The New York Times 2024-04-15 01:18:37

Live Updates: Israel Relaxes Restrictions as It Considers Retaliation Against Iran


Patrick KingsleyAaron Boxerman and

Here are the latest developments.

With tensions high in the Middle East, Israel showed signs on Sunday that it would not seek to immediately respond to the overnight attack by Iran, which fired hundreds of exploding drones and missiles in what was believed to be its first direct attack on Israel after years of a shadow war.

Israeli officials announced they would relax restrictions on educational activities and large gatherings that were enacted before the attack, a possible indication they do not expect the confrontation to escalate for now. And Israel’s war cabinet concluded a meeting on Sunday evening without deciding when and how it would respond to Iran’s assault, according to an official briefed on the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the talks more freely. By nightfall, the military had yet to detail possible options, the official said.

In public, Israeli ministers appeared divided over how to respond. Benny Gantz, a centrist minister and one of three voting members of the war cabinet, said that Israel should exact a price from Iran, but only “in a way and at a time that suits us.” Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right minister, then criticized Mr. Gantz for his perceived moderation, arguing that Israel should deter Iran by going “crazy.”

Nearly all of the munitions fired by Iran were intercepted, and those that did make impact caused only minor damage, Israeli military officials said. The United States said it had shot down dozens of the drones and missiles, a significant show of support for its ally despite widening divisions over Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza.

Iran’s attack, a retaliation for airstrikes on an Iranian Embassy building in Syria on April 1, was not unexpected. As Iran signaled that it would not strike further unless attacked, President Biden and other world leaders appealed for calm and sought to avert a wider war.

Here’s what else to know:

  • Members of the United Nations Security Council, including the United States and Britain, urged restraint in an emergency meeting called by Israel. Iran’s ambassador defended his country’s actions as the “inherent right to self-defense,” while Israel’s ambassador asked the Council to impose sanctions on Iran and condemn the assault. “The fact that Israel’s air defense proved to be superior does not change the brutality of Iran’s attack,” he said.

  • Two Israeli officials said some war cabinet members had urged a retaliatory strike while the attack was still ongoing, but it was called off after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spoke by phone with President Biden on Saturday, and because the strikes caused relatively minor damage. The Biden administration is advising Israel that it does not necessarily need to fire back at Iran, with U.S. officials saying that Israel had proved its ability to protect itself.

  • Iranian officials issued a series of statements that appeared designed to keep tensions from escalating further. Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, said that Tehran “has no intention of continuing defensive operations, but if necessary it will not hesitate to protect its legitimate interests against any new aggression.”

  • After convening a virtual meeting on Sunday, the Group of 7 leaders issued a statement condemning Iran’s attack and reaffirming their “full solidarity and support to Israel.” The leaders said Iran had risked “provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation” and demanded that “Iran and its proxies cease their attacks.”

  • Britain confirmed that its air force had shot down some Iranian missiles and drones, as did Jordan, the Arab kingdom neighboring Israel. Jordan said it acted in self-defense, but some Arab critics assailed the country for helping to defend Israel even as the Israeli military wages war against Palestinians in Gaza.

U.N. Security Council holds emergency meeting, with diplomats calling for restraint by all parties.

The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss Iran’s attack on Israel, with diplomats urging restraint by all parties to prevent conflict in the region from escalating.

The brazen attack this weekend, when Iran launched a barrage of drones and missiles in retaliation for Israel’s attacking its embassy compound in Syria earlier in the month, was the first time Iran had launched open attacks against Israel from its soil. The attack has unnerved a region already roiling in conflict, raising concerns among diplomats and U.N. officials that a new, potentially wide and destructive war could spark if both sides don’t stand down.

António Guterres, the Secretary General of the U.N., told the Council that it was “time to step back from the brink,” and that its members, as well as the United Nations at large, had the collective responsibility “to actively engage all parties concerned to prevent further escalation.”

The meeting on Sunday was convened at the request of Israel. The Council has not collectively issued a statement condemning Iran’s attack, and it has also not issued a statement condemning Israel’s attack on Iran’s embassy in Damascus that killed several senior commanders. All 15 members of the Council must reach a consensus for a statement to be issued and none was reached on both issues.

The Security Council is one of the few venues where adversaries engaged in conflict come face to face and sit in the same chamber. On Sunday, both Israel and Iran’s ambassadors were present and delivered fiery comments about the other’s country, blaming each other for actions they both called terrorism.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador, said Iran’s attack had “crossed every red line” and Israel reserved the right to retaliate. Mr. Erdan called for the Council to take severe action against Iran, including “crippling” sanctions and statements of condemnation.

“The fact that Israel’s air defense proved to be superior does not change the brutality of Iran’s attack,” he said.

Iran’s ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, said his country had an “inherent right to self-defense” after Israel’s attack on its diplomatic compound. Mr. Iravani said that Iran “does not seek escalation or war in the region,” but that if its interests, people or national security came under attack it would “respond to any such threat or aggressions vigorously and in accordance with international law.”

The United States and Iran both said that they do not seek war with one another, but that if one attacks the other’s interests, there would be a defensive response.

Robert A. Wood, a U.S. representative to the U.N., told the Security Council that the “U.S. is not seeking escalation, our actions have been defensive in nature,” and said the U.S. goal was to “de-escalate” and then get back to securing an end to the conflict in Gaza. Mr. Wood said the U.S. planned to bring further action on Iran at the Council and called on the Council to unequivocally condemn Iran’s actions.

Any resolution against Iran put forth by the U.S. at the Council would likely be vetoed by Russia and China, two of Iran’s close allies, who sharply criticized Israel for what they said was reckless violation of international law when it attacked Iran’s embassy compound.

“What happened in the night of the 14th of April did not happen in a vacuum,” said Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N.

China’s ambassador, Dai Bing, called on the Council to “exercise maximum calm and restraint” and said the implementation of an immediate cease-fire is the “top priority.”

Israel has said that the embassy compound was a legitimate military target because senior commanders from Iran’s Quds Forces, the external branch of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, were holding a meeting inside the building.

The White House said that President Biden and King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke on Sunday about the Iranian attacks and pledged to stay in contact in the days ahead. Officials said the two men also discussed the situation in Gaza, pledging to increase humanitarian aid and to work to end the conflict as soon as possible.

Gazans attempting to return to homes in north say Israeli troops fired on them.

As thousands of displaced Palestinians attempted to return to their homes in northern Gaza on Sunday, Israeli troops fired at the crowd, forcing people to turn back in panic, according to an emergency worker and two people who tried to make the journey.

Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, reported that five people were killed and 23 wounded by Israeli gunfire and artillery in the incident on Al-Rashid Street south of Gaza City as a crowd of Gazans headed north to their homes.

The circumstances of the deaths could not be confirmed independently, and the Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions about whether its forces opened fire on Palestinian civilians trying to cross to northern Gaza.

For months, the Israeli military has barred Palestinians who have been displaced by the war in Gaza from returning to their homes in northern Gaza. It has become a sticking point in negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

It was not clear why some Palestinians believed that Israel would not block them from returning on Sunday. But they were making the journey on a day when Iran had launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its assault there in October, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. The assault occurred in response to the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel that killed some 1,200 people.

On Sunday morning Jamila Ibrahim, 39, said that she began hearing of some Palestinians who left early and managed to get back to the north. She later spoke with friends who were able to return north. But there were very few.

Around 10:30 a.m. she and her three children — who are between 10 and 17 — set out, joining other people on the journey.

She said there were no official notices from the Israel military, which has occupied large parts of Gaza after it launched a ground invasion, that residents would be allowed to return to their homes. It was just based on word of mouth, as well as people seeing others leaving and being encouraged to join the trek home, she said.

“Some people were scared, they didn’t know what fate they were heading to, they didn’t know what would happen,” she said. “Some were happy that they were going to return.”

Most people were on foot — carrying what little food they had or their few belongings in bags and luggage — and some paid large sums of money to go by car, trucks or donkey carts, she said. But they all took the same seaside road, heading north toward an Israeli checkpoint that has cut off southern Gaza from the north.

“There was lots of tension, lots of tension among the people, they were scared they could be shot,” she said.

Those who tried to cross north in the middle of the night — around 4 a.m. — managed to make it to the north, she said, based on her conversation with friends who crossed successfully.

But later that morning, by the time she and other displaced Palestinians tried to follow, Israeli forces opened fire on them, she said.

“Around 12:30 the Israelis started shooting,” she said.

Mazen Al-Harazeen, a first responder in Gaza, said Israeli forces fired weapons and he did not know how many had been killed, but he said, “There was shooting and martyrs.”

Early Sunday morning, Avichay Adraee, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, or I.D.F., wrote on social media that the rumors that the army was allowing residents to return to their homes in the northern Gaza Strip were false.

“The I.D.F. will not allow the return of residents,” he added. “For your safety, do not approach the forces operating there.”

Nearly 2 million Gazans have been displaced by the war between Hamas and Israel, now in its sixth month. One of their biggest concerns is when and if they will be allowed to return to their homes, or whether they will be permanently displaced, as previous generations were.

Around 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled their homes in 1947 and 1948 during the wars surrounding Israel’s establishment as a state.

Bilal Shbair contributed reporting.

While Israel’s war cabinet members didn’t issue a formal statement after the meeting, an Israeli official familiar with the discussions indicated that Israel would undoubtedly respond — although there was considerable uncertainty as to when and how. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the talks, said Israel’s military still needed to detail possible options.

A 7-year-old girl is the lone serious casualty of Iran’s barrage.

The hospital waiting room was quiet on Sunday: There was no crowd of relatives, no flood of patients. Israel’s air defenses had just fended off a large-scale Iranian attack, with only one serious casualty recorded.

But there was no sense that a crisis had been averted outside the pediatric intensive care unit at Soroka Medical Center in southern Israel’s city of Beersheba. Instead, tension filled the air until the doors to the ward swung open and a gasping mother stumbled out, her face contorted. Then raw emotion quickly took its place as she crumbled into a chair, crying.

While Israel suffered little in the way of significant damage overnight, this one family was dealt a devastating blow. Amina al-Hasoni, 7, was clinging to life — the sole serious casualty of the Iranian barrage. And were it not for systemic inequities in Israel, her relatives said, maybe she too could have been spared.

There are roughly 300,000 Arab Bedouins in the Negev desert. About a quarter of them live in villages that are not recognized by Israeli officials. Without state recognition, those communities have long suffered from a lack of planning and basic services like running water, sewers and electricity. And few have access to bomb shelters, despite repeated requests to the state.

The Hasoni family lives in one such community, sharing a hilltop in the Negev village of al-Fur’ah with a plot of disconnected houses. When rocket warning sirens went off on Saturday night, Amina’s uncle Ismail said he felt stuck — there was nowhere to go.

Booms overhead signaled air defenses intercepting missiles before there was a big explosion. Then he heard a woman screaming — his sister — and “I started running,” he said.

Ismail, 38, found his sister outside her house holding Amina, who was bleeding from the head. Her family had decided to flee the rockets, running out the front door. But Amina, who slept in a back room with pink walls covered in painted butterflies, didn’t make it.

A missile fragment ripped through the home’s thin metal roof, shearing a hole with sharp metallic edges. It made impact just in front of the door — which is where Amina was knocked unconscious.

“I think it hit her while she was running away,” Ismail said.

He said he took the injured Amina from his sister and lifted the girl into his own arms. Ismail then tracked down a car that raced her toward the hospital, more than 40 minutes away on a rutted, winding road that fades out in some places, with camels crossing in others.

Only then, with Amina on her way, did he go inside the house, where he said he saw a large, black piece of shrapnel about the size of a pretzel jar. And “there was blood,” he said, a puddle that had turned into a stream across the tile floor, to the front door.

By Sunday afternoon, the orange patterned tiles had been cleaned. None of the dozen or so relatives there could say who had done it, only that “it was bad for the children to see” all the blood. But Ismail hasn’t gone back inside.

“It’s difficult,” he said, his jeans and boots still spattered with blood. Not far from where he sat, a pink Minnie Mouse blanket and a small black-and-white girl’s dress hung on a family clothesline.

“We could have built shelters here,” Ismail added.

He dismissed any suggestions that what happened to Amina was bad luck.

“It’s part of a policy,” he said. “We can’t do anything.”

The missile fragment that tore into Amina’s home was one of more than 150 collected in the area on Sunday by police bomb disposal teams, and the family said officers had taken away the piece that hit their home. The teams combed the desert for hours, searching for debris and carting away huge hunks of twisted metal — efforts repeated across Israel.

The Hasoni home is not far from a military base, Nevatim, that was reportedly a target of the Iranian assault and that Israeli officials said was lightly damaged.

That is little consolation to Amina’s father, Muhammad, who spent the morning at the hospital taking turns at her bedside. He didn’t say much to her, he said, and just repeated her name.

Amina — the youngest of his 14 children — “likes to laugh and have fun all the time,” said Muhammad, 49. She’s a good student with a “strong personality,” he added, who doesn’t always listen to instructions. And she loves to draw.

He called Iran’s actions “inhumane.”

“May God demolish them,” he said, without hesitation.

Iran’s ambassador to the U.N., Amir Saeid Iravani, addressed the Council after his Israeli counterpart and defended his country’s actions as the “inherent right to self-defense” in response to the attack on its diplomatic compound in Syria two weeks ago.

Iravani said Iran “does not seek escalation or war in the region” and has “no intention” of engaging in conflict with the United States, but warned that it would respond proportionately if Israel or the U.S. military were to attack Iran or its interests.

Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Gilad Erdan, who had requested the emergency meeting of the Security Council, assailed Iran and its proxies, saying Iran had crossed every red line in its attack and that Israel reserved the right to retaliate. Erdan called for the Council to take severe action against Iran, including sanctions and statements of condemnation. “The fact that Israel’s air defense proved to be superior does not change the brutality of Iran’s attack,” he said.

The G7 condemns Iran’s attack on Israel, as E.U. leaders urge restraint from all parties.

After convening a virtual meeting on Sunday to discuss Iran’s attack on Israel, Group of 7 leaders adopted a joint declaration that reaffirmed their “full solidarity and support to Israel” and accused Iran of having risked “provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation” that must be avoided.

Iran’s attack, which appeared to have been mostly intercepted by Israel and its allies, was carried out in retaliation for Israeli attacks on an Iranian Embassy building in Syria earlier this month. Iranian leaders have signaled that their retaliation is over unless they are attacked again.

The joint declaration from the leaders of G7 nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, as well as the European Union — demanded that “Iran and its proxies cease their attacks.” The leaders said they were ready “to take further measures now and in response to further destabilizing initiatives.”

Hoping to head off Israel from further escalating the conflict, President Biden privately advised Israel against firing back on Iran, U.S. officials said on Sunday. It was not yet clear how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his government would respond.

Leaders of the European Union have publicly urged restraint from both countries as they, too, condemned Iran’s actions. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called the attack “blatant and unjustifiable,” adding that “all actors must now refrain from further escalation.”

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said that the condemnation from G7 leaders was unanimous and that “all parties must exercise restraint.”

“Ending the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible, notably through an immediate cease-fire, will make a difference,” Mr. Michel added.

The Israeli military announced it would relax heightened restrictions on gatherings that were enacted before the Iranian strike, a possible indication that Israel does not expect the confrontation to continue to escalate. The Israeli authorities had briefly canceled all educational activities, shuttering schools and universities, as well as barring gatherings of more than 1,000 people in much of the country.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, accused the U.S., Britain and France of “hypocrisy and double standards” for not condemning the attack on Iran’s embassy complex in Syria this month and said the Council’s lack of action had led to escalation and Iran’s retaliation. Nebenzya said Israel was disrespecting the Council by violating a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and suggested the Council should punish Israel with sanctions.

The U.N. Security Council is one of the few places where adversaries at war with one another come face-to-face in the same room, and today representatives of Iran and Israel are expected to address the Council.

Barbara Woodward, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council that Iran’s actions “do nothing to advance the prospects of peace in Israel and Gaza,” as demanded in a resolution passed by the Council last month calling for an immediate cease-fire. She said Britain remains committed to protecting Israel’s security while resolving to secure a pause in fighting in Gaza.

France “took part” in missions to intercept Iran’s attack on Israel, Stéphane Séjourné, France’s foreign minister, told French television, although the details of the country’s involvement were not immediately clear. “We shouldered our responsibilities because we are actors of the region’s security,” Séjourné said, noting that France has military bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council that the United States “is not seeking escalation, our actions have been defensive in nature.” He said the U.S. goal was to “de-escalate” and get back to securing an end to the conflict in Gaza. Wood also called on the Council to unequivocally condemn Iran’s actions and said the United States was planning further measures at the U.N. to hold Iran accountable.

So far, diplomats speaking at the Security Council meeting have said it’s imperative for both sides to exercise restraint, with the region at risk of plunging into a wider war with devastating consequences. Ambassadors from Slovenia and Sierra Leone both called for a return to diplomacy and for the parties to refrain from further retaliation.

The meeting of Israel’s war cabinet — which includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz, a former Israeli military chief — has ended, according to two Israeli officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. It was not immediately clear what the group had decided about possibly responding to Iran’s overnight strikes.

Iranians are split over the attack. Some fear upheaval, others vow to fight.

Many Iranians stayed glued to their television screens and phones Saturday night, anxiously following updates as their country launched a military attack on Israel and fearing a wider war that would only add to the country’s current economic upheaval.

In Tehran and several other big cities, lines of cars stretched a mile or more outside gas stations in the middle of the night. Some parents kept their children home from school on Sunday. Tehran’s airport closed down, and will remain that way until at least Monday morning.

Iranians living inside the country said in interviews that they were worried the confrontation with Israel would spiral out of control and hoped both sides would avoid escalating the conflict.

Soheil, a 37-year-old engineer in Isfahan who, like several other Iranians, asked that his last name not be used for fear of retribution, said all he and his colleagues could talk about at work on Sunday was the prospect of a broader conflict.

“I’m afraid of war,” he said. “It will have a great impact on our daily lives, especially on the economy and the price of dollar, and the anxiety will affect our mental health.”

Since a strike two weeks ago on the Iranian Embassy complex in Syria that killed three top military commanders, Iran’s currency, the rial, has fallen sharply against the U.S. dollar, shrinking purchasing power as Iran’s leaders vowed to respond.

Nafiseh, a 36-year-old high school teacher in Tehran, said that many of her students did not attend school on Sunday because parents were worried about counterattacks from Israel. “It’s all everyone is talking about, from teenagers to teachers and family members, it’s all about the war and attacks,” she said.

Supporters of the government hailed the attacks as Iran’s showcasing its military might to defend itself on Saturday, with several hundred gathering in Tehran’s Palestine Square to celebrate with fireworks and chants of “Death to Israel.” A large mural on the square depicted Iranian missiles with a message written in Farsi and Hebrew that read, “Next time the slap will be harder.” On Sunday night, a crowd formed again in the square, carrying signs and chanting anti-Israel slogans.

Others took to social media to say they would fight for their country unconditionally if Iran were to go to war.

“When a foreign enemy is involved, honor means standing with our country even at the cost of our lives,” Reza Rashidpour, a civil engineer, wrote on social media. “Long live Iran, long live soldiers of Iran.”

But critics of the government denounced the attacks, seeing them as a misadventure that risks harming ordinary Iranians.

Many Iranians oppose government policies that include funding, arming and training groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group that has increasingly traded fire with Israel since the Oct. 7 attacks that set off the current fighting in Gaza. In protests against the government over the past few years a recurring chant has been, “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my life for Iran.”

Ali, a 53-year-old veteran of the Iran-Iraq war who lives in Kerman, said the existence of the Islamic Republic depends on “crisis.”

“Now they are exploiting the war and the crisis to survive,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council has begun its emergency meeting to address Iran’s attacks on Israel. “The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating, full-scale conflict,” the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said in opening remarks. “Now is the time to defuse and deescalate. Now is the time for maximum restraint.”

For the Security Council to issue any statement condemning Iran’s actions all of its 15 members would have to agree — a prospect that appears unlikely, given its recent lack of consensus over issuing condemnation statements on Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks and the attack on the Iranian Embassy compound in Syria, which prompted Iran’s strikes.

Israelis begin a return to calm, anxious about how their government will respond.

After many Israelis spent a long night huddled in bomb shelters, life crept back toward calm on Sunday, even as the people of Israel waited tensely to see how their government would respond to the Iranian strikes that set off rarely heard sirens in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is targeted much less frequently than border communities or the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, but during the assault loud booms resounded in the skies, where missiles and interceptors wove around one another like fireflies.

In areas of Jerusalem with a mostly Jewish population, many crowded into public bomb shelters, some wearing pajamas and lugging sleeping bags.

“There were more people there than usual,” said Zev Palatnik, 33, who spent some of the night in his building’s bomb shelter alongside his neighbors. “There’s a sense that the rockets from Iran are more sophisticated than the ones from Gaza,” he said, adding that there was a higher level of anxiety as a result.

But on Sunday, a relatively steady amount of foot traffic flowed in downtown Jerusalem as Israelis returned to work. Ron Cohen, a 37-year-old engineer, said he had hoped that the Israeli government would immediately strike back at Iran, but he did not expect a significant Israeli response.

“Not much, maybe a few small things,” he said. “Our government knows how to defend, but not how to attack.”

For the Israelis among the tens of thousands forced to flee communities along the borders with Gaza and Lebanon, the assault compounded six exhausting months of war. Many expressed uncertainty over the best way for the government to respond.

Gidi Lapid, who left his home in Metula, near the border with Lebanon, with his family at the beginning of the war, said Israel might be able to show strength through restrained action.

But at the same time, Iranians “should be the ones in existential dread, in bomb shelters, stocking up on food and water,” Mr. Lapid said by phone from Eliav, a small town near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. “Not our peace-seeking nation.”

Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group, congratulated Iran on Sunday for an “unprecedented attack” on Israel, calling it a “natural and legal right” in the wake of the deadly strike on the Iranian Embassy complex in Damascus. Although Hezbollah, Iran’s most powerful regional proxy, launched rockets into the Golan Heights amid the overnight attack, it largely remained on the sidelines.

With much attention shifted to Iran, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, an Israeli grass-roots citizens’ group, reiterated its call for a deal to release the approximately 100 hostages held in Gaza. The group said in a statement that the fear and uncertainty felt by Israelis during Iran’s overnight strike “pale in comparison to the terror, dread, despair, loneliness, cold, physical and mental torment” experienced by the hostages.

American officials said U.S. fighter jets shot down more than 70 exploding drones in the attack Saturday, while two Navy warships in the eastern Mediterranean destroyed between four and six ballistic missiles and an Army Patriot battery in Iraq knocked down at least one missile that passed overhead. The more than 300 drones and missiles Iran launched was on the high end of what U.S. analysts had expected, one official said.

After a virtual meeting today, leaders of the Group of 7 nations reaffirmed their “full solidarity and support to Israel” in a statement condemning Iran’s attack. The leaders said Iran risked “provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation” that must be avoided. “We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation,” they said. “In this spirit, we demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks.”

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesman, told reporters that Iran and its proxies had fired about 350 exploding drones, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and rockets at Israel overnight. That amounted to a total of about “60 tons of warheads and explosive materials,” he said in an evening briefing.

Johnson says the House will vote on an Israel bill in the coming days.

Speaker Mike Johnson said on Sunday after Iran’s overnight attack on Israel that the House would vote in the coming days on aid for Israel, and he suggested that aid for Ukraine could be included in the legislation.

“House Republicans and the Republican Party understand the necessity of standing with Israel,” Mr. Johnson said on Fox News, noting that he had previously advanced two aid bills to help the U.S. ally. “We’re going to try again this week, and the details of that package are being put together. Right now, we’re looking at the options and all these supplemental issues.”

U.S. funding for both Israel and Ukraine has languished in Congress; Mr. Johnson initially refused to take up a $95 billion aid package for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan passed by the Senate, and the Senate refused to take up a House Republican proposal that conditioned aid to Israel on domestic spending cuts.

In recent weeks, Mr. Johnson has repeatedly vowed to ensure that the House moves to assist Ukraine. He has been searching for a way to structure a foreign aid package that could secure a critical mass of support amid stiff Republican resistance to sending aid to Kyiv and mounting opposition among Democrats to unfettered military aid for Israel.

But the attacks from Iran have ratcheted up the pressure on Mr. Johnson to bring some kind of package to the floor this week, potentially forcing him to make a decision he has been agonizing over for weeks.

He left it unclear on Sunday whether the legislation he said the House would advance this week would also include aid for Ukraine.

Mr. Johnson said he believed that some proposals around Ukraine aid enjoyed broad support among House Republicans. He noted that he met with former President Donald J. Trump on Friday at his estate in Florida and that Mr. Trump had been supportive of conditioning the aid as a loan.

“I think these are ideas that I think can get consensus, and that’s what we’ve been working through,” Mr. Johnson said. “We’ll send our package. We’ll put something together and send it to the Senate and get these obligations completed.”

Before the attacks in Israel over the weekend, Mr. Johnson had privately floated bringing up the $95 billion spending package for Ukraine and Israel passed by the Senate in February — and moving it through the House in tandem with a second bill containing policies endorsed by the conservative wing of his party. That plan envisioned two consecutive votes — one on the Senate-passed bill and another on a package of sweeteners geared toward appeasing Republicans who otherwise would be infuriated by Mr. Johnson’s decision to push through a bipartisan aid package for Ukraine.

Representative Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Sunday that the two conflicts were tied together, and that he hoped they would be addressed together. “What happened in Israel last night happens in Ukraine every night,” he said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”

Mr. McCaul said that he had previously secured a “commitment” from Mr. Johnson that a broad national security bill would be brought to the House floor for a vote, but that the timing was unclear.

“My preference,” he said, “is this week.”

Minho Kim contributed reporting.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it is calling up “approximately two reserve brigades for operational activities on the Gaza front.” Reservist soldiers played a key role in the military’s operations in Gaza earlier in the war, when more than 300,000 citizen soldiers were called up. Since late February, many reservists have been released back to their normal lives while professional soldiers took on the brunt of the fighting.

Leaders of the Group of 7 nations convened on Sunday and condemned Iran’s attack on Israel, according to the White House and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel. In a social media post, Michel urged all parties to “exercise restraint,” adding that an immediate cease-fire in Gaza “will make a difference.”

The Iran attack is the latest political test for Netanyahu.

In a deeply divided Israel, even the dramatic scene above the country’s skies on Sunday is open to political interpretation.

For supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s display of defensive technology against an Iranian salvo that included hundreds of drones and missiles proves Mr. Netanyahu has long been right to warn about the threat posed by Iran.

His opponents are loath to give him any credit, reserving their praise for the air force.

“Like everything in Israel in recent years, the story is split into two narratives,” said Mazal Mualem, an Israeli political commentator for Al-Monitor, a Middle East news site, and the author of a recent biography of the Israeli leader.

“The division and polarization in Israeli society prevents people from seeing the full picture,” Ms. Mualem added.

Iran’s barrage on Sunday, launched in response to an Israeli attack on an Iranian Embassy building this month in Damascus that killed several high-ranking commanders in Iran’s armed forces, came at a perilous time for Mr. Netanyahu.

At home, he is an unpopular leader whom many hold responsible for his government’s policy and intelligence failures that led to the deadly Hamas-led attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which prompted Israel to go to war in Gaza. Abroad, he is the focus of international censure over Israel’s prosecution of that war, which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Gazans.

How he ultimately emerges from this episode may depend on what happens next.

Mr. Netanyahu now must make a choice. Will he respond to Iran with a forceful counterattack and potentially entangle Israel and other countries in a broader war? Or will he absorb the attack, which gravely injured one 7-year-old girl but otherwise did limited damage, and defer to the coalition that helped defend Israel in the interests of regional stability?

Israel’s allies have been urging restraint.

“The question is whether Israel is going to retaliate immediately, or surprise the Iranians in one way or another,” said Efraim Halevy, who served as director of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, during the latter part of Mr. Netanyahu’s first term in the 1990s.

No Israeli leader has warned about Iran so consistently as Mr. Netanyahu or, for that matter, has spent so long in office. Israel’s longest serving prime minister, he has been in power for about 17 years overall.

Since his first year in office in 1996, Mr. Netanyahu warned that a nuclear Iran would be catastrophic and that time was running out. For the nearly three decades since, he has been sounding the same alarm.

Iran maintains a network of proxy militias across the region, including in Gaza, which the government funds and supplies with weapons. Some of those militias in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon have battled with Israel, creating distractions for the Israeli government and military amid the war with Hamas.

But perhaps more troubling, experts say, is that Iran is closer than ever to obtaining a nuclear weapon. Mr. Netanyahu’s backers still credit him with having put Iran’s nuclear program on the world agenda then, and they praise him now for investing in the mighty, multilayered air defense system that allowed Israel and its allies, including the United States, to intercept the vast majority of Iranian drones and missiles this weekend before they reached Israel.

Sometimes resorting to gimmicks and antics to draw attention to Iran’s nuclear progress, Mr. Netanyahu has in the past made opposing Iran a key part of his global diplomacy. Once, at the United Nations General Assembly he held up a cartoonish drawing of a bomb marked with red lines depicting enrichment levels. Another time, at the Munich Security Conference, he waved around a piece of wreckage from what he said was an Iranian drone sent from Syria and shot down by Israel.

“Everywhere he went he was talking about it,” recalled Jeremy Issacharoff, a former Israeli ambassador to Germany and for years the Ministry of Foreign Affairs point man coordinating diplomatic efforts on regional security and the Iranian threat.

At times, Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign against Iran has severely strained Israel’s relations with American presidents, though bipartisan U.S. support for Israel has long been considered a strategic asset.

Around 2012, Mr. Netanyahu infuriated the Obama administration by pushing hard for President Barack Obama to set clear “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear progress that would prompt the United States to undertake a military strike. Before that, the Israeli prime minister was making plans for a unilateral Israeli strike in the face of tough opposition from Washington and public criticism from a string of former Israeli security chiefs. It was never clear if Mr. Netanyahu was bluffing, and the prospect of an imminent strike receded.

He further challenged Mr. Obama in 2015 with an impassioned speech to a joint meeting of Congress denouncing what he called a “bad deal” being negotiated by the United States and other world powers with Iran to curb its nuclear program.

When President Donald J. Trump came to power, Mr. Netanyahu encouraged him to withdraw from the agreement — a move that many Israeli experts have called a dire mistake and a failure of Mr. Netanyahu’s Iran policy.

“Since then, there have been no constraints on the program,” Mr. Issacharoff said, adding, “It has never been more advanced.”

But it was also under Mr. Netanyahu’s watch that Israel forged diplomatic relations with more Arab states that are considered part of the moderate, anti-Iranian axis, including the United Arab Emirates.

Regardless of what comes next, Ms. Mualem, the Netanyahu biographer, said, “Bibi is still in the game,” referring to him by his nickname. “He’s a central player, and it isn’t over, diplomatically or politically. And he plays a long game.”

Israeli airstrikes continue in Gaza after the calmest night there since the war started.

As the world’s attention shifted to Iran’s attack on Israel, Palestinians in Gaza experienced a relatively calm night for the first time in more than six months but were quickly jolted back to reality when airstrikes there continued on Sunday morning.

While Iranian drones and aircraft were making their way to Israeli territory on Saturday night, the incessant noise of Israeli drones and warplanes disappeared from Gaza’s skies, residents said.

“Finally some calmness after six months of buzzing and noises!” Yousef Mema, a Gazan activist with a significant social media following, wrote on Instagram.

Another influencer, Mahmoud Shurrab, recorded himself walking in the middle of the street, the skies overhead quiet. “I can’t believe it, silence,” he said in a video posted on Instagram.

The calm did not last. The Israeli military said on Sunday that its forces were pressing on with a raid in the central Gaza Strip for the fourth day, where they “eliminated dozens of terrorists in face-to-face battles and with air support.” And Wafa, the Palestinian Authority news agency, reported that several Palestinians had been killed in a strike on a home in Nuseirat in central Gaza, and that at least eight others were wounded in a strike on three homes in Beit Hanoun, a city in the northeast of the strip.

Some Palestinians worried that an escalation between Israel and Iran would distract from the dire situation in the Gaza Strip, potentially diverting international attention from the Israeli bombardment and looming famine there.

“I think it is not at all in the Palestinians’ side or favor to have a new front open with Israel,” said Amer Nasser, 64. “This will distract the people around the world from seeing what is happening in Gaza,” he added.

For many, the Iranian attack was unexpected.

Fayez al-Samman, a 76-year-old car trader from Gaza City who is sheltering in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, said he spent the night listening to the news on the radio. “It was a surprise for me when I heard the missiles were targeting Israeli sites,” he said.

Osama al-Hato, 53, another man from Gaza City staying in Deir al-Balah, said he was happy that Iran had targeted Israel. “However, I did not follow the news nor expect the Iranian reaction to this extent,” he added.

Aymen Zidan, 57, a wholesale vegetable supplier from Deir al-Balah, said he had had little expectation that Iran would target Israel, although he believed Iran’s attack was for its own interests, not for the sake of Palestinians in Gaza like him.

Even so, he said, he felt “relieved that there is a country that said no to Israel.”

Raja Abdulrahim contributed reporting from New York.

Jordan says it shot down Iranian attacks as an act of self-defense.

The response by Israel and other nations to Iran’s aerial attack kept the majority of its drones and missiles from landing in Israel, ensuring they caused only light damage and a handful of injuries, Israeli officials said.

An unexpected — and for some, unwelcome — actor played a role in Israel’s defense: Jordan, the Arab kingdom next door.

Jordan fought four wars with Israel between 1948 and 1973 before signing a peace treaty in 1994. Its population is heavily made up of Palestinians, and their descendants, who were barred from returning to their homes by Israel after the 1948 war that followed the establishment of the Jewish state.

Jordan’s involvement was welcomed by older Israelis who remembered when Jordan would shell Israel. But Palestinians and their supporters denounced Jordan’s role, accusing the kingdom of siding with Israel at a time when its military offensive in Gaza has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to health officials there.

Amir Tibon, a journalist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, celebrated the role played by Israel’s allies, including Jordan. He called it “an important lesson for us Israelis.”

“Science, technology and alliances with the world: These are the things that hold Israel together,” he wrote.

On Sunday, Jordan’s government issued a statement describing its military action as an act of self-defense, not done for the benefit of Israel.

It said the drones and missiles “that entered our airspace last night were dealt with and confronted preventively without endangering the safety of our citizens and residential and populated areas.”

It military will continue to defend Jordan against any future incursions by “any party” in defense of “the nation, its citizens, and its airspace and territory,” the Jordanian government added.

That official explanation did not mollify critics of Jordan’s involvement on Sunday. Large pro-Palestinian demonstrations have taken place in Jordan since the war began in October, and the authorities have often responded harshly. This year, Amnesty International criticized the kingdom for arresting more than 1,000 protesters and others.

Social media users shared a meme of Jordan’s ruler, King Abdullah II, wearing an Israeli military uniform. In a post on X, Dima Khatib, the managing director of AJ+, a digital news organization owned by the pan-Arab network Al Jazeera, called Jordan’s actions “shocking.”

“Friendly countries are responding, not to the attack of Israeli planes, drones and missiles on Palestine, but to an attack on Israel,” she wrote. “There are Arab citizens who pull the trigger to protect Israel and watch when the Palestinians are bombed.”

Strikes Upend Israel’s Belief About Iran’s Willingness to Fight It Directly

Iran’s unprecedented strikes on Israel this weekend have shaken Israel’s assumptions about its foe, undermining its long-held calculation that Iran would be best deterred by greater Israeli aggression.

For years, Israeli officials have argued, both in public and in private, that the harder Iran is hit, the warier it will be about fighting back. Iran’s barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles on Saturday — the first direct attack by Iran on Israel — has overturned that logic.

The attack was a response to Israel’s strike earlier this month in Syria that killed seven Iranian military officials there. Analysts said it showed that leaders in Tehran are no longer content with battling Israel through their various proxies, like Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Houthis in Yemen, but instead are prepared to take on Israel directly.

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A 7-Year-Old Girl Is the Lone Serious Casualty of Iran’s Barrage

A 7-Year-Old Girl Is the Lone Serious Casualty of Iran’s Barrage

The girl, who lives in a Negev desert community that is home to Arab Bedouins, was clinging to life in a hospital after the attack.

Cassandra Vinograd and

Reporting from al-Fur’ah, Israel

The hospital waiting room was quiet on Sunday: There was no crowd of relatives, no flood of patients. Israel’s air defenses had just fended off a large-scale Iranian attack, with only one serious casualty recorded.

But there was no sense that a crisis had been averted outside the pediatric intensive care unit at Soroka Medical Center in southern Israel’s city of Beersheba. Instead, tension filled the air until the doors to the ward swung open and a gasping mother stumbled out, her face contorted. Then raw emotion quickly took its place as she crumbled into a chair, crying.

While Israel suffered little in the way of significant damage overnight, this one family was dealt a devastating blow. Amina al-Hasoni, 7, was clinging to life — the sole serious casualty of the Iranian barrage. And were it not for systemic inequities in Israel, her relatives said, maybe she too could have been spared.

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Iran Attack Tests Netanyahu’s Political Staying Power

Iran Attack Tests Netanyahu’s Political Staying Power

In a deeply polarized country that has again come under attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fate may depend on what happens next.

Reporting from Jerusalem

In a deeply divided Israel, even the dramatic scene above the country’s skies on Sunday is open to political interpretation.

For supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s display of defensive technology against an Iranian salvo that included hundreds of drones and missiles proves Mr. Netanyahu has long been right to warn about the threat posed by Iran.

His opponents are loath to give him any credit, reserving their praise for the air force.

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Iran’s Strikes on Israel Open a Dangerous New Chapter for Old Rivals

news analysis

Iran’s Strikes on Israel Open a Dangerous New Chapter for Old Rivals

Experts say Tehran does not want a broader war. But it is far from clear whether Iran or Israel will choose to escalate a conflict that has become more direct and out of the shadows.

Steven Erlanger and

Steven Erlanger, a former Jerusalem bureau chief, reported from Berlin and Farnaz Fassihi, who covers Iran, reported from New York.

Iran has retaliated directly against Israel for the killings of its senior generals in Damascus, Syria, with an onslaught of more than 300 drones and missiles aimed at restoring its credibility and deterrence, officials and analysts say.

That represents a moment of great risk, with key questions still to answer, they say. Has Iran’s attack been enough to satisfy its calls for revenge? Or given the relatively paltry results — almost all of the drones and missiles were intercepted by Israel and the United States — will it feel obligated to strike again? And will Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, see the strong performance by his country’s air defenses as a sufficient response? Or will he choose to escalate further with an attack on Iran itself?

Now that Iran has attacked Israel as it promised to do, it will want to avoid a broader war, the officials and analysts say, noting that the Iranians targeted only military sites in an apparent effort to avoid civilian casualties and advertised their attack well in advance.

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She Was Kidnapped a Decade Ago With 275 Girls. Finally, She Escaped.

Ismail Alfa and

Ismail Alfa reported from Maiduguri, Nigeria, and Ruth Maclean from Dakar, Senegal.

Saratu Dauda had been kidnapped. It was 2014, she was 16, and she was in a truck packed with her classmates heading into the bush in northeastern Nigeria, a member of the terrorist group Boko Haram at the wheel. The girls’ boarding school in Chibok, miles behind them, had been set on fire.

Then she noticed that some girls were jumping off the back of the truck, she said, some alone, others in pairs, holding hands. They ran and hid in the scrub as the truck trundled on.

But before Ms. Dauda could jump, she said, one girl raised the alarm, shouting that others were “dropping and running.” Their abductors stopped, secured the truck and continued toward what, for Ms. Dauda, would prove a life-changing nine years in captivity.

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After Stabbing Rampage, Australia Struggles With How and Why

On a perfect mid-autumn day, the scene at an upscale suburban mall in Sydney, Australia, was as humdrum as it was idyllic: mothers pushing strollers, gaggles of teenagers being young, families whiling away the weekend afternoon.

But in a matter of minutes on Saturday, the sprawling, multistory mall instead became a site of panic, chaos and terror. Only a mile from the famous Bondi Beach in eastern Sydney, a knife-wielding attacker stabbed nearly 20 people, including a 9-month-old girl. Six of the victims, including the girl’s mother, died, and about a dozen others were being treated at hospitals. The attacker — whose motives remain unclear — was shot and killed by a police officer.

It was one of the deadliest mass killings in Australia in recent decades and has left many in shock, questioning how a tragedy of this magnitude could occur in a country known for its relative safety.

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Biden Seeks to Head Off Escalation After Israel’s Successful Defense

Biden Seeks to Head Off Escalation After Israel’s Successful Defense

The president told Israel that the interception of nearly all of the Iranian drones and missiles used to attack it constituted a major victory, and so further retaliation might not be necessary, U.S. officials said.

Peter Baker and

President Biden and his team, hoping to avoid further escalation leading to a wider war in the Middle East, are advising Israel that its successful defense against Iranian airstrikes constituted a major strategic victory that might not require another round of retaliation, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

The interception of nearly all of the more than 300 drones and missiles fired against Israel on Saturday night demonstrated that Israel had come out ahead in its confrontation with Iran and proved to enemies its ability to protect itself along with its American allies, meaning it did not necessarily need to fire back, the officials said.

Whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his government will agree to leave it at that was not yet clear as the country’s war cabinet met for several hours on Sunday to make decisions about its next steps.

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In Ukraine’s West, Draft Dodgers Run, and Swim, to Avoid the War

The roiling water can be treacherous, the banks are steep and slick with mud, and the riverbed is covered in jagged, hidden boulders.

Yet Ukrainian border guards often find their quarry — men seeking to escape the military draft — swimming in these hazardous conditions, trying to cross the Tysa River where it forms the border with Romania.

Lt. Vladyslav Tonkoshtan recently detained a man on the bank, where he was preparing to cross the river in the hope of reuniting with his wife and children, whom he had not seen in two years since they fled to another country in Europe.

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A Look at Iran’s Military Capabilities

A Look at Iran’s Military Capabilities

The direct military confrontation between Iran and Israel has brought renewed attention to Iran’s armed forces. What are they capable of?

The start of a direct military confrontation between Iran and Israel has brought renewed attention to Iran’s armed forces. Early this month, Israel attacked a building in Iran’s diplomatic compound in the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing seven of Iran’s senior commanders and military personnel.

Iran vowed to retaliate, and did so about two weeks later, starting a broad aerial attack on Israel on Saturday involving hundreds of drones and missiles aimed at targets inside Israel and the territory it controls.

Here’s a look at Iran’s military and its capabilities.

Power by Proxy: How Iran Shapes the MideastA guide to the armed groups that let Iran extend its influence throughout the region.

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Protesters in Niger Call for U.S. Military Exit as Russian Force Arrives

Thousands of protesters gathered in the capital of Niger on Saturday called for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces personnel stationed in the West African nation, only days after Russia delivered its own set of military equipment and instructors to the country’s military.

The demonstration in the capital, Niamey, fit a well-known pattern in some countries in the region, run by military juntas, that have severed ties with Western nations in recent years and turned to Russia instead to fight extremist insurgencies.

“U.S. Army, you leave, you move, you vanish,” read one sign brandished by a protester. “No bonus, no negotiation.”

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In a Global Cycling Capital, Riders Fear Becoming Crime Victims

Reporting from Bogotá, Colombia

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Bicycles are an essential part of the Colombian identity — ubiquitous, cheaper and, in some urban communities, often a faster way to get around.

No Colombian city embodies riding on two wheels more than the capital, Bogotá, where the metropolitan area of nearly 11 million inhabitants has no subway system and some of the world’s worst traffic jams.

The city has over 1.1 million bicycles, according to officials, and records nearly 900,000 bicycle trips per day. On Sundays and holidays, more than 80 miles of major streets are shut down, a tradition that regularly draws two million people at a time.

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New Zealanders Are Crazy for This Fruit. It’s Not the Kiwi.


Kate Evans, who reported from Raglan, New Zealand, grew up eating feijoas and has just written a book about the fruit.

Autumn in New Zealand heralds the arrival of a green, egg-size fruit that falls off trees in such abundance that it is often given to neighbors and colleagues by the bucket or even the wheelbarrow load. Only in cases of extreme desperation do people buy any.

The fresh fruit, whose flesh is gritty, jellylike and cream-colored, is used in muffins, cakes, jams and smoothies, and it begins appearing on high-end menus each March — the start of fall in the Southern Hemisphere. Off-season, it is found in food and drink as varied as juices and wine, yogurt and kombucha, and chocolate and popcorn.

This ubiquitous fruit is the feijoa (pronounced fee-jo-ah). Known in the United States as the pineapple guava, it was first brought to New Zealand from South America via France and California in the early 1900s.

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War or No War, Ukrainians Aren’t Giving Up Their Coffee

When Russian tanks first rolled into Ukraine more than two years ago, Artem Vradii was sure his business was bound to suffer.

“Who would think about coffee in this situation?” thought Mr. Vradii, the co-founder of a Kyiv coffee roastery named Mad Heads. “Nobody would care.”

But over the next few days after the invasion began, he started receiving messages from Ukrainian soldiers. One asked for bags of ground coffee because he could not stand the energy drinks supplied by the army. Another simply requested beans: He had taken his own grinder to the front.

“I was really shocked,” Mr. Vradii said in a recent interview at his roastery, a 40-foot-high brick building buzzing with the sound of grinding coffee and filled with the smell of freshly ground beans. “Despite the war, people were still thinking about coffee. They could leave their homes, their habits. But they could not live without coffee.”

The soldiers’ requests are just one facet of a little-known cornerstone of the Ukrainian lifestyle today: its vibrant coffee culture.

Over the past decade, coffee shops have proliferated across Ukraine, in cities large and small. That is particularly true in Kyiv, the capital, where small coffee kiosks staffed by trained baristas serving tasty mochas for less than $2 have become a fixture of the streetscape.

Walk into one of Kyiv’s hidden courtyards and there’s a good chance you’ll find a coffee shop with baristas busy perfecting their latte art behind the counter.

Coffee culture has flourished globally — even in tea-obsessed Britain — but in Ukraine over the past two years, it has taken on a special meaning as a sign of resilience and defiance.

“Everything will be fine,” said Maria Yevstafieva, an 18-year-old barista who was preparing a latte on a recent morning in a Kyiv coffee shop that had just been damaged by a missile attack. The shop’s glass window had been shattered by the blast and had fallen onto the counter, but Ms. Yevstafieva was unfazed.

“How can they break us?” she is heard saying in a video, referring to the Russian Army. “We have a strike, we make coffee.”

Before the war, Ukraine was one of the fastest-growing coffee markets in Europe, according to the Allegra World Coffee Portal, a research group. In Kyiv, the number of coffee shops continued to grow even after the Russian invasion, reaching some 2,500 shops today, according to Pro-Consulting, a Ukrainian marketing research group.

The Girkiy chain, for example, is hard to miss in the capital, with more than 70 coffee shops. Its mint-colored kiosks stand at the foot of centuries-old Orthodox churches and around Kyiv’s main squares.

On a recent afternoon, Yelyzaveta Holota, an 18-year-old barista, was busy in her kiosk preparing orders. She had been on the job for only four months, but she already had a confident touch: She weighed the ground coffee, tamped it into a portafilter and, after pouring an espresso into a cup, gave it a little swirl to bring out the flavors.

The technique has to be perfect, she said, because the competition is fierce. Six other coffee shops line the street where she works in central Kyiv, including a second one from Girkiy, which means “bitter” in Ukrainian.

Founded in 2015, the chain used to serve low-quality coffee, focusing instead on speed. But in 2020, Oleh Astashev, the founder, visited the Barn in Berlin, a craft coffee institution that roasts its own coffee.

The visit impressed and inspired him. Back in Kyiv, he built his own roastery, bought top-of-the-range Italian coffee machines and started training his baristas.

“We changed everything: the name, the service, the products, the quality of the coffee beans, the quality of the water,” he said. “Anybody should be able to drink high-quality coffee.”

The chain’s former name was “Gorkiy,” or bitter in Russian.

Mr. Astashev’s story reflects how the country’s coffee boom is linked to its broader rapprochement with Europe.

After Ukraine’s revolution on Maidan Square in 2014, which toppled a pro-Russian president, the country strengthened its ties to Europe, including through visa-free entry for its citizens. Many Ukrainians traveled west, discovering a coffee culture that had not yet penetrated their borders. Soon enough, they were bringing it back home.

“We wanted our coffee shops in Kyiv to be like in Europe,” said Maryna Dobzovolska, 39, who co-founded the Right Coffee Bar with her husband, Oleksii Gurtov, in 2017.

Ask Ukraine’s coffee entrepreneurs about Vienna’s famous coffeehouses or Italy’s signature espresso and they’ll dismiss them as a “conservative” and “old-fashioned” view of coffee culture.

Their model was cities like Berlin and Stockholm, where a so-called third wave of coffee shops has mushroomed in the past two decades, emphasizing high-quality beans and innovative recipes.

Most recently, Ms. Dobzovolska and Mr. Gurtov have been experimenting with anaerobic coffee, a processing method that involves fermenting coffee in sealed tanks without oxygen, giving the beverage fruity flavors.

“Try it. You’ll love it,” Mr. Gurtov, 49, said as he poured the steaming, purple drink.

Always willing to push the boundaries, Ukrainian baristas have also popularized the “Capuorange” — a double shot of espresso mixed with fresh orange juice — now on sale everywhere in Kyiv.

Several foreigners said they were amazed by the quality of the coffee in a country that, since the Soviet era, had consumed mostly instant coffee.

“This is the best coffee in the world,” said Michael McLaughlin, a 51-year-old American who does volunteer work in Ukraine, as he ordered an Americano on Maidan Square on a recent afternoon.

Some say it’s simply a return to Ukraine’s roots.

Legend has it that the man who opened the first cafe in Vienna in the late 17th century was Jerzy Kulczycki, a soldier born in modern-day Ukraine. He is honored with a life-size statue in Lviv that praises him as the war hero “who taught Europe to drink coffee.”

Volodymyr Efremov, a coffee roaster at Idealist, a major Ukrainian coffee brand, said his goal was now to “popularize” specialty coffee all around the country.

In today’s Ukraine, there is perhaps no better way to achieve that goal than with the army. Every month, Idealist and other coffee producers give the military tens of thousands of drip coffee bags — single-serve, pour-over sachets filled with ground coffee. These are some of the finest products on the Ukrainian coffee market.

On social networks, soldiers have posted videos of themselves pouring hot water into drip coffee bags placed on iron cups before savoring the steaming drink in a log trench.

Standing near an artillery position last year, a junior Ukrainian sergeant, Maksim — who did not give his family name as per military rules — was boiling water in a small white kettle, a bag of Mad Heads ground coffee at his side. His unit had just fired an Australian-manufactured howitzer at Russian targets on the southern front, and he was in the mood for a good cup of coffee.

For five straight minutes he discussed the degree of water mineralization needed to achieve the perfect brew, the quality of the single-origin beans that make it “taste like honey-alcohol-banana coffee” and how the drink should be sipped to “perceive more flavors.”

Maksim, whose call sign is Stayer, said his fellow soldiers had found the Mad Heads coffee “delicious and asked where I got it.”

“I said, ‘Guys, it’s the 21st century. Let’s eat properly, even if we’re in the military.’”

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting.

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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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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Even Before the Olympics, a Victory Lap for a Fast-Moving French Mayor

Reporting from St.-Ouen, France

The mayor grew up in a building so decrepit — filthy hallways, no private toilets, no showers — that his friends in nearby concrete towers pitied him.

Five decades later, that building — in St.-Ouen, a Paris suburb — is a distant memory, and in its place rises France’s Olympic pride: the athletes’ village, with its architectural-showcase buildings that are outfitted with solar panels, deep-sinking pipes for cooling and heating, and graceful balconies from which to look down on the forest planted below. One-quarter will become public housing after the Games.

“All of a sudden, we have the same feeling of pride as people living in the hypercenter,” said the mayor of St.-Ouen, Karim Bouamrane, 51, using his personal shorthand for the glamorous downtown playgrounds of the elites. “There was Los Angeles, Barcelona, Beijing, London, Sydney and, now, there is St.-Ouen.”

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Documentary Filmmaker Explores Japan’s Rigorous Education Rituals

The defining experience of Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s childhood left her with badly scraped knees and her classmates with broken bones.

During sixth grade in Osaka, Japan, Ms. Yamazaki — now a 34-year-old documentary filmmaker — practiced for weeks with classmates to form a human pyramid seven levels high for an annual school sports day. Despite the blood and tears the children shed as they struggled to make the pyramid work, the accomplishment she felt when the group kept it from toppling became “a beacon of why I feel like I am resilient and hard-working.”

Now, Ms. Yamazaki, who is half-British, half-Japanese, is using her documentary eye to chronicle such moments that she believes form the essence of Japanese character, for better or worse.

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

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

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

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

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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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‘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.

The appeal, and three others filed by Russian interests over the results, ensured that a controversy that had already raged for almost two years will now be extended — complicating the awarding of the medals to any skaters until it is finally resolved.

The Canadians and others have contended that when the skating body, the International Skating Union, scrubbed the points won by Ms. Valieva from the results it had failed to upgrade the points totals of athletes who competed against her on the two occasions she took to the ice.

Had it done so, Canada’s team would have been upgraded to third place in the competition, edging Russia off the podium altogether.

In announcing its intent to appeal earlier this month, Canada’s skating federation took pains to note that it had no objection to the decision to elevate the United States to the gold medal and to lift Japan to silver from bronze. The federation, Skate Canada, said its only motivation was to ensure “that rules and regulations are upheld consistently and fairly.”

It is not the only team appealing the I.S.U. decision. The Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, which serves as the final arbiter of disputes in global sports, said in a statement on Monday that in addition to the Canadian appeal it had also received three cases backed by Russian interests seeking to overturn the results, and grant Russia the team gold.

The decision to allow Russia to earn any medal at all when it had used an athlete later convicted of doping raised yet more questions about Russia’s influence over top sports bodies. It also highlighted the inability of global sports to enforce rules on doping and to punish athletes and countries in a timely manner. On Monday, the court offered no timetable for a resolution of the four new cases, signaling many more months of uncertainty.

The Valieva case upended the Beijing Games, leading to late-night emergency hearings about her eligibility and an awkward compromise after the end of the team competition: Unsure of who had won, the International Olympic Committee chose not to award any medals in the event.

Instead, the podium ceremony was modified, with the teams from Russia, the United States and Japan handed flowers and plush toys instead of golds, silvers and bronzes.

The controversy raised questions not only about cheating and fairness but also about how an athlete who was just 15 at the time, and considered a minor, could have been drawn into a doping scheme.

Under the intense media glare, Ms. Valieva’s performances dipped after news of her failed test months earlier was revealed during the Games. In submissions to the court, Russian officials later claimed that the prohibited supplement in her system, a drug used to treat heart disease, had been ingested after her grandfather prepared a strawberry dessert on the same chopping board that he had used to crush his medication.

That excuse was not accepted. And the latest series of legal actions makes the prospect of a final medal ceremony as remote as ever. While the I.O.C. said last month that it was eager to deliver the medals to the athletes who had won them, it had not yet indicated when the medal ceremony for any of the teams involved would be held.

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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Jorge Glas, el exvicepresidente ecuatoriano detenido en la embajada de México, está en coma

Las autoridades encontraron al exvicepresidente ecuatoriano Jorge Glas en un “coma profundo autoinducido” el lunes en la cárcel, unos días después de que fuera detenido por la policía en una captura dramática dentro de la embajada de México en Quito.

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Glas ingirió antidepresivos y sedantes, según un informe policial, y estaba siendo trasladado a un hospital militar para su observación.

El exvicepresidente, que enfrenta una acusación de malversación de fondos en Ecuador, había buscado refugio en la embajada mexicana en un intento de evitar su detención. La semana pasada protagonizó un episodio de tensión diplomática cuando la policía entró en la embajada en Quito, lo detuvo y lo trasladó a un centro de detención.

Un tratado diplomático de 1961 determina que el gobierno del país anfitrión no puede ingresar a las embajadas extranjeras sin el permiso del jefe de la misión, una limitación que solo se ha transgredido en contadas ocasiones.

El nuevo presidente de Ecuador, Daniel Noboa, ha querido dar una imagen de firmeza frente a la delincuencia en medio de una creciente crisis de seguridad en la región, y ha defendido la decisión de detener a Glas, a quien califica de delincuente y no de preso político.

El lunes, cuando se conoció la noticia de la sobredosis de Glas, Noboa reiteró esta postura al afirmar que tenía la “obligación” de detener a personas como Glas o el país se enfrentaría al “riesgo inminente de su fuga”.

“Ecuador es un país de paz y de justicia”, continuó, “que respeta a todas las naciones y el derecho internacional”.

Los abogados de Glas, aliado del expresidente Rafael Correa, afirman que es objeto de una persecución política. Glas fue vicepresidente de Correa entre 2013 y 2017.

Thalíe Ponce colaboró con reportería desde Guayaquil, Ecuador, y Genevieve Glatsky desde Bogotá, Colombia.

Julie Turkewitz es jefa del buró de los Andes, ubicado en Bogotá, Colombia. Cubre Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador y Perú. Más de Julie Turkewitz

El Vaticano emite un documento que consterna a la comunidad LGBTQ

El Vaticano publicó el lunes un nuevo documento aprobado por el papa Francisco en el que se afirma que la Iglesia cree que las operaciones de cambio de sexo, la fluidez de género y la maternidad subrogada constituyen afrentas a la dignidad humana.

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El sexo con el que nace una persona, según el documento, es un “don irrevocable” de Dios “de ahí que toda operación de cambio de sexo, por regla general, corra el riesgo de atentar contra la dignidad única que la persona ha recibido desde el momento de la concepción”. Toda persona que desea “disponer de sí mismo, como prescribe la teoría de género”, corre el riesgo de ceder “a la vieja tentación de que el ser humano se convierta en Dios”.

El documento también declara inequívocamente la oposición de la Iglesia católica a la maternidad subrogada, tanto si la mujer que gesta un bebé “se ve obligada a ello o decide libremente someterse”, porque el niño “se convierte en un mero medio al servicio del beneficio o el deseo arbitrario de otros”.

El documento pretendía ser una amplia declaración de la visión de la Iglesia sobre la dignidad humana, que incluía la explotación de los pobres, los inmigrantes, las mujeres y las personas vulnerables. Aunque lleva cinco años elaborándose, llega pocos meses después de que el papa Francisco disgustara a los sectores más conservadores de su Iglesia al permitir explícitamente que los católicos LGBTQ recibieran bendiciones de los sacerdotes y que las personas transgénero fueran bautizadas y actuaran como padrinos.

Si bien las enseñanzas de la Iglesia sobre temas de la guerra cultural, que Francisco ha evitado en gran medida, no son necesariamente nuevas, ahora era probable que su consolidación fuera abrazada por los conservadores por su línea dura contra las ideas liberales sobre el género y la maternidad subrogada.

También es probable que el documento cause profunda consternación entre los defensores de los derechos LGBTQ en la Iglesia, que temen que el documento será utilizado como un garrote para condenar a las personas transgénero, a pesar de que también advirtió de la “discriminación injusta”, especialmente en los países donde son criminalizadas y encarceladas y en algunos casos condenadas a muerte o se enfrentan y la agresión o la violencia.

“El Vaticano vuelve a apoyar y propagar ideas que conducen a un daño físico real a las personas transgénero, no binarias y otras personas LGBTQ+”, afirmó Francis DeBernardo, director ejecutivo de New Ways Ministry, un grupo con sede en Maryland que defiende a los católicos homosexuales. Añadió que la defensa de la dignidad humana por parte del Vaticano excluía “al segmento de la población humana que es transgénero, no binario o de género no conforme”.

DeBernardo dijo que el documento presentaba una teología obsoleta basada solo en la apariencia física y era ciega a “la creciente realidad de que el género de una persona incluye los aspectos psicológicos, sociales y espirituales naturalmente presentes en sus vidas”.

El documento, afirmó, mostraba una “asombrosa falta de conocimiento de la vida real de las personas transgénero y no binarias” y que sus autores ignoraban a las personas transgénero que compartían sus experiencias con la Iglesia y las tachaban “displicente” e incorrectamente de fenómeno puramente occidental.

Aunque el documento representa un claro revés para las personas LGBTQ y quienes las apoyan, el Vaticano se esforzó por encontrar un equilibrio entre la protección de la dignidad humana personal y la exposición clara de las enseñanzas de la Iglesia, lo que refleja la cuerda floja por la que Francisco ha intentado caminar en sus más de 11 años como papa.

Francisco ha convertido en una seña de identidad de su papado el reunirse con católicos homosexuales y transgénero, y ha hecho suya la misión de transmitir un mensaje a favor de una Iglesia más abierta y menos prejuiciosa. Pero se ha negado a ceder en lo que respecta a las normas y la doctrina de la Iglesia que muchos católicos homosexuales y transgénero consideran que les han alienado, lo que revela los límites de su campaña en favor de la inclusividad. La Iglesia enseña que “los actos homosexuales son intrínsecamente desordenados”.

El Vaticano reconoció que estaba tocando temas candentes, pero afirmó que, en una época de gran agitación en torno a estas cuestiones, era esencial, y esperaba beneficioso, que la Iglesia reafirmara sus enseñanzas sobre la centralidad de la dignidad humana.

El cardenal Víctor Manuel Fernández, que dirige el Dicasterio para la Doctrina de la Fe, escribió que algunos temas “serán fácilmente compartidos por distintos sectores de nuestras sociedades, otros no tanto”, en la introducción del documento, “Declaración Dignitas infinita sobre la dignidad humana”, que, según dijo el lunes, era de gran importancia doctrinal, a diferencia de la reciente declaración que permitía las bendiciones para los católicos del mismo sexo, y pretendía aportar claridad.

“Sin embargo, todos nos parecen necesarios”, escribió, “para que, en medio de tantas preocupaciones y angustias, no perdamos el rumbo y nos expongamos a sufrimientos más lacerantes y profundos”.

Aunque receptivo a los seguidores homosexuales y transgénero, el papa también ha expresado constantemente su preocupación por lo que él llama “colonización ideológica”, la noción de que las naciones ricas imponen arrogantemente puntos de vista ―ya sea sobre el género o la maternidad subrogada― a personas y tradiciones religiosas que no están necesariamente de acuerdo con ellos. El documento dice que en esa visión “ocupa un lugar central la teoría de género” y que su “consistencia científica se debate mucho en la comunidad de expertos”.

Utilizando el lenguaje “por un lado” y “por otro lado”, la oficina vaticana para la enseñanza y la doctrina escribe que “hay que denunciar como contrario a la dignidad humana que en algunos lugares se encarcele, torture e incluso prive del bien de la vida a no pocas personas, únicamente por su orientación sexual”.

“Al mismo tiempo”, continuaba, “la Iglesia destaca los decisivos elementos críticos presentes en la teoría de género”.

En su introducción, Fernández describió el largo proceso de redacción de un documento sobre la dignidad humana, que comenzó en marzo de 2019, para tener en cuenta los ”últimos desarrollos del tema en el ámbito académico y sus comprensiones ambivalentes en el contexto actual”.

En 2023, Francisco devolvió el documento con instrucciones para “destacar temas estrechamente relacionados con el tema de la dignidad, como la pobreza, la situación de los migrantes, la violencia contra las mujeres, la trata de personas, la guerra y otros temas”. Francisco firmó el documento el 25 de marzo.

El largo camino, escribió el cardenal Fernández, refleja un “considerable proceso de maduración”.

Jason Horowitz es el jefe del buró en Roma; cubre Italia, Grecia y otros sitios del sur de Europa. Más de Jason Horowitz

Elisabetta Povoledo es una reportera afincada en Roma que lleva más de tres décadas escribiendo sobre Italia. Más de Elisabetta Povoledo

Nicaragua lleva a Alemania a La Haya por proveer armas a Israel

Nicaragua, que apoya desde hace tiempo la causa palestina, está ampliando la batalla legal en torno al conflicto en Gaza en la Corte Internacional de Justicia al presentar una demanda contra Alemania, uno de los principales proveedores de armas a Israel.

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En las audiencias que comenzaron el lunes en La Haya, Nicaragua argumentó que, al proporcionar ayuda militar y financiera a Israel, Alemania está facilitando que se cometa genocidio en Gaza y violando la Convención para la Prevención y Sanción del Genocidio.

Carlos José Argüello Gómez, embajador de Nicaragua en los Países Bajos, declaró ante el tribunal que “no importa si un proyectil se entrega directamente de Alemania a un tanque israelí que bombardea un hospital” o si se destina a reponer el arsenal de Israel.

“El hecho es que la garantía de suministros y remplazo de armamento es clave para que Israel prosiga con los ataques en Gaza”, dijo al tribunal, y afirmó que Alemania es consciente del “grave riesgo de que se cometa un genocidio”.

Nicaragua pidió al tribunal que emitiera órdenes de emergencia y señaló que, como parte en la Convención sobre el genocidio, Alemania debe suspender inmediatamente la ayuda militar a Israel y garantizar que los suministros que ya tiene en el país no se utilicen de manera ilegal.

Una portavoz de la cancillería alemana, Christine Hoffman, dijo a los periodistas la semana pasada que el gobierno rechazó las acusaciones de Nicaragua. Se espera que Alemania responda al caso el martes por la mañana.

El propio gobierno de Nicaragua se enfrenta a sanciones por sus políticas represivas en el país. Un informe especial de las Naciones Unidas de febrero señaló que los numerosos abusos del gobierno, incluyendo el encarcelamiento y deportación de figuras de la oposición, así como de clérigos católicos, eran “equivalentes a crímenes de lesa humanidad”.

El caso presentado por Nicaragua el lunes en La Haya plantea nuevas interrogantes sobre la responsabilidad de los países que han suministrado armas a Israel para la guerra en Gaza.

Los abogados afirman que Alemania —el segundo mayor proveedor de armas de Israel, después de Estados Unidos— es un objetivo más fácil para una demanda que Estados Unidos. Alemania ha concedido plena jurisdicción a la Corte Internacional de Justicia, el más alto tribunal de las Naciones Unidas. Pero Estados Unidos niega su jurisdicción, salvo en los casos en que Washington da explícitamente su consentimiento.

El caso de Nicaragua es el tercero que se presenta este año ante el tribunal en relación con el conflicto palestino-israelí.

Sudáfrica fue el primero en solicitar medidas de emergencia al tribunal, alegando que Israel corría el riesgo de cometer genocidio, una afirmación que el tribunal consideró plausible pero que Israel ha negado rotundamente. El tribunal ordenó a Israel que garantizara que sus ciudadanos y soldados no violan la Convención sobre el genocidio, que Israel ha firmado. La Convención prohíbe las acciones destinadas a destruir, total o parcialmente, a un grupo nacional, étnico, racial o religioso.

Sudáfrica también ha presentado una petición ante la CIJ por el hambre en Gaza y ha obtenido una nueva sentencia que ordena a Israel permitir la entrega de alimentos, agua y otros suministros vitales “sin demora”. A pesar de la autoridad del tribunal, este no dispone de medios para obligar a Israel a cumplir sus órdenes. Israel ha negado rotundamente las acusaciones de hambruna deliberada en Gaza.

En febrero, el tribunal también se ocupó de un caso solicitado por la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas sobre la legalidad de la ocupación israelí de los territorios palestinos. En esas audiencias, previstas mucho antes de la guerra, participaron más de 50 países, la mayoría de los cuales expresaron su indignación y frustración por los ataques de Israel contra Gaza y el creciente número de víctimas entre la población civil.

El caso presentado por Nicaragua tiene un alcance mucho más amplio que el sudafricano, ya que invoca tanto violaciones a los Convenios de Ginebra como de la Convención sobre el genocidio, y exige la protección de los civiles. También acusa a Israel de otras conductas “ilegales” en los territorios ocupados.

El tribunal aún no ha admitido el caso, pero está obligado a reaccionar con rapidez ante las solicitudes de medidas urgentes, como este.

Israel, que no es parte en el litigio entre Nicaragua y Alemania, no comparecerá ante el tribunal en las audiencias de esta semana, que se prevé duren dos días.

El apoyo a Israel se considera un deber histórico en Alemania a la luz del Holocausto, pero el creciente número de víctimas en Gaza ha llevado a algunos funcionarios alemanes a preguntarse si ese respaldo ha ido demasiado lejos.

La reciente e intensa actividad del tribunal lo ha puesto bajo los reflectores. Los abogados afirman que los países han recurrido al tribunal porque los esfuerzos de las Naciones Unidas y otros negociadores no han logrado hasta ahora detener la guerra en Gaza.

“La CIJ no va a poner fin a la guerra en Gaza, pero es una herramienta diplomática que la política exterior utiliza para ejercer presión adicional sobre Israel”, afirmó Brian Finucane, asesor principal del International Crisis Group, un grupo de expertos en resolución de conflictos. “En el caso de Nicaragua, ejerce una presión adicional sobre Alemania”.

Marlise Simons es corresponsal en la oficina del Times en París, donde se ocupa de la justicia internacional y los tribunales de crímenes de guerra. En sus casi cuatro décadas con The New York Times, ha reportado sobre Europa desde Francia e Italia y anteriormente cubrió América Latina desde Brasil y México. Más de Marlise Simons

La disputa diplomática en Ecuador podría mejorar la suerte política de su presidente

La decisión de Ecuador de enviar agentes de policía a la Embajada de México para detener a un político que se había refugiado allí avivó las tensiones entre dos países que ya estaban enfrentados, pero puede suponer un impulso político para el presidente ecuatoriano.

El presidente Daniel Noboa ha tenido que hacer frente a unos índices de aprobación cada vez más bajos en medio de un aumento de la violencia semanas antes de un referéndum que podría afectar sus perspectivas de reelección para el siguiente año. La disputa con México, que suspendió sus relaciones diplomáticas, puede ser justo lo que necesitaba.

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El político detenido, Jorge Glas, otrora vicepresidente de Ecuador, había sido condenado a prisión por corrupción y vivía en la embajada de México en Quito desde diciembre. El viernes, México le concedió asilo y la policía ecuatoriana entró en acción.

El despacho de Noboa dijo que la detención se había llevado a cabo porque México había abusado de las inmunidades y privilegios concedidos a la misión diplomática, pero el mensaje que envió también estaba en consonancia con el enfoque de mano dura de Noboa para hacer frente a la violencia y la corrupción en Ecuador.

El líder de centroderecha, de 36 años, llegó al poder en noviembre después de que el presidente Guillermo Lasso, que se enfrentaba a un proceso de destitución por acusaciones de malversación de fondos, convocó elecciones anticipadas. Noboa ocupará el cargo hasta mayo de 2025, fecha en la que finaliza el mandato de Lasso.

La capacidad de Noboa para demostrar que puede restaurar la ley y el orden en esta nación de casi 18 millones de habitantes puede resultar decisiva para su reelección, y eso significa enfrentarse a las pandillas del país, así como a la corrupción dentro del gobierno que ha permitido la existencia de grupos criminales, según los analistas.

Muchos expertos dicen que esas aspiraciones políticas parecen explicar el arresto en la embajada, indicio de que el presidente es estricto con la impunidad.

“Hizo esto para cambiar todos estos temas de conversación negativa que le estaban afectando y tratar de tener una conversación a su favor”, dijo un analista político ecuatoriano, Agustín Burbano de Lara.

Glas ocupó varios cargos ministeriales durante la presidencia del izquierdista Rafael Correa, entre los que destaca el de vicepresidente. En 2017, fue obligado a dejar el cargo y condenado a seis años de prisión por aceptar sobornos. Otra condena por soborno en 2020 lo implicó a él y a Correa, y ambos recibieron una condena de ocho años.

Liberado en 2022, Glas acabó pidiendo asilo en México, una medida que tensó las relaciones entre Ecuador y México. El Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Ecuador dijo en marzo que había solicitado permiso a México para detener a Glas.

Aunque Noboa es muy popular, las encuestas muestran que su índice de aprobación cayó 11 puntos en los últimos meses, del 85 por ciento al 74 por ciento, en medio de la creciente violencia en Ecuador.

Después de que la ciudad costera de Guayaquil fue invadida por la violencia de las pandillas en enero, Noboa declaró un conflicto interno, una medida extraordinaria que se toma cuando el Estado es atacado por un grupo armado. Desplegó al ejército del país, permitiendo a los soldados patrullar las calles y las prisiones para hacer frente a la creciente violencia de las bandas vinculadas al tráfico de drogas.

La agresiva respuesta redujo inicialmente la violencia y aportó una precaria sensación de seguridad a lugares como Guayaquil, pero la estabilidad no duró. Durante las vacaciones de Semana Santa se produjeron 137 asesinatos en Ecuador, y los secuestros y extorsiones han empeorado.

Dentro de dos semanas, los ecuatorianos votarán en un referéndum para permitir al gobierno aumentar las medidas de seguridad endureciendo las penas de prisión para algunos delitos y consagrando por ley el aumento de la presencia militar.

Los expertos dicen que es demasiado pronto para decir si la detención de Glas beneficiará a Noboa en las urnas, pero varios ecuatorianos dijeron el domingo que apoyaban la acción.

“México ha tratado como tontos a los ecuatorianos, dando asilo a todas estas personas sentenciadas”, dijo Danilo Álvarez, un vendedor de 41 años de Guayaquil, una de las ciudades más violentas del país.

El propio Ecuador una vez concedió un asilo muy comentado en una de sus embajadas. En 2012, cuando Correa era presidente, alojó al fundador de WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, en su embajada en Londres durante siete años.

Álvarez dijo que unos ladrones entraron en su casa hace unos años, le ataron las manos y los pies y le apuntaron con una pistola a la cabeza. Pasaron meses antes de que pudiera volver a dormir bien, dijo.

Sin embargo, no todos los ciudadanos estaban de acuerdo con la detención.

“Se trató de un acto de total irrespeto al derecho internacional”, dijo Delfa Mantilla, profesora jubilada de 62 años. “Parece que fue algo que el presidente Noboa hizo producto de su ego de niño rico, sin empatía”.

Algunos se preocuparon por los efectos que la disputa diplomática podría tener para la gente común. Decenas de miles de ecuatorianos emigran a través de México a Estados Unidos cada año, y los dos países se han enfrentado a un aumento de la delincuencia transnacional, con muchos cárteles mexicanos operando desde Ecuador.

“Parte de mí piensa que está bien, porque Glas debe ir preso”, dijo Mario Zalamar, un ingeniero comercial de 34 años. Pero, añadió, “hay miles de ecuatorianos ahora mismo transitando México a pie para migrar a Estados Unidos y no sabemos cuánto les va a afectar esto”.

Aunque muchos ecuatorianos apoyen la detención en la embajada, es probable que Noboa haya ahondado una brecha diplomática que puede debilitar sus relaciones con otros países de la región.

Honduras, Brasil, Colombia y Argentina se han unido a México y han criticado la detención. Y el gobierno de Nicaragua anunció que suspendía sus relaciones diplomáticas con Ecuador, calificando la detención de “barbarie política neofascista” en una declaración compartida por los medios de comunicación estatales.

Matthew Miller, portavoz del Departamento de EE. UU., declaró: “Estados Unidos condena cualquier violación de la Convención de Viena sobre Relaciones Diplomáticas, y se toma muy en serio la obligación de los países anfitriones, en virtud del derecho internacional, de respetar la inviolabilidad de las misiones diplomáticas”.

Miller hizo un llamamiento a ambos países para que resuelvan sus diferencias.

José María León Cabrera y Thalíe Ponce colaboraron con reportería.

El petróleo de Guyana: ¿bendición o maldición?

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Basjit Mahabir no me deja entrar.

Estoy tratando de convencer a Mahabir de que abra la reja cerrada con candado de la finca Wales, donde vigila los restos desvencijados de una fábrica rodeada de kilómetros de campos de caña de azúcar sin cultivar. El cultivo y la molienda del azúcar de esta plantación, a unos 16 kilómetros de Georgetown, la capital de Guyana, concluyó hace siete años y algunas partes del complejo han sido vendidas como chatarra.

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

Tengo mis argumentos. “Aquí vivía yo cuando era niña”, digo. “Mi padre dirigía el laboratorio de campo”. Mahabir es amigable, pero firme. No lograré entrar.

Estas ruinas son lo que queda de una industria azucarera que, después de enriquecer a los colonizadores británicos durante siglos, fue el indicador de la riqueza del país cuando obtuvo su independencia.

Ahora se prevé que esta finca se convierta en parte del auge más reciente de Guyana: una fiebre de petróleo que está reconfigurando el futuro del país. Esta nación alejada de las rutas más conocidas, con una población de 800.000 habitantes, está en la vanguardia de una paradoja global: aun cuando el mundo se compromete a dejar de emplear combustibles fósiles, los países en desarrollo tienen muchos incentivos a corto plazo para duplicar su uso.

Antes del petróleo, los extranjeros iban a Guyana a hacer ecoturismo atraídos por los bosques tropicales que abarcan el 87 por ciento de su territorio. En 2009, la iniciativa de combatir el calentamiento global convirtió esto en un nuevo tipo de moneda cuando Guyana vendió créditos de carbono por un total de 250 millones de dólares, fundamentalmente con la promesa de mantener ese carbón almacenado en los árboles.

Seis años después, Exxon Mobil descubrió un tesoro de petróleo bajo las aguas costeras de Guyana. De inmediato, esta empresa y sus socios del consorcio, Hess Corporation y China National Offshore Oil Corporation, comenzaron la extracción a una velocidad inaudita. Este petróleo, el mismo que en la actualidad se quema principalmente en Europa, está produciendo más emisiones a nivel global, al igual que una riqueza colosal.

Se prevé que, para fines de esta década, este descubrimiento se convierta en la principal fuente de ingresos de Exxon Mobil. El acuerdo que lo hizo posible —y que le otorgó a Exxon Mobil la mayor parte de las ganancias— ha sido un tema de indignación pública y hasta de una demanda, y el consenso aparente es que Guyana salió perdiendo. No obstante, hasta ahora, el acuerdo le ha generado al país 3500 millones de dólares, más dinero del que haya visto, considerablemente más de lo que obtuvo por conservar árboles. Es suficiente para trazar un nuevo destino.

El gobierno ha decidido ir en pos de ese destino invirtiendo todavía más en los combustibles fósiles. La mayor parte de las ganancias inesperadas por el petróleo disponibles en su erario se usarán en la construcción de carreteras y otro tipo de infraestructura, en especial un gasoducto de más de 240 kilómetros para transportar gas natural y generar electricidad.

El gasoducto pasará por la finca Wales para llevar el gas a una central eléctrica y a una segunda planta que usará los derivados para producir gas para cocinar y fertilizantes. Con un costo de más de 2000 millones de dólares, es el proyecto público de infraestructura más caro en la historia de Guyana. Se alberga la esperanza de que el país pueda desarrollarse a nivel económico con un suministro previsible y abundante de energía barata.

Al mismo tiempo, el cambio climático se cierne sobre las costas de Guyana; se prevé que la mayor parte de Georgetown quede bajo el agua para el año 2030.

El gasoducto atravesará una antigua finca azucarera y terrenos privados. El gobierno espera que el proyecto aporte una fuente de energía fiable para diversificar la economía. Al mismo tiempo, el aumento del nivel del mar amenaza la capital, Georgetown.

Los países como Guyana están atrapados en una lucha entre las consecuencias de la extracción de combustibles fósiles y los incentivos para llevarla a cabo. “Desde luego que estamos hablando de países en desarrollo, y si todavía necesitan desarrollarse mucho a nivel social y económico, entonces es difícil exigirles que prohíban los combustibles fósiles en su totalidad”, señaló Maria Antonia Tigre, directora del Sabin Center for Climate Change Law de la Universidad de Columbia. Aun así, insistió, “estamos en un momento de la crisis climática en que a nadie se le puede otorgar ninguna concesión.

Durante varios siglos, las potencias extranjeras establecieron los términos para esta franja de Sudamérica en el océano Atlántico. Los británicos, quienes fueron los primeros en tomar posesión en 1796, trataron a esta colonia como una enorme fábrica de azúcar. Traficaron esclavos procedentes de África para que trabajaran en las plantaciones y luego, después de la abolición de la esclavitud, hallaron un remplazo despiadadamente eficaz con la contratación de trabajadores no abonados, en su mayoría procedentes de India. Mahabir, quien trabajó cortando caña la mayor parte de su vida, es descendiente de esos trabajadores no abonados, al igual que yo.

Hace 57 años, el país se liberó de sus grilletes imperiales, pero la democracia genuina tardó más tiempo en llegar.

No fue sino hasta la década de 1990 que Guyana celebró sus primeras elecciones libres e imparciales, comenzaron a surgir las instituciones de la democracia, como un sistema judicial independiente, y la legislatura aprobó una serie de leyes ambientales muy sólidas.

Ahora que ha llegado Exxon Mobil para extraer un nuevo recurso, algunos defensores de la democracia y el medioambiente consideran que esas protecciones están amenazadas. Señalan al gigante de los combustibles fósiles, el cual recibe ingresos globales diez veces mayores al producto bruto interno de Guyana, de ser una nueva especie de colonizador, y han demandado a su gobierno con el fin de presionarlo a hacer cumplir sus leyes y disposiciones.

Vickram Bharrat, ministro de Recursos Naturales, defendió la vigilancia que ejerce el gobierno sobre el gas y el petróleo. “No existen pruebas de inclinación a favor de ninguna corporación multinacional”, dijo. En un comunicado, Exxon Mobil señaló que su trabajo en el proyecto de gas natural “ayudaría a ofrecerles a los consumidores guyaneses electricidad confiable y de bajas emisiones a base de gas”.

El mundo se encuentra en una seria coyuntura y Guyana está en la intersección. Este país es un puntito diminuto del planeta, pero el descubrimiento de petróleo ahí ha planteado preguntas de una importancia enorme. ¿Cómo se puede lograr que los países ricos rindan cuentas de sus promesas de dejar de usar los combustibles fósiles? ¿Las instituciones de una democracia débil pueden mantener bajo control a las grandes corporaciones? ¿Y qué clase de futuro les está prometiendo Guyana a sus ciudadanos mientras apuesta por materias primas que la mayor parte del mundo está prometiendo dejar de usar?

Hace un año, un hotel en Georgetown, con el afán de aprovechar el nuevo dinero del petróleo, al igual que muchos otros, organizó un evento de cata de ron y cobró 170 dólares por persona. Yo había estado intentando, sin éxito, entrevistar a los altos directivos de Exxon Mobil en Guyana. Cuando escuché rumores de que asistiría su director nacional, compré un boleto y, aunque él no se presentó, me pude sentar con su círculo más cercano.

Uno de los organizadores del evento pronunció un discurso en el que evocó una época en la que “BG”, la abreviatura de British Guiana (Guyana Británica), el nombre del país en la época colonial, también se usaba para referirse a “Booker’s Guiana” (la Guyana de Booker, la mayor empresa de la industria azucarera en Guyana). Ahora, este orador hablaba con toda naturalidad de “la Guyana de Exxon”.

Booker McConnell era una empresa multinacional británica fundada originalmente por dos hermanos que se enriquecieron gracias al azúcar y a las personas esclavas. En algún momento, la empresa fue propietaria del 80 por ciento de las plantaciones azucareras en la Guyana Británica, entre ellas, la de la finca Wales. El ejecutivo de Exxon Mobil que estaba sentado a mi lado no sabía nada de esto y se ruborizó cuando le dije que el orador acababa de inscribir a su empleador en una larga lista de colonialismo corporativo.

El país obtuvo su independencia en 1966, pero los gobiernos británico y estadounidense manipularon la llegada al poder del primer dirigente guyanés, Forbes Burnham, un abogado negro al que consideraron más manipulable que Cheddi Jagan, el hijo radical de unos trabajadores indios de una plantación, quien era considerado como una amenaza marxista. Pero Burnham se volvió cada vez más dictatorial y, en un giro del destino geopolítico, socialista.

Tras la independencia, Booker seguía siendo propietario de la finca Wales, pero a mediados de la década de 1970, Burnham tomó el control de los recursos del país: nacionalizó la producción azucarera y la explotación de bauxita. Al igual que otras antiguas colonias, Guyana quería romper con el imperialismo tanto económico como político.

Burnham impulsó la idea de la independencia económica hasta el punto de prohibir las importaciones. Sin embargo, Guyana no contaba con las granjas ni las fábricas para satisfacer la demanda, así que el pueblo tuvo que recurrir al mercado negro, hacer filas para recibir alimentos racionados y pasar hambre.

La muerte de Burnham en 1985 desencadenó una serie de acontecimientos que empezaron a transformar el país. En siete años, Guyana celebró sus primeras elecciones libres e imparciales y Jagan, quien entonces ya era un hombre mayor, resultó electo como presidente. Pronto, una generación más joven de su partido asumió el poder y adoptó el capitalismo. Una vez más, las empresas extranjeras pudieron competir por los vastos recursos del país.

Luego llegaron las pruebas de los peligros planteados por la extracción descontrolada. En 1995, se desbordó una presa de una mina de oro canadiense. Los 1500 millones de litros de desechos envenenados con cianuro que había contenido contaminaron dos ríos importantes. Simone Mangal-Joly, quien ahora es una especialista en desarrollo internacional y medioambiente, estuvo entre los científicos de campo que probaron los niveles de cianuro del río. El agua se había vuelto roja y los pobladores indígenas se cubrían con plástico para protegerse la piel. “Es donde se bañaban”, recordó Mangal-Joly. “Era el agua que bebían, con la que cocinaban y su medio de transporte”.

La tragedia suscitó la acción. El año siguiente, el gobierno aprobó su primera ley de protección al medioambiente y, siete años después, se añadió a la Constitución el derecho a un medioambiente sano. Guyana logró consagrar lo que ni Canadá ni Estados Unidos, por ejemplo, han consagrado.

Durante un tiempo, el capital natural de Guyana —los vastos bosques tropicales que hacen que este sea uno de los pocos países que son un sumidero neto de carbono— estaba entre sus activos más preciados. Bharrat Jagdeo, el entonces presidente, vendió a Noruega el carbono almacenado en sus bosques para compensar la contaminación derivada de la propia producción de petróleo de ese país en 2009. Los grupos indígenas recibieron 20 millones de dólares por ese acuerdo para desarrollar sus aldeas y obtener los títulos de propiedad de sus tierras ancestrales, aunque algunos se quejaron de haber tenido poca participación. Jagdeo fue aclamado como un “defensor de la tierra” de las Naciones Unidas.

Pero luego Exxon Mobil descubrió petróleo.

La visión de una Guyana ecológica ahora compite con su meteórico ascenso como una de las nuevas fuentes más grandes de petróleo en el mundo. Jagdeo, quien ahora es vicepresidente de Guyana pero sigue imponiendo gran parte de la política gubernamental, es un ferviente defensor del proyecto Wales.

No obstante, un movimiento multirracial de ciudadanos, pequeño pero inquebrantable, está poniendo a prueba el poder de las leyes ambientales. David Boyd, el relator especial de la ONU sobre derechos humanos y medioambiente, califica al país como un frente de batalla para litigios con argumentos innovadores sobre derechos para combatir el cambio climático. Esto incluye el primer caso constitucional de cambio climático de la región, presentado por un guía de turistas indígena y un profesor universitario.

Liz Deane-Hughes proviene de una familia destacada. Su padre fundó uno de los bufetes de abogados más respetados de Georgetown y en la década de 1980 luchó contra cambios represivos a la Constitución. Deane-Hughes recuerda que sus padres la llevaban a los apasionados mítines dirigidos por un partido multirracial que estaba contra el gobierno de Burnham. Cuando tenía 13 años, un día llegó a su casa y encontró a oficiales de la policía registrando su hogar. “Yo viví en Guyana en la década de 1980”, señaló Deane-Hughes, quien trabajó en el bufete familiar antes de dejar la abogacía. “Así que no deseo volver a eso en ningún sentido”.

Hablé con Deane-Hughes, quien ahora es artista y diseñadora de joyería, en la amplia terraza de una casa estilo colonial construida en un terreno que ha pertenecido a su familia durante cinco generaciones. El gobierno ha reclamado una parte de este para el gasoducto de gas natural, el cual pasa tanto por propiedad privada como por la finca Wales. Pero, según ella, el problema va más allá de su patio trasero.

En febrero, Deane-Hughes se unió virtualmente a otros activistas en una audiencia ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos con el argumento de que las empresas petroleras han afectado la gestión del medioambiente en Guyana. Este grupo de activistas ha alzado la voz y presentado demandas para poner a esa empresa bajo el escrutinio de las normas y las leyes del país.

Mangal-Joly, quien respondió al desastre del cianuro que dio lugar a esas leyes ambientales, comentó que el gobierno no ha logrado cumplir con sus funciones de vigilancia. Como parte de su investigación de doctorado en la University College London, descubrió que la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de Guyana había suspendido las evaluaciones ambientales de todas las instalaciones de tratamiento de desechos tóxicos o que almacenan materiales radiactivos producidos por la producción de petróleo en altamar.

También a la planta de gas le han otorgado carta blanca. En enero, la Agencia de Protección Ambiental (EPA, por su sigla en inglés) suspendió la evaluación ambiental de la planta propuesta de Wales debido a que Exxon Mobil, aunque no está construyendo la planta, ya había realizado una evaluación para el gasoducto.

La Agencia de Protección Ambiental defendió su decisión. “Es una buena práctica común” basarse en evaluaciones ambientales ya existentes “aunque las hayan realizado otros desarrolladores de proyectos”, escribió un vocero de la agencia en representación de su director ejecutivo. La agencia afirmó su derecho a suspender las evaluaciones cuando lo considere oportuno y señaló que los tribunales no habían revocado sus exenciones: “Sin duda, esto habla del alto grado de competencia técnica y de la cultura de cumplimiento de la Agencia de Protección Ambiental con las leyes de Guyana”.

Mangal-Joly afirma que la central eléctrica está sobre un manto freático que suministra agua potable a la mayor parte del país. “Nuestra capa freática es poco profunda”, explicó. “Hay una generación, así como generaciones por venir, que no heredarán agua limpia. Estamos echando a perder un recurso mucho más valioso que el petróleo”.

La suspensión enfureció a Deane-Hughes y le pareció una farsa la independencia de la junta que atiende las inquietudes de los ciudadanos. Su presidente, Mahender Sharma, encabeza la agencia de energía de Guyana y su esposa dirige la nueva empresa gubernamental creada para gestionar la central eléctrica. En una audiencia de la junta, Deane-Hughes hizo referencia al mandato contra los conflictos de interés en la Ley de Protección Ambiental y le pidió a Sharma que no interviniera. “Yo quisiera que usted no tomara ninguna decisión”, le dijo.

Seis semanas después, la junta tomó una decisión: autorizó que la compañía eléctrica conservara su permiso ambiental sin hacer ninguna declaración de impacto ambiental.

Sharma calificó a los críticos de ser una élite intelectual privilegiada que ignora las privaciones que han orillado a muchos guyaneses a darle la bienvenida a la industria petrolera.

En la reunión con la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Bharrat, el ministro de Recursos Naturales, alegó que su gobierno tiene tanto el derecho como la responsabilidad de equilibrar el desarrollo económico con la sustentabilidad. “El desarrollo de nuestro país y la protección al medioambiente no son objetivos irreconciliables”, les dijo.

Para Melinda Janki, la abogada que está llevando la mayor parte de las demandas de los activistas y una de los pocos abogados locales dispuestos a enfrentarse a las empresas petroleras, la pregunta es si Exxon Mobil puede salirse con la suya y hacer lo que quiere. Janki colaboró en la creación de algunas de las leyes ambientales más estrictas de Guyana. “Pese a que es una empresa petrolera gigantesca, tendrán que obedecer la ley. El Estado de derecho es el Estado de derecho”, dijo.

La iniciativa Headway se financia mediante subvenciones de la Fundación Ford, la Fundación William y Flora Hewlett y la Fundación Stavros Niarchos (SNF, por su sigla en inglés), y Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors actúa como patrocinador fiscal. La Fundación Woodcock financia la plaza pública de Headway. Los financiadores no tienen ningún control sobre la selección, el enfoque de las historias o el proceso de edición y no revisan las historias antes de su publicación. El Times conserva el pleno control editorial de la iniciativa Headway.

Gaiutra Bahadur es autora de Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture. Enseña inglés y periodismo como profesora asociada en la Universidad Rutgers de Newark.