are redoing the streets and refurbishing buildings,” said Mr. Buyukocakm, as a woman in a thin coat dragged a grocery trolley toward a dilapidated housing project. “This area is going to be improved. Life could get better.”


The map locates Seine-Saint-Denis, a suburb northeast of Paris.

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Wife, Protector and Now Political Heir: Yulia Navalnaya Rallies Russians

It was August 2020, and Yulia Navalnaya, the wife of Russia’s most famous opposition leader, was striding through the battered, gloomy hallways of a provincial Russian hospital, looking for the room where her husband lay in a coma.

Aleksei A. Navalny had collapsed after being given what German medical investigators would later declare was a near-fatal dose of the nerve agent Novichok, and his wife, blocked by menacing policemen from moving around the hospital, turned to a cellphone camera held by one of his aides.

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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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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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EE. UU. defiende a Israel ante la Corte Internacional de Justicia

El miércoles, un día después de vetar los llamados a un alto al fuego inmediato en Gaza, Estados Unidos defendió la ocupación israelí de Cisjordania y Jerusalén Oriente, ocurrida a lo largo de décadas, argumentando ante el más alto tribunal de las Naciones Unidas que Israel se enfrentaba a “necesidades muy reales en materia de seguridad”.

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La más reciente defensa estadounidense de Israel en la escena internacional se produjo en la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, donde Richard Visek, asesor jurídico en funciones del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU., instó a un panel de 15 jueces a no exigir la retirada inmediata de Israel de los territorios palestinos ocupados.

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¿Quién controla las prisiones de Latinoamérica? ¿El hampa o los guardias?

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El ejército de Ecuador fue enviado a recuperar el control de las prisiones el mes pasado, luego de que dos cabecillas importantes se fugaron y bandas criminales organizaron con rapidez una serie de disturbios que paralizaron el país.

La semana pasada, dos reclusos en Brasil con conexiones a una pandilla importante se convirtieron en los primeros en escapar de una de las cinco prisiones de máxima seguridad del país, según las autoridades.

Las autoridades en Colombia declararon una emergencia carcelaria después de que dos guardias fueron asesinados y varios más han sido blanco de lo que el gobierno calificó de represalias por su mano dura contra las principales organizaciones delictivas.

Al interior de las prisiones de toda Latinoamérica, grupos criminales ejercen una autoridad irrestricta sobre los presos, a quienes brindan protección o artículos básicos, como comida, a cambio de dinero.

Las prisiones también sirven como una suerte de refugio seguro para los líderes criminales encarcelados para que puedan dirigir a distancia y desde la reclusión sus grupos delictivos y ordenan asesinatos, organizan contrabando de drogas a Estados Unidos y Europa y coordinan secuestros y extorsiones a negocios locales.

A menudo, cuando las autoridades intentan restringir el poder que los grupos delincuenciales ejercen tras las rejas, sus líderes mandan a sus secuaces en el exterior de las prisiones a contraatacar.

“El principal centro de gravedad, el control que tiene el crimen organizado, está dentro de los centros carcelarios”, dijo Mario Pazmiño, coronel retirado y exdirector de inteligencia del ejército ecuatoriano que funge como analista en temas de seguridad.

“Ahí funcionan, digamos, los puestos de dirección, los puestos de mando”, añadió. Es “donde se dan las órdenes y disposiciones para que convulsionen el país”.

La población carcelaria de Latinoamérica se ha disparado en las últimas dos décadas, un crecimiento impulsado por medidas más severas como la prisión preventiva. Sin embargo, los gobiernos de la región no han destinado suficientes recursos para manejar este aumento y, más bien, a menudo han cedido el control a los reclusos, según expertos penalistas.

Quienes son enviados a prisión con frecuencia enfrentan una decisión: unirse a un grupo criminal o sufrir su ira.

Como resultado, los centros penitenciarios se han tornado en una pieza clave en el reclutamiento para los carteles y las pandillas más violentos de América Latina, con lo que refuerzan, y no pierden, su control de la sociedad.

En su mayoría, las autoridades carcelarias —mal financiadas, sobrepasadas en número, saturadas y que a menudo reciben sobornos— se han rendido ante los líderes criminales en muchas prisiones a cambio de una paz frágil.

Las bandas delictivas controlan total o parcialmente mucho más de la mitad de las 285 prisiones de México, según los expertos. En Brasil, el gobierno a menudo distribuye la población penitenciaria según su afiliación criminal para evitar la agitación. En Ecuador, los analistas dicen que la mayoría de las 36 prisiones del país tienen algún grado de control criminal.

“La pandilla está resolviéndole un problema al gobierno”, dijo Benjamin Lessing, profesor de ciencia política de la Universidad de Chicago que estudia bandas y prisiones latinoamericanas. “Esto le da a las bandas un tipo de poder que es muy difícil de medir pero también difícil de sobreestimar”.

La población de las prisiones latinoamericanas aumentó en un 76 por ciento de 2010 a 2020, según el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, lo que excede por mucho el aumento poblacional del 10 por ciento que experimentó la región en el mismo periodo.

Muchos países han impuesto políticas de aplicación de la ley más estrictas, entre ellas sentencias más prolongadas y más condenas por delitos menores relacionados con las drogas, lo que ha llevado a la mayoría de las cárceles de la región a sobrepasar su máxima capacidad.

Al mismo tiempo, los gobiernos han priorizado la inversión en las fuerzas de seguridad como una forma de atacar la delincuencia y mostrar al público que hacen algo, en lugar de invertir en las cárceles, que son menos visibles.

Brasil y México, los países latinoamericanos más poblados y con las mayores poblaciones carcelarias, invierten poco en las prisiones: el gobierno de Brasil gasta unos 14 dólares diarios por preso mientras que México gasta unos 20 dólares. Estados Unidos gastaba unos 117 dólares diarios por recluso en 2022. Los guardias penitenciarios de América Latina también reciben salarios ínfimos, lo que los vuelve susceptibles a los sobornos de las bandas que buscan ingresar contrabando o ayuda para que los detenidos de alto perfil puedan escapar.

Las autoridades federales de Brasil y Ecuador no respondieron a los pedidos de comentarios, mientras que las autoridades federales de México rechazaron hacer comentarios. En general, las prisiones federales en México y Brasil cuentan con mejor financiamiento y condiciones que sus prisiones estatales.

El estado de Río de Janeiro, que gestiona algunas de las prisiones más mala fama de Brasil, afirmó en una declaración que por décadas ha separado a los presos según su afiliación para “garantizar su seguridad física” y que la práctica está permitida por la legislación brasileña.

Algunos líderes criminales viven con relativa comodidad tras las rejas, lo que refleja el poder que tienen las bandas de las prisiones, donde operan tiendas de comestibles, clubes nocturnos y áreas de peleas de gallos, y a donde en ocasiones llevan de contrabando a sus familiares para que vivan con ellos.

Los expertos aseguran que las prisiones ecuatorianas son un ejemplo modélico de los problemas que aquejan a los sistemas penitenciarios en Latinoamérica y de la dificultad de atenderlos.

Los disturbios de enero estallaron después de que el presidente recientemente electo de Ecuador intentara aumentar la seguridad en las prisiones luego de que una investigación realizada por la fiscala general del país mostró que un cabecilla encarcelado, que se enriqueció con el tráfico de cocaína, había corrompido a jueces, oficiales de policía, guardias e incluso al exdirigente del sistema penitenciario.

El presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, planeaba transferir a varios líderes delictivos a una prisión de máxima seguridad, dificultando así la operación de sus negocios ilícitos.

Pero dichos planes se filtraron a los líderes de las bandas y uno desapareció de un centro penitenciario.

La búsqueda subsiguiente dentro de la prisión ocasionó disturbios en las cárceles del país, tras los cuales escaparon decenas de presos, entre ellos el líder de otra poderosa banda.

Las bandas también ordenaron a sus miembros que atacaran en el exterior, dijeron los expertos. Secuestraron oficiales de policía, quemaron vehículos, detonaron explosivos y tomaron brevemente el control de una gran cadena de televisión.

Noboa respondió con el decreto de un conflicto armado interno, autorizando al ejército a actuar contra las bandas en las calles e intervenir en las prisiones. En al menos una prisión se despojó a las personas privadas de su libertad de la ropa interior y se confiscaron y quemaron sus pertenencias, según el ejército y videos en las redes sociales.

Las escenas recordaban a algunas en El Salvador, en donde el presidente Nayib Bukele declaró un estado de excepción en 2022 para abordar la violencia de las pandillas. Unas 75.000 personas han sido encarceladas en ese país, muchas de ellas sin el debido proceso, de acuerdo con grupos de derechos humanos.

El dos por ciento de todos los salvadoreños están encarcelados, la proporción más alta del mundo, según World Prison Brief, una base de datos recopilados por Birkbeck, Universidad de Londres.

Las tácticas de Bukele han diezmado a las pandillas callejeras del país, revertido años de violencia terrible y ayudado a asegurarle un segundo mandato.

Pero los expertos aseguran que miles de personas inocentes han sido encarceladas.

“¿Qué consecuencias tiene esto?”, dijo Carlos Ponce, experto en El Salvador y profesor asistente en la Universidad del Fraser Valley en Canadá. “Esto los va a marcar a ellos y sus familias de por vida”.

El frecuente uso de la prisión preventiva por toda la región para combatir la delincuencia ha ocasionado que muchas personas desfallezcan durante meses e incluso años en prisión a la espera de ser enjuiciados, aseguran grupos de defensa de derechos humanos. La práctica afecta especialmente a los más pobres, quienes no pueden pagar abogados y a menudo se enfrentan a un sistema judicial que avanza con lentitud y está saturado.

En los primeros siete meses del estado de excepción de El Salvador, el 84 por ciento de los arrestados se encontraba en prisión preventiva y casi la mitad de la población penitenciaria de México sigue a la espera de un juicio.

“Las cárceles pueden definirse como centros de explotación para los pobres”, dijo Elena Azaola, una académica que ha estudiado el sistema penitenciario de México durante 30 años.

“Algunas personas han estado encarceladas por 10 o 20 años sin proceso”, añadió. “Muchas salen peor de lo que estaban al ingresar”.

De hecho, las prisiones de algunos países latinoamericanos son hasta cierto punto un carrusel.

Alrededor del 40 por ciento de los prisioneros en Argentina, Brasil, Chile y México son liberados solo para volver a ser puestos tras las rejas. Si bien la tasa de reincidencia es mucho más elevada en Estados Unidos, en América Latina muchas personas son encerradas por delitos menores y a menudo no violentos y luego pasan a cometer crímenes más graves, dicen los expertos, en parte porque los delincuentes del fuero común comparten el encierro con los criminales serios.

De hecho, las dos pandillas más grandes de Brasil —el Primer Comando Capital y el Comando Vermelho— se fundaron en prisiones que siguen siendo bastiones de su poder.

Jefferson Quirino, otrora integrante de una pandilla que completó cinco detenciones distintas en las cárceles de Río, dijo que las bandas controlaban todas las prisiones donde estuvo recluido. En algunas, los presos a menudo se dedicaban a llevar a cabo operaciones de las pandillas a través de los numerosos celulares que lograban ingresar de contrabando, con frecuencia con la ayuda de guardias a los que habían comprado.

En Brasil, donde las autoridades mismas a menudo dividen a los centros de detención por su afiliación criminal, la influencia de las pandillas en las prisiones es tan grande que los guardias obligan a los nuevos reclusos a elegir un bando a fin de limitar la violencia.

“Lo primero que te preguntan es: ‘¿A qué pandilla perteneces?’”, dijo Quirino, quien lidera un programa para evitar que los niños pobres se unan a las pandillas. “En otras palabras, necesitan comprender dónde ubicarte en el sistema porque de otro modo te mueres”.

Esto ha contribuido a que los grupos delictivos aumenten sus filas.

“La cárcel funciona como un espacio de reclutamiento de personal”, dijo Jacqueline Muniz, quien fue líder de Seguridad de Río de Janeiro.

“Y para crear lealtad entre tu fuerza de trabajo criminal”.

Colaboraron con reportería Emiliano Rodríguez Mega desde Ciudad de México; José María León Cabrera desde Quito, Ecuador; Thalíe Ponce desde Guayaquil, Ecuador; Genevieve Glatsky desde Bogotá, Colombia; y Laurence Blair desde Asunción, Paraguay.

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

Maria Abi-Habib es corresponsal de investigación con sede en Ciudad de México y cubre América Latina. Anteriormente ha reportado desde Afganistán, todo Medio Oriente e India, donde cubrió el sur de Asia. Más de Maria Abi-Habib

Jack Nicas es el jefe de la corresponsalía en Brasil, con sede en Río de Janeiro, desde donde lidera la cobertura de gran parte de América del Sur. Más de Jack Nicas


4 Ways Autocrats Have Used Interpol to Harass Faraway Enemies

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Interpol is the world’s largest police organization. It serves as a powerful bulletin board that governments and law enforcement agencies use to team up to pursue fugitives across the globe. At its best, it helps track down killers and terrorists.

But it is also a novel weapon for strongmen and autocrats in the hunt for political enemies, giving them the power to reach across borders and grab their targets — even in democracies.

Here are some of the ways countries can exploit Interpol:

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La salud de Navalny se vio perjudicada por las condiciones carcelarias

Alexéi Navalny se presentaba a sí mismo como invencible, utilizando constantemente su característico humor para dar a entender que el presidente Vladimir Putin no podría doblegarlo, por terribles que fueran sus condiciones en prisión.

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

Pero detrás de esa cara valiente, la realidad era evidente. Desde su encarcelamiento a principios de 2021, Navalny, la figura más formidable de la oposición rusa, y sus colaboradores indicaron constantemente que sus condiciones eran tan sombrías que lo estaban matando a cámara lenta.

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La disputa territorial entre Belice y Guatemala sigue siendo una preocupación en la región

Simón Romero y Alejandro Cegarra pasaron varios días en Belice, viajando en barco hasta el río Sarstoon y atravesando el país en auto para hablar con la gente sobre el conflicto con Guatemala.

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El barco se abrió paso entre los manglares, un enmarañado laberinto de ramas cubiertas de espinas que cobijaban jaguares y ruidosos monos aulladores. Las señales de nuestros GPS señalaban que estábamos en Belice, el país centroamericano de habla inglesa donde piratas británicos se instalaron hace siglos.

Pero algunos miembros del ejército guatemalteco, vestidos con camuflaje y boinas, nos vieron. Se acercaron en su propia embarcación, empuñaron fusiles y acercaron los dedos índices a los gatillos.

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

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