The New York Times 2024-04-02 10:17:52


3 Top Iranian Commanders Are Reported Killed in Israeli Strike in Syria

At least three senior commanders and four officers overseeing Iran’s covert operations in the Middle East were killed on Monday when Israeli warplanes struck a building in Damascus that is part of the Iranian Embassy complex, according to Iranian and Syrian officials.

The strike in Damascus, the Syrian capital, appeared to be among the deadliest attacks in a yearslong shadow war between Israel and Iran that has included the assassinations of Iranian military leaders and nuclear scientists.

That covert war has moved into the open as tensions between the countries have intensified over Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, the Iranian-backed militia that led the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

What Happened When This Italian Province Invested in Babies

Sign up for Your Places: Global Update.   All the latest news for any part of the world you select.

In a municipal building in the heart of the alpine city of Bolzano, Stefano Baldo clocked out of work early for his breastfeeding break.

“It’s clear I don’t breastfeed,” Mr. Baldo, a 38-year-old transportation administrator, said in his office decorated with pictures of his wife and six children. But with his wife home with a newborn, one of the parents was entitled by law to take the time, and he needed to pick up the kids. “It’s very convenient.”

Full houses have increasingly become history in Italy, which has one of the lowest birthrates in Europe and where Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, as well as Pope Francis, has warned that Italians are in danger of disappearing. But the Alto Adige-South Tyrol area and its capital, Bolzano, more than any other part of the country, bucked the trend and emerged as a parallel procreation universe for Italy, with its birthrate holding steady over decades.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

American YouTube Personality Released After Being Kidnapped in Haiti

An American YouTube personality who was kidnapped two weeks ago by a gang leader in Haiti was released over the weekend and was on his way home to the United States on Monday morning, according to his father.

The American, Adisson Pierre Maalouf, 26, had traveled to Haiti from the neighboring Dominican Republic to interview Jimmy Chérizier, a former police officer and gang leader known as Barbecue, according to Mr. Maalouf’s family, who spoke to The New York Times after his release.

Kidnapped with him was Mr. Maalouf’s guide, Jean Sacra Sean Roubens, a Haitian journalist. Mr. Roubens confirmed to The Times that he had also been released.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Winning City Halls, Turkish Opposition Strikes Blow to Erdogan

Last May, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey handily secured another term as head of state, shattering the morale of the political opposition and raising fears among his critics that his hold on the government would enable him to further edge Turkey toward autocracy.

This weekend, the opposition struck back.

Mr. Erdogan’s opponents secured a surprising string of victories in local elections across Turkey on Sunday, increasing the number of the country’s cities under their control and further ensconcing them in most of the major metropolises.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Middle East Crisis: Airstrike in Damascus Kills Several Top Iranian Commanders, Iran Says

At least seven Iranian officers were killed in the strike.

At least seven officers overseeing Iran’s covert operations in the Middle East were killed in Damascus on Monday, when Israeli warplanes struck part of the Iranian Embassy complex in the Syrian Capital, according to a statement by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The strike killed three generals in Iran’s Quds Force, the external military and intelligence service of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and four other officers, the Corps said, making it one of the deadliest attacks of the yearslong shadow war between Israel and Iran.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the strike, but four Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters, acknowledged that Israel had carried out the attack.

The covert war has previously included Israel’s targeted assassinations of Iranian military leaders and nuclear scientists, and Iran’s use of foreign proxies to strike Israeli interests. Now it is increasingly being fought out in open as tensions between the countries have intensified since Israel and Hamas, an Iranian-backed militia in the Gaza Strip, went to war in October.

The attack in Damascus killed Mohamad Reza Zahedi, 65, a senior commander in the Quds Force. General Zahedi, Iranian officials said, oversaw the Quds Force’s covert military operations in Syria and Lebanon.

Also killed in the strike were Gen. Mohammad Hadi Haj Rahimi, a deputy commander of Quds Forces in Lebanon and Syria and second in command to General Zahedi, and Gen. Hossein Aman Allahi, responsible for the Quds Force’s military operations in the region, according to Iranian media and an official statement from the Guards.

“For years, Israel and Iran have been engaged in what’s usually called a ‘shadow war,’” Ali Vaez, the Iran director for the International Crisis Group, said Monday in a social media post. “Today’s strike underscores the fact that this is increasingly a misnomer, as tensions increase on multiple fronts.”

Nasser Kanaani, the spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, said Iran was still investigating the scope of the attack but threatened that there would be consequences for Israel. “Iran, in addition to having the right to retaliate in kind,” Mr. Kanaani said, “will decide on how to respond and punish the aggressor.”

Syrian and Iranian state news agencies reported that at least seven people were killed in the strikes on Monday and aired video footage of the ruined building, the remnants of burned cars, shattered glass and debris covering the ground.

The strike, two members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said, targeted a secret meeting in which Iranian intelligence officials and Palestinian militants gathered to discuss the war in Gaza. Among them were leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a group armed and funded by Iran.

Israel and Iran differed in their descriptions of the building that was hit. Iran described it as part of its diplomatic mission in Syria, but Israel said it was being used by the Revolutionary Guards, making it a legitimate military target.

“This is no consulate and this is no embassy,” the Israeli military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, told CNN. “This is a military building of Quds Forces disguised as a civilian building in Damascus.”

Mr. Vaez, the analyst, said, “Targeting a diplomatic facility is akin to targeting Iran on its own soil.” Failure to retaliate would undermine Iran’s military presence in Syria, he said, but “If they do respond they would fall into the trap that they think Israel has laid for them to get into a direct war.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, strongly condemned the attack in a statement and said he had spoken to his Syrian counterpart about the “Zionist regime’s attack on the consulate section of the Islamic Republic’s embassy in Damascus.”

Syria’s defense ministry said the strikes happened around 5 p.m. local time when Israeli fighter jets entered Syria from the Golan Heights.

Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Hossein Akbari, said in a statement released to state media that the consulate’s building came under attack by two F-35 fighter jets. Mr. Akbari said among those killed were several Iranian military advisers deployed to Syria.

“This attack will have our fierce response,” he said, according to Iranian media.

The attack rattled supporters of Iran’s government who took to social media to question, once again, how Israel knew of the secret meeting and whether Iran’s security apparatus had been infiltrated by informants.

Peyman Syed Taheri, a conservative analyst close to the government, said in an interview from Tehran that Israel’s attack in Damascus had shaken Iranians who fear that the government’s approach to the standoff with Israel had failed.

“Our national security has been violated. Either Iran must respond so Israel doesn’t attack us in Tehran or if it doesn’t want to respond then it has to rethink and moderate its regional policies and military presence,” Mr. Taheri said.

A correction was made on 

April 1, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated the surname of an Iranian Quds Force commander who was reported killed in an airstrike in Damascus, Syria. He was Gen. Mohamad Reza Zahedi, not Zahedani.


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

Iran says the ‘U.S. must answer’ for the Israeli strike in Damascus.

President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran said on Tuesday that Israel’s airstrikes on an Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, which killed three top Iranian commanders, will not go unanswered. Government supporters took to the streets and called for retaliation against Israel.

The strike, on part of the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus, killed three generals in Iran’s Quds Force and four other officers, making it one of the deadliest attacks of the yearslong shadow war between Israel and Iran.

Mr. Raisi said it was an “inhumane assault in brazen violation of international law,” in comments reported by Tasnim, a semiofficial news agency. He added that it will not go unanswered, but gave no details of how Iran might respond.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said in an earlier post on the social media site X that Iran had summoned the Swiss ambassador after midnight local time and asked that an important message be delivered to Washington: That as Israel’s ally, the “U.S. must answer” for Israel’s actions. Switzerland acts as the United States’ representative in the absence of diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington.

The spokesman for the leadership of Iran’s Parliament, Seyyed Nezamoldin Mousavi, told Iranian state media that “an appropriate response is a national request by the people of Iran.”

The strike, on part of the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus, killed three generals in Iran’s Quds Force and four other officers, making it one of the deadliest attacks of the yearslong shadow war between Israel and Iran.

In Washington, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Adrienne Watson, said that “the United States had no involvement in the strike” and “did not know about it ahead of time.”

A U.S. official, who requested anonymity to discuss private communication, said that the statement had been communicated directly to Iran.

In several cities across Iran, including the capital, Tehran, as well as Tabriz and Isfahan, large crowds gathered waving Palestinian and Iranian flags and demanding revenge “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” chanted the crowds in Iran, fists in the air, warning that if Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared jihad against Israel, then “no army can hold us back.”

The strikes in Damascus on Monday coincided with two major holidays in Iran, a religious Shia holiday commemorating the killing of Imam Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad and Shia Islam’s founder; and a national day of nature, celebrated by going outdoors on the 13th day of Norouz, the Iranian New Year.

Some opponents of the government gathered in parks in northern Tehran at night to carry on with the nature celebrations, which include picnics, dancing and singing, until security forces dispersed them, videos on social media and on BBC Persian showed.

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss Israel’s attack. Russia, a close ally of Iran, requested the meeting.

Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, said in a letter to the world body that the attack on diplomatic buildings was a violation of international law and the U.N. charter, and was a threat to the peace and stability of the region.

It remained unclear what steps Iran would take in response to Israel’s strikes: Whether it would target Israel directly in a military attack, risking a broader war with Israel and the United States, or if it would continue with its strategy of fighting through its militants it supports in the region.

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia backed by Iran, said in a statement, according to Iran state media, that “without doubt, this crime will not go without punishment and revenge against the enemy.”

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

The World Central Kitchen team was leaving a food warehouse when it was hit by an airstrike.

The disaster relief nonprofit World Central Kitchen paused operations in Gaza and the region on Tuesday after the organization said seven of its workers were killed in an airstrike.

José Andrés, the organization’s founder, said on X that “several of our sisters and brothers” were killed in an Israeli airstrike on Monday. The group later said in a statement that the team was leaving a warehouse in central Gaza in two armored cars after unloading humanitarian food aid. The group said the convoy was hit despite having coordinated movements with the Israeli military.

The Israeli military said in a statement early Tuesday that, in light of the reports, it was “conducting a thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident.” The military also said it “makes extensive efforts to enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, and has been working closely with W.C.K. in their vital efforts to provide food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.”

Erin Gore, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer, said that the group’s employees were killed in “a targeted attack” by the Israeli military, without providing evidence.

“This is unforgivable,” Ms. Gore said.

Graphic video footage that circulated after the strike showed several bodies, some wearing protective gear with World Central Kitchen patches. Footage distributed by Reuters showed a white vehicle marked with the group’s logo on its roof, with a hole half of the width of the car. The nationalities of the seven killed included Australia, Poland, Britain, the United States, Canada and Palestine, according to World Central Kitchen.

World Central Kitchen has become a key organization in the perilous, politically fraught efforts to distribute humanitarian aid to desperate Gazans. Aid organizations say Israel has severely limited the aid that reaches Gaza through land crossings, leaving shipments by sea as an increasingly important means of delivering food to the enclave.

The organization shipped food to Gaza from Cyprus last month, docking at a makeshift jetty in northern Gaza. A second and larger convoy set sail from Cyprus on Saturday. By Tuesday, it remained off the coast of Gaza according to MarineTraffic, a website that tracks global shipping. It was unclear whether the convoy would now dock.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia identified one of the victims as Zomi Frankcom, an Australian citizen and a manager at World Central Kitchen. “We want full accountability for this, because this is a tragedy that should never have occurred,” he told reporters.

“The truth is that this is beyond any reasonable circumstances,” he said, adding that his government had summoned the Israeli ambassador to Australia.

Australia has previously called for a “sustainable cease-fire” in Gaza.

Reporting was contributed by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Cassandra Vinograd, Damien Cave, Aric Toler and Anushka Patil.

Netanyahu says Israel will shut down Al Jazeera in Israel.

Israeli lawmakers passed a law on Monday allowing the government to temporarily shutter foreign media outlets that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has determined undermine the country’s national security, and the Israeli leader said he would use the new law to block Al Jazeera broadcasts and activities in Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government has had a tense relationship with Al Jazeera for years, but the Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7 escalated tensions. Mr. Netanyahu has called Al Jazeera a “Hamas mouthpiece.”

On Monday, the prime minister said it was time for the Qatar-based network, one of the most widely viewed sources of television news in the Arab world, to stop broadcasting in Israel, although he did not specify when that would happen.

“The terrorist channel Al Jazeera will no longer broadcast from Israel. I intend to act immediately in accordance with the new law to stop the channel’s activity,” Mr. Netanyahu posted on X, while recovering from hernia surgery.

Al Jazeera called Netanyahu’s comments “lies that incite against the safety of our journalists around the world.”

“The network stresses that this latest measure comes as part of a series of systematic Israeli attacks to silence Al Jazeera,” it said in a statement, adding that the new law would not “deter us from continuing our bold and professional coverage.”

Under the new law, if the prime minister deems a foreign media outlet to “concretely undermine” Israel’s national security, the government can temporarily close its offices, confiscate its equipment, remove it from Israeli cable and satellite television providers, and block access to any of the channel’s online platforms hosted on servers in Israel or owned by Israeli entities.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedoms around the world, criticized the new law, saying that it “contributes to a climate of self-censorship and hostility toward the press.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, asked about the law during a news briefing in Washington, said that “a move like this is concerning.”

“We believe in the freedom of the press,” she said. “It is critical.”

The new law comes at a critical time in Israel’s relations with Qatar, which has been hosting cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas. The Qatari government, which helps fund Al Jazeera, did not immediately comment.

Anushka Patil contributed reporting.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

Israeli troops pull out of a major Gaza hospital after a two-week battle.

Israeli soldiers withdrew from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after two weeks of fighting in which they killed around 200 Palestinians and arrested hundreds of others, the Israeli military said on Monday. The troops left widespread devastation in their wake after extended gun battles with Palestinian militants in and around the complex.

Taysir al-Tanna, a longtime vascular surgeon at Al-Shifa, said many of the hospital’s main buildings — including the emergency, obstetrics and surgical wards — had been badly damaged in the fighting, and the main gate had been smashed.

“Now it looks like a wasteland,” Dr. al-Tanna said.

Mahmoud Basal, a spokesman for the Palestinian Civil Defense, said bodies were scattered in and around the complex. The final death toll remained unclear, he said, as some corpses were either under the rubble of destroyed buildings or were believed to have been buried.

“Even outside the complex itself, there are blocks of buildings that were knocked to the ground,” and people were searching for the occupants in the rubble, Mr. Basal said.

The Israeli military said the roughly 200 Palestinians it killed were militants, and that its soldiers had arrested around 900 people it suspected of being militants at the Shifa complex over the past two weeks, including senior commanders in groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It said two Israeli soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in the raid.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, blamed the destruction on the militants, saying they had fortified themselves inside hospital wards, fired on soldiers and refused calls to surrender. “We had to fire on the buildings in order to stop that and to kill the terrorists,” he said.

Israeli forces evacuated displaced civilians sheltering in the compound as well as some patients, and placed other patients in a building away from the fighting, Admiral Hagari said. The World Health Organization said on Sunday that at least 21 patients had died since the Israeli raid began in mid-March, though their causes of death were unclear. By this weekend, just 107 patients remained — 30 of them bedridden — without drinking water and with only minimal medication, the Gaza Health Ministry said in a statement.

Israeli forces first raided Al-Shifa in November, maintaining that Hamas militants had built a command center in tunnels underneath it. Hamas and the hospital director insisted the facility was solely a refuge for civilians.

The Israeli military later publicized some evidence to support its case, including by showing reporters a fortified tunnel constructed underneath the hospital grounds. An investigation by The New York Times suggested that Hamas had used the site for cover and stored weapons there. Critics argue that Israel failed to substantiate its original claims about Al-Shifa’s military value.

After little more than a week, Israeli troops withdrew in compliance with a brief cease-fire. But as the war ground on, Israeli forces closed in on the hospital again in mid-March in an attempt to root out what they said was a renewed insurgency by Palestinian armed groups in northern Gaza.

“Hamas and Islamic Jihad have started to rebuild themselves in the north,” said Admiral Hagari. “And they re-based themselves inside Shifa.”

Hamas has not commented on the new allegations that it was using the hospital as a base, but in a statement it accused the Israeli military of summarily executing Palestinians inside. The group’s armed wing has repeatedly said that its militants were fighting with the Israeli military around Al-Shifa over the past two weeks.

Hamas called the destruction at the hospital “a horrific crime” that Israel had perpetrated “with full and unlimited support from the administration of U.S. President Biden.”

Before the first Israeli incursion, Israel gave the hospital more than a week’s notice ahead of its forces entering the complex, giving militants hiding there an opportunity to flee, Admiral Hagari said. This time, Israeli soldiers launched a surprise attack, raiding the area in the middle of the night, he added.

In a visit to Al-Shifa on Saturday, Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military chief of staff, declared the raid “extremely successful.” Lt. Gen. Halevi said the operation had let militant groups know that “a hospital is not a safe place” for them.

Asked about the destruction at Al-Shifa, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said the Biden administration was concerned over Hamas’s repeated activity within hospitals, as well as “how Hamas appears, how they appear to have been able to reconstitute in a hospital so quickly.”

“This just points to how challenging Israel’s military operation is, because Hamas has intentionally embedded themselves into civilian infrastructure, into these hospitals,” Ms. Jean-Pierre told reporters.

‘A horror movie’: One man describes the aftermath of Israel’s raid on Al-Shifa.

Decomposing bodies. Mountains of rubble. Burned buildings. One man described what he found upon returning to Al-Shifa Hospital after Israeli soldiers ended a two-week raid at the Gaza Strip’s largest medical complex.

“As soon as you approach Al-Shifa Hospital, you’re hit with the stench of decomposing bodies,” said Osama al-Ashi, who went to the area to check on his apartment after he heard that the Israeli military had withdrawn. He added in a phone call, “The whole time we were walking, we were stepping on body parts.”

Mr. al-Ashi said that many of the bodies were those of people who had been shot during the raid and left where they fell. Others, he said, were dug up when Israeli forces bulldozed temporary cemeteries inside the hospital grounds.

“The scenes there were difficult to tolerate as a human being,” he said. “You feel like you are in a horror movie.”

He said that the hospital’s buildings remained standing but were completely charred, turning Gaza’s largest hospital into “skeletons of buildings rendered completely useless.” Mr. al-Ashi added that at the hospital, “The medical equipment, the beds, the administrative buildings — everywhere, everything is burned.”

Many buildings around the hospital had been destroyed by bombs, missiles and tank shells. “It’s very rare to find a house still standing,” he said.

Mr. al-Ashi and his family lived less than a mile from the hospital and fled their apartment on the eighth day of Israel’s assault. When he arrived to check his apartment on Monday, he said, it was “unlivable” because the water and electricity lines had been destroyed and its doors and windows shattered.

Instead of moving back in, as he had hoped, Mr. al-Ashi and his family packed up as many of their belongings as they could and returned to the apartment they fled to last week.

Mr. al-Ashi’s testimony echoes what was reported by Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency.

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, blamed the destruction on the militants, saying they had fortified themselves inside hospital wards, fired on soldiers and refused calls to surrender. “We had to fire on the buildings in order to stop that and to kill the terrorists,” he said.

Fadi Afanah, the head of ambulance services at the hospital, was not there during the raid but went back after Israeli forces withdrew to help treat the patients and the injured. “Hundreds of the injured are suffering disastrous conditions,” he said. “Wounds of so many cases are beyond treatment due to gangrene now.”

But treating them at the hospital seemed impossible. “They left nothing. No single ambulance nor one facility survived, except the human resources department,” Mr. Afanah said.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

At a tent camp outside Israel’s Parliament, protesters explain why Netanyahu must go.

Hundreds of small silver tents were clustered on the pavement outside Israel’s Parliament in Jerusalem on Monday, stretching at least a city block. Many had Israeli flags taped to their roofs, along with stickers bearing slogans. “There is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of captives,” reads one. Another is more to the point, saying simply: “ELECTIONS.”

The tents are temporary homes for some of the thousands of Israelis who began a four-day protest on Sunday night calling for early elections to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Many of them believe he has put his political survival ahead of the broader interests of the Israeli people.

Another night of protest was not long off, and the encamped demonstrators were resting and preparing. Some dozed in tents or relaxed in the shade of trees.

When asked why he had camped out overnight, Haggai Schwartz, 47, said there were “too many issues” with the current Israeli government. And the events of Oct. 7 — a date emblazoned on his black T-shirt, above a large drop of blood — made the need for change all the more urgent, he said.

“The government of Israel’s first responsibility is for the security of its citizens,” he said. “And they failed — completely failed.”

Mr. Schwartz said he wanted the government to take responsibility for those failures. “So far they don’t,” he said. “So we call for elections.”

Ronen Raz, 66, said he was tired of protests — “but there’s no other choice.”

Sitting in the shade at a bus stop next to an empty coffee cup, Mr. Raz said he had been protesting against the government since 2020 and would stay through this protest — “or until Bibi falls down.”

Sunday night’s protest was one of the largest since the start of the war, but appeared smaller than the demonstrations at the peak of a wave of anti-government demonstrations last year, a wave that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition survived.

On Monday afternoon, Lee Nevo, 45, crouched with a paintbrush over a long white banner spread on the ground. Bubble letters spelled out “IMAGINING PEACE” in Hebrew, and she was filling in a letter with purple paint. She said she was inspired by the crowds on Sunday night.

“It gives us hope that something is going to change actually,” Ms. Nevo said.

The first thing that needs to change, she said, is the government — and Oct. 7 made clear that this could not wait. Behind her, posters with the names and photos of hostages held in Gaza hung along the metal fence: Arbel Yehoud, 28; Karina Ariev, 19; Dror Or, 48; Yoram Metzger, 80. “We have to bring them back,” she said.

“Out there nobody cares about the hostages,” Ms. Nevo added, gesturing to the Knesset, the Parliament building, behind her. “The only thing they care about is staying in the government.”

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

A correction was made on 

April 1, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated a slogan seen in Jerusalem. It read, “There is no greater mitzvah than the redemption of captives,” not “the reception of captives.”


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

Pressure is building on Netanyahu from all sides.

As the war between Israel and Hamas approaches the six-month mark, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confronting rising pressure on multiple fronts, at home and abroad.

He has encountered resistance from protesters, relatives of hostages held by militants in Gaza, the international community, and elements of his own governing coalition, as criticism mounts over his prosecution of the war against Hamas.

“He’s facing a pile-on,” said Dahlia Scheindlin, a political scientist based in Tel Aviv. “But he’s responding with maximum possible defiance and minimum possible decision-making.”

Although many Israelis have refrained from protesting against the government during the war, thousands of Israelis on Sunday thronged streets in Jerusalem beside the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, to call for early elections, in one of the most significant demonstrations against Mr. Netanyahu’s government since the war began in October.

Mr. Netanyahu has managed to serve longer than any prime minister in Israel’s history in part because of his political savvy. But his popularity was already in decline before the war, over a judicial overhaul that prompted some of the biggest protests in Israel’s history. It suffered another heavy blow when the Oct. 7 assault by Hamas revealed serious security failings.

He has fired back at people calling for elections, arguing they would paralyze the country for at least six months and prevent it from achieving its aims in the war, which he has said includes a “complete victory” over Hamas.

In recent weeks, some relatives of hostages have expressed dismay at Mr. Netanyahu’s handling of indirect negotiations with Hamas aimed at achieving the release their loved ones and a cease-fire. The prime minister, they so, is so determined to pursue the destruction of Hamas that he might do it at the expense of the hostages.

“You are torpedoing the deal,” Einav Zangauker, the mother of a hostage, told a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday. “You failed on Oct. 7 and you are failing today.”

As if to underline his troubles, Mr. Netanyahu was hospitalized on Sunday to undergo hernia surgery.

He has said that Hamas was sticking to unrealistic demands, and that those who think he hasn’t been doing enough to secure the release of the hostages were wrong.

Mr. Netanyahu has also faced pushback abroad over his policies, especially those that have led to the enormous civilian death toll and destruction.

In February, President Biden called Israel’s military operations “over the top” and said the suffering of innocent civilians has “got to stop.” Several world leaders have also warned Israel against a planned ground offensive into Rafah, the southern Gaza city where most of the enclave’s population has sought refuge, and the Biden administration has said a major operation there would be a mistake.

The U.S. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the highest-ranking elected Jewish official in the United States, went further than any senior American leader in publicly rebuking Mr. Netanyahu, delivering a scathing speech in mid-March that accused him of letting his political survival supersede “the best interests of Israel” and of being “too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza.”

Within his government, Mr. Netanyahu has been dealing with divisions over whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should retain their longstanding exemption from military service.

An unwieldy right-wing alliance of secular and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, the coalition’s members are divided about whether the state should continue to allow young ultra-Orthodox men to study at religious seminaries instead of serving in the military, as most other Jewish Israelis do.

If the government abolishes the exemption, it risks a walkout from the ultra-Orthodox lawmakers; if it lets the exemption stand, the secular members could withdraw. Either way, the coalition could collapse, forcing elections.

Patrick Kingsley contributed reporting to this article.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

A major issue in cease-fire talks: How can people displaced from northern Gaza go back?

For months, Israel and Hamas have been at odds over a host of issues during talks aimed at brokering a truce, including whether Israeli troops would withdraw and the length of a cease-fire.

Now one of the major sticking points to emerge as in-person talks resumed this week is how displaced Palestinians will be able to return to the northern Gaza Strip, according to Israeli, Hamas and regional officials.

Despite mounting international pressure, the talks aimed at brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and the release of hostages held by militants in Gaza appear to be stalled.

Mediators from Qatar and Egypt have been meeting with Israeli officials and separately with Hamas leaders, trying to find a formula the warring parties can live with. The United States, Israel’s staunchest ally and largest supplier of weapons, has also been involved. On Saturday, Israeli negotiators traveled to Cairo for another round of talks.

As the war nears the end of its sixth month, humanitarian officials have said a cease-fire is urgently needed to allow more aid into the devastated enclave and stave off a looming famine, and the relatives of hostages have become increasingly worried about the fate of their loved ones in captivity.

American officials say that they are also hoping the warring sides reach an agreement soon, and that any temporary cease-fire reached to allow the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners might be extended into a longer-lasting peace.

But what to do about displaced people returning to Gaza City and other northern communities has become a key issue. Hundreds of thousands of people from northern Gaza have been sheltering in crowded schools, tent encampments and relatives’ homes for months, facing severe hunger, poor sanitation and dangerous diseases.

Hamas has been demanding that Palestinians be permitted to return to the north without restrictions, according to Israeli and Hamas officials and two regional officials familiar with the talks. Israel, however, has demanded that it supervise the process, limiting who can return and where they can go.

One Israeli official said Israel was seeking to bar Hamas operatives and “fighting-age men” from returning to the north, where the Israeli military is still trying to defeat pockets of Palestinian fighters. In addition, Israel wants the returnees to be limited to specific areas, the official added, without identifying them.

The Israeli official and the two regional officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic negotiations.

In an interview, the Hamas official, Ghazi Hamad, said that Israel was only willing to agree to let Palestinians return to the north under “strict conditions and a few at a time.”

The Israeli army has set up checkpoints on routes from central Gaza into the north and currently is letting only some people pass. Those who have been allowed to cross include truck drivers with aid convoys and technicians repairing phone networks.

Israel’s military campaign has turned large areas in the north into islands of rubble. If Palestinians were to return en masse, many would likely need housing, at least in the short term.

On Sunday, the Israeli war cabinet met to discuss the issue. It was not immediately clear if Israel had shifted its position after the meeting.

While mediators have struggled to bridge differences between the two sides on letting Palestinians return to the north, they have made some progress in persuading Hamas to reduce the number of prisoners it wants Israel to release in exchange for hostages, the two regional officials said.

They said Hamas had softened its previous position on the ratio of hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

The Israeli official also said the two sides had not agreed on the question of who will choose the prisoners to be released.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting to this article.

Beijing Deplores Taiwan’s Next President, but Welcomes an Old One

As tensions fester between China and Taiwan, one elder politician from the island democracy is getting an effusive welcome on the mainland: Ma Ying-jeou, a former president.

Mr. Ma’s 11-day trip across China, which began on Monday, comes at a fraught time. Beijing and Taipei have been in dispute over two Chinese fishermen who died while trying to flee a Taiwanese coast guard vessel in February, and China has sent its own coast guard ships close to a Taiwanese-controlled island near where the men died.

Taiwanese officials expect China to intensify its military intimidation once the island’s next president, Lai Ching-te, takes office on May 20. His Democratic Progressive Party rejects Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China, and Chinese officials particularly dislike Mr. Lai, often citing his 2017 description of himself as a “pragmatic worker for Taiwan’s independence.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

The Bizarre Chinese Murder Plot Behind Netflix’s ‘3 Body Problem’

Sign up for Your Places: Global Update.   All the latest news for any part of the world you select.

Lin Qi was a billionaire with a dream. The video game tycoon had wanted to turn one of China’s most famous science-fiction novels, “The Three-Body Problem,” into a global hit. He had started working with Netflix and the creators of the HBO series “Game of Thrones” to bring the alien invasion saga to international audiences.

But Mr. Lin did not live to see “3 Body Problem” premiere on Netflix last month, drawing millions of viewers.

He was poisoned to death in Shanghai in 2020, at age 39, by a disgruntled colleague, in a killing that riveted the country’s tech and video-gaming circles where he had been a prominent rising star. That colleague, Xu Yao, a 43-year-old former executive in Mr. Lin’s company, was last month sentenced to death for murder by a court in Shanghai, which called his actions “extremely despicable.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘Oppenheimer’ Opens in Nuclear-Scarred Japan, 8 Months After U.S. Premiere

Watching “Oppenheimer,” the Oscar-winning biopic about the father of the atomic bomb that opened in Japan on Friday, Kako Okuno was stunned by a scene in which scientists celebrated the explosion over Hiroshima with thunderous foot stomping and the waving of American flags.

Seeing the jubilant faces “really shocked me,” said Ms. Okuno, 22, a nursery school teacher who grew up in Hiroshima and has worked as a peace and environmental activist.

Eight months after Christopher Nolan’s film became a box office hit in the United States, “Oppenheimer” is now confronting Japanese audiences with the flip-side American perspective on the most scarring events of Japan’s history.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

A Russian Defector’s Killing Raises Specter of Hit Squads

The men who killed Maksim Kuzminov wanted to send a message. This was obvious to investigators in Spain even before they discovered who he was. Not only did the killers shoot him six times in a parking garage in southern Spain, they ran over his body with their car.

They also left an important clue to their identity, according to investigators: shell casings from 9-millimeter Makarov rounds, a standard ammunition of the former Communist bloc.

“It was a clear message,” said a senior official from Guardia Civil, the Spanish police force overseeing the investigation into the killing. “I will find you, I will kill you, I will run you over and humiliate you.”


Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

A New Chapter for Irish Historians’ ‘Saddest Book’

In the first pitched battle of the civil war that shaped a newly independent Ireland, seven centuries of history burned.

On June 30, 1922, forces for and against an accommodation with Britain, Ireland’s former colonial ruler, had been fighting for three days around Dublin’s main court complex. The national Public Record Office was part of the complex, and that day it was caught in a colossal explosion. The blast and the resulting fire destroyed state secrets, church records, property deeds, tax receipts, legal documents, financial data, census returns and much more, dating back to the Middle Ages.

“It was a catastrophe,” said Peter Crooks, a medieval historian at Trinity College Dublin. “This happened just after the First World War, when all over Europe new states like Ireland were emerging from old empires. They were all trying to recover and celebrate their own histories and cultures, and now Ireland had just lost the heart of its own.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Angry Farmers Are Reshaping Europe

Reporting from across rural France

Gazing out from his 265-acre farm to the silhouetted Jura mountains in the distance, Jean-Michel Sibelle expounded on the intricate secrets of soil, climate and breeding that have made his chickens — blue feet, white feathers, red combs in the colors of France — the royalty of poultry.

The “poulet de Bresse” is no ordinary chicken. It was recognized in 1957 with a designation of origin, similar to that accorded a great Bordeaux. Moving from a diet of meadow bugs and worms to a mash of corn flour and milk in its final sedentary weeks, this revered Gallic bird acquires a unique muscular succulence. “The mash adds a little fat and softens the muscles formed in the fields to make the flesh moist and tender,” Mr. Sibelle explained with evident satisfaction.

But if this farmer seemed passionate about his chickens, he is also drained by harsh realities. Mr. Sibelle, 59, is done. Squeezed by European Union and national environmental regulations, facing rising costs and unregulated competition, he sees no further point in laboring 70 hours a week.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

India’s Silicon Valley Faces a Water Crisis That Software Cannot Solve

Reporting from Bengaluru, India

The water tankers seeking to fill their bellies bounced past the dry lakes of India’s booming technology capital. Their bleary-eyed drivers waited in line to suck what they could from wells dug a mile deep into dusty lots between app offices and apartment towers named for bougainvillea — all built before sewage and water lines could reach them.

At one well, where neighbors lamented the loss of a mango grove, a handwritten logbook listed the water runs of a crisis: 3:15 and 4:10 one morning; 12:58, 2:27 and 3:29 the next.

“I get 50 calls a day,” said Prakash Chudegowda, a tanker driver in south Bengaluru, also known as Bangalore, as he connected a hose to the well. “I can only get to 15.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

In Yemen, Renewed Conflict and Rising Hunger Stalk a Lean Ramadan

In the years before war and hunger upended daily life in Yemen, Mohammed Abdullah Yousef used to sit down after a long day of fasting during Ramadan to a rich spread of food. His family would dine on meat, falafel, beans, savory fried pastries and occasionally store-bought crème caramel.

This year, the Islamic holy month looks different for Mr. Yousef, 52, a social studies teacher in the coastal city of Al Mukalla. He, his wife and their five children break their fast with bread, soup and vegetables. Earning the equivalent of $66 a month, he frets that his salary sometimes slips from his hands in less than two weeks, much of it to pay grocery bills.

“I’m fighting to make ends meet,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview, describing how even before Ramadan he had begun skipping meals to stretch his meager paychecks, yet could barely afford bus fare to his job at a primary school.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

5-Star Bird Houses for Picky but Precious Guests: Nesting Swiftlets

With no windows, the gloomy, gray building looming four stories above the rice fields in a remote village in Indonesian Borneo resembles nothing more than a prison.

Hundreds of similar concrete structures, riddled with small holes for ventilation, tower over village shops and homes all along Borneo’s northwestern coast.

But these buildings are not for people. They are for the birds. Specifically, the swiftlet, which builds its nests inside.


Map shows the location of Perapakan in the Sambas Regency on Borneo, Indonesia.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Israeli Army Withdraws From Major Gaza Hospital, Leaving Behind a Wasteland

The journalists were among a small group of international reporters brought by the Israeli Army to Al-Shifa Hospital on Sunday. To join the tour, the journalists agreed to stay with the Israeli forces at all times and not to photograph the faces of certain commandos.

Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, once the fulcrum of Gaza’s health system and now an emblem of its destruction, stood in ruins on Sunday, as if a tsunami had surged through it followed by a tornado.

The emergency department was a tidy, off-white building until Israeli troops returned there in March. Two weeks later, it was missing most of its facade, scorched with soot, and punctured with hundreds of bullets and shells.

The eastern floors of the surgery department were left open to the breeze, the walls blown off and the equipment buried under mounds of debris. The bridge connecting the two buildings was no longer there, and the plaza between them — formerly a circular driveway wrapping around a gazebo — had been churned by Israeli armored vehicles into a wasteland of uprooted trees, upturned cars and a half-crushed ambulance.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

A Stork, a Fisherman and Their Unlikely Bond Enchant Turkey

Ben Hubbard and

Reporting from Eskikaraagac, Turkey

Thirteen years ago, a poor fisherman in a small Turkish village was retrieving his net from a lake when he heard a noise behind him and turned to find a majestic being standing on the bow of his rowboat.

Gleaming white feathers covered its head, neck and chest, yielding to black plumes on its wings. It stood atop skinny orange legs that nearly matched the color of its long, pointy beak.

The fisherman, Adem Yilmaz, recognized it as one of the white storks that had long summered in the village, he recalled, but he had never seen one so close, much less hosted one on his boat.


Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

The Japanese Sensei Bringing Baseball to Brazil

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro

Leer en español

Yukihiro Shimura always arrives first. He quietly puts on his baseball uniform. He rakes the dirt field meditatively. He picks up the coconut husks and dog poop. And, finally, when he finishes, he bows to Rio de Janeiro’s only baseball field.

Then his misfit team — including a geologist, graphic designer, English teacher, film student, voice actor and motorcycle delivery man — starts to form. Most are in their 20s and 30s, and some are still learning the basics of throwing, catching and swinging a bat.

It was not what Mr. Shimura envisioned when he signed up for this gig. “In my mind, the age range would be 15 to 18,” he said. “I should have asked.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

From New England to Notre-Dame, a U.S. Carpenter Tends to a French Icon

Notre-Dame Cathedral sat in the pre-dawn chill like a spaceship docked in the heart of Paris, its exoskeleton of scaffolding lit by bright lights. Pink clouds appeared to the east as machinery hummed to life and workers started clambering around.

One of them, Hank Silver, wearing a yellow hard hat, stood on a platform above the Seine River and attached cables to oak trusses shaped like massive wooden triangles. A crane hoisted them onto the nave of the cathedral, which was devastated by fire in 2019.

Mr. Silver — a 41-year-old American-Canadian carpenter — is something of an unlikely candidate to work on the restoration of an 860-year-old Gothic monument and Catholic landmark in France. Born in New York City into an observant Jewish family, he owns a small timber framing business in rural New England and admits that until recently he didn’t even know what a nave was.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

Insooni Breaks Racial Barrier to Become Beloved Singer in South Korea

When she took the stage to perform at Carnegie Hall in front of 107 Korean War veterans, the singer Kim Insoon was thinking of her father, an American soldier stationed in South Korea during the postwar decades whom she had never met or even seen.

“You are my fathers,” she told the soldiers in the audience before singing “Father,” one of her Korean-language hits.

“To me, the United States has always been my father’s country,” Ms. Kim said in a recent interview, recalling that 2010 performance. “It was also the first place where I wanted to show how successful I had become — without him and in spite of him.”

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

‘Get Ready to Scream’: How to Be a Baseball Fan in South Korea

In the United States, many Major League Baseball games feature long periods of calm, punctuated by cheering when there’s action on the field or the stadium organ plays a catchy tune.

But in South Korea, a baseball game is a sustained sensory overload. Each player has a fight song, and cheering squads — including drummers and dancers who stand on platforms near the dugouts facing the spectators — ensure that there is near-constant chanting. Imagine being at a ballpark where every player, even a rookie, gets the star treatment.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

Leer en español

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

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.

Subscribe to The Times to read as many articles as you like.

El asesinato de un desertor ruso reaviva el temor por los escuadrones de la muerte

Los hombres que mataron a Maksim Kuzminov querían enviar un mensaje. Esto era evidente para los investigadores españoles incluso antes de descubrir quién era. Los asesinos no solo le dispararon seis veces en un estacionamiento del sur de España, sino que pasaron por encima de su cuerpo con el auto.

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

También dejaron una pista importante sobre su identidad, según los investigadores: casquillos de balas de pistolas Makarov de 9 milímetros, una munición estándar del antiguo bloque comunista.

“Era un mensaje claro”, dijo un alto funcionario de la Guardia Civil, la autoridad policial española que supervisa la investigación del asesinato. “Te encontraré, te mataré, te atropellaré y te humillaré”.

Kuzminov desertó de Rusia a Ucrania el verano pasado, pilotando su helicóptero militar Mi-8 hasta territorio ucraniano donde entregó la aeronave además de un conjunto de documentos secretos a agentes de los servicios de inteligencia ucranianos. Al hacerlo, cometió el único delito que el presidente de Rusia, Vladimir Putin, ha dicho una y otra vez que nunca perdonará: la traición.

Su asesinato en la localidad costera de Villajoyosa el mes pasado ha hecho surgir el temor de que las redes de espionaje rusas en Europa sigan operando y tengan como objetivo a los enemigos del Kremlin, a pesar de los esfuerzos concertados para desmantelarlas después de que Putin invadiera Ucrania en 2022.

Los servicios de inteligencia de Rusia se han puesto en pie de guerra y han comenzado a operar a un nivel de agresividad en el país y en el extranjero que recuerda a la era de Stalin, dijo Andrei Soldatov, autor y experto en los servicios militares y de seguridad de Rusia.

“Ya no se trata de espionaje convencional”, dijo. “Se trata de operaciones, y estas operaciones pueden incluir asesinatos”.

En España, Kuzminov llevaba “una vida indiscreta”, según el alto funcionario de la Guardia Civil. Acudía a bares populares entre la clientela rusa y ucraniana, gastando el dinero que había recibido del Estado ucraniano. Se desplazaba por Villajoyosa en un Mercedes Clase S negro.

No se ha establecido cómo exactamente lo encontraron los asesinos, aunque dos altos funcionarios ucranianos dijeron que se había puesto en contacto con una antigua novia, que aún estaba en Rusia, y la había invitado a venir a verlo a España.

“Fue un grave error”, declaró uno de ellos.

Altos funcionarios policiales que hablaron bajo condición de anonimato dijeron que el asesinato tenía características de ataques similares vinculados al Kremlin, incluido el asesinato de un excomandante rebelde checheno en Berlín en 2019 y el envenenamiento del exagente de inteligencia militar ruso Sergei Skripal en Salisbury, Inglaterra, en 2018. Skripal sobrevivió.

Los dos asesinos encapuchados que aparecieron en las imágenes de las cámaras de vigilancia del estacionamiento del complejo de apartamentos donde residía Kuzminov eran claramente profesionales que llevaron a cabo su misión y desaparecieron rápidamente, dijeron agentes policiales.

“No es habitual aquí en España que tiroteen con mucha munición, de forma muy contundente”, dijo Pepe Álvarez, jefe de la Policía Local de Villajoyosa. “Esos son indicios que apuntan a crimen organizado, a organización criminal, a profesionales”.

Aunque no han aparecido pruebas de la implicación directa del Kremlin, Rusia no había ocultado su deseo de ver muerto a Kuzminov. Semanas después de su deserción, el noticiero dominical del Kremlin emitió un segmento en el que se citaba a compañeros pilotos y comandos del servicio de inteligencia militar ruso que juraban venganza.

“Vamos a encontrar a esta persona y la vamos a castigar, con toda la severidad de las leyes de nuestro país, por traición a la patria y por traicionar a sus hermanos”, dijo uno de los comandos, que no fue identificado. “Al final encontraremos a todos. Nuestros brazos son largos”.

La deserción de Kuzminov fue un golpe para Ucrania, orquestado por una unidad encubierta del HUR, el brazo de inteligencia del ejército ucraniano. La unidad está especializada en reclutar combatientes rusos y dirigir agentes en territorio ruso para llevar a cabo misiones de sabotaje. Algunos soldados de la unidad han recibido formación especializada de la CIA sobre cómo operar en entornos hostiles.

Aunque la unidad había sido capaz de persuadir a algunos ciudadanos rusos y a veces a pequeños grupos de soldados para que desertaran, la audaz huida de Kuzminov —y el alto valor de lo que entregó— no tenía precedentes, dijo un alto funcionario ucraniano con conocimiento de la operación.

El éxito de los esfuerzos de Ucrania por reclutar desertores es difícil de cuantificar. Miles de ciudadanos rusos se han unido a unidades de voluntarios que luchan con el ejército ucraniano y, en ocasiones, han cruzado a territorio ruso para realizar incursiones relámpago en puestos fronterizos. Sin embargo, no parece que hayan cambiado el equilibrio de poder de forma significativa.

Kuzminov dijo en varias entrevistas que se desilusionó tras leer publicaciones de ucranianos en Internet.

“Comprendí quién estaba del lado del bien y quién del lado de la verdad”, declaró en una entrevista con un bloguero ucraniano.

A primera hora de la tarde del 9 de agosto de 2023, Kuzminov despegó en un helicóptero militar de un aeródromo de la región de Kursk, en el oeste de Rusia, para lo que se suponía que iba a ser una simple entrega de carga a otra base del país. Lo acompañaban en la cabina un técnico llamado Nikita Kiryanov y un navegante, Khushbakht Tursunov. Ninguno de los dos parecía estar al tanto de los planes de Kuzminov.

Poco después del despegue, Kuzminov apagó el equipo de comunicaciones por radio del helicóptero y descendió a una altitud de poco más de 6 metros para evitar los radares. Luego cruzó a Ucrania.

En entrevistas con los medios de comunicación ucranianos, Kuzminov se mostró evasivo sobre lo que ocurrió a continuación. Solo dijo que había aterrizado el helicóptero en un punto de encuentro acordado previamente en la región de Járkov, a poco más de 16 kilómetros de la frontera, donde fue recibido por comandos de la HUR.

“Todo salió bien”, dijo en una entrevista.

La realidad es más complicada. Cuando cruzó el país, Kuzminov sorprendió a un grupo de combatientes ucranianos, que abrieron fuego, según otro alto funcionario ucraniano. En la confusión, Kuzminov recibió un disparo en la pierna.

Lo que les ocurrió a sus compañeros de tripulación está menos claro. Un reportaje de la televisión rusa sobre ellos, citando a un médico forense, afirmaba que los dos habían muerto por disparos a corta distancia y sugería que Kuzminov los había matado antes de aterrizar. El alto oficial ucraniano que participó en la operación dijo que esto no era cierto.

“Nuestros soldados les dispararon”, dijo el funcionario. “De lo contrario, habrían matado a Kuzminov y podrían haber escapado en ese helicóptero”.

En entrevistas, Kuzminov dijo que sus compañeros de tripulación estaban desarmados, pero nunca explicó cómo murieron.

La HUR consideró claramente que la misión había sido un gran éxito. Poco después, el general Kyrylo Budanov, jefe de la inteligencia militar ucraniana, anunció que la operación daría confianza a otros soldados rusos que estaban considerando la posibilidad de desertar. La agencia de inteligencia incluso produjo un documental sobre la operación para mostrar su triunfo.

Kuzminov respondió a los medios de comunicación, dando una conferencia de prensa, concediendo entrevistas en las que denunciaba la guerra de Rusia y pedía a otros que siguieran su ejemplo.

“No se arrepentirán”, dijo en el documental. “Te cuidarán por el resto de tu vida”.

El gobierno ucraniano pagó a Kuzminov 500.000 dólares y le proporcionó un pasaporte ucraniano y un nombre falso: Ihor Shevchenko. También le ofrecieron la oportunidad de unirse a ellos en la lucha contra Rusia.

En lugar de ello, Kuzminov abandonó Ucrania en octubre y se dirigió a Villajoyosa, una pequeña ciudad de la costa mediterránea muy popular entre los turistas británicos y de Europa del Este. Allí se instaló en la novena planta de un modesto edificio de apartamentos a unos 10 minutos a pie de la playa.

Era una elección curiosa para alguien tan explícitamente señalado por las autoridades rusas para ser eliminado. La región es una conocida base de operaciones de figuras del crimen organizado ruso, algunas de las cuales mantienen vínculos con los servicios de inteligencia del país, según afirman las autoridades españolas.

En 2020, la policía española detuvo a más de 20 personas relacionadas con grupos delictivos rusos, algunas de las cuales operaban desde Alicante, en la misma provincia que Villajoyosa. Estas personas fueron acusadas de blanquear millones de dólares adquiridos mediante el tráfico de drogas y de seres humanos, la extorsión y los asesinatos por encargo, según las autoridades españolas.

Otro desertor militar ruso que se ha instalado en España y habló bajo condición de anonimato por razones de seguridad calificó la región donde se instaló Kuzminov de “zona roja” llena de agentes rusos. “Nunca iré allí”, dijo.

La mañana del 13 de febrero, un Hyundai Tucson blanco entró al estacionamiento del edificio de apartamentos de Kuzminov y aparcó en un lugar vacío entre los ascensores utilizados por los residentes y la rampa que da a la calle. Dos hombres esperaron allí durante varias horas, según el alto funcionario de la Guardia Civil.

Sobre las 4:20 p. m., Kuzminov entró en el estacionamiento, aparcó y empezó a caminar hacia los ascensores. Cuando pasó por delante del Hyundai blanco, los dos asaltantes salieron, lo llamaron y abrieron fuego. Aunque fue alcanzado por seis balas, la mayoría de ellas en el torso, Kuzminov consiguió correr una corta distancia antes de desplomarse en la rampa.

Los dos asesinos volvieron al coche y pasaron por encima del cuerpo de Kuzminov al salir. El vehículo fue encontrado a pocos kilómetros, quemado con la ayuda de lo que los investigadores creen que fue un acelerante especial. Los especialistas tardaron una semana en identificar la marca y el modelo del coche y determinar que había sido robado —dos días antes del asesinato— en Murcia, una ciudad situada a una hora de distancia.

Una unidad especial de la Guardia Civil está llevando a cabo la investigación bajo estrictas normas de confidencialidad. Las autoridades no han confirmado públicamente que Kuzminov fue la persona asesinada. Han tenido dificultades para ponerse en contacto con funcionarios ucranianos que pudieran ayudarles.

Pero entre la comunidad de expatriados rusos y ucranianos que viven en Villajoyosa no hay dudas sobre quién está detrás de la muerte.

“Todo el mundo cree que se lo llevaron los servicios”, dijo Ivan, de 31 años, que huyó de su ciudad natal, Jersón, Ucrania, al comienzo de la guerra. “Están por todas partes”.

El informe anual de España sobre amenazas a la seguridad nacional, publicado en marzo, decía que Rusia había renovado sus operaciones de inteligencia en el país tras la expulsión de 27 diplomáticos rusos por la guerra en Ucrania. Aunque menos en número, según el informe, los espías rusos siguieron buscando formas de “desestabilizar el apoyo de España a la OTAN.“

En el pasado, los funcionarios rusos se han enredado tratando de oscurecer la conexión del Kremlin con varios asesinatos en toda Europa, a menudo ante la clara evidencia de la participación del Estado. El caso de Kuzminov es diferente. Altos funcionarios rusos hablaron de su muerte con un regocijo apenas disimulado.

“Este traidor y criminal se convirtió en un cadáver moral en el momento en que planeó su crimen sucio y terrible”, dijo Sergei Naryshkin, director del servicio de inteligencia exterior de Rusia.

Dmitri Medvédev, expresidente ruso que ahora es vicepresidente del Consejo de Seguridad del país, dijo: “Un perro recibe una muerte de perro”.

En contraste con la gran fanfarria que acompañó a la deserción de Kuzminov, las autoridades ucranianas han guardado silencio sobre el asesinato. A los altos funcionarios les preocupa que pueda disuadir a otros de seguir su ejemplo.

Advertisement

SKIP ADVERTISEMENT

“¿Quién cooperará con nosotros después de esto?”, dijo uno de los altos funcionarios.

“Rusia difundirá intensamente la propaganda —ya lo está haciendo— de que encontrará a todos los traidores”, afirmó. “Este es un mensaje velado a otros ciudadanos de Rusia, especialmente al personal militar, de que los encontraremos si nos traicionan”.

Michael Schwirtz es reportero de investigación de la sección Internacional. Trabaja en el Times desde 2006, y ha cubierto a los países de la antigua Unión Soviética desde Moscú y es uno de los reporteros principales de un equipo que ganó el Premio Pulitzer 2020 por artículos sobre operaciones de inteligencia rusas. Más de Michael Schwirtz


La policía allana la casa de la presidenta de Perú en busca de relojes Rolex

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

La policía y la fiscalía de Perú llevaron a cabo un allanamiento sorpresa en la casa de la presidenta Dina Boluarte y en el palacio de gobierno a primera hora del sábado, como parte de una investigación por “enriquecimiento ilícito” tras las noticias de que se la había visto llevando relojes Rolex desde que asumió el cargo.

El allanamiento, que se produjo cuando los peruanos celebraban el feriado de Semana Santa, conmocionó a mucha gente, incluso en un país que se ha acostumbrado en las últimas dos décadas a que los políticos sean investigados por presunta corrupción.

Antes de la medianoche del Viernes Santo, la policía utilizó una comba para entrar por la fuerza en la casa de Boluarte en Lima, según la cobertura en directo de Latina Noticias. Los fiscales y la policía registraron a continuación el despacho de Boluarte y su residencia en el palacio de gobierno.

La presidenta no se había presentado esta semana a una cita programada con los fiscales para mostrarles tres relojes Rolex que ha usado y explicar su procedencia. También se negó a permitirles entrar en su casa para ejecutar una orden de registro, según el fiscal general Juan Villena, quien dijo a los legisladores que su negativa era “un claro indicador de rebeldía”.

La investigación a Boluarte comenzó el 18 de marzo, después de que el programa de noticias por internet La Encerrona reveló que la mandataria había empezado a llevar relojes cada vez más caros, entre ellos al menos un Rolex, desde que asumió el cargo en diciembre de 2022. Los fiscales sospechan que ha violado las leyes del país contra el enriquecimiento ilícito y no ha declarado bienes de lujo. En Perú, las autoridades electas deben informar al gobierno de cualquier activo cuyo valor supere los 10.300 soles, unos 2774 dólares, y consignar cualquier regalo recibido de terceros.

Los medios de comunicación locales han informado desde entonces que Boluarte ha llevado otros tres relojes Rolex, así como una pulsera Cartier de 50.000 dólares, y que las autoridades bancarias han detectado unos 300.000 dólares en depósitos de origen desconocido realizados en sus cuentas personales antes de que asumiera el cargo.

Según La Encerrona, los modelos de relojes Rolex que ha llevado cuestan al menos 14.000 dólares.

Boluarte ha negado haber cometido irregularidades, pero también se ha rehusado a explicar públicamente el origen de los Rolex, limitándose a decir que el primer reloj Rolex que llamó la atención era un artículo “de antaño”. “En mi ADN está no ser corrupta”, declaró a los periodistas. “Lo que tengo es fruto de mi esfuerzo y de mi trabajo”.

En un discurso televisado el sábado, Boluarte, flanqueada por los ministros de su gabinete, culpó a los medios de comunicación de crear “cortinas de humo” que alimentan el “caos” y la “incertidumbre”.

“Soy una mujer honesta. Entré a palacio de gobierno con las manos limpias y así me retiraré en el año 2026”, dijo. “Hoy marchemos por la verdad, por la idoneidad, por abrazarnos todos en un solo corazón”.

Los subordinados de Boluarte han sugerido otras explicaciones. Hania Pérez de Cuéllar, su ministra de Vivienda y exdirectora de la institución que protege la propiedad intelectual, sugirió que el Rolex podría ser falso y admitió haber comprado ella misma una réplica de un reloj de lujo en un viaje a China. Un abogado de Boluarte dijo a primera hora del sábado que podría haber recibido los relojes de un “fan” que quería permanecer en el anonimato.

El ministro de Justicia, Eduardo Arana, calificó la medida de los allanamientos de “inconstitucional” y “desproporcionada” y pidió a los legisladores y a la ciudadanía “unidad” ante lo que describió como un intento de desestabilizar al Gobierno.

“Se ha politizado la justicia”, dijo en rueda de prensa junto a otros ministros. “Estos hechos tienen un propósito de resquebrajar el Gobierno, resquebrajar la democracia y resquebrajar la institucionalidad”. Declinó responder a las preguntas de los periodistas.

No estaba claro si la polémica del Rolex le costaría a Boluarte un apoyo clave.

El Ministerio del Interior, que controla la Policía Nacional, expresó su apoyo a Boluarte, diciendo en un post en X que rechazaba “actos que afectan el desarrollo del país, encubiertos en cuestionables disposiciones judiciales”.

“Reafirmamos nuestro compromiso de continuar trabajando por el orden interno del país”, escribió el ministerio.

Algunos de los aliados de Boluarte en la derecha la culparon de dejar que la situación se agravara. Y los medios de comunicación, alguna vez afines, han adoptado por una postura más crítica, señal de que la paciencia puede estar agotándose entre sus partidarios.

La polémica sobre los relojes Rolex se produce en un momento en el que la economía flaquea y el hambre crece en Perú, un país que se ganó el elogio internacional por consolidar su democracia y aprovechar el auge de las materias primas impulsado por la minería para sacar a millones de sus ciudadanos de la pobreza. El programa de noticias de investigación Cuarto Poder informó que Boluarte lució un modelo de Rolex valorado en más de 18.000 dólares durante un acto celebrado en febrero para abordar la pobreza en poblaciones vulnerables.

Algunos analistas políticos dijeron que el escándalo podría abrir la puerta a una nueva ronda de agitación política en un país que ha tenido seis presidentes en los últimos seis años.

Todas las salidas a la crisis actual parecían conducir a “un callejón sin salida”, dijo en una entrevista el politólogo peruano Gonzalo Banda. Si seguía en el cargo, era probable que la confianza en la democracia disminuyera aún más, con consecuencias impredecibles, dijo.

“En Perú, hay una clase política que ya no responde a los ciudadanos, por lo que los ciudadanos están cada vez más alejados de la política, más descontentos con la política, más hartos de la política, lo que no significa que no presten atención”, dijo Banda. “Todo ese descontento se va a desatar en las nuevas elecciones”.

Según una encuesta realizada en enero, Boluarte es la presidenta menos popular de América Latina, con un índice de aprobación de solo el 9 por ciento.

Antigua funcionaria convertida en política de un partido marxista, fue vicepresidenta del presidente Pedro Castillo. Le sucedió después de que este fuera destituido en 2022 y arrestado por anunciar que iba a tomar el control del Congreso y del sistema judicial.

La decisión de Boluarte de sustituir a Castillo en lugar de renunciar —como prometió en una ocasión que haría para dar paso a nuevas elecciones— desencadenó violentas protestas contra su gobierno a finales de 2022 y principios de 2023, con 49 civiles muertos en represiones policiales y militares. Actualmente está siendo investigada por la fiscalía nacional de derechos humanos.

Boluarte es también coautora de un libro sobre legislación de derechos humanos que está siendo investigado por plagio.

Antes de asumir el cargo, Boluarte ganaba 1100 dólares al mes como funcionaria de la institución estatal que elabora los documentos de identidad. Como ministra, ganaba unos 8000 dólares al mes, y como presidenta gana algo más de 4000 dólares al mes.

Mientras las autoridades retiraban cajas de las residencias de Boluarte, un legislador anunció que su antiguo partido de izquierda había conseguido apoyo suficiente para una moción de vacancia en el Congreso, donde Boluarte se ha apoyado en una coalición de partidos de derecha y de centro para sobrevivir.

Aunque solo se requieren 26 votos para una moción de vacancia, se necesitan 87 votos —o dos tercios de los legisladores— para su aprobación.

Desde 2016, cuando los escándalos de corrupción consecutivos comenzaron a alimentar batallas políticas de alto riesgo en Perú, dos presidentes, Castillo y Martín Vizcarra, han sido destituidos. Uno de ellos, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, dimitió para evitar la destitución. Todos los expresidentes peruanos vivos, excepto uno, Francisco Sagasti, que gobernó desde finales de 2020 hasta mediados de 2021, han sido investigados por corrupción o abusos de los derechos humanos. En 2019, el expresidente Alan García se suicidó para evitar ser detenido.

El congresista Alejandro Muñante, del partido de extrema derecha Renovación Popular, dijo en X que Boluarte no se había hecho ningún favor con su silencio en las últimas semanas.

“Callar le ha costado mucho a la presidenta y le seguirá costando si sigue optando por esta pésima estrategia de defensa”, dijo Muñante. “Boluarte aún está a tiempo de aclararlo. Si no lo hace, una nueva sucesión no sería nada descabellada”.


Un fotógrafo del Times viajó a Gaza. Esto es lo que vio

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

La enorme puerta trasera del avión de carga de la fuerza aérea jordana baja lentamente como una rígida mandíbula de hierro, revelando un cielo azul brumoso y, mucho más abajo, el golpeado paisaje del norte de Gaza.

En la cavernosa bodega del avión, la ayuda a entregar por la tripulación está alineada en hileras ordenadas: fardos de cajas que llegan hasta el pecho apiladas sobre palés de madera, cada uno de ellos cubierto con envoltura retráctil y pesadas correas y marcado con imágenes de la bandera de Jordania.

Ahora, en medio de la luz y el ruido, los bultos se deslizan por los rodillos del suelo y desaparecen por la puerta, flotando bajo ondulantes paracaídas como una ofrenda silenciosa, y muy probablemente insuficiente, a la desesperada población que se halla abajo.

Mientras los grupos humanitarios y otros advierten sobre una hambruna inminente en el norte de Gaza y el hambre generalizada en todo el territorio, las entregas aéreas están desempeñando un papel destacado en los esfuerzos por brindar alimentos, agua y suministros urgentes a los palestinos.

El jueves, las fuerzas aéreas jordanas permitieron que un fotógrafo de The New York Times viajara en uno de sus aviones para observar la entrega aérea de paquetes de ayuda en el norte de Gaza. El viaje, que despegó y regresó de la base aérea jordana Rey Abdullah II, al este de Amán, duró varias horas.

Países como Jordania, Estados Unidos, Reino Unido y Francia afirman que las entregas están ayudando a compensar la fuerte caída de la cantidad de ayuda que entra en Gaza por camión desde el 7 de octubre, cuando Hamás dirigió un ataque mortal contra Israel, e Israel respondió con una ofensiva militar de varios meses.

La Organización de las Naciones Unidas y los grupos de ayuda se han quejado de que las entregas por camión se están viendo ralentizadas por la insistencia de Israel en inspeccionar todos los suministros que entran en Gaza. La mayoría de los camiones de ayuda solo pueden entrar por dos pasos fronterizos, uno desde Egipto y otro desde Israel, en el sur de Gaza.

Israel ha afirmado que la desorganización entre los grupos de ayuda es responsable de la lentitud de las entregas de ayuda a los palestinos y que gran parte de la ayuda se desvía a Hamás o al mercado negro, aunque no es posible verificar estas afirmaciones.

Una de las pocas alternativas es la entrega de suministros desde el cielo, un proceso que solo lleva unos minutos en el aire, pero mucha burocracia y horas de preparación en tierra.

Según los jordanos, las decenas de palés que salieron de los aviones el jueves incluían miles de comidas preparadas. Pero las entregas aéreas son ineficaces y costosas, afirmaron los funcionarios de organizaciones humanitarias, ya que incluso los grandes aviones militares de carga entregan menos de lo que podría hacer un convoy de camiones.

Además, las entregas aéreas pueden ser peligrosas: esta semana, las autoridades de Gaza declararon que 12 personas murieron ahogadas mientras intentaban recuperar ayuda que había caído al océano.

Una nueva estrategia contra las inundaciones: las ‘ciudades esponja’

En la era del cambio climático, las ciudades de todo el mundo se enfrentan a un reto de enormes proporciones: lluvias torrenciales potentes que convierten las calles en ríos e inundan sistemas de metro y barrios residenciales, a menudo con consecuencias mortales.

Kongjian Yu, arquitecto paisajista y profesor de la Universidad de Pekín, está desarrollando una respuesta que podría parecer contraria a la intuición: dejar entrar el agua.

“No se puede luchar contra el agua”, afirmó. “Hay que adaptarse a ella”.

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

En lugar de poner más tuberías de desagüe, construir muros de contención y canalizar los ríos entre diques de concreto, que es el planteamiento habitual para gestionar el agua, Yu quiere disipar la fuerza destructiva de las crecidas ralentizándolas y dándoles espacio para extenderse.

Yu denomina a este concepto “ciudad esponja” y explica que es como “hacer taichí con el agua”, una referencia al arte marcial chino en el que la energía y los movimientos del oponente se redirigen, no se resisten.

“Es toda una filosofía, una nueva manera de lidiar con el agua”, afirmó.

A través de su empresa Turenscape, con sede en Pekín, una de las mayores del mundo en arquitectura paisajística, Yu ha supervisado el desarrollo de cientos de parques acuáticos urbanos en China, donde se canaliza la corriente de las crecidas repentinas para que penetre en el suelo o sea absorbida por humedales artificiales.

Yu relató que su infancia en un pueblo de la provincia de Zhejiang, al final de la Revolución Cultural, le enseñó cómo las generaciones anteriores de la China rural se habían “hecho amigas del agua”. Los agricultores de su región construyeron terrazas, terraplenes y estanques para dirigir y almacenar el exceso de agua durante la temporada de lluvias.

Esto contrasta con los paisajes urbanos de la China moderna. Tradicionalmente, las ciudades chinas reservaban zonas capaces de absorber el agua de las inundaciones. Pero este diseño urbano respetuoso con la naturaleza terminó en gran parte con la Revolución Industrial, explicó Yu. En tiempos recientes, se pavimentaron millones de hectáreas para construir ciudades, algunas de las cuales se han erigido prácticamente de la noche a la mañana.

“Llevamos 200 años utilizando la infraestructura de drenaje convencional y no hemos resuelto el problema de las inundaciones”, dijo Yu, quien señaló que la mayor parte de China tiene un clima monzónico con lluvias torrenciales que suponen un peligro cada vez mayor a medida que avanza el cambio climático. Ello se debe a que el aire caliente puede retener más humedad, lo que provoca tormentas más intensas.

Según Yu, en la actualidad, el 65 por ciento de las zonas urbanas de China sufren algún grado de inundación cada año. Además, ahora el país es el mayor productor mundial de gases de efecto invernadero. Estados Unidos es el mayor emisor histórico.

“Los sistemas de drenaje de hormigón que llegaron desde Occidente no pueden con esto”, afirmó Yu. “Necesitamos una solución nueva”.

El presidente Xi Jinping inauguró de manera oficial el programa de ciudades esponja en 2015, con proyectos piloto en 16 ciudades chinas, y desde entonces se ha ampliado a más de 640 lugares en 250 municipios de todo el país.

El concepto puede apreciarse en el parque Houtan, una franja verde de poco más de un kilómetro y medio de longitud junto al río Huangpu, en Shanghái, que Yu diseñó donde antes había un parque industrial.

Las terrazas plantadas con bambú y plantas endémicas están divididas por pasarelas de madera que zigzaguean entre estanques y humedales artificiales. Los humedales filtran el agua, ralentizan el caudal del río y sirven de hábitat a aves acuáticas y peces que desovan.

La meta, al menos en teoría, es que para 2030 el 70 por ciento de la lluvia que cae en las ciudades esponja de China durante fenómenos meteorológicos extremos se absorba en el lugar en vez de acumularse en las calles.

La cuestión clave es si se podrán convertir suficientes terrenos para esto.

Edmund Penning-Rowsell, investigador asociado de la Universidad de Oxford especializado en seguridad hídrica, afirmó que la escala de los proyectos de ciudades esponja tendría que ser enorme para hacer frente a las inundaciones por sí solas. “Por ejemplo, Nueva York”, dijo. “¿Cuántos Central Park se necesitarían para absorber este tipo de problema? Tal vez necesitarías la mitad de Manhattan”.

Zhengzhou, en el noreste de China, a orillas del río Amarillo, fue una de las primeras ciudades que adoptó con entusiasmo el concepto de ciudad esponja e invirtió cientos de millones de dólares en la construcción de proyectos relacionados entre 2016 y 2021. Pero las lluvias torrenciales inundaron gran parte de la ciudad en julio de 2021, lo cual generó destrucción y causó centenares de muertos, entre ellos al menos 14 en un túnel del metro.

¿Por qué las inundaciones en Zhengzhou fueron tan desastrosas? Yu explicó que parte del dinero destinado a proyectos de áreas de absorción se desvió a otros programas y que el terreno reservado para este fin fue insuficiente. Si las superficies permeables o los espacios verdes ocupan entre el 20 y el 40 por ciento de la superficie de una ciudad, dijo, “casi queda resuelto el problema de las inundaciones urbanas”.

Niall Kirkwood, profesor de arquitectura paisajista en Harvard que conoce a Yu desde hace años, reconoció que puede ser difícil, y a veces imposible, reconvertir terrenos en centros urbanos que ya cuentan con una urbanización densa. Sin embargo, afirmó que el impacto de Yu como innovador ha sido incalculable.

“Ha creado una idea clara y elegante de mejora de la naturaleza, de asociación con la naturaleza, que todo el mundo (el ciudadano de a pie, el alcalde de una ciudad, un ingeniero, incluso un niño) puede entender”, afirmó Kirkwood.

Y donde no se dispone de grandes extensiones de terreno, los proyectos de ciudades esponja sustituyen el hormigón y el asfalto por pavimento permeable, instalan tejados verdes y crean zanjas llamadas drenajes sostenibles (bioswales) que canalizan la escorrentía de las aguas pluviales y utilizan la vegetación para filtrar los residuos y la contaminación.

John Beardsley, curador del Premio Internacional Oberlander de Arquitectura Paisajista, que se otorgó a Yu el año pasado, coincidió con Kirkwood y afirmó que la repercusión de Yu en la política de China, un país más proclive a encarcelar a los activistas medioambientales que a tomarse en serio sus mensajes, ha sido asombrosa.

Beardsley lo atribuye a las ingeniosas habilidades políticas de Yu y a su entusiasmo contagioso, así como al poderoso incentivo del gobierno chino para aparentar que aborda el problema de las inundaciones urbanas, que ha crecido de forma alarmante en los últimos años.

“Kongjian ha sabido ser muy crítico con las políticas medioambientales del gobierno sin dejar de ejercer su profesión ni sus nombramientos académicos”, afirmó. “Es a la vez valiente y hábil en este sentido, pues se mueve en un terreno muy difícil”.

“Las ciudades esponja no son una solución total, pero tienen un impacto significativo”, dijo Beardsley. “Tenemos que empezar a hacer algo”.


La mayoría de los estadounidenses desaprueba las acciones de Israel en Gaza, según una nueva encuesta

Una mayoría de estadounidenses desaprueba las acciones militares de Israel en Gaza, en un pronunciado cambio desde noviembre, según una nueva encuesta publicada por Gallup el miércoles.

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

En una encuesta realizada entre el 1 y el 20 de marzo, el 55 por ciento de los adultos estadounidenses manifestó que desaprobaba las acciones militares de Israel, lo que supone un aumento de 10 puntos porcentuales respecto a cuatro meses antes, según Gallup.

La aprobación por parte de los estadounidenses de la conducta de Israel en la guerra descendió por un margen aún mayor, del 50 por ciento en noviembre, un mes después del comienzo de la guerra, al 36 por ciento en marzo, mientras que la proporción de estadounidenses que dijeron no tener opinión sobre el tema aumentó ligeramente del 4 por ciento al 9 por ciento.

Los resultados son la prueba más reciente del descontento cada vez mayor de los estadounidenses con Israel a lo largo de los cinco meses en los que han muerto más de 32.000 palestinos en Gaza, entre ellos casi 14.000 niños, según las autoridades de salud locales y las Naciones Unidas. Las autoridades israelíes afirman que unas 1200 personas murieron en Israel durante el ataque dirigido por Hamás el 7 de octubre.

La encuesta de Gallup reveló que la aprobación estadounidense de las acciones militares de Israel descendió en todo el espectro político: aunque la mayoría de los republicanos seguía manifestando su aprobación, esa cifra descendió del 71 por ciento en noviembre al 64 por ciento en marzo. La aprobación de los independientes bajó del 47 por ciento al 29 por ciento, y la de los demócratas, del 36 por ciento al 18 por ciento.

Una encuesta de AP-NORC realizada a finales de enero reveló que la mitad de los adultos estadounidenses consideraban que la respuesta militar de Israel en Gaza había “ido demasiado lejos”, frente a cuatro de cada 10 en noviembre. Esa encuesta también mostró un aumento de la desaprobación pública en todos los partidos políticos, de unos 15 puntos porcentuales para los republicanos, 13 para los independientes y cinco para los demócratas.

Otra encuesta reciente del Pew Research Center —que, al igual que Gallup y AP-NORC, es un líder bien considerado en el sector de las encuestas— encontró cismas importantes en la opinión pública entre segmentos generacionales y religiosos. Los adultos más jóvenes y los musulmanes estadounidenses eran significativamente más propensos que los adultos de más edad y los estadounidenses judíos a decir que la forma en que Israel estaba llevando a cabo su respuesta al ataque de Hamás del 7 de octubre era inaceptable, según la encuesta realizada entre mediados y finales de febrero.

Se realizó un sobremuestreo de estadounidenses musulmanes y judíos, ponderado para reflejar su proporción respectiva en la población total, con el fin de analizar sus opiniones de forma más fiable y por separado.

Anushka Patil es reportera y cubre noticias en directo. Se unió al Times en 2019. Más de Anushka Patil


2 thoughts on “The New York Times 2024-04-02 10:17:52

  1. I sincerely appreciated the effort you’ve invested here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material chic, however, you seem to have developed some uneasiness about what you aim to offer henceforth. Certainly, I shall revisit more regularly, just as I have been doing nearly all the time, should you uphold this climb.

  2. Thank you for your response! If you have any specific questions, topics, or areas of interest you’d like to discuss, feel free to share them. Whether it’s about technology, science, literature, or any other subject, I’m here to provide information and assistance. Just let me know how I can help you further, and I’ll do my best to assist you!

Comments are closed.