The New York Times 2024-03-19 10:15:13

Food Experts Predict ‘Imminent’ Famine in Northern Gaza

The acute food shortage in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip has become so severe that “famine is imminent” and the enclave is on the verge of a “major acceleration of deaths and malnutrition,” a report from a global authority on food security and nutrition said on Monday.

The group, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative, which was set up in 2004 by U.N. agencies and international relief groups, has sounded the alarm about famine only twice before: in Somalia in 2011 and in South Sudan in 2017.

The warning came as Israeli forces again raided Al-Shifa Hospital in the northern part of the enclave on Monday, in an operation that they said had been aimed at senior Hamas officials who had regrouped on the premises, setting off an hourslong battle that both sides said had resulted in casualties.

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Putin Hails Conquests in Ukraine in Red Square Spectacle

His most beloved crooner sang a nationalistic ballad with an appeal to Russians: “The Motherland is calling. Don’t let her down.”

His favorite band belted out a moody song about wartime sacrifice.

And then he took the stage, under a banner celebrating the 10th anniversary of Crimea’s seizure from Ukraine, to remind thousands of Russians gathered on Red Square that his fight to add territory to Russia wasn’t over.

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Gambia Moves Toward Overturning Landmark Ban on Female Genital Cutting

Gambian lawmakers have voted to advance a measure revoking a ban on female genital cutting by removing legal protections for millions of girls, raising fears that other countries could follow suit.

Of the 47 members of the Gambia National Assembly present on Monday, 42 voted to send a bill to overturn the ban onward to a committee for consideration before a final vote. Human rights experts, lawyers and women’s and girls’ rights campaigners say that overturning the ban would undo decades of work to end female genital cutting, a centuries-old ritual tied up in ideas of sexual purity, obedience and control.

If the bill passes the final stages, the small West African nation of Gambia will become the first nation globally to roll back protections against cutting.

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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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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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Middle East Crisis: Israel Will Dispatch Team to Hear Biden Administration Worries on Rafah

Netanyahu agrees to send an Israeli team to Washington to discuss plans for Rafah.

At the request of President Biden, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, agreed on Monday to send a team of officials to Washington to discuss alternatives to a promised Israeli invasion of Rafah, the city that has become the last refuge for roughly half of Gaza’s population, according to Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

In a phone call on Monday, Mr. Biden told the Israeli leader that sending ground forces into Rafah, as Mr. Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly to do, could be disastrous when there are other options for defeating Hamas, Mr. Sullivan said.

“A major ground operation there would be a mistake,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters at the White House. “It would lead to more innocent civilian deaths, worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis, deepen the anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel internationally.”

Mr. Sullivan said Mr. Biden had asked Mr. Netanyahu to send a team of military, intelligence and humanitarian officials to Washington to hear U.S. concerns about Israel’s plans for Rafah, and to “lay out an alternative approach that would target key Hamas elements in Rafah and secure the Egypt-Gaza border without a major ground invasion.”

“The prime minister agreed that he would send a team,” he added. “Obviously he has his own point of view on a Rafah operation, but he agreed that he would send a team to Washington to have this discussion.”

During the call, Mr. Biden, who has been increasingly critical of Israel’s conduct of the war and the toll it has taken on civilians, expressed alarm that Israeli forces could repeat the pattern of destruction that has played out during major offensives in Gaza City and Khan Younis.

“More than a million people have taken refuge in Rafah,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters. “They went from Gaza City to Khan Younis and then to Rafah. They have nowhere else to go. Gaza’s other major cities have largely been destroyed.”

Mr. Sullivan said Israel has also not presented any plan for safely moving civilians out of harm’s way, or provide them with food, shelter and basic services like sanitation — a key request of the Biden administration for weeks.

In a statement posted on social media, Mr. Netanyahu said he and Mr. Biden had spoken about recent developments in the war. He said they also discussed Israel’s commitment to achieving all of its goals for the war: “Eliminating Hamas, freeing all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza never gain constitutes a threat to Israel — while providing the necessary humanitarian aid that will assist in achieving these goals.”

Mr. Biden has publicly been resolute in what Mr. Sullivan described on Monday as a “bone-deep commitment to ensuring the long-term security of Israel.” But the president has engaged in an escalating critique of the Mr. Netanyahu as Palestinian casualties continue to mount from the military operation that Israel launched in response to the Oct. 7 attacks led by Hamas.

After Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, called for elections to replace Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Biden praised his remarks as “a good speech” — without specifically endorsing any of Mr. Schumer’s criticisms of the prime minister.

And earlier this month, Mr. Biden could be heard in audio clips telling a member of Congress that he would have to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with Mr. Netanyahu about the bloodshed in Gaza.

Mr. Sullivan’ began his remarks on Monday by emphasizing the Israeli military’s success in routing Hamas and affirming the United States’ commitment to assisting with that effort. But his description of the chaos in Gaza was among the sharpest and most critical of the Israeli response to come from the White House over recent months.

“More innocent civilians have died in this conflict, in this military operation, than in all the wars in Gaza combined, including thousands of children,” he said. “A humanitarian crisis has descended across Gaza, and anarchy reigns in areas that Israel’s military has cleared but not stabilized.”

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.

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

A White House official says Israeli forces killed a senior Hamas military leader in Gaza.

Israeli forces have killed one of Hamas’s highest-ranking military leaders in the Gaza Strip, a senior White House official said on Monday.

Marwan Issa, the deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing, “was killed in an Israeli operation last week,” Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, told reporters at a White House briefing.

A senior Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media, said Israel had not confirmed Mr. Issa’s death but that there were many indications he had been killed.

Israeli officials have said that Mr. Issa was targeted by an Israeli airstrike on the night of March 9-10. Though they have stopped short of saying whether Mr. Issa was killed in the attack, Israeli officials have hinted at his possible death — the Israeli military chief of staff said on Sunday that Hamas was trying to “hide” the fate of senior Hamas officials, without directly naming him.

In the attack, Israeli warplanes struck an underground space in the Nuseirat neighborhood of central Gaza that had been used by Mr. Issa and another senior Hamas military official responsible for the group’s weapons, a spokesman for the Israeli military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said a week ago.

Hamas — which has announced the deaths of just a few of its members since the war began — did not immediately comment on Mr. Sullivan’s remarks. The Israeli military declined to comment on the remarks on Monday.

The death of Mr. Issa, a key figure in its Qassam Brigades, would represent a victory for Israel, whose leaders have vowed to wipe out the Hamas leadership in Gaza — although the group has swiftly replaced such leaders in the past, and many of Hamas’s top political leaders live outside the enclave.

One of the most senior Hamas officials to have been confirmed dead since the start of the war is Saleh al-Arouri, a founder of the group’s armed wing. Hamas said he was killed in an Israeli attack in Lebanon on Jan. 2.

But despite an Israeli military campaign that has battered Hamas over the last five months, the group’s leader in Gaza and the presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack, Yahya Sinwar, has eluded Israeli forces. Mohammed Deif, the top commander of the Qassam Brigades, is also believed to be alive.

Admiral Hagari has said that Mr. Issa helped plan the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack and last week called him a part of “the main triangle of terror” in Gaza, alongside Mr. Sinwar and Mr. Deif.

Israel blocks the chief of the U.N. agency for Palestinians from visiting Gaza.

Israel denied the chief of UNRWA, the United Nations agency that supports Palestinians, entry to the Gaza Strip on Monday, according to the agency and the foreign minister of Egypt.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said on social media on Monday that Israeli authorities had blocked him from making a visit that was “supposed to coordinate & improve the humanitarian response.” UNRWA, formally the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is the largest aid group on the ground in Gaza and a critical lifeline for more than 2.2 million people struggling to survive under a near-total Israeli siege.

The Israeli defense ministry’s agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said on social media that Mr. Lazzarini’s request for entry to Gaza “was not submitted by the necessary coordination processes and channels.”

“This is another attempt by UNRWA to blame Israel for their own mistakes,” the agency said. COGAT did not immediately respond to questions about the decision.

Juliette Touma, the director of communications for UNRWA, said COGAT’s explanation was “not accurate.”

Mr. Lazzarini’s trip was approved by Israel on Sunday night, she said, adding that he was the only person among a team of UNRWA workers to be denied access on Monday morning, even though all of their requests for entry were submitted as a group.

She described the denial as a “last-minute change” that came as Mr. Lazzarini was set to fly from Cairo to El Arish, Egypt, before traveling to the border and crossing into Gaza.

At a news conference with Mr. Lazzarini in Cairo, the foreign minister of Egypt, Sameh Shoukry, expressed dismay over Israel’s denial.

The denial came on the same day that a new report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative projected that a full-scale famine will take hold in northern Gaza anytime between now and May.

Mr. Lazzarini — who had planned to visit northern Gaza as part of the trip, according to Ms. Touma — said on social media that “this man-made starvation under our watch is a stain on our collective humanity.” Averting the famine was a matter of “political will,” he added.

Israel has long argued that UNRWA is biased against Israel and influenced by Hamas, allegations that the agency strongly denies. In January, Israel accused 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in Gaza of participating in the Oct. 7 attacks or their aftermath, leading to several donor nations suspending funding. Israel Katz, the foreign minister, has called on Mr. Lazzarini to resign.

Mr. Lazzarini has said that the agency was facing a “deliberate and concerted campaign” to undermine its operations at a time when its services are most needed. Some countries have since resumed their donations to UNRWA, citing its role in mitigating the humanitarian crisis.

Who was Marwan Issa, the Hamas commander killed by Israel?

Marwan Issa, the deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing in Gaza and a presumed mastermind of the Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, was confirmed dead on Monday by a senior U.S. official after an Israeli airstrike more than a week ago.

Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser, told reporters that Mr. Issa, one if the highest-ranking officials in Hamas, had been killed. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said on March 11 that Israeli military warplanes had targeted Mr. Issa and another senior Hamas official in an underground compound in central Gaza.

With his death, Mr. Issa, who had been among Israel’s most wanted men, became the senior-most Hamas leader to be killed in Gaza since the start of the war. Israeli officials have characterized the strike as a breakthrough in their campaign to wipe out the Hamas leadership in Gaza.

But experts cautioned that his death would not have a devastating effect on Hamas’s leadership structure. Israel has killed Hamas’s political and military leaders in the past, only to see them quickly replaced.

Here is a closer look at Mr. Issa and what his death means for Hamas and its leadership.

What was Mr. Issa’s role in Hamas?

Mr. Issa, who was 58 or 59 at the time of his death, had served since 2012 as a deputy to Mohammed Deif, the elusive leader of the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing. Mr. Issa assumed the role after the assassination of another top commander, Ahmed al-Jabari.

Mr. Issa served both on Hamas’s military council and in its Gaza political office, overseen by Yahya Sinwar, the group’s highest-ranking official in the enclave. Mr. Issa was described by Palestinian analysts and former Israeli security officials as an important strategist who played a key role as a liaison between Hamas’s military and political leaders.

Salah al-Din al-Awawdeh, a Palestinian analyst close to Hamas, described Mr. Issa’s position in the group as “part of the front rank of the military wing’s leadership.”

Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, the former Israeli military intelligence chief, said Mr. Issa was simultaneously Hamas’s “defense minister,” its deputy military commander and its “strategic mind.”

What does his death mean for the group?

Experts described Mr. Issa as an important associate of Mr. Deif and Mr. Sinwar, though they said his death did not represent a threat to the group’s survival.

“There’s always a replacement,” Mr. Awawdeh said. “I don’t think the assassination of any member of the military wing will have an effect on its activities.”

Michael Milshtein, a former Israeli military intelligence officer and an expert on Palestinian affairs, said Mr. Issa’s death was a significant blow to the Qassam Brigades, though he conceded it wasn’t “the end of the world” for Hamas.

“He had a lot of experience,” Mr. Milshtein said. “His death is a big loss for Hamas, but it isn’t a loss that will lead to its collapse and it won’t affect it for a long time. In a week or two, they’ll overcome it.”

Mr. Milshtein added that even though Mr. Issa’s opinion was valued at the highest levels of Hamas, the fact he did not directly command fighters meant his death did not leave a gaping hole in Hamas’s operations.

How has he been described?

Mr. Issa was a lesser-known member of Hamas’s top brass, maintaining a low profile and rarely appearing in public.

Gerhard Conrad, a former German intelligence officer who met Mr. Issa more than a decade ago, described him as a “decisive and quiet” person lacking charisma. “He was not very eloquent, but he knew what to say, and he was straight to the point,” Mr. Conrad said in an interview.

Mr. Conrad said he met Mr. Issa, Mr. al-Jabari and Mahmoud al-Zahar, another senior Hamas official, about ten times between 2009 and 2011 in Gaza City. The men met as part of an effort to broker a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas.

“He was the master of the data on the prisoners,” Mr. Conrad said of Mr. Issa. “He had all the names to be negotiated on.”

Mr. Conrad, however, said it was apparent at the time that Mr. Issa was a subordinate to Mr. al-Jabari. “He was a kind of chief of staff,” he said.

It was only after Mr. al-Jabari’s assassination that Mr. Issa’s prominence grew, but he still was keen to stay out of view. Few images of Mr. Issa are in the public domain.

Mr. Awawdeh, the analyst, called Mr. Issa a man who liked to “remain in the shadows” and who seldom granted interviews to the media.

In one of those rare interviews, Mr. Issa spoke in 2021 about his role in the indirect talks that resulted in Israel exchanging more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a single Israeli soldier, Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, and his hopes for a future conflict with Israel.

“Even if the resistance in Palestine is monitored by the enemy at all hours, it will surprise the enemy,” he told Al Jazeera at the time.

In a separate interview with a Hamas publication in 2005, Mr. Issa lauded militants who raided Israeli settlements and military bases, calling the actions “heroic” and an “advanced activity.”

What is known about his early life?

Mr. Issa was born in the Bureij area of central Gaza in 1965, but his family hails from what is now the Ashkelon area in Israel.

A Hamas member for decades, he was involved with the militant group involved pursuing Palestinians who were believed to have collaborated with Israel, according to Mr. Awawdeh.

Mr. Issa spent time in prisons operated by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Admiral Hagari has said that Mr. Issa helped plan the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack. Mr. Issa is also thought to have planned operations aimed at infiltrating Israeli settlements during the second intifada in the 2000s, Mr. Milshtein said.

A correction was made on 

March 18, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a former Israeli military intelligence chief. He is Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, not Heyman.

When we learn of a mistake, we acknowledge it with a correction. If you spot an error, please let us know at more

Experts predict northern Gaza will soon face a famine.

Experts project that northern Gaza will face famine conditions as soon as this month, and that half of the enclave’s population will suffer deadly levels of hunger, according to a new report from the global authority that has classified food security crises for decades.

The report, released Monday by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification global initiative, projected that famine is “imminent” for the 300,000 Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza, where such conditions will develop by the end of May. And by mid-July, as many as 1.1 million people in Gaza could face what the group characterized as the worst stage of hunger: an “extreme lack of food,” and severe levels of starvation, death, destitution and acute malnutrition.

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).

The group — set up in 2004 by U.N. agencies and international relief groups, and known as the I.P.C. — has classified a famine only twice: in 2011, in parts of Somalia, and in 2017, in parts of South Sudan. In those countries, relatively small proportions of the population met the group’s criteria for famine conditions. In Gaza, the residents of the critically threatened north make up more than 13 percent of the population.

According to the I.P.C., a famine occurs when three conditions are met: 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. (Although I.P.C. experts conduct and review the analysis necessary to classify a famine, only government and top U.N. officials can officially make an official declaration.)

The report noted that the first condition had already been met, and the second most likely has been reached. Collecting data on the third, malnutrition-linked deaths, is immensely difficult in a war zone, the group has said. The death rate among children appeared higher than for adults, it added, but said it was “impossible to ascertain.”

At least 27 people, including 23 children, have died of malnutrition, dehydration and lack of baby formula, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.

Shimon Freedman, a spokesman for the Israeli agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, COGAT, reiterated on Monday Israel’s position that it “places no limit on the aid that can enter the Gaza Strip.”

And Eylon Levy, an Israeli government spokesman, called the report an “out-of-date picture” that “does not take into account the latest developments on the ground,” including major humanitarian initiatives last week. He also said Israel is taking “proactive measures” to expand aid delivery in northern Gaza.

Last week, Israel allowed a small World Food Program convoy to deliver food to northern Gaza for the first time since Feb. 20. After the report was released, the organization’s chief economist, Arif Husain, warned that “time is running out” for many Gazans. “This is why children are dying,” he said. “If we don’t get in there they won’t be dying in 20 or 30s, they will be dying in hundreds and thousands.”

Alex de Waal, an expert on humanitarian crises who has written a book about mass starvation, said the situation in Gaza was “unprecedented.”

“None of us who’ve worked in this field have ever seen anything like this,” he said. “It is absolutely shocking.”

The I.P.C. classifies acute food insecurity in five phases, ranging from minimal to catastrophic.

All of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are in at least the third, or crisis, level of food insecurity, meaning that they are not eating enough and are malnourished. Nearly 40 percent are in the fourth, or emergency, phase, facing extreme food shortages and bearing an increased risk of hunger-related death. And 30 percent are in the most severe stage, indicating they have almost no food and are facing critical levels of starvation and death.

In December, the group warned that famine could occur within six months 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.

The Famine Review Committee, a group within the I.P.C. which studied the report’s nutrition analysis, said famine could be prevented by “an immediate political decision for a cease-fire together with a significant and immediate increase in humanitarian and commercial access to the entire population of Gaza.”

The U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, called the report “an appalling indictment of conditions on the ground for civilians.” The hunger crisis, he said, “is an entirely man-made disaster — and the report makes clear that it can be halted.”

More than five months after Israel’s campaign against Hamas began, hunger experts estimate that nearly the entire population of Gaza relies on food aid. Israel has eased the restrictions on humanitarian deliveries it established immediately after the Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7, but aid groups say that the aid reaching Gaza is not sufficient.

UNRWA, the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians, said Gaza is receiving only a fraction of what is necessary to prevent conditions from continuing to deteriorate. Much of that aid does not make it much farther than where it crosses the border.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s top diplomat, urged Israel to allow “free, unimpeded, safe humanitarian access.”

“Hunger can’t be used as a weapon of war,” he said in a statement.

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, rejected Mr. Borrell’s criticism, saying that the country allows extensive aid in by air, land and sea.

Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Elena Shao and Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.

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

Israeli negotiators arrived in 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, a senior Israeli official said.

The trip to the Qatari captial, Doha, by a delegation headed up by the head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, comes after Israel and Hamas failed to reach an agreement ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.

Two senior 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. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to communicate with the news media.

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.

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. But Leo Cans, a senior official with medical charity Doctors Without Borders, who visited Al-Shifa a week ago, said the hospital had a new interim director.

Mr. Cans said that Al-Shifa was trying to get back on its feet but lacked surgeons, and its staff were exhausted and many had not been paid. Vital machines for providing X-rays and other services can only work sporadically because of a lack of generator fuel, he said. At the same time, he said he saw evidence of military damage at the hospital, including in the intensive care unit.

“There were patients inside, but most of the hospital remains largely empty,” he said.

After the Israeli seizure of Al-Shifa in November, The New York Times examined evidence indicating that Hamas had used the hospital to store weapons and had maintained a tunnel network. But it was less clear that Hamas had operated 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.“

Israeli restrictions leave crucial relief for Gazans idling in Egypt, Saudi aid chief says.

Trucks carrying lifesaving humanitarian relief for the Gaza Strip idle for days or weeks in Egypt waiting for Israeli inspectors to let them enter, and some are rejected despite having vital medical supplies, the chief of Saudi Arabia’s state agency said on Monday.

“The biggest solution is to open as many corridors as you can,” said Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, a Saudi royal court adviser and head of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

The aid agency has raised nearly $180 million through a donation campaign for humanitarian relief in Gaza. But it has struggled to deliver relief to the people who need it most because of Israeli restrictions on the movement of aid into and within the Palestinian territory, Dr. Al Rabeeah said in an interview in Riyadh. Nearly all aid that has reached Gaza since October has entered through two border crossings, and more openings are needed, he said.

“These corridors mean life and death for those in need,” he said. “We should not block aid and see death for innocent civilian people who are not part of the conflict.”

Across Gaza, people are facing severe shortages of food and other basic goods amid Israel’s bombardment and invasion that have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to local health authorities. Experts anticipate a steep rise in malnutrition-related deaths among children, and in northern Gaza, famine is imminent, according to a recent report.

Aid groups contend that Israel, which insists on inspecting every delivery, is making it impossible to supply enough aid to ensure the survival of Gazans. On Monday, Josep Borrell Fontelles, a top European Union diplomat, accused Israel of using starvation as “a weapon of war.”

Israeli officials deny that they are deliberating limiting aid. The obstacles, they say, are disorganization by the United Nations and aid groups, and interference and theft of supplies by Hamas, the armed group that has governed Gaza and led the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

“Israel allows extensive humanitarian aid into Gaza by land, air, and sea for anyone willing to help,” Israel Katz, the country’s foreign minister, wrote on the social media platform X, responding to Mr. Borrell’s comments. He blamed Hamas for “violently disrupting aid convoys.”

So far, the Saudi aid agency has managed to send 488 truckloads into Gaza. But many more are waiting on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing for Israeli inspections, Dr. Rabeeah said.

“What makes it difficult is that it’s not consistent, so one day you may have more trucks than the other day, some days maybe no trucks are allowed,” Dr. Al Rabeeah said. “When I visited Rafah, I spoke to the truck drivers myself, and those drivers are actually tired — exhausted — because they wait days, sometimes weeks, to get approval.”

Given the shortages that have built up inside Gaza, at least 500 to 600 trucks of aid a day are needed now to meet people’s needs, Dr. Al Rabeeah estimated. Instead, an average of 150 trucks a day have been entering, according to U.N. data.

Even after trucks cross into Gaza, some of them run into internal Israeli checkpoints and are turned back from their ultimate destinations, Dr. Al Rabeeah said.

Another major challenge is that Israeli authorities are refusing to allow certain medical items to enter Gaza — including incubators for premature babies and certain medical diagnostic machines, he said — even though local aid partners say they are desperately needed. Israeli authorities claim they could also be used for military applications, said Dr. Rabeeah, who is a physician.

“They say they may have ‘dual usage,’ but again, incubators are incubators,” he said. “You cannot have a newborn premature child and not put them in an incubator; we know as doctors that they may not be able to survive.”

Saudi Arabia is not interested in pursuing airdrops — which the United States, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have undertaken — because they provide only a “very tiny” amount of aid compared to the need, Dr. Rabeeah said. The kingdom is potentially interested in joining a project to deliver aid by sea that is being put together by the United States, but officials are awaiting further details from their American counterparts, he added.

A senior Democratic senator says Netanyahu is in a compromised position.

Senator Jack Reed, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was in a compromised position and had competing personal agendas that complicate his handling of the war in Gaza.

Mr. Reed, a senior Democrat from Rhode Island, said he strongly agreed with comments last week by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. In a blistering speech on the Senate floor, Mr. Schumer criticized Mr. Netanyahu as a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East and called for new leadership in Israel after five months of war.

Mr. Reed called the remarks by Mr. Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the United States, “courageous.”

“Prime Minister Netanyahu is in a very compromised position,” Mr. Reed told the Defense Writers Group. “There are indications that he tolerated Hamas as a way to disrupt the Palestinian Authority.”

Mr. Reed added: “He knows that if there’s an election, he’ll lose. He also is fearful that unless the courts are reformed, quote-unquote, he could very well be put in jail. So he’s operating not as someone whose sole interest, I believe, is the state of Israel. He has so many competing personal agendas on that I think Chuck’s advice is well taken.”

Mr. Netanyahu has faced prosecution on corruption charges since long before the war began. In January, Israel’s Supreme Court struck down a plan by Mr. Netanyahu’s government to limit the courts’ powers, part of a broader overhaul of the judiciary that his opponents say is meant partly to rid him of his legal troubles.

Mr. Reed, a former 82nd Airborne Division officer in the U.S. Army, urged the Israeli military to use more precise targeting if it proceeds with a ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Mr. Netanyahu said over the weekend that Israel’s military would move ahead with an offensive in the city despite warnings from allies that such a move would imperil more than one million Palestinians sheltering there.

More important, however, is the urgent need for Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, Mr. Reed said.

“They have to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” he said. “They have to allow food to come in. And I don’t think it would detract from their operation against Hamas.”

Mr. Reed also made it clear that he opposed putting conditions on military assistance to Israel to try to influence its military operations in Gaza.

“We are Israel’s ally,” he said. “They are our allies.”

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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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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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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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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Rebellious Russians Stage Daring Attacks From Ukraine on Russian Soil

Gathered in a Ukrainian farmhouse, soldiers checked their kits: rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, spare batteries for radios, red and white flashlights, all that would be needed for a stealthy and daring night assault across the border into Russia.

The soldiers are Russians who have turned against the government of their country’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, and are now fighting for the Ukrainian side by making incursions back into Russia.

Their goal has been to break through a first line of Russian defenses, hoping to open a path for another unit to drive deeper into Russia with tanks and armored personnel carriers.

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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.

A lack of water made matters worse, according to firefighters and residents.

Chile, which is in the midst of a prolonged drought, has faced ongoing problems with supplying adequate water to battle wildfires in urban areas.

In the Valparaiso region, which includes Viña del Mar and Quilpué, forest fire experts say unregulated development has made cities and towns particularly vulnerable to wildfires.

“It’s a supply and demand problem,” said Miguel Castillo, a professor at the University of Chile’s Forest Fires Engineering Laboratory who works with cities on wildfire prevention measures.

“Many times water isn’t available for firefighting,” he said, adding that the problem had persisted in the region for years. “And now, it’s gotten worse.”

Esval, the private company that provides water for the Valparaiso region denied that there had been any problems with hydrants in the fire zone, and said the local water system had been at “full capacity.”

As the fire raged, Esval announced reductions to the water supply outside the fire zone to bolster pressure to the system.

Daniel Garín, a 13-year veteran with the Quilpué fire department, told The Times that water-pressure problems and out-of-service hydrants had existed before the February wildfire.

In early January, after a supermarket burned down in Viña del Mar, the city’s fire chief, Patricio Brito, told a local TV station that there had been no water in the hydrants, saying, “The reality is, the water in this sector is zero, zero.”

A local congressman, Andrés Celis Montt, said at the time that “serious problems” with the hydrants needed to be investigated and addressed before peak wildfire season, which in Chile typically lasts until April.

On Feb. 2, in Viña del Mar’s El Olivar neighborhood, Yanet Alarcón said she looked on helplessly as the wildfire neared and the water hose she was using to douse her two-story house ran dry. She was forced to flee, and her house was consumed by the fire.

“When I returned, there were flames here, flames there, fire still burning inside,” Ms. Alarcón said through her tears.

In Quilpué, Mauricio Miranda said firefighters had failed to find water in nearby hydrants and stood by waiting for fresh supplies to arrive as his house burned.

“My house was completely destroyed, and there was no water inside, which shows the firefighters didn’t hose it,” he said.

Mr. Miranda and about a dozen families in the Canal Chacao neighborhood said that they planned to meet with Esval to seek compensation, claiming that the company’s failure to provide enough water to hydrants led to the destruction of their homes.

Arijeta Lajka and Kristen Williamson contributed reporting.

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

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

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

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

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La falta de agua agravó el incendio forestal más letal de Chile, según denuncias

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A medida que un incendio forestal arrasó con rapidez las ciudades de Viña del Mar y Quilpué en la costa del Pacífico de Chile el mes pasado, las llamas rodearon a los residentes en la calle, destruyeron casas y sobrepasaron la red de servicios públicos. Se cortó la electricidad, se interrumpieron las comunicaciones y no llegó el agua necesaria para una línea de defensa crítica: los hidrantes.

En este reportaje en video, varios bomberos y residentes de Quilpué y Viña del Mar dijeron a los reporteros de The New York Times que la escasez de agua obstaculizó los esfuerzos para salvar casas y detener el avance del fuego, lo que los obligó a tener que salir de algunos sectores de ambas ciudades.

El incendio forestal —el más mortífero de la historia de Chile, con 134 muertos y miles de casas destruidas— ardió fuera de control casi desde el principio, impulsado por unas condiciones climáticas extremas, fuertes vientos y árboles inflamables.

Según los bomberos y los residentes, la falta de agua empeoró las cosas.

Chile, un país inmerso en una prolongada sequía, se enfrenta a continuos problemas de abastecimiento de agua para combatir los incendios forestales en zonas urbanas.

En la región de Valparaíso, que incluye Viña del Mar y Quilpué, los expertos en incendios forestales afirman que el desarrollo desordenado ha hecho que las ciudades y pueblos sean especialmente vulnerables a los incendios forestales.

“Es un problema de oferta y demanda”, dijo Miguel Castillo, profesor del Laboratorio de Incendios Forestales de la Universidad de Chile, quien trabaja con las ciudades en medidas de prevención de incendios forestales.

“Esta agua muchas veces no está disponible para el combate”, dijo y agregó que el problema había persistido durante años en la región. “Ese problema ahora aumentó”.

Esval, la empresa privada que suministra agua a la región de Valparaíso, negó que hubieran problemas con los hidrantes en la zona del incendio y afirmó que el sistema local de agua trabajó a plena capacidad.

Mientras el fuego hacía estragos, Esval dijo que había reducido el suministro de agua fuera de la zona del incendio para reforzar la presión del sistema.

Daniel Garín, un funcionario con experiencia, quien ha trabajado durante 13 años en el cuerpo de bomberos de Quilpué, le dijo al Times que los problemas de presión del agua y los hidrantes fuera de servicio ya existían antes del incendio de febrero.

A principios de enero, después de que un supermercado se incendiara en Viña del Mar, el jefe de bomberos de la ciudad, Patricio Brito, declaró a una estación de televisión local que no había agua en los hidrantes, diciendo: “La verdad es que el agua en este sector es nulo, nulo”.

Un diputado local, Andrés Celis Montt, dijo que era necesario investigar y solucionar el “grave problema” con los hidrantes antes de la temporada alta de incendios forestales, que en Chile suele durar hasta abril.

El 2 de febrero, en el barrio El Olivar de Viña del Mar, Yanet Alarcón dijo que vio con impotencia cómo el fuego se acercaba y la manguera de agua que estaba usando para rociar su casa de dos pisos se secó. Tuvo que huir, y su casa fue consumida por el fuego.

“Cuando yo pasé todavía había una llama aquí. Había llamas adentro, de hecho focos de llamas dentro”, dijo Alarcón entre lágrimas.

En Quilpué, Mauricio Miranda dijo que los bomberos no habían podido encontrar agua en los hidrantes cercanos y se quedaron detenidos esperando a que llegaran suministros mientras su casa ardía.

“Cuando llegamos después del incendio, la casa estaba consumida y no había nada de agua dentro. Eso significaba que los bomberos no tiraron agua”, dijo.

Miranda y una decena de familias del barrio de Canal Chacao dijeron que tenían previsto reunirse con Esval para solicitar una indemnización, alegando que el hecho de que la empresa no suministrara suficiente agua a los hidrantes provocó la destrucción de sus hogares.

Arijeta Lajka y Kristen Williamson colaboraron con este reportaje.

Brent McDonald es corresponsal sénior de video para el Times en Washington. Produce cortos documentales, reportajes en video e investigaciones visuales. Más de Brent McDonald

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.

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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