The New York Times 2024-04-03 10:10:53

Middle East Crisis: Israeli Strikes on Aid Convoy Prompts Condemnation and an Apology From Netanyahu

The killings of the aid workers drew condemnation from governments around the world.

Israeli strikes on an aid convoy in the Gaza Strip that killed seven workers for the charity group World Central Kitchen set off international outrage and prompted an unusual apology from the wartime Israeli government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has rejected almost unequivocally international criticism over his nation’s prosecution of the war against Hamas, said Tuesday night that Israel “deeply regrets the tragic incident.”

“Our hearts go out to their families and to their home countries,” Mr. Netanyahu said of the dead aid workers.

The World Central Kitchen workers were traveling in clearly marked cars when they came under fire. The workers included citizens of the United States, Poland, Australia and three from Britain.

The Israeli military acknowledged it was responsible for the strike on the convoy in a video posted to social media on Wednesday morning, calling it “a grave mistake.” Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military chief of staff, said that an independent body would investigate the killings.

World Central Kitchen, which has become an important player in delivering supplies to a territory in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, said on Tuesday it was suspending its operations in the region. A second aid agency, American Near East Refugee Aid, said it too was suspending its operations in Gaza.

In a statement on Tuesday night, President Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the aid workers’ deaths and criticized Israel for not doing enough to protect aid workers and civilians.

“This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the U.S. government had spoken to the Israeli authorities about the strike and urged a swift and impartial investigation. He offered praise for the aid workers.

“These people are heroes,” Mr. Blinken said. “They run into the fire, not away from it. They show the best of what humanity really has to offer when the going gets tough. They have to be protected.”

And David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, called the killings “completely unacceptable” and said, “Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure the safety of aid workers.”

The war in the Gaza Strip has proved exceptionally dangerous for aid workers. At least 196 have been killed there since the fighting began on Oct. 7, according to the United Nations, citing a figure from March 20.

World Central Kitchen said in a statement that its team had been hit after unloading food at a warehouse in central Gaza and leaving in two armored cars and another vehicle. The group said the convoy was hit despite having coordinated its movements with the Israeli military.

A spokesman for Israel’s military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said that Israel’s military “has been working closely with the World Central Kitchen to assist them in fulfilling their noble mission of helping bring food and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.” The group had come to the aid of Israel after the attack by Hamas on Oct. 7, he said, describing it as being on the “front lines of humanity.”

Graphic video footage that circulated after the strike showed several bodies, some in protective gear with World Central Kitchen patches.

Reporting was contributed by Cassandra Vinograd, Damien Cave, Aric Toler, Anushka Patil, Daniel Victor, Victoria Kim and Natasha Frost.

What we know about the Israeli strike that killed 7 aid workers.

Seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen were killed in the Gaza Strip when their convoy came under fire on Monday night, according to the aid organization and Gazan health officials.

The disaster relief organization, founded by the Spanish chef José Andrés, said the convoy was hit in an Israeli strike. In a statement following the attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel referred to a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people.” He said Israel was in touch with foreign governments over the episode.

Here’s what we know.

The convoy of three vehicles had just left a food warehouse.

The World Central Kitchen staff members were leaving a warehouse in Deir al Balah, a city in the central Gaza Strip, when their convoy — two armored cars and a third vehicle — came under fire late Monday, the organization said in a statement.

The Israeli military had been informed of the aid workers’ movements, the charity said. Aid workers had just unloaded more than 100 tons of food brought to Gaza by sea at the warehouse, according to the group.

Videos and photos verified by The New York Times suggest the convoy was hit multiple times. The imagery shows three destroyed white vehicles, with the northernmost and southernmost vehicles nearly a mile and a half apart.

The World Central Kitchen logo could be seen on items inside the charred interiors of the northernmost and southernmost cars. The car in the middle was left with a gaping hole in its roof, which was clearly marked with the group’s logo. All three vehicles, though far apart from each other, were on or near the Al-Rashid coastal road.

It remained unclear on Tuesday morning what sort of munition struck the cars and whether those explosives were launched from the ground, a warplane or a drone.

Six foreign citizens and a Palestinian were killed.

World Central Kitchen said one of those killed was a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, while the others were from Australia, Britain, Gaza and Poland. In a post with the victims’ names and ages on the group’s website, its chief executive, Erin Gore, said “We are reeling from our loss.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia identified one of the victims as Zomi Frankcom, an Australian citizen and a senior manager at World Central Kitchen. “The tributes flowing for Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom tell the story of a life dedicated to the service of others, including her fellow Australians during natural disasters,” Penny Wong, the country’s foreign minister, said on social media.

Damian Sobol, an aid worker from the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl, died in the attack, according to the city’s mayor, Wojciech Bakun. “There are no words to describe what people who knew this fantastic guy feel at this moment,” he said in a post on social media.

David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, said on social media that three of the aid workers who were killed were British citizens. The BBC reported their names: John Chapman, James Henderson and James Kirby. Local British media outlets described Mr. Chapman and Mr. Henderson as former Royal Marines who later turned to volunteer work.

Jacob Flickinger, who also died in the attack, was a 33-year-old dual citizen of the United States and Canada, according to the World Central Kitchen, and worked on the group’s relief team.

Palestinian medics retrieved the bodies of the seven victims and took them to a hospital in Deir al Balah, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. The bodies of the foreigners were to be taken out of Gaza into Egypt, the group said.

Saif Abutaha, a 25-year-old Gazan working as a driver and translator for World Central Kitchen, also died in the attack. Mr. Abutaha was an enterprising young man who worked in his father’s business and spoke good English, his brother Shadi said.

Mr. Abutaha and other World Central Kitchen workers were thrilled to have the opportunity to unload the desperately needed food aid. “They were so excited, like they were going to a wedding,” his brother said. It was the last time he saw him.

Mr. Cameron said on social media that “it is essential that humanitarian workers are protected and able to carry out their work.” He called on Israel “to immediately investigate and provide a full, transparent explanation of what happened.”

At least 196 aid workers were killed in Gaza and the West Bank between October 2023 and late March, according to Jamie McGoldrick, a senior U.N. relief official. “This is not an isolated incident,” he said, later adding: “There is no safe place left in Gaza.”

The prime minister appeared to take responsibility for the ‘unintentional’ attack.

In a video statement on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel referred to a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally harming innocent people in the Gaza Strip.” Mr. Netanyahu did not name World Central Kitchen in his remarks.

But an Israeli official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the strike was still under investigation, clarified that the prime minister was referring to the strike.

“It happens in war, we are fully examining this, we are in contact with the governments, and we will do everything so that this thing does not happen again,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

An Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an internal investigation, said the military had concluded it was responsible for the strike on the convoy. Gen. Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military chief of staff, is expected to review findings of an initial inquiry into the incident on Tuesday evening, the official said.

A spokesman for Israel’s military, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said the investigation had been referred to the Fact Finding and Assessment Mechanism, a military body tasked with investigating accusations and looking into the circumstances behind battlefield episodes. “We will be opening a probe to examine this serious incident further,” he said. “This will help us reduce the risk of such an event from occurring again.”

The Israeli military said the mechanism was an “independent, professional and expert body.” Human rights groups have generally been critical of the Israeli military’s ability to transparently investigate itself, charging that inquiries are often long and rarely lead to indictments.

The World Central Kitchen aid ship is headed back to Cyprus.

At the time of the strike, workers had unloaded 100 tons of aid from the Jennifer, a World Central Kitchen vessel that had left the Cypriot port of Larnaca last weekend and arrived in Gaza on Monday. Another 240 tons were to be unloaded on Tuesday, according to Theodoros Gotsis, a spokesman for the Cypriot foreign ministry.

Mr. Gotsis said that the Jennifer instead left Gaza to sail back to Larnaca on Tuesday. He added that several more tons of aid were waiting at warehouses in Larnaca, but that it was not clear when and whether a mission to deliver them would take place.

Patrick Kingsley, Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Gabby Sobelman, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Lauren Leatherby, Nader Ibrahim and Kim Severson contributed reporting to this article.

A protest turns into a ‘riot’ outside Netanyahu’s Jerusalem home, the police say.

The Israeli police clashed with antigovernment protesters outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem overnight, on the third day of demonstrations calling for early elections and his ouster.

The chaotic scenes drew an appeal for calm and unity from Mr. Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz, on Wednesday morning.

“We must not accept violence from any side, we must not accept ignoring police instructions and breaking barriers as we saw last night in Jerusalem,” he wrote on X. “A protest is legitimate, the pain is also understandable, but the law and the rules of the game must be respected.”

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Jerusalem since Sunday, when a planned four-day antigovernment protest began outside Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. Many protesters have camped out in tents outside the Knesset, where the demonstrations have swelled each evening.

The protest and an authorized march started peacefully on Tuesday night but then turned into what the Israeli police force called an unbridled “riot.” It said in a statement that hundreds of people had tried to break through barriers near Mr. Netanyahu’s house but were blocked by police officers.

Dozens of people caused disorder in the street afterward, the police said, forcing officers to deploy riot control measures. Five people were arrested and one officer was injured in the melee, the police force added.

Photographs of the scene showed that the police used water cannons to disperse protesters, many of whom carried Israeli flags.

There was no immediate comment about the latest protest from Mr. Netanyahu, who earlier on Tuesday was released from the hospital where he had been recovering from surgery to treat a hernia.

Many of the protesters accuse Mr. Netanyahu of prioritizing his political survival over the broader interests of the Israeli people and hold him responsible for his government’s failure to prevent the Oct. 7 attack led by Hamas. He also has been accused of not doing enough to bring home the hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.

Posters bearing the names and faces of the hostages have been ever-present at the protests, along with signs and banners reading “Bring Them Home.”

Many Israelis have refrained from protesting the government during the war. While this week’s protests have been some of the most significant demonstrations against Mr. Netanyahu’s government since the war began, the crowds have appeared smaller than those at the demonstrations last year at the peak of a wave of antigovernment protests, which the prime minister’s coalition survived.

Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

Israeli military issues rare mea culpa, taking responsibility for an airstrike that killed 7 aid workers.

Israel’s top military commander formally acknowledged on Wednesday that its military had made a “grave mistake” and apologized for the attack on an aid convoy that killed seven workers from the charity group World Central Kitchen, a rare admission of fault by Israel in the six-month-old war in the Gaza Strip.

“It was a mistake that followed a misidentification, at night, during the war, in a very complex condition,” the Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, said in a video. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

General Halevi’s mea culpa marked a change in tone from Israel’s military, which throughout the war has largely rejected criticism of its actions by arguing that it was doing what was necessary to defeat Hamas. It came as many of Israel’s closest allies voiced indignation and demanded explanations for the attack.

President Biden said he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths of the humanitarian workers.

“Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen,” he said in a statement.

And David Cameron, the British foreign secretary, called the workers’ deaths “completely unacceptable,” saying in a statement that “Israel must urgently explain how this happened and make major changes to ensure the safety of aid workers.”

The World Central Kitchen workers — a Palestinian, an Australian, a Pole, three Britons and a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen — were traveling in clearly marked cars after leaving a warehouse in Deir al Balah, in central Gaza, when their convoy came under fire late Monday, the organization said in a statement. The Israeli military had been informed of the workers’ movements, the charity said.

The killings drew condemnation from countries around the world, including those of the people killed, and prompted aid agencies to reassess their operations in Gaza. World Central Kitchen, which was founded by the renowned chef José Andrés, said on Tuesday that it was suspending its operations in Gaza.

Throughout the war, Palestinians and relief organizations have accused Israel of bombing indiscriminately, heedless of civilian casualties — claims Israel has consistently denied. The killing of aid workers from countries that have backed Israel could add fuel to rising international anger over the way it has conducted the war.

General Halevi said that an independent body would investigate the killings, and that the military would learn from the conclusions and share the findings with World Central Kitchen.

“Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza,” General Halevi said. “We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of the W.C.K. We share in the grief of the families, as well as the entire World Central Kitchen organization, from the bottom of our hearts.”

The remarks from General Halevi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who said on social media that Israel “deeply regrets the tragic incident” — came within 24 hours of the strike.

In December, it took several days for the Israeli military to acknowledge that it had carried out two airstrikes in the central Gaza Strip that health officials in the enclave said had killed dozens of civilians.

Biden denounces killing of aid workers, saying Israel has ‘not done enough to protect civilians.’

President Biden on Tuesday strongly condemned the killing of seven humanitarian aid workers in a strike by Israeli forces, saying that Israel has “not done enough to protect civilians” in its war in Gaza.

In a sharply worded statement, Mr. Biden said that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by the deaths of the workers, who included a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. The seven workers, traveling in a convoy, were with World Central Kitchen, a charity that was helping to feed starving Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Mr. Biden noted that the deaths were not a “stand-alone incident,” and that the “conflict has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed.”

The president’s blunt criticism of an ally highlighted his growing impatience with Israel’s conduct of the war and increasing tensions with its leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the death toll in Gaza has climbed, according to Gazan health authorities, past 32,000.

That figure includes more than 200 aid workers since the fighting began on Oct. 7, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday. World Central Kitchen announced that it would pause its aid operations after the killings, a move that stands to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is on the brink of famine.

“This is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult — because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers trying to deliver desperately needed help to civilians,” Mr. Biden said. “Incidents like yesterday’s simply should not happen. Israel has also not done enough to protect civilians.”

Mr. Biden said he had spoken with José Andrés, the renowned chef who founded World Central Kitchen, which has helped respond to some of the biggest humanitarian crises around the globe since its creation in 2010. “They were providing food to hungry civilians in the middle of a war,” Mr. Biden said of the workers. “They were brave and selfless. Their deaths are a tragedy.”

Israel acknowledged that its military was responsible for the deadly strikes on the aid convoy, calling it “a grave mistake.” On Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu said on social media that Israel “deeply regrets the tragic incident.”

Mr. Biden said Israel’s investigation into why the aid workers’ vehicles were hit by airstrikes must be “swift, it must bring accountability, and its findings must be made public.”

Mr. Biden, who has strongly supported Israel’s right to retaliate for the Oct. 7 Hamas-led terrorist attacks, which killed an estimated 1,200 people according to Israeli authorities, also expressed frustration with Israel’s failure to allow the delivery of more aid to Gaza. He noted that a team was currently in Cairo continuing to push for an immediate cease-fire and deal to release hostages held by Hamas.

“The United States has repeatedly urged Israel to deconflict their military operations against Hamas with humanitarian operations, in order to avoid civilian casualties,” Mr. Biden said. “The United States will continue to do all we can to deliver humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, through all available means.”

The 7 aid workers who were killed were known for their passion for helping others.

To those who knew them, the World Central Kitchen workers who were killed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on Monday were described as devoted humanitarians who would do anything they could to help those in need.

Six of them came from around the world to help deliver and distribute food throughout the enclave, joining the dozens of Gazans already dedicated to relief work. One was a local Palestinian who was excited about having a job that involved helping others. They had just left a food warehouse in Deir al Balah, a city in central Gaza, when Israeli airstrikes hit their convoy, despite the World Central Kitchen coordinating with the Israeli military. All seven of them were killed.

They are the latest casualties in the growing toll of aid workers killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and they are among more than a dozen workers who have been killed while doing their jobs.

Gaza has been the deadliest place for aid workers since the Oct. 7 attacks. According to the Aid Worker Security Database, a compilation of data on attacks funded by the United States Agency for International Development, 203 aid workers have been killed in Gaza since the war started. All were Palestinian, except for six of the World Central Kitchen workers most recently killed, who were citizens of Australia, the United States, Canada, Poland and Britain. As of Monday, 176 workers from UNRWA, the U.N. agency dedicated to Palestinians, have been killed, according to the group.

After Oct. 7, 161 aid workers were killed in Gaza in the last weeks of 2023. That total is larger than all aid worker deaths worldwide in every year since 1997, when the aid worker database started collecting figures.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel “deeply regrets” the attack on the World Central Kitchen convoy, a rare acknowledgment of an attack that killed aid workers, and the Israeli military said it was investigating the incident. Humanitarian personnel are protected by international law.

Saif Abutaha, the sole Palestinian traveling with the convoy, had volunteered with World Central Kitchen when it set up operations in Gaza, said his older brother Shadi; the group said it later hired him. At 25, Saif was an enterprising young man who “wanted to do something for others,” his brother said, adding that he worked in their father’s business and spoke good English.

Shadi recalled seeing his brother depart on Monday for work with other members of the World Central Kitchen team. The workers “were so excited, like they were going to a wedding,” he said, intending to go to the jetty in northern Gaza and unload the desperately needed food aid.

He never saw his brother again, he said.

Lalzawmi Frankcom, 43, who was known as Zomi, was the Australian worker who was killed on Monday. She began volunteering for the World Central Kitchen in 2018 and was hired the next year, according to her former partner, Josh Phelps.

Their last text exchange was on Sunday, just before she and the aid convoy set out from central Gaza. He sent her some photos from their time together delivering food on a reservation in South Dakota. She sent back a heart emoji.

A day later, he found out that she had been killed.

“Anywhere she needed to go, she was willing to go,” he said. “She was following her dreams to make a life around the world.”

Damian Sobol of Poland was described as “the Michael Jordan of humanitarian work” by a former colleague, Noah Sims, a chef in North Georgia who has been at the site of several World Central Kitchen disaster relief efforts.

They first met while feeding refugees in the southeastern Polish city of Przemysl, Mr. Sobol’s hometown and where he had been studying hospitality.

“Anything I ever needed, Damian could get it done,” Mr. Sims said.

According to the World Central Kitchen, three British citizens were also killed in the attack: John Chapman, 57; James Henderson, 33; and James Kirby, 47. All three of the men were part of the organization’s security team. Local British media outlets described Mr. Chapman and Mr. Henderson as former Royal Marines who later turned to volunteer work.

The seventh worker, Jacob Flickinger, was a 33-year-old dual citizen of the United States and Canada, according to the World Central Kitchen, and worked on the group’s relief team.

Kim Severson and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

A correction was made on 

April 2, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated the age of Saif Abu Taha, one of the World Central Kitchen workers who was killed on Monday. He was 25, not 26.

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

In a U.N. meeting, U.S., Britain and France do not join the condemnation of an Israeli strike in Syria.

In an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, the majority of diplomats condemned Israel, saying that it had violated international laws and breached the U.N. charter that protects diplomatic premises when it bombed an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria.

The United States, France and Britain did not condemn Israel, but they joined other nations in reiterating that diplomatic structures should be considered off limits during wartime and that the airstrikes, on Monday in Damascus, the Syrian capital, had risked plunging the Middle East into further instability.

“Any miscalculation could lead to broader conflict in an already volatile region, with devastating consequences for civilians who are already seeing unprecedented suffering,” Khaled Khiari, the U.N. assistant secretary general, told the Council.

Russia, a close ally of Iran, had called for the meeting to discuss Israel’s attack, after Iran’s mission to the U.N. submitted a letter to the world body arguing that the airstrikes had violated international law. The attacks killed seven members of Iran’s Quds forces, including three generals.

Iran and Syria both attended the meeting and addressed the Council. Israel, which did not attend the meeting, has said that the target was not a diplomatic one because it had been used frequently by Iran’s military commanders and personnel in Syria.

Robert A. Wood, the U.S. representative at the meeting, told the Council that Washington had communicated to Iran that it was not involved in the attack and had no prior knowledge of it. Mr. Wood did not directly criticize Israel, saying instead that the United States was concerned about Iran and its proxy militia’s use of Syrian territory to attack Israeli targets and American bases.

“Any confirmed attack on property that was in fact a diplomatic facility would be of concern to the United States,” Mr. Wood said. “Diplomatic missions and their property, as well as official diplomatic residents, must be protected even in and especially in terms of armed conflict.”

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, said his country was extremely concerned by what he called Israel’s disregard of international rules, and described the attacks as “reckless actions.” Mr. Nebenzya also lashed out at the United States, Britain and France for their “verbal gymnastics” in applying double standards by refusing to directly criticize Israel.

“If it was your embassy that was attacked or your consulate in the region, would you respond in the same way?” Mr. Nebenzya said. “This is your rules-based order in all its glory.”

Geng Shuang, China’s deputy ambassador to the U.N, said Israel’s attack was “of an extremely vicious nature” and violated the sovereignty of both Syria and Iran. China is a key economic partner for Iran and helps the government stay afloat financially by buying its embargoed oil at a discount price.

Iran’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., Zahra Ershadi, said Iran had so far exercised “considerable restraint” but that there was a limit to its patience. Ms. Ershadi called for the Council to hold Israel accountable and take actions against it.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N., Koussay Aldahhak, said the Iranian diplomatic compound was in a densely populated civilian area in Damascus and near buildings that house diplomatic missions, banks, other international agencies, such as the World Food Program, a private hospital and faculty of Damascus University.

“This vital area is crossed by thousands of civilians on daily basis,” Mr. Aldahhak said. “Some of those civilians have suffered severe injuries.”

Fears grow that an Israeli strike in Syria could spur retaliatory attacks.

Current and former U.S. officials expressed fears on Tuesday that Israel’s airstrike on an Iranian embassy compound in Syria could escalate hostilities in the region and prompt retaliatory strikes against Israel and its American ally.

The officials said the attack, which killed three generals in Iran’s Quds Force and four other officers on Monday, had dealt a serious blow to the force, the external military and intelligence service of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Ralph Goff, a former senior C.I.A. official who served in the Middle East, called Israel’s strike “incredibly reckless.”

“It will only result in escalation by Iran and its proxies, which is very dangerous” to American troops in the region who could be targeted in retaliatory strikes by Tehran’s proxies, Mr. Goff said.

Indeed, after the Israeli strike in Damascus, Syria’s capital, American troops based in southeastern Syria knocked down an attack drone, a Defense Department official said. It was unclear if the drone was aimed at the U.S. forces, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss operational details. If it were, it would be the first attack by Iran-backed militias against American troops in Iraq or Syria in nearly two months. No injuries or damage were reported.

The official said there had been no further attacks overnight, but that Pentagon officials were monitoring the situation closely.

Mr. Goff said the deadly strike in Syria fit Israel’s “longer-term strategy of degrading” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Quds Force unit, and “punishing them for ongoing plots to kill or kidnap Israeli Jews around the world.”

In the yearslong shadow war between Iran and Israel, Syria has been key terrain for Israel as it works to degrade Iran’s ability to move advanced weaponry by land and air closer to Israel’s borders.

“The strike yesterday is a significant escalation and risks tipping an already volatile, unstable region into full-scale war,” said Dana Stroul, formerly the Pentagon’s top Middle East policy official who is now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “This is the Israeli version of the U.S. strike on Qassim Suleimani,” she said, referring to the former longtime leader of the Quds Force, who was killed by an American drone strike near the Baghdad airport in 2020.

Ms. Stroul said assessing the post-Suleimani era is instructive because the command and control of the Quds Force was degraded.

“We have seen Iran-backed militia groups take decisions into their own hands under the leadership of Qaani, as well the rise of rival power centers in Iran,” Ms. Stroul said, referring to Gen. Ismail Qaani, the current Quds Force commander. “This has led to a more diffuse, but not less lethal, Quds Force-led network abroad. But Iran’s core strategy never changed. Tehran will continue to invest in its terrorist network abroad in order to keep the fight away from its own borders.”

More broadly, Ms. Stroul said, the message is that Islamic Revolutionary Guards “operatives and leaders are not safe anywhere.”

She continued: “It should have strategic effect on how the Quds Force operates abroad and should erode any semblance of invincibility or deniability that this terrorist organization only brings instability and violence to the places it seeks to operate.”

Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a retired four-star general and former leader of the Pentagon’s Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, said the deaths of the senior Quds Force officers was “a blow.”

“Their long-term, carefully developed relationships will be lost,” he said.

Ms. Stroul said the strike would further inflame Tehran. “The question is, will Iran respond in a manner that de-escalates the situation, or will it climb further up the escalation ladder?” she said.

Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, sought on Tuesday to tamp down fears of escalation, saying that the United States had no involvement in the airstrike and did not know about it ahead of time.

Ms. Singh said at a news conference that the message had also been conveyed directly to Iran. “Tensions being high in the region, we wanted to make it very clear in private channels that the U.S. had no involvement in the strike in Damascus.”

General McKenzie said he expected Iran would retaliate in some way, but he downplayed fears of a major escalation of hostilities between Israel and Iran.

“Iran’s options to hit Israel are very, very limited,” General McKenzie said. “And the Israelis aren’t going to back down.”

World Central Kitchen has fed people in disaster and war zones around the globe.

Since its founding in 2010 by the chef José Andrés after a devastating earthquake in Haiti, the relief group World Central Kitchen has turned up at some of the globe’s biggest disasters, crises and conflicts, with the goal of doing what chefs do best: feeding people.

The nonprofit group teams up with local food providers, governments and restaurateurs to quickly scale up and provide meals to people in need. Last week, in an update on its work in Gaza, the organization said the devastation and need there was “the most dire we’ve ever seen or experienced in our 15-year history.”

On Tuesday, the group said it would pause its operations in Gaza and the region after it said seven of its workers were killed in an airstrike. The organization said the Israeli military was behind the attack.

The suspension will deprive the increasingly famished population of Gaza of a stream of humanitarian food aid, at a time when practically every source of provisions is critical for staving off what experts have been warning for weeks is an imminent famine.

The group says it operates 68 “community kitchens” in Gaza, and has sent in more than 1,700 trucks loaded with food and cooking equipment so far in nearly six months of war.

World Central Kitchen is a relatively new aid provider in Gaza, where people have been heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance for decades because of a long-running Israeli blockade. But the group has garnered notice by making bold moves. In March, it became the first entity to deliver aid by sea to the enclave in nearly two decades by building a makeshift jetty fashioned out of rubble.

The first aid ship that arrived in mid-March delivered 200 tons of rice, flour and lentils, along with canned tuna, chicken and beef, according to the group. A second, larger shipment departed from Cyprus on Saturday.

After aid was unloaded from the ship, it was distributed in Gaza by truck, according to the group, which said that it coordinated its efforts with the Israeli military. The workers killed this week were leaving an aid warehouse in central Gaza, the group said.

“Distribution is the Achilles’ heel of any disaster response,” Mr. Andrés wrote in 2020 in an Opinion piece for The New York Times about responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Initiatives to send aid into Gaza via its Mediterranean coast were born of frustrations among aid agencies that supplies by land were being held up by Israeli inspections at border crossings. World Central Kitchen has said an average of 10 of its trucks were being let into Gaza out of the nearly 20 it was sending daily to a crossing in Rafah, in southern Gaza, and that on some days, none were getting through.

The nonprofit group has grown rapidly in recent years, with more than $500 million in contributions and grants in 2022, a fourfold increase from the previous year, the most recent years for which figures are available. As of 2022, the organization said it had 94 employees.

It supplied food in Puerto Rico in the days after Hurricane Maria swept through, dispatched volunteers to quake-stricken Morocco and distributed meals in Ukraine in the midst of the Russian invasion.

In Ukraine, a restaurant operated by World Central Kitchen in Kharkiv, near the country’s border with Russia, was hit by a missile less than two months into the war, wounding four staff members, according to the group’s chief executive at the time.

Iran vows a response to the Israeli strike in Damascus.

Iranian leaders said on Tuesday that the Israeli airstrikes on an Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, that killed three top Iranian commanders would 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.

In a statement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, vowed that Israel would be “punished by the hands of our brave men.”

President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran said the attack was an “inhumane assault in brazen violation of international law,” in comments reported by Tasnim, a semiofficial news agency. He added that it would 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.”

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 Mr. 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 the 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.

Aid groups in Gaza are more fearful than ever after the latest death of aid workers there.

Aid groups in Gaza said on Tuesday that they were more concerned than ever about the safety of their staff members there after seven World Central Kitchen workers were killed in an airstrike, saying that the deaths underscored the growing challenges of meeting Palestinians’ basic needs.

Humanitarian workers have been killed throughout the war in Gaza. Since the war started, 176 workers for UNRWA, the United Nations body that provides aid to Palestinians, have been killed, including in the line of duty, said Juliette Touma, the agency’s director of communications. Several other aid groups say their staff members have been killed in airstrikes.

But the latest deaths have raised new alarms. World Central Kitchen paused its operations there on Tuesday, saying it had coordinated the movements of the convoy that was struck with the Israeli military. The military said it was investigating the episode.

As they assessed their future plans, aid groups urged the Israeli authorities to adhere to the international laws that protect humanitarian workers.

“Everybody feels endangered now,” said Michael Capponi, the founder of Global Empowerment Mission, a nonprofit aid group distributing tents, sleeping bags, medical equipment and food to Palestinians in Gaza.

Mr. Capponi said he was reconsidering his plans to travel to Gaza next week. Some staff members, who had been communicating daily with the World Central Kitchen workers who died, “basically want to pack up and go home now,” he said, though there were no firm plans for them to leave.

“There need to be guarantees to the international N.G.O. community that we are safe doing this work that we do, which is critical,” Mr. Capponi added. He said it was unacceptable that aid workers were killed even after going through the United Nations’ “deconfliction” process, which is supposed to protect humanitarian workers by informing the military about their activities.

Tess Ingram, a UNICEF spokeswoman temporarily based in Gaza, said the notification system that was meant to keep workers safe was not functioning, leaving them vulnerable.

“It underscores what life is like here in Gaza, not just for aid workers but for everybody,” she said. “There’s nowhere safe, even when you do everything right.”

She added that the strike had broader implications for humanitarian groups’ ability to provide food aid. World Central Kitchen was not only feeding Gazans directly, it was also supplying hospitals with meals as well, she said.

Ms. Ingram said she hoped that the strike would “push the world to recognize that what is happening here is not OK.”

Aseel Baidoun, a spokeswoman for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British group, said her organization was concerned about the safety of its next medical mission to Gaza, slated for later this week. Several members of an aid team were injured in an Israeli strike in January, the group said.

“We thought that armored cars and deconfliction processes would actually protect doctors,” said Ms. Baidoun, who is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. “But now we don’t know how to protect our missions and our colleagues.”

Save the Children, which distributes food, water, medical supplies and toiletries in Gaza, also urged the parties of the conflict to adhere to the international laws protecting humanitarian workers. The group said a local staff member was killed in an Israeli airstrike in December.

“The news of the attack is horrific — it’s a nightmare come true for us,” said Soraya Ali, a spokeswoman for the group. “We know unfortunately that Gaza right now is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a humanitarian worker.”

News Analysis

The strike in Damascus is an escalation in Israel’s undeclared war with Iran.

Israel’s bombing of an Iranian Embassy building in Damascus, which killed senior Iranian military and intelligence officials, is a major escalation of what has long been a simmering undeclared war between Israel and Iran.

Iran promises major retaliation, and the danger of a miscalculation is ever-present. But given the stakes for both countries, neither Israel nor Iran wants a major shooting war, even as they press for advantage in Gaza and southern Lebanon.

Instead, the strike is a vivid demonstration of the regional nature of the conflict as Israel tries to diminish and deter Iran’s allies and surrogates that threaten Israel’s security from every direction.

It is often called “the war between the wars,” with Israel and Iran as the main adversaries, sparring in the shadows of the more evident hostilities around the region.

The Iranian officials who were killed Monday had been deeply engaged for decades in arming and guiding proxy forces in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen as part of Iran’s clearly stated effort to destabilize and even destroy the Jewish state.

For Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who presumably approved such a sensitive attack, the successful elimination of such key Iranian military figures is a political coup. It comes at a time when demonstrations calling for his resignation have increased in intensity, as the war against Hamas drags on and Israeli hostages remain in Gaza.

Displaying its ability to infiltrate Iranian intelligence, Israel is trying to hit the operational part of Iran’s regional proxies, its so-called Axis of Resistance to Israel, aiming to disrupt and deter them, even as the war in Gaza continues.

Since the war began in October, Israel has begun to target key Iranian officials responsible for relations with its proxies, not just the advanced weapons Tehran delivers, said Ali Vaez, Iran project director for the International Crisis Group.

But no matter how many experienced generals Israel eliminates, “no one is irreplaceable in the Iranian system,” he said. “Iran knows this is a perilous game and there is a price tag attached.”

Some worry that price may be borne by Israeli allies. Ralph Goff, a former senior C.I.A. official who served in the Middle East, called Israel’s strike “incredibly reckless,” adding that “the Israelis are writing checks that U.S. CentCom forces will have to cash,” referring to the U.S. military’s Central Command.

“It will only result in escalation by Iran and its proxies, which is very dangerous” to U.S. forces in the region who could be targeted in retaliatory strikes by Tehran’s proxies, Mr. Goff said.

Mr. Netanyahu has emphasized for years that Israel’s main enemy is Iran and the strike could help him “rehabilitate his reputation as ‘Mr. Security,’” said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House. Even so, it may not be enough, she said, with Israel bogged down in Gaza, Hamas so far unbeaten and Iran and its proxies undiminished.

Iran has vowed retaliation and revenge for what it called an unprecedented attack, but, since Oct. 7, “Iran has been clear that it does not want a regional war,” Ms. Vakil said. “It sees this conflict with Israel playing out over a longer time frame.”

U.S. officials do not believe that Iran initiated the Hamas attack or was even informed about it in advance. Yet Iran still sees Gaza as “a victory for them, because it isolates Israel and puts it on the defensive in the region and the world,” said Suzanne Maloney, director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution.

The ongoing war and its civilian toll make it “almost inconceivable to create a vision of the Mideast that Israel and the U.S. and the Saudis were hoping to engineer before Oct. 7,” she said, one of regional recognition of Israel by Arab nations opposed to Iran’s growing influence.

Still, Ms. Vakil said, “this strike will be difficult for Iran to ignore,” since “it is a direct attack on its territory,” an embassy building, and killed three senior commanders of Iran’s Quds Force, the external military and intelligence service of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Iran said the Israeli strike killed an Iranian general, Mohammad Reza Zahedi, along with his deputy, a third general and at least four other people, reportedly including senior officials of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian affiliate that is also fighting in Gaza.

The killing of General Zahedi, who was said to be in charge of Iran’s military relationship with Syria and Lebanon, is widely considered the most important assassination of an Iranian leader in years.

Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser, called the death of General Zahedi “an enormous blow to Iran’s immediate capabilities in the region.” He had helped oversee Iran’s attempt to build a “ring of fire” around Israel via its militant proxies while keeping Tehran’s involvement at arm’s length, Mr. Amidror said.

But how and when Iran chooses to retaliate will further raise the stakes. The most obvious recent example is its response to the assassination four years ago by the United States of Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force. Then, Iran launched a major missile attack against an American base in Iraq, but only after warning of the attack in advance. There were no immediate U.S. casualties, though more than 100 military personnel suffered traumatic brain injuries, the Pentagon later said.

An anxious Iran, on high military alert, also shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people, believing it to be an enemy plane.

“But one of the lessons from Suleimani is that even if you take out someone critical, the network and the redundancy Iran has established with the groups survives quite well,” Ms. Maloney said.

Recently Iran has tried to de-escalate the tensions in its relationship with the United States after a January drone attack on a U.S. military base on the Jordanian-Syrian border killed three American soldiers.

But Iran may be more willing to risk a military escalation with Israel.

It could make other choices — a major cyberattack on Israeli infrastructure or its military, a barrage of rockets from southern Lebanon, a similar assassination of an Israeli commander, an attack on an Israeli embassy abroad, or another sharp acceleration of its nuclear-enrichment program.

The last would be a kind of direct riposte to Mr. Netanyahu, who has long warned about the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran and vowed to prevent it from happening. (Iran has always insisted that its nuclear program is purely peaceful, even as it has enriched uranium to close to weapons grade.)

Or Iran could bide its time. Mr. Amidror, the former Israeli national security adviser, said he doubted the strike would lead to a broader escalation between Israel and Iran, such as an all-out war involving Hezbollah along Israel’s northern border.

“Their interests haven’t changed in the aftermath. They’ll look for revenge, but that’s something else entirely,” he said, and it does not have to be limited to the immediate region.

One previous example he cited was the 1992 bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires by Islamic Jihad, which killed 29 people and came in response to Israel’s assassination of the Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Musawi.

Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting from Jerusalem and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

The strike hit in Deir al Balah, a city in central Gaza that has been bombarded before.

Over the past few weeks, Israel’s military campaign has focused on Khan Younis and Gaza City, particularly around the Al-Shifa medical complex. But there has been a stream of Israeli airstrikes across the Gaza Strip, including in the central Gaza city of Deir al Balah, where World Central Kitchen staff members were leaving a warehouse when their convoy came under fire.

Scores of displaced Palestinians have sought shelter in Deir al Balah. Some of them had left the crowded city of Rafah at the enclave’s southern tip, fearing a long-anticipated Israeli ground invasion there.

In one episode, several Palestinians were killed or injured after an airstrike on the Al-Bashir Mosque in Deir al Balah, according to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on that strike.

An Israeli airstrike on Sunday afternoon hit a group of tents outside the Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir al Balah, killing at least two people and injuring more than a dozen others, said Khalil al-Daqran, the hospital’s spokesman. The identities and affiliations of those killed in the strike were unclear.

The Israeli military said in a statement that the strike on Sunday had hit a command center belonging to Islamic Jihad, one of the militant Palestinian groups battling Israeli forces in Gaza. It said the precision strike in the hospital courtyard did not damage the hospital and was meant to target terrorists and minimize “harm to uninvolved civilians.” Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals for military purposes, and in November found a stone and concrete tunnel shaft below the grounds of Al-Shifa hospital. Hamas has denied using hospitals for such purposes.

But Palestinian media, including Wafa, said multiple journalists were injured in the blast on Sunday.

Majdi Fathi, 43, a freelance photographer, told The New York Times he was in a nearby tent when the strike injured several fellow journalists.

“It was a very violent explosion,” Mr. Fathi, who has worked for the BBC and NurPhoto, said in an interview. “It was so powerful that I was thrown to the ground.”

He said he suffered cuts on his body and his ears were ringing after the blast.

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, Mr. Netanyahu 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.”

The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, when 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.

Iran Says the Deadly Israeli Strike in Damascus Will Not Go Unanswered

Iran Says the Deadly Israeli Strike in Damascus Will Not Go Unanswered

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, said Israel would be punished for the strike, which killed three top commanders.

Farnaz Fassihi and

Iranian leaders said on Tuesday that the Israeli airstrikes on an Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, that killed three top Iranian commanders would 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.

In a statement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, vowed that Israel would be “punished by the hands of our brave men.”

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Africa’s Youngest President Takes Office, Promising ‘Systemic Change’

Still reeling from a whirlwind campaign, young people in Senegal threw jackets over their worn election T-shirts on Tuesday to attend the inauguration of an opposition politician who went from political prisoner to president in less than three weeks.

Their new leader, Bassirou Diomaye Faye — at 44, Africa’s youngest elected president — took the oath of office promising “systemic change,” and paying homage to the many people killed, injured, and imprisoned in the yearslong lead-up to the West African country’s election.

“I will always keep in mind the heavy sacrifices made so as to never disappoint you,” Mr. Faye said, addressing a vast auditorium in which African heads of state and dignitaries sat at the front. From the back, hundreds of supporters of Mr. Faye and his powerful backer, the opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, shouted for joy.

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29 Killed in Fire at Istanbul Nightclub

A fire Tuesday at a popular Istanbul nightclub that was undergoing renovations killed 29 people and injured one, the governor’s office said.

The authorities said the renovation work at the club, Masquerade, may have caused the fire, which took place while the club was closed to the public. The dead and injured included construction workers, the governor of Istanbul, Davut Gul, said in televised remarks.

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Drones Strike Deep in Russia, as Ukraine Extends Its Weapons Range

Exploding drones hit an oil refinery and munitions factory far to the east of Moscow on Tuesday, in what Ukrainian media and military experts said was among the longest-range strikes with Ukrainian drones so far in the war.

The drones struck in the Tatarstan region of Russia, about 700 miles from Ukrainian-held territory. Just a day earlier, a Ukrainian official had announced that the country’s domestically produced drones were now able to hit targets beyond 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles.

The targeted factory was built by Russia to produce its own arsenal of long-range attack drones that are based on an Iranian design known as Shaheds. Russia calls these models Geran-2’s.

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Iran and Israel Have a Long History of Clandestine Attacks

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For decades, Israel and Iran have fought a shadow war across the Middle East, trading attacks by land, sea, air and in cyberspace.

Iran has largely used foreign proxies to strike Israeli interests, while targeted assassinations of Iranian military leaders and nuclear scientists have been a key part of Israel’s strategy.

Israel’s strike in the Syrian capital, Damascus, that killed three top Iranian commanders on Monday was the most brazen attack in years, raising fears of a wider confrontation. That would be particularly dangerous in a region already in turmoil on multiple fronts, including Israel’s war in Gaza, cross-border skirmishes between Israel and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and attacks by Yemen’s Houthi militia against Western interests in the Red Sea. An escalation between Israel and Iran would also risk further entangling the United States, given the presence of American troops in the region.

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Rome’s Future Is a Walk Through Its Past

Conscious of the weight of its illustrious history, Rome has managed to preserve an impressive number of archaeological monuments in its city center. The Colosseum, the Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum and Imperial Fora are just a few of the sites clustered in the city’s heart.

As Rome, which will celebrate its 2,777th birthday on April 21, moves toward its fourth millennium, city leaders are promoting a new vision of this area as a giant, pedestrian-friendly public space that supporters say will promote Rome’s ancient past.

“Italy is working to make the most of what is arguably the most important concentration of history, archaeology, art and nature in the world,” Rome’s mayor, Roberto Gualtieri, said on Tuesday at a news conference announcing that Labics, a Rome-based architectural and urban planning practice, had won a competition to revamp the area.

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Adidas Stops Customization of Germany Jersey for Fear of Nazi Symbolism

The sports apparel giant Adidas abruptly stopped the sale of German soccer jerseys created with the player number “44” this week because the figure, when depicted in the official lettering of the uniform’s design, too closely resembled a well-known Nazi symbol.

The stylized square font used by Adidas for the jerseys, which will be worn by Germany’s team when it hosts this summer’s European soccer championships, makes the “44” resemble the “SS” emblem used by the Schutzstaffel, the feared Nazi paramilitary group that was instrumental in the murder of six million Jews. The emblem is one of dozens of Nazi symbols, phrases and gestures that are banned in Germany.

The country’s soccer federation, which is responsible for the design, said Monday any similarity to the logo created by the design’s numbering was unintentional.

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Ukraine’s Arms Industry Is Growing, but Is It Growing Fast Enough?

Ukraine’s military had only one Bohdana artillery cannon in its arsenal when Russia invaded the country two years ago. Yet that single weapon, built in Ukraine in 2018 and able to shoot NATO-caliber rounds, proved so effective in the earliest days of the war that it was trucked to battlefields across the country, from the northeastern city of Kharkiv to the southwestern coast along the Black Sea and points in between.

Now, Ukraine’s arms industry is building eight of the self-propelled Bohdana artillery systems each month, and although officials will not say how many they’ve made in total, the increased output signals a potential boom in the country’s domestic weapons production.

The ramp-up comes at a pivotal moment. Russia’s war machine is already quadrupling weapons production in round-the-clock operations. Ukraine’s forces are losing territory in some key areas, including the strategic eastern town of Avdiivka, from which they withdrew in February. A U.S. aid package is still hung up in Congress. And while European defense firms are gingerly opening operations in Ukraine, major American weapons producers have yet to commit to setting up shop in the middle of a war.

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12-Year-Old Detained After Fatal School Shooting in Finland

A young boy fatally shot a 12-year-old student and wounded two others at a school in Finland on Tuesday, the police said, a rare act of violence by a child in a country that changed its gun laws after earlier school shootings but where gun ownership remains widespread.

The police said they had detained a suspect, also 12 years old, who had a handgun, about an hour after arriving at the Viertola school, in the city of Vantaa, about 10 miles north of Helsinki. He is accused of murder and attempted murder, the police said.

As is customary with criminal investigations in Finland, the police did not release the suspect’s name.

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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.

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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, they 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.

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North Korea Missile Test Hints at Greater Menace to U.S. Bases

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile off its east coast on Tuesday, an indication that the country was continuing to develop missiles capable of targeting American military bases in the Western Pacific.

The missile, launched from near Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, did not fly over Japan, as have some of the IRBMs that North Korea has launched in the past. Instead, it fell in waters between the two countries after flying for 372 miles, the South Korean military said.

South Korean and American officials were analyzing data collected from the test to learn more about the missile, the military said. But on Wednesday, the North Korean state media reported that the test had involved the Hwasong-16B, a new intermediate-range hypersonic ballistic missile powered by a solid-fuel engine. Last month, North Korea said it had tested one such engine on the ground.

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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.

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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.

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The Japanese Sensei Bringing Baseball to Brazil

Reporting from Rio de Janeiro

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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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting from Belmopan, Belize

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘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.

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Canadian Skaters Demand Bronze Medals in Olympics Dispute

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

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

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

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

Reporting from Mexico City and León, Mexico

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

Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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Playing Soccer in $1.50 Sandals That Even Gucci Wants to Copy

The wealthy pros of Ivory Coast’s national soccer team were resting in their luxury hotel last week, preparing for a match in Africa’s biggest tournament, when Yaya Camara sprinted onto a dusty lot and began fizzing one pass after another to his friends.

Over and over, he corralled the game’s underinflated ball and then sent it away again with his favorite soccer shoes: worn plastic sandals long derided as the sneaker of the poor, but which he and his friends wear as a badge of honor.

Shiny soccer cleats like his idols’? No thanks, said Mr. Camara, a lean 18-year-old midfielder, as he wiped sweat from his brow.

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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.

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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.



“¿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

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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

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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”.

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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.

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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