The New York Times 2024-03-18 16:19:35


Middle East Crisis: Israel’s Military Raids Gaza Hospital, Saying Hamas Regrouped There

Israel’s military says Hamas had returned to Gaza’s largest hospital.

Israeli forces using tanks and bulldozers raided Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza on Monday in an operation they said was aimed at senior Hamas officials who had regrouped at the medical facility, setting off an hourslong battle that both sides said had resulted in casualties.

The raid began before dawn, with the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, saying in a video statement that troops were operating in “limited areas” of the hospital complex. More than 12 hours later, Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam brigades, said that its forces were “engaged in fierce clashes with enemy forces” near the hospital.

The Israeli military said that Hamas fighters had shot at its soldiers from within the complex and soldiers had returned fire. The Gazan Health Ministry said Israeli forces had launched missiles at the complex and fired into surgery rooms. Details of the fighting could not be independently verified.

The Israeli military said that it had launched the raid based on new intelligence that Hamas officials were operating from the hospital, four months after Israeli forces stormed the complex and found a tunnel shaft they said supported their contention that the armed group had used it to conceal military operations. Since then, Israel has withdrawn many troops from northern Gaza and shifted the focus of its invasion to the south.

During the operation on Monday, Israel said its forces had killed 20 militants. Among those killed, it said, was a senior Hamas official it identified as Faiq Mabhouh, the head of operations for the internal security forces of the Hamas government in Gaza, who was “armed and hiding in a compound” at the hospital. Hamas did not confirm his death or role in the organization and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Israeli military also said one of its soldiers had been killed in the fighting at Al-Shifa.

Hamas, in the statement from its armed wing, claimed that it had caused “deaths and injuries” to Israeli forces, but did not provide evidence.

The hospital and the surrounding area house about 30,000 patients, medical workers and displaced civilians, and a number of people were killed and wounded in the raid, the Gazan Health Ministry said. It added that a fire had broken out at the gate of the complex, which caused some people to suffocate and made it difficult to reach those who were injured.

By midday, about 15 Israeli tanks and several bulldozers were inside the hospital grounds, said Alaa Abu al-Kaas, who was staying at the hospital to accompany her father who was being treated there.

“The fear and terror are really eating us alive,” she said in a phone call from a corridor of one of the hospital’s buildings where she was hiding. Her voice was barely audible amid loud booms and explosions.

Hedaya Al Tatar, who lives about a quarter-mile from the hospital, described hearing “intensive shooting and heavy shelling” starting at around 2 a.m., along with drone strikes.

Ms. al-Kaas, 19, said that around the same time, she heard shots and the sound of tanks before Israeli soldiers, using loudspeakers, ordered people in the complex to stay inside and close the windows. She said Israeli forces told people that they would be moved to the Al-Mawasi area in southern Gaza, although it was not immediately clear when or how they would be moved. Israel has sought to create a humanitarian “safe zone” in Al-Mawasi, although civilians have found little shelter there.

“We are just sitting here anxiously waiting for them to evacuate us out of here,” she said.

Ms. al-Kaas said that she had seen Israeli soldiers holding several people, their hands bound and clothes partially stripped off, in the courtyard of the hospital complex. She added that bodies of people who had apparently been shot were lying in the courtyard.

Israel has said that the hospital complex doubled as a secret Hamas military command center, calling it one of many examples of civilian facilities that Hamas uses to shield its activities. U.S. spy agencies have said that their own intelligence indicates that Hamas and another Palestinian group used Al-Shifa to command forces and hold some hostages.

Hamas has denied the accusations, and Israel came under criticism from health and humanitarian organizations after storming the hospital in November. Evidence examined by The New York Times suggests Hamas did use the hospital for cover and maintained a hardened tunnel beneath it that was supplied with water, power and air-conditioning. But the Israeli military has struggled to prove that Hamas maintained a command-and-control center under the facility.

“We know that senior Hamas terrorists have regrouped inside Al-Shifa Hospital and are using it to command attacks against Israel,” Mr. Hagari said on Monday. He added that there would be “no obligation” for staff and patients to evacuate, but said a passage would be provided for civilians to leave the hospital.

Myra Noveck and Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.

Even before the latest Israeli raid, Gaza’s largest hospital was barely functioning, the U.N. says.

The largest hospital in Gaza’s shattered health system, Al-Shifa, was only “minimally functional” before Israeli forces raided it again on Monday, according to the World Health Organization.

Before the war began in October, Al-Shifa, which is in Gaza City, was part of a system of 36 hospitals serving more than two million people. The Gaza Strip had health outcomes comparable to elsewhere in the Middle East in terms of infant mortality and life expectancy, according to the Gaza and West Bank representative of the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

But 23 of the hospitals no longer operate and the others are overcrowded and can only provide limited services despite an escalation of medical needs, not least the tens of thousands of people who the health authorities in Gaza say have been wounded during the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Hospitals are grappling with physical damage and shortages of staff, medicines, electricity, equipment and cleaning supplies.

Early in the conflict, thousands of people fled to Al-Shifa, seeking safety on its grounds from Israeli bombardment and later from fighting as Israeli forces invaded northern Gaza.

The Israeli government, however, made the hospital a key target, arguing that Hamas had built tunnels beneath it that it used as a military headquarters, weapons store and troop shelter, using the hospital’s medical function as a shield.

The Israeli military raided the hospital after a siege in November and detained its director, Mohammed Abu Salmiya. (It was unclear on Monday whether he remained in detention, and the Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions about his status.) Evidence later examined by The New York Times indicated that Hamas had used the hospital to store weapons and maintained a tunnel network. But it was less clear that Hamas had maintained a command-and-control center under the facility.

The Israeli military pulled back from the hospital as part of a weeklong cease-fire in late November. It also reduced its forces in northern Gaza as the focus of its invasion moved to central and southern Gaza. On Monday it launched a new raid on Al-Shifa, claiming that senior Hamas officials had regrouped there.

As Israeli forces have since raided other Gazan hospitals, a debate has arisen over the legitimacy of targeting civilian facilities in pursuit of military objectives — and the price paid by Gaza’s population. Although hospitals are protected under international law, they can be legitimate targets if used in ways that are “harmful to the enemy,” but experts say that any military action must take into account the expected harm to civilians.

International health officials say that Israel has, in effect, destroyed the health system in northern Gaza, worsening a humanitarian crisis.

“We are terribly worried about the situation at Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, which is endangering health workers, patients and civilians,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. chief, said in a statement posted on social media on Monday. “The hospital has only recently restored minimal health services. Any hostilities or militarization of the facility jeopardize health services, access for ambulances and delivery of life-saving supplies.“

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

Experts predict northern Gaza will soon face a famine.

Experts anticipate a steep rise in malnutrition-related deaths in children in Gaza, according to a new report from a global authority on food security and nutrition, which warned of especially dire circumstances for 300,000 people in the northern part of the territory.


Bar chart shows the proportion of Gaza’s northern governorates and southern governorates that are facing different levels of food insecurity, ranging from stressed (level 2) to famine (level 5).

“Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024,” said the report, released Monday by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative. The group — set up in 2004 by U.N. agencies and international relief groups — has classified a famine only twice before: in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017.

In the coming months, the report said, as many as 1.1 million people could face the severest level of hunger classified by the group, with “alarmingly high acute malnutrition rates among children under 5, significant excess mortality and an imminent risk of starvation.”

The group said that continued fighting and aid organizations’ lack of access to northern Gaza, the first part of the territory that Israeli forces invaded in October, have worsened the vulnerability of the 300,000 Palestinian civilians who remain there.

Across the Gaza Strip, people are facing severe shortages of food and other basic goods amid Israeli’s bombardment and a near-total blockade.

The other parts of Gaza, including the central and southern areas, also face a risk of famine by July if the worst-case scenarios come to pass, the group said, warning that all of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are “facing high levels of acute food insecurity.”

Last December, the group found that famine could occur within six months in Gaza unless fighting stopped immediately and more humanitarian supplies made it into the territory. “Since then, the conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met,” the latest report said.

According to the group’s classifications, a famine is classified by three conditions: when at least 20 percent of households have an extreme lack of food; at least 30 percent of children suffer from acute malnutrition; and at least two adults or four children for every 10,000 people die daily from starvation or from disease linked to malnutrition.

Israeli negotiators are heading to Qatar for cease-fire talks, officials say.

Israeli negotiators were traveling to Qatar on Monday to participate in a new round of in-person talks aimed at achieving a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages held by Palestinian militants, according to two senior Israeli officials and another official briefed on the negotiations.

The Israeli delegation’s trip to Doha, Qatar, comes after Israel and Hamas failed to reach an agreement ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.The delegation from Israel is led by the head of Mossad, the foreign intelligence agency, and includes the director of the Shin Bet, the internal security service, and a representative of the Israeli Army, said the Israeli officials. All three officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to communicate with the news media.

The Israeli officials said the government had initially given its negotiating team an amorphous mandate. The team has now been authorized to go deeper into details during the talks, they said, but wasn’t given the full latitude it had requested.

A meeting was scheduled to take place on Monday involving the Israelis, Egyptian officials and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani of Qatar, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. Qatar and Egypt have acted as intermediaries, in part because negotiators for Israel and Hamas do not talk directly with each other.

The Israeli officials said the broad proposal being discussed includes a 42-day pause in the fighting in exchange for the release of 40 of more than 100 hostages taken from Israel and held in Gaza by Hamas or its allies. But they emphasized that they expected reaching an agreement to take a long time.

A senior official in Hamas’s political office did not respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Hamas presented a new proposal that omitted a previous demand that Israel immediately agree to a permanent cease-fire in return for beginning an exchange of hostages and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The Israeli officials said Hamas’s new proposal included details that were unacceptable to Israel.

For months, Hamas leaders have been publicly calling for a comprehensive cease-fire and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israeli officials have repeatedly rejected the demands and indicated that they would be open to only a temporary pause.

Hamas officials have also called for the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes and for more aid to reach the territory.

Palestinians grappling with displacement and hunger have grown frustrated that Israel and Hamas still have not reached a deal, and the families of hostages have raised concerns about the fate of their relatives months into captivity.

José Andrés, the chef helping send aid ships to Gaza, calls for a cease-fire.

As a second ship towing desperately needed aid prepared to depart for Gaza on Sunday, José Andrés, the founder of the food charity sending the vessels, called for a cease-fire and said that Israel should be doing more to prevent hunger in Gaza.

“At the very least,” Mr. Andrés, the celebrity chef, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Israel should “make sure that nobody’s hungry and that nobody’s without food and water.”

“This is something that should be happening overnight,” he added. “But for political reasons, I guess it’s not happening there.”

Mr. Andrés said he hoped his group, World Central Kitchen, would be able to scale up its nascent effort and eventually bring “huge quantities of food daily into the shores of Gaza,” where United Nations officials have said 2.2 million people are on the brink of famine.

Though the Open Arms, the first ship dispatched by the group, attracted global attention in recent days, the maritime route is so far delivering just a tiny fraction of the aid that the United Nations says is needed to stave off famine. The Open Arms towed a barge to a makeshift jetty off Gaza on Friday with the equivalent of about 10 truckloads of food — far less than the 500 trucks a day aid groups say are needed.

Aid groups — including World Central Kitchen, which has sent more than 1,400 aid trucks into Gaza — have pleaded for Israel to allow more trucks in through more land crossings, saying that only a fast stream of trucks can sustain Gaza’s population.

But only about 150 trucks have been entering Gaza through the two open land crossings each day, according to U.N. data, because of several factors, including lengthy Israeli inspections to enforce stringent restrictions on what can enter Gaza.

The limitations at those entry points have set off a scramble for creative solutions among donors such as the European Union, which helped set up a maritime route from Cyprus to Gaza, and the United States, which has been airdropping aid and is leading an effort to build a temporary pier off Gaza’s coast to accommodate more deliveries by ship. John Kirby, the spokesman for White House National Security Council, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that it would take six to eight weeks to complete construction.

So far, only World Central Kitchen, which Mr. Andrés founded after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, has successfully delivered aid directly to Gaza by ship. The first delivery consisted of about 200 tons of rice, flour and lentils, and canned tuna, chicken and beef.

The second, which was still anchored in the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Sunday night, is set to bring food and equipment to help with future maritime deliveries.

Mr. Andrés on Sunday wondered aloud why Israel’s military was bombing buildings in Gaza that might house the hostages Israel says it wishes to see returned to safety. He also issued a plea for peace, saying he had seen great humanity on both sides of the conflict.

“The time I’ve spent in Israel, the time I’ve been spending in Gaza, seems everybody loves falafel and everybody loves hummus with equal intensity,” said Mr. Andrés, whose group has opened more than 60 community kitchens within Gaza to serve hot meals. “It makes you wonder how people that loves the same foods, they can be at odds with each other.”

Behind Putin’s Potemkin Vote, Real Support. But No Other Choices.

The Kremlin stage-managed Russia’s presidential vote over the weekend to send a singular message at home and abroad: that President Vladimir V. Putin’s support is overwhelming and unshakable, despite or even because of his war against Ukraine.

From the moment the preliminary results first flashed across state television late Sunday, the authorities left no room for misinterpretation. Mr. Putin, they said, won more than 87 percent of the vote, his closest competitor just 4 percent. It had all the hallmarks of an authoritarian Potemkin plebiscite.

The Kremlin may have felt more comfortable orchestrating such a large margin of victory because Mr. Putin’s approval rating has climbed during the war in independent polls, owing to a rally-around-the-flag effect and optimism about the Russian economy. The Levada Center, an independent pollster, reported last month that 86 percent of Russians approved of Mr. Putin, his highest rating in more than seven years.

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Gambia May Overturn Landmark Ban on Female Genital Cutting

Gambian lawmakers are preparing to decide whether to revoke a ban on female genital cutting by removing legal protections for millions of girls, raising fears that other countries could follow suit.

Members of Gambia’s national assembly plan to vote on whether to overturn the ban on Monday after the second reading of the bill. Human rights experts, lawyers and women’s and girls’ rights campaigners say it threatens to undo decades of work to end female genital cutting, a centuries-old ritual tied up in ideas of sexual purity, obedience and control.

If Gambia repeals the ban, it will become the first nation globally to roll back protections against cutting, and campaigners fear it will open the doors for other countries to take similar action.

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Pakistani Airstrikes in Afghanistan Kill at Least 8, Taliban Officials Say

Pakistan launched two airstrikes into Afghanistan on Monday morning that killed at least eight people, Afghan officials said, escalating simmering tensions between the two countries.

The pre-dawn strikes were carried out in the Paktika and Khost provinces in eastern Afghanistan around 3 a.m., Afghan officials said. Three children were among those killed, according to Taliban officials, who condemned the strikes as a violation of Afghan territory.

The strikes came amid a surge of attacks by militants in Pakistan following the Taliban’s seizure of power in neighboring Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have blamed militants harbored on Afghan soil and protected by the Taliban administration for the attacks. Taliban officials have denied those claims.

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Five Takeaways From Putin’s Orchestrated Win in Russia

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia emerged from the three-day, stage-managed presidential vote that ended Sunday declaring that his overwhelming win represented a public mandate to act as needed in the war in Ukraine as well as on various domestic matters, feeding unease among Russians about what comes next.

Mr. Putin said the vote represented a desire for “internal consolidation” that would allow Russia to “act effectively at the front line” as well as in other spheres, such as the economy.

The government was dismissive of a protest organized by Russia’s beleaguered opposition, in which people expressed dissent by flooding polling places at noon. A correspondent for the state-run Rossiya 24 channel said that “provocations at polling stations were nothing more than mosquito bites.” Official commentators suggested that the lines showed a zeal for democratic participation.

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Haiti’s Hospitals Survived Cholera and Covid. Gangs Are Closing Them.

Taïna Cenatus, a 29-year-old culinary student in Haiti, lost her balance at school one day this month and toppled over, but it was not until she hit the ground that she realized she had been hit in the face by a stray bullet.

It left a small hole in her cheek, just missing her jawbone and teeth.

Unlike many Haitians wounded by gunfire in the middle of a vicious gang takeover of the capital, Port-au-Prince, Ms. Cenatus was actually lucky that day — she made it to a clinic. But she is still in pain, her wound swelling, and she cannot get any relief, with more and more hospitals and clinics abandoned by staff or looted by gangs.

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Iceland Volcano Erupts in Plumes of Fire With Little Notice

A volcano erupted with little notice in southern Iceland on Saturday night, the latest in a string of eruptions in the area, threatening local infrastructure and leading the authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Lava fountains burst out of the ground, and a nearly two-mile-long fissure opened up on the Reykjanes Peninsula around 8:30 p.m., the Icelandic Meteorological Office said. The eruption occurred near the town of Grindavik, the Svartsengi Power Plant and the Blue Lagoon, one of Iceland’s most famous tourist attractions.

The meteorological office said that it had received indications of a possible eruption only about 40 minutes before it happened. The office sent out its first warning moments before the eruption began.

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Australia Wanted to Catch Chinese Spies. Is This Really Whom It Had in Mind?

The police officers asked the man what he meant when he said that involving an Australian government minister in a charity event could benefit “us Chinese.” Was he talking about mainland China and the Chinese Communist Party, or the local Australian Chinese community? Depending on the answer, he faced up to 10 years in prison.

“You are understanding the Chinese is China. We always say, ‘I’m Chinese,’ that not mean, ‘I’m mainland China,’” said the man, Di Sanh “Sunny” Duong, who was brought in for questioning.

The officer pressed on, according to a tape played for a jury. Was Mr. Duong effectively building a relationship with the minister, “who you thought would be the future prime minister, to support the views of the Chinese?” Another officer asked, “Mainland China?”

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Russians Know Putin Will Be Re-Elected, but Many Worry What Comes Next

Maria and her husband, Aleksandr, are certain that President Vladimir V. Putin will secure a fifth term as Russia’s leader in the presidential election this weekend.

But the couple, who live in Moscow with their three children, are not so sure about what will follow. Foremost in their minds are fears that Mr. Putin, emboldened by winning a new six-year term, might declare another mobilization for soldiers to fight in Ukraine. Aleksandr, 38, who left Russia shortly after Mr. Putin announced the first mobilization in September 2022 but recently returned, is even considering leaving the country again, his wife said.

“I only hear about mobilization — that there is a planned offensive for the summer and that troops need rotation,” Maria, 34, said in a WhatsApp exchange. She declined to allow the couple’s family name to be used, fearing repercussions from the government.

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Chile’s Deadliest Wildfire Is Said to Have Been Made Worse by a Lack of Water

As a fast-moving wildfire swept through the cities of Viña del Mar and Quilpué on Chile’s Pacific Coast last month, flames engulfed residents on the street, destroyed homes and overwhelmed the utility grid. Power shut off, communications went down and not enough water reached a critical line of defense: the fire hydrants.

In this video report, firefighters and residents in the two cities told New York Times reporters that the insufficient water had hampered efforts to save homes and stop the fire’s advance, eventually forcing them to abandon parts of the two cities.

The wildfire — the deadliest in Chile’s history, killing 134 people and destroying thousands of homes — blazed out of control almost from the start, fueled by extreme climate conditions, high winds and flammable trees.

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‘Practically Fasting for Months’: Gazans Struggle to Celebrate Ramadan

Raja AbdulrahimBilal Shbair and

Raja Abdulrahim reported from Jerusalem, Bilal Shbair from the Gaza Strip and Abu Bakr Bashir from London.

Every night during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the man would come along Rawoand Altatar’s street, banging on his drum and calling out to the faithful to wake them up for suhoor, the predawn meal. His nightly mission used to be lit up by Ramadan lamps and twinkling decorations.

But this Ramadan, Ms. Altatar’s street is eerie. The man, called a musahharati in Arabic, is absent. There are no decorations or electricity, and the street is surrounded by buildings destroyed or damaged in Israel’s bombardment. Their own home has been partially destroyed as well.

“There is no sense of Ramadan,” she said, referring to the month when Muslims fast all day. “We are missing our family and gatherings, the food, even the simplest thing like the sweet juices, the Ramadan decorations and lamps, which filled the streets,” said Ms. Altatar, a photographer who worked at a private school before the war.

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In Occupied Ukraine, Casting a Vote (for Putin) as Armed Soldiers Watch

A new sign went up a few miles from the front line recently on the main billboard of an occupied town in Ukraine’s Luhansk region.

“Vote for our president. Together we’re strong,” read the sign in the white, blue and red colors of the Russian flag, according to Anastasiia, a resident.

The message was clear to her: that the president was Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, not Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, and that Mr. Putin was the only choice in the Russian presidential vote taking place in the occupied parts of Ukraine over the past three weeks.

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Standing Up to China, Philippine Leader Courts New Network of Partners

With China aggressively asserting its claims on the South China Sea, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. of the Philippines spent his first year on the job beefing up Manila’s alliance with its oldest ally, the United States. Now he is shoring up support from a wider and new network of partners.

Mr. Marcos is adding a new intensity to his muscular foreign policy at a critical moment in his country’s territorial dispute with Beijing. Maritime clashes between Chinese and Philippine vessels have become more frequent in recent months.

In January, Mr. Marcos and the leaders of Vietnam, another country fighting off Chinese claims to the crucial waterway, pledged closer cooperation between their coast guards. This month, Mr. Marcos clinched a maritime cooperation deal with Australia. And this past week, he took his pitch to Europe.

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India’s 2024 General Election: What to Know


  • Why does this election matter?

  • How does India vote?

  • Who is running and who is likely to win?

  • When will we find out the results?

  • Where can I find out more information?

  • What other elections are happening?

India is holding its multiphase general elections from April 19 to June 1, in a vote that will determine the political direction of the world’s most populous nation for the next five years.

The usually high-turnout affair, which was formally set on Saturday, is a mammoth undertaking described as the biggest peacetime logistical exercise anywhere.

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Snakes in the Grass — and Under the Piano, by the Pool and in the Prison

Natasha Frost spent two days trailing snake catchers on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

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The phone rings. It’s the local prison. There’s a snake in a cell. Within a few hours, snakes have also been spotted at a school, beneath a piano stored in a private garage and near a lagoon-like swimming pool at a retirement home. Customers want them gone.

Business has never been so good for Stuart McKenzie, who runs a snake-catching service in the Sunshine Coast, a verdant enclave along miles of pristine beach in the vast Australian state of Queensland. On the busiest days, he can receive more than 35 calls about troublesome snakes.

Queensland is home to the largest number of snake species in Australia — about 120. Of those, two-thirds are venomous and a handful are deadly. Throughout Australia, fatalities from snake bites remain extremely rare — about two a year — and in Queensland, the reptiles are simply a part of life.

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A Boring Capital for a Young Democracy. Just the Way Residents Like It.

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

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Mention Belmopan, Belize’s capital that sits deep in the country’s interior, and many Belizeans will belittle the city as a bastion of pencil-pushing bureaucrats that’s not just dull, but also devoid of nightlife.

“I was warned, ‘Belmopan is for the newlyweds or the nearly deads,’” said Raquel Rodriguez, 45, owner of an art school, about the reactions when she moved to Belmopan from coastal, bustling Belize City.

Not exactly known as an Eden for young urbanites, Belmopan figures among the smallest capital cities anywhere in the Americas. It has only about 25,000 residents and a cluster of hurricane-proof, heavy-on-the-concrete, Maya-inspired Brutalist buildings.

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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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An American Who Has Helped Clear 815,000 Bombs From Vietnam

On a visit to the former battlefield of Khe Sanh, scene of one of the bloodiest standoffs of the Vietnam War, the only people Chuck Searcy encountered on the broad, barren field were two young boys who led him to an unexploded rocket lying by a ditch.

One of the youngsters reached out to give the bomb a kick until Mr. Searcy cried out, “No, Stop!”

“It was my first encounter with unexploded ordnance,” Mr. Searcy said of that moment in 1992. “I had no idea that I would be dedicating my life to removing them.”

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‘Decolonizing’ Ukrainian Art, One Name-and-Shame Post at a Time

Hiding for days in the basement of a kindergarten in Bucha, the Kyiv suburb that became synonymous with Russian war crimes, Oksana Semenik had time to think.

Outside, Russian troops were rampaging through the town, killing civilians who ventured into the streets. Knowing she might not make it out, Ms. Semenik, an art historian, mulled over the Ukrainian artworks she had long wanted to write about — and which were now in danger of disappearing.

That time spent holed up in Bucha was during the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, but even then, two years ago, she had already seen reports of destroyed museums. Precious folk paintings by her favorite artist, Maria Primachenko, had gone up in flames. Moscow, she realized, was waging a war on Ukrainian culture.

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Murder and Magic Realism: A Rising Literary Star Mines China’s Rust Belt

For a long time during Shuang Xuetao’s early teenage years, he wondered what hidden disaster had befallen his family.

His parents, proud workers at a tractor factory in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, stopped going to work, and the family moved into an empty factory storage room to save money on rent.

But they rarely talked about what had happened, and Mr. Shuang worried that some special shame had struck his family alone.

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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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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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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Serpientes sobre el césped… bajo el piano, por la alberca y en prisión

Natasha Frost pasó dos días siguiendo a cazadores de serpientes en Sunshine Coast, Australia.

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Suena el teléfono. Es la prisión local. Hay una serpiente en una celda. Al cabo de pocas horas, también se han visto serpientes en una escuela, debajo de un piano guardado en un garaje privado y cerca de una piscina parecida a una laguna en una residencia de ancianos. Los clientes no quieren tenerlas.

Los negocios nunca le habían ido tan bien a Stuart McKenzie, quien dirige un servicio de captura de serpientes en Sunshine Coast, un frondoso enclave a lo largo de kilómetros de playa virgen en el vasto estado australiano de Queensland. En los días más ajetreados puede recibir más de 35 llamadas relacionadas con serpientes problemáticas.

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Queensland alberga el mayor número de especies de serpientes de Australia: unas 120. De ellas, dos tercios son venenosas y unas pocas son mortales. En toda Australia, las muertes por mordedura de serpiente siguen siendo muy poco frecuentes —unas dos al año— y se puede decir que en Queensland los reptiles son parte de la vida.

En los meses más fríos del año —que suelen ser de abril a septiembre— las serpientes se vuelven perezosas y pueden pasar semanas sin comer, beber, defecar o incluso moverse. Pero a medida que el mundo se calienta y el clima en el sur de Queensland cambia de subtropical a tropical, este periodo de aletargamiento se reduce, lo que produce más encuentros inesperados entre humanos y animales.

“Las serpientes no solo son más activas a principios de año y permanecen activas durante más tiempo, sino que también van a mantenerse activas durante más tiempo por la noche”, dijo Bryan Fry, profesor de biología de la Universidad de Queensland. Y agregó que en las noches con temperaturas superiores a 28 o 29 grados Celsius, o 82 grados Fahrenheit, las serpientes permanecerán activas toda la noche.

McKenzie, de 35 años, trabaja en Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers las 24 horas de lunes a domingo y dice que sus vacaciones de invierno cada vez son más cortas.

En un trabajo reciente, una serpiente parda de 1,2 metros —la segunda especie de serpiente más venenosa del mundo, a pesar de su discreto nombre— estaba atrapada entre un mosquitero y una ventana y había que sacarla. Mucho más sencillo fue retirar una pitón de alfombra no venenosa, cuyo cuerpo de un intrincado diseño de espirales y remolinos estaba enroscado en el fondo de un cobertizo. (Las tarifas por retirar serpientes van desde 154 dólares australianos, unos 100 dólares estadounidenses).

Los cazadores de serpientes viajan ligeros. En un día de trabajo habitual, sus herramientas se limitan a un gancho de metal, que se usa para sacar con cuidado a una serpiente de debajo de un mueble o empujarla a su sitio, y una gran bolsa de algodón en la que se colocan a estos reptiles. En todos los casos, el objetivo es dañar o molestar lo menos posible a la serpiente y llevarla a un lugar donde sea menos probable que se meta en problemas.

Se estima que la población de Sunshine Coast aumentará más de un 50 por ciento hasta alcanzar el medio millón de habitantes en los 25 años que faltan hasta 2041, por lo que la deforestación está ocurriendo a gran velocidad. Se construyen más viviendas y muchas serpientes que antes vivían en territorios de matorrales nativos están encontrando refugio —y una fuente fiable de comida y agua— en casas destinadas a los humanos.

La mayoría de los encuentros se producen sin incidentes. Pero McKenzie afirma que el miedo y la desinformación siguen proliferando, así como la percepción persistente entre las generaciones más antiguas de australianos de que “la única serpiente buena es la serpiente muerta”.

McKenzie puede atrapar reptiles muy venenosos con las manos y despliega una fluidez propia de un bailarín de ballet. Pero también debe ser así ágil para manejar a los humanos. A veces, los clientes tienen un miedo incontrolable a las serpientes y si los transeúntes lo ven liberar un ejemplar sano en la naturaleza después de haberlo sacado de una casa, pueden responder con miedo, rabia o lágrimas.

Al igual que los canguros, los koalas y otros animales silvestres de Australia, las serpientes están protegidas por la ley y desempeñan un papel fundamental en el ecosistema al mantener a raya las plagas. Unos investigadores de la Universidad Macquarie descubrieron que, al comerse ratones y ratas, los beneficios de las serpientes para los agricultores compensan con creces el posible costo de tener una criatura venenosa en el lugar.

Por cada serpiente que se puede meter sin mayor problema en una bolsa y reubicar en un sitio lejano, hay muchas más que desaparecen antes incluso de que llegue un cazador de serpientes. En uno de esos trabajos infructuosos, McKenzie se adentró entre unos arbustos cerca de una residencia de ancianos, apartando el follaje a un lado y mirando hacia el interior de un baño junto a la alberca. El sol pegaba fuerte y levantó un brazo para secarse la frente.

“Otro día largo y sudoroso”, dijo, “persiguiendo serpientes muy venenosas”.

Las serpientes enfermas reciben cuidados en el cercano zoológico de Australia, fundado por el conservacionista Steve Irwin. Un jueves reciente, McKenzie llevó a la clínica tres pitones heridas. Dos aceptaron ser examinadas con relativa elegancia, pero la tercera se revolvió por el suelo y movió la cabeza como si quisiera morder la rodilla izquierda de McKenzie, quien le sujetaba la cola con la mano.

“Es una gruñona”, dijo Katie Whittle, la veterinaria.


En el video de abajo, una pitón liberada trepando un árbol. Como la deforestación se acelera en la zona, muchas serpientes encuentran refugio en las casas de las personas.

McKenzie, quien lleva siete años en su puesto actual, antes trabajaba como cuidador de reptiles en el zoológico de Australia. Desde niño ha tenido como mascotas lagartos de lengua azul, pero al principio era cauteloso con las serpientes y tenía poco interés en manipularlas. No fue sino hasta que trabajó con ellas todos los días en el zoológico, que pensó: “Caray, estas cosas son bastante interesantes”.

Natasha Frost escribe el boletín del Times The Europe Morning Briefing e informa sobre Australia, Nueva Zelanda y el Pacífico. Reside en Melbourne, Australia.

‘Es un estilo de vida’: las mujeres dejan su huella en el ejército ucraniano

Durante dos semanas, Nicole Tung pasó tiempo con mujeres que servían en el ejército ucraniano en el este del país.

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En el frente, a las afueras de Bajmut, Ucrania, una comandante de 32 años de un pelotón de artillería del país se balanceaba de un lado a otro en el asiento del copiloto de un Lada destartalado, mientras otro soldado conducía el auto a través de un denso bosque, derribando a veces árboles jóvenes. Cuando llegaron a su destino, un pequeño pueblo situado a poco menos de 3 kilómetros del frente ruso, solo quedaban casas destruidas, con los tejados destrozados visibles a la luz de la luna.

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La comandante, una mujer soldado cuyo nombre en clave es Witch, solía ser una abogada que, junto a dos de sus hermanos y su madre, se enlistó en el ejército al día siguiente de la invasión rusa en febrero de 2022. Su primera experiencia en combate fue en las afueras de Kiev ese año y gran parte de lo que ha aprendido sobre sistemas de armas desde entonces ha sido de manera autodidacta y sobre la marcha.

Desde principios de 2023, Witch ha estado con su pelotón en la Brigada 241 en la zona alrededor de Bajmut, supervisando todos los sistemas de artillería. Está decidida a seguir en el ejército aunque termine la guerra. “La gente que quiere unirse a las fuerzas armadas debe entender que es un estilo de vida”, dijo.

A medida que Ucrania lucha contra los feroces ataques rusos y sus pérdidas aumentan, el número de mujeres que se unen a las fuerzas armadas ha incrementado y cada vez son más las que se presentan como voluntarias para desempeñar funciones de combate. El ejército ucraniano también ha emprendido una labor concertada para reclutar a más mujeres y así llenar sus filas.

En este momento, alrededor de 65.000 mujeres prestan servicio en las fuerzas armadas ucranianas, lo que representa un aumento del 30 por ciento desde el comienzo de la guerra. Unas 45.000 son militares y el resto ocupan puestos civiles, según el Ministerio de Defensa. Un poco más de 4000 están en puestos de combate.

A diferencia de lo que ocurre con los hombres ucranianos, no existe un servicio militar obligatorio para las mujeres; sin embargo, las que estudian medicina o farmacéutica deben registrarse para prestar servicio militar.

Estas mujeres ocupan un número cada vez mayor de puestos en el ejército: médicos de combate en unidades de asalto; artilleras superiores; francotiradoras; comandantes de unidades de tanques y brigadas de artillería y al menos una copiloto en un equipo de evacuación médica que sueña con convertirse en la primera piloto de helicópteros de combate de Ucrania. Decenas de ellas han sido heridas en combate, algunas han muerto o han sido capturadas.

A lo largo del frente de batalla, operan bajo el mismo manto de miedo y penurias que los soldados varones. En el húmedo fuerte donde Witch y uno de sus equipos de morteros pasaban la mayor parte del día, esperaban casi a oscuras en el sótano. Encender las luces significaría que la cuadrilla no podría ajustar la vista a la oscuridad con rapidez si tuviesen que salir a abrir fuego.

Más al norte, una comandante con el nombre en clave Tesla, antes cantante folclórica ucraniana, estaba sentada encorvada en un taburete en la casa vacía que servía de cuartel general de la Brigada Mecanizada 32. Las fuerzas rusas de la región de Kúpiansk lanzaban descargas de artillería sobre las líneas ucranianas.

Tesla enviaba mensajes de texto y notas de voz a los soldados de su unidad mientras hablaba con el segundo al mando sobre el plan de batalla. Llevaba los pantalones arremangados, lo que dejaba ver unos calcetines naranja neón con caricaturas de aguacates.

Trataba de redirigir el fuego ruso sobre otro batallón hacia la posición de sus propios soldados, para que la otra unidad pudiera evacuar a un camarada gravemente herido. “Tres torniquetes en tres extremidades”, llegó la información en un mensaje de voz, dijo Tesla.

“Envíen uno más”, ordenó Tesla con un mensaje de voz, dando la orden a sus soldados de disparar de nuevo. “Cuando terminen, infórmenme”.

Hasta 2018, las mujeres tenían prohibido ocupar puestos de combate en el ejército ucraniano, aunque algunas hacían caso omiso de las normas. Las restricciones se han moderado desde la invasión rusa. El reclutamiento de miles de mujeres más en el ejército se ha visto como un paso en buena dirección del país, cuyas candidaturas para unirse a la OTAN y la Unión Europea aún están en revisión.

El inconveniente es que el ejército no ha sido capaz de adaptarse con la suficiente rapidez para darles cabida. Las soldados afirman que sigue habiendo una gran escasez de uniformes y botas para mujeres, chalecos antibalas correctamente ajustados y productos de higiene femenina. Esto las obliga a adquirir muchos artículos por su cuenta.

Por ello, organizaciones como Veteranka y Zemliachky han contribuido a subsanar esta brecha mediante la recaudación de fondos para proporcionar artículos adaptados a las mujeres.

Pero los problemas van más allá, hacia cuestiones de desigualdad y discriminación por razón de género.

Muchas mujeres que prestan servicio en funciones de combate afirmaron que los soldados varones y sus superiores directos en gran medida no discriminan por razón de género, aunque siguen existiendo insinuaciones sexuales y comentarios inapropiados.

En cambio, son los mandos superiores, a menudo remanentes de la era soviética, quienes subestiman a las mujeres en el ejército, en especial en funciones de combate. En algunos casos, las mujeres optan por alistarse en brigadas de nueva creación con mandos más jóvenes y dinámicos.

“No quise unirme a una brigada creada hace muchos años porque sabía que no me harían caso como joven oficial y como mujer”, afirmó Tesla.

En una ocasión, un comandante de brigada estaba tan indignado con una mujer al mando de una tropa de artillería que la atacó de manera directa. “Te arrastrarás de rodillas hasta mí y suplicarás para irte cuando te des cuenta de que el trabajo es demasiado difícil y no te permitiré abandonar tu puesto”, recordó que le dijo, solicitando el anonimato para hablar con franqueza sobre un tema delicado.

También han surgido denuncias de acoso sexual. Según algunas mujeres, no ha habido canales oficiales para denunciar el acoso excepto los comandantes de batallón, que luego tienen que decidir si dan curso a la denuncia. En algunos casos, según las soldados, los testigos pueden negarse a declarar por miedo a las repercusiones.

Las soldados afirman que estos impedimentos, así como la posibilidad de perjudicar sus carreras militares, disuaden a las mujeres de denunciar el acoso.

Diana Davitian, vocera del Ministerio de Defensa, dijo que el 1 de enero el ejército puso en marcha una línea directa donde los soldados pueden denunciar el acoso sexual. Las denuncias se investigarán, dijo, y se tomarán medidas si las acusaciones resultan ser ciertas.

El ministerio también declaró que planeaba crear una unidad aparte dedicada a garantizar la igualdad de género y ofrecer programas educativos, incluido uno centrado en la lucha contra la violencia sexual relacionada con la guerra.

De vuelta al sótano, Witch recibió una llamada del puesto de mando: era hora de disparar. El equipo se apresuró a salir a un patio semicubierto situado a pocos metros, donde había un cañón de mortero preparado.

Se hizo el silencio mientras Kuzya, de 20 años, artillera principal del pelotón de morteros, observaba por la mirilla y leía las coordenadas en su teléfono. “¡Fuego!”, gritó alguien. Se dispararon varias ráfagas más antes de que el equipo volviera al sótano, a la espera de un posible regreso de los rusos.

Apenas unos meses antes, el novio de Kuzya murió en combate. Ella y Witch, quien tiene un hijo de 7 años al que vio pocas veces el año pasado, parecían encontrar consuelo en su mutua compañía. Las dos mujeres entrenaban en el mismo club de judo de Kiev, la capital, y al día siguiente de la invasión fueron juntas a la oficina de registro para enlistarse.

Para muchas mujeres, la guerra y el deseo de estar en combate es algo para lo que se han preparado durante años. Foxy, de 24 años, una exbarista convertida en artillera y médica, se ofreció como voluntaria para hacer redes de camuflaje después de la escuela durante toda su adolescencia, antes de trabajar con veteranos heridos. El año pasado, se enlistó en el ejército tras semanas de entrenamiento.

Su comandante anterior le dio dos opciones: “Eres mujer. Puedes trabajar con documentos o cocinar ‘borsch’”, recordó Foxy. “No tuve otra opción que hacerme cargo del papeleo hasta que me cambié de batallón”.

Entonces, pasó a formar parte de un equipo de morteros en algunos de los combates más intensos del frente en Bajmut, donde su equipo la trató como a una igual. “Aunque al principio me enfrenté a cierto grado de sexismo”, dijo, “siento que no necesito demostrar nada ni convencer a nadie de lo que puedo hacer”.

Evelina Riabenko colaboró con la reportería.

Por qué cambió todo en Haití: las bandas criminales se unieron

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Incluso cuando las bandas delictivas aterrorizaban a Haití, secuestraban civiles en masa y mataban a discreción, el primer ministro del país se aferró al poder durante años.

Luego, en cuestión de días, todo cambió.

En medio de una agitación política inédita desde el asesinato del presidente del país en 2021, el primer ministro de Haití, Ariel Henry, aceptó renunciar. Ahora, los países vecinos se apresuran a crear un consejo de transición para dirigir el país y trazar el camino hacia las elecciones, que antes parecían una posibilidad lejana.

Según los expertos, este momento es distinto debido a que las pandillas se unieron, obligando al líder del país a renunciar al poder.

“El primer ministro Ariel no dimitió por política, ni por las manifestaciones callejeras masivas en su contra a lo largo de los años, sino por la violencia que han ejercido las bandas”, dijo Judes Jonathas, un consultor haitiano que ha trabajado durante años en el suministro de ayuda humanitaria. “Ahora, la situación ha cambiado totalmente, porque ahora las bandas trabajan juntas”.

No está claro cuán sólida es la alianza, ni si va a durar. Lo que es evidente es que las bandas delictivas están tratando de capitalizar su control de Puerto Príncipe, la capital, para convertirse en una fuerza política legítima en las negociaciones en las que están mediando gobiernos extranjeros, entre ellos Estados Unidos, Francia y países del Caribe.

A principios de marzo, Henry viajó a Nairobi a fin de ultimar un acuerdo para el despliegue en Haití de una fuerza de seguridad dirigida por Kenia. Los grupos delictivos aprovecharon la ausencia de Henry, que es muy impopular. En pocos días, las pandillas cerraron el aeropuerto, saquearon puertos marítimos, atacaron una decena de comisarías de policía y liberaron a unos 4600 presos.

Exigieron la renuncia de Henry, amenazando con agravar la violencia si se negaba. Según los analistas, desde que aceptó dimitir, las pandillas parecen centrarse principalmente en obtener inmunidad penal y evitar ir a la cárcel.

“Su mayor objetivo es la amnistía”, afirmó Jonathas.

El aliado político más destacado de los delincuentes es Guy Philippe, antiguo comandante de policía y líder golpista que cumplió seis años en una prisión federal estadounidense por lavado de dinero procedente del narcotráfico antes de ser deportado a Haití a finales del año pasado. Philippe ha liderado las presiones para que Henry dimita.

Ahora pide abiertamente que se otorgue amnistía a las bandas.

“Tenemos que decirles: ‘Dejen las armas o van a tener que enfrentarse a graves consecuencias’”, dijo Philippe a The New York Times en una entrevista en enero, refiriéndose a las pandillas. “Si dejan las armas, van a tener una segunda oportunidad. Tendrán una especie de amnistía”.

Philippe no forma parte del consejo de transición designado para dirigir Haití. Pero está utilizando sus conexiones con el partido político Pitit Desalin para llevar esas demandas a la mesa de negociaciones en Jamaica, donde funcionarios caribeños e internacionales se reúnen para forjar una solución a la crisis en Haití, según tres personas familiarizadas con las discusiones.

Lo más probable es que la decisión de los líderes de las bandas de unirse estuviera motivada por el deseo de consolidar su poder después de que Henry firmó el acuerdo con Kenia para llevar 1000 agentes de policía a Puerto Príncipe, según William O’Neill, experto de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas en derechos humanos en Haití.

Muchos miembros de pandillas en Haití son adolescentes, dijo, que buscan que se les pague pero que probablemente tienen poco interés en entrar en una guerra con una fuerza policial bien armada.

Las bandas respetan “el miedo y la fuerza”, dijo O’Neill. “Temen a una fuerza más fuerte que ellos”.

Aunque muchos dudan de que la fuerza keniana aporte una estabilidad duradera, su llegada representaría el mayor desafío al control territorial de las pandillas en años.

“Las bandas llevan años oyendo hablar de esta fuerza dirigida por Kenia”, dijo Louis-Henri Mars, director ejecutivo de Lakou Lapè, una organización que trabaja con pandillas haitianas. “Entonces vieron que por fin llegaba, así que lanzaron un ataque preventivo”.

La violencia desatada por las bandas cerró gran parte de la capital e impidió que Henry pudiera regresar a su país.

Este fue el punto de inflexión: Estados Unidos y los líderes caribeños consideraron que la situación de Haití era “insostenible”. Las autoridades estadounidenses llegaron a la conclusión de que Henry ya no era un socio viable y redoblaron sus llamados para que avanzara rápidamente hacia una transición de poder, según afirmaron funcionarios implicados en las negociaciones políticas.

Desde entonces, los líderes de las pandillas han estado hablando con periodistas, celebrando conferencias de prensa, prometiendo la paz y exigiendo un asiento en la mesa.

Jimmy Chérizier, un poderoso líder de la banda también conocido como Barbecue, se ha convertido en uno de los rostros más conocidos de la nueva alianza de bandas, conocida como Living Together.

La G-9, la banda de Chérizier, un exagente de policía conocido por su crueldad, controla el centro de Puerto Príncipe y ha sido acusada de atacar barrios aliados con partidos políticos de la oposición, saquear casas, violar mujeres y matar gente al azar.

Sin embargo, en sus conferencias de prensa, Chérizier ha pedido disculpas por la violencia y ha culpado a los sistemas económico y político de Haití de la miseria y la desigualdad del país. Philippe se ha hecho eco de este pensamiento.

“Esas chicas jóvenes, esos chicos jóvenes, no tienen otra oportunidad: morir de hambre o tomar las armas”, dijo Philippe al Times. “Eligieron tomar las armas”.

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

Natalie Kitroeff es la jefa de la corresponsalía del Times para México, Centroamérica y el Caribe. Más de Natalie Kitroeff

Frances Robles es una reportera de investigación que cubre Estados Unidos y América Latina. Es periodista desde hace más de 30 años. Más de Frances Robles


Los objetivos contradictorios de Brasil: ser potencia ecológica y petrolera

Desde la ventana de su oficina, el director de la petrolera estatal de Brasil observaba el paisaje abarrotado de Río de Janeiro. Del otro lado de los desgastados rascacielos de la ciudad, la estatua del Cristo Redentor también fijaba su mirada en él. Un grupo de halcones revoloteaba en círculos sobre un enorme montón de basura. Unas columnas de humo se desprendían de una hoguera en una favela situada en una colina.

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

Su empresa, Petrobras, planea un aumento tan acelerado en la producción petrolera que Brasil podría convertirse en el tercer mayor productor del mundo para 2030, una transformación que, en su opinión, podría contribuir a reducir la pobreza evidente frente a sus ojos. Su país tiene este plan a pesar de que se ha posicionado como uno de los líderes en el combate contra el cambio climático, un fenómeno que, por supuesto, se debe principalmente a la quema de petróleo y otros combustibles fósiles.

Petrobras ya extrae casi la misma cantidad de petróleo crudo al año que ExxonMobil, según Rystad Energy, una firma de investigación de mercados. En los próximos años, de acuerdo con las proyecciones, rebasará a las petroleras nacionales de China, Rusia y Kuwait, con lo que solo las de Arabia Saudita e Irán extraerán más que Petrobras para 2030.

Se trata de un dilema colosal para el presidente brasileño, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, mejor conocido como Lula, quien se ha forjado una imagen como el líder mundial más notable en temas ambientales. Según el consenso general, Lula se ha convencido en años recientes de que el cambio climático es un factor importante que genera pobreza y desigualdad, situaciones que ha prometido erradicar a lo largo de su carrera política de varias décadas.

Desde que fue electo en 2022, Lula ha logrado reducir drásticamente la desforestación en la Amazonía y ha liderado un desarrollo considerable de las energías renovables. Pero también dirigirá el auge petrolero de Petrobras y un periodo de crecientes importaciones de gas, con lo que podría lograr que Brasil satisfaga su creciente ambición de tener vuelos más baratos, dietas más sustanciosas y hogares con aire acondicionado.

Por más contradictorio que parezca, es lo justo, señaló Jean Paul Prates, director ejecutivo de Petrobras, desde las relucientes oficinas centrales de su empresa que le ofrecen una vista panorámica.

“No renunciaremos a esa prerrogativa”, afirmó, “porque otros no están haciendo ningún sacrificio”.

Este es un argumento que preocupa a quienes encabezan proyectos globales con el objetivo de reducir la dependencia de combustibles fósiles. Los países industrializados como Estados Unidos, que se convirtieron en superpotencias económicas gracias a actividades que emitían cantidades gigantescas de gases de efecto invernadero, todavía son los mayores productores per cápita y consumidores de combustibles fósiles.

Y si ellos no paran, ¿por qué debería hacerlo Brasil?

La principal asesora de Lula en temas de cambio climático, Ana Toni, que cuenta con una larga trayectoria al frente de distintas organizaciones sin fines de lucro, indicó que, en el caso ideal, Petrobras debería reducir su producción de petróleo e invertir mucho más en opciones renovables, lo que, de hecho, la transformaría en un nuevo tipo de empresa. Sin embargo, concordó con Prates y subrayó que, en tanto no se consiga que todo el mundo colabore para lograr la misma meta y los países más ricos lideren esas acciones, los países en desarrollo se seguirán oponiendo a hacer sacrificios.

Durante años, esa tensión ha dominado las negociaciones en el tema del cambio climático y volverá a ser uno de los temas centrales en la cumbre de noviembre de este año patrocinada por las Naciones Unidas en Azerbaiyán. En esa reunión, los negociadores de casi todas las naciones del mundo esperan abordar el espinoso tema de qué podrían hacer los países más ricos para hacerles llegar más dinero a los países más pobres y así ayudarlos a adoptar fuentes de energía más limpias y adaptarse a los efectos del cambio climático.

Después de Azerbaiyán, el próximo anfitrión de la cumbre del clima de las Naciones Unidas será Brasil. Esa cumbre se celebrará en Belém, una ciudad que colinda con la Amazonía, cerca de un lugar donde Petrobras propuso realizar exploraciones petroleras. Pero en una de las contadas instancias en las que el gobierno de Brasil le ha puesto límites a la industria petrolera, la idea fue bloqueada. Prates comentó que Petrobras está apelando la decisión.

Entre tanto, Petrobras planea invertir más de 7000 millones de dólares en los siguientes cinco años para explorar posibles sitios de perforación marítimos en otros tramos costeros de Brasil con el fin de aumentar su producción, que ya va en ascenso.

Según las proyecciones internas de Petrobras, al igual que las de muchas otras empresas petroleras y de gas, la demanda de sus productos se mantendrá firme a niveles altos. Por lo tanto, la empresa opera con base en un conjunto de hipótesis muy distinto al de la Agencia Internacional de Energía y otras que insisten en que la demanda de petróleo ya alcanzó su punto más alto o está a punto de hacerlo.

Eso deja a países como Brasil en una especie de área gris en la que se hace todo, aseveró Mercedes Bustamante, profesora y ecóloga de la Universidad de Brasilia e integrante del grupo independiente de científicos llamado Climate Crisis Advisory Group.

Brasil trabaja para desarrollar tanto las energías renovables como los combustibles fósiles. Este año se incorporó como observador a la OPEP, la organización petrolera global, con todo y que el año próximo planea ser anfitrión de las negociaciones globales para el clima de las Naciones Unidas. Para 2030, la nación será la quinta mayor productora de petróleo del mundo, según los datos de Rystad.

Esta dinámica también se refleja en los bosques, señaló Bustamante. Se restringió la conversión a tierra agrícola en la Amazonía, pero al mismo tiempo va en aumento en el Cerrado, una amplia sabana que cubre la mayor parte del centro de Brasil.

“Tener ambas cosas forma parte del ADN de las políticas de Brasil”, explicó Oliver Stuenkel, profesor de la Escuela de Relaciones Internacionales de la Fundación Getulio Vargas en Sao Paulo. “Vamos a ser una superpotencia ecológica, claro, pero no vamos a aceptar riesgos innecesarios. Eso implica que debemos prepararnos para un mundo en el que el petróleo desempeñe un papel importante por mucho tiempo y la transición tarde más de lo esperado”.

Prates indicó que habla con Lula cada dos semanas y ha tratado de convencerlo de que una transición hacia la eliminación de los combustibles fósiles debe ser “juiciosamente lenta”.

“Es decir, no debe ser lenta porque no queramos hacer la transición, sino porque necesitamos actuar en correspondencia con las expectativas del mercado del petróleo, el gas y sus derivados”, añadió. “Petrobras aprovechará hasta la última gota de petróleo, justo como Arabia Saudita o los Emiratos harán lo mismo”.

Max Bearak es un reportero del Times que escribe sobre políticas climáticas y energéticas globales y nuevos enfoques para reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero. Más de Max Bearak