The New York Times 2024-02-29 16:59:39

Middle East Crisis: In Chaotic Gaza Scene, Many Are Killed and Wounded as Israelis Open Fire

Gazan authorities say that more than 100 people were killed and hundreds injured.

Israeli forces opened fire on Thursday as a crowd gathered near a convoy of aid trucks in Gaza City in a chaotic scene where dozens were killed and injured, according to the official Palestinian Authority news agency and an Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The details of what happened were unclear, with Palestinian and Israeli officials offering starkly different accounts.

The Gazan health authorities said that more than 100 people were killed and more than 700 injured in a “massacre.” The official Palestinian Authority news agency, Wafa, reported that “Israeli tanks had opened fire with machine guns at thousands” waiting for aid to arrive.

The Israeli military said in two statements that Gazans had surrounded aid trucks and “looted the supplies.” As a result, dozens were “killed and injured from pushing, trampling and being run over by the trucks,” the military said. It did not directly address the Palestinian claims of machine gun fire and said it was investigating the incident.

An Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity while the matter is still under investigation, said Israeli soldiers securing the passage of the aid convoy had opened fire after a crowd approached the forces in a manner that the military said posed a threat. The official did not indicate whether the military had fired at the crowd or in its vicinity.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza have become increasingly desperate for food as the United Nations and other relief groups struggle to deliver supplies amid Israel’s nearly five-month-old military offensive. Distribution has also been hampered by a breakdown in law and order, with Gazans seizing food from trucks.

Such aid is absolutely critical for the more than two million residents of Gaza.

The territory has been under an almost complete siege since the war began on Oct. 7 with an attack on Israel led by Hamas, the armed Palestinian group that had long controlled Gaza. The United Nations recently warned that at least of quarter of Gaza’s population is “one step away from famine,” and the Gazan health ministry said on Wednesday that at least six children had died in the territory from dehydration and malnutrition.

The ministry said that the death toll from the incident on Thursday was expected to rise as wounded Palestinians arrived at Al-Shifa Hospital, where medical staff were “unable to deal with the volume and type of injuries” amid a lack of medical supplies and staff.

Wounded people were arriving at two other hospitals in the north as well, including Kamal Adwan Hospital, according to the hospital director.

Late last month, a strike hit a crowd of people waiting for aid trucks in Gaza City, killing multiple people and injuring scores of others, Gazan health authorities said.

Palestinian leaders condemn the deaths of civilians gathered for food aid.

Palestinian leaders, Arab officials and international aid groups issued condemnations on Thursday after dozens of civilians were killed as Israeli forces opened fire in northern Gaza where people had gathered to collect food aid.

The Palestinian Authority, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, called the deaths a “heinous act” by Israeli forces and demanded that the international community, especially Israel’s chief ally the United States, intervene to stop Israel’s military offensive.

“The killing of this large number of innocent civilian victims who risked their livelihood is considered an integral part of the genocidal war committed by the occupation government against our people,” the Palestinian Authority’s presidency said in a statement.

The circumstances of the incident on Thursday morning remained unclear. Gazan officials said that Israeli tanks had opened fire with machine guns at a crowd of thousands who were waiting for food that has been increasingly scarce amid Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. An Israeli official said that the crowd had approached Israeli forces in a threatening manner, and that soldiers had opened fire.

An official with Hamas, the armed group at war with Israel in Gaza, accused Israel of targeting “masses of citizens” who were desperately seeking food “to suppress the hunger of their children,” and warned that the killings could derail talks aimed at reaching a cease-fire.

“We will not allow the path of negotiations, through which we seek to end the human suffering of our people that was created by the occupation, to be a cover for the enemy’s continued crimes against our people in the Gaza Strip,” the official, Izzat Al-Rishq, said in a statement on social media.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry denounced Israel for “the targeting of defenseless civilians” and urged the international community to “take a firm stance by obligating Israel to respect international humanitarian law.”

The Jordanian foreign minister criticized what he called a “monstrous act” and urged world leaders to take greater action to protect Palestinians.

Oxfam, the international charity, said it was “appalled” by the reports of the incident. “Israel deliberately targeting civilians after starving them is a gross violation of international humanitarian laws and our humanity,” the group said.

B’tselem, an Israeli human rights advocacy group, said that Palestinians in Gaza were suffering because of “the humanitarian crisis Israel has intentionally created,” and that the large crowd had gathered because of desperation.

“Whether they were shot or trampled to death, intentionally opening fire at civilians is a severe violation of international law and constitutes a war crime,” the group said in a statement. “This is especially grave given a crowd of thousands begging for aid.”

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad contributed reporting from Haifa, Israel.

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

The death toll in Gaza surpasses 30,000, the local health ministry says.

The death toll in Gaza passed a somber milestone on Thursday as the local health ministry reported that more than 30,000 people had been killed in the war since Oct. 7.

The number of deaths since Israel launched its military offensive against Hamas in Gaza had already surpassed the tolls of any previous Arab conflict with Israel when it rose above 20,000 in December. Many experts say the official toll is very likely an undercount, given the difficulty of accurately tallying deaths amid unrelenting fighting, communications disruptions, a collapsing medical system and people still believed to be under rubble.

Still, the reported figure is staggering — roughly one person killed for every 73 Palestinians in Gaza, whose population is about 2.2 million.

The figures provided by the Gazan health ministry do not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Many international observers have said they believe that the ministry’s overall toll is reliable, while the proportion of Hamas-affiliated fighters among those killed remains unclear.

An article published in November in the British medical journal The Lancet said that an analysis of the first weeks of mortality reports from the health ministry “suggested reasonable data quality” and that the deaths were “among Gazan population groups that are likely to be largely civilian.”

Israel has come under growing international pressure to stop its offensive, and even President Biden, its strongest ally, has expressed growing frustration with the rising death toll and worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. But Israeli leaders have insisted that they will continue fighting in order to eliminate Hamas, the armed group that led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel in which officials say at least 1,200 people were killed and 240 others taken hostage, setting off the war.

U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators are working to broker a cease-fire and the release of hostages, but the prospects of that remain murky.

On Wednesday, Hamas’s political leader said in a televised speech that while the group was open to making a deal with Israel, it was also ready to continue fighting. He called on Palestinians to march to the Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem in March, raising the prospect of fresh clashes with Israeli security forces around a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

In addition to bearing the risk of being killed in strikes or fighting, Palestinians are living with the growing specter of famine and disease.

The health ministry has said infants have died from dehydration and malnutrition in recent days. A physician who was in Gaza in late January told CBS’s “60 Minutes” this week that people were dying “in a fully treatable situation” because of the lack of basic medical supplies.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said on Thursday in a social media post marking the 30,000 deaths that most of those killed in Gaza were women and children.

“This horrific violence and suffering must end,” he wrote. “Cease-fire.”

The U.N.’s top rights official condemns the ‘brutality’ of Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

The top human rights official at the United Nations condemned Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in an especially forceful statement on Thursday and warned that an assault on Rafah would add a new level of horror to the war.

The terror attacks by Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups on Oct. 7 were “appalling and entirely wrong,” said Volker Türk, the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights. But, he added, “so is the brutality of the Israeli response.”

He laid out the toll of its military campaign: what the United Nations estimates is 100,000 dead, injured or missing Palestinians, amounting to one in 20 of Gaza’s people; the unprecedented number of deaths of U.N. employees and journalists; some 17,000 Palestinian children orphaned or separated from their families.

“There appear to be no bounds to, no words to capture, the horrors that are unfolding before our eyes in Gaza,” he said in an address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “This is carnage.”

Mr. Türk was opening a council discussion of a report by his office on developments in Gaza and the West Bank, highlighting the human and physical devastation of the war in Gaza and the “profoundly discriminatory systems of control” and “endless humiliation” of Israel’s policies in occupied territories.

His statement drew a rebuke from Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, who condemned it as “an affront” to the victims of the Oct. 7 attack.

Ms. Eilon Shahar said that the United Nations and the council had ignored Israel’s security concerns for years, and she noted that Mr. Türk’s statement did not mention the hundreds of Israelis killed in attacks before and after Oct. 7. “Do they not matter?” she asked.

Ms. Eilon Shahar defended Israel’s campaign, saying its approach to dealing with terrorist groups that were using civilians as human shields was consistent with international law. Turning to acknowledge two former hostages behind her, Aviva Siegel and Raz Ben-Ami, whose husbands are still being held in Gaza, she said the high commissioner had reduced them to “a mere footnote” in the council’s discourse.

Mr. Türk said that Israel’s blockade and siege of Gaza amounted to collective punishment of its population, which is a war crime, and could amount to using starvation as a weapon of war, also a war crime. “All people in Gaza are at imminent risk of famine,” he said, and many in the north of the territory, which international aid agencies have been struggling to reach for weeks, were already reportedly starving.

Israel’s planned ground assault on Rafah “would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new, dystopian dimension,” he added, urging states with influence to try to avert it.

The U.N. human rights office has recorded many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces, Mr. Türk said, warning of a real risk that any arms supplied to Israel could be used in violations of international law. In remarks aimed at Israel’s main arms suppliers, a list headed by the United States, he said countries should stop enabling such violations.

The United States has said that it supports Israel’s right to self-defense and that U.S. officials have made clear that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law, including taking steps to minimize harm to civilians. Israel has rejected allegations that it has committed war crimes in its operations.

A far-right Israeli minister will no longer oversee security at a major mosque, officials say.

The Israeli war cabinet has decided to relieve the far-right national security minister of responsibility for an important mosque in Jerusalem during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to an Israeli official, in an apparent attempt to defuse tensions around the holy site.

The minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, promoted a plan last week to impose more restrictions on Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during Ramadan, which begins in early March. The Aqsa compound is sacred both to Muslims and to Jews.

Mr. Ben-Gvir wanted to restrict access to Al Aqsa for Israel’s Arab minority, according to two Israeli officials briefed on the talks. For years, Israel has put limits on access to the compound for Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and since the start of the war in Gaza, the military has instituted additional restrictions on Israeli Arabs.

According to an Israeli official briefed on the recent decision, the war cabinet has assumed authority over the plan for Al Aqsa during Ramadan, relieving Mr. Ben-Gvir, who is not in the war cabinet, of that responsibility. A final decision regarding security measures for the mosque will be made tonight, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Mr. Ben-Gvir said on social media Wednesday night that he expected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deny the reports that his responsibility for security at Al Aqsa was being revoked. The national security minister has long been a proponent of increasing Jewish control over Al Aqsa. The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader, called on West Bank Palestinians to march to Al Aqsa for prayers during Ramadan, in defiance of Israel’s restrictions.

Analysts say that the situation puts Mr. Netanyahu in a bind. Upsetting Mr. Ben-Gvir could put his governing coalition in peril, but allowing the far-right minister to police access to the mosque could exacerbate an already tense situation.

In Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from the site of Al Aqsa, and tens of thousands of Muslims visit the mosque every day during Ramadan. For Jews, the area is revered as the Temple Mount because it was the site of two Jewish temples in antiquity that remain central to Jewish identity.

A U.N. aid official warns that Gaza is close to famine.

At least a quarter of Gaza’s population is “one step away from famine,” a U.N. humanitarian aid official has warned, as aid groups say that people are so hungry they are resorting to eating leaves, donkey feed and food scraps.

One in six children under 2 years old in northern Gaza, where the United Nations says it has not been able to deliver any aid since early this month because of security risks and Israeli restrictions, is suffering from acute malnutrition, the official, Ramesh Rajasingham, told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday.

His remarks came the same day as the Gaza health ministry said that a total of six children had died from what it described as dehydration and malnutrition, including two infants at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza. The ministry did not provide further details.

The fighting, damage from the war and Israeli restrictions on essential goods entering Gaza have decimated the territory’s ability to feed itself through farming, livestock and fishing, Mr. Rajasingham said.

Farmers have had to abandon their crops to flee the fighting or because there is not enough water to sustain them; livestock have been killed in the fighting or perished from lack of food and water; fishing, once an important source of food and income for Gazans, is now impossible, he said.

His remarks echoed a new World Bank report that found that Gaza’s total economic output had shriveled by more than 80 percent in the last quarter of 2023, calling it “one of the largest economic shocks ever recorded in recent history.”

Between 80 to 96 percent of Gaza’s agricultural infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, the World Bank report said. About 80 percent of the population has lost its jobs, the report said, adding that “every resident of Gaza will live in poverty” in the short term.

That is leaving Gazans largely reliant on aid — which is extremely hard to come by.

U.N. and aid group officials say aid is generally able to reach Rafah, in the southernmost part of Gaza, but little of it has trickled up to northern Gaza, which the fighting and Israeli military restrictions have largely cut off from the rest of the territory since early in the war. One of the two crossings where aid trucks enter Gaza has been closed repeatedly in recent weeks.

The Israeli agency that oversees the Palestinian territories has previously denied that it is blocking aid to Gaza, and Israeli officials have accused Hamas of seizing some supplies.

Aid groups were “facing overwhelming obstacles just to get a bare minimum of supplies into Gaza,” Mr. Rajasingham said. “If nothing is done, we fear widespread famine in Gaza is almost inevitable.”

The U.N. says a famine can be designated if 20 percent of households in an area face an extreme lack of food, if 30 percent of children there are suffering from acute malnutrition and if two adults or four children out of every 10,000 are dying every day from starvation or malnutrition and disease.

A breakdown in law and order has also made distribution difficult, with desperate Gazans seizing food from the trucks and occasionally attacking the drivers. Damaged roads and unexploded ordnance have cut off supply routes. Aid workers have been killed.

Earlier this month, the World Food Program announced it was suspending deliveries of food aid to the north after its trucks came under fire there and were attacked by desperate Gazans.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Aaron Boxerman and Ameera Harouda contributed reporting.

In Britain, Shockwaves From Israel-Hamas War Are Jolting Domestic Politics

Inside Britain’s Parliament, lawmakers jeered, booed, and stormed out of the House of Commons to protest the speaker’s handling of a vote calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. Outside, a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators projected the slogan, “From the river to the sea,” on to the facade of Big Ben, drawing denunciations from those who view it as a rallying cry for the eradication of Israel.

The chaotic scenes in London last week captured how Israel’s war in Gaza is reverberating far beyond the Middle East. From the United States to Europe, the brutal Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants and Israel’s devastating response has inflamed passions, upended politics, and heightened tensions within Muslim and Jewish communities.

The fights are not only over intractable questions of war, peace, and moral justice. In Britain, political parties and the public are not actually that divided over how to respond to Gaza; a solid majority back a cease-fire. Instead, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also become a cudgel for opponents to brandish against each other.

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Putin Says West Risks Nuclear Conflict if It Intervenes More in Ukraine

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said the West faced the prospect of nuclear conflict if it intervened more directly in the war in Ukraine, using an annual speech to the nation on Thursday to escalate his threats against Europe and the United States.

Mr. Putin said Western countries that were helping Ukraine strike Russian territory “must, in the end, understand” that “all this truly threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons, and therefore the destruction of civilization.”

“We also have weapons that can strike targets on their territory,” Mr. Putin said. “Do they not understand this?”

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5 Convicts Familiar With Navalny’s Prison Confirm Hellish Conditions

Locked in an Arctic prison, Aleksei A. Navalny is likely to have spent his final days in some of the most inhumane conditions within Russia’s extensive penitentiary system, according to five men who have served sentences in the same penal colony as the Russian opposition leader.

The men described in phone interviews unbearable cold, repulsive food, unsanitary conditions and beatings in Penal Colony No. 3 of the remote Yamalo-Nenets region, where Mr. Navalny arrived in December to serve out the remainder of his 19-year old prison sentence. The former inmates said the conditions were especially brutal in the solitary cells where Mr. Navalny is believed to have been confined on the day he was pronounced dead.

But what made the prison, known as IK-3 or the Troika, dreaded even by Russia’s hardened inmates was the exceptional psychological pressure and loneliness, they said. It was a system devised to break the human spirit, by making survival depend on total and unconditional obedience to the will of guards.

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Russia Took the City. Now It’s Coming for Their Villages.

Villagers living near the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka listened with dread in recent weeks to the sound of the bombs falling there, knowing their troops were taking a pounding and their villages were next in line.

Now the chances of bombs landing on them are growing by the day. Russian troops captured Avdiivka 12 days ago and the front line has shifted westward, threatening the next Ukrainian farms and villages that lie in their path.

“It is very tense right now,” said Oleksandr Kobets, a farmer who was butchering a pig in his yard. “You wake up several times a night. They are coming closer and closer.”

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Why a Small Special Election in Rochdale, England, Has Big Chaos Vibes

If everything had gone to plan, Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which is riding high in opinion polls, would be confident of sweeping to victory on Thursday in a special election (known as a by-election in Britain) for the parliamentary district of Rochdale, north of Manchester.

Instead, the contest has become a source of acute embarrassment to the party, and whoever comes out on top when results are announced early Friday morning won’t represent Labour.

Earlier this month the party had to disown its candidate over antisemitic remarks he made, but it was too late to replace him on the ballot. In the aftermath of that debacle the election in Rochdale has become emblematic of the anger that has swept through British politics over the war in Gaza.

With a general election looming, internal divisions over the conflict in the Middle East have caused tensions within both the Labour Party and the governing Conservatives.

And, worse for Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, the favorite to win in Rochdale is George Galloway, according to oddsmakers. He is a veteran left-wing firebrand who was kicked out of the Labour Party more than two decades ago, and would relish wreaking his revenge in Rochdale.

Thursday’s election was called to replace Tony Lloyd, a respected Labour lawmaker who had represented the district since 2017 but who died of blood cancer earlier this year.

To succeed him, Labour chose Azhar Ali as the party’s candidate, but then a recording emerged revealing that he had claimed that Israel “allowed” Hamas to go ahead with the Oct. 7 attacks as a pretext to invade Gaza. (Mr. Ali later issued a statement saying he apologized “unreservedly to the Jewish community for my comments which were deeply offensive, ignorant, and false.”)

The episode was a setback for Mr. Starmer, who has tried to rid Labour of the antisemitism that infected the far-left of the party under his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. After some initial prevarication, Mr. Ali was removed from the Labour ticket.

But by the time Mr. Starmer acted against Mr. Ali, it was too late to replace him. In fact, his name is still on the ballot, although, if he wins the seat, Mr. Ali would not represent Labour in Parliament (he would sit as an independent, instead).

The result? A mess. In a district it once assumed it would win, Labour isn’t even in the race.

There may be no formal Labour candidate in the race but, along with Mr. Ali, two former Labour lawmakers are running in a region whose proud history has been marred recently by child exploitation scandals, poverty and deprivation.

One candidate is Simon Danczuk, who won Rochdale for Labour in the 2010 and 2015 general elections. He was suspended by the Labour Party in 2015 for sending explicit messages to a 17-year-old girl.

He apologized at the time for “inappropriate” behavior, saying he had been “stupid,” but he now dismisses the episode as “tabloid nonsense.” This time he is running as a candidate for Reform U.K., the hard-right party that is a successor to the Brexit Party, which was once led by Nigel Farage, who campaigned for Britain to quit the European Union.

The other candidate is Mr. Galloway, the former Labour lawmaker, who is known for his fierce political rhetoric — and for the trademark fedora hat he likes to wear. The founder of the far-left Workers Party of Britain, Mr. Galloway was forced out of the Labour Party in 2003 over his criticism of the Iraq war.

At the time he described Tony Blair, then Britain’s prime minister, and George W. Bush, then the U.S. president, as “wolves,” and urged British troops to ignore military orders that he called illegal. Later, Mr. Galloway won parliamentary seats in 2005 in Bethnal Green in east London, and in 2012 in Bradford West, for the Respect Party. In 2006, he appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in Britain, where at one point he surprised viewers by role-playing as a cat and licking another contestant’s hands.

In the campaign in Rochdale, Mr. Galloway has appealed directly to the district’s Muslim population, who make up around 30 percent of the electorate, and many of whom are angry about the war in Gaza. He has been outspoken in his criticism of Mr. Starmer, who is described as a “top supporter of Israel” in one of Mr. Galloway’s election leaflets. “Imagine — the people of Rochdale coming together to topple the hated Labour leader,” it adds.

That prospect may be fanciful but, if elected, Mr. Galloway would likely do his best to be a thorn in Labour’s side and exploit internal tensions over the Middle East.

The one bright spot for Mr. Starmer is that with a general election expected later this year, whoever wins in Rochdale faces another battle for re-election soon if the victor wants to stay a lawmaker for more than a few months. And next time, that candidate will almost certainly have to run against a Labour candidate who many analysts will expect to win.

The ‘Luxury Route’ to the U.S. for African Migrants

Reporting from Bogotá, Colombia.

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As record numbers of people cross into the United States, the southern border is not the only place where the migration crisis is playing out.

Nearly three thousand miles to the south, inside Colombia’s main international airport, hundreds of African migrants have been pouring in every day, paying traffickers roughly $10,000 for flight packages they hope will help them reach the United States.

The surge of African migrants in the Bogotá airport, which began last year, is a vivid example of the impact of one of the largest global movements of people in decades and how it is shifting migration patterns.

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Darién Gap Migration Is Halted After Colombia Arrests Boat Captains

Migration toward the United States through the dangerous jungle passage known as the Darién Gap has been halted, at least temporarily, following the arrest of two boat captains working for companies that play an essential role in ferrying migrants to the jungle.

Boat companies suspended migrant crossings from two northern Colombia towns, Necoclí and Turbo, to the entrance of the Darién forest, according to the mayor of Necoclí, leaving roughly 3,000 migrants stranded in those communities.

The Colombian law enforcement action in the region is sure to be watched closely by U.S. officials: The Biden administration has been pressuring Colombia for months to try harder to stop people from using the Darién as a path to the United States.

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A Land Once Emptied by War Now Faces a Peacetime Exodus

Reporting from the village of Socice and from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

When the Bosnian sheep farmer fled his home in a disintegrating Yugoslavia in 1992, trekking with his family for 40 days to escape the start of a war that would pit neighbor against neighbor, the village he left behind had more than 400 people, two shops and a school.

More than half the villagers were fellow Muslims, the rest Serbs, but nobody, he said, paid much attention to that until extremist politicians started screaming for blood.

After more than a decade away from his home in eastern Bosnia, the farmer, Fikret Puhalo, 61, returned to his village, Socice. By then it had 100 or so people, Serbs who had stayed throughout and a few Muslims who had decided it was safe to go back.

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London Police Should Not Have Hired Officer Who Killed Woman, Inquiry Finds

An inquiry published Thursday into the murder of a young woman three years ago by a London police officer — a case that rattled Britain and set off a broader reckoning in the country about violence against women — has found that the police force missed signs of a troubling past that should have prevented him from being hired.

The woman, Sarah Everard, 33, was abducted, raped and murdered in March 2021 by Wayne Couzens, a member of London’s Metropolitan Police Service. Mr. Couzens was later sentenced to life in prison for the killing.

Ms. Everard’s murder cast a spotlight on how bad behavior and violence against women had been allowed to thrive within the country’s police ranks, prompting soul-searching and demands to improve the processes of hiring and overseeing officers.

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Ghana’s Parliament Passes Anti-Gay Bill With Jail Terms

Ghana’s Parliament on Wednesday passed a bill that imposes jail terms on people who identify as L.G.B.T.Q. or organize gay advocacy groups, measures that Amnesty International called among the harshest on the African continent.

The legislation, if signed into law by President Nana Akufo-Addo, would mean that people convicted of identifying as gay could be sentenced to three years in jail, those deemed “promoters” of L.G.B.T.Q. issues could get five years, and those who engage in gay sex would receive five years instead of the three years under previous legislation.

The bill is the latest in a wave of anti-gay legislation passed in Africa: Tanzania, Niger and Namibia have tightened such laws in recent years, while Uganda has adopted an anti-gay law that includes the death penalty.

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For Car Thieves, Toronto Is a ‘Candy Store,’ and Drivers Are Fed Up

Vjosa Isai drove around Toronto in a Volkswagen Passat with 290,000 miles on it, a vehicle not coveted by car thieves, to report this article.

Whenever Dennis Wilson wants to take a drive in his new SUV, he has to set aside an extra 15 minutes. That’s about how long it takes to remove the car’s steering wheel club, undo four tire locks and lower a yellow bollard before backing out of his driveway.

His Honda CR-V is also fitted with two alarm systems, a vehicle tracking device and, for good measure, four Apple AirTags. Its remote-access key fob rests in a Faraday bag, to jam illicit unlocking signals.

As a final touch, he mounted two motion-sensitive floodlights on his house and aimed them at the driveway in his modest neighborhood in Toronto.

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Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest

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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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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Can Gabriel Attal Win Over France?

Gabriel Attal, 34, is a new kind of French prime minister, more inclined to Diet Coke than a good Burgundy, at home with social media and revelations about his personal life, a natural communicator who reels off one-liners like “France rhymes with power” to assert his “authority,” a favorite word.

Since taking office in early January, the boyish-looking Mr. Attal has waded into the countryside, far from his familiar haunts in the chic quarters of Paris, muddied his dress shoes, propped his notes on a choreographed bale of hay, and calmed protesting farmers through adroit negotiation leavened by multiple concessions.

He has told rail workers threatening a strike that “working is a duty,” not an everyday French admonition. He has shown off his new dog on Instagram and explained that he called the high-energy Chow Chow “Volta” after the inventor of the electric battery. He has told the National Assembly that he is the living proof of a changing France as “a prime minister who assumes his homosexuality.”

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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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Nearly a month after international figure skating’s governing body revised the results of a marquee competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, stripping Russia of the gold medal and giving the United States team a long-delayed victory, a new fight about the outcome erupted on Monday.

Eight members of the Canadian squad that competed in the team competition in Beijing have filed a case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport demanding that they be awarded bronze medals in the team event. The court announced the filing but revealed no details.

The Canadians, whose case was joined by their country’s skating federation and national Olympic committee, are expected to argue that figure skating’s global governing body erred when it revised the results of the competition in January after a Russian skater who had taken part, the teenage prodigy Kamila Valieva, was given a four-year ban for doping.

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In Latin America, a New Frontier for Women: Professional Softball in Mexico

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

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In many parts of Latin America, baseball is a popular and well-established sport with men’s professional leagues in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, among others. But women wanting to play baseball’s cousin — softball — professionally had only one option: to leave. They had to go to the United States or Japan.

Until now.

In what is believed to be a first in Latin America — a region where men often have more opportunities than women, particularly in sports — a professional women’s softball league has started in Mexico. On Jan. 25, when the inaugural season began, 120 women on six teams got to call themselves professional softball players, many for the first time.

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Why the Cost of Success in English Soccer’s Lower Leagues Keeps Going Up

Geoff Thompson knows there are plenty of people who want to buy what he has to sell. The phone calls and emails over the last few weeks have left no doubt. And really, that is no surprise. Few industries are quite as appealing or as prestigious as English soccer, and Mr. Thompson has a piece of it.

It is, admittedly, a comparatively small piece: South Shields F.C., the team he has owned for almost a decade, operates in English soccer’s sixth tier, several levels below, and a number of worlds away, from the dazzling light and international allure of the Premier League. But while his team might be small, Mr. Thompson is of the view that it is, at least, as perfectly poised for profitability as any minor-league English soccer club could hope to be.

South Shields has earned four promotions to higher leagues in his nine years as chairman. The team owns its stadium. Mr. Thompson has spent considerable sums of money modernizing the bathrooms, the club shop and the private boxes. There is a thriving youth academy and an active charitable foundation. “We have done most of the hard yards,” Mr. Thompson said.

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

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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‘Belmopán es un experimento social’: así es la capital multicultural de Belice

Reportando desde Belmopán, Belice

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Cuando se menciona Belmopán, la capital de Belice, situada en lo profundo del interior del país, muchos beliceños la tachan como un bastión de burócratas que no solo es aburrida, sino que carece de vida nocturna.

“Me advirtieron: ‘Belmopán es para los recién casados o los casi muertos’”, dijo Raquel Rodriguez, de 45 años y propietaria de una escuela de arte, sobre los comentarios que le hicieron cuando dejó la costera y bulliciosa Ciudad de Belice para mudarse a Belmopán.

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Tras 19 meses, el Parlamento húngaro aprueba la candidatura sueca a la OTAN

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El Parlamento de Hungría votó el lunes a favor de aceptar a Suecia como nuevo miembro de la OTAN, sellando así un importante cambio en el equilibrio de poder entre Occidente y Rusia que fue desencadenado por la guerra en Ucrania.

La votación permitió que Suecia, no alineada desde hace mucho tiempo, sorteara el último obstáculo que bloqueaba su ingreso en la OTAN y frenaba la expansión de la alianza militar.

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Las deportistas de México alcanzan una nueva frontera: el softbol profesional

Reportando desde Ciudad de México y León, Mexico

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En muchas partes de América Latina, el béisbol es un deporte popular y bien establecido, con ligas profesionales masculinas en México, República Dominicana y Venezuela, entre otros países. Pero las mujeres que querían jugar el deporte primo del béisbol —softbol— de forma profesional solo tenían una opción: marcharse. Debían irse a Estados Unidos o Japón.

Hasta ahora.

En lo que se cree es el primer caso en América Latina —una región donde los hombres suelen tener más oportunidades que las mujeres, particularmente en los deportes— se ha creado una liga profesional de softbol femenino en México. Desde el 25 de enero, cuando comenzó la temporada inaugural, 120 mujeres en 6 equipos pudieron llamarse a sí mismas jugadoras profesionales de softbol, muchas por primera vez.

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Incendio en Valencia: hay al menos 9 muertos

Un día después de que un incendio arrasara un complejo de viviendas de gran altura en la ciudad española de Valencia, que derivó en la muerte de al menos 9 personas, los investigadores policiales intentaban determinar por qué las llamas se habían extendido por los dos edificios en menos de una hora.

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Las primeras sospechas recayeron en los materiales de construcción, pero era difícil determinarlo, ya que las dos estructuras permanecían tan calientes que los bomberos no pudieron entrar en los edificios sino hasta alrededor del mediodía del viernes, horas después de haber llegado al lugar durante la noche anterior.

Luis Sendra, decano del Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de la Comunidad Valenciana, dijo que los investigadores tendrían que esperar a que las estructuras se enfriaran para poder precisar si el revestimiento exterior podría haber contribuido a avivar el fuego. Afirmó que los huecos entre el aislamiento y el revestimiento podrían haber facilitado la propagación de las llamas.

“Es pronto para saber la causa exacta”, dijo Sendra. “Pero por la rapidez con que se extendió, podría haber mucha similitud con Grenfell en Londres”.

Setenta y dos personas murieron en el incendio de Grenfell, que consumió un edificio de apartamentos de gran altura en el oeste de Londres en 2017. Se habían utilizado materiales inflamables en el revestimiento de ese edificio, lo que aceleró la propagación del fuego.

En una rueda de prensa celebrada el viernes por la mañana, Carlos Mazón, presidente de la Comunidad Valenciana, anunció un periodo de luto de tres días y afirmó que siete bomberos habían resultado heridos en el incendio.

El gobierno de la comunidad autónoma había anunciado a primera hora del viernes que 10 personas habían fallecido en el incendio, pero de acuerdo con información que apareció en los medios de comunicación españoles más tarde ese mismo día, citando fuentes policiales, se afirmaba que el número de muertes se había revisado y eran nueve, y una persona desaparecida.

En unas imágenes dramáticas que circularon en los medios de comunicación españoles se veía a un bombero saltando desde el séptimo piso a una colchoneta de seguridad en el suelo. Dos residentes también fueron rescatados de un balcón tras quedar atrapados por el fuego; mientras los bomberos contenían las llamas con mangueras, los residentes trepaban de balcón en balcón para llegar a una plataforma de rescate elevada por un camión de bomberos.

El complejo residencial de Valencia, la tercera ciudad más grande de España, estaba formado por un edificio de 14 plantas y otro más bajo, y tenía un total de 138 viviendas, según Sendra.

Un equipo de 15 agentes forenses de la policía nacional está llevando a cabo una investigación sobre el incendio. Tampoco estaba claro el origen del incendio.

Aún no se sabía con claridad qué materiales se utilizaron en el exterior de los edificios. Sendra declaró a los medios de comunicación que el uso de aluminio en las fachadas de los edificios estaba permitido por la normativa de construcción española, pero que el uso de poliuretano como aislante no lo estaba.

Tampoco quedaba claro si se había utilizado poliuretano. Sin embargo, Esther Puchades, vicepresidenta del Colegio Oficial de Ingenieros Técnicos Industriales de Valencia, afirmó en un comunicado que “todos los indicios apuntaban al poliuretano como el causante de la voracidad de las llamas y el color del humo”.

Un comunicado del colegio señaló que algunos de los materiales de la fachada de los edificios contenían plástico que se incendió con rapidez, pero añadía: “No podemos asegurar que sea un material en concreto hasta que no acabe la investigación”.

Pep Benlloch, presidente de la asociación de vecinos de la zona, dijo en una entrevista en la cadena de televisión Antena 3 que en el complejo vivían muchos extranjeros, entre ellos ucranianos, pero que, en un principio, había estado vacío durante mucho tiempo debido a los precios prohibitivos por el auge de la construcción.

La policía y el ayuntamiento señalaron que no podían confirmar inmediatamente cuántas de las viviendas estaban habitadas en el momento del incendio. El complejo se construyó durante el auge inmobiliario de mediados de la década de 2000, según Sendra.

Un residente de 67 años que solo dio su nombre de pila, Pep, dijo el viernes a los medios de comunicación españoles que había salido de su vivienda con su esposa poco después de que se declarara el incendio.

“Cogí la cartera, el móvil, y logré salir del infierno”, dijo el hombre, hablando fuera del hotel donde ha sido alojado temporalmente.

Jorge, quien vive en el barrio de Campanar, dijo que había salido a dar un paseo cuando vio el incendio y se unió a un pequeño grupo de personas que contemplaba con horror cómo el edificio era consumido por las llamas.

Inmediatamente empezó a grabar; hizo un video del edificio en llamas, con el sonido de gritos de fondo, que publicó en las redes sociales

“Olía a plástico quemado”, dijo Jorge, quien solo dio su nombre de pila, en una entrevista.

El ayuntamiento de Valencia señaló en un comunicado que se había instalado una locación de asistencia en un edificio cercano para ofrecer apoyo práctico y psicológico a los residentes sobrevivientes.

El presidente del gobierno de España, Pedro Sánchez, visitó el viernes el lugar del incendio, agradeció a los trabajadores de emergencia y ofreció “trasladar nuestra solidaridad, nuestro cariño y nuestra empatía” a las familias afectadas por el fuego.

“La prioridad ahora”, dijo, “es la búsqueda de víctimas”.

Emily Schmallcolaboró con reportería.

Los burros de África son codiciados por China. ¿Puede el continente protegerlos?

Durante años, las empresas chinas y sus contratistas han estado sacrificando millones de burros en toda África, codiciando la gelatina de las pieles de los animales que se procesa para fabricar medicinas tradicionales, dulces populares y productos de belleza en China.

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Pero la creciente demanda de gelatina ha diezmado las poblaciones de burros a un ritmo tan alarmante en los países africanos que los gobiernos están tomando medidas para frenar el comercio, en su mayor parte no regulado.

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